Building Stones for an Understanding of the Mystery of Golgotha.
Lecture 8 of 17.
Lecture 8 of 17.
Rudolf Steiner, Berlin, March 27, 1917:
In the course of these lectures I shall be obliged to draw your attention again and again to a characteristic of our inquiry that must pervade every aspect of Spiritual Science today. We must endeavour to ensure that the concepts, ideas and representations that we form and with which we live, are not only firmly grounded in logic, but also in reality. We must strive for ideas that are steeped in reality. In the matter of our inquiries which have a specific end in view — I will indicate this presently — it will not be superfluous to remind you that an idea may be true in a certain sense and yet fail to reach down to reality. Of course what we really mean by ideas steeped in reality will only emerge gradually, but one may arrive at an understanding of such ideas by means of simple analogies. I propose therefore by way of introduction to use an analogy to illustrate my meaning.
What I am about to say seems unrelated to, or apparently unrelated to our subsequent inquiry; it is simply an introductory exposition. From the sixteenth century until 1839 all the Roman Cardinals were obliged to swear a solemn oath. During the pontificate of Pope Sixtus V (1585–90) a sum of five million scudi had been deposited in the Castel Sant’ Angelo to be used only in times of need. And since the Church attached great importance to this, the Cardinals were obliged to swear a solemn oath to preserve the fund intact. In 1839, under the pontificate of Pope Gregory XVI, Cardinal Acton (note 1) [original note 1] refused to take the oath; he wanted the Cardinals to be released from their oath to preserve the fund.
If nothing more had been heard of the story, all kinds of plausible theories might have been advanced to explain why this remarkable prince of the Church sought to prevent the Cardinals from swearing an oath, still required of them at that time, to preserve the fund which was so important to the Holy See. And all these plausible theories might have been perfectly logical, but they broke down in the face of certain pertinent facts that were known only to Cardinal Acton, namely, that since 1797 the fund no longer existed, for it was already exhausted. The Cardinals therefore had been permitted to swear an oath to preserve a treasure that no longer existed. Acton refused to be a witness to the deception. Thus all the ingenious arguments that might have been advanced by those who were unaware that the fund was already exhausted would have collapsed.
If we meditate upon such an example as this — it often seems superfluous to reflect upon such obvious cases, but we must think about them and compare them with other situations in life — if we meditate upon such an example as this, we can grasp the difference between concepts rooted in reality and those which are not. Now I must draw your attention to the unreality of ideas today because, as you will see later, this is closely connected with the subject of these lectures, a subject that I must touch upon once again from the point of view of Spiritual Science. I will endeavour to relate the investigations which we have already undertaken to the study of a certain aspect of the Mystery of Christ. My last contribution to this subject will serve as a framework for that aspect of the Christ Mystery which I now propose to examine. But first of all I should like to put before you certain things which are seemingly unrelated to our main theme because they will provide an invaluable background to our studies.
In my book Christianity As Mystical Fact, which appeared some years ago, I ventured to indicate a certain way in which one could approach the Mystery of Christ. This book (which in its new edition was one of the last books to be confiscated by the old régime in Russia) was a first attempt to interpret Christianity from a spiritual standpoint, a standpoint which in the course of centuries has been more or less lost to Christianity during its development in the West. Now I should like to emphasize one thing in particular, for this will determine whether the arguments advanced in my book are valid or not. In this book I have adopted a definite attitude towards the Gospels. I do not wish to enter into further details at the moment, for my point of view is explicitly stated in the book. But if I am justified in my point of view we shall have to assume that the origin of the Gospels is not nearly so late as contemporary Christian theology often assumes, but that an early date must probably be assigned to them. You know that from the standpoint of Spiritual Science the origins of the Gospel teaching are to be found in the ancient Mystery teachings. We must see the Mystery of Golgotha as a fulfilment of these ancient teachings. Now such a spiritual conception will run counter to the exegeses of modern historians and theologians who will regard it no doubt as historically unsound. Now it is fairly evident that the Gospels did not exercise any significant influence during the first century, or at least during the first two-thirds of this century. There are indeed Christian theologians today who doubt whether any evidence can be adduced that in the first century of the Christian era people of consequence thought of, or even believed in, the person of Jesus Christ.
Now it will become increasingly evident that if the careful research of the present day broadens its scope and shows itself to be catholic as well as conscientious, then there will be an end to its many scruples. Of course it is possible to draw all kinds of conclusions from certain discrepancies between the Christian and Jewish records. But the fact that the Apocryphal Gospels, i.e. those not officially recognized by the Christian church, are very little known today and are virtually ignored, especially by Christian theologians, militates against these conclusions. The reason for this lack of recognition is that, to a large extent, Christianity, and especially the Mystery of Golgotha, are not apprehended with sufficient spirituality. There was no real understanding of the Pauline distinction between the psychic and the spiritual man. (Corinthians I, chap. XV, 44, 45.) Consider for a moment our division of man into body, soul and spirit, one of the fundamental conceptions of Anthroposophy. In reality, Paul who was familiar with the atavistic character of the truths of the ancient Mysteries implied the same as we imply today when we speak of soul and spirit as two members of human nature. This distinction between soul and spirit has virtually been lost in the West. But we cannot understand the real nature of the Mystery of Golgotha unless we have a clear understanding of the distinction between psychic man and spiritual man.
Now first of all I should like to cite an example (which I also referred to some years ago), in order to show you that the facts of external history are often falsely interpreted, especially in relation to the recent investigations into the life of Jesus. I refer to the generally accepted view that the Gospels are of late provenance (note 2). Now many objections can be raised against this view on purely historical grounds. It can be shown, for example, that in the year A.D. 70 Rabbi Gamaliel II was involved in a lawsuit with his sister over an inheritance. Rabbi Gamaliel II was the son of Rabbi Simeon who was the son of that Gamaliel of whom Paul was a pupil. The case came before a judge and it was difficult to determine whether the judge was a Roman with leanings towards Christianity, or perhaps a Jew with leanings towards Christianity. Now Gamaliel pleaded that he was the sole heir because, according to the Mosaic law, daughters could not inherit. The judge demurred: “Since you Jews have lost your country the Thora is no longer valid; only the Gospel is valid, and according to the Gospel a sister can also inherit.” There was no straightforward solution. What happened? Gamaliel II was not only covetous, but also cunning. He requested an adjournment of the proceedings. This was granted and in the interval he bribed the judge. At the second trial he appeared before the same judge who reversed the verdict. The judge confessed that at the first trial he had erred, that the Gospel could indeed apply to such cases, but did not annul the Mosaic law. And to confirm this he quoted Matthew V, 17, in the version which we have today, but with the textual variations arising from the Greek text and the Aramaic text of the Gospel which existed at the time when this judgement was pronounced in the year A.D. 70. In his ruling the judge quoted the Matthew Gospel, whilst the Talmud which recounts the story takes the Matthew Gospel for granted.
It would be possible to adduce considerable evidence to show that there is no reliable historical evidence for not assigning an early date to the Gospels. Historical research will one day vindicate completely the evidence from purely spiritual sources which forms the basis of my book Christianity As Mystical Fact.
Now everything relating to the Mystery of Golgotha conceals the most profound mysteries for the present age. These mysteries will be resolved with the progressive advance of Spiritual Science. There are many pointers which indicate that these questions are not so simple as people fondly imagine today. For example, the relationship between Judaism and primitive Christianity in the first century of our era is virtually ignored. There are theologians who study certain Jewish writings in order to find evidence for their various theories. But one can easily demonstrate that these Jewish writings on which they rely did not exist in the first century. One thing appears to be demonstrable historically, namely, that in the second third of the first century a relatively harmonious relationship existed between Judaism and Christianity — in so far as one can speak of Christianity at that period. Generally speaking, when enlightened Jews discussed certain questions with the followers of Jesus Christ they easily arrived at an understanding. One need only recall the case of the celebrated Rabbi Elieser who made the acquaintance of a certain Jacob (as he calls him) towards the middle of the first century. The latter admitted to being a disciple of Jesus and had healed in His name. Rabbi Elieser conferred with the aforesaid Jacob and declared in the course of the conversation that what Jacob had said, and especially the fact that he had healed the sick in the name of Jesus, was in no way contrary to the spirit of Judaism.
Now this relatively easy harmony between Christian and Jew peculiar to earlier times came to an end towards the close of the first century. From that time even enlightened Jews became implacable enemies of everything Christian. The Jewish texts which are held to be of importance today date from the second century and testify to a growing discord between Christian and Jew. As we follow the deterioration of this relationship we see how a hatred of Christianity first emerged in Judaism and was associated with a progressive transformation within Judaism itself. Although the modern Hebrew scholars are versed in the Old Testament from their own standpoint, they are unaware of other forces that were still active in Judaism at the time of the Mystery of Golgotha and so frequently failed to grasp the major issues with which a serious historical investigation of this period is concerned. We must realize that in the first century the learned Jewish Rabbis gave a totally different interpretation of the Old Testament from that which is given today. Since the nineteenth century the capacity to interpret ancient texts has largely been lost. Certain things which still existed even in the eighteenth century as a sacred tradition in the form of truths derived from the old atavistic clairvoyance, no longer had any meaning to nineteenth-century man. Those who speak of such matters today, even when they refer to a much earlier epoch, are regarded as addlepated!
In my last lecture I drew your attention to an important book Des Erreurs et de la Vérité by Saint-Martin (note 3). This book is undoubtedly a late product of its kind since it is inspired by ancient traditions which are now outmoded. None the less it still speaks from out of these traditional insights. I have recently quoted to you several extracts from this book which modern man is at a loss to understand. But if we accept the point of view of Saint-Martin we shall find that his book presents certain ideas which seem absurd to modern man, unless we are prepared to regard them as pure fantasy — and today almost everything of this nature is regarded as fantasy. Saint-Martin suggests that the human race has fallen from spiritual heights to the world of terrestrial existence. Today, many who are not confirmed materialists are still willing to tolerate theoretically the idea that the present human race can be traced back to a far-distant time when, with a certain part of its being, it stood at a far higher level than at the present time. Despite the materialistic character of Darwinism which assumes that man is descended from animal ancestry, there are others however who believe in his divine origin where he was originally in touch with divine traditions. But when we pass from these abstract notions to the concrete statements of Saint-Martin, statements which are found in Saint-Martin only because they are associated with primeval traditions from the ancient epoch of clairvoyance, we discover that modern man is at a loss to understand them. What can the man of today who has a thorough knowledge of chemistry, geology, biology and physiology, etc. and who has also assimilated that curious amalgam called philosophy — what can such a man think when he learns from Saint-Martin that our present human condition is the consequence of the “Fall”. Originally the human race had been differently constituted. Man, according to Saint-Martin, was originally equipped with a crossbow and a coat of mail. Thanks to the coat of mail he was able to prove himself in the hard struggle which was his lot. He has now lost the coat of mail which was originally part of his organism. He was also armed with a lance of bronze which could inflict wounds like fire. With this lance he could overcome elementary beings in the spiritual battle which faced him. And in the place where he originally dwelt he had seven trees at his disposal and each of these trees had 16 roots and 490 branches. He has now forsaken his former dwelling; he has fallen from his high estate.
If one were to claim for these views the same validity and reality as the geologist claims for his theories about primeval ages, I doubt if he would be considered to be in his right mind. One need only come along with all kinds of symbols and allegories and people are satisfied. But Saint-Martin was not speaking symbolically; he was speaking of realities which he believed had really existed. Of course in describing certain things which existed when the Earth in its original state was more spiritual than in later times, he had to appeal to “Imaginations”. [original note 2] But “Imaginations” represent realities; they should not be interpreted symbolically. Their imaginative content must be accepted at its face value. I mention this in passing. I cannot at the moment enter into details. I only wish to show the radical difference between the language of the eighteenth century in which a book such as Des Erreurs et de la Vérité was written and the language which alone passes current today. The style and idiom of Saint-Martin have completely died out.
Since the Old Testament, for example, can only be understood if we are conversant with certain things which are related to imaginative conceptions, it is clear that in the nineteenth century especially the possibility of understanding the Old Testament has been lost. But the further back we go the more we find that at the time of the Mystery of Golgotha there existed in Judaism, in addition to the exoteric Scriptures of the Old Testament, a genuine esoteric doctrine. It is to this esoteric doctrine that must be attributed in large measure the possibility of interpreting the Old Testament in the right way. Now it is impossible to interpret the Bible in the right way unless we evaluate its statements against a background of spiritual facts.
At the time of the Mystery of Golgotha it was Romanism that was most averse to this particular aspect of the Jewish Mysteries. There has hardly ever been perhaps in the history of the world a more deep-seated antagonism than between the spirit of Rome and the Mystery tradition preserved by the initiates of Palestine. We must not, of course, regard the Mystery tradition as it existed in Palestine at that time as Christian, but only as a prophetic prefiguration of Christianity. On the other hand, however, we can only comprehend the ferment within Christianity when we see it against the historical background of the Mystery teachings of Palestine. This Mystery teaching was full of hidden knowledge about the “spiritual man” and provided ample indications of how human cognition could find a path to the spiritual world. Ramifications of this Mystery teaching were also to be found to some extent in the Greek Mysteries and to a lesser extent in the Roman Mysteries. The essence of the Palestinian Mysteries found no place in Romanism, for Rome had evolved a special form of community or social life which was only possible if the spiritual man was ignored. The key to Roman history therefore is to be found in the establishment of a community life under Rome that more or less excluded the spirit. In such a society it would be meaningless to speak of the threefold division of man into body, soul and spirit. The further back we go the more we realize that the understanding of the Mystery of Golgotha in ancient times depended upon this tripartite division of man into body, soul and spirit. Paul for his part spoke of the psychic man and the spiritual man. But this was bound to offend Roman susceptibilities and explains much that followed later.
Now you know that the doctrine which is outmoded today but which in the early centuries sought to preserve the threefold division of man and the cosmos was Gnosticism (note 4). In later centuries Gnosticism was proscribed and finally suppressed so that it disappeared completely. I do not say that it ought to have survived; I simply wish to register the historical fact that Gnosticism held promise of a spiritual conception of a Mystery of Golgotha and was ultimately suppressed. Events now took a strange turn. Roman traditionalism was increasingly influenced by Christianity and the further this influence penetrated the less Rome understood its relationship to the “spiritual man”, and certain gnostic Christians gave increasing offence by continuing to speak of body, soul and spirit. In circles where Catholic Christianity had become the official religion there were repeated attempts to suppress the idea of the spirit. They felt that all reference co the spirit should be ignored, otherwise the old ideas of the tripartite division of man might revive again. So matters pursued their course. When we make a careful study of the early Christian centuries we find that many problems that are usually accounted for in other ways are seen in their true light when we realize that, as Christianity fell increasingly under the influence of Rome, the avowed object of Rome was progressively to eliminate the idea of the spirit. When we recognize that Western Christianity had of necessity to dethrone the spirit, innumerable questions of conscience and of epistomology are resolved. And this development ultimately led to the eighth Ecumenical Council of 869 (note 5). This Council laid down a dogma according to which it was contrary to Christianity to speak of body, soul and spirit, but truly Christian to speak of man as consisting of body and soul alone. The actual wording may not have been quite so explicit, but was later interpreted in this way. At first the Council simply stated that man possessed an intellectual soul and a spiritual soul. This formula was coined to avoid any reference to the spirit as a special entity, for the avowed object of the Council was to suppress all knowledge of the spirit.
This decree had unforeseen consequences. Contemporary philosophers begin their investigations by studying body and soul as if they were independent entities. If you were to ask, for example, a man like Wundt, on what grounds he accepted only the dichotomy of man, he would reply in good faith that it was on factual grounds since, from the evidence of direct observation, there was no sense in speaking of body, soul and spirit, but only of the body which looks outward and of the soul which looks inward. This is self-evident, he would reply. He had no idea that this was the consequence of the decree of the eighth Ecumenical Council. Even today philosophers do not mention the spirit. They follow the dogma laid down by the eighth Ecumenical Council. Precisely why they deny the spirit, though not openly, they do not know, any more than the Roman Cardinals knew what they were swearing to when they took an oath to preserve intact the fund which no longer existed. The real creative forces of history are all too seldom taken into consideration. Today anyone who rejects the conclusion of “unprejudiced science”, as it is called, which maintains that man consists of body and soul alone, is decried as an ignoramus, simply because the scientists themselves are unaware that their assumptions are based on the decrees of the Council of 869. And so it is with many other things. This Council is important because it sheds considerable light upon the evolution of Western thought.
You know that Western Christendom was deeply divided by the schism between the Eastern Church and the Church of Rome on doctrinal questions which still divide them today. The dogmatic ground of dissension — for which, of course, there are other, deep-seated motives — stemmed from the famous question of filioque (note 6). In a later Council (the Orthodox Church recognized only the first seven Councils) the Latin Church recognized the double Procession, namely, that the Holy Ghost proceeds from the Father and the Son. This was declared to be heretical by the Eastern Church which maintained that the Holy Ghost proceeds only from the Father. The great confusion over this dogma could only arise because the conception of the spirit had become blurred. All understanding of the spirit had been gradually lost. This is undoubtedly connected with the fact that, from the beginning of the Fifth postAtlantean epoch onwards, man had to be denied for a time all perception of the spirit. In face of this truth, the events described above are only, so to speak, the tip of the iceberg. We must probe beneath the surface if we are to arrive at a valid point of view which is rooted in reality.
Now the period of evolution which played an important part in the establishment of this dogma of the dichotomy of man has not yet ended. The Christian theologians of the Middle Ages who still subscribed to the existing traditions — for it was only orthodox Church doctrine that maintained that man consisted of body and soul, whilst the alchemists and others who were still familiar with the old traditions knew of course that he was a trichotomy — these theologians knew how difficult it was to hold orthodox opinions whilst at the same time they had to admit that the heretical doctrine of man's trichotomy contained a kernel of truth. We see the frantic attempts of these theologians to evade this issue. If we do not recognize this dilemma we shall fail altogether to understand mediaeval theology.
Now this evolutionary period is far from concluded for it coincides with an important impulse in the development of Western civilization. And because, in the course of the twentieth century, many changes will be wrought which we must be aware of if we wish to understand our present epoch, I must refer to this period once again. Originally (if such a word may be used of something that has arisen in comparatively recent times) the being of man was divided into body, soul and spirit. The course of evolution was such that by the ninth century it had become possible to abolish the spirit. But matters did not rest there. These important changes are simply overlooked today. The complete transformation of thinking by Saint-Martin, for example, has been completely ignored hitherto. Having abolished the spirit, matters did not end there. There is now a growing tendency to abolish the soul in its turn. As yet only the first steps in this direction have been taken; but today the time is ripe for the abolition of the soul. But man fails to recognize contemporary tendencies which are of decisive importance. Already powerful evolutionary impulses are at work which are preparing to abolish the soul (note 7). There will be no need to summon Councils as in the ninth century. Things are done differently today. I must repeat that I have no wish to criticize, I merely place the facts before you.
Considerable progress has been made towards the abolition of the soul in many spheres. The nineteenth century, for example, saw the rise of dialectical materialism which is the basic tenet of (German) social democracy today. If we look upon Engels and Marx as the major “prophets” of dialectical materialism — the Biblical term is perhaps out of place in this context, but we may perhaps risk it here — they are also the direct descendants, historically speaking, of the Church Fathers of the eighth Ecumenical Council. We see here an unbroken line of development. The steps taken by the Church Fathers towards the abolition of the spirit were carried a stage further by Marx and Engels in their comprehensive attempt to abolish the soul. According to the materialistic theory of history spiritual impulses are of no account, the driving forces of history are material forces or economic factors — the struggle for material wellbeing. What appertains to the soul is simply a superstructure on the solid foundation of material processes. It is important to recognize the genuine catholicity of Marx and Engels and to note in these aspirations of the nineteenth century the true consequence of the abolition of the spirit.
The development of the modern scientific outlook is another factor which has contributed to the abolition of the soul. This outlook — I am speaking not of the positive achievements of the scientific “Weltanschauung”, which accepts only the reality of the corporeal and regards everything pertaining to the soul as an epiphenomenon, a superstructure on what is corporeal — this scientific outlook is the direct consequence of that development which we have just seen in the decisive impulses of the eighth Ecumenical Council. But the majority of mankind will probably not believe in this possibility until, originating from certain centres of world evolution, the abolition of the soul will receive more or less legal sanction. It will not be long before decrees are promulgated in several States declaring that those who take seriously the existence of the soul are not of sound mind, and only those will be regarded of sound mind who recognize the “truth”, namely that thinking, feeling and willing are the necessary by-products of certain physiological processes. Various steps have already been taken in this direction, but so long as they are confined to the realm of theory they can have no deep or lasting influence or significance. It is only when they are translated into practice in the social order that they exercise a deep and lasting influence. The first half of the present century will scarcely be over before those who are clear-sighted will be faced with an alarming situation by the abolition of the soul, akin to the abolition of the spirit that occurred in the ninth century.
It cannot be repeated too often that it is insight into these things which matters, insight into the impulses which have determined man's destiny in the course of historical evolution. It is only too true that the materialist education of today induces a more or less soporific condition. It inhibits clear thinking, precludes a healthy perception of reality and blinds man to the really important factors in historical evolution. And so today, even those who would fain satisfy their longing for spiritual knowledge lack the strength of will to kindle an awareness of certain impulses inherent in our evolution and to make serious efforts to see things as they really are.
Now there existed in Palestine certain Mystery teachings which were a preparation for the Mystery of Golgotha and in respect of which the Mystery of Golgotha was seemingly a fulfilment. I referred to this when I said that in the Mystery of Golgotha the greatest mystery drama of all time was enacted on the stage of world history. In that event, we may ask, why did Romanism develop such a strong antipathy to Christianity in connection with the Mystery of Golgotha, and how was it that this apathy entailed in particular the abolition of the spirit?
These things are more closely related than is suspected by those who only study them superficially. Today few are prepared to admit that Marx and Engels are the direct heirs of the Church Fathers. That is of no great moment, but it leads to something of far greater moment if we bear the following in mind. At the trial before the Sanhedrin, which condemned Jesus Christ, the Sadducees played a leading part. Who were the Sadducees (those who have rightly been given the name of Sadducees) (note 8) at the time of the Mystery of Golgotha? They were a sect which wished to eradicate, to suppress everything that proceeded from the ancient Mysteries. They had a fear, a horror of every form of Mystery cult. The courts and the administration were in their hands. They were completely under the influence of the Roman State; in effect they were the servile agents of Rome. There is unmistakable evidence that they purchased preferment for large sums of money and then recouped themselves by dunning the Jewish population of Palestine. It was they who realized — and thanks to their Ahrimanic, materialistic outlook they were quick to perceive this — that Rome was threatened if it should come to be accepted in any way that the drama of Christ was related to the fundamental teachings of the Mysteries. They had an instinctive feeling that Christianity would give birth to something that would gradually overthrow the authority of Rome. And this accounts for those fierce wars of extermination which Rome waged against Judaism in Palestine during the first century and in later centuries. These wars of extermination were prosecuted with the avowed object of exterminating not only the Jews but all those who knew anything of the reality and traditions of the ancient Mysteries. Everything associated in any way with the Mystery teachings, especially in Palestine, was to be destroyed root and branch.
As a consequence of this suppression of the Mystery teachings the perception of the spiritual in man was lost, the path to the spiritual in man was closed. It would have been dangerous for those who later sought to abolish the spirit under the influence of Rome, of Romanized Christianity, if many of those who had been initiated in the ancient Mystery schools of Palestine had still survived, if those who still preserved a memory of the spirit and could still bear witness to the fact that man consisted of body, soul and spirit. The policy of Romanism was to establish a social order in which the spirit had no place, to encourage an evolutionary trend that would exclude all spiritual impulses. This could not have been realized if too many people had known the interpretation of the Mystery of Golgotha that was adumbrated in the Mysteries. It was instinctively felt that nothing of a spiritual nature could emerge from the Roman State. From the union of the Church and the Roman State was born jurisprudence. In this the spirit had no part. It is important to bear this in mind.
It is important to realize that we are now living in an age when we must awaken the spirit once more, so that it can participate in the affairs of men. You can imagine how difficult this will be since materialism is so deeply ingrained. I believe it will be long before it is generally recognized that dialectical materialism is a true continuation of the eighth Ecumenical Council, before people understand the real implication of the term filioque which was responsible for the schism between the Western Church and the Eastern Church, between Rome and Byzantium. Today people are content to speak of these matters in a superficial way, to pass surface judgements. For the understanding of many things we shall have to appeal to feeling, and feeling can be wisely directed if one thing is kept clearly in mind. The feeling to which I refer and with which I will conclude this lecture today is the following:
When we study the history of Europe from the rise of Christianity onwards, we are no longer satisfied with that “fable convenue” which passes for history and which is the hidden cause of so much misery today. And when we have sufficient courage to reject this parody of history, we shall develop a feeling which will serve as a guiding principle in our enquiries into the evolution of Christianity today. We shall discover that nothing has met with so many hindrances, so much incomprehension and misrepresentation as the evolution of Christianity. And nothing has been so difficult as its propagation. When one speaks of miracles, there is no greater miracle than this, namely, that Christianity has survived. Not only has it established itself, but we live in an age when it must prevail, not only against those who would abolish the spirit, but also against those who would abolish the soul. And it will prove victorious, for Christianity will develop its greatest strength in face of bitterest opposition. By actively resisting the abolition of the soul we shall develop the power to perceive the spirit once again. When, under the influence of the spirit prevailing today (you will forgive the misuse of the word in this context) laws will be promulgated declaring those who regard the spirit as a reality to be of unsound mind — of course these laws will not be couched in specific terms, but under the brutal impact of the modern scientific outlook they will find their way on to the statute book — when this new modernized version of the decree of the eighth Ecumenical Council appears, then the time will have come for the spirit to be restored to its rightful place.
We shall then be forced to recognize that vague, nebulous concepts are of no avail. We must become aware of the deep origin, of the deep-seated feelings underlying these nebulous concepts, for they often conceal the materialism to which modern man has succumbed and which he refuses to admit to himself. And because he refuses to admit this to himself, because he will not acknowledge this openly, he pays the penalty; materialism corrupts his thinking. But Saint-Martin says in the more important passages of his book: “These things are not to be spoken of.” Certainly, it will be a long time before certain things can be discussed openly. None the less many things will have to be proclaimed loud and clear in order to awaken mankind to the true state of affairs. And in the not too far-distant future this warning will serve to reveal the origin of those hidden tendencies behind the evolutionism of Darwin, the source from which the sensual, perverse tendencies of the present materialistically orientated Darwinism has sprung.
But I do not wish to end on a melancholy note. I will not pursue the matter further, but simply direct your attention to these questions. Today I wished to prepare an outline plan which will serve as a basis for a special study of the Mystery of Golgotha. In my next lecture I will endeavour to fill in the details.
Original Notes:Note 1. Numerals in brackets in the texts refer to Notes by the translator at the end of each lecture.Note 2. In Spiritual Science the first level of higher consciousness is given the name of “Imagination” or “Imaginative Knowledge”. It is the result of inwardly strengthened thinking, giving rise to a consciousness filled with living images or pictures.
NOTES BY TRANSLATORNote 1. Cardinal Acton — Charles Januarius Acton (1803–47) Cardinal 1842. Uncle of the famous historian, Lord Acton (1834–1902).Note 2. The dating of the Synoptic Gospels by Protestant theologians is as follows: Matthew, A.D. 70–75; Mark, circa A.D. 65; Luke, A.D. 50–55; and John, post A.D. 100. Roman Catholic theologians give the following dates: Matthew, post A.D. 70; Mark, A.D. 65–75; Luke, A.D. 70–80; John, A.D. 100.Note 3. Louis Claude de Saint-Martin (1743–1803). Under the pseudonym of “The Unknown Philosopher” wrote on occultism and mysticism. Influenced by Pasqually, Swedenborg and Boehme. Alleged to have founded a Martinist Rite, a modification of the Rite des Elus Coëns. Was a firm opponent of the prevailing materialism of his day and emphasised the need for faith and good works. In later life withdrew from Lodge activities into mysticism.Note 4. Gnosticism. The word is derived from the Greek gnosis — knowledge. The name “Gnostics” is used to designate widely different sects which flourished in the second and third centuries. They speculated on problems of human destiny and professed to teach a knowledge of God and man. Our knowledge of Gnosticism was for long confined to criticisms by its opponents: Justin, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Eusebius, St. Epiphenius and others. The leading exponents of Gnosticism were the Ophites, Simon Magnus, Carpocrates, Basildes, Marcion and Valentinus. Many documents are lost or were destroyed as heretical. Today our knowledge is based upon the Pistis Sophia (fourth century), the Bruce Codex (fifth century), the Codex Berulensis (now lost), the Manichaean writings found at Turfan in Chinese Turkistam (early in this century), the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Gnostic writings in Coptic translation discovered in 1945 at NagHammadi in Egypt, the ancient Chenoboskion. Valuable for further study are: The Gnostics and their remains, ancient and mediaeval, C. W. King, 1887, with descriptive plates of talismans, gems, sigils, etc; The Secret Book of the Egyptian Gnostics, Jean Doresse (from the French), 1960. Very important: The Gnostic Religion, Hans Jonas, Paperback 1963.In Zeitgeschichtliche Betrachtungen, Erster Teil, lectures VIII and IX, Dr. Steiner tells us that Gnosis was a wisdom knowledge, a “survival of ancient wisdom derived from the old clairvoyant insight into the spiritual world. It was suppressed by dogmatic Christianity from motives of hostility to Mystery wisdom, for Gnosis declared that Christ had descended upon earth through the realms of the spiritual Hierarchies and incarnated in the physical body of Jesus which had been prepared for 30 years to receive the Christ Being.”Note 5. The eighth Ecumenical Council or the fourth Council of Constantinople, 869, condemned Photius who was responsible for the Greek schism (see filioque). A note in the German edition says that it was the abuse of the Pauline distinction between the “psychic” man and the “spiritual” man which decided the Church of Rome to reject the idea of trichotomy.Note 6. Filioque controversy. Filioque (“and the Son”) was an addition by the Western Church to the Constantinopolitan Creed, namely, that the Holy Ghost proceeds from the Father and the Son (called the double Procession of the Holy Ghost). This was the origin of the Greek schism and the chief ground of attack upon the Church of Rome by the Orthodox Church, which follows the Byzantine rite. Photius refused to accept the insertion of filioque in the Nicene Creed and the Photian schism finally triumphed in the Orthodox Church. The addition of filioque was first met with at the third Council of Toledo 589, and was defended by Patriarch Paulinus at the Synod of Friuli 796. When introduced into the monastery at Jerusalem by Frankish monks in 847 it met with immediate opposition from Eastern monks. It was adopted at Rome after A.D. 1000 and declared to be a dogma of faith in the fourth Lateran Council 1215.Note 7. In this context it is interesting to note that, in 1926, at an International Psychological Conference, Pavlov declared that we must abandon the misleading term “soul”. “The proper study of psychology is physiology”, he declared.Note 8. The Sadducees adhered to the letter of the law. They were the dominant priestly party and were subservient to the Roman procurators of Judaea.
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