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From Jesus to Christ
GA 131

Lecture VII

11 October 1911, Karlsruhe

Yesterday we saw that in a certain respect the question of Christianity is the question of the Resurrection of Christ Jesus. In particular, we spoke of Paul, the proclaimer of Christianity, who from his knowledge of the essential nature of the Christ-Impulse recognised immediately that after and since the Event of Golgotha, Christ lives. We saw that for Paul, after his experience on the road to Damascus, a powerful, magnificent picture of human evolution opened up.

From this point we went on to build up a picture of what Christ Jesus was directly after the Baptism in Jordan by John. Our next task will be to inquire into the course of events from the Baptism to the Mystery of Golgotha. But if we are to rise to an understanding of the Mystery of Golgotha, we must clear away certain hindrances. From all that has been said concerning the Gospels in the course of years, and also from what has been said already in these few lectures, you will have been able to gather that certain theosophical ideas, which in some quarters are esteemed sufficient, are really not sufficient to answer the question with which we are here concerned.

Before everything else we must take quite seriously what has been said about the three streams of human thought: the stream which has its source in ancient Greece; the stream which comes down from ancient Hebraism, and lastly the stream which found expression in Gautama Buddha half a millennium before our era. We have seen that this Buddha stream, especially as it developed among his followers, is least of all adapted to an understanding of the Mystery of Golgotha. To the modern man, whose consciousness is filled with the intellectual culture of the present day, the stream of thought which finds expression in Buddhism certainly offers something very pleasant. Hardly any other form of thought suits so well the concepts of the present day, in so far as they prefer to remain silent in face of the greatest question that humanity has to grasp—the question of the Resurrection. For with this question the whole evolutionary history of mankind is connected. Now in Buddhist teaching the real being of the Ego, which in the true sense we can call the fourth member of human nature, has been lost. Certainly in these matters one can employ all kinds of interpretations, one can twist them in all sorts of ways, and plenty of people will find fault with what has been said here about Buddhist teaching, but that is not the point. For such things as I have quoted from the heart of Buddhism—for example, the conversation between King Milinda and the Buddhist sage Nagasena—testify clearly that the Ego-nature cannot be spoken of in Buddhism as we must speak of it. For a genuine follower of Buddhism it would indeed be heretical to speak of the Ego-nature as we must represent it. On this very account we must ourselves be clear regarding the Ego-nature.

The human Ego, which in the case of every human being, even of the highest Adept, passes from incarnation to incarnation, is a term which (as we saw yesterday) can be applied to Jesus of Nazareth only from his birth to the Baptism in Jordan. After the baptism, we still have before us the physical body, the etheric body and the astral body of Jesus of Nazareth; but these external human sheaths are now indwelt not by a human Ego but by a Cosmic Being, the Christ-Being. Through years of endeavour we have tried by means of words to bring the Christ-Being nearer to our understanding. As soon as one comprehends the whole nature of Christ Jesus, it is obvious that for Him one must rule out any kind of physical or bodily reincarnation. The expression employed in my mystery drama, The Soul's Probation, about Christ having been present once only in a body of flesh, must be taken seriously and quite literally. Accordingly we must first concern ourselves with the being, the nature, of the ordinary human Ego. The Christ-Jesus-Being was completely independent of the human Ego from the Baptism to the Mystery of Golgotha.

In earlier lectures it was shown that the evolution of the earth was preceded by a Saturn existence, a Sun existence and a Moon existence, and these three planetary embodiments were followed by the fourth, our Earth-embodiment. You know from those lectures that only during the Earth-existence, the fourth of the planetary conditions which were necessary to bring into existence our Earth with all its creatures, could the human Ego enter into connection with human nature. Just as in the Ancient Saturn period we speak of the beginning of the physical body, so in the period of the ancient Sun we speak of the first development of the etheric body, in the Moon period of the first development of the astral body, and only in the Earth period of the unfolding of the Ego. In this way the whole matter is brought cosmically and historically into view. But how is it when we look at the history of peoples?

Through our former studies we know that although the seed-kernel of the Ego was laid down in human beings during the Lemurian time, the possibility of attaining to Ego-consciousness arose only towards the end of the Atlantean period, and that even then this Ego-consciousness was very dim and vague. Indeed, after the Atlantean time, through the various periods of civilisation which preceded the Mystery of Golgotha, the Ego-consciousness was still dull, dream-like, dim. But if you turn your attention to the development of the Hebrew people, it will be clear to you that here the Ego-consciousness found expression in a very unusual way. A kind of Folk-Ego lived in each single member of the ancient Hebrew people; in fact, every member of this people traced his Ego back to his ancestor in the flesh, to Abraham. The Ego of the ancient Hebrew people was still such that we can designate it as a Group-Ego, a Folk-Group-Ego. Consciousness had not yet penetrated as far as the separate individuality in each man. Why was this so?

Each part of the four-membered human being we now regard as normal developed gradually in the course of the earth's evolution. It was only towards the end of the Atlantean Period that part of the etheric body, which until then had been external to the physical body, was gradually drawn into the body. This led towards the condition now recognised by clairvoyant consciousness as normal, namely that the physical body and the etheric body approximately coincide, and only then was it possible for man to develop his Ego-consciousness Let us slowly and gradually form an impression of the very peculiar way in which this Ego-consciousness meets us in man.

I described yesterday how people speak of the Resurrection when they approach it with all the intellectual preconceptions of the present day. If, they say, ‘I had to assent to the real Pauline teaching about the Resurrection, I would have to tear up my whole conception of the world.’ That is what they say, these up-to-date people who have at their command all the resources of modern intellectualism. To people who speak thus, what must now be said will seem very strange.

But is it not possible that such a person might reflect: ‘Yes, if I am to accept the Resurrection, I shall have to tear up all my intellectual concepts. But is that a reason for setting this question aside? Because we cannot understand the Resurrection and have to regard it as a miracle, must we assume that the only way out of this difficulty is to pass it by? Is there no other way?’

The other way is far from easy for a modern man, for he would have to admit to himself: ‘Perhaps it is not the fault of the Resurrection that I am unable to understand it. Perhaps the reason is that my intellect is unfitted to understand it.’

So little is this matter taken seriously in our day that we may say: Modern man is prevented by his pride—and just because he does not suspect that pride could come into it—from admitting that his intellect may be incompetent to fathom this question. For which is more reasonable: to say that I am setting aside something that shatters my intellectual outlook, or to admit that it may be beyond my understanding? Pride, however, forbids this admission.

Of course, an anthroposophist must have trained himself to rise above this kind of pride. It should not be far from the heart of a true anthroposophist to say: ‘Perhaps my intellect is not competent to form an opinion about the Resurrection.’ But then he has to face another difficulty: he now has to answer the question why the human mind is not adapted to comprehend the greatest fact in human evolution. To answer this question we must go somewhat more closely into the real nature of human understanding. Here I should like to remind you of my Munich lectures, Wonders of the World, of which I will now give a resume as far as we need one.

The elements that go to make up our soul life, our thoughts, feelings and perceptions, are not to be found in our present-day physical body; they penetrate only as far as the etheric body. In order to be clear about this, let us imagine our human nature, in so far as it consists of Ego, astral body and etheric body, enclosed in an ellipse:

We will take this diagram to represent schematically what we call our inward life and can experience in our souls; the diagram shows it coming to expression only in the streams and forces of the etheric body. If we experience a thought or perception, it has three lines of action in our soul-nature, as indicated in the following diagram.

Within our soul-nature there is nothing that is not present in this way. Now if a man's ordinary earthly consciousness were restricted to soul-experiences within the confines of the diagram, the experiences would occur, but he would not be conscious of them; they would remain unconscious. Our soul-experiences become conscious only through a process which an analogy will help us to understand. Imagine you are going in a certain direction, looking straight ahead. Your name is Smith. While you are going straight ahead you do not see Smith, yet you are he, you experience him, you are the person ‘Smith’. Imagine that someone puts a mirror in front of you. Now ‘Smith’ stands before you. What you had previously experienced you now see; it meets you in the mirror. So it is with the soul-life of man. A person has an experience, but he does not become conscious of it without a mirror. The mirror is the physical body. The perceptions, the thoughts, are thrown back by the sheath of the physical body. Thereby we become conscious of them. Hence in the diagram we can represent the physical body as the enclosing sheath. For us, as earthly men, the physical body is in truth a reflecting apparatus.

If in this way you go more and more deeply into the nature of the human soul and of human consciousness, it will be impossible for you to consider as in any way dangerous or significant all those things which are brought forward again and again by materialism in opposition to the spiritual conception of the world. If through any damage to the reflecting apparatus, the soul-experience is no longer perceived by the consciousness, it is absolute nonsense to conclude that the soul-experience itself is bound up with the mirror. If someone breaks a mirror in which you see yourself, he does not break you. You merely disappear from your own field of vision. So it is when the reflecting apparatus for the soul-life, the brain, is disturbed. Perception ceases, but the soul-life itself, in so far as it goes on in the etheric body and the astral body, is not in the least disturbed.

But have we not come to a point when we must consider closely the nature of the physical body? You will agree that without consciousness we could not be conscious of the Ego. In order to make Ego-consciousness our own during life on earth, our physical body, with its brain organisation, has to be a reflecting apparatus. We learn to become conscious of ourselves through our own mirrored reflection. If we had no mirror apparatus, we could not be conscious of our own selves. What is this mirror?

We are shown by occult investigations, which reach back through reading the Akashic record as far as the origin of our earth existence, that in the beginning of Earth-existence this reflecting apparatus, the external physical body, came under Luciferic influence and was changed. Yesterday we saw what this physical body has become for earthly man. It has become something that falls to pieces when he passes through the gate of death. We have said that the body which falls to pieces is not the body which Divine Spirits had prepared through four planetary evolutions so that it should become the physical body on earth. What the Divine Spirits prepared, which yesterday we called the Phantom, belongs to the physical body as a form-body which permeates, and at the same time holds together, the material parts that are woven into our physical body. If no Luciferic influence had intervened, then, at the beginning of his Earth-existence, man would have received this Phantom in full strength together with his physical body. But into the human organisation, in so far as it consists of physical body, etheric body, and astral body, the Luciferic influence penetrated, and the consequence was the disorganisation of the Phantom of the physical body. As we shall see, this is symbolically expressed in the Bible as the Fall, together with the fact, related in the Old Testament, that death followed the Fall. Death was indeed the result of the disorganisation of the Phantom of the physical body. The outcome is that, when man goes through the gate of death, he has to see the dissolution of his physical body. This crumbling physical body, lacking the strength of the Phantom, is indeed borne by man from birth to death. The crumbling away goes on all the time, and the decomposition, the death of the physical body, is only the final stage of a continuous process. For if the disintegration of the body—preceded by the disorganisation of the Phantom—is not countered by processes of reconstruction, death finally ensues.

If no Luciferic influence had come in, the destructive and reconstructive forces in the physical body would have remained in balance. But then everything in earthly human nature would have been different; there would, for example, have been no mind incapable of comprehending the Resurrection. For what kind of understanding is it that cannot grasp the Resurrection? It is the kind that is bound up with the decadence of the physical body, and is what it is because the individual has incurred, through the Luciferic influence, the progressive destruction of the Phantom of the physical body. In consequence the human understanding, the human intellect, has become so thin, so threadbare, that it cannot take in the great processes of cosmic evolution. It looks on them as miracles, or says it cannot comprehend them. If the Luciferic influence had not come, and the upbuilding forces in the human body had held the destructive forces in balance, then the human understanding, equipped with all that was intended for it, would have seen into the upbuilding forces, rather as one follows a laboratory experiment. But our understanding is now such that it remains on the surface of things and has no insight into the cosmic depths.

Anyone, therefore, who wishes to characterise these conditions correctly must say: In the beginning of our Earth-existence, the physical body was prevented by the Luciferic influence from becoming what it should have become according to the will of the Powers who worked through Saturn, Sun and Moon. Instead, it took into itself a destructive process. Since the beginning of the Earth-existence man has lived in a physical body which is subject to destruction; a body which cannot adequately counter the destructive forces with upbuilding forces.

So there is truth in something which appears to the modern man as such folly: that a hidden connection exists between what has come to pass through the working of Lucifer, and death. And now let us look at this working. What was the effect of this destruction of the real physical body? If we had the complete physical body, as was intended at the beginning of the earth-existence, our soul-powers would reflect themselves in quite another way: we should then know in truth what we are. As things are, we do not know what we are because the physical body is not given us in its completeness. We do certainly speak of the nature and being of the human Ego—but how far does man know the Ego? So problematic is the Ego that Buddhism can even deny that it goes from one incarnation to another. So problematic is it that Greece could fall into the tragic mood which found expression in those words of the Greek hero: ‘Better a beggar in the upper world than a king in the realm of shades.’ So it was that when a Greek saw the treasured physical body—the body shaped by the Phantom—given over to destruction, he felt a sadness in face of the darkening, the fading away, of the Ego, for he felt that it could exist only together with the Ego-consciousness. And when he saw the Form of the physical body falling into decadence, he shuddered at the thought that the Ego would grow dark and dim; this Ego which is reflected by the Form of the physical body. And when we follow human evolution from the beginning of the Earth to the Mystery of Golgotha, we find that the process we have just indicated shows itself in an ever-increasing degree.

In earlier times, for example, no one would have preached the annihilation of the physical body in so radical a fashion as did Gautama Buddha. For such teaching to be given, it was necessary that the decadence of the physical body, its complete annulment as regards its Form, should have become more and more nearly complete, so that the human mind no longer had any idea that the entity which becomes conscious through the physical body—that is, through the Form—can pass over from one incarnation to another. The truth is that man, in the course of the Earth-evolution, lost the Form of the physical body, so that he no longer has what the Divine Beings had intended for him from the beginning of the Earth. This is something he must regain; but it had first to be imparted to him once more. And we cannot comprehend Christianity unless we understand that at the time when the Events of Palestine took place, the human race on earth had reached a stage where the decadence of the physical body was at its peak, and where, because of this, the whole evolution of humanity was threatened with the danger that the Ego-consciousness—the specific achievement of the earth-evolution—would be lost. If this process had continued unchanged, the destructive element would have penetrated ever more deeply into the human bodily organism, and men born after the time when the events of Palestine were due would have had to live with an ever-duller feeling of the Ego. Everything that depends on perfect reflection from the physical body would have become increasingly worn out.

Then came the Mystery of Golgotha; it came as we have characterised it, and through it something happened which is so hard to grasp for an intellect bound up with the physical body only, a body in which the destructive forces preponderate. It came to pass that one man, who was the bearer of the Christ, had gone through such a death that after three days the specifically mortal part of the physical body had to disappear, and out of the grave there rose the body which is the force-bearer of the physical, material parts. The body that was really intended for man by the Rulers of Saturn, Sun, and Moon—the pure Phantom of the physical body with all the attributes of the physical body—this it was that rose out of the grave. So was given the possibility of that spiritual genealogy of which we have spoken.

Let us think of the body of Christ that rose out of the grave. Just as from the body of Adam the bodies of earth-men are descended, in so far as these men have the body that crumbles away, even so are the spiritual bodies, the Phantoms for all men, descended from that which rose out of the grave. And it is possible to establish a relationship with Christ through which an earthly human being can bring into his otherwise decaying physical body this Phantom which rose out of the grave of Golgotha. It is possible for man to receive into his organism those forces which then rose from the grave, just as through his physical organism at the beginning of the earth evolution, as a consequence of the Luciferic forces, he received the organism of Adam.

It is this that Paul wishes to say. Just as man, through his place in the stream of physical evolution, inherits the physical body in which the destruction of the Phantom, the force-bearer, is gradually taking place, so from the pure Phantom that rose out of the grave he can inherit what he has lost. He can inherit it, he can clothe himself with it, as he clothed himself with the first Adam; he can become one with it. Thereby he can go through a development by means of which he can climb upwards again, even as before the Mystery of Golgotha he had descended in evolution. In other words, that which had been taken from him through the Luciferic influence can be given back to him through its presence as the Risen Body of Christ. That is what Paul wishes to say.

Now, just as it is very easy, from the standpoint of modern anatomy or physiology, to refute what has been said in this lecture—apparently to refute it—so is it very easy to raise another objection. Some such question as this might be asked: If indeed Paul really believed that a spiritual body had risen, what has this spiritual body which had risen out of the grave to do with what every man now bears in himself? This is not hard to understand: we need only consider the analogy offered by the coming into existence of a human individual. As physical human being he begins from a single cell; a physical body consists entirely of cells which are all children of the original cell; all cells which compose a human body are traceable to the original cell. Now imagine that, through what we may call a mystical Christological process, man acquires a body quite other than the one he has gradually acquired in his downward evolution. Then think of each of these new bodies as having an intimate connection with the pure Phantom that rose from the grave, somewhat as the human cells of the physical body are connected with the original cell. That is, we must think of the Phantom as multiplying itself, as does the cell which gives rise to the physical body. So, in the evolution which follows the Event of Golgotha, every man can inwardly acquire something which is spiritually descended from the Phantom which rose from the grave, just as—to echo Paul—the ordinary body which falls into dissolution is descended from Adam.

Of course it is an insult to the human intellect, which thinks so arrogantly of itself at the present time, when one says that a process similar to the multiplication of the cell, which if need be can be seen, takes place in the invisible. This outcome of the Mystery of Golgotha, however, is an occult fact. To someone who contemplates evolution with occult sight it is apparent that the spiritual cell, the body which overcame death, the body of Christ Jesus, has risen from the grave and in the course of time imparts itself to anyone who enters into the corresponding relationship with the Christ. To anyone resolved to deny supersensible happenings altogether, this statement will naturally seem absurd. But to anyone who grants the supersensible, the event with which we are here concerned must be presented in the way described. The Phantom which rose from the grave communicates itself to those who make themselves fitted for it. This, then, is a fact that everyone who grants the supersensible can understand.

If we can inscribe upon our souls what is in very truth the Pauline teaching, we come to regard the Mystery of Golgotha as a reality that took place and had to take place in the evolution of the earth; for it signifies literally the rescue of the human Ego. We have seen that if the process of evolution had continued along the path it had followed up to the time of the Events of Palestine, the Ego-consciousness could not have been developed; it would not only have failed to advance, but would have gone down ever further into darkness. But the path turned upwards, and will continue to ascend in proportion as men find their relation to the Christ-Being.

Now we can understand Buddhism very well. About five hundred years before the Events of Palestine, a truth was proclaimed: ‘Everything that envelops a man as his physical body and makes him a being incarnated in the flesh—all this must be looked upon as worthless; it is fundamentally a left over from the past and must be cast off.’ Certainly up to that time conditions were such that humanity would have had to set its course towards this philosophy of life, if nothing else had intervened. But there came the Event of Golgotha, an Event which completely restored the lost principles of human evolution. In so far as man takes into himself the incorruptible body we spoke of yesterday, and have brought before our souls in closer detail today, if he clothes himself with this incorruptible body, he will become more and more clearly aware of his Ego-consciousness, and of that part of his nature which journeys on from one incarnation to another.

That which came into the world with Christianity must therefore not be regarded merely as a new teaching—this must be specially emphasised—and not as a new theory, but as something real, something factual. Hence when people insist that everything Christ taught had been known previously, this signifies nothing for a real understanding of Christianity. The important thing is not what Christ taught, but what he gave: his Body. For the Body that rose from the grave of Golgotha had never before entered into human evolution. Never before had there been present on earth, through the death of a man, that which came to be present as the Risen Body of Christ Jesus. Previously, after men had passed through the gate of death, and had gone through the period between death and a new birth, they had brought to earth with them the defective Phantom, given over to deterioration. No one had ever caused a perfect Phantom to arise.

Here we can refer to the Initiates and Adepts. They always had to receive initiation outside their physical bodies, by overcoming their physical bodies, but this overcoming never went as far as a resuscitation of the physical Phantom. No pre-Christian initiations went farther than the outermost limits of the physical body; they did not touch the forces of the physical body, except in so far as the inner organism impinges in a general way on the outer. No one, having gone through death, had ever overcome death as a human Phantom. Similar things had certainly occurred, but never this—that a man had gone through a complete human death and that the complete Phantom had then gained victory over death. Just as it is true that only this Phantom can give rise to a complete humanity in the course of human evolution, so is it true that this Phantom took its beginning from the grave of Golgotha.

That is the important fact in Christian evolution. Hence the commentators are not at fault when they say again and again that the teaching of Christ Jesus has been transformed into a teaching about Christ Jesus. It had to be so. For the important thing is not what Christ Jesus taught, but what He gave to humanity. His Resurrection is the coming to birth of a new member of human nature—an incorruptible body. But for this to happen, this rescue of the human Phantom through death, two things were necessary. It was necessary, first, that the Being of Christ Jesus should be such as we have described it—constituted of physical body, etheric body, and astral body, and—instead of a human ego—the Christ-Being. Secondly, it was necessary that the Christ-Being should have resolved to descend into a human body, to incarnate in a human body of flesh. For if we are to contemplate the Christ-Being in the right light, we must seek Him in the time before the beginning of man on earth. The Christ-Being was of course existent at that time. He did not enter into the course of human evolution; He dwelt in the spiritual world. Humanity continued along its ever-decreasing path. At a point in time when the crisis of human evolution had been reached, the Christ-Being incorporated Himself in the body of a man. That is the greatest sacrifice that could have been brought to the earth-evolution by the Christ-Being. And the second thing we must learn to understand is wherein this sacrifice consisted. Yesterday we dealt with one part of the question concerning the nature of Christ, confining our study to the time after the Baptism by John in Jordan. We must now go on to ask: What is the significance of the fact that at the Baptism the Christ-Being descended into a body of flesh, and how did death come about in the Mystery of Golgotha?