The Gospel of St. John (Basle)
25 November 1907, Basle
At the end of St. John's Gospel, the writer says that Christ did many other things that are not contained in this book. We must also say that even a much longer series of lectures would not suffice to explain all that is written in the Gospel. In this lecture we will examine into the ideas of “the Father” and “I”. These two ideas will give us an explanation of the evolution of humanity, of which we have spoken in previous lectures. Humanity started out from an ego-consciousness that was quite different from the one we know to-day. By “Adam” we have to understand not a single human being, but an ego-consciousness that embraced several generations. The one who begins such a generation is the “Father.” The Hebrews of the Old Testament actually felt Abraham to be their father, and the single personalities in the Hebrew people said to themselves: I am not an independent ego; there is one that flows down from Abraham and branches out into all who belong to my people, and also into me.” Just as in a large tree the saps flow from the root into all the branches, in the same way the sap of Abraham, the common ego of the Hebrew people, flows through the whole tribe. When a Hebrew in Old Testament times uttered the name “father” he referred to the whole line of his ancestry, and this ego consciousness which embraced all the generations he called the divine consciousness. When he called upon the ego as God, he called it Jahve or Jehovah. When the name “Jahven” rang out, the people were reminded that a common ego which began with the ancestor of their race flowed down through the whole people. Through the intermingling of blood this condition became different in course of time; the consciousness of the “I am” became individualised, and Christ is the power which was to bring the consciousness of this change to humanity. When the man of ancient times said “I am,” he meant something that flowed down through generations; the man of more recent times meant by it something that flows through his own inner being. The first meant the God who flows through the whole community as the divine ego-consciousness; the other feels in himself a spark or a drop of the divine substance.
Now let us imagine that there is transposed to the Earth a Power which makes men clearly conscious that this “I am” can live in each individual human being, a Power which enables one to realise that God has sunk a drop of His own substance into each human being. This Power would say: — “This ‘I am’ is something that is in each one of you, it is a part of the one divine force. What you perceive as your individual ‘I am’ is one with the ‘I am’ of the Father. Whichever of you has developed within him the consciousness of this fact, can say: ‘I and the Father are one.’ If you look back as far as to Adam, you see the ego-consciousness flow through generations for hundreds and thousands of years. But there is a still higher human consciousness, which was given to man in his primal quality as Man. This is the consciousness of humanity, the consciousness which embraces not only a few generations, but the whole of humanity.” Then came the consciousness which belongs to generations, lasts for generations, and was finally individualised by man to his “I am”. Man, therefore, already possessed the foundations for the “I am” earlier, and for this reason Christ could say: “Before Abraham, was the ‘I am.’ ” That is the correct teaching of the occult school; it ought to read: “Before Abraham was the ‘I am.’ ”
In order to explain the teaching of the “I am” a little more, we will make use of the “Golden Legend”, which is known in all Christian Schools. It relates that when Seth, whom Jehovah had given as a substitute for Abel, came one day to the Gate of Paradise, the Cherub with the fiery sword allowed him to enter the garden out of which man had been driven. There he saw two trees that were intertwined with each other; the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge; and the Cherub told Seth to take three seeds from these trees that were intertwined. When Adam, his father, died, Seth laid these three seeds in his mouth, and from the grave grew a threefold tree, which revealed itself to many in radiant fire, and its glow then formed itself into the words: “I am he who was, who is, and who is to come.” The wood of this tree which had grown out of Adam's grave was used for many things. Out of it was fashioned the staff with which Moses accomplished his miracles. The wood was also used for the pillars standing at the door of Solomon's temple. With it was built the bridge over which Jesus passed when He was led to death. Finally, from this wood was made the Cross to which Jesus was nailed on Golgotha. In the Occult School the following explanation of this legend was given. Within man we see two trees: the tree of red blood and the tree of blue-red blood. The tree of red blood is the expression of “knowledge,” the tree of blue-red blood is the expression of “life.” The two trees were separated from each other. That was taught in the ancient occult schools. There was a time when man did not yet possess red blood, it was not until the ego sank into the body of Man that red blood arose. The life, which is expressed in the blue-red blood, had long been there; it originated through a higher development from the life-saps and, according to Christian teaching, the time when it was given to man was in the time of Paradise, when the first dawn of the ego appeared in the human soul, when the Deity descended and man was gifted first of all with the group-soul; but in the group-soul he possessed the first germ out of which the individual ego could arise. The legend of Paradise says that when man had received red blood he became a being who possessed knowledge, he learned to look up, his eyes were opened; he learned to distinguish between man and woman.
But this knowledge had to be bought at a price. The ego-consciousness can only originate through the blood dying. In the human body there is a continual consumption of life and renewal of life. The blue blood has fulfilled its task when it is used up, and out of the destruction of the blue blood arises the ego-consciousness. In the soul of man will be developed the forces through which he will learn to control and unite the two trees. Man only feels the ego by bearing about within him a process of murder and death. Man on the Earth is dependent upon the Plant, for it alone gives him the possibility of life. Think how man continually breathes in air which contains oxygen, and he breathes out air that is used up, air that contains carbon dioxide: he consumes oxygen and changes it into carbonic acid. The oxygen, which is necessary to his life, he obtains only through the plant, which changes back again into oxygen the carbonic acid produced by man, and this makes the air such that it can be used again by man. The plant retains the carbon which it separates from the carbonic acid, and it is given back again to man thousands of years afterwards in the form of coal.
The Earth is a complete organism, and if but a small part of it were to be missing, life, as it now exists, would be impossible. From a certain point of view we may look upon plant, animal, and man as one being, for if we were to take away the plants, the others would be unable to live. In the far-distant future this relationship will be altered. The men of the present day do not know this, but the seer can look into the time when the current of carbonic acid will be changed into oxygen not with the aid of the plant, but by man himself.
This is the great future ideal of the occult schools, that man shall accomplish consciously within himself that which is now done for him by the plant, that man will learn to take up the activity of the plant into his own activity. Within him will be developed the organs which will enable him to transform the carbonic acid for himself. The initiate can already see in advance that the two trees, the tree of carbonic acid and the tree of oxygen, will one day blend their crowns together. Then will the “I AM, He Who is, and Who was, and Who is to come,” live as something Eternal in each human being. The ego lived even in Adam, but it had first to be fertilised. In the beginning the Tree of Life had to be made into the Tree of Death. It could not be given at the same time as the Tree of Knowledge, therefore the two trees had to be parted; the plant was placed in between. The consciousness of eternity had first to be gained. Christ Jesus bore it within Him, and He transplanted it into the Earth. The three seeds are the three divine parts; Spirit Self, Life Spirit and Spirit Man. That which is eternal in all, was laid in the grave together with Adam. The consciousness of eternity was announced from the grave: out of the grave grew, the tree which bore a flaming device, “I AM, he Who was, Who is, and Who is to come.”
Christ teaches man to enkindle this “I am an individual man” in human nature, when He says; “Try to support yourselves more and more on the being of the ‘I am,’ then you will possess that which constitutes your communion with Me. Only through this ‘I am’ can you reach the Divine Father, for the father and ‘I’ are one.” A seer alone could grasp this, and the writer of St. John's Gospel was a seer. It was not his intention to record something of historical significance only, but he desired to record that which can be known when one looks into the spiritual world.
When a seer of the time of Christ wished to see what was going on in the spiritual world, he had to enter into the state of sleep. This we find indicated in the third chapter. Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews, came to Christ by night. He came to Christ because he wished to become a seer, because he had reached the state in which he could become a seer; and he came by night because his day-consciousness was then obliterated. In the fifth verse of this chapter we also find the important teaching that man can be born of the Spirit.
In John XIV, 6. Christ says: “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” Where is this way that leads to the highest Deity through Christ? The “I am” works on the astral body and forms out of it the Spirit Self; it works on the etheric body and forms out of it the Life Spirit; it works on the physical body and forms out of it the Spirit Man. When, therefore, the ego of man works on the astral body, the Spirit Self is formed, and in it then arises the Life Spirit. In this way man comes to the true life. In the “I am” lies the way to the truth and to the truth life, because the “I Am” works upon the lower bodies and enables the true life to arise in them. We may represent this in the following way: —
and the Life
The “I am” shows the direction man must take in order to unfold Spirit Self, Life Spirit, and Spirit Man.
In the Gospel of St. John we can also find, direct Anthroposophical truths. The writer of this Gospel relates (in Chapter 9:3) the fact that in each human being there is an individual ego, that in this ego there is a spark of divine substance, and that this spark must develop to the “God within us.” In most of the translations of the Bible, Christ's answer to the question: “Who did sin, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” we read: “Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents; but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.” But is this a view worthy of a Christian, that God makes a man be born blind, in order that God may make His Glory manifest in him? What an incredible conception of God, that can arrive at such a conclusion: This passage is much more simple and clear when we view it with the knowledge of Spiritual Science. Christ replied: “Neither has this man sinned, nor his parents; he is fulfilling his karma, in order that the divine spark in him shall become visible, in order that the works of “The God in him” shall be made manifest. That is the way in which Christ's answer should be translated: “He was born blind in order that the works of the God in him may be made manifest.” Each human being through repeated incarnations on Earth. It is not necessary that he should have sinned in this life; it is possible that he has brought from a former life the guilt which has led to this fate in this life. Here we have the teaching of karma, quite in the anthroposophical sense, karma which works over from one incarnation to another. The fact that Christ's teaching was opposed to the general views of the Jews is apparent, and this also explains the discord into which He comes with them (John 9:22).
There is another passage in the Gospel which reminds us of the teaching of karma. In the eighth chapter we read that when the Pharisees asked His opinion of the adulteress, Jesus bent down without speaking a word, and wrote with His finger on the ground. But the earth, as we have seen, is His own body. He does not condemn the adulteress, but He writes her deed into his own organism. By this He indicates that, just as seed planted in the ground grows up and bears fruit after its kind, so does each seed of man spring up in a later life and will bear the fruit corresponding to it and that there is no power on Earth that can take away the consequences of a deed. Theologians believe in thc propitiatory death: they believe that Christ has died for us and that therefore they cannot accept the teaching of karma, as this contradicts the view that Christ, through His death, has taken upon Himself the sins of the world. But when this matter is rightly grasped, the disharmony between the anthroposophical and the theological view dissolves into harmony.
The teaching of karma signifies for life in the world that which the ledger signifies for the merchant. According to the law of karma we must assume that the effect of what I have done in a former life approaches me in the present life, and that what I now do will come forth again in a later life. Thus we have a complete life-balance: on the one side the good deeds are entered, on the other side the bad ones. Now if someone believes that under the dominion of the law of karma he cannot perform any voluntary acts, as his mode of acting is always the result of his former deeds, he is like a merchant who would say: “I have just balanced my books, I cannot do any more business, for this would make my balance wrong.” For a merchant this would be a wrong way of thinking, and the opinion we have described above in respect of the result of karma is equally wrong.
When rightly understood, the teaching of karma is not fatalistic; freedom of will and karma can be united with one another in the most beautiful manner. When rightly understood, karma is never something that is unchangeable. And if a man refused to help another in misfortune, saying that he must not interfere with his karma, he would be acting just as wrongly as a merchant who refuses a loan, or a gift of a sum of money, when this can save him from bankruptcy. Just as a merchant enters a loan like this as a debt which he has to pay later, while the lender writes it down in his books as a loan so will the one who does a good deed write it as an entry to his credit, while he to whom it is done will write it down as a debt. Thus the rendering of help is not excluded by the law of karma, and it seems quite in order to lighten the karma, of one's neighbour by deeds of mutual help. A man can by his good deeds show kindness to one of his fellow-men; but there are also deeds which can benefit a large number of people, that is to say, it can lighten their karma and can thus be inscribed in the life-account of many. And when a deed is so mighty as the deed of Christ, it is inscribed in the karma of all men, because this deed lightens the karma of all those who allow it to work in them.
We see, therefore, that the law of karma is also mentioned in St. John's Gospel, and that its existence does not interfere with freedom of action in any way. Through His act of self-sacrifice Christ Jesus connected Himself with the whole of humanity. In accordance with the law of karma, each act is inscribed in the ledger of life: It is brought into connection with the body of Christ, with the Earth, and for this reason He does not at once condemn the adulteress, but inscribes the act in His own body. He receives into His own body all that man does; for karma must always express itself again in the earthly world. This story points, in a very significant manner, to the fact that Christ, through His deed, has connected Himself with the karmic development of the whole of humanity. He guides the future evolution of humanity.
When we examine into the five ages of civilisation again, the Indian, Persian, Egyptian, Greco-Latin, and European, we find that in the third age the foundations were laid for the Christ Power which will become fruitful for the whole of humanity. What was then placed in human evolution will only come forth to life in the Sixth Age. In that Age the Spirit Self, which will have developed out of the Spiritual Soul, will unite with the Life Spirit. The Christ-power shone forth prophetically from the Third to the Fourth Age. In the Sixth Age will take place the great Marriage of Humanity, when the Spirit Self unites with the Life Spirit. Humanity will then be united into a great bond of brotherhood, and ego will stand beside ego and brother beside brother; that bond of brotherhood we find foretold in the description of the Marriage at Cana of Galilee, which is not only an historical fact but symbolically represents how the sons of men will unite in the Sixth Age into a great bond of brotherhood that embraces the whole of humanity. From the Third Age there are still three Ages to go through before this event will come: the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth. In esoterisism an Age is called a day; therefore we read at the beginning of the second chapter: “And on the third day was a marriage at Cana,” which indicates that in the description about to be given, something that will take place in the future is referred to. The Mother of Jesus (the Spiritual Soul) is present at the marriage, and Christ says to her: “What have I to do now, and what have you to do? My hour is not yet come.” Here it is clearly said that in this marriage of Cana something is indicated which will only take place in the future. And as this hour is not yet come, what does Jesus do?
He changes the water into wine. Again and again we find the explanation given, that this action indicates new fire, new life-force was to be given to the Jewish people which was falling into decline; for the “insipid” water is changed into “fiery” wine. One might presume that the wine drinkers have thought out this explanation to justify their action. But if we are able to grasp the significance of this deed, we can look very deeply into the evolution of the world and humanity.
Men have not always used alcohol. All that develops in the Spiritual has its corresponding expression in the Material, and conversely, everything material has also its counterpart in the Spiritual. Wine, alcohol, only appeared at a certain time in the history of humanity and the world; and it will disappear from it again. Here we see a profound truth of occult investigation. Alcohol was the bridge which led from the group-ego to the independent, individual ego; without the material effect of alcohol man would never have made the transition from the group-ego to the individual ego; it produced the individual, personal consciousness in man. When humanity has reached this goal, it will no longer require alcohol, and this will then disappear again from the physical world.
From the above it may be seen that all that happens has its significance in the wise guidance of the evolution of humanity. For this reason, a man who drinks alcohol should not be scolded; but on the other hand, those who have hurried on before the rest of humanity and have developed so far that they no longer require alcohol, should avoid it. Christ appeared on Earth to give humanity the forces which will enable men to achieve the highest ego-consciousness in the Sixth Age; He desires to prepare men for the “time which is not yet come.” Had He let things remain at the stage of the “water sacrifice” only, mankind would never have obtained the individual ego. The changing of the water into wine signifies the raising of man to individuality. Humanity has reached a point in its evolution where it required wine, therefore Christ changed the water into wine. When the period comes when man no longer requires wine, Christ will then change the wine back again into water. How was it possible for the power to appear in Christ which enabled Him to change water into wine? As the Earth itself is the Body of Christ, He could make the forces of the Earth active within Himself. On the Earth the water that flows through the wine is changed into wine; Christ could accomplish as a personality all that takes place in the Earth, because all the forces of the Earth must also be in Him, as soon as the Earth is His Body and is ensouled by His astral body.
What does the Earth accomplish with its forces? If we plant a seed in the Earth, it germinates and grows and bears fruit. It is multiplied; from one come many. Through reproduction the, animals also bring forth many. The same power of increase, the power to multiply, also works in Christ, and this is indicated in the Feeding of the Five Thousand. Christ possesses the power which is natural to the Earth, to multiply the seed. If we bear in mind the thought that the Earth with the forces is the Body of Christ, and apply it to what we find recorded in St. John's Gospel, many details will become comprehensible to us. What are the Gospels on the whole? In St. John's Gospel we have a presentation of the principles of initiation, such as were to be found in various places in ancient times. What the pupil for initiation did outwardly was not the essential thing for the school to which he belonged; the essential thing was what he experienced from stage to stage, from degree to degree of initiation.
Modern scholars are very astonished to discover in the story of Buddha's life occurrences that are similar to those recorded in the story of the life of Christ Jesus. This is explained by the fact that the writers of these accounts did not record the outer circumstances in the life, but the inner spiritual facts. These are the same in all true initiates; for all have traversed the same path and on the way have had the same experiences. What the initiate had to experience on the path of initiation was laid down in the writings on initiation, and all initiates of the same degree had to go through the same experiences. The biographers, therefore, only wrote a biography of the various stages of initiation. The Gospels are nothing more than old records of initiation of various depth; but what in former times was accomplished in a lower state of consciousness, took place publicly in the Mystery of Golgotha. The death which hitherto had been overcome in initiation in the etheric body, was now overcome in the physical body. The Event on Golgotha is the initiation of a highest Initiate, who was not initiated by anyone else.
Therefore the writer of St. John's Gospel could only describe the life of Christ in the way it is described in the codex of initiation. This Gospel is a book of life, and whoever lives it through will awaken within himself the power to see spiritually. It is a seer's book, and was written for the training of spiritual vision. Whoever lives it through, sentence by sentence, will experience the great and mighty result, that he meets Christ spiritually face to face. It is not so easy to convince people; they must themselves work up to the stage at which the knowledge dawns upon them that the Christ is a reality.
St. John's Gospel is the way that leads to Christ, and the writer desired to give everyone the opportunity to understand it. Whoever develops the Spirit Self will experience within himself the dawning of that wisdom through which he can understand what Christ is. Christ Himself indicates this: He hangs on the Cross; at His feet stand His mother and His initiated pupil, whom He loves. This pupil is to bring to men the knowledge of the significance of Christ, therefore Christ Jesus points to the mother Sophia with the words: “This is thy mother, whom thou art to love!” The spiritualised Mother of Jesus is the Gospel itself; it is the wisdom that leads men up to the highest knowledge. This disciple has given us the mother Sophia; that is to say, he wrote for us the Gospel which enables those who search into it to know Christianity, and to comprehend the origin and goal of this great movement.
The Gospel of John contains the wisdom of “the God in man,” Theosophia, and the more that men devote themselves to the study of this document, the more will they receive wisdom and enlightenment from it.