Rudolf Steiner, April 12, 1917:
The more we study the Mystery of Golgotha in the light of Spiritual Science, the more we realize that future generations will have to penetrate ever more deeply into this Mystery. In fact, what we have known of this Mystery hitherto and what we know of it today is but a preparation for a future understanding and especially for what will be experienced by mankind through this Mystery. A time will come when it will be possible to reveal to mankind in a few simple words what Spiritual Science, by exploring the widest fields of knowledge, is obliged to expound in a somewhat involved way, a way that some would perhaps say is difficult to comprehend. We can safely anticipate that this possibility will be realized. But the nature of spiritual development is such that the understanding of the greatest and simplest truths must be earned by patient effort, that the most profound truths cannot be reduced to simplest terms in every epoch. And therefore we must accept it as the karma of our epoch that we have much to learn before we can grasp the full import and the full gravity of the Mystery of Golgotha.
I should like to open our lecture today by emphasizing that we must attach great importance to the idea of faith, or trust, as an active and positive force.
We have to realize that both academic and popular thinking are at pains to exclude morality from their view of world evolution. Today scientists are interested only in the physical and chemical laws which determined the emergence of the Earth out of an original nebula and their aim is to discover how the end of the world will be determined by these same laws. To a certain extent we acquire our moral ideas in conjunction with these physical conceptions and I have already pointed out that they are not powerful enough to act as a positive force. Such is the position today. And in the future our moral ideas will become increasingly impotent. The idea that a deed or an occurrence, such as the “Fall”, which stands at the beginning of terrestrial existence, must be judged by moral laws is regarded by the scientific mind as sheer superstition. Our present understanding is not sufficient of itself to conceive of a moral evolution at the end of terrestrial existence whereby the physical and chemical processes of the Earth would be raised by a moral impulse to the Jupiter condition. Conceptions about what is physical and what is moral co-exist, but cannot, so to speak, “tolerate” each other; the two spheres are strictly delimited. While natural science excludes morality entirely from its ideology, morality is resigned to the fact that it is without effective life, that it has no place in the physical world. Indeed certain religious confessions seek to accentuate this cleavage between the physical and the moral, which permits them to reach a kind of compromise with natural science in that the scientist emphasizes that a clear line of demarcation must be drawn between the sphere of morality and what belongs to the sphere of chemistry, physics, and geology, etc.
I propose to begin my lecture today with something that is seemingly wholly unrelated to our subject but which leads directly into it. First, let me say that not all who have devoted themselves to cosmology excluded moral judgements from their study of external nature and natural phenomena. It would never occur to the modern botanist to apply moral ideas to the laws of plant growth. He would consider it childish to apply moral standards to the plant kingdom or to enquire into plant morality. Imagine the reception that would be accorded to anyone who took such an idea seriously. But people did not always share this attitude. I should like to quote the example of Goethe, whom many did not regard as a Christian but whose “Weltanschauung” was more Christian than that of many others. If you refer to critical studies on Goethe, especially those by Catholic authors, you will find that they are of the opinion that Goethe — as a man of stature he was sometimes treated indulgently — did not take Christianity seriously. Goethe, however, was by temperament and disposition inherently Christian, more profoundly Christian than those who forever have “Lord, Lord” upon their lips. Goethe certainly did not wear Christianity on his sleeve, but his view of the world was profoundly Christian in character. And here I would like to draw your attention to an aspect of Goethe's thought which is often neglected.
In his theory of metamorphosis Goethe attempted, as we know, to gain insight into plant growth. I have often had occasion to refer to a conversation between Goethe and Schiller on this subject after they had attended a lecture by Professor Batsch in Jena. Schiller did not approve of the way in which Batsch classified plants. He said that the method of dividing and classifying was unnecessary and that a totally different approach was possible. Thereupon Goethe illustrated with a simple sketch his idea of the metamorphosis of plants, in order to show how the spiritual link common to the individual plant forms could be envisaged. Schiller shook his head and replied: “That is not an experience; that is an idea.” Goethe did not really understand this objection and said: “I am glad to hear that I have ideas without knowing it and that I can even perceive them with my own eyes.” — Goethe could not understand how that which was derived from reality, like a tune or a color, could be described as an idea. He maintained that he actually saw his ideas. Goethe, therefore, strove to discover the spiritual behind phenomena, to find the spiritual element underlying plant growth.
Goethe realized that he could not fully communicate his ideas to his contemporaries, for the time was not yet ripe to receive them. Meanwhile other naturalists, among them the botanists Schelver and Henschel, had been stimulated by Goethe's theory of metamorphosis. They wrote the most remarkable things about plant growth, which met with Goethe's approbation. But the modern botanist regards this whole subject as dealt with by Goethe, Schelver, and Henschel as midsummer madness. In cases such as this we must adapt the words of Paul and say: “What is foolishness to man may be wisdom in the sight of God.” And Goethe then jotted down his impressions of Schelver's method of presentation.
I will now outline briefly what Schelver wished to establish. The existing approach to botanical studies was anathema to him. At this time the generally accepted view was that plants are divided into plants with female flowers and plants with male flowers, that the ovule is fertilized by the pollen from the stamens and so a new individual arises. Schelver firmly rejected this view since it did not accord with the nature of the plant kingdom. The fact is, he said, that every plant, by virtue of its nature, can reproduce its kind. He looked upon fertilization as a more or less secondary phenomenon, as a mistake, an aberration of nature. If nature followed the right course, Schelver believed, then each plant would reproduce its kind without fertilization; there would be no need for pollination in order to ensure the continuity of the plant species.
Goethe, who had made a close study of such phenomena as the metamorphosis of the leaf into the flower, regarded it as self-evident that the whole plant would reproduce its kind through metamorphosis. He was attracted by Schelver's idea and in all seriousness he recorded his reflections on the subject in a series of aphorisms which are extremely interesting but which modern botanists regard as pure nonsense. In his article on Schelver he wrote, among other things:
Thus Goethe, surveying the plant kingdom, finds it intolerable that there is no escape from these perpetual “nuptials”. He finds it — as he so delicately puts it — more seemly not to have to mention them; it is far better (in his view) to teach the asexual reproduction of plants. He then elaborated further on this and wrote:
Goethe therefore thought it highly desirable that the study of sexual behavior in the plant kingdom should be abolished. But, of course, this was considered to be an absurd idea even in Goethe's time. And today in the age of psychoanalysis, which seeks a sexual explanation for everything, it would seem more foolish still to say that it would he a good thing if we could dispense with this immoral notion of sexuality in our study of nature. Goethe expressly says: “Just as we find everywhere today ultras — liberal as well as royalist — so Schelver was an ultra on the question of metamorphosis. He broke through the narrow limitations of the earlier theory.” Goethe does not say that he found an ultra such as Schelver in any way antipathetic; on the contrary he warmly welcomed his appearance.
We shall the better understand what lies behind all this if we enter more deeply into the soul of Goethe, I mean, into his Christian soul. Those who study nature as it is from the standpoint of modern science can of course make nothing of such ideas, for certain assumptions are necessary before these ideas can be understood. It must first be assumed that the plants, as they are at present, belie their original design. Those who make a detailed study of the plant kingdom are compelled to acknowledge that, when they reflect upon the original design of plant growth, they find that fertilization by wind-blown pollen does not accord with the original intention of nature. Fertilization should take a different form. The only course open to us therefore is to recognize that the whole flora around us shows a deterioration from its original form and that a view of nature such as that of Goethe still discovered in the form of plants as they are today an intimation of what they had been before the Fall. Indeed we cannot understand Goethe's theory of metamorphosis unless we appreciate its childlike innocence, unless we realize that Goethe wished to indicate by this theory that the present mode of reproduction in the plant kingdom is not what was originally intended; it arose only after the Earth had fallen from a higher sphere to its present level.
It follows from this — I cannot enter into precise details at the moment, but we shall have an opportunity to discuss these matters later — that the same applies to the mineral kingdom; that it too is not as originally constituted. And those who make a careful scientific study of these problems will also realize that what I have said is applicable to the animal kingdom, to the so-called cold-blooded animals, but not to the warm-blooded animals. The mineral kingdom, the plant kingdom, and the kingdom of the cold-blooded animals, whose blood temperature is permanently below that of the environment in which they live, these three kingdoms are not such as they were originally intended to be. They have fallen from a higher sphere, with the result that they are of necessity subject to the sexual principle which governs them today. These three kingdoms are unable to develop their potentialities to the full; they must be given assistance in order to fulfill their development. Originally, plants possessed a natural capacity, peculiar to themselves, not only to metamorphose leaf into blossom, but also to bring forth an entirely new plant. But they now lack the vital energies to do this; they require a new stimulus from without, because they have forsaken the realm to which they originally belonged. And the mineral kingdom and the kingdom of the cold-blooded animals too were intended to be different from what they are now; they have stopped short midway in their evolution.
Let us now turn to the other realms of nature: to the kingdom of the warm-blooded animals, to the human kingdom, and to the kingdom of the ligneous plants, i.e. trees. The plants I have already mentioned which follow normal metamorphosis are those which develop green leaves and stems, the herbaceous plants. I pointed out in my previous lecture that physical man, as at present constituted, does not answer to his inherent potentialities; his physical body was originally destined for immortality. This idea has further implications. Not only has physical man who was destined for immortality forfeited his claim to immortality, but also the other living beings, the ligneous plants and the warm-blooded animals, bear the seeds of death in them. They are not as originally created; not that they were created immortal, but they have deteriorated. In consequence a new situation has arisen for them. I stated that the kingdom of the herbaceous plants and the kingdom of the cold-blooded animals are unable to fulfill their potentialities; they are in need of an external stimulus. The warm-blooded animals, the ligneous plants, and man do not betray their origin in their present form. Thus the first group do not develop to the full their potentialities and need some external influence to further their development. The second group — the ligneous plants, the warm-blooded animals, and man as at present constituted — do not betray their origin. The former fail to fulfill their development; the latter do not immediately disclose their origin in their present form.
If we accept this point of view we can predict to a certain extent the direction which the study of nature must take in the future. We must make a clear distinction between what the beings were destined to become and what they are at the present moment.
The question then is: how are we to account for this deterioration? Virtually the whole of nature around us, even when investigated scientifically, is not such as it was intended to be. Who is responsible for this? The blame lies with man, because he succumbed to the Luciferic temptation, to what is called in the opening chapter of Genesis the “Fall”, or original sin. To Spiritual Science this is a real and genuine drama in which man was not only involved, but which was first played out in the soul of man. At that time man was still so powerful that he involved the whole of nature in his fall. He involved in his fall the plants. Consequently they were unable to complete their development and required a stimulus from without. It was his responsibility that, alongside the cold-blooded animals, there are also warm-blooded animals, that is, animals capable of suffering pain, as he does. Man therefore has dragged the animals down with him because he succumbed to the Luciferic temptation.
People often imagine that man's relation to the universe has always been the same as it is today, that he is powerless in the face of nature, that he has no apparent influence upon the creation of the animals and plants around him. But this has not always been the case. Before the present order of nature arose, man was a powerful being who not only succumbed to the Luciferic temptation but involved the rest of creation in his fall, with the result that the moral order was completely divorced from the natural order.
Whoever expresses the view I have expressed today will not meet with the slightest understanding from those who think along the lines of natural science. Nonetheless it is imperative that such views should be understood in the future. Despite all the services it has rendered to mankind, despite its great achievements, modern science is but an interlude. It will be replaced by another science which will recognize once more that there is a higher vision of the world in which the natural law and the moral law are two aspects of a single whole. But this higher vision will not be reached through a vague pantheism, but from a concrete insight into reality. We must recognize, as external nature unmistakably shows, that it was originally designed for something other than is disclosed in the existing order of nature today. We must have the courage to measure external nature also by the yardstick of morality. The materialistic monism of today, which prides itself on excluding moral principles, does so from intellectural cowardice, because it has not the courage to probe deeply enough to a point where, as was the case with Goethe, it becomes imperative to apply moral standards, just as it is necessary to apply scientific standards to the study of external nature.
Mankind would have found it impossible to think of the world as once again imbued with morality if the Mystery of Golgotha had not supervened at the beginning of our present era. We have seen that everything pertaining to the natural order has, in a certain sense, been corrupted, has fallen from a higher sphere and must recover once again its former high estate. And our “Weltanschauung” likewise must rise above its present level. Our thinking also is an integral part of this natural order. And when Du-Bois Reymond and other scholars maintain that our thinking cannot attain to reality, when they assert that we can never know the ultimates (ignorabimus), this is to some extent true. And why? Because our thinking has forsaken the realm for which it was originally predestined and must find its way back once again. Thinking has declined everywhere, and those who maintain that thinking cannot attain to reality are right to some extent. This thinking, together with the rest of creation, has been corrupted and must lift itself to a higher level. The necessary impulse through which this thinking can be raised to a higher level is found in the Mystery of Golgotha, that is, in the new stimulus which the Mystery of Golgotha brought to mankind. Even our thinking is subject to some extent to original sin and must be redeemed before it can again participate in reality. And our present natural science with its necessarily amoral outlook is simply the outcome of this deterioration of thought. If we have not the courage to admit this, we have completely lost touch with reality.
The new spiritual impulse that was brought by the Mystery of Golgotha and whose purpose was to raise up the fallen kingdom of nature becomes abundantly clear to us if we bear in mind certain concrete facts, if we ask ourselves the question: What then would have been the fate of Earth evolution after its involvement in the Fall through the action of men — I say this not as an expression of opinion but as the result of spiritual investigation, just as the findings of natural science are the result of scientific investigation — what, I repeat, would have been the fate of Earth evolution if the Mystery of Golgotha had not brought a new spiritual impulse? Just as the plant cannot fulfill its development if the ovary is removed, so the Earth could not have fulfilled its evolution if the Mystery of Golgotha had not taken place.
Today we have just entered the fifth post-Atlantean epoch. The Mystery of Golgotha took place during the first third of the fourth epoch. Everywhere we find evidence of a progressive decline; this is patent to all. Thinking that is capable of penetrating into the essential nature of things has suffered a catastrophic decline. The Copernican theory and allied theories are valuable contributions to knowledge at a superficial level, but they do not probe deeply enough. They are the outcome of man's failure over the years to go to the heart of things, a failure that will become progressively more pronounced. Today we can cite instances, fantastic as they may seem, of the situation that must arise if this trend of thought, which is already to some extent endemic, were to continue unimpeded. This trend of thought will have to be abandoned because the impulse of the Mystery of Golgotha will gather increasing strength.
I ask you to look with me for a moment through a window into the possibilities of future evolution and not to discuss what I have said in public lest you lay yourselves open to ridicule for stating a plain truth, for today such ideas will only meet with derision. If the present outlook of academic science persists, if it should spread further afield and become increasingly pervasive — we are now living at the beginning of the fifth post-Atlantean epoch, which will be followed by a sixth and a seventh epoch — then, unless the Mystery of Golgotha is understood at a deeper level, the situation can only grow worse. Today, if one were to speak, as I have done, of a new conception of the “Fall”, outside an esoteric circle, a circle that for years has been accustomed to ideas which provide evidence that this new conception can be scientifically demonstrated, he would of course be laughed to scorn. The materialistic, non-Christian world would have precious little confidence in him, if he were known to hold such views. But in the sixth post-Atlantean epoch things will be totally different and there will be a different attitude among a certain section of mankind. There will be a bitter struggle before the Christ Impulse can be realized.
People imagine that those who strive to arrive at the truth by means of Spiritual Science can be met with the weapons of scorn and ridicule that often pass for criticism. In the sixth epoch they will be treated medically! By that time medicaments will have been discovered which will be administered compulsorily to those who believe in a recognized canon of good and evil independent of social sanctions. A time will come when people will say: “What is all this talk about good and evil? Good and evil are determined by the State. What the State declares to be good is good; what it declares to be evil is evil. When you speak of good and evil as moral values, you are obviously ill.” And medicaments will be administered to such people in order to cure them. It is no exaggeration to say that this is the direction in which our epoch is moving; it is a pointer to the future. For the moment I will not disclose what will follow in the seventh epoch. A time will come — for human nature cannot be changed — when people will be adjudged ill according to the concepts of natural science and the necessary steps will be taken to cure them. This is no flight of fancy. Even the most sober observation of the world around confirms what I have said. And those who have eyes to see and ears to hear see on every side the first steps in this direction.
Now the etheric body is not such as it was originally designed to be, and this is the determining factor in all development subsequent to the “Fall”. It is of paramount importance to be alive to this fact and gradually to turn it to account in our life. Among the various etheric formative forces which our etheric body originally possessed — and originally it possessed all etheric formative forces in their full and vigorous vitality — is the warmth ether that is still active within it. This explains why man and the animals which he dragged down with him in his Fall both have warm blood. It was therefore possible for man to transform the warmth ether in a special way. This he could not do with the light ether. Admittedly he assimilates light ether, but he simply radiates it again, so that a lower form of clairvoyance is enabled to perceive the etheric colors in the human aura. They are actually present there. But in addition, man was also designed for a particular tone; he was endowed with his own specific tone in the whole Harmony of the Spheres, and also with an original vitality, so that it would always have been possible for the etheric body, if it had retained its original vitality, to have preserved the immortality of the physical body. And man would have been spared the consequences. For had the etheric body preserved its original form, man would have continued to dwell in those higher realms from which he has fallen. He would not have succumbed to the Luciferic temptation, for in those higher realms totally different conditions would have prevailed. And in former times those conditions really did exist. Great souls like Saint-Martin were to some extent still aware that such conditions had once existed, and therefore they spoke of these conditions as a former reality.
Let us recall for a moment one of these conditions. Man could not have spoken at that time as he does today, for speech had not yet been differentiated into separate languages. This differentiation was due to the fact that speech became static. It was never intended originally that language should remain static. You must have a clear picture of what was originally intended for man. If ever a fraction of Goethe's world-conception is realized in the life of man — I do not mean theoretically, but in actual practice — then people will realize what are the implications of this statement. Suppose for a moment that man still had the potentialities with which he was originally endowed. He would have looked out upon a world from which he received external impressions; he would be aware not only of colors and tones, not only of external impressions, but also of spirit emanating from things on every hand — from the color red the spirit of red, from the color green the spirit of green, and so on. At all times he would have been aware of the spirit. This was anticipated by Goethe when he said: if the Urpflanze, the archetypal plant, is nothing more than an idea, then I can see my ideas with my own eyes and they are realities in the external world, like colors. This is prescient of the future. I beg you to accept as a solid, concrete fact that the spirit is an active force that streams into us. If, however, the external impressions were to stream into us with the same vital energy as the spirit, we would respond to each of these impressions in our breathing process — for our breathing always responds to the impressions we receive through our brain and our senses. For example, an impression of red invades us from without; from within, our breathing responds to this impression with tone. Tone issues from man with every impression he receives from without. There was no such thing as a static language; each object, each impression, was immediately answered by tone from within. There was complete correspondence between the word and the external impression. Speech in its later development is simply the external projection, the residuum, of that original, living, and flexible language which was once common to all. And the expression “the lost word” which is so little understood today is a reminder of this original language. The opening words of the Gospel of St. John — “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” — recall living “at-one-ment” with the spirit — this primal spirit, when man not only had eyes to see the external world but also to perceive the spirit, when through the breathing process he responded to visual impressions with a tone. It is to this communion with the divine that the opening words of St. John's Gospel refer.
So much for the one aspect. On the other hand, in respiration (in so far as it extends to the head), as we inhale or exhale there is not only an interaction with the external world, but a pulsation is set up within our whole organism. The respiration that extends to the head responds to the impressions we receive from without. But in the lower organism our respiration responds to the metabolic process. If man still possessed the original vitality of his etheric body, then something totally different would be associated with his respiration than is associated with it today. For the metabolic process is not wholly independent of respiration; its dependence is simply concealed, it lies beneath the threshold of consciousness. But man would be conscious of it if he had preserved the original vitality of his etheric body, if in the course of his life he had not lost this vitality to some extent, for it is this loss of vitality, not only through the physical body but from within, that is the cause of death. If man had retained his original potentialities it would have been possible for him, via his metabolism, not only to secrete waste products but to produce something of a material nature. So much for the one possibility. On the other hand the exhalations of man would have contained formative forces, and the formative forces of his exhalations would have laid hold of the material substance and thus he would have created in his environment the animal kingdom as it was originally intended to be. For the animal kingdom is a secretion of man and was intended to be so, in order that man could extend his dominion over the kingdom of nature. It is in this way that we should think of the animal kingdom. All this is the conclusion drawn from the investigations I have laid down before you.
Today natural science is inclined to think that originally the animals were much more closely related to man. The truth is not that man has ascended the ladder of evolution as the crude theory of Darwin imagines but that today we can no longer grasp the real relationship of man to the animal kingdom. The vegetable kingdom does not fulfill its development on the terrestrial plane, and the animal kingdom likewise does not develop its origin on this plane. Naturalists speculate on how animals which co-exist with man have evolved. The reason for their co-existence must be sought in the sphere from which man has descended. It cannot be found where Darwin and his materialistic commentators expected to find it; it will be found in the mighty events of prehistoric times.
And bear in mind also what I mentioned recently: that spiritual investigation shows that in the sixth and seventh millennium there will be a decline in fertility. Women will become increasingly sterile. The present method of reproduction will no longer be possible; it must be transposed to a higher plane. In order that the world may not fall into a state of decadence when opinions as to what is good and evil will be treated medically, in order that good and evil, all personal determination of what is good and evil, should not be recorded merely as a matter to be decided by State regulation or human conventions, in order that this should not arise at a time when the natural order that at present prevails in the human species will of necessity have ceased to maintain the race — for just as in women fertility ceases at a certain age, so too the present method of reproduction in the human species will cease at a certain stage of Earth evolution — in order to forestall this, the Christ Impulse was bestowed upon mankind.
Thus the Christ Impulse was implanted in the whole of Earth evolution. I doubt if there is a single person who imagines that the Christ Impulse loses anything of its majesty or sublimity when it is incorporated in this way in the whole world order; when, in other words, it is restored to its cosmic rank, and when men really acknowledge that at the beginning of Earth evolution there existed, and at the end of Earth evolution there will exist, an order different from the present natural order, and a moral order that transcends the physical. The Christ Impulse was necessary in order that the end of Earth evolution should be worthy of the beginning. It was for this purpose that the Christ Impulse entered our Earth evolution and it is in this sense that we must understand it. And those who accept the words of the Gospels not in an external sense but with the true faith demanded by Christ can find in them the necessary attributes whereby an increasing understanding of the Christ Impulse can gradually be developed, an understanding that can meet the demands of external investigation and once again relate the Christ Impulse to the cosmic world order.
There are certain passages in the Bible that can only be understood with the help of Spiritual Science. It is written in the Bible: “One jot or tittle shall in no wise pass from the law.” Many expositors interpret these words as implying that Christ wished to preserve the Mosaic law intact and simply added to it His own contribution. They claim that this is the real meaning of the passage. The passage has no such meaning. A passage should not be torn from its context, for everything in the Gospels is closely interrelated. When we study this interrelation — at the moment I cannot enter into the details which would provide convincing proof of what I am about to say — we find the following. — On the occasion when He spoke of the “jot or tittle”, Christ implied that, in olden times, when the law was first framed, man still possessed his ancient inheritance of wisdom. He had not declined to the extent he has at the present day, when the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand, when he must change his mental attitude. In olden times there were still prophets or seers who were able to discover the law through the power of the spirit within them. “You who are now living in the kingdom of this world are no longer capable of adding to the law or of changing the law. If the law is to remain just, not a jot or tittle must be changed. The time is now past when the law can be changed after the ancient fashion; it must remain as it is. (But at the same time we must endeavor to rediscover its original meaning with the new powers that the Christ Impulse has brought.) You, the Scribes, are incapable of understanding the Scriptures. You must recover the spirit in which they were originally written. You are without, in the kingdom of the world; no new laws can originate there. But to those who are within the kingdom is granted the impulse of that living Force” — which, as I said recently, had to be transmitted orally, for it was not recorded in writing by Christ. “It cannot be codified, cannot be written into the law. It is something that is totally different from the Mosaic law, something that must be grasped spiritually. You, the Scribes, must approach the world in a new light, as something more than a purely phenomenal world.”
Thus the first powerful influence was given to mankind to see the world as something more than a world perceptible to the senses alone. It is only slowly and gradually that we can accommodate ourselves to this new outlook. Occasionally one feels impelled to speak from a Christian standpoint, and then one becomes the butt of ridicule. So too Schelling and Hegel, although not regarded as orthodox Christians, especially by the Catholics, sometimes allowed themselves to express genuine Christian sentiments. And they have been sharply criticized for it. The objection levelled against them was: “Nature is not as you describe it.” To which they were so misguided as to reply: “So much the worse for Nature!” This reply, it is true, is not “scientific” as we understand the word today, but it is Christian in spirit, the spirit in which Christ Himself spoke when He said: However much the Scribes may speak of laws, they do not speak of the real Law. Not only has a jot or tittle passed from the Mosaic law, but the law itself has changed in many respects. The Scribes speak from the kingdom of this world and not from the Kingdom of Heaven. He who speaks from the Kingdom of Heaven speaks of a cosmic order of which the natural order is only a subordinate part. To this one must reply: So much the worse for nature! To those who objected to Goethe's claim — that plant propagation was not determined by sexual reproduction — on the grounds that scientific observation shows that the ovaries are fertilized by windblown pollen — he too would have replied, if he had given his honest opinion: So much the worse for the plant kingdom if it is so deeply committed to the natural order.
On the other hand, minds such as Goethe's will always insist that man's understanding must be enlarged, that man must become sensitively aware so that he will be able to think, feel, and experience that up to the sixth and seventh millennium the spoken word will once again become a reality and will have the same creative power in the external world as the power of fecundation in the seeds of the plant kingdom today. The word which has become abstract today must regain the original creative power it once possessed “in the beginning”. Those who in the light of Spiritual Science are reluctant to amplify the opening words of the Gospel of St. John, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was a God”, by adding “and the Word one day will live again” have not fully grasped the Christian message. For Christ Jesus has set forth His teaching in a form that conflicts with the external world. It is to Him that we owe the impulse to regeneration. The world meanwhile has declined rapidly, and the Christ Impulse must be increasingly reinforced before this decline can be arrested. To a certain extent we have gone some way towards reversing this doctrine since the Mystery of Golgotha, but for the most part without being consciously aware of it. Man must learn once again to participate consciously in cosmic events. He must begin to realize not merely “When I think, something takes place in my brain” but “When I think, something takes place in the Cosmos”! And he must learn to think in such a way that just as he can entrust his thinking to the Cosmos, so too he can once again unite his being with the Cosmos.
The necessary changes that will have to be effected in our external life in order that our social life may be invested with the Christ Impulse are ignored by those who are already aware of this need. There are reasons for their reticence. One can only speak of them when certain prior conditions have been met; only brief indications can be given here. You will recall that earlier in this lecture I opened a window on to the future when I pointed out that those who recognize other laws than those decreed by the State will be treated medically. Before this time arrives, however, a reaction will have set in. One section of mankind will adopt the measures referred to above, but another section will be the bearer of the future Christ Impulse. A battle will ensue between the two groups — between the past and the future. And the Christ Impulse will win the day. When the etheric Christ appears in the present century the Impulse that streams from Him will be able to awaken such a response in the souls of men that governments based on ambition, vanity, prejudice, or error will gradually become an impossibility. It will be possible to discover principles of government free from these human frailties — but only if they are founded on a true and concrete acceptance of the Christ Impulse. Christian impulses will not be determined by parliamentary decrees; they will enter the world in a different way.
This tendency exists already. Alongside the incorporation of the Christ Impulse into world evolution there is a longing to incorporate the Christ Impulse into social evolution. In order to achieve this goal a considerable reorientation of thinking is called for. And great strength of mind will be necessary before people can accept seriously what I have said about the Christ. When Jesus had delivered His message to the multitude, they were filled with wrath and sought to cast Him from the mountaintop. The course of world evolution is not so simple as one imagines. We must realize that those who have some truth to impart may already have encountered an attitude of mind such as Christ encountered in those who sought to cast Him from the mountain.
In an age whose motto is "Moderation at all costs; never give offence; avoid a reputation for iconoclasm" — in such an age the ground is being prepared for the entry of Christ into the social evolution of mankind, and perhaps with good reason in this particular age. It is being prepared in the subconscious; little evidence of it is to be seen on the surface, where the unchristian principle of opportunism prevails, that unchristian principle that dare not openly declare like Christ: “The Kingdom of Heaven is not for you, ye Scribes and Pharisees.” — I ask you to pause and consider what has replaced the Scribes and Pharisees today. Gospel commentators are wont to excuse or explain away many of Christ's statements. And recently a priest, certainly not of the orthodox persuasion, who has uttered many fine statements about Christ Jesus went so far as to say that Christ was obviously not a practical person, for He advised people to live like the fowls of the air, “for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns”. Such advice would not take us very far today. This preacher did not make very serious efforts to grasp the impulse which permeates the Gospels. People find it difficult to cope with precepts such as “whoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also; if any man take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also. Give to him that asketh of thee, and from him that would borrow of thee, turn not thou away.” (Matt. V, 39-42.) When we read all that has been said in extenuation of this rather unpopular passage we have to admit that mankind today has gone halfway towards excusing Christ for the strange sentiments He sometimes expressed. They are prepared to excuse much if they can only retain the Gospels — after their own fashion. But in matters such as this it is far more important to understand what is implied. And this is difficult because these things are closely interrelated. But at least we can have an intimation of this interrelationship if we read on from the passage: “and of him that taketh away thy goods ask thou not again” (which occurs in the Gospel of St. Luke) to the more explicit statement in the Gospel of St. Matthew (VII, 12): “Whatever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even to them.” These words, of course, refer to what has gone before. Christ is here appealing to faith and trust.
If Christ had shared only the current superficial ideas, He could never have said: “If any man take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also.” He is speaking here of laws that govern social life and conduct — such are for the Scribes and High Priests — He is speaking of the Kingdom of Heaven. In this passage He wishes to emphasize that in the Kingdom of Heaven other laws prevail than those of the external world. And if you compare the passage in the Gospel of St. Luke with that of St. Matthew — and much depends upon the correct translation — you will realize that He wished to say that a faith must be awakened in man which would dispense with the laws and statutes concerning the stealing of another's coat and cloak. Christ wished to show that it was pointless simply to teach “Thou shalt not steal”. You will recall that He said: “a jot shall in no wise pass from the law”. But as they were originally understood, those words no longer provide any impulse for the present epoch. We must really develop within ourselves the power, under the present circumstances, to offer our cloak to whomsoever has taken our coat. If we follow the precept that “whatever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them”, and especially if this principle can be adopted by all, it would be impossible for anyone to steal another's cloak. No one will steal another's cloak if the victim has the strength of mind to say: Whoever takes my coat, to him I will give my cloak also.
In a social order where this attitude of mind prevails there will be an end to stealing. This was the implication of Christ's words. The Kingdom of Heaven is contrasted with the kingdom of the world. We must develop the power of faith. Morality must be founded upon this inner power. Every moral act must be a miracle, not merely a fact of nature. Man must be capable of performing miracles. Since the original world order has descended from its former high estate, the purely natural order must be replaced by a supernatural moral order which transcends the natural order. It is not sufficient merely to keep to the old commandments which had been given to the world under totally different conditions, nor is it sufficient to change them; man must adapt himself to a supernatural moral order, so that if someone steals my coat I shall be prepared to give him my cloak also, and not proceed against him. The Gospel of St. Matthew clearly states that Christ wished to debar judicial proceedings. In that event there would have been no point in adding to the passage about the coat and cloak the injunction: “Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them” unless Christ had intended to refer to another kingdom, to a kingdom in which miracles take place. For Christ performed signs and wonders through His sovereign, supernal power of faith. No one can do what Christ has done as part of the natural order, if he cannot bring himself to see in man something more than a nature being. What Christ demands of us is that, in the moral sphere at least, our ideas should transcend the limitations of external reality. In external life we act on the principle: if someone takes your coat, then get it back again! But on this basis it is impossible to establish a social order that complies with the Christ Impulse. In Christ's kingdom there must be something more in our moral concepts than a mere concern with, or the satisfaction of, material interests. Otherwise the following passages would be strange bedfellows. First, “whoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. If any man take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also. Give to every man that asketh of thee, and of him that taketh away thy goods ask not again. Whatever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them.” And then contrast with these precepts the words: “If you smite someone on the right cheek, then see to it that he offers the other also, so that you can experience the satisfaction a second time. If you steal a man's coat, do not hesitate to take his cloak also. If you want anything from anyone, see that he gives it you, etc.” This negates the principle: Whatever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them.
From the point of view of the practical world these injunctions of Christ are meaningless, a mere sequence of empty phrases. They first take on meaning if we presuppose that those who would take an active part in the salvation of the world which shall be initiated by the Christ Impulse, through which the world will be raised once again to higher realms, must start from principles which do not apply to the external world only. It will then be possible to give practical effect to moral ideas and conceptions once again.
To understand the Gospels in the light of the Mystery of Golgotha demands spiritual courage, a courage which mankind sorely needs today. And this implies that we must take seriously all that Christ said about the opposition between the kingdom of this world, the consequence of the progressive decline of mankind, and the Kingdom of Heaven. Those who in times such as the present (1917) are celebrating the Easter Festival, may already feel a growing desire to find the courage to understand once again the Mystery of Golgotha and to be united with the Impulse of Golgotha. Everywhere the Gospels speak of courage; they insistently call for courage to follow that Impulse which Christ Jesus has implanted in the evolution of the Earth.
In this lecture I have endeavoured to give you a clearer insight into the Mystery of Golgotha in order to impress upon you that aspect which shows how this Mystery must again be incorporated in the whole Cosmic order and can be understood only when we recognize that the Gospels speak with the tongues of Angels and not with the tongues of men. In the course of its development the academic theology of the nineteenth century has tried to reduce the Gospels to the level of human speech. Our immediate task is to learn to read the Gospels once more as the Word of God. In this connection Spiritual Science will contribute to a better understanding of the Gospels.
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