Festivals of the Seasons
7. Whitsuntide: A Whitsuntide Reflection
15 May 1910, Hamburg
Mementos of time, the Festivals direct our feelings and thoughts to the past. By their own inner significance they awake in us the thoughts which bind us to all that our own souls held sacred in the past. And moreover, the understanding of everything which underlies the Festivals awakes in us thoughts which direct our gaze to the future of mankind, in other words, to the future of our own souls. Feelings are awakened in us which fill us with enthusiasm to fit ourselves to play our part in times to come; our will is fired by ideals which give us strength so to labour that we may be enabled to fulfil more and more perfectly our tasks for the future.
In the deeper sense of the word Whitsuntide may be characterised by a looking in spirit back to the past and yet on towards the future. The significance of the Festival for the nations of the West stands out before us in a stupendous scene, which appeals to the deepest feelings of our nature. The scene is familiar to every one here present. After the accomplishment of the Mystery of Golgotha, the Founder of Christianity lingers awhile among those who are able to see Him in that body which He used after the Mystery, and the further succession of events is placed before our souls in an impressive series of pictures. The body which the Founder of Christianity took after the Mystery of Golgotha, dissolves visibly, and is revealed to His most intimate disciples in the mighty vision known to us as the Ascension and ten days later there follows that which is now to be shown us in a picture, speaking a language which goes to the very hearts of all willing to understand it. The disciples of Christ are assembled; those who first understood Him are gathered together. Profoundly they feel the mighty impulse which has entered through Him into the evolution of mankind and their souls anxiously await the fulfilment of the promise made to them, of events which should be accomplished in their own souls. Gathered together in deep fervour of spirit are these first disciples and followers of the Christ-Impulse on the day, time-honoured in their land, of the Feast of Pentecost. Their souls are raised to a loftier perception; they are called upon, as it were, by a ‘rushing mighty wind,’ to direct their powers of observation to that which should come, to that which awaited them when, reborn again and again with that fiery impulse which they had received into their hearts, they should live on this Earth of ours. Before our souls there rises a picture of the ‘fiery tongues’ as they descend on the head of each disciple and a new and mighty vision appears to those present, in which they see what the future of this impulse will be.
Those first disciples of Christ who were assembled together and who beheld in spirit the spiritual world, felt that they were not addressing only those nearest to themselves within the Emit of space and time. They felt their hearts transported far away to the people scattered over the face of the Earth; they felt that something lived in their hearts translatable into all languages and into the understanding of the hearts of all men. In this mighty vision, in which the future of Christianity is revealed, these earliest disciples saw themselves as if encircled by the future believers out of all the nations of the Earth; it impressed them with the feeling that they would one day have the power to announce the Christian message in words which would be understood, not alone by those nearest to them in space and time, but by all the human beings who would in future work out their destiny on the Earth.
That was the sum of feeling and inner experience which filled the minds of those first followers of Christ on that first Christian Whitsunday. But according to the explanation given in the true esoterically Christian sense and clothed in symbolical language, the Spirit, also called the Holy Ghost, Who lives, and Who poured out His force on Earth at the time when Christ Jesus descended in spirit into the Earth, Who first appeared again at the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist—the same Spirit in another form, in that of many single fiery tongues, descended on the different individualities of the first Christian believers. On Whitsunday, we hear of the Holy Ghost in a special form. Let us call up the meaning of the expression ‘Holy Ghost,’ as it is understood in the Gospels. How in olden times (including pre-Christian times) was the spirit generally described?
In ancient times spirit was mentioned in many connections but especially in one. The view was held, which is now again justified by the knowledge gained through our present Spiritual Science, that when a human being at birth enters upon the existence between birth and death, the body in which this individuality incarnates is determined in a two-fold manner. In reality this body has a double task to perform. As regards our corporality we belong to the whole human race, but we are also more particularly individuals of a certain nation, race or family. In those olden times preceding the proclamation of Christianity, there was but little to be observed of what we may call ‘common humanity,’ there was little of that feeling of belonging to one another which has been gaining ground more and more in the human heart ever since the proclamation of Christianity, the feeling that prompts the words: ‘Thou art man in common with all men on Earth!’ On the other hand, the feeling of the individual that he belonged to a particular nation or family was all the stronger. This feeling is even expressed in the venerable Hindu religion, in the belief that only he can be a true Hindu who is one by community of blood. In many respects, though they had often broken through it, the old Hebrews kept strictly to this principle before the coming of Christ Jesus. In their opinion a man was one of their nation only because his parents, who also belonged to it through blood relationship, had placed him there. But there was something else that invariably made itself felt. In old times and in all nations the individual always felt himself more or less to be the member of a group, the member of an organism which was his nation, and the farther we retreat into the far distant past the more intense do we find the feeling of membership of an organism, of a nation and the rarer becomes the feeling of being a single individual. But gradually the human being learnt also at the same time to be conscious of himself as an individual,—as a separate human being with distinct human qualities of his own. Two principles were felt to be at work in ordinary human life: the attachment to a people, and the individualisation as a separate human being.
Now the forces behind these two principles were variously attributed to the parents. The principle by which the human being belonged to his nation, that which made him a part of the community, was ascribed to heredity on the mother’s side. One in sympathy with these old opinions would say of the mother: The spirit of the people reigns in her; she was filled with the spirit of the people, and has handed on to the child the attributes common to all the members of his nation. Of the father it was said that he was the bearer and transmitter of the principle that tends to confer the individual, personal qualities. When, therefore, a human being was born into the world, it was said—among the old Hebrews of pre-Christian time, for instance—he is a person, an individual, by virtue of the paternal forces, whereas the whole nature of the mother was steeped in the spirit of her people and she has handed that spirit on to her child. It was said of the mother that the national spirit dwelt in her. And in this connection the spirit specially meant was that Spirit who from the spiritual regions directs his forces to mankind, by causing them to flow into the human race in the physical world, by way of the maternal principle.
But now, through the impulse of Christ a new point of view had arisen, namely, a belief that the Spirit formerly reverenced, the National Spirit, should be replaced by one akin to him, indeed, but Whose activity was of a far, far loftier character—a Spirit Who held the same relationship to all mankind as the former Spirit had held to the separate peoples. This Spirit was to be communicated to mankind, and was to fill men with the inward strength which should inspire the thought: 11 no longer feel myself belonging merely to a fraction of humanity, but to the whole of it. I am a member of the whole human race—I shall continue to feel more and more a member of that whole race!’ The force which thus poured out over the whole of mankind the element of common humanity, was ascribed to the Holy Ghost. The Spirit dwelling in the force which communicated itself from the nation to the mother was exalted from ‘Spirit’ to ‘Holy Spirit.’
He Who should bring mankind the power of developing in earthly existence that principle common to all mankind, could only dwell as the First-born in a body inherited by the power of the Holy Ghost; and this power of the Holy Ghost was conceived in the Annunciation, by the mother of Jesus. And in the Gospel of St. Matthew we read of the consternation of Joseph, of whom we are told that he was a pious man. According to the old meaning of the words this would imply that Joseph was one who would consider that, if he ever had a, child, it must be born out of the Spirit of its nation. Joseph now learns that the mother of his child is filled, ‘penetrated’ (for this is the true meaning of the word in our language) by the force of a Spirit, but not merely of a National Spirit (Archangel); she is penetrated by the force of that Spirit Who is the Spirit of universal humanity I And he believes that he can have no fellowship with a woman who bears in her the Spirit of all humanity and not that Spirit in whom he had piously placed his confidence; he does not believe that such a woman could ever be the mother of his children. Therefore, as it is said, he was ‘minded to put her away privily.’ And it was not until he, too, had received from the spiritual world a communication bestowing power on him, that he could make up his mind to have a son of that woman who was penetrated and filled with the power of the Holy Ghost. This Spirit is therefore creatively active, inasmuch as He pours out His forces into the evolution of mankind at the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. And the same Spirit is again active in that stupendous deed, the Baptism of John in the Jordan. Now we understand what is meant by the power of the Holy Ghost. It is the force which will raise man more and more above all that would tend to differentiate and isolate him, to that which makes him a member of the whole of humanity over all the Earth, that force which works like a link binding every soul to every other soul—no matter in what body it may be.
Now we are told of this same Holy Ghost that it is He Who descended, in a new revelation at Whitsuntide, into the individualities of the first confessors of the Christian faith. At the Baptism by John we have the picture of the Spirit in the form of a dove; but now another picture is given in the tongues of fire. It is one dove, a single form, in which the Holy Ghost manifests at the Baptism by John; whereas at Whitsuntide He manifests in many separate tongues! And every one of these tongues is an inspiration for the individual souls for every single individual among the first confessors of Christianity. What then does this Whitsun symbol represent to our souls?
After the Bearer of the universal human spirit had finished His labours on Earth, after the Christ had rendered up His last vestures to be dissolved in the Universe; when the visible form of Christ was dissolved as Unity in the spiritual part of the Earth,—then, for the first time, the possibility was created, that from the hearts of the disciples of the Christ-Impulse should go forth the ability to speak of that Christ-Impulse, to labour in conformity with that Christ- Impulse. Gone is the Christ-Impulse in so far as He had manifested in visible form, into the one and indivisible spiritual world, in the Ascension; ten days later He reappears, bom out of the hearts of every one of these first disciples. The reappearance in manifold form of the same Spirit that had been operative in the force of the Impulse of Christ, made of the first disciples of Christianity the channels and preachers of the Message of Christ, thus placing at the beginning of the Christian evolution the mighty token which proclaims to us the message. As each of the first disciples was privileged individually to receive the Christ-Impulse in the form of fiery tongues, kindling inspiration in his own soul, so can each one of you, if you endeavour to understand the Impulse of Christ, receive this power individually in your hearts. That power can then grow more and more in you and can become more and more perfect. That token that was set up at the beginning of Christianity may become the fountain of a vast hope welling up in us. And as he advances in perfection, the human being can feel that the Holy Ghost speaks from within him in proportion as his thought, feeling and will are penetrated with the Holy Ghost, Who, by cleaving asunder, or multiplying Himself, becomes an individual Spirit in each separate human individuality in whom He works. Thus, as regards our future evolution, the Holy Ghost is for us men the Spirit of development into free men, the freedom of the human soul. The spirit of freedom reigns in that Spirit which was poured out on the first disciples of Christianity, on that first Christian Whitsun Festival—the Spirit Whose most salient quality is indicated by Christ Jesus Himself in the words: ‘Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free 1’ Man can be free only in spirit; so long as he is dependent on that in which his spirit dwells, namely his body, so long is he a slave of that body; he can only be free when he finds himself again in spirit and when, out of that spirit, he becomes master of that which is within him. ‘To be free’ presupposes that we have found the spirit within us. The true spirit, in whom we can find ourselves, is the universal human spirit, which we recognise as the force of the Holy Ghost entering us at Whitsuntide, the spirit to which we must give birth within ourselves and which we must allow to become manifest.
Thus we see the symbol of Whitsuntide transformed into our mightiest ideal of the free unfolding of the human soul to a self-contained, free individual. This was felt more or less dimly even by those who, not impelled by any clear consciousness of their own, but acting on inspiration, were concerned in the fixing of Whitsunday on a definite day in the year. Even this outer institution of the Feast-days is remarkable and no one who is unable to trace the guiding wisdom, even in the fixing of the Festivals, has any real understanding of the world.
Let us take the three Festivals, Christmas, Easter and Whitsuntide. As a Christian Festival Christmas falls on a certain fixed day of the year. It is fixed once for all on that particular day of December; every year we celebrate the Christmas Feast on that same day. Easter is different, it is a ‘movable’ feast, dependent on the constellations in the heavens. Easter falls on the first Sunday after the full moon following the Vernal equinox. In order to determine this, man must turn his gaze heavenward, to the expanse in which the stars follow their course and from the fields of space proclaim to us the laws governing the world. Easter is a movable feast, precisely as in every individual the moment varies which awakens the force of the higher man, endowed with a higher consciousness, to free himself from ordinary, lower human frailty. As in one year Easter falls on one day, the next year on another day, so also in the case of the individual human being—according to his past and the earnestness of his striving—sooner or later the moment will come in which he will be able to say with conviction: ‘I feel that I have the strength to bring forth a higher self from within me!’
Christmas is, however, an immovable feast. At that Festival one can look back over the course of the year, on the blossoming and the decay of Nature, with all the joys of the swelling and bursting forth of Nature’s forces. Then one sees the Earth-life in its state of sleep, into which it has withdrawn its germinal force. External Nature has withdrawn, taking with it all its germinating forces. When the outer world of the senses sees least of the manifestation of these springs of growth, when the Earth itself shows how at a certain period the spiritual forces withdraw, in order that they may gather strength for a new year of life, when physical nature is most silent, at that time of the Christmas Festival man should let the thought of a hope stir within him—the hope that he is not only united with the Earth-forces now lying dormant at Christmastide, but is also united with those other forces, which are never dormant, the forces dwelling in the spiritual regions as well as on Earth. This hope should rise in his soul when he watches the Earth as it were sinking to rest. From the inmost depths of the soul itself this hope will spring; it will be the spiritual light of the soul at the time of deepest gloom outside in physical Nature. Then shall man be reminded by the token of the Christmas Festival that he is for a while bound to his earth-body with the forces of the ego, in the same way as everything in the nature of manifestation around him is bound to the circuit of the Earth during the year. Coinciding with the sleep of the Earth, which every year begins at the same period, is the Christmas Festival when man should call to mind that he is chained to a body, but that he is not condemned to remain bound to that body; that he may cherish the hope that he will find strength to make of himself a free soul. What we recognise as important in the Christmas Festival should thus remind us of our connection with our body and of the heritage which is ours to free ourselves from that body. But it depends on the earnestness of our endeavour whether we bring to fruition sooner or later the forces for which we dare to hope, and which will lead us back again to spiritual worlds, to heavenly places.
The Easter Festival should awaken such thoughts in us. It should remind us that we have not only at our disposal those forces that are ours through our body and which are also divine, spiritual forces; it should remind us besides that as human beings we can rise above the Earth. It is the Easter Festival that reminds us of that force which sooner or later will be awakened within us. The Easter Festival has been instituted as a movable feast, in conformity with the heavenly constellations. Man must arouse in himself the remembrance of what he can become, by raising his eyes to Heaven, in order to find help to free himself from all earthly existence, to raise himself above all earthly life. In the strength we derive in this way lies the possibility of our inner freedom, our inner liberation. When we feel in ourselves the ability to rise above ourselves, we shall be striving verily to attain that elevation. Then shall we desire to make our inner man free from the bonds that chain him to the outer man. Then shall we indeed dwell in the outer man, but we shall be fully conscious of our inner spiritual force, the inner man. On the consciousness that we can liberate ourselves, on the experience of that inward Easter Festival within us, depends the attainment of that other experience, that of Whitsuntide—the penetration of that spirit which has now found itself, with a content, not of this world, but of the spiritual realms. This content from the spiritual worlds can alone make us free. It is the spiritual truth of which Jesus Christ said: ‘Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.’ The Festival of Whitsuntide depends on the Easter Festival. It is a consequence of the Easter Festival—that feast determined by the constellations in the heavens; Whitsuntide is, as it were, a necessary consequence, one that must follow the Easter Festival at the end of a certain number of weeks.
On deeper reflection, we thus discover sovereign wisdom even in the fixing of the seasons for those Festivals; we discover that their recurrence precisely in this order in the course of the year is a necessity and that they show us with each new year what we as human beings have been, are, and may yet become. If we are able to reflect on these Festivals in this way, as Festivals uniting us with all the past, they will be to us like an impulse bestowed on humanity, urging us forward. Whitsuntide especially, if we so understand it, arms us with confidence, strength and hope, when we know what our inward growth may be if we become followers of those who, through their understanding of the Christ-Impulse first made themselves worthy of the outpourings of the tongues of fire. The anticipation of the conception of the Holy Ghost enraptures our spiritual gaze when we understand its character as a Festival of the future. But if we would attain this we must learn to understand the true Christian significance of Whitsuntide. Then we must learn to understand the language of those mighty tongues, of the stupendous Pentecostal Inspirations. What were the tones, as of sounding brass, which were heard above the ‘rushing’ of the mighty wind, described in that picture presented to us as that of the first Christian Whit-Sunday? What voices were those which in a wonderful cosmic harmony declared ‘Ye who are the first to understand it, have felt the force of the Christ-Impulse, and the power of Christ has become such a force in your own souls, that, since the Crucifixion on Golgotha, every one of these souls has become able to behold Christ present with you; thus mightily has the Christ- Impulse worked in some among you!’
The Christ-Impulse is one of freedom; its effect, in the truest sense, is not seen in its operation outside the human soul. The true working of the Christ Impulse appears when it is active within the individual human soul itself. Those who were the first to understand Christ felt themselves called by their experience on the Day of Pentecost to announce what they had witnessed, what was revealed to them in the visions and inspirations of their own souls as the content of the doctrine of Christ. Being conscious that the Christ-Impulse had been at work in the holy preparation that they had made before the Whitsuntide Festival, they felt themselves called by the power of the Christ-Impulse working in them, to let the tongues of fire speak through them—the Holy Ghost individualised in themselves—and to go forth and preach the message of Christ. Not merely what Christ had said to them, not alone the words spoken by Him, were recognised by those who understood the significance of the Day of Pentecost; they recognised as the words of Christ those uttered by the power of a soul that feels within it the Impulse of the Christ. For this reason the Holy Ghost pours Himself, as an individualised Spirit, into every single human soul that develops in itself the power to feel the Christ-Impulse. To such a soul the words: ‘I am with you always, even unto the end of the world!’ have a new meaning. Those whose efforts to receive the Christ-Impulse are sincere, may also feel called by the stimulus of that Impulse working in their hearts to proclaim the Word of Christ, however new, however different it may sound in every fresh epoch of humanity. The Holy Spirit was not poured forth so that we might adhere to the few words in the Gospels which were uttered in the first decades after the founding of Christianity, but He was poured forth, so that the message of Christ might always say something new. According as the human souls advance from one epoch to another, and from incarnation to incarnation, a new message must be proclaimed to them. Is it reasonable to suppose that the souls progressing from incarnation to incarnation should always be obliged to listen to the proclamation of Christ in the words which were spoken when those same souls were living in bodies contemporary with the historical appearance of Christ on earth? The power to speak to all men till the end of the Earth-cycle is innate in the Christ-Impulse.
But something else is necessary, in order to make it possible that the message of Christ may be announced in every epoch, in conformity with the advance that has meantime taken place in the human souls. When the whole power and might of the Pentecostal Impulse is borne in upon us, we must feel that it is our bounden duty to give heed to the words: ‘I am with you always unto the end of the Earth-cycle!’ And if we are filled with the Christ-Impulse, we can hear those words, first spoken at the beginning of Christianity by its Founder, sounding through all ages—the words that Christ speaks at all times, because He is always with us—but words audible only for those who desire to hear them.
Thus we comprehend the power of the Whitsuntide Impulse as something that bestows on us the right to regard Christianity as an ever growing organism, ever revealing itself to us in new aspects. And we whose mission it is to proclaim in the Anthroposophy of our day the words of Christ, echoing to us from the heavenly choirs—we say to all who would preserve Christianity in its original form: ‘We are those who truly understand Christ, for we understand the true significance of Whitsuntide!’
When we feel thus called again and again to draw from Christianity new treasures of wisdom, we find in it that wisdom which is needed by the soul, developing from incarnation to incarnation. Christianity is infinite in its fulness and inexhaustible in its riches; but mankind was not ready for the reception of this fulness in the early centuries of its development, when it was necessary to proclaim it for the first time. Even to-day it would be a presumption to say that mankind is now ripe for the understanding of Christianity in its boundless fulness and magnitude! True Christian humility alone consists in the feeling that the extent of Christian wisdom is unlimited, but man’s receptivity for this wisdom, though at first restricted, will become ever more and more complete. Let us glance at the first centuries of Christianity and on up to our own time. A vast and powerful impulse, the greatest that has been given during the evolution of the Earth, was imparted to the world in the Christ-Impulse. Any one can realise this truth who has become acquainted with the fundamental laws governing the evolution of the Earth. But one thing must not be forgotten in this connection, namely, that only a fraction of all that is contained in the Christ-Impulse is as yet understood. In the two thousand years of Christian evolution which have almost elapsed since the coming of Christ, the teachings of esoteric Christianity have been hidden from the world to which Christianity was brought, nor have they yet penetrated into exoteric life. That doctrine, for instance, which can be proclaimed as a Christian truth in the present epoch, the return of the human soul to earth-life, or reincarnation, could not become a part of the Christian teachings at an earlier time. And if we now proclaim reincarnation, we do so in full consciousness, and in the same sense in which we have to-day characterised the Whitsuntide Festival—that reincarnation is a Christian truth which can be communicated to mature souls to-day, even exoterically, but which could not be proclaimed to the still immature souls of the first centuries of Christendom.
It is of little use to point out particular passages to prove that the idea of reincarnation is found in Christianity. We can learn from all the opponents of Anthroposophy who call themselves ‘Christians,’ how little is known of reincarnation in exoteric Christianity. All that is known is that theosophy teaches something called rebirth, and this is quite enough to call forth the assertion: ‘That is an Indian—or Buddhist—doctrine!’ How little do such people know that the living Christ is the living Teacher from the spiritual worlds of reincarnation. They merely think that reincarnation and with it the doctrine of Karma, have not as yet been able to find their way into exoteric Christianity. In fragments, and at different times, mankind has gradually to be prepared for the reception of the fulness of truth contained in Christianity. Together with the Impulse of the Christ, which is no doctrine or theory, but a force that must be experienced in the depths of the soul, we gain something else. What do we gain? It is precisely when we unite the doctrine of reincarnation with the Christ-Impulse that we can understand what it brings us.
We know that only a few centuries before the dawn of Christianity, other, more doctrinal teachings were given in the East:—the teachings of Buddha. While the force and the impulse of Christianity had spread from Asia Minor westwards, the East was the scene of a widespread extension of Buddhism. We know that that religion contains the doctrine of reincarnation. But in what form? For those acquainted with the facts, Buddhism presents itself as the final outcome of teachings and revelations that had gone before. Hence the accumulated greatness of primal ages is contained in Buddhism; yet we see in it the final consequence of the primeval wisdom of humanity, which likewise contained the teaching of reincarnation. What form does reincarnation assume in the revelations of Buddhism? It is presented so that the human being looks back on incarnations through which he has lived—and forward to others still lying before him. The doctrine that the human being passes from life to life is entirely exoteric in Buddhism. Let no one speak in abstract terms of the similarity of all religions; in reality, vast and mighty differences exist, for instance, between Christianity, in which for centuries there was no thought of reincarnation, and exoteric Buddhism, which lived and moved in this doctrine. Instead of bringing together abstractions, we must be willing to admit facts. To the Buddhist it is a positive truth that man returns over and over again to earth-life; but he regards it in a light which urges him to say to himself: ‘Fight against the desire to return to incarnation, for it is your duty to free yourself as soon as possible from the longing for rebirth, and to live in a spiritual realm free from all earthly incarnations.’ Thus the Buddhist recognises the sequence of human lives; but he strives to acquire all possible strength in order to free himself as soon as possible from the necessity for reincarnation. There is something lacking in Buddhism,—its exoteric teaching proves this. It is wanting in something which we may call an impulse strong and vigorous enough to prompt the Buddhist to say: ‘Let me be born again and again if necessary!’ We can so change ourselves through the Christ-Impulse that we are enabled to draw more and more strength from it. Through that Impulse a strength comes to us that makes each incarnation more perfect than the last. Penetrate Buddhism—or the teaching of reincarnation in Buddhism—with the Impulse of Christ, and you have a new element, one which imparts to the Earth a new significance in the evolution of man!
On the other hand we have Christianity. The Christ-Impulse is contained in it indeed, but exoterically. What has this Impulse been to Christians in the past centuries? The exoteric Christian undoubtedly sees in its infinite perfection something to which he looks up as his great ideal and which he approaches ever more and more. But what presumption would it be for the Christian to imagine that in a single life he could somehow gather strength sufficient to bring to fruition the germ that can be stimulated by the Impulse of Christ. What presumption it would be for the exoteric Christian to suppose that he were capable of doing anything adequate to bring the Christ-Impulse to fruition and unfoldment! Such a belief would cause the exoteric Christian to say: ‘We pass through the gates of death; in the spiritual realms the opportunity will be given us of evolving and of bringing to fuller development the Christ-Impulse there.’ And thus the exoteric Christian believes in a spiritual life after death—one from which he does not return to Earth. Does the exoteric Christian who believes in a never-ending spiritual existence following life on Earth, understand the Christ-Impulse? He does not understand it. Did he understand it, he would never believe that, without returning to earth, he could win for himself what the Christ-Impulse has to give him in a spiritual existence following death.
In order that the Deed on Golgotha might be accomplished, in order that the victory over death might be achieved, it was necessary that Christ Himself should descend to Earth-life;—this was necessary in order to fulfil that which could only be fulfilled and experienced on our Earth. For this reason Christ descended to Earth; because the force of that Deed of the Mystery on Golgotha must of necessity influence man in the physical body. If he has received the Impulse of the Mystery of Golgotha while in the physical body, that impulse will continue to work when he has passed through the gates of death. Only as much of the impulse as man has received in his life on Earth, continues to work after death. When he returns again to Earth, he must work out for himself the perfecting of what he has received. Only in the later earth-lives succeeding one another can man learn what is the real nature of the Christ- Impulse. Never could he understand the Christ-Impulse in one life; it must be his guide through repeated earth-lives; because Earth is the place for the understanding of the Mystery of Golgotha.
Thus Christianity will be lacking in something till the presumptuous thought that the Christ-Impulse could be exhausted in one life is replaced by that other: that repeated earth-lives are necessary to enable man so to perfect himself that he can give free expansion to the ideal of Christ within him. Then he can carry with him into the spiritual worlds the result of his experiences on Earth. But he can bring with him only as much of that Impulse as he has assimilated while on Earth,—that Impulse, the most important event in the whole history of our Earth, which had to be accomplished on the Earth.
We thus see that the next revelation by which Christianity must be enriched from the spiritual worlds, is the idea of rebirth, evolved out of Christianity itself. When we understand this we shall recognise the importance for us to-day, in the region of Spiritual Science, of the knowledge gained by us as a result of the Whitsuntide revelation. That knowledge confers on us the right to participate in the revelation; it means that we can feel a renewal of the revelation of the force conveyed in the ‘tongues of fire’ that descended on the first disciples of Christ.
We are reminded to-day in a new form, of much of what has been said of late in our movement. It is like the drawing together of East and West, of the two mighty revelations of Christianity and Buddhism. In spirit we can see the fusion of those two streams, and, through a right understanding of the Christian signification of Whitsuntide, we are able to vindicate the fusion of these two greatest of all religions at present on the face of the Earth. But it is not possible to unite two such streams of revelation by mere outer impulses: that would only be theory. Were any one to take what Christianity has given us up to the present time and weld it into a new religion, together with what Buddhism has so far given to the world, he would provide nothing new for the nourishment of the souls of mankind, but merely an abstract theory incapable of inflaming a single human soul. If such an event is to happen, new revelations must come. For us that is the message which has become known as Anthroposophy—a message now indeed audible only to those who have, by an assiduous assimilation of Spiritual Science, prepared themselves to let Christ speak through them—the Christ Who is ever with us. It has been pointed out that the present is a momentous time for the evolution of mankind; that before the close of this century new forces will be developed in the human soul, which will produce in man a kind of etheric clairvoyance, by which, as by a natural development, a repetition of the vision beheld by Paul on his way to Damascus will be experienced by certain persons; so that Christ will reappear clothed with etheric raiment, to those whose spiritual forces have been raised. The vision of Paul at Damascus will become a more and more frequent occurrence. Then the world will become aware of the existence of Anthroposophy, and will see in it the revelation foretold of a new presentment of the truth of the Christ-Impulse. This new revelation will be understood by those alone who believe that the fresh current of spiritual life into which Christ once and for ever poured Himself, will remain a living force for all time to come. Those who will not believe this may continue to proclaim a Christianity that has outlived its time. But they who understand it and believe in the real Whitsuntide outpouring will be able to comprehend that that which began with the Christian Annunciation will grow continually and will speak to mankind again and again in tones that are ever new. They will understand that the individualised outpouring of the Holy Ghost, the ‘fiery tongues,’ will ever be with us and that the human soul will know and bring to fruition the Christ Impulse with constantly renewed ardour and devotion.
We can believe in the future of Christianity when we truly understand the significance of Whitsuntide. And then with a power that works as a force immanent in the soul, the stupendous scene comes before us; then we realise the future as the first apostles realised it, under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost; so that we long to bring to life in our own souls something that knows not the bounds set between the separate fragments of humanity; something that speaks a tongue understood by all the souls on the face of the Earth. We are sensible of the peace, the love and harmony contained in the thoughts of Whitsuntide, and we feel the vivifying power of those thoughts at our Whitsun Festival. We recognise in them a pledge of our hope of freedom and of eternity. As we feel in our souls the awakening of the individualised spirit, the most momentous attribute of spirit—the infinity of the spiritual—is aroused within us. By his participation in the spiritual, man may become aware of his immortality and eternity. In the thought of Whitsuntide we feel most deeply the power of those primeval words, which Initiate after Initiate has implanted in various languages, revealing to us the meaning of Wisdom and Eternity. We feel them as a Whitsuntide thought that has been transmitted from epoch to epoch, in words spoken to-day for the first time exoterically:
‘Wesen reiht sich an Wesen in den Raumesweiten,
Wesen folgt auf Wesen in den Zeitenlaufen.
Verbleibst du in Raumesweiten und Zeitenläufen,
Bist du, O Mensch, allein im Gebiete der Vergänglichkeit.
Über sie aber erhebt deine Seele sich gewaltiglich,
Wenn sie erahnend oder wissend schaut das Unvergängliche
Jenseits der Raumesweiten und jenseits der Zeitenläufe!’
An approximate rendering of the foregoing is:
‘Being is ranged beside Being in the realms of space,
Being follows Being in the cycles of time.
Wouldst thou remain within the limits of space and time,
Then art thou, 0 man, in the realms of the Temporal alone.
But mightily thy soul wings its flight above space and time,
When, dimly foreseeing or knowing, it beholds the Eternal
Beyond the bounds of space and beyond the cycles of time.’