The Festivals and Their Meaning:
Ascension and Pentecost
II. Whitsun: the Festival of the free Individuality
15 May 1910, Hamburg
As awakeners of ancient memories, festivals turn our thoughts and feelings to the past. Through what they signify they awaken in us thoughts that link us to all that our souls held holy in distant ages. But other thoughts also are roused through the understanding of the content of these festivals, thoughts which turn our eyes to the future of mankind, which, for us, means the future of our own souls. Feelings are awakened which lend us the enthusiasm to live on into the future, and inspire our wills with strength so to work that we may grow ever more and more adequate for our future tasks.
It is with this backward and forward vision that we become able to describe, in the deeper sense of the word, the nature of the Whitsun festival. What it signifies for Western humanity is put before us in a mighty picture which speaks to the very depths of our soul. It is a picture we all know well. The Founder and Inaugurator of Christianity, after having accomplished the Mystery of Golgotha, dwelt for a time among those who were able to perceive Him, in that bodily form which He assumed after the Mystery of Golgotha. The events which followed that period are brought before our souls in a most significant series of pictures. In a mighty vision, known as the Ascension, His closest disciples visibly beheld the dissolution of that bodily form which He had assumed. Then ten days later there followed what is expressed for us in another picture, speaking powerfully to all hearts which have the will to understand it. The disciples of Christ are gathered together, those who were the first to understand Him. Deep in their hearts they feel the mighty impulse which through Him has entered into the evolution of humanity, and, after the promise given to them of the happenings they were to experience in their very souls, they are waiting in utmost expectation, gathered together in deepest devotion on the Day of Pentecost, the time-honoured festival of their people. First there takes place that which is presented in the picture of the “rushing mighty wind.” Through this their souls are lifted up into higher vision. They are summoned as it were to turn their gaze on what is yet to come to pass, on what will await them when, with the fire-impulse they have received into their hearts, they live on this earth in incarnation after incarnation in the future.
There is next portrayed before us the picture of the “tongues of fire” which descend upon the head of each of the disciples, and here another tremendous vision reveals to them what the future of this Christ Impulse is to be. For gathered together, and beholding in spirit the spiritual world, these men, who were the first to understand the Christ, feel as if they were not speaking to people near to them in space or in time: they feel their hearts borne far, far away, among the different peoples of the earth-sphere, and they feel as if something lives in their hearts which is translatable into all languages, and which can be brought to the understanding of the hearts of all men. In this mighty vision of the future of Christianity which rises before them, these first disciples feel themselves as though surrounded by future disciples out of all the peoples of the earth, and as if they will, one day, have the power to proclaim the Gospel in words that will be understandable, not only to those directly near to them in time and space, but to all who live on the earth as human beings conscious of their destiny. This it was which was born out of the first Christian Pentecostal festival as the inner content of soul and feeling of these earliest disciples of Christ.
Let us now consider the interpretation of these pictures in their deepest esoteric Christian meaning. — The Spirit, also rightly named the Holy Spirit — for so he is — sent his forces down to the earth in the first descent to the earth of Christ Jesus. He next manifested himself when Jesus was baptised by John the Baptist. Now, once again, this same Spirit, in another form, in the form of many single, shining, fiery tongues, descended upon each single individual of the first Christian believers.
We are told about this Holy Spirit at the Whitsun festival in a quite special way, but we must get clear in our minds the meaning of the words “Holy Spirit,” as they are used in the Gospels. In the first place, how was the Spirit usually spoken of in ancient times, the times preceding those of the Gospel? In olden times the Spirit was spoken of in many connections, but in one connection particularly. Through the new knowledge which Spiritual Science gives us, we are enabled to say that when a man passes through birth into his existence between birth and death, the body in which the individuality is incarnated is determined in two ways. Our bodily nature has actually a double function to fulfil: it makes us a human being, but it also makes us members of this or that people, this or that race or family. In the ancient times which preceded Christianity, little as yet was experienced of what can be called world-wide humanity, of that feeling of human fellowship which in ever greater measure has lived in human hearts only since Christianity was proclaimed, and which says to us: Thou art fellow-man with all the human beings of the earth! On the other hand, that feeling was all the stronger which makes each man a member of a particular people or tribe. This indeed is expressed in the age-long religion of the Hindus in their belief that only one who is such through his blood, can be a real Hindu. In many directions — despite exceptions to the principle — this was also firmly held by the old Hebrew people before the coming of Christ. According to their view, a man belonged to his people only because his parents, themselves belonging to it and so blood-related, had placed him into it. But they were also always familiar with another feeling, which was more or less felt by all peoples in olden times, namely, that one was a member of one's family, a member of one's own folk, and nothing more. The further we go back into antiquity the more intense this feeling is, the more the human being feels himself as a member of his folk, and not in any way as a single individual. Gradually, however, there awoke the feeling of oneself as a single human being, a single human, individuality with individual human qualities. Thus these two principles were felt to be present in the outer nature of man: membership of a people, and awareness of oneself as a single personality.
Now the forces inherent in these two principles were ascribed in a different way to the two parents. The principle by virtue of which one belonged more to one's folk, by virtue of which one was related to the general race-community, was ascribed through heredity to the mother. When men felt according to this idea, they said of the mother: “In her the Spirit of the folk holds sway. She was filled with the Spirit of the folk and has passed on to the child the qualities common to her people.” But of the father it was said that he was the bearer and transmitter of the principle which gave rather the individual, personal characteristics of the human being. Thus it could be said when a man came into the world through birth — and this was also the view of the old Hebrew people in pre-Christian times — that he was an individual personality through the forces of his father. The mother, however, through that which was special in her whole nature, was felt to be filled with the Spirit which held sway in the folk, and this she had handed on to the child. Thus it was said of the mother, that the Spirit of the folk dwelt in her, and it was in this connection that the Spirit was spoken of who sent his forces down out of spiritual realms into humanity — that he let his forces stream down into the physical world, into humanity, by way of the mother.
Through the Christ Impulse, however, a new conception had come — a conception which said that this Spirit of which men had previously spoken, this Spirit of the folk, was to be replaced by one which, though certainly related to it, worked at a far higher level, a Spirit which is related to the whole of mankind, as the earlier Spirit had been related to a particular people. This Spirit was to be given to man and to fill him with the power to say: “I feel I belong no longer only to a part of humanity, but to the whole of it; I am a member of the whole of mankind, and will become a member of it ever more and more!” This force, which poured a universal human quality over the whole of mankind, was attributed to “the Holy Spirit.” Thus the Spirit which was expressed in the force which flowed from the folk into the mother was raised from ‘Spirit’ to ‘Holy Spirit.’
The One who was to bring mankind the power to develop this universal human nature ever more and more in earthly life, could dwell — as the first Being of this nature — only in a body bequeathed through the power of the Holy Spirit. This the mother of Jesus received in the Annunciation. In the Gospel of St. Matthew we hear of the consternation of Joseph, of whom it is said that he was a ‘righteous’ man. This word was used in the old sense, and meant that he was one who could only believe that any child of his would be born out of the Spirit of his people. Now he has discovered that the mother of his child is filled, is penetrated through and through (for this is the right meaning of the original word in our language), by the power of a Spirit that was not merely a folk-Spirit, but the Spirit of universal humanity! And he did not feel that he could live with a woman who might one day bear him children, when there dwelt in her the Spirit of humanity as a whole and not the Spirit he held to in his righteousness. Accordingly he wished as it says, to put her away privily. It was only when he also had received a communication out of the spiritual world, that he received the strength to decide to have a son by that woman who was penetrated and filled with the power of this Holy Spirit.
Thus we have seen that this Spirit was creatively at work, first of all in letting its forces stream into human evolution in relation to the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, and again in the mighty act of the Baptism in the Jordan. Thus we now understand what the power of the Holy Spirit is: it is the power which will raise each man ever more and more above all that differentiates and separates him from others, and makes him a member of the whole of humanity on the earth, a power which works as a bond of soul between each and every soul, no matter in what bodies they may be.
It is of this same Holy Spirit that we are now told that at the Whitsun festival it streams, through another revelation, into the individualities of those who first accepted Christianity. In the Baptism by John there stands before us the picture of the Spirit as the dove; now, however, another picture appears, the picture of the fiery tongues. It is in a single dove, a single form, that the Holy Spirit manifests itself in John's Baptism: it is in many single tongues that it manifests itself at the Pentecostal festival. And each of the single tongues brings inspiration to an individual, to each of the individualities of the first disciples of Christianity.
What meaning, then, for our souls, has this Whitsun symbol? After Christ, the bearer of the universal-human Spirit, had completed His work on the earth, after He had suffered the last earthly sheaths of His being to disperse into the universe and His whole sheath-nature had departed as a single entity into the spiritual being of the earth, then, did it first become possible that, in the hearts of those who first understood the Christ Impulse there should arise the power of speaking about the Christ Impulse, of working in the significance of the Christ Impulse. As regards its manifestation in its outer sheaths, the Christ Impulse had vanished at the Ascension into the undivided totality of the spiritual world: ten days later it came forth again out of the hearts of the single individualities of its first followers. And because the same Spirit which had worked in the power of the Christ Impulse now reappeared in multiple form, the first disciples of Christianity became the bearers and preachers of the Christ message.
Thus at the very beginning of Christian history was set up the powerful sign of this event, which says to us: “Just as the first disciples received each one the Christ Impulse into themselves, just as it was granted to them to receive it in the form of tongues of fire inspiring their own souls, so can you men, all of you, if you bestir yourselves to understand the Christ Impulse, receive its power, individualised, into your own hearts, the power which can develop in you ever more and more, which can become for you ever more and more complete.” — An all-embracing hope can well forth for us out of this sign, which was thus set at the starting-point of Christianity. The more a man perfects himself, the more can he feel that the Holy Spirit speaks out of his own inner being, in the measure that his thinking, feeling and willing are permeated by this Holy Spirit, which through its manifold division is also an individual Spirit in each single human individuality in which it works.
In regard to our future growth therefore, this Holy Spirit is for us men the Spirit of development into free manhood, into the free human soul. The Spirit of freedom holds sway in that Spirit which poured itself out over the first understanders of Christianity in the first Christian Pentecostal festival, the Spirit whose most significant characteristic was indicated by Christ Himself: “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free!” Man can become free only in the spirit. So long as he is dependent on that bodily nature in which his spirit dwells, so long does he remain its slave. He can become free, only when he finds himself again in spirit, and from out of the spirit becomes lord over that which is in him. “To become free” presupposes the discovery of oneself as a spirit within oneself. The true spirit in which we can make this discovery is the universal human spirit, which we recognise as the Pentecostal power of the Holy Spirit entering into us, and which we must bring to birth in ourselves and allow to come to manifestation.
Thus the Whitsun symbol is transformed for us into the most powerful of our ideals, the free development of the soul of man into a self-enclosed, free individuality. They had some dim feeling of this who, through inspiration, and not, of course, in clear consciousness, had to do with appointing for the Whitsun festival its special day in the year. This outer ordering is in itself remarkable; for whoever cannot detect an all-ruling wisdom even in the fixing of a festival day understands very little of the world. Let us consider from this point of view the three festivals: Christmas, Easter, and Whitsun. As a Christian festival Christmas falls on a particular day in the year; it has been fixed once and for all for a particular day in December, and every year we celebrate Christmas on the selfsame day. It is otherwise with the Easter festival. Easter is a movable feast, which is determined by the constellations in the heavens; it falls on the first Sunday after the full moon which follows the Spring equinox. For this festival we must direct our gaze into the heights of heaven, where the stars go on their way and proclaim to us the laws of the cosmos. Easter is a movable feast, just as in each human individuality that moment is movable in which, in order to become free from the ordinary human lower nature, there awakens the power of the higher man, with a higher consciousness. Just as in one year Easter falls on this day, in another year on that, so with each man, according to his past and the strength of his endeavour, the moment comes sooner or later in which he becomes aware: “I can find the power in myself to let a higher man arise out of me.”
Christmas, however, is an immovable festival. It is the festival where man has left behind him in the course of the year the waxing and waning of nature, the joy of nature's upwelling, streaming forces. Man now beholds nature in a state of sleep, into which she has carried down within herself the force of the seeds. The world of nature has withdrawn herself, with all the birth-forces within her. When to the external world of sense the revelation of these forces is at its lowest; when the earth herself shows how at a given time her spiritual forces withdraw in order to wait for the coming year; when outer nature is at her most silent; then it is, in the Christmas festival, that man must let the thought rise in him that he may hope that he is not only united with the earthly forces, which now at this Christmas time are silent, but also with forces which are present not only on earth but also in spiritual realms. This hope must rise up in his soul because he has seen the earth as it were sink into sleep; it must well up out of the deepest, inmost part of the soul itself, and then it will become spiritual light, when outer physical nature is at its darkest. Through the symbol of the Christmas festival man must thus remind himself that, in the first place, he is just as much bound with his ego-forces to his earth-body, as that which reveals itself around him is bound to the yearly life of the earth. In keeping with the falling asleep of the earth, which takes place at the same time each year, the Christmas festival is also placed at the same time, so that at that time man shall remember that while he is bound to a body, yet he is not condemned to be united only with this, but may hope to find the power to become a free soul within himself. What we see as the meaning of the Christmas festival will thus remind us, both of our connection with the body and also of our hope to free ourselves from this body.
It depends, however, on our own efforts, whether it is earlier or later that we unfold those powers for which we may hope, and which lead us up again into the spiritual, heavenly world. To this thought the Easter festival must bring us. The Easter festival reminds us that we have not only at our disposal those forces which the body gives us, and which are themselves, of course, divine-spiritual forces, but it also reminds us that as men we can raise ourselves above the earth. Hence it is the Easter festival that speaks to us of that force which sooner or later must be brought to its awakening in us. Easter, as a movable festival, is determined according to the constellations in the heavens. So man must waken the recollection of what he can become, by turning his gaze to the sky so as to see how he can be freed from earthly existence, how he can lift himself above all such existence. In the force which comes to us in this way lies the possibility of inner freedom, of inner release. When we feel inwardly that we can raise ourselves above ourselves, we shall then strive to achieve this ascent in all reality; we shall then have the will to make our inner man free, to pull him clear, as it were, from his bondage to the outer man. We shall, of course, be dwelling in the outer man, but we shall be fully conscious of our inner spiritual power, we shall be conscious of the inner man.
Furthermore, it depends upon this moment, at which, in this inner Easter festival, we grow aware that we can free ourselves, whether we also attain to the Whitsun festival, when we may fill the spirit, which has found itself within itself, with a content that is not of this world, but of the spiritual world. This content comes to us out of the spiritual world, and this alone can make us free. It is the spiritual truth of which Christ said: “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free!” It is for this reason that the Whitsun festival is dependent on the Easter festival, because it is a consequence of the Easter festival. Easter is determined according to the heavenly constellations; Whitsun is an event which must follow it as a necessary result, after the lapse of a certain number of weeks.
Thus, even in the way in which the times for these festivals are determined, we see, on deeper reflection, an all-ruling wisdom; we see that these festivals are of necessity placed just where they are in the course of the year, and that each year they bring before us what, as men, we have been and are — and what we can become. When we know how to think of these festivals in this way, then they become for us festivals which unite us with all that is past, and they become an impulse implanted in humanity to carry it forward into the future.
The Whitsun festival in particular, when we understand it in this way, bestows confidence, strength and hope, when we know what we can become in our souls through following those who, as the first to understand the Christ Impulse, made themselves worthy to have the fiery tongues descend upon them. When we understand the Whitsun festival as a festival, not only of that moment, but of the future as well, then there is magically brought before our spiritual eyes the expectancy of receiving the Holy Spirit. But then we must learn to understand this Whitsun festival in its truly Christian sense. We must learn to understand first of all what the mighty tongues, the mighty Whitsun inspiration, said. What was it which sounded forth with trumpet-tones from the ‘rushing mighty wind,’ of which we are told in that picture which is placed before our souls as the Whitsun picture of the first Christian Pentecostal festival? What kind of voices were these which proclaimed in the wondrous music of the spheres: “You have experienced the power of the Christ Impulse, you who are the first to understand. And the power of the Christ in you has become a power of your own souls, in such a way that each one of you, now that the Event of Golgotha has been accomplished, has become able to see the Christ now, in this present time. With such strength has the Christ Impulse worked upon each one of you!”
The Christ Impulse, however, is an impulse of freedom; its true activity does not reveal itself when it takes place outside the human soul. The true working of the Christ Impulse does not appear until it takes place within the individual human soul itself. So it was that those who first understood the Christ felt themselves called through the Whitsun event to proclaim what was in their own souls, what, in the revelation and inspiration of their own souls revealed itself to them as the content of the Christ-teaching. In that they were aware that the Christ Impulse had worked in that holy preparation which they had undergone before the Whitsun festival, they felt themselves called, through the power of the Christ Impulse working within them, to let speak the fiery tongues, the individualised Holy Spirit within them, and to go forth and proclaim the Gospel of Christ. It was not simply what Christ had once said to them that those first disciples recognised as words of Christ, not only those words He had already spoken. They recognised as Christ-words that which comes out of the power of a soul which feels the Christ Impulse within itself. [Cp. I Cor. VII, 25 and 40.]
To this end did the Holy Spirit pour itself in individualised form into each single human soul, so that each one might develop the power, in itself, to feel the Christ Impulse. Then for such a soul the word becomes new: “I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” Those, therefore, who are earnestly at pains to experience the Christ Impulse may also feel called on, by what the Christ Impulse arouses in their hearts, to proclaim afresh the word of Christ, even though it may sound forth ever new, ever different in each epoch of mankind. It was not that we might cling to the few words of the Gospels spoken in the first decade of Christianity's foundation, that the Holy Spirit was poured down on men: it was poured forth so that for ever the Gospel of Christ may relate new things and again things ever new. As the souls of men progress from epoch to epoch, from incarnation to incarnation, new things must always be spoken for these human souls. Should these souls, advancing from incarnation to incarnation, be told to accept as the proclamation of Christ only the words which were spoken when they were incarnated in bodies contemporary with the temporal appearance of Christ on the earth? Within the Christ Impulse dwells the power to speak to all men, until the end of the time-cycle of the earth. That this may be, however, there must be added that which makes it possible for the message of Christ to be made known in each age to the ever advancing souls of men, in a way appropriate to them. So when we feel the full strength and power of the Whitsun impulse, we should feel that it is laid on us to listen to the word: “I am with you always, even to the end of the earth's cycle of time!” And when you fill yourselves with the Christ Impulse you can hear continually through all the ages the Word, stirred into life at the founding of Christianity by the Founder Himself, the Word that Christ speaks in every age because He is with men in every age, the Word which all can hear who have the will to hear it.
Thus we understand the power of the Whitsun impulse as that which gives us the right to regard Christianity as something which is ever growing, always bestowing on us new and again ever new revelations. We know that in the Spiritual Science of to-day we are proclaiming the Christ-Word itself, ringing through to us from out of the heavenly choirs, and we say to those who would preserve Christianity only in its original form: “We are those who understand the Christ in truth, for we understand the real meaning of the Whitsun festival!”
Whenever we feel ourselves thus called to bring forth ever new wisdom-teaching out of Christianity, we must bring forth just that wisdom which is fitting for men's souls at that stage of their progressive development from incarnation to incarnation. Christianity is endlessly full, endlessly rich; but this endless fullness and richness was not always available to man in the centuries in which Christianity had first to be proclaimed. What presumption it would be to say, even at the present time, that mankind is now mature enough to understand Christianity in its infinite fullness and its infinite greatness! That alone is true Christian humility which says: The scope of Christian wisdom is without end, but the receptivity of man for this wisdom was at first limited; it will become ever more and more complete.
Let us look at the first Christian centuries, right up to our own day. A great and mighty impulse, the greatest ever given in the earthly evolution of man, was given with the Christ Impulse. This is something of which everyone can become conscious who learns to understand the process of the evolution of the earth. But one thing must not be forgotten: only a small part of what the Christ Impulse contains has been understood up till now. For the past, close on two millennia of Christian development, what was given in esoteric Christianity could be a teaching only for those to whom Christianity was brought, and could not be embodied in outer, exoteric life.
For example, there could not be embodied what can be taught in our present epoch as a Christian truth, namely, the fact of the re-embodiment of mankind, or reincarnation. When we, in Anthroposophy, teach reincarnation to-day, we are fully conscious, in the light of the Whitsun festival, that reincarnation is a Christian truth which can be made known exoterically to-day to a humanity which has become more mature, but which could not be made known to the immature souls of the first Christian centuries. Little is done by attempting to show, by citing single instances, that the thought of reincarnation is also to be found in Christianity. One can discover from those opponents of Spiritual Science who call themselves Christian, how little is known in exoteric Christianity of reincarnation. The only thing they know is that Spiritual Science teaches something or other about reincarnation, and that is enough for them to say it is Indian or Buddhistic. They little know that it is the living Christ, from out of the spiritual world, who is the living teacher of reincarnation to-day. People regard reincarnation, as also the doctrine of karma, as things which up till now have not been able to penetrate into exoteric Christianity. But it is little by little, in one age after another, that the fullness of truth which lies in Christianity has had to be given to mankind. With the Christ Impulse itself, which is not a teaching or a theory, but a real force that has to be experienced in the innermost depths of the soul, with this Impulse itself something is actually imparted to us. What is this? It is just when we bring the Christ Impulse into connection with the teaching of reincarnation that we can understand what is given in it.
We know that a few centuries before Christianity began, another teaching, a formal teaching, was given, for the most part in Eastern lands, namely, the teaching of the Buddha. While the power and the impulse of Christianity were spreading from the Near East into the West, the Far East witnessed a widespread expansion of Buddhism. Of this teaching we know that it contained the doctrine of reincarnation. But in what form? For those who know the facts, Buddhism presents itself as the final product of the teachings and revelations which had preceded it. Accordingly it contained in itself all the greatness of antiquity; it put forward something like a final conclusion of the primeval wisdom of mankind in which was contained the doctrine of reincarnation.
But how did Buddhism clothe this doctrine in its revelations? In such a way that man looks back at the incarnations which he has passed through, and forward to the incarnations which he has still to experience. That man passes through many incarnations is an entirely exoteric teaching in Buddhism. It is quite wrong to speak of an abstract similarity between all religions. In actual truth, mighty and far-reaching differences exist between them, as, for example, between Christianity, which for centuries harboured no thoughts of reincarnation, and exoteric Buddhism, which lived and moved in such thoughts. In this connection it is entirely useless to put together mere abstractions; rather must one recognise the world of reality. It is an utter certainty for Buddhism that man always returns to the earth; the Buddhist, however, looks on this in the following way. He says: “Combat the urge to descend into these incarnations, for thy real task is, as quickly as possible, to free thyself from the thirst to go through them, so as to live in freedom from all earthly incarnation in a spiritual realm!” It is thus that the Buddhist regards the sequence of human incarnations, striving to acquire all the forces he can in order to withdraw from these incarnations as soon as possible. One thing Buddhism has not got — and this is plain in its exoteric teaching. It does not contain anything that can be called an impulse strong enough to grow ever more towards human perfection. That would enable the Buddhist to say: “By all means, let the incarnations come! Through the Christ Impulse we can so shape ourselves that we can extract ever more and more from them. Through the Christ Impulse we possess a force which can give these incarnations an ever loftier content. Permeate Buddhism — or what is found in it of the true doctrine of reincarnation — with the Christ Impulse, and you have a new element which gives the earth a new meaning in the evolution of mankind!”
On the other hand, Christianity has the Christ Impulse, and that as something exoteric. But how has it regarded this Impulse in earlier centuries? Undoubtedly the exoteric Christian sees in it something infinitely perfect, that should live in himself as the great ideal which he himself approaches ever more and more. But how presumptuous it would be for the Christian to think that in a single earthly life he could have enough power to bring to fulfilment the seed which can be kindled into life through the Christ Impulse! How presumptuous it would be for the exoteric Christian to believe that in one life he would be in the position to achieve anything adequate for the unfolding of the Christ Impulse. Accordingly the exoteric Christian says: “We go through the gates of death. Then in the spiritual world we shall have the opportunity to develop further and to unfold the Christ Impulse further in that world.” — And so the exoteric Christian conceives of a spiritual life after death from which there is no return to the earth.
Does, however, an exoteric Christian who believes that an existence in a spiritual world is thus added to the life on earth, understand the Christ Impulse? He does not understand it in the least. For if he did, he would never believe that what the Christ Impulse has to give him can be achieved in a spiritual life beyond death, without any return to the earth. In order that the Deed on Golgotha could take place, in order that this victory over death could be achieved, the Christ Himself had to descend into this life on earth; and this indeed He had to do in order to accomplish something which can be experienced and lived through only on our earth. The Christ came down to earth because the power of the Deed of Golgotha had to work upon men in the physical body. 1i.e. in and through physical consciousness. Hence also the Christ-power can work at first only on men in the physical body. What man has received of the power of the Mystery of Golgotha in the physical body, this can then work further, when he goes through the gate of death. But only as much of the Christ Impulse as man has taken into himself in the life between birth and death works on. Man must strive on to the further completion of that which he has already received, when he comes again to the earth, and only in his successive earthly lives to come can he learn to understand all that lives in the Christ Impulse. Never could man understand the Christ Impulse, if he lived only once on the earth. This Impulse, therefore, must lead us through repeated earth-lives, because the earth is the place for the discovery of the meaning of the Mystery of Golgotha.
And so Christianity is only complete when one replaces the assumption that one could live out the Christ Impulse in one incarnation, by the other thought, that only through repeated earthly lives can man so perfect himself that he may live out in himself the Christ Ideal. What he has experienced on earth in connection with it he can then bring up into the spiritual world. But he can only bring as much as he has grasped on the earth of that Impulse, which itself had to be fulfilled on the earth, as the most important event of all earthly happenings. Thus we see that the thought which must next be added to Christianity out of spiritual revelation is the thought of reincarnation, born from out of Christianity itself. When we understand this we shall see what it signifies for us to-day, in the sphere of Spiritual Science, to be conscious that we fashion ourselves out of the Whitsun revelation. It signifies for us that we are right in listening to the revelation, in seeing a renewal of the revelation of that power which was in the “fiery tongues,” which descended upon those who first understood the Christ.
In this way, a great deal of what has been said recently in our Movement can come before us to-day with new meaning. We see the fusion of East and West, of the two mighty revelations of Christianity and Buddhism; we see them flow together in the spiritual. And through the right understanding of the Christian Whitsun thought we can justify the flowing together of these two greatest religions of the earth to-day. But it is not through merely external impulses that we can unite these two revelations; that would be to stop at mere theorising. Anyone trying to take what Christianity and Buddhism have provided up till now and to weld them together into a new religion would not create a new spiritual content for mankind, but only an abstract theory, incapable of warming a single human soul. If this is to happen, new revelations are necessary. And that, for us, is what resounds to-day as the proclamation of spirit-knowledge — audible, it is true, only to such as have matured themselves in spiritual-scientific schooling: “Let the Christ, who is always with us, speak in us.”
We know that we live in an important time of human evolution: that already before the close of this century new forces will develop in the human soul which will lead man to the unfolding of a kind of etheric clairvoyance, whereby, as if through a natural development, there will be renewed for certain human beings the event which Paul experienced at Damascus; and that in this way, for the heightened spiritual powers of man, Christ will return in an etheric garb. Ever more and more souls will share in what Paul experienced at Damascus. Then it will be seen in the world that Spiritual Science is the revelation, heralding a renewed and transformed truth of the Christ Impulse. Only those will understand the new revelation who believe that the fresh stream of the spiritual life into which Christ poured Himself will remain living for all ages to come. Whoever will not believe that, may preach a Christianity which has grown old. But whoever believes in the Whitsun event and understands it, will also bring to mind that what began with the Christian evangel will develop ever farther and farther and will speak to men in ever new tones; that there will always be present the individualised soul-worlds of the Holy Spirit, the fiery tongues, and that in ever-renewed fire and impulse the human soul will be able to live with and live out of the Christ Impulse.
We can believe in the future of Christianity when in very truth we understand the Whitsun thought. And then there comes before us the mighty picture, with a force that works like a force present in the soul itself. Then do we feel the future, as the first understanders felt it under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, if only we are willing to make alive in our souls that which knows nothing of the boundaries separating the different parts of humanity and speaks a language which all souls, all the world over, can understand. We feel the thought of peace, of love, of harmony, which lies in the Whitsun thought. And we feel this Whitsun thought enlivening our Whitsun festival. We feel it to be a surety for our hope of freedom and eternity. Because we feel the individualised spirit awakening in our souls, there awakens in us the most significant element of the spirit: the endlessness of the spiritual. Through sharing in the spiritual, man can become conscious of his immortality and his eternity. And in the Whitsun thought we truly realise the power of those primal words which Initiate after Initiate continued to implant, and which reveal to us the meaning of wisdom and eternity: we feel them as a Whitsun thought, handed on from epoch to epoch, in the words which to-day for the first time sound forth exoterically:
Being is ranged by Being in the widths of Space,
Being follows on Being in the courses of Time,
Remain'st thou in widths of Space, in courses of Time,
Then art thou, 0 man, in the passing world alone.
But above them with power thy soul itself upraises
When, divining or knowing, it beholds what passes not;
Beyond the widths of Space, beyond the courses of Time!
Wesen reiht sich an Wesen in den Raumesweiten,
Wesen folgt auf Wesen in den Zeitenläufen.
Verbleibst du in Raumesweiten und Zeitenläufen,
Bist du, 0 Mensch, allein in Gebiete der Vergänglichkeit.
Über sie aber erhebt deine Seele sich gewaltiglich,
Wenn sie erahnend oder wissend schaut das Unvergängliche
Jenseits der Raumesweiten und jenseits der Zeitenläufe!