The Gospel of St. Matthew
11 September 1910, Berne
The Temptation is presented in the Gospel of St. Matthew as an account of a particular form of Initiation. The story is followed by indications of what Christ Jesus was to mean, firstly to His disciples. Not only was He to be the expounder of the ancient teachings in an entirely new form but a living force — if this word may be used — a health-giving force for men. This is demonstrated in the healings.
In the lecture yesterday we went on to consider a subject which, if it is to be understood, calls for a certain measure of goodwill arising from spiritual-scientific knowledge acquired through the years. We spoke of the unique, living quality of teaching imparted through the transmission of forces from Christ Jesus into the souls of His disciples. An attempt was made to express a great mystery in words of human language and to indicate the nature of the teaching given by Christ Jesus to His disciples. We may think of Christ Jesus Himself as a focal point, a focal centre, as it were, for forces that were to stream from the Macrocosm into the conditions of life on the Earth and into the souls of the disciples. Such forces could be marshalled only by powers that were concentrated in Christ Himself. Through Him, forces which otherwise stream into man unconsciously during sleep, streamed to the disciples as illuminating, life-giving forces of the Cosmos itself. To characterize these forces in any detail is of course only possible by studying the difference in cosmic constellations, and it is this mystery, as presented in the Gospel of St. Matthew, to which we shall give attention to-day. In the first place, however, it must be realised that the disciples had inevitably become wiser in regard to conditions on Earth because thc powers and forces of Christ Jesus had poured upon them. In diverse ways and degrees they had become more mature, had acquired more living wisdom.
A very significant phenomenon in the development of one of the disciples is presented to us, but to be understood it must be contemplated in a vast setting. And here the fact must be kept firmly in mind that the individual man himself progresses together with evolving humanity. In the post-Atlantean era we have passed through incarnation after incarnation in the ancient Indian, the ancient Persian, the Egypto-Chaldean and the Greco-Latin civilization-epochs, in order to receive some-thing from the environment and the prevailing conditions of the times. That is how progress is made.
What does development through the epochs of human evolution really mean? From elementary Anthroposophy we know of the different members of man's being: physical body, etheric body, astral body, sentient soul, intellectual or mind-soul, spiritual or consciousness-soul. The higher members still to be developed are Spirit-Self, Life-Spirit, Spirit-Man. Something quite definite is achieved for each of these members in thc several epochs of post-Atlantean civilization. Thus in the first epoch, forces enhancing the capacities of the etheric body were instilled into man. Such forces had been implanted in his physical body during the last periods of the Atlantean era and the first gifts to be bestowed in the post-Atlantean era were those imparted to the etheric body during the epoch of ancient Indian culture. During the epoch of ancient Persia, forces were implanted in man's astral body, or sentient body; during the Egypto-Chaldean and Greco-Latin epochs in the sentient soul and intellectual or mind-soul respectively; and we are living now in the age when the forces connected with this line of progress are gradually to be instilled into the spiritual or consciousness-soul. No very great advance has yet been made in this respect. In the future sixth post-Atlantean epoch the forces of the Spirit-Self will be implanted in human nature, and in the seventh epoch those of the Life-Spirit. And then we glimpse a far, far distant future, when Spirit-Man, or Atma, is to be inculcated into normal human nature.
We will now think of this process of development in relation to the individual human being. Those who knew the truth of these things from the Mysteries always pictured man as we must picture him now and as the disciples too had to learn to picture him through the enlightenment that had come to them from Christ Jesus. In a human being — either as he is to-day or also as he was at the time of Christ Jesus — there are rudiments or seeds, just as there are in a plant; they are already present when the plant has developed only leaves, and not yet flower and fruit. Looking at such a plant we know that although it now has leaves only, there already lie within it the germinal beginnings of flower and fruit, and that these will develop if growth proceeds in the normal and regular way. As surely as flower and fruit will grow out of the plant although at first it has green leaves only, as surely will the consciousness-soul arise in the human being — who in the days of Christ Jesus had developed only the sentient soul and the intellectual or mind-soul. The consciousness-soul then prepares to receive the Spirit-Self, in order that the highest triad may come as a new divine-spiritual gift to man. Therefore we can say: Through the contents and qualities of his soul, man's development is like that of a plant which, to begin with, has green leaves only but subsequently both flower and fruit. Out of sentient soul, mind-soul and spiritual or consciousness-soul, man unfolds something like a flower of his being, holding it in readiness to receive a divine power that comes down to him from above — this power being the Spirit-Self which enables him to reach further stages along the path leading to the heights of evolution.
In men who were living at the time of Christ Jesus the intellectual or mind-soul had developed in the perfectly normal way as their highest soul-principle; but although the intellectual or mind-soul was not able to receive into itself the Spirit-Self, there was to develop, as the child of the intellectual soul, the spiritual or consciousness-soul into which the Spirit-Self could descend.
What was the expression used in the Mysteries when referring to this flower that was to unfold from man's own nature? How was this growth defined in the environment of Christ Jesus when it was a matter of indicating that the disciples were to make a true advance in their development? Translated into our language, the expression used was ‘Son of Man’. The Greek has by no means the restricted meaning of our ‘son’ as ‘son of a father’ but signifies the successor of a living being, an entity that evolves from a living being like the blossom or flower of a plant on which hitherto there have been leaves only. Hence in the era before normally developed men had unfolded the consciousness-soul as the flower of their nature they had nothing of the ‘Son of Man’ in them. But there must always be some who are in advance of their generation, who already bear within them in an earlier epoch the knowledge and potentialities of a later one. In the fourth epoch — when normally only the intellectual or mind-soul had developed — there would always have been some among the leaders of men who, although their outward appearance was similar to that of others, had already unfolded the seed of the spiritual or consciousness-soul into which the Spirit-Self sends its radiance. — And there were indeed such ‘Sons of Men’. Hence it behooved the disciples of Christ Jesus to recognize and learn to understand the nature of these leaders.
To test how far this was understood by His intimate disciples, Christ Jesus asked them: Tell me, of which human beings it can be said that they are ‘Sons of Men’ in this generation? — That is approximately how the question would have to be formulated in accordance with the original Aramaic text of St. Matthew's Gospel. (I have already said that although the Greek version, if it is thoroughly understood, is certainly better than that produced by any modern scholarship, a great deal was inevitably obscured in the process of translation from the Aramaic original.) We must picture Christ Jesus standing before His disciples and asking them: Which individuals of the previous generations in the Greco-Latin epoch are held to have been ‘Sons of Men’? The disciples then spoke of Elias, John the Baptist, Jeremias, and other prophets. Through the power transmitted to them by Christ the disciples knew that those leaders of men had been the recipients of forces enabling them to become bearers of the ‘Son of Man’. On the same occasion, the disciple who is usually called Peter, gave still another answer.
To understand this answer we must keep firmly in mind what has been said in these lectures about the mission of Christ Jesus as indicated in the Gospel of St. Matthew, namely that through the Christ Impulse it was possible for men to develop Ego-consciousness in the fullest sense, to bring to blossom what is implicit in the am'. In other words : even in the actual process of Initiation, men were in future to retain all along the paths leading into the higher worlds the full Ego-consciousness normally possessed only on the physical plane. This was made possible through Christ's existence on the Earth. We can therefore say: Christ Jesus is the representative, the embodiment, of the power which imparts to mankind full consciousness of the ‘I am.’
I have already called attention to the fact that the interpretations of the Gospels put forward by rationalists, let alone by declared sceptics, do not usually emphasize the points of real significance. It is insisted that certain phrases in the Gospels and other books of the Bible were in existence previously, for example the Beatitudes. But the shade of meaning that was not there previously — and this is the gist of the whole matter — is that what could not then be attained by the human being in full Ego-consciousness, could now be attained by him through the Christ Impulse! This is of the very greatest significance. I have spoken of each Beatitude and have shown that the words of the first should be: ‘Blessed are they who are beggars for the spirit’ — because a man is poor in spirit who on account of the advancing evolution of human consciousness can no longer look into the spiritual world with the old clairvoyance. But to such men Christ gives this consolation and enlightenment: Although they can no longer see into the spiritual world with the organs of the old clairvoyance, vision of the world will now be possible through their own Ego, for through themselves they will find the Kingdoms of Heaven! So too the second Beatitude: ‘Blessed are they that mourn.’ They will no longer be dependent upon the faculty of the old clairvoyance for reaching the spiritual world, for they will now achieve this by developing their own Ego. But in order that this may come to pass the Ego must take into itself more and more of the power that was anchored once on Earth in a unique Being — in Christ.
Men of the modern age ought really to give a little thought to the following. — It is not for nothing that Greek words of vital importance occur in every Beatitude: Thus the first sentence, ‘Blessed are they who are beggars for the spirit’, should be followed by the words: ‘In themselves’ — or ‘through themselves’ — ‘they will find the Kingdoms of Heaven.’ The words, ‘In themselves’ are always accentuated, in the second sentence, in the third, and so on.
Forgive me if by a trivial analogy I now call attention to something of importance at the present time. People will have to resolve not to apply the word ‘auton’ — as in our automobile — to machines only or to take it in an entirely external sense. They will have to understand in a spiritual sense too the quality or activity implied by ‘self-engendered activity’. Our contemporaries would do well to take this admonition to heart. They welcome ‘self-engendered activity’ in machines, but they should also learn what this activity implies in regard to inner experience which in all the Mysteries was beyond the reach of Ego-consciousness until the time of the Christ Event. Through self-engendered activity, man himself is now able by degrees to become a creator. And this is what the men of to-day will learn to under-stand if they fill themselves with the Christ Impulse.
Keeping this in mind we shall realise that another question put by Christ Jesus to the disciples was of very special importance. He had first asked: Who among the leaders of a former generation could be called a ‘Son of Man’? — and the disciples had spoken of certain individuals. He then put a further question, wishing to bring them gradually to the point of understanding His own nature, of understanding what He represented in regard to Egohood. This is implicit in the other question: ‘But whom say ye that I am?’ (Matt. XVI, 15). (Special importance must in every instance be attached to the words ‘I am’ in the Gospel of St. Matthew.) The answer given by Peter showed that he now recognized Christ not only as a ‘Son of Man’ but as the ‘Son of the living God’ — and this translation can well be retained.
What is the difference between ‘Son of the living God’ and ‘Son of Man’? To understand this, certain facts already known to us must be elaborated.
As man evolves, the spiritual or consciousness-soul develops in him; in the consciousness-soul the Spirit-Self can become manifest. But when the consciousness-soul has developed in a man, Spirit-Self, Life-Spirit and Spirit-Man must as it were come towards him, in order that this opening flower of his being may receive the higher triad. This ascent of man can also be likened to the development and growth of a plant.
Man's being comes to flower in the spiritual or consciousness-soul and Spirit-Self or Manas, Life-Spirit or Budhi, and Spirit-Man or Atma, stream towards him. This may be likened to a process of spiritual fertilization from above. Whereas man grows upwards from below with the other members of his being, unfolding the flower that is the ‘Son of Man’, if he is to progress even further and acquire full Ego-consciousness there must come to him from above the gift of Spirit-Self, Life-Spirit and Spirit-Man. And who is the representative of this gift from above, pointing to what man's nature will be in a far, far distant future? The first gift received is the Spirit-Self. He who receives the Spirit-Self coming from above — of whom is he the representative? He is the representative, the Son, of the God who lives, the Son of the Life-Spirit, the Son of the living God!
And now Christ Jesus asks: What is it that must come to men through my impulse? — It is the life-giving, Spirit-principle from above! Thus a distinction must be made between the Son of Man who has grown upwards from below the Son of God, the Son of the living God, who comes down from above. But the difficulty of this question for the disciples will be apparent to you when you realise that they were the very first to receive what the simplest of men since the time of Christ Jesus have received through the Gospels. It was only the living forces of Christ Jesus that enabled the disciples to assimilate all this teaching. The faculties they had already developed were not capable of answering the question: Of whom am I myself the representative? The Gospel then records that one of the disciples, Peter by name, gave the answer: ‘Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God!’ At the moment of its utterance, this was an answer that did not issue from Peter's normal spiritual faculties.
Let us try to picture the scene vividly. — As He gazed at Peter, Christ Jesus realised the great significance of the fact that there should have come from this mouth an answer pointing to an immeasurably distant future. And then, perceiving the actual range of Peter's consciousness and of powers sufficiently developed to enable him to give such an answer through his intellect or through faculties acquired at stages leading to Initiation, Christ Jesus was bound to affirm: This answer does not spring from Peter's conscious knowledge; it is those deeper powers, only gradually transformed by man into conscious powers, that arc speaking here.
Through transforming the forces of our astral, etheric and physical bodies we rise to Spirit-Self, Life-Spirit and Spirit-Man. This is an elementary teaching of Spiritual Science. The forces We shall eventually unfold in the astral body as Spirit-Self are already within the astral body, but they are there by the grace of divine-spiritual Powers; their development is not due to our own efforts and activity. So too there is divine Life-Spirit within our etheric body. Hence Christ says to Peter: It is not what is in your consciousness at this moment that spoke from your mouth, but something you will develop only in the future, something that is indeed within you but of which as yet you know nothing. What is part of your flesh and blood is not yet capable of uttering the words: ‘Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ Divine-spiritual powers lying deeply below the threshold of consciousness — indeed the very deepest powers in human nature — were speaking out of you at that moment. — It was the mysterious higher Powers in Peter — called by Christ the ‘Father in Heaven’ — the Powers out of which Peter had indeed been born but of which he was not yet conscious, that spoke out of him. Hence the saying: ‘This has been revealed to you by the Father in Heaven, not by what you are at present as a man of flesh and blood.’
In these circumstances Christ was bound to say to Himself: ‘In Peter I have a disciple whose whole constitution is such that the Father-power within him has not yet been touched by forces already engendered by consciousness, by the operations of spiritual activity; this subconscious power is so strong in Peter that it can be his sure foundation when he surrenders himself to it. This is the important quality in him. It is also present in every human being, but will be raised into the conscious state only in the future. If what I have to impart to mankind, if that for which I am the impulse, is to unfold and lay hold of men, it must be founded upon the utterance made through the mouth of Peter: ‘Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God!’ Upon this rock in human nature, unharmed as yet by the surging waves of consciousness, upon the Father-power voicing itself in those words, I will build what must spring with ever-increasing strength from my impulse.’ —
When this foundation is established, the humanity embodying the Christ Impulse will arise. — This is implicit in the words: ‘Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build that which can create a community of men faithful to the Christ Impulse!’
Glib discussions and debates about these words in St. Matthew's Gospel take place to-day, for nearly all over the world they are the subject of controversy. They must indeed not be taken lightly. They can be understood only when their meaning is drawn from the depths of the wisdom that is the wisdom of the Mysteries.
And now something else is indicated, namely that Christ Jesus does indeed build upon the deeper, subconscious power in Peter. Immediately afterwards He begins to speak of what is about to befall, and of the Mystery of Golgotha. The moment has already passed when the deeper nature in Peter was speaking; he now gives utterance to what has already become conscious in him. Now he cannot understand what Christ means, cannot believe that suffering and death are to ensue. And when the Peter who has developed his own conscious faculties is speaking, Christ must reprove him, saying: This is not uttered by a Divinity within you but by faculties you have developed in yourself as a human being; what these faculties have here produced is worthless, for its source is delusion; it comes from Ahriman, from Satan! — This is implied in the words: ‘Get thee behind me, Satan. Thou art an offence unto me; for thou savourest not the things that be of God but those that be of men.’ (Matt. XVI, 23). Christ uses the word ‘Satan’ for Ahriman, whereas elsewhere in the Bible the word ‘Devil’ applies to everything of a Luciferic nature. Christ uses the right word for the delusion to which Peter succumbs.
Such is the truth. But what does modern Bible exegesis make of these
episodes? It has realised that Christ Jesus cannot have said to Peter at
one minute: ‘You alone have recognized that a God is standing
before you!’ and have called him ‘Satan’ the next. So
some critics conclude that the word ‘Satan’ must have been
interpolated at a later time and is therefore a falsification. —
The fact of the matter is that the meaning attributed to this by modern
philological research makes current opinion on the subject quite
worthless. Only on the basis of a fundamental understanding of the Bible
is it possible for any authentic statement to be made about the origins
of the texts in question.
But between the two sayings I have quoted there is another, intelligible only in the light of an ancient, yet ever, new Mystery-teaching: that man as he is on Earth — not only the individual but every community of men — is a mirror-image of processes in the Macrocosm. Mention was made of this when we were speaking of the genealogy of Jesus of Nazareth. It was explained that the meaning of the words spoken to Abraham was: ‘Thy descendants shall be an image of the order of the stars in heaven.’ The order of the twelve constellations and of the movement of the planets through the Zodiac was to be repeated in the twelve tribes and in the history of the Hebrew people through three times fourteen generations. Thus in the sequence of the generations and the special heredity resulting from the blood-ties in the twelve tribes, there was to be an image of macrocosmic conditions. Such was the declaration made to Abraham.
At the moment when Peter, whose deeper nature had been able to understand that the Christ Impulse signified the down-flow of spiritual power through the Son of the living God — at that moment Christ knows that He can speak to those around Him of the beginning of something new arising on the Earth. Whereas it had been declared to Abraham that the image of cosmic conditions was to be formed by blood-kinship, this image was now to be replaced by one formed by relationships of an ethical, moral and spiritual character, giving expression to what man can attain through his Ego. When men understand, as the deeper nature in Peter understood, what the Christ truly is, they will not establish communities and institutions based entirely on the blood-tie but communities where the bond of love is woven from soul to soul. Just as in the blood of the Hebrew people and in the threads running through the generations, that which was ordained to be bound together in the human race was bound together and that which was ordained to be loosed was loosed according to the pattern of the Macrocosm, so there was now to arise through the conscious Ego, in the form of ethical, moral and spiritual relationships, the force that either looses the ties between human beings or binds them together in love. Human institutions were now to be created or harmonized by the conscious Ego. This is the meaning of the words spoken by Christ Jesus in continuation of the answer He had given to Peter: ‘Whatever you bind on Earth — whatever thc deeper nature in you binds — that shall be bound in Heaven, and whatever the same deeper nature in you looses on the Earth below, shall also be loosed in Heaven’ (see Matt. XVI, 19).
In ancient times the all-important factor in associations among human beings was blood-relationship. But men must now grow to the stage where the ties of real significance are of a spiritual, moral and ethical character. From this it follows that a community must mean something for an individual who has been a contributory factor in the founding of it. In the sense of Anthroposophy, we can say: the karma of the individual must be merged with the karma of communities. This will be known to you from what has been said in recent years. The idea of karma is not repudiated when I give something to one who is needy, nor when the karma. of an individual is shouldered for him by the community. The community can help to bear the fate of the individual. In other words, the following may happen in the moral sphere. A single member of a community commits a wrong. This will quite certainly be inscribed in his personal karma and be worked out in the great setting of world-existence. But someone else may come forward and say: ‘I will help you to work out this karma!’ — The karma must be fulfilled, but the other person can help; whole communities can help the one who has committed a wrong. The karma of an individual may be so interwoven with the community that the community, regarding him as a member, deliberately shoulders§ the burden of his destiny, feeling for him and resolving that his lot shall be ameliorated. The attitude of the community may be: You, as an individual, have done wrong, but we will enter the lists for you; we take upon ourselves whatever will bring about the adjustment of your karma! — If ‘church’ is substituted for ‘community’, this means that the church assumes the obligation to take upon itself the sins of the individual, to share the burden of his karma. It is not a matter of what is to-day called ‘forgiveness of sins’, but of a real bond, an acceptance of the burden of sins. And the essential point is that the community consciously accepts this burden.
If the ‘binding’ and ‘loosing’ are understood in thiS sense, every case of forgiveness of Sins would entail an obligation on the part of the community. Thus a web is spun by the threads of individual karma being woven into the karma of the whole community. And this web, through what Christ brought down from the heights of the Spirit, is to be an image of the order prevailing in Heaven; that is to say, the karma of the individual is not to be bound with the collective karma in any fortuitous way but so that the community as an organism shall become an image of the order prevailing in Heaven.
This scene of Peter's avowal now begins to reveal an infinitely profound meaning to those who have a dawning understanding of it. It denotes the founding of thc humanity of the future — a humanity based upon the Ego-nature in man. What takes place in this intimate conversation between Christ and those who were closest to Him is that Christ transmits the power He Himself has brought from the Macrocosm to what the disciples are to establish. And from this point onwards the Gospel of St. Matthew recounts how the disciples are led upwards, step by step, to the stage where the powers of the Sun and of the Cosmos gathered together in the Christ Being can flow into them. We know that one form of Initiation is an expansion into the Macrocosm. And because Christ Himself is the impulse in this Initiation, He leads His disciples out into the Cosmos. While an individual aspirant is undergoing the process of this Initiation he passes consciously into the Macrocosm, gathering knowledge of it by degrees. Christ descends as it were from the Macrocosm, makes manifest its instreaming forces and conveys them to thc disciples.
In one part of the lecture yesterday I indicated how this takes place. Let us picture the scene as graphically as possible. While a man is asleep his physical and etheric bodies lie in the bed while his astral body and Ego pass out into the Cosmos and the forces of the Cosmos pour into these members of his being. If Christ were now to approach, He would be the One who consciously draws these forces to the sleeping man and illumines him. This is exactly what happens in a scene described in the Gospel. The disciples are in a ship in the fourth watch of the night. Then they see that the figure they had at first taken to be a spirit, is Christ, who enables the forces and power of thc Macrocosm to flow into them. How He leads the disciples to the stage where they can receive the forces of the Macrocosm is clearly portrayed.
The next scenes in St. Matthew's Gospel show how Christ leads the disciples step by step along the path taken by every would-be Initiate. It is as if Christ Himself is treading this path, leading His disciples by the hand to Initiation. — I will now say something that will enable you to realise how the disciples are led stage by stage into the Macrocosm.
Many things previously beyond man's ken become known to him through visions of the spiritual world, through clairvoyant faculties. Thus, for example, he is able to recognize the actual processes operating in the growth of plants. A materialist will say of a plant: Here I have a flower — let us say it is a fruit-bearing plant — and a seed will form in it. The seed can be extracted and laid in the soil; the grain eventually dissolves and a new plant, again bearing seed, appears. And so the process continues. Something passes over from the dissolving grain of seed into the new plant. — A materialist cannot possibly think otherwise than that something material, however minute, passes over. But it is not so. The truth is that in respect of its material, its substance, the old plant is entirely destroyed. A jump (Sprung) takes place and the new plant is an entirely new formation — in respect of material substance an absolutely new formation.
Facts of the very greatest importance are recognized and understood when this remarkable law is grasped. Jumps do actually occur in material conditions. This was expressed in the Mysteries in a very definite way. It was said: In passing into the Cosmos the aspirant for Initiation must at a certain stage acquire knowledge of the forces that bring about these ‘jumps’. Now certain processes in the Cosmos can be understood if the constellations are used as means of indication. The constellations are then like letters of a script. When we pass into the Cosmos in a particular direction we come to know the jumps that occur from forefather to successor — whether it be in the plant, animal or human kingdoms, or even in the realm of planetary existence. At the transitions of Saturn-evolution to Sun-evolution, of Sun-evolution to Moon-evolution, of Moon-evolution to Earth-evolution, everything material passed away. The spiritual remained and it was the spiritual that brought about the jumps. In small things and in great it is the same.
Two symbols have been used for this principle, one ancient and of a more pictorial, imaginative character, and another rather newer. You can find the newer symbol in calendars. As evolution advances, the past curls inwards like a vortex and the new phase emerges as a second vortex, unfolding from within outwards and leading on further. But the new phase is not actually joined to the old; between the end of the old phase and the beginning of the new there is a little ‘jump’ or ‘gap’ and only then does the process of evolution continue.
In the above figure we have two intertwining vortices and between them a little gap. This is the zodiacal sign of Cancer, symbolizing the process of growing out into the Macrocosm and the birth of a new shoot in some phase of evolution.
This principle was also represented by another symbol. Strange as it may seem to you, the symbol was an ass and its foal, the forefather and his offspring. This was meant to represent the actual transition from one condition to the other. Ancient delineations of the constellation of Cancer often consist of the figure of an ass and its foal. To know this is by no means without importance. It helps us to understand that another significant transition takes place when a man is rising to the stage leading into the spiritual world but must then be prepared for entirely new revelations. The stellar symbol correctly indicates this by portraying how when the physical sun passes through the constellation of Cancer and reaches the zenith, it descends again. And when the aspirant for Initiation first makes the ascent into the spiritual world and has acquired knowledge of its forces, he brings them down again in order to turn them to the service of humanity.
The Gospel of St. Matthew and the other Gospels too, tell how Christ Jesus presents this truth to the disciples. The way in which the story is told indicates that He is not using words alone but is presenting to them the Imagination, the living picture, of what He Himself is accomplishing as He approaches the height to which evolving humanity must in time ascend. He uses the image of the ass and its foal; that is to say, He guides the disciples towards an understanding of what corresponds in the spiritual life to the constellation of Cancer. This is a picture of something that has come to pass in the living, spiritual relationship between Christ and His disciples. So great is its majesty and its splendour that it cannot be expressed in the words of any human language but only through Christ Himself initiating the disciples into the conditions prevailing in the spiritual world and creating in physical conditions images of the Macrocosm He leads them to the point where the powers of one who is initiated become, in turn, of service to mankind. He is standing at the height that can only be indicated by the image of the Sun at the zenith of the sign of Cancer! No wonder that this chapter (XXI) of the Gospel of St. Matthew points to the supreme height now reached in Christ's earthly life, triumphantly proclaimed by the words: ‘Hosanna in the highest!’ Everything is ordained to the end that through what has here come to pass the disciples may grow to the stage where through the powers working in them there may unfold in men what Christ Jesus has brought into the evolution of humanity.
The story of the feast of the Passover is nothing else than an account of the living influx of the power that was to stream into the disciples, first as teaching and then into humanity as if by magic, as an outcome of the Mystery of Golgotha. It is in this light that the continuation of the story, in the Gospel of St. Matthew is to be understood. Then we shall also realise that the writer of the Gospel was perpetually conscious of the need to point to the contrast between the living teaching brought from cosmic heights and imparted to the disciples, and the teaching suitable for those who were not yet ready to receive the forces of Christ Jesus Himself. Hence the utterances in the conversations with the Scribes and Pharisees which we shall be studying to-morrow. To-day, however, we will remind ourselves that after Christ Jesus has guided His disciples as far as possible along the path leading to the goal of all aspirants for Initiation, He holds out thc prospect that if they tread this path they themselves will pass into the spiritual world, into the Macrocosm. He tells them that they have within them the qualities necessary for subsequent Initiation, that Initiation is in store for them and that they will find the way into that world where they will recognize Christ more and more clearly as the Being who fills all spiritual space and was imaged in Jesus of Nazareth. Christ says to His disciples that they are approaching this Initiation, that they will become Initiates of humanity. He reminds them too that individual Initiation can be attained only if by dint of patience and endurance the inner nature is allowed to mature.
What is it that must grow in man's inner nature as its forces increase in strength and he develops a higher form of clairvoyance? His qualities must mature to the stage where he can receive into himself the forces of Spirit-Self, Life-Spirit and Spirit-Man. But when the power that makes him an Initiate, a participant in the Kingdoms of Heaven, will stream into him from above, depends upon the moment when he can become fully mature; it depends upon the karma of the individual. Who knows when the moment has come? It is known only to the very highest initiates, not to those at lower stages of Initiation. For any individuality who is ready to reach the spiritual world, the hour comes when he does so. Assuredly the hour comes, but in such a way that he is not aware of it — it comes like a thief in the night !
How does a man reach the spiritual world? In the ancient Mysteries — and in a certain respect it is so in the new — there were three stages of Initiation into the Macrocosm. When the first stage had been attained by the aspirant, the powers of the Spirit-Self became active in him and now he was not only a new man but had become one whose nature was said to be that of an ‘Angel — that is to say, a Being of the Hierarchy immediately above man. In the Mysteries of ancient Persia, a man possessing the powers of the Spirit-Self was called a ‘Persian’ because he was no longer a separate individual but belonged to the Angel of the Persian people. At the next stage of Initiation the Life-Spirit awakens. A man who had reached this stage was called a ‘Sun Hero’ in the Persian Mysteries, because he had developed to thc stage where he could receive the spiritual forces of the Sun streaming towards the Earth. But such a man was also called a ‘Son of the Father’. And one with whom Atma, or Spirit-Man, had made contact was called ‘Father’ in the ancient Mysteries. The three stages of Initiation were: Angel, Son or Sun Hero, Father.
Only the very highest Initiates, they and they alone are able to judge when the moment of Initiation can be reached. Hence Christ speaks to the following effect. — Initiation will be attained if you go forward on the paths along which I have led you. You will rise into the Kingdoms of Heaven, but the hour is known neither to the Angels in whom the Spirit-Self is working, neither to the Son in whom the Life-Spirit has awakened, but only to the very highest Initiates, those in whom the Father-principle is active.
Here again the words of St. Matthew's Gospel (XXIV, 36) are in absolute conformity with the tradition originating in the Mysteries. And we shall find that the proclamation of the Kingdom of Heaven is nothing else than the prediction to the disciples that they will experience initiation. Christ Jesus indicates this very clearly in the text of the Gospel of St. Matthew. If the relevant passage is correctly interpreted it is quite evident that Christ is referring to certain teachings in circulation at that time on the subject of reaching the Kingdoms of Heaven. Men had taken this in the material sense, believing that it applied to the whole Earth, whereas they ought to have known that the Kingdoms of Heaven are reached by a few individuals only, through their Initiation. In other words, the opinion was held by some that the Earth would be transformed in a material sense into Heaven. And Christ draws special attention to this by speaking of the coming of those who would proclaim it. He calls them false prophets and false Messiahs! How strange it is that even to-day a few so-called Gospel critics spread the fable that the prospect of an approaching material Kingdom of God was a teaching given by Christ Jesus Himself ! Anyone able to read the Gospel of St. Matthew correctly knows that Christ Jesus was referring to a spiritual happening within the eventual reach of one who is approaching Initiation, but in the course of Earth-evolution becoming accessible to all those members of humanity who cleave to Him and in attaining higher stages of development bring about the spiritualisation of the Earth itself.
This aspect too must give us deeper insight into the structure of St. Matthew's Gospel. We shall then feel profound reverence for a Gospel from which, as from no other, we can learn unmistakably how the disciples of Christ Jesus were the first to receive teaching that was directed to the Ego itself. We picture Christ's disciples standing around Him and perceive how the forces of the Cosmos are working through the human body He bore. We picture Him guiding His disciples in a way that enables them to acquire the knowledge accessible to all who are approaching Initiation. We hear of human situations formed around Him. This is what makes St. Matthew's Gospel seem so near to us in a human sense. Through this Gospel we learn to know the man Jesus of Nazareth, the bearer of the Christ; we learn to know what Christ accomplished through His descent into the nature of Man. Even happenings in the heavenly worlds are presented in terms of human situations and relationships in the Gospel of St. Matthew.
In the final lecture to-morrow these things will be considered not only from the aspect of Initiation but from other aspects as well.