The Christ Impulse and the Development of Ego-Consciousness. Lecture 4 of 7.
Rudolf Steiner, Berlin, February 8, 1910:
To-day we must again refer to the old and important teaching contained in the Beatitudes of the Sermon on the Mount, and, starting from that we shall carry forward our vision to our own times and the near future.
The Sermon on the Mount as reported in St. Matthew's Gospel can only be understood if we grasp the whole spirit of it, in the sense of the development of all humanity. Let us briefly recapitulate what was put before us in the last lecture: that the old dim clairvoyance of man had gradually receded and that the capacities and knowledge of man had to be more and more limited to the physical plane, and that for this reason the connection of man with the Spiritual worlds had to be based on an event on the physical plane. If we recollect all this we shall understand that the Divine-Spiritual Being whom we have characterised as the Christ, had to embody Himself in a physical body at the very time when the perception of man had become limited to the physical plane. This was done so that the most essential part of the life of this Divine-Spiritual Being could be described in words and expressions used on the physical plane. The important point is not so much that few persons (in comparison to the whole of humanity) were able to have a bodily perception and observation of Christ Jesus, as that what is related of Him is a presentation of events on the physical plane. For it cannot be said that the earlier records of other Divinities related in words belonging to the physical plane refer to actual physical events. In everything that we are told of these, words can only be useful as indications; — for what occurred with respect to these Divinities can only be understood by one able to apply the words to the events of higher planes. The life of Christ Jesus can however, be understood by anyone who can apply what is told to the events of the physical plane. In reference to this we can say: The Christ-Being descended into a physical embodiment, into complete life in a physical body. That had to be because human capacities at that time were of this nature, and because the human ego as such had to become conscious of its being if evolution was to go forward in the right way.
We have seen that the most important of the older intermediaries for the event of Golgotha was Zarathustra or Zoroaster. In order that he might become what he was to be, at that time a body had to be prepared, containing an extract, as it were, of what had been given to a whole people, a people who had to give to humanity the qualities which can only be communicated through physical inheritance. We have seen that the most essential thing in the old Hebrew people was the duty of developing in successive generations, from father to son, from son to grandson, and so on, those qualities which had to be inherited in a continually increased form, till they finally appear in their highest and best form in the body which was derived by inheritance from Abraham and Solomon and which was finally occupied by Zarathustra. We have a great deal more to learn through our studies before we shall be able to understand the full mission of the old Hebrew people, in all its details. This necessitates that we should gradually learn how the qualities needed for the body of Jesus were more and more ennobled in the course of the descent from generation to generation. It had to be made as perfect as possible for the fulfilment of its world-historical mission, for that mission could only be carried out if all that pertained to the body of the Solomonian Jesus Being was as perfect as possible in itself as regards those qualities. Now we know that the four principles of man's nature, the physical body, etheric body, astral body and ego, are active in every human body; and that in time to come Spirit-self, Life-Spirit and Spirit-man, will also be active therein. This must not be taken to mean that the activity of the astral body will suddenly cease, or that the later is not being prepared in the earlier. In a certain respect everything that follows later must be prepared in what went before. Of course man cannot of his own strength so work upon himself to-day that the Life-Spirit, for instance, could come to particular expression within him; but in him work other Divine Spiritual Beings, with an activity which may be called an activity of the Life Spirit. This applies also to Spirit-man. Therefore, all the seven principles of the body, or rather of the human organism of Jesus of Nazareth had to be ennobled, as regards the qualities which had to be dealt with. This required very special preparation. This preparation may to-day give us an inkling of the secrets concealed in the development of humanity and of the earth.
The germs of the perfection in the body of Jesus of Nazareth had to be prepared long before. We have seen how during the first period (extending from Abraham to Solomon or David), the generations were worked upon just as a man's physical body is worked upon during the time between his birth and the change of teeth. This work was so performed by the forces active behind evolution, that at a certain time there was actually an ancestor of Jesus who already contained within him, capacities as nearly perfect as possible, and these re-appeared in the body which became the vehicle of Zarathustra. Thus in an ancestor of Jesus the foundations of a right development of all the seven principles of man's nature were present. In other words: If we trace back the ancestry of Jesus, we must find one ancestor who possessed the germ of the seven-principled-nature — although not so perfectly developed as in the body of Jesus of Nazareth — yet present in rudimentary form. Although not expressed in their external tradition, the secret doctrine of the ancient Hebrews was cognisant of this fact. It was aware that once upon a time a man lived of whom it must be said that the seven principles worked in him in such a way that they had to be described as quite peculiarly worthy of note! The Initiates of the old Hebrew secret doctrine actually pointed to an ancestor of Jesus of Nazareth, knowing that be possessed these seven human principles in a quite remarkable degree!
They called the ego of this ancestor, ‘Itiel,’ to indicate that in him the ego must have possessed that force (for Itiel signifies something like ‘possessor of force’). He must have possessed that dauntlessness, which would, when carried down through the generations, become the proper ego-vehicle for the high being who was to reappear in Jesus of Nazareth. In the same way they called the astral body of this ancestor ‘Lemuel’; that would more or less describe an astral body so far developed that it does not merely feel the law, the conformity to law, outside itself, but feels that it bears the law within it. They called the etheric body of this ancestor ‘Ben Jage’; that would signify an etheric body as far as possible transmuted within, which having attained a certain perfection, is able to take habits into itself. The physical body of this ancestor they called ‘Agur’, because the physical activity, the capacity of this ancestor on the physical plane, consisted in his having assimilated everything brought over from old tradition; for ‘Agur’ signified a collector. ‘All the ancient conceptions of the world, all the old traditions, were gathered together in Jesus; and the rudiments of this were already developed in this ancestor. What worked as Spirit-Man in this ancestor, was called, (because the Divine-Spiritual Beings gave loving attention to their work on the rudiments of Spirit-Man,) ‘Jedidjah’, a word signifying something like ‘the darling of the Gods’. What worked in this ancestor as Buddhi or Life-Spirit, was called ‘Kohelet’; for it was said: ‘In this ancestor there must have worked a Life-Spirit which was able to act as a teacher to the whole nation, so that its content could be poured out to them all’. And finally, Manas or Spirit-self in this ancestor was known by the word, ‘Salomo’, which signifies inner balance, for they said: Such a Spirit-self must have had within it the rudiments of being inwardly whole, of being in a state of balance within. Thus this ancestor, who is usually known only by the name of Schelomo, Schleimo, or Solomon, has three principal names: Jedidjah, Kohelet, Salomo; and four additional names: Agur, Ben Jage, Lemuel and Itiel, for these names signify the four coverings, whereas the three first names signify the divine inner part. The secret doctrine of the old Hebrews had seven names for this person. If later, people were dissatisfied with Solomon, as was the case even among certain sects of the Jews themselves (whether rightly or wrongly cannot be gone into here), this can easily be accounted for. In Solomon there were great, important rudiments, which were to be further propagated for a distinct purpose. Now an individual human being, at a definite stage of his evolution, does not always display in his outer life the germs of the qualities he is to bequeath to his descendants; perhaps for the very reason that such great forces are within him he may even be more subject to failure in this direction. The lack of morality to be observed in Solomon is not in contradiction to what the old Hebrew secret doctrine saw in him; on the contrary it would explain his failings.
Thus the old Jewish secret doctrine looks back to an ancestor of Jesus, fully conscious of his significance for the whole mission of their people. All that was but rudimentary in this personality, was propagated by descent through the generations, and appeared in its essence when it was required and made use of in the course of the world's history. This may give us an inkling of the secrets, regulated by laws, which lie behind the evolution of mankind.
Now if the mission of the old Hebrew people pre-eminently consisted in the fact that through the physical inheritance certain capacities are, as it were, instilled into their blood, capacities to be given to all mankind from the Spiritual world through this people, then, at the time of the appearance of John the Baptist and Jesus of Nazareth, humanity ought to have been sufficiently advanced to be able, through these ennobled capacities, to reascend into the Spiritual world; in other words it ought to have been able to take up the Christ-Impulse. I have told you all this to show what preparations were necessary in order, in the development of physical humanity, to create a sheath capable of enclosing the Christ-Being.
We can now perhaps feel and realise the intrinsic nature of the progress in the mission of humanity brought about by the descent of the Divine mission into physical matter, in the Jewish people. We can feel how the Divine was carried down into the depths of physical matter, in order that from this turning-point man might reascend so much the higher, from the now finer physical into the Spiritual. The ascent into the Spiritual had to begin from that time. For this however, an impulse had to be given to mankind which should to some degree place all that man can desire or expect from evolution into that deepest centre in man's being which can be designated as the ego. Through Christ, the impulse was to penetrate to the depths of man's inner being, out of the body of Christ there spoke such an impulse as called to the deepest part of man's nature. What was to be made different by this impulse?
Before this impulse came, all that brought happiness to men, that gave them bliss and made them feel ‘filled with the Divine,’ came to them in a sense from without; they expected it to come thence. If we do not merely study the history of the world from external documents but according to what the Spiritual records can give us, we must say that we look back to ancient times, when man ascended to the realm of Spiritual beings through arousing in himself, — whether by normal means or not, — the gift of clairvoyance. But this vision awoke in a dreamy way; Divine-Spiritual forces worked in it and the ego was suppressed. Man was more or less outside his ego. Although in his normal state he was not so conscious of his ego as he became later, yet he was then in the age when the spirit worked within him and carried him outside himself, without his ego into the Spiritual world. He yielded himself completely, either to the external Divine-Spiritual or to the Divine-Spiritual within his soul. But during that time of ecstasy, of enchantment, he was not in any sense conscious of his condition. The time was still to come when man would realise the relation to the spirit in his own ego, and thence permeate the deepest core of his being with the consciousness: I belong to a Divine-Spiritual kingdom. That could only come about through Christ pouring His own Being into the earth-being, so that the ego could permeate itself with what was the pattern of Christ. That enabled man to say: ‘I am now in a Spiritual realm, in the Kingdoms of Heaven with my ego, ‘whereas man formerly entered the Kingdoms of Heaven while outside it. ‘The Kingdom of Heaven has drawn near, was the teaching given. For this the minds of men had to be changed, they were no longer to believe that they could only enter the Spiritual world in a state of ecstasy, for they would be able to find their relation to the Kingdoms of Heaven in full ego-consciousness.
We can see that this had to take place, for the old clairvoyant condition had, in the course of thousands of years, grown worse and worse. Whereas in olden times man, when in ecstasy ascended to the good Divine-Spiritual powers, that which still remained of the old ecstatic condition at the time of the founding of Christianity, had become such that when man was now outside himself he did not ascend to the good but to the evil spiritual powers. That is the great difference between the two states of development. In ancient times when man dreamily rose into the Spiritual worlds by the suppression of his ego — ‘mediumistically’ as we should say to-day — he was then in the company of the good Spiritual beings. This had become different at the time when man was to find the way into the Kingdom of Heaven with his ego; when he now sought or brought about the states of ecstasy, they are described as being states of ‘obsession,’ which brought him into connection with evil hostile spiritual powers. So at the time of the appearance of Christ Jesus the following had to be proclaimed as a healing doctrine: ‘It is not right for you to try without your ego to get into a condition in which you can become aware of the Spiritual worlds; the right way now is to seek contact with the Divine-Spiritual worlds in the deepest core of your being!’
This is essentially the teaching contained in the Sermon on the Mount of St. Matthew's Gospel. We might re-write it thus: In olden times there was a dream-like clairvoyance. In this man was, in ecstasy, transported into the Spiritual worlds. At that time he was rich in Spiritual life; he was no beggar in the spirit as he became when Christianity was founded. When in olden times he was filled with the spirit, with what the Greeks called ‘Pneuma’, he was transported into the Spiritual worlds. Christ could not now say: ‘Blessed or God-filled are those who in their ecstatic states become rich in the spirit, for these are the very ones who will certainly be healed’! He now had to proclaim: ‘The time has come when blessed or God-filled are those who have become beggars in the spirit!’ That means, those who can no longer rise into ecstatic dreamy clairvoyant conditions, but who are obliged to seek the Kingdom of Heaven within, from out of their ego.
Formerly, when man was placed amidst the sorrows and sufferings of earth, he only had to call forth within him the state in which he could be transported into the Divine-Spiritual worlds. He was not obliged to endure suffering, for when it came to him, he could at once seek the state in which he was filled with the spirit, God-filled, and in that state — severed from his ego — he could find balm for the sorrows and sufferings of earth. Christ Jesus had to proclaim that this time too was now past and over. Those would now be blessed, or God-filled, who, while they could no longer look outside for help for their sufferings, might through the strengthening of their own ego seek within themselves the power to find the Paraclete in their inner being. ‘Blessed (God-filled) are they who do not banish sorrow by ecstatically raising themselves to the Divinity, but who endure it, developing the power of the ego whereby they can find within themselves the Paraclete, known later as the Holy Ghost who reveals himself through the Ego. ‘Even Buddha in his time did not recommend that sorrow should be endured, but that it should be thrown off, with all the thirst of earth. Even six hundred years before Christ Jesus, Buddha described sorrow and suffering on earth as the worst consequences of the longing for existence. Six hundred years later, in the Sermon on the Mount, Christ in the second Beatitude proclaimed that sorrow must not be done away with in that way, but must be endured, that it was a trial through which the Ego might develop the strength it can find within itself: the inner support of the Paraclete. This is literally contained in the second sentence of the Sermon on the Mount, even to the expression; Paraclete. It is only necessary to read these things in the right way. That is precisely the task of our age; we must learn, through what is given to us in Spiritual Science, to read the great scriptures of old aright, through the teachings of Spiritual Science.
A third point is this. In olden times, when men could permeate themselves with what came to them in ecstasy and which the Greeks called ‘Pneuma’ or Spirit, they were then guided instinctively in their course. All their impulses, actions, emotions and desires — in fact, all that dwells in the astral body of man — was instinctively guided, when man was able to raise himself to the good Spiritual beings. He had not yet tried from his own ego to control and purify his inner passions and desires and to bring them into balance. Now, however, the time had come — and Christ was to proclaim this — when men having tamed, purified and balanced the passions, desires and impulses of this astral body — would of themselves reach the goal for the humanity of to-day, to which we give expression by pointing to the great progress of evolution. This has often been presented to us in the following way. Man began his existence on ancient Saturn; he continued it through the Sun and Moon-existence, until on the earth the ego was added to him. Only when he becomes conscious of this ego, when he tames and balances what was added to him by the astral body on the Moon, can he really attain to the goal of the earth-mission. Those who are able to control and balance the desires in their astral body can be blessed (God-filled), for by this means they will, through themselves, discover the Earth. Thus the third sentence of the Sermon on the Mount, which as usually translated contains a meaningless word, tells us the following: Those who ‘balance’ their passions desires and emotions (not make them ‘meek’) to them shall be given — or they shall ‘inherit’ — the earth.
Thus the three first sentences of the Sermon on the Mount in their worldwide significance, place before us the following summary.
The first sentence of the Sermon on the Mount refers to the physical body, and informs us that it was formerly possible, in the olden times of humanity through a particular training of the physical body to perceive the Spiritual in clairvoyant dreamy conditions, but the physical body has now become poor as regards the inner possession of the spirit.
As regards the etheric body, through which man becomes conscious of suffering — although he is first aware of it in the astral body — the indication is given that men must learn to develop in themselves a force which will enable them to find help for the suffering which is given them as a trial.
Thirdly, we come on to the astral body, concerning which we are told, that through the taming and purifying of his impulses and passions man will find in his inner being the strength which will enable him to become a real ego, one to whom the earth mission is then allotted as his portion.
When we now ascend to the Ego, we know that this works in the sentient soul, intellectual soul and spiritual soul. The ego works in the sentient soul, that is: it spiritualised it. This enables man to feel the outpouring of human brotherly love — which becomes universal through the spreading of Christianity — as righteousness: ‘hunger and thirst after the all-ruling righteousness’. The sentient soul otherwise feels only in the physical body; it must now, through Christianity, learn to feel for spiritual things: to hunger and thirst after righteousness. Those who are able to find their human centre in the ego, will, as a result of their work on themselves, satisfy the longing in their sentient soul for an all-ruling earthly righteousness. ‘Blessed are they who, through the Christ-Impulse, learn to hunger and thirst after righteousness; for they will find a strong force in their inner being whereby, because they are working for the righteousness of the world, they shall find within themselves the satisfaction of this quality.’
We now come to the intellectual soul. We have often emphasised the fact that whereas in the sentient soul the ego is as yet but dimly brooding, in the intellectual soul it begins to shine forth, later to attain full consciousness in the spiritual soul where it first becomes a pure ego. In the intellectual soul something very singular happens: the human ego — i.e., that wherein we each resemble all other men, for each of us bears the ego within him — shines forth. No matter in what part of the world we meet with our fellow-man, through the fact that an ego shines out of his intellectual soul he is a human being like ourselves. Something shines forth from our intellectual soul, and if we receive it as well as we can and carry it out into the world, we can enter into the right relation with our fellow-men. In our intellectual soul we are to develop something which we must pour forth into our surroundings and which must flow back to us again. That is why this is the only occasion in the Sermon on the Mount when the subject of the Beatitude is like the predicate, ‘Blessed (or God-filled) are they who develop love; for as they radiate forth love, it will return to them again. ‘This shows the infinite depths of such a spiritual document, for it can be understood by the very way in which the sentences are constructed, it can be understood even down to the smallest details, if gradually, year after year, one collects all that Spiritual Science can give for the understanding of man. The difference between the fifth Beatitude and the others, in all of which the subject and the predicate are different, cannot in the least be understood without knowing that the fifth Beatitude points directly to the intellectual soul, or Mind-soul. We will now ascend to the work of the ego on the Spiritual or Consciousness soul. Here at last the ego is pure and unalloyed; only here can it become conscious of itself. This is beautifully expressed in the Sermon on the Mount, in the verse which expresses that only in the ego can the divine substance in man come to life. ‘Blessed are they, who are pure in blood or in heart (which is the expression of the ego), who allow nothing to enter there but the pure ego-nature; for they will recognise God therein, they will perceive God!’
The Sermon on the Mount now rises to that which refers to the Spirit-Self, Life-Spirit, and Spirit-Man. Here man can no longer work through himself alone; at this stage of his evolution be must appeal to the divine Spiritual worlds, which, through Christ, have been brought into connection with the earth; he must look up to the renewed divine spiritual worlds. Whereas in former times strife and disharmony entered humanity through the ego-nature — as indeed it still does to-day — peace will be poured out over the earth through the Christ-Impulse. And those who take up the Christ-Impulse will become the founders of peace in that part of human nature which in the future will gradually develop as Spirit-Self; they will thus in a new sense become the sons of God, in that they will bring down the spirit from the Spiritual Realms — ‘Blessed are they who bring peace — or harmony into the world; for they shall thereby be the sons of God!’ Thus must they be called, who are really filled inwardly with a spirit self which is to bring peace and harmony on the earth.
Now, we must clearly understand, that of all that develops on the earth, some part survives into later ages. This, in a certain respect, is hostile to what implants itself as a germ in later ages. What the Christ-Impulse brings, enters into the whole evolution of humanity — it does not, however, enter all at once, but rather in such a way that something still remains from the earlier stages of evolution. It is therefore necessary that those who first understand this Christ-Impulse should stand firm on the basis thereof, quite permeated inwardly with its force. If they are inwardly permeated by the force that proceeds from the seed that has come from the Christ and stand firm on that foundation, they will then be blessed in a new sense; in this they develop the force of firmness. ‘Blessed are they who stand under the new order, who stand under Christ and who suffer persecution from that which remains over from the old order!’ And the last of the beatitudes of the Sermon on the Mount points straight to the Christ-Impulse itself, for He says to the Apostles: ‘Blessed are ye, who are especially called to carry the Name of Christ out into the world!’
Thus we see how the Sermon on the Mount directs Christianity from out of the great teachings of cosmology and humanity, while everywhere directing attention to the force within, the centre point of which must be found in the Ego itself. The time has now come when this must be understood, and understood in such a way that people must not believe themselves to be true Christians because they try to find Christianity in some dogmatic collateral signification or side issue, but rather those are true Christians who understand the meaning of the text: ‘Change the disposition of your souls, for the kingdoms of heaven have descended even into the ego!’ Those persons can be called ‘Christians’ in the true sense who realise that this is the essential point, and who further understand that this had to be put at the beginning of our era in a different way from that in which it must be given out now! It would be a mistaken idea of Christianity to believe that what was considered Christian in the words spoken two thousand years ago has not since then undergone further development. Christianity would stand for nothing but a dead stream of culture. But it is a living one! It is developing, and will continue to develop! Just as it is true that Christianity had to start from the time when man had descended right down to the physical plane, when a Divine Being became man in a physical human body, so it is also true that at our present time man must learn to rouse himself to the understanding of Christianity and of the Christ Being Itself, from a Higher Spiritual Standpoint! — What does this mean?
Just as it is true that the old dreamy clairvoyant forces had been lost, so that at the time of Christ those persons who were filled ‘with God’ in the old sense could no longer be described as ‘blessed,’ but only such as formed the kingdoms of Heaven within them, it is also true that the ego of man will reascend into the Spiritual world in full consciousness and will develop ever new forces and capacities. Just as it is true that the time of the Baptist was the time when those capacities which led down to the physical plane had reached a crisis in humanity, it is also true that we have now again reached an important time. What is called the ‘Dark Age,’ which began in the year 3101 B.C. and reached its height at the time of the Incarnation, came to an end at the close of the 19th Century. The Kali-Yuga was concluded in 1899! We are now approaching a time when new forces and capacities will be developed by man and these will be distinctly apparent in the last half of our present century. These new forces and capacities must be understood. Particularly those persons who have studied and understood Anthroposophy must realise that such an uplifting of humanity towards the Spiritual has again become possible. For during the important times that will follow after 1930, single individuals will find it possible to develop higher forces in their nature, whereby what we know as the etheric body will become visible. A certain number of people will develop etheric clairvoyant powers.
One of two things will then be possible, either the materialism of our age will continue, in which case when these forces are manifested men will fail to understand that they lead into the Spiritual worlds; they will then be wrongly understood and so be crushed. Should that occur, would not people, speaking in a materialistic sense at the end of the year 1940, be justified in saying: ‘Now see what fantastic prophets those were who spoke at the beginning of the 20th century! Nothing of what they foretold has been fulfilled.’ But if the new capacities have not appeared, that would not contradict what may be said now, and must indeed be said; it would only prove that people without the right understanding have choked them in the bud and that they have missed something which humanity must possess if its further evolution is not to collapse into dissolution and decay. That is the great responsibility of Anthroposophy. Anthroposophy has sprung from a knowledge of the necessity for an advanced preparation for something which will come, but which might be overlooked and suppressed. Anthroposophy has the task of bringing about an understanding of the Spiritual forces developing in man. If these forces are suppressed humanity will sink deeper into the mire of materialism.
On the other hand, Anthroposophy may be successful in spreading through its teachings an understanding of the fact that man must rise into the Spiritual worlds; it may succeed in lifting mankind out of the materialistic frame of mind. For this, however, something must now come forth from the anthroposophical movement, something that was prepared centuries ago, but which must now, in our own age, evolve to a particular and important turning-point.
The centuries that lie behind us were fitted for cultivating to an increasing extent the materialistic ideas of man. Under this materialistic influence it was easy to believe that the Christ-Impulse and the Christ-Being would come into touch with the world by incarnating once again — or perhaps oftener — in a physical, material body. Instead of acquiring clear notions of the fact that men must grow up as regards their capacities so that a great number, and finally all, might experience the Event of Damascus — that is: might experience the Christ in the atmosphere around the earth, and see Him in His etheric body — it was believed that Christ would descend again in a physical body, for the materialistic satisfaction of those who refuse to believe in the spirit, and who will not believe what St. Paul saw in the Event of Damascus: that Christ is in the Earth-atmosphere and that He is always there! ‘I am with you always, even unto the end of the world!’ Those who develop the methods of clairvoyant vision into the Spiritual world will find what, could not be found there in the pre-Christian time: the Christ in His etheric body. That is the important progress in the evolution of humanity; before the first half of our century has elapsed, those faculties by means of which the event of Damascus becomes a personal experience, will develop naturally as it were, and men will see the Christ in His etheric body. He will not descend into flesh, but man will ascend when he has acquired understanding of the spirit.
That is the manner of Christ's return in our own age, for in this 20th century men must work their way up out of the Kali-Yuga into a century of clairvoyance. They must ascend to Christ by means of the capacities which they will develop; they must ascend to the Christ where He is and where He can be seen, at first sight, by those in the vanguard, those who through the teachings of Anthroposophy can be guided to what in the course of the next 2,500 years will be experienced to a greater or less degree by every human soul.
The great event which awaits mankind in the near future is, that those who raise themselves — with full Ego-consciousness — to the etheric vision of Christ in His etheric body, will be ‘God-filled’ or blessed. For this, however, the materialistic mind must be thoroughly overcome, and men must acquire understanding of Spiritual doctrine and Spiritual life.
In bygone centuries it was, comparatively speaking, not harmful for men continually to return to the materialistic conception of the so-called return of Christ. Particularly at the small times of transition, when that which has now reached its climax in a materialistic sense was being prepared for, as, for instance, in France in 1137, when a Messiah was expected, and was awaited by many in wide circles. A Messiah did actually appear then, but he led the people astray, because the belief in him had arisen through their materialistic ideas, for it was believed the Messiah would come in the flesh. Thirty years before, another Messiah appeared in Spain; there, too, it had been foretold that a Messiah would come in the flesh. At about the same time another new Messiah appeared in North Africa; there, too, it had been prophesied that one would come from the East, and appear in the flesh. Throughout the whole time during which the materialistic mind was being prepared, in that the highest things were being grasped by it, there appeared such prophets whose coming was foretold. Such phenomena are well known to those who understand the times, and they continued into the 17th century, when the approaching appearance of a sort of Christ, a Messiah, was proclaimed far and wide. This again found acceptance by the materialistically religious minds of men. Based on these prophecies, a false Messiah was thus able to arise in Smyrna, in 1667, bearing the name of Shabbathoi Zewi. He wrote letters and epistles at that time from Smyrna, which, although they contained nothing but false matter, being written in a materialistic sense, shook the world as greatly as had once theEpistles of St. Paul. In the 17th century there went forth from Smyrna the proclamation that in that city there dwelt a Messiah in the flesh! And Shabbathoi Zewi, the ‘just man of God’ was so considered, that it was said the whole world-reckoning would now take on another form. ‘He will pass through the world with his faithful disciples and all must believe in him who are willing to see the truth, who wish to see Christ in the flesh!’ It was preached to the people that his birthday must be held as the greatest Festival on Earth! Whole hosts of people undertook pilgrimages there — not only from Asia and Africa, but also from Poland, Russia, Spain, France, and so on; great numbers of persons traveled as pilgrims to Smyrna to see Shabbathoi Zewi, who was supposed to be Christ in the flesh, until the thing grew beyond all limits and he was arrested by order of the Sultan! This, said the people, was but the fulfilment of the prophesy, for it was foretold he would be in prison for nine months! The Sultan could think of no other method than to have him brought forth and stripped, saying: ‘We will see whether thou be a Messiah, a Christ; I shall have thee shot!’ And so it was finally proved that Shabbathoi Zewi was only an ordinary Ba Rabbi after all!
Such impersonations are the result of the materialistic thinking of our times, and there will be more of the kind, for the materialistic mind will make use of men.
What I am now saying will often and often be said during the next few decades: that the capacities of man will develop up to seeing the Etheric vision of Christ, in the reality of which they can then believe, just as firmly as did St. Paul himself! This is the immediate future of man, and this it is for which Spiritual Science must prepare him. But on account of the materialistic thoughts of men the time will also come when strong temptations will arise; false Messiahs will appear in the flesh. It will then be proved whether Anthroposophists have rightly understood Anthroposophy. Those who have not will be so adversely affected by the materialistic mind that they will succumb to the temptation. Although they believe in Christ they will believe in an incarnated Christ. But those who have gained understanding of true Spiritual life will realise that the ‘second Coming of Christ’ in our century, that greatest of Events, signifies that He comes to man in the Spirit, because mankind in the course of its development will have developed up to the Spiritual, will have evolved up towards Christ! Therefore in our century, the Sermon on the Mount undergoes a complete modification. It must be entirely re-modeled, so to speak. Those persons will be God-filled (or blessed) who, through having been beggars for the spirit in their past incarnations, have now advanced so far as to be able to ascend to that part of the kingdom of Heaven where Christ will appear before their spiritual sight!
Every single sentence of the Sermon on the Mount in its present form might be reconstructed in this sense. Christianity will only re-conquer its ancient documents when they are grasped in a living sense, when it is realised that they are living, not dead writings. When the time comes — and that time is here now — when materialistical research extends to the Gospel and takes away the tradition of Christ, then, as we have often stated, Spiritual research will give back the Gospels to mankind! This coincidence will not be accidental, it will come of necessity. It may be that in our own time — during which the materialistic mind having gone as far as it can, will reach a crisis — certain unfortunate persons having, through their mistaken philosophy been led into curious ideas, may conclude that effects may be produced without causes, and that there never was an historical Jesus-Christ. This should be comprehensible to Anthroposophists. They ought, indeed, to feel a certain pity for those poor men who, notwithstanding their philosophy, are so entangled in materialistic thought that they have altogether lost the faculty of imagining the existence of spirit, and who, consequently, keep flying in the face of the saying, that there is no effect without a cause. Christianity as an effect could not have existed without a cause! Anthroposophy, speaking from spiritual investigation, will tell men of Christ in the form in which He now lives, if they will but listen with an understanding mind. The understanding must be sufficiently matured to recognise definitely that the Christ will reappear, but as a reality higher than a physical one, a reality to which one can only look up, after first having acquired a sense and an understanding for spiritual life.
Inscribe in your hearts that Anthroposophy must be a preparation for the great epoch of humanity which is immediately ahead of us. Do not in this look upon it as matter of the first importance whether the souls now incarnated are still incarnated in physical bodies when Christ appears in the manner described, or whether they will then have already passed through the Portal and stand in the life between death and rebirth. For that which takes place in the 20th century is not of importance to the physical world alone, but to all the worlds with which man is connected. Just as those persons who will be in incarnation between 1930 and 1950 will experience the vision of the Etheric Christ, so a mighty revolution will also take place in the world in which man lives between death and rebirth. Just as Christ after the Mystery of Golgotha descended into the underworld, so will the effects of the Event which will occur for the inhabitants of the physical plane, rise into the spiritual plane. Those people who have not been prepared for this by Spiritual Science will miss the great and mighty Event, which will also take place in the Spiritual worlds in which man then lives. Those persons will have to wait for a new incarnation to experience on earth what makes them capable of receiving the new Christ-Impulse. For it is on earth that we must acquire the capacity of grasping all the Christ-Impulses, no matter how high they may lead us! Not in vain has man been placed in the physical world; for it is here we must acquire that which leads us to an understanding of the Christ-Impulse! For all the souls now living, Anthroposophy is the preparation for the Christ-Event that awaits us in the near future. This preparation is necessary. Other events will follow this Christ Event in the course of the development of mankind. It will therefore be a great omission, if those who have the opportunity of raising themselves during this century to the Christ-Event, do not take advantage of it.
Only if we look upon Anthroposophy in this way and inscribe it in our souls, can we realise what it means to each human soul and what it ought to become to all humanity.
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