The Gospel of St. John
XIII. The cosmic significance of the Mystery of Golgotha
6 July 1909, Cassel
Yesterday the significance of the Mystery of Golgotha for the evolution of man upon our earth was borne in upon our souls. Now every event in the world is connected by interminable ties with the evolution of the whole universe. A full understanding of the real nature of the Mystery of Golgotha is only possible when light has been thrown on the cosmic significance of that great event.
We already know that the Being whom we name the Christ descended from super-sensible regions to our earth; that He had been seen in the Sun in His descent by the seer Zarathustra in ancient Persia; then by Moses in the burning bush and in the fire on Sinai; and finally by those who had experienced the Christ-event, when Christ was present in the body of Jesus of Nazareth. We know that the events upon our earth, and, above all, human evolution, are connected with our solar system. For we have shown that this evolution of man in the form which it has attained, could never have been accomplished had not first the Sun, and, at a later period, the Moon, once severed themselves from a single planet in which our present sun and moon were still united with our earth; whereby our earth was placed in a centre of equilibrium between sun and moon. Man being unable to keep pace with the rapid evolution of those beings who were forced to remove their centre of activity to the sun, it was necessary that the earth should be separated from the sun. On the other hand, had the earth remained united with the moon, the human race must have undergone a rapid process of hardening or ossification. On this account the moon, with all its substances and beings, was separated from the earth. By these events the regular evolution of mankind was rendered possible. We saw yesterday, however, that the remnant of a tendency to harden has nevertheless persisted, and that this remnant would suffice to bring upon mankind, at the end of earth evolution, a state resembling corruption, had not the Christ-impulse come. This will give us some insight into our whole evolution.
There was a time, therefore, in which sun, moon, and earth formed one planet. The sun then detached itself from the universal body, leaving earth and moon still united. The present moon then separated, leaving the earth to be the scene of human evolution. This was in the ancient Lemurian period, preceding the so-called Atlantean period, which we have now discussed from various points of view. In the succeeding phase of the earth's evolution the forces of the sun and moon worked upon the earth from outside; this lasted from Atlantean times till our own day. Let us now consider the further course of earth's evolution, up to the moment when the Christ-impulse came; let us fix our minds upon a particular moment in which the Cross was raised on Golgotha and the blood flowed from the wounds of Christ Jesus. Let us concentrate upon this point in the evolution of our earth.
Up to this point of time the condition of humanity was determined by the entry into man's being of the united Luciferic and Ahrimanic Powers. This resulted in man's finding himself in a world of maya or illusion, for we have seen how Ahriman contrived that the outer world should appear to man, not in its true form, but as though it were only a material world and as if there were no spirit behind all substance. For a long period man found himself, and still finds himself to a large extent, in a condition which is the result of error, because he is confined to the sensible, material impressions around him and elaborates these in his thoughts and ideas. Thus, owing to the influence of Ahriman, man's picture of the outer world is a false one and his ideas of the spiritual world are illusory and untrue. But everything spiritual is connected with physical effects and we have seen that, as one consequence of the Luciferic and Ahrimanic influence, the blood of the human being became less and less capable of enabling him to obtain a right view of the outer world. Hence, with the deterioration and dispersal of blood — when consanguineous marriage was replaced by the intermarriage of strangers — there was an increasing growth of illusion. For man could no longer apply to the ancient wisdom which was his former heritage and which affirmed: ‘It is not true that the outer world is mere matter; if you remain true to your old legacy of wisdom, it will tell you that a spiritual world is there behind the physical.’ This heritage of wisdom was gradually lost and man grew ever more dependent on the outer world for the whole life of his soul and for his knowledge. Therefore all his physical impressions were transformed into illusion and deception. Had the Christ-impulse not intervened, man would have ultimately lost all his old heritage of wisdom and have been entirely thrown upon the outer world of the senses and the impressions derived from it. He would have forgotten that a spiritual world exists. This had to happen; man had to become blind to the spiritual world.
Now we must consider in all its gravity a truth of this nature, to the effect that man would to an increasing extent become a prey to delusion and error regarding the external world. This truth, this fall of man into error as regards the impressions of the world of sense, is not so simple a matter to envisage in all its gravity and import. Try for a moment to understand what it means, to recognize as illusion and deception all outer impressions of the senses, as they present themselves to us in the physical world. We must learn to say to ourselves: ‘The facts and impressions in the world of senses, as they affect us, are false; we must learn to see behind the external impressions the true form of the latter.’ I will mention one event to which it is, as a rule, difficult for people to apply the truth; it is hard for them to say to themselves: ‘The form in which this event appears to us in the outer world is false, an illusion, maya.’ What is this event? It is death. When it appears to us in the outer physical world, death shows certain peculiarities, inasmuch as it appeals to our knowledge which, as we have described, has become confined to outer physical events. Death has assumed an aspect in which it can be contemplated by man only from the standpoint of the outer physical world. It was precisely on the subject of death that man necessarily fell into the most erroneous, the most fatal views. We must therefore conclude that the form in which death presents itself to us is only maya, illusion, deception.
Before our eyes, in the outer physical world, the most diverse events take place. There we see the stars which fill space; here the mountains, the plants, the animals; there our whole mineral world; there too is man and everything else — the sum of facts which we can observe with our senses. When we ask whence come these facts, whence comes this outer physical world which presents itself to us as a material world, we must answer: it all comes from the spiritual part upon which our sense world is founded. For the foundation upon which our physical world rests is spiritual. And if we reverted to the primal form of the spirit, to the source of all that is sensible and physical, we should have to name it the ‘foundation of all being’, the divine ‘Father-principle’ of Christian esotericism. The divine Father-principle underlies all creation. What, therefore, was veiled from the human being when all things were plunged into maya or illusion? The divine Father-principle! Instead of the mirage of the senses, man should see everywhere and in everything about him the divine Father-principle to which he and all things belong. Thus the divine Father-principle does not show itself in its true form; by reason of the diminution of man's powers, of which we have spoken, it appears veiled in the great illusion or maya.
What is interwoven in this great illusion? Among all the facts which we apprehend, we are struck by one of especially fundamental nature — namely, Death. We must reflect that the outer things which present themselves to our senses are of a truth the Father-principle; they express the divine spiritual Father-element. And since death is interwoven in the whole world of sense, we look upon it as something belonging to the divine spiritual Father-element. Man's development having been such as it was, the divine Father-principle appears to him enveloped in many a veil, and last of all is the veil of death. What, therefore, must man seek behind death, as behind all sense-perceptions? He must seek the Father, the cosmic Father! As man must learn to say of everything: ‘It is in truth the Father!’, so he must learn to say: ‘Death is the Father!’ Why does the image of the Father appear to us distorted and disfigured to the extent of appearing as the illusion of death? Because the Lucifer-Ahrimanic principle is intermingled with our whole life. By what means, therefore, was it necessary to lead man from a deceptive, false view to a true conception of death?
It was necessary that man should be enlightened regarding death on the strength of facts. Something was necessary from which man could learn that whatever he felt and knew concerning death, all that he had been able to effect under the impulse of his conception of death was false. An event was to happen whereby the true form of death was made clearly perceptible to him; the false form was to be extinguished and replaced by the true form.
This was the mission of Christ upon earth: by His Deed to substitute the true form for the false form of death.
Death had become a distortion of the Father through the intervention of Lucifer-Ahriman in the evolution of mankind. Death was the consequence or effect of Lucifer-Ahriman. What, therefore, was to be done by one who wished to expel from the world this false form of death? It could never have been removed from human life had not its cause, Lucifer-Ahriman, been put aside. But no earthly being can indeed extinguish everything that has been wrought by earthly beings themselves, but he cannot eliminate the influence of Lucifer-Ahriman. That influence could only be destroyed by a being who was not yet on earth, but still in outer cosmic space, when Lucifer and Ahriman were at work, a being who had descended to earth at a time when Lucifer and Ahriman had fully entered into the body of the human being.
Now this Being did arrive upon earth, as we have seen, and did conquer Lucifer and Ahriman precisely at the right moment; He removed the cause of the presence of death in the world. Hence that Being was necessarily one who had nothing to do with any causes of death whatever among men. He must have had no part in anything that had been effected by Lucifer, and later by Ahriman, or which had been accomplished by individual men on earth in consequence of the Luciferic and Ahrimanic influence; in other words, He must have had no part in anything that had made man guilty and had caused him to fall into sin. For had that Being been subject to all these causes, there would have been grounds for the death which He suffered. But a death such as His, a groundless death, taken upon Himself by a Being without sin, an altogether guiltless death could alone annihilate all death due to guilt.
An innocent Being, therefore, was to suffer and become united with death. Having yielded Himself up to death, He brought into human life those forces which gradually and by degrees create for man the knowledge of the true nature of death — that is, the knowledge that death, as it appears in the world of sense, is devoid of truth, and that, if it came, it was for the sake of life in the spiritual world; indeed, it provides precisely the foundation for this life.
Thus by the innocent death on Golgotha the proof was furnished and will be gradually understood by men, that ‘Death is the ever-living Father!’ When we have understood that, through the event of Golgotha, death is made insignificant; that through the influence of Christ, who lived in the body of Jesus of Nazareth and with whom we can unite ourselves, this image of death which was indeed presented to us on the Cross, is but an external event, and that the life of Christ in the etheric body was the same after as before His death, and therefore that this death cannot injure life; if we have understood that we are in the presence of death which does not extinguish life, but is itself Life, then we have a token for all time, in that which hangs upon the Cross, that Death is truly the Life-giver. Just as the plant grows out of the seed, so also death is no destroyer but a seed of life; it is strewn like seed in our physical world in order that this world may not fall away from life, but may be raised into life. The repudiation of death was achieved on the Cross by the death which, being an innocent death, was a contradiction in itself. Now what was actually brought to pass by this event?
From the previous lectures we know that man possesses an Ego as the fourth principle of his nature, and that this Ego, as it develops, has the blood as its outer physical instrument. The blood is the expression of the Ego. For this reason the Ego fell ever more into error, into maya or illusion, inasmuch as the blood deteriorated. Therefore man owes the increased power of his Ego to the circumstances that he learned to distinguish himself from the spiritual world, and became an individuality. This capacity could not be bestowed on him save by cutting off from him for the time being all vision of the spiritual world. And it was precisely death which effected the severance. Had man always known that death is the seed of life, he would never have attained an independent individuality; for he would have remained united with the spiritual world. But death came and gave him the illusion that he was severed from the spiritual world, thus training him to independent egoity. This egoity, however, grew increasingly independent, to the extent of becoming exaggerated and strained beyond a certain point. This excess could be counteracted only by the withdrawal from the egoity of the force which had driven it beyond that limit. Thus the Ego had to be freed from the force which would have led it too deeply into egoism; the element which would have furthered egoism as well as egoity had to be expelled. And this element was indeed expelled at the moment of the death on the Cross on Golgotha, when the blood flowed from the wounds; so that in the course of time it can also be driven out of the individual Ego to an increasing extent.
Hence, in the blood flowing from the wounds of Christ, we see the actual symbol of the excessive egoism in the human ‘I’. As the blood is the expression of the Ego, so the blood that flowed on Golgotha is the expression of the superfluous egoism in the human individuality. Had the blood not flowed on Golgotha, man would have undergone a spiritual hardening in selfishness and would have encountered the fate which we described yesterday. By the flowing of the blood on Golgotha the impetus was given for the gradual disappearance from the human race of that which renders the ‘I’ or Ego an egoist.
But every physical event has its spiritual counterpart. Inasmuch as the blood flowed from the Wounds on Golgotha, a corresponding spiritual event was taking place. It came about at that moment that rays of light streamed for the first time from the earth into universal space, where there had formerly been none; so that we have to picture to ourselves rays of light, created at that moment, streaming out from the earth into space. The earth had grown darker and darker in the course of time, until the event of Golgotha. Then the blood flows and the earth begins to radiate!
Had some being in pre-Christian times been able to behold the earth clairvoyantly from a distant planet, he would have observed how the earth's aura lost its radiance by degrees, being darkest at the time preceding the event of Golgotha, and how it then shone forth in new colours. The deed of Golgotha suffused the earth with astral light which by degrees will become etheric and then physical. For every being in the world is in process of evolution. The present sun was once a planet; and just as the old Saturn evolved into the Sun, so our Earth, now a planet, is evolving into a Sun. The first impetus towards becoming a Sun was given to our earth when the blood flowed from the wounds of the Redeemer on Golgotha. The earth then began to glow, first astrally and visible only to the seer; but in future ages the astral light will become physical light and the earth will be a luminous body — a Sun-body.
As I have often told you, a planetary body does not arise through the aggregation of physical matter, but through the creation of a new spiritual centre and scene of activity by a spiritual being. The formation of a planet begins in the spiritual world. Every physical heavenly body was first spirit. Our earth, in a future state, will be the astral aura which began to radiate at the moment described. That was the first beginning of the future Sun-earth. What a man would then perceive with his deceptive senses would be an illusion. It is devoid of truth; it dissolves and ceases to exist. The more the earth becomes ‘Sun’, the more is this maya consumed in the Sun-fire and is dissolved therein. Through the suffusion of the earth with the rays of a new force (being the first impulse for the transformation of the earth into a Sun), the possibility was afforded for mankind to be irradiated by the same force. What I described to you yesterday received then its first impetus — namely, the radiating of the Christ-force into the human etheric body. Thanks to this astral force streaming into it, the etheric body could begin to absorb new vitality such as it will need in the distant future. If you compare a future condition of humanity with the point of time at which the Deed of Golgotha was accomplished, you may conclude that at the time of Christ's coming the condition of the earth was such that it could not of itself radiate light into the etheric bodies of men. A short time after this event the etheric bodies of those who had found access to the Christ-impulse became radiant; having understood Christ, they absorbed into themselves that radiant force, that new illuminative force which has been in the earth ever since. They received into their etheric bodies the Christ-light. The Christ-light streams into the etheric bodies of men.
And now the Christ-light being always present, to some extent, in the etheric bodies of men ever since that time, what is the consequence of this? What takes place after death in that part of the etheric body which has absorbed into itself the Christ-light? What is it that has gradually made its way into the human etheric body in consequence of the Christ-impulse?
Since that time it has become possible for something new to show itself in the etheric bodies of men, as an effect of the Christ-light; something which exhales life and is immortal, and can never fall a prey to death. But if it does not fall a prey to death (while man still continues being a victim of the illusion of death), it will be saved from death and will not participate therein. Since that time, therefore, there has been something in the etheric body of man which does not share in his death and is not subject to the earthly forces of dissolution. And that something, which does not die with the rest and which man gradually wins for himself through the influence of the Christ-impulse, now radiates back and streams into the world of space. In proportion to its strength or weakness in man, it gathers a force which streams out into space. This force will form a sphere surrounding the earth, a sphere in process of becoming a Sun. A kind of spiritual sphere is developing round the earth, composed of those etheric bodies endowed with light. As the Christ-light streams from the earth, there is in like manner a kind of reflection of the Christ-light in the circumference of the earth. The Christ-light which is here reflected and which appeared in consequence of Christ's life on earth; this, it is, which Christ called the ‘Holy Ghost’. True as it is that the change of the earth into a sun began with the event of Golgotha, it is equally true that the earth thenceforward began to be creative and to form a spiritual ring round itself which, in time to come, will become a kind of planet surrounding it.
Thus, since the event of Golgotha, a momentous process has been taking place in the universe. At the moment when the Cross was raised on Golgotha and the blood ran from the wounds of Christ Jesus, a new cosmic centre was created. We were there as human beings, whether in a physical body or out of it, between birth and death. Thus do new worlds arise. But one thing we must understand, that while we behold the dying Christ, we stand in the presence of the birth of a new Sun.
Christ united Himself with death which has become, on earth, the characteristic expression of the Father-Spirit. Christ goes to the Father and unites Himself with the expression of the Father — with death; thereby the image of death (as it has become) is shown in its falseness; for death now becomes the seed of a new Sun in the universe. Let us feel this event, this growing delusion of death; let us feel that the Death on the Cross is the seed from which a new Sun bursts forth, then we shall also truly feel how mankind on earth must have felt that Event to be the supremely important transition in human evolution.
There was once a time when men still possessed a dim, hazy clairvoyance. They lived then in the spiritual element. They could retrace their lives; when they were thirty years of age they could look back to their 20th, to their 10th year and so on; and even to their birth. They knew that they had been born out of divine, spiritual regions. Birth was then no beginning. Spiritual beings beheld this birth; they beheld the death too, and knew that something spiritual dwelt within birth and death, which death could not affect. Birth and death in the present sense did not as yet exist; they appeared later and assumed their deceptive form in the outer image of the Father; death became the characteristic feature of this outer image of the Father! Men then beheld death and saw in it the apparent destroyer of life. Death grew to an increasing extent into an image representing the opposite of life; if life brought many sorrows in its train, death represented the greatest of sorrows. What must have been the reflections on death of one who contemplated from outside the events on earth as they were reflected in mankind before the coming of Christ? Had he descended as a higher being from divine, spiritual heights, with conceptions other than human, he must have felt impelled, when he considered the human race, to speak as Buddha spoke.
Buddha had issued from the royal palace in which he had grown up and in which he had seen nothing but what was elevating in life. On quitting the palace, however, he first saw a suffering man, next a sick man, and lastly, and worst of all, a dead man. These experiences wrung from him the words: ‘Sickness is suffering! Old age is suffering! Death is suffering!’ Mankind had indeed felt this to be so, and it was this common feeling of all mankind which burst from the great soul of Buddha.
Then came the Christ, and 600 years after Christ (as 600 years has elapsed between the time of Buddha and that of Christ) there were those who, when they saw the Cross and, hanging upon it, the dead Man, could reflect: ‘He who hangs upon the Cross is the symbol of that seed from which life in abundance flows!’ They had acquired a true feeling regarding death.
Christ Jesus embraced death; he went to that death which had become the characteristic expression of the Father and united Himself therewith. And from that union of Christ Jesus with death was born the Sun of Life. It is a deception, maya, or illusion to think that death is synonymous with pain. When men learn in the course of time to await the coming of death as Christ awaited it, it will prove itself in truth to be the seed of life. In proportion as men opening their hearts to the Christ-impulse offer up something of their own, they will contribute to the growth of a new sun and a new planetary system, and provide for the ever greater increase of the Sun of Life.
The objection might be raised that this is the assertion of Anthroposophy, and it might be questioned that such a cosmology can be reconciled with the Gospel.
Christ taught those who were His disciples. In order to prepare them for the greatest truths He had adopted the method which is necessary for the gradual understanding of the highest truth in the right way. He spoke to them in parables or ‘proverbs’. The time then gradually approached when the disciples could believe themselves sufficiently ripe for hearing the truth without parables. Christ Jesus found the opportunity to speak to His apostles without parables. For the apostles desired to hear the Name, the great Name because of which He had come into the world:
‘Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name; ask and ye shall receive, that your joy may be fulfilled.
‘These things have I spoken to you in proverbs; but the time cometh when I shall no more speak unto you in proverbs, but shall tell you plainly of the Father.’
Let us feel that the moment was at hand when He desired to speak to His disciples of the Father.
‘In that day ye shall ask in my name; and I say not until you that I will pray the Father for you;
‘For the Father Himself loveth you because ye have loved me and have believed that I came forth from God.
‘I came out of the Father. ...’
He had come of course from the Father in His true, not His deceptive form.
‘I came out of the Father, and am come into the world; again I leave the world and go unto the Father.’
It now flashes upon His disciples (for they had grown ripe for this knowledge) that the world as it surrounds them is the outer expression of the Father and that the most significant feature in the outer world, and its greatest maya or illusion, is equally the expression of the Father, that Death is the name of the Father. This truth flashes upon His disciples, only we must learn to read aright.
‘His disciples said unto Him, Lo, now speakest thou plainly and speakest no proverb.
‘Now we are sure thou knowest all things, and needest not that any man should ask thee; by this we believe that thou camest forth from God.
‘Jesus answered them, Do ye now believe?
‘Behold the hour cometh, yea is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own and shall leave me alone; and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me.
‘These things I have spoken unto you that in me ye may have peace. In the world ye have tribulation, but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.’
Did the disciples know whither He was going? Yes, henceforth they knew that He was going to His death and that He had united Himself with death. And now read what He said to them when they had learnt to understand the words: ‘I came forth from death’ — that is, from death in its true form — from the Life-Father — ‘and am come into the world, again I leave the world and go unto the Father’. And the disciples say unto Him: ‘Now we are sure that thou knowest all things, and needest not that any man should ask thee; by this we believe that thou camest forth from God.’
The disciples now knew that the true form of death is in reality founded in the divine Father-Spirit, and that death, as it is beheld and felt by men, is a deceptive appearance, an error. Thus Christ discloses to His disciples the Name of Death, behind which is concealed the fount of the sublimest life. The new Sun of Life would never have risen had not death entered the world and been overcome by Christ. Thus, beheld in its true aspect, Death is the Father. Christ came into the world because in death a false reflection of the Father had arisen. He came into the world in order to create a true image and form of the living God-Father. The Son is the descendant of the Father and reveals the true form of the Father. Of a truth the Father sent His Son into the world, that the real nature of the Father should be manifested — that is, everlasting life which is veiled by temporal death.
This is not merely the cosmology of spiritual science. It is what we need in order to fathom the full depth of St. John's Gospel. Its writer, having described therein the sublimest truths, could say: ‘In this Gospel are contained truths from which mankind will obtain nourishment for all time to come. Inasmuch as man gradually learns to understand and practise these truths, he will acquire new wisdom and ascend by a new way into the spiritual worlds.’ But this will take place only in the course of time and by degrees. Therefore the united leaders of Christian evolution were obliged to provide for the appearance of ancillary books, side by side with the Gospel of St. John; books which were not intended (like the Gospel of St. John) for the foremost in good will and understanding. In fact, ancillary books had to be provided for the immediate future.
In the first place a book was given to the world, from which the generations of the first centuries of Christian evolution could learn, in a manner suited to their intellect, the highest truth they required for the understanding of the Christ-event. To be sure, in proportion to the whole of mankind, the number of those who understood what this book could give them, was but small. This first ancillary book was not intended for the highest select, but indeed for the select; this was the Gospel of St. Mark. This Gospel was composed in a manner especially adapted for a certain understanding peculiar to those times. Then followed a time in which the Gospel of St. Mark began to be less understood; human understanding tended to grasp the whole force of Christ in its inner value for the human soul, and to regard the outer physical world with a certain contempt. A time came in which man was eminently disposed to utter such words as: ‘Worthless are all temporal goods; true riches are nowhere found save in man's evolved inner self.’ This was the time in which John Tauler wrote his book Of the Poor Life of Christ (Von armen Leben Christi). It was a time in which the Gospel of St. Luke was best understood. Luke, a disciple of St. Paul, was one of those who lent Paul's own Gospel a form suited to that epoch, giving prominence to the ‘poor life’ of Jesus of Nazareth, who was born in a stable and surrounded by poor shepherds. We recognize John Tauler's Poor Life of Christ in the narration of the Gospel of St. Luke, the second of the books given for the furtherance of the evolution of mankind.
In our time there will be some who can best learn from the Gospel of St. Matthew what is suited to their understanding and adapted to the needs of the present day. Even though Matthew's name be not singled out, people will select to an increasing extent what is most in conformity with St. Matthew's Gospel. There will be a growing tendency to show that nothing can be understood of the events which were enacted in the higher worlds at the Baptism of John, as we have narrated them. Many will experience this in the future. We are approaching a time in which he who, in the 30th year of his life, received into himself the Christ, will be to an increasing extent regarded, even by the professors of religion, as the ‘simple man of Nazareth’. Those to whom the ‘simple man of Nazareth’ is of greatest importance, and who attach less significance to the Christ than to the high initiate Jesus of Nazareth — people with this tendency will consider the Gospel of St. Matthew, at least as regards its sense, as of special importance. The thinkers of a materialistic age will say: ‘Turn to the Gospel of St. Matthew. We find in it a line of generations, a genealogical table showing us the line of ancestry of Jesus of Nazareth. His descent can be traced through three times fourteen generations from Abraham down to Joseph. And as we see there: Abraham begat Isaac, Isaac Jacob, and so on, so it continues down to Joseph and Jesus of Nazareth. This was written for the purpose of showing that the physical line of descent and inheritance of the body in which the individuality of Jesus of Nazareth was born, reaches back to Abraham. Omit Joseph, and this table has no meaning whatever. If you speak of a super-sensible birth in the face of this table of ancestry, the latter ceases to have any meaning. Why should the writer of the Gospel of St. Matthew take the trouble to trace a line of ancestry through three times fourteen generations, if he meant to say “Jesus of Nazareth was descended physically, according to the flesh, not from Joseph”? The Gospel of St. Matthew is only comprehensible when it is emphasized that the individuality was born into a body which really did descend through Joseph from Abraham. This genealogical tree was intended to show “Joseph cannot be left out, in the sense of St. Matthew's Gospel”. Hence, Joseph cannot indeed be left out of account by those who are unable to understand the super-sensible birth recorded as the Baptism by John.’
But the Gospel of St. Matthew was originally written in a community in which the chief place was given, not to Christ, but to that individuality who appeared to the world in the person of the Initiate Jesus of Nazareth. The Gospel of St. Matthew was founded on a traditional document of initiation known to the Ebionite Gnostics, and can be traced back to such a document as to its model. There, special importance is attached to the initiate Jesus of Nazareth, and all the rest becomes much clearer by the fact that it is contained in the Ebionite Gospel. For this reason a certain tone is found in St. Matthew's Gospel, which however must not necessarily be interpreted in the sense of its Ebionite model. In reality the Gospel of St. Matthew does not bear such an interpretation, though it is quite possible to read this meaning into it. The Gospel of St. Matthew may be understood to imply that there is no question in it of a super-sensible birth. Yet the possibility is afforded to find in the accounts in that Gospel the symbol of a God, so-called, who in reality was only a man. Though this is not in the least St. Matthew's meaning, this interpretation will be given by those who, to an increasing extent, take their stand upon that Gospel.
In order that no human being who desires to approach Christ may be denied the opportunity of doing so, provision is made for those who cannot rise from Jesus to Christ, to find in the Gospel of St. Matthew a support by the aid of which they can grow to an understanding of Jesus of Nazareth.
But it is the mission of anthroposophical spiritual investigation to lead men upwards to the understanding of the Gospel of Gospels — that of St. John. The other Gospels are to be considered as complementary to St. John's; the latter contains the grounds for the others, and these can be understood aright only if considered as built up on the groundwork of St. John.
The study of the Gospel of St. John will guide mankind to the fullest comprehension of the scene which was enacted on Golgotha, and will help men to understand the Mystery by which death in its untrue form was overcome in the evolution of humanity. And men will learn to understand how, by the Deed of Golgotha, it has not only been demonstrated as a matter of knowledge, that death is the true source of life, but that, as a result of that Deed, man has been placed in such a position as regards death, that by degrees he can increase the life within his own being more and more, until he is at last wholly living, that is, he can rise from all death; he has conquered death. This is the revelation which St. Paul experienced when he saw the living Christ before Damascus; when he knew ‘that Christ liveth’; when he beheld, with his new-found vision, what was to be seen in the environment of the earth, and as an initiate of the Old Testament now knew that ‘Once the earth was devoid of a certain light; now I see that light in it; therefore Christ must have been there. Therefore He who died on the Cross was Christ in Jesus of Nazareth!’
Thus Paul, on his way to Damascus, learned to understand the Event which was enacted upon Golgotha.