‘The sun-orb sings, in emulation,Mid brother-spheres, his ancient round:His path predestined through Creation,He ends with step of thunder-sound.’FAUST — Prologue in Heaven.
Saturday, June 30, 2018
The Being of Christ; Zarathustra; the differering viewpoints of the four Gospels
The Gospel of Matthew. Lecture 12 of 12.
Rudolf Steiner, September 12, 1910:
Studying the evolution of mankind in accordance with spiritual science, and watching its progress step by step, we are bound to acknowledge that the most important fact of this evolution is that man, because he incarnates again and again in different epochs, advances to ever higher degrees of perfection, and thus gradually reaches the goal where he has developed, in his inner being, certain active powers corresponding to the different stages of planetary development. We see, on one hand, the man who progresses upward, who keeps his divine goal before him, but who would never be able to evolve to the heights he should attain if beings whose whole path of evolution is different did not come to his assistance. From time to time beings from other spheres enter our earthly evolution and unite with it, so as to raise men to their own exalted realms. Even as regards earlier planetary conditions we may express this in a wide sense by saying: Already during the Saturn stage of evolution, exalted beings — the Thrones — offered up their will-substance so that from it the earliest beginnings of man's physical body might be formed. This is but a general example; but beings whose evolution is far in advance of that of men have ever bent down to them and united with their evolution, by dwelling for a time within a human soul. Such beings have ‘assumed a human form’ as is often said, or to put it more trivially, have entered a human soul as an inspiring power, so that a human being who has been ensouled in this way by a god might accomplish more in human evolution than he could otherwise have done.
Our age, permeated as it is with materialistic conceptions, leveling everything, does not accept such facts willingly; indeed I might say that it retains only the crudest notion of accepting the descent of beings from higher regions, beings who enter into man and speak to him. Modern people regard such beliefs as the wildest superstition. Rudiments of such beliefs have, however, remained to our day, though people are for the most part unaware that they hold them; they have retained, for instance, a belief in the occasional appearance of persons of ‘genius.’ Men of genius rise high above the great mass of mankind even in the opinion of ordinary individuals, who say of such persons: Other qualities have come to fruition in their souls than are to be found in average humanity. Such ‘geniuses’ are at least still credited. But there are also circles where there is no longer such belief; the materialistic thought of today discredits them, it has no belief in facts concerning the life of the spirit: Belief in genius does, however, continue in wide circles, and if this is not to be an empty belief we must acknowledge that in a genius through whom human evolution has been advanced, a power other than the ordinary power of men works through a human agency. Looking to the teaching that knows the true facts concerning men of genius, one realizes that when such men appear who seem as if suddenly possessed by something extraordinarily good, or great, or powerful, that a spiritual power has descended and taken possession of the place from which this being of power must now work, namely, the inner nature of the man himself.
To people who think in accordance with Anthroposophy it should be clear from the beginning that there are two possibilities: the upward evolution of men to spiritual heights; and the descent from above of divine, spiritual beings into human bodies or human souls.
In one part of my Rosicrucian Mystery Play it is pointed out that whenever something important is to take place in human evolution a divine being must unite with a human soul and permeate it. This is a necessity of human evolution.
To understand this in connection with our spiritual evolution on Earth, we must recall how in the time of its early beginnings the Earth was united with the Sun, from which it is now separated. Anthroposophists know, of course, that this does not refer merely to a separation of the substance of the Earth from the substance of the Sun, but with the going forth of divine beings who were associated with the Sun or with the other planets. After this separation of the Sun, certain spiritual beings remained connected with the Earth, while others remained with the Sun, because they had evolved beyond earthly connections and could not complete their further cosmic evolution on the Earth. Thus we have the fact that one kind of spiritual being remained connected with the Earth, while other spiritual beings sent their active forces down to Earth from the Sun. After the departure of the Sun from the Earth we have, as it were, two spheres of activity: that of the Earth with its beings, and that of the Sun with its beings. The spiritual beings who served mankind from a higher sphere are those who chose the Sun as their dwelling-place, and from this realm come the beings who have united themselves from time to time with earthly humanity so that they might aid the further evolution — both of Earth and of man.
In the myths of various peoples we constantly find reference to such ‘Sun-heroes’ who have descended from spiritual realms to participate in human evolution; and a man who is filled by such a Sun-being is something far more than from outward seeming he would appear to be. The outward appearance of such a man is deceptive — it is maya; but behind the maya is the real being who can only be guessed at by those who can penetrate to the profoundest depths of such a nature. In the Mysteries people knew, and still know, of this twofold fact concerning the path of human evolution. People distinguish now, as they distinguished in the past, divine beings who descend to Earth from spiritual spheres, and men who strive upward from the Earth toward initiation into spiritual mysteries.
With what kind of being then are we concerned in the Christ?
In the last lecture we learnt that in the designation ‘Christ, the Son of the living God’ we are concerned with a descending being. If we wish to describe Him by a word drawn from Oriental philosophy He would be called ‘an avatar,’ a God who had descended. But we have only to do with such a descending being from a certain moment; and we must accept what is described by all four evangelists, by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, as such an appearance. At the moment of the Baptism of John, a being descended to our Earth from the realms of Sun-existence and united with a human being. Now, we have to realize clearly that according to the meaning of the four evangelists this Sun-being was greater than any other avatar, than any other Sun-being who up to that time had ever come to Earth. They, therefore, take trouble to explain that a specially prepared being had to advance from the side of humanity to meet this great descending being.
All four Gospels, therefore, tell of the Sun-being — the ‘Son of the living God’ — who came toward men to aid their further progress; but only the Gospels of Matthew and Luke speak of the man who evolved toward this Sun-being so that he might receive Him into himself. They narrate how the human being for thirty years prepares for the moment when he can receive the Sun-being into himself. Because the being we call the Christ is so universal, so all-comprising, it did not suffice that the bodily sheaths that were to receive Him should be prepared in any simple way. A quite specially prepared physical and etheric sheath had to evolve, meet for the reception of this descending being. Whence these came we have seen in the course of our study of the Matthew Gospel. But out of this same being whose physical and etheric sheath had been prepared in accordance with the teaching of Matthew, out of the forty-two generations of the Hebrew people, there could not spring an astral garment or a bearer of the ego suited to that Sun-being. For this, special arrangements were necessary, and these were carried out by means of another human being. This being we read of in the Gospel of Luke, where the writer of that Gospel describes the early years of the so-called Nathan Jesus. There we read of how the two became one.
This mystery occurred when the ego-entity, forsaking the body of the twelve-year-old Jesus of whom the writer of the Gospel of Matthew tells, namely, the Zarathustra individuality, passed into the Nathan Jesus of the Gospel of Luke. In this body he continued to dwell, carrying on in it the further development of those qualities acquired through his having assumed the physical and etheric sheaths of the Jesus of the Gospel of Matthew. In this body his higher principles ripened, until in his thirtieth year they were ready for the reception of the mighty being who descended into them from higher worlds.
When seeking to describe the whole course of these events as related in the Gospel of Matthew we should have to say that the writer first directs his attention to answering the question: What kind of physical and etheric body could serve such a being as the Christ for His life on Earth? And because of what the writer had experienced he could answer: In order that a suitable physical and etheric body could be prepared it was necessary that they should pass through forty-two generations of the Hebrew people so that the attributes laid down in Abraham might be fully developed. He could then continue to answer the question further by telling us: Such a physical and etheric body could only provide a fitting instrument if the greatest individuality humanity had so far produced for the comprehension of the Christ—that is the Zarathustra individuality — made use of them up to his twelfth year, at which time he had to leave this body and enter another. This was the body of the Jesus of whom the writer of the Gospel of Luke tells. From this point, the writer of the Gospel of Matthew, turning from that to which he had given his attention at first, deals exclusively with the Jesus of whom we read in the Gospel of Luke, and follows the life of Zarathustra until his thirtieth year. The moment had then come when the astral body and ego-bearer had been so far evolved by Zarathustra that he could sacrifice them to the mighty being — the great Sun-spirit — who descended from spiritual spheres and took possession of them. This was the moment of the baptism by John in the Jordan.
If we recall once more the time when the Earth was separated from the Sun, and the beings whose supreme leader is the Christ withdrew from the Earth, we must say: There were beings who let their influences spread gradually over the Earth, just as the Christ, in the course of time, has allowed His influence to be felt on Earth. But we must not forget something else, which is that the nature of ancient Saturn as regards substantiality was relatively much simpler than that of the planetary bodies that arose later. It consisted of fire or warmth; there was neither air nor water there, neither was there light-ether. This light-ether came with the Sun-evolution. Then, when later this passed over into the Moon-evolution, the watery element appeared as a further densification, on one hand, and sound or tone-ether as a further refinement on the other. Solid substance was added to these during the evolution of the Earth; this condition arose as a further densification; life-ether being added at the same time as a further refinement. We have therefore on the Earth: warmth, air or gaseous substance, water or fluid substance, and solids or earthly substance. Opposed to these as finer conditions we have light-ether, tone-ether, and life-ether, this last being the finest etheric condition known to us.
Now with the departure of the Sun from the Earth, not only the material part of the Sun left but the spiritual part left also. It was only later, and by degrees, that this returned to the Earth, and it did not return entirely. I spoke of this at Munich when lecturing on the Six Days of Creation, so I will only touch on it here.
Of the higher etheric substances, man is only aware of warmth and light-ether. What he perceives as ‘sound’ is but a reflection, a materialization, of the real tone that is in tone-ether. When tone-ether is spoken of we refer to the bearer of what is known as ‘the harmony of the spheres,’ and is only to be heard clairaudiently. The Sun certainly sends its light to the Earth, in so far as this is physical, but a higher condition also lives in the Sun. People who know of these things do not speak in empty phrases when with Goethe they say:—
This refers to sphere-harmony, to that which lives in the sound-ether, and can only be heard by man when he has attained initiation, or when a Sun-being descends in order to hold intercourse with one who has been chosen to become an instrument for the further evolution of others. For such a one the Sun begins to resound, and the sphere-harmonies to be heard.
Above the tone-ether lies the life-ether. Just as the ‘word’ lies within mere tone, as something possessing an inward soul-like content, so associated with the meaning of the life-ether is that which in later Persian times was called ‘Honover.’ The writer of the Gospel of John calls this the ‘Logos,’ which as meaning-filled tone belongs to the being of the Sun.
Among those blessed ones whose nature did not remain entirely deaf to this ‘resounding Sun’ we have to reckon Zarathustra, who lived in the early part of our post-Atlantean civilization. It is no myth, but a fact that can be proved documentarily, that Zarathustra received instruction through the ‘Sun-word.’ He had become capable of hearing this. For what was the overwhelmingly majestic teaching given by the original Zarathustra to his pupils?
We might describe it thus: Zarathustra was an instrument through whom the sound, the meaning, of the Sun-Word itself spoke. A Persian legend tells how the ‘Sun-Word’ spoke by the mouth of Zarathustra, how the secret or hidden word behind the Sun spoke through him. This legend, in referring to the astral body of the Sun, speaks of ‘Ahura Mazdao,’ but also of the ‘Sun-word,’ translated later into Greek as the ‘Logos.’
When thinking of this ancient Zarathustra, we realize that even so exalted a person could not in those early times have been initiated so as consciously to receive what he could afterwards pass on to others, but that he must have been ensouled by a higher being.
Zarathustra could teach of Ahura Mazdao, because the Aura of the Sun enfolded him, because the Spiritual-Being, Ahura Mazdao, resounded in him, because the World-Light — the great Aura — spoke through him. He was, as it were, the external bodily garment of the Sun-god, who thus sent His influence in advance down to man, though not as yet on Earth Himself. At that time the Sun-word was more inward.
It might be said — speaking altogether in the sense of Zarathustra — that he taught his disciples: ‘You must understand that behind the physical sunlight there is a spiritual light; just as behind physical man there is something astral — his aura — so behind the Sun there is the “Great Aura”. You must regard the physical Sun as the light-body of a being who will one day come to Earth; it is the external bodily form of something known to clairvoyant perception, and has an inner soul-nature within it. Just as the soul expresses itself in sound, so the Sun-word — the Logos — makes itself known by means of the Sun-Aura!’
Zarathustra gave to mankind the promise that one day the Light-being would come down from the spheres of the Great Aura, and that the soul of this being would be the Sun-word. This is something we find for the first time in Zarathustra; it is the source from which his teaching springs. In it we have to see a prophetic wisdom, which tells of the coming of the Sun-aura and the Sun-word.
This teaching continued to live from epoch to epoch in the Mysteries. It was the great consolation and hope of those who within human evolution longed for higher things. And the less exalted Sun-spirits, those associated with the Earth, were able ever and again to give more precise teaching concerning the Spirit of the Sun-light, or Sun-aura, for they were really messengers of the Sun-word.
This was one side of the Mystery tradition that passed down through the ages. The other side was that men should learn to know, and by practice should be able to evolve upward to meet, that which was to descend to Earth. In pre-Christian times it was not yet possible for men to believe that without something further a feeble individual could evolve to meet the Sun-being, the Leader of the Hosts of the Sun, the Christ. It was not possible for anyone to attain this by any form of initiation. Hence the Gospel of Matthew describes how all the life-giving forces of the Hebrew people were called upon to produce such a man. On the other hand the Gospel of Luke explains how through seventy-seven successive stages the best that human nature could attain to was, as one might say, filtered, in order that a fitting body might evolve to meet the greatest being Who was to come down to the Earth.
In the Mysteries, as was natural, the men who had to be instructed, who had to be worked on, were ordinary feeble men, and were quite unable to grasp what it was that now faced humanity or that might be attained by single individuals. Therefore those who were to be initiated were graded into different classes, and they approached the secrets of the Mysteries in different ways. Some, for instance, were taught more how men should live in the external world, what they ought to do there in order to fit themselves to become a temple for the descending Sun-being.
There were other pupils of the Mysteries who were instructed more in what was to evolve in the stillness of the soul if it wished to gain an understanding, a feeling for and perception of the Sun-spirit. Is it not natural that there should have been certain pupils whose task it was so to direct their outer lives, so to be trained from childhood, that their bodies became temples for the descending Spirit? This was the case in olden times; it is also the case to a certain extent today, but the ordinary materialistic consciousness passes it by.
Suppose the time drew nigh when some great being was to descend from spiritual realms to give humanity a forward impulse in evolution.
Those who serve the Mysteries have to await such a moment; they have to interpret the signs of the times. In quiet and retirement, and without making any disturbance, they awaited the moment when a God was to come down to Earth to give an upward impulse to humanity. It was their duty also to watch humanity carefully, to see if among men there were any who could be trained and guided to fit them to receive such a being into themselves. When the descending being is of exceptional greatness such a man would have to be trained and prepared from earliest childhood that he might be a temple fit to receive Him. This also happens, and is also unnoticed. If the life of these men is described, it is found that they follow certain fundamental rules; even in outer concerns there is a certain resemblance in their lives. When we glance back over the course of human evolution we have to allow that here and there we find individuals whose lives take a similar course—even as regards external biographical facts. This cannot be denied, and has even been remarked on by those carrying out more recent research. Popular but not very profound works have been produced lately showing similarities in the lives of such persons. In the writings of Prof. Jensen (Marburg) you find, for instance, comparisons between the lives of the ancient Babylonian Gilgamesch, Moses, Jesus, and Paul. The tables are beautifully drawn up; he takes certain incidents from the lives of these individuals and compares them, with the result that quite wonderful resemblances are revealed, puzzling to the materialistic mind. The conclusions drawn are natural: it is stated that in these biographies one myth is copied from the others, that the writers of the life of Jesus copied the biography of Gilgamesch, that the story of the life of Moses is but an old epic, served up in a new form, and the final conclusion arrived at is: none of them has existed as a physical personality, not Moses, nor Jesus, nor Paul. People have no idea how far these so-called ‘researches’ lead them in respect of materialistic explanations.
Similarity of this kind in the biographies of great individuals rests on nothing more than the fact that in childhood they were already trained to become the bearers of a divine being; this causes no astonishment when we understand the deeper-lying paths of human and universal evolution. Not only comparisons with mythology, but all those searchings after similarities in regard to mythical sources is, in fact, fantasy. It leads nowhere. What does it benefit us to prove resemblances in the life of Siegfried to some Greek hero? They do certainly contain similarities. But the appearance of a house is not what matters, but who lives in it! It matters not that such and such things occurred in the life of Siegfried, but who the individuality was that dwelt in him.
Such things can, however, only be established with the help of occult research. What we have to bear in mind is that the lives of men who were to become fitting temples for higher beings coming to the aid of humanity were guided in a special way, and that their lives show therefore a similar course as regards certain fundamental features.
In the temples of the Mysteries there have always been precepts regarding what had to come about with such men. Similar precepts were preserved by the association of the Essenes concerning Christ Jesus, telling what the nature of those human beings had to be who as the Solomon Jesus and the Nathan Jesus evolved upward toward the great Sun-being, the Christ.
But those seeking initiation were not initiated into everything. There were different classes and degrees of initiates. Thus to some it was shown with special clearness what a man had to undergo who was evolving toward the God, so that he might be worthy to receive the God into himself. To others it was given to know how a God acted when He revealed Himself in a man; or to put it trivially, when he revealed Himself as a ‘genius.’ It is not generally remarked today that genius is apt to reveal itself in similar ways when appearing in different people. Nowadays people do not write biographies from out the spirit. If the genius of Goethe were to be described from the aspect of the spirit, a wonderful similarity would be found for instance between his genius and that of Dante, Homer, and Aeschylus. People do not now write biographies, but stick placards and tickets on a person and repeat all kinds of trivialities concerning the person's external life, which interests most people much more. So we are presented with a vast accumulation of ticketed rubbish concerning the life of Goethe, but not a real account of what Goethe actually was. Mankind today declares itself to be in some respects, and actually with pride, incapable of describing the evolution of genius in a human personality. There is a desire today to bring to light the earliest efforts of our great poets, stressing the fact that in the freshness and originality of their early works something elemental lived which is lost to the man in later life. But the real fact underlying this is that in their arrogance men only wish to understand the young poet, and not to take part in all he goes through in later life. Men pride themselves on the fact that they understand ‘youth’; they trouble little about the ‘old,’ and have no idea that it is not the old who have become ‘old,’ but that they themselves have remained mere children.
This evil is widely spread. Seeing it is so deeply rooted, we need not wonder at the little understanding there is of the fact that a divine being can enter into a human personality, and that the life-course of such divine beings in any person and in any age must be fundamentally the same.
As there was necessarily much to be learnt as regards these profound relationships, this domain of knowledge was divided into classes. In a certain division of the Mysteries, teaching was given concerning the preparation of a man so that he might rise towards a divine being, whereas in others teaching was given concerning the descent of the inner Light-being, the Logos, the Sun-word, contained in the Aura of the Sun-being. In Christ we see this gradual descent in its most complex form. We need not wonder if more than four men had been needed for the understanding of these mighty facts; four, however, took it as their task. Two of these, the writers of the Gospels of Matthew and of Luke, undertook to relate the nature of the personality who grew toward the descending Sun-being — Matthew telling of this in respect of the physical and etheric bodies, Luke in respect of the astral-body and the bearer of the ego.
Mark on the other hand does not concern himself with that which advanced toward the Sun-being, but tells us of the Sun-Aura, the great body of light, the Spiritual Light whose power and activity streamed through space and was active within the form of Christ Jesus. He therefore begins his Gospel with the Baptism of John, when the Light of the World came down to Earth. In the Gospel of John we are told of the soul of this Sun-spirit — of the Logos or Sun-word — its most inward essence. This is why the Gospel of John is the most inward of all the Gospels. The facts are distributed, and the complicated nature of Christ Jesus described from four different sides. All the four evangelists tell of the Christ in Jesus of Nazareth, but each of them feels constrained to keep to the point from which he makes his start, the point concerning which he first attained clairvoyance so that he might be able to describe this very complicated being.
It is well that we should review this once more, so that it may really penetrate the soul. Matthew's attention is directed to the birth of the Jesus of the Solomon line; he describes the development of the forces of the physical and etheric bodies, and tells how these sheaths were later discarded by Zarathustra, and how he passed on to the Jesus of the Nathan line all he had acquired while in the physical and etheric body of the Solomon Jesus. Matthew has then to trace further what he does not describe at the beginning, the fate of all that which as qualities and consequences had passed over from the Solomon Jesus to the Nathan Jesus. His attention is not so much directed to what was elemental in the nature of the astral body and ego-bearer of the Nathan Jesus, but to that which had been passed on to him from his own, the Solomon Jesus. And as he describes the Sun-being Who came from above, he is mainly concerned with telling of the qualities that could only be possessed by Jesus because he had an etheric and astral body that had been built up by the Solomon Jesus. These qualities could naturally be remarked in the Christ, for they were there, but that part of Christ Jesus which had attracted his attention from the first, he continues to describe most exactly, for this was for him the most important.
The writer of the Gospel of Mark tells from the first of the great descending Sun-spirit; he describes no earthly being; that which walked the Earth in human form provided for him only the means by which the nature of the Spirit that worked within it might be revealed. He draws our attention to the facts that appeal most to him, namely, the way in which the forces of the Sun-spirit worked. Hence many of the things related in the Gospels of Matthew and of Mark are the same, but they are told from different points of view. The first describes more the character of the sheaths, showing especially how qualities which were apparent in later years had already been present in early youth, and describing these so that we see how they worked. The writer of the Gospel of Mark, on the other hand, only makes use of the physical Jesus in order to reveal to us the earthly activities of the Sun-spirit. This he does to the smallest detail. If you wish really to understand the Gospels in these details you must bear in mind that the evangelists fixed their attention on that which had attracted them from the beginning
Hence the writer of the Gospel of Luke keeps his eyes fixed on what is important to him, namely, the astral body and the bearer of the ego. What Christ Jesus experienced as a physical person does not interest him so much, but rather the feelings and perceptions of the astral body and the ego-bearer. All tenderness and compassion come from the astral body, and Christ Jesus could only be the being of compassion He was, because He possessed the astral body of the Nathan Jesus. So this writer draws attention from the first to the compassion of Christ Jesus, and all the things He could accomplish because He bore within Him this special astral body.
The writer of the Gospel of John turns his attention to the most exalted Power working on Earth — the inner force of the Sun-Spirit, brought down through the instrumentality of Jesus. Neither does the physical life interest him particularly, but he looks to the Highest, to the pure Sun-Logos; the physical Jesus is for him only the means by which he can trace the relationship of the Sun-Logos to man. That which attracts his attention in the beginning, holds it to the end.
When we look on sleeping humanity we see our external sheaths, our physical and etheric bodies. In these two members live all the forces that have come to us from divine beings who, through mi1lions and millions of years, have worked at erecting this temple of the physical body. In this temple we have lived since Lemurian times, and have defiled it ever more and more. It was constructed for us originally during the Saturn, Sun, and Moon ages of evolution. In it divine beings have lived and worked constructively. Looking at our physical body we can say: This is a temple provided for us by the gods — gods who have constructed this temple for us out of solid substance. And in the ether body we have that which contains the finer substances of our being; we are only unable to see these because through the influences of Lucifer and Ahriman we have become incapable of doing so. In this ether body lives also that which appertains to the Sun; in it resound the actively formative Sphere-harmonies which the gods perceive behind all purely physical nature. So of the ether body we can say: Exalted beings live in it, Gods that are closely related to the Sun-Spirits.
In this way we must regard our physical and etheric bodies as the most perfect members of our being. When we have forsaken them in sleep, when they slip from us, they are at once filled with the life and activity of divine beings.
The writer of the Gospel of Matthew keeps the physical body of Christ Jesus before him as his main object through all the Gospel, as it was his main object from the first. The materially physical body, however, no longer existed — this had been given up in its twelfth year — but the divine part — its forces — passed over into the other physical body, that of the Nathan Jesus. The reason why the physical body of Jesus of Nazareth was so perfect was that he had filled it with the forces he derived from the body of the Solomon Jesus.
Let us now try to picture in what way the writer of this Gospel regarded the Jesus dying on the cross. He had always kept his attention fixed on that which it was his special mission to describe, that of which he tells in the beginning; but now the spiritual part forsakes the physical body, and what is godlike departs with it. So the attention of the writer of the Gospel is directed to the separation of the inner being of Christ Jesus from this Divinity in His physical nature. And the ancient cry which was always heard in the Mysteries when the spiritual nature of a man forsook his physical body to gaze into spiritual worlds — ‘My God, my God, how hast thou glorified me!’ — is altered by Matthew; so that with his attention fixed on the physical body he says, ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me!’ ‘Thou has gone from me! This is what he exclaims. It is on this ‘forsaking’ that the writer of the Gospel of Matthew fixes his attention at this moment.
The author of the Gospel of Mark, on the other hand, describes the approach of the external forces of the Sun-Aura, and tells how the Sun-Aura, the body of the Sun-Being, unites with the etheric body. This etheric body is in the same situation as ours when we sleep. As our external powers go forth from us when we sleep, so they went forth from Jesus at His physical death. Hence we find the same cry in the Gospel of Mark.
The writer of the Gospel of Luke also directs his attention at the death of Christ Jesus to that which claimed it in the beginning: to the astral body and ego-bearer. Therefore he does not make use of the same words. His attention is directed mainly to other facts, to facts connected with the astral body, which at this moment attained its climax of compassion and love. Hence he renders the cry as ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do!’
This is an expression of tenderness that could only come from such an astral body as the writer of the Gospel of Luke directs our attention to from the first; and the highest development of humility and devotion resulting from this is what claims his attention at the last. Therefore he gives the last words of Christ Jesus as ‘Father, into Thy hands I commend My Spirit!’
John tells us of what, though certainly derived from the Earth, was to be realized by man in the ordering of the Earth, the meaning of earthly organization as it is contained in the Sun-Word. His attention is, therefore, directed mainly to what, as organization, was accomplished from the Cross on Golgotha. He describes to us how at this moment the Christ establishes a higher brotherhood than that of blood-relationship. The former brotherhood arose through the blood. Mary was the mother of the child according to the blood. But that which was to unite soul with soul in love was inaugurated by Christ Jesus.
He gave to the disciple whom He loved not his mother according to the blood, but He gave to him his true mother in Spirit. Thus, renewing old bonds which had been lost to humanity, the words heard from the Cross come down to us in a new sense: ‘Behold thy Son!’ and ‘Behold thy Mother!’
That which as organizing quality lay here at the foundation of a new kind of fellowship is contained in the Life-ether, which organizes life, and which streamed into the Earth in the Deed of Christ. Thus, behind all that the evangelists tell us, we have a single act — the Deed of Christ; but each tells of it from the point of view which he took up from the beginning. The reason is that each of the evangelists was absorbed in what his clairvoyant vision revealed to him and which he was fitted to receive; the rest passed him by. We now realize that this all-comprehensive event, which is described to us from four sides, is not full of contradictions. Once we are able to gather these different points of view into one we learn to understand it just because it is so described. It then also seems quite natural that the confession of Peter, with which we dealt in the last lecture, is only found in the Gospel of Matthew, and not in the others.
Mark describes the Christ as the Sun-Force, as a universal cosmic force at work in the world, which is now to work in a new way. It is the majestic power of the Sun-Aura in its elemental activity of which he tells. Luke, in speaking of the inner nature of Christ Jesus, describes preferably the astral body, the single human individual, man as he lives in himself; for it is in the astral-body that man lives in himself, here in his deepest individuality: here he develops within his inner self. Man does not form fellowships primarily by means of his astral body; the community-building capacity by which he enters into relationship with other men appears in the etheric body. Luke has, therefore, no inclination to tell us of the founding of any fellowship. Neither has the writer of the Gospel of John, who describes to us the ego-being. But Matthew, who describes Christ Jesus as man, has special inducement to speak of those human relationships established by the God Who once and only once dwelt within a human form. He is constrained to lay special stress on the relationships, the fellowships that God, as man, was able to establish among men, a relationship which could be regarded as a ‘Community,’ as an association in which many dwell together. The human aspect of Christ Jesus is what he describes, because this was the aspect to which he turned his attention in the beginning, and he shows how Christ worked as man through the physical and etheric body he had assumed.
When we have gained an inner understanding of this, we find it natural that the expression which has stirred up so much controversy‘— Thou art Peter, and on this rock will I establish my community’ — could only be found in the Gospel of Matthew. When we look at all the discussions of modern theologians of most varied schools concerning these words, we really only find particular and unique reasons for accepting them or rejecting them; nowhere, however, do we find an understanding for their deeper meaning. Those who reject them do so because the external community of the Catholic Church upholds them; for the external organization of this church is founded on them. That they are misused in this sense is no proof that they were originally introduced to support the Catholic Church. Those who reject them do not really know what to bring forward against them, for they do not see the misinterpretations. These gentlemen are in a strange position. Some state that the Gospel of Mark is the original Gospel, that to it was then added those of Matthew and Luke, which, they say, are to some extent copied and enlarged from it, and that it had occurred to the writers of the Gospel of Matthew, and of Luke, to insert these words. They specially state this with regard to the Gospel of Matthew, because they say he wished to support the idea of the community by inserting the words: ‘Thou art Peter, on this rock I will found my community.’
In any case parts of the text are of little help in the rendering of certain passages, because it is impossible to say regarding some ancient texts that this or that is the word actually used; but as regards these words in the Gospel of Matthew it is a fact that they belong to what is most certain in it, for here we have no possible philological reason for doubt. Many sayings may be open to doubt in such complicated communications, but from the standpoint of philology no objections can be brought against these two statements ‘Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God,’ and the other, ‘Thou art Peter, on this rock will I build my community, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.’ No text exists to which objections can be made in respect of these sayings. Perhaps it was hoped that from texts more recently discovered some contradiction of these words might be found, but the passages to which I refer are not found in these texts, portions of which are very much perished.
This at least is the outcome of philological research. Naturally you must rely on what is reported by those who have seen these documents. Of this passage we can state that no other rendering of it is possible, and from the whole nature of the Gospel of Matthew we can well see that this must be so. Christ Jesus is here described as a man. Once we have this key we can understand the Gospel of Matthew and we can also understand the parables told by Christ Jesus to His disciples and to those who were outside his immediate circle.
In the last lecture we showed how man evolves upward from below until he unfolds the spiritual-soul like a blossom, until he has developed so far that the Christ-impulse comes to meet him.
The five principles of human nature which developed in man during the five epochs of civilization — the ether body, astral body, sentient-soul, rational-soul, and spiritual-soul — evolve upward from below. These can be so used, trained, and developed that they acquire what makes it possible for them — when the time is ripe — to be permeated by the Christ-impulse. In future ages all humanity will be able to develop so that they can participate in the Christ, but they must first develop fittingly these five principles of their being from below. If this is not done, if through succeeding incarnations they do not concern themselves with the development of these principles, then the Christ can come to them, but they cannot unite themselves with Him. They have no oil in their lamps These five principles may be left without oil. Those who have poured no oil into their lamps are represented very beautifully in the parable of ‘the five foolish virgins.’ Those who had not attended to their lamps in time could not unite themselves with Christ — but the other five who had put oil in their lamps could in the right hour do so.
All the parables founded on numbers are profoundly illuminating as regards the impulse brought by Christ to men.
Further, He makes it clear to those who regard His teaching outwardly, that many external thing must not be considered merely in a material sense, or in the most obvious way, but rather as symbols for something else. He wishes to point out to them the nature of their own thoughts. He asks for a coin, and showing them the likeness of Caesar imprinted on it, points out that something more is expressed by the coin than is merely contained in the metal, namely, its connection with a certain ruler, with a certain empire. ‘What in this belongs to Caesar, render to him; it is his, and is contained in his likeness on the coin, not in the metal itself.’ ‘But learn,’ He also wished to teach them, ‘to regard men, and what is in them, in a like manner, for they are the temples of the living God. Look on men as you would look on a coin: learn that in them you see the image of God; you will then know that they belong to God.’
All these parables have a much deeper meaning than the trivial one generally accepted. We learn this when we know that Christ did not make use of parables as is customary in the literature of the day. In making use of them He directs them to the whole nature of man, obliging people when they think them out to apply them to their whole nature, not to its separate parts. In this way He shows how, if they are to be shown that something is irrational, they must learn to pass with their thoughts from one realm to another.
For example, people have thought out all kinds of Sun myths in connection with Buddha, Christ, and others. It became at last too much for one person. He said therefore: ‘With these methods of applying myths and constellations to any great event, it is possible to do anything. If someone comes and points out that in the life of Christ we have a Sun myth, in order to show that Christ Jesus never lived, one can also assert by such methods that Napoleon never lived, and can easily prove it. We might say: In the name of Napoleon we have a rendering of “Apollo”, the initial “N” does not represent a negative in Greek but an intensification; hence Napoleon is N'Apollo — a kind of “Super-Apollo”. The resemblance can be carried still further by the individual who sets out to prove the non-existence of Jesus. A resemblance is found by the German Prof. Drews between the names Jesus, Joses, Jason, etc., etc. Marvelous connections can also be discovered between the name of Napoleon's mother, Letitia, and Leto, the mother of Apollo; further, that Apollo — the Sun — had twelve constellations around him; Napoleon had twelve Marshals, who are nothing more than symbolic expressions for the Zodiacal signs surrounding the Sun. It is not unimportant that the hero of the Napoleon myth had six brothers and sisters, he making the seventh, just as the planets are seven in number. Behold, therefore, Napoleon did not live!
This is a very clever satire on the symbolic explanations so frequently employed. Men never really learn, otherwise they would have known that according to these methods — which they even employ today — it would have been proved long since that Napoleon, for example, never lived. But humanity never learns, for according to the same methods it is proved again today that Jesus never lived.
Such things show how necessary it is that we should not approach what the Gospels have to tell concerning the greatest event in all the world, without preparation. We must realize also that it is exactly here that Anthroposophy may so easily go wrong. For even our movement is by no means free from playing with all kinds of symbolism drawn from the world of the stars.
I wished, therefore, especially in this cycle of lectures, where I have spoken of the greatest event in human evolution as having been revealed in the language of the stars, to point out the true way in which this language is employed when what is referred to is really understood.
With this preparation, let us approach the scene in which the Gospels culminate. I have already referred to the baptism and the history of the life and death of Christ Jesus as two stages of initiation. To this I have only to add that after He had led His disciples to.the point where they could perceive the going forth of the innermost being of a man into the macrocosm, where they could see beyond death, He accomplished a resurrection before them, but not in the trivial sense in which it is often understood. This took place absolutely as told in the Gospel of Matthew. Let us take the words just as they stand — and as clearly stated also in the Gospel of John — and understand that what Paul says is true when he tells us: Through what he had experienced on the way to Damascus, he had seen the Christ, as the Risen One!
Paul lays special stress on the fact that what was revealed to him was the same as was revealed to the other brethren, to the twelve, and to the five hundred also, at one time. The Christ was seen by him, as others saw him after the resurrection. This is amply indicated in the Gospels, where we read that Mary of Magdala, who had seen the Christ a few days before, seeing Him after the resurrection takes Him to be the gardener, for she finds no resemblance to Him she had known before. If He had really looked as He had a few days before, it would have been impossible for in this case it would have been an abnormal fact.
No one would believe you if you said that you could not recognize someone you had seen a few days before, if he reappeared in the same form a few days later. We have, therefore, to realize clearly that a change had in fact taken place. Reading the Gospels closely we arrive at the necessary conclusion that through all that had taken place in Palestine, through the Mystery of Golgotha, the eyes of the disciples had been opened, and that they were able to recognize the Christ as He was, as the Spirit penetrating, and working, through the whole world. They recognized Him for what He was, after He had given over His physical body to the Earth, and saw that He remained just as powerfully active for the Earth as He had been before.
All this is made amply clear to us in the Gospel of Matthew, in words perhaps the most remarkable to be found in any document. We are clearly shown that the writer of this Gospel desires to inform us: Christ appeared once upon a time in a human physical body, but this event is not merely an event, it is an Impulse — an Original Cause. It has results, it has an effect.
The Sun-Word or Sun-aura, of which Zarathustra once spoke as being outside the Earth, has through the life of Christ Jesus become united with the Earth, and has remained so. Before this, what was later united with the Earth was not so united with it.
It is fitting that we Anthroposophists should understand this fact. We then also understand that it was the risen Christ Who revealed Himself to the eyes of the disciples, now become clairvoyant, and showed them how as Spirit He was now interwoven with the Earth and could say to them: ‘Go forth and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to observe all things whichsoever I commanded you! and lo! I am with you alway even unto the end of the Earth-age!’
It is the mission of spiritual science to help us to understand what was then beginning: that the aura of the Earth has been united with the Sun-Aura, and that it can be seen by those whose spiritual eyes are opened that this Sun-Aura, in the Earth-Aura, which was visible to Paul, can also be heard when our inward ears are opened to hear the Sun-word as it was heard by Lazarus, he who had been initiated by Christ Jesus Himself.
The purpose of spiritual science is to interpret these facts to us. It has also to interpret for us what has taken place with regard to the spiritual evolution of the world. In doing this, spiritual science actually establishes that which Christ Jesus desired to establish, and does so in the sense of the Gospel of Matthew.
There is one very beautiful saying in the Gospel of Matthew that is generally wrongly translated. The saying ‘I am not come down to remove peace from Earth, but to remove the sword.’ This most beautiful message of peace has unfortunately in the course of time been changed into its very opposite. In order gradually to deliver the Earth from that which brings strife and disharmony among men, the Christ-Being had impressed Himself — His own nature — on the spiritual life of the Earth. Spiritual science will establish peace when, in this sense, she has become so truly Christ-like that she unites all religions. She can then unite not only what is in our immediate neighborhood, but when the act of the greatest of all peacemakers is understood, she can establish peace over the whole Earth.
It is certainly not in accordance with the greatest peacemaker that fanatical people should go from one part of the Earth to another and impose a narrow Christian teaching on a people whose conditions make such a teaching unsuitable in the form it has taken among another people.
Great mistakes were made when teaching concerning Christ was carried over to the East in our time, and imposed on people here and there.
It has often been pointed out to you as Anthroposophists that the Christ does not belong only to Christians, that in reality the same being was referred to by Zarathustra when he spoke of Ahura Mazdao, and by the seven Indian Rishis when they spoke of Vishva Karman. We live in the West, and we know that it is Christ who is spoken of when in the East other words are used. We strive to understand the Christ so that this understanding is in accordance with human evolution — with the further progress of humanity. And we clearly realize that neither discernment nor revelation can give us information concerning Christ which turns men from Him, that only those things vouchsafe information to us concerning Him which consciously bear within them the living content of Christ Himself. And we know when we speak in the right way of Vishva Karman and Ahura Mazdao to those who deny Christ — when we do not force names on them — that they can attain of themselves to an understanding of the Christ. We do not wish to force the Christ on them in name; we realize clearly when we are not only Anthroposophists but Occultists that names mean little, that it is the being that matters. Were we convinced but for a moment that we could express the being who is in the Christ by any other name we would do so. What we are concerned with is the truth, not with our prejudices because of living in one corner of the Earth and belonging to one people. It must not be said of us that we understand the Christ through means not fitted to an understanding of Him, because outside His influence, this would be impossible for anyone. Christ can be found also by other nations, but He must be sought by means derived from Himself. People should not reproach Anthroposophists for wishing to study Christianity in forms not derived from Christianity itself. Christ can not be comprehended by Oriental names. He is not understood through them at all; such people look close past Him, thinking perhaps that they have seen Him.
What does it mean when people put forward the objection that we view Christ from a theosophical or Oriental standpoint? Have we to deny that the Christ came to us from the East? We have no such wish, but people seek in this way to force us to take the West to the East, and to form a conception of Christ in accordance with the East. This must not and cannot be, not from any aversion, but because Eastern ideas, which have a very ancient origin, cannot reach out to grasp the idea of Christ, and because the Christ can only be absolutely and entirely understood through that line of evolution into which first Abraham and then Moses entered. But the being of Zarathustra passed on into Moses, and we have to seek him there, to where his influence has extended.
Further, we must not seek Zarathustra in the ancient Zarathustrian literature, but where he reincorporated in Jesus of Nazareth! We must consider evolution!
In the same way we must not look for the Buddha as he was six hundred years before our era, but where the writer of the Gospel of Luke tells us he is to be found, where his light streamed from on high, after he had evolved from Bodhisattva to Buddha, and shone down into the astral body of the Jesus of the Gospel of Luke. Here the Buddha is to be found, and here we learn to know him in his further progress.
It can be seen from this how religions absolutely agree, and work together to bring about the advance of humanity. It is not a matter of preaching the tenets of Anthroposophy, but that we place them in a setting of living feeling — that we do not merely talk of tolerance and remain intolerant because we have a prejudice in favor of one religious system or another. We are only tolerant when we measure each with its own standards and understand each for itself.
It is certainly not our fault nor the fault of our special prejudices that many religious systems have apparently cooperated to bring Christianity about. In spiritual realms, where the great spiritual beings have worked, things have progressed in a different way from on Earth, where those who confess these various religions are active. Some of these earthly confessors, for example, summoned a conference in Tibet to establish an orthodox teaching in the name of Buddha at the very time when the actual Buddha had come down to inspire the astral body of the Jesus spoken of in the Gospel of Luke. So it always is. The confessors of a faith hold fast to that which has continued working on Earth; meanwhile divine beings have carried the work on further so that mankind may advance. Humanity makes most progress when men try to understand their Gods, when they try to advance with them. Such a thought ought to give us a living feeling, a living understanding, of what we glimpse in the different Gospels.
You have seen that in studying the three Gospels so far dealt with we have to recognize something different in each of them. When to these we shall have added the study of the Gospel of Mark we shall find that it reveals a very intimate knowledge of cosmology. Ahura Mazdao, who is active in all space, can be described in a right connection in this Gospel, just as the secret concerning the blood, concerning the connection of the individual with the race from which he has sprung, is described in the Gospel of Matthew.
Accept what I have ventured to describe in these lectures as one side of the great Christ event, and realize that far from everything has been said concerning it. The time is perhaps not yet come when all that might be said concerning this Great Mystery can be said, even in small circles such as ours. The best result that can come from the presentations of these facts is that we accept them not only with our understanding and intellect, but that we associate them with the innermost phases of our soul life—with the deepest feelings of our hearts — and there let them live on.
The words of the Gospels are words that, when we receive them into our hearts and really understand them, become powers — powers that fill us and develop a marvelous life-force within us. Today, when I have to say the final words in connection with this course of lectures on the Gospel of Matthew, I should like to say something I have frequently said before, and which I should like especially to associate with this humanly beautiful document of our Christian records — the Gospel of Matthew.
What strikes us most when reading the Gospel of Matthew, which from the very first brings before us the manhood of Christ Jesus?
Though recognizing the great difference between any other earthly man and that man who could receive the Christ, yet in all humility we would say that what strikes us most forcibly is the value of man, what he is worthy of. Then, although our nature is far far removed from that of the nature of Jesus of Nazareth, we may yet venture to say: We bear our human nature within us, and this human nature shows itself to be such that it can receive into it the Son of God, the Son of the living God, so that from this acceptance the promise can spring that the Son of God will from this time forward remain connected with the Earth, and that when the Earth will have reached its goal all men will be permeated with the substance and nature of Christ, in so far as they have desired to receive this into themselves. We have need of humility if we are to cherish such an ideal. If not so cherished it develops pride and conceit in us; we then think only of what we may become as men, and do not sufficiently keep in mind how little we have so far to show. This ideal must be experienced with humility. When understood in this way it rises before us with such majesty and power and is so overwhelming in its splendor that we are forced to be humble. Our humility need not overwhelm us, however, for we have the Reality of this ideal before us, and when we understand the Reality, however small our power may be, yet it will bear us ever higher and higher toward our Divine Goal.
The Rosicrucian Mystery Play strikes the entire scale in tones as we need them in ascending progress—firstly in the second scene where Johannes Thomasius stands shattered under the overwhelming impression from the words ‘O man, know thou thyself;’ secondly, where in the ninth scene, under the impression of the words ‘O man, feel and experience thou thyself;’ he feels exultingly raised to the wide spaces of Heaven. Keeping this before us, and with help from it, we can understand the majesty and grandeur which meets us in the Jesus of the Gospel of Matthew, revealing as it does our own littleness and demanding our humility, but at the same time pointing to the inner truth and inner reality which lift us out of all that seems like an abyss of our own littleness, compared with what we should be and can become.
If frequently we are conscious of feeling crushed when comparing what we are with the human divine greatness that can be in man, yet if we have but the goodwill we can experience something of the divine Impulse coming from the ‘Son of the living God,’ we can call to mind Christ Jesus, who Himself exhorts us, here where as men we experience the ego of which He is the most exalted Representative, crying to us in clear-cut tones for all the ages to come: ‘O man, experience thyself.’
When we understand the humanity of the Gospel of Matthew in this way — and hence it is the Gospel which lies most near to us — there streams to us from it the courage to live, the power and hope to stand fast, whatever our life-work may be. If we do so, we shall have best understood what it was intended that these words should convey to us.