16 April 1912, Stockholm
I thank you from my heart for the kind words of the General Secretary of the Swedish section, Colonel Kinell, and in reply I wish to say that it is deeply satisfying, on my journey from Helsingfors, to be able for a few days to discuss again with you in Stockholm those things and truths which touch us all so closely. I offer you a hearty greeting, as warmly felt as the kind words of the General Secretary.
On these two more intimate evenings we shall have to speak of a question, an affair of mankind, which in a double connection penetrates extraordinarily deeply into our souls. First, because the Christ question is such that, for two thousand years now, not only has it occupied countless souls on earth, but from it have flowed for countless earth-souls spiritual life-blood, strength of soul, consolation and hope in suffering, strength and sureness in action. And not only that, but when we consider all that surrounds us as external exoteric culture, created through many centuries, then through deeper knowledge we see that all this would have been impossible had not the Christ impulse taken hold of a large part of humanity. This is one consideration which shows us what strong interest the Christ question must offer if we approach it with anthroposophical knowledge. This is only one side of the interest which we bring to this problem; the other side of our interest comes out of the particular soul and spiritual conditions of our present time, our epoch. We need only look about us in the world and try to understand the yearnings, the seeking of the human soul, and we shall be able to say to ourselves: Ever more do human souls seek after something which, through the centuries, has been connected in men's souls with the name of Christ, and ever more do they come to the conviction that a renewing of the ways, a renewing of interest, a deepening of knowledge, is necessary if the needs of human souls (which will steadily increase with regard to Christ) are to be satisfied. If we find on the one side a thirsting for enlightenment about Christ, we find on the other side, among numerous souls of the present day, doubt and insecurity as to the means used up to this time. And therefore, because of the yearning for an answer and because of the doubt that the truth can be learned, this is one of the most burning questions of the present time.
It is thus obvious that a spiritual movement which penetrates more deeply into spiritual foundations has the task of throwing light on this question. Things are like this today, my dear friends, but in a relatively short time, truly in a very short time, they will be entirely different. If we somewhat unegotistically examine what, in relation to Christ, will be needed by those men who follow after our time, then we must say to ourselves that, although many men of the present can satisfy themselves with what there is, souls will feel themselves increasingly unsure and will thirst increasingly for enlightenment. Thus in speaking of Christ today we speak of something which we foresee as necessary for the human beings of a very near future. Anthroposophy would not fulfil its task if it did not put itself in a position to create clarity on these points by means of its knowledge, as far as this is possible today.
As my point of departure I shall indicate the three paths along which the soul, in accordance with human evolution, can attain to Christ. If we mention three paths we must briefly describe the first path, which today is no longer a path, though it once was; which today need not be an esoteric path, as just in our time the anthroposophic path is, but which was a path for millions of souls through the centuries. This is the path through the so-called Christian documents, through the Gospels. For millions and millions of people this path was, and for many it still is, the only possible one. The second path along which the human soul may seek the Christ is that which can be called the path through inner experience, which especially in the present and in the near future numerous souls, out of their particular constitution and qualities, must pursue. The third path is that which, through the anthroposophical movement, one can at least begin to understand in our time, the path through initiation. Thus there are three paths to Christ: First, the path through the Gospels; second, the path through inner experience; and third, the path through initiation.
The first path, the path through the Gospels, need be only briefly characterized here. We all know that, in the course of the centuries, the Gospels became nourishment for the hearts and souls of innumerable people. We know also that the most enlightened, the most critical natures (and these are not the irreligious), begin to have no further relation to this Christ, because it is maintained today that external knowledge cannot know what historical facts really stand behind that which the Gospels relate. Had the Gospels been read by men of past centuries as today they are read by a scholar, by a man who has gone through the current scientific education, they would never have been able to exercise the powerful influence, the life-influence, which has flowed out of them. Now, if the Gospels were not read in past centuries as the educated man of today reads them, how were they read?
To ponder a priori on what may have taken place in Palestine at the beginning of our era, this would never have occurred to the Gospel-readers of earlier centuries, and still does not occur to many Gospel-readers of today. Those who begin to test, in the Gospels, what may have taken place before the eyes of the inhabitants of Palestine at the beginning of our era lose confidence in the historical character of the events of Palestine. The men of earlier times did not read in this way. They read in such a way that they allowed a picture to work on their souls; for instance, the picture of the Samaritan woman at the well, or of Christ imparting the Sermon on the Mount to his disciples. The question of external physical reality never occurred to them. How their hearts warmed, how their feelings swelled in the presence of these great and powerful pictures this was to them the main thing. What formed itself in their hearts, what force, what life-meaning they gained through these pictures this was the main thing. They felt that spiritual lifeblood and strength flowed to them from these pictures. When they let these pictures work on their souls, they felt strong; they felt that, without these pictures, they would be weak. And then they felt living, personal connections with what is recounted in the Gospels, and the question of historical reality occurred to them no further. The Gospels were themselves reality, they were present as force, and one did not need to ask whence they came; one knew that men had written them not with earthly means, but with impulses from the spiritual worlds. I do not assert that one must feel in this way today (what one must do depends on the development of mankind), but I assert that men felt in this way through centuries.
How could it be so? On this point spiritual science is now first able to instruct us. When we begin to understand the Gospels in the light of spiritual science, and try to penetrate into what flows down from spiritual worlds and is contained in the Gospels, then we stand before the Gospels in such a way that we say: We know from spiritual science, quite apart from the Gospels, all that has taken place in human evolution in connection with the Christ-impulse, and then we find what is contained in the Gospels, quite independently of them.
How, then, do we conceive the Gospels from the spiritual-scientific point of view? If I may use a simple comparison, let us assume that a man has attained enlightenment on some subject. With this enlightenment, he meets a second man and begins to talk with him. At first he will not suppose that the other knows anything of the subject which is so clear to him, but from the conversation he perceives that the other knows it quite as well as he. What must reasonably be assumed? The reasonable thing to assume is that the other has enlightened himself through the same or similar sources. So is it also with the Gospels. We can do this, no matter from what standpoint we approach the Gospels. A society could be formed of people who read the Gospels in the above described way; then there could also be people in this society who were determined opponents of the Gospels, and who would say that, when the Gospels were tested by the methods of science, it would be found that they were written much later than the events in Palestine could have occurred, and that their accounts contradict each other in short, that these Gospels cannot be regarded as historical documents. Such people might be in such a society, and one could say: Well, let us at first leave the Gospels in peace, but let us do some research in the spiritual worlds.
Then, if we did some genuine spiritual research, if we gained genuine super-sensible knowledge, we would find that in the course of human evolution there had once entered a strong impulse, which broke into human evolution as an impulse from the spiritual worlds, from which mighty things have proceeded for humanity; and we would see that at the beginning of our era, this impulse had taken hold of a man who was especially suited thereto. All this, and many other facts which fit into this knowledge and which can be won only through super-sensible research, all this we would have; and those who wished to know nothing of the Gospels would have this as well as others. Then one could approach the Gospels and say: Well now, at first we did not trouble ourselves at all about these Gospels; yet it is remarkable that, when we read them carefully, we see that they contain what we found in spiritual fields independently of them. Now we recognize their value from an entirely different side.
Then we are clear that it could not be otherwise, that those who wrote the Gospels must have received their knowledge from the same source which is now opening itself to humanity through the spiritual movement. This is just what now confronts us, what will come more and more, what will make a valid basis for the valuation of the Gospel documents. If this is so, we must say that men will be able to find along other ways what can be known through these documents. And so this knowledge begins to be more and more sacred to us through the spiritual cognition of the present day. It already worked through the force of the Gospels. Because the Gospels are suffused with the holiest knowledge, with the spiritual impulses of humanity, they had an influence even where they were taken in naively. Spiritual knowledge works not only abstractly, not only in theory, but works as a life-force, as life-blood of the soul. And ever more and more will men recognize how consolation and strength flow from this knowledge.
But when we speak of the inner way to Christ, we encounter more and more things which can be understood and felt at the present time only when approached with the right spiritual-scientific understanding. We shall try to speak of the inner Christ-experience in such a way that it may be seen how, independently of all tradition, this may appear in every man. To this end we must, of course, regard the human being with the knowledge which we have found through spiritual science. If we steep ourselves in spiritual science, then we find even the most elementary knowledge becoming fruitful when we apply it to life. We find that we get away from the abstract charts of the seven members of man when we contemplate the growing and becoming of man. The physical body has its especial development in the first seven years of life. We perceive further that in the second seven years of life, from the change of teeth until sexual maturity, the forces of the etheric body play in man. Then the forces of the astral body begin to play, and only later, about the 20th or 21st year, (depending on his whole organization and on the nature of the forces in him) begins what appears in man as the Ego, as the bearer of the Ego, with that force which it really has because of its organization for the whole life of man as the bearer of the Ego.
That the bearer of the Ego first becomes really capable of living in the 20th or 21st year is not often observed in our present time, because we are not yet inclined to pay attention to these things. What does it mean that the bearer of the Ego first becomes really active in the 20th or 21st year of life? Here we must observe, by occult means, the growing man and view the deeper forces of his organization. These forces continually change: from birth until the seventh year, from the seventh year until sexual maturity, from sexual maturity until the unfolding of the Ego. But they change in such a way that they cannot be tested by the methods of ordinary anatomy or physiology. By occult means, one can say that only around the 20th year does man develop his forces in such a way that a self-sufficing Ego-bearer now exists. Earlier this Ego-bearer is not yet formed; earlier the human corporeality, even the super-sensible, is not yet a proper Ego-bearer. So if we consider the members of man in the light of the great world-principle, we must say that, through the peculiarities of his organization, man is really ripe to develop an Ego out of himself only in his 20th or 21st year, not earlier.
With this fact another may be contrasted, namely that in the first years of life, in normal consciousness, we really dream ourselves, sleep ourselves into life, and that only after a certain point of time does life take such a course that our own memory begins. Of what happened before this time we may be told by our parents or elder brothers; after this point the man says I am who I am. From the time when he says I have done this; I have thought that, the man dates his own Ego; what came before that loses itself in the twilight of the soul. Our memory reaches only to the point of time so described.
What do we have when we put these two facts together; that the real bearer of the human Ego is born in the 20th or 21st year, and that in our souls we describe ourselves as an Ego from the third or fourth year on? This means that in the present cycle of man's development he has an opinion, a feeling, about himself which does not correspond to his inner organization, as this has developed; for the consciousness of the Ego appears in the third or fourth year, but the organization for the Ego first appears in the 20th or 21st year. This fact is of fundamental importance for the understanding of man. When this fact is stated abstractly as an item of spiritual-scientific knowledge, no one gets particularly excited about it; but, because this fact is true, there are numerous experiences available which we all know well, but which we do not observe in the light of this fact. All that man can experience of cleavage between external organization and inner experience, of sorrow and pain in life because (by reason of his organization) certain things are impossible for him, of disharmony between what he wishes and what he can perform; the fact that he may have ideals which lead far beyond his organization: all this leads back to the fact that the consciousness of our Ego goes an entirely different way from that followed by the bearer of our Ego. In this respect we are two men; An external man who is organized to develop his egohood in the 20th or 21st year, and an inner soul-man who already in his fourth or fifth year, as to his soul-life, emancipates himself from his outer organization. Emancipation of the Ego-consciousness from the outer organization takes place in childhood. We go through something in our soul which proceeds independently of our outer organization and which can even come into sharp contradiction with our outer organization. We are inclined, in regard to the inner consciousness of the Ego, to pay no attention to our organization, to what is below in our bodies. In our souls we develop in an entirely different way from that in which our bodies develop.
Thus the course of inner development of mankind is twofold. The development of our organization goes from the first to the seventh year, then from the seventh to the fourteenth, from the fourteenth to the twenty-first, in the above described way; but our inner development is such that we are entirely independent of the above, such that the consciousness of our Ego emancipates itself in tenderest childhood and makes its own way through life. But what is the consequence of this curious fact of human development? Only the occultist can tell us this.
If we survey all that the occultist can teach, we come to a curious fact. We come to see that sickness, frailty of the human organization, all that makes possible illness, age, and death, comes from our being really a duality. We die because we are organized in a certain way and in our organization pay no attention to our Ego-development. That with our Ego we go an independent path, not troubling ourselves about our organization, this is brought home to us when this organization, in sickness and death, places a hindrance before our Ego-development; we are reminded that our Ego-development proceeds quite separately from our organization. Whence comes really this curious fact of duality in human nature?
When we examine man in connection with reality, we see that, if at a certain time in the Earth evolution, namely in the Lemurian time, only progressive forces had intervened in human development, the youthful development of man would today proceed quite otherwise namely so that it would keep even step with the Ego-development. At all times the soul-development would coincide exactly with the body-development. It would have been impossible for man to develop himself otherwise than in the way now set up as an ideal, for example, in my pamphlet The Education of the Child in the Light of Anthroposophy. (Anthroposophic Press, New York City) Had only progressive forces been active at that time, the singular result would have been that, in the first twenty years of life, man would have been much less self-reliant than he is now. This lack of self-reliance is not meant in a bad sense, but in such a way that each of you would approve of it completely. For example, human nature in the first seven years of life completely disposed to imitation. Since grown people, if only progressive forces had been active in the Lemurian time, would do nothing shameful, children between one and seven would be able to imitate nothing bad. In the second seven years of life the principle of authority would reign, whereas now it has come to be a curse of the land, a curse of the world, that persons between seven and fourteen want to be independent and are even educated to form independent opinions. The grown persons would have been the natural authorities for the children. From fourteen to twenty-one, man would have looked much less into himself, upon his own self; he would have turned more toward the outside. The force of ideals, the power of living himself into his life-dreams would have become immensely significant for him. Life-dreams would have sprung from his heart, and then full Ego-consciousness would have appeared in his 20th and 21st years.
Thus there would be in the first seven years a period of imitation, then in the second seven years a looking up to authority, then in the third seven years a springing forth of ideals, which would bring man to his full Ego-consciousness. The sum of those forces also working in evolution which are called the Luciferic forces have brought about a deviation from this path of development in the course of human evolution. Since the Lemurian time they have torn the Ego-consciousness away from the foundation of the organization. The fact that we already have the Ego-consciousness in tenderest childhood is to be traced to the Luciferic forces.
How did the Luciferic forces intervene? The Luciferic powers are beings who remained behind on the Moon, and who therefore have no understanding of the mission of the Earth, for that which should develop for the first time on the Earth for the Ego after the 21st year. They took man as he was on coming over from the Moon, and laid in him the germ of self-reliant soul-development. So that in the hastening of Ego-consciousness, in this peculiar cleavage in human nature, lie the Luciferic forces. Knowledge of such a fact is given for the first time by anthroposophy. It can be sensed by every man of sound feeling, for every man can sense that there is something in him which separates him from his full humanity. All that we call unjustified egoism in our nature, all withdrawing from the activities of men, all this stems from the Ego's not going along on the right path of the organization. Thus do we see man before us, if he can feel. If he says to himself: I could be other than I am; I have something in me which is not in harmony with myself then he feels the strife within him of the progressive powers with the Luciferic powers. This fact had to occur in the course of human evolution; it was necessary because man would never have become really free without the Luciferic beings; he would have been always bound to his organization. What on the one hand brings man into conflict with his organization, gives him on the other hand the first possibility of being free. One thing, however, remains out of this duality of the organization for the ordinary human life; this shows itself in our feeling that the Ego has become incapable, out of its own powers, of transforming the organization.
When we survey the broad circumference of what has constituted and created man, we find the two forces described above; there are the organic forces of our human nature, which are intended to develop in seven-year periods, and there are the Luciferic forces. If there were nothing else in nature or in the spiritual life in the course of human development, it would follow that man could never, through his emancipated Ego, come into full harmony with his nature. Were there nothing else in the field of earth-existence, man could only become ever more estranged from his organization; his organization would become ever more infirm, more dried up; the cleavage would necessarily become always greater. If man only once reaches the point of intensely feeling this as spiritual-scientific knowledge, then he comes to a great moment in his life, when he can say: Here I stand with my human organization which is given me by the progressive forces that work from seven years to seven years (he need not express this in precise words, he need only feel it dimly). But, because this organization has an opposing force, which develops itself independently, it becomes sick and infirm and finally dies. In the depths of his soul man feels this. Without knowing anything of anthroposophy, he need only have this feeling of a discrepancy between the inner Ego and the outer organization, and, if he steeps himself in this feeling, then he knows not whence there comes into his soul something of which he feels: I myself, with the Ego which I can trace back, can do nothing against my organization, for which I am no match. But there comes something which I can take into my Ego as force, which I can take into my consciousness as conviction; directly from spiritual worlds comes something which does not reside in me, but which permeates my soul. From unknown worlds something can flow into my soul; if I take it up in my heart, if I suffuse my Ego with it, then it helps me directly from spiritual worlds. This which comes from spiritual worlds may be called whatever we like; that is not important; only the feeling is important.
Let us assume that a man is today at odds with life and says to himself: I must seek through the whole world to see if somewhere a force will spring up which will give me something through which I can come out of the conflict, something which will help me out. In the nature of things this man could never find his way with the means of the old religious confessions; in the ancient ecclesiastical ideas he could never find anything which would give him this force that he seeks. But, in order to have a concrete example, let us assume that such a man went to one of the ancient holy religions, that he went, for example, to Buddhism and steeped himself in the extraordinary teachings of Buddhism. If the man felt, however, naturally and in its full strength the cleavage described above, he would feel I do not say this would come out of a theory, but out of a dim feeling he would feel that in the personality, in the individuality of Gautama Buddha, something had lived which could appear in the world only on the basis of a long development. This individuality went through many incarnations, achieved higher and higher grades of evolution, and finally came so far that in the 29th year of his life as Gautama Buddha, he was able to rise from Bodhisatva to Buddha, was able to rise in such a way that he need never more return to a physical body. How did that which flows out from this individuality come into being? Every unprejudiced mind can feel what speaks out of the Buddha, can feel all that first came about and developed through the Bodhisatva in earth evolution after developing through many incarnations. In the most beautiful and comprehensive sense all this contains the forces which are found in the periphery of the earth, in the interplay of the forces of the organization and the Luciferic forces. Therefore, because it has gone from incarnation to incarnation, because it stems from the same forces from which the human forces stem, therefore that which flows from the Bodhisatva to the Buddha has such an effect that the unprejudiced mind does not feel anything that can call forth a full harmony between the Ego of man and his organization. The soul feels that there must be something which does not go from incarnation to incarnation, but which can stream into every human soul directly from the spiritual worlds. When the soul feels that it must have a relation to what streams down from the heavens, then it is beginning to have an inner experience of the Christ. Then the soul can understand that in Christ Jesus something had to appear which was different from everything previously existing. This is the radical, fundamental difference, the difference in principle between the life of the Christ and that of the Buddha.
Buddha rose from a Bodhisatva to a Buddha with the forces which cause man to mount from incarnation to incarnation, as is the case with other great founders of religions. Into the life of Jesus of Nazareth something entered, something worked into the individuality of Jesus of Nazareth, over a period of three years, which streamed down directly out of the spiritual worlds, which had nothing to do with human evolution, which previously was not connected with a human life. We must keep this difference clearly in mind if we wish to understand why, in what the fourth post-Atlantean epoch called the Christ, there was something which was different from all other religious impulses, and why the other religions have always pointed mankind toward this Christ.
If we, in the post-Atlantean time, look back into the ancient sacred Indian culture, we see the seven holy Rishis, in whose souls there lived something of an immediate perception of the spiritual worlds. Had one of the seven holy Rishis been asked about the fundamental mood of his soul, he would have said: We look up to the spiritual powers from whom all human development has proceeded. This reveals itself to us in seven rays, but above this is something else, something which lies above our sphere. Vishvakarman, this was the name later given to what the seven holy Rishis thus felt. The seven holy Rishis spoke of a power which had not developed with the earth.
Then came the Zarathustra culture. Zarathustra spoke, when he directed his gaze to the spirits of the sun, of something which should flow into human evolution directly through a streaming out of the spiritual worlds. What we can give to men, so spake Zarathustra, is not that which will one day, from the sun-distances, stream directly out of the spiritual worlds into mankind. What is spiritual in the sun, this is what the later Persian culture called Ahura-Mazdao.
In the Egyptian mysteries the Christ question was felt with a particularly tragic force. It was felt in the deepest way, if by deep we mean a form of human feeling in which there was an especially strong consciousness that humanity stems from what is spiritual. The Egyptian initiate said to himself: Wherever we turn our gaze, we feel in what surrounds us the decline from the original spiritual. Nowhere in the outer world is the spiritual to be found in its immediacy and purity. Only when man steps through the gate of death does he descry that from which he springs. Man must first die (in relation to inner experience, not in relation to initiation); then he becomes united with the Osiris-principle (so did the ancient Egyptian name the Christ principle); in life this cannot be done, that is the discrepancy. All that is in the periphery of the earth, this does not lead to Osiris; the soul must first have passed the portal of death to be united with Osiris. Then, in death, the soul becomes a piece of Osiris, it becomes itself a sort of Osiris. The world outside has become such that it dismembers Osiris through his enemy; that is, through all that belongs to the external world.
And the initiate of the Egyptian mysteries said: Mankind, as it now is in our culture, is a sort of reminiscence of the old Moon-time. As the culture of the seven holy Rishis is a sort of reminiscence of the old Saturn-time, as the Zarathustra culture is a reminiscence of the old Sun-time, so is the Osiris-culture a reminiscence of the old Moon-time when the Moon and its beings first separated from the sun, on which, however, remained the beings from whom man took his origin. At that time there took place the separation of man from the good forces of his organization, from the source of his life-forces. But, through the yearning and privation for the spiritual which will endure, the time will come for men when Osiris will descend and show himself as something which must come as a new impetus which was not before on earth, because already in the old Moon-time it had separated itself from the earth.
All that to which the seven holy Rishis and Zarathustra pointed, and of which the Egyptians said that in their time men could not attain it during life, this was the force, the impulse, which for three years revealed itself in the body of Jesus of Nazareth. All great religions spoke of it; it revealed itself in Jesus of Nazareth, to whom all religions pointed. Thus not only Christians have spoken of Christ, but also the members of all ancient religions. Thus something entered into the course of human development which man needs and which is accessible to inner experience.
Let us assume that a man grows up on a lonely island. Those who have charge of his education tell him nothing of that happens in the world in regard to the name of Christ and to the Gospels; they give him only such culture as does not make use of the Gospels or the name of Christ, culture which may have come to birth under the influence of Christ, but divested of the name of Christ. What would happen in this case? In such a man the following mood would be bound to appear. He would say to himself one day: Something lives in me which is in accord with my universal human organization; this I cannot at once grasp. For that in which my Ego-consciousness lives presents itself to me in such a way that I need something which cannot come to me through human culture, I need an impulse from the spiritual worlds, in order to make the Ego stronger again in its organization, from which it has emancipated itself. If such a person can only feel strongly that man needs, then something can come over him from which he will recognize that, directly from spiritual worlds, something must stream out which penetrates directly into his Ego. He does not know that this is called Christ; but he does know that in his consciousness he can suffuse himself with it, that in his Ego he can foster this which comes to him from the spiritual worlds. Then something will come to him of which he may say: Granted, I can be ill, I can be weak, I can die; but from my own Ego I can make myself stronger, I can send into my organization something which gives me strength and force directly out of the spiritual worlds. It is indifferent what he calls this; if the man comes to this feeling, he is gripped by the Christ-impulse. That man is not gripped by the Christ-impulse who says he can have something from a teacher who has passed from incarnation to incarnation, but he who feels that directly from the spiritual world there can come impulses of force, of strength. Men can have this inner experience; without it men cannot live, without it men will not be able to live in the future. They can have this experience, because once, for three years, there lived objectively in Jesus of Nazareth this impulse which came directly out of the spiritual worlds. As it is true that a man can lay a seed in the earth, and that many other seeds can come from this one, so it is true that the Christ-impulse was once implanted into humanity, and that since that time there is something in humanity which was not there earlier.
This is why the Egyptian life was so tragic. Men felt that in their lives they could not come to Osiris; that they must first pass through the gate of death, to be united with him in inner experience. Of initiation we have still to speak. But since the time of the Mystery of Golgotha that is possible which earlier was not possible: that of his own motion, out of his single incarnation, man seeks his connection with the spiritual world. And this is because the impulse which was given through the Mystery of Golgotha can flash up in every soul, and can enter, since that time, into every man through inner experience. Not the Christ Who was on earth the soul does not trouble itself about Him but the Christ Who is attainable through inner experience. Since the Mystery of Golgotha it is possible, in the single incarnations, to win a connection with the spiritual. And because this is so, there happened in the one fact of Golgotha something which can shine out into humanity, which is not given through the achievements of the successive incarnations. Therefore it is impossible that Christ should show himself in a way which is a consequence of many incarnations, as happened to Buddha from his incarnations as Bodhisatva.
Tomorrow we shall see how the path to the Christ in human evolution can be found for the future.