The Gospel of John
IV. The Raising of Lazarus
22 May 1908, Hamburg
From the three foregoing lectures, it should have become somewhat clear that in the Gospel of St. John the truths of Spiritual Science can be found again. However, it must be very clear that in order to discover these truths, it will be necessary to weigh every word thoroughly. In fact the important thing in a consideration of this religious document is that the true, exact meaning be perfectly understood, for as we shall see in particular instances everything in it has the deepest possible significance. Moreover, not only the wording of special passages is of importance, but something else must be considered and this is the division, the composition, the structure of the document. As a matter of fact, people no longer have the right feeling for such things. Authors of the past — if I may so designate them — introduced into their works much more of an architectural structure, much more of an inner arrangement than is usually imagined. You need only to recall from among them a relatively modern poet, Dante, to find this confirmed. Here we see that the Divine Comedy is architecturally composed of parts based upon the number three. And it is not without meaning that each division of Dante's Comedia closes with the word “Stars.” This I mention only to suggest how architecturally ancient writers constructed their works, and especially in the great religious documents we should never lose sight of this architectural form, because in certain cases the form signifies a very great deal. To be sure, we must first discover this meaning.
Here at the end of the 10th Chapter of this Gospel of St. John we should recall the following verse, which we should keep clearly in mind. In the first verse we read: —
And many came to him and said:
John performed no miracles, but all that he said of this man is true.
This means that we find in this verse of the 10th Chapter, an indication that the testimony given of Christ Jesus by John is true. He expresses the truth of this testimony in very special language. Then we come to the end of the Gospel and there we find a corresponding verse. Here we read in the 24th verse of the 21st Chapter: —
This is the disciple which testifieth of these things, and wrote these things: and we know that his testimony is true!
Here at the end of the entire Gospel, we have a statement that the testimony of the one who reported these things is a true one. The coincidence that something very special is being said, here and there, by means of some particular word, is never without significance in ancient writings and just behind this coincidence is concealed something very important. We shall proceed with our considerations in the right manner if we direct our attention to the reason for this.
In the middle of the Gospel of St. John a fact is presented which, if not understood, would render this Gospel incomprehensible. Directly following the passage in which these words are introduced as confirmation of the truth of the testimony of John the Baptist stands the chapter concerning the raising of Lazarus. With this chapter the whole Gospel falls into two parts. At the end of the first part it is pointed out that the testimony of John the Baptist should be accepted for everything that is maintained and affirmed concerning Christ Jesus and at the very end of the Gospel it is pointed out that all that follows the chapter on the raising of Lazarus should be accepted on the testimony of the Disciple whom we have often heard designated as “the Disciple whom the Lord loved.” What then is the real meaning of the “raising of Lazarus?”
Let me remind you that following the narration of the raising of Lazarus there stands an apparently enigmatical passage. Let us picture the whole situation: — Christ Jesus performs what is usually called a miracle — in the Gospel itself it is called a “sign” — namely, the raising of Lazarus. And subsequently we find many passages which attest that “this man performs many signs,” and all that follows indicates that the accusers did not wish to have intercourse with Him because of these signs. If you read these words, whatever their translation (this has already been referred to in my book Christianity as Mystical Fact), you would need to ask: — What is really at the bottom of it all? The raising of some one provoked the enemies of Christ Jesus to rise up against Him. Why should just the raising of Lazarus so provoke these opponents? Why does the persecution of Christ Jesus begin just at this stage? One who knows how to read this Gospel will understand that a mystery lies hidden within this chapter. The mystery concealed therein is, in truth, concerned with the actual identity of the man who says all that we find written there. In order to understand this, we must turn our attention to what in the ancient Mysteries is called “initiation.” How did these initiations in the ancient Mysteries take place?
A man who was initiated could himself have experiences and personal knowledge of the spiritual worlds and thus he could bear witness of them. Those who were found sufficiently developed for initiation were led into the Mysteries. Everywhere — in Greece, among the Chaldeans, among the Egyptians and the Indians — these Mysteries existed. There the neophytes were instructed for a long time in approximately the same things which we now learn in Spiritual Science. Then when they were sufficiently instructed, there followed that part of the training which opened up to them the way to a perception of the spiritual world. However, in ancient times this could only be brought about by putting the neophyte into a very extraordinary condition in respect of his four principles — his physical, ether and astral bodies and his ego. The next thing that occurred to the neophyte was that he was put into a death-like sleep by the initiator or hierophant who understood the matter and there he remained for three and a half days. Why this occurred can be seen if we consider that in the present cycle of evolution, when the human being sleeps in the ordinary sense of the word, his physical and ether bodies lie in bed and his astral body and ego are withdrawn. In that condition he cannot observe any of the spiritual events taking place about him, because his astral body has not yet developed the spiritual sense-organs for a perception of the world in which he then finds himself. Only when his astral body and ego have slipped back into his physical and ether bodies, and he once more makes use of his eyes and ears, does he again perceive the physical world, that is, he perceives a world about him. Through what he had learned, the neophyte was capable of developing spiritual organs of perception in his astral body and when he was sufficiently evolved for the astral body to have formed these organs, then all that the astral body had received into itself had to be impressed upon the ether body just as the design on a seal is impressed upon the sealing-wax. This is the important thing. All preparations for initiation depended upon the surrender of the man himself to the inner processes which reorganized his astral body.
The human being at one time did not have eyes and ears in his physical body as he has today, but undeveloped organs instead — just as animals who have never been exposed to the light have no eyes. The light forms the eye, sound fashions the ear. What the neophyte practiced through meditation and concentration and what he experienced inwardly through them, acted like light upon the eye and sound upon the ear. In this way the astral body was transformed and organs of perception for seeing in the astral or higher world were evolved. But these organs are not yet firmly enough fixed in the ether body. They will become so when what has been formed in the astral body will have been stamped upon the ether body. However, as long as the ether body remains bound to the physical, it is not possible for all that has been accomplished by means of spiritual exercises to be really impressed upon it. Before this can happen, the ether body must be drawn out of the physical. Therefore when the ether body was drawn out of the physical body during the three and a half days deathlike sleep, all that had been prepared in the astral body was stamped upon the ether body. The neophyte then experienced the spiritual world. Then when he was called back into the physical body by the Priest-Initiator, he bore witness through his own experience of what takes place in the spiritual worlds. This procedure has now become unnecessary through the appearance of Christ-Jesus. This three and a half day death-like sleep can now be replaced by the force proceeding from the Christ. For we shall soon see that in the Gospel of St. John strong forces are present which render it possible for the present astral body, even though the ether body is still within the physical, to have the power to stamp upon the etheric what had previously been prepared within it. But for this to take place, Christ-Jesus must first be present. Up to this time without the above characterized procedure, humanity was not far enough advanced for the astral body to be able to imprint upon the ether body what had been prepared within it through meditation and concentration. This was a process which often took place within the Mysteries; a neophyte was brought into a death-like sleep by the Priest-Initiator and was guided through the higher worlds. He was then again called back into his physical body by the Priest-Initiator and thus became a witness of the spiritual world through his own experience.
This took place always in the greatest secrecy and the outer world knew nothing of the occurrences within these ancient Mysteries. Through Christ-Jesus a new initiation had to arise to replace the old, an initiation produced by means of forces of which we have yet to speak. The old form of initiation must end, but a transition had to be made from the old to the new age and to make this transition, someone had once more to be initiated in the old way, but initiated into Christian Esotericism. This only Christ-Jesus Himself could perform and the neophyte was the one who is called Lazarus. “This sickness is not unto death,” means here that it is the three and a half day death-like sleep. This is clearly indicated.
You will see that the presentation is of a very veiled character, but for one who is able to decipher a presentation of this kind it represents initiation. The individuality Lazarus had to be initiated in such a way that he could be a witness of the spiritual worlds. An expression is used, a very significant expression in the language of the Mysteries, “that the Lord loved Lazarus.” What does “to love” mean in the language of the Mysteries? It expresses the relationship of the pupil to the teacher. “He whom the Lord loved” is the most intimate, the most deeply initiated pupil. The Lord Himself had initiated Lazarus and as an initiate Lazarus arose from the grave, which means from his place of initiation. This same expression “Whom the Lord loved” is always used later in connection with John, or perhaps we should say in connection with the writer of the Gospel of St. John, for the name “John” is not used. He is the “Beloved Disciple” to whom the Gospel refers. He is the risen Lazarus himself and the writer of the Gospel wished to say: — “What I have to offer, I say by virtue of the initiation which has been conferred upon me by the Lord Himself.” Therefore the writer of the Gospel distinguishes between what occurred before and what occurred after the raising of Lazarus. Before the raising, an initiate of the old order is quoted, one who has attained a knowledge of the Spirit, one whose testimony is repeatedly announced to be true. “However, what is to be said concerning the most profound of matters, concerning the Mystery of Golgotha, I myself say, I the Risen One; but only after I have been raised, can I speak concerning it!” And so we have in the first part of the Gospel, the testimony of the old John — in the second half, the testimony of the new John whom the Lord Himself had initiated, for this is the risen Lazarus. Only thus do we grasp the real meaning of this chapter. These words are written there because John wished to say: I call upon the testimony of my super-sensible organs, my spiritual powers of perception. What I have related I have not seen in the ordinary physical world, but in the spiritual world in which I have dwelt by virtue of the initiation which the Lord has conferred upon me.
Thus we must attribute the characterization of Christ-Jesus, which we find in the first chapters of the Gospel of St. John as far as the end of the loth Chapter, to the knowledge which might be possessed by any one who had not yet, in the deepest sense of the word, been initiated through Christ-Jesus Himself.
Now, you will say: “Yes, but we have already in these lectures listened to profound words about Christ-Jesus as the incarnated Logos, the Light of the World, etc.” It is no longer surprising that these profound words concerning Christ-Jesus were spoken even in the very first Chapters, for in the ancient Mysteries, Christ-Jesus, who was to appear in the world at a future time, in other words, the Christ, was not perhaps an unknown being. And all the Mysteries point to One who was to come. For this reason the ancient initiates were called “prophets” because they prophesied concerning something that was to take place. Thus the purpose of initiation was to let it be clearly understood that in the future of mankind the Christ would be revealed, and in what he had already learned at that time, the Baptist found the truth which made it possible to state that He, who had been spoken of in the Mysteries, stood before him in the person of Christ-Jesus.
How all this is connected and what the relationship was between the so-called Baptist and Christ-Jesus will become clearer to us if we answer two questions. One of these questions is the following: — What was the position of the Baptist in his own age? The other leads back to the explanation of various passages at the beginning of the Gospel.
What was the position of the Baptist in his own age? Who, in fact, was the Baptist? He was one of those who — like others in their initiation — had received indications of the coming Christ, but he was represented as the only one to whom the true mystery concerning Christ-Jesus had been revealed, namely, that He who had appeared was the Christ Himself. Those who were called Pharisees or were designated by other names saw in Christ-Jesus some one who in fact opposed their old principles of initiation, one who in their eyes did things to which they in their conservatism could not accede. Just because of their conservatism they said: — We must adhere to the old principles of initiation. And this inconsistency of constantly speaking about the future Christ, yet never admitting that the moment had arrived when He was really present, was the reason for their conservatism. Therefore when Christ-Jesus initiated Lazarus, they looked upon it as a violation of the ancient Mystery-traditions. “This man performs many signs! We can have no intercourse with him!” According to their understanding, He had betrayed the Mysteries, had made public what should be confined within their secret depths. Now we can see how to them this was like a betrayal and seemed to be a valid reason for rising up against Him. From that time, because of this, a change takes place; the persecution of Christ-Jesus begins.
How did the Baptist represent himself in the first chapters of this Gospel? In the first place, as one who was well acquainted with the Mystery-truths of the Christ Who was to come; as one who knew very well that the writer of the Gospel of St. John himself could repeat all that he, the Baptist, already knew, having become convinced of its truth through what we are now about to learn.
We have heard what the very first words of the Gospel mean. We shall now consider for a moment what is said there about the Baptist himself. Let us present it once more in the best possible translation. Thus far we have only heard the very first words:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was a God.
The same was in the beginning with God.
All things came into being through It and save through It was not anything made that was made.
In It was Life and Life was the Light of men.
And the Light shone into the darkness but the darkness comprehended it not.
There was a man; he was sent from God, bearing the name John. The same came as a witness in order to bear witness of the Light that through him all might believe.
He was not the Light but was a witness of the Light.
For the true Light which lighteth every man should come into the world.
It was in the world and the world came into being through It, but the world knew It not.
It entered into individual men (that is, the ego-men); but individual men (the ego-men) received it not.
But they who received it could reveal themselves as Children of God.
They who trusted in His name were not born of the blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man — but of God.
And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us and we have heard His teaching, the teaching of the once born Son of the Father filled with Devotion and Truth.
John bare witness of Him and proclaimed clearly: He it was of whom I said: — He will come after me, who was before me. For He is my forerunner.
For out of His fullness have we all received Grace upon Grace. For the law was given through Moses, but Grace and Truth came through Jesus-Christ.
Hitherto hath no one beheld God with his eyes. The once-born Son, who was in the bosom of the Universal-Father, has become the leader in this beholding.
These are the words which give again approximately the meaning of those first verses of the Gospel of St. John. However, before we come to their interpretation, we must add something else. How did John describe himself? You will remember that people were sent to discover who John the Baptist was. Priests and Levites came to him to ask him who he was. Why he gave the foregoing answer, we have yet to discover. Just at present we shall only consider what he said.
He said, “I am the voice of one calling in solitude.” These are the words which stand there. “I am the voice of one calling in solitude.” “In solitude” stands there quite literally. In Greek, the word eremit signifies the “solitary one.” You can then understand that it is more correct to say, “I am the voice of one calling in solitude,” than “I am the voice of one preaching in the wilderness.” We shall better understand all that is presented in the opening words of the Gospel, if we call to mind John's own characterization of himself. Why does he call himself “the voice of one calling in solitude?”
We have seen that in the course of human evolution, the true Earth-mission is the evolution of love, but that love is only conceivable when it is given as a voluntary offering by self-conscious human beings. We have also seen that the human being little by little gains control of his ego and that slowly and gradually this ego sinks into human nature. We know that the animal, as such, has no individual ego. If the individual lion were able to say “I” to itself, the individual animal would not be meant thereby, but the group-ego in the astral world. All lions would say “I” to this group-ego. Thus whole groups of animals of like form say “I” to the supersensibly perceptible group-ego in the astral world. The great advantage human beings have over the animals is that of possessing an individual ego. The latter, however, only evolved by degrees, for human beings also began with a group-ego, with an ego belonging to a whole group of individuals.
If you were to go back to ancient peoples, to ancient races, you would find that originally human beings were everywhere formed into little groups. With the Germanic peoples you would not need to go very far back. In the writing of Tacitus it is quite evident that the German thought more of his whole tribe than of himself as an individual. The individual felt himself more as a member of the Cheruskian or of the Sigambrian tribe than as a separate personality. Therefore he partook of the fate of the whole tribe and when an individual member or the entire tribe received an affront, it did not matter who was the avenger.
Then in the course of time it happened that individual personalities gave up their tribal membership, and this resulted at last in the breaking up of the tribes so that they no longer held together. Human beings also evolved out of this group-soul characteristic and little by little they developed to a point where they could experience the ego in their own individual personalities. We can only understand certain things, especially religious documents, when we understand this mystery of the group-souls, of the group-egos. For those peoples who had come already to a certain conception of the individual ego, there still always existed a greater ego that spread out not only over groups living contemporaneously in a certain place, but also far beyond these groups. Human memory at the present time is of such a character that the individual remembers only his own youth. But there was a time when a different kind of memory existed, a time when the human being not only remembered his own deeds but also those of his father and of his grandfather as though they were his own. Memory reached out beyond birth and death as far as the blood relationship could be traced. The memory of an ancestor whose blood, as it were, flowed down through generations was preserved for centuries in this same blood, and a descendant or offspring of a tribe said “I” to the deeds and the thoughts of his forebears as though to himself. He did not feel himself limited by birth and death, but he felt himself as a member of a succession of generations, the central point of which was the ancestor. For what held the ego together was the fact that the individual remembered the deeds of the fathers and of the grandfathers. In ancient times this had its outer expression in the giving of names. The son remembered not only his own deeds but also those of his father and of his grandfather. Memory extended far back through generations and all that the memory thus encompassed was called in ancient times, for example, Noah or Adam. The individual human beings were not meant by these names, but the egos which for centuries had preserved the memory. This mystery was also concealed behind the names of the Patriarchs. Why did the Patriarchs live so long? It would never have occurred to the people of ancient times to denominate an individual human being by a special name during his life between birth and death. Adam was looked upon as a common memory, because the limits of time and space in ancient days played no part in the giving of names.
By degrees the human individual ego slowly freed itself from the group-soul, from the group-ego. The human being came gradually to a consciousness of his own individual ego. Formerly he felt his ego in his tribal membership, in the group of human beings to whom he was related through the blood tie, either as to time or space; hence the expression, “I and Father Abraham are one,” which means one ego. The individual felt himself safe within the whole, because a common blood ran through the veins of all of the members of his particular people. Evolution progressed and the time became ripe for individuals right within their race to feel their own separate egos. It was the mission of the Christ to give to human beings what they needed in order that they might feel themselves secure and firm within their separate individual egos. In this way we should also interpret those words which can be so easily misunderstood namely, “He who does not deny wife and child, father and mother, brother and sister, cannot be my disciple!” We must not understand this in the trivial sense of instruction to run away from the family. But it means that every one should feel that he is an individual ego and that this individual ego is in direct union with the Spiritual Father who pervades the world. Formerly a follower of the Old Testament said, “I and Father Abraham are one,” because the Ego felt itself resting within the blood relationship. At that moment this feeling of oneness with the Spiritual Father-Substance had to become independent; no longer should the blood relationship be a guarantee of membership in the whole, but the knowledge of the pure Spiritual Father-Principle in whom all are one.
Thus we are told in the Gospel of St. John that the Christ is the great bestower of the Impulse which gives to men what is needed to make them feel themselves forever within their own separate, individual egos. This is the transition from the Old Testament to the New, for the old had always something of a group-soul character in which one ego felt itself associated with the others, but in reality never felt either itself or the other egos. Instead, it experienced the folk or tribal ego within which they all had a common shelter.
What must be the feeling of an ego that has become so matured that it no longer feels the connection with the other individual personalities of the group-soul? What must have been the feelings of the individualized ego in a period in which it could be said: “The time is now past when union with other persons, union with all egos belonging to a group-soul can be felt as an actual life-reality; first, however, One must come who will give the spiritual Bread of Life to the soul from which the individual ego may receive nourishment.” This separate ego had to feel itself solitary and the forerunner of the Christ was compelled to say: I am an ego that has broken away, that feels itself alone, and just because I have learned to feel solitary, I feel like a prophet to whom the ego gives real spiritual nourishment in solitude. Therefore the herald had to designate himself as one calling in solitude, which means the individual ego isolated from the group-soul calling for what can give it spiritual sustenance. “I am the voice of one calling in solitude.” Thus we hear again the profound truth: — Each human individual ego is one wholly dependent upon itself; I am the voice of the ego that is freed, seeking a foundation upon which it, as an independent ego, can rest. — Now we understand the passage, “I am the voice of one calling in solitude.”
In order that we may accurately understand the words of the Gospel, we shall need to familiarize ourselves a little with the way names and designations were then usually given. The giving of names at that time was not so abstract and devoid of meaning as it is at present, and if the exponents of biblical documents would only consider a little how much is expressed in this way, many trivial interpretations would never come to the light of day. I have already pointed out that when the Christ said, “I am the Light of the World,” He really meant that He was the first to give expression to the “I AM” and was the Impulse for it. Therefore in the first chapters wherever “I AM” is to be found, it must be especially emphasized. All names and designations in ancient times in a certain sense are very real — yet at the same time they are used in a profoundly symbolical manner. This is often the source of tremendous errors made in two directions. From a superficial point of view, many say that according to such an interpretation a great deal is meant symbolically, but with such an explanation in which everything has only a symbolical meaning, they wish to have nothing to do, since historical, biblical events then disappear. On the other hand, those who understand nothing at all of the historical events may say: — “This is only meant symbolically.” Those, however, who say such things, understand nothing of the Gospel. The historical reality is not denied because of a symbolic explanation, but it must be emphasized that the esoteric explanation includes both, the interpretation of the facts as historical and the symbolic meaning which we ascribe to them. Of course, if anyone sees only the prosaic external facts, namely, that a man was born somewhere, at some particular time, he will not understand that this man is something more than just a person with a particular name whose biography can be written. But whoever knows the spiritual relationship will learn to understand that besides being born in some particular place this living human being is also a symbol of his age and that what he signifies for the evolution of humanity is expressed in his name. It is something symbolic and historical at the same time, not simply the one or the other. This is the important thing in a true interpretation of the Gospel. Therefore in almost all of the events and allusions, we shall see that John — or the author of the Gospel bearing his name — really has a super-sensible perception; he sees at one and the same time the outer events and the manifestation of deep spiritual truths. He has in mind the historical figure of the Baptist; he is considering the historical figure. But the true historical figure is for him at the same time a symbol for all men who were in ancient times called upon to receive the imprint of the Christ Impulse upon their egos, a symbol for those into whose individual egos the Light of the World might shine, although they had just started on the path. It was not, however, a symbol for those who in their darkness were not yet able to apprehend the Light of the World. What appeared as Life, Light, and Logos in Christ-Jesus, has always shone in the world, but those who were first to become matured did not recognize it. The Light was always there, for had it not been there, the germ of the ego could not possibly have come into existence.
Only the physical, ether and astral bodies of the present human being existed within the Moon Evolution; there was no ego in them. Only because the Light became transformed into that light which now shines down upon the earth did It have the power to enkindle the individual egos and to bring them gradually to maturity. “The Light shone in the darkness but the darkness could not yet comprehend it.” It entered into the individual human being — right into the human ego — for an ego-humanity could not have come into existence at all, had not the Light been rayed into it by the Logos. However, ego-humanity as a whole did not receive It, but only certain individuals, the initiates. They raised their souls to the spiritual worlds and they always bore the name, “Children of God,” because they possessed knowledge of the Logos, of the Light, and of Life and could always bear witness of These. There were certain ones who already knew of the spiritual worlds through the ancient Mysteries. What was present there in these initiates? It was the eternal human living within them in full consciousness. In the mighty words, “I and the Father are one,” they felt, in fact, I and the great Primal Cause are one! And the most profound thing of which they were conscious, their individual ego, they received not from father and mother but through their initiation into the spiritual world. Not from the blood nor from the flesh did they receive it, nor from the will of father or mother, but “from God,” which means from the spiritual world.
Here we have an explanation of why it was that although the majority of mankind had already received the rudiments of an ego-being they could not as individuals receive the Light which had only descended, in fact, as far as the group-ego. Those, however, who received the Light — and they were few, indeed — could by means of it make themselves “Children of God.” Those who put their trust in the Light were through initiation born of God. This gives us a clear picture. But in order that all men might perceive the living God, with their earthly senses, He, the Christ, had to appear upon earth in a way that made it possible for Him to be seen with physical eyes; in other words, He had to take on a form of flesh, because only such a form can be seen with physical eyes. Prior to this, only the initiates could perceive Him through the Mysteries, but now He took on a physical form for the salvation of every soul. “The Word or the Logos became flesh.” Thus the writer of the Gospel of St. John links the historical appearance of Christ-Jesus together with the whole of evolution. “We have heard His teaching — the teaching of the once-born Son of the Father!” What manner of teaching is this? How were other men born?
In the ancient times in which the Gospels were written, those who were born of the flesh were called “twice-born.” They were called twiceborn — let us say — because of the intermingling of the blood of father and mother. Those who were not born of flesh and did not come into existence through a human act or through the mingling of blood, were “born of God,” that is to say, they were “once-born.” Those who were previously called “Children of God” were always in a certain sense the “once-born” and the teaching about the Son of God is the teaching of the “once-born.” The physical man is “twice-born,” the spiritual man is “once-born.” You must not understand it to mean born into (hineingeboren) — no, “once-born” (eingeboren) is the antithesis of “twice-born” (zweigeboren). These words point to the fact that besides the physical birth, the human being can experience also a spiritual birth, namely, union with the Spirit, a birth through which he is “once-born,” a child or a son of the Godhead.
Such a teaching had first to be heard from Him who represented the Word-made-Flesh. Through Him this teaching became general — “this teaching of the once-born Son of the Father, filled with Devotion and Truth.” Devotion is the better translation here, because we have to do not only with being born out of the Godhead, but also with continued union with It, with the removal of all illusions which only come from being “twice-born” and which surround men with sense-deceptions. On the contrary it is a teaching, the truth of which is substantiated by Christ-Jesus Himself, living and dwelling among men as the incarnated Logos.
John the Baptist called himself — literally interpreted — the forerunner, the precursor, the one who goes before as herald of the ego. He designated himself as one who knew that this ego must become an independent entity in each individual soul, but he also had to bear witness of Him who was to come, in order that this be brought about. He said very clearly, “That which is to come is the ‘I AM,’ which is eternal, which can say of Itself, “Before Abraham was, was the I AM.” John could say, “The I (the ego) which is spoken of here existed before me. Although I am Its forerunner, yet It is at the same time my Forerunner. I bear witness of what was previously present in every human being. After me will come One Who was before me.”
At this point in the Gospel very significant words are spoken: — “For of His Fulness have we all received grace upon grace.” There are men who call themselves Christians, who pass over this word, “Fulness,” thinking that nothing very special is meant by it. “Pleroma” in Greek means “Fulness.” We find this word also in the Gospel of St. John: “For from the Pleroma have we all received grace upon grace.” I have said that if we wish really to understand this Gospel, every word must be weighed in the balance. What is then, Pleroma, Fulness? He alone can understand it who knows that in the ancient Mysteries Pleroma or Fulness was referred to as something very definite. For at that time it was already being taught that when those spiritual beings manifested themselves who during the Moon period evolved to the stage of divinity namely, the Elohim, one of them separated from the others. One remained behind upon the Moon, and thence reflected the power of Love until humanity was sufficiently matured to be able to receive the direct Light of the other six Elohim. Therefore they distinguished between Jahve, the individual God, the reflector, and the Fulness of the Godhead, “Pleroma,” consisting of the other six Elohim. Since the full consciousness of the Sun Logos meant to them the Christ, they called Him the “Fulness of the Gods” when they wished to refer to Him. This profound truth was concealed in the words: — “For out of the Pleroma, we have received grace upon grace.”
Now let us continue by transplanting ourselves back into the age of the group-souls, when each individual felt his own ego as the group-ego. Let us now consider what kind of a social organization existed in the group. As far as they were visible human beings, they lived as individuals. They felt inwardly the group-ego, but outwardly they were individuals. Since they did not yet feel themselves as separate entities, they were also unable yet to experience inner love to its fullest extent. One person loved another because he was related to him through blood. The blood relationship was the basis of all love. First those related by blood loved each other and all love, as far as it was not sex-love, sprang from this blood relationship. Men must free themselves more and more from this group-soul love and proffer love as a free gift of the ego. At the end of the earth evolution, a time will come for mankind when the ego, now become independent, will receive into its inner being, in full surrender, the impulse to do the right and good. Because the ego possesses this impulse, it will do the right and the good. When love becomes spiritualized to such a degree that no one will wish to follow any other impulse. than this, then that will be fulfilled which Christ-Jesus wished to bring into the world. For one of the mysteries of Christianity is that it teaches the seeker to behold the Christ, to fill himself with the power of His image, to seek to become like Him, and to follow after Him. Then will his liberated ego need no other law; it will then, as a being free in its inner depths, do the good and the true. Thus Christ is the bringer of the impulse of freedom from the law, that good may be done, not because of the compulsion of any law, but as an indwelling Impulse of Love within the soul. This Impulse will still need the remainder of the Earth period for its full development. The beginning has been made through Christ-Jesus, and the Christ figure will always be the power which will educate humanity to it. As long as men were not yet ready to receive an independent ego, as long as they existed as members of a group, they had to be socially regulated by an outwardly revealed law. And even today men have not, in all things, risen above the group-egos. In how many things in the present are men not individual human beings, but group-beings? They are already trying to become free, but it is still only an ideal. (At a certain stage of esoteric discipleship, they are called the homeless ones.) The man who voluntarily places himself within the cosmic activities is an individual; he is not ruled by law. In the Christ Principle lies the victory over law. “For the law was given by Moses, but Grace through Christ.” According to the Christian acceptation of the word, the soul's capacity for doing right out of the inner self was called Grace. Grace and an inner recognition of truth came into being through the Christ. You see how profoundly this thought fits into the whole of human evolution.
In earlier ages, those who were initiated developed higher spiritual organs of perception; previously no one ever saw God with physical eyes. The once-born Son who rests in the bosom of the Father is the first who made it possible for us to behold a God in the way we see a human being upon earth with the physical earthly senses. Previously God had remained invisible. He revealed Himself in the super-sensible world through dreams or in other ways in the places of Initiation. Now God has become an historical fact, a form in the flesh. We read this in the words: “Before this no one had beheld God. The once-born Son who dwelt in the bosom of the Universal Father became the guide to this perceiving.” He brought mankind to the point where it could behold God with earthly senses.
Thus we can see how sharply and clearly the Gospel of St. John points to the historical event of Palestine and in what exemplary and concise words which must be accurately weighed in the balance if we wish to use them for an understanding of Esoteric Christianity.
Now we shall see in the following lectures how this theme is further developed and at the same time how it is shown that the Christ is not only the guide of those who are united with the group-soul, but how He enters into each individual human being and endows the individual ego itself with His Impulse. The blood-tie indeed remains, but the spiritual aspect of love is added to it, and to this love which passes over from one individual, independent ego to another, He gives His Impulse.
Day by day, one truth after another was revealed to the neophyte in the course of his initiation. A very important truth is always disclosed, for example, on the third day. Then it is that one learns fully to understand that there is a point in the evolution of the earth when physical love, bound up with the blood, becomes ever more spiritualized. This point of time is the event which demonstrated the transition from a love dependent upon the blood-tie to a spiritualized form of love. In significant words Christ-Jesus makes reference to this when He says: “A time will come which is my time, a time when the most important things will no longer be accomplished by men bound by the tie of blood, but by those who stand alone by themselves. This time however is yet to come.” The Christ Himself who gave the first impulse, says on one important occasion that this ideal will sometime be fulfilled, but that His time is not yet come. He prophetically points to this when His mother stands there and asks Him to do something for mankind, hinting that she has the right to induce Him to an important deed for humanity. He then replies, “What we are able to do today is still connected with the blood bond, with the relationship between thee and me, for My time is not yet come.” That such a time will come when each must stand alone is expressed in the narrative of the Marriage at Cana when the announcement: “They have no wine,” was answered by Jesus with the words: “That is something that has still to do with thee and me, for My time is not yet come.” Here we have the words, “between thee and me” and “My time is not yet come.” What stands there in the text refers to this mystery. Like many others, this passage also is usually very roughly translated. It should not read: “Woman, what have I to do with thee?” but: “This has to do with me and thy blood relationship.” The text is very fine and subtle, but comprehensible only to those who have the will to understand it. But when, in our age, these religious documents are repeatedly interpreted by all kinds of people, one would like to ask, have those who call themselves Christians then no feeling for all this, that they make the Christ utter the words, incorrectly translated, “Woman, what have I to do with thee?”
In much that today calls itself Christianity which rests upon the teaching of the Gospel, we are inclined to ask, Do they really possess the Gospel? The important thing is that they should first possess it. And with such a profound document as the Gospel of St. John every word must be weighed in order that its proper value be recognized.