The Gospel of Luke. Lecture 1 of 10.
Rudolf Steiner, Basel, September 15, 1909:
Initiates and Clairvoyants. The various aspects of initiation. The four Gospels considered in the light of spiritual-scientific investigation.
During our last meeting here some time ago we spoke of the deeper currents of Christianity with particular reference to the Gospel of St. John and of the great images and ideas accessible to man when he reflects deeply upon this unique text. [ 1 ] More than once it has been emphasized that the very depths of Christianity are illuminated by that Gospel, and some of those who have heard lecture-courses on the same subject might feel inclined to ask: If the viewpoint reached through studying the Gospel of St. John may truly be called the most profound, can it be widened or enriched in any way by study of the other three Gospels of St. Luke, St. Matthew, and St. Mark? Again, those who tend to be mentally lazy might ask: If the deepest depths of Christianity are to be found in the Gospel of St. John, is it still necessary to study Christianity as presented in the other Gospels, especially in the apparently less profound Gospel of St. Luke?
Anyone who might put this question believing such an attitude to be worthy of consideration would be laboring under a complete misapprehension. The scope of Christianity itself is infinite, and light can be shed upon it from the most diverse standpoints. Furthermore, as the present course of lectures will show, although the Gospel of St. John is a document of untold profundity, there are facts which can be learnt from the Gospel of St. Luke and not from that of St. John. The ideas which in the lectures on the Gospel of St. John we came to recognize as among the most profound in Christianity do not by any means comprise all the depths of Christianity. It is possible to penetrate these depths from another starting-point altogether, basing our studies on the Gospel of St. Luke viewed in the light of Anthroposophy.
Let us once again recall facts in support of the statement that there is something to be gained from the Gospel of St. Luke even if the depths of the Gospel of St. John have been exhaustively studied. A fact revealed to the student of Anthroposophy by every line of the Gospel of St. John is that records such as the Gospels were composed by individuals who, as initiates and clairvoyants, possessed deeper insight than other men into the nature of existence. In everyday parlance the terms ‘initiate’ and ‘clairvoyant’ may be synonymous. But if our studies of Anthroposophy are to lead us into the deeper strata of spiritual life, we must distinguish between one who is an ‘initiate’ and one who is a ‘clairvoyant’, for they represent two distinct categories of human beings who have found their way into the spheres of supersensible existence. There is a difference between an initiate and a clairvoyant, although an initiate may at the same time be a clairvoyant, and a clairvoyant an initiate of a certain grade. To distinguish with exactitude between these two categories of human beings you must recall the facts described in my book Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and its Attainment, [ 2 ] remembering that strictly speaking there are three stages on the path leading beyond ordinary perception of the world.
The first kind of knowledge accessible to man can be described by saying: he beholds the world through his senses and assimilates what he perceives by means of his intellect and the other faculties of his soul. Beyond this, there are three further stages of knowledge, of cognition: the first is the stage of Imagination, Imaginative cognition, the second is the stage of Inspiration, and the third is the stage of Intuition — but the term ‘Intuition’ must be understood in its true sense.
The faculty of Imaginative cognition is possessed by one before whose eye of spirit all that lies behind the world of the senses is unfolded in mighty, cosmic pictures — but these pictures do not in the least resemble anything we call by this name in everyday life. Apart from the difference that the pictures revealed by Imaginative cognition are independent of the laws of three-dimensional space, other characteristics make it impossible for them to be compared with anything in the world of the senses.
An idea of the world of Imagination may be gained in the following way. Suppose someone were able to extract from a plant in front of him everything perceptible to the sense of sight as ‘color’, so that this hovered freely in the air. If he were to do nothing more than draw out the color from the plant, a lifeless color-form would hover before him. But to the clairvoyant such a color-form is anything but a lifeless picture, for when he extracts the color from the objects, then, through the preparation he has undergone and the exercises he has practised, this color-picture begins to be animated by spirit just as in the physical world it was filled by the living substance of the plant. He then has before him not a lifeless color-form but freely moving colored light, glistening, sparkling, full of inner life; each color is the expression of the particular nature of a spiritual being imperceptible in the world of the physical senses. That is to say, the color in the physical plant becomes for the clairvoyant the expression of spiritual beings. Now imagine a world filled with such color-forms, reflected in manifold ways and in perpetual metamorphosis; your vision must not be confined to the colors, as it might be when confronting a painting of glimmering color-reflections, but you must imagine it all as the expression of beings of soul-and-spirit, so that you can say to yourselves: ‘When a green color-picture flashes up it expresses to me the fact that an intellectual being is behind it; or when a reddish colour-picture flashes up it is to me the expression of a being with a fiery, violent nature.’ Now imagine this whole sea of interweaving colors — I might equally well say a sea of interplaying sensations of tone, taste, or smell, for all these are the expressions of beings of soul-and-spirit behind them — and you have what is called the ‘Imaginative’ world, the world of Imagination. It is nothing to which the word ‘imagination’ (fancy) in its ordinary sense could be applied; it is a real world, requiring a mode of comprehension different from that derived from the senses.
Within this world of Imagination you encounter everything that is behind the sense-world and is imperceptible to the physical senses — for instance, the etheric and astral bodies. A man whose knowledge of the world is derived from this clairvoyant, Imaginative perception becomes acquainted with the outward aspect of higher beings, just as you become acquainted with the outward, physical aspect of a man in the physical world who, let us say, passes in front of you in the street. You know more about him when there is an opportunity of talking with him. His words then give you an impression differing from the one he makes upon you when you look at him in the street. In the case of many a man whom you pass by (to mention this one example only) you cannot observe whether his soul is moved by inner joy or grief, sorrow or delight. But you can discover this if you converse with him. In the one case his outward aspect is conveyed to you through everything you can perceive without his assistance; in the other case he expresses his very self to you. The same applies to the beings of the supersensible world. A clairvoyant who comes to recognize these beings through Imaginative cognition knows only their outward aspect. But he hears them give expression to their very selves when he rises from Imaginative knowledge to knowledge through Inspiration. He then has actual intercourse with these beings. They communicate to him from their inmost selves what and who they are. Inspiration is therefore a higher stage of knowledge than Imagination, and more is learnt about the beings of the world of soul-and-spirit at the stage of Inspiration than can be learnt through Imagination.
A still higher stage of knowledge is that of Intuition — but the word must be taken in its spiritual-scientific sense, not in that of day-to-day parlance, when anything that occurs to one, however hazy and nebulous, may be called ‘intuition’. In our sense, Intuition is a form of knowledge thanks to which we not only listen spiritually to what the beings communicate to us, but we become one with the very beings themselves. This is a very lofty stage of spiritual knowledge, for it requires, at the outset, that there shall be in the human being that quality of universal love which causes him to make no distinction between himself and the other beings in his spiritual environment, but to pour forth his very self into the environment; thus he no longer remains outside but lives within the beings with whom he has spiritual communion. Because this can take place only in a spiritual world, the expression ‘Intuition’, i.e. ‘to dwell in God’ is entirely appropriate. Thus there are three stages of knowledge of the supersensible worlds: Imagination, Inspiration, and Intuition.
It is possible, of course, to attain all these three stages of supersensible knowledge, but it may also be that in some one incarnation the stage of Imagination only is reached. Then the spheres of the spiritual world attainable through Inspiration and Intuition remain hidden from the clairvoyant concerned. In our present age it is not usual for a person to be led to the higher stages of spiritual experience before having passed through the stage of Imagination; it is hardly possible for anyone to omit the stage of Imagination and be led at once to the stages of Inspiration and Intuition. But what would not be appropriate today could happen and actually did happen in certain other periods of the evolution of man.
There were times when Imagination on the one hand and Inspiration and Intuition on the other were apportioned to different individuals. In certain Mystery centers there were men whose eyes of spirit were open in such a way that they were clairvoyant in the sphere of Imagination and that world of symbolical pictures was accessible to them. Because with this grade of clairvoyance, such men said: ‘For this incarnation I renounce the attainment of the higher stages of Inspiration and Intuition’, they made themselves capable of seeing clearly and with exactitude in the world of Imagination. They underwent much training in order to develop vision of that world. But one thing was essential for them. Anyone who wants to confine his vision to the world of Imagination and gives up any attempt to advance to Inspiration and Intuition lives in a world of uncertainty. This world of flowing Imaginations is, so to say, boundless, and if left to its own resources the soul floats hither and thither without being really aware of its direction or goal. In those times, therefore, and among peoples where certain human beings renounced the higher stages of knowledge, it was necessary for those whose clairvoyance had reached the stage of Imagination to attach themselves with utter devotion to leaders whose capacities of spiritual perception were open to Inspiration and Intuition. For Inspiration and Intuition alone can give such certainty in regard to the spiritual world that a man knows with full assurance: Thither leads the path — towards a definite goal! Without Inspiration it is not possible to say: There is the path; I must follow it in order to reach a goal! Whoever, therefore, cannot say this must entrust himself to the wise guidance of someone who says it to him. Hence in so many quarters it is constantly emphasized, and rightly so, that whoever rises, to begin with, to the stage of Imagination, must attach himself inwardly to a guru — a leader who gives both direction and aim to his experiences. It was also advisable in certain epochs — but this is no longer the case today — to allow other individuals to omit the stage of Imagination and to lead them at once to Inspiration or, if possible, to Intuition. Such men renounced the possibility of perceiving the Imaginative pictures of the spiritual world around them; they lent themselves only to such impressions from the spiritual world as issue from the inner life of the beings there. They listened with their ears of spirit to the utterances of the beings of the spiritual world. Suppose there is a screen between you and another man whom you do not see but only hear him speaking behind the screen. It is certainly possible to renounce pictorial vision of the spiritual world in order to be led more quickly to the stage of hearing the utterances of the spiritual beings. No matter whether a person sees the pictures of the world of Imagination or not, if he is able to apprehend with spiritual ears what the beings in the spiritual world communicate regarding themselves, we say of him that he is endowed with the power to hear the ‘inner word’ — in contrast to the outer word used in the physical world between man and man.
We can thus conceive that there are people who, without beholding the world of Imaginations, are endowed with the power to apprehend the inner word and can hear and communicate the utterances of spiritual beings. There were periods in the evolution of humanity when, within the Mysteries, these two forms of supersensible cognition worked in cooperation. Each individual who had renounced the faculty of perception possessed by another could develop greater clarity and definition in his own faculty, and at certain periods this resulted in a truly wonderful cooperation within the Mysteries. There were clairvoyants who had specially trained themselves to see the world of Imaginative pictures, and there were others who, having passed over the world of Imagination, had trained themselves to receive the inner word into their souls through Inspiration. And so the one could communicate to the other the experiences made possible by his particular training. This was possible in times when some degree of confidence reigned between one man and another; today it is out of the question, simply because of the character of our age. Nowadays one man has not such strong belief in another that he would listen to his descriptions of the pictures of the world of Imagination and then, honestly believing those descriptions to be accurate, supplement them with what he himself knows through Inspiration. Nowadays, everyone wants to see it all himself — and that is natural in our age. Very few people would be satisfied with a one-sided development of Imagination such as was taken for granted in certain epochs. In our present time, therefore, it is necessary for a man to be led through the three stages of higher knowledge without omitting any one of them.
At each stage of supersensible knowledge we encounter the great mysteries connected with the Christ Event, about which all three forms of cognition — Imaginative, Inspirational, Intuitive — have infinitely much to say.
If with this in mind we turn our attention to the four Gospels, we may say that the Gospel of St. John is written from the vantage-point of one who in the fullest sense was an initiate, cognizant at the stage of Intuition of the mysteries of the supersensible world, and who therefore describes the Christ Event as revealed by the vision of Intuition. But if close attention is paid to the distinctive characteristics of St. John's Gospel it will have to be admitted that the features standing out most clearly are presented from the standpoint of Inspiration and Intuition, while everything originating from the pictures of Imagination is shadowy and lacks definition. Thus if we disregard what was still revealed to him through Imagination, we may call the writer of St. John's Gospel the messenger of everything relating to the Christ Event that is vouchsafed to one endowed with the power of apprehending the inner word at the stage of Intuition. Hence he describes the mysteries of Christ's Kingdom as receiving their character through the inner Word, or Logos. Knowledge through Inspiration and Intuition is the source of the Gospel of St. John.
It is different in the case of the other three Gospels, and not one of their writers expressed his message as clearly as did the writer of the Gospel of St. Luke. In a short but remarkable preface it is said, in effect, that many others had previously attempted to collect and set forth the stories in circulation concerning the events in Palestine; but that for the sake of accuracy and order the writer of this Gospel is now undertaking to present the things which ... and now come significant words ... could be understood by those who from the beginning were ‘eye-witnesses and servants (ministers) of the Word’ — that is the usual rendering. The aim of the writer of this Gospel is therefore to communicate what eye-witnesses — it would be better to say ‘seers’ (Selbstseher) — and servants of the Word had to say. In the sense of St. Luke's Gospel ‘seers’ are men who through Imaginative Cognition can penetrate into the world of pictures and there behold the Christ Event; people specially trained to perceive these Imaginations are seers with accurate and clear vision at the same time as being ‘servants of the Word’ — a significant phrase — and the writer of St. Luke's Gospel uses their communications as a foundation. He does not say ‘possessors’ of the Word, because such persons would have reached the stage of Inspiration in the fullest sense; he says ‘servants’ of the Word — people who could count less upon Inspirations than upon Imaginations in their own knowledge but for whom communications from the world of Inspiration were nevertheless available. The results of Inspirational cognition were communicated to them and they could proclaim what their inspired teachers had made known to them. They were ‘servants’, not ‘possessors,’ of the Word.
Thus the Gospel of St. Luke is founded upon the communications of seers, themselves knowers of the world of Imagination; they are those who, having learnt to express their visions of that world through means made possible by their inspired teachers, had themselves become ‘servants of the Word’.
Here again is an example of the exactitude of the Gospel records and of the need to understand the words in the strictly literal sense. In texts based upon spiritual knowledge, everything is exact to a degree often undreamed of by modern man.
But we must now again remember — as always when such matters are considered from the anthroposophical standpoint — that, for spiritual science, the Gospels themselves are not original sources of knowledge in the actual sense. One who stands strictly on the ground of spiritual science will not necessarily take a statement to be the truth simply because it stands in the Gospels. The spiritual scientist does not draw his knowledge from written documents but from the yields of spiritual investigation. Communications made by beings of the spiritual world to the initiate and the clairvoyant in the present age — these are the sources of knowledge for spiritual science. And in a certain respect these sources are the same in our age as in the times just described to you. Hence in our age too, those who have insight into the world of Imagination may be called clairvoyants, but only those who can rise to the stages of Inspiration and Intuition can be called ‘Initiates’. In our present age the expressions ‘clairvoyant’ and ‘initiate’ are not necessarily synonymous.
The content of the Gospel of St. John could be based only upon knowledge possessed by an initiate capable of rising to the stages of Inspiration and Intuition. The contents of the other three Gospels could be based upon the communications of persons endowed with Imaginative clairvoyance but not yet able themselves to rise to the stages of Inspiration and Intuition. If therefore we adhere strictly to this distinction, St. John's Gospel is based upon initiation, and the other three, especially that of St. Luke — according to what the writer himself says — upon clairvoyance. Because this is the case, and because everything that is revealed to the vision of a highly trained clairvoyant is introduced, this Gospel gives us well-defined pictures of what is contained in the Gospel of St. John in faint impressions only. In order to make the difference even more obvious, let me say the following.
Although it would hardly ever be the case today, let us suppose a man were initiated in such a way that the worlds of Inspiration and of Intuition were open to him but that he was not clairvoyant in the world of Imagination. Suppose such a man met another, perhaps not initiated but to whom the whole world of Imaginations was open. This man would be able to communicate a great deal to the first who might possibly only be able to explain it through Inspiration but could not himself see it, having no faculty of clairvoyance. There are many today who are clairvoyant without being initiates; the reverse is hardly ever the case. Nevertheless it might conceivably happen that someone who had been initiated could not, although possessing the gift of clairvoyance, for some reason or other perceive the Imaginations in a particular instance. A clairvoyant would then be able to tell such a man a great deal as yet unknown to him.
It must be strongly emphasized that Anthroposophy relies upon no other source than that of the initiates, and that the texts of the Gospels are not the actual sources of its knowledge. The fount of anthroposophical knowledge is investigated today independently of any historical records. But then we turn to the records and compare the findings of spiritual-scientific research with them. What Anthroposophy can at all times discover about the Christ Event without the help of any documentary record is found again in the Gospel of St. John, presented in a most sublime way. Hence its supreme value, for it shows us that at the time when it was composed a man was living who wrote as one initiated into the spiritual world can write today. The same voice, as it were, that can be heard today sounds across to us from the depths of the centuries.
The same can be said of the other Gospels, including that of St. Luke. It is not the pictures delineated by the writer of the Gospel of St. Luke that are for us the source of knowledge of the higher worlds; the source for us lies in the results of ascent into the supersensible world. When we speak of the Christ Event a source for us is also that great tableau of pictures and Imaginations appearing when we direct our gaze to the beginning of our era. We compare what thus reveals itself with the pictures and Imaginations described in the Gospel of St. Luke; and this course of lectures will show how the Imaginative pictures accessible to man today compare with the descriptions given in that Gospel.
The truth is that there is only one source for spiritual investigation when directed to the events of the past. This source does not lie in external records; no stones dug out of the Earth, no documents preserved in archives, no treatises written by historians either with or without insight — none of these things is the source of spiritual science. What we are able to read in the imperishable Akashic Chronicle — that is the source of spiritual science. The possibility exists of knowing what has happened in the past without reference to external records. Modern man has thus two ways of acquiring information about the past. He can take the documents and the historical records when he wants to learn something about outer events, or the religious scriptures when he wants to learn something about the conditions of spiritual life. Or else he can ask: What have those men to say before whose spiritual vision lies that imperishable chronicle known as the Akashic Chronicle — that mighty tableau in which there is registered whatever has at any time come to pass in the evolution of the world, of the Earth, and of humanity?
Whoever raises his consciousness into the spiritual world learns gradually to read this chronicle. It is no ordinary script. Think of the course of events, just as they happened, presented to your spiritual vision; think, let us say, of the emperor Augustus and all his deeds standing before you in a cloud-like picture. The picture stands there before the spiritual-scientific investigator and he can at any time evoke the experience anew. He requires no external evidence. He need only direct his gaze to a definite point in cosmic or human happenings and the events will present themselves to him in a spiritual picture. In this way the spiritual gaze can survey the ages of the past, and what is there perceived is recorded as the findings of spiritual investigation.
What happened at the beginning of our era can be perceived by spiritual vision and compared, for example, with what is related in the Gospel of St. Luke. Then the spiritual investigator recognizes that at that time too there were seers able to behold the past; and moreover the accounts they give of happenings in their own times can be compared with what is revealed today by spiritual investigation of the Akashic Chronicle.
Again and again it must be realized that we do not have recourse to outer records but to the actual findings of spiritual investigation and that we then try to rediscover these results in the outer records. The value of the records themselves is thereby enhanced and we can come to a decision about the truth of their contents on the strength of our own investigations. They lie before us as an even more faithful expression of the truth because we ourselves are able to recognize the truth. But a statement such as this must not be made without at the same time affirming that this ‘reading in the Akashic Chronicle’ is by no means as easy as observation of events in the physical world! With the help of an example I should like to give you an idea of certain difficulties that may arise.
We know from elementary Anthroposophy that man consists of physical body, etheric body, astral body, and ego. The moment we are no longer observing man on the physical plane but rise into the spiritual world, the difficulties begin. When we have a human being physically before us, we see a unity formed by physical body, etheric body, astral body, and ego. Whoever observes a human being during waking life has all this before him as unity, but if it is necessary for some reason to rise into the higher worlds in order to observe a human being, the difficulties at once begin. Suppose, for example, we wish to observe a human being in his totality while he is asleep during the night, and rise into the world of Imagination in order, let us say, to perceive his astral body — which is now outside the physical body. The human being is now divided into two. What I am describing will seldom occur in this particular form, for observation of the human being is comparatively easy, but it will help to convey an idea of the difficulties in question.
Suppose someone goes into a room where a number of people are asleep. He sees their physical bodies lying there and, if he is clairvoyant, their etheric bodies too; at a higher stage of clairvoyance he sees their astral bodies. But in the astral world everything interpenetrates — including, of course, the astral bodies of human beings. Although it would not often happen to a trained clairvoyant, when looking at a number of sleeping people he might mistake which astral body belonged to some particular physical body below. As I said, it is an unlikely occurrence because this is one of the first stages of actual vision and because anyone who attains it is well trained in how to distinguish in such a case. But the difficulties become very considerable when spiritual beings — not human beings — are observed in the spiritual world. As a matter of fact the difficulties are already great if a human being is to be observed not as he is at present but in his totality, as he passes through incarnations. Thus if you observe a human being now living and ask yourself: Where was his ego in his previous incarnation? you have to go through the Devachanic world to reach his former incarnation. You must be able to establish which ego has always belonged to the preceding incarnations of the person in question. You must hold together, in an intricate way, the continuous ego and the various stages down on the Earth. Mistakes are very possible here, and error can very easily occur when looking for an ego in its earlier bodies. In the higher worlds, therefore, it is not easy to maintain the connection between everything belonging to a human personality and his former incarnations as inscribed in the Akashic Chronicle.
Suppose someone has before him a man — let us call him John Smith — and as a clairvoyant or initiate he asks: ‘Who were the physical ancestors of this man?’ — Let us assume that all external records have been lost and there is only the Akashic Chronicle upon which to rely. It would be a matter of having to discover from the Akashic Chronicle the physical ancestors of the man — the father, mother, grandfather, and so on, in order to see how the physical body evolved in the line of physical descent. But then there might be the further question: ‘What were the earlier incarnations of this man?’ To answer that question an entirely different path must be taken than when looking for the physical ancestors. It may be necessary to go back through long, long ages in order to arrive at the previous incarnations of the ego.
Already you have two streams: the physical body as it stands before you is not a completely new creation, for it springs from the ancestors in the line of physical heredity; nor is the ego a completely new creation, for it is linked with its previous incarnations. The same holds good for the intermediate members, the etheric and astral bodies. Most of you know that the etheric body is not a completely new creation but that it too may have taken a path leading through the most diverse forms. The etheric body of Zarathustra reappeared in Moses. [ 3 ] It was the same etheric body. If we were to seek out the physical ancestors of Moses this would give us one line; if we were to seek out the ancestors of the etheric body of Moses we should get another, quite different line; here we should come to the etheric body of Zarathustra and to other etheric bodies. Just as we have to trace quite different lines for the physical body and the etheric body, the same applies to the astral body. Each separate member of the human being might lead to very diverse streams. Thus the etheric body may be the etheric re-embodiment of an etheric body that belonged to a different individuality altogether — not by any means the same in which the ego was formerly incarnated. And the same can be said of the astral body.
When we rise into the higher worlds in order to investigate the several members of a human being, the individual streams all take different directions, and in following them we come to very intricate processes in the spiritual world. Whoever wishes to understand a human being from the vantage-point of spiritual investigation must describe him not merely as a descendant of his ancestors, not merely as having derived his etheric body or his astral body from this or that being, but he must describe the paths taken by all these four members until they unite in the present individual. This cannot be done all at once. For instance, we may trace the path followed by the etheric body and reach important conclusions. Someone else may trace the path of the astral body. The one may lay more stress on the etheric body, the other on the astral body, and frame his descriptions accordingly. To those who do not notice everything said about an individual by men who are clairvoyant, it will make no difference whether one says this and another that; it will seem to them that the same entity is being described. In their eyes the one who describes the physical personality only and the other who describes the etheric body are both speaking of the same being — John Smith.
All this can give you an idea of the complexity of circumstances and conditions encountered when it is a question of describing the nature of any phenomenon in the world — whether a human or any other being — from the standpoint of clairvoyant research or initiation-knowledge. I was obliged to say the foregoing because it will help you to understand that only the most extensive investigation in the Akashic Chronicle can present any being in full clarity to the eyes of spirit.
The being who stands before us as the Gospel of St. John describes Him — no matter whether we speak of Him as Jesus of Nazareth before the Baptism by John or as Christ after the Baptism — that being stands before us with an ego, an astral body, an etheric body, and a physical body. To give a full description according to the Akashic Chronicle of the being who was Christ Jesus, we must trace the paths traversed by the four members of His nature in the course of the evolution of humanity. Only then can we rightly understand Him. It is here a question of grasping the meaning of the information regarding the Christ Event given by modern spiritual-scientific investigation, for light must be shed on apparent contradictions in the four Gospels.
I have often pointed out why purely materialistic research cannot recognize the supreme value and profundity of the Gospel of St. John: it is because those who carry out this research cannot understand that a higher initiate sees differently, more deeply, than the others. Those who have doubts about the Gospel of St. John attempt to establish a kind of conformity between the three synoptic Gospels. But conformity will be difficult to establish and sustain if it is based only upon the external, material happenings. What will be of particular importance in tomorrow's lecture, namely the life of Jesus of Nazareth before the Baptism by John, is described by two Evangelists, by the writers of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Luke, and external, materialistic observation will find differences there that are in no way less than those which must be assumed to exist between the Gospel of St. John and the other three Gospels.
Let us take the facts: The writer of the Gospel of St. Matthew relates how the birth of the Creator of Christianity was announced beforehand, how the birth took place, how Magi, having seen the ‘star’, came from the East, being led by the star to the place where the Redeemer was born; he describes how Herod's attention was aroused and how, in order to escape the massacre of the babes in Bethlehem, the parents of the Redeemer fled with the child to Egypt; when Herod was dead it was made known to Joseph, the father of Jesus, that they might return, but for fear of Herod's successor they went to Nazareth instead of returning to Bethlehem.
Today I will leave aside the Baptist's proclamation, but I want to draw attention to the fact that if we compare the Gospels of St. Luke and St. Matthew we find the annunciation of Jesus of Nazareth described quite differently; the one Gospel relates that it was made to Mary, the other that it was made to Joseph. From the Gospel of St. Luke we learn that the parents of Jesus of Nazareth lived at that place and went to Bethlehem on the occasion of the enrolling. While they were there, Jesus was born. Then came the circumcision, after eight days — nothing is said about a flight into Egypt — and a short time afterwards the child was presented in the temple; the customary offering having been made, the parents returned with the child to Nazareth. A remarkable incident is then described — how on the occasion of a visit with his parents to Jerusalem the twelve-year-old Jesus remained behind in the temple, how his parents sought and found him there among those who expounded the scriptures, how among the learned doctors of the Law he gave evidence of profound knowledge of the scriptures. Then it is related how the parents took the child home with them again, how he grew up ... and we hear nothing particular about him from that time until the Baptism by John.
Here we have two accounts of Jesus of Nazareth before the Christ descended into him. Whoever wishes to reconcile the accounts must consider how, according to the ordinary materialistic view, he can reconcile the story in the Gospel of St. Matthew that directly after the birth of Jesus his parents, Joseph and Mary, fled with the child into Egypt and subsequently returned, with the other story of the presentation in the temple narrated by St. Luke.
In these lectures we shall find that what seems a complete contradiction to the ordinary mind will be revealed as truth in the light of spiritual investigation. Both accounts are true! — although presented as accounts of events in the physical world they are in apparent contradiction. Precisely the three synoptic Gospels of St. Matthew, St. Mark, and St. Luke ought to compel people to adopt a spiritual conception of events in the history of humanity. For it is surely obvious that nothing is attained by ignoring apparent contradictions in such records or by speaking of ‘fiction’ when realities prove too great an obstacle.
We shall have opportunity here to speak of things of which there was no occasion to speak in detail when we were studying the Gospel of St. John, namely the events that took place before the Baptism by John and the descent of the Christ into the three bodies of Jesus of Nazareth. Many riddles of vital significance concerning the essence of Christianity will find their solution when — as the outcome of research into the Akashic Chronicle — we hear of the being and nature of Jesus of Nazareth before the Christ took possession of his three bodies.
Tomorrow we shall begin by considering the nature and the life of Jesus of Nazareth as revealed in the Akashic Chronicle, and then ask ourselves: How does the knowledge of Jesus of Nazareth compare with what is described in the Gospel of St. Luke as imparted by those who at that time were ‘seers’ or ‘servants’ of the Word, of the Logos?
Notes:1. This lecture-course was given by Dr. Steiner in Basle, November 1907. It has not been published in English. Other lecture-courses on the same subject, published in English, were given by him in Hamburg, May 1908, and in Cassel, June–July 1909. (See list of publications at the end of this volume.)2. Revised edition, 1963. (Rudolf Steiner Press, London.)3. See also Lectures Four and Five.
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