The Gospel of St. John
XII. The decline of the ancient wisdom and its renewal through the Christ-impulse.
5 July 1909, Cassel
We have now reached an important point, the climax, we might even say, of our considerations. It goes without saying that we should have to surmount all manner of difficulties in the course of our study and explanation of the Gospels. Therefore, before continuing today, it might be well for me to give a brief review of what was said yesterday with regard to fundamental principles.
As we know, the development of mankind in ancient times was essentially different in form from that of the present day; we also know that the characteristics presented by man become increasingly different the further we revert to ancient conditions. We have already noticed that we can trace evolution backwards from our time (which we may call the central European civilization) to the Graeco-Latin period; thence to the Egypto-Chaldean period, and thence again to that age in which the ancient Persian people were led by Zarathustra. We then arrive at that remotely ancient Indian civilization, so very different from our own — a civilization which followed in point of time upon a great cataclysm. This cataclysm, which ran its course in storms and upheavals of the elements of air and water, led to the disappearance of that continent inhabited by the human race before the Indian civilization — ancient Atlantis, situated between Europe, Africa, and America. It also led to the migration of peoples westwards and eastwards — westwards to settle in America and eastwards in the various countries of Europe, Asia, and Africa which had gradually assumed their present form. The Atlantic period, especially in its earlier portion, produced a humanity which, as regards the soul, was totally different from that of the present day. But precisely the conditions of soul are of greatest interest to us in the evolution of mankind. Now of what nature was the life of the soul in the old Atlantean period?
We know that man's consciousness at that time was totally different from what it was later; he possessed a certain ancient gift of clairvoyance, but not as yet the faculty of clear, distinct self- or Ego-consciousness. For Ego-consciousness is only acquired when man learns to distinguish himself from outer objects. Let us picture to ourselves what would happen in our time if a man were not able, under present conditions, to distinguish between himself and his environment. In answer to the question: ‘What is the boundary of my being?’ man is, from his present standpoint, to a certain extent justified in saying: ‘My limit, as a human being, is where my skin separates me from the world outside.’ Man believes that nothing belongs to him save what is bounded by his skin; beyond this are external objects which he sees before him and distinguishes from himself. He knows that he no longer is and can be a whole human being, if a part of that which is contained within his skin is removed. Now to say that a man is no longer whole if a piece of his flesh is cut off, is, from one point of view, correct. But at the same time we know that man inhales air at every breath, and that this air is all around us in our immediate environment; this is the very air which in the next moment will be within us. Cut off the supply of this air and you can no longer exist. You are less whole than you would be if the hand within your skin were cut off. Strictly speaking, therefore, we must admit that it is not true that we are bounded by our skin. The air surrounding us is part of us, we breathe it in and out continually and we have no right to make an arbitrary boundary of our skin. If people would acquire some understanding of this truth (it would have to be theoretical at first, not being provided by external perception), they would be obliged to reflect upon things that are not borne in upon them by the outer world itself. If it were possible for a man to watch the current of air flowing into him, expanding in him, being transformed in him and then leaving him, if he could see it at every moment, he would never dream of saying that it was any less a part of him than his own hand. he could reckon the air as belonging to himself and would regard it as an hallucination to claim that he was an independent being able to dispense with his environment. The Atlantean was safeguarded against this illusion, for his observation clearly showed him something different. He saw the objects of his environment not in firm outlines but surrounded by a great coloured aura, as we see the street lamps on a misty autumn evening. This was because there is spirit between and among all things in the outer world; spiritual beings whom the Atlantean could still perceive with the dull clairvoyant faculty of those times. As the fog fills the interval between the lamps, so too there are spiritual beings everywhere in space. The Atlantean saw the spiritual beings as you see the fog; and they formed themselves for him into something like a misty aura enveloping external objects. The objects themselves were indistinct; but since he saw the spirit, everything of a spiritual nature that passed in and out of him was also perceptible to him. He therefore also perceived himself to be a part of the entire world around him. He saw on all sides currents which you cannot see today entering his body. Air is but the densest of these; currents of a far subtler nature flow into the human being. Man has lost the ability to behold the spiritual because he no longer possesses the old gift of dim clairvoyance. The man of Atlantis saw the spiritual currents streaming in and out, as your finger, were it conscious, would see the blood streaming in and out of it, and could know that it must perish if it were cut off. Just as your finger would feel, so too the Atlantean felt himself to be the member of an organism. He felt currents flowing into him through eyes, ears, and so on, and he knew that if he were to force himself out of their reach, he would cease to be a human being. He felt as if he were poured out into the whole outer world. He saw the spiritual world but could not distinguish himself as a being apart from it, for he was without a strong Ego- or self-consciousness in the present sense of the word. This consciousness was developed when everything which revealed to him in a spiritual way his dependence on the surrounding world receded from his observation. Inasmuch as the spiritual became invisible to him, he found it possible to develop self-consciousness or egoity, and this was precisely the task allotted to post-Atlantean humanity. After the great Atlantean cataclysm, the spiritual world receded from the consciousness of man, as he was then constituted, and the physical world of sense became visible to him with increasing clearness. But things do not come all at once in the development of the world; they evolve slowly and by degrees. In the earliest post-Atlantean times clairvoyance was an ordinary human accomplishment; and whatever men beheld in the spiritual world was continually perfected, amplified, and kept alive by the initiates who, as we have seen, were led into the spiritual world by special methods already described, and thus became the messengers of that which had formerly been seen by all men more or less. Legends and myths, especially those related to the oracle-sanctuaries, preserve for us the truths of ancient times far better than any external historical research. In these places certain persons were thrown into abnormal states of consciousness — a dream or mediumistic condition we might now call it — a condition which was below the level of ordinary waking consciousness, and during which they indeed remained within the objects of the outer world but did not see these. This was not the original old clairvoyance but an intermediate state, half dreamlike, half clairvoyant. When people wished to know something concerning particular circumstances in the world; if they wished to know how to act upon some occasion or other, they consulted the oracle, where conditions of shadowy clairvoyance still existed as an heritage of the old faculty.
Thus wisdom was bestowed upon man at the beginning of his evolution; wisdom flowed into him. But the stream dried up by degrees; even the initiates, in the abnormal state to which they were subjected (for their etheric body was withdrawn when they were led into the spiritual world), even they by degrees could only attain uncertain results in their observation of the spiritual world. They, however, who had not only partaken of the old initiation but had advanced with their age, and were at the same time prophets of the future, recognized that a new impulse was needed in humanity. An ancient wisdom had been bestowed upon mankind when it descended from divine spiritual heights; but the light of this wisdom had grown dimmer and dimmer. Formerly all men had possessed it; then only a few, under special conditions in the oracles; then only the initiates, and so on.
‘The day must come,’ so said the initiates who knew the signs of the time, ‘when the old stock of wisdom will have lost its power to lead and guide mankind. Humanity will then fall a prey to doubt and uncertainty affecting the will, the actions, and the feelings of men. And as wisdom gradually dies out, men will be led by their own folly; their Ego will grow increasingly powerful, so that, when all wisdom had withdrawn, each individual will begin to seek it in his own Ego, to develop his own feelings and his will — each for himself — and men will become ever more isolated, more estranged from each other, and ever less capable of mutual understanding. Since each individual would have nothing but his own thoughts, and these would not come to him from universal wisdom, no individual will understand the thoughts of his fellow; and since their feelings would not be guided by universal wisdom, men will become involved in conflict, and the same applies to their actions. Human beings will all act, think, and feel in mutual opposition, and humanity will be finally cleft asunder into a host of individuals at strife with each other.’
Now what was the outer sign expressing this phase of evolution? It was the transformation which humanity experienced in the nature of its blood. In early times, as we know, ‘near’ (consanguineous) marriage was the rule. Marriage was contracted within the kindred stock. But in time, the consanguineous tie was replaced to an increasing extent by marriage with strangers. Foreign blood became mixed with foreign blood and the heritage of ancient times became ever scantier. Let us once more recall Goethe's words which we quoted yesterday:
‘From my father I have my stature and life's most earnest conduct; From my mother a happy nature and delight in telling fables.’
We saw yesterday that these words were an allusion to the fact that the content of man's etheric body is inherited from the maternal element, as handed down from generation to generation. So that every human being bears in his own etheric body the legacy of the maternal element, while his physical body harbours the heritage of the paternal element. So long as blood relationship was in force, the heritage handed down from etheric body to etheric body was strongly effective, and the old faculty of clairvoyance was bound up therewith. The offspring of consanguineous marriage inherited in their etheric body the old faculty of wisdom which was handed down to them with the family blood. But when the blood became mixed through the intermarriage of tribes foreign to each other, the possibility of inheriting the ancient wisdom grew increasingly rare. For, as we said yesterday, the blood of the race gradually altered, and its intermingling obscured the ancient wisdom to an increasing extent. In other words, the blood, the bearer of inherited maternal qualities, became less and less able to bequeath the old gift of seership. Through the evolution of their blood, men became less and less capable of seeing into the spiritual world. Physically considered, therefore, human blood underwent a change incapacitating it from being the bearer of the old wisdom which had guided mankind so surely, and developed an increasing tendency to fall into the other extreme and become the bearer of egoism — that is, of a quality which leads to isolation and mutual opposition among men. Hence blood became less and less capable of uniting human beings in love.
We are now of course still involved in this process of blood deterioration, for, having begun in ancient times, it will slowly pursue its course until the end of earth evolution. For this reason an impulse was needed in humanity to repair the evil wrought by this deterioration of the blood. Adherence to the principle of blood relationship could not but lead men into error and misery, as the old sages tell us in their myths and legends. Men could no longer rely upon the remnants of inherited wisdom. ‘Even if thou dost consult the oracle and ask what is to happen, the answer thou receivest will most surely lead thee into the fiercest strife and conflict!’ The oracle foretold, for instance, that Laios and Jocasta would have a son who would kill his father and wed his mother. Nevertheless, in spite of this heritage of ancient oracular wisdom, the blood tie could no longer be prevented from falling a victim to error: Oedipus slays his father and weds his mother; he commits parricide and incest (in spite of the oracle).
The old sage meant: Men once possessed wisdom; but even had it remained in their possession, the development of their Ego must necessarily have proceeded apace; and egoism would attain such power that blood would war against blood. With nothing but the old wisdom to guide it, the blood element is no longer adequate to lead humanity to a higher stage. Thus the clairvoyant initiate, to whom the original image of the Oedipus legend is due, wished to hold up to mankind a warning vision, saying: ‘Such would be your fate if nothing came save the old wisdom of the oracles!’ In the Judas legend we find still more clearly indicated what would have been the fate of this old oracular wisdom. The mother of Judas was also prophetically warned that her son would slay his father and wed his mother, whereby untold misery would be brought to pass. And it all happened as foretold. That is to say, the inherited ancient wisdom was incapable of guarding man from the danger into which he could not but fall, were no new impulse to come to mankind. Now let us enquire into the precise reason of this. Why was the ancient wisdom condemned to become gradually useless as regards its power over humanity? We shall find the answer to this question if we examine closely into the origin of the ancient wisdom in its relation to mankind.
I have already indicated that in early Atlantean times the connection between the human physical and etheric bodies was of very different nature than in later times. Considered today, the physical and etheric bodies may be said roughly to coincide; this is especially the case with the head portion. But this applies only to the present time. In early Atlantean times we find the human etheric head largely extending beyond its physical counterpart on all sides. The etheric body, especially as regards the head, was far outside the physical body. Atlantean evolution saw the gradual drawing in of the etheric body until both finally coincided. Now so long as the etheric body was outside the physical head, it was subject to very different conditions from those of later times. It was connected on all sides with other spiritual beings and with spiritual currents which, as they streamed in and out, endowed the Atlantean etheric body with the faculty of clairvoyance. This clairvoyance, therefore, was due to the incomplete union of the etheric body with the physical head, whereby the head was exposed on all sides to the action of spiritual forces which endowed the etheric body with the faculty of clairvoyance. Then the time came when the etheric body drew into the physical body. It tore itself away from these forces, but not completely; it began to cut itself adrift from the influences which had bestowed upon it the faculty of clairvoyance and enabled it to behold the wisdom of the world. The contrary effect was obtained by the old initiations; here the etheric body was raised out of the physical, and the etheric head was once more brought into touch with the action of the surrounding forces, whereby clairvoyance again ensued. Now had this contact of the etheric body with its spiritual environment been severed at one stroke in the middle of the Atlantean period, the old clairvoyance would have disappeared far more rapidly; there would have been no remnants of it left over for the post-Atlantean period, and humanity would have preserved no recollection, in later times, of its ancient clairvoyance. As it happened, however, men did not lose every contact with the external forces and currents, and something else too occurred. Though it had wrested itself away from the action of its spiritual environment, the etheric body nevertheless retained something of its pristine wisdom — a last remnant of what it contained before it drew into the physical body — a ‘small saving’, if the expression may be used. It is as if a father earns money and his son continually draws upon him according to his needs. Man absorbed wisdom from his environment, as he needed it, until his etheric body broke away from the higher worlds. Now, to keep to our comparison, let us suppose that the son loses his father; only a part of his father's fortune is left to him, and he earns nothing himself. Thus a time must come when he will have exhausted this remnant and be destitute. This was the position in which man found himself. He had wrested himself from his Father-wisdom and, having added to it nothing by his own work, subsisted on it up to the Christian era; and even in our time he is still living on his inheritance and not on his own earnings. He is living, as we might say, on his capital. In the earliest period of post-Atlantean civilization, man still possessed a part of his capital, without having acquired this wisdom for himself; he was living on the interest and occasionally received an additional allowance from the initiates. Finally, however, the coin of the ancient wisdom lost its currency, and when Oedipus was paid in it, it was no longer of any value. The old wisdom could guard neither him nor Judas from the most terrible error.
This was the course followed by human evolution. Now how was it that man gradually consumed his capital of wisdom? It was because at an earlier time he had admitted into himself two kinds of spiritual beings; first the ‘Luciferic’ beings, and then, in consequence of these, the ‘Ahrimanic’ or Mephistophelian beings. These prevented him from adding anything by his own labour to the store of ancient wisdom. Their activity within human nature was such that the Luciferic beings degraded man's passions and feelings, while the Ahrimanic beings distorted his view of the world. Had the Luciferic beings not intervened in the evolution of the earth, man would never have acquired the excessive interest in the physical world which lowers him below his status. Again, had the Ahrimanic or Satanic beings not intervened (in consequence of the Luciferic beings), man would know and would have known that there is a spiritual part behind every object of sense. And he would see through the surface of the outer sense world to the spiritual world beyond. But Ahriman has clouded his perception with something like a dark veil of smoke, through which man cannot pierce to the spiritual world. Through Ahriman man is enmeshed in falsehood and entangled in a web of Maya or illusion. These two classes of beings hinder man from adding to the old store of wisdom that he once received; and so it dwindled away and became by degrees entirely unfit for use.
Nevertheless, in certain other respects, evolution proceeded on its course. In Atlantean times man descended into his physical body with his etheric body. It was, so to speak, his fatal misfortune to become ‘God-forsaken’ and to experience the influences of Lucifer and Ahriman in the physical world within the physical body. And it was precisely the influence of the physical body and of life therein which rendered the old store of wisdom unfit for use. How did this happen? In earlier times man did not live in his physical body; he drew from the old store of wisdom which belonged to his father; that is, the supply was outside his physical body, because he lived with his etheric body outside his physical body. This store was gradually exhausted. Man should have had a store in his own body, if his supply of wisdom was to be increased. But he had no such store, no source for the renewal of his wisdom in his own body, and the consequence was that every time he quitted his physical body at death, there was less wisdom in his etheric body. The etheric body became poorer and poorer in respect of wisdom after each incarnation. But evolution runs its course; and just as the etheric body drew into the physical, in Atlantean times, the development to which we are tending in the future will consist of the gradual detachment of the etheric from the physical body. Whereas the etheric body continually drew into the physical, until the coming of Christ, the moment was then at hand in which the course of evolution changed. The moment Christ appeared, the etheric body began to retrace its course, and at the present day it is less firmly united with the physical body than at the time of Christ's presence on Earth. The physical body has become thereby still coarser.
The future will see man's etheric body loosened to an increasing extent from the physical, and a stage will gradually be attained at which the etheric body will be as far outside the physical as in Atlantean times. We will pursue our comparison a little further.
If the son who lived from his father's bounty spends everything and earns nothing himself, his prospects will be increasingly gloomy. But if in his turn he has a son, the latter will not be in the same position as his father. His father had at least inherited something and could at any rate continue to spend it. But the grandson has nothing left him; he inherits nothing and is destitute. This was more or less the course of human evolution. When the etheric body entered the physical, taking with it a supply of divine wisdom from the store of the Gods, it brought wisdom into its physical body. But the Luciferic and Ahrimanic beings prevented this wisdom being increased and supplemented in the physical body. When the etheric body now again detaches itself from the physical, it takes nothing with it from the latter; and were nothing else to occur, the consequence would be that man would enter upon a future state in which his etheric body would indeed belong to him, but would contain no vestige of wisdom, no vestige of knowledge. And whereas the physical body would dry up completely, the etheric body would also be destitute, because it could derive nothing from the physical in its withered state. If, therefore, the physical body is to be guarded from becoming withered in that future state, strength must be imparted to the etheric body — the strength of wisdom. As it is about to detach itself from the physical body, and while it is still in the latter, the etheric body must receive the power of wisdom. While still in the physical body it must receive something to carry away with it. And when it is outside, having received this wisdom, it reacts upon the physical body, brings life to it and prevents it drying up.
There are two possibilities for the future evolution of mankind. One of these is as follows:
Man might evolve without Christ. In this case his etheric body would derive nothing from the physical and would leave the latter in an empty state; moreover, being itself destitute, it could not vivify the physical body and prevent it from crumbling away and drying up. Man would gradually lose all the fruits of his physical life; his physical body having become sterile he would be obliged to abandon it. But man comes to earth precisely in order to receive a physical body. The germ of the latter was given in earlier times, and without the finished form of his physical body man would never fulfil his mission upon earth. Now the influences of Lucifer and Ahriman have appeared on earth. If man acquires nothing while in his physical body; if the etheric body, having exhausted the ancient store of wisdom, takes nothing new with it upon leaving the physical body, then the mission of the Earth is doomed; it is lost to the universe. Man would bring nothing with him into the future — nothing but the empty etheric skull which he brought replete into earthly evolution.
But now let us suppose that some event happened at the right moment, thanks to which, man was enabled to permeate his etheric body with wisdom, enlivening it as it quits the physical body. The etheric body would still detach itself in the future, but now, endowed with new life and vigour, it could apply these forces to the fortifying of the physical body. But it first must needs receive and possess this strength. Then, the etheric body having itself first received strength and life, the fruits of human earthly existence are saved. Then the physical body does not merely decay, but, though itself corruptible, it assumes the form of the etheric body, the incorruptible. And the resurrection of man, with the harvest reaped in the physical body, is assured.
An impulse, therefore, was necessary to earth whereby the dwindling treasure of ancient wisdom might be replenished and new life be instilled into the etheric body, so that the physical body, itself doomed to corruption, might put on incorruption and fill itself with an etheric body which renders it incorruptible and carries it safely out of earthly evolution. This very life, permeating the etheric body — it was Christ who brought it! To Christ therefore we owe it that the physical body, otherwise dedicated to death, is transformed and preserved from corruption, receiving the power to put on the incorruptible. Life, fresh life, was poured into the human etheric body by the Christ-impulse, the old life having been consumed. And looking into the future, man must say: ‘When one day my etheric body will be outside the physical, my development must have been such that my etheric body is entirely filled with Christ. Christ must live in me. In the course of my earthly evolution I must by degrees wholly permeate my etheric body with Christ!’
What I have just described to you are the deeper processes which elude external observation, the spiritual processes behind the physical evolution of the world. But what must the external form have been?
What was it that entered the physical body with the Luciferic and Ahrimanic beings? There entered the tendency to decay, to dissolution, in other words, the tendency to death. The germ of death entered the physical body. Had not Christ descended to earth, this death-germ would have developed its full power at the end of the earthly evolution. For then the etheric body would be powerless for all time to reanimate the human being; and earthly evolution having reached its end, everything in the nature of a physical body would fall a prey to corruption, and the very mission of the Earth would be overtaken by death. When we consider death today, our present life is at every moment a token of that universal death which would ensue at the end of earthly evolution. The endowment once bestowed upon mankind dwindles slowly and by degrees. Nothing but this fund of life bestowed upon man makes it possible for him to be reborn again and again, and to pass from incarnation to incarnation. The possibility of life externally considered in the succession of incarnations would not come to an end until the end of earthly evolution. But in the course of time it would become apparent that the human race was dying out. Member after member would be affected and the physical body would shrivel up. Had the Christ-impulse not been given, the human being would perish limb by limb as earthly evolution drew to its close. Now the Christ-impulse is only at the beginning of its development; it makes its way among men slowly and by degrees, and it will be left to future generations to show the full significance of Christ for humanity, on to the end of earthly evolution.
But the various human institutions and interests have not been equally affected by the Christ-impulse; there are many things in our day which have been left quite unmoved by it and must wait for a future time. A striking example will show how in our own day a whole region of human activity has been left quite untouched by the Christ-impulse.
About the sixth or seventh century before Christ, as the pre-Christian era was drawing to its close, the ancient wisdom and the ancient power, as they affected human knowledge, began to wane. In respect of other manifestations of life, the ancient wisdom long retained its youthful freshness and vigour, but in all that affected knowledge it was on the decline. From the eighth century before the Christian era and onward, there remained what might be called the remnant of a remnant. Had we retraced our steps to the days of Egypto-Chaldean, ancient Persian, or Indian wisdom, we should have found it everywhere imbued with true spiritual perceptions and the fruits of ancient seership. For those who were not themselves highly clairvoyant, there were the teachings of the seers. A ‘science’ not founded upon clairvoyance did not exist and never had existed, either in Indian or Persian times, or later. In the earliest Greek times, too, there was no science without underlying clairvoyant research. Then, however, the time approached when clairvoyant research came to an end, as far as human science was concerned. Then we see the rise of a new human science which is devoid of clairvoyance, or, at least, from which clairvoyance is cast out step by step.
Seership dwindles away; so too the belief in the communications of the seers; and a human science is founded, in the sixth and seventh centuries before the coming of Christ, from which the results of spiritual investigation are increasingly excluded. And so it goes on. With Parmenides, Herakleitos, Plato, and even Aristotle, in the writings of the old naturalists and physicians, it can be shown at every turn what we know as science was originally saturated with the results of spiritual investigation. But spiritual science dwindled away and became ever scantier. As far as the faculties of the soul are concerned, it still exists; as regards feeling and willing, it is still there, but in the region of human thought it was exhausted by degrees. Thus with regard to human scientific thought, the influence of the etheric over the physical body had begun to dwindle at the time of the coming of Christ. Everything proceeds by slow degrees. Then Christ came and gave the impulse; but of course this impulse was not received at once by all men; it was accepted in certain quarters and rejected in others; in the domain of science it was clearly repudiated. Take the science of the Roman Empire. See what Celsus, for instance, says. You will find all kinds of trivialities in his works regarding the Christ. Celsus was a great scholar but he had no understanding for the Christ-impulse in its effect upon human thought. Thus he relates that ‘a couple named Joseph and Mary are said to have once lived in Palestine; these were the originators of the sect called the Christians. But everything related of them is nothing but superstition. The truth is that the wife of this Joseph betrayed her husband with a Roman captain named Pintera. Joseph did not know who was the father of the child.’
This was one of the accounts most widespread at that time. Anyone who follows our contemporary literature will know that certain individuals of the present day have not advanced beyond the standard of Celsus. It is true that the Christ-impulse gains ground in some departments of life, though slowly; but in the particular domain of which we are now speaking, it has made no impression hitherto. Here we see one part of the human being, to wit, something in the human brain, that is perishing; whereas science would experience a revival in a quite different form, if the brain were influenced by the Christ-impulse. Strange as this may sound in our time of scientific fanaticism, it is nevertheless true. That part of the human brain which is the chosen instrument of scientific thought is doomed to a lingering death. Here we see how the old heritage slowly and by degrees disappeared from scientific thought. We see that Aristotle still possessed a relatively large share; but in the course of time science is drained of its ancient heritage and, though enriched by its later acquisitions in the field of outer experience, it finally becomes God-forsaken as regards thought, and has nothing left of the old treasure. Indeed, we see that it is possible even for those who strongly experience Christ, to fail to find a connection between the Christ-impulse and man's conquests in the domain of science. There are visible proofs of this. Imagine a man in the thirteenth century intensely penetrated by the Christ-impulse, and that this man had said: ‘We have the Christ-impulse. It comes to us from the Gospel like a flood of mighty new revelations, and we can penetrate ourselves with it!’ Let us assume that this individual has singled out for himself the task of creating a connecting link between science and Christianity. Even in the thirteenth century he would have found nothing suitable for his purpose in contemporary science. He would have been obliged to revert to Aristotle, and with Aristotle alone, not with the science of the thirteenth century, he could have interpreted Christianity. For science was becoming less and less capable of union with the Christ-principle. For this reason the men of the thirteenth century were obliged to revert to Aristotle; he still possessed some of the ancient heritage of wisdom and could furnish the concepts by which science and Christianity could be reconciled. Science then became poorer and poorer in ideas precisely inasmuch as it became richer in observations. Finally the time came when all the conception of ancient wisdom vanished from science. The greatest of men are of course children of their age with regard to their science. Galileo himself could not derive his thought from the Absolute; he could only think the thought of his age. And his greatness is due precisely to the fact that he establishes purely ‘God-forsaken’ thought, purely mechanical thought. With Galileo a great revolution in thought takes place. The most ordinary phenomenon of physics was explained differently before and after Galileo. A stone is thrown. Today we are told that the stone continues its motion until the latter is arrested by the influence of another force, the power of inertia. Before Galileo, people thought entirely differently; they were convinced that if the stone continues its course, it must be impelled by someone; something active was behind the flying stone. Galileo revolutionized human thought and taught men to view the world as a mechanism. Today it is in every sense an ideal to explain the world from the mechanical standpoint, as a mechanism, from which all spirit is eliminated. This is due to the fact that those portions of the human brain which are the instrument and organ of scientific thought are today so deadened that they are unable to convey new life to the conceptions they form, and the latter becomes ever poorer and poorer.
As things are, it is a fact that science has not grown richer in ideas. The ideas of antiquity are far more replete with life, far loftier and grander. The ideas of Darwinism are like a squeezed lemon. Darwin merely collected data and connected these with the now impoverished concepts. This trend of science distinctly points to a process of gradual atrophy. There is a part of the human brain in process of decay — namely, the part which functions in modern scientific thought. And this is due to the fact that the part of the etheric body which should enliven this atrophied brain has not yet attained the Christ-impulse. Science will remain lifeless until the Christ-impulse flows into this part of the human brain also, whose function it is to serve science. This is grounded in the great laws of the universe. If science continues as heretofore, it will become increasingly poor in ideas. Ideas will die out more and more. And such types will appear to an increasing extent in science as are intent merely upon adding fact to fact, and have a terrible fright when someone begins to think. It is a terrible experience for a modern professor when a young candidate brings him a thesis containing even a modicum of thought. But we have an Anthroposophy today; an Anthroposophy which will bring home the Christ-impulse to mankind in ever clearer fashion, and thereby supply the etheric body with life to an increasing extent. It will supply such abundant life that the parched portion of the brain which is responsible for our modern scientific thought will be rendered supple. This is an example of the revitalization of the perishing human members by the Christ-impulse, as it gradually penetrates into the life of humanity. As time goes on, this perishing process would spread to other parts of the human being; nevertheless for each perished part, the Christ-impulse will flow into mankind, and, at the end of human evolution, all the members which would have perished, failing the Christ-impulse, will be revitalized by it. That impulse will then have permeated the whole etheric body, and the latter will have become one with it. The first impetus to the gradual regeneration of mankind, the first impulse to the resurrection of man was given at a particular moment, beautifully described in the Gospel of St. John.
Let us picture Christ as a universal Being come into the world; let us think of the beginning of His great work as accomplished in an etheric body penetrated through and through by Himself. For the etheric body of Jesus of Nazareth had been transformed by Christ into precisely so perfect a vehicle that it could impart new life even to the physical body. The instant in which the etheric body of Jesus of Nazareth (in which Christ then was) had become capable of imbuing the physical body with new life in the fullest sense, in that instant the etheric body of Christ appears transfigured. The writer of the Gospel of St. John describes the moment:
‘Father, glorify Thy name. And there came a voice out of Heaven. I have both glorified it and will glorify it again.
‘The multitude therefore that stood by and heard it said it had thundered.’
It is said that the people who stood by heard the thunder; but it is nowhere stated that any person who had not been duly prepared could have heard it.
‘Others said an angel had spoken to Him.
‘Jesus answered and said, this voice hath come not for my sake but for your sakes.’
Why was this? So that all who are around Him might understand what had happened. And Christ speaks of what had happened, saying:
‘Now is the judgment of this world; now shall the Prince of this world be cast out.’
Lucifer-Ahriman was cast out of the physical body of Christ in that moment. The great example is there, which in future must be followed by the whole of mankind. The hindrances of Lucifer-Ahriman must be cast out of the physical body through the Christ-impulse. Man's physical body must be so vivified by the impulse of Christ that the fruits of the mission of the Earth may be carried over into the times which will follow the Earth-period.