15 September 1912, Basel
It is well known that the Gospel of St. Mark begins with the words: “This is the beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
A man of today who seeks to comprehend this Gospel of St. Mark is at once, in the very first words, faced with three riddles. The first is to be found in the words: “This is the beginning.” The beginning of what? How can this beginning be understood? The second is: “the beginning of the Gospel ...” In an anthroposophical sense, what does the word “Gospel” mean? The third riddle we have often spoken of: the figure of Christ Jesus Himself.
Whoever is seriously seeking for knowledge and a deepening of himself must recognize that mankind is evolving and progressing. For this reason what we may call the understanding of any revelation is not fixed once and for all, or confined to any particular epoch. It progresses, so that anyone who attaches a serious meaning to the terms “evolution” and “progress” must necessarily believe that as time goes on, mankind's deepest problems will be ever better, and more thoroughly and profoundly, understood. For something like the Gospel of St. Mark, as we shall demonstrate by means of these three riddles, a certain turning point in our comprehension has been reached only at the present time. Slowly and gradually, but distinctly, there has been prepared what can now lead us to a real understanding of the Gospel and enable us to understand that “the Gospel begins.” Why is this the case?
We need only glance back a little to what filled human minds a comparatively short time ago and we shall see how the very nature of comprehension may, indeed must, have altered in relation to a subject like this. If we go back further than the nineteenth century, we shall find that in the eighteenth and seventeenth centuries we approach ever closer to a time when those persons whose spiritual life was at all concerned with the Gospels had to start from a very different basis of comprehension than that of the man of today. What could an ordinary man of the eighteenth century say to himself if he wished to place himself in the general line of the evolution of humanity, and was not one of the few who were connected in some way with an initiation or some occult revelation — assuming that he had assimilated within himself everything offered by external exoteric life? Even the most cultivated man, one who stood on the highest pinnacle of the culture of his age, could not look back on more than three thousand years of the life of mankind; and one thousand of those years was before the Christian era and nearly lost in misty dimness. The other two thousand years since the founding of Christianity were not yet quite completed. He might look back three thousand years, shall we say? When one looked back at the earliest of these millennia one was confronted with a completely mythical, dim, prehistoric epoch of humanity, the age of old Persia. This, and what still remained of the knowledge of the ancient Egyptian epoch, preceded what “actual history” related, which began only with Hellenism. This Hellenism, to a certain extent, formed the foundation of the culture of this age. All those who wished to look more deeply into human life started with Hellenism; and within Hellenism appeared all that Homer, the Greek tragedians, and all the Greek writers have written concerning the primeval history of this people and their work for mankind.
Then one sees how Greece began to decline, how it was stifled by
Rome, though only externally. Generally speaking, Rome overcame Greece
only politically, while in reality it adopted Greek culture, Greek
education and Greek life. It might be said that politically the Romans
conquered the Greeks, but spiritually the Greeks conquered the Romans.
During this latter process, while Hellenism was conquering Rome
spiritually, it poured into Rome through hundreds and hundreds of
channels what it had itself acquired. From Rome this streamed forth into
all the other civilizations of the world, while during this time
Christianity streamed more and more into the Greco-Roman civilization
and was to a large extent transformed when the northern Germanic peoples
took part in the spreading of the Greco-Roman Christian culture. With
this intermingling of Greece, Rome, and Christianity, the second
millennium of the world's history passed away, which to the men of the
eighteenth century was the first Christian one. Then we see the
beginning of the second Christian millennium, the third historical
civilization of man. We see how everything goes on apparently in the
same way, although, if we have deeper insight, we shall see that in this
third millennium everything is really different. Two figures only need
be cited, a painter and a poet, who, although they appear some two
centuries after the end of the millennium, nevertheless show how
something essentially new began for Western civilization with the second
Christian millennium, something which these two men carried further.
These two figures are Giotto and Dante. 1Giotto di Bondone (c. 1266–1337), Florentine
painter and architect, noted especially for his frescoes on the life of
Dante Alighieri, 1265–1321, Italian poet, author of the Divine Comedy. Giotto as painter and Dante as poet represent the beginning of all that followed, and what they gave was embodied in later Western cultures. Those were the three thousand years that could at that time be surveyed.
Then came the nineteenth century. Only someone who can look more deeply into the whole formation of the culture of the age is able now to perceive all that took place in the nineteenth century, and how for that reason everything had to become different. It is all contained in the minds and souls of men, but only a very few can as yet understand it.
The perspective of the man of the eighteenth century went back only to Hellenism; the age before that was somewhat nebulous. What happened in the nineteenth century — and this is little appreciated or understood today — is that the East played its part in the culture of the West, indeed very intensely so. This intervention of the Oriental influence in its own peculiar way is what we must bear in mind when considering the transformation that took place in the civilization of the nineteenth century. This penetration by the Orient threw light and shade upon everything that poured into the culture and will increasingly do so. For this reason a new understanding was required concerning things that up to that time humanity had regarded in a different light.
If we wish to choose single figures and individuals who have
influenced the culture of the West, in whom we could find nearly
everything that a man felt in his soul at the beginning of the
nineteenth century if he concerned himself with spiritual life, we may
mention David, Homer, Dante, Shakespeare, and Goethe, 2David, second king of
Israel, ruled about the beginning of the first millennium
B.C. Many of the most beautiful Psalms were attributed to
him, and it was their influence of which Rudolf Steiner was evidently
thinking in this passage.
Homer, Greek poet who lived probably in the 8th century B.C., author of the Iliad and the Odyssey.
Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von, 1749–1832. German poet, author of Faust. who was just beginning to penetrate into life. Future historians writing of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries will be very clear about one thing, that the intellectual and spiritual life of that era was determined by these five figures. There lived then, more than anyone can imagine now, even in the most delicate stirrings of the soul, what we may call the feelings and truths of the Psalms. There lived also fundamentally what is to be found in Homer as well as what took such magnificent form in Dante; then, even if it did not live in Shakespeare himself, there was what is nevertheless so beautifully expressed by him in the form in which it now lives in men of modern times. Added to this is the striving of the human soul after truth which Goethe expressed in Faust, something that in reality lived in every human soul in such a way that it was often said, “Every man who seeks the truth has something of the Faust nature in him.”
To all this there was added a quite new perspective, which extended
beyond the three thousand years covered by these five persons. It came
in ways that are at first quite unfathomable by external history. This
was the first entry of an inner Orient into the mental and spiritual
life of Europe. It was not only that to the poems of those writers
mentioned earlier was added what was given in the Vedas and the
Bhagavad Gita, nor the fact that by learning to know these
Eastern poems a different emotional nuance about the world was aroused,
differing fundamentally from that of the Psalms or from what is to be
found in the poetry of Dante or Homer, but something appeared in a
mysterious manner which became ever more visible during the nineteenth
century. One name alone will suffice, a name which made a great stir in
the middle of the nineteenth century, and this will convince us that
something came from the East to Europe along mysterious paths. We need
but mention the name of Schopenhauer. In Schopenhauer what is it that
strikes you most of all, if you leave aside the theoretical elements of
his system? Isn't it the content of feeling and sentiment that pervades
his whole thought? In the profound relationship between this nineteenth
century man and the Oriental-Aryan mode of thought and feeling, in every
sentence we might say, in the emphasis of feeling in Schopenhauer, lives
that which we might call the Eastern element in the West; and this
passed on to Eduard von Hartmann 3Schopenhauer, Artur, 1788–1860. German
philosopher, author of The World as Will and Idea.
Hartmann, Eduard von, 1842–1906 German philosopher, author of The Philosophy of the Unconscious. in the second half of the nineteenth century.
This penetrated along mysterious paths, as we have just said. We gradually come to better understand these mysterious paths when we see that in the course of the developments of the nineteenth century a complete transformation, a metamorphosis of all human thinking and feeling took place — not however in only one part of the earth but in the intellectual and spiritual life of the whole earth. As to what took place in the West, if anyone would take the trouble, it would be enough to compare anything written about religion, philosophy, or any aspect of spiritual life with something that belongs to the eighteenth century. He will then see that a complete transformation took place, that all the questions regarding the highest riddles asked by mankind had become more vague, that men were striving to formulate new questions, to look for new sentiments and modes of perception, that nothing belonging to religion and what it formerly gave to man could still be given through it to the human soul in the same way. Everywhere there was a longing for something deeper and more profoundly hidden in the depths of religion.
This was not true of Europe alone. It is characteristic of the beginning of the nineteenth century that all over the civilized world men, through an inner urge, were compelled to think differently. If we wish to form a more exact conception of what we are discussing, we must see that there was a general convergence of the peoples and their folk cultures and folk beliefs, with the result that people belonging to entirely different creeds began in the nineteenth century to understand each other in a quite remarkable way. We shall quote a characteristic example which lies at the heart of what we are trying to indicate. In the thirtieth year of the nineteenth century, a man appeared in England who was a Brahmin, an adherent of what he considered to be true Brahminism, that is, the Vedanta teaching. Ram Mohun Roy, who died in London in 1836, exercised a great influence on those of his contemporaries who were interested in such things, and made a great impression. The remarkable thing about him was that on the one hand he stood there as a reformer of Hinduism, though a misunderstood one, while on the other hand everything he said could be understood by all Europeans who were familiar with the advanced thought of their age. He did not put forth ideas that could be understood only through orientalism, but ideas that could be understood by ordinary human reason.
What was Ram Mohun Roy's attitude? He said something along these lines, “I live in the midst of Hinduism, where a number of different gods are worshipped. If the people of my country are asked why they worship these gods, they say, ‘it is our custom, we know nothing else. It was done by our fathers and their fathers before them.’ And because the people were influenced in this way,” Ram Mohun Roy continued, “the crassest idolatry became the rule, an appalling idolatry which disgraces the original greatness of the religion of my fatherland. There once was a belief that, although partly contradictory, is to be found in the Vedas. It is the purest form of human thought, and it was brought into the Vedanta system by Viasa.”
This was the belief professed by Ram Mohun Roy. For this reason he
had not only made translations from various incomprehensible idioms
into the languages that are understandable in India, but he also made
extracts of what he considered the correct teaching and spread them
among the people. What was his intention when he did this? He thought he
recognized behind all that comes to expression in the various gods and
all that is worshipped in the different idols a pure teaching of a
primal divine unity, the spiritual God who lives in all things but can
no longer be recognized in the idols. This God must once more penetrate
into the minds of men. When this Indian Brahmin spoke in detail about
what he believed to be the correct Vedanta teaching, the true Indian
creed, it did not sound strange. To those who understood him rightly, it
was as though he preached a kind of rational belief that can be attained
by everyone who by using his rational mind turns to the universal
unitary God. And Ram Mohun Roy had followers: Rabindranath Tagore and
others. 4Ram Mohan Roy,
1772–1836, founder of the Brahmo Samaj.
Tagore, Rabindranath, 1861–1941. Indian poet and philosopher, winner of Nobel Prize for Literature, 1913.
One of these followers — reference is to Keshab Chandra Sen, 1834–1884. One of these followers, and this is especially interesting, gave a lecture in 1870 about Christ and Christianity. It was indeed extraordinarily interesting to hear an Indian speak about Christ and Christianity. The actual mystery of Christianity was quite remote from the Indian speaker — he did not touch upon that at all. From the whole course of the lecture we can see that he is quite unable to grasp the fundamental fact that Christianity does not proceed from a personal teacher but is founded on the Mystery of Golgotha, a world historical fact, on death and resurrection. But that which he can grasp and is so clear to him is that in Christ Jesus we have a figure of tremendous significance, one that is of importance to every human heart, a figure that must stand there as the ideal figure for the whole history of the world. It is remarkable to hear this Indian speaking about Christ and to hear him say, “If a man goes deeply into Christianity, he will see that Christianity must, even in the West, go through a further evolution, for what the European brings to my fatherland as Christianity does not appear to me to be the true Christianity.”
We see from the examples quoted that it was not only in Europe that people's minds began to look behind the religious creeds, but also in distant India. It is true also of many parts of the earth where minds began to awake, and men approached in a new way and from an entirely new point of view something they had possessed for thousands of years. This metamorphosis of souls in the nineteenth century will be fully perceptible only in the course of time. Only in later times will history recognize that impulses of this kind, although apparently affecting only a few people, streamed through thousands of channels into our hearts and souls, so that today all those who participate in any way in spiritual life have them within their souls. This had to result in a total renewal. All older questions were transformed, and a new kind of understanding came into being in relation to all views that had hitherto been held. So it is that in the world, even today such questions are already taking on a greater profundity. What our spiritual movement desires today is the answering of these questions.
This spiritual movement is convinced that these questions cannot in their present form be answered by the old traditions, by modern natural science, or by that conception of the world which reckons only with the factors of modern natural science. Spiritual science, research into the spiritual worlds, is necessary. In other words, mankind today, in accordance with the whole trend of his evolution, must ask questions that can be answered only through super-sensible investigation. Quite slowly and gradually there have emerged from the spiritual life of the West things that are once more in harmony with the most beautiful traditions that have come over from the East. You know that we have always stressed the fact that the law of reincarnation comes out of Western spiritual life itself, and that it need no more be taken as something historical coming from Buddhism than for example Pythagorean doctrine needs to be taken over from historical traditions. This has always been emphasized, but the fact that the idea of reincarnation arose in modern souls formed a bridge which extended across the three thousand years of which we have been speaking (during which the doctrine of reincarnation was not the center of thinking) to the figure of Buddha. The horizon, the perspective of the evolution of mankind, was extended beyond the three thousand years. This gave rise to new questions, which can be answered only through spiritual science.
Let us begin with the question to which the beginning of this Gospel of Saint Mark gives rise, this Gospel which begins with the words, “the beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” Let us remember that these introductory words are immediately followed not only by a characterization of a passage of the old prophets but by the announcement of Christ by John the Baptist. This proclamation was stated by him in such a way that it may be comprised in these words: “The time is fulfilled; the kingdom of the divine is extending over the whole earth-existence.” What does all this mean?
Let us endeavor with the light that modern spiritual science can give us to view retrospectively those past ages in the center of which is contained “the fulfillment.” Let us try to understand what it means that “an old era is completed and a new one is beginning.” We shall best be able to understand this if we first turn our attention to something belonging to more remote times and then consider something belonging to the modern era; between the two lies the Mystery of Golgotha. Let us take something before the Mystery of Golgotha and then something later, and then endeavor to enter deeply into the difference between the two epochs, so that we may recognize how far the old epoch had been completed and a new one begun. In this way we shall not enter into abstractions or definitions, but consider the concrete.
I should like you to turn your attention to the first millennium of human evolution, as it was thought to be in earlier times. There in the remotest period of this first millennium stands the towering figure of Homer, the Greek poet and singer. Hardly more than the name remains to mankind of him to whom are ascribed those two great poems which are among the greatest accomplishment of mankind: the Iliad and the Odyssey. Scarcely more than his name is known, and in the nineteenth century doubts were cast even on that — but we need not dwell any further on that now. The more we know of the figure of Homer, the more we admire him. For a person who studies such things, the characters created by Homer whom we meet in the Iliad and the Odyssey seem more alive than all the purely political figures of Greece. Many different people who have studied Homer over and over again have said that because of the precision of his descriptions and his manner of presentation he must have been a doctor. Others say he must have been an artist, a sculptor, or a craftsman. Napoleon admired the way Homer described tactics and strategy; still others think he must have been a beggar wandering through the land.
However all this may be, it certainly does demonstrate the unique individuality of Homer. Consider one of his characters, Hector. If you have any time available, you ought to study the figure of Hector in the Iliad — how plastically he is described so that he stands as a complete personality before us; how we see his affection for his paternal city, Troy, his wife Andromache, his relationship to Achilles, and to his armies; and how he commanded them. Try to call up this man before your minds, this man who possessed all the tenderness of a husband, and who clung in the ancient way to his home city of Troy, and who suffered such disillusions as only really great men can. Remember his relation with Achilles. Hector, as presented by Homer, is a towering figure from very ancient times, a man of great all-embracing humanity, for of course what Homer is describing belongs to a period well before his own, in the darkness of the past. Hector stands out above all the others, all those figures who seem mythical enough in the eyes of modern men.
Now take this one figure. Skeptics and all kinds of philologists may indeed doubt that there ever was a Hector at all, in the same way as they doubt the existence of Homer. But anyone who takes into consideration what may be understood from a purely human viewpoint will be convinced that Homer describes only facts that actually occurred. Hector was a living person who strode through Troy, and Achilles and the other figures were equally real. They still stand before us as personages of real earthly life. We look back to them as people of a different kind from ourselves, who are difficult to understand but whom the poet is able to bring before our souls in every detail. Now let us place before our souls a figure such as Hector, one of the chief Trojan commanders, who is defeated by Achilles. In such a personage we have something that belongs to the old pre-Christian age, something by which we can measure what men were before the time when Christ lived on earth.
I will now draw your attention to another figure, a remarkable figure of the fifth century B.C.: the great philosopher Empedocles, 5Empedocles of Agragas, c. 495–435 B.C., Greek philosopher. who spent a large part of his life in Sicily. It was he who was the first to speak of the four elements, fire, water, air, and earth, and who said that everything that happens in the material realm caused by the mingling and disintegration of these four elements results from the principles of love and hate ruling in them. It was he also who by his activity influenced Sicily by calling into being important political institutions, and he went about trying to lead the people into a life of spirituality. When we look back to Empedocles we find that he lived an adventurous as well as a deeply spiritual life. Perhaps the truth of what I am about to say will be doubted by some, but spiritual science knows that Empedocles went about in Sicily not only as a statesman, but as a magician and initiate, just as Hector, as depicted by Homer, walked in Troy. In order to characterize the remarkable attitude of Empedocles toward the world the fact confronts us — and it is true and no invention — that in order, as it were, to unite himself with all existence around him, he ended by throwing himself into Mount Etna and was consumed by its fire. In this way a second figure of the pre-Christian age is presented to our souls.
Now let us consider such figures as these in accordance with the methods of spiritual science. First of all we know that these individualities will appear again; we know that such souls will return to life. We shall not pay any attention to their intermediate incarnations but look for them in the post-Christian era. We then see something of the change brought about by time, something that can help us to understand how the Mystery of Golgotha intervened in human evolution. If we say that such figures as Hector and Empedocles appeared again, we must ask how they walked among men in the post-Christian era. For we shall then see how the intervention of the Mystery of Golgotha, the fulfillment and beginning of a new age, worked on their souls. As serious anthroposophists assembled here together we need not shrink from the communications of true spiritual science, which can be confirmed by external facts.
I should now like to turn your attention to something that took place in the post-Christian era, and perhaps again it may be said that the person concerned was a poetical personage. But this poetical personage can be traced back to a real individuality who was once alive. I direct your attention to the character created by Shakespeare in his Hamlet. Anyone who knows the development of Shakespeare, insofar as it can be known externally, and especially someone who is acquainted with it through spiritual science, will know that Shakespeare's Hamlet is none other than the transformed real prince of Denmark, who also lived at one time. I cannot go into everything underlying the historical prototype of the poetical figure of Hamlet, but through the research of spiritual science, I can offer you a striking example of how a man, a spirit of ancient times, reappears in the post-Christian era. The real figure underlying Hamlet, as presented by Shakespeare, is Hector. The same soul that lived in Hamlet lived in Hector. It is just by such a characteristic example as this, and the striking way the two different souls manifest themselves, that we can interpret what happened in the intervening time. A personality such as that of Hector stands before us in the pre-Christian age. Then comes the intervention of the Mystery of Golgotha in human evolution, and the spark it kindled in Hector's soul causes a figure, a prototype of Hamlet, to arise, of whom Goethe said, “This is a soul that is unable to deal with any situation and is not equal to its position, who is assigned tasks but is unable to fulfill them.” We may ask why Shakespeare expressed it in this way. He did not know. But anyone who can investigate the connections through spiritual science knows that behind these things forces were at work. The poet creates in the unconscious; before him stands, so to speak, first the figure which he creates, and then, as in a tableau of which he himself knows nothing, the whole individuality with which the figure is connected. Why does Shakespeare choose particular qualities in Hamlet and sharply emphasize them, qualities that perhaps Hamlet's own contemporaries would not have noticed? Because he observes them against the background of the era. He feels how different a soul has become in its transition from the old life to the new. Hamlet, the doubter, the skeptic, who has lost the ability to cope with the situations with which he meets in life, the procrastinator and waverer, this is what Hector, once so sure of himself, has become.
Let me direct your attention to another figure of modern times, who was also first presented to mankind in a poetic picture, in a poem whose protagonist will certainly live on in humanity for a long time to come when for posterity the poet, like Homer or Shakespeare, no longer is in existence. About Homer we know nothing at all, and about Shakespeare we know very little indeed. What the various compilers of notes and biographers of Goethe have written will long since have been forgotten. In spite of the printing press and other modern inventions, what interests people in Goethe at the present time will likewise have been long forgotten. But large as life, and modelled from life, there will stand the figure of Faust which Goethe has created. Just as men today know nothing of Homer, so will they some day know but little of Goethe (which will be a good thing); but they will know much about Faust. Faust again is a figure who, as he is presented to us in a literary form by Goethe, can be recognized as one brought to a certain conclusion by Goethe. The poetical picture refers back to a real sixteenth century figure who lived then as a real person, though he was not as Goethe described him in his Faust. Why then did Goethe describe him in this way? Goethe himself did not know. But when he directed his attention to the traditional Faust that had been handed down to him, a Faust with whom he was already acquainted through the marionettes of his boyhood, then the forces that stood behind Faust, the forces of his previous incarnation, the forces of Empedocles, the old Greek philosopher, worked within him! All these radiated into the figure of Faust. So we might say, since Empedocles threw himself into Etna and united himself with the fire-element of the earth, what a wonderful spiritualization of pre-Christian nature mysticism was accomplished in fact in the final tableau of Goethe's Faust, when Faust ascends into the fire- element of heaven through Pater Seraphicus and the rest. Slowly and gradually a totally new spiritual tendency entered into the deeper strivings of men. Already some time ago it began to become evident to the more profound spirits of mankind that, without their knowing anything about reincarnation or karma, when they were considering a great comprehensive soul whom they wished to describe from the depths of their inner life, they found themselves describing what radiated over from earlier incarnations. Although Shakespeare did not know that Hamlet was Hector, he nevertheless described him as such, without being aware that the same soul had lived in both of them. So too Goethe portrays his Faust as though Empedocles with all his peculiarities were standing behind him, because in his Faust there lived the soul of Empedocles. It is characteristic that the progress of the human soul should proceed in this way.
I have mentioned two characteristic figures, in both of whom we can perceive that when great men of earlier times reappear in a modern post-Christian age, they are shaken to the very depths of their souls and can only with difficulty adjust themselves to life. Everything that was within them in the past is still within them. For example, when we allow Hamlet to work upon us, we feel that the whole force of Hector is in him. But we feel that this force cannot come forth in the post-Christian era, that it then meets with obstacles, that something now works upon the soul that is the beginning of something new, whereas in the figures of antiquity something was coming to an end. So do these figures stand plastically delineated before us; both Hector and Empedocles represent a conclusion. But what is working on further in mankind must find new paths into new incarnations. This is revealed with Hector in Hamlet and also with Empedocles in Faust, who had within him all the abysmal urges toward the depths of nature. Because he had within him the whole nature of Empedocles, he could say, “I will lay aside the Bible for a time and study nature and medicine. I will no longer be a theologian.” He felt the need to have dealings with demonic beings who made him roam through the world leaving him marveling but uncomprehending. Here the Empedocles element had an after-effect but was not able to adjust itself to what a man must be after the new age had begun.
I wanted to show you through these explanations how in well-known souls, about whom anyone can find information, a powerful transformation shows itself, and how the more deeply we study them the more perceptible this becomes. If we inquire what happened between the two incarnations of such individualities, the answer always is the Mystery of Golgotha, which was announced by the Baptist when he said, “The time is fulfilled, the kingdoms of the spirit, or the kingdoms of heaven, are passing over into the kingdom of man.” Yes, the kingdoms of heaven did indeed powerfully seize the human kingdom, but those who take this in an external sense are unable to understand it. They seized it so powerfully that the great men of antiquity, who had been in themselves so solid and compact, had to make a new beginning in human evolution on earth. This new beginning showed itself precisely with them, and lasted until the end of the old epoch, with the Mystery of Golgotha. At that time something that had been fulfilled ebbed away, something which had presented men in such a way that they appeared as rounded personalities in themselves. Then came something that made it necessary for these souls to make a new beginning. Everything had to be transformed and altered so that great souls appeared small. They had to be transformed into the stage of childhood, for something quite new was beginning. We must inscribe this in our souls if we wish to understand what is meant at the beginning of the Gospel of St. Mark by the words “a beginning.” Yes, truly a beginning, a beginning that shakes the inmost soul to its foundations and brings a totally new impulse into human evolution, a “beginning of the Gospel.”
What then is the Gospel? It is something that comes down to us from the kingdoms we have often described, where dwell the higher hierarchical beings, among whom are the angels and archangels. It descends through the world that rises above the human world. So do we gain an inkling of the deeper meaning of the word Gospel. It is an impulse that descends through the realms of the archangels and angels; it comes down from these kingdoms and enters into mankind. None of the abstract translations really covers the matter adequately. In reality the word Gospel should indicate that at a certain time something begins to flow in upon the earth which formerly flowed only where there dwell the angels and archangels. Something descended to earth that shook the souls of men and shook the strongest souls most. It is here noted that this was the beginning, and the beginning has a continuation. The beginning was made at that time, and we shall see that fundamentally the whole development of humanity since then is a continuation of that beginning when the impulse began to flow down from the kingdom of the angeloi, or what we call the “ev-angel” or Gospel.
We cannot seek or investigate deeply enough if we wish to characterize the different Gospels. We shall see that especially the Gospel of St. Mark can be understood only if we understand in the right way the evolution of humanity with all its impulses and all that has happened in the course of it. I do not wish to describe this externally, but to characterize actual souls, showing how it is only the recognition of the fact of reincarnation, when it becomes a matter of real research, that can bear witness to the progress of such souls as those of Hector and Empedocles. Only in this way can the deeper significance of the Christ Impulse be brought before our souls. Otherwise we may discover beautiful things, but they will all be superficial. What lies behind all the outer events in the history of the Christ Impulse is discovered only when we can throw light upon life through spiritual research, so that we can recognize how a single life passes not only in its separate phases but also in the sequence of incarnations. We must look upon reincarnation as a serious matter and apply it to history in such a way that it becomes an element that gives life to it. We shall then perceive the working of the Event of Golgotha, the greatest of all impulses. It is especially in souls that this impulse, which we have described often enough, will become visible.