Easter and the Mystery of Golgotha
April 10, 2022
We invite you to read some of the many lectures Steiner gave regarding Easter. In his discussions about what he terms “the Mystery of Golgotha,” he shares the cosmic significance of the crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ. You can find some of his selected works under the Festivals topic on the left-hand side navigation of our website. The excerpts presented here cannot begin to capture the profound teachings of Steiner on this topic. We merely share them as highlights to encourage you to explore the full lectures yourself.
The Mystery of Golgotha is a significant boundary line in human evolution.
The Soul was transformed by the Mystery of Golgotha with the Christ impulse now streaming forth from the Soul rather than streaming into it. In a lecture given in 1912, Steiner states:
In the ages before the Mystery of Golgotha, a certain revelation came to mankind like sunshine falling upon an object from without. Just as the light falls upon this object, so did the light of the spiritual sun fall from without upon the soul of man and enlightened it. After the Mystery of Golgotha, we can speak of that which works in the soul as Christ-Impulse, as the spiritual sunlight, as though we saw a self-illumined body before us radiating its light from within. If we look at it thus, the fact of the Mystery of Golgotha becomes a significant boundary line in human evolution. We can represent the whole connection, symbolically. If we take this circle (Diagram 1) as representing the human soul, we may say that the spiritual light streams in from without from all sides into this human soul. Then comes the Mystery of Golgotha, after which the soul possesses the Christ-Impulse in itself and radiates forth that which is contained in the Christ-Impulse (Diagram 2). Just as a drop which is illumined from all sides radiates and reflects this illumination, so does the soul appear before the Christ-Impulse. As a flame which is alight within and radiates forth its light, thus does the soul appear after the Mystery of Golgotha, if it has been able to receive the Christ-Impulse.
The resurrecting Spirit of our universe.
In a lecture given on March 27, 1921, Steiner points to this cosmic significance of Easter for civilization.
The Easter of the world will only come when a sufficient number of people feel that the Spirit must rise again within Western civilisation. Outwardly this will find expression in that men will no longer wish to explore what is going to happen to them, will not explore natural laws or the laws of past history which are similar to natural laws, but they will have a great longing for knowledge of their own wills, of their own freedom; they will desire greatly to realise the nature of their own will which can bear them beyond the gates of death but which must be considered spiritually if it is to be perceived in its true form. We will never be able to grasp the true thought of Easter unless we realize that in speaking of the Christ we must look upwards from what is merely earthly to what is cosmic. Modern thought has made a corpse of the cosmos. To-day we look at the stars and calculate their courses. This means we calculate something about the corpse of the world — we do not see that life dwells in the stars, and that in the courses of the stars the intentions of the cosmic Spirit rule. Christ came down among men in order to unite the souls of men with the Cosmic Spirit. Only a true expounder of the Gospel of Christ points out that what we see in the physical sun is the outward expression of the Spirit of our universe — the resurrecting Spirit of our universe.
Materialism and the attempted elimination of the Spirit.
Steiner views the crucifix as the transition into Christian materialism and explains how the Resurrection through the Spirit is the true Easter thought:
The Spirit that was victor over death, that triumphed over the grave from which the Redeemer rose victorious, is the same Spirit which, in the representation of the crucifix we are permitted to lose sight of; this is the same Spirit, which in the year 869 at the Eighth Œcumenical Council in Constantinople, was declared to be something that it was unnecessary for man to believe. At that Council it was decreed that man must be held to consist of body and soul, and that spirit only occurs in certain attributes of the soul. Just as we have seen the Spirit expelled from the crucifix, and only that left which pain-racked souls can feel without the Spirit triumphant, the Spirit that supports, and at the same time cares for men, so in the conclusions of the Council of Constantinople we have to see the Spirit struck off from the nature of man. It is, however, characteristic of the modern evolution of Christianity that the thought of Good Friday, in the form I have just described it, has come ever more to the fore, and the thought of the Resurrection — the true Easter thought — has gradually retired. Thoughts on Easter must point especially to a time in which man must experience the resurrection of his being through the Spirit.
In The Meaning of Easter: St. Paul and the Christ Impulse, GA 198, Steiner talks about the “cosmic jest” of keeping the festival of the Resurrection and at the same time putting faith in modern materialistic thinking:
The truth is, we are today living in a time when Christ Jesus is being crucified in a very special sense. He is being put to death in the field of knowledge. And until men come to see how the present way of knowledge, clinging as it does to the senses and to them alone, is nothing but a grave of knowledge out of which a resurrection must take place — until they see this, they will not be able to lift themselves up to experiences in thought and feeling that partake of a true Easter character.
The Mystery of Golgotha saved mankind from forces of destruction.
In a Lecture given by Steiner on May 7, 1923, Steiner discusses the crucifixion of Christ Jesus and the peril of humanity at the time of “The Mystery of Golgotha”:
A fact well known in the schools of initiation, and that can naturally be known also to-day, was that about the time of the Mystery of Golgotha the human physical body had reached such a state of decline that men were confronted with the danger of having the earth become barren and empty and of finding it impossible in the future to descend from spiritual worlds or to form bodies for themselves out of physical earthly substances. …The co-operation of Lucifer and Ahriman had brought things to such a pass at the time of the Mystery of Golgotha that man would have died out on the earth, but by what was accomplished through this great Mystery he was saved from the forces of destruction. The invigorating forces of which the physical body had need were imparted to it once more, so that man was enabled to continue his further evolution on earth, to come down from the realms of the soul and spirit and again enter into and dwell in physical bodies. This was the result, the entirely real result, of the Mystery of Golgotha.
On a cosmic level, for those who stand in relationship to Christ, the earthly kingdom will be rescued from the spiritual consequences of guilt and sin.
In his lecture entitled Easter, GA 54, Steiner addresses what Christ accomplished on a cosmic level for the whole of humanity:
When a mighty individuality like that of the Christ Jesus comes to the aid of entire humanity, it is his sacrifice in death which permeates the Karma of mankind. He helped to carry the Karma of the whole of humanity, and we may be quite sure that redemption through Christ Jesus was absorbed and assimilated by the totality of human Karma. The fundamental significance of the resurrection and redemption-concept will be made really comprehensible only through Spiritual Science. A Christianity of the future will unite Karma with redemption. Because cause and effect are complementary in the spiritual world, this great act of sacrifice must also have its effect upon human life. Upon these thoughts of the Easter festival also does Spiritual Science have a deepening effect. The thought of Easter which appears to be written in the stars and which we believe we read in them, is fundamentally deepened by Spiritual Science. We also see the profound meaning of the Easter-concept in the ascendance of the spirit about to be realised in the future.
In GA 54, Steiner discusses the seemingly paradoxical idea of the self-redemption through Karma and the Christian forgiveness of sins and salvation through the Redeemer Jesus Christ. Read more about the forgiveness of sins and karma in Christ and the Human Soul, GA 155, Lecture 3.
With these teachings in mind this Easter, it is up to us to find our way on our individual paths of initiation through the Holy Spirit. Only with such knowledge, can we come to understand the Mystery of Golgotha. Read An Esoteric Cosmology, GA 94, Chapter VIII, The Christian Mystery, to learn about the seven stages of Christian initiation that reflect the Mystery of Golgotha:
- The Washing of the Feet;
- The Scourging;
- The Crowning with Thorns;
- The Bearing of the Cross;
- The Mystic Death;
- The Entombment; and
- The Resurrection.
We wish you a blessed Easter season!