The Gospel of St. John
in Relation to the Other Three Gospels
9. The Artistic Composition of the Gospel of St. John
2 July 1909, Kassel
At the close of yesterday's exposition we indicated the intention to consider next the cardinal issue within the Christ impulse: the Death on the Cross and its significance. But before turning to a delineation of the death of Christ, and thus to the climax of this study cycle, we must discuss today the true meaning and significance of much that we find in the John Gospel itself, as well as its relation to what the other Gospels offer. In the last few days we have been endeavoring to comprehend the Christ impulse and to establish it as an actual event in human evolution by means of quite a different source: by clairvoyant reading of the akashic record; and in a sense we referred only to those passages in the Gospels which appear to confirm what clairvoyant research justifies us in stating as truths.
Today, in order to follow up our studies, we shall consider the John Gospel itself and characterize this important document of mankind from a certain aspect. We said yesterday that the theological research of our time, in as far as it is affected by materialism, can find no points of contact with this John Gospel, is unable to see its historical value; but regarded with the vision of spiritual science this Gospel proves to be one of the most marvelous documents possessed by the human race. It is not too much to say that not only as a religious document but — to use a profane expression — among all purely literary works in existence it is one of the greatest. Let us now approach it from this literary angle.
From the very first chapters — if rightly understood and if one knows what all lies concealed in the words — this Gospel of St. John shows a rounded beauty of style equal to any in the world, although a superficial study does not reveal this fact. What superficial observation discloses first is that in enumerating the miracles the writer of the John Gospel, whose back-ground we now know, mentions precisely seven up to the Lazarus event proper. (The significance of the number seven will be treated in the following lectures.) What were these seven signs?
1. The sign in connection with the Marriage in Cana in Galilee.
2. The sign given in the healing of the nobleman's son.
3. The sign given in the healing of the man who had lain sick for thirty-eight years by the Pool of Bethesda.
4. The sign given in the Feeding of the Five Thousand.
5. The sign given in the vision of Christ walking on the sea.
6. The sign given in the healing of the man born blind. And finally:
7. The greatest of the signs, the initiation of Lazarus, the transformation of Lazarus into the writer of the John Gospel.
These are the seven signs. But now we must ask ourselves, What about these signs, this question of miracles? If you listened attentively to a number of things that were told you in the foregoing lectures you will remember having heard that the state of human consciousness has kept altering throughout the entire course of evolution. We cast our gaze back to remote times and found that men did not issue from a merely animalistic stage of development, but from a form in which they possessed the power of clairvoyance as a congenital endowment. People of that time were clairvoyant, even though their consciousness still lacked the ability to say “I am”. The capacity for self-consciousness was something they had to acquire gradually, and for this they had to forfeit their old clairvoyance. In the future the time will come again when all men are clairvoyant, but without loss of self-consciousness, of the “I am”. Those are the three stages which humanity has in part passed through, in part still has ahead of it.
In Atlantis men still lived in a sort of dream consciousness, but this was clairvoyant. Then they gradually achieved self-consciousness, outer objective consciousness, in exchange for which, however, they gave up the old gift of dim clairvoyance. And finally, what man will have in the future is clairvoyant consciousness coupled with self-consciousness. Thus man traverses the path from an ancient dim clairvoyance through an opaque objective consciousness, finally ascending to conscious clairvoyance.
But in addition to consciousness, everything else about man has changed as well. The belief that conditions must always have been as they are today is due to nothing but human shortsightedness. Everything has evolved. Nothing has always been as it is today, not even men's relation to each other. You have already gathered from intimations in the last lectures that in older epochs — up to the time when the Christ impulse entered human evolution — the influence of soul upon soul was much stronger. Such was human disposition at that time. A man did not merely hear what was told him in externally audible words: in a certain way he could feel and know something that the other felt and thought vividly, livingly. Love meant something quite different from what it does today, albeit in those times it was largely a matter of blood ties. Nowadays it has taken on more of a psychic character, but it has lost its strength. Nor will it regain this until the Christ impulse shall have entered all human hearts. In olden times active love possessed at the same time a healing property, a powerful balm, for the soul of its recipient.
Coincident with the development of the intellect and of cleverness,
qualities that came into being only gradually, these ancient direct
influences of soul upon soul dwindled away. The gift of acting upon the
other's soul, of causing one's own soul force to stream into it, was
unquestionably peculiar to the older peoples; and you must therefore
imagine the force that one soul could receive from another as much
greater, the influence one soul could exert upon another as much
stronger, than is the case today. The external historical documents may
report nothing of all this, the tablets and monuments may not mention
it; but clairvoyant study of the akashic record nevertheless
discloses the fact that in olden times the healing of the sick, for
example, was extensively accomplished through a psychic influence
passing from the one to the other. And the soul possessed many other
powers as well. Though today it sounds like a fairy tale, it is a fact
that in those times a man's will, if he so desired and had specially
trained himself for the purpose, had the power to act soothingly upon
the growth of a plant, to accelerate or retard it. Today but scanty
remnants of all this are left.
Human life, then, was very different at that time. No one would have been surprised — given the right mutual relationship — at the passing over of a psychic influence from one person to the other.
It must be kept in mind, however, that two or more are needed if the exercise of a psychic influence of that sort is to take effect. We could imagine the possibility of a man imbued with the power of Christ entering our midst nowadays; but those with the requisite faith in him would be very few in number, so that he would not be able to achieve all that can be accomplished by the influence of one soul upon another. For not only must the influence be exerted: someone must be present who is sufficiently developed to be affected by it. Remembering that formerly those who could receive such influences were more numerous, we should not be surprised to learn that for the healing of the sick there indeed existed the means by which psychic influences could take effect; but also, that influences which today can be transmitted only by mechanical means were at that time applied psychically.
We should keep in mind that the Christ event entered human evolution at a very special point in time. Only the very last remnants, so to say, of those soul currents that flowed from man to man were left as a heritage of the old Atlantean age. Humanity was about to descend ever deeper into matter, and the possibility for such psychic currents to be effective constantly diminished. That was the moment at which the Christ impulse had to enter, the impulse which in its nature could accomplish so very much for those who were still sufficiently receptive.
Those who are really familiar with evolution as it applied to mankind will therefore find it quite natural that the Christ Being, having once entered the body of Jesus of Nazareth in about the thirtieth year of His life, could unfold very special powers in this sheath, for the latter had been developing since time immemorial. We mentioned yesterday that this individuality of Jesus of Nazareth had in one former life been incarnated in ancient Persia, and then, passing through one incarnation after another, had continued to rise in its spiritual development. That is why the Christ could dwell in such a body, and why this body could be sacrificed to Him. This the Evangelists knew well, hence they presented the entire narrative in such a way as to be wholly comprehensible for spiritual research. Only, we must take everything in the Gospels literally — that is, we must first learn to read them. As has been said, the deeper meanings of the miracles we shall learn in due time; but here we can ask, for example, why, precisely in the first of the miracles, it is specially emphasized in dealing with the Marriage in Cana of Galilee that this took place in Cana “of Galilee”. Seek as you will, you can find in old Palestine within the radius then known no second Cana; and in such a case it would seem superfluous to specify the locality. Why, then, does the Evangelist tell us that this miracle occurred in Cana "of Galilee"? Because the important point to be stressed was that something occurred which had to take place in Galilee. It means that nowhere else but in Galilee could Christ have found just those people whose presence was indispensable. As I said, an influence implies not only the one who exerts it, but the others as well — those who are appropriately fitted to receive it. Christ's first appearance would not have been possible within the Jewish community proper, but it was possible in Galilee with its mixture of many different tribes and groups. Just because members of so many peoples from various parts of the world were assembled in one spot, there was far less blood relationship, and above all, far less faith in it, than in Judea, in the narrow circle of the Hebrew people. Galilee was a heterogenous racial mixture.
But what was it to which Christ, in view of His impulse, felt Himself particularly called? We have said that one of His most significant utterances was,
Before Abraham was, was the I am;
and the other,
I and the Father are one.
By this He meant: among those who cling to the old forms of life the ego is entrenched in a system of blood relationships. The words I and Father Abraham are one aroused a very special feeling in the true confessor of the Old Testament, a feeling nowadays very difficult to share. What a man calls his own self, circumscribed by birth and death, he sees as transitory. But one who had true faith in the Old Testament, who was influenced by the widespread teachings of that time, asserted — not allegorically, but as a fact: As regards myself I am isolated; but I am a member of a great organism, of a great living whole reaching back to Father Abraham. Just as my finger can remain a living member only as long as it is part of my body, so my memory is contingent upon my feeling myself a member of the great folk organism that goes back to Father Abraham. I am part of the great complex, exactly as my finger is part of my body. Cut off my finger and it ceases to be a finger: it is safe only as long as it is part of my hand, my hand part of my arm, and my arm part of my body; it ceases to have meaning if severed from my hand. And in like manner, I myself have meaning only when I feel myself a member of all the generations through which the blood flows down from Father Abraham. Then I feel sheltered. My individual ego is transient and fleeting, but not so this whole great folk organism way back to Father Abraham. When I sense and feel myself wholly embraced by it I conquer my temporally transient ego: I am sheltered in one great ego, the ego of my people that has come down to me from Father Abraham through the blood of the generations.
That represents the conviction of the Old Testament adherents: all the great events narrated in the Old Testament, everything that today seems miraculous, occurred through the power of the inner experience contained in the words, I and Father Abraham are one. But the time came when men were destined to relinquish this state of consciousness for another, hence it gradually disappeared. That is why Christ could not address those who, on the one hand, had lost the magic power of influencing by means of blood ties, and on the other, still believed only in the common bond with Father Abraham. Clearly, among these Christ could not find the faith necessary for enabling His soul to flow actively into other souls; and for this purpose He had to turn to those who, owing to their mixed blood, no longer clung to this old belief: to the Galileans. That is where His mission had to commence. Even though the old state of consciousness was generally on the wane, still He found in Galilee a medley of peoples that stood at the beginning of the era in which blood became mixed. From all quarters tribes assembled here that had previously been governed solely by the forces of the old blood ties. They were on the point of finding the transition. They vividly retained the feeling that their fathers were still endowed with the old consciousness states, that they possessed the magic powers which act from soul to soul. Among these people Christ could inaugurate His new mission, which consisted in endowing man with an ego consciousness no longer bound to blood relationship; an ego consciousness which could say, It is within myself that I shall find the connection with the spiritual Father Who, instead of letting His blood flow down through the generations, radiates His spiritual force into each individual soul. The ego which is within me, and which is in direct communion with the spiritual Father, was before Abraham was. It is for me, then, to infuse into this ego a force that will be strengthened through my being aware of my connection with the spiritual Father force of the world. I and the Father are one. No longer I and Father Abraham — that is, a physical ancestor.
Such were the people to whom Christ turned, people who had arrived at the point of understanding this, people who, having broken away from the blood ties by intermarriage, needed to find the strong force — not in consanguinity, but in the individual soul: the force that can lead men gradually to express the spiritual in the physical. — Do not ask, Why do we not see things happening today as they happened then? Aside from the fact that he who has the will to see them can see them, we must remember that men have emerged from that state of consciousness and descended into the world of matter; that the period in question represented the boundary line; and that Christ used the last representatives of the previous epoch of human evolution in whom to demonstrate the power of spirit over matter. The signs that were done while the old state of consciousness was still present, but disappearing, were intended as an example and a symbol — a symbol of faith.
Now let us turn to this Marriage in Cana of Galilee itself. If I were to develop in detail all the implications indicated in the John Gospel, in the entire Gospel content, fourteen lectures would certainly not suffice: several years would be needed. But such a literal development of the subject would only serve to confirm what I can suggest in brief elucidations.
The first thing we are told in connection with this first sign is:
There was a marriage in Cana of Galilee.
Here we must stop to realize that the John Gospel contains not one word that has not a definite meaning. Well, then: why a marriage? Because a marriage brings about on a single occasion what the Christ mission effects with such far-reaching results: it brings people together. And then, a marriage “in Galilee”? It was in Galilee that the ancient blood ties were severed, that mutually alien bloods came to mingle. Now, Christ's task was intimately connected with this mixing of blood, so we are here dealing with intermarriages having the object of creating progeny among people who are no longer related by blood.
What I am now about to say will seem very strange to you. What would people have felt in such a case in very old times when there still prevailed the close or endogamous marriage, as one is inclined to call it in the spiritual-scientific sense? We must realize that the transformation of this close marriage into a distant or exogamous marriage is very much a part of human evolution, and that what I have already said explains what an endogamous marriage means. Among all people of ancient times it was contrary to law to marry outside of the tribe, away from consanguinity. People related by blood, members of the same tribe, intermarried; and this custom of marrying within the tribe, within blood relationship, resulted in the marvel of engendering intense magical force. This can be verified at any time by means of spiritual-scientific research. The descendants of a blood-related tribe possessed, as a consequence of such intermarriage of relatives, magical powers that permitted one soul to act upon another.
Let us imagine that in ancient times we had been asked to attend a wedding, and that the customary drink — in this case, wine — had given out. What would have happened? Provided the right relations existed among the blood-related members of this wedding party, it would have been possible, through the magical power of love arising out of consanguinity, for the water — or whatever was offered later in place of wine — to be sensed as wine as a result of the psychic influence of the people present. Wine is what they would have been drinking if the right magical influence had been exerted by the one person on the rest. Do not tell me this wine would still have been but water! A sensible person would reply to that: For the human being, things are of the nature in which they communicate themselves to his organism: they are what they become for him, not what they look like. I believe that even today many a wine lover would like water if, by means of some influence or other, it appeared to be changed into wine; that is, if it tasted like wine and produced the same effect in his organism. Nothing else is necessary than that a man should take water for wine. — What, then, was required in olden times to render possible such a sign as that of the water in the vessels becoming wine when it was drunk? The magical power deriving from blood relationship, that is what was required. And furthermore, those assembled at the Marriage in Cana of Galilee possessed the psychic capacity for sensing that sort of thing. Only, a transition had to be brought about.
The story continues in the John Gospel:
And the mother of Jesus was there: and both Jesus was called, and his disciples, to the marriage.
And since they lacked wine, the mother of Jesus drew attention to this, and said to Him:
They have no wine.
I said that a transition must be effected if such an event is to take place: the psychic force had to be assisted by something. By what, then? Here we come to the utterance which, as it is usually translated, is really a blasphemy; for I believe it will strike any sensitive person as offensive when, to the statement “they have no wine”, Jesus replies: “Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come.” From any angle it is impossible to accept that in a document of this sort. Imagine the ideal of love, as the Gospels describe the relations between Jesus of Nazareth and His mother, and then try to imagine Him using the expression, "Woman, what have I to do with thee"! It is not necessary to say more: the rest must be felt. But the point is, these words are not in the text. Examine this passage in the John Gospel and then look up the Greek text. This contains nothing more than the words employed by Jesus of Nazareth in indicating a certain event:
Woman, this passeth over from me unto thee.
What He referred to was that subtle, intimate force which passed from soul to soul, from Him to His mother; and that is what He needed at this moment. Greater signs He was as yet unable to perform: for this the time must gradually ripen. Therefore He says: My time — the time when I shall work through my own force — is not yet come. — For the present, that magnetic psychic union between the soul of Jesus of Nazareth and His mother was still indispensable.
“Woman, this now passeth over from me unto thee.” Otherwise — well, after an utterance like “Woman, what have I to do with thee?” why would she turn to the servants and say, “Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it”? She had to possess the old forces of which nowadays people can have no conception; and she knew that He referred to the blood tie between them, to the bond that should then pass over into the others. Then she knew that something like an invisible spiritual force held sway, capable of effectuating something. — And here let me beg you to read the Gospel — really to read it. I ask how anyone can come to terms with the Gospel who believes that something happened at that wedding — I really don't know what — that six ordinary jars stood there “for the purifying of the Jews”, as we are told; and that according to ordinary observation — without reference to anything such as we have just been considering — the water turned into wine. How could such a thing have come about externally?
What is the meaning of this miracle? And what is the belief in it held by him who stands before you — in fact, the only faith anybody can have in a miracle? Can it be that here one substance was transformed into another for the benefit of those present? No ordinary interpretation will get us far. — We must assume that the jars which stood there contained no water, for nothing is said about their being emptied. But it says they were filled, so if they had been emptied and then refilled — assuming the water had really been changed to wine as by a sleight of hand trick — one would really have to believe that the water which had previously been in the jars had been turned into wine. You see, this does not help: nothing squares.
We must understand that the jars must obviously have been empty, because a special significance attached to the filling of them. “Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it,” the mother had told the servants. What sort of water did Christ need? He needed water fresh from the sources of nature; and that is why it was necessary to specify that the water had just been drawn. The only water suitable for Christ's purpose was such as had not yet lost the inner forces that are inherent in any element so long as it is united with nature. As has been said, the John Gospel contains not one word that is not fraught with deep meaning. Freshly drawn water had to be used because Christ is the Being Who had but recently approached the earth and become associated with the forces that work in the earth itself. Now, when the living forces of the water work, in turn, with “that which flows from me unto thee”, it becomes possible for the event described in the Gospel to take place. The governor of the feast is called, and he is under the impression that something unusual has occurred. He does not know what this was — it is specifically stated that he had not seen what happened — only the servants had seen it; but under the influence of what has taken place he now takes the water for wine. That is stated clearly and distinctly, so we know that through psychic force even an outer element — that is, the physical component of the human body — was affected.
And what did the mother of Jesus of Nazareth herself have to possess in order that at this moment her faith might be sufficiently great to produce such an effect? She needed just what she did indeed possess: the realization that He Who was called her son had become the Spirit of the Earth. Then her strong force combined with His, with that which acted from Him upon her, developed so mighty an influence as to produce the effect described.
Thus we have shown, through the whole constellation of conditions surrounding this first sign, how the unison of souls which results from blood ties produces an effect even in the physical world. It was the first sign, and the Christ force is shown at its minimum: it still needed the intensification resulting from contact with the mother's psychic forces, as well as the additional strength residing in certain forces of nature that remained intact in the freshly drawn water. The active force of the Christ Being is here shown at its least; but what is stressed as especially important is its influence upon the other soul and its calling forth from it an activity which the latter is fitted to perform. The essential point is that the Christ force had the power to render the other soul capable of exerting influences: it engendered in the wedding guests as well the ability to taste the water as wine. — But every real force increases through its own exercise, and the second time it is called upon it is already greater. Just as any ordinary force increases with exercise, so is especially a spiritual force strengthened when it has once been successfully applied.
The second of the signs, as you know from the John Gospel, is the healing of the nobleman's son. By what means was he healed? Here again the right answer will be found only by reading the Gospel in the right way and by concentrating on the crucial words of the chapter in question. In the fiftieth verse of the fourth chapter, after the nobleman had told Jesus of Nazareth his story of distress, we read:
Jesus saith unto him, Go thy way, thy son liveth.
And the man believed the word that Jesus had spoken
unto him, and he went his way.
Again we have two souls in accord, the soul of the Christ and that of the boy's father. And when Christ said, Go thy way, thy son liveth, what effect did this have? It enkindled in the other soul the force to believe all that Christ's words implied. These two forces worked together. Christ's utterance had the power so to kindle the other soul that the nobleman believed. Had he not believed, his son would not have recovered. That is the way one force acts upon another: two are needed. And already here we find a greater measure of the Christ force. At the Marriage in Cana it still required the support of the mother's force in order to function at all. Now it has progressed to the point of being able to impart the kindling word to the nobleman's soul. We behold an intensification of the Christ force.
Passing to the third sign, the healing at the Pool of Bethesda of the man who had lain sick for thirty-eight years, we must again seek the most important words that throw light on the whole subject. They are these:
Jesus saith unto him, Rise, take up thy bed, and walk.
Speaking of his being forced to remain prone, the sick man had previously said that he could not move:
Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am coming, another steppeth down before me.
But Christ spoke to him — and it is important that it was on the Sabbath, a day of general rejoicing and great brotherly love — clothing His injunction in the words, Rise, take up thy bed, and walk. This utterance we must take in conjunction with the other equally important one in which He tells him:
Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee.
What does that mean? It means that there was a connection between the man's sickness that had persisted for thirty-eight years, and his sin. We need not enquire at the moment whether the sin had been committed in this life or in a former one. The point is that Christ infused into the other's soul the force to accomplish something that reached right down into his psycho-moral nature. Here again we see an intensification of the Christ force. Previously, all that was involved was something intended to produce only a physical effect; but here it is a question of a sickness of which Christ Himself said that it had to do with the man's sin. At this moment Christ was able to intervene in the sick man's very soul. The previous sign still required the presence of the boy's father, but here the Christ force acts directly on the sick man's soul.
A special magic is lent this event by reason of its having been enacted on the Sabbath. Present-day man no longer has any feeling for such things, but the fact that this happened on the Sabbath meant something to a believer in the Old Testament: it was something out of the ordinary; hence the reason why the Jews were so indignant at the sick man was that he carried his bed on the Sabbath. That is an extraordinarily significant detail — people should learn to think when they read the Gospels. They should not consider it a matter of course that the sick man could be cured, that one now walked who for thirty-eight years had not been able to walk. What they should do is ponder a passage such as the following:
The Jews therefore said unto him that was cured, it is the sabbath day: it is not lawful for thee to carry thy bed.
What struck them was not that the man had been cured, but that he carried his bed on the Sabbath.
So it was an integral part of the healing of this sick man that the whole scene should play on the hallowed day. Christ Himself harbored the thought, If the Sabbath is indeed to be dedicated to God, the souls of men must enjoy special strength on this day by virtue of the divine force. — And it was by means of this force that He worked upon the man before Him; that is, it was transmitted to the sick man's own soul. Hitherto the latter had not found in his soul the force that would overcome the consequences of his sin, but now he has it as an effect of the Christ force. Another intensification. — As I have said, the essential nature of the miracles will be dealt with later, and for the moment we will pass on.
The fourth sign is the Feeding of the Five Thousand. Again seeking the most significant passage, we must bear in mind that an event of this sort should not be viewed in the light of present-day consciousness. Had those who wrote about Christ at the time the John Gospel was written believed what our materialistic age believes today, their narratives would have been very different, for quite other things would have struck them as important. In this case they were not particularly surprised even at the phenomenon of five thousand being fed from so small a supply; but what is most important and specially emphasized is the following passage:
And Jesus took the loaves; and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to the disciples, and the disciples to them that were set down; and likewise of the fishes as much as they would.
Just what is it that Christ Jesus does here? In order to bring about what was to take place He makes use of the souls of His disciples, of those who had been with Him and had by degrees matured to the level of His stature. They are a part of the procedure. They surround Him; and in their souls He can now evoke the power of charity: His force flows forth into that of the disciples. Of the manner in which this event could take place we will speak later, but here we must again observe an increase in the Christ force. At the previous sign He infused His force into the man who had lain sick for thirty-eight years, whereas here it acts upon the force of His disciples' souls. What is active here is the intensification of forces that proceeds from the soul of the master to the souls of the disciples. The force has expanded from the one soul to the souls of others: it has grown.
Already at this point, then, there dwells in the disciples' souls the same principle that dwells in the soul of Christ. Anyone inclined to ask what happens as a result of such an influence should observe the facts, should consider what actually occurred when Christ's powerful force acted not alone but kindled the force in other souls, so that it then worked on. There are none today with such living faith: they may believe theoretically, but not with sufficient strength. But not until they do so will they be able to observe what occurred there. Spiritual research knows very well what occurred.
So we observe a step-by-step increase of the Christ force. — The fifth sign, told in the same chapter, begins:
And when even was now come, his disciples went down unto the sea, and entered into a ship, and went over the sea toward Capernaum. And it was now dark, and Jesus was not come to them. And the sea arose by reason of a great wind that blew. So when they had rowed about five and twenty or thirty furlongs, they see Jesus walking on the sea, and drawing nigh unto the ship: and they were afraid.
Modern publishers of the Gospels assign to this chapter the highly superfluous title, “Jesus walks on the sea” — as though that were stated anywhere in this chapter! Where does it say, “Jesus walks on the sea”? It says, “The disciples saw Jesus walking on the sea.” That is the point. The Gospels must be taken literally. It is simply a case of the Christ force having again increased in strength. So powerful had it become as a natural result of its exercise in the previous deeds that not only could it now act from one soul upon another — not only could the soul of Christ communicate itself, in its force, to other souls — but the Christ could live in His own form before the soul of another who was ripe for it.
The event, then, occurred as follows: Someone who is absent possesses so great a force that it acts upon men at a distance, far away. But the influence of the Christ force is now so powerful that it does more than set free a force in the disciples, as had been the case with those who had sat with Him on the mountain: there the force had merely passed over into the disciples in order that the miracle might be performed. Now, although their physical sight could not reach the Christ, they had the power to see Him, to behold His very form. Christ could become visible at a distance to those with whose souls His own had united. His own form is now sufficiently advanced to be seen spiritually. At the moment when the possibility of physical vision disappeared, there arose in the disciples all the more intensely the ability to see spiritually — and they saw the Christ. But the nature of this seeing at a distance is such that the image of the object in question appears in the immediate vicinity. — Again an increase of the Christ power.
The next sign is the healing of the man born blind; and this narrative, as it appears in the John Gospel, is again particularly distorted. Doubtless you have often read the story:
And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth. And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did this sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind? Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents; but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.
And then He healed him.
We need only ask, could any Christian attitude interpret the matter as follows? Here is a man born blind; his blindness is not a result of his parents' sin, nor of his own; but he was rendered blind by God in order that Christ might come and perform a miracle for the glory of God. In other words, in order that a miraculous act might be ascribed to God, God had first to make the man blind.
The original passage was simply not read correctly. It does not say at all that “the works of God should be made manifest in him”. If we would understand this miracle we must examine the old usage of the word “God”. You can do this most readily by turning to another chapter in which Christ is positively accused of asserting of himself that He and God were one. How does He reply?
Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are Gods?
What Christ meant by this answer was that in the innermost soul of man there is the potential nucleus of a God: something divine. How often have we not pointed out that the fourth principle of the human being is the potential human capacity for the divine! “Ye are Gods.” That is, something divine dwells in you. It is not the human being but something different, not the person of a man as he lives on earth between birth and death; and it is different also from what man inherits from his parents. Whence derives this element of divinity, this human individuality? It passes through repeated earth lives from incarnation to incarnation: it comes over from an earlier earth life, from a previous incarnation. Hence we read, not the man's parents have sinned, nor has his own personality — the personality one ordinarily addresses as “I”; but in a previous incarnation he created the cause of his blindness in this life. He became blind because out of a former life the works of the God within him revealed themselves in his blindness. Christ Jesus here points clearly and distinctly to karma, the law of cause and effect.
What principle in man had to be worked upon if this kind of sickness was to be healed? Not upon what lives as a transitory ego between birth and death: the forces must penetrate deeper, must enter the ego that continues from one life to another. Again the Christ force has increased. Hitherto we have seen it influencing only what is directly before it; now it acts upon the principle that survives human life between birth and death, that continues from life to life. Christ feels Himself the representative of the I Am. As He pours His force into the I Am — as thus the exalted God of Christ communicates Himself to the God in man — the blind man receives the force enabling him to heal himself from within. Now Christ has penetrated to the innermost being of the soul. His force has acted upon the eternal individuality of the sick man and strengthened it by causing His own force to appear in this individuality, thereby influencing even the consequences of former incarnations.
What intensification still remains for the Christ force to achieve? None but the ability to approach another and awaken in him the capacity for enkindling the Christ impulse in himself, so that his whole being is saturated with it and he becomes another, a Christ-permeated man. And that is what occurred in the Raising of Lazarus, where we find still another increase in the Christ force. It has progressed step by step throughout.
Where else in the world could you find a lyrical document of such glorious composition? No other author has mastered composition on such a plane. Who would not bow down in reverence when reading the marvellous step-wise upbuilding in the narrative of these events! Even contemplating the John Gospel only as an artistic composition we cannot but feel deep reverence. It all grows step by step and rises steadily.
One point remains to be elucidated. We have pointed out a number of isolated features tending to show the intensification in the sequence of signs, of miracles; but the narrative embraces a great deal in between, and we must examine the organization of the whole. Tomorrow it will be our task to show that, in addition to the admirable intensification in the miracles, there is definite purpose in the way all the connecting links are embodied: we realize that these could not possibly have been filled in better than was done by the writer of the John Gospel. Today we have considered its artistic composition and found it unthinkable that a work of art could be more perfectly or beautifully composed than is the John Gospel up to the description of the Raising of Lazarus; but only one who can read aright and knows what is essential senses its great and mighty meaning. It is the mission of anthroposophy to bring this meaning before our souls. But this John Gospel contains more. Our expositions of it will be followed by others imbued with a wisdom loftier than ours; but this wisdom will in turn serve to find fresh truths, just as during the past seven years our wisdom has served to find what cannot be found without anthroposophy.