The Principle of Spiritual Economy
II. Christianity in Human Evolution: Leading Individualities and Avatar Beings
Berlin, February 15, 1909
You will have been able to see from the one lecture given here on the more complicated question of reincarnation that the spiritual scientific view of the world continues its progression. Hence, what in the beginning could be presented as elementary truths is undergoing a metamorphosis, so that gradually we rise to ever higher truths. It is therefore correct to present general cosmic truths in their initial stage in as simple and elementary a form as possible. Thereafter, however, it is also necessary to advance slowly from the simple ABC's to the higher truths, because you will agree that through these higher truths we gradually attain what Spiritual Science intends to give us: the opportunity to understand and penetrate the very world that surrounds us in the sentient — the physical — sphere. Now it is true that we have a long way to go in our ascent before we shall be able to somehow draw the connecting links in the spiritual lines and forces that exist behind the world of the senses. But you will agree that this or that phenomenon in our existence has become clearer and easier to explain just by what we have been discussing in the last few lectures. So today we want to advance a little in this specific area and again take as our subject matter the more complicated questions of reincarnation — of reembodiment.
Above all, we want to see clearly that there are differences among the beings who occupy leading positions in the human evolution of the earth. We have to distinguish such leading individualities in the course of human evolution who, as it were, developed from the beginning with humanity on this earth as it exists, but with the important distinction that they progressed more rapidly. We might put it this way: If we go back in time to the most ancient Lemurian Age, we find the most varied stages of development among the human beings then incarnated. All the souls incarnated at that time have been repeatedly reincarnated — reembodiedduring the successive Atlantean and post-Atlantean periods. The speed with which these souls developed varied. Some souls are alive that developed relatively slowly as they went through various incarnations; they still have long distances to traverse in the future. But then there are also those souls who have developed rapidly and who, one might say, have utilized their incarnations in a more productive way. They are now on a high plane of soul-spiritual development, one that will be reached by normal human beings only in the far-distant future. But as we dwell on this sphere of soul life, we can nevertheless say this: No matter how advanced these individual souls may be, however far they may tower above normal human beings, yet within our earthly evolution they have made a journey similar to the rest of humanity, except that they have advanced more rapidly.
In addition to these leading individualities, who in this sense are like other human beings but stand on a higher plane, there are also other individualities — other beings — who have not gone through various incarnations as have the other human beings in the course of human evolution. We can visualize what lies at the bottom of this when we tell ourselves the following: There have been beings in the time of the Lemurian evolution under consideration — beings who no longer needed to descend into physical embodiment as the other human beings just described. They were beings capable of accomplishing their development in higher, more spiritual realms who did not need to descend into corporeal bodies for their further progress. However, in order to intervene in the course of human evolution, such beings can nevertheless descend vicariously into corporeal bodies such as our own. Thus it can happen that such a being appears; if we test it clairvoyantly in regard to the soul, we cannot say, as we can of other human beings, that we trace it back in time and discover it in a previously fleshly incarnation, then trace it farther back and find it again in another incarnation, and so on. Instead, we will have to admit that in tracing the soul of such a being back through the course of time, we may not arrive at an earlier fleshly incarnation of such a being at all. However, if we do, it is only because the being is able to descend repeatedly in certain intervals in order to incarnate vicariously in a human body.
Such a spiritual being who descends in this way into a human body in order to intervene in evolution as a human being is called an “avatar” in the East; such a being gains nothing from this embodiment for himself and experiences nothing that is of significance for the world. This, then, is the distinction between a leading being that has emanated from human evolution and beings whom we call avatars. The latter reap no benefit for themselves from their physical embodiments, or even from one embodiment to which they subject themselves; they enter a physical body for the blessing and progress of all human beings. To repeat — an avatar being can enter a human body just once or several times in succession; but when it does, it is then something different from any other human individuality.
The greatest avatar being who has lived on earth, as you can gather from the spirit of our lectures here, is the Christ — the Being whom we designated as the Christ, and who took possession of the body of Jesus of Nazareth when he was thirty years of age. This Being, who did not come into contact with our earth until the beginning of our era, was incarnated for three years in a body of flesh and has since that time been in contact with the astral, i.e., the spiritual, sphere of our super-sensible world; this Being has a unique significance as an avatar being. Although other, lower avatar beings can reincarnate several times, it would be in vain for us to seek the Christ-Being in an earlier human embodiment on earth. The difference between the Christ and the lower avatars does not lie in the fact that the latter incarnate repeatedly, but that they derive no benefits for themselves from their earthly embodiments. Human beings give the world nothing; they only take from it. By contrast, these beings only give; they take nothing from the earth. To gain a perfect understanding of this idea, you have to distinguish between such a lofty avatar being as the Christ and lower avatar beings. Such avatar beings can have the most varied missions on earth; and in discussing one of those missions, we want to avoid speculative language and take a concrete case as an illustration for such a mission.
You all know from the ancient Hebrew story of Noah that a large part of post-Atlantean, post-Noah humanity traces its ancestry back to the three sons of Noah—Shem, Ham, and Japhet. It is not our purpose today to elucidate what Noah and these three tribal ancestors represent in other respects. We simply want to elucidate here that Hebrew literature, speaking of Shem as one of Noah's sons, traces the whole tribe of the Semites back to him as its ancestor. A genuinely occult perception of such a matter, of such a story, is always grounded in deeper truths. Those who are able to conduct occult research into such things know the following about Shem, the ancestor of the Semites.
When such a personality is destined to become the forefather of an entire tribe, care must be taken from his birth — and even earlier — to insure that he can become such a forebear. Now, what preparations were necessary to ensure that an individuality such as Shem could indeed become the forefather of a whole people or tribal community? In the case of Shem it was done by giving him a quite specially prepared etheric body. We know that when human beings are born into this world, they structure around their individuality an etheric or life body, along with the other members of their being. A special etheric being must somehow be prepared for the ancestor of a tribe because it has to be, as it were, the prototype of an etheric body for all the descendants in succeeding generations. And so it happens that we have in such a tribal individuality a typical etheric body, a prototype as it were. Because of blood relationship in successive generations, the etheric bodies of all descendants of the tribe are in a certain sense copies of the ancestor's etheric body. Thus, every Semitic person's etheric body had something like a copy of Shem's etheric body woven into it. Now, by what means is such a condition brought about in the course of human evolution?
Let us look at Shem more carefully. We find that his etheric body received its archetypal form because an avatar had woven himself into it. It was not such a high avatar that we can compare him with other avatar beings, but still a lofty avatar descended into his etheric body. This avatar individuality was not connected with Shem's astral body nor with his ego, however, but was woven into his etheric body alone. From this example we can study what it means when an avatar being partakes in the constitution and composition of a human being. What does it mean, then, when a human being who, like Shem, has the mission to be the ancestor of a whole people should in a way have the essence of an avatar woven into his body? It means that every time the essence of an avatar is woven into the soul of a fleshly being, any one member — or even several members — of the super-sensible constitution of this human being are capable of being multiplied and split into many parts.
The fact that an avatar being was interwoven with Shem's etheric body made it possible for countless copies of the original to come into being and to be woven into all the human beings who became the descendants of this ancestor in subsequent generations. Thus, the descent of an avatar being is, among other things, significant in that it contributes to the multiplication of one or several members of the being who is animated by the avatar. As you can see from this, an especially precious etheric body was present in Shem, an archetypal etheric body, prepared by an exalted avatar and then woven into Shem so that it could descend in many copies to all those who were destined for consanguinity with him.
As we have already said in a previous lecture, a spiritual economy exists by virtue of the fact that something of special value is preserved and carried over into the future. We have heard not only that the ego reincarnates but also that the astral body and the etheric body are capable of doing the same. Aside from the fact that countless copies of Shem's etheric body came into being, his own etheric body was also preserved in the spiritual world because it could later be useful in the mission of the Hebrew people. Remember that all the peculiarities of the Hebrews had originally come to expression in this etheric body, and if at any time something of special importance was to happen to them — if one of them should be assigned a special task or mission, then this could be best accomplished by an individual who bore the etheric body of the ancestor within himself. As a matter of fact, an individual bearing the etheric body of Shem later played an important part in the history of the Hebrew people. We have here indeed one of those wonderous complications in the evolution of humankind that can explain so much to us. We are dealing here with an exalted individuality who, as it were, was compelled to condescend in order to be able to speak to the Hebrews in a comprehensible manner and to give them the strength necessary for a special mission. By analogy, if an intellectually advanced individual had to speak to a primitive tribe, he would have to learn its language, but this does not mean that the language in question would elevate him personally; all the individual would have to do is to take the trouble of acquainting himself with the language. In this same way, an exalted individuality had to make a strong personal effort to become one with Shem's etheric body to be able to give a definite impulse to the ancient Hebrew people. This personality was the very Melchizedek 12Melchizedek was the king of Salem and “Priest of the Most High God,” who blessed Abraham after the defeat of Chedorlaomer (Genesis 14:18-20) and who was later to typify the priesthood of the future Messiah (Psalms 110:4; Heb. 5-7). you find in Biblical history. In a way, he wore Shem's etheric body so that later he could give Abraham the impulse that you find so beautifully in the Bible. What was contained in the individuality of Shem was multiplied because an avatar being was incarnated in it, and all this became interwoven with all the other etheric bodies of the Hebrews. In addition, Shem's own etheric body was preserved in the spiritual world so that it could be borne at a later time by Melchizedek, who was to give the Hebrews an important impulse through Abraham.
This is how finely interwoven the facts behind the physical world are, facts that are needed to elucidate to us what happens in the physical world. Only by being able to point to such facts of a spiritual nature that are behind the facts of the physical world do we learn to interpret history. History can never become comprehensible through considering physical facts alone.
Now, if the descent of an avatar being affects the soul-spiritual components of the human being in that he or she becomes the bearer of the avatar's soul, and if this results in multiplication and transmission of the archetypal copy onto others, then this phenomenon becomes especially significant with the appearance of Christ on earth. Because the avatar essence of Christ lived in the body of Jesus of Nazareth, it became possible not only that the etheric body but also that the astral body and even that the ego were multiplied innumerable times; by ego, I mean the “I” as an impulse that was kindled in the astral body of Jesus of Nazareth when Christ entered his threefold sheath. However, foremost in our consideration is here the fact that the etheric and astral bodies could be multiplied because of the presence of the avatar being.
Now, one of the most significant turning points in human history was the appearance of the Christ principle in earthly evolution. What I have told you about Shem is actually typical and characteristic of pre-Christian times. When an etheric or an astral body is multiplied in this way, the copies of the original are usually transmitted to those people who are related by blood to the ancestor who had the prototype. Hence, the copies of Shem's etheric body were transmitted to the members of the Hebrew tribe, but when the Christ Avatar Being appeared, all this was changed. The etheric and astral bodies of Jesus of Nazareth were multiplied and the copies preserved until they could be used in the course of human evolution. However, they were not bound up with this or that nationality or tribe. But when in the course of time a human being appeared who, irrespective of nationality, was mature and suitable enough to have his own etheric or astral body interwoven with a copy of the etheric or astral body of Jesus of Nazareth, then those bodies could be woven into that particular person's being. Thus we see how it became possible in the course of time for all kinds of people to have copies of the astral or etheric body of Jesus of Nazareth woven into their souls.
The intimate history of Christian development is connected with this fact. What is normally described as the history of Christian development is a sum of entirely external occurrences. It is for this reason that far too little attention is given to what is most important — the distinction of actual periods in Christian development. Anyone who can look more deeply into the developmental progress of Christianity will easily perceive that the manner in which Christianity was disseminated was different in the first few centuries from that of later centuries in the Christian era. In the first few Christian centuries the dissemination of Christianity was, in a way, bound up with everything that could be gained from the physical plane. We need only look at the early teachers of Christianity to see how they emphasized physical memories, physical connections, and everything that had remained in a physical state. Just consider how Irenaeus, 13St. Irenaeus (c. 125-c. 202) was a Greek theologian, Bishop of Lyons in 177–78, and the first Father of the Catholic Church to systematize Christian doctrine. a man who contributed so much in the first century to the dissemination of Christian doctrine in various countries, stressed that memories should extend back to those who had listened to the disciples of the Apostles. It was important to prove through such physical recollections that Christ Himself had actually taught in Palestine. It was specially emphasized, for example, that Papias 14Papias was a second-century Christian theologian and Apostolic Father of the Church. himself had sat at the feet of the Apostles' disciples. Even the places were shown and described where such personalities had sat — people who could still be cited as eyewitnesses to the fact that Christ had lived in Palestine. The physical progress in memory was what was especially emphasized in the first few centuries of Christianity.
How much stress remained on everything that was physical can be seen from the words of the old St. Augustine 15St. Augustine (354–430) was the Bishop of Hippo in what is now Algiers and one of the four Latin fathers. His famous book The City of God is a justification of Christianity against pagan critics, and his Confessions is a classic of Christian mysticism. living at the end of this era, who said: “Why do I believe in the truths of Christianity? Because the authority of the Catholic Church compels me to do so.” To him, the physical authority's telling him that something exists in the physical world was the important and essential thing. The determining factor for him was that a corporate body had preserved itself within which one personality is linked back to another until one arrives at one who, like Peter, was a companion of Christ. Hence, we can see that in the dissemination of Christianity during the early centuries, it was the documents and the impressions of the physical plane to which the greatest importance was given.
All that changes after the time of St. Augustine and into the tenth, eleventh, and twelfth centuries. It was then no longer possible to appeal to living memories or to consult the documents of the physical plane because they were too far removed from the present. Something entirely different was present in the whole mood and the disposition of the human beings, especially the Europeans, who were then embracing Christianity. It was the feeling, the direct knowledge, of the existence of Christ, of His death on the cross, and of His continuing life. From the fourth and fifth up to the tenth and twelfth centuries, a large number of people would have considered it foolish to be told that they could doubt the events in Palestine because they knew better. People like these were especially common in European countries, and they had always been able to experience inwardly in miniature a kind of Pauline revelation, that is the experience through which Saul became Paul on the road to Damascus.
What made it possible for a number of people in those centuries to be able to receive revelations about the events in Palestine that were in a sense clairvoyant? It was possible because the multiplied copies of the etheric body of Jesus of Nazareth had been preserved and were in these centuries woven into the etheric bodies of a large number of people who wore these multiplied copies as one would wear a garment. Their etheric body did not consist entirely of the copy of Jesus' etheric body, but it had had woven into it a copy of the original. There were indeed human beings in those centuries who were able to have such an etheric body and who could thereby have an immediate knowledge of Jesus of Nazareth and the Christ.
All this, however, had the effect that the Christ image was no longer associated with the externally historical and physical transmission of the story. The highest degree of such disassociation is evident in that wonderful literary work of the ninth century, the Heliand. 16Heliand, the title of the epic (c. 825) is an Old Saxon word for German Heiland = the Savior. The poem had 5,983 lines and was written in alliterative verse. This poem was written down by a seemingly simple Saxon in the time of Louis the Pious, who reigned from 814–840. The Saxon's astral body and ego could not match what was in his etheric body because the latter had had woven into it a copy of the etheric body of Jesus of Nazareth. This simple Saxon priest, the author of the poem, was certain from immediate clairvoyant vision that the Christ existed on the astral plane and that He was the same Christ who had been crucified at Golgotha! And because this was a direct certainty for him, he no longer needed to resort to historical documents or to physical mediation in order to know that the Christ does exist. Therefore, he describes the Christ detached from the whole Palestinian setting and from the peculiarities of the Jewish character. This poet, then, depicts the Christ as if He were something like a leader of a Central European or Germanic tribe, and he describes those who surround Hirn as His followers — the Apostles — as if they were vassals of a Germanic prince. The entire external scenery has been changed, but the structure of the events and the essential and eternal aspects of the Christ figure remain the same. This poet did not have to hold rigidly to historical events when he was speaking of the Christ because he had a direct knowledge of Him that was built upon a foundation as important as a copy of the etheric body of Jesus of Nazareth. What he had acquired as immediate knowledge, he draped with a different external setting. Even as we have been able to describe this writer of the Heliand poem as one of the peculiar personalities who had a copy of the etheric body of Jesus of Nazareth woven into his own etheric body, we can find other personalities in this period who also carried a copy within themselves. We see, therefore, that the most important things take place behind the physical occurrences and that these things can explain history to us in an intimate way.
If we continue to trace Christian development, we come to the period from about the eleventh or twelfth up to the fifteenth century, and it is here that we discover an entirely different mystery that now carried evolution forward. If you remember, first it was the memory of what had taken place on the physical plane, followed by the etheric element being woven into the etheric bodies of the pillars of Christianity in Central Europe. But later, from the twelfth to the fifteenth century, it was numerous copies of the astral body of Jesus of Nazareth that became interwoven with the astral bodies of the most important pillars of Christianity. In those days the human beings had egos capable of forming extremely false ideas about all sorts of things, yet in their astral bodies a direct force of strength, of devotion, and of the immediate certainty of holy truths was alive. Such people possessed deep fervor, an absolutely direct conviction, and also in some circumstances the ability to prove this conviction. What sometimes must strike us as being so strange especially in these personalities is that their ego development was not at all equal to that of their astral bodies because the latter had copies of the astral body of Jesus Christ woven into them. Their ego behavior often seemed grotesque, but the world of their sentiments, feelings, and fervor was magnificent and exalted.
Francis of Assisi, 17The Italian St. Francis of Assisi (1182–1226) was one of the greatest Christian saints and founder of the Franciscan Order. for example, was such a personality. We study his life and cannot, as modern people, understand what his conscious ego was; yet we cannot help having the most profound reverence for the richness and range of his feelings and for all that he did. This is no longer a problem once we adopt the perspective mentioned above. He was one of those who had a copy of the astral body of Jesus of Nazareth woven into their own astral bodies, and this enabled him to accomplish what he did. Many of his followers in the Order of the Franciscans, with its servants and minorites, had such copies interwoven with their astral bodies in a similar fashion.
All the strange and otherwise mysterious phenomena of that time will become lucid and clear to you as soon as you set this mediation in world evolution between that time and previous times properly before the eye of your soul. The important distinction that must be made for these people of the Middle Ages is whether what was woven into their souls from the astral body of Jesus of Nazareth contained more of what we call the sentient soul, more of the intellectual soul, or more of the consciousness soul. This distinction is important because, as you know, the astral body must be envisioned as containing, in a certain sense, all of these three components, as well as the ego, which it encompasses. What was woven into Francis of Assisi was, as it were, the sentient soul of Jesus of Nazareth, and the same is true in the case of that remarkable personality Elisabeth of Thüringen, who was born in 1207. 18Elisabeth of Thüringen (1207–1231), the young widow of a German margrave who had died on a crusade in 1227, chose a life of poverty, humility, and charity and became the typical saint of the late Middle Ages. Knowing this secret of her life will enable you to follow the course of her life with your whole soul. She, too, was a personality who had a copy of the astral body of Jesus of Nazareth woven into her sentient soul. The riddle of the human being is solved for us by means of just such knowledge.
If you know that during this time the most diverse personalities had sentient soul, intellectual soul, or consciousness soul woven into them as copies of the astral body of Jesus of Nazareth, you will above all comprehend that little understood and much maligned science that has become known as scholasticism. 19Scholasticism was the school of thought in the Middle Ages in which theology and philosophy were conjoined. The German term Scholastik normally designates this medieval school of thought, whereas Scholastizismus, the linguistic equivalent of the English term, is used exclusively to denote sophistry and casuistry. What tasks did the scholastics set for themselves? They set out to find, on the basis of judgment and intellect, verifications and proof of those phenomena for which historical links and physical mediation did not exist and which could no longer be known with the direct clairvoyant certainty possible in previous centuries through the interwoven etheric body of Jesus of Nazareth. These people set themselves the task by saying: Tradition has communicated to us that the Being known as Jesus Christ has appeared in history and that, in addition, other spiritual beings of whom religious documents bear witness have intervened in human religion. Then, from the intellectual soul, that is from the intellectual element of the copy of Jesus Christ's astral body, they set themselves the task of proving with subtle and clearly developed concepts all that their literature contained as mystery truths. Thus arose the strange science that attempted what was probably the most penetrating intellectual venture ever undertaken in the history of human thought. One may think of the content of scholasticism as one wishes, but for several centuries this school of thought developed the capacity of human reflection and thus put its imprint on the culture of the time. Scholasticism accomplished this by an extremely subtle discernment between and outlining of various concepts. As a result, between the thirteenth and fifteenth centuries the school implanted into humanity the capacity to think with acute and penetrating logic.
The special conviction that Christ can be found in the human ego arose among those who were imbued more strongly with the copy of the consciousness soul of Jesus of Nazareth, because the ego functions in the consciousness soul. Because these individuals had within them the element of consciousness soul from the astral body of Jesas of Nazareth, the inner Christ rose resplendent within their souls, and through this astral body they came to know that the Christ within them was the Christ Himself. These were the individuals whom you know as Meister Eckhart, 20Meister (Johannes) Eckhart (c. 1260–1328), a Dominican-trained German theologian and the most profound of the German medieval mystics, was probably the first writer of speculative prose in German. Johannes Tauler, 21Johannes Tauler (1300–1361) was a German Dominican mystic and a disciple of Meister Eckhart. and all other pillars of medieval mysticism.
Here you see how the most diverse manifestations of the astral body, multiplied by the fact that the exalted Avatar Being of the Christ had entered the body of Jesus of Nazareth, continued to work in the following age and brought about the real development of Christianity. This is an important transition in other respects as well. We have seen how humanity in the course of its evolution was otherwise dependent upon having incorporated within it these copies of the Jesus of Nazareth Being. In the early centuries people had existed who depended entirely on the physical plane; then in the following centuries there were human beings who were susceptible to having the etheric body of Jesus of Nazareth woven into their own etheric bodies. Later, human beings, one might say, became more oriented toward the astral body, and that is how the copy of the astral body of Jesus of Nazareth could now be incorporated into them. The astral body is the bearer of judgment, and it was the human capacity to judge that was awakened between the twelfth and the fourteenth centuries.
This awakening of the astral body can also be observed in another phenomenon. Before the twelfth century, the depths of mystery contained in the Holy Communion were especially well understood. It was not widely discussed, but rather was accepted in a manner that enabled a human being to feel everything that was contained in the words, “This is My body and this is My blood.” Christ meant with these words that He would be united with the earth and become its planetary spirit. And because flour is the most precious thing on earth, bread became for human beings the body of Christ, and the sap flowing through plants and vines became to them something of His blood. Through this knowledge, the value of the Lord's Supper was not diminished but was, on the contrary, enhanced. People in the early centuries felt something of these infinite depths, and they continued to do so up to the time when the power of judgment was awakened in the astral body. It was only then that disputes began about the meaning of the Lord's Supper. Just think about the discussions about the meaning of the Lord's Supper among the Hussites, Lutherans, and the dissenting Zwinglians and Calvinists. 22The Hussites advocated communion in both kinds, i.e., both wine and bread, for laity as well as priests. Lutherans believed that a change takes place by which the body and blood of Christ join with the bread and wine. This principle of consubstantiation was rejected by the Zwinglians who saw only symbolic significance in the communion. Finally, the Calvinists believed that Christ was spiritually, but not physically, present in the Sacrament. They would not have been possible in earlier times when people still had an immediate, direct knowledge of the Lord's Supper!
Here we see verified a great historical law that should be of special significance to the spiritual scientist: As long as people knew what the Lord's Supper was, they did not discuss it. They began to discuss it only after they had lost direct knowledge of it. Let us consider the fact that people discuss a particular matter as an indication that they do not really know it. Where knowledge exists, knowledge is narrated, and there is no particular desire for discussion. Where people feel like discussing something, they have, as a rule, no knowledge of the truth. Discussion begins only when there is a lack of knowledge, and it is always and everywhere the sign of decline regarding the seriousness of a subject matter when discussions about it are to be heard. Discussions portend the decline of a particular trend. It is very important that time and again in Spiritual Science we learn to understand that the wish to discuss something should actually be construed as a sign of ignorance. On the other hand, we should cultivate the opposite of discussion, and that is the will to learn and the will to gradually comprehend what is in question.
Here we see an important historical fact verified by the development of Christianity itself. But we can also learn something else when we see how, in the centuries of Christianity characterized above, the power of judgment, this keen intellectual wisdom, is further developed. Indeed, when we focus our attention on realities and not on dogmas, we can learn how much Christianity has accomplished since its inception. Take scholasticism. What has become of it when we look not at its content, but perceive it as a means of cultivating and disciplining our mental faculties? Do you want to know? Scholasticism has become modern natural science! The latter is inconceivable without the reality of medieval Christian science. It is not only that Copernicus was a canon and Giordano Bruno 23Giordano Bruno (1548–1600) was a noted Italian philosopher and mystic who, although a member of the Dominican Order in his youth, was in constant opposition to religious orthodox schools. He was tried by the Inquisition for heresy and burned to death. a Dominican, but that all thought forms with which natural objects have been tackled since the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries are nothing but what was developed and nurtured by the Christian science of the Middle Ages from the eleventh through the sixteenth centuries. There are people today who look up passages in scholastic books, compare them with recent findings of natural history, and then say Haeckel and others aver something entirely different. Such people do not live in reality but in the world of abstractions! Realities are what matters! The work of Haeckel, Darwin, DuBois-Reymond, Huxley, 24Ernst Haeckel (1834–1932) was a renowned German zoologist and, like the English naturalist Charles Robert Darwin (1809–1882), developed a theory of evolution. Emil DuBois-Reymond (1818–1896) was a famous physiologist in Berlin. Thomas Henry Huxley (1825–1895) was an English biologist and writer. and others would all have been impossible had the Christian science of the Middle Ages not preceded them. These modern scientists owe their mode of thought to the Christian science of the Middle Ages. That is the reality, and it is from that science that humanity has learned to think in the true sense of the word.
But there is more. Read David Friedrich Strauss 25David Friedrich Strauss (1808–1874) was a philosopher and theologian whose writings mark a turning point in the critical study of the life of Jesus. In his main work, The Life of Jesus (2 vols, 1835–36), Strauss applied the “myth theory” to the life of Jesus and denied all supernatural elements in the Gospels. and try to observe his mode of thinking. Try to realize what his chain of reasoning is: how he wants to present the entire life of Jesus of Nazareth as a myth. Do you know where the keenness of his thinking comes from? He gets it from the Christian science of the Middle Ages. Everything used today to combat Christianity so radically has been taken over from the Christian world of learning in the Middle Ages. Actually, today there cannot be an opponent of Christianity of whom it could not easily be shown that he would be unable to think as he does had he not learned his thought forms from the Christian science of the Middle Ages. If one considered that fact, one would indeed look at world history as it really is.
What, then, has happened since the sixteenth century? Since that time the human ego has increasingly come into prominence and with it human egotism, and with egotism, materialism. Everything that the ego had absorbed and acquired was gradually unlearned and forgotten. Human beings now were compelled to limit themselves to what the ego could observe and to what the physical sensory system was able to give to the ordinary intelligence. That is all the ego could take into its inner sanctuary. Culture since the sixteenth century has become the culture of egotism.
What must now enter into the ego? Christian evolution has passed through a development in the physical, etheric, and astral bodies and has made its way as far as the ego. Now it must take into this ego the mysteries and secrets of Christianity itself. Following a time when the ego learned to think through Christianity and then apply the thoughts to the external world, it must now become possible for the ego to become a Christ-receptive organ. This ego must now rediscover the wisdom which is the primordial wisdom of the Great Avatar, of Christ Himself. And how is this to be done? It must be done through a more profound understanding of Christianity through Spiritual Science. Having been carefully prepared through the three stages of physical, etheric, and astral development, the inner organ would now have to open itself to its human host so that he or she could henceforth look into the spiritual environment with the eye that the Christ can open for us.
Christ descended to earth as the greatest avatar being. Let us view this in the right perspective and try to look at the world as we would be able to do after we have received the Christ into ourselves. Then we would find the whole process of our world evolution illuminated and pervaded by the Christ Being. That is to say, we would describe how the physical body of human beings originated on Old Saturn, 26(Old) Saturn, (Old) Sun, and (Old) Moon are names for former evolutionary forms through which the Earth has passed. The reader is referred to An Outline of Occult Science (Anthroposophic Press, 1972), for a thorough discussion of this topic. how the etheric body made its appearance on Old Sun, the astral body on Old Moon, and the ego on the Earth. Finally, we would find how everything tends toward the goal of becoming ever more independent and individual in order to incorporate into the evolution of the earth the very wisdom that passes from the Sun to the earth. In a way, Christ and Christianity must become the perspective center of a cosmic view for the liberated ego.
So you see how Christianity has gradually prepared itself for what it is to become. In the early centuries the Christian received Christianity with his physical ability to cognize truth, later with his etheric capacity, and throughout the Middle Ages with his astral capacity to cognize truth. Then Christianity in its true form was repressed for a while until the ego had been trained by the three bodies in the course of Christian evolution. But after this ego had learned how to think and direct its vision to the objective world, it is now mature enough to perceive in all phenomena of the objective world the spiritual facts that are so intimately linked with the Central Being, the Christ. Thus, the ego is now capable of beholding the Christ everywhere in the most diverse manifestations as the foundation of the objective world.
Here we stand at the point of departure for spiritual-scientific comprehension and perception of Christianity, and we begin to understand what a task and mission has been assigned to our movement for spiritual knowledge. In so doing, the reality of this mission becomes evident to us. Just as the individual human being has a physical, an etheric, and an astral body in addition to his or her ego, so it is with the historical development of Christianity, and both continue to rise to ever more lofty heights. We might say Christianity, too, has physical, etheric, and astral bodies, as well as an ego — an ego that can even deny its origin as it does in our time. To be sure, an ego can become egotistic, but it still remains an ego that can receive the true Christ Being into itself, thereby rising to ever higher stages of existence. What the human being is in particular, the great world is in its totality; and that includes its historical evolution.
If we look at the matter in this way, a perspective of the far-distant future opens itself before us from the spiritual-scientific point of view, and we know this perspective can touch our hearts and fill them with enthusiasm. More and more it becomes clear to us just what it is we have to do, and then we realize that we are not groping in the dark. This is so because we have not devised ideas that we intend to project into the future in an arbitrary fashion, but we intend to harbor and follow only those ideas that have been gradually prepared through centuries of Christian development. It is true that only after the physical, etheric, and astral bodies had come into existence could the ego make its appearance; now it is to be developed little by little to spirit self, life spirit, and spirit man. By the same token, modern human beings with their ego form and present thinking, could have developed only from the astral, etheric, and physical form of Christianity. Christianity has become ego. Just as truly as this was the development of the past, so it is equally true that the ego form of humanity can appear only after the astral and the etheric forms of Christianity have been developed. Christianity will develop on into the future. It will offer humanity far greater things, and the Christian development and way of life will arise in a new form. The transformed astral body will appear as the Christian spirit self, the transformed etheric body as the Christian life spirit. And in a radiant perspective of the future of Christianity, spirit man shines forth before our souls as the star toward which we strive, illuminated and glowing throughout with the spirit of Christianity.