The Fifth Gospel
5 October 1913, Christiania
When I set myself to the task of speaking to you to-day on the contents of the Fifth Gospel, the concluding words of St. John's Gospel afford me a certain consolation. As you know, this concluding passage is to the effect that the events which took place around Christ Jesus are not by any means all recorded in the Gospels, for if in those days attempts had been made to record them all, the world itself could not have produced books in sufficient numbers. On one point, therefore, there can be no doubt, namely, that as well as what has actually been recorded, many other things may have happened. In order to make myself intelligible when I am speaking, as I wish to speak in these particular lectures, about the contents of the Fifth Gospel, I will begin to-day with narratives of the life of Jesus of Nazareth approximately from that time in his life of which indications have been given on other occasions, when brief portions of the Fifth Gospel have been communicated. 1See e.g. Gospel of St. John, Gospel of St. Mark, Gospel of St. Matthew, Gospel of St. Luke, and From Jesus to Christ. Rudolf Steiner Publishing Co.
I want to speak to-day of certain happenings in the life of Jesus of Nazareth from about his twelfth year onwards. As you know, this was the year when the Zarathustra-Ego which had incarnated in one of the two Jesus children born at that time, had passed over, through a mystical act, into the other Jesus child — the child who is described at the beginning of St. Luke's Gospel. Our narrative begins, then, from that year in the life of Jesus of Nazareth when the Jesus of St. Luke's Gospel had received the Ego of Zarathustra. In the Gospel, this moment in the life of Jesus of Nazareth is indicated in the story that on a journey to Jerusalem for the feast, the Jesus child of St. Luke's Gospel was lost and when he was found he was sitting among the learned doctors and scribes, amazing them by his lofty answers. We, however, know why it was possible for him to give these astounding answers. It was because everything that welled up as it were from the Spirit into the Zarathustra-Ego like remembrances hidden in the soul, worked in such a way that Jesus of Nazareth was able at that time to give those astounding answers. We know too that after the death of the mother in the one family and of the father in the other, the two families amalgamated into one and that the Jesus child, endowed now with the Zarathustra-Ego, grew up in this family.
As the Fifth Gospel reveals, it was a truly remarkable development that took place during the following years. Those in the immediate environment of the young Jesus of Nazareth held him in highest repute because of the astounding answers he had given in the temple. They saw in him the future doctor of the law, one who would attain outstanding eminence among the learned scribes. Those around Jesus of Nazareth entertained the highest hopes of him. They began to drink in his every word. But in spite of this he became more and more silent — so silent, indeed, that he often caused great displeasure to those around him. Between the twelfth and eighteenth years of his life, however, a mighty struggle was going on within him. It was as though deep-lying treasures of wisdom were springing to life in his soul, as though the radiant sun of Zarathustrian wisdom had flashed up within him in the form of Hebrew learning. At first the boy listened with the greatest discernment and concentration and gave astounding answers to everything said by the many learned doctors and scribes who came to the house. To begin with, in the house at Nazareth too, he astonished the learned doctors who came there and who regarded him as a wonder-child. Then, however, he became more and more silent, merely listening to what others were saying without himself speaking a word. But while this was going on, great and sublime thoughts, ethical truths, and above all powerful moral impulses came to life in his soul during those years. What he heard from the learned scribes assembled in the house made a certain impression upon him — but one that caused him bitter sorrow, because he felt — mark well, even in those early years — that much uncertainty, much that tended to error was contained in what they said about the ancient traditions and the writings compiled in the Old Testament. Heaviness oppressed his soul when he heard that in ancient times the Spirit had descended upon the Prophets, that the word of God Himself had inspired those ancient Prophets and that now the inspiration had departed from a later generation. But to one thing he always listened with deep attention, because he divined that one day it would happen so to him. The learned doctors and scribes said many a time: “That sublime and mighty Spirit who once descended, for example, upon Elias, speaks no longer; but what still speaks” ... and many of the scribes still believed it to be an inspiration from spiritual heights ... “what still speaks is a feebler voice, yet a voice which many regard as issuing from the Spirit of Jahve himself.”
The “Bath-Kol” was the name given to that mysterious voice of inspiration — a voice feebler and less significant than that of the Spirit who had inspired the ancient Prophets. Nevertheless this voice represented something similar. Many of those around Jesus spoke in this way of the Bath-Kol and much concerning it is related in later Jewish writings. I now interpolate into this narration of the contents of the Fifth Gospel something that does not actually belong to this Gospel, merely for the purpose of explaining the nature of the Bath-Kol. At a somewhat later date, controversy broke out between two Rabbinic schools. The famous Rabbi Eliezer ben Hyrcanus upheld a certain doctrine and maintained in support of it that he was able to work miracles (this is related in the Talmud). He made a carob-tree rise out of the soil and take root again a hundred ells away; he made a stream flow backwards; and thirdly he called upon a voice from heaven to proclaim the truth of his doctrine. But nevertheless those in the opposing school of the Rabbi Joshua did not believe in it. And Rabbi Joshua retorted: “Even if Rabbi Eliezer does make carob-trees transplant themselves from one spot to another, even if he does make a stream flow backwards, even if he does call upon the Bath-Kol ... it stands written that the eternal laws of existence must be established through the mouth and in the heart of man; and if Rabbi Eliezer would convince us, let him not call upon the Bath-Kol but upon what the human heart can comprehend.” I narrate this story because it indicates that soon after the dawn of Christianity, respect for the Bath-Kol had greatly diminished in certain Rabbinic schools, although in a way it continued to be a voice of inspiration among the Rabbis and the Scribes.
As the boy Jesus listened to and pondered all these things, he himself became aware of the inspiration of the Bath-Kol. The remarkable thing was that because he bore within him the Zarathustra-Ego, Jesus of Nazareth was able very rapidly to absorb all the knowledge possessed by the others around him. Not only had he been able in his twelfth year to give astounding answers to the learned doctors, but he now heard the Bath-Kol within his own breast. But this very inspiration through the Bath-Kol gave rise to bitter, inward struggles in Jesus of Nazareth during his sixteenth and seventeenth years. For the Bath-Kol revealed to him — and he was convinced that he discerned it with all certainty — that in times to come the voice of the same Spirit who had inspired the ancient Hebrew teachers would speak no longer in the stream of events recorded in Old Testament history. And one day — it was a truly terrible experience in the soul of Jesus of Nazareth — he believed that the Bath-Kol made known to him the following: “I no longer reach to those heights where the Spirit can reveal to me the truth about the continued progress of the Jewish people!” It was a deeply moving and terrible moment for Jesus of Nazareth when the Bath-Kol seemed to be declaring to him that it could no longer continue the ancient revelations, that it was no longer capable of perpetuating the old Hebraic wisdom. Jesus of Nazareth felt as though all the ground were swept from under his feet, and many a day he said to himself: All the forces of soul which I believed had been bestowed upon me, only lead to the realisation that in the evolution of the Jewish people there is no longer the capacity to scale the heights of the Divine revelations.
Let us try for a moment to enter into the soul of the young Jesus of Nazareth at the time when these experiences were thronging in upon him. It was in his sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth years, when, partly for reasons connected with his handicraft and partly owing to other circumstances, he made many journeys about the country. On these journeys he came to know many regions in Palestine and places outside. Now in those times — and to clairvoyant sight this is clearly perceptible in the Akasha Chronicle — a certain Asiatic cult was very widespread in Western Asia and the regions round about, even in certain parts of Europe. It was a mixture of several different rites but in the main it represented the Mithras cult. Temples dedicated to the worship of Mithras were to be found in many widely scattered regions. The rites often contained elements of the Attis cult, but were in essentials a form of Mithraic worship. Temples and centres dedicated to the worship of Mithras and of Attis were numerous and widespread. It was a form of ancient heathen religion but comprised many practices and ceremonies common to Mithras- or Attis-worship. The fact, for example, that the Church of St. Peter in Rome stands over the site of one of these earlier places of worship shows that this cult had spread far and wide. Although to many Catholics it may sound sacrilegious, the truth obliges one to say that in its outward form the ceremonial practised in the Church of St. Peter in Rome and everything deriving from it, is by no means without resemblance to the ancient Attis cult on the site of which St. Peter's stands. And the cult centred in the Church of St. Peter is in many respects a continuation of the Mithras cult. When in his sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth years, Jesus of Nazareth began to journey about the country, he came to know these centres of heathen rites. Later on too, he discovered still more about them. In this way he learnt to understand the souls of the heathen peoples by actual, physical observation — if one may put it so. At that time, as the result of the mighty act whereby the Zarathustra-Ego had passed over into his soul, Jesus of Nazareth possessed, as it were by a process of natural development, a power of clairvoyance such as others could achieve only by intense effort and struggle. Therefore in witnessing these cults he experienced many things that remained hidden from others — many terrible things. Fabulous as it may seem, I have to testify that when the priest was enacting the rites of the cult at many a heathen altar and Jesus of Nazareth witnessed the whole act of worship, he saw that numbers of demonic beings were attracted to the spot. He discovered that many idols worshipped by the people were, in reality, images not of the good spiritual Beings of the higher Hierarchies but of demonic powers. He also perceived that many a time these demonic powers passed over into the believers participating in these rites. For reasons easy to understand, these things have not found their way into the other Gospels. And indeed it is only now, within our spiritual Movement, that such things can be disclosed, because it is only in our time that the human soul is ripe enough to understand the deep and overwhelming experiences which came to Jesus of Nazareth while he was still a young man.
These journeyings continued on through his twentieth, twenty-second, twenty-fourth years. It was always with feelings of bitter sorrow that he witnessed the power wielded by the demons — by the demons issuing as it were from Lucifer and Ahriman — that he witnessed how the heathen peoples had in many respects actually come to the point of taking the demons for gods, even of having in their idols the images of wild, demonic powers which, attracted by these images and rites, entered into the people while they prayed, and obsessed them. Many bitter experiences fell to the lot of Jesus of Nazareth. And these experiences led up to a certain culmination.
Round about the age of twenty-four, a new and heavy experience was added to that caused by the disillusionment in connection with the Bath-Kol. In narrating this experience of Jesus of Nazareth, I have to say that I am not yet in a position to indicate precisely at which place in his journeyings this came to pass. It was possible for me to decipher the scene with a high degree of certainty but I cannot to-day indicate the exact place. It seems to me that the event took place on a journey outside Palestine. But although I cannot say this with certainty, I must relate the scene. In the twenty-fourth year of his life, Jesus of Nazareth came to a place where, in a heathen cult, a certain Deity was worshipped. But the people round about were in a state of dire misery, afflicted with all kinds of terrible illnesses of soul and body. The priests had long ago forsaken this place of worship. And Jesus heard the people crying: The priests have forsaken us, the blessings of the sacrificial offering do not descend upon us and we are leprous and diseased because the priests have forsaken us. — Jesus of Nazareth grieved for the people and an infinite love for them flamed in his soul. The people around must have remarked something of this infinite love welling up within him; a deep impression must have been made upon the sorrowing people, who had been forsaken by their priests and, as they believed, also by their god. And now, as if at one stroke, there arose in the hearts of the majority of the people something that made them say as they recognised the expression of infinite love in the countenance of Jesus: Thou art the new priest who has been sent to us! And they pressed him towards the altar of the sacrifice, they placed him at the altar. And there he stood — at the heathen altar. The people besought him to offer the sacrifice, in order that the blessing of the god might come upon them. While this was happening, while the people were lifting him to the altar, he fell down as if dead. His soul was as if transported away and the people around who believed that their god had returned to them, witnessed the terrible spectacle that the one whom they had held to be the new priest sent from heaven, had fallen down as if dead. But the soul of Jesus was aware of being transported into spiritual realms, into the sphere of sun-existence. And now, as if resounding from the spheres of the sun, this soul heard words such as it had often heard through the Bath-Kol. But now the Bath-Kol was utterly transformed; moreover the voice came to Jesus of Nazareth from quite a different direction. And that of which he now became aware can — if one translates it into our language — be rendered in words which I was able to communicate for the first time when just recently we were laying the Foundation Stone of our building in Dornach. Certain occult duties exist! And obeying one such occult duty, I then communicated what came to Jesus of Nazareth through the now transformed voice of the Bath-Kol on the occasion of which I have been speaking. Jesus of Nazareth heard the words:
Es walten die Übel,
Zeugen sich lösender Ichheit,
Von andern erschuldete Selbstheitschuld,
Erlebet im täglichen Brote,
In dem nicht waltet der Himmel Wille,
Da der Mensch sich schied von Eurem Reich
Und vergass Euren Namen,
Ihr Vater in den Himmeln.
The Evils hold sway,
Witness of Egoity becoming free,
Selfhood-Guilt through others incurred,
Experienced in the Daily Bread,
Wherein the Will of the Heavens does not rule,
In that Man severed himself from Your Kingdom,
And forgot Your Names,
Ye Fathers in the Heavens.
In no other way can I render in the German language what Jesus of Nazareth heard at that time as the transformed voice of the Bath-Kol. Verily, in no other way than this! This was what his soul brought back when he awoke from the state of insensibility during which he was transported into the spiritual worlds on the occasion I have described. When Jesus of Nazareth had come to himself again and turned his eyes towards the crowd of wretched and miserable people who had brought him to the altar, they had all fled. And letting his clairvoyant vision widen into the distance he discerned a host of demonic powers and beings, all of them connected with the people. That was the second significant event, the second significant climax in the various periods of the life of Jesus of Nazareth since his twelfth year. Truly, my dear friends, the events which most deeply affected the soul of Jesus of Nazareth in his adult years cannot be said to have conduced only to inward elation, inward happiness! It was the lot of this soul before the Baptism in the Jordan to know human nature in its darkest depths.
From this journey, Jesus of Nazareth returned to his home, where the father had remained. The father died about this time — it was when Jesus of Nazareth was in his twenty-fourth year, or thereabouts. When Jesus came home his soul was still under the mighty impression of how demonic powers held sway in much that was contained in the old heathen religion. But just as it is the case that certain stages of higher knowledge can only be attained by plumbing the darkest depths of life, so too, in a certain sense, did it happen to Jesus of Nazareth. At a place unknown to me, in about the twenty-fourth year of his life, he had gazed into infinite depths of the human soul, he had gazed into souls in whom all the grief of the humanity of those times was as it were concentrated. He was also steeped in the wisdom which pierced his soul like red-hot iron but also imparted a faculty of clairvoyance powerful enough to gaze into the radiant worlds of the Spirit. And so this comparatively young soul was able to read the things of the Spirit with discerning, clear-sighted vision. Jesus of Nazareth had become one who gazed deeply into the mysteries of life, more deeply than any man living on the earth hitherto. Nobody before him had been able to witness to what degree of intensity human misery can reach. He had seen misery in its direst, most concentrated form ... had seen how sacred rites themselves can evoke all manner of demons! In very truth, no human being on the earth had ever gazed with such deep penetration at all this wretchedness as had Jesus of Nazareth; none had been capable of such infinite depth of feeling when confronted with those who were possessed by demons. Nor was any other being on the earth as ready as he to face the question: How, how can an end be made of this misery?
And so Jesus of Nazareth possessed not only the vision, the knowledge that is wisdom, but had in a certain sense become an Initiate through the experiences of life itself. This came to the knowledge of certain people who in those days had gathered together in an Order, known very widely as the Order of the Essenes. The Essenes were people who practised a kind of secret cult and secret tenets at certain places in Palestine. It was a strict, rigorous Order. One who desired to enter it was required to pass through a year, at the very least, of strict probation, to show by his conduct during this period, by his moral principles, by his obedience in worshipping the supreme Powers of the Spirit, by his sense of justice and of equality among men, by his disregard of earthly goods and the like that he was worthy to be initiated. There was a succession of grades through which he had to pass, leading to that Essenian life which strove to approach the spiritual world in a certain separation and aloofness from the rest of humanity, through strict monastic discipline and rules of cleanliness, in order that all impurity both in body and in soul might be purged. These principles were expressed in many symbolic rules of the Order. The deciphering of the Akasha Chronicle has shown that the name “Essene” derives from or at any rate is connected with the Hebrew word “Essin” or “Assin.” This means something like a trowel, a little shovel, because the Essenes always wore as their badge a little shovel — a symbol that has been preserved in many Orders to this day. And certain symbolic customs gave expression to their aims: they were not allowed to carry coins about with them nor to pass through any gateway that was either painted or had images in its neighbourhood. As the Essene Order at that time was to a certain extent recognised by the outside world, unpainted gates had been erected in Jerusalem so that the Essenes too might enter the city. If an Essene came to a painted gate he must always turn back. In the Order itself, ancient lore and ancient traditions were preserved, and concerning these the members kept strict silence. They were allowed to teach but only what they themselves had learned within the Order. Everyone who entered the Order must give to it all his worldly possessions. At that time the Essenes numbered from four to five thousand, and people from all parts of the then known world came to dedicate themselves to the austere life of the Order. If they possessed a house far away in Asia Minor or even farther off, they always presented it to the Essene Order which consequently became the owner of small properties, houses, gardens, even extensive fields, widely dispersed over the land. No one was accepted who did not present all he had to the community. Everything belonged to all the Essenes in common; no individual possessed anything for himself. A law that in the conditions of life to-day seems extraordinarily austere but is comprehensible none the less, was that an Essene might use the assets of the Order to help any who were in need, with the exception of members of his own family.
In Nazareth there was an Essene settlement which had been one of these gifts. The Essene Order, therefore, had come within the purview of Jesus of Nazareth. Tidings reached the centre of the Order of the profound wisdom that had sunk into the soul of Jesus of Nazareth in the way that has been described. Especially among the most eminent Essenes a certain attitude of soul prevailed. With a kind of prophetic inkling, they said: From among men living in this world a new soul must arise, one who will be a Messiah! Therefore they looked around for souls of outstanding wisdom. And they were deeply moved on being told of the wisdom that had come to flower in the soul of Jesus of Nazareth. No wonder, therefore, that without compelling Jesus of Nazareth to undergo the testings of the lower grades, the Essenes received him into their community — I will not say into the Order itself — as a kind of extern, or outside member, and that even the most learned Essenes spoke about the secrets without reserve to this wise young man. In the Essene Order, Jesus of Nazareth heard far, far deeper teachings concerning the secret lore than he had ever heard from the scribes and doctors of the law. He also heard many things that had already flamed up as illumination in his own soul, from the Bath-Kol. To put it shortly, a lively exchange of thought took place between Jesus of Nazareth and the Essenes. And in his intercourse with them from about the twenty-fifth to the twenty-eighth years of his life and even beyond, he came to know almost everything that the Essene Order could impart. For what was not communicated to him through words revealed itself to him in all manner of clairvoyant impressions. Great and impressive clairvoyant impressions came to Jesus of Nazareth, either within the Essene community itself or very shortly afterwards at his home in Nazareth where, in a more contemplative life, he yielded himself to what thronged in upon him from forces of which the Essenes had no inkling but which were experienced in his soul.
One of these experiences, one of these inner impressions must be brought into particularly strong relief because it can shed light upon the whole course of mankind's spiritual evolution. It was a great and significant vision into which Jesus of Nazareth was as if transported, in which the Buddha appeared to him as a real presence. It was indeed so: the Buddha appeared to Jesus of Nazareth as a result of the exchange of thoughts with the Essenes. And one can truly say that at that time, converse took place in the Spirit between Jesus and Buddha. It is possible, and moreover it is necessary to-day, to touch upon these deep mysteries of the evolution of humanity. In this discourse with Buddha in the Spirit, Jesus of Nazareth became aware of words coming from the Buddha, somewhat to this effect: — If my doctrine, as it actually is, were to be led to full fruition, then all human beings would have to live the life of the Essenes. But that cannot be. That was the fallacy in my doctrine. Even the Essenes can only make progress by separating themselves from the rest of humanity; their mode of life would not be possible were it not for the existence of human souls other than they. If my doctrine were fulfilled to the uttermost, men would all have to become Essenes. But that cannot be. — This was a momentous experience which came to Jesus of Nazareth as a result of his contact with the Essenes.
Another experience was that Jesus of Nazareth made the acquaintance of a man who was still young at that time, of almost the same age as himself. This man's association with the Essene Order had come about in quite a different way but he too was not an Essene in the strict sense of the word. This man, living as a kind of lay-brother with the Essene community, was John the Baptist. During the winter, he, like the Essenes, wore garments of camel's hair. But he had never been able inwardly and completely to exchange the doctrines of Judaism for those of the Essenes. As, however, the tenets practised by the Essenes and their whole mode of life made a deep impression upon him, he lived the Essene life as a lay-brother, allowed himself to be stimulated and inspired by his association with them and gradually grew to be all that the Gospels narrate of John the Baptist. Many conversations took place between Jesus of Nazareth and John the Baptist. It happened one day ... I know what it means to narrate these things so simply, but nothing can deter me for I know that they must be told ... it happened one day that while Jesus of Nazareth was conversing with John the Baptist, he saw the physical form of John the Baptist disappear and there came to him the vision of Elias. This was the second overwhelming experience in the community of the Essenes. But there were others as well.
For some time already, Jesus of Nazareth had witnessed a strange spectacle when he came to places where gates had been made for the Essenes, that is to say, gates without images or pictures. Jesus of Nazareth could not pass through such gates without great inner bitterness and sorrow. He saw these bare gates, but he perceived spirit-forms around them; at either side of these gates there always appeared to him the Beings we know in our theosophical studies under the names of Ahriman and Lucifer. And gradually the vision, the impression had been confirmed in his soul that the aversion of the Essenes for pictures on their gates must have something to do with the evocation of spiritual beings; that pictures on the gates were, in reality, images of Lucifer and Ahriman. Jesus of Nazareth had many times been aware of this.
Anyone who experiences such things will not find it good to brood upon them unduly; for they are too overwhelming. One also very soon feels that human thoughts cannot fathom their depths, that human thoughts are not capable of approaching them. But the impressions not only engrave themselves deeply into the soul — they become part of the soul's very life. One feels bound up as it were with the part of the soul in which such experiences have been gathered — bound up with the experiences themselves, and one carries them on through life.
Thus had Jesus of Nazareth carried on with him through life the two pictures of Ahriman and Lucifer that he had seen at the gates of the Essenes. To begin with, the only effect this produced was to make him realise that a mystery prevailed between these spiritual Beings and the Essenes. Moreover, since these experiences had come to Jesus of Nazareth, mutual understanding with the Essenes was not as easy as it had been before. For there was something in his soul of which he could say no word to the Essenes — something seemed lacking as they conversed together. For always there came in the way what he had experienced at the Essene gates. One day, after a memorable conversation on lofty spiritual matters, when Jesus of Nazareth was passing out through the gate of the main Essene building, there came before him the figures he recognised as Lucifer and Ahriman. And he saw Lucifer and Ahriman fleeing away from the gate of the monastery. And a question sank into his soul ... not as if he himself were asking it, but as if it were being driven into his soul with a mighty, elemental power: Whither are these Beings fleeing, whither are Lucifer and Ahriman fleeing? For he knew that the very sanctity of the Essene monastery was responsible for their flight; but the question: Whither are they fleeing? — ingrained itself into his very soul, burned like fire in his soul, and never left him. As he went about during the weeks following it was with him every hour, nay every minute. Whither are Lucifer and Ahriman fleeing? This was the question that burnt like fire in his soul when after that deep conversation he had gone through the main gate of the Essene building. What he did under the impress of this question, what he had heard as the now changed voice of the Bath-Kol when he had fallen as if dead at the altar of the heathen cult, and the significance of the happening of which I have just told you — of these things we will speak further in the lecture to-morrow.