The Gospel of St. Matthew
12 September 1910, Berne
When we think of the evolution of humanity advancing from stage to stage as described by Spiritual Science, we shall attach the very greatest significance to the fact that man, incarnating again and again in the course of the different epochs, gradually reaches higher degrees of perfection, until he is finally able to kindle into activity within himself powers befitting the various stages of planetary evolution. On the one side we see man ascending gradually towards his divine goal. But he would never be capable of reaching the heights intended for him if Beings whose paths of development in the Universe have differed from his own, did not come to his aid.
From time to time — for so it may be expressed — Beings from other spheres enter into and unite with earthly and human evolution in order to lift man to their own heights. Even during the earlier planetary embodiments of our Earth, even during Old Saturn, sublime Beings — the Thrones — sacrificed their will-substance in order that the earliest beginnings of the physical human body, might be established. This is only one example of what has taken place on a vast scale. But Beings whose development has advanced beyond that of man do indeed descend to his realm and unite with Earth-evolution by dwelling for a time within a human soul. It is also sometimes said that these Beings ‘assume human form’, or more simply, that they appear as an aspiring power in the soul of a man who since he is ensouled by a god, is able to achieve more in evolution than is possible for others. To hear of such things goes against the grain at the present time when the tendency is to reduce everything to one level and to apply materialistic ideas universally. Only a rudiment has persisted of the conception just referred to. The suggestion that a man is the vehicle of a Being from higher realms would be regarded as sheer superstition nowadays. But a rudiment at least of this truth has been preserved, even in this materialistic age, although it takes the form of a subconscious belief in what is deemed miraculous. People still believe that ‘geniuses’ appear here and there. Even normal modern consciousness recognizes men of genius who stand out from the masses and of whom it is said that they possess faculties differing from those of ordinary human nature. A belief in ‘geniuses’ persists even to-day. But there are also circles where such belief has been abandoned; the very existence of men of genius is refuted because materialistic thinking has lost all sense of the realities of the spiritual life. Nevertheless belief in genius is quite widespread and if this belief is not empty credulity it will admit that a power different from that of the ordinary human faculties comes to expression through a man of genius who is striving to give an impetus to evolution. If attention were given to teachings cognizant of the truth about men of genius, it would be realised when such a person appears suddenly to have become an embodiment of infinite goodness, greatness and strength, that this is a case where a spiritual power has descended and taken possession of the centre from which such Beings must work, namely from the inmost nature of man himself.
It should be clear to an anthroposophist from the outset that there
are these two possibilities: the ascent of man to spiritual heights in
the course of his evolution, and the descent of divine-spiritual Beings
into human bodies or human souls. A passage in the Rosicrucian Mystery
Play 1The Portal of
Initiation, Scene 3. (Translation by Adam Bittleston in the
American edition, 1961. Rudolf Steiner Publications Inc.
Englewood, New Jersey, U.S.A.) Benedictus is speaking:
“ A great step forward in world history
can only be achieved
if divine beings unite with man's condition.
Only then can spirit eyes unfold
which should develop in the human souls,
when first a power of heaven has placed the seed
within one human being.
I had to join a deed of heaven
unto a human destiny." points to the fact that when something of importance is to take place in the evolution of humanity, a divine Being must as it were unite with and permeate a human soul. This is a necessity of evolution.
To understand this in relation to the spiritual evolution of our planet, we will remind ourselves that in very early times of its existence the Earth was still united with the Sun. In a remotely distant past the Sun separated from the Earth. Anthroposophists know that this was not merely a separation of Earth-substance and Sun-substance in the material sense, but a separation of divine-spiritual Beings who were connected with the Sun or with the other planets. After the separation of the Sun from the Earth, certain spiritual Beings remained united with the Earth, whereas others remained united with the Sun; these latter were Beings who, because their development had progressed beyond the stage attainable in earthly conditions, could not complete their further evolution on the Earth. Thus certain spiritual Beings remained even more closely connected with the Earth, whereas other Beings sent their influences and forces from the Sun into earthly existence. After the separation of the Sun there are, as it were, two arenas — the Earth with its Beings and the Sun with its Beings. The spiritual Beings who can be helpers of man from a higher sphere are those who transferred their arena of activity from the Earth to the Sun. And from thence — from the Sun-sphere — come the Beings who from time to time unite with earthly humanity in order to lead the evolution of the Earth and of Man to further stages.
In the myths of many peoples there are constant references to ‘Sun Heroes’ — Beings who work from spiritual spheres into the evolution of humanity. A man who is permeated by a Sun Being is of far greater significance than his exterior appearance at first reveals. The exterior appearance is an illusion, is maya, and the real Being is behind the maya — only to be divined by one who is able to look into the very depths of a nature such as this.
In the Mysteries there was, and there still is, knowledge of this twofold aspect of the evolutionary course of humanity. Distinction has always been made between divine Spirits who come down from the spiritual realm and men who strive upwards from the Earth towards Initiation into the secrets of spiritual reality. What, then, is the nature of the Being we call Christ?
In the lecture yesterday we learnt that ‘Christ, the Son of the Living God’ is a Being who descends. If we were to use a term current in oriental philosophy, we should call Him an ‘Avatar’ — a descending God. But it is only from a definite point that we can speak of Him as a descending Being. As such He is described by all the four Evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. At the moment of the Baptism by John this Being came down from the realm of Sun-existence to the Earth and united with a human being. We must realise that according to the views of the four Evangelists, this Sun Being is the greatest Avatar of all, the greatest of all other Sun Beings who have ever descended. Hence it is to be expected that a specially prepared nature in humanity must grow towards His level.
All four Evangelists tell of the Sun Being, of the ‘Son of the living God’, who comes to man to help his evolution forward, but only the writers of the Gospel of St. Matthew and St. Luke tell of the man who developed to the stage where he could receive this Sun Being into himself. From these Gospels we learn that for thirty years the man in question prepared for the great moment when he could become the vehicle for the Sun Being. And because the Being we call Christ is so universal, so all-embracing, the preparation of the bodily sheaths able to receive Him could not be a simple process. Very specially prepared physical and etheric sheaths were needed to receive the descending Sun Being.
From our study of the Matthew Gospel we have learnt how and whence these sheaths were produced. But from these physical and etheric sheaths derived from the forty-two generations of the Hebrew people and prepared for the Sun Being, neither the astral body nor the actual Ego-bearer could be directly unfolded. For this purpose a special measure was necessary, achieved through its instrumentality of a different Being — namely, the Nathan Jesus, whose early history is narrated in the Luke Gospel. 2See the Course on The Gospel of St. Luke. Then, as we heard, the Jesus of the Matthew Gospel and the Jesus of the Luke Gospel became one. The Zarathustra-Individuality, as an Ego, first entered into the bodily sheaths of the Jesus described in the Matthew Gospel; when this Jesus was twelve years old, the Zarathustra-Ego passed over into and continued to live in the Nathan Jesus of the Luke Gospel, in order, within that body, to enrich the astral body and Ego-bearer with the qualities attained in the specially prepared physical and etheric bodies of the Jesus of the Matthew Gospel. The higher members in the Nathan Jesus were then able to mature and in his thirtieth year to receive the Being descending from above.
In relating the course of these events, the writer of the Matthew Gospel directed his attention primarily to the question: What physical body and what ether to make it possible for the Christ Being to tread the Earth? And his knowledge enabled him to answer this question in the following way. — In order that the suitable physical body and the suitable etheric body might be produced through heredity it was necessary that all the qualities once laid as rudiments in Abraham should develop to the full extent through the forty-two generations of the Hebrew people. Then, continuing to answer the question, he said to himself: A physical body and an etheric body of this calibre could become a fitting instrument only if indwelt by the greatest Individuality — Zarathustra — who prepared mankind to understand the Christ. This instrument could harbour the Zarathustra-Individuality for as long as it made development possible, that is to say, until the twelfth year, and the Individuality had then to pass out of the body of the Matthew-Jesus into the body of the Luke-Jesus. The writer of the Matthew Gospel then turned his attention away from the circumstances with which he was at first concerned, to the Luke-Jesus, and followed the life of Zarathustra (in the body of that Jesus) until the thirtieth year. That was the time when Zarathustra had brought the astral body and Ego-bearer to the stage where he could offer up all the members in order that the Sun Spirit coming down from above might take possession. All this is indicated in the scene of the Baptism by John.
If we think again of the separation of the Earth from the Sun 3To be able to picture these cosmic happenings in greater detail, the reader is advised to turn to Occult Science—an Outline, chapter IV, p. 103 onwards. remembering that Christ was the supreme Leader of the Beings who withdrew from the Earth at that time, we shall realise that there are Beings whose influence spreads only gradually on the Earth, just as it is only in course of time that Christ's influence has been able to make itself felt on the Earth. But something else as well was connected with the separation of the Sun. Here we must remind ourselves that in respect of substance, the old Saturn-evolution was comparatively simple. It was an existence in fire or warmth. On Old Saturn there was as yet no air or water, no light-ether — which first appeared during the Old Sun-evolution. Then during the Old Moon-evolution the watery element was added as a further condensation on the one side, and the sound-ether as a further refinement or rarefaction on the other. During Earth-evolution there was a condensation to the solid or ‘earth’ element, and rarefaction to what we call the life-ether. On Earth, therefore, we have warmth, air or gas, water, and the solid or earth element; and as states or rarefaction: light-ether, sound-ether, and life-ether, this last being the most highly rarefied ether of which we can have any knowledge.
With the separation of the Sun, not only did its material part leave the Earth, but its spiritual part too. After a time the spiritual part returned to the Earth gradually — but not completely. I spoke of this in Munich in the lectures on the ‘days of creation’ 4See Genesis: Secrets of the Bible Story of Creation, pp. 34-59. and will make only a brief reference to it here. Of higher states of rarefaction, man on Earth perceives only the warmth-ether, and light. What he perceives as sound or tone is a materialization of the real sound which lies in the sound-ether. By sound-ether is meant the bearer of what is called the ‘Harmony of the Spheres’, perceptible only to clairaudience. True, the Sun in its now ‘physical’ state sends its light to the Earth, but this higher state is also present in it.
I have said that those who have knowledge of these things are aware of the meaning of Goethe's words at the beginning of Faust:
The sun, with many a sister-sphere,
Still sings the rival psalm of wonder,
And still his fore-ordained career
Accomplishes with tread of thunder....
These words point to the Harmony of the Spheres, to what lies in the sound-ether. But this can be experienced by man only when he rises to its level through Initiation or when a Being of the Sun descends in order to convey it in the form of actual experience to one chosen to be instrumental in promoting the development of other men. For such an individual the Sun begins to sound and the Harmonies of the Spheres to be audible. —
Above the sound-ether is the life-ether. And just as the word, the meaning, is contained in mere sound as its inner content, as a higher soul-reality, so too, ‘meaning’ and ‘word’ are bound up with the life-ether. ‘Word’ or ‘meaning’ are in this sense identical with what was called ‘Honover’ in later Persian times and the ‘Logos’ by John the Evangelist. Sound or tone filled with meaning belongs essentially to the Sun, and the Beings of the Sun.
In early post-Atlantean times, Zarathustra was among the blessed ones whose ears were not deaf to this articulate, resounding Sun and its Beings. It is no myth, but a literal truth, that Zarathustra too had developed to the stage where he received his teaching through the ‘Sun Word’. The glorious teachings given by the old Zarathustra to his pupils were possible because Zarathustra himself was an instrument through Whom the tone, the very meaning and essence of the Sun Word resounded Hence the Persian legend speaks of the Sun Word proclaimed through the mouth of Zarathustra, of the mysterious Word concealed behind the Sun. The legend is speaking there of the astral body of the Sun, of Ahura Mazda — the Sun Word, the '‘Logos’ in Greek translation.
In those ancient times a personality even of the exalted rank of Zarathustra was not initiated to the stage of being able consciously to receive the message that was to be conveyed to mankind; such a personality was ensouled by a higher Being to whose level he had not yet actually risen. Zarathustra could teach as he did because the Sun Aura was revealed to hi, because Ahura Mazdao resounded within him, because the Sun Word, the great Aura, the Light of Worlds, was proclaimed through him. Ahura Mazdao, the great Aura, was the outer, corporeal nature of the Sun God whose influences were being sent to man in advance, before this Being was actually on the Earth. The Sun Word was then a more inward power. —
Zarathustra spoke to those who were his pupils in somewhat the following way. — ‘You must realise that behind the physical light of the Sun there is spiritual light. Just as behind physical man there is his astral body, his aura, so behind the Sun there is the great Aura. The physical Sun is to be regarded as the light-body of a Being who will one day descend to the Earth; it is the outer, bodily raiment of this Being that is perceived through clairvoyant vision and within this bodily raiment there is soul. Just as soul expresses itself through sound or tone, so does the Sun Word, the Sun Logos, speak through the Sun Aura’... And Zarathustra could give this promise to mankind. — One day the great Aura, the Being of Light, will come from divine-spiritual spheres, and the soul of that Being will be the Sun Word. — This was the prophetic wisdom, uttered for the first time by Zarathustra, concerning the coming of the Sun Aura and of the Sun Word.
From epoch to epoch the tradition was preserved in the Mysteries that the coming of the Sun Word, the Sun Logos, had been prophesied to mankind and this was always the hope and the great consolation of those who longed for a nobler and better life. And the less exalted Sun-spirits who linked themselves with the Earth and were actually messengers of the Sun Word — they too were able to give more and more definite teachings about the Spirit of the Sun, the Sun Word, the Sun Aura.
This was the one side of the Mystery-tradition as it lived on through the epochs. The other side was that it behooved men to know both in theory and by dint of effort that they could grow nearer to the Being who was to descend to the Earth. But in pre-Christian times it was not possible to believe that any weak individual man could without further ado approach the greatest of the Sun Beings, the Leader of the Sun Spirits, the Christ. It was not possible for an individual to achieve this through any form of Initiation. Hence the Gospel of Matthew describes how all the vital elements in the blood of the Hebrew people were assembled in order to make it possible for such a human being to come into existence. And on the other side, the Gospel of Luke shows how the best and highest qualities attainable by earthly man were ‘filtered’ through the seventy-seven successive stages in order to produce the body capable of receiving the greatest Being who was ever to descend to the Earth.
The position in the Mysteries was as follows. — Some of those who needed to be instructed or influenced were weak human beings; by no means all of them were capable of grasping the nature of the goal to be attained by humanity or by an individual. Hence those who were to be initiated into the secrets of the Mysteries were divided into classes and the secrets were approached in different ways. The special teaching given to some individuals concerned the outer life and what they must achieve in order to become fitting instruments or ‘temples’ for the descending Sun Being. But there were other pupils of the Mysteries who were taught how the soul must learn in stillness and inner quietude to understand and experience the nature of a Sun Spirit. Can you picture that in the Mysteries there were pupils whose particular task it was to order their outer life in accordance with definite principles and that from early childhood onwards their bodily development was guided in a way that would enable them to become bearers, temples, for a descending Sun Spirit? This was what happened in olden times and it happens in the modern age too, only it escapes the notice of materialistic observers.
Let us suppose that the time is approaching when a sublime Being is to descend from spiritual realms in order again to give a stimulus to human evolution. Those who participate in the Mysteries must wait in expectation for this to happen; their task is to interpret the signs of the times. In calmness and patience, without ostentation, they must wait for a God to descend from heavenly heights and give an impetus to mankind. But it is also their task to observe humanity, to watch for a personality who can be directed and made fit to be the vehicle, the temple, for such a Being. If the Being who is to descend is very exalted, the personality who is to be the temple must be under guidance from earliest childhood. This actually happens, only it is not perceived. Later on, however, in accounts of the lives of such men, certain similar features become apparent. Even if there are differences in the external circumstances of their lives, a certain underlying similarity is evident. Looking back over history we find individuals here and there whose lives, even outwardly, have taken a somewhat similar course. There is no denying this and it has not escaped the notice of certain modern researchers. In current, though not very profound academic writings, tables of similarities in the biographies of such individuals are presented. Professor Jensen (of Marburg), for example, has collected similarities in the life-histories of Gilgamesh, Moses, Jesus, Paul. The tables set out certain comparable features in the lives of each of these individuals and are very convincing. No wonder the materialistic mind of to-day is taken aback by the remarkable similarities. Very naturally the conclusion drawn is that one myth was copied from another, that the writer of the life of Jesus copied from the life-history of Gilgamesh, that the life-history of Moses is nothing but a paraphrase of an ancient epic. And the final conclusion reached is that none of them — neither Moses, nor Jesus, nor Paul — existed as physical personalities! People usually have no inkling of the point to which materialistic interpretations are carried by research today.
The truth is that this similarity in such life-histories is simply due to the fact that personalities into whom a divine Being is to be received must be under direction and guidance even in childhood. Nor will this be a surprise to those who have any insight into the deeper course of the evolution of humanity and of the world. Hence not only comparative mythology but all attempts to find similarities in the myths are really nothing but child's play and lead nowhere. What useful purpose is served by establishing that similar traits are to be found in the lives of the Germanic Siegfried and some Greek or other hero? It goes without saying that this will be so. The important thing is not the covering but the Individuality within the covering! It is the Individuality who is of salient importance, not the particular course taken, let us say, by Siegfried's life. But these things can be established only through occult research.
The point to bear in mind is that men destined to become vehicles, or temples, for a Being who is to lift humanity to a higher level are under very definite leadership and that there will necessarily be similarities in the course and in the fundamental features of their lives. Hence since ancient times directives were always given in the Mystery-centres concerning such men. Directives of the same kind also existed in the communities of the Essenes with reference to Christ Jesus: for example, what the nature must be of those Beings who as the Solomon Jesus and the Nathan Jesus were to provide the temple for the sublime Sun Being, the Christ.
But there were different classes, different kinds of Initiates; aspirants for Initiation were not all of them initiated into everything. To some it was made especially clear what ordeals must be undergone by one who was expected to become a worthy vehicle for a divine Being. And there were others to whom it was made known how a divine Being acts when revealing himself in a man — to put it rather trivially, when revealing himself as a ‘genius’. Again, people fail to perceive to-day that geniuses too show undoubted similarities. Biographies nowadays are not written from the vantage-point of the spirit. If an attempt were made to describe the genius of Goethe, let us say, from such a vantage-point, remarkable similarity would be found, fog example, with the genius of Dante, of Homer, of Aeschylus. But when modern biographies are being written, notes are collected of trivial details in the external lives of such men. That is what interests people. So we have a prolific collection of notes on the life of Goethe but as yet no true presentation of what Goethe really was. Men declare — actually as the outcome of tremendous arrogance — that they are incapable of following the development of genius in the human personality; the tendency is to drag the first, youthful authors of certain poetic works into the limelight and then talk in lordly style about the elemental freshness and originality manifested in their early years, whereas in later life these qualities have been lost and the authors in question have become old. What really lies behind this is that in their arrogance people are willing to understand poets in their youth but are not willing to keep pace with the experiences undergone in later life. Great pride is taken in having remained young; age is despised and people have no inkling that it is not the old who have become ‘old’ but that they themselves have remained children! This is a widespread evil. But as it is so deeply rooted we need not wonder that there is little understanding of the fact that a divine Being can take possession of a human personality and that the way in which such a Being manifests in the different human personalities is fundamentally the same.
Because the acquisition of such knowledge entailed much arduous effort, pupils in the Mysteries were divided into classes. It is not to be wondered at that in certain sections of the Mysteries teaching was given as to how a man prepares himself to grow to the level where contact with the divine Being is possible, whereas in other classes the teaching concerned the actual descent of the Logos, the Sun Word, the essence of Light in the Aura of the Sun Being.
In the case of Christ, the descent was infinitely complex and it could be no surprise if more than four men had been needed to understand such a momentous event. But there were four who made efforts to do so. Two of them, the writers of the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, were at pains to portray the nature of the personality who grew towards the descending Sun Being. Matthew concerned himself particularly with the physical body and the etheric body, Luke with the astral body and Ego-bearer. Mark, on the other hand, described the Sun Aura, the spiritual Light that pervades cosmic space and streamed into the figure of Christ Jesus. Hence his Gospel begins immediately with the Baptism, when the Light of Worlds descended. The Gospel of John describes the soul of the Sun Spirit, the Logos, the Sun Word, the inner aspect. The Gospel of John is therefore the mostly deeply inward of the four.
The facts were apportioned and the complex Being of Christ Jesus described from four sides. All four Evangelists tell of the Christ in Jesus of Nazareth. But each of these four writers of the Gospels is impelled to adhere to his starting-point, from whence came the clairvoyant insight enabling him to give some description of this complex Being. — And now we will repeat what has been said in order to impress it more firmly upon our minds.
Matthew directs his gaze to the birth of the Solomon Jesus and follows the gradual preparation of the physical body and etheric body, perceiving how these sheaths are discarded by Zarathustra and how the qualities and faculties he had acquired in the physical body and etheric body of the Solomon Jesus are carried over by him into the Jesus of the Luke Gospel. The writer of the Matthew Gospel must then extend his gaze to what had not concerned him at the beginning. But his attention is directed first and foremost to the features that had formed his starting-point: the destinies of the faculties that passed over from the Solomon Jesus into the Nathan Jesus. His gaze is directed less to the pristine purity of the astral body and Ego-bearing principle in the Luke Jesus and more to what had passed over from the Jesus with whom he is chiefly concerned. And when the writer of the Matthew Gospel is speaking of the Sun Being who has descended, again he is more mindful of the faculties possessed by Jesus of Nazareth because the physical body and etheric body had been developed by the Solomon Jesus. These faculties and qualities were naturally still perceptible in Christ, and the writer of the Matthew Gospel describes with particular exactitude this aspect of Christ Jesus which was of primary importance to him and upon which his attention had been focused at the outset.
The writer of the Gospel of Mark directs his attention from the beginning to the Sun Sprit descending from heaven. His gaze is focused, not upon any being of an earthly nature, but upon the Sun Spirit who lived and worked in the physical body. The physical figure on the Earth is only the means whereby the indwelling Sun Spirit can be portrayed. Hence Mark draws special attention to ho the forces and powers of the Sun Spirit take effect. Therefore although in the Gospel of Matthew and Mark a great deal seems to be identical, their standpoints are different. Matthew deals more especially with the aspect of the sheaths and draws particular attention to the later manifestations of qualities and faculties that were already potentially present in early life; and he writes in a way that reveals the effects produced by these qualities. The writer of the Mark Gospel, on the other hand, uses the physical figure of Jesus merely as a means of showing what can be wrought on Earth by the Sun Spirit. This is everywhere apparent. If you want to understand the Gospels in detail, you must bear in mind that the attention of each Evangelist turns ever and again to the aspect with which he was primarily concerned.
The writer of the Luke Gospel, as would be expected, has particularly in mind the astral body and Ego-bearing principle, that is to say, not what the Being experiences as an outer, physical personality, but in the astral body as the bearer of feelings and sentient perceptions. The astral body is also the bearer of creative faculties, of compassion, of mercy. Bearing as He did the astral body of the Nathan Jesus, Christ Jesus was the very embodiment of these qualities. Thus the eyes of Luke are directed from the beginning to all the manifestations of compassion, to whatever Christ Jesus is able to accomplish because He bears the astral body of the Nathan Jesus.
And the gaze of the writer of the John Gospel is focused upon the very highest Power that can work on the Earth, upon the inmost being and nature of the Sun Spirit, brought down through the instrumentality of Jesus. John is not concerned primarily with the physical body; his eyes are turned to the Highest, to the Sun Logos; and the physical Jesus is for him simply a means for perceiving how the Sun Logos works and acts in humanity. His gaze too is fixed upon those things with which he was concerned at the beginning.
The physical body and the etheric body are sheaths out of which we pass during sleep. Both these members of human nature contain forces outpoured by divine-spiritual Beings who for millions upon millions of years have been working at the building of this temple — the temple of the physical body. We have lived in this temple since the Lemurian epoch, causing its steady deterioration. But it came to us originally as a product of the Saturn, Sun, and Moon periods of evolution. Divine beings were living and weaving in it. We an say of our physical body that it is a temple built by the Gods who have fashioned it out of solid matter to be our dwelling-place.
The etheric body contains the finer substances of man's constitution but owing to the Luciferic and Ahrimanic influences they are imperceptible to him. Elements belonging to the Sun are also present in the etheric body; into it resounds the Music of the Spheres, that which is perceptible behind the physical as a manifestation of the Gods. Hence we can say: Beings of exalted rank lie in the etheric body, Beings who are akin to the Sun Gods — The physical body and the etheric body, therefore are to be regarded as the most perfect members of human nature. When, during sleep, we have passed out of them, when they have fallen away from us, they are pervaded and worked through by divine Beings.
As he had done from the beginning, the writer of the Matthew Gospel was bound to give his chief attention to the physical body in the case of Christ Jesus too. But the first physical body was no longer in existence, having been abandoned, as we have heard, in the twelfth year of life. 5See also Lecture Five: The Gospel of Luke, p. 106 The divine element, the forces and powers, had passed (together with the Zarathustra-Individuality) from that body into the other physical body — the physical body of the Nathan Jesus. The perfection of this physical body of the Being now to be known as Jesus of Nazareth was due to the fact that it was filled with the forces and powers that had passed into it from the body of the Solomon Jesus. Let us now picture the writer of the Matthew Gospel turning his gaze to the dying Jesus on the Cross. His gaze had always been directed to the aspect most important to him, to what he had taken as his starting-point. At the Crucifixion the spiritual forsakes the physical body and therewith also the divine forces that had been taken over into it. The writer of the Matthew Gospel directs his gaze to the separation of the inner nature of Christ Jesus from this divine element in His physical constitution. The words that always rang out in the ancient Mysteries when the spiritual nature of a man emerged from the physical body in order to have vision in the spiritual world, were these: ‘My God, my God, how thou hast glorified me!’ — The writer of the Matthew Gospel, with his attention fixed on the physical body, changes these words to: ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me!’ Thou has gone from me, hast abandoned me (XXVII, 46). — The chief attention of the writer of the Matthew Gospel has been fixed upon this aspect.
The writer of the Mark Gospel describes the coming of the outer forces and powers of the Sun Aura, ho the Sun Aura, the body of the Sun Being, unites with the etheric body. The etheric body was in the same situation as our etheric body is during sleep. As in our own case the outer forces pass out with us when we sleep, so did they at the physical death of Jesus. Hence the same words are found in the Gospel of Mark (XV, 34).
The writer of the Luke Gospel also directs his attention at the death of Christ Jesus to what was his concern at the beginning: the astral body and the Ego-bearing principle. Hence the words he uses are different. His chief attention is directed to the astral body in which at this moment compassion and mercy and love reach their greatest intensity. Hence the words: ‘Father forgive them; for they know not what they do’ (XXIII, 34). These words of love that could issue only from the astral body to which the writer of the Luke Gospel has been pointing from the beginning. And it is upon these qualities of humility and resignation to God's will which have here reached their greatest intensity and issue from the astral body, that Luke directs his gaze at the end. Hence the words in the Gospel: ‘Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.’ (XXIII, 46).
The John Gospel describes what must be fulfilled by man in Earth-existence: the ordering of existence according to the Sun Word. Hence his gaze is directed mainly to the ordering of life as proclaimed fro the Cross of Golgotha. He describes how in this hour Christ institutes a brotherhood of a higher kind than that based on blood-kinship. Brotherhood in its earlier forms arose from ties of blood. Mary was the mother of the child through blood-relationship. But soul united with soul in love — that is what was instituted through Christ Jesus. To the disciple whom He loved He gives, not the one who was the mother by blood, but He gives him the one who is his true mother in the spirit. And so the words resound from the Cross with their new meaning: ‘Behold thy son!’ — ‘`Behold thy mother!’ (XIX, 26, 27). The principle inherent in the life-ether by which the ordering of life is determined and community of a new kind established — that is what streamed into the Earth through Christ's Deed.
There is one supreme reality, the reality of Christ Himself behind everything the Evangelists describe. But each of them writes from the viewpoint he adopted at the beginning. Each had necessarily to direct his seership to what his particular preparation enabled him to understand; and the rest passed him by.
We shall now admit that it is not because this momentous event is described from four different sides that it seems full of contradictions; on the contrary, we realise that we can in some measure come to understand it only through being able gather the four sides into a whole. Why it is that Peter's avowal stands in the Matthew Gospel only and not in the others then seems entirely natural.
Mark describes Christ as the Sun Power, as the universal, cosmic Power working into the Earth — but in a new way. He is therefore speaking of the direct effects wrought by the Sun Aura. And the Luke Gospel describes the inmost nature of Christ Jesus especially, therefore, the astral body, the factor of individuality, how man lives entirely within himself; it is there that he functions in his own essential nature. The urge to cultivate a communal life where a man enters into relationship with other men des not lie primarily in the astral body, but in the etheric body. Hence there is no opportunity or inducement for Luke to write about the founding of any community. And certainly there is none in the case of the writer of the John Gospel who is concerned first and foremost with the Ego-nature.
On the other hand there is every inducement for the writer of the Matthew Gospel who is telling of Christ Jesus as Man, to describe happenings that are possible because God was once present in a human being. What God as Man among men can establish in the way of relationships between human beings, in the way of communities — this would necessarily be described by the Evangelists who tells of Christ Jesus in His essentially human aspect. The attention of this Evangelist has from the beginning been focused upon how Christ works as Man through the faculties derived from the physical body and etheric body. If we have insight into these things it will seem quite natural that the words which have given rise to so much controversy occur only in the Matthew Gospel: ‘Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church’, i.e. my community.
A survey of the endless discussions that take place about these words among theologians of every shade of opinion invariably brings evidence of peculiar and characteristic reasons for their acceptance or rejection, but nowhere of any understanding of their deeper meaning. Those who reject them do so because the external community of the Roman Catholic Church is founded upon them. They may have been misused in this sense but that is no proof that they were, as is sometimes alleged, inserted deliberately for the benefit of the Roman Church. Nor do those who contest their implications really know what to advance against their validity, because they do not perceive the possible distortions and misinterpretations. The theologians find themselves facing a strange dilemma. So one of them declares that the Mark Gospel is the earliest of the four; that the Gospels of Matthew and Luke were copied from it and additions made; furthermore, that because the writer of the Matthew Gospel was particularly intent upon promoting the idea of community, he inserted the Words ‘Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church.’
In the case of many passages the traditional texts do not help because it is impossible to be certain of exactly what they contain. But the words of Peter's avowal in the Matthew Gospel are among the least disputed of any, because there is no philological reason whatever for calling them into question — as there is in the case of many others owing to the complicated history of the tradition behind them. ‘Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ ‘Thou Peter, and upon this rock I will build my community; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.’ No objection can be made.to these words — nor indeed is ever made —from the standpoint of philology, for there is no text to justify it. There may have been hopes that a basis for objections would be forthcoming from recently discovered texts, but it so happens that the passage in question is indecipherable in these texts, the relevant portion being very corrupt. That at any rate is the verdict of philology. Naturally we must rely here upon the reports of those who have actually examined the documents.
This particular saying, therefore, cannot even be considered to be a variant of another. According to philology itself these words are among the most authentic of all and in view of the whole character of the Matthew Gospel we can well understand why they occur in it. In this Gospel Christ Jesus is depicted as Man. Once we have this clue we shall by able to apply it everywhere and we shall understand the Matthew Gospel. We shall also understand the parables told by Christ Jesus to His disciples and to those outside His immediate circle.
In the lecture yesterday we heard how man evolves from below upwards: how as a flower of his human nature he unfolds the spiritual or consciousness-soul and develops to the stage where he encounters the Christ Impulse. The five members of human nature — etheric body, astral body, sentient soul, intellectual of mind-soul, consciousness-soul — developing through the five civilization-epochs, evolve from below to higher stages. A man can mature and so imbue them with the content which, when the time comes enables them to be permeated by the Christ Impulse. Humanity evolves in such a way that in future time all men can become partakers of Christ. But they must develop these five members to the appropriate stage. If they fail to do so they will not be ready to receive the Christ. If through their different incarnations they make no efforts to develop these members to the stage where they can receive the Christ, such men cannot be united with Him, even if He comes for they have ‘no oil in their lamps’. — that is, in the five members of their being. Those who have poured no oil into their lamps are depicted in a wonderful and beautiful parable as the five foolish virgins who have not trimmed their lamps in time and cannot therefore unite with Christ; the five, however, who have provided oil for their lamps are able to unite with Him when the hour has come. All the parables that are based on numbers shed profound illumination upon the impulses given by Christ to men.
And further. — Christ brought it home to those who concerned themselves with His teaching from outside that they, too, were accustomed not to regard everything merely in its material actuality but as a sign or token of something different. He wanted to call attention to their characteristic way of thinking. He asked for a coin and pointed to the image of the Caesar upon it. This was done in order to make the people realise that the coin gives expression to something quite apart from the metal itself, namely, the fact of being subject to a particular rulership, a particular ruler. ‘What in this coin pertains to Caesar, render unto Caesar’ — and that lies in the image, not in the metal. ‘But learn’ — so He wished to imply — ‘learn also to regard man as the bearer and temple of the living God. Regard a man exactly as you regard a coin; learn to perceive in a man the image of God and then you will know that he belongs to God.’
In all these parables there is a meaning far deeper than the trivial one that is commonly accepted. And the deeper meaning is discovered when it is known that Christ did not use parables in the way they are so often used in our journalistic age. Christ draws them from human nature itself, giving them in such a form that if a man were to think them out and apply them to his own being, he would be compelled to adopt the attitude appropriate in each particular domain. It had to be demonstrated to man how his thinking must be carried over from one domain to another when it was desirable to show him that certain methods of thought may lead to absurdity.
Here is an example. — When, for the first time, people began to invent all kinds of ‘Sun myths’ in connection with the Buddha, Christ, and others, this finally exceeded the limit of what a certain man could tolerate. Finding the same kind of thing still happening, this man said the following. — ‘There is no end to what can be done through this method of applying the imagery of myths and stellar constellations to some important event. If someone comes forward and, in order to prove that Christ Jesus never lived, points out that the story of Christ's life is simply a Sun myth, it can also be proved by the same method that no Napoleon ever existed. Nothing is easier than to say: in ‘Napoleon’ there is contained the name of Apollo, the Sun God. ‘N’ as a prefix to a name in Greek does not detract from but enhances its significance: hence Napoleon — N'Apollo — is actually a kind of super-Apollo. Further remarkable similarities can be discovered. Dr. Drews, the Professor of Philosophy, who has discovered, forsooth, that Jesus never existed, has found similarity in names such as Jesus, Joses, Jason, etc. Again, remarkable assonances can be found between the names of Letitia, the mother of Napoleon, and Leto, the mother of Apollo. Going still further, one can say: Around Apollo, the Sun, there are twelve constellations; around Napoleon there were twelve Marshals who are nothing but symbols of the zodiacal constellations around the Sun. Moreover the hero of the Napoleon myth has six brothers and sisters — making seven. There are seven planets. — Conclusion: Napoleon never existed !’
This is a very witty satire on the symbolic interpretations that are so fashionable nowadays. People never really learn; if they did they could not fail to realise that according to the methods that are again being applied to-day it has long since been proved that Napoleon never lived. Humanity never learns; for by using the same arguments proof is obtained that Jesus never lived either!
These things show how necessary it is to approach with due preparation — with inner preparation too — what the Gospels tell us about the greatest event in history. Let us also realise that in this very respect it is easy for anthroposophists to go wrong. Playing with symbols derived from the stars has been by no means unknown even in the Anthroposophical Movement. In this course of lectures particularly, when I have spoken of the greatest event in the evolution of humanity in connection with its revelation in the language of the stars, my desire has been to show how this language of the stars was used in the true and right way when the happenings were really understood.
And now let us turn our thoughts to the culminating event narrated in the Gospels. I have already spoken of the Baptism and the history of the life and death of Christ Jesus as representing two stages of Initiation, and I will now add only the following. — Christ Jesus had led His disciples to the stage where they were able to see how the innermost core of man's being passes out into the Macrocosm; they saw through death and beyond death. The Resurrection must never be thought of in the usual, rather trivial sense. Think only of the words in the Matthew Gospel and also in the John Gospel where the truth of Paul's subsequent declaration is confirmed, namely that at Damascus he had seen the Risen Christ. He says expressly that he himself had seen what other brethren, the twelve and the five hundred, had also seen. Paul, as well as the others, had seen Him after the Resurrection. (I. Cor. XV, 4-6.)
This is clearly indicated in the Gospel story. Mary Magdalene, who had seen Christ Jesus only shortly before, sees Him after the Resurrection and supposes Him to be the gardener. It would have been impossible not to recognize Him had there been no change in His appearance. You would not believe anyone who told you that he would not have recognized the same person he had seen only a few days before. Quite evidently there had been a transformation. Close study of the Gospels will show clearly that as a result of the Mystery of Golgotha and of all the happenings in Palestine, the eyes of the disciples were opened and they beheld Christ as the Spirit weaving and working through the world; they knew Him as he was after the physical body had been given over to the Earth but they knew too that He would now remain with the Earth, working as powerfully as He did while in the physical body.
This too is brought out in the Matthew Gospel, in words that may well be considered the most significant of any to be found in ancient records. It is made absolutely clear that Christ was once present in a human physical body, that this event was not an event only, but an active cause, an impulse. The Sun Word, the Sun Aura, once spoken of by Zarathustra as a reality outside and beyond the Earth, became through the Christ-Jesus-life a power that is and will remain united with the Earth. Something different from anything that had been present before that life was now united with the Earth:
It behooves anthroposophists to understand this and therewith to realise that it was the Risen Christ who could reveal Himself to the clairvoyant vision of the disciples as the Spirit now pervading Earth-existence. Hence He could say: ‘Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world’ (i.e. to the end of the Earth's days).
Spiritual Science should enable us to understand that since that time the Sun Aura has been united with the Earth Aura and that this can be seen by one whose eyes of spirit are opened; furthermore that this Sun Aura in the Earth Aura which became visible to Paul, can also be ‘heard’ when the inner ears are open and the Sun Word becomes audible, as it did to Lazarus — the one initiated by Christ Jesus Himself. Spiritual Science exists in order to prepare us to know this in all reality. Spiritual Science is an interpreter of what has come to pass in the spiritual evolution of the world and for this reason will strive to give effect to what Christ Jesus Himself wished to establish, according to the Matthew Gospel.
A beautiful saying in this Gospel is usually quite wrongly translated. In its true form, the saying is: ‘I have not come to send peace away from this Earth but to send away the sword!’ The most beautiful message of peace has in the course of time been distorted into its very opposite! (Matt. X, 24). Christ entered into the spiritual sphere of Earth-existence in order gradually to rescue it from elements that bring about discord and disharmony in mankind. Spiritual Science will establish peace when it is truly Christian, in the sense of bringing about the unity of religions. It can unite not only those in regions immediately around us but can establish peace over the whole Earth, because it understands the nature of the deed wrought by the greatest Bringer of peace. It is certainly not in accordance with Christ's will that fanatical men and women should journey from one part of the Earth to another in attempts to force a narrow, hide-bound Christianity upon human beings who have no aptitude for its teachings when these are presented in a form appropriate for a different people. Proposals to carry Christian teaching to the East in the form it has assumed in some particular region are apt be very mistaken. As anthroposophists we know well that Christ does not belong to the ‘Christians’ only; we know that He is the same Being whom Zarathustra called Ahura Mazdao and the seven Rishis of ancient India, Vishva Karman. We in the West realise that even if in the East men use different names, it is in reality Christ of whom they are speaking.
Our aim is to understand Christ in a way that keeps abreast of the evolution of humanity, of progress among men We realise that no records or forms of knowledge in which Christ is repudiated can shed any light upon His life and nature, but those alone which consciously bear within them His own living influence. If in the truly Christian sense we speak to other, non-Christian peoples of Vishva Karman, of Ahura Mazdao, we know well that they understand us although no name is forced upon them, and that of themselves they will eventually come to understand Christ. We have no wish to force the name of Christ upon them. For if we are not only anthroposophists but occultists too, we are well aware that names in themselves are of no account, that it is the Being alone who of importance. Could we for one moment persuade ourselves that it would be permissible to call the Christ Being by a different name, we should not hesitate to do so. For to us it is the truth that matters and not any predilection due to the fact that we inhabit a particular area of the Earth and belong to a particular people. Let it not be thought that Christ can be understood by means which His influence has not reached. Christ can indeed be found by other nations, but He Himself must be the source of the means for understanding Him.
No reproach should be cast on anthroposophists for being unwilling, in their study of Christianity, to make use of methods and forms not derived from Christianity itself. Christ cannot be understood through oriental terminology; those who use such nomenclature may believe that they understand Him but they do not. What would it mean if in the domain of Theosophy we were expected to hold the oriental view of Christ? We should be obliged to reject the idea of having Christ brought from the East! Such a measure would force us to take the West over to the East and to form our conception of Christ accordingly. This cannot and must not be, not because of aversion but because the oriental concepts, with their more ancient origin, are not capable of yielding any real understanding of Christ. Such understanding is possible only when it is known that Christ belongs to the line of evolution into which Abraham was born and the Moses. But into Moses there passed part of the being of Zarathustra. We have thus to look for Zarathustra in the events resulting from his influence upon Moses. Nor must we look for Zarathustra in the ancient Zoroastrian writings, but where he was reincarnated in Jesus of Nazareth. Account must always be taken of evolution! In the same way we must not seek the Buddha where he lived, and from being a Bodhisattva rose to Buddhahood six hundred years B.C., but where he is described by the Luke Gospel, shining down from the heights of the spiritual world into the astral body of the Nathan Jesus. 6See The Gospel of St. Luke, Lectures Two and Five. There we see the Buddha at a later stage of his activity.
This shows us how the religions work together in order to ensure that mankind shall progress. It is not enough to lecture about anthroposophical principles; what matters is to transform them into feeling; nor should we talk of tolerance and at the same time be intolerant because of predilection for some particular religion. We are truly tolerant only when we measure each religion by its own standard and understand the fundamental character of each. — Naturally, when we speak of the different systems of religion having worked together to bring Christianity into existence, this is not due to our own particular viewpoint. The truth is that in those lofty heights where the great spiritual Beings are at work, events have been different from those caused by the actions of adherents of particular religions on the Earth. For example a Council was summoned in Tibet to establish an orthodox doctrine connected with the name of the Buddha at the very time when the real Buddha had descended from higher spheres in order to let his inspiration flow into the astral body of the Jesus of the Luke Gospel. What happens again and again is that adherents of a religion on the Earth cling to what has continued as an aftermath on Earth. The work of the Gods has, however, been carried meanwhile to further stages in order that progress may be possible for humanity. Progress is best achieved when men endeavor to understand their Gods, to keep pace with the progress made by the Gods who are looking upon them. From this realisation there should grow in us a living understanding of the Gospels.
In our study of the three Gospels we have found something different
in each of them. Cosmology of an intimate kind will be revealed when the
time comes for us to study the Mark Gospel. 7The following two lecture cycles were subsequently
given by Rudolf Steiner:
Background to the Gospel of St. Mark, 13 lectures, Berlin and other cities, October 1910 to June 1911.
The Gospel of St. Mark, 10 lectures, Basle, September, 1912. This is because a conception of Ahura Mazdao working through all the realms of space can be yielded by study of the Mark Gospel, just as the secrets of blood-relationship, the link connecting the individuality through heredity with the people from whom he has sprung, have been presented to us in the Matthew Gospel.
I beg you to think of what I have put before you in these lectures as one aspect only of the great Christ Event, for by no means everything has been said. The time may not yet have come to say, even to a very few, what it is possible to say about these profound mysteries. The best outcome of our studies will be that we do not only grasp these things intellectually but make them part of the very fibres of our soul-life, part of our life of feeling and of our hearts, and allow them to live there. If the words of the Gospels are imprinted in our hearts and we truly understand them they become powers and forces which fill our whole being and engender great inner strength. And we shall find that this strength remains with us through life.
To-day, when I have to bring these lectures on the Matthew Gospel to a conclusion, I want to speak in the way I am accustomed to speak at the end of our Summer courses, but in special connection with this text which among original Christian records gives the most beautiful presentation of the human aspect of Christ Jesus.
What is it that strikes us particularly about the Matthew Gospel, where from the very beginning the manhood of Christ Jesus is brought into prominence? Great though the distance assuredly is between an ordinary man on the Earth and the one who was able to receive the Christ Being into himself, nevertheless the Matthew Gospel shows us — when we accept it with all humility — the dignity of man and what he may become. For although our own nature maybe far, far removed from that of Jesus of Nazareth, we may yet say to ourselves that the human nature we bear is able to receive into itself the Son of God, the Son of the living God. Herein lies the promise that the Son of God will henceforth remain united with spiritual Earth-existence and that when Earth-existence has reached its goal all men will be filled with the substance and being of Christ in so far as they themselves have inwardly desired this. We need humility to harbour such an ideal. For if we harbour it without humility it gives rise to arrogance, to pride; we think only about what we can be as men reminding ourselves all too seldom of how little we have hitherto achieved. This ideal must be approached with humility. Then it appears so great, so mighty, so majestic, so impressive in its brilliance, that in itself it is an exhortation to humility. And when we are aware of the truth of this ideal, no matter how meagre our forces may be they will bear us to ever higher stages along the path to our divine goal.
In The Portal of Initiation indications are to be found of the intensity and crescendo of feelings that arise along this path. In the second scene, Johannes Thomasius is shattered in soul under the impression of the words: ‘O man know thyself !’ And then, in the ninth scene, of the words: ‘O man, experience thyself!’ he is transported in exultation to cosmic realms. This brings home to us once again the majesty and grandeur of the figure of Jesus in the Matthew Gospel; humility fills us and our own insignificance becomes doubly apparent. But through the inner truth and reality revealed to us we are rescued from the abyss that seems to stretch between our own littleness and what we should and can become. If at times we feel overwhelmed when contemplating the stature of the Gods in a man, we shall nevertheless, as human beings, feel something of the divine Impulse, some¬thing of the '‘Son of the living God', by turning our minds to Christ Jesus who as the highest representative of the ‘I', Himself exhorts us in words that will ring through all ages to come: ‘O man, experience thyself !’
If we understand the human aspect of Christ Jesus as presented in the Matthew Gospel — and that is why it is closer to us than the other Gospels — there will stream from it courage in life, strength, hope in all our labours. This will be the very best proof that we have understood what these words were intended to convey.