The Spiritual Hierarchies and the Physical World. Lecture 10 of 10.
Rudolf Steiner, Düsseldorf, April 18, 1909:
Now let us descend to those beings we call the Powers, or Spirits of Form. They also could not have come to this of themselves. They could not have grown wicked of themselves, nor could the Spirits of Personality, nor could the Spirits of Fire. For, when these were men on the Sun, the Mights had not yet been ordered to oppose, there was as yet no possibility of becoming wicked. The first who had the possibility of becoming evil were the Angels, for this could only happen after the development of the Moon. There, from the Sun to the Moon, the Fight in Heaven took place. A part of the Angels avoided this possibility: they would not be seduced by the forces which had to introduce hindrances; they held to the way of the old nature. Thus, as far down as the Angels, or part of them, we have beings who are absolutely unable to do otherwise than follow the divine will. It is essential to remember this.
In the Christ there appeared a being of a quite different nature, who did nothing, nothing at all, to force people to come to Him. And this is essential! If you take the whole manner in which Christianity was propagated you will find a living proof that the Christ during His life did nothing of what was done later for the propagation of Christianity. Look at the founders of religion of the ancient times! They are the great teachers of humanity: they taught from a certain period in our development, and their teaching acted on men in an overwhelming way. Look at the Christ! Does He, fundamentally speaking, work through His teaching? The man who thinks that His teaching is the most important part does not understand the Christ. The Christ did not in the first place act at all through His teaching, but through that which He did. And the greatest deed of the Christ was that which ended with death, was His Death. This is the essential point, that the Christ acted though a deed, and when this deed spread through the world, He was not any more physically present. This is the great difference between the Christ and the other great founders of religions. This difference is not at all understood as yet, but is essential. You can follow all the teachings of Christianity, all that is preached as Christianity, and you can find it all in other religious systems. This cannot be denied. You can say: ‘All the essential part of Christian teaching is included in other teachings.’ But has Christianity been operative in the contents of its teaching? He who at first did what was most essential toward spreading the essence of Christianity, did he rely on its teaching? Look at the Apostle Paul! Was he transformed from a Saul to a Paul by what is written in the Gospels? He persecuted the followers of Christ Jesus. He persecuted them until He who died on the Cross appeared to him from the clouds, until he, Paul, had his own personal occult experience of the fact that Christ lived. It was the effect of that death, the result of that deed, which gave the impulse to Paul — this was the cause of it all. Other religious systems act through their teachings, and their teachings are the same as in Christianity — but the essential thing in Christianity is not the teaching, but what happened, the deed. And this deed is such that it does not act upon man except when man makes up his mind to let it act upon him, that is, when it can be joined to the absolutely free character of his ego. For it is not sufficient that the Christ should be present in the man's astral body: He must be present in his ego if He is to be really understood. And the ego must decide in complete freedom, voluntarily, to receive the Christ. This it is with which we are concerned, this is the point. Just because of this, the human ego, when it unites with the Christ, receives into itself a reality, a divine force which is not a mere teaching. Therefore it can be asserted a hundred times that the teachings of Christianity are to be found in other religions — but this is not the question: the fact is that the essential thing in Christianity is the deed which can become one's own possession only through free will, through a voluntary ascent into the higher worlds. Man takes the Christ-force into himself, because he voluntarily receives it, and no one can receive it who does not do so voluntarily. This has only been made possible for man because he has become human upon Earth, because he was called to grow into man on Earth.