The Gospel of John
X. The Effect of the Christ Impulse Within Mankind
30 May 1908, Hamburg
We have been considering the whole law of evolution of the post-Atlantean humanity, and we have tried to understand why the founding of Christianity should have taken place just at a particular moment in this period of evolution. Yesterday at the close of our lecture, we observed that an understanding of important questions in the Gospel of St. John and in the whole of Christianity depends upon our keeping well in mind this evolutionary law in its esoteric, Christian sense. Only in this way shall we be able to gain a complete understanding of the meaning of the words “Holy Spirit,” “ Father and Mother of Jesus.” Above all we must remember that in the course of the last lectures, it was made clear that the post-Atlantean humanity falls into seven sub-divisions. It is, in fact, that humanity to which, strictly speaking, we, ourselves belong and which developed after the Atlantean Flood. I intentionally avoided the idea of “sub-races,” because the concept “race” does not fully coincide with the idea we are considering. What we are considering are cultural periods of development and what we still experience as racial laws in our present humanity is, in fact, an echo of the Atlantean evolution. The human evolution which preceded the Atlantean Flood, which took place for the most part upon a continent lying between present Europe and America, upon ancient Atlantis, can also be divided into seven successive groups. To these seven groups the expression “racial evolution” is applicable, for these seven successive stages of humanity upon ancient Atlantis differed widely from each other bodily, both internally and externally. We include in the external body also the inner configurations of brain, blood and other fluids. But it cannot be said that the earliest humanity of the post-Atlantean age, the Indian, differed sufficiently from ourselves for us to be able to employ the expression “race” for it. We must always hold fast to the continuity of Divine Wisdom, therefore it is often necessary to form a connection with this ancient concept of the race. Yet false ideas can very easily be created by this word “race” through our failing to see that the reason for the division of humanity of the present is something of a much more inner character than the idea usually attached to the word race. Race can no longer be used for the culture that will replace our own after the seventh subdivision, because then humanity will be divided according to quite different fundamental laws.
From this point of view we must consider the division of the post-Atlantean period into the following epochs: 1st the ancient Indian epoch; 2nd the ancient Persian; 3rd the Babylonian-Assyrian-Chaldean-Egyptian; 4th the Greco-Latin; and 5th, the epoch in which we now live. Our epoch will be replaced by a 6th and that by a 7th evolutionary epoch. We are now in the 5th post-Atlantean cultural epoch and say to ourselves: — Christianity entered into human evolution in its full profundity and significance in the 4th epoch. It has had its influence on the humanity of the 5th epoch to a marked degree and we shall now forecast prophetically what its further effect will be, as far as this is possible out of Spiritual Wisdom. We indicated yesterday that the mission of Christianity was prepared in the 3rd epoch. The Egyptian civilization belongs to the 3rd epoch, and out of its womb the adherents of the Old Testament directed the development of Hebrew culture in such a way that Christianity was born, as it were, coming fully into the world in the 4th epoch, in the person of Christ Jesus. We may say that humanity experienced a certain spiritual influence in the 3rd epoch of the post-Atlantean age. This worked on into the 4th Epoch, concentrating in the person of Christ Jesus, then continued on into the 5th, our own, and from thence it will work on over into the 6th epoch which will follow ours. Now we must clearly understand how all this has occurred.
Let us call to mind that in the course of human evolution, the various constituent parts of the human being have experienced their own evolution. Let us recall how it was in the later Atlantean period. We have described how the ether head sank into the physical body and how at that time people developed the rudimentary capacity for saying “I AM” to themselves. When the Atlantean Flood occurred, the human physical body was permeated by the power of the “I AM;” this means that human progress had advanced far enough to have prepared the physical instrument for the ego or for self-consciousness. By this we understand quite clearly that if we were to go back into the middle of the Atlantean period, we should find no human being in the position to develop a self-consciousness in which it was possible for him to speak the words, “I am an I” or “I AM,” out of himself. That could only occur after that part of the ether head, of which we have spoken, has united with the physical part of the head. Up to the time of the submersion of Atlantis by the Flood, the human being had developed the rudiments of the physical brain, which was to become the bearer of this self-consciousness, and the germs of the other configurations of his physical body. Up to the time of the Atlantean Flood, the physical body was being made ready to be the bearer of the ego. We may ask: What was the mission of Atlantis? It was to implant the ego in the human being, to imprint it upon him, and this mission then reached out beyond the Flood — described as the Deluge — over into our age. In our post-Atlantean epoch, however, something else had to enter; gradually and by degrees, Manas or Spirit-Self had to enter into the human being. The influence of Manas or Spirit-Self begins with our post-Atlantean age. We know that after we have passed through various embodiments in our sixth or seventh epochs, Manas or Spirit-Self will have overshadowed us to a certain degree. But a longer preparation is needed for the human being to become a fit instrument for this Manas or Spirit-Self. Before that, he will first have to become a true bearer of the “I” or ego, even though it take thousands of years. He will not only have to make his physical body an instrument for the ego, but the other members of his being as well.
In the first cultural epoch of the post-Atlantean period, the human being for the first time made his ether body into a bearer of the ego, just as he had previously done with his physical body. This was the ancient Indian civilization. In this epoch, the human being acquired the ability to develop not only a physical instrument for the ego, but also a fitting ether body. Therefore in the following table, the first epoch, the ancient Indian civilization is indicated as having an ether body.
If we now wish to consider the further evolution of these cultural epochs in relation to the human being, we must not, merely superficially, consider the soul as the astral body, but we must proceed more accurately and take as a basis the membering of the human being which you will find in my book “Theosophy.” You know that there we distinguish, in general, not only the seven human members, but the middle part we again divide into Soul Body, Sentient Soul, Intellectual Soul and Consciousness Soul — and then we have the higher members, Spirit-Self, Life-Spirit and Spirit-Man. Usually only seven members are to be distinguished. The fourth member which we summarize under the name “Ego,” we must again divide, because in human evolution it is thus divided. What was evolved during the ancient Persian period is the actual Astral or Soul Body. It is the bearer of the actual human active forces, therefore the transition from the Indian to the Persian periods consisted in passing over from a state of inactivity to one of activity in the material world.
The movement of the hands and everything that was connected with it, the transition from inactivity to physical work is what characterized this epoch. To a much greater degree than is supposed, the inhabitants of ancient India were disinclined to bestir the hands, but in contemplation were much more inclined to lift themselves above the material existence into higher worlds. They had to penetrate deeply into their inner being when they wished to call to memory those earlier states. Therefore the Indian Yoga, for example, consisted in general in giving special care and cultivation to the ether body.
Now let us proceed further. In the culture of the ancient Persian epoch, the ego had sunk into the Soul Body. In that of the Assyrian-Babylonian-Chaldean-Egyptian epoch, the ego mounts into the Sentient Soul. You inquire, what is the Sentient Soul? It is the means by which the sensitory human being directs himself outwardly, whereby the perceiving human being by means of his eyes and other senses becomes aware of the ruling spirit in outer nature. Consequently in that epoch, the eyes were directed toward the material things spread out in space, toward the stars and their courses. What was spread out externally in space acted upon the Sentient Soul. In the Egyptian-Chaldean-Assyrian-Babylonian period, very little existed as yet of what can be called an inner, personal and intellectual human culture. We of the present can no longer really imagine what constituted the Egyptian Wisdom of that epoch. It was, in fact, not at all a matter of thinking, a matter of speculation as was the case later on; but when the Egyptian turned his glance toward the outer world, he inwardly experienced the law which he read in the physical world with the physical senses. It was a reading of the laws, a science of perception, a science of feeling, not a science of concepts. If our scholars would only reflect — I am using a harsh expression — then all that has just been said would be pointed out to them, as it were, with fingers, with spiritual fingers. For if the Egyptian did not think with the true, inner forces of the intellect, that means nothing more nor less than that there could not have been, at that time, a real science of thought or of logic. It is true, there was none. History points out to you that the real founder of logic was Aristotle. If there had previously been a logic, a science of thought, it would have been possible to inscribe it in a book. A logic, which is in itself a process of reflection in the ego, in which ideas are united and separated within the ego, in which one forms judgments logically and does not gather them from the things themselves, first appeared in the fourth cultural epoch. Therefore we call this fourth epoch the epoch of the Intellectual Soul, and we ourselves are now in the epoch of the appearance of the ego in the Consciousness Soul. Humanity entered into this epoch about the middle of the Middle Ages, beginning with the 1oth, 11th, and 12th Centuries. It came as late as that. The ego first entered the Consciousness Soul about the middle of the Middle Ages.
This can be very easily proven historically, and light could be thrown into every corner were there time to point out much that might come into question. At that time a very definite concept was implanted in mankind, the concept of individual freedom, of individual ego-capacity. If you consider the early part of the Middle Ages, you will still find everywhere that the value of the individual, in a certain sense, depended upon his position in the community. A person inherited his standing, his rank and position from his father and his kinsmen, and in accordance with these impersonal things, which are not consciously connected with the ego, he acted and worked in the world. Only later, when commerce expanded and inventions and modern discoveries were made, did the ego-consciousness begin to extend itself, and we can see arising everywhere in the European world the external reflection of this Consciousness Soul in very definite forms of municipal government, municipal constitution, etc. From the history of this city of Hamburg, for example, it can easily be proven how these things have developed historically. What in the Middle Ages was called the “free city” is the external counterpart of this breathing of the ego-conscious soul through humanity. And if we now allow our glance to sweep into the future, we may say: We are now about to develop this personal consciousness within the Consciousness Soul. All the demands of the modern age are nothing but the demands of the Consciousness Soul which mankind is unconsciously expressing. But when we look still further into the future, we see spiritually something else. The human being then rises in the next cultural epoch, to Manas or Spirit-Self. That will be a time when men will possess a common Wisdom in a very much greater degree than at present; they will be, as it were, immersed in a common Wisdom. This will be the beginning of the feeling that the innermost kernel of the human being is at the same time the most universal. What is looked upon as the possession of the individual, in the present sense of the word, is not yet so on a higher plane. At present there is a notion, closely linked with the individuality, with the human personality, that human beings must contend with one another, must have different opinions. Men say: if we could not have different opinions we would not be independent human beings. Just because they wish to be independent, they must hold different opinions. That, however, is an inferior point of view. Men will be most peaceful and harmonious when they, as separate persons, become most individualized. As long as men are not yet fully overshadowed by Spirit-Self there will be opinions which differ from each other. These opinions are not yet experienced in the true, innermost part of their being. At present there are only a few forerunners of things experienced in the depths of the soul, and these are mathematical and geometrical truths. These cannot be put to the vote. If a million people were to say to you that 2x2=5 and you perceive in your inner being that it is 4, you know that this is true and that the others must be wrong. It is as though someone were to maintain that the sum of the three angles of a triangle does not amount to 18o degrees.
It will be Manas-Culture when more and more the sources of truth are experienced within the strengthened human individuality, within the human personality, and when, at the same time, there is an agreement between what different people experience as higher reality, just as now there is an agreement between what they experience as the truths of mathematics. Men agree upon these mathematical truths at present everywhere, because they are the most elementary truths. In respect of other truths, men contend not because there can be two different right opinions about the same subject, but because they have not yet reached the point of recognizing and fighting down the personal sympathy and antipathy that divides them. Were personal opinions still to come into consideration in simple mathematical truths, many housewives might then, perhaps, agree that 2x2=5 and not 4. For those who see more deeply into the nature of things, it is quite impossible to disagree about their higher nature; there is only one possibility for those who disagree: that of developing themselves to perceive more deeply. Then reality discovered in one soul will coincide exactly with that in another, and there will be no more strife. That is the guarantee for true peace and true brotherhood, because there is but one Reality and this Reality has something to do with the Spiritual Sun. Just think how orderly the plants grow; each plant grows toward the sun and there is only a single sun. When in the same way, in the course of the sixth cultural epoch, that Spirit-Self draws into human beings, a Spiritual Sun will actually be present, toward which all men will incline, and in which they will become harmonized. That is the great perspective which we have in prospect for the sixth epoch. Then in the seventh, Life-Spirit or Budhi will, in a certain way, enter into our evolution. This is the far distant future toward which we, only divining, can turn our glance.
But we now see clearly that an epoch will come, the sixth, which will be a very important one; important, because it will bring Peace and Brotherhood through a common Wisdom. Peace and Brotherhood, because not only will the Higher Self sink down into its lower form as Spirit-Self or Manas in certain chosen human beings, but also in that part of humanity passing through a normal evolution. A union of the human ego, as it has been gradually evolved with the higher, the unifying Ego, will then take place. We may call this a spiritual marriage and the union of the human ego with Manas or Spirit-Self was always so called in Esoteric Christianity. However, things of the world are bound closely together and men cannot stretch out their hands, as it were, and draw this Manas or Spirit-Self into themselves. They must reach a very much higher stage of evolution in order to be able to help themselves in respect of these things. In order that the human being in the post-Atlantean age may unite with the Higher Ego, men had to have help in their evolution. When something is to be accomplished, there must be a preparation. If a child is to develop into something special at fifteen years of age, something must be done to that end as early as his sixth or seventh year. Everywhere, evolution must prepare its impulses. What is to happen to mankind in the sixth epoch must be slowly and gradually prepared. The power and force of what is to take place within mankind in the sixth epoch has to come from without.
The first preparation was something still wholly external, operating from the spiritual world, something that had not yet descended into the physical world. That has been pointed out in the great mission of the Hebrew people. When Moses, an Initiate of the Egyptian Mysteries, received those instructions from the Spiritual Guidance of the World which we were able to characterize with the words: “When thou speakest unto them of My laws, tell them that My Name is the ‘I AM,’” he was charged in these words: “Prepare them by pointing to the formless, invisible God. Point out that, while the Father-God is still active in the blood, the ‘I AM’ who is to descend even to the physical plane is prepared for those who can understand.” This was prepared, as it were, in the third cultural epoch. Out of the Hebrew people we see streaming forth the mission to deliver to humanity the God who then descended deeper into matter and appeared in the flesh. First He was prophesied, then later He appeared to the physical eyes in the flesh. Thus came to expression in the right sense what had been prepared by Moses.
Let us keep this point of time clearly in mind: the spiritual prophecy through Moses, and the conclusion of this prophecy in the appearance of the prophesied Messiah in the Christ. From this time onward — which we can designate as the first division in the history of Christianity — the real Impulse was implanted in human evolution for unity and brotherhood which will eventuate in the sixth epoch. It is like a force that, having sunk down deeply into an object, continues to be active there until gradually results emerge. In a similar way, this spiritual force has been active up to our present time which we must describe as an age in which humanity has wholly descended into matter with all its intellectual and spiritual powers. The question may be asked: Why did Christianity have to come to the world as a direct forerunner of the most deeply materialistic epoch?
Just imagine, for a moment, that humanity had entered into this most deeply materialistic age without Christianity. It would then have been impossible for it to find again the impulse upwards. Think away the Impulse that has been implanted in mankind through the Christ, then the whole of humanity would have had to fall into decadence, would have had to be bound forever to matter. As it is expressed in occultism, it would have been “seized by the force of gravity in matter” and would have been thrown out of its evolution. Thus we must imagine that in the post-Atlantean epoch, mankind made a movement downward into matter, and that before the lowest stage was reached, there came the other Impulse which impelled it again upward in the opposite direction. This was the Christ Impulse. Had the Christ Impulse been active earlier, humanity would never have come to a materialistic development at all. Had it fallen in the ancient Indian epoch, mankind would certainly have been permeated with the spiritual element of Christianity, but it would never have descended deeply enough into matter to have been able to produce all that we call today an outer physical culture. It may seem extraordinary to say that without Christianity there would never have been any railroads, any steamships etc., but for anyone who knows things in their relationship, it is a fact. Never would these means of culture have arisen out of the ancient Indian civilization. There exists a mysterious connection between Christianity and all that is today the so-called pride of mankind. Because Christianity waited until the right moment of time for its appearance, an external culture became possible, and because it entered just at the right moment, it became possible for those who unite themselves with the Christ Principle to be able to rise again out of materiality. However, since Christianity has been received without understanding, it has become very greatly materialized. Because it has been so greatly misunderstood, it has itself been materialistically interpreted. Thus, in a certain way, it is a very distorted, materialistic form which Christianity has assumed in the course of that period which we have just been following right up to our own times, and which we may designate as a second division of Christian history. Instead of the Last Supper, for example, being apprehended from its higher spiritual aspect, it has become materialized and has been represented as a transubstantiation of gross physical substance. And we could instance hundreds and hundreds of examples of the fact that Christianity as a spiritual phenomenon has not been understood.
We have now almost reached the moment when this second period ends, when men must of necessity form a connection with the spiritual aspect of Christianity, with what Christianity really should be, in order that its true spiritual content may be drawn forth. This will come about through the Anthroposophic deepening of Christianity. By applying Anthroposophy to Christianity, we are following the universal historic necessity of preparing the third Christian epoch which directs its life toward the in-streaming of Manas in the sixth epoch. That will be, as it were, the third chapter. The first chapter is the period of the prediction of Christianity up to the time of the appearance of Christ Jesus and a little beyond. The second chapter is the deepest possible immersion of the human spirit in matter and the materialization of Christianity itself. The third chapter will be a spiritual understanding of Christianity by means of a deepening of the soul through Anthroposophy. That such a document as the Gospel of St. John has not, up to our own age, been understood is due to our whole materialistic evolution. Such a materialistic culture as has gradually developed could not fully understand this Gospel. The spiritual culture which must begin with the Anthroposophic Movement will understand this document in its truly spiritual form and prepare what will then lead over into the sixth epoch.
For those who have attained a Christian or a Rosicrucian initiation — even for those who have attained any initiation whatsoever — an extraordinary phenomenon makes its appearance. Things which take place acquire for them a double meaning; one which is enacted in the outer physical world, another, by means of which things enacted in the physical world become indications of great, comprehensive spiritual happenings. You will, therefore, understand if I now attempt to describe somewhat the impressions of the writer of the Gospel of St. John on one particular occasion.
An extraordinary event took place during the life of Christ Jesus and this event occurred upon the physical plane. The one who is describing it, according to the Gospel, does so as an initiate. Accordingly, the event represents to him simultaneously the perceptions and the results that accrue during the process of initiation. Picture to yourselves the end of this act of initiation.
During three and a half time periods, which in ancient times, as we have already pointed out, were represented by three and a half days, the candidate for initiation lay in a lethargic sleep. Each day he experienced something different in respect of the spiritual world. On the first day he had definite experiences which presented to him events in the spiritual worlds; and on the two subsequent days he had still other experiences. Now in this particular passage of the Gospel, the person we are considering had shown to him what is always spiritually presented to the clairvoyant faculty, that is, the future of mankind. If we know the impulses of the future, we can then inject them into the present and thereby lead the present over into the future.
Picture to yourselves the seer of that age. He experienced the spiritual meaning of the first of the three chapters I have described from the time when the command resounded: “Say unto your people, I am the ‘I AM,’” to the descent of the Messiah. As second chapter he experienced the descent of the Christ into matter, and as third chapter he experienced how gradually mankind is being prepared to receive the Spirit or Spirit-Self (Manas) in the sixth epoch. He experienced all this in an astral prevision. He experienced the marriage of humanity with the Spirit. That is an important experience which mankind can only impress upon the outer world through Christ having entered into time, into history. Previously mankind had not lived in this kind of brotherliness, brought about by means of the spirit unfolding within the inner being, in which peace exists between man and man. Prior to this, there was only the love prepared physically through the tie of blood. This love develops gradually into a spiritual love which then descends upon earth. As final result of this third chapter of initiation, we may say that humanity celebrates its marriage with Spirit-Self or Manas. This can only happen when the time for it has arrived, when the time has matured for the full realization of the Christ Impulse. So long as the time has not yet come, so long will the relationship which is based upon the kinship of blood obtain, and so long will love be an un-spiritual form of love.
Wherever in ancient documents numbers are mentioned, the hidden aspect of numbers is meant. When we read, “On the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee,” every initiate knows that with this “third day,” something very special is meant. What is meant? The writer of the Gospel of St. John points out that it is not alone a matter of an actual experience, but that it is, at the same time, a great, an overpowering prophecy. This marriage expresses the great marriage of humanity which occurred on the third day of initiation. On the first day there occurred what took place in the transition from the third to the fourth cultural epoch; on the second day, what took place in the transition from the fourth to the fifth epoch and on the third day what will occur when mankind passes over from the fifth to the sixth epoch. These are the three days of initiation. The Christ Impulse has been compelled to wait until the third epoch. Before that, the time had not come when it could operate. The Gospel of St. John points to a special relationship between “me and thee,” between “us two.” That is what is really said, not the absurd “Woman, what have I to do with thee.” When the Mother asks the Christ to make a sign, He answered: “My time is not yet come” to be active at marriages, that is, to bring people together. That time is yet to come. What is based upon the blood-bond still works on and will continue to be active; hence the reference to the relationship between mother and son at the Marriage of Cana.
When we consider the documents in this way, all that is really external stands out in bold relief against a significant spiritual background. We gaze into the abysmal depths of the spiritual life when we penetrate into what has been bestowed upon mankind by such an initiate as the writer of the Gospel of St. John, into what he was able to bestow upon it, because the Christ had implanted His Impulse within human evolution.
Therefore we have seen that these things must be explained by the astral reality which the initiate experiences, not by empty allegory or symbolism. We are not dealing with a symbolic interpretation only, but with the narration of the experiences of the initiate. If this were not so, then one might feel that those who stand outside are right when they say that Spiritual Science offers nothing but allegorical interpretations. If we apply to this passage the spiritual-scientific interpretation, as we now understand it, we learn how, through three cosmic days, the Christ Impulse works upon humanity, from the third cultural epoch over into the fourth, from the fourth to the fifth and from the fifth into the sixth. And viewing this evolution from the standpoint of the Gospel of St. John, we are now able to say: The Christ Impulse was so great that mankind of the present has understood but very little of it, and only in a later age will it be wholly comprehended.