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The Golden Legend and a German Christmas Play

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The Golden Legend and a German Christmas Play

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Lecture given by Rudolf Steiner in Dornach, 19th December, 1915. Edited by Harry Collison and published for the first time in English by permission of the Rudolf Steiner Nachlassverwaltung. This lecture is number sixteen of nineteen, given in the years 1906 through 1916, entitled, The Festivals of the Seasons. This lecture is also known as, The Christmas Thought and the Mystery of the Ego. Contained in Volume No. 157a and 165 of the Complete Centenary Edition of Rudolf Steiner's works.

A Lecture by
Rudolf Steiner
Dornach, December 19th, 1915
Bn/GA 157a and 165

Lecture given by Rudolf Steiner in Dornach, 19th December, 1915. Edited by Harry Collison and published for the first time in English by permission of the Rudolf Steiner Nachlassverwaltung. This lecture is number sixteen of nineteen, given in the years 1906 through 1916, entitled, The Festivals of the Seasons. This lecture is also known as, The Christmas Thought and the Mystery of the Ego. Contained in Volume No. 157a and 165 of the Complete Centenary Edition of Rudolf Steiner's works.

Copyright © 1928
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THE GOLDEN LEGEND

AND A GERMAN CHRISTMAS PLAY

Lecture by Rudolf Steiner

Given at Dornach, 19th December, 1915.

LET US on this day in particular, turn our hearts with special devotion to those who are without on the scene of action, and who have to devote their lives and souls to the great task of the age; and let us say:

Spirits of their souls, active Guardians,
May your vibrations carry
The imploring love of our souls
To the Earth-men committed to your care,
That, united with your power,
Our prayer may radiate helpfully
To the souls it lovingly seeks.

And for those who have already passed through the portal of death in consequence of the severe duties demanded of them in these times, we will repeat the same words in a slightly altered form:

Spirits of their souls, active Guardians,
May your vibrations carry
The imploring love of our souls
To the sphere-men committed to your care,
That, united with your power,
Our prayer may radiate helpfully
To the souls it lovingly seeks.

And may that Spirit Whom we seek in our spiritual strivings, the Spirit who went through the Mystery of Golgotha for the sake of the freedom and progress of humanity, the Spirit Whom we must specially bear in mind to-day, may He be with you in your severe tasks.

Let us call to mind the decree ringing forth from the depths of the Mystery of the Earth's evolution.

‘Revelation of the Divine in the heights of existence and peace to men on earth who are permeated by good will.’ And as Christmas Eve approaches, we must (this year in particular) ask ourselves: ‘What are the feelings that unite us with this saying and its deep cosmic meaning?’ That deep cosmic meaning in which countless men feel the word ‘peace’ resounding, at a time when peace keeps away from a very large part of our earth. How should we think of these Christmas words at such a time?

There is one thought, which, in connection with this verdict, sounding through the world, must concern us far more deeply at this present epoch than at any other time — one thought. Nations are facing each other in enmity. Much blood has saturated our earth. We see and feel countless dead around us at this time. The atmosphere of sensation and feeling around us is interwoven with infinite sorrow. Hate and aversion are heard murmuring through the spiritual realm and might easily testify how very far removed men still are in our day from that love which He wishes to announce Whose birth is celebrated on Christmas Eve. One thought, however, arises: we think how opponents can face each other, enemy face enemy, how men can mutually bring death to one another and how they can all pass through the same Gate of Death with the thought of Christ Jesus, the Divine Light-Bringer. We recall how, in the whole earth, over which war, suffering and discord are spread abroad, these men can still be one at heart, however greatly they may otherwise be disunited, who in the depths of their hearts are united in their connection with Him Who entered the world on the day we commemorate at Christmas. We see how through all enmity, aversion and hatred, one and the same feeling may everywhere penetrate the human soul at this time: out of the blood and hatred may spring the thought of an inner union with One, with Him Who has united the hearts through something higher than anything which can ever separate mankind on earth. Thus the thought of Christ Jesus is a thought of immeasurable depth of feeling, a thought of infinite greatness uniting mankind, however disunited it may be as regards all that is going on in the world. If we grasp the thought in this way, we shall want to comprehend it still more deeply at the present time. We shall feel how much there is that can become strong and powerful within human evolution if connected with this thought — this thought which must develop in order that many things may be acquired by human hearts and souls in a different way from the present tragic method of learning them.

That He may strengthen us,
That He may invigorate us,

That He may teach us all over the earth really to experience in the truest sense of the words the utterance of the Christmas Eve saying, which transcends all that separates men from one another. This it is which he who really feels himself united with Christ Jesus solemnly vows anew at Christmas time.

There is a tradition in the history of Christianity which repeatedly appears in later times and for centuries became a custom in certain Christian regions. In olden times representations of the Christian Mysteries were organised chiefly by the Christian Churches for believers in many different regions. And in the remotest times these representations began by reading, occasionally even by enacting, the story of Creation as it occurs at the beginning of the Bible. There was first shown just at Christmas time, how the Cosmic Word sounded forth from the depths of the Cosmos and how out of the Cosmic Word Creation gradually arose: how Lucifer appeared to man, and how men thereby began their earth-existence in a manner different from what was originally destined for them before the approach of Lucifer. The entire story of the temptation of Adam and Eve was brought forward, and it was then shown how man was, as it were, embodied in the Old Testament history. Then as time went on there was added that which was presented in more or less detail in the performances which evolved during the fifteenth to the eighteenth centuries in the countries of Central Europe (of which we have just seen one small example). Very little now remains of the grand thought which united the beginning of the Old Testament at this Christmas Eve festival with the secret history of the Mystery of Golgotha. Only this one thing remains, that in our calendar, before the actual Christmas Day comes the day of Adam and Eve. This has its origin in the same thought. But in olden times, for those who through deeper thinking, through deeper feeling, or through a deeper knowledge, were to grasp the Mystery of Christmas and the Mystery of Golgotha, with the help of their teachers, there was exhibited also again and again a great comprehensive thought: the thought of the Origin of the Cross. The God Who is introduced to man in the Old Testament gives to man, as represented by Adam and Eve, this commandment: ‘Ye may eat of all the fruits of the garden, but not of the tree — not of the fruits which grow on the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.’ Because they did eat of this they were driven from the original scene of action of their being.

But the tree — as was shown in many different ways — came by some means into the line of generations, into the original family from which proceeded the bodily covering of Christ Jesus. And it so came about that (as was shown at certain times) when Adam, the man of sin, was buried, there grew out of his grave the tree which had been removed from Paradise. Thus the following thoughts are aroused: Adam rests in his grave: the man who was led astray by Lucifer and passed through sin, rests in his grave. He has united himself with the Earth-body. But from his grave sprouts the tree which can now grow out of the earth, with which Adam's body is united. The wood of this tree descends to the generations to which Abraham and David belong. And from the wood of this tree, which stood in Paradise and which grew forth from Adam's grave, was made the Cross upon which Christ Jesus hung.

That is the thought which again and again was made clear by their teachers to those who had to understand the Mystery of Golgotha and its secrets from a deeper point of view. A deep meaning lies in the fact that in olden times profound thoughts were expressed in such pictures. And even at the present day this is still the case, as we shall presently see.

We have made ourselves acquainted with the thought of the Mystery of Golgotha which reveals to us that the Being Who passed through the body of Jesus has poured out over the Earth and into the Earth's aura what He was able to bring to the Earth. That which the Christ brought to the Earth is since united with the whole body of the Earth. The Earth has become quite different since the Mystery of Golgotha. In the Earth-aura there lives what the Christ brought out of the heavenly heights to the Earth. If we unite this spiritually with that old picture of the tree, it shows us the whole connection from another point of view. The Luciferic principle drew into man as he began his earthly career. Man as he now is belongs to the Earth, through his union with the Luciferic principle. He forms part of the Earth. And when we lay his body in the earth, this body is not merely that which anatomy sees, but is at the same time the outer mould of what man is in his inner being within his earthly nature. Spiritual Science makes it quite clear to us that what goes through the gates of death into the spiritual worlds is not the only part of man's being, but that man through his whole activity, through his deeds, is united with the Earth. He is really united with the Earth as are those events which the geologists, mineralogists and zoologists, connect with the Earth. We might say that that which binds man to the Earth is at first concealed from the human individuality on going through the gates of death. But we surrender our external form in some manner to the Earth. It enters the Earth-body. It carries in itself the imprint of what the Earth has become through Lucifer's entering the Earth evolution. That which man accomplishes on the Earth bears the Luciferic principle in it. Man brings this Luciferic principle into the Earth-aura. There springs forth and blossoms from man's deeds and activities not only that which was originally intended for man but that which has mingled with the Luciferic principle. This is in the Earth-aura. And when we now see on the grave of the man Adam led away by Lucifer, that tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, which through the Luciferic temptation has become different from what it originally was, we then see everything that man has become through forsaking his original state, when he submitted to the Luciferic temptation and brought something into the Earth's evolution not previously determined. We see the tree grow out of what the physical body is for the Earth, that which has been stamped in its Earth form, and causes man to appear in a lower sphere on the Earth than the one originally destined for him, which would have been his if he had not succumbed to Lucifer. There grows out of the whole Earth existence of man something which has entered human evolution through the Luciferic temptation. While we seek knowledge, we seek it in another way than that originally destined for us. That however allows us to recognise that what grows out of our earthly deeds is different from what it would have been according to the original Divine decree. We form an earth existence other than the one laid down by the original Divine Will. We mingle something else with it; something else, concerning which we must form quite definite conceptions if we want to understand it.

We must form such ideas as these, if we wish to understand correctly. We must say to ourselves as follows: I am placed in the Earth evolution. What I give to the Earth evolution through my deeds bears fruit. It bears the fruit of knowledge which comes to me through my participation in the knowledge of good and evil on the Earth. This knowledge lives on in the evolution of the Earth and is present therein. When, however, I behold this knowledge it becomes in me something different from what it would have been originally, it becomes something which I must alter if the Earth's goal and task are to be reached. I see something grow out of my Earth deeds which must become different. The tree grows up, the tree which becomes the Cross of earth existence. It becomes something to which man must acquire a new relation, for the old relation does no more than allow the tree to grow.

The tree of the Cross, that Cross that grows out of the Luciferically tainted Earth evolution, springs up out of Adam's grave, out of the man-nature which Adam acquired after the fall. The tree of knowledge must become the stem of the Cross because man must unite himself anew with the correctly recognised tree of knowledge as it now is in order to reach the Earth's goal and task.

Let us now ask — and here we touch a significant Mystery of Spiritual Science: How does the case stand with those principles which we have learnt to recognise as the principles of human nature? Now we all know that the highest member of human nature is the Ego. We learn to utter ‘I’ at a definite time of our childhood. We enter into relation with the Ego from the time to which in later years memory carries us back. This we know through various lectures and books upon Spiritual Science. Up to that time the Ego worked formatively upon us, up to the moment when we have a conscious relation to our Ego. The Ego is present in our childhood, it works within us, but at first only builds up our physical body. It first creates the super-sensible forces in the spiritual world. After passing through conception and birth, it still works for a time — lasting for some years — on our body, until that becomes an instrument capable of consciously grasping the Ego. A deep mystery is connected with this entry of the Ego into the human bodily nature. We ask a man we meet how old he is, and he gives as his age the years which have passed since his birth. As has been said, we here touch a certain mystery of Spiritual Science that will become ever clearer and clearer in the course of the near future, but to which I shall now merely refer. What a man gives as his age at a definite time of his life, refers only to his physical body. All he tells us is that his physical body has been so many years evolving since his birth. The Ego takes no part in this evolution of the physical body but remains stationary. It is a Mystery difficult to grasp, that the Ego, from the time to which our memory carries us back, really remains stationary: it does not change with the body, but stands still. We have it always before us, because it reflects back to us our experiences. The Ego does not share our Earth journey. Only when we pass through the gates of death we have to travel back again to our birth along the path we call Kamaloka in order to meet our Ego again and take it on our further journey. Thus the Ego remains behind. The body goes forward through the years. This is difficult to understand because we cannot grasp the fact that something remains stationary in time, while time itself progresses. But this is actually the case. The Ego remains stationary, because it does not unite with what comes to man from the Earth-existence, but remains connected with those forces which we call our own in the spiritual world. There the Ego remains; it remains practically in the form in which it was bestowed on us by the Spirits of Form. The Ego is retained in the spiritual world. It must remain there, otherwise we could never, as man, fulfil our original task on Earth and attain the goal of our Earth-evolution. That which man here on Earth has undergone through his

Adam-nature, of which he left an imprint in the grave when he died in Adam, that belongs to the physical body, etheric and astral body and comes from these. The Ego waits; it waits with all that belongs to it the whole time man remains on Earth, ever looking forward to the further evolution of man, beholding how man recapitulates when he has passed through the gates of death, and retraces his path. This implies that as regards our Ego we remain in a certain respect behind in the spiritual world. Man will have to become conscious of this, and humanity can only become conscious of it because at a certain time the Christ descended from those worlds to which mankind belongs, out of the spiritual worlds Christ descended, and in the body of Jesus prepared, in the twofold manner we already know, that which had to serve Him as a body on Earth.

When we understand ourselves aright, we continually look back through our whole Earth life to our childhood. There, in our childhood, precisely the spiritual part of us has remained behind. And humanity should be educated to look back on that to which the spirit from the heights can say: ‘Suffer the little children to come to Me!’ Not the man who is bound to the Earth, but the little child. Humanity should be educated to this, for the Feast of Christmas has been given to it, that Feast which has been added to the Mystery of Golgotha, which need otherwise only have been bestowed on humanity as regards the three last years of the Christ life, when the Christ was in the body of Jesus of Nazareth. It shows how Christ prepared for Himself this human body in childhood. This is what should underlie our feelings at Christmas: the knowledge of how man, through what remains behind in heavenly heights during his years of growth, has really always been united with what is now coming. In the figure of the Child man should be reminded of the Human-Divine, which he left behind in descending to Earth, but which has now again come to him. Man should be reminded by the Child of that which has again brought his child-nature to him. This was no easy task, but in the very way in which this Festival of the Cosmic Child, this Christmas Festival, was developed in Central Europe, we see the wonderful, active, sustaining force within it.

What we have seen to-day is only one of many Nativity Plays. There have remained from olden times a number of so-called Paradise Plays which were produced at Christmas and in which the story of Creation is enacted. In connection with the representation of to-day, which is merely a pastoral play, there has also remained behind the Play of the Three Kings offering their gifts. A great deal of this was recorded in numerous plays which for the most part have now disappeared.

About the middle of the eighteenth century the time begins in which they disappear in country districts. But it is wonderful to trace their existence. In West Hungary, about 1850, Karl Julius Schröer, made a collection of Christmas Plays such as these in the neighbourhood of Pressburg. Other people made similar collections in other places. But what Schröer then discovered of the customs connected with the performance of these plays may sink deeply into our hearts. These plays were there in manuscript in certain families of the villages and were regarded as something especially sacred. With the approach of October preparations were always begun to perform this play at Christmas before the people of the place. The well- behaved youths and maidens were sought out and during this time of preparation they ceased to drink wine or alcohol. They might no longer romp and wrestle on Sundays. They had really to lead what is called a holy life. And thus a feeling prevailed that a certain moral tone of the soul was necessary in those who devoted themselves at Christmas to the performance of such plays, for they could not be performed in the quite worldly atmosphere. They were performed with all the simplicity of the villagers, but profound seriousness prevailed in the entire performance. In all the plays collected by Schröer and earlier by Weinhold and others in many different regions, there is everywhere this deep earnestness with which the Christmas Mystery was approached. But this was not always so. We need only go back two centuries further to find something else which strikes us in the highest degree as peculiar. The very manner in which these Christmas plays became part of the life of the central European villages in which they arose and gradually evolved, shows us how powerfully the Christmas thought worked there. It was not immediately taken up in the manner just described; the people did not always approach it with holy awe, with deep earnestness, with a living feeling of the significance of the occurrence.

In many regions it was begun by erecting a manger before the side altar of some church. This was in the fourteenth or fifteenth century; but it goes back to still earlier times. A manger was erected, a stall with an ox and an ass, the Child and two figures representing Joseph and Mary. Thus at first it was attempted with simple art; later an attempt was made to bring more life into it, but on the spiritual side. That is, priests took part; one priest represented Joseph and another Mary. In earlier times they spoke their parts in the Latin tongue, for in the old churches great stress was laid on this — it was considered very important that the spectators should understand as little as possible of the matter and should only behold the external acting. But this could no longer continue to please, for there were among the spectators those who wanted to understand something of what was being enacted before them. Gradually it became customary to recite certain parts in the dialect used in the district. Finally the wish arose in people to participate, to take part in the experiences themselves. But the thing was still quite strange to them. We must remember that in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries there was not as yet the knowledge of the Holy Mysteries, of the Mystery of Christmas, for instance, which we to-day regard as a matter of course. We must remember that although the people year in and year out attended Mass, and at Christmas the Midnight Mass, they did not possess the Bible, which was only there for the priests to read; they were only acquainted with a few extracts from the Holy Scripture. And it was at first really to acquaint them with what had once occurred that these things were dramatised in this fashion for them by the priests. The people first learnt to know of them in this way.

align="justify" style="text-indent: 0.25in"> Something must now be said which I must ask you not to misunderstand, but it may be brought forward because it expresses purely historical truth. It was not that the participation in the Christmas plays proceeded from some mysterious influence or anything of that nature; what attracted the people was rather the desire to take part in what was presented before them and to draw nearer to it. At last they were permitted to share in it. Things had to be made more comprehensible to the laity. And this clearer understanding progressed step by step. At first the people understood absolutely nothing about the child lying in the manger. They had never seen such a thing as a child in a manger. Ear her when they were not allowed to understand anything, they accepted it: but now they wanted to share in it, it had to be made comprehensible to them. And so a cradle was brought and as the people passed, each one took part by rocking the child for a moment. Thus similar details were developed in which they took part. Indeed there were even districts in which all was quite serious at first, but when the child was brought, they made a tremendous uproar, everyone screaming and showing by dancing and shouting the pleasure they felt in the birth of the child. It was then received in a mood that felt a passion for movement and a desire to experience the story. But in this story lay something so great and mighty that, out of this quite profane feeling there gradually evolved that holy awe of which I have already spoken. The subject itself impressed its holiness on a performance which could not at first have been called in the least holy. Precisely in the Middle Ages the holy story of Christmas had first to conquer mankind. And it conquered the people to such an extent that in the performance of their plays, they desired to prepare their lives with this moral intensity.

What was it that thus overcame the feelings, the soul of man? It was the sight of the Child, of that which remains holy in man whilst his other three bodies unite with the Earth evolution. Even though in some districts at different times the story of Bethlehem took on grotesque forms, yet it lay in human nature to evolve this holy regard for the child-nature, which is connected with what entered into the development of Christianity from the very beginning. And that is the consciousness of the necessity of a reunion of what remains stationary in man when he commences his Earth evolution, with what has connected itself with Earth-man, so that man gives over to the Earth the wood from which the cross must be made with which man has to form the new union.

In the more remote times of Christian development in Central Europe, nothing but the conception of Easter was popularised, and only in the manner described was the conception of Christmas gradually developed. For what appears in ‘Heliand,’ for instance, was composed by various individuals, but never became popular.

The observance of Christmas grew into a popular custom as described, and it shows in a manner really startling how man acquired the thought of the union with the child-nature, that pure and noble childlike character that appeared in a new form in the Jesus-Child. When we so grasp the power of this thought that it lives in the soul as the only conception in our existence capable of uniting all men, then we have the true Christian conception. This Christ-Thought becomes mighty in us, it becomes something which must grow strong within us if the further Earth evolution is to proceed aright. Let us remember here how far removed man is in his present Earth-existence from what is really contained in the depths of the Christ-Thought.

A book by Ernst Haeckel has recently appeared called Thoughts about Life, Death, Immortality and Religion, in Connection with the World-War. Now a book by Ernst Haeckel certainly springs from a deep love of truth, certainly the deepest truth is sought for in it. The following may give some idea of what the book is intended to convey. It sets out to indicate what now transpires on the Earth, how the nations are at war with each other, living in hate, how countless deaths take place every day. All these thoughts which obtrude so painfully on mankind are mentioned by Haeckel, but naturally with the underlying thought of considering the world from his own point of view. We have said that Haeckel may, even by Spiritual Science, be considered a profound investigator. His point of view may indeed lead to other results, but leads to what can be observed in the newer phases of Haeckel's evolution. Now Haeckel forms thoughts on the world-war. He too remarks how much blood is flowing, how greatly we are encompassed by death. And he asks: ‘Can the thoughts of religion endure by the side of this? Can one anyhow believe (he asks) that some wise Providence — a kindly God — rules the world, when one sees so many dying every day through mere chance (so he says)? They do not perish from any cause attributable to a wise cosmic ordering, but through the accident of meeting a possible shell. Have these thoughts of the wisdom of Providence any meaning in the face of this 1 Must not just such events as these prove that man is nothing more than what external materialistic history of evolution declares and that all earth existence is fundamentally directed not by a wise Providence but by chance? In the face of this, can there be any other thought than that of resignation (continues Haeckel), of saying: ‘We give up our bodies and pass out into the thought of the cosmic all?’ But if one questions further, (though Haeckel does not put the question), if this ‘all’ is nothing but the play of endless atoms, has the life of man any meaning in earth-existence? As said above, Haeckel does not pursue the question, but in his Christmas book he gives the answer: ‘These very events which touch us so painfully show us that we have no right to believe that a good Providence or wise cosmic ruling or anything of the kind moves and lives in the whole world. So we must be resigned — we must put up with things as they are!’

And this is a Christmas book! A book nobly and honourably planned. But this book is based on the remarkable prejudice that it is useless to seek for a meaning to the earth. That it is denied to humanity to seek in a spiritual way for a meaning!

If we only observe the external course of events we do not see this meaning. Then it is as Haeckel says. And at that it has to remain, that is, that this life has no meaning! That is his opinion. A purpose may not be sought. But perhaps someone else may say: The events now taking place show us, for the very reason that, if we look at them externally and point only to the fact that numberless bullets are ending the lives of men to-day, they appear without purpose — those very events show us that we must seek more deeply to find the purpose. We must not simply seek a purpose in that which happens on the Earth alone, when these human souls forsake the body, but we must investigate the life that now begins for them when they pass through the gate of death. In short, another man may say: ‘Just because no meaning can be found in the external, it must be sought elsewhere, in the super-sensible.’ Is that anything else than to take the same thought into another — quite different — domain? Haeckel's science may lead those who think as he does to-day to deny all meaning to Earth-existence. It may seem to prove, from what happens so painfully to-day, that the Earth-life as such has no meaning. But if we grasp it in our way — as we have often done before — then this very same science becomes a starting point for showing what deep and mighty purpose can be discovered by us in the world phenomena. For this, however, there must be the spiritual active in the world; we must be able to unite ourselves with the spiritual. For man in the sphere of erudition does not yet understand how to let that power work on him which has so wonderfully conquered the hearts and souls that on beholding the Christmas Mystery, out of a profane comprehension, there has arisen a holy understanding. Because the learned cannot yet grasp this and cannot yet unite the Christ-Impulse with what they see in the external world, it is impossible for them to find a real true meaning in the Earth. And so we must say: The Science of which man is so proud to-day — and rightly so — with all its immense progress is not in itself in a position to lead man to any satisfactory philosophy. It can just as easily lead to a lack of sense and meaning as to a meaning for the Earth, just as in any other domain. Let us consider science in the later centuries, especially in the nineteenth and up to the present day — evolving so proudly all its wonderful laws, and let us look at what surrounds us to-day. It has all been produced by science. We no longer burn, as Goethe did, a night-light. We burn something else and illumine our rooms in a very different fashion. All that possesses our souls to-day, as the result of our science has arisen through the immense progress of which man is so proud, so justly proud. But how does this science work? It works beneficially when man evolves what is good. But to-day, just through its very perfection, it produces invincible instruments of murder. Its progress serves the cause of destruction as well as that of construction. Just as on the one side that science of which Haeckel is a follower may lead either to sense and meaning or to nonsense and lack of meaning, so, in spite of its greatness, it may serve both destruction and construction. And if it depended on science alone what was produced, then, from the same sources from which it constructs, science would bring forth ever more and more fearful instruments of destruction. Science itself has no direct impulse to bring humanity forward! If this could be realised, science would then, and then only, be valued in the right way. We should then know that in the evolution of man there must be something more than man can reach by means of science.

What is this science of ours? In reality none other than the tree growing out of Adam's grave; and the time is drawing near when man will recognise this. The time will come when man will know that this tree must become the wood which is the Cross of humanity and which can only become a blessing when on it is crucified and properly united with it, that which lies on the further side of death, yet fives already here in man. That it is to which we look up in the Holy Christmas Eve, if we feel this Mystery of the sacred Festival aright — and that is what can be represented in childlike fashion, and yet is the cloak of the greatest Mysteries. Is it not really wonderful that in this simple way it could be brought home to people that something had appeared which, though it cannot extend beyond childhood, yet governs a man during his whole Earth- life? It is related to that to which man, as a super-sensible being, belongs. Is it not wonderful that this, which is in the highest degree invisible and super-sensible, could approach so near to those simple human souls through simple pictures such as these?

Indeed those who are learned will also have to follow the same path as those simple souls. There was even a time when the Child was not represented in the cradle nor in the manger, but when the sleeping child was placed upon the Cross! The Child sleeping on the Cross! A wonderful, profound picture, which expresses the whole thought I wished to lay before your souls to-day.

Cannot this thought in reality be very simply stated? Indeed it can! Let us just seek the origin of those impulses which to-day oppose each other so terribly in the world. Whence do they originate? Whence originates all that to-day is in such bitter conflict, all that makes life so difficult for humanity? It all originates in what we become in the world after the time of our earliest recollection. Let us go back beyond that time, let us go right back to the point when we are called the little children who may enter the kingdom of heaven. We do not find it then, there was then nothing in the human soul of what to-day is strife and hatred. In this simple way the thought can be expressed and to-day we must visualise spiritually that there is in the human soul an original condition rising above all human strife and disharmony.

We have often spoken of the old Mysteries, which were intended to awaken in the nature of man that which allowed him to perceive the super-sensible; and we have said that the Mystery of Golgotha represents on the stage of history clearly for all mankind, the story of the super-sensible Mystery. Now that which unites us with the true Christ-Thought is within us, it is really in us — to enable us to have moments in our life (this is to be taken literally not symbolically) moments when, in spite of everything we may be in the external world, we can yet make that which we have received as children alive within us, moments in which we behold man in his development between birth and death, and can feel the child-nature in ourselves.

In my public lecture on Johann Gottlieb Fichte, I might have added a few words more — perhaps they might not have been thoroughly understood then, they would, however, have explained many things which dwelt in this particularly devout person. I might have said why he became such a very special person; it was because, in spite of his age, he retained more than most people of the child-nature. There is more of the child-nature in such men than in others. Men like these, men who retain more of their child-nature, keep their youth and do not grow old as do others. This is really the secret of many great men, that they can in a sense remain children — speaking relatively, of course, for they have had to lead the life of men.

The Christmas Mystery appeals to the child-nature within us. It points us to the vision of the Divine Child that is destined to take up the Christ — and to which we look up as to something over which the Christ, Who went through Golgotha for the salvation of the Earth, already hovers.

Let us be conscious of this when we give over the imprint of our higher man, our physical body, to the Earth. This is not a mere physical event, for something spiritual takes place. But this spiritual event only takes place aright because the Christ-Being, by going through the Mystery of Golgotha, has flowed into the aura of the Earth. We do not behold the entire Earth in its completeness unless we visualise also the Christ, Who, since the Mystery of Golgotha, is united with it. We may pass Him by, as we pass by anything super-sensible if we are merely equipped in a materialistic sense; but we cannot pass Him by if the Earth is really to have for us a true and actual purpose. Everything rests upon our being able to awaken in ourselves that which opens our gaze to the spiritual world.

Let us make this Christmas Festival what it should be to us, a Festival which not merely serves the past — but also the future; that future which is gradually to bring forth the birth of the spiritual life for the whole of humanity. We must unite ourselves with the prophetic feeling, with the prophetic premonition, that such a birth of the spiritual life in man must be accomplished, that a mighty Christmas must work to influence the future of humanity, a bringing to birth of that which in the thoughts of man gives a meaning to the Earth, that meaning which became the objective of the Earth when the Christ-Being united Himself with the Earth-aura, through the Mystery of Golgotha. Let us meditate at Christmas on the thought how from the depths of darkness light must enter human evolution. The old light of the spiritual life which was gradually dying out before Golgotha had to pass away and has now to arise anew, it must since Golgotha be born again through the consciousness in the human soul that this soul of man is connected with what the Christ had become to the Earth through the Mystery of Golgotha.

When more and more men arise who can thus grasp Christmas in the sense of Spiritual Science, it will become a force in the hearts and souls of men which has a meaning for all times, whether in such times as men give themselves over to feelings of happiness, or when they must feel sorrow and pain such as we feel to-day, when we think of the great misery of our time.

Concerning the vision of the spiritual which gives meaning to the Earth, it has been expressed in beautiful words which I will put before you to-day: (Here follows a rough translation): —

That which gives mine eyes the power
To cause deformity to disappear,
To turn dark nights to radiant suns of brightness,
To turn disorder into order, and decay to life; —
Life, which through the ages,
Weaves invisibly in space,
Leading me on to th' eternal sources
Of the Beautiful, the True, the Good.
The source of all Delight,
In which immersed, my strivings are but vain.
Life it is, which since in Urania's eyes I gazed,
The deep, the clear, the blue — pure flames of light —
I have silently perceived and looked upon.
Since then I see those eyes in deeps profound,
The only permanent things in my existence,
They live on in me, part of my life,
And see through my beholding.

And in another small poem: —

Nothing is but God, and God is naught but Life.
Thou knowest this, as I myself know too,
And yet our knowing would ne'er have power to be,
Unless t'were knowledge of the Life of God.
How fain would I devote myself to this!
But where shall it be found; if into some knowledge it doth flow,
Forthwith it is transformed into a semblance.
Commingled with Him, surrounded by His sheath,
When thou dost wake the true sheath to behold, It is thy Self!
Let all that perishable is, decay.
Henceforth let God alone dwell in thy strivings,
Learn to discern what beyond all striving yet lives on;
Then will the Sheath itself become perceptible,
And unveiled be the Life Divine.

It is true men do not always know how to understand those who lead them to a vision of the spiritual which gives a meaning to the Earth. The materialists are not alone in this. Others, who believe themselves to be no materialists because they continually repeat, ‘God, God,’ or ‘Lord, Lord,’ too often do not know what to make of these guides to the spiritual. For what could one make of a man who says:

‘Learn to discern what beyond all striving yet lives on;
Then will the sheath itself become perceptible,
And unveiled be the Life Divine:’

who sees Divine Life in everything? He might be reproached with holding the world away from him, with denying its existence. Such a man might be accused of denying the existence of the world. His contemporaries accused him of denying God, of being an atheist, and drove him away from the High School on that account. For the words I have just quoted were written by Johann Gottlieb Fichte. He is a case in point. When there lives on in a human soul all through his earthly life that which dwells as an impulse from the Mystery of Golgotha and the notes of which may be heard in the Christmas Mystery, a way is then opened in which we can find that consciousness in which our own ego flows in union with the Earth-Ego. For the Earth-Ego is the Christ. In this way something is developed in man which must become greater and greater if the Earth is to achieve that evolution for which it was destined from the beginning of all things.

And so from the spirit of our Spiritual Science we have to-day tried to transform the Christmas thought into an impulse; and while looking up to it from that which is now going on around us, we shall try not to behold a want of purpose in the Earth-evolution, but rather in the midst of sorrow and pain, even in strife and hatred, to see something which finally helps man a step forward.

More important than the search for the causes of what happens to-day is this: that we should turn our gaze to the possible effects, to those effects which we must conceive as bringing healing to mankind.

That nation or people will do the right thing which is able to fashion something healing for mankind in the future, from what springs up out of the blood- saturated Earth. But this healing can only come about when man finds his way to the spiritual worlds: when he does not forget that not only a transitory but an eternal Christmas exists, an everlasting bringing to birth of the Divine Spiritual in the physical Earth-man.

Especially to-day let us retain the holiness of this thought in our souls, and keep it there, even beyond the Christmas season, during the time which can be for us in its external course, a symbol of the evolution of light. Darkness, the most intense Earth-darkness prevails at this time of the year. But we know that when the Earth lives m the deepest outer darkness, the Earth-soul experiences its light, its greatest time of growth begins.

The spiritual time of awakening coincides with Christmas and with this spiritual awakening should be united the thought of the spiritual awakening of the earth-evolution through Christ Jesus. For this reason the Christmas Festival was placed just at this particular time.

In this cosmic and at the same time earthly and moral sense let us fill our souls with the thoughts of Christmas and then, strengthened and invigorated with this moral thought, let us, as far as we can, turn our gaze on everything around us, desiring what is right for the progress of events and especially as regards the present occurrences. And as we begin at once to make active within us the strength we have been able to acquire from this Christmas Festival, let us conclude once more by turning to the Guardian Spirit of those who have to take a difficult part in the great events of the times.

Spirits of their souls, active Guardians,
May your vibrations carry
The imploring love of our souls
To the earth-men committed to your charge,
That, united with your power,
Our prayers may helpfully irradiate
The souls they lovingly seek.

And for those who have already passed through the gates of death while fulfilling the severe tasks given to man as a result of the great demands of our present time, let us repeat those words again in a slightly altered form:

Spirits of their souls, active Guardians,
May your vibrations carry
The imploring love of our souls
To the sphere-men committed to your charge,
That united with your power,
Our prayers may helpfully irradiate
The souls they lovingly seek.

And may the Spirit Who passed through the Mystery of Golgotha, that Spirit Who, for the progress and salvation of the Earth, has made Himself known in the Mystery of Christmas, which men will gradually learn to understand better and better, may He be with you in the severe tasks that he before you.




Last Modified: 15-Nov-2017
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