The Gospel of Mark. Lecture 10 of 10.
Rudolf Steiner, September 24, 1912:
We saw yesterday how a part of the life shared by Jesus and His chosen disciples is missing in the Mark Gospel, and indeed also in the others. Just those most closely connected with Him did not take any part in the events beginning with the period following His arrest, that is, the trial, condemnation, and crucifixion of Christ Jesus. This again is a feature of the Gospel that is intentionally emphasized. To some extent the intention was to show how a path can be prepared to enable human beings to come to an understanding of the Mystery of Golgotha, how after the Mystery of Golgotha had been accomplished it would be possible to come to an understanding of the Mystery. For it is true that this understanding has to be acquired in a totally different way than is needed for the understanding of any other historical fact of human evolution. From what has happened just in our own times we can grasp this point most clearly.
Since the eighteenth century modern consciousness has been seeking, as we might say, a support for a belief in the Mystery of Golgotha; and this attempt has been made from various viewpoints and the search has gone through various phases. Until the eighteenth century actually very few questions were asked about how the historical documents, historical in the usual sense, were compiled and if they are capable of confirming a belief in the existence of Christ Jesus. Too much still lived in human souls that had radiated down from the working of the Mystery of Golgotha. People had been able to perceive for themselves, so to speak, only too clearly the influence proceeding from the name of Christ Jesus through the centuries for them to think it necessary to ask whether any document was extant capable of proving the existence of Christ Jesus. To those who professed Him in any way His existence was entirely self-evident; and more than is generally believed today it was just as self-evident that they ought to hold firmly to the belief in His being as both human and superhuman, and at the same time spiritual and divine.
However, as time went on materialism came into being, and with it something entered mankind's evolution that necessarily belongs to the materialistic point of view. The materialistic world conception cannot tolerate the idea that something like a higher individuality lives in man. It cannot accept the notion that one can penetrate behind the outer personality to something spiritual in man. If you look at human beings materialistically, and this happens most radically in our time, then from a materialistic viewpoint all human beings will appear to you to be much the same. They all walk on two legs, all have a head, and a nose situated at a particular point on the face, all have two eyes and a part of the head covered with hair, and so on. From this materialistic viewpoint all human beings look much the same. So why should this age look for anything behind the outer man? This idea seriously offends someone who cannot bring himself to admit that in his present incarnation there is within him something that is equally important also in other human beings. Materialism will not admit that. So the possibility was lost of understanding that the Christ could have lived within the man Jesus of Nazareth; and the more the eighteenth century wore on, the more any idea at all of the Christ was lost. Attention was directed more and more toward Jesus of Nazareth, who must have been born in Nazareth or somewhere else, who lived like a man, doing nothing but proclaiming fine principles, and in some way or another may have died the death of a martyr. More and more the man Jesus replaced the Christ Jesus of earlier centuries. This, from the point of view of materialism, was a self-evident fact.
It was also entirely natural that in the course of the nineteenth century there should have developed what may be called “research into the life of Jesus.” Enlightened theology also carries out research into the life of Jesus, that is to say, it tries to establish the facts about Jesus of Nazareth in just the same way as facts are established about Charlemagne, Otto the Great, and similar personalities. However, it is very difficult to establish the facts about Jesus of Nazareth. In the first place all the principal documents that must come under consideration are the Gospels and the Pauline letters. But it is obvious that documents such as the Gospels cannot be counted as historical. There are four Gospels and from the external materialistic point of view they all contradict each other. All kinds of ways out of this dilemma have been sought in the course of “research into the life of Jesus.” A certain phase of this research can first of all be disregarded. Because this research fell into the materialistic period there was no longer any desire to believe in miracles. As a result some of the miracles are explained in the most peculiar way, as for example the kind of interpretation that tried to explain the appearance of Christ Jesus on the lake by suggesting that He did not walk on the lake with physical feet — we have dealt with this story earlier — but the disciples were simply unaware of the physical laws of the world. One far-fetched explanation from this Jesus research suggested that the apostles went by ship while Christ Jesus was accompanying them on the shore and that the people on the opposite shore could easily have been mistaken and believed that Jesus was walking on the water! To say nothing of other peculiarities thought up by rationalists, for example that when water was transformed into wine something like a wine-essence was smuggled into the water! Someone actually tried to explain the baptism by John in the Jordan by saying that just at that moment a dove happened to fly by! All this does exist. You would scarcely believe what has been put forward on the basis of strict objective science. But we may entirely disregard these aberrations, and look instead at the kind of research which tried to look at the supersensible from a materialistic viewpoint, not being able to handle the supersensible. This research regarded the supersensible elements as simply ornamentation. It decided that if anyone cannot believe in Christ Jesus, nor that someone was born as a carpenter's son in Nazareth, was in the temple at the age of twelve and so on, nevertheless if everything supersensible is removed and if everything that harmonizes or does not harmonize in the various Gospels is combined, then it is possible to produce something like a biography of Jesus of Nazareth. The effort was made to do this in the most varied ways, but it was really inevitable that each biography was different when so many different people tried to write a biography of this kind. But we cannot enter here into such details. There was also a period when during this “research into the life of Jesus” it was supposed that Jesus of Nazareth was a superior human being, something not unlike a higher Socrates, higher in the sense attributed to that word by materialists.
Such was the kind of research into the life of Jesus of Nazareth whose principal aim was to create a biography of Jesus. However, such an effort was bound to give rise to criticism, especially on two counts, in the first place because of the documents themselves; for the Gospels are not documents at all in the sense that one speaks of historical documents, as they are evaluated by historians. This is primarily due to the many contradictions to be found in them and the way in which they have been preserved. Secondly, in recent years something new was added to this “research into the life of Jesus” because those who went deeply into certain passages in the Gospels discovered certain constantly recurring remarks, which, as you know, refer to supersensible facts. But these men, in spite of being in the clutches of materialism, when they found these things could not simply disregard them, as was done by the researchers into the life of Jesus. So they moved on to something different, to the “Christ research,” which in recent years has come into prominence, by contrast with the “research into the life of Jesus,” which culminated in the term coined by a present-day professor: the “plain man from Nazareth.” This was found very agreeable by many people; it was flattering to them not to have to recognize anything higher in the Gospels. It suited them better to speak of the “plain man from Nazareth” rather than to ascend to the “God-Man.”
Then the God-Man was really found, and there followed “research into Christ.” This was a most peculiar phenomenon, appearing in an especially grotesque form in the work Ecce Deus of Benjamin Smith, [ Note 21 ] and in other works by the same author. The attempt was made to prove that Jesus of Nazareth never really existed; he is only a legend. Nevertheless, the Gospels give an account of Jesus Christ. What is this Jesus Christ? Well, he is a fictional God, an ideal image. From this point of view it is certainly not unreasonable to deny the real Jesus of Nazareth, for the Gospels speak of Christ and they attribute to Him qualities that, according to materialistic interpretations, do not exist. Then evidence follows that He cannot have existed historically, so He must be fictional, a fiction that originated in the period assigned to the Mystery of Golgotha. So there has been a kind of return from Jesus to Christ in recent years. But Christ is in no sense real; He lives only in human thoughts. So we may say that everything in this realm today rests without solid foundations.
Naturally the general public does not know much about the things that are happening in this realm. Everything connected with the Mystery of Golgotha has been totally undermined on scientific grounds; there is no longer any firm foundation. The “research into the life of Jesus” has collapsed because it can prove nothing, and the “Christ research” is not worth even discussing. The crucial point is the tremendous effect that emanates from that being with whom the Mystery of Golgotha is linked. If the whole thing is a fiction, then this materialistic age should agree to cease to look at it as soon as possible, for a materialistic age cannot believe in a “fiction” that is supposed nevertheless to have fulfilled the most important mission of all time! Yes, our enlightened age has surely been successful in accumulating contradictions, and is scarcely aware how much it is in need, just in the scientific field, of the saying “Lord, forgive them for they know not what they do.” This indeed is equally applicable to all current research regarding Jesus and Christ which has no wish to place itself in a serious and dignified way on a spiritual base.
The Gospel itself clearly points to what has appeared in our time in the manner just described. Those people who wish to remain materialists and to believe in nothing whatever beyond what can be attained by materialistic consciousness based on sense perception can find no path leading to Christ Jesus. For this path has been closed because those who stood closest to Christ left Him just at the time the Mystery of Golgotha was taking place. It was only later that they met Him again, thus failing to participate in what happened in Palestine on the physical plane. And everyone knows for certain that no credible documents have been furnished by the other side of the threshold. Yet in the Mark Gospel and in the other Gospels descriptions of this very Mystery of Golgotha have been given.
How then did these descriptions come into being? It is of the utmost importance for us to picture this to ourselves. Let us consider the descriptions given in one instance, in the Gospel of St. Mark. Even though the description is short and concise, it is in fact indicated to us quite adequately how after the scene of the Resurrection the youth in the white garment, that is to say, the cosmic Christ, again showed Himself to the disciples after the Mystery had been accomplished, and gave certain impulses to them. As a consequence the apostles, among whom we should include Peter, could be enkindled to clairvoyant vision, so that afterward they could see clairvoyantly what they had been unable to see with their physical eyes because they fled. The eyes of Peter, and of others who were permitted to be their pupils after the Resurrection of Christ Jesus, were opened clairvoyantly so that they could through clairvoyance behold the Mystery of Golgotha.
Although the Mystery of Golgotha took place on the physical plane, the only path to it is that of clairvoyance; and we must keep this firmly in our minds. The Gospel points this out quite clearly when it tells us how those who had been summoned fled at the decisive moment, so that it was only after it had received the impulse of the Risen One that in such a soul as that of Peter the memory flashed up of what had happened after the flight. In ordinary life man remembers only what he has experienced in sense existence. The kind of clairvoyance that now appeared in the disciples differs from ordinary memory in that they were able to remember physical material events, just as if these events had been in their memories, although they were not present. Just imagine how memory shone forth in the soul of a man like Peter, when he remembered events at which he had not been directly present. And so Peter, for example, taught those who wished to hear him about the Mystery of Golgotha, from memory, taught them what he remembered, even though he had not been present.
It was in this way that the teachings, the revelations, about the Mystery of Golgotha came into being. But the impulse that emanated from the Christ to such disciples as Peter could also be communicated to those who were pupils of these disciples. The man who originally compiled, even though in an oral form, the Gospel called the Gospel of St. Mark was just such a pupil of Peter. So the impulse that had manifested itself in Peter himself passed into the soul of Mark, with the result that within Mark's own soul there flashed up what had been accomplished in Jerusalem as the Mystery of Golgotha. Mark remained a pupil of Peter for some time. Then he came to an area where he truly had the external milieu, so to speak, the outer environment, which enabled him to give the particular coloring needed for this Gospel.
Through all that we have presented to you — and perhaps in the future it will be possible to say more on the subject — one thing has been shown in particular: that the Mark Gospel allows us to feel most clearly the whole cosmic greatness and significance of Christ. It was possible for the original author of this Gospel to be stimulated to give his description of the cosmic greatness of Christ precisely because of the place to which he had moved after he had been Peter's pupil. He moved to Alexandria in Egypt and lived there at a period when in a certain way Jewish-philosophical-theosophical learning in Alexandria had reached a certain culmination. He could take up in Alexandria what at that time were the best aspects of pagan gnosis. He could absorb views that were also in existence there about how the human being has come forth from the spiritual, and how he came into contact with Lucifer and Ahriman, and how luciferic and ahrimanic forces are taken up into the human soul. From the pagan gnosis he could accept everything that was told him about the origin of man out of the cosmos when our planet came into being. But Mark could also see, especially when he was living in an Egyptian locality, how strong the contrast was between what had originally been destined for man and what he had by this time become.
This was shown most strikingly in Egyptian culture, which had originated from the loftiest revelations that had then become manifest in Egyptian architecture, especially in the pyramids and palaces, in the culture of the Sphinx, which, however was falling ever more into corruption and decadence. Thus it was particularly the greatest works of Egyptian culture that sank down, still during the third cultural epoch, into the worst aberrations of black magic, and the worst depravities of spiritual corruption. If one had the spiritual eyes for it, it was possible in a certain way to see in what was practised in Egypt the most profound secrets, because this culture emanated from the pure original Hermes wisdom. But only a soul that looked at the foundation, and not at the existing corruption, could see this. Already by the time of Moses corruption was far advanced, and he had to extract from Egyptian culture the good which was scarcely visible even to such a noble soul as Moses. It could then be passed on indirectly to posterity through the soul of Moses. Thereafter the corruption in Egypt continued unabated.
Mark's soul was alive to the possibility that mankind could sink down and become engulfed in materialism, especially in regard to its view of the world. And he experienced in particular one thing that men can again today experience in a different, though in some respects similar, form — though only by men who possess the necessary feeling and perception. For we are really today experiencing the reemergence of Egyptian culture. I have often emphasized the peculiar nature of these linkages between cultures in human evolution, and I have explained how among the seven successive cultural epochs of the post-Atlantean era the fourth cultural epoch that contains Hellenism and the Mystery of Golgotha stands by itself. However, the third cultural epoch, that of the Egypto-Chaldean culture, emerges once more, though in an unspiritual manner, in the culture, especially the science, of today. Within our materialistic culture, even in its outer manifestations, we have in this fifth age a certain reawakening of the culture of the third epoch. In a certain way the second will also reappear in the sixth, and the first in the seventh. So do these spans of time encircle and include each other, as we have often emphasized. Today we are experiencing something that a spirit like Mark could experience in a most intensive way.
If we consider the culture of today, we should not describe it in this way to the outside world, because it could not bear it; even if we overlook the most radical forms of corruption we can still say that everything is mechanized. And within our materialistic culture it is only mechanism that is worshipped, even if we do not call it prayer or devotion. It is true that our soul forces that in former times were directed toward spiritual beings are now directed only toward machines, toward mechanisms. One can truly say that they receive the attention that once was given to the gods. This is especially the case in the realm of science, this science which is totally unaware of how little it is concerned with truth, with real truth, and at the same time how little it is concerned with true logic. If we look at it from a higher point of view we can certainly say that there is today a deeply serious and intense striving, an intense longing. I spoke already in Munich [in August 1912, Ed.] in a lecture about the longing in our time, and especially how this longing has taken root in individual souls. But in present-day “official” science such a longing is missing, and instead one might say that there is a certain satisfied contentment. Yet this contentment has something strange about it, since it is a contentment with what is unreal and illogical. Nowhere is this science capable of recognizing how deeply it is entrenched in what is opposed to all logic. All this can easily be seen and experienced, and it is indeed true that in human evolution one pole must be enkindled by the other. It is the very inadequacy of external science and its unreality and illogicality, the way it prides itself on its knowledge and its total unawareness of its deficiencies, that will and must gradually give rise to the noblest reaction within human souls: the longing for the spiritual that is manifesting itself in our time.
For a long time still to come people who remain attached to this unreality and lack of logic may well make fun of spiritual science, will scoff at it, or label it dangerous in all sorts of ways. Nevertheless through the inner power of the facts themselves the other pole will be enkindled, entirely of its own accord. And if those who understand something of it would only refrain from relapsing into the sickness of compromises and were to see clearly, then the time might well come much more quickly than seems likely now. For again and again it is our experience that if a learned man turns up and says something that someone else thinks is “quite anthroposophical,” then a great fuss is immediately made of it. More so still if someone or other preaches from a pulpit something that is thought to be “quite anthroposophical.” What is important is not that such compromises are made, but that we should place ourselves clearly and sincerely in the spiritual life, and allow it to affect us through its own impulses. The more clearly we are aware that the inner vitality of spiritual life must be enkindled, and the more we become convinced that we have no right to accept from the materialistic thinking of our time anything that is not well grounded in fact, the better it will be. This is a very different thing from demonstrating that truly progressive science is in harmony with spiritual research.
It can be shown how at every step science commits logical blunders on every page of its literary works, of the kind often referred to by one of our friends in a humorous manner. A certain Professor Schlaucherl (“clever fellow”), a character in the comic paper Fliegender Blätter, wished to prove just how a frog hears. To this end the Professor causes the frog to jump on a table, then he hits the top of the table. The frog jumps away, thus proving he heard the tap. Then he proceeds to tear off the frog's legs, and again hits the table. But this time the frog does not jump away, proving clearly that the frog hears with his legs. For when he still had legs he jumped away, but when he had lost his legs he no longer jumped. Learned men do indeed make all kinds of experiments with frogs. But in other domains their logical inferences are just like this example, as, for instance, in their much-lauded brain research. Attention is drawn to the fact that words can be remembered and certain thoughts may be produced if this or that part of the brain is present. But if this part of the brain is missing then words can no longer be remembered nor is it possible to have thoughts — exactly the same logic as in the case of the frog who hears through his legs. Indeed there are no better grounds for saying that a man can think with one part of his brain or cannot think if this part of the brain is missing, than there are for saying that the frog can no longer hear when his legs have been torn off. The two cases are entirely parallel, only people do not notice that the whole inference rests on nothing but faulty reasoning. We could continue to point out faulty reasoning piled on more faulty reasoning in all the results of what science believes to be firmly established. And the more mistakes that are made, the more proud people are of science, and the more they scoff at spiritual science.
This will have the result of generating the noblest of reactions, a longing for spiritual science. Such a reaction that belongs to our era is the same as what must have been experienced by Mark in his own age when he was able to perceive how mankind had descended from its former spiritual height and had become enmeshed in materialism. Through this experience he gained a profound understanding of how the greatest impulse lives in the supersensible, and this understanding was further strengthened by his teacher. What Peter had given him regarding the Mystery of Golgotha was not something that could have been based on sense perception and then handed down by tradition, as if someone had seen with his own eyes what had happened at Jerusalem. The events described were investigated later through clairvoyance; and it is in this way that all information about Christ Jesus and the Mystery of Golgotha was gained.
The Mystery of Golgotha is an event that occurred on the physical plane, but it could be seen afterward only through clairvoyance. I want you to bear in mind most particularly that the Mystery of Golgotha is a physical-material event, but the path leading toward understanding it must nevertheless be looked for in a superphysical, supersensible way and in spite of the documents that have come down to us. People who do not understand this may argue about the merits of this or that Gospel. But for one who is aware of the true state of affairs, such questions do not exist. Such a one knows how necessary it is for us to look beyond the often imperfect traditions represented by the various Gospels, and reach what clairvoyant investigation alone can tell us today. And if we investigate the truth of what actually happened by reconstructing it with the aid of the Akasha Chronicle, then we shall see how we must interpret the Gospels and what we have to read in individual passages. We shall see how we must read about what was then placed before humanity as man's true dignity, his true being, at a time when mankind had descended most deeply from its former heights.
The divine spiritual powers have given to man his outer image, his outer form. But since the old Lemurian epoch what lived in this outer form stood always under the influence of the luciferic forces, and then, during the later phases of evolution also under the ahrimanic forces. It was under these influences that what men have called science, knowledge, and understanding have come into being. It is no wonder that just exactly at that time the true supersensible being of man appeared before mankind, and men were least able to recognize it, and were least able to know what mankind had become. Man's knowledge and understanding had become ever more deeply enmeshed in sense existence, and gradually became ever less capable of penetrating close to the true being of man.
This is the important point we must take into consideration when we turn again to the forsaken Son of Man, to the form of the man who stands before us at the moment when, according to the Mark Gospel, the cosmic Christ was only loosely connected with the Son of Man. There, before all humanity, stood the man, the man in the form originally given to man by divine spiritual powers. There He stood, but ennobled and spiritualized by the three-year sojourn of the Christ within the body of Jesus of Nazareth. Here He stood before His fellow-men. But man's understanding had reached only as far as was possible through the thousands of years during which Lucifer and Ahriman had penetrated his understanding and knowing. Yet here stood the man who in those three years had driven out of Himself the influences of Lucifer and Ahriman. Here in front of other men stood restored what man had been before the coming of Lucifer and Ahriman. Only through the impulse of the cosmic Christ was man once again what he had been when he left the spiritual world and was brought down into the physical world. Here stood the spirit of mankind, the Son of Man, in the presence of men who at that time were the judges and executioners in Jerusalem. He stood there in the form that man can become if all that has debased him were to be driven out from his nature. Here stood the man at the moment when the Mystery of Golgotha was being accomplished, in the image of His fellowmen. Before such a man His fellowmen should have stood and worshipped, saying, “Here am I in my true nature, here is my highest ideal. Here am I, in the form to which I can attain only through my most ardent striving, a striving that can come only from the depths of my soul. Here I stand before that in myself which is alone worthy of reverence and worship, the divine in me.” And the apostles, if they had been able to practice self-knowledge, would have been compelled to say “In the whole expanse of space there is nothing in existence that can be compared in greatness with what is before us in the Son of Man!”
At that moment in history mankind ought to have possessed that self-knowledge. But what did this mankind do? It spat upon the Son of Man, it scourged Him, and led Him forth to the place of execution. That was the dramatic turning point between what ought to have been, the recognition that something was there with which nothing in the world is comparable, and what was described as actually happening. Instead of recognizing himself, man is described as having crushed himself under foot, as having killed himself because he did not recognize himself. Yet through this lesson, this cosmic lesson, he is able to receive the impulse to attain gradually for himself his true being within the wider perspective of Earth evolution!
This therefore was the world-historical moment, and this is the way we must characterize it if we want to do so in the right way entirely in accord with the powerful, striking sentences of the Gospel of St. Mark. It not only needs to be understood, it needs to be felt, sensed. Out of this crushing under foot of man's own nature there came forth what was described in my lecture cycle From Jesus to Christ [ Note 22 ] in Karlsruhe as the “phantom.” Because man crushed his own being under foot, that which was the outer image of the divine was transformed into the phantom which multiplies, and multiplying during the further development of mankind is able to penetrate into the souls of men, as was described in the Karlsruhe cycle.
If we look at things in this way, then the great difference becomes visible between what the Mark Gospel really wishes to describe, and what is so often made of it today. Anyone who understands a Gospel, and particularly the Mark Gospel, in such a way that he can sense and feel what is described in accordance with its artistic composition and its deep content will have the experience that this feeling will become a true inner fact, the kind of inner fact that must be present if we wish to attain to a relationship with Christ Jesus. The soul must really dedicate itself, at least in some small measure, to the kind of reflection filled with feeling and emotion that can arise from a reading of the Mark Gospel and that may be characterized somewhat as follows: “How greatly deluded were my fellowmen who stood around the Son of Man, when in truth they should have perceived there the highest ideal of themselves!”
A typical man of this materialistic age may write down or let slip such a remark as can often be heard or read today, especially from superstitious monists, I mean enlightened monists, “Why is existence as it is? Why do we suffer pain? These questions no one has ever been able to answer. Buddha, Christ, Socrates, Giordano Bruno — none of them have been able to lift a corner of this veil.” People who write in this way do not realize that in so doing they are placing themselves much higher than Buddha, Christ, Socrates, and the rest, nor that they in working on this assumption understand everything. How could it be otherwise in an age when any beginning university lecturer possesses an unrivalled understanding of everything that has happened in history, and is obliged for the sake of his career to write books on the subject?
It might be thought that this is said out of a desire to criticize our age. This is not the reason. But such things ought to be visible to our souls, because only if we allow them to be perceived by our souls do we keep a true perspective on the overpowering greatness of the Gospels, as, for instance, the Gospel of St. Mark. These things are constantly misunderstood for no other reason than that people can approach such a height only slowly, and usually only caricatures are presented to them. In every detail the Gospels are great, and in essence every detail teaches us something extraordinary.
We can therefore learn something also from the last chapter of the Mark Gospel. Of course if I were to point out all the great thoughts in this Gospel I should have to go on speaking for a long time yet. But one such detail immediately at the beginning of the sixteenth chapter shows us how deeply the evangelist has penetrated into the secrets of existence. So the author of the Mark Gospel knew, as we have described, how humanity had declined, sinking from the spiritual heights into materialism. He knew how little human beings were truly able to grasp the nature of the being of man, and how little people at the time of the Mystery of Golgotha were capable of understanding what happened then.
At this point I should like to remind you of something I have often pointed out with regard to the difference between male and female, pointing out the fact that to some extent the female element — not the single individual woman but rather “womanhood” — has not entirely descended to the physical plane, whereas the man — again not a single individuality, not man in a particular incarnation but “manhood” — has crossed the line and descended lower. As a result true humanity lies between man and woman; and it is for this reason that a human being also changes sex in different incarnations. But it is already the case that the woman, as such, because of the different formation of her brain and the different way in which she can use it, is able to grasp spiritual ideas with greater facility. By contrast the man because of his external physical corporeality is much better adapted to think himself into materialism, because, if we wish to express the matter crudely, his brain is harder. The female brain is softer, not so stubborn, that is to say in general — I am not referring to individual personalities. In the case of individual personalities there is no need to flatter oneself, for many truly obstinate heads sit on many a female body — to say nothing of the reverse! But on the whole it is true that it is easier to make use of a female brain if one is to understand something exceptional, as long as the will to do so is also present. It is for this reason that the evangelist after the Mystery of Golgotha allows women to appear first.
And now, as the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome brought spices, so that they could go and anoint him. (Mark 16:1.)
And it was to them that the youth, that is, the cosmic Christ, first appeared; and only afterward to the male disciples. True occultism, true spiritual science, is interwoven into the composition and details of the contents of the Gospels, and especially of the concise Mark Gospel.
Only if we feel what speaks to us from the Gospels and allow ourselves to be stirred by what we feel and sense can we find the way to the Mystery of Golgotha. And then there will be no longer any question as to whether these Gospels are genuine or false from the external historical point of view. Those who understand nothing of the matter can be left to their investigations. But those who ascend by means of spiritual science to a feeling for and understanding of the Gospels will gradually realize that they are not in the first place intended to be historical documents but rather documents that flow into our souls. And when they pour out their impulses into our souls, then our souls, without the aid of any documents, are taken hold of by what they feel and experience when they turn their gaze to the Mystery of Golgotha, and recognize how human understanding, knowledge, and cognition when directed to the being of man have fallen short — how men spat on and crucified this being of man that they should have revered in the wisdom of self-knowledge as their highest ideal. And from this recognition the soul will win for itself the supreme strength needed to rise upward to the ideal that radiates across from Golgotha and shines upon all who are willing to feel and perceive it. For only then will men truly grasp the reality that the Earth is linked with the spiritual worlds, when they understand how the spiritual reality, the Christ, lived as a cosmic being in the body of Jesus of Nazareth; and when they understand that all the leaders of humanity that the world has ever known were sent out by the Christ as His forerunners with the task of preparing the way for Him so that He could be recognized and understood. All this preparation turned out to be virtually useless when the Mystery of Golgotha took place, for at the decisive moment everything failed. But ever more and more in the future the time will come when people will understand not only the Mystery of Golgotha itself but all the other events that accompanied it, by means of which the Mystery will be ever more fully understood.
For the time being the peoples of Europe can easily perhaps be misjudged because they do not act like many other peoples who recognize as the true religion only those religious creeds that have sprung from their own nation and race, as for example, in India in particular, where only that is considered valuable that has sprung from their own blood. How often in theosophical circles one talks about how the equality of all religions ought to be recognized, whereas in reality one wishes only to promote one's own religion and looks upon that as the only real wisdom-religion. The Europeans are totally unable to do this because not a single people of Europe has retained any national deity, any deity growing out of its own soil of the kind that the peoples of Asia possess. Christ Jesus belongs to Asia, and the peoples of Europe have adopted Him, and allowed Him to influence them. In the acceptance of Christ Jesus there is no egoism; and it would be a complete distortion if someone were to wish to compare the way a European speaks about Christ Jesus with the way other peoples speak about their national deities, for example the way a Chinese speaks about Confucious or the way an Indian speaks about Krishna or the Buddha.
And we can speak of Christ Jesus from a purely objective historical standpoint. This objective history is concerned with nothing else but the great appeal to man's self-knowledge, a self-knowledge that was so completely distorted into its opposite while the Mystery of Golgotha was taking place. Yet through this Mystery the possibility was given to man to receive the impulse to find his own true being, whereas, as far as knowledge, external knowledge, was concerned, humanity totally failed to grasp the meaning of the Mystery of Golgotha, as we have seen. And so all the world's religions will one day rightly understand each other and work together to understand what the Mystery of Golgotha contains, and to make its impulse accessible to men.
If it is once realized that when Christ Jesus is spoken of this has nothing to do with any egoistic creed but with something that, as a historical fact in human evolution, can belong to every religious creed, then, and then only, will the kernel of wisdom and truth in all religions be grasped. And to the extent to which we still do not accept spiritual science in its true sense, it is to the same extent that we refuse to accept the true understanding of the Mystery of Golgotha. And to the extent that we understand spiritual science, it is to that extent that a human being can understand the Mystery of Golgotha. So a Christian who accepts spiritual science can really come to an understanding with all the peoples of the world. And if representatives of other religions with a somewhat excessive — though understandable and even justifiable — pride were to say “You Christians have only one single incarnation of God, but we can offer several, and thus are richer than you,” no Christian should try to rival him by claiming something similar for Christ Jesus, since this would show his lack of understanding for the Mystery of Golgotha. The correct thing would be for a Christian to say in reply to someone who is able to show that the founder of his own religion had many incarnations: “Yes, of course, but all those who had many incarnations could not have fulfilled the Mystery of Golgotha. Look where you will, in no other religion will you ever find it in the way it is presented in Christianity.”
On other occasions in the past I have already shown how, if we follow the life of the Buddha we shall reach the point described in the Mark Gospel as the scene of the Transfiguration of Christ. At this point the Buddha's life has come to its final end, and he dissolves into light, as it is described, and this description in truth corresponds to the occult fact. In the case of Christ, as you will fmd it stated in Christianity as Mystical Fact, [ Note 23 ] He does indeed reach the scene of the Transfiguration. But He was not transfigured alone, by Himself; He converses with Moses and Elijah on the mountain, where cosmic events occur. Only after the scene of the Transfiguration does the Mystery of Golgotha begin. This emerges so clearly from the documents themselves that it is fundamentally impossible to deny the fact, once one has recognized it from a comparison between the lives of Christ and the Buddha. And in essence all that I was able to tell you today about the feelings that arise in us when we think of the great misunderstanding of the Son of Man by human beings is only a consequence of what you will fmd already pointed out in Christianity as Mystical Fact.
And now at the conclusion of our studies on the Mark Gospel I may in a certain respect say that the program laid down at the beginning of the anthroposophical movement in Central Europe insofar as it related to Christianity has in all essentials been completed in every detail. When we started, our main task was to show how in the course of time religions have developed, culminating in the problem of Christ. We have considered the individual Gospels and various cosmic revelations; we have tried to penetrate ever more deeply into the depths of occult life in order to carry out what we indicated we should do at the beginning. We have tried to work consistently, but in essence all we have done is complete in detail what we said we would do when we started. Was this not the most natural development with respect to the Christ problem within the theosophical movement of Central Europe? In view of all this that has happened, other people who became converts to an impossible conception of Christ within the framework of Christianity can scarcely demand that we who have done this consistent work for years should be converts to their conception of Christ devised three years ago! It has often been emphasized of recent years that the Theosophical Society ought to be hospitable to all opinions. Of course it should be. But the matter appears in a quite different light if it is to be hospitable to the successive different opinions of the same personality, if that personality now maintains something different from what it did four years ago, and now demands that the Theosophical Society should provide a home for this latest opinion. Such a thing may be possible, but there is no need for us to go along with it. Nor should one be considered a heretic if one doesn't take part in such things. In Central Europe people go further still, going so far as to call white black and black white!
This is indeed a solemn moment when we are bringing to an end the latest and final phase of the work we have been carrying on for the last ten years according to plan. So we are determined to stand firm in this work and neither become discouraged nor yet lacking in understanding for others. But we must see very clearly what we have to do, and we must stand firm on our own ground and not allow ourselves to be discouraged by anything, even if white is called black and black white. Even if our anthroposophical Central European movement — in which everyone strives to do his best according to his ability, and everyone is called upon to give his best without submitting to any authority — is said to be full of fanatics and dogmatizers, we should still not be discouraged, not even if those who have their own dogma that is scarcely three years old try to organize an opposition to the dreadful dogma of Central Europe. It is painful to witness the kind of mischievous tricks that are played today in the name of Christ. We are justified in using words like these, and regard them as nothing more than a technical term, used objectively. We are doing nothing more than stating the actual fact, without emotion and without criticism. If we are obliged to put it this way it is the fault of the objective fact itself.
But these facts, when they are set against what can flow to us from a real understanding of the Gospel of St. Mark, can also lead to no other course than to continue to work in the way we have recognized as the right one. This has proved itself in our general program based on positive facts, and continues to prove itself again every day as long as we apply it to individual problems and individual facts. And as we make our way step by step through the details of the things we have to investigate, what was said at the beginning is invariably confirmed. So even when we are studying the loftiest things we can harbor no other feeling than a true and genuine feeling for truth. Such things as the contemplation of the Mystery of Golgotha have within them already the necessary healing power that dispels error if we approach them in the spirit. Then we are led to recognize how in essence it is only an insufficient will to pursue the truth that prevents us from truly pursuing the path that opens out from the earthly into the cosmic, when the cosmic Christ within Jesus of Nazareth is investigated. But He appears to us so clearly if we understand a work like the Mark Gospel.
For this reason such works, after they have been opened up to the understanding of men by means of spiritual scientific studies, will gradually also reach out to the rest of mankind, and will be ever more clearly understood. And attention will be focused ever more on the words of the Gospels rediscovered without the aid of sense perception through clairvoyant vision of the Mystery of Golgotha. Those who wrote the Gospels from clairvoyant observation described the physical events afterward. This must be understood, as also the necessity for it. Those people who lived at the same time as the events in Palestine were incapable of understanding what happened at that time because it was only through the impulse given by this event that it could be understood! Before the event had taken place no one was alive who could have understood it. It had first to take effect, so it could be understood only after the event. The key to the understanding of this Mystery of Golgotha is the Mystery of Golgotha itself! Christ had first to do all that He had to do up to the time of the Mystery of Golgotha, and only through the effects of what He did could the understanding of Himself come forth. Then through what He was, the Word could be enkindled which is at the same time the expression of His true being.
And so through what Christ was, the primal Word is enkindled which is communicated to us and can be recognized again in clairvoyant vision, this Word which also proclaims the true being of the Mystery of Golgotha. We may also think of this Word when we speak of Christ's own words, not only those that He spoke Himself but those which He also kindled in the souls of those able to understand Him, so that they could both understand and describe His being from within their human souls.
As long as the Earth endures men will take up into themselves the impulses from the Mystery of Golgotha. Then there will come an interval between “Earth” and “Jupiter.” Such an interval is always linked to the fact that not only the individual planet but all its surroundings change, pass into chaos, undergo a “pralaya.” And not only the Earth itself will be different in pralaya, but also the heavens belonging to the Earth. But what has been given to the Earth through the Word that Christ spoke, which He kindled also in those who recognize Him, is the true essence of Earth existence. And a right understanding allows us to recognize the truth of that saying that tells us of the development of the cosmos, how the Earth and heaven as seen from the Earth will be different after the Earth has reached its goal, and heaven and Earth pass away. But such a Word as could be spoken by Christ about heaven and Earth will remain. If one rightly understands the Gospels, and feels their innermost impulse, then one feels not only the truth but also the power of the Word which as power passes over into us, enabling us to gaze out beyond the wide world as we take up into ourselves with full understanding the Word, “Heaven and Earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.” (Matt. 24:35.)
The words of Christ will never pass away, even if heaven and Earth pass away. This may be said in accordance with occult knowledge, for the truths of the Mystery of Golgotha that have been spoken will still remain. The Mark Gospel kindles in our souls the knowledge of the truth that heaven and Earth pass away, while what we can know about the Mystery of Golgotha will accompany us into the ages that are to come, even if heaven and Earth will have passed away!