Christ and the Spiritual World - The Search for the Holy Grail
30 December 1913, Leipzig
These lectures are so arranged that separate themes will be introduced, and then I shall bring in considerations which will lead towards the themes and throw light upon them. One theme, accordingly, resides in what was said about the difficulty of understanding the Being of Christ Jesus. Then we came to the significance of the prophecies of the Sibyls as illustrating one side of human soul life during the fourth post-Atlantean epoch. Finally, at the close of yesterday's lecture, I introduced the theme of Paul and the olive tree.
I will return to these leading themes, but we must approach them as it were in circles, with our themes inscribed at the centre. What is really meant by the themes will then gradually emerge. Today I would like to say something about the Christ Being as such. We shall then see how in Paul the Christ Being is reflected in a certain definite way.
From earlier lectures we know that the Christ Being can be understood if we follow the evolution of our system back to the Old Sun existence. 1See Occult Science — an Outline, Chapter IV. Chapter IV. (Rudolf Steiner Press, London.) And on various occasions, in lectures already published, attention has been drawn to the fact that in the Christ Being we have to do with a high spiritual Being — that is the term we will use for the present — for whose own evolution the Old Sun period was especially important. I will not go further into that just now. We will simply look up to the Christ Being as a high spiritual Being. But for understanding human evolution something else is necessary, and we have seen how necessary it is, for in relation to a certain fact the concepts and ideas which in the fourth post-Atlantean epoch aspired to understand the Being of Christ were powerless to do so.
Again and again, especially during the early centuries among the Gnostics, among the Apostolic Fathers and among the persons who contributed in one way or another to the founding of Christianity, this question came up — How was the nature of Christ related to the nature of Jesus? Now we already know that we have to distinguish two Jesus-boys. 2See, among others, the following references in lecture courses by Dr. Steiner: The Gospel of St. Luke, notably lectures 4 to 7; The Gospel of St. Matthew, notably lecture 6; The Spiritual Guidance of Man and of Mankind; Deeper Secrets of Human History in the Light of St. Matthew's Gospel. Of one of these we need not speak further here, for he can be readily understood from previous anthroposophical explanations. I mean the Jesus in whom lived the Ego of Zarathustra. Here we have a human being who in the second post-Atlantean epoch had already reached a high degree of evolution; who at that time founded the Zarathustrian spiritual stream and then had subsequent lives; who later reincarnated in the Solomon Jesus-child and in him, up to his twelfth year, underwent the development appropriate for so lofty an Ego in that period. We know also that the Zarathustra Ego passed over into the body of the other Jesus-child, on whose nature the Luke Gospel throws some gleams of light.
We must now consider a little this Nathan Jesus child. I have already drawn your attention to the fact that in this child we have not to do with a human being, like other human beings, in the strict sense of the term. We cannot say of this Being that he had previously been incarnated on Earth in this or that individual. We have always emphasised that of the soul-element which has come forth from spiritual worlds in order to live in single individuals on Earth, something as it were remained behind; and that what had thus remained behind appeared in the Nathan Jesus-child. Hence of this child we cannot say that in him there lived an ordinary human ego which had developed in a certain way through earlier incarnations. We have to recognise (this follows from what is said in my book, Occult Science — an Outline) that he had not previously walked the Earth as man. The only question is: Did this Being, whom we will now call simply Jesus of Nazareth, have any previous connection with Earth-evolution? 3See lecture given by Dr. Steiner at Pforzheim (7–3, 1914): Pre-Earthly Deeds of Christ. We must remember that the Beings and Powers connected with human evolution are not confined to those who incarnate on the Earth itself; there are also spiritual Beings and Powers who belong to the higher Hierarchies. If therefore we say that something of the substance which divided itself among single human souls remained behind, and was then in a certain sense born in the Nathan Jesus-child, we are not saying that this .Being had no previous relation with Earth evolution. We are saying only that he was not related to the evolution of the Earth and of humanity in such a way as to have walked the Earth as man. We must look for him not in the history of the physical Earth, but in pre-earthly spiritual realms. And then, for the kind of observation I have often spoken about — clairvoyant observation — the following is revealed.
Let us recall what is described in Occult Science — how from the Lemurian Age onwards souls gradually came down from the other planets (with the exception of one principal human pair who had stayed on earth) and were incarnated in human bodies throughout Atlantean times. We must accordingly think of Earth-evolution as being such that the souls withdrew from the Earth's cosmic surroundings and at various points of time took up again their evolution on Earth. We know that before the Lemurian Age they had gone away to other planets. But we know also that the evolution of the Earth had been exposed to the attacks of Lucifer, and later to those of Ahriman. Thus the souls of men had to enter into bodies wherein they were exposed in the course of human evolution to the attacks of both these spiritual Beings. If nothing further had come about — if, that is, the human souls had come down from planetary existence into evolution on Earth, there to encounter the Luciferic and Ahrimanic influences — then something else would have happened to them as they went through subsequent incarnations; something I did not intimate in Occult Science, for at the present day one cannot say everything in public.
First of all, when the human beings came down from the planets into physical bodies, the development of their senses would have been exposed to a certain danger. We must not think it was a quite simple matter for these human souls to come down from their planetary abodes and assume bodies on Earth, and that after that everything went on normally. Because the Luciferic and Ahrimanic principles held sway in these bodies, they were not so organised as to enable human beings to pursue the course of evolution which in fact they did pursue. If these souls had simply gone on using the forces which governed the sense-organs of these bodies, they would have had to use their senses in a peculiar way — a way not really human.
For example, the eye would have been so impressed and affected by a colour that it would have felt itself permeated with intense feeling. At the sight of one colour it would have positively glowed with pleasure; for another colour it would have felt intense, painful antipathy. And so, because of the Luciferic and Ahrimanic influences, the souls descending from the planets would have found no bodies equipped with senses of the right kind. They would have been tormented by sympathy and antipathy; on seeing one colour or another they would have been seized with bliss or repulsed with acute pain, all through their lives. That was how evolution was going; cosmic forces, especially those from the Sun, would have worked on the Earth in such a way as to give the senses this character. Any contemplation of the world, in a spirit of quiet wisdom, would have been ruled out. So a change had to be brought about in the forces which flowed from the cosmic environment into the Earth and had built up the senses of man. In the spiritual world something had to happen so that these forces would not turn the senses into mere organs of sympathy and antipathy, for they would then have been under the sway of Lucifer and Ahriman. Hence the following took place.
The Being of whom we have said that he had not chosen the path down from the planets to the Earth, but had remained behind, the Being who later appeared as the Nathan Jesus-child and who had dwelt from primal ages in the spiritual worlds — this Being resolved (if we may use this expression, for of course all these expressions are taken from human speech and cannot fully convey what one wants to say) while still in the world of the higher Hierarchies to go through a development which would enable him to be permeated for a time by the Christ Being. Thus we have to do not with a man but with a superhuman Being who (if we may speak in this way) lived in the spiritual world and as it were heard the distress of the human sense system crying out to the spiritual world for help, and in response to this cry made himself fitted to be permeated by the Christ.
So it was that in the spiritual worlds the Being who later became the Nathan Jesus-child was permeated by the Christ Being, and then brought about a change in the cosmic forces which were streaming in to build up the human senses. These senses were changed in such a way that instead of being mere organs of sympathy and antipathy, they became organs that human beings could use, and so could look with wisdom at all the nuances of sense-perception. Very differently would the cosmic forces have flowed into mankind if this event, far back in the Lemurian Age, had not taken place in the spiritual worlds. This Being who appeared as the Nathan Jesus-child was then still living (if I may use the phrase) in the Sun-sphere, and because he listened to the human cry of distress, he experienced something which made it possible for him to be permeated by the very Spirit of the Sun, so that the activity of the Sun was modified in such a way that the human sense organs, which derive essentially from solar activity, did not become organs of mere sympathy and antipathy.
Here we touch upon a significant cosmic secret, and one which will enable us to understand much that happened later on. A certain order and harmony, imbued with wisdom, could now flow into the realm of the human senses, and evolution could go on normally for a while. The worst activity of Lucifer and Ahriman had been turned away from the human senses by a deed in the higher worlds.
Later on came a time, in the Atlantean Age, when it once more became apparent that the human bodily constitution could not be a suitable instrument for the further course of evolution. The human vital organs, and their underlying forces in the etheric body, which for a time had developed in a suitably useful way, had fallen into disorder. For the cosmic forces which had worked on them from the surroundings of the Earth, and whose task it was to bring order into these organs — the organs of breathing, blood circulation and so on — these forces would have developed under the influence of Lucifer and Ahriman in such a way that the vital organs would have ceased to be usable by human beings on Earth. They would have acquired a quite peculiar character. The forces which provide for these vital organs do not flow in directly from the Sun, but from the seven planets, as they used to be called. The planetary forces worked from the cosmos into man. And it was necessary that these forces, also, should be modified. If they had remained under the sway of Lucifer and Ahriman, the vital organs would have become merely organs of greed or organs of loathing. For example, a man would not have been able to restrain himself from hurling himself greedily upon a given dish, while a terrible loathing would have driven him from another. These are things which unveil themselves as world secrets, as cosmic secrets, when we try to penetrate into them clairvoyantly.
So again something had to happen in the spiritual worlds in order that this destructive activity should not enter into human life. And this same Being, who later appeared as the Nathan Jesus-child and who (as we have explained) dwelt in earlier times on the Sun and was there permeated by the Christ Being, the sublime Sun-Spirit — this Being went from planet to planet, touched in his innermost nature by the fact that human evolution could go no further, as things were. And this experience affected him so strongly, while he was assuming a form of body on the different planets, that at a certain time during the Atlantean evolution the Spirit of Christ permeated him again. And through what was now brought about by the permeation of this Being by the Christ Spirit, it became possible for moderation to be implanted in the vital organs of man. In the same way that wisdom had been given to the sense-organs, so moderation was now bestowed on the vital organs. Thus it came about that when a man breathed in a particular place, he was not impelled to suck in the air greedily, or to recoil with loathing from the air in another place. That was the deed accomplished in the spiritual worlds through a further permeation of the Nathan Jesus-child by the Christ Being, the high Sun-Spirit.
Then in the further course of human evolution a third thing happened. A third confusion would have arisen if the souls had been obliged to continue using the bodies then available for them on Earth. We can put it in the following way.
At this time the physical nature of man was in order. Through the two Christ deeds in the super-sensible world, the human sense organs were in a condition serviceable for man on Earth, and so were the vital organs. But it was not so with the soul-organs, thinking, feeling and willing. If nothing further had happened, these soul-organs would have become disordered. I mean that willing would have been continually disturbed by thinking, feeling would have interfered with willing, and so on. Men would have been condemned as it were to a perpetually chaotic use of these soul-organs. They would have been maddened by an excess of will, or confused by repressed feeling, or there would have been people plagued with fleeting ideas through a hypertrophy of thinking, and so forth. This was the third great danger to which humanity was exposed on Earth.
Now these three soul-powers, thinking, feeling and willing, are coordinated from the surroundings of the Earth, for the Earth itself is essentially the scene of action for the Ego. The working together of thinking, feeling and willing has to be kept in order; not, however, from all the planets, but only from Sun, Moon and Earth, so that through the inter-working of Sun, Moon and Earth, if this is harmonious, man is made fit for the harmonious cooperation of his three soul-powers.
Help for these soul-forces had to be provided from the spiritual world. And now the soul of that Being who later became the Nathan Jesus-child assumed a cosmic form such that his life was in a sense neither on the Moon nor on the Sun, but as though it encircled the Earth and felt a dependence on the influences of Sun, Moon and Earth at the same time. The Earth influences came to him from below; the Sun and Moon influences from above. Clairvoyant observation really sees this Being, in the spring time of his evolution — if I may use that phrase — in the same sphere as that in which the Moon goes round the Earth. Hence I cannot say exactly that the Moon influence came to him from above, but rather that it came to him from the place where he was, this pre-earthly Jesus-Being. Again there rose to him a cry of distress, a cry that told of what human thinking, feeling and willing were on the way to becoming; and he sought to experience completely in his own inner being this tragedy of human evolution. Thereby he called to himself the high Sun-spirit, who now for the third time descended upon him, permeating him. So in the cosmic height, beyond the Earth, there was a third permeation of this Nathan Jesus-child by the high Sun Spirit whom we call the Christ.
Now I would wish to depict for you this third ensouling rather differently from the way in which I described the other two. That which took place through these successive stages of spiritual evolution — or heavenly evolution, I would say — was reflected in the various world outlooks of the post-Atlantean peoples. For it had effects which worked on into later times; the Sun's activity continued to be influenced by the fact that in ancient Lemurian times the Being who afterwards became the Nathan Jesus-child had been permeated by the Christ Being. And the essential thing about the initiation of Zarathustra was that he perceived the activity of the Sun impregnated with this influence. In this way his teaching arose; his initiation had revealed to him — had projected into his soul — what had happened in primeval times.
The third post-Atlantean epoch, which we call the Egyptian-Chaldean epoch, came about partly through the reflection in human souls, as a continuing human experience, of the activities that had originated from the permeation by the Sun-Spirit of the Nathan Jesus-Being while that Being was journeying round the planets. From this arose that science of planetary activities which comes before us in Chaldean astrology; people today have a very meagre conception of what it really was. Among the Egyptian-Chaldean peoples of the epoch there developed also that star worship which is indeed known exoterically; it arose because the moderating of planetary influence was still making itself felt at that later time.
Later still, in the fourth post-Atlantean epoch, we can see in Hellenism a reflection of planetary spirits who had as it were come into existence because the Being who had been permeated by the Christ journeyed from planet to planet and on each planet became one or other of these spirits. On Jupiter he became the one whom the Greeks later called Zeus; on Mars, the one later called Ares; on Mercury, the one later called Hermes. In the Greek planetary gods there was this later reflection of what Christ Jesus in the super-sensible worlds had made of the planetary beings who were imbued with the Luciferic and Ahrimanic principles. When a Greek looked up to his heaven of the gods, he came into touch with the adumbrations, the reflections, of the activity of Christ Jesus on the individual planets, together with much else that I have described.
To this was added as a third event the reflection or adumbration of that which the Jesus-Being, in the later post-Atlantean times, had experienced as a celestial Being in relation to Sun, Moon and Earth. If we are to characterise this we can say: The Christ “ensouled” himself in an angelic Being. We say of Christ that he embodied himself in Jesus of Nazareth, but we are speaking now of an event that took place in spiritual worlds: the Christ “ensouled” himself in an angelic Being. And the effect was that human thinking, feeling and willing took an orderly course. This was an important event, coming early in the evolution of humanity: the development of the human soul-powers was brought into good order. The two earlier Christ events had brought order rather into the bodily constitution of man on Earth: what then had had to happen in the celestial worlds for this third event to come about?
It will be easier to recognise this third event if we look for the reflection of it in Greek mythology. For just as the planetary spirits projected themselves into the figures of Zeus, Ares, Hermes, Venus or Aphrodite, Kronos and so on, so was this third cosmic event reflected not only in Greek mythology but in the mythologies of the most diverse peoples. We can understand how it was reflected if we allow ourselves to compare the reflected images with their sources; if, that is, we compare what happened in Greece with what first happened in the Cosmos.
What was it that happened up there in the Cosmos? The need was to drive out something which would have raged chaotically in human souls; this had to be overcome. The angelic Being who was permeated with the Christ had to accomplish the deed of vanquishing and driving out from the human soul that which had to be driven out if thinking, feeling and willing were to be harmonised. And so there arises the picture — let us bring it vividly before our souls — of an angelic Being, dwelling still in the spiritual worlds, who later became the Nathan Jesus-child: he appears to us ensouled by the Christ and thereby rendered capable of special deeds — able to drive out from thinking, feeling and willing the element which would have raged within them as a dragon and brought them into chaos.
A reminiscence of this is preserved in all the pictures of St. George vanquishing the Dragon which are found in the records of human culture. St. George and the Dragon reflect that celestial event when the Christ ensouled the Jesus-Being and enabled him to drive the Dragon out of the soul-nature of man. This was a significant deed, made possible only with the help of Christ in the Being of Jesus, at that time an angelic Being. For this angelic Being had actually to connect himself with the Dragon-nature; to take on as it were the form of the Dragon in order to hold off the Dragon from the soul of man. He had to work from within the Dragon, so that the Dragon was ennobled and brought out of chaos into a kind of harmony. The training, the taming of the Dragon — that is the further task of this Being. And so it came about that the Dragon indeed remained active, but because there was poured into him the influence and power of the Being I have described, he became the bearer of many revelations which proved their worth to human civilisations throughout the course of post-Atlantean evolution. Instead of the chaos of the Dragon manifesting in maddened or bewildered men, the primal wisdom of the post-Atlantean time came forth. Christ Jesus used the Dragon's blood, as it were, so that with His help it could transfuse human blood and thereby make human beings the vehicles of divine wisdom. A significant reflection of this is apparent — even quite exoterically — in Greek mythology from the ninth century B.C. onwards.
It is remarkable how for the Greek mind one particular divine figure emerged from the others. The Greeks, we know, reverenced a variety of gods. These gods were the reflections or projections of the Beings who originated from the journey round the planets of the Being, permeated by the Christ, who later became the Nathan Jesus-child. The Greeks saw them in such a way that when they looked out into cosmic spaces, when they looked up through the light-aether, they rightly ascribed to the planet Jupiter — in an inward spiritual, not an external, sense — the origin of the Being they spoke of as Zeus. So they spoke of Pallas Athene, of Artemis, of the various planetary gods who were the reflections of what we have spoken about. But from these pictures of the various figures of the gods there emerged one figure — the figure of Apollo. The figure of Apollo emerged in a distinctive way: what did these Greeks see in him?
We come to know Apollo if we look at Parnassus and the Castalian spring. To the west of it there was a cleft in the earth, and over this the Greeks built a temple — why? Vapours used to rise up out of the cleft, and when the air-currents were right the vapours crept up the Mountainside like the coils of a snake, like a dragon. And the Greeks imagined Apollo as shooting his arrows at the dragon, as it rose from the cleft in the form of turbulent vapours. Here, in the Greek Apollo, we see an earthly reflection of St. George, shooting his arrows at the dragon. And when Apollo had overcome the dragon, the Python, a temple was built, and instead of the dragon we see how the vapours entered into the soul of the Pythia, and how the Greeks imagined that Apollo lived in these swirling dragon-vapours and prophesied to them through the oracle, through the lips of the Pythia. And the Greeks, that self-conscious people, rose through the stages for which their souls had been prepared; they accepted what Apollo had to say to them through the Pythia, who was imbued with the dragon-vapours. It meant that Apollo lived in the dragon's blood and filled men with wisdom from the Castalian spring. And the place became a meeting-place for the most sacred plays and festivals.
Why was Apollo able to do this — who was he? It was only from spring to autumn that he caused wisdom to flow up from the dragon's blood. Towards autumn he went away to his ancient home in the north, in the Hyperborean land. Farewell festivals were held at the time of his departure, and his return was welcomed in the spring. A deep wisdom resides in this idea of Apollo going north. The physical sun withdraws towards the south; in a spiritual sense it is always the opposite. The story shows that Apollo has to do with the sun. Apollo is the angelic Being of whom we have spoken; he was a reflection, projected into the Greek mind, of the angelic Being who had in fact worked at the end of the Atlantean time and who had been permeated by the Christ. This reflection was the Apollo who spoke wisdom to the Greeks through the mouth of the Pythia. And what was the content for the Greeks of this Apollo wisdom? We might say it was everything that led them, on the most important occasions, to take this or that decision. Again and again people went to Apollo at difficult moments in their lives, with their souls well prepared, and received prophetic guidance from the Pythia, who was stimulated by the vapours in which Apollo lived. And Asklepios, the Healer, is for the Greeks the son of Apollo, the healing god. The weakened form of the Angel in whom Christ once dwelt is a healer on Earth, or for the Earth. For Apollo was never physically embodied, but he worked through the Earth-elements.
And the god of the Muses, above all the god of song and the art of music, is Apollo. Why is this? Because through the power of song and string-music he brings thinking, feeling and willing into harmony. We have only to keep firmly in mind that in Apollo there was a projection of what had happened at the end of the Atlantean time. Something had then worked from spiritual heights into the human soul, and a weak echo of it could be heard in the musical art cultivated by the Greeks under the protection of Apollo. They knew it as an earthly reflection of the ancient art which the Angel-Being, permeated by the Christ, had cultivated in the heavenly heights in order to bring thinking, feeling and willing into harmony. They did not say so openly; only in the Mysteries was the meaning of it understood.
In the Apollonian Mysteries it was said: A high Divine Being once sank Himself into a Being of the Hierarchy of Angels and thereby brought harmony into thinking, feeling and willing. The art of music was a reflection of that happening, especially the Apollonian art which flowed from the sound of strings. The music which demands less of the elements than wind instruments do; which depends in the main only on the skill of human hands; in short, the music that sounds from the strings of Apollo — to this music the Greeks ascribed the musical effects which bring harmony into the soul. And persons who have no inclination for Apollo's music, or do not value it highly enough, were said by the Greeks to carry a bodily mark of their obtuseness in this respect; a sign that they had stayed behind, atavistically, at an earlier stage.
It is remarkable that when a certain man — King Midas — was born with exceptionally long ears, the Greeks said he had come into the world with ass's ears because in his life before birth he had not rightly devoted himself to the influence of the Being whom the Christ had enfilled. Therefore, said the Greeks, he had asses ears, and that was why he preferred wind instruments to string instruments. And when once a child was born who so to speak had no skin — he is known in mythology as the Flayed Marsyas — the Greeks said it was because before his birth he had not paid heed to all that flowed from the angelic Being. For that is how it looks to occult observation: Marsyas was not flayed in his lifetime, but before his birth, and it was then that his misdeed occurred.
Many towns founded by the Greeks as colonies were named Apollonia, because the sites for them had been chosen after consulting the Pythia. The Greeks cherished their freedom and so were not politically united, but they had an ideal unity through the god Apollo, for whom a kind of confederation was founded later on.
We see how the Greeks revered in the god they called, Apollo the Being of whom we have spoken; and we might say that in the Being who truly corresponded to Apollo at the end of the Atlantean time, the Christ was ensouled. Who then was Apollo — not the reflection revered by the Greeks, but Apollo himself? A celestial Being who from the higher worlds poured out healing forces for the soul, paralysing the Luciferic and Ahrimanic powers. These forces brought about in the human body a harmonious co-operation of brain, breath and lungs with the larynx and the heart, and it was this that came to expression in song. For the right co-operation of brain and breathing with the speech organ and the heart is the bodily expression of harmony in thinking, feeling and willing. The Healer, the celestial Healer, is Apollo. We have seen this Being pass through three stages of evolution, and then the Healer, whom Apollo reflected, was born on Earth and men called him Jesus, which in our language means “He who heals through God”. He is the Nathan Jesus-child, the one who heals through God, Jehoschua-Jesus.
Now, at this fourth stage, this Being made himself ripe to be enfilled with the Christ Being, with the ‘I’. This came to pass through the Mystery of Golgotha. For if this Mystery had not been enacted — if the Being whom we have followed through cosmic ages had not given embodiment to the Christ — then in the course of later time human souls would not have found bodies in which the Ego-force could come to necessary expression on Earth. The Ego had been brought to its highest stage in Zarathustra. The souls who had taken part in the evolution of the Ego would never have found earthly bodies suitable for its further development if the Mystery of Golgotha had not come to pass.
We have now seen the four stages of harmonisation: the harmonising of sense perception, of the life-organs, of thinking, feeling and willing, and the harmonisation in the Ego, this last through the Mystery of Golgotha. You have the connections between the Being who was born as the Nathan Jesus-child and the Christ Being, and the way in which this was prepared. It is now possible, through that which it is permissible to reveal in true Anthroposophy, to understand this kind of growing together, belonging together, of the Christ Being and the human nature of Jesus. This is possible for us. And a healthy development of spiritual life in the future will depend on this — on it becoming possible for more and more people to grasp that which could not be grasped by the thoughts and ideas of the epoch in which the Mystery of Golgotha was fulfilled.