The Gospel of John and Its Relation to the Other Gospels. Lecture 12 of 14.
Rudolf Steiner, Kassel, July 5, 1909:
We have arrived at an important point in our studies — a sort of climax — hence we may expect to encounter various difficult passages in elucidating the Gospels. I may therefore be permitted at the beginning of these expositions to preface the continuation of what was said yesterday with a short survey of the salient features thus far treated.
We know that the nature of mankind's development was essentially different in remote times from what it is today, and we know that the human being shows an increasingly different form as our retrospect reaches farther and farther back to earlier conditions. It has already been mentioned that from our own time, which we may call the Central European cultural epoch, we can look back successively to the Greco-Latin time, to the Egypto-Chaldean period, and then to the era in which the ancient Persian people was led by Zarathustra. Beyond that we arrive at the remote Indian civilization, so very different from ours; and that brings us to a period of cultural evolution that followed immediately upon a great and mighty catastrophe. This cataclysm, running its course in tempestuous events in the air and in the water element, led to the disappearance of that continent which mankind had inhabited before the Indian civilization — ancient Atlantis, situated between Europe-Africa and America — and to the migration of its people, westward to America and on the other side to the lands of Europe, Asia, and Africa, which had gradually taken on their present configuration. This Atlantean age, especially in the early part, produced human beings who were very differently constituted in respect of their soul from present-day mankind; and what interests us primarily in human evolution is precisely what pertains to the soul, for we know that everything corporeal is a result of psychospiritual development.
What was the nature of the soul life in this ancient Atlantean age? We know that at that time human consciousness was very different from what it became later, and that in a certain respect man had an archaic clairvoyance, but that he was not yet capable of any pronounced self-consciousness, of ego-consciousness. This is achieved only by learning to distinguish oneself from outer objects, and people of that time were not quite able to do this.
Let us imagine for a moment what would happen in our time if we were unable to distinguish ourselves from our surroundings — let us consider the matter in a concise way. Nowadays we ask, Where are the confines of my being? And with a certain justification we answer, from our present-day standpoint, The confines of my human entity are where my skin divides me off from my surroundings. People imagine that they consist only of what their skin encloses, and that everything else is made up of outer objects which they perceive and from which they distinguish themselves. They believe this because they know that if some part is removed from within their skin they are no longer a complete human being, nor can be. From a certain standpoint it is quite correct to say that if you cut off a piece of a man's flesh he is no longer a whole human being.
On the other hand, we also know that we inhale air with every breath; and to the question, where is this air, the answer is, all around us — everywhere where our environment makes contact with us: that is the air we will have within us in the next moment. Now it is outside us, now in us. Cut off this air, remove it, and you can no longer exist. You are less whole than you would be if the hand within your skin were cut off. So the truth of the matter is that we are not bounded by our skin. The surrounding air is part of us, it enters and leaves us, and we have no right arbitrarily to fix the skin as our boundary.
If people would come to understand this — it would have to be arrived at theoretically, as perception provides no means of observing it — it would lead them to ponder on matters not forced upon their attention by the outer world itself. If a man were at all times able to see the air current passing into him, spreading, being transformed, and passing out again, it would never occur to him to say, This hand is more a part of me than the air I inhale. He would count the air as part of himself, and would suspect hallucinations if he fancied himself an independent being capable of existing without his environment.
No such delusion could exist for the Atlantean, for his observation clearly showed him a different state of affairs. He saw the objects in his environment not in sharp outline, but surrounded by colored auras. He did not see a plant as we see it, but more as we see the street lamps on a foggy autumn evening: everything was surrounded by a great colored aura. That was because there is spirit — spiritual beings — in and among all things of the outer world, which the dim clairvoyance still existing at that time enabled the Atlantean to perceive. As the fog fills the space between the lights, so there are spiritual beings everywhere in space. The Atlantean saw these spiritual beings just as you see the fog, hence they constituted for him a kind of vaporous aura investing all outer objects. These themselves were indistinct; but because he saw the spirit he also saw everything of a spiritual nature that streamed in and out of him. And for the same reason he saw himself as a component of his whole environment. He saw currents flowing into his body from all sides, currents you cannot see today. Air is merely the densest substance that enters us: there are far more tenuous ones. Man has lost the power of discerning spirit because he no longer has the old dim clairvoyance; but the man of Atlantis saw the spiritual currents streaming in and out, just as your finger, were it conscious, would see the blood coursing through it and would know that it must wither if it were torn off. Just as the finger would feel, if conscious, so the Atlantean felt himself to be a member of an organism. He felt the currents streaming in through his eyes and ears, and so forth; and he knew that if he were to force himself out of their reach he could not remain a human being. He felt as though poured out into the whole outer world.
The man of Atlantis saw the spiritual world, but he could not distinguish himself from it: he lacked anything like a strong ego sense — self-consciousness in its present meaning. The opportunity to develop this was provided by the fading from his view of all that had emphasized his dependence upon his environment. The cessation of that awareness enabled him to develop his self-consciousness, his egoity, and to do this was the task of post-Atlantean man. After the great Atlantean catastrophe people were organized in such a way that the spiritual world receded from their consciousness, and they gradually learned to see the outer physical world of the senses ever more clearly and distinctly. But nothing that evolves in the world takes place all at once, but step by step; it proceeds slowly and gradually; and thus the old dim clairvoyance vanished slowly and by degrees. Even today, under given conditions, it is still found as an old heritage in certain people and in mediumistic natures. Something that had reached its climax in a certain era gradually becomes extinct. In the earliest period of post-Atlantean times, ordinary people still retained a great deal of the gift of clairvoyance; and what these people saw in the spiritual world was continually supplemented, expanded, and animated by the initiates who were guided to the spiritual world by the methods described in an earlier lecture, and who thus became the messengers of what in former times had been seen to a certain extent by all men.
Better than any external historical research, legends and myths — especially those linked with the oracle sanctuaries — have preserved for us what is true of those old times. In the oracle temples specially selected people were thrown into abnormal states — a dream state, or mediumistic state, as one might say — by reducing them to a consciousness state duller and darker than the ordinary waking state. They were in a condition of diminished consciousness, where they were surrounded by outer objects which, however, they did not see. This was not clairvoyance as it had once existed, but an intermediate state, half dreamlike, half in the nature of clairvoyance. Now, if information was sought concerning certain particular circumstances in the world, or the right mode of procedure in some special matter, the oracles were consulted; for in them was to be found the dim clairvoyance as a heritage of the ancient faculty.
At the beginning of his evolution, then, man was endowed with wisdom: wisdom streamed into him. But this wisdom gradually dwindled away: and even the initiates in their abnormal states — for they had to be led into the spiritual world by the withdrawal of their etheric body — could henceforth attain to only an unreliable observation of the spiritual world. As a result of these conditions, however, those who were not only initiated in the old sense, but who had advanced with the times and were prophets of the future, realized that a new impulse was indispensable for humanity. An ancient heritage of wisdom had been bestowed upon mankind when it descended from divine-spiritual heights, but it became ever more obscured. In the beginning all men possessed it, then but the few who were thrown into special states of consciousness in the oracles, then only the initiates, and so forth.
The day must come — thus spoke the old initiates who knew the signs of the time — in which this ancient heritage will have dwindled to the point where it is no longer capable of leading and guiding humanity; and this would mean that man would fall a prey to uncertainty and doubt in the world. It would express itself in his willing, his acting, and his feeling. And with the gradual dwindling of wisdom men would become their own unwise leaders: their ego would wax increasingly strong, so that with the recession of wisdom every individual would seek truth in his own ego, would develop his own feelings and will — every man for himself — and men would become ever more isolated, more alienated from each other, and they would understand each other less and less. Since each wants his own thoughts — thoughts that no longer flow out of a unified wisdom — none can understand the other's thoughts; and human feelings, no longer guided by universal wisdom, must eventually come into mutual conflict, as must also human actions. All men would act, think, and feel in opposition to each other, and ultimately mankind would be split up altogether into an aggregation of quarrelling and fighting individuals.
And what was the outer, physical sign that appeared as the expression of this development? It was the transformation mankind experienced in the blood. In very ancient times, as we know, endogamy was customary: people married only within the blood-related tribe. But this custom yielded increasingly to exogamy: the blood of mutually alien tribes became mixed; and that explains the decrease, the dwindling, of the heritage deriving from a remote past.
Let us once more recall Goethe's words which we quoted yesterday:
“My father gave my build to me,
Toward life my sober bearing.
From mother comes my cheerful heart,
My joy in storytelling.”
We connected this assertion with the fact that what the etheric body comprises derives from the maternal element, as handed down from generation to generation, so that every man bears in his own etheric body the legacy of the maternal element, and in his physical body, that of the paternal element. Now, by reason of consanguinity the inheritance, perpetuating itself from etheric body to etheric body, was very potent, and from it derived the old faculty of clairvoyance. The offspring of endogamy inherited with the related blood the old capacity for wisdom in the etheric body. But as blood became more and more mixed — as a result of increasing intermarriage among tribes — the possibility of handing down the ancient wisdom diminished; for as we said yesterday, human blood gradually altered, and the mixing of different bloods obscured the ancient wisdom more and more.
In other words, the blood — bearer of inherited maternal attributes — became ever less fitted to transmit the old faculty of clairvoyance. It simply developed in such a way that people became ever less able to see into the spiritual world. Physically considered, therefore, human blood altered in a manner to render it increasingly incapable of bearing the old wisdom that once had guided man so surely, falling instead more and more into the opposite extreme, becoming the bearer of egotism — that is, of a quality that leads men, as egos, to individual isolation and mutual antagonism. And for the same reason it gradually lost its power of uniting men in love.
We are, of course, still involved in this process of deterioration taking place in the human blood because, in as far as it has its origin in an ancient epoch, it will follow its lingering course to the end of Earth evolution. Therefore an impulse was needed in humanity capable of counteracting this condition. Through consanguinity men would have been led into error and misery, as the old wise men tell us in legends and myths, Men could no longer rely on the legacies of an ancient wisdom: even the oracles, asked for information and advice, divulged only what led to savage conflicts and quarrels. The oracle had foretold, for example, that Laios and Jocasta would have a son who would kill his father and wed his mother. Nevertheless, in the face of this legacy of oracle wisdom, nothing could at that time prevent the blood from falling more and more a prey to error: Oedipus does kill his father and does wed his mother. He commits parricide and incest.
What the old sage meant was this: Once upon a time men possessed wisdom; but even had it been preserved, the development of the ego must inevitably have proceeded, and egotism would have grown so strong that blood would rage against blood. Blood is no longer fitted to lead men upwards when it is guided only by the ancient wisdom. And thus the clairvoyant initiate who gave us the original picture of the Oedipus legend wished to set up a warning for mankind, saying: That is what would happen to you if nothing came to supersede the old oracle wisdom. — And in the Judas legend there is preserved even more clearly an indication of what the old oracle wisdom would have led to. Judas' mother, too, was prophetically told that her son would kill his father and wed his mother, thereby conjuring up untold misery; and it all came to pass in spite of the foreknowledge. This means that the primeval, inherited wisdom is not capable of saving man from the abyss into which he must fall unless a new impulse reaches mankind.
If we now look more closely into the causes of all this we must ask, Why was it inevitable that the ancient wisdom should become unfitted to dominate humanity? The answer to this question can be found by examining morre carefully the origin of the old wisdom in its relation to mankind. I have already indicated that in the old Atlantean age a connection existed between the physical body and the etheric body of man that differed greatly from the later relation. In regard to two of the principles of man's nature it can be said that the physical and etheric bodies are so related that they approximately coincide, especially in the region of the head; but this is only the case in our own time. Looking back to the Atlantean period we find the etheric head protruding far beyond its physical counterpart: the etheric body extended past the physical body, particularly in the head region. Now, in the Atlantean epoch human evolution proceeded in such a way that the outline of the physical and of the etheric body became more and more coincident, especially in the head: the etheric body kept withdrawing into the physical body, thereby naturally altering this member of the human being.
That, then, is the essential feature of this phase of human evolution: the etheric body of the human head withdraws more and more into the physical aspect of the head until the two come to coincide. Now, as long as the etheric body was outside the physical head it was subject to conditions quite different from the subsequent ones: it was in touch, on all sides, with currents, with other spiritual beings; and the substance of what thus streamed in and out provided the faculty of clairvoyance in Atlantean times. So the capacity for clairvoyance was due to the incomplete coincidence of the physical and etheric bodies in the head region, a condition admitting from all sides currents endowing the etheric head with clairvoyance. Then followed the time when the etheric body withdrew into the physical body. In a certain way — not completely — it tore itself away from these currents; it began to cut itself off from the currents which had provided the capacity for clairvoyantly penetrating the wisdom of the world. Conversely, when in the old initiations a man's etheric body was withdrawn, his etheric head became interpermeated once more with the surrounding currents, and clairvoyance set in again.
Now, had this contact between the etheric body and the outer world been severed at one stroke, in the middle of the Atlantean age, the old clairvoyance would have vanished far more rapidly than was actually the case. No remnants of it would have remained for the post-Atlantean time, nor would mankind of a later age have retained any recollection of it. As it occurred, however, man preserved a certain contact with the outer currents. And something else took place as well: this etheric body that had cut itself off from the currents of its environment retained, nevertheless, certain remnants of the former capacity for wisdom. Keep well in mind that at the end of the Atlantean epoch, after man had drawn his etheric body into himself, there remained in it a sort of fund, the residue of what had once come to it from without — a small saving, if I may use the term: as if a son had a father, the father is earning money, and the son draws upon him according to his needs. In the same way, man drew upon his environment for all the wisdom he needed, up to the time when his etheric body severed the connection. Keeping to our simile, let us now assume that the son loses his father, there remains for him but a certain portion of his father's money, and he earns nothing to add to it. In time he will come to the end of it and have nothing left. That is the position in which the human being found himself. He had torn himself loose from his father-wisdom, had added nothing to it through his own endeavor, and subsisted on it into the Christian era — indeed, even now he is still living on his inheritance, not on anything he has earned. He lives on his capital, so to speak. In the earliest part of post-Atlantean development a bit of the capital was still left, though without his having himself earned the wisdom: he lived on the interest, as it were, and occasionally requested an additional sum from the initiates. But ultimately the coin of ancient wisdom lost its currency; and when it was given to Oedipus it no longer had any value: this old wisdom did not save him from the most frightful transgression, nor did it save Judas.
That is what took place in the course of human evolution. How did it come about that man gradually exhausted his capital of wisdom? Because in the past he had given access to two kinds of spiritual beings: the Luciferic beings, and later, as a consequence of these, the Ahrimanic or Mephistophelean beings. These prevented him from adding, by his own labor, to the store of old wisdom, for they acted upon his being as follows: the Luciferic beings tended to corrupt his passions and feelings, while the Ahrimanic beings, the Mephistophelean beings, were more concerned with outwardly distorting his view of the world. Had the Luciferic beings not intervened in Earth evolution, man would have developed no such interests in the physical world that drags him down beneath his true status; and if, as a result of the Luciferic influence, the Mephistophelian, the Ahrimanic, the Satanic beings had not taken a hand, man would know, and would always have known, that underlying every object of the senses there is spirit, and he would look through the surface of the sense world upon the spirit. But Ahriman infused into human observation something like a dark smoke cloud that prevents penetration to the spiritual. Through Ahriman's agency man is enmeshed in lies, in maya, in illusion. — These are the two beings that prevent man from earning any increment to the store of ancient wisdom once bestowed upon humanity; and as a consequence, this heritage has dwindled away and gradually become wholly useless.
Nevertheless, in a certain other respect evolution held to its course. During the Atlantean time the human etheric body merged with the physical body; and it was man's misfortune, so to speak — his fate — to be forced to experience the influence of Lucifer and Ahriman in his physical body in this physical world just at a time when he was God-forsaken, as it were. The result was that the old heritage of wisdom became useless precisely by reason of the influence of the physical body, of living in the physical body. How did this happen? Formerly man did not live in the physical body: he gathered his wisdom from his father's treasury, so to speak — from the ancient fund of wisdom. His source of supplies was outside his physical body, because he himself was outside it in respect of his etheric body; and this source finally dried up. In order to augment his fund of wisdom, man would have needed a treasury in his own body. But this he did not have; and consequently, in default of an inner source of wisdom, there remained less and less of it in his etheric body every time he abandoned his physical body at death. After every death, every reincarnation, the sum of wisdom in his etheric body was less: the etheric body became ever poorer in wisdom.
But evolution advances; and just as in the Atlantean age evolution was such that the etheric body withdrew into the physical body, so future development will proceed in such a way that man will gradually emerge again from his physical body. Whereas in a former age the etheric body kept drawing into the physical — ever deeper, up to the coming of Christ — the time then arrived in which the course of evolution changed. At the moment in which Christ appeared the etheric body began to retrace its course; and already in our present time it is no longer as closely bound to the physical body as it was when Christ was present on Earth. And as a result the physical body has become even denser than before. The human being, then, is moving toward a future in which his etheric body will increasingly protrude, and in time it will extend as far as it did in the Atlantean epoch.
Here we can pursue our simile a bit further. If the son, who had formerly lived on his father's fund, spends it all and earns nothing additional, his prospects will become increasingly dismal. But if this man now has a son of his own — that would be the grandson — the latter will not be in the same position as his father. The father at least inherited something and could go on spending, but there remains nothing at all for the grandson, nor does he inherit anything: for the time being he is left with nothing whatever. And in a certain way that describes the course of human evolution. When the etheric body entered the physical, bringing along a supply of divine wisdom from the treasury of the Godhead, it still provided wisdom for its physical body. But the Luciferic and Ahrimanic spirits prevented all augmentation of this wisdom in the physical body — contrived that none should be added. When now the etheric body begins to emerge again it takes nothing with it from the physical body, and the consequence is that if nothing else had intervened man would be heading for a future in which his etheric body, though belonging to him, would contain no vestige of wisdom or knowledge. And with the complete desiccation of the physical body the etheric body would be destitute as well, for nothing could be drawn from the dried-up physical body. Therefore, if the physical body is not to desiccate in that future period, the etheric body must he provided with strength, with the strength of wisdom. Before emerging from the physical body the etheric body should have been endowed with the power of wisdom. Within the physical body it must have received something it can take out with it. Then, when it emerges — provided it has acquired this wisdom — it can react on the physical body, giving it life and preventing its desiccation.
The future evolution of humanity can take one of two courses, of which one is as follows: Man develops without Christ. In this case the etheric body could bring with it nothing from the physical body, because it had received nothing from it: it emerges empty. But conversely, the etheric body cannot animate the physical body, having nothing to give: it cannot prevent the attrition, the withering, of the physical body. Man would gradually forfeit all the fruits of his physical life: they could furnish nothing out of his physical body, which he would therefore have to abandon. But the very purpose for which man descended to Earth was to acquire a physical body in addition to his other principles. The germ of the physical body originated in an earlier period, but without its actual formation man would never fulfill his mission on Earth. But the influences of Lucifer and Ahriman have entered the picture; and if man acquires nothing in his physical body, if his etheric body withdraws again with nothing to take with it — having even used up the old store of wisdom — then the Earth's mission is doomed: the mission of the Earth within the universe would fail of fulfillment. Man would carry over nothing into the future but the empty etheric skull which had been abundantly filled when he originally brought it into Earth evolution.
But now let us suppose something were to occur at the right moment which would enable man, as his etheric body emerges again, to provide something for it, to animate it, to penetrate it with wisdom as of old: the etheric body would continue to emerge just the same; but now, endowed with new life, new strength, it could employ these for vitalizing the physical body. It could send power and life back into it. But the etheric body itself must first possess these: it would first have to receive this strength and life; and if it succeeds in this the fruits of man's Earth life are saved. The physical body will then not simply decay, but rather, this corruptible physical body will assume the configuration of the etheric body, the incorruptible; and man's resurrection, with the harvest reaped in his physical body, is assured.
An impulse had thus to come to the Earth through which the exhausted treasure of ancient wisdom might be replenished, through which the etheric body might be endowed with new life, thus enabling the physical element — otherwise destined to corruption — to put on the incorruptible and to become permeated by an etheric body capable of rendering it immortal, of rescuing it from Earth evolution. And that is what Christ brought mankind — this pervasion of the etheric body with life. The transformation of the human physical body that would otherwise be doomed to death, its preservation from corruption, its ability to wear the incorruptible — all this is connected with the Christ. Life was infused into the human etheric body by the Christ impulse — new life, after the old had been spent. And looking into the future, man must tell himself: When my etheric body will ultimately have emerged from my physical body, I should have developed in such a way that it is wholly saturated by the Christ. The Christ must live in me. In the course of my Earth development I must by degrees completely permeate my etheric body with the Christ.
What I have just described to you are the deeper processes that elude outer observation. They constitute the spiritual principle underlying the physical evolution of the world.
But what outer form did all this have to take? What was it that entered the physical body through the Luciferic and Ahrimanic beings? The tendency to decay, to dissolution — in short, the tendency to die. The germ of death had entered the physical body. Had no Christ come, this death germ would have developed its full power only at the end of Earth evolution, for then the etheric body would be for all time powerless to reanimate man; and at the completion of Earth evolution, that which had come into being as human physical body would fall into decay and the Earth's mission itself would end in death. Whenever we encounter death today we can discern in our present life a portent of the universal death that would occur at the end of Earth evolution. Mankind's ancient heritage dwindles but slowly and gradually, and the possibility of being born again and again, of passing from incarnation to incarnation, is due to the life fund originally given man on his way. As regards his purely external life in the successive incarnations, the possibility for life to exist would not be fully exhausted before the end of Earth evolution; but as time goes on the gradual extinction of the race would manifest itself. This would occur piece by piece, and the physical body would continually wither. Had the Christ impulse not come, man would perish member by member as Earth evolution approached its termination. — At present the Christ impulse is but at the beginning of its development: only by degrees will it make its way among men; and only future epochs will reveal — and continue to reveal to the very end of Earth evolution — the full significance of Christ for humanity.
But the various human activities and interests have not all been affected alike by the Christ impulse. There are today many such that have not been touched by it at all, that must await a future time. I will give you a striking example of one whole sphere of human activity which at present has not been influenced by the Christ impulse at all. Toward the end of the pre-Christian epoch — say, in the 6th or 7th century before our era — the primeval wisdom and power were on the wane in so far as human knowledge was concerned. In connection with other phases of life that wisdom long retained a fresh, young forcefulness; but it declined most noticeably in the matter of knowledge. From the eighth, seventh, and sixth centuries B. C. there remained something that may be termed the remnant of a remnant. Were you to hark back even to the Egypto-Chaldean wisdom, not to say that of ancient Persia or India, you would find this wisdom everywhere permeated by true spiritual vision, by the fruits of primeval clairvoyance; and for those endowed to a lesser degree with this faculty the reports of the clairvoyants were available. Such a thing as science other than one based on clairvoyance never existed in the Indian and Persian epochs, nor in still later times; even during the early Greek period there was no science without a basis of clairvoyant research. But then the time approached when this fading clairvoyant research was lost to human science, and for the first time we witness the rise of a human science devoid of clairvoyance — or at least, a science from which clairvoyance was gradually cast out.
Clairvoyance vanishes, as does faith in the revelations of clairvoyants; and during the 6th or 7th century before the appearance of Christ we see established something we can call a human science, from which the fruits of spiritual research are increasingly eliminated. And this becomes ever more the case: in Parmenides and Heraclitus, in Plato and even in Aristotle — everywhere in the writings of the old naturalists and physicians — you can find ample confirmation that what is known as science was originally permeated by the results of spiritual research. But spiritual science steadily deteriorated and decreased. In connection with our psychic capacity, our feeling and willing, it still endures; but as regards our thinking it is vanishing.
Thus with respect to human thinking, to thinking in terms of science, the influence of the etheric on the physical body had already begun to wane when Christ appeared. Everything of that sort comes about gradually, step by step. Christ came and gave the impulse; but naturally not everyone accepted it at once, and particularly was it rejected in certain spheres of activity. In others it was received, but in the field of science it was positively spurned. Examine for yourselves the science that prevailed in the time of the Roman empire. Look it up in Celsus, where you can read all sorts of rubbish about Christ. This Celsus was a great scholar, but he understood nothing whatever about human thinking as affected by the Christ impulse. He reports:
“There is said to have lived at one time in Palestine a couple known as Joseph and Mary, with whom the sect of Christians originated. But what is told about them is all superstition. The truth is that the wife of this Joseph was once unfaithful to her husband with a Roman captain named Panthera; but Joseph did not know the identity of the child's father.”
That was one of the most popular accounts of the time; and if you follow our contemporary literature you will realize that certain people of the present have not advanced beyond the standard of Celsus. Certainly there are fields in which the Christ impulse can take root but slowly, but among those now under discussion it has to this day found no foothold at all. There is one part of man we see withering: it is in the human brain; but when it shall have been influenced by the Christ impulse it will revive science in a very different form. Strange as that may sound in this age of scientific fanaticism, it is nevertheless true. That part of the brain assigned to scientific thinking is moving toward a slow death. This illustrates the gradual disappearance of the ancient heritage from scientific thinking. Aristotle still possessed a relatively large store of it, but we see science gradually being drained of it; and science, by reason of the accumulation of external data, will become God-forsaken in respect of its thinking, having nothing left of the old fund. And we see further how it is possible that, no matter how powerfully we experience the Christ, we can no longer establish any contact between the Christ impulse and what mankind has achieved in the way of science.
We have tangible evidence of this. Suppose that a man of the 13th century had been profoundly affected by the Christ impulse and had said: We have the Christ impulse; like a flood of mighty new revelations it streams to us from the Gospel, and we can permeate ourselves with it. — And suppose further that this man had made it his mission to create a connecting link between science and Christianity: even as early as the 13th century he would have found nothing in the current science that could have been used for the purpose. He would have had to hark back to Aristotle. Only by collaborating with Aristotle, not with 13th-century science, would he have been able to interpret Christianity. Science simply became increasingly incapable of making any contact with the Christ principle; hence the 13th-century scholars had to revert to Aristotle, who still possessed something of the old legacy of wisdom and could thus provide concepts capable of correlating science and Christianity.
But as science grew richer in data and observations it became ever poorer in ideas, until finally the time came when all concepts emanating from the old wisdom disappeared from it. Even the greatest men are, of course, children of their era as far as their scientific activity is concerned. Galileo, for example, could not think from an absolute background, but only as his age thought; and his greatness consists precisely in his having established God-forsaken thinking as such — pure mechanistical thinking. An important revulsion in thought set in with Galileo: the most commonplace phenomena treated by modern physics had quite a different explanation after Galileo's day from what they had previously. Say, someone throws a stone. Today we are told that the stone retains its motion until the latter is counteracted by the influence of another force, the force of inertia. Before Galileo's time a different opinion was held: people were convinced that if the stone was to keep moving it would have to be propelled — something active must be behind it. Galileo taught people to think in an entirely new way, but in a way implying that the world is a mechanism; and the ideal striven for today is a mechanical, mechanistic explanation of the world with the complete elimination of all spirit. And the reason for this is that those portions of the human brain, of the thought apparatus, which constitute the organ of scientific thinking, are already so shrivelled as to be no longer able to infuse new life into concepts, with the result that the latter become more and more poverty-stricken.
One could easily show that science, for all the isolated facts it keeps accumulating, has not enriched the life of mankind by a single concept. Note well that observations are not concepts! Do not imagine that such things as Darwinism and the like have provided humanity with concepts. That is something that others have done — not the scientists, but men who tapped quite different sources. Goethe was such a man: he enriched man's fund of ideas from altogether different sources; and consequently the scientists consider him a dilettante.
The fact is that science has not grown richer in ideas. Far more alive, loftier, grander are those of antiquity. The Darwinian concepts are like squeezed-out lemons: Darwinism merely collected the results of observation and then linked them with poverty-stricken concepts. This trend in science points clearly to the process of gradual death. In the human brain there is a part that is withering, and this is the part that in our time functions in scientific thinking. The reason for this is that the portion of the human etheric body which should animate this shrivelling brain has as yet not grasped the Christ impulse. No life will flow into science until the Christ impulse enters the portion of the human brain that is intended to serve science. That is a fact based on the great cosmic laws. If science continues in this way it will become poorer and poorer in concepts, and gradually these will vanish. And increasingly numerous will be the scientists who keep lining up their data, and who will be frightened out of their wits when someone begins to think. Nowadays it is a sore trial for a professor to discover a bit of thinking in a doctoral dissertation submitted to him by some candidate.
But we now have an anthroposophy, and this anthroposophy will increasingly clarify the Christ impulse for mankind, thereby imbuing the etheric body with ever more life — with such a wealth of it, in fact, that the etheric body will be able to restore flexibility to that rigid portion of the brain which is responsible for the present trend of scientific thinking. That is an illustration of the manner in which the Christ impulse, having in time laid hold on mankind, will reanimate the dying members of the body. The future of the race would see the withering of more and more members; but the flowing in of the Christ impulse will increase proportionately with the dwindling of each part; and by the end of the Earth evolution all the parts that would otherwise have perished will be revivified by the Christ impulse, which will have saturated the whole etheric body: the human etheric body will have become one with the Christ impulse.
The first impetus for this gradual revitalization of mankind, for the resurrection of humanity, was given at a particular moment during a scene most beautifully described in the Gospel of St. John. Think of the Christ as coming into the world a wholly universal being, and commencing His great work by means of an etheric body completely saturated with His spirit — for the transformation brought about in the etheric body of Jesus of Nazareth enabled it to animate even the physical body. At the moment in which the etheric body of Jesus of Nazareth, in Whom the Christ now dwelt, became completely a life-giver for the physical body, the etheric body of Christ is seen transfigured. And the writer of the John Gospel describes this moment:
Father, glorify thy name. Then came there a voice from heaven, saying, I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.The people therefore, that stood by, and heard it, said that it thundered.
What is said is that those who stood by heard thunder; but nowhere does it say that anyone who had not been duly prepared had heard it.
Others said, An angel spake to him.Jesus answered and said, This voice came not because of me, but for your sakes.
Why? That what had taken place might be understood by all who were near. And Christ clarifies the event:
Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out.
In that moment Lucifer-Ahriman was cast out of the physical body of Christ. There stands the great example which in the future must be realized by all mankind: through the Christ impulse the obstacles placed by Lucifer-Ahriman must be cast out of the physical body; and man's Earth body must be so vitalized by the Christ impulse that the fruits of the Earth's mission may be carried over into the time that is to follow this Earth epoch.
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