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The Rudolf Steiner Archive

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The Christian Mystery
GA 97

IV. The Gospel of John as an Initiation Document II

13 February 1906, Cologne

The second part of the gospel of John

The experiences John described from the 13th chapter onwards refer to the devachanic level. John indicated this by saying he had been raised from the dead. John was Lazarus raised from the dead. We can understand therefore why it is only now that mention is made of the disciple whom the Lord loved. This is the secret at the centre of the gospel, that the writer was Lazarus raised from the dead.

John then went through experiences with the Christ in the world of the spirit. The second part in particular does not merely tell what has happened on some particular level but describes the things every human being can inwardly experience. The way in which one can inwardly know oneself to be at the level John spoke of is the following. From a certain point in his development the individual no longer feels separate from all things. He enters wholly into the things that are around him. This is to expand one's self into a universe. John felt himself to be part of the whole world around him. This comes to expression in the devachanic image of the washing of the feet. 46John 13: 1-11. John experienced this in the world of the spirit, though it was at the same time also a historical event.

A higher realm of nature always develops at the cost of a lower one. If there were no mineral world, the plant world would not be able to take nourishment from it. The plant world is pushed lower down so that a yet higher realm, the animal world, may develop, and so on. The human world also depends on the other realms. A more highly developed form needs the one that is less developed. There could be no higher caste if there were not also a lower one. Just as there has to be a mineral world so that the plant world may exist, so did the apostles have to exist for Christ Jesus to be there. No one can be a saint without pushing others lower down. It says in chapter 13, verse 16: ‘The servant is no greater than his lord.’ The Christ has evolved on the basis of the apostles and is therefore able to call them the lords out of whose community he has arisen. He washes their feet to indicate that he is lower than they are in so far as he owes his existence to them. This is something we must all experience in our own bodies. Anyone who has not had this experience has no true perception of the path of Christian mysticism.

Jesus also said: ‘He that eats bread with me has lifted up his heel against me.’ 47John 13: 18. He felt himself to be in the community of the whole earth. He felt that the whole of humanity was resting upon him, that he was under its heel.

Having experienced all this at the devachanic level, John was able to understand the words of the vine and its branches that followed. 48John 15: 1 -8. They refer to the community of the whole Christian congregation.

We are now in the fifth root race of our earth existence. This has seven sub-races, the ancient Indian, the ancient Persian, the Egypto-Babylonic-Chaldean, the Graeco-Roman-Semitic, the Germanic, the Slavonic and the seventh sub-race. The last three sub-races of the fourth root race, which was the Atlantean one, were particularly important. From the third from last, the ancient Semitic race, has come the fifth root race. This sub-race dwelt in the region where Ireland is today. It migrated from there, letting itself be guided to the Gobi desert or Shamo. This is the region where the present, the fifth root race originated. Three sub-races of the Atlanteans, seven sub-races of the Aryan root race and two of the sixth root race, belong together in some respect. When humanity has gone through all these races it will have reached a point where a great part of humanity will have achieved what it is meant to achieve.

The twelve apostles are symbols of those twelve sub-races. Jesus has evolved from the twelve apostles. In the washing of the feet he bows before the races to whom he must bring salvation.

In the parable of the vine, the Christ feels himself to be connected with all races; he provides them with the spiritual life blood.

Many different images also come into this in the higher world. We are told of Judas Iscariot's betrayal. He represents one of the races, the race which is now bringing everything down on to the material level, our own fifth sub-race, which is materialistic. In the process of evolution in which humanity first lived in direct spiritual perception and then had to be taken into the physical world it was perfectly natural for the representative of this fifth sub-race to be the betrayer. Judas Iscariot represented the race that descends deeper than any other. The gospel of John continues to be valid beyond space and time for the very reason that it must be seen in symbolic terms. The act of Judas forms an organic part of the Christ's mission. Judas went through a form of martyrdom. He was the traitor and in a sense also a martyr. He brought about the sacrifice of the Christ.

The sequence of parables served to take the apostles up into the inner nature of Christianity. At the Christ's sacrificial death everything that had in earlier times been mystery rite appeared before the world as a historical event. In the mysteries, the pupils went through what here has become the three days of Lazarus' symbolic death. With the Christ this was to appear in the great historical level. From then on a human being was to be redeemed if he believed, without having gained direct vision in the mysteries. Everyone was to have that experience when the spirit of truth came. It would tell of the element brought into world history with the Christian events. ‘He will proclaim to you the things that are to come.’ 49John 16: 13.

John was speaking out of this spirit of truth. The historical betrayal of the Christ was to happen in the future in the race of which Judas was the representative.

The events that follow are exemplary of the Christian mystic's inner experience. Then the Christ was given a slap in the face. 50This and the following events John 18 and 19. This was the second important event after the washing of the feet. It is something everyone must receive who inwardly seeks to go through the life of Christ. It has to be borne with complete inner composure that the people to whom one is giving the best one has, will not acknowledge this. The scourging also follows. In moral terms it means that we bear the pain the world causes us and do so calmly. Together with the slap on the face this is the second stage the Christian mystic must go through.

It is something pupils of Christian mysticism have really and truly been going through since that time. The ability to bear the pain calmly is learned in the pupil's own body. He really gets a feeling as if he is pierced with needles.

The next, third stage is the wearing of the crown of thorns. It is to accept humiliation calmly. It is the human I which is humiliated. The forebrain, which developed during the last period of ancient Atlantis, senses the crown of thorns. Genuinely painful experiences develop in this mystical soul state and have to be overcome.

The fourth stage is the crucifixion. It is a mystical experience which signifies that one's own body has become as foreign to one as an outside object. The human being then bears the burden of the cross. His soul has grown independent. It is only tied to the body the way the body of Christ was nailed to the cross. This is an inner experience for the mystic. He now knows himself to be living in a spiritual body. A blood trial goes hand in hand with this. The wounds of the Christ truly appear on hands and feet when the Christian mystic has gone through this. There is a physical aspect to everything that is of the spirit.

When the human being has reached this point, death on the cross ensues. This is a spiritual experience. Goethe brought it to expression in the following words:

So long as you don't have it,
this word: ‘Die and become!’
you're but a miserable guest
here on this earth. 51Goethe, West-östlicher Diwan, poem ‘Selige Sehnsuch’.

Jakob Boehme said: ‘If you don't die before your death comes, you will perish when you die.’ 52Boehme, Jakob (1575–1624); see chapter on Valentin Weigel and Jakob Boehme in Steiner R. Mysticism at the Dawn of the Modern Age (GA 7). Tr. K. E. Zimmer. Blauvelt: Steinerbooks 1980; and two lectures (not translated) given in Berlin on 3 May 1906 (in GA 54) and 9 Jan. 1913 (in GA 62). The Christian mystic must go through the whole of death. Otherwise he cannot enter into a higher life. The sixth event is the entombment. This is mystic realization of community with the earth organism. The pupil unites with the planet earth, becoming a planetary spirit. Everything around him then becomes his body. The seventh stage is the higher life, the resurrection, given to man. These are the seven stages of Christian mystic development: the washing of the feet, the slap on the face and the scourging, the crown of thorns, the crucifixion, death, entombment and resurrection. It is an inner development with external symbols.

John wrote about it in a way that has truly given us a basic work for mystics. The sentences must become the subject of meditation as we read them. This gives us the meditation we need to go through these events. The gospel of John is a book of miracles for it brings about miracles in the soul. It has been written for every human being and everyone can gain inward experience of the gospel of John.

Let us consider the second chapter once more, now from this point of view. Before the washing of the feet man faced the need to give birth to the new human being. He then went through the seven stages and became the new human being. The new human being related to the old one as a child does to his mother. The old human being conceived him and bore him. This is how we must see the image of the mother of Jesus. Every old human being has the ability to become a new human being.

The old human beings are of different types. When the new human being is born of them, all will give birth to the same Christ. The old human being, the mother, may exist in different ways. When the Christ was on the cross he looked back to his mother, and those were three women representing three different human configurations from whom the mystic may come. The mother of Jesus cannot be given a name. She is, however, called Mary. Mary is the same as Maya, the womb from which the new human being has come.

When the Christ was taken down from the cross, his legs must not be broken. This has to do with the whole development of our civilization. In ancient Atlantis human beings were still able to influence the generative etheric forces. They were able to use the germinative powers of grain to set airships in motion. The mission of the twelve sub-races, starting with the fifth Atlantean sub-race, is to develop powers and abilities relating to the mineral world, powers of making combinations. The twelve races have to take the earth to the point where the mineral world is essentially conquered. The time when Christianity is the central member is the time when man transforms the mineral world. Man will make the earth's magnetism serve him once he has the moral powers to influence the earth. He still more or less lacks conscious awareness of everything else.

The gospel of John is one of the works that have the infinite in them and this is like a well-spring.