Christianity in the Evolution of Mankind
15 February 1909, Berlin
Translated by Frances E. Dawson
You will have been able to see from the one lecture given here on more complicated questions of reincarnation that, with further progress in the spiritual-scientific world-view, what we could give in the beginning as elementary truths becomes modified — we gradually rise to higher and higher truths. Still it was right to present the general cosmic truths at first in as simple and elementary a form as possible. It is, however, necessary also to advance slowly step by step from the abc to the higher truths, for only through these higher truths will that gradually be attained which, among other things, spiritual science is intended to give: namely, the possibility of understanding and penetrating the world which surrounds us in the physical, sense-perceptible sphere. Now it is true that we have a long way to go before we shall be able to coordinate the spiritual lines and forces existing behind the sense world. But because of much that has been said in recent lectures various phenomena of our existence will already have become clearer, more understandable. Today we shall proceed a little farther in this regard, and here also we shall speak again about more complicated questions of reincarnation, of re-embodiment.
To that end we must today clearly realize first of all that differences exist among the beings who occupy a leading place in the earth's human evolution. We have to distinguish in the course of our earth evolution those leading individualities who from the beginning, so to speak, have developed with the humanity of our earth just as it is — only that they have made more rapid progress. We might put it this way: If we go back into the past to the very remote Lemurian time, we find among the human beings then incarnated the most varied stages of development. All the souls embodied at that time have again and again experienced reincarnations, re-embodiments, during the succeeding Atlantean and our post-Atlantean periods. These souls have developed with varying rapidity. Some have made relatively slow progress through the various incarnations, and still have long distances to travel in the future; but there are also souls who have developed rapidly, who, one might say, have utilized their incarnations to better advantage, and are therefore at a stage of soul-spiritual development which will be attained by the normal man only in a very, very distant future. But, continuing to speak of this soul sphere, we may say nevertheless that however advanced these individual souls may be, however far they may tower above the normal man, still they have followed the same path in our earth evolution as the rest of humanity; they have merely advanced more rapidly. Besides these leading individualities, who in this sense are like the rest of humanity, only at a higher stage, there are also in the course of human evolution other individualities, other beings, who have by no means gone through various incarnations just as other men have. We can perhaps illustrate what lies at the bottom of this by saying: There were beings in that very time of the Lemurian evolution to which we have alluded who no longer needed to descend so deeply into physical embodiment as other men, as all the beings who have just been described — there were beings who could have accomplished their development in higher, more spiritual regions, who, in other words, did not need for their own further progress to descend into bodies of flesh. It is nevertheless possible for these beings, in order to intervene in the course of human evolution, to descend vicariously, so to speak, into just such human bodies as ours. At any time therefore a being may appear of whom, if we make the clairvoyant test, we cannot say, as we can of other human beings, that we trace the soul back in time and find it in a previous fleshly incarnation, trace it farther back and find it again in another incarnation, and so on — but we must say instead: If we trace the soul of such a being back through the course of time, perhaps we do not find it at all in any former fleshly incarnation; but if we do, it is only because the being in question is able to descend repeatedly, at intervals, and incarnate vicariously in a human body. A spiritual being who descends thus into a human body in order to intervene in evolution as a human being, without gaining anything from this embodiment for himself, so to speak, without experiencing anything here in the world of special significance for himself — such a being is called in oriental wisdom an Avatar. And this is the distinction between a leading being who has sprung from human evolution itself and one called an Avatar: namely, that an Avatar-being reaps no benefits for himself from his physical embodiments, or from the one physical embodiment to which he subjects himself, for he enters into a physical body for the blessing and advancement of mankind. Therefore, as we have said, such an Avatar-being can either enter into a human body just once, or several times in succession; and he is then something entirely different from other human beings.
The greatest Avatar-Being Who has lived on earth, as you can gather from the spirit of all the lectures given here, is the Christ — that Being Whom we designate as the Christ, Who took possession of the bodies of Jesus of Nazareth in the 30th year of his life. This Being, Who first came in contact with our earth at the beginning of our era, Who was incarnated for three years in a body of flesh, and Who since that time has been connected with the astral sphere, that is, with the spiritual sphere of our super-sensible world — this Being is of unique significance as an Avatar-Being. We should seek the Christ-Being quite in vain in an earlier human embodiment, whereas other, lower Avatar-beings could be embodied more than once. They incarnate repeatedly, but they obtain for themselves no benefit from the earthly embodiments. They only give; they take nothing from the earth. But if you wish to understand these things perfectly, you must distinguish between such a lofty Avatar-Being as the Christ and lower Avatar-beings. The latter can have the most varied missions on our earth, but we can speak first of one such mission; and in order not to flounder about in speculation, we shall at once give a concrete instance to illustrate this kind of mission.
You all know from the story of which Noah is the center that in the ancient Hebrew narrative a great part of the post-Noah humanity derives from the three ancestors, Shem, Ham, and Japheth. Today we shall not go into what Noah and these three tribal ancestors are intended to represent in another respect; we shall simply realize clearly that the Hebrew literature which speaks of Shem, one of the sons of Noah, traces back the whole tribe of the Semites to Shem as its ancestor. A genuinely occult view of such a matter is always based upon the deeper truths. Those who are able to carry on occult research into such things know the following facts concerning Shem, the ancestor of the Semites.
In case of such a personality, who is destined to be the ancestor of an entire tribe, care must be taken from the very time of his birth to make it possible for him to be just this ancestor. Now in what way will care be taken that a personality — like Shem, for example — can be the ancestor of a whole people, or of a tribal community? In the case of Shem it was brought about through his receiving a quite specially prepared etheric body. We know that when the human being is born into this world he fashions about his individuality his etheric or life body, with the other members of his being. For such a tribal ancestor a special etheric body must be prepared which is the model etheric body for all the descendants in the following generations; so that we have in such a tribal progenitor a typical etheric body, a model etheric body; and then through blood relationship this passes through the generations so that in a certain sense the etheric bodies of all the descendants who belong to the same tribe are copies of the etheric body of the ancestor. Thus in all the etheric bodies of the Semitic people there was inwoven something like a copy of Shem's etheric body. Now by what means is such a thing brought about in the course of human evolution?
If we observe this man Shem a little more closely, we find that his etheric body received its archetypal form because into this very etheric body an Avatar had woven himself. Although he was not so exalted as certain other Avatar-beings, still it was a lofty Avatar-being who descended into his etheric body. This being was not united with Shem's astral body nor with his ego, but was woven, as it were, into his etheric body alone. In this very example we are able to study what the exact significance is when an Avatar-being participates in the constitution, the composition, of a human being. What does it mean, then, that a man like Shem, who has the mission to be the ancestor of a whole people, should have an Avatar-being woven into his body? It means that whenever an Avatar-being is woven into a fleshly human body, some one member, or even several members, of the super-sensible constitution of this human being are capable of being multiplied, of being split into many parts.
It was really because an Avatar-being was interwoven with Shem's etheric body that it became possible for numberless copies of the original to be formed; and these many copies could be woven into all the descendants of the tribal ancestor in the successive generations. Thus, the descent to earth of an Avatar-being has the significance, among other things, that it contributes to the multiplication of one or several members of the person in question who is animated by the Avatar. There existed in Shem, as you can see from this, an especially precious etheric body, an archetypal etheric body, prepared by an exalted Avatar, and then woven into Shem, so that it could then descend in many copies to all those who were ordained to be related by blood to this ancestor.
Now we have already said in the lecture mentioned at the beginning that there is also a spiritual economy consisting in the fact that anything of especial value is preserved and carried over into the future. We have heard that not only is the ego re-embodied, but that also the astral body and the etheric body can be re-embodied. Aside from the fact that numberless copies of Shem's etheric body were formed, his own etheric body was also preserved in the spiritual world; for it could later be very useful in the mission of the Hebrew people. In this etheric body all the peculiarities of the Hebrew people had originally come to expression; and if at any time something of very especial importance was to occur for the ancient Hebrew people, if a special task, a special mission, was to be assigned to some one, it could best be accomplished by one who bore the etheric body of the ancestor. At a later time a man who played an important role in the history of the Hebrew people actually did bear the etheric body of the tribal ancestor. In fact, we have here one of those wonderful complications in human evolution which can explain a great deal to us. We have to do with a very exalted individuality who was compelled to condescend, as it were, in order to speak to the Hebrew people in an appropriate manner, and to give them the strength for a special mission — in somewhat the way a spiritually advanced person would have to speak to a lowly tribe. He would of course be compelled to learn the language of this tribe; but no one should maintain on this account that the language is something which would serve to advance him personally, for the one concerned need only take the trouble to learn the language. In the same way a lofty individuality had to make the effort to use Shem's etheric body, in order to be able to give a very definite impulse to the ancient Hebrew people. This personality is the one you find in the Biblical history named Melchizedek. He took upon himself, as it were, the etheric body of Shem, in order later to give to Abraham the impulse which you find so beautifully described in the Bible. And so, aside from the fact that what was contained in the individuality of Shem was multiplied, because an Avatar-being was embodied in it, and then became woven into all the other etheric bodies belonging to the Hebrew people, Shem's own etheric body was preserved in the spiritual world, so that it could be borne at a later time by Melchizedek, who was to give to the Hebrew people an important impulse through Abraham.
Thus delicately interwoven are the facts existing behind the physical world which alone make explicable to us what occurs in that world. We come to understand history only when we are able to point to such facts: to facts of a spiritual nature which lie behind the physical ones. History can never be explained out of itself, if we consider physical facts alone.
What we have just been discussing becomes especially significant: namely, that through the descent of an Avatar-being the essential soul-spiritual members of the personality who is the bearer of this Avatar-being are multiplied and transmitted to other human beings, and appear in copies of the original. This fact assumes very special significance through the appearance of the Christ on earth. Because the Avatar-Being of Christ dwelt in the body of Jesus of Nazareth, it became possible for the etheric body of Jesus of Nazareth to be multiplied innumerable times, as well as the astral body, and even the ego, — that is, the ego as an impulse, as it was kindled in the astral body when the Christ entered into the threefold sheath of Jesus of Nazareth. But first we will take into account the fact that through the Avatar-Being the etheric body and the astral body of Jesus of Nazareth could be multiplied.
Now just through the appearance of the Christ Principle in the earth evolution, there occurred in humanity one of the most significant phenomena. What I have told you about Shem is fundamentally typical and characteristic for the pre-Christian time. When in this way an etheric body or an astral body is multiplied, the copies of it are transmitted as a rule to those people who are related by blood to the one who had the original; hence, the copies of Shem's etheric body were transmitted to the members of the Hebrew tribe. That was changed by the appearance of the Christ Avatar-Being. The etheric body and the astral body of Jesus of Nazareth were multiplied, and these copies were preserved as such until, in the course of human development, they could be used. They were not, however, limited to any one nationality nor to any particular people; but when in the course of time a human being appeared who — irrespective of nationality — was ripe, was fitted to have interwoven with his own astral body an astral copy of the astral body of Jesus of Nazareth, or an etheric copy of his etheric body, these could be woven into his being. Thus we see how it became possible in the course of time — let us say — for all sorts of people to have woven into them copies of the astral body or of the etheric body of Jesus of Nazareth.
The intimate history of Christian development is connected with this fact. What is ordinarily described as the history of Christian development is a sum of entirely external occurrences; and therefore far too little consideration is given to a fact of very great importance: namely, to the distinction of actual periods in Christian development. Anyone who can look more deeply into the evolutionary progress of Christianity will easily perceive that in the early centuries of the Christian era the manner in which Christianity was spread was entirely different from that of later centuries. In the first Christian centuries the spread of Christianity was connected, as it were, with everything that could be procured from the physical plane. We need only to take a look at the early teachers of Christianity to see how at that time physical recollections, physical relationships, and physical relics are emphasized. Just consider what great importance was given by Irenæus, who in the first century contributed much to the spread of Christian teaching in various lands, to the fact that recollections extended back to those who had themselves listened to the pupils of the Apostles. Great value was set upon being able to prove by means of such physical recollections that Christ Himself had taught in Palestine. It was especially emphasized, for example, that Papias himself had sat at the feet of the Apostles' pupils; even the places were pointed out and described where those personalities had sat who were still eyewitnesses of the fact that Christ had lived in Palestine. The physical continuance of remembrance is what was especially emphasized in the early Christian centuries.
What great prominence was given to everything of a physical nature that still existed can be seen in the words of the ancient Augustine, who says: “Why do I believe in the truths of Christianity? Because the authority of the Catholic Church compels me to.” The physical authority for the existence of something in the physical world is to him the important and essential thing: that a corporate body has been maintained which, linking personality with personality, reaches up to one who was a companion of the Christ — such as Peter. For him that is the determining factor. Thus we can see that in the spread of Christianity during the early centuries it was the documents, the impressions of the physical plane, to which the greatest importance was attached.
Now the situation changes after the time of Augustine up to, let us say, the 10th, 11th, or 12th century. During that period of time it was no longer possible to appeal to the living remembrance, nor to draw upon the documents of the physical plane, for they lay too far in the past. At that time also something entirely different came into existence in the whole mood and disposition of the humanity which was then embracing Christianity ; and especially was this the case among European peoples. During that time there was actually something like a direct knowledge that a Christ exists, that a Christ died on the cross, and that He continues to live. From the 4th or 5th century up to the 10th or 12th there were a large number of people who would have considered it the greatest folly had they been told that the events of Palestine could even be doubted, for they knew better. They had always been able to experience inwardly a kind of Pauline revelation in miniature — what Paul, who up to that time was a Saul, experienced on the road to Damascus, and through which he became a Paul. How did it happen that in those centuries a number of people were able to receive revelations which were in a certain sense clairvoyant concerning the events in Palestine ? It was possible because in those centuries the multiplied copies of the etheric body of Jesus of Nazareth, which had been preserved, had been woven into a great number of people; because it was granted to them to wear these as a garment, so to speak. There was inwoven with their etheric bodies, not Jesus' own etheric body, but only a copy of the inborn original one of Jesus of Nazareth. In these centuries there were those who could possess such an etheric body, and who could thereby have a direct knowledge of Jesus of Nazareth, and also of the Christ. This was the reason also that the Christ picture became dissociated from external, historical, physical existence. And the most extreme dissociation is shown to us in that wonderful poem of the 9th century, known as the Heliand poem, which originated in the time of Ludwig the Pious, who reigned from 814–840, and which was written down by an outwardly simple man of Saxony. His astral body and his ego could by no means equal what his etheric body contained, for into his etheric body was woven a copy of the etheric body of Jesus of Nazareth. The simple Saxon pastor who wrote this poem had the certainty through direct clairvoyant vision that the Christ exists on the astral plane, and that He is the same as He who was crucified on Golgotha! And because this was a direct certainty for him, he no longer needed to cling to the historical documents. He no longer needed the physical mediation to assure him that the Christ existed. He described Him, therefore, as detached from the whole Palestinian setting. He described Him as something like a leader of a Middle-European or Germanic tribe; and those who surrounded Him as His followers, the Apostles, he described as vassals of a Germanic prince. All the external scenery was changed; only the actually essential, the eternal, in the Christ Figure remained, — only what constitutes the structure of the events. Having such a direct knowledge, built upon such an important foundation as the copy of the etheric body of Jesus of Nazareth, it was not necessary to hold himself rigidly to the immediate historical events when he was speaking of the Christ. He invested what was for him direct knowledge with a different external setting. And just as in the case of this writer of the Heliand poem we have been able to describe one of the strange personalities who had a copy of the etheric body of Jesus of Nazareth interwoven with his etheric body, so we could find other personalities in this period who had similar copies. Thus we see how the most important occurrences of all, which are able to explain history to us in an intimate way, take place behind the physical events.
If we now follow Christian development farther, we come, let us say, into the period between the 11th or 12th century and the 15th. Here there was an entirely different mystery, which now carried the whole evolution forward. First it was, so to speak, the memory of what had taken place on the physical plane; then it was the etheric element which was directly inwoven with the etheric bodies of the bearers of Christianity in Middle-Europe. In the later centuries, from the 12th to the 15th, it was especially the astral body of Jesus of Nazareth which in numerous copies was woven into the astral bodies of the most important bearers of Christianity. Such people then had an ego which as ego was capable of forming very false notions of all sorts of things; but in their astral bodies there existed immediate sources of strength, of devotion, a direct certainty of sacred truths. There existed in such people deep fervor, absolutely direct conviction, and also in some circumstances the ability to prove this conviction. What must sometimes seem so strange to us in these very personalities is that in their ego their development by no means equalled what their astral body contained, because the latter had a copy of the astral body of Jesus of Nazareth woven into it. What their ego did often seemed grotesque; but the world of their moods and feelings, of their fervor, was grand and exalted. Such a personality, for example, was Francis of Assisi. And when we, as people of the present time, study Francis of Assisi and are not able to understand his conscious ego, but are nevertheless compelled to have the deepest possible reverence for the entire world of his feelings and for all that he did, — that fact becomes explicable from such a point of view. He was one of those who had a copy of the astral body of Jesus of Nazareth inwoven. Because of this he was able to accomplish just what he did accomplish, and many of his adherents from the Order of Franciscans, with its servants and minorites, had similarly such copies interwoven with their astral bodies.
All the strange and otherwise mysterious phenomena of that time will become luminous and clear to you, if you bring properly before the eyes of your soul this mediation in world evolution between past and future. The important question was whether what was woven into these people of the Middle Ages from the astral body of Jesus of Nazareth was more what we call the sentient soul, or more the intellectual soul, or more what we call the consciousness soul. For the astral body of man must of course be considered in a certain sense as something containing all this; that is, it must be thought of as enclosing the ego, and containing sentient soul, intellectual soul, and consciousness soul. All that was in Francis of Assisi was wholly sentient soul of Jesus of Nazareth, so to speak. Wholly sentient soul of Jesus of Nazareth was contained in that remarkable personality whom you will follow biographically with the soul when you know the secret of her life: Elizabeth of Thüringen, born in 1207. Here we have a personality who had a copy of the astral body of Jesus of Nazareth woven into the sentient soul. The riddle of the human being is solved for us by means of just such knowledge.
Above all, one phenomenon will be understandable when you know that during this time the most diverse personalities had sentient soul, intellectual soul, or consciousness soul woven into them as copies of the astral body of Jesus of Nazareth. You will be able to understand that science, otherwise so little understood, which we ordinarily designate as scholasticism. What kind of a task did the scholastics set for themselves? The task of finding, on the basis of judgment and intellect, verifications, proofs, for that with which there was no historical connecting link, and concerning which there was no direct clairvoyant certainty, such as existed in previous centuries because of the interwoven etheric body of Jesus of Nazareth. These people had to set themselves the task in this way: They said to themselves: It has been communicated to us through tradition that in history that Being appeared Who is known as Christ Jesus; that other spiritual beings of whom the religious documents bear witness have intervened in human evolution. — From their intellectual soul, from the intellect element of the copy of the astral body of Jesus of Nazareth, they set themselves the task of proving with subtle and clearly developed concepts all that existed in their literature as mystery truths. Thus arose that strange science which tried to achieve what was perhaps the ultimate in sagacity, in intellect, that has ever been reached by humanity. One may think of the content of scholasticism as one wishes, but through several centuries, simply by means of this very delicate discrimination and exact outlining of concepts, the capacity for human reflection was developed and impressed upon the culture of the period. It was between the 13th and 15th centuries that humanity had implanted into it through scholasticism the capacity to think with acute and searching logic.
Among those who, in turn, were more imbued with the consciousness soul — that is, the copy of what had constituted the consciousness soul of Jesus of Nazareth — there appeared the special conviction — because the ego functions in the consciousness soul — that the Christ can be found in the ego. And because they themselves had within them the element of the consciousness soul from the astral body of Jesus of Nazareth, the inner Christ rose resplendent in their souls. These are the individuals whom you know as Meister Eckhart, Johannes Tauler, and all the bearers of mediæval mysticism.
Thus you see how the very diversified phases of the astral body were multiplied because the exalted Avatar-Being of Christ had entered into the body of Jesus of Nazareth; and they worked on in the following age and brought about the real development of Christianity. In other respects also this was an important transition. We see how in the course of its development humanity is dependent in other ways also upon having incorporated within it these fragments of the Jesus of Nazareth being. In the early centuries there were people who were entirely dependent upon the physical plane; then in the following centuries came those who were accessible to the interweaving with their etheric bodies of the element of the etheric body of Jesus of Nazareth. Later people tended more, so to speak, toward the astral body; hence the copy of the astral body of Jesus of Nazareth could now likewise be incorporated in them. The astral body is the bearer of the power of judgment, which awakened particularly between the 12th and the 14th centuries. You could observe this from another phenomenon also.
Up to that time it was especially well understood what depths of mystery the Holy Communion contained. At most there was only slight discussion about it, but it was accepted in a manner that enabled one to feel all that lay in the words : This is My body and this is My blood, — because the Christ indicated that He would be united with the earth, would be the planetary Spirit of the Earth. And because the most precious thing coming out of the physical earth is grain, bread became for man the body of Christ; and the sap which flows through the plants became for him something from the blood of Christ. Through this knowledge the value of the Lord's Supper was not diminished, but was on the contrary heightened. Something of these limitless depths was felt in these centuries, up to the time when the power of judgment awakened in the astral body. It was only from then on that disputes began about the Lord's Supper. Just consider how among the Hussites, among the Lutherans and the dissenting Zwinglians and Calvinists, there was discussion as to what the Lord's Supper is intended to be. Such discussion would not have been possible earlier, because there was still a direct knowledge of the Lord's Supper. But we see verified here a great historical law which should be of special importance for spiritual scientists: namely, that as long as people knew what the Lord's Supper was they did not discuss it. In general you can consider it a sign that people really have no knowledge of a certain matter .when they begin to discuss it. Where there is knowledge, knowledge is imparted, and no particular desire for discussion exists. Where there is desire for discussion, there is as a rule no knowledge of the truth. Discussion begins only when there is a lack of knowledge, and it is always and everywhere the sign of a decline as regards the seriousness of a subject when discussion begins. Disintegration of a particular trend is always proclaimed by discussions. It is very important that in the spiritual-scientific field we come to understand more and more that the wish for discussion may really be taken as a sign of ignorance; on the other hand, that which is the opposite of discussion, the will to learn, the will gradually to comprehend what is in question, should be cultivated.
Here we see a great historical fact verified by the development of Christianity itself. But we can learn something else besides, if we see how in these centuries of Christendom just described the power of judgment — which resides in the astral body — this acute intellectual wisdom, is developed. Indeed, if we fix our attention upon realities, not dogmas, we can learn how much Christianity has accomplished in the course of its progress. What has become of scholasticism, if we consider it, not as to its content, but as a means of cultivating and disciplining the faculties? Do you know what became of it? It became modern natural science. Modern natural science is entirely unthinkable without the Christian natural science of the Middle Ages. It is not only that Copernicus was a canon, and Giordano Bruno a Dominican, but that all the thought-forms employed in the natural sciences since the 15th and 16th centuries are nothing but what was developed and nurtured by the scholastic science of the Middle Ages. Those people do not live in reality, but in abstractions, who look up passages in the books of the scholastics, compare them with the statements of more recent natural science, and then say: Haeckel and others maintain something entirely different. Realities are what matter!
A Haeckel, a Darwin, a DuBois-Reymond, a Huxley, and others, would all have been impossible if the Christian scholastic science of the Middle ages had not preceded them. For the very fact that these modern scientists were able to think as they did they owe to the Christianized science of the scholastics of the Middle Ages. That is the reality. By this means humanity has learned to think in the true sense of the word. — The matter goes further still. Read David Friedrich Strauss. Try to observe the mode of his thinking; try to analyze his thought pictures: How he insists upon representing the whole life of Jesus of Nazareth as a myth. Do you know whence he has the keenness of his thinking? He gets it from the Christian scholasticism of the Middle Ages. Everything by means of which Christianity is so radically combated today has been learned from the Christian scholastic science of the Middle Ages. Actually there could not be today an opponent of Christianity concerning whom it could not easily be pointed out that he would not be able to think as he thinks at all, had he not learned the thought-forms from the scholastic science of the Middle Ages. This, indeed, would mean to observe world history in its reality.
What then has happened since the 16th century? Since the 16th century the ego itself has come more and more into prominence, and with it human egotism also, and with egotism, materialism. What the ego had acquired as content has been unlearned and forgotten. It was therefore necessary for man to limit himself to that which the ego can observe — to that which the physical sense-instrument is able to give to the ordinary intelligence — and that alone could it take into the inner sanctuary. The civilization since the 16th century is a civilization of egotism. What must now enter into this ego? Christian evolution has passed through a development in the external physical body, a development in the etheric body, and also in the astral body, and has penetrated as far as the ego. Now it must take into this ego the mysteries and secrets of Christianity itself. Following a time when the ego learned to think through Christianity, and applied the thoughts to the outer world, it must now be possible for the ego to be made into a Christ-receptive organ. This ego must now rediscover the wisdom which is the primordial wisdom of the Great Avatar, of Christ Himself. And by what means must this come to pass? By a profounder understanding of Christianity through spiritual science. Carefully prepared through the three stages of physical, etheric, and astral development, the matter of concern should now be that the organ within man be opened, so that he may henceforth see into his spiritual environment with that eye which the Christ can open for him. As the greatest Avatar-Being, the Christ descended to earth. Let us get a perspective view of this; let us try to look at the world as we shall be able to see it when we shall have received the Christ into ourselves. We then find the whole process of our world-becoming illuminated and pervaded by the Christ-Being. That is to say, we describe how upon Saturn man's physical body gradually came into existence, how on the Sun the etheric body made its appearance, on the Moon the astral body, and then on the Earth the ego is added; and we find how everything tends toward the goal of becoming ever more independent and individual, in order to incorporate in the Earth evolution that wisdom which passes over from the Sun to the Earth. In other words : for the liberated ego of modern times the Christ and Christianity must become the perspective center of the cosmic view.
Thus you see how Christianity gradually prepared itself for what it is to become. In the early centuries the Christian received Christianity with his physical capacity for knowledge; then later with his etheric capacity; and throughout the Middle Ages with his astral capacity for knowledge. Then for a time Christianity in its true form was repressed, until the ego had been trained by the three bodies in the course of Christian development. But since this ego has learned to think and to direct its vision to the objective world, it is now capable also of seeing in all phenomena in this objective world spiritual facts which are intimately connected with the Central Being, with the Christ Being: it is capable of beholding the Christ everywhere in the most various forms as the foundation.
With this fact we stand at the starting point of spiritual-scientific comprehension and knowledge of Christianity. We begin to understand what task, what mission, has been assigned to this Movement for Spiritual Knowledge, and we realize at the same time the reality of this mission. Just as the individual human being has physical body, etheric body, astral body, and ego, and gradually rises to ever more lofty heights, so is it also in the historical development of Christianity. We might say that Christianity has also a physical body, an etheric body, an astral body, and an ego — an ego which can even deny its origin, as in our time, since the ego can in any case become egotistic — but still an ego which can at the same time receive the true Christ Being into itself, and can gradually rise to ever higher stages of existence. What the human being is in particular, the great world is in its totality, as well as in its course of historical development. If we observe the matter in this light, there opens before us from the spiritual-scientific viewpoint a perspective far into the future. And we know how this can lay hold upon our heart and fill it with meaning. We comprehend more and more what we have to do, and we know also that we are not groping in the dark; for we have not devised any ideas which we intend arbitrarily to project into the future, but we intend to harbor and to follow only those ideas which have been gradually prepared through the centuries. Just as it is true that the ego must first appear and be developed little by little up to Spirit Self, Life Spirit, and Spirit Man, after the physical body, the etheric body, and astral body were already in existence, so is it true that the modern man with his ego-form, with his present-day thinking, could only be developed out of the astral, the etheric, and the physical form of Christianity. Christianity has become Ego. As it is true that this was the development in the past, just so true is it that the ego-form of humanity can appear only after the astral and etheric form of Christianity has been developed. Christianity will develop on into the future; it will offer humanity far greater things, and the Christian development and the Christian standard of life will arise in new form: the transformed astral body will appear as the Christian Spirit Self; the transformed etheric body as the Christian Life Spirit. And in a radiant perspective of the future of Christianity, Spirit Man gleams forth before our souls like a star toward which we strive, illuminated and glowing through and through with the spirit of Christianity.