The Three Paths of the Soul to Christ
II. The Path of Initiation
17 April 1912, Stockholm
If I may indicate in a few words the point at which yesterday's considerations culminated, I would like to say that out of them the possibility should come to light for every man, through a deepening of his being, through a trust in the spiritual worlds, of causing to rise within him a soul-mood, a soul-disposition, which will say to him: “Into man flow not only the things which are in the periphery of the earth, not only those things which stem from the evolution of the earth itself, but it is possible for man to tune his soul in such a way that he receives out of the spiritual worlds helping forces which flow into him, which produce an equilibrium between the single egoistic I and the totality of his organization — if that possibility offers itself which has flowed into the earth-mission.” Whoever can attain this trust in this inflow from the spiritual worlds, no matter what he calls this inner event, this inner experience, has lived through the personal Christ-experience inwardly. The remainder of this matter will reveal itself to us if today we start by considering the third path to Christ, the path of initiation.
With the path through the Gospels, and the path through inner experience, we have the two paths to Christ which are accessible to every man: I say expressly — to every man. But to the path of initiation there belongs a certain preparation, as should be understandable to everyone. In our time this requires us to go deeply, in a real and not merely theoretical way, into the true, genuine spiritual science which, at least in our present time, must always be the point of departure, if we wish to understand what the way of initiation is. Regarding the essence of initiation it would be well to give a few introductory remarks in a certain direction. You see, initiation is the highest which man can achieve in the course of the Earth-evolution, for it leads man to a certain understanding, to a real insight into the secrets of the spiritual world. What occurs in the spiritual worlds is really the content, the object, of initiation, and a real knowledge, an immediate perception, of events in the spiritual worlds is attained on the path of initiation. When initiation is characterized in this way, something very special must strike everyone who lets this characterization work on his soul. This is really to say, fundamentally, that initiation is — allow me the expression — a super-religious way. The religions which in the course of human epochs have spread over the surface of the earth, and which still prevail among men, all of these, in so far as they are great religions, and in so far as we study them at their points of origin, were originally founded upon initiation, by initiates. They have flowed out of what great initiates have been able to give to men. But the religions were given in such a form that, in their contents, men received what was suitable to the time in which they lived, to the race to which they belonged, even to the region of the earth in which they lived.
Now today we live in a very special epoch of human evolution, and it is just the task of spiritual science to understand that we live in a special time. The way in which among our contemporaries spiritual science can be brought forth and spread, this was nowhere possible in past times. Anthroposophy as such could not be publicly taught. Only in our time do we begin to teach anthroposophy. The religions were once the channels through which the secrets of initiation were to be allowed to flow into mankind; to be allowed to flow in a manner suitable at a given time to a given group of men. But today we are in a position to give through anthroposophy something which is not adapted to a single race, to a single region, to a single group of men, but which can bring to every man, no matter where he finds himself on earth, something of those secrets of existence, for knowledge of which souls are yearning and which souls must have if hearts are to be strong for work on earth. But this already shows that through anthroposophy something is to be given which takes a standpoint higher than the religious standpoints were, or still are where these religious standpoints continue to be accepted. In a certain way anthroposophy is that which must propagate the secrets of initiation in a universal human way, whereas in the various ancient religious systems of the earth the secrets of initiation were always announced in a special manner, in a different way, adapted to the particular human group.
What follows from this? It follows that we find the most varied religions spread out over the earth, all of which point back to this or that founder. We find first the Krishna religion, leading back to Krishna; second, the Buddha religion, leading back to Buddha; third, the ancient Hebrew religion, leading back to Moses; and we find Christianity, leading back to Jesus of Nazareth. The religions having all flowed out of initiation, we must be quite clear that we cannot today take the position taken by the philosophers of religion who consider themselves “enlightened.” The philosophers of comparative religion have a secret outlook on religions; they regard them all either as false or as childish stages of human development. But we, as anthroposophists, since we learn to know that the religions are only different formulations of the truths of initiation, are in a position to grasp the true and not the false in the various religious systems. We do justice to all the religious systems in comparison with one another. We regard them as equally justified revelations of the great truths of initiation.
And from this follows something terribly important for practical feeling and practical activity. What is this important thing? That out of the anthroposophical mood will proceed complete understanding, hearty respect, and full recognition of the core of truth in all religions; and that those who, out of an anthroposophical attitude, reflect on the world and its course of development, will respect the truths of the various religious systems. There will be the highest esteem and respect. Yes, my dear friends, from the anthroposophical spiritual stream will result the following for the various religious confessions on earth: A man will go to the adherents of any religious system, and he will not think himself able to graft on to them, or inoculate them with, other confessions. Much rather will we go to them and, out of our own religious faith, discern what there is of truth in their faith. And a man who is born in a region where a particular religion holds sway will not, on account of this religion, intolerantly reject all other religions, but he will be able to approach them on the basis of what, as truth, is contained in the different religions. Let us take an example. Such an example can be grasped only by those who, in the depths of their soul, take seriously the anthroposophical attitude and all that must follow from a knowledge of the fundamental conditions of initiation. Let us assume that an Occidental has grown up within Christianity. He will perhaps have learned to know Christianity through having taken into himself the great truths of the Gospels. Perhaps he has already attained also to what is called the path to Christ Jesus through inner experience; perhaps in his inner experience he has already experienced the Christ. Let us assume that he now becomes acquainted with another religion, Buddhism for example. From those who stand within the sacred truths and knowledge of Buddhism, he learns to know something which is an annoyance to the materialistic Occidental but which we anthroposophists can understand: He learns to know that the founder of this religion, after having lived through many incarnations on earth as a Bodhisatva, was reborn as the son of King Sudhodana; he learns to know that in the twenty-ninth year of his life as Bodhisatva he rose to Buddha, and that with this rising to Buddha there is given in this religion — since it stems from initiation — the one great truth which is valid not only for Buddhism but for all men, and which is acknowledged by every initiate and by all men who understand Buddhism; he learns to know that the adherent of Buddhism says justly: “When the Bodhisatva becomes Buddha in a human incarnation, then this incarnation which the Buddha has to go through on earth is the last. Then he does not come back again in a human body.”
To one who stands within Buddhism it would be acutely painful, if it were asserted that the Buddha would return again in a fleshly body. Such an adherent of the Buddha would be deeply distressed, if anyone were to dispute this truth, saying that the Bodhisatva who became a Buddha could again at some time appear upon the earth in a physical body. But we anthroposophists recognize the truth in the religions; we take the position of seeking the truth of the various religions and not their error. So we go to those who understand Buddhism and we learn to know — or learn out of initiation to know — that it is true that that individuality who lived as Bodhisatva on earth and became a Buddha has since that time reached spiritual heights from which he need not again descend to this physical globe. From that moment on, if we stand on the ground of the doctrine of reincarnation, we shall no longer thrust upon the Buddhist the assertion that the Buddha could reappear in a physical body. Genuine knowledge will create an understanding for every form of religion proceeding out of initiation. We respect the religious forms which have been developed on earth, in that we recognize the truth which they have to give. Yes, my dear friends, I acknowledge as frankly and honestly as the strictest Buddhist this truth, that the Bodhisatva who was on earth and rose to Buddha reached therewith a height of human development which made it possible for him no longer to descend to earth. This is what we call having an understanding for the various forms of religion on the earth.
Let us take the opposite case: That an adherent of Buddhism should make his way to anthroposophical knowledge. Either out of a real knowledge of Christianity or out of the principle of initiation, he would allow it to become clear to him that in another region of the earth there is another form of religion, and that those who understand this religion are quite clear about the following: That there once lived a personality who really belonged to no nation, least of all to the Occident, and that from his thirtieth to his thirty-third year there lived in this personality that impulse, that force of the spiritual life, to which we pointed yesterday; to which, in their Vishvakarman, the seven holy Rishis also pointed; to which, in his Ahura-Mazdao, Zarathustra also pointed; to which, as their Osiris, the Egyptians also pointed; and which the fourth post-Atlantean cultural period named Christ. But that is not the point: The point is to recognize in Christ that which lived as an impulse for three years in the personality of Jesus of Nazareth, that which was not previously present on earth, that which descended from spiritual heights into the personality of Jesus of Nazareth, that which in this personality went through the Mystery of Golgotha, and that which as such a Christ-impulse is a once-appearing impulse for the earth and is not connected with any ordinary incarnation of mankind; that which was thus once present as Christ and can never return in any man, but will come, as the Bible says, in the clouds of heaven — meaning that as a spiritual revelation it will show itself to men. This is a Christian avowal.
Now, one who stands within Buddhism, imbued with theosophical earnestness and theosophical dignity, will have to recognize that he must pay attention to and respect this Christian avowal just as the Christian must respect his. The Buddhist who has risen to theosophy and takes it seriously will say: “Just as you as a Christian approach with trust the teaching that the Bodhisatva who became a Buddha will no more return to the earth, just as it seems to me fitting that you know that the Buddha cannot return, so I as a Buddhist acknowledge that what you call Christ cannot return in a physical incarnation, but as a once-appearing impulse lived only for three years in a physical human body.” — If in anthroposophy we find the reciprocal understanding of the religions in such a way that the initiation-principle can penetrate into man's heart in such a way that one man shall not impose an alien opinion on others, then we produce an understanding which unites men over the whole earth, we establish peace between the single religions on earth.
In Christianity the founder of the religion is Jesus of Nazareth. The Christian initiation-principle is concerned with the religion's founder, Jesus of Nazareth, only as with a fact, as with a fact which can be examined by occultists as a fact. With the same love, with the same care, as are used in examining the life of Buddha or of another founder of a religion, the life of Jesus of Nazareth is examined by those who are acquainted with the principle of religion. How this life of Jesus of Nazareth appears from the standpoint of pure occultism you will find described in my pamphlet: The Spiritual Guidance of Mankind. But the true Christian initiation-principle concerns itself with recognizing Christ, with the way to Christ. And this Christian religious principle was preparing for many years what was just now described as a principle of peace for the whole earth, in that it clearly does not proceed from the founder of a religion as such, but from a fact which occurred once in the world.
That is the basic difference between Christianity and the other religions. What the initiation-principle which leads to Christ has as a task in the world is different from the cultures which have proceeded from the other religious principles. What the Christian initiation-principle has as a task within the world-mission proceeded from a fact, from an event, not from a personality. This will be understandable if we mention first some preliminary conditions. We can put forward a single sentence, a single statement, and we have then characterized, although externally, the starting point of esoteric Christianity, of Christian initiation: It is the death which was experienced in the uniting of Christ with Jesus of Nazareth. The fact of this death, which we call the Mystery of Golgotha, is what should be understood through the principle of Christian initiation. Now, a true understanding of this death can be won only if we make quite clear to ourselves the mission of death within our earth-evolution. Yesterday we pointed out that frailty, infirmity, illness, and death are connected with the lack of harmony between our Ego, permeated by the Luciferic principle, and our organization. Death, after all, is connected with the Luciferic principle, and that in a very special way. It would be an entirely false idea if we were to assume that Lucifer brought death. Lucifer did not bring death, he brought what we can call the possibility of error (also of moral error), the differentiation of men into races, and the possibility of freedom. Lucifer brought these things. If only what Lucifer brought had been efficacious in mankind, if nothing had been opposed to him, then this Luciferic principle would have led to the point where mankind would have fallen out, would have broken out, of the progressive divine evolution. Man would indeed have spiritualized himself, but in an entirely different direction from that to which the progressive divine evolution led. To retain mankind within this divine evolution, to prevent mankind's being lost for the divine evolution, a particular arrangement had to be set up: Man had to be continually reminded of what the consequences are if he misuses the possibility of error and of freedom. All illness, frailty, infirmity, and death are reminders that man would have to estrange himself from the progressive divine evolution if, in addition to having the Luciferic freedom, he were healthy and full of energy. Thus illness, infirmity, and death are not gifts of Lucifer, but gifts of the good, wisdom-filled divine powers, who have therewith set up a dike against the influences of Lucifer.
Thus we must say that all that confronts us in the world as continuous human tribulation coming from outside, as illness and death, is there in order that we men may remain fettered to earth-existence until we have an opportunity to make amends; in order that we may have an education which will adapt us to our organization. We suffer in order that out of our suffering we may gain experience and find an equilibrium between our Lucifer-permeated Ego and our divinely-permeated organization. Our organization falls away from us repeatedly, until we have completely imbued ourselves, in our Ego, with the laws of the evolution which is progressive in a divine sense. Every death is therefore a point of departure for something else. Man cannot die without taking with him that which gives him the possibility of sometime overcoming death in his successive incarnations. All our pains are there in order that out of suffering we may gain the experience of how we must adapt ourselves to our progressing divine organization. This question, however, cannot be discussed apart from its connection with all of evolution.
We can study such a thing especially well if we examine occultly the connections between man and the next lower kingdom, the animal kingdom. We know that in the course of evolution man has always inflicted pain on the animals, that he has killed the animals. One who learns to know the Karma of human life often finds it highly unjust that the animal, which does not reincarnate, should suffer, should bear pain, and even, in the case of the higher animals, should go through death with a certain consciousness. Should no Karmic compensation take place here? Naturally, the human being has to make a Karmic compensation in Kamaloka for the pain which he inflicts on animals, but I am not speaking of this now; I am speaking of the compensation for the animals. Let us make one thought clear: If we consider human evolution, we see how much pain man has strewn over the animal kingdom and how many animals he has killed. What do these pains and these deaths mean in the course of evolution?
Occult study shows us that every pain which is inflicted on a pain-feeling being other than man, every death, is a seed for the future. Animals, as they are willed by the progressive divine evolution, are not destined to have incarnations like man. But, if a change comes into this wisdom-filled world-plan, if man intervenes and does not leave the evolution of the animals to be as it would have been without man, what happens then? Now, you see, occult research teaches us that every pain, every death, inflicted by man on the animals, will return and arise again, not through reincarnation, but because pain and death have been inflicted on the animals. This pain and suffering call up animality again. These animals on which pain has been inflicted will arise again, though not in the same form; but that which feels pain in them, that comes again. It comes again in such a way that the sufferings of the animals are compensated, so that to every pain its complementary feeling is added. These pains, these sufferings, this death, these are the seed which man has sown; they return in such a way that to every pain its contrary feeling is added in the future. To use a concrete example: When Earth is replaced by Jupiter, the animals will not appear in their present form, but their pains and sufferings will awaken the forces for the feeling of pain. They will live in men, and will embody themselves as parasitic animals in men. Out of the sensations and feelings of these men, out of their pains, the compensation will be created. This is the occult truth, which can be stated objectively and unadorned even if it is not pleasant to the man of today. Man will one day suffer this, and the animals will have, in a certain well-being, in a pleasant feeling, the compensation for their pains. This already happens slowly and gradually in the course of present-day earth-life, no matter how strange this seems. Why are men plagued by beings which are really neither animals nor plants, but stand between the two, by bacilli and similar creatures, which feel a well-being when man suffers? They have brought this upon themselves in earlier incarnations through inflicting pain and death on animals. For the being, though not appearing in the same form, feels this across time and feels the compensation for its pains in the suffering which man must undergo. Thus all the pain and suffering in the world are positively not without consequences. It is a seed from which proceeds what is caused by pain, suffering, and death. There can be no suffering, no pain, no death, without causing something which springs up later on.
Let us consider in this light the death on Golgotha, which followed from the uniting of Christ with Jesus of Nazareth. The first thing which becomes clear to anyone who goes through the requisite initiation is that this death on Golgotha was no ordinary death on earth, no ordinary human or other death. Persons who do not yet believe in the super-sensible can form no conception of this death on Golgotha. For even externally this Mystery of Golgotha has something very strange, something from which man has much to learn. This is that no historical writings tell of the Mystery of Golgotha, and the critics of the Gospels assert that the Gospels are in no way authoritative as historical documents. Principles of initiation are applied to that which was not written out of historical observation. What happened on Golgotha can still be perceived today by initiates, can still be seen today in the Akashic Record by people who undergo initiation. The writers of the Gospels also wrote only out of the Akashic Record; an event is described for which the original writers of the Gospels never thought of calling in the aid of perceptions on the physical plane. So strong was then the consciousness that one had to do here with something which stood in relation to the super-sensible worlds, and that the most important thing was to gain a relation to the super-sensible worlds. Out of the sense-world no right relation to these events can be won. What happened becomes clear through initiation. One could say that at the beginning of our era there lived a man, Jesus of Nazareth; that in the 30th year of his life he experienced a certain change through the reception of the Christ, and that after three years he was crucified. This would signify an event for the progressive history of mankind. If this were said, it would be the opposite of what the initiate learns to know; it would be an affair of men on earth, no matter how spiritualized it might become. With the initiation-principle, this is not the point.
Fundamentally, it might be said — but you must not misunderstand me — radically, it might be said that, at first glance, what happened on Golgotha was not an event which concerned men in so far as they are on the physical plane. At first glance! Not in the way in which it is related: A man once lived, Jesus of Nazareth, at the beginning of our era, who in the 30th year of his life experienced a certain change through the reception of the Christ, and was then crucified in his 33rd year — not so is the initiation-truth of Christianity told. It must be stated entirely differently.
It must be stated approximately thus: One who is to be initiated into the Christian principle learns the following: Before this Earth there was a Moon-condition. During this Moon-condition the Luciferic beings remained behind. These Luciferic beings developed further, alongside the progressive divine spiritual beings. In the Lemurian time Lucifer drew near to men, injected himself into the human earth-evolution, and brought about what was characterized yesterday. Thus Lucifer was inside the whole human development. Had human evolution continued in this way with Lucifer, it would gradually have happened that the mission of the Earth would not have reached its goal; man would have dried up, the human Ego would have separated from, would have broken out of, the divine spiritual evolution. On the old Moon a series, so to speak, of beings belonging to the super-sensible worlds learned that Lucifer had become rebellious, that he had taken up a position hostile to them. Thus the gods were compelled to see that Lucifer had become the adversary of the progressive divine development. — One can at first completely ignore all that concerns man in this. Let us consider all this as the affair of the gods and of their adversaries, the Luciferic beings, and let us consider mankind as a creation of the gods. This was the situation.
Now, there is a certain peculiarity in the spiritual, in the super-sensible, worlds. One thing is not present there which is present on the earth; death, in all its forms, is not found there. In the super-sensible worlds one transforms oneself, but one does not die. Metamorphoses, not birth and death, are present there. For example, the group-souls which are in the super-sensible worlds do not die; they transform, metamorphose themselves. Birth and death do not exist there, where the effects of the physical world have never reached. Only where the traits of the physical world have already been transmitted to a certain extent to the beings of the spiritual world, there is something which may be regarded as analogous to death, as with the spirits of nature; but we cannot go into this today. In the real super-sensible world there is no birth or death, only transformation, metamorphosis.
For the divine spiritual beings who may be designated the creators of men, birth and death do not come into consideration. Lucifer also does not incarnate himself as a human being in the physical world. He works in man through man; uses men as his vehicle, as it were. Thus we have to do with the gods and with the Luciferic beings, who look down, so to speak, upon their creations. Had evolution continued in this way, had nothing happened in the world of the gods, then the intention of the gods for men would never have been fulfilled; Lucifer would have thwarted the plan of the gods. The gods had to make a sacrifice — that was their concern — they had to experience something which was related to their sphere in such a way that it really could not be experienced by gods if they remained in their own sphere: They had to send from their own ranks down to the physical plane a being who experienced something which otherwise gods in the spiritual worlds cannot experience. The gods had to send the Christ down to earth to do battle with the Luciferic principle. In the course of time, when the time was fulfilled, the gods, whom we group together under the name of the divine Father-world, sent down the Christ in order that he should learn to know the unending pains of men, which mean something entirely different for a god from what they mean for a man. Therewith the gods entered the earth-sphere to do battle with the Luciferic spirits. A god had to suffer death on the cross, the most disgraceful human death, as Paul especially emphasizes.
We were allowed, once in the Earth's development, to be witnesses — because we looked as through a window into the spiritual worlds — of an affair of the gods.
Previously — so says the initiation-principle — man was compelled under all circumstances to rise into the divine-spiritual worlds in order to take part in the initiation-principle. The initiation-principle stands before the whole of mankind in the Mystery of Golgotha, an event which is at the same time sensible on the physical plane (if men would only see it) and super-sensible, a true affair of the gods. This is the essential thing, that a god once went through death, as a counterpoise to Lucifer, and that men were allowed to look on. This is what the initiation-principle gives as Christian wisdom, and this is the real origin of the faith that to men, as men, something can flow as a force which can take them beyond the earth-sphere and beyond death; because once the gods settled their affair on earth and allowed men to look on. Therefore that which streams out from the Mystery of Golgotha is something universally human. And if every pain, every suffering, every death has its effect (even those inflicted by men on animals) so does this death also have its effect. This death was a seed sown by the gods; it was something which remained bound up with the earth, and has remained bound up with it ever since, remained bound up with it in such a way that every man, through trust, through love for the spiritual worlds, will find it. He does find it!
The initiate knows that this is so; the believing-trusting man feels that from the spiritual worlds help can come to him for his striving, if he can only develop enough belief and trust. This will develop itself in a very definite way.
There were those who were contemporaries of the Egyptian initiates. Through initiation these initiates had made quite clear to their pupils the whole tragedy of the conflict of the gods with Lucifer, by setting before men symbolically in their mysteries the Osiris-Set myth. Just yesterday we considered what feelings the Osiris-Set myth called forth in the Egyptians. There lived the divine-spiritual to which men wished to attain; this was called Osiris. But on earth the human being cannot unite himself with Osiris; he must first go through the gate of death. On earth Osiris could not live; he was immediately dismembered; this was not the place for what was incarnated in Osiris. The last culture epoch before the Graeco-Latin looked up to Christ, to the Osiris-principle, as to a Beyond. Then came the Greek time, which was so deeply imbued with the feeling that it was better to be a beggar on earth than a king in the realm of shades. In the time in which this was still felt in Greece, in the time of the old heroes, men felt the whole discrepancy between the Ego, permeated by the Luciferic principle, and the progressive human organization. Men felt then that the fourth post-Atlantean culture period ran its course in such a way that they had to crowd in a great deal of what man can experience just here on earth. Thence the abnormal, the singular, in this period. In no other time do so many remarkable series of incarnations occur as in this fourth period. Men had to do a great deal here on earth, because they now looked more on this world than on the worlds beyond, as the third culture epoch had still done. The Greeks did not prize this incorporation into Osiris; they were more occupied with cramming as much as possible into the human incarnations, they wanted to get as much as possible out of the incarnation. Thence the remarkable fact that Pythagoras, the great initiator of a certain line of Greek culture, in an earlier incarnation had fought as a Trojan hero on the side of the Trojans. He himself says that he was a Trojan hero, mentioned in Homer, and that he recognized himself as an enemy of the Greeks because he recognized his shield. When Pythagoras says that he had been Euphorbos, anthroposophy teaches a full understanding of this assertion. The Greeks, even the greatest among them, laid especial value on what the single physical incarnations meant for them.
But the fourth post-Atlantean period had also to lead men to feel the spiritual worlds in their full significance, for in that time fell the Mystery of Golgotha. At the time when men in Greece were prizing the outer world most, there occurred in an unknown corner of the world the Mystery of Golgotha; on the earthly stage, where otherwise men carry out their human affairs, the gods carried out their own affairs.
Just as the Egyptian learned to look up to death when he thought of his Osiris, so man learned to know, in the fourth post-Atlantean period, how a contemporary religious form was present, in which lived the impulse which could bring to men the feeling that in this physical world something takes place which is really an affair of the gods; that there takes place the living refutation of that which the Greeks had until then believed — “Better to be a beggar on earth than a king in the realm of shades.” For now the Greeks learned to know him who, as a king, had descended from the realm of the gods, and, as a beggar, had lived out his destiny on earth among men. That was the answer to the feeling of the fourth past-Atlantean period. But this is also that complex of feelings from which the rays for the future earth-development can proceed. The Egyptian had looked up to Osiris, who for him was the Christ, in order to unite himself with him after death; in the fourth post-Atlantean period man looked upon the Mystery of Golgotha as the contemporary act which taught men that in the physical world an event had taken place which was an affair of the gods.
We are living in the fifth post-Atlantean period. In our fifth post-Atlantean period men will add the great teachings of Karma to the other teaching, they will learn to understand their karma. In our fifth post-Atlantean period, human beings are experiencing the third act which follows consistently after the Osiris act and the act of the Mystery of Golgotha. They will learn to grasp the idea: “I am placed on earth through birth; my destiny is on earth; I experience joy and sorrow; I must understand that what I experience as joy and sorrow does not approach me in vain, that it is my Karma, and that it comes to me because it is my Karma, my great educator. I look upon that which was before my birth, which placed me in this incarnation, because this, my destiny, is necessary for my further development. Who sent me hither? Who will continue to place me on this earth, into my destiny, until I have discharged my Karma? I shall owe this to the Christ that men can ever more be called to suffer their destinies, until they have discharged their Karma on earth.” Therefore Jesus of Nazareth, out of whom Christ spoke, could not say to men; “Try to escape as fast as possible out of the physical body”...but he had to say to men: “I will place you into your destinies on this earth so long as you have not discharged your Karma. You must discharge your Karma.” Men will learn as we approach the future that they were united with Christ before birth, that they have received from him the grace of discharging their old Karma in the incarnations.
Thus did the men of the fourth post-Atlantean period look up to Jesus of Nazareth as the bearer of the Christ. Thus will the men of our time learn that the Christ will reveal himself ever more supersensibly, and will govern more and more the threads of Karma in the affairs of the earth. They will learn to know that spiritual power as that destiny which the Greeks could not yet recognize, which will bring men to the point of discharging their Karma in the most fitting way in the successive incarnations. As to a judge, as to a lord of Karma, men will look up to the Christ in the succession of incarnations, when they experience their destiny. Thus men will stand in such a relation to their destiny that they will be stimulated increasingly to deepen their souls, until they can say to themselves: “This destiny is not allotted to me through an impersonal power, this destiny is allotted to me through that with which I feel myself related in my inmost being. In Karma itself I perceive what is related to my being. My Karma is dear to me because it makes me better and better.” Thus one learns to love Karma, and then this is the impulse to know the Christ. Men first learned to love their Karma through the Mystery of Golgotha. And this will continue further and further, and men will learn more and more that under Lucifer's influence alone the earth would never have been able to reach its goal, that the evolution of mankind would have had to become more and more corrupt without the Christ.
But Christianity does not look upon the Christ as a personality, as the founder of an abstract religious system. In our present time the founder of a religion, in accordance with the demands of our time, only brings about discords. Not from a personality does the Christian initiation proceed, but from a fact, from an impersonal act of the gods which took place before the eyes of men. That is why this secret of Golgotha, this event which took place at the beginning of our era and from which went forth the seed of this unique death, the seed from which now grows man's love for his destiny, for his Karma, has been transmitted to mankind in a special way.
We have seen that the death which man inflicts on animals has a certain consequence. The death on Golgotha works as a seed in the human soul which feels its relation to the Christ. So was it with the Mystery of Golgotha: The One died, and just as a single seed is laid in the earth, in order that it die and spring up in the field, and that there be an increase of that which proceeded from the one seed, so the death of a god was realized on the cross. The seed was strewn on Golgotha, the soil was the human soul; what springs up are the relations of man to the super-sensible Christ, who will never more disappear from the evolution of the earth, who will always appear to men in the most varied ways. As men were able to see him physically in the time of the Mystery of Golgotha, so will they be able to raise themselves to see in the near future an etheric Christ-image; they will see the Christ as Paul saw him.
That which is contained in the Christian initiation was preserved in the symbol of the Holy Grail; it was brought into that community which imparts the Christian initiation. For those who receive the Christian initiation what is said here is not an abstract theory, not an hypothesis, but a fact of the super-sensible worlds. The cultivation of the Christian initiation was entrusted to those who were the guardians of the Holy Grail, and later to the fosterers of the community of the Rose Cross. What proceeds from the Christian initiation should, according to its whole nature, work impersonally. Everything personal should be excluded therefrom; for the personal has brought only quarrels and strife into humanity, and will do this increasingly in the future. Therefore it is a strict rule for those who, symbolically speaking, serve the Holy Grail or, speaking literally, serve the cultivation of the Christian initiation, that none of those who have a leading part of the first order to play within the brotherhood of the Holy Grail or the community of the Rose Cross — neither they nor those who live in their surroundings — may speak of the secrets which they know and which work in them, before the passage of one hundred years after their deaths. There is no possibility of learning the complete truth about a leading personality of the first order until one hundred years have passed after his death.
This has been a strict law within the Rosicrucian community since its foundation. Exoterically, no one knows who is a leader in the Rosicrucian community until one hundred years have passed after his death. Then what he has given has already passed over into humanity, has become the objective property of mankind. Thus everything personal is excluded. Never will it be possible to point to a personality in an earthly body as a carrier of the Christian mystery. Only a hundred years after the death of such a personality would this be possible. This is a law which all the brothers of the Rose-Cross well observe. Never will a Rosicrucian brother point to a living personality as a leader of the first order in relation to that which, as Christian initiation, should flow into humanity. In ancient times one could point prophetically to those who would come: The prophets were preceded by their forerunners, their prophets, and these prophets pointed to the founders of religions who should come later; in the time of Jesus of Nazareth the contemporaries, for example the Baptist, pointed to him who was their contemporary; but the spiritual organization of mankind, after the Mystery of Golgotha, of necessity became altered in such wise that it can no longer be the prophet's way to point to a personality who will come or who is already present. On the contrary, a person who was a bearer of the Christian mystery, of that spiritual fact which is tested by the hearts of men, will first be pointed out a hundred years after he has passed from the physical plane through the gates of death.
All these things do not happen out of human caprice, but because they must happen. They must happen because humanity now stands before a time when love, peace, and understanding must spread in the process of the development of mankind. But they will spread only if we learn to take impersonally what is present, if we learn to champion the truth-containing element which has been given to mankind in the course of human evolution. Never more shall we, if as Occidentals we meet a Buddhist, seek to make him a Christian through persuasion or compulsion; for we believe that what has been given to him, and is the deepest thing in his religion, will surely lead him to the Christ. We believe above all things in his own truth; we will not injure the feelings of the Buddhist by saying it is not true that the founder of his religion, after he had lived among men as a Bodhisattva, has as a Buddha no expectation of further physical incarnations. Thereby we establish peace between the religious confessions. In this way, in the future the Christian will understand the Buddhist, and the Buddhist will understand the Christian. The Buddhist who will understand Christianity will say: “I understand that the Christian makes his religious principle something impersonal, an impersonal fact, the fact of the Mystery of Golgotha, an affair of the gods which man may watch and through which he may receive what can connect him with the divine.” No reasonable Buddhist will come to the Christian and say that the Christ can be incarnated in a physical body. On the contrary he would see in this a transgression of the true religious principle. And so no new discord-producing confession with a religious leader of a personal sort will be brought into the world, but the initiation principle itself with its peace, its harmony, its way of producing understanding, will meet all religions with vivifying understanding, and will not wish to force the truth of one religion upon another. As the Oriental Buddhist would answer to the Occidental who said to him that the Buddha could appear in a fleshly body: “Then you do not understand the matter, you do not know what a Buddha is” so would the Buddhist who had grasped the true heart of Christianity, and who stood for spiritual knowledge in earnestness and dignity, reply to one who should speak to him of a Christ incarnated in the flesh: “You do not understand Christianity if you believe that the Christ comes again in a physical body; you understand Christianity just as little as one understands Buddhism who believes that the Buddha would appear in a fleshly body.” What the Christian, if he is an anthroposophist, will always grant to the Buddhist; this will the Buddhist, if he is an anthroposophist, always grant also to the Christian. And so with every adherent of every religious confession of the earth. Thus will anthroposophy bring the great and understanding union, the synthesis of the religious confessions on the earth.