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Christianity As Mystical Fact

CHRISTIANITY AS MYSTICAL FACT was the title given to this book by its author when eight years ago he included in it the contents of lectures held in the year 1902. This title was intended to indicate the particular character of the book. It represents an attempt to describe not merely the mystical content of Christianity in its historical form, but how Christianity arose out of mystical conception. Underlying this was the idea that involved in this process was a spiritual reality which can be seen only through such conception. Only the content of the book can prove that the author has not used the word “mystical” to denote a conception which relies more on indefinite knowledge gained through feelings, than on “strictly scientific exposition.” In many circles today the word “mysticism” carries such a connotation, hence the tendency is to explain this as a region of the life of the human soul which can have nothing to do with “real science.” In this book the word “mysticism” is used for the exposition of a spiritual fact whose nature can be recognized only when the powers of cognition are taken from the source of spiritual life itself. Whoever declines a method of cognition founded on such a source will be unable to take any position with regard to this book. Only one who admits that in “mysticism” the same clarity can exist as in the truthful exposition of natural phenomena will accept this method of describing the mystical content of Christianity. For even more important than the content of the text is the means of cognition which has led to its existence.

In our present day many people violently abhor such a means of cognition. They see it as contradictory to true scientific method. This is the case not only among those who will not allow the validity of any interpretation of the world which is not founded upon “genuine natural scientific fact,” but also among those who wish to consider Christianity in the capacity of believers. The author of this text takes as his basis an interpretation which acknowledges that the natural scientific achievements of our day demand elevation to true mysticism. This interpretation can show that any other attitude toward cognition absolutely contradicts everything offered by natural scientific achievements. The means of cognition which so many people who assume that they stand on firm natural scientific ground, would like to use, simply do not embrace the facts of this natural science.

Only that reader will accept this book who is able to admit that full understanding of our present marvelous knowledge of nature can be combined with genuine mysticism.

By means of what is here called “mystical cognition” this book sets out to show how the source of Christianity created its preliminary conditions in the ancient Mysteries. In this “pre-Christian mysticism” is demonstrated the soil in which Christianity germinates as an independent seed. This point of view enables one to understand Christianity in its independent essence, although at the same time one can follow its development out of pre-Christian mysticism. If one ignores this point of view it is only too easy to miss recognition of its independence through the belief that Christianity is merely a further development of what existed in pre-Christian mysticism. Many opinions of today lapse into this error, comparing Christianity with pre-Christian viewpoints, believing that the Christian viewpoint is merely a further development of the pre-Christian. This book sets out to show that Christianity presupposes the previous mysticism as the plant seed does its soil. It seeks to emphasize the unique essence of Christianity through cognition of its origin, not to extinguish it.

It gives the author profound satisfaction to mention that this exposition of the “essence of Christianity” has met with the assent of a personality whose notable writings on the spiritual life of mankind have enriched the thoughts of our time in the deepest sense. Édouard Schuré, author of Les Grands Initiés, The Great Initiates (See footnote), agreed so thoroughly with the standpoint of this book that he himself undertook its translation into French under the title: Le mystère chrétien et les mystères antiques. The fact that the first edition was translated into French and other European languages is mentioned here as a symptom of the great longing of the present day to understand the essence of Christianity in the sense of this book.

The author has not found occasion to make any essential changes in this second edition. There are, however, extensions of the exposition made eight years ago. The effort has also been made to state many things more fully and accurately than was possible then. Unfortunately, through volume of work the author has been forced to allow a long interval to elapse between the time when the first edition went out of print and the appearance of the second.

RUDOLF STEINER  

May 1910.

 

Footnotes:

The Great Initiates, A Study of the Secret History of Religions, by Édouard Schuré, published Fall 1961 by St. George Books, 65 South Greenbush Road, West Nyack, New York. In a new one-volume translation by Gloria Rasberry, the book contains an introduction on Édouard Schuré and Rudolf Steiner by Paul Allen.





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