The Gospel of John and Its Relation to the Other Gospels. Lecture 1 of 14.
Rudolf Steiner, Kassel, St. John's Day, June 24, 1909:
My dear friends,
A special festival has long been celebrated on this particular day of the year by a great number of those seeking higher wisdom; and many friends of our anthroposophical movement here in this city have wished this series of lectures to commence on this day, St. John's Day.
The day of the year bearing this name was a festival as far back as the time of ancient Persia. There, on a day corresponding to a June day as we know it, the so-called Festival of the Baptism by Water and Fire was celebrated. In ancient Rome the Festival of Vesta was held on a similar day in June, and that again was a festival of the baptism by fire. Going back to the time of pre-Christian culture in Europe and including the period before Christianity had become widely disseminated, we find a similar June festival coinciding with the time when the days are longest and the nights shortest, when the days start to become shorter again, when the Sun once more begins to lose some of the power that provides for all earthly growth and thriving. This June festival seemed to our European forefathers like a retrogression, a gradual evanescence, of the God Baldur, who was thought of as associated with the Sun. Then in Christian times this June festival gradually became the Festival of St. John, in memory of the forerunner of Christ Jesus. In this way it can form the starting point, as it were, for our discussions during the coming days of that most significant event in human evolution which we call the deed of Christ Jesus. This deed, its whole significance for the development of mankind, the way it is revealed primarily in the most important Christian document, the Gospel of St. John — and then a comparison of this with the other Gospels — a study of all this will form the subject of this lecture cycle.
St. John's Day reminds us that the most exalted Individuality that ever took part in the evolution of mankind was preceded by a forerunner. This touches at once an important point which — again like a forerunner — we must place at the beginning of our lectures as a subject of discussion. In the course of human evolution there appear again and again events of such profound import as to throw a stronger light than others. From epoch to epoch we see history recording such vital events; and ever and anon we are told that there are men who, in certain respects, know of such events in advance and can foretell them. This implies that such events are not arbitrary, but rather, that one who discerns the whole sense and spirit of human history knows how such events must unfold, and how he himself must work and prepare in order that they may come to pass.
We shall have occasion in the next few days to refer repeatedly to the forerunner of Christ Jesus. Today we will consider him only as one of those who, by means of special spiritual gifts, are able to see deep into the relations within the evolution of mankind, and who thus know that there are pre-eminent moments in this evolution. For this reason he was able to clear the path for Christ Jesus. But if we turn to Christ Jesus Himself, thus coming to the main subject of our discussions, as it were, we must understand that not without reason does a large part of mankind divide the record of time into two epochs separated by the appearance of Christ Jesus on Earth. This discloses a feeling for the incisive importance of the Christ Mystery. But all truth, all reality, must ever be proclaimed to humanity in new forms, in new ways, for the needs of men change from one epoch to another. In certain respects our epoch calls for a new revelation even of this greatest event in the earthly evolution of man, the Christ Event; and it is anthroposophy's aim to be this revelation.
As far as its content is concerned, the anthroposophical presentation of the Christ Mystery is nothing new, not even for us today; but its form is new. All that is to be disclosed here in the next few days has been known for centuries within certain restricted circles of our cultural and spiritual life. Only one feature distinguishes today's presentation from all those that have gone before: it can be addressed to a larger circle. Those smaller circles in which for centuries the same message was proclaimed within our European spiritual life, these had recognized the same symbol that confronts you here in this lecture hall today: the Rose Cross. For this reason it is fitting that today, when this message goes forth to a larger public, the Rose Cross should again be its symbol.
First let me characterize once more in a symbolical way the basis of these Rosicrucian revelations concerning Christ Jesus. The Rosicrucians are a brotherhood that has fostered a genuinely spiritual Christianity within the spiritual life of Europe ever since the 14th century. This Rosicrucian Society which, ignoring all outer historical forms, has endeavored to bring to light the deepest truths of Christianity, always called its members “Christians of St. John.” If we come to understand this term the whole spirit and trend of the following lectures will be — if not mentally comprehended, at least imaginatively grasped.
As you know, the Gospel of St. John — that mighty document of the human race — begins with the words:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and a God was the Word.
The same was in the beginning with God.
The Word, then — or the Logos — was in the beginning with God. And we are further told that the light shone in the darkness, and that the darkness at first comprehended it not; that this light was in the world among men, but that these men counted but few among their number who were able to comprehend the Light. Then the Word made flesh appeared as a Man, a Man Whose forerunner was the Baptist John. And then we see how those who had some understanding of this appearance of Christ on Earth endeavored to make clear what Christ really was. We see the author of the John Gospel pointing directly to the fact that what dwelt in Jesus of Nazareth as profoundest essence was nothing different from that in which originate all other beings that surround us: the living Spirit, the living Word, the Logos itself.
And the other Evangelists as well, each in his own way, have been at pains to characterize what it really was that appeared in Jesus of Nazareth. We see, for example, the writer of the Luke Gospel endeavoring to show that something quite special manifested itself when, at the Baptism of Christ Jesus, the Spirit united with the body of Jesus of Nazareth. Then the same writer tells us that this Jesus of Nazareth was the descendant of ancestors reaching far, far back; that His genealogy went back to David, to Abraham, to Adam — even to God Himself. Note well that the Luke Gospel points emphatically to this line of descent:
Jesus of Nazareth was the son of Joseph, Joseph was the son of Heli; then: ... he was the son of David ...; and finally: he was the son of Adam, and Adam was the son of God.
This means that the author of the Luke Gospel considers it of special importance that a direct line runs from Jesus of Nazareth, with Whom the Spirit united at the Baptism by John, to Him Whom he calls the Father of Adam, to God. Such things must be taken entirely literally.
In the Matthew Gospel, on the other hand, the attempt is made to trace the descent of this Jesus of Nazareth back to Abraham, to whom God revealed Himself.
In this way and in many others — through many statements we can find in the Gospels — the Individuality that is the vehicle of the Christ, as well as the whole manifestation of Christ, is set before us not only as one of the greatest, but as the very greatest of all events in the evolution of humanity. Clearly this means, does it not? what can be expressed quite simply as follows: If Christ Jesus is regarded by those who divined something of His greatness as the most significant phenomenon in the evolution of man upon Earth, then this Christ Jesus must in some way be connected with what is most vital and sacred in man himself. In other words, there must be something in man himself that can be brought into relation with the Christ event. Can we not ask, If Christ Jesus, as the Gospels maintain, is really the most important phenomenon in human evolution, does it not follow that always, in every human soul, there is something that is related to Christ Jesus?
And that is precisely what the Johannine Christians of the Rosicrucian Society deemed of greatest import and significance: that there is in every human soul something directly related to the events in Palestine as brought about through Christ Jesus. If the coming of Christ Jesus can be called the greatest event for mankind, then what corresponds in the human soul to the Christ event must be the greatest and most significant as well. And what can that be? The disciples of the Rosicrucians answered: There exists for every human soul something that is called awakening, or rebirth, or initiation.
Let us sec what is meant by these terms. Looking at the various things around us — things we see with our eyes, touch with our hands — we observe them coming into being and perishing. We see the flower, the whole annual plant life, come up and then wither; and though there are such things in the world as rocks and mountains that seem to defy the centuries, we need only consider the proverb "A steady drip hollows out the rock" to realize that the human soul senses the laws of transience as governing even the majestic boulders and mountains. And we know that there comes into being and perishes even what is built of the elements: not only what we call our corporeality, but what we know as our perishable ego is engendered and then passes. But those who know how a spiritual world can be reached know also that this is not attained by means of eyes or ears or other senses, but by the path of awakening, of rebirth, of initiation.
And what is it that is reborn? When a man observes his inner self he finally comes to realize that what he sees there is that to which he says “I”. Its very name differentiates it from anything in the outer world. To everything in the outer world a name can be applied externally. Everyone can call a table a table or a clock a clock; but never in the world could the name “I” fall on our ear if it were intended to denote ourself, for “I” must be spoken within us: to everyone else we are “you.” This in itself shows us that our ego-being is distinct from all else that is in or around us.
But in addition, we now come to something that spiritual scientists of all times have emphasized from their own experience for the benefit of mankind: that within this ego another, a higher one, is born, as the child is born of the mother. A man as he appears in life is first encountered as a child, awkward in his surroundings but gradually learning to understand things: he gains in sense; his intellect and his will grow; and his strength and energy increase. But there have always been people who grow in other ways as well, who attain to a stage of development beyond the average, who find, so to say, a second I that can say “you” to the first one in the same way that the I itself says “you” to the outer world and to its own body — that looks upon this first I from above, as it were.
As an ideal, then, for the soul of man, and as a reality for those who follow the instructions of spiritual science, we have the thought: the ego I have hitherto known takes part in the whole outer world, and together with this it is perishable; but there slumbers within me a second ego of which men are unaware but can become aware. It is linked with the imperishable, just as the first ego is bound up with the perishable, the temporal; and by means of rebirth this higher ego can behold a spiritual world, just as the lower ego perceives the physical world through eyes and ears.
This awakening, rebirth, initiation, as it is called, is the greatest event for the human soul — a view shared by those who called themselves confessors of the Rose Cross. These knew that this event of the rebirth of the higher ego, which can look from above on the lower ego as man looks on outer forms, must have some connection with the event of Christ Jesus. This means that just as a rebirth can occur for the individual in his development, so a rebirth for all humanity came about through Christ Jesus. That which is an inner event for the individual — a mystical-spiritual event, as it is called, something he can experience as the birth of his higher ego — corresponds to what occurred in the outer world, in history, for all mankind in the event of Palestine through Christ Jesus.
How did this appear to a man like, for instance, the author of the Luke Gospel? He reasoned as follows: The genealogy of Jesus of Nazareth goes back to Adam and to God himself. What today is mankind, what now inhabits a physical human body, once descended from divine heights: it was born of the spirit, it was once with God. Adam was he who had been sent down out of spiritual heights into matter, and in this sense he is the son of God. So there was at one time a divine-spiritual realm — thus the argument would continue — that condensed, as it were, into an ephemeral, tellurian realm: Adam came into being. Adam was an earthly image of the Son of God, and from him are descended the human beings that dwell in a physical body. And in a special way there lived in Jesus of Nazareth not only what exists in every man and all that pertains to it, but something the essence of which can be found only when one is aware that the true being of man derives from the divine. In Jesus of Nazareth something of this divine descent is still apparent. For this reason the writer of the Luke Gospel feels constrained to say, Behold Him Who was baptized by John! He bears special marks of the Divine out of which Adam was originally born. This can come to life again in Him. Just as the God descended into matter and disappeared as such from the human race, so He reappears. In Jesus of Nazareth mankind could be reborn in its innermost divine principle. What the author of the Luke Gospel meant was this: If we trace the genealogy of Jesus of Nazareth to its source, we find the divine origin and the characteristics of the Son of God appearing in Him in a new way, and in a higher degree than would hitherto have been possible for mankind.
And the writer of the John Gospel emphasizes even more strongly the existence of something divine in man, as well as the fact that this appeared in its most grandiose form as the God and the Logos themselves. The God Who had been buried, as it were, in matter is reborn as God in Jesus of Nazareth. That is what was meant by those who introduced their Gospels in this way.
And those who endeavored to perpetuate the wisdom of these Gospels — what did they say? How did the Johannine Christians put it? They said: In the individual human being a great and mighty event can take place that can be called the rebirth of the higher ego. As the child is born of the mother, so the divine ego is born of man. Initiation, awakening, is possible; and when once this has come to pass — so said those who were competent to speak — a new standard of values will arise.
Let us try to understand by a comparison what it is that henceforth becomes important. Suppose we have before us a man seventy years old — an "awakened" man who has attained to his higher ego — and suppose he had been in his fortieth year when he experienced rebirth, the awakening of his higher ego. Had someone approached him at that time with the intention of describing his life he could have reflected: I have before me a man who has just given birth to his higher ego. It is the same man I knew five years ago in certain circumstances, and ten years ago in others. — And if he had wanted to portray the identity of this man — if he had wanted to show that this man had a quite special start, even at birth — he would trace back the forty years with his physical existence in mind and describe the latter as far as pertinent, in the spirit of one who sees matters from the spiritual-scientific viewpoint. But in his fortieth year a higher ego was born in this man, and henceforth this higher ego irradiates all the circumstances of his life. He is a new man. That which existed previously is of no further importance. What is now important is to understand, above all things, how the higher ego grows from year to year and develops further. Now, when this man had arrived at the age of seventy, we would enquire into the path taken by the higher ego from the fortieth to the seventieth year; and if we believe in what was born in the soul of this man thirty years before, it would be of importance that it is the true spiritual ego he presents to us in his seventieth year. That is the way the Evangelists went about it; and it was thus, and in connection with the Gospels, that the Johannine Christians of Rosicrucianism dealt with the Being we know as Christ Jesus.
The Gospel writers had set themselves the task of showing, first of all, that Christ Jesus had His origin in the primordial World Spirit, in the God Himself. The God that had dwelt unseen in all mankind is specifically manifested in Christ Jesus; and that is the same God of Whom the John Gospel tells us that He was in the beginning. What the Evangelists set out to do was to show that it was precisely this God that dwelt in Jesus of Nazareth. But those whose task it was to perpetuate the eternal wisdom right into our own time had to emphasize the fact that man's higher ego, the divine spirit of mankind — born in Jesus of Nazareth through the event in Palestine — had remained the same and had been preserved by all who approached it with true understanding. Just as in our comparison we described how the man bore his higher ego in his fortieth year, so the Evangelists pictured the God that dwells in man up to the event of Palestine — how the God developed, how he was reborn, and so forth. But those upon whom it was incumbent to demonstrate that they were the successors of the Evangelists, these had to point out that the time was ripe for the rebirth of the higher ego, when we have to do only with the spiritual part, irradiating all else.
Those who called themselves the Johannine Christians and whose symbol was the Rose Cross held that precisely what was reborn for mankind as the secret of its higher ego has been preserved — preserved by the close community which grew out of Rosicrucianism. This continuity is symbolically indicated by that sacred vessel from which Christ Jesus ate and drank with His disciples, and in which Joseph of Arimathia caught the blood that flowed from the wound — the Holy Grail which, as the story is told, was brought to Europe by angels. A temple was built to contain this vessel, and the Rosicrucians became the guardians of what it contained, namely, the essence of the reborn God.
The mystery of the reborn God had its being in humanity. It is the Mystery of the Grail, a mystery propounded like a new Gospel, proclaiming: We look up to a sage such as the writer of the John Gospel who was able to say:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and a God was the Word.
That which was with God in the beginning was born again in Him Whom we have seen suffer and die on Golgotha, and Who is arisen. — This continuity throughout all time of the divine principle and its rebirth, that is what the author of the John Gospel aimed to set forth. Something known to all those who endeavored to proclaim this truth was that what was in the beginning has been preserved. In the beginning was the mystery of the higher ego; it was preserved in the Grail; with the Grail it has remained linked. And in the Grail lives the ego united with the eternal and immortal, just as the lower ego is bound to the ephemeral and mortal. He who knows the secret of the Holy Grail knows that from the wood of the Cross there springs ever new life, the immortal ego, symbolized by the roses on the black wood of the cross.
The secret of the Rose Cross can thus appear like a continuation of the John Gospel; and in reference to the latter and to its continuation it can truly be said:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and a God was the Word. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by It;  and without It was not any thing made that was made. In It was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in the darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.
Only a few men — those who possessed something of what is not born of the flesh — comprehended the light that shone in the darkness. But then the light became flesh and dwelt among men in the form of Jesus of Nazareth. Here we can say, wholly within the meaning of the John Gospel: That which dwelt as the Christ in Jesus of Nazareth was the higher divine ego of all humanity, of the reborn God Who, in Adam, as His image, became earthly. This reborn human ego was perpetuated as a holy secret, was preserved under the symbol of the Rose Cross, and is now proclaimed as the secret of the Holy Grail, as the Rose Cross.
The principle which can be born in every human soul as the higher ego points to the rebirth of the divine ego in the evolution of mankind in its entirety through the Event of Palestine. Just as the higher ego is born in the individual, so the higher ego of all mankind, the divine ego, was born in Palestine; and it is preserved and developed in what lives concealed in the sign of the Rose Cross.
But if we study the evolution of man we find not only this one great event, the rebirth of the higher ego, but a number of lesser ones as well. Before the higher ego can be born, before this mighty, comprehensive, pervasive experience can come to the soul — the birth of the immortal ego in the mortal ego — extensive preparatory stages must have been passed through. A man must prepare himself in many different ways. And after the great experience has come to him that enables him to say to himself: Now I feel within myself something that looks down from above on my ordinary ego, just as my ordinary ego looks upon the things of the senses; now I am a second being within my first; now I have attained to the realms in which I am united with the divine beings — when the human being has had this experience, then he faces further stages that must be passed through, stages differing in their nature from the preparatory ones, but which nonetheless must be traversed.
Thus there is for each individual the one great incisive event, the birth of the higher ego; and there is a similar birth as well for the whole of mankind: the rebirth of the divine ego. Also, there are stages leading to this incisive event and others that must follow it. To find the former, we Iook back in time beyond the Christ event. There we encounter other great manifestations in human evolution. We become aware of the gradual approach of the Gospel of Christ, as indicated by the writer of the Luke Gospel when he says: In the beginning there was a God, a spirit-being in spiritual heights. He descended into the material world and became man, became humanity. — True, one could discern in man, as he developed, his origin in the God, but the God Himself could not be perceived by observing human evolution with outer physical eyes alone. He was behind the earthly-physical world, as it were; and there He was seen by those who understood where He was, by those who could behold His kingdom.
Let us turn back for a moment to the first civilization that followed upon a great catastrophe, to the ancient Indian civilization. There we find seven great and holy teachers known as the Holy Rishis. They pointed upwards to a higher being of whom they said: Our wisdom can divine the existence of this being, but it suffices not to perceive it. — The vision of the Holy Rishis was great, but the exalted being they called Vishva Karman was beyond their sphere. Vishva Karman, though permeating the spiritual world, was a being beyond what the clairvoyant human eye of that time could reach. — Then followed the civilization called after its great leader, Zarathustra, and Zarathustra spoke as follows to those whom it was his mission to guide: When the clairvoyant eye contemplates the things of this world — minerals, plants, animals, men — it perceives behind these things all sorts of spiritual beings. The being, however, to whom man is indebted for his very existence, who in the future is destined to dwell in man's deepest self, remains hidden as yet even from the clairvoyant eye when it contemplates the things of this Earth. But by raising the clairvoyant eye to the Sun, said Zarathustra, more than the Sun is seen: as an aura is perceived surrounding man, so, in contemplating the Sun, the great Sun Aura is discerned — Ahura Mazdao. — And it was the great Sun Aura that once brought forth man, in a manner to be characterized later. Man is the image of the Sun Spirit, of Ahura Mazdao; but as yet Ahura Mazdao did not dwell on Earth. — Then came the time in which clairvoyant men began to see Ahura Mazdao in what surrounded them on Earth. The great moment had arrived when something could take place that had not been possible in Zarathustra's time. When Zarathustra discerned clairvoyantly what was manifested in earthly lightning and thunder, it was not Ahura Mazdao, the great Sun Spirit who is the prototype of mankind, that he saw; but when he turned to the Sun he saw Ahura Mazdao. When Zarathustra had found a successor in Moses, Moses' clairvoyant vision could see in the burning bush and in the fire on Sinai the spirit who proclaimed himself as ehjeh asher ehjeh, as the “I am,” as He Who was, as He Who is, as He Who shall be: Jahve, or Jehova.
What had taken place? During that remote period between the appearance of Zarathustra and that of Moses upon Earth, the Spirit Who previously had dwelt only on the Sun had moved downward to Earth. He flamed up in the burning bush and shone in the fire on Sinai: He was in the elements of the Earth. And then another period passed; and the Spirit Whose presence the great Holy Rishis felt, but of Whom they had to say: Our clairvoyance does not suffice to see Him — the Spirit Whom Zarathustra had to seek in the Sun, Who revealed Himself to Moses in thunder and lightning — this Spirit appeared in a human being: in Jesus of Nazareth. That was the evolution: first a descent from the cosmos into the physical elements, then into a human body. Only then was reborn the divine ego from which man descended, and to which the writer of the Luke Gospel traces the genealogy of Jesus of Nazareth. This was the great event of the rebirth of the God in man.
That is a retrospect of the preparatory stages, and it shows us that mankind, too, passed through these. And those who had advanced with mankind as its early leaders were also destined to progress until one of them had achieved the capacity to become the bearer of the Christ. Such is the evolution of mankind as seen through spiritual eyes.
And there is another point. What the Holy Rishis revered as Vishva Karman, what Zarathustra addressed as the Ahura Mazdao of the Sun, and what Moses reverenced as ehjeh asher ehjeh — this had to appear in a single human being, in Jesus of Nazareth, in physically circumscribed humanness. This consummation was fore-ordained. But to enable so exalted a being to dwell in such a man as Jesus of Nazareth, many circumstances had to contribute. For one thing, Jesus of Nazareth Himself had to have arrived at an exalted level. Not every man could be the vehicle of such a being that came into the world as described. Now, we who have made contact with spiritual science know that there is reincarnation, so we must realize that Jesus of Nazareth — not the Christ — had experienced many incarnations and that He had passed through the most manifold stages in His previous incarnations before He could become Jesus of Nazareth.
What this means is that Jesus of Nazareth had Himself to become a high initiate before He could become the Christ bearer. Now, when a lofty initiate is born, how do such a birth and the subsequent life differ from the birth and life of an ordinary man? In a general way it can be assumed that when a man is born he bears the characteristics, at least approximately, of what derives from a previous incarnation. But that is not the case with an initiate. The initiate could not be a leader of mankind if he bore within him only what wholly corresponds with his outer self, for that he must build up according to the conditions of his external environment. When an initiate is born there must enter his body a lofty soul that in past times has had mighty experiences in the world. That is why legend so often tells of the strange births of initiates.
As to why and how this is so, we have already touched upon the answer to the first of these questions. It is because a comprehensive ego that had already passed through significant experiences in the past now unites with a body, but this body is at first unable to receive what seeks to incarnate in it as spiritual nature. For this reason it is necessary, in the case of a lofty being incarnating as a high initiate in a perishable human being, that the reincarnating ego should from the start envelop the physical form more intensely than in the case of other men. While in the ordinary human being the physical form resembles and adapts itself soon after birth to the spiritual form, or human aura, the human aura of a reborn initiate is luminous at birth. It is the spiritual part that here indicates the presence of more than can be seen in the ordinary sense. What does this indicate? That not only has a child been born in the physical world, but that something has occurred in the spiritual world. The stories that attach to the birth of all reincarnating initiates express the idea: Not only is a child born; something is born in the spirit as well, something that cannot be encompassed by what is born down below.
But who can discern this? Only one who himself has a clairvoyant eye for the spiritual world. Hence we are told that in the birth of Buddha an initiate recognized an event differing from an ordinary birth; and hence also it is related of Jesus of Nazareth that His coming was to be foretold by the Baptist. All who have insight into the spiritual world know that the initiate must come and be reborn; and they know that this is an event in the spiritual world. The Three Kings from the East who came to offer sacrifice at the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, these knew it, too. And the same truth is indicated when the initiated priest of the Temple says:
Now I can die gladly, since mine eyes have beheld the One Who will be the salvation of mankind.
Clearly, then, we must here differentiate accurately. We have an exalted initiate reborn as Jesus of Nazareth, of Whose birth it must be said that a child was born; but with this Child there appeared something that will not be encompassed by His physical body. This discloses at the same time something in this Jesus of Nazareth that has significance in the spiritual world, something that will gradually develop this body upward to the point at which it will be fit to receive this spirit. And when this was fulfilled, we have the event in which the Baptist approaches Jesus of Nazareth, and a loftier spirit descends and unites with this Jesus of Nazareth: the Christ enters Jesus of Nazareth. And then the Baptist, the Forerunner of Christ Jesus, could well say: I came into the world. It was I who prepared the way for a loftier one. With the words of my mouth I proclaimed the coming of the Kingdom of God, the Realm of the Heavens, and I exhorted men to change their hearts. I came among men, and it was vouchsafed me to bring them tidings of a special impulse that is to come to mankind. As in the springtime the Sun mounts higher to announce the budding of something new, so did I appear to bring tidings of what is burgeoning in mankind as the reborn ego of humanity.
Then, when the human principle had reached its height in Jesus of Nazareth, His human body having become an expression of His spirit, He was ripe to receive within Himself the Christ at the Baptism by John. The body of Jesus of Nazareth had unfolded like the bright Sun on St. John's Day in June. That had been foretold. Then the spirit was to be born out of the darkness, just as the Sun steadily gains in strength and power up to St. John's Day, and then begins to decline. That was what the Baptist had to proclaim. He had to continue to bear witness until — pointing to the Sun's ever-increasing splendor — he could say: He of Whom the old Prophets told, He Who in the spiritual realms has been called the Son of the Spiritual Realms, He has appeared. — Up to this point John the Baptist was active. But then — when the days become shorter and darkness begins to gain the upper hand — then the inner spiritual light is to shine as a result of right preparation, is to become ever brighter as the Christ shines in Jesus of Nazareth.
That is the way John the Baptist saw the approach of Jesus of Nazareth; and he felt the growth of Jesus of Nazareth as his own diminution and as the increase in the power of the Sun. From now on I shall wane, he said, even as the Sun wanes after St. John's Day. But He will wax — He the spiritual Sun — and shine out of the darkness. — Thus was the Christ heralded; and thus began the rebirth of the ego of mankind, upon which depends the rebirth of every individual higher human ego.
This characterizes the most important event in the development of the individual human being: the rebirth of what can proceed from the ordinary ego as the immortal principle. It is linked with the greatest event, the Christ event, to which the next lectures will be devoted.