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The Mystery of the Trinity
Part 1: The Mystery of Truth
GA 214

Lecture IV

30 July 1922, Dornach

Once again we want to look back at those principles of initiation described in yesterday's lecture as having been paralyzed by the advancing intellectualization of culture. Looking back we shall see how those people, in whom these older, atavistic principles of initiation were still alive, confronted Christianity. Out of their perceptions they formulated what subsequently became the contents of dogma and, as such, could no longer be understood after about the eighth or ninth century.

We need only to remember that before the mystery of Golgotha the impulse of the true principle of the human self, the I, was essentially missing in human civilization. The human being was, of course, always organized in such a way as to have the I principle within him; furthermore, he or she was created to shape outer and inner being out of the I principle. But only slowly and by degrees did people come to feel and be conscious of the essence and power of the I. Thus we can say that although the human being, even in the times preceding the mystery of Golgotha, consisted of physical body, etheric body, astral body, and the I, human consciousness did not include within it this I being. The I was more or less unconscious. In those olden times people walked on the earth who basically did not live with full consciousness of the I. But it is actually only possible for the I to be active in the human being when the physical body is no longer developing in its full, original freshness. Those human beings who were still unconscious of their I developed their physical bodies in greater freshness than those who had entered into a full consciousness of the I. This arrival of the full consciousness of the I did not occur suddenly; it was taking place both before and after the mystery of Golgotha, but it is clearly perceptible to a spiritual-scientific observation of history.

That which can be maintained in its full freshness in the human physical, etheric, and astral bodies—that can only be maintained as long as something from the divine, spiritual nature is flowing into the human being out of the cosmos. But we could never have become free beings if the I had not appeared on the scene, if the divine-spiritual had not ceased to flow into us in the old sense. Human beings only became free through at the same time achieving mastery of the I within their consciousness. But that was only possible when humanity became involved in the sphere of abstract thoughts. Abstract thoughts are, however, actually the corpses of the spiritual world. I have already pointed this out in these lectures. Just as a corpse is left over from our physical nature when we die on the earth, so too, there remains a corpse left over from the being of soul and spirit that we were in the spiritual world before coming down into the physical world. However, this has only been the case since the human being has been equipped with consciousness of his I. And thoughts, abstract thoughts, represent this corpse. When we become able to take hold of abstract thoughts, we take hold of the corpse of our spiritual and soul being as it was before our descent into the earthly world. But a precondition for our taking hold of the corpse of our spiritual and soul being is that something of the dying and paralyzing principle of death must enter our physical body.

Indeed, the evolution of the human being is such that his nature has changed in the course of his development on earth. The bodies of human beings in olden times were different from those of the newer bodies. The bodies of old were such that within them the human being was unfree, but as he moved about, all the freshness of primal being was manifested in his physical, etheric, and astral activity. Thus one can say that in the civilized world we already live in a period of the evolution of humanity when the body is beginning inwardly to decay. And we attain our freedom precisely through this decaying body, which is the base for our intellectual, abstract thoughts. Through this decaying body the human being has attained all that which a person, as an intellectually imbued scientist, is so proud of today.

Considering this, we must say that before the mystery of Golgotha full consciousness of the self as an I was not yet present in human beings on the earth. Nevertheless, in those times there were a few people who had already developed this full I consciousness, who had developed it through the mystery cults. These people were called initiates. We have already said much concerning what happened to those who underwent initiation in the places of the ancient mysteries, how they ascended to the experience of the fully conscious I at a time when it was the general condition of humankind not yet to have a fully conscious I. But the initiate of old could ascend to this fully conscious I because something entered into him through the sacred enactments in the mysteries, something which had been felt and experienced in all ancient civilizations as the eternal Father in the cosmos. And when the initiate, the mystic, had reached a certain point of his initiation in the ancient mysteries he had an experience that allowed him to say to himself (if we were to imagine such an initiate within the ancient Hebrew civilization): The Father lives in me.

This initiate would characterize what had happened within him through his initiation in the following way: The nature of human beings in general is such that the Father indeed sustains and bears them, but the Father does not enter their consciousness and does not kindle their consciousness to an experience of the I. To ordinary human beings the Father gives only the spirit of breath; he breathes in the human being the breath which is the living soul. But the initiate felt that the living soul that had been breathed into a person was a special spiritual reality, the living Father principle of the cosmos which also entered into the human being. And then when this divine Father principle had entered into such an initiate of the ancient Hebrew world and he had become conscious of it, then he could say, with full justification, what the I meant to him: “I am the I am.” Such a person who went about among ancient peoples and, through the divine Father principle dwelling in him, was qualified to speak the I—which in the entire ancient world was the unutterable name of the Godhead, of the Father God—such a person was seen as the representative of the Father on the Earth. These initiates were called the Fathers who walked among the peoples. They were called Fathers because they represented the divine principle of the Father to other human beings. It was said of them that the divine Father had entered into them in the mysteries. Thus the mysteries were seen as the places within the earthly world where the principle could develop that otherwise only weaves and surges externally through the entire cosmos. Within the mystery centers and through the mystery centers, a tabernacle was built in the human being for the divine Father principle. The human being himself became a tabernacle for the divine Father principle.

Through the mysteries human beings felt the surge of God the Father through the earthly world; and looking out into the cosmos, into the great world beyond, they called it the macrocosm, the great world, inasmuch as they thought of it as permeated by and woven through and through by the divine Father principle. They looked then to the mystery centers, within which a tabernacle had been built for this Father God, within which human beings had themselves become tabernacles of the Father God through initiation; and they called the mysteries, and what a human being had become through the mysteries, the little world, the microcosm. This distinction persisted even into the days of Goethe, for when Goethe became a member of certain lodges he picked up the phrase, “The great world and the little world.” By “great world” he understood the macrocosm and by “little world,” the lodge that was, for him, an image of the “great world.”29Goethe was a member of the secret fraternal order of Free and Accepted Masons. Not restricted to stoneworkers, it retains much of the spirit and code of the medieval mason's guild.

All of this entered into another phase when the mystery of Golgotha was drawing near in the evolution of humanity. Hence, something essentially different had to be considered. During the mystery of Golgotha there were human beings walking on the earth who experienced within themselves something of the independent I. The consciousness of the I had begun to enter into human beings. But at the same time something else began to appear: The human physical body began to be inwardly brittle, to decay. And so at this time, in the middle of earth evolution, human evolution faced a great danger. There was the danger of more and more losing connection with the spiritual world and now there was the danger that the physical body could increasingly decay and fall apart.

To help with this danger the being we know as the Christ resolved to pour himself into Jesus of Nazareth just as the divine Father principle had poured into the initiates in earlier times. This divine Father principle had poured into the initiates. In this way the I was enkindled in, and added to, the physical body, etheric body, and astral body. As I have already said, only those into whom the divine Father had entered were allowed to speak the I, which was itself the unutterable name of God.

But now, in the middle of earth evolution there lived human beings who were beginning to say I of themselves, human beings who had raised the I into consciousness. The Son principle, the Christ principle, now entered into just such a human being, into Jesus of Nazareth. The Christ principle now entered into the I. Whereas in earlier times the Father principle had entered into physical body, etheric body, and astral body, now the Christ principle entered into the human being who had developed himself to that stage further in evolution.

Now remember how I described the human being in the second lecture. I said to you that the plant nullifies within itself physical nature. One might also say that the plant corrupts physical nature. The animal then corrupts the physical and the etheric. And the human being corrupts the physical, the etheric, and the astral. The human being did not corrupt them completely in the period of human development before Golgotha. But thereafter he corrupted them completely as the I really entered fully into our being. Of course, the initiate of the ancient mysteries freed himself entirely from physical body, etheric body, and astral body when he let the divine Father principle flow into him and, already in those days, became an I.

In entering into Jesus of Nazareth, Christ nullified, through his entrance, not only the physical body, the etheric body, and the astral body, but also the I, to the extent that it was developed in Jesus of Nazareth at that time. So that in Jesus Christ there dwelt the higher Christ principle, which is related to the I in the same way the I of the human being is related to the astral body.

The Christ event was something that the old initiates, in whom higher faculties of vision had developed, were still just able to perceive. When these ancient initiates observed the human being as he was in their time they found him uniting within himself all the forces of the other beings of nature and, as it were, standing above them uniting them all. They saw how one can find in the human physical body the mineral kingdom, in the human etheric body the plant kingdom, in the human astral body the animal kingdom, and then they saw what is actually human. When tidings of this Christ event, of the approaching event of Golgotha, came to the initiates who had achieved clairvoyant seeing in ancient times, to these Fathers of the peoples, at least to those few who were still present—when these tidings came, these initiates could see a being in Christ in whom still more was contained, in whom not merely had earthly being been elevated to the human level but in whom humanity itself had been elevated to the level of being that is spiritual and divine.

If we bear in mind how there is present in the human being something that lives in the external physical body as an expression of essential humanity then we can understand how these initiates saw more in Christ Jesus than a mere man, how they saw walking around on the earth something that went beyond the human, beyond humanity. These initiates saw Christ Jesus in a special radiance. They saw him covered not only with the color of human flesh but with a special shimmering radiance.

Initiates in ancient times could, of course, see this special shining radiance in their fellow initiates. It was the power of the Father principle that dwelled within them. But now they perceived not only that which lived in the old initiates as the divine Father principle; now they perceived something that radiated forth from Christ Jesus in a special way, because not only had physical body, etheric body, and astral body been nullified in him, but also the I—to the extent that the I could be present in a human being at that time.

For this reason not only initiates but also other specially gifted people were able to see Christ Jesus as an especially radiant being. And this was the radically new reality at the time of the mystery of Golgotha—new even to the initiates: that other human beings, though perhaps few in number, who were only endowed with natural powers, not with powers otherwise acquired only in the mysteries, could recognize in Christ Jesus this higher nature.

From this fact came the realization that now, with the mystery of Golgotha, something was supposed to happen that, in earlier times, had taken place only within the mysteries themselves. Something that had formerly taken place only within the mysteries—within the microcosm, the “little world”—had been carried out into the macrocosm, the “great world.” And it is actually the case that, to begin with, the Christ mystery was proclaimed in its clearest and most pure form in the last remaining mystery centers of antiquity. And precisely this proclamation of the mystery of Christ was lost to later civilization in the course of the first four centuries of European evolution. Because in Christ Jesus there lived, not the Father principle alone, but also the Son principle, the old initiates knew that he represented something absolutely unique in earthly development. It was unique in this respect: In the further advance of the earth never again could another mystery of Golgotha appear, never again could such an indwelling of the Son principle in a human being take place, an indwelling such as had occurred in Jesus of Nazareth.

And these initiates knew that Christ had entered into humanity as the healer, as the great healer, as the being who prevents the human body from suffering damage caused by the brittleness which was brought about through the entrance of the I. For what would have happened if Christ had not appeared as the healer? If Christ had not appeared as the healer, then when human beings die, when they lay aside the decaying body, the products of this decay would radiate back into the soul being that the human being unfolds after death. The dead would have been disturbed, tortured, by what the decaying physical body represented in earth existence. These souls who had passed through death would have been forced to see how the earth itself suffers injury when it has to take in a decaying body. And the old initiates knew how those who called themselves Christians in the true sense of the word, who had filled themselves inwardly with the Christ principle, how such men could now look down upon the body taken from them by death, and say: Because we received Christ into ourselves while we were children of the earth we have healed the physical body to the extent that it can be placed into the earth without becoming a principle of decay for the earth itself. What the human being needed in order to become an I had to be healed for the sake of the earth. For in order to become an I he had to have a decaying body; but if this decaying body had persisted the earth would have been harmed. And after death the souls, looking down upon the physical bodies now received by the earth, would have been tormented because they could feel the harm being inflicted upon the earth itself by their decaying physical bodies.

What entered through the mystery of Golgotha was this, that the souls of human beings could say to themselves after they had passed through the gate of death: Yes, we carried this fallen physical body on the earth and we can thank it for the possibility of developing a freer I in our human being. But Christ through his dwelling in Jesus of Nazareth, has healed this physical body so that it is no longer harmful to the earth's existence; and we can calmly look down into earthly existence knowing that after the mystery of Golgotha bad seed is not falling into the earth with the physical body that the human being otherwise needs for the development of the I. And so Christ passed through the mystery of Golgotha in order to heal and sanctify the human physical body for the earth.

But now think what would have happened in the course of earth evolution if things had remained as they were after the Christ event. If things had remained that way then the following could have been said: In ancient times the Father God entered into human beings so they, as souls, could rise up to the I and as initiates could proclaim to others the actual essence of the human being, the being of the I. Then the Son, the Christ, entered into the being of humanity. Those who raise themselves so that Christ can dwell in them rescue their bodies for the earth. Just as through the Father principle, and the indwelling of the Father principle made possible by the mysteries, the human soul nature was rescued—so now the bodily nature of the human being has been saved through the healer, the savior-redeemer, through Christ who went through the mystery of Golgotha.

If this had remained the situation, then those who knew of the redemption of their bodies would have had to bear Christ as the being who is actively working within them, as the being who is even actively working on their bodily nature. And then again human beings could not have become free beings. When inner freedom would have arrived in the fourteenth century A.D., human beings would have evolved so that they could receive the Christ into themselves for the peace of their souls after death, so that their souls would be able to look down upon the earth as I have just described. But they could not have become free. If they had wanted to become good then they would simply have had to let Christ work within them in the same way that the Father worked in ancient times in human beings who were not initiates. In those times human beings became free when the I was developed within them. The initiates became free human beings in ancient times whereas others were unfree, because the Father lived in them beneath their consciousness. If Christians had been beings who were merely conscious of the Christ within them, then whenever they wanted to be good they would have had to extinguish their own I consciousness in order to let Christ awaken within them through the extinguishing of their own I-consciousness. They themselves actually would not have been able to be good; it would only have been Christ in them who was good. Human beings would have had to walk about upon the earth with the Christ dwelling within them, and inasmuch as Christ would have availed himself of the bodies of human beings, the healing of these bodies would have occurred. But the good deeds accomplished by human beings would have been the deeds of Christ, not the deeds of human beings.

That was not the task, the mission, of the divine Son, who had united himself with the evolution of the earth through the mystery of Golgotha. He wanted to live within humanity without clouding the dawning I consciousness of human beings. He did this once—in Jesus, in whom, from the baptism onward, the consciousness of the Son God lived in place of the I consciousness of Jesus. But this was not to happen in the human beings of the times to come. In the people of future times the I was to be able to raise itself to full, clear consciousness, while Christ nevertheless continued to dwell within them.

For this to happen it was necessary for Christ, as such, to disappear from the immediate sight of human beings. Although he remained united with earthly existence, he disappeared from the direct view of human beings. A saying common in the ancient mystery centers became also applicable to him. In the mysteries it was said that when a physically visible being, a being whose existence can be followed by human beings with their perception in the physical world, ceases to be visible—it was said that such a being had “ascended to the heavens,” and passed into those regions where physical visibility no longer exists. And so Christ ascended to heaven and became invisible. In a certain sense he would have retained his visibility if he had dwelled in human beings and eliminated the I, so that they could have become good only because, in reality, the Christ was acting in them.

The kind of vision that enabled the apostles, the disciples, to behold Christ even after his resurrection—that kind of vision disappeared. Christ had ascended to the heavens. But he sent to human beings that divine being who does not extinguish I consciousness. This is the being to whom the human being raises himself, not with earthly perception, but with imperceptible spirit. Christ sent humanity the Holy Spirit.

So actually it is the Holy Spirit who is sent by Christ in order that man might retain his consciousness of self, of his I, while Christ himself lives in the unconsciousness of human beings. Thus, if he realizes in the full sense of the word what his being really is, the human being will say: When I look back to what the ancient initiates knew, then I see that in me lives the Father principle which fills the cosmos and which arose in these initiates and developed the I in them. That is the principle that lives within us before we come down into the physical world. Through the Father principle dwelling in them, the ancient initiates remembered, with complete clarity, the way they had lived before they descended into the physical world. They sought the divine in the realm of being that precedes birth, in the realm of preexistence: Ex deo nascimur.

After the mystery of Golgotha human beings could no longer say, “I behold the Christ.” Otherwise they could not have become good through themselves, only Christ within could have done the good. And the truth could only have been In Christo morimur. The human being could die in Christ, through the principle of death within him he could unite with Christ. But the human being's new consciousness could be awakened through the Holy Spirit, the being sent to him by Christ: Per spiritum sanctum reviviscimus.

There you have the inner connection of the Trinity. This shows you, too, something else that is definitely a part of Christianity. Even without perception of Christ within, a human being can achieve the awakening of the spirit. By sending the Holy Spirit Christ gave humanity the ability to raise itself to an understanding of the spiritual out of the life of intellect itself. Hence it should not be said that the human being cannot grasp the spiritual, the super-sensible, through his own spirit. A man could only justify his inability to understand the spirit if he ignored the Holy Spirit, if he spoke only of the Father God and the Christ God. For those willing to see and read it is also clearly indicated—for it is a revelation in and of itself—that the human being can understand the super-sensible through the spirit dwelling within him, if he only inclines himself to Christ. It is for this reason that we are told that the Holy Spirit appeared at the baptism of Christ. And with the appearance of the Holy Spirit these words resound through the cosmos: “This is my beloved Son; this day I have begotten him.”

The Father is the unbegotten begetter who places the Son into the physical world. But at the same time the Father uses the Holy Spirit in order to tell humanity that in the spirit, the super-sensible is comprehensible, even if this spirit is itself not perceptible but only works inwardly to elevate the merely abstract intellect to the realm of the living. In the spirit the super-sensible can be understood when the corpse of thoughts that we have from our pre-birth existence is raised to life through the Christ dwelling within us. And when Christ sent the Holy Spirit to his disciples—this imparting occurred through the Christ, through the Son. For this reason it was an ancient dogma that the Father is the unbegotten begetter, that the Son is the one begotten by the Father, and that the Holy Spirit is the one imparted to humanity by the Father and the Son. This is not some kind of arbitrarily asserted dogma but rather the wisdom of initiation living in the earliest Christian centuries; only later was it covered over and buried along with the teachings concerning the Trichotomy and the Trinity.

The divine principle working as Christianity within evolving humanity cannot be understood without the Trinity. If, in the place of the Trinity, some other teaching concerning God were to enter, then basically speaking it would not be a fully Christian teaching. One must understand the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit if one would understand the teaching concerning God concretely and in a genuine way.

The Gospel itself was no longer understood when Scholasticism decreed that the human being has revelation only in faith, that he cannot reach the super-sensible through his own human knowledge. This decree concerning human knowledge, which was separated off from faith, was itself a sin against Christianity: it was a sin against the proclamation of the Holy Spirit through the Father at the baptism of Jesus and through Jesus himself when he sent the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

Thus within the development of European civilization many sins were committed in what continued to call itself Christianity, many sins were committed against the original impulses of Christianity. Today it is really necessary for humanity to turn back to these original impulses of Christianity. In many ways these original Christian impulses have hardened into dogmas. But if one penetrates into the living spirit then what is essentially true in these dogmas can catch fire. Then they will cease to be dogmas. What is false in the Church is not that it has propagated the dogmas but that it has frozen and crystallized them, has taken them away from the realm of human knowledge. Because human knowledge was limited to only what is in the world of the senses the dogmas had to be crystallized, had to become no longer understandable. For it is an impossibility that faith alone could ever really bring understanding. What must be rescued within humanity is knowledge itself; knowledge must be led back to the super-sensible.

Fundamentally speaking, this challenge reaches to us from Golgotha when we rightly understand it, when we know how, after going through the mystery of Golgotha, Christ sent into humanity, in addition to this divine Father principle, the Holy Spirit. Whoever beholds the cross on Golgotha must at the same time behold the Trinity, for in reality Christ shows and makes manifest the Trinity in all the ways he is interwoven with the earthly evolution of humanity.

This, my dear friends, is what I wanted to bring to you today, which will provide us with the basis for further studies in the future.