The Gospel of John and Its Relation to the Other Gospels.
Lecture 8 of 14.
Rudolf Steiner, Kassel, July 1, 1909:
The Gospel of John and Its Relation to the Other Gospels.
Lecture 8 of 14.
Rudolf Steiner, Kassel, July 1, 1909:
As the fruit of yesterday's enquiries we learned that the Christ-Impulse, once it had worked through the person of Jesus of Nazareth, united with the evolution of the earth; and now its power within the earthly development of mankind is such that in our time it affects man in the same way as did formerly the procedure which is becoming ever more dangerous for human life — that of withdrawing the etheric from the physical body during the three and a half days of initiation. The Christ-Impulse actually affects human consciousness as powerfully as does an abnormal process of the above sort.
But you must realize that such a radical change needed time to take root in human evolution, that it could not appear from the start with such intensity; and it was therefore necessary to create a sort of transition in the resurrection of Lazarus. The deathlike state lasting three and a half days was still retained in the case of Lazarus, but you should clearly understand that this state differed from the one passed through by the old initiates. Lazarus' condition was not brought about artificially by the initiator, as was the case in former times, by withdrawing the etheric from the physical body through processes I am not at liberty to describe here. We may say that it came about in a more natural way. From the Gospel itself you can gather that Christ had associated with Lazarus and his sisters Martha and Mary before, for we read, “The Lord loved him”. This means that for a long time Christ Jesus had been exercizing a great and powerful influence on Lazarus, who had thereby been adequately prepared and developed. And the consequence was that in his case the initiation did not call for the artificial inducing of a three-and-a-half-day trance, but that this came about of itself under the mighty impression of the Christ-Impulse. So for the outer world Lazarus was as though dead, so to speak, for three and a half days, even though during this time he experienced what was of the utmost importance; and thus only the last act, the resurrection, was undertaken by Christ.
And anyone who is familiar with what there occurred recognizes an echo of the old initiation process in the words employed by Christ Jesus: "Lazarus, come forth."
The resurrected Lazarus, as we have seen, was John — or better, the writer of the John Gospel. It was he who could introduce the Gospel of the Christ Being into the world because he was, so to say, the first initiate in the Christian sense. For this reason we may safely assume that this Gospel of St. John, so badly abused by present-day research of a purely historical, critical, theological nature, and represented as a mere lyrical hymn, as a subjective expression of this author, will prove the means of insight into the profoundest mysteries of the Christ-Impulse.
Nowadays this Gospel of St. John constitutes a stumbling block for the materialists who carry on Bible research when they compare it with the other three, the so-called synoptic Gospels. The picture of Christ that arises before them out of the first three is so flattering to the learned gentlemen of our time! The pronouncement has gone forth, even from theological quarters, that what we are dealing with is the “simple man of Nazareth”. Again and again it is emphasized that one can gain a picture of Christ as perhaps one of the noblest of men who have walked the earth; but the picture remains merely that of a human being. There is even a tendency to simplify this picture as far as possible; and in this connection one hears it mentioned that after all, there have been other great ones as well, such as Plato and Socrates. The most that is admitted are differences in degree.
The picture of Christ yielded by the John Gospel is indeed a very different one. At the very beginning it is stated that what lived in the body of Jesus of Nazareth for three years was the Logos, the primordial, eternal Word, for which we have also the term “eternal creative wisdom”. Our epoch cannot understand that in the thirtieth year of his life a man could be sufficiently developed to be able to sacrifice his own ego and receive into himself another being, a being of wholly superhuman nature: the Christ, Whom Zarathustra addressed as Ahura Mazdao. That is why theological critics of this type imagine that the writer of the John Gospel had set out merely to describe his attitude to his Christ in a sort of lyrical hymn — nothing more. On the one hand, so they maintain, we have the John Gospel, and on the other, the other three; but by taking the average one can compound a picture of Christ as the “simple man”, while granting His historical eminence. Modern Bible critics resent the idea of a divine being dwelling in Jesus of Nazareth.
The akashic record discloses the fact that in His thirtieth year the personality we know as Jesus of Nazareth had, as a result of all He had experienced in former incarnations, achieved a degree of maturity that enabled Him to sacrifice His own ego; for that is what took place when, at the Baptism by John, this Jesus of Nazareth could make the resolution to withdraw — as an ego, the fourth principle of the human being — from His physical, etheric, and astral bodies. And what remained was a noble sheath, a lofty physical, etheric, and astral body which had been saturated with the purest, most highly developed ego. This was in the nature of a pure vessel which at the Baptism could receive the Christ, the primordial, eternal Logos, the “creative wisdom”. That is what the akashic record reveals to us; and we can recognize it, if we only will, in the narrative of the John Gospel.
But clearly it behooves us to consider what our materialistic age believes. Some of you may be surprised to hear me speak of theologians as materialistic thinkers, for after all, they are occupied with spiritual matters. But it is not a question of what a man believes or what he studies, but rather, of the method of his research, regardless of its content. Anyone who rejects our present subject or repudiates a spiritual world, who considers only what exists in the outer world in the way of documents and the like, is a materialist. The means of research is the important thing. But at the same time we must come to terms with the opinions of our age.
In reading the Gospels you will find certain contradictions. As to the essentials, to be sure — that is, as to what the akashic record discloses as essential — it can be said that the agreement among them is striking. They agree, first of all, in the matter of the Baptism itself; and it is made clear in all four Gospels that their authors saw in this Baptism the greatest imaginable import for Jesus of Nazareth. The four Gospels further agree on the fact of the crucifixion and the fact of the Resurrection. Now, these are precisely the facts that seem most miraculous to the materialistic thinker of today — and no contradiction exists here.
But in the other cases, how are we to come to terms with the seeming contradictions? Taking first the evangelists Mark and John, we find their narratives commencing with the Baptism: they describe the last three years of Christ Jesus' activity — that is, only what occurred after the Christ Spirit had taken possession of His threefold sheath, His physical, etheric, and astral bodies. Then consider the Gospels according to St. Matthew and St. Luke. In a certain respect these trace the earlier history as well, the section which, within our meaning, the akashic record discloses as the story of Jesus of Nazareth before sacrificing Himself for the Christ. But at this point the contradiction seekers notice at once that Matthew tells of a genealogy reaching to Abraham, whereas Luke traces the line of descent back to Adam, and from Adam to Adam's Father: to God Himself. A further contradiction could be found in the following: According to Matthew, three Wise Men, or Magi, guided by a star, come to do homage at the birth of Jesus; while Luke relates the vision of the shepherds, their adoration of the Child, the presentation in the Temple — in contrast with which Matthew narrates the persecution by Herod, the flight into Egypt, and the return. These points and many others could be considered individual contradictions; but by examining more closely the facts gleaned from the akashic record, without reference to the Gospels, we can come to terms with them.
The akashic record informs us that at about the time stated in the Bible — the difference of a few years is immaterial — Jesus of Nazareth was born, and that in the body of Jesus of Nazareth there dwelt an individuality that in former incarnations had experienced lofty stages of initiation, had gained deep insight into the spiritual world. And it tells us something more, with which for the present I shall deal only in outline. The akashic record, which provides the only true history, reveals the circumstance that he who appeared in this Jesus of Nazareth had, in former incarnations, passed through manifold initiations, in all sorts of localities; and it leads us back to the fact that this later bearer of the name of Jesus of Nazareth had originally attained to a lofty and significant stage of initiation in the Persian world and had exercized an exalted, far-reaching activity. This individuality dwelling in the body of Jesus of Nazareth had already been active in the spiritual life of ancient Persia, had gazed up at the sun, and had addressed the great Sun Spirit as “Ahura Mazdao”.
We must thoroughly understand that the Christ entered the bodies of this individuality which had passed through the sort of incarnations mentioned. What does that mean? It simply means that the Christ made use of these three bodies — the astral, etheric, and physical bodies of Jesus of Nazareth — for fulfilling His mission. Everything we think, all that we express in words, that we feel or sense, is connected with our astral body: the astral body is the vehicle of all this. Jesus of Nazareth, as an ego, had lived for thirty years in this astral body, had communicated to it all that He had experienced within Himself and assimilated during former incarnations. In what way, then, did this astral body form its thoughts? It had to conform and amalgamate with the individuality that lived in it for thirty years.
When in ancient Persia Zarathustra lifted his gaze to the sun and told of Ahura Mazdao, this stamped itself into his astral body; and into this astral body there entered the Christ. Was it not natural, then, that Christ, when choosing a metaphor or an expression of feeling, should turn to what His astral body offered — of whatever nature? When you wear a grey coat you appear to the outer world in a grey coat; and Christ appeared to the outer world in the body of Jesus of Nazareth — in His physical, etheric, and astral bodies — and consequently His thoughts and feelings were colored by the images of the thoughts and feelings living in the body of Jesus of Nazareth. No wonder, then, that many an old Persian expression is reflected in His utterances, or that in John's Gospel we find an echo of terms used in the ancient Persian initiation; for the impulse that dwelt in the Christ passed over, of course, into His disciple, into the resurrected Lazarus. So it can be said that the astral body of Jesus of Nazareth speaks to us through John, in his Gospel.
No, it is not surprising that expressions should appear which recall the ancient Persian initiation and the form in which its ideas were presented. In Persia, “Ahura Mazdao” was not the only name for the spirits united in the sun: in a certain connection the term “vohumanu” was used, meaning the “creative Word”, or the “creative spirit”. The Logos, in its meaning of “creative force”, was first employed in the Persian initiation, and we meet it again in the very first verse of the John Gospel. There is much besides in this Gospel which we may understand through knowing that the Christ Himself spoke through an astral body which for thirty years had served Jesus of Nazareth, and that this individuality was the re-embodiment of an ancient Persian initiate. Similarly I could point to a great deal more in the John Gospel that would show how this most intimate of the Gospels, when using words associated with the mysteries of initiation, employs phrases reminiscent of Persia, and how this old mode of expression has persisted into later times.
If we now wish to understand the position of the other evangelists in this matter we must recall various points that have already been established in the previous lectures. We learned, for example, that there existed certain lofty spiritual beings who transferred their sphere of action to the sun when the latter detached itself from the earth; and it was pointed out that their outer astral form was in a sense the counterpart of certain animal forms here on earth. There was first, the form of the Bull spirit, the spiritual counterpart of those animal natures the essence of whose development lies in what could be called the nutritional and digestive organization. The spiritual counterpart is naturally of a lofty spiritual nature, however inferior the earthly image may appear. So we have certain exalted spiritual beings who transferred their sphere to the sun whence they influenced the earth sphere, appearing there as the Bull spirits. Others appear as the Lion spirits, whose counterpart lives in animal natures pre-eminently developed as to their heart and organs of circulation. Then we have spiritual beings who are the counterparts of what we meet in the animal kingdom as eagle natures, the Eagle spirits. And finally there are those that harmoniously unite, as it were, the other natures as in a great synthesis, the Man spirits. These were in a sense the most advanced.
Passing now to the old initiation, we find that this offered the possibility of beholding, face to face, the exalted spiritual beings that had outstripped man. But the manner in which primitive men had to be initiated, in accord with the demands of those ancient times, depended upon the origin of their descent — that is, whether from Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Venus. Even in Atlantis, therefore, there existed oracles in manifold variety. Some had adjusted their spiritual vision primarily to the beholding of what we have described as the Eagle spirits, while others saw the Lion spirits, the Bull spirits, or the Man spirits: the initiation accorded with the specific traits of the candidate. This differentiation was one of the characteristics of the Atlantean age, and certain echos of it have persisted into our own post-Atlantean time. Thus you could find Mystery temples in Asia Minor, or in Egypt, where the initiation took a form that brought about the vision of the lofty spiritual beings as Bull spirits, or as Eagle spirits. And it was in the Mysteries that outer culture had its source.
The initiates who saw the lion form in the exalted spiritual beings conjured up in the lion body a sort of image of what they had beheld; but they saw as well that these spirits take part in the evolution of man. That is why they assigned a human head to the lion body, a concept that later became the sphinx. — Those who saw the spiritual counterparts as Bull spirits bore testimony to the spiritual world by introducing a Bull worship, which led on the one hand to the Apis Bull worship in Egypt, and on the other, to the worship of the Persian Mithras Bull; for everything we find in the way of outer cult usages among the different peoples derived from the initiation rites. There were initiates everywhere whose spiritual vision was focussed principally on the Bull spirits, others attuned primarily to the Eagle spirits, and so on. To a certain extent we can even indicate the differences in the various modes of initiation. Those initiated, for example, in such a way that the spiritual beings appeared to them in the form of Bull spirits were informed principally concerning the secrets connected with man's glandular system, with what pertains to the etheric principle. And there is still another branch of the nature of man into which they were initiated: the human properties that are firmly attached to the earth — welded to it, as it were. All this was grasped by those initiated in the Bull Mysteries.
Let us try to experience the soul mood of such initiates. From their great teachers they had learned, in effect, that man had descended from divine heights, that the primordial human beings were the descendants of divine-spiritual beings and that therefore they traced the first man back to his Father-God. Thus man came down to earth and passed from one earth form to another. These men were primarily interested in what was bound to the earth, as well as in all that men had experienced when they had thought of divine-spiritual beings as their ancestors. — That was the attitude of the Bull initiates. The Eagle initiates constituted a different case. These envisioned those spiritual beings who bear a most peculiar relation to the human being; but in order to understand this a few words must be said concerning the spiritual character of the bird nature.
Animals rank below human beings by reason of their inferior functions, and they represent, as you know, beings that solidified too early, having failed to retain the softness and flexibility of their body substance until such time as they might have been able to embody in human form. But in the bird nature we have beings that did not assume the lowest functions: instead they overshot the mark in the opposite direction. They failed to descend far enough, as it were; they remained in unduly soft substances, while the others lived in substances that were too hard. But as evolution continued, outer conditions compelled them to solidify; hence they hardened in a manner incompatible with a nature that had descended to the earth, being too soft. That is a rough description in untechnical terms, but it gives the facts. The archetypes of these bird natures are those spiritual beings who likewise overshot the mark, who remained in a substance too soft, and who consequently were carried, as it were, beyond what they might have become at a certain point of their development. They deviated from the normal development in an upward direction, while the rest diverged downwards. The middle position is in a certain sense occupied by the Lion spirits, as well as by the harmonious ones, the Man spirits, who grasped the right moment to incorporate.
We have already seen how the Christ event was received by those in whom there lived something of the old initiation. According to the nature of their specific initiation they had been able in the past to see into the spiritual world; and those who had received the Bull initiation — throughout a great part of Egypt, for example — were aware of the following: We can gaze up into the spiritual world, and therefore the lofty spiritual beings appear to us as the counterparts of the Bull nature in man. But now — so said those who had come in contact with the Christ impulse — now there has appeared to us in His true form the Ruler of the spiritual realm. That which we had always seen, that to which we had attained through the stages of our initiation, showed us a prefatory form of the Christ. In what was formerly revealed to us we must now see the Christ. Remembering all that we beheld, all that the spiritual worlds gradually disclosed to us, we can ask, Whither would it all have led us if at that time we had already attained to the requisite heights? It would have led us to the Christ. — An initiate of that type described the journey into the spiritual world in line with the Bull initiation; but he added. The truth it harbors is the Christ. — And a Lion or an Eagle initiate would have spoken similarly.
It was definitely prescribed in each of these initiation Mysteries how the candidate should be led up into the spiritual world, and the rites varied according to the manner in which he was to enter it. There were Mysteries of many different shades, especially in Asia Minor and in Egypt, where it was customary to guide the initiates in such a way as to bring them eventually to the Bull nature, or to a vision of the Lion spirits, as the case might have been. With this in mind let us now consider those who, as a result of many different kinds of initiations in the past, had become capable of sensing the Christ impulse, of comprehending Christ in the right way. Let us observe an initiate who had passed through the stages enabling him to behold the Man spirit. Such a one could say, The true Ruler in the spiritual world has appeared to me, Christ, Who lived in Jesus of Nazareth. And to what am I indebted for this? To my ancient initiation. — He knew the procedure that led to the vision of the Man spirit; so he describes what a man experiences in order to attain to initiation, or to understand the Christ nature at all. He knew initiation in the form prescribed in those Mysteries that led to the Man initiation. That is why the lofty initiate who dwelt in the body of Jesus of Nazareth appeared to him in the image of the Mysteries he had gone through and knew, and he described Him as he himself saw Him.
That is the case in the narrative according to Matthew; and an old tradition hit upon the truth in connecting the Matthew Gospel with that one of the four symbols forming the capitals of the columns you see in this hall and which we connote the symbol of the Man spirit. An ancient tradition associates the writer of the Gospel according to St. Matthew with the Man spirit, and that is because this writer knew, so to speak, the Man Mystery initiation as his own point of departure. You see, in the time when the Gospels were written it was not customary to write biographies as they are written today. What seemed essential to those people was the appearance of an exalted initiate Who had received the Christ into himself. The manner of becoming an initiate, the experiences he was destined to undergo, that was what they considered important; and that is why they ignored the external everyday happenings that appear so important to biographers of today. The modern biographer will go to any lengths to collect enough material. Once when Friedrich Theodor Vischer (”Schwaben-Vischer”) was indulging in a bit of sarcasm at the expense of modern biographies he hit on an excellent illustration. A young scholar set about writing his doctor's thesis, which was to be on Goethe. As a preparation he first assembled all the material he could use; but as there was not enough to satisfy him, he poked about in all the rooms and attics of the various towns where Goethe had lived, swept out all the corners, and even emptied the dustbins in an effort to find whatever might chance to be there, which would then enable him to write a thesis on The Connection between Frau Christiane von Goethe's Chilblains and the Mythologico-allegorico-symbolical Figures in the Second Part of Faust. Well, that is laying it on rather thick, but it is after all quite in the spirit of modern biographers. People planning to write on Goethe sniff about in all sorts of rubbish hunting material. The meaning of the word “discretion” is no longer known to them today.
But those who portrayed Jesus of Nazareth in their Gospels went about their descriptions quite differently. Everything in the way of external occurrences appeared to them negligible as compared with the various stages which Jesus of Nazareth, as an initiate, had to pass through. That is what they described; but each one did so in his own way, as he himself saw the matter. Matthew described in the manner of those initiated in the Man spirit. This initiation was closely akin to the wisdom of Egypt.
And now we can understand, too, how the writer of the Luke Gospel had arrived at his unusual representation. He was one of those who in former incarnations had achieved initiations leading to the Bull spirit, and he could describe what accorded with such an initiation. He could say, A great initiate must have passed through such and such stages — and he portrayed Him in the colors he knew. He was one of those who formerly had lived principally within the Egyptian Mysteries, so it is not surprising that he should stress the trait which represents, let us say, primarily the Egyptian character of initiation. Let us consider the author of the Luke Gospel in the light of what we have thus learned. He reasoned as follows: A lofty initiate lived in the individuality that dwelt in the body of Jesus of Nazareth. I have learned how one penetrates to the Bull initiation through the Egyptian Mysteries. That I know. — This special form of initiation was vividly before him. And now he continues: He Who has become so exalted an initiate as Jesus of Nazareth must have passed through an Egyptian initiation, as well as through all the others. So in Jesus of Nazareth we have an initiate who had undergone the Egyptian initiation. — Naturally the other evangelists knew that, too; but it did not appear to them as of any special importance, because they had not known initiation from this aspect so intimately.
For this reason a certain journey undertaken by Jesus of Nazareth did not strike them as in any way noteworthy. I said in one of the first lectures that if a man had undergone an initiation in the past, something special happens to him when he reappears. Definite events occur resembling, in the outer world, repetitions of former experiences. Let us assume a man had been initiated in ancient Ireland: he would now have to be reminded, by some experience in his life, of this old Irish initiation. This could come about, for instance, by some outer event impelling him to travel to Ireland. Now, anyone familiar with the Irish initiation would be struck by the fact that it was Ireland and not some other country that the man visited; but no one else would see anything unusual in this journey. The individuality that dwelt in Jesus of Nazareth was an initiate of the Egyptian Mysteries, among others — hence the journey to Egypt. Who would be particularly struck by this Flight into Egypt? One who knew it from his own life; and such a one did describe this particular journey because he knew its significance. It is narrated in the Matthew Gospel because the writer knew from his own initiation what a journey to Egypt meant to a great many initiates of former times.
And when we know that in the writer of the Luke Gospel we are dealing with a man who was specifically conversant, through his knowledge of the Egyptian Mysteries, with the initiation that led to the Bull cult, we shall find truth in the old tradition that couples him with the Bull symbol. For good reasons — to explain which would require more time than is available at the moment — the Luke Gospel does not mention the journey to Egypt; but typical events are cited whose significance can be rightly judged only by one in close contact with the Egyptian initiation. The author of the Matthew Gospel indicates this connection of Jesus of Nazareth with the Egyptian Mysteries in a more external way, by means of the journey to Egypt; whereas the writer of the Luke Gospel sees all the events he describes in the spirit provided by an Egyptian initiation.
Now let us turn to the writer of the Mark Gospel. This Evangelist omits all the early history and describes particularly the activity of the Christ in the body of Jesus of Nazareth during three years. In this respect his Gospel tallies completely with that of St. John. This writer passed through an initiation strongly resembling those of Asia Minor, even those of Greece — we can call them European-Asiatic-pagan initiations — and at that time these were the most up-to-date. Reflected in the outer world, they all imply that one who is a lofty personality, initiated in a certain manner, owes his origin not only to a natural but to a supernatural event.
Consider that Plato's followers, those who were anxious to form the right conception of him, did not care particularly who his bodily father was. For them, Plato's spirituality outshone all else. Hence they said, That which lived in the Plato body as the Plato soul, that is the Plato who was born for us as a lofty spiritual being that fructifies the lower nature of man. — That is why they ascribed to the God Apollo the birth of the Plato who meant so much to them, the awakened Plato. In their sight Plato was a son of Apollo. Especially in these Mysteries was it customary to pay no particular attention to the earthly life of the personality in question, but to focus on the moment at which he became what is so often mentioned in the Gospels: a “divine son”, a “son of god”. Plato, a son of god — thus was he described by his noblest devotees, by those who understood him best. And we must realize what significance such a characterization of the Gods bore for the human life of such sons of god on earth. It was in this fourth epoch, as you know, that men adapted themselves to the physical sense world and came to love the earth. The old gods were dear to them because they could symbolize the fact that precisely the leading sons of the earth were “sons of the gods”. Those of them who dwelt on earth were to be thus designated.
One of these was the author of the Gospel of St. Mark, hence he describes only what occurred after the Baptism by John. The initiation this evangelist had undergone was the one that led to a knowledge of the higher world in the sign of the Lion spirit; and an old tradition links him with the symbol of the Lion.
Now we will turn back to what we already touched on today, the Gospel according to St. John. We said that he who wrote the John Gospel was initiated by Christ Jesus Himself, hence he had something to give which contained the germ, so to say, of the efficacy of the Christ-Impulse, not only for that time, but for the far distant future. He proclaimed something that will remain valid for all time. This evangelist was one of the Eagle initiates, those who had skipped the normal evolutionary stage. The normal instruction of that time was set down by the author of the Mark Gospel. All that reaches out beyond that period, showing the nature of Christ's activity in the distant future, all that transcends earthbound matters, we find in St. John. That is why tradition connects him with the symbol of the Eagle.
This shows us that a tradition associating the evangelists with what may be called the essence of their own initiation is by no means based on mere fancy, but is born out of the depths of Christian evolution. One must penetrate in this way deep into the roots of things; then it becomes clear that the greatest, the most transcendent events in the life of Christ are all described in the same way, but that each of the evangelists portrays Christ Jesus as he understands Him according to the type of his initiation. I indicated this in my book Christianity as a Mystical Fact, but only in such a way as could be done for readers as yet unprepared, for it was written in the beginning of our spiritual-scientific development. Allowance was made for the lack of understanding, in our time, of occult facts proper.
We now understand that Christ is illuminated for us from four sides, each evangelist throwing light upon Him from the aspect he knew most intimately; and in view of the mighty impulse He gave, you will readily believe that he had many sides. Now, I said that all the Gospels agreed on the following points: that the Christ-Being Himself descended from divine-spiritual heights at the Baptism by John, that this Christ-Being dwelt in the body of Jesus of Nazareth, that He suffered death on the Cross, and that He vanquished this death. Later we shall have occasion to examine this Mystery more closely. Today let us look at the death on the Cross in the light of the question: What feature of it is characteristic in the case of the Christ-Being? The answer is, we find it to be an event that created no distinction between the life that went before and the life that followed. The most characteristic feature of the death of Christ is that He passed through death unchanged, that He remained the same, that it was He Who exemplified the insignificance of death. For this reason all who could know the true nature of the Christ death have ever clung to the living Christ.
Considered from this point of view, what was the nature of the event of Damascus, where he who had been Saul became Paul? From what he had previously learned Paul knew that the Spirit first sought by Zarathustra in the sun as Ahura Mazdao, the Spirit later beheld by Moses in the burning bush and in the fire on Sinai, had gradually been approaching the earth; and he also knew that this Spirit would have to enter a human body. What Paul could not grasp, however, while he was still Saul, was that the man destined to be the Christ bearer should have to suffer the disgrace of death on the cross. He could only imagine that when Christ came He would triumph, that once He had approached the earth He would have to remain in all that pertained to it. Paul could not think of Him Who had hung upon the Cross as the bearer of the Christ. — That is the substance of Paul's attitude as Saul — before he became Paul. The death on the Cross, this humiliating death and all that it implied, was primarily what prevented him from recognizing the fact that Christ had really been present on the earth. What, then, had to occur? Something had to take place in Paul which at a certain moment would create in him the conviction: The individuality that hung upon the Cross in the body of Jesus of Nazareth was indeed the Christ. Christ has been here on earth. — And what brought this about? Paul became clairvoyant through the event of Damascus; and then he could become convinced.
To the eye of the seer the aura of the earth appeared changed after the event of Golgotha: previously the Christ was not to be found there, but thenceforth He was visible in the earth's aura. That is the difference; and Saul reasoned: With clairvoyant perception I can verify the fact that He Who hung upon the Cross and lived as Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ Who is now in the earth aura. — In the aura of the earth he saw the Being first beheld in the sun by Zarathustra, Ahura Mazdao; and now he knew that He Who had been crucified had arisen. Now he could proclaim that Christ had arisen and had appeared to him, as He had appeared to Cephas, to the other brethren, and to the five hundred at one time. Thenceforth he was the apostle of the living Christ for Whom death has not the same meaning as for other men.
Whenever the Death on the Cross is doubted — that is, this particular manner in which the Christ died — anyone who is really informed on the subject will agree with another Swabian who, in his Urchristentum, has assembled with the greatest historical accuracy everything that is indisputably related to what we know about it. In that connection Gfrörer — for he it was — rightly emphasized specifically the Death on the Cross; and in a certain sense we can agree with him when he says, in his rather sarcastic mode of expression, that when anyone contradicted him in this matter he would look him critically in the eye and ask whether there might perhaps be something wrong in his upper storey.
Among the most indubitably established elements of Christianity are this Death on the Cross and what we shall elucidate tomorrow: the Resurrection and the effect of the words: “I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” And these were the substance of Paul's message, hence he could say, “If Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.” For him the Resurrection of Christ was the starting point of Christianity. Not until our time have people begun again to reflect, so to speak, upon such things — not in circles where they are made the subject of theological disputes, but where the actual life of Christianity is involved. So the great philosopher Solovyev really takes entirely the Pauline standpoint in emphasizing that everything in Christianity rests upon the idea of the Resurrection, and that a Christianity of the future is impossible unless the concept of the Resurrection be believed and grasped. And after his own fashion he repeats Paul's utterance, “If Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.” In that case the Christ impulse would be an impossible thing: there could be no Christianity without the risen Christ, the living Christ.
It is characteristic, and therefore worthy of emphasis, that certain isolated deep thinkers have come to recognize the truth of Paul's message solely by means of their philosophy, without benefit of occultism. If we devote some attention to such thinkers we realize that men are beginning to appear in our time who have a concept of what the future convictions and Weltanschauung of mankind will have to be, namely, that which spiritual science must provide. But without spiritual science even so profound a thinker as Solovyev achieved no more than empty conceptual forms. His philosophical paraphernalia resemble vessels for containing concepts; and what must be poured into them is something they indeed crave and for which they form the molds, but something they lack; and this can come only out of the anthroposophical current. It will fill the molds with that living water which is the revelation of facts concerning the spiritual world, the occult. That is what this spiritual-scientific Weltanschauung will offer its finest minds, those who already today show that they need it, and whose tragedy lies in their not having been able to obtain it. We can say of such minds that they positively yearn for anthroposophy. But they have not been able to find it.
It is the task of the anthroposophical movement to pour into these vessels, prepared by such minds, all that can contribute to clear, distinct, true conceptions of the most significant events, such as the Christ event and the Mystery of Golgotha. By means of its revelations concerning the realms of the spiritual world, anthroposophy or spiritual research alone can throw light on these events. Verily, it is only through anthroposophy, through spiritual research, that the Mystery of Golgotha can be comprehended in our time.
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