The Gospel of Luke. Lecture 10 of 10.
Rudolf Steiner, Basel, September 26, 1909:
Christianity and the teaching of reincarnation and karma. Jonah and Solomon: examples of two modes of initiation in olden times. The Christ principle and the new mode of initiation. The Event of Golgotha: initiation presented on the outer plane of world history.
Our task today will be to bring the knowledge gained in these lectures on the Gospel of St. Luke to the culminating point indicated by spiritual investigation — the culminating point we know as the Mystery of Golgotha.
Yesterday's lecture endeavored to convey an idea of what actually took place at the time when for three years Christ was on Earth, and the preceding lectures indicated how the convergence of streams of spiritual life made this event possible. The writer of the Gospel of St. Luke gives a wonderful account of the mission of Christ Jesus on the Earth, as we shall realize if the light of knowledge derived from the akashic chronicle can be brought to bear upon what he describes.
The following question might be asked: As the stream of Buddhism is organically woven into Christian teachings, how is it that in the latter there is no indication of the great law of karma, of the adjustment effected in the course of the incarnations of an individual human being? It would, however, be sheer misapprehension to imagine that what the law of karma enables us to understand is not also implicit in the words of the Gospel of St. Luke. It is indeed there, only we must realize that the needs of the human soul differ in different epochs and that it is not always the task of the great emissaries in world evolution to impart the absolute truth in abstract form, because men at different stages of maturity simply would not understand it; the great pioneers and missionaries must speak in such a way that men receive what is right and suitable in a particular epoch. The teaching received by humanity through the great Buddha contains, in the form of wisdom, everything that in conjunction with the teaching of compassion and love and the synthesis of this in the Eightfold Path can enable the doctrine of karma to be understood. Failure to achieve this understanding only means that no effort has been made to use faculties in the soul leading to knowledge of the teaching of karma and reincarnation.
In the lecture yesterday it was said that in about three thousand years from now large numbers of human beings will have progressed sufficiently to unfold from their own souls the teaching of the Eightfold Path and — we may now add — that of karma and reincarnation. But this must inevitably be a gradual process. Just as a plant cannot unfold its blossom immediately the seed has been sown but leaf after leaf must develop according to definite laws, so too the spiritual development of humanity must progress stage by stage and the right knowledge be brought to light at the right time.
Anyone possessed of faculties that can be kindled by spiritual science will realize from the voice of his own soul that the teaching of karma and reincarnation is indispensable. It must be remembered however that evolution is not fortuitous and in point of fact it is only now, in our own time, that human souls have become sufficiently mature to discover these truths through their own insight. It would not have been a good thing to give out the teaching of karma and reincarnations exoterically a few centuries ago; and it would have been detrimental to evolution if the present content of spiritual science — for which human souls are longing and with which research into the foundations of the Gospels is connected — had been imparted openly to mankind a few hundred years earlier. It was necessary that human souls should be yearning for it and should have developed faculties able to accept such teaching; it was essential that these souls should have passed through earlier incarnations, even in the Christian era, and have undergone the available experiences before reaching a degree of maturity capable of assimilating the teaching of karma and reincarnation. Had this teaching been proclaimed in the early centuries of Christendom in the form in which it is proclaimed today, this would have meant demanding of human evolution the equivalent of demanding a plant to produce the blossom before the green leaves.
Humanity has only now become sufficiently mature to assimilate the spiritual content of the teaching of karma and reincarnation. It is therefore not surprising that in what has been imparted to humanity for centuries from the Gospels there is much that gives a quite erroneous picture of Christianity. In a certain respect the Gospel message was entrusted prematurely to men and it is only today that they are becoming mature enough to develop all the faculties that could lead to an understanding of the actual content of the Gospel records. It was absolutely necessary that what was proclaimed by Christ Jesus should take account of the conditions and the attitude of soul prevailing in those days. Therefore karma and reincarnation were not taught as abstract doctrines, but feelings were cultivated through which human souls would gradually become ready to receive this teaching. What was needed at that time was to speak in a way that could lead by degrees to an understanding of karma and reincarnation rather than any enunciation of the teaching itself.
Did Christ Jesus and those who were around Him speak in this way? In order to understand this we must study the Gospel of St. Luke and interpret it rightly. If we do so we shall realize in what form the law of karma could be made known to men at that time.
“Blessed be ye poor; for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are ye that hunger now; for ye shall be filled. Blessed are ye that weep now; for ye shall laugh. Blessed are ye when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of Man's sake. Rejoice ye in that day and leap for joy; for behold your reward is great in heaven” — i.e. in the spiritual worlds.
Here we have the teaching of ‘compensation’. Without going into the subject of karma and reincarnation in an abstract way, the aim is to let the feeling of assurance flow into the souls of men that one who for a time is still hungering will eventually experience the due compensation. It was necessary that these feelings should flow into the souls of men. The souls then living, to whom the teaching was given in this form, were not, until they were again incarnated, ready to receive, as wisdom, the teaching of karma and reincarnation.
What was to ripen in human souls had to flow into these at that time. For a completely new epoch had begun, an epoch when men were preparing to develop their ego, their self-consciousness, to maturity. Whereas revelations had hitherto been received and the effects made manifest in the astral, etheric, and physical bodies of men, the ego was now to become fully conscious but be filled only gradually with the forces it was eventually to acquire. Only the one ego [ 1 ] which came to the Earth as the Nathan Jesus and into whose bodily constitution, when this had been duly prepared, the individuality of Zarathustra passed — this ego-being alone could bring to fulfillment within itself the all-embracing Christ principle.
The rest of humanity must now, in imitation of Christ, gradually develop what was present for three years on the Earth in the one single personality. It was only the impulse, as it were the seed, that Christ Jesus was able to implant into humanity at that time, and the seed must now unfold and grow. To this end provision was made that at the right times there shall always appear on Earth individuals able to bring the truth that humanity will not be ready to assimilate until a later period. The being who appeared on Earth as Christ had to take care that His message would be accessible to men immediately after His appearance in a form that they could understand. He had also to make provision for individualities to appear later on and care for the spiritual needs of human souls at the stage of maturity reached in the course of time.
In what manner Christ made such provision for the ages following the Event of Golgotha is related by the writer of the Gospel of St. John. He shows us how, in Lazarus, Christ Himself ‘raised’, ‘awakened’, that individuality who continued to work as ‘John’, from whom the teaching proceeded in the form described in the lectures on the Gospel of St. John. [ 2 ] But Christ had also to provide for the appearance, in later times, of an individuality who would bring to humanity in a form compatible with subsequent evolution that for which men would by then be ready. How an individuality was ‘awakened’ by Christ for this purpose is faithfully described by the writer of the Gospel of St. Luke. Having declared that he would describe what ‘seers’ endowed with the vision of Imagination and Inspiration could say about the Event of Palestine, he also points to what would one day be taught by another — but only in the future. In order to describe this mysterious process the writer of St. Luke's Gospel has also included an ‘awakening’, a ‘raising’, in his account (Luke VII, 11–17.) In what we read concerning the ‘awakening’ of the young man of Nain lies the mystery of the progress of Christianity. Whereas in the case of the healing of the daughter of Jairus, to which brief reference was made in a previous lecture, the mysteries connected with it were so profound that Christ admitted only a few to witness the act and charged them not to speak of it, this other ‘raising’ was accomplished in such a way that it might immediately be related. The former healing was an act presupposing in the healer a profound insight into the processes of physical life; the latter healing was an ‘awakening’, an initiation. The individuality in the body of the young man of Nain was to undergo an initiation of a very special kind.
There are various kinds of initiation. In one kind, immediately after the process has been completed, knowledge of the higher worlds flashes up in the aspirant and the laws and happenings of the spiritual world are revealed to him. In another kind of initiation it is only a seed that is implanted into the soul, and the individual has to wait until the next incarnation for the seed to bear fruit; only then does he become an initiate in the real sense.
The initiation of the young man of Nain was of this kind. His soul was transformed by the event in Palestine, but he was not yet conscious of having risen into the higher worlds. It was not until his next incarnation that the forces laid in his soul at that earlier time came to fruition. In an exoteric lecture names cannot now be given; all that is possible is an indication to the effect that the individuality awakened by Christ in the young man of Nain subsequently appeared as a great teacher of religion; in later time a new teacher of Christianity arose, equipped with the powers implanted into his soul in a previous incarnation.
Thus Christ provided for the subsequent appearance of an individuality able to bring Christianity to a further stage of development. Moreover the mission of the individuality who had been awakened in the young man of Nain is destined to permeate Christianity later on, and to an ever-increasing extent, with the teachings of karma and reincarnation — teachings which when Christ was on Earth could not be proclaimed explicitly as wisdom, because the human soul had first to receive them into the life of feeling.
Christ indicates clearly enough (according to the Gospel of St. Luke too) that an entirely new factor had now entered into the evolution of humanity, namely, ego-consciousness. He shows — it is only a matter of being able to read the meaning — that in earlier times the spiritual world did not flow into the self-conscious ego, for men received this spiritual stream through the physical, etheric, and astral bodies; a certain degree of unconsciousness was always present when, as in previous epochs, divine-spiritual forces flowed into men. In the stream in which Christ Jesus was actually working, men had had formerly to receive the Law of Sinai, which could be addressed only to the astral body. The Law was imparted to man in such a way that it did indeed work in him, but not directly through the forces of his ego. These forces could not operate until the time of Christ Jesus because it was not until then that man became conscious of the ego in the real sense. This is indicated by Christ in the Gospel of St. Luke when He says that men must first he made ready to receive an entirely new principle into their souls. He indicates this when speaking of His forerunner, John the Baptist. (Luke VII, 18–35.)
How did Christ Himself regard this individuality? He said that before His own coming the mission of John was to present in its purest and noblest form the old teaching of the Prophets that had been handed down, unadulterated, from bygone times. He regarded John as being the last to transmit, in its pure form, the teaching belonging to past ages. The ‘Law and the Prophets’ held good until the coming of John. His mission was to set before men once again what the old teaching and the old constitution of soul had been able to impart. How did this old constitution of soul function in the times preceding the advent of the Christ principle?
Here we come to a subject — incomprehensible as it may seem at the present time — that will some day become a teaching of natural science as well, when it allows itself to be inspired to some extent by spiritual science. I must now refer to a matter of which I can touch only the very fringe but which will show you what depths spiritual science is destined to illumine in the domain of natural science. If you survey the branches of natural science today and perceive the efforts that are made to penetrate the mysteries of man's existence with the limited faculties of human thought, you will find it stated that the whole human being comes into existence through the intermingling of the male and female seeds. One of the basic endeavors of modern natural science is to establish this theory. Searching microscopic examination of substances is made in order to ascertain which particular attributes proceed from the male or from the female seed, and the researchers are satisfied when they believe it can he proved that the whole human being is thus produced. But natural science itself will eventually be compelled to recognize that only one part of the human being is determined by the intermingling of the male and female seeds and that however precisely the product of the one or the other may be known, the whole nature of man in the present cycle of evolution cannot be explained by this intermingling.
There is in every human being something that does not arise from the seed but is, so to speak, a ‘virgin birth’, something that flows into the process of germination from a quite different source. Something unites with the seed of the human being that is not derived from father and mother, yet belongs to and is destined for him — something that is poured into his ego and can be ennobled through the Christ-principle. That in the human being which unites with the Christ principle in the course of evolution is ‘virgin-born’ and — as natural science will one day come to recognize through its own methods — this is connected with the momentous transition accomplished at the time of Christ Jesus. Before the Christ Event there could be nothing that did not enter into man's inner being by way of the seed. Something has actually happened in the course of the ages to bring about a change in the development of the ego. Humanity has not been the same since the Christ Event; but the element that has been added since then to what is produced by the seeds must be gradually developed and ennobled by assimilating the Christ principle.
We are here approaching a very subtle truth. To anyone conversant with modern natural science it is extremely interesting that already today there are domains where investigators are faced with the fact that there is something in man not derived from the seed. The preliminary conditions for realizing this are already there, only the investigators are not yet intellectually capable of recognizing what is present in their own experiments and observations. More is at work in the experiments than is known to modern natural science, and little progress would be made if it were entirely dependent upon the ability of the investigators. While one or another is working in a laboratory, in a clinic, or perhaps in his own study, there stand behind him the Powers which direct and guide the world, and these Powers allow that to come to light which the researcher himself does not understand and for which he is merely the instrument. It is therefore also true that even objective investigation is guided by the ‘Masters’, that is, by higher individualities. The facts now indicated are not usually observed; but they certainly will be when the conscious faculties of researchers are permeated by the spiritual teachings of Anthroposophy.
As a result of the fact of which I have just spoken, a great change has taken place in connection with the faculties of the human being since Christ came to the Earth. Previously, the only faculties available to man were those derived from the paternal and maternal seeds, for these faculties alone were able to develop in him. Between birth and death we develop through our physical, etheric, and astral bodies such faculties as we possess. Before the time of Christ Jesus the instruments employed by man for his own life could be developed only from the seed. After the appearance of Christ Jesus that element was added which is of ‘virgin birth’ and does not in any sense arise from the seed. This element can of course be gravely impaired if a man is entirely given over to materialistic thought; but it can be sublimated if he lets his being be suffused by the warmth issuing from the Christ principle and he then brings it into his following incarnations in an ever higher and higher form.
What has now been said necessarily implies that in all the proclamations made to humanity prior to that of Christ, there was an element bound up with faculties originating from the line of descent and from the seed; and it also imparts the conviction that Christ Jesus addressed himself to faculties that have nothing to do with the seed arising from the Earth but from out of the divine worlds unite with the seed. Teachers before Christ Jesus could speak to men only by using the faculties transmitted to their earthly nature through the seed. All the prophets and forerunners, however exalted, even when they descended as Bodhisattvas, were obliged to use faculties transmitted by way of the seed. Christ Jesus, however, spoke to that in man which does not pass through the seed but comes from the realm of the Divine. He indicates this when He speaks to His disciples of John the Baptist (Luke VII, 28): "For I say unto you, among those that are born of woman there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist" — that is to say, among those who, as they stand before us, can be explained as having come into existence through physical birth from male and female seeds. But then Christ adds words to the effect that the smallest part of that which is not born of woman and which unites with the man from the kingdom of God is greater than John. Such are the depths hidden beneath these words! Some day, when study of the Bible is illumined by spiritual science, it will be found to contain physiological truths of far greater significance than any finding of the blundering thinking applied in modern physiology. Words such as those just quoted can lead to recognition of one of the very deepest physiological truths. Profound indeed is the Bible when it is truly understood!
Christ Jesus exemplifies in manifold ways, and also in a different form, what I have now told you. His purpose is to indicate that the element which is to come into the world through Him is something altogether new, a truth differing from any hitherto proclaimed, because it is connected with faculties derived from the kingdoms of Heaven — faculties that have not been inherited. He points out how difficult it is for men to learn to understand such a teaching, and that they will demand to be convinced in the same way as formerly. He tells them that they cannot be convinced in the old way of the new truth that has now come; for what could be proof of truth in the old form could not bring conviction of the new. The old truth was presented in comprehensible form when symbolized by the ‘Sign of Jonah’. This symbolized the old way in which man gradually attained knowledge and penetrated into the spiritual world, or how — to use biblical terms — he became a ‘Prophet’.
The old way of attaining initiation was this: first the soul was brought to maturity and every necessary preparation made; then a condition lasting for three-and-a-half days was induced in the candidate, a condition in which he was completely withdrawn from the outer world and from the organs through which that world is perceived. Those who were to be led into the spiritual world were carefully prepared and their souls trained in knowledge of the spiritual life; then they were withdrawn from the world for three-and-a-half days, being taken to a place where they could perceive nothing through their external senses and where their bodies lay in a deathlike condition; after three-and-a-half days their souls were summoned back again into the body and they were awakened. Such men were then able to remember their vision of the spiritual worlds and to testify of those worlds. The great secret of initiation was that the soul, prepared by long training, was led out of the body for three-and-a-half days into an entirely different world, was shut off from the environment, and penetrated into the spiritual world. Men who could bear witness to the realities of the spiritual world were always to be found among the peoples; they were men who had undergone the experience referred to in the Bible in the story of Jonah's sojourn in the whale. Such a man was made ready to undergo this experience and then, when he appeared before the people as an initiate of the old order, he bore upon him the ‘sign of Jonah’ — the sign of those who were able themselves to testify of the spiritual world.
This was the one form of initiation. Christ said, in effect: ‘In the old sense there is no other sign save the sign of Jonah.’ (Luke XI, 29.) And He expressed Himself even more clearly according to the meaning of words in the Gospel of St. Matthew. ‘As a heritage from olden times there remains the possibility that without effort of his own, without initiation, a man can develop a dim, shadowy kind of clairvoyance and through revelation from above be led into the spiritual world.’ The indication here is that there were also initiates of a second kind — men who went about among their fellows and who, as a result of their particular lineage, were able to receive revelations from above in a kind of sublimated trance condition, without having undergone any special initiation. Christ indicated that this twofold manner of being transported into the spiritual world had come down from ancient times. He bade the people to remember King Solomon — thereby pointing to an individuality to whom, without effort on his own part, the spiritual world was revealed from above. The ‘Queen of Sheba’ who came to King Solomon was also the bearer of wisdom from above; she was the representative of those predestined to possess, by inheritance, the dim, shadowy clairvoyance with which all men were endowed in the Atlantean epoch. (See Luke XI, 31.)
Thus there were two kinds of initiates: the one kind typified by King Solomon and the symbolic visit paid to him by the Queen of Sheba, the Queen from the South; the other kind typified by those who bore upon them the ‘sign of Jonah’, meaning the old initiation in which the candidate, entirely cut off from the outer world, passed through the spiritual world for a period lasting three-and-a-half days. Christ now added: ‘A greater than Solomon, a greater than Jonah is here’ — indicating thereby that something new had come into the world. The message was not to be conveyed to the etheric bodies of men from outside, through revelations, as in the case of Solomon, nor was it to be conveyed to etheric bodies from within through revelations imparted by the duly prepared astral body to the etheric body, as in the case of those symbolized by the sign of Jonah. ‘Here is something which enables a man who has made himself ready for it in his ego to unite his being with what belongs to the kingdoms of Heaven.’ The forces and powers from those kingdoms unite with the virginal part in the human soul, the part that belongs to the kingdoms of Heaven and that men can destroy if they turn away from the Christ principle, but can cultivate and nurture if they receive into themselves what streams from the Christ principle.
As indicated in the Gospel of St. Luke, Christ's teaching is imbued with the new element which came to the Earth at that time, and we see how all the old ways of proclaiming the kingdom of God were changed through the Event of Palestine. Christ says to those from whom, because of their preparation, He could expect some measure of understanding: ‘Of a truth there are some among you who are able to see the kingdom of God, not only in the manner of Solomon, through revelation, or through the initiation symbolized by the sign of Jonah; if any among you had attained nothing further than that they would never see the kingdom of God in this incarnation before their death.’ The meaning is that before their death they would not have seen the kingdom of God unless they had attained initiation in some form; but then they would also have had to pass through a condition similar to death. Christ wished to show that because of the new element now present in the world there can also be men who even before they die are able to behold the kingdom of Heaven. The disciples did not at first understand what this meant. Christ wanted to convey to them that they were to be the ones who would come to know the mysteries of the kingdoms of Heaven before natural death or the death experienced in the old form of initiation. The wonderful passage in the Gospel of St. Luke where Christ is speaking of a higher revelation is as follows: "But I tell you of a truth, there be some standing here which shall not taste of death till they see the kingdom of God." (Luke IX, 27.) The disciples did not understand that it was they themselves who, being closely around Him, were chosen to experience the tremendous power of the Christ principle which would enable them to penetrate directly into the spiritual world. The spiritual world was to become visible to them without the sign of Solomon, and without the sign of Jonah. Did this actually happen?
Immediately after these words in the Gospel comes the scene of the Transfiguration, when three disciples — Peter, James, and John — are led up into the spiritual world. The figures of Moses and Elijah appear before them in that world and, simultaneously, Christ Jesus in Glory. (Luke IX, 28–36.) The disciples gaze for a brief moment into the spiritual world — a testimony that insight into that world is possible without the faculties designated by the sign of Solomon and the sign of Jonah. But it is evident that they are still novices, for they fall asleep immediately after being torn out of their physical and etheric bodies by the stupendous power of what was happening. Christ finds them asleep. This account was meant to indicate the third way of entering the spiritual world, apart from the ways denoted by the signs of Solomon and of Jonah. Anyone capable in those days of interpreting the signs of the times would have known that the ego itself must develop, that it must now be directly inspired, that the Divine Powers must work directly into the ego.
It was also to be made evident that the men of that time, even the very best among them, were not capable of taking the Christ principle into themselves. The event of the Transfiguration was to be a beginning but it was also to be shown that the disciples were not able, at the time, to receive the Christ principle in the fullest sense. Hence their powers fail them immediately afterwards, when they want to apply the Christ power to heal one who is possessed by an evil spirit but are unable to do so. Christ indicates that they are still only at the beginning, by saying: I shall have to stay a long time with you before your forces are able also to stream into other men. (See Luke IX, 41.) Thereupon He heals the one whom the disciples could not heal. But then He says, again hinting at the mystery behind these happenings, that the time has come when “the Son of Man shall be delivered into the hands of men”. This means: the time has come when the rgo, which is to be developed by men themselves in the course of their Earth mission, is gradually to stream into them, to be given over to them. This ego is to be recognized in its highest form in Christ. “Let these sayings sink down into your ears; for the Son of Man shall be delivered into the hands of men. But they understood not this saying; it was hid from them, that they perceived it not.” (Luke IX, 44–45.)
How many have understood this saying? Greater and greater numbers will, however, eventually understand that the ego, the ‘Son of Man’, was to be given over to men at that time. And the explanation that was possible in those days was added by Christ Jesus. He spoke to the following effect: As he stands before us, man is a product of the old forces that were active before the Luciferic beings had laid hold of human nature; but the Luciferic forces drew man down to a lower level. The results of all these processes have passed into the faculties possessed by him today. Everything that comes from the seed, as well as all human consciousness, is permeated by the influence that dragged man to a lower sphere.
Man is a twofold being. Whatever consciousness he has developed hitherto is permeated by the Luciferic forces. It is only the unconscious part of man's being, the last remnant of his evolution through the Saturn, Sun, and Moon periods, when no Luciferic forces were at work — it is only this that streams into him today as a virginal element of his nature; but it cannot unite with him without the qualities and forces he is able to develop in himself through the Christ principle. As he stands before us, man is primarily a product of heredity, a confluence of what derives from the male and female seeds. From the beginning he develops as a duality — a duality already permeated by Luciferic forces. As long as a man is not illumined by self-consciousness, as long as out of his own ego he cannot fully distinguish between good and evil, he reveals to us his earlier, original nature through the veil of his later nature. Only the part of man that is ‘childlike’ still retains a last remnant of the nature that was his before he succumbed to the influence of the Luciferic beings.
Hence there is a ‘childlike’ part and also a ‘grown’ part in man. It is the latter part of his being that is permeated by the Luciferic forces, but its influence asserts itself from the very earliest embryonic stage onwards. The Luciferic forces also permeate the child, so that in ordinary life what was already implanted in the human being before the Luciferic influence cannot make itself manifest. The Christ power must reawaken this, must unite with the best forces of the child nature in man. The Christ power may not link itself with the faculties that man has corrupted, with what derives merely from the intellect; the link must be with that which has remained from the child nature of primeval times. That is what must be reinvigorated and must thereafter fructify the other part of man's nature.
“But there arose a reasoning among them, which of them should be the greatest,” that is, which of them was most fitted to receive the Christ principle into his own being. "But Jesus, perceiving the thought of their heart, took a child and set it by them and said unto them. Whosoever shall receive this child in my name" — that is, whosoever is united in Christ's name with what has remained from the times before the onset of the Luciferic influence — “receiveth me; and whosoever shall receive me receiveth him that sent me” (Luke IX, 46–48) — that is, He who sent this (childlike) part of the human being to the Earth. Emphasis is there laid upon the great significance of what has remained ‘childlike’ in man and should be fostered and nurtured in human nature.
We may say of a human being standing before us that he has the rudiments of very good qualities. We may try our hardest to develop those qualities of his so that he makes real progress, but the methods usually adopted today take no account of what is present in the foundations of man's being. It is essential to pay heed to what has remained ‘childlike’ in man, for it is by way of this childlike nature that warmth can be imparted to the other faculties through the Christ principle. The childlike nature must be developed in order that the other faculties may follow suit. Everyone has the childlike nature within him and this, when wakened to life, will also be responsive to union with the Christ principle. But forces — of however lofty a kind — that are dominated by the Luciferic influence will, if they alone work in a man today, repudiate and scoff at what can live on Earth as the Christ power — as Christ Himself foretold.
The Gospel of St. Luke brings home very clearly the purport and meaning of the new proclamation. When a man who bore on his forehead the sign of Jonah went about the world as an initiate of the old order, he was recognized — but only by those who were knowers — as one who had come to testify of the spiritual worlds. Special preparation was needed before the sign of Jonah could be understood. But a new kind of preparation was now necessary in order to understand what was greater than anything indicated by the signs of Solomon and of Jonah — a new preparation which was to pave the way for a new understanding, a new way of maturing the soul. The contemporaries of Christ Jesus could at first understand only the old way, and the way preached by John the Baptist was the one known to most of them. That Christ was now bringing an entirely new impulse, that he was seeking for souls among those who did not in the least resemble men who would formerly have been considered suitable, was utterly incomprehensible to them. They had assumed that He would associate with those who practised the old kind of disciplinary exercises and would impart His teaching to such men. Hence they could not understand why He sat among those whom they regarded as ‘sinners’. But He said to them: If I were to impart in the old way the entirely new impulse I have come to give to mankind, if a new form of teaching were not to replace the old, it would be as if I were to sew a piece of new cloth on an old garment or pour new wine into old wine-skins. What is now to be given to humanity and is greater than anything indicated by the sign of Solomon or the sign of Jonah, this must be poured into new wine-skins, into new forms. And you must rouse yourselves sufficiently to understand the new teaching in a new form! (See Luke V, 36–37.)
Those who were to understand must now do so through the powerful influence of the ego — not through what they had learnt but through what had poured into them from the spiritual Christ Being Himself. Hence the chosen ones were not men who according to the old doctrines were properly prepared but men who, in spite of having passed through many incarnations, proved to be simple human beings, able to understand through the power of Faith what had streamed into them. A ‘sign’ was to be placed before them as well, a sign now to be enacted before the eyes of all mankind. The ‘mystical death’ that had been a ceremonial act in the Mystery temples for hundreds and thousands of years was now to be presented on the great arena of world history. Everything that had taken place in the secrecy of the temples of initiation was brought into the open as a single event on Golgotha. A process hitherto witnessed only by the initiates during the three-and-a-half days of the old initiation was now enacted before mankind in concrete reality. Hence those to whom the facts were known could only describe the Event of Golgotha as being what in very truth it was: the old initiation transformed into historical fact and enacted on the arena of world history.
That is what took place on Golgotha! In former times the three-and-a-half days spent in deathlike sleep had brought to the few initiates who witnessed it the conviction that the spiritual will at all times be victorious over the bodily nature and that man's soul and spirit belong to a spiritual world. This was now to be a reality enacted before the eyes of the world. An initiation transferred to the outer plane of world history: such was the Event of Golgotha. Hence this initiation was not consummated only for those who witnessed the actual Event, but for all mankind. What issued from the death on the Cross streamed into the whole of humanity. A stream of spiritual life flowed into mankind from the drops of blood which fell from the wounds of Christ Jesus on Golgotha. For what had been imparted by other teachers as ‘wisdom’ was now to pass into humanity as inner strength, inner power. That is the essential difference between the Event of Golgotha and the teachings given by the other founders of religion.
Deeper understanding than exists today is necessary before there can be any true conception of what came to pass on Golgotha. When Earth evolution began, the human ego was connected physically with the blood. The blood is the outer expression of the human ego. Men would have made the ego stronger and stronger, and if Christ had not appeared they would have been entirely engrossed in the development of egoism. They were protected from this by the Event of Golgotha. What was it that had to flow? The blood that is the surplus substantiality of the ego! The process that began on the Mount of Olives when the drops of sweat fell from the Redeemer like drops of blood was carried further when the blood flowed from the wounds of Christ Jesus on Golgotha. The blood flowing from the Cross was the sign of the surplus egoism in man's nature which had to be sacrificed. The spiritual significance of the sacrifice on Golgotha requires deep and penetrating study. The result of what happened there would not be apparent to a chemist — that is to say, to one with the power of intellectual perception only. If the blood that flowed on Golgotha had been chemically analyzed it would have been found to contain the same substances as the blood of other human beings; but occult investigation would discover it to have been quite different blood. Through the surplus blood in humanity men would have been engulfed in egoism if infinite Love had not enabled this blood to flow. As occult investigation finds, infinite Love is intermingled with the blood that flowed on Golgotha. The writer of the Gospel of St. Luke adhered to his purpose, which was to describe how through Christ there came into the world the infinite Love that would gradually drive out egoism. Each of the Evangelists describes what it was his particular function to describe.
If these things could be explained in still greater depth we should find that all contradictions alleged by materialistic research would be invalidated, as they are in the case of the antecedents of Jesus of Nazareth when the true facts of his early childhood are known. Each Evangelist describes what concerned him most closely from his own standpoint. St. Luke describes what his informants, who were ‘seers’ and ‘servants of the Word,’ were able to perceive as the result of their special preparation. The other Evangelists are concerned with different aspects — the writer of the Gospel of St. Luke perceives the outstreaming Love which forgives the most terrible of all wrongs the physical world can inflict. Words expressing this ideal of Love, words of forgiveness even when the most terrible of wrongs has been committed, resound from the Cross on Golgotha: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do!” (Luke XXIII, 34.) Out of His infinite Love, He who on the Cross on Golgotha accomplishes the Deed of untold significance implores forgiveness for those who have crucified Him.
And now we turn once again to the doctrine of the power of faith. Emphasis was to be laid upon the fact that there is something in human nature that can stream from it and liberate man from the material world, no matter how firmly he may be bound to that world. Let us think of a man embroiled in the material world through every imaginable crime, so that the forum of that world itself inflicts the punishment; let us conceive, however, that he has saved for himself something that the power of faith can cause to germinate within him. Such a man will differ from another who has no faith, just as the one malefactor differed from the other. The one has no faith, and the judgment is fulfilled. In the other, however, faith is like a faint light shining into the spiritual world; hence he cannot lose the link with the spiritual. Therefore to him it is said: ‘Today’ — since you know that you are connected with the spiritual world — ‘you shall be with me in Paradise!’ (See Luke XXIII, 43.)
Thus do the truths of faith and hope, as well as the truth of love, resound from the Cross in the account given in the Gospel of St. Luke.
There is still something else, belonging to the same realm of the soul's life, upon which the writer of this Gospel wishes to lay emphasis.
When a man's whole being is pervaded with the love that streamed from the Cross on Golgotha he can turn his eyes to the future and say: Evolution on the Earth must make it possible for the spirit living within me gradually to transform the whole of physical existence. We shall in time give back again to the Father principle, which existed before the onset of the Luciferic influence, the spirit we have received; we shall let our whole being be permeated by the Christ principle and our hands will bring to expression what is living in our souls as a faithful picture of that principle. Our hands were not created by ourselves but by the Father principle, and the Christ principle will stream through them. As men pass through incarnation after incarnation, the spiritual power flowing from the Mystery of Golgotha will stream into what they achieve in their bodies — which are the creations of the Father principle — so that the outer world will eventually be imbued with the Christ principle. Men will be filled with the confidence that resounded from the Cross on Golgotha and leads to the highest hope for the future, leads to the ideal that can be expressed by saying: I let faith germinate within me, I let love germinate within me, and I know that when they grow strong enough they will pervade all external life. I know too that they will pervade everything within me that is the creation of the Father principle. Thus hope for humanity's future will be added to faith and love, and men will understand that in regard to the future they must acquire firm confidence, saying: If only I have faith, if only I have love, I may entertain the hope that what has come into me from Christ Jesus will gradually find its way into the outer world. And then the words resounding from the Cross as a sublime ideal will be understood: “Father, into Thy hands I commend my spirit!” (Luke XXIII, 46.)
Words of love, of faith, and of hope ring out from the Cross according to the Gospel which indicates how spiritual streams that had previously been separate united in the soul of Jesus of Nazareth. What had formerly been received in the form of wisdom streamed into men as an actual power of the soul, exemplified by the sublime ideal of Christ. It is incumbent upon human beings to acquire deeper and deeper understanding of what is communicated in a record such as the Gospel of St. Luke, in order that the three words resounding from the Cross may become active forces in the soul. When with the faculties that the truths of spiritual science can develop in them men come to feel that what streams down to them from the Cross is not lifeless exhortation but vital, active force, they will begin to realize that a truly living message is contained in the Gospel of St. Luke. It is the mission of spiritual science gradually to unveil what is enshrined in such records.
In this course of lectures we have tried to penetrate as deeply as possible into the content of St. Luke's Gospel. In the case of this Gospel too, one course of lectures cannot possibly unveil everything and you will realize at once that a very great deal has inevitably remained unexplained. But if you pursue the path indicated by lectures such as have been given here you will be able to penetrate more and more deeply into these truths and your souls will be better and better fitted to receive and assimilate the living Word hidden beneath the outer words.
Spiritual science is not a body of new teaching. It is an instrument for comprehending what has been given to humanity. Thus for us it is an instrument for understanding the Christian revelation. If you have this conception of spiritual science you will no longer say: ‘It is Christian theosophy — just another form of theosophy!’ There is only one spiritual science and we apply it as an instrument for proclaiming the truth, for bringing to light the treasures of the spiritual life of mankind. It is the same spiritual science that we apply in order to explain the Bhagavad Gita on one occasion and on another the Gospel of St. Luke. The greatness of spiritual science lies in the fact that it is able to penetrate into every treasure given to humanity in the realm of spiritual life; but we should have a false conception of it if we were to close our ears to any of the proclamations made to humanity.
It is with this attitude of mind that you should listen to the proclamation made in the Gospel of St. Luke, realizing that it is pervaded through and through by the inspiration of love. And then the increasing knowledge that can be acquired from this Gospel with the help of spiritual science will contribute not only to insight into the mysteries of the surrounding universe and of the spiritual ground of existence but to an understanding of the momentous words in the Gospel of St. Luke: ‘And peace be in the souls of men in whom there is good will.’ When thoroughly understood, the Gospel of St. Luke is able, more than any other religious text, to pour into the human soul that warmth-giving love through which peace reigns on Earth and which is the most beautiful mirror image of divine mysteries revealed on Earth. What can be revealed must be mirrored on Earth and, as mirror image, rise up again to the spiritual heights. If we learn to understand spiritual science in this sense it will be able to reveal to us the mysteries of the divine-spiritual beings and of spiritual existence, and the mirror image of these revelations will live in our souls. Love and peace — here is the most beautiful mirror image on Earth of what streams down from the heights.
In this way we can receive and assimilate the words of the Gospel of St. Luke which resounded when the forces of the Nirmanakaya of Buddha streamed down upon the Nathan Jesus child. The revelations pour down from the spiritual worlds upon the Earth and are reflected from human hearts as love and peace to the extent to which men unfold the power, the good will, which the Christ principle enables to flow from the center of man's being, from his ego. The proclamation rings out clearly and with the glow of warmth when we truly understand the meaning of these words in the Gospel of St. Luke:
The revelation of the spiritual worlds from the heights and its answering reflection from the hearts of men brings peace to all whose purpose upon the evolving Earth is to unfold good will.
Notes:2. See the lecture-courses given at Hamburg, in May 1908, and atCassel, in July 1909; also the book Christianity as Mystical Fact, Ch. VIII.
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