Course for Priests of the Christian Community
14 July 1923, Stuttgart
Yes, my dear friends, I would like to supplement what I said yesterday. I wanted to offer it then already, but time was too short. This occasion gives us the opportunity to refer to our relationship we need to gradually re-establish with the Bible. The Bible, namely the New Testament, is a document which we must learn to grasp as a supersensible revelation, not in a dogmatic sense but through arriving at knowledge which indicates that religious documents originating up to about the time 4 AD were not only of human origin but were poured into the consciousness of humanity; knowledge which could not have come out of humanity. I would like to mention that you only need to bring humanity up to this point while a kind of instinctive atavistic consciousness still existed, presenting the most manifold images depicting the highest spiritual things and processes, yet these images were not conceptualised in human consciousness.
So it has come about that right at the time when intellectualism has become authoritative, religious documents are misunderstood in many areas. They are approached with intellectual thinking and basically it is quite natural that even with much goodwill, misunderstandings come to the fore. Thus it has happened that when today's presented texts are transcribed into a common language, they do not represent the original documents because a national language has an intellectual basis which is alien to the original elements in which the religious documents were embodied.
When religious documents, particularly the New Testament, are referred back to in its original language, it also becomes apparent that this original language can no longer be experienced in an adequate way in the constitution of souls of today. Actually, a kind of untruthful element enters into the understanding of ancient religious knowledge, also the New Testament. It is hopeless to think that translations done up to now can somehow be improved continually, because it must firstly involve finding the preconditions which will enable a kind of reawakening of ancient spirituality with the purpose of really understanding religious documents. This we can do, this everyone can basically do, if the trouble is taken to apply researchable spiritual scientific facts to, let's say, the New Testament.
I would like to give a small example and that from one of the most important places in the New Testament. I would like to stress from the start that representations in the New Testament are connected to a historic fact; the depiction in the New Testament can only be understood when it is very clear that the fact of the Mystery of Golgotha is placed within the rest of humanity's evolution, but as a fact which falls outside the rest of humanity's laws. The Mystery of Golgotha is a totally singular event and for its understanding should not be considered out of historical foundations but it should be grasped out of itself. Only when you take — I would like to call it super-historical fact — this cosmic fact in relationship with scientific spiritual knowledge about the development of humanity, only then can you actually start understanding the deep sense of the words and the sentence formation of the New Testament. If you don't do this, a far too strong trivial tone enters into the New Testament. We can remind ourselves of various impulses towards a possible understanding of the Bible where absolutely no preparatory understanding is regarded necessary and that it should simply be taken in a naive, primitive manner. You need to remind yourself of this fact in order to judge how strong the reluctance is to perceive the New Testament in its total profundity.
Just consider, my dear friends, that the Mystery of Golgotha, taken in its right sense, was fulfilled for the earth as a specific act of grace out of higher spiritual worlds at a specific time when a certain part of humanity was passing over from a previous state of consciousness to the next one. At the time of the Mystery of Golgotha the evolution of humanity's becoming in earthly life reached up to an inner ego reality. The “I” gradually unfolded at the same time as the Mystery of Golgotha. We may not look for the connection between these two facts, whether causal or just as a connection. We may only consider it a connection when it is compared with one seeing something happening and something is done towards it out of free will. The Mystery of Golgotha appears as a cosmic fact of free will which has come about within the development of humanity in such a way, that the ego consciousness is awakened. Now, you know the remainder of the important facts which are linked to the appearance of the ego consciousness. Something extraordinary may be added to this. It is necessary to know that with the embodiment of the ego consciousness in evolution there was a condition where people looked up at every opportunity of their conscious lives to gods, or — where monotheism existed — to that God who has remained as an image of the Father God. As long as we stand in the imagination of the Father God, the imagination is fulfilled so that we can say: ‘When a human being is aware of his ego nature then he feels that within his ego is the inner working of the Father God in his soul.’ The Father God distils in a certain way a drop of his own Being which remains connected to the entire spiritual sea of the Father God, to the beings of individuals and every person can say to himself: ‘The Father God is alive in me, the abundance of the Father God lives in me.’ However, the entire humanity is permeated with the being of the Father God. Experiencing all of this at present is to say to yourself: ‘I am!’ That is: ‘The Father God is in me.’ — To live in this way in present times is becoming increasingly impossible. You must come to your own “I” via your own consciousness which makes it a product of yourself. This production of the individual “I” is in connection with the entire cosmic-spiritual world only possible when individuals identify themselves with Christ, thus with the Son of God.
What can be said about the relationship between people blessed by Christ and people who have not been enriched by Christ? Upon looking back at the consciousness of unblessed mankind, therefore the individual being of their souls, can you say: ‘I am the only one who has been blessed with an “I”?’ — No, the soul could only say: ‘Within me the Father God lives and because He lives in me it enables me to say “I” to myself.’ — People had not been completely individualised, the individual was a child of God, but as if the child was still connected to God by an umbilical cord. What the soul could have when it was aware of this divine capacity, it could have no more, later on. The Christ-blessed humanity acquired it in such a way that each single soul could take up their “I” out of this divine substance.
In this way the Christ-blessed people were able to take their own “I” out of the substance of their individual soul being.
Thus the Christ brought the same as what the Father God had given humanity on earth, but He brought it in a new way in order for every individual to find a connection to the ego being born within. Thus the Christ could say to humanity: ‘I bring to you what you are used to recognise out of the Logos but I bring it in a new way. I bring it to you through what the Father God has given to me, what He had given directly to you before, but for another state of consciousness. As his messenger I bring this treasure from the Father God to you, to each independent consciousness of yours, to every single individual. I don't want to just make you into some kind of member of the whole cosmos, I will by virtue of the full authority given to me by the Father God make each single one of you, if you want to come, into an “I” filled person with a divine consciousness.’
That the manner in which the divine consciousness should come to people now in a different way to what it had been in earlier times, is because of the Mystery of Golgotha. Similarly, it also applies to the Words of the Gospels taking on quite a different sense as a result of the Mystery of Golgotha. It is for instance possible to refer back to the stages of evolution of humanity from the contents of the Our Father prayer. It doesn't refer to the contents in this case but that the Our Father comes across in a different and in a newer way to the “I” filled conscious soul even though given in the same words, in the same sentences. Penetrating this event with spiritual powers makes it possible again for us to research it ourselves. This fact brings us back to the original meaning of the Gospels. This original meaning must be revealed again today. Humanity should not be allowed to be fobbed off with misunderstandings of Gospels not taken from a lofty view. One should overcome the point of understanding the matter in such a way as to ask oneself: Can you, when you are quite honest in your soul, today still, discover meaning in the words of John 17, verse 1 to 9?
My dear friends, much can be said and repeated about this if you want to disregard the facts that a clear understanding can't really be found. In an artificial way (of the commentator) no meaning can be linked to these words. Only through belief can meaning be connected to them because nothing actual is touched when you have one these sentences (of some or other terrible translation) in front of you. By contrast when you make an attempt to empathise with the (original) texts in a word-for-word translation into your mother tongue (original text says “German” — translator note), then a deeper meaning comes into it. You should not allow, if you are honest with yourself, to say these words would be simplified and be comprehensible to every ordinary human mind, through artificial comments. Actually you realise the deeper meaning in the original and this fact must be your starting point.
Humanity today would prefer not to have to search for such deep meaning in the Gospels. One can't escape the fact that there is deeper meaning which we need to discover. We can't deny it. It would be a subjective fantasy to say: ‘Don't interpret anything in the Gospels, simply remain with the contents.’ That as such is the interpretation. When we go back to the meaning which is there on quite a mundane level then we could translate it in the following way:
After Jesus saved him, he lifted his eyes to heaven and said: Father, the hour has come, let your son be revealed so that he may reveal you, as You have given him power over all who have flesh, so that he may give everlasting life to them. This now is everlasting life, that You are recognised as the only true God and Jesus Christ as your emissary. I have revealed Your being on earth, to fulfil the work You have given to me. And now reveal me, Father, with the light of revelation which came through You to me before the world began. I have brought You into manifestation to humanity which You assigned to me out of the world. They were Yours and You gave them to me and they have remained fulfilled with Your Word. Thus they can see that everything which You have given me comes from You. For the power of thought which You have given me, I have brought to them. You have linked yourself to them and seen how I come from You and that You have given them to me. I pray for each single individual, not for humanity in general, but for those you have given me, for they are yours, created by you.
As I have said to you before, this entire version is nothing other, my dear friends, than the facts of humanity's evolution depicted within the Gospels. The precise truth in the Gospels can be found when you enter into the spiritual facts within them. With this, the kind of awareness develops, I might say, for the right light to be thrown on the words. Is it not true, it is certainly not my intention to utter some idle criticism when I say it is not possible to say the words: “Father, the hour has come for You to reveal your son, so that Your son can reveal you.” If you are honest, you will admit: this doesn't really say anything, even by trying to make it comprehensible through the human heart. In contrast the truth becomes obvious by taking the Greek Text which says: “Father, the hour has come, reveal your son ...” which asks the Father to reveal the Son. The δοξα is no statement, the δοξα is to reveal, to announce, to-bring-to-recognition, and thus it is meant: “... so that your son is revealed out of You.” The mediation of the Father-contents through the power of the Son are expressed directly in these words in a naive idea. Earlier, humanity had the substance of the Father God within them, as described. Now the Father God has brought the Son to becoming the mediator for humanity. This is really written here and is no lie: “... as You have given him power over all who have flesh ...” The expression “flesh” (Fleisch) is difficult to translate here because it can be misunderstood in ordinary speech. In fact, it should say: “... as You have given him power over all human physical bodies so that he can give everlasting life for those given to him.” — When one contemplates these facts, that the human body originally had the consciousness of being filled with God and thus earned everlasting life, you realise that while this power no longer fills the consciousness, the bodies can no longer reflect back the gift of everlasting life. This is why the Christ had to be sent to humanity. ‘This now is everlasting life, that You are recognised as the only true God and Jesus Christ your emissary. I have revealed Your Being on earth, to fulfil the work You have given to me. And now reveal me, Father, with the light of revelation which came through You to me before the world began. I have brought You into manifestation for humanity which you assigned me out of the world. They were Yours and You gave them to me and they have remained fulfilled with Your Word.’
Christ Jesus has made it possible to stop the Word from dying and for the contents of the Father substance to remain in humanity. If the Mystery of Golgotha had not taken place, humanity would have forgotten about this content. The Father God would have been forgotten if the Son had not perpetuated the Fatherly content. Thus they have seen that everything which You have given me comes from You. For the power of thought which You have given me, I have brought to them. You have linked yourself to them and seen how I come from You and that You have given them to me. I pray for each single individual, not for humanity in general, but for those you have given me, for they are yours, created by you.
I add here ‘for humanity in general’ instead of ‘for the World’. This is no longer understood. This spiritual connectivity experience has just been referred to which at the time was an acceptable image: For them as individuals, not only for humanity in general.
In truth, the New Testament does not become less beautiful, magnificent and sublime through our understanding of its contents. This concerns your correct positioning in the present, in the spiritual life of the present, in a religious movement of the present to once again return to the reality contained in the Gospels. How often the request surfaces for the necessity to return again to original Christendom! It fails because nothing can be achieved by an attempt to grasp the Logos in its ancient meaning and then one repeatedly comforts oneself conveniently that the Gospels should be taken up as simple content. However, simple content would not fail if one would actually enter into what is written there. We may not forget, my dear friends, that words do essentially change in their feeling-value in the course of time. It is not possible simply to translate a word out of the ancient language lexicographically. Already today when one translates something lexicographically, the results are entirely different. This applies even more when translating historical events. It does not come down to directly taking the sentimental value attached to words of the present and applying this to ancient wording, but the task is to go back to the feeling within the contents of the ancient working. We can find examples of these facts everywhere in the New Testament where the Gospels were expressed in a time when revelation was given through grace from the spiritual cosmos to mankind which had not yet moved from the partially developed ego consciousness into the fully developed ego consciousness. All other facts need to be judged according to this basic fact. We may not remain fixed in an opinion and say that the earlier, the simple people emerging from the lowest levels could not understand the meaning in it. If the meaning of the Gospels is so simple to understand, we must reveal the other side of this wonderful fact: How were these simple people capable of relating such a profound meaning in the Gospels? — It is far more spiritual to say these simple people born from the folk could not have understood the meaning. Such a conclusion depends on another opinion.
I don't know if any of you — perhaps those of us who are older — have had this kind of experience of going with a loving heart among the country folk. You go there as an educated person feeling tremendously clever and you speak to the folk of what you've learnt. They don't understand you. Yet if you go along with them, you discover an unbelievable deep wisdom among these simple people which outshines anything you can offer out of yourself. The wisdom of naive people is actually deeper than that of educated people. The theory of simplicity among primitive people is an intellectual theory of educated people. For example, the meaning in some of Jakob Bohme's sentences could have been learnt from a herb gatherer forty years ago rather than in a university. This can't be denied. However faithfully an old text can be translated is something from which Professor Beckh can create a song for you, concerning Sanskrit in oriental texts. One will not be going too far by saying Indian philosophy becomes unrecognizable in translation, which for example was done by Professor Deußen (after the visit of Swami Viviknanda to Germany in 1896-translator note). If one wants to examine the original human contents of Deußen's translation, simply the straight forward word combination, you experience it as empty words in which no sense can be found at all. These things are of the utmost importance and are related to the deepest questions of our time. As a result, I do not want to hesitate to decide our future meeting in relation with this consideration, because I believe that it is necessary precisely at this time.
I hope you can experience it as the truth — what I mentioned yesterday — that for the Religious Movement the Act of Consecration becomes the deepest and most everlasting fact which is not merely rich in imagery but that it must become alive and remain capable of becoming ever new and more rich. I hope that we can continue with our working together in this lively unfolding way with which we have started with so much hope.
Werner Klein expressed in closing the wish of the good will remaining so powerfully in the work that in a year's time another meeting will be held where they could ask Dr Steiner's advice.
Rudolf Steiner: We wish for this as well and will hold this in our hearts.