The Apocalypse of St. John. Introductory Lecture
Rudolf Steiner, Nuremberg, June 17, 1908
In the autumn of this present year Nuremberg can celebrate an important centenary, for it was in 1808 that this city received one of the greatest German spirits within her walls. He was one of those spirits of whom we hear little to-day and whose works are understood still less; but he will signify very much for inane intellectual life in the future when he is once understood. He is doubtless difficult to understated and it may be some time before people grasp him again. In the autumn of 1808 Hegel became Director of the Royal Grammar School in Nuremberg.
Hegel made a statement that we may perhaps take as foundation for what we are going to study. He said: The most profound thought is connected with the figure of Christ, with the outer historical figure. And it is the greatness of the Christian religion that every grade of consciousness can grasp the historical external figure, while at the same time it is a challenge to the most earnest labours of the mind and the deepest penetration. The Christian religion is comprehensible at every stage of culture and yet at the same time it challenges the deepest wisdom. — These are the words of Hegel, the German philosopher.
That the Christian faith, the message of the Gospel, can be understood at every stage of consciousness has been taught for a period to be reckoned almost in millennia. To show that it is a summons to the deepest thought, to a penetration into humanity's whole fund of wisdom, will be one of the tasks of Spiritual Science, if this is understood in its true sense and inmost impulse and made the guide of human life. What we are to consider to-day will be misunderstood if it is thought that Anthroposophy or Spiritual Science is in any way a new religion or desires to establish a new religious faith in place of an old one. One might say, not to be misunderstood, if Spiritual Science is grasped aright, it will be clear that though it is a sure and firm supporter of religious life, in itself it is no religion, nor will it ever contradict any religion as such. It is another matter, however, for it to be the instrument to explain the profoundest truths and the most earnest and vital secrets of religions and show how they may be understood.
It may seem somewhat far-fetched if we make the following comparison in order to show the relation of Theosophy or Anthroposophy to religious documents (and to-day we shall be concerned with the religious documents of Christianity). Anthroposophy is related to the religious documents as mathematical instruction is related to the books on mathematics which have appeared in the course of mankind's history. We have an old work which is really of interest only to students of history versed in mathematics, namely, the geometry of Euclid. It contains for the first time in a scholastic form the mathematical and geometrical facts that are now taught to children in school. How few of the children are aware, however, that all that they learn about parallel lines, triangles, angles, etc., stands in that old book, that it was given to humanity then for the first time. It is quite right to make the child conscious that one can realize these things in oneself, that if the human spirit sets its forces in motion and applies them to the forms of space it is able to realize these forms without reference to that ancient book. Yet someone who has never heard of the book and has been taught mathematics and geometry will value and understand it in the right sense if he one day comes across it. He will know how to prize what was given to mankind by the one who set this work for the first time before the human spirit. In this way one might characterize the relation of Spiritual Science to religious documents.
The sources of Spiritual Science are of such a nature that if it is understood in its true impulse it is not to be referred to any kind of document or tradition. Just as knowledge of the surrounding sense-world is given us by the free use of our forces, so can the knowledge of the super-sensible, the invisible lying behind the visible, be given us by the deep-lying spiritual forces and faculties slumbering within the human soul. When man uses the instruments of his senses he can perceive things lying before him and combine them with his intellect. In the same way someone using the means given him through Spiritual Science can look behind the veils of sense-existence to the spiritual causes, to where beings weave and work which are imperceptible to the physical eye and ear. Thus it is in the free use of man's forces, though they are still slumbering as super-sensible forces in the majority of men, that we have the independent source of spiritual knowledge, just as the source of external knowledge lies in the free use of forces directed to the sense-world. And when man possesses the knowledge which introduces him into the super-sensible behind the sensible, the invisible behind the visible, a knowledge as definite as his knowledge of outer objects and events, then he may go to the traditional books and records. Furnished with super-sensible knowledge he may approach the records through which, during the course of evolution, tidings have reached man of the super-sensible world, just as the geometrician approaches the geometry of Euclid. And then he tests them as the modern geometrician tests the geometry of Euclid; he can prize and recognize these documents at their true value. Nor does one who approaches the records of Christianity equipped with knowledge of the super-sensible world find that they lose in value; indeed on the contrary, they appear in a more brilliant light than they showed first to the mere believer, they prove to contain deeper wisdom than had been dreamt of earlier, before the possession of anthroposophical knowledge.
But we must be clear on another point before we can realize the right relation of Anthroposophy to the religious documents. Let us ask ourselves who is better able to judge the geometry of Euclid — one who can translate the words and give the contents without having first penetrated into the spirit of geometry, or one who already understands geometry and is therefore able to discover it in the book? Let us think of a mere philologist, one who knows nothing of geometry, how many incorrect statements would appear if he tried to convey the meaning of the contents. Many have done this with the records of religion, even those who are supposed to be chosen to fathom their true sense. They have gone to these records without first having any independent knowledge of super-sensible facts. And so we have to-day most careful explanations of religious documents, explanations that explore the history of the time and show how the documents originated, and so on. But the explanations resemble explanations of Euclid's geometry by a non-geometrician. Religion — and this we will hold fast — can only be found if one is aided by spiritual-scientific knowledge, although Spiritual Science can only be an instrument of the religious life, never a religion itself. Religion is best characterized through the content of the human heart, that sum of feelings and emotions through which man's sensitive soul sends up all that is best in it to the super-sensible beings and powers. The character of a man's religion depends on the fire of these feelings, the strength of his sensitivity, just as it depends on the warm pulse-beat in the breast and on the feeling for beauty how a man will stand before a picture. True it is that the contents of the religious life is what we call the spiritual or super-sensible world. But just as little as an aesthetic feeling for art is the same as an inner grasp of its laws — though it may assist understanding just as little are the wisdom, the science, that lead into the spiritual worlds the same as religion. This science will make religious feeling more earnest, worthier, broader, but it will not be religion itself. Grasped in its true sense it may lead to religion.
If we wish to understand the force and significance, the real spirit of the Christian religion we must penetrate far into spiritual life. We must look back into times of a primeval past, the pre-religious age of mankind, and try to envisage the origin of religion. Is there a pre-religious age of humanity? Yes, a time existed on earth when there was no religion; this is acknowledged by Spiritual Science though in a very different sense from the assertions of materialistic civilization. What does religion signify for mankind? It was and for a long time will still be that which the word itself signifies. The word “religion” means the uniting of man with his divine element, with the world of the spirit. The religious ages are essentially those in which man has longed for union with the divine, be it out of the sources of knowledge, or from a certain feeling, or because he felt that his will could only be strong if it were permeated by divine forces. Ages in which man had an inner premonition rather than definite vision, in which he rather sensed that a spiritual world was around him, than saw it — these are the religious ages of our earth. And before these ages were others when man did not need such a sense of longing for union with the super-sensible spiritual world, because he knew that world, as to-day he knows things of the sense world. Does man need to be convinced of the existence of stones, plants, animals? Does he need documents or doctrines to prove to him or let him surmise that there are rocks, plants, animals? No, for he sees them round him and needs therefore no religion of the sense-perceptible world. Let us imagine someone from quite another world, possessing quite different senses and organs of knowledge, one who would not see the stones, plants and animals because to him they were invisible. Let us imagine that he was informed through writings or in some other way of their existence, which to you is a matter of direct sight and knowledge. What would that be for him? It would be religion. If he were informed through some book of the existence of stones and plants and animals it would be religion to him, for he has never seen them. There was a time in which humanity lived amongst those spiritual beings and deeds that are recorded in the religious teachings and teachings of wisdom.
The word “evolution” has become a magic word in many fields of thought to-day, but it has been applied by science solely to outer sense-perceptible facts. To one who regards the world from the standpoint of Spiritual Science everything is in process of evolution, and most of all the human consciousness. The state of consciousness in which man lives to-day, through which when he wakes in the morning he is able to grasp the world with his senses, this state has evolved from a different one. We call the present consciousness the clear day-consciousness. But this has evolved from an ancient state which we call the dull picture-consciousness of mankind. There, however, we reach back to humanity's early evolutionary stages of which anthropology tells nothing, since it uses only the instruments of the senses and methods of the intellect. It believes that man has gone through stages in the far past which are the same as the animal creation passes through to-day. We have seen in earlier lectures how the relation of man to the animal is to be understood. Man was never such a being as the present animal, nor is he descended from beings like them. If we were to describe the forms out of which man has evolved they would prove very different in appearance from the present-day animal. These are creatures which have stayed behind at earlier stages of evolution, con-served these stages and hardened them. The human being has grown beyond his earlier evolutionary stages, the animal has gone down below them. So in the animal world we see some-thing like laggard brothers of humanity, who no longer, however, bear the form of those earlier stages.
The earlier stages of evolution took their course when there were different conditions of life on the earth, when the elements were not distributed as they are to-day, when the human being was not encumbered with the kind of body he now bears, and yet was man. He was able to wait, figuratively speaking, within the course of evolution for his entry into the flesh, was able to wait until the fleshly materiality had reached a condition in which he could develop the forces of the present spirit. The animals were not able to wait, they became hardened at an earlier stage, took on flesh earlier than was right. They were therefore obliged to stay behind. We can thus picture that the human being has lived under other conditions and other forms of consciousness. If we follow these back for thousands and thousands of years we shall always find different ones. What to-day we call logical thought, intellect, understanding, has only evolved late in man's history. Much stronger were certain forces in him which are already beginning to decline, such, for instance, as memory. In an earlier age memory was far more developed than it is now. With the growth of the intellect in mankind, memory has stepped essentially into the background. If one uses some measure of practical observation one can recognize that what Spiritual Science relates is not said without foundation. People might assert that if that were true about memory, then a person remaining backward in development by some accident, should be backward least of all in memory. It could also be claimed that if intellectuality were fostered in a person artificially kept back, then his memory would suffer. Here in this city a characteristic case of this very nature is to be found.
Professor Daumer, whom one must hold in the highest esteem, observed this case very thoroughly. It was the case of that human being, so enigmatic for many people, who was once placed into this city in a mysterious way, and who in just as mysterious a way met his death in Ansbach. An author, in order to indicate the mystery of his life, wrote that as he was carried out to burial the sun was setting on the one horizon and the moon was rising on the other. I speak, as you know, of Caspar Hauser. If you disregard all the pros and cons that have been asserted, if you look only at what has been fully verified, you will know that this foundling — who was one day simply there in the street, and who since he did not know whence he came, was called the Child of Europe — could neither read nor write when he was found. At an age of twenty years he possessed nothing of what is gained through the intellect but he had a remarkable memory. As they began to instruct him, as logic entered his soul, his memory disappeared. This transition in consciousness was accompanied by something else. He possessed at first an incredible, an entirely inborn truthfulness and it was precisely in this truthfulness that he went more and more astray. The more he nibbled, so to say, at intellectuality, the more it vanished. There would be many things to study were we to enter deeply into this human soul which had been artificially held back. It is not difficult for the student of Spiritual Science to credit the popular tradition, so unacceptable to the learned people of to-day, which relates that while Caspar Hauser still knew nothing, while he still had no idea that there were beings besides himself of different form, he exercised a remarkable effect upon quite savage creatures. Savage animals humbled themselves and became mild, something streamed from him that made such beasts gentle, although they savagely attacked anyone else. We could in fact penetrate deeply into the soul of this remarkable personality, so enigmatic to many, and you would see how things that cannot be explained from ordinary life are led back through Spiritual Science to spiritual facts. Such facts cannot be learnt by speculation but only by spiritual observation, though they are comprehensible to an unbiased and logical thinking.
All this has only been said in order to show you that the modern consciousness has evolved from another, an age-old-state when man was not in direct touch with outer objects in the modern sense, but on the other hand was in connection with facts and beings of the spiritual world. A human being did not see another's physical form — nor did this form resemble that of to-day. When another being approached him a sort of dream-picture arose and by its shape and colouring he knew whether the other was antagonistic to him or sympathetic. Such a consciousness perceived spiritual facts and the spiritual world. To-day man is among beings of flesh and blood, at that time, when he turned his gaze to himself and himself was soul and spirit, he lived among spiritual beings. They were present to him, he was a spirit among spirits. Although his consciousness was only dreamlike, yet the pictures that arose in him were in living relation to his environment. That was the far distant age when man still lived in a spiritual world. Later he descended from it in order to take on a corporeal nature suited to his present consciousness. Animals already existed as physical creatures while man still perceived in spiritual realms. He lived at that time among spiritual beings, and just as you need no proof to be convinced of the presence of stones, plants and animals, so man in those primeval times needed no testimony in order to be convinced of the existence of spiritual beings. He lived among spirits and divine beings and therefore needed no religion. That was the pre-religious age.
Then man descended, the earlier form of consciousness changed into the modern. Colours and forms are no longer perceived as floating in space, colour is laid upon the surfaces of sense-objects. In the same measure as man learnt to direct his senses to the outer world, did this outer world draw itself like a veil, like the great Maja, over the world of spirit. And humanity had to receive tidings of the spiritual world through this sheath, religion became necessary.
There is also a state, however, between the time preceding a religious consciousness and the time of actual religion: there is an intermediate condition. Thence are derived the mythologies, sagas, folk-stories of the spiritual worlds. It is a dreary arid learning that has no inkling of real spiritual events and asserts that all the figures of Nordic or German mythology, of Greek mythology with its accounts of the deeds of the gods are merely inventions of popular fantasy. They are not inventions, the peasant folk do not indulge in such fancies and if they see a few clouds stretched across the sky, say that they are little sheep. That the people have such fantasies is a fiction of our modern learnedness which abounds in lively fantasy about such things. The truth of the matter is quite different. The old saga and stories of the gods are the last relics, the last memories of the pre-religious consciousness. They are records of what men themselves have seen. Those who described Wotan, Thor, Zeus, etc., did so because they remembered that such things had been experienced once upon a time. Mythologies are fragments, broken pieces of what had once been experienced. The intermediate stage was shown in another way as well. Even when clever men had already — let us say — become very clever, there were still persons who under exceptional conditions (call them states of insanity or being carried away, as you will) could see into the spiritual worlds, who could still be aware of what in earlier times was seen by all. They recounted that they themselves still saw something of the spiritual world. This was linked with the memories and led to a living faith among the people. That was a state transitional to the state of actual religion.
We may ask: what paved the way in mankind to an actual religion? It was because men found a means of so developing their inner being that they were once more able to behold the worlds from which they had sprung, which they used to see in a dull consciousness. And here we touch upon a chapter which to many modern minds contains but little probability, the question of initiation. What are initiates? They were those who so developed their inner nature of soul and spirit through certain methods that they grew again into the spiritual world. There is initiation! In every soul super-sensible forces and faculties lie dormant. There is, or at least there can be, a great and mighty moment when these forces awaken. We can gain some idea of this moment if we picture the general course of human evolution. To speak in the words of Goethe we can say that we look back into the far past when the human body had no such physical eye or physical ear as exist to-day. We look back to times when there were undifferentiated organs, able neither to see nor to hear, at the places where these organs are now situated. A time came for physical humanity when such blind organs evolved to radiant points, gradually evolved until light itself dawned upon them. In the same way a time came when the human ear had developed to such a stage that the former silent world revealed itself in tones and harmonies. The sun's forces worked upon the formation of the human eye. And to-day man can live the life of spirit and thus develop the organs of soul and spirit which are largely undeveloped in present mankind.
The moment is possible and for many has already dawned when the soul and spirit are transformed just as once the external physical organism was transformed. New eyes and ears arise through which the light shines and tones resound out of the spiritually dark and silent world. Development is possible, even to the point of living into the higher worlds. That is initiation. And the Mystery Schools provided methods of initiation as in ordinary life the methods of the chemical laboratory or of biological research are made available. The difference is only this — official science has to prepare instruments and other apparatus for its use, while he who would become an initiate has but one instrument to perfect, namely, himself in all his forces just as the force of magnetism can lie dormant in iron, so there slumbers in the human soul the power to penetrate into the spiritual world of light and sound. And so the time came when normal humanity saw only physical sense-existence and when the leaders were initiates. These could see into the spiritual worlds and give information and explanation of the facts of that world in which man had earlier lived.
To what does the first stage of initiation lead? How does it appear to the human soul? Do not imagine that this development is merely a matter of philosophic speculation, a spinning out, a refinement of ideas. The ideas man has about the sense-world are transformed when he grows into the spiritual world. No longer does he apprehend things through sharply outlined concepts, but through pictures, through Imaginations. For the human being grows into the spiritual process of world creation. The firm definite contours of the physical material world exist, in fact, nowhere else. In the world creative process the animal does not appear with clear outline. One has there something like a basic idea of the animal from which the diverse external forms can originate, a living reality, membered in itself. One must take one's stand strictly on the basis of Goethe's words: “All things corruptible are but a semblance.” The initiate learns at first to know and grasp in pictures, he learns to ascend into the spiritual world. There his consciousness must be more mobile than that which serves us for apprehending the surrounding sense-world. Hence this stage of development is called the Imaginative Consciousness. It leads man again into the spiritual world, but not in a dull twilight state. The initiate consciousness to be gained is clear and bright, as clear as man's consciousness by day. There is thus an enrichment, the spiritual consciousness is added to the day-consciousness. In the first stage of initiation man lives in the imaginative consciousness. The documents of humanity record what the initiates experienced in the spiritual world just as information with regard to the science of geometry was imparted to mankind through Euclid. We recognize what stands in these records when we go back to the sources — the spiritual vision of the initiates.
Those were the conditions prevailing among men up to the appearance of the greatest Being who has trodden upon the earth, Christ Jesus. With his appearance anew element entered evolution. If we would understand the essential nature of the new element bestowed on mankind through Christ Jesus, we must realize that in all pre-Christian initiation the candidate was completely withdrawn from ordinary life, he must work upon his soul in centres of profoundest secrecy. Above all we must realize that when man raised himself again into the spiritual world something of that merely dreamlike picture-consciousness still remained. Man had to retreat from this sense-world to be able to enter the spiritual world. That this is no longer necessary to-day has been brought about through the appearing of Christ Jesus on earth. Through the fact that the Christ-principle has entered humanity, the Central Being, the very Centre of the spiritual world, has once existed historically in a human being on this earth. It is the same Being for whom all these have longed who have developed a religious life, who have beheld in the Mystery Centres, who have left the sense-world in order to enter the spiritual world. The Being of whom it has been proclaimed that man confronts it as his highest nature, this has entered humanity's evolution with Christ Jesus. One who understands something of genuine spiritual science knows that all religious proclamation before the coming of Christ Jesus is a prophecy of him.
When the ancient initiates wished to speak of the highest that was accessible to them in the spiritual world, of that which they were able to see as the origin of all things, then under the most diverse names it was of Christ Jesus that they spoke. We need only remember the Old Testament, itself a prophecy. We remember how when Moses was to lead his people he received the command: “Say to thy people that the Lord God has said unto thee what thou shalt do.” Then Moses asks: “How will the people believe me, how can I convince them? What shall I say when they ask who has sent me?” And he was commanded: “Say the ‘I-am’ has sent thee.” Read it again and compare as exactly as you can with the original text and you will see its significance. The “I-Am,” what does that mean? The “I-Am” is the name for the divine Being, the Christ-principle of man — the Being of whom man feels like a drop, a spark, when he can say “I am.” The stone, the plant, the animal cannot say “I am.” Man is the crown of creation inasmuch as he can say “I am” to himself, he can utter a name which does not hold good for anyone but the one who utters it. You alone can call yourself “I”; no one else can call you “I.” Here the soul speaks within itself in a word to which none other has entrance except a Being which comes to the soul through no external sense, on no outer path. Here Divinity speaks. Hence the name “I-Am” was given to the Godhead whose being fills the world. “Say that the ‘I-am’ has told thee !” Thus was Moses to speak to his people.
Men learn only gradually to understand the true, deep meaning of this “I-am.” Human beings did not feel themselves as individuals at once. You can still find this in the Old Testament, these men did not as yet feel individual. Even the members of the German tribes, right into the time of the Christian Church, did not feel themselves to be individualities. Think back to the Cherusci, the Teutons, etc., the German tribes in whose land modern Germany now lies. The separate members felt the tribal ego, and themselves as a part of it. A man would not have said “I am” in the clear, definite way it is said to-day; he felt himself part of an organism composed of those who were related by blood. This blood-relationship assumes the greatest proportions among the followers of the Old Testament religion. The individual felt himself sheltered in the whole folk which for him was ruled by one Ego. He knew the meaning of “I and the Father Abraham are one,” for he traced the blood-relationship back through the generations to Abraham. If he wished to go beyond his single ego he knew himself to be sheltered in the Father Abraham, from whom flows all the blood through the generations, which is the external bearer of the common Folk-Ego.
Now if this expression, which signified the highest they knew to the people of the Old Testament is compared with what has been brought through Christ Jesus then a lightning-flash illumines the whole advance that has come about through Christian evolution. “Before Abraham was, was the ‘I-am.’” What does this mean? “Before Abraham was the ‘I-am.’” (That is the right rendering of the biblical passage.) It means: Go back through all generations, and you find something in yourself, in your own individuality which is even more eternal than what flows through all blood-related generations. Before the ancestors were, was the “I-am,” that Being which draws into every human being, of which each human soul can directly feel something in itself. Not “I and the Father Abraham,” not I and a temporal Father, but I and a spiritual Father, who has no part in anything perishable, we are one! I and the Father are one. The Father dwells in each separate individual, the Divine Principle lives in him, something which was, which is, and which is to be.
Men have actually only begun after 2,000 years to feel the force of this world-impulse; in future ages, however, they will realize the significance for mankind of this forward step in the remission and evolution of the earth. What the ancient initiates tried to reach could only be realized if one went beyond the individual human being and grasped the spirit of a whole people. If the normal man heard that he would say: That is a transient entity which begins with birth and ends with death. But if he were initiated in the secrets of the Mysteries, he saw as the Folk Spirit, as the actual Being who flows through the blood of the generations, that which was only dimly sensed by the others. He could see what can be reached only in the spiritual realm and not in external reality. He could see a divine Being who flows through the blood of the generations. To stand face to face in the spirit before this God could only take place in the Mysteries.
Those who were round Christ Jesus with full understanding as his intimate pupils were conscious that a Being of divine spiritual nature stood outwardly before them, clothed in the flesh as human personality. They were sensible of Christ Jesus as the first human being to bear a Spirit who otherwise was felt only by interrelated groups, and who could only be seen in the spiritual world by initiates. He was the Firstborn among men.
The more individualized a man becomes the more he can become a bearer of Love. Where the blood links men together they love because they are led to what they should love. When man is granted individuality, when he tends and nurtures the divine spark within hit then the impulses of love, the waves of love, pass from man to man out of the free heart. And thus with this new impulse man has enriched the old bond of love that is bound to the blood-tie. Love passes over gradually into spiritual love which flows from soul to soul and which will ultimately encompass all humanity in a common bond of brother-love. But Christ Jesus is the Force, the living Force, once historically and externally present, through whom for the first time mankind has been brought to the bond of brother-love. Men will learn to understand this bond of brother-love as the perfected spiritualized Christianity.
People say very lightly to-day that theosophy should seek the common kernel of truth in all religions, for the contents of all religions are the same. People who talk like that and only compare religions in order to note the abstract resemblance have no understanding of the principle of evolution. World evolution is not without meaning. All religions undoubtedly contain the truth, but inasmuch as they evolve from form to form they evolve to higher forms. It is true that if you search deeply enough you can find teachings in other religions that are also to be found in Christianity. Christianity has not brought new doctrine. The essential element of Christianity does not lie in its teachings. Take the founders of pre-Christian religions, in their case it was a matter of what they taught. If they themselves had remained unknown, their teaching would have been preserved and this would have been enough. But with Christ Jesus that is not the point. What matters is that he was there, that he has lived here on this earth in a physical body. Not belief in his teaching but in his Person — that is the essential thing. The point is that he has been beheld among mortals as the Firstborn; whom one asks: if Thou wert in the position in which I find myself, wouldst Thou feel as I do? Wouldst Thou think as I am now thinking? Will, as I am willing? That is else important thing, that he is the greatest example as Personality, with whom it is not a matter of listening to his teaching, but of looking at him himself, and seeing how he acted. And so the intimate pupils of Christ Jesus speak quite differently from the pupils and disciples of other religious founders. It is said of those: The Master has taught this or taught that. The disciples of Christ Jesus say: We are not telling you invented myths and doctrines; we say to you what our eyes have seen, our ears heard. We have heard his voice, our hands have touched the Source of Life whereby we have community with you. And Christ Jesus himself said: “You shall bear witness for me in Jerusalem, in Judea to the end of the world.” These words contain a very great significance; testimony shall you bear for inc to the end of the world. That means that there will at all times be those who, just as the men in Judea and Galilee, could say out of direct knowledge who Christ was, in the sense of the Gospel.
“In the sense of the Gospel” — what does that mean? Nothing less than that he was from the beginning the Principle that lived in all creation. He says, “If you do not believe in me, believe at least in Moses, for if you believe in Moses, then you believe in me, for Moses has spoken of me.” We have to-day seen this. Moses has spoken of him by saying: The “I-Am” has said it to me; the “I-am,” who up to then was only perceptible in the spirit. The fact that the Christ has entered visibly into the world, appearing as man among amen, is what distinguishes the Christ-gospel from the divine proclamations of other religions. In all of these religions spiritual wisdom was directed to something which was outside the world. Now, with Christ Jesus, something entered the world which was to be grasped as the sense-perceptible itself. What did the first disciples experience as the ideal of their wisdom? No longer merely to understand the life of the spirits in spirit-land, but how the Highest Principle could have been present on the earth in the historical Personality of Christ Jesus. It is much easier to deny divinity to this Personality than to acknowledge it. Here lies the distinction between a certain doctrine of early Christian times and what we may call inner Christianity — the distinction between Gnosis and esoteric Christianity. The Gnosis certainly recognizes Christ in his divinity, but it could not raise itself to the conception that the Word has become flesh and dwelt among us, as the writer of the John Gospel emphasizes. He says: You shall look upon Christ Jesus; not as something to be grasped purely in the invisible, but as the Word which has become flesh and dwelt among us. You must know that with this human personality a force has appeared which will work into the farthest future, which will encircle the earth with the true spiritual love as a force that lives and works in all that lives into the future.
And if man gives himself up to this force he grows into the spiritual world from which he has descended. He will ascend again to where the initiate's vision can already reach to-day. Man will divest himself of what belongs to the senses when he penetrates into the spiritual world. The candidate who was initiated in ancient times could see in retrospect the far past of spirit-life; those who are initiated in the Christian sense through receiving the impulse of Christ Jesus are enabled to see what becomes of this earthly world of ours when humanity acts in the sense of the Christ Impulse. As one can look back to earlier conditions, so, starting from the conning of Christ, one can look into the farthest future. Consciousness will alter again, there will be a new relation of the spiritual to the sense-world. Earlier initiation was directed to tine past, to age-old wisdom; Christian initiation reveals the future to one who is to be initiated. That is a necessity; man is to be initiated not only in wisdom, or in feelings but in his will. For then he knows what he is to do, he can set himself a goal for the future. Ordinary everyday people set themselves aims for the afternoon, for the evening or the morning; the spiritual man is able, out of spiritual principles, to set himself distant aims which pulse through his will and make his forces quicken. To set goals before humanity means in the true, highest sense, in the sense of the original Christ principle, to grasp Christianity esoterically. In this way it was grasped by the one who has written the great principle of the initiation of the will — the writer of the Apocalypse. We misunderstand the Apocalypse, if we do not understand it as the impulse given for the future, for action and deed.
Everything that we have let pass before us to-day can be understood out of anthroposophical Spiritual Science. I have been unable to give more than a slight sketch. When through Spiritual Science one grasps what lies behind the sense-world, one can look with understanding at all that has been given in the Gospels, at what has been proclaimed in the Apocalypse. And the more deeply penetrating is one's approach to the super-sensible worlds, the more profound is what one will find in the Christian documents. The records of Christianity will appear in higher brilliance, with deeper truths when one goes to them strengthened with the spiritual vision that may be gained by the help of Anthroposophy. True it is that the simplest heart can have some feeling of what truths lie hidden in Christianity. But man's consciousness will not be satisfied for ever with a dim sensing, it will evolve higher and wish to have knowledge and under-standing. Yet even when it mounts to the highest teachings of wisdom, there will always be mysteries in Christianity still more profound. It is for the simplest heart but also for the most developed intellectuality. The initiate experiences it again as pictures, and so the naive consciousness may divine what truths are slumbering there. Man, however, will demand knowledge and not faith — and even then he will find satisfaction in Christianity. If the explanations of the Gospels are given him through Spiritual Science he will be able to find the fully satisfying content in Christianity. Hence Spiritual Science will take the place of the highest philosophies of the past. It will bear testimony to the beautiful words of Hegel quoted at the beginning: “Profoundest thought is linked with the historical external figure of Christ Jesus, and every degree of consciousness — therein lies the greatness of Christianity — can grasp it externally. At the same time, however, Christianity demands the deepest and most penetrating wisdom. Christianity is for every stage of culture, but it can meet and satisfy the highest demands.”
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