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The Rudolf Steiner Archive

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The Sin Against the Holy Ghost and the Ideal of Christian Grace
GA 97

17 March 1907, Munich

Translator Unknown

We really ought to acquaint ourselves, somewhat, with the fundamental problem and fundamental currents of Christianity, if we wish to throw light upon the two ideals of the Christian world-conception in all their profundity. You already know, through previous lectures, that the teachings of Christianity, as generally proclaimed, are based upon a so-called esoteric Christianity. You know, moreover, that even in the Gospels we find intimations concerning this esoteric Christianity, clearly expressed in the words: When the Lord stood before the people He spoke in parables, but when he was alone with His disciples He explained these parables unto them. Thus, it is clear that He gave one form of his Teaching to those who had less understanding—to whom it was necessary to speak in parables, for it was not yet possible to go into things any deeper with them; and He proclaimed another Teaching which was destined for the initiated.

In the same way, also, Paul—the great expander of Christianity—taught, before the people, an external form of that Teaching, which we know through his Epistles. On the other hand, in addition to this Teaching of Paul—which was an external Teaching, meant for the people—he expounded an esoteric Teaching, as well. External history knows nothing about the fact that Paul founded the esoteric School at Athens, which was under the leadership of Dionysius. In this School of esoteric Christianity, the same Mystery-Teaching, or Occultism, was taught, which you also—at the present time—are learning to know anew, through Spiritual Science. Scientific learning does not know very much concerning those Teachings which were proclaimed at that time, at Athens, by the esoteric companions of St. Paul, to their more intimate disciples. One even speaks about a false Dionysius, because—it is said—it is not possible to prove that any of these Teachings were ever recorded in writing.

Pseudo-Dionysius is the name given to the man who taught this form of esotericism during the 6th century. Yet only those persons can call him by that name who do not know what was customary, in earlier times, in connection with Initiate-teachings of this sort. Only in our days has it become customary for people to record everything, as quickly as possible, in writing. Whatever was contained in the holiest Truth was preserved from publicity, in those days. One to whom such a Truth was to be entrusted was first scrutinised carefully. Only within the esoteric Schools was this Truth passed on from mouth to mouth—and only to such persons as could really value it aright. Thus it was that these particular teachings of esoteric Christianity were likewise handed down from man to man—till, finally, some of them were written down during the sixth century. Since it was customary for the leaders of such a School to always bear the name of Dionysius, the leader of this School at Athens, during the sixth century, therefore also bore this name—the same name which had been borne by his great predecessor at Athens, the friend of Paul.

Let us now consider in the spirit of this esoteric School, and actually in the way in which it was taught there, the concept of Sin, or, we might say, of slander against the Holy Ghost—and the Christian concept of Grace.

If we wish to grasp the fundamental meaning of Christianity, we must return, in thought, to a very remote past in the history of human evolution; and we must realise that, through the appearance of Christ-Jesus, something entirely new has actually been impressed upon the history of the spiritual evolution of humanity. What it is that has thus been impressed finds its fervent expression in the initiation of Paul himself.

The fact that a man like Saul, through so sudden an illumination, could attain to complete conviction of the Truth of Christianity, would not have been possible before the appearance of Christ-Jesus. We have already often spoken about the form of initiation which preceded the appearance of Christ-Jesus upon earth. Let us now do this, once again, in order to understand what the Spirit of Truth really signifies, in the Christian sense. If we wish to grasp what is was that took place, in the ancient sites of initiation, we must briefly recall to our minds the nature and being of man.

We know that man consists of a seven-fold being. His physical body is built up out of the same substances as those contained in the lifeless materials of the physical world. His etheric body calls these forces into life, and works—at every moment of life—against the decay of the physical body; only at death does the etheric or life-body go out of the physical body. The crystal is able to hold its substances together, through its own forces; the living body, on the other hand, decays as soon as it is abandoned and left to itself. It is indeed a fact that, at every moment, there is a fighter battling within this body against death; if this fighter ceases to battle, death ensues.

Man's third member is the astral body, or the consciousness-body. His fourth member is the Ego; by means of this member he is the crown of creation.

All Mystery-Teachings have thought of man as being built up of these four members. In the Pythagorean School, each disciple had to be introduced, first of all, to this Teaching of the fourfold man. Only when this Teaching had become his innermost conviction, could he be advanced to higher knowledge. Hence he had to take this vow: "I vow allegiance, by virtue of what is deeply engraved in our hearts: to the holy fourfold Being, to the sublime spiritual symbol—the primal fount of all natural and spiritual Creation."

Even the most undeveloped human being has these four members. Man evolves, throughout the course of his various incarnations, to an ever greater degree o perfection, through the fact that the Ego works upon these three members of his being.

It begins, first of all, within the astral body, to work upon everything that constitutes the progress of civilisation and logical scientific learning—upon everything, that is to say, which serves to bring about a freedom from the animal stage. This is the work of the Ego upon the astral body. In the case of every moderately-developed human being, whose Ego has already worked upon the astral body, we find that the astral body divides into two parts: into the originally existing part, and that part produced by the Ego. This latter part which expands more and more—the more the human being progresses—is designated by the name of Manas or Spirit-Self.

Christian esotericism designates this part as the Holy Ghost—the Holy Spirit, in contrast to the unpurified, unholy part of the astral body.

Thus, we have learned to know the fifth member. But the Ego can also work upon the more dense, etheric body. In a certain sense, this already takes place in the ordinary human being—that is to say, unconsciously. It has often been stated that we should learn to distinguish between the work upon the astral and the etheric bodies. The ratio of speed, in the progress of the first of these, in relation to the latter, may be compared with the movement of the minute-hand of the clock, in relation to the hour-hand. If a human being surrenders himself to the impression made upon him by some lofty work of art, this has a transforming effect upon his life-body and his consciousness-body. Every great artistic impulse has this effect. Strongest of all is the effect of those religious impulses which were brought into the world by the founders of religions, and which direct the Ego toward the Eternal. The clairvoyant eye can see how the etheric body becomes more and more beautiful and pure.

That part of the human etheric body which is spiritualised by the Ego, is called Budhi or Life-Spirit; it is the transformed life-body. Christian esotericism designates this part, which is transformed by the Ego, the Christos. The fifth member of the human being is the Holy Ghost—the sixth member is the Christ, the inner Christos.

Our attention has already been called to the fact that so-called Mystery-schoolings, or preparations, have always existed for man—enabling him to become an Initiate, and to look into the spiritual world. Such a training is based upon the transformation, on a higher plane, of the etheric or life-body. For this reason, we must be quite clear in our realisation that every higher form of schooling is more than a mere acquisition of concepts and material for study. The occult training consists, rather, in the transformation of the qualities of our etheric body. Anyone who has transformed a temperament has thereby achieved far more than if he had acquired an infinite amount of scientific learning.

Now, there is a still higher form of metamorphosis, which takes place only through secret or occult schooling. Through this, the human being purifies his physical body. How much, indeed, does man know concerning his physical body! Through the fact that he examines it by dissection in an "anatomical museum" he does not by any means acquire any real knowledge concerning the laws which rule it, nor any inner control of these laws. Yet there is a possibility for him to look into himself, so that the movements of the nerve-currents, of the pulse-beat, and of the breath-streams, will become clear to him, and he can then be consciously active within these. When the human being, accordingly—through so-called occult training—is able to transform his physical body also, this now transformed body is designated as Atman, because the work upon it begins with the regulation of the breathing processes. (In German "Atmen" means: to breathe.) The seventh member of the human being is Atman—in Christian esotericism: the Father.

Thus we first attain to the Holy Ghost, to the transformed astral body; through the Holy Ghost we come to the Christ—to the consciousness of the etheric body; and through the Christ, to the Father, or the consciousness of the physical body.

If you have understood how these seven members of human nature are inter-related, you will also understand how Initiation took place in ancient times, before Christ, and how this Initia-tion took place, after Christ-Jesus had appeared on the earth.

When the human being is asleep, only his physical and etheric bodies lie in bed—his astral body is outside. When he dies, he leaves his physical body behind: only that part of the physical body which he has already transformed goes with him: forces, that is to say, not substances. What the human being thus takes with him, is very little indeed. Nevertheless, it is just this part which, in a new incarnation, serves to build up a new physical body. Materialism designates this part as the "permanent atom". And this part of the physical body, which the human being himself has transformed, is the first to leave the physical body; then the etheric body leaves it; then the consciousness-body, and then the Ego. After a short time, that part of the etheric body which the human being has not yet worked upon separates itself.

Thus it is that the human being enters Kamaloca, the Place of Purification. After another period of time, that part of the astral body which the Ego has not yet worked upon, severs itself likewise… And then there comes the time when the human being has left to him, from his three bodies, only those parts which the Ego has worked upon and transformed, through its own forces; and this is what passes through Devachan—this is the eternal kernel of man's being. It increases more and more, the more the Ego has worked upon it.

The Holy Ghost is the eternal Spirit in man. The Christ is the eternal part of the life-body; the Father, the eternal part of the physical body. These Three accompany the human being throughout all time, as that part of him which is eternal.

Before the Christian era, Initiation took place in such a way that the disciple was first prepared for everything which Mystery Teaching was able to give, until he reached the point where he was familiar with all the concepts and ideas, all the habits and feelings which are needed for living and perceiving in the higher worlds. This was followed by what was designated as the Awakening, which lasted for three and a half days and three nights. This consisted of a process whereby, through the skill of the Temple-Priest, the human being was artificially placed in a condition resembling death, for three and a half days. Whereas, normally the physical and etheric bodies remain connected during sleep, the initiating priest now drew out, during this space of time, the etheric body of the disciple about to be initiated, so that only a very loose connection existed between the etheric and physical body, on the one hand, and the remaining two bodies, on the other hand. It was a deep, trance-like sleep. The Ego of the man lived in the higher worlds, during this period of time. As the disciple had been given a knowledge of the higher worlds, he now felt at home there. The Priest was his guide. First of all, the Priest had to free the etheric body from the lethargic physical body, in order to lead it out of the physical body; in a fully-conscious state, the human being would never have been able to rise to these higher worlds ; it was necessary for him to be lifted out of such a state. Although the experiences which a human being passed through in such a process, were sublime and overpowering, he was nevertheless entirely in the hands of the Priest; he was under the power of another, and only under these conditions was he able to enter the higher worlds.

What the human being was like, after having passed through this experience, may be imagined if we bear in mind that it gave him the opportunity of experiencing his own eternal being: he was then emancipated from the part which was not eternal—his physical body—which he could not use, if he wished to move about in the higher worlds. Such a human being returned as one endowed with knowledge—as one who could bear witness, through his own vision, to the victory of life over death. Those who could bear witness, in this way, were Initiates. Their etheric body had to be lifted out of the physical body, in order that they might experience the Christos in man. These Initiates were able to say to themselves: "I have learned through my own experience that there is a part in man, which is eternal, which outlasts all incarnations. I know it, for I myself have experienced this eternal kernel of man's being". In order to attain to this, they were obliged to dwell for three days in a state of profound, dream-like sleep.

But there was something else that was connected with this—this kind of Initiation was dependent upon still another factor. And, the further we go back in time, the more we realise the truth of this. I have already characterised this to you, when I once explained that, in ancient times, there existed what we might call "close marriage", in contrast to distant marriage. In all nations, we find small communities which were inter-related; people married within these communities, and it was considered immoral to abandon them by marrying outside. The same blood always streamed through these marriages. Only very gradually was this close marriage substituted by the principle of distant marriage. Indeed, in the case of initiation, very special measures had to be observed, it was necessary to choose most carefully, from preceding incarnations, in order to produce the best possible mixture o blood. Such a genealogy then produced the one who was capable of passing through the higher grades of Initiation. In the case of persons related by blood, it is especially easy to draw the etheric body out of the physical body. In the case of distant marriages, this is by no means so easy. Throughout long generations of priests, it was their duty to see that the blood was maintained in a specially determined way. Human life is complicated; it does not always follow a straight road; and it is necessary to penetrate more and more deeply into the riddles of existence.

In ever increasing measure, this principle of close marriage was broken; the tribe extended more and more to the folk or nation. In the case of the Israelites, we see how the tribal principle rose completely to the idea of the national community. Christ extends this perspective into the far distant future: "He that forsaketh not his father, mother, brother or sister for my sake, cannot be my disciple."—In a stern, yet in a most deeply true way, do these words indicate the direction followed by Christianity. Within the national community, one would say: This is my brother, for he was born in the same nation. in the human brotherhood, which must encompass the whole human race, one should say: Because you are a human being, you are my brother. This is the most profound of all Christian principles. All narrow-mindedness contained in the other form of relationship must be torn asunder, and a common tie must unite human beings. At the same time, this implies also that the old principle of Initiation has been torn asunder; for it was based upon relationship of the blood.

The new principle of Initiation—which is not connected, since the coming of Christ, with any physical quality—is clearly indicated to us, in the case of Paul: He is initiated in the Light, not in the darkness of the Temple. This could not have taken place, earlier. When we bear this in mind, we shall be able to realise the tremendous turning-point brought about by Christ Jesus. The way to this was prepared by Moses, Zarathustra Buddha, Pythagoras;—but it was brought to fulfilment by Christ-Jesus.

Thus we see also that in the Christian Schools of Initiation this new principle is carried through, for the first time—the principle of not drawing the human being out of the physical body, in order to lead him into the higher worlds, but of leading him into the higher worlds while completely conscious in his physical body. This is what took place, accordingly, in the Christian esoteric Schools. In contrast to this, there is the old way—and this still includes a great part of humanity, even at the present time—in which there is the initiating Temple-priest, to whose stern authority the neophyte surrenders himself. Only by subjecting oneself entirely to the power of such an Initiating priest, was it possible to ascend to higher worlds.

The principle of enforced authority came to expression also in social life. The Priests were rulers. Every law of government, the whole structure of the state, was in the power of the Initiates. From the blood-community of the tribe, up to the community of the nation, this was possible. But, through the fact that the old principle of initiation was eliminated, the way was opened for an entirely new form of authority: a free authority, based solely upon trust and confidence. "Believe only in the one whom you trust"—this is the most sublime Christian idea to which we can rise, by virtue of which we all face one another as brothers, and the one who, stands higher will be recognised as the one who deserves our trust.

"Watch and pray": this is a fundamental Christian principle. The new Initiation takes place in a state of full consciousness. "You will know the Truth, and the Truth will make you free”: these are profoundly Christian words, for they signify a perspective into the farthest future of Christianity. Christianity is at the beginning of its evolution.

Let us consider the intensely close tie that existed between the initiating Teacher and the disciple, during the ancient Temple-Sleep, which lasted three and a half days—when the neophyte was being initiated into the highest Mysteries. This relation was of a kind which we cannot even imagine, to-day. The relation between the hypnotiser and the one who is hypnotised may give a faint idea of the way in which the initiating Temple-priest first called to life the Holy Ghost, and then the Christos. The disciple reflected the Holy Ghost and the Christos of the Teacher: the personalities of the Teacher and the disciple streamed into each other, and the clairvoyant could observe the process. During the three days, the Teacher and disciple were one. The Ego of the Guru thus lived on, in all of his disciples, and was deeply merged with them, during the three and a half days.

Let us observe the pyramidal structure of social life: the folk below; above the folk, the Initiates; and, above these, the Teachers of the Initiates. One and the same Spirit streamed down through all these stages. Many things, consequently, passed over into, and lived on, in those who were initiated in this way—even things that were alien to them.

As a result of the Christian principle, the individuality appeared in its full value. This explains the fundamental principle of Christian initiation. Never should the disciple become merged with the Teacher in the old way. They must not become one person, during Initiation. The Holy Ghost must arise, and awaken within the Ego of each single human being: this has become the principle of Christian Initiation. And this is also expressed symbolically, in the miracle of Pentecost. The possibility of Initiation, in that case, was given through the fact that all who were present began to speak in different tongues.

The Teacher respects the individuality of the other person; he enters into the heart of his disciple—he does not draw this out of the physical body.

We should bear in mind that, for the modern human being, everything depends upon the free and independent development, within each one, of the Holy Ghost and the Christos. We shall then realise that it is through this principle of Christianity that—for the first time, indeed—this human personality can be looked upon as free and independent. Only through Christianity has the human individuality become really free; and, for this reason, through Christianity, an entirely new relation to Truth and Wisdom has become necessary.

In olden times, the spirit of Wisdom ruled over all things, because it was centralised. Through the cleavage that followed, it became de-centralised; but Egoism arose. The more the principle of distant marriage begins to hold sway, the greater must become the power of that element which brings together human beings, now become free. And what is this element? If we consider what we may learn to-day, in the elementary parts of spiritual science, and then go back to ancient times, we shall find that this knowledge was in the possession of small communities only—and, indeed, even then, only in the possession of the highest authority. For this reason, the ruling principle was based upon compulsion. We are now approaching the time when Wisdom will become m.re and more popular. This will be the means whereby the great Brotherhood of humanity will be established.

Two occultists will never be of a different opinion. Where-ever this is the case, one of the two opinions is wrong. Wisdom is something unified—a oneness—which cannot contain differences. The more individualised human beings become, the more they will need this wisdom; for, through it, they will be drawn together. To-day, we are living in an age of transition. The principle of different viewpoints ceases entirely, through the progressive development of Wisdom. The more individualised men become, the wiser they must grow; for knowledge will lead them together. This is the Spirit of Wisdom which Christ-Jesus his promised to His followers. The Sun of Wisdom draws into itself all differing standpoints—just as the sun attracts the plants. The Spirit which will make men free, is the Holy Ghost. Against this Spirit, no Christian may ever sin. For he who sins against it, sins against Christianity itself—against that promised Spirit which is able to draw together all separate human individualities.

There is a passage which tells us that Christ-Jesus cast out demons. Demons exist only as long as the human being is not free—as long as he has not yet received into himself the Spirit of Wisdom. The human being is absolutely filled with all kinds of beings, which stream in and out of his lower members. (Perhaps we may use the trivial comparison of a piece of cheese, with maggots creeping in and out of it). We call these beings shadows, spectres, ghosts, or demons. In making Himself known as the Spirit who casts out demons, Christ-Jesus has shown that He is the Spirit of Freedom. For demons can be cast out only by calling forth the one Spirit against the others—the Spirit of Freedom against all the other spirits.

Let us now consider once more the ancient communities—extending from the tribal community to the nation. How may these human beings, who are not yet individually free, be drawn together? Imagine to yourselves that everyone who is sitting here has become truly free—that the Spirit of Truth lives in each one! Would we, in that case, ever quarrel, ever fall into dissension? No—for where the Spirit unites us, there can be no divergence of opinions. In ancient times, external law had to hold sway, in order to hold human beings together. Where two human beings know the Spirit of Truth, they will, because of this, feel themselves drawn to each other.

At the beginning of human evolution was the Law: at the end of evolution, there will be peaceful, harmonious cooperation from within. Esoteric Christianity calls this, in contrast to the Law—Grace. To be able to share, in complete harmony, the feelings of one's fellow-man: this is the profoundest concept of Christianity.

The astral body that has been filled with the Holy Ghost, is the same in all men—the Spirit of Truth, in each one, is the same. Imagine to yourselves this Spirit within a human individuality in which also the Christos has been awakened—that is to say, that principle which is active as Life-Spirit within the Life-Body. If each one of us were to permeate his etheric body with this feeling, we should then have, in every heart, the feeling for the One, unified Spirit. Human individualities are brought together by the Wisdom which is common to all; and what each one feels within himself, is Caritas—Grace.

The One who brought Grace to earth was He Who, at the beginning of our Era, contained within His own individuality the whole Christos—the One Who fulfilled, for the first time, the principle of humanity, as a whole. Christ-Jesus developed in Himself what should live in every single human being. Whatever exists through freedom and peaceful cooperation, has come into the world through Him.

"Become alive again in Christ and kill the Spirit of discord", says Paul.

A human being may sin against everything which is not contained in this Spirit. But, if he were to sin against this Spirit of a common humanity, if he were to deny this Spirit—he would no longer be a Christian.

The human being must reach the stage of being conscious of the Spirit. If he develops himself, ever more and more, his consciousness-body becomes transformed into the Holy Ghost. It is for this reason that the Sin against the Holy Ghost cannot be forgiven. In the case of an uninitiated person, the transformation of the etheric body takes place unconsciously. As long as the human being is not initiated, the unforgivable sin can be committed only within his astral body. The Initiate may not sin, even against the physical or etheric body: to the one who is not initiated, these sins may be forgiven. All of this takes place with the help of those who are the Leaders of humanity.