Rudolf Steiner, Berlin, April 24, 1917:
It is most important for the present age and for the future of mankind to realize that our understanding of Christ Jesus and the Mystery of Golgotha is not dependent upon the findings of the external history that is accepted as scientific today. In order to acquire a knowledge of Christ and the Mystery of Golgotha that carries conviction and is susceptible of proof we must rather look to other sources than those of contemporary historical investigation, even when these sources are the Gospels themselves. I have often stated, and anyone who refers to the relevant literature can verify this for himself, that the most diligent, assiduous and painstaking research has been devoted to Gospel criticism or Gospel exegesis during the nineteenth century. This Gospel criticism has yielded only negative results; in fact it has served rather to destroy and undermine our faith in the Mystery of Golgotha rather than to confirm and substantiate it. We know that many people today, not from a spirit of contradiction but because, on the evidence of historical investigation they cannot do otherwise, have come to the conclusion that there is no justification on purely historical grounds for assigning the existence of Christ Jesus to the beginning of our era. This of course cannot be disproved, but that is of no consequence.
I now propose to discuss whether it is possible to discover other sources than the historical sources which may contribute to an understanding of the Mystery of Golgotha. Before answering the question let us first examine a few facts of occult history.
In tracing the development of Christianity during the early centuries of our era we must bear in mind that it is difficult to comprehend this development unless we reinforce a purely historical enquiry with the findings of Spiritual Science. If we accept, purely hypothetically for the moment, the facts of spiritual-scientific investigation into this period, then a very remarkable picture unfolds before us. As we review this development during the early centuries we realize in effect that the Mystery of Golgotha has been fulfilled not only once — as an isolated event on Golgotha — but, in a figurative sense, a second time on the mighty panorama of history. When we study this period truly remarkable things are disclosed.
The Church of Rome has a tradition of continuity that is reflected in its Church history. This history describes the founding of Christianity, the early Church Fathers, the post-Nicene Fathers and the later Christian philosophers, and the formulation of the particular dogmas by Councils and infallible Popes and so on. History is seen as an unbroken chain, a uniform pattern of unchanging character. It is true that the early Church Fathers have been much criticized from certain angles. But on the whole people are afraid to reject them completely, for in that case the continuity would be broken. History proper begins with the Council of Constantinople in 869 of which I have already spoken. As I have said, history is represented as an unbroken chain, a continuous process. But if a radical gap is anywhere to be found in an apparently continuous process, then it is here. One can hardly imagine a greater contrast than the contrast between the spirit of the early Church Fathers and that of the post-Nicene Fathers and Conciliar decrees. There is a radical difference which is equally radically concealed because it is in the interest of the Church to conceal it. For this reason it has been possible to keep the faithful (today) in ignorance of what took place in the first centuries of the Christian era. Today, for example, there is no clear and reliable evidence, even from leading scholars, of how the Gnosis came to be suppressed. We are equally in the dark about the aims and intentions of such men as Clement of Alexandria, his pupil Origen and others (note 1), including Tertullian, because such fragmentary information as we possess is of doubtful provenance and is derived for the most part from writings of their opponents. For this reason, and because the most fantastic theories have been built on this fragmentary information, it is impossible to arrive at a reliable picture of the early Church Fathers.
In order to have a clear understanding of this problem we must turn our attention for a moment to the causes of this indefiniteness, to all that has happened so that the Mystery of Golgotha could take place a second time in history.
At the time of the Mystery of Golgotha the ancient pagan cults and Mysteries were widespread. And they were of such importance that a figure such as Julian the Apostate was initiated into the Eleusinian Mysteries and a long succession of Roman emperors also received initiation, though of a peculiar kind. Furthermore, everything connected with the ancient pagan cults still survived. But these facts are usually dismissed today in a few words by contemporary historians. The events of that early period are portrayed in a very superficial manner; but this superficial portrayal may provide a sufficient justification in the eyes of many for speaking of a second Mystery of Golgotha. But people have not the slightest understanding of the inner meaning of those events.
From an external point of view one can say that in the early Christian centuries pagan temples, with their statues of a splendour and magnificence which are inconceivable today, were scattered over wide areas. These images (of the gods), even into their formalistic details, were a symbolic representation of all that had lived in the ancient Mysteries. Not only was there not a town or locality without abundant representations of symbolic art forms, but in the fields where peasants cultivated their crops were to be found isolated shrines, each with its statue of a God. And they never undertook agricultural work without first putting themselves in touch with those forces which, they believed, streamed down from the universe through the agency of the magic powers which resided in these images. The Roman emperors, with the support of bishops and priests, were concerned to destroy utterly these temples and shrines together with their images. We can follow this work of iconoclasm up to the time of the emperor Justinian in the sixth century. Countless edicts were promulgated ordering the ruthless destruction of these temples and shrines. During these centuries a wave of iconoclasm swept over the world that was unprecedented in the history of mankind; unprecedented because of the extent of the systematic destruction (note 2). Up to the time when St. Benedict with his own hands and the support of his workmen levelled the temple of Apollo on Monte Cassino in order to found a monastery dedicated to the service of the Benedictine Order on this site, and up to the time of the emperor Justinian, it was one of the foremost duties of the Roman emperors (who since Constantine had been converted to Christianity) to eradicate all traces of paganism. Edicts were promulgated whose apparent purpose was to arrest this work of destruction, but in reading them one receives a strange impression. One emperor, for example, issued an edict declaring that all the pagan temples should not be destroyed immediately for fear of inflaming the populace; the work of destruction should rather be carried out gradually, for the people would then accept it without demur.
All the terrible measures associated with this work of destruction are very often glossed over like so many other things. But this is a mistake. Whenever truth is in any way obscured, the path leading to Christ Jesus is also obscured and cannot be found. Since I have already spoken of this earnest love of truth, allow me to refer to a small incident which occurred in my early childhood and which I shall never forget. Such things are most revealing. Unless we wilfully blind ourselves we learn from the history of the Roman emperors that Constantine was not precisely a model of virtue, otherwise he would not have accused his own stepson, without any justification, of illicit relations with his own mother. The accusation was a pure fabrication in order to find a pretext for murder. Constantine first had his stepson murdered on this trumped-up charge and then the stepmother. These were simply routine acts with Constantine. Since however the Church was deeply indebted to him, official Church history is ashamed to portray him in his true colours. With your permission I should like to read a passage from my school text-book on the history of religion which refers to Constantine: “Constantine showed himself to be a true son of the Church even in his private life” — and I have already given you an example of this! “Though often reproached for his irascibility and ambition one must remember that faith is not a guarantee against every moral lapse and that Christianity could not manifest its redemptive power in him because, to the end of his life, he never partook of the Sacrament.” Now examples of this kind of whitewash are a commonplace. They demonstrate how seldom history displays a love of truth. And much the same applies to recent history. Here we find other distortions but we fail to detect them because other interests occupy our attention.
When we read the account of these Imperial edicts (relating to the destruction of the pagan temples) we are also informed that the Roman emperors expressly rejected animal sacrifice and similar practices which are alleged to have taken place in the temples. Now I do not intend to criticize or to gloss over anything, but simply to state the facts. But we must remember that “opposition to animal sacrifice” (from the entrails of which future events are said to have been predicted) was, in fact, a decadent form of sacrifice. It was not the trifling matter that history often suggests, but a profound science, different in character from that of today. The object of animal sacrifice — and it is difficult to speak of these practices today because we find them so revolting that we can only refer to them in general terms — was to stimulate powers which, at the time, could not be attained directly because the epoch of the old clairvoyance was past. Attempts were made within certain circles of the pagan priesthood to revive the old clairvoyant powers. This was one of the methods employed. A more satisfactory method of awakening this ancient atavistic clairvoyance in order to recapture the spirit of primeval times was to revive the particular form of sacrifice practised in the Mithras Mysteries and in the most spiritual form known to the Mysteries at that time. In the priestly Mysteries of Egypt and in Egyptian temples far more brutal and bloodthirsty practices were carried out. When we study the Mithras Mysteries by occult means we realize that they were a means to gain insight into the secrets of the forces operating in the universe through sacrificial rites that were totally different in character from what we understand by sacrificial rites today; in fact they yielded a far deeper insight into the secrets of nature than the modern practice of autopsy which only leads to a superficial knowledge. Those who performed these sacrificial rites in the correct way were able to perceive clairvoyantly certain forces which are present in the hidden depths of nature. And for this reason the real motives for these ritual sacrifices were kept secret and only those who were adequately prepared were permitted to have knowledge of them.
Now when we look into the origin of the Mithras Mysteries we find that they date back to the Third post-Atlantean epoch and so they were already decadent at the time of which we are speaking. In their purer form they were suited to the Third post-Atlantean epoch only. They had reached their high point in this epoch. Through the performance of particular rites they had the power, albeit in a mysterious and somewhat dangerous way, to penetrate deeply into the secrets of nature. The priest performed certain rites in the presence of the neophyte by which he was enabled to “decompound” natural substances (i.e. to resolve them into their constituent parts) in order thereby to arrive at an understanding of the processes of nature. Through the manner in which the fire and water in the organisms interacted on each other and through the manner in which they reacted upon the neophyte who took part in the sacrifice, a special path was opened up which enabled him to attain to a self-knowledge that reached down into the very fibres of his being and thereby arrive at an understanding of the universe.
By participating in these sacrificial rites man learned to see himself in a new light. But this knowledge made considerable allowance for man's weakness. Self-knowledge is extremely difficult to acquire, and these sacrificial rites were intended to facilitate such knowledge and enabled him to feel and experience his inner life more intensely than through intellectual or conceptual processes. He therefore strove for a self-knowledge that penetrated into his physical organism, a self-knowledge that can be seen in the souls of the great artists of antiquity, who, to a certain extent, owed their sense of form to an instinctive feeling for the forms and movements of nature which they experienced in their own organism. As we look back into the history of art, we find there was a time when the artist never dreamt of working from models; any suggestion of working from the model would have been unthinkable. We become increasingly aware that the artist portrayed his visual imaginations in concrete form. Visual imagination is virtually a thing of the past; we hardly dare mention it because words are inadequate to give any real indication of what we mean by it. It is incredible how much times have changed.
Now the Eleusinian Mysteries were a direct continuation of the Mithras Mysteries which were widely diffused at the time of the Mystery of Golgotha, but at the same time they represented a totally different aspect. Whilst the Mithras Mysteries emphasized the attainment of self-knowledge through the physical organism, the Eleusinian Mysteries were quite different from those of the Mithras Mysteries. In the latter the neophyte was thrust deeply into himself; in the Eleusinian Mysteries his soul was liberated from the body so that he could experience outside the body the hidden impulses of the creative activity of nature and the spirit. Now if we ask what man learned from these Mysteries — from the Mithras Mysteries which were already decadent and from the Eleusinian Mysteries that had reached their high point towards the fourth century B.C. — if we ask what benefit man derived from these Mysteries, then the answer is found in the well-known injunction of the Delphic oracle: “Know thyself”. Initiation was directed to the attainment of self-knowledge along two different paths: first, self-knowledge through being thrust inwards so that the astral and etheric bodies were “condensed”, so to speak, and through the impact of the psychic on the physical, man realized: “Now you perceive yourself for what you are; you have attained self-awareness.” Such was the legacy of the Mithras Mysteries. In the Eleusinian Mysteries, on the other hand, he attained to self-knowledge through the liberation of the soul from the body by means of various rites which cannot be described in detail here. The soul thus came in contact with the secret power of the Sun, with solar impulses irradiating the Earth, with the forces of the Moon impulse streaming into the Earth, with the forces of stellar impulses and the impulses of the individual elemental forces — the warmth, air and fire forces and so on. The external elements streamed through man's soul (which had been withdrawn from the body) and in this encounter with the external forces he attained self-knowledge. Those who were aware of the real meaning of the Mystery teachings knew that man could attain to all kinds of psychic experiences outside the body, but he was unable to grasp concretely the idea of the ego. Outside the Mysteries the idea of the ego was a purely abstract concept at that time. Man could experience other aspects of the psychic and spiritual life, but the ego had to be nurtured through Mystery training and needed a powerful stimulus. This was the aim of the Mysteries and was known to the initiates.
Now as you know, there occurred at this time a kind of fusion between evolving Christianity and the Roman empire. I have already described how this arose and how, because of this fusion, the Church was anxious to suppress, as far as possible, those rites I have just described to you, to efface all traces of the past and to conceal from posterity all knowledge of the Mystery practices which over the centuries had sought to bring man, whether in the body or outside the body, in touch with those spiritual forces which help him to develop his ego consciousness. If we wish to make a more detailed study of the evolution of Christianity we must consider not only the development of dogma, but especially the development of ancient cults from certain points of view; this is of far greater importance than the evolution of dogma. For dogmas are a source of controversy and like the phoenix they rise again from their own ashes. However much we may imagine they have been eradicated, there is always some crank who comes along and revives the old prejudices. Cults are far easier to eradicate. And these ancient cults which, in a certain sense, were the external signs and symbols of Mystery practices were suppressed, so that it would be impossible to discover from the survival of ancient rites the methods by which man sought to come in touch with divine-spiritual forces.
In order to get to the bottom of the matter we must take a look at the chief sacrament of the Church of Rome, the sacrifice of the Mass. What is the inner significance of the Catholic Mass? In reality, the Mass and all that is related to it, is a continuation and development of the Mithras Mysteries, blended to some extent with the Eleusinian Mysteries. The sacrifice of the Mass and many of the related ceremonies is simply a further development of the ancient cults. The original ritual has been somewhat transformed; the sanguinary character which the Mithras Mysteries had assumed has been modified. But we cannot fail to note many similarities in the spirit of these two cults, especially if we appreciate certain details. For example, before receiving the Host the priest as well as the communicant must fast for a certain period. This detail is more important for the understanding of the Mystery in question than many of the issues that were so fiercely debated in the Middle Ages. And if the priest, as may well happen, neglects the order to fast before celebrating the Eucharist, then the Communion loses its meaning and the effect it should have. Indeed its efficacy is largely lost because the communicants have not been properly instructed. It can be effective only if suitable instruction has been given to the communicant on what he should experience immediately after receiving the “unbloody sacrifice (sic) of His Body and Blood”. But you are no doubt aware of how little attention is paid to these subtleties nowadays, how little people realize that communion must be followed by an inward experience, that one should experience an inner intimation, a kind of modern renewal of that stimulation which the neophyte experienced in the Mithras Mysteries. This is what really lies behind the Christian cult. And ordination was an attempt by the Church to establish a kind of continuation of the ancient principle of Initiation. But she forgot in many cases that Initiation consisted in giving instruction in the way to respond to certain experiences.
Now Julian's avowed object was to discover how the Eleusinian Mysteries into which he had been initiated were related to the Mysteries of the Third post-Atlantean epoch. What could he learn from these Mysteries? On this subject history tells us little. If we were to embark upon a serious study of how men such as Clement of Alexandria, his pupil Origen, Tertullian and even Irenaeus (note 3), to say nothing of the still earlier Fathers, derive in part from the pagan principle of initiation and came to Christianity in their own way, if we were to enter into the minds of these great souls, we should find that their concepts and ideas were informed by an inner vitality peculiar to them alone, that an entirely different spirit dwelt in them from that which was later reflected in the Church. If we wish to understand the Mystery of Golgotha we must catch something of the spirit of these early Fathers.
Now in relation to the great cultural manifestations men are fast asleep, and I mean this literally. They see the world as if in a dream and we can observe this at the present time. I have often spoken to you of Herman Grimm (note 4), and I must confess that when I speak of him today I am a different person from the person who spoke of him some four or five years ago. After nearly three years of War the decades before the War and the years immediately preceding the War seem like a golden age. All that has happened in those years seems centuries ago. Things have changed so much that one has the feeling that time has been infinitely prolonged. And in like manner the most important things pass unnoticed because mankind is asleep to them.
If today we try to grasp the ideas of ancient writers with the ordinary method of understanding — conventional academic teachers of course understand everything that has been transmitted to posterity — but if one is not one of these enlightened mortals, one may come to the conclusion that it is impossible to understand ancient Greek philosophers unless one has recourse to occult knowledge. They speak a different language; the language in which they communicate their ideas is different from that of normal communication. And this applies to Plato. Hebbel (note 5) was aware of this and in his diary he sketched the outline of a dramatic composition which depicted the reincarnated Plato as a Grammar School pupil who had read Plato with his master, but was unable to cope with Plato although he himself was the reincarnation of the philosopher. Hebbel wanted to dramatize this idea but never carried it out. Hebbel, therefore, felt that even Plato could not readily be understood; one needed further preparation. Understanding in the sense of the accurate grasping of ideas first began with Aristotle in the fourth century B.C. Philosophy before Aristotle is incomprehensible by normal human standards. This explains the many commentaries on Aristotle for, whilst on the one hand he is perfectly intelligible, on the other hand in the formation of certain concepts we have not advanced beyond Aristotle because in this respect he belongs to his age. It is impossible to adopt the thought-forms of another epoch; that is tantamount to asking a man of fifty-six to become twenty-six again in order to relive for a quarter of an hour his experiences as a man of twenty-six. A certain mode of thinking is only valid for a particular epoch and the peculiarity attaching to the thinking of a particular epoch is merely repeated time and time again. It is interesting to note how Aristotle dominated the thinking of the Middle Ages and how his philosophy was revived again by Franz Brentano (note 6) and precisely at this moment of time. In 1911 Brentano wrote an excellent book on Aristotle in which he elaborated those ideas and concepts that he wished to bring to the attention of our present epoch. It is a curious symptom of the Karma of our age that Brentano should have written at this precise moment of time a comprehensive study of Aristotle which should be read by all who value a certain kind of thinking. And let me add in addition that the book is eminently readable.
Now it was the fate of Aristotle's writings to have been mutilated, not by Christianity, but by the Church (though not directly), so that essential parts of his work are missing. Consequently these lacunae must be supplemented by occult means. The most important omissions refer to the human soul. And, in connection with Aristotle, I now come to the question posed by all today: how can I find, by means of inner soul-experiences, a sure way to open myself to the Mystery of Golgotha? How can I direct towards this end the practice of meditation described in my writings, Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and elsewhere. To a certain extent Aristotle attempted on his own initiative to awaken within himself the inner experiences which those who pose this question must attempt to undertake. But, according to the commentators, whenever Aristotle is on the point of describing his method of meditation, he breaks off and is silent. It is not that he did not describe his technique, but that the later transcripts failed to record it, so that it was never transmitted to posterity. Aristotle had already embarked upon a specific path, the path of mysticism. He strove to find within his soul that which gives certainty of the soul's immortality.
Now if a man honestly and sincerely practises meditation for a time he will unquestionably attain the inner experience of the immortality of the soul because he opens the doors to the immortal within him. Aristotle never doubted for a moment that it is possible to experience within ourselves something which proclaims: I now feel something within me that is independent of the body and which is unrelated to the death of the body. But he goes even further. He strove to develop this deep inner experience which we know (when we become conscious of it) is connected with the body. He experienced quite definitely — but the passage has been mutilated or bowdlerized — that inner solitude which must be felt by all who wish to arrive at an understanding of the Mystery of Golgotha. Mystical experience inevitably leads to solitude. And when this feeling of solitude overwhelms us we ask: “What have I forsaken that I have become so lonely?”, we shall be obliged to answer: “I have forsaken father, mother, brothers, sisters, I have forsworn the vanities of the world. I am emotionally detached from them.” Aristotle was aware of this. This inner experience can be felt by everyone, it can be systematically developed. In this feeling of solitude we come to realize that we have something within us that transcends death, something that pertains to the ego alone and is unrelated to the external world. Aristotle, too, realized that our contact with the external world is mediated through the physical organs. It is possible for man to experience himself in other ways, but the organs of the body are indispensable in order to experience the external world. Hence the feeling of solitude that overtakes us. And Aristotle realized, as everyone who follows in his steps must realize, that he had experienced his immortal soul which death cannot destroy. He was no longer attached to the finite and transient. “I am henceforth alone with myself” he said, “but my idea of immortality is limited; I realize that after death I shall know utter solitude, that through all eternity I shall be faced with the good and evil deeds that I have perpetrated in life and these will always be before my eyes, and this is all I can attain by my own efforts. If I wish to gain a deeper insight into the spiritual world I cannot rely on my own efforts alone; either I must receive Initiation or be instructed by Initiates.”
All this could be found in Aristotle's writings, but his successors were forbidden to transmit the knowledge. And because Aristotle anticipated this possibility he was regarded to a certain extent as a kind of prophet; he became the prophet of that which was not possible in his day, and which is different today from what it was in Aristotle's time. There is no need to appeal to history; we know from personal experience that times have changed.
Now let us turn our attention once again to this feeling of total solitude which assails us today, to this mystical experience which is completely different from the mystical experiences usually described. People often speak of them complacently and say: “God is experienced within myself.” That is not, however, the full mystical experience. In full mystical experience we experience God in total and utter solitude. Alone in the presence of God man experiences himself. And then he must find the necessary strength and perseverance to continue in this state of isolation. For this experience of solitude is a potent force! If we do not allow ourselves to be oppressed by solitude, but allow it to become an active force in us, then we meet with a further experience — these things of course can only be described, but everyone can experience them — we have the firm conviction that the solitude we suffer is self-created, that we have brought it upon ourselves. We create our gods in our own image. This solitude is not born with us, it is created by us, we ourselves are responsible for it. This is the second experience.
And this second experience leads to the feeling that we share direct responsibility for the death of that which is born of God. When man has suffered the dark night of the soul for a sufficient length of time the divine element in him has been slain by the all-too-human. This has not always been the case, otherwise evolution would have been impossible. There must have been a time when this feeling did not exist. At this moment man begins to feel that he shares responsibility for the death of the divine within him. If time permitted I could explain more fully the meaning of the slaying of the “Son of God”. Remember that mystical experience is not a vague, indefinite, isolated experience; it unfolds progressively; we ourselves experience the death of the Christ.
And when this experience has become a powerful force in us, then (I can express it in no other way) the Christ, the Risen Lord is born in us. For the Risen Lord, He who has suffered death, is first felt as an inner mystical experience and the reason for His death is experienced in the manner already described.
There are three degrees of mystical experience. To find the path leading to the sources of the Mystery of Golgotha is of itself not enough; something more must be added, something that has been grotesquely misrepresented, even concealed, at the present time. The only person who forcefully pointed out what had been concealed from mankind by the nineteenth century was Friedrich Nietzsche in his book On the Uses and Abuses of History. Nothing is more calculated to destroy our understanding of Christ than what is called history today. And the Mystery of Golgotha has never been more thoroughly misrepresented than by the objective historians of the nineteenth century. I am aware that anyone who criticizes the objective history of today is regarded as a fool. I have no wish to denigrate the painstaking philological and scholarly achievements of historical research, but however scholarly or however exact this history may be, it is a spiritual desert. It has no understanding of the things that are of vital importance to the life of man and to mankind as a whole. They are a closed book to modern history.
Perhaps I may be permitted to speak from personal experience in this field, for these things have personal associations. Since my nineteenth year I have been continually occupied with the study of Goethe but I have never been tempted to write a factual history of his life or even portray him in the academic sense, for the simple reason that from the very first I felt that what mattered most was that Goethe was still a living force. The physical man Goethe who was born in 1749 and died in 1832, is not important; what is important is that after his death his spirit is still alive amongst us today, not only in the Goethe literature (which is not particularly enlightened), but in the very air we breathe.
This spiritual atmosphere that surrounds us today did not as yet exist in the men of antiquity. The etheric body, as you know, is separated from the soul after death as a kind of second corpse, but, through the Christ Impulse that informs us since the Mystery of Golgotha, the etheric body is now preserved to some extent; it is not completely dissolved. If we believe — and I use the word belief in the sense which I defined in an earlier lecture — that Goethe is “risen” in an etheric body and if we begin to meditate upon him, then his concepts and ideas become alive in us, and we describe him not as he was, but as he is today. The idea of resurrection has then become a living reality and we believe in the resurrection. We can then say that we believe not only in ideas that belong to the past, but also in the living continuity of ideas. This is connected with a profound mystery of modern times. No matter what we may think, so long as we are imprisoned in the physical body our thoughts cannot manifest in the right way. (This does not apply to our feeling and will, but only to our thoughts and representations.) Great as Goethe was, his ideas were greater than he. That they were unable to rise to greater heights was due to the limitations of his physical body. The moment they were liberated from these limitations of the body and could be developed by someone who has sympathy and understanding for them, they are transformed and acquire new life. (I am referring here to the thoughts which persist to some extent in his etheric body, not to his feeling and will.) Remember that the form in which ideas first arise in us is not their final form. Believe therefore in the resurrection of ideas! Believe this so firmly that you willingly seek union with your forefathers — not with your forefathers to whom you are linked through ties of blood, but with your spiritual forefathers — and that you will ultimately find them. They need not be Goethes, they might equally well be a Smith or a Brown. Try to fulfil the injunction of Christ: do not cling to ties of consanguinity, but seek rather a spiritual relationship. Then the thought of resurrection becomes a living reality in your life and you will believe in resurrection. It is not a question of invoking incessantly the name of the Lord; what matters is that we grasp the living spirit of Christianity, that we hold fast to the vitally important idea of resurrection as a living force. And he who in this way draws support for his inner life from the past, learns that the past lives on in us, we experience in ourselves the continuity of the past. And then — it is only a question of time — the moment arrives when we are aware of the presence of the Christ. Everything depends upon our firm faith in the Risen Christ and in the idea of resurrection, so that we can now say: “We are surrounded by a world of spirit and the resurrection has become a reality within us.”
You may object, however, that this is pure hypothesis. So be it. Once you have had the experience of having been in touch with the thoughts of someone who has died, whose physical body has been committed to the Earth and whose thoughts live on in you, then a time comes when you say: “The thoughts that have newly arisen in me I owe to Christ; they could never have become so vitally alive but for the incarnation of Christ.”
There is an inward path to the Mystery of Golgotha; but one must first abandon so-called “objective” history which in reality is entirely subjective because it deals with surface phenomena and ignores the spirit. Many Goethe biographies have been written which set out to portray Goethe's life with maximum fidelity. In every case the authors, of necessity, stifle something in themselves. For Goethe's way of thinking has been transformed and lives on in a different form. It is important that we should grasp Christianity in the same spirit.
In short, it is possible to have a mystical experience of the Mystery of Golgotha — mystical in the true sense of the word. One must not be content with abstractions, one must be prepared to suffer through the inner experiences I have already described. And if the question is raised: how can I draw near to Christ? (it must be understood that we are referring to the Risen Christ), if we have the patience and necessary perseverance to follow the path indicated, we can be sure of finding the Christ at the right moment. But when we find Him, we must be careful not to overlook what is most important.
I said in an earlier lecture that Aristotle was a prophet and that Julian the Apostate inherited something of the same prophetic gift. Owing to the form which the Eleusinian Mysteries had assumed at that time, he could not discover their true meaning; he hoped to find the answer in the Mithras Mysteries. It was for this reason that Julian embarked on his Persian campaign. He wished to discover the continuity in the Mystery teachings, to find the connection between them. And because this was not permitted he was assassinated.
Now the early Church Fathers sought to experience the Christ after the fashion of the Eleusinian Mysteries. Whether we call them Gnostics or not — the true Gnostics were rejected by the Church, though Clement of Alexandria could justifiably be called a Gnostic — they had a totally different relation to Christ than later times. They sought to approach Him through the Eleusinian Mysteries and accepted Him as a Cosmic Being. They repeatedly raised the question: How does the Logos operate purely in the spiritual world? What is the true nature of the Being whom man encounters in Paradise? What is his relation to the Logos? Such were the questions which occupied the minds of the Gnostics’, questions that can only be answered by those who are familiar with the world of spiritual ideas. When we study the Eleusinian Mysteries (that were extirpated root and branch), it is evident that in the first centuries after the Mystery of Golgotha the Risen Christ was Himself present in the Mysteries in order to reform them. And we can truly say that Julian the Apostate had a deeper understanding of Christianity than Constantine. In the first place, Constantine had not been initiated and had only accepted Christianity in a superficial way. But Julian felt intuitively that Christ could only be found in the Mysteries. It was through Initiation that we must find the Christ; He would endow us with the ego which could not be granted us at that time because we were not ready to receive it.
It was a historical necessity that these Mysteries should be destroyed because they did not lead to the Christ. We today must find access to Hellenism once again, but without the aid of documents. Hellenism must be revived, not of course in its original form, otherwise it becomes the travesty that can be seen in the aping of the Olympiad, for example. It is not a question of aping Hellenism; I am not suggesting any such thing. Hellenism must be renewed from within and unquestionably will be renewed. We must find the path to the Mysteries once again, but within ourselves, and then we shall also find the path to the Christ.
Just as Christ was crucified for the first time on Golgotha, so He was crucified a second time through Constantinism. By suppressing the Mysteries, Christ, as a historical reality, was crucified a second time. For those acts of vandalism which lasted for centuries destroyed not only priceless treasures of art, but destroyed also man's experience of the spiritual world, the most important experience he could have. People had no understanding of what had been destroyed by this vandalism, because they had lost all sense of values. When the temples of Jupiter and Serapis were demolished together with their statues the mob applauded. “It is right to destroy them,” they said, “for it has been foretold that when the temple of Serapis is destroyed, then the Heavens will fall and the Earth will be plunged in chaos. The Heavens however have not fallen, nor has the world collapsed in chaos despite the fact that the Roman Christians have levelled the temple to the ground.” It is true that outwardly the stars have not fallen, nor has the Earth been plunged in chaos. But all that man had formerly known through the experience of the Sun initiation was extinguished. That majestic wisdom, more grandiose than the firmament of ancient astronomy, collapsed along with the ruins of the temple of Serapis. And this ancient wisdom, the last traces of which Julian still found in the Mysteries of Eleusis, where the spiritual Sun and the spiritual Moon had been revealed to him, this wisdom was lost forever. All that the men of ancient times experienced in the Mithras Mysteries and Egyptian Mysteries when, through sacrificial worship, they relived inwardly the mysteries of the Moon and the Earth as they are enacted in man himself when he came to self-knowledge through the “inner compression” of his soul — all this has collapsed in chaos. Spiritually, however, the Heavens had fallen and the Earth was plunged in chaos; for what was lost in the course of those centuries is comparable to the loss that we should suffer if we were suddenly bereft of our senses, when we would know neither the Heavens above nor the Earth beneath our feet. The loss of the ancient world is not the trivial episode recorded in history, but has far deeper implications. We must believe in the resurrection even if we are unwilling to believe that what has disappeared is lost for ever. This demands that we should be resolute in thought and have the courage of our convictions. We realize the imperative need today for the Christ Impulse to which I have so often referred in these lectures.
Through karmic necessity (a necessity from a certain standpoint only) man has for centuries been destined to live a life that was empty and purposeless, to live in a spiritual vacuum, so that through a strong inner urge for freedom he could find the Christ again and in the right way. But he must first rid himself of that self-complacency from which he so often suffers at the present time.
Sometimes this self-complacency assumes most remarkable forms. In the eighties, a Benedictine father, Knauer, gave a course of lectures in Vienna on the Stoics. I should like to read you a passage from one of these lectures. The leading representatives of the Stoic school of philosophy were Zeno (342-270), Cleanthes (331-232) and Chrysippus (282-209); the school therefore flourished several centuries before the Mystery of Golgotha. This is what Knauer says:
“In conclusion I should like to say in defence of the Stoics that they strove for a league of nations, embracing the whole of mankind, which would end war and racial hatred. I need hardly say that in this respect the Stoics rose superior to the often inhuman prejudices of their time — and even of later generations.”
A league of nations! I had to read the lecture again. Could it be that my ears had deceived me when I heard Woodrow Wilson and other statesmen talking of a league of nations? For here was the voice of the Stoics, but they said it far better because they had the power of the Mysteries behind them. The inner power which inspired their discourses is now lost, leaving but the shell behind. Only those historians who stand a little apart from the normal species of historian can sometimes see historical events in a new and different light.
And Knauer continued — I withdraw nothing of what I said recently about Immanuel Kant; but it is none the less remarkable that a capable philosopher such as Knauer should have said the following about the Stoa in the eighties:
“Amongst the more recent philosophers” — he is referring to the league of nations idea of the Stoa — “no less a person than Kant has revived this idea and declared it to be a feasible proposition in his treatise ‘On Perpetual Peace. A philosophical outline’, a work that has not received the recognition it deserves. The fundamental idea of Kant is both sound and practicable. He shows that eternal peace must become a reality when the ‘Great Powers’ introduce a genuinely representative system.” In Kant this idea is considerably emasculated, but today it has been still more emasculated so that it is a shadow of its former self. And this nebulous conception is now graced with the name “the new orientation”. And Knauer continues: “Under such a system the wealthy and propertied classes and the professional classes who are the chief victims of war will have the right to decide issues of war and peace. Our constitutions which are modelled on that of England are not genuine representative systems in Kant's opinion. They are dominated by party prejudice and sectional interests which are promoted by an electoral system that is based for the most part on statistical calculations and the counting of heads. The crux of Kant's argument is this: international law must be based upon a federation of independent States which have wide powers of autonomy.”
Is this the voice of Kant or the voice of the “new orientation”? Kant argues his case more vigorously, it is more firmly grounded. I do not propose to read you what follows, otherwise the worthy Kant would incur the displeasure of the censor.
What I have been discussing was the subject of a book by the American author Brook Adams (note 7), The Law of Civilisation and Decay, a study of the importance of evolutionary theory in human history. Brook Adams tried to account for the continual revival of old institutions and forms of life by certain peoples, for example, the revival of the Roman empire by the Teutonic peoples. Surveying the present epoch he finds many nations who have affinity with the Roman empire, but no indications of the peoples who will renew it — certainly not the American people, and in this he was perfectly right. This regenerative power will not come from without; it must come from within through the quickening of the spirit. It must spring from the soul and will only be possible when we grasp the Christ Impulse in all its living power. All these empty phrases one hears on every hand apply to the past and not to the present or future. All this empty talk with its everlasting refrain: “Yes, the old proverb is true: ‘Minerva's owl can only spread her wings in the twilight’ was valid for ancient times.” And to this we reply: “When nations had grown old they established schools of philosophy; they looked back in spirit to what they owed to instinct. Things will be different in the future, for this instinct will no longer exist. The spirit itself must become instinct and from out of the spirit new creative possibilities must arise.”
Reflect upon these words for they are of momentous importance: out of the spirit new creative possibilities will arise! The power of the spirit must work unconsciously within you. And this depends upon the idea of resurrection. That which has been crucified must arise again. This will not come to pass by passively waiting on events, but by quickening the spiritual forces within us, by quickening the creative power of the spirit itself.
This is what I wished to say on the subject of the Mystery of Golgotha at this particular juncture of time.
NOTES BY TRANSLATORNote 1. Clement of Alexandria (301–232 B.C.) was head of the Catechetical School of Alexandria, a training school for catechumens. In the conflict between pistis (faith) and gnosis (knowledge) he favoured the latter and was close to the Gnostics in that he supported Platonism and the allegorical interpretation of the Scriptures. He believed in the idea of the “Disciplina Arcani”, the withholding of higher knowledge from those unfitted to receive it, which was common to all ancient Mystery teaching. Origen (A.D. 186–253) became head of the Catechetical School. Nurtured in neo-Platonism through the influence of Ammonius Saccus. Adjudged to be a heretic by the fifth Ecumenical Council. He accepted the theory of pre-existence, free will and the necessity of grace. He also used symbol and allegory in his exegesis. He wrote commentaries on nearly every work in scripture. His crowning work was Contra Celsum who attacked Christianity on moral and intellectual grounds. Book VI of Eusebius Ecclestical History is devoted to him. See also Appendix I in the perceptive commentary of A. P. Shepherd and Mildred Robertson Nicoll, in The Redemption of Thinking (Hodder & Stoughton).Note 2. The systematic destruction of pagan temples began under Constantine. Out of expediency the emperors remained neutral in the conflict between Christian and pagan cults. But the Christian monks not only incited the populace to pillage, but were themselves the first to burn and pillage the temples and to ransack trophies, statues and anything of value. It was during the outburst of iconoclasm that the famous library in the temple of Serapis was destroyed in A.D. 391.Note 3. Irenaeus, born in Asia, heard St. Polycarp in his youth. The date of his death is unknown. His chief work was Adversus Haereses, c.179, an attack upon the Gnostics and the principal heresies.Note 4. Herman Grimm (1828–1901), son of Wilhelm Grimm who with his brother Jacob collected and edited the Nursery and Household Tales. Herman was an art historian who wrote works on Goethe, Dante, Shakespeare, Raphael and Michelangelo.Note 5. Hebbel (1813–63), poet and dramatist. Tragedy, according to Hebbel arises out of conflict. Innovators, leaders of new movements, men of original mind, representatives of new principles, though they may lead to the amelioration of society, are doomed to destruction. This was the tragedy of Christ. The first and last representative of a movement, he declared, is either tragic or comic.Note 6. Franz Brentano (1838–1917). An Austrian philosopher, ordained 1864, but was unable to accept the doctrine of papal infallibility and relinquished his clerical status. Professor of Philosophy in Wurzburg 1872 and taught at the University of Vienna 1874–95. Aristoteles and seine Weltanschauung (1911) was a re-assessment of Aristotelian philosophy. Brentano attempted to revise Aristotle's logic and psychology from the standpoint of empiricism. Brentano believed in the existence of a personal and immortal soul. (See D. Kraus, Franz Brentano, 1919, and H. O. Eaton, The Austrian Philosophy of Values, 1930.)Note 7. Brooks Adams (1848–1927), also wrote The Dream and the Reality, 1917. Predicted that by the mid-twentieth century the two great Powers in the world would be America and Russia. American prosperity would contribute to the decay of American democracy because great wealth exercises power without responsibility.
Post a Comment