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The Rudolf Steiner Archive

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The Christian Mystery
GA 97

IX. The Sermon on the Mount

19 January 1907, Stuttgart

The sermon on the mount (Matthew 5) is the most significant revelation of the Christian faith. It is usually thought of as a sermon Jesus gave to the people, speaking from a mountain. But ‘to go up the mountain’ is an ancient key term found in all occult languages. ‘To love’ is another occult key word. ‘The disciple whom the Lord loved’—and ‘Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus’, ‘See how he loved his friend’. 94John 11: 1-45. It always has to be realized that the disciple whom the Lord loved was the writer of John's gospel. His name never appears in the gospel, however, not even at the crucifixion. There we read: ‘When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing there ...’ 95John 19:26. This term ‘love’ has profound significance. The pupil of a master who has been received and taken most deeply into occult knowledge was called ‘the disciple whom the Lord loved’. To ‘go up the mountain’ means to enter into the deepest mystery and teach words which the disciples will then speak to the people. People do not read the Bible properly but literally skip over the words.

Properly translated, the first verse reads: ‘And seeing the multitudes, he went away and up a mountain and sat down, and his disciples came to him.’ Jesus therefore actually went away from the people and spoke only to his disciples. Jesus Christ always had to speak in two ways. He would speak in parables to the people, and he would explain the occult meaning of the words to his disciples when he was ‘up the mountain’ with them.

Verse 3: ‘Blessed are the souls who are beggars for the spirit, for they will find the realms of the heavens in themselves.’ The words, even the letters, all have deep occult meaning. Our German ich [meaning ‘I’], with the letters I, C, H, contains the initials of Jesus Christ: I-Ch. The great initiates guided the word so that it would be ich, Jesus Christ. Only one nation would be able to find the birth of the name Jesus Christ out of the I—and that is how Christian mysticism developed in Germany. Other words also have profound occult meaning. An example is ‘holy’, to be whole or healthy. To be selig [blessed] is to be full of soul [Seele], finding the content of the soul in oneself. Blessed are those who have the urge, the drive to let the soul come more and more to the spirit. People often say ‘We have to look inside ourselves to find God’, but that is not right. For if we look only inside ourselves we find only whatever there is inside us. We must watch our desire; our individual nature must go beyond itself. This is what the words ‘Know yourself’ mean. The authority given to human beings is to give us a stimulus, not certain knowledge.

Verse 4: ‘Blessed are those who accept suffering, for they will find consolation in themselves.’ Suffering is one of the greatest riddles in the world. The ancient Greeks, an independent, happy people who were greatly attached to earthly existence, with sensual pleasure the breath of life to them, had Silenos the Wise answer, when he was asked what was the best thing for mankind: ‘Miserable race that lives for but one day... The very best is utterly beyond your reach—not to be born, not to be, but to be nothing. The second best things for you is—to die soon.’ 96 See Nietzsche, Friedrich, Die Geburt der Tragödie aus dem Geiste der Musik (The birth of tragedy out of the spirit of music). Publications from the literary estate 1869-73, Bd 1, S. 62 f., Leipzig 1924. On the other hand Aesop said that we learn through suffering. 97 Aesop said: paqhmata maqhmota. Fable no. 232, ‘The dog and the cook.’ And Job, having much suffering imposed on him, came to the conclusion: ‘Pain purifies, it takes man to a higher level.’ Why do we leave the theatre feeling contented when we have been listening to a tragedy? The hero overcomes his suffering. There is a connection between man ascending higher and the pain that has to be borne. The soul's suffering and pain are apparent in the physiognomy to one who is able to read it. Man must create an organ that will enable him to bear the pain. Just as the eye was created by light and the ear by sound, so do pain and suffering create organs for themselves. Man bears in him the consolation that comes when he recognizes that suffering can be borne. Man enters into higher development through suffering.

Verse 5: ‘Blessed are those of a gentle spirit, for they will have the earth for their own.’ Two powers are active in the world—on the one hand egotism, and on the other love and compassion. If love is to grow, egotism must wane. Sensual love must develop into a higher love that is of the spirit. This is also expressed in the third sentence in Light on the Path: ‘Before the voice can speak in the presence of the Masters it must have lost the power to wound’. 98Collins, M. Light on the Path. London: The Theosophical Publishing House Ltd. Rudolf Steiner wrote an exegesis on this book in Steiner R. Guidance in Esoteric Training (in GA 245). Tr. C. Davy, O. Barfield. London: Rudolf Steiner Press 1977. If our approach to everyone else is a loving one, so that the voice no longer wounds, we are gentle in spirit, which is the meaning of the term in the sermon on the mount. Love is the goal and purpose of earth evolution; it will make the earthly realm its own.

Verse 6: ‘Blessed are those who hunger for justice, for they will have their hunger satisfied out of themselves.’ Here the Christ is presenting the whole significance of the deeper, inmost powers of the human soul to the disciples—to give love to others, not seek love; love will become general if everyone does it himself.

Verse 7: ‘Blessed are the compassionate, for they will gain compassion out of themselves.’ We must enter into the feelings of every individual person, then the compassion we have shown in our doing and giving will shine out to us from the others.

Verse 8: ‘Blessed are those who are pure in heart, for they shall find the power in themselves to see God.’ This is an instruction in mysticism. We must cleanse and purify our hearts. The heart is the eye with which to see God. It is the organ of the future, not the brain. It is to God as unclouded eyes are to the light.

Verse 9: ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will find the power in themselves to be God's children.’ The soul comes from God, and goes through the human being to God. Souls were peaceable and peace is the way by which we return to the divine spirit.

Verse 10: ‘Blessed are those who suffer persecution for the sake of justice, for the realm of heaven is theirs.’ Christ Jesus asks human beings to demand justice of themselves, and justice will quench their thirst. Things demanded on earth and those demanded by heaven are always kept clearly distinct.

Verse 11: ‘Blessed are you if people revile and persecute you for my sake and say evil things about you in a lying way.’ Christianity must not be confused with other religions. In Buddhism it is important to do everything the Buddha taught. It is the same with the teaching Hennes gave in Egypt, Zarathustra in Persia, and so on. The Christ was there in person. The disciples were called on to bear witness—We have heard him speak, have put our fingers in the imprint of the nails. John the evangelist said most about Christ Jesus in his gospel. Christianity must believe in Christ Jesus himself not only his teaching. The logos came down to human I-beings, the word became flesh in a human being and has truly dwelt among us. All are blessed if they believe in the one and only one in whom the logos itself was embodied. Only one was able to say: ‘Blessed are you if people persecute you for my sake.’

Verse 12: ‘Be of good cheer and wholly comforted; it will bear fruit for you in heaven, for that is how they persecuted the prophets.’ This refers to I-human beings inspired by God.

Verse 13: ‘You are the salt of the earth.’ It is salt which gives the earth wisdom.

Someone might refer to the end of chapter 7, verses 28 and 29: ‘And it came to pass, when Jesus had said these things, that the people were appalled at the things he taught, for he spoke with great power and not like the scripture experts.’ One might think, therefore, that Jesus did speak to the people after all. But these verses do not at all relate to the sermon on the mount, which is actually the opposite of the things which in the meantime had caused uproar among the people. The people were appalled at a talk given by Jesus, but this was a completely different one, not the sermon on the mount, and it had caused tumult and uproar among the people. One has to follow the things that happen in the Bible carefully and know how to read the words correctly. Then new insight is gained for many things which one has so far simply passed over when reading.

Questions and Answers

What can be said about the two evildoers who were crucified with Jesus?

We must above all consider that symbolic interpretation does not mean something did not also happen. Some people want to go by the letter, taking Jesus to have been someone who really lived, and cannot believe that there is also a deeper meaning behind it all. Others, however, want to interpret everything in an occult way and cannot believe in the historical reality. The fact of Christianity can only be grasped if it is taken as something real. The secret of human evolution: the Christ between the two criminals, one who repents and one who remains unrepentant. Again we have the balance between egotism and love. Love is based on blood relationship, and self seeking wants to separate people. The Christ wants to balance this out; that is the meaning of the three crosses on Golgotha. The one is the principle of goodness, the other of evil. ‘Truly I say to you, today you'll be with me in paradise.’ 99Luke 23: 43. Paradise is a key term, meaning that you'll be with me in a place that lies beyond the ordinary day. Before man fell into sin he was in the keeping of the godhead. How can he regain the right to be God's child again? With peacefulness. How does one move away from it? With selfishness!

Do other nations also have the I-CH initials in their word for ‘I’?

This applies only to the German language. The German ich gives power to the soul. The fact that these letters are the initial of the Christ's name should bring the word alive in us. The Christ is with us all days and alive in all languages. The further east we go the richer the language, the further west, the poorer it is, America is therefore the poorest, its vocabulary being most limited. Prayers in the ancient languages lose their power when they are translated into more modern languages. The Latin words of the Lord's Prayer have much more power in them than our own version. The original language of this prayer was Aramaic. People who said it in Aramaic felt its magic powers. We need to gain the right approach again that will allow the power of words to come alive in language again. The four sentences in Light on the Way do not have the same power in English, for instance, as they do in German. These four sentences sound more beautiful in German than in any other language; the German translation is the most beautiful.

Third question could not be heard.

Those earlier naturalists had a great reverence for the Bible. Pastor X. said that Moses either knew just as much as modern scientists do, or he was inspired. Pastor X altogether has a brilliant, fine way of expounding the Bible. Reverence and respect for the Bible came to be lost when biblical criticism developed. But nothing will ever come of biblical criticism. One thing is characteristic of the science of the spirit, and that is its approach to things. And what is this approach? We have our own particular approach to the natural world, but we do not criticize it. With the science of the spirit we seek to understand things in the world of mind and spirit, doing so without bias and with real understanding, and look at everything in life. Understanding is the keynote in the science of the spirit. If one seeks to use the methods of modern science to study the life of mind and spirit, one learns things.

The Bible should be a book we do not approach in a critical mood. If we read it in the right way and without prejudice, we find that we begin to get a feeling for it that we would not have dreamt of before. We then discover profound wisdom where before we put obstacles in our own way. The science of the spirit must provide the key to reading the Bible in the right way. And we shall find that key. Bible criticism will then give way to deep, profound exposition. Modern science deals only with material phenomena, leaving aside the fact that they have arisen from a spiritual process of evolution. The work that needs to be done in the science of the spirit is to investigate the essential nature of the human being and the evolution of man in the universe. The science of the spirit begins where conventional science stops, for modern scientists see only the outer aspect, they want to study the atoms. But the very things which they cannot explain may be found there. Haeckel's work is the truth for someone working in the science of the spirit in so far as it describes external things. But someone working in the science of the spirit wants to look back to the subtle beginnings, using higher, spiritual eyes, and discover the spiritual realities that go hand in hand with external realities. If you observe with the eyes of the spirit and the ears of the spirit, you perceive the principle of the human being that goes beyond anything perceived with the senses.

What we perceive of the outside world depends on the number of sense organs we have. Someone who objects, saying: ‘Only what I can see with my physical eyes does exist,’ has not yet developed his powers of mind and spirit. Every time we gain a new organ we perceive a new world. Eyes and ears of the spirit can be acquired. Anyone with sufficient energy and patience can become an initiate. Anything an initiate sees with eyes of the spirit has to be expressed in images belonging to the physical world. This is what Goethe, who was an initiate, meant when he said: ‘All things transient are but parables.’ 100Faust 2, 12 To find suitable images for great spiritual truths is a process known as ‘imaginative perception’. The science of the spirit thus does not take us away from the material world. Matter is seen as condensed spirit, which is to matter as ice is to water.

The seven days of creation reflect great spiritual realities. Once you have the key to reading the Bible, you can always take it literally. No other document contains the truths of theosophy more perfectly than the Bible. In the science of the spirit the aim is to explain the Bible and offer a way of understanding it without bias. The division of the story of genesis into two 101See also Steiner R. Foundations of Esotericism (GA 93A), lecture of 2 Oct. 1905. Tr. V. & J. Compton-Burnett, London: Rudolf Steiner Press 1982. can be understood if one learns to distinguish the human being who is sexless—this is the spiritual, astral human being. Then a reversal occurred and the sexless spiritual human being became physical and bisexual. This is why there have to be two stories of creation. You often hear it said that the letter kills but the spirit makes alive, with each person meaning his own spirit. Goethe wrote:

So long as you don't have it, this word: ‘Die and become!’ you're but a miserable guest here on this earth.

This ‘die’ has nothing to do with killing the physical body but with giving birth to a new human being out of yourself who will give you the tool you need for the world of the spirit. It is to be a tool of strength. ‘Die and become’ is something we must also say to the letter. Everything has its value in the science of the spirit, even the smallest thing reflects condensed spirit. Anyone who goes against the Bible does not understand it; he is going against the figment of his own deluded imagination. Many people presume to found a religious confession. It is small and indeed immodest then to stop and say: ‘It's glorious how far we have advanced!’ 102Goethe, Faust 1, 573. The science of the spirit helps us to go more and more deeply into things, lovingly enter into the letter of the word and open up a path for the soul to the divine world.