Three Lectures on Easter and Pentecost
III. The Pentecost of the World
17 May 1923, Oslo
Looking back over the history of human evolution one meets with greater or lesser events that have played a part in the life of humanity as a whole. The greatest of all of these is that event which we call the Mystery of Golgotha, through which Christianity entered the evolution of man.
This Mystery of Golgotha was understood very differently at the time in which it took place than was the case later, and in our day it must again be understood in a new way. The right understanding of this Mystery is the mission of Anthroposophy.
In order that we may do this we must transport ourselves into ancient times, when the consciousness of men was entirely different to what it is to-day.
If we go back some three or four thousand years we find that men had an instinctive consciousness that before they came down to earth in physical bodies they had lived in the spiritual world. Every man was then aware that he had within him a soul and spirit-being that was sent down into earthly existence by divine powers. Men's consciousness of death was also entirely different at that time, and because they could look back in memory to a spiritual existence before life on earth, they also knew that that part of them which had lived before their life on earth continued after death.
There were schools at that time which were also religious establishments — they were called Mysteries — where men were instructed in what they were able to know regarding their life before they came down to earth. By this means they learnt that before this earthly existence they had lived among the stars, and among Spiritual Beings, as on earth they lived among plants and animals, mountains and rivers.
Man said: I have come down to earth from that world of the stars. He was aware that the stars were not merely physical, but that each one was the dwelling place of Spiritual Powers with whom he had been in touch before his descent to earth; and he knew that when he laid his physical body aside at death, he would return to the world of the stars — that is to the spiritual world.
Man looked on the sun as the greatest of all the stars, and of all the Beings belonging to the sun he called the greatest the great Sun-Spirit.
In the Mysteries men learnt that before they came to earth the great Sun Being gave to them the power by which they were able to enter the starry world again in the right way after death.
The pupils of the Mysteries were told, and these repeated it again to others: It is the spiritual power of the Sun, the spiritual light which carries you beyond death, and this power you brought with you when at birth you entered earthly existence.
Many prayers, many exalted teachings, came from the teachers in the Mysteries; and these were all in praise, in glorification, of the high Sun-Being, and gave instruction concerning Him.
Teachers in the Mysteries instructed their pupils, and these in turn told the rest of humanity that when man passed through the gate of death, he had first to penetrate the lower sphere of the stars and to meet with the lower Beings of the stars, and that then he might penetrate to the Sun. He could not, however, go beyond the Sun if the power of the Sun-Being was not given to him.
It came to pass because of this instruction that the hearts of those men who understood the teaching were especially filled with warmth when they prayed to the Spirit of the Sun who gave them immortality.
The poems and religious exercises of devotion that were directed towards the Sun had, as regards the feelings of men, a very specially penetrating value; men felt themselves united with the God of the universe when performing their acts of Sun-worship. Among those peoples where such a Sun worship was customary, cults and ceremonies took place which were specially directed towards acts of Sun-worship or devotion.
This worship consisted, as a rule, of ceremonies in which the image of the God was laid within a grave, and after a day or two was taken from the grave again as a sign that a God — a Sun-God — was in the world, who would always raise men up again when they had succumbed to death.
When performing these ceremonies the sacrificing priest told his pupils, and they told the rest of mankind: “This is the sign that before your descent to earth you dwelt in spiritual realms in which the Sun-God also dwells. Look upwards,” he said, “to the sun which gives us light; this sun is but the outer manifestation of the Sun-Being; behind the light of this physical sun is the eternal Sun-God who insures to you immortality.”
Thus those who received this teaching knew that they had come down to earth from spiritual worlds, and had forgotten that world in which the Sun-God dwells. “Through birth,” the priest told the faithful, “you have forsaken the kingdom of the Sun-God; you have to find it again through the power He implants in your hearts when you pass through death.”
It was known to the initiated priests of the Mysteries that the great Sun-Being of whom they spoke to believers was the same Being of whom men would speak at a later day as the Christ. Before the time of the mystery of Golgotha people were told if they desired knowledge of the Christ that they must not seek Him on earth, but must rise to the Mysteries of the Sun, for only beyond the earth were the Mysteries of the Christ to be found.
It was comparatively easy for men to accept such a teaching, because they retained an instinctive recollection of the kingdom of Christ from which they had descended to earth. Mankind has, however, to pass through evolution, and the instinctive memory of a pre-earthly spiritual life was gradually lost. Eight hundred years before the Mystery of Golgotha only a very small number had any instinctive memory remaining of their pre-earthly spiritual life.
Think for a moment of a man who is passing through death. He goes forth into starry spaces. Gradually he comes to a place where he sees the stars from the other side. From earth we see the sun as we are accustomed to see it; after death we go forth into space and see the sun from the other side; it is not seen as a physical globe but as a realm of Spiritual Beings. Before the Mystery of Golgotha had taken place men beheld the Christ in the sun; they beheld Him from the other side in the time between death and birth.
The instructors in the Mysteries were able to recall this aspect of the Christ to their pupils; they were able to arouse in them the conception of what they had seen before they came to earth — how they had seen the Sun from the other side. This took place in ancient times, before the Mystery of Golgotha.
The time came, however, when such a remembrance could no longer be aroused, and about 800 years before the Mystery of Golgotha the possibility of stimulating it had grown less and less. No longer could the teacher in the Mysteries say: Look up to the sun, behold in it the manifestation of Christ! Men would no longer have understood them.
The time came when men were no longer able to evoke the memory of spiritual worlds; it seemed as if they were utterly forsaken by the power of Christ. It was then that there first arose in man what we may call the fear of death. Before this they saw the physical body die, but they knew that as souls they belonged to the kingdom of Christ, and were immortal.
Men now became greatly troubled over the fate of their immortality — of the eternal beings within them. It seemed as if the body uniting them with the Christ were severed. This was because they could no longer look into the spiritual world — they could nowhere find the Christ.
It was in this time, my dear friends, when men could no longer find the Christ in super-sensible regions beyond the sun that through His infinite mercy and pity He came down to earth so that men might find Him there.
Something now took place in the evolution of the world which cannot be compared with anything within the whole field of human knowledge.
All those beings that are higher than man, the Angels, Archangels, Archai, etc., up to the most exalted of the divine Beings in the spiritual world, experience metamorphosis only. They are not born, neither do they die. Thus it was said in the Mysteries: Man alone knows birth and death. The Gods do not know death, they only know metamorphosis.
As men were no longer able to reach up to the Christ, the Christ came to them on the earth. Because of this it was necessary that as God He should experience that which Gods had never experienced before — birth and death. Christ in the soul of a man, Jesus of Nazareth, experienced birth and death. This means: For the first time a God passed through human death.
The most essential thing in the Mystery of Golgotha is that it is not merely something that concerns humanity; it is also a concern of the Gods. The Gods decreed: One of us, the high Sun-spirit Himself, has to unite His destiny so closely with that of mankind that He must pass through birth and death. Ever since that time men have been able to look to what occurred on Golgotha, and have been able to find on earth that which otherwise would have been lost to them, because their consciousness was no longer capable of reaching up to heaven — the Christ.
Those who participated first of all in the Mystery of Golgotha — the Disciples and Apostles of Christ, still retained a last remnant of instinctive consciousness of what had then taken place. They knew that the same Being, who formerly could only be found when men were able to look spiritually upon the Sun, was now to be found on earth if they knew how rightly to understand the birth, the life, and the suffering of Jesus Christ.
There were very few at the time of the Mystery of Golgotha who were aware: He Who dwells in Jesus of Nazareth as the Christ is the mighty Sun-Spirit Who has come down to earth.
Up to the fourth century after Christ it was always known that the Christ Who was the great Sun-Spirit and the Christ Who dwelt in Jesus of Nazareth were the same. This was known until the fourth century.
Our feelings are profoundly stirred when, by means of Spiritual Science, we are able to hear how the men of the early Christian centuries prayed: Thanks be to the Christ for having come down to us on earth from spiritual worlds, otherwise we would have been separated from Him.
After the fourth century had passed people were no longer able to grasp the fact that the high Sun-Being and also the Christ was that same Divinity Who secures immortality to us as men.
From the fourth century until our own age men had only the external words of the Gospels, which relate historically that the Mystery of Golgotha had indeed taken place, but the effect of the words of the Gospels still worked so powerfully throughout the centuries that through them men were able to unite their hearts with that great event.
We confront an age to-day, however, in which men, having learned so much of the secrets of nature, would have become entirely estranged from the words of the Gospels if a new path to the Christ had not been opened up. Anthroposophy has facilitated the entrance of men on this path by leading them back to a knowledge of the spiritual world.
For the Christ event, let me tell you, is only to be comprehended spiritually — as a spiritual fact. Those who do not understand the Christ event as a spiritual fact do not in any way understand it.
By means of Anthroposophical knowledge we can carry ourselves back to the times when Jesus Christ walked in Palestine and experienced His earthly destiny.
We can look within the hearts of the Disciples and Apostles, who, with the help of their instinctive knowledge, were aware: That Being Who formerly dwelt only on the Sun has now come down to earth and has walked among us. He Who has thus walked among us as Christ Jesus — who has trodden the earth — was aforetime only to be found on the Sun. The Disciples said further: From the eyes of Jesus of Nazareth shines forth the light of the Sun, from the lips of Jesus of Nazareth speaks the power of the warmth-giving Sun. When Jesus of Nazareth walks among us it is as if the Sun itself sent forth its light and power into the world.
Those who had a perception of this said among themselves: The Sun-Being walks among us in the form of a man, He Who formerly could only be found when our gaze was turned from the earth and directed to the spiritual worlds.
When the Disciples and Apostles spoke in this way their relationship to the death of Christ was the right one. They were, therefore, able to continue to be His pupils after He had passed through death on earth.
Through Spiritual Science we know that when Christ had forsaken the body of Jesus of Nazareth He walked among His pupils spiritually and continued their instruction.
The power that came to the Disciples and Apostles when the Christ appeared to them in His spiritual body in order to teach them was gradually lost to them. A time came in the lives of these men when they said: We have beheld Him, and now behold Him no more. He came down to us from heaven to earth. Where is He gone? This point of time when the Disciples believed that they had lost the presence of the Christ is preserved for us in the festival of the Ascension. In the consciousness of the Disciples the fact was registered that the high Sun-Spirit Who had walked the earth as Jesus of Nazareth had once more withdrawn from them. When they experienced this a sorrow came over them with which no sorrow that is experienced on earth can be compared.
In the olden Mysteries, during the celebration of the Sun-Cult, when the image of the God was laid within the earth in order that in three days it might be raised again, great sorrow for the God was felt in the souls of those who took part in the celebrations.
Such sorrow is not, however, to be compared with the greatness of the sorrow which filled the hearts of the Disciples of Christ Jesus.
All truly great knowledge, my dear friends, is born out of sorrow and pain.
When by those means of knowledge, which Anthroposophical Spiritual Science describes, an entrance into the higher worlds is sought, the goal can only be reached by passing through pain. Without having suffered, suffered much, and through suffering become free from the depression of pain, one cannot know the spiritual world.
During the time indicated by the ten days following the Ascension the Disciples suffered dreadfully, for the Christ was withdrawn from their sight. And out of this infinite pain and sadness sprang that which we know as Pentecost. After that the Christ had been lost to their outward instinctive clairvoyance, the Disciples found Him again, through suffering and sorrow, in their inner being, in their perceptions and inner experiences.
Let us look back once more into early ages before the Mystery of Golgotha, when there was still a memory of a pre-earthly existence. We know that in that pre-earthly existence men received power from the Christ which gave them immortality. Then came the time when men knew that through their own human power they were not able any longer to look back into their pre-earthly existence in spiritual worlds.
At the time of which we are speaking, the Disciples turned back in memory to all they had experienced in connection with the Mystery of Golgotha, and out of their memory, and out of their suffering and their sorrow, there arose again in their souls the power which they had lost when instinctive clairvoyance left them.
Men said of old: Before we were born on earth we were with Christ; He gave to us the power of immortality. Ten days after the external aspect of the Christ was lost to them the Disciples said: We have seen the Mystery of Golgotha. It has given to us the power to feel our immortal nature once again. This power was represented symbolically by the tongues of fire.
Thus, with the help of Spiritual Science, we are able to see in the Mystery of Pentecost that the Mystery of Golgotha had taken the place of the ancient Sun-Myth Mystery. That this was a case of the Sun-Spirit in the Christ was made very clear to Paul when he received the revelation of Damascus. Paul was a pupil of the ancient Initiates of the Mysteries. He realised clearly that the Christ is only to be found when, through clairvoyance, the spiritual world is reached. Now he said: Here are certain Disciples who assert that the Sun-Being has dwelt in a man and has passed through death; this cannot be, for the Sun-Being can only be seen beyond the earth. So long as Paul believed this, through knowledge gained in the Mysteries, he fought against Christianity.
Had the Christ not come to earth, had He remained God only on the Sun, men on earth would have fallen into decay.
Men would have believed more and more only in the existence of material things. They would have said: The Sun is a material thing; the stars are material also. For mankind had utterly forgotten that they themselves had sprung from a pre-earthly existence, from the spiritual realm of the stars. Such a materialistic type of thought as asserts “all is matter,” can endure only for a time. If, for instance, all men for a hundred years were to believe that everything was only matter they would lose the inner power of the spirit within them; they would become as if crippled — as if ill. And this is what would in fact have happened to humanity if the Christ in His infinite mercy had not come down from spiritual worlds to earth.
You might reply to this: Yes, but many people do not wish to know anything of the Christ; they do not believe in the Christ. How is it with them? Why are they not crippled, or weak or ill?
To this I reply: The Christ appeared on earth as the Mystery of Golgotha drew near, not merely to give a teaching to men, but in order to carry through the facts connected with His appearance on earth. He died for all men. The physical constitution of all men, even of those who do not believe on Him, was saved and improved through the Event of Golgotha.
Up to the present time a man might be a Chinese, a Japanese, or an Indian, and wish to know nothing of the Christ, yet the Christ died for him and for all men. The physical constitution of all men, even of those who did not believe on Him, was saved through that which took place on Golgotha. In time to come this will not be possible to the same degree; for in the future what we call knowledge will be much more important for humanity than has been the case until now.
The necessity will arise ever more and more in human evolution that men should acquire a certain knowledge of spiritual Beings, and of spiritual life.
Such a knowledge, as will lead all men to the spiritual world, is the goal towards which Anthroposophical investigation strives. Through this knowledge, the Christ can again be known, but in such a manner that when anyone has true Anthroposophy he will be able to represent the Christ in a way that will be comprehensible to all men.
The Christianity that has been taught up to now might, if taken to Africa or Asia, be perhaps accepted by a few who would believe in the Christ, but the great mass of the people would reject it, for they would not understand what the missionaries said.
What kind of religion had these people? They had religions that had arisen within the nation, and which could only be understood by the different people, because some holy place or holy person was reverenced among them.
So long as the Egyptians worshipped their Gods in Thebes, so long had the people to go to Thebes, there to worship in the sacred temples of their Gods. So long as Zeus was worshipped in Olympia, men had to go to Olympia in order to worship him there. In the same way the Mohammedans have to go to Mecca.
Something of this is yet retained in Christianity. If Christianity is rightly understood, men know: The sun shines for all men, it shines in Thebes, it shines in Olympia, it shines on Mecca. The sun can be seen everywhere physically in the same way, and so the high Sun-Being, the Christ can be worshipped everywhere.
Anthroposophy seeks to show that the Being who before the Mystery of Golgotha could only be reached by instinctive super-sensible faculties can since that event be reached by the powers of understanding, which can be developed by man on the earth itself. The saying will be understood once more — The Kingdom of Heaven is come down to earth and here no thousand year old kingdom is referred to in an uncertain mystic manner, but men will understand by these words that what was formerly to be found on the Sun is, since the Mystery of Golgotha, to be found on earth. We have the Christ, men will say, since the Mystery of Golgotha, for He then came down to earth and dwells on earth among us.
What the Disciples experienced as the Mystery of Pentecost will be experienced ever anew. People will feel that the Christ Himself has come down to earth — a power is dawning in our hearts, they will say, that assures immortality to man.
The words of Christ must, however, be then accepted in all earnestness, such words for example as — I am with you always, even unto the end of the world-age.
And when such words are accepted in all their deep spiritual significance men will rise also to the knowledge that the Christ was not only there at the beginning of our era — He is always there, and speaks to us if we will but hear Him.
We must also learn through Spiritual Science to see spirit in everything material, spirit behind the solid stone, the plant, and man; spirit behind the clouds and the stars, spirit behind the sun. When through the substance we find the spirit in its reality, we also open our human soul to the voice of Christ, Who speaks to us if we will but hear Him.
Anthroposophy can tell of the spirit behind all nature. Hence it also ventures to speak of spirit in all the historical earthly events of humanity, and of how the earth first acquired “meaning” through the Mystery of Golgotha. That which imparted meaning to the earth before the Mystery of Golgotha was on the sun, since that time it has been united with the earth itself.
Anthroposophy presents this to humanity as an everlasting Pentecostal mystery, and when, prepared by Anthroposophy, men again seek out the spiritual world, they will find it in a way that is needful for the present age, and they will also truly find the Christ as ever present with them. If in this age men do not turn to spiritual knowledge the Christ will be lost to them.
Up till now Christianity did not lay stress on understanding. Christ died for all men; He did not disown them. If men reject Him to-day with their understanding, their intelligence — then they disown the Christ.
As we have met together here exactly at the season of Pentecost, I desired to speak to you of the Christ-Mystery in connection with this mystery.
People often speak of Anthroposophy as if it were an enemy of Christianity. If you really enter into the spirit of Anthroposophy you will find that precisely what it does do is to open the ears, the hearts, the souls of men once more to the Mystery of Christ.
We might indeed consider the destiny of Anthroposophy to be the same as that of Christianity; for this, however, it is necessary that men should not at the present day merely look towards the dead words that tell of the Christ, but that they turn to a knowledge which leads them to the light in which the living Christ Himself dwells, looking not to the historic Christ Who lived on earth some hundreds of years ago, but to the living Christ, Who now, and in all future times, lives among men on earth, because from their God He has become their divine Brother.
Among our thoughts on Pentecost let us realise the following: That through Anthroposophy we desire to seek the way to the living Christ. Let us feel that in each Anthroposophist the mystery of the first Pentecost may be renewed — that the knowledge of the Christ may dawn in his heart, that he may feel himself enwarmed and enlightened through the flaming tongues of universal Christ-like knowledge.
May our way to that which is spiritual, through Anthroposophy, be at the same time our way to Christ through the Spirit.
If a handful of men earnestly make this knowledge their own, the Mystery of Pentecost will take root ever more firmly among them at the present time and still more so in the future.
Then that will come which is so badly required for the healing and health of humanity, then it will be possible for the Spirit to speak to a new human understanding, the Spirit that heals the sickness of the souls of men — the Spirit sent by Christ. Then will come that of which humanity has so great a need — the Pentecost of the World.