From Jesus to Christ
8 October 1911, Karlsruhe
We can perhaps sum up the outcome of the last lecture in the following way. From the Mystery of Golgotha until the coming of the epoch at whose portal we now stand, a man could attain by various exoteric means to an experience of the Christ-Impulse — an experience preceding any actual Initiation. One of these exoteric ways is through the Gospels, through the New Testament. The contents of the Gospels, when they are received into our souls and permitted to work upon us, can in fact bring about for each one of us an inner experience, and this inner experience may indeed be called the Christ-Experience. The second way for the exotericist was described as that of accepting what an esotericist — he who in a certain sense has been initiated — could make known from the spiritual worlds. By this way also the man who as yet was standing before the gate of Initiation could come to the Christ-Event, not through the traditional Gospels, but through continuous revelations from the spiritual worlds.
Yesterday, too, we spoke of a third way, that of the inner deepening of heart and soul, and we pointed out that this way must arise in the soul from feelings; but with the proviso that if a man feels within him only the Divine spark, he may be driven to pride and arrogance. On the other hand, if he is not conscious of his connection with the Divine, he can be driven to despair. We have seen how in fact the swaying between despair on the one hand, and pride and arrogance on the other, if at the same time a man fixes his gaze upon the events in Palestine, can lead on to the birth of the Christ-Event within him.
It was then pointed out that within the next 3,000 years, beginning from our own epoch, everything concerning the evolution of humanity will change. We also indicated the significant event which follows from the Mystery of Golgotha, but will be seen only in the super-sensible worlds. We pointed out that the capacities of human beings will be enhanced, and that, from our own epoch onwards, a sufficiently large number of persons will grow up able to look on the Christ. That which has hitherto had a justified place in the world as Faith will be replaced by what may be called the Vision of Christ.
Now it will be our task to show further how from the usual way of experiencing Christ, as an experience of the heart, the path opens out quite naturally to what may be called the Christian Initiation. In the next few days we shall speak more exactly about the gradual building up of the Christian Initiation and we shall also need to characterise more closely the nature of the Christ-Event. Thus a picture of the Christian-Initiation, and of the Christ-Event, from the Baptism by John to the consummation of the Mystery of Golgotha, should come before our souls.
If you keep this summary in mind, the following quite justified question may arise. What is the relation between external Christianity, Christian evolution, as it appears in world history, and the Christ-Event itself? To everyone who stands consciously in the present, who has gone through no special soul-experience of a mystical kind, or has perhaps the preliminary stages of esotericism behind him, it must appear strange that in every human being a quite definite kind of soul-experience should be so dependent upon an historic fact — the events in Palestine, on Golgotha — and that previously for these human souls something was not possible which afterwards, through these events, became possible, namely the inner Christ-Experience.
The leaders of the first Christians, and also the first Christians generally, had a very distinct consciousness of these facts, and in preparation for the coming days it will be well to consider a little how these things appeared to their minds.
One can easily believe — and later this belief turned more and more into an orthodox, very one-sided view — that human beings of the pre-Christian times were radically different from those of the post-Christian period. That this view is one-sided you can gather from the words of Augustine: ‘What we now call the Christian religion existed already among the ancients, and was not lacking in the earliest days of the human race. When Christ appeared in the flesh, the true religion, which was already in existence, received the name of Christianity.’ In the days of Augustine it was well known that there was not so radical a difference between pre-Christian and post-Christian times as orthodoxy maintained.
Justin Martyr, too, makes a quite remarkable statement in his writings. Justin, who is recognised by the Church as one of the Fathers and a martyr, enlarges upon the relation of Socrates and Heraclitus to Christ. With a certain simple clarity he sees in Christ that which we set forth yesterday in the relation of Christ to Jesus of Nazareth, and he works out his idea of the Christ Being accordingly. In his Apologia he says, in the context of his own time, something we can repeat today in the same words: Christ, or the Logos, was incarnated in the man, Jesus of Nazareth. Justin then asks: Was the Logos not present in eminent personalities of pre-Christian times? Was man in pre-Christian times quite unacquainted with the Logos? To this question Justin Martyr answers No. Socrates and Heraclitus were also men in whom the Logos lived. They did not possess the Logos completely; but through the Christ-Event it became possible for a man to experience inwardly the Logos in its complete original form.
From such a passage by a recognised Father of the Church we can gather, first, that the early Christians were acquainted with something which, after having been, as Augustine says, ‘always there’, had entered into the evolution of the earth in an enhanced form through the Mystery of Golgotha. Secondly, we have an answer from the earliest Christian centuries to the question we ourselves have raised today. Men such as Justin Martyr were still near to the Event of Golgotha, and they knew much more than we can about the nature of those who were but a few centuries removed from them, as Heraclitus and Socrates were. Justin held that in the time of Socrates, although such an eminent man could experience the Logos with himself, he could not experience it fully in its most intense form. And that is important. As testimony from those early times it indicates — if we look away from the event of Golgotha — how it was felt that between the centuries before and after Christ there was something whereby pre-Christian men could be distinguished from post-Christian. It can be shown from numerous other historical instances that men in earlier centuries consciously said, ‘Human nature has indeed changed; it has acquired another quality.’ Someone living in the third century after Christ, looking back to men who had lived in the third century before Christ, could say that although in their own way they could penetrate deeply into the secrets of existence, yet something that could happen in men living after the time of Christ could not have happened previously. The message of John the Baptist, ‘Change your outlook on the world, your idea of the world, for the times have become other than they were’ — a statement confirmed by occult science — continued to be strongly and intensely felt.
It must be grasped quite clearly that if we want to understand human evolution, we must give up the false idea that man has always been as he is today. For — apart from the fact that in the West no meaning could then be attached to the idea of reincarnation — tradition and occult science are at one in showing that in early times human beings really possessed something which now exists only in the subconscious, namely a certain power of clairvoyance; that later they descended from this height of clairvoyance, and that the lowest point in this descending evolution, when those forces developed which obscured the old clairvoyant powers, lies in the time of the Mystery of Golgotha.
We know that in the material sphere a great quantity of fluid can be affected by the infusion of a very small quantity of a given substance. If you put a drop of some substance into a suitable fluid, it spreads through the fluid and colours the whole of it. In the material sphere, everyone understands this. But it is impossible to understand spiritual life if this principle is not understood in a spiritual sense. Our earth is not merely the material body we see with our eyes; it has a spiritual sheath. As we ourselves have an etheric body and an astral body, so the earth has such higher bodies. And just as a small quantity of substance spreads through a fluid, so that which rayed forth spiritually from the Act on Golgotha spread through the spiritual atmosphere of the earth, permeated it, and is still there. Something new has thus been imparted to our earth. And since souls do not merely live everywhere enclosed by matter, but are like drops in the sea of the earthly-spiritual, even so are human beings embedded in the spiritual atmosphere of our earth, which is permeated by the Christ-Impulse. That was not so before the Mystery of Golgotha, and it marks the great difference between pre-Christian and post-Christian life. If a person cannot imagine such a thing happening in spiritual life, he is not yet far enough advanced to grasp Christianity truly as a mystical fact, the full meaning of which can be recognised and acknowledged only in the spiritual world.
Anyone who looks back over the unedifying disputes concerning the being and personality of Jesus of Nazareth, and the Being and Individuality of the Christ, will be able to feel everywhere in the gnostic and mystical views of the early Christian centuries that the most advanced of those who were concerned to extend Christianity stood with reverent awe before this mystical fact. Even though the words and phrases of Christian teachers are often abstruse, we can see clearly that these teachers stand in reverent awe before all that came to pass for the world's evolution through Christianity. Again and again they declare that weak human understanding, and the feeble powers of human feeling and perception, are inadequate to express truly the immense significance and depth of all that happened through the Mystery of Golgotha. A powerlessness to give real expression to the highest truths that man has to grope for — this is something that passes like a magic breath through the first Christian teachings. The reading of such writings is a good lesson for anyone, even in our times. We can learn thereby to exercise a certain modesty with regard to the highest truths. If we have the necessary humility and modesty towards things that are more easily recognised at the portal of a new Christian epoch than they were in the first Christian centuries, we can say: Certainly it is now possible to know more than could be known then, but no one who ventures to speak of the mysteries of Christianity should remain unconscious of the fact that what we are able to say today concerning the deepest truths of human evolution will in a comparatively short time be imperfect again. And because we wish to come gradually to a deeper characterisation of Christianity, we must pay special attention at this juncture to a person's inward attitude towards the spiritual world, if he accepts or wishes to spread abroad the truths which since the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth century can stream into us.
Thus, even if we do not speak much about the concept of Grace, we must make great use of it in practice. Every occultist today clearly understands that this concept of Grace must belong to his inner practice of life in a quite special degree. What does this mean?
It means that today investigations can be made concerning the deepest truths of Christianity, quite independently of the Gospels and of every tradition. Everything, however, which is connected with a certain thirst for knowledge, with a passion for gaining as quickly as possible a certain number of ideas, will lead, if not into complete error, quite certainly to a distortion of the truth. Anyone who says that since he is occultly prepared, he must provide an explanation, for example of the Pauline Epistles or the Gospel of Matthew, showing how their content is to be understood — anyone who set out to do that and believed he could complete it within a fixed time would quite certainly deceive himself. In a human way we can go deeply into these documents, but all that can be known about them cannot be made known today. For there is a golden saying which applies precisely to the occult investigator: ‘Have patience and wait, until you no longer wish to grasp the fruits by your own efforts, but they come to you.’
Many a person can approach the Pauline Epistles feeling himself ready to understand this or that, because in the spiritual world it meets his opened eyes. Should he wish at the same time to understand another passage, perhaps quite close to it, he may not be able to do so. A curbing of this thirst for knowledge is necessary today. One should rather say to oneself: ‘Grace has brought me to a certain number of truths. I will wait patiently until further truths flow to me.’ Today there is really more need for a certain passive attitude towards these truths than there was perhaps twenty years ago. This attitude is necessary because our minds must first completely ripen in order to allow truths to enter into us in their right form. This is a practical lesson regarding investigation of the spiritual worlds, especially in their relation to the Christ-Event. It is fundamentally wrong when people think they can grasp at that which ought to stream towards them in a certain passive way. For we must be conscious that we can be what we ought to be only in so far as we are judged worthy by the spiritual Powers to be this or that. And all that we can do by way of meditation, contemplation, and so forth, is really done only to open our eyes, not in order to seize the truths, but to let them come to us, for we may not run after them.
Those who through this inward passivity have developed feelings of whole-hearted devotion in the sense described — and with no other feelings can one enter the spiritual world — are ready to understand the fact we have placed in the fore-front of our subject today: the fact that something like a drop of spiritual substance flowed from the Deed on Golgotha. In our time souls are ripe for this understanding. If it were not so we would have lacked many things that our modern period has brought forth. I need mention only one example: if the soul of Richard Wagner had not ripened in a certain passive way, if concerning the Mystery of Golgotha he had not in some sense surmised the flowing forth of that which came drop by drop into the spiritual atmosphere of earthly humanity, we could not have had his Parsifal. We can discern this in the passages where he refers to the significance of the Blood of Christ. In our day we can find many such minds which show how the spiritual substance which hovers in the atmosphere is grasped by the souls into which it penetrates.
Spiritual Science is here because many more souls now have the possibility of being able, without realising it, to gather from the spiritual world the influences described above; but they need to have their difficulties lightened by an understanding of the spiritual world. In fact, no one whose heart is unripe enters into Spiritual Science; no one who has not more or less of a sincere longing to know something of what has just been mentioned. It may indeed be that some are impelled into our Movement by curiosity or the like, but those who come in with upright hearts feel the longing to be able to open their souls towards that which is making ready for the future epoch of human evolution which begins in our time. People need Spiritual Science today because their souls are becoming different from what they were a short time ago. Just as souls underwent a great change during the period in which the Event of Golgotha fell, so will they again experience a great change in this millennium and in the succeeding ones. The rise of our Movement is connected with the fact that souls, even if they are not clearly conscious of it, have an obscure feeling that something of the kind is going on in our time.
For this reason it became necessary, on the ground of anthroposophical development, that a certain explanation of the foundations of the Gospels should be begun. And if you can convince yourselves through honest inner feeling that there is something true in the Christ Event, as it was described in the last lecture, you will find you can understand what has happened as regarding the explanation of the Gospels. You will understand that the anthroposophical interpretation of the Gospels differs radically from all previous interpretations. Anyone who takes up our printed lecture-cycles on the Gospels, or recalls them from memory, will see that everywhere a return has been made to true meanings, which can no longer be found simply by reading the present-day Gospel texts. From the existing translations, in fact, we can no longer reach that which the Gospels wish to indicate. To a certain extent, as they exist today, they are no longer fully of use. What, then, has been done towards reaching an explanation of the Christ event, and what must be done?
To those who approach an understanding of the Christ-Event by the path of Spiritual Science, it must be clear that these Gospels were written by men who could look upon the Christ-Event spiritually with spiritual eyes. Hence they had no wish to write an external biography, but followed the old Initiation writings. (This connection is shown in greater detail in my book, Christianity as Mystical Fact.) They maintained that what had taken place in the depths of the Mysteries had, in the Christ-Event, occurred on the plane of history through the divine ordering of human evolution. What had happened on a small scale within the Mysteries to the candidates for Initiation was carried out by the Being we call the Christ on the great stage of world history, without the preparation that was necessary for human beings, and without the seclusion of the Mysteries. That which had previously been seen only by the pupil of the Mysteries, in their innermost sanctuary, was enacted before all eyes. This again is something for which the first Christian teachers felt a reverential awe. When they considered what the Gospels ought to be, there arose in the genuine Christian teachers a feeling of their own unworthiness, of their inability to grasp the true kernel and meaning of the Gospels.
This fact is the cause of something else connected with the necessity of interpreting the Gospels as we do today in our Movement. If you have followed the explanations of the Gospels given here, you will have noticed that the traditional books of the Gospels are not, in the first place, taken as the basis, for what they say is regarded as something altogether unreliable. Instead, through the reading of the Akashic record, we are taken back to the spiritual writing as it is given out by those who can themselves read spiritually. Only when explanatory reference is made to some passage do we take into account the sentence as it stands in the printed books. We then examine whether, or how far, it agrees with the form that can be recovered from the Akashic record. The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke must be reconstructed in this way from the Akashic record. Only a comparison of the tradition with the original form can show how this or that passage must be read. Every tradition which rests only upon the printed text is bound to go astray and to fall into error. In the future the Gospels must be not only explained, but first reconstructed in their true original form. Then, when anyone examines what is there set forth, he will no longer be able to say that this may or may not be true, for where agreement is shown it will be clear why for us it is only the reading in the Akashic record which can guarantee the right text of the Gospels. And then the Gospels will again be evidence for the correctness of what stands written there. This can be shown in numberless passages. As an example let us take the following:
When at the condemnation of Christ Jesus He was asked whether He was a king sent from God, He replied: ‘Thou sayest it!’ Now anyone who thinks straightforwardly, and does not wish to explain the Gospels according to the professorial methods of the present day, must admit that with this answer of Christ Jesus no clear sense can be connected in terms either of feeling or of reason. From the side of feeling, we must ask why Christ Jesus speaks so indefinitely that no one can recognise what He means by saying ‘Thou sayest it’. If He means ‘Thou art right’, there is no meaning m it, for the words of the interrogator are not a declaration but a question. How then can this be an answer full of meaning? Or, from the side of reason, how can we think that He whom we imagine to be possessed of all-comprehending wisdom should choose such a form for His answer? When, however, these words are given as they stand in the Akashic record, they have quite another sense. For in the Akashic record it is not ‘Thou sayest it’, but, ‘This, thou alone mayest give as answer’, which means, when we understand it rightly, ‘To thy question I should have to give an answer that no one may ever give with reference to himself: it can be given only by someone who stands opposite him. Whether the answer is true or not true, of that I cannot speak; the acknowledgement of this truth lies not with me but with thee. Thou must say it; then and then only would it have a meaning.’
Now you may say: ‘That may be true or may not be true.’ As an abstract judgment that would certainly be correct. But if we look at the whole scene and ask ourselves, ‘Can we understand it better when we take the version from the Akashic record?’, it will be apparent to everyone that this scene can be understood only in this way. We can say, too, that the last transcriber or translator of this passage did not understand it, because of its difficulty, and so wrote down something inaccurate. Anyone who knows how many things in the world are inexactly written down will not be surprised that here we have to do with an inaccurate version. Have we then no right, when a new epoch of humanity is beginning, to lead the Gospels back to their original form, which can be authenticated from the Akashic record? The whole thing comes out clearly — and this can be shown even from external history — if we consider in this connection the Matthew Gospel. The best that has been said about the origin of the Matthew Gospel may be read in the third volume of Blavatsky's Secret Doctrine, a work which must be understood if we are to judge and value it correctly.
There was a certain Father of the Church, Jerome, who wrote towards the end of the fourth century. From what he writes we learn something that can be fully confirmed by occult research: the Gospel of Matthew was originally written in Hebrew. In the copy that Jerome had obtained, or, as we should perhaps say nowadays, in the edition he possessed, he had before him the original language of this Gospel, written in the Hebrew letters still in use, though its language was not the customary Hebrew of that time. Jerome's Bishop had given him the task of translating this version of the Matthew Gospel for his Christians. As a translator Jerome behaved in a most singular way. In the first place he thought it would be dangerous to translate this Gospel of Matthew as it was, because there were things in it which those who up to then had possessed it as their sacred writing wished to keep from the profane world. He thought that this Gospel, if it were translated complete, would cause disturbance rather than edification. So he omitted the things which, according to his own and the ecclesiastical views of that period, might have a disturbing effect, and replaced them by others. But we can learn still more from his writings, and this is the most serious aspect of the whole proceeding: Jerome knew that the Gospel of Matthew could be understood only by those who were initiated into certain secrets. He knew, too, that he was not one of those. In other words, he admitted that he did not understand this Gospel! Yet he translated it. Thus the Matthew Gospel lies before us today in the dress given to it by a man who did not understand it, but who became so accustomed to this version that he afterwards condemned as heresy anything asserted about this Gospel if it was not in accord with his own rendering. These are absolute facts.
The next point of interest we must examine is the following. Why, in the very earliest days of Christianity, did those who held specially to the Gospel of Matthew communicate it only to such persons as were initiated into the secret meaning of certain things?
It is possible to understand why this was so only if we are somewhat familiar with the character of Initiation. Such things have often been spoken of to you in one connection or another, and in particular you have heard that Initiation, when by means of it a man attains clairvoyant power, leads him to acquire knowledge of certain fundamental truths concerning the world. These fundamental truths are such that to the ordinary consciousness they at first appear absurd. All it can say about them is: That is a paradox. But there is more to it than that. If the highest truths, i.e. those accessible to an Initiate, were to become known to an unprepared individual — either if he were to conjecture them, which in a certain case might be possible, or if they were imparted to him when he was in an imperfect condition to receive them — then, even if they were the most elementary truths, they would be in the highest degree dangerous for him. Even if the purest, the highest, truth concerning the world were set before him, it would work destructively on him and on his surroundings.
For this reason, anyone today who is in possession of the highest truths knows that it cannot be right merely to call someone to him and impart to him the highest mysteries of the world. The highest truths cannot be so imparted that a mouth simply pronounces them and an ear simply hears them. The way in which the highest truths are imparted is quite different. A person who wishes to become a pupil is slowly and gradually prepared, and this preparation takes place in such a way that the last conclusion, the imparting of the mystery, does not pass from mouth to ear. At a definite point of time the pupil is so conditioned by preparation that the secret, the mystery, rises up before him. It does not need to be pronounced by a mouth, nor does it need to be heard by an ear; it must be born in the soul through what has passed between teacher and pupil.
There are no means of wringing from an Initiate the last things of the Mysteries, for no one can be compelled — by any means available on the physical plane — to betray with his mouth anything of the higher Mysteries. So it is with the higher Mysteries. And if that which should be born from the soul, as the higher Mysteries must be, were to be communicated to an unripe person through the mouth of another, it would be full of danger for this other person also. For he who had imparted the knowledge would be given completely into the power of his hearer for the rest of his incarnation. This, however, can never happen if the teacher simply prepares the pupil, and the pupil allows the truths to be born from out of his own soul.
When we know this, we understand that the original Gospel of Matthew could not be imparted without further preparation because men were not ripe to receive what was in it. For if Jerome, a Father of the Church, was himself not ripe for what it contained, then certainly other men were not. Those who were originally in possession of these communications, the Ebionites, did not impart them because, if received by unripe persons, they would have been so distorted that they must have led to what Jerome meant when he said that they would serve not for edification but for destruction. Now Jerome understood this; yet he allowed himself to impart in a certain way the Gospel of Matthew to the world. Hence we must realise that this Gospel has been imparted in a certain way and has had a corresponding effect upon the world. Now if we look round and see what influence it has had, then in the light of occult truths we shall find many things comprehensible. Who, standing on the ground of occultism, would care to say that all the persecutions and so on in the Christian world could be connected with the principles of Christ Jesus? Who, standing on the ground of occultism, would not say that into external evolution there must have flowed something not in accordance with Christian evolution? In short, a great misunderstanding must here exist.
We mentioned yesterday how on the ground of Christianity we should speak, for example, of Apollonius of Tyana; we set before us his greatness and significance and even called him an Adept. Yet when we go through early Christian literature we find everywhere accusations against Apollonius, as though everything he did, everything he accomplished, had been achieved only under the influence of the devil. There we have something that must be called misrepresentation, not only a misunderstanding of the personality and acts of Apollonius of Tyana. This is only one example among many. We understand it only when we see that the Gospels have been handed down in a way that must lead to misunderstandings, and that today, on the ground of occultism, our task is to go back to the true meaning of Christianity, concerning which the first teachers made many mistakes. It will then appear understandable that the next epoch of Christianity will be experienced differently from the earlier epochs. On the other hand, as already indicated, many things are stated here which can be said only because the listeners have taken part in the development of our Spiritual Science during the last few years, or are rightly disposed to enter into it: persons in whose souls there is a corresponding feeling and mood which will allow what is imparted to work upon them. Because souls have gone through at least one period of teaching, one incarnation between the Mystery of Golgotha and the present time, the Gospels can be spoken of today without fear that harm may result.
Thus we have before us the singular fact that the Gospels had to be communicated, but that Christianity could be understood only in its most imperfect form. Hence the Gospels have been subject to a method of research which can no longer determine what is historical and what is not, so that finally everything is denied. In their original form they must enter our hearts and souls, and this must give rise to a new power whereby the findings that will now be presented to men can be accepted by those who have been able worthily to feel the events from the Baptism of John to the Event of Golgotha.
An interpretation of the Christ-Event from the occult standpoint is thus a necessary preparation for the souls that in the near future are to experience something new, souls that are to look out on the world with new faculties. The old form of the Gospels will first receive its true value through our learning to read the Gospels with the aid of the Akashic record; through this alone will their full value be restored. In particular, the true significance of the Event of Golgotha can be fully demonstrated only by occult research. Only when the original significance of this Event is understood through occult research will the results it can have for human souls be recognised. Our task in the next few days will be to throw light, as far as is possible in one short lecture-cycle, on everything the human soul can experience under the influence of the Christ-Impulse, so that we may come to a deeper knowledge than was previously possible of all that took place in Palestine and on Golgotha.