Sunday, April 24, 2011
Easter: The Mystery of the Future
Rudolf Steiner, April 13, 1908:
In a former lecture I pointed out that Christianity is wider in reach and compass than the sphere of religion as we normally understand it. I said that when, in future times, men have outgrown what they are now wont to call religion, the substance and content of Christianity will have thrown off the outmoded forms of religious life and will have become a potent spiritual influence in the whole of human culture. Christianity has the power in itself of transcending the forms in which, in the cultural development of our day, we quite rightly express our religious life.
Since that lecture, many significant expressions of cultural life have come to my notice. I have had a brief period of lecturing in the Northern countries — in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark. The week before last I had to give a lecture in Stockholm, among other towns in Sweden. Because of the low rate of population — remember that London alone has as many inhabitants as the whole of Sweden — there is much unoccupied territory, and people are separated by far greater distances than is the case in our Middle European countries. This will help you to understand what I mean when I tell you that the influences of the old Nordic Gods and Beings are still perceptible in the spiritual environment of those districts. To one who has some knowledge of the Spiritual it is in a sense an actual fact that wherever the gaze turns one can glimpse the contenances of those ancient Nordic Gods who appeared to the Initiates in the Northern Mysteries, in times long before Christianity spread over the world.
In the very heart of these lands, enwreathed as they are by myth and legend, not only in the poetic but also in the spiritual sense, another symptom came into evidence. Between the lectures in Stockholm I had also to give one in Uppsala. In the Library there — in the very midst of all the evidences of spirituality dating from the times of the ancient Gods — lies the first Germanic version of the Bible; the so-called ‘Silver Codex,’ consisting of the four Gospels translated in the 4th century by the Gothic Bishop Wulfila. During the Thirty Years' War, through strange workings of karma, this remarkable document was taken as booty from Prague and brought to the North, where it is now preserved in the midst of the spirit-beings who, in remembrance at least, pervade the spiritual atmosphere of those regions. And as though it were right and proper that this document should lie where it does, a strange occurrence played a part in the story. Eleven leaves of this Silver Codex were stolen by an antiquarian, but after some time his heir suffered such pricks of conscience that he sent the eleven leaves back again to Uppsala, where they now lie, together with the rest of the first Germanic translation of the Bible.
The subject of the three public lectures in Stockholm was Wagner's “Ring of the Nibelungs,” and, walking along the streets, the announcements of the last performance at the Opera of Wagner's Ragnarök, the “Götterdämmerung” (Twilight of the Gods), were to be seen on the kiosks. These things are really symptomatic, interweaving in a most remarkable way. Underlying the old Nordic sagas there is a note of deep tragedy, indicating that the Nordic Gods and Divinities would be superseded by One yet to come. This motif and trend of the Nordic sagas reappears in a medieval form in Wagner. Siegfried is killed by a thrust between his shoulder-blades, his only vulnerable part. This is a prophetic intimation that here, at this place in his body, something is lacking, and that through One yet to come it will be covered by the arms of the Cross. This is no mere poetic image, but something that has been drawn from the inspiration belonging to the world of saga and legend. For this same note of tragic destiny was implicit in the Nordic sagas, in the Mystery-truth underlying them, that the Nordic Gods would be replaced by the later, Christian Principle. In the Northern Mysteries the significance of this ‘Twilight’ of the Gods was everywhere made plain.
It is also significant — and here again I mean something more than a poetic image — that in the very hearts of these people today the remembrance of those ancient Gods lives on in peaceful reconciliation with all that has been brought there or made its way thither from Christianity. The presence of the Gothic Bible amid the memories of ancient times is verily a symptom. One can also feel it as a symptom, as a foreshadowing, of the future, that in lands where more intensely than anywhere else the ancient Gods are felt as living realities, these Gods should be presented again in their Wagnerian form, outside the narrow bounds of ordinary religion.
Anyone in the slightest degree capable of interpreting the signs of the times will perceive in the art of Richard Wagner the first rays of Christianity emerging from the narrow framework of the religious life into the wider horizons of modern spiritual culture. One can discern quite unmistakably how in the soul of Richard Wagner himself the central idea of Christianity comes to birth, how it bursts the bonds of religion and becomes universal. When on Good Friday, in the year 1857, he looks out of the Villa Wesendonck by the Lake of Zürich at the budding flowers of early spring, and the first seed of “Parsifal” quickens to life within him, this is a transformation, on a wider scale, of what already lives in Christianity as a religious idea. And after he had reached the heights of that prophetic foreshadowing of Christianity to which he gave such magnificent expression in the “Ring of the Nibelungs,” this central Idea of Christianity found still wider horizons in “Parsifal,” becoming the seed of that future time when Christianity will embrace not only the religious life but the life of knowledge, of art, of beauty, in the widest sense of the words.
This is the theme that will be presented to you today, in order to kindle the feeling of what Christianity can be for mankind in times to come.
In connection with this, we will penetrate deeply today into the evolution of humanity, for the purpose of discovering the real relation between religion in the ordinary sense and Christianity. The present point of time is itself not unsuitable, lying as it does just before the great Festival symbolizing the victory of the Spirit over Death. The Festival of Easter is close upon us and we remember, perhaps, those Christmas lectures in which we endeavored to grasp the meaning of Christmas in the light of the Mystery-knowledge. If from a higher vantage-point we think of the Christmas Festival on the one side and the Easter Festival, with its prospect of Whitsuntide, on the other, the relation between religion and Christianity, if rightly conceived, is brought in a most wonderful way before the eye of spirit.
It will be necessary to go far, far afield in laying the basis of this study, but by doing so we shall realize what has been preserved in such Festivals and what they can bring to life in the soul. We shall go far, far back in evolution — although not so far either in time or space as in our last lectures, when we dealt with the Spiritual Hierarchies. Those lectures, however, will have been a help, because of the vistas they opened up of the Earth's evolution and its connection with that of the Beings of the heavens. Today we shall go back only to about the middle of the Atlantean epoch, when the ancestors of present-day humanity were living in the West, between Europe and America, on the continent now lying beneath the waters of the Atlantic Ocean. In those times the face of the Earth was quite different. Where now there is water, then there was land, and on this land dwelt the early ancestors of men who now constitute the civilized humanity of Europe and Asia. When the eye of spirit is directed upon the soul-life of these antediluvian, Atlantean peoples, it is seen to have been quite different from the soul-life of Post-Atlantean humanity. We have learnt, from earlier studies, of the mighty changes that have taken place in Earth-evolution since that time, including changes in the life of the human soul. The whole of man's consciousness, even the alternating states of waking consciousness by day and sleep by night, have changed. The normal state today is that when a man wakes in the morning he comes down with his astral body and Ego into the physical and etheric bodies, making use of the physical senses: the eyes for seeing, the ears for hearing, and all the other senses, in order to receive the impressions coming from the material world around him. He plunges with his astral body down into his brain, into his nerves, combining and relating his multifarious sense-impressions. Such is the life of day. At night, the Ego and astral body draw out of the physical and etheric bodies, and sleep ensues. The physical and etheric bodies lie in the bed, but the Ego and astral body have passed out of them and all the impressions of the sense-world and of the waking life of day are obliterated; joy, suffering, pleasure, pain — everything that composes man's inner waking life of soul passes away, and in the present cycle of human evolution darkness enshrouds him during the night.
At approximately the middle of the Atlantean epoch it was not so. Man's consciousness in those times was essentially different. When in the morning he entered into his physical and etheric bodies he was not confronted with sharply outlined pictures of the outer, material world. The pictures were much less distinct and definite, rather as when street lamps in thick fog appear surrounded with an aura of rainbow-like colors. This homely illustration will help you to envisage what the mid-Atlantean man saw and perceived, but you must remember that these colorforms surrounding and blurring the sharp outlines of objects, and also the tones resounding from them, revealed a great deal more than the colors and tones familiar to us today. These encircling colors were the expressions of living beings — of the inner, soul-qualities of these beings. And so when a man had come down into his physical and etheric bodies he still had some perception of the spiritual beings around him — unlike today, when on waking in the morning he merely perceives physical objects with their sharp outlines and colored surfaces.
Moreover, when at night the Atlantean left his physical and etheric bodies, the world into which he passed was not a world of darkness and silence; the pictures were hardly less numerous than by day, with this difference only, that whereas in the waking life of day man perceived outer objects belonging to the mineral-, plant-, animal- and human kingdoms, at night the whole space around him was filled with color-forms and tones, with impressions of smell, taste, and so forth. But these colors and tones, these impressions of warmth and cold of which he was conscious, were the garments, the sheaths, of spiritual Beings who never descend to physical incarnation, Beings whose names and images are preserved in the myths and sagas. Myths and sagas are not just folk-songs; they are memories of the visions which in olden times came to men in these conditions of existence. Men were aware of the spiritual alike by day and by night. By night they were surrounded by that world of Nordic gods of which the legends tell. Odin, Freya, and all the other figures in Nordic mythology were not inventions; they were experienced in the spiritual world with as much reality as a man experiences his fellow-men around him today. And the sagas are the memories of the experiences actually undergone by men in their shadowy, clairvoyant consciousness.
At the time when this kind of consciousness had evolved from a still earlier form, the Sun in the heavens rose at the vernal equinox in the constellation of Libra (the Scales). As the Atlantean epoch took its further course, the kind of consciousness that is ours today gradually developed. The impressions received by man during the night when his Ego and astral body were outside his physical and etheric bodies became dimmer, less and less distinct; whereas the images of waking life coming to him when he was within his physical and etheric bodies by day, increased in clarity and definition. Paradoxically speaking, night became more intensely night, day more intensely day.
Then came the Atlantean Flood and the dawn of the later, Post-Atlantean epochs of civilization: the ancient Indian civilization when the Holy Rishis themselves were the teachers of men; the epoch of ancient Persian culture; the epoch of Chaldean-Assyrian-Babylonian-Egyptian culture; the epoch of Greco-Roman culture, and finally our own. These epochs of civilization followed one another after the submergence of Atlantis. And the mood-of-soul prevailing in men during early Post-Atlantean times, and to some extent also during the last phases of the Atlantean epoch itself, can be indicated by saying that among the peoples everywhere — including those who, as the descendants of the Atlanteans, had wandered across to the East and settled there — the ancient memories still survived, as well as the old myths and legends describing the experiences of the earlier form of Atlantean consciousness. These legends and myths which originated in Atlantis had come over with the migrating peoples, who preserved and narrated them. They were their inspiration, and the oldest inhabitants of the North were still vitally aware of the power flowing from these myths, because their ancestors remembered that their own forefathers had actually seen what was narrated in the legends.
Something else too had been preserved, namely the things that had been experienced — not, it is true by the masses of the people, but by those who were the Initiates in olden times, the priests and sages of the Mysteries. Their eyes of spirit had penetrated into the same depths of world-existence that are disclosed today through spiritual investigation. The Initiation-consciousness of man's early forefathers worked in the spiritual world as powerfully as the Folk-Soul. Clairvoyance, although dim and shadowy, was still a real and vital power in those olden days. Folk-lore and saga preserved and proclaimed, in revelations often fragmentary and broken, realities that had once been experienced. What had been seen in vision and cultivated in the Mysteries was preserved in the form of an ancient wisdom. It was then possible, in the Mysteries, to infuse into the individual consciousness of those who became Initiates a wide, all-embracing vista of the universe. But forms of consciousness which had been natural in remote ages had in the later times of the Mysteries to be artificially induced.
Why was spiritual vision a natural condition in the far distant past? The reason is that the connection between the physical body and the etheric body was different. The connection existing today did not develop until the later phases of the Atlantean epoch. Before that time the upper part of the etheric head extended far outside the boundaries of the physical head; towards the end of Atlantis the etheric head gradually drew completely into the physical head until it coincided with it. This gave rise to the later form of consciousness which became natural in Post-Atlantean man, enabling him to perceive physical objects in sharp outlines, as we do today. The fact that man can hear tones, be aware of scents, see colors on surfaces — although these are no longer expressions of the inmost spiritual reality of things — all this is connected with the firm and gradual interlocking of the physical body and etheric body.
In earlier times, when the etheric body was still partly outside the physical body, this projecting part of the etheric body was able to receive impressions from the astral body, and it was these impressions that were perceived by the old, dreamlike clairvoyance. Not until the etheric body had sunk right down into the physical body was man wholly bereft of his dim clairvoyance. Hence in the ancient Mysteries it became necessary for the priests to use special methods in order to induce in the candidates for Initiation the condition which, in Atlantis, had been natural and normal. When pupils were to receive Initiation in the Mystery-temples, the procedure was that, after the appropriate impressions had been received by the astral body, the priests conducting the Initiation induced a partial loosening of the etheric body, in consequence of which the physical body lay for three and a half days in a trancelike sleep, in a kind of paralytic condition. The astral body was then able to imprint into the loosened etheric body experiences which had once come to Atlantean man in his normal state. Then the candidate for Initiation was able to see around him realities that henceforth were no longer merely preserved for him in scripts, or in tradition, but had become his own individual experiences.
Let us try to picture what actually happened to the candidate for Initiation. — When the priests in the Mysteries raised the etheric body partially out of the physical body and guided the impressions issuing from the astral body into this released etheric body, the candidate experienced in his etheric body the spiritual worlds. So strong and intense were the experiences that when he was restored from the trance and his etheric body was reunited to the physical body, he brought back the memory of these experiences into his physical consciousness. He had been a witness of the spiritual worlds, could himself bear witness to what was happening there; he had risen above and beyond all division into peoples or nations, for he had been initiated into that by which all peoples are united: the primal wisdom, primal truth.
Thus it was in the ancient Mysteries; so too it was in those moments of which I told you in connection with the Christmas Mystery, when the boundaries which were to characterize the consciousness of later times disappeared before the gaze of the Initiate. Think for a moment of the fundamental characteristic of Post-Atlantean consciousness. Man is no longer able to see into the innermost nature of things; between him and this innermost core of being a boundary is fixed. He sees only the surfaces of things in the physical world. What man's consciousness in the Post-Atlantean epoch could no longer penetrate was transparent and clear to the one who in olden times was about to receive Initiation. And then, when the great moment came, in what is called the “Holy Night,” he was able to see through the solid Earth and to behold the Sun, the spiritual “Sun at midnight.”
In essentials, therefore, this pre-Christian Initiation consisted in re-evoking what in ancient times had been the natural condition, the normal state of consciousness. Little by little, as civilization advanced, these memories of olden times receded and the power to experience reality outside the physical body became increasingly rare. Nevertheless, in the earliest periods of the Post-Atlantean epoch there were still many in the ancient Indian, Persian, Chaldean civilizations, indeed even in ancient Egypt, whose etheric bodies were not yet so firmly anchored in the physical body as to prevent them from receiving the impressions of the spiritual world — in the form of atavistic remains of an earlier age. Later, during Greco-Roman times, even these vestiges disappeared and it was less and less possible for Initiation to be achieved in the same way as before. It became increasingly difficult to preserve for humanity the memories of the ancient primal wisdom.
At this point we are drawing near the time of our own Fifth Post-Atlantean epoch, which denotes something of peculiar significance in the evolution of humanity. In the Greco-Latin epoch it was still true to speak of an equal possibility, on the one side of remembering the visions arising in the ancient, shadowy clairvoyance, and on the other, of living wholly within the physical body, and of being thereby completely cut off from the spiritual worlds. Individuals here and there had this experience. The whole trend of modern life goes to show that the man of the Fifth Post-Atlantean epoch has descended still more deeply into the physical body — the outer sign being the birth of materialistic concepts. These made their appearance for the first time in the Fourth Post-Atlantean epoch, with the Atomists of ancient Greece. Then, having passed from the scene for a time, we find them cropping up again, and during the last four centuries their influence has so greatly increased that man has lost not only the content of the old memories of the spiritual worlds but, gradually, all belief in the very existence of those worlds. There you have the true state of affairs. In this Fifth Post-Atlantean epoch, man has sunk so deeply into the physical body that he has lost even belief! In a very large number of people, belief in the existence of a spiritual world has simply vanished.
And now let us look from a different point of view at the course taken by evolution. Looking back into those ancient Atlantean times of which we have been trying to form a concrete picture, we can say that man was still living with and among his gods. He believed not only in his own existence and that of the three kingdoms of nature, but also in the reality of the higher realms of the spiritual worlds, for in the Atlantean epoch he was an actual witness of them. His spiritual consciousness by night and his physical consciousness by day did not greatly differ; they were in balance, and it would have been foolish of a man to deny the reality of that which was perceptibly around him — for he actually beheld the gods. There was no need for religion in our modern sense. What now forms the content of the various religions was a perceived reality to the majority of human beings in the times of Atlantis. Just as little as you yourselves need religion in order to believe in the existence of roses or lilies, rocks or trees, as little did the Atlantean need religion in order to believe in gods, for to him they were realities. But this immediate reality faded away, and more and more the content of the spiritual worlds became mere memory — partly preserved in traditions of the visions of very ancient forefathers, partly in the myths and sagas, and in what a few individuals gifted with special powers of clairvoyance had themselves witnessed of these spiritual worlds.
Above all, however, this content of the spiritual worlds was preserved in the Mysteries, guarded by the priests of the Mysteries. The secret knowledge under the guardianship of the Priests of Hermes in Egypt, of Zarathustra in Persia, and the sages of Chaldea, the successors of the Holy Rishis in India, was nothing else than the art of enabling human beings, through Initiation, to witness what men in days of yore had seen around them in a perfectly natural way. Later, what the Mysteries preserved was expressed in the form of the folk-religion — here in one, there in another religion — according to the constitution of a people, according to its particular faculties and powers of perception, even according to its native climate. But the primal wisdom was the basis of them all, as the one great unity. This wisdom was one and the same, whether cultivated by Pythagoras in his School, by the Chaldean sages in Western Asia, by Zarathustra in Persia, or by the Brahmans in India. Everywhere it was the same primal wisdom — expressed in varied form according to the needs and conditions obtaining in the folk-religions of the different regions. Here, then, we see the primal wisdom as the fount and basis of all religion.
What is religion, fundamentally speaking? It is the intermediary between the spiritual worlds and mankind when men are no longer able to experience these spiritual worlds through their own organs of perception. Religion was the proclamation, the announcement, of the existence of spiritual worlds, made for the sake of men who could no longer experience spiritual reality. Thus was the spiritual life spread over the Earth as religious culture in the several epochs of civilization, in ancient India, ancient Persia, and the rest, down to our own time.
As I have already said, the purpose of man's descent into a physical body was that he might gain knowledge of the external world, experiencing existence through his physical senses, in order, finally, to spiritualize what he thus experienced, and so lead it to future stages of evolution. But at the present time, having plunged deeply into the physical body, and having already passed the middle point of the Post-Atlantean civilizations, we are facing a very definite eventuality.
The whole evolution of mankind has a certain strange quality. It goes forward in one direction until a certain point is reached and then it begins to stream in the opposite direction. Having streamed downwards to a certain point, it turns again upwards, reaching the same stages as on the descent, but now in a higher form. Today man stands in very truth before a fateful future, that future when, as is known to everyone who is aware of this deeply significant truth of evolution, his etheric body will gradually loosen itself again, freeing itself from its submergence in the physical body, where the things of the physical world are perceived in their sharply outlined forms. The etheric body must release itself again in order that man's being may become spiritualized and once again have vision of the spiritual world. Today humanity has actually reached the point when in a great number of individuals the etheric body is beginning to loosen.
A destiny in the very highest degree significant is approaching us, and here we come near to the secret of our own epoch of civilization.
We must realize that the etheric body, which has descended very deeply into the physical body, must now take the path upwards, carrying with it from the physical body everything that has been experienced through the physical senses. But just because the etheric body is loosening itself from the physical, everything that was formerly reality — in the physical sense — must gradually be spiritualized. It will be essential for mankind in times to come to have conscious certainty that the spiritual is reality. What will happen otherwise? The etheric body will be freed from the physical body while men still believe only in the reality of the physical world, and have no consciousness of the reality of the spiritual, which will be manifest in the loosened etheric body as the fruit of man's past experience in the physical body. In such conditions men may be faced with the danger of losing all relationship to this loosening of their etheric bodies.
Let us consider the point at which a man's etheric body, which has been firmly anchored in the physical body, begins to loosen from it again and to emerge. Suppose that this happens to a man who in his physical existence has lost all belief in, all consciousness of, the spiritual world, and has cut himself off from any connection with it. Let us assume that he descended so firmly and deeply into the physical body that he has been able to retain nothing save the belief that the physical life is the one and only reality. Now he passes into the next phase of human existence. Relentlessly the etheric body emerges from the physical body, while he is still incapable of realizing the existence of a spiritual world. He neither recognizes nor knows anything of the spiritual world about him. This is the fate which may confront men in the near future: that they do not recognize the spiritual world which, as the result of the loosening of the etheric body, they must inevitably experience, but regard it as a phantasy, illusion, vain imagination. And those who have experienced most ably, with the utmost perfection, the physical body, the men who have become the pundits of materialism and are full of fixed, rigid notions of matter, it is they who, with the loosening of the etheric body, will face the greatest danger of being without a single inkling that there is a spiritual world. They will regard everything that then comes to them from the spiritual world as illusion, fancy, as so many figments of dream.
If in times to come, when the etheric body has again loosened itself from the physical, man is to live his life in any real sense, he must have consciousness of what will then present itself to the etheric body. In order that he may be conscious that what then comes to him is knowledge of the spiritual world, it is essential that realization of the existence of the spiritual world shall be preserved in humanity and carried through the period when man is most deeply immersed in the material world. For the sake of the future, the link between the religious life and the life of knowledge must never be lost. Man came forth from a life among the gods; to a life among the gods he will again return. But he must be able to recognize them; he must know that in very truth the gods are realities. When the etheric body has loosened he will no longer be able to rely on remembrances of ancient human times. If meanwhile he has lost consciousness of the spiritual world, has come to believe that life in the physical body and things to be seen in the physical world are the only realities, then for all ages of time he must dangle, as it were, in mid-air. He will have lost his bearings in the spiritual world and will have no ground under his feet. He will be threatened, in this condition, with what is known as the “spiritual death.” For around him there is only phantasy, illusion, a world of whose reality he has no consciousness, in which he does not believe, and so ... he dies! That is the death in the spiritual world. It is the doom which threatens men if, before passing again into the spiritual worlds, they fail to bring with them any consciousness of those worlds.
At what point in the evolution of humanity was attainment of consciousness of the spiritual world made possible for man? It was at the point where man's descent into the physical body was countered by victory over that body, and there was placed before men the great Prototype of Christ Himself. The understanding of Christ forms for man the bridge between the memories of his ancient past and the foreshadowings of his future. When Jesus of Nazareth had reached the age of 30, the Christ came down into his body. For the first and last time Christ lived in a physical body. And His victory over death — when it is rightly understood — reveals to man what the manner of his own life must be if, for all ages of time, he is to be conscious of the reality of the spiritual world. That is the true union with Christ.
What will the Christ Mystery, the Christ Deed, come to mean in the life of man in the future? The man of the future will look back upon our present epoch, when he lived wholly within the physical body, just as Post-Atlantean man looks back to those Atlantean times when he was living together with the gods. As he ascends again into the spiritual world, man will know that through the Christ Deed he has gained the victory over what he experienced in the physical body; he will point to the physical as something that has been overcome, surmounted. We should feel the Easter Miracle, then, as a mighty Deed, a foreshadowing of the Future.
Two possibilities lie before the man of the future. The one possibility is that he will look back in remembrance to the time of his experiences in the physical body and will say “These alone were real. Now there is about me only a world of illusion. Life in the physical body — that was the reality.” Such a man will be gazing into a grave and what he sees in the grave is a corpse. But the corpse — the physical thing — will still be for him the true reality. That is the one possibility.
The other is that man will look back upon what was experienced in the physical world, and will know that it is a grave. Then, with deep consciousness of the import of his words, he will say to those who still believe the physical to have been the one and only reality: “He Whom thou seekest is no longer here! The grave is empty and He Who lay within it has risen!”
The empty Grave and the Risen Christ — this is the Easter Mystery, the Mystery that is a foreshadowing, a prophecy. Christ came to establish the great synthesis between the Easter Mystery and the Christmas Mystery. To the Christmas re-enactment of the ancient Mysteries is added the Mystery of future time, the Mystery of the Risen Christ. This is the Mystery enshrined in the Festival of Easter. The future of Christianity is that Christianity will not merely proclaim the existence of higher worlds, nor be mere religion, but an inner affirmation, a powerful impulse in life itself. It will be an inner affirmation, because in the Risen Christ man will behold that which he himself will experience through the ages of time to come. This Mystery is a Deed, a reality of life, inasmuch as man looks up to Christ not merely as the Savior but as the great Prototype with whom his life conforms, in that he too will eventually overcome death. To live and work in the spirit of Christianity, to see in Christ not merely the Comforter but the One Who goes before us, Who is related in the deepest sense with our innermost being and Whose example we follow — this is what the Christ Idea will be in the future, pervading all knowledge, all art, all life. And if we remind ourselves of what is contained in the Easter Idea, we shall find there a Christian symbol of true Deed, true Life.
In times when men will have long since ceased to need the teachings of religion to tell them of the ancient gods, because they will again be living among gods, they will find in Christ that source of strength which enables them to find their own firm center among the gods. Men will no longer require religion in order to believe in gods whom they will once again behold, any more than they required religion in former times when they lived and moved among gods. Themselves spiritualized, men will live consciously among spiritual Beings, fulfilling their tasks in communion with these Beings. In a future by no means far distant, man will find that the physical world is losing its importance for him, that physical things are becoming evanescent. Their reality will have already paled long before man's existence on the Earth has drawn to its close. But when the things of the physical world of sense cease to be all-important and fade into shadow, man will either find that the physical is losing its importance while he is still incapable of believing in the spiritual realities before him, or he will be able to believe and preserve for himself the consciousness of these spiritual realities — and then for such a man there will be no spiritual death.
To confront a reality that is unrecognizable means to be shattered in the spirit. And men would come to this pass if, with the loosening of the etheric body, the spiritual worlds were to appear before them without being recognized and known as such. Many a man today could have consciousness of the spiritual worlds, but has it not. Therefore these worlds take vengeance, and this shows itself in man's restlessness, his neurasthenic condition, his pathological fears, which are nothing else than the consequences of failure to unfold consciousness of the spiritual worlds. Those who realize the significance of these things feel the necessity of a spiritual Movement which, for those who are outgrowing the substance of ordinary religion, preserves belief in man, in the whole man, including, therefore, the spiritual man.
To know Christ means to know man as a spiritual being. To be filled with the Christ Mystery in the future will mean that Christianity as mere religion will be surmounted and will be carried as knowledge to infinite horizons. Christianity will permeate art, will broaden and inspire it, will bestow in abundance the power of artistic creation. Richard Wagner's “Parsifal” is the first foreshadowing of this.
Christianity will flow into all life and activity on the Earth, and when the formal religions have long ceased to be necessary, mankind will have been strengthened and invigorated by the Christ Impulse which had once to be given in the middle of the Fourth Post-Atlantean epoch, during the Greco-Latin epoch, when Christ came down among men. Just as it was man's destiny to sink into the deepest depths of material life, so must he be lifted again to knowledge of the Spirit. With the Coming of Christ this Impulse was given.
These are the feelings that should inspire us in the days when we have the Easter Mystery in symbols around us. For the Easter Mystery is not merely a Mystery of Remembrance. It is also a Mystery of the Future, foreshadowing the destiny of those who free themselves more and more from the shackles, ensnarements, and pitfalls of the purely material life.
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