Donate books to help fund our work. Learn more→

The Rudolf Steiner Archive

a project of Steiner Online Library, a public charity

Festivals of the Seasons

10. A Christmas Lecture

26 December 1914, Dornach

The remembrance of this Christmas Festival will be strongly imprinted on the souls of many, for a sharper mental contrast can scarcely be imagined than that which arises, when we lift our souls to the voices which sounded to the shepherds, presenting an eternal truth for all human progress of the post-Christian times:

‘Divine revelation in the heights and upon earth peace to the men who have goodwill,’

when we raise our souls to the ‘peace upon earth to men’ and then look at the facts of the present day which we find outspread over a great part of the civilised world.

By reason of this contrast, this Christmas Festival will be a permanent token in the memories and hearts of men upon the earth. For certainly, if we preserve that which we must always preserve within the fields of our occult thought, if we preserve our uprightness of heart and our inner sincerity of soul, we cannot celebrate this Christmas Festival with the same feeling with which we have celebrated others; for it must stimulate us to more profound reflection, must stimulate us very specially to that which arises from our occult deepening as ideas for the future of humanity—to that which can lead human hearts to the ages which will be so different from our own.

In the course of years we have registered much within our souls, which can indicate to us the sort of soul-condition which such ages will bring. Let us ask ourselves, what is that, of which we must feel that it is still so much needed at the present time? If we call up before the eyes of our soul that which has frequently formed the centre of our consideration, we shall see that within the depths of the human soul a true knowledge is wanting of that which drew into the world upon the day which we celebrate every year in this wintry Christmas.

The whole significance, the whole profundity, of that which took place in the time which we call to remembrance in this Christmas Festival, is truly not expressed unavailingly, but profoundly and significantly, in the passage which humanity of earth has accepted from affection, one might say, the passage which runs thus:

‘Divine revelation in the heights and upon earth peace to the men who have goodwill,’

The simplest things are often to the human heart the most difficult of comprehension, and simple as this verse sounds, we do well if we make it ever clearer to ourselves that all the future ages of the earth existence will be able to understand this verse more and more profoundly, to enter more and more deeply into the significance of these important words.

It is not without reason that out of all the secret history of the appearing of Jesus upon the earth, the Festival of Christmas has become the most popular—nothing has become more popular than the entrance of the Jesus-child into earth life. For with this we have the possibility of placing before the souls of men something which is received lovingly even by the heart of a little child, in so far as he is able to receive external sense impressions, even though perhaps not yet from words, and yet at the same time it is something which sinks deeply into the depths of those human souls through which the gentlest and yet at the same time the strongest love flows warmly.

Truly the humanity upon earth is not yet advanced beyond a childish comprehension of the Mysteries of Christ Jesus, and epoch after epoch will still have to elapse ere human souls again acquire those forces, by means of which they will be able to absorb the complete magnitude of the beginning of the Mystery of Golgotha. Thus on this occasion may no Christmas consideration as in other years be brought before your souls, but something which may show us how much we are wanting in that depth which is necessary in order to let the Mystery of Golgotha flash up rightly within our souls.

In the course of the last few years we have often spoken of the fact that on occult grounds we really have to celebrate the birth of not only one Jesus child but of two, and it may be said that because through the observations of Spiritual Science this mystery of the two Jesus children has been revealed, a faint beginning has been made to a new comprehension of the Mystery of Golgotha.

Only slowly and gradually could this Mystery of Golgotha grip the minds of men. How it has been absorbed into human minds can be brought before our souls when, for example, we glance at the fact that, to a certain extent, that which Christian humanity has gained in the idea of the Christmas child had to struggle through from East to West, by making its way through other versions of a Divine Mediator between the highest Divine-spiritual Beings and the human soul.

We have often considered the fact that, running parallel with the stream of Christian life from East to West, another stream of revelation flowed from the North, over the Black Sea, along the Danube, upwards to the Rhine, to Western Europe. The worship which we know as the worship of Mithras disappeared in the early centimes of the Christian era. But in the first centuries of the Christian era it had gripped as many hearts in Europe as had Christianity itself, and impressed itself deeply and extended in the regions of central and Eastern Europe. To those who followed this worship, Mithras appeared just as sublime and great a Divine Mediator descending from spiritual heights into earth existence, as the Christ appeared to the Christians. In the same way we hear of the entrance of Mithras into earth existence in the Winter Holy-night, the shortest day! In the same way we hear that he was born secretly in a cave, that shepherds were the first to hear his Song of Praise: in the same way was Sunday dedicated to him in contradistinction to the other more ancient feast days. And if we ask what is the characteristic feature in the descent of this Mithras-figure, we must say as follows: Mithras was not represented as was the Christ within Jesus. When an image, a symbolical representation, was formed of him, it was known that it was only a symbolical representation. The true Mithras was only to be seen by those who had the faculty of clairvoyance. Certainly he was represented as a mediator between man and the spiritual Hierarchies, but he was not represented as having been incarnated in a human child. He was represented in such a way that when he descended to the earth, in his true being he was only visible to the Initiates, to those who had clairvoyant vision. The idea did not exist in the Mithras worship that that spiritual Being, who was represented as a mediator between the Spiritual Hierarchies and the souls of men, was incarnated in an earthly body as a child. For the worship of Mithras depended upon the fact that the ancient primitive clairvoyance was still in existence in a large number of human beings.

If we investigate the path of worship of Mithras from East to West, we find that amongst the people who were worshippers of Mithras a large number were those who could see in those intermediate conditions between waking and sleeping, when the soul lives not in dreams, but in spiritual reality. These could see in such intermediate conditions the descent of Mithras from aeon to aeon, from stage to stage, from the spiritual world down to the earth. Many could see and bear witness that such a Mediator had arisen for man, a Mediator in the spiritual worlds.

That which lived as the cult of Mithras was an externalisation of the more or less symbolical representation seen by the seer. What is it really that we meet with in this worship of Mithras? Our whole understanding of the Cosmos makes it impossible to believe that the Christ has only been known since the Mystery of Golgotha. The Initiates and their pupils also knew Him in the pre-Christian times as that Spirit Who was to come. The Initiates always pointed again and again to Him Whom they saw as the Sun-spirit descending from the heights, Who was approaching the earth in order to take up His abode within it. They designated Him as the One Who was to be, the One Who was to come. They knew Him in spirit and saw Him descending.

Then the Mystery of Golgotha took place. We know what it signifies. We know that through this Mystery of Golgotha that Spirit through Whom the earth has gained its meaning drew into a human body. We know that since then this Spirit is connected with the Earth and we know how man is to develop in order, in no very distant future, to see again in spirit the Christ Who through the Mystery of Golgotha united His Own Life with the life of the earth I humanity. We are expressing nothing figurative when we say that That Which the ancient Initiates saw in the various Sanctuaries of the Spiritual is since then to be recognised as pressing through, streaming through, pulsating through, living through the earth-life.

But the clairvoyant perception had to be lost more and more, and with it the power to look up into the spiritual spheres to behold the Christ, Who had now descended to the earth. For now those who could not perceive clairvoyantly could see that He was permeated with divine love, that He was That Which they were always to possess as the highest treasure of the earth-man. Thus men were to feel fully that they had to receive within their earthly habitation the great gift of cosmic Love, the Christ, sent by the God Who is called the Father-God; they were to learn to know Him fully as the Being Who henceforth was to remain connected with the ages as the meaning of the earth evolution; they were to learn to know Him fully in His life, from the first respiration as a Child to the spiritual deed of Christ on Golgotha which can be revealed to the hearts of men.

In the course of later times, it has been possible for us to fill this gap by means of the Fifth Gospel, which has been added to the other Gospels, as in our age it was destined for us to know every step of this Divine Life upon earth yet more minutely. And thus because men were, as it were, to become familiar with Christ Jesus as with a brother, as with One Who from love of man has drawn out of the wide spiritual realms into the narrow valley of earth, because men were to learn to know Him in the most familiar, most intimate knowledge, therefore had the powers of perception and love in the human mind to be gathered together in order to perceive intuitively in a purely human-divine manner, I might say, that which was enacted among men as the beginning of a new age, the Christian age.

For this end the power of man had to be concentrated upon the life of Christ Jesus: for a time it had to be diverted from the vision upwards into the spiritual spheres by means of That Which had drawn into the Child of Bethlehem, Which had descended from cosmic heights. But to-day, we are living in a time in which the vision must again be extended, in which human progress and human evolution must again dominate evolution if the Christ, as descending from divine spiritual heights, is to remain what He is in the life of the earth.

The worship of Mithras was a last powerful remembrance of the Christ Who had not yet reached the earth but was descending. For humanity was destined to receive the Christ ever more into the soul in such a way that even the smallest child could receive Him; in such a way that with it there came a closing of the spiritual vision with regard to the spiritual world, that vision by means of which we know that the Christ is a Cosmic Being, by means of which we know what importance He has for the valley of the earth.

Slowly and gradually the worship of Mithras flowed away, owing to the fact that Christ could appear to man as a Cosmic Being. The worship of Mithras was an echo of the old clairvoyant perception.

Then we see how, with the gradual flowing away, the clairvoyant perception also diminished, how even for those who still had the clairvoyant perception of the old sort, a flowing away of the clairvoyant capacities began, and how, with this flowing away, the possibility also ceased of perceiving the Christ completely in His true nature. He was perceived in His true nature when He was perceived not only in His earthly activity, but in His heavenly glory. The possibility gradually diminished, disappeared, of seeing Him in His heavenly glory beside His earthly existence. We see that it again appeared in a weakened form, in spite of the greatness of the teaching in other respects, in the founder of Manicheism. The Manu pointed to Jesus, but it was not an indication which was suited to simple, primitive, believing minds, because in this spirit which founded Manicheism the ancient clairvoyance still existed.

Yet there was nothing in it which could be counted as an opposition with regard to the comprehension of Christianity. Christ Jesus was for the Manu a Being Who had not taken on earthly corporality but had lived in a phantom body, as it were, in an etheric body upon the earth.

Now we see that with regard to the comprehension of the appearing of Christ Jesus a struggle began. Why was this? There was a striving to look upwards, as it were, to see how the Being of Christ descended. They were not, however, yet capable of seeing how the descending Being actually took up His abode in human flesh. A struggle of soul was inevitable before this complete comprehension was possible.

Again we see the teachings of the Manichees extending from East to West, a teaching which still looked up towards the Divine Spirit Who was descending, looked towards everything which the old conception of the world possessed, looked towards the permeation of the world not merely with the physical Being which presented itself to the human sense existence, but also with the Being which with the movements of the stars pervades the Cosmos.

The linking of human fate, of human life, with cosmic life, this pervaded the soul of the Manichee, this was deeply rooted within him, shunning the evil, which rules in human life in common with the activity of the good God. Deeply, deeply did Manicheism look into the riddle of evil. But this riddle of evil at the same time can only appear before the human soul when we are able to grasp it in connection with the Mystery of Golgotha, when we penetrate the Mystery of Golgotha with the riddle of evil in Manicheism.

Truly those who were called upon to yield their souls in the deepest, most intense manner, to the Mystery of Golgotha, have contended with that which shone into more modern times from the residue of the ancient clairvoyant perception. We need only think of one great leader of the West, St. Augustine. Before he struggled through to the Christianity of Paul he was given up to the teaching of the Manichees. A yet greater impression was made upon him when he was able to perceive how from aeon to aeon the Being of the divine spiritual mediator descended from divine spiritual spheres. This spiritual vision also illumined for Augustine in the first period of his struggle the perception of how the Christ had taken up His abode upon the earth in a fleshly body, and how with Him the riddle of evil was solved.

It is striking to see how Augustine conversed with the celebrated Bishop Faustus of the Manichees, and only because this Bishop was not able to make the requisite impression upon Augustine, he turned away from Manicheism and towards the Christianity of Paul. Here we see the flow and ebb of that which we can call the perception of the super-earthly Christ as He was before the Mystery of Golgotha. And in the main, only with the raising of the new age of the fifth post-Atlantean epoch did that completely disappear which was the residue of the old clairvoyant perception.

This old clairvoyant perception knew the heavenly Christ. Even in the beginning of Christianity He could be felt, but to see how He descended was only possible for the old clairvoyant perception. Deeply, deeply, must it affect us when we perceive how in the first age of the spreading of Christianity those who had drawn their perception from the old clairvoyance wished to picture the Christ; how in order to perceive the Christ they looked not merely towards Bethlehem but into the spheres of heaven, in order to see how He descended from thence to bring salvation to men.

We know that besides the worship of Mithras, and besides Manicheism, there existed in the West the Gnosis which wished to connect the old clairvoyant perception of the great Sun-Spirit, Who descended from the divine sphere, with the perception of the course of earthly life of Christ Jesus. And then it is striking to see how the human mind wished to concentrate itself ever more upon the earthly connections of Christ Jesus. It is striking to see how this simple human mind which can find nothing simple enough to represent it, is afraid of the greatness of the feeling which had to be experienced with regard to the lofty conception of the old Gnosis. The early Christians were afraid of these lofty conceptions. Up to our own age the fear strikes those who come into touch with spiritual knowledge that it is easy for the mind to come into confusion if it raises itself into the ages in which it could be seen that Christ descended from the loftiest heights in order to be able to dwell in a human body.

That which the Gnostics were able to say regarding the heavenly Christ beside the earthly Christ affects us very deeply and I should like to say that our soul-vision of the earthly life of Christ Jesus will in no way be blunted if, through Spiritual Science, it is shown the way to the new clairvoyance in order to find the Christ as He descended from the heights of heaven. Here we have a verse evidently of Gnostic origin:

‘Behold, O Father, how, distant from Thy Breath, this being upon earth
Wanders, the target and victim of all ill.
Lo, ill, perplexed, it flies the deadly chaos—how can it find its way?
Therefore send me, O Father,
Descending, victory to bring,
I traverse all the aeons,
Teaching all sacred knowledge;
Thus may God’s image be manifested,
And thus to you I give
The deeply hidden knowledge of the sacred way:
“Gnosis” it is called for you.’

We feel that the new Spiritual Science must again lead us into these things in order that we, in our conceptions, may be able to weave round the Christ- Event the spiritual Aura which for good reasons, as we have often emphasised and had to mention again to-day, was for a time lost to humanity. We must do it slowly and gradually: we must, to a certain extent, try to express that which Spiritual Science is able to reveal to us in such a way that the human mind, which to-day is far from the science of spiritual knowledge, may be able to grasp it.

And so we have endeavoured to express the whole anthroposophical wisdom concerning the Christ-Event, and especially concerning the Christmas night and its connection with the human mind, in simple words which are here presented to you:

In the eyes of the soul reflected
In the light of the cosmic hope,
In the human heart to the spirit exalted wisdom speaks:
The eternal love of the Father
To the earth has sent His Son
Who, filled with grace, on the human path sheddeth the light of heaven.

It is to be hoped that a time will come for earthly evolution in which more, much more can be expressed, and in far, far clearer words, regarding the Mystery of Golgotha, simple words in which for the whole world can be expressed that which Spiritual Science has to say to humanity regarding the Mystery of Golgotha.

We see how, up to the end of the fourth post-Atlantean period, even up to the beginning of the fifth, the old clairvoyant perception ebbed away in such a maimer that the last remains which were still left to man fell into disrepute. We see this downfall, as I might call it, embodied in that form which appeared in Europe and spread much further than is thought during the ebb of the fourth post-Atlantean period, in the figure of the popular adventurer (for he was an adventurer), who was still able to exhibit the last sign of clairvoyant perception—“Magister Georgius Sabellicus Faustus Junior, Magus Secundus, philosophus philosophorus, fons necromanticorum, chiromanticus, agromanticus, pyromanticus, in hydra arte secundus.” So ran the complete title of that Faust who lived in the sixteenth century as a representative of the moribund clairvoyance, that Faust who still had a vision into the spiritual worlds, even though the vision was chaotic. But it no longer happens in modern times that when the human soul is passive in certain conditions it can see spiritually, as in ancient times. For it can only see what is material and can acquire that which the intellect can combine out of the material. The whole tragedy of the final spiritual vision is brought to expression in the primitive communications regarding Faustus junior. By giving himself such a title we can perceive that he is, as it were, the final offshoot of those who were able to see into the spheres through which the Christ descended. He called himself Faustus junior, in allusion to the Manichee Bishop Faustus.

We know that he knew all about the Bishop Faustus for whom Augustine had longed, for the writings of Augustine were never so widely spread in Europe as at the time in which the writings of Faust junior appeared. And he called himself Magus Secundus, referring to the Magus Primus, the Simon Magus of old, who for those who were yet able to see, represented one whose vision towered up into the spheres of heaven, and of whom they stood in awe who were only desirous of concentrating within themselves the heavenly power.

Faustus alluded to him. And he alluded to yet another of whom we know through our observations of Spiritual Science that his vision unfolded in order to see into spiritual spheres. He called himself Pythagoras Secundus as the successor of that Pythagoras who was called Primus in this art.

We see the last glimmering evening-glow of that which existed as the ancient clairvoyance and we see how incomprehensible this ancient clairvoyance already was to men. Indeed that was actually realised which has been represented so strikingly to us in the legend of Faust, that Augustine longed for Faustus senior and that he became acquainted with the teaching of Faustus senior through an old man, a doctor. In the same way, carried forward into different circumstances, Faustus junior encounters us in the popular legend, and the old man again appears here, warning him: but he had already made his compact. He entrusted to Dr. Wagner his inheritance. When in surveying the ages and that which arose therein as conceptions of a spiritual world we see the age of the fifth post-Atlantean epoch approaching, we have to say: That is the legacy entrusted to Dr. Wagner. The question is how such a legacy can be administered. In the case of Faust, it is still a seeing into the spiritual worlds; in the case of this Dr. Wagner it is what can be described by saying that a man digs greedily for treasure and rejoices if he finds a glow-worm.

Such is the materialistic conception of the world of our modern times. It is no wonder that in this materialistic conception of the world the whole view of the heavenly Christ was lost, so that to-day people are afraid of the expansion of that picture upon which the earth-forces up till the present should have been concentrated. For we also know that the earth-humanity would have to lose, completely lose, all comprehension of this, if through a new spiritual view it were not able to weave a new aura round the touching picture of the Christ-child and His growth through thirty-three earth years. Spiritual Science will be called upon, as those souls who seriously apply themselves to Spiritual Science will perceive, again to quicken the vision of human minds for the heavenly Christ beside the earthly Christ. Then will the Christ be known for all the future earth-ages in such a way that He can never be lost to the progress and the salvation of mankind.

When wisdom shall again press upwards into the heights where, in the divine spheres, the fire of love bums, then will the human soul certainly not lose all that is wonderful, all that presses into the profoundest life-springs of men, all that human knowledge can know regarding Christ Jesus. And infinitely much will be acquired in addition: there will be acquired that which must be acquired if the evolution of humanity is to advance as it should.

The fresh springs of a new spiritual knowledge have already been opened; nevertheless, that which we are able to say to-day is truly such that we celebrate it at this time still in the symbol of the Christmas Festival. Deep, deep humility overcomes him who rightly experiences that which is to-day our occult knowledge. For we can only very dimly sense that which Spiritual Science will become for humanity in future days. For that which we are able to know of it to-day is in the same relation to that which in the days to come, when many, many ages have passed away, will be presented to humanity as that of the little Christmas child to the full-grown Christ Jesus. To-day in our newly-arisen Spiritual Science we have truly still the child. Hence the Christmas Festival is rightly our festival, and we perceive that, with regard to what can hold sway in the evolution of the earth as human light, we are to-day living in the profoundly dark winter night. Also with regard to our present-day knowledge we are actually standing before what is revealed in the profound wintry darkness of the earth evolution, just as once the shepherds stood before the Christ-child which was first revealed to them. With regard to the comprehension of Christ Jesus we can feel to-day exactly as did the shepherds at that time. We can so truly implore the springs of spiritual life which can ever more and more flow to mankind, implore them that indeed they may more and more bring to pass the Divine Revelation in the spiritual heights and through this revelation give to the human minds that peace which is in truth good for them. Then this Christmas Festival appears to us as a token. We still know little of that which the world will have as Spiritual Science in the days to come. We dimly sense what is to come, we dimly sense it in profound humility. But if we allow that little truly to enter our hearts, how does it appear to us then?

Let us cast a glance over present-day Europe—how the peoples think of one another, how each one seeks to lay the guilt of what is taking place upon the others. If the true anthroposophical conception is really impressed on our minds, then we shall understand the guilt which is now sought for by one people in the other, by one nation in the other. Truly, the guilt belongs to someone who is really and truly international, who guides his steps from nation to nation. But he is only spoken of in the circle of those into whose hearts a little Spiritual Science has penetrated. There we speak of Ahriman, the truly international being, who in conjunction with Lucifer is the truly guilty one. We do not find him if we turn our glance always to others, but if we seek the way to knowledge through self-knowledge. There, below in the chaotic depths, he goes; we feel him, this Ahriman. We shall learn to know him rightly and to know him in connection with that which the Mystery of Golgotha can be to us, namely, the proclamation of the revelation of wisdom and of peace in the heights and depths of the valley of the earth. Then only do we perceive what the whole fire of the Love is which can ray forth from the Mystery of Golgotha, which knows none of the limits which are set between the nations of the earth.

Much is contained in that which as Spiritual Science stands before our souls. Yet if we look at that which had already been manifested before this our chaotic present and which has now found an expression so convulsing, so sad and so painful, then we find how very very small is that dwelling, that soul-dwelling, in which to-day must dwell the new comprehension of the Christmas child which is to come to the earth. That Christmas child had to appear to poor shepherds, had to be born in a stable, concealed from those who at that time governed the world. Is it not again the same with regard to the new comprehension of that which is connected with the Mystery of Golgotha? Is not that which appears to us to-day outside in the world far removed from this comprehension? How far removed is the world at the beginning of our age from that which was revealed to the shepherds in the words:

Divine Revelation in the heights and upon earth peace to the men who have goodwill.

Let us celebrate this Christmas Festival of the renewed Christ comprehension in our hearts and in our souls if we wish to celebrate a true Christmas Festival, let us feel, as did the shepherds, far away from that which has now gripped the world. And through that which is revealed to us, as it was to the shepherds, we realise what had to be realised at that time, the promise of a certain future. Let us build within our souls confidence in the fulfilment of this promise, confidence that that which we feel to-day as the child which we must worship (the new Christ-comprehension is this child) will grow, will live, will grow to maturity in the near future, so that in it can be embodied the Christ appearing in the etheric, just as the Christ could be embodied in the fleshly body at the time of the Mystery of Golgotha. Let us fill ourselves with the light which through the confidence in this out-pouring can shine into the deepest inner being of our souls. Let us permeate ourselves with the warmth which can flow through our minds. If we feel thus with regard to the heights in which the light of Spiritual Science appears before our souls, then alone can we be certain that it will some day fill the world.

When we thus think, we celebrate a genuine Christmas Festival even in this grave and painful time, for not only is it the profoundly dark winter night of the time of the year, but there is over the horizon of the nations the result of the Ahrimanic darkness which has been growing up since the beginning of the fifth post-Atlantean age. And just as the announcement of the Christ could only come at first to the shepherds but then filled the world ever more and more, so will also the new comprehension of the Mystery of Golgotha fill the world ever more and more, and times will come which as times of light will replace for humanity the time of winter darkness in which we are living to-day.

Thus let us feel as did the shepherds with regard to that which is still a child, with regard to the new Christ-comprehension, and let us feel that in all humility we can permeate with the new meaning the verse which is not only for ever to be preserved within the progress of the evolution of the earth, but is also to become more and more full of meaning. Let us with our minds and with heightened consciousness make ourselves one at this Christmas time with the motto so full of promise:

Divine Revelation in spiritual heights,
Peace ever and yet more peace
To all the souls of men on earth
Who have goodwill.