29 May 1905, Berlin *Source
for the text.
Shorthand notes by Franz Seiler, Walter Vegelahn, Berta Reebstein-Lehmann and longhand notes by Marie Steiner von Sivers.
Since we have spoken several times about Christianity and its present and future development, we have reached the point where today we have also to consider the meaning of the Cross symbol — not so much historically as factually.
You know, of course, what an all-embracing and symbolical meaning the emblem of the Cross has had for Christianity; and today I would like just to shed light on the connection between the Cross symbol and the significance of Solomon's Temple for world history.
Indeed there exists a so-called holy legend about the whole development of the Cross; in it we are dealing less with the Cross sign or its universal symbolical meaning, than with that very special and particular Cross of which Christ speaks, the very Cross on which Christ Jesus was crucified. Now you know too that the Cross is a symbol for all men, and it is found not only in Christianity, but in the religious beliefs and symbolism of all peoples, so that it must have the same common significance for all mankind. However, what particularly interests us today is how the Cross symbol acquired its basic significance for Christianity.
The Christian legend about the Cross 1 Parts of this legend are to be found in The
Golden Legend or Lives of the Saints, a collection of legends from
the thirteenth century by Jacobus de Voragine, translated into English
by William Caxton (edited by F.S. Ellis, Temple Classics, 1939). In this
the death of Adam is described and how he sent ‘Seth his son into
Paradise for to fetch the oil of mercy, where he received certain grains
of the fruit of the tree of mercy by an angel ...
‘And then he laid the grains or kernels under his father's tongue and buried him in the vale of Hebron; and out of his mouth grew three trees of the three grains, of which trees the cross that our Lord suffered his passion on was made ...’ In another place in the same work we are told more about the history of the wood of the cross. Under the section headed ‘The Invention of the Holy Cross’ it is stated:
‘... it is read in the Gospel of Nicodemus that, when Adam waxed sick, Seth his son went to the gate of Paradise terrestrial for to get the oil of mercy for to anoint withal his father's body ...
‘In another place it is read that the angel brought him a branch, and commanded him to plant it in the Mount of Lebanon. Yet find we in another place that he gave him of the tree that Adam ate of, and said to him that when that bare fruit he should be guerished and all whole. When Seth came again lie found his father dead and planted this tree upon his grave, and it endured there unto the time of Solomon. And because he saw that it was fair, he did hew it down and set it in his house named Saltus. And when the Queen of Sheba came to visit Solomon she worshipped this tree, because she said the Saviour of all the world should be hanged thereon ...
‘Then, after this history, the cross by which we be saved came of the tree by which we were damned.’
This extract of The Golden Legend by William Caxton differs from the German version in that some details given by Caxton are omitted in the German and vice versa. The fact that the tree was not found suitable for the building and was used as a bridge over which the Queen of Sheba was to pass is not mentioned in the English text.
In Bilder Okkulter Siegel und Säulen. Der Munchner Kongress, Pfingsten 1907, und seine Auswirkungen, Bibl. 284, there is a comprehensive note dealing with the source of the Temple Legend. It is there said that, according to the research of Otto Zockler (Das Kreuz Christi, chapter headed: ‘Medieval Legends concerning the Wood of the Cross,’ Gutersloh 1875 — preserved in the University Library, Basle) the legend about the three seeds from the Tree of Life forms part of a complicated series of legends from the twelfth century onwards. The earliest literary mention of Adam being buried on Golgotha is quoted by the Alexandrian Church Father, Origen, from a tradition out of the second century, to which was added the tradition of Seth's journey to Paradise which is recorded in the third century in the Nicodemus Gospel, which originally contained an account of the fetching of the Oil of Mercy for the healing of Seth's sick father, Adam. It was only in later centuries that the genealogical connection between the wood of the Tree of Paradise and the Cross of Christ was established in its various forms.
This legend, including the elaborations concerning Seth's journey to Paradise for the three seeds, was freely quoted by Rudolf Steiner on many occasions including: The present lecture on 29th May 1905, lectures in Leipzig on 15th December 1906 (Bibl. 97), in Berlin on 17th December 1906 (Bibl. 96), in Munich on 21st May 1907 (Bibl. 284), in Cassel on 29th June 1907 and in Basle on 25th November 1907 (both in Bibl. 100) and in Dornach on 19th December 1915 (Bibl. 165).
In his lecture in Cassel, The Golden Legend was characterised as having provided a subject for occult instruction since the most ancient times and, referring to Seth, it interprets his mission as of one who could see ‘into the end times, when the harmony between the two principles of mankind would be re-established.’ By the two principles is meant the two trees pertaining to the red and purple blood which are represented in the two pillars of the Temple.
As is evident from the interpretation of the legend by spiritual science the pictures which it presents are symbolic of the Fourth Degree in the Rosicrucian initiation, which is characterised by the ‘Finding of the Philosopher's Stone’ and is also known as the guldene, or ‘golden degree.’ This gives us an esoteric explanation of why it was usually referred to by Rudolf Steiner as The Golden Legend.
There is a much longer and more detailed version of this legend in an old Cornish legend (The Ancient Cornish Drama, edited and translated by Edwin Norris, Oxford University, 1859).
In this version there is not only the account of the fetching of the Oil of Mercy by Seth, but also of the attempt by Solomon to incorporate the wood from this tree into the Temple and its final rejection.
The portion of this drama relating to the Oil of Mercy is also to be found in Lyra Celtica, an anthology of Celtic poetry edited by E. A. Sharp and J. Matthay Oohn Grant, Edinburgh, 1932). is as follows: we shall begin with it.
The wood or tree from which the Cross had been taken is not ordinary wood, but — so the legend relates — was, in the beginning, a scion of the Tree of Life, which had been cut for Adam, the first man. This scion was planted in the earth by Adam's son, Seth, and the young tree developed three trunks which grew together. The famous rod of Moses 2 Also, according to a mystic Hebrew source, the rod of Moses inscribed with the unutterable name of God is nothing else than the Tree of Life. In the Midrasch Wojoscha (the smaller Midrasch commentary on the later legends of the Old Testament) it is said: ‘I (Moses) asked her (Zippora) where he (Jithro) obtained this tree? She answered: It is the rod which the Holy One, Blessed may He be! created on the sabbath eve after having created His world. The Holy One, Blessed may He be! handed it to the first man, who handed it to Chanoch, who handed it to Noa, who handed it to Sem, who handed it to Abraham, who handed it to Jacob, who brought it with him to Egypt and gave it to Joseph his son. When Joseph died, the Egyptians plundered his house and brought this roc to Pharoah's palace. My father Jithro was one of Pharoah's great astrologers, he saw the rod, conceived a desire for it, stole it and brought it to his own house. On this rod was inscribed the unutterable name of God and the ten plagues which the Holy One, Blessed may He be! would one day cause to fall on the Egyptians in the land of Egypt ... And how many days and how many years did this rod lie already in my father's house until the day when he took it in his hand, went out into the garden and planted it in the ground. When he returned to the garden to fetch it he found that it had already sprouted and grown blossoms.’ (Quoted from Hans Ludwig Held: ‘Von Golem und Shem.’ from the periodical: Das Reich, January 1917). was later cut from this wood. Then, in the legend, the same wood plays a role in connection with King Solomon's Temple in Jerusalem. That is, it was to have been used as a main pillar, in building the Temple. But then something peculiar came to light. It appeared that it would not fit in any way. It would not let itself be inserted in the Temple, and so it was laid across a brook, as a bridge. Here it was little valued until the Queen of Sheba came; as she was crossing it, she saw what the point about this piece of wood was. Here indeed she had for the first time met again with the meaning of the wood [used for this] bridge, which lay there between the two spheres, between the bank on this side and the bank on the other side, for crossing over the stream. So then, the Cross on which the Redeemer hung was made out of this [same] wood, after which it set out upon its various further travels.
Thus you see that the point of this legend is to do with the origin and evolution of the human race. Adam's son Seth is supposed to have taken this scion from the Tree of Life, and it then grew three trunks. These three trunks symbolise the three principles, the three underlying forces of nature, Atma, Buddhi and Manas, which have grown together and form the trinity which is the foundation of all growth and all development. It is apt that Seth — the son of Adam who took the place of Abel, murdered by Cain should have planted the scion in the earth.
You know that on the one hand we are dealing with the Cain current [of evolution] and on the other hand with the descendants of Abel and Seth. The sons of Cain, who work upon the outer world, cultivate the sciences and arts in particular. They are the ones who bring in the stones from the outer world to build the Temple. It is through their art that the Temple is to be built. The descendants of the line of Abel/Seth are the so-called Sons of God, who cultivate the true spiritual part of man's nature. These two currents were always somewhat in antithesis. On the one hand we have the worldly activity of man, the development of those sciences which serve man's comfort and outward life in general; on the other hand we have the Sons of God, occupied with the development of man's higher attributes.
We must make ourselves clear about it: the viewpoint from which the Legend of the True Cross springs, makes a firm distinction between the mere outward building of the World Temple through science and technology, and what as religious warp and woof works towards the sanctification of the whole Temple of Humanity., Only because this Temple of Humanity is given a higher task — only because the outer building, so to speak, serving as it does only our convenience, makes itself into an expression of the House of God — can it become a receptacle for the spiritual inner part in which the higher tasks of humanity are nurtured. Only because strength is transformed into striving for heavenly virtue outward form into beauty, the words of man's ordinary intercourse into the words that serve divine wisdom, and thus only because the worldly is remodelled into the divine, can it attain its perfection. When the three virtues, Wisdom, Beauty and Strength, become the receptacle of the divine, then will the Temple of Humanity be perfected. That is how the viewpoint underlying this legend looks at the matter.
We must therefore picture — quite in the sense of this legend — that up to the appearance of Christ Jesus on earth, there were two tendencies: the one, that built the earthly temple, that had its impact on the doings of men, so that at a later time the Divine Word that had come to earth through the Christ Jesus, could be received. A dwelling had to be prepared for the appearance of the Divine Word on earth. Next, the Divine itself should for a while develop itself upwards over the course of time as a kind of parallel tendency to the second current. Hence a distinction is made between the sons of men, the descendants of Cain, who were to prepare the worldly aspect, and the sons Abel/Seth, who cultivated the divine aspect, until the two streams could be united with each other, Christ Jesus united these two streams. The Temple had first to be built outwardly, therefore, until, in the shape of Christ Jesus, He should arrive Who was able to raise it up again in three days. On the one hand, then, we have the current of the Sons of Cain, and on the other that of the Abel/Seth line, both of which are preparing the development of mankind, so that the Son of God can then unite the two sides, and make the two streams into one. This finds expression in the holy legend in a profound way.
Seth himself is the one who planted the scion that he had taken for Adam from the Tree of Life, and raised a tree with three trunks. What is the meaning of this triple stemmed tree? Nothing else at all than the trinity, Atma, Buddhi and Manas, the threefold higher nature of man which will be implanted in his lower principles. But within man this is veiled at first. Through his three bodies — physical, etheric and astral — man is at first like an outer covering for the real divine trinity, Atma, Buddhi and Manas. You must imagine, therefore, that the trinity of physical, etheric and astral body are like an outer representation of the higher forces of Atma, Buddhi and Manas. And just as the artist fashions outer forms or expresses a certain idea in colours, so these three coverings also express a work of art. If you conceive these higher principles as the idea of a work of art, you will have come half way to grasping how the life of these three bodies is made up.
Now man is indeed living in his physical, etheric and astral sheaths, together with his ‘I’, through which he will so transform his threefold nature that the three higher principles find their appropriate dwelling place and feel at home here on earth. That had to be provided for by the Old Covenant. Through the arts of the race of Cain, it had to bring Sons of Men into the world, and through these Sons of Men were to be produced all the outward things that would serve the physical, etheric and astral bodies. What outward things were these?
The things which serve the physical body are firstly all that is contrived by technology to satisfy the physical body and provide for its comfort. Then, what we have in the way of the social and political institutions which [regulate] men's living together, what relates to nourishment and reproduction [of the race], all serve the development of the etheric body. And working upon the astral body we have the sphere of moral codes and ethics, bringing the instincts and emotions under control, which regulate and raise up the astral nature to a higher stage.
Thus, during the Old Covenant, the Sons of Cain were building the Three-tiered Temple. In all this, since it is made up of our outer institutions — in which you can includeour dwellings and tools, the social and political organs, the system of morals — is the building of the Sons of Cain, that serves the lower members of man's nature.
The other tendency worked alongside, presided over by the Sons of God, their pupils and followers. From this stream come the servants of the divine world order, the attendants of the Ark of the Covenant. In them we find something which, as a separate current, runs parallel to [that of] those who serve the external world. They occupied a special position. Only after Solomon's Temple hadbeen erected was the Ark of the Covenant to be placed inside it; that is to say, everything else had to be made subservient to the Ark of the Covenant, to be arranged around it. Everything which was formerly of a worldly nature was to become an external expression, an outer covering, for what the Ark of the Covenant meant for mankind. The meaning of the Temple of Solomon will best be understood by whoever visualises it as something which expresses outwardly in its physiognomy what the Ark of the Covenant should be, in its soul nature.
What has given life to man's outward three bodies, has been taken by the Sons of God from the Tree of Life. That is symbolically expressed in that building wood later used for Christ's Cross. It was first given to the Sons of God. What did they do with it? What is the deeper meaning of the wood of the Cross? In this holy legend about the wood of the Cross lies a very deep meaning.
For what in general is the task of the human being in his earthly evolution? He has to raise the present three bodies with which he is endowed to a higher stage. Thus, he must raise his physical body to a higher realm and likewise his etheric and astral bodies. This development is incumbent upon humanity. That is the real sense of it: to transform our three bodies into the three higher members of the whole divine plan of creation.
There is another kingdom above that which man has immediately and physically around him. But to which kingdom does man in his physical nature belong? At the present stage of his evolution, he belongs with his physical nature to the mineral kingdom. Physical, chemical and mineral laws hold sway over man's physical body. Yet even as far as his spiritual nature is concerned, he belongs to the mineral kingdom, since he understands through his intellect only what is mineral, Life, as such, he is only gradually learning to comprehend. Precisely for this reason, official science disowns life, being still at that stage of development in which it can only grasp the dead, the mineral. It is in the process of learning to understand this in very intricate detail. Hence it understands the human body only in so far as it is a dead, mineral thing. It treats the human body basically as something dead with which one works, as if with a substance in a chemical laboratory. Other substances are introduced into [the body], in the same way that substances are poured into a retort. Even when the doctor, who nowadays is brought up entirely on mineral science, sets about working on the human body, it is as though the latter were only an artificial product.
Hence we are dealing with man's body at the stage of the mineral kingdom in two ways: man has acquired reality in the mineral kingdom through having a physical body, and with his intellect is only able to grasp facts relating to the mineral kingdom. This is a necessary transitional stage for man. However, when man no longer relies only on the intellect but also upon intuition and spiritual powers, we will then be aware we are moving into a future in which our dead mineral body will work towards becoming one that is alive. And our science must lead the way, must prepare for what has to happen with the bodily essence in the future. In the near future, it must itself develop into something which has life in itself,recognise the life inherent in the earth for what it is. For in a deeper sense it is true, it is the thoughts of man that prepare the future. As an old Indian aphorism rightly says: What you think today, that you will be tomorrow.
The very being of the world springs out of living thought; not from dead matter. What outward matter is, is a consequence of living thought, just as ice is a consequence of water; the material world is, as it were, frozen thoughts. We must dissolve it back again into its higher elements, because we grasp life in thought. If we are able to lead the mineral up into life, if we transform [it into] the thoughts of the whole of human nature, then we will have succeeded, our science will have become a science of the living and not of dead matter. We shall raise thereby the lowest principle [of man] — at first in our understanding, and later also in reality — into the next sphere. And thus we shall raise each member of man's nature — the etheric and the astral included — one stage higher.
What man formerly used to be, we call, in theosophical terminology, the three Elementary Kingdoms [See the chart at the end of the notes to Lecture 10]. These preceded the Mineral Kingdom in which we live today; that is, the Kingdom to which our science restricts itself, and in which our physical body lives. The three Elementary Kingdoms are bygone stages [of evolution]. The three Higher Kingdoms — the Plant Kingdom, the Animal Kingdom and the Human Kingdom — which will develop themselves out of the Mineral Kingdom, are as yet only at a rudimentary stage.
The lowest principle in man, [the physical body,] must indeed still pass through these three kingdoms, just as it is at present passing through the Mineral Kingdom. Just as today man lives in the Mineral Kingdom with his physical nature, so in the future he will live in the Plant Kingdom, and then rise to still higher Kingdoms. Today with our physical nature we are in a transitional stage between the Mineral and Plant Kingdoms, with our etheric nature in transition from the Plant Kingdom to the Animal Kingdom, and with our astral nature in transition from the Animal Kingdom to the Human Kingdom. And finally, we extend beyond the three Kingdoms into the Divine Kingdom, with that part which we have in the Sphere of Wisdom, where we extend in our own nature beyond the astral.
Thus man is engaged in an ascent. But this is not brought about by any outer contrivance or construction, but by the living self which is awakened in us; which does not use mere outward building stones, but works in a creative and growing way. This force of life must enter into evolution and must first take hold of man's innermost being; his religious life must be gripped by living forces. Therefore what the Sons of Cain did for the lower members of man's nature during the Old Covenant was a kind of preparation, and what the prophets, the guardians of the Ark of the Covenant, did was like a prophetic forecast of the future. The Divine should now descend into the Ark of the Covenant, into the soul, so that it may itself dwell in the Temple as Holy of Holies.
Adam, the first man, was already endowed, from the Tree of Life, with these living forces of metamorphosis and transformation, the creatively working forces that re-shape Nature. But [these forces] were entrusted to those not engaged in the work of outward building, to the Sons of God, the sons of Abel and Seth. Through Christianity, these forces should now become common property; the two streams should unite together. And it is basically a Christian attitude today which holds that nothing external, no temple, no house, no social institution, ought to be created, that is not red hot with inner life, with the life-giving force rather than the mineral force that can only manipulate things.
The first attempt which was made to guide the lower nature of man to a higher stage was Solomon's Temple, as we have seen. The pentagon was to be seen at the entrance as the great symbol, for man was to strive towards the fifth principle [of his nature]; that is to say, human nature had to raise itself up from the lower principles to the higher, each member [of man's being] was to be ennobled.
And here we come to the Cross's real meaning, which has led it to acquire such basic and real significance as a symbol of Christianity. What is the Cross? There are three Kingdoms towards which mankind is striving — the Plant Kingdom, the Animal Kingdom and the Human Kingdom. Today man finds his reality in the Mineral Kingdom, to which plants, animals and man belong. You should see it as it is meant in all creeds of wisdom, that man as a being of soul and spirit is a part of the universal soul, the world soul as Giordano Bruno, for example, called it. 3 Philotheus Giordano Bruno (1548–1600) De rerum Principiis Elementis et Causis, Dialogue: ‘Universal reasoning is the most inward, real and individual faculty and a potential part of the World Soul.’ Perhaps the individual soul is like a drop in the world soul which we can imagine as a great ocean. Now Plato said about this, that the world soul has been crucified on the world body. 4 See note 10 to the preceding lecture.
The world soul, as it expresses itself in man, is spread out over the Mineral Kingdom. It must raise itself above this, and evolve upwards to the three higher Kingdoms. Hence it must become incorporated in the Plant, Animal and Human Kingdoms during the next three Rounds. The fourth Round is nothing else than the incorporation of the human soul into the Mineral Kingdom, the fifth Round into the Plant Kingdom, the sixth into the Animal Kingdom, and finally the seventh Round is the embodiment of man into the Human Kingdom proper, in which man will become wholly an image of the Godhead. Until then man has to take the world body as his sheath three times.
If we take a look at mankind's future, it presents itself to us as threefold materiality — vegetable, animal and human. This human [substance] is not the same, however, as the substantiality we have today; for the latter is mineral, since man has indeed so far only arrived at the mineral cycle [in his evolution]. Only when the lowest Kingdom has [become] the Human Kingdom, when there are no more lower beings, when all beings have been redeemed by man through the force of his own life, then he will have arrived in the seventh Round, where God rests, because man himself creates. Then will have come the seventh Day of Creation, in which man will have taken on the likeness of God. These are the stages in the story of creation.
Now plant, animal and man, as they stand before us today, are only the germ of what they are to become. The plant of today is only a symbolical indication of something which is to appear in the next human evolutionary cycle in greater glory and clarity. And when man has overcome and stripped off animality, he will have become something of which today he is only a hint. Thus the Plant, Animal and Human Kingdoms are the three material kingdoms through which man has to pass; they are to be world body, and the soul has to be crucified on this world body.
Be clear from now on about the respective positions of plant, animal and man. The plant is the precise counterpart of man. There is a very deep and significant meaning in our conceiving the plant as the exact counterpart of man, and man as the inverse of plant nature. Outer science does not concern itself with such matters; it takes things as they present themselves to the outer senses. Science connected with theosophy, however, considers the meaning of things in their connection with all the rest of evolution. For, as Goethe says, 5 Second part of Faust, end chorus: ‘All things transitory are but a likeness.’ each thing must be seen only as a parable.
The plant has its roots in the earth and unfolds its leaves and blooms to the sun. At present the sun has in itself the force which was once united with the earth. The sun has of course separated itself from our earth. Thus the entire sun forces are something with which our earth was at one time permeated; the sun forces then lived in the earth. Today the plant is still searching for those times when the sun forces were still united with the earth, by exposing its flowering system to those forces. The sun forces are the [same as those which work as] etheric forces in the plants. By presenting its reproductive organs to the sun, the plant shows its deep affinity with it; its reproductive principle is occultly linked with the sun forces. The head of the plant, [the root] which is embedded in the darkness of the earth,is on the other hand similarly akin to the earth. Earth and sun are the two polar opposites in evolution.
Man is the inverse of the plant; [the plant] has its generative organs turned towards the sun and its head pointing downwards. With man it is exactly the opposite; he carries his head on high, orientated towards the higher worlds in order to receive the spirit — his generative organs are directed downwards. The animal stands halfway between plant and man. It has made a half turn, forming, so to speak, a crosspiece to the line of direction of both plant and man. The animal carries its backbone horizontally, thus cutting across the line formed by plant and man, to make a cross. Imagine to yourselves the Plant Kingdom growing downward, the Human Kingdom upward, and the Animal Kingdom thus horizontally; then you have formed the Cross from the Plant, Animal and Human Kingdoms.
That is the symbol of the Cross.
It represents the three Kingdoms of Life, into which man has to enter. The Plant, Animal and Human Kingdoms are the next three material Kingdoms [to be entered by man]. The whole evolves out of the Mineral Kingdom; this is the basis today- The Animal Kingdom forms a kind of dam between the Plant and Human Kingdoms, and the plant is a kind of mirror image of man. This ties up with human life — what lives in man physically — finding its closest kinship with what lives in the plant. It would take many lectures to confirm that thoroughly; today I can only hint at it. When man wants to maintain his physical life activity, he can best do so with a plant diet, since he would then be consuming what originally had an affinity with the physical life activity of the earth. The sun is the bearer of the life forces, and the plant is what grows in response to the sun forces. And man must unite what lives in the plant with his own life forces. Thus his food-stuffs are, occultly, the same as the plant. The Animal Kingdom acts as a dam, a drawing back, thereby interposing itself crosswise against the development process, in order to begin a new flow.
Man and plant, while set against each other, are mutually akin; whereas the animal — and all that comes to expression in the astral body is the animal — is a crossing of the two principles of life. The human etheric body will provide the basis, at a higher stage, for the immortal man, who will no longer be subject to death. The etheric body at present still dissolves with the death of the human being. But the more man perfects and purifies himself from within, the nearer will he get to permanence, the less will he perish. Every labour undertaken for the etheric body contributes towards; man's immortality. In this sense it is true that man will gain more mastery of immortality, the more evolution takes place naturally, the more it is directed towards the forces of life — which does not mean towards animal sexuality and passion.
Animality is a current which breaks across human life it was a retardation, necessary for a turning point in the stream of life. Man had to combine with animality for a while, because this turning point had to take place. But he must free himself from it again and return again to the stream of life.
At the beginning of our human incarnations on earth we were endowed with the force of life. That is symbolically expressed in the legend, where Adam's son, Seth, took the scion from the Tree of Life; this was then further cultivated by the Sons of God, [which expressed] that threefold human nature, which had to be ennobled.
After that, Moses cut his rod from this wood of life. This rod of Moses is nothing else than the external law. But what is external law?
External law is present when someone who has to erect An external building has a plan — that is, a systematic scheme on paper — so that the outward building stones can be shaped and fitted together according to the plan. Thus, the law underlying the plan of a state is external law. Mankind is under Moses' rod. And anyone who follows a moral code out of fear or in hope of reward, is only following the external law. Moreover, whoever looks at science only in an external way, is only following external law; for what else can there [then] be in it but external laws! All the laws we are acquainted with in science are such external laws; through them, however, we will never find that way through to higher human nature, but will only follow the law of the Old Covenant, which is the Rod of Moses. However, this external law should be a model for the inner law. Man must learn inwardly to follow law. This inner law must become for man the impulse of life; out of the inner law he must learn to follow external law. One does not make the inner law reality by concocting a plan; instead one has to build the Temple out of inner impulse, so that the soul streams forth in the work of joining the stones together. He who lives in the inner law is not the one who merely follows the laws of the state, but he to whom they are the impulse of his life, because his soul is immersed in them. And it is not he who follows a moral code out of fear or because of reward who is a moral person, but he who follows it because he loves it.
As long as mankind was not ripe for following the law inwardly, as long as man was under a yoke, and the Rod of Moses was present, in the law, so long would the law lie in the Ark of the Covenant; until the Pauline principle, the principle of grace came to man, giving him the possibility of becoming free from the law. The profundity of the Pauline doctrine lies in its making a distinction between law and grace. When law becomes inflamed with love, when love has united with the law, that then is grace. That is how the Pauline distinction between law and grace is to be understood.
Now we can follow the legend of the Cross still further. The wood was used as a bridge between two riverbanks. because it did not suit as a pillar in Solomon's Temple. This was a preparation. The Ark of the Covenant was in the Temple, but the Word-become-Flesh was not yet there. The wood of the Cross was laid as a bridge across a stream; only the Queen of Sheba recognised the worth of the wood for the temple, which should live in the consciousness of the soul of all humanity. Now the same wood was used for the construction of the Cross on which the Redeemer hung. He who unites the two earlier currents [of evolution], who allows the worldly and the spiritual to flow into each other, the Christ, is Himself joined to the living Cross. That is how He can carry the wood of the Cross as something [external] which He carries on His back. He is Himself united with the wood of the bridge, and can therefore take the dead wood upon Himself.
Man is today drawn into higher nature. Formerly he lived in lower nature. In the Christian sense he now lives in higher nature, and the Cross — the lower nature — he carries forward as something alien, through his inner living forces. Religion now becomes the living force in the world, now the life in external nature ceases, the Cross becomes entirely wood. The outer body [of man] now becomes a vehicle for the inner living force. There the great mystery consummates itself: the Cross is taken on [man's] back.
Our great poet Goethe presented the idea of the bridge in a beautiful and significant way in his ‘Fairy Story of the Green Snake and the Beautiful Lily,’ 6 Goethe: Fairy Tale of the Green Snake and the Beautiful Lily, Floris Books, 1979. See also Goethe's Standard of the Soul as illustrated in Faust and in the Fairy Story of the Green Snake and the Beautiful Lily, Anthroposophical Publishing Company, London, 1925; and Goethe's Secret Revelation and the Riddle of Faust, Rudolf Steiner Publishing Company, London, 1933. where he has a bridge being built, by the snake laying itself across the river as a living bridge. All the more advanced initiates use this same symbol for one and the same thing.
Thus we have become acquainted with the deep inner meaning of the holy legend of the Cross. We have seen how the revolution was prepared for, which Christianity brought about, and which must fulfil itself more and more as time goes on by Christianising the world. We have seen how the Cross, inasmuch as it is the image of the three external bodies, dies; how it is only able to form an external union between the three lower and the three higher Kingdoms, between the two banks divided by the stream — the wood of the Cross could not become a pillar in Solomon's Temple — until man recognises it as his own particular symbol. Only then, when he sacrifices himself, makes his own body into the Temple, and becomes able to carry the Cross, will the merging of the two streams be made possible.
That is why the Christian churches have the symbol of the Cross in their foundations; thereby expressing the secretion of the living Cross in the outward edifice of the Temple. However, these two streams, the living divine stream on the one hand, and the worldly mineral stream on the other, have become united in the Redeemer hanging on the Cross, where the higher principles are in the Redeemer Himself, and the lower ones in the Cross. And henceforth this connection must now become organic and living, as the Apostle Paul expressed particularly deeply. Without [a knowledge of] what has been discussed today, the writings of the Apostle Paul cannot be understood. It was clear to him that the Old Covenant, which creates an antithesis between man and the law, must come to an end. Only when man unites himself with the law, takes it upon his back, carries it, will there no longer be any contradiction between man's inner nature and the external law. Then that which Christianity seeks to achieve, is achieved.
‘With the law sin came into the world.’ 7 ‘With the law sin
came into the world.’
The Epistle of Paul to the Romans, Chapter 5, verse 13 and Chapter 8, verse 2. That is a profound saying of Paul's. When is there sin in the world? Only when there is a law which can be broken. But when the law becomes so united with human nature that man only does good, then there can be no [more] sin. Man only contradicts the law of the Cross as long as it does not live within him, but is something external. Therefore Paid sees the Christ on the Cross as the conquest of law and the conquest of sin. To hang on the Cross means to be subjected to the law — and that is a curse. Sin and the law belong together in the Old Covenant, the law and love belong together in the New Covenant. It is a negative law which is involved in the Old Covenant; but the law of the New Covenant is a living positive law. He who united the Old Covenant with His own life is the One who has overcome it. He has at the same time sanctified it.
That is what is meant by those words of Paul which are to be found in the Epistle to the Galatians, Chapter 3:11–13.: ‘But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, is evident, for the just shall live by faith and the law is not of faith, but the man that doeth them shall live in them. Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us, for it is written: Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree.’
With the word ‘tree’ [literally ‘wood’ in the German Bible] Paul connects the concept with which we have been dealing today. We must indeed keep penetrating deeper into what the great initiates have said. We do not come closer to Christianity by adapting it to what might be termed our demands, by adapting it to the contemporary materialist judgments that deny anything higher — but by continually raising ourselves further into spiritual heights. For Christianity was born of initiation and we shall only understand it and be able to believe that it contains infinite depths, if we abandon the view that we have to bring Christianity nearer to contemporary ideas; but instead raise our anti-spiritual materialist thinking back again to Christianity. The contemporary view must raise itself from what is mineral and dead to what is living and spiritual, if it is to understand Christianity.
I have presented these views so as to arrive at a conception of the New Jerusalem.
Answer to a question †Text (1) is taken from Seiler's notes, text (2) from those of Reebstein.
Question: Is the legend very old?
Answer (1): This legend existed at the time of the mysteries, but it was not written down. The mysteries of Antioch were Adonis mysteries. In them was celebrated the Crucifixion, the Entombment and the Resurrection as an outer image of initiation. The mourning of the women at the Cross already appeared there; this appeared to us again in [the persons] of Mary and Mary Magdalen. This links up with a version, similar to that in [this] legend, which is also to be found in the Apis and Mithras mysteries and again in the Osiris mysteries. What was still apocalyptic there, is fulfilled in Christianity. The old apocalypses change into new legends, in the same way that John portrays the future in his Revelations.
Answer (2): The legend is historically medieval, but was previously recorded in all its completeness by the Gnostics. The further course of the Cross is given there. Moreover, the medieval version also contains indications of this; the medieval legends indicate the way to the mysteries less clearly; but we can trace them all back. This legend is connected with the Adonis mysteries, with the Antioch legend, in which the Crucifixion, Entombment and Resurrection become an outward image of inner initiation. The mourning women also appear there, and there is a connected version which is very similar to the Osiris legend. Everything that is apocalyptic in these legends is fulfilled Christianity. The Queen of Sheba sees deeper and is versed in the true wisdom.