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The Rudolf Steiner Archive

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Foundation Course: Spiritual Discernment, Religious Feeling, Sacramental Action
GA 343

XII. Prophecy, Dogma and Paganism

2 October 1921 a.m., Dornach

My dear friends! Today we need to pursue what we had started yesterday, by adding details to some of the requests. Above all questions, as difficult as they may be—be it in the religious sense, or anthroposophic sense—will be those related to knowledge which reaches into the future. Such knowledge into the future can only be understood if one is able to discuss all prerequisites for such knowledge, so to speak. You know, of course, that outer materialistic science also has certain knowledge of the future which is quite possible.

Solar and lunar eclipses can be predicted to the second, and these predictive calculations depend upon having a definite insight into the details of the phenomena. In outer materialistic science it relates to this insight of the context of the phenomena being hidden, because it is presented in formulae; the formulae are learnt and one no longer really knows where they came from; they actually originate from observations made in the very same area to which they are applied. Nobody would be able to calculate the solar and lunar eclipse predictions if solar and lunar eclipses were not originally observed, forming a basis for observation and formulas obtained from these, which now continue as based on the belief of a regularity applied to these phenomena. The psychological process which takes place here is far more complicated than one is often aware of today. Things start becoming particularly complicated if they are not applicable only to outer, spatial mechanical or mathematical kinds of laws, but if they deal with what happens inwardly, in the intrinsic sense, in the course of the world. Because these questions are based on the prerequisites of modern consciousness they can barely be studied, that's why we find modern Bible explanations—and the priest must also be a Bible explainer—so difficult, like chapter 13 of the Mark Gospel and everything relating to this chapter. Besides that, in later translations this particular chapter has become extraordinarily difficult to understand because it relates to circumstances which have become the most corrupt.

Now I would like, before I proceed into the situation of this chapter, to say something about the predictions in the Christian sense. You have the feeling that within the development of Christendom there had already been, especially in olden times, references to future events, and future events of the most important kind had already played a major role. You also get the feeling that present day people hardly believe such indications, and that they actually can hardly reckon with such indications being anything but illusion. One always gets the feeling, when such things do happen—in modern language use it would be called prophesy—that something else must play along, other than real knowledge of what will happen in the future. You must however make yourself familiar with it, it is after all also present in our time, in the time of intellectualism—and rightly so in this time—it has eradicated certain traditional, inherited, atavistic clairvoyance. There are clairvoyant people of the older kind who are still serving certain theorists, also of the 19th century, as examples from which they wanted to prove the existence of a supernatural world they could not experience for themselves. We only need to consider such a type of prediction, then we will see—quite equitably, whether we believe it or not—what is actually meant. Such cases could happen, and it has, if I take it as typical, and still occurred numerous times in the course of the last century, whereas in the present time it shows a certain decline. Such abilities are still common in country people. It could happen that someone sees in an advantageous moment in a dream, how he, riding a horse, falls and hurts himself. Such seeing is certainly a sight into the future and one can, even by being careful, find out everything with all the scientific chicaneries that exclude an influence on following events, one cannot speak otherwise but admit a true looking into the future exists. This is something which had been recorded by the most earnest theorists everywhere, up to the middle of the 19th century. You can find this writing originating from otherwise quite serious natural scientists from the first half of the 19th century, discussed in numerous journals. As I've said, whoever observes people today must see that such atavistic abilities have gone backwards and become drowned out by intellectual life; a condition which completely excludes looking into the future.

Now, as we've said, we must at least familiarise ourselves with such abilities which can be called looking into the future, abilities present in ancient times and certainly understood in the surroundings of Christ Jesus, when he spoke in a certain way about the future. In order not to be misunderstood, I want to call your attention straight away to something else. When you take literature which appears as Christian literature according to the actual Gospels, according to the letters of Paul and others, of direct disputes attributed to the disciples, and you take the later literature of the so-called church fathers—under 'church father' it is meant those who were still students of disciples or at least scholars or the apostles not too long ago—when you take the literature of the church fathers, then you will often discover three characteristics.

The first characteristic is that these writings have become dried up of an actual living understanding for the Old Testament. You will clearly notice how everywhere in these writings, up to the "Shepherd of Hermas," the craving comes to the fore to depict the Old Testament intellectually, in this case interpreting it allegorically, therefore it is pulled out of a real encounter to a mere concept, into what is, so to say, intellectual. The restyling of concepts into allegory puts up with the tradition of the Old Testament as a tradition of facts, told as facts—in reality these are to be understood through the intellect. That is the first essential characteristic. The second essential characteristic is that the Second Coming of the Christ is clearly mentioned everywhere in the writings, that is to say, exactly what is referred to in the 13th chapter of Mark's Gospel in the most delicate sense of the word. It was certainly, one must admit, the belief in the entire spirit of the church fathers' writings from the 4th century that the Second Coming of Christ can be predicted in the near future. They called people's attention to how the old world would fall apart and how the Christ would reappear, and added to this, the imagination was created that Christ would appear in a similar way, in the most wonderful way, strolling over the earth, as it had been the case before.

The third element in the writings of the church fathers is what actually contributed a great deal to the church doctrine. Everywhere a kind of legal element developed, a warning to obey the bishops, the dogmas, to submit to the constitution in the developing church. So everywhere something was taking place which one could be referred to as this: To the believers it was said that they will fall into bad luck if they develop anything which comes from within themselves, while they are searching for a religious path.—The religious path given by the church's constitution and the legal constitution, which ordered obedience to the church, was something that has continued particularly in Catholicism to the widest extent, which even as an experience today can still oppose one very forcefully.

I once, for example, had a conversation in Rome with a priest brought up in quite the Jesuit manner—it was very hard, to get this conversation going—indicating all the sources which gave him the basis of his teaching and also showing the way in which he was to arrive at the teaching content. He pointed out that one then had the written words containing the dogmatic church content, and those were all things which needed no proof, they simply had to be believed, in as far as dogma was concerned. He pointed out that only interpretation was allowed, one was not to criticise or prove anything in the Gospels, while reading them again and again; one had the church tradition which flowed into the breviary, and then one had a living example of the life of the saints.

The former could not very well form the subject of a discussion involving this cleric because one had to admit that what the Catholic Church wanted to protect was presented in such an ingrained sense, that there was no way around it. But the latter, the relationship of the Catholic clerics to the saints, that of course is something which creates certain difficulties even with the Catholic clergy when they think about it, and here an objection could be used. Saints are fixed personalities valued by the church for their faultless manner in their direct, vital relationship to the supersensible worlds, either through the understanding of how they had found the revelation out of the supersensible world through their inner experience, or that they performed deeds which can only be understood through accepting these deeds as having been performed with divine assistance.

You may know that such a canonization in the Catholic Church requires a very detailed ceremony, preceded by the exact determination of how the relevant person lived and what he thought, a process which should not last years, but centuries. Further, this examination must end with a ceremony which exist of all those who come forward, who have something well founded to present regarding the living exchange the personality has in relation to the divine, and to some extent always enter into what is said in such a way, that the so-called Advocatus diaboli, the representative of the demonic world, who has to refute everything that the other side has to say for the relevant canonisation, is brought to attention. So there will be an extensive trial, at which the being who should be regarded as the Diabolus, the devil, will have on the other side, the Christ representative, for the Christ-like will always be drawn into the discussion with the devilish representative, when a saint is to be recognised.

Now of course I could have interrupted this conversation with him, regarding the church always admitting to the possibility of lively exchanges with the divine, so that supersensible experiences were possible. It is however the dogma of the Catholic Church that such supersensible experiences which could take place, are devilish and that they must be avoided, one must be forced to flee from them. Of course, it is certainly the Catholic Church's dogmatism which says that all of Anthroposophy is objectionable from the basis that it claims to touch on insights in the supersensible worlds. For this reason, Anthroposophy is rejected because such an insight can only be arrived at with the help of the Devil; it is therefore evil. That is something which is judged by the Catholic Church as quite necessary, quite consistent. Things are already such that they must not be blurred. Whoever thinks reconciliation between Anthroposophy and the Catholic Church can without further ado be brought about, is mistaken. The Initiate knows, for the Catholic Church to be consequent from their side, it will regard Anthroposophy as devilish, and more than ever, the Catholic church today has allowed such consequences to become its custom.

As an answer from the priest I received his claim that any exchange with the supersensible worlds may in no way be wished for; if it happens in this world it must be made clear that the divine principle has been besieged by the devil.—So, I said to him: If you now have such an exchange with the supersensible worlds, would you consider that as devilish?—He answered: Yes, he has on his side the talent to merely work with literature of the saints in order to know that something like that exists; but he doesn't desire to become a saint himself.—This is now the last sentence which would be expressed by these people, this person also did not express it because if he did, then the last sentence would be that he says: To regard me as a saint, the church has the right to wait for two to three centuries.

We can draw all kinds of conclusions from this. You could for example connect all kinds of evil thinking habits to it which is relevant particularly at present, when someone says that everything which can be said about the causes of the war, one would only really know about after decades when all the archives have been combed through. If you have any sense for reality you would know that in a couple of decades everything would be so blurred that no truth would be discovered in the archives in order to determine something as some tradition, and you would know that one, I could call it, very insidious step could renounce what has been said out of the consciousness of the present. This is also something which must be considered more deeply, but it only belongs in parenthesis here: I only want to draw your attention to it, that with the proclamation of a saint, waiting for such a long time, things in question could have become thoroughly blurred, and you can have insight into the Catholic Church's extraordinarily difficult burden towards its real progress.

These three characteristics you will find in post apostolic literature during the first four centuries: the allegoric explanation of the Old Testament, the reference to the Second Coming of Christ and the destruction of the old world, and the admonition of obedience to the superiors. We need to focus our present interest primarily on the middle one, the reference to the Second Coming of Christ, because to this reference we need to link line 6 of the 13th chapter of the Gospel of Mark: Many will come as though they came in my name and say: I am he, and will lead many astray.—In this chapter you find a remarkable reference; many will come and appear in the name of Christ, and they will forthwith be referred to one or another person who also designate themselves as Christ. Here you see something extraordinary. On this basis it is extraordinary to see—I will speak more closely about these things but I'm leading up to it—that already at this point in the Mark Gospel the reference is linked to the view of the church fathers of the post apostolic time. By presenting it thus, that the Christ will reappear in this way, it is at the same time the fulfilment of the prophecy that tempters will come who all want to be designated as Christs; and this is what also happened in the first centuries, in this sense many came to the fore, who actually referred to themselves as Christ. An astonishing amount of literature has been lost in the first centuries—these things can actually only be found through spiritual science.

So we must say - and I have expressly spoken about it—if we look at the totality of facts, the Christian church fathers lived in a misunderstanding of the Gospels, perhaps even a really bad misunderstanding of the Gospels. When we actually bring our feelings into the Gospels, as I have shown you yesterday, when we really with our whole heart and entire soul find ourselves with ever more wonder towards the Gospels, then we would find it inordinately difficult to find our way with our intellect to the first church fathers. We discover with the first church fathers that we relatively early come to the end of understanding because the Gospel itself leads us into immeasurable depths, and we very clearly experience that in a certain way we actually feel uncomfortably touched when after our wonder at the Gospels we now turn to something which appeared in the church fathers.

Now, this leads us on to something else. Later we will talk about the justification of prophecy but now we want to find our way into the situation in terms of contemporary history and so it appears to me, that if we want to understand the 13th chapter of Mark's Gospel, before anything else, we need to pose this important question: Can the fulfilment of the prophecy be asserted from a correct pursuit of the facts? Surely you first need to be able to understand in what way the prophecy should be fulfilled, and then you could ask, what are the facts? Then, isn't it true, that with something like the destruction of Jerusalem it is easy to raise a question, but when it comes to the destruction of the world which we are still expecting, and regarding the coming of the kingdom of God, modern thought only has information that it still has not happened, that under all circumstances it must have been an illusion, that you had in all cases to do with false prophesies; and then you only have the choice to either interpret these things out of the Gospels, or to follow what the first church fathers did with the Old Testament through allegorizing, or even to do anything as long as it is abstract. All of this is being done against the total feeling which is necessary in relating to the Gospels, which does not arise here. The most important question seems to me to be the impact of the prophecy, because that helps towards understanding the process of prophecy.

I tell you, my dear friends, for me, the destruction of the world and the coming of the kingdom of God have simply already been fulfilled. We must swing around to look at the world in such a way that we learn to represent this statement as having been fulfilled. Towards this we certainly must penetrate more deeply with spirit into the words of Christ Jesus, as opposed to what usually happens.

Those who were around Jesus knew exactly, just as the poor shepherds in the fields knew in their inner sight: Christ had arrived. They still knew precisely that the entire life of human beings on earth would have been different in ancient times and it would become something different at this historical moment, even if little by little. Gentle feelings are still around at present, but only gentle feelings. I have such a quiet feeling about it but that must be trained in an intensive manner, for example, as found in the art historian Herman Grimm, and perhaps it will interest you to look into something like this as well because psychologically it leads to what we need to attain, little by little.

The art historian Herman Grimm had roughly the following view: when we go back with our examination of history, from our time to the Middle Ages and further back to the migration of peoples, back to the Roman empire, we still may have the possibility to understand the history. We have such feelings today, we could say, through which we can understand the roman imperial age and roughly the roman republic. We are still capable today, to understand this. When we go back into Greek history with the same kind of soul understanding then we enter into the highest form of illusion if we believe we can understand an Alkibiades, Sophocles, Homer or someone similar. Between grasping the Roman world and the Greek world there is an abyss, and what has been inherited from the Greek world, so Herman Grimm says, is basically a fairy tale; here starts the world of fairy tales, a world into which we no longer can enter with our present day understanding. We must be satisfied with the inherited images presented to us, but we must take these in a general sense as a world of fairy tales, without intellectual understanding.—It still has a soft echo of something which human beings need to create; an inner feeling towards the historical development of mankind.

This sensitivity of feeling will of course become completely distorted by those whose opinions are according to modern evolutionary theories, which simply go back from the present and consider modern human beings as the most perfect now than what was initially achieved. Here one arrives at a perspective from which one no longer can understand those who were around Christ. One also understands why, out of what soul foundations, such experiences and imaginations of today have become clothed in the scientific view when for instance you look at the answers the imminent thinker, Huxley, gave an archbishop; his words are quite understandable according to the modern perspective. The archbishop said the human being descended from this divine being; the godhead placed him without sin in the world, and that's who has descended into the present human condition.—This archbishop's opinion couldn't but let Huxley reply to this sentence with: I would surely be ashamed as a human being if I have descended so far from my divine origin, but I can be very proud from my animal standpoint of how far I have worked towards who I now am.—

Here you can precisely see the moral impulses entering into what we call objective science. The need to revert to moral impulses is everywhere for those who tinker with science, if this tinkering it is to be believed.

You must be very clear about the ancient human being before the time of Christ, the heathen person, who without sin, was aware that everywhere, when he observed nature or when he looked into human life, he encountered the divine and nature simultaneously. In the rock spring he didn't just hear the rushing sound we hear today, but he heard what he perceived and interpreted as the voice of the divine. In every animal he saw something that had, so to speak, been brought about from a supersensible world, but despite its deep fall from the supersensible world, if one really understands it, still totally leads back to the contemplation of this supersensible world. In this way the ancient people could not imagine the supersensible world without the divine, being part of it.

In Judaism, quite an intense feeling came to the fore. It was this: In whatever form or way the divine appears, man may not claim himself to also have the divine appearing in himself in a perfect form, but only at most as an inspiration, but not in its complete form. This was something the orthodox Jew didn't even want to touch in his thoughts; that which he still permitted for the rest of nature, that everywhere the divine may be revealed, and what he considered facts in his Old Testament, this he didn't allow to happen in people. For the surrounding heathen world, for the old way of observation, it was self-explanatory that the mineral kingdom, the plant and animal kingdoms were consequentially built on one another, and so, just like the rest of nature was divine, so also the human being is an incarnation of the divine. At the same time thousands had a firm belief that the human being was ever more losing the possibility through his outer life, to realize God within.

So, it had been an original human ability to create the divine within, but people gradually lost this ability. Those who surrounded Christ experienced that the divine, which had been in humanity earlier and which also appeared in the outer world, this divine element no longer could appear in humanity; it was given to the earth, it appeared everywhere through the Son of God but stopped appearing in mankind and can no longer appear in human children. It must come once again from elements outside the earth so that the last incarnation of the divine, which actually becomes a new time, can catch up, but it must come from outside—if I might express myself roughly—from the stock out of that which the earth had originally loaned.

From this point of view—knowledge, at that time, my dear friends, was filled with feeling, which as such took place in immediate experience—from this point of view those around Christ looked on with feeling at that which had invaded the Roman Empire and was now being fulfilled in Asia. What was this, which was accomplished through the invasion of the Roman Empire into Asia? You need to look at what actually penetrated the consciousness of that time. The ongoing war was at that time outer events which in their final dependency were also derived from divine will. However, this was not the most important aspect; the most important thing was that those who sat on the thrones were Roman Caesars who through religion presented themselves as incarnations of gods, and that, as lawful. Caesar Augustus was according to law a recognised incarnation of the godhead. Some Caesars tried, through ceremonies which had been fulfilled in ancient times, to bring about a ritual action which was so close to human truths, to inner human truths, that the Caesars could allow these ceremonies to be fulfilled but transformed into earthly existence, in order for the divine to actually act, for the divine to be made real.

Penetration of these secret divine mysteries into the world can perhaps not be more strongly symbolized than through relating the story of (the Roman Emperor) Commodus, (son of Marcus Aurelius) when he searched for initiation and allowed the ceremony to be fulfilled, because the ceremony also included the symbolic slaughter of an uninitiated person; at his mystery initiation a man was really killed, murdered. In brief, one felt that by this penetration of the Roman Empire, the divine disappeared, and the divine is presumed to be that, thus in the presumption of the divine there is an incarnation of the ungodly, for man must incarnate into something. The divine was not incarnating, it had stopped, so if the divine was not incarnating then in meant the ungodly was incarnating, the enemy of the divine. You could interpret it as you wish, but you will only be right if you understand that those who surrounded Christ Jesus, had said: In the Roman Empire, which is spreading in the world, is the incarnation of the enemy of the divine.

This is elementary, this is truly a discerning feeling and discernment in Christianity for those who were around Christ Jesus. Never again, from the Christian point of view, would that which had developed further as a dependence on the Roman Empire, be seen as anything other than an earthy bound realm, an empire of the world in opposition to the realm of Heaven. This means in other words: this world which existed then, the divine world, perished, it went under due to the Roman Empire. The downfall was accomplished in the first three centuries up to the middle of the 15th century, as I've mentioned to you. The downfall was accomplished. It is a perished world that now exists, a world that is no longer divine, a world that only gives news of the divine. One must turn to the last, who had become the first, to the divine incarnation of Christ in Jesus, who through his own power gave the possibility, through the handling—if I could use such an expression—through the handling of that which is associated with the fulfilment of the Holy Spirit in one, not by nature, but in a direct way to reach the divine-spirit world, which one can also find in nature when one has found the following of Christ Jesus through the spirit.

The world is coming to an end. The Christ is no longer coming as an earth dweller, but out of the clouds, out of the cosmos he will come again. In this way he comes to everyone who has the awareness of what was meant by the world before, which perished with the Roman Empire.

My dear friends! It is an unpleasant truth for those who want to be within today's consciousness; they don't know what to do about it; it is an unpleasant truth certainly for those who from an erroneous view want to apologize for Christianity before the present time. It is an extraordinary chapter in the involvement of today's world when people come and say Christianity is impractical, Christianity is something which allows escape from the world, Christianity has a mystical atavistic element which makes it unworldly. Then others come along who want to excuse Christianity by discussing away what some are saying who considered the world in a strong spiritual light and who still have a relationship to the world. The excuse is given that things don't need to be understood, they are really not meant so badly regarding fleeing from the world and with it coming to an end, it has continued its progress from the first centuries up to now; the world is just and anything some fanatical priest or fanatical pastor claims about the downfall of the world from God, is really not so seriously meant, it has only come about through the Catholic influence; one must wipe it out.

In brief, my dear friends, the largest part of pastoral and theological work exists in this. Place your hand on your heart and learn through it, feel out of your heart what I have said regarding the necessity for the renewal of Christianity, for the Christian impulse, because the biggest part of what is being preached and discussed exists in the continuous retreat from the recognition of gross intellectualism and the piecemeal eradication of everything out of Christianity, which actually should be understood in a profound way through strong thinking, through such a powerful thinking that the world finds God through Christ, and when God has been discovered through Christ, which can also become practical because in the discovery of the divine, the divine grasped in thought, the godless world can be included to bring about the re-introduction of the divine.

These powers must be carried in those of you who today want to speak about the renewal of Christianity, you must be able to say: Yes, today we have to look at the divinized world which started with the Roman Empire and goes back to the Roman Empire; but in this world we must not look for the divine. The world, however, can't remain without the divine. We must grasp that which does not come from the earth, something—speaking symbolically—which comes from the clouds, in a spiritual manner. We must find the Kingdom of Heaven in the place of the divinized earth kingdom. The Kingdom of Heaven has opened up and is to be found; and for this reason, we must be there to bring the divine into our earthly world. The downfall of the earth has taken place and continues to happen more and more. When we look at this earthly realm, we are then looking at the heavenly realm which Jesus Christ has brought. You must see, my dear friends, the realm of Heaven spiritually. We must see its arrival; we must be able to feel the fulfilling of what Christ meant when he spoke about the coming of his kingdom, the kingdom which he had to bring into the world and which does not speak out of nature; when it can however work into nature, then one can speak about this kingdom. This is primarily the feeling he stimulated in those who directly surrounded him. This is also what we must strive for in our words, when we really want to speak about these things.

We see how it is stated in about the first 3 sentences of the Mark Gospel: After Christ left the temple—the temple in which one also heard something within the outer world of the divine—one of his disciples says to him: 'Look, what magnificent stones, and wonderful buildings.' Jesus however said to him: 'You see only the large buildings. There will not be one stone left on top of another, without man taking part in the process of destruction because from now on, all of the outer, ungodly world begins to become a world of destruction.' And he went away and spoke intimately. On the Mount of Olives, he spoke either intimately by himself through teaching people how to pray, or he spoke only to his most intimate disciples, to Peter, James, John and Andrew. To Peter, James, John and Andrew he only spoke about spiritual events as observed from the perspective of divine realms in contrast to destructive events in the world facing destruction.

You see, I'm neither speaking allegorically, nor symbolically. If you felt that way, you would be putting it in my words. I'm speaking directly out of the situation experienced as it occurred, by me trying, certainly in the words of current speech, to indicate these things. I ask you to now take note of the situation. In order to experience the content of the 13th chapter of St Mark we are taken up the Mount of Olives. It ends with the word: "Awake!"—immediately followed by us being taken to the Last Supper—we are led to the first impetus for the coming of the divine kingdom through Christ placing it in front of us.

Tomorrow we will continue speaking about it. What I'm saying to you is quite new, by addressing our current consciousness. I certainly want to speak honestly, as these things present themselves to me, because I believe that by only pointing to the very first elements can one come to a true and honest conviction of what is necessary today.