The Gospel of Luke. Lecture 8 of 10.
Rudolf Steiner, Basel, September 24, 1909:
The evolution of consciousness in humanity during the post-Atlantean epoch. The mission of spiritual science: mastery of the physical by the spiritual. Illness and healing. The influences proceeding from the Christ ego.
We have been trying to gain some understanding of the opening chapters of the Gospel of St. Luke. Only through knowledge of happenings in the evolution of humanity to which such lengthy study has had to be devoted is it possible to unravel what the writer of this Gospel has narrated as a kind of historical prelude to the great Christ Event. But we now know something about the being who in the thirtieth year of his life received the Christ principle into himself.
To understand what the writer of St. Luke's Gospel tells us about the personality and the deeds of Christ Jesus — that is, of the individuality who worked in the world for three years as ‘Christ’ in a human body — brief reference must be made to certain aspects of the evolution of humanity of which our age has only a very inadequate idea. Men today are in many respects extraordinarily short-sighted, believing that the law of evolution underlying what is happening in humanity at the present time, or has happened during the last few centuries, has remained unchanged, and that conditions not existing nowadays could never have existed in the past. That is why it is so difficult at the present time for people to understand and freely accept narratives of a past epoch such as that during which Christ was living on the Earth.
The Gospel of St. Luke tells us of the deeds of Christ Jesus on the Earth in such a way that to get at the real meaning of its accounts a clear picture of the stage then reached in evolution is essential.
Attention must again be drawn to what has often been said in the course of our studies, namely that our ancestors — that is, our own souls in other bodies — lived in ancient Atlantis, the continent once stretching between Europe and Africa on the one side and America on the other. When the face of the globe was changed by the Atlantean Deluge, the masses of the people migrated eastwards and westwards, and so colonized the Earth. Then, in the post-Atlantean epoch, the various civilizations arose: the ancient Indian, ancient Persian, Egypto-Chaldean, Graeco-Latin, and our own.
It is entirely erroneous to believe that during the post-Atlantean epoch man was always constituted as he is today. The fact is that human nature has undergone constant and very great changes. Historical documents cover a few thousand years only, and the one and only source of information about the earliest periods of civilization after the Atlantean catastrophe is the imperishable akashic chronicle — a record inaccessible to external research — the character of which has again been briefly indicated in the present lecture-course.
After the Atlantean catastrophe there developed, first, the ancient Indian civilization. This was an epoch when men still lived more in the etheric body, not as deeply in the physical body as was the case later on. Without having developed the ego-consciousness of today, by far the greater majority of the people of ancient India were endowed with dim, shadowy clairvoyance. Their consciousness was dreamlike, but they were able to gaze into the depths of existence, into the spiritual world. When studying these things it is very necessary to be aware of the facts connected with the various forms of knowledge and of cognition through the different epochs. Thus we constantly lay stress upon the view of the world held by our ancestors in ancient India and upon the fact that they were clairvoyant in a far higher degree than the men of later times. But if we are to understand the Gospel of St. Luke, attention must be paid to yet another of their characteristics.
In that early epoch, when man's etheric body still projected on all sides beyond the physical body and was less firmly knit with it than is the case today, the forces and qualities of the soul had considerably greater power over the physical body. The more deeply the etheric body penetrated into the physical body, the weaker it became and the less power it had over the physical body. In the ancient Atlanteans the etheric head extended very considerably beyond the physical body, but to a certain extent this was still the case in the people of ancient India too, enabling them on the one hand to have clairvoyant consciousness and on the other to wield great power over processes in the physical body.
We can, if we like, make a somewhat remote comparison between a body belonging to the ancient Indian epoch and one belonging to our own. In our time the etheric body has penetrated to the deepest possible extent into the physical body and is therefore closely bound up with it. But we are now at the very verge of the turning point when the etheric body will emerge again, emancipate itself from the physical body and become more independent. As humanity advances toward the future this will take place to an ever-increasing extent and as a matter of fact the point of closest union has now already been passed. Comparing the body of an ancient Indian with that of a modern man, it can be said that in the Indian body the etheric body was still comparatively free and the soul was able to exert forces that worked right into the physical body. Not being so closely bound to the physical body, the etheric body could immediately take into itself the forces of the soul; this gave it greater power over the physical body, with the result that influences brought to bear upon the soul in that age also had a tremendously strong effect upon the physical body. In the ancient Indian epoch, if one man hated another and spoke words charged with hatred, such words pierced the other, penetrated right into the physical organism. The soul still had an actual effect upon the etheric body, and the etheric body in turn upon the physical body. The etheric body today lacks this power. In those olden times, loving words produced in the other man a sense of release, of warmth, of expansion, affecting his physical body too. Therefore much depended upon whether words were filled with love or hatred, for this had an effect upon all the bodily processes. The strength of such an effect steadily decreased in humanity the more deeply the etheric body penetrated into the physical body.
Things are different nowadays. Words spoken today have an effect only upon the soul, and people who feel that malicious words actually make something contract within them or that loving words bring a sense of release and happiness have become extremely rare. The peculiar effects we may possibly still feel in our physical heart today when loving or malicious words are spoken were experienced with tremendous intensity at the beginning of post-Atlantean evolution. Quite different effects from those now possible could therefore be produced in that age when such influences were brought to bear upon the soul. Words full of the warmth of love may be spoken today, but when they come up against the present human organism they are constantly repelled and do not penetrate; for it does not depend only upon how words are spoken, but also, upon how they can be received.
It is therefore not possible today to work so directly upon the soul of a man that the effect penetrates into his physical organism. This is not immediately possible, but in a certain way it will again become so, for a future is approaching when the spiritual will reacquire its significance. We can, in fact, already indicate what this will mean in time to come. In our present evolutionary cycle we can do very little to enable whatever love, goodwill, and wisdom may be in our soul to stream directly into the soul of another human being and there be strong enough to work right down into the physical body. Such an effect can only very gradually become possible; nevertheless this spiritual way of working is beginning again on the soil where the spiritual-scientific conception of the world takes root, for this actually strengthens the activity of the soul. Only very rarely today is it possible for a word to produce physical effects; but it is possible for human beings to come together in order to receive spiritual truths into their souls. These spiritual truths will gradually gain greater strength in the souls of men and therewith the power to work right into the physical organism. Thus in future time the soul and spirit will again acquire great power over the physical and form it into its own image.
In the days of the very ancient Indian civilization, for example, what is called ‘healing’ was a very different matter from what it came to be later on, for all the things are connected with the facts just referred to. Because by working upon the soul a tremendously strong effect could at one time be produced upon the body, it was possible so to impress the soul of another by means of a word charged with the right impulse of will that this soul transmitted the effect to the etheric body, and the latter in turn to the physical body. If there were any realization of what effect it was desirable to bring about, it was possible, in a case of illness, to produce this effect upon the soul and thereby upon the body, resulting in restoration of health. And now imagine this effect intensified to the maximum, the Indian physician controlling the influences and impressions in question, and you will realize that all healing in the ancient Indian epoch was a far more spiritual process than it can be today — I say expressly, than it can possibly be today. But the time is approaching when such ways of working will again be effective. What is brought down from spiritual heights as a world conception, as a number of truths corresponding to the great spiritual realities of the universe, this will flow into the souls of men, and as humanity lives on into the future will itself be a source of healing, springing from the inmost being of man himself. Spiritual science is the great remedy for souls in the life awaiting them in future time. Only it must be understood that humanity has been on a descending path of evolution, that the spiritual influences have steadily lost strength, that the lowest point of the process has now been reached, and that the ascent to the level at which we once stood can only be very gradual.
As time went on, effects that were eminently possible in ancient India ceased to be so. A somewhat similar human constitution — one enabling soul to work upon soul — was still in existence in Egyptian civilization. The farther back we go in that civilization-epoch, the more evidence is there that one soul was able to produce a direct effect upon another — an effect which could then pass over to the physical organism. This possibility was much rarer among the ancient Persians, for theirs was a different function; they were to give the primary impetus for penetration into the physical world. In respect of the characteristic just mentioned, Egyptian culture was related to that of ancient India much more closely than was the Persian. In ancient Persia the soul began to be enclosed within itself to an increasing extent and to have less and less power over the external organism, because it was to develop self-consciousness. Therefore with the stream of culture in which the spiritual had maintained mastery over the physical, another had to converge — one especially concerned with inner deepening and the development of self-consciousness. In Graeco-Latin culture these two streams came, in a sense, into equilibrium. In that fourth post-Atlantean culture-epoch humanity had already descended just so far into the physical world as to enable a kind of equilibrium to be established between the physical and the soul-and-spirit — in other words, the mastery of soul-and-spirit over the body was about equal in strength to that of the body over the soul. A state of equilibrium had been brought about.
Humanity must however again undergo a kind of cosmic trial in order to be able to ascend once more to spiritual heights. Since the Graeco-Latin epoch, everything in man of a corporeal, physical nature has descended still more deeply into materiality. In the age in which we are living, the fifth post-Atlantean epoch, man has actually been driven below the line of equilibrium; to begin with it was only in his inner nature that he could rise to a more theoretical kind of consciousness of the spiritual world. He had to acquire inner strength.
Relatively speaking, then, there was a condition of equilibrium in Graeco-Latin civilization, whereas now, in our epoch, the physical has gained the mastery and dominates the soul-and-spirit, which has become powerless in a certain respect and is accepted merely in theory. Man has had to be restricted through the centuries to the acquisition of inner strength — a process not revealed to the consciousness. But little by little it must be possible for a new consciousness to be developed. And when — it will not be until the sixth post-Atlantean epoch — such consciousness has acquired a certain strength through having absorbed more and more spiritual nourishment, man will no longer derive theoretical wisdom from such nourishment, but living wisdom, living truth. The spiritual will then be so strong that once again it will have mastery over the physical — now from the other side.
How then can the mission of spiritual science in humanity be explained?
If in our age spiritual science becomes more and more alive in the soul, able not only to stimulate the intellect but to imbue the soul with greater and greater warmth, then the soul will become strong enough to dominate the physical. Certain transitional states are of course inevitable — states which may at first actually appear to denote deterioration or even harm. But these states are only transitional and will give way to the future condition, when men will receive spiritual life into their ideas — the condition that will signify in the whole of humanity the mastery of the soul and spirit over the physical and material. Those who are interested in the truths of spiritual science today not merely because they stimulate the intellect, but who can he enraptured by and derive living satisfaction from these truths — such men will be the forerunners of those in whom the mastery of the soul and spirit over the physical and material has been achieved.
It has been possible in our own time to present great truths relating to happenings such as we have been studying during the last few days: the momentous fusion of the Buddha stream with the Zarathustra stream and all that took place in Palestine at the beginning of our era. We have been able to show how wisdom in the world's evolution created the two figures of the Nathan Jesus child and the Solomon Jesus child and through these stupendous happenings brought about the union of streams previously flowing in separation over the Earth.
Different views may be taken of what has been presented in these lectures. Someone may say: ‘To begin with, all this may seem fantastic to the modern mind; yet when I lay on the scales the outer effects of the happenings described, everything seems plausible; in fact the Gospels become intelligible to me only when I apply to them what has been discovered from the akashic chronicle.’ Another person may, for instance, be interested in what is related about the two Jesus children, and say: ‘I can now understand a great deal that hitherto seemed inexplicable.’ Again, someone else may say: ‘When I review all these happenings and the findings of occult investigation concerning the manifestation of the Nirmanakaya of Buddha in the proclamation to the shepherds, and so on — again, when I think of the other stream and of how the Star guided the followers of Zarathustra when their teacher appeared again on Earth — when I see there how one great stream flowed into another and how forms of spiritual life that were previously separate, united ... when I picture all this I have one outstanding impression — that everything is indescribably beautiful in the process of world-evolution!’ We ourselves can have the same impression of the grandeur and sublimity of it all, and this can kindle the fire of wonder in our souls at what has come to pass in the world.
The great truths can bestow upon us no greater boon than this. The ‘lesser’ truths will satisfy our longing for knowledge; the ‘great’ truths will warm our very souls and we shall say that there is supreme beauty in what is thus made manifest through the happenings of world existence. If we feel this beauty and splendor, any purely theoretical understanding will be transcended.
What are the words of Christ Jesus as related in the Gospel of St. Luke?
“A sower went out to sow his seed: and as he sowed, some fell by the wayside; and it was trodden down, and the fowls of the air devoured it. And some fell upon a rock; and as soon as it was sprung up, it withered away, because it lacked moisture. And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprang up with it and choked it. And other fell on good ground, and sprang up, and bare fruit an hundredfold. ...”(Luke, VIII, 5–8.)
This parable of the sower given by Christ Jesus to His disciples is applicable to the anthroposophical conception of the world. The seed is the Kingdom of the Gods, the Kingdom of Heaven, the Kingdom of the Spirit. This Kingdom of the Spirit is to pour as seed into the souls of men and take effect on Earth.
There are people who have in their souls only such forces as repel the spiritual view of the world and any consciousness of the realm of the divine-spiritual beings; such consciousness is made impossible by hindrances existing in the soul and it is repelled immediately. This applies to many people in regard to the words of Christ Jesus; it also frequently applies to what Anthroposophy has to bring into the world today; it is repelled; the birds devour it, preventing it from ever penetrating into the soil. Then again, the words of Christ Jesus or the words of spiritual wisdom may be spoken to a soul lacking sufficient depth. Such a soul may be able to understand that these are very plausible truths, but they do not become part of its very substance and being. It may even be capable of giving out the wisdom again, but it has not really become one with the wisdom. This is comparable to the seed that has fallen on rocky ground and cannot germinate. The third kind of seed falls among thornbushes; there it does indeed germinate, but it cannot thrive. The meaning, as Christ Jesus indicates, is that there are people whose souls are so filled with the interests and cares of day-to-day life that although they are capable of understanding the words of spiritual truth, everything else in the soul acts as a thornbush, as a continual obstruction. There are also souls today — and they are very numerous — who would willingly assimilate the truths of spiritual science were it not for the suppression exercised by external life. Only very few are able to allow the spiritual truths to unfold in freedom, in the manner of the fourth kind of seed. These are people who begin to experience Anthroposophy as living truth, who receive it into their souls as very life and steep their whole being in it; they are also the pioneers of the strength with which spiritual truths will work in future time. No one, however, in whom the right trust and depth of conviction are not born from his own soul can be persuaded today by any external means to believe in the truth and the power of spiritual wisdom.
It is no argument against the effectiveness of spiritual wisdom that in the case of many people today the physical organism is not influenced. On the contrary, it might be taken as proof of the soundness of spiritual wisdom that it sometimes has a negative effect upon physical bodies. Someone with poor physical health — a slum child, for instance — who is ailing as the result of having breathed nothing but city air from his earliest years, is not necessarily made healthy by bracing mountain air; it may even make him really ill. Just as this is no argument against the health-giving quality of mountain air, so too the fact that when spiritual wisdom penetrates into certain physical organisms it may temporarily upset them is no argument against its effectiveness. For it encounters what human bodies have inherited through the course of hundreds and thousands of years, encounters elements that cannot possibly harmonize with it.
Proofs of this cannot yet be found in the outer world; we must penetrate deeply into this wisdom and become firmly convinced of its truth. However much external evidence may eventually be forthcoming, we must be able to penetrate to the inner core of the wisdom and develop conviction in our own being. We are then able to say: If here or there this anthroposophical wisdom is found to be too overwhelming, it is because of unhealthy conditions encountered in human beings themselves. Spiritual wisdom is intrinsically healthy — human beings by no means always! Quite obviously, therefore, it is not possible for all the spiritual wisdom that can become accessible to mankind as time goes on to be revealed today. Care is taken that possible harm shall be avoided, just as slum children are not sent into high mountain air that would be harmful for them. Hence it is only from time to time that information appropriate for average human beings can be communicated. If certain deeper truths were revealed to the fullest extent, this would be too overwhelming for men with a particular constitution, having the same effect as high mountain air upon impaired physical health. The great spiritual truths can be unveiled only very gradually, but this will be done in due course and prove to be a universal, health-bringing factor in humanity.
Men must gradually reacquire that ascendancy of the soul-and-spirit over the material which they were obliged to lose. It was being slowly lost from the time of ancient Indian culture until well into the Graeco-Latin epoch. But during the latter epoch there were always human beings in whom as a heritage from olden times the etheric body was still loosened to a certain extent and whose whole organism was amenable to psychic and spiritual influences. It was in that age, therefore, that Christ Jesus appeared. Had He come in our epoch He would not have been able to work as He did at that time or become the great Example for mankind. In our epoch He would have encountered human organisms far more deeply sunk in physical matter. He Himself would have had to descend into a physical organism in which the powerful effects produced by the soul-and-spirit upon the physical would not have been possible as they were at the time of His coming.
This applies not only to Christ Jesus but to others as well, and the evolution of humanity can be understood only in the light of what has been said. It applies, for example, to Buddha and his mission on the Earth. He was the first to proclaim and establish the great teaching of compassion and love and everything connected with that teaching as expressed in the precepts of the Eightfold Path. Do you imagine that if Buddha were to appear today he would be able to achieve what he achieved in India? Indeed he would not, for a physical organism in which he was able to reach that stage of development could not exist today. Man's physical organism has undergone continual changes in the course of the ages. Buddha was obliged to descend at exactly the point of time when it was possible for him to use an organism enabling him to accomplish the mighty deed of inaugurating the Eightfold Path. Strange as it may seem, it is nevertheless true that all the philosophical and moral teachings since produced by humanity are no more than a feeble beginning of what was established by Buddha. However greatly people may admire different philosophies, however fervent their enthusiasm may be for Kantian thought and other such systems — everything is elementary compared with the all-embracing principles of the Eightfold Path. Humanity can only slowly reach the stage of understanding what lies behind the words of this teaching. At the right moment something of the kind is established in the world for the first time; from this point evolution advances and humanity acquires, but only after long ages, what was first exemplified in a mighty deed. Thus in his day Buddha brought to the world the teaching of love and compassion as a token for coming generations of human beings who must gradually acquire the capacity to recognize and understand from within themselves the principles of the Eightfold Path. In the sixth post-Atlantean epoch of civilization a considerable number of human beings will be capable of this. But a long path has to be trodden before men say to themselves: We can now acquire out of our own souls what Buddha established five or six centuries before our era; we have now become like Buddha in our own souls.
Step by step, humanity must climb to the summit. The first disciples are those who, in the wake of the individuality concerned, rise to the heights of a great epoch; the capacity to understand what has been achieved then remains with them as a heritage. The rest of humanity ascends slowly and arrives at the goal very much later. But when a considerable number of human beings have reached the stage where the principles of the Eightfold Path can arise as knowledge born of their own souls, not derived from or taught to them by Buddhism — these human beings will have made great progress in another respect as well.
In the book Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and Its Attainment you can read how the development of the sixteen-petalled ‘lotus-flower’ is connected with the Eightfold Path. Those who have insight into the evolution of humanity can recognize a sign of the extent to which humanity has succeeded in making progress — the sign being the stage of development reached by the sixteen-petalled lotus-flower, which will be one of the chief organs used by men in future time. But when this organ has been developed, a certain mastery over the physical will have been established by the soul-and-spirit. Only one who sets out today to achieve spiritual development in the esoteric sense can say that he is beginning to make the principles of the Eightfold Path part of his very being. Others ‘study’ them. But of course that too is very useful as a stimulus.
Fundamentally speaking, therefore, it may be said that the soul-and-spirit can work effectively only in those human beings who are beginning to make the spiritual wisdom presented to them an integral part of their souls. To the extent to which the Eightfold Path becomes an actual experience in the soul, to that extent an effect will also be produced upon the physical.
Of course people who are considered very clever nowadays and who swear by materialism may say: ‘We know someone who followed your advice and tried to develop by making spiritual wisdom come alive within him; but he died at the age of fifty, so the wisdom did little towards prolonging his life!’ This kind of sapient remark is frequently made. The only pity is that contrary instances are not also brought forward. It should be asked how long the person concerned would have lived if he had made no attempt to promote spiritual development and whether in that case he might possibly not have lived beyond the age of forty. That point would have to be decided first! But people will look only at what is actually under their noses!
The mastery wielded by the soul-and-spirit over the physical gradually fell away from humanity until well into the fourth civilization-epoch, when there were still enough human beings living in whom the effect of the spiritual upon the physical could be perceived. It was then that Christ came to the Earth. Had He come later, none of the things that were then revealed could have been revealed. Such a stupendous manifestation had necessarily to appear in the world at exactly the right time.
What does the coming of Christ into the world signify?
It signifies that when a man rightly understands Christ he learns to exercise his self-consciousness to the fullest extent and his ego eventually gains complete mastery over everything that is within him. That is what the coming of Christ signifies. The self-conscious ego will reconquer everything that mankind has lost in the course of the ages. But just as the teaching of the Eightfold Path had to be established for the first time by Buddha, so too the supremacy of the ego principle over all the bodily processes had to be visibly established before the expiration of the old era. If the entry of the Christ principle into the world had taken place in our present epoch, it would not have been possible for the mighty influences of healing to be exercised upon the environment as they were at that earlier time. Conditions were necessary when there were still in existence human beings whose etheric bodies were sufficiently detached to enable drastic effects to be wrought upon them merely by words or by touch effects of which today there can be only faint echoes. Men began to develop the ego in order to be able to understand the Christ, and through this understanding to re-acquire what they had lost. Through the last surviving examples of humanity belonging to the old era, it was to be shown with what power the ego worked upon those who were living at that time, for the ego was present here in its fullness in one human being, in Christ Jesus, as will be the case in the rest of mankind at the end of the Earth period. The Gospel of St. Luke records this in order to show that with Christ there came into the world an ego which penetrated the human physical, etheric, and astral bodies so completely that health-bringing influences could be brought to bear upon the whole physical organism. This had to be demonstrated as a proof that when mankind in the future, after thousands of years, has acquired in full measure the power that can proceed from the Christ ego, it will be possible for influences such as streamed into humanity from Christ while He was on Earth to stream from the egos of men. This truth had to be revealed, but it was only through the humanity of that time that it could have been revealed.
It has been said that there are illnesses which originate in the human astral body. The form these illnesses take is connected with the whole nature of man. If someone today has bad moral traits, these may, to begin with, be confined to the life of soul. Because in the modern age the soul does not dominate the body to the extent that it did at the time of Christ Jesus, not every sin will come to expression in an external illness. We are, however, approaching conditions when the etheric body will again emerge and when the greatest care will have to be taken lest the bad traits of the soul, both in a moral and intellectual respect, should manifest physically as illnesses. Many of those semi-psychic, semi-bodily diseases — the so-called ‘nervous’ diseases characteristic of our time — are evidence that this epoch is already beginning. Because in their desires and their thoughts men have absorbed the disharmonies reigning in the outer world today, such factors can naturally only express themselves in phenomena such as hysteria and similar disorders. But this is all connected with the particular character of the phase of spiritual development upon which we are now entering, with the loosening and emergence of the etheric body.
At the time of Christ's appearance on the Earth there were many human beings in His environment in whom sins and transgressions — but especially defects of character deriving from former bad traits — were expressing themselves in disease. The sin that is actually seated in the astral body and manifests as illness is called ‘possession’ in the Gospel of St. Luke. It is the condition that sets in when a man attracts alien spirits into his astral body and when his better qualities fail to give him mastery over his whole nature. In human beings in whom the old state of separation between the etheric and physical bodies still persisted, the effects of evil qualities and attributes expressed themselves conspicuously at that time in forms of illness manifesting as ‘possession’. The Gospel of St. Luke tells how such people were healed through the mere proximity and the words of the Individuality now in Christ Jesus and how the evil power working in them was expelled. This is a prefigurement of conditions at the end of Earth evolution, when man's good qualities will exercise a healing influence upon all his other traits.
People do not generally notice the subtler implications concealed behind many narratives in the Gospels, nor realize that reference is often being made to illnesses of a quite different character when, for example, these are described in the passage in St. Luke's Gospel telling of the healing of one sick of the palsy. (Luke V, 17–26). ‘The healing of one paralyzed’ would be the correct rendering, for the Greek text here has the word ‘paralelymenos’, denoting one whose limbs are paralyzed. It was still known in those times that these forms of illness are due to qualities of the etheric body. When it is said that Christ Jesus healed those who were paralyzed, this shows that by the power of his Individuality, effects were produced not only in astral bodies but in etheric bodies too, so that it was possible for men with defects in the etheric body also to be healed. Precisely when Christ speaks of ‘deeper sin’ — sin which reaches into the etheric body — He uses a particular expression, clearly indicating that the spiritual factor causing the illness must first be removed. He does not immediately say to the paralyzed man: “Stand up and walk!” but concerns Himself with the cause that is penetrating as illness into the etheric body, and says: “Thy sins are forgiven thee!” — meaning that the sin which had eaten its way right into the etheric body must first be expelled. Ordinary biblical research does not enter into these fine distinctions; it does not perceive that what is here being shown is that this Individuality had an influence upon the secrets of the astral body and the etheric body — even upon those of the physical body.
Why in this connection do we speak of the secrets of the physical body as though they were the highest? In outer life itself the effect made by one astral body upon another is quite obvious. You can, for example, wound a man by a word charged with hatred. Something then takes place in his astral body; he hears the word and suffers pain in his astral body. That is an example of mutual action between one astral body and another. Mutual action between one etheric body and another is far more deeply hidden; this involves delicate influences which play from man to man but are never perceived today. The most deeply hidden of all are the influences which reach the physical body, because owing to its dense materiality it conceals the working of the spiritual most completely. In the Gospel of St. Luke, however, we are also to be shown that Christ Jesus has power over the physical body. Here we come to a passage that would be quite incomprehensible to materialistic thinkers. It is as well that these lectures are being attended only by people who have some knowledge of spiritual science, for if by chance someone were to come in from the street, what is being said today would seem to him pure lunacy, even if he considered the rest only half or quarter mad!
Christ Jesus shows that He is able to see into the very depths of the physical corporeality and to work into it. This is revealed by the fact that His power is also able to have a healing effect upon illnesses rooted in the physical body. But for this to be possible there must be knowledge of the mysterious effects working from the physical body of one human being upon the physical body of another. When it is a matter of working spiritually, man cannot be regarded as a being enclosed in his skin. It has often been said that our finger is wiser than we are ourselves. Our finger knows that the blood can flow through it only if the blood is circulating normally through the whole body; our finger knows that it would wither away if it were severed from the rest of the organism. So too, if he would understand the conditions relating to the physical body, man must know that in respect of his physical organism he belongs to humanity as a whole, that influences are continually passing from one human being to another, and that he can in no way separate his physical health as an individual from the health of the whole of humanity. This principle will be admitted today in respect of the coarser influences but not in respect of the finer, because people cannot know the facts. In the following passage from the eighth chapter of St. Luke's Gospel it is the finer, more delicate influences that are indicated.
“And it came to pass that when Jesus was returned, the people gladly received him: for they were all waiting for him. And behold, there came a man named Jairus, and he was a ruler of the synagogue: and he fell down at Jesus' feet, and besought him that he would come into his house: For he had one only daughter, about twelve years of age, and she lay a-dying. But as he went, the people thronged him. And a woman having an issue of blood twelve years, which had spent all her living upon physicians, neither could be healed of any, came behind him, and touched the border of his garment: and immediately her issue of blood stanched.“
How can the twelve-year-old daughter of Jairus possibly be healed, for she is at the very point of death? This can only be understood if we know that the girl's physical illness was connected with another phenomenon in another person, and that she cannot be healed independently of that other phenomenon. When this, child, now twelve years old, was born, a certain connection existed with another personality — a connection deeply grounded in karma. Hence we are told that a woman who had suffered from a certain illness for twelve years passed behind Christ and touched the border of His garment. Why is this woman mentioned here? It is because she was connected karmically with Jairus' child! This twelve-year-old girl and the woman who had suffered for twelve years were deeply connected! And it is not without reason that a secret of number is indicated here: the woman with an illness suffered for twelve years approaches Jesus and is healed — and only now could He enter the house of Jairus and heal the twelve-year-old girl, who was believed to be already dead.
Depths as great as these must be explored in order to understand the karma that weaves between one human being and another! Then we can perceive the third way in which Christ worked — namely, upon the whole human organism. This must be especially borne in mind when we are considering the higher effects produced by Christ as presented in the Gospel of St. Luke.
Thus we are shown quite clearly how the Christ ego worked upon all the other members of man's being. That is the essential point. The writer of the Gospel of St. Luke, who gives special prominence in these parts of the Gospel to descriptions of the healings, wished to show how the healing influences proceeding from the ego indicate the attainment of a lofty level in the evolutionary process; and he shows how Christ worked upon the astral body, the etheric body, and the physical body of man. St. Luke has set before us this great ideal of evolution: ‘Look towards your future! Your ego, in the present stage of its development, is still weak; as yet it has little mastery. But it will gradually become master of the astral body, the etheric, body, and the physical body, and will transform them. Before you is set the great ideal of Christ, who reveals to mankind what this mastery can mean!’
It is upon truths such as these that the Gospels are founded — truths which could be recorded only by those who did not rely upon outer documents but upon the testimony of men who were ‘seers’ and ‘servants of the word’. Conviction of what lies behind the Gospels can be acquired only by degrees. But men will gradually grasp with such intensity and strength the nature of the truths upon which the scriptures are founded that this understanding will have an effect upon all the members of the human organism.
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