The Gospel of St. John
IX. The artistic composition of the Gospel of St. John
2 July 1909, Cassel
At the close of yesterday's lecture we referred to our impending consideration of the cardinal event within the Christ-impulse: the Death upon the Cross and its significance. But before we proceed to the narration of the Death of Christ, which represents the culminating point of these lectures, it will be necessary to say something today concerning the actual meaning and importance of much that is contained in the Gospel of St. John, and of the relation of this Gospel to the others. We have attempted in the last few days to gain an understanding of the Christ-impulse on the basis of a clairvoyant study of the Akashic record, and to establish that impulse as an actual fact in the evolution of mankind. Moreover we referred only to those parts of the Gospels which appear to confirm the facts previously ascertained and verified by clairvoyant research. But today, in order to facilitate the progress of our considerations, let us glance at the Gospel of St. John itself, and describe that momentous document from the point of view of its own value. This Gospel, of which we said yesterday that modern theological criticism (in so far as it is infected by materialism) can come to no satisfactory conclusion concerning it, and is powerless to understand its historical truth, will reveal itself to us, when studied in the light of spiritual science, as one of the most marvellous documents in possession of the human race. It may be said that it is not only one of the greatest religious documents but that of all literary productions — if this profane expression be allowed — it may be accounted as one of the best. Let us now approach the contents of this document from the literary standpoint.
When we understand it aright and know the true meaning underlying the words, we find it, from the very first chapter, to be one of the most finished productions, as regards style and composition, existing in the world. Of course, something more than a superficial examination is required to detect this. We find immediately, on a casual glance, that the writer — we now know his identity — reckons exactly seven miracles up to the Raising of Lazarus. (The significance of this number seven will be dealt with in the course of the next few days.) Which are the seven miracles or signs?
1. The sign at the marriage at Cana in Galilee.
2. The sign given in the healing of the nobleman's son.
3. The sign given in the healing of the man 38 years in his infirmity, at the pool at Bethesda.
4. The sign given in the feeding of the five thousand.
5. The sign given in the vision of Christ walking on the water.
6. The sign given in the healing of the man born blind, and finally
7. The greatest of the signs, the initiation of Lazarus — the transformation of Lazarus into the writer of the Gospel of St. John.
These are the seven signs. Now before going further, we must of course ask the question: What are we to understand under these signs or miracles? If you have listened attentively to the facts variously presented to you during the past few days, you will remember having heard that human consciousness has undergone a change in the course of our whole evolution. We glanced back to ages of the remote past and saw that man did not issue from the status of a mere animal, but from a form of existence in which the gift of clairvoyance was a natural human faculty. Men were once clairvoyant even at a time when their consciousness was such that they could not pronounce the words: ‘I am.’ The consciousness of himself (self-consciousness) was a faculty which man had to acquire by degrees; but it was purchased at the cost of his old clairvoyance. These are the three stages which humanity has in part traversed and still has to traverse. In Atlantis man lived in a kind of dream-consciousness (a clairvoyant consciousness, however); then he acquired, little by little, a consciousness of himself and of external objects, but forfeited thereby his old dreamy clairvoyance; finally, the man of the future will regain his clairvoyance, now united with self-consciousness. Thus the path of humanity leads from a primitive, dull clairvoyance, through a condition of opaque, objective consciousness, and ascends to self-conscious seership.
Not only the state of consciousness, everything in mankind has changed. The belief that things must always have been the same as they are now, is an instance of human short-sightedness. Everything has evolved. Nothing, not even the relation of man to man, was as it is now. As we have seen, the influence exerted by one soul upon another was far stronger in ancient times, up to the time when the Christ-impulse was implanted in human evolution, than at present. It was the natural human disposition. A man did not only hear the externally audible words addressed to him by another; he could inwardly feel or know what was meant, when the other was at all vivacious or intensive in thought and feeling. Love, though certainly more dependent on the ties of blood, was very different in former times from what it is today. True, it has now assumed a more intimate character, but it has grown weaker. It will regain its former strength when the Christ-impulse has entered into every human heart. When love was exercised in those times, it carried with it something like a healing force, flowing as a balm from one soul into the other. With the appearance of intellect and sagacity, which of course were also gradually developed, those old influences of soul upon soul disappeared. It was a gift peculiar to the peoples of ancient times, to exert an influence within the soul of another, to let the force within the soul overflow into the soul of another. Thus you must imagine that a far greater force was then transmitted from soul to soul and a much more powerful influence was exerted by one soul upon another. Though no mention of the fact is found in external records, though stones and monuments reveal nothing of it, the clairvoyant observation of the Akashic records shows, nevertheless, that the healing of the sick was extensively practised by the exercise of psychic influence by one human being upon another. Much besides could be achieved by the human soul in those times. Though it now sounds like a fairy tale, it was a reality in those days that, by exercising and training his will in a special way, a man could act soothingly on the growth of vegetation. He had the power to hasten or retard the growth of plants. Today there are but scanty remains of this. Thus human life was entirely different in those times. Given a right relation between human beings, it would then have caused no surprise if an influence of this kind were to pass from one person to another. To be sure, we must keep in view one thing — namely, that two or more persons were always necessary for the exercise of this kind of psychic influence. We might picture to ourselves in our days that a being gifted with the power of Christ might appear among men. Those, however, whose faith in Him was sufficiently strong would be few and far between, and He could not achieve a work which depends upon the influence passing from one soul to another. To this end it is necessary not only that the influence be exerted, but also that someone should be there who is ready to receive it. Since people who were ready for such influences were more numerous in former times, no one will be surprised to hear that precisely psychic influence was available as a means of healing the sick; moreover, that other effects which today are only wrought by mechanical means were brought about through psychic influence. At what epoch in human evolution did the Christ-event take place? It took place at a certain very definite point of time, and we must keep this well in view. Only the last vestiges remained of those psychic currents passing from one human being to another, as a lingering heritage of Atlantean times. Mankind was preparing to penetrate ever deeper into operation of such influences. That was the chosen moment for the Christ-impulse, which by its very nature could exercise an unbounded influence on those who were still receptive for it.
To one who really understands the evolution of humanity, it will be self-evident that the Christ-Being, having entered the body of Jesus of Nazareth, could unfold an extraordinary power therein, for this body was the result of a development reaching to the remote past. We mentioned yesterday that the individuality of Jesus of Nazareth was incarnated in an earlier life in ancient Persia; that the same individuality passed through repeated incarnations, rising to higher and ever higher stages of spiritual life at each incarnation. This rendered it possible that Christ should dwell in such a body and that this body could be offered to Him as a sacrifice. The Evangelists were well aware of this. For this reason their narrative is presented in such a manner that the eye of the spiritual investigator can readily comprehend it. But everything in the Gospels must be taken literally — that is, we must first learn to read them. Why are we told, for instance, with such emphasis, in the first of the signs (we shall learn the deeper significance of the miracles later), that the marriage took place at ‘Cana in Galilee’? Search as we will, there is no other Cana in Palestine, in the regions that could be known at that time. Is an additional appellation necessary for a place which is the only one of that name? Why does the Evangelist, in speaking of this miracle, insist that it took place at ‘Cana in Galilee’? Because it was essential to emphasize that the event in question must necessarily have occurred in Galilee and nowhere else. That is to say, Christ could not have found the persons necessary for this event in other regions, but alone in Galilee. I have already explained that in order to produce an effect, the active agent alone does not suffice; there must also be others who are capable of responding to the influence. Christ could not have performed His first miracle within the Jewish community itself; but it was quite possible for Him to do so in Galilee, a district in which the most diverse peoples and tribes were mingled together. Precisely on account of this mixture of races from far and wide, there was far less blood relationship in Galilee than in Judea, in the more strictly Hebrew circles. The people of Galilee were a medley of races. But what was the mission to which Christ felt Himself especially called, by virtue of His impulse?
We have pointed out that one of His weightiest sayings was given in the words: ‘Before Abraham was, was the I AM!’ And that other: ‘I and the Father are One!’ The meaning of these words is as follows: Among people who cling to the old forms of life, the Ego remains ensconced in the brotherhood of blood relations. In a true follower of the Old Testament, the words: ‘I and the Father Abraham are One!’ evoked a feeling very difficult for modern man to share. A man saw that his personal self, which is confined within the limits of birth and death, is transitory. But a true follower of the Old Testament — one who was affected by the widespread teaching of that time — would express himself as follows, not merely allegorically, but as a fact: ‘As regards my person I am a unit; but I am a member of a great organism, of a great living complex, extending as far back as Father Abraham. Even as my finger depends upon my body, so too the fact that I can remember, depends upon my feeling myself a member of a great racial organism extending back to Father Abraham. I am a part of the great body of my people, precisely as my finger is a part of my body. Cut away my finger and it ceases to be a finger; it exists only as long as it is a part of my hand, my hand a part of my arm, and my arm a part of my body; my finger is meaningless when separated from my hand. In the same way I am bereft of significance unless I feel myself to be a member of all the generations along which the blood descends from Father Abraham. That is my safe refuge. My separate Ego is transient and fleeting. But this great organism of my people, stretching back to Father Abraham, is not transient. When I feel myself entirely contained by it, I conquer my temporal, transitory Ego; then I am merged in one great Ego, the Ego of my people, which comes down to me in the blood of the succeeding generations from Father Abraham down to myself!’
Such were the sentiments of the followers of the Old Testament, and it was the power of the inner experience embodied in the words ‘I and Father Abraham are One!’ which gave life to everything which appears to us so great and wonderful in the Old Testament. But the time having come in which this state of consciousness was no longer suitable to man's stage in evolution, it was gradually lost. Christ could not go to those who had lost the ability to work by that magic force inherent in the ties of blood, and who yet retained an exclusive faith in their community with Father Abraham. For He could not find among these the faith which He Himself needed, so that His power should pass from His soul into the soul of the others. Hence He had perforce to go to those who, by reason of their mixed blood, no longer clung to the old belief — the Galileans. His mission necessarily began there. Though the old state of consciousness was generally on the decline, He found precisely in this people a mixed race which stood at the beginning of the mixing of blood. Different tribes, which had previously been under the sway of the old blood-ties, assembled there from all parts. They had come in order to find the transition from the old order to the new. The feeling was still alive in them, expressed in the words: ‘Our fathers still possessed the old state of consciousness, they still possessed the magic forces which act from soul to soul.’ Among these people Christ could inaugurate His mission, which consisted in giving to man an Ego-consciousness which could say: In myself I find the communion with the spiritual Father — with the Father whose blood does not flow physically through the generations, but who sends His spiritual force into every individual soul. The Ego that is in me, and is in direct communion, with the spiritual Father, it was before Abraham was. It is for me then to pour into my soul a force which is strengthened by the consciousness of my connection with the spiritual Father-Power of the world. ‘I and the Father are One,’ not, ‘I and Father Abraham,’ an ancestor in the flesh, ‘are One!’ And Christ came to those who had just reached the point at which they could understand this, to those who, having broken down the ties of blood, stood in need to find, in the individual soul, the power which enables man by degrees to give expression to the spiritual in the physical. Do not say: ‘Why do not such things happen now, as in those days?’ Apart from the fact that anyone who is willing to see such things can do so, we must realize that the human race has advanced beyond this state of consciousness, and that men have descended into the world of matter. Those times marked the boundary between two epochs, and Christ reverted to the last representatives of a humanity which was in a state of transition, in order to demonstrate the power of the spirit over physical matter. The signs that were wrought at that time were to serve as a pattern and a symbol — as a symbol of faith for men, while the old state of consciousness, though still present, was in the act of disappearing.
Now let us consider this marriage at Cana in Galilee — the miracle itself. Were I to develop all the details, word for word, as actually given in the Gospels, fourteen lectures would certainly not suffice; it would require several years. Such a detailed exposition of the subject would, however, do no more than confirm the indications which I am able to give you shortly in these lectures.
In the first place we find, in this first sign, the words: ‘There was a marriage at Cana in Galilee.’ Now we may be quite convinced that there is not a word in the Gospel of St. John which has not a special meaning. Why then is a ‘marriage’ mentioned? Because a marriage brings about a circumstance which is eminently affected by the mission of Christ: people are drawn together in marriage. And a marriage in Galilee? It was in Galilee that the old ties of blood were severed, and the blood of strangers mingled together. What I am about to say will certainly sound strange to you. What must people have felt in very ancient times in a similar case, in times when consanguineous marriage prevailed, or what may be called, in the sense of spiritual science, ‘near marriage’. The explanation of the near marriage lies in what I have already told you. You will find the same usage among all ancient peoples; marriage outside the tribe or family would have been a breach of tribal law. Intermarriage within the tribe and among blood relations was the rule, and this consanguineous marriage brought about that wonderful result which can be ascertained at any moment by spiritual scientific research — namely, the power to exercise great magical force. The descendants of a tribe of blood relations, by virtue of this consanguineous marriage, possessed magic powers which worked from soul to soul. Had we been called to a wedding in ancient times, what would we have seen there? Let us assume that the customary beverage — wine — had all been used. What would have happened? Given the right conditions of blood relationship among the members of this wedding party, we might have experienced, for instance, that the water which, at a later moment of the feast, had been offered in the place of wine, had been experienced as wine by the guests, through the magical force of consanguineous love. Wine, not water, would have been drunk, had the proper magical conditions prevailed among these persons. Do not say: ‘This wine would have been water none the less!’ A reasonable man must say to himself that the things of the world are not valued by him according to their appearance but according to their significance to him and their manner of imparting themselves to his organism. I believe that many a wine-lover of the present day would rejoice if, when given water to drink, the water could, through some kind of influence, be made to taste like wine and to have the effect of wine upon his organism. More is not necessary, than that the water should taste like wine. What then was required in ancient times for such a sign to be accomplished and for the water contained in the vessels to be found to taste like wine? The magical force which took effect by virtue of the blood-tie was necessary. The power to experience in this manner prevailed among those who were present at the marriage at Cana in Galilee. Only a connecting link was required.
It is said in the Gospel of St. John: ‘And the mother of Jesus was there! And both Jesus was called, and His disciples, to the wedding.’ And as the wine failed, the mother of Jesus called His attention to it, saying to Him: ‘They have no wine!’
As I said, it was necessary that a connecting link should be created for such an event to come to pass. The psychic force required some means of support. What could this be? We now come to a passage which, as it is usually rendered, is nothing less than a blasphemy. For I think that no person of refined feelings could fail to be repelled when, in answer to these words: ‘They have no wine!’ the reply is made: ‘Woman, what have I to do with thee? Mine hour is not yet come!’ It is absolutely impossible that such words should be accepted in this document. Think of the ideal of love held up to us, in the Gospels, in the relation between Jesus of Nazareth and His mother, and then let us ask if He would have used the expression: ‘Woman, what have I to do with thee?’ It is needless to say more on this point; the rest must be left to the feelings. But these words are not there at all! Look at the passage in the Gospel of St. John. We need only turn to the Greek text and there we find neither more nor less than the words in which Jesus of Nazareth indicates something: ‘O woman, this passeth there from me to thee!’ He points precisely to this subtle secret force from soul to soul, passing from Him to His mother. At that moment He needed that force. At that moment He could perform no greater sign; the time must gradually ripen for this. Therefore He said: ‘My time, the time when I shall work through my force alone, is not yet come!’ That magnetic bone passing from the soul of Jesus of Nazareth to His mother was still necessary. ‘O woman, this passeth there from me to thee!’ After such a speech as: ‘Woman, what have I to do with thee?’, how could the mother say to the servants: ‘Whatsoever He saith unto you, do it?’ It was necessary for her to be in possession of the old forces, of which people have no longer any understanding, and she knows that His words point to the blood-tie between mother and son — that tie which is to form a link across to the others. She knows that something holds sway here, like an invisible spiritual force, which produces certain effects. And now I beg you really to read the Gospel. It would be interesting to know how those who believe that something really took place (it is not clear what they really suppose to have happened) can explain the Gospel satisfactorily; how they imagine that, the six ordinary water-pots being there, as they say, ‘after the manner of the purifying of the Jews’, and without the further circumstance just explained, — how they imagine, according to this very ordinary view, that the water should have turned into wine in an outward manner.
What took place? And again what is the belief held by him who is now speaking to you with regard to this miracle, the belief which anyone can hold with regard to a miracle: that one substance was here transformed into another? But an ordinary interpretation will not here suffice.
We must suppose that the water-pots standing there were not filled with water. There is not a word to show that their contents had been poured out. No such thing is said. Had the water-pots been emptied and refilled (for we read that they were filled) we should have to believe that the water which was at first in the water-pots had also been changed into wine, if indeed the water had actually been changed into wine, as one might say, by slight of hand. This explanation is inadequate. It does not agree with the rest of the story. We must realize that the water-pots were obviously empty, and for a good reason: they were empty because a special significance was to be given to the filling of them.
‘Whatsoever He saith unto you, do it!’ the mother said to the servants. What kind of water was required by Christ? He needed water drawn from the sources of Nature. Hence it must be expressly stated that the water had been freshly drawn. Water that had not yet lost the inner life force which any element possesses so long as it remains united with Nature — such water alone could be suitable for His purpose. As I have said, not a word in the Gospel of St. John is without significance. Water freshly drawn was needed, because Christ is that Being who has approached the Earth and allied Himself with the forces at work in the Earth itself. Inasmuch as the living forces of the water work together with that force which flows ‘from me to thee’, the event described in the Gospel can take place: the ruler of the feast is called out and has the impression that something remarkable has happened — though we are expressly told that he does not know what happened. He has not seen what took place; the servants saw it, but the ruler did not, and now under the impression of the occurrence, he tastes the water as wine. This is clearly and distinctly stated; so that here, through the power of the soul, an influence took effect even in an external element — that is, even in the physical part of the human body. What must have been present in the mother of Jesus of Nazareth herself, in order that her faith be strong enough at that moment to produce such an effect? One thing she needed and this she certainly possessed — namely, the certainty that He who was called her son had become the Spirit of the Earth. Her power could then unite with His power ‘which passeth from Him to her’, and the mighty influence rendered possible the event here described.
Thus we have shown in the first miracle, with all its attendant circumstances, how results are brought about in the physical world on the strength on the concordance of souls and all that is connected with the ties of blood. This was the first of the signs, the one in which the power of Christ was shown in its smallest measure; it still needed strengthening by association with the soul-forces of the mother and with the forces of Nature contained in the water — the forces which are always present when water is freshly drawn. The active power of the Christ-Being appears here in its smallest measure. But special importance is attached to the fact that the Christ-force has the power to prepare the other soul, so that these effects can show themselves. Christ rendered the wedding guests susceptible, so that they also tasted the water as wine. But everything in the nature of a real force becomes strengthened by its very exercise. When Christ is called upon a second time to exercise this force, it is already stronger. As the most ordinary force is strengthened by exercise, a spiritual force is strengthened when it has once been successfully applied.
The second sign, as you know from St. John's Gospel, is the healing of the nobleman's son. By what means is the nobleman's son healed? Here again you will recognize the truth if you read the Gospel aright and keep in view the words which are of greatest importance in the chapter in question. In the fiftieth verse of the fourth chapter we read, after the nobleman had made known his distress to Jesus of Nazareth:
‘Jesus saith unto him, Go thy way; thy son liveth. And the man believed the word that Jesus had spoken unto him, and he went his way.’
Here again was a union of two souls — Christ's soul and the soul of the child's father. What is the effect of Christ's words, ‘Go thy way; thy son liveth!’? The words kindle in the other soul the power to believe what the words express. These two forces work in unison. Christ's word had the power to fire the other soul, so the nobleman believed. Had the father not believed, the son could not have recovered. In this way one force works upon the other. Two are necessary for this purpose. But we find here the Christ-force in a higher measure. At the marriage in Cana the strong support of the mother was needed. Now Christ's power can impart to the nobleman's soul the word which kindles. An increase of Christ's power can here be seen.
Now let us pass to the third of the signs, the healing of the man 38 years in his infirmity at the pool at Bethesda. Here again we must read the most significant words, which throw a light upon the whole matter. It is the passage which reads:
‘Jesus saith unto him, Rise, take up thy bed, and walk!’
The sick man had already spoken of his inability to move:
‘Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am coming, another steppeth down before me.’
But Christ spake unto him (and here again it is important that the event took place on the Sabbath, when a spirit of festivity reigns, and a kindly feeling prevails among men) and clothed His injunction in the words: ‘Rise, take up thy bed, and walk!’ We must place these words side by side with the others which are equally important:
‘Behold, thou art made whole: Sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee.’
What does this mean? It means that the sickness of the man who had been 38 years in his infirmity was connected with his sin. We need not enquire whether the sin had been committed in his present or in a former life. We are concerned with the fact that Christ poured into his soul the power to do something which moved the depths of his moral and psychic nature. Here again we have an increase of Christ's power. Hitherto its influence had produced physical effects, but here we have an infirmity of which Christ Himself said that it is connected with the sin of the infirm man. At that moment Christ can pierce to the man's very soul. Previously he needed the father. Now His power works into the soul of the infirm man, and a special note is lent to the event by the fact that the miracle was performed on the Sabbath. Modern man has lost the proper understanding for such things. For the Old Testament believer it was indeed significant that it happened on the Sabbath. This was quite unusual. For this reason the Jews were indignant with the man because he had carried his bed on the Sabbath day. This is an extremely important point. People must learn to think when they read the Gospels. They should not take it as a matter of course that the infirm man could be healed, or that one who had been unable to walk for 38 years could suddenly use his limbs. They should reflect on such a passage:
‘The Jews therefore said unto him that was cured, It is the Sabbath day: it is not lawful for thee to take up thy bed.’
Not the restoration to health, but the carrying of the bed on the Sabbath day was to them the most striking feature in the incident!
Thus the whole situation and precisely the holy day were inseparable from the healing of this impotent man. In Christ Himself dwells the thought: If the Sabbath is truly sanctified to God, the souls of men must be especially fortified by the power of God on that day. By that same power He works upon the impotent man — that is, the power is transmitted to the man's very soul. And whereas the sick man had hitherto lacked in his soul the strength to overcome the consequence of his sin, he now has this strength through the working of the Christ-power. Here again there is a heightening of the Christ-power. And now let us proceed. As I said, the real nature of the miracles will be dealt with later.
The fourth sign is the feeding of the five thousand. Here again we must fix our attention on the words of supreme importance. What are they? In such matters we must always bear in mind that with the consciousness of the present day, there can be no question of exhausting the scope of such an event. If those who wrote about Christ at the time of the Gospel of St. John had believed what is now believed in our materialistic age, they would indeed have written differently; for they would have been impressed by quite different things than was the case. The most significant words, to which particular emphasis is lent (the rest did not strike them especially, not even the fact that five thousand could be fed with the small amount of food available), are the following:
‘But Jesus took the loaves; and gave thanks, and distributed to the disciples, and the disciples to them that were set down; and likewise of the fishes as much as they would.’
What does Christ Jesus do here? Here, in order to accomplish what was to be done, He makes use of the souls of His disciples, who were with Him and who had by degrees ripened to the level of His greatness. The disciples are necessary and they are about Him. He can awaken in their souls a power of active goodness. His power flows forth into that of His disciples. (How the event here described could take place — of that we shall speak later.) But we notice here again an increase of Christ's power. On the preceding occasion He poured forth His power into the soul of the man 38 years in his infirmity; now this power passes over into the soul-power of His disciples — from the soul of the Master to the soul of the disciples. The power has extended from the soul of the One to the soul of the others, and has become heightened. In the souls of the disciples there now dwells that which also dwells in the soul of Christ. People who might be inclined to ask what such an influence can bring about, had better try and observe what took place when the mighty power which was in Christ did not work alone, but kindled the power in the souls of others and worked on further. No one today has this living faith; some may believe in theory, but not with sufficient strength: otherwise they could observe what happened then. Spiritual investigation knows full well what happened.
Thus we find a gradual increase, from step to step, in the power of Christ.
And further: the fifth sign, related in the same chapter, and beginning with the words:
‘And when evening came, His disciples went down unto the sea, and they entered in a boat, and were going over the sea until Capernaum. And it was dark and Jesus had not come into them. And the sea was rising by reason of the great wind that blew. When therefore they had rowed about five-and-twenty or thirty furlongs, they beheld Jesus walking on the sea, and drawing nigh unto the boat; and they were afraid.’
Publishers of the Gospels insert here a very superfluous heading: ‘Christ walketh on the sea’, as if that were anywhere stated in this chapter. Where is ‘Jesus walketh on the sea’? The words are: ‘The disciples beheld Jesus walking on the sea.’ That is the point. We must take the Gospels literally. The power of Christ had once more been strengthened. So great had it become, through its exercise in the last miracles, that it could now not only work from one soul to another — not only could the Christ-soul, in its power, communicate itself to other souls; Christ could now appear in His own living form to the souls of others who were duly prepared. What occurred therefore was as follows: someone is at a remote place; so great is his power that it works upon others who are far removed from that place. So mighty has the Christ-power now become that it not only evokes a force in the disciples — as when the power was transmitted to them who were with Him on the mountain, to perform the miracle; — it now enables them to see Christ and behold His very form, although they cannot see with physical eyes where He is. Christ could become visible to those distant from Him, with whose souls He had now united His own. His own form is now so distant that it can be beheld in the spirit. Inasmuch as the possibility of physical sight is removed from the disciples, spiritual sight becomes more and more possible for them, and they see Christ. This vision at a distance is of such nature that the image of the object seen, appears in the immediate vicinity. Here again we have an increase of the Christ-power.
The next sign is the healing of the man born blind. This healing of the man born blind, as we read it in the Gospel, is especially distorted by commentators. You have probably often read the story in the Gospel:
‘And as Jesus passed by, He saw a man which was blind from his birth. And His disciples asked Him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind? Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.’
Then He heals him. We need only ask: Does the following interpretation spring from a Christian feeling? Here is a man born blind. Neither the sin of his parents nor his own sin is the cause of his blindness; he has been made blind by God in order that Christ may work a miracle in him to the glory of God; therefore the man must be made blind by God in order that a sign may be ascribed to God.
This, however, is not the correct rendering. It is not stated ‘that the works of God should be made manifest in this blind man’. To understand this sign we must revert to the customary form of speech with regard to the word ‘God’. This you will readily find if you turn to another chapter, in which Christ is directly accused of having asserted that He was One with God. How does He answer?
‘Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said ye are Gods?’
That is, Christ answers: In the inmost recesses of the human soul there is the germ of the divine. It is something godlike. How often have we stated that the fourth principle (the Ego) in the being of man is the germ of the God in him. ‘Ye are Gods!’ That means: A divine principle dwells in you! This is different from the personality of man living here between birth and death; it is different also from that which man inherits from his parents. Whence comes this divine spark, this individuality of the human being? It passes from incarnation to incarnation through repeated lives on earth. It comes from a former life on earth, from an earlier incarnation. Thus neither his parents have sinned, nor has his personality, usually referred to as ‘I’; but it was in a former life that he laid down the cause of his blindness in his present life. He became blind in order that the works of the God in him proceeding from a former life should reveal themselves in his blindness. Karma, the law of cause and effect, is here most clearly indicated by Christ. What part of the man must be worked upon, if this infirmity is to be healed? The influence must work, not upon the transitory Ego living between birth and death; it must pierce deeper, into the Ego that passes from life to life. The Christ-power has once more increased. Hitherto we have seen it working upon what is immediately before it; in the present case it works upon that which survives life between birth and death and passes from life to life. Christ feels Himself to be the representative of the I AM. Inasmuch as He pours His powers into the I am, and the high God of Christ announces Himself to the God in man, the man receives strength to heal himself from within his being. Christ has now penetrated to the inmost being of the soul. His power has pierced to the eternal individuality of the sick man, and thereby made it strong, so that Christ's own power comes to light in the individuality of the sick man and penetrates to the consequences of his former incarnations.
What further increase in the Christ-power can still be possible? None other than that Christ should approach a human being and awaken in him the bearer of His own impulse, so that this human being becomes a new man, a man permeated by Christ. That is what takes place in the Raising of Lazarus. Here we have yet another increase in the Christ-power. The power of Christ rises from stage to stage!
Where in the world could we find a lyrical document so magnificently composed? No other writer has produced such a work. Who could do otherwise than bend in reverence before this description of events, rising to a climax from step to step, in so marvellous a way! Considered alone from the standpoint of its artistic composition, the Gospel of St. John moves us to bow our head in reverence before it. Herein everything waxes great from stage to stage and reaches its climax.
One thing yet remains to be shown. We have singled out separate instances showing us the rise to a climax of power in the signs or miracles. But much besides is related between these events. How does this accord with the rest, so as to form an organic whole? Tomorrow it will be our task to show how, apart from the progression of power in the miracles, so admirably described, the remainder of the narrative in St. John's Gospel is inserted between the signs in accordance with a definite plan and intention. Indeed we realize that the insertion could not have been more skillfully executed than was done by the writer of St. John's Gospel. Today we have considered this Gospel from an artistic point of view, as regards its composition, and we see that it is indeed hardly conceivable that a work of art could be composed with greater perfection and be more beautiful in its manner of presentation, than the Gospel of St. John up to the description of the Raising of Lazarus. But only one who knows how to read it and who understands the point can be sensible of the great and mighty meaning conveyed in this Gospel. It is the mission of Anthroposophy to place this great meaning before our souls. But there is even more in this Gospel. Our explanations will be followed by others which, in their turn, will embody a higher wisdom than ours. But this wisdom will serve to find fresh truths. For thirty years our wisdom has served to find the truths which cannot be found without Anthroposophy.