Birth of the Light
Thoughts on Christmas Eve
The following lecture was given by Rudolf Steiner at Berlin, on the 24th of December, 1912. It is from the unpublished lecture series entitled, Experiential Knowledge of the Supersensible, published in Germas as, Erfahrungen des Uebersinnlichen. Die wege der Seele zu Christus. This lecture is known by two titles, The Birth of the Light, and Thoughts on Christmas Eve. The latter title can be found in the 1928 edition of the book, The Festivals of the Seasons.
This lecture was translated from shorthand reports, unrevised by the lecturer, by Harry Collison. It is presented here with the kind permission of the Rudolf Steiner Nachlassverwaltung, Dornach, Switzerland.
Berlin, December 24th, 1912
It is beautiful that circumstances permit of our uniting here this evening at this festival. For though the vast majority of our friends are able to celebrate the festival of love and peace outside in the circle of those with whom they are united by the ties of ordinary life, there are many among our anthroposophical friends who to-day are alone in a certain sense. It also goes without saying that those of us who are not thus drawn into this or that circle are, considering the spiritual current in which we stand, least of all excluded from taking part in the festival of love and peace. What should be more beautifully suited to unite us here this evening in the atmosphere, in the spiritual air of mutual love and peace that radiates through our hearts than an anthroposophical movement? And we may also regard it as a happy chance of fate that it is just in this year that we are able to be together on this Christmas Eve, and to follow out a little train of thought which can bring this festival near to our hearts. For in this year we ourselves stand before the birth of that which, if we rightly understand it, must lie very close to our hearts: I mean the
Birth of our Anthroposophical Society.
If we have lived the great ideal which we want to express through the Anthroposophical Society, and if we are accordingly inclined to dedicate our forces to this great ideal of mankind, then we can naturally let our thoughts sweep on from this our spiritual light or means of light to the dawn of the great light of human evolution which is celebrated on this night of love and peace. On this night — spiritually, or in our souls — we really have before us that which may be called the Birth of the Earthly Light, of the light which is to be born out of the darkness of the Night of Initiation, and which is to be radiant for human hearts and human souls, for all that they need in order to find their way upwards to those spiritual heights which are to be attained through the earth's mission.
What is it really that we should write in our hearts — the feeling that we may have on this Christmas night?
In this Christmas night there should pour into our hearts the fundamental human feeling of love — the fundamental feeling that says: compared with all other forces and powers and treasures of the world, the treasures and the power and the force of love are the greatest, the most intense, the most powerful. There should pour into our hearts, into our souls, the feeling that wisdom is a great thing — that love is still greater; that might is a great thing — that love is yet greater. And this feeling of the power and force and strength of love should pour into our hearts so strongly that from this Christmas night something may overflow into all our feelings during the rest of the year, so that we may truthfully say at all times: we must really be ashamed, if in any hour of the year we do anything that cannot hold good when the spirit gazes into that night in which we would pour the all-power of love into our hearts. May it be possible for the days and the hours of the year to pass in such a way that we need not be ashamed of them in the light of the feeling that we would pour into our souls on Christmas night!
If such can be our feeling, then we are feeling together with all those beings who wanted to bring the significance of Christmas, of the ‘Night of Initiation,’ near to mankind: the significance and the relation of Christmas night to the whole Christ-Impulse within earthly evolution.
For this Christ Impulse stands before us, we may say, in a threefold figure; and to-day at the Christ-festival this threefold figure of the Christ-Impulse can have great significance for us. The first figure meets us when we turn our gaze to the Gospel according to St. Matthew. The Being who is born — or whose birth we celebrate — on this Christmas Eve, enters human evolution in such a way that three heads of mankind, three representatives of high magic come to pay homage to the kingly Being who is entering man's evolution. ‘Kings’ in the spiritual sense of the word: magic kings come to pay homage to the great spiritual King Who appears in the high form that He has attained. For as high a being as Zarathustra once was, passed through his stages of development in order to reach the height of the spiritual King whom the magic kings came to welcome. And so does the Spirit-King of St. Matthew's Gospel confront our spiritual gaze: He brings into human evolution an infinite fount of goodness and an infinite fount of mighty love, of that goodness and that love before which human wickedness feels itself challenged to battle. Thus again do we see the Spirit-King enter human evolution: that which must be enmity against the Spirit-King feels itself challenged in the figure of Herod; and the spiritual King must flee before that which is the enemy of spiritual kingship. So do we see Him in the spirit, in His majestic and magic glory. And before our soul there arises the marvellous image of the Spirit-King, of Zarathustra reincarnate, the flower of human evolution, as He has passed from incarnation to incarnation on the physical plane, and as wisdom has reached perfection, surrounded by the three magic spirit-kings themselves, by flowers and heads of human evolution.
In yet another figure the Christ-Impulse can come before our souls, as it appears in the Gospel according to St. Mark, and in St. John's Gospel. There we seem to be led towards the cosmic Christ-Impulse, which expresses how man is eternally related to the great cosmic forces. We have this connection with the great cosmic forces when, through an understanding of the cosmic Christ, we become aware how through the Mystery of Golgotha there entered into earthly evolution itself a cosmic impulse. As something yet infinitely more great and mighty than the Spirit-King Whom we see in the spirit surrounded by the magicians, there appears before us the mighty cosmic Being who will take hold of the vehicle of that man who is himself the Spirit-King, the flower and summit of earthly evolution. It is really only the short-sightedness of present day mankind which prevents men from feeling the full greatness and power of this incision into human evolution, wherein Zarathustra became the bearer of the cosmic Christ-Spirit. It is only this short-sightedness which does not feel the whole significance of that which was being prepared in the moment of human evolution which we celebrate in our ‘night of initiation,’ in our Christmas. Everywhere, if we enter but a little more deeply into human evolution, we are shown how deeply the Christ-Event penetrated into the whole earthly evolution. Let us feel this as we follow this evening a relevant line of thought, whence something may stream out into the rest of our anthroposophical thought, deepening and penetrating into the meaning of things.
Many things might be brought forward for this purpose. It could be shown how, in times which were still nearer to the spiritual, an entirely new spirit appeared before mankind: new in comparison with the spirit that held sway and was active in earthly evolution in pre-Christian times. For instance, there was created a figure, a figure, however, which lived, which expresses to us how a soul of the early Christian centuries was affected when such a soul, having first felt itself quite immersed in the old Pagan spiritual knowledge, then approached the Christ-Impulse simply and without prejudice, and felt a great change in itself. To-day we more and more have a feeling for such a figure as Faust. We feel this figure, which a more modern poet — Goethe — has, so to speak, reawakened. We feel how this figure is meant to express the highest human striving, yet at the same time the possibility of deepest guilt. It may be said, apart from all the artistic value given to this figure by the power of a modern poet, we can feel deep and significant things of what lived in those early Christian souls, when for example we sink into the poem of the Greek Empress Eudocia. She created a revival of the old legend of Cyprian, which pictures a man who lived wholly in the world of the old heathen gods and could become entwined in it — a man who after the Mystery of Golgotha was still completely given up to the old heathen mysteries and forces and powers. Beautiful is the scene in which Cyprian makes the acquaintance of Justina, who is already touched by the Christ-Impulse, and who is given up to those powers which are revealed through Christianity. Cyprian is tempted to draw her from the path, and for this purpose to make use of the old heathen magical methods. All this is played out between Faust and Gretchen, in the atmosphere of this battle of old Pagan impulses with the Christ-Impulse. Apart from the spiritual side of it, it works out magnificently in the old story of the Cyprian and of the temptation to which he was exposed over against the Christian Justina. And even though Eudocia's poetry may not be very good, still we must say: there we see the awful collision of the old pre-Christian world with the Christian world. In Cyprian we see a man who feels himself still far from the Christian faith, quite given up to the old Pagan divine forces. There is a certain power in this description. To-day we only bring forward a few extracts, showing how Cyprian feels towards the magic forces of pre-Christian spiritual powers. Thus in Eudocia's poem we hear him speak: (‘Confession of Cyprian.’)
‘Ye faithful ones in Christ, who in your hearts
Do cherish true and warm our Saviour great in praise:
Behold my tears outpouring and then hear
While I relate the fountain of my grief.
And ye, who still are lost in dark illusion bound
To idol images, pay heed, ye too, to that
Which I shall tell of their deceit and falsehood.
For never lived a man, who to false Gods
Was given up as I was; never one
So deeply versed in all the demon's arts.
‘Yea, I am Cyprianus, whom, a child,
My parents brought unto Apollo dedicate.
The orgies' hue and cry became my lullaby,
What time the fearsome dragon's feast was celebrate.
At seven years they consecrated me
Unto the Sun-God Mithras. Then I lived
In Athena's noble city, as a citizen —
Such was my parents' wish. When I was ten,
I lit Demeter's torches, and I sank myself
In Kora's mournful death-complaint. Then as a temple-child
I nourished Pallas' serpent in the castle's walls.
‘Then I ascended on the forest-mount,
Olympus' height, where fools would make believe
The radiant dwelling-place of Gods sublime.
I saw the Horae and the hustling winds,
The days' long chorus, wafted on wings
Of fantasy, to speed through life on magic wings.
I saw the spirits' fiery headlong fray,
And ambuscades deceitful. Some of them anon
Bluster and burst with ridicule and glee,
While others petrified in terror rooted stand.
I saw the ranks of Goddesses and Gods;
For forty days or more I fingered there.
And as the sun did set, I ate the fruits
Of leafy shady bowers. And there, like messengers
From kingly castles, sped the spirit-beings,
Then to descend to earth with thousand ills
To vex the race of men.
‘I numbered fifteen years, already knew
The power and work of spirits and of Gods;
And of high priests my teachers there were seven —
It was my parents' will that I should gain
Science of all that bides upon the earth,
And in the airy realms, and in the oceans' depths.
I searched through that which in the human breast
Destruction brews — what ferments in the herb,
In flowery juices; and what sickening creeps
Around the wearied body; nor did I neglect
That which the gaudy snake, prince of the world, conceives
To challenge the eternal goals of God.
‘I wandered on in Argos' fairest land —
Argos that nourished the rose.
'Twas just the season's round of Eos' feast,
Eos white-raimented, Tithonos' spouse,
There I became their priest.
I learned to know what windy brothers speed
Through airy spaces and this pole's long round;
What binds the ploughland with the waters' flood,
And darkens o'er the skies with showering rain.’
Thus had Cyprian learned to know everything that was to be learned by being, so to speak, initiated into the pre-Christian mysteries. Oh! he describes them exactly — those powers to whom those could look up who were entrusted with the ancient traditions of initiation in a time when those traditions no longer held good; his description of them and of all their fruits which were no longer suitable to that age is fascinating.
‘Myself I saw the demon face to face,
When I had won him by my sacrifice.
I spake to him, and he did answer me
With words of flattery. He praised my youth,
My fairness and my skill unto his works,
Assigned to me dominion o'er this world
And spirits to accomplish my behests;
He greeted me by name, what time we parted,
And all his great ones looked on us amazed.
His countenance is like unto the flower
Of purest gold: and on his head a diadem
Of glittering stones; his raiment's like a flame,
And all the earth doth shiver as he moves.
In dense array around his mighty throne
Spear-bearers stand, their eyes cast on the ground.
Thus he makes up to be a God; he imitates
The Great One's works, whom boldly challenging,
yet creates but powerless fantasies —
For all their demons' being is emptiness.
And then it goes on to describe how the temptation approaches him, and how all this works on him before he comes to know the Christ-Impulse.
‘I wandered from the Persian land away,
And came to Antioch, great town of Syria.
Here I accomplished many a miracle
Of hellish mystery and of enchantments' crafts.
Here a fair youth, Aglaidas, once sought me out;
And others with him, fired with passionate love.
Towards a maiden was his heart aglow,
Justina was her name. He now entreated me,
Clasping around my knees, to conjure her
Into his arms by means of magic craft.
I hearkened to his prayers and then at first
Appeared to me the demon's powerlessness.
Many as were the spirit-throngs he ruled,
So many he sent out to tempt her soul;
And every one returned from her abashed.
Me too, who pleaded for Aglaidas, Justina's faith
And purity and piety could put to shame.
She shewed me then the vanity of mine arts,
And many a sleepless night I lingered on
With manifold enchantments' drudgery.
Ten weeks the prince of spirits stormed the heart
Of yonder maiden. Till Eros, alas,
Not only sped his shaft to wound Aglaidas:
I too was seized and torn with frenzied love.
And from this confusion into which the old world brought him, Cyprian is healed through the Christ-Impulse, in that he cast aside the old magic to understand the Christ-Impulse in its full greatness. We have later in the Faust poem a kind of shadow of this legend, but filled with greater poetic power. In such a figure as this, it is brought home to us very strongly how the Christ-Impulse, which, with some recapitulations we have just brought before our souls in a twofold figure, was felt in the early Christian centuries.
A third figure, as it were a third aspect of the Christ-Impulse, is one which can especially bring home to us how, through that which in the full sense of the word we may call Anthroposophy, we can feel ourselves united with all that is human. This is the aspect which is most uniquely set forth in St. Luke's Gospel, and which then worked on in that representation of the Christ-Impulse which shows us its preparation in the ‘Child.’ In that love and simplicity and at the same time powerlessness, with which the Christ Jesus of St. Luke's Gospel meets us, thus it was suited to be placed before all hearts. There all can feel themselves near to that which so simply, like a child — and yet so greatly and mightily — spake to mankind through the Child of St. Luke's Gospel, which is not shown to the magic kings, but to the poor shepherds from the hills. That other Being of St. Matthew's Gospel stands at the summit of human evolution and paying homage to him there come spiritual kings, magic kings. The Child of St. Luke's Gospel stands there in simplicity, excluded from human evolution, as a child received by no great ones — received by the shepherds from the hills. Nor does he stand within human evolution, this Child of St. Luke's Gospel, in such a way that we were told in this Gospel, for example, how the wickedness of the world felt itself challenged by his kingly spiritual power. No! but — albeit we are not at once brought face to face with Herod's power and wickedness — it is clearly shown to us how that which is given in this Child is so great, so noble, so full of significance, that humanity itself cannot receive it into its ranks. It appears poor and rejected, as though cast into a corner by human evolution and there in a peculiar manner it shows us its extra-human, its divine, that is to say, its cosmic origin. And what an inspiration flowed from this Gospel of St. Luke for all those who, again and again, gave us scenes, in pictures and in other artistic works — scenes which were especially called forth by St. Luke's Gospel. If we compare the various artistic productions, do we not feel how those, which throughout the centuries were inspired by St. Luke's Gospel, show us Jesus as a Being with whom every man, even the simplest, can feel akin? Through that which worked on through the Luke-Jesus-Child, the simplest man comes to feel the whole event in Palestine as a family happening, which concerns himself as something which happened among his own near relations. No Gospel worked on in the same way as this Gospel of St. Luke, with its sublime and happy flowing mood, making the Jesus-Being intimate to the human souls. And yet — all is contained in this childlike picture — all that should be contained in a certain aspect of the Christ-Impulse: namely, that the highest thing in the world, in the whole world, is love: that wisdom is something great, worthy to be striven after — for without wisdom beings cannot exist — but that love is something yet greater; that the might and the power with which the world is architected is something great without which the world cannot exist — but that love is something yet greater. And he has a right feeling for the Christ-Impulse, who can feel this higher nature of Love over against Power and Strength and Wisdom. As human spiritual individualities, above all things we must strive after wisdom, for wisdom is one of the divine impulses of the world. And that we must strive after wisdom, that wisdom must be the sacred treasure that brings us forward — it is this that was intended to be shown in the first scene of The Soul's Probation, that we must not let wisdom fall away, that we must cherish it, in order to ascend through wisdom on the ladder of human evolution. But everywhere where wisdom is, there is a twofold thing: wisdom of the Gods and wisdom of the Luciferic powers. The being who strives after wisdom must inevitably come near to the antagonists of the Gods, to the throng of the Light-Bearer, the army of Lucifer. Therefore there is no divine all-wisdom, for wisdom is always confronted with an opponent — with Lucifer.
And power and might! Through wisdom the world is conceived, through wisdom it is seen, it is illumined; through power and might the world is fashioned and built. Everything that comes about, comes about through the power and the might that is in the beings and we should be shutting ourselves out from the world if we did not seek our share in the power and might of the world. We see this mighty power in the world when the lightning flashes through the clouds; we perceive it when the thunder rolls or when the rain pours down from heavenly spaces into the earth to fertilise it, or when the rays of the sun stream down to conjure forth the seedlings of plants slumbering in the earth. In the forces of nature that work down on to the earth we see this power working blessing as sunshine, as forces in rain and clouds; but, on the other hand, we must see this power and might in volcanoes, for instance, which seem to rise up and rebel against the earth itself — heavenly force pitted against heavenly force. And we look into the world, and we know: if we would ourselves be beings of the world-all, then something of them must work in us; we must have our share in power and in might. Through them we stand within the world: Divine and Ahrimanic powers live and pulsate through us. The all-power is not ‘all-powerful,’ for always it has its antagonist Ahriman against itself.
Between them — between Power and Wisdom — stands Love; and if it is the true love we feel that alone is ‘Divine.’ We can speak of the ‘all-power,’ of ‘all-strength,’ as of an ideal; but over against them stand Ahriman. We can speak of ‘all-wisdom’ as of an ideal; but over against it stands the force of Lucifer. But to say ‘all-love’ seems absurd; for if we love rightly it is capable of no increase. Wisdom can be small — it can be augmented. Power can be small; it can be augmented. Therefore all-wisdom and all-power can stand as ideals. But cosmic love — we feel that it does not allow of the conception of all-love; for love is something unique.
As the Jesus-Child is placed before us in St. Luke's Gospel, so do we feel it as the personification of love; the personification of love between wisdom or all-wisdom and all-power. And we really feel it like this, just because it is a child. Only it is intensified because in addition to all that a child has at any time, this Child has the quality of forlornness: it is cast out into a lonely corner. The magic building of man — we see it already laid out in the organism of the child. Wherever in the wide world-all we turn our gaze, there is nothing that comes into being through so much wisdom as this magic building, which appears before our eyes — even unspoiled as yet — in the childlike organism. And just as it appears in the child — that which is all-wisdom in the physical body, the same thing also appears in the etheric body, where the wisdom of cosmic powers is expressed; and so in the astral body and in the ego. Like wisdom that has made an extract of itself — so does the child lie there. And if it is thrown out into a corner of mankind, like the Child Jesus, then we feel that separated there lies a picture of perfection, concentrated world-wisdom.
But all-power too appears personified to us, when we look on the child as it is described in St. John's Gospel. How shall we feel how the all-power is expressed in relation to the body of the child, the being of the child? We must make present in our souls the whole force of that which divine powers and forces of nature can achieve. Think of the might of the forces and powers of nature near to the earth when the elements are storming; transplant yourself into the powers of nature that hold sway, surging and welling up and down in the earth; think of all the brewing of world-powers and world-forces, of the clash of the good forces with the Ahrimanic forces; the whirling and raging of it all. And now imagine all this storming and raging of the elements to be held away from a tiny spot in the world, in order that at that tiny spot the magic building of the child's body may lie — in order to set apart a tiny body; for the child's body must be protected. Were it exposed for a moment to the violence of the powers of nature, it would be swept away! Then you may feel how it is immersed in the all-power. And now you may realise the feeling that can pass through the human soul when it gazes with simple heart on that which is expressed by St. Luke's Gospel. If one approached this ‘concentrated wisdom’ of the child with the greatest human wisdom — mockery and foolishness this wisdom! For it can never be so great as was the wisdom that was used in order that the child-body might lie before us. The highest wisdom remains foolishness and must stand abashed before the childlike body and pay homage to heavenly wisdom; but it knows that it cannot reach it. Mockery is this wisdom; it must feel itself rejected in its own foolishness.
No, with wisdom we cannot approach that which is placed before us as the Jesus-Being in St. Luke's Gospel. Can we approach it with power?
We cannot approach it with power. For the use of ‘power’ can only have a meaning where a contrary power comes into play. But the child meets us — whether we would use much or little power — with its powerlessness and mocks our power in its powerlessness! For it would be meaningless to approach the child with power, since it meets us with nothing but its powerlessness.
That is the wonderful thing — that the Christ-Impulse, being placed before us in its preparation in the Child Jesus, meets us in St. Luke's Gospel just in this way, that — be we ever so wise — we cannot approach it with our wisdom; no more can we approach it with our power. Of all that at other times connects us with the world — nothing can approach the Child Jesus, as St. Luke's Gospel describes it — neither wisdom, nor power — but love. To bring love towards the child-being, unlimited love — that is the one thing possible. The power of love, and the justification and signification of love and love alone — that it is that we can feel so deeply when we let the contents of St. Luke's Gospel work on our soul.
We live in the world, and we may not scorn any of the impulses of the world. It would be a denial of our humanity and a betrayal of the Gods for us not to strive after wisdom; every day and every hour of the year is well applied, in which we realise it as our human duty to strive after wisdom. And so does every day and every hour of the year compel us to become aware that we are placed in the world and that we are a play of the forces and powers of the world — of the all-power that pulsates through the world. But there is one moment in which we may forget this, in which we may remember what St. Luke's Gospel places before us, when we think of the Child that is yet more filled with wisdom and yet more powerless than other people's children and before whom the highest love appears in its full justification, before whom wisdom must stand still and power must stand still.
So we can feel the significance of the fact that it is just this Christ-Child, received by the simple shepherds, which is placed before us as the third aspect of the Christ-Impulse; beside the Spirit-Kingly aspect and the great Cosmic aspect, the Childlike aspect. The Spirit-Kingly aspect meets us in such a way that we are reminded of the highest wisdom, and that the ideal of highest wisdom is placed before us. The cosmic aspect meets us, and we know that through it the whole direction of earthly evolution is re-formed. Highest power through the cosmic Impulse is revealed to us — highest power so great that it conquers even death. And that which must be added to wisdom and power as a third thing, and must sink into our souls as something transcending the other two, is set before us as that from which man's evolution on earth, on the physical plane, proceeds. And it has sufficed to bring home to humanity, through the ever-returning picture of Jesus' birth at Christmas, the whole significance of love in the world and in human evolution. Thus, as it is in the Christmas ‘night of initiation’ that the birth of the Jesus-Child is put before us, it is in the same night as it comes round again and again that there can be born in our souls, contemplating the birth of the Jesus-Child, the understanding of genuine, true love that resounds above all. And if at Christmas an understanding of the feeling of love is rightly awakened in us, if we celebrate this birth of Christ — the awakening of love — then from the moment in which we experience it there can radiate that which we need for the remaining hours and days of the year, that it may flow through and bless the wisdom that it is ours to strive after in every hour and in every day of the year.
It was especially through the emphasising of this love-impulse that, already in Roman times, Christianity brought into human evolution the feeling that something can be found in human souls, through which they can come near each other — not by touching what the world gives to men, but that which human souls have through themselves. There was always the need of having such an approaching together of man in love. But what had become of this feeling in Rome, at the time when the Mystery of Golgotha took place? It had become the Saturnalia. In the days of December, beginning from the seventeenth, the Saturnalia took place, in which all differences of rank and standing were suspended. Then man met man; high and low ceased to be; every one said ‘thou’ to the other. That which originated from the outer world was swept away, but for fun and merriment the children were given ‘Saturnalia presents,’ which then developed into our Christmas presents. Thus ancient Rome had been driven to take refuge in fun, in joking, in order to transcend the ordinary social distinctions.
Into the midst of all this, there entered about that time the new principle, wherein men do not call forth joking and merriment, but the highest in their souls — the spiritual. Thus did the feeling of equality from man to man enter Christianity in the time when in Rome it had assumed the merrymaking form of the Saturnalia, and this also testifies to us of the aspect of love, of general human love which can exist between man and man if we grasp man in his deepest being. Thus, for example, we grasp him in his deepest being, when at Christmas Eve the child awaits the coming of the Christmas child or the Christmas angel. How does the child wait at Christmas Eve? It awaits the coming of the Christmas child or angel, knowing: He is coming not from human lands, he comes from the spiritual world! It is a kind of understanding of the spiritual world, in which the child shows itself to be like the grown-up people. For they too know the same thing that the child knows — that the Christ-Impulse came into earthly evolution from higher worlds. So it is not only the Child of St. Luke's Gospel that comes before our souls at Christmas, but that which Christmas shall bring near to man's heart comes near to every child's soul in the loveliest way, and unites childlike understanding with grown-up understanding. All that a child can feel, from the moment when it begins to be able to think at all — that is the one pole. And the other pole is that which we can feel in our highest spiritual concerns, if we remain faithful to the impulse which was mentioned at the beginning of this evening's thoughts, the impulse whereby we awaken the will to the spiritual light after which we strive in our now to be founded Anthroposophical Society. For there, too, it is our will that that which is to come into human evolution shall be borne by something which comes into us from spiritual realms as an impulse. And just as the child feels towards the angel of Christmas who brings it its Christmas presents — it feels itself, in its childlike way, connected with the spiritual — so may we feel ourselves connected with the spiritual gift that we long for on Christmas night as the impulse which can bring us the high ideal for which we strive. And if in this circle we feel ourselves united in such love as can stream in from a right understanding of the ‘night of initiation,’ then we shall be able to attain that which is to be attained through the Anthroposophical Society — our anthroposophical ideal. We shall attain that which is to be attained in united work, if a ray of that man-to-man love can take hold of us, of which we can learn when we give ourselves in the right way to the Christmas thought.
Thus those of our dear friends who are united with us to-night may have a kind of excellence of feeling. Though they may not be sitting here or there under the Christmas-tree in the way that is customary in this cycle of time, our dear friends are yet sitting under the Christmas-tree. And all of you who are spending this ‘initiation night’ with us under the Christmas-tree: try to awaken in your souls something of the feeling that can come over us when we feel why it is that we are here together — that we may already learn to realise in our souls those impulses of love which must once in distant and yet more distant future come nearer and nearer, when the Christ-Impulse, of which our Christmas has reminded us so well, takes hold on human evolution with ever greater and greater power, greater and greater understanding. For it will only take hold, if souls be found who understand it in its full significance. But in this realm, ‘understanding’ cannot be without love — the fairest thing in human evolution, to which we give birth in our souls just on this evening and night when we transfuse our hearts with that spiritual picture of the Jesus-Child, cast out by the rest of mankind, thrown into a corner, born in a stable. Such is the picture of Him that is given to us — as though he comes into human evolution from outside, and is received by the simplest in spirit, the poor shepherds. If to-day we seek to give birth to the love-impulse that can pour into our souls from this picture, then it will have the force to promote that which we would and should achieve, to assist in the tasks that we have set ourselves in the realm of Anthroposophy, and that karma has pointed out to us as deep and right tasks in the realm of Anthroposophy.
Let us take this with us from this evening's thoughts on the Christmas initiation night, saying that we have come together in order to take out with us the impulse of love, not only for a short time, but for all our striving that we have set before us, inasmuch as we can understand it through the spirit of our anthroposophical view of the world.