Notes by Marie Steiner from a private lesson given to her by Rudolf Steiner
Berlin, 1903 or 1904
There's a nice remark by Hegel: The deepest thought is united with the figure of Christ, with the historical and outer one, and that's the great thing about the Christian religion, that for all of its profundity it's easy to understand in an outer way, and yet also challenges one to get into it more deeply. Thus it's for every stage of development and also satisfies the highest demands.
The fact that the Christian religion is understandable to every stage of consciousness is clear through the history of its development. It must be the task of spiritual science in general to show that this religion invites one to penetrate the deepest teachings of wisdom that mankind has. Theosophy is not a religion but an instrument for understanding religions. It's related to religion in about the same way that our mathematical theory is related to ancient math books. One can understand mathematics out of one's own intellectual forces and the laws of space without referring to Euclid's geometry book. But when one has taken in geometric teachings one will treasure that old book all the more, that first placed these laws before the human spirit. That's the way it is with theosophy. Its sources are not in documents and aren't based on tradition. Its sources are in the real spiritual worlds; that's where one must find them and grasp them in that one develops one's spiritual forces, whereas one grasps mathematics as one tries to develop one's intellectual forces. The intellect that enables us to grasp the laws of the sense world is carried by an organ, the brain. We also need corresponding organs to grasp the laws of spiritual worlds. How did our physical organs develop? When outer forces worked on them, sun forces, sound forces. That's how the eyes and ears developed out of neutral, dull organs that did not permit a penetration of the sense world at first and only opened slowly. Our spiritual organs will also open when the right forces work on them.
Now which forces storm in our spiritual organs that are still dull? During the day forces press into a modern's astral body that work against his development, and that even kill organs he had before he got his bright day consciousness. A man used to perceive astral impressions indirectly. The surrounding world spoke to him through pictures, through the astral world's form of expression. Living, differentiated pictures, colors float around free in space as an expression of pleasure and displeasure, sympathy and antipathy. Then these colors laid themselves around the surface of things and objects received firm contours. This happened when man's physical body became even firmer and more differentiated. When his eyes opened completely to physical light, when maya's veil placed itself before the spiritual world, man's astral body received impressions from the surroundings via the physical and etheric bodies and transmitted them to the ego, from where they entered men's consciousness. Thereby he became continuously active. But what worked on him in this way wasn't plastic, formative forces that corresponded to his own nature; it was forces that consumed and killed him to awaken his ego-consciousness. Only at night when he dived down into the rhythmic spiritual world that was homogeneous to him did he strengthen himself anew so that he could send forces to the etheric and physical bodies again. The life of the single ego, ego-consciousness arose from the conflict of impressions, from the killing of the astral organs that worked unconsciously in man before. Death out of life, life out of death. The snake's circle was closed. Now the forces that rekindled life in the dead remnants of previous astral organs and molded them plastically had to come out of this awakened ego-consciousness.
Mankind moves toward this goal, it's guided towards it by its teachers, leaders and great initiates, whose symbol is the snake. It's an education towards spiritual activity, and therefore it's a long and difficult one. Great initiates could make the task easier for themselves and men if they would elaborate the astral body when it's free at night, so that they imprinted astral organs into them, worked on them from outside. But that would be a working within the dream consciousness of a man, an intervention into his sphere of freedom. Man's highest principle, the will, would never develop. Man is led step by step. There was an initiation in wisdom, one in feeling, and one in willing. Real Christianity is the integration of all initiation stages. The initiation of antiquity was the annunciation, the preparation. Man slowly and gradually emancipated himself from gurus. Initiation at first took place in a complete trance consciousness, but there was a way to imprint a memory of what had happened outside the physical body, into the latter. That's why it was necessary to separate the etheric body, the carrier of memory, and also the astral body. Both of them dived down into the sea of wisdom, into mahadeva, into the light of Osiris. This initiation took place in the deepest secrecy and seclusion. No breath of the outer world was permitted to push in between. The man was as if dead to the outer world, the delicate seeds were cultivated away from blinding daylight.
Then initiation stepped out of the darkness of the mysteries into the brightest daylight. The initiation of all mankind took place historically — symbolically to begin with — at the stage of feeling in a great, mighty personality, the carrier of the highest unifying principle, of the Word, that expresses the hidden Father, that is his manifestation, that since it took on human form it became the son of man and could be the representative for all mankind, the unifying band for all I's: In Christ, the spirit of life, the eternal unifying one. This event was so powerful that it could go on working in every human being who lived by it, right into the appearance of stigmata, right into the most excruciating pains. Feeling was shaken to its depths. An intensity of feeling arose that had never flooded the world in such mighty waves before. The sacrifice of the I had taken place for all in the initiation on the cross of divine love. The physical expression of the I, the blood, had flowed in love for mankind and it worked in such a way that thousands pressed to this initiation, to this death, and let their blood stream out in love, in enthusiasm for mankind. How much blood flowed out in this way was never sufficiently emphasized, people are no longer aware of it, not even in theosophical circles. But the waves of enthusiasm that flowed down in this blood and ascended have fulfilled their task. They've become mighty impulse givers. They have made men ripe for an initiation of will.
And this is Christ's legacy.
Cf. also Rudolf Steiner, Esoteric Lessons 1904-1909, pp. 81-84