On the Fifth Gospel
13th January, 1914
It seems to me that our studies of what I have allowed myself to call the “Fifth Gospel” will have helped us to form a closer conception of what has so often been said regarding the evolution of humanity on the Earth and the influence of the Mystery of Golgotha upon this evolution. From very many angles we have also tried to elucidate what came to pass at the baptism by John in the Jordan, when the Christ being united with Jesus of Nazareth, and this has brought home to us the vital significance of the Mystery of Golgotha in the evolution of mankind. But now, having heard the story of the youth of Jesus of Nazareth as it is revealed to spiritual-scientific investigation, we may be able to picture how Jesus of Nazareth makes his way to John the Baptist when the Christ is to descend into him.
With the knowledge gathered from these detailed studies of the Fifth Gospel, we will now try to enter more deeply still into all that is connected with the Mystery of Golgotha. To-day we will think, primarily, of the figure of John the Baptist and of certain aspects of his mission. To understand John the Baptist and Christ Jesus' relation to him (there are indications of this, too, in the Gospel of St. John) it will be necessary to think of the character of the spiritual life from which John the Baptist had issued. It is, of course, the world of ancient Hebrew culture. And now let us consider once again all the essential features of this culture. It had, as we know, a special mission in the evolution of humanity. We remember that Earth-evolution has proceeded from the Saturn-, Sun- and Moon-evolutions and that during this Earth-evolution the Ego, or “I” is added to those principles of man's being — physical body, etheric body, astral body — which came over from the earlier stages. The “I”, however, cannot unfold as an active principle all at once. Indeed the purpose of the Whole of Earth-evolution is to enable the “I” to develop in such a way that man may find his place in the stream of Eternity. Realising this, we must regard the Earth as the theatre in the Cosmos that is allotted to man for the development of the “I”. Ancient Hebrew culture venerated Jahveh or Jehovah az the Being of the higher Hierarchies under whose influence it had been established. The biblical story of Creation shows very clearly how the first Elohim — Jahve or Jehovah — issues from the sevenfold Elohim, the sevenfold host of the Beings of that Hierarchy. By way of comparison lot us say that just as the whole human organism develops into its highest expression in the head, so are the seven Elohim represented in one of themselves, in Jahve or Jehovah who becomes the leading Being in Earth-evolution. Ancient Hebrew culture recognised this and worshipped Jehovah, seeing in him that Being of the higher Hierarchies with whom man must be related in order to unfold the “I”. Ancient Hebrew culture represented a definite stage, in the process of the development of the “I”' in mankind and the influence of Jehovah was felt to be such that by establishing relationship with him, the “I” could gradually be awakened. This is connected with what I said in the lectures at Leipzig. (Lecture-Course XXXI. Christ and the Spiritual World)
What is the nature of the being Jahve or Jehovah? We must conceive hi as a Being who is most intimately connected with Earth-evolution. He is the Lord, the Regent of the Earth, or better said, he is the Being whom Hebrew antiquity regards as the Lord of Regent of the Earth. The whole of ancient Hebrew culture looks upon Jehovah as the God of the Earth, conceives the this Divine-Spiritual Regent is interwoven with the Earth and that men who aspire to be conscious of their connection with the Universe as beings of Earth must cleave to Jehovah, the God of the Earth. The ancient Hebrew conception that Jehovah had made man out of Earth is expressed by the very name given to the original man — “Adam” — that is to say, the ‘being who was created from Earth’. And whereas the aspirations of neighbouring religious systems were directed to that which does not derive from the Earth but comes into the Earth from higher worlds, whereas these neighbouring religions sought in the higher worlds for the Gods they worshipped, the ancient Hebrews sought and worshipped their God Jehovah in the realm of the Earth and its Elements.
Certain peoples of antiquity looked to the stars — their religion was “'astral” religion. Other peoples observed the forces manifesting in thunder and lightening and asked: How are the Divine-Spiritual Beings expressing themselves here? The religions of the peoples around the ancient Hebrews took their symbols from phenomena connected with the stars or the atmosphere beyond the Earth; they sought in these spheres for the signs indicating man's connection with the super-earthly reality. It was inherent in the nature of the ancient Hebrews to think of themselves as connected wholly and entirely with what comes from the Earth. This is a point to which far too little attention is paid. All the indications show that connection of the ancient Jews with the Earth, with what originates from the Earth. If in a phenomenon produced by the forces of the Earth. If in certain volcanic districts of Italy a piece of paper is lighted, clouds of smoke at once come out of the ground. We must conceive the pillar of fire to be a phenomenon produced by the forces of the interior of the Earth. In the same way the column of water or mist must by thought of as originating in the wilderness, not in the upper atmosphere. We must also look for the origin of the Great Flood itself in forces which surge in and through the Earth; the Flood was the result of tellurian, not of cosmic causes. This was at the bottom of the protest put up by the ancient Hebrews against the neighbouring peoples — for the God of Hebrew antiquity was the God of the Earth. The ancient Hebrews felt that everything coming from above, from outside the earth, did not really belong to the mission of Earth-evolution; they conceived it as having been preserved in Earth-evolution by the Being who had remained at a backward stage during the Old Moon-period, namely, Lucifer. In the other religions men felt: We must look away from the Earth, out in the Cosmos; we must revere and worship that which has its origin in the forces of the Cosmos... But the ancient Hebrews said: We worship the one true God and the one true God is connected with the Earth. — Far too little notice is taken of this because at the present time people assume that a word like “God” must always imply the same. Because, after nearly two thousand years of development under the influence of the Christ Impulse, humanity now rightly looks upwards once again, it is thought that the ancient Hebrews, too, looked upwards. On the contrary! The ancient Hebrews felt that what came from above was symbolised in the Serpent of Paradise.
But the Jews absorbed a very great deal from the neighbouring peoples. This too is comprehensible. Of all religions in antiquity, theirs was the subtlest. They believed — and this is well-nigh incredible to the modern mind that Jehovah is an Earth God, who works in the Moon-forces that are connected with the Earth and who is therefore also a Moon God, as described in the book Occult Science. It seems incredible to-day that men can ever have looked towards the centre of the Earth when they spoke of their God, but it was indeed so. Nevertheless the impulse to look upwards was, in the nature of things, not entirely absent from the Jews, above all when they saw the neighbouring peoples worshipping what comes from above. But the great difference between those who had knowledge of the Jewish secret doctrine and those who had not, was this. — The former knew that it was a temptation to be obedient to laws other than the laws of those forces which work from the Earth as far as the Moon-sphere. (Certain elements that come to light again to-day in our own spiritual-scientific teachings were present in ancient Hebraic wisdom). But as the time of the Mystery of Golgotha approached, Hebrew culture was veering more and more from its original direction and looking upwards for the Gods.
Then came one who felt it his mission to point to the path which the Jews ought, in reality to follow. This was John the Baptist. He felt it his mission to bring home to the Jews, where their true strength lay. And perceiving what the religion of the Jews had become, he spoke the significant words: “You call yourselves children of Abraham! If you were Abraham's children you would know that your God Jehovah who is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, is a God of the Earth — as witnessed by the fact that he formed the first man out of the Earth. But you are no longer children of Abraham; you have allowed yourselves to be led astray by what other peoples believe; you have been led astray by those who look upwards by what belongs to the Serpent. Ye are of the brood of the Serpent.
These words of John the Baptist are of deep significance. If only people to-day would be a little more candid and admit that they do not really understand what they read! What is the expression “generation of vipers” taken to mean to-day? That John was heaping abuse! But if it is desired to make a deep appeal to human souls, no particular purpose is served by invective. Neither can it be said that John the Baptist's words gave vent to a divine wrath within him— for others too may voice their divine wrath. The meaning here is that John the Baptist was striving to bring home to the Jews: “You no longer understand your true mission; you no longer call upon the forces of the Earth but upon the forces of the Serpent, upon what has been made known to you as the Serpent.”
And now let us try to understand the attitude of John the Baptist. Had he not his reasons for speaking in this way to those who came to him at the Jordan? (This is not derived from the Fifth Gospel for in speaking of the content of the Fifth Gospel we have not yet come to the figure of John the Baptist, I am speaking now from other sources). He had his reasons for speaking as he did to those who came to him at the Jordan, for he observed that they had adopted certain customs of the heathen; the very names they gave to these customs were abhorrent to him. In the region where John the Baptist was preaching, certain ancient teachings were prevalent — somewhat to the following effect. — At the beginning of the evolution of humanity, man and the higher animals were endowed by Jahve with the power of breathing air, but in consequence of the deed of Lucifer, this power was contaminated. Only those animals which do not breathe air have remained uncontaminated, namely the fishes. Many people went to the waters of the Jordan (indeed it happens to this very day) at a certain season of the year and shook their clothes in order that their sins might be cast to the fishes and carried away. John the Baptist had witnessed such customs which had been adopted from the heathen peoples and this was in his mind when he cried: “You have understood more of the Serpent than of Jehovah; you call yourselves unlawfully the children of Jahve, the children of Abraham. I say unto you that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob could return to his original mission and produce from the stones, that is to say, from the Earth, a race of men who would understand him better.”
Let us think of such words in the Bible as:“God is able of these stones to raise up children of Abraham.” In the language of those days many words had more than one meaning and were used with the deliberate purpose of indicating a deeper meaning lying underneath. But we cannot really understand these things, my dear friends, unless we connect what has here been said with the mission of Paul. I have spoken many times of the mission of Paul. Why was it that Paul, who had not allowed his experiences in Jerusalem to convince him of the significance of the Mystery of Golgotha — why was it that the Event at Damascus convinced him of the truth of Christ's Resurrection? We must here consider the manner of Paul's preparation, and his background. Schooled as he was in the wisdom of the Jewish Prophets, he knew that up to a certain point of time the evolution of humanity involved adherence to the God of the Earth; but he also knew that a time must come when the “Above”, that which comes into the Earth from super-earthly worlds, would again assume significance. It is of the utmost importance to realise that before Christ entered into the Aura of the Earth through the Mystery of Golgotha, He dwelt in supersensible regions of the Cosmos. We can study the religions whose worship was directed to the Powers of super-earthly worlds and discover how the Christ worked in those spheres before He passed into the Aura of the Earth through the body of Jesus of Nazareth. Paul knew that this time would come; but before the Event at Damascus he had not perceived Christ's actual presence in the Aura of the Earth. He was, however, prepared for this, and in Corinthians II., Chapter 12, verses 1-5, he says: It is not expedient for me to boast: I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord. I know a man in Christ above 14 years ago... and so on. Paul is, of course, referring to himself. What does he really say in this passage? Nothing else than that 14 years before (chronologically this would be about 6 years before the Mystery of Golgotha) he was already able to look clairvoyantly into the spiritual worlds. He says that there is in him a man who can look into the spiritual worlds; it is of this man he boasts, not of himself. Paul realises now that formerly he had seen Christ while He was still in the spiritual world. The Event at Damascus had revealed to him Christ had now passed into the Aura of the Earth and was living in the Aura of the Earth. That is the great truth concerning which so many who lived in the early centuries of Christianity uttered such strange words. They said: Christ is the true Lucifer. They understood: In former times it was right to adhere to the Serpent; since the Mystery of Golgotha He Who is the Conqueror of the Serpent has come and He is now the Lord of the Earth.
Now all these things are part of the evolutionary process of mankind. For what is the meaning behind the protest put up by ancient Hebrew culture against “astral” religion, against religions which have clouds, lightening, thunder, as their symbols? The meaning is that the human soul must so prepare to receive the “I” that the revelation of the Spirit is no longer received through the starry script, no longer through the forces manifesting in lightening and thunder, but through the Spirit itself. In former times when men strove to look upwards to the Christ, they could only do so by gazing, as Zarathustra had gazed, at what may be called the physical sheath of Christ, the “Ahura Mazdao”, the physical Sun and its forces. Therein dwelt the Christ. But now the Christ had departed from the realm of the physical forces of the Sun, had passed into the spiritual Aura of the Earth. After those who worshipped Jehovah had prepared the way, Christ was able to permeate the Aura of the Earth. In this sense and in this sense only are the words of John the Baptist to be understood.
And now, as the time of the Mystery of Golgotha drew near, Christ Jesus and John the Baptist came face to face. — I shall now speak rather more abstractly. — Bearing in mind what has just been said, we shall understand this meeting between Christ Jesus and John the Baptist. Christ stands before one who knows what it signifies to worship the Spirit of the Earth. The Jews, and others too — for there were others as well as the Jews — were endowed with faculties which enabled them to worship the Spirit of the Earth in the right way. Whence were these faculties derived? Prior to the Mystery of Golgotha these faculties were bound up with physical heredity! What I am going to say will, of course, be considered utter foolishness by modern science, but it may be the kind of foolishness that can be wisdom before God.
Prior to the Mystery of Golgotha, the faculties of knowledge as they are called, were dependent in a certain way upon heredity conditions. And the progress of human evolution is constituted by the fact that intellectual knowledge becomes independent of the factor of heredity. In certain Mysteries therefore, it was a true and right principle to allow an office to pass from father to son. But as evolution progresses, knowledge becomes an affair purely of the soul. The innermost core of the human soul becomes an affair of the soul itself, no longer depending upon the external factors of heredity. Now by what means did it become possible for man to keep intact the innermost core of his being? Let us realise what is meant by saying that man can no longer, in the real sense inherit his faculties from his forefathers. — Certainly many people think that they inherit their faculties and talents from their forefathers — but it is not so, in reality. Goethe was one among countless others whose genius was not transmitted to his descendants. But if man had not derived spiritual power from another source, what would have been the inevitable result? Their faculties of knowledge would have been orphaned! The position of the human being on the Earth would have been such that each according to his karma would have been obliged to wait for what the Earth bestows for the impressions bestowed by the Earth upon his senses. But this would have been of essential or lasting value to him and under such circumstances he would have been glad to slip away from the Earth. Buddha's teachings emphasise this very clearly for they draw man away from the realm of sense-perception and from all connection with the Earth.
Christ, in Jesus of Nazareth, could speak concerning Himself somewhat as follows. — At the Baptism by John something came down from the supersensible world which can be a quickening power in the “I” that has now been left to its own resources, and hereafter the human soul will contain within it forces that are not merely inherited. Whatever knowledge was formerly available to man, came to him through heredity, was transmitted from generation to generation by physical heredity. And the last man who unfolded higher faculties from the soil of heredity is John the Baptist, “the greatest of these born of woman.” This is an indication of how the ancient times are to be distinguished from the now. In ancient times man spoke truly when he said: ‘If I seek for the power which ought to live in my soul and lead me to the heights I must remember Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, for the faculties through which the heights of human existence are attained came down to me in the line of heredity from these ancestors.’ But now these faculties must be derived from regions beyond the Earth. No longer to look to the Earth alone and to find in Christ the God of the Earth, but to be conscious of the inflow of the Heavens — it is this to which Christ points when he speaks of John the Baptist as “the greatest of those born of woman.”
Here, my dear friends, we have the answer to a question of paramount importance for our age. At the time when the Third Epoch began to re-emerge in the life of our Fifth Epoch, the consciousness of men began to turn again to what can be revealed to the earthly human being as super-earthly reality. Men could not, however, experience this re-born “astral” religion as the ancient Egyptians or Chaldeans had experienced it. In this later age it came to them in the form in which it was experienced by on well-qualified to speak. In 1607, the following words were written... (Here followed a long extract from one of Kepler's works. See also: Günther's Kepler und die Theologie. 105-111.) Thus in the 17th century we again find evidence that the soul is gazing upwards, but now the experience is permeated with the Christ Impulse. These words were written by a profoundly spiritual man. By whom were they written? By the one who was the founder of all modern astronomy, without whom our modern astronomy could not have existed, namely, John Kepler. Is there a single Monist who will not sing the praises of Kepler? The attention of those who profess to be Monists should be called to the words just quoted for so much of what is said about Kepler is... well, something to which I prefer to give no name.
These words of Kepler are an indication of the new tendency, the new way of gazing upwards to the heavens, of that reading of the starry script to which we aspire in Spiritual Science. The question indicated at the beginning of the lecture is thus answered, namely: — How can we draw near to Christ? How can we understand Him? How can we make our life of feeling worthy to receive Him? By learning to speak with the same ardour the same depth of feeling as did an ancient Hebrew, when he said: ‘I look up to Abraham, the primal Father when I speak of the foundation of whatever is valuable in me.’ ...but to-day, with the same intensity of feeling, we must look upwards to the Being Who quickens us spiritually — to the Christ! When we ascribe our faculties and gifts, all that makes us truly Man, not to any earthly power, but to Christ, then we enter into living relationship with Him! Just as a Jew in ancient times spoke of being carried by death into Abraham's bosom, so do we truly express the nature of the age after the Mystery of Golgotha when to the ancient “Out of God we are born” we add the “In Christ we die.” Therefore when we understand the Mystery of Golgotha we can enter into a living relationship with Christ, just as in the age of Hebrew antiquity men felt their living relationship with the God who was the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. This relationship was expressed in the avowed belief: ‘I return to Abraham, the primal Father’ — In those who live after the Mystery of Golgotha there must live the consciousness; “In Christ we die.”