By Marie Steiner
With this book we penetrate into the innermost structure of Rudolf Steiner's activities. For all of his endeavour had this one goal: — to pave for the world the way to the Christ. The Christ was lost for us during the period of rationalism and materialism. The churches yawned in desolate emptiness, and if one did not sit within them as an unmoved, childlike human being there was vacuity or contradiction in head and heart. What came from the lips of the exponent of Christian teaching did not bear the stamp of truth and conviction. Its effect was often hollow, puffed up, or sometimes mechanistic, at best stultifying. The church became conventional, a matter of form, accepting a compromise with science without being able to offset it with something truly effective. Gradually it was forced to withdraw its requirements of faith, because it could not present to the doubter enough that was factual to be able to change belief into sure conviction and knowledge. Candidates for confirmation had already been forced to withdraw their questions before the uncertainty and obvious side-stepping of the truth on the part of the revered pastor. Children who had left school found themselves standing before a spiritual void and felt the foundations of their souls give way beneath them. The Roman Catholic church frightened the Protestants away by its enslavement of freedom, and by the hollow mutterings of the celebrants of the churchly rites whose whole behaviour was often a mockery of what they were intended to represent. And yet, the forms gave evidence of something that had been lost. But where was it to be sought? Certainly not in the direction of modern science, for this had decreed limits to knowledge and functioned like the skull of a skeleton, hollow-eyed, severed from the trunk. Coherent life, the formative lines and the accomplishment were lacking. One could indeed become enthusiastic over the artistry of the individual parts, but the whole lacked hands and feet. It was only a fragment. The great cosmic tortoise of the Brahmanical religion, bearer of the earthly disc, produced in its imaginative force more pleasing effects. Men felt themselves surrounded by the rushing sound of the surging universal ether; they knew that there was something quite different from what is expressed in that cosmic image, something more than an automatically active mechanism, which out of itself sets the earth-wheel in motion — to which, by degrees, a meaning is given by equally automatically-created human beings — only to fall again into insensibility.
Something substantial was wafted over the world out of these ancient religions. If their path is followed, an ascent can be observed from a stifled and benumbed consciousness to ever lighter spheres of thought. Great cultures arose out of these religions; mighty imaginations passed from them over into the present time. Art and science developed within them, leaving sublime monuments behind. Here was a thread to follow which was a spiritual necessity. This thread was lost again and again in a mysterious obscurity. It led down through the temple places before which stood warning guardians who propounded questions and those who failed to answer suffered death. These were enigmatical words which finally culminated with the warning: “Know thou thyself!” This path had again to be discovered and illumined. But how to find it?
From the silent temples, whose doors were closed, traces of these teachings had escaped into the outer world. Their meaning became manifest in ever more powerfully developing civilizations which comprised increasingly larger and larger groups of human beings until at last the individual man emerged as a personality. No longer on the one side the God-inspired leader and teacher or sovereign, and on the other the dull people — but the separate human being, the personality who through his especial qualifications had become an individual. This occurred most gloriously in Greece where God and man approached one another. The super-sensible was blended with the sensible in art. The individual personality had become mature. The Mysteries, however, withdrew, veiled themselves more deeply and their meaning, which formerly was wrapped in secrecy, and therefore secure and untouched by doubt, became hidden.
Human thought began to take its own course. Schools of Philosophy arose. Doubters and sceptics spread abroad and thus caused the gradual disappearance of the greatness of that people which had projected from itself the independent personality. It lost its own value, its firm anchor and waited for the “unknown God.”
But the unknown God was He who, through His sacrifice, allowed the human personality to develop beyond itself in order that it might find its way back to its origin, with a waking consciousness acquired entirely by effort, after a passage rich in knowledge through the phenomenal world of the senses. Thus there was added to the original forces a newly acquired element, lifted out of deep material density.
And this path was prepared in deep racial seclusion within that folk which developed parallel with Hellenism, and which had the mission of bringing to mankind, in flesh and in truth, the one God, the Ego-God.
After the enslavement and degeneration of the Greek peoples, which followed closely upon the expeditions of Alexander, when the Roman she-wolf in Caesardom celebrated her orgies elevating Caesar, seized by mad ambition, to Godhood, building altars to him, and forcing her subjects to worship him, something occurred in the seclusion of a distant people which, through its impulse, rescued mankind, saved humanity from brutalization, namely, the sacrificial act of Golgotha. It shattered the might of the Roman she-wolf, that symbol of the life of instinct and force. Rome sank beneath it. New peoples overran the degenerate empire. A new folk-substance absorbed what later led to a new soul-configuration for mankind.
But the spiritually new became interspersed with the concretions from what had exhausted itself as a realm of power in the Roman Empire. This imbued the new, tender, spiritual estate with the essence of might and passion which had taken possession of the forms ultimately prevailing there. These forms were, to a great extent, taken over together with the already decadent spirit which had permeated them and the germ of disintegration which should have been overcome, but was not.
The phases of this struggle between the new and the remains of the ancient spirituality which had been taken over form the history of the Middle Ages and of the New Age. These can be traced in the development of the church, in the secret brotherhoods, in the orders of the Monks and Knights, in the so-called heretical confraternities, in the humanistic stream, in the Reformation.
Then came the new natural philosophy, natural science, the mechanistic interpretations of the universe, the limits to knowledge, Ignorabimus. In philosophy, a barren subjectivity, a severance from the whole of the cosmos, a subjective idea of the individual — the whole rich phenomenal world; a psychology without knowledge of the soul and spirit, yes, even denying them. Here matter became the point of departure for researches into soul and spirit.
Matter was victorious in all directions and a spiritual chaos began which reached its climax in our own time, drawing mankind into its vortex until that world catastrophe was reached within the effect of which we are still living. We have reached this point in human history and our enlightened minds are prophesying the downfall of the Occident.
In this world of encompassing darkness, there shines a source of light. It has been revealed to us by a man who towered immeasurably above his time. This source pours light upon that event which occurred in human evolution for mankind's salvation at a time when the Roman delirium was casting the world into chains. It brings us what we need in order that the central point of human and earthly happenings may again be understood, that belief may be changed into knowledge, unbelief into understanding. It is active among us since the beginning of this dark century with those forces which are able to transform our darkness into spiritual light.
This source of light revealed itself to those of us who were seeking the path to the lost mysteries. An Initiate was present who could be the guide. He led us, urging us on without ceasing, first with reserve, then in wisdom and insight as the need of the time demanded. We had not grown up to what we received, but we listened, collected and wrote it down, knowing that a time would come when we should have to hand on to others what had been so bounteously given to us, a time which would make grateful acknowledgment to us for it. It is this that a humanity, matured in sorrow and affliction, needs for its salvation and its advancement. The moment has come for us to fulfill this task, therefore we must no longer hold back.
Rudolf Steiner has again paved the way to the Christ for the world. He laid his hand on the wheel of human evolution which was rushing along into the abyss and checked it. He alone resisted the forces of descent, pulled back the wheel with a strong hand and guided it again toward the slow ascent. It was slow, for the band that surrounded him was small and the greatness of what he had to give fairly overwhelmed it. If the humanity of our day had had organs sufficiently capable of receiving what he gave, a new era would have dawned with infinite, impelling force and sun-soaring eagle flight. But what was capable of awakening the slumbering human organs had to occur gradually through hard labour. Through uninterrupted effort, collecting stone by stone, Rudolf Steiner built the foundation for an understanding of the facts about the world and humanity which became continually more subtle, for the construction of concepts of ever increasing fineness. Never in a public lecture did he shrink back from building this foundation anew. Then gradually, where he had his constantly returning audience, he proceeded a step further on the path which leads to healthy, spiritual knowledge. Never did he permit himself to toss off anything that had any semblance of the sensational; never did he wish to overpower a human soul. Each lecture was something that sprang up organically, that sank its roots deep in the soil, drawing up the forces of the earth, dipping down into the colour-shimmer of the surging ether-worlds, into the quickening spirituality, but permitting the luminous corolla of the resulting new concepts to emerge through inner necessity from the well-constructed conceptual organism. A growing, creative, active force — each thought-structure — and a living work of art! One stood amazed before the perfection of this thought-structure, but one remained free in relation to it astonished at the immensity and beauty of what thus arose before the inner eye with a luminous necessity.
Then about the turn of the century there came considerable chaotic activity rustling and bustling upon our materialistic culture, ghostly tappings out of the border lands of the spiritual world. It took courage, endless courage and karmic necessity to bring order into all this disorder and thereby call odium upon himself; to face the accusation that he was anachronistically immersed in neo-oriental streams.
But destiny stood challenging at the threshold of the 20th century, demanding the most vigorous action, namely, the conquest of the dragon of materialism which held our world firmly encircled, threatening to crush it in its embrace. The very structure of the earth, believed to be so solid, soon shook, as the world and civil wars gave eloquent and gruesome evidence.
Alongside, in helpful goodness, with his deep-seeing glance, stood the bearer of the spirit who seemed to have gathered all the riddles of earthly difficulties and of earthly suffering and to have reflected back in quiet restfulness all the splendour of the spiritual world. He knew that he had to illuminate and make this earthly darkness glow with Golden Wisdom, until a heightened consciousness had awakened within mankind. The task was fulfilled. Golden Wisdom, drawn down from the Christ-SpiritSun and given to us, is present here acting among many. It penetrates our earth and its heavy, dense, materialistic world of thought.
By drawing down super-sensible knowledge and perceptions into our world of concepts and thoughts, by transforming them into thought-forms which were able to energize our conscious activity, through this fine alchemy, a new soul-substance has been created which can have a vitalizing effect upon our deadened spiritual organs. The force for this revitalization streams out of the Mystery of Golgotha, but there must be a human activity springing up to meet it, understanding how to open itself up to it. In order that this might occur, Rudolf Steiner was active among us. All that he did, wrote, thought, served this one purpose to make our conceptual and sentient world so alive that it might open itself up again, with strength, to the Christ and thus activate our life of will, so that it might actually join itself with Him.
An immense life-work lies before us dedicated to this one goal which is a comprehension, a synthesis of those other aims, namely, the reunion and reciprocal penetration of the three realms of science, art, and religion, formerly working in harmony, now divided; the comprehension of the spiritual meaning concealed in the ideals of liberty, equality, and fraternity; the awakening of the human ego to a full consciousness of itself and its cosmic membership. All these aims are to be attained only through the strengthening of the human being with the Christ-Impulse.
The whole of cosmic wisdom must be called into play in order to understand this greatest of all mysteries. The other mysteries were a preparation for this, and Rudolf Steiner led us gradually and steadily into their essence and meaning. They had all pointed to what took place on Golgotha. Step by step he brought us nearer to this understanding. Cosmogony, theogony, geography, knowledge of man and science, already flowering in the thought-life of mankind, supplied building stones.
But there are critics of various kinds who announce what fits into their party program. There are also those among them, men of prominence, who boldly affirm, because it suits them to do so, that although there is much to be recognized in Rudolf Steiner's genius, still one must turn away from him because he rejects the Christ. But those who took the trouble to study Rudolf Steiner's work before commenting upon it found it otherwise. They soon saw how it could become helpful to them.
A number of theologians came to Rudolf Steiner and said to him: Our churches are deserted; our seminars do not give us what we can hand on to hungry souls as the bread of life! You alone have the power to help us. Will you give us something that will make it possible for us to help others inside our parish activities? Otherwise, we must renounce the vocation of priesthood. And Rudolf Steiner gave them what they requested, that is, he gave them the key to the gospels, the living Christ, the Word that leads to the rite of Consecration.
He said to them: You have asked me for something that you can give to those who are not yet strong enough to achieve spiritual science and spiritual communion through their own efforts. You wish to guide them on the path to the sources of that knowledge which awakens men, makes them free and fully conscious in accordance with the demands of the time. You may help in the work in this way if your activity does not become self-interest; if your thought for the church does not prevail over that for the spirit; if the path of the ministry gradually leads to a strengthening of the human ego so that it may in freedom and awareness unite itself with the divine world and the heart of Christ that shines in the sun and pulses through the earth. You have wished it and have promised it; act accordingly, and remain true to your words.
They went away and founded the Fellowship for a Christian Regeneration for the salvation of many souls. In this fellowship knowledge of the Gospels, to which Rudolf Steiner gave the key, is earnestly pursued.
He had begun with this even in the earliest years of his activities in Spiritual Science by always introducing into his lectures something that led us to the Tree of the Cross and to its meaning as the Tree of Life. At that time his listeners came to him and requested a connected cycle of lectures on the Gospel of St. John. It was granted them. These lectures from the year I9o8 we possess in an unfortunately quite incomplete copy. They have been so often asked for and copies have been made in so many places, that we do not wish to withhold them any longer because of their incompleteness. The subject matter will triumph over the incomplete renderings. A breath from the world out of which they have their source still hovers over them. Mankind needs it and needs this subject matter.
The publication of the lectures concerning the other gospels will soon follow this Gospel of St. John. When this introduction into the esoteric gospel was given to us at Whitsuntide, 1908, in Hamburg, — after a similar cycle had for the first time been given in Basel — something like a Pentecostal fire and the wafting of a Galilean springtime passed through our souls. Whitsuntide again approaches, accompanying the appearance of this book. May this be a favorable omen for the book.
Whitsuntide is the festival of the Holy Spirit which is active within human hearts. May the Spirit which rules in this book find its way to the souls of men who thirst after truth and are of good will.