From Jesus to Christ
14 October 1911, Karlsruhe
Yesterday we tried to characterise the path to Christ that can still be taken today, as it could especially in earlier times, by exoteric means. We will now touch briefly on the esoteric path — the path which leads to Christ in such a way that he can be found within the super-sensible worlds.
First of all we must note that this esoteric path to Christ Jesus was also the way of the Evangelists, of those who wrote the Gospels. For although the writer of the John Gospel had himself witnessed many of the events he describes — as you can see from the lecture-cycle on this Gospel — his chief object was not merely to relate what he remembered, for this applies only to those minute, exact details which surprise us in his Gospel. The great, majestic, crowning features of the work of redemption, of the Mystery of Golgotha, were drawn by the writer of this Gospel from his clairvoyant consciousness also. Consequently, although the Gospels are really revived Mystery rituals — this is shown in my Christianity as Mystical Fact — they are so because the writers of the Gospels, following their esoteric path, could procure for themselves out of the super-sensible world a picture of the events in Palestine which led to the Mystery of Golgotha. Ever since the Mystery of Golgotha up to our own times, a person who desired to come to a super-sensible experience of the Christ-Event had to go through the stages which you will find described in earlier lecture-cycles as the seven stages of our Christian Initiation: The Washing of the Feet; The Scourging; The Crowning with Thorns; The Mystic Death; The Burial; the Resurrection; the Ascension. Today we will make clear to ourselves what the pupil can attain by going through this Christian Initiation.
First of all, one essential point. As you can convince yourselves by reading the lectures on this subject, Christian Initiation is very different from the incorrect method of Initiation described in the first lecture of this course. In Christian Initiation certain feelings which belong to humanity in general are first invoked, and they lead to an Imagination of the Washing of the Feet. Thus the picture of this in the John Gospel is not the first thing to be imagined; the aspirant begins by trying to live for a long time with certain feelings and perceptions. I have often characterised this by saying that the person concerned should gaze upon the plant, which grows out of the mineral ground, takes into itself the materials of the mineral kingdom, and yet raises itself above this kingdom as a higher being than the mineral. If the plant could speak and feel, it would bow down to the mineral kingdom and say: ‘Certainly I was destined within the economy of the Cosmos to attain a higher stage than you, Mineral, but you give me the possibility of existence. In the order of beings you are certainly a lower being than myself, but I have to thank you for my existence, and I bow myself in humility before you.’ In the same way the animal would have to bow down to the plant, although the plant is a lower being than the animal, and say: ‘I thank you for my existence; I acknowledge it in humility, and I bow myself before you.’ And so would each being that climbs upwards have to bow down to the other standing below, and also he who has risen by way of a spiritual ladder to a higher level must bow down to the beings who alone have made this possible for him.
A person who permeates himself with the feeling of humility in regard to the lower, who thoroughly incorporates this feeling in his own being and lets it live there for months, perhaps even for years, will see that it spreads itself out in his organism, and so pervades him that he experiences a transformation of this feeling into an Imagination. And this Imagination corresponds exactly to the scene represented in the John Gospel as the Washing of the Feet, where Christ Jesus, who is the Head of the Twelve, stoops to those who stand here below Him in the order of the physical world, and in humility acknowledges that He thanks those who are below Him for the possibility of his higher ascent. He acknowledges before the Twelve: ‘As the animal thanks the plant, so do I thank you for what I was able to become in the physical world!’ A person who permeates himself with this feeling comes not only to an Imagination of the Washing of the Feet, but also to a quite pronounced feeling, as though water were washing over his feet. This can be felt for weeks: it shows how deeply imbued our human nature is with such universal human feelings, which nevertheless can raise man above himself.
Further, we have seen that we can go through the experience which leads to the Imagination of the Scourging when we place the following vividly before us: ‘Much suffering and pain will meet me in the world; yes, from all sides suffering and pain may come; no one escapes them. But I will so steel my will that suffering and pain, the scourgings that come from the world, may do their worst; I will stand upright and bear my fate resignedly, as it comes to pass. For had it not come to pass as it has done, as I have experienced it, I should not have been able to reach the height I have attained.’ When the person in question makes this a matter of his perception, and lives within it, he actually feels something like sharp pains and woundings, like strokes of a scourge against his own skin, and the Imagination arises as if he were outside himself, and was watching himself scourged according to the example of Christ Jesus. In line with this example one can experience the Crowning of Thorns, the Mystic Death, and so on. This has often been described.
What is attained by a man who thus seeks within himself to experience first the four stages, and then, when his karma is favourable, the others also, making in all seven stages of Christian Initiation? From the foregoing description you can gather that the whole scale of feelings we go through ought to strengthen us and give us power, and ought to make us into quite another nature, so that in the world we feel ourselves standing strong, powerful and free, and also capable of every act of devoted love. In Christian Initiation, this ought in a deep sense to become a second nature to us. For what has to happen?
Perhaps it has not yet occurred to all those of you who have read the earlier elementary cycles, and so have met with Christian Initiation in its seven stages, that owing to the intensity of the experiences which must be undergone, the effects go right into the physical body. For through the strength and power with which we go through these feelings, it really is at first as if water were washing over our feet, and then as if we were transfixed with wounds. We actually feel as if thorns were pressing into our head; we feel all the pain and suffering of the Crucifixion. We have to feel this before we can experience the Mystical Death, the Burial, and the Resurrection, as these also have been described. Even if we have not gone through these feelings with sufficient intensity, they will certainly have the effect that we become strong and full of love in the right sense of the word. But what we then incorporate can go only as far as the etheric body.
When, however, we begin to feel that our feet are as though washed with water, our body as if covered with wounds, then we have succeeded in driving these feelings so deeply into our nature that they have penetrated as far as the physical body. They do indeed penetrate the physical body, and then the stigmata, the marks of the bleeding wounds of Christ Jesus, may appear. We drive the feelings inwards into the physical body and know that they develop their strength in the physical body itself. We consciously feel ourselves more in the grip of our whole being than if the impressions were merely in the astral body and etheric body. The essential thing is that through a process of mystical feeling we work right into our physical body; and when we do this we are doing nothing less than making ourselves ready in our physical body to receive the Phantom that went forth from the grave on Golgotha. Hence we work into our physical body in order to make it so living that it feels a relationship with, an attractive force towards, the Phantom that rose out of the grave on Golgotha.
And here I would make an incidental remark. In Spiritual Science one must accustom oneself to becoming acquainted with cosmic secrets and cosmic truths gradually. Anyone who is not prepared to wait for the relevant truths will not make good progress. Of course people would like to have Spiritual Science all at once, preferably in one book or in one course of lectures. But that cannot be so, as you will see from an example. How long is it since in earlier lectures Christian Initiation was first described? You heard that such and such takes place, and that the individual, through the feelings which affect his soul, works right into his physical body. Everything said in those earlier lectures was intended to provide some elements for understanding the Mystery of Golgotha, and now for the first time it is possible to describe how an individual, through the requisite exercises of feeling in the course of Christian Initiation, makes himself ripe to receive the Phantom which rose from the grave of Golgotha. We had to wait until the union of the subjective with the objective could be found; and for this many preparatory lectures were necessary. Even today there are many things that can be indicated only as ‘half truths’. Anyone who has patience to continue with us — whether in this or in another incarnation, each according to his karma — will have seen how he could advance from the description of the mystical path in the Christian sense to the description of the objective fact, and so to the real meaning of this Christian Initiation, and he will see also that still higher truths will be brought to light from out of Spiritual Science in the course of the coming years or the next age. Thus we see the aim, the goal, of Christian Initiation.
Through what has been characterised as Rosicrucian Initiation, i.e. what an individual can have of it as Initiation today, the same thing in a certain sense is also attained, only by somewhat different means. A bond of attraction is formed between the individual, in so far as he is incorporated in a physical body, and that which arose as the real prototype of the physical body from the grave of Golgotha. Now we know from previous lectures that we are at the starting-point of a world-epoch in which we must expect an event that will not take place on the physical plane, as did the Event of Golgotha, but in the super-sensible world; an event which nevertheless stands in a close and true connection with the Event of Golgotha. The latter was designed to give back to man his real physical force-body, the Phantom which had degenerated from the beginning of the Earth-evolution, and for the giving back of it a series of events on the physical plane had to occur; but for that which is now to happen an event on the physical plane is not necessary. An incarnation of the Christ-Being in a human body of flesh could take place only once in the course of the Earth-evolution. When people announce a repetition of the incarnation of this Being, it simply means that the Christ-Being is not understood.
The event now to come, which can be observed only in a super-sensible world, has been characterised in the words: ‘Christ becomes for men the Lord of Karma.’ This means that in future the ordering of karmic transactions will come about through Christ. Ever more and more will men of the future feel: ‘I am going through the gate of death with my karmic account. On one side stand my good, clever, and beautiful deeds, my clever, beautiful, good, and intelligent thoughts; on the other side stands everything evil, wicked, stupid, foolish and loathsome. But He who in the future will have the office of Judge for the incarnations which will follow in human evolution, in order to bring order into this karmic account of men, is the Christ!’ And truly we have to picture this in the following way:
After we have gone through the gate of death, we shall be incarnated again in a later period. We shall then have to encounter events through which our karma can be balanced, for every man must reap what he has sown. Karma is a just law. But what the karmic law has to fulfill is not there only for individual men. Karma does not only balance the accounts of each Ego, but in every case the balancing must be arranged so as to be in the best possible accord with the concerns of the whole world. It must enable us to give all possible help to the advancement of mankind on earth. For this we need enlightenment, not merely the knowledge that the karmic fulfillment of our deed must come about. The fulfillment can take a form which will be either less or more useful for the general progress of humanity. Hence we must choose those thoughts, feelings or perceptions which will pay off our karma and at the same time serve the collective progress of mankind. In the future it will fall to Christ to bring the balance of our karma into line with the general Earth-karma and the general progress of humanity. And this happens principally in the time between death and a new birth. But it will also be prepared for in the epoch of time we are now approaching, before whose door we stand, because men will more and more acquire the capacity for a special experience. Very few are capable of it now, but from the middle of this century onwards, through the next 1,000 years, more and more people will have the following experience.
A person has done this or that. He will feel constrained to reflect on his action, and something like a dream-picture, arising in his mind, will make a quite remarkable impression on him. He will say to himself: ‘I cannot identify this as a recollection of something I have done, yet it feels like an experience of my own.’ Like a dream-picture it will stand there before him, closely concerned with him; but he cannot recall that he has experienced or done it in the past. If he is an anthroposophist he will understand the matter; otherwise he will have to wait until he comes to Anthroposophy and learns to understand it. The anthroposophist will know: ‘What you see as an apparent consequence of your actions is a picture that will be fulfilled in the future; the balancing of your actions is shown to you in advance.’ We are at the beginning of an epoch in which men, directly after they have committed a deed, will have a premonition, a feeling, perhaps even a significant picture, of how this deed will be karmically balanced.
Thus, in closest connection with human experience, enhanced capabilities for humanity will arise during the coming epoch. These capabilities will give a powerful stimulus to human morality, and this will signify something quite different from the voice of conscience, which has been a preparation for it. The individual will no longer believe: ‘What I have done will die with me.’ He will know quite exactly: ‘My action will not die when I die; it will have a consequence which will live on with me.’ And there is much else that the individual will know. The time during which the doors of the spiritual world have been closed to men is nearly over. Men must again climb up into the spiritual world. Their awakening capacities will enable them to participate in the spiritual world. Clairvoyance will always be different from this participation. Just as there was an ancient dreamlike clairvoyance, so will there be a future clairvoyance that is not dreamlike, the clairvoyance of people who know what they are doing and what it signifies.
Something else, too, will come about. The individual will know: ‘I am not alone. Everywhere there are spiritual beings who stand in a relationship to me.’ Men will learn to communicate with these beings and to live with them. And in the next three thousand years the truth that Christ is acting as Karmic Judge will become apparent to a sufficiently large number of people. Christ Himself will be experienced by men as an etheric Form. Like Paul before Damascus, they will know quite intimately that Christ lives, and is the Source for the reawakening of the physical prototype we received at the beginning of our evolution, and need if the Ego is to attain full development.
If through the Mystery of Golgotha something happened which gave the greatest impetus to human evolution, on the other hand it came at the time when the human mind, the human soul, were in their darkest condition. There were indeed ancient periods of evolution when men could know with certainty, because they had an ancestral memory, that the human individuality goes through repeated earth-lives. In the Gospels the teaching of repeated earth-lives is apparent only when we understand the Gospels and can discern traces of it there. That was the time when men were least fitted to comprehend this teaching. In the later times when men sought for Christ along the path indicated yesterday, everything had to take the form of a childlike preparation. Men could not then be made acquainted with experiences concerning reincarnation; they were not ripe for it and it would only have led them into error. Christianity had to develop for nearly 2,000 years without being able to indicate the teaching of reincarnation.
We have shown in these lectures how different it was in Buddhism, and how in Western consciousness the thought of repeated earth-lives arises as something self-evident. Certainly, many misunderstandings still prevail; but whether we take this idea from Lessing or from the psychologist Drossbach, we become aware that for the European consciousness the teaching of reincarnation concerns humanity at large, whereas in Buddhism the individual regards the question of how he goes from life to life, how he can free himself from the thirst for existence, as concerning only his personal inner life. The Oriental makes what is given to him as teaching about reincarnation into a path of individual redemption, whereas for Lessing the essential question was: ‘How can the whole of humanity move forward?’ According to Lessing, we must distinguish successive periods of time within the progressive development of humanity. Something new is given to humanity in each epoch. We see from history that new civilising actions keep on emerging in the course of human development. How could one speak of the evolution of the whole of humanity, says Lessing, if a soul lived in only one epoch? Whence could the fruits of civilisation come if human beings were not born again, if what they had learnt in one epoch were not carried over into the next, and its fruits into the following epoch and so on?
Thus for Lessing the idea of repeated earth-lives is not only a concern of the individual soul. It concerns the whole course of earthly civilisation. And in order that an advanced civilisation may arise, a soul which lives in the nineteenth century must carry over into its present existence whatever it had previously gained. For the sake of the earth and its civilisation, human beings must be born again. That is Lessing's thought. But in this thought of reincarnation as concerning all mankind the Christ-Impulse has been at work, woven into it. For the Christ-Impulse makes everything a man does or can do into an action of universal relevance, not something that touches him only as an individual. He only can be Christ's disciple who says: ‘I do it for the least of the brethren, because I know Thou feelest as though I had done it for Thee.’ As the whole of humanity is bound up with Christ, so does he who confesses Christ feel that he belongs to all mankind. This thought has worked into the thinking, feeling, and perception of the whole human race. And when the idea of reincarnation reappeared in the eighteenth century, it appeared as a Christian thought. And although Widenmann treated reincarnation clumsily, in an embryonic way, yet in his prize essay of 1851 his thought of reincarnation is permeated by the Christian impulse. He devotes a special chapter to showing the connection between Christianity and the teaching of reincarnation.
It was necessary in human evolution that souls should first accept the other Christian impulses, so that the thought of reincarnation might come to our consciousness in a ripe form. And indeed this thought of reincarnation will so connect itself with Christianity that it will be felt as something that leads a person on through successive incarnations. We shall understand how individuality, which is completely lost according to the Buddhist view — as we saw from the conversation of King Milinda with the sage Nagasena — first receives its true content by becoming permeated with Christ. We can now understand why the Buddhist view, about 500 years before the appearance of Christ, lost the human Ego, while retaining the teaching of successive incarnations. We have reached a time in which the human organism must understand, accept, permeate itself with the thought of reincarnation. For the progress of human evolution does not depend on what teachings are promulgated or find a new foothold. Other laws come into consideration, and they do not depend upon ourselves.
In the future human nature will develop certain powers which will have the effect that the individual, as soon as he has reached a certain age and has become properly conscious of himself, will have the feeling: ‘There is something in me which I must understand.’ This feeling will take hold of men more and more. In past times, even when human beings were fully aware of themselves, the consciousness which is now to come did not exist. It will express itself somewhat as follows: ‘I feel something within me which is connected with my personal ego. Strangely, it will not fit in with all that I have come to know since birth.’ One man will understand what is at work here; another will not. A man will understand it if he has carried the teachings of Spiritual Science into his life. Then he will know: ‘What I am now feeling is foreign to me, because it is the ego that has come over from earlier lives.’ This will oppress the heart, will cause fear and anxiety, in those who cannot explain it by repeated earth-lives. These feelings, which are not merely a theoretical uncertainty but a starving, a cramping, of life, will disappear through the perceptions given to us by Spiritual Science, which tell us: ‘You must think of your life as extended over earlier earth-lives.’ Then men will see what it means for them to experience the connection with the Christ-Impulse. For it is the Christ-Impulse which will give life to the whole retrospective view, the whole perspective of the past. A man will feel: ‘Here was this incarnation; there, that one.’ Then he will come to a time beyond which he will be unable to go without clearly understanding: ‘The Christ-Impulse was then on earth!’ Incarnations will be followed further back to a time when the Christ-Event was not yet there. This illumination of the retrospective view through the Christ-Impulse will be needed by men for their assurance in the future, as a necessity and a help which can flow into later incarnations.
This transformation of the human soul will derive from the Event which begins in the twentieth century and may be called the second Christ-Event, so that those persons in whom higher faculties have awakened will look upon the Lord of Karma. Some of you may say that when the Christ-Event of the twentieth century takes place, many of those now living will be with those who have fallen asleep, will be in the time between death and a new birth. But whether a person is living in a physical body, or in the time between death and a new birth, if he has prepared himself for the Christ-Event, he will experience it. The vision of the Christ-Event does not depend on whether we are incarnated in a physical body, but the preparation for the Christ-Event does so depend. Just as it was necessary that the first Christ-Event should take place on the physical plane in order that the salvation of man could be accomplished, so must the preparation be made here in the physical world, the preparation to look with full understanding, with full illumination, upon the Christ-Event of the twentieth century. For a person who looks upon it unprepared, when his powers have been awakened, will not be able to understand it. The Lord of Karma will then appear to him as a fearful judgment. In order to have an illuminated understanding of this Event, the individual must be prepared. The spreading abroad of the anthroposophical world-conception has taken place in our time for this purpose, so that men can be prepared on the physical plane to perceive the Christ-Event either on the physical plane or on the higher planes. Those who are not sufficiently prepared on the physical plane, and then go unprepared through the life between death and a new birth, will have to wait until, in the next incarnation, they can be further prepared through Anthroposophy for the understanding of Christ. During the next 3,000 years the opportunity will be given to men of going through this preparation, and the purpose of all anthroposophical development will be to render men more and more capable of participating in that which is to come.
Thus we understand how the past flows over into the future. When, for example, we recall how the Buddha permeated the astral body of the Nathan Jesus-child, we see how the activity of the Buddha forces continued after he himself no longer needed to incarnate again on earth. And when we remember how influences not directly connected with the Buddha worked on in the West, we see how the spiritual world penetrates the physical.
All this preparation is connected with the fact that men are always drawing nearer to an ideal which dawned in ancient Greece, an ideal formulated by Socrates: that when a man grasps the idea of the good, the moral, the ethical, he feels this idea as so magical an impulse that he becomes capable of living in accordance with it as an ideal. Today we are not so far advanced that this ideal can be realised; we are only so far on that in certain circumstances a man may very well form a concept of the good; he may be very clever and wise, and yet he need not be morally good. The direction of inner evolution, however, is such that the ideas we hold of the good will immediately become moral impulses. That is the intent of the evolution we shall experience in the approaching times. And the teachings given on earth will increasingly be such that in the course of future centuries and millennia human speech will come to have an effect unimaginably greater than it has now or ever had in the past. Today in the higher worlds anyone can see clearly the connection between intellect and morality; but as yet there is no human speech which works so magically that when a moral principle is stated, it sinks down into a man as a new idea, so that he perceives it as directly moral, and cannot do otherwise than act upon it as a moral impulse. After the next 3,000 years it will be possible to use a form of speech that could not now be entrusted to our heads. It will be such that everything intellectual will at the same time be moral, and this moral element will penetrate into the hearts of men. During the next 3,000 years the human race must become as though permeated with magical morality. Otherwise men would not be able to bear such an evolution; they would only misuse it.
For the special preparation of an evolution of this kind we must look at a much slandered individuality who lived about a century before our era. He is mentioned, though certainly in a distorted form, in Hebrew writings as Jeschu Ben Pandira — Jesus the son of Pandira. From lectures once given in Berne, some of you will know that this Jeschu Ben Pandira worked in preparation for the Christ-Event by training pupils, among whom was one who became the teacher of the writer of the Gospel of Matthew. Jeschu Ben Pandira, a noble Essene figure, preceded Jesus of Nazareth by a century. Jesus of Nazareth Himself only went among the Essenes, whereas Jeschu Ben Pandira was altogether an Essene.
Who was Jeschu Ben Pandira?
The successor of that Bodhisattva who in his final earthly incarnation had risen in his twenty-ninth year to be Gautama Buddha was incorporated in the physical body of Jeschu Ben Pandira. Every Bodhisattva who rises to the rank of a Buddha has a successor. This oriental tradition corresponds exactly with occult research. The Bodhisattva who worked at that time in preparation for the Christ-Event was re-embodied again and again. One of his re-embodiments is fixed for the twentieth century. It is impossible to speak here more exactly concerning the re-embodiment of this Bodhisattva; something, however, can be said about the way in which such a Bodhisattva may be recognised.
Through a law which will be demonstrated and explained in future lectures, it is a peculiarity of this Bodhisattva that when he reappears in a new embodiment — and he always reappears thus in the course of the centuries — he is quite dissimilar in his youth from what he comes to be in his later activities. At a quite definite point of time in the life of this Bodhisattva, something like a revolution, a great transformation, always takes place. To express it more in detail, in some place or other there is a more or less gifted child, in whom it is not noticeable that he has to do anything special in preparation for the future evolution of humanity. Occult research confirms that no one during his childhood and youth gives so little sign of what he really is as he who is to incorporate a Bodhisattva. For at a certain point of time in his life a great change comes over him. If an individuality from the remote past — Moses, for example — is incorporated, it is not the same with him as it was with the Christ individuality, to whom Jesus of Nazareth left the sheaths. In the case of a Bodhisattva there certainly will be something like an exchange, but the individuality remains in a certain sense, and the individuality who comes from the remote past — as patriarch or another — and is to bring new forces for the evolution of humanity, descends, and the human being who receives him experiences an immense transformation. This transformation occurs particularly between the thirtieth and thirty-third years. It can never be known beforehand that this body will be taken possession of by the Bodhisattva. The change never shows itself in youth. The distinctive feature is precisely that the later years are so unlike the youthful ones.
He who was incorporated in Jeschu Ben Pandira — the Bodhisattva who was repeatedly reincarnated, and who succeeded Gautama Buddha — has prepared himself for his Bodhisattva-incarnation so that he can reappear and rise to the Buddha dignity exactly 5,000 years after the illumination of Gautama Buddha under the bodhi-tree. Here again occult investigation fully agrees with oriental tradition. So, 3,000 years from now, this Bodhisattva, looking back on all that has happened in the new epoch, and looking back on the Christ-Impulse and all that is connected with it, will speak in such a way that his speech will make into a reality what has just been characterised: intellectuality will become directly moral. The future Bodhisattva, who will place all that he has at the service of the Christ-Impulse, will be a Bringer of the Good through the Word, through the Logos. He will speak in a language as yet possessed by no man, but a language which is so holy that he who speaks it can be called a Bringer of the Good. This also will not show itself in his youth, but approximately in his thirty-first year he will appear as a new man, and will yield himself up as the one who can be filled with a higher individuality. The experience of one single incarnation in the flesh holds good only for Christ Jesus. All Bodhisattvas go through various successive incarnations on the physical plane. This Bodhisattva, 3,000 years hence, will have advanced so far that he will be a Bringer of the Good, a Maitreya Buddha, who will place his Words of Goodness at the service of the Christ-Impulse, which a sufficient number of men will by then have made part of their lives. The perspective of the future development of man tells us this today.
What was necessary so that human beings could come gradually to this epoch of evolution? This we can make clear as follows.
If we wish to make a graphic picture of what happened in ancient Lemuria for the earth-evolution of man, we can say: That was the time when man descended from Divine Heights: it was ordained for him that he should develop further in a certain way, but through the Luciferic influence he was cast down more deeply into matter than he would have been without that influence. Thereby his path in evolution became different.
When man had gone downwards to the lowest stage, a powerful impetus in the upward direction was required. This impetus could come about only because in the higher worlds the Being whom we designate as the Christ-Being had formed a resolution which He would not have needed to take for His own evolution. For the Christ-Being would also have attained His evolution if He had taken a path far, far above the path that men were pursuing. He could have passed by, so to speak, far above the evolution of humanity. But if the upward impulse had not been given, human evolution would have been compelled to continue on its downward path. The Christ would have had an ascent, but humanity a downfall. Only because the Christ-Being had taken the resolution to unite Himself at the time of the Events of Palestine with a man, to embody Himself in a man and to make the upward path possible for humanity — only this could bring about the Redemption of humanity, as we may now call it: redemption from the impulse brought by the Luciferic forces and designated symbolically in the Bible as ‘original sin’, the Temptation by the Serpent and the original sin that was its consequence. Christ accomplished something that was not necessary for Himself.
What kind of Act was this?
It was an act of Divine Love. We must be quite clear that no human feeling is capable of realising the intensity of love that was needed for a God to make a decision — a decision He had no need to make — to work upon earth in a human body. Thereby, through an act of love, the most important event in human evolution was brought about. And when men grasp this act of love by a God, when they try to grasp it as a great ideal in contrast with which every human act of love can be but small, then, through this feeling of utter disproportion between human love and the Divine Love needed for the Mystery of Golgotha, they will draw near to the building up, to the giving birth within them, of those Imaginations which place before our spiritual gaze the momentous Event of Golgotha. Yes, verily, it is possible to attain to the Imagination of the mount on which the Cross was raised, that Cross on which hung a God in human body, a God who out of his own free will, out of Love, accomplished the act whereby the earth and humanity could reach their goal.
If the God who is designated by the name of the Father had not at one time permitted the Luciferic influences to come to man, man would not have developed the free Ego. With the Luciferic influence, the conditions for the free Ego were established. That had to be permitted by the Father-God. But just as the Ego, for the sake of freedom, had to become entangled in matter, so then, in order that the Ego might be freed from this entanglement, the entire love of the Son had to lead to the Act of Golgotha. Through this alone the freedom of man, the complete dignity of man, first became possible. For the fact that we can be free beings, we have to thank a Divine Act of Love. As men we may feel free beings, but we may never forget that for this freedom we have to thank this Act of Love. Then, in the midst of our feeling, the thought will arise: ‘You can attain to the value, the dignity, of a man; but one thing you may not forget, that for being what you are you have to thank Him who has brought back to you your human prototype through the Redemption on Golgotha.’ Men should not be able to lay hold of the thought of freedom without the thought of Redemption through Christ: only then is the thought of freedom justified. If we will to be free, we must bring the offering of thanks to Christ for our freedom. Then only can we really perceive it. And those who consider that their dignity as men is restricted when they thank Christ for it, should recognise that human opinions have no significance in face of cosmic facts, and that one day they will very willingly acknowledge that their freedom was won by Christ.
What we have been able to do in these lectures is not very much for gaining a closer understanding of the Christ-Impulse, and of the whole course of human evolution on earth, from the standpoint of Spiritual Science. We can only bring together single building-stones. But if the effect upon our souls is something like a renewed stimulus to further effort, to further development along the path of knowledge, then these stones will have done their work for the great spiritual temple of humanity. And the best we can carry away from a spiritual-scientific study such as this is that once more we have learnt something towards a certain goal, that we have again somewhat enriched our knowledge. And our high goal is this: that we may know more exactly how much we still need to know. Then we shall be more and more permeated with the truth of the old Socratic saying: ‘The more a man learns, the more he knows how little he knows.’ But this conviction is good only when it is not a confession of passive, easy-going resignation, but testifies to a living will and effort towards an ever-extending knowledge. We ought not to acknowledge how little we know by saying, ‘Since we cannot know everything, we would rather learn nothing; so let us fold our hands in our lap.’ That would be a false result of spiritual-scientific study. The right result is to be more and more inspired to further striving; to regard every new thing learnt as a step towards the attainment of yet higher stages.
In these lectures we have perhaps had to say much about the Redemption-thought without often using the word. This Redemption-thought should be felt by a seeker after the spirit as it was felt by a great forerunner of our Spiritual Science: that it is related and entrusted to our souls only as a consequence of our striving after the highest goals of knowing, feeling and willing. And as this great forerunner connects the word ‘Redemption’ with the word ‘striving’ and has expressed it in the line, ‘Wer immer strebend sich bemüht, den können wir erlösen’ — ‘He who never gives up striving, he it is whom we can redeem’ — so should the anthroposophist always feel. The true Redemption can be grasped and felt and willed in its own realm only by someone who never gives up.
May this lecture-cycle — which has been specially laid upon my heart, because so much has to be said in it concerning the Redemption-thought — be a stimulus to our further endeavours; may we find ourselves ever more and more united in our endeavours, during this incarnation and in later ones. May this be the fruit which comes from such studies. With this we will close, taking with us as a stimulus the thought that we must continually exert ourselves, in order that we may see what the Christ is, on the one hand, and on the other may draw nearer to Redemption, which is being set free not merely from the lower earth-path and earth-fate, but free also from everything that hinders man from attaining his dignity as man. But these things are written down truly only in the annals of the Spiritual. For the script that can be read in spiritual realms is the only true writing. Let us therefore strive to read the chapter concerning the dignity of man and the mission of man, in the script where these things stand written in the spiritual worlds.