Rudolf Steiner, Norrköping, Sweden, July 12, 1914:
Let me first extend to you my heartfelt greetings. Friends in Norrköping have expressed the wish that on this occasion I should take a theme concerning that being who in the realm of spiritual science is above all else near to us — the Christ being. I have tried to meet this wish by undertaking to speak about the coming to life of the Christ being in the human soul and the significance of this. We shall thus have the opportunity to speak of the most human and intimate significance of Christianity from the standpoint of spiritual science.
Let us consider the human soul. In the sense of spiritual science we have a short word which, although it does not embrace all that the expression “human soul” signifies for us, points to something which for us men of Earth fills and permeates the soul element to its farthest limits — we have the short word “I”. In so far as we are men of Earth, our ego-being reaches as far as does our soul-nature. You know that by the name “I”, or ego, we denote one of the four most immediate principles of man. We speak, in the first instance, of four members or principles of the human being — the physical body, the etheric body, the astral body, and the ego. And in order to have the starting-point for what we shall be considering in these lectures, we need recall only one thing: we do not regard the laws and the living essence of the physical body of man as explicable in terms of our present earthly environment.
We know that if we want to understand the physical human body we must go back to the three preceding embodiments of our Earth — the Saturn, Sun, and Moon periods. In a remote, primordial past, during the Saturn embodiment, the germ of the physical body was already laid down. During the Sun embodiment the foundation of the etheric body was laid down; and during the Moon embodiment that of the astral body. In reality our Earth-evolution, in all its phases and in all its epochs, is none other than that which enables the ego to fulfill its whole being. We can say that just as the physical body had reached a significant stage of its evolution at the end of the Saturn period, the etheric body at the end of the Sun period, and the astral body at the end of the Moon period, so at the end of the Earth period our ego will have reached a significant point in its evolution.
We know that our ego develops through three soul members or principles: through the sentient soul, the intellectual or mind-soul, and the spiritual or consciousness-soul. All the worlds that come within the compass of these three soul members are also concerned with our ego. In the course of our Earth-evolution these three soul members first prepared for themselves the three external bodily members — the physical body, the etheric body, and the astral body — through long Earth periods. In successive post-Atlantean epochs of civilization the three soul principles developed further, and in future Earth periods they will again adapt themselves to the astral, etheric, and physical bodies, so that the Earth can be prepared to pass over to the Jupiter evolution.
If we take the expression comprehensively enough, we might also speak of man's Earth-evolution as his soul evolution. One could say that when the Earth began, the soul element also began, in conformity with law, to bestir itself in man. At first it began to work on the external sheaths, then it developed its own being, and from then onward it begins again to work on the external sheaths in order that preparation may be made for the Jupiter evolution.
We must keep before our mind's eye what man is meant to become in his soul during the Earth evolution. He is to become what may be designated by the word “personality”. This personality needs in the first place what may be called “free will”. But it needs also, on the other side, the possibility of finding within itself the way to the divine in the world. On the one side free will — the possibility of choosing between the beautiful and the ugly, the good and the evil, the true and the false; on the other side, the laying hold of the divine so that the divine penetrates into the soul and we know ourselves to be inwardly filled with it. Such are the two goals of man's evolution on the Earth; and to aid him in reaching them he has received two religious gifts. One of these gifts is destined to lay down in the human soul those forces which lead to freedom, to the capacity for distinguishing between the true and the false, the beautiful and ugly, the good and bad. And another religious gift had to be given to man during his Earth evolution in order that there might be laid in his soul the seed through which the soul can feel united to the divine within itself.
The first religious gift comes to meet us at the beginning of the Old Testament as the great picture of the Temptation and the Fall.
The second religious gift comes to us from all that the Mystery of Golgotha signifies.
The Temptation and the Fall have to do with the implanting of freedom in man, the gift of being able to distinguish between good and bad, beautiful and ugly, true and false. The Mystery of Golgotha points to the possibility of man's soul finding again the path to the divine, of knowing that the divine can flash up within it and penetrate it. These religious gifts include everything that is most important in the Earth evolution — everything proceeding from the Earth evolution that the soul can experience in its uttermost depths, everything associated most profoundly with the being and becoming of the human soul.
How far is there a connection between these two religious gifts and the being and becoming of the human soul — its inner experience?
I do not want to put these matters before you in an abstract way, so I will start from a certain scene in the Mystery of Golgotha as it stands before our eyes in historical tradition and has impressed itself — and should indeed have impressed itself even more — on the hearts and souls of mankind. Let us assume that we have in Christ Jesus that being of whom we have often spoken in the course of our lectures. Let us assume that in Christ Jesus we have before our spiritual eyes that which must appear to humanity as the most important fact in the whole universe. And then let us set in contrast to this feeling the outcry, the fury, of the enraged multitudes in Jerusalem at the time of the condemnation before the crucifixion. Let us observe that the High Court of Jerusalem held it above all things necessary to question Christ Jesus as to His relationship with the divine, as to whether He claimed to be the Son of God. And let us bear in mind that the High Court held such a claim to be the greatest blasphemy that Christ Jesus could have uttered.
A historical scene is there before us — a scene in which the people cry out and clamor for the death of Christ Jesus. And now let us try to picture to ourselves what this shouting and rage signified historically. Let us ask: What ought these people to have recognized in Christ Jesus? They ought to have recognized that being who gives meaning and significance to Earth life. They ought to have recognized that being who had to accomplish the deed without which Earth humanity cannot find the way back to the divine. They ought to have understood that humanity has no significance apart from this being. Men would have to strike out from the evolution of the Earth the word “man” if they wished to strike out the Christ event.
Now let it come home to us that this multitude condemned and were enraged against the being who actually makes man Man upon the Earth; who is destined to give to the Earth its goal and purpose. What does this mean? Surely it means that in those who in Jerusalem at that time ranked as the representatives of human knowledge concerning the true being of man, the knowledge of man, was obscured. They had no knowledge of what man is, what his mission on the Earth is to be. We are told nothing less than that humanity had reached a point where it had lost itself, where it had condemned that which gives purpose and significance to the Earth-evolution. And out of the cries of the enraged multitude could be heard, not the words of wisdom, but of folly: “We do not wish to be Man; rather do we wish to cast away from us that which gives us any further meaning as Man.”
When we reflect on all this, the relation of man to sin and guilt — in the sense of Pauline Christianity — assumes a different aspect. Man in the course of his evolution could fall into sin which he was not himself able to wash away; that is what St. Paul means. And in order to make it possible for man to be cleansed of sin and debt, Christ had to come to the Earth. That is St. Paul's view. If this view requires any evidence, it is there in the fury and clamor of those who cried “Crucify Him!” For this implies that the people did not know what they themselves were to be on the Earth; they did not know that it was the aim of their earlier evolution to veil their being with darkness.
Here we come to what may be spoken of as the preparation of the human soul for the Christ being. Through what it is able to experience within itself, the soul feels, even though it may not be able to express it in words: “Since the very beginning of the Earth I have developed in such a way that through what I possess in my own being I cannot fulfill the aim of my evolution. Where is there anything to which I can cling, which I can take into myself and with it reach my goal?” To feel as if the human being extends far beyond anything that the soul can achieve through its own strength by reason of its evolution on the Earth hitherto — such is the Christian attitude or mood of preparation. And when the soul finds that which it must recognize as essentially bound up with its being — but for the attainment of which it could not find the power within itself — when the soul finds that which bestows this power, it finds the Christ. The soul then develops its connection with the Christ, saying to itself: “At the very beginning of the Earth a certain nature was pre-ordained for me; in the course of Earth-evolution my true nature has been darkened, and when now I look into this darkness I feel that I lack the power to bring my true nature to fulfillment. But I turn my spiritual gaze upon the Christ, who gives me this power.” On the one hand the human soul feels this lack, and on the other hand it feels the approach of Christ and stands as if in a direct personal relationship to Him. The soul seeks Christ and knows that it cannot find Him if He does not give Himself to humanity through human evolution, if He does not approach from outside.
There is a well-known Christian Church Father who was not afraid to speak of the Greek philosophers — Heracleitos, Socrates, Plato — as Christians who lived before the founding of Christianity. Why does he do this? As we know, the doctrines professed today obscure much of what was at first an illuminating Christian teaching. St. Augustine himself said: “All religions have contained something of the truth, and the element of truth in all religions is what is Christian in them, before there was a Christianity in name.” St. Augustine dared to say that. Nowadays many a man would be regarded as a heretic if he were to say something similar within certain Christian congregations.
We shall most readily understand what this Church Father wished to convey, when he called the old Greek philosophers Christians, by endeavoring to enter into the feeling of those souls who in the first Christian centuries tried to determine their personal relationship to the Christ. These souls did not think of Christ as having had no relation to the Earth evolution before the Mystery of Golgotha. The Christ has always been concerned with the evolution of the Earth. Through the Mystery of Golgotha, however, His task, His mission, in the Earth-evolution was changed. It is not Christian to seek Christ in the evolution of the Earth only since the Mystery of Golgotha. True Christians know that Christ has always been connected with the evolution of the Earth.
Let us now turn to the Jewish people. Did the Jews know Christ? I am not asking whether the Jewish people knew the name of Christ or if they were conscious of all I have to say to you; I am asking whether those who really understand Christianity are justified in saying: “Judaism had Christ; Judaism knew Christ.” It is possible to have some person near one and to see his external form without being able to recognize or value truly his essential being, because one has not risen to real knowledge of him. In the true Christian sense, ancient Judaism had Christ, only it did not recognize Him in His true being. Is it Christian to speak in this way? It is indeed Christian, as truly as it is Pauline.
Where was Christ for ancient Judaism? It is said in the Old Testament that when Moses led the Jews out of Egypt into the wilderness, a pillar of cloud went before them by day and a pillar of fire by night. It is said that the Jews passed through the sea, that the sea parted in order that they might pass through, while behind them the Egyptians were drowned, for the sea closed in on them. It is also said that the Jews murmured because they had no water, but at the command of God Moses was able to strike a rock with his staff so that water poured forth for the Jews to drink. Moses led the Jews, he himself being led by God.
Who was the God of Moses? We will in the first instance allow Paul to answer. In the First Epistle to the Corinthians (10:1-4), we read: “Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant how that all our fathers were under the cloud” (he means the pillar of fire) “and all passed through the sea and all were baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea ... and all drank of the spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ.” Thus who was it, according to Paul, who led the Jews and who spoke with Moses? Who was it who caused water to flow out of the rock and who turned away the sea from the path of the Jews? Only those who wish to declare that Paul was no Christian would dare pronounce it un-Christian to see Christ in the guiding God of the Old Testament, in the Lord of Moses.
In the Old Testament there is a passage which must, I think, present great difficulties for all who reflect more deeply. It is a passage to which anyone who does not read the Old Testament thoughtlessly, but who wants to understand its connections, will return again and again. “What may this passage mean?” he asks himself. The passage (Numbers 20:11-12) is as follows: “And Moses lifted up his hand, and with his rod he struck the rock twice; and the water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their beasts also. And the Lord spake unto Moses and Aaron: ‘Because ye believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them.’”
Take this passage in its context in the Old Testament. When the people murmured, the Lord commanded Moses to strike the rock with a staff: Moses struck with his staff on the rock, and water flowed out; everything that the Lord commanded took place through Moses and Aaron, and yet, directly after this, we are told the Lord reproved Moses — if it is a reproof — for not having believed in Him. What does it mean? Turn to all the commentaries on this passage and try to understand it with their aid. You will then understand it as one understands a great deal in the Bible — really not at all — for behind this passage a great mystery is hidden. It is this: He who led Moses, who appeared to Moses in the burning bush, He who led the people through the wilderness and caused water to flow out of the rock, He was the Lord, Christ! But the time was not yet come; Moses himself did not recognize Him; Moses thought He was another. This is what is meant by Moses not having believed in Him who had commanded him to strike the rock with his staff.
How did the Lord — Christ — appear to the Jewish people? We are told that by day it was in a pillar of cloud and by night in a pillar of fire — and by His dividing the waters for their safety ... and many other things we can read in the Old Testament. In phenomena of cloud and fire, in the air, in the elemental events of nature He was active, but never once did it occur to the ancient Jews to say to themselves: That which appears in the pillar of cloud and in the pillar of fire, that which worked wonders such as the parting of the waters, appears also in its purest original form in the human soul. Why did this never occur to the ancient Jews? Because, owing to the course taken by human evolution, the soul of man had lost the power to feel its deepest being within itself. Thus the Jewish soul could look into nature; it could allow the glory of the phenomena of the elements to work upon it; everywhere it could divine the existence of its God and Lord; but directly within itself, as the Jewish soul then was, it could not find Him.
There in the Old Testament we have the Christ. There He worked — but men did not recognize Him. How did the Christ work? Do we not see how He worked when we read through the Old Testament? The most significant thing Moses had to impart to his people through the mouth of Jahve was the Ten Commandments. He had received them out of the power of the elements from which Jahve spoke to him. Moses did not descend into the depths of his own soul; he did not ask in lonely meditation: “How does God speak in my own heart?” He went up the mountain and through the power of the elements the divine Will revealed itself to him. Will is the fundamental note of the Old Testament: this is often spoken of as the Law. Will works through the evolution of humanity and is expressed in the Decalogue, the Ten Commandments. The God proclaimed his Will to man through the elements. Will holds sway in the Earth evolution. That is really the purport of the Old Testament, and the Old Testament, accordingly, calls for man's submission to this Will.
If we hold all this before our souls, we can sum it up by saying: The will of the Lord was given to men; but men did not know the Lord; they knew not the divine in such a way as to connect it with their own human souls.
Now let us turn from the Jews to the heathen. Did the heathen have Christ? Is it Christian to say of the heathen that they also had Christ? The heathen had their Mysteries. Those initiated in the Mysteries were brought to the point where their souls passed out of their bodies; the tie connecting body and soul was loosened; and when the soul was outside the body, it perceived in the spiritual world the secrets of existence. Much was connected with these Mysteries; much varied knowledge came to the candidates for initiation in the Mysteries. But when we investigate what was the highest that the disciple of the Mysteries could receive into himself, we find that it consisted in the fact that outside the body he was placed before the Christ. As Moses was placed before Christ, so in the Mysteries was the disciple placed with his soul, outside his body, before Christ.
Christ was there for the heathen also, but for them he was there only in the Mysteries. He revealed Himself to them only when the soul was out of the body. Christ was there for the heathen, even if among them there was as little recognition of this being as Christ as there was among the Jews of that being of whom we have just spoken and before whom the disciples of the Mysteries were placed.
The Mysteries were instituted for the heathen. Those who were fit and ready were admitted into the Mysteries. Through these Mysteries Christ worked upon the pagan world. Why did He work thus? Because the soul of man in its development since the beginning of the Earth had lost the inherent power to find its true essence through itself. This true being had to reveal itself to the soul of man when the soul was unhampered by the bonds of human nature; when, that is, it was not bound up with the body. Hence Christ had to lead men by means of the fact that as initiates of the Mysteries they were as though divested of their human nature. Christ was there for the heathen too! He was their leader in the Mysteries. For never could man have said: “When I develop my own powers, then I can find the meaning and purport of the Earth.” This meaning was lost, obscured in darkness. The forces of the human soul had been pressed down into regions too deep for the soul of itself, through its own powers, to be able to realize the meaning of the Earth.
When we allow to work upon us what was given in the pagan Mysteries to the disciples and candidates for initiation, it proves to be Wisdom. To the Jews was given Will, through the Law; to the disciples of the pagan Mysteries was given Wisdom. But if we look at the characteristics of this pagan Wisdom, can we not express it by saying: If he did not leave his body when he was a pupil of the Mysteries, the Earth-man could not, through Wisdom alone, recognize his God as such. As little through Wisdom as through Will could the divinity reveal itself to men.
Indeed, we find an injunction that resounds most wonderfully through Greek antiquity, like a powerful demand upon mankind. At the entrance to the shrine of the Mysteries of Apollo stood the words “Man, know thyself!” What are we told by the fact that these words, “Man, know thyself!” stood at the entrance to the sanctuary, like a summons to mankind? We are told that nowhere outside the sanctuary, where man remains what he has become since the beginning of the Earth, can he fulfill the commandment “Know thyself!” He must become something more than man; he must loosen in the Mysteries the ties which bind the soul to the body, if he is to know himself. These words, standing like a powerful demand before the Apollonian sanctuary, point to the fact that darkness had fallen upon humanity — in other words, that God could be reached through Wisdom as little as he could directly reveal himself as Will.
Even as the individual human soul feels that it cannot bring forth within itself the forces which impart to it the purport of the Earth, so do we see the human soul at such a stage of development among the Jews that even Moses himself, their leader, did not recognize who was leading him. Among the heathen we see that the demand “Know thyself” could be fulfilled only in the Mysteries, because man, as he had developed in the course of the evolution of the Earth, was unable with his connection of body and soul to unfold the power whereby he could know himself. The words “Not through Will and not through Wisdom is God to be known” sound to us from those ages.
Through what, then, was God to be known?
We have often characterized the essential nature of the point of time when Christ entered into the evolution of Earth-humanity. Let us now consider exactly what it means when it is said that a certain darkening of the soul of man had set in, that the divine could be revealed neither through Will nor through Wisdom. What is the real meaning of this?
People speak of so many relationships between the human and the divine. They often speak of the relationship between the human and the divine, and of the meaning which the human has within the divine, in such a way that it is impossible to differentiate between the relation of the human to the divine, or of anything else earthly to the divine. Today we find again and again that philosophers want to rise to the divine through pure philosophy. But through pure philosophy one cannot rise to the divine. Certainly by means of it man does come to feel that he is bound up with the universe and to know that the human being must, in some way or other, be bound up with the universe at death; but how and in what manner he is thus connected with the universe he cannot know through pure philosophy. Why not? If you take the whole meaning of what we have considered today, you will be able to say to yourselves: What is at first revealed to the soul of earthly man between birth and death is too weak to perceive anything that transcends the earthly, that leads to the divine-spiritual.
In order to make this quite clear to ourselves, let us investigate the meaning of immortality.
In our day many people no longer have any knowledge of the real meaning of human immortality. Many today speak of immortality when they can merely admit that the being of the human soul passes through the gate of death and then finds some place or other in the universal All. But every creature does that. That which is united with the crystal passes over into the universe when the crystal is dissolved; the plant that fades passes into the universe; the animal at death passes over into the universe. For man, it is different. Immortality has a meaning for man only if he can carry his consciousness through the gate of death. Think of an immortal human soul that was unconscious after death; such immortality would have absolutely no meaning. The human soul must carry its consciousness through the gate of death if it is to speak of its immortality. Because of the way in which the soul is united to the body, it cannot find anything in itself of which it can say “I carry that consciously through death”, for human consciousness is enclosed between birth and death; it reaches only as far as death. The consciousness that belongs at first to the human soul extends only as far as death. Into this consciousness there shines the divine Will, for example in the Ten Commandments. Read in the Book of Job as to whether this illumination could stimulate man's consciousness to such a point that it might say to itself: “I pass as a conscious being through the gate of death.” What a challenge to us there is in the words spoken to Job: “Reject God and die!” We know that he was uncertain whether he would pass with consciousness through the gate of death. And let us set beside this the Greek saying which gives expression to the dread felt by the Greeks in the face of death: “Better a beggar in the upper world than a king in the realm of the shades.” Here we have from paganism, also, a testimony to the uncertainty felt by man concerning his immortality. And how uncertain many people are even today. All those people who say that man when he goes through the gate of death passes into the universal All and is united with some universal being or other take no heed of what the soul must ascribe to itself if it is to speak of its immortality.
We need only pronounce one word, and we shall recognize the attitude that man must take up with regard to his immortality. The word is Love. All that we have said concerning the word immortality we can now connect with what is denoted by Love. Love is not anything that we appropriate to ourselves through the Will; or anything that we appropriate to ourselves through Wisdom. Love dwells in the realm of the feelings. We must admit to ourselves that the human soul would fall short of its true nature if it were unable to be filled with love. Yes, when we penetrate into the nature of the soul, we realize that our human soul would no longer be a human soul if it could not love.
But let us now suppose that on passing through the gate of death we lost our human individuality and were united with some universal divinity. We should then be within this divinity; we should belong to it. Love would have no meaning if we were within the Godhead. If we could not carry our individuality through death, we should in death have to lose love, for in the moment that individuality ceased, love would cease. One being can love another only if the other is separate from himself. If we are to carry our love of God through death, we must carry with us that which kindles love within us — our individuality.
If the meaning of the Earth was to be brought to man, information concerning his immortality had to be given him in such a way that his nature would be thought of as inseparable from love. Neither Will nor Wisdom can give man what he needs; only Love can give it to him.
What was it, then, that became darkened in the course of man's evolutionary path on Earth? Take the Jews or take the heathen: their consciousness of anything beyond death had been darkened. Between birth and death — consciousness; beyond death and beyond birth — darkness; of their bodily consciousness nothing more remained. “Know thyself!” — at the entrance of the Greek Mysteries stood this most holy demand of the sanctuary upon mankind. Man could only answer: “If I remain bound to my body with my soul, as is the way with a man of Earth, I cannot recognize in myself an individuality which could love beyond death. I cannot do it.” The knowledge that man can love as an individuality beyond death — this is what had been lost for man.
Death is not merely the cessation of the physical body. Only a materialist can say that. Suppose that throughout every hour of life in the body man's consciousness were such that he knew what lies beyond death as certainly as he knows today that the Sun will rise on the morrow and take its journey across the heavens. Then death would have no sting for him; death would not be what we call death; he would know in the body that death is only a phenomenon leading from one form to another. Paul did not understand by “death” the cessation of the physical body; by “death” he understood the fact that consciousness extends only as far as death, and that man, in so far as he was united with the body in the existence of that period, could, within his body, extend his consciousness only as far as death. Whenever Paul speaks of death, we might add: “Lack of consciousness beyond death.”
What did the Mystery of Golgotha give to man? Was it a series of natural phenomena, a pillar of cloud, a pillar of fire, that stood before humanity with the Mystery of Golgotha? No! A man, Christ Jesus, stood before men. With the Mystery of Golgotha did any event drawn from the mysterious realms of nature take place — did a sea divide so that the people of God could go through? No! A man stood before men; a man who made the lame to walk and the blind to see. By a man were these things done.
The Jew had to look into nature when he wanted to see him whom he called his divine Lord. Now it was a man who could be seen. Of a man it could be said that God dwelt in him. The pagan had to be initiated; his soul had to be withdrawn from his body in order that he might stand before the being who is the Christ. On the Earth he had been unable to divine the Christ; he could know only that the Christ was outside the Earth. But He who had been outside the Earth came down to Earth, took on a human body.
In Christ Jesus there stood as man before men that Being who had formerly stood in the Mysteries before the soul that was liberated from the body. And what came to pass through this? It was the beginning of the course of events whereby the powers that man had lost ever since the start of the Earth evolution — the powers which assured him of his immortality — were restored to him through the Mystery of Golgotha. The overcoming of death on Golgotha gave birth to the forces which could rekindle in the soul the powers it had lost. And the path of man through Earth evolution will henceforth be this: Inasmuch as he takes the Christ more and more into himself, he will discover within himself the power which can love beyond death, so that he will be able to stand before his God as an immortal individuality. Therefore, only since the Mystery of Golgotha has it become true to say: “Love God above all, and thy neighbor as thyself.”
Will was given from out of the burning thorn-bush; Will was given through the Ten Commandments. Wisdom was given through the Mysteries. But Love was given when God became man in Christ Jesus. And the assurance that we can love beyond death, that by means of the powers won back for our souls a community of Love can be founded between God and man and all men among one another — the guarantee for that proceeds from the Mystery of Golgotha. In the Mystery of Golgotha the human soul has found what it had lost from the primal beginning of the Earth, in that its forces had become ever weaker and weaker.
Three forces in three members of the soul: Will, Wisdom, Love! In this Love the soul experiences its relation to Christ.
I wanted to bring these things before you from a certain aspect. Whatever may have seemed aphoristic in the explanations given today will find its context later on. But I believe we can inscribe deeply in our souls that progress in the knowledge of Christ is a real gain for the human soul, and that when we consider the relationship of the human soul to Christ, it again becomes clear to us how before the Mystery of Golgotha there was a veil, as it were, between the human soul and Christ; how this veil was broken by the Mystery of Golgotha, and how we can say with truth: “Through the Mystery of Golgotha a cosmic being flowed into Earth-life, a super-earthly being united Himself with the Earth.”
We shall speak in the following lectures of all that the human soul, with Christ, can experience within itself.