Christ in the 20th Century
Cologne, 6th May, 1912
Nowadays, anyone who lectures on the Christ runs into quite a variety of viewpoints. These fall roughly into two main groups, and a speaker must take them into account, especially if he plans to talk on the subject in the sense intended for this evening's lecture. That is, in the same sense in which other questions and other problems have been dealt with here before. I am referring, of course, to the spiritual scientific or anthroposophical viewpoint.
The first group of views is one that bases itself firmly on the premise that Christ is a real force in life. This might be called the religious viewpoint, which all the Christian confessions share in common. We will find on closer study however that no matter how liberal and tolerant it may seem in some respects, it has little use for any but its own view of the Christ. The various proponents of the religious standpoint are simply unwilling to grant that any progress in thinking about Christ is possible.
The other viewpoint is also one held by thoroughly dedicated modern searchers after truth. In accordance with a certain scientific trend, it maintains that a study of the Christ event, of what is reported to have taken place in Palestine at the beginning of the Christian era, if pursued with the same reliable historical methods that are applied to the study of other events, does not bear out the assumptions made about the Christ.
We realize that this way of looking at things has long been gaining favor. We also know that in the course of recent centuries increasing emphasis has been laid on comparing the Gospels, and that the discrepancies people have discovered in them have forced them to conclude that the Gospels could not be taken as historical documents. After a long period of trying to distill a somewhat reliable picture of Christ Jesus from the Gospel accounts, there have come to be many people today, both in Germany and elsewhere, who cannot reconcile speaking of a historical Jesus or of a historical Christ Event with their scientific consciences.
So we find present day positions ranging all the way from a separating out of those facts in the Gospels that can be historically proven, to out-and-out rejection of the historical Christ Jesus. This has given rise to the opinion that, though Christ may still live today for religious-minded people who feel that their faith lifts them to Him, for an ever more rigorously developing science the Christ idea, the concept of Christ, must vanish entirely. Many people are presently convinced that the Christ force will not continue to play any role at all in future, though these same people do not by any means believe that the day will ever come when religion will be lost to humanity.
Certain facts of the time, however, make it seem unlikely that the belief I have referred to will be proven true, for we can note a strange phenomenon. In our day, it is by no means only the religious-minded and people of feeling, for whom the Gospels have shown themselves a source of uplift and of schooling, who speak of something in the nature of a Christ idea. Earnest, educated, truth-loving men are putting their whole souls into pointing to something that can only be identified as Christ. It is characteristic that the modern American freethinker, Ferguson, voicing what many of his contemporaries feel, can say that Christ is again “the pioneer of a new age” who will unite Europe and America and look with profoundest understanding into the soul of every human being — that He is the one and only right man for the present. Ferguson, a person otherwise famed for his free-thinking views, speaks of Christ exactly as though He went about from one man to the next wielding direct influence upon us. Freethinking spirits are thus beginning to feel the Christ Being directly related to modern humanity. Even though little attention is paid to it as yet, we will find that this tendency, this searching for a force that can only be called the Christ, will make sure headway. John Fiske, a man who did his utmost to further Darwinism in America, stated that all religions assert two basic truths. The first is that all things are related. This is a truth proclaimed by every religion, one that no thoughtful person can deny. The second truth is that what we call good and evil derives from forces external to the human spirit.
I quote these men expressly because they are both personalities whose whole thinking and feeling are firmly rooted in the present, but they do not rest satisfied with an external view of things. Instead, they have worked their way through to deeper forces of existence. The forces at work in the world are not just physical and chemical: they are also spiritual in nature.
For one who takes his stand on a spiritual-scientific view of the world, the concept of Christ just characterized appears to be merely a first dawn glimmering, a preparation for something quite different still to come. I hope I will not be misunderstood in speaking as I have of this preparatory, Twentieth Century form of the Christ concept. Spiritual science has to steer clear of any taint of sectarianism and other such attitudes because they simply do not belong to this age. The spiritual scientist takes the same attitude in speaking of what is to come in human evolution as does the natural scientist who predicts an eclipse of the moon or a transit of Venus: he is not assuming a prophetic role. There are forces in life that can be spiritually investigated in exactly the same sense that natural forces operative in the physical world can be investigated.
It will be helpful to gain a perspective on the past history of the Christ idea, which has indeed undergone tremendous changes through the centuries. If we follow it back to its origin, we come upon a strange fact of the early days. We find popular Christianity spreading through the regions ruled by Rome in a way that enables us to say that, while the old Roman culture developed among the upper levels of the population and then grew decadent, we see those on whom life left its mark, those whose lot it was to suffer, slowly and gradually finding their way into popular Christianity. Jesus of Nazareth is increasingly idealized, to the point that he is looked on as divine. The various confessions that made up this popular Christianity tended more to feeling than to thoughts and concepts. But alongside this popular form we find those most enlightened spirits of the time who concerned themselves with Christianity devoting their loftiest ideas, their most significant concepts, to answering the question, “Who, actually, is this Christ?”
Let us single out, from the abundance of answers given by these illumined spirits, one or two for consideration here.
In Gnosticism, a form of thought to which anthroposophy by no means advises returning but simply studies as a phenomenon of past history, we find many different shadings of certain lofty concepts, all centering in an attempt to grasp the Christ idea. In the main, it can be characterized by saying that this Gnosticism, this longing to grasp the Christ idea with the help of the Ioftiest concepts, is a most marvelous form of spiritual development. Of course, those who adopt the modern view that every last facet of humanness gradually evolved from nature's lower orders, from animals, and rose by stages from the most primitive to ever higher animal forms, are bound to consider the Gnostic doctrine a fantastic dream. But Gnostics, too, traced evolution back even further than does the modern natural scientist. They said that we find a period in ancient times in which all animals, even the highest, were present on the earth, and man could have seen them if he too had been there at that time. The Gnostics, however, had in mind a period of evolution in which the human kingdom had not yet appeared, but they did not conclude from this that men developed out of animals, but rather that they descended later from the spiritual world. They maintained that animals. plants and minerals had also descended from the spirit. had materialized out of spiritual realms, so that we have to ascribe a spiritual origin to animals, plants and minerals as well. But there was a period when man had not yet taken on physical form, a time when he was still waiting in the spiritual world for the moment when the earth provided certain other conditions such as would make human life possible here.
This does not mean that man was not in existence at that time. Man did exist: not, however, as a visible entity, but as a spiritual one. He lived in the spiritual environment of the earth, but had not yet descended onto it, for the conditions of that ancient time were not such as would have made human development possible. Thus, the Gnostics assumed that there was a most important moment, later than that of the descent of the other kingdoms when titan descended to the earth. It was the Gnostic conviction that if man had incarnated with the other lesser kingdoms, one all-important facet of his being, that is the capacity we know as free, independent human thinking would not have developed. In short, man would lack his true human ego that works front a central focus outward into the world and develops between birth and death. The animal's development is kept within certain limits, but man is capable of progressing in an entirely different way as a result of education and experience. In order to achieve this, said the Gnostic, man entered into a more intimate connection with the element of matter than he would have done if he had remained an unfree being, dependent, as the other creatures around him were on his endowment at birth. Man plunged more deeply into matter in order to become less dependent on what he brought into existence with him. Gnosticism held that this deeper involvement in matter took place at a certain moment in very early times, that is, the moment the Bible pictures as the Fall, meaning thereby the fall into matter just described. But by no means every impulse inherent in human nature was believed to have joined in that descent; instead, something of a superhuman element remained in the spiritual world. While mankind was experiencing all this, something that was part of man but did not accompany him in his descent because he plunged so deeply into physical embodiment stayed on in spiritual worlds. Thus, there was still present in the world above a part of man that had dwelt there when all humanity still lived as one in realms of spirit.
On the basis of these assumptions the Gnostics then proceeded to study the Christ Event. A certain moment, described in the Bible as the baptism by John, was of special interest to them. They felt that the human being whose development brought him to that baptism was indeed a most extraordinary man, but nevertheless just a human being. After he had been baptized, something occurred that is hard for modern minds to grasp. Perhaps we can think of it in the sense that many a person has had something happen to him at a certain moment about which he could only say that his whole life was changed in consequence. Many people date their lives from such a moment, feeling it to have been one in which they were spiritually reborn. This is something that can happen to any and every human being. If one pictures this experience raised to a unique and ultimate peak, one understands how the Gnostics felt about the baptism by John in the River Jordan. That element of humanness that had been part of man front the earliest beginnings of his race but which had been waiting in the spiritual world, now left that realm and made its way down to earth, to take up its abode in the unique human being, Jesus of Nazareth. For the next three years Jesus of Nazareth was not just a changed human being. He was one in whom that reserved element of humanness, held over from the very beginning of man's earth life, had come to dwell for the eventual fructification of humanity. In other words, Jesus of Nazareth became the bearer of the superhuman being, Christ for the three years of His earthly life. So the Gnostics held that what had hitherto dwelt in the spiritual world had come into a human body, like a seed planted in the earth. Like a planted seed, which must decompose in order to germinate, this spiritual impulse entering the earth had to pass away in order to spring, seed-like, into hundred-arid thousand-fold fruitfulness. This spiritual element had to pass through death exactly as a seed dies. Far from failing to bear, it poured itself into earth's spiritual-evolutionary stream, where it will be found living on in many kinds of fruiting.
So we find in the Gnostic doctrine a pre-history of mankind leading up to the moment of Christ's coming and a post-history following upon the Event of Golgotha. It is history centered in the living action of the Christ impulse as Christ enters into human souls. To the Gnostic, the Christ impulse was history indeed history's whole content and the source of its ongoingness. If this view sounds alien to the contemporary mind, it must be stated that precisely modern natural science, whose ideas are colored by materialism only now at the outset, will press forward ever more vigorously to an understanding and eventual grasping of the reality that underlay the Gnostic concept.
In order to show how close the present is to taking up again what Gnosticism offered, let me just point out the following — something that is of course only an elementary first step. Science has thought for a long time that it stands on a solid footing. Basing itself on a truly impressive Darwinism, it felt impelled to assert that everything human developed out of animal origins, and that the driving force behind that development was the “struggle for survival.” It said that all the various creatures were launched into life together, but fell to fighting, with the not too surprising result that, as time went on, the more perfect species got the better of the less perfect. Man was the final product of this perfecting process. “The survival of the fittest” became the slogan of the Darwinists. Now, however, researchers are finding themselves forced to adopt quite a different concept in their honest searching of facts. They are now saying that as we study man afresh and compare him with the most developed animals, we can by no means assume that he evolved in straight-line descent from these species. Instead, we have to trace him back to a primeval form no longer to be found upon the earth. These researchers now believe that such a primeval form once existed and that while man and animal both evolved front it, they did so in two different directions. Outstanding investigators have brought forth a further fact. They put the question: How could man develop as differently as he has when all the while animals, too, were evolving? Strange to say, they have not hit upon a “fight for survival.” They assume that man and his form were in a specially protected place where he could continue under the same conditions which originally brought forth that form, whereas all other creatures were caught up in a downward trend. Thus, man today is being traced back to an invisible primeval form that developed as it did because it was protected in a realm where man did not have to take part in a struggle to survive. These researchers subscribe to only one remaining fiction. They believe the protecting realm to have been a physically perceptible locality.
Gnosticism, too. assumes just such a primeval form. But instead of picturing it as having existed on the physical plane, it assigns it to the spiritual world, which was, in fact, able to afford it protection.
If one can conceive the idea that man was a late-corner to the earth, one can also conceive the following thought. Tracing the course of history, we find that a hitherto undivided human race split up into various nations and races and that many different confessions came into being, each shaped in accordance with the feeling of a particular group. In earlier times humanity was so constituted that a person could develop only what was implanted in him by virtue of belonging to a certain tribe. The spiritual force, however, the spiritual being that made man human in the first place, enables him to find the human being in his fellow man instead of what heredity has made of him. Man had to have this capacity restored to him. It was an impulse that could be taken up again only when humanity grew ripe for it.
So we encounter lofty and remarkable concepts of evolution in the first Christian centuries. It must be said that what we are witnessing in present-day natural science as the beginning of something that must eventually outgrow the Chrysalis stage, was already anticipated by the Gnostics in the grandiose conceptions reached by them as they thought about these matters. This could happen only because there is such a thing as evolution in man's history.
If we look back to a period that lies still closer to the time of man's descent to earth, we come upon a wholly different kind of soul life. Comparing it with the soul life of the present we must say that the latter is oriented toward a sense-based and brain-conditioned way of experiencing, whereas earlier times brought us a marvelous heritage of knowledge in the form of pictures. The fact that this heritage exists proves what spiritual scientific research also discovers to be true that human souls did not always perceive their surroundings as they do today, but were once clairvoyant. At that time man did not feel himself so involved with his own ego. Instead, he felt that he was part and parcel of everything around him. A dreamlike state of consciousness brought him into profound contact with the world about. Primeval man's way of knowing things was through a dreamlike clairvoyance that revealed their mysteries to him. His was an experience akin to dreaming as we know it today. Thus, it was possible for a humanity recently descended from spiritual heights to experience the secrets of the spiritual world in what may be called a clairvoyant dream-state.
Evolutionary progress meant, however, an ever-deepening descent of man into physical existence, accompanied by an ever further loss of that ancient clairvoyant capacity, though this need not be thought of as a tragedy. For if man had not lost his old clairvoyance he could never have advanced to the stage of free self-awareness that alone provided the basis for conscious personal experience.
The loss of the old clairvoyant insight that once gave access to secrets of the spiritual world came about gradually. Even when mankind had become thoroughly at home in the physical world, clairvoyant knowledge was still kept alive in sanctuaries that preserved the heritage of the ancient Mysteries, the treasure of wisdom that had come down to them through the ages. After the Christ Event had taken place and entered the stream of earth-evolution, the Gnostics still hoarded that age-old treasure of wisdom won by humanity's clairvoyant insight, and they formed their idea of Christ in accordance with it. Their concept may, therefore, be described as a reminiscence of knowledge gleaned in olden times, not as the product of free, conscious selfhood. They simply applied what men of ancient days had known to explain the Christ phenomenon. The period during which Gnosticism flourished coincided with the dimming of clairvoyant insight. This made it impossible for those who followed after. in the Middle Ages, to go on working with the heritage of Gnostic wisdom as a means of understanding Christ.
Instead, something else took the place of Gnosticism. We find people who lived in the centuries after its demise just as eager to grasp the Christ phenomenon, but wanting henceforth to rely on their own human powers of understanding, on a scientific approach. And we see the most enlightened spirits of the Middle Ages turning from Gnosticism to the teachings of Aristotle for the basis of their understanding of the Christ.
They found themselves forced to say that Aristotle's world conception brought them to a standstill at a certain point, that true spiritual understanding of the Christ was out of reach of human knowledge.
In one respect, however, the view of the world held in the Middle Ages rests on one of Aristotle's main ideas. Aristotle would never have thought of going as far as modern materialism has gone. When we look into his idea of the way soul and body work together, we do not find him subscribing to any such belief as that a man's inner life is conditioned by the heredity that comes to him from parents, grandparents, etc. His view was rather that every person born into the world is given a drop out of the ocean of divinity to unite with his body, that a soul-spiritual core always detaches itself front the universal spirit and enters human beings at their birth. But Aristotle, who was distinguished by a quality seldom met with in our day, that is, the habit of drawing the real consequences of his musing and investigating, does not stop at this point. He goes on thinking, and comes to believe that when a soul passes through the gates of death it does so as a now well- established entity, and as such ascends into the spiritual world. Though prior to birth it did not exist as a separate being, after death it lives on in the world of the spirit as an individual.
What kind of after-death experience does this soul now undergo, as Aristotle sees it? None whatever, since it lacks a body to make that possible. Now its sole content is the memory of its life on earth. It lives on in eternity looking back on its earth-life with the good and evil it has done, wholly given up to memory pictures.
Here, in Aristotle, may be found the origin of the doctrine of eternal punishment in hell. lt began in his concept and made its way into Catholic dogma during the Middle Ages. But let me say at once that it was not possible for Aristotle as a man of his time to do other than picture the soul as an unchanging entity doomed to gaze forever at its earthly deeds.
Modern spiritual science, anthroposophy, recognizes, of course, that the soul can do more after death than just look back as though in memory-pictures on its previous earth-life. It knows that the soul does not have to stay forever in that state. Instead, it sees man taking with him into the spiritual world as the finest fruit of his earth experience the possibility of transforming or building further on the good and bad deeds he committed here: nor does he stay forever in the spiritual world. Rather is he born again into a new incarnation and has opportunities to work out some karmic compensation for what he did or failed to do in previous lives. The soul passes through the gates of death taking with it the impulse to seek further incarnations for the sake of working out a balance. Aristotle could not accept such an idea because he had always thought that every birth meant a detaching of spiritual substance to form the soul. But spiritual science bears witness to the fact that our present lives derive from past incarnations.
So Aristotle may be said to have stood in the way of his own insight. He whom wise men of the Middle Ages called “the precursor of Christ in understanding nature,” did not get as far as the reincarnation concept. We see how he stopped short of the mark in regard to the question of immortality and how for him life's fruit was just eternal contemplation. The inevitable outcome of this was that people could not see into the spiritual world or gain any understanding of the nature of the Christ. For the thinking of the Middle Ages, Christ disappeared into the realm of belief which is closed to knowledge. The age-old tradition of Gnosticism was finally lost. Aristotle could not serve spiritual understanding of the Christ. Thus, a line came to be drawn between what can be known and what must remain a matter of belief. One consequence of Aristotelian thought that lived on was the idea of eternal suffering in hell.
It remained for people of more recent times to take the third step in a gradual weakening of faith. They have come to rely more and more on what can be grasped with the physical senses. The effect of this on the Christ concept has been to make Christ an ever less important figure and to render the prevailing idea of Christ more and more materialistic. Where Gnostics once assumed a spiritual principle, and where the Middle Ages in their turn experienced Christ in a mood of purest faith and devotion, the present sees at the beginning of the Christian era not a human being ensouled with a cosmic element but, increasingly, “the simple man of Nazareth,” a man more or less like any other human being. Nobody remembers anything of what the Gnostics had divined. People want to think of Christ in the same materialistic way they think about other historical events. The fact that they regard Him as a mere human being makes it necessary to apply the same methods to the study of His appearance that are generally applied in ordinary historical research.
It might have been recognized that the historical approach to the whole question is the easy way out because what could possibly be easier than to take the Gospels and show how they contradict each other! This reduces things to simplest terms. But then wouldn't the researchers have had to assume that their predecessors were the greatest dunces ever for having failed even to notice such obvious contradictions?
At any rate, the Gospels were certainly not taken as a schooling, a schooling that enables the soul to lift itself to spiritual perception of the Christ. So it is not surprising that history was pressed into service as a yardstick and that a movement has grown up, associated here in Germany with the theologian, Drews, that denies Christ completely. This happened at the very moment when spiritual science entered the contemporary scene.
Spiritual science bears witness to the fact just referred to, that human beings and what they carry within them are not products of a single life, but of many past lives. Man once lived wholly in the spiritual world. Then he left it to descend to earth, but he was to have more than one life in a physical body. When he had digested the fruits of an incarnation during an interval spent in the spiritual world, he descended again into physical embodiment. The law that pertains here has often been the object of our study. It teaches us how deeply involved man is in the whole ongoing process we call history. Life only begins to make real sense when we assume that we have all been living on the earth in order to take what was given us in the beginning, make it our own, and then go on developing with the march of the centuries toward ever greater perfection. A closer study of these matters brings something quite remarkable to light, to be described here as man's mission on the earth.
I must stress again today, as I have so often done before, that the consciousness that man has thus far developed has by no means reached its final form. Man can really take his development in hand: the right spiritual training can lift him to spiritual perception. That is quite within the realm of possibility if he schools his soul in meditation. Just as one can put oneself, by staring intently at a shining object, into a state where one is aware of nothing else (though this is not a recommended practice!), so do we achieve a single-minded, but in this case quite free condition, when we deliberately concentrate all our attention on some soul-spiritual content to the exclusion of all else. Then forces begin to ray out in our souls through which we attain what may be called a body-free condition. Such a person is then really able to say from experience, “I am no longer perceiving with my eyes or thinking with my brain. I am experiencing as a spiritual being, independent of a body, I perceive what lives and has its being in the spiritual world.”
This elevation to the level of spiritual perception can be achieved with proper schooling. The rigorous discipline that leads to it has been described in several of my books.
It is easier to enter the spiritual world if one has trained one's feeling life to avoid all sorts of over-excited and emotional states and reactions. A person who confronts the world with calmness and equanimity keeps unsquandered reserves of feeling alive within him. The spiritual light, which meditation kindles in us, radiates into such reserves. A person full of selfish demands will never make a disciplined spiritual investigator. But those who achieve real empathy with their fellow-men, who know what selfless love is, who are not absorbed exclusively in their own feelings, have a soul-surplus that can be charged with forces garnered from spiritual schooling. The light of clairvoyance is engendered in feeling that keeps itself free of egotism.
When a person has progressed to the point of being able to live in the spiritual world he can gradually learn to clothe his experiences in ordinary concepts. Handed on in that form, any healthy mentality can grasp them. It is no more necessary for everyone to be a spiritual investigator than for each of us individually to make laboratory tests to see whether what science says is true or not. Those charged with communicating the results of spiritual-scientific research do not shy away from commonsense thinkers. Really healthy minds readily see the truth of statements made by the spiritual investigator. The only people who dispute his findings are those who approach them filled with prejudice. This holds true in the case of spiritual science, which is the fruit of clairvoyant research. It enables human beings to gain access to a world of spiritual experience.
The insight that spiritual scientists can presently achieve by means of a heightened consciousness will — to some degree at least, and in certain fields f be attainable by all men in future. It will fall to the lot of Twentieth Century humanity to realize that the soul develops, that it passes through life after life in the course of earth's evolution, and in so doing absorbs from the various cultural epochs what each such epoch has to offer.
If one looks nowadays with a more than ordinarily perceptive eye at the human race all over the earth, one becomes aware that it possesses two human qualities that were simply not present in antiquity. This is a fact susceptible of proof. The two new qualities are commission and conscience, and they will go on developing more and more fully as man submits his soul-life to spiritual schooling. Compassion and conscience were new acquisitions at a certain point in evolution.
Much that is called compassion is not worthy of the term. True compassion is the capacity to forget oneself and enter another's being so completely that one feels his suffering as he feels it. One's own ego is quite forgotten in such fellow-feeling; one lives entirely in the other's experience. Suppose for a moment that nature were so to arrange matters that at the moment when a person freed himself from narrow self-concern he had the same experience morally that comes to him every day when he falls asleep. When he can no longer maintain control of his body and his brain ceases to serve his soul as its instrument and he goes to sleep, consciousness disappears. A person can, of course, also fall unconscious from compassion. But that would be egotistical in the extreme, for then he could not surrender himself wholly to another's feelings. In that sense, falling unconscious would amount to a moral failing, whereas compassion is one of the two means whereby a person breaks free of himself without losing consciousness. Conscience is the other. It speaks to our innermost being; the listener follows the bidding of a voice that penetrates to where his ego lives. He subjects the self to something larger than itself. Compassion and conscience are thus forces that man is presently engaged in developing. Consciousness will build further on the foundation of the forms that compassion and conscience have thus far taken, going on to develop the spiritual vision that was previously attainable only in abnormal states of consciousness. To say this is not to make a prophecy but to state a fact determined by strictly scientific means.
As he realizes what effect compassion and conscience have upon the human soul. Twentieth Century man will have a certain direct experience in a perfectly ordinary state of consciousness. He will understand something that might be put in the following way. We see that at birth man inherits something from his ancestors. Spiritual being though he is, he must incarnate physically in a given family and clothe himself in hereditary qualities. Long before we had such a thing as science, people were familiar with heredity, but they gave it an entirely different name. Their term for it was “original sin.” Anyone who understands what the Old Testament meant by original sin knows that the term conveyed a much fuller meaning than science has as yet ascribed to it because it applies to moral as well as physical qualities. Those in whom compassion and conscience have borne fruit will say, however, that although birth saddles us with predispositions that cannot be thrown off, we are also endowed with something that is not bound up with matter and that enables us to rise above ourselves and enter the spiritual world. There is one realm — the realm of one's own soul — where there will be direct spiritual vision. Human beings will affirm that although they are tied on the one hand to physical matter, on the other the soul harbors a radiant helper capable of lifting us beyond ourselves, it is a feeling that suggests the following comparison. Suppose there were someone who found it hard to believe that air everywhere surrounds us and fills every empty space. All he has to do to convince himself is to create a vacuum and observe how the air rushes into it. Just such an empty space is created in the soul by compassion and conscience, both of which detach us from our ego. Into that vacuum streams the spiritual entity whom we know as the Christ. This gives us personal experience of the fact that we can receive Christ into ourselves. Christ Who is present in the spiritual atmosphere just as air is present in the physical atmosphere and flows into every Space it finds empty.
On this high level, normal consciousness can indeed become spiritual vision, and no one who has this experience will consider it subjective. He will instead recognize that there must be such a possibility. He will realize that there was a time when it was still unknown and a moment when it became possible for the first time. He will be aware that what he is experiencing made its way down to earth from spiritual realms and united with it as the Christ impulse. This Christ impulse will inevitably come to be looked upon by Twentieth Century man as a force that entered earth evolution at a particular moment in time as a real historical event. That will usher in a period when it will no longer make sense to say that Christ is merely an idea. Instead, people will say that the Christ experience can be conceived as taking place only in this or that individual soul, just as philosophers maintain that there could be no such thing as color without eyes to perceive it. But colors do not owe their existence to perceiving eyes; the truth is rather that eyes are created by the light-world. The fact ought therefore to be stated thus: “No eyes without light.” It is equally true that without the historical Christ human beings could not experience Christ or the Christ-power within them. So they will know Christ to be a spiritual being and realize that this Being once actually lived on earth as a fact of history and sacrificed Himself to become one with the earth. They will be able to make their way into the spiritual world and discover Christ there.
Goethe often found just the right way of putting some fact or other, and perhaps we might borrow one of his sayings to express what we have been discussing here; it can serve us as a pointer. Goethe said that the eye was built by light to perceive the light: the eye was conjured forth by light from organs that were originally indeterminate. He goes on to make a further statement that calls attention to the impulse we harbor to discover God within us:
“Were not our eyes profoundly of the sun
How could they behold the light?
Were not our strength from God's own being won.
How could we feel so in Things divine delight.”
Just as the eye is conjured forth by light, so man's power to see God is conjured forth by God Himself as He lives and moves within and all about us. Those whose own Christ-likeness enables them to experience the Christ in beauty of feeling and insight will know that this is possible only because Christ once descended to earth and lived here, an historic figure. Just as the sun's light conjures forth eyes in human bodies so does the historic Christ conjure forth Christ-life in the souls of men.
“Unless the soul of man were Christ-like, how indeed could it experience the Christ? lf Christ had not lived as an historic figure how could man's soul ever come to know that most glorious feeling: feeling for the Christ?” Such will be the tenor of Twentieth Century comment. At the very moment when orthodox science reaches the point of denying Christ any historical reality, spiritual science will say without relying on documents that because man can experience Christ he knows that Christ did indeed live historically as a life-giving force, as the sun in that spiritual realm whence human evolution draws its nutriment.