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The Rudolf Steiner Archive

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The Principle of Spiritual Economy
GA 109

VIII. The Event of Golgotha. The Brotherhood of the Holy Grail. The Spiritualized Fire

Cologne, Easter Sunday, April 11, 1909

One immediate advantage of significant time symbols such as Easter is that this festival makes our hearts and souls more amenable to the process of looking more and more deeply into the human riddles and into human nature. Therefore, let us once more place before our spiritual eye the oriental legend that illumined our souls yesterday since it has already given us a notion that it can disclose something of the human riddles and the nature of the human being. This is the legend of the great sage Kashyapa, the inspired disciple of Shakyamuni. Kashyapa had encompassed all the wisdom of the Orient with great purview and with an enormous impulse of activity. Of him it was rightly said that none of his successors were even faintly capable of preserving what he had recovered from Shakyamuni's deep well of wisdom or of preserving what he, Kashyapa—the last one to do so—had given mankind from the primordial wisdom of the world.

Let us continue the legend. When death approached, Kashyapa felt that he was close to Nirvana and went to a cave of the mountain. After he had died there in full consciousness, his physical body remained in an imperishable state but could be discovered only by those who had become mature enough to penetrate such secrets. While Kashyapa's imperishable body lay mysteriously concealed in that mountain cave, it was prophesied that a new great proclaimer of the primordial world wisdom would appear in the form of the Maitreya-Buddha who, upon reaching the summit of his earthly existence, was to go to the cave that contained Kashyapa's corpse. He would touch Kashyapa with his right hand, and then a wondrous fire was to come down from the universe, envelop the imperishable body of Kashyapa, and carry him into the higher spiritual worlds.

The oriental who understands such wisdom expects the reappearance of Maitreya-Buddha and his action on the imperishable body of Kashyapa. Will these two events really occur? Will the Maitreya-Buddha appear? And if he does, will the imperishable remains be moved upward through the wondrous heavenly fire? We will be able to get a presentiment of the deep wisdom that is embedded in this legend if we dwell in our true Easter feelings and visit the wondrous fire that is to absorb Kashyapa's remains.

Yesterday we saw how the godhead reveals Himself in our time through two poles: on the one hand through the macrocosmic lightning fire, and on the other hand through the microcosmic fire of the blood. We have seen that the Christ announced Himself to Moses in the burning bramble-bush and in the thunder and lightning fire on Sinai. No other force but Christ spoke to Moses, announced Himself as the I am the I am, and from the lightning fire at Sinai gave the Ten Commandments to him. After He had manifested Himself in this way, He appeared in the microcosmic pole in Palestine. The fire that lives in our blood contains the same God who announced Himself in the celestial fire and who then incarnated in a human body in the Mystery of Palestine so that he could imbue with His force the blood that contains the human fire. And if we follow the consequences this event has for earthly existence, we will be able to find through this event the blazing fire that will accept the remains of Kashyapa.

All developments in the course of the world are such that material things become spiritualized little by little. An external sign of God's power appeared to Moses in the material fire of the burning bramblebush and on Mt. Sinai. However, this fire was spiritualized through the Christ-Event, and who is able to perceive the burning spiritual fire after the Christ-Force infused itself into the earth? Only the spiritual eye that has been opened and awakened through the Christ-Impulse can see this fire because it sees this sensuous fire of the bramblebush in an etherealized and spiritualized form. And after the Christ-Impulse awakened the spiritual eye of human beings, this fire has also had a spiritual effect on our world.

When was this fire again perceived? It was perceived again when Saul opened his eyes on his way to Damascus, found that they had become illumined and clairvoyant, and recognized in the heavenly fire the One who had accomplished the Mystery of Golgotha. Both Saul, who became Paul, and Moses saw the Christ. Moses saw Him in the material fire—in the burning thornbush and in the lightning fire on Sinai—and only his inner being could tell him that the Christ spoke to him. On the other hand, Christ appeared to the enlightened eye of Paul from the spiritual and etherealized fire. Just as matter and spirit stand in a relationship to one another in the evolution of the world, there exists also in the course of the world a relationship between the mysterious fire of the bramblebush and of Sinai on the one hand, and the wondrous apparition of Saul on the other—that is, the fire that shines brightly to him from the clouds and transforms him into Paul. And what has this event done for the evolution of the world as a whole?

Let us look back to the large numbers of great personalities who were destined to beatify and save humanity. They were the external expression of the avatars, the divine spiritual forces who descended from spiritual heights in various epochs and assumed a human form, such as Krishna, Vishnu, and others. These benefactors and saviors of mankind had to make their appearances so that humanity could find its way back into the spiritual worlds, and in ancient times it took the intercession of divine power to do so. However, when the Mystery of Golgotha happened, human beings received the ability to muster from within the strength necessary to elevate themselves and lead themselves upward into the spiritual worlds. The Christ descended much deeper than had those previous leaders of the world and of mankind: not only did He bring heavenly forces into the earthly body, but also He spiritualized this earthly body in such a way that it now became possible for human beings to find the way back into the spiritual world with the help of these very forces. Although the pre-Christian saviors had used divine powers, the Christ used human powers to save mankind. And with this act human forces have been placed before our souls in their primordial potential. What would have happened on our earth if the Christ had not appeared? This serious and deeply incisive question is the one we want to pursue today.

It doesn't matter how many world saviors might have descended from the spiritual worlds; in the final analysis, they all would have found down here only human beings who were so deeply struck in the material world and so entrenched in matter that the pure, divine-spiritual forces would have been unable to lift them upward out of this unholy, impure matter. The oriental sages were deeply distressed and looked sadly into the future, which they viewed this way: the Maitreya-Buddha will appear in order to renew the primeval wisdom of the world, but there will not be a disciple present to absorb such wisdom. If the course of the world had continued in such a fashion, the Maitreya-Buddha would have preached to deaf ears and would not have been understood by human beings who were completely immersed in material things. The earth might well have become sufficiently materialistic to wither Kashyapa's body so that the Maitreya-Buddha would not have been capable of carrying Kashyapa's remains upward to divine-spiritual heights. The most knowledgeable individuals of oriental wisdom, then, were deeply saddened especially when they looked into the future and wondered whether the earth would still be capable of generating some understanding and feeling for the appearance of Maitreya-Buddha.

A strong heavenly force had to radiate into physical matter and sacrifice itself into this matter. What was required was more than just a God wearing the mask of human appearance; what was needed was a true human being with human powers who was carrying the God within himself. The Event of Golgotha had to happen so that the matter into which the human being was placed could be readied, cleansed, and ennobled. When components of matter are cleansed and sanctified, this will make the comprehension of primordial wisdom possible again in future incarnations. Mankind must be led to a true understanding of how the Event of Golgotha has really worked in this sense. How important has this event been to mankind, and how incisively has it affected the essence and the being of mankind?

Let us take a look at a period of twelve centuries: the six centuries before and the six centuries after the Event of Golgotha. And let us consider certain happenings that took place in human souls during that period of time. Truly, nothing more momentous and significant can be placed before the sensitive human soul than those powerful moments in the illumination of the Buddha, as they are related in the Buddha legend. He was not born in a stable, among poor shepherds, but left a royal environment in which he grew up. That fact alone is not what should be stressed, but rather the fact that he found he was unable to experience life in its various manifestations in such a royal environment.

He found a weak and wretched child whose birth into this existence had created nothing but suffering for the child, and so Buddha felt that birth is suffering. Then Buddha saw with his sensitive soul a sick person and so realized that this is what happens to a human being when he is carried into the earthly world because of his or her thirst for existence. He concluded that sickness was suffering. When he found an old man whose advanced age had made him an invalid, he asked himself: “What is this gift of life man has received that gradually makes him lose control over his limbs?” Old age was suffering. Upon seeing a corpse, Buddha confronted the powers of death to destroy and extinguish life, and he concluded that death, too, was suffering. As Buddha continued to look into the manifestations of life, he found that the separation from what one loved created suffering; to be united with what one did not love also created suffering; and, finally, suffering was caused by not receiving what one desired.

Buddha's doctrine of suffering had a mighty and vivid effect on the hearts of human beings. Countless people learned the great truth of being liberated from suffering through the extinction of the thirst for being, and they also learned how to strive outward from their earthly incarnations. Truly, the highest peak of human evolution is placed before our souls by such an endeavor.

Let us now view the period that comprises twelve centuries—six hundred years each before and after the birth of Christ. We need to stress that the Mystery of Golgotha took place in the middle of that period. From the age of Buddha, six hundred years before Golgotha, let us now call special attention only to what the Buddha felt at the sight of a corpse and what he taught in relation to this. Now that we have done this, let us immediately consider the time six hundred years after the Mystery of Golgotha, when countless souls and eyes turned to the cross on which a corpse was hanging. It is from this corpse that the impulses emanated that spiritualized life and signaled the glad tidings that death can be conquered by life. That, then, is the exact opposite of what Buddha felt when he saw a dead body.

Buddha saw in a corpse an indication of the insignificance and the futility of life. By contrast, the human beings six hundred years after the Event of Golgotha looked up to the corpse on the cross in a spirit of devout fervor. It was to them a sign of life, and their souls came to be imbued with the certainty that existence is not suffering, but that it carries over beyond death into a state of bliss. The crucified cross of the Christ Jesus six hundred years after the Event of Golgotha came to be a memorial symbol of life, of the resurrection of life, and of the victory over death and all suffering; six hundred years before the Mystery of Golgotha a corpse was the memorial symbol for the fact that human beings are subjected to misery and suffering because their thirst for being causes them to enter the physical world. Never has there been a more momentous reversal in the entire evolution of the human race.

If the human being's entry into the physical world had been considered as suffering six hundred years before the Event of Golgotha, how does the soul perceive the great truth of the misery of life after this event? How is this former truth perceived by people who look up to the cross of Golgotha with a high degree of understanding? Is birth suffering, as Buddha had said? Those who look up to the cross of Golgotha with a knowledgeable soul and who feel united with it will say to themselves: “This birth leads a human being into a world that had the opportunity to invest the Christ with its own elements.” They were glad to enter this earth on which Christ had walked. And through the connection with Christ, the soul had gained the strength to find its way up to the spiritual worlds, as well as the knowledge that birth is not suffering; birth is rather the gate through which one must pass to find the Savior—the Savior who has wrapped Himself into the same earthly materials that constitute the human physical sheath.

Is sickness suffering? Those who understood the Impulse of Golgotha in the true sense said: “No, it is not!” Even though mankind today cannot yet understand what the true spiritual life is that streams into them with Christ, people in the future will learn to understand it. They will know that a person whose innermost being is pervaded by the power of Christ, that an individual who allows himself or herself to become imbued with the Christ-Impulse will be able to overcome all illness with the help of the strong and healthy powers that he or she develops from within. This is so because Christ is the great healer of mankind. His power comprises everything that emanates from a spiritual well and is really able to develop the strong, healing power that can conquer illness. No, illness is not suffering, but rather an opportunity to overcome an impediment or a handicap by the development of the Christ-Force within us.

In the same way we must gain a clear understanding about the difficulties of old age. The weaker our limbs become, the greater the opportunity for us to grow in spirit and to master our infirmity through the power of Christ within us. Old age is not suffering because with every day we grow further into the spiritual world. And neither is death suffering because it is conquered in the resurrection. Death has been conquered through the Event of Golgotha.

Moreover, can we say that being separated from what we love constitutes suffering? No! The souls that imbue themselves with the Christ-Force know that love can forge indestructible spiritual bonds beyond all material hindrances. And there is nothing in life between birth and death and between death and rebirth to which we cannot spiritually find the way through the Christ-Impulse. If we imbue ourselves with the Christ-Impulse, it is unthinkable that we could possibly be separated from what we love in the long run. The Christ brings us together with what we love.

By the same token, “to be united with what we do not love” cannot be suffering because the Christ-Impulse teaches us that once we have accepted it into our souls, we must love everything in its own measure. The Christ-Impulse shows us the way, and when we have found this way, “to be united with what we do not love” can never cause suffering for then there will no longer be anything that we do not embrace lovingly. And “not to attain what one desires” can no longer be suffering either if one embraces Christ, for the human sensibilities, feelings, and desires are purified and ennobled by the Christ-Impulse in such a way that human beings desire only what they are meant to receive. They no longer suffer from the lack of things, for if they are meant to do without something or someone, such lack is for their ennoblement; and the Christ-Power gives them the strength to perceive it as a purification. When this happens, the feeling of lacking things no longer evokes suffering.

So what is the Event of Golgotha? It is the gradual abolition of the teaching by the great Buddha that life is suffering. No other event has had a greater impact on the evolution and the nature of life in this world than the Event of Golgotha, and that is why we can understand that it will continue to work for mankind and have tremendous positive consequences for humanity in the future. Christ was the greatest avatar that ever descended to earth; and when such a being comes down into our existence, just as Christ descended into the body of Jesus of Nazareth, something mysterious and greatly significant happens. Let us look at the microcosmic world. When we put a grain of wheat into the ground, it germinates, grows a stalk, and many ears of wheat, and the many, many grains of wheat harvested are copies of the one grain originally planted in the ground. This process also takes place in the macrocosmic, spiritual world. For “all that is destructible is but a parable,”38Faust II, lines 12104–12111:


What is destructible
Is but a parable;
What fails ineluctably,
The undeclarable,
Here it was seen,
Here it was action;
The Eternal-Feminine
Lures to perfection.
(Translation by Walter Kaufmann)

These are the very last lines of Goethe's Faust, indicating that the things of this material world are but a symbolic expression of the spiritual world. Love, through its embodiment in women, remains the guiding force for the striving human being. and we can see in the multiplication of the wheat grain an image of, and a parable for, the spiritual worlds. And with this, we conclude our comparison. When the Event of Golgotha took place, something happened to the etheric body and the astral body of Jesus of Nazareth: they were multiplied through the power of the Christ that lived within Him, and many copies of the two bodies were henceforth present in the spiritual world and continued to be at work.

When a human individuality descends from spiritual heights into a physical existence, it envelops itself with an etheric body and with an astral body. But when something like the copies of the etheric and astral bodies of Jesus of Nazareth is present in the spiritual worlds, then something very special happens to human beings whose karma provides for this. After the Mystery of Golgotha had been accomplished, an individual whose karma permitted this received a copy of the etheric or the astral body of Jesus of Nazareth woven into himself or herself. This was the case in the first centuries of the Christian era, for example with St. Augustine. When such an individuality descended from spiritual heights and enveloped itself in an etheric body, it received a copy of the etheric body of Jesus of Nazareth woven into its own etheric body, but it had its own astral body and ego.

And thus, what had enveloped the God incarnate of Palestine now was carried over onto other human beings who were supposed to transfer the impetus of this great impulse to the rest of humanity. Since Augustine had to depend on his own ego and on his own astral body, he was subjected to doubts, ups and downs, and erroneous behavior; and since these shortcomings originated in the as-yet-imperfect parts of his being, it was difficult for him to overcome them. What he had to go through was caused by errors in his judgment and by an erring ego. But after he had struggled through these problems and his etheric body began to be activated, he encountered forces within himself that had been woven into this etheric body from a copy of the etheric body of Jesus of Nazareth. And now he became the individual who was able to proclaim to the people in the West a part of the lofty mystery truths.

Thus many of the individuals whom we in the West know as the important pillars of Christianity were called upon to promote the active continuance of Christianity in the fourth, fifth, and sixth centuries, and on to the tenth century. These exemplary people were able to absorb the great ideas because their etheric bodies were interwoven with the etheric body of Jesus of Nazareth. It is for this reason that they were able to fathom the sublime visions and exemplary ideas that would later be put into artistic form by renowned painters and sculptors.

How did these exemplary types originate for the paintings that give us joy even today? They came into being when the human beings of the fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth centuries after Christ received the great illuminations about Christianity that they did not have to comprehend with the help of historical accounts. Because of the copy of the sanctified etheric body of Jesus of Nazareth interwoven within them, these human beings were able to absorb the content of Christ's teaching without knowing the historically transmitted facts of Christianity. Because they bore a part of Jesus of Nazareth within themselves, they knew from a feeling of inner illumination that the Christ was alive. They knew it as well as Paul did when he saw the Christ-Apparition in the blazing spiritualized fire of the heavens. Was Paul before that occasion willing to be converted by force of the stories that circulated about the events in Palestine? None of the events anyone could have told him would have had the power of making a Paul out of Saul, and yet the most important impulse for the dissemination of Christianity emanated from Paul. He remained skeptical of the stories about Christ on the physical plane and became a believer only through an occult event that took place in the spiritual world. Strange indeed are those people who want to have Christianity without spiritual illumination! The external expansion of Christianity was due to a supersensory event; it would never have taken place without Paul's spiritual illumination.

In later times, Christianity continued to grow through the activities of those who were able to experience the Christ, as described above, as a result of inner illumination, and these individuals were also capable of experiencing the historical Christ because they bore within themselves what had remained of the historical Christ and his bodies. During the time from the eleventh through the fourteenth centuries other individuals received copies of the astral, rather than the etheric, body of Jesus of Nazareth woven into themselves when they were mature enough and when their karma called for this. Francis of Assisi and Elisabeth of Thüringen, among others, were such human beings whose lives would remain incomprehensible to us unless we knew about this fact. Everything in the life of Francis of Assisi that appears to us strange stems from the fact that his ego was the human ego of this human individuality, but the humility, the devotion, and the fervor that we so admire in Francis of Assisi came from his having woven into his astral body a copy of the astral body of Jesus of Nazareth. Many other personalities of this time had such a copy woven into their own being; and when we know this, they become models for us to emulate. If a person were to get to the bottom of this matter without knowing that Elisabeth of Thuringen had a copy of the astral body of Jesus of Nazareth woven into herself, how could he or she fully understand the life of this saintly woman? Many, many individuals were called upon through this continuing Christ-Force to carry its mighty impulse into future ages.

In addition to copies of the etheric and of the astral body of Jesus of Nazareth, countless copies of His ego were preserved for posterity as well. His ego had disappeared from the three sheaths when Christ moved into them, but a copy of this ego—heightened through the Christ-Event—remained and was multiplied into an infinite number of copies. We have in this copy of the ego of Jesus of Nazareth something that is still present today in the spiritual world, and human beings who have made themselves mature enough can find it and, with it, the splendor of the Christ-Force and of the Christ-Impulse that it carries within it.

The external expression for the ego is the blood. That is a great secret, but there have always been human beings who were acquainted with it and who were aware of the fact that copies of the ego of Jesus of Nazareth are present in the spiritual world. And since the Event of Golgotha, there have always been human beings through the centuries who had to see to it that humanity matured slowly to the point where some individuals could accept copies of the ego of Jesus Christ, just as some human beings received copies of His etheric or astral body. A secret way had to be found to preserve this ego in a silent, deep Mystery until the time when a suitable moment for its use would be at hand. To preserve this secret, a brotherhood of initiates was formed: The Brotherhood of the Holy Grail. This brotherhood goes back to the time when, as is reported, its founder took the chalice that Christ Jesus had used at the Last Supper and collected in it the blood that dripped from the wounds of the Savior when He was hanging on the cross. This founder of the brotherhood collected the blood of Christ Jesus, the expression and copy of His ego, in the chalice that is called the Holy Grail. It was kept in a holy place—in the brotherhood—that through its institution and initiation rites comprised the Brothers of the Holy Grail.

Today the time has come when these secrets can be revealed because the hearts of human beings can become ripened through spiritual life to an extent where they elevate themselves to an understanding of this great mystery. If Spiritual Science can kindle souls so that they warm up to an engaged and lively understanding of such mysteries, these very souls will become mature enough, through casting a glance at that Holy Grail, to get to know the mystery of the Christ-Ego—the eternal ego into which any human ego can be transformed. This mystery is a reality. All that people have to do is to follow the call by Spiritual Science to understand this mystery as a given fact so that they can receive the Christ-Ego at the mere sight of the Holy Grail. To accomplish this, it is necessary only that one understand and accept these happenings as fact.

At a future time when people will be increasingly well-prepared to receive the Christ-Ego, it will imbue the souls of human beings to an ever increasing degree so that they can strive upward to approach the position where their great model Christ Jesus used to be. Only through this process will human beings learn to understand in what respect Christ Jesus is the great model of humanity, and only then will they begin to understand that the certainty and the truth of the life everlasting emanates from the corpse on the wooden cross at Golgotha. Those Christians of the future who are inspired and imbued by the Christ-Ego will also understand something that was formerly known to no one but the illuminates. Not only will they understand the Christ who has gone through death, but they will also understand the triumphant Christ of the Apocalypse, whose coming was previously prophesied and who arose from the dead into the spiritual fire. And Easter can always be to us a symbol of the risen Christ, a connecting link from the Christ on the cross to the triumphant, risen, elevated Christ who draws all human beings upward as He sits at the right side of the Father.

The Easter symbol opens a perspective not only on the future of the entire earth but also on that of human evolution. Easter is our assurance that some day the human beings inspired by Christ will increasingly change from Saul to Paul individuals and become more and more capable of seeing a spiritual fire. To be sure, just as Christ appeared to Moses and to those who had declared their faith in Him in the physical fire of the bramblebush and in the lightning on Sinai as a prophecy of His own coming, so will He appear to us in the spiritualized fire of the future. “He is with us every day to the end of the world,” and to those who allowed their perception to be illuminated by the Event of Golgotha, to those He will appear in the spiritual fire even if at first they had seen Him in a different form.

Since Christ exerted such a profound influence on all aspects of earthly life, as far down as the human skeleton, that which formed His mortal body out of the elements of the earth also cleansed and sanctified all substances on the earth to such an extent that the world can never again become what the Wise Men of the East sadly feared it would forever be. They believed that the illuminate of the future, the Maitreya-Buddha, would be unable to find people on earth who could rise to an understanding of him because they would have sunk too deeply into the material world.

Christ was led to Golgotha to sublimate matter and redirect it to spiritual heights and to prevent fire on earth from becoming slag instead of spiritualized essence. When human beings themselves are spiritualized, they will again understand the primeval wisdom of the spiritual world from which they have formerly come. And thus, after human beings have gone through an even deeper understanding, the Maitreya-Buddha will find on earth an appreciation that otherwise he would have been unable to encounter. We understand everything that we learned in our youth better after we have become more mature through our trials and after we can look back upon the experiences of our youth. Similarly, mankind will understand the primeval wisdom of the world by looking back at it in the light of Christ and through the Event of Golgotha.

And now, how can the imperishable remains of Kashyapa be saved, and for what destination are they being saved? It is written that the Maitreya-Buddha will appear and touch him with the right hand, and then the corpse will be removed in a fire. The fire that Paul saw on the way to Damascus was the same wonderful, spiritualized fire within which the body of Kashyapa will be safely transported upward; and in this fire everything great and noble of ancient times will be saved. We will see the forces of the past that were sublime, magnificent, and full of wisdom stream and flow into what humanity has gained as a result of the Mystery of Golgotha.

In the Easter bells, we encounter a symbol for the resurrection of the Earth Spirit itself and for the salvation of mankind. In the past, there has been no one with a proper understanding of this symbol who did not know how to elevate himself or herself to spiritual heights through the Easter mystery. It is not without significance that Faust, when he is near death, is tolled back into a new life by the Easter bells. This leads to the great moment in his old age when he ultimately becomes blind in the face of death and is able to say, “Yet inside me there shines a brilliant light.”39Faust has been blinded by Care (Sorge), an allegorical figure, and exclaims:

Deep night now seems to fall more deeply still,
Yet inside me there shines a brilliant light;
What I have thought, I hasten to fulfill:
The master's word alone has real might.
(Faust II, lines 11499–11502. Trsl. by Walter Kaufmann)
Now he is ready to penetrate the spiritual worlds above where all noble members of mankind fmd salvation.

Everything that has once been alive in the past has been saved, purified, and sheltered in the etherealized spirituality that the Mystery of Golgotha diffused onto earth and into mankind. Some day when Maitreya-Buddha appears, the imperishable body of the great sage Kashyapa will undergo a similar purification in the wonderful fire, in the great light of Christ, that appeared to Paul on the way to Damascus.