Yesterday we contemplated
the significance the Mystery of Golgotha has for human evolution on
our earth. But as every event in the world is connected through literally
endless interrelationships with the evolution of the whole cosmos, we
will fully understand the Mystery of Golgotha in its true essentiality
only by throwing light on its cosmic significance as well.
We already know that the
Being we designate the Christ Being descended to our earth from
supra-terrestrial regions and that It was seen in Its descent, so to speak:
in ancient Persia by means of the clairvoyant faculty of Zarathustra It was
perceived in the sun, then by Moses in the burning bush and in the fire on
Sinai, and finally by those who experienced the Christ event, in the
presence of the Christ in the body of Jesus of Nazareth.
We know further that the
events of this earth, and particularly the evolution of mankind, are
related to our solar system; for we have shown that the development
of humanity, in the form it has actually taken, could never have come
about had not a cosmic body, in which our present sun and moon were
still united with the earth, cast out first the sun and later the moon,
thereby establishing for the earth a sort of position of equilibrium
between sun and moon. Because man could not keep pace with the rapid
development of the beings who sought the sun as their field of action,
the earth had to be separated from the sun; and because a continued
union of earth and moon would have entailed a rapid hardening, an ossification,
for mankind, the moon, together with its substances and beings, had
to be cast out as well. This made it possible for humanity to develop
in the right way. But we learned yesterday that a certain remnant of
this tendency to rigidity has nevertheless remained; and it would have
sufficed to lead mankind into a state of corruption at the end of our
Earth evolution had the Christ impulse not come. These considerations
will give us an insight into our whole evolution.
At one time, then, sun,
moon, and earth constituted a single cosmic body. Then the sun split
off, leaving only earth and moon united.'Finally our present moon withdrew,
and the earth remained as the scene of human evolution. This occurred
in the old Lemurian time, the period preceding the so-called Atlantean
age which we have already discussed from various points of view. From
that time forth, from the Atlantean into our own time, the earth has
deve9oped in such a way that the sun and the moon forces have acted
from without. Let us now consider the further progress of earth development
up to the entry of the Christ impulse, and let us concentrate on a quite
definite moment of our earth development: the moment in which the Cross
was raised on Golgotha and the blood flowed from the wounds of Christ
Jesus. Let us focus our attention on this moment in the evolution of
Up to this point all that
mankind had experienced had been determined by the entry, into the inner
being of man, of the combined powers of the Luciferic and Ahrimanic
beings; and we have seen that as a consequence of this intrusion man
became amalgamated with the outer world in maya, or illusion: Ahriman
prevented the outer world from manifesting itself in its true form,
making it appear like a world consisting only of matter and solid substance
— as though no spirit underlay all matter. For a long time, therefore
— and this is still the case today regarding many factors in earth
development — the human being was placed in a state brought about
by error, because he receives from his environment only the material
sense impressions which he then elaborates in his conceptions. So by
reason of this influence of Ahriman, or Mephistopheles, he has a false
picture of the outer world and forms illusory and erroneous conceptions
of the spiritual world.
But all spirit is bound
up with physical effects, and we have seen what physical effects accompanied
this distortion of outward perception. We have seen that, as a consequence
of the Luciferic and Ahrimanic influences, human blood became ever less
fitted to provide the faculty of seeing the outer world in its true
light: a steady aggravation of illusion was bound up with the blood's
deterioration, with the dissolution of blood as it had been in the age
of consanguinity, with the dispersion and killing off of blood by commingling
it. No longer could men consult the old wisdom they had once possessed
as a legacy, a wisdom that told them: It is an error to believe that
the outer world is nothing but matter; for if you consult the remnants
of the old wisdom you inherited, these will tell you that a spiritual
world underlies the physical world.
But these remnants kept
dwindling, with the result that man became ever more dependent upon
the physical world in regard to his entire soul life and his knowledge.
That is what transformed all his physical impressions into delusions
and deceptions; and had it not been for the intervention of the Christ
influence he would ultimately have lost his whole heritage of ancient
wisdom by being gradually reduced to complete dependence upon the outer
sense world and its impressions. He would have forgotten the existence
of a spiritual world — that is what would inevitably have occurred:
he would have become blind to the spiritual world.
It is now incumbent upon
us to consider in all its gravity a truth such as this: the danger of
man falling into ever greater delusion and error concerning the outer
world. It is not a simple matter to do this — to contemplate in
all its implications and its seriousness such a fact as man's lapse
into error regarding the outer impressions of the sense world. Try to
understand what it means to recognize as maya, as delusion,
all external impressions of the senses as they confront us in the physical
sense world. We are asked to learn that phenomena and impressions, as
they exist in the sense world and as they impress us, are false; and
that we must learn to see their true form behind the external impressions
There is one event to
which it is especially difficult, as a rule, to apply the truth, to
say to oneself: The form in which it confronts me in the outer world
is untrue, is illusion — maya. Can you think what event I have
in mind? It is death. As a result of the sort of impressions we have
described, our comprehension has come to grasp only external physical
events; and for this reason death, when faced in the physical world,
bears certain attributes that render it impossible of contemplation
other than from the standpoint of the outer physical world. Death is
a phenomenon concerning which mankind has inevitably become entangled
in particularly erroneous and fatal views; and the inference we must
draw from this is that the form in which death presents itself is but
maya — a delusion.
Before our eyes in the
outer physical world a great variety of phenomena present themselves.
There are the stars that intersperse cosmic space, yonder, the mountains,
the plants, the animals; here is the world of our minerals, and here,
too, we have man, together with all the facts we can gather by means
of sense observation. And if we enquire into the origin of these phenomena,
of this outer physical-sensible world which appears to us as a world
of matter, we must answer, Their origin is in spirit: spirit underlies
our physical-sensible world. Then, were we to seek the primordial form
of spirit from which springs all that is physical and of the senses,
we could not regard it as other than the basis of all being. In Christian
esotericism this is the aspect of divinity known as the Father principle.
It underlies everything that is creature. So what exactly is it that
was hidden from man when all things became obscured by maya, or illusion?
It was the divine Father principle. Instead of the mirage of the senses,
man should see everywhere and in all things the divine Father principle,
of which all things and he himself are a part. The Father principle,
then, does not appear in its true form. Because of the decline in human
faculties, of which we have spoken, we see the Father principle veiled
by delusion, by maya.
What do we find woven into this great delusion? Among all the phenomena
we perceive, one stands out as essentially fundamental: death. Therefore
we should tell ourselves that the outer objects confronting our senses
are in reality the Father principle, are expressions of the divine-spiritual
Father element. And since death is interwoven in the totality of the
sense world, it is something that pertains to the divine-spiritual Father
principle. Owing to the nature of man's development the divine Father
principle has become obscured for him by many a veil, and ultimately
by the veil of death. What must man seek? The Father, the cosmic Father;
and just as he must learn to think of every object as being in truth
the Father, so he must come to feel that death, too, is the Father.
And why does a false picture of the Father appear to us in the physical
sense world? Why is it distorted into the grotesque image appearing
to us so deceptively as death? Because the Lucifer-Ahriman principle
has been infused into every phase of our life.
What was needed, therefore,
to disabuse man of this false, deceptive view of death and to provide
a true conception of it was enlightenment arrived at by means of the
facts in the case. Something had to occur whereby he could learn that
what he had known about death, what he had felt about it — everything
he had been impelled to do as a result of his conception of death —
was untrue. An event had to take place which would show him the true
aspect of death: its false form must be obliterated and its true one
set forth. To substitute, through His deed, the true aspect of death
for the false one, that was Christ's mission on earth.
It was owing to the interference
of Lucifer-Ahriman in human evolution that death became the distorted
image of the Father. Death was the consequence, the effect, of the influence
of Lucifer-Ahriman. So what had to be done by Him Who would rid the
world of this false face of death? Never could human life be released
from this distorted form of death had not its source been removed —
Lucifer-Ahriman. But that is something no earthly being could have accomplished.
An earthly being can extinguish, within earth development, anything
brought about by earthly beings themselves, but not the Luciferic-Ahrimanic
influence. This could be driven out only by a being that had not been
on the earth but out in cosmic space when Lucifer-Ahriman intervened,
a being that came to earth at a time when Lucifer-Ahriman had already
fully entered the human body.
Now, this Being did come
to earth and removed Lucifer-Ahriman, as we have seen, at exactly the
right moment — eliminated the cause of all that had brought death
into the world. This deed called for a Being having nothing whatever
to do with any causes of death among men. It had to be a being in no
way connected with any cause of human death — that is, with anything
brought about by Lucifer and later by Ahriman, with any individual human
deeds done under the Lucifer-Ahriman influence — in short, with
anything whereby men became guilty, fell a prey to evil. For the death
of a being affected by any of these causes would have been justified.
Only an undeserved death, undertaken by one without guilt — an
utterly innocent death — could extinguish all guilty death.
An innocent Being, accordingly,
had to suffer death, wed death, submit to death; and by so doing He
infused into human life those forces which will gradually create knowledge
concerning the true aspect of death; that is, the realization that death
as it appears in the sense world is not truth — that on the contrary,
this death had to occur to provide for life in the spiritual world;
that precisely this death forms, in fact, the basis of that life.
Thus the innocent death
on Golgotha furnished the proof, which will gradually be comprehended
by humanity, that death is the ever-living Father. And once we have
achieved the right view of death, once we have learned from the event
of Golgotha that external dying is of no importance, that in the body
of Jesus of Nazareth there dwelt the Christ with Whom we can unite;
once we have realized what Christ achieved, even though we see the image
of death hung on the Cross, in rendering death a mere external event,
that His life in the etheric body was the same before death as it was
after this death, and that therefore this death cannot touch life —
once we have understood that here is a death incapable of extinguishing
life but is, rather, itself life, then the Christ on the Cross becomes
the eternal emblem of the truth that death is in reality the giver of
life. The plant comes forth from the seed: death is not the destroyer
of life, but its seed. It has been sown in our physical sense world
in order that the latter may not fall away from life, but may be raised
into life. The refutation of death had to be furnished on the Cross
by a contradictory death, by a death that was innocent.
We must now enquire what,
exactly, was brought about by this event. From the previous lectures
we know that as the fourth principle of his being man has an ego, and
that as this develops, the blood is its outer physical instrument. Blood
is the expression of the ego, hence with its steady deterioration the
ego fell to an ever increasing extent into error, into maya, or illusion.
Hence, also, man is indebted for the growing power of his ego to the
circumstance that he is provided with blood. But this ego, in turn,
he owes in its spiritual aspect to the fact of his having learned to
distinguish himself from the spiritual world, of his having become an
individuality. This capacity could not have been bestowed upon him otherwise
than by temporarily cutting off his view of the spiritual world; and
the agency that effected this was precisely death. Had man always known
that death is the seed of life he would not have achieved independence
for his ego, for he would have remained linked with the spiritual world.
As it was, however, death appeared, gave him the illusion of being separated
from the spiritual world, and so trained his ego to independence.
This ego principle, however,
grew more and more independent: it exaggerated its independence, strained
it past a certain point; and this condition could be counteracted only
by the withdrawal of the force which had caused it. Hence the factor
which would have induced exaggerated egotism, which would have fostered
not merely the ego principle, egoism, but egotism — this factor
had to be driven out. And this was accomplished in such a way that in
the future it can be more and more eradicated from the individual egos
as well: it was accomplished when death came on the Cross of Golgotha
and the blood flowed from the wounds. In the blood flowing from Christ's
wounds we have the factual symbol of the excessive egotism in the human
ego. Just as blood is the expression of the ego, so the blood that flowed
on Golgotha is the expression of excess in the human ego. Had not the
blood flowed on Golgotha, man would have become spiritually hardened
in his egotism and would have been doomed to the fate we described yesterday.
But the blood that flowed on Golgotha gave an impetus for the gradual
disappearance of the force that makes an egotist of the ego.
But every physical event
has its spiritual counterpart, and as the blood flowed from the wounds
on Golgotha there occurred a corresponding spiritual event: at this
moment it happened for the first time that rays streamed forth from
the earth into cosmic space, where formerly there had been none. We
must visualize, then, as created at this moment, rays streaming from
the earth into cosmic space. Darker and darker had the earth become
with the passing of time — up to the event on Golgotha. Now the
blood flows on Golgotha — and the earth begins to radiate light.
If in pre-Christian time
some clairvoyant being had been able to observe the earth from a distant
cosmic body he would have seen the earth's aura gradually fading out,
and darkest immediately preceding the event on Golgotha. Then, however,
he would have seen it shine forth in new colors. The deed on Golgotha
suffused the earth with an astral light that will gradually become an
etheric and then a physical light. Every being in the world continues
to evolve. What is today the sun was first a planet; and just as the
old Saturn became a Sun, so our earth, now a planet,
will gradually develop into a sun. The first impetus in this direction
was given when the blood flowed from the wounds of our Redeemer on Golgotha.
The earth began to shine — for the time being astrally, visible
only to the seer; but in the future the astral light will become physical
light and the earth will be a luminous body, a sun body.
I have explained repeatedly
that no new cosmic body comes into being through the agglomeration of
physical matter, but through the creation, by a spiritual being, of
a new spiritual center, a new sphere of activity. The formation of a
cosmic body begins in spirit. Every physical cosmic body was first spirit.
What our earth will ultimately become consists at present of the astral
aspect of its aura which began to ray forth from the earth at the time
we are here considering: that is the first nucleus of the future sun-earth.
But what a man of that time would have perceived with his misleading
senses is a phantom: that has no truth, it dissolves, it ceases to be;
and the farther the earth moves toward its sun state, the more will
this maya be consumed and perish in the fire of the sun. But through
having been suffused at that time with a new force, through the newly
created possibility for the earth to become a sun, it became possible
as well for this same force to permeate man. This was the first impulse
toward what I described yesterday: the radiating of the Christ force
into the etheric human body; and thanks to the streaming in of this
astral force it could start absorbing new vitality such as it will need
in the distant future.
So if you will visualize
the period in which the event of Golgotha occurred and then compare
it with a later period — that is, if you compare a future condition
of humanity with that which prevailed at the time of the event of Golgotha
— you will find that at the time the Christ impulse intervened,
the earth of itself had nothing left to infuse into the etheric bodies
of men. Some time later, however, the etheric bodies of those who had
found a contact with the Christ impulse were irradiated: men who understood
the Christ absorbed the radiant force that has been in the earth ever
since — the earth's new radiance. They have taken the light of
Christ into their etheric bodies. The Christ light streams into the
etheric bodies of men.
And here we must ask,
What takes place, now that there is always something of the Christ light
in human etheric bodies? What occurs in that part of the etheric body
in which the Christ light has been received? What happens to it after
death? What is it, in short, that gradually permeates the etheric body
as a result of the Christ impulse? It is the possibility that was given
at that time, as an effect of the Christ light, for something new to
appear, something living and breathing and immortal, something that
can never perish in death. While men on earth are still misled by the
illusory image of death, this new factor will nevertheless be rescued
from death, will have no part in it.
Ever since that time,
then, the human etheric body has held something that is not subject
to death, to the death forces of the earth. And this something which
does not die with the rest, and which men gradually achieve through
the influence of the Christ impulse, now streams back again —
out into cosmic space; and in proportion to its intensity in man it
generates a certain force that flows out into cosmic space. And this
force will in turn create a sphere around our earth that is in the process
of becoming a sun: a sort of spiritual sphere is forming around the
earth, composed of the etheric bodies that have come alive. The Christ
light radiates from the earth, but there is also a kind of reflection
of it that encircles the earth. What is here reflected as the Christ
light, appearing as a consequence of the Christ event, this is what
Christ called the Holy Spirit. Just as the event of Golgotha provided
the first impetus for the earth to become a sun, so it is true that
beginning with this event the earth began to be creative, surrounding
itself with a spiritual ring which, in turn, will in the future develop
into a sort of planet circling the earth.
Thus a momentous process
that commenced with the event of Golgotha has since been unfolding in
the cosmos. When the Cross was raised on Golgotha and the blood flowed
from the wounds of Christ Jesus, a new cosmic center was created. We
were present when that occurred: we were present as human beings, whether
in a physical body or outside this physical life between birth and death.
That is the way new worlds come into being; and we must comprehend that
while we behold the dying Christ we stand in the presence of the genesis
of a new sun.
Christ espouses death,
which on earth had become the characteristic expression of the Father
Spirit. Christ goes to the Father and unites with His manifestation,
death — and the image of death is seen to be false, for death
becomes the seed of a new sun in the universe. If we feel this event,
if we can sense this unmasking of death and realize that the death on
the Cross becomes the seed from which a new sun will germinate, then
we shall understand why mankind on earth must have felt and conceived
of it as the supreme transition in human evolution.
There was once a time
when men still possessed a vague, dim clairvoyance. They lived in a
spiritual element; and as they looked back upon their lives —
from their thirtieth to their twentieth year, from the twentieth to
the tenth, and so on back to their birth — they knew that they
had come to this birth from divine-spiritual heights. For them birth
was not a beginning: as spiritual beings they saw not only their birth
but their death as well, and they knew that something of spirit dwelt
within them which this death could not touch. Birth and death in their
present meaning did not exist as yet: they came later, and they acquired
their untrue, deceptive form in the outer image of the Father. Death
became the characteristic feature of this external aspect of the Father.
Then men, in contemplating
death, saw it apparently destroying life, and death became more and
more an image representing the contrast to life. Though life brought
a large measure of suffering, death was considered the greatest suffering
of all. What view of death must have been held by one who saw earth
events from without, saw how these earth events were reflected in humanity
before the appearance of the Christ? If he had descended from divine-spiritual
heights as a higher being with views differing from those of men, he
would have been constrained, in contemplating mankind, to speak as Buddha
spoke. This Buddha had come forth from his royal palace where he had
been reared, and where he had seen only what elevates life. Now, however,
as he came forth, he saw a suffering human being, then an aged man,
and finally even a dead man. These experiences wrung from him the utterance:
“Sickness is suffering, old age is suffering, death is suffering.”
That is indeed the way it was felt by men; and in these words the common
feeling burst forth from the great soul of Buddha.
Then Christ appeared.
And then, after the lapse of another six hundred years — just
as six hundred had passed between Buddha and Christ — there were
those who understood, when envisioning the Cross and the dead Man upon
it, that what hung upon the Cross was the symbol of that seed from which
springs forth life in abundance. They had learned to sense the true
nature of death. Christ espoused death, entered this death that had
become the characteristic expression of the Father, united with this
death; and from the union of Christ Jesus and death sprang the inception
of a new life sun. It is a false picture that shows death as synonymous
with suffering: it is maya, illusion. Death, if permitted to
approach us as it did Christ, is in reality the germ of life; and in
the course of future ages men will come to recognize this. What men
will contribute to a new sun and a new planetary system will be proportionate
to what they receive of the Christ impulse and then give of themselves
in sacrifice, thus steadily adding to the radiance of the sun of life.
Here the objection might
be raised, So says spiritual science; but how can you reconcile a cosmology
of that sort with the Gospel?— Christ enlightened those who were
His disciples; and in order to prepare them for the most comprehensive
revelations He employed the method that is indispensable if the loftiest
truths are to be adequately understood: He spoke to His disciples in
parables or, as it is worded in the German Bible, in “proverbs”
(Sprichwörter) — that is, in transcriptions and parables.
Then came the time when the disciples, having steadily matured, believed
themselves able to receive the truth without its being clothed in proverbs;
and the moment arrives in which Christ Jesus is prepared to talk to
His apostles without proverbs, without parables. The apostles craved
to hear the name, the significant name, for the sake of which He had
come into the world.
Hitherto have ye asked
nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be
full. These things have I spoken unto you in parables: but the time
cometh, when I shall no more speak unto you in parables, but shall shew
you plainly of the father.
Try to feel the moment approaching in which
He would speak to His disciples of the Father.
At that day ye shall ask
in my name: and I say not unto you, that I will pray to the Father for
For the Father Himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have
believed that I came out from God.
I came forth from the Father ...
He had, of course, come forth from the Father's
true form, not from the deceptive image.
I came forth from the Father, and am come into
the world: again, I leave the world, and go to the Father.
Now it dawns upon the
disciples, whose understanding had ripened, that the world as it surrounds
them is the expression of the Father, and that what is most significant
precisely where the outer world is most densely shrouded in maya, in
illusion, is equally the expression of the Father: that Death is the
name for the Father. That is what came to them in a flash of comprehension.
Only, the passage must be read aright.
His disciples said unto him, Lo, now speakest
thou plainly, and speakest no parable. Now are we sure that thou
knowest all things, and needest not that any man should ask thee:
by this we believe that thou camest forth from God.
Jesus answered them, Now ye believe.
Behold, the hour cometh, yea, is now come,
that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave
me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me.
These things have I spoken unto you, that in
me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation:
but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.
Did the disciples know
whither He was about to depart? Yes, from now on they knew that He would
go to meet death, to wed death. — And now read again what He said
to them after they had learned the meaning of the words: “I came
forth from death”— that is, from death in its true form,
the life-Father — “and am come into the world: again, I
leave the world, and go to the Father.” And to this the disciples
replied: “Now are we sure that thou knowest all things, and needest
not that any man should ask thee: by this we believe that thou camest
forth from God.”
Now the disciples knew
that the true form of death bases in the divine Father Spirit; that
death as it is seen and felt by men is a deceptive phenomenon, an error.
Thus Christ reveals to His disciples the name of death behind which
is hidden the fount of transcendent life. Never would the new life sun
have come into being had not death entered the world and been overcome
by Christ. Death, therefore, when contemplated in its true form, is
the Father; and Christ came into the world because a false reflection
of this Father had arisen in the aspect of death. Christ came to create
the true form, a true image of the living Father-God. The Son is the
issue of the Father, and His mission was to reveal the true form of
the Father. Verily, the Father sent His Son into the world that the
true nature of the Father be made manifest: life eternal, veiled behind
All this is not a mere
cosmology of spiritual science: it is what is needed to extract the
full, profound import from the Gospel of St. John; and he who wrote
that Gospel thereby established, so to speak, the loftiest truths of
which he could say,
In these mankind will
find sustenance for all future time.
And in proportion as mankind
learns to understand and practice these truths it will attain to a new
wisdom and will grow into the spiritual world in a new way. But as this
will come about only by degrees, it was necessary that in the meantime
the guides of Christian development should provide for the creation
of what may be called auxiliary books to function side by side with
the Gospel of St. John, books not intended only for the most willing
and understanding — such as is the John Gospel, meant as a legacy
of Christ for all eternity — but suitable for the immediate present.
Thus there appeared in
the first place a book from which people of the first Christian centuries
could learn, in the measure of their understanding, the essence of what
they needed to comprehend the Christ event. Even here, of course, there
were but few in proportion to the whole of mankind who could glean from
this auxiliary book the exact nature of what it contained for them.
This first book of its kind, not intended for the innermost circle but
still for the chosen ones, was the Gospel of St. Mark. This Gospel embodies
precisely those features that held an intimate appeal, so to speak,
for a certain type of understanding then prevalent (we shall come back
to this). Then it gradually became less intelligible, human comprehension
turning more in the direction of seeing most clearly the full force
of Christ in its inner value for the soul and in a certain contempt
for the outer physical world.
Next followed a period
in which men were imbued with the feeling: 'Worthless are all temporal
goods; true riches are found only in the properly developed inner self
of man. This was also the time in which, for example, Johannes Tauler
wrote his book,
Von armen Leben Kristi
(The Pitious Life of Christ):
the time in which the Gospel of St. Luke was the one best understood.
Luke, a disciple of Paul, was one of those who gave Paul's own gospel
a form adapted to the time, stressing the “pitious life”
of Jesus of Nazareth, born in a stable among poor shepherds. We recognize
das arme Leben Kristi as mirroring the account in the Luke
Gospel, a second subsidiary book for the further development of humanity.
In our time there will
be those who can best learn what they are able to understand, as it
accords with our age, from the Gospel of St. Matthew. People of our
period, though perhaps referring less frequently to the name “Matthew,”
will nevertheless select more and more what corresponds with the Matthew
Gospel. The time will come when people will point out that it is impossible
to understand the supersensible events that took place at the Baptism
in the Jordan, as we have described them. That is an understanding which
will come to many only in the future. We are approaching an epoch in
which He Who, in the thirtieth year of His Life, received the Christ
into Himself, will be increasingly thought of as“the simple man
of Nazareth” — even by theological research.
Those who feel this way
about it, those to whom the simple man of Nazareth is of supreme importance
and who attach less significance to the Christ than to the lofty initiate
— those, in short, who want Jesus of Nazareth — will feel
the Matthew Gospel to be preeminently significant, at least in its import.
A materialistically thinking age can say: We open the Matthew Gospel
and find a genealogic record, a table of heredity that shows us the
ancestors of Jesus of Nazareth chronologically. It runs from Abraham
down through three times fourteen generations to Joseph; and we are
told that Abraham begat Isaac, Isaac begat Jacob, and so on and so forth.
It runs to Joseph and Jesus of Nazareth; and the reason this is stated
is to make quite clear the possibility of tracing back to Abraham the
physical line of heredity of that body into which Jesus of Nazareth,
as an individual, had been born. Leave out Joseph, and the whole table
becomes meaningless. To speak of a supersensible birth in the face of
this table robs the latter of every vestige of sense; for why should
the writer of the Matthew Gospel take the trouble to trace a line of
ancestry through three times fourteen generations if he intended to
follow this by saying that in respect of the physical flesh Jesus of
Nazareth was not descended from Joseph? The only way in which the Gospel
of St. Matthew can be understood is by stressing the fact that through
Joseph the individuality of Jesus of Nazareth was born into a body which
had actually descended from Abraham. The purpose of this table was to
emphasize the impossibility of omitting Joseph, within the meaning of
the Matthew Gospel; and it follows that neither can Joseph be ignored
by those who fail to understand the supersensible birth in the sense
of the Baptism in the Jordan.
But the Matthew Gospel
was originally written in a community which placed the greatest value
not upon Christ, but upon the individuality that stood before men in
the person of Jesus of Nazareth, the initiate. Underlying the Matthew
Gospel was the initiate wisdom known to the Ebionite Gnostics, and this
Gospel bases upon a document from that source as its model. Prime importance
was placed on the initiate, Jesus of Nazareth; and all else connected
with the matter becomes far clearer still by reason of its being embodied
in the Ebionite gospel. But this is precisely what makes possible a
certain approach to the Matthew Gospel — one which is not exactly
demanded by it, for actually it is not implied, but which can be read
into it: The Gospel of St. Matthew may be interpreted as implying that
we are not dealing here with a supersensible birth. On the other hand,
what is presented in the Matthew Gospel may be regarded as the symbol
of a God — one who is simply called a God, one who, as a God,
is really only a human being — even though this was not what Matthew
meant. But those who nowadays base their standpoint upon Matthew —
and they will do so more and more — will interpret the matter
in that way.
In order that no man wishing
to approach the Christ may be denied the opportunity of doing so, the
Matthew Gospel provides for those who are unable to rise from Jesus
to Christ: it is a rung in the ladder which they can ascend to Jesus
of Nazareth. The mission of spiritual science, however, is to guide
men upward to an understanding of the Gospel of Gospels, the Gospel
of St. John. Every other Gospel should be regarded as complementary
to it. In the John Gospel are to be found the reasons for the existence
of the others, and we shall understand these aright only by studying
them on the basis of the John Gospel.
A study of the Gospel
of St. John will lead to a comprehensive understanding of what took
place on Golgotha; to an understanding of the Mystery by means of which
death, in the untrue form it had assumed in human evolution, was refuted.
And men will further learn to grasp the fact that through the deed of
Golgotha, not only was it revealed to human cognition that death is
in reality the source of life, but man was provided with an attitude
toward death which permitted him to infuse more and more life into his
own being, until ultimately it will become wholly alive — that
is, until he will be able to rise from all death, until he has overcome
death. That is what was revealed to Paul when he saw the living Christ
on the road to Damascus — when he knew: Christ liveth —
as he gazed with his newly found clairvoyance into what constituted
the environment of the earth. As an Old-Testament initiate he knew that
until then the earth had lacked a certain light, but now he saw that
light in it; hence the Christ was present; hence also, He Who had hung
on the Cross was the Christ in Jesus of Nazareth.
Thus there came to Paul,
on the road to Damascus, an understanding of what had taken place on