Building Stones for an Understanding of the Mystery of Golgotha
Berlin, 10th April, 1917
In our lecture today I should like to remind you how easy it is to misunderstand the real nature of the Mystery of Golgotha because we fail to recognize how difficult it is to achieve a deeper insight into that Mystery with our present mode of cognition. We may readily believe, for example, that through mystical contemplation, by turning inwards to seek the divine within, we shall find the Christ. The majority of those who have followed the path of mysticism have not found the Christ. We shall not find the Christ if we maintain, as many Theosophists maintain, that we must first become aware of the divine within and we shall then experience the Christ. That is not so. What, at most, under these circumstances may suggest the presence of an inner light, can never, if rightly understood, be called the Christ, but might be called a Universal Divine Being. And because we are not accustomed to differentiate today, even theoretically, many mystics believe that they can find the Christ through what is usually called mysticism, through a mysticism that is relatively uncontrolled. This is a delusion. And it is important to bear this in mind, just as it is important to note that the philosophies of the late nineteenth century down to our own times have developed, as subsidiary branches of philosophy, philosophies of religion which imagine that they are in a position to speak of the Christ. In effect, they portray — and can only portray — what may be called a Universal Divine Being, but not the Christ. The philosopher Lotze, for example, who attempted to probe deeply into this question speaks of such a Universal Being, but he would never dream of calling this Divine Being the Christ. Neither the mystical path nor the path followed by such philosophers can lead to an understanding of the true nature of the Mystery of Golgotha. In order to arrive at a fuller understanding of this Mystery I propose to call attention to certain characteristics of the conceptions attaching to it. Let us regard these conceptions in the first place purely as expressions of opinion.
It pertains to the essence of the Mystery of Golgotha, if it is to answer to the historical evolution of mankind, that Christ, by His death on the Cross, has thereby established a relationship with the whole cosmic order. If we deny the universality of Christ we are no longer in touch with Him. We may, in that event, speak of some kind of Universal Divine Being, but we cannot speak of the Christ.
There are many problems to be elucidated in connection with the Mystery of Golgotha and I propose to refer to some of them today. If we are to understand this Mystery aright we must come to terms with the problem: what did Christ Jesus mean by faith or trust? We have a far too theoretic, a far too abstract conception of faith today. Consider for a moment man's usual conception of faith [original note 1] when he speaks of the antithesis between faith and knowledge. Knowledge is that which can be demonstrated or proved; faith is that which is not susceptible of proof, and yet is held to be true. It is a question of the particular way in which we know or understand something. It is only when we speak of knowledge as faith or belief that we think of it as something which is not susceptible of final proof.
Compare this idea of faith with the conception which Christ Jesus preached. Let me refer you to this passage in the Gospels: “If ye have faith and doubt not ... but also if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done.” (Matt. XXI, 21.) How great is the contrast between this conception of faith, paradoxically yet radically expressed in the words of Christ, and the present-day conception which in reality sees in faith simply a substitute for knowledge. A little reflection will show what is the essence of Christ's conception of faith. Faith must be an active force, a force that accomplishes something. Its purpose is not simply to evoke an idea or to awaken knowledge. He who possesses faith shall be able to move mountains. If you refer to the Gospels you will find that wherever the words “faith” or “trust” appear, they are associated with the idea of action, that one is to be granted a power through which something can be effected or accomplished, something that is productive of positive results. And this is extremely important.
I should like to draw your attention today to another important question. The Gospels often speak of the mysteries of the Kingdom of God or the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven. In what sense do they speak of mysteries? It is somewhat difficult to grasp this idea. Those who have made a careful study of the Gospels from the occult standpoint are increasingly of the opinion that every sentence in the Gospels is immutable, every detail is of the greatest moment. All criticism is reduced to silence as one penetrates ever more deeply into the Gospels from the standpoint of Spiritual Science. Now before speaking of the mystery of the Kingdom of Heaven I must draw your attention to something that is highly characteristic.
In my earlier lectures on the Gospels I referred to that important passage which deals with the healing, or, one might call it, the raising of the twelve-year-old daughter of Jairus. Since we can speak openly here, I am able to refer to the deeper medical knowledge of an occult nature which is disclosed to those who study this miracle of healing from the standpoint of Spiritual Science. Christ went into the ruler's house and took Jairus’ daughter who was thought to be dead by the hand in order to heal her (Matt. IX, 22-25; Mark V, 22; Luke VII, 41). Now I must remind you that we can never arrive at an understanding of such matters if we do not relate the passage in question to the earlier and later passages. People are only too ready to detach certain passages from their context and study them in isolation, whereas they are interdependent. You will recall that as Jesus was summoned to the daughter of Jairus, a woman who was diseased with an issue of blood for twelve years came behind Him and touched the hem of His garment and was healed. Christ felt that “virtue” had gone out of Him. He turned round and said: “Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole.” We can understand these words only if we grasp in the right way the idea of faith referred to above: “Thy faith (or trust) hath made thee whole.” Now this passage in the Gospels has deep implications. The woman had suffered from an issue of blood for twelve years. Jairus’ daughter was twelve years old. She was sexually retarded and was unable to develop the maturity of the woman who had suffered from hemorrhage for twelve years. When Christ healed the woman He felt that “virtue” or power had issued from Him. When He entered the ruler's house He took the girl by the hand and transferred this power to her and so enabled her to reach sexual maturity. Without this power she must have wasted away. And thus she was restored to life. This shows that the real living Being of Christ was not confined to His person, but was reflected in His whole environment, that Christ was able to transfer powers from one person to another by virtue of His selfless regard for others. He was able to surrender the self in active service for others and this is reflected in the power which He felt arise in Him when the woman who had great faith touched the hem of His garment.
This mystery is related to the observation He frequently made to His disciples: “Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the Kingdom of God; but unto them that are without all these things are done in parables.” (Mark IV, 11.) Let us assume that the mystery of which I have just spoken — I do not mean simply the theoretic description I have given of it, but the power that was necessary before this transference could be effected — had been imparted to the Scribes and Pharisees. What would have happened if they had been able to transfer powers from one person to another? They would not always have transferred them wisely. It is evident from the Gospels that Christ did not expect the Pharisees, still less the Sadducees, to act responsibly. When transferring this force from one person to another they would have abused it, for such was their mentality, and would have caused untold harm. This mystery therefore had to remain a secret of the Initiates.
There are three significant factors to be considered in connection with the Mystery of Golgotha. I could mention many others. I will say more about this in my next lecture but for the moment I will confine myself to the essentials.
We must have a clear idea of what is meant by the expression: the Mystery of the Kingdom of Heaven. This has a quite precise meaning, as I was able to show in the example I quoted. Now when John the Baptist was about to baptize Jesus in the Jordan. he said: “The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” Here is the idea I want you to grasp. What did John the Baptist do? We are told — and this is clear from the context — that he baptized with water, as he himself said because the Kingdom of Heaven was nigh. He baptized with water for the remission of sins, saying “There cometh one mightier than I ... I have indeed baptized you with water, he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost” (Mark I, 7 and 5). What is the difference between the baptism of John and the baptism with the Holy Ghost?
We cannot understand what is meant by the baptism with water, nor what it alludes to — I have often described the manner in which the ceremony was performed — unless we summon to our aid the teachings of Spiritual Science. For many years I have been at great pains to elucidate this mystery by means of spiritual investigation.
It suddenly dawned on me that the way in which John the Baptist is presented to us in the Gospels carries most important implications. What was the significance of baptism with water? Externally, of course, John the Baptist baptized with the waters of Jordan. We know that the candidates for baptism suffered total immersion. During the immersion they experienced a kind of loosening of the etheric body, which bestowed on them a temporary clairvoyance. This is the real significance of the baptism by John and of similar baptisms. But when John spoke of baptism with water he was referring not only to this form of baptism, but more especially to the passage in the Old Testament which says: “The Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.” What was the purpose of the baptism with water in Jordan? It was intended that through the loosening of their etheric bodies and the experiences they underwent the candidates for baptism should feel themselves transposed into the condition of consciousness of the time before the “Fall”. Everything that had occurred since the Fall was to be erased from their consciousness. They were to be restored to their pre-lapsarian state in order that they might experience the condition of man before the Fall. They were made aware that through the Fall man had entered upon a wrong path and that to continue on this path would be to court disaster. He had to return to his original state of innocence, to cleanse his soul of the evil which this aberration had brought.
Many people at that time felt an urge to return to the age of innocence — history is far from accurate on this question — to forgo their errant ways, to start life afresh as it had been before the Fall; to refuse participation in the changes and developments of the social order and national life which had taken place since the Fall up to the time of the Roman Empire or the time of Herod the Tetrarch when John the Baptist preached in the wilderness. Those who felt that they must break with the past withdrew from the world and became anchorites. John the Baptist is a case in point. We are told that his meat was locusts and wild honey and his raiment was of camel hair (Matt. III, 4). He is depicted as the typical desert father, the typical anchorite.
Compare this with a widespread movement of the time which reflected in various ways what was indicated in the Gospel of St. John. People declared that one must renounce the world and follow the life of the spirit. An echo of this desire to “withdraw from the world” is still to be found in Gnosis and in monachism. Now why did this powerful impulse of the Baptist which was a comparatively recent development become so widespread? The answer is found in the words: “The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”
At this point we must recall what was said in the last lecture about the soul — that since the Fall it had progressively deteriorated, was less and less fitted to perform its function as intermediary between the spirit and the body. This continuous decline could persist for a certain period of Earth evolution but ultimately had to be arrested. This moment will arrive when Divine evolution takes over Earth evolution. Men such as John the Baptist had a prophetic intimation of this moment. The time is now at hand, he felt, when souls can no longer be saved, when souls must perish without some special dispensation. He realized that either the souls of men would have to withdraw from life as it had been since the Fall, the cause of their corruption — and in that event Earth evolution would have been in vain — or something else must supervene. And this realization found expression in the following words: “He that cometh after me shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost.” John felt that only by withdrawing from the world could man be saved from the consequences of the Fall. Christ wished to save mankind in another way: he wished them to remain in the world and yet find salvation. He had no wish that mankind should return to the time before the Fall, but that they should experience the further stages of Earth evolution and yet participate in the Kingdom of Heaven.
A further question calls for an answer: What was Christ's real intention? His purpose breathes through every page of the Gospels and we must seek to feel and experience it with all the earnestness at our command. Despite apparent contradictions in the Gospels each contains a core of facts and truths which were announced or proclaimed by Christ Jesus; but the core of each Gospel has its own particular atmosphere. I must remind you of what I said in reference to Richard Rothe, namely, that we must change our whole approach to the reading of the Gospels. We must read them in the spirit that breathes through them, become responsive to the atmosphere that pervades them. People who read the Gospels today invest them with their own preconceived picture of a generalized human ideal. The age of “enlightenment” envisaged Christ Jesus as an enlightened man. Protestant groups or sects have created an image of Jesus which depicts Him as a typical representative of nineteenth-century Protestantism. Ernst Haeckel even managed to depict Jesus as a thorough-going monist of his own brand. Now these are attitudes which mankind must learn to outgrow. It is important that we should really respond to the contents of the Gospels in the atmosphere and setting of their own time.
Let us take first of all the Gospel of St. Matthew and ask ourselves: what is the purpose of this Gospel? It is so fatally easy to be misled by all kinds of things which we readily accept in the Gospels, but which we interpret falsely. We find, for example, the statement that “not one jot or tittle of the law shall be changed”. In spite of this statement, perhaps even because of it, the fact remains that the Gospel of St. Matthew was written to discredit traditional Judaism. It is a polemic against Judaism, a challenge to traditional Judaism, and the author declares that it was the will of Christ that it should be suppressed.
Now the Gospel of St. Mark, on the other hand, was written for the Romans. It was directed against the Roman Empire, the “kingdom of the world”. It was an attack upon the legal ordinances of the Empire and its social order. The Jews realized full well what they meant, or rather what they felt, when they said: We must kill Him, otherwise our people will follow Him and then the Romans will come and seize our land and our kingdom. The Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark were directed therefore against Judaism and Romanism respectively. They were broadsides directed not against the real essence of Judaism or Romanism, but against their outward forms as “kingdoms of the world”, in contradistinction to the “Kingdom of Heaven”. The special characteristics of these two Gospels are not taken today with the seriousness they deserve. A few years before the War, the Czar, who has now been deposed, wrote in his own hand on one of his edicts the following words: “Intellectual giants, giants of action will appear one day — of this I am firmly convinced — and bring salvation to Russia and provide for her greatest good.” Had these giants of thought and action in whom the Czar had implicit confidence, materialized, you can well imagine that he would promptly have imprisoned them in the Peter and Paul Fortress, or have exiled them to Siberia. So much for the reliance we can place upon words today. With such an attitude we cannot fathom the inner meaning of the Gospels.
Let us now turn to the third Gospel, the Gospel of St. Luke. Its real meaning becomes apparent if we study the passage where Jesus went into the synagogue: “And there was delivered to him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book he found the place where it was written: The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the Gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised.” (Luke IV, 17-18.)
Jesus then explained the deep inner meaning of these words, contrasting their spirit with the spirit which He found in the world around Him. He wished to contrast the Kingdom of Heaven with the kingdom of the world and characterized this difference in these words when He addressed the assembled Jews in the synagogue: “Ye will surely say unto me this proverb, Physician, heal thyself: whatsoever we have heard done in Capernaum, do also here in thy country. Verily I say unto you, no prophet is accepted in his own country. But I tell you of a truth, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elias when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when great famine was throughout all the land; but unto none of these was Elias sent, save unto Sarepta, a city of Sidon, unto a woman that was a widow. And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Eliseus the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, saving Naaman the Syrian.” (Luke IV, 23-27.)
None of the Jews was healed by Elias or Eliseus, but only the Gentiles. This was the interpretation Jesus gave to His words in order to distinguish between the Kingdom of Heaven and the kingdom of the world. What was the result? — “And all they in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, and rose up and thrust him out of the city, and led him unto the brow of the hill whereon their city was built, that they might cast him down headlong. But he, passing through the midst of them, went his way.” (Luke IV, 28-30.)
Here is the essential difference between the Luke Gospel and the other Gospels. Here the Jews are not condemned as in Matthew, nor the Romans as in Mark, but this Gospel condemns the passions and emotions of mankind as reflected in those who were associated with Christ Jesus. We must therefore give heed to that powerful and significant impulse behind the words of Christ Jesus, an impulse that was not of this world, but which proceeded from the Kingdom of Heaven.
The John Gospel aims to go much further. In this Gospel it is not simply a small nation such as the Jews which is condemned, nor a great nation such as the Romans, nor even the whole of mankind with the negative characteristics it has developed since the Fall, but this Gospel is directed against those spirits behind the physical world in so far as they have turned aside from the true path. The Gospel of St. John can only be rightly understood when we realize that, as the Gospel of St. Matthew is concerned with the Jews, the Gospel of St. Mark with the Romans and the Gospel of St. Luke with all those who had succumbed to the Fall, so the Gospel of St. John is concerned with the spirits of men and those spirits bordering on humanity who fell along with man, whilst Christ Jesus is concerned with the spiritual world itself. It is very easy for our materialistic epoch to say that whoever holds these views is a fanatic. We must be prepared to put up with this criticism. Nevertheless what I have said is the truth; and we are the more convinced of this, the more closely we look into these things.
This powerful impulse which found fourfold expression in the Gospels shows that Christ was destined to introduce into the world something that had not existed before. The world disapproves and has always disapproved of change, but a new impulse must be given from time to time. It is amply demonstrated in the Gospels that we can only understand the message of these Gospels aright if we see it in the context of the entire Cosmos, as an expression of cosmic events. This is best illustrated — I refer you to the Mark Gospel, the shortest and most pregnant of the Gospels — if we turn to this Gospel for an answer to the question: who were the first to recognize that Christ Jesus had given to the world that sublime impulse which I have described above? Who first recognized this? One might be tempted to answer: John the Baptist. But he divined it rather, and this is clearly seen in the description of the meeting between Christ Jesus and John in the fourth Gospel. Who, then, were the first to recognize Him? None other than those that were possessed with devils whom Christ had healed. They were the first to cry out, saying, “Thou art the Son of God” — or “Thou art the Holy One of God. And Christ suffered not the devils to speak because they knew Him.” Spiritual beings therefore were the first to recognize Him, and we are here shown the connection between the word of Christ and the spiritual world. Out of their super-sensible knowledge the demons revealed Christ's contribution to the world long before mankind had the slightest inkling of it. They knew it because He was able to cast them out.
Let us now relate the concrete case described above (the raising of Jairus’ daughter) to the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven to which Christ owed His powers of healing. If we employ the usual technique of modern historical research in order to explore the source of the special supernatural power through which Christ worked, we shall never find an answer, for times have changed much more than people imagine. Today they assume that three or four thousand years ago men were to all appearances much the same as they are now, that though they have become far cleverer, they have changed very little on the whole. Such people then count back in time until they arrive at millions of years. As I mentioned recently in a public lecture, they count the millions of years ahead until they reach the end of time. They have calculated to a nicety the nature of individual substances millions of years hence: milk will be solid and luminous — I wonder how this milk will be obtained, but we will not go into that now — albumen will be used to decorate the walls so that it will be possible to read the newspaper in its phosphorescent light. Dewar put forward this idea a few years ago in a lecture before the Royal Institute when he discussed the end of the world as envisaged by physicists. At the time I made use of the following comparison in referring to these calculations. I said that if someone were to observe the changes that occur in the human stomach and heart over a period of two or three years, were then to multiply the figure arrived at and calculate the changes that would occur in two hundred years and what the body would look like in two hundred years’ time, then this would be comparable to the calculations of the physicists. Such calculations maybe ingenious, but in two hundred years the person will long have been dead. The same applies to the Earth. Those confident calculations on the part of physicists as to what will happen millions of years hence may be mathematically correct, but physically the inhabitants of the Earth will have perished long before this time. To estimate the geological conditions of the Earth millions of years ago on the same principle is comparable to deducing from the condition of a child's stomach at the age of seven what its condition had been seventy-five years before. People simply fail to realize how confused their thinking is, for man as a physical entity did not exist in that primordial time to which geologists look back. Because strong measures are necessary to combat the many errors of our time which have the weight of authority behind them, one must not be afraid on occasions to react strongly against such methods. One retorts to such people: you calculate from the organic changes in the human organism today what it will be like two hundred years hence. But in two hundred years, of course, the human organism will have ceased to exist. One can also reply that from the results of purely occult investigations — I am aware of course that modern science will regard this as nonsense, but it is none the less true — man as he is today cannot possibly exist six thousand years hence, any more than it is possible for a man who is now twenty years old to be alive in two hundred years time. We can discover through occult investigation that in the sixth millennium women as they are constituted today will become sterile and that an entirely different reproductive process will exist by that time. I realize that this will sound the purest nonsense to those who think along the lines of modern science; nevertheless the fact is undeniable. In our present materialistic age people have very confused ideas about history and historical evolution. Therefore we no longer understand even subtle indications transmitted by external history of differences in the constitution of the human soul which have taken place in relatively recent times.
There is a very fine passage in the writings of the Church Father Tertullian (note 1) at the turn of the second century, that touches upon this problem. He writes that he himself had seen the pulpits of the Apostles from which their successors had read aloud the epistles that were still in the Apostles’ handwriting. Whilst these epistles were being read, Tertullian tells us, the assembly of the faithful seemed to hear once again the living voices of the Apostles and when they examined the epistles, the features of the Apostles seemed to rise up before them. For those who investigate these matters clairvoyantly, these are not empty words. As they sat before the pulpit the faithful felt that they detected in the timbre of the voices of the Apostles’ successors the voices of the Apostles themselves and that from the handwriting of the Apostles they were able to picture the actual features of the Apostles. Thus, at the beginning of the third century, people were still able to evoke a living image of the Apostles and, metaphorically speaking, to hear their voices. And Clement I who occupied the Papal See from A.D. 92 to 101 also knew personally those pupils of the Apostles who had seen Christ Jesus. At this time, therefore, a continuous tradition was already in existence. And in this passage from Tertullian we catch an echo of something that can be investigated clairvoyantly. Those pupils of the Apostles who listened to the Apostles could detect from the tone and modulation of their voice the manner in which Christ Jesus spoke. This is something of great importance. We must bear in mind this tone of voice, this peculiar timbre characteristic of Christ's speech if we are to understand why those who heard Him spoke of the magic power that lay in His words. When He spoke, something akin to an elemental force gripped His listeners. His words possessed an elemental power that had never been known before. How is one to account for this?
I have already referred to Saint-Martin. He was one of those who still recognized the evocative or magical power of the words — (the Freemasons of the nineteenth century of course no longer had any understanding of this) — of that language which was once upon a time common to all mankind before it was split into separate languages and which was closely related to the “inner word”. Christ, of course, had to express Himself externally in the language of His day; the inner word which He felt within His soul however, differed from the spoken word of ordinary speech; it was imbued with the power which words have lost, with the power that the universal language once possessed before it was split into separate languages. Unless we are able to form some conception of this power which is independent of these separate languages and which is found in those whose words are fully inspired, we cannot understand the power that dwelt in Christ, nor the significance of what is meant when we speak of Christ as the incarnated “Word” through which He worked and by which He performed His acts of healing and cast out evil spirits. The loss of the “Word” was inevitable, for it was in accordance with human evolution after the Mystery of Golgotha. We must endeavour to recover the “Word” that has been lost. But meanwhile we have reached a stage of evolution which holds little prospect that our efforts will be rewarded.
I would like to remind you of an important fact that is evident in all the Gospels, namely, that Christ Jesus never committed anything to writing. Indeed scholars have disputed amongst themselves whether He could write at all. Those who claim that He could write can only quote the passage from the story of the woman taken in adultery: “And again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.” (John VIII, 6.) But apart from this one instance there is no evidence that Christ could write. The fact remains that in contrast to other founders of religion, He never recorded His teachings in writing. This is not fortuitous but is inwardly connected with the full and inexhaustible power of the word.
The fact that Christ confined His message to the spoken word and left no record in writing applies only in His case, but such limitation would be totally unacceptable to our epoch. If Christ had written down His words and translated them into the current language of the day, Ahrimanic forces would have entered into them, for all set forms are Ahrimanic. The written word has a different effect from that of the spoken word when a group of pupils is gathered together and is entirely dependent upon the power of the spirit. One must not imagine that the author of the John Gospel sat beside Christ when He was speaking and recorded His words in shorthand like our stenographers who are recording this lecture. That this did not occur is of immense significance. We only realize the full significance of this when we learn from the Akashic Chronicle what really lies behind Christ's condemnation of the Scribes, of those who derived their knowledge from documents. He objected to the Scribes because their knowledge was derived from documents, because their souls were not directly in touch with the source from which the living word flowed. And this led, in Christ's opinion, to the debasement of the living word.
But we miss the significance of this if we think of memory at the time of the Mystery of Golgotha as that “psychic sieve” which passes for memory today. Those who heard the words of Christ cherished them faithfully in their hearts and knew them verbatim. For the power of memory was totally different at that time; so too was the constitution of the soul. It was essentially a period when, in a brief space of time, great changes had taken place. We completely overlook the fact that the history of the East was written in such a way that men saw it either in terms of the present or at best in terms of borrowings from Greek history. The course of Greek history was very similar to that of the Jews, but oriental history followed a different course, because in the East the soul was differently constituted. Hence people have no idea of the great changes that have taken place in a short space of time, that the abnormally retentive memory was rapidly lost in the age of declining atavistic clairvoyance, so that of necessity men had to record the words of Christ in writing. In consequence, the words of Christ suffered the same fate that Christ Jesus suffered at the hands of the Scribes whom He opposed. And I leave it to your imagination to picture what would happen if some disciple, even remotely resembling Christ Jesus, were to speak today with the same impulse with which Christ spoke. Would those who call themselves Christians today act in any way differently from the high priests at that time? I leave you to judge.
Bearing these assumptions in mind, let us now look more closely into the mystery of the incarnation of the Christ in Jesus. Let me remind you of what I said earlier, that we must retrace our steps along the path we have followed since the time of the Eighth Ecumenical Council and rediscover the tripartite division of man into body, soul and spirit. Unless we recognize this we cannot understand the Mystery of Golgotha.
First let us consider the physical body. We only know the body as an object in the external world. We can observe it only from without. We owe our perception of the external world to the body. And it is with the body that science — or what is commonly called science — is concerned.
Let us now turn to the soul. I tried to indicate the nature of the soul when I referred you to Aristotle. In speaking of the soul we must realize that Aristotle's ideas were not far removed from the truth, for the psychic life, that which pertains to the inner life, originates more or less with each individual. Aristotle, however, lived in an age when he could no longer fully comprehend the soul's relationship to the Cosmos. He declared that with the birth of a human being a new soul is created. He was an advocate of “creationism”, but accepted that after death the soul continues to survive in some undefined way. He did not enter into further details because in his day knowledge of the soul had already become somewhat nebulous. The manner in which the soul lives after death is in fact bound up with what is called, more or less symbolically, “original sin” — or whatever we prefer to call it, the terminology is not of the slightest importance — for “original sin” has undoubtedly modified the whole life of the soul. Consequently, at the time of the Mystery of Golgotha the souls of men were in danger of such wholesale corruption that they could not find their way back to the Kingdom of Heaven. They were chained to earthly existence, to the destiny of the Earth. This psychic life therefore follows its own separate path which will be described in further detail later.
The third member of man's being is the spirit. The physical or corporeal is expressed in the line of descent from father to son. The son becomes a father and this son in his turn becomes a father and so on through the generations. In this way inherited characteristics are transmitted from one generation to another. The psychic life as such is created with the birth of the individual and persists after death. Its destiny is determined by the extent to which the soul can remain in touch with the Kingdom of Heaven. The spirit persists through repeated incarnations on Earth and everything depends upon the kind of bodies it can find in the course of its successive lives on Earth. On the one hand there is the line of descent on the physical plane, in which the spirit participates; but the line of descent is permeated with physically inherited characteristics. What potentialities the spirit finds in the course of its successive incarnations depends upon whether mankind has progressed or deteriorated. Out of the spirit one cannot create bodies to order; one can only select those which are relatively best suited to the spirit that is about to incarnate; one cannot tailor them to measure.
I tried to express this in my book Theosophy, in which I described the three paths leading to the spirit — the paths of body, soul and spirit. This is something that must be clearly understood. For if we follow to its conclusion the path of sense-perception alone, if we recognize only the physical or corporeal, then we arrive at the idea of a Universal God, an idea that was known only to the philosophers and mystics whom I mentioned at the beginning of this lecture. If, however, we wish to study the soul, then we must needs follow the path that leads to that Being whom we call the Christ who is not to be found in nature, although He is related to nature. He must be found in history as an historical being. If we follow the path of self-observation, this leads to the spirit and to the repeated incarnations of the spirit.
Study of the cosmos and nature leads to a knowledge of the Universal Being to whom we owe our incarnation: Ex Deo Nascimur.
The study of true history, if pursued in sufficient depth, leads to the knowledge of Jesus Christ, to the knowledge which is necessary if we wish to know the destiny of the soul: In Christo Morimur.
Inward contemplation, experience of the spirit, leads to the knowledge of the fundamental nature of the spirit in repeated lives on Earth and, when united with the spiritual element in which it dwells, leads to the intuitive perception of the Holy Ghost: Per Spiritum Sanctum Reviviscimus.
Not only does the trichotomy of body, soul and spirit lie at the root of an understanding of man, but a trichotomy determines the path we must follow if we really wish to arrive at an understanding of the universe. Our epoch which is so chaotic in thought does not easily grasp such ideas and for the most part is indifferent to them. As you know, there are atheists, those who deny the existence of God; there are also deniers of Jesus; and there are materialists, deniers of the spirit. To be an atheist is possible only for those who are wholly insensitive to the phenomena of external nature. For if the physical forces in us are not blunted, we are continually aware of the presence of God. Atheism is really sickness of the soul, a disease of the human personality. To deny Christ is not a sickness; we must make every effort to find Him in the unfolding of human evolution. If we do not find Him we are lost to the power that redeems the soul from death. This is a misfortune of the soul. Atheism is a sickness of the soul, of the human personality. To deny Christ is a misfortune of the human soul. Note the difference. To deny the Spirit is to be guilty of self-deception.
It is important to meditate upon these three conceptions. Sickness of the soul, misfortune of the soul, deception of the soul, i.e. self-deception — these are the three significant aberrations of the human soul.
It is necessary to be aware of all this if we are to develop an understanding of the Mystery of Golgotha, for we must learn to recognize the relationship of Christ to the human soul. We must carefully follow the destiny of the soul itself in the course of terrestrial evolution. We must also bear in mind the reaction upon the human spirit of the impulse that Christ transmits to the human soul.
To conclude my lecture today I can perhaps best offer you a few suggestions in order to prepare the ground for what is to follow, so that we can all meditate upon them and so arrive at a deeper understanding of the Mystery of Golgotha.
Today man approaches nature in the light of the education he has received. Nature proceeds in obedience to natural laws. We think of the birth, maturity and death of the Earth in terms of natural laws. Everything is seen from the standpoint of natural laws. In addition to the laws of nature there is the moral law. We feel — and especially the Kantians, for example — that we are subject to the categorical imperative, that we are an integral part of the moral world order. But think how anaemic has become the idea today that this moral world order has, like nature, its own objective reality. After all, even Haeckel, even Arrhenius and others, for all their materialism, were convinced that the Earth was moving towards a new glacial epoch or towards entropy. But they also believed that the little “idols” they called atoms are dissociated and cannot be destroyed — hence the conservation of matter! This accords more or less with the modern scientific outlook. But these ideas about matter ignore the following problem: if, one fine day, the Earth becomes glaciated or reaches total entropy, what becomes of the moral world order? It has no place in Earth conditions of this nature! Once the human species has died out, what becomes of the moral order? In other words, the moral ideas which man feels to be an integral part of himself, the source of his moral values and the goal of his conscience, appear to be a necessity; but if we are really honest, moral ideas are unrelated to the natural order, to that which natural science regards as fundamental realities. Moral ideas have become emasculated. They are powerful enough to determine men's actions and the dictates of conscience; they are not strong enough, however, to give the impression that what one imagines to be a moral idea today is a concrete, vital force in the world. Something more is needed to realize this. Who is it that can awaken our moral conceptions to vigorous and active life? It is the Christ! This is one aspect of the Christ Being.
Though all that lives in stone, plant, animal and the human body, all that lives in the elements of warmth and air, may perish (as science foretells), though all human bodies will taste of death at the end of time — for according to natural science all our moral values must ultimately become — one cannot say dust and ashes, for that would be going too far — yet, according to Christian belief there lives in the Christ Being a power that lays hold of our moral conceptions and creates out of them a new world: “Heaven and Earth may pass away, but my words shall not pass away.” This is the power that will carry over to Jupiter the moral element developed on the Earth.
Now picture the Earth as an organism, like a plant, the moral law as the seed which is formed within the organism, and the Christ force as the impulse which stimulates the seed to grow into the future Earth, into Jupiter. We then have a totally new conception of the Gospels from the standpoint of Spiritual Science.
But how can this be? How can that which belongs solely to the realm of thought according to the materialist, which is only an idea or theory towards which one feels a moral obligation — how can that be tranformed into real force such as the one which burns in coal or which causes the bullet to fly through the air? How can such ideas which are so tenuous possess solid reality? To achieve this transformation a new impulse is needed and these moral ideas must be inbued with the impulse. What impulse is this? You will recall that we said earlier that faith must not be merely a substitute for knowledge: it must be an active agent that effects something. It must make our moral ideas a reality, lift them to a new plane and create a new world out of them. It is important that our articles of faith are not simply a form of unverified knowledge, a blind faith, but that our faith has the power to transform the seed “morality” into a cosmic reality. It was the mission of the Mystery of Golgotha to imbue Earth evolution with this power. This power had to be implanted in the souls of the disciples. At the same time they were reminded of the loss suffered by those who possessed only the written records. It is the power of faith which is of paramount importance. And if we do not understand what we owe to Christ when one so often hears the words “faith” or “belief”, then neither do we understand what entered Earth evolution at the time of the Mystery of Golgotha.
You will now realize that the Mystery of Golgotha has cosmic significance. That which belongs to the natural order is subject to the laws of nature. And just as at a certain stage of its evolution a plant bears seed, so too at a certain point of time the Mystery of Golgotha will bring a new impulse in preparation for the new Jupiter evolution in which the future incarnation of man can participate.
From our study of the unique nature of the Christ Being I have indicated the relation of this Being to the whole Cosmos and how, at a definite point in time, Earth evolution was imbued with a new vitalizing force, which is revealed from time to time with impressive effect, but only to those who can apprehend such manifestations intuitively. The author of the Mark Gospel, for example, was a case in point. When Christ was led away after the betrayal by Judas and the author of that Gospel had a clairvoyant vision of the scene, he saw, among the multitude that had forsaken Him, a certain young man clad only in a linen cloth. The linen cloth is torn from him, but he wrests himself free and flees from them naked (Mark XIV, 51). This was the same young man who, according to the Mark Gospel was sitting clothed in a long white garment on the right of the sepulchre and announced: Christ is risen. This is the account given in the Gospel of St. Mark as the result of Imaginative cognition. Here is portrayed the encounter between the former body of Christ-Jesus and the “seed” of a new world order as seen by Imaginative cognition.
Try to feel this in connection with what I said recently — and on this note I propose to conclude my lecture today — namely, that the human body, in virtue of its original constitution, was destined for immortality. Compare this with the fact that the animal is mortal by virtue of its organization, whilst this does not apply to man. He is mortal because of the corruption of his soul and this stain will be washed away by Christ. If you reflect upon this you will understand that the physical body must be transformed by the living force that streams into Earth evolution through the Mystery of Golgotha. When Earth evolution comes to an end the power which has been lost through the “Fall” and which brought death to the body will be restored through the power of Christ, and the body of man will be seen in its true physical form. If we recognize the trichotomy of body, soul and spirit, then the “ressurrection of the body takes on meaning also, otherwise it cannot be understood. The modern rationalist will no doubt regard this as a most reactionary idea, but he who derives his knowledge of reincarnation from the wellspring of truth is also aware of the real significance of the resurrection of the body at the end of time. And when Paul rightly said: “If Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain” (Cor. I.XV. 14), we know from the investigations of Spiritual Science that he bore witness to the truth. If this dictum of Paul be true, then it is equally true to say: if earthly evolution does not lead to the conservation of the corporeal form which man can perfect in the course of evolution, if the human form were to perish, if man could not rise again through the power of Christ, then the Mystery of Golgotha would have been in vain and vain also the faith that it inspired. This is the necessary complement of the words of Paul.
Note 1. St. Anselm's remark is interesting in this context: “Credo ut intelligam” (I believe in order that I may understand).
NOTES BY TRANSLATOR
Note 1. Tertullian (A.D. 150–c. 220). Son of a Roman centurion, he was a convert to the African Church. His writings are doctrinal, apologetic and practical. In A.D. 202 he joined the Montanist sect which practised prophesying, a form of extempore preaching which was connected with ecstasy and trance. Tertullian wrote six books on ecstasy which are lost. His “Rule of Faith” was substantially the Apostles’ Creed. He believed that the Twelve Apostles had founded Apostolic Churches. All teaching which agrees with these Churches must be accepted as the truth since it is received from Christ. He believed that the soul derives from God, is immortal, corporeal, is endowed with free will, thinks and wills. The body is its necessary counterpart and swill rise again, but does not return to Earth. Though we are all infected with original sin, there is no total corruption. Tertullian was a voluminous writer, a bitter polemicist and inclined to fanaticism. To him we owe the famous sayings: “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church”, “Christ is truth, not custom”, “Credo quia absurdum, certum est quia impossible”. He was the first of the three great Church Fathers of the African Church; the others were Cyprian and Augustine.