The Gospel of Mark. Lecture 2 of 10
Rudolf Steiner, September 16, 1912:
If you recollect what was to a certain extent the climax and principal goal of our last lecture, you will be able to place before your souls how completely different the human entity was as regards his innermost self before the Mystery of Golgotha from what it was after that event. I did not try to put general characteristics before you, but examples from spiritual science, examples that showed us souls of olden times and souls belonging to modern times, characteristic examples by means of which we can see how certain souls of former times appear again, transformed and metamorphosed. The reason for such a great change will become evident only from the study of the whole course of these lectures. But at present one thing only may be pointed out by way of introduction, which has often been referred to in our lectures when they touched on similar subjects, namely, that the full consciousness of the human ego, which it is the mission of the Earth planet to develop and bring to expression, actually made its appearance only through the Mystery of Golgotha.
It is not perhaps quite accurate, though not far wrong, to say that if we go very far back in evolution, human souls were not yet truly individualized; they were still entangled in the group-soul nature. This was particularly the case with the more prominent among them, so we may say that such natures as Hector or Empedocles were typical group-soul representatives of their entire human community. Hector grew out of the soul of Troy. He stands as an image of the group soul of the Trojan people in a particular form, specialized but nevertheless just as rooted in the group soul as Empedocles. When they were reincarnated in the post-Christian era, they had to face the necessity of experiencing the ego-consciousness. This passing over from the group-soul nature to the experience of the individual soul causes a mighty leap forward. It causes souls so firmly embedded in the group-soul nature as Hector to appear like Hamlet, i.e. wavering and uncertain, as though incapable of dealing with life. On the other hand it causes a soul like that of Empedocles, when it reappears in post-Christian times as the soul of the Faust of the sixteenth century, to become a kind of adventurer who is brought into various situations from which he was only with difficulty able to extricate himself, and who is misunderstood by his contemporaries and even by posterity.
Indeed it has often been emphasized that in developments such as those here referred to all that has taken place since the Mystery of Golgotha is not particularly meaningful. As yet everything is only at the beginning; only during the future evolution of the Earth will the great impulses that may be ascribed to Christianity make themselves felt. Over and over again we must emphasize the fact that Christianity is only at the beginning of its great development. If we wish to play a part in this great development we must enter with understanding into the ever increasing progress of the revelations and impulses which originated with the founding of Christianity. Above all we are required to learn something in the immediate future; for it does not take much clairvoyance to see clearly that if we wish for something definite to enable us to make a good beginning in the direction of an advanced and progressive understanding of Christianity we must learn to read the Bible in quite a new way. There are at present many hindrances in the way, partly because of the fact that in wide circles biblical study is still carried on in a sugary and sentimental manner. The Bible is not made use of as a book of knowledge, but as a book of common use for all kinds of personal situations. If anyone has need of it for his own personal encouragement, he will bury himself in one or the other chapter of the Bible and allow it to work on him. This seldom results in anything more than a personal relationship to the Bible. On the other hand the scholarship of the last decades, indeed that of virtually the whole nineteenth century, increased the difficulty of really understanding the Bible by tearing it apart, declaring that the New Testament is composed of all kinds of different things that were later combined, and that the Old Testament also was composed of many different parts which must have been brought together at different times. According to this view, the Bible is made up of mere fragments which may easily produce the impression of an aggregate, presumably stitched together in the course of time. This kind of scholarship has become popular; very many people, for example, hold that the Old Testament is combined out of many single parts. This opinion disturbs the serious reading of the Bible that must come in the near future. When such a serious way of reading the Bible is adopted, all that is to be said about its secrets from the anthroposophical viewpoint will be much better understood.
For example we must learn to take as a whole the Old Testament from the beginning up to the point where the ordinary editions of the Bible end. We must not let ourselves be led astray by all that may be said against the unity of the Old Testament. Then, if we do not merely read it in a one-sided way seeking for personal edification, and do not read one part or another from any particular point of view but allow the Old Testament, just as it is, to influence us as a whole, combining our consideration of the contents with all that must come into the world precisely from our anthroposophical development of the last few years — if we unite all this with a certain artistic spiritual feeling so that we gradually come to see the artistic sequence, how the threads interweave and are disentangled, not as if it had been composed in an external kind of way, but with deep artistry, then we shall gradually perceive what a mighty, inwardly spiritual dramatic power lies in the whole structure and composition of the Old Testament. Only then do we appreciate the glorious tableau as a uniform whole, and we shall no longer believe that one piece in the middle comes from one source and one from another. We shall then perceive the unitary spirit of the Bible. We shall see how from the first day of creation the continuity of progress is under the control of this unitary spirit from the time of the patriarchs through the time of the judges, and through that of the great Jewish prophets and kings until the whole soars to a wonderful dramatic culmination in the book of the Maccabees, in the sons of Mattathias, the brothers of Judas who fought against the king of Antioch. In the whole there lives an inner dramatic force that reaches a certain culminating point at the end. We shall then feel that it is not a mere phrase when we say that a man who is equipped with the occult method of observation is seized by a peculiar feeling when he comes to the end of the Old Testament and has in front of him the seven sons of the Maccabean mother and the five sons of Mattathias. Five sons of Mattathias, with the seven sons of the Maccabean mother making the remarkable number twelve, a number we notice everywhere when we are led into the secrets of evolution.
The number twelve appears at the end of the Old Testament as the culminating point of the whole dramatic presentation. First this feeling comes upon us when the seven sons of the Maccabees die a martyr's death, how one by one they rise up and one by one are martyred. Observe the inner dramatic power shown here, how the first victim only hints at what comes to full expression in the seventh in his belief in the immortality of the soul, how he hurls these words at the king, “You reprobate, you refuse to hear anything about the Awakener of my soul.” (II Maccabees, Chap. 7.) If we allow the dramatic crescendo of power from son to son to affect us, we shall see what forces are contained in the Bible. If we compare the sugary sentimental method of study prevalent hitherto with this dramatic, artistic penetration, the Bible is of itself able to arouse religious ardor. Here, through the Bible, art becomes religion. And then we begin to notice very remarkable things. Most of you may perhaps remember, for it happened in this very place, that when I gave here the course on St. Luke's Gospel the whole magnificent figure of Christ Jesus sprang forth from the fusion of the two souls, the souls of the two Jesus children. The soul of the one was none other than the soul of Zarathustra, the founder of Zoroastrianism. You may still have before your spiritual eyes the fact that in the Jesus boy described in the Gospel of St. Matthew is the reincarnated Zarathustra.
What kind of fact do we have here? We have the founder of Zoroastrianism, the great initiate of antiquity, of the primeval Persian civilization, who passed through human evolution up to a certain point and appeared again among the ancient Hebrew people. Through the soul of Zarathustra, we have a transition from the ancient Persian to the element of the ancient Hebrew people. Yes indeed, the external, that which takes place in the history of the world and in human life, is really only the manifestation, the externalization, of inner spiritual processes and of inner spiritual forces. What external history relates can therefore be studied by considering it as an expression of the inward and spiritual, of the facts which move in the spiritual realm. Let us place before our souls the fact that Zarathustra passed over from Persia into the old Hebrew element. Now let us consider the Old Testament — we really only need to study the headings of the chapters. That the matter stands with Zarathustra as I then related is the result of clairvoyant research: it results if we follow his soul backward in time. Now let us contrast this result not only with the way the Bible represents it, but also with the results of external investigation.
The ancient Hebrew people founded their kingdom in Palestine. That original kingdom was divided. First it passed into Assyrian captivity, then into the Babylonian. The ancient Hebrew people were subjugated by the Persians. What does all this mean? World historical facts do indeed have a meaning; they correspond with inner processes, spiritual soul-processes. Why did all this take place? Why were the ancient Hebrew people guided in such a way that they passed over into the Chaldean, into the Assyrian-Babylonian element, and were set free again by Alexander the Great? [ footnote 1 ] To put it briefly, it is because this was merely the external transition of Zarathustra from the Persian to the Jewish element. The Jews brought him to themselves. They were guided to him, even being subjugated by the Persian element, because Zarathustra wanted to come to them. External history is a wonderful counterpart of these processes, and anyone who observes these things from the point of view of spiritual science knows that external history was only the body for the transition of the Zarathustra element from the old Persian element, which at first actually included the old Hebrew element. Then, when the latter had been sufficiently permeated by the Persian element, it was lifted out of it again by Alexander the Great. What then remained was the milieu necessary for Zarathustra; it had passed over from one people to another.
When we glance over this whole age — we can naturally emphasize only a few single points — we see it reaching its apex in the old Hebrew history, through the period of the kings, the prophets, the Babylonian captivity, and the Persian conquest up to the time of the Maccabees. If then we really wish to understand the Gospel of St. Mark, which is ushered in by one of the prophetic sayings of Isaiah, we cannot fail to be struck by the element of the Jewish prophets. Starting from Elijah, who reincarnated as John the Baptist, we could say that these prophets appear to us in their wonderful grandeur. Let us leave out of consideration for the moment Elijah and his reincarnation as the Baptist, and consider the names of the intervening prophets. Here we must say that what we have obtained from spiritual science allows us to observe these Jewish prophets in a very special way. When we speak of the great spiritual leaders of the Earth in ancient times, to whom do we refer? To the initiates, the initiated ones. We know that these initiates attained their spiritual height precisely because they went through the various stages of consecration. They raised themselves stage by stage by means of cognition to spiritual vision, and thus to union with the true spiritual impulses in the world. In this way they were able to embody in the life of the physical plane the impulses they themselves received in the spiritual world. When we meet with an initiate of the Persian, Indian, or Egyptian people our first question is “How did he ascend the ladder of initiation within his own national environment? How did he become a leader, and thus a spiritual guide of his people?”
This question is everywhere justifiable, except when we come to the prophets. At the present time, there is certainly a sort of theosophical tendency to mix everything together and speak about the prophets in the same way as we speak of other initiates. But nothing can be known by doing this. Let us take the Bible (and recent historical research shows that the Bible is a true and not an untrue document); consider the prophets from Isaiah to Malachi, through Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel, and study what it relates of these figures. You will find that you cannot bring these prophets into the general scheme of intitiation. Where does the Bible relate that the Jewish prophets went through the same kind of initiation as other initiates belonging to different peoples? It is said they appeared when the voice of God stirred in their souls, enabling them to see in a different way from ordinary men, making it possible for them to make indications as to the future course of the destiny of their people and the future course of the world's history. Such indications were wrung from the souls of the prophets with elemental force. It is not related of them, in the same way as it is related of other prophets, how they went through their initiation. The spiritual vision of the Jewish prophets seems, so to speak, to spring from their own genius, and this they relate to their own people and to humanity. It was in this same way that they avowed their prophesies and acknowledged their prophetic gifts. Just consider how a prophet, when he has something to announce, always makes a point of proclaiming that God has communicated through some mediator what is to happen — or else that it came to him like a direct elemental truth. This gives rise to the question, leaving Elijah and his reincarnation as the Baptist out of consideration, “What position do these Jewish prophetic figures occupy, who externally are placed side by side with the initiates of other nations?” If you investigate the souls of these prophets in the light of spiritual science or occultism, you come to something very remarkable. If you make the effort to compare what history and religious tradition relate with what I am about to communicate to you as the result of my spiritual investigation, you will be able to verify this.
We find that the souls of the Hebrew prophets are reincarnations of initiates who had lived in other nations, and who had attained certain stages of initiation. When we trace backward one of these prophets, we arrive at some other people and find an initiated soul who remained a long time with this people. This soul then went through the portal of death and was reincarnated in the Jewish people. If we wish to find the earlier incarnations of the souls of Jeremiah, Isaiah, Daniel, and so on we must seek them among other peoples. Trivially speaking, it is as though there were a gradual assembling of the initiates of other peoples among the Jewish people, where these initiates appear in the form of prophets. This is why these prophets appear in such a way that their gift of prophecy appears to proceed elementally from out of their own inner being. It is a memory of what they acquired here or there as initiates. All this emerges, but not always in the harmonious form it had in earlier incarnations, for a soul that had been incarnated in a Persian or Egyptian body would first have to accustom itself to the bodily nature of the Jewish people. Something of what was certainly in this soul could not come forth in this incarnation. For it is not always the case that what a man has formerly acquired reappears in him as he progresses from incarnation to incarnation. Indeed, through the difficulties caused by the bodily nature, it may come forth in an inharmonious way, in a chaotic manner.
Thus we see that the Jewish prophets gave their people many spiritual impulses, which are often disarrayed, but nonetheless grandiose recollections of former incarnations. That is the peculiarity to be observed in the Jewish prophets. Why is this? It is because in fact the whole evolution of humanity had to go through this passageway, so that what was achieved in its parts over the whole world should be brought together in one focal point, to be born again from out of the blood of the people of the Old Testament. So we find in the history of the old Hebrew people, as in that of no other, something that may be found also in tribes but not in peoples that had already become nations — a state of homogenity, the emphasizing of the descent of the blood through the generations. All that belongs to the world-historical mission of the Old Testament people depends upon the continuity of the stream of blood through the generations. Hence anyone who had a full right to belong to the Jewish people was always called a “son of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,” meaning a son of that element that first appeared in the blood of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It was in the blood that flowed through this people that the elements of initiation of other peoples were to reincarnate. Like rays of light coming from different sides, streaming in and uniting in the center, the incarnating rays of the various peoples were collected together as in one central point in the blood of the old Hebrew people. The psychical element of human evolution had once to pass through that experience. It is extremely important to keep these occult facts in mind, for only thus can we understand how such a Gospel as that of St. Mark is from its beginning based upon the element of the Old Testament.
But now what occurs at this gathering, as we might call it, of the initiation elements of the various peoples in this one center? We have yet to see why it took place. But if we now take the whole dramatic progress of the Old Testament into consideration we shall see how the thought of immortality is gradually developed in the Old Testament through the taking up of the initiation elements of the different peoples and how it appears at its very summit precisely in the sons of the Maccabees. But we must now allow this to influence our souls in its full original significance, enabling us to envision the consciousness man then had of his connection with the spiritual world. I wish to draw your attention to one thing. Try to follow up the passages in the Old Testament where reference is made to the divine element shining into human life. How often it is related, for example in the Book of Tobit (Tobit, Chapter 5), when something or other is about to happen — as when Tobit sends his son to carry out some business or other — the archangel Raphael appears to him in an apparently human form. [ footnote 2 ] In another passage other beings of the higher hierarchies appear. Here we have the divine spiritual element playing into the world of man in such a way that man sees the divine spiritual element as something external, met with in the outer world. In the Book of Tobit, Raphael confronts the person he has to lead in just the same way as one man encounters another when he approaches him externally. We shall often see if we study the Old Testament that connections with the spiritual world are regulated in this manner, and very many passages in the Old Testament refer to something of this kind. But as we proceed, we observe a great dramatic progression, finally reaching the culminating point of that progression in the martyrdom of the seven sons of the Maccabees who speak out of their souls of a uniting, a reawakening of their souls in the divine element. The inner certainty of soul about their own inner immortality meets us in the sons of the Maccabees and also in Judas and his brothers who were to defend their people against the king of Antioch. There is an increased inner understanding of the divine spiritual element, and the dramatic progress becomes ever greater as we follow the Old Testament from the appearance of God to Moses in the burning bush, in which we see God approaching man externally, to the inner certitude springing up in the souls of the sons of the Maccabees, who are convinced that if they die here they will be reawakened in the kingdom of their God through what lives within them.
This shows a mighty progression, revealing an inner unity in the Old Testament. Nothing is said at the beginning of the Old Testament concerning the consciousnes of being accepted by God, of being taken away from the Earth and being part of the Divinity. Nor are we told whether this member of the human soul that is taken up by God and embodied in the divine world is really raised. But the whole progress was so guided that the consciousness develops more and more, so that the human soul through its very essence grows into the spiritual element. From a state of passivity toward the God Yahweh or Jehovah there gradually comes into being an active inner consciousness of the soul about its own nature. This increases page by page all through the Old Testament, though it was only by slow degrees that during its progress the thought of immortality was born. Strange to say, the same progress may also be observed in the succession of the prophets. Just observe how the stories and predictions of each successive prophet become more and more spiritual; here again we find the dramatic element of a wonderful intensification. The further we go back into the past, the more do the stories told relate to the external. The more we advance in time, the more we discover the inner force, the inner certainty and feeling of unity with the divine spiritual, referred to also by the prophets. Thus there is a continual enhancement until the Old Testament leads on to the beginning of the story of the New Testament, and the Gospel of St. Mark is directly linked with all this.
For at the very beginning, the Gospel tells us that it intends to interpret the event of Christ Jesus entirely in the sense of the old prophets, so that it is possible to understand the appearance of Christ Jesus by keeping before us the words of Malachi and Isaiah respectively, “Behold I send my messenger before you who is to prepare the way. Hear how there is a cry in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way of the Lord and make his paths level.’ ” Thus there is a prevailing tone running through the history of the Old Testament pointing to the appearance of Christ Jesus. It is further related in St. Mark's Gospel — indeed we may distinctly hear it in the words if we so desire. In the same way that the ancient prophets spoke, so essentially does the Baptist speak. How comprehensive and grandiose is this figure of the Baptist if we interpret him in the way the ancient prophets spoke of a divine messenger, of one who in the solitude would show the path that Christ Jesus had to pursue in cosmic evolution. Mark's Gospel then goes on to say, “Thus does John the Baptist appear in the solitude and proclaim baptism for the recognition of human sinfulness.” For in this way should the words rightly be translated. So it is said, “Direct your gaze to the old prophetic nature, which has now entered into a new relation with the Divinity and experienced a new belief in immortality. And then behold the figure of the Baptist, how he appeared and spoke of the kind of development through which we may recognize the sinfulness of man.” Thus is the Baptist directly referred to as a great figure.
But how about the wonderful figure of Christ Jesus Himself? Nowhere else in the world is He presented in so simple and at the same time so grand and dramatic an ascending gradation as in Mark's Gospel. Direct your spiritual gaze at this in the right way. What are we told at the beginning of the Gospel? We are particularly told to turn our attention to the figure of the Baptist. You can understand him only when you take into account the Jewish prophets, whose voice has become alive in him. The whole Jewish nation went up to be baptized by him. This means that there were many among them who recognized that the old prophets spoke through John the Baptist. That is stated at the beginning of the Gospel. We see John standing before us, we hear the voice of the old prophets coming to life in him, and we see the people going out to him and recognizing him as a prophet come to life again. Let us confine ourselves for the moment to the Mark Gospel. Now the figure of Christ Jesus Himself appears. Let us now also leave out of account the so-called baptism in the Jordan, and what happens after that, including the temptation, and fix our attention on the dramatic intensification we meet with in the Mark Gospel.
After the Baptist is introduced to us, and we are shown how the people regard him and his mission, Christ Jesus is Himself introduced. But in what manner? At first we are told only that He is there, that He is recognized not only by men, but He is also recognized by beings other than man. That is the point to be borne in mind. Around Him are those who wish to be healed from their demonic possession, those in whom demons are active. Around Him stand men in whom not merely human souls are living, but who are possessed by supersensible spirits who work through them. And in a significant passage we are told that these spirits recognize Christ Jesus. Of the Baptist we are told that men recognized him and went out to be baptized by him. But Christ is recognized by the supersensible spirits, so that He has to command them not to speak of Him. Beings from the supersensible world recognize Him, so it is said; that being is entering who is not only recognized by men, but His appearance is recognized and considered dangerous by supersensible beings. That is the glorious climax confronting us directly in the beginning of the Gospel of Mark. On the one side is John the Baptist, recognized and honored by men; and on the other He who is recognized and feared by supersensible beings — who nevertheless have something to do with the Earth — so that they realize that now they must leave. Nowhere else is such an upward dramatic progression presented with such simplicity.
If we keep this in sight, we feel certain things as necessary which usually simply pass unobserved by human souls. Let me draw your attention to a particular passage which, because of the greatness and simplicity of Mark's Gospel, may best be observed in this Gospel. Recall the passage in which the choosing of the Twelve is spoken of at the beginning of the Gospel, and how, when the naming is referred to, it is said that He called two of His apostles the “sons of thunder” (Mark 3:17). That is a fact that must not pass unnoticed; we must pay attention to it if we wish to understand the Gospel. Why does He call them “sons of thunder?” Because He wishes to implant into them an element that is not of the Earth so that they may become His servants. This element comes from outside the Earth because this is the Gospel that comes from the world of angels and archangels. It is something new; it is no longer enough to speak of man. He speaks now of a heavenly supersensible element, the ego, and it is necessary to emphasize this. He calls them sons of thunder to show that those who are His followers are related to the celestial element. The nearest world connected with our own is the elemental world, through which what plays into our world can first be explained. Christ gives names to His disciples which indicate that our world borders on a supersensible one. He gives them names in accordance with the characteristics of the elemental world. It is just the same as when He calls Peter the “rock-man” (Mark 3:16). This again refers to the supersensible. Thus through the whole Gospel the entrance of the angelic as an impulse from the spiritual world is proclaimed.
In order to understand this we only need to read correctly, and assume that the Gospel is at the same time a book from which the deepest wisdom can be drawn. All the progress that has been made consists in this: souls are becoming individualized. They are connected with the supersensible world not only indirectly through their group-soul nature, but they are also connected with it through the element of the individual soul. He who so stands before humanity that He is recognized by the beings of Earth and is also recognized by supersensible beings needs the best element of human nature to enable Him to sink something of the supersensible into the souls of those who are to serve Him. He requires such men as have themselves made the furthest progress in their souls according to the old way. It is extremely interesting to follow the soul-development of those whom Christ Jesus gathered around Him; the Twelve whom He particularly called to be His own, who, in all their simplicity, as we might say, passed in the grandest way through the development which, as I tried to show you yesterday, is gained by human souls in widely varied incarnations.
A man must first become accustomed to being a specific individuality. This he cannot easily do when he is transferred from the element of the nation in which his soul had taken root into a condition of being dependent upon himself alone. The Twelve were deeply rooted in a nationality which had constituted itself in the grandest form. They stood there as if they were naked souls, simple souls, when Christ found them again. There had been a quite abnormal interval between their incarnations. The gaze of Christ Jesus could rest upon the Twelve, the reincarnated souls of those who had been the seven sons of the Maccabean and the five sons of Mattathias, Judas and his brothers; it was of these that the apostolate was formed. They were thrown into the element of fishermen and simple folk. But at a time when the Jewish element had reached its culminating point they had been permeated by the consciousness that this element was then at the peak of its strength, but strength only — whereas, when the group formed itself around Christ, this element appeared in individualized form. We might conceive that someone who was a complete unbeliever might look upon the appearance of the seven and the five at the end of the Old Testament, and their reappearance at the beginning of the New Testament, as nothing but an artistic progression. If we take it as a purely artistic composition, we may be moved by its simplicity and the artistic greatness of the Bible, quite apart from the fact that the Twelve are the five sons of Mattathias and the seven sons of the Maccabean mother. And we must learn to take the Bible also as a work of art. Then only shall we develop a feeling for the artistic element in it, and acquire a feeling for the realities from which it springs.
Now perhaps your attention may be called to something else. Among the five sons of Mattathias is one who is already called Judas in the Old Testament. He was the one who at that time fought more bravely than all the others for his own people. In his whole soul he was dedicated to his people, and it was he who was successful in forming an alliance with the Romans against King Antiochus of Syria (I Maccabees, Chap. 8). This Judas is the same who later had to undergo the test of the betrayal, because he who was most intimately bound up with the old specifically Hebrew element could not at once find the transition into the Christian element, needing the severe testing of the betrayal. Again, if we look at the purely artistic aspect, how wonderfully do the two figures stand out: the grand figure of the Judas in the last chapters of the Old Testament and the Judas of the New Testament. It is remarkable that in this symptomatic process the Judas of the Old Testament concluded an alliance with the Romans, prefiguring all that happened later, namely the path that Christianity took through the Roman Empire, so that it could enter into the world. If I could add to this something that can also be known but that cannot be given in a lecture to an audience as large as this, you would see that it was precisely through a later reincarnation of Judas that the fusion of the Roman with the Christian element occurred. The reincarnated Judas was the first who, as we might say, had the great success of spreading Romanized Christianity in the world. The treaty concluded by the Judas of the Old Testament with the Romans was the prophetic foreshadowing of what was later accomplished by another man, who is recognized by occultists as the reincarnation of that Judas who had to go through the severe soul-testing of the betrayal. What through his later influence appears as Christianity within Romanism and Romanism within Christianity is like a renewal of the alliance concluded between the Old Testament Judas and the Romans, but transferred into the spiritual.
When we have such things as these before us, we gradually come to the conclusion that, considered spiritually and leaving everything else aside, human evolution is itself the greatest work of art that has ever existed; only we must have the vision to see it. Ought it therefore to be regarded as so unreasonable to look at the human soul in this way? I think if we contemplate one or the other of these dramas with their clear raveling and unraveling, while lacking the capacity for perceiving its structure, we shall see nothing but a sequence of events following one after another. External history is written somewhat in this way. Seen thus, human evolution does not appear as a work of art; nothing emerges but a succession of events. But mankind is now at a turning point when it must interpret the inner progressive shaping of events, their raveling and unraveling in the evolution of humanity. Then it will appear that the evolution of humanity clearly and distinctly shows how individual figures appear at definite times and give impulses while entangling or unraveling the plot. We only learn to understand how man is inserted into human evolution when we come to know the course of history in this way. But because it is all raised from the condition of a mere joining together to that of an organism, and then to more than an organism, everything must really be put in its proper place and the distinctions made that in other domains are taken for granted. It would not occur to any astronomer to equate the Sun to the other planets. He would as a matter of course keep it separate and single it out as a separate entity within the planetary system. In the same way, a man who sees into human evolution places a “Sun” as a matter of course among the great leaders of humanity. Just as it would be utter nonsense to speak of the Sun of our planetary system as being on a par with Venus, Jupiter, or Mars, so it would be nonsense to speak of Christ in the same way as the Boddhisattvas or other leaders of humanity. This should be so obvious that the very idea of a reincarnation of Christ would be ridiculous, and such an assertion could not be made if things were simply looked at as they are. But it is necessary really to go into the questions and grasp them in their proper form, and not to accept the dogma of any sectarian belief. When we speak of Christology in a true cosmological sense, it is not necessary to show a preference for the Christian above any other religion. That would be the same as if some religion in its sacred writings stated that the Sun was the same as the other planets, and then someone came along and said, “No, we must place the Sun higher than the other planets,” and some people opposed this by saying, “But this is favoritism toward the Sun!” This is not favoritism, it is only recognizing the truth.
So it is also in the case of Christianity. It is simply a question of recognizing the truth, a truth that every religion on the Earth today could accept if it chose to do so. If other religions are in earnest in their tolerance for all other religious creeds and do not use that tolerance as a pretense, they will not object that the West has not adopted a national god, but a God in whom no nationality plays a part, a God who is a cosmic being. The Indians speak of their national gods. As a matter of course their ideas differ from those of people who have not adopted a Germanic national god, but accept as a God a Being who was, to be sure, never incarnated in their own land, but in a distant land and in a different nation. We might perhaps speak of a Western-Christian principle in opposition to an Indian-Eastern one, if we wished to put Wotan above Krishna. But that is not the case with Christ. From the beginning He belonged to no nation but stood for the truth of the most beautiful of the spiritual scientific principles: “to recognize the truth without distinction of color, race, nationality, etc.”
We must acquire the capacity to look at these things objectively. Only when we recognize the Gospels by recognizing what underlies them shall we truly understand them. From what has been said today about the Mark Gospel in its sublime simplicity and its dramatic crescendo from the person of John the Baptist to that of Christ Jesus, we can see what this Gospel actually contains.
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