The Gospel of John and Its Relation to the Other Gospels. Lecture 14 of 14.
Rudolf Steiner, Kassel, July 7, 1909:
Anyone not sufficiently prepared may well have found it very strange, in yesterday's lecture, to hear the name of the Father Spirit of the world linked with the name of death. You must not forget, however, what was said at the same time: that the form in which death appears to men in the physical world is not its true form, and that therefore the outer sense world, which appears to be inevitably subject to death, is for this very reason not the true expression of what really underlies it, of the divine-spiritual Being at its root. This is really equivalent to saying that man suffers from an illusion, a monstrous deception, a maya, concerning all that is spread out around him in space for his senses to perceive. Could he recognize the true form he would not perceive the sense image but would discern the spirit. Could he recognize death in its real aspect he would see in death the form this sense world would have if it were to be the true expression of the divine Father Spirit.
In order that this Earth-world of ours might come into being at all, an earlier, supra-terrestrial world had to condense into physical matter, into physical substance as we know it. In this way the outer world could become the expression of a divine-spiritual world, a divine-spiritual world which thus possesses what may be thought of as creations alongside and apart from itself. All previous manifestations of our cosmic existence were of a nature that was more or less a part of and within the divine Being. On the old Saturn there existed, as yet, nothing of our air, our water, our earth — that is, our solid bodies: Saturn was a body consisting exclusively of warmth — a warmth-filled space — and all the beings it harbored still dwelt in the bosom of the divine Father Spirit. And so it was too on the old Sun, although its condensation had advanced to the gaseous state: this air planet, the old Sun, contained all its creatures within itself, and that means, within the divine-spiritual Being. Even on the old Moon this condition prevailed.
It was only on the Earth that creation emerged for the first time from the womb of the divine-spiritual Nature and became something that existed alongside of it. But in this new element that arose and henceforth appeared side by side with the divine-spiritual Being — even constituting the habiliment, the envelope, the physical corporeality of man — all the retarded spirits gradually ensconced themselves; and this meant that it became a creation different from what it should have been as an image of the divine-spiritual Being. Having borne within itself all creatures — our present mineral, plant, animal, and human kingdoms — the divine spiritual Being sent them forth, as it were, spread them out like a carpet; and that was then the image of the divine-spiritual Being. And that is the way it should have remained. But into it there crept the retarded element that had previously been expelled by the divine-spiritual Being, became interwoven with it; and this in a way dimmed the luster of creation: its value was rendered less than it would otherwise have been.
This dimming commenced in the age in which the Moon split off from the Earth, the age of which we have said that if nothing else had occurred, and if the Moon had not been cast out, the Earth would have become waste even at that time. But man was to be fostered in such a way as to enable him to achieve his independence. and this called for embodiment in earthly-physical matter. Beginning with the Lemurian age, then down through the Atlantean time, he had to be led to an ever-increasing ability to incarnate in some physical-sensible substance. But this substance now contained all the retarded beings, so that man could incarnate only in bodily sheaths inhabited by such beings.
In the Atlantean age there existed certain beings that were companions of the human beings. At that time man himself, as we know, was embodied in a soft substance, and what today is his flesh was not at all as it is at present. The man of old Atlantis, where the air was wholly permeated by dense, heavy, aqueous vapor, and where human beings were water beings, was constituted like certain present-day jellyfish of the sea, scarcely distinguishable from the surrounding water. Potentially all his organs were present, but they solidified only gradually — his bones, and so forth. The more tenuous material predisposition for the organs was there, but these hardened only in the course of time. In the early Atlantean period, then, there existed beings who in a sense were still men's companions, in so far as man was clairvoyant and could discern even those beings who had really established their habitation on the Sun, but who streamed toward him in the Sun's rays. For not only did physical sunlight come to man, but in this physical sunlight he saw beings approaching him; and when in a state comparable to sleep, he could say, Now I am outside my body in the sphere where Sun beings dwell.
But then came the time, toward the middle and last third of the Atlantean age, in which the Earth condensed more and more into its physical substance, and the impulse arose in man to develop his self-consciousness. Thenceforth there were no longer any such beings for men to see, for these had to withdraw from the Earth, to cease revealing themselves to men's earthly sight. It was with cumulative force that human beings felt themselves drawn down into dense matter by the Luciferic influence; and in this way it became possible for a being, whom we must term Lucifer, to take possession of the human astral body to such an extent that man inevitably sank ever deeper into a dense physical body. But at the same time beings who had formerly been his companions rose ever higher, refusing to have anything to do with the retarded beings: they broke away from them. While the Luciferic beings invaded the human astral body, the higher beings cast them down, saying, in effect, Ye shall not rise with us: get on below as best ye can!
One of these higher beings is represented in Michael, who cast the Luciferic beings into the abyss and assigned the Earth to them as their sphere of action; and it was within the astral body of man that they sought to exercise their influence. “Heaven” was no longer the habitation of these beings: they had been cast down to Earth by the beings now to be found above. All evil, however, all harm, has its good side and its place in cosmic wisdom. Thus it was inevitable that these beings had to remain behind in evolution if they were to drag man down into physical matter, where alone he could learn to address himself as “I”, to develop his self-consciousness. Without being enmeshed in maya he never could learn this. But on the other hand, he would have perished in illusion if illusion and its powers — Lucifer-Ahriman — had succeeded in holding him permanently.
I must now express certain thoughts which I beg you to listen to with all possible circumspection; for only by further developing them and by taking them literally — though not in the literal sense of a materialistically minded person — can they be rightly understood.
What was the aim and intention of the Luciferic-Ahrimanic beings concerning the physical world? What did they want to bring about in all the beings now dwelling in the world, beings whom they were able to influence after they had united with human evolution in the Atlantean time? These beings, Lucifer-Ahriman, intended nothing less than to keep all Earth beings in the form of dense, physical matter in which they are enmeshed. For example: when a plant grows forth from its root, sprouts leaf after leaf, and finally produces the blossom, it is Lucifer-Ahriman's purpose to foster this growth and expansion indefinitely; that is, to make this growing being resemble the physical form it inhabits, to preserve it as it is, thereby snatching it from the spiritual world. For were they to succeed in making this being of the spiritual world resemble the physical form, they would be wresting heaven from the earth, so to speak. In the animal kingdom as well the Luciferic-Ahrimanic beings have the tendency to make all animals resemble the body in which they live, and to cause them, within their material substance, to forget their divine-spiritual origin. And it is the same in the case of the human being.
In order to prevent this, the divine-spiritual Father spoke: In their culmination, in man, the beings of Earth have attained to external knowledge in their ego; but we cannot yet entrust them with life. — For life would in that case take a course in which the beings would be torn from their divine-spiritual root in this life: the human being would become an integral part of the physical body and would for all time forget his divine-spiritual origin. Only by bestowing the boon of death upon all things attracted into matter could the divine Father Spirit rescue the memory of divine origin. Thus it became possible for the growing plant to shoot upward until the impulse of fructification entered, and then for its form to wither and a new one to spring from its seed. But in entering the seed state, the plant is for a moment in the divine-spiritual world, and the divine-spiritual world refreshes it. And all this applies pre-eminently to the human being. He would be banished and chained to the Earth and would forget his divine-spiritual origin were not death spread over the Earth — were he not provided with ever-fresh sources of strength between death and a new birth — in order that he may not forget his divine-spiritual origin.
Death? Yes, where indeed is death to be found on the Earth? Let us enquire of some plant being that delights us. There we have a being that gladdens our eyes with its glorious blossoms — and within a few months it is no longer there: death has claimed it. Or take an animal — perhaps one that has been faithful to us, or any other animal: in a short time it will be gone, taken by death. Consider the human being as he is placed in the physical world: after a certain span death will come to him, he will no longer be; for if he continued to be here he would forget his divine-spiritual origin. Think of a mountain: the time will come when the volcanic action of our Earth will have engulfed it; death passes over it. Seek as you will, nothing is to be found that is not interwoven with death. Everything on Earth is steeped in death.
Thus death is the benefactor that snatches man out of a domain which would wholly estrange him from the divine-spiritual world. Yet it was necessary for him to come into this physical world of sense, for only there could he achieve his self-consciousness, his human egoity. Were he to keep passing through death without the capacity for taking something along from this realm of death, he would be able, to be sure, to return to the divine-spiritual world, but without consciousness, without egoity; whereas he must enter the divine-spiritual world possessed of his egoity. That is why he must be able to fructify the earthly realm, the realm wholly permeated by death, in such a way that death becomes the seed of an ego principle in the eternal realm, the spiritual realm.
But this possibility of transforming death, which would otherwise mean annihilation, into the seed of eternal egoity was provided by the Christ impulse. On Golgotha the true aspect of death was manifested to all mankind for the first time; and as a result of Christ's having espoused death — Christ, image of the Father Spirit, Son of the Father Spirit — death became the wellspring of a new life — and, as we learned yesterday, of a new Sun. And now that man has achieved an ego for all eternity, everything that formerly existed as his apprenticeship can henceforth vanish, and he can advance into the future with his rescued ego principle which will more and more be fashioned after the ego principle in Christ.
As an illustration of what has just been set forth, let us take a seven-armed candelabrum and light it step by step, and let us consider the first flame of its sevenfold unity a symbol of the first phase of human evolution, the Saturn phase. Every evolution proceeds in seven subdivisions, so in the first flame we see a symbol of the forces that flowed into man during the Saturn period. Passing to the second flame of this sevenfold candelabrum we have the symbol of the forces that came to man during the Sun phase. In like manner we can see in the third unit the forces from the Moon, and in the fourth, the symbol of everything that streamed into man from the Earth evolution. Now let us imagine the middle light as burning brightly, while the next three are but very dim. The middle light represents the time when Christ entered evolution; and never could the remaining candles be kindled, never could the next evolutionary epochs come about, had not the Christ impulse intervened in the evolution of mankind — indeed, they are still dark today.
If we were now to represent future evolution in the same symbolical way we should have to do it thus: as the light following the middle one kindles and increases in luster, the first one must be gradually extinguished; with the lighting of the next one, the second would die away; and so forth — for here is the beginning of a new Sun evolution. And when all the last lights are burning it is fitting that the first three be extinguished, because their fruits have flowed into the last three, have passed over into the future. — There you have a picture of past evolution which received its forces from the Father Spirit. Had the Father Spirit held to this course, all the lights would have gradually faded out, by reason of the interference of Lucifer-Ahriman. But the coming of the Christ impulse kinkled a new light — and a cosmic Sun begins its course.
Yes, it was inevitable that death should form part of all nature being, because this is interpenetrated by Lucifer-Ahriman. On the other hand, mankind would never have achieved its independence without Lucifer-Ahriman; yet through Lucifer-Ahriman alone this independence would have expanded to such an extent that in the end it would have led to the forgetting of our divine-spiritual origin. For this reason death had to become an ingredient even of our physical body: we would never be able to carry our ego principle over into eternity if its outer expression, which is our blood, had not been permeated by death.
We have within us the blood of life — the red bloodstream; and we have the blood of death — the blue blood. In order to provide life for our egoity, the life that flows in the red blood must at every moment be destroyed in the blue blood. Were it not so destroyed man would be so deeply submerged in life that he would forget his divine-spiritual origin. Western esotericism has a symbol for these two kinds of blood: two pillars, a red one and blue one. The one symbolizes a life flowing from the Father Spirit, but in a form suggesting the tendency to lose itself; and the other represents the annihilation of the former. Death is the stronger, the more powerful of the two: it is the factor that brings about the destruction of that which otherwise would lose itself inwardly. But the destruction of what would otherwise lose itself means a call to resurrection.
Thus you see how an adequate interpretation of the John Gospel provides insight into the meaning of all life. What we have learned yesterday and today amounts simply to this: at that point of time which our Christian reckoning designates the new “Year 1” there occurred something of the most profound significance for the entire Earth evolution and, in as far as cosmic evolution is connected with the Earth, for cosmic evolution as well. It can be said that with the event of Golgotha a new center was created: ever since then the Christ Spirit has been united with the Earth. It had long been gradually approaching, but since that time it has been within the Earth; and now men's task is to learn to grasp this fact: that since the Golgotha event the Christ Spirit has been in the Earth and in everything it brings forth. Human beings must also learn that failure to recognize the Christ Spirit in all things means seeing them from the aspect of death, whereas finding the Christ Spirit in them means understanding them from the vantage point of life.
We are only at the beginning of the evolution that is specifically Christian. The form it will take in the future is of such import that men will see in the whole Earth the body of Christ. For Christ has entered the Earth and has therein created a new light center; He permeates the Earth, shines forth into the world, and is for all time interwoven with the Earth's aura. So if today we see the Earth devoid of its underlying Christ Spirit, we see what is decaying, rotting — its decomposing corpse. Split it up as we may into minute partcles, unless we understand the Christ, we see but the disintegrating corpse. Wherever we see only matter, we see what is not true.
You do not find the truth by studying man as a being of this Earth, for you will be studying only his disintegrating corpse; and if you study this corpse you can be consistent in estimating the elements of the Earth only by regarding the latter as composed of material atoms, regardless of whether these are spatially extended or whether they form force centers — that is immaterial. If we see atoms of which our Earth is supposed to consist we see the Earth's corpse, we see that which is constantly disintegrating and which in time will no longer exist when the Earth no longer exists — and the Earth is in a process of dissolution. We shall see things in their true light only if we discern in every atom something of the Christ Spirit that has imbued it since the time we speak of. Of what has the Earth consisted since the Christ Spirit permeated it? Of life — right down to the atom. No atom has any value, nor can it be understood, except as you see in it a sheath encompassing spirit; and this spiritual element is a part of the Christ.
And now, consider anything whatever that pertains to the Earth: when do you understand it aright? When you say, That is a part of the body of Christ. What was Christ able to say to those who would learn to understand Him? As He broke the bread made of the grain of the Earth He could say,
This is my body.
And what could He say to them as he gave them the juice of the grape — the sap of a plant?
This is my blood.
Because He had become the soul of the Earth He could say of the solid substance, “This is my body,” and of the plant's fluid, “This is my blood” — just as you say of your body, This is my body, and of your blood, This is my blood. And those who are able to grasp the true meaning of these words of Christ create for themselves thought images that attract the body and the blood of Christ in the bread and the wine, and they unite with the Christ Spirit.
In this way our symbol of the Lord's Supper becomes a reality. Lacking in our hearts the thought that unites us with Christ we cannot engender the force of attraction that draws the Christ Spirit to us at Holy Communion; but by means of such a thought form the attraction is generated. For those, then, who need the outer symbol in order to perform the spiritual act — that is, to unite with the Christ — Communion will be the way until such time as their inner strength will have so grown, and they are so permeated by the Christ, that they can dispense with the outer physical agency. The sacrament of Communion is the preparation for the mystical union with the Christ, the preparatory schooling. That is the light in which we must see these things. And just as everything evolves from matter upward toward spirit under the Christian influence, so those things which existed primarily as a bridge must then grow and develop under the influence of Christ. The sacrament of Communion must rise from the physical to the spiritual plane if it is to lead to a true union with the Christ. — One can do no more than hint at such matters, for only if they are received with a full sense of their sacred nature will they be rightly understood.
To recognize that through the event of Golgotha Christ entered the Earth — this was a task set mankind. Men were to realize it more and more, and to become increasingly permeated by it. But this called for mediators; and one of the first great ones was he who had been Saul and became Paul. How far could Saul's knowledge extend, considering that he was a Jewish initiate? We can express it somewhat as follows: he could know what was contained in the Hebrew teachings. He knew that what Zarathustra had seen as Ahura Mazdo and what Moses had beheld as Ehjeh asher ehjeh — Jahve or Jehova — in the burning bush and in the thunder and lightning on Sinai — he knew that this had come nearer the Earth, had approached, and would one day occupy a human body, and that in this human body it would effect a rejuvenation of the Earth. On the other hand, he was influenced by the views of his time and by Jewish law. He had witnessed the event of Golgotha but was unable to admit that He Who had died on the Cross was the Bearer of the Christ. None of the events he had heard of or experienced could convince him that He Who was expected, according to the Jewish initiation, had been incarnated in Jesus of Nazareth.
Now, what would Saul have to experience to be convinced that the immortal Christ Spirit had really been present in the dying body of Jesus of Nazareth on Golgotha? From his Hebrew initiation he knew that after the Christ Spirit had dwelt in a human body and this human body had died, the Christ must be present in the Earth's aura; hence it should be possible for the Christ to become visible to one able to see into the Earth's aura with the eyes of the spirit. That he knew; but hitherto he had not achieved the capacity for seeing into the Earth's aura. He was an initiate in wisdom, but not a clairvoyant. He did, however, possess the prerequisite for becoming clairvoyant in an abnormal manner, and he himself mentions this. He refers to it as “grace,” bestowed upon him from above; and he tells us that he was born prematurely — usually translated “out of due time.” He was not carried the full time in the maternal womb, but descended from the spiritual to the physical world before being wholly immersed in all the elements of earthly existence; that is, he came into the world before the moment when ordinarily the unconscious ties which bind men to the spiritual powers are broken. The vision on the road to Damascus was made possible for one whose spiritual eyes had been opened through the agency of an untimely birth. His spiritual vision having been bestowed upon him as a consequence of his premature birth, he now gazed into the Earth's aura and there beheld the Christ. Therefore the span of time during which this Christ had walked the Earth must have already lapsed. Here was proof that it was Christ Who had died on the Cross; for He Who, Paul knew, was to conquer death on the Earth had appeared to him as a spiritual living being. Now he knew the meaning of the event of Golgotha: he knew that Christ was risen; for He Whom Paul had beheld could never before have been seen in the Earth's aura. Now he understood the words:
It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.
What are the “pricks”? Paul himself tells us:
O death, where is thy sting? 
In vain wouldst thou kick against the pricks, for thou wouldst recognize only death. But henceforth thou canst no longer kick against death, for thou hast seen Him Who conquered death. — In this way Paul became the apostle of Christianity who proclaimed most emphatically the living — the spiritually living — Christ.
What made it possible for the Christ to be seen in the Earth's aura? The fact that in Christ Jesus — as in a primal impetus given Earth evolution for the future — the etheric body was completely permeated by the Christ. The etheric body of Jesus of Nazareth could not be otherwise than wholly permeated by the Christ; and because this was so it exerted full mastery over the physical body, even to the extent of being able to restore the latter after its death; that is, it could appear in such a form as to contain again all that the physical body had embraced before death — but through the power of the etheric body. So when Christ was seen after His death, it was His etheric body that was seen; but for those who were able, as a result of the strength imparted to them through the events in question, not only to recognize a physical-sensible body, but to see in an etheric body a real body with all the marks of a physical body — for such as these Christ was risen in reality. And in truth, He was.
We are further told in the Gospel that when a man has advanced to the stage in which his corruptible principle develops the incorruptible, he becomes endowed with higher vision; and we are also told that those who had already achieved this higher vision as a result of self-development could see the Christ and know Him as such. That is told us clearly enough, but people lack the will really to read what it actually says in the Gospel. Take, for example, the first appearance of Christ after death. We read:
But Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping: and as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulchre,And seeth two angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. And they say unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? She saith unto them, Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him.And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus.Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? Whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away.Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master.
Now, imagine you meet someone whom you had seen but a few days before: can you believe yourself incapable of recognizing him? Can you imagine asking him whether he is the gardener, and where they had laid him — when he himself was the man you saw before you? But that is exactly what you would have to impute to Mary — or to her who is here called Mary — were you to assume that every physical eye could have recognized Christ and seen Him as previously the physical eye had seen Him. Read the Gospels with their spirit in mind! — No, the sacred power of words had first to penetrate the woman as a force: that was essential. Then the words echoed in her heart and rekindled all that she had witnessed. That was what gave her the spiritual vision to see Him Who was risen from the dead.
And does not Paul tell us the same thing? In the case of Paul it cannot be doubted that, with spiritual vision, he saw Christ on the spiritual plane, in the aura of the Earth; and as proof that Christ lived he affirms that Christ had appeared. Then, as appearances of equal importance, he mentions first:
... that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethern at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep.After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.For I am the least of the apostles, that I am not meet to be called an apostle.
Paul placed the vision of others entirely on a par with his own, which was made possible by his spiritual sight; hence he says literally:
In like manner as I have seen the Christ, so has he been seen by the others also.
Their experiences, says Paul, engendered in them the power to see Christ as one arisen from the dead. Now we understand what Paul means, and his viewpoint is at once recognizable as the anthroposophic-spiritual viewpoint; for it tells us that there is a spiritual world, and if we contemplate it by means of the impulse given us through the power of Christ, we shall penetrate it in such a way as to find there the Chirst Himself, Christ Who had passed through the event of Golgotha. That is the meaning of what Paul tells us. And it is possible for the human being — especially through what is known as Christian initiation — with patience and endurance gradually to become a successor to Paul, so to speak; to acquire for himself the faculties that will enable him to see into the spiritual world and spiritually to behold the Christ face to face.
In other lectures I have repeatedly set forth the first steps leading to a vision of the Christ Being Himself: the aspirant must live over again what is delineated for us in the Gospel of St. John. I will now merely indicate in briefest outline, in this connection, how man — if he resolves to pass through a certain gamut of feelings — can rise to the spiritual world in which, since the event of Golgotha, there shines the light of Christ.
We begin by saying to ourself, I observe the plant. It grows out of the mineral soil, grows and flowers. But if it could develop consciousness, as does man, it would have to bend down to the soil of the Earth, the mineral kingdom from which it grows, and say, Among the present beings of nature thou, stone, art a lower being than I; but without thee, lower kingdom, I could not subsist. — Similarly, were the animal able to sense the plant as the indispensable condition of its existence, it would have to confess, I, as an animal, am a higher being than thou, the plant; but without thee I should perish. Humbly it would have to bow down to the plant and say, To thee, a lower being, I owe my existence. — And in the kingdom of man it should be thus: Everyone who has reached a given rung of the ladder should look upon those who in a spiritual sense stand beneath him, and say, True, ye belong to a lower world; but as the plant must bow before the mineral, and the animal before the plant, so should I who stand on a higher rung say: To thee, a humbler one, I owe my existence. — Then, when for weeks and months — possibly years — under the guidance of the right teacher a man has completely immersed himself in such feelings of universal humility, he will know the meaning of the Washing of the Feet. He will have a direct spiritual vision of what Christ, as the higher Being, did in bending down to the Twelve and washing their feet. The whole significance of this event dawns on the disciple like a vision, and he knows that it took place. His enlightenment is such as to demand no further proof: he now gazes directly into the spiritual world and beholds Christ in the scene in question.
Then, stimulated by the teacher, this man can gain the strength to say, I shall courageously endure whatever sorrow and suffering this world may bring, and shall not complain. I shall steel myself to the point at which these no longer mean suffering and sorrow for me, because I shall know them for necessities in the world. — And when he has become sufficiently stanch of soul, there springs from this contemplation the feeling of the Scourging: spiritually he feels it taking place in himself. And this opens his spiritual vision, enabling him to see for himself the Scourging as it is described in the Gospel of St. John.
Then the pupil is shown how to develop the strength for the next step, where he is able not only to bear sorrow and suffering at the hands of all mankind, but to say: I possess something so sacred that I stake my whole being on it. Should all the world overwhelm me with scorn and mockery, this remains holiest for me. No derision or disdain will keep me from cherishing it, though I stand alone. I profess it, and shall defend it. — Then he experiences spiritually within him the Crowning with Thorns; and without the aid of any historical document his spiritual vision transmits to him this scene as described in the Gospel of St. John.
Then, when through proper guidance he has learned to regard his physical existence in quite a new light, to think of his own body as something external — when it has become a matter of course to feel and sense that he carries his physical body about with him as a material instrument — then he has reached the fourth stage of Christian initiation, the Bearing of the Cross. This has by no means made a frail ascetic of him: on the contrary, he learns to employ his physical instrument far more effectively than theretofore. When you have learned to regard your body as something you carry, you have arrived at the fourth stage of Christian initiation, the Bearing of the Cross; and therewith you have attained to the enlightenment that enables you to see spiritually the scene in which Christ bears His Cross on His back, just as you have learned by the elevation of your soul to carry your body as you might a piece of wood.
Now something occurs which is to be regarded as the fifth stage of Christian initiation: it is called the “mystical death”. Here, as a consequence of the inner maturity we have gained, everything that surrounds us — the whole physical world of the senses — appears to be extinguished: we are in darkness. And then comes a moment when this darkness is torn apart like a curtain, and we see behind this physical world into the spiritual world. At the same moment, however, something else occurs as well: we have learned to recognize sin and evil in their true forms; that is, in this stage we have learned the meaning of the Descent into Hell.
In the next stage we learn not only to regard our body as something alien, but also to feel everything else as being as much a part of us as our body, to look upon everything on Earth as pertaining to us, as was a matter of course in ancient clairvoyance; and, inasmuch as we all belong to one great organism, we further learn to regard the suffering of others as our own. Then, in proportion to our understanding of this, we are united with the Earth, and we experience the act of being laid in the Earth, the Burial. And by being united with the Earth we are also risen out of it; for this experience has given us the first insight into the meaning of the words “The earth is in the process of becoming a new sun.”
The attainment of the fourth, fifth, and sixth stages of Christian initiation enables us to see for ourselves the event of Golgotha, to merge with it. We no longer need documents: these served merely as rungs of the ladder.
Finally there is the seventh stage, known as the Ascension — in other words, the awakening in the spiritual world. It is rightly said of this stage that it cannot be expressed in any words of human language, that it can be imagined only by one who has learned to think without the instrumentality of the brain. The miracles of resurrection can be thought only when the physical brain is no longer needed as an instrument.
By reason of having had their spiritual eyes opened and of thus being able to see what took place, those who were present as believers when the event of Golgotha occurred could have seen the Christ in the way I have indicated — that is, if He had manifested Himself to their spiritual sight in the Earth's aura. But even had Chirst always retained, in a certain sense, the same form He had assumed at that time, the faithful would not have been able to see Him had He — the Christ — not achieved something for Himself as well — by conquering death.
This brings us to a concept which is indeed difficult to grasp. The human being continues to learn incessantly as he develops his capacities, at whatever stage he finds himself. Not only man, however, but every being, from the humblest to the most exalted divine being, learns while developing farther and farther. What Christ did as a divine Being in the body of Jesus of Nazareth we have thus far described with reference to its fruits and its effect on mankind. But now we must ask, did Christ thereby also experience something within Himself that led Him to a higher stage? And the answer is, He did. Even divine-spiritual beings can experience what leads them to more advanced stages; and what He experienced — His ascent into a world still more exalted than the one in which He had previously had His being — this He revealed in His Ascension to those who were His companions on the Earth. That is why the first six stages of Christian initiation can be understood — though not perceived — by one who is neither an initiate nor a clairvoyant, but who lives in dependence, for his thinking, on the physical brain; whereas the seventh stage, the Ascension, can be comprehended only by the clairvoyant who is no longer bound to the instrumentality of his physical brain, who has experienced for himself what it means to think without the brain and to see without the brain.
That is the way in which these matters are interrelated; and such was the course of the world's development during the period we have been privileged to discuss in these fourteen lectures.
We have already learned what Christ indicated in healing the man who had been born blind, namely, that the sins he committed in a former life should now become manifest in him. What Christ did, then, was to teach the idea of reincarnation, in as far as people could understand it — karma, the extension of causes from one incarnation to another, that is what He taught; and He taught as one does with practical life in mind. What He meant was this: There will be a future time in which all men will recognize karma. They will understand that when a man does evil he need not be punished by an external, earthly power, for the evil he did inevitably entails its compensation in this or in some future incarnation. Then we shall only need to enter this deed in the great law book of the akashic record, inscribe it in the spiritual world. Then we human beings need not condemn him: then we can entrust the judging of his deeds to the spiritual laws, to be inscribed in the spiritual world: we can leave him to karma.
Jesus went unto the mount of Olives.And early in the morning he came again into the temple, and all the people came unto him; and he sat down, and taught them.And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst, They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act.Now Moses in the law commanded us that such should be stoned, but what sayest thou?This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down and with his finger wrote on the ground.
What was it He wrote? He inscribed the sin in the spiritual world, indicating that through the spiritual world the sin would find its compensation. The others, however, He reminded to ask themselves whether they were without sin; for only if they harbored nothing that called for compensation could they feel themselves to be in no way connected with the sin of this woman and therefore qualified to judge her. As it was, they had no way of knowing whether, in their previous life, they themselves might not have provided the cause of what had now come to this woman: they could not know whether in former lives they had induced what had now caused her to commit adultery; whether they themselves had committed the sin or laid its foundations in an earlier incarnation. All is inscribed in karma. Jesus wrote on the ground which He had already permeated with His spiritual light; that is, He confided to the Earth what should be the karma of the adulteress. What He meant was: Follow the path which I now mark out for you. Learn not to judge, but to leave what is in man to karmic adjustment. — If we abide by this rule we will come to understand karma. Karma need not be taught as a dogma, for it is taught by facts. That was Christ's way of teaching.
Here we should pause to realize that such things could be written only by that one of Christ's pupils and disciples whom He himself had initiated: Lazarus-John. Hence it was this pupil alone who fully understood the power attained to by a Being Who, beginning with the Baptism, had gradually gained in His etheric body mastery over the physical body, to the extent of endowing the latter with ever new life. And for the same reason, this writer of the John Gospel knew that it was possible to transform what appeared to be water — through its being received into the human organs — into wine. He understood how the power of the etheric body could be employed in such a way that a few fishes and loaves sufficed to satisfy the hunger of many. That is what the author of the John Gospel told us, if only we take the Gospel seriously. Does he say anywhere that the few loaves and fishes were eaten in the ordinary physical way? No, you will not find that in the Gospel. He says clearly and distinctly, as you will see by taking every word literally, that Christ broke the bread; but also, that He offered up thanks to heaven:
And Jesus took the loaves; and when he had given thanks, he distributed to the disciples, and the disciples to them that were set down; and likewise of the fishes as much as they would.
The meaning of these words as they appear in the original text, which is poorly reproduced in translation, is about as follows: The disciples passed on the loaves and the fishes, letting each do with them what he would. But none desired anything whatever save to feel, at this moment, what emanated as a force from the mighty etheric body of Christ Jesus. No one had any other wish.
And by what means had their hunger been stilled? In the 23rd verse it says:
Howbeit there came other boats from Tiberias nigh unto the place where they did eat bread, after that the Lord had given thanks. 
It was through the agency of the prayer that the people had eaten the bread. They had eaten bread without the physical act having taken place. Hence Christ Jesus could later throw light on what had occurred by saying,
I am the bread of life.
What, then, had the people eaten? They had partaken of the power of Christ's body. And what could remain? Only the power of Christ's body; and the effect of this was so strong that there remained fragments to be gathered up.
According to occult teaching, every body consists of twelve members. The one uppermost is called the Ram; the adjacent one, the Bull; the one with the hands, the Twins; the chest is called the Crab; everything in the region of the heart is the Lion; below it — the trunk — is the Virgin; the hips, the Scales; below this, the Scorpion; and still farther down: the thigh, the Archer; the knee, the Goat; the lower leg, the Water-carrier; and the feet, the Fishes.
The human body, then, is divided into twelve members — and with good reason. Now, if the fragments were to be gathered up after the power of Christ's body had been used to satisfy hunger, they would have to be gathered in twelve measures.
Therefore they gathered them together, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves, which remained over and above unto them that had eaten.
It was not the barley loaves they had eaten: they had partaken of the power emanating from Christ; and they had been satisfied by the power that radiated from Christ through His thanksgiving when He appealed to the spheres from which He had descended. That is the sense in which we must understand the influence of the spiritual world on the physical world; and thus we can also understand the relation of the single incidents to the basic event, the evolution of our Earth into a Sun. They all take their place as mighty force-revealing events in the Earth's process of becoming a Sun. But it now becomes comprehensible that what communicated itself to the Earth at that time as a mighty impulse can reach human beings only by slow degrees, that it can be infused into humanity but slowly and gradually.
As was indicated yesterday, the Gospel which in the beginning was best suited to convey the great truths to those able to receive them was St. Mark's Gospel. That was during the first centuries, when it was men's task to reconquer through their own efforts the realms from which they had strayed. Let us try to understand how man himself descended from divine-spiritual heights to the lowest point, which occurred when the intervention of Golgotha provided an impetus to man's return to an upward striving. This acted like a mighty impulse, drawing man aloft again. He had descended from divine-spiritual heights and had sunk ever deeper; then, having saturated himself with the newly born spiritual light, he received from the Christ impulse the strength gradually to recover all that he had once possessed. And this he would have to accomplish in the following manner: In the time immediately following the Christ event he had to regain what he had lost during the last pre-Christian centuries, and this could be done with the help of the Mark Gospel.
What he had lost in a still earlier time had to be recaptured in the succeeding period by means of a Gospel directing his attention more to his inner life, and this was the Gospel of St. Luke. But we have also said that six hundred years before the appearance of Christ on Earth, everything of a spiritual nature which had been vouchsafed mankind in earlier centuries, and which had gradually been lost, was gathered together in the great being of Buddha. At that time, six centuries before Christ, the Buddha being lived, epitomizing everything that existed in the way of primeval wisdom — all that mankind had lost and that Buddha had come to proclaim. Hence it is narrated that when Buddha came into the world his birth had been foretold by his mother, Maya. We are further told of one who had prophesied of the child that it would become a Buddha, the Redeemer, the Guide to immortality, freedom, and light. And there is many a Buddha legend reporting that as a twelve-year-old boy Buddha had strayed from home, and that he was found again under a tree surrounded by the poets and sages of antiquity, whom he taught. In my book,Christianity as Mystical Fact you will find set forth how in the Luke Gospel, six hundred years later, there crop up again the same legends that were told of Buddha; how his revelations reappear in a new form. That is why we encounter in the Luke Gospel what was already contained in the Buddha legends. So perfect is the agreement in such matters when seen in the light of spiritual science!
This should lead us to realize that a document such as the Gospel of St. John, and the others that complement it, are of an infinite profundity, which we have studied in a series of lectures; and if we could continue our lectures and make them twice as long, we could find ever new depths in the Gospels. Endless abundance would be disclosed could we extend the time indefinitely; and it would be borne in upon us that with the future development of mankind, still new and ever new depths in these documents will be fathomed. Truly, men will never exhaust their contents. There is nothing one has to read into them; we must merely prepare ourselves, by means of occult truths, to find out what they really contain. Then the whole universal complex of mankind, as well as the relation of this complex to the cosmos, will reveal itself to us; and we shall come to see ever deeper into the spiritual world.
But having heard a lecture cycle of such a nature, it is essential to realize that we have not just acquired a store of knowledge, a sum of isolated truths. Though indispensable, that would be the lesser demand: it is simply a matter of its being impossible to arrive at the deeper goal without it. No, the special fruit that should ripen for us as a result of these studies is that everything we have received through our mind, if we let it sink into our heart, should become a deeply felt understanding of it all, should be transformed into emotions — even into impulses of the will. When all that we have understood and received through our mind comes to glow in our heart it becomes a force within us, a healing force for spirit, soul, and body. And then we shall contemplate this past fortnight as follows: We have been immersed in the life of spirit and have acquired a great deal in many ways. Our gain, however, has not been a mere matter of empty concepts and ideas, but rather, of truths, concepts, and ideas capable of springing from our soul as living forces in our feelings and in our sensibilities. And these feelings and sensibilities will remain for us: we can never lose them, and we shall carry them with us in the world. We have not merely learned something: we have become more alive through what we have learned.
If, in taking leave of this cycle, we make such feelings our very own, spiritual science will fill our life. It will not withdraw us from our ordinary life, but will become for us something like an image of the loftiest concept presented in these lectures. What was set forth is this: Death in the world was inevitable, but the view we hold of death is erroneous. Christ taught us the true view of death, whereby death becomes the seed of a higher life.
Out yonder, beyond the sphere of these lectures, life surges; everyday existence flows on and men live in it. Spiritual research detracts not from that life by an iota, robs it of nothing; but the view commonly held regarding it — before penetrating it with the eye of the spirit — is erroneous, and this error must come to signify life's illusion. This we must let perish in us; then the seed we have acquired by means of an illusion will blossom into a higher life. But only if we receive into ourselves the living, spiritual point of view can this come about: Far from making us ascetic in our lives, it is precisely thereby that we learn to know life in its true form, to master it in the right way, and to endow it with genuine fruitfulness. In proportion as we experience spiritual science itself in a Christian way we christianize life, and we experience that image of life which we have learned to see in death. As we adopt spiritual science as our way of thinking, in the same measure will we — not become estranged from life, but rather, discover in what way our view of this life is faulty. Then, strengthened by a true conception of it, we shall enter it as active workers. There will be no withdrawing from life, for we shall have gained power and strength from studies that lead us into the spiritual world.
If I have in some measure succeeded in so shaping these lectures that they may bear fruit in your lives, that they may contribute, even to a slight degree, to making you feel spiritual cognition as being an exaltation of life — living warmth in your feeling, thinking, and willing; in your working — then the light enkindled for us through our anthroposophical Weltanschauung can glow as the fire of life's ardor, as the fire of life itself. And if this fire proves at all strong enough to endure and burn on through life, I shall have achieved my aim in undertaking this series of lectures.
May these feelings live on in your hearts as a subject of inner meditation!
Notes:1.TRANSLATOR'S NOTE: — The German translations of the New Testament employ the same word for “pricks” and “sting” (Stachel)2. TRANSLATOR'S NOTE: — Luther appears to have understood this point better than did the authors of the King James version: in place of our “... after that the Lord had given thanks”, the German Gospel has the equivalent of “... through (or by means of) the Lord's thanksgiving” (... durch des Herrn Danksagung).
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