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The Rudolf Steiner Archive

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Festivals of the Seasons

1. The Mystery of Golgotha I

25 March 1907, Berlin

The present lecture is to be a short preparation for the study of the Mystery of Golgotha, which will be more fully explained on the second day of our Easter Festival. As the basis for our study, let us take a text which to many appears incomprehensible, or, at any rate, difficult, and can only be understood when connected with the deepest esoteric meaning. This text will lead us to-day still deeper into the spirit and meaning of Christianity: ‘All sins may be forgiven except the sin against the Holy Spirit.’

These words really contain the purpose and mission of Christianity, and Anthroposophy is the right instrument with which to reveal and express the profound meaning hidden in these words. Anthroposophy does not wish to inaugurate a new faith or found a new sect; the time is past when new faiths or new special religions can be founded. The task of the future is the formation of the already existing religions into one great common religion of humanity. Anthroposophy does not wish to preach a new religion; it is rather the means for teaching the various religions how to comprehend the profound truths contained in them, and which fundamentally are one and only one!

The tendency of the age is to make trivial the religious truths. From the modern standpoint people like to consider Christ Jesus as ‘the simple Man of Nazareth’; they like to look upon Him as a sort of higher ideal man, in somewhat the same manner as Socrates, Plato, Goethe and others are also looked upon as ideals; they do not wish to uplift Him too far above the level of humanity; they are far from recognising that in this Christ Jesus there lived something which towered far above humanity.

But in order to have at least some small perception of the Mystery of Christ Jesus we must throw a strong light upon the old Gnostic questions. We must bring to our help all human wisdom to understand what happened between the first and thirtieth years of our era.

The religious records are certainly not there to be explained by trivialities, and there is no wisdom deep or wise enough to unveil the deep meaning in this Mystery. It is certainly true that the understanding of this Mystery ought also to be brought down to the simple mind, but it is also true that it is so profound and full of wisdom that no wisdom reaches far enough to measure all its depths! From this standpoint and in this frame of mind we may first explain what is understood in Christianity—in true esoteric Christianity—by the Holy Spirit, the Son—also called the Word or Logos—and the Father. We shall not penetrate into the meaning of these conceptions by means of philosophic speculations; we shall not give them an arbitrary meaning. The meaning was attached by the initiates, and we have to keep to what was taught in the schools of the Christian Initiates. It is bad when one probes into the Bible and speculates as to what this or that means. We know that there are schools in which the meaning has been taught from very ancient times and it is always the same meaning, there was never a different knowledge; there were never at any time different standpoints in it.

If we hold to what has come most to the surface of history, we find the esoteric school which St. Paul had at Athens, the school of Dionysius. The learned are accustomed to speak of a pseudo Dionysius, because the existence of these schools is not sufficiently indicated by documentary evidence; only in the sixth century a.d. do we find written traditions of them.

We must clearly understand that as regards writing the custom has radically changed. When at the present day a person has a clever thought he cannot wait, but must have it printed at once and scattered over the world. But the earlier custom was otherwise. The profoundest thoughts were strictly withheld from publicity; they were not thrown at everybody’s head; they were only given to one who was known, only to one who had been found worthy to receive them. Only he who had a sense of truth was allowed to receive the truths. They were only given to one who devotedly and with a true feeling towards the truths, opened his heart to receive them. What the pupil had to acquire was calmness, a deep longing, a feeling of devotion towards the higher truths. This was quite a different view from that of the present day, for now everyone may receive the truths, quite irrespective of the frame of mind in which he approaches them. In those days, however, it was held that one might not receive indifferently a truth, for example, about the starry heavens. It was clearly understood that the frame of mind was important if the truths were really to influence: only in a pure and uplifted frame of mind were even simple truths received, such as the truths of mathematics, and the student’s preparation before he was allowed to receive the truths consisted in the production of the right frame of mind.

This was also the case in the school of St. Paul: the pupils were most strictly prepared before they were allowed to receive the highest truths. This preparation—as well as the subsequent training—was given by word of mouth; the living spirit passed on from teacher to pupil, for a long period of time, and the highest Initiates who were the vehicles of the esoteric truths, always bore the same name. Thus in the sixth century the recorder of the Dionysian training was still known as Dionysius. One has to know this in order to be able to judge correctly when a pseudo Dionysius is spoken of.

Now to-day let us investigate according to esoteric Christianity into the profound meaning of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. In our lecture on the Lord’s Prayer we have already discussed this meaning. We have learned how the Godhead is expressed in the three higher principles of man. We have heard that behind the ‘Father’ stands the Divine Will, behind the ‘Kingdom’ there is the Word, the Logos, and behind the ‘Name’ the Holy Spirit.

We shall now consider these three principles from a different point of view, in the manner taught in Christian esoteric training. Let us briefly recall the relations between the higher and lower parts of man. We have always learned that man consists of the physical body, the etheric body, and the astral body, and within the astral body dwells the ‘I’; this was once the so-called sacred quaternary. We have also learned how in the course of human evolution the three bodies are transformed. The ‘I’ transforms the astral body, which is the vehicle of passions, impulses and desires; it may also be called the consciousness- body. In esoteric Christianity one is also taught to ennoble, cleanse and purify this body; and as far as this takes place in man it is called the work of the Holy Spirit. One might say that that part of the astral body which is purified by Manas or Spirit-Self, is called in Christianity: ‘To be seized by the Holy Spirit.’

We know that the ‘I’ also works transformingly on the etheric body. Now this is much more difficult. What man receives from art and religion alone works in a transforming, ennobling way upon the etheric body. Art sees and perceives the Eternal; the Eternal shines through it, and the impulses of art act more strongly on the ennobling of mankind than all the laws of ethics. But the religious impulses work the most strongly! One who with deep devotion looks up to the Eternal, who opens himself towards It and allows It to stream in, receives Buddhi or Life-Spirit—in a Christian sense, the Logos, Christ. In esoteric Christianity this is known as ‘taking the Christ into oneself.’ In order to explain to you the third principle, the process of taking in the Father, you must allow me to make a slight digression.

I beg you always to remember that Anthroposophy is absolutely not a colourless theory, for then it would run into the danger of forming a sect; no, it is to act upon the daily life, it is to ennoble and spiritualise it—then it is practical Anthroposophy. It does not wish to weave fancies, to excogitate anything, it intends that the spirit shall flow into the whole of our civilisation, and therefore it also draws attention to the practical side.

When you are in the midst of life, when the multitude of impressions press in upon you from life, then what you experience in this way is but a portion of the sum-total of your experiences. One who does not take this into account cannot unravel the secrets of life! The anthroposophist looks deeper; he knows that the etheric body and the astral body are influenced in various ways by his daily experiences. What you take into yourselves consciously, what attracts your conscious attention, for example, as you go along the street, is expressed in ebullitions and currents in the astral body. The occultist can observe these ebullitions and movements. But there are other impressions which do not usually engage one’s full attention. I will give an example to explain what I mean. We walk along a street and pass numberless things which do not arouse our strict attention; we know that we have passed shop windows left and right, that there were buildings left and right, and that we met human beings and carriages, but our attention was not directed to them, we have not consciously received anything from them. However, it does not on this account pass by us without leaving a trace; it makes a certain impression upon us. When we look at a placard or skim through a comic paper, not only what we follow consciously remains within us, but the things of which we are unconscious also make an impression upon us. One is wont to say that these impressions remain below the threshold of consciousness; but in truth it is different. Many things act upon a human being without coming to his consciousness, and in the meantime they act upon him deeply and produce an important effect. To begin with, they act on the etheric body. This body is continually taking in impressions, and from this we may gather how tremendously important to human development is also that to which a person pays no attention.

Everything that takes place on the surface of civilisation acts upon human beings; all these things call forth pictures in them. But Anthroposophy indicates the undercurrents of our civilisation; again and again it emphasises the need of understanding the spiritual world which lies behind the physical, it draws attention to the deep connection between the external world and spiritual things.

One age thinks differently from another and has different inclinations; in one age the spiritual movements are higher and in another lower, depending more upon sensation. To the occult investigator all this which makes an impression upon the etheric body is reflected as secret influences which act upon human beings. When in an occult manner one investigates the temperament, inclinations and sentiments of the people in central Europe in the eleventh or twelfth century one has to trace back the results to the style of architecture, the art, the means of civilisation which at the time surrounded them. The effect upon a man of that particular age in passing along the street of his town was different from the effect produced upon a man of the present age; other objects surrounded him and other sentiments filled him.

One must not leave out of account the fact that what lies more deeply down than the consciousness, is profoundly influenced by such impulses. And on this account one must not undervalue the seriousness of the statement when I say that just at the present time it is in the underground of our civilisation that the real foundation for materialism is found. I should not on this account be considered as a reactionary. The one who guides his method of observation by spiritual truths knows that the profound and noble things which act upon the etheric body also provide it with constructive forces; and when he extends this method of observation to what is produced by the materialistic way of looking at things it is then clear to him that nothing can be done by theories and teachings if they do not come down to these things. A change for the better cannot be expected until the spiritual truths are reflected in what surrounds man and influences him, even though his attention may not be continually directed towards it. With these remarks as a basis we may now consider the part of the higher man called the Spirit Man, Atma, Father.

We know that, starting from ‘I,’ the physical body also can be transformed. This transformation takes place consciously through what is taught in esoteric training. All that the pupil can learn with the intellect, all that influences his astral body is only the preparation; the training begins when the ‘I’ begins to work upon the etheric body, when he conquers his temperament, his inclinations and habits, when he becomes a different man. Through this he gains insight into the higher worlds. All that he learns, all that gives him a theoretical insight, all sciences, only influence the astral body; but all that works upon his etheric body gives such an impetus to his development that gradually the spiritual organs are formed in him and he begins to see in the higher worlds. Thus we see how the astral body and etheric body are transformed. That which transforms the physical body comes from the breathing process; this purifies and spiritualises the physical body. Christian esotericism calls this the Father. We have to distinguish that as much as a person has within him of what purifies and transforms the astral body, so much has he of the Holy Spirit within him.

As far as a person has within him that which purifies and transforms the etheric body, so far has he the Son, the Logos, within him.

As far as a person has within him (this is only known to an Initiate) that which ennobles and transforms the physical body, so far has he the Father within him.

If we wish to distinguish between the sins or blasphemies against the Holy Spirit, against the Son, and against the Father, we have to remember what the esoteric teachers understood as the mission of Christianity. You will find this mission expressed in the words which Christ Jesus uttered when He was told that His mother and His brethren were outside: ‘He who does not leave father and mother, etc., has no part in Me,’ or ‘He that loveth father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me’ (Matt. 10, 37).

In Mark and Luke it is somewhat different. There He says: ‘My mother and My brethren are those who hear God’s word and do it’ (Luke 8, 21; Mark 3, 33; Matt. 12, 46-50).

In all these statements we have the true mission of Christianity; let us now go into this more closely and we shall gain at the same time the best preparation for our Easter Festival—the Mystery of Golgotha.

If we go a long way back along the path of the development of humanity we arrive at the Lemurian epoch. We know that ancient Lemuria lay south of present-day Asia, in the part now occupied by the Indian Ocean. In ancient Lemuria we find the four-membered, half-animal man, who indeed was already gifted with his fourfold nature, the physical body, etheric body, astral body and the germ of the ‘I,’ but he was not yet able to work even to the very tiniest extent, on the three lower coverings, for the forces necessary for the work on these coverings had first to come into the vehicle of these coverings. That which is the content of your soul did not at that time exist in man! The ‘I’ was, as it were, a hollow space into which these forces could come, and this hollow space still exists within man. That which at the present time is called the depth of his inner being was formerly outside him, and at that time it sank into the human shell. Previously it was a part of the Divine Nature, it still rested in the Bosom of the Deity. We have often represented the outpouring of this divine part by saying that it was as if a number of little human sponges had each absorbed a drop, as it were, of this divine spiritual substance, which we pictured as a body of water. What is now within you, which forms your soul and which formerly rested in the Divine Bosom, was divided up among the several human bodies so that each one received a drop of this common divine substance. This common substance thus individualised itself into parts of the Deity. Just as each finger has its own life and still belongs to the whole human organism and from it receives its life, so each drop in each human being received its own life and dwelt in the human bodies which had prepared themselves to receive it and which waited to be ensouled by the Deity.

Now those human beings looked very different from what they do at present. You would be much astonished if I were to describe those grotesque bodies which absorbed the souls! Who worked so that these grotesque bodies developed into our present human bodies? Who did this? It is the work of the soul which is active within I From within, it shapes and forms the human body.

One may gain an idea of this work of the soul-forces by observing the remains of this self-out-shaping of the soul in the body of a human being of the present day; for example, when we consider the feeling of shame. The soul drives the blush of shame to the face; what is in the soul, namely, shame, expresses itself in the body in the blush of shame. Anxiety, fear, terror— these psychic experiences express themselves in the body as pallor. We all know that this is connected with the blood; the blood is the expression of the being that works within. But this only applies to warm blood! Just as it is true that at the present day in the feeling of shame, fear, anxiety and terror the ‘I’ acts on the blood and expresses itself in the body in a very limited way, so it is also true that in the remote past the effect was very great; at that time the blood expressed the inner force very accurately and minutely; it formed and fashioned the human figure through the several races. The inner experiences and feelings fashioned the human body when it was still soft and plastic, and their activity, their constructive forces, worked indirectly through the blood. The creator, the inner being, the power which shaped the body plastically, worked from the ‘I,’ indirectly through the blood, at the construction of the human being. Thus we may recognise that the blood is the vehicle of the ‘I.’

In this thought we have an explanation of the statement in the Bible that Adam was hundreds of years old. This depends upon endogamy or near marriage. In the earlier days of human evolution we find in every race smaller groups who were related to one another by blood, for they married exclusively within their groups and tribes. This had an important result, which is indicated in the following conversation between the authors Anzengruber and Rosegger. Rosegger describes his peasants in a dry matter-of-fact way, but Anzengruber describes them much more vividly, his peasants truly five before us. Once when these two authors were together, Rosegger gave Anzengruber the advice that he ought to go to the country and there five for a time amongst the peasants in order to see them and thus be able to describe them more vividly. But Anzengruber answered: ‘That I would never do, for then I should forget all my art. I have never seen a peasant, but the understanding of them is in my blood; I do not need to have seen them to be able to describe them, for the blood of generations of peasants flows through my veins. The spirit which lives in the peasants Eves in me, it passes through my father, grandfather and great-grandfather to me—for all my ancestors were peasants.’

Thus in Anzengruber there was still a degree of the peasant consciousness. And this was much more the case in ancient times! In those days a son did not merely feel in the same way as his father and grandfather had felt, but in him there was actually a vivid remembrance of the experiences of his ancestors.

There was a time when man had in his memory not only what he himself, but also what his father and grandfather had experienced. And therefore in those ancient, strictly limited communities a son said in regard to what his father had experienced: ‘I have experienced’ it. This was also the case in the generation of Adam, his ‘I’ was preserved for nine hundred years.

The ‘I’ continued through the generations; it was a common ‘I,’ a group ‘I.’ This ‘I’ which passed through several generations was called ‘Adam,’ and for this reason it is said that Adam lived for so long. This fact is hidden behind the statements in the Bible regarding the longevity of the persons mentioned at the beginning of the Bible.

From this we see how the blood, which was common to these narrowly limited groups, comes into consideration as the expression of the inner creative soul of man and how it binds these people to a certain extent into unity.

Now how was this broken through? By what means was the memory of the human being limited to his own life? It was through exogamy! By this means the narrowly limited tribe was loosened and expanded into a nation. Man would have been unable to develop if this strict community had not been broken through. The memory of the members of these blood-related communities extended up through the generations. Now we must remember that the vehicle of the memory is the etheric body. And here we have the intimate connection between the blood and the etheric body. The ‘I’ imprints itself into the etheric body, and is expressed in that which shoots into the blood.

Let us remember what he who is to be initiated has to accomplish in his etheric body and we shall to-day learn what this has to do with his blood. We know whence these schools of initiation originated; they can be traced back to the ancient Turanian Adept-Schools of Atlantis. And let us now call to mind how initiation took place. We know that when the pupil was sufficiently prepared he was put into a sleep by the Initiator for three days, and this made it possible for the Initiator to lift the etheric body of the pupil out of his physical body. The etheric body then lived in the higher worlds; the pupil consciously experienced the higher worlds; he knew their reality from his own experience. Only through his being prepared did he gain this power. When he returned again into his physical body he could bear witness to the reality of the higher worlds in which he had lived.

We see that this initiation depended upon one thing. The pupil had to suppress his consciousness, which was absolutely under the control of the Initiator. The Initiators worked through the Initiates into life, to a certain extent they were at the head of the social structure, they were there like a social pyramid, everyone believed them, everyone looked up to them. Through acting upon the impulses of the Initiates they had everything under their authority. And this authority was founded upon truth and wisdom, for only wise ones might exercise this authority without harm coming to humanity.

In Initiation all depends upon leading out the etheric body in the right way. The Initiator could not do this with everyone. In order to initiate a person in this way long and careful preparations were necessary. It depended upon the blood of the neophyte being of the right composition. This was the reason for the great value attached to the priestly caste or tribe which might not be mixed with other blood. For centuries they were prepared; people were brought together who were necessary for this right mixture of blood, until one was produced who could become an Initiate. This was handling human life in grand style! The greatest Initiates were prepared for centuries with respect to their mixture of blood. This was the method of initiation of pre-Christian times. But this could not remain the same for ever in the course of human development; for with what is it connected? It is connected with the small blood-communities. The further we go back the more do we come to this principle of initiation. Then this blood principle was broken through; the family expanded to the tribe and the tribe to the nation. It was then proclaimed that all such limited blood-ties had to be broken through; for where dwelt the communal principle in man? It came through his blood. When in ancient times it was made possible by means of warm blood for the Divine to be implanted in the developing humanity—how did this implantation take place? It surged through the blood. Where did He work most powerfully Who said: ‘I Am He Who is, Who was and Who will be’? In the blood running through the veins. When one led a human being to the highest, to initiation, one led him by handling his blood!

He who only considers the Mystery of Christianity externally understands it badly! Christianity itself is a mystical fact! We can only understand it as we understand the mystery of blood.

With the advent of Christ Jesus a new configuration of our planet came about! If someone on another planet had been able to observe ours, from a few centuries before Christ, if he had directed his attention to it through the centuries and right into the distant future, if he saw it, not with his physical eyes, but directing his attention to the astral and etheric atmosphere of our planet, he would have seen that from the sixth century before Christ our planet slowly changed. Then it made a sudden leap, it gained a new impulse; something else entered into the spiritual atmosphere of the earth.

Only he who admits that there is something spiritual around the earth, and who considers this as something real and actual, can understand what this means! He who considers it in this way will find the expression for this transformation in the spiritual, and to such an one we say: All that holds people together in small blood communities gradually breaks asunder. There comes the time when a person leaves father, mother, etc. All that which acts upon the blood as a kind of ‘group “ I ”’ has to disappear from the earth! When it is ready to become a new, astral planet all this must have disappeared and in the place of what has disappeared something new will come I A great bond of brotherhood will then bind humanity, and the impulse for this brotherhood is given by Christ Jesus! He is the spiritual fact which effects this transformation. Hence the ideal which He presents when He says, ‘He who does not leave father and mother cannot be My disciple,’ and the indication which He gives: ‘They who believe in the Divine Spirit are My brothers and My sisters !’ Hence the non-recognition of those related to Him, for these ties of blood were something which had been overcome. It is from this standpoint that we have to consider these words of Christ, not as a symbol, not as a comparison, but as reality I For they are a reality!

Now consider the uplifted cross and the blood which flows from the wounds 1 Understand well the profound significance of this in the course of the world’s history I Why does it flow? Why is the blood spoken of? It is that which has to lose its importance in this narrow sense if humanity is to broaden out to the coming ideal, to the common brotherhood! That which is to make all humanity one is no longer to depend upon the blood which pulsates in the ‘I.’ Therefore the superfluous ‘I’-blood flows through the wounds of Christ. All egoistic, self-seeking blood which unites a man with mother, father, brother, sister—all this has to flow! This is the real fact! With the amount of blood which flows there is lost the tendency to form limited communities, and there originates the tendency for the whole of humanity to be united into one great community. No one has come so close to this as Richard Wagner in his ‘Parsifal’ I Never did an exoteric person approach so closely to the deepest truth of the esoteric secrets of Christianity!

When we learn to understand it in this way, we shall see that the deepest purpose of Christianity is to unloose that which binds mankind within narrow egoistic limits. It will split up mankind into individuals who feel themselves to be separate, and who unite again in love of their own free will; who increase in individuality to the same extent that they feel themselves to be part of the whole world. This you see in the Mystery of Golgotha, in this religious impulse. which is of the very greatest importance. Here everything that is to come about in the future is prepared! It begins to work at Whitsuntide when the Holy Spirit is poured forth, that is, when the understanding of this tie of brotherhood begins to stir. This is expressed in a most beautiful symbol when we are told that the Apostles spoke to all nations in every tongue! That which had flowed through the blood of the Logos is there spread abroad by the Holy Spirit!

Let us go back to the ancient principle of initiation. At that time everything depended upon the Initiates. The whole of civilisation received its impulses from them. This now ceased. The splitting up of mankind into individuals had to take place and thereby the impulse towards brotherhood was created at the same time. The ancient principle of initiation exercised by the Initiators of truth and wisdom no longer sufficed if humanity was to mature to this brotherhood. Each human being must himself be in possession of truth and wisdom. We then see the spreading abroad of this wisdom step by step and its co-operation with the individual, in the activity of the Holy Spirit, how it worked from then onwards in humanity. As long as man listened to authority he could five quietly in the narrowest circles, for this authority took care of the whole group; but this now ceases, the limited community is broken through, each one must now take care of himself; each individual has now to receive that which holds good for each human being. What can this be?

The wisdom which was poured into humanity through the Initiates was One; when, however, it was to be given to the individual human being it was specialised. Thus originated the teachings which Buddha, Zoroaster, Hermes and others brought to mankind; the smaller the community the more it was specialised.

When brotherhood was founded there had to flow down into the whole of humanity that of which the Initiates had formerly taken care. In this wisdom we have that which unites, that which will unite the human beings who have left father and mother. But so far removed are people from this universal wisdom that they talk about ‘their own opinions,’ and they say, ‘I find this,’ ‘I believe that.’ They have passed over to egotism; they are in a condition of separation, but they have not yet made their connection with universal wisdom. They are as individual as possible! They must first disaccustom themselves from saying, when they are speaking about the knowledge of wisdom, ‘This is my standpoint.’ That is a childish position! There is no special standpoint in regard to wisdom. He only has comprehended the idea of the Holy Spirit who has comprehended that truth and wisdom are one I He who presses forward along the path knows that there is no such thing as different standpoints in truth; he knows that he is dealing with a fundamental unity. He no longer needs to attach himself to an authority, because the universal common Spirit of Wisdom and Truth joins mankind together into the great brotherhood I That is the experience at Whitsuntide, when the Apostles speak from the hearts of all men to all men. The festival of Whitsuntide is the indication that with the development of the highest authority, the Spirit of Truth unites us all. That which from that time on will five and work is the unifying wisdom which can be revealed to us as soon as we open ourselves to it and wish to receive it!

And he who sins against this wisdom which forms humanity into one brotherhood, he who sins against this universal Spirit of Truth and Wisdom, commits the great sin against the Holy Spirit which cannot be forgiven him, because he is sinning against the development of the earth, because he is teaching the spirit of division and not the Unifying Spirit who will form the brotherhood of the future.

What teaches us this Unifying Spirit? Anthroposophy! Therefore positive Anthroposophy is also positive wisdom. It does not wish to preach in general ethical terms, for it is unnecessary to preach brotherhood to humanity; it wishes to give humanity wisdom, concrete wisdom which must lead to brotherhood. It gives this wisdom by teaching people to understand their own being, by answering the profound riddles of existence as to the whence and whither of man, by teaching the evolution of the world! He who thus penetrates into the wisdom, he who thus gathers knowledge, he who is prepared in this way by the positive teachings of Anthroposophy, comes entirely of himself to the union with humanity, for people are united into a brotherhood when the Sun of Wisdom unites them in the spirit; it completely ennobles them, completely transfigures them, completely unites them.

That is the mission of Christianity. Christianity is the expression of the connection between human beings who are becoming freer and freer, and it is the union in perfect freedom into a brotherhood in the light of the one truth I This brotherhood develops entirely of itself when you pay heed to those sublime words of Christ: ‘Ye will know truth by means of truth and the truth shall make you free.’

There will not be two thoughts about one and the same thing when humanity has come to this brotherhood in the spiritual; that is the profound meaning of this statement.

When humanity has known the truth, when it has lived the truth, it will have found the truth, through itself; it will then be truly free and will know the depth of the statement: ‘Ye will know the truth by means of truth and will make yourselves free!’