Wednesday, November 25, 2015
The Son of Man and the Son of the Living God; initiation
The Gospel of Matthew. Lecture 11 of 12.
Rudolf Steiner, September 11, 1910.
Following on the story of the ‘Temptation,’ which we might describe as the impulse toward a new initiation, comes the teaching given by Christ to His disciples. This was a teaching in a completely new form. What He gave them was not so much by way of instruction, but as a force, a health-giving force for mankind. This is demonstrated in His acts of healing.
Yesterday we made a transition in our studies such as presupposes, as I said, the goodwill to understand — the goodwill that is the result of intensive work in spiritual scientific knowledge which has been received in the course of years. We have endeavored to put a mighty mystery into human language, and to make comprehensible the nature of the instruction given to the disciples. Christ Jesus was a kind of focal point, a living center for forces passing from the macrocosm into the earthly sphere, and thence into the souls of the disciples. Such a concentration of forces was only possible through the special powers appertaining to the nature of Christ Jesus. Forces, formerly only bestowed on men while unconscious in sleep, now streamed down to the disciples through the being of Christ Jesus from universal space, as the illuminating, life-giving forces of the cosmos itself. Details concerning these forces, which are enlightening forces in connection with world existence, can naturally only be given by referring to the constellations, and we propose to deal with these mysteries today in so far as they throw light on the Gospel of Matthew.
In the first place we have to realize how the disciples increased in knowledge regarding earthly conditions, because the forces of Christ Jesus had streamed into them. They had to develop in themselves, to grow in their lives, and in living wisdom, in the most varied ways. An instance is given of the peculiar nature of this development in one of the disciples or apostles, but we can only understand this important and outstanding event in the life of the apostle when we show it in its comprehensive setting. We have to realize that a man himself advances within human evolution as a whole.
It is not in vain that we pass from one incarnation to another; neither is it in vain that we have incarnated in post-Atlantean civilizations — the Indian, Persian, Egypto-Chaldean, and Graeco-Latin — in order that we might garner experiences from our surroundings. These are stages in the great school of life, each giving its appropriate experiences and promoting development. We pass gradually through them all. In what does human development through the different epochs consist?
According to the elementary teachings of Anthroposophy, mankind is formed of different members; these we call the physical body, etheric body, and astral body. With the astral body is associated the sentient soul; then the rational or intellectual soul; and then the consciousness or spiritual-soul. Beyond these are the higher principles of human nature toward which man is evolving; they are spirit-self, life-spirit, and spirit-man. Now, in the course of each of the post-Atlantean periods, something definite was given for these different members of human nature. In the first epoch, the ancient Indian period of civilization, man had added to him an increase in the capacities of his etheric body whereby it became something more than it had been before. What was implanted in him in this respect as regards his physical body already had a beginning during the last part of the Atlantean period; but he only received these enhanced powers into his etheric body during the post-Atlantean period. Thus it was during the period known as the ancient Indian that the etheric body received these gifts. Then during the Persian civilization similar forces were implanted in his astral or sentient body; and during the Egypto-Chaldean period he received those suited to his sentient-soul; during the Graeco-Latin period — the fourth age of post-Atlantean culture — the forces of the rational-soul were imprinted in man; and now, in the fifth period, we are living in an age in which the forces belonging to these lines of progress are gradually to be impressed on the spiritual-soul. As yet humanity has made but little progress with this.
Following on this age will come the sixth post-Atlantean age, which is to witness the impressing of the forces of the spirit-self on human nature; and the seventh age will see that of life-spirit. Beyond this our vision reaches out to a far distant future, in which the spirit-man or Atman will be impressed on normal humanity.
Let us now consider human evolution in relation to the individual man, for this is how it was viewed in the Mysteries; man was always considered from this aspect by those who knew somewhat of the true relationship of things. It was thus the disciples had gradually to learn to know him, in the light of the life-giving, illuminating force that streamed into them from Christ Jesus. When we observe mankind — either at the present time, or at the time of Christ Jesus — we must recognize that rudiments lie in men just as plants contain seeds, even when only in leaf and before the blossom and fruit is formed. In looking at such a plant we can say: As surely as this plant which so far only possesses green leaves has within it the germ of both flower and fruit, so man, who at the time of Christ Jesus possessed only sentient and intellectual-soul, holds within him the germ of the spiritual-soul, which then opens itself to the spirit-self, in order that the higher triad, as a new spiritual gift from God, may flow into him from above. Thus we can say: Man unfolds through the content and qualities of his soul in the same way as a plant unfolds in turn green leaves, blossoms, and fruit. In developing his sentient-soul, intellectual-soul, and spirit-soul man develops something that corresponds to the flower of his being, and lifts this up to receive the inpouring of the Divine Spirit from above, so that by receiving the spirit-self he may rise to ever further heights of human evolution.
At the time Christ Jesus walked on Earth the normal man had developed the rational-soul as his highest principle; this was not as yet capable of receiving into it the spirit-self; but out of the same man as now had developed to the rational soul the spiritual-soul would evolve as his child — as the consummation of his being, which later would become the receptacle for the spirit-self.
What is to unfold out of the whole nature of man, and come forth from him like a blossom? How was this described in the Mysteries, and in the circle where Christ Jesus spoke to His disciples of their further development? Translated into our language it was called the ‘Son of Man.’ The Greek has a less restricted meaning than our word ‘son,’ meaning ‘son of a father,’ and signifies rather the offspring of a living organism, something that evolves out of such an organism, as a blossom evolves from a plant which at first possessed only green leaves. So it was said of the ordinary man, whose being had not yet blossomed into the spiritual-soul, that the ‘Son of Man’ had not yet evolved in him. But there are always some who are in advance of their contemporaries, who bear within them the life and knowledge of a future age. So in the fourth period, that in which the rational-soul was normally developed, there were some among the leaders of mankind who, though appearing outwardly as other men, had developed inwardly the possibility of the spiritual-soul, out of which the spirit-self was to dawn. These were the ‘Sons of Men.’
The disciples had to grow to an understanding of the nature of these leaders of humanity. It was to test their understanding of this that Christ asked His more intimate disciples, ‘Tell me, of what beings, of what men in this generation, can it be said that they are “Sons of Men?”’ So runs the question according to the Aramaic script — for though the Greek translation from the Aramaic script when read aright is certainly better, yet something has been lost in it also. We have to picture Christ Jesus standing thoughtfully before His disciples and saying, ‘What is the general opinion concerning the men who, in previous generations of this Graeco-Latin period, were called “Sons of Men”? Who were they?’ And the disciples spoke to Him of Elias, of John the Baptist, of Jeremiah, and other prophets. They were able to answer thus through the illuminating forces that came to them from Christ. They knew that these leaders of men had developed powers by which they had given birth within themselves to the ‘Son of Man.’
On the same occasion, the disciple who is usually called Peter gave a different answer. In order to understand this answer we must allow what we have heard in recent lectures concerning the mission of Christ Jesus, according to the Gospel of Matthew, to sink deeply into our souls. It was there explained that through the Impulse of Christ it has become possible for men to develop full ego-consciousness — that what lies within the ‘I am’ can blossom fully through His Impulse. In other words, human beings will be able in time to enter the higher worlds — may even attain to initiation — while retaining their ego-consciousness, the only state of consciousness considered normal for us in the physical world today. This has become possible through the life of Christ Jesus on Earth. He is the representative of the force that gives complete consciousness of the ‘I am’ to man.
I have already explained that interpretations of the Gospels given by free-thinkers, or by opponents of the Gospels, do not as a rule even mention the facts of greatest moment. They point continually to certain sequences of words found there, which they say are also to be met with elsewhere; as when they assert the previous existence of the contents of the Beatitudes. But there is something that has never existed before, and on this we lay stress: what had previously been impossible of attainment through ego-consciousness had now become possible through the impulse imparted by Christ. This is a point of inestimable importance.
We have already analyzed the Beatitudes, and said that the first should read ‘Blessed are the beggars in respect of the spirit,’ those who as a result of human evolution are poor in spirit, who, having lost the old clairvoyance, are unable to look into the spiritual worlds; but comforting them Christ explains, ‘Even though ye have lost the old clairvoyance and can no more through it see into the spiritual world, ye shall now be able to view these worlds through the powers of your own individual ego, for: “Within yourselves ye shall find the Kingdoms of the Heavens!”’ Similarly with the second Beatitude: ‘Blessed are those who mourn.’ Blessed are ye who no longer require to see into the spiritual world with the help of the old clairvoyance, for you will develop your ego so powerfully that through it you will attain to the spirit-world. But to do this your ego must gain more and more of the power which Christ, by His unique nature, has once and for all time firmly united with the Earth.
It would be well if men would really ponder these things a little. It is not without purpose that each of the Beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount contains a very important Greek word showing that, if we take the first Beatitude: ‘Blessed are the beggars in spirit,’ this should be followed by the words ‘for in themselves’ or ‘through themselves’ ‘they shall attain the Kingdoms of the Heavens.’ So in the second and third sentences onwards attention is dircted to ‘in themselves.’
Forgive me if I now refer to something of great importance to our day by employing a rather trivial example. We must learn to use the Greek word ‘Auton’ (the same as appears in the modern word automobile) but not so that we apply it exclusively to machines, or understand it only in its external sense; we must learn to associate it as a ‘self-starting’ activity within the realm of spirit where it belongs. This advice might well be taken by our contemporaries. Men love a self-starting action in connection with machines, but they must learn to employ it also in connection with all they used to experience unconsciously in the Mysteries before the coming of Christ. This must now be learnt through ‘a setting of themselves in action,’ so that they gradually become creative from within themselves. The men of today will come to understand this when they fill themselves with the impulse brought to them by Christ.
Keeping this in mind we can see how important the second question was that Christ put to His disciples. After asking them: Who among the leaders of former generations could be described as ‘Sons of Men,’ He questioned them further, and wished gradually to bring them to an understanding of His own nature, to an understanding of that ego-nature of which He was the representative. Hence He asked, And what think ye that I am? On every occasion you see how special stress is laid on the ‘I am’ in the Gospel of Matthew. Then Peter answered Him, and showed by his answer that he now recognized the Christ not only as a ‘Son of Man,’ but as the ‘Son of the living God.’ This brings us to a consideration of the difference between these two phrases, ‘Son of Man’ and ‘Son of the living God.’ In order to understand them, we must enter more fully into some facts already dealt with.
In the course of his development man evolves the spiritual-soul so that in it the spirit-self may appear. When he has evolved the spiritual-soul, the upper triad of spirit-self, life-spirit, and spirit-man come to meet him, so that the opening flower of his being can receive into it this upper triad from above. This may be illustrated graphically to resemble the unfolding of a plant.
When a man has made himself receptive by developing his spirit-soul, the higher triad — spirit-self or Manas, life-spirit or Buddhi, and spirit-man or Atman — draw near; this may be likened to a spiritual fructification coming toward him from on high. While with the other principles of his being he grows upward from below, unfolding the blossom of the ‘Son of Man,’ there must come to meet him from on high, so that he may gain his ego-consciousness, that which brings with it spirit-self, life-spirit, and spirit-man.
Who is the representative of the gift which comes down to man from above and is indicative of the nature of humanity in the far future? Who is this? The first gift that comes to man is the ‘spirit-self.’ Of whom is he the representative who receives this gift coming from on high? It is the Son of God, He Who lives, the life-spirit, the Son of the Living God!
So in the scene to which we have just referred Christ Jesus asked the question ‘What is to come to men through My impulse?’ The answer is: ‘The life-giving Spirit- Principle from on high!’
So we have to distinguish the Son of Man, who evolves upward from below, and the Son of God — the Son of the living God, Who comes down to meet him from above. These must be distinguished. We can understand what a difficult question this was for the disciples. Especially so because they were receiving for the first time those things which the simplest of mankind have had implanted in them through the Gospels from the beginning of the Christian era, things which first reached the disciples through the living, instructing forces of Christ Jesus. Through powers such as had previously been developed by them no answer could be given to the question: ‘Whose representative am I Myself?’ To this question one of the disciples — Peter — answered: ‘Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ This was an answer which — if we may say so — did not spring from the normal spiritual powers of Peter at that moment.
Let us try to picture this scene vividly. Christ Jesus, looking at Peter, said to Himself: ‘It means much that such an answer should have come from this mouth; for it is an answer that points to the distant future.’ Then having gazed into Peter's consciousness, and seen how far he had progressed, seen that through his intellect, or the powers that initiation had evoked in him, he was able to give such an answer, the Christ was bound to say ‘This answer has not sprung from Peter's conscious knowledge; here spoke. those deeper forces that are inherent in all men, but which will only gradually become conscious forces in them.’
We bear within us physical body, etheric body, astral body, and ego; we are rising toward spirit-self, life-spirit, and spirit-man through transmutation of the powers of the lower bodies. This is an elementary lesson of spiritual science. The forces that we shall one day evolve in our astral body as spirit-self are already there, only they have been put there by divine spiritual powers and have not been evolved by us. It is the same as regards our etheric body, which already contains within it a divine life-spirit. Therefore, looking at Peter, Christ said: ‘What spoke to me is not what is within thy consciousness at the present time; thou hast spoken from out of something that will certainly be evolved within thee at a future time, but of which at present thou knowest nothing. What at the present time is within thy flesh and blood could not have spoken, so that the words: “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” could have sprung from it. In these words divine spiritual forces spoke, forces lying deep below the threshold of consciousness, in the profoundest depths of human nature.’ The mysterious Higher Powers that at this moment spoke through Peter, Christ calls the ‘Father in Heaven.’ These were the forces out of which Peter was born, but of which he was not as yet conscious. Hence Christ's words: ‘The man of flesh and blood thou art at present did not reveal this unto thee, but the Father which is in Heaven revealed it.’ But Christ had something further to say to Peter. He had to say to Himself: ‘In Peter I have a disciple before me whose nature is so constituted that through the forces that have already evolved consciousness in him, and through the whole manner in which spiritual forces have worked in him, the Father-force has remained intact; this subconscious, human force has remained so strong in him that when he surrenders himself to it he can build thereon. This is the most important thing in Peter.’ And Christ might have gone on to say: ‘What is present in Peter is present in all men, but they are not sufficiently advanced either to be aware of it or to make conscious use of it; the power to do so will only be developed in the future. If that which I am to give to man, if that for which I am the impulse, is to develop further and become a part of him, it must be founded on the consciousness which spoke through the mouth of Peter in the words “Thou art the Christ,. the Son of the living God”; on this rock in human nature, which the surging waves of consciousness as at present evolved have not yet destroyed, and which, as Father-force, has just made itself heard, I will build that which will emerge with ever-increasing strength as the result of my impulse.’
When men have constructed this foundation, what the Christ-impulse can become for humanity will be revealed. This is contained in the words ‘Thou art Peter, and on this rock I will build what a certain number of men, a community, can reveal when they confess the Impulse of Christ.’
Such words must not be passed over as lightly as are the discussions which at this moment are the subject of violent controversy. They can only be understood when reconstructed out of the depth of that wisdom which is the same as the wisdom met with in the Mysteries.
The sentence that follows shows clearly that Christ Jesus built on this deep subconscious force in Peter. For immediately afterwards He speaks of the events that are about to take place, and of the Mystery of Golgotha. The moment, however, had already passed when the more deeply lying forces spoke in Peter. It is the conscious Peter who now speaks, who fails to understand Christ, and cannot believe that suffering and death are to follow. So when the conscious Peter speaks (he who had already developed conscious powers within himself) Christ has to correct him, saying: ‘It is not God Who now speaks in thee but that which thou hast evolved within thee as man; the source from which it comes is of no value, but is a vain deception, for it comes from Ahriman — that is Satan!’ This is contained in the words, ‘Remove thyself from Me, Satan, thou offendest Me, for thou considerest not the things that are divine, but those that are human.’ Christ compares Peter to Satan, employing the word used to designate Ahriman. Whereas in other parts of the Bible the word ‘devil’ stands for everything Luciferic, Christ here makes deliberate use of the word ‘Satan,’ for it was to the Ahrimanic form of deception that Peter had succumbed.
These are the facts. What do modern critics of the Bible make of them? They say: It is most unlikely that Christ Jesus would stand before Peter one minute saying ‘Thou alone hast grasped the fact that a God confronts thee’ and immediately afterwards call him ‘Satan.’ So the critics conclude that the word ‘Satan’ must have been interpolated by someone later, and is therefore incorrect. The truth is that current opinions concerning the deeper meaning of these words when gained only through philological research are worthless, unless preceded by an actual understanding of the Biblical records. An understanding of the actual facts of the Bible is necessary before anyone can speak of the historical origin of corresponding documents.
Between the two sayings that have just been considered there is another. This we can only understand if we call to mind a very ancient, yet ever new, teaching of the Mysteries: The teaching that man as he exists on Earth — and not only man himself but each group or class of men — is a reflected image of cosmic happenings. This has already been explained by me when referring to the descent of Jesus of Nazareth. We saw the true meaning of the promises made to Abraham: ‘Thy descendants shall be a copy of the order of the stars in Heaven.’ The order of the Heavens as seen in the twelve constellations, and the paths of planets through these twelve Signs of the Zodiac, were to be repeated in the twelve tribes, and in all that the Hebrew people experienced during three times fourteen generations. In the sequence of the generations, and in their special inheritance through the blood-tie within the twelve tribes, we have to see a copy or reflection of cosmic relationships. This was told to Abraham.
In the moment when Peter stood before the Christ, and our Lord knew that in his deeper nature he had really understood what was given to man with the Christ Impulse — that it meant the down-flowing of spiritual power through the ‘Son of the living God’ — Christ knew He could now inform those standing round Him that something new was about to begin on Earth, that a new model could now be given to them. As in the cosmic relationship of the heavens Abraham had been given an image of blood relationship, so now an image for an ethical and spiritual relationship was provided; a model for what man would be able to attain to through his ego. When people come to understand what the Christ is, as the higher nature of Peter understood it, they will cease to establish relationships and communities that depend only on the blood-tie, but will consciously weave bonds of love from soul to soul. This means that as in the blood of the Jewish people, in the threads stretching through the generations, people were bound together in accordance with a macrocosmic model, and were also liberated from each other through the same heavenly ordinance — from this time forth a force was to arise out of the conscious ego that would separate man from man, or bind them to each other in love, in accordance with moral and spiritual relationships. Regulations affecting humanity will be made or harmonized by the conscious ego. This is contained in the words spoken by Christ in continuation of His answer to Peter, when He said ‘What thou bindest on Earth — what the deeper nature in thee binds — is the same as is bound in Heaven; and what this nature loosens here below is also loosened in Heaven.’
In ancient times the whole meaning of human union lay in relationship through the blood-tie; but men in future will develop more and more toward moral, intellectual, and spiritual ties. It follows that what they form in the way of communities shall mean something to them. Or, to express this in anthroposophical language, we might say: The individual karma of a man will have to be associated with the karma of the community.
From the teachings of spiritual science during recent years you can gather that as it does not contradict the idea of karma for me to give something to a poor man, so it does not contradict the idea of karma that a man's individual karma should be affected by that of the community to which he belongs. The community can share in the lot of the individual. Karma maybe so connected that the community as a whole bears the karma of the individual. In moral relationships the following may happen: An individual member of a community may commit some wrong; this will most surely be written in his karma, and must be worked out in the great inter-relationships of the whole world. But suppose another case: Suppose a man were found willing to help another to bear his karma. The karma would have to be fulfilled, but the man might be helped. Groups or associations of people can help a wrong-doer in the same way. The karma of an individual can be so interwoven with that of a community that — because it recognizes him as one of themselves — it can consciously accept his destiny, and in sympathy desire his improvement. Their attitude might be — ‘You, as an individual, have done wrong, but we will stand by you. We will take over that in your karma which is conducive to your betterment.’ If for ‘community’ the word ‘church’ be substituted, then it means that the church lays upon itself the duty of accepting the sin of the individual and of sharing the burden of his karma. This does not refer to ‘forgiveness of sins’ in the usual meaning of the words, but to a real bond, to ‘a taking upon them’ of the sins, and the community must be conscious of its acceptance of the debt.
When ‘binding’ and ‘loosing’ are understood in this sense there must be with every forgiveness of sins a recognition by the community of the responsibilities arising out of it. In this way a web is woven in which the threads of individual karma are woven into the karma of the whole community; and this web shall become a reflection of the order in heaven through the gift brought down to Earth by Christ from spiritual heights. This means that individual karma shall be bound up with universal karma after the pattern of the order in the spiritual worlds, and this in no haphazard way, but so that the whole social organism may become a reflection of the heavenly order.
Hence for those who begin to understand it, this scene of the ‘confession of Peter’ acquires an infinite depth of meaning. It was, so to say, the founding of future humanity on the basis of their ego-nature. What happened in this confidential conversation between Christ and His more intimate disciples was that the power brought down by Him out of the macrocosm He passed on to that which they were to establish.
From this point onwards the Gospel of Matthew shows how the disciples were led upward step by step toward that which they were able to receive of the forces of the Sun, and of the cosmos, through the medium of the Christ-being.
You know that one side of initiation is an expansion into the macrocosm, and because Christ is the impulse to this initiation, in the instructions He gives His disciples He leads them out into the cosmos. As the individual who experiences initiation consciously expands into the macrocosm, gradually acquiring wisdom from it, so the Christ descends from the macrocosm, revealing on every hand the forces active there, and these He passes on to His disciples.
How this takes place I have already explained. Let us once more picture the scene. A man falls asleep; on the couch lie his physical and etheric bodies, while his astral body and ego pass out into the cosmos so that these members absorb the forces of the cosmos. If the Christ now approaches this man, He is the Being who attracts these forces consciously to the sleeper, thereby illuminating him. This actually happened; a scene is described in which we are told how the disciples journeyed by sea in the last watch of the night, how they then saw that what they at first took to be an apparition was the Christ, Who enabled the forces of the macrocosm to flow into them. We are shown, in a way apparent to anyone, how Christ conducted these cosmic forces to the disciples.
In what follows in this Gospel we are shown how, scene by scene, step by step, Christ guided the disciples toward initiation. It is as if He experienced this Himself and led them as by the hand along the path that all initiates must tread. I will tell you one thing which clearly shows the gradual leading of them into the macrocosm.
When a living perception of the spiritual world has been gained, when the powers of clairvoyance have been awakened, it brings with it knowledge of things previously quite unknown. One learns, for instance, the real connections in the progressive stages of the growth of a plant. A materialist says of a flower (one that bears fruit): Here is a flower: in it seeds will develop; these can later be gathered and planted in the earth, where they will decay and a new plant will appear; this in turn will again bear seeds — and so it goes on from growth to growth. Materialistic thought cannot but suppose some part of the seed, however small, passes over into the new plant. But this is not the case. In respect of its material part, the whole of the old plant is destroyed. A leap occurs, so far as the material part is concerned; the new plant is of entirely new material. Actually a new formation has taken place.
Most important connections in the world are understood as soon as this very remarkable law is grasped and applied to the whole macrocosm, when we have learnt that as regards material conditions leaps or springs do actually occur. This was expressed in a special way in the Mysteries. It was said there: The disciple for initiation must learn at a certain stage through expansion into the cosmos to know the forces that cause these ‘leaps.’ Now, a man learns something from the cosmos in whichever direction he advances, and this is expressed in a language taken from the stars. The stars are in this case used as letters. If our development advances in a certain direction we become aware of the ‘leap’ that takes place between an ancestor and a descendant, whether this be in the realm of plants, of animals, of men, or in the realm of planetary existence; such, for instance, as the transition from ancient Saturn to ancient Sun-existence where everything material perished. What is spiritual endures; what is material perishes. The spirit was the cause of this ‘leap.’ In the same way, spirit brought about the transition from ancient Sun to Moon, from Moon to Earth. In small things as in great, the law is the same. Two symbols are used to express this fact: one is an ancient one more of a pictorial imaginative script, and the other more modern. The modern form is frequently found in calendars. As evolution advances, what is past curls up within itself in the form of a spiral, and the new evolution comes forth as a new spiral out of the old, unfolding from within. But between the end of the old and the beginning of the new there is a little ‘gap’: only then does evolution advance.
We see this represented in the above figure; here are two interlaced spirals, and, in the center between them, a little ‘gap.’ This is the sign of ‘Cancer,’ the fourth Sign of the Zodiac, and symbolizes the growing outward into the macrocosm, and also the starting point of a new shoot within an evolution.
There is another symbol which represents this same connection. Strange as it may seem, the symbol of an ass and its foal was used to express the connection between an ancestor and his descendant, and was intended to represent the actual point of transition from one condition to the other. In old drawings the sign of Cancer is frequently represented in this way. It is not unimportant for us to know this. It is an important teaching toward the understanding that a similar important transition also occurs when we rise to the macrocosm, that when man enters the spiritual world an entirely new illumination is associated with it. This is expressed quite correctly when in accordance with the language of the stars it is said that the physical Sun, having passed through the constellation of Cancer and reached its highest point, descends again. Much the same happens when the disciple for initiation who has made his first ascent into the spiritual worlds learns of the forces there. When he has acquired knowledge concerning these forces he turns, and bears them down again, so as to make them serviceable to humanity.
The Gospel of Matthew, as well as the other Gospels, tells how Christ Jesus brought about this ‘leap’ in the development of the disciples; and by the way this is told we are shown that He did not influence them by words alone, but that He induced in them imaginative perception — a living image of what He Himself was accomplishing, that exalted state that is the goal of human evolution. To this end He made use of the symbol of the ass and its colt; which means that He guided His disciples toward an understanding of what in spiritual life corresponds to the sign of Cancer. This was the expression of something that occurred in the living spiritual realtionship of Christ to His disciples, and was of such majesty, such grandeur, that no human words, whatever the language, were found adequate to express it. The only way that Christ could convey the meaning of it to His disciples was to lead them into the spiritual world, and then to create in physical conditions an image or reflection of events in the macrocosmic world. For this purpose He led them to the point where the forces of those who had been initiated could become of service again to mankind. He then stood at the summit of His power, and this is shown when He tells them His Sun stood at its zenith, in the sign of Cancer No wonder, therefore, that at this point the Gospel of Matthew informs us that the life of Christ, as regards His earthly existence had reached its climax! This is mightily demonstrated in the cry: ‘Hosanna in the Highest!’ Here each tone is chosen so as to show how the disciples are led on toward maturity, so that through what took place in them humanity as a whole might attain that which through the Christ has been brought into its evolution.
The story of the Passover that follows is nothing else than the actual living inflow of that magic force, which first, in the form of teaching, and later as the outcome of the Mystery of Golgotha, was to enter humanity. With this in mind it becomes clear why the writer of this Gospel always felt it necessary to emphasize the contrast between the living teaching heard by the disciples coming to them from the heights of cosmic existence, a teaching suited to them, and the other teaching given to those who stood outside, who were not sufficiently ripe to receive the Christ-force itself. This difference will be dealt with in the next lecture in connection with the conversation of the Scribes and Pharisees. Just now we would remind you that Christ Jesus, having led the disciples to the point of initiation, showed them that by following this path they would themselves be able to experience expansion into the spiritual world of the macrocosm. He explained that they had already experienced the preliminaries of initiation, that the way was open to where they could become more and more able to recognize the true nature of Christ as the Being Who fills all spiritual spaces, Whose reflection had been in Jesus of Nazareth. Christ Jesus told His disciples that they must progress in ripeness for initiation so that they might become initiates for humanity. He taught them further that they could only attain individual initiation if with patience and perseverance they furthered this inner ripeness.
What had to increase in strength in man's inner being if his inner nature was to evolve clairvoyant higher forces? The as yet undeveloped attributes of his being had to ripen, so that he could become capable of receiving into himself the forces of spirit-self, life-spirit, and spirit-man. As to when this would happen, when the power from above which leads to initiation and makes of a man a participator in the Kingdoms of the Heavens dawns in him, depends on the degree of ripeness he has attained; it depends on the karma of the individual. Who can tell when this moment is at hand? Only the highest initiates. It is not known to those on lower stages of initiation. The hour of man's attainment comes to those who are ripe for entry into the spiritual world. It must surely come; but it comes like a thief in the night.
But how does this expansion into the spiritual world come to pass? In the ancient Mysteries, and to a certain extent in the new, there were three stages of initiation into the macrocosm. The first stage brought knowledge of all that could be perceived through the spirit-self. The initiate was then not only a man in the new sense, but he had attained to what, in the language of the Hierarchies, is called ‘Angel-nature’ — the nature of the Hierarchy next above man. Thus in the Persian Mysteries a man who had advanced to this stage at which he had expanded to the Macrocosm, when the spirit-self was active in him, was called either a Persian (since he was no longer an isolated being but belonged to the Angel of the Persian nation) or he was simply called an Angel, one whose nature was divine. The second stage is that in which the life-spirit had awaked in like manner; at this stage a man was called a ‘Sun-hero’ in the old Persian Mysteries, for he had then advanced to the point where he could draw into himself the spiritual forces of the Sun, when these forces had approached the Earth. Such a man might also be called ‘Son of the Father.’ And he who had won to the heights of the third stage, the stage of Atman, or spirit-man, was called in the ancient Mysteries ‘the Father.’ These were the three stages of initiation: ‘Angel,’ ‘Son or Sun-hero,’ and ‘Father.’
Only the highest initiates can judge when initiation is about to awaken in man. Hence Christ said: ‘Initiation will come when you have traveled further along the way on which I have led you; you will then ascend to the Kingdom of Heaven; but the hour of your arrival is known neither to the Angels (those initiated with the spirit-self), nor to the Son (those initiated with life-spirit), but only to the highest initiates, those initiated with the Father.’ Here once more the language of the Gospel of Matthew conforms absolutely with the tradition of the Mysteries.
And we shall see as the Gospel continues how all that Christ tells His disciples concerning the Kingdom of Heaven is merely a prediction of what they are to experience in initiation. Examining carefully the sentences dealing with this subject, it is easily seen that Christ is referring to a certain teaching common at that time — concerning the way in which the Kingdom of Heaven was to be attained. People had accepted this attainment of the Kingdom of Heaven in a material sense, believing it applied to the whole Earth, whereas they ought to have known that this was only possible to certain individuals, those who had passed through initiation. Some people really expected that the Earth would be transformed into Heaven in a material way. Christ refers directly to this when He says that certain people who will appear and announce this teaching are lying prophets and false messiahs. It is amazing to find expounders of the Gospels who even today spread this false doctrine of the material heavenly kingdom, and declare it to be the teaching of Christ Himself. Anyone who really knows how to read the Gospel of Matthew knows that Christ refers to a spiritual event, toward which those seeking initiation grow. In the course of earthly evolution it will, however, be possible for all humanity — for all who follow Christ — to grow to this condition — inasmuch as the Earth itself is spiritualized.
When from this side also we have looked more deeply into the whole form and content of the Gospel of Matthew, our reverence for it deepens enormously. This is more especially the case in respect of the teaching Christ gave to His disciples from the standpoint of the ego — the ‘I.’ In none of the other Gospels is this given so clearly. We can picture the Christ, with His disciples gathered round Him, and can see how cosmic forces work through the agency of His human body; we can see the disciples learning of initiation as He leads them by the hand, and we catch a glimpse of the human conditions of His environment. All this makes the Gospel of Matthew a most human production. Through it we really learn to know the man Jesus of Nazareth, the bearer of the Christ; we recognize all that came to pass through the descent of Christ into human nature. Yes, in the Matthew Gospel even heavenly events are clothed in garments that are truly human.
How this is the case in other things, not only in those relating to initiation, will be dealt with in the next lecture — the last lecture.