Sunday, February 13, 2011
Christ in three guises: The Book of Revelation and the Work of the Priest. Lecture 10 of 18
"All culture must now be ordered in such a way that it comes from the spiritual world downwards to the physical."
Rudolf Steiner, Dornach, September 14, 1924:
We have brought before our soul the apocalyptist’s ultimate goal, and when we have rightly understood it we see that this ultimate goal is described in a way that entirely accords with everything the most exact spiritual science can say about evolution. We have seen how the Book of Revelation shows the change of direction that took place in the building of the human being and of cultural manifestations from below upwards, into a way of building them that goes from above downwards. At the end of the last lecture I also stated that anyone honestly seeking to understand the Book of Revelation cannot avoid finding out what spiritual research has to say about world evolution.
There are some passages in the Book of Revelation that only make sense and are only comprehensible if they are approached according to what Anthroposophy has to say about the human being. It is understandable that this is the case when the revelation in question is founded on experiences of the spiritual world. But one must first grasp the fact that the pictures presented in the Book of Revelation are revelations of the spiritual world. This will enable us to get beyond the question of whether the apocalyptist was in fact capable of understanding intellectually all the details we find in his book, for this question misses the point. The real question is: Was he a true seer? He looks into the spiritual world, but the things he sees there are not true on account of his seeing them; they are true because their content is true. The things he sees revealed have their own content; they do not acquire this content through him.
So let us not be put off if some rationalistic scholar comes along and proves that the writer of the Book of Revelation had such and such a degree of learning and could therefore not be expected to carry such a broad perspective in his soul. I do not even want to discuss whether the writer of the Book of Revelation possessed this broad perspective or not. I merely want to show that it is immaterial whether the apocalyptist is the one who brings us pictures that are revelations from the spiritual world. The important thing is that we ourselves must place these pictures before our soul as they are and let their content work on us.
So let us turn to that grand final picture of the New Jerusalem which has behind it the background of experiences I spoke about. It will now be a good idea to work backwards a little way from that picture. We come to the important passage where another grand picture rises up before our soul. The apocalyptist sees the grand picture of the heavens opening (Rev. 19:11). On a white horse there rides towards him a power about whom the apocalyptist speaks, and by the way he speaks he shows that he bears the trichotomy of the Godhead not only in his understanding, in his intellect, but also in his whole human being. The way he speaks shows how he knows with his whole soul that the three Persons are three forms of the One God and that if you go beyond the physical world you cannot speak of the one or the other, for they merge into each other. Placed into the physical world, however, the picture shows three Persons, so that we have to distinguish between the Father God, who is at the foundation of all natural facts including those that work into human nature, the Son God, who has to do with all that leads into freedom of soul experience, and the Spirit God, who lives in a spiritual, cosmic order that is far away from nature, entirely foreign to nature. Here on the physical plane these three Persons appear thus sharply differentiated.
On stepping across the threshold to the spiritual world, the human being enters a condition I have described in my book Knowledge of the Higher Worlds, a condition in which he becomes structured into three beings, so that thinking, feeling, and will each attain a degree of autonomy. In contrast to this, when we leave the physical plane and arrive in the higher worlds we see the Threefold God coming toward us more and more as One God. It is with this especially in mind that we must read the Book of Revelation. We must not follow the pattern of the physical world and distinguish between Father God, Son God, and Spirit God.
The one who rides toward us on a white horse in that grand picture is the One God. The image of the Son God is more the one we see in the form of the human being’s free development of soul on the Earth. But now something highly extraordinary happens, something that makes this picture appear so grand. It is perfectly natural and self-evident that John, the writer of the Book of Revelation, sees heaven opened, and what is new that now comes forth, comes forth downwards from the spiritual world. This means that all culture must now be ordered in such a way that it comes from the spiritual world downwards to the physical. When we see this clearly, it is of course obvious that the condition which precedes the final picture of the New Jerusalem is that of John looking into the spiritual world. This means that heaven is open to him. By telling us this he wants to point to a future condition that will come about for human beings. He is, in fact, saying nothing less than this:
Before the situation comes about on Earth in which spiritual ingredients for the building of the New Jerusalem descend from the spiritual world in order to be taken in by human beings; before it comes about that human beings become aware that they must now build from above downwards and no longer as in earlier times when material ingredients from the Earth were lifted upwards; before the situation comes about—which John regards as a real one, as I said the other day—in which the human being will be involved mainly with his will; before this happens there will be another situation in which the human being participates solely with his knowing, in which he must look into the spiritual world: Heaven is opened and the One who lies at the foundation of all beings—sending them, creating them, making them holy—reveals himself.
Then follows the significant passage that makes the picture so grand: And he had a name written that no one knew but himself. (Rev. 19:12) This is very significant. When we reach the passage in the Book of Revelation where this is written we see another significant sign of it being one of the greatest spiritual revelations.
People designate their ‘I’ in all kinds of ways in different languages. I have often pointed to the spiritually rather ordinary fact that you can never say the name ‘I’ and mean someone other than yourself. I cannot call someone else ‘I’. The name by which we designate ourself is thus different from all other names, for these are given to objects outside ourselves. But when I say ‘I’, in whatever language, I can only mean myself. I can only say it to another person if, in a real spiritual process, I have moved over and entered into him. But we need not speak about this just now.
In older languages the self was not specifically designated, for it was contained within the verb. The ‘I’ was not directly mentioned. The verb was used to show what one was doing, and this was what indicated that one was speaking about oneself. There was no name for the self. It only came about in later times that the human being gave his self a name, and in our German language that name contains the initials of Jesus Christ, which is an important symbolic fact. [Iesus Christus: I CH] If we take this fact of a language having a name that each of us can only apply to himself, and if we further intensify this fact, we come to what is now said in the Book of Revelation: The one who descends from the supersensible world has a name written on him which he not only speaks solely for himself but which only he and he alone can understand; no one else can comprehend it.
Think of the bringer of the revelation going to John and showing him the prophetic picture depicting what will one day come about for humanity, the picture of the One who comes down in the future, the One who has the name only he alone can understand. What can all this possibly mean? It appears to be meaningless when you first make an honest attempt at understanding it. Why does it say: ‘... he who is to bring healing to the world, he who is to bring justice to the world’ as the Book of Revelation puts it (Rev.19:11), ‘he who makes faith and knowledge true’, as the Book puts it—not what some translations say: ‘he that was called faithful and true’, but ‘he who makes faith and knowledge true’. This is like a game of hide and seek. And what does it mean that he has a name written that only he understands? We are encouraged by this to ask more probing questions.
Let us think of this quite graphically: He bears a name that he alone understands. How can we participate in this name? This name must gain some meaning for us, it must be able to live in us. How can this come about? When the being who understands this name becomes one with our own self, enters into our own self, then within us this being will understand the name and with him we shall understand it too, for then with him in us we shall always be conscious of ‘Christ in us’.
He alone understands the things that are connected with his being, but it is in us that he understands them; and the light that streams out in us through his understanding—because in us, in our own being, he becomes this light—this gives the insight of the Christ-Being in our own self. It becomes an indwelling insight, an insight that dwells within the human being.
Something has now taken place. First of all, what has taken place is a necessary and intended consequence of the Mystery of Golgotha. This Being who has gone through the Mystery of Golgotha, this Being who must enter into us, so that we shall comprehend the world with his understanding, not with our understanding, this Being wears a garment that is sprinkled with the blood of Golgotha. So now we take this second picture. John the apocalyptist tells us that this garment sprinkled with the blood of Golgotha also has a name. It is not the name we were speaking of just now. The name of this garment sprinkled with blood is the Logos of God, the Logos, the God, the Word of God. (Rev. 19:13) The One, therefore, who is to dwell in us and who through his own understanding within us is to give us the light that comprehends the world, this One fills us with the Word of God.
The pagan peoples used to read the Word of God in the phenomena of nature. They had to receive it through external revelations. Christians must receive the creative Word of God by taking Christ into themselves. A time will come when events will have proceeded to a stage when all human beings who honestly take Christianity into their souls will know that the Word of God is with Christ and that this Word of God has its origin in our understanding of the Mystery of Golgotha and of the garment sprinkled with blood. In the language of the apocalyptist, Christ is embedded within the Mystery of Golgotha.
But there is a third aspect as well. Christ in three guises: once through himself, then through his garment, and thirdly through the deeds he accomplishes for human beings on Earth. This is a description of a situation that must come about, although one can of course not name a specific year when this will happen; but it is something towards which Christian development must strive. The third thing towards which attention is drawn is a sword with which he works; it is the sword of his will, the sword of the deeds he accomplishes on the Earth among human beings through the fact that he dwells within them. What he now does bears the third name: King of all Kings, Lord of all Lords. This is the third guise.
What is the nature of a king, the nature of a lord?
If we get to know the essential inner meaning of the Latin word dominus we shall discover what language itself means in this instance, quite apart from what spiritual science has to say: A lord is someone on the Earth or in the world who has been chosen to point the direction for another. How long will outer lords be needed on the Earth? How long will the commandments of outer lords be needed, even the commandments of those who are outer spiritual lords of the Earth? They will be needed only until the moment when Christ, with the name none but he understands, shall dwell within the human being. Then every human being will be able to follow Christ in his own being, in his own soul. Then everyone will strive to realize that in himself which desires to realize the will of the human being out of inner love. Then will the Lord of Lords, the King of Kings, live in each individual.
Seen spiritually, this is the time in which we ourselves are now living. The fact that we are living in this time is merely disguised by the way human beings continue to live in their old ways, denying as much as they can in every field the fact that Christ now dwells in them. It has to be said that there is much in many human beings that is preparing them in the right way for the etheric appearance of Christ, who is of course a being descending from the divine world. But people must prepare for this by finding the wellspring of their actions and deeds within themselves.
This brings us through the spirit of the Book of Revelation to the difficulty of working as a priest today. In a certain sense the priest is expected to be the dominus, he is expected to lead and guide. The priest has the congregation before him, and his priestly dignity presupposes that he is the leader, that he is in a sense the king for those he has to lead. He is the one who administers the sacraments, he is the one who cares for souls. On the other hand we are living at a time when human beings bear the essence within themselves that enables them to take Christ into themselves to an extent that allows them to become more and more their own leader.
This is the position you put yourself in today when you want to assume the dignity of priesthood. Nevertheless, this dignity of priesthood is entirely justifiable, especially today, because although the essence human beings have in them is there, it needs to be called forth from them, the very best needs to be made of it. Everything that stands behind the dignity of priesthood is needed today to call forth from human beings what is in them. We are living at a time that poses quite specific requirements, but the outer world cannot yet entirely face up to these requirements. This is because the outer world is concerned with what human beings are through the fact that they wear a physical body. But it would be a terrible prospect if human beings were to live over into their next life on Earth only in the form they now have in our present civilization.
We know that in anthroposophical circles efforts are made to avoid this. Human souls are offered something that will enable them to absorb what they are supposed to carry with them into the life of their next incarnation. But this must become possible for all humanity. Human beings today must build an ‘I’, they must build an individuality, with which they can live on into their next incarnation. This is only possible if there can be added to their experiences as human beings something that is given through the grace of the offering, through the grace of the sacrament. Their karma will not become detached from human beings through this, but something will be loosened that is at the moment most strongly of all attached to them. Human beings wear a mask today. They go around in disguise. And if the desire arises to see the real individuality of a human being, this can lead to tragic conflicts.
One such tragic conflict was encountered by Hölderlin, who once said all he could see when looking at his fellow Germans was ‘craftsmen but no human beings, thinkers but no human beings, priests but no human beings, masters and servants, young and old, but no human beings’, and thus he went on. Human beings, in a way, bear a seal of something that is outside them.
Today we need priests who work in a way that speaks to the human being as such, and that cultivates what belongs to humanity as a whole. Basically none of the confessions is capable of this today. Think how dependent they all are. The community for Christian renewal must grow beyond this dependence of the confessions. It must do this through its own destiny. No other profession growing from Anthroposophy is in a position comparable to that of the priests. They are in a unique position, and it is perhaps a good thing if out of the spirit of the Book of Revelation we for once express what this means. You only have to consider that in every other kind of work growing from Anthroposophy people are in some way or another dependent on the world around them because of the external pressures that exist. If you become a schoolteacher out of Anthroposophy, well, you know about the enormous difficulties facing us there. It is an illusion to imagine that we shall ever found a second Waldorf school so long as the requirement is for teachers to have some kind of seal of approval from the state. We were only able to found the Waldorf school because we did so before the state of Württemberg passed its education laws.
Or take the medical profession. We cannot simply create physicians out of the foundations of existence through the anthroposophical movement. Well, we could do so, but they would not be authorized, they would remain unqualified. In some ways we even have this difficulty where art is concerned. Although it has not quite happened yet, it will not be long before things tend toward what they are already trying to do in Russia where they expect even artists to acquire some sort of seal of approval from the state. Priests emerging from the anthroposophical movement are the only ones who can disregard all that. It is fine if they have been trained in some way, but for their work as priests they can disregard all of it. In the theology they represent they can truly lay the first foundation stone of the New Jerusalem, for they represent a theology that calls for recognition from no one but themselves. This is what is so important.
You are the only ones who are in this position. You should feel that this is the position you are in, for it is a position in which you will sense the specific nature of your priestly dignity. In countries like Russia they can drive priests out, but in countries like that they will never do anything to make priests acquire a seal of approval from the state. Either priests will be left to their own devices or they will not be wanted at all, which is what is tending to happen in Russia today.
So priests can for the first time feel the approach of the New Jerusalem, the approach of the indwelling Christ, of Christ who will become the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords. It is therefore rather fitting if the priest pauses at this forward-looking passage in the Book of Revelation, if he pauses with a fervent heart and unfolds all the enthusiasm of his priestly soul that he must unfold by contemplating this particular passage in the Book of Revelation.
For the Book of Revelation is not a teaching, it is active, working life in all our souls. We should feel at one with the Book of Revelation. We should be able to bring the work we do and the life we live into the prophetic stream of the Book of Revelation.
Then we find ourselves gathered around John the apocalyptist, who sees before him the vision: Heaven is opened; he comes who alone understands his name, whose garment bears the name of the Word of God, who is the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords. Those priests who unite themselves with the cultus that has once more been drawn directly from the spiritual world, those priests who are themselves once again re-establishing the Transubstantiation in keeping with the Holy Spirit, those priests who have the new Act of Consecration of Man which is the transformed old one, having within it that which is valid of the old, but having the form that flows today from the spiritual world—these priests are now permitted to gather around John the apocalyptist who looks into heaven opened.
We may regard the initiation which took place here, in the hall over there which was then devoured by fire, as being lit by the light that shines out when heaven is opened and the white horse appears with the One who is seated upon it, whose name only he himself knows and who must be embodied in us if this name is to mean anything to us. This is what is meant by understanding the Book of Revelation; the Book of Revelation requires understanding that is alive, it does not require mere knowledge.
Bound up with all that appears in a picture as grand as this, bound up with all this is deep, deep wisdom. Consider what makes its appearance in the immediate vicinity of this important vision. We are shown how the Beast begins to work, the Beast I have described, the Beast who shows the human being the way down from the spiritual to the physical, the Beast the apocalyptist has seen approaching in three stages, the Beast, one of whose forms is not only the materialistic view of life but the materialistic attitude in life.
The apocalyptist indicates two points in time. He points to the Beast being overcome, and he points to the stronger adversary of humanity being bound for one thousand years before becoming unbound for a short space of time. So we are actually faced with two adversaries of the good principle: with the Beast, and with the one whom tradition calls Satan.
In a certain sense the Beast has been overcome as far as the outer physical world is concerned. It has been overcome by the way it is possible to confront materialism with a spiritual view of the world. In a certain sense Satan is bound at the present time. But he will become unbound again. Satan is bound, and those who see what matters in evolution know that he is bound. For if Satan were not bound at present, then all those things would come about that could mean the full outpouring of the phials of wrath. If Satan were not bound, there would be seen in the external world in the most horrible way how this is connected with the materialistic attitude and way of life on Earth. Profoundest inner cynicism would proclaim materialism to be the truth, and this would arouse such greedy desire in the unbound Satan that one would see this materialistic attitude and way of life and the way ahrimanic powers seize on it as the most horrible, the most frightful diseases.
If Satan were not bound, one would have to speak of materialism not merely as an attitude and way of life but as being the most evil of diseases. Instead of this, people make their way in life with the cynicism and frivolity of materialism, even religious materialism, and nothing befalls them. That nothing befalls them is due solely to the fact that Satan is bound while God is still giving human beings a chance to find their way to the spirit without falling prey to Satan. If Satan were here now, there would be many a teacher in one creed or another that had fallen for materialism who would present a frightful, a terrible, sight to humanity. The inner picture pointing to the possible disease of materialism—the leprosy of materialism—that would be here if Satan were not bound is indeed a most terrible one.
There is no other context except that of the Book of Revelation in which someone with spiritual responsibility toward this knowledge would bring up this picture. I myself would not use the expression ‘the leprosy of materialism’ in any other context except here where I have linked it to the Book of Revelation. As one finds one’s way into the Book of Revelation one does have these frightful pictures before one’s eyes which do indeed represent a spiritual reality.
The Book of Revelation must not only fill our life, it must also fill our words. If we take it into ourselves, the Book of Revelation not only brings life into our work as priests but also allows us to point to things we would never dream of mentioning in exoteric life. The Book of Revelation must live not only in our ‘I’ if we want to comprehend it; the Book of Revelation also wants to speak in our words. There is much that you will say to one another when you are gathered together alone in true priesthood among yourselves, so that it may live in you and be kept among you. From this you will draw the strength to speak the right words to those who are your congregation.
To be priests today means to be the first human beings who are permitted to speak freely among each other about the Book of Revelation. The Book of Revelation is the book for priests that follows on from the Gospels. You will all the more become priests the more you live your way into this inner spirit of the Book of Revelation. More of this tomorrow.