The Gospel of St. John
XI. The establishment of harmony in the inner forces of man through the Christ-impulse
4 July 1909, Cassel
The foregoing lectures of this course will have made it sufficiently clear to you that, in accordance with spiritual scientific research, the Christ-event must be regarded as the most momentous of all events in the whole evolution of mankind, an event which provided an entirely new departure to the whole evolution of our earth. We found that, through the Mystery of Golgotha, through the events enacted in Palestine and everything connected therewith, before and afterwards, an entirely new element entered into human evolution; indeed, this evolution would have been essentially different had the Christ-event not taken place. To understand the Mystery of Golgotha, we must now pay some attention to the more intimate details of Christian evolution itself. Of course it is impossible, even in fourteen lectures, to exhaust a subject that embraces a whole world: we find this indicated by the writer of the Gospel of St. John himself. He says that much more might be written, but the world could not produce books enough to contain all that might be said. You will therefore not expect that everything connected with the Christ-event and its narration, both in the Gospel of St. John and in the other Gospels akin to it, can be stated in fourteen lectures.
Yesterday and the day before we saw how, through the entry of the Christ-Spirit, the Christ-Individuality, into the threefold sheath of Jesus of Nazareth and His sojourn therein, it was possible gradually to effect what is described to us in the Gospel of St. John, up to and including the chapter on the raising of Lazarus. We saw how it was necessary for Christ to develop, little by little, the physical, etheric, and astral bodies which had been offered up to Him by the great initiate Jesus of Nazareth. But to understand what was actually wrought by Christ in the threefold sheath of Jesus of Nazareth we must first call up before us the nature of the connection between the different principles of man's being. So far we have only roughly indicated that in waking condition man appears to clairvoyant consciousness as a being composed of physical body, etheric or life body, astral body, and Ego; all these principles interpenetrating and forming one whole. We have also seen that at night the physical and etheric bodies remain in bed while the astral body and the Ego are raised out of them. Now in order to arrive at a more detailed description of the Mystery of Golgotha, the question must today be asked: What exactly is the manner of this interpenetration of the four members of man's being in waking consciousness? In other words, in what manner do the Ego and the astral body actually enter the etheric and physical bodies when man awakes in the morning?
In the morning, when the astral body and the Ego descend from the spiritual world into the physical and etheric bodies, the process is such that, in all essentials (please note the word), the astral body penetrates the etheric, and the Ego penetrates the physical body. I said ‘in all essentials’ because of course all the principles interpenetrate in the human being; so that we can also say that the Ego is in the etheric body and so on. But an indirect interpenetration is now meant, one in all essentials.
We may now ask: What really happened at the Baptism by John? We said that at the Baptism by John, the Ego of Jesus of Nazareth issued from his physical, etheric, and astral bodies, leaving behind the threefold vehicle for the Christ. Jesus of Nazareth's Ego had left his physical body; in its stead Christ entered and took up His abode in the threefold sheath (again in all essentials) and principally in the physical body. It is true that we are now on the verge of a profound mystery. When we come to consider what actually took place at the Baptism by John, we must admit that it touches upon all the great circumstances of human life of which we have spoken in the last days. I have told you that everything of a general nature in man, all that produces similarity within a certain group, is found in the female element of heredity. The principle which (externally considered) tends to make one face resemble another within a group, is handed down by woman from generation to generation. On the other hand the male element, acting from generation to generation, is responsible for everything which distinguishes one man from another, for all that makes him an individual being here upon Earth and establishes his Ego upon a personal footing. Great thinkers who are in touch with the spiritual world have always had a true feeling for this; but the pronouncements of great men who stood in relation to the spiritual world cannot be known and valued aright unless we penetrate to the depths of these cosmic truths.
Man says to himself: Within me there lives an etheric body and in this etheric body an astral body. The astral body is the bearer of ideas, thoughts, sensations, and feelings; it lives in the etheric body. Now we have seen that the etheric body is the principle which acts immediately and in the fullest measure upon the physical body; it contains the forces which lend form to the physical body. We see therefore that the etheric body, being permeated by the astral body, contains everything that fashions man to be ‘man’, imprinting upon him a definite form from within, that is, from his spiritual parts. The element which produces resemblance among men comes from the forces at work within man; it is not merely external and therefore does not depend on the physical but on the etheric and astral bodies. For these are the inner principles. A man gifted with insight into such matters will therefore feel that the force permeating his etheric and astral bodies comes to him from the maternal element; while the force which gives his physical body the definite form imprinted upon it by the Ego (by the Ego in the physical body) must be regarded as a paternal inheritance.
‘From my father I have my stature and life's most earnest conduct;
From my mother a happy nature and delight in telling fables,’
says Goethe. You see, this is an interpretation of what I have said. ‘From my father I have stature’, that is, what is worked out by the Ego; from the mother, ideas and the gift of telling fables; these are inherent in the etheric and astral bodies. The utterances of great minds are far from being understood when people imagine they have done so with the help of trivial human conceptions. But we must now apply the truths which we have thus illustrated to the events connected with Christ. From this standpoint, the question must now be raised: What would have become of the human race had Christ not appeared upon the Earth?
Had the Christ-event not taken place, the course of human evolution would have continued as it began with the post-Atlantean period. We have seen that in remote antiquity human civilization was grounded upon that love which was inseparable from the ties of ancestry and blood relationship. All who were related by blood loved each other accordingly. And we saw how in the course of human progress this bond of blood became sundered to an ever-increasing extent. Now proceed from those remote times of human evolution to the period in which Christ appeared.
Whereas in most ancient times marriage was always contracted within the tribe, we find consanguineous marriage becoming increasingly rare in the days of Roman supremacy — the days in which the Christ-event took place. The intermingling of the most diverse peoples, caused by the military expeditions of the Romans, led to the extensive substitution of marriage between strangers for the consanguineous tie. The ties of blood were necessarily sundered to an increasing extent in the course of human evolution, because man was destined to establish himself upon his own Ego.
Let us assume that Christ had not come to pour fresh power into men and to replace the old ties of blood by a new, spiritual love. What would have happened then? Love, the power which draws human beings together, would have gradually disappeared from the earth; the principle which unites men in love would have perished. Without Christ the human race would have reached the pass of seeing love die out among men, and men would have been driven into and isolated in their own individuality. That deep truths underlie this statement is of course not apparent when things are considered only in the light of external science. If the blood of human beings of the present day and of some millennia before the appearance of Christ were to be compared (not by chemical methods but by the means available to spiritual investigation), it would be found that the blood had changed and had assumed a character rendering it less and less fit to be the vehicle of love. In what light therefore must the future have appeared to an initiate of ancient times, who could see deep down into the process of human evolution and could foretell what would come to pass if evolution continued unchanged in the same direction as of old, without the intervention of the Christ-event? What images must be have used to bring home to the people what would come to pass in the future unless psychic love, Christ-love, replaced in equal measure the love conditioned by blood relationship? He would have said: ‘If men become increasingly isolated from one another, each becoming hardened within his own Ego; if the dividing line separating soul from soul becomes increasingly sharp, so that souls become less and less able to understand each other; then mankind will to an increasing extent fall a prey to discord and dissension, and the strife of all against all upon the earth will usurp the place of love.’ And this would indeed have ensued had the evolution of human blood pursued its course without the coming of Christ. All men would irretrievably become victims of the strife of all against all, the strife which indeed will come, but only for those who have not become penetrated by the Christ-principle in the right way. Such was the end threatening earthly evolution in the vision of a prophetic seer; a vision which filled his soul with dread, for he saw that when one soul no longer understands its fellows, then soul will rage against soul.
I have told you in the course of these lectures that human beings cannot be drawn together by the Christ-principle but by degrees, and I gave you an example showing how the opinions of two noble thinkers are so mutually opposed that while each of them, Tolstoi and Solovioff, believes he is proclaiming the true Christ, the one regards the other as Antichrist; for in fact Solovioff looks upon Tolstoi as Antichrist. The strife of opinions between soul and soul would by degrees come to expression in the external world — that is, man would rise up against his fellowman. This is inseparable from the evolution of blood. Do not raise the objection here that, in spite of the Christ-event, we still see discord and strife, and that we are far removed from any realization of Christian love. As I have already said, we are only at the beginning of Christian evolution. The great impulse was given for Christ to come and live in the souls of men and unite them spiritually, as earthly evolution proceeds. All the strife and discord which we still see, and which will lead to still greater excesses, is there because humanity has only to the very smallest extent become penetrated by the true Christ-principle. The condition handed down from former ages still holds sway in the human race. This can be overcome only slowly and by degrees, inasmuch as we see the Christ-principle flowing slowly and by degrees into mankind.
Such would have been the prophetic vision of one who, in pre-Christian times, could behold clairvoyantly the course of human evolution. He might have said: ‘Last remnants of the old seership have descended upon man. In bygone days men could behold the spiritual world in dim, shadowy clairvoyance. This faculty disappeared little by little. But the possibility still exists, like a heritage of those olden times, to behold that world of spirit in abnormal, dreamy states of consciousness. There it is still possible to see something of what underlies the outer surface of things.’ All old legends, fables, and myths (which truly contain deeper wisdom than modern science) tell us in what large measure the faculty of experiencing exceptional conditions once prevailed. It may be called a dream; but it was a dream in which future events announced themselves, though not to the extent of enabling man, by this wisdom, to guard against the strife of all against all. The old seer emphasized it in the sharpest conceivable way. He said: ‘We have inherited the ancient wisdom, beheld in Atlantean times in abnormal conditions; even now individual men can behold it when they experience abnormal states of consciousness. This wisdom announces what will come to pass in the immediate future.’ But men could derive no security from their experience in dreams; it was deceptive and will become more and more deceptive. Thus taught the teacher of pre-Christian times and instructed the people.
Having therefore realized the intensity and power of the Christ-impulse, we must now not fail to recognize a great truth. Without the Christ-impulse, and through the isolation, separation, and mutual antagonism prevailing among men, something resembling a struggle for existence would ensue, such as is falsely applied to the human race by those who forcibly propagate materialistic Darwinian theories — a struggle for existence which, however much it may prevail in the animal world, should nowise do so in the human world. Putting it grotesquely, we might say: ‘At the end of the world, humanity on earth will present the spectacle depicted by certain Darwinian materialists inasmuch as they borrow their facts from the world of the animals!’ But this Darwinian theory is false today, when applied to the human race. Applied to the animal kingdom it is right, because in that kingdom there is no impulse able to turn strife into love. Christ as a spiritual power in humanity will refute all Darwinism by His Deed. Nevertheless we must first realize that human beings cannot avert from themselves the war of opinions, feelings, and actions in the outer world of sense, unless they combat in themselves and settle inwardly the antagonism which would otherwise flow into the outer world. Whoever first combats what is to be combated in himself, and establishes harmony between the different principles of his nature, will not combat another's opinion in another's soul. He will confront the outer world, not in a polemical spirit but in a spirit of love. The point is that the combat is diverted from the outside world to man's inner being. The forces governing human nature must combat each other inwardly. Of two antagonistic opinions we must say: This is the one opinion, it is possible to hold it; this is the other opinion, it is also possible to hold it. But if I hold only the one opinion to be justifiable and admit only what corresponds with my own wishes, while combating the other opinion, I become involved in strife on the physical plane. To insist upon one's own opinions exclusively, to hold one's own action to be alone justifiable, means being an egoist. Suppose I am willing to entertain another's opinion and endeavour to establish harmony within myself; my attitude towards my fellow-man would be quite different, for I would then begin to understand him. We might even describe the progress of human evolution as the diversion of the strife in the outside world to the work of harmonizing the inner forces of man. Through Christ man was to find the possibility of establishing harmony within himself, of harmonizing the antagonistic forces in his own inner being. Christ gives man the power first to conclude the strife in his own inner being. Without Christ this could never be done. In pre-Christian times one form of outer strife was rightly considered to be the most terrible — namely, the strife of a child against his father and mother. It was known in those days what course things would take without the Christ-impulse, and parricide was looked upon as the most terrible and abhorrent of crimes. The wise men of old, who foresaw that Christ would come, clearly showed this to be true. They also knew the fate in store for the world unless the struggle were first fought out in the inner being of man.
Let us look into our own inner selves. We have seen that the maternal element dominates where the etheric and astral bodies interpenetrate, while the paternal element comes to expression where the Ego is present in the physical body. That is to say: the mother, the female element, reigns in all that we have in common with our species, in everything which pertains to our life of thought and knowledge; while the father, the male element, predominates in all that arises from the union of the Ego with the physical body, in the inwardly differentiated form, in that which makes man an Ego. What then must the ancient sages, who viewed life in this way, have expected above all things of human beings? They required that man should come to a clear understanding of the relation of the physical body and Ego to the etheric and astral bodies — of the paternal to the maternal element. Inasmuch as man has an etheric and an astral body, the maternal element is in him; beside the external mother, so to speak, on the physical plane, he bears within him the maternal element, the mother; and beside the father on the physical plane, he has within him the paternal element, the father. To bring into harmonious relationship the father and mother in him was a great ideal. If this were not achieved, the disharmony between the paternal and maternal elements would be reproduced outside, on the physical plane, with disastrous results. The old sage therefore taught: ‘It is the duty of man to establish harmony within himself between the paternal and maternal elements. The failure to do so cannot but show itself in the outer world as the most appalling crimes.’
How did the old sages present to humanity the truth which we have just expressed in anthroposophical language? They said: ‘From bygone ages we have inherited an ancient wisdom; in abnormal conditions this wisdom is still accessible to man; but the possibility of attaining this condition grow ever fainter; and even the old initiation cannot carry humanity beyond a certain point in its evolution.’ Let us once more consider what took place at an old initiation as described in the last few days.
In an initiation of this nature the etheric and astral bodies were withdrawn from the complex of physical, etheric, astral bodies and Ego. The Ego remained behind. It was for this reason that the candidate was without self-consciousness during the three and a half days of the initiation. His self-consciousness was extinguished, and another consciousness was infused into him from the higher spiritual worlds by the Priest-initiator, who placed his own Ego at the disposal of the candidate and acted as his guide in every sense. What actually happened then was expressed in a formula which will sound strange to you. They said: When a candidate was initiated in the old way, the maternal element went forth and the paternal element remained behind; that is to say, he killed the paternal element in him and united himself with the maternal element; in other words, he killed his father and wedded his mother. When therefore the initiate of old lay in the lethargic condition for three and a half days, he had ‘united himself with his mother and killed his father.’ He became fatherless. This was necessary, for he had to renounce his individuality and live in a higher spiritual world. He became one with his folk. In the folk-element was precisely the maternal element. He was one with the whole organism of his people; he became as Nathanael, and we have seen that this grade was always called by the name of the people in question — among the Jews an ‘Israelite’, among the Persians a ‘Persian’. There can be no other wisdom in the world save that which flows into it from the Mysteries. In accordance with the old wisdom people were taught what they could attain by uniting themselves with the mother and killing the father in them. But this inherited wisdom could not bring man beyond a certain point in evolution. Something different and entirely new was needed to take its place. If no other wisdom were ever accessible to humanity save this ancient wisdom attained in the way described, then, as we have already said, the human race would be driven into the strife of all against all. Opinion would rise up against opinion, feeling against feeling, will against will, and the terrible picture of the future would be realized in all its horror, when man unites himself with his mother and kills his father. The old initiates who, though possessing initiation, nevertheless looked for the coming of Christ, depicted this future state in mighty images, the traces of which you will find preserved in the myths and legends. We need but recall the name of Oedipus and we are in touch with a myth in which the sages of old gave expression to what they had to say on the subject. That old myth, represented so powerfully by the Greek tragedians, runs as follows:
There was once a king of Thebes, Laios by name. Jocasta was his wife. For a long time they were childless. At last Laios asked the oracle at Delphi if he could not have a son. The oracle answered: If thou wouldst have a son, he will be one who will put thee to death. And in a state of intoxication, that is, in a state of diminished consciousness, Laios begot a son. Oedipus was born. Laios, knowing that this was the son who should put him to death, resolved to expose him, and in order to ensure his perishing, caused his feet to be pierced; he was then left to die by exposure. A shepherd found the child and had compassion on it; he brought it to Corinth and there Oedipus was brought up in the royal palace. When he was grown older he heard of the oracle foretelling that he should kill his father and wed his mother. Its fulfilment could not be averted. He was compelled to leave the palace because he was considered to be the king's son. On his way he chanced to meet his real father and slew him unbeknown. He came to Thebes and here solved the riddle put by the Sphinx, so that this terrible monster, which had brought death to so many, was force to kill itself. Thus he was at first a benefactor to his country. He was raised to the dignity of king and the hand of the queen was bestowed upon him — the hand of his mother! Without knowing it he had slain his father and wedded his mother. He now reigned as king. But because he had attained his power in such a way, and because this terrible fate clung to him, he brought unspeakable misery upon his country, so that he is presented to us in Sophocles' drama as blinded, as one who had himself destroyed his eyesight!
This is a story the imagery of which went forth from the ancient sanctuaries of wisdom. Its meaning is that Oedipus was still, to a certain extent, in touch with the spiritual world in the old way. His father had enquired of the oracle. These oracles were the last heritage of ancient seership. But the inherited remnants were inadequate to establish peace in the outer world. They could not give humanity the desired harmony between the maternal and paternal elements. The circumstance that Oedipus solved the riddle of the Sphinx clearly indicates that he is intended to represent one who has inherited a certain seership in the old style, and who possessed a knowledge of human nature in keeping with the remnants of ancient wisdom. This was powerless to avert that war of human passions typified by the parricide and the union with the mother. In spite of his connection with the ancient wisdom, he is unable to see through the complex of circumstances. The old wisdom no longer confers seership. Had it sufficed to open the eyes, as formerly, through the blood tie, the blood would have spoken when Oedipus met his father and again when he met his mother. The blood was silent! This represents to us in graphic manner the decay of ancient wisdom.
What then was necessary to come, to enable man finally to establish harmony and concord between the maternal and paternal elements in himself — between his own Ego (which contains the paternal principle) and the maternal principle? The Christ-impulse was to come! And now let us consider from yet another point of view certain deeper aspects of the marriage at Cana.
We read: ‘The mother of Jesus was there. And both Jesus was called and His disciples to the wedding.’ Jesus, or rather Christ, was to represent to humanity the great Pattern of a being who has established within himself harmony and concord between his Ego and the maternal principle. At the marriage at Cana in Galilee he indicated the fact that ‘something passeth from me to thee’. That was a new ‘passing from me to thee’. It was no longer the old process but signified a renewal of the whole relationship. Here was once for all the great ideal of the inner balance and adjustment, without the slaying of the father, without quitting the physical body, that is to say, the harmony with the maternal principle was established within the Ego itself. The time had now come for man to learn to combat the excessive force of egoism (the Ego-principle) within himself and to bring it into true relationship with the maternal principle in his etheric and astral bodies. Thus the marriage at Cana was to represent to us in a beautiful image the relation of the individual Ego (the paternal principle) to the maternal principle, in the sense of the inner harmony and love which obtained in the outer world between Jesus of Nazareth and His mother. This was to be an image of the inner harmony established between the Ego and the maternal element within oneself. This did not exist formerly; the Deed of Christ Jesus first made it possible. But since it came into the world through that Deed, it provided the only practical means of repelling all that must have ensued under the influence of the ancient inherited wisdom — the slaying of the father and the union with the mother. What does the Christ-principle combat?
When the ancient sage, contemplating the Christ-Being, compared the old with the new initiation, he could say: ‘If the union with the mother in the old style is persevered with, no good can accrue from it to mankind. But if the union is achieved in the new way as shown in the marriage at Cana, and the human being unites himself in this way with his own astral and etheric bodies, blessing and peace and brotherliness will appear to an ever-increasing extent among men, and the old principle of killing the father and wedding the mother will be repelled.’ What then was the hostile element which Christ was to eliminate? It was not the ancient wisdom; it was unnecessary to combat this, for it had lost its power and was passing away of itself; indeed, we see how those who still placed their trust in it, like Oedipus, were led into disharmony precisely on its account. But the evil would not cease of itself, if men held aloof from the new wisdom — that is, from the way in which the Christ-impulse is given, and obstinately clung to the old principle. The greatest progress was seen in the fact that the old principle was abandoned and that men recognized what had come into the world through Christ. Is this, too, indicated to us? Yes, legends and myths contain the profoundest wisdom. There is a legend which, though not in the Gospels, is none the less a Christian legend and a Christian truth. It runs as follows:
There was once a couple who for a long time had no son. It was revealed to the mother in a dream (note this well) that she would have a son, that this son would kill his father and wed his mother, and bring terrible misfortune upon his whole tribe.
In this legend we have a dream, as with Oedipus there is an oracle — that is, a remnant of the old inherited clairvoyance. The events to come were revealed to the mother in the old way. Does this suffice to give her an insight into the affairs of the would, so as to prevent the evil which had been foretold? Let us consult the legend, it tells us further:
Under the influence of this wisdom coming to her through her dream, the mother brought the child, to which she had given birth, to the island of Kariot and deserted it there. It was found, however, by the queen of that country who adopted it and brought it up herself, she and her husband being childless. After a time a child was born to this couple. The foundling son felt himself displaced and, being of passionate temperament, slew the son of the royal couple. Thereupon, being unable to remain, he fled and reached the court of the Governor Pilate in whose household he soon rose to the rank of overseer. Here he became involved in dispute with his neighbour and, not knowing that his neighbour was his own father, slew him. Thereupon he wedded his neighbour's wife — his mother. This foundling was Judas of Kariot. Then, having become aware of his terrible situation, he fled once more and found compassion in Him alone who had compassion on all who approached Him; who not only sat at table with publicans and sinners but who, in spite of His universal insight, received this great sinner also into His company; for it was His mission to work, not alone for the good, but for all men, and to lead them away from sin to salvation. Thus Judas of Kariot came into the environment of Christ Jesus. And now he brought the curse which had been foretold and which now necessarily came into effect in the circle round Christ Jesus; as Schiller says: ‘Therein lies the curse of the evil deed, that, continuing to generate, it must ever bring forth evil.’ He betrayed Christ Jesus. Fundamentally the fate which was to be fulfilled in him had already been fulfilled in the murder of his father and the union with his mother. But he remained as an instrument, we may say, the evil instrument which was to be the cause of good, in order, so to speak, that he should accomplish yet anther deed beyond the fulfilment.
The Oedipus legend presents us one who, having become aware of the evil he has wrought, immediately loses the sight of his eyes. But the other, who has the same fate through his connection with the old inherited wisdom, does not lose his sight; in fulfilment of fate he is destined to accomplish the deed which leads to the Mystery of Golgotha and causes the physical death of Him who is the Light of the World, and who brings about the light of the world in the healing of the man born blind. But He dies through one who, like Oedipus, was to exemplify the gradual extinction of the ancient wisdom in mankind and its inadequacy henceforth to bring peace, blessing, and love to men. That these might come, the impulse of Christ and His death on Golgotha were necessary. That, also, was first to be enacted which appears to us at the marriage at Cana as the external image of the relation of Christ Jesus to his mother. And something else was yet necessary which the writer of the Gospel of St. John describes as follows:
At the foot of the Cross stood the mother; there too stood the disciple ‘whom the Lord loved’, Lazarus-John, whom He had Himself initiated and through whom the wisdom of Christianity was to descend to posterity, through whom the human astral body was to be influenced in such a way that the Christ-principle could dwell in man. There, within the astral body of man, the Christ-principle was to live, and John was to direct its flow into that body. To this end it was necessary that the Christ-principle should first be united, from the Cross, with the etheric, maternal principle. Therefore Christ spoke these words from the Cross: ‘From this hour, behold thy mother, and behold thy son!’ That is to say, He binds together His wisdom with the maternal principle.
Thus we see how profound the Gospels are, indeed, how profound all the circumstances are, which are related to the practice of the Mysteries. for the old legends bear the same relation to the annunciations and Gospels of later times, as prophecy to fulfilment. One thing is most clearly shown us in the Oedipus and Judas legends: There was once a divine ancient wisdom. But it came to an end. And a new wisdom is needed. And this new wisdom will lead mankind whither the ancient wisdom would never have brought it. The Oedipus legend tells us what must have come to pass without the Christ-impulse. The Judas legend teaches us what was the antagonism against Christ — the stubborn clinging to the ancient wisdom. But the wisdom of which the old legends and myths had said that it was inadequate, is proclaimed to us in a new light in the ‘new annunciation’ in the Gospel. The Gospel gives the answer to the wise imagery of the old legends. These had declared that the future needs of mankind could never be satisfied by the ancient wisdom. But the Gospel brings us the new wisdom, for it says: I proclaim to you that which mankind needs, and which could never have come without the influence of the Christ-principle, without the Event of Golgotha!