The Fifth Gospel
2 October 1913, Christiania
We will begin to-day by turning our thoughts to the event known as Pentecost. I said in the first lecture that clairvoyant research may first of all be directed to this event, for as we look back into the past it presents itself as a kind of awakening, experienced on the day commemorated in the Whitsun Festival, by those who are generally known as the Apostles or Disciples of Christ Jesus. It is not easy to form clear and precise pictures of all these undoubtedly strange phenomena. And if we want to think truly about the matter we shall have to call up from deep down in our souls, many things we have learned from previous studies of Theosophy. It seemed to the Apostles that they were like men who had awakened, feeling at the moment of waking that they had been living for a long time in an unusual state of consciousness. In very truth it was a kind of awakening from a deep sleep, a wonderful, dream-filled sleep ... remember that I am speaking of how it was experienced by the Apostles themselves ... a sleep of such a kind that at the same time a man carries out all the affairs of everyday life and goes about just like a normal person, so that those with whom he comes into contact do not notice at all that he is in a different state of consciousness. The moment came when it seemed to the Apostles as if they had been living for a long time, for many, many days, in a kind of dream from which they woke at this time of Pentecost; and the awakening itself was a strange experience. The Apostles felt as if there had actually descended upon them from the Cosmos, something which could only be called the Substance of the all-prevailing Love. They felt as if they had been quickened from on high by the all-prevailing Love and awakened from the condition of dream into which they had fallen. It seemed to them as if they had been wakened to life by the primal force of Love pervading and warming the Cosmos, as if this primal force of Love had come down into the soul of each one of them. And to others who could observe them and hear how they were speaking now, they seemed altogether strange. The others knew that they were men who until now had lived in extraordinary simplicity, a few of whom had, it is true, behaved somewhat strangely during recent days, as if lost in dream. This they knew. But now it seemed to the people as if these men had been transformed, as if their very souls had been made new; they seemed to have lost all narrowness, all selfishness in life, to have acquired largeness of heart, an all-embracing tolerance and a deep understanding for everything that is human on the earth. Moreover they were able to express themselves in such a way that everyone present could understand them. It was felt that they could look into every heart, could read the deepest, innermost secrets of the soul and so were able to bring consolation to every single individual, to say to him exactly what he needed. It was naturally amazing that such transformation could take place in a number of men. But these men themselves in whom the transformation had come about, who had been awakened by the Spirit of Cosmic Love, now felt within them a new understanding of what had, it is true, come to pass in intimate connection with their own souls, but which they had not previously grasped. Now, at this moment, there dawned in their souls an understanding of what had actually transpired on Golgotha.
And when we look into the innermost soul of one of these Apostles, into the soul of him who is called Peter in the other Gospels, it is revealed to clairvoyant sight as it gazes backwards into the past, that his normal earthly consciousness completely ceased to function from the moment referred to in the other Gospels as the Denial. He beheld this scene of the Denial, how he had been asked whether he knew the Galilean; and now he knew that at that moment he had denied any such connection because his normal consciousness was beginning to fade and an abnormal condition to set in — a kind of dream condition indicating a withdrawal into an altogether different world. Peter's experience was like that of a man who when he wakes in the morning remembers the last events of the previous evening. Thus did Peter remember the scene usually known as the Denial, the triple Denial before the cock had crowed twice. And then, like outspreading night, the intermediate condition came upon his consciousness. But this intermediate condition was filled, not with mere dream-pictures but with pictures representing a kind of higher consciousness, an experience of things belonging to the world of pure Spirit. And all that had happened, all that Peter had as it were slept through since that time arose before his soul like a vision. Above all he was now able to gaze at that event of which it can truly be said that he had slept through it, because for a full understanding of this event the quickening by the all-prevailing Cosmic Love was necessary. Now there came before the eyes of Peter the pictures of the Mystery of Golgotha, as we, looking backwards with clairvoyant consciousness, can again evoke them if the conditions necessary for such vision are induced.
Frankly, it is with a feeling altogether unparalleled that one makes the decision to put into words what is revealed when one gazes into the consciousness of Peter and of the others who had gathered together at that Whitsun Festival. The decision to speak of these things can only be fraught with holy awe. One is almost overpowered by the consciousness of treading on the most sacred soil of human vision when one puts into words what is here revealed to the eyes of the soul. Nevertheless for certain inner reasons it seems necessary to speak of these things in our time, while realising that in ages other than our own and yet to come, they will find more understanding than is possible now. For in order to comprehend many a thing that will have to be said on this occasion, the human soul will have to break free from much that has been and will be instilled into it, quite inevitably, by the culture of the times.
To begin with, there arises before the gaze of clairvoyance something that seems like an affront against the conceptions of modern science. Nevertheless I feel compelled to put into words what presents itself here to the eyes of soul — as far as I am able to do so. I cannot help it if what has to be said finds its way to inadequately prepared hearts and souls and if the whole thing is mooted as untenable in face of the scientific views by which the present age is entirely dominated. The gaze of clairvoyance lights, to begin with, upon a picture that represents an actual happening, one that is hinted at in other Gospels too, but is a particularly striking spectacle when one sees it emerging from the myriad pictures arising before the backward-turned eye of vision. This clairvoyant gaze actually beholds a kind of darkening of the earth. And one feels, as it were in aftermath, that deeply significant moment when, as in a solar eclipse, the physical sun was darkened over the land of Palestine, over the place of Golgotha. And one has the impression, which vision schooled in the sense of Spiritual Science can still confirm when an actual, physical eclipse of the sun casts shadow over the land: that to the eyes of soul the whole environment of man looks quite different during the time of an eclipse. I shall refrain from dealing with the spectacle presented during a solar eclipse and with all those things that are the creations of human artifice and technique. To be able to endure the spectacle of those demonic powers and entities which during an eclipse of the sun rise out of the creations of art-forsaken, technical science, requires great courage and the realisation that all these things were inevitable. I do not propose, however, to go further into this particular matter but merely draw attention to the fact that a vision, at other times only to be reached after very difficult meditation, lights up and reveals that during a solar eclipse all plant-life, all animal life, every butterfly, take on quite a different appearance. It is an experience that in the very deepest sense brings the conviction of how intimately a certain form of cosmic-spiritual life belonging to the sun and having its physical body in the visible sun, is connected with life on the earth. And when the physical radiance is darkened by the intervening moon, this is different from when, during the night, the sun is merely not shining. The spectacle of the earth around us is quite different during an eclipse of the sun from what it is during an ordinary night. During an eclipse of the sun one feels the group-souls of the plants and of the animals lighting up ... all the physical embodiments of the animals and plants seem to pass into shadow, while the group-souls become radiant. All this presents itself very vividly when the backward-turned gaze of seership contemplates that moment in the earth's evolution when the Mystery of Golgotha took place. And then comes an experience which may be described by saying: one learns to read what this remarkable phenomenon of nature perceived in the Cosmos really signifies! I cannot help it if — in defiance of all contemporary materialism — I am obliged to read in the occult script at this particular point in the earth's evolution, a purely natural event, one that has also occurred, of course, both before and since, and to speak of the direct impression it makes. It is like opening a book and reading the script ... one feels when this event is there before one that what one should read comes out of the very script itself. This cosmic script compels one with a kind of necessity to read something that mankind must come to know. It appears before one like a word inscribed in the Cosmos, like a sign in the Cosmos. And when one opens the soul to it, what is it that one reads?
In the lecture yesterday I spoke of how by the time of Greek culture, mankind had evolved to the point where, in Plato and Aristotle, a very high development of the human soul, a very high level of intellectuality had been attained. In many respects the intellectual knowledge attained by Plato or Aristotle has never since been surpassed. Intellectuality in mankind there reached a certain zenith. A vast store of knowledge had been acquired. And if one pictures this intellectual knowledge to which humanity had attained, which at the time of the Mystery of Golgotha had been spread abroad by wandering preachers far and wide over Greece and Italy, if one pictures how this knowledge had spread in a way incomprehensible to-day — then it is possible to receive the impression which seems to be like a reading of that occult script out in the Cosmos. And when clairvoyant consciousness has been mustered, one realises: all this knowledge, gathered and garnered by humanity in pre-Christian times, has its symbol in the moon, as for earthly sight it passes through the Cosmos. The moon is the symbol, because for all higher stages of human cognition this knowledge has acted, not as a light-bringer or solver of riddles, but rather as a bringer of darkness, just as the moon darkens the sun during a solar eclipse. That is what one reads. All the knowledge existing at that time shed darkness, not illumination, upon the riddle of the universe. And as a seer one feels the higher, truly spiritual regions of the world darkened by the intellectual achievements of antiquity which placed themselves like a screen in front of the real knowledge, just as the moon screens the sun during a solar eclipse. And the external event becomes a symbolic expression of the fact that human evolution had reached a stage where the knowledge born of man's own mind placed itself in front of the higher knowledge, like the moon before the sun during an eclipse. In that eclipse of the sun one feels the darkening of the sun of humanity in earthly evolution, engraved into the Cosmos in a stupendous sign of the occult script. I have said that the modern scientific mind may take this as an affront, because it has no understanding of the sovereign power of the Spirit in the universe. I do not want to speak of miracles in the ordinary sense of the word, of any infraction of the laws of nature, but I cannot do otherwise than convey to you how one can read that darkening of the sun — read with the eyes of soul what it is that this happening of nature expresses. With the moon-knowledge, darkness crept over the higher message of the sun.
And then there actually comes before the clairvoyant consciousness, the picture of the Cross raised on Golgotha, of the body of Jesus hanging upon it between the two thieves; the picture, too, of the body being taken down from the Cross and laid in the grave ... And here I will add that the more one tries to prevent it, the more forcibly does it present itself. And now comes a second mighty sign, whereby again there is written into the Cosmos something that one must read in order to discern it as a symbol of what has actually transpired in the evolution of humanity. One contemplates the picture of Jesus taken down from the Cross and laid in the grave, and then, while the gaze of the soul is thus directed, one has the experience of being shaken through and through by an earthquake which spread through that region.
One day, perhaps, people will understand — in the scientific sense too — more about the connection between that darkening of the sun and the earthquake, for certain theories which are already current in the world, but somewhat haphazardly, indicate that there is a connection between solar eclipses and earthquakes, and even fire-damp in mines. That earthquake followed upon the eclipse of the sun. It shook the grave in which the body of Jesus had been laid, and the stone covering it was wrenched away; a fissure was rent in the earth and the corpse was received into it. Another tremor caused the fissure to close again over the corpse. And when the people came in the morning the grave was empty, for the dead body of Jesus had been received into the earth. The stone, however, still lay where it had been hurled. — Once again let us follow the sequence of pictures! Jesus dies on the Cross of Golgotha. Darkness breaks in upon the earth. The corpse of Jesus is laid into the grave. A tremor shakes the land and the corpse is received into the earth. The fissure caused by the tremor closes; the stone is hurled aside. These are all actual happenings. I cannot describe them in any other way. Let those who wish to approach these things from the basis of natural science form what opinion they like, bring forward all kinds of contrary arguments: what the gaze of clairvoyance perceives is as I have described it. And if anyone were to say: it is impossible that from the Cosmos there should be set up, as it were in a mighty language of signs, a symbol of something New having entered into the evolution of mankind; if anyone were to say: the Divine Powers do not write into the earth in such signs a happening like an eclipse of the sun and an earthquake ... then I could only answer: You believe in all sincerity that such things are impossible. Nevertheless they actually happened. I can imagine someone like Ernest Renan, the author of that strange work, The Life of Jesus, saying that such things are incredible, because one only believes in what can at any time be re-confirmed by experiment. But this thought is not tenable ... for would a man like Renan not believe, let us say, in the Ice Age, although that cannot be confirmed by experiment? It is quite impossible to reconstruct the conditions prevailing in the Ice Age and yet all scientists believe in it. Equally impossible is it that this unique cosmic sign can ever appear again to men — yet for all that, the sign was there.
We can only be led to these events when, as seers, we find the way to them as I have indicated, when we sink in deepest contemplation into the soul of Peter or of one of the other Apostles who at the time of Pentecost felt themselves quickened by the all-prevailing Cosmic Love. Only when we contemplate the souls of those men and discern the nature of their experiences, is it possible in this indirect way to gaze at the Cross raised on Golgotha, to behold the darkening of the earth at that time and the subsequent earthquake. It is not denied that in the external sense this darkening and earthquake were ordinary happenings of nature, but one who having induced the requisite conditions in his soul, follows and reads these events with clairvoyant sight, will be emphatic that they were as I have described them. For in the consciousness of Peter, what I have now described was, in very truth, an experience that crystallised out of the long sleep. Among the manifold pictures crossing Peter's consciousness, those of the Cross raised on Golgotha, the darkening and the earthquake, for example, stood out in vivid relief. These experiences were for Peter the first result of the quickening by the Cosmic Love at Pentecost. And he now knew something he had not really known before: that the event of Golgotha had taken place and that the body on the Cross was the very same body with which he had often gone about together in life. Now he knew that Jesus had died on the Cross, that this dying was in reality a birth: the birth of that Spirit outpoured as the all-prevailing Cosmic Love into the souls of the Disciples assembled at Pentecost. Peter felt it as a ray of the primordial, aeonic Love ... born when Jesus died on the Cross. And this stupendous truth sank down into Peter's soul: It is only illusion that on the Cross a death took place. This death, preceded as it had been by infinite suffering, was in truth the birth of the ray now penetrating the soul. The all-prevailing Cosmic Love which had previously been present everywhere outside and around the earth, had, with the death of Jesus, been born into the earth. In the abstract, such words seem facile, but one must for a moment actually be transported into the soul of Peter to realise what he experienced then for the first time: When Jesus of Nazareth died on the Cross, at that moment there was born for the earth something that was previously to be found only in the Cosmos. The death of Jesus of Nazareth was the birth of the Cosmic Love within the sphere of the earth.
This is, so to speak, the first knowledge we are able to read from the Fifth Gospel. What I have now been describing begins with what is called in the New Testament the coming, or the outpouring, of the Spirit. The nature and character of the souls of the Apostles at that time did not make it possible for them to participate in the real sense in this event of the death of Jesus of Nazareth otherwise than in an abnormal state of consciousness.
To Peter, as also to John and James, there came, inevitably, the remembrance of another moment in their lives, the moment that can only be revealed to us in all its majesty by the Fifth Gospel. He with whom they had gone about on earth had led them out to the mount and had bidden them: Watch! And they had fallen asleep. The condition which spread with greater and greater intensity over their souls had already then set in. Their normal consciousness faded, they sank into the sleep which lasted beyond the time of Golgotha; and from this sleep the experiences I have been trying in halting words to describe, shone forth. Peter, John and James were inevitably reminded of how they had fallen into this condition of sleep and now, as they looked back, the vision lit up of the mighty events which had transpired around the earthly body of Him with whom they had gone about together. And gradually ... as submerged dreams rise up into the consciousness of men ... gradually the Apostles became conscious of what had transpired during those past days. During those days they had not experienced these happenings in their normal consciousness. What now came into their ken had lain deep down in their souls, submerged as it were for the whole of the period between the event of Golgotha and Pentecost. This period seemed to them to have been one of deepest sleep — above all through the days between the event known as the Ascension, and Pentecost. As they looked backwards, the whole period — day by day — between the Mystery of Golgotha and the Ascension of Christ Jesus into heaven, came before their souls. They had lived through it all but only now did they become conscious of it — and in a strange and mysterious way. Forgive me if I here interpose a personal remark. I must confess that I myself was amazed in the highest degree when I became aware of the manner in which all that the Apostles had lived through between the time of the Mystery of Golgotha and the Ascension rose up into their consciousness. It is indeed remarkable.
Pictures like these came before the souls of the Apostles: You were together with the Being who has been born on the Cross, you were with Him in very truth ... Just as on waking in the morning the remembrance of a dream might tell one: during the night you were with this or that person! ... But what is so remarkable is how the particular events came up into the Apostles' consciousness. Over and over again they were compelled to ask themselves: Who, then, is that Being with Whom we have been together? And time after time they did not know who He was. They knew with certainty that they had gone about with Him, but they did not recognise Him in the Form which had then been before them and which now, after they had been quickened by the all-prevailing Cosmic Love, appeared to them in a picture. They saw themselves going about after the Mystery of Golgotha with Him whom we call the Christ. And they saw, too, how He had taught and instructed them from the realm of the Spirit. They came to realise that for forty days they had gone about with this Being who upon the Cross had been born, that this Being — the All-prevailing Love itself born out of the Cosmos into the world — had been their Teacher, but that they had not been mature enough to understand His words; they realised that they had been obliged to receive His teachings with the subconscious forces of their souls, that they had gone about with the Christ like sleep-walkers, unable to understand with their ordinary minds what this Being imparted to them. During these forty days they had listened to Him with a kind of consciousness quite unfamiliar to them and which now, at Pentecost, became alive in them for the first time. They had listened to Him like sleep-walkers. This Being had come to them as their spiritual Teacher and had instructed them in mysteries which it was only possible for them to understand because He transported them into quite a different state of consciousness. Therefore not until now did they realise that they had gone about with Christ, with the Risen Christ. It was only now that they recognised what had really happened to them. And how did they recognise that this was the very same Being with whom they had gone about in the body, before the Mystery of Golgotha? This can be described in the following way: —
Let us suppose that now, after the event of Pentecost, a picture of this kind came before the soul of one of the Apostles. He saw how he had gone about with the Risen One. But he did not recognise this Being. Then another picture interposed itself, a picture which, mingling with the purely spiritual picture, represented an experience actually undergone by the Apostles in the presence of Christ Jesus before the Mystery of Golgotha. There was a scene where they felt that they were being taught by Christ Jesus about the Mystery of the Spirit. But they did not recognise Him, they merely saw themselves in the presence of this spiritual Being. And in order that they might recognise Him, this picture, while still intact, merged into the picture of the Last Supper — an experience they had shared with Christ Jesus. Try to envisage in all reality that as the super-sensible experience with the Risen One lit up in the consciousness of an Apostle, there — working as it were in the background — was the picture of the Last Supper. Then the Apostles knew that He with whom they had gone about in the body was the very same Being who was teaching them now — in the quite different Form in which He appeared after the Mystery of Golgotha. Remembrances from the state of consciousness that had been like a sleep were interwoven with the memory-pictures of events preceding the onset of this sleep. The Apostles experienced this as if two pictures were superimposed: one picture was of their experiences after the Mystery of Golgotha and another of the time before their consciousness had clouded. Then they realised that these two Beings belonged together: the Risen One and He with whom, a relatively short time before, they had gone about together in the body. And now they said to themselves: Before we were awakened by the all-prevailing Cosmic Love, we were as if transported from our ordinary consciousness. And Christ, the Risen One, was with us. All unknowing, we were taken up into His Kingdom; He went about with us, revealed to us the mysteries of His Kingdom of which we are now becoming conscious as if we had once experienced them in dream. — That is what causes amazement: the invariable coincidence of one picture of an experience of the Apostles with Christ after the Mystery of Golgotha with a picture of a happening which before the Mystery of Golgotha they had actually lived through in their normal consciousness while together in the physical body with Christ Jesus.
A beginning has thus been made to impart what can be read in the so-called Fifth Gospel. And at the end of this first communication to-day it may be allowable for me to add a few additional and necessary words. In an occult sense I feel it my duty to speak about these things now. What I want to say is the following. I know well that we are living in a time when many things are being prepared for the near future of mankind on earth, and that within our Anthroposophical Society — as it has now become — we must feel ourselves as those in whom an inkling is dawning that something essential for the future has to be made ready in the souls of men. I know that times will come when it will be possible to speak of these matters in a way quite other than present conditions allow. For we are all of us children of the age. But a time will come in the near future when it will be possible to speak with greater precision, when a great deal that can at present only be of the nature of indication may perhaps be discerned with far, far greater exactitude in the spiritual chronicle of World-Becoming. Improbable as it seems to the modern mind, such a time will come. For this reason it is a certain matter of duty to speak about these things to-day by way of preparation. And although I have had to overcome a certain reluctance in speaking as I have done, this was outweighed by the duty to the preparation that must be made in our time. This was what led me to speak on this subject to you here. When I speak of having overcome reluctance, please take this exactly as it is meant. I ask explicitly that what I have to say on this occasion shall be taken merely as a kind of stimulus, as something which in the future it will be possible to express much more adequately and with greater precision. You will better understand what I mean by “overcoming reluctance” if you will allow me not to withhold a personal remark. I know full well that in the spiritual research to which I have devoted myself, many things can only be extracted with the very greatest difficulty and effort from the spiritual record of the world's happenings — particularly things of this nature! And I myself should not be in the least surprised if the word “indication” which I have used in connection with them were to prove to have still weightier and wider implications than need to be attributed to it now. I do not say — most emphatically I do not say — that I am already in a position to say with all precision what presents itself in the spiritual script. For particularly in my own case I am aware of all kinds of difficulties and of the labour required when it is a question of drawing from the Akasha Chronicle pictures relating to Christianity. It costs me great effort to make these pictures sufficiently concrete to be able to fix them and I regard it, so to speak, as my karma that the duty is imposed upon me to say what I have now brought myself to say. For without any doubt it would cost me less effort if, as in the case of many of our contemporaries, circumstances in my early youth had enabled me to have a genuinely Christian education. I had no such education. I grew up in an entirely free-thinking environment. My own education was of a purely scientific character. And that is why it costs me great effort to discover these things of which it is my duty to speak. This personal reference may be justified for two reasons. — One is that with an utter lack of probity, an absurd story [It had been alleged by Annie Besant that Dr. Steiner had been educated by the Jesuits.] has been sent broadcast through the world about my having been connected with certain Catholic influences. There is not a single word of truth in this. And it is easy to judge the pass to which things have come in what calls itself Theosophy nowadays when such dishonest statements and rumours emanate from its soil. As, however, we cannot ignore them but must confront them with the truth, this personal reference is justified. Just because of my remoteness from Christianity when I was young, I feel all the freer from bias in regard to it; I believe that the Spirit has led me to Christianity and to the Christ. Especially in this domain I think I have a certain right to claim freedom from bias and prejudice. Perhaps — in this particular epoch of world-history — more reliance can be placed upon the words of a man who has come from a scientific education, who in his youth stood at a distance from Christianity, than upon the words of someone who has been connected with Christianity since early childhood. If you ponder these words you will realise that they indicate something of what lives within me when I speak of the mysteries which I will designate as the mysteries of the Fifth Gospel.