The Gospel of St. John and Its Relation to the Other Gospels
Lecture 4 of 14
Rudolf Steiner, Kassel, Germany, June 27, 1909:
As the starting point of yesterday's discussion we took the alternation in our daily life that consists of waking and sleeping, and we pointed out that during sleep man's astral body and ego, as we term them, are out in space, while his physical and etheric bodies remain in bed. And at the same time we had to emphasize the fact that the principles remaining in bed could not continue to exist were it not for the entrance of a divine-spiritual astrality and a divine-spiritual ego. In other words, this alternation in the conditions of everyday human life means that at falling asleep man — with his human ego and human astral body — abandons his physical and etheric bodies, but that in their stead there enter divine-spiritual astral beings and divine spiritual ego beings. In the waking state, on the other hand, he himself fills out his physical and etheric bodies with his own astral body and ego.
That was one of our two points of departure yesterday. The other was the result of what we have gleaned from a comprehensive survey of our entire human evolution through the former embodiments of our Earth — through Saturn, Sun, and Moon. We also discussed certain details of this survey, and we found that as regards the progress of our planet earth a severance set in with the Moon evolution: certain beings who required baser, inferior substances, so to speak, for their further development divided off with the old Moon, while higher beings of a more spiritual nature detached themselves as an older form of the sun evolution. Next, we saw the two parts reunited later on, together passing through a world devachan or pralaya, and thus achieving their development. Then this Earth evolution proceeded in such a way that a repetition of the separation of the sun occurred, leaving for a time earth-plus-moon as a coarser, denser body, and the sun as a special, more rarefied body, dwelling place of higher, loftier beings. We learned further that if the earth had remained united with the moon substance it would inevitably have become barren and hard, and all living things would have died — or, more accurately, mummified. The moon, together with all that it embraces today, had to be cast out of the Earth evolution at a given time. The result was a rejuvenating process in the evolving human being. We saw that the lofty beings, who found the conditions for their advancement on the sun, could not influence human substances and beings until the moon had been sloughed off, but that then they could act upon them again with rejuvenating effect. This means that human evolution proper could not have commenced until after the separation of moon and earth. The sundering of the moon is of enormous importance for the whole of evolution, and today we will study it more closely. First, however, we shall show how our two starting points in yesterday's lecture merge, so to speak.
We observe a man as he stands before us in his daytime state: a being consisting of physical body, etheric body, astral body, and ego. But when clairvoyant consciousness observes him during sleep at night — his physical and etheric bodies in bed — higher beings are seen to enter this physical and etheric body. And who are these beings? Precisely those whose field of action we described as being on the sun. That is by no means impossible: only one who imagines all spirit as physical, and who fain would apply everything physical to his conception of spiritual beings — only such a person could doubt that solar beings, dwelling on the sun, can enter a man's physical and etheric bodies at night. For beings so exalted as to inhabit the sun, no such spatial conditions exist as obtain for beings of the physical world. Such beings can very well inhabit the sun and yet send their forces down into human physical bodies at night.
We can put it this way, then: During the day the human being is awake — that is, he inhabits his physical and etheric bodies; at night he is asleep — that is, he is outside his physical and etheric bodies. During the night the Gods or other extra-terrestrial beings watch over man's physical and etheric bodies. That is expressed half figuratively, yet it is entirely pertinent. Thus we know whence come the beings who must enter our physical and etheric bodies at night, and this links up our two points. But we shall presently see that these beings are not only important for our life at night, but are gradually gaining in significance for our daytime life as well. First, however, we must consider a few other matters if we are clearly to understand the whole import of the moon's withdrawal from Earth evolution. Today we will occupy ourselves with the genesis of other beings that surround us.
Turning back once more to Saturn, we can say that it consisted exclusively of human beings. There was no animal, plant, or mineral kingdom. The whole sphere was composed of the earliest human germs in much the same form as a blackberry is made up of tiny individual berries; and everything that pertained to Saturn surrounded it and acted upon it from the environment. If we now ask, Whence came that which gave man this first impulse, on old Saturn, for his physical body, we can say in a certain sense that it derived from two sources. In the first instance, higher spiritual beings poured forth their own substance: a momentous sacrifice occurred on old Saturn, and the beings that achieved it are called Thrones in the sense of Christian esotericism. Human thinking or even human clairvoyance may scarcely presume to contemplate the august evolution the Thrones had to undergo before being able to sacrifice that which could form the germinal indication of the human physical body.
Let us try to understand in some degree what such a sacrifice means. If today you contemplate the human being — the being with which you are best acquainted — it will occur to you that he demands certain things of the world, and gives it certain things. Goethe summarized this very beautifully in the words, “Human life runs its course in the metamorphosis between receiving and giving.” Man derives not only bodily nourishment but mental sustenance from the outer world; and in this way he grows and receives what he needs for his own development. But through this process he also develops the capacity for giving, in turn, what he has brought to maturity in the way of ideas and feeling, and ultimately, of love. By his taking something from the world and giving something else to his surroundings, his capacities keep constantly increasing: he becomes sensible and intelligent, able to develop concepts which he can sacrifice to the common life of humanity. He develops feelings and sensations that are transformed into love; and by offering these he stimulates his fellow creatures. We need only call to mind what a vitalizing effect love can have on our fellow beings — how one who is really able to pour forth love upon his fellow men can quicken and comfort and elevate them through his love alone.
Now man has attained to the virtue of sacrifice. But no matter how great a capacity for sacrifice we may acquire, it is slight when compared with that of the Thrones. Evolution, however, consists in constantly increasing this capacity for sacrifice, until finally a being is able to sacrifice his own substance and essence, as it were, experiencing as highest blessedness the giving of all he had developed as matter and substance. There are august beings that rise to higher planes of existence by sacrificing their own substance. — A materialistic soul will naturally object: When beings reach the point of sacrificing their own substance, how can they then rise to a higher plane? They would be sacrificing themselves, and nothing would be left of them! Thus speaks the materialistic soul, incapable of understanding that there is a spiritual existence, that such a being continues to exist though sacrificing what he had gradually received into himself. On Saturnthe Thrones were on a plane where they were able to pour forth the substantiality they had acquired during their previous development; and thereby they themselves rose to a higher stage of evolution. And that which flowed from the Thrones — analogous, in a way, to what the spider secretes for weaving its web — was primarily the basis for the formation of the human physical body.
Then the Thrones were joined by another kind of beings, ranking lower than Thrones, whom we call the Spirits of Personality, or the Principalities — Archai in Christian esotericism. These Spirits of Personality worked over, as it were, what had flowed from the Thrones; and through the collaboration of these two kinds of beings the first inception of the human physical body came into being. This work continued over a long period of time. Then, as mentioned yesterday, a cosmic night, or world devachan, intervened, and there came about the second embodiment of the earth, the Sun phase. Human beings emerged again, and other spiritual beings appeared on the scene: the Spirits of Fire, or Archangels, as they are known in Christian esotericism, and the Spirits of Wisdom, or Kyriotetes. These were mainly concerned with the further development of what reappeared as the human physical body. Now it was the turn of the Kyriotetes — the Dominions, or Spirits of Wisdom — to sacrifice their substantiality; and what we call the etheric body flowed into the physical body. This etheric body was then worked upon by the Spirits of Fire, or Archangels, in collaboration with the Spirits of Personality; and thereby man became a being of the rank of a plant. We may say that on Saturn the human being had the status of a mineral, for our minerals have only a physical body, and so had the man of Saturn; hence he lived a mineral existence. On the Sun he had the status of a plant, for he had a physical and an etheric body.
Now we come to a concept which we must make our own as an especially important one if we are to understand evolution in its entirety. Here I always like to draw attention to the existence in the cosmos of something that corresponds to a certain daily commonplace — a source of anxiety and annoyance to parents — namely, that some children flunk, do not arrive at the goal of their class, and must repeat the work. Certain beings do not reach the goal of a given cosmic grade; and in this sense certain Spirits of Personality, who should have reached their gaol on Saturn, lagged behind: they had not done all that was necessary for raising man to the grade of a mineral, which would have brought him to perfection in that,particular evolutionary stage. Such beings must then make up during the next grade what they had previously neglected.
Now, in what way could these retarded Spirits of Personality work during the Sun existence? They could not create a being such as man was due to become on the Sun, a being with physical body and etheric body: that called for the Spirits of Fire. Nor could they create on the Sun anything beyond what they had done on Saturn, namely, a potential physical body of mineral grade. So during the Sun period their influence brought about the genesis of beings one grade lower. These beings now constituted a lower kingdom, inferior to the human kingdom; and they are the ancestors of our present animals. While our present human kingdom had already attained to the plant status on the Sun, our present animal kingdom was at that time on a level with mineral beings, having the physical body only. In this way the animal kingdom, in its first indications, was added to the human kingdom.
So if we ask, what being among all those that surround us has passed through the longest development, the answer is, man. And the other beings arose because the forces of development associated with human existence withheld what in a different stage might have become man, allowing it to become a lower being at a later stage. Had the retarded Spirits of Personality performed their task on Saturn instead of on the Sun, the animal kingdom would not have come into being.
In like manner — I need only sketch this — the Moon evolution showed the following: Man progressed upward by reason of having received an astral body from certain beings we call Angels and from other higher spirits, the Spirits of Motion, or Dynamis in Christian terminology. This gave man the rank of an animal during the Moon existence, while most of those beings who, during the Sun existence, had appeared as a second kingdom now arrived at the status of plants on the Moon. These were the precursors of our animals. And to these were added — again through retarded spiritual beings, as explained — those beings that belong to our present plant kingdom. On the Sun there was as yet no plant kingdom, but only a human and an animal kingdom: the plant kingdom was added on the Moon. A mineral kingdom, such as today constitutes the solid foundation upon which all else stands, had not yet come into existence on the Moon. — In this way the kingdoms evolved one after another, with the human kingdom, highest of these, as the first one. Something in the nature of an outcast, something of the human kingdom that remained behind, is the animal kingdom; and what lagged one step farther still became the plant kingdom.
When the old Moon evolution was accomplished, that of the Earth commenced; and in connection with the latter we described the splitting off of the sun and moon. During this period all the germs of the former kingdoms reappeared: the animal kingdom, the plant kingdom, and finally — when the moon, as to its substance, was still united with the earth — the mineral kingdom. The appearance of the mineral kingdom as the solid foundation was what caused the hardening and desiccation that rendered the earth so barren; for the mineral kingdom that surrounds us today is nothing but what was sloughed off by the higher kingdoms. I have drawn attention in the past to the fact that you need only consider thoughtfully what modern science recognizes, and you will be able to imagine how the mineral kingdom was gradually ejected. Consider that coal, a mineral product proper, is taken out of the earth. What was this coal long, long ago? Trees that grew on the earth, plants that perished and petrified and became minerals. What you now dig out as coal was once a quantity of plants, hence it is a product that was first discarded: originally there were plant beings where now there is coal.
You can now readily imagine that everything else forming the solid foundation of our earth is also matter that was cast off by the higher kingdoms. Think, for example of certain mineral products that even today remain the secretions of animal beings, such as the shells of snails and mussels. Formerly nothing of a mineral nature existed: only in the course of time has it come about through elimination. Not until the earth evolution was in progress did the mineral kingdom join the others; and the reason for its formation was that beings like those on Saturn were still present and active on the earth. It was only through the activity of the Spirits of Personality that the mineral kingdom came into being; in fact, those beings are active in all the higher stages. Yet if evolution had proceeded in this manner there would have been so many mineral influences, so much hardening and densification, that gradually the whole earth would have become a desert waste.
This brings us to an important moment in the evolution of our earth. We visualize the sun as having split off, and we think of those beings who are now spiritual beings on the sun as having withdrawn as well, along with the finest substances. We behold the earth with its increasing desolation, becoming ever denser as mineral; and we see as well the growing desiccation of the forms it harbors — even the human forms. Already at that time a certain change came over the conditions under which human beings lived; and an illustration from the growth of the plant will clarify what then confronted men as well.
From the insignificant seed the plant sprouts forth in the spring, unfolds into blossom and fruit, and withers again during autumn. All that gladdens the eye in spring and summer disappears in the fall, and outwardly, physically, only an unpretentious remnant remains. But if you imagined that during winter nothing of the real being of the plant persisted, or if you looked for it only in the physical seed, you would not comprehend the plant. True, as constituted today the plant consists of physical body and etheric body, but observed clairvoyantly its upper part is seen to be surrounded by an astral being, as by a border; and this astral being is animated by a force that streams to earth from the sun, from the spiritual element of the sun. For clairvoyant consciousness every blossom is surrounded as though by a cloud, and this cloud breathes the life that is exchanged between sun and earth. While the plants are sprouting and burgeoning during spring and summer, something of the sun being approaches and hovers over the surface of the plant; and with the coming of autumn the astral being withdraws and unites with the life of the sun. It can be put this way: In spring the plant astrality seeks its physical plant body on the earth and embodies itself — not in it, but at least around it; and in the fall it returns to the sun, leaving behind the seed as a sort of pledge that it will find its way back to its physical expression.
Similarly, a sort of exchange took place between the physical human beings and the sun beings, although the human forms were still primitive and simple. And there was a time when the sun spirits surrounded human bodies with astrality, just as today the plant astrality hovers over plants from spring to fall. We can therefore say that during certain epochs the astral principle of man united, to a certain extent, with his physical body on earth, that it then withdrew to the sun, and again returned; and only the seed was left behind in the physical principle. But the earth kept on hardening; and then something of great importance occurred, something I shall ask you to keep well in mind. While formerly, when the sun had first withdrawn from the earth, it was still possible for the astral beings to reunite with the physical body when they returned after the separation, the earth, which the descending beings sought to occupy, had now become so hard under the ever increasing influence of the moon that they could no longer use it.
That is a more accurate description of what I characterized yesterday somewhat abstractly. I had said: The sun forces had lost the power of forming the substances on earth; but expressing it more concretely one can say: The substances dried up, and the beings no longer found suitable bodies. This resulted in the desolation of the earth, and human souls wanting to descend again realized that the bodies were no longer suitable. They had to abandon them to their fate, and only the strongest bodies could prevail through this period of desolation. The latter reached its climax at the time when the moon was about to withdraw from the earth. The souls who during that time yearned to be human souls were unable to make use of such bodies, with the result that only a handful of people still inhabited the earth. This desolation appeared to forecast a gradual extinction of life on the earth, and the situation is described quite accurately by saying that when the moon withdrew, only very few human beings had survived these conditions: there were very few cases in which a union had come about between souls craving embodiment and the physical forms with which they wished to unite.
Now I must describe these conditions more in detail. Let us go back once more to the point in time at which the Moonevolution had run its course and the Earth re-emerged from the womb of the cosmos. It did not come into being as did the old Saturn, for what here appeared comprised within it the after-effects of all that had occurred previously; nor was it physical matter only that was connected with it, but also all the beings who had been active before. The fact that the Thrones united with Saturn means that they remained connected with the entire evolution; and they came forward again when the Earth emerged once more from the obscurity of the cosmic womb. In like manner there appeared again the Spirits of Personality, the Spirits of Motion, and so on, as well as the germs of human beings, animals, and plants, for all this was contained in the earth.
Our physical science sets up hypotheses that are pure fancy. In connection with cosmogony, for example, a theory is proffered to the effect that once there was a great cosmic fog reaching out past Saturn. Now, a cosmic nebula of that kind, consisting of mere mists and vapors, is a fantastic conception: there never was any such thing. If one had been able to see only with external, physical eyes, something of the sort could indeed have been perceived: a vast fog mass would have been visible. But this fog mass contained something that physical eyes could not have seen, namely, all the beings associated with this evolution. The fact that later all this became organized and formed was not brought about by a mere rotary motion, but rather, because of the needs of those beings that were linked with it all. You will arrive at a sensible view of these matters only after you have completely emancipated yourselves from all that represents the official view of today, from what is inoculated in our children from the beginning of their school days. The children are told that in olden times only childish views and conceptions prevailed: those misguided ancient Indians believed in a Brahma who filled out all cosmic space! And queer people such as the old Persians believed in Ormuzd, the good God, and Ahriman, who opposed him! Worse yet: the old Greeks, who had a lot of divinities — Zeus, Pallas Athene, and so forth! We know today, of course — so the children are told — that all those beings originated in popular imagination and childish conceptions. Think of the old Germanic Gods — Wotan, Thor — we've long since known them for mythological figures; nowadays we know that such Gods had nothing to do with the development of the world. No: In the beginning there was a primeval fog in space, and it began to rotate. It cast a sphere out of its mass and kept on rotating. In time a second sphere split off, then a third, and so on.
As a matter of fact, these conceptions are but the form of a modern, physico-Copernican mythology which in time will be supplanted by some other mythology; but the earlier mythologies have one point of superiority over the present form: they come nearer the truth than do the later ones which have extracted merely what is abstract and pertains wholly to outward matter. We should ever keep in mind how easy it is to present, for the children's benefit, this most plausible way for a cosmic system to come into being. You take a drop of oil, cut a little card into the shape of a disk, insert this horizontally into the drop, stick a pin through the disk from above, and place it in water, where it floats. Now you begin to turn the whole thing, explaining, “just the way the cosmic fog once revolved”. First the oil drop flattens out, then a smaller drop is thrown off, then a second and a third, while a big drop remains in the middle — and lo, a little cosmic system has come into being! Then it is quite easy to explain plausibly that what here appeared on a small scale is analogous to what took place on a large scale. But people who perform this experiment forget one thing — something which in other circumstances may be a very good thing to forget: themselves. They forget that they are doing the turning. The whole analogy could have validity only if some worthy professor deigned to add something like the following: Just as I stand here and turn the pin, so there is a gigantic professor somewhere out there, seeing to it that the whole comes into rotation and that the planets split off, as did the drops of oil on a small scale. — In that case it might pass.
We know that there is no giant professor out there twirling the pin, but that beings of all ranks are there, and that it is these spiritual beings who attract appropriate matter to themselves. The beings that needed certain conditions for their life drew to themselves the requisite matter when they proceeded to the sun, appropriated it, and fashioned a sphere of action by means of their spiritual forces; and other beings took for themselves of the earth substance. That which acts right into the tiniest particle of matter — into the atom, if we chose to call it that — is spirit. It is erroneous to ascribe any sort of activity to mere matter. Men will learn what takes place in the smallest confines only when they understand that spirit acts throughout the greatest spaces. And by this is not meant spirit in general, of which people say, “in general, matter simply contains spirit” — a universal or primordial spirit. That sort of thing opens the way for concocting almost anything. No, we must learn to know the spirits in their concrete reality, in detail, and in their various vital requirements.
Now I will supplement a point we touched upon yesterday: the separation of the sun from the earth-plus-moon, and the subsequent division of the moon and the earth. In its main outline that is a correct picture, but it must be completed. Before the sun could withdraw, it became necessary for certain beings to segregate special fields of action for themselves, and these spheres figure today as the outer planets, Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars. It can therefore be said that universal matter, which contained sun and moon, comprised Saturn, Jupiter, and so forth, as well; and certain beings withdrew from the beginning with these heavenly bodies, beings requiring for their life precisely what these planets could offer. Then the sun split off, together with the highest beings, and what remained was earth-plus-moon. This evolution proceeded until the moon was cast out in the manner described. — But of the beings who had gone with the sun, not all were able to keep pace with the sun development. Speaking figuratively — it is difficult to find words in our prosaic language, hence it is occasionally necessary to use images — we can say that when the sun withdrew, certain beings believed they would be able to travel with the sun; but in reality only the most exalted beings could accomplish this, and the rest had to withdraw later. And the fact that the latter created special spheres for themselves accounts for the genesis of Venus and Mercury. So the separation of Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars occurred before the division of sun and earth, while later Venus and Mercury split off from the sun, and finally the moon from the earth.
There we have a spiritual picture of this evolution. We have comprehended the development of our solar system to the extent of visualizing the various beings dwelling on the different heavenly bodies. With this in mind we can now answer the question, What happened to those spirit-astral beings who wished to descend as human beings, but found hardened bodies they could not enter? Not all of these beings could unite with the sun spirits for lack of sufficient maturity, and so the following occurred: Those beings who had to abandon the bodies on earth withdrew temporarily to Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars. While down below, the earth was becoming desolate, producing only bodies incapable of harboring human soul beings, we find the souls betaking themselves to these planetary worlds, there to await the time when they should again be able to find appropriate human bodies. Only very few, only the most tenacious human bodies, were capable of receiving souls in order to preserve life during the moon crisis. The other souls ascended to other cosmic bodies.
Then the moon was cast out of the earth, and in consequence the sun forces were enabled once again to work upon human forms. The human form received a new impetus and once more became soft, pliable, plastic; and the souls who had waited on Saturn, Jupiter, and so forth, could now occupy these pliant human bodies. While formerly they had been compelled to quit the earth, they now gradually returned — after the expulsion of the moon — and populated the rejuvenated human bodies. So the casting out of the moon was followed by a period in which more and more new bodies kept emerging. During the moon crisis the number of human beings extant was very small. These never lacked descendants; but when the souls came down they could make no use of the bodies, and they left them to perish. The human race was headed for extinction; but after the rejuvenation had set in the descendants of those human beings who had survived the moon crisis were again able to receive the souls from Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars. The earth was gradually peopled with souls. — Now you will understand what a significant, deeply incisive event this exit of the moon was: really everything was changed by it.
Let us return once more to the development preceding the moon's withdrawal. We found that man must be designated the first-born of our creation, for he came into being on Saturn. On the Sun was added the animal kingdom, on the Moon, the plant kingdom, and on the Earth, the mineral kingdom. But now, beginning with the splitting off of the moon, matters assume a different aspect. Had the moon not withdrawn, everything on the earth would have perished: first the human beings, then the animals, and finally the plants; and the earth would have become mummified. But it was rescued from this fate by the withdrawal of the moon: everything revived and experienced a recovery.
How did this regeneration come about? The lowest kingdom, the mineral, required the least aid; the plant kingdom, though in a way withered, could also revive rapidly; and the animal kingdom as well was able gradually to resume its upward development in certain respects. The human forms took longest to come into their own, to be able to receive the souls flowing toward them out of the highest regions of the world. The world development is thus reversed after the moon's withdrawal: while originally the human kingdom was the first to come into being, followed by the animal, plant, and mineral kingdoms in this order, it is now the mineral kingdom that is first capable of exploiting the revivifying forces. This is followed by the plant kingdom, then by the animal and the human kingdoms, each in turn developing upward to its highest forms. After the moon's withdrawal the entire plan of evolution appears in reverse; and the beings that had been able to wait longest, so to speak, to unite their spirit with matter, these are the ones who, after the moon's departure, ascended to a more spiritual sphere in the highest sense of the word. Those whose spiritual development stopped earlier remained behind in a less perfect stage.
After the exit of the moon those who had remained behind reappeared first, and you will readily understand the reason for this. Consider a human soul, or any soul-endowed being, that had previously been unwilling to incarnate because of the condition of solidification. Such a soul might have reflected — again expressed in our human language — Shall I incarnate now or shall I wait still longer? — Let us assume that the moon had not been gone very long, and that consequently all substance was still very hard; but the being desiring to incarnate is impatient, descends whether or no, and makes the best of an inadequately developed body. This means that it must remain at a lower level. Another being reflects, I would better wait longer, remaining in cosmic space until such time as the earth shall have further lightened and rarefied its physical being. — Such a being, by awaiting a later point in time, succeeds in physically molding the being in which it embodies, making it into its own image.
All the beings that incarnated too soon came to a standstill on a lower plane, while those who were willing to wait advanced to a higher one. Our higher animals stopped at the animal level because they did not wait long enough after the secession of the moon: they put up with whatever bodies they could find. Those descending somewhat later could form the bodies only into those of the lower human races, which were dying out or about to do so. Then came a point in time that was just right for the union of souls and bodies, and this period produced what was capable of genuine human development.
What we have, then, is desolation on earth up to the moon's withdrawal, after this a regeneration of earthly conditions, and from then on the reappearance of those beings who had left the earth because it had too far deteriorated for their purposes. And this refers not only to those who develop the higher human beings but also to others who descended for quite different reasons. Here again it is a matter of awaiting the right moment to enable such a being to enter a body on the earth. Going back to the time of ancient India, we find human beings in a very high stage of development. Just as the souls descending from Mars, Saturn, and Jupiter sought their bodies, so more exalted beings sought bodies of a higher type in order to carry on their activity in man's inner nature. Consider the great and holy teachers of the ancient Indians, the Rishis: a portion of their being they placed at the disposal of certain higher beings who took up their dwelling there. But other higher beings said, No, we shall wait until other beings appear down there, beings who themselves are undergoing a higher development. We have no desire to descend yet: we will remain above until men have reached a greater inner maturity; then we will descend, for at present we would find the inner nature of man ill prepared to receive us.
Then, during the Persian cultural epoch, certain higher beings said to themselves, Now we can descend into man's inner nature as it has thus far developed. And again in Egyptian times this occurred in the same way. But the loftiest one among the sun beings still waited. He sent His forces down to the holy Rishis from without; and when these gazed up to the Being they called Vishva Karman they said, He is beyond our sphere. He waited, for He knew that the inner nature of man was not sufficiently prepared to receive Him. Then came the Persian epoch in which Zarathustra gazed up to the sun and saw there Ahura Mazdao; but still this exalted Being did not descend to the earthly sphere.
There followed the Egyptian epoch and the civilization of that people which had waited longest. And there appeared the man who had waited longest and had already developed his inner nature through many incarnations. Then the Sun Being gazed down and beheld the inner nature of this man who lived in Jesus of Nazareth and who had perfected his inner nature. The loftiest of the sun beings gazed down and said, As the lower beings once descended to build up bodies, so I now descend to occupy the inner nature of this man who has waited longest. — Beings of a high order, to be sure, had united with men in the past; but the one who had waited longest — he it was who received into himself the Christ: he was so far advanced at the Baptism in the Jordan that the Spirit Who hitherto had remained in cosmic spheres could now descend and unite with his inner nature. Ever since the Baptism the Christ had dwelt in the body of Jesus of Nazareth, because the individuality that permeated Jesus of Nazareth had attained, through many incarnations, to the degree of maturity which enabled it to receive this lofty Spirit in its own spirit-permeated body.
This Christ Spirit had always existed; but after the withdrawal of the moon it was necessary that all beings attain to a certain degree of maturity. First there gradually emerged the lowest beings, those who in respect of their spiritual principle had been least able to wait; then progressively the higher ones. And when man had achieved an ever higher development of his inner nature, and the time had come when Jesus of Nazareth had attained to the stage that enabled Him to receive the Christ, then he who enjoyed the gift of higher vision could say:
I saw the Spirit descending upon him.
And what could He say, He upon Whom the Spirit had descended, if He voiced what now lived within Him? It was the same Being the Rishis knew as Vishva Karman. What would Vishva Karman have had to say of Himself — not if the Rishis had spoken, but if He Himself had spoken? This lofty Sun Spirit, active in light as spirit, would have had to say, I am the light of the world. What would Ahura Mazdao have had to say of Himself? I am the light of the world. And what did the same Spirit say when a human being had become ripe to receive Him into Himself? How does that which heretofore had dwelt in cosmic space, on the sun, now speak out of a human being? What does it now say from within a human being? I am the light of the world.
The utterance of heavenly choirs — innermost self-revelation of the leading cosmic Spirit — we hear intoned again out of the inner being of a man when the Being Itself had come to dwell in a human principle. Inevitably there sound forth from Jesus of Nazareth, when the Christ is within him, the words:
I am the Light of the World.