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Building Stones for an Understanding of the Mystery of Golgotha
GA 175

Lecture V

Berlin, 14th April, 1917

When discussing on various occasions the spiritual history of recent times I have often mentioned the name of Herman Grimm. I should like to begin this lecture by referring to one instinctive remark amongst many others which Herman Grimm made about the pressing needs of recent history, although he was unable to translate into concrete fact the intuition he instinctively felt. He was opposed to the whole modern approach to historical investigation. He rightly felt that this approach set out unconsciously to exclude the Christ Event from the account of human history, to study history which did not allow for the fact that this Event was a decisive factor in the course of human evolution. He wanted, on the other hand, to establish a method of historical investigation that made the Christ the pivot of the historical development of mankind, a method which would demonstrate how important was the impulse that had entered human evolution through the Mystery of Golgotha. As I have indicated, Herman Grimm had an intuitive perception of what might be called Goethe's “Weltanschauung”, but because he was denied insight into the spiritual world, it remained an instinctive feeling, a presentiment rather, that he was unable to formulate clearly.

It may seem paradoxical to say that the primary aim of historical enquiry is to expunge the record of the Christ Event from the pages of history. None the less this is a fact and is so deeply rooted in the modern outlook that many are at great pains to prevent the real, deeper significance of the Christ Event from finding a place in the history of human progress. Because this instinctive urge is so firmly rooted in the souls of men there is almost total ignorance of the centuries before and after the Mystery of Golgotha. Not that people did not try to arrive at a full understanding of the historicity of the Mystery of Golgotha—when we take into account the many factors I have already referred to in the course of our lectures it is clear that they made serious efforts in this direction—but they sought to invest what had occurred in those early centuries with their own preconceptions, so that they failed to perceive what had really happened during that period. It seems almost as if there is a conspiracy to present the history of these centuries in such a way that people fail to perceive that the events clearly reveal the powerful impact of the Mystery of Golgotha. When we recall how our age that claims to be free of all authority is deeply dependent upon a belief in authority, we can measure its unparalleled success in suppressing virtually all knowledge of what occurred in the evolution of mankind during those centuries. And when a personality such as Goethe appears—and in my last lecture I gave a characteristic example of his approach to nature, an approach which led him directly to a view of the world in which nature and morality are one—then the attempt is made to minimize whenever possible or to reject outright that which, if it were rightly understood in such a personality, would lead to a spiritual-scientific view of the world.

We then experience something very remarkable. I have already spoken of Goethe's dissatisfaction with Linnaean botany. He looked for a botany permeated with spirit. As a result of his investigations he was able to discover the spirit as it is revealed in the plant kingdom, that spirit which the plant kingdom cannot attain in its present form because it cannot fully develop its inherent potentialities. I referred to this in my previous lecture. Goethe therefore tried to penetrate more deeply into the potentialities of the plant kingdom—and of the mineral kingdom as well—more deeply than is possible through sense-perception, for sense-perception can only describe the plant kingdom in its present stage of development. It was most inopportune, therefore, that Haller's view of nature (note 1) should come to the fore in Goethe's day, a view which Haller neatly summed up in the following words: “No created spirit can penetrate into the heart of nature. Fortunate are those to whom she reveals her external shell alone.” To which Goethe replied: “I have heard this refrain now for sixty years and am heartily sick of it. Nature has neither kernel nor shell, she is both at once—a unity. First test yourself and find out whether you yourself are kernel or shell. [original note 1]

Goethe therefore was strongly opposed to Haller's view because behind his vast spiritual background he had an instinctive knowledge which the nineteenth century has attempted to destroy. The scientist of the nineteenth century was only too familiar with Schopenhauer's dictum: “The world is my idea” or “without the eye there can be no colour, no light”. To this Goethe replied quite logically: “It is true that light cannot be perceived without the eye, that without the eye the world would be dark and silent. But, on the other hand, without light there would be no eye; the eye owes its existence to light, it is formed by the light for the light. Out of indeterminate organs light has called forth an organ akin to itself—the eye.” If we pursue the matter further something quite extraordinary emerges.

As I indicated in my last lecture, the plant kingdom was really designed to reproduce spontaneously its own kind by metamorphosis. Fertilization was originally intended to serve a completely different purpose. Goethe had an inkling of this and was therefore delighted with Schelver's theory of a-sexual plant reproduction and had the courage to introduce moral values into his study of plants. He believed that the plant kingdom today exists in a different sphere from the one in which it could have evolved a-sexually by metamorphosis. This decline is due to that momentous event—the Fall of man through the Luciferic temptation. But the forces that would operate in plants if they had been able to fulfil their metamorphosis, that is, if the new individual had been able to develop out of the plant without sexual reproduction—these forces have now become spiritual and are operative spiritually in our environment. These forces are responsible for the sense organs which man possesses today. The words of Lucifer: “Your eyes shall be opened” signified that man would be transported to another sphere where of necessity plants could not develop their full potentiality, but where man's eyes were opened. The action of light was such that, in the Goethean sense, it was able to open men's eyes to the physical world. But this perception of the phenomenal world implied, on the other hand, a loss of spiritual vision. Men could direct their attention to the external world of the senses, but the spirit dwelling in that world could not enter into them; their eyes were closed to the manifestation of the spirit. And thus arose that strange idea which flourished especially in the nineteenth century, namely, that our perception is limited to the sensible world, that we cannot see behind this world. “No created spirit can penetrate into the heart of nature; fortunate are those to whom she reveals her external shell alone.” Man, it was believed, could not penetrate to the inmost core of nature. Only a heightened, purified consciousness could achieve this, and Goethe was aware of it. The strange or rather baleful doctrine arose that man perceives only the evidence of the senses. This doctrine, which is simply destructive in the field of natural science but is useful through its very destructiveness, would, in the field of art, if the artist were to accept an analagous teaching and did not struggle and fight against it, destroy his creative imagination. For this view is identical with the one which declares: Goethe's Faust survives only in books. We read the printed words but Faust is more than the printed words. No one can penetrate into their inner meaning; fortunate are those who are content with their superficial meaning. Now there are certain philologists who are satisfied with the superficial meaning of Faust. The printed words must, of course, be there, but in order to understand Faust one must grasp the meaning behind them, one must not adhere to the superficial meaning. The words must be there but the average reader does not attempt to interpret them. People do not realize that that which has become second nature to us in our materialistic age contradicts the most obvious facts.

We can arrive at a different point of view only if we are to some extent in tune with Goethe's idea. I will quote his words once again: “I have heard this refrain now for sixty years and am heartily sick of it. Nature has neither kernel nor shell; she is both at once—a unity. First test yourself and find out whether you yourself are kernel or shell.”

One of the mysteries of human evolution is that if we reject the Goethean outlook in favour of Haller's, then it is possible that in our survey of history before and after the Mystery of Golgotha we shall miss its true significance. This may sound paradoxical at first, but it is nonetheless true. If we consider the course of history from the antiGoethean point of view, then we see the pre-Christian era in such a way that we recognize that some undefined historical event took place at the beginning of our era, but in that event, the powerful impulse of the Mystery of Golgotha must be realized within ourselves “where no created spirit shall enter”. People fail to perceive that whilst history is moving towards the Mystery of Golgotha, something then intervenes which indicates a decisive turning-point, the most decisive turning-point in human evolution. And they also fail to perceive that the repercussions of this decisive moment are felt in post-Christian history. Instinctively they have felt it necessary to exorcise Goethe's “Weltanschauung”, to prevent it from invading modern thought.

In this instinctive endeavour people often betray themselves unwittingly. In saying this I have no wish to impute blame to anyone for I know the objection will be raised that those who politely dismiss the Goethean “Weltanschauung” from the contemporary view of the world are motivated by the best of intentions. We need only recall the words of Antony in Julius Caesar: “so are they all, all honourable men”. I admit this of course, without hesitation; but what matters is not a man's intentions but what is their effect, what influence they have upon human evolution. Sometimes in their laudable intention to dismiss politely the Christ Event from history by refusing to accept the Goethean way of looking at things, people unwittingly give themselves away. For, if adopted today, the Goethean conception of the world must lead directly to Spiritual Science. I recently came across a pamphlet which has had great influence at the present time. It offers reflections upon history, in particular the history relating to Christ Jesus. The author felt that any possibility of evaluating the Mystery of Golgotha as the decisive turning-point in the history of mankind should be carefully excluded from the study of history. This is only possible if we assume that we cannot plumb the hidden depths of history but must for ever remain on the surface, that we cannot see into the mysterious workings of history. I will read to you the actual words of the author for they are most interesting:

“I must call attention in particular to the fragmentary character of all our historical knowledge, even the most complete. The wealth of information, the facts of past history are in content and extent far beyond the range of our knowledge, even if we were to pursue our investigations for thousands of years. Of the vast canvas of history only a fraction is accessible to the historian, only what is transmitted through source material and records. Everything else that was not transmitted or could not be transmitted because it belongs to the inner life of the spirit, to the hidden sphere of the psychic life, to the inner domain of the personal life, cannot be ‘known’ by the historian; it can only be surmised. And this ‘surmise’, however careful and conscientious our investigation, will at all times be marred by defects and subjective factors. When Goethe says: `No creative spirit can penetrate into the heart of nature’, we must add to this dictum, ‘And nobody can penetrate into the inner recesses of history.’ ”

I have no intention to pass moral judgements. I wish to state quite objectively: thus is Goethe falsified and after so short a space of time! His ideas are distorted; their meaning is reversed and the public is presented with a false picture. And of course the public fails to detect the deception. What I have described here is taken from the book of A. W. Hunziger entitled Christianity in the Ideological Struggle of Today. The whole spirit that runs through this book is identical with the spirit that prevails in the existing anti-Goethe “Weltanschauung”. Here is a case in point which betrays the sense for “truth” in those who have a large public following today. I told you that this author recently gave a course of lectures which prove conclusively that his thinking is uncorrelated, incoherent, totally corrupted, and that he never makes the slightest attempt to probe beneath the surface. I promised to procure a copy here (since I had been obliged to leave the book behind in Dornach) in order to read to you a few samples, which would confirm the discontinuity, the corruption of his thinking, even as the passage I have quoted is evidence of his corrupt interpretation of Goethe. Unfortunately I could not procure a copy; the book is so much in demand that it is temporarily out of print.

Such then is the state of affairs today when we are concerned to know the truth. Therefore it is both necessary and justified solemnly to call attention to what is necessary, and to remind you that behind the words, “change your attitude of mind”, lies something extraordinarily profound, something that carries historical implications if we are prepared to look for them. The words of the Baptist are not only related to what we can learn of human evolution from the standpoint of Spiritual Science, but also to what can be observed historically if we endeavour to make the Goethean “Weltanschauung” a living reality and do not trim it to meet the desires of a philistine public. It then becomes a powerful impulse towards a new understanding of Christianity and leads directly to Spiritual Science.

I can best make clear to you the real issue in human evolution if I remind you of some of the things I have often discussed with you in detail. I have discussed the existence of the Mysteries in pre-Christian times and I attempted to show the purpose of these Mysteries in the book Christianity As Mystical Fact in which I quoted what Plato said about the Mysteries. Today, of course, we can look upon the following utterances of Plato with a condescending smile, the sceptical smile of the philistine: “Those who are initiated into the Mysteries participate in eternal life; the others are doomed.” In the book Christianity As Mystical Fact I purposely drew attention to these words of Plato, for they bear solemn witness to what Plato had to say about the Mysteries.

The great secret of the Mysteries consisted in this: through a special training the neophyte in pre-Christian times was granted insight into what the mineral and animal kingdoms would have become if they had been able to develop their potentialities without interruption. Thus he would have attained to a knowledge of man and would have been able to say: Had the mineral kingdom and animal kingdoms been able to develop their potentialities to the full, then it would have been possible for man to reveal his true nature in the sphere in which he would then have dwelt. When the neophyte had been initiated into the secrets of nature and had been permitted to see man as he was originally designed to be, he underwent a complete transformation. He then realized that the kingdom of the warm-blooded animals, the ligneous plants and the human kingdom do not in their present form reveal their true origin; they remain unexplained, because they do not bear within them any direct evidence of their origin. Thus whilst plants and minerals do not develop their potentialities to the full, men and animals do not disclose their origin.

In pre-Christian times—and the real purpose of the Mysteries testifies to this—it was necessary that certain men should be initiated. In earliest times atavistic clairvoyance was common to all; it was only later, when this atavistic clairvoyance was lost, that it became necessary to initiate certain individuals into the secrets of the external nature of the mineral and plant kingdoms in order to know man as he really is. It is equally necessary today to call attention once again to man's origin, to learn to see him from a new angle, so that he reveals once again his origin and is once again integrated into the whole Cosmos. I attempted to show this, albeit imperfectly, in my book Occult Science: An Outline, in so far as it is possible today. Just as the Mysteries played their part in the pre-Christian era, so Spiritual Science plays its part in our present epoch, the period following the Mystery of Golgotha. It is only when we realize that the Mystery of Golgotha is a decisive turning-point, the frontier between two historical epochs, that we can gradually arrive at a true understanding of this Mystery. And this will become clear to us if we do not allow ourselves to be blinded by anti-Goethean prejudice in our approach to the early years of the first century, if we examine this period with the spiritual insight that Herman Grimm called for, but did not possess himself.

The Mystery teachers, the hierophants of ancient times, knew full well why they insisted upon a special training for those seeking Initiation, and up to a certain point in time this training was mandatory for those who were to be initiated into the Mysteries. And in ancient Greece especially, Initiation was refused to those who had not undergone rigorous training. The neophyte learned to make the right use in his daily life of the secrets imparted to him and the Greek Mystery Schools especially set great store on this. Just as Christ Jesus refused to disclose the Mysteries of the Kingdom to the Scribes and Pharisees and revealed them only to those whom He had chosen as His disciples, so too the Mystery Schools firmly insisted that their teachings should not be divulged to those who were unworthy of them.

At a time when the Mystery of Golgotha was drawing near it was no longer possible to keep secret the Mystery teachings as in former times. The hierophants were in no way responsible for this. The time for hidden teachings was past. It was Imperial Rome that, without warrant, unveiled the secrets of the Mysteries. The time was approaching when the initiate-priests could no longer resist the commands of the Caesars. And the violation of the spiritual life by the Roman emperors is reflected in the events of the time. A man such as John the Baptist had clear foreknowledge of this; for those who have the will to see, coming events cast their shadow before. Only those who refuse to open their eyes remain blind to future events. This foreknowledge is reflected in words which, though often ambiguous, are none the less true in every respect. The words of John the Baptist: “Change your attitude of mind for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand” might be rendered as follows: “Behold, the accumulated wisdom of the ancient Mysteries which brought salvation to mankind is no more, it has been appropriated by Imperial Rome which has also taken Judaism under its wing. Change, therefore, your attitude of mind, do not look for salvation in that which emanates from Imperial Rome, i.e. in the kingdom of the world, but seek it rather in the things that are not of this world. Receive baptism whereby your etheric body is loosened, so that you may see that which cometh after me and which will bring new Mysteries, for the old Mysteries have been appropriated by force.”

In due course the Roman emperors, by Imperial edict, demanded to be initiated into the Mysteries and this became the accepted practice. Augustus was the first to be initiated, but he did not abuse the privilege of Initiation. It was against this practice in particular that John the Baptist protested. He sought to segregate those who wished to be baptized so that they should not look for the future well-being of mankind only in that which emanated from the Roman Empire.

The Emperors who were fully initiated into the secrets of the Mysteries were Caligula, and later, Nero. The fact that Initiates such as Caligula and Nero could acquire knowledge of the Mysteries by force is one of the enigmas of history. Imagine the state of mind of those who realized that this was impending and yet sensed what it signified. Try to enter into the thoughts and feelings of men such as John the Baptist. It would have been natural for them to say: that which must come and will come is the Kingdom of Heaven; it is here that the sacred Mysteries must henceforth be sought, and not in the kingdom of men! History often speaks through its symbols. The Greek philosopher Diogenes went round the market place in Athens carrying a lantern in his hand in search of the “man” who was lost, the “man” who had lost his spiritual vision. Why had this vision been lost? Not because this “man” was unknown, nor because the time was fast approaching when men no longer sought for that which the Mysteries could communicate about the secrets of evolution. Fundamentally, Nero and Caligula were aware of this, but for this very reason it was kept secret. And like John the Baptist, Diogenes felt, in his own way, that the time was approaching when, because the Mystery teachings were known to have been betrayed, “man” would be plunged in darkness and would have to be sought for with a lantern.

Caligula had been instructed how to live in accordance with the teachings of the ancient Mysteries, how to live in accordance with the spiritual principles embodied in those Mysteries. He knew therefore how to command his consciousness between sleeping and waking so that he could communicate with those spiritual Beings known to the ancient Mysteries as the Moon Gods. From the Mysteries he had learned the art of holding converse with the Moon Spirits during sleep. It pertained to the hidden teaching of the ancient Mysteries to know what lay behind ordinary waking consciousness and to discover how this waking consciousness is modified so that a man learns the secrets of consciousness during sleep. Through the fact that he is aware that his individuality inhabits the spiritual world between sleeping and waking, he realizes that his individuality is not only incarnated here on Earth as a being of nature related to other beings of nature, but that it is related to the spiritual world, to the spiritual Hierarchies. When a man knows the secret of the Moon Gods his relationship to the Sun Gods naturally changes also. Owing to the blunting of his waking consciousness by Lucifer he does not perceive the Sun Gods in the surrounding world, but he can perceive them during sleep with his awakened or clairvoyant consciousness. A man such as Caligula knows from his own experience that from the time he goes to sleep until he awakens the human individuality inhabits the spiritual world, and he is also aware that this individuality in its waking consciousness is not only present in the trappings of external nature, that it participates not only in the physical sunlight, but that it dwells among the Spirits associated with the Sun.

But Caligula had not undergone the necessary training to perceive the Sun Spirits. He was able during sleep to commune with the Moon Gods and this is why in his waking consciousness he addressed Jupiter (whom the ancient Greeks looked upon as Zeus in another sphere) as “brother Jupiter”. “Brother Jupiter” was the customary form of address employed by Caligula, for he clearly felt himself to be a citizen of the spiritual world where Jupiter dwelt. He therefore bore himself in such a way that he betrayed by his demeanour that he belonged to the spiritual world. Sometimes he invited homage as Bacchus crowned with oak leaves and with the thyrsus in his hand; at other times he appeared as Hercules with club and lion skin. Or he would appear as Apollo crowned with a nimbus and the (Apollo) bow in his hand, surrounded by a choir singing his praises. He also appeared as Mercury with winged head and caduceus, and as Jupiter. A tragic poet who was considered to be an authority in these matters and was invited to decide who was the greater, Caligula or Jupiter (and for this purpose Caligula had a statue of the god placed beside him) was scourged because he refused to concede that Caligula was the greater.

What do we learn from this judgement of Caligula? It is instructive to associate with it the words uttered by Lucifer at the temptation in the Garden of Eden: “In the day ye eat thereof your eyes shall be opened and ye shall be as gods”—concluding with the words: “and ye shall know good and evil”. The power to distinguish between good and evil was implanted in mankind by a Spirit who could participate in evolution only up to a certain time. This time was now past. It came to an end when John the Baptist first appeared, crying: “The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” He did not add, however, the words “and the kingdom of Lucifer is at an end”. John the Baptist, of course, spoke only of the Kingdom of Heaven. Caligula's judgement was clear evidence that the power to distinguish between good and evil no longer existed. When a judicial error had been made on one occasion—an innocent man had been condemned to death because he had been mistaken for the guilty party—Caligula said: “It is of no consequence, because both are equally guilty!” And when Petronius lay under sentence of death Caligula said: “Those who condemned him might just as well be condemned themselves for they are equally guilty.” The power to distinguish between good and evil therefore had already ceased to exist at the time of which I am now speaking. We can ascertain the moment in time when this power to distinguish was lost if we are really prepared to wait upon the events of history.

Nero was a similar type of Initiate to Caligula. Fundamentally he was a psycho-analyst—only not so narrow-minded as many of our contemporary psycho-analysts—but on the grand scale, a man of heroic stature. He was the first psycho-analyst because he supported the doctrine that everything in man is determined by the libido—a doctrine that has been revived again in our day by psycho-analysts. Professor Freud, however, is no Nero; he lacks his stature.

But what John the Baptist knew was also known to Nero. For Nero also knew (and in this respect he differs from Caligula) through his initiation into the Mysteries that man was faced by a dilemma, that the truths, the real impulses of the ancient Mysteries had to a certain extent been lost; they had lost their effectiveness and could be maintained only by external constraint. It was not John the Baptist alone who said that the old world order had come to an end—but it was he who added the words: “Change your attitude of mind, the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!” Nero also knew that the old order had come to an end, that a decisive turning-point in evolution had been reached. But in addition he was endowed with a diabolic consciousness, he harboured all the demonic impulses of an unworthy initiate. And therefore, like John the Baptist and Christ Jesus, he foresaw the end of the world. If the prophecies of John the Baptist and Christ Jesus concerning the end of the world are rightly understood, there will be no need to interpret them literally in the sense that the world will end at a definite moment in time. We shall realize that the end of the world is already at hand as the Bible prophesied. But you already suspect—and I will say more of this in my next lecture—that the Parousia, the Second Advent, is a reality. Nero knew that a new order was imminent, but it was not to his liking. Hence his characteristic remark that nothing would please him more than to hasten the destruction of the world. I should be delighted, he said, to see the world go up in flames! This was his particular obsession. It was under the impact of this obsession that he ordered Rome to be set on fire. Though historians may doubt his responsibility for the destruction of Rome, it is none the less an established fact. In his delusion he believed that the conflagration would spread far and wide and ultimately engulf the whole world.

I have given a few indications which are intended to show that the world was then nearing its end and would have to begin anew. But in external reality things are interrelated; the old order often persists after the new impulse has already begun to operate. And although since the Mystery of Golgotha the Kingdom of Heaven dwells amongst us, the Roman empire has continued to exist at the same time in a state of continuous decline. And this has led the savants of today, from a wide variety of motives, to emphasize that it is the spirit of the Roman empire, the spirit of the imperialism of the Caesars that persists amongst us today and permeates the early manifestations of Christianity! If we were to pursue the matter further, some strange facts would come to light. In the first place we should discover that the concepts of justice which arose later can be traced back to Roman law, that Roman law which from a Christian point of view is anti-Christian has impregnated the whole of modern life. And we should have to touch upon many other fields of knowledge if we wished to discuss the survival of Roman imperialism down to our own times, and especially if we wished to discuss all that is concerned with the progressive decline of the Roman Empire.

There is something instinctive in the way Roman history is taught in our schools and in the way in which historians who write that “fable convenue” called history today, and particularly the specialists, convey to mankind a knowledge of the Roman empire which excludes the spirit. Consequently they were undeniably successful in one respect—mankind as a whole never realized the full significance of the historic moment when the Cross was raised on Golgotha. They sought, more or less instinctively, to conceal the real meaning of that event. There is little evidence of the courage which is necessary in order to penetrate to the inner meaning of history. Indeed we find that there are authors with a large public following who are prepared to falsify Goethe, in order to give the impression that even his “Weltanshauung” supported the idea that history was merely an external shell. Influences of this nature affect large areas of our psychic life. Consequently not only are we unable to arrive at a right understanding of a particular issue, but our whole life is coloured by such influences and tends to see things in these terms. Therefore men like Goethe remain voices crying in the wilderness. Furthermore they are vilified in that people attribute to them an attitude to knowledge that is diametrically opposed to the one intended.

But we can also see what are the consequences of such influences. We learn much from Karma, even when we try to give knowledge a form that we can present to our fellow men. Yesterday I came across an observation of one of our contemporaries which is closely connected with that living impulse which I described in our discussions of the Mystery of Golgotha. This contemporary has undergone many changes in the course of his development. Finally he was converted to Roman Catholicism and was active in propagating the Catholic faith. And so we have the remarkable phenomenon of a freethinker who publicly bears witness to Christ, and what is more, from the Catholic standpoint. His views on Christ were coloured by his own preconceptions. And the following testimony of the man is characteristic, it is a typical document of our time. Let me read to you this profession of faith of a modern witness to Christ:

“It is a waste of time to look for the after-life. Perhaps it does not even exist. No matter how we approach this problem we are never vouchsafed an answer. Let us leave all occultism to adepts and charlatans. Mysticism of every kind is wholly irrational. Let us submit to the authority of the Church because, supported by the authority and practical experience of centuries, it prescribes the code of ethics” (the Church if you please!) “in which nations and children must be instructed. And finally we must submit to the authority of the (Roman) Church because, far from exposing us to the dangers of mysticism, it definitely protects us against them, silences the voices of the mystic groves” (this is his term for the inspiration that could be received from the spiritual world), “expounds the Gospels for us and tailors the liberal anarchism of the Saviour to the needs of modern society.”


Here is the confession of a man who was converted from modern materialism to Christianity. He turned to Christianity because it satisfied his ideal and he was able to accept conversion because those sublime impulses which Christ bequeathed to the world had been adapted to, or sacrificed to the needs of modern society. But the sentiments expressed by this Christian witness are more widely shared than people imagine. People feel a pressing need to present the Christ to the world in a form that is acceptable to modern man. And instinctively they seek to conceal from mankind the truth that Jesus’ death was inevitable because Christianity and the Roman empire were incompatible; consequently their co-existence could only lead to the death of Christ. Therefore if we really wish to dwell in a world of light beyond earthly shadows we must ascertain to what extent our modern life is related to a true understanding of Christianity and we must gradually summon up that righteous anger which Christ Himself felt when He had to reply to the frequent objurgations of the Scribes and Pharisees.

I have attempted in this lecture to give you a picture of the happenings in the centuries when Christianity was first established and have drawn your attention to the need to study history in depth, especially that moment of history when the Mystery of Golgotha took place. For this is possible even if we keep within the confines of history alone. But we must develop a sense which will enable us to evaluate the single events of history, a sense for what is important and expressive of the epoch in question and what is unimportant, a sense for those aspects of the various spiritual streams of the past which still persist and where they persist.

Original Notes:

Note 1. These verses can be found in Goethes Gott und Welt—in the poem Allerdings.


Note 1. Albrecht Haller (1708–77), born in Bern, was physiologist, botanist, historian and poet. His poem “Die Alpen” describes in realistic detail the Alpine landscape, rural scenes and the unsophisticated life of the Swiss peasant. It is a faithful record of sense-impressions. Goethe protested in “Allerdings” (quoted here from his collection of poems “Gott and Welt”) against the naturalism of Haller which echoed the rationalist philosophy of the Aufklärung, the view that ultimates are inaccessible to human reason, the Kantian view that we can never know das Ding an sich, “the thing in itself”.