The Gospel of St. Matthew
7 September 1910, Berne
If we are to realise to some extent what the Christ Event signified for the evolution of humanity, reference must again be made to a fact already known to those of you who heard the lectures given last year in Basle on the Gospel of St. Luke. It is the more necessary to speak of this, because to-day we shall be studying the Christ Event in broad outline and proceed in the next lectures to fill in details. But to draw this broad outline We must remind ourselves of a fundamental truth of human evolution, namely, that in the course of it men are constantly acquiring new faculties and reaching stages of greater perfection. In its external aspect, this fact becomes obvious simply by looking back over the comparatively short period covered by ordinary history and perceiving how in the course of time new faculties unfolded, finally giving birth to modern civilization and culture. If, however, a particular faculty is to awaken in human nature and eventually be attain-able by everyone, this faculty must appear somewhere for the first time in a specially significant form.
In the lectures on St. Luke's Gospel I spoke of the ‘Eight-fold Path’ which men can tread if they adhere to what flowed into the evolution of humanity through Gautama Buddha. This Eightfold Path is usually said to consist of the following: right view, right understanding, right speech, right action, right vocation, right application, right memory or recollectedness, right contemplation. 1Renderings of the original terms vary greatly in literature on Buddhism. Those used here are taken from The Way of Zen, by A. W. Watts (Thames & Hudson), where it is pointed out that each name was originally preceded by the word samyak, meaning ‘perfect’ or ‘complete’. Thus ‘perfect’ or ‘complete’ view, and so on. These are attributes of the life of soul. It can be said that since the time of Gautama Buddha, human nature has reached a stage where it is possible for man gradually to unfold in himself, as intrinsic faculties of his own, the attributes of this Eightfold Path. Before Gautama Buddha had lived on Earth in the incarnation in which he attained Buddhahood, this would have been beyond the power of human nature. Let us therefore be quite clear about the following. — In order that in the course of hundreds of thousands of years these faculties should be able to gradually to develop in individual men, it was essential for the initial impetus to he given through the presence in physical human nature of a Being as lofty as Gautama Buddha. As have said, these faculties will, in fact, unfold in a considerable number of human beings and when the number is sufficient, the Earth will be ready to receive the next Buddha — Maitreya Buddha — who is now a Bodhisattva.
Between these two events, therefore, lies the phase of evolution during which it should he within the power of a sufficiently large number of human beings to acquire the higher intellectual and moral qualities comprised in the Eightfold Path. In the personality of Gautama Buddha all these qualities of the Eightfold Path were present.
It is a law of the evolution of humanity that such qualities must be present in their fullness at some one time in a single personality: then, although time process may take thousands of years, they flow into humanity in general, enabling all men to receive this impulse and to develop the corresponding faculties.
Now, that which is to stream into humanity through the Christ Event will not need some use thousand years to achieve its effect as in the case of the impulse given by Gautama Buddha. What has already streamed into humanity through the Christ Being will live and continue to work as a faculty in men for the whole remaining period of Earth-evolution. What, then, is it that has come to humanity through the Christ Event, as an impulse infinitely more powerful than that of the Buddha?
It may be characterized in the following way. — The powers to which man could attain in pre-Christian times only through the Mysteries, have, since the Christ Event, become accessible — and will become increasingly so — as a universal attribute of human nature. To understand what this means it is first of all necessary to have a clear idea of the nature of the ancient Mysteries and of the process of Initiation in the pre-Christian era.
In ancient times Initiation always varied in form among the different peoples of the Earth, and it has continued to do so — in the post-Atlantean epoch also. Part of the process of Initiation was experienced by particular peoples and part by others. Those who believe in the principle of reincarnation will be able to answer the question why it was not possible for the whole process of Initiation to be experienced by every ancient people. This was not necessary, for the simple reason that a soul who had been born into one people and had there experienced a particular part of Initiation had further incarnations among different peoples and could experience the other part.
Initiation is the power to see into the spiritual world in a way which is impossible to sense-perception or to the intellect that is dependent upon the physical body.
In normal earthly life, twice. within twenty-four hours, man has to be in the sphere where the Initiate also is, but the Initiate is conscious of his surroundings, whereas ordinary man is not. Within a period of twenty-four hours man's life alternates between waking and sleeping. As anthroposophists you are all aware of the fact that when a man goes to sleep he emerges in his astral body and Ego from his physical and etheric bodies. His Ego and astral body expand into the Cosmos, whence he draws the forces he needs during waking life. From the time of going to sleep until waking, his being is in very truth spread over the Cosmos to which indeed he is always related, though he knows nothing about it. His physical consciousness is extinguished at the moment of going to sleep, when his astral body and Ego pass out of his physical and etheric bodies. During sleep man is in the Great World, the Macrocosm, but in normal earthly existence he is entirely unaware of it. Initiation means that lie is no longer unconscious when his being expands into the Cosmos, and thereby he becomes able to participate consciously in the existence of the other celestial bodies that arc connected with our Earth. Such is the nature of Initiation into the Great World.
If, without proper preparation, a man were able to become aware of the world into which he passes during sleep, the overwhelming power and splendour of the impressions made upon him would give rise to an experience comparable only to unprotected eyes being dazzled and blinded by the rays of the Sun. He would he overcome by blindness inflicted by the Cosmos, and be killed in soul. The aim of all Initiation is that man shall not pass into the Macrocosm unprepared, but with organs strengthened to such an extent that he is able to endure the impact. That is one aspect of Initiation: penetration into the Universe, enlightened perception of the world into which man actually passes during sleep at night, but of which he knows nothing.
The reason why this sojourn in the Great World dazzles and bewilders is that in the material world of the senses man is accustomed to altogether different conditions. In the world of the senses he is accustomed to consider everything from a single viewpoint; and if he comes across something that does not tally exactly with the opinions he has formed from this one viewpoint, lie regards it as false. This is quite suitable for life on the physical plane but if he were to attempt to pass out into the Macrocosm through Initiation still holding the opinion that there should he conformity in this sense, he would never find his bearings. His mode of life in the world of the senses is such that he places himself at a particular point and front this point —as though it were his snail-house — he judges everything. But when he undergoes Initiation his consciousness passes out into the Great World. — Let us suppose a man were to pass outwards in one particular direction only; he would experience only what lies in this direction, and everything else, being unnoticed, would remain unknown to him. In point of fact, however, man cannot pass out into the Macrocosm in one direction only; he must necessarily pass out in all directions, for the process is one of expansion, of spreading into the Macrocosm and the possibility of haying one single standpoint ceases altogether. He must be able to contemplate the world not only from the one point but to contemplate it as well from a second and a third standpoint. This means that he must above all develop a certain mobility and universality of vision.
There is, of course, no need to fear that an infinite number of viewpoints must be attained as is theoretically possible. Twelve are enough — in the star-language of the Mystery Schools they were symbolized by the twelve constellations of the Zodiac. A man must not, for example, pass out into the Cosmos in the direction of the constellation of Cancer only, but in such at way that he actually beholds the world from twelve different viewpoints. It does not help here to look for what is called ‘conformity’ in abstract, intellectual parlance. Conformity can be sought afterwards, in the different modes of perception that are adopted. The primary necessity is to contemplate the world from different sides.
Let me say here in passing that the great difficulty to be faced in all movements based upon occult truths is that people are so prone to import the habits of ordinary life into these movements. When truths discovered by supersensible investigation have to be communicated, it is necessary, even in the case of purely exoteric descriptions, to adhere to the principle of describing than from different points of view. Those who for years have followed the development of our movement attentively will have noticed that it has been our endeavour never to describe things from one aspect only but always from many different angles. This, of course, is also the reason why people who insist upon judging everything according to the usages of the physical plane, find contradictions here or there. Every object has a different appearance when seen from one side or from another, and in such circumstances it is easy to find contradictions. The principle in a spiritual-scientific movement should be to remember that when one statement appears to differ from an earlier one, each was being made from a particular standpoint. To avoid undue emphasis being laid upon the apparent existence of contradictions, it must be repeated that the principle of giving descriptions from many angles is always obeyed among us. For example, in the lecture-course given in Munich last year — The East in the Light of the West — great world-mysteries were described from the standpoint of Oriental philosophy. It is essential therefore for anyone who desires to attain consciousness of the Cosmos by the path outlined, to acquire mobility of vision. If he is not willing to do this he will find himself lost in a labyrinth. It is true that man can adapt himself to the Cosmos, but it is also true that the Cosmos does not adapt itself to man. Suppose someone full of preconceptions expands into the Cosmos in one direction only and insists upon adhering to this particular viewpoint; what happens is that conditions in the Cosmos have changed while and he is therefore left behind. Suppose — to use imagery deriving from the stars — he goes out in the direction Aries and believes his viewpoint to be of that constellation. But the Cosmos, having moved onwards, is actually presenting to hint what lies in the constellation of Pisces, and then — symbolically expressed — he sees what is coining from Pisces as an experience arising in Aries. Confusion is the result, and he finds himself in a labyrinth. The essential thing to remember is that man needs twelve standpoints, twelve viewpoints, to be able to find his bearings in the labyrinth of the Macrocosm.
So far we have spoken of one aspect of Initiation, namely the process of passing outwards into the Cosmos. But there is yet another way in which man is in the divine-spiritual world without knowing it; and this happens during the other period of the twenty-for hours of the day. On waking from sleep he sinks down again into the physical and etheric bodies, but quite unconsciously, for at the moment of waking his faculty of perception is immediately diverted to the outer world. Were he to descend consciously into his physical and etheric bodies he would experience something altogether different.
Man is protected by the sleeping state from penetrating consciously into the Macrocosm without due preparation. He is protected from entering consciously into the physical and etheric bodies by the fact that his faculty of perception is diverted to the outer world at the moment of waking. The danger that would arise for a man who was to descend consciously, but without proper preparation, into his physical and etheric bodies, is somewhat different from the blindness and confusion already described as the danger threatening one who attempts to expand his consciousness into the Macrocosm before being fit to do so.
If a man comes into contact with the inmost nature of his physical and etheric bodies and identities himself with it, there is an intensification of what constitutes the very purpose of these bodies, namely to enable him to unfold Ego-consciousness. Unless there has been proper preparation, the Ego descends into the sphere of the physical and etheric bodies unpurified and a man is so overpowered that the resulting mystical experiences preclude inner truth, inasmuch as deceptive pictures arise before him. If a man obtains insight into his own inner nature, he will be united with whatever egoistic , wishes, impulses, vices are in him. In ordinary circumstances no such union takes place, for during day-consciousness his attention is diverted to experiences of the outer world and they preclude comparison with what may arise out of perception of his own inner nature.
I have spoken on other occasions of the experiences described by Christian martyrs and saints when for the first time they penetrated to the depths of their own inner nature. These experiences illustrate the situation I have been describing. These Christian saints describe the temptations and deceptions that came to them when, having shut out all outer perception, they sank into their own inmost nature. Their descriptions are entirely in keeping with the truth, and it is therefore highly instructive to study the biographies of saints from this point of view and to see how man is normally diverted from awareness of the forces operating in his passions, emotions, impulses, urges and the like, because in ordinary life he immediately directs his attention to the external world. — We can therefore say: When a man descends into his own inner nature, he is as it were compressed into his Egohood, entrapped in his Egohood, concentrated with all intensity in that point at which his only desire is to he an Ego, to satisfy his own wishes and cravings; the evil that is in him then endeavours to lay hold of his Ego, Such are the conditions prevailing during this experience.
On the one hand, therefore, when a man attempts to expand into the Cosmos without due preparation, the danger confronting him is that of being blinded, dazzled; and on the other hand he is compressed, confined entirely within his Ego when he penetrates, without the right preparation, into his own physical and etherize bodies.
But yet another form of Initiation was cultivated among certain peoples. While on the one side the expansion into the Macrocosm was practised especially among the Aryan and Northern peoples, the other form was practised above all among the Egyptians, namely, the form of Initiation in which man draws near to the Divine through directing his gaze inwards and through deepened contemplation, through sinking into himself, comes to know his own nature as the work of the Divine.
In the days of the ancient Mysteries the evolution of humanity as a whole had not yet reached the stage where Initiation — whether leading outwards into the Macrocosm or inwards into man's own being, into the Microcosm — could be carried out in such a way that man was left entirely to himself. When, for example, in the process of an Egyptian Initiation a candidate was being inducted into the field of the forces operating in his physical and etheric bodies, experiencing them in full consciousness, from all sides there burst from his astral nature the most terrible passions and emotions; demonic, diabolic beings and influences issued from him. Hence the officiating Hierophant in the Egyptian Mysteries had helpers — twelve in number — who by receiving these demons into themselves turned them aside from the course they would otherwise have pursued. In this sense, therefore, man was never completely free in the old process of Initiation. For what would inevitably be evoked as a result of the penetration into the physical and etheric bodies could only be endured when a man had around him the twelve helpers who received the demons into themselves and subdued them.
Something similar took place in the Northern Mysteries, where expansion into the Macrocosm was made possible by the presence again of twelve helpers of the Initiator who surrendered their own forces to the candidate for Initiation, thus endowing him with the power to unfold the thinking and feeling necessary for finding his way through the labyrinth of the Macrocosm. 2See also the Cycle: Macrocosm and Microcosm. Lecture Six.
This kind of Initiation — where man was not left to himself but was obliged to depend entirely for safety from demonic forces upon the helpers of the officiating Hierophant — was gradually to he superseded by another, one that can be achieved by a man himself, where the Initiator merely gives indications about what ought to to done and the man then gradually learns to find his own war onwards. No considerable progress has yet been made along this path, but little by little there will unfold in humanity a faculty making it possible for a man both to ascend into the Macrocosm and to descend into the Microcosm without assistance and to pass through both forms of Initiation as a free being.
The Christ Event itself took place for this very purpose: It was the starting-point from which it became possible for matt to penetrate in complete independence into the physical and etheric bodies, as well as to pass outwards into the Macrocosm, into the Great World. It was, however, necessary that both the descent and the ascent (or expansion) should he accomplished in freedom once, in the fullest possible sense, by a Being as sublime as Christ Jesus. The fundamental significance. of the Christ Event is that Christ, the all-embracing Being, accomplished in advance what it would become possible for a sufficiently large number of people to achieve in the course of Earth-evolution. — What was it that actually came to pass as a result of the Christ Event?
It was necessary on the one side that the Christ Himself should descend into a physical body and an etheric body. And because in one human being these bodies had become so sanctified that it was possible fur the Christ so to descend, once and once only, the impulse was given in the evolution of mankind whereby every human being who seeks for it is able to experience in freedom and independence the descent into his physical and etheric bodies. This had never before been accomplished, had never before taken place. For in the ancient Mysteries something quite different was brought about through the instrumentality, of the Hierophant and his helpers. In the Mysteries a candidate for Initiation could descend into the secrets of the physical and etheric bodies and rise to those of the Macrocosm only when he was not living consciously in his physical body; he had to be entirely free from the body. When he returned from this body-free state he could remember his experiences in the spiritual worlds, but he could not bring them to physical experience. It was a matter of remembrance only.
This state of things was radically changed through the Christ Event. Before Christ's coming, no Ego had ever consciously penetrated through the whole of the inner nature of man, right into the physical and etheric bodies. This had now come to pass for the first time through the Christ Event.
The other impulse was also given, in that a Being of a rank infinitely more exalted than that of man, was nevertheless united with human nature and, so united, poured His Being into the Macrocosm through the power of his own Ego, without external aid. Christ alone could make it possible for man gradually to acquire the power to penetrate into the Macrocosm in freedom. These are the two basic facts presented to us in the two Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Luke. — In what sense is this meant?
We have learnt that the Zarathustra-Individuality who in very early post-Atlantean times was the great Teacher of Asia, incarnated in the 6th/7th century B.C. as Zarathas or Nazarathos; and again later he incarnated as the Jesus-child of the Solomon line of the House of David, as described in St. Matthew's Gospel. In his first twelve years this Individuality in the Solomon Jesus-child developed all the faculties and qualities it was possible to unfold in the instrument of the physical and etheric bodies of an offspring of the House of Solomon. He was able to do so only because he lived for twelve years in this particular physical and etheric body. Human faculties become one's own in the real sense only when they are made into serviceable instruments. At the age of twelve the Zarathustra-Individuality passed out of the Solomon Jesus and entered into the other Jesus, described in the Gospel of St. Luke, who had descended from the Nathan line of the House of David.
The two boys were brought up in Nazareth. The Zarathustra-Individuality passed into the child of the Nathan line on the occasion described in the Gospel of St. Luke, when, after having been lost during the Feast, he was found again in the Temple at Jerusalem. The child of the Solomon line died soon afterwards, but the Zarathustra-Individuality who had dwelt within him lived on in the Jesus of St. Luke's Gospel until his thirtieth year, developing to further stages all the faculties it had been possible to acquire through the instruments prepared for the Solomon Jesus in the way described. These faculties were now enriched and supplemented by what could be acquired through the very special astral body and Ego-bearer which were present in the Jesus child of St. Luke's Gospel.
Thus it was Zarathustra himself who evolved in the body of the Jesus described by St. Luke, from his twelfth until his thirtieth year, developing all the qualities contained in that body to the stage where he was able to make his third great offering — the offering of the physical body which then, for three years, became the physical body of the Christ. In a very much earlier epoch the Zarathustra-Individuality had bequeathed his astral body to Hermes and his etheric body to Moses. He now offered up his physical organism, that is to say, he relinquished Ins physical sheath, with the whole of its etheric and astral content, to the Christ. And the sheaths which until then had been indwelt by the Zarathustra-Individuality, were now indwelt by a Being of an absolutely unique nature — by the Christ who is the fount of all the wisdom of the great World-Teachers. .
This is the event portrayed in the Baptism by John in the river Jordan. It is an event whose infinite, all-embracing significance is indicated in one Gospel in the words: ‘Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I behold my very Self, in whom my own Self confronts me!’ — a better rendering than the comparatively trivial words...‘in whom I am well pleased’. Elsewhere in the New Testament the rendering is: ‘Thou art my beloved Son: this day I have begotten thee’. (Acts XIII, 33; also Hebrews, V, 5.) Here there is a clear indication of a birth — namely, the birth of Christ into the sheaths prepared by Zarathustra and then offered up by him. At the moment of the Baptism by John, the Christ Being entered the human sheaths made ready by Zarathustra; and there was now a rebirth of the three sheaths themselves, in that they were permeated by the spirit-substantiality of Christ. Christ was now in human sheaths — in bodies, uniquely prepared it is true, but for all that such are possessed in a less perfect state by other men.
Christ, the highest Individuality who can be united with the Earth, was now living in human sheaths, in a human body. But if He was to be a pattern for all mankind of full and complete Initiation, He would have to experience both the descent into the physical and etheric bodies, and the ascent into the Macrocosm. This He did. But from the very nature of the Christ Event it will be obvious that in His descent into the bodily sheaths, Christ was proof against all the temptations — with which He was indeed confronted but which rebounded from Him. It must also be obvious that the dangers accompanying expansion into the Macrocosm could have no effect on Him.
The Gospel of St. Matthew describes how after the Baptism the Christ Being actually descended in full consciousness into the physical and etheric bodies. The account of this is given in the story of the Temptation. We can see how in every detail this scene of the Temptation portrays the experiences undergone by man when he descends into the bodily sheaths. Christ's descent into a human physical body and etheric body was a contraction into human Egohood, lived through as an example, so that it is possible for us to say: ‘All this can happen to us, but if we are mindful of Christ, if we strive to follow His example, we have the power to confront and to overcome everything that may issue from the physical and etheric bodies’.
The first outstanding Initiation-event described in the Gospel of St. Matthew is the Temptation. It portrays one side of Initiation, the descent into the bodily sheaths. The other side of Initiation is also described, in that it is shown how Christ, having assumed the physical nature of man, underwent the experience of expansion into the Macrocosm.
I must here speak of an objection that is very naturally made. It will be fully met in the course of the following lectures but the main point at least shall be considered to-day. The objection is this. If Christ was a Being of such sublimity, why had He to undergo all these trials, why had He to descend into physical and etheric bodies, why — as every man has to do had He to emerge from these bodies and expand into the Macrocosm? He did this, not for His own sake, but for the sake of man! In higher spheres a like deed would have been within the power of Beings akin in nature to Christ, but it had never yet taken place in a human physical body and etheric body. No human body had yet been permeated by the Christ Being. Divine substantiality had before this passed out into space; but what lives in man had never yet been borne out into space. The incarnate Christ alone was capable of such a deed. It was a deed that had to be accomplished for the first time by a Divine Being clothed in human nature.
This second basic event is recounted in the Gospel of St. Matthew where it is shown that the other side of Initiation, expansion into the Macrocosm, into the world of the Sun and Stars, was actually accomplished by Christ. First He was anointed — as others were — so that He should be cleansed and be proof against whatever might approach Him, above all from the physical world. The anointing — an act that played a part in the ancient Mysteries — is presented here at a higher level, in the arena of actual history, whereas formerly it took place only in the seclusion of the temples. We see how at the Passover, Christ gives expression not only t0 the state of inner self-possession, but also to the expansion into the Macrocosm, when in the words, ‘I am the Bread’, He declares to those around Him that feels Himself living in whatever exists on the Earth in the form of material substance. In the scene of the Passover there is indicated the conscious expansion into the Macrocosm, as distinct from the unconscious expansion that takes place during ordinary sleep. And the inevitable experience of being dazzled and blinded is voiced in the monumental words: ‘My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death’. Christ Jesus experiences in full reality what men experience as the pains of death, paralysis, blindness. The scene at Gethsemane depicts the agony of the soul in parting from the body. What follows in the Gospel narrative is intended to describe the process of passing out into the Macrocosm: the Crucifixion and the Entombment are processes that had formerly been enacted in the Mysteries only.
This, then, is the other main theme of the Gospel of St. Matthew — the expansion into the Macrocosm. Our attention is drawn to the fact that Christ Jesus had been living hitherto in the physical body which afterwards hung on the Cross. He had been concentrated in one point of space and now expanded into the Cosmos. Those who would seek for Him now could not find Him in this physical body but would have to seek Him with clairvoyant vision in the spirit which pervades space.
Christ had accomplished alone what had formerly been enacted in the Mysteries during the three-and-a-half days with extraneous help. He had accomplished that which was at His trial held against Him — namely, His statement that if this Temple were destroyed He would build it again in three days — a clear indication, this, of the initiation into the Macrocosm accomplished in the Mysteries during the three-and-a-half days. He then indicates that hereafter He must no longer be sought in the physical sheath in which He had been confined, but outside, in the spirit pervading cosmic. space. Even in feeble modern translations the majesty of this passage reveals itself to us: ‘Hereafter ye shall see at the right hand of Divine Power the Being who is now born as the prototype of the evolution of humanity and He will appear to you out of the clouds’. It is there, in the Cosmos, that the Christ must be sought, as the prototype of the great Initiation to be undergone by man when he forsakes the body and expands into the Macrocosm.
Herein we have the beginning and the end of the earthly life of Christ. It begins with the birth that took place at the Baptism by John into the body of which we have spoken. It begins with the one side of Initiation as presented in the story of the Temptation: the descent into the physical and etheric bodies. And it ends with the presentation of the other side of Initiation: the expansion into the Macrocosm. Here there is first the scene of the Last Supper, followed by the Scourging, the Crowning with Thorns, the Crucifixion and the Resurrection. Between these two points lie the events recorded in the Gospel of St. Matthew; and in the following lectures we will insert the details into the sketch that has now been drawn in mere outline.