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Karma of Untruthfulness I
GA 173

Lecture VIII

21 December 1916, Basel

This Lecture was formerly part of GA 173 but has not been included in the new arrangement in three volumes.

Many people have the custom of celebrating every year the physical birth of that Being Who entered into earthly evolution in order to give meaning to this earthly evolution. In keeping with the task of our spiritual scientific movement, a task of which we must never cease to be aware, and in an effort to avoid falling into a merely routine celebration such as is found in many places today, it will be fitting to bring before our souls in these grave times some aspects of what is connected with the meaning of the physical birth of Christ Jesus.

We have often contemplated with the eyes of our spirit the fact that in Christ Jesus two Beings flow together to form one: the Christ-Being and the human Jesus-Being. This is something that people on earth are capable of experiencing. As Christianity has developed, there has been much conflict, much dogmatic conflict about the significance of the uniting of Christ with Jesus in the body whose physical birth we celebrate in the Christmas festival. Let us start with what we know. In Christ we recognize a cosmic, super-earthly Being, One Who came down from spiritual worlds in order to give meaning to earthly evolution by being born in a physical human being. And in the human being Jesus we recognize one who was destined, in the manner known to us, to unite as a human being with the Christ-Being, to take this Being into himself after thirty years of preparation.

Not only is much argument, much dogmatic conflict connected with the manner in which Christ united with Jesus. There is also, in the relationship of Christ to Jesus, an indication of important mysteries relating to the whole of mankind's evolution on earth. In endeavouring to pursue what has happened so far, so as to understand something about this uniting of Christ with Jesus, and in considering what must still happen in human evolution in order to bring this relationship into a proper focus, we find ourselves touching on one of the greatest mysteries of human knowledge and human life.

As the time approached when human evolution was to take into itself the Christ-Being there came about a possibility, like an inheritance from the ancient days of clairvoyant wisdom, of gaining a picture, an idea of the whole lofty stature of the Christ-Being. There existed at this time a wisdom about which people often speak today in what could be called a sacrilegious way, though they have scarcely any idea of what it represented. It was something which has now been eliminated from human evolution by certain streams which are opposed to more profound Christian revelation. This was Gnosis,1See, among others, Rudolf Steiner Christ and the Spiritual World. The Search for the Holy Grail, Rudolf Steiner Press, London 1963, Lecture One. a wisdom into which much of the knowledge revealed to mankind by ancient, atavistic clairvoyance had flowed. Every last fragment of Gnosis, both verbal and written, had been rooted out by western dogmatic Christianity, but not until Gnosis had also endeavoured to find an answer to the question: Who is Christ?

Today there is no longer a question of returning to Gnosis for, of course, the light of Gnosis has meanwhile gone out. But the elimination of Gnosis, root and branch, though a consequence of evil, ignorance and hostility towards knowledge and wisdom sprang, nevertheless, in a way from a necessity of earthly evolution. So the accusation that anthroposophical spiritual science intends to warm up ancient Gnosis is nothing more than one of the many malevolent attacks now being made on us. This accusation is made by people who know nothing about Gnosis and, similarly, little about Anthroposophy. We do not want to warm up Gnosis, but we do want to recognize that Gnosis was something powerful, something great, for that time nineteen centuries ago when it endeavoured to give some kind of an answer to the question: Who is Christ?

The eye of the Gnostic—his spiritual eye—saw the spiritual worlds. He thought of the spiritual hierarchies arranged in a wonderful way, rank upon rank. He also saw how Christ strode down through the world of the spiritual hierarchies in order to enter into the enveloping bodies of a mortal human being. All this was revealed to the soul of the Gnostic. And this soul strove to gain a picture of how Christ came down from spiritual heights and was received on earth. You can gain an idea of the scale of these events if you imagine that everything that has come into the world since the elimination of Gnosis has been small and petty in comparison with the mighty Christ-picture of the Gnostics. The Mystery-wisdom that lies behind the Gospels is infinitely great, greater than anything that subsequent theology has been capable of finding in them. In order to understand how small and insignificant is today's customary understanding of the Christ-Being compared with that of Gnosis, you might try to immerse yourselves in the Christ-idea of the ancient Gnostics. When you place this before your soul you will grovel in the dust before the greatness of this picture of the Christ-Being Who came down from spiritual heights, spiritual distances, spiritual breadths into a human body. So, long ago, there was once amongst human beings a lofty concept of Christ. It has receded now. For all those dogmas that came into being subsequently, the creeds of Arius or Athanasius or whatever,2At the first Council of Nicaea (325) the Athanasian creed (identity of the Son with the Father) was accepted. Arius denied this identity and stressed the oneness of God the Father. He gained many supporters, especially among the Germanic tribes, and the strife between the two schools of thought dragged on throughout the fourth and fifth centuries, until Arianism lost its influence. are trifling compared with the Gnostic concept which combined wisdom about the structure of the universe with the view of the Christ-Being. Only remnants of this great Gnostic concept of Christ remain.

This is one aspect of the relationship of Christ to Jesus, namely, that Christ came into the world at a time when the wisdom which could have comprehended Him, which had endeavoured to comprehend Him, had already been stamped out. Yet, all along, those who spoke of Gnosis as an oriental fantasy which had to be stamped out for the good of western man considered themselves good Christians. In truth, it was only the incapacity of that time, its incapacity to link earthly concepts with heavenly concepts. You really need a sense of tragedy if you want to understand human evolution.

How long was it after the event of the Mystery of Golgotha that the Temple of Jerusalem, the place of peace, was destroyed? The city of Jerusalem surrounded the Temple of Solomon. What Gnosis was as wisdom, the Temple of Solomon was as symbol. In the Temple of Solomon were symbolized all the mysteries of the universe. The purpose was that those who entered the Temple of Solomon, where they were surrounded by pictures which were mirrored in their souls, should there absorb something into their souls which only then transformed them into true human beings. The Temple of Solomon was to pour the meaning of the universe into the souls of those who were permitted to enter there. What the Temple of Solomon contained was not directly contained anywhere on the earth, for it contained everything in the way of universal mysteries that shone down into the earth out of the breadths of the cosmos.

Why was the Temple of Solomon built? My dear friends, if you had asked an ancient initiate who knew about the Temple he would have replied: So that there shall be a sign here on earth which may be seen by those powers who accompany the souls who are seeking a way into earthly bodies. Let us grasp this rightly. These ancient initiates of the Temple of Solomon knew, as they accompanied the human beings down through all the signs of the Zodiac into their earthly bodies, that they must guide special souls to those bodies which were capable of mirroring in themselves the symbols of the Temple of Solomon.

Naturally enough, this could become a reason for succumbing to arrogance. If this was not taken in with humility, with the humility of the Essenes, it became a reason for succumbing to the wisdom of the Pharisees! But the truth is as follows: The earthly eye looks up to the heavens and sees the stars. The spiritual eye of those who led souls down to the earth from the breadths of the universe was directed downwards and saw the Temple of Solomon with its symbols. It was for them a star by whose light they could accompany the souls into bodies of a calibre capable of comprehending the meaning of the Temple of Solomon. It was the star at the mid-point of the earth which shone out strongly into spiritual heights.

When Christ Jesus had come to the earth, when the Mystery of Golgotha had taken its course, then this great Mystery of Golgotha was to be mirrored in every single human soul: ‘My kingdom is not of this world!’ So the external, physical Temple of Solomon first of all lost its significance, and its destiny fulfilled itself in a tragic way. Basically, there was no one left at that time who, by mirroring all the symbols of the Temple of Solomon, could really take in the full extent of the Christ-Being. But the Christ-Being Himself had entered into earthly evolution and was now within it. This—as has so often been repeated in our circles—is the fact which matters. The Gnostics were the last stragglers of those bearers of that wisdom which was extensive and intensive enough to understand something of Christ out of man's ancient, atavistic earth-wisdom.

That is one side of the relationship between Christ and Jesus. At that time the Christ-Being could have been comprehended by Gnosis. But this was not part of the plan of evolution, although in what had been Gnosis there had been contained the full wisdom of the Christ. But now it can be said that the path taken by Christianity through the countries of the South—through Greece, Italy, Spain and so on—was suited to extinguishing more and more the knowledge of what Christ really was. Rome in decline, Rome in disintegration was destined to extinguish the understanding of Christ.

It is a remarkable thing that, on the one hand, the relationship of Christ to Jesus worked in such a way that, in Gnosis, a high concept of Christ shines out and then dies away as Christianity passes through the Roman element, and that, on the other hand, when Christianity meets the peoples coming down towards it from the North, the concept of Jesus starts to take shape. The concept of Christ has died away in the South. Then, in the North, the concept of Jesus appears, certainly not in a lofty way, but in a way that speaks to the souls of human beings; something wonderful enters human souls at the thought of how a child is born in a consecrated night, a child who will take the Christ into himself. Just as in the South the concept of Christ was inadequate, so in the North was the feeling for Jesus. Nevertheless, the feeling was such that it deeply moved people's hearts; yet, in itself, it is not fully comprehensible. You have only to compare the greatness and majesty of what Christ Jesus means for human evolution with all the sentimental trifles contained in so many poems and songs about the ‘darling infant Jesus’, which move the hearts of those who, in their egoism, believe that they are experiencing heavenly ecstasies. If you make this comparison you gain an immediate impression of something that wants to enter into life but cannot quite do so, something that combines with that other in such a way that the whole deeper meaning and significance remains in man's subconscious.

Now what is it that remains in man's subconscious while the concept of Jesus, the feeling for Jesus, the experience of Jesus rises to the surface? It is extraordinary how this happened! The understanding of Christ sank down into the subconscious and the understanding of Jesus began to glow in the subconscious. In man's subconscious, not in consciousness, which was powerless, there was to be a meeting and a balancing out of the Christ consciousness which was fading and the Jesus consciousness which was beginning to glow in the subconscious. Why did the peoples who came down from Scandinavia, from what is today northern Russia, not take up in Christianity the Christ idea which, to begin with, remained utterly unknown to them? Why did they take up the Jesus idea in Christianity? Why was it the Christmas festival which, above all, spoke to human hearts, awakening in them infinite feelings of holy tenderness? Why was this? What was there in this Europe which received from the South what was basically an utterly disfigured Christianity? What was there in this Europe that caused that idea to light up in people's hearts, that idea in which the Christmas festival with its deep, deep content of feeling is experienced?

The people had been prepared but, to a certain extent, they had forgotten what had prepared them. They had been prepared out of the ancient northern Mysteries. But they had forgotten the meaning of the ancient northern Mysteries. To discover, out of the inner meaning of the northern Mysteries, that deep secret of how the feeling for Jesus entered into European soul life it is necessary to go very far back indeed.

These northern Mysteries were founded on something utterly different from the foundation of the Mysteries of Asia Minor, the Mysteries of the South. These Mysteries of the North were founded on something that was more intimately bound up with the life of the stars, with nature, with the earth's growth forces, rather than that which was shown in the symbols of a temple. Mystery-truths are not the trifles certain mystic sects play around with today. Mystery-truths are grand and powerful impulses within human evolution. Just as we cannot find our way back today through Anthroposophy to Gnosis, to the ancient Gnostics, neither can mankind return to what the ancient Mysteries of the North once meant for human evolution. It would be a foolish misunderstanding to believe that such Mystery-truths are being revealed now because of a desire to return in some way to what lived in them. For the sake of self-knowledge it is necessary for mankind today to know what lived in such Mysteries. For what in the northern Mysteries involved the whole evolution of the universe was connected with what came from the earth, whereas the Gnostic wisdom inspired by the cosmos was connected with what took place in the far reaches of the universe. The mystery of mankind in its connection to all the mysteries of the cosmos, how it works when man enters on the physical earth into his physical existence, all this, at a certain period of earthly evolution, lay more deeply than anywhere else at the basis of these ancient northern Mysteries.

But it is necessary to go a very long way back, approximately to the third millennium BC or perhaps even further, in order to understand what lived in those souls who later took into themselves the feeling for Jesus. Just about where the peninsula of Jutland is part of Denmark today, there existed a centre from which emanated in those ancient times very important Mystery-impulses. However people may judge this with their modern understanding, I can tell you that these Mystery-impulses were connected with the fact that, in the third millennium BC in this northern region, there lived certain tribes who only considered those people to be proper residents of the earth who were born during certain weeks in winter time. This came about because the temple priests of this secret Mystery Centre on the Jutland peninsula decreed that in certain tribes, the Ingaevones3‘To Mannus they assign three sons, from whose names, they say, the coast tribes are called Ingaevones; those of the interior, Herminones; all the rest Istaevones.’ Tacitus Germania, 2. as Tacitus called them, the sexual union of human beings must only take place during the first quarter of the year. Every sexual union outside this period decreed by the Mystery centre was taboo; and anyone not born during the season of the darkest nights, in the coldest season towards the new year, was considered by these tribes of the Ingaevones to be an inferior human being. The impulse was sent out by the Mystery centre at the time of the first full moon after the spring equinox. This was the only time when those who felt truly connected with the spiritual worlds were allowed to practise sexual union. The forces which are used up in sexual union were saved for the whole remainder of each year and thus contributed to the growing strength of the people. Therefore, they were able to develop that remarkable power of which even the dying echo so astonished Tacitus—writing a century after the Mystery of Golgotha.

In this way the tribes of the Ingaevones, and the other Germanic tribes to a lesser extent, underwent at the time of the first full moon after the spring equinox a particularly strong experience of the process of conception, not in a state of waking consciousness but through a kind of dream annunciation. They knew what this meant with regard to the connection between the mystery of man and the mysteries of heaven. A spiritual being appeared to the one who was conceiving and announced to her, as through a vision, the human being who was to come to the earth through her. There was no consciousness, only a semiconsciousness in that sphere which human souls experienced during the process of entering into physical, earthly reality. Subconsciously the people knew themselves to be ruled by gods, the Vanir.4 A literal translation of these two sentences reads as follows: ‘Subconsciously the people knew themselves to be ruled by gods, who were given the name ‘Wanen’ [English: Vanir], which is connected with the word ‘wahnen’ [to fancy, to imagine], that is, with that which runs its course, not in full, intellectual consciousness but in a “knowing, dream consciousness”.’ Trs. They were not fully conscious in their intellect but lived in a ‘knowing dream-consciousness’.

Practices which exist at a certain time, and are fitting for that time, often survive into later times in external symbols. In olden times the holy mystery of birth was shrouded in the subconscious, which in turn meant that all births were crowded together in a certain part of the winter season, and it was regarded as sinful if human beings were born at other times. Later on this was partly preserved, but only fragments passed over into later consciousness, fragments of which the meaning has so far remained undiscovered by any learning. Indeed, it is openly admitted that no scholar has succeeded in discovering any meaning. Fragments remain in the so-called Ertha saga. Except for a few notes, everything now known externally about the Ertha, or Nerthus saga is contained in the writings of Tacitus, who reports about it as follows:5Tacitus on the Ertha saga, Germania, 40. Translated by A J Church and W J Brodribb.

‘The Reudigni, the Aviones, the Anglii, the Varini, the Eudoses, the Suardones, and Nuithones, Germanic tribes who are fenced in by rivers or forests’—these are more or less those tribes who together constitute the Ingaevones—‘venerate Nerthus, Ertha, or Mother Earth and believe that she interposes in human affairs, and visits the nations in her chariot.’

In olden times every woman who was to give the earth a new citizen knew in her dream consciousness, through the religious worship of the Vanir, that the goddess later worshipped as Ertha or Nerthus would appear to her. This godly being was perceived as male-female rather than purely female. Only later did a corruption lead to Nerthus becoming a wholly female principle. Just as the Angel Gabriel came to Mary so, in ancient times, did Nerthus come in her chariot to those who were to give the earth a new citizen. The women who were going to give birth saw this in spirit. Later, when the Mystery-impulse in this form had long faded away, the people still celebrated the dying echo of this event in symbols. This is what Tacitus saw, and described as follows:

‘In an island of the ocean there is a sacred grove, and within it her consecrated chariot, covered over with a garment. Only one priest is permitted to touch it.’

This priest was thought of as the initiate of the Ertha Mystery.

‘He can perceive the presence of the goddess in this sacred recess, and walks by her side with the utmost reverence as she is drawn along by heifers. It is a season of rejoicing, and festivity reigns wherever she deigns to go and be received. They do not go to battle or wear arms; every weapon is under lock; only peace and quiet are known and welcomed at these times, till the goddess, weary of human intercourse, is at length restored by the same priest to her temple.’

This was exactly what the vision was like. Such ancient documents describe things really quite exactly, only people no longer understand them. ‘It is a season of rejoicing and festivity. They do not go to battle or wear arms; every weapon is under lock.’ Thus it was indeed at the season which is now our Easter time. Out of their inner soul life people believed the season of the earth's fruitfulness to have come for them too, and those souls were conceived who were later born in the season which is now our Christmas time. The season of Easter was the time for conception. This was seen as a holy mystery of the cosmos and later it was symbolized in the worship of Nerthus. All of it was shrouded in the subconscious and was not allowed to break through into consciousness. This shimmers through in what Tacitus says about this worship:

‘Only peace and quiet are known and welcomed at these times, till the goddess, weary of human intercourse, is at length restored by the same priest to her temple. Afterwards the chariot, the vestments and the divinity herself are purified in a secret lake. Slaves perform the rite, who are instantly swallowed up by its waters.’ A penalty to ensure that all who know about these matters are submerged in the night of the unconscious. ‘Thus reigns a mysterious terror and a pious ignorance concerning the nature of that which is seen only by men doomed to die.’

Everything that takes place in the world comes to have a luciferic and an ahrimanic counter-image. The practices of the Ingaevones, which fitted properly into human evolution, related to the time of the first full moon after the spring equinox. But owing to the precession of the equinox, what remained in ancient times of what had once been a dream experience took place later and later, and thus became ahrimanic. When the events of true, ancient Ertha worship had gradually moved to a time approximately four weeks later, they had become ahrimanic. It was ahrimanic because the union of the human woman with the spiritual world was sought in an unlawful way, that is, at an unlawful time. This then came to be caught and held in ‘Walpurgis Night’6The night of 30 April to 1 May when the witches are said to gather on the Brocken in the Harz Mountains. which falls on the night of 30 April to 1 May. This is purely the consequence of an ahrimanic time-shift. You know that a luciferic time-shift goes backwards; an ahrimanic one is the opposite, so here the equinox is shifted forwards so that the remnant from earlier times manifests later. Thus the ahrimanic, Mephistophelean reverse side of ancient Ertha worship, its reversal into something devilish, later became ‘Walpurgis Night’, which is connected with the most ancient Mysteries of which only this weak echo remains.

Much of these Mysteries lived on in the Scandinavian Mysteries.7See Rudolf Steiner The Mission of the Individual Folk-Souls, Rudolf Steiner Press, London 1970, and also Die Julzeit und die Christfeststimmung, Dornach 1966. There in place of Ertha is Frigg, who in the symbolism of later ages—as spiritual science reveals—actually appears as a traitor to what really lay at the foundation.

Something else also should be mentioned in connection with the customs of these Mysteries. From the time of the spring full moon until the depths of winter the fruit ripened in the mothers' wombs. Then one such human being was the first to be born in the holy night. Among the tribes of the Ingaevones this human being, the first to be born in the holy night, was chosen to become, at the age of thirty, the leader for three years, for only three years. In most ancient times this occurred every third year. What then happened to him I might be able to tell you later on.

Careful research reveals that not only is Frigg, Frea, Frija a kind of secondary name for Nerthus, but that the name Ing, after whom the Ingaevones named themselves, is also a secondary name for Nerthus. Those connected with this Mystery centre called themselves ‘the ones who belong to the god, or goddess, Ing’: Ingaevones. In the external world only fragments remained of what was actually experienced. One of these are the words of Tacitus which I have read to you. Another fragment is the famous Anglo-Saxon rune-song8The so-called song of the runic names. Twenty-second rune. See Wilhelm Grimm Über deutsche Runen (On German Runes), Göttingen 1821. consisting of only a few lines. Every student of German philology knows it but none understand its meaning:

‘Ing was first seen by the men of the East Danes. Later he went eastwards. Across the waves he strode, and his chariot followed after.’

This Anglo-Saxon rune-song contains an echo of what had happened in the ancient Mystery-custom of conception at Easter with the view to a time of birth at Christmas. What took place in this connection in the spiritual world was known, above all, on the Danish peninsula. That is why the rune song says quite rightly: ‘Ing was first seen by the men of the East Danes.’ Then came times when this ancient knowledge fell more and more into corruption, so that only echoes and symbols remained. Altogether human evolution became more suffused with what came from warmer climes. From warmer countries comes something which is unlike what comes from colder climes, where the season of the year is intimately linked with what human beings experience in their inner being. In warmer climes the seed of man was sown all the year round. Of course this happened also in the colder countries even while the old atavistic clairvoyance still existed, but it was suffused in the ancient principles. It came to the the northern regions when the Vanir were being replaced by the Aesir and when, in the southern regions, the nature Mysteries had long been replaced by the temple Mysteries. It came northwards, of course still mixed with the ancient ways, when the Vanir were being replaced by the Aesir. Just as the Vanir were connected with ‘imagining’, so were the Aesir connected with ‘being’, with being or existing in the material world which external understanding wishes to grasp. When the northern people had entered an age in which individual intelligence was beginning to develop, when the Aesir took the place of the Vanir, the Mystery-custom became corrupted. It migrated to isolated, scattered Mystery-communities in the East. One alone remained. The one in whom the whole meaning of the earth was to be renewed, the one in whom the Christ was to dwell, was chosen to unite within himself what had once been the content of the northern Mysteries.

So in contemplating in the Luke Gospel the story of how the Archangel Gabriel appears to Mary, we may seek its origin in the true visions which occurred in what was later mirrored in the Nerthus Mystery with its symbols. This had migrated over to the East. Spiritual science now reveals it and only spiritual science can find a meaning for the Anglo-Saxon rune song. For Nerthus and Ing are one and the same. And of Ing it is said: ‘Ing was first seen by the men of the East Danes. Later he went eastwards. Across the waves he strode, and his chariot followed after.’ He strode, of course, across the waves of the clouds, just as Nerthus strode across the waves of the clouds. What had been general in the colder regions became singular, a single event. It took place as a single event and as such comes to meet us again in the description in the Luke Gospel.

Now once something is there, once it has become customary and firmly anchored in the soul, then it remains there, it remains firmly in the soul. So when the people of the North received the tidings of Christianity from what had been ancient Rome in the South, these tidings were linked with old Mystery-customs which lived no longer in full consciousness but in the subconscious and were thus only dimly sensed. That is why the feeling for Jesus could be especially strongly developed there. What had lived in the old Nerthus Mystery had sunk down into the subconscious where it was still present, where it was sensed and felt.

In those distant days in the far North, when the earth was still covered in forests in which lived the aurochs and the elk, the families gathered in their snow-covered huts in the lamplight around a newborn child. They spoke of this new life and of how it brought to them the new light which the heavens had announced to them in the days of early spring. This was the ancient Christmas, the consecrated night. When they later received tidings of one who was born in the holiest hour and who was destined for great things it reminded them of another who had been the firstborn after the twelfth hour of the consecrated night. The ancient knowledge was gone, but the ancient feelings lived on when the tidings came of such a one born in distant Asia, one in whom lived the Christ Who had descended to the earth from the starry heavens.

It is our duty in the present time to understand such things more and more so that we may learn to grasp the meaning of earthly mankind's evolution. Holy Writ is filled with what is unimaginably great, not with the kind of triviality so often discussed in religious tracts. It is filled with holy truths which run through the whole of human evolution and thrill us to the marrow, flooding our hearts with wonder. All this resounds in what the gospels contain. Once spiritual science has revealed the profound background to what lives in the gospels, these gospels will become for mankind something inestimably dear and valuable. One day mankind will know why it is said in the Luke gospel:

‘And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria. And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, (because he was of the house and lineage of David): To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.’

For Him, the firstborn among those who were to find one another in the soul, the ancient Mystery-forces had migrated to the distant East from the Danish peninsula.

‘And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them; and they were sore afraid.’

In the same way had Ertha, who rode through the countryside in her chariot, brought tidings of the arrival of human beings on earth in a way fitting for the ancient consciousness of the Vanir, that is, for subconscious, atavistic clairvoyance.

‘And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day, in the city of David, a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,’

Saying what the Ertha priest had spoken in the ancient northern Mystery to the woman who was to conceive:

‘The revelation of the divine comes from on high in the time of peace among those who are of good will!’

As Tacitus says: ‘It is a season of rejoicing and festivity. They do not go to battle or wear arms; every weapon is under lock.’

It is to this greatness that human beings must ascend: They must look deeply into the course of human evolution. For even the Mystery of Golgotha, which gave a deeper meaning to the whole of earth evolution, only becomes fully comprehensible when it is shown how it stands within human evolution as a whole. When materialism has disappeared and people want to know, not only in the abstract but also quite concretely about their divine origin, there will once again be an understanding for the holy Mystery-truths of ancient days. Then will the interval of time be over in which Christ, though He lives on the earth, can only be minimally understood in full consciousness. For the understanding of Christ among the Gnostics faded away; and the understanding of Jesus grew only unconsciously in connection with the ancient worship of Nerthus. In the future mankind will have to bring into consciousness and bind together both these unconscious streams. Then an understanding of Christ will gain more and more prominence on the earth, and this will be the link between ancient Mystery-knowledge and a renewed great flourishing of Gnosis.

Those who take seriously the anthroposophical view of the world, and also the Movement connected with it, will see that the things it has to say to mankind are no childish games but great and serious truths. We must allow our souls to be deeply moved, because these things are meant to move us deeply.

The earth is not only a great living creature. It is also a lofty spiritual being. Just as a great human genius cannot evolve to full stature without suitable development through childhood and youth, so the Mystery of Golgotha could not have taken place, the divine could not have united with earth evolution if, in the days of earth's beginning, other divine beings had not descended in a different, though equally divine way. The revelation of the divine on high incorporated in the worship of Nerthus differed from the way it was later understood; but it existed.

The knowledge contained in this ancient wisdom is solely atavistic, yet it is infinitely higher than the materialistic world view which is today making human beings into animals as regards the level of their knowledge.

In Christianity we are concerned with a fact, not with a theory. The theory has to follow after the fact and it is important for the human consciousness that is to develop during the further course of earth evolution. But Christianity as such, the Mystery of Golgotha, exists as a fact, and it was necessary that it should enter at first into the unconscious streams. This was still possible in Asia Minor at the time when Christ united with the earth.

Shepherds, people resembling those among whom the worship of Nerthus lived, are also described in the Luke gospel. I can only sketch all this for you. If only we had more time I could show you how deeply founded are the things I have to tell you today. It is because man came down from spiritual heights that the revelation of the divine came from the heavens. It had to be expressed in this way to those who knew, from ancient wisdom, that the destiny of man is linked with what lives in the stars of the heavens. But what is to live on the earth as a result of the incarnation of Christ into a human being will have to be understood gradually. The tidings are twofold, they are in two parts: ‘The revelation of the divine from on high’ and ‘Peace to earthly souls who are of good will.’ Without this second part, Christmas, the festival of the birth of Christ is meaningless!

Not only was Christ born for mankind; mankind also crucified Him! There is a necessity for this, too, but it is no less true that mankind did crucify Christ. And it may be known that the crucifixion on the wooden cross at Golgotha was not the only crucifixion. A time must come in which the second part of the Christmas words may be understood: ‘Peace to men on earth who are of good will!’ For the negative, too, may be felt and sensed, namely, that mankind today is far removed from a proper understanding of Christ and the Christmas Mystery.

Surely it must cut us to the quick that we live in an age when mankind's longing for peace is shouted down.9On 12 December 1916, via a speech in the Reichstag by Bethmann-Hollweg, the Central Powers offered a suggestion for peace negotiations which was rejected by the Allies. See Lecture Thirteen. It is almost dishonest in these days, when mankind's longing for peace is shouted down in the way it is, to celebrate Christmas at all. Let us hope, since we are not yet confronted with the absolute worst, that a change of soul may take place so that, in place of the shouting-down of the longing for peace, there may come Christian feelings, a will for peace. If it does not, it may not be those who are striving in Europe today but, instead, others who come over from Asia who will one day take revenge for the shouting-down of the longing for peace and bring tidings of Christianity and of the Mystery of Golgotha to the ruins of European culture and spiritual life. Then the record will be indelible: At Christmas in the nineteen hundred and sixteenth year after the annunciation of peace on earth to human souls who are of good will, in the nineteen hundred and sixteenth year after the tidings of Christmas, mankind succeeded in shouting down the longing for peace!

May it not come to this! May the good spirits who work in the Christmas impulses guard Europe's unfortunate population against this!