The Gospel of St. Mark
21 September 1912, Basel
When we are engaged in the study of one or other of the Gospels and trying to explain it, it would doubtless be best to leave the other Gospels altogether out of account. By this means it would be possible to reach the purest and best understanding of the prevailing tone of each. But it is obvious that such an approach could lead to misunderstandings, unless a ray of light were thrown upon it from one of the other Gospels. And precisely what we called yesterday the “greatest monologue in world history” can easily be misunderstood if someone were to consult in a superficial and not too accurate manner what had, for example, to be said in connection with the similar passage in the Matthew Gospel in the lectures I gave in Bern. 1Rudolf Steiner gave his cycle on the Matthew Gospel in Bern in September, 1910. The last edition of this cycle in English was published in London by Rudolf Steiner Press in 1965. The question about the handing over of the power of the keys was discussed in Lectures 11 and 12. Indeed, an objection made from such a standpoint would really in a deeper logical sense be the same as if the statement were made that a man once stood on this platform and on his left was a bouquet of roses. Then another statement would be made that a man once stood on this platform and on his right was a bouquet of roses, and a man who had not been present proceeded to object, saying that there must be a mistake since one time the bouquet of roses was on the right and the other time on the left. It all depends on where the observer in question was standing, for both statements can be correct. So it is with the Gospels, where we are not concerned simply with an abstract biography of Christ Jesus, but with a rich world of external and occult facts that are presented in them.
In order to picture to ourselves this viewpoint let us now consider again what we called yesterday the “greatest monologue in world history,” the soliloquy of the God. We must recognize that the whole episode was especially concerned with the relationship between Christ Jesus and His closest disciples. And we must include in such a study most particularly what was said yesterday, that the spirit of Elijah, after it had been freed from the physical body of John the Baptist, was actually active as a kind of group soul of the disciples. What happened then cannot just be related in a simple external way since it took place in a much more complicated manner. To a certain extent there was a deep and inner connection between the soul of the Christ and the souls of the Twelve. Everything that took place within the soul of Christ was made up of processes of significance for that time, rich and manifold processes. But all that took place in the soul of Christ took place again in a kind of reflected image, a reflection in the souls of the disciples, but divided into twelve parts. In this way each of the Twelve experienced, as in a reflected image, a part of what happened in the soul of Christ Jesus; but each of the Twelve experienced it somewhat differently. What took place within the soul of Christ Jesus was like a harmony, a great symphony, reflected in the souls of each of the Twelve, in much the same way as twelve instruments can give forth a harmony. So any event that concerns one or more of the disciples in particular may be described from two sides. It is possible to describe how the event in question appeared within the soul of Christ, as, for example, in the case of the great world-historical monologue of Christ Jesus. It is possible to describe how it was experienced within His soul, and then it appears as it was described yesterday. But it also takes place in a certain reflected image in the soul of Peter. Peter has the same soul experience. But, whereas in the case of Christ Jesus it encompasses the whole of mankind, Peter's identical experience encompasses only a twelfth part of all mankind, a twelfth, a single zodiacal sign of the entire Christ spirit. For this reason it must be pictured differently when it concerns Christ Jesus Himself.
It must be spoken of in this way if we are to describe it in the sense of the Mark Gospel, for most remarkable things are described in it, and especially what is presented as having taken place within the soul of Christ Jesus Himself. By contrast the Matthew Gospel pictures more what has reference to the soul of Peter, and what Christ Jesus added to explain what took place within Peter's soul. If you read the Gospel carefully, you will notice how in the Matthew Gospel certain words have been added which give us the picture as perceived from the side of Peter. Otherwise, why should the words have been added, “Blessed are you, Simon, son of Jonah, for flesh and blood have not revealed it to you but my Father in the heavens.” (Matt. 16:17)? In other words the soul of Peter felt something of what the soul of Christ had been feeling. But while Peter's soul felt that his master was Christ, this should be understood as meaning that Peter was for a time raised upward to an experience in his higher “I,” and that he was overwhelmed by this experience and then fell back, as it were, afterward. Nevertheless it was possible for him to penetrate through to a knowledge which, with a different aim and purpose, came about within the soul of Christ. Because Peter was able to do this, there followed the handing over of the power of the keys mentioned in the Matthew Gospel (Matt. 16:19), about which we spoke in our interpretation of that Gospel. By contrast, in speaking of the Mark Gospel we have emphasized, forcefully and simply, those words that indicate that the event, quite apart from what happened within Peter, took place at the same time and in a parallel manner as the monologue of God.
This is how we must look at these things, enabling us to feel how Christ Jesus deals with His own, how He leads them on from stage to stage, and how after the spirit of Elijah-John had passed over into them He could lead them more deeply than He could earlier into the comprehension of spiritual secrets. And one of our first impressions is that it is significant that the passage we discussed at the end of our last lecture, the monologue of the God, should be closely followed by the so-called Transfiguration or Transformation scene. That is also a significant element in the dramatic composition of the Mark Gospel. In order to shed light on the Transfiguration we need to point out a few facts that are related to many things necessary for the understanding of the picture presented in the Gospels. Let us begin by referring to one of these.
You can read often in the Mark Gospel, as well as in the other Gospels, how Christ Jesus speaks of how the Son of Man must suffer many things, that He would be set upon by the scribes and high priests, that He would be put to death and after three days would be raised. You will notice how up to a certain point the apostles are unable to understand at first what is meant by the suffering, death and raising of the Son of Man, how they experience a real difficulty particularly in understanding this passage (Mark 9:31-32). Why are we confronted with this peculiar fact? Why is it precisely with reference to the understanding of the Mystery of Golgotha itself that the apostles experience these difficulties? What then is the Mystery of Golgotha? We have already spoken of this. It is nothing else but the drawing forth of initiation from the depths of the mysteries onto the plane of world history. Of course there is a crucial difference between the average initiation and the Mystery of Golgotha. This difference consists in the following.
All those who were initiated into the mysteries of the various peoples had in a certain sense experienced the same thing. An initiate was made to suffer, and one could say that he was apparently dead for three days, during which his spirit remained in the spiritual worlds outside his body. Then his spirit was brought back into his body in such a way that the spirit in his body could remember what it had undergone in the spiritual world, and could then appear as a messenger, proclaiming the secrets of the spiritual world. Thus we can say that initiation is a journey into death, though in such a death the spirit is not separated entirely from the body, but only for a limited time. Initiation involves remaining outside the physical body and returning into it, thereby becoming a messenger for the secrets of the divine world. It took place after careful preparation, and after the candidate had reached a condition where his soul forces were so concentrated within him that he could live without using the instrument of his physical body. Then after these three and a half days he had to unite himself again with his physical body. We may say that the initiate passed through this by withdrawing into a higher world unconnected with ordinary historical events.
Although the Mystery of Golgotha was, to outward appearance, similar, it differed in its inner nature. The events that occurred during the period when the Christ dwelt in the body of Jesus of Nazareth had actually resulted in the genuine physical death of the physical body of Jesus of Nazareth. The spirit of Christ remained for three days outside the physical body but it then returned. And now it was not in the physical body but in the concentrated etheric body, concentrated in such a way that it was possible for the disciples to perceive it, as described in the Gospels — with the consequence that Christ could walk and become visible also after the event of Golgotha. Thereby initiation, which formerly took place in the depths of the mysteries, hidden from external eyes, was presented as a historical event, a unique event, before all mankind. Through this, initiation was, in a sense, lifted out of the mysteries; it had been accomplished by the one Christ before the eyes of everyone. And precisely with this event the ancient world came to an end and the new era began.
From the picture that has been given you of the prophets you have seen that the prophetic spirit, and what was given by this prophetic spirit to the ancient Hebrew people, differed from the spirit of initiation prevalent among other peoples. These other peoples had their initiates, who were initiated in the manner we have just described. This was not the case with the ancient Hebrew people. With them it was not a question of initiation of the same kind as among the other peoples. Here we have to do with an elemental emergence of the spirit within the bodies of those who appeared as prophets; something resembling “geniuses of spirituality” appeared. To enable this to happen we see that in the middle prophetic period souls appear in the ancient Hebrew people who in earlier incarnations had been initiates among the other peoples, so that they experience everything they give to the ancient Hebrew people as a memory of what they themselves had received in their initiation. For this reason spiritual life did not shine into the ancient Hebrew people in the same way as it did into other peoples. In the case of these other peoples it occurred through an act, through initiation, whereas in the case of the Old Testament people it came by virtue of the gifts that had been implanted in those who worked actively as prophets among the people. Through the activity of their prophets the Hebrew people were made ready to experience that unique initiation which was no longer that of a human individuality but of a cosmic individuality, if, indeed one may speak of an initiation at all in this case, which is no longer correct. Through this the Hebrew people were prepared to receive something that was to take the place of the old initiation: they were made ready to view the Mystery of Golgotha in the right way. But one consequence of this was that the apostles, who belonged to the Old Testament people, had at first no understanding of the words that characterize initiation. Christ Jesus spoke about initiation when He expressed himself in such terms as hastening toward death, remaining in the grave for three days and being raised from the dead. This is a description of initiation. If He had described it in a different way they would have understood Him. But because such a way of speaking of initiation was foreign to the Old Testament people the Twelve could not at first understand His description. So it is quite correctly pointed out to us that the disciples were astonished and did not know to what He was referring when He spoke of the suffering and death and raising of the Son of Man.
Such things are therefore entirely in accord with the spiritual content of the events as they are historically presented. When the ancient initiate experienced his initiation it is true that he was in a higher world while he was outside his body; he was not in the ordinary sense-perceptible world. We may say that while he was outside his body he was at one with the realities of a higher plane. While he was free of his body in the spiritual world, returning later to his body, what had he experienced? It was memory. He had to speak in such a way that he could say, “I remember my experiences when I was free of my body, in the same way as in ordinary life one can remember what one experienced yesterday or the day before.” He could bear witness to them. As far as these initiates are concerned it did not amount to much more than that they bore in their souls the secrets of the spiritual worlds in the same way that the human soul retains in memory what it experienced yesterday. And as the soul is united with what it retains as memory, so the initiates were united with the secrets of the spiritual world that they carried within themselves.
What was the reason for this? It was because before the Mystery of Golgotha human souls on earth were not adapted to allowing the kingdoms of the heavens, the super-sensible worlds, to penetrate into the ego. They could not approach the true ego, could not unite themselves with it. Only if a man could see beyond himself or could glimpse the divine by means of the clairvoyance that existed in those ancient times, if, as I might put it, he dreamt himself away or were freed from his ego through initiation, could he enter the super-sensible worlds. But within the ego there was no comprehension, no understanding of the higher worlds. This is how it was in those ancient times. Before the Mystery of Golgotha man could not unite himself with the spiritual worlds even by making use of all the forces pertaining to his ego.
The secret that was to be revealed to the people through the baptism of John was that the time had now come near when the kingdoms of heaven were to shine right into the ego; they were to approach the ego, the earthly ego. In truth it has been indicated all through the ages how what man could experience as his soul element could not in ancient times enter the super-sensible worlds. In ancient times there was something like a disharmony between the way in which the true home of man, the spiritual world, was experienced, and that which, if we wish to describe the old soul nature as “ego,” was active in the inner being of man. This human inner self was separated from the spiritual world, and only in exceptional conditions could it be united with it. And when all the might of what was later to become the ego and to live within man, when all the power and the impulses of the ego filled him, for example through initiation, or through remembering the experience of initiation in a former incarnation in a later one — when the power and might of the ego prematurely penetrated into his bodily nature, what happened then? It has always been pointed out that in the pre-Christian era the ego force, too powerful for the human bodily nature, could find its proper place in the body, and broke through what was destined for the ego.
For this reason those human beings who bear within themselves more of the super-sensible world, bearing within themselves in pre-Christian times something of what would in a later age become the ego, such persons split apart their human bodily constitution with this ego force because this force is too strong for the pre-Christian era. This is clearly alluded to, for example, in the case of certain individualities during a particular incarnation who possess this ego force in themselves, but this ego can remain within them only because the body is in some way wounded, or vulnerable, wounded and having a vulnerable spot. It is in this spot that the individuality is exposed to danger from his surroundings more than in any other part of his body. We need only recall the vulnerability of Achilles' heel, of Siegfried and Oedipus whose bodies are split asunder by the force of the ego. These examples of wounds demonstrate to us how only a damaged body is compatible with the greatness of the ego, and the superhuman ego force that is within it.
Perhaps the significance of what I am trying to place before our souls could be grasped better if I formulate it in a different way. Let us suppose that someone in pre-Christian times were to be filled, not necessarily consciously, with all those impulses and forces that later on will penetrate the ego, and that these forces which I might call a superego force, a superhuman force, were to dive down into his body. He would have to break apart his body and not perceive it as it was when it had its weak ego, its weak inner self, within it. A man of olden times would necessarily have seen it differently if he possessed within himself the whole power of the ego, enabling him to rise up out of his body. He would have seen the body as it actually was, broken under the influence of the superego. He would have seen it with every kind of wound imaginable because in ancient times only a weak ego, a weak inner self, penetrated the body so slightly that it could remain whole.
What I have just said was indeed stated by the prophets. The passage (Zechariah 12:10) is so formulated that it runs approximately as follows, “A man who unites in himself the full force of egohood and is confronted with the human body, sees it wounded, pierced through with holes. For the higher ego force which in ancient times could not yet live within the inner self, pierces through, penetrates and makes holes in the body.” This is an impulse that runs through the evolution and development of mankind for the reason that as a result of the influence of Lucifer and Ahriman in pre- Christian times only a portion of the ego could be bestowed on man. And because the body is adapted only to the smaller portion and not to the whole force of the ego, it is worn down. It was not because this took place in the pre-Christian era but because in the case of Christ Jesus the full power of the ego entered all at once, and entered with the utmost strength into His bodily being, that this body had to appear not only with a single wound, as was the case with so many human individualities who carried a superego, but with five wounds. These were necessary because the Christ-Being, that is, the full ego of man, projected far beyond the bodily form appropriate for those times. It was for this reason that the cross had to be erected on the physical plane of world history, that cross that bore the body of Christ, a human body such as that of man would be if for a moment the whole of man's nature, a large part of which has been lost through the influence of Lucifer and Ahriman, were to live within one single human being.
It is a profound mystery that is given to us by occult science in the picture of the Mystery of Golgotha. Anyone who understands the true nature of the human being and of humanity, and the nature of the earthly ego and its relation to the form of the human body, knows that when the human body is entirely penetrated by the earthly ego such a penetration would be abnormal for the ordinary man as he walks about on earth. But when a man goes out of himself and sees himself from outside and is able to ask the question, “How would this body be if the totality of egohood were to enter into it?” then his answer must be that it would be pierced by five wounds. The form of the cross on Golgotha with Christ upon it with His wounds is derived from the nature of man and from the very being of the earth itself. From our study of the nature of man it is possible for the picture of the Mystery of Golgotha to arise for us out of our own knowledge. Strange as it may seem, it is actually possible to see how the cross is raised on Golgotha, how the crucifixion takes place, and to perceive directly the truth of this historical event, and all this without the use of clairvoyance when such a vision would be natural. Because of the Mystery of Golgotha it is possible for the human intellect to approach so closely to this mystery that if it is used with sufficient sharpness and subtlety it can be transformed into an imagination, into a picture that then contains the truth. If we understand the nature of Christ and His relation to the human bodily form, our imagination can be guided in this way in such a manner that the picture of Golgotha itself arises for us. The older Christian painters were often guided in this way. Even though they were not perhaps in all cases clairvoyant, their knowledge of the Mystery of Golgotha was so powerful that it impelled them so far that they were able to picture it in such a way that they could paint it. It was just at this great turning point of human evolution that the understanding of the being of Christ, in other words, the primal ego of man, emerged out of clairvoyance and rose up into the ego-soul of man.
It is possible to see the Mystery of Golgotha through clairvoyance outside the body. By what means? If while within the body a relationship has been established to the Mystery of Golgotha, it is possible also today to perceive it in the higher worlds, and in so doing to receive a full confirmation of the truth of this great nodal point in the evolution of mankind. It is, however, also possible to comprehend the Mystery of Golgotha, and the words I have just spoken ought to make this understanding possible. It is, of course, necessary to reflect and meditate on them for a long time. If anyone should feel it difficult to grasp what has just been said, such a feeling is perfectly justifiable, for it goes without saying that anything that can lead the human soul to a full understanding of the highest and most significant event that has ever happened on earth is bound to be difficult. In a certain way the disciples had to be led toward this understanding; and of all those who had to be led gradually to a new understanding of the evolution of mankind, Peter, James, and John proved to be the most suitable.
It is good for us to picture to ourselves from as many sides as we can the significant epoch that began at the time of the Mystery of Golgotha. Therefore it was especially helpful that you were able to hear this morning how Hegel 2The lecture given by Michael Bauer was entitled “How did Hegel see the great Turning-Point in Time?” Among Hegel's more important works was his Philosophy of History. envisaged this turning point of time. We need everything that human understanding can contribute if we are to grasp the significance of what entered into human evolution at that time, something that had been maturing during the preceding centuries and took place about the time of the Mystery of Golgotha, thereafter slowly preparing and conditioning the further evolution of humanity. It manifested itself in various parts of the earth and we can trace it not only in Palestine where the Mystery of Golgotha itself occurred, but in other parts of the earth where the Mystery of Golgotha did not occur. If we proceed in the right way we can trace how as a result of the Mystery of Golgotha mankind descended and then reascended, and was uplifted as the Mystery of Golgotha spread throughout the Western world. In particular we can trace the descent of mankind, and this indeed is especially interesting.
Let us consider once again the land of Greece, and picture to ourselves what happened there half a millennium before the Mystery of Golgotha. In the East, where Krishna appeared, people were in a certain way ahead of their time in the period when the old clairvoyance was dying out. Indeed, there was something remarkable about the culture of ancient India. During the time immediately following the Atlantean age with the great cultural flowering of the first post-Atlantean epoch, the human soul still had the possibility of seeing into the spiritual world in the purest manner. In the case of the Rishis this faculty was accompanied by the wonderful ability to present what they had seen in such a way that it could influence later ages. Then when the clairvoyance disappeared, what they had given could be preserved in such significant revelations as those given out by Krishna; although the true clairvoyance already had been extinguished by the end of the third epoch. But what had been perceived in this earlier age was preserved in wonderful words through Krishna and his pupils, with the result that what at an earlier time had been seen could now be expressed in writing. So what happened further west, for example in Greece, never happened in India at all.
If we perceive correctly the Indian world we may say that the old clairvoyance died out, and because it died out some men, among whom Krishna was the most important, wrote down in wonderful words what had formerly been seen. This, then, appears in the Vedas, in the word; and anyone who immerses himself in the word experiences an echo of it in his soul. But this is quite different from what came forth, for example, in Socrates or other philosophers. What may be called Western intellect, Western power of judgment, never appears in Indian souls. Nor can there be found one example in India of what we today speak of in the fullest sense as the inborn power of the ego. As a result just as the old clairvoyance was dying out there came an urge toward Yoga, a new means of ascending into the spiritual worlds through training as a compensation for the loss of natural clairvoyance. Yoga therefore became an artificial clairvoyance, and the philosophy of Yoga appeared without a time interval, such as that during which, in Greece, for example, a rational philosophy appeared. Nothing of this appeared in India; an interim phase was totally lacking. If we take up the Vedanta philosophy of Vyasa we may say that it is not distinguished for its ideas and intellect as are the teachings of the Western world conceptions, but it appears to have been brought down from higher worlds though expressed in human speech. What is remarkable about it is that it was not achieved through human thinking, nor is it thought out like the characteristic teachings of Socrates and Plato. It was, indeed, the product of clairvoyant perception.
It is difficult to come to a clear idea about such matters. Nevertheless, there is a possibility even at the present time to experience the difference between these two kinds of philosophy. Take up any book on philosophy, any presentation of some Western philosophical system. How has anything that can be regarded as a serious philosophy been achieved? If you could see into the workroom of anyone who can be regarded today as a serious philosopher you would see how it is through the power of logical thinking and logical judgment that such systems are created, and each is built up step by step. But those who work out their philosophies in this way are quite unable to understand that their kind of conceptual weaving can also to a certain extent be perceived clairvoyantly, that a clairvoyant can see it in front of him through his clairvoyance. If therefore, instead of passing through all the individual stages of thought we were to survey clairvoyantly, in one fell swoop so to speak, a number of philosophical theses that have been woven together by the sweat of one's brow, concept by concept, then we shall experience much difficulty in making ourselves understood. Yet the concepts of the Vedanta philosophy are concepts of this kind, and they were seen clairvoyantly. They were not acquired by the sweat of the brow, like the concepts of European philosophers, but were brought down clairvoyantly. They are just the last remnants of the ancient clairvoyance, diluted into abstract concepts. Or else they are the first fragile conquests of Yoga in the super-sensible worlds.
Those people who lived more to the West went through different experiences. There we see remarkable and important inner events in the evolution of mankind. Let us take the case of a remarkable philosopher of the sixth century before the Christian era, Pherecydes of Syros. 3Pherecydes of Syros, 6th century B.C. Only fragments of his cosmogony have been preserved. For this reason and the “unphilosophical” nature of these fragments his name does not even appear in most histories of philosophy. He was indeed a remarkable philosopher, though present-day philosophers do not count him even as a philosopher at all. There are books on philosophy which actually say — I will quote a few words verbatim — that all he gives are childish symbols, childish descriptions. So does a man today speak who imagines himself to be greatly superior to those ancient philosophers. He calls these notions “childish and ingenious.” Nevertheless, half a millennium before the Christian era a remarkable thinker emerged in Syros. Certainly he describes things differently from other thinkers, who were later to be called philosophers. For example, Pherecydes says, “Underlying everything visible in the world is a trinity: Chronos, Zeus and Chthon. From Chronos comes the airy, the fiery and the watery element. Ophioneus, a kind of serpent being, comes into conflict with all that stems from these three powers.” Even if we have no clairvoyance but only some imagination it is possible to see in front of us everything that he describes. Chronos is put forward not merely as abstract passing time but as a real being in a perceptible form. It is the same with Zeus, the limitless ether, as a living self-perpetuating being; while Chthon, who draws down to earth what once was heavenly, draws together into the planet earth all that is woven in space, in order to make earthly existence possible. All this happens on earth. Then a kind of serpent being interferes, and introduces, so to speak, a hostile element. If we examine what this remarkable Pherecydes of Syros describes, it can easily be understood without the aid of spiritual research. He is a last straggler endowed with the clairvoyance of earlier times. He sees behind the sense world to the real causes, and these he describes with the aid of his clairvoyance. Naturally this does not at all please those who prefer to juggle concepts. He sees the living weaving of the good gods and how hostile powers interfere in their work; and all this he describes from the viewpoint of a clairvoyant. He sees how the elements are born out of Chronos, out of Time seen as a real being.
So we have in this philosopher Pherecydes of Syros a man who still
sees into the world with his soul, gazing into the world disclosed by
clairvoyant consciousness, and describing it; and we are able to follow
his description. Thus he stands before us in the Western world as late
as the sixth century, B.C. while Thales, Anaximenes,
Anaximander and Heraclitus, 4Thales, Anaximander, Anaximenes (c. 636–546
B.C.; c. 611–547 B.C.; 6th century
B.C.) were all from Miletus in Asia Minor and are
regarded as the first true philosophers, Thales being, as Aristotle
called him, the Father of Philosophy.
Heraclitus of Ephesus, c. 535–c. 475 B.C. Rudolf Steiner who discusses him at length in Christianity as Mystical Fact calls him an initiate priest as well as a philosopher.
Nietzsche, Friedrich, 1844–1900. German philosopher, author of The Birth of Tragedy, and Thus Spake Zarathustra.
Parmenides of Elea, born about 514 B.C., who held that true change was impossible and all apparent change was illusory.
Anaxagoras of Clazomenae, c. 500–428 B.C. Philosopher who is credited with founding the study of philosophy in Athens. who are almost his contemporaries, stand there in a quite different manner. Here two worlds actually come together. But how does it appear within the souls of these men? The old clairvoyance has been extinguished, paralyzed in them, and at most all that is left is a longing for the spiritual worlds. What, then, do they experience in place of the living vision that the sage of Syros still possessed, a man who could still look into the world of primal causes? This world has closed to them; they can no longer see into it. It is as if this world wished to close itself to them, as if it was still half present for them but nevertheless eluded them, with the result that they replace the old clairvoyance with abstract concepts that belong to the ego. This is how it appears in the souls of these men. Indeed within these Western souls there was a very remarkable condition of soul at that time. It is moving in the direction of intellect and judgment, which are precisely the characteristics of the ego. We see this within individual souls, as, for instance, in Heraclitus who still describes the living weaving fire as the cause of everything, with, we could say, a last trace of true clairvoyant vision. Thales spoke of water, but he did not mean physical, material water any more than Heraclitus meant physical material fire. But it remains something from the elemental world, which they can still half see through while at the same time it half eludes them, so that all they can give out are abstract concepts. In looking into these souls we can understand how something of the soul mood of these men can still echo into our own time.
If only our contemporaries were not so prone to skim thoughtlessly over so much that is of value! It is so easy to skim lightly over a passage in Nietzsche that can profoundly move us, take possession of us and shake our souls. The passage occurs in his posthumous work Philosophy in the Tragic Age of the Greeks, where he describes Thales, Anaximander, Heraclitus, Parmenides, Anaxagoras and Empedocles. Right at the beginning of this work there is a passage where, if we truly enter into it, we can see that Nietzsche perceived something of what these first lonely Greek thinkers experienced in their souls. Look up the passage in Nietzsche where he says, “How must it have been with the souls of those heroes of philosophy who had to make the transition from the period of living vision (of which Nietzsche knew nothing but that he was able to sense) to an age when what had formerly been alive in their souls was superseded by dry, abstract, prosaic concepts; when ‘being,’ that cold, abstract, prosaic notion, appeared, as a ‘concept,’ replacing the full aliveness of clairvoyant consciousness?” And Neitzsche feels, “It is as if our blood would freeze in our veins when we cross over from the realm of life into the world of concepts in Thales or Heraclitus who use such concepts as ‘being’ and ‘becoming,’ so that we pass from the warm realm of becoming over into the icy region of ‘concepts.’ ”
We must transport ourselves in feeling into the age in which these men were living, and how they stood when the Mystery of Golgotha was approaching. We must enter into their being in such a way that we can perceive how there is still within them a dim echo of former times, yet how they must content themselves with the power of abstract judgment that lives in the human ego, a power that was unnecessary in earlier times. And whereas in later eras the world of concepts became richer and richer, in the first period when the world of concepts was coming closer the Greek philosophers could grasp nothing but the most simple of them. How they tormented themselves with such concepts as abstract “being,” especially the philosophers of the Eleatic school! But it was in this way that the present-day abstract qualities of the ego were prepared.
Let us now think of a soul which is rooted in the West, prepared for the mission of the West, and yet bears within itself the powerful echo of ancient clairvoyance. In India these echoes have long since died away, but they are still present in the West. The soul has the impulse to enter the elemental world, but it is prevented by its consciousness. A mood such as that of the Buddha could not arise in such souls. The Buddha mood would have said, “We are brought into the world of suffering. Let us free ourselves from it.” But Western souls wanted to take hold of what was ahead of them. They could not go back into what lay behind them. But in the world in front of them they could find only cold, icy concepts. Consider such a soul as Pherecydes of Syros who was the last to be able to see into the elemental world. Now let us think of one of the other souls who cannot see how the elements are born in a living way out of Chronos. It is unable to see how Ophioneus, the serpent-being, enters into conflict with the higher gods, but it is able to glimpse that something is at work in the physical material world. It cannot see through to Chronos, but it sees the imprint of Chronos in the world of sense, in fire, water, air and earth. It is not able to see how the higher gods are opposed by the lower gods, and how Lucifer, the serpent-god, rebels; but it does see how harmony and disharmony, friendship and enmity prevail. It sees love and hate as abstract concepts, and fire, water, air, and earth as abstract elements. The soul beholds all that still at that time penetrated into it, but what had been seen earlier by contemporaries is now hidden.
Let us think of such a soul still standing within the livingness of the earlier era, but unable to see into the spiritual world, able only to grasp its external counterpart, a soul which because of its special mission found that what had previously brought bliss to human beings was hidden from it. Yet this soul has nothing from the new world of the ego save a few concepts to which it feels obliged to cling. What we have before us is the soul of Empedocles. If we wish to comprehend the inner being of such a soul, then it is the soul of Empedocles that stands before us. Empedocles is almost a contemporary of the sage of Syros; he lives scarcely two-thirds of a century later. But his soul is constituted quite differently. It had the task of crossing the Rubicon that separated the old clairvoyance from the abstract comprehension of the ego. We see here two worlds suddenly clashing with one another. Here we see the dawning of the ego and how it advances toward its fulfillment. We see the souls of the ancient Greek philosophers who were the first to be condemned to take up what we now call intellect and logic; and we see at the same time how their souls were emptied of the old revelations. Into these souls the new impulse, the impulse of Golgotha, had to be poured.
Thus were their souls constituted when the new impulse was born. But they had to yearn for a new fulfillment; without such a yearning they could not understand it. In Indian thinking there is scarcely any transition comparable with what we find in the lonely Greek thinkers. Therefore Indian philosophy which had just made its transition to the teaching of Yoga hardly offers any possibility of discovering the transition to the Mystery of Golgotha. Greek philosophy was prepared in such a way that it thirsted for the Mystery of Golgotha. Consider the Gnosis, and how it longed in its philosophy for the Mystery of Golgotha. The philosophy of the Mystery of Golgotha rests on a Greek foundation because the best of the Greek souls longed to receive into themselves the impulse of Golgotha.
In order to understand what happened in mankind's evolution we must have good will. We might then be able to perceive something that might be described as a call, and an answering call from the very soil of the earth. If we look at Greece and then further toward Sicily and look into such souls, among whom Empedocles is one of the most outstanding, then we become aware of an astonishing kind of appeal. How can we characterize this for ourselves? What are such souls saying? If we look into the soul of Empedocles we hear something like this, “I know of initiation through history. From history I know that the super-sensible world entered into human souls through initiation. Initiation can no longer come alive in us. Now we are living in a different phase of evolution, and we have need of a new impulse that reaches into the ego. Tell me, Impulse, where are you, you who are to take the place of the initiation of the past that we are no longer able to experience, whose task is to place before the new ego the same mystery that was once contained within the old clairvoyance?”
To this appeal there came in answer the cry from Golgotha, “By obeying the gods and not human beings I was permitted to bring down the mysteries and set them before all mankind, so that what could hitherto be found only in the depths of the mysteries might now be bestowed on all mankind.”
What was born in Greek souls in southern Europe comes to us as a request from the Western world for a new solution of the world riddle. And as the answer, an answer that can be understood only in the West, comes the great monologue of the God, of which we spoke at the conclusion of yesterday's lecture, and of which we shall speak again tomorrow.