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Christianity in Human Evolution

Avatar Beings

By Rudolf Steiner

GA 109

Originally published with the title, Christianity in the Evolutionary Course of Mankind, this lecture, given in Berlin, February 15, 1909, is included in Das Prinzip der spirituellen Ökonomie (#109/111 of the Bibliographic Survey, 1961). It was translated from the original German by Frances E. Dawson, and edited for this edition by Gilbert Church, Ph.D.

Copyright © 1944
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by Rudolf Steiner

Spring Valley, New York

Originally published with the title, Christianity in the Evolutionary Course of Mankind, this lecture, given in Berlin, February 15, 1909, is included in Das Prinzip der spirituellen Ökonomie (#109/111 of the Bibliographic Survey, 1961). It was translated from the original German by Frances E. Dawson, and edited for this edition by Gilbert Church, Ph.D.

Copyright © 1944
Anthroposophic Press, Inc.
Second printing 1979
All rights reserved,
including the right to reproduce this book
or parts thereof in any form.
Printed in the United States of America


You will have seen from the lecture given here on the more complicated questions of reincarnation that, with further progress in the development of the spiritual scientific view of the world, what in the beginning could be given as elementary truths becomes modified. Thus, we gradually rise to ever higher truths. Still, it was right to present the general cosmic truths at first in as simple and elementary a form as possible. It is, however, also necessary to advance slowly step by step from the simple abc's to the higher truths. Only through them will what spiritual science is intended to give gradually be attained; that is, the possibility of understanding and penetrating the world surrounding us in the physical, sense perceptible sphere. Now it is true that we have a long way to go before we shall be able to coordinate the spiritual lines and forces existing behind the world of the senses, but because of much that has been said in recent lectures, various phenomena of our existence will already have become clearer and more understandable.

Today we shall proceed a little further and speak again about more complicated questions of reincarnation or re-embodiment. To that end, we must first realize that differences exist among the beings who occupy leading places in the earth's human evolution. In the course of earthly evolution we must distinguish those leading individualities who have developed along with humanity from the beginning, but who have made more rapid progress. We might put it this way. If we go back into the past to the remote Lemurian time, we find the most varied stages of development among the human beings then incarnated. All the souls embodied at that time have since repeatedly experienced reincarnations during the succeeding Atlantean and post-Atlantean periods. These souls have developed with varying rapidity. Some have made relatively slow progress through their incarnations and still have long distances to travel in the future. But there are also souls who have developed rapidly, who, one might say, have utilized their incarnations to better advantage and are therefore at a stage of soul-spiritual development that will be attained by normal men only in the far distant future. Nevertheless, we may say that however advanced these individual souls may be, however far they may tower above normal men, they have still followed the same path in earthly evolution as the rest of humanity but have merely advanced more rapidly.

Besides these leading individualities, who in this sense are like the rest of humanity but are at a higher stage, there are also other individualities, other beings, who have by no means gone through various incarnations as other men have in the course of their evolution. We can perhaps illustrate what lies at the bottom of this by saying that there were beings in the time of the Lemurian evolution who no longer needed to descend so deeply into physical embodiment as the other men who have just been described. There were beings who could have accomplished their development in higher, more spiritual regions and who did not need to descend into bodies of flesh for their further progress. In order to intervene in the course of human evolution it is nevertheless possible for these beings to descend vicariously, so to speak, into just such bodies as our own. At any time, therefore, a being may appear of whom, if we make the necessary clairvoyant test, we cannot say, as we can of other human beings, that we trace the soul back in time and find it in a previous fleshly incarnation, trace it farther back and find it again in another incarnation, and so on. Instead, we must say that if we trace the soul of such a being back through the course of time, we may perhaps not find it at all in a former fleshly incarnation. If we do, it is only because the being in question is able to descend repeatedly to incarnate vicariously in a human body.

A spiritual being who descends thus into a human body in order to intervene in evolution as a human being, but without gaining anything from this embodiment for himself or experiencing anything here in the world of special significance for himself, is called an avatar. This is the distinction between a leading being who has sprung from human evolution itself and an avatar. An avatar being reaps no benefits for himself from his physical embodiments, or from even one embodiment to which he may subject himself; he enters a physical body for the blessing and advancement of mankind. Thus, an avatar being can either enter a human body just once or several times in succession, and when embodied is entirely different from other human beings.

The greatest avatar being who has lived on earth, as you can gather from the spirit of the lectures given here, is the Christ, that Being Whom we designate as the Christ, Who took possession of the bodies of Jesus of Nazareth in the thirtieth year of his life. This Being, Who first came in contact with our earth at the beginning of our era, Who was incarnated for three years in a body of flesh, and Who since that time has been connected with the astral sphere, the spiritual sphere of our super-sensible world — this Being is of unique significance as an avatar being. We should seek the Christ Being quite in vain in an earlier human embodiment, whereas other, lower avatar beings can be found to be embodied more than once. They incarnate repeatedly but obtain no benefit from their earthly embodiments for themselves. They only give; they take nothing from the earth. If. you want to understand these things perfectly, you must distinguish between such a lofty avatar being as the Christ and lower avatar beings who can have the most varied missions, and so as not to flounder about in speculation, we shall give a concrete instance to illustrate such a mission.

You all know from the story of Noah that in the ancient Hebrew narrative a great part of post-Noah humanity is derived from his sons, Shem, Ham and Japheth. Today we shall not go into what Noah and these three tribal ancestors are intended to represent in another respect, but shall simply realize clearly that the Hebrew literature that speaks of Noah's son, Shem, traces the whole tribe of the Semites back to him as its ancestor. A genuinely occult view of such a matter is always based upon deeper truths. Those who are able to carry on occult research into such things know the following facts concerning Shem, the ancestor of the Semites.

In the case of such a personality who is destined to be the forebear of an entire tribe, care must be taken from the time of his birth to make it possible for him to become this ancestor. Now in what way will care be taken that a personality like Shem, for example, can be the ancestor of a whole people, or of a tribal community? In the case of Shem it was brought about through his receiving a quite specially prepared etheric body. We know that when a human being is born into this world he fashions about his individuality his etheric or life body, along with the other members of his being. For such a tribal ancestor a special etheric body must be prepared that will be the model etheric body for all the descendants in the succeeding generations. So we have in such a tribal progenitor a typical model etheric body that, through blood relationship passes through the generations. In this wise, the etheric bodies of all the descendants who belong to the same tribe are copies in a certain sense of the etheric body of the ancestor. Thus, into all the etheric bodies of the Semitic people there was woven something like a copy of Shem's etheric body. Now by what means is such a circumstance brought about in the course of human evolution?

If we observe this man Shem a little more closely, we find that his etheric body received its archetypal form because an avatar had woven himself into it. Although he was not so exalted as certain other avatar beings, still, it was a lofty individuality who descended into his etheric body. This being was not united with Shem's astral body nor with his ego, but was woven into his etheric body alone. In this very example we are able to study the exact significance of the participation of an avatar being in the constitution and composition of a human being. What does it mean, then, that a man like Shem, who has the mission to be the ancestor of a whole people, should have an avatar being woven into his body? It means that whenever an avatar being is woven into a fleshly human body, some one member, or even several members, of the super-sensible constitution of this human being are capable of being multiplied and split into many parts.

It was really because an avatar being was interwoven with Shem's etheric body that it became possible for numberless copies of the original to be formed, and these many copies could be woven into all the descendants of this tribal ancestor in subsequent generations. Thus, the descent to earth of an avatar being is significant, among other things, in that it contributes to the multiplication of one or several members of the person in question who is animated by the avatar. There existed in Shem, as you can see from this, an especially precious etheric body, an archetypal etheric body, prepared by an exalted avatar. It was woven into Shem so that it could then descend in many copies to all those who were ordained to be related by blood to him.

Now we have already said in the lecture mentioned at the beginning that there is also a spiritual economy consisting in the fact that anything of especial value is preserved and carried over into the future. We have heard that not only is the ego re-embodied, but that also the astral body and the etheric body can be re-embodied. Aside from the fact that numberless copies of Shem's etheric body were formed, his own etheric body was also preserved in the spiritual world because it could later be useful in the mission of the Hebrew people. In this etheric body all the peculiarities of the Hebrews had originally come to expression, and if at any time something of especial importance was to occur for them, if a special task or mission was to be assigned to some one of them, it could best be accomplished by one who bore the etheric body of the ancestor. At a later time, a man who played an important role in the history of the Hebrews actually did bear the etheric body of the tribal ancestor, Shem. In fact, we have here one of those wonderful complications in human evolution that can explain a great deal to us. We have to do with an exalted individuality who was compelled to condescend, in somewhat the way a spiritually advanced person would have to speak to a lowly tribe, to speak to the Hebrew people in a manner appropriate to giving them strength for a special mission. He would, of course, be compelled to learn the language of this tribe, but it should not be maintained because of this that the language was something that would be used to advance him personally; he needed only take the trouble to learn the language. In this same way a lofty individuality had to make the effort to use Shem's etheric body to be able to give a definite impulse to the ancient Hebrew people. This personality is the one you find in Biblical history named Melchizedek. He took upon himself the etheric body of Shem so that later he could give Abraham the impulse you find so beautifully described in the Bible. So, aside from the fact that what was contained in the individuality of Shem was multiplied because an avatar being was embodied in it, which then became woven into all the other etheric bodies of the Hebrews, Shem's own etheric body was preserved in the spiritual world so that it could be borne at a later time by Melchizedek, who was to give the Hebrews an important impulse through Abraham.

Thus delicately interwoven are the facts existing behind the physical world that alone make explicable to us what occurs in it. We come to understand history only when we are able to point to such facts of a spiritual nature lying behind the physical ones. History can never be explained by considering physical facts alone.

What we have been discussing becomes especially significant. Through the descent of an avatar being the essential soul-spiritual members of the individual who is the bearer of this avatar being are multiplied and transmitted as copies to other human beings. This fact assumes special significance through the appearance of Christ on earth. Because the Avatar Being of Christ lived in the body of Jesus of Nazareth, it became possible for his etheric body to be multiplied innumerable times. This was true as well of the astral body and even the ego; that is, the ego as an impulse, as it was kindled in the astral body of Jesus of Nazareth when Christ entered his threefold sheath. First, however, we will take into account the fact that through the Avatar Being the etheric and astral bodies of Jesus could be multiplied.

Now, through the appearance of the Christ principle in earthly evolution one of the most significant phenomena in humanity occurred. What I have told you about Shem is fundamentally typical and characteristic of the pre-Christian times. When an etheric or an astral body is multiplied in this way, the copies are transmitted as a rule to those people who are related by blood to the one who had the original. Hence, the copies of Shem's etheric body were transmitted to the members of the Hebrew tribe. This was changed when the Christ Avatar Being appeared. The etheric and astral bodies of Jesus of Nazareth were multiplied and the copies preserved until they could be used in the course of human development. They were not, however, limited to any one nationality nor to any particular people. But when in the course of time a human being appeared who, irrespective of nationality, was ripe to have interwoven with his etheric or astral body an etheric or astral copy of the etheric or astral body of Jesus of Nazareth, they could be woven into his being. Thus, we see how it became possible in the course of time for all sorts of people to have woven into them copies of the astral or etheric bodies of Jesus of Nazareth.

The intimate history of Christian development is connected with this fact. What is ordinarily described as the history of Christian development is a sum of entirely external occurrences. Therefore, far too little consideration is given to the distinction of actual periods in Christian development. Anyone who can look more deeply into the evolutionary progress of Christianity will easily perceive that, in the early centuries of the Christian era, the manner in which Christianity was spread was entirely different from that of later centuries. In the first Christian centuries the spread of Christianity was connected with everything that could be procured from the physical plane. We need only look at the early teachers of Christianity to see how physical recollections, relationships, and relics were emphasized. Just consider the importance that Irenaeus, who contributed so much to the spread of Christian teaching in various lands in the first century, gave to the fact that his recollections extended back to those who had listened to the pupils of the Apostles. Great value was set upon being able to prove by means of such memories of physical life that Christ Himself had taught in Palestine. It was especially emphasized, for example, that Papias himself had sat at the feet of the Apostles’ pupils. Even the places where those personalities had sat who were still eye witnesses of the fact that Christ had lived in Palestine were pointed out and described. The continuing remembrance of physical happenings and places is what was especially emphasized in the early Christian centuries.

The great prominence that was given to everything of a physical nature can be seen in the words of the ancient Augustine, who says, “Why do I believe in the truths of Christianity? Because the authority of the Catholic Church compels me to.” The authority for the existence of something in the physical world is the important and essential thing to him. Thus, the determining factor for him is that a corporate body has been maintained that, linking personality with personality, reaches back to one, such as Peter, who was a companion of Christ. Here we can see that in the spread of Christianity during the early centuries it was the documents and the impressions of the physical plane to which the greatest importance was attached.

Now, after the time of Augustine, the situation changed. Up to the tenth, eleventh or twelfth centuries it was no longer possible to appeal to living memories, nor to draw upon the documents of the physical plane, which now lay too far in the past. Something entirely different also came into existence in the whole mood and disposition of the humanity that was then embracing Christianity. This was especially the case among Europeans. During that time, there was actually something like a direct knowledge of the existence of Christ, of His death on the cross and of His continuing life in the present. From the fourth or fifth centuries up to the tenth or twelfth there was a large number of people who would have considered it the greatest folly had they been told that the events of Palestine could be doubted because they knew better. They had always been able to experience inwardly in miniature a kind of Pauline revelation; that is, the experience through which Saul, on the road to Damascus, became a Paul.

What made it possible for a number of people in those centuries to be able to receive revelations, which were in a certain sense clairvoyant, concerning the events in Palestine? It was possible because the multiplied copies of the etheric body of Jesus of Nazareth had been preserved and were woven into a great number of people. They were able to wear them as garments that were woven into their etheric bodies. This was not Jesus’ own etheric body but copies of the original. In these centuries there were those who could possess such an etheric copy and who could thereby have a direct knowledge of Jesus of Nazareth and the Christ.

For this reason, the Christ picture became dissociated from external, historical, physical existence. A most extreme dissociation is presented in that wonderful work of the ninth century, the Heliand, a poem that was written down by an outwardly simple man of Saxony in the time of Ludwig the Pious, who reigned from 814 – 40. His astral body and ego could by no means equal what his etheric body contained because a copy of the etheric body of Jesus of Nazareth was woven into his etheric body. The simple Saxon pastor who wrote this poem had the certainty through direct clairvoyant vision that the Christ exists on the astral plane, and that He is the same as He who was crucified on Golgotha. Because this was a direct certainty for him, he no longer needed to cling to historical documents, nor did he need physical assurance that the Christ existed. He described Him, therefore, detached from the whole Palestinian setting, as something like a leader of a Middle European or Germanic tribe, and those who surrounded Him as His followers, the Apostles, he described as vassals of a Germanic prince. All external scenery was changed. Only what constitutes the structure of events, and the actually essential and eternal in the Christ figure remained. Having such a direct knowledge, which was built upon such an important foundation as the copy of the etheric body of Jesus of Nazareth, it was not necessary to hold rigidly to historical events when he was speaking of the Christ. Thus, he was able to invest his direct knowledge with a different external setting.

In the case of the writer of the Heliand we have been able to describe one of the strange personalities who had a copy of the etheric body of Jesus of Nazareth interwoven with his etheric body, and we could find other personalities in this period who had similar copies. We see here how the most important occurrences, with which we are able to explain history in an intimate way, take place behind the physical events.

If we follow Christian development further, we come to the period between the eleventh or twelfth centuries and the fifteenth. Here there was an entirely different mystery that now carried evolution forward. First, it was the memory of what had taken place on the physical plane; then it was the etheric element that was directly woven into the etheric bodies of the Christians of Middle Europe. In later centuries, from the twelfth to the fifteenth, it was especially the numerous copies of the astral body of Jesus of Nazareth that were woven into the astral bodies of the most important supporters of Christianity. The egos of such people were capable of forming false notions of all sorts of things, but immediate sources of strength and devotion and a direct certainty of sacred truths existed in their astral bodies. Such people possessed deep fervor, absolutely direct conviction and also in some circumstances the ability to prove this conviction. What must sometimes seem so strange to us is that in their ego development they by no means equaled what their astral bodies contained because copies of the astral body of Jesus of Nazareth were woven into them. What their egos did often seemed grotesque, but the world of their moods and feelings and fervor was grand and exalted.

Francis of Assisi, for example, was such a personality. This fact becomes explicable when we, as people of the present, study his life and are unable to understand his conscious ego, but are nevertheless compelled to hold the deepest possible reverence for the entire world of his feelings and for all that he did. He was one of those who had a copy of the astral body of Jesus of Nazareth, and it was this that made his accomplishments possible. Many of his followers in the Order of the Franciscans also had such copies interwoven with their astral bodies.

All the strange and otherwise mysterious phenomena of that time will become luminous and clear to you, if you bring properly before the eyes of your soul this mediation in world evolution between that time and the past. It is also important to know, however, whether what was woven into these people of the Middle Ages from the astral body of Jesus of Nazareth was more from what we call the sentient soul, the intellectual soul or the consciousness soul, since the astral body must, of course, be considered in a certain sense as something containing all of this as well as enclosing the ego. All that was woven into Francis of Assisi was wholly sentient soul of Jesus of Nazareth. Wholly sentient soul of Jesus of Nazareth was also contained in that remarkable personality, Elizabeth of Thüringen, who was born in 1207. Knowing this secret of her life will enable you to follow her biography with your soul. She, too, was a personality who had a copy of the astral body of Jesus of Nazareth woven into her sentient soul. The riddle of the human being is solved for us by means of just such knowledge.

One phenomenon above all will become understandable when you know that during this time the most diverse personalities had sentient soul, intellectual soul or consciousness soul woven into them as copies of the astral body of Jesus of Nazareth. From this you will be able to comprehend that little understood science, scholasticism. What task did the scholastics set for themselves? They set out to find, on the basis of judgment and intellect, verifications and proof of that with which there was no historical connecting link, and which was no longer available with the direct clairvoyant certainty that existed in previous centuries through the interwoven etheric body of Jesus of Nazareth. These people set themselves the task by saying, “It has been communicated to us through tradition that in history that Being appeared Who is known as Christ Jesus, and also that other spiritual beings of whom the religious documents bear witness have intervened in human evolution.” Then, from the intellectual soul, that is, from the intellectual element of the copy of the astral body of Jesus of Nazareth, they set themselves the task of proving with subtle and clearly developed concepts all that existed in their literature as mystery truths. Thus arose the strange science in which an attempt was made to achieve what was perhaps the ultimate in human intellect. One may think of the content of scholasticism as one wishes, but simply by means of this delicate discrimination and exact outlining of concepts, the capacity for human reflection was developed and impressed upon the culture of that period. This capacity to think with acute and searching logic through scholasticism was implanted into humanity between the thirteenth and fifteenth centuries.

Among those who were more imbued with the copy of what had constituted the consciousness soul of Jesus of Nazareth, the special conviction arose, because the ego functions in the consciousness soul, that the Christ can be found in the ego. Because they had within them the element of the consciousness soul from the astral body of Jesus of Nazareth, the inner Christ rose resplendent in their souls. These are the individuals whom you know as Meister Eckhart, Johannes Tauler and all the other bearers of medieval mysticism.

Here you see how the diversified phases of the astral body were multiplied because the exalted Avatar Being of Christ had entered into the body of Jesus of Nazareth, and they worked on in the following age to bring about the real development of Christianity. This was an important transition in other respects also. We have seen how in the course of its development humanity was dependent upon having incorporated within it copies of the other bodies of Jesus of Nazareth. In the early centuries there were people who were entirely dependent upon the physical plane; then in the following centuries came those to whom the etheric body of Jesus of Nazareth was accessible to interweave with their etheric bodies. Later, between the twelfth and fourteenth centuries, people tended more toward the astral body, the bearer of power and judgment, and so the astral body of Jesus of Nazareth came to be incorporated in them.

The awakening of the astral body can be observed also in another phenomenon. Before the twelfth century, the depths of mystery contained in the Holy Communion were especially well-understood. It was not widely discussed but was rather accepted in a manner that enabled one to feel all that was contained in the words, “This is My body and this is My blood.” Christ here indicated that he would be united with the earth, becoming its planetary Spirit. Because grain is the physical earth's most precious produce, bread became for man the body of Christ; the sap flowing through plants became something from His blood. Through this knowledge the value of the Lord's Supper was not diminished but was, on the contrary, enhanced. Something of these limitless depths was felt in these early centuries and it continued up to the time when the power of judgment awakened in the astral body. It was only then that disputes began about the Lord's Supper. Just consider the discussions as to what the Lord's Supper is intended to be that took place among the Hussites, Lutherans and the dissenting Zwinglians and Calvinists. This could not have been possible earlier when direct knowledge of the Lord's Supper still existed.

Here we see verified a great historical truth that should be of special importance to spiritual scientists. As long as people knew what the Lord's Supper was, they did not discuss it. In general, when people discuss, you can consider it a sign that they really have no knowledge of the subject they are discussing. Where knowledge exists, knowledge is imparted and there is no particular desire for discussion. Where there is desire for discussion, however, there is as a rule no knowledge of the truth. Discussion begins only when there is a lack of knowledge, and it is always and everywhere the sign of a decline regarding the seriousness of a subject when it is discussed. Disintegration of a particular trend is always proclaimed by discussions. It is important that in spiritual science we come increasingly to understand that the wish for discussion may really be taken as a sign of ignorance. On the other hand, the opposite of discussion, the will to learn, the will gradually to comprehend what is in question, should be cultivated.

Here we see an important historical fact verified by the development of Christianity itself. But we can also learn to see how, in these centuries of Christendom just described, the power of judgment, this acute intellectual wisdom residing in the astral body, is developed. Indeed, if we fix our attention on realities rather than dogmas, we can learn how much Christianity has accomplished since its inception.

When we consider scholasticism, not as to content, but as a means of cultivating and disciplining our faculties, what has become of it? It has become natural science. Modern natural science is entirely unthinkable without the Christian natural science of the Middle Ages. It is not only that Copernicus was a canon and Giordano Bruno a Dominican, but that the thought forms employed in the natural sciences since the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries are nothing but what was developed and nurtured by the scholastic science of the Middle Ages. Those people do not live in reality but in abstractions who look up passages in scholastic books, compare them with the statements made in recent natural science, and then say that Haeckel and others maintain something entirely different. Realities are what matter. The work of Haeckel, Darwin, du Bois-Reymond, Huxley and others would all have been impossible if the Christian scholastic science of the Middle Ages had not preceded them. The very fact that these scientists were able to think as they did, they owe to the Christianized science of the scholastics of the Middle Ages. That is the reality, and it is by this means that humanity has learned to think in the true sense of the word.

Furthermore, read David Friedrich Strauss. Try to observe the mode of his thinking; try to analyze his thought pictures and how he insists upon representing the life of Jesus of Nazareth as a myth. Do you know where the keenness of his thinking originates? He gets it from the Christian scholasticism of the Middle Ages. Everything used today to combat Christianity so radically has been learned from the Christian scholastic science of the Middle Ages. Actually, today there cannot be an opponent of Christianity of whom it cannot easily be pointed out that he would be unable to think as he does had he not learned the thought forms of the scholastic science of the Middle Ages. This, indeed, would be to observe world history in its reality.

What, then, has happened since the sixteenth century? The ego has come gradually into prominence, and with it human egotism, and with egotism, materialism. What the ego had previously acquired was unlearned and forgotten and it became necessary for man to limit himself to what the ego can observe, to what the physical sensory system is able to give to ordinary intelligence. That alone could the ego take into the inner sanctuary. The civilization since the sixteenth century is one of egotism. What must now enter into this ego? Christian evolution has passed through a development in the physical, etheric and astral bodies, and has penetrated as far as the ego. Now it must take into this ego the mysteries and secrets of Christianity. Following a time when the ego learned to think through Christianity and to apply the thoughts to the outer world, it must now be possible for it to be made into a Christ receptive organ. It must rediscover the primordial wisdom of the Great Avatar, Christ. By what means must this come about? By a more profound understanding of Christianity through spiritual science. Having been carefully prepared through the three stages of physical; etheric and astral development, the concern should now be that the organ within man be opened so that he may henceforth see into his spiritual environment with the eye that can be opened for him by the Christ.

As the greatest Avatar Being, Christ descended to earth. Let us view this in the right perspective and try to look at the world as we shall be able to see it when we shall have received the Christ into ourselves. We then find the whole process of our world evolution illuminated and pervaded by the Christ being. That is to say, we see how man's physical body gradually came into existence on Saturn, how the etheric body made its appearance on the Sun, on the Moon the astral body, and then on the earth, the ego. We find how everything tends toward the goal of becoming ever more independent and individual in order to incorporate into the evolution of the earth the wisdom that passes over from the Sun. In other words, the Christ and Christianity must become the perspective center of the cosmic view.

So you see how Christianity has gradually prepared itself for what it is to become. In the early centuries the Christian received Christianity with his physical capacity for knowledge, later with his etheric capacity, and throughout the Middle Ages with his astral capacity. Then for a time Christianity in its true form was repressed until the ego had been trained by the three bodies in the course of Christian development. But since this ego has learned to think and to direct its vision to the objective world, it is now capable also of seeing in all phenomena spiritual facts that are intimately connected with the Central Being, the Christ. It is capable of beholding the Christ everywhere in the most varied forms as the foundation of the objective world.

Here we stand at the starting point of spiritual scientific comprehension and knowledge of Christianity. We begin to understand the task and mission that has been assigned to this movement for spiritual knowledge, and we come to realize its reality. The individual human being has physical, etheric and astral bodies, and ego, and continues to rise to ever more lofty heights; it is the same in the historical development of Christianity. We might say that it, too, has physical, etheric and astral bodies, and an ego — an ego that can even deny its origin, as in our time, since it can become egotistic. But it is still an ego that can receive the true Christ Being into itself, thereby rising to ever higher stages of existence. What the human being is in particular, the great world is in its totality, and that includes its historical development. When observed in this light, a perspective of the far-distant future opens before us from the spiritual scientific viewpoint, and we realize how it can lay hold upon our hearts and fill them with meaning. We comprehend evermore what we have to do, knowing that we are not groping in the dark. We have not devised ideas that we intend arbitrarily to project into the future, but we intend to harbor and to follow only those ideas that have been slowly prepared through the centuries. It is true that, after the physical, etheric and astral bodies had come into existence, the ego appeared and is now to be developed little by little up to spirit self, life spirit and spirit man. It is also true that modern man, with his ego form and present thinking could only be developed from the astral, etheric and physical forms of Christianity. Christianity has now become ego. Just as truly as this was the development of the past, so it is also true that the ego form of humanity can appear only after the astral and etheric forms of Christianity have been developed. Christianity will develop on into the future. It will offer humanity far greater things and the Christian development and standard of life will arise in new form. The transformed astral body will appear as the Christian spirit self; the transformed etheric body will appear as the Christian life spirit. In a radiant perspective of the future of Christianity, spirit man shines forth before our souls like a star toward which we strive, illuminated and glowing through and through with the spirit of Christianity.

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