The Gospel of John
VII. The Mystery of Golgotha
26 May 1908, Hamburg
The whole of the Gospel of St. John culminates in that event in human history which we call the “Mystery of Golgotha.” To comprehend this Mystery of Golgotha esoterically predicates also the ability to decipher the deep significance of this Gospel. If we turn our attention to what exists at the very central point of this Mystery and wish to express it in occult terms, we must contemplate the moment of the Crucifixion when the blood flowed from the wounds of the Saviour, and at the same time we must remember something which has often been said in the course of these lectures, that for one who knows the spiritual worlds, all material, substantial, physical objectivity is only the outer expression, the external manifestation of something spiritual. Now let us permit the physical event to arise before our souls: Christ-Jesus upon the Cross, the blood flowing from His wounds. What does this picture, the content of which is a physical event, express for those who are able to understand the Gospel of St. John?
This physical event — the occurrence on Golgotha — is the expression, the manifestation of a spiritual event which stands at the central point of all earthly happenings. Anyone interpreting these words according to the present materialistic world concept will not be able to make much out of them, for he will not be able to imagine that at that time something occurred in this unique Event of Golgotha which differs from some other like event, or from one perhaps physically similar. There is a very great difference between all the earthly occurrences which preceded this Event of Golgotha and those that succeed it.
If we wish to picture this in the soul in all its detail, we must say that not only has the individual human being, or for that matter any other individual creature, a physical, ether and astral body as we have described it from many aspects in the foregoing lectures, but that cosmic bodies likewise do not consist only of physical substance as they appear to the astronomer and to other physical researchers. A cosmic body has also an ether and an astral body. Our earth has its ether and astral vehicles. If our earth did not possess its own ether body, it would not be able to harbour the plants; if it did not possess its own individual astral body, it would not be able to shelter the animals. If we wish to visualize the earth's ether body, we must imagine its central point exactly at the center of the earth where the physical earth body also has its central point. This entire physical earth body is embedded in its own ether body and these two are again embedded in an astral body. If someone had observed clairvoyantly the astral body of the earth during the course of the earth's evolution, during the course of long epochs of time, he would have seen that, as a matter of fact, this astral body and ether body of the earth have not always remained the same, that they have changed. In order to represent the matter quite pictorially, let us in spirit transplant ourselves outside beyond the earth to some other star, and let us imagine a person with clairvoyant vision looking down upon the earth from this star. He would not only see the earth suspended there as a physical planet, but he would see an aura about it, he would see the earth surrounded by an aura of light, for he would be perceiving the earth's ether and astral bodies. If this clairvoyant person were to remain a long time on this distant star, long enough to have observed the pre-Christian periods of the earth pass by and the Event of Golgotha approaching, the following spectacle would have presented itself to him. Before the Event of Golgotha the aura of the earth, the astral and ether bodies offered a certain aspect of colour and form, but following a particular, definite moment of time, he would have seen the colour of the entire aura changing. What was this particular moment of time? It was the very moment when the blood flowed from the wounds of Christ-Jesus upon Golgotha. All spiritual earthly relationships, as such, changed from this moment.
It has been previously stated that what is called the Logos is the sum total of the six Elohim who, united with the sun, present the earth with their spiritual gifts, while externally the physical sunlight is falling upon the earth. Therefore the light of the sun appears to us like the outer physical body of the spirit and soul of the Elohim or of the Logos. At the moment of the Event of Golgotha, that force, that impulse which formerly could only stream down upon the earth as light began to unite with the earth itself. And because the Logos began to unite with the earth, the earth's aura became changed.
We shall now consider the Event of Golgotha from still another point of view. We have already reviewed the evolution of the human being and of the earth from various standpoints. We know that our Earth, before it became the Earth, passed through the three embodiments of Saturn, Sun and Moon. Therefore the embodiment just preceding that of our Earth was that of the ancient Moon. When a planet has attained the goal of its evolution, something happens to it similar to what happens to a human being who, in a certain incarnation, has attained his life's goal. The planet passes over into a different invisible existence, a state called a “Pralaya” and then after a time it embodies itself anew. Thus between the previous embodiment of our Earth, the Moon Evolution, and the Earth's present embodiment, there existed an intermediate state. Out of a sort of spiritual, self-animated, externally invisible existence, the Earth gleamed forth in its earliest state and out of this state developed those states which we described yesterday. At that time, in that early age when our Earth gleamed forth, it was still united with all that now belongs to our solar system. It was then so large, that it reached to the furthest planets of this solar system. All was unity, for only later individual planets became segregated. The present earth up to a certain point of time was united with our present sun and moon. Thus we see there was a time when sun, moon and earth were a single body. It was as though you were to take the present moon and sun and stir them together with the earth and thus make one large cosmic body. This was our Earth once upon a time when your astral body and your ego were floating about in a vapour-like form. Even earlier than this the sun, moon and earth were joined together. At that time the forces which are now in the sun — the spiritual and physical forces — were bound up with the earth. Then came a time when the sun separated from the earth; but not only did the physical sun with its physical light which can be seen with physical eyes depart, but with it all its spiritual and soul beings at whose head stood the Elohim, the real Spirits of Light, the denizens of the sun. What was left, was a mixture of the present moon and earth. Then for a time the earth, though separated from the sun, was still united with the moon. It was not until the Lemurian period that the moon separated from the earth, when, as a result, there arose that relationship between these three bodies, sun, moon and earth, that exists today. This relationship had to occur. The Elohim had to act from without. It was necessary for one of them to become Lord of the moon and from there reflect the powerful force of the other Elohim. We live at present upon our earth as though dwelling upon an island in cosmic space which has separated from the sun and moon. But the time will come when our earth will once more unite with the sun and again form one body with it. Then human beings will be so spiritualized that they will again be able to bear the stronger forces of the sun, able to receive them and unite them with themselves. They, together with the Elohim, will then occupy the same field of action.
You will ask, what is the force that will bring this about? Had the Event of Golgotha not occurred, the earth and the sun would never be able to reunite. For through the Event of Golgotha, which bound the force of the Elohim in the sun to the earth — in other words the force of the Logos — the impulse was given which will again eventually impel one Logos-force toward the other, and finally once more unite them — sun and earth — in one body. Since the Event of Golgotha, the earth, spiritually observed, is possessed of the force to draw the sun again into a unity with it. Therefore it can be said that through this great Event, the force of the Logos, which formerly radiated down upon the earth from without, was now taken up into its spiritual being. The question may be asked, what existed previously within the body of the earth? It was that force which streamed down upon it from the sun. But since that time, what exists there within the earth? The Logos itself which through Golgotha has become the spirit of the earth.
As truly as your soul and spirit dwell within your physical body, do also the soul and spirit of the earth dwell within the body of the earth — that earthly body which consists of stones, plants and animals and upon which you tread. This soul and spirit, this earth spirit is the Christ. Christ is the spirit of the earth. When the Christ spoke to His most trusted disciples on an occasion which can be numbered among the most intimate of such occasions, what did He say to them? With what mystery had He occasion to entrust them? He was able to say to them: “It is as though you can gaze into your own soul from your physical body. Your soul is within. It is the same when you observe the whole earth-sphere. That spirit which for a time now stands here before you in the flesh is also the spirit of the earth and will always continue as such.” He had occasion to point to the earth as to His real body and ask: “When you behold the cornfield and then eat the bread that nourishes you, what in reality is this bread which you are eating? You are eating My body. And when you drink of the plant sap, it is like the blood in your own body; it is the blood of the earth — My Blood!” — These were the very words that Christ- Jesus spoke to His most intimate disciples and we must take them very literally. Then when He called them together and expounded to them symbolically what we shall call the Christian Initiation, He uttered those extraordinary words which we find in the 18th verse of the 13th Chapter of the Gospel of St. John, where He announced that one among them would betray Him:
“He who eats My bread treads me under foot.”
These words must be taken literally. Men eat the bread of the earth and tread upon the earth with their feet. If the earth is the body of the Earth-Spirit, that is, of the Christ, then men tread with their feet the earth's body, the body whose bread they eat. An immense deepening of the idea of the Last Supper as presented in the Gospel of St. John is granted us, when we learn about the Christ, the Earth-Spirit, and about the bread which is taken from the body of the earth. Christ points to the earth and says: “This is My body!” Just as the muscular human flesh belongs to the human soul, so does bread belong to the body of the earth, that is to the body of the Christ. And the sap that flows through the plants, which pulsates through the vine stalk, is like the blood pulsating through the human body. Pointing to this, the Christ says: “This is my blood!” That this truthful explanation of the Last Supper can cause some of the sanctity to be lost which has always been associated with it can only be imagined by someone possessing no understanding of it or who has neither desire nor capacity for such an understanding. But anyone who wishes to understand will acknowledge that this does not cause it to lose in holiness, but that through it the whole of the earth-planet becomes sanctified. What powerful feelings can be engendered in our souls, if we can behold in the Last Supper the greatest mystery of the earth, the connection between the Event of Golgotha and the entire evolution of the earth; if we can learn to feel that in the Last Supper the flowing of the blood from the wounds of the Saviour had not only a human, but a cosmic significance, that is, it gave to the earth the force to carry forward its evolution.
Anyone who understands the profound meaning of the Gospel of St. John will feel not only united through his physical body with the physical body of the earth, but as a psycho-spiritual being will feel united with the psycho-spiritual being of the earth which is the Christ Himself, and then he will feel how the Christ, as the Spirit of the Earth, flows through his body. When we have this experience, we are able to ask: what illuminated the writer of the Gospel of St. John at that moment when he was able to behold the profound mysteries which have to do with Christ-Jesus? He beheld the forces, the impulses which are present in Christ-Jesus, and he perceived how these impulses must be active in mankind, if only mankind will receive them.
In order to understand this quite clearly, we must once more bring before our souls the way in which human evolution actually takes place. The human being consists of physical, ether and astral bodies and an ego. How does this evolution occur? By the ego gradually working through the other three members, purifying and strengthening them. The ego is called upon gradually to purify the astral body, to cleanse it and to raise it to a higher level. When the entire astral body has been purified and strengthened by the special forces of the ego, it becomes Manas or Spirit-Self. When the ether or life-body has been thoroughly worked over and strengthened by the force of the ego, it becomes Budhi, or Life-Spirit. When the physical body has been fully overcome and conquered by the ego, it becomes Atman or Spirit-Man. Then will the human being have reached the goal which above all lies in store for him. That, however, will be attained only in the far distant future. Moreover, we wish it to be quite clear that the ego acts in full consciousness in what has just been described; namely, that the human being consisting of the four members — physical, ether and astral bodies and ego — works by means of the ego upon the other three members, transforming them into Spirit-Self, Life-Spirit and Spirit-Man. For the most part this is not yet the case with present humanity which, as a matter of fact, is just beginning, fully conscious, to work a little of Manas into its astral body. The human being is doing this now. Through the help of higher beings he has already, although unconsciously, worked upon his three lower members during this Earth evolution. In ancient times he unconsciously worked over the astral body, and this then became permeated by the Sentient Soul. The ego unconsciously worked into the ether body and this unconsciously re-formed ether body is what you will find described in regular sequence in my book Theosophy as the Intellectual Soul, and that part of the physical body, unconsciously worked upon by the ego, you will find described there as the Consciousness Soul. The Consciousness Soul only came into being toward the end of the Atlantean period when the ether body — previously outside the physical body in the head region — gradually drew wholly within it. Through this the human being learned to utter the word “I.” Thus variously-membered, he gradually passed over into the post-Atlantean period. It is the task of our age to work Manas or Spirit-Self by degrees into what had previously been received unconsciously. The human being must, as it were, develop Manas within himself by means of all the forces he has acquired by virtue of possessing a physical, an ether and an astral body, a sentient, an intellectual and a consciousness soul; by means of all the forces which these various members can give him, he must develop Manas and also, although in a very small degree, the germ of a Life-Spirit or Budhi. Therefore our post-Atlantean age has the important task of helping the human being to develop consciously these higher members of his being (Manas or Spirit-Self, Budhi or Life-Spirit and Atman or Spirit-Man) in the distant future when he will at last have reached his goal. He must from now on, by degrees, develop within himself the force to evolve his higher members out of his lower.
Let us now ask: what has been the condition of the human being that has kept him from already developing these higher members, and what will be the difference in the future? How will the humanity of the future differ from that of the present?
When at last the whole of the higher man has been developed, the entire astral body will be so completely purified that it will simultaneously become Manas or Spirit-Self; the ether body so thoroughly purged that it will simultaneously become Life-Spirit or Budhi, and the physical body will be so greatly metamorphosed that it will, at the same time, be as actually a Spirit-Man, Atman, as it is now a physical body. The greatest force will be needed to conquer this lowest body, hence the conquest and transformation of the physical means the greatest victory for the human being. When mankind has fully perfected the physical body, this physical man will then become Spirit-Man or Atman. All this is at present only in germ within the human being, but a time will come when it will live in him in its fulness. And by lifting his gaze to the Christ Personality, to the Christ Impulse, by energizing and strengthening himself through this Christ Impulse, he draws into himself the force that can accomplish this transformation.
Since humanity of the present has not yet perfected this metamorphosis, what is the result? Spiritual Science makes this very clear. Because this katharsis of the astral body has not yet been accomplished, that is, the astral body has not yet transformed itself into Spirit-Self, selfishness or egotism is possible. Because the ether body has not yet been strengthened by the ego, lying and error are possible; and because the physical body has not yet been fortified by the ego, sickness and death are possible. In a once fully developed Spirit-Self, there will be no more selfishness; no sickness and death, but just health and salvation in the fully developed Spirit-Man, that is, in the fully evolved physical body. What does it mean for the human being to take the Christ into himself? It means that he has learned to understand the forces that are in the Christ, which if taken into himself make it possible for him to become master even of his physical body.
Imagine for example that someone could receive the Christ Impulse fully into himself, that it could completely pass over upon him. The Christ Himself might stand directly in the presence of this person and the Christ Impulse be transmitted to him. What does that signify? If the person were blind, he would yet be able to see by means of the direct influence of this Christ Impulse, for the final goal of evolution is the conquest of the forces of sickness and death. When the writer of the Gospel of St. John speaks of the healing of the man born blind, he is then speaking out of the depths of the Mysteries, he is demonstrating, by means of an example, that the force of the Christ is a healing force when it appears in full power. It may be asked: Where is this force? It is in the body of the Christ, in the earth! But this earth must, in truth, be fully permeated by the being of the Christ Spirit or of the Logos. Let us see if the writer of the Gospel recounts the story with this meaning. How does he relate it?
Standing there is the blind man. The Christ takes some earth, insalivates it and lays it upon the blind man's eyes. He lays His body, the earth, permeated with His spirit upon the blind man. In this description, the writer of the Gospel indicates a mystery which he very well understands. Now laying aside all prejudice, let us talk a little more in detail of this sign — one of the greatest performed by the Christ — in order that we may learn to know more exactly the nature of such a thing and not be disturbed because our very clever contemporaries will consider what has just been said to be sheer madness or folly! There are, however, in the world great and mighty mysteries which mankind is not yet entitled to know. Human beings of the present day, even though they may be sufficiently developed, are not yet strong enough to go through the great Mysteries. They can know of them, they can understand them when they are able to experience them spiritually; but our present humanity, so deeply immersed in matter, is not yet capable of converting them into their physical expression.
All life is, in fact, made up of antitheses and extremes. Life and death are just such extremes. For the thought and feelings of the occultist, there is something very extraordinary in seeing, for example, a corpse and a living human being side by side. When we have a living, waking human being before us, we know that a soul and spirit dwell within him. But as far as consciousness is concerned, this soul and spirit are, as it were, cut off from any connection with the spiritual world; they cannot look into it. If we have a corpse before us, we have the feeling that the spirit and soul which once belonged to it are passing over into the spiritual worlds where consciousness, or the light of those worlds is flashing up within them. Thus the corpse becomes a symbol of what is taking place in the spiritual world. But in the physical world also, there are reflections of what is happening in the spiritual world, but they are of an extraordinary character. When a human being descends again into physical birth, his bodily part must be reconstructed; material substance must, so to say, rush together in order that a body be created for him. For the clairvoyant, this rushing together of physical substance represents the death of consciousness in the spirit world. There it dies — here it becomes alive. In the rushing together of substance to form a physical human body can be seen, in a certain sense, the dying of a spiritual consciousness; while on the other hand, at the moment of decomposition or of the burning of the physical body, when the parts disintegrate and dissolve, the opposite actually becomes manifest in the spiritual world, that is, the awakening of a spiritual consciousness occurs. Physical dissolution is spiritual birth. Therefore all processes of decay and dissolution mean something more than just decay and dissolution to the occultist. A churchyard, spiritually observed, where physical bodies are in the process of dissolution, is the scene of remarkable processes, the continuous flashing up and glistening of spiritual birth; (I am now speaking of what is taking place spiritually in the churchyard itself apart from the human beings there).
Let us imagine for example that a person were to give himself up physically to a certain training — naturally no one would recommend this, for the present physical body could not possibly endure it — to a schooling in which he would train his body to breathe in putrified air for a certain prescribed length of time with the conscious intent of taking in the spiritual processes which have just been described. If he does this in the proper way, then in his following incarnations — it cannot be done in one — he can be incarnated with that force which offers restorative and health-giving impulses. Breathing putrid air belongs to a schooling which gradually gives strength to the spittle, when mixed with the ordinary earth, to become the healing substance which the Christ rubbed upon the eyes of the blind man. This mystery through which a person consumes, eats or inhales death, by which he acquires the power to heal, is the mystery to which the writer of the Gospel refers when he describes such signs as the healing of the man born blind. Instead of declaring without cessation that such and such a thing should be interpreted to mean thus and so, it would be much better were people to learn that such a thing as is described in the healing of the blind man is literally true, that it exists, and that it is possible to have respect for such a personality as the writer of the Gospel and be able to say: “There was such a person who was thoroughly initiated into this mystery about which we must try to acquire an understanding.”
It was, moreover, necessary to call attention beforehand to the fact that we are here in an anthroposophical group in which many prejudices have been eliminated, thus making it possible to speak of such real mysteries as the insalivation of the earth's soil for healing purposes, and to say that such an incident has a literal significance.
However, let us now try to comprehend how, by knowing these facts, we unite with the idea that occupies us today namely, that the Christ is the Spirit of the earth and that the earth is His Body. We have seen the Christ spiritualizing the etheric element in one instance and have seen Him giving up something of Himself in order to perform the miracle we arc considering. Now let us consider something else. Besides what has been said today, let us take what the Christ Himself said: “The most profound mystery of My being is the I AM, and the true and eternal might of the I AM or of the Ego which has the force to permeate other bodies must flow into human beings. It dwells within the Earth Spirit.” Let us hold this clearly in mind and take very earnestly, quite seriously, the fact that, because the Christ wishes to bestow the true ego upon every human soul, He will awaken the God in it and gradually enkindle the Spirit of the Lord and King in everyone. What does this signify? We have here nothing more nor less than the fact that the Christ brings to expression, in the highest sense, the idea of Karma, the karmic law. For when anyone fully understands the idea of Karma, he will understand it in this Christian sense. It means that no man should set himself up as a judge of the inner soul of another human being. Unless the idea of Karma has been understood in this way, it has not been grasped in its deepest significance. When one man judges another, the one is always placing the other under the compulsion of his own ego. However, if a person really believes in the “I AM” in the Christian sense, he will not judge. He will say: “I know that Karma is the great adjuster. Whatever you may have done, I do not judge it!”
Let us suppose that a transgressor is brought before a person who really understands the Christ-Word. What will be his attitude toward the transgressor? Let us suppose that all those who would like to be Christians were to accuse him of a terrible sin. The real Christian would say to them: “Whether what you maintain has been done by him or not, makes no difference, the I AM must be respected; it must be left to Karma, to the great law which is the law of the Christ-Spirit Himself. Karma is fulfilled in the course of earthly evolution. We can leave it to this earthly evolution to determine what punishment Karma shall inflict upon a human being.” He would perhaps turn to the earth and say to the accusers: — “Pay heed to yourselves, it is the duty of the earth to inflict the punishment. Let us inscribe it then upon the earth where it has, moreover, been registered as Karma.”
Jesus went up to the Mount of Olives.
And early in the morning He came again into the temple and all the people came unto Him and He sat down and taught them.
And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto Him a woman taken in adultery; and they placed her in their midst.
They said unto Him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery in the very act. Now Moses in the law commanded us that such should be stoned; but what sayest Thou?
This they said, tempting Him, that they might accuse Him. But Jesus stooped down and with His finger wrote on the ground.
So when they continued asking Him, He lifted Himself up and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.
And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground.
But when they heard this, being convicted by their own conscience, they went out one by one, beginning at the eldest even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.
When Jesus had lifted Himself up and saw none but the woman, He said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? Hath no man condemned thee?
This He said in order to turn her thoughts away from all idea of outer judgment and point to an inner Karma.
She said, No man, Lord.
She was left to her Karma. Thus the only thing for her was to think no more about “punishment” which Karma fulfills, but to change her life.
And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.
Thus we see that the idea of Karma is bound up with the idea of the Christ in its deepest sense, is connected with the very significance of His Being for the earth. “If you have understood my Being, then you have comprehended also Him whose Being I express and know that the I AM brings compensation.” The impulse to independence and an inner completion is what the Christ has given to mankind.
Humanity has not even today attained a very great understanding of true, esoteric Christianity. However, when men learn to understand what is to be found in such a writing as the Gospel of St. John, they will by degrees take into themselves the Impulse present in it. Then in a far distant future, the Christian ideal will be accomplished.
Thus we see that in the post-Atlantean period the first impulse for developing the higher man flows into the earth. Tomorrow we shall become acquainted with the evolution of the human being in his relation to the Christ Impulse here in this post-Atlantean period and then, proceeding further, we shall show what the Christ of the future will be.