During the first half of 1910, Rudolf Steiner gave lectures that marked a new development in the movement of spiritual science (later known as anthroposophy and founded at the turn of the century).
Earlier, he had repeatedly spoken of the dawn of the Light Age in 1899, following a period of spiritual darkness known as Kali Yuga, which had lasted 5,000 years. Now in 1910 a new dimension was added: a change of consciousness regarding man's relationship to the Christ being would gradually occur.
In the lectures of 1910, published here together for the first time in English, Rudolf Steiner, traveling from Scandinavia via the major cities of Germany to Rome and Palermo, and returning to Hamburg via Hannover, spoke to small groups of prepared listeners concerning the advent of the appearance of the Christ in the etheric life-element of the earth. To begin with, He would only be seen by a few, but as the century progressed He would be perceived by an ever greater number of human beings on earth, bestowing comfort and strength to people. Steiner pointed quite specifically to the period between 1930 and 1940 (he also mentioned 1950) in this respect. The years 1933 and 1935 are singled out in some lectures — years that later marked the beginning of events precipitating the Second World War, which led to appalling suffering for countless human beings. Steiner had warned, however, that opposing powers would conspire to darken the consciousness of humanity so that the second coming of the Christ, His appearance in the etheric, might go unnoticed. He further foretold that powerful attempts would be made on the part of certain groups to proclaim false messiahs to whom people would flock, convinced that the Christ could reappear in physical form in our time. Various other occult efforts to obscure the new Christ revelation are described in the four lectures of 1917, included in this book.
The main thrust of the present collection of lectures which also includes Steiner's key 1911 lecture, “The Etherization of the Blood,” lies in helping to raise the individual consciousness of those souls seeking to find the new Christ event in our age. This means learning to understand and experience the etheric world, a super-sensible sphere closely bordering on the physical, permeating all the kingdoms of nature and human beings with a life-giving element. This etheric realm is where Christ now lives, accessible to the whole of humanity.
Although what Rudolf Steiner brings with such variety and strong images in these lectures was the result of actual spiritual perception, the New Testament contains a number of well-known prophetic passages referring to the second coming and the new spiritual consciousness that will dawn in the future. In the opening of the Acts of the Apostles, written by Luke, a pupil of St. Paul, the event of Ascension is described. It is related how Christ vanished in the clouds and, just as he disappeared from the gaze of the Apostles into this airy, water-filled garment of the earth, from which all things receive their life, so out of the clouds He would reappear (Acts: I).
In several of these lectures, Rudolf Steiner refers to the experience of Saul (later Paul) who, having crossed the desert, was drawing near to the gates of Damascus. Not having known Christ on earth, Paul suddenly experienced in the spirit His mighty presence through the light, the word, and the fullness of His being. This initiation event — unusual at that time — would now in the dawning Age of Light, so Steiner proclaimed, become more and more wide-spread. Paul may, therefore, be considered a precursor of a new form of consciousness of the spiritual world.
In conclusion, it should be mentioned that the first eight lectures, spanning a period from January to Easter 1910, were followed by the writing and premiere of the first of Rudolf Steiner's four Mystery Dramas, The Portal of Initiation, performed in August of the same year in Munich. In the opening scene of this mystery drama, the character Theodora announces in artistic form the impending appearance of Christ in the etheric, which will not depend on faith but rather on a newly won, light-filled spirit vision. In the second part of Theodora's speech, addressed to a number of friends engaged on a spiritual path, she says,
A human being
emerges from glowing light.
It says to me,
You shall proclaim to all
who have the will to hear
that you have seen
what human beings soon will experience.
Christ once lived on earth,
and from His life it follows
that as soul He embraces
human growth on earth.
He is united with the spiritual part of earth,
but human beings cannot yet behold Him
in the form in which He reveals Himself;
because they lack the eyes of spirit
that will be theirs.
Now the time draws near
when with new power of sight
human beings on earth will be endowed.
What once the senses could behold,
when Christ lived on the earth,
will be perceived by human souls.
Readers seeking renewal in their active relationship to the Christ being will find in these lectures an elaboration of the substance poignantly and concisely expressed in the words of Theodora.
René M. Querido