Rudolf Steiner, Basel, Switzerland, November 20, 1907:
“The Law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” If we thoroughly understand this passage we shall also understand that deeply significant event in the history of humanity which took place through the appearance of Christ on the Earth. In the earlier lectures of this course we have traced the evolution of humanity in broad outlines, and we have described the way in which the consciousness of the ego developed. In the distant past whole groups and generations of human beings had one ego in common. From this we learned to understand the long age of the patriarchs. Gradually this feeling of the ego became limited more and more to the single personalities. We also showed how two spiritual streams made themselves felt in this evolution: the one was the stream of blood-relationship, which endeavored to hold men together by natural ties, and the other, the Luciferic, which made men independent and prepared them for the purely spiritual tie which was to come.
During the whole period of the Old Testament one understood by “Law” something which brings order into human society from without. After blood-relationship had lost its binding power, men had to be brought into a certain connection with one another by an outer thought-order. The law was perceived as something coming from outside, and this law which was given from outside holds good until the “grace and truth,” or devotion and truth, which comes through Jesus Christ, has developed in us, from within, the understanding for the true knowledge. Devotion and truth can only develop gradually. Christianity, which is to bring devotion and truth in place of the law, is only at the beginning of its growth; the further the Earth progresses in its evolution the stronger will be the influence of Christianity on humanity. Humanity is to raise itself to a stage of social life at which each one is drawn, by an impulse arising within himself, to act toward his neighbor as one brother to another. Men could not, however, raise themselves of their own power to this high stage of development, and it is the task of Christianity to help them to do this. Men will no longer need any outer law to force upon them this attitude when they have the inner impulse so to act that devotion and truth are the motives for their actions.
We do not mean to say by the above, that humanity no longer needs the law, but that which we have described is an ideal which should be striven for. Gradually men will come to where the harmony of the world will be brought about through their voluntary action, but for this goal to be reached the power which in the Gospel is called Christ had to step in. In the occult schools it is said of one who, of his own inner power, is able to raise himself into this relationship to all his fellow-men, that “he bears Christ within him.” In order to understand what we are about to say, it will first of all be necessary to recapitulate once more the real constitution of man. Recall to mind the contents of the third lecture with the aid of the following sketch:
Through the work of the ego upon the astral body, the latter is transformed into Spirit Self. But this takes place step by step, through the sentient soul being developed first, then the intellectual soul, and finally the spiritual soul; then the Spirit Self pours into the purified and mature spiritual soul. In the same way the ego works upon the etheric body, and the impulses which are most effective in this case are the influences of art, religion, and occult training.
There were also occult schools in pre-Christian times where pupils were trained so that they were able to look into higher worlds; but this vision only existed among the true pupils in the most hidden occult schools, and even they only at the actual moment of initiation, when the etheric body was separated from the physical body . The raising of a human being so that he might be able to see in the spiritual world was called Initiation. In all initiations of pre-Christian times the one who was to be initiated had to be brought into a kind of sleeping state. This sleep of initiation was distinguished from ordinary sleep by the fact that in the latter the etheric body remains united with the physical body, whereas in the former the etheric body was for a short time separated from the physical body. During this time the hierophant had to keep the body alive. Through the etheric body being separated, it was possible to lead it, together with the other parts, into the higher worlds, in order there to undergo experiences which could afterwards be imparted to the physical brain. That was the method of initiation in pre-Christian times.
Through the advent of Christ Jesus an entirely new kind of initiation came in. Imagine that a man has transformed the whole of his astral body into Spirit Self. This Spirit Self then impresses itself into the etheric body, as a seal impresses itself into sealing-wax, and gives it its imprint. The etheric body is thereby changed into Life Spirit. When this has come about completely, the Life Spirit then imprints itself in the physical body and makes it into Spirit Man. Now, it was only through the appearance of Christ Jesus that it became possible to imprint the Life Spirit directly into the life body; and the experiences undergone in the higher worlds could henceforth be embodied in the physical brain without the necessity of a previous separation of the etheric body. Thus all the pre-Christian initiates had undergone the experiences of initiation outside the physical body; they had then descended again into the physical body and could from that time forward, out of their own experience, announce what had taken place in the spiritual world.
Buddha, Moses, and others were initiates of this kind. In Jesus there had come to the Earth for the first time a being who, while still remaining in the physical body, could see the life of the higher worlds. The teachings of Buddha, Moses, etc., were quite independent of the personality of their agent. Those who accept the teachings of Buddha or Moses are Buddhists or followers of Moses, for these founders of religion only passed on what they had experienced in the higher worlds. With Christ it is different. It is only through His personality that His teachings become Christianity, and in order to be a Christian it is not enough merely to follow the teachings of Christianity. Those alone are true Christians who feel themselves united with the historical Christ. Certain sentences contained in Christian teaching, or something very similar to them, could also be found in that world before Christ appeared; but that is not the point. The essential thing is that the Christian believes in Christ Jesus, that he considers Him to be the One Who, while walking in the flesh, represents the perfect man.
In ancient times the statement was often made; ‘The initiate is a divine man.’ The reason for this lay in the fact that during the ceremony of initiation the initiate was above in the spiritual world with the spiritual or divine beings; He was then the divine man. But one could “see” in the physical body for the first time through Christ Jesus, the Deity — but never before. Thus we have to take the words of John 1:18. quite literally: “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him.” Formerly the Deity could only be perceived by one who had himself made the ascent. In Christ the Deity had for the first time come down visibly to the Earth. This is told us in St. John's Gospel (Chapter 1:14): “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father), full of grace and truth.” It was also taught in the Dionysian School. Christ came to show men the way; they are to become His followers; they are to prepare to imprint what is in the etheric body into the physical body; that is to say, to develop within themselves the Christ principle.
The Gospel of St. John is a book of life. No one who has merely enquired into it with his intellect has understood this book; he alone who has experienced it really knows it. If a man meditates upon the first fourteen verses day after day for some time, he will discover the purpose of these words. They are really words which, when one meditates upon them, awaken in the human soul the capacity to see the various parts of the Gospel — such as the marriage at Cana in chapter two, the conversation with Nicodemus in chapter three — as one's own experiences in the great astral tableau. Through these exercises clairvoyance develops in the human being and he can then experience for himself the truth of what is written in St. John's Gospel. Hundreds have experienced this. The writer of St. John's Gospel was a great seer who was initiated by Christ Himself.
The disciple “John” is never mentioned by name in this Gospel. We read of him as “the disciple whom the Lord loved,” for example in Chapter 19:26. This is a technical expression and signifies the one who was initiated by the Master Himself. “John” describes his own initiation in the story of the “raising of Lazarus.” (Chapter 11). It was only through the writer of St. John's Gospel being initiated by the Lord Himself that the most secret connections between Christ and the evolution of the world could be revealed. As we have already said, the old initiations lasted for three and a half days; hence the raising of Lazarus on the fourth day. It is also said of Lazarus that the Lord loved him (John 3:35-36.)
While the body of Lazarus lay as if dead in the grave, his etheric body was lifted out in order to undergo the initiation, and to receive the same force that is in Christ. Thus the one whom the Lord loved, the one to whom we owe St. John's Gospel, was raised, he was awakened. Not a line in St. John's Gospel contradicts this fact; the process of initiation is represented in a veiled way.
Let us now consider another scene in this Gospel (John 19:25). We read: “Now there stood by the cross of Jesus, His mother, and His mother's sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene.” If we wish to understand this Gospel it is necessary to know who these three women are. We do not usually give two sisters the same name; neither was it the custom in former times. The passage we have quoted proves that, according to St. John's Gospel, the mother of Jesus was not called Mary. If we search through the whole of this Gospel we nowhere find it said that the mother of Jesus was called Mary. In the scene of the Marriage of Cana, for example, Chapter 2, we only read: “the mother of Jesus was there.” In these words something important is indicated, something we only understand when we know how the writer of this Gospel uses his words. What does the expression “the mother of Jesus” mean? We have seen that man consists of physical, etheric, and astral bodies. We must not consider the transition of the astral body to the Spirit Self so simply. The ego transforms the astral body very slowly and gradually into sentient soul, intellectual soul, and spiritual soul. The Ego goes on working, and only when it has developed the spiritual soul is it able so to purify it that Spirit Self can arise in it.
The following diagram represents the constitution of man.
The Spirit Man will only be developed in the distant future, and Life Spirit is also only germinal in most people of the present day. The development of the Spirit Self has only just begun; it is closely united with the spiritual soul (somewhat like a sword in its sheath). The sentient soul is similarly united with the astral body. The human being thus consists of nine parts or principles; but as the Spirit Self and the spiritual soul, and the sentient soul and the astral body are so closely united, we often speak of seven parts. Spirit-Self is the same as the “Holy Spirit,” who according to esoteric Christianity is the guiding being in the astral world. According to the same teaching, Life Spirit is called the Word or the Son; and Spirit Man is the “Father Spirit” or the “Father.”
Those human beings who had brought the Spirit Self to birth within them were called Children of God; in such men “the light shone into the Darkness and they received the light.” Outwardly they were men of flesh and blood, but they bore a higher man within them: the Spirit Self had been born within them out of the spiritual soul. The “mother” of such a spiritualized man is not a bodily mother, she lies within him; she is the purified and spiritualized spiritual soul; she is the principle who gives birth to the higher man. This spiritual birth, a birth in the highest sense, is described in St. John's Gospel. The Spirit Self or the Holy Spirit pours into the most highly purified Spiritual Soul. This is referred to in the words “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him.” (John 1:32).
As the Spiritual Soul is the principle in which the Spirit Self develops, this principle is called the “mother of Christ,” or, in the occult schools, the “Virgin Sophia.” Through the fertilization of the Virgin Sophia the Christ could be born in Jesus of Nazareth. In the occult school of Dionysius, the Intellectual Soul was called “Mary,” and the Sentient Soul “Mary Magdalene.”
The physical man is born of the union of two human beings; but the higher man can only be born of a Spiritual Soul which embraces a whole people. Among all the peoples of olden times the method of initiation was essentially the same. Each initiation had seven stages or degrees. Among the Persians, for example, they were called as follows: — 1. The Raven. One at this stage had to bring information from the outer world into the temple. The Raven has always been called the spiritual messenger — for instance in the legend of the Ravens of Barbarossa, and also in the German legends of Odin and his two ravens. 2. The Occult. 3. The Warrior. In the occult school the warrior was allowed to go forth and announce the teachings. 4. The Lion. The Lion was one who was firmly grounded in himself; he not only had the word, but he possessed also magical forces; he had stood the test which guaranteed that he would not misuse the powers entrusted to him. 5. The Persian; 6. The Sun Hero. 7. The Father.
Let us consider the title of the fifth degree, the “Persian”, a little more closely. In all the occult schools an initiate of the fifth degree was called by the name of the people to whom he belonged; for his consciousness had widened where it included the whole people. He felt all the sorrow of the people as his own; his consciousness had been purified and expanded to the consciousness of the whole people. Among the Jews the initiate at this stage was called an “Israelite.” Only when we grasp this fact do we understand the conversation between Christ and Nathanael (John 1:46-49). Nathanael was an initiate of the fifth degree. The words of Christ Jesus to Nathanael, that he had seen him under the fig tree, refer to a special process in initiation, namely, the reception of the Spiritual Soul.
The following considerations will help toward the understanding of the inner process of initiation. The individual “I”-consciousness of man is in the physical world; men walk the Earth with their ego. But the egos of the animals are on the astral plane; each group of animals there possesses an ego-consciousness in common. There is, however, in the astral world, not only the ego of the animal, but also the ego of the body which man has in common with the animals, the ego of the human astral body. In the Lower Spirit World we find the ego of the plants and also the ego of the body man possesses in common with the plants, the ego of the etheric body. If we rise still higher, into the Higher Spirit World, we there find the ego of the minerals and the ego of that part which man has in common with the minerals — the ego of the physical body. Thus through our physical body we are connected with the Higher Spiritual World. We are here in the physical world with our individual ego only. When, in the case of an initiate, the ego of the astral body is permeated by his individual ego, the consequence is that he becomes conscious in the astral world; he can then perceive the beings around him there and become active in that world. He then meets beings who are incarnated in astral bodies; he also meets the group-souls of the animals, and the higher beings who in Christianity are called angels. On being initiated still more deeply, the ego of the etheric body is also permeated by the individual ego. The consciousness of the human being then extends into the Lower Spiritual World. There he encounters the egos of the plants and the Spirit of the Planet. A still deeper initiation takes place when the individual ego permeates the ego of the physical body — man then rises to personal consciousness in the higher Spiritual world. There he meets the egos of the minerals and still higher spirits. Thus continued initiation raises a man to higher and higher worlds, in which he meets with higher and higher beings.
Higher Spiritual World.
Egos of the Minerals.
Ego of the Physical body.
Consciousness in the Higher Spirit World.
Lower Spiritual World.
Egos of the Planets.
Ego of the Etheric body.
Consciousness in the Lower Spirit World.
Egos of the Animals. (also Angels).
Ego of the Astral body.
Consciousness in the Astral World.
When the individual ego has gained full control over the three bodies, it has brought about inner harmony. Christ possessed this harmony to the fullest extent — he appeared on the Earth in order that men might develop this power of inner harmony. In this Son of Man we see represented the full development of humanity, up to the highest spiritual stage. Formerly this inner harmony did not exist; outer laws worked in its place; this inner harmony is the new impulse which humanity received through Christ. Man is to acquire the “Christ capacity,” that is to say, he is to develop the inner Christ. Goethe said: “The eye is built by light for light;” in the same way this inner harmony, this inner Christ, is only kindled through the presence of the outer, historical Christ; before His appearance it was not possible for man to reach this stage of spiritual development.
Those human beings who lived before the appearance of Christ on Earth are not excluded from the blessings He brought to humanity; for it should not be forgotten that, according to the law of reincarnation, they will come again to the Earth and will therefore have the opportunity to develop the inner Christ. It is only when people forget the law of reincarnation that they can speak of injustice. St. John's Gospel shows the way to the historical Christ, to that Sun which enkindles the inner light in man, just as the physical Sun has enkindled the light of the eyes.
The ego of the etheric body may be compared to the engineer who builds a motor-car; the ego of the astral body may be compared to the one who drives it; and the ego of the individual to the one who owns it.
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