The Search for Isis-Mary-Sophia. Lecture 1 of 4.
Rudolf Steiner, Dornach, Switzerland, December 23, 1920
Christianity commemorates in three yearly festivals that Being Who, for the Christian, gives Earth-life its meaning, and from Whom the strongest force of this Earth-life radiates.
Of these three festivals Christmas makes the greatest demand on our feeling, and seeks as it were to make this feeling inward. The Easter festival makes its chief demand on what we call human understanding, human comprehension; and Whitsuntide on what is termed human will.
Basically we only grasp what is contained in the Christmas Mystery through inwardizing and deepening of that feeling which makes present to us our entire human being, our worth and dignity as man. Only when we can feel in the right way and with sufficient inwardness what man is in the whole cosmos are we able rightly to appreciate the mood of Christmas. Only when we can attain to the full understanding of that wonder which is contained in the Easter Mystery — the wonder of the resurrection — shall we rightly value the Easter Mystery; and only when we perceive something in the festival of Whitsuntide which helps to develop our will-impulse, do we perceive in the right light what Whitsuntide should be.
Christ Jesus is related to the Father principle of the world, and this is represented for us by the Christmas festival. Christ Jesus is related to what we call the Son principle, and this is represented by the Easter Mystery; while the relation of Christ to that which undulates and weaves through the world as spirit is made present to us in the Whitsuntide Mystery.
We see nature around us, and we see also that man enters into his physical existence through the forces of this same nature. We know through our study of Spiritual Science that we do not rightly regard nature if we only pay attention to its external physical features. We know that divine forces permeate it, and we only become aware of our origin from nature in the true sense of the word when we perceive this divine element that weaves and works within it. In this we perceive the Father principle of nature. All that permeates nature as the divine is the Father principle in the sense of the old religions and also in the sense of a rightly understood Christianity — whether it be the flowers of the field that we observe, and how they grow, or the roll of the thunder and the flash of the lightning; or whether we watch the Sun in its path across the heavens or gaze upon the shining stars; or whether again we listen to the brooks and the streams rushing along — when we become aware of what is revealed so mysteriously in this external revelation of nature as the origin of all becoming, then we are at the same time aware of what places us as human beings within this world through the mystery of physical birth.
But just in this mystery of physical birth there always remains something inexplicable as regards the nature of man as long as we do not bring it into connection with what may be inwardly experienced in the commemoration of the Christmas Mystery — in commemoration of the childhood which entered into humanity with the Jesus boys.
What does the presence of these Jesus boys say to us? It tells us nothing less than that in order to be fully human it does not suffice merely to be born, that is, merely to be here in the world through those forces which, as the forces of physical birth, bring all beings including man into existence. This holy Christmas Mystery tells us, as we look at the childhood of Christ, that the true human being in us cannot merely be born, but that in the innermost part of the soul it must be born anew; that man must in the course of his life experience something within his soul which alone makes him fully man. And what he should experience can only come to pass when it is brought into connection with that childhood which entered into Earth evolution at Christmas time.
As we look upon this Jesus child we must say to ourselves: “Only through the fact that this being came down among human beings in the course of human evolution does it first become possible for man to be truly man in the full sense of the word, that is, to connect what he receives through birth with what he can experience above and beyond him as a result of a feeling of devoted love toward that Being Who descended from spiritual heights that He might, through great sacrifice, unite Himself with human existence.”
For many people of the early Christian centuries it was a great experience to gaze on the entrance of the Christ Being into Earth evolution. It made evident to them, as it were, man's two-fold origin: his physical origin and his spiritual origin. It is a birth through which Jesus passes — it is to a little Earth-born child the Christian looks when he thinks of Jesus in the world's Holy Night. Yet he says to himself: “What is born here is something different from the rest of mankind, it is a Being through whom the rest of humanity can receive what they cannot receive through physical birth.” Our feeling is deepened when we understand in the right sense and with the right love what is signified in the words: “We must be born twice: the first time through the forces of nature, the second time reborn through the forces of Christ Jesus.”
This is our communion with Christ Jesus; it is this which through Christ Jesus first gives us the full consciousness of our human worth and human character. If we are able, or have the desire, to form a judgment as to the course of development in the centuries, then we must ask the question: “Has this feeling about the birth of Christ Jesus always maintained this depth?” As we look around the world, my dear friends, we cannot say that the same inwardness of feeling concerning the Christmas Mystery is experienced today as it was experienced even five or six centuries ago in Europe.
Think of the Christmas tree — how beautiful it is, and in what a graceful way it appeals to the heart. But the Christmas tree is not something ancient, it is scarcely two centuries old — it became naturalized comparatively quickly within the countries of Europe, but it is only in recent times that it has adorned the Christmas festival. What does it actually represent? I might say it represents the beautiful, lovable, more sympathetic side of that which in another way, a way which is less sympathetic and less fair, appears before the soul in modern human development. We may seek ever so deeply to discover the impulses out of which the Christmas tree has originated in what are really quite modern times, and we shall find mysterious and secret feelings out of which the Christmas tree has come, but these secret feelings all tend in the direction of seeing the Christmas tree as a symbol for the Tree of Paradise. What does this signify? It signifies that the feelings which people once experienced as they directed their gaze to the crib and the mystery of the birth of Christ Jesus at the beginning of our era are no longer there, such feelings have become more and more strange to us. It means that for modern humanity, this being born again within the soul has in a sense been lost and modern humanity desires to look back from the Christmas tree that displays the Cross to the origin of Earth humanity which knows nothing as yet of the Christ, to the natural starting point of human existence — from Christ back to Paradise, from the festival of Christmas day on the 25th to the festival of Adam and Eve on the 24th day of December. This has become something beautiful, since humanity's origin in Paradise is also beautiful, but it is a diversion from the real birth-mystery of Christ Jesus. This regard for the Christmas tree has preserved all depth and inwardness of feeling and it comforts those who are men of goodwill as they look at the Christmas tree out of the inwardness of the human heart; it comforts them concerning that other aspect which in modern times has led men away from the Christ mystery to the primal natural forces of birth in human evolution.
Christ Jesus appeared among a people who worshipped Jahve or Jehovah, that Jehovah-God who is connected with all that is natural existence, who lives in thunder and lightning, in the motion of the clouds and stars, in the springs and rushing streams, in the growth of plants, animals, and humans. Jahve is that God who can never, if man is connected with Him alone, give man his completeness, for He gives man the consciousness of his natural birth, with an intermixture of course of a spiritual element which is not merely natural; but He does not give man the consciousness of his rebirth which he must attain through something which cannot be given him by means of natural physical forces. So we see how modern humanity is led away and diverted from Christ Jesus, for Whom there is no distinction of class, nation, or race, but for Whom there is only a single humanity. We see how the thoughts and feelings of modern humanity have been led aside to that which has already been overcome by the birth of Jesus Christ; to that which lies at the basis of man's origin through the forces of nature and which is connected with the differentiation of men into classes, nations, and races. And if it was the one Jehovah that the Jews worshipped when Christ came, then the modern nations have returned to many Jehovahs. For what is worshipped today — even if it is no longer described by the ancient name — the powers to which men do worship when they divide themselves up into nations and make war on each other as nations — they are Jehovahs. We see the nations fighting each other in bloody wars — each at certain moments calling upon the name of Christ — in reality, however, it is not Christ on Whom the nations call, but only Jehovah, not the one Jehovah but a Jehovah. The people have simply returned to him and have forgotten how great a step forward was taken when the Jehovah principle gave place to the Christ principle.
In a beautiful way does the Christmas tree lead us back to man's origin; in an ugly and hateful way does the national Jehovah principle lead us back. In reality that which is only a Jehovah, through an unconscious lie, is often addressed as Christ, and the name of Christ is thus misused. Terribly is the name of Christ misused at the present time, and we shall not acquire the real depth of feeling that is necessary today in order rightly to experience the Christian mystery again unless we see clearly that the way to this feeling concerning Christ Jesus must be sought. We need a new understanding of what has been traditionally handed down about the birth of Christ Jesus.
It was to two kinds of people, my dear friends, who were nevertheless representatives of our ONE humanity, that Christ Jesus was announced at the Christmas festival. First he was announced to the poor uneducated shepherds of the field who had absorbed nothing of culture but were quite simple men both in intellect and heart. And then it was also announced to the wise men from the East, that is, from the land of wisdom. To them it was announced through the highest summit of their wisdom, through their ability to read the stars. Thus Jesus Christ was announced to the simple shepherd hearts and the highest wisdom of the three Magi from the East. And most deeply significant is this double contrasted announcement of Christ Jesus, on the one side to the simple shepherds, and on the other side to the wisest of the world.
And how was Christ Jesus announced to the simple shepherds of the field? With the soul's eye they saw the light of the angel. Their clairvoyance and clairaudience were awakened. They heard the deepest words which for them signified the future meaning of Earth life: “The Divine is revealed in the heights, and there shall be peace among men on Earth who can be of good will.” Out of the depths of the soul arose the capacity by which in the Holy Night the poor simple shepherds without any kind of wisdom experienced feelingly what was being revealed to the world. And out of the perfection of that wisdom that could reach even to the Mystery of Golgotha, out of the finest observation of the course of the stars, this revelation came to the wise men of the East, to the Magi: the same revelation. In the one case it is read within the human heart, the heart of the poor simple shepherd, and it penetrates to the deepest point within the human heart; it is there that they became clairvoyant and the heart reveals to them by its clairvoyant power the coming of the Savior of mankind. The others looked up to the breadths of heaven: they knew the mystery of the widths of space and the evolution of time; they had attained a wisdom by which they could experience and solve the mysteries of space and time. The Christmas Mystery was revealed to them. Our attention is directed to the fact that what lives in man's innermost soul and what lives in the widths of space flow from the same source.
And both, in the way they had been developed up to the Mystery of Golgotha, were already in a declining condition. The clairvoyance that emerged from the quickened human heart, that of the shepherds to whom we are told the announcement came, was still strong enough to perceive the voice that proclaimed: “The Divine is revealed in the heights, in heaven, and peace shall be on Earth among men of good will.” We might say that the last remnants of this clairvoyance through inner piety were still present in the shepherds whose karma, or destiny, had brought them together to that place where Christ was born. And from that primeval holy wisdom which first flourished in the post-Atlantean times among the original Indians, then especially among the Persians, and again was transplanted among the Chaldeans, and of which at all events the last remnants were present among those whom we find as the three Magi from the East, out of this primeval holy wisdom which comprehended the world of space and time — out of this wisdom, through its representatives who had raised themselves to the highest point, was the Christmas Mystery again revealed.
For us, however, in the fifth cultural epoch, both ways are in decline. For humanity in general, that which led to clairvoyance in the poor shepherds, as well as that which led the Magi from the East to the penetration of the mysteries of space and time, is no longer livingly active. We must find the human being, the man who depends on himself. As men we must pass through the being forsaken by God,in order — in this forsakenness and loneliness— to find freedom. But we must find our way back to a union with that which on the one side was the highest wisdom of the Magi of the East, and on the other side was announced to the shepherds through a deepened insight of the heart.
All forces, my dear friends, develop further. What has become of that which the Magi of the East understood through the development of their intellect which was still clairvoyant? What has become of their astrology, their kind of astronomy? We cannot understand human evolution if we do not look into such things. Today it has become cold and gray mathematics and geometry. Today we see the abstract forms that are taught in schools as geometry and mathematics. This is the last remnant of that which in the living radiance of the cosmic light was mastered by that ancient wisdom which led the three Magi of the East to Christ. The outer wisdom has become the inner theories of space and time. And while the Magi of the East, through their understanding of the mysteries of space, were able in vision to reckon “In this night will the Saviour be born,” our astronomy, which is the successor to that astrology, can only reckon the future eclipses of the Sun and Moon and similar things. And while the poor shepherds of the field out of the inwardness of their hearts were raised to that which certainly stood in close relationship to them, namely, the vision of the Christmas Mystery, and the hearing of the heavenly announcement, there has only remained to present-day humanity the perception of external nature. This perception of external nature through the senses represents the last transformation of the simplicity of the shepherds, just as our reckoning of future eclipses of Sun and Moon is the last successor of the wisdom of the Magi.
The shepherds of the field were equipped with something. They were equipped with depth of heart, with deep feeling, whereby, through clairvoyance, they came to the vision of the Christmas Mystery. Our contemporaries are equipped with the telescope and microscope. But no telescope or microscope will lead to the solution of man's deepest riddle, as did the hearts of the poor shepherds. No foresight through calculation of Sun and Moon eclipses and so on will lead man to comprehend the necessary course of the world as did the star-wisdom of the Magi of the East. All human differences flow together into a single human feeling when we realize that what the shepherds of the field, without wisdom, experienced through the piety of their hearts is the same as what stimulated the Magi of the East as the highest wisdom! In a wonderful way both facts are placed side by side in the Christian tradition.
We have practically lost both ways by which an understanding of the birth of Christ revealed itself to man. We have gone back, from the crib and the Holy Night, to the tree of paradise. We have gone back from a Christ Who belongs to the whole of humanity to the national gods which are just so many Jehovahs and no Christ. For just as truly as that which reveals itself in the deepest nature of man is something common to all men, so truly is that which is revealed through all the widths of space and the mysteries of time something common to all men.
My dear friends, there is something in the depths of man's heart that speaks of nothing else than of what is purely human and dissolves all differences. And it is just within these depths that we find the Christ. And there is a wisdom which extends far beyond all that can be discovered concerning single spheres of world existence, a wisdom that is able to grasp the world in its unity, even in space and time. And this again is the star-wisdom that leads to Christ. We need to have again in a new form that which led on the one hand the shepherds of the field, and on the other hand the Magi of the East, to find the way to Christ. In other words we need to deepen our external perception of nature through what the heart can develop as spiritual perception of nature. We must learn once again out of the piety of the human heart to approach all that to which in modern times the microscope, telescope, roentgen-rays apparatus, and such instruments are applied. Then will the growing plant, the rushing stream, the murmuring spring, the lightning and thunder from the clouds not merely speak to us in an indifferent way. There will speak to us from the flowers of the field, from the lightning and thunder of the clouds, from the shining stars and the radiant Sun, there will, as it were, stream into our eyes and into our hearts, as the result of all our observation of nature, words that proclaim nothing else than this: “The divine is revealed in the heights of heaven, and peace shall be among men upon Earth who are of good will.” The time must come when our observation of nature sets itself free from the dry, prosaic, non-human method pursued in the laboratories and clinics of today. The time must come when our observation of nature must be irradiated by such life so that the life which can no longer exist in the way it did for the shepherds of Bethlehem will nevertheless be able to speak to us through the voices of the plants and animals, from stars and springs and rivers. For the whole of nature utters what was uttered by the angel: “The Divine is revealed in the heavenly heights and there can be peace among men on Earth who desire to be of good will.”
What the Magi possessed through an outer observation of the stars we need to obtain by an awakening of our inner life. Just as we must, once more, listen outward into nature and hear the angels singing as it were from external nature, so must we be able through Imagination, Inspiration, and Intuition to bring forth an astronomy, a solution of the world riddle, out of the inner nature of man. It must be a spirituality, a Spiritual Science, created out of the inner being of man. We must found that which is really man's true nature. And the real nature of man must speak to us of the world's ‘becoming’ through the evolutionary mysteries of Saturn, Sun, Moon, Earth, Jupiter, Venus, and Vulcan. We must feel the arising of a whole Cosmos within us. All that man can experience as insight into the deepest mysteries of the world has been reversed since the Mystery of Golgotha.
There is an ancient way of presenting the spheres of heaven, which was already known to the Persian Magi. They looked up toward the heavens and saw with their physical eyes the constellation of the Zodiac which is called the Virgin (Virgo), and by means of spiritual vision they projected into the constellation of the Virgin that which physically is only perceptible in the constellation of the Twins (Gemini). This wisdom has been preserved. It is by this wisdom that man can perceive, can experience, the consonance between the constellation of the Virgin and the constellation standing at right angles to it, in quadrature, the Twins. This was represented in such a way that in place of the constellation of Virgo, the Virgin was depicted not only with the ear of corn, but also with the child. But this child in fact represents the Twins. It is the representative of the two Jesus children. This was an astrological conception especially at the time of the ancient Persians.
Then came a different time, the time of the Egypto-Chaldean development. Then it was the constellation of the Lion that was looked up to in the same way that the Persians regarded the constellation of the Virgin. But now, in quadrature to the Lion stood the Bull, and there arose the Mithras religion, the worship of the Bull, because into the constellation of the Lion was projected that of the Bull.
Then came the time when Cancer, the Crab, played the same role in the Greco-Latin period as the Virgin among the Persians, and the constellation of the Ram was seen in quadrature standing, as it were, within the constellation of the Crab. After that came the reversal: after that, matters took a different path. Up to the Greco-Latin time, until the Mystery of Golgotha, astronomy was something that could be attained as external science, and human understanding was of such a nature that in gazing out into space and the mysteries of the star-world, the secrets of space and time were discovered; also in experiencing the human inner life through the piety of the heart, a vision of the inner mysteries was possible. In the Greco-Latin time these relations were reversed. That which formerly could be experienced inwardly had ever more and more to be experienced by beholding outer nature.
My dear friends, with respect to nature's revelation we must be as pious as the shepherds were in their hearts. Just as they came to spiritual vision in their inner world, we must come to a spiritual vision in nature. And on the other side we must find the way via Cancer the Crab: we must come to an astronomy inwardly, so that by the inner powers of vision we may awaken the evolutionary course of the world that leads through the Saturn, Sun, Moon, Earth, Jupiter, Venus, and Vulcan periods. An astronomy from within where formerly there was an external astronomy — a piety in the observation of nature where formerly there was the kind of piety possessed by the shepherds of the field. If we can deepen what today is so unspiritual in our observation of nature, and if on the other side we can render creative what today is so prosaically experienced in mere mathematical and geometrical pictures, if we can raise mathematics again through inner experience to that glory which the ancient astronomy had, if we can deepen our observation of nature to that heart's depth and piety which the shepherds of the field had, if we can inwardly experience what the Magi experienced from the stars, if in directing our gaze to outer nature we can be as pious as were the shepherds of the field, then, through piety in outer observation of nature and through a loving pursuit of world-events with our hearts, we shall again find the way to the Christmas Mystery just as the shepherds of the field through inner piety, and the Magi from the East through an outer wisdom, found their way to the crib.
The way must be found again to the Christmas Mystery. We must become as pious with regard to nature as the shepherds were in their hearts; we must in our inward vision become as wise as were the Magi in their observation of planets and stars in space. We must develop inwardly what the Magi developed outwardly; we must in our intercourse with the outer world develop what the simple shepherds of the field developed in their hearts. Then we shall find the way, the right way, to a deepened experience of Christ, to a loving comprehension of Christ; and then we shall find the way to the Christmas Mystery. Then we shall be able with right thoughts and with right feelings to place the crib beside the original tree of paradise which does not only speak to us of how man enters the world through nature-forces but of how he can only become conscious of his full humanity by re-birth.
Anyone speaking of the Christmas Mystery today must make a demand upon mankind that reaches into the future. We live in serious times and we must see clearly that we need again to become man in the true sense. We have not yet attained to the inwardness of the Magi wisdom nor to the piety which from the shepherds flowed into the outer world. The social question that confronts humanity is terribly urgent. Fearful things have come about in recent years and the social problem becomes ever more and more threatening; only those who are asleep in their souls can overlook this fact. Europe, as regards its culture, threatens to become a heap of ruins. Nothing can raise it from its chaotic condition unless people find it possible once again to develop a true, a real humanity in their common life. They will not be able to do this unless their feeling is deepened and made inward by an observation of nature in which they are as pious as the shepherds of the field when through their inner forces they received the angel's revelation of God above and peace on Earth beneath. Only with these forces can the social life be mastered. This will happen when the secrets of space and time are so understood inwardly that men comprehend the nature of the world-spirit as a unity, just as the one Sun is beheld by the Chinese and by the Americans and by the Middle European. It would be absurd if the Chinese demanded a Sun for themselves, the Russians another Sun, the Middle European another, the French another, and the English yet another. Just as the Sun is a unity, so is the Sun-Being that bears humanity a unity. If we look out into the widths of space we find there the challenge to a unification of humanity. The spiritual that lies open to our view without does not speak of the differentiation of humanity or of discord; neither does what speaks in the inmost depths of our being. To the shepherds of the field, the voice they were able to hear by the power of their hearts announced that the Godhead was revealed in the widths of the world spaces and that by receiving the divine within one's own soul peace can be among men of good will. This must again be proclaimed to modern humanity from the whole circumference of nature. To the Magi from the East the secrets of the stars told that here on Earth Christ Jesus is born. This must be proclaimed to modern humanity from out of what can begin to be revealed in the deep places of the human heart.
My dear friends, we need a new path. Once again the voice sounds to us: “Change your hearts and minds; look in a new way on the course of the world.” When we look rightly on the course of the world and consider the way of the humanity to which we ourselves belong, then we discover the path to that Mystery which could be revealed to the shepherds as well as to the cultured sages, and that will be revealed to our hearts and in our external beholding of the world. When we have sufficiently deepened our inner and outer perception of the world, when we are able to do this and find the inner Magi-wisdom that leads us just as the outer Magi-wisdom led the sages of the East, as well as the outer wisdom that leads us to that piety by which the shepherds of the field were also led, then we shall be able again with the right inner feeling to perceive what lies in this Mystery, namely, that for all without distinction — as formerly He appeared among men, put away as it were from humanity, turned out in the solitude — for all, there is born that which thereafter became the Christ.
We must find again the Jesus Christmas Mystery, and we must find it by cultivating all that within ourselves of which we have spoken today. We must find the Christmas light within ourselves, as the shepherds did the angel's light in the field; and as the Magi of the East, so must we find the star through the power of that which is true Spiritual Science. Then will be opened for us the only way to the content of the Christmas Mystery. We shall recognize it again, and it will remind us of humanity's rebirth.
Yes, my dear friends, it is for this we must work: that the Christmas Mystery be born again among men. Then we shall rightly understand the mystery of the rebirth of the human being. This is what has been communicated to us in a singular manner. For in a gospel that is not recognized by the Church it is related that the Jesus-child spoke to His Mother immediately after His birth in definite words. We certainly approach the Child in the crib today in the true way when we rightly hear the words which He wishes to speak to us: “Awaken the Christmas light within you, and the Christmas light will then also appear to you and to your fellow-men with you in the world outside.”
If we look into the deepest inner secrets of man, there too we find the same demand.
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