Building Stones for an Understanding of the Mystery of Golgotha
Berlin, 3rd April, 1917
The Mystery of Golgotha for which I have already prepared the ground in recent lectures will be the subject of our enquiry today.
Let us recall the main points for consideration. I mentioned on the last occasion that in order to arrive at a true understanding of the world we must study the tripartite division of the cosmos and man in the light of the three principles of body, soul and spirit. It is most important to be aware of this fact at the present time, especially in the field of Anthroposophy. I should like to remind you that this idea of trichotomy forms the central theme of my book Theosophy. No doubt you have all read this book and will know that this idea forms the nucleus of the whole book. I quote the relevant passage:
“The spirit is eternal; the body is subject to life and death in accordance with the laws of the physical world; the soul-life which is subject to destiny mediates between these two (body and spirit) during life on Earth.”
Now at the time of the publication of this book I felt it was necessary to define clearly this idea of trichotomy. For by laying special, even decisive emphasis upon this idea we are really in a position today to understand the cosmos and at the same time to understand the central event of our Earth evolution — the Mystery of Golgotha.
In my last lecture I spoke of the solid body of opposition we encounter today when we set out to study both cosmos and man in the light of the threefold principle of body, soul and spirit, not simply as something of secondary importance, but as the central theme of our study. I have shown how the idea of the spirit was lost in the course of the spiritual evolution of the West. I mentioned that the idea of the spirit was proscribed by the eighth Ecumenical Council of Constantinople and that this proscription not only influenced the development of religious ideas and sentiments, but left a deep impression upon the thinking of recent times. In consequence there are few modern philosophers who are able to distinguish clearly between soul and spirit. And even amongst those who imagine themselves to be objective, one encounters everywhere the dogmatic assertion, stemming from the eighth Ecumenical Council, that man consists of body and soul alone. He who is familiar with the spiritual life of the West, not only as it is reflected in the more superficial realms of philosophy, but as it has implanted itself in the thinking and feeling of all men, even of those who have not the slightest interest in philosophical ideas, sees everywhere the effects of the proscription of the idea of the spirit. And when, in recent times, a tendency developed to draw upon certain aspects of the wisdom teaching of the East as a corrective to Western teachings, the borrowings were presented in such a light that one would scarcely suspect that the cosmos and man are founded on the threefold principle of body, soul and spirit. For in the division of man into gross body, etheric body and astral body, derived purely from astral observation, Sthula Sharira, Linga Sharira — Prâna as it was then called — Kâma, Kâma-Manas and the various other divisions introduced from the East — in all these divisions which are an arbitrary collocation of seven principles, there is no indication of what should be regarded of vital importance, namely, that our “Weltanschauung” should be permeated with this idea of trichotomy.
There is no doubt that this idea of man's threefold nature has been suppressed. The spirit, it is true, has often been a focus of discussion today, but the discussions are little more than empty words. People are unable to distinguish nowadays between mere words and realities. Hence many expositions are taken seriously which are little more than a farrago of words, such as the philosophy of Eucken.
We cannot understand the essential nature of the Mystery of Golgotha if we decide to reject the tripartite division of man. As I pointed out in my last lecture, the abolition of the spirit was first decreed by the eighth Ecumenical Council, but preparations had been underway for some time. The ultimate abolition of the spirit is connected with a necessary stage in the spiritual evolution of the West. We shall perhaps be able to approach the Mystery of Golgotha most easily from the standpoint of the tripartite division of man if we recall how Aristotle, the leading representative of Greek thought, envisaged the soul. The Middle Ages were also dominated by Aristotelian philosophy and though people are unwilling to admit it, modern thought still draws upon the concepts of the Middle Ages. Furthermore, the later evolution of thought was already anticipated in Aristotle a few centuries before the Mystery of Golgotha, and it was with the help of his ideas that the leading minds of the Middle Ages sought to understand the Mystery of Golgotha. These things are of paramount importance and we must really make an effort to investigate them with an open mind.
What was Aristotle's conception of the human soul? I will tell you as briefly as possible the Greek view of the soul as presented by an enlightened mind such as Aristotle. His conception of the soul — and we have here the views of the most famous European of the fourth century B.C. — was roughly as follows.
When an individual incarnates he owes his physical existence to his father and mother. But he owes only his physical inheritance to his parents. The whole man, according to Aristotle, could never come into being solely through the union of father and mother, for this whole man is endowed with a soul. Now one part of the soul — let us remember that Aristotle distinguishes two parts of the soul — is tied to the physical body, expresses itself through the body and apprehends the external world through sense-perception. This part of the soul arises as a necessary by-product of man's parental inheritance. The spiritual part of the soul, on the other hand, the “Active Reason” as Aristotle calls it which participates through intellection in the spiritual life of the Universe, in the “nous”, is immaterial and immortal and could never come into being through parental inheritance, but solely through the participation of God — or the “Divine” as Aristotle calls it — in the procreation of man through the parents.
It is thus that the whole man comes into existence. The whole man is born of the co-operation of God with the father and mother, and it is most important to realize that Aristotle understands the word “man” in this sense. From God man receives his spiritual soul or “Active Reason” as Aristotle calls it. This “Active Reason” which comes into being with each individual through Divine co-operation, evolves during life between birth and death. When man passes through the gate of death the physical body is given over to the Earth, and, with the body, the lower part of the soul, the “Passive Reason” in Aristotelian terminology, which is associated with the physical organism. The spiritual part of the soul, the “Active Reason”, on the other hand, subsists according to Aristotle, and when “separated, appears just as it is”, withdraws to a world remote from the phenomenal world and enjoys immortality. Now this immortal life is such that the man who performed good deeds whilst in the body is able to look back upon the fruits of his good deeds, but cannot change the karma of his past actions. We only understand Aristotle aright when we interpret his ideas as implying that through all eternity the soul looks back on the good or evil it has wrought.
In the nineteenth century especially, scholars were at pains to grasp this idea, for the style of Aristotle is economical to the point of obscurity. In his controversy with Eduard Zeller, the late Franz Brentano [original note 1] endeavoured throughout his life to gather every scrap of evidence which could throw light upon Aristotle's conception of the relationship between the spiritual part of man and the whole man. Aristotle's views passed over into the philosophy which was taught throughout the Middle Ages down to recent times and which is still taught in certain ecclesiastical circles today. Franz Brentano, who was actively interested in these ideas, in so far as they stemmed from Aristotle, came to the following conclusion.
The mind of Aristotle which, by virtue of its inherent disposition towards reflective thought transcended the limitations of materialism, could not have subscribed to the notion that the spiritual part of the soul was in any way material or could have evolved from man's parental inheritance. There were only two possible ways therefore, Brentano thought, in which Aristotle could envisage the soul. On the one hand, to accept the idea that the spiritual part of the soul was a direct creation of God working in conjunction with the parental inheritance, so that the spiritual part of the soul arose through Divine influence upon the human embryo and that this spiritual part did not perish at death, but entered upon eternal life. What other possibility was open to Aristotle, Brentano asks, if he rejected this idea? And he believed that Aristotle was right to accept this idea. There was only a second possibility; a third did not exist — and this was to admit not only the post-existence, but also the pre-existence of the soul before birth or conception. Now Brentano realized clearly that once we admit the possibility that the soul exists before conception then we are forced to concede that the soul does not experience a single incarnation only, but undergoes successive incarnations. And since, in later life, Aristotle rejects palingenesis, i.e. reincarnation, he had no option but to accept creationism, the doctrine that the soul is created ex nihilo with each embryonic life. This accepts post-existence, but denies pre-existence. Franz Brentano who had been a priest may be regarded as one of the last representatives of the positive side of Aristotelian scholastic philosophy. He thought it was eminently reasonable on the part of Aristotle to reject the doctrine of reincarnation and to recognize only creationism and post-existence.
And this view, despite its many modifications, forms the core of all Christian philosophy in so far as this philosophy rejects the idea of reincarnation. It is a strange phenomenon, both touching and tragic, to see how such an eminent scholar as Franz Brentano, who had resigned from the ministry, resolutely strove to clarify his ideas about creationism and yet could not bridge the gap which separated him from the doctrine of reincarnation. What was the reason for this? It was evident that, despite his profound erudition, despite the vigour and acuity of his mind, the door to the spirit was closed to him. He could never attain to the idea of the spirit or recognize the spirit as separate from the soul. It is not possible to attain to the idea of the spirit without accepting the idea of reincarnation. The idea of reincarnation is inseparable from the idea of the spirit. In Aristotle's day the idea of the spirit had already begun to decline. In the key passages of Aristotle's writings we observe that when he touches upon the question of preexistence he becomes obscure or ambiguous.
All this is connected with something of the greatest importance, something which carries profound implications, namely, that a few centuries before the Mystery of Golgotha man had entered upon a stage of evolution when something akin to a mist shrouded the soul whenever the spirit was mentioned. This mist was not so dense then as it is now, but the first signs of the corruption of man's thinking in matters of the spirit were already manifest at that time. And this is connected with the fact that in the course of time mankind had undergone an evolutionary process. Over the centuries man's soul had changed and was no longer the same as it had been in primeval times. Because man possessed atavistic clairvoyance in those remote times he had direct experience of the spirit. He could no more doubt the existence of the spirit than he could doubt the existence of the phenomenal world. It was simply a question of the degree of spiritual perception he could attain. That it was possible to find the path to the spirit in past ages was never in doubt. Nor was there ever any doubt that during the life between birth and death the spirit dwelt in the souls of men so that by virtue of this spiritual endowment the human soul could participate in divine life. And this conviction which was founded on an immediate awareness of the spirit was at all times expressed in the cult of the Mysteries. It is a remarkable fact that one of the earliest Greek philosophers, Heraclitus, speaks of the Mysteries in such a way that we realize he is aware that in olden times they were of immense importance to mankind, but that they had already fallen into desuetude. Thus enlightened Greeks had already begun in the fifth century B.C. to speak of the decline of the Mysteries.
Rites of various kinds were enacted in the Mysteries, but it is only the central idea of these Mysteries which is of particular interest to us today. Let us dwell for a moment on this central idea of the Mysteries as they were practised up to the time of the Mystery of Golgotha and as late as the reign of the Emperor Julian the Apostate. In recent times attention has been called to the anti-Christian nature of many aspects of these Mystery Cults. It has been pointed out that what we know as the “Easter Legend”, the keynote to the Passion, the Death and Resurrection of Christ, can be found everywhere in the Mysteries. And the conclusion drawn from this was that the Christian Easter Mystery was simply a transference of the ancient pagan myth and ritual cults to the Person of Jesus of Nazareth. Indeed these legends and rites were so alike that many no longer questioned their identity and said: “What the Christians say of Christ, that He suffered, was crucified and rose again, that His resurrection gave promise of hope and salvation for man — all these Christian ideas are to be found in the Mystery Cults!” Pagan usages, they claimed, had been collected together, fused into the “Easter Legend” and transferred to the Person of Jesus of Nazareth.
Indeed in recent times people have gone even further. Strangely enough, even in the sphere of orthodox Christianity — one need only recall certain (Protestant) sects in Bremen — there was no longer any interest in the historicity of Jesus. They said that the various Mystery cults and legends had been collected over the years and had been centralized, so to speak, and that in the early Christian community the Christ legend had been developed out of them. I recall a discussion which took place here in Berlin a few years ago. During the tragic years of recent times past events have become unreal and seem a distant memory, although the discussion took place only a few years ago. In the course of this discussion the official representatives of Christianity declared that the real issue was not the historical Jesus, but simply the “Idea of Christ” which arose in the primitive Christian community through the impact of divers social impulses.
Now in studying the pagan Mystery cults there is always a dangerous temptation to compare them with the Christian Easter Mystery. Let me illustrate this by a faithful description of the Phrygian Easter festivals. In addition to the Phrygian festivals I could also cite other festivals for these were equally widespread. In a letter to the sons of Constantine, Firmicus (note 1) gives the following account of the Phrygian Easter festival. The statue of the God Attis was bound to the trunk of a fir tree and carried round in solemn procession at midnight. Then the sufferings of the God were re-enacted. At the same time a lamb was placed at the foot of the tree. At dawn the resurrection of the God was proclaimed. Whilst on the previous night when the God was bound to the tree and seemingly given over to death the multitude broke out in wild lamentations as was customary during the ritual; now, when the resurrection of the God was announced at sunrise the lugubrious chants were suddenly transformed into wild outbursts of joy. The statue of the God, Firmicus tells us, was buried elsewhere. During the night when the melancholy dirges reached their climax, a light shone in the darkness and the tomb was opened. The God had risen. And the priest addressed the assembled populace in these words: “Take comfort, ye faithful, for the God is saved and ye too will be saved.”
There is no denying that these religious festivals, celebrated untold centuries before the Mystery of Golgotha, show great similarity to the Easter Mystery of Christianity. Because this idea was so attractive many believed that these ideas of the suffering, death and resurrection of the God were widespread and had been, to some extent, welded into a unity under Christian influence and transferred to Jesus of Nazareth.
Now it is important to understand the real origin of these pagan, pre-Christian rites. They date far back into the past and sprang from those profound and original insights into the nature of man and his relation to the cosmos as revealed through atavistic clairvoyance. Of course at the time when the Phrygian festivals were celebrated, people did not understand their real meaning any more than the Freemasons of today understand the significance of the rites they practise. None the less all these ceremonies date back to a time when an ancient wisdom, a grandiose knowledge of the universe and man existed, a knowledge which is exceedingly difficult to understand today. Remember that not only is man dependent upon his environment in relation to his physical body, but that his spirit and soul also are an integral part of his environment. He draws on his environment for his ideas and representations, they become routine responses, second nature to him and for various reasons he cannot escape them. Therefore with the best will in the world it is difficult to understand certain knowledge which, for reasons I have already mentioned, has been lost in the course of the spiritual evolution of mankind.
The natural science of today — there is no need to repeat my admiration for its achievements, though I harbour certain reservations about it — is concerned only with the superficial aspect of things. It can make only a minimal contribution to an understanding of their true nature. It is true that science has made great advances in certain spheres — but it all depends upon what one understands by “great advances”. The invention of wireless telegraphy and many other discoveries which are important contributions to our life today are certainly deserving of admiration. But, one may ask, where does that take us? If we were to pursue this question we should come face to face with what is forbidden territory today. Modern science naturally considers the primordial wisdom, the last corrupt remnants of which survived in the Mystery cults I have mentioned, to be sheer folly. That may well be. But what is foolishness in the eyes of men may often be wisdom in the sight of God.
True insight into the nature of the universe and man discloses amongst other things — I propose today to emphasize those aspects which are important for an understanding of the Mystery of Golgotha — a certain conception of the human organism which modern science regards as the height of absurdity, i.e. that the human organism is fundamentally different from the animal organism. (I have already mentioned many of these differences, but today I will confine myself to the difference which bears upon the Mystery of Golgotha.) When we make a serious study of the animal organism in the light of Spiritual Science we find that it bears within it the seeds of death. In other words, spiritual investigation, when applied to the animal organism recognizes that, by virtue of its constitution, this organism must inevitably suffer death, that it disintegrates and finally returns to the mineral kingdom. The death of an animal is not something mysterious and inexplicable. When we study its organism we realize that, for the animal, death is as natural to it (i.e. the organism) as the need for food and drink. That death is a necessity for the animal lies in the nature of its organism.
This is not the case with man, for his organism is differently constituted. Here we touch upon a sphere that must remain a total enigma to modern science. When we study the human organism in the light of Spiritual Science we find nothing in the human organism itself which suggests that death is inevitable. We must accept death in man as something he experiences and which cannot be explained, for, originally, neither man nor his physical organism were made for death. The fact that death occurs in man from within cannot be explained from the being of man itself. The inner being as such provides no explanation of death.
I realize that this view will be regarded as folly by the scientific pundits of today. Generally speaking it is extremely difficult to arrive at an understanding of these problems for they touch upon profound mysteries. And even today, if we wish to understand these problems we can only treat of them after the fashion of Saint-Martin [original note 2] in his book Des Erreurs et de la Vérité. In an important passage, when speaking of the evolutionary consequences that follow from a supernal event that took place in the spiritual world before man first incarnated on the physical plane, he wrote the following words which will be readily understood by everyone who is familiar with such matters:
“However much I may desire to enlighten you, the obligations I have undertaken do not permit me to comment in any way upon this subject; and furthermore, I, for my part, would rather blush for man's transgressions than speak of them.”
For Saint-Martin is here alluding to a transgression committed by man before his first incarnation on Earth. He was forbidden to speak of this openly. But today we are in a position to speak of many things that Saint-Martin could not discuss in his time — not because mankind has progressed since that time, but for other reasons. But if we were to discuss a truth such as “man is not intended to die”, together with all the relevant factors, we would have to touch upon matters which may not be disclosed today. Man is not born to die and yet he dies! These words express something which is obviously an absurdity to the pundits of modern science, but which, to those who seek to penetrate to a true understanding of the world, must be reckoned amongst the most profound mysteries.
This realization that man was not born to die and yet dies, lies concealed in those ancient Mysteries, including the Attis Mysteries which I have already mentioned. Man looked to the Mysteries for an answer to this enigma that man was not born to die and yet dies. Now why were the Mysteries celebrated? They were celebrated in order that man should be reminded afresh each year of something he wished to hear, something he wished to experience and realize within his soul. He wished to be reassured that the time had not yet come when he would have to face the inexplicable problem of his death. What did the neophyte hope for from the Attis Mysteries? He had the instinctive feeling that a time would one day come when mankind would seriously have to face the reality of death which remained an enigma. But this time had not yet come. And whilst the priest celebrated the death and resurrection of the god, man felt reassured and consoled, for the time had not yet come when he would have to come to terms with the reality of death.
It was common knowledge in ancient times that the event described in the first chapter of Genesis, and which is understood symbolically today, referred to a reality. The men of ancient times knew this instinctively. It was modern materialism that first outgrew the instinctive feeling that the temptation of Lucifer referred to an actual occurrence. On this question the materialist interpretation of Darwin, which is intellectually so perverse, is very far removed from the truth. This crude, perverted thinking believes that by a gradual and continual process over long periods of time man has developed from animal ancestry. In such a materialist hypothesis the story of the temptation can have no place. For only a “brow villanous low” could believe that an archetypal ape or guenon [original note 3] could have been tempted by Lucifer!
Instinctively men knew at the time of the Mysteries that the story of Creation concealed a “fact” that had once been common knowledge. They felt that man, as originally created, was not mortal. And because of this “fact” they felt that something had entered into his physical organism and had corrupted it and so opened the doors to mortality. Man became mortal through a moral defect, through what is called original sin. I will recur to this later. Man became mortal, not after the fashion of other forms of organic life, not as the inevitable consequence of natural law, but through a moral defect. The soul was the seat of his mortality.
The animal soul as species-soul is immortal. It incarnates in the individual animal which is mortal in virtue of its organism. The species-soul (or group-soul) relinquishes the animal organism which is subject to death without having undergone any transformation. From the outset the nature of the animal organism is such that, as individual organism, it is ordained to die. This does not apply to the human organism to the same extent. In the case of the human organism, the species-soul or group-soul which lies at the root of this organism is able to manifest in the individual man, and as independent human organism ensures him immortality. Man could only become mortal through a moral act originating in the soul. In a certain sense man had to be endowed with a soul before he could become mortal. The moment one treats these ideas as abstractions they become meaningless. We must endeavour to attain to a concrete knowledge of spiritual realities.
Now in ancient times — and also in the period shortly before the Mystery of Golgotha — men never doubted for a moment that the soul brought death to man. The soul has evolved through the ages. In the course of this evolution the soul has progressively corrupted the organism and in consequence has worked destructively upon the organism. Man looked back to ancient times and said to himself: A moral event took place in olden times and its effect upon the soul is such, that whenever the soul now incarnates, it corrupts the body. And because it corrupts the body man can no longer live between birth and death in a state of innocence. In the course of hundreds and thousands of years the condition of the soul has grown progressively worse and the body has suffered continuous corruption! Thus it is increasingly difficult for man to find his way back to the spirit. The further evolution advances, the more the body is corrupted by the soul and the more the seeds of death are sown in the body. And a time must come when it will no longer be possible for man, once he has lived his alloted span, to find his way back to the spiritual world.
In ancient times it was this moment that was anticipated with fear and dread. Men felt that, after countless generations a generation would arise whose souls would so corrupt the body and sow the poisonous seeds of death that man could no longer reclaim his spiritual heritage. And this generation will one day appear, they said. And they wanted to be reassured whether this fatal moment was drawing near, and to this end the Attis rites and similar ceremonies were enacted. At the same time they sought to discover whether the souls of men still had so much of divine plentitude that the time had not yet come when these souls had abandoned their divine heritage and could no longer find their way back to the spirit. Great importance therefore was attached to the words of the priest when he said: “Take comfort, ye faithful; the God is saved, your salvation is assured!” With these words the priest wished to indicate that God was still active in the world; that the souls of men had not yet severed all connection with the divine. The priest sought to comfort the people saying: “The resurrection of the God is ever renewed. The God is still within you.”
When we touch upon these questions we become aware of the deep, unplumbed depth of feelings and emotions which were once characteristic of a particular epoch in the evolution of man. Today man has not the slightest inkling of the inner conflicts with which these men of earlier times had to wrestle. Though they may have been totally illiterate and have known nothing of what we call culture today, yet they could not escape these feelings. And in the Mystery Schools which preserved the old traditions derived from ancient clairvoyant insight the neophytes were told that if evolution were to continue unchanged, if the effects of original sin were to be prolonged, then a time would come when the souls of men would turn from God to a world of materialism of their own creation, and would progressively corrupt the physical body and rapidly hasten the process of death. These souls would remain earthbound and be relegated to the limbo; they would be lost. But since these Schools still preserved a knowledge of the spirit, the knowledge of the trichotomy of man still survived. What I am speaking of at the moment, the seminaries, applied to the soul and not to the spirit. For the spirit is eternal and follows its own laws. From their spiritual insight people knew that the soul would be relegated to the limbo, but the spirit would reappear in ever repeated Earth-lives. A time in the evolution of the world was approaching when the spirits of men would incarnate anew and would look back upon the lost Paradise which once had existed on Earth. Souls would be lost, never to return. Spirits would reincarnate in bodies which they would activate after the fashion of automata. And the way in which this was done would be neither felt nor experienced by the soul.
But what, on the other hand, were the feelings bf those who were drawn to the Christian Easter Mystery? They felt that unless the Earth received a new impulse, then, in future incarnations, man would be born without a soul. They awaited something that Earth evolution could not achieve of itself, something that was destined to enter earthly life from without, namely the Mystery of Golgotha. They awaited the incarnation of a Being who would save the souls of men from death. There was no need to save the spirit from death, but it was imperative to save the soul. This Being who entered Earth evolution from without by incarnation in the body of Jesus of Nazareth was recognized as the Christ who had come to save the souls of men. Men were now able to unite spiritually with the Christ, so that through this union the soul loses its power to corrupt the body and all that they had lost since the Fall could gradually be recovered. That is why the Mystery of Golgotha must be regarded as the central point in human evolution. From the “Fall” until the Mystery of Golgotha man experienced a progressive decline of his spiritual forces. The forces of corruption had increasingly invaded his soul and threatened to make man an automaton of the spirit. And from the Mystery of Golgotha until the end of the Earth cycle all that was lost before the Mystery of Golgotha will gradually be retrieved once more. Thus, at the conclusion of Earth evolution, the spirits of men will incarnate in the physical body for the last time and these bodies will once again be immortal. It was in expectation of this redemption that men understood the Mystery of Easter.
Before this could be realized it was necessary to overcome the power which had caused the moral corruption of the soul; and this power was overcome by the decisive event on Golgotha. How did the early Christians who still possessed occult knowledge understand the last words of Christ on the Cross? They were living in expectation of an external event that would bring to an end this corrupting influence of the soul. The cry of Christ on the Cross “It is finished” was a sign to them that the time had now come when the corrupting power of the soul was a thing of the past. It was a miraculous event fraught with vast and unsuspected mysteries. For tremendous questions are involved when we think about the Mystery of Golgotha. When we pursue our studies further we shall find that it is impossible to think of the Mystery of Golgotha without also thinking of the Risen Christ. The Risen Christ — that is the essential. And in one of his most profound utterances St. Paul says: “If Christ be not risen then all our faith is vain.” The Risen Christ is unique to Christianity and is inseparable from Christianity. The death of Christ is also an integral part of Christianity. But how is this death portrayed? And how must it be portrayed? An innocent man was put to death, He suffered and died. Those who crucified Him clearly bear a heavy burden of guilt, for He who died was innocent. What was the significance of this guilt for mankind? It brought them salvation. For had Christ not died upon the Cross mankind could not have been saved. In the Crucifixion we are confronted by a unique event. The death of Christ on the Cross was the greatest boon bestowed upon mankind (cf. John XI, 49–52). And the heaviest guilt that mankind has taken upon itself is this, that Christ was crucified. Thus the heaviest guilt coincides with the greatest good fortune.
The superficial mind no doubt will pay little attention to this. But for those who probe deeper, this question is fraught with profound mystery. The most heinous crime in the history of the world proved to be the salvation of mankind. Now we must understand this enigma, or at least try to understand it, if we are to comprehend the Mystery of Golgotha. And the key to the solution of this enigma is found in the exemplary words spoken by Christ on the Cross: “Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do.” The right understanding of these words provides the answer to the cardinal question: Why did the most heinous crime become the source of the salvation of mankind?
If you reflect upon this you will realize that one must take into account the trichotomy of man in order to understand the Mystery of Golgotha. For Christ died in order to redeem the souls of men. He reclaims the souls of men that would have been lost but for His advent. Morality would have vanished from the Earth and the spirit inhabiting a body that reacted mechanically would have been the victim of necessity in which morality has no place. Mankind would have been unable to have psychic experiences. The mission of Christ was to bring man back to God. It is not surprising, therefore, that three centuries before Christ, Aristotle, a most enlightened Greek, failed to understand the nature of the soul and its relation to the spirit at a time when the crisis of man's soul was at hand. There were many discrepancies in Aristotle's view of the soul since he could not have known of the coming of the Saviour, and it is not surprising therefore that his views of the soul were illogical. How is one to account for the fact that the erroneous conceptions of Aristotle concerning the relationship of soul and spirit persisted so long? The significance of Christ for the souls of men is that He demonstrates once again that man is a threefold being of body, soul and spirit and that an inner relationship exists between objective events and moral events. And we shall never fully understand this relationship unless we accept the idea of the trichotomy of man.
If we wish to arrive in some measure at an understanding of the Mystery of Golgotha we must penetrate to the inmost recesses of the human soul. In the present lecture I have only been able to offer an introduction to this theme. I believe that it is our immediate concern to speak of these things at the present time. We must take advantage of this Easter festival to enquire more closely into these matters in so far as it is possible today. Perhaps it may be possible thereby to awaken in us much that may one day be a seed that will only mature in future time. For it is only gradually that we come to realize that we are living in an age when there are many things we cannot fully comprehend. This is evident from the difficulty men experience today in developing a clear and conscious understanding of events that are imminent. Unfortunately it is not possible to indicate, even briefly, how one should understand in clear consciousness the painful event of which the people of Europe, or at least of Central Europe, have only recently been informed. [original note 4] Today we are only half aware of these things.
I only wanted to touch upon certain questions today in order to relate them in my next lecture to the Mystery of Golgotha.
Note 1. See Note 6, Lecture Eight.
Note 2. See Note 3, Lecture One.
Note 3. guenon — a female monkey.
Note 4. The outbreak of the Russian Revolution.
NOTES BY TRANSLATOR
Note 1. Firmicus. His full name was Julius Firmicus Maturnus. A Sicilian priest of the fourth century. The reference is the “De errore profanorum religionum” A.D. 347. (German translation by A. Müller, 1913.)