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The New Spiritual Age and the Return of the Christ
GA 118

20 February 1910, Düsseldorf

If a Theosophist, withdrawing for a moment from the immediate concerns of daily life, thinks about his tasks and duties in the external world and asks himself: Is there something that has to do with human happiness and human aspirations over and above the daily round of life?—then as a Theosophist he will have an ample answer. He knows that he does not study Theosophy merely in order to occupy his mind because daily life leaves his soul dissatisfied. He knows that what he gets from Theosophy in his feelings can become a real force in his soul. For he is able at all times to say to himself, “In my inmost being as man I am something else than what I am in the external world.” Together with such thoughts we should realise, deep in our inmost being, that as human beings we live all the time within two streams—one of which gives us our place in everyday life, and another which enables the soul to gaze into a world of the future, to assume its rightful place within the whole setting of cosmic life. This idea should never lead us to regard an external occupation as less important for cosmic life as a whole than some different kind of calling. We must realise that from a certain point of view the smallest and the greatest achievement of which we are capable are of equal importance for the whole. Life is a mosaic, composed of tiny pieces of stone. The man who places one little piece into the mosaic is not less important than the man who thought out the plan of the mosaic. As far as the divine spiritual world order is concerned, the smallest is just as significant as the greatest. Insight into this truth will avert any feelings of dissatisfaction which might otherwise so easily occur in life.

This is the only attitude to our tasks in life that can give us a true understanding of the inner work that must be performed within our soul. It is the only true attitude to adopt to spiritual endeavour. For the Theosophist, such ideas should never remain a mere thought, never only theory. The Theosophist does well to bring home to himself over and over again in inner contemplation how little in keeping it would be with the great world order if some position in life left him unsatisfied. World-evolution could not take its course if we did not carry out in the right way what seem to be most insignificant details in life. This attitude will give us the right feeling for the great revelations of existence and we shall understand the significance of the teaching that each one of us, over and above what we represent in the physical world, should make as much of himself as possible, in line with the wisdom of worlds. We must regard spiritual development in itself as absolutely essential. Many people say: What is the good of spiritual development if it does not make me useful in life? If we learn to recognise the beginnings of karma, our tasks in life will become clear to us. Not only is it our task to do this thing or that; it is indeed our task to make of ourselves as much as possible. We must rise to the thought that we have within us countless forces, countless faculties which we we must not let go to waste in our soul. That the divine spiritual world order will do with what we have made of our soul must be left to the divine spiritual world order. If we work at our soul development and pay heed to the beckoning of karma, we shall realise what our duties are.

We should not theorize. It might be thought that the best kind of Theosophist is one who works at his development for a time and then engages in some external, beneficent activity. But it may be that our position in external life does not enable us to put into application in the world what we elaborate in the soul. There may be no greater fallacy than to imagine that a man can be a good Theosophist only if he actually turns to account in the world what he has learnt inwardly. For decades we may not be in a position to put into application any of the Spiritual Science impulses that are now within us. Then one day we may happen to be meeting someone at a railway station and are able to say something of significance which otherwise we should have had no opportunity of saying. This single action may be more significant in life than one of much wider scope. We must realise clearly what we are capable of doing and that through a twist of karma, the opportunity for turning it to account will be given us at the right moment.

When this is felt and experienced, Spiritual Science becomes something whose purpose one doesn’t ask about at first, because it is absolutely valuable. The feeling described is the only one that can give us the right attitude to what connects us to the great and incisive happenings of life.

It is often assumed that evolution, wherever it takes place, only progresses step by step. But the course taken by life in its totality is not such that we can say: Nature makes no jumps—that would not be correct. For in fact nature is continually making jumps. A plant, as it grows, is always making jumps—from the root to the leaf, from the leaf to the calyx, from the calyx to the blossom and from the blossom to the fruit. Sudden transitions occur in the life of every individual and in the life of humanity as a whole. Everywhere we find humanity progressing steadily for a time, developing as the leaves develop on a plant. Then the moment comes when a tremendous step forward is taken by mankind, just as happens in the plant from leaf to calyx, from calyx to blossom, from blossom to fruit. In the evolutionary process of humanity such rapid transitions and jumps are constantly occurring. The greatest leap of all in the history of Earth-humanity is the one brought about through the events in Palestine. There has been quite a tremendous leap forward.

It must be remembered that the human soul has evolved slowly and by degrees. Man's life today is such that stimuli come to him from the external world through the senses. Even a person like Helen Keller needed a stimulus from outside before any development was possible. The human being lives today in such a way that the whole development of the human soul is dependent upon stimuli received through the senses.

Man is obliged to depend upon the instrument of his brain for the forming of judgments and ideas. Man was not always like this. But there was a time in the life of the soul when he was not dependent upon these impressions from outside, when he possessed an old, dim, dreamlike clairvoyance. Back then, clairvoyant pictures welled up from within him, pictures which presented and gave expression to an outer reality but not the same kind of reality as we have around us today.

Everything around us today—plants, animals, air, water, clouds, mountains—none of this was seen by man at that time with sharp outlines, but as it were through a mist. With his dreamlike consciousness man looked to the realm immediately above him, the realm of the Angeloi. With still higher consciousness he looked up to the realm of the Archangeloi and to the realm of the Spirits of Personality. We today look at the mineral kingdom but in those days man looked right up to the Hierarchies, that he perceived in his dreamlike dim consciousness. Just as today he knows that he is composed of mineral substances, so, in those olden times, he knew: My soul has come down from the realm of the Spirits of Personality and has been formed out of the substances of the realms of Archangeloi and Angeloi. He looked up to what was above him—and beheld there his spiritual home. From thence he has descended to existence in the physical world and to perception of the physical outer world. First of all he lost his vision of the Spirits of Personality, and beheld the animal kingdom. Then he lost vision of the Archangeloi and beheld the plant kingdom. Then he lost vision of the Angeloi and beheld the mineral kingdom. But for a long time still, men were able at certain times to look upwards, knowing of the reality of these higher Beings. Only slowly and by degrees did their gaze come to be directed to the purely external world. The gate to the spiritual world was closed.

But this was not the only thing. For people who still looked into the spiritual world themselves, illness and health had quite different meanings than they have for us today. There were intermediate states of consciousness between waking and sleeping and when some illness befell a man, it was possible for him to evoke a state of consciousness in which he had clairvoyant vision of the spiritual world. In such clairvoyant and clairsentient states he was permeated through and through by the spiritual and this worked as a remedy, as a healing power. The sick person had to be completely permeated with the power of the spirit; this definitely had a healing effect on his sickness. Today, when man has come down into the physical world, the physical body has become overpoweringly strong and the soul has become weak compared to the physical body. Think of soft wax and wax that has hardened. It is difficult to make any impression upon hard wax, whereas soft wax is pliable. In olden times the physical body of man was pliable material that the soul was able to shape and mould.

When the soul connected itself with the Spiritual, it was able to mould the physical. Intense devotion to the Spiritual can help the Spiritual to be a healing force. In olden times, man was able to permeate himself with the Spiritual, not for the purpose of knowledge alone but for the purpose of healing. In those olden times men lived in communion with higher Spiritual Beings. When they had descended to the physical plane but were still in connection with the spiritual worlds, they could not ward off the harmful spiritual Beings. They could be permeated with evil spiritual powers, for example by elementary beings inhabiting the astral plane. A man could lend himself to the good spiritual influences but he was also exposed to evil spiritual beings. Today he is less subject to these evil demonic beings which in olden times worked with such strength in the more pliable material that men might be possessed by them. The reason for all this was because it was man's destiny to descend to the physical plane and gain self-consciousness. Man would not have been able to obtain real self-consciousness, if he would have been forever devoted to the spiritual world. he was then outside of himself. His “I” (Ego) had long been working upon his human nature. But it was only through the Christ Impulse that man could become fully conscious of the Ego and its purpose. The Christ Impulse was revealed, first of all, in reflection, in the lightning in which Jehovah appeared to Moses, just as the light of the Moon reflects the light of the Sun. Jehovah is nothing but a reflection of Christ. The first revelation of Christ is in reflection. We cannot understand the Gospel of St. John until we realise that the Christ Impulse is the essential, all-important factor in the human development of Ego-consciousness.

Man was destined to be drawn away from influences which stream into him without consciousness on his part. This made it possible for him to unfold Ego-Consciousness and prepare for the re-attainment of the old clairvoyance. But he should become free from the influences of demonic beings. The more power there is in his Ego, the better is he able to keep the influences of demons at bay. The healing from demons, from demonic possession, can only be understood in the light of this knowledge. A number of sick people were brought to Christ at the time of the day when Christ could work most strongly as a spiritual power. It was the spiritual light which was to work—not the physical sunlight (which is only the garment of the spiritual light). It was when the sun had set that the sick were brought to Christ. We must picture to ourselves how the healing actually took place. The people who came to Christ had the firm faith and conviction that the impulse which can drive away the demons was working through Him. If the expulsion of the demons had been achieved through some external means, the Christ would not have been working through the Ego. A man can only know Christ by developing his own inner strength. And Christ can work only when this strength comes to expression in the Ego of man.

All this shows us that in that significant moment of time, mankind was standing at a great turning-point. It was the last echoing of an ancient epoch and also the moment of the coming of a mighty impulse whereby men were led into a new age. Here man could look back and see: In earlier times man had been in much closer connection with the spiritual world. In states of ecstasy he could find the way to the spiritual world. But entry into the spiritual world now was to be through the Ego. This impulse was given in the mighty call of John the Baptist and through Christ Himself: ‘Change the disposition of your souls, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. The link that connected you with the kingdom of Heaven must now be sought and found within you!’

To those who understood deeply, it could be said: There was once a time when human souls, rising above the Ego, came into a world of spirit and the spiritual was bestowed upon them for their healing. They became ‘rich in spirit’, possessors of the spirit. Then came a turning-point. Those who are beggars for the spirit are now summoned to enter the kingdom of heaven. Those who are beggars in the spirit can now become ‘blessed’—God-filled in their inmost being. Beggars for the spirit, those who yearn and long for the spirit—they will receive into themselves the kingdom of heaven.

Those who suffer, who mourn, they too will be ‘blessed’ when they receive the Christ Impulse. Through searching in their own Ego for the link with the spiritual world, they will be healed.

Those whose passions made them violent, could in earlier times be calmed when in states of ecstasy, they were permeated by the Spiritual. By finding the connection with the Christ within their Ego they will calm down the raging passions and wild urges.

The mission of the earth is to be fulfilled by those who quell their passions through the power of the Ego.

Those who suffer will cease to suffer if, in the Ego, they receive Christ. Those who receive Christ in the Ego, can be calmed, can be meek; and they will rule over the Earth.

The first verse of the Sermon on the Mount has to do with the physical body. The second verse has to do with the etheric body. The third verse has to do with the astral body.The fourth verse has to do with the Sentient Soul. Man's conscience should not apply only to the physical realm. Those who in the Sentient Soul hunger and thirst after righteousness can now be blessed.

What a man can become in the Intellectual or Mind Soul is expressed in the verse: Blessed are the merciful. What needs to happens for us to ascend from the Sentient Soul to the Intellectual or Mind Soul. The Ego, the ‘I’ ascends first. Man must develop himself so that he can feel himself as an Ego and every other human being as well. What lives in the soul needs to be passed from Ego to Ego; What passed from one human to another, subject and predicate, must be equal. In the first sentences of the Beatitudes the subject is different from the predicate. Now we find that in the sentence that relates to the Sentient Soul, the subject and the predicate are equal: ‘Blessed are the merciful for they shall receive mercy or love.’

The Sermon on the Mount is a record unequalled in statement concerning the mighty transition inaugurated by Christ.

Kali Yuga, the Dark Age, had already lasted for 3,000 years. It began in the year 3,101 BC That is the year when the spiritual world began to darken, to be shut off from men. Prior to the year 3,101, men still had direct consciousness of the spiritual worlds. After the Kali Yuga had lasted for 3,101 years there came the impulse whereby man is led once again into the spiritual world. But how did this impulse came about?

This impulse was possible only because a God descended into the physical world. This was the initial impulse for the return to the Spiritual world. The evolution of humanity took a great forward jump because men were able henceforth, out of the Ego itself, to ascend again into the spiritual world. Humanity needed the Christ because it had risen to its “I”. The descent of Christ was necessary in order that the human Ego should not waste away through inertia and fall out of the onward stream of evolution. For a very considerable time there were only a few men who knew that Christ had lived in Palestine. Tacitus, for example, knew very little of it. About 100 years later, people spoke of a sect living in a poor quarter of Rome and teaching of Jesus. This, the mightiest of all impulses, the Christ Impulse, was practically unknown. It might have remained unknown altogether but in fact it did not. The Christ Impulse was received into humanity. And when a similar impulse is given mankind must be in a position not to let such a jump happen in evolution without noticing it.

In 1899 the Dark Age, Kali Yuga, came to an end, having lasted for 5,000 years. Humanity moves in an ascending line. We are living today at the beginning of an epoch when quite new forces and faculties will develop in man. Before the first half of the century has run its course, a number of people, simply through natural development, will possess unusual faculties. From the end of Kali Yuga, from the year 1899 onwards, a certain faculty of etheric sight unfolds in mankind, and this will have developed in a number of people between 1930 and 1940. There will then be two possibilities. Mankind may sink more deeply still into the morass of materialism; everything may be flooded by materialism. This awakening of etheric sight may be ignored, just as the Christ Event was ignored. But if men do not experience this awakening, they will be submerged in the materialistic morass.

Or, in the course of 2,500 years a sufficiently large number of human beings will develop etheric sight. This is the beginning of the clairvoyance that man will again achieve and add to his Ego consciousness. Something else will also happen. When a number of human beings through Spiritual Science have developed an understanding for it, then those will be able to convince themselves of the truth of the Christ Event exactly as Paul became convinced of it at Damascus. Between 1930 and 1940 there will be a small number of people who will develop this capability, and then during a period of 2500 years, when more and more people have developed etheric sight they will be able to behold Christ in an etheric body. But they will only be able to get there through understanding and feeling obtained by way of Spiritual Science. This is Christ's new descent to the men of Earth. In reality, however, it is an ascent, for Christ will never again incarnate in the flesh. Those people who have developed up to Him, will be able to behold the Christ in the etheric body and will know from direct experience that the Christ lives.

For those who want to recognise the Christ, he will reappear in his etheric body. They will know about the Christ through beholding him. Through soul-development we will begin to understand this most important event for mankind of our time. If Spiritual Science did not develop understanding in men, this event might pass by unheeded. Spiritual Science should prepare us in such a way that we can make this greatest Event since the close of Kali Yuga bear fruit in mankind. No matter what their activities may be, those men will be of importance who have prepared themselves to see this etheric happening. But this happening will also be of importance to those who are living between death and rebirth. It has its effects in the spiritual worlds too, but only through preparation here on Earth. Here on Earth we must prepare for this event and develop the organs for perceiving it.

We ourselves now proclaim the new Christ Event of the 20th century. Later on it will be proclaimed as an Event whose effects work on for the whole of humanity. This will be announced in the near future. It will become a testing stone for Theosophy. But it may be that materialism will be introduced even into the theosophical conception of the new Christ Event. Only a materialistic consciousness could imagine that Christ could come again in the flesh. When the Event takes place it will be obvious whether or not Theosophy has understood it. In the first half of the 20th century, false Messiahs will assert themselves here and there.

In our age it would be bad, if human beings could not rise themselves up to the spiritual view, that the Christ will reappear in its etheric form. No progress for humanity would exist if the Christ would reappear in the flesh.

Mankind develops in order to be able to recognise the Messiah with higher faculties. The test will be whether Theosophy has enabled men to understand this Event aright, has led them to the Spiritual in such a way that they can understand the Return of Christ in its true form. In this century, Christ will come again for a number of men, who will be forerunners, just as he once came to Paul at Damascus.

Unbelief becomes more and more widespread as the result of literary criticism of the original records. The more the historical evidences lose importance for men, the more will the faculty ripen through which the Christ can be seen. The real Christ will be revealed to those men who through Spiritual Science can unfold the understanding, the vision of the true Return of Christ.