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The Rudolf Steiner Archive

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The Gospel of St. John
GA 112

XIV. The Earth as the body of Christ and as a new centre of light.

7 July 1909, Cassel

To the unprepared it may well appear strange that, yesterday, the name of the Father-Spirit of the world should have been associated with the name of death. But you must also remember the simultaneous statement that the form in which death appears to man in the physical world is not its true form. The outer world, inasmuch as it must necessarily appear subject to death, cannot present its true form; it cannot truly manifest the divine, spiritual Being which underlies it and upon which it is founded. Strictly speaking, this is equivalent to saying that man is subject to an illusion, to a great deception or maya regarding all that is displayed to his senses and that he perceives in space. Could he recognize the true form of things, he would be aware of the spirit. Could he recognize death in its true form, he would see therein precisely the expression which the sense-world must have, in order that it may itself be the expression of the divine Father-Spirit.

Before our earth could come into existence, it was necessary that an earlier, super-physical world should densify to physical matter or substance, in an earthly sense. Hence it was possible for the outer world to be the expression of a divine, spiritual world, which thus had something like a work of its own creation outside and beside itself. All previous forms of existence of our planet were of such a nature that they were contained more or less within the divine Being. On ancient Saturn there was as yet neither air, nor water, nor earth; that is, no solid body as we know it. Saturn was a body composed solely of warmth; it was neither more nor less than space filled with warmth; and all things on Saturn were as yet in the bosom of the divine Father-Spirit. And so it was too on the old Sun, though the latter was already densified to air. That planet of air — the old Sun — contained within itself (hence within the bosom of the divine, spiritual Being) all its creatures. On the old Moon, this was equally the case. On the Earth, Creation for the first time burst forth from the bosom of the divine, spiritual Being, and became something beside that divine Being. But into that which now existed side by side with the divine spiritual Being, and which grew into the robe, the garment, or physical corporeality of the human being, there now inserted themselves all the spirits which had fallen behind in their evolution. Owing to these circumstances, Creation did not become as it was destined to be, had it grown into an image of the divine, spiritual Being. This Being, having borne within itself all creatures — our mineral, vegetable, animal, and human kingdoms — sent them forth, spread as a carpet about itself. This was now an image of the divine, spiritual Being, and should have remained so. But the retardative element formerly expelled by the divine spiritual Being inserted itself into all this, and Creation became, as it were, dimmed in its lustre and of less value than it would otherwise have been.

This ‘obscuration’ arose in the period during which the separation of the Moon from the Earth was taking place — that period of which we said that, had no change taken place, and the Moon not been expelled, the Earth would have become a waste. But the human race had to be tended and cared for until man could achieve his independence. He had to clothe himself in a material body of earthly, physical substance, and was guided, from Lemurian times and onwards through the Atlantean period, in such a way that he became more and more able to incarnate in physical substance.

But in this physical substance were contained all the beings which had remained behind in their evolution. There was therefore no alternative for man but to incarnate in bodies beset by those beings. There were certain beings in Atlantean times who were then the companions of man. man himself was still clothed in a soft substance; what is now human flesh was not then in its present condition. Had we seen a human being of ancient Atlantean times, when the air was drenched with heavy masses of dense vapour and when man was an aqueous being, we must have seen in him a resemblance to certain jelly-like creatures inhabiting the ocean and scarcely distinguishable from the water surrounding them. Such was the constitution of man in those times. He had all his organs, but these were in embryonic form and only gradually hardened; the human bones and so on developed by degrees and slowly. In the earliest stage, then, of Atlantean evolution there were also beings whom we might call the companions of men, the latter being as yet clairvoyant and able to see those beings whose actual dwelling place was the Sun, and who shed their light upon him in the Sun's rays. For it was not merely physical sunlight that streamed upon man; in that physical light, beings came towards him, beings whom he beheld. And when man himself was in a state comparable to sleep, he could say to himself: ‘Now I am outside my body and in the sphere where the Sun-beings live.’ Then came the time (towards the middle and last third of the Atlantean period) when the physical matter of the earth grew increasingly dense and man began to develop his self-consciousness. Then there were no longer such beings for man to see. These withdrew from the earth and became invisible to that sight with which man beheld the things of the earth. Through the Luciferic influence, the attraction by which man was drawn into sense matter became ever more powerful. It then became possible for a Being whom we must name Lucifer so to insinuate himself into the human astral body, that man descended ever deeper into a dense physical body. The beings, however, who were man's former companions rose ever higher. They would have nothing to do with the beings who remained behind, and broke away from these. The Luciferic beings entered into the human astral body, but the higher beings broke away from them and thrust them down, saying: ‘Ye shall not rise with us! See how ye can find your way below!’ One of those higher beings is represented to us in the figure of Michael who thrust the Luciferic beings down into the abyss and restricted their activity to the earthly sphere. Here they seek to exercise their powers in the astral bodies of men. The home of these beings was therefore no longer in ‘Heaven’. They were thrust down to Earth by the other, higher beings whose scene of activity was to be found in Heaven. But all evil, all wickedness has its good aspect and is also grounded in the wisdom of the world. These beings had to be left behind in the world, in order that they should draw man down into physical matter, for here alone could man learn to address himself as ‘I’ and develop his self-consciousness. Without the entanglement in illusion or maya, man would never have learnt to address himself as ‘I’. But he would have been overwhelmed by the powers of illusion, Lucifer-Ahriman, had they succeeded in holding him captive.

I must now make certain statements which I beg you to receive, I might say, with all the caution that has been developed in you by knowledge; for you will understand these thoughts aright only if you reflect upon them and take them literally, though not ‘literally’ in the usual materialistic sense.

What purpose had the Luciferic-Ahrimanic spirits in view with regard to the physical world? Having united themselves with human evolution in Atlantean times, what did they desire to accomplish with all the beings now in the world and under their influence?

These beings — Lucifer and Ahriman — desired nothing less than to preserve all beings on Earth in that form in which they are interwoven in dense matter. When, for instance, a plant grows, springs up from its root, sends forth leaf after leaf in its progress to flower, the intention of Lucifer and Ahriman is to prolong this budding and growth indefinitely; that is, to make the being which is striving to develop there, resemble and retain the physical form it inhabits, and thus wrest it from the spiritual world. For if they succeeded in making this being similar to its physical form, they would, we might say, sunder Heaven from the Earth. With all animals too, Luciferic and Ahrimanic spirits tend to make the spiritual part resemble the physical form which it inhabits, and make it forget, in matter, its divine spiritual origin. The same influence is at work in human beings.

In order that this might not be, the divine Father spoke: ‘It is true that the beings of Earth have won for themselves, in man, their summit, the knowledge of external things in the Ego; but man may not yet be allowed power over life.’ For the form which life would then assume would be such that the beings would be torn asunder from their divine root; man would identify himself with his physical body and would for ever forget his divine origin. It was to save the remembrance of man's spiritual origin that the divine Father-Spirit bestowed on all beings that strive downwards into matter the blessing of death. It thus became possible for the plant to shoot up, in its growth, till the moment of fructification and, at that moment, to begin to wither, in order that a new plant form should emerge from the seed. But when it enters the seed, the plant is for a moment in the divine spiritual world and is refreshed by that world. The same applies to man in particular. Man would be spellbound on earth and would forget his spiritual origin were not the power of death extended over the earth; for death makes it possible for man to have continual access to new sources of strength, in the intervals between death and a new birth, so that he should not forget his divine origin.

When we come to scrutinize it, where can we find death on earth? Let us approach some being, say, a plant that delights our eye with its splendid blossoms. In a few months it is no longer there. Death has passed over it. Look at the animal, one that is attached to us or some other: in a short time it is no longer there. Death has passed over it. Behold the human being as he lives and moves in the physical world: after some time death passes over him and he is no more. For if he were still there he would forget his divine spiritual origin. Behold the mountain. The time will come when the volcanic activity of our earth will have swallowed up the mountain: death will have passed over it. Turn where we will, there is nothing in which death is not interwoven. Everything on earth is steeped in death. Thus death is a benefactor when it carries man out of an existence which would seclude him from the divine spiritual world. But it was essential that man should enter the world of the physical senses; for here alone could he gain his self-consciousness and human egoity. Were he to pass through death again and again, taking nothing with him from this kingdom of death, he would indeed return to the divine spiritual world but without consciousness, without egoity. He must carry that egoity with him into the spiritual world. Therefore he must fructify the kingdom of earth, with which death is interwoven, so that death may become the seed of a selfhood in eternity, in the spiritual world. But it is the Christ-impulse which has made it possible for death (which would otherwise mean annihilation) to be transformed into a seed of everlasting selfhood. The true form of death was presented to mankind for the first time on Golgotha. By His union with death, Christ, the image of the Father-Spirit, made His death on Golgotha the starting-point of a new life, and, as we saw yesterday, of a new Sun. Henceforth it is true that everything in the nature of the former apprenticeship of humanity can now be discarded, since man has won for himself an Ego for eternity, and can advance into the future with his rescued self, which will to an increasing extent become the fashioned image of the Christ-self.

Let us take, for example, in this room, the first seven branches of this candelabrum, as a symbol of the first period of human evolution — the Saturn period. Every evolutionary period runs its course in seven smaller periods; thus we have in the first seven flames a symbol of the force which sustained man during the Saturn evolution. Again in the second group of seven lights we have a symbol of the forces which sustained man during the old Sun period. Similarly in the third group of seven lights we have a symbol of the forces which built up the human being during the old lunar evolution. And in the fourth group we have a symbol of all the forces by which man has been organized during the evolution of the earth. We see the central light still burning in this fourth group of seven; the next are but faintly visible. Here, then, where you see the central light, is the point of time when the Christ-light flashed upon evolution. Had not the Christ-impulse intervened, the other lights would never be kindled, nor could the succeeding periods of evolution follow. Today they are still in darkness. Now if we would represent future evolution in a similar symbolical way, we must allow the first light to die out, when the light next after the central is kindled and begins to burn brightly; and when the next following is lit, we must let the second light die out, and so on. For we have here the beginning of a new Sun evolution. When the lights have all been kindled to the last, the first will have been extinguished, because their fruits will have passed into the last lights and into the future. Thus we have a past evolution in which the moving force was the Father-Spirit. Had the Father-Spirit continued to work as before, the lights would have to be extinguished one by one, because Lucifer and Ahriman are interwoven in evolution. But the Christ-impulse has come; a new light now shines and a new cosmic Sun arises.

Yes, death as a consequence of Lucifer and Ahriman, is necessarily interwoven in all natural existence. Moreover, without Lucifer and Ahriman, man would never have attained independence. On the other hand, with these spirits alone, independence would have grown stronger and stronger, and in the end would have led to oblivion of man's divine spiritual origin. For this reason even the human body must partake of death. Of ourselves we could never have carried our selfhood into eternity, had not the outer expression of selfhood, which is in the blood, become subject to death.

We have in us the blood of life, the red stream, and the blood of death, in the blue stream. In order that our selfhood may live, the life in the red blood must every instant be destroyed in the blue blood. Were this life not killed, man would be submerged in life to the extent of forgetting his divine spiritual origin. Thus we have, in this room, as symbols of these two kinds of blood, two pillars, one red and the other blue; the one symbolizing life which indeed flows from the divine Father, but in a form in which it would lose itself; the other symbolizing the destruction of the first. Death is the stronger, the more powerful, and causes the destruction of the element which would otherwise become lost in itself. But annihilation of something which would otherwise annihilate itself signifies a call to resurrection. Thus you see that a true interpretation of the gospel of St. John enables us to gain insight into the meaning of all life. What we have learnt today and yesterday is, in substance, nothing less than the fact that at the point of our evolutionary age, when the Christian era begins with a new figure ‘I’, something took place which was of supreme importance for the whole evolution of the earth and of the universe, inasmuch as cosmic evolution is one with that of the earth. Yes, a new centre was then created when that Death was consummated on Golgotha. Since then the earth has remained united with the Christ-Spirit. He had gradually approached and since that moment is in the earth. It is therefore necessary that men should learn and know that the Christ-Spirit has been in the earth since that time, and is contained in everything that the earth produces. Failure to recognize the Christ-Spirit in things means viewing them from the standpoint of death, while the recognition of the Christ-Spirit means cognition from the standpoint of life.

We are at the beginning of specifically Christian evolution. Its future must bring the recognition of the entire Earth as the body of Christ. For Christ has dwelt in the Earth since that time and has created therein a new centre of light. He penetrates the Earth, sends His radiance forth into the world, and remains eternally united with the aura of the Earth. To see the Earth today devoid of the Christ-Spirit underlying it, means seeing nothing but the corruptible, perishing earth, the decomposing corpse; into however many small particles we split it up, we see nothing but the corpse of the earth in dissolution if we do not understand the Christ. Wherever we see nothing but material substances, we have an illusion before us. In the same way you do not find the truth concerning the human inhabitant of the Earth when you study his decaying corpse. If you study his corpse you cannot (without being inconsistent) but regard the earth and its elements as composed of material atoms, and it is quite immaterial whether they are extended in space or are centres of force. Atoms of which our earth is supposed to be composed can only be the corpse of the earth; something which is continually dissolving and will one day vanish when the earth itself is no more. For the Earth is in dissolution! The truth will escape us until we see in every atom a part of the Christ-Spirit which has been there since that time. Of what then does the earth consist, since it was penetrated by the Christ-Spirit? To the last atom the Earth consists of Life, since Christ permeated it, and atom is devoid of value nor can it be recognized in its true nature unless we see in it a sheath that encloses a spiritual part; this spiritual element is a part of Christ.

Now take anything that is of the Earth; when would you be judging of it correctly? When you said: ‘This is a part of the body of Christ!’ What else could Christ say to those who desired to know Him? In breaking the bread made of the corn of the Earth, Christ could say to them: ‘This is my body!’ What could He say in giving them the juice of the vine, which is the juice of a plant? ‘This is my blood!’ Because He had become the soul of the Earth, He could say of that which is solid: ‘This is my flesh!’ and of the juice of the plant: ‘This is my blood!’ As we should say of our flesh: This is my flesh; and of our blood: This is my blood. Those who are able to grasp the true meaning of these words of Christ form for themselves thought-images which attract the body and blood of Christ in the bread and in the juice of the grape. They draw to themselves the Spirit of Christ therein and unite themselves with it.

Thus the symbol of the Last Supper becomes a reality. Without the thought of communion with Christ in the human heart, no power of attraction to the Christ-Spirit can arise in the Sacrament of Holy Communion. But by means of these thought-forms this power of attraction can be developed. for all those, therefore, who require an outer symbol to accomplish a spiritual act (the union with Christ) the Sacrament of Communion will be the way — that is, it will be the way until their inner strength has grown so powerful that they are filled with Christ and can unite themselves with Christ without the outer physical medium. The Sacrament of Communion is a preparation for the mystic union with Christ, a preparatory step. This is the light in which we must regard these things. And just as everything evolves from the physical upwards to the spiritual under the influence of the Christ-impulse, so everything originally intended as a link must also evolve under the influence of Christ. The Sacrament of the Lord's Supper must evolve from the physical to the spiritual plane in order to lead to a true union with Christ. These things can only be slightly indicated, for they will not be rightly understood unless they are received with a full sense of their sacred nature.

It was incumbent on man to recognize Christ's presence in the Earth in consequence of the event of Golgotha. This recognition was to become ever clearer, penetrating all knowledge. For this purpose, however, mediators were necessary. One of the first great mediators was he who, from Saul, became Paul. What was it possible for Saul to know, in his character of Jewish initiate? We can express it roughly in the following words:

He could partake of all the knowledge in the possession of Jewish occult teaching; he could know what Moses had seen in the burning bush and in the thunder and lightning of Mount Sinai, as ‘Ejeh asher ejeh’, Jahve, or Jehovah; he knew that this was drawing near the Earth; had approached the Earth; and would once appear in a human body, and in this body effect the rejuvenation of the Earth. At the same time, however, he was governed by the opinions of his age and the Jewish law. He had witnessed the event of Golgotha, but he was not in a position to admit that He who died on the Cross was the Bearer of the Christ. The events which he had experienced and witnessed were not of a nature to convince him that He whose advent he had been led to expect in the sense of his Jewish initiation, had been incarnate in the body of Jesus of Nazareth. What was it, therefore, that he must needs experience in order to arrive at the conviction that the immortal Spirit of Christ was really present in the mortal body of Jesus of Nazareth on Golgotha?

From his Hebrew initiation Paul knew that if the Christ-Spirit had been in a human body and if that human body were dead, Christ must be present in the aura of the Earth. Then it would be possible for one who could behold the aura of the Earth with spiritual eyes, to behold Christ. This was known to Paul. Hitherto, however, he had been incapable of insight into the Earth-aura. He was, it is true, an initiate as far as wisdom was concerned, but not a seer. Yet he possessed, as he himself mentions, one of the first requisites to become a seer in an abnormal way. He alludes to it as an act of ‘grace’, bestowed upon him from above. He tells us that he was born prematurely or ‘out of due time’, as it is usually rendered. He was not borne the full term within the maternal organism. He had descended from the spiritual into the physical world before fully immersing himself in all the elements of earthly existence. He had entered the world before the unconscious ties, which unite us to the spiritual powers, are broken. Thus the vision of Damascus became possible for one whose spiritual eye was opened in consequence of his entry into the world out of due time. By his premature birth Paul was predisposed to spiritual vision. He gazed into the Earth-aura and there beheld the Christ. The time, therefore, when Christ had trod the Earth in a human body must already have been! Here was the proof that Christ had died on the Cross! For He, of whom Paul knew that He should conquer death upon Earth, had appeared to him as the Living Christ. The meaning of the death on Golgotha was now clear to him. He knew that Christ had risen from the dead. For he whom he had now seen could never before have been beheld in the aura of the Earth. Paul now understood the words: ‘It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks!’

What is meant by the ‘pricks’? Paul himself has told us: ‘O death, where is thy sting? In vain wouldst thou kick against the pricks; for didst thou do this thou wouldst only recognize death. But thou canst no longer kick against death; for thou hast seen Him who has vanquished death!’

In consequence of this experience, Paul became that apostle of Christianity who proclaimed above all things the living, the spiritually living Christ.

How was it possible to see Christ in the aura of the Earth? It was because the etheric body of Jesus of Nazareth was, needless to say, completely penetrated by Christ. It was therefore an etheric body which had the physical vehicle so completely under its mastery and dominion that it could reconstruct the physical body after death; that is, it could assume such a form that all the familiar features of the physical body were there again, but by the force of the etheric body itself. When therefore Christ was seen after His death, it was His etheric body which was seen. But for those who (through the strength imparted to them by these events) were able to recognize as a real body, not only a physical body, but also an etheric body bearing all the marks of the physical — for such, Christ was risen as a real Bodily Presence. And so He was in truth!

We are told in the Gospels that when man has so far progressed in his evolution that his corruptible part develops an incorruptible, he is then also endowed with a higher vision. Moreover we are told that Christ was recognized by those who had already at that time developed such higher vision. This is told plainly enough; only people fail to read what is actually in the Gospel. Take, for instance, the first appearance of Christ after the Crucifixion.

‘But Mary was standing without at the tomb, weeping; so, as she wept, she stooped and looked into the tomb; and she beholdest two angels in white sitting, the one at the head, the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain.

‘And they say unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? She saith unto them, Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid Him.

‘And when she had said thus, she turned herself back, and beholdeth Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus.

‘Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepeth thou? Whom seekest thou? She, supposing Him to be the gardener, saith unto Him, Sir, if thou have borne Him hence, tell me where thou hast laid Him, and I will take Him away.

‘Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turneth herself, and saith unto Him in Hebrew, Rabboni, which is to say, Master.’

Now let us imagine that we had seen someone a few days ago, and that we see the same person again a few days later. Can you believe it possible that we should not recognize him? Can you believe that you would ask him whether he were the gardener, and where he whom you were seeking had been laid, when he himself was standing before you? But we are forced to believe this of Mary (or of her who is here alluded to as ‘Mary’), if you assume that a physical eye could have recognized Christ and seen Him in the same way as physical eyes had seen Him before. Read the Gospel according to the Spirit!

In the first place the sacred force of the Words must penetrate the woman as a power. That was essential. The Words echoed in her heart and kindled within her the memory of everything which she had recently seen. And this made her spiritual eye capable of seeing the risen Christ. Does not Paul say the same?

In the case of Paul, it can never be doubted that he saw Christ with the spiritual eye, at a time when Christ was again to be found in the higher spiritual regions, in the aura of the Earth. What does Paul say? As a proof that Christ lives, he affirms that He had appeared, and brings forward, as appearances of equal importance, that: ‘He had been seen by Cephas, afterwards by twelve. After that He was seen of about five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain unto the present, but some are fallen asleep. After that He was seen of James, then of all the apostles. And last of all, He was seen of me, also, as of one born out of due time. For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle.’

He placed the visions of the others exactly on a par with his own — and his vision was possible only for spiritual sight. Paul therefore says plainly: ‘In like manner as I have seen the Christ, so has He been seen by the others also.’ Through all that they experienced, says Paul, the power was kindled in them to behold the Christ as One risen from the dead. Now we understand what Paul means. His view will at once be recognized as the anthroposophical spiritual view; that is, it assures us: ‘There is a spiritual world, and when we contemplate this world with the power bestowed upon us by the Christ-impulse, we penetrate into it and find Christ Himself there, Him who underwent death on Golgotha!’ This is what Paul meant to say. And it is possible for man (especially through what is known as Christian initiation), with patience and endurance, to acquire by degrees the faculties enabling him to behold the spiritual world — to behold Christ Himself face to face, in the spirit.

In other lectures I have often described the initial steps by which we rise to the vision of the Christ-Being Himself. The pupil must live over again all the steps described in the Gospel of St. John. Only the very briefest description can now be given of the manner in which the human being, when he resolves to live through a certain scale of feelings, can rise into the spiritual world which has been illuminated by the Light of Christ since the Crucifixion.

The pupil begins by saying to himself: ‘I consider the plant; it flourishes and grows out of the mineral soil. But if the plant could be conscious, like man, it should bend to the mineral kingdom, to the soil out of which it has grown, and say: Thou stone art today a lower creation among the works of Nature than I; but without thee, lower kingdom, I could not subsist!’ And likewise, if the animal were to approach the plant and feel that the plant is the support of its existence, it would reflect; ‘As an animal, I am a higher being than thou, O plant; but without thee I could not exist!’ And the animal would bow down with humility and say: ‘To thee, lowly plant, which art humbler than I, I owe my existence!’ And in the human kingdom too, it should be likewise. Everyone who has climbed higher on the ladder should bow down in a spiritual sense to the one below him, saying: ‘Ye belong indeed to an inferior world,’ but as the plant must bend to the stone, and the animal to the plant, so must man, at a higher stage, add: ‘To thee who art humbler than I, I owe my existence!’ Then, when the pupil has so steeped himself in the feeling of a universal humility, for weeks and months, perhaps for years, under the guidance of a teacher fitted for the task, there comes a moment for him in which he knows what is meant by the Washing of the Feet. For he has a direct spiritual vision of the act accomplished by Christ as He, a higher Being, bent before the Twelve and did wash their feet. And the whole significance of the act flashes on the pupil as a vision, and he knows that the washing of the feet did take place. The bond of knowledge guides him so that he needs no further proof; he now gazes directly into the spiritual world and beholds Christ in the scene of the Washing of the Feet.

The pupil can then be led by the teacher, so that he can find strength to say: ‘I will bear all the sorrows and sufferings that may come to me in the world, courageously and without murmuring. I will so steel myself against the pains and sorrows that they cease to be such for me, and I can realize that they are necessities in the world!’ When the pupil has become sufficiently strong of soul, there grows up within him, out of that inner contemplation, the feeling of the Scourging. He experiences it spiritually in himself. The pupil is then instructed how to develop that force which belongs to a still higher stage, and which enables him not only to endure sorrow and suffering on the every hand, but also to say to himself: ‘There is something so sacred to me that I am ready to give my very self for it. Should the whole world cover me with scorn and derision, this will still be the Holiest for me! Mockery and ridicule from all sides will not withhold me from the Holiest, even though I stand alone. I pledge myself to defend it!’ The pupil then experiences inwardly, in the spirit, the Crowning with Thorns. He needs no historical records; his spiritual vision shows him the scene described in the Gospel of St. John as the Crowning with Thorns. Then, when the pupil learns, under suitable guidance, to regard his physical existence in a totally new light, then he learns to look upon his own body as something external, to be carried about with him; when this feeling and sensation have become so much a matter of course that he can say: ‘I bear my physical body through the world like an outer instrument’ he has reached the fourth stage of Christian initiation, the Bearing of the Cross. This does not make him a feeble ascetic; on the contrary, he learns to handle the instrument of his body much more effectually than before. When we learn to regard the body as something which we carry about with us, we have attained the fourth stage of Christian initiation, the Bearing of the Cross — then we have conquered for ourselves the power to behold in the spirit the scene in which Christ bears the Cross upon His back, as we have learnt, by the elevation of our soul, to carry our body like a piece of wood. Something then takes place which we must regard as the fifth stage of Christian initiation — what is called the Mystic Death. By our inner growth, everything around us, the whole physical world of sense, appears as if blotted out. Darkness compasses us about. Then comes a moment when the darkness is, as it were, rent asunder like a veil, and we see behind this physical world. While this moment lasts, something else takes place. We have learnt to know what sin and evil are; we recognize them in their true form — that is, we know, at this stage, what is meant by the Descent into Hell. Then we learn, while looking upon our body as something foreign to us, to regard everything else upon Earth as a part of ourselves, to the extent that our body is a part of ourselves, even as in the days of old clairvoyance. We learn to look upon the sufferings of others as those of a great organism to which we too belong; and we are united with the Earth inasmuch as we recognize the truth. We then have the experience of being laid in the Earth, the Burial. And being united with the Earth, we have also risen from it. For in this experience we have tasted what is meant by the words: ‘The earth is in process of becoming a new Sun!’ In these fourth, fifth, and sixth stages of Christian initiation we have attained the qualities enabling us to behold, in personal vision, the Event of Golgotha, and to live in intimate knowledge of it. We have now no need of traditional documents. These have served their purpose in leading us from step to step.

We have then reached the 7th stage, called the Ascension; in other words, the ascent into the spiritual world. This is the stage of which it is rightly claimed that no human language is capable of describing it; for no idea of it can be formed save by one who has learnt to think without the instrument of the brain. The miracle of the Ascension cannot become the object of thought save when the thinker has learnt to dispense with the physical brain as the instrument of thought.

Being capable of spiritual vision, they who were present as believers at the Crucifixion on Golgotha were in a position to see what was happening; they would have been able to see the Christ in the manner described to you, especially if He had revealed Himself to their opened spiritual eye in the aura of the Earth. They might have seen the Christ (even had he retained the same form, to a certain extent, which He had worn before), were it not that He, the Christ had won something for Himself by His conquest of death. We have now come to a conception which it is very difficult to grasp.

Man learns ceaselessly inasmuch as he increasingly develops his capacities, upon whatever stage he finds himself. But not man alone; every being, from the lowest to the highest spiritual being, learns in the course of increasing development. What Christ accomplished as a divine being in the body of Jesus of Nazareth has already been described, in its effects and its fruits for humanity. But now let us ask: Did Christ undergo within Himself any experience which led Him also to a higher stage? Yes, He did; even divine, spiritual beings pass through experiences leading them on to more advanced stages. His experiences, his ascent to a still higher world, He revealed to those who had been His companions on Earth, in the Ascension. Thus, one who is dependent upon the physical brain as the instrument of thought, who is neither an initiate nor a clairvoyant, can understand the first six stages of Christian initiation even if he cannot see them. But the 7th stage, the Ascension, can be understood by the seer alone — by one who is not limited to the instrument of the physical brain and who has experienced in himself what it signifies to think and to see independently of the brain. Such is the connection among these things.

Such was the course of the world's evolution during the period of which we have been privileged to speak in our 14 lectures.

We have seen how the Christ indicated that, in the case of the man born blind and healed by Himself, the offences committed by the man in a former life were to be made manifest. Thus when Christ appeared to humanity, He taught the doctrine of reincarnation, in as far as it could be understood. He taught Karma, the extension of causes from one incarnation to another; he taught it as one giving a practical lesson from life. He meant to say: ‘There will be a future time when all men will believe in karma and will understand that if a man commits an evil action, it is needless to punish him by an outer earthly tribunal; for that evil action necessarily brings in its train its own adjustment in this or a following incarnation. It is then only necessary to inscribe his deed in the great Law-book of the Akashic records, in the spiritual world. We, as men, need not condemn him, and can confide his offence to the spiritual laws, to be recorded in the spiritual world. We can leave the man to his Karma.’

‘Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. And early in the morning He came again into the Temple, and all the people came to Him; and He sat down and taught them.

‘And the Scribes and Pharisees brought a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst, they say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery in the very act. Now Moses in the Law commanded us that such should be stoned, but what sayest thou?

“This they said, tempting Him, that they might have to accuse Him.

‘But Jesus stooped down, and with His finger wrote on the ground.’

What did He write? He inscribed the sin in the spiritual world. And that sin will find its adjustment from out the spiritual world. But he reminded the others if perchance they themselves were conscious of no sin. For unless they themselves had nothing for which to make amends, they could not feel free from participation in the woman's sin and were unfit to judge her. As it was, they could not know whether perchance, in a former life, they had influenced this woman in such a way that she now committed adultery; they could not know whether they had not themselves committed this sin or laid the foundation of it in a former life. Everything is written in the book of Karma. Jesus wrote in the Earth, which He had already permeated with His spiritual light; that is, he confided to the Earth what should lie in the Karma of the adulteress. He meant to say: ‘Follow the path which I now mark out for you. Learn to say: We judge not; we leave that which is in the human being to the adjustment of karma.’ If we follow this rule we shall understand Karma. We need not teach it as a dogma; we have taught it in practice. That is how Christ taught it.

But such things could, of course, be written only by the one of Christ's pupils and disciples who had been initiated by Himself: Lazarus-John. Hence this was the only disciple who understood in full measure what results when a being has acquired the power (from the moment of the Baptism by John) to make himself master over the physical body, in the etheric body, so that the latter revives the physical body. Therefore the writer of the Gospel of St. John knew that it was possible to transform what appears outwardly as water, so that it becomes changed into wine by being taken into the human organism, when it is drunk. For this reason he understood that with a small number of fishes and loaves it is possible so to work through the power of the etheric body that the people's hunger is stilled. This is related to us by the writer of St. John's Gospel, if only we take the Gospel seriously. Where does he tell us that the few loaves and the few fishes were eaten as physical food is usually eaten? Nowhere do we find this stated, if you search the whole Gospel! He tells us plainly and distinctly, if we only take the words literally, that Christ broke the bread, but that He first gave thanks to Heaven:

‘And Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, He distributed to His disciples, and the disciples to them that were set down, and likewise of the fishes, as much as they would.’

The meaning of these words, when we read them in the original (they are badly rendered in German), is somewhat as follows:

The disciples distributed the loaves and the fishes and left it to everyone to do with them what they would. But in that moment no one desired anything but to feel the power issuing from the mighty etheric body of Christ Jesus. No one desired anything else; and by what were they satisfied? In the 23rd verse we read:

‘Howbeit there came other boats from Tiberias nigh unto the place where they did eat bread after that the Lord had given thanks.’

Through the giving of thanks, it was, that they had eaten the bread! They had not partaken of bread by performing the physical act of eating. Hence Christ could afterwards interpret the occurrence by saying: ‘I am the bread of life!’

What then had they eaten? They had partaken of the power of the body of Christ! What could it be that remained over? Nothing but the power of the body of Christ! This worked so mightily that a remainder could afterwards be gathered in.

According to occult teaching, every body is composed of 12 members. The topmost member of the body is called the ram; the next, the bull; that represented by the hands, the twins; the breast is called the crab; the region of the heart is called the Lion; the part below (the trunk) is called the virgin; the hips are called the balance; below that again, the scorpion; then the thigh is called the archer; the knee, the goat; the skin, the waterman, and the feet, the fishes.

Thus the human body is divided into 12 members, and with good reason. Now when they gathered the remainder, after the power of the body of Christ had been used to satisfy hunger, they must necessarily do so in 12 measures.

‘Therefore they gathered them together and filled 12 baskets with the fragments of the 5 barley loaves, which remained over and above unto them that had eaten.’

They had eaten the barley loaves; they had partaken of the force that proceeded from Christ. And they were filled with that force through the giving of thanks, when Christ called upon the spiritual realms from which He had descended. It is this way that we understand the working of the spiritual in the physical world. Thus we can also understand how the separate events group themselves within the central event — the evolution of our Earth into a Sun. They take their place as mighty generators of force in the Sun-genesis of our Earth. Therefore it will also be clear to us that then mighty impulse which was then communicated to the Earth could reach man only by degrees, slowly and gradually.

We pointed out yesterday that the Gospel of St. Mark was best adapted to be the first bringer of the great truths to those mature enough to receive them. This was the case in the earliest centuries of Christianity. Man was to regain by his own efforts the region from which he had issued. Let us endeavour to understand clearly how man himself, descending from spiritual heights, had reached the lowest depths at the time when the Event of Golgotha brought him the impulse to strive upwards again. Man had descended from divine spiritual heights and had fallen lower and lower. Then came the Christ-impulse and bestowed upon him the strength, when he permeated himself with the newborn spiritual light, to recover by degrees all that had once been his own, in the following way. In the period immediately following the life of Christ upon Earth, it was man's task to regain what he had lost during the centuries immediately preceding Christ's advent; this he was enabled to accomplish with the help of St. Mark's Gospel. Next, the Gospel of St. Luke, which directed man's attention to the inner life, was to help him reconquer what he had lost at a still earlier period.

But we said that 600 years before Christ's appearance on Earth, all that had been spiritually bestowed on mankind in earlier centuries and then been gradually lost, was embodied in the great individuality of Buddha. He comprised all the ancient wisdom existing in the world — all that mankind had lost and which he now had come to proclaim. Thus we are told that his birth was foretold to his mother Maya. It is further related that a prophet appeared who announced respecting the child: ‘This is the child who will become the Buddha, the Redeemer, the guide to immortality, freedom, and light.’ Other Buddha legends narrate further that Buddha, as a 12 year old boy, was once lost and that he was found sitting under a tree, surrounded by the minstrels and sages of older times, whom he taught. In my book Christianity as Mystical Fact you may read how, 600 years after Buddha, the same legends related of Buddha appear in the Gospel of St. Luke; how the truths revealed by Buddha came to light again, in a new form, in the Gospel of St. Luke. Hence we find in that Gospel the content of the Buddha legends. So perfect is the agreement in such matters, when they are examined in the light of spiritual research.

Thus the conviction is borne in upon us that the Gospel of St. John and the Gospels associated with it contain an infinity of depth. We have considered these depths in a series of lectures. Could we continue these lectures and double their length, we should still be able to extract new profound truths from the Gospels. And were we to double the time already doubled and then again double the result, there would still be new depths to fathom. We should have an inkling of new and ever new depths yet to be explored beneath the surface of these profound documents, in ages of human evolution to come. Man can indeed never cease learning from the interpretation of these documents. We need add nothing of our own to them; we need only prepare ourselves, with the help of occult truths, to discern what is really contained in the Gospels. Then the universal coherence of humanity, and again, the connection of humanity as a whole with the Cosmos will be revealed to us. This gives us a deeper and ever deeper insight into the spiritual world.

But we must not forget, after listening to a course of lectures like the present, to reflect that we have not merely added to our store of knowledge; not merely imbibed a number of isolated truths. This would be the least important part of the matter, although it is indispensable for the essential part. That, however, which should especially accrue to us from such considerations, is that everything which our mind has opened to receive, may, if we let it sink into our hearts, grow into a feeling for the cause, into emotions, and even into impulses of will. When the truths which we have taken into our intelligence have made our hearts glow, they become a force within us — a healing force for spirit, soul, and body. And then we say to ourselves: ‘We were plunged into the life of the Spirit during the time we contemplated the things of the spirit, and we acquired much from this spiritual life during our 14 days' study. But our gain has not been merely one of empty concepts and ideas, but of such conceptions and ideas as have the power to become a source of life within the soul — a living force in our feelings and emotions. These will remain in us; we can never lose them — we carry them with us into the world. Not only have we learnt something but we have grown more alive through all that we have learnt.’ Let us leave this lecture-cycle with feelings such as these; and spiritual science will become the content of our lives; something which, far from estranging us from ordinary life, will resemble an image of that which has been held up to us in these lectures as the Highest. It has been shown that death is indeed indispensable in the world, but that our view of death is not the right one. Christ has taught us to see death in the true light, and, in this light, death becomes the seed of a higher life.

Outside, beyond the sphere of these lectures, life surges, everyday existence runs its course. Human beings are merged in this existence. Spiritual investigation will not diminish that life by an atom. It will take nothing from it. But the opinions which are generally held regarding life, before the spirit has permeated it, are erroneous, and this error must appear to us as the illusion of life. This illusion it is, which we must allow to die out in us. Then, from the seed which we have gained through the illusion, a higher life will grow up within us. But this can only be if we receive into ourselves the living, spiritual view of things. This does not make ascetics of us in life; rather does it teach us to know life in its true form, so that we may carry with us into life a true command of the same, and a real gain. In this way we Christianize life to the extent to which we ourselves experience spiritual science in a Christian way, and find in it an image of that image of life which we see in death. Inasmuch as spiritual science guides our mode of thought, far from becoming estranged from life, we learn to know to what extent our views of life were wrong. Then we enter life strengthened by a right knowledge of it; far from retiring from life, we go forth as workers, having gained strength and vigour by a course of study such as the present, which leads us into the spiritual world.

If I have succeeded, even in a small measure, in giving to these lectures a form by which they may become fruitful for life; if they contribute, even in a slight degree, to enable you to feel spiritual knowledge as an elevation of life, as vital warmth in your feeling, thinking, and willing, and in your work — then the light which we have derived from our anthroposophical conceptions of the world may shine forth as the warm glow — as the fire of life. And if this fire is strong enough to keep alight and to burn on through life — then that has been attained which was my aim when I undertook to deliver these lectures.

With these words I would beg you to lay to heart the feelings which have been expressed to you, as a subject of inner meditation.