Donate books to help fund our work. Learn more→

The Rudolf Steiner Archive

a project of Steiner Online Library, a public charity

Christ and the Human Soul
GA 155

Lecture II

14 July 1914, Norrköping

As we live through the day and realize all that we owe to the Sun, and to what extent the tasks of life are connected with the sunlight, we forget that through the whole pleasure and satisfaction we derive from the sunlight, there runs the thread of sure knowledge that on the following morning, after we have rested through the night, the Sun will rise again. This is a token of the confidence that lives in our soul—confidence in the lasting reality of the world-order. We may not always consciously realize it, but if asked, we should certainly answer in this sense. We devote ourselves to our work today because we know that the fruits of our work are assured for tomorrow; that after the night's rest the Sun will reappear, and the fruits of our labor will ripen.

We turn our eyes to the Earth's covering of plants; we admire its display; we know the world-order ordains that the plants and fruits for next year will arise from the seeds of this year. If asked why we live on with such a sense of security, we should reply that the reality of the world-order seems to us assured; we feel certain that from the ripening of the old seeds a new flowering will emerge into full reality.

But if we are thinking of this kind of reassurance from external reality, there is something in face of which we need a support. It is something of quite special significance for our soul-life. And only one phrase need be uttered—”our ideals”—to make us feel the need for assurance, since to those who truly think and feel it will be obvious that the phrase carries no such assurance in itself. When we think and feel in a higher sense, our ideals belong to those things that are more important to our souls than external reality. It is our ideals which fire our souls, and in many connections make life valuable and precious. And when we look at the assured reality of external life, we are often troubled by the thought: does this reality include anything that guarantees the most precious thing in life—the realization of our ideals?

Innumerable conflicts in the human soul proceed from the fact that people doubt more or less strongly in the realization of their ideals, although it is precisely on this that they would like to rely with every fiber of their being. We need only consider the world of the physical plane in an unprejudiced way and we shall find innumerable human souls passing through the hardest, bitterest conflicts because they are unable to bring to fulfillment their cherished ideals. For we cannot conclude from the course of evolution that our ideals in life will prove to be the seeds of a future reality in the same way as the plant-seeds of this year foretell next year's flowering. These plant-seeds, we know, bear within them a potential which next year will yield a manifest reality on the widest scale. But if we consider our ideals, we may indeed cherish the belief that they will have some significance, some value for life; but certainty in the same sense we cannot have. As human beings we should like our ideals to be the seeds of a later future, but we look in vain for anything that can give them assured reality. When we look at the physical plane, we find that our souls, with their idealism, are often in a state of despair.

Let us pass from the world of the physical plane into the world of the occult, the world of hidden spirituality. A man who has become a spiritual seer learns to know souls in the period through which they have to pass between death and a new birth, and it is very revealing to look with the eyes of the spirit at those souls who in their earthly life were imbued through and through with high ideals, with ideals born from the fire and light of their hearts.

A man who has passed through the gate of death has before him the well-known life-tableau, the memory-picture of his past Earth-life, and interwoven with it is the world of ideals. This world of ideals can come before a man after death in such a way that his feelings concerning it might be expressed as follows: “These ideals, which have fired and illumined my inmost heart, have been my dearest, most intimate treasure; they now wear a strange, unfamiliar aspect. They look as though they did not rightly belong to all that I remember as actual Earth-experience on the physical plane.” Yet the dead man feels himself magnetically attracted to these ideals of his; he feels as though he were under their spell. But they may also contain an element that gives him a mild shock; he feels that this element may be dangerous, that it may alienate him from the Earth-evolution, and from what is connected with Earth-evolution in the life between death and a new birth.

In order to express myself quite clearly, I should like to connect what I have said with concrete events. To some of those sitting here they will be known already, but this evening they require to be specially illumined from a certain aspect, that they may be brought into connection with what I have said concerning the nature of human souls. Of recent years, a man of poetic nature joined us [Christian Morgenstern]. Coming from a life that was dedicated to the purest idealism and had already undergone a mystical deepening, this man joined our Anthroposophical Movement. Although his soul dwelt in a failing body, he devoted himself heart and soul to our spiritual Movement. In the spring of this year we lost him from Earth-life; he passed through the gate of death. He left to mankind a series of wonderful poems, published in a volume that came out shortly after his death.

Owing to the difficulties of his bodily life he was separated in space from our Movement for long periods, either in a lonely spot in the Swiss mountains, or in some other place recommended for his health. But he remained attached to our Movement, from however far away, and his poems, which in certain anthroposophical circles have lately been recited over and over again, are the poetic reflection, as it were, of what we have been developing in Anthroposophy for more than ten years.

Now he has passed through the gate of death, and something very remarkable comes from occult observation of this soul. The significance of the soul's life in that ailing body has become apparent only since death. While working faithfully with us for the progress of our Movement, this soul absorbed something that developed very great strength below the surface of the gradually dying body. This strength was concealed by the ailing body as long as the soul dwelt within it; but now, when one comes into the presence of this soul after death, there shines forth, as it can shine forth only in the spiritual life, the content of the life which this soul absorbed. The cloud-like sphere in which our friend now lives, after having passed through the gate of death, presents itself as a mighty cosmic tableau. For the occult observer this is a most striking sight.

It might perhaps be said that the occult seer is able to cast his gaze round the whole wide sphere of the cosmic world. But it is one thing to allow the gaze to wander round the whole sphere of the cosmic world, and quite another to see, separated out from a particular human soul, something that has the appearance of a mighty tableau, like a painting of what would otherwise be there on its own account in the spiritual world. Just as we have the physical world around us, and then see it reflected in the magnificent paintings of a Raphael or a Michelangelo, so is it in the spiritual world in the case we are speaking of. Just as one never says in the presence of a picture by Michelangelo or Raphael, “Oh, this picture has nothing to give me, for I have all the real world to look at”—so, in observing the tableau that mirrors in a soul what can otherwise be seen in contemplating spiritual reality, one does not say that this soul tableau is not an endless enrichment. And it may be said that there is infinitely more to be learnt in the presence of this friend, who after death contains in his soul a reflection of all we have described from out of the spiritual world in the course of many years, than from direct contemplation of the vastness of spiritual reality.

This is an occult fact. I have repeatedly mentioned it to our friends in other places, and I have now taken from it elements that will be important for our considerations today. And this occult fact, as it presents itself in Christian Morgenstern, shows me something else. Anyone who sees how much opposition there still is to the promulgation of occult teaching, as we give it, will often ask questions—I will not call it doubt, but the questions are asked: “What progress will this occult teaching make in human hearts and souls?”, and “Is there any guarantee, any assurance, that the work of the Anthroposophical Society will have a continuing influence on the course of the spiritual evolution of humanity?” The sight of what the soul of our friend has become is one such assurance from the occult world. Why? Our friend, who has left behind him the poems, Wir fanden einen Pfad (“We found a Path”) lives in the immense cosmic tableau that is like a kind of soul-body for him after death; but while he was connected with us, he absorbed into his being our teaching about the Christ. He absorbed this anthroposophical teaching, binding it to his soul until it became the very spiritual heart-blood of his soul; he received it in such a way that for him it was enfilled with the substance of the Christ. The Christ Being flowed into him in the teaching. The Christ, as He lives in our Movement, passed over likewise into his soul.

In contemplating this occult fact, the following presents itself. The man who goes through the gate of death can indeed live in a cosmic tableau of this kind; he will go forward with it through the life that lies between death and a new birth. It will work and be embodied in his whole being, or rather it will “ensoul” his whole being, and it will permeate his new Earth-life when he again descends to a life on Earth. Moreover, such a soul receives a germ of perfection for its own life, and progresses in the evolution of the Earth's existence.

All this comes to pass because such a soul has absorbed the teaching into his being. But this particular soul accepted all the teaching, steeped through and spiritualized by the Christ-Being, by the conception of the Christ-Being that we can make our own. All that such a soul absorbed, however, is not merely a treasure stimulating the further evolution of this single soul, but through Christ, who is there for everyone, it works back again upon all mankind. And that cosmic tableau which for clairvoyant eyes is being developed in the soul of him who this spring passed through the gate of death—that Christ-enfilled soul-tableau is for me an assurance that what may be spoken today from out of the spiritual world will, through the love of Christ, radiate into souls who will come later. They will be set on fire, inspired by it. Not alone will our friend carry forward the Christ-enfilled anthroposophical teaching for his own greater perfecting, but because it has become part of his being it will become an impulse from the spiritual world to the souls who will live in the coming centuries; into them will pour the rays of that which is Christ-enfilled. Our souls cannot take in for themselves alone the Christ-filled spiritual science which is their most precious possession, but they will bear it through epochs of civilization yet to come. If you enfill this teaching with Christ, it will stream forth as a seed into the whole of humanity because the Christ Being belongs to all mankind. Where Christ is, the treasures of life are not isolated; their fruitfulness for individuals is always there, but at the same time they become a treasure for all mankind.

We must place this clearly before our souls. We see then what a significant difference there is between wisdom that is not filled with Christ and wisdom that is illuminated by the light of Christ. When we come together in a narrower circle of our Society, we are not there for the sake of abstract considerations, but in order to cultivate true occultism, undismayed by what the modern world has to say against it. Hence we are able to touch on matter which can come to our knowledge only through investigation in the spiritual.

A second example calls for mention. In recent years we have had occasion in Munich to perform what we call the Mystery Plays, and Swedish friends have often been present. The performances of these Mystery Plays had to differ in many respects from other performances; that had to be a sense of responsibility to the spiritual world. One could not attend these Mystery Plays as if one were going to an ordinary theatre. Certainly, whatever is accomplished in such a case must proceed from one's own soul-powers. But let us understand clearly that when in our physical life we want to carry out something through the will of our souls, we have to use our muscular power, which is imparted to us from outside and yet belongs to us. If we lack this muscular power, which comes to us from outside, there are some things we cannot do. In a certain sense muscular forces belongs to us and yet again not to us. So it is with our spiritual faculties, but our physical forces, our muscular powers, are of no help to us if these spiritual faculties are to be active in the spiritual spheres. The powers of the spiritual world itself must come to our aid; the powers and forces which stream out of the spiritual world into our physical world must irradiate and permeate us. It is true that other enterprises somewhat similar in character to our Munich Mystery Plays may be based on a different consciousness, but it was always clear to me that our project could be carried through only in the course of years, that the various impulses might be used only when definite spiritual forces, moving in this direction, flowed into our human forces; when spiritual “Guardian Angel” forces flowed into our human forces.

At the beginning of our spiritual-scientific work, when our very small circle came together at the beginning of this century, it was always easy to count the number present. For a short time a faithful soul was always among them, a soul who through her Karma possessed a special talent for beauty and art. [Maria Spettini, actress at the German Imperial Theatre in St. Petersburg.] Even though it was for a short time, the bearer of this soul worked with us, especially in connection with the more intimate spiritual-scientific work that needed to be done at that time. With an inner depth of feeling and an enlightened enthusiasm she worked among us, and absorbed particularly certain cosmological teachings which it was possible to give at that time. And I still remember today how at that time a fact came before my soul which may perhaps seem unimportant, but may be mentioned here.

When our Movement began, a periodical which, for well-considered reasons, was called Lucifer, came into being. At that time I wrote an article under the title of “Lucifer” which was meant to indicate, in tendency at any rate, the direction in which we wished to work. This article, even if it did not say so in words, laid down the lines which our Anthroposophical Society should follow, and I may say: that article, too, is Christ enfilled. The life-blood of Christianity can flow into those souls who absorb what is in that article. I may now perhaps remark that, at the time, this article met with the most violent opposition in the circle of the few who had joined us from the old Theosophical Movement. By all of them this article was considered entirely “untheosophical”. The personality of whom I have been speaking entered into this article with the warmest possible heart and the deepest inner feeling, and I was able to say to myself: When it is a question of the actual truth, her agreement is of more importance for the progress of the Movement than all the opposition put together. In short, this soul was deeply interwoven with all that was to flow into our spiritual stream.

She soon died; in 1904 she passed through the gate of death. For a while after death she had to struggle through in the spiritual world to find her real identity. Not as early as 1907, but from the time of our Mystery Plays in Munich, from 1909 onwards, and then to an increasing degree as time went on, this soul was always there, guarding and clarifying what I was able to undertake in connection with the Munich Festival Plays. All that this soul, owing to her talent for the beautiful, was able to give to the artistic realization of our spiritual ideals, worked down out of the spiritual world, as though from the Guardian Angel of our Mystery Plays, in such a way that one felt in oneself the power to take the necessary initiative. Just as in the physical world our muscular energy supports us, so the spiritual force streaming down from the spiritual worlds flowed into one's own spiritual force.

Thus do the dead work with us, so are they present with us. This was yet another case—and here comes the point I must specially speak about today—this was again a case in which all that the personality had absorbed in the field of Anthroposophy was not used only to assist her own progress, for it clearly flowed back to us again in something that we ventured to do for the whole Movement. Two possibilities existed. This personality had taken in all that she could, she had it in her soul, and so she could apply it for the sake of her further progress through life and also through the life after death. This is right—it ought to happen so—for if the human soul is to attain its divine goal, it must become ever more and more perfect; it must do all it can to help forward this perfecting. But because this soul had taken into herself the whole purpose of what it is to be “Christ-enfilled”, what she had absorbed was able not merely to work for herself but to flow down to us—and to become an effective kind of common possession for us all.

That is what Christ brings about when He permeates the fruits of our knowledge. He does not take away all that these fruits of knowledge represent for an individual, for the Christ died for all souls. When we rise up to that knowledge which must be possessed by all true Earth-men—”Not I, but Christ in me”—when we realize the Christ within us in all that we know, and when we attribute to Christ the forces which we ourselves employ, then all we take into our being works not for ourselves alone, but for the whole of humanity. It becomes fruitful for the whole of humanity. Look at the souls of men all over the Earth. Christ died for them all, and that which you receive in His Name you receive for your own perfecting, but also as a most precious possession that is effective for all mankind.

And now let us return to our introductory words this evening. It was said that when, after death, we look back upon our life-tableau, on all that we have lived through, it appears to us as though our ideals might have something strange about them. We feel in regard to our ideals that they really do not bear us forward to the common life of men, that they have no inherent guarantee of reality in the general life of men; they carry us away from it. Lucifer has a powerful influence over our ideals because they flow in such beauty out of the human soul, but only out of the human soul. They are not rooted in external reality. That is why Lucifer has such power, and it is really the magnetic impulse of Lucifer which we experience in our ideals after death. Lucifer approaches us, and the ideals we have are specially valuable to him, because by the indirect path of these ideals he can draw us to himself. But when we permeate with Christ all that we attain spiritually, when we feel the Christ in us, knowing that what we receive is also received by the Christ in us—”Not I, but Christ in me”—then, when we pass through the gate of death we do not look back upon our ideals although they tended to alienate us from the world. Our ideals have been committed to Christ, and we know that it is Christ who makes our ideals His own concern. He takes our ideals upon Himself. And the individual can say: “Not I alone can take my ideals upon myself so that they are seeds for humanity on Earth as surely as the plant-seeds of the present summer are seeds for the earthly plant-robe of the summer to come, but the Christ in me can do this; the Christ in me permeates my ideals with the reality of substance.” And of those ideals we can say: “Yes, as men we give expression to ideals on Earth, but in us lives the Christ and He takes them upon Himself.” These ideals are true seeds of future reality. Christ-enfilled idealism is permeated with the seed of reality, and he who truly understands Christ looks upon ideals in this way. He says: “Ideals have not yet in themselves that guarantee of their own reality, their own actuality, which inheres in the plant-seeds for the coming year; but when our ideals are committed to the Christ within us, they are real seeds.” Whoever has a true Christ-consciousness and makes his life-substance St. Paul's words “Not I, but Christ in me—He is the bearer of my ideals”, he has this realization. He says: “There are the ripe, germinating seeds, there are the streams and seas, the hills and valleys—but close by is the world of idealism; this world of idealism is taken over by Christ, and then it is like the seeds of the future world in the world of the present, for the Christ bears our ideals on into the future world as the God of Nature bears the plant-seeds of this year on into the coming year.”

This gives reality to idealism; it removes from the soul those bitter, gloomy doubts which can arise from the feeling: What becomes of the world of ideals that are inwardly bound up with external reality and with all that I most value? He who takes the Christ Impulse into himself perceives that everything which ripens in the human soul as idealism, as wisdom-treasure, is permeated, saturated through and through with reality. And I have brought the two examples before you in order to show you, out of the occult world, how different is the working of that which is entrusted, Christ-enfilled, to the soul, from that which is entrusted to it only as wisdom which is not Christ-enfilled. What the soul has permeated with Christ in this Earth-life flows down to us quite differently from that which is not Christ-enfilled.

A terrible impression is received when with clairvoyant consciousness one looks out into the spiritual world and sees souls, in whom full Christ-consciousness has not arisen during their last incarnation, fighting for their ideals—fighting for what is dearest to them, because in their ideals Lucifer has power over them, which enables him to separate them from the fruits, the real fruits, which the whole world ought to enjoy.

Quite different is the aspect of those who have allowed their soul-wealth, their wisdom-wealth, to become Christ-enfilled. These souls work down into our bodies in this life; they kindle warmth and vitality in our souls. Permeation with the Christ Impulse can be felt as most precious inner soul-warmth, as comfort in the most difficult circumstances, as support in the worst abysses of life. And why? Because he who is truly permeated with the Christ Impulse finds that in whatever conquests his soul achieves, however imperfect they may appear in earthly life, there lies this Christ impulse as the assurance and guarantee of fulfillment for them. That is why Christ is such a consolation in the doubts of life, such a support for the soul. How much for the souls on Earth remains unfulfilled in life! How much seems to them precious, although in relation to the outer physical world they cannot but regard it as resembling vain hopes of spring. But anything we honestly feel in our soul, anything we can unite with our soul as a valued possession—all this we can commit to Christ; and whatever may be its prospects of realization, when we have committed it to Christ He bears it forth upon His wings into reality. It is not always necessary to have knowledge of this, but the soul that feels the Christ within it, as the body feels its life-giving blood, feels the warmth, the promise of realization in this Christ Impulse in respect of all that cannot be realized in the external world, although the soul, with perfect justification, longs for it to be realized.

The fact that clairvoyant consciousness sees these things when it surveys souls after death is a proof of how justifiable is the feeling of the human soul when in all that a man does, in all that he thinks, he feels himself Christ-enfilled, takes the Christ into his soul as comfort, as support, saying in Earth-life: “Not I, but Christ in me!” For a man may indeed say that in this Earth-life! Recall a passage at the beginning of my book, Theosophy, which is meant to indicate one of these points where, at a certain stage of the spiritual life, there is a realization of what fills the soul in this earthly life. In a certain place in this book I have drawn attention to the fact that Tat twam asi (“Thou art that”) upon which the Eastern sages meditate, comes before man as a reality at that moment when the transition from the so-called soul-world into the spiritual world takes place. Look up the passage in question.

But something else can become a reality, in a way that is of immense human significance in relation to St. Paul's words, “Not I, but Christ in me”, which the Christ-enfilled soul may say in this life. If a man knows how to experience as inner truth this “Not I, but Christ in me”, it comes to powerful fulfillment after death. For what we receive through the words “Not I, but Christ in me” becomes our endowment, our inner nature between death and a new birth, to such an extent that we may impart it as fruit to the whole of humanity. What we so take that we receive it under the aspect of “Not I”, Christ makes into a common possession for all humanity. What I receive under the aspect of “Not I”, of this I may dare, after death, to say and feel, “Not for me alone, but for all my human brethren!” And then only may I say the words: “Yes, I have loved Him above all, even above myself,” and therefore I have hearkened to the command, “Love thy God above all.” “Not I, but Christ in me.”

And I have fulfilled that other commandment, “Love thy neighbor as thyself”, for whatever I have attained for myself will become through the fact that Christ carries it into reality, the common property of all mankind.

We must allow such things as these to work upon us, and then we experience what Christ has to signify in the human soul—how Christ can be the bearer and supporter, the comforter and illuminator of the soul of man. And so we gradually come to enter through our feelings into that which may be called the relation of Christ to the human soul.