10 September 1910, Berne
We have heard in these lectures that through the coming of Christ Jesus the forces of the human Ego were to be gradually endowed with those faculties which in the ancient Mysteries could be acquired by man only through the suppression, the dulling, of his Ego. In all ancient Initiations there was the possibility of rising into the spiritual world, into the Kingdoms of Heaven. But owing to the character of human evolution in pre-Christian times, man's Ego could not ascend into the Kingdoms of Heaven in the same state or condition in which it confronts the physical-material world. Two conditions of the human soul must therefore be distinguished. The one is the condition familiar to the normal man of to-day as prevailing between the times of waking and going to sleep, when his Ego perceives and is aware of the objects of the material world. In the second condition there is no definite consciousness of Ego-hood. It was in this latter condition that in the ancient Mysteries man was transported into the Kingdoms of Heaven. According to the preaching of John the Baptist and then of Christ Jesus Himself, these Kingdoms of Heaven were, to be brought down to the Earth in order that mankind might receive an impetus for development enabling men to experience the higher worlds while maintaining full Ego-consciousness. It t was thereby only natural that those who recorded the Christ-Jesus-Event should have described the different processes undergone by a candidate for Initiation in the ancient Mysteries, but that at the same time an indication should be given of a new element, showing that now it was not a matter of the second condition of soul but of a new condition in which the Ego is fully conscious.
In the lecture yesterday we studied the nine Beatitudes at the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount from this point of view. Still more could be said about the contents of the present text of St. Matthew's Gospel which was translated, not always without ambiguity, from the Aramaic language into Greek. But even in the Greek text of the Gospel one can detect, in the continuation of the Sermon on the Mount too, definite indications of what a man formerly experienced while his Ego was suppressed and in a dulled condition. Whereas he was once able to say: ‘When I suppress my Ego and pass into the spiritual world, I shall grasp certain fundamental truths’ — in the future this will be possible while retaining full Ego-consciousness. To understand what this implies it is essential to know something more about the use of names or designations in olden times. They were not chosen as they are to-day, but always with consciousness of the reality involved. And the expressions used in the Sermon on the Mount show clearly that Christ Jesus felt Himself to be the bringer of Ego-consciousness at a higher stage than that hitherto attained, and able to experience the Kingdoms of Heaven as an inner reality. He therefore brings home this contrast to the souls of His disciples: ‘In earlier times too it was said that revelations come from the Kingdoms of Heaven. But from now onwards you will experience these things when you let your Ego itself speak, in what your Ego says to you.’ — Hence He constantly repeated words: ‘I say unto you!’ — for Christ Jesus felt Himself to be ' the Representative of the human soul which comes to expression when uttering the words: ‘I say it,’ ‘I say it with my full Ego-consciousness.’ This utterance, which occurs many taken in a trivial sense. It calls attention repeatedly to the new impulse inculcated through Christ Jesus into the evolution of humanity. Read the continuation of the Sermon on the Mount — With this in mind and you will feel that Christ Jesus wished to say: Hitherto you could not call upon your Ego; but now, through what I have brought to you, you will be able gradually to acquire the treasures of the Kingdoms of Heaven through your own inner power, through the power of your own ‘I’. — The whole spirit of the Sermon on the Mount is pervaded by the new impulse of human Egohood; and it is the same when the narrative leads on to the so-called ‘healings’.
As everyone knows, these acts of healing have been the subject of widespread discussions. The point most often emphasised is that the Gospels are speaking here of miracles. But let us go more closely into this. In the lecture yesterday I said that people of to-day entirely disregard the changes and metamorphoses undergone by human nature in the course of evolution. If you were to compare a physical body of the time of Christ, let alone earlier, with one of the modern age, a very significant difference would be revealed, a difference that cannot, it is true, be established by anatomy, but certainly by occult investigation. You would find that the physical body has solidified, has become denser; at the time of Christ Jesus it was much more pliable. Above all, man's vision was such that he perceived things he no longer perceives to-day and moreover possessed some knowledge of certain forces working in and shaping the body. The muscles, for example, made a very distinct and much stronger impression on a more delicate faculty of perception. This kind of vision was gradually lost. Childish theories connected with the history of art point to old drawings where the lines indicating the muscles are very conspicuous and regard this as exaggeration and a sign of the artist's lack of skill. The reason is that originators of those theories do not know that such drawings were based on actual observation — a faculty that was right and proper in ancient times although it would be out of place in the modern age. But be that as it may, we will concern ourselves now with the characteristics of human bodies that were once quite differently constituted.
In those early times the power of the soul and of the spirit had a much more immediate influence on the human body than was the case later on, when the soul had lost power over the body because of its greater density. It was therefore far more possible in those early times for healing to be brought about by forces of the soul. With its far greater power, the soul was able to permeate a disordered body with the forces of healing drawn from the spiritual world, so that harmony might again be established. In the course of advancing evolution this power of the soul over the body had been gradually diminishing. Processes of healing in olden times were therefore spiritual processes to a far greater extent than was the case later on. Those who were regarded as doctors were not doctors in the modern, physical sense, but most of them were healers who worked upon the body by way of the soul. They purified the soul,instilled healthy feelings, impulses and will-forces into it through the spiritual influences they were able to bring to bear. This might have taken place either in the condition of ordinary waking life, in the so-called ‘temple sleep’, or in something akin to it — which at that time simply meant inducing a state in which a man became clairvoyant. In studying conditions of civilization at that time, therefore, it must be realised that those who were strong enough in soul to draw upon forces they had themselves acquired, were able to make a very real effect upon the souls of other men and therewith upon their bodies. So too, those who were in some way permeated with spirit and from whom forces of healing were known to radiate into their surroundings, were also called ‘healers’. As a matter of fact, not only the Therapeutae but the Essenes too, in a certain sense, would have to be called healers. Moreover in a certain dialect current in Asia Minor among those associated with the birth of Christianity, the word ‘Jesus’ was the translation of the expression ‘spiritual healer’. ‘Jesus’ expresses ‘spiritual physician’ and it is a fairly correct interpretation. 1A learned and interesting account of the semantic interaction between the Greek word iaomai (‘heal’) and the Hebrew Jeshua (transliterated into Greek as Iesus), which was both a proper name and a word meaning ‘saviour’, will be found in Hastings' Dictionary of Christ and the Gospels (title: Jesus). This is an indication of what was associated with names and designations in an age when men still felt that they pointed to certain realities.
But now let us throw our minds back to the civilization of those times. A person speaking of conditions of life as they then were, would have said: There are men who have been admitted into the Mysteries where, by sacrificing some degree of their Ego-consciousness, they can establish connection with certain forces of soul-and-spirit which then radiate into the environment through them; such men become healers. Supposing that such a man had become a follower of Christ Jesus, he would have said: Wondrous things have come to pass! Formerly those alone could become healers of the soul who had received spiritual forces into themselves in the Mysteries; but there has now been among us One who was a healer while maintaining full Ego-consciousness, who had not undergone the procedures of the Mysteries. — The fact that spiritual healings had taken place would not have astonished such a man, neither would the story of a spiritual healer narrated in the Gospel of St. Matthew have struck him as indicating anything particularly miraculous. His attitude would have been: What is wonderful about such men being spiritual healers? It is quite natural that they should be I — Accounts of such healings would not have seemed miraculous in those days. But the point of real significance is indicated when the writer of the Gospel of St. Matthew speaks of One who had imparted a new power to mankind, who by drawing upon forces of his Ego — with which healing was not formerly possible — had actually healed the sick. So you see, the Gospels are speaking of something altogether different from what is usually thought. Many proofs, historical evidence too, could be presented in verification of what Spiritual Science establishes from occult sources.
If the statement just made is true, it must have been realised in the days of antiquity that under certain conditions the sight of the blind could be restored by spiritual influence. Attention has rightly been called to early portrayals of these things. The author referred to yesterday, John M. Robertson, mentions that there exists in Rome a figure of Aesclepius standing in front of two blind men, and Robertson naturally concluded that it indicated an act of healing and that the writers of the Gospels incorporated this into their narratives. The important point in this example is not that spiritual healings were miracles but that the aim of the artist was to indicate that Aesclepius was an Initiate who had acquired powers of healing through the suppression of his Ego-consciousness in the Mysteries. The writer of the Gospel of St. Matthew, however, wished to make it clear that although in the case of Christ Jesus healings were not achieved in this way, the impulse that was once active in Him must in time be acquired by all mankind, and can be acquired through the power of the Ego itself. This is beyond the reach of men to-day because the power is not to be instilled into humanity until a somewhat distant future. But what was accomplished by Christ at the beginning of our era will take root, and men will gradually become capable of bringing it to expression. This will happen and it was what the writer of St. Matthew's Gospel wished to convey in his narratives of the healings. — And so, speaking out of occult consciousness, I can say: The writer of the Gospel of St. Matthew had no desire to depict any ‘miracle’ but something entirely natural, entirely understandable. He wanted also to show that such healing was brought about in a new way. That is the strict truth of these matters. The Gospels have indeed been badly misunderstood!
How may we expect the narrative to continue? We have heard that what took place in the life of Christ Jesus in the form of the so-called Temptation was a descent into all the experiences undergone by a man when he penetrates into his physical body and etheric body. In the case of Christ, the forces streaming from the physical body and etheric body were able to work in the way that comes to expression in the Sermon on the Mount and in the healings that follow it. The power of Christ Jesus now worked as the power of an Initiate in the Mysteries would have worked, namely, by attracting pupils and disciples. And here again it was inevitable that Christ Jesus should attract disciples in His own unique way.
To understand the chapters in the Gospel of St. Matthew following the Sermon on the Mount and the accounts of the healings, preparation is necessary in the form of a certain knowledge of occult facts which we have acquired through the years. We know that when a man is being led upwards through Initiation into the higher worlds, he develops a kind of Imaginative vision, a vision consisting of true Imaginations. Those who were around Christ Jesus had necessarily to acquire not only the faculty of listening with a certain measure of understanding to utterances as majestic as those of the Sermon on the Mount, but of participating intelligently in the acts of healing performed by Christ Jesus; it was also necessary that the mighty power working in Him should gradually pass over to those who were His closest friends and disciples. This too is indicated in the Gospel. It is first of all shown how, after the Temptation, Christ Jesus is able to give a new form to the ancient teachings and to perform healings through a new impulse. But then it is shown how He worked upon His disciples in a new way, how the fullness of power incorporated in him affected the disciples and followers around Him. How is this shown? By the fact that for unreceptive, insensitive men, what He represented had also to be given expression in words. But the effect of His influence upon those who were receptive, whom He had Himself chosen and guided, was different. Imaginations arose in them and they attained the next stage of higher knowledge. The power emanating from Christ Jesus therefore worked in two ways: the effect upon those who were not His chosen disciples was that they heard His words and accepted them as theory; the effect upon the others whom He had chosen because they had witnessed the manifestations of His power and to whom, because of their special karma, He could transmit that power, was that Imaginations were awakened in their souls and insight pointing to a higher stage on the path into the spiritual worlds. This is indicated in the saying that those who are ‘without’ hear parables only — that is to say, pictures, are presented to them, symbolic images of happenings in the spiritual world. But to the others He said: You understand the meaning of the parables and the words that guide you into the higher worlds. — These verses must not be interpreted in a shallow sense but recognized as guidance whereby the disciples were led upwards into the spiritual worlds.
And now we will go into the question of how the disciples could be led into the higher worlds. To understand what I am now going to say needs not only attentive listening but also a certain goodwill, fortified by the spiritual-scientific knowledge you have already acquired. I want to convey as clearly as possible the real meaning of the happenings described in the next chapters of the Gospel of St. Matthew.
We will once more remind ourselves that there are two modes of Initiation. The process in one is that a man descends into his physical body and etheric body, learns to know his own inner nature and comes into contact with the forces that work creatively in him. And in the other mode of Initiation a man is led out into the spiritual world, into the Macrocosm. Now we know that this — as regards what actually happens, not as regards consciousness — takes place every time a human being goes to sleep; his astral body and Ego, withdrawn from his physical and etheric bodies, pour into the world of stars and absorb its forces — hence the designation, astral’ body. Through this form of Initiation a man is able not only to survey happenings on the Earth but to expand into the Cosmos, to gain knowledge of the world of the stars and absorb its forces, But the condition that can only gradually be attained by man (in Initiation) was present in the,Christ in the form consonant with His special nature after the Baptism by John. In Him, however, it was not comparable with the state of sleep; it was present in Him when He was not sleeping but was awake in his physical body and etheric body. He was able to unite Himself with the forces of the world of stars and carry those forces into the physical world.
What Christ Jesus brought. about can therefore be described as follows. — Through the force of attraction exercised by the physical and etheric bodies that had been specifically prepared for Him, He drew down through His very nature the power of the Sun, of the Moon, of the Stars, of the whole Cosmos connected with our Earth. And the deeds He performed became channels for the health-bestowing, strength-giving life otherwise streaming from the Cosmos through man when he is outside his physical and etheric bodies during sleep. The forces with which Christ Jesus worked were forces which streamed down from the Cosmos through the power of attraction exercised by Hi body and streamed forth again from this body to His disciples. Receptive as they were, the disciples now rightly began to feel: Verily Christ Jesus is a Being through whom the forces of the Cosmos are brought to us as spiritual nourishment; they pour upon us.
But the disciples themselves lived in two states of consciousness, for they were not yet men who had reached the highest stage of development; it was through Christ that the attainment of a higher stage was made possible for them. The two states of their consciousness may be compared with those of waking life and sleep. The magical power of Christ was able to work upon the disciples in both states of consciousness, not only by day, when He was actually near them, but also during sleep when they had left their physical and etheric bodies. Whereas in the ordinary way man's being expands into the worlds of stars unknowingly, Christ's power was now with the disciples and they actually beheld these worlds; they knew too: Christ's power gives us nourishment from the worlds of stars.
But these two states of consciousness in which the disciples lived had still another effect. In every human being — in a disciple of Christ Jesus too — we must pay attention both to what he is as a man in the immediate present and to the potentialities within him for future incarnations. In each and all of you lie the rudiments of what will present itself to the world in a quite different form when it appears again in a new incarnation during a future epoch of civilization. And if through these potential faculties that are already within you, you were to become clairvoyant, vision of the immediate future would arise as a first manifestation of super-sensible sight. Among the first clairvoyant experiences — provided they were genuine and pure — would be those concerning happenings of the immediate future. — This was the case in the disciples. In their normal waking consciousness Christ's power streamed into them and they could say: In our waking hours Christ's power takes effect in us in a way befitting our normal day-conscious-ness. — But what happened to them while they were sleeping? Because they were disciples of Jesus and the Christ-power had worked upon them, they always became clairvoyant at certain times during sleep. They did not, however, see what was taking place in the present but what would come to pass in the future. They plunged as it were into the ocean of astral vision and foresaw what was to happen to man in future time.
Thus the disciples lived in these two states of consciousness. Of the one they could say: In our waking state Christ brings us from the great Universe the forces of the cosmic worlds, communicating them to us as spiritual nourishment. Because He is an embodiment of the Sun's power, He brings down to us everything revealed by Zoroastrianism when understood in the light of Christianity. He is the intermediary for the powers which the Sun can send forth from the seven day-constellations of the Zodiac, From thence streams the nourishment for the day-consciousness. Of the night-consciousness the disciples could say: In this condition we become aware of how, through the power of Christ, the Sun that is invisible during the night while passing through the other five constellations sends the heavenly food into our souls.
With their Imaginative clairvoyance the disciples could feel: In our waking state we are united with the power of Christ, with the power of the Sun. This power transmits to us what is meet and right for men of the present (i.e. the fourth) epoch of civilization. And in the state of sleep the power of Christ conveys the strengthening forces of the nocturnal Sun from the five night-constellations. But this applies to the epoch that is to follow our own — to the fifth epoch of civilization. — That is what the disciples experienced. In what way could it be expressed? We shall go further into this in the next lecture. I want now to speak briefly about the following. —
In ancient terminology, human beings en masse were referred to as a ‘thousand’ and when it was desired to particularise, a specific number was added. For example, men of the fourth epoch of civilization were the ‘fourth thousand’ and those whose mode of life was already that of the fifth epoch were the ‘fifth thousand.’ These were simply termini technici. Hence the disciples could say: During the waking state we are aware of what Christ's power transmits to us from the Sun-forces radiating from the seven day-constellations; we receive the nourishment that is destined for men of the fourth epoch, the ‘fourth thousand’. And in our clairvoyant state during sleep we are made aware, through the forces radiating from the five night-constellations, of what applies to the immediate future, to the ‘fifth thousand.’ — Food that is destined for men of the fourth epoch, that is to say for the ‘four thousand’, comes down from Heaven through the seven day-constellations, the seven ‘heavenly loaves’; and men of the fifth epoch — the ‘five thousand’ — are fed through the five night-constellations, the five ‘heavenly loaves.’ The point of division between the day-constellations and the night constellations is indicated by specific mention of the constellation of Pisces, the Fishes.
A secret is touched upon here. Indication is given of something deeply significant, namely the magical intercourse of Christ with His disciples. Christ makes it clear to them that He is not speaking of the old leaven of the Pharisees but is bringing down heavenly food to them from the Sun-forces of the Cosmos. On one occasion He has at His disposal only the seven loaves of the seven day-constellations, and on another the five loaves of the five night-constellations. And between the day-constellations and the night-constellations stands the constellation of Pisces, the Fishes, indicating the division. Indeed in one place, for the sake of even greater clarification, mention, is made of two fishes.
These profundities in the Gospel of St. Matthew, lead back to the proclamation made by Zarathustra, who first pointed to the Sun-Spirit and was also one of the first missionaries to explain to those who were receptive, the mystery of the down-streaming, magical power of the Sun.
But what do glib expounders of the Bible say about these things? At one place in St. Matthew's Gospel they find a passage concerning the feeding of four thousand people with seven loaves, and at another a reference to the feeding of five thousand with five loaves, and they regard the second account as mere repetition. They say: The transcriber of the original text copied carelessly, as often happens. So on one occasion it is said that four thousand people were fed with seven loaves and on another that five thousand were fed with five loaves. After all, that sort of thing may well happen when a copyist is negligent! — I have no doubt that similar things may occur when books are being written in the modern age, but the Gospels did not by any means come into existence in that way! When a narrative occurs a second time there is deep meaning in it. But because accounts in the Gospel of St. Matthew harmonise with the indications given a century before the appearance of the Christ by Jeschu ben Pandira, the great Essene teacher, in order that when He came He might be understood — because this is so we must go deeply into the indications given in this Gospel if we are to grasp the truths it contains. — But let us continue. —
The power of Imaginative, astral vision streamed from Christ to His disciples. This too is quite clearly indicated. One might well say: he who has eyes to read, let him read! — as in earlier days, when it was not customary to write everything down, it was said: he who has ears to hear, let him hear!
He who has eyes to read, let him read the Gospels carefully. Is there any indication that this power of the Christ-Sun was revealed to the disciples in one way by day and in another by night? There is indeed. In an important place in St. Matthew's Gospel the following is said. —
In the fourth watch of the night — therefore between three and six o'clock in the morning — while the disciples were sleeping, they saw, walking on the sea, a figure whom they took at first to be a spirit — that is to say, the nocturnal Sun-power reflected through Christ. The actual hour is indicated because it was only at a particular time that the disciples could be made aware that this power from the Cosmos could stream to them through the mediation of Christ. Constant references to the position of the Sun and its relation to the constellations, to the heavenly loaves, indicate that through the presence of Christ Jesus in Palestine, through this one personality a.nd individuality, a means existed whereby the powers and forces of the Sun could penetrate into our Earth. It is upon this cosmic nature of Christ, this penetration of cosmic forces into the Earth through Christ that emphasis is everywhere laid.
Christ Jesus was to initiate in a particular way those of His disciples who were specially fit for it, so that they would be able not only to see the spiritual worlds with Imaginative vision, as it were in astral pictures, but actually to hear what was taking place in those realms — this, as we know, indicates ascent into Devachan.
Hence, having been transported into the higher worlds, these disciples would now be able to find in those worlds the personality known to them on the physical plane as Christ Jesus. They were to become clairvoyant in regions higher than the astral plane. This was not possible for all the disciples; it was possible only for those who were the most receptive to the power that could stream from Christ: these disciples were Peter, James and John. The Gospel of St. Matthew therefore relates how Christ led the three disciples to surroundings where He could guide them beyond the astral plane into the world of Devachan, where they could behold the spiritual Archetypes, first that of Christ Jesus Himself and — in order that they might be aware of the conditions under which He was working — also of two Beings who were connected with Him: Elias and Moses. Elias was the ancient prophet who, reincarnated as John the-Baptist, was also the forerunner of Christ Jesus. The scene takes place after the beheading of John, when he was already in the spiritual worlds. The disciples also beheld Moses, another spiritual forerunner of Christ.
Such an experience was only possible when the three chosen disciples were transported to the level of spiritual vision higher than that of astral vision. And the fact that they rose into Devachan is clearly indicated in St. Matthew's Gospel, for it is said that they not only beheld Christ filled with the power of the Sun but extra words are added: ‘And His face did shine as the Sun.’ It is also said that the three figures — Christ, Elias, Moses — were talking together. An ascent has therefore taken place into the realm of Devachan; the disciples hear the three talking together. (Matt. XVII, 1-13.)
Everything, therefore, is faithfully described and tallies with the characteristics of the spiritual world revealed to spiritual-scientific investigation. There is never any contradiction between the findings of this investigation and true accounts of the deeds of Christ. It was He Himself who led the disciples into the astral world and then into Devachan, the realm of spirit.
Christ Jesus is graphically depicted in the Gospel of St. Matthew as the vehicle, the bearer, of the Sun-power once proclaimed by Zarathustra. It is faithfully related in this Gospel that the Spirit of the Sun — Ahura Mazdao or Ormuzd — of whom Zarathustra could only declare that He lived in the Sun, had lived on the Earth through the instrumentality of Jesus of Nazareth and had united Himself with the Earth in so real a way that through a single life in a physical body, etheric body and astral body, He became an impulse in Earth-evolution and as time goes on will become even more deeply united with it. Expressed in other words, this means: Egohood was once present in a Personality on the Earth in such full measure that if men receive Christ into themselves in the sense indicated by St. Paul, they will themselves acquire in the course of successive incarnations the forces and power of this Egohood. As they pass from incarnation to incarnation during the rest of earthly evolution, men who imbue their souls with the power of that Personality who once lived on the Earth, will rise to greater and greater heights. At that time, chosen ones were able with their physical eyes to behold Christ in the body of Jesus of Nazareth. Once in the course of the Earth's evolution, and for the sake of mankind, Christ, who formerly could only be revealed to men's vision as the Spirit of the Sun, descended and united Himself with the forces of the Earth.
Man is the being in whom the power of the Sun was to be present in its fullness — the power of the Sun that was once to descend and work in a human physical body. This was the inauguration of the, epoch during which the forces outpoured from the Sun will flow in ever greater measure into men as they live on from incarnation to incarnation, and — as far as the earthly body permits — gradually permeate themselves with the Christ-power. Obviously, this is not possible in the case of every physical body, just as it was only that very special body, prepared through the two Jesus figures in the complicated way described and then brought by Zarathustra to a very lofty stage of development — it was in that body only that the Christ could live in His fullness once!
Men who so resolve will permeate themselves with the Christ-Power, first inwardly,then outwardly. Thus humanity in the future will not only understand the nature of the Christ but will be filled with His Power. In the Rosicrucian Mystery Play 2The Portal of Initiation, Scene I See also two lectures entitled The True Nature of the Second Coming, given in Carlsruhe and Stuttgart, 25th January and 6th March, 1910. many of you have been shown what form this increasing experience of Christ will take in the evolution of humanity on the Earth. The seeress Theodora is to be regarded as a personality who has developed the power of seeing into the future, of perceiving the near approach of a period when a few human beings to begin with, and then greater and greater numbers, will be able, not only through spiritual training but through the stage of earthly evolution reached by humanity in general, actually to see the figure of Christ — but now in the etheric, not in the physical world. In a more distant future Christ will be seen in a form again different. Once and once only He was to be seen in physical form by men living on the physical plane. But the Christ Impulse would not have taken effect had it not worked in a way that would ensure its own further development.
We are approaching a time — this must be taken as a communication — when Christ will be visible to the higher faculties of men. Before the end of the twentieth century a few human beings will actually develop the faculties of Theodora; and those whose spiritual eyes are open will have the same experience that came to Paul at the gate of Damascus — an experience possible for him because he was ‘born out of due time’. Before the twentieth century has run its course, a number of people will experience Christ as Paul experienced Him and, like Paul, will need no Gospels or ancient records to convince them of the reality of Christ, for through their own inner experience they will recognize Him in the etheric world.
Christ now reveals Himself in etheric form as He revealed Himself to Paul, foreshadowing what would later come to pass. To us falls the task of emphasizing one aspect of the Christ Event, namely that He who once lived as Christ Jesus in a physical body will appear before the end of our epoch in an etheric form — as He appeared to Paul. If men develop their faculties to higher and higher stages they will learn to know the nature of Christ in its fullness; but to appear a second time in a physical body would mean that no progress had been made, for then His first appearance would have been in vain, would not have ensured the development of higher forces in human nature. The outcome of the Christ Event is that these higher faculties will unfold in men and that through them Christ will be seen in the sphere where He is working. Ours is the mission, if we understand the struggles of the present time, to point to this event in our own age, as the great Essene teacher, Jeschu ben Pandira, once pointed prophetically to the Christ who would come as the Lion born from David's line — thus again referring to the power of the Sun, in the constellation of Leo. And if — I say this merely as an indication — it were to be the happy fate of humanity that Jeschu ben Pandira — who was inspired at that time by the great Bodhisattva, the future Maitreya Buddha — should incarnate again in our epoch, he would consider the task of supreme importance to be that of pointing to the etheric Christ in the etheric world; and he would emphasize that the Christ came once, and once only, in a physical body.
Let us suppose that Jeschu ben Pandira — who was stoned to death approximately a hundred and five years before the Christ Event in Palestine — were to reincarnate in our time and announce the imminence of a revelation of Christ, he would point to the Christ who cannot appear in a physical body but is to become manifest in an etheric form, as He was revealed to Paul at Damascus. By this very teaching Jeschu ben Pandira could be recognized, assuming him to be reincarnated. It is also essential to recognize Essenism in its new form, to realise that from the one who in future time will be the Maitreya Buddha, we have to learn how the Christ will be revealed in our epoch, and that it behooves us to guard against harbouring false conceptions of Essenism due to its possible recrudescence in the present age.
There is a sure sign by which Jeschu ben Pandira could be recognized, were he to reincarnate in our epoch. The sign is that he would certainly not declare himself to be the Christ. If anyone were to come forward in our time claiming to bear the same power that was in Jesus of Nazareth, he could, by this very claim, be recognized as falsely identifying himself with the forerunner of Christ who lived a hundred years B.C. Such an assertion would be the surest possible sign that he is not an incarnation of that forerunner; a false prophet would be masquerading in him were he to claim any relationship with Christ.
The danger in this domain is very great, for in our time humanity fluctuates between two extremes. On the one side it is emphasized that modern man is unwilling to recognize spiritual forces working in the world. It has already become a truism, referred to constantly in newspapers, that our race has neither the insight nor the strength of mind to acknowledge any original spiritual power when there is evidence of it in some personality. This is one defect of our times. It is quite true that a reincarnation of the greatest possible significance might take place in our epoch and be unrecognized or treated with indifference. And the other defect is no less apparent — it is one which our epoch has in common with many others. Just as on the one side spiritual Individualities are undervalued and unacknowledged, on the other side there is present among men the liveliest tendency to deify individuals, to place them upon specially lofty pinnacles. Think of all the communities to-day, each with its special Messiah. Everywhere there is a tendency to deify, to idolize. It is, of course, a symptom that has been repeatedly evident in the course of the centuries.
Maimonides, for example, tells of a false Christ who appeared in France in 1137; he attracted many followers but was afterwards condemned to death by the public authority. Maimonides also relates that forty years earlier a man appeared in Cordova, in Spain, proclaiming himself to be the Christ. Again he relates that at the beginning of the twelfth century a false Messiah who pointed to one still greater, appeared in Fez, in Morocco. Finally it is reported that in the year 1147 there appeared in Persia an individual who did not, it is true, actually proclaim himself to be Christ, but who suggested something of the kind. And the most blatant phenomenon of all is the one of which I have already spoken: the appearance of Shabbethai Zebi in Smyrna, in the year 1666.
By observing that individual who declared himself to be a reincarnation of Christ, we can study in all detail the nature of a false Messiah and his effect upon the environment. At that time the proclamation went out from Smyrna that a new Christ had arisen in Shabbethai Zebi. Do not ever imagine that the movement connected with him was insignificant. People journeyed to Smyrna from all over Europe, from France, Spain, Italy, Poland, Hungary, the south of Russia, North Africa and Central Asia, to make contact with the alleged new-born Christ. It was a great world-movement. And if anyone had said to the people who regarded Shabbethai Zebi as a new Christ — until he finally betrayed himself, until the hoax was seen through — that he was not the true Christ, they would have fared badly, they would have gravely offended against a dogma rooted in a very large number of human beings.
Such things are signs of the other defect that constantly makes itself evident, perhaps not in definitely Christian regions, but certainly in others. A strong need is felt to announce the appearance of Messiahs in earthly incarnation. In Christian countries such occurrences are usually confined to small circles; although ‘Christs’ are to be found there too.
What matters is that through spiritual-scientific knowledge and enlightenment, through the unerring insight into facts that occultism is able to impart, both these pitfalls shall be avoided. If a person understands the relevant teachings, this will be possible; and then he will acquire insight into a most profound historical fact of modern times. It is that when we penetrate more deeply into the spiritual life we can participate in a renewal of Essene teaching which through the mouth of Jeschu ben Pandira once prophesied the Christ Event as a physical happening. And if Essene teaching is to be renewed in our days, if we are resolved to shape our lives in accordance with the living spirit of a new Bodhisattva, not with the spirit of a tradition concerning a Bodhisattva of the past, then we must make ourselves receptive to the inspiration of the Bodhisattva who will subsequently become the Maitreya Buddha. And this Bodhisattva will inspire us by drawing attention to the near approach of the time when in a new raiment, in an etheric body, Christ will bring life and blessing to those who unfold the new faculties through a new Essene wisdom. We shall speak entirely in the sense of the inspiring Bodhisattva who is to become the Maitreya Buddha and then we shall not speak of how the Christ is to become perceptible on the physical plane — in the manner of some religious denominations. We are not afraid to speak in a different sense because we recognize it to be the truth. We have no bias in favour of any oriental religious teaching but we live only for the truth. With the knowledge gained from the inspiration of the Bodhisattva himself we declare what form the future manifestation of Christ will take.