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Knowledge and Initiation—
Cognition of the Christ
GA 211

II. Cognition of the Christ Through Anthroposophy

15 April 1922, London

Clairvoyance, which is the basis of the modern science of initiation, has always existed. In the past ages it was something that rose up within the human being like an elemental force, and on the path of initiation those who had gone through fewer stages were essentially dependent for their progress upon the authority of those who had gone through more stages than they. But to meet the needs of the human soul of today we cannot build on authority; to do so would be to contradict the stage it has now reached.

In our age the methods are entirely built, as in external science, upon the continuous and full control of the individuality and personality; in the soul life there must be control in every stage and in every step taken by the new candidate for initiation. Hence in speaking of exact clairvoyance in connection with the modern science of initiation we use the word ‘exact’ as it is used in the term “exact” science. Yesterday I spoke of the insight we gain into the cosmos and into the working of all things through the modern science of initiation. That insight is by no means something which, when we study it, lives in the soul merely as a theory or an abstract conception; it is something which becomes a living, spiritual force which penetrates us fully in all our powers and faculties when we allow it to work upon us. Thus the anthroposophical spiritual movement has been made effective in many spheres of life and particularly in that of the artistic life. Through the help and self-sacrifice of its friends and members in many countries the movement has been able to build the Goetheanum, its headquarters at Dornach, near Basle, Switzerland,1Refers to the first Goetheanum, destroyed by fire on December 31, 1922. Rebuilt as the present Goetheanum. (Ed.) as an independent school of anthroposophical science. And in all its forms this building expresses that same deep spiritual reality which finds utterance through the spoken and the written word for the ideas and thoughts of the science.

Had any other spiritual movement in our time required to build a headquarters it would have commissioned an architect to design it on Antique, Renaissance or Gothic lines, or in one of the prevailing styles. This the Anthroposophical Movement, by reason of its inner nature, could not do. The architectural forms of the Goetheanum are drawn from the same source out of which the ideas of the super-sensible spring, as they are proclaimed through the world. Everything that is found in Dornach, be it sculpture or painting, is carried by a new style out of which Anthroposophy is born in this modern age. Whoever visits this School for Spiritual Science will find that on the one hand the anthroposophical world view is proclaimed from the rostrum in words and on the other hand the forms of the building and the paintings express in an artistic way what is expressed by the word. That which can work from the stage should only be another form of revelation than that what can be effected through the word. Anthroposophy should come out of the deepest foundations of humanity, of which theoretical Anthroposophy is only one branch, education and the arts are the others. In this way anthroposophical life becomes a factor in the most varied fields of human existence. The Waldorf School, which has been founded in Stuttgart, is not in any sense a school where children are taught a particular anthroposophical conception of the world. It is one where the teachers themselves, not so much in what they teach as in how they do so and in the whole way in which they exercise the art of education—are permeated in their faculties with that which anthroposophy can give them. Reference could be made to other directions in which the modern science of initiation is proving itself of use in every branch of human life and activity. Moreover it operates upon and vitalizes the religious needs of civilized humanity, and as these needs are deeply connected with an understanding of the Mystery of Golgotha it is with that subject that I propose to deal now.

Let me begin by connecting what I have to say with what was said yesterday about the path of spiritual development for modern times leading to imagination, inspiration and intuition. I showed how by imagination and concentration, by means of certain exercises, the student can develop his thought-power until it becomes something which may be called imaginative in the real sense of the word, and in such a way that thought becomes not what it ordinarily is—abstract, cold, and in outline sketchy if compared with the intense vitality of sense impressions—but imaginative, pictorial, vivid and full of life, and in these characteristics no way inferior to impressions of the senses. The man who has attained to imaginative thinking, has something as full of life as when in normal daily existence he yields to the impressions of the world of colour or of sound.

But between the students of the new science of Initiation who attain to this imaginative thought, and those who abandon themselves to uncontrolled vision and hallucination, there is an important difference. The man who is subject to visions and hallucinations is not aware that the pictures which arise before him are subjective; on the other hand, he who has imaginative thought is fully aware that what he has before him is not an external reality but is something subjective having its origin in his own inner life. He knows the subjective nature of that imaginative picture-world. He knows too, that when through ‘imaginative thought’ he comes to perceive what was called yesterday his ‘time organism’—the formative force body that works within the physical body as its sculpturer and architect—he is perceiving the first spiritual super-sensible thing that he can experience, and something that essentially belongs to his own inner being.

Then there comes the second stage on that path of development when he becomes so strong that he is not only able to concentrate the full forces of his soul at will upon the concepts, and then upon the imaginative pictures he has before him in imaginative thought, but can divert that picture world away from his consciousness while maintaining it in a fully wakeful condition. He is now ready for the real imaginations to pour into him from the external world spiritually, speaking through the outside spiritual universe, i.e., the objective imaginations as against the subjective picture-world that he had before. Here is attained the stage I have described as inspirational knowledge. He perceives his own spiritual being as it exists independently of his physical bodily organism, and as it existed in the worlds of soul and spirit before he entered into this physical life through conception and birth. He has before him a picture of his prenatal existence in the spiritual world and of the spiritual realities of the whole universe, and comes in contact through conscious knowledge with the spiritual reality of man and of the universe. Thus, through this imaginative, inspirational knowledge, he discovers what he was before he descended into this physical incarnation in a physical body for this life. He discovers also that when he came down from the spiritual worlds he carried with him into this physical life the power of thought which he here possesses in his ordinary consciousness. What is this power of thought? It is that which he already had in his life in the spiritual worlds before birth, but ordinary consciousness only shows it in a pale and abstract outline.

He then comes to recognize something that may be thus described: he gazes upon the picture at the gate of death, and the moment of death, and sees that the physical body is no longer held together and built up in its whole forces by the force of an indwelling human soul but is given over to the forces of the earth as they work in the external mineral world; he sees how, through decay or the process of burning, the human physical body is given up to those mineral forces and assimilated with the earth. He sees by comparison how, in effect, what is carried into the earthly life through birth is something (speaking now in the sense of the soul) that dies into the physical body just as the latter dies into the earth at death. What he had in his power of thought in the ordinary consciousness was something that was vital and full of spiritual life in the spiritual worlds before conception and birth, but was then killed in the physical body so that it appeared in ordinary consciousness as the power of deadened thought.

Because of this fact knowledge of today is so unsatisfactory for man, as he comprehends, in a certain sense, only lifeless nature. It is an illusion when he thinks that through scientific experiments he can reach anything else. Certainly there will be progress beyond representing only lifeless nature; they will be able to create organic substances. But it will not be understood by the deadened thinking, even when they have been created in the laboratories. With this kind of thinking, which is the corpse of the soul which is spiritually dead, only death can be understood.

In what then does the process consist that was described as the development of the soul to imaginative, inspirational and intuitional knowledge? It is in effect this, that we call to life within ourselves what was killed in our power of thought. When we develop the living, imaginative, plastic thought, and inspirational and intuitional cognition, we call to life our power of thought, which was dead.

We have now reached the point where we should be able to understand human evolution and history. Modern scientific history usually skims over the surface of external events, without regarding the metamorphoses that go on within the soul of man from age to age. We may ask why is it that in this age humanity has had to pass through a period when thought was abstract and of a deadened quality. The answer is that the full, living, spiritual thought, by its very vitality and fullness of life, exercises a kind of compulsion on the human soul. It is by passing through this dead and abstract thought that humanity has been able to achieve freedom, and for the evolution and development of freedom this stage was a necessary one.

After man has attained to Imagination and Inspiration, he has to say to himself: Something has happened to me, which causes me anxiety. I mention this as an unusual fact, for the strange thing happens, that the man of today when he has risen to Imagination and Inspiration, experiences real anxiety. This stems from the fact that today, when he becomes clairvoyant, man has to say to himself: I have become too strongly egotistical through my development. Anxiety arises in the heart and mind (Gemüt), for man has the feeling that his ego works too strongly. In ancient initiation, before the Mystery of Golgotha, the candidate went through the opposite experience: As he attained to initiation he found that in a sense he was becoming less ego-conscious, that he was pouring himself out into the universe and becoming less in possession of himself. His ego-consciousness was rather weakened than strengthened.

The turning point between these two characteristics of initiation is the Mystery of Golgotha. The first human being to pass through initiation, and to experience this deeply disquieting feeling when the ego becomes too strong, was St. Paul at Damascus. The passage in the New Testament (Acts 9) is so well known as to need no further reference here. It was on that occasion that he gained insight into the necessity for weakening the power of his ego; he realized that the initiate of the new age stood in need of a force to weaken the intensity of the ego-life, and as a result of his experience he pronounced the words which were to give the keynote to the whole development of humanity through initiation as from the moment of the Mystery of Golgotha. These words, which resounded forth into the future and pointed out the direction to be taken by the succeeding period of evolution, were ‘Not I, but Christ in me.’ When we look upon the place of Golgotha, and receive into ourselves the forces of the Christ Who descended to earth from the spiritual worlds and Who since the Mystery has permeated the earth, we are enabled to diminish the forces of the ego and to pass through initiation in the right way.

The abstract thinking of which I spoke in the first part of this lecture, where the power of thought is deadened and becomes like a soul-corpse living in the physical body, has prevailed only in the more recent times of human evolution. It began, gradually, some three or four centuries after the Mystery of Golgotha. In the more ancient people, man brought with him into his physical life out of the spiritual worlds more of the full life of thought which is now dead abstract thought. This may be confirmed by studying, without bias, the evolution of humanity and the records and experiences of man, whether initiate or non-initiate, in ancient times. Much is said today about so-called Animism, the poetic fancy of simple and primitive peoples, in an endeavour to explain the experiences of the past ages as recorded and handed down in tradition. But by facing up to realities we see that it was not in a kind of poetic fancy that ancient man described the woods and forests, lakes and mountains, springs, brooks, clouds and thunder and lightning, and everything physical in the world of Nature in a spiritual way. He saw and described not only the physical things that we see, but the spiritual beings that inhabited every flower and mineral, every spring and wood. That description was not, as in the modern conception of Animism, something created out of poetic fancy, but a direct experience of the living, spiritual power which man brought with him into physical life. It was as though, in a spiritual sense, he sent out feelers which felt and touched and realized, giving him experiences of the spiritual beings which inhabit everything in external nature. It is only since the third or fourth century after Christianity that gradually developed in humanity dead thinking, that dead consciousness which today can only see the mineral world. Ancient man experienced in himself something that was living; he was able to experience and to know the spiritual beings in the world and to recognize them as the same thing that had lived within him before he entered into the physical life. His experience was a very practical one, explaining his pre-natal existence in spiritual worlds, and he felt that something was born with him into this physical life and lived within him; he did not feel that this thought proceeded from the organism of his physical body, for he knew it was a living thing he had brought with him from the spiritual world before his birth.

Now we can quite well realize how the course of human evolution would have continued along the line that has been described, and how the thinking power of man would have become more and more dead. We can imagine evolution continuing in a straight downward line, and that is what would have happened if the Cross had not been raised upon Golgotha. Looking at the picture of death we see that had it not been for the Mystery of Golgotha the physical body of man would die, that his soul-life would die with his physical body. We can say out of our consciousness of this abstract, deadened thought, that our soul-life, i.e., our life of thought, partakes of death. And this is what humanity would have had to experience gradually more and more but for the Cross on Golgotha; no longer would there have been the living thought, but the soul-life would have slowly expired in universal death.

This is how we can regard the Mystery of Golgotha by means of the modern science of initiation, just as it is possible for those who are rooted in Christianity to regard the Mystery through the simple study of the Gospel records. This fresh aspect of the Mystery is the starting point for a new evolution and an upward one. He who goes through the experiences and training of the modern path of initiation, and who attains to inspirational and intuitive cognition, is able to attain to the point where a spiritual world is revealed, of which the Mystery of Golgotha is shown as the great solace in world existence. He also realizes that he has attained freedom, but as the price of that freedom he finds this deep and troubling experience, as he passes through the way of initiation to ‘imagination’ and ‘inspiration’, that his ego has been strengthened and intensified, and is now too strong. That is one pole of his experience. The other pole is that in spite of the strengthened ego he has gained from evolution he cannot save himself or mankind from the universal death of the soul-life. But when he looks out, from his spiritual experience in inspirational and intuitive cognition, upon the picture of the Cross on Golgotha, he sees that through the passing of that Divine Being, the CHRIST—first through the physical body of a human being, Jesus of Nazareth, and then through the gate of death—mankind can be redeemed from universal death. On the one hand man has strengthened the ego-consciousness, but this cannot save him from universal death; and on the other hand he sees redemption from that death in the picture of the Cross on Golgotha and of the dying and the risen Christ. Through this conscious spiritual knowledge he is able to understand from out of what experience the wonderful writers of the Gospels wrote. He sees that until the third or fourth century after Golgotha something still remained of that living thought in humanity, something of that spiritual world which man brought into his physical life, and that it was this which enabled isolated human beings in the first three or four centuries to understand the Mystery of Golgotha; even as the modern initiate can understand it by means of the new science of initiation when he goes through that path and through the exercises which have been described.

From the knowledge contained in the Gnosis—which resembles in some respects modern anthroposophical science—we find that in the first few centuries there was a certain understanding of the Mystery of Golgotha, and that unless that understanding had still existed in isolated human beings the Gospels never could have been written. They were written out of the last relics of the old pre-Christian science of initiation. Hence we see why St. Paul out of his experience was able to say, “Were it not for the risen Christ then all our faith and all our life of soul would have been in vain, would have remained dead'. Then we understand that the Divine Being, the God, descended to the earth and went through the gate of Death, and lives in and with the earth since the Mystery of Golgotha, and, as was not the case before, the forces of Christ are working especially in the evolution of humanity upon the earth. We know that He passed through and conquered death, that He rose again through conquering the death of the soul forces and redeemed the soul from death. And so are we able to enter our thinking life again, to enliven what has become dead in the soul-life by looking up from the deeply moving and troubling experience of our too much strengthened ego to the picture of the Mystery of Golgotha.

It is thus that anthroposophy can show the path, not away from Christ, but to Him. I shall now give an outline of what anthroposophical cognition tells us of the evolution of mankind in its approach to the Mystery of Golgotha.

In primeval times, when man's thinking was still alive and filled with spiritual vitality, he saw the spiritual alongside the physical being when he looked out upon the physical phenomena of the world of Nature. The spiritual thought he experienced in a somewhat dreamlike, instinctive consciousness, and he knew that his spiritual origin was in the spiritual worlds. From out of the great masses of men who thus knew instinctively of the spiritual world there arose individuals who gave themselves up to science, to the path of knowledge, just as in our time individuals become scientists and learned men. In that time when in the forces of all human souls there was still a connection with the spiritual world, there arose men of science and learning, initiates, who also by exercises and by training the soul (though different in character from those described for the modern science of development) attained to a kind of imagination, inspiration and intuition.

Intuition is the third stage of spiritual development, Here the initiate perceives not only pictures of the spiritual world, but enters into and communes with the spiritual beings themselves. In the spiritual worlds the initiates held a mighty and majestic communion with beings who descended from the divine spiritual worlds; they raised themselves to this inter-course. The most ancient and primeval teachers of humanity were spiritual beings who taught, not through the external senses and not by walking in physical bodies among men and teaching through the physical ear, but through the spiritual consciousness of the ancients. Now what was it primarily that these spiritual beings, the sublime teachers, taught mankind through these ancients? It was the mysteries of ‘unbornness’ of the human soul. They taught in clear knowledge that which was already known or felt instinctively by the masses of mankind, namely, how the life of man is connected in the spiritual worlds before birth. From these ancients, divine spiritual teachers, humanity learnt to know the destinies of the human soul through its connection with the life before birth. We can see how in ancient times death and resurrection were represented merely in pictorial form in the cults and ceremonies. The cults represented the death and the resurrection of gods, of divine beings, prophetically and in a picture that was not at that time a real and practical experience of the mysteries of death. For man had not then the same tragic experience of death as he has today; he still had within him the living life he had brought from the spiritual worlds into his physical life. Death to him did not mean that tragedy which it was to mean later when the soul-life had been drawn into the physical body and become like a corpse. In those ancient cults where death and resurrection of the Divine Being were represented as in a picture it was more like a pictorial prophecy of what was to come—the Mystery of Golgotha. The men who witnessed these cults and ceremonies were already able to say in dim prophecy that the god passes through death and conquers it, and that because the god conquers death so can the divine in the human soul. Nevertheless the pre-Christian mysteries and understandings and teachings of humanity by the divine spiritual beings was a teaching principally of the mysteries of birth not of death. And that is a deeply significant fact in the evolution of humanity.

The first initiates of the Christian era, looking upon the Mystery of Golgotha, recognized that the old initiation and the old teaching of the mysteries did not penetrate into the knowledge of death. They realized however that this knowledge was revealed in the Mystery of Golgotha. Then there was understood and was revealed what can only be described by saying literally that in the Mystery of Golgotha something happened which concerned the destinies of the gods themselves. It may be put in this way: looking down upon the earth, the divine spiritual beings could see that through a destiny that was beyond the power of the gods, the earth and humanity and all that was connected with humanity were being given up to death. But who was it that had no experience of death? The gods, the divine spiritual beings, those from whom the ancient primeval teachers of humanity descended to commune with the initiates when they had raised themselves to a consciousness of the spiritual. And they, the gods, did not partake in that death through which all earthly human beings were destined to pass. Therefore it was decided between the gods, not only as a matter concerning mankind but as one concerning the gods themselves, that a god should pass through the mystery of death on earth in a human body. That is the great mystery that we must understand about the Mystery of Golgotha. It not only concerns man but also the gods.

So it is that when we come to view the Mystery through the modern science of initiation our aspect or outlook is super-sensible. Anthroposophy leads to an understanding of this. Not only the initiate of today but every man may receive a stimulating impulse, encouragement and understanding from the modern science of initiation. We, all of us, may attain to an intensified and strengthened power of knowledge, and having done so may recognize that the Mystery of Golgotha which took place within earth-existence, was at the same time a cosmic and an earthly event. Then are we able to say, ‘It is not I, but Christ in me Who makes me live again in the spiritual life of the soul.’

Anthroposophy does not lead to irreligion but to a religious life in the fullest sense of the term; we are deepened and penetrated with new spiritual forces. Through spiritual-scientific cognition of the Mystery of Golgotha man overcomes all doubts which are contained so strongly in today's religious life. External science has given us freedom, but with it has come doubt. It is the task of Anthroposophy to sweep away these doubts that have come in the train of external science and which were a necessary stage in the development of humanity, and because Anthroposophy is a spiritual science it is able to do so. It can instill into the heart and soul of man a religious sense for everything in the world and in mankind, and above all it can give an understanding of the Mystery of Golgotha in a form that can be received, not only by those who adhere to the older Christian tradition, but by all men on the earth.

Anthroposophy did not come to found sects or new religions. It came to call to life again what is the religion of humanity, the synthesis of all religions, the religion that is already there—Christianity. Not only is it able to call Christianity into fresh life, but for those who have been bereft of Christianity by modern science and the doubts arising from it, it is able to bring about, in the fullest sense, a resurrection of the religious life. Amongst all the other life-giving forces, Anthroposophy is able at this present time to enliven us and to bring about the resurrection of religious experience for all mankind.