The English translation of this lecture, Von Jesus zu Christus, was revised by John Bledsoe. It is also known as From Jesus to Christ.
15 November 1913, Hamburg
Today I would like to address myself to a subject specifically requested by our friends here, a subject having great significance for modern spiritual life. It shall be considered from the standpoint I have often taken when speaking of things of the spirit. As a rule, it is difficult to speak of such a unique and deeply significant subject unless it be assumed that the audience keep in mind various things explained in other lectures given on the foundations of spiritual science. This science is neither widely recognized nor popular; in fact, it is a most unpopular and much misunderstood spiritual stream of our day. Misunderstandings can easily arise especially with a subject like the one chosen today, because the opinion is far too widespread that anthroposophy might undermine this or that religious creed, thereby interfering with what someone may hold precious. Anyone willing to go into anthroposophy in any depth sees that this opinion is completely false. In one sense, spiritual science aims to develop further the way of thinking that entered human evolution through natural science. By strengthening the human soul, it seeks to make this kind of thinking fruitful. The way spiritual science must proceed differs significantly, however, from the way taken by natural science. Anthroposophy takes its start, not from the world perceived by the external senses, but from the world of the spirit. Questions pertaining to the spiritual life of the soul must therefore be considered from the standpoint of spiritual science. Undoubtedly for many in our time the most important question in the spiritual life of humanity pertains to the subject of today's lecture, that is, Christ Jesus.
To ensure that we shall understand each other at least to some extent, I would like to make a few preliminary observations before moving on to any specific questions. Spiritual science, though it is the continuation of natural science, makes entirely different demands on the human soul. This fact accounts for the misunderstanding and opposition spiritual science encounters. The kind of thinking derived from natural science is tied up with a problem that more or less concerns human souls today when they consider higher aspects of life. This is the problem of the limits to knowledge. Spiritual science in no way belittles the most admirable attempt of philosophers to ascertain the extent of human thought and knowledge. Thinkers who judge on the basis of what can ordinarily be observed in the soul easily conclude that human knowledge can go so far and no farther. It is commonly said, “This fact can be known; that other cannot.”
On this issue spiritual science takes a completely different stand because it takes into consideration the development of the human soul. Granted, in ordinary life and science the soul does indeed confront certain limits of knowledge. The soul, however, may take itself in hand, transform itself and thereby acquire the possibility of penetrating into spheres of existence radically unlike those usually experienced.
Here I can only indicate what in earlier lectures and in such books as An Outline of Occult Science and Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and Its Attainment, I have already explained, namely, that the soul can completely change itself. Through practicing certain exercises, the soul may bring about an infinite enhancement of its inherent forces of attention and devotion. Ordinarily, the soul-spiritual life uses the human body like an instrument. Just as hydrogen is bound to oxygen in water, so is this life closely connected with the body, within which it works. Now, just as hydrogen may be separated from oxygen and shown to have completely different qualities from water, so may the soul, through the exercises described in Knowledge of the Higher Worlds, separate itself from the body. By thus turning away from and lifting itself out of the body, the soul acquires an inner life of its own.
Not by speculation or philosophy but by devoted discipline can the soul emancipate itself from the body. To live as a soul-spiritual being, apart from the body is the great experience of the spiritual investigator. Here I can only indicate things I have elaborated elsewhere.
Today my task is to show how the spiritual investigator must regard the Christ Jesus Event. Statements of religious creeds concerning this event are derived from experiences of the soul in its life within the body. The statements of the spiritual investigator come from clairvoyant experiences of the soul as it lives independently of the body in the spiritual world. In this condition the soul can survey the whole course of mankind's evolution.
What the spiritual investigator thereby learns of Christ Jesus calls for a certain way of speaking, because the investigator acquires his knowledge in immediate spiritual vision while living separated from his body. Yet he can communicate this knowledge only indirectly by turning his attention to the things of this world. His description, however, must convey what he has experienced in spiritual vision. Thus, what follows in way of explanation of certain processes in man's external life is not meant to be taken metaphorically. It is intended rather to express something in which spiritual science must come to an understanding with natural science. In respect to one point in particular it is most important to come to terms with present-day thought.
In natural science it is admitted that a mere descriptive enumeration of single events in nature is inadequate. It is recognized that the scientist must proceed from a description of natural phenomena to the laws invisibly animating them. These laws we perceive when we relate phenomena with each other, or when we immerse ourselves in them. In this way they reveal their inner laws. In the treatment of historical facts, however, this natural scientific method is not easily applied.
Now, as a rule, I am disinclined to speak of personal matters, but in the following case I can speak of something objective. The title of my book Christianity as Mystical Fact, which was first published many years ago, was not chosen without due reflection. It was selected to indicate a certain way of observing things. It was not entitled The Mysticism of Christianity because I did not intend to deal with this topic, nor was it entitled Christian Mysticism because I did not intend to write on that theme, the mystical life of the Christian, either. What I sought to show was that the Christ impulse, the entrance of Christianity into mankind's development, can be comprehended only by perceiving how the super-sensible plays into the development ordinarily described in history. As these facts are accessible only to spiritual vision, they can be called mystical. They are mystical while at the same time having occurred on earth.
The origin and development of Christianity can be understood only when we realize that facts in history arrange themselves as do facts in our solar system, where the sun has the major role and the other planets less important parts. This arrangement can be recognized when facts are seen from a natural scientific standpoint. In the field of history, however, facts are rarely so viewed. Here, the succession of facts is easily described, but the fact that the way of contemplating the historical facts differs from the way of contemplating scientific facts is lost sight of.
There is a law in natural science whose validity is more or less acknowledged by all, despite this or that detail of it being open to dispute. This law, first formulated by Ernst Haeckel, has become fundamental to biology. It states that a living being recapitulates in its embryonic life, passes through stages of development that resemble those of the lower animals such as the fishes. This is a law recognized in science.
Now there is another law, which can be discovered by spiritual vision, that is of great importance in mankind's development. Because it is valid only in the sphere of spiritual life it presents a rather different aspect than the law just mentioned, but it is as true as any in natural science. It enables us to say what is undoubtedly true, that humanity has passed through many stages in its development, and that as it has passed from one epoch to another, from one century to another, it has taken on various forms. We need only assume that the epochs known to history were preceded by primeval ones. At this point we may ask if the life of humanity as a whole can be compared with anything else. Of course, any comparison concerning mankind's development must be the outcome of spiritual-scientific observation. External facts must be used as a language, as a means of communication, to express what the spiritual investigator perceives. What he perceives is that mankind's development as a whole may be compared with the life of a single man.
The experiences of mankind in ancient cultures — in those of Egypt and China, Persia and India, Greece and Rome — were different from those of our time. In those ancient epochs man's soul lived in conditions different from those of today. Just as in the individual human life the experiences of childhood are not the same as those of youth or old age, so in these cultures mankind's experiences were not the same as ours are today. Human development passes through various forms in the various ages of life.
The following question now arises. What stage in the individual life of man may be compared with the present epoch of humanity? This question can be answered only by spiritual science. Anthroposophy stands upon such a foundation that it can say that when man enters his life on earth he does not inherit everything from his mother and father that belongs to his being. We can say that man descends from a life in the spirit to an existence on earth, and that the spiritual part of his being follows certain laws whereby it connects itself with what is inherited from the parents. Further, we can say that the spiritual part helps in the whole growth and development of the human body. We see how the soul and spirit takes hold of and works upon physical substance. The wonderful mystery of man's gradual development, the emergence of definite traits from indefinite, capacities from incapacities, all bear witness to the sculpting power of these spiritual forces. Through spiritual science we are lead to look back from this present life to former lives on earth. We see that the way our soul-spiritual being prepares the bodily organization and the course our destiny takes depend[s] upon what we have elaborated and gained for ourselves in former lives.
Exact spiritual-scientific investigation shows that during the whole ascending course of our lives, up to our thirties, the fruits won from former lives on earth and brought with us from the spiritual world still exercise an immediate influence upon our physical existence and destiny. Our soul, being connected with the external world, progresses as we experience life on earth. From these experiences a soul-spiritual kernel forms itself within us. Up until our thirtieth to thirty-fifth years we arrange our lives in accordance with the spiritual forces we have brought with us from the spiritual world. From the middle of our lives onward the forces of our soul-spiritual kernel begin to work. This seed, containing what we have already elaborated, continues to work within us for the rest of our lives.
Even after a plant has faded away, the forces capable of producing a new one survive. These forces are like the soul-spiritual forces we gain for ourselves in the first half of life and that predominate in the second. When, in this second period of life, our senses weaken, our hair turns gray and our skin becomes wrinkled, our external life may be compared with a dying plant. Yet, in this period what we have prepared since our birth, what we have not brought with us from a preceding life but have rather elaborated in this life, grows ever stronger and more powerful. It is the part in us that passes through the portal of death, that casts off life as something faded. It is that part in us that passes over into the spiritual world. At an important moment in our life, when the fresh forces of our youth start to wane, we begin to cultivate something new on earth, that is, a soul-spiritual seed that passes through death.
We may now ask ourselves what period in human life can be compared with the present epoch, considering the whole development of humanity. Can our present age be compared with the first part of human life, with the first thirty to thirty-five years, or with the latter part. Spiritual-scientific observation of the present age reveals that our existence in the external world can in fact be compared only with the period of human life lying beyond the thirtieth to thirty-fifth years. Human development on earth has already passed the middle part of life. We need only compare the experiences of mankind in our present culture with experiences undergone in the Egyptian-Babylonian or Greco-Roman cultures. We need only point to our mighty and admirable technical and industrial achievements to show that man has now severed himself from what is directly and instinctively connected with his body.
Men in ancient cultures faced the world as a child does. The child's life is an ascending one, completely dependent upon the body. Mankind's life today, in contrast, is mechanical, cut off from the body. History, science, philosophy and religion all show that mankind in its evolution has reached a point lying beyond the middle of life. Modern pedagogy, with its efforts to be established on rational lines, especially bears out this fact. Modern pedagogy differs markedly from ancient pedagogy. Children growing up under our artificial education become severed from the direct impulses of humanity. An earlier education, one in an epoch lying before mankind's middle life, was derived from intuition and instinct. Observation of the riddles of education strongly confirms the fact that humanity has now passed beyond the point of maturity. We may now ask ourselves what point in humanity's evolution corresponds to the point in the individual life of man that lies between the thirtieth and thirty-fifth years.
When the spiritual investigator, objectively observing the evolution of humanity, turns his gaze on ancient times, he finds a trend that culminates in the Greco-Roman epoch. He finds that then humanity as a whole reached that age corresponding to the thirtieth to thirty-fifth years in the life of an individual man. The individual man may use a surplus of vital forces in his body to live beyond the descending point in his life and to cultivate up until his death a soul-spiritual kernel. In the life of humanity as a whole, however, things take a different course. When the youthful forces of humanity cease to flow, as it were, a new impulse is needed for its further development, an impulse not lying within humanity itself. Even if we know nothing whatsoever of the Gospels or of tradition, we need only look at mankind's historical development to discover in the Greco-Roman epoch the entrance of such an impulse. There, at a certain moment, the turning point of man's whole earthly development occurred. A completely new impulse entered the course of man's evolution, when its youthful forces were on the wane. An examination of the ancient mysteries will throw more light on this historical fact.
These mysteries, which existed in every culture and which to some extent have reached our knowledge through literature, were functions performed at centers that served both as schools and churches. Through cultic rites intended to transform the everyday life of soul, these functions enabled men to attain to higher knowledge. These mystery schools took different forms in different countries, but at all centers those souls whom the leaders of the schools believed capable of development received training.
In the mysteries man's soul life was not regarded as it is today. In this ancient viewpoint, which anthroposophy must renew, the soul was deemed unfit in its ordinary state to penetrate into those spheres where its inmost being flows together with the very source of life. The ancients felt that the human soul had to prepare itself for knowledge by undergoing a certain moral and esthetic training. They thought that through this inner training the soul could transform itself and thereby acquire forces of knowledge surpassing those of ordinary life. The soul then became capable of perceiving those mysteries that lie behind external phenomena.
There were basically two kinds of center[s] where pupils were trained to acquire spiritual wisdom and a vision of life's mysteries. Pupils of the first kind, under the guidance of the centers' leaders, especially developed the psychic life. During spiritual vision they could free themselves from the body. The Egyptian and Greek mysteries offered this kind of training. The other kind existed in the Persian mysteries of Asia Minor.
Pupils of these Egyptian and Greek mysteries were trained to turn their senses away from the external world and thus eventually to enter the condition man ordinarily falls into unawares when he is overcome by sleep, when sense impressions cease. The soul of the pupil was led completely into his inner self, and his inner life was given a strength and intensity far surpassing that required to receive merely sense impressions. After pursuing his exercises for a long time, the pupil reached a certain stage in his inner life when he could say to himself, “Man learns to know his real being only when he has torn himself away from his body.” The strange but distinct mood evoked in the pupil's soul gave rise to an experience he could characterize with the words, “In everyday life, when I use my body to connect myself with the world of the senses, I do not really live within my full human nature. Only when I have a deeper experience of myself within my own being am I a man in the fullest meaning of the word.” This experience impressed on him that man can know his spiritual essence by penetrating into his innermost soul. He thereby could draw near to God, the primeval source of his being. Within himself he could feel that point where his soul life united with the divine source of existence.
It must be added that this type of training resulted in an increase of egotism, not a decrease. The leaders of the mysteries thus set great store upon a schooling in human love and unselfishness. They knew that through the wisdom of the mysteries a pupil could indeed unite with his god even though he were insufficiently prepared, but they realized that he could do so only at the price of increased egotism. By withdrawing from the sense world and entering the spiritual world he could experience the human self, the human ego, far more strongly than is usually the case. The men in these mysteries who, by strengthening their inner lives perceived God, remained useful members of human society only if they had first passed through a spiritual development grounded in a sound preparation of the moral life. This, the Dionysian initiation, led man to experience within himself what lies at the base of all human nature, that is, Dionysos.
In the other type of initiation, practiced mainly in Asia Minor and Central Asia, man was led to the secrets of life by an opposite method. He had to subdue all his inner soul experiences, to free himself of the cares and troubles, the passions and instincts of his personal existence. He could then experience the outer course of nature far more intensely than is normally done. Whereas we normally experience only winter and summer, the disciples of these initiation centers had to experience, in a special way, the change from one season to another. Even as our hands share in the life of our bodies, so did the disciple have to share in the life of the earth. When the earth grew cold, when its plant covering began to fade, he had to feel within his soul its life of sadness and desolation. He had to share in these experiences as a member of the whole organism of the earth. Too, he could share in the rising life of spring and of the earth's awakening at midsummer, when the sun stands at its highest point on the horizon. He felt those forces of the sun in union with the whole earth.
In this kind of initiation the disciple's soul was drawn out of his inner being, whereby he could participate in the events of the cosmos and raise himself to the soul-spiritual essence permeating the universe. His experience differed markedly from ordinary contemplation of nature because he felt he lived within the very soul of the universe. In not a bad but a good sense, he was beside himself. He was, though one hesitates to use this word because it has taken on an unpleasant connotation, in ecstasy. Upon achieving this union with the cosmos he could say to himself that through living in the universe and through experiencing its most intimate soul-spiritual forces, he had come to realize that everywhere the final goal of the cosmos is the creation of man. Did man not exist, the whole creation could not fulfill its end, because he was the meaning of the cosmos.
It is one thing to say this; it is quite another to experience it. The disciples of the mysteries felt this fact because they entered into the life of the universe with an enhanced selfconsciousness. Indeed, this proud sense of self was indispensable to their experience of the cosmos. Whereas egotism resided in man's penetration into his spiritual being, pride lay in his union with the soul-spiritual essence of the world. Therefore, those who prepared the disciples for such an experience took care that they did not completely fall prey to pride.
In ancient times, all the truths constituting man's knowledge were acquired through the mysteries on the one or the other path. Humanity's course of development was then on the ascent. Man was unfolding fresh forces and lived in the stage of childhood, as it were. He had to learn through the mysteries how to reach the spiritual worlds. Ancient civilizations always revealed one of these two sides: that derived from man's strengthening his inner life, and that derived from his surveying the whole universe, which enabled him to say that all this pointed to the human being, to the soul-spiritual part he bears within him. Such a disciple of the second kind of initiation could also say when he looked out into the world's spaces, “There, in the wide reaches of the universe, something lives that must enter into me if I am to fully know myself as a human being. But when I live on the earth, unable to look out into the wide world, the spirit cannot come to me, and I cannot really know myself as man.”
Humanity then entered an epoch in which its youthful forces became exhausted. The whole human race reached an age corresponding to the thirtieth to thirty-fifth years in the life of the individual man. In this epoch the ancient mysteries, which existed to help humanity in its youth, had lost their meaning. Furthermore, something happened that is most difficult to understand even now. When man attempted to rise to the soul-spiritual essence of the cosmos, this essence no longer drew near him; he could no longer experience the god within himself.
When the ancient Persian surpassed his ordinary state of consciousness, he could feel how God descended upon his soul, how his soul became permeated by the God of the universe. Humanity always had this possibility so long as it possessed its youthful forces. But in the Greco-Roman epoch this possibility ended. Then, everything prescribed in the ancient mysteries to bring inspiration to man became ineffectual, because humanity was receptive to this inspiration only in the time of its youth. Something else now arose. What man could no longer receive because individual human nature had lost the capacity of receiving it even with the help of the mysteries, now entered into the whole evolution of humanity. One human being had to come who could directly unite the two initiation paths.
Purely from the standpoint of spiritual science, apart from all the Gospels, we now see Christ Jesus entering the evolution of the world. Let us imagine someone who knows nothing whatsoever of the Gospels, knows nothing of traditions, but who has entered modern civilization with a soul permeated by spiritual science. Such a person would have to say to himself, “There came a time in the evolution of the world and in the history of humanity when man's receptivity for spiritual life ceased.” But humanity has preserved its soul-spiritual life. How can this be? The soul-spiritual essence that man once took into himself must have entered the evolution of the earth in some other way, independently of man. A Being must have taken into himself what the mystery disciples once received through the power of a most highly developed soul life. In sum, a human being must have appeared who inwardly possessed what the one mystery path enabled the soul to experience directly, namely, the spiritual essence of the external world, the spirit of the universe.
Spiritual science thus regards Christ Jesus as one who inherently possessed those strengthened powers of soul formerly acquired by disciples of the one mystery path. With these powers of soul he could take into himself from the cosmos what the disciples of the other mystery path had once received. From the standpoint of spiritual science we can say that what the disciples of the ancient mysteries once sought through an external connection with the Godhead came to expression in immediate form and as historical fact in Christ Jesus. When did this happen? It happened in that age when the forces that were already exhausted in humanity as a whole were also exhausted in the life of the individual human being. In his thirtieth year of life Jesus had reached the age humanity as a whole had then attained. It was in this year that he received the Christ. Into his fully developed, inwardly strengthened soul he received the spirit of the cosmos. At the turning point of human evolution we discover that a man has taken into his soul the divine-spiritual essence of the universe. What was striven for in the ancient mysteries has now become an historical event.
Let us proceed, bearing in mind indications of the Gospels concerning the life of Christ Jesus from the Baptism in the Jordan to His Resurrection. Spiritual science enables us to say that in this period something completely new entered the evolution of humanity. In the past, man made a real contact with the divine essence only through the mysteries. What was thus experienced in the mysteries went out into the world as revelations, to be accepted in faith. In the event we are now considering, the contact with the spiritual-divine essence of the cosmos happened in such a way that within the man Jesus, Christ entered the stream of earthly life for a period of three years. Then, at the Mystery of Golgotha, a force that formerly lived outside the earth poured itself out into the world. All the events through which Christ passed while living in the body of Jesus brought about the existence of this power in the earthly world, in the earthly part of the cosmos. Ever since that time this power lives in the same atmosphere in which our souls live.
We may term one of the two types of initiation sub-earthly and designate the other, in which man took up the spirit of the cosmos, super-earthly. In either case, man had to abandon his human essence to make contact with the divine essence. The Mystery of Golgotha, however, concerns not only the individual human being but the whole history of man on earth as well. Through this event humanity received something completely new. With the Baptism in the river Jordan something formerly experienced by every disciple of the mysteries entered a single human being, and from this single human being something streamed out into the spiritual atmosphere of the earth, enabling every soul that would do so to live and be immersed in it. This new impulse entered the earthly sphere through the death and resurrection of Christ. Ever since the Mystery of Golgotha man lives in a spiritual environment, an environment that has been Christianized because it has absorbed the Christ impulse. Ever since the time when human evolution entered upon its descent, the human soul can revive itself; it can establish a connection with Christ. Man can grow beyond the forces of death that he bears within him. The spiritual source of man's origin can no longer be found on the old path; it must be found on a new path, by seeking a connection with Christ within the spiritual atmosphere of the earth.
The Christ Event appears to the spiritual investigator in a special light. It may be of interest to describe what he can actually experience after he has so changed his soul that he can perceive the spiritual world. The spiritual investigator can behold a variety of spiritual processes and beings, but he sees them in a special way, depending upon whether or not he has experienced the Christ impulse during his physical existence. Even today one may be a spiritual investigator without having made any inner connection with the Christ impulse. One who has passed through a certain soul development and attained to spiritual vision may thereby investigate many mysteries of the world, mysteries lying at the foundation of the universe; yet even with this vision, it is possible that he still cannot learn anything of the Christ impulse and of the Being of Christ. If we establish a connection with Christ while in the physical body, however, before the attainment of spiritual vision, if this connection is established through feeling, then this experience of Christ that we have gained while in the body remains with us like a memory when we enter the spiritual world. We perceive that even while we lived in the body we had a connection with the spiritual world.
The Christ impulse thus appears to us as the spiritual essence given to man at a time when the ancient inheritance no longer existed in human evolution. What the individual human being experiences after his thirtieth to thirty-fifth years, the whole of humanity experienced at the beginning of our era. Humanity, which unlike the individual human being does not possess a body, would have lost its connection with the divine-spiritual world had not a superearthly Being, a Being who descended to the earth from the cosmos, poured out his essence into the earth's evolution. This act enabled man to restore his connection with the spiritual world.
I realize that I am presenting things that are even less popular with the public than are the principles of spiritual science. Today I can give but a few indications, which in themselves cannot produce any kind of conviction. In regard to the Christ impulse I can only point out the direction taken by spiritual science, which seeks to be a continuation of natural science. The thoughts I have just presented must gradually enter into human evolution, which they will the more spiritual science enters into it. Unlike many other things being advanced today, spiritual science is not easy. It assumes that before attaining to certain definite experiences the soul must first transform itself.
In respect to the Christ experience in particular, spiritual science points out the significant fact that in the ancient mysteries man could find a connection with the divine essence only by going out of his own being. To experience the divine essence he had to abandon his humanity, become something no longer human. After the turning point of human evolution, however, the wonderful and significant possibility arose that man no longer needed to go out of himself in the one direction or the other. Indeed, man lacked the strength to do so. Nor could he in his youth anticipate a time when this would be possible since humanity had already reached a definite age.
The Mystery of Golgotha enabled man to transcend his ordinary human essence while still retaining his humanity. He could now find Christ by remaining man, not by increasing his egotism or pride. It now became possible for man to find Christ by deepening and strengthening himself in his own being. With Christianity something entered human evolution that enabled man to say to himself, “You must remain a human being; you must remain man in your inmost self. As a human being you will find within yourself that element in which your soul is immersed ever since the Mystery of Golgotha. You need not abandon your human essence by descending into egotism or by rising into pride.”
Ever since the Mystery of Golgotha the quality that each human soul now needs, the quality that in past epochs could be found only outside humanity, must be found in humanity itself, within the evolution of the earth. This deepest and most significant human quality is love. Man in his development must no longer follow the course of strengthening his soul on the one mystery path that leads to egotism, because ever since the Mystery of Golgotha it is essential that man acquire the capacity of transcending egotism, of conquering egotism and pride. Having done this, he can experience the higher self within him. A path of development must now be followed that does not lead us into egotism and pride but that remains within the element of love. This truth lies at the foundation of St. Paul's significant words, “Not I, but Christ in me.”
Only after the Mystery of Golgotha did it become possible to objectively experience Christ as that element enabling man to unite with the divine essence. A pupil of the ancient mysteries may indeed have anticipated St. Paul's words, but he could not have experienced their fulfillment. The mystery disciples and their followers could say, “Outside my own being is a god who pours his essence into me.” Or else they could say, “When I strengthen my inner being, I learn to know God in the depths of my own soul.” Today, however, each human being can say, “The love that passes over into other souls and into other beings cannot be found outside my own being; it can be found only by continuing along the paths of my own soul.”
When we immerse ourselves lovingly into other beings, our souls remain the same; man remains human even when he goes beyond himself and discovers Christ within him. That He can be thus found was made possible by the Mystery of Golgotha. The soul remains within the human sphere when it attains to that experience expressed by St. Paul, “Not I, but Christ in me.” We then have the mystical experience of feeling that a higher human essence lives in us, an essence that enwraps us in the same element that bears the soul from life to life, from incarnation to incarnation. This is the mystical experience of Christ, which we can have only through a training in love.
Spiritual science shows how it became possible for the human being to have this inner, mystical experience of Christ. By way of comparison, we find in Western philosophy the thought expressed that had we no eyes we could not see colors. Our eyes must be so built that they can perceive colors; there must be an inner predisposition to colors in our eyes, so to speak. Had we no eyes, the world would be colorless and dark for us. The same reasoning applies to the other senses. They too must be predisposed for the perception of the external world. From this argument Schopenhauer and other philosophers have concluded that the external world is a world of our representations. Goethe has coined the fine motto, “Were the eye not sun-like it could never perceive the sun.” We might say further, “The human soul could never understand Christ were it not able so to transform itself that it could inwardly experience the words, ‘Not I, but Christ in me.’”
Goethe had something else in mind when he expressed the truth that were the eye not sun-like it could not see the sun, namely, that our eyes could not exist had there been no light to form them from the sightless human being. The one thought is as true as the other: There could be no perception without eyes and also no eyes without light.
Similarly, it can be said that did the soul not inwardly experience Christ, did it not identify itself with the power of Christ, Christ would be non-existent for the soul. How can the human soul perceive Christ unless it identifies itself with Him? Yet the opposite thought is just as true, that is, man can experience Christ within himself only because at a definite moment in history the Christ impulse entered the evolution of humanity. Without the historical Christ there could be no mystical Christ. The assertion that the human soul could experience Christ even if Christ had never entered the evolution of mankind is a mere abstraction. Prior to the Mystery of Golgotha it was impossible to have a mystical experience of Christ. Any other argument is based on a misunderstanding. Just as it would be impossible for us to have the mystical experience of Christ without the historical Christ, even though the historical Christ can be discovered only by those who have experienced the mystical Christ.
Through spiritual science we are thus led to a vision of Christ not based upon the Gospels. Through spiritual science we can perceive that in the course of history Christ entered the evolution of humanity, and we know that He had once to live in a human being so that He could find a path leading through a human being into the spiritual atmosphere of the earth.
Spiritual research thus leads us to Christ, and through Christ to the historical Jesus. It does this at a time when external investigation, based upon external documents, so often questions the historical existence of Jesus.
The thoughts I have here presented may of course meet with opposition, but I can fully understand it if some say my statements appear to them like a fantastic dream.
From a spiritual contemplation of the whole evolution of humanity we can, through spiritual science, come to a recognition of Christ, and through Christ's own nature we can recognize that He once must have lived in a human body. Spiritual-scientific investigation necessarily leads to the historical Jesus. Indeed, it is possible to indicate with mathematical precision when Christ must have lived in the man Jesus, in the historical Jesus. Just as it is possible to understand external mechanical forces through mathematics, so is it possible to understand Jesus by regarding history with a spiritual vision that encompasses Christ. That Being Who lived in Jesus from his thirtieth to thirty-third years gave the impulse humanity needed for its development at a time when its youthful forces were beginning to decline.
In recapitulation, I can say that a new understanding of Christ is a necessity today. Spiritual science not only tries to lead us to Christ; it must do so. All the truths it advances must lead from a spiritual contemplation of man's development to a comprehension of Christ. Men will experience Christ in ever greater measure, and through Christ they will discover Jesus.
Thus, I have tried to day to take my start from the evolution of humanity, directing your gaze from Jesus, upon whom many look with skepticism, to Christ. In future, Jesus will be found on that path we may characterize with the words, “Through a spiritual knowledge of Christ to an historical knowledge of Jesus.”