[RSArchive Icon]
Rudolf Steiner Archive Section Name Rudolf Steiner Archive

The Festivals and Their Meaning:
I
Christmas

Schmidt Number: S-2993

On-line since: 23rd December, 1999

VIII

The Birth of Christ Within Us

Berlin, 27th December, 1914

"WERE Christ born a thousand times in Bethlehem, and not in thee, thou art lost eternally."

There are two aspects of this beautiful saying of the great Mystic Angelus Silesius. The one is the declaration that the true Christmas must be celebrated in man's inmost heart, that any outward celebration of Christmas must quicken the impulse whereby in the Holy Night of winter, the very deepest forces of the soul are drawn forth from the darkness prevailing within as the darkness of winter prevails without. These deep forces of the soul are aware of their union with the Being Who pervades all earthly evolution, giving it meaning and purpose. Within us we find some thing with which Christ is united if with conscious devotion to the Spiritual Powers working in the world we penetrate deeply enough into our life of soul.

And the other aspect of the words of Angelus Silesius is that the human being in earthly evolution to-day can become conscious of the fact that true manhood, assurance of true manhood, depends upon the soul feeling inwardly united with the essence and substantiality of Christ Jesus.

In the course of years our studies have brought it home to us that as earthly evolution proceeds, consciousness of Christ deepens, that human beings passing from incarnation to incarnation attain greater and greater understanding of the real nature of Christ. And we have tried to intensify this knowledge by drawing upon a source which enables us to celebrate the Holy Night of Christmas, the Festival of the Birth of Jesus, in a deeper and more worthy way.

What this implies will become clear from the lecture to-day.

A famous modern historian was once asked by a man interested in world events, why no mention is made in his writings of happenings which are the outcome of the Mystery of Golgotha, nor of the influences of Christ Jesus in the course of human history. The historian was asked why his books speak of the influences exercised upon history by popes, monarchs, military campaigns, governments, even by happenings in nature, but have no single word to say about the forces that have poured into mankind from the Mystery of Golgotha and since then have been at work in all human life and human affairs. After a long pause and deep deliberation, the historian answered: The method I have adopted for the exposition of history must remain as it is; for the Christ-forces that stream through happenings in the world belong to a primordial realm into which the human mind is incapable of gazing. The effects and influences of the Mystery of Golgotha — yes, certainly they can be discerned; but to describe the intrinsic, essential nature of these deeds of Christ is not possible in the writing of history.

This is only one of the many examples that could be given in proof of the fact that the most distinguished and enlightened minds of modern times cannot claim to celebrate the Christmas Festival in an inner sense. For in the soul of this historian, Christ Jesus as a living Figure, a living Being, had not become such intense reality that he could feel His presence in all human evolution from year to year, from week to week, even from hour to hour. It is possible for a really learned scholar to-day to survey the whole course of history without perceiving that since the Mystery of Golgotha, the Power of Christ has been working everywhere. There are many causes to account for the fact that the Festival of the Holy Night, the Festival of the Christmas Mystery, is not yet celebrated in the souls of the vast majority of human beings.

A certain illumination is given by one who has spoken of these things out of a deep and true feeling for the Christian Mystery. This was Goethe, who so beautifully recounts the life and travels of Wilhelm Meister. Wilhelm Meister comes to a stately building and is conducted around it by its owner. He is shown the gallery which contains a series of paintings of the most important historical occurrences among various peoples of antiquity — notably among the early Hebrews — from the time of Paradise, the Fall, and on through the later epochs. History is portrayed in impressive scenes, ending with the destruction of Jerusalem ... but there is no single picture of a scene from the life of Christ Jesus, although the series continues beyond the Crucifixion as far as the destruction of Jerusalem. Wilhelm Meister asks: Why does nothing in this picture-gallery portray the life of the divine Man who has brought such blessing into the evolution of humanity? — These are his words (Note 1): "In your historical series I find a chasm. The Temple of Jerusalem is destroyed and the people dispersed, yet you have not introduced the divine Man who taught there shortly before; to whom, shortly before, they would give no ear." The answer made to Wilhelm Meister is: "To have done this, as you require it, would have been an error. The life of that divine Man whom you allude to, stands in no connection with the general history of the world in his time. It was a private life; his teaching was a teaching for individuals. What has publicly befallen vast masses of people and the minor parts which compose them, belongs to the general history of the world, to the general religion of the world, the religion we have named the First. What inwardly befalls individuals, belongs to the Second religion, the Philosophical: such a religion was it that Christ taught and practised, so long as He went about on earth."

These are deeply moving words. Every human being on the earth is related individually to the Christ. Folk-history, as it may be called, is woven by the affairs of the several peoples, for it is concerned with human affairs in general, within the orbit of general human destiny. But what Christ Jesus has brought into the world penetrates deeply and inwardly into the experiences of every human heart, every human soul — belonging to no matter what part of earthly evolution — in so far as it feels itself truly Man. We must realise that this ‘feeling of oneself as man’ arose for the first time from what came into human evolution through the Mystery of Golgotha.

And now to continue. The owner of the palace leads Wilhelm Meister to another gallery that has been kept closed, where the events of the New Testament are portrayed. Wilhelm Meister is therefore not permitted to see the events of the New Testament in a place where external happenings and actions in the world are presented, but only in an esoteric sanctuary, for the sight of which the soul must have been prepared, have withdrawn from things pertaining to the worldly history of the peoples. The basis of the soul's activity must now be esoteric and individual: then it may cross the Threshold leading to the pictures of scenes from the New Testament. Here again the pictures go no farther than the Last Supper. Wilhelm Meister asks: "As you have set up the life of the divine Man for a pattern and example, have you likewise selected his sufferings, his death?" The answer he receives is full of significance; it is an answer which indicates what reverent awe accompanies the experience of the mystery fulfilled on the earth by the Being dwelling in the body whose birth is celebrated in the Holy Night of winter. Wilhelm Meister has been conducted as it were to the first level of esoteric truth, where he witnesses the delineation of scenes as far as the Last Supper; but then comes the most esoteric portion of all, referred to with deep and holy awe: "We draw a veil over these sufferings, because we reverence them so highly. We hold it a damnable audacity to exhibit that torturing Cross and the Holy One who suffers on it, exposing them to the light of the sun." (Travels of Wilhelm Meister. Part II.)

This is an example of the feeling for esotericism to be found in the 18th century. The feeling was sound and true, for we ourselves shall readily agree that pictorial representations of Christ's sufferings, unless they are from the hand of a supreme artist, drag down the Mystery of Golgotha to the human level. And we can understand that one who in the 18th century had a deep, deep feeling for the Mystery of Golgotha was averse from looking at the many distorted portrayals of this sacred Mystery, preferring to draw a veil over these things, because he felt that only the inmost forces of the soul can be united, supersensibly, with what is connected with and follows the Last Supper.

But what is it that underlies these esoteric feelings and experiences? The hearts of men were yearning for a vista, a conception of the Christ Mystery greater than any that was possible at that time. With all humility, with a humility deeper than that with which we approach any other matter presented by spiritual science, it may truly be said that for long ages the best human souls have been yearning, pining for the knowledge of Christ that can be imparted by occult science. And to-day we may be assured that when the time is ripe, the souls of men will behold as reality, what hitherto could only be known in a different form.

The consciousness that such knowledge will one day be within the reach of the human heart, and the longing for it, has been one of life's great riddles to the best souls. Men have been reaching out for an understanding of Christ that will enable them to grasp the import of the mighty Deed accomplished on Golgotha which can be revealed to the eye of soul when the veil is lifted. In the lecture yesterday I explained why a knowledge of Christ once enriched by the old clairvoyance was bound to recede, how it was received in the earliest periods of Christendom but then gradually waned and faded away. I will read, again to-day, an ancient Gnostic hymn from which it is clear that in the old, clairvoyant form of knowledge the consciousness was alive that the Christ Who came into the world through the Child born at Christmastime, is a Cosmic Being, increasing in majesty and greatness, the higher the soul's vision soars into the realms of spirit — for through these realms He descended. It was inevitable that in later times, when the springs of this knowledge had run dry, a veil should be drawn over the great Event, because men were no longer able to explain that in the secret represented by the Child, the highest wisdom is enshrined. In this Child was born a Being Who traversed the heavenly worlds before His appearance on earth. —

Behold, O Father, how, distant from Thy Breath,
This being upon earth
          (this ‘being’ is the human soul)
Wanders, the target and victim of all ill,
Lost and perplexed, it flees the deadly chaos —
How shall it find its way?

In converse with the Father God, Jesus is speaking of the descent through the cosmic spheres, of how his eyes turn to the human soul to whom he would fain bring salvation, wandering in chaos but yet longing for Christ. —

Therefore send me, O Father,
Descending, I bear the seal of heaven,
Traversing all the Aeons ...

The spiritual worlds are ranged one above the other in the heavenly spheres and the higher we ascend the more do we find that the older worlds are still living realities, the most ancient being present to this day in the highest spheres of all. What was once connected with the Saturn evolution is to be found in the very highest spiritual spheres, and these successive spheres, related to the flow of time, are called ‘Aeons.’

Traversing all the Aeons,
Teaching all sacred knowledge;
Thus may God's image be made manifest;
And thus to you I give
The deeply hidden knowledge of the sacred way:
‘Gnosis’ it shall be for you.

Mankind has very largely lost consciousness of the Christ as a Cosmic Being. This loss was inevitable, for the old clairvoyance had to disappear and an intervening period — an Aeon devoid of spirit — to come, in order that eventually a new form of clairvoyant vision may arise. But this new vision must again be directed to the spiritual worlds, must not characterise in forms such as are presented to men's outward sight, the Being Who in the Holy Night entered into the evolution of humanity. This new vision must reveal how the Christ Being descended from heavenly sphere to heavenly sphere and thence to the earth, giving the earth meaning and purpose.

Behold, O Father, how, distant from Thy Breath,
This being upon earth
Wanders, the target and victim of all ill,
Lost and perplexed it flees the deadly chaos —
How shall it find its way?
Therefore send me, O Father,
Descending I bear the seal of heaven,
Traversing all the Aeons,
Teaching all sacred knowledge;
Thus may God's image be made manifest;
And thus to you I give
The deeply hidden knowledge of the sacred way:
‘Gnosis’ it shall be for you.

What, in reality, is the earth that surrounds us, when we perceive its essential being? If the corpse of one whose soul already dwells in spiritual worlds lies before you, will you ever say: This is a man? Will you ever say: This is still, in the full sense of the word, a man? The higher members of human nature are no longer in the corpse from which the soul has departed. But since the middle of the Atlantean epoch the earth has been gradually becoming a corpse devoid of soul. The earth around us, despite its manifold beauties, has been approaching the state of a corpse since the middle of Atlantean times and is becoming more and more corpselike. Standing before the huge rocks, one can say no truer thing than that here is the skeleton which the earth has been in process of becoming ever since that time! In the rock-strewn earth we perceive the dying part of the earth-organism, which was a living organism only until the middle of the Atlantean epoch. Geology itself realises that when we walk over the earth or guide the plough through the soil, we are walking over the corpse of the earth, guiding the plough through the corpse of the earth. Geologists have acknowledged this and external science itself, when it begins really to think, cannot do otherwise. And so, inasmuch as we are surrounded by the earth, we confront death; we are spectators of the gradual dying of our earthly globe.

And now let us imagine that the Mystery of Golgotha had not taken place, that the Cosmic Being Whom we call Christ had not entered through the two Jesus boys into earth-evolution. (Note 2) Earth-evolution would then be no more, would already by to-day have been overcome by death. But through the two Jesus boys the Christ did enter earthly evolution and then, living in the one for three years, consummated the Mystery of Golgotha, whereby a new seed of life was imparted to the earth. Therefore when the time is fulfilled, the earth will not remain a corpse in cosmic space — the soul having become the prey of Ahriman and Lucifer! No — that is what would have happened had Christ not come into the earth as a living, fertile seed. Because He has come, the earth will not fall into dust, the soul will not be in the sole possession of Lucifer and Ahriman, for the Christ Seed has infused new life into earth-evolution! Just as the earth once separated from the sun and has become a child of the sun, so will earth-evolution, imbued with a new impulse, be fraught with the meaning and purpose imparted by Christ.

Thus spiritual science turns our eyes with awe and reverence to the Mystery of Golgotha and because it points to realms beyond the range of material vision, we feel that it is for us to lift the veil ... since we are resolved to see behind this veil not only what comes before the eyes of an age destined to grow into materialism. Therefore it is again beginning to be possible for those in whom the impulses of spiritual science have come to life, to look up to the Christ as a Cosmic Being. Again and again let it be repeated that the infinite devotion we can feel towards the Child born in the Holy Night of Christmas is not thereby diminished. Rather is this devotion deepened when we can feel the reality of Christ as did Christian Morgenstern when there sprang from his soul a poem which seems like a resurrection of ancient and holy Gnostic thoughts pervaded alike by the Christ-Love and cosmic wisdom. And so a new Christmas is celebrated when in the dark night of materialism, voices ring out that are not the voices of the Gnostics of olden times but are quickened and enriched by dedication to the Living Being of the Cosmic Christ.

Licht ist Liebe ... Sonnen-Weben
Liebes-Strahlung einer Welt
schöpferischer Wesenheiten —

die durch unerhörtte Zeiten
uns an ihrem Herzen hält,
und die uns zuletzt gegeben

ihren höchsten Geist in eines
Menschen Hülle wahrend dreier
Jahre: da Er kam in seines

Vaters Erbteil — nun der Erde
innerlichstes Himmelsfeuer:
dass auch sie einst Sonne werde.

(Light is Love ... the rays of sunshine are the weaving radiance of a world of loving Creator-Spirits. Who, after hiding us in their heart through endless ages, at the last surrendered to us their sublimest One. Wrapped for three years in the body of a Man, He came then into possession of His Father's estate — and is now the innermost heavenly flame of Earth herself, that she too may one day be a Sun).

"Were Christ born a thousand times in Bethlehem, and not in thee, thou art lost eternally."

May there be celebrated in our souls an inner festival of the Holy Night; may our souls be filled with the realisation that a new knowledge of Christ must be born in our time. This new knowledge of Christ links the inmost core of man's being with primal innocence, links the state of childhood, not, as yet, that of mature life, with the very heights of cosmic being. When, in the Holy Night of winter our minds turn to the Christ Child, there is enacted before our souls the greatest of all festivals of consecration, the festival that rings through all the Aeons — and we know that the deepest realities of man's being and nature are indissolubly connected with all cosmic evolution.

Those whose hearts are kindled by spiritual science feel and know that victory over all death can be achieved when the soul is united with the Christ Being. I spoke of this to-day at the funeral of one taken from us so tragically by the war. Realisation of how the heights of cosmic being are connected with the inmost nature of man was impossible as long as the human mind was unable to conceive that the very quintessence of history lies in the Mystery of Bethlehem. But this insight will dawn in those who understand the secret of the two Jesus boys. In the one boy there was present the power of the wisest of all men in pre-Christian times, namely Zarathustra. This boy represents the flower of the previous stages of human evolution; the aura of the other boy was illumined by the forces of the great Buddha. The body of the one boy springs from the noblest blood of the ancient Hebrew peoples; the soul of the Jesus boy described in the Gospel of St. Luke leads back to the earth's beginning. (Note 3) The soul of this Jesus boy was kept back, when, in the age of Lemuria, man came to the earth; this soul was guarded by the Mysteries until it was sent into the body of the Jesus whose birth is described in the Gospel of St. Luke. It is said that immediately after birth, this Child uttered words intelligible only to the Mother, in a language unlike any other language, and which the Child himself forgot directly earthly consciousness awoke in him. A mystery was voiced immediately after birth ... And indeed, much of what we have to reveal concerning the Christ Mystery is an exposition of what was uttered by the Jesus boy of the Gospel of St. Luke directly after his birth.

And so spiritual science enables us to understand the Christ Impulse in the deeper aspect of human evolution — in the evolution of pre-Christian times too — for the differences disappear and the voice of the Initiates can still be heard. When once the magnitude of what poured into the evolution of humanity at the Mystery of Golgotha is grasped it will be possible for these forces to be brought to even greater fruition. But men must know Who the Christ was before they can speak truly of Him — in history, for example. If within our movement there are individuals — in greater and greater numbers — who resolve to kindle the light that can be kindled in those inner depths which since the Mystery of Golgotha have been within men's reach then the Christ Light will shine out in every single soul. This Christ Light becomes the Christmas Tree that will illumine all evolution in ages of time to come. The soul will behold an earth again made living, will find Christ everywhere within this new earth.

Those who have allied themselves with spiritual science can receive its tidings of Christ with such depth of feeling that the Christmas Festival will one day be celebrated in every individual soul. It is the Festival which represents the birth of that knowledge of Christ which comes from Christ Himself and is therefore a birth of Christ within us, True, indeed are the words: "Were Christ born a thousand times in Bethlehem, and not in thee, thou art lost eternally." But to this beautiful string of Angelus Silesius we can add: We are secure eternally if we seek the experience belonging to the Holy Night of winter, if we seek to bring Christ to birth in the depths of our souls!


Note 1:
The translation of the quotations from Wilhelm Meister is that of Thomas Carlyle.
Note 2:
See: The Spiritual Guidance of Man and Mankind; also the Lecture-Courses on the Gospel of St. Luke and the Gospel of St. Matthew by Rudolf Steiner.
Note 3:
See Rudolf Steiner's Lecture-Courses on the Gospel of St. Matthew and the Gospel of St. Luke.




The Rudolf Steiner Archive is maintained by:
The e.Librarian: elibrarian@elib.com
[Spacing]