Privately printed for the members of the College of Spiritual Science at the Goetheanum. No one is considered competent to pass judgment upon these writings who has not acquired the prerequisite knowledge demanded by this school, either through the school itself or in a manner approved by it. Opinions expressed by other persons will be disregarded; the authors of the writings in question will engage in no discussion of them.
This English edition is published in agreement with, and the kind permission of the Rudolf Steiner Nachlassverwaltung, Dornach, Switzerland. From Bn 130, GA 130, CW 130.
Cosmic Ego and Human Ego
The Nature of Christ the Resurrected
Lecture by Rudolf Steiner, Munich, January 9, 1912
IT is necessary that we speak somewhat further this evening concerning the nature of Christ Jesus. This necessity arises from the fact that at the present time there is much discussion of this subject, especially in Theosophical circles, and on that account the need confronts us in a very real sense to come to complete clarity upon many a point in this domain.
Today we shall have to discuss an aspect of the question which to many may perhaps appear somewhat strange, but it is very important nevertheless. We shall start with the evolution of man. We know, of course, that this has progressed in such a way that the whole of humanity within our Earth evolution passes through certain cyclic epochs. And we have often spoken of the fact that we can distinguish five cultural periods, up to and including our time, since that great catastrophe which we call the Atlantean catastrophe, through which life on the old Atlantean continent was transformed into life on the new continents — that is, our life. We speak of the first, the ancient Indian cultural epoch; of the second, the great ancient Persian epoch; of the third, the Egypto-Chaldaic-Babylonian; and of the fourth, the Greco-Latin, which, for a more comprehensive world view, only receded, let us say, between the eighth and the twelfth Christian century; and then we speak of our own, the present, the fifth post-Atlantean epoch, since 1413.
Now, human souls — hence the souls of all of you sitting here — have gone through various incarnations in these successive cultural epochs up to the present time, one soul in many embodiments, another in a relatively smaller number. These souls, according to the characteristics of the epochs, appropriated this or that from their experiences, brought it with them from the earlier into the later incarnations, and then appeared as souls at a stage of development dependent upon what they had previously experienced in the different cultural epochs.
But now we can also speak of the fact that, of the various members of man's nature, generally one or another, but usually a definite member, was formed and developed in each cultural epoch — but note well that this was only generally the case. Thus, we can say that if human beings permit to work upon them all that our epoch of civilization can give, they are especially called in our time to develop what in our spiritual scientific movement we call the consciousness soul; whereas, during the Greco-Latin epoch the intellectual or rational soul was preeminently developed; during the Egypto-Chaldean-Babylonian epoch, the sentient soul; during the ancient Persian, the sentient or astral body; and in the old Indian, what we call the etheric or life body. These various members of man's nature have come to their corresponding development in connection with individual souls passing through these cultural epochs, in one or, in most cases, in several incarnations. And in that epoch which will follow our own as the sixth post-Atlantean epoch, that member will be especially developed which we characterize as Spirit-Self, and which in theosophical literature has been designated Manas; and in the last, the seventh post-Atlantean epoch, that which we characterize as Life-Spirit, and which in Theosophical literature is called Budhi; while Spirit-Man, or Atma, is to be evolved only in a far distant future, after another catastrophe.
And so in the present and the near future, we are in the midst of the development through our environment, through the normal conditions of our civilization, of what is called the Consciousness Soul.
But now we know that this entire development of the human being, this evolution of the individual soul members as we differentiate them, is essentially bound up with something else — is essentially bound up with the gradual incorporation of the human ego. For this incorporation of the human ego into the nature of man is the whole mission of the Earth evolution. So we have, as it were, two intermingling evolutionary streams, in that we must go through the Earth evolution, following that of Saturn, Sun and Moon, and that as earth humanity we bring to development especially this fourth member, the Ego, and join this Ego to the other principal members of human nature, upon which preparatory work was done earlier: namely, the physical body, the etheric body, and the astral body. You must now distinguish this great, most important evolutionary stream, which is connected with the great embodiments of our earth planet itself, from the smaller evolutionary stream, which I have previously characterized as playing its part within so short a time as the post-Atlantean period.
No one who has understood the matter up to this point should ask the question: Then how does it happen that man had already developed the etheric or life body, on the old Sun, and that now a special development of the same body should take place during the ancient Indian epoch? Anyone who has understood really should not ask this question; for the facts are these: To be sure, preliminary work was done upon the etheric or life-body during the old Sun; man came upon the earth already in possession of an etheric body. But this body can now be more finely formed; it can be worked upon by the later members which man has developed. So that naturally man's etheric body is at a relatively high stage when he is incarnated in an ancient Indian body, but in this post-Atlantean period he works upon his etheric body with the ego which he has acquired — with all that the human being has meanwhile gained for himself, he works upon it and refines it. And it is essentially a refining of the various members of man's nature which takes place in our post-Atlantean period.
If you now take the entire evolution and consider what has just been said, the fourth post-Atlantean epoch, the Greco-Latin, will appear to you quite especially important; for what we call the Rational or Intellectual Soul had then to be worked upon and brought to a more refined form within the human being. But by that time the Ego, which belongs to the greater evolutionary stream, had already undergone a particularly high development. So we can say that up to the fourth post-Atlantean period, the Greco-Latin time, this ego of man had evolved to a certain stage, and it was incumbent upon it then to work upon the Rational or Intellectual Soul; and in our time upon the Consciousness Soul.
You see in a certain sense there now exists an intimate relationship between the human ego and the three members of man's soul nature: the sentient soul, the rational or intellectual soul, and the consciousness soul. Chiefly within these three members the human ego lives its inner life; and in our fifth post-Atlantean epoch it lives in the consciousness soul, and will live most deeply in it, because in the consciousness soul the pure ego can come to expression quite unhindered, so to speak, by the other members. Indeed we live in our time in an epoch in which this ego has the great and special mission of developing itself, of building upon itself.
If we take a sort of prophetic glance into the future, at what is to come, if we say that man will develop the Spirit-Self, or Manas, in the next, the sixth post-Atlantean epoch, then we recognize that Spirit-Self, or Manas, really lies above the sphere of the ego. As matter of fact, man could not in this future develop the Spirit-Self out of his own forces; but if he is to develop his Spirit-Self, he must be helped in a certain way by that which flows to the earth through the forces of higher Beings. Man has come to that stage in the evolution of his ego where, out of his own forces, he really can develop only up to the consciousness soul; but this development would not be complete if he should not anticipate in a certain sense that which will reach its true, complete, self-impelled human evolution only upon Jupiter, the next embodiment of our planet. Up to the end of the Earth evolution man should develop his ego; and he will have had opportunity to accomplish this development within the sentient, intellectual, and consciousness souls. But the actual Spirit-Self is to become the human possession only upon Jupiter; only there will it become the fitting human endowment. On Jupiter man will have about the same relation to the Spirit-Self that he has to the ego on earth. If then the human being develops the Spirit-Self during the earth-period, he cannot relate himself to it as to the ego. Of our ego we say: We ourself are that; it is ourself in reality. When in the next epoch, the sixth post-Atlantean, the Spirit-Self shall have come to expression, then we shall not be able to address this Spirit-Self as ourself; but we shall say: Our ego has developed to a certain stage, so that our Spirit-Self can shine into it, as from higher worlds, as a kind of Angel Being, which we ourselves are not, but which shines into us and takes possession of us. Thus will our Spirit-Self appear to us; and only upon Jupiter will it appear as our own being, as our ego now is. Human evolution moves forward in this way.
Hence, in the next, the sixth post-Atlantean epoch, we shall feel as if drawn upward to something which shines into us. We shall not say: Thou Spirit-Self within me ... but we shall say: I, partaker in a Being who shines into me from upper worlds, who directs and leads me, who, through the grace of higher beings, has become my guide! ... That which will come to us only upon Jupiter as our very own, we shall feel in the sixth epoch as a kind of guide shining upon us from the higher worlds ... And thus it will be later with the Life-Spirit, or Budhi, with the Spirit-Man, and so on ... So a time will come when man will speak of himself otherwise than he does now. How does one speak of himself now when he speaks in the sense of spiritual science? He says: I have three sheaths, my physical body, my etheric body, and my astral body. Within these I have my ego, the essential earth possession, which is evolving within these three sheaths. These sheaths are, as it were, my lower nature; I have grown beyond it, I look down to this, my lower nature; and I see in what my ego has become a preparatory stage of my own being, which will grow and evolve further and further ... In the future man will have to speak otherwise; then he will say: I have not only my lower nature and my ego, but I have a higher nature, to which I look up as to something which is a part of me in the same way as my sheaths, which I have from earlier stages ... So in the future the human being will feel that he is placed midway, so to speak, between his lower and his higher nature. The lower nature he already knows now; the higher will in the future appear as if standing above him, just as now the lower is below him. So we may say that man grows from his fourth to his fifth, sixth and seventh principles during the Earth evolution, but his fifth, sixth and seventh principles will not be his direct possession during the actual Earth evolution, but something to which he will gradually attain. The matter must actually be conceived in this way.
We shall have to experience a time when we shall say: Certainly it was our earth mission to develop our ego. But with prophetic anticipation we see something which is to come to development in us on Jupiter. What we are now experiencing during our Earth evolution: namely, that we permeate ourselves, so to speak, with a human ego nature; and that during the past earth-time up to the present we have developed a finer fashioning of our lower principles; and that we shall perfect the higher principles in the future — all that we as human beings experience on earth, more advanced beings whom we designate as Angels, or Angeloi, experienced upon earlier planetary embodiments. But also the higher members of the Hierarchy, the Archangels, or Archangeloi, and the Archai, have had this experience upon the earlier embodiments of our earth planet, upon Moon, Sun and Saturn. For them also there was at that time a kind of fourth member which they developed; and then in the second half of the corresponding planetary embodiments, they anticipated that which actually is to come to full development in them upon the earth, as with us the Spirit-Self will come to development on Jupiter. They had not at that time fully embodied it within themselves as their possession, but they looked up to it.
If in the first place we look back to the old Moon evolution, we must speak of beings who during that time should have reached their seventh principle, in exactly the same way that we human beings during the Earth evolution come to the seventh principle — that is, not to embody it completely, but to look up to it. When we speak of Luciferic beings, we refer to those who during the old Moon evolution remained in the condition in which a man would be who, during the Earth evolution, had not brought to full development his fifth, sixth and seventh principles, but had turned aside from such development; who perhaps had stopped with the fourth or with the fifth. That is, those beings who were at the very diverse stages of Luciferic beings were not fully evolved. So we can say that human beings came over from the old Moon evolution to Earth evolution. They came over in such a way that those who completed the Moon evolution brought with them a normal development: their physical body, etheric or life body, and astral body; and on the earth, quite properly, they should develop the ego, into which they should then take up the other principles. Other beings who stand higher than man should already have developed on the Moon what for them corresponds to the human ego. But they could have brought this Moon ego to full development only if they had anticipated what for them would be fifth, sixth and seventh principles, of which they should have fully developed the fifth on earth. They should have reached their seventh principle; but these Luciferic beings did not do so. They barely evolved the fifth or sixth; and thus did not stop with the fourth, but they did not bring the fourth to full development, because they did not anticipate the fifth, sixth and seventh principles, but stopped with the fifth or sixth.
We distinguish then two classes of these Moon beings: First, those who had developed only their fifth principle, so that they were as we human beings would be if we should develop the Spirit-Self in the sixth post-Atlantean epoch, and then stop, and not develop the sixth and seventh principles. Let us keep in mind this one class, who as Luciferic beings had developed their fifth principle; and then note another class of Moon beings of the Luciferic sort who had developed their sixth principle but not their seventh. There were such at the beginning of the Earth evolution, when man began the development of his ego. So we can ask: What was the situation as regards these beings at the beginning of the Earth evolution? There were beings there who eagerly expected to develop their sixth principle during the Earth evolution, beings of a Luciferic kind, who upon the Moon had evolved only as far as their fifth principle and wished to develop their sixth upon the earth. And there were beings of the second class, who had already developed their sixth principle on the Moon, and who wished to develop their seventh on the earth. They expected that of the Earth evolution. Then there was man, who came over with three principles, to develop his fourth.
So we can distinguish human beings waiting for opportunity to develop their ego, Luciferic beings expecting to evolve their sixth principle, and the Luciferic beings who would evolve their seventh. We shall disregard those who were ready to develop their fifth, but there were such.
Now you see we have distinguished three classes, so to speak, of microcosmic earth beings, three classes of beings who arrived upon the scene of Earth evolution. Of the three classes, however, only one could win a physical body for itself on the earth; for the conditions which the earth presents for the development of a physical fleshly body can be furnished only in conformity with its entire earthly relationship to a fourth human principle. Only that being could acquire a physical body for himself who wished to develop his fourth principle as ego. The other beings, who wished to develop a sixth and a seventh principle, could not get physical bodies for themselves. For there is no possibility on the earth for the direct acquisition of physical human bodies for beings who come into this Earth evolution so unadapted to it. The possibility does not exist for the direct acquisition of such a physical body. What did these beings have to do? They had to say to themselves: Of course we cannot have direct access to a human physical body consisting of flesh and bones, for such bodies are for human beings who wish to develop their ego. Hence we must take refuge in a kind of substitute physical body; we must search for human beings who belong to the most highly developed, that is, those who have evolved, let us say, their fourth principle. We must creep into these human beings, and in them our nature must work in such a way that they will be enabled to form their sixth or seventh principle ... The consequence of this was that among the ordinary human beings of ancient times some appeared who could be possessed by higher Luciferic beings. These naturally stood higher than man, since they were to form their sixth or seventh principle, and man only his fourth. Such higher beings of a Luciferic kind went about on the earth in earthly human bodies. They were the leaders of earth humanity; they knew and understood much more, and could do much more than other men. We are given accounts of these beings in ancient tales and legends, and it is told of them that here and there they were founders of great cities, were great leaders of peoples, and so on. They were not merely normal men upon earth, but they were men who were possessed by such higher beings of a Luciferic sort — possessed in the best sense of the word. We can only understand human earth evolution when we take account of such things.
But especially the less highly evolved of these beings, because they cannot get human bodies for themselves, are always trying to continue their evolution in the bodies of human beings. And that is just what we have been able to characterize. Luciferic beings always had the longing to continue their evolution in the way described, by possessing human beings; and they are still doing that today. Lucifer and his hosts work in the human soul; we are the stage for the Luciferic evolution. While we human beings simply take the human earthly body in order to develop ourselves, these Luciferic beings take us and develop themselves in us. And that is the temptation of human beings, that the Luciferic spirits work in them.
But meanwhile these Luciferic spirits have advanced, just as human beings have advanced; so that very many of them who, let us say, when man entered upon the Atlantean time, stood on the threshold ready to evolve their sixth principle, are now already forming their seventh, although of course this evolution on the earth is abnormal. Such a spirit accomplishes this in the following way: He takes possession of a man, perhaps for only a few years, in order to make use of the experiences of this man, who on his part is thus furthering his own evolution. This is nothing evil in human nature; for since we can bring the consciousness soul to expression in our time, we can be possessed by Luciferic spirits who are evolving their seventh principle. What does a person become when he is possessed by such a lofty Luciferic spirit? A genius! But because as man he is possessed, and the real human nature is irradiated by this higher being, he is impractical for ordinary accomplishments, but works in some one realm as a pioneer and a leader.
One may not speak of the Luciferic spirit as if he were something altogether hateful; but because he develops himself as a parasite by entering the human being, he causes the man possessed by him and under his influence to work as a man of genius, as if inspired. So the Luciferic spirits are absolutely necessary, and the gifted men of earth are they in whom the Luciferic spirit is working diligently — generally only for a couple of years. If that were not the case, Eduard Schuré would not have been able to describe Lucifer sympathetically (see Note 1); for Lucifer is actually assigned a share in the great cultural progress of the earth, and it is narrow-mindedness in traditional Christianity to see in the Luciferic being only the wicked devil — this signifies nothing less than gross Philistinism ... “Nature is sin, Spirit is devil; they cherish between them Doubt, their deformed bastard child,” we read in Faust. Certainly it is fitting for the narrow, traditionally-formed Christianity to call Lucifer the devil, and to hate him; but he who has an understanding of human evolution knows that the Luciferic principle works in the genius. It is fitting for the spiritual scientist to look these things straight in the face. And we should have no inducement whatever to rise to our fifth and sixth principles, if these spirits did not push us forward. It is the Luciferic spirits to whom we really owe the forward thrust, given because they seek thereby their own evolution, and through which we ourselves are enabled to grow out beyond our ego. It is said trivially that poets and geniuses and artists grow above the narrowly confined human ego.
So we look up to the Luciferic spirits in a certain way as to leaders of men. We must free ourselves from narrowness, from all orthodox Christianity which calls Lucifer only a devil worthy of hatred. We must recognize the liberating character of the Luciferic principle, which has also been ordained by the good gods; for it drives us out beyond ourselves during the Earth evolution, so that we prophetically anticipate what will come to us as our own possession only during Jupiter, and so on. Thus there actually exists upon earth a reciprocal influence of microcosmic beings, who were present at the beginning of the Earth evolution — such a reciprocal influence that human beings are led forward, while they are developing their own ego, by beings related to them in such a way that it must be admitted that they are higher than man, for they have evolved their fifth principle and are developing their sixth, or are already evolving their seventh, while man is working only upon his fourth. So in these Luciferic beings we see superhuman beings — microcosmic superhuman beings.
And now we will turn aside from these spiritual beings whom we regard as Luciferic, and consider the nature of Christ.
The Christ is quite radically different from other beings who share in the Earth evolution. He is a Being of quite another order; He is a Being who remained behind, not only during the Moon evolution, as the Luciferic spirits did, but who, foreseeing the Moon evolution, actually remained behind still earlier, namely, during the old Sun evolution; and it was from a certain assured wisdom far above the human that He remained behind during the old Sun evolution. We cannot regard this Being as microcosmic in the sense which applies to the other beings we have been considering; for we have to regard as microcosmic beings those who were connected with this Earth evolution from its beginning. The Christ was not directly connected with the Earth evolution, but with the Sun evolution. He was a macrocosmic Being from the beginning of the Earth evolution on, a Being who was exposed to entirely different conditions of evolution from those of the microcosmic beings. And His evolutionary conditions were of a special sort; they were such that this macrocosmic Christ Being evolved the macrocosmic ego outside earthly conditions. For this Christ evolution it was normal to bring to ego-perfection, outside the earth, an ego of a macrocosmic sort, and then to descend to earth. And so for the evolution of the Christ Being it was normal, when He descended from the macrocosm to our earth, to bring into it the great impulse of the macrocosmic ego, in order that the microcosmic ego, the human ego, might take up this impulse, and be able to go forward in its evolution. It was normal for the Christ to have the macrocosmic ego-impulse — not the microcosmic ego-impulse — just as much evolved as man upon the earth had developed the microcosmic. Thus the Christ Being is a Being Who in a certain sense is like the human being, only that man is microcosmic and has brought his four principles to expression microcosmically, and hence has his ego also microcosmically as earth-ego — but the Christ as Cosmic Ego. His evolution was such that He was great and significant because of the perfect development of this ego, which He brought down to earth. And He had not the fifth macrocosmic principle, and not the sixth, for He will evolve these on Jupiter and on Venus, in order that He may give them to man.
The Christ, then, is a four-membered Being, including His macrocosmic ego, just as man himself is microcosmically a four-membered being. And as man during the earth time has as his mission the development of his ego, in order to be able to receive, so the Christ had to develop His Ego, in order to be able to give. When He descended to earth His whole being was employed in bringing His fourth principle to expression in the most perfect possible form. Now each macrocosmic principle has an inner relationship to the corresponding microcosmic principle; the fourth macrocosmic principle in the Christ corresponds to the fourth microcosmic principle in man, and the fifth in the Christ will correspond to the Spirit-Self in man.
Thus the Christ entered upon His earthly course in that He brought down to man out of the macrocosm what man was to evolve microcosmically — only the Christ brought it as a macrocosmic principle. He entered the earth evolution in such a way that during its course He would not have a fifth, sixth and seventh principle as His personal possession, just as man in his way does not possess them.
The Christ is a Being Who had evolved macrocosmically up to the fourth principle, and the evolution of His fourth principle during the earth course consists in His bestowing upon man everything which will enable him to evolve his ego.
If we take a complete survey, we have at the beginning of Earth evolution three classes of beings: human beings who were to bring their fourth principle to full development on earth; a class of Luciferic beings who were to evolve their sixth principle; and a class of Luciferic beings who were to develop their seventh principle — beings who, because they were ready to develop their sixth and seventh principles, stood higher than man, — in fact, ranged far above man in this respect. But they also ranged above Christ in this regard; for the Christ was to bring His fourth principle to expression on the earth, in devotion to humanity. It will not be the Christ, let us say, that will quicken man in the future to bring to expression something other than the true ego, the innermost human being — to reach ever higher and higher stages. It will be the Luciferic spirits who will lead man out beyond himself in a certain sense.
Anyone who looks at the matter superficially can say: “Of course then the Christ stands lower than, for example, the Luciferic spirits.” ... because the Christ came to earth with something which is fully related to man's fourth principle. For that reason He is not at all fitted to lead man above himself, but only more deeply into his own soul being; He is fitted to lead the individual soul-being of man more and more to itself. The Luciferic beings have evolved the fourth, fifth and sixth principles, and hence in a certain way stand higher than the Christ. Practically, that will work out in the future so that through the admission of the Christ principle into human nature, this human nature will become more and more deepened, will take up more and more light and love into its own being; so that the human being will have to feel Light and Love as belonging to his very self. The immeasurable deepening of the human soul — that will be the gift of the Christ Impulse, which will work on and on forever. And when the Christ shall come, as that coming has been represented in many lectures, then He will work only upon the deepening of human souls. The other spirits who have higher principles than the Christ, though only microcosmic principles, will in a certain sense lead man out beyond himself. The Christ will deepen the inner life of man, but also make him humble; the Luciferic spirits will lead man out beyond himself, and make him wise, clever, talented, but also in a certain sense haughty; will teach him that he might become something superhuman even during the Earth evolution. Everything, therefore, which in the future shall lead man to rise above himself, as it were, which will make him proud of his own human nature even here upon earth — that will be a Luciferic impulse; but what makes a man more deeply sincere, what brings his inner life to such depths as can come only through the complete development of the fourth principle — that comes from the Christ.
People who look at the matter superficially will say that Christ really stands lower than the Luciferic beings, for He has developed only the fourth principle, and the others, higher principles. Only the difference is that these other beings bring the higher principles as something parasitic, grafted upon human nature; but the Christ brings the fourth principle in such a way that it penetrates human nature, takes root within it, and fills it with power. As the fleshly body of Jesus of Nazareth was once permeated and empowered by the fourth macrocosmic principle, so will the bodies of those who take the Christ into themselves be permeated by the fourth macrocosmic principle. Just as the fourth macrocosmic principle is the gift of Christ, so will the sixth and the seventh principles be the gifts of the Luciferic spirits. So that in the future — and such time is now being prepared for — we may experience that people lacking in understanding will say: If we examine the Gospels, or otherwise allow to work upon us what Christ gave to humanity, we see that in regard to His teaching He does not at all rank as high as perhaps do other spiritual beings who are connected with humanity ... They are higher than man in a certain way. They cannot penetrate the entire man, but they take root in his intellect, they make him a genius! And one who observes only outwardly says that these beings stand higher than the Christ ... And the time will come when the most powerful, the most significant of these Luciferic spirits, who will wish to lead the people out beyond themselves, so to speak, will be extolled, and looked upon as a great human leader; and it will be said that what the Christ was able to furnish was really only a bridge. Now already there are people who say: What do the teachings of the Gospels amount to! We have outgrown them. — As has been said, men will point to a lofty, versatile spirit, a spirit of genius, who will take possession of a human fleshly nature, which he will permeate with his genius. It will be said that he surpasses even the Christ! For the Christ was one who gave opportunity to develop the fourth principle; but this one gives opportunity during the Earth evolution to attain to the seventh principle.
Thus will the Christ Spirit and the spirit of this being face one another — the Christ Spirit, from whom humanity may hope to receive the mighty macrocosmic impulse of its fourth principle, and the Luciferic Spirit, who will wish in a certain way to lead humanity beyond this.
If people would agree that we must acquire from the Luciferic spirits only that to which we can look up in the same way that we look down to our lower nature ... then they would be doing right. But if people should come to say: You see the Christ gives only the fourth principle, while these spirits give the sixth and seventh ... people who think thus concerning Christ will worship and extol ... the Antichrist.
Thus will the position of the Antichrist towards the Christ make itself felt in the future. And with the outer intellect, with the outer wisdom, one will not be able to challenge such things; for it will be possible to produce much which from the point of view of the intellect and talent will be more clever in the Antichrist than that which will more and more flow into the soul from the Christ, as the highest human principle. Because Christ brings to man the fourth macrocosmic principle — since it is macrocosmic, it is infinitely more important than all microcosmic principles; it is stronger than they, even though it is related to the human ego, stronger than all others which can be gained during Earth evolution — still, because it is only the fourth principle, it will be thought of as lower than the fifth, sixth and seventh, which come from the Luciferic spirits; and especially lower than that which comes from Antichrist.
It is important that, upon the basis of spiritual science, it should be perceived that this is so. In regard to the Copernican theory, which has set the earth in motion, as it were, has snatched it from the repose in which it had earlier been placed, and has led it around the sun; which has shown how the earth is a grain of dust in the universe — in regard to this theory it is asked: How can the Christian idea exist alongside this! A contradiction is constructed between the Christian thought and this natural science, because it is said that in olden times men could look up to the cross on Golgotha and to Christ; for the earth seemed to them as the place chosen out of all the universe, and the other cosmic bodies seemed small to them, and really existing for the sake of the earth. The earth then appeared to man — so it could be said — worthy to bear the cross of Golgotha! But when the Copernican theory laid hold upon the spirits of men, they began to scoff and to say: The other cosmic bodies must have at least an equal significance with the earth, so the Christ must have passed from one cosmic body to another; but since the other world bodies are much larger than the earth, it would really be strange that the God-man should accomplish His work of redemption on the little earth! A Scandinavian scholar actually said this. He was of the opinion that, with the Christ drama, it was just as if a powerful drama were presented on a little stage in a suburb, or in a village theater, instead of being presented on a great stage in a capital city. He said: “It is absurd that the greatest drama in the world should not be performed upon a great cosmic body. It is exactly as if a great production should not be given in a splendid theater, but in a miserable village theater!”
Such a speech is, of course, very peculiar, but we can reply that the Christian legend has taken care that nothing so foolish could be said; for it has not even laid the scene of this drama in a splendid place on earth, but only in a poor stable. That fact already shows that no such objection should be made as that of the Scandinavian scholar. People do not consider how inconsequential they are with their peculiarly wise thoughts. The idea has no effect in the presence of the great simple truth which is given in the Christian legend. And if this Christian legend lays the scene of the birth of Jesus, not in a splendid, important capital city of the earth, but in a poor stable, then it does not seem absurd that, in contrast to the greatest cosmic bodies, the earth should have been chosen as the place to bear the cross. In general the method by which the Christian teaching in its way sets forth what the Christ had to bring to humanity, is an indication of that great teaching which spiritual science is to give to us again today. If we allow the Gospels to work upon us — we can search there for the deepest truths of spiritual science, as we have often seen — but how are these great truths contained in the Gospels? Well, I might say that if those people who have not a spark of the Christ Impulse in them are to rise to an understanding of what is in the Gospels, they must absolutely rack their brains — there must even be a certain genius developed! From the fact that so few people understand the spiritual scientific interpretation of the Gospels, even in the smallest degree, it can be gathered that the normal human consciousness is not capable of it. Through Luciferic forces, with the development of genius, the Gospels can be understood in a purely superficial way; but as they are presented, how do these truths confront us? They come to us as if they gushed forth — the most perfect and highest good — directly from the Being of Christ — without effort or exertion of any kind — and speaking in such a way to hearts which allow themselves to be permeated by the Christ Impulse, that souls are illuminated and warmed through and through. The way in which the greatest truths are there presented to man is the opposite of the clever method. The method in the Gospels takes account of the fact that in the direct, original, elemental way in which these truths gush forth, perfect, from the fourth macrocosmic principle in Christ Jesus, they pass over immediately to the people. Indeed care has even been taken that the cleverness of man, the sagacity of all the Luciferic in human evolution, shall give much sophistical explanation of these words of Christ, and that we shall only gradually be able to win through to their simplicity and grandeur, to their fundamental character. And as with the words of Christ, so also with the facts concerning Christ.
If we present such a fact, let us say, as the Resurrection, by means which spiritual science provides, what strange fact do we there confront? A very important German Theosophist said, even in the third decade of the 19th century, that it can be seen how the human intellect is being more and more permeated by the Luciferic principle. This was Troxler. He said that the human intellect was utterly Luciferic in all that it comprises. It is generally difficult to make direct reference to the deeper theosophical truths; but those of you who attended my course of lectures in Prague (see Note 2) will recall that I referred to Troxler at that time, in order to show how he already knew what can now be taught concerning the human ether body; he said that the human intellect is permeated by the Luciferic forces. If we today, disregarding the Luciferic forces, will to comprehend the resurrection with good theosophical forces, then we must point to the fact that at the baptism by John in the Jordan something significant occurred: that then the three bodies of the Luke Jesus boy were permeated by the macrocosmic Christ Being, Who then lived for three years on earth, and then these bodies passed through the Mystery of Golgotha with this Christ Being. The development of Christ Jesus during the three years was naturally different from that of other men. We must inquire concerning this development, so that, going into fundamental facts, and with the principles of spiritual science, we may comprehend what the resurrection actually was.
Jesus of Nazareth stood by the Jordan. His ego separated from the physical body, the etheric body and the astral body, and the macrocosmic Christ Being came down, took possession of these three bodies, and then lived until the 3rd of April of the year 33 — as we have been able to determine. But it was a different kind of life; for, beginning from the baptism, this life of Christ in the body of Jesus of Nazareth was a slow process of dying. With each advancing period of time during these three years, something of the sheaths of Jesus of Nazareth died away, so to speak. Slowly these sheaths died, so that after three years the entire body of Jesus of Nazareth was already close to the condition of a corpse, and was only held together by the power of the macrocosmic Christ Being. You must not suppose that this body in which the Christ dwelt was like any other body — let us say a year and a half after the John baptism in the Jordan (see Note 2); it was in such a state that an ordinary human soul would have felt at once that it was falling away from him — because it could only be held together by the powerful macrocosmic Christ Being. It was a constant, slow dying, which continued through three years. And this body had reached the verge of dissolution when the Mystery of Golgotha took place. Then it was only necessary that those people mentioned in the narrative should come to the body with their strange preparation of spices and bring about a chemical union between these special substances and the body of Jesus of Nazareth, in which the macrocosmic Christ Being had dwelt for three years, and then that they should place it in the grave. Very little was needed then to cause this body to become dust; and the Christ Spirit clothed Himself with an etheric body condensed, one might say, to physical visibility. So the risen Christ was enveloped in an etheric body condensed to physical visibility; and thus He went about and appeared to those to whom He could appear. He was not visible to everyone, because it was actually only a condensed etheric body which the Christ bore after the resurrection; but that which had been placed in the grave disintegrated and became dust. And according to the latest occult investigations, it is confirmed that there was an earthquake. It was astonishing to me to discover, after I had found from occult investigation that an earthquake had taken place, that this is indicated in the Matthew Gospel. The earth divided and the dust of the corpse fell in, and became united with the entire substance of the earth. In consequence of the violent shaking of the earth, the clothes were placed as they were said to have been found, according to the description in the John Gospel. It is wonderfully described in the Gospel of St. John.
In this way we must understand the Resurrection occultly, and we need not at all come into contradiction with the Gospels. I have often called attention to the fact that Mary Magdalene did not recognize the Christ when He met her. How could one possibly fail to recognize again some one whom he had seen only a few days before, especially if he were such an important personality as Christ Jesus was? If it is said that Mary Magdalene did not know Him, then He must have appeared to her in another form. She recognized Him only when she heard Him speak. Then she became aware of Him.
And all the details of the Gospels are entirely comprehensible occultly.
But some one might say that Thomas was challenged by the risen Christ, when He appeared to the disciples, to feel the scars with his hands ... then it must be supposed that the scars were still there — that Christ had come to the disciples with the same body which had been resolved to dust. No! Imagine that some one has a wound: then the etheric body contracts in a special way and forms a kind of scar. And in the specially contracted ether body, from which were drawn the constituents of the new ether body with which the Christ clothed Himself, these wound-marks were made visible — were peculiarly thickened spots ... so that even Thomas could feel that he was dealing with a reality.
This is a remarkable passage in the occult sense. It does not in any way contradict the fact that we have to do with an etheric body, condensed to visibility by the Christ force; and that then also the Emmaus scene could occur. We find it described in the Gospel, not as an ordinary receiving of nourishment, but a dissolution of the food directly by the etheric body, through the Christ forces, without the cooperation of the physical body.
All these things can be understood today through occult principles, on the basis of spiritual science. Apart from the poorly translated passages, the Gospels can be understood literally in a certain way. Everything becomes clear in a wonderful way, and any one who has grasped this will say to himself, when he notices a contradiction: “I am too stupid for this.” He does not feel that he is so clever as the modern theologians, who say: “We are not able to comprehend the Resurrection as it is described in the Gospels!” ... But we can comprehend it exactly thus, when we understand the principles.
How does all that has now been said work upon the human reason? Well, it affects people in such a way that they say: “If I am to believe the Resurrection, then I shall have to set at naught all that I have gained up till now through my reason. That I cannot do. Therefore the Resurrection must be effaced.” — The reason which speaks thus is so permeated by Lucifer that it cannot comprehend these things. Such a reason will come to reject more and more the great, effective, elementary language and facts of earlier times, and those connected with the Mystery of Golgotha. But spiritual science will be called upon to comprehend these things, even to the smallest details. It will not reject that which, as fifth, sixth, and seventh principles, can transcend the fourth macrocosmic principle. Nevertheless, it will see in the fourth macrocosmic principle the greatest impulse which has been given to the Earth evolution.
But from this you see that in a certain way it is not exactly easy to understand the Christ evolution within the earth, because in a sense the objection is justified that particular spirits, Luciferic spirits, lead up to other principles — but only to microcosmic principles. I expressed that earlier when I said: The Christ is a sort of focal point, in which the Being works through His deed, the Being works through that which He is. Round about the Christ sit the twelve Bodhisattvas of the world, upon whom streams what flows from the Christ, and who elevate it, in the sense of increased wisdom, to higher principles. But it all flows from the fourth principle — even upon the higher principles — in so far as these are evolved on the earth. On this account there is much error with regard to the uniqueness of the Christ, because there is not a clear understanding that in the Christ we have, to be sure, to do with the fourth principle, but with the fourth macrocosmic principle, and even though higher principles can be developed, these are only the microcosmic principles of beings who have not come to full development on the Moon, but who in their way transcend the human. Because they came to unfoldment during the Moon evolution, they developed on their part upon the Moon what human beings must evolve only upon the earth.
We must rise to an understanding of such things if we would comprehend the true place of the Christ principle within our Earth evolution, if we would clearly see why the Antichrist will in the future be regarded more highly in many respects than the Christ Himself. The Antichrist will perhaps be found to be more clever, possessed of more genius than the Christ; he will win a powerful following; but spiritual scientists should be prepared in advance, so as not to be deceived by what has now been characterized. More than all else it will be necessary to be firmly established in the good principles of spiritual science, in order not to he deceived in this realm. It was the foremost mission of that esotericism which has been developed in the Occident since the 12th century, and about which much has been said, to work out clearly what is to be said about the nature of the Christ in this regard. So that he who is firmly established in this esotericism will recognize more and more clearly that it is a focal position which the Christ occupies in the Earth evolution. And concerning all so-called reincarnations of the Christ on our earth, one can bring forward this quite simple comparison: Just as a balance must be supported at only one point, and not at two or several, so must the Earth evolution have one basic impulse. And anyone who admits several incarnations of the Christ makes the same mistake as he who supposes that scales to function properly must be supported in two places. When this is done, they are no longer scales. And anyone who went about on earth in several incarnations, would no longer be Christ. That is a fact which each well-instructed occultist will urge concerning the nature of Christ. Thus by a simple comparison we may always point to the uniqueness of the Christ nature; and here the Gospels and Spiritual Science are in complete accord.