Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Rudolf Steiner: "Fundamentally, human life is justified only when we place our thoughts at the service of the good and the beautiful, when we allow the very heart's blood of divine-spiritual life to stream through our intellectual activities, permeating them with moral impulses."
The Gospel of Mark. Lecture 10 of 10.
Rudolf Steiner, September 24, 1912:
We saw yesterday how a part of the life shared by Jesus and His chosen disciples is missing in the Mark Gospel, and indeed also in the others. Just those most closely connected with Him did not take any part in the events beginning with the period following His arrest, that is, the trial, condemnation, and crucifixion of Christ Jesus. This again is a feature of the Gospel that is intentionally emphasized. To some extent the intention was to show how a path can be prepared to enable human beings to come to an understanding of the Mystery of Golgotha, how after the Mystery of Golgotha had been accomplished it would be possible to come to an understanding of the Mystery. For it is true that this understanding has to be acquired in a totally different way than is needed for the understanding of any other historical fact of human evolution. From what has happened just in our own times we can grasp this point most clearly.
Since the eighteenth century modern consciousness has been seeking, as we might say, a support for a belief in the Mystery of Golgotha; and this attempt has been made from various viewpoints and the search has gone through various phases. Until the eighteenth century actually very few questions were asked about how the historical documents, historical in the usual sense, were compiled and if they are capable of confirming a belief in the existence of Christ Jesus. Too much still lived in human souls that had radiated down from the working of the Mystery of Golgotha. People had been able to perceive for themselves, so to speak, only too clearly the influence proceeding from the name of Christ Jesus through the centuries for them to think it necessary to ask whether any document was extant capable of proving the existence of Christ Jesus. To those who professed Him in any way His existence was entirely self-evident; and more than is generally believed today it was just as self-evident that they ought to hold firmly to the belief in His being as both human and superhuman, and at the same time spiritual and divine.
However, as time went on materialism came into being, and with it something entered mankind's evolution that necessarily belongs to the materialistic point of view. The materialistic world conception cannot tolerate the idea that something like a higher individuality lives in man. It cannot accept the notion that one can penetrate behind the outer personality to something spiritual in man. If you look at human beings materialistically, and this happens most radically in our time, then from a materialistic viewpoint all human beings will appear to you to be much the same. They all walk on two legs, all have a head, and a nose situated at a particular point on the face, all have two eyes and a part of the head covered with hair, and so on. From this materialistic viewpoint all human beings look much the same. So why should this age look for anything behind the outer man? This idea seriously offends someone who cannot bring himself to admit that in his present incarnation there is within him something that is equally important also in other human beings. Materialism will not admit that. So the possibility was lost of understanding that the Christ could have lived within the man Jesus of Nazareth; and the more the eighteenth century wore on, the more any idea at all of the Christ was lost. Attention was directed more and more toward Jesus of Nazareth, who must have been born in Nazareth or somewhere else, who lived like a man, doing nothing but proclaiming fine principles, and in some way or another may have died the death of a martyr. More and more the man Jesus replaced the Christ Jesus of earlier centuries. This, from the point of view of materialism, was a self-evident fact.
It was also entirely natural that in the course of the nineteenth century there should have developed what may be called “research into the life of Jesus.” Enlightened theology also carries out research into the life of Jesus, that is to say, it tries to establish the facts about Jesus of Nazareth in just the same way as facts are established about Charlemagne, Otto the Great, and similar personalities. However, it is very difficult to establish the facts about Jesus of Nazareth. In the first place all the principal documents that must come under consideration are the Gospels and the Pauline letters. But it is obvious that documents such as the Gospels cannot be counted as historical. There are four Gospels and from the external materialistic point of view they all contradict each other. All kinds of ways out of this dilemma have been sought in the course of “research into the life of Jesus.” A certain phase of this research can first of all be disregarded. Because this research fell into the materialistic period there was no longer any desire to believe in miracles. As a result some of the miracles are explained in the most peculiar way, as for example the kind of interpretation that tried to explain the appearance of Christ Jesus on the lake by suggesting that He did not walk on the lake with physical feet — we have dealt with this story earlier — but the disciples were simply unaware of the physical laws of the world. One far-fetched explanation from this Jesus research suggested that the apostles went by ship while Christ Jesus was accompanying them on the shore and that the people on the opposite shore could easily have been mistaken and believed that Jesus was walking on the water! To say nothing of other peculiarities thought up by rationalists, for example that when water was transformed into wine something like a wine-essence was smuggled into the water! Someone actually tried to explain the baptism by John in the Jordan by saying that just at that moment a dove happened to fly by! All this does exist. You would scarcely believe what has been put forward on the basis of strict objective science. But we may entirely disregard these aberrations, and look instead at the kind of research which tried to look at the supersensible from a materialistic viewpoint, not being able to handle the supersensible. This research regarded the supersensible elements as simply ornamentation. It decided that if anyone cannot believe in Christ Jesus, nor that someone was born as a carpenter's son in Nazareth, was in the temple at the age of twelve and so on, nevertheless if everything supersensible is removed and if everything that harmonizes or does not harmonize in the various Gospels is combined, then it is possible to produce something like a biography of Jesus of Nazareth. The effort was made to do this in the most varied ways, but it was really inevitable that each biography was different when so many different people tried to write a biography of this kind. But we cannot enter here into such details. There was also a period when during this “research into the life of Jesus” it was supposed that Jesus of Nazareth was a superior human being, something not unlike a higher Socrates, higher in the sense attributed to that word by materialists.
Such was the kind of research into the life of Jesus of Nazareth whose principal aim was to create a biography of Jesus. However, such an effort was bound to give rise to criticism, especially on two counts, in the first place because of the documents themselves; for the Gospels are not documents at all in the sense that one speaks of historical documents, as they are evaluated by historians. This is primarily due to the many contradictions to be found in them and the way in which they have been preserved. Secondly, in recent years something new was added to this “research into the life of Jesus” because those who went deeply into certain passages in the Gospels discovered certain constantly recurring remarks, which, as you know, refer to supersensible facts. But these men, in spite of being in the clutches of materialism, when they found these things could not simply disregard them, as was done by the researchers into the life of Jesus. So they moved on to something different, to the “Christ research,” which in recent years has come into prominence, by contrast with the “research into the life of Jesus,” which culminated in the term coined by a present-day professor: the “plain man from Nazareth.” This was found very agreeable by many people; it was flattering to them not to have to recognize anything higher in the Gospels. It suited them better to speak of the “plain man from Nazareth” rather than to ascend to the “God-Man.”
Then the God-Man was really found, and there followed “research into Christ.” This was a most peculiar phenomenon, appearing in an especially grotesque form in the work Ecce Deus of Benjamin Smith, [ Note 21 ] and in other works by the same author. The attempt was made to prove that Jesus of Nazareth never really existed; he is only a legend. Nevertheless, the Gospels give an account of Jesus Christ. What is this Jesus Christ? Well, he is a fictional God, an ideal image. From this point of view it is certainly not unreasonable to deny the real Jesus of Nazareth, for the Gospels speak of Christ and they attribute to Him qualities that, according to materialistic interpretations, do not exist. Then evidence follows that He cannot have existed historically, so He must be fictional, a fiction that originated in the period assigned to the Mystery of Golgotha. So there has been a kind of return from Jesus to Christ in recent years. But Christ is in no sense real; He lives only in human thoughts. So we may say that everything in this realm today rests without solid foundations.
Naturally the general public does not know much about the things that are happening in this realm. Everything connected with the Mystery of Golgotha has been totally undermined on scientific grounds; there is no longer any firm foundation. The “research into the life of Jesus” has collapsed because it can prove nothing, and the “Christ research” is not worth even discussing. The crucial point is the tremendous effect that emanates from that being with whom the Mystery of Golgotha is linked. If the whole thing is a fiction, then this materialistic age should agree to cease to look at it as soon as possible, for a materialistic age cannot believe in a “fiction” that is supposed nevertheless to have fulfilled the most important mission of all time! Yes, our enlightened age has surely been successful in accumulating contradictions, and is scarcely aware how much it is in need, just in the scientific field, of the saying “Lord, forgive them for they know not what they do.” This indeed is equally applicable to all current research regarding Jesus and Christ which has no wish to place itself in a serious and dignified way on a spiritual base.
The Gospel itself clearly points to what has appeared in our time in the manner just described. Those people who wish to remain materialists and to believe in nothing whatever beyond what can be attained by materialistic consciousness based on sense perception can find no path leading to Christ Jesus. For this path has been closed because those who stood closest to Christ left Him just at the time the Mystery of Golgotha was taking place. It was only later that they met Him again, thus failing to participate in what happened in Palestine on the physical plane. And everyone knows for certain that no credible documents have been furnished by the other side of the threshold. Yet in the Mark Gospel and in the other Gospels descriptions of this very Mystery of Golgotha have been given.
How then did these descriptions come into being? It is of the utmost importance for us to picture this to ourselves. Let us consider the descriptions given in one instance, in the Gospel of St. Mark. Even though the description is short and concise, it is in fact indicated to us quite adequately how after the scene of the Resurrection the youth in the white garment, that is to say, the cosmic Christ, again showed Himself to the disciples after the Mystery had been accomplished, and gave certain impulses to them. As a consequence the apostles, among whom we should include Peter, could be enkindled to clairvoyant vision, so that afterward they could see clairvoyantly what they had been unable to see with their physical eyes because they fled. The eyes of Peter, and of others who were permitted to be their pupils after the Resurrection of Christ Jesus, were opened clairvoyantly so that they could through clairvoyance behold the Mystery of Golgotha.
Although the Mystery of Golgotha took place on the physical plane, the only path to it is that of clairvoyance; and we must keep this firmly in our minds. The Gospel points this out quite clearly when it tells us how those who had been summoned fled at the decisive moment, so that it was only after it had received the impulse of the Risen One that in such a soul as that of Peter the memory flashed up of what had happened after the flight. In ordinary life man remembers only what he has experienced in sense existence. The kind of clairvoyance that now appeared in the disciples differs from ordinary memory in that they were able to remember physical material events, just as if these events had been in their memories, although they were not present. Just imagine how memory shone forth in the soul of a man like Peter, when he remembered events at which he had not been directly present. And so Peter, for example, taught those who wished to hear him about the Mystery of Golgotha, from memory, taught them what he remembered, even though he had not been present.
It was in this way that the teachings, the revelations, about the Mystery of Golgotha came into being. But the impulse that emanated from the Christ to such disciples as Peter could also be communicated to those who were pupils of these disciples. The man who originally compiled, even though in an oral form, the Gospel called the Gospel of St. Mark was just such a pupil of Peter. So the impulse that had manifested itself in Peter himself passed into the soul of Mark, with the result that within Mark's own soul there flashed up what had been accomplished in Jerusalem as the Mystery of Golgotha. Mark remained a pupil of Peter for some time. Then he came to an area where he truly had the external milieu, so to speak, the outer environment, which enabled him to give the particular coloring needed for this Gospel.
Through all that we have presented to you — and perhaps in the future it will be possible to say more on the subject — one thing has been shown in particular: that the Mark Gospel allows us to feel most clearly the whole cosmic greatness and significance of Christ. It was possible for the original author of this Gospel to be stimulated to give his description of the cosmic greatness of Christ precisely because of the place to which he had moved after he had been Peter's pupil. He moved to Alexandria in Egypt and lived there at a period when in a certain way Jewish-philosophical-theosophical learning in Alexandria had reached a certain culmination. He could take up in Alexandria what at that time were the best aspects of pagan gnosis. He could absorb views that were also in existence there about how the human being has come forth from the spiritual, and how he came into contact with Lucifer and Ahriman, and how luciferic and ahrimanic forces are taken up into the human soul. From the pagan gnosis he could accept everything that was told him about the origin of man out of the cosmos when our planet came into being. But Mark could also see, especially when he was living in an Egyptian locality, how strong the contrast was between what had originally been destined for man and what he had by this time become.
This was shown most strikingly in Egyptian culture, which had originated from the loftiest revelations that had then become manifest in Egyptian architecture, especially in the pyramids and palaces, in the culture of the Sphinx, which, however was falling ever more into corruption and decadence. Thus it was particularly the greatest works of Egyptian culture that sank down, still during the third cultural epoch, into the worst aberrations of black magic, and the worst depravities of spiritual corruption. If one had the spiritual eyes for it, it was possible in a certain way to see in what was practised in Egypt the most profound secrets, because this culture emanated from the pure original Hermes wisdom. But only a soul that looked at the foundation, and not at the existing corruption, could see this. Already by the time of Moses corruption was far advanced, and he had to extract from Egyptian culture the good which was scarcely visible even to such a noble soul as Moses. It could then be passed on indirectly to posterity through the soul of Moses. Thereafter the corruption in Egypt continued unabated.
Mark's soul was alive to the possibility that mankind could sink down and become engulfed in materialism, especially in regard to its view of the world. And he experienced in particular one thing that men can again today experience in a different, though in some respects similar, form — though only by men who possess the necessary feeling and perception. For we are really today experiencing the reemergence of Egyptian culture. I have often emphasized the peculiar nature of these linkages between cultures in human evolution, and I have explained how among the seven successive cultural epochs of the post-Atlantean era the fourth cultural epoch that contains Hellenism and the Mystery of Golgotha stands by itself. However, the third cultural epoch, that of the Egypto-Chaldean culture, emerges once more, though in an unspiritual manner, in the culture, especially the science, of today. Within our materialistic culture, even in its outer manifestations, we have in this fifth age a certain reawakening of the culture of the third epoch. In a certain way the second will also reappear in the sixth, and the first in the seventh. So do these spans of time encircle and include each other, as we have often emphasized. Today we are experiencing something that a spirit like Mark could experience in a most intensive way.
If we consider the culture of today, we should not describe it in this way to the outside world, because it could not bear it; even if we overlook the most radical forms of corruption we can still say that everything is mechanized. And within our materialistic culture it is only mechanism that is worshipped, even if we do not call it prayer or devotion. It is true that our soul forces that in former times were directed toward spiritual beings are now directed only toward machines, toward mechanisms. One can truly say that they receive the attention that once was given to the gods. This is especially the case in the realm of science, this science which is totally unaware of how little it is concerned with truth, with real truth, and at the same time how little it is concerned with true logic. If we look at it from a higher point of view we can certainly say that there is today a deeply serious and intense striving, an intense longing. I spoke already in Munich [in August 1912, Ed.] in a lecture about the longing in our time, and especially how this longing has taken root in individual souls. But in present-day “official” science such a longing is missing, and instead one might say that there is a certain satisfied contentment. Yet this contentment has something strange about it, since it is a contentment with what is unreal and illogical. Nowhere is this science capable of recognizing how deeply it is entrenched in what is opposed to all logic. All this can easily be seen and experienced, and it is indeed true that in human evolution one pole must be enkindled by the other. It is the very inadequacy of external science and its unreality and illogicality, the way it prides itself on its knowledge and its total unawareness of its deficiencies, that will and must gradually give rise to the noblest reaction within human souls: the longing for the spiritual that is manifesting itself in our time.
For a long time still to come people who remain attached to this unreality and lack of logic may well make fun of spiritual science, will scoff at it, or label it dangerous in all sorts of ways. Nevertheless through the inner power of the facts themselves the other pole will be enkindled, entirely of its own accord. And if those who understand something of it would only refrain from relapsing into the sickness of compromises and were to see clearly, then the time might well come much more quickly than seems likely now. For again and again it is our experience that if a learned man turns up and says something that someone else thinks is “quite anthroposophical,” then a great fuss is immediately made of it. More so still if someone or other preaches from a pulpit something that is thought to be “quite anthroposophical.” What is important is not that such compromises are made, but that we should place ourselves clearly and sincerely in the spiritual life, and allow it to affect us through its own impulses. The more clearly we are aware that the inner vitality of spiritual life must be enkindled, and the more we become convinced that we have no right to accept from the materialistic thinking of our time anything that is not well grounded in fact, the better it will be. This is a very different thing from demonstrating that truly progressive science is in harmony with spiritual research.
It can be shown how at every step science commits logical blunders on every page of its literary works, of the kind often referred to by one of our friends in a humorous manner. A certain Professor Schlaucherl (“clever fellow”), a character in the comic paper Fliegender Blätter, wished to prove just how a frog hears. To this end the Professor causes the frog to jump on a table, then he hits the top of the table. The frog jumps away, thus proving he heard the tap. Then he proceeds to tear off the frog's legs, and again hits the table. But this time the frog does not jump away, proving clearly that the frog hears with his legs. For when he still had legs he jumped away, but when he had lost his legs he no longer jumped. Learned men do indeed make all kinds of experiments with frogs. But in other domains their logical inferences are just like this example, as, for instance, in their much-lauded brain research. Attention is drawn to the fact that words can be remembered and certain thoughts may be produced if this or that part of the brain is present. But if this part of the brain is missing then words can no longer be remembered nor is it possible to have thoughts — exactly the same logic as in the case of the frog who hears through his legs. Indeed there are no better grounds for saying that a man can think with one part of his brain or cannot think if this part of the brain is missing, than there are for saying that the frog can no longer hear when his legs have been torn off. The two cases are entirely parallel, only people do not notice that the whole inference rests on nothing but faulty reasoning. We could continue to point out faulty reasoning piled on more faulty reasoning in all the results of what science believes to be firmly established. And the more mistakes that are made, the more proud people are of science, and the more they scoff at spiritual science.
This will have the result of generating the noblest of reactions, a longing for spiritual science. Such a reaction that belongs to our era is the same as what must have been experienced by Mark in his own age when he was able to perceive how mankind had descended from its former spiritual height and had become enmeshed in materialism. Through this experience he gained a profound understanding of how the greatest impulse lives in the supersensible, and this understanding was further strengthened by his teacher. What Peter had given him regarding the Mystery of Golgotha was not something that could have been based on sense perception and then handed down by tradition, as if someone had seen with his own eyes what had happened at Jerusalem. The events described were investigated later through clairvoyance; and it is in this way that all information about Christ Jesus and the Mystery of Golgotha was gained.
The Mystery of Golgotha is an event that occurred on the physical plane, but it could be seen afterward only through clairvoyance. I want you to bear in mind most particularly that the Mystery of Golgotha is a physical-material event, but the path leading toward understanding it must nevertheless be looked for in a superphysical, supersensible way and in spite of the documents that have come down to us. People who do not understand this may argue about the merits of this or that Gospel. But for one who is aware of the true state of affairs, such questions do not exist. Such a one knows how necessary it is for us to look beyond the often imperfect traditions represented by the various Gospels, and reach what clairvoyant investigation alone can tell us today. And if we investigate the truth of what actually happened by reconstructing it with the aid of the Akasha Chronicle, then we shall see how we must interpret the Gospels and what we have to read in individual passages. We shall see how we must read about what was then placed before humanity as man's true dignity, his true being, at a time when mankind had descended most deeply from its former heights.
The divine spiritual powers have given to man his outer image, his outer form. But since the old Lemurian epoch what lived in this outer form stood always under the influence of the luciferic forces, and then, during the later phases of evolution also under the ahrimanic forces. It was under these influences that what men have called science, knowledge, and understanding have come into being. It is no wonder that just exactly at that time the true supersensible being of man appeared before mankind, and men were least able to recognize it, and were least able to know what mankind had become. Man's knowledge and understanding had become ever more deeply enmeshed in sense existence, and gradually became ever less capable of penetrating close to the true being of man.
This is the important point we must take into consideration when we turn again to the forsaken Son of Man, to the form of the man who stands before us at the moment when, according to the Mark Gospel, the cosmic Christ was only loosely connected with the Son of Man. There, before all humanity, stood the man, the man in the form originally given to man by divine spiritual powers. There He stood, but ennobled and spiritualized by the three-year sojourn of the Christ within the body of Jesus of Nazareth. Here He stood before His fellow-men. But man's understanding had reached only as far as was possible through the thousands of years during which Lucifer and Ahriman had penetrated his understanding and knowing. Yet here stood the man who in those three years had driven out of Himself the influences of Lucifer and Ahriman. Here in front of other men stood restored what man had been before the coming of Lucifer and Ahriman. Only through the impulse of the cosmic Christ was man once again what he had been when he left the spiritual world and was brought down into the physical world. Here stood the spirit of mankind, the Son of Man, in the presence of men who at that time were the judges and executioners in Jerusalem. He stood there in the form that man can become if all that has debased him were to be driven out from his nature. Here stood the man at the moment when the Mystery of Golgotha was being accomplished, in the image of His fellowmen. Before such a man His fellowmen should have stood and worshipped, saying, “Here am I in my true nature, here is my highest ideal. Here am I, in the form to which I can attain only through my most ardent striving, a striving that can come only from the depths of my soul. Here I stand before that in myself which is alone worthy of reverence and worship, the divine in me.” And the apostles, if they had been able to practice self-knowledge, would have been compelled to say “In the whole expanse of space there is nothing in existence that can be compared in greatness with what is before us in the Son of Man!”
At that moment in history mankind ought to have possessed that self-knowledge. But what did this mankind do? It spat upon the Son of Man, it scourged Him, and led Him forth to the place of execution. That was the dramatic turning point between what ought to have been, the recognition that something was there with which nothing in the world is comparable, and what was described as actually happening. Instead of recognizing himself, man is described as having crushed himself under foot, as having killed himself because he did not recognize himself. Yet through this lesson, this cosmic lesson, he is able to receive the impulse to attain gradually for himself his true being within the wider perspective of Earth evolution!
This therefore was the world-historical moment, and this is the way we must characterize it if we want to do so in the right way entirely in accord with the powerful, striking sentences of the Gospel of St. Mark. It not only needs to be understood, it needs to be felt, sensed. Out of this crushing under foot of man's own nature there came forth what was described in my lecture cycle From Jesus to Christ [ Note 22 ] in Karlsruhe as the “phantom.” Because man crushed his own being under foot, that which was the outer image of the divine was transformed into the phantom which multiplies, and multiplying during the further development of mankind is able to penetrate into the souls of men, as was described in the Karlsruhe cycle.
If we look at things in this way, then the great difference becomes visible between what the Mark Gospel really wishes to describe, and what is so often made of it today. Anyone who understands a Gospel, and particularly the Mark Gospel, in such a way that he can sense and feel what is described in accordance with its artistic composition and its deep content will have the experience that this feeling will become a true inner fact, the kind of inner fact that must be present if we wish to attain to a relationship with Christ Jesus. The soul must really dedicate itself, at least in some small measure, to the kind of reflection filled with feeling and emotion that can arise from a reading of the Mark Gospel and that may be characterized somewhat as follows: “How greatly deluded were my fellowmen who stood around the Son of Man, when in truth they should have perceived there the highest ideal of themselves!”
A typical man of this materialistic age may write down or let slip such a remark as can often be heard or read today, especially from superstitious monists, I mean enlightened monists, “Why is existence as it is? Why do we suffer pain? These questions no one has ever been able to answer. Buddha, Christ, Socrates, Giordano Bruno — none of them have been able to lift a corner of this veil.” People who write in this way do not realize that in so doing they are placing themselves much higher than Buddha, Christ, Socrates, and the rest, nor that they in working on this assumption understand everything. How could it be otherwise in an age when any beginning university lecturer possesses an unrivalled understanding of everything that has happened in history, and is obliged for the sake of his career to write books on the subject?
It might be thought that this is said out of a desire to criticize our age. This is not the reason. But such things ought to be visible to our souls, because only if we allow them to be perceived by our souls do we keep a true perspective on the overpowering greatness of the Gospels, as, for instance, the Gospel of St. Mark. These things are constantly misunderstood for no other reason than that people can approach such a height only slowly, and usually only caricatures are presented to them. In every detail the Gospels are great, and in essence every detail teaches us something extraordinary.
We can therefore learn something also from the last chapter of the Mark Gospel. Of course if I were to point out all the great thoughts in this Gospel I should have to go on speaking for a long time yet. But one such detail immediately at the beginning of the sixteenth chapter shows us how deeply the evangelist has penetrated into the secrets of existence. So the author of the Mark Gospel knew, as we have described, how humanity had declined, sinking from the spiritual heights into materialism. He knew how little human beings were truly able to grasp the nature of the being of man, and how little people at the time of the Mystery of Golgotha were capable of understanding what happened then.
At this point I should like to remind you of something I have often pointed out with regard to the difference between male and female, pointing out the fact that to some extent the female element — not the single individual woman but rather “womanhood” — has not entirely descended to the physical plane, whereas the man — again not a single individuality, not man in a particular incarnation but “manhood” — has crossed the line and descended lower. As a result true humanity lies between man and woman; and it is for this reason that a human being also changes sex in different incarnations. But it is already the case that the woman, as such, because of the different formation of her brain and the different way in which she can use it, is able to grasp spiritual ideas with greater facility. By contrast the man because of his external physical corporeality is much better adapted to think himself into materialism, because, if we wish to express the matter crudely, his brain is harder. The female brain is softer, not so stubborn, that is to say in general — I am not referring to individual personalities. In the case of individual personalities there is no need to flatter oneself, for many truly obstinate heads sit on many a female body — to say nothing of the reverse! But on the whole it is true that it is easier to make use of a female brain if one is to understand something exceptional, as long as the will to do so is also present. It is for this reason that the evangelist after the Mystery of Golgotha allows women to appear first.
And now, as the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome brought spices, so that they could go and anoint him. (Mark 16:1.)
And it was to them that the youth, that is, the cosmic Christ, first appeared; and only afterward to the male disciples. True occultism, true spiritual science, is interwoven into the composition and details of the contents of the Gospels, and especially of the concise Mark Gospel.
Only if we feel what speaks to us from the Gospels and allow ourselves to be stirred by what we feel and sense can we find the way to the Mystery of Golgotha. And then there will be no longer any question as to whether these Gospels are genuine or false from the external historical point of view. Those who understand nothing of the matter can be left to their investigations. But those who ascend by means of spiritual science to a feeling for and understanding of the Gospels will gradually realize that they are not in the first place intended to be historical documents but rather documents that flow into our souls. And when they pour out their impulses into our souls, then our souls, without the aid of any documents, are taken hold of by what they feel and experience when they turn their gaze to the Mystery of Golgotha, and recognize how human understanding, knowledge, and cognition when directed to the being of man have fallen short — how men spat on and crucified this being of man that they should have revered in the wisdom of self-knowledge as their highest ideal. And from this recognition the soul will win for itself the supreme strength needed to rise upward to the ideal that radiates across from Golgotha and shines upon all who are willing to feel and perceive it. For only then will men truly grasp the reality that the Earth is linked with the spiritual worlds, when they understand how the spiritual reality, the Christ, lived as a cosmic being in the body of Jesus of Nazareth; and when they understand that all the leaders of humanity that the world has ever known were sent out by the Christ as His forerunners with the task of preparing the way for Him so that He could be recognized and understood. All this preparation turned out to be virtually useless when the Mystery of Golgotha took place, for at the decisive moment everything failed. But ever more and more in the future the time will come when people will understand not only the Mystery of Golgotha itself but all the other events that accompanied it, by means of which the Mystery will be ever more fully understood.
For the time being the peoples of Europe can easily perhaps be misjudged because they do not act like many other peoples who recognize as the true religion only those religious creeds that have sprung from their own nation and race, as for example, in India in particular, where only that is considered valuable that has sprung from their own blood. How often in theosophical circles one talks about how the equality of all religions ought to be recognized, whereas in reality one wishes only to promote one's own religion and looks upon that as the only real wisdom-religion. The Europeans are totally unable to do this because not a single people of Europe has retained any national deity, any deity growing out of its own soil of the kind that the peoples of Asia possess. Christ Jesus belongs to Asia, and the peoples of Europe have adopted Him, and allowed Him to influence them. In the acceptance of Christ Jesus there is no egoism; and it would be a complete distortion if someone were to wish to compare the way a European speaks about Christ Jesus with the way other peoples speak about their national deities, for example the way a Chinese speaks about Confucious or the way an Indian speaks about Krishna or the Buddha.
And we can speak of Christ Jesus from a purely objective historical standpoint. This objective history is concerned with nothing else but the great appeal to man's self-knowledge, a self-knowledge that was so completely distorted into its opposite while the Mystery of Golgotha was taking place. Yet through this Mystery the possibility was given to man to receive the impulse to find his own true being, whereas, as far as knowledge, external knowledge, was concerned, humanity totally failed to grasp the meaning of the Mystery of Golgotha, as we have seen. And so all the world's religions will one day rightly understand each other and work together to understand what the Mystery of Golgotha contains, and to make its impulse accessible to men.
If it is once realized that when Christ Jesus is spoken of this has nothing to do with any egoistic creed but with something that, as a historical fact in human evolution, can belong to every religious creed, then, and then only, will the kernel of wisdom and truth in all religions be grasped. And to the extent to which we still do not accept spiritual science in its true sense, it is to the same extent that we refuse to accept the true understanding of the Mystery of Golgotha. And to the extent that we understand spiritual science, it is to that extent that a human being can understand the Mystery of Golgotha. So a Christian who accepts spiritual science can really come to an understanding with all the peoples of the world. And if representatives of other religions with a somewhat excessive — though understandable and even justifiable — pride were to say “You Christians have only one single incarnation of God, but we can offer several, and thus are richer than you,” no Christian should try to rival him by claiming something similar for Christ Jesus, since this would show his lack of understanding for the Mystery of Golgotha. The correct thing would be for a Christian to say in reply to someone who is able to show that the founder of his own religion had many incarnations: “Yes, of course, but all those who had many incarnations could not have fulfilled the Mystery of Golgotha. Look where you will, in no other religion will you ever find it in the way it is presented in Christianity.”
On other occasions in the past I have already shown how, if we follow the life of the Buddha we shall reach the point described in the Mark Gospel as the scene of the Transfiguration of Christ. At this point the Buddha's life has come to its final end, and he dissolves into light, as it is described, and this description in truth corresponds to the occult fact. In the case of Christ, as you will fmd it stated in Christianity as Mystical Fact, [ Note 23 ] He does indeed reach the scene of the Transfiguration. But He was not transfigured alone, by Himself; He converses with Moses and Elijah on the mountain, where cosmic events occur. Only after the scene of the Transfiguration does the Mystery of Golgotha begin. This emerges so clearly from the documents themselves that it is fundamentally impossible to deny the fact, once one has recognized it from a comparison between the lives of Christ and the Buddha. And in essence all that I was able to tell you today about the feelings that arise in us when we think of the great misunderstanding of the Son of Man by human beings is only a consequence of what you will fmd already pointed out in Christianity as Mystical Fact.
And now at the conclusion of our studies on the Mark Gospel I may in a certain respect say that the program laid down at the beginning of the anthroposophical movement in Central Europe insofar as it related to Christianity has in all essentials been completed in every detail. When we started, our main task was to show how in the course of time religions have developed, culminating in the problem of Christ. We have considered the individual Gospels and various cosmic revelations; we have tried to penetrate ever more deeply into the depths of occult life in order to carry out what we indicated we should do at the beginning. We have tried to work consistently, but in essence all we have done is complete in detail what we said we would do when we started. Was this not the most natural development with respect to the Christ problem within the theosophical movement of Central Europe? In view of all this that has happened, other people who became converts to an impossible conception of Christ within the framework of Christianity can scarcely demand that we who have done this consistent work for years should be converts to their conception of Christ devised three years ago! It has often been emphasized of recent years that the Theosophical Society ought to be hospitable to all opinions. Of course it should be. But the matter appears in a quite different light if it is to be hospitable to the successive different opinions of the same personality, if that personality now maintains something different from what it did four years ago, and now demands that the Theosophical Society should provide a home for this latest opinion. Such a thing may be possible, but there is no need for us to go along with it. Nor should one be considered a heretic if one doesn't take part in such things. In Central Europe people go further still, going so far as to call white black and black white!
This is indeed a solemn moment when we are bringing to an end the latest and final phase of the work we have been carrying on for the last ten years according to plan. So we are determined to stand firm in this work and neither become discouraged nor yet lacking in understanding for others. But we must see very clearly what we have to do, and we must stand firm on our own ground and not allow ourselves to be discouraged by anything, even if white is called black and black white. Even if our anthroposophical Central European movement — in which everyone strives to do his best according to his ability, and everyone is called upon to give his best without submitting to any authority — is said to be full of fanatics and dogmatizers, we should still not be discouraged, not even if those who have their own dogma that is scarcely three years old try to organize an opposition to the dreadful dogma of Central Europe. It is painful to witness the kind of mischievous tricks that are played today in the name of Christ. We are justified in using words like these, and regard them as nothing more than a technical term, used objectively. We are doing nothing more than stating the actual fact, without emotion and without criticism. If we are obliged to put it this way it is the fault of the objective fact itself.
But these facts, when they are set against what can flow to us from a real understanding of the Gospel of St. Mark, can also lead to no other course than to continue to work in the way we have recognized as the right one. This has proved itself in our general program based on positive facts, and continues to prove itself again every day as long as we apply it to individual problems and individual facts. And as we make our way step by step through the details of the things we have to investigate, what was said at the beginning is invariably confirmed. So even when we are studying the loftiest things we can harbor no other feeling than a true and genuine feeling for truth. Such things as the contemplation of the Mystery of Golgotha have within them already the necessary healing power that dispels error if we approach them in the spirit. Then we are led to recognize how in essence it is only an insufficient will to pursue the truth that prevents us from truly pursuing the path that opens out from the earthly into the cosmic, when the cosmic Christ within Jesus of Nazareth is investigated. But He appears to us so clearly if we understand a work like the Mark Gospel.
For this reason such works, after they have been opened up to the understanding of men by means of spiritual scientific studies, will gradually also reach out to the rest of mankind, and will be ever more clearly understood. And attention will be focused ever more on the words of the Gospels rediscovered without the aid of sense perception through clairvoyant vision of the Mystery of Golgotha. Those who wrote the Gospels from clairvoyant observation described the physical events afterward. This must be understood, as also the necessity for it. Those people who lived at the same time as the events in Palestine were incapable of understanding what happened at that time because it was only through the impulse given by this event that it could be understood! Before the event had taken place no one was alive who could have understood it. It had first to take effect, so it could be understood only after the event. The key to the understanding of this Mystery of Golgotha is the Mystery of Golgotha itself! Christ had first to do all that He had to do up to the time of the Mystery of Golgotha, and only through the effects of what He did could the understanding of Himself come forth. Then through what He was, the Word could be enkindled which is at the same time the expression of His true being.
And so through what Christ was, the primal Word is enkindled which is communicated to us and can be recognized again in clairvoyant vision, this Word which also proclaims the true being of the Mystery of Golgotha. We may also think of this Word when we speak of Christ's own words, not only those that He spoke Himself but those which He also kindled in the souls of those able to understand Him, so that they could both understand and describe His being from within their human souls.
As long as the Earth endures men will take up into themselves the impulses from the Mystery of Golgotha. Then there will come an interval between “Earth” and “Jupiter.” Such an interval is always linked to the fact that not only the individual planet but all its surroundings change, pass into chaos, undergo a “pralaya.” And not only the Earth itself will be different in pralaya, but also the heavens belonging to the Earth. But what has been given to the Earth through the Word that Christ spoke, which He kindled also in those who recognize Him, is the true essence of Earth existence. And a right understanding allows us to recognize the truth of that saying that tells us of the development of the cosmos, how the Earth and heaven as seen from the Earth will be different after the Earth has reached its goal, and heaven and Earth pass away. But such a Word as could be spoken by Christ about heaven and Earth will remain. If one rightly understands the Gospels, and feels their innermost impulse, then one feels not only the truth but also the power of the Word which as power passes over into us, enabling us to gaze out beyond the wide world as we take up into ourselves with full understanding the Word, “Heaven and Earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.” (Matt. 24:35.)
The words of Christ will never pass away, even if heaven and Earth pass away. This may be said in accordance with occult knowledge, for the truths of the Mystery of Golgotha that have been spoken will still remain. The Mark Gospel kindles in our souls the knowledge of the truth that heaven and Earth pass away, while what we can know about the Mystery of Golgotha will accompany us into the ages that are to come, even if heaven and Earth will have passed away!
Tuesday, November 29, 2011
The Gospel of Mark. Lecture 9 of 10.
Rudolf Steiner. September 23, 1912:
It has been repeatedly pointed out in the course of these lectures how, as time goes on, the relationship of mankind to the Gospels will be fundamentally changed through the recognition of their profoundly artistic character, and the artistry of their composition. The occult background and the world-historical impulses pictured in the Gospels will be seen in the right light only when their artistic composition is taken into account. During the entire course of the historical evolution of mankind, the art and literature of the Gospels are linked together in the same way, as we have been able to point out on a few occasions in the course of these lectures.
We have pointed to those lonely figures in the Hellenic world who experienced in their souls the gradual disappearance and dying out of the old clairvoyant vision, for which they had to exchange the consciousness of the present time, its abstract concepts and abstract ideas, out of which the ego of man has to work. We can also point to something else which, precisely in Greek culture, from a certain point of view represents a kind of concluding phase of the culture of mankind. It is as if this culture had attained a certain peak, and had to be enkindled again from another point of view. I am referring to Greek art. How did it happen that people at the time of the Renaissance in Europe sought in their souls the land of the Greeks, that is to say the land of Beauty, and saw an ideal of human development in the wonderful way in which the Greeks shaped the human form? But this did not only occur in the time of the Renaissance. In the modern classical epoch spirits like Goethe sought in the same way within their souls this land of the Greeks, the land of beautiful form. The reason for this is that in actual fact it was in Greece that beauty, which speaks out of external form directly to human sight, came to a kind of end, an end that indeed represented a certain high point of achievement.
In Greek beauty and Greek art everything confronts us enclosed in form. The composition of Greek works of art reveals to our sight exactly what is intended by the composition. It is there in sense existence, fully apparent to the eye. The greatness of Greek art consists in the fact that it has come forth so fully into outward appearance. We may say that the art of the Gospels also represents a new beginning, but one that to this day has scarcely been understood at all. There is above all in the Gospels an inner composition and an inner interweaving of artistic threads, which are also at the same time occult threads. As we emphasized yesterday the important thing is everywhere to look for the real point, as it is drawn to our attention in every description and every story.
It is particularly shown in the Mark Gospel, not so much in the wording but in the general tone of the presentation, that Christ is to be seen as a cosmic being, an earthly and supra-earthly manifestation, while the Mystery of Golgotha is shown as an earthly and supra-earthly fact. But something else is also emphasized, and here we are faced with the fine artistic element, especially toward the end of the Gospel. It is emphasized that a cosmic element is shining into the concerns of Earth. It truly shines in; and it was the task of Earth beings, of earthly human beings, to bring their understanding to this impulse. Perhaps nowhere else is it indicated so well as in the Mark Gospel how fundamentally the whole of Earth evolution will be necessary to enable us to understand what shone here out of the cosmos into Earth existence, and how at the time of the Mystery of Golgotha such understanding was altogether impossible. And even today this understanding is still absent. The truth that at that time there was only an initial impetus toward an understanding that can come into being only with the further development of mankind is shown in a quite wonderful way in the artistic composition of the Gospel. We can discern something of this artistic composition if we enquire into the form of understanding that could have been possible and brought to bear on the Mystery of Golgotha at the time it took place.
Essentially three kinds of understanding were possible, and they could arise at three different levels. Firstly, understanding could have been found in those who were nearest to Christ Jesus, His chosen disciples. They are presented to us everywhere in the Gospels as those whom the Lord Himself had chosen, to whom He confided many things to help them toward a higher understanding of existence. From them, therefore, we have a right to expect the greatest understanding of the Mystery of Golgotha. What kind of understanding may we expect from them? As we approach the end of the Mark Gospel this is ever more delicately interwoven into its composition. It is pointed out to us very clearly that these chosen disciples could have had a higher understanding than the leaders of the Old Testament people. But we must everywhere look for the point to which we are referring.
In Mark chapter 12, verses 18 to 27 you will find a conversation between Christ Jesus and the Sadducees, a conversation that is primarily concerned with the immortality of the soul. If the Gospels are read superficially it will not occur to anybody to ask why this conversation appears precisely here, a conversation about immortality followed by the curious question posed by the Sadducees, who spoke as follows: “It could happen that one of seven brothers married a woman but he dies, and the same woman marries the second. After the death of the second she also marries the third, and likewise with the others. She herself dies only after the death of the seventh brother.” The Sadducees could not understand how, if there is indeed immortality, these seven men should behave toward the one woman in the spiritual world. This is a well-known Sadducean objection which, as some of you may know, was not made only at the time of the Mystery of Golgotha but is even to be found in some modern books as an objection to immortality, which proves that in the circles where such books are written there is still no complete understanding of the matter. But why was this conversation recorded? If we consider the matter, we shall see that the answer given by Christ Jesus tells us clearly that souls become heavenly after death, that there is no marrying among beings of the supra-earthly world. In the case cited by the Sadducees the facts are totally irrelevant, since they are concerned with a relationship that is essentially earthly and has no meaning beyond the Earth. In other words Christ Jesus is here speaking of circumstances prevailing in the extraterrestrial worlds which He wishes to bring in here solely for the contribution they can make to the understanding of life beyond the Earth.
But as you approach the end of the Mark Gospel you will find still another conversation when Christ Jesus is asked about marriage (Mark 10:1-12). This was a conversation between Christ Jesus and the Jewish scribes. How is it possible, He was asked, to dismiss a wife with a letter of divorce as permitted by the law of Moses? What was the reason for the answer given by Christ Jesus, “Yes, Moses gave you this law because your hearts are hard and you need an arrangement like this”? The reason is that He is now speaking about something entirely different. He is now speaking about how men and women were together before human evolution had been exposed to temptation through the Luciferic powers. That is to say, He is talking about something cosmic, something supra-earthly; He raised the subject to the supra-earthly plane. The reason for His answer is that He was leading the conversation beyond what refers simply to earthly life, beyond experience of the senses, beyond ordinary Earth evolution. And this is already a significant example of how by appearing on Earth He brings down to it supra-earthly, cosmic matters, and talks about such cosmic matters with the beings of Earth.
By whom might we hope, or even go as far as to demand, that such discourses of Christ concerning these cosmic matters will be best understood? By those whom He had first chosen as His disciples. So the first form of understanding could be characterized in this way. The chosen disciples of Christ Jesus could have understood the Mystery of Golgotha in such a way that they could have interpreted the supra-earthly, cosmic aspect of this world-historical fact. This might have been expected from those disciples whom He had chosen.
A second kind of understanding could have been expected to be found among the leaders of the ancient Hebrew people, from the high priests, the chief justices, from those who knew the Scriptures and knew the historical evolution of the Old Testament people. What could have been asked of them? The Gospel shows clearly that they were not called upon to understand the realities of Christ Jesus, but they were expected to understand the fact that Christ Jesus came to the ancient Hebrew people, that with His individuality He was born into the blood of the people, that He was a Son of the House of David, inwardly linked to the essence of what came through David into the Jewish people. This is the second and lesser kind of understanding. That Christ Jesus had a mission that marked the high point of the mission of the whole Jewish people is indicated in a wonderful way toward the end of the Mark Gospel when it is shown ever more clearly — see in what a delicately artistic way this is indicated — that here we have to do with the Son of David. Thus, while the disciples were called upon to have an understanding of the mission of the cosmic hero, those who considered themselves as belonging to the Jewish people were called upon to understand the truth that the time had come for the completion of the mission of David. That is the second kind of understanding. The Jewish people should have known that the end of their old mission had come and that there could come a new flaming up of their own particular mission.
And the third kind of comprehension — where should this have been found? Again something lesser is demanded, and it is remarkable with what delicacy the artistic composition of the Mark Gospel indicates it. Something lesser is demanded, and this lesser element was required of the Romans. Read what happens toward the end of this Gospel when Christ Jesus is delivered over to the Romans by the high priests — I am referring only to this Mark Gospel. The high priests ask Christ Jesus if He wishes to speak of the Christ and acknowledge Himself as the Christ, at which they would take offense, because He would then be speaking of His cosmic mission; or if He wishes to speak of the fact that He is a scion of the House of David. But why does Pilate, the Roman, take offense? Simply because Christ was supposed to have claimed He was the “king of the Jews” (Mark 15:1-15). The Jews were expected to understand that He represented the culminating point in their own development. The Romans were expected to understand that He signified something in the development of the Jewish people — not a climax of this development but something that was to play a leading part in it. If the Romans had understood this what would have been the result? Nothing much different from what came about in any case; only they failed to understand it. We know that Judaism spread indirectly over the whole Western world by way of Alexandria. The Romans could have had some understanding for the fact that the moment in world history had arrived for the spread of Jewish culture. Such an understanding was again less than what the scribes ought to have understood. The Romans were called upon to understand simply the significance of the Jews as a part of the world. That they did not understand this, which would have been a task of that age, is shown through the fact that Pilate did not understand why Christ Jesus was looked upon as the king of the Jews, and regarded it, indeed, as a harmless matter that He should have been presented as a king of the Jews.
Thus a threefold understanding of the mission of Christ Jesus might have been expected: first, that the chosen disciples could have had an understanding of Christ as a cosmic being, secondly, the understanding that the Jews were supposed to have for what was burgeoning in the Jewish people itself, and thirdly the understanding that the Romans ought to have had of the Jewish people, how they were ceasing to expand only over Palestine, but were beginning to spread over the greater part of the Earth.
This secret is concealed in the artistic composition especially of the Mark Gospel; and in it answers are given, and with great clarity, to all three questions.
The first question must be: Are the apostles, the chosen disciples, equal to the task of comprehension imposed on them? Did they recognize Christ as a cosmic spirit? Did they recognize that there in their midst was one who was not only what He signified to them as man, but who was enveloped in an aura through which cosmic forces and cosmic laws were transmitted to the Earth? Did they understand this?
That Christ Jesus demanded such an understanding from them is clearly indicated in the Gospel. For when the two disciples, the sons of Zebedee, came to Him and asked that one of them might sit on His right hand and the other on His left, He said to them, “You do not know what you ask. Can you drink from the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” (Mark 10:38.)
It is clearly indicated here that Christ Jesus required this of them, and at first they solemnly pledge themselves to it. What might then have happened? There were two possibilities. One would have been that the chosen disciples would really have passed in company with Christ through all that is known as the Mystery of Golgotha, and that the bond between Christ and the disciples would have been preserved until the Mystery of Golgotha. That was one of the two things that could have happened. But it is made very clear, especially in the Mark Gospel, that exactly the opposite occurred. When Christ Jesus was taken prisoner, everyone fled, and Peter, who had promised solemnly that he would take offense at nothing, denied him three times before the cock crowed twice. That is the picture presented from the point of view of the apostles. But how is it shown that, from the point of view of the Christ, it was not at all like this?
Let us place ourselves with all humility — as we must — within the soul of Christ Jesus, who to the end tries to maintain the woven bond linking Him with the souls of the disciples. Let us place ourselves as far as we may within the soul of Christ Jesus during the events that followed. This soul might well put to itself the world-historical question, “Is it possible for me to cause the souls of at least the most select of the disciples to rise to the height of experiencing with me everything that is to happen until the Mystery of Golgotha?” The soul of Christ itself is faced with this question at the crucial moment when Peter, James, and John are led out to the Mount of Olives, and Christ Jesus wants to find out from within Himself whether He will be able to keep those whom He had chosen. On the way He becomes anguished. Yes, my friends, does anyone believe, can anyone believe, that Christ became anguished in face of death, of the Mystery of Golgotha, and that He sweated blood because of the approaching event of Golgotha? Anyone who could believe that would show he had little understanding for the Mystery of Golgotha; it may be in accord with theology, but it shows no insight. Why does the Christ become distressed? He does not tremble before the cross. That goes without saying. He is distressed above all in face of this question: “Will those whom I have with me here stand the test of this moment when it will be decided whether they want to accompany me in their souls, whether they want to experience everything with me until the cross?” It had to be decided if their consciousness could remain sufficiently awake so that they could experience everything with Him until the cross. This was the “cup” that was coming near to Him. So He leaves them alone to see if they can stay “awake,” that is, in a state of consciousness in which they can experience with Him what He is to experience. Then He goes aside and prays, “Father, let this cup pass from me, but let it be done according to your will, not mine.” In other words, “Let it not be my experience to stand quite alone as the Son of Man, but may the others be permitted to go with me.”
He comes back, and they are asleep; they could not maintain their state of wakeful consciousness. Again He makes the attempt, and again they could not maintain it. So it becomes clear to Him that He is to stand alone, and that they will not participate in the path to the cross. The cup had not passed away from Him. He was destined to accomplish the deed in loneliness, a loneliness that was also of the soul. Certainly the world had the Mystery of Golgotha, but at the time it happened it had as yet no understanding of this event; and the most select and chosen disciples could not stay awake to that point. This therefore is the first kind of understanding; and it comes to expression with the most consummate artistry if we can only understand how to feel the actual occult background that lies concealed behind the words of the Gospels.
Let us now enquire into the second kind of understanding, and ask how the Jewish leaders understood the one who was to come forth from the lineage of David as the flower of the old Hebrew development. We find in the tenth chapter of the Mark Gospel one of the first passages in which it is pointed out to us what understanding the ancient Hebrew people showed toward the one who arose from the lineage of David. This is the decisive passage when Christ Jesus is approaching Jerusalem, and should have been recognized by the old Hebrew people as the successor of David.
And they came to Jericho. And as he was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a considerable crowd, a blind man, Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the road, begging. And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to call, “Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy on me.” And many scolded him, telling him to be silent. But he called all the more loudly, “Thou Son of David, have mercy on me.” (Mark 10:46-48.)
It is explicitly stated that the call of the blind man was expressed in the words “Thou Son of David,” showing that he could reach the understanding only of “the Son of David.”
And Jesus stood still and said, “Call him here.” And they called the blind man and said to him, “Be of good cheer, arise, he is calling you.”
So he threw off his mantle, jumped up and came to Jesus. And Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?”
The blind man said to him, “Rabboni, that I may receive my sight.”
And Jesus said to him. “Cheer up! [ footnote 1 ] Your faith has rescued you.” And immediately he received his sight and followed him on his way.
It was therefore only faith that was required of him. Is it not worthwhile giving consideration to why, among the other stories, the healing of a blind man is referred to? Why does the story stand there all by itself? We should learn something from the way the Gospel is composed. It is not the cure itself that is at issue, but that only one man among them all, and he a blind man, should call with all his strength, “Jesus, thou Son of David!” Those who had sight did not recognize Him, but the blind man, who does not see Him physically at all, does recognize Him. So what has to be shown here is how blind the others are, and that this man had to be blind in order to see Him. In this passage what is important is the blindness, not the healing; and it shows at the same time how little Christ was understood.
As we proceed further we find how He speaks everywhere of how the cosmic lives in the individual human being. Indeed, He speaks of the cosmic when He speaks of immortality, and it is noteworthy how He speaks of this just in connection with His appearance as the Son of David. He proclaims that God is a God of the living and not of the dead, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Mark 12:26-27), because Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob live on in their successors in different forms, in that God lives in their individualities. This is pointed out still more strongly when Christ refers to what slumbers within man and must be awakened. Here it is said that it was not a question of a merely physical son of David, for David himself speaks of the “Lord” and not of a physical son (Mark 12:35-37). As the influence of the cosmic Christ is waning, everywhere reference is made to the “Lord” that lives within the individuality of man, and how this is to spring from the lineage of David.
We wish to draw attention to one particular passage that you will find near the end of the Mark Gospel. It is a passage that can easily be overlooked if it is not understood, though it is indeed a soul-shattering passage. It occurs where it is reported that Christ has now been delivered over to the worldly powers, that He is to be condemned, and excuses are sought for condeming Him. Just before this passage what He did in the Temple was described, how He drove out the money-changers and overturned their tables, and how He preached most remarkable words which were heard in the souls of those present. Yet nothing happened to Him because of this. Christ explicitly draws attention to this when He says, “You have heard all this. Yet now, when I am standing before you, you are looking for false charges against me. You have taken me prisoner by the customary method of employing a traitor, as if you were arresting someone who has committed a serious crime, whereas you did nothing while I stood among you in the Temple.”
This is indeed a shattering passage, for we are given to understand that essentially, wherever Christ is active, nothing can be done against Him. Is it not permissible to ask why? Indeed, He is working so actively that He points with the utmost clarity to the fact that a turning point in cosmic evolution has been reached, as He indicates with the words “The first shall be last and the last shall be first.” (Mark 9:35.) Such teachings that He hurls at them must have seemed terrifying by comparison with the teachings of the Old Testament and the way they understood them. Yet nothing happens. Afterwards He is captured under cover of darkness and night by the agency of a traitor; and we even have the impression that there was something like a struggle when He was captured. The passage is truly shattering:
But the traitor had given them a sign and said “The one whom I will kiss, it is he; seize and secure him.”And when he came he went directly to Him and said “Rabbi, Rabbi!” and kissed him. And they laid hands on Him and seized Him.But one of those who were standing by drew his sword and struck at a servant of the high priest and cut off his ear.And Jesus spoke to them, “You have come out with swords and sticks to take me prisoner as you would a murderer. I was daily in the Temple teaching, and you did not seize me; but the Scriptures must be fulfilled.” (Mark 14:44-49.)
What was it that really happened that they did not at first capture Him, and then sought reasons to capture Him like a murderer? It is only possible to understand what happened if we look at it in the light of occult truths. I have already pointed out how the Mark Gospel clearly describes occult and spiritual facts intermingled at random with purely physical facts. And we shall show how Christ clearly does not limit His activity to the deeds of the single personality, Jesus of Nazareth. He worked upon His disciples when He came to them by the lake in an external form but outside His physical body. So while His physical body might be in one place or another, He could while outside it inspire into the souls of His disciples all that He did, and all that radiated from Him as spiritual impulse. And we shall point out that the Mark Gospel makes it abundantly clear how human beings hear what He preaches and teaches while He appears to them in an external form outside His physical body. What He says lives in their souls; though they do not understand it, it comes to life within their souls. In the individuality of Christ and in the crowd it is both earthly and supra-earthly at the same time.
The Christ is everywhere connected with a widely extended, actively working aura. This aura was present and active because He was linked with the souls of those whom He had chosen, and it remained present as long as He was linked to them. The cup had not passed away from Him; the chosen human beings had shown no comprehension. So this aura gradually withdrew from the man Jesus of Nazareth; Christ became ever more estranged from the Son of Man, Jesus of Nazareth. Toward the end of His life Jesus of Nazareth was more and more alone, and the Christ became ever more loosely connected with Him.
Although the cosmic element was there until the moment pictured as that of the sweating of blood in Gethsemane, and Christ up to this moment was fully united with Jesus of Nazareth, now through the failure of human beings to understand this connection the link was loosened. And whereas earlier the cosmic Christ was active in the temple and drove out the money-changers, expounding mighty teachings, and nothing happened to Him, now, when Jesus of Nazareth was only loosely connected with the Christ the posse could come near Him. However, we can still see the cosmic element present, but less and less connected with the Son of Man. This is what makes the whole episode so soul-shattering! Because the threefold understanding could not be forthcoming, what did the men finally have in their hands? What could they seize, what could they condemn, what could they nail to the cross? The Son of Man! And the more they did all this, the more did the cosmic element withdraw that had entered the life of Earth as a youthful impulse. It escaped them. For those who sentenced Him and carried out the judgment there remained only the Son of Man, around whom only hovered what was to come down to Earth as a youthful cosmic element.
No Gospel other than that of St. Mark tells how only the Son of Man remained, and that the cosmic element only hovered around Him. Thus in no other Gospel do we perceive the cosmic fact in relation to the Christ event expressed with such clarity, the fact that at the very moment when men who failed to understand laid their violent human hands upon the Son of Man, the cosmic element escaped them. The youthful cosmic element which from that turning point of time entered earth evolution as an impulse, escaped. All that was left was the Son of Man; and this is clearly emphasized in the Mark Gospel. Let us read the passage and find out if the Mark Gospel does indeed emphasize how, just at this moment in the unfolding of events, the cosmic acts in relation to the human.
And Jesus spoke to them, “You have set out with swords and sticks to take me prisoner, as if I were a murderer. I was daily with you in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me. But the Scriptures must be fulfilled.”And they all forsook him and fled. (Mark 14:48-50.)
He stands alone. But what has become of the youthful, cosmic element? Think of the loneliness of this man, permeated as He was by the cosmic Christ, who now confronts the posse like a murderer. And those who should have understood Him flee! “And they all forsook Him and fled,” it says in the 50th verse. Then in verses 51 and 52:
And there was a youth among his followers, [ footnote 2 ] who wore a fine linen garment over his bare body, and they seized him. But he let go of the linen garment and fled naked.
Who is this youth? Who was it who escaped here? Who is it who appears here, next to Christ Jesus, nearly unclothed, and then slips away unclothed? This is the youthful cosmic impulse, it is the Christ who slips away, who now has only a loose connection with the Son of Man. Much is contained in these 51st and 52nd verses. The new impulse retains nothing of what former times were able to wrap around man. It is the entirely naked, new cosmic impulse of Earth evolution. It remains with Jesus of Nazareth, and we find it again at the beginning of the sixteenth chapter.
And when the Sabbath was over Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Salome bought spices and went there to anoint him. And early in the morning on the first day of the week they came to the tomb as the sun was rising.And they said among themselves, “Who will roll away the stone from the door of the tomb for us?” And when they looked up they saw that the stone was rolled away, for it was really very large.And as they entered the tomb they saw a youth sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white robe; and they were startled.But he said to them, “Do not be frightened. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified one. He has risen!” (Mark 16:1-6.)
This is the same youth. In the whole artistic composition of the Gospels nowhere else does this youth confront us, the youth who slips away from the people at the moment when they condemn the Son of Man, who is there again when the three days are over, and who from now onward is active as the cosmic principle of the Earth. Nowhere else in the Gospels — you should compare the others — except in these two passages does this youth confront us, and in such a grandiose manner. Here we have all we need in order to understand the profound meaning of just this Gospel of St. Mark, which is telling us that we have to do with a cosmic event, with a cosmic Christ. Only now do we understand why the remainder of the Mark Gospel had to be artistically composed as it was.
It is indeed remarkable that, after this significant appearance of the youth has come twice before us, the Gospel quickly comes to an end, and all that remains are a few striking sentences. For it is scarcely possible to imagine that anything that came later could have still yielded any further enhancement. Perhaps the sublime and marvelous element could have been enhanced, but not what is soul-shattering and of significance for Earth evolution. Consider again this composition of the Mark Gospel: the monologue of God; the cosmic conversation on the mountain above the Earth to which the three disciples were called but did not understand; then Gethsemane, the scene on the Mount of Olives when Christ had to acknowledge that those who had been chosen could not attain to an understanding of what was about to happen; how He had to tread this path alone, how the Son of Man would suffer and be crucified. Then the world-historical loneliness of the Son of Man, who is abandoned, abandoned by those He had chosen and then abandoned gradually by the cosmic principle. Thus, after we have understood the mission and significance of the youth who slips away from the eyes and hands of men, we come to understand in an especially profound manner the words “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34.) Then the reappearance of the youth, whereupon it is briefly shown how the youth is a spiritual, supersensible being, who becomes sense-perceptible only through special circumstances, when He first shows himself to Mary Magdalene. Then afterward “He revealed Himself in another form to two of them as they went for a walk into the countryside.” (Mark 16:12.) The physical could not have shown itself “in another form.”
Then the Gospel quickly comes to an end, having indicated that what could not be understood at that time had to be left to the future. Humanity, which had then arrived at the deepest point of its descent, could only be directed toward the future, and it is in the way in which mankind is referred to the future that we can best appreciate the artistic composition of the Gospel. How may we suppose that such a reference to the future would emanate from one who had experienced this threefold failure to understand as He faced the fulfillment of the Mystery of Golgotha? We can imagine that He would point to the fact that the more we go forward into the future, the more men will have to gain an understanding of what happened at that time.
We shall only achieve the right understanding if we pay attention to what we can experience through the Mark Gospel, which speaks to us in a remarkable way. If therefore we say to ourselves that every age has to bring more and more understanding to what happened at that time, and to what the Mystery of Golgotha really was — then we believe that with what we call here our anthroposophical movement we are in fact fulfilling for the first time something that is indicated here in this Gospel. We are bringing a new understanding to what the Christ wanted to come about in the world. This new comprehension is difficult. The possibility is always present that we may misunderstand the being of Christ; and this was already clearly indicated by Christ Himself:
“And then if one says to you, ‘See, here is Christ,’ or, ‘See, he is there,’ don't believe it. For false Christs and false prophets will arise, and they will show signs and wonders to lead astray even the chosen ones if that should be possible.But you see to it! Behold, I have fortold everything to you.” (Mark 13:21-23.)
At all times since the event of Golgotha there has been ample opportunity to let such words be a warning to us. Whoever has ears to hear may also hear today how the word resounds over to us from Golgotha: “If someone says to you ‘See, here is Christ,’ or ‘see, he is there,’ don't believe it. For false Christs and false prophets will arise and show signs and wonders such as to lead astray if possible even the chosen ones.”
How may we face up to the Mystery of Golgotha? Among the few striking sentences contained in the Mark Gospel after it has spoken to us in such a soul-shattering way is to be found also the very last sentence, in which it is related how the disciples, who had earlier shown so little comprehension, after they had received a new impulse through the youth, the cosmic Christ, “went forth and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them, confirming the word through the signs that accompanied it.” (Mark 16:20.)
The Lord worked with them! This we recognize as in accord with the meaning of the Mystery of Golgotha. Not that “the Lord” could be incarnated anywhere in the physical body, but where He is understood, if work is performed in His name then He works with us; and He is spiritually among those who in truth understand His name — without presenting Him, out of vanity, in a physical form. Rightly understood the Gospel of St. Mark tells us about the Mystery of Golgotha itself in such a way that, when we rightly understand it, we may also find the possibility of fulfilling the Mystery of Golgotha in the right manner. Precisely in what is contained only in this Mark Gospel, in this remarkable story of the youth who at a decisive moment broke away, so to speak, from Christ Jesus, do we discover the indication as to how this Gospel must be understood. Because the chosen ones fled and they did not truly participate in everything that happened afterward. This is also told in the Gospel. In truly artistic fashion a passage is inserted in the midst of the composition. A passage of the utmost clarity is here inserted; yet none of the disciples were present, not one of them was an eye-witness! And yet the whole story is told! So the question is still presented to us, and we shall try, in answering this question, to penetrate still further into the matter, and at the same time to throw light upon the remainder.
Where does this remainder originate that the disciples have not seen? Jewish traditions relate the story quite differently from the way it appears here in the Gospels. Where does it come from? What then is the real truth about the Mystery of Golgotha, since those who give an account of it were not themselves present? What is the source of their knowledge of something that none of those who have preached Christianity can have seen?
This question will lead us still more deeply into the matter.
Monday, November 28, 2011
The Gospel of Mark. Lecture 8 of 10.
Rudolf Steiner, September 22, 1912:
In the Gospel of St. Mark directly after the great world-historical monologue which I have described there follows, as you know, the scene known as the Transfiguration or Transformation. I have often pointed out before that for the three disciples who had been taken to the “mountain” on which the Transfiguration took place, this was a kind of higher initiation. At this moment they were to be initiated, as it were, more profoundly into the secrets that were to be entrusted to them, one by one, to enable them to become leaders and guides of mankind. From what we have said before on several occasions we know that this scene contains a series of secrets. Both in the Gospels and other occult writings whenever the “mountain” is spoken of, then we have to do with something occult. In an occult connection it always means when the mountain is spoken of that those who are led to the mountain are led into certain secrets of existence. In the case of the Mark Gospel we feel this especially strongly for a reason that will become apparent if the Gospel is read rightly. But it must be read rightly.
Take, for example, the third chapter of Mark from the 7th to the 23rd or 24th verse. Actually we need not go further than the 22nd verse, but it is necessary to read it with perceptive understanding. Then something will be noticed. It has often been stressed that the expressions “accompany to the mountain” and “leading to the mountain” have an occult meaning. But in this particular chapter we find a threefold activity, and not only an “accompanying to the mountain.” If we examine carefully the three passages indicated by Mark, we notice first in verse 7, “And Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the lake,” etc. Then, in the 13th verse it is said, “And he went up to the mountain and called to him those who were acceptable to him.” Then in verses 20 and 21 we read, “And then he went to his home. And the crowd gathered again so that they could not so much as eat bread. And when his family heard of it they went out to seize him, for they said ‘he is out of his mind.’” Thus we are referred to three separate localities: the lake, the mountain, and the house. Just as in an occult sense the mountain signifies that something important takes place, so is this also true in the other two cases. In occult writings if such expressions as “being led to the mountain,” or “being led to a house,” occur, this invariably means that they have an occult significance. When this is the meaning intended in the Gospels some specific circumstance is connected with it. You should remember that it is not only in the Mark Gospel but also in the others that a special revelation or special manifestation is connected especially with the “lake,” as when the disciples cross the lake and Christ appears to them. They at first take Him for a ghost, but then become aware that it is He in reality that is approaching them (Mark 6:45-52). And elsewhere you can also find a similar mention in the Gospels of some event that takes place because of the lake, or by the lake. On the mountain he first appoints the Twelve, that is, he confers their occult mission on them. That was an act of occult education. It is again on the mountain that the occult Transfiguration takes place. When he was “at his home,” he is declared by his family to be “out of his mind.” This was the third thing, and all three are of the greatest and most comprehensive significance.
If we wish to understand what “by the lake” means in this connection we must call to mind something that we have often explained. We have pictured to you how the so-called Atlantean age preceded our post-Atlantean Earth period, and that in that age the air was still permeated by dense masses of mist. In the same way that in the Atlantean age human beings possessed the ancient clairvoyance, their way of perceiving and their soul life were quite different because they lived in quite different physical conditions. This was linked to the fact that the physical body was entirely different, since it was embedded in the masses of mist. From this epoch something like an ancient heritage has remained with mankind. If someone in the post-Atlantean age is initiated by some means into occult matters, or comes near to them as was the case with Jesus' disciples, he becomes much more sensitive, more intensely sensitive to his environment and to the natural world around him. As man is today, we might say that with his robust relationship with the natural world, it is more or less immaterial whether he crosses the sea or stays by the lake, or whether he climbs a mountain — we shall soon see what that means — or whether he is in his own home. How his eyes see and his mind functions do not depend very much on where he happens to be. But when a man acquires a subtler vision and ascends into spiritual cosmic conditions, then it becomes evident how crudely organized his ordinary being is.
If a man, in the time when the old clairvoyance was active, crossed the sea where circumstances were quite different, even if he lived by the coast, his clairvoyant consciousness would be quite differently attuned than if he were on the plain. The greatest exertion, one might say, is necessary to bring forth any clairvoyant forces at all. The lake allows them to be brought forth more easily, but only those forces which are related to something entirely specific, not to everything. For there is again a difference whether clairvoyant consciousness is active on the plain, or whether it is active on the mountaintop. On the heights the sensitive clairvoyant consciousness is again attuned to things quite different from those on the plain. And the results of clairvoyant consciousness are again different if one is by the lake from what they are on the mountain. In each case the distinction must be made.
Of course it is also possible to arouse clairvoyance in a town, but this needs exceptional forces, whereas what we are talking about at present is valid especially for clairvoyance that comes more or less of its own accord. By the lake, by the water, and in masses of mist the clairvoyant consciousness is especially disposed to perceive imaginations, all kinds of things through imagination, and to make use of what has already been acquired. On the mountain, in the rarified air where the proportion of nitrogen and oxygen is differently distributed, clairvoyant consciousness is more attuned to receiving inspirations, allowing something new to arise through clairvoyance. Hence the expression “to ascend the mountain” is not meant only symbolically but is used because the conditions obtaining on the mountain favor the possibility of developing new occult powers in oneself. Likewise the expression “to go to the lake” is not meant symbolically, but was chosen because coming in contact with the lake favors imaginative vision and the use of occult powers.
If one is at home, in one's own house, whether one is alone or with relatives, it is most difficult to make use of occult forces. For while it is comparatively easy for a person who has lived for a long time by a lake to believe — as long as conditions are favorable — that he experiences imaginations through the veil of his corporeality, and easier still for a person who lives in the mountains to believe that he is ascending higher, in the case of a person who is at home, one can feel only that he is outside his body, “out of his mind.” This is not to say that he could not develop occult powers, but only that this does not seem to be in harmony with his surroundings. It is less natural than it would be if he were by a lake, or on the mountain.
For this reason it has an immensely deep meaning that the Gospel is entirely in accord with what we have just described, and that this is drawn from the occult understanding of the conditions of nature. The Gospel brings this out clearly and it is factually correct in an occult sense. Hence we shall always see the following. When it is said that something took place by the lake, when being by the lake is referred to, definite forces are being applied and healing powers or powers of vision are unfolded. Thus Christ Jesus appears to His disciples by the lake in imagination only since He Himself is involved in the entire episode because of His capacity to exteriorize Himself. Although they do not have Him there in the physical body, the disciples see Him. In such an experience separation in space has no importance. He was together “with them” by the lake. For the same reason when reference is made to the soul forces of the apostles, the “mountain” is spoken of, as it was when the Twelve were appointed and their souls were enjoined to take into themselves the group soul of Elijah. And when the Christ wished to appear in the whole grandeur of His world-historical and cosmic manifestation, again the mountain is spoken of. The Transfiguration therefore takes place on the mountain.
It is indeed from this point of view that we must picture the scene of the Transfiguration. The three disciples Peter, James, and John prove themselves to be capable of being initiated into the deeper secrets of the Mystery of Golgotha. To the clairvoyant eyes of these three which were now opened there appeared, transfigured, that is in their spiritual nature, Elijah on the one side and Moses [ Note 20 ] on the other, with Christ Jesus Himself in the middle. And it is imaginatively indicated in the Gospel that Christ was now in the form in which in His spiritual nature He could be recognized. This is shown with sufficient clarity in the Mark Gospel:
And He was transfigured before them.And His garments became gleaming bright, brighter than any fuller on earth could bleach them.And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, and they conversed with Jesus. (Mark 9:2-4.)
After the great monologue of God comes a conversation among these three. What a wonderful dramatic crescendo! Everywhere the Gospels are full of such artistic sequences. Indeed they are wonderfully composed. After hearing the monologue of God we now have a conversation among these three, and what a conversation! First we see Elijah and Moses, one on each side of Christ Jesus. What is the significance of Elijah and Moses?
The figure of Moses has long been familiar to you; even from the occult standpoint it has often been illuminated. We know that world-historical wisdom chose to bridge the span between primeval ages and the Mystery of Golgotha indirectly through Moses. We know from our studies on the Luke Gospel that in the Jesus boy of whom Matthew especially speaks the reincarnated Zarathustra is to be seen. We know also that this Zarathustra through all that belonged to him and was in him made preparations for his later appearance on Earth. I have often mentioned how through special occult processes Zarathustra gave away his etheric body, which then passed over into Moses so that Zarathustra's etheric body was active in him. Thus when Elijah and Moses are pictured next to Christ Jesus we have, so to speak, in Moses those forces destined to lead over from primitive forms of culture to what mankind was later to be given in Christ Jesus and the Mystery of Golgotha.
But from another point of view we also have a transitional figure in Moses. We know that he not only had within him the etheric body of Zarathustra, which enabled him to bear within himself the wisdom of Zarathustra which could then become active in him, but we know also that Moses was in a certain way initiated into the secrets of other peoples. In the meeting with the Midianite priest Jethro we have to see a special scene of initiation, as we have discussed before. This is to be found in the Old Testament (Exodus 2:16-21). Here it is clearly pointed out how Moses visits this lonely priest and not only learns from him the secrets of the initiation of Judaism but also those of other peoples. He bears all these within his inner being which has already experienced the special strengthening that came from the etheric body of Zarathustra. So there entered into the Jewish people through Moses the secrets of initiation of the whole surrounding world, thus enabling him to prepare, on a lower stage, as it were, what was to come about through Christ Jesus. This then was one of the streams that was to lead to the Mystery of Golgotha.
The other stream, as I have also indicated before, derived from what by this time was living in a natural way in the Jewish people, as a people. Moses was the individuality who as far as was possible in his time allowed the other stream that was in the world to pour into that stream that flowed through the generations from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. But at the same time we should always keep in mind what was especially connected with the nature of the Hebrew people. Why had this people been chosen? Their task was to prepare for that era that we tried to call before our souls when, for example, we referred to Hellenism, and then when yesterday we spoke of Empedocles. We were referring in this way to that time when the ancient clairvoyant capacities were disappearing from men, when they lost their ability to see into the spiritual world, when the power of judgment took its place; and judgment is the special characteristic of the ego, when the ego emerges as an independent entity.
It was for the purpose of bringing to the ego all that could be given to the natural being of man through the organization of the blood that the Hebrew people were chosen. Absolutely everything that can be fully experienced through the physical organization of the human being had to be experienced fully by this people. Man's intellectuality is certainly bound to his physical organization; and from the physical organization of the ancient Hebrew people was to be taken that which truly could nourish those human capacities that are dependent on the intellect. By contrast other peoples had to allow what comes from without, from initiation, to shine into their earthly organization, whereas what was able to rise up in man's own being through the blood relationship was to rise up through this relationship in the ancient Hebrew people. For this reason it was insisted on that this blood connection be a continuous one, and that every Hebrew carried within himself those capacities that have been flowing through the blood since the time of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The ego, bound to the blood, had to be conveyed to the physical organization through the blood of the ancient Hebrew people, and this could come about only through the medium of heredity.
I have already pointed out that the Old Testament story of the sacrifice of Isaac by Abraham and the manner in which it was prevented indicates how this people was specially chosen by the Godhead to be a gift to humanity, so that the outer physical vessel for egohood could be given to mankind. That this physical vessel, the ancient Jewish people, was a gift of God to humanity is indicated by Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son. If he had sacrificed Isaac, Abraham would at the same time have sacrificed that physical organization that was to give mankind the physical basis for the intellect, and thus for egohood. In receiving back his son Abraham received back the whole God-given organization. This is the great significance of the restoration of Isaac (Genesis 22:1-19). At the same time it is also indicated that on the one side there is the spiritual stream pictured for us in the Transfiguration scene in the person of Moses, and this is now to flow onward precisely through the instrument of the Jewish people as far as the deed of the Mystery of Golgotha. What then is pictured for us in the person of Elijah?
Through him the totality of the divine revelation living in the Jewish people unites with what happens through the Mystery of Golgotha. In the book of Numbers it is shown in the 25th chapter how Israel is led astray into idolatry, but is rescued through the agency of one man. Through the decisiveness of one man the Israelites, the ancient Hebrew people, were not totally given over to idolatry at that time. Who is this man? It is he of whom we are told in the book of Numbers that he had the strength to come before the ancient Hebrew people who were in danger of lapsing into the idolatry of the surrounding peoples, and to intercede with the God who had been revealed through Moses. This was truly a strong soul. This intercession with God is usually translated into the German language as “eifern,” and in English as “be zealous.” This zeal is not to be thought of in any bad sense; it simply means to intercede strongly. Thus we read in Numbers 25:10-12:
And the Lord spoke with Moses and said: “Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, has turned away my anger from the children of Israel through his zeal concerning me. So in my zeal I have not destroyed the children of Israel. Therefore say: See, I give him my covenant of peace.”
Yahweh said this to Moses. And in this particular passage we must also see something that according to ancient Hebrew esoteric teaching is exceptionally significant. This is confirmed by occult research. We know that those representing the high priesthood of ancient Israel are direct descendants of Aaron, and that in them the essence of what was given to mankind by the Jewish people lives on. At that moment of world history, according to Hebrew esoteric teaching and confirmed by more recent occult research, the significant truth was indicated that Yahweh imparts the knowledge to Moses that in Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the grandson of Aaron, he was bestowing on the Hebrew people a very special priest who represents him and is closely connected with him. And the esoteric teaching and occult research reveal that the same soul lives in the body of Phinehas that was later present in Elijah. Thus we have a continuous line of descent which in several points we have already described. In Aaron's grandson we have one soul that is of concern to us, the soul that lives in Phinehas. The same soul appears again in Elijah-Naboth and then in John the Baptist, and we know how it continues throughout the evolution of mankind. So there is pictured for us this soul on the one side of the Christ, and on the other the soul of Moses himself.
So in the Transfiguration, in the Transformation on the mountain, we have before us a streaming together of the entire spirituality of Earth evolution, the essence of which flowed through the Jewish blood into the Levitical line. Thus the soul of Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron stands before us; Moses stands before us; and there stands before us also He who fulfilled the Mystery of Golgotha. And the three disciples who were to be initiated, Peter, James and John, were to perceive in imaginative knowledge how these forces, these spiritual streams, flowed together. When yesterday I tried to picture for you how something like a call sounds over from Greece to Palestine, and the call that answered it, this was something more than a mere pictorial description of the facts. It was indeed a preparation for that great world-historical discourse that now actually took place. The disciples Peter, James, and John were to be initiated into what these three souls had to discuss together; one soul who belonged to the people of the Old Testament, one who carried within himself much of what we know about the Moses soul, while the third, as cosmic deity, is uniting Himself with the Earth. This the disciples were to see.
We know that it could not immediately enter into their hearts, nor could they understand immediately what was revealed to them. But this is customary with much that is experienced in the realm of the occult. It is experienced imaginatively. One does not understand it, and often learns to understand it only in the following incarnation. But then our understanding is better able to adapt itself to what had previously been seen. We can feel how on the mountain there were the three cosmic powers, while down below were the three who were to be initiated into these great cosmic secrets. And from all these things the feeling can arise in our souls that the Gospel, if we understand it correctly, and especially if we allow the dramatic intensification and the artistic composition which is itself an expression everywhere of cosmic facts, does truly point to the great revolution that really happened at the time of the Mystery of Golgotha.
When the Gospel is explained through occult research it speaks a very clear language indeed. In the future it will become important that people should recognize ever more clearly what is the issue at stake, and what is particularly significant in one or the other passage in the Gospel; and only then will we be able to grasp the point that is of special importance in a particular parable, or in one story or another. It is strange how ordinary theologians or philosophers when they try to explain the most important things in the Gospels actually always take their point of departure as if they were not putting the horse before the cart in the usual way but the other way round — or, as we say in common parlance, they “put the cart before the horse.” This indeed happens with so many interpreters and commentators; they miss the main point.
We wish to draw your attention now to a passage that you will find in the fourteenth chapter of the Mark Gospel. We do this because it is of great significance for the progress of our studies.
And while he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came in as he sat at table with an alabaster flask of genuine costly ointment of nard, and she broke the flask open and poured the ointment over his head.But some of those present disputed among themselves and said, “Why this waste of ointment?” It could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii that could have been given to the poor. And they were indignant with her.But Jesus said, “Let her alone, why do you trouble her? She has accomplished a good work in me. For you have the poor with you all the time and you can do good to them whenever you wish. But you do not have me with you forever. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body in advance for burial.I say truly to you, wherever in the whole world this Gospel is proclaimed, her deed will be spoken of in her memory.” (Mark 14:3-9.)
It would surely be a good thing if we were to admit that this passage contains something striking in it. Most people, if they are honest, ought to confess that they are forced to sympathize with those who complained that the ointment was wasted, and that in any event it was unnecessary to pour it over someone's head. Most people will indeed believe it would have been better to sell the ointment for three hundred denarii and give the money to the poor. And if you are honest perhaps you will find that Christ was being callous when He said that it was better to let her do what she wished to do instead of giving the three hundred denarii to the poor, a sum that the ointment would have realized if it had been sold. At this point, if we are not to be shocked by the whole story, we must say to ourselves that there must be something else behind this. Indeed, the Gospel goes further, and in this passage it is not at all polite. For it seems to imply that if you can find a number of people who admit that it would have been better to give to the poor the three hundred denarii that could have been obtained for the ointment, then these people are thinking like a certain other person. For it continues:
“Wherever in the whole world this Gospel is proclaimed, her deed will also be spoken of in her memory.”And Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, went to the chief Priests to deliver him up to them. And they were glad when they heard it, and promised to give him money. And he sought how he could find a good opportunity to deliver him up. (Mark 14:9-12.)
That is to say, because Judas Iscariot was specially offended by the spilling of the ointment — and the others who took offense at the spilling of the ointment are thereby associated with the example of Judas — so the Gospel is by no means even polite, for it points out with the utmost clarity that those who took offense at the spilling of the ointment are exactly like Judas Iscariot, who later sold the Lord for thirty silver pieces. What the Gospel is saying is that Judas is too fond of money, and so are the people who wish to sell the ointment for three hundred denarii. We should never gloss over the Gospel, for glossing over such passages prevents an objective, correct interpretation. What we must do is find out what is the real issue. And we shall find many more examples to show us how the Gospel sometimes even persists in giving incidental details in a rather offensive manner if the purpose is to cast an especially clear light on a particular point.
What is the real question at issue in this passage? The Gospel wishes to tell us that it is man's task not to look only at sense existence, nor to suppose that only those things are important that have value and meaning in sense existence. Beyond everything else man should take the supersensible world into himself, and it is important to pay attention also to things that no longer have any meaning for sense existence. The body of Christ Jesus, which was anointed in advance by the woman before its burial, has no meaning if it is dead; but we should also do something for what has value and meaning beyond sense existence. This had to be especially strongly emphasized. For this reason something was made use of, to which even the natural human consciousness in the life of the senses attaches great value. The Gospel here chooses a special example to show how sometimes something must be withdrawn from sense life and offered to the spirit, to the ego after its liberation from the body. Just at this moment the Gospel chooses what is apparently an irreverent example; something is taken away from the poor that is given to the spirit, given to the ego when it has been freed from the body. It does not look at what gives value to Earth existence but at what can come into the ego and can radiate forth from it. This is pictured here in a very powerful manner, by bringing it into relation with Judas Iscariot, who commits a treacherous deed because he feels himself at heart especially impelled toward sense existence, and associates with those who are described in far from courteous terms as the real Philistines, not too strong a word for those who are clearly indicated in this passage. Judas is concerned only with what has meaning in sense existence, in the same way as those who believe that what can be bought for three hundred denarii has more importance than that which transcends the life of sense.
Everywhere in the Gospels attention is directed to the main point and not to side issues; and the Gospel will be recognized wherever the spiritual is recognized. This example will be recognized as pertinent wherever the spiritual is truly recognized. Wherever one wishes to exalt the value of the supersensible for the ego, it will always be said that the wasting of the ointment was a matter of no importance.
There is another remarkable passage where it is again possible to perceive the methodically artistic manner in which the Gospel veils the occult facts concerned with the evolution of mankind. This passage is again a difficult puzzle for the commentators.
And the next day, as they were leaving Bethany he was hungry.And from afar he saw a fig tree, which had leaves. So he went to see if he might find something on it. And when he came to it he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs.And he began to speak to it: “Never to all eternity shall anyone eat fruit from you!” And his disciples heard it. (Mark 11:12-14.)
Now we should all ask ourselves honestly, “Is it not truly extraordinary that, according to the Gospel, a God should go straight up to a fig tree, look for figs and find none, and then the reason is explicitly given why He did not fmd any — it was not the time for figs — so at a time when there are no figs He goes up to the fig tree, looks for figs and finding none, says, “'Never to all eternity shall anyone eat fruit from you'?”
Now consider the usual explanations given of this story — although the Gospel gives nothing but the dry and prosaic fact that for some strange reason Christ Jesus feels hunger, and goes up to a fig tree at a time when no figs grow. He finds no figs, and then curses the tree, telling it that to all eternity no figs will grow any more on it. What, then is the fig tree, and why is the entire story told here? Anyone who can read occult works first of all will recognize in the fig tree (its connection with the Gospel will be shown later) the same picture as was spoken of in relation to the Buddha, who sat under the Bodhi tree and received enlightenment for his sermon at Benares. “Under the Bodhi tree” means the same as “under the fig tree.” From a world-historical point of view it was still the “time of figs” in respect to human clairvoyance, that is to say it was possible to receive enlightenment as the Buddha did, under the Bodhi tree, under the fig tree. But this was no longer true, and that is what the disciples had to learn. From the point of view of world history it was a fact that there was no longer any fruit on the tree under which the Buddha had received his enlightenment.
And what was happening in all of mankind was mirrored at that time in the soul of Christ. We may see in Empedocles of Sicily a representative of humanity, a representative of many people who were similarly hungry because their souls could no longer discover the revelation that had been given earlier and had to be satisfied with the abstractions of the ego. In the same way that we can speak of the starving Empedocles, we can speak of the hunger for the spirit that all men felt in the times that were then beginning. And the entire hunger of mankind discharged itself into the soul of Christ Jesus as the Mystery of Golgotha approached. The disciples were to participate in this secret and know of it.
Christ led them to the fig tree and told them the secret of the Bodhi tree, omitting to tell them, because it had no significance for them, that the Buddha was still able to fmd fruit on it. Now it was no longer the “time of figs,” figs that the Buddha had received from the Bodhi tree when he gave his sermon at Benares. Now Christ had to tell them that for all eternity the fruit of knowledge would never again ripen on the tree from which the light of Benares had shown down, but that hereafter the light would shine from the Mystery of Golgotha.
What is the truth that is presented to us here? The truth that Christ Jesus went with His disciples from Bethany to Jerusalem, and that a specially strong feeling, a specially strong force, was called forth in the disciples, awakening clairvoyant forces in their souls, so that they were predisposed toward imagination. Clairvoyant imaginative powers were awakened in the disciples. In clairvoyance they see the Bodhi tree, the fig tree, and Christ Jesus inspires in them the knowledge that the fruit of knowledge can no longer come from the Bodhi tree, for it is no longer the “time of figs,” that is, of the ancient knowledge. For all eternity the tree will be withered, but a new tree must grow forth, a tree consisting of the dead wood of the cross; a tree on which the fruit of ancient knowledge will not ripen, but the fruit that can ripen for mankind from the Mystery of Golgotha, which is linked as by a new symbol to the cross on Golgotha. In the place of that scene of world history when the Buddha sat under the Bodhi tree stands the picture of Golgotha where another tree, the tree of the cross, is raised, on which hung the living fruit of the God-man revealing himself, so that from Him may radiate the new knowledge of the fruit of the ever growing tree that will bear fruit to all eternity.