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The Fifth Gospel

The Fifth Gospel: Lecture IV

Rudolf Steiner


Lecture IV
Oslo, Norway
October 5, 1913


What is written at the end of the Gospel of John is a relief for me when I speak about the Fifth Gospel today. We remember at the end it states that in no way is everything that Christ Jesus did told, for if one wanted to tell of all the events there wouldn't be enough books in the world to contain them. So it cannot be doubted that in addition to what is described in books, much more can have occurred.

I would like to tell you about Jesus of Nazareth from the time he was twelve years old. As you know, it was the time when the I of Zarathustra, which was incarnated in one of the two Jesus children transferred, be means of a mystical act, into the other Jesus child, into the Jesus child described at the beginning of the Gospel of Luke. [See Note 1] So we will begin with the year in Jesus of Nazareth's life when the Jesus of the Luke Gospel received Zarathustra´s I. We know that the Gospel of Luke describes the moment when Jesus is said to have been lost and he is found again sitting with the scribes and how all were so astonished by the powerful answers he gave. We know, however, that these meaningful, powerful answers came from the fact that the spiritually veiled memory of the I of Zarathustra acted in a way to enable Jesus to give such surprising answers. We also know that due to the mother's death in one of the families and the father's death in the other, both families joined together and the Jesus boy who bore Zarathustra's I grew up in that unified family.

According to the Fifth Gospel it was a very special growing up period. At first his immediate neighbors had a most favorable opinion of him because of the surprising answers he gave in the temple. They saw the potential scholar (scribe) in him, one who could reach a high level of scholarship. They had great hopes for him and hung on his words. Nevertheless, he became ever more silent – so much so that they became ill-disposed to him. He, however, was engaged in an inner struggle, a mighty struggle in himself between his twelfth and eighteenth years. In his soul there was something like a rising up of the treasures of wisdom, as if the sum of the former Zarathustra-knowledge was rising in the form of Jewish scholarship.

At first the boy listened attentively to everything the many scribes/scholars said who came to his home in Nazareth, and was able to give exceptional answers. In the beginning he astonished those scribes who looked upon him as a wunderkind. But then he became more and more silent and listened without speaking to what the others said. At the same time great ideas, meaningful moral impulses arose in his soul. What he heard from the scribes at that time made an impression on him, but it was an impression which often left a trace of bitterness in his soul, because he had the feeling – already in those young years, mind you – that there was much uncertainty, things that could lead to error in what the scribes spoke based on the old tradition, from the old scriptures which are collected in the Old Testament. It was always depressing when he heard that in ancient times the spirit came over the prophets, that God himself had spoken to the old prophets and that now inspiration had abandoned the succeeding generations. But he paid special attention to one thing, because he felt that it would happen to him.

“Yes, that great spirit, that powerful spirit which came to Elias, for example, no longer speaks.” What did still speak, however, which many believed to be an inspiration from the spiritual heights, what still spoke was a weaker voice which some believed to hear as coming from the spirit of Jahveh himself. “Bath Kol” was the name given to that inspiring voice, although a weaker, lesser voice than that which inspired the ancient prophets, but nevertheless something similar. Some in Jesus' surroundings spoke thus of Bath Kol. Later Jewish scriptures also tell of this Bath-Kol. [See Note 2]

Now I will insert something into this Fifth Gospel which doesn't really belong, but will help to explain Bath Kol. Later on there was a conflict in two rabbinical schools, because the famous Rabbi Elieser ben Hirkano formulated a teaching and as proof of the teaching – the Talmud also describes this – he claimed that he could work miracles. He had a Carob tree rise from the earth and replant itself a couple of hundred feet away; he made a stream flow backwards, and as the third miracle he invoked a “voice from heaven” that his teaching would be made manifest. But this was not believed in the opposing rabbinical school of Rabbi Josia, who replied: “However much Rabbi Elieser has carob trees transplant themselves from one place to another, however much he makes streams flow upwards, or invoke Bath Kol – it is written in the Law that the eternal laws of being must be lain in the mouths of men and in the hearts of men. And if he wants to convince us, this Rabbi Elieser, he should not invoke Bath Kol, but he should invoke what human hearts can apprehend.”

I tell this story because we can see from it that soon after the introduction of Christianity Bath Kol was still held in a somewhat lesser esteem in certain rabbinical schools. But she [Bath=daughter; Kol=voice – ed.] had bloomed as an inspiring voice amongst rabbis and scribes.

While the young Jesus heard and felt all that, he was receiving inspiration through Bath Kol. What was remarkable was that by means of fecundation of his soul with the I of Zarathustra, Jesus was in fact capable of assimilating what the others around him knew. Not only that he could give the scribes such strong answers in his twelfth year, but he could also hear the Bath Kol in his own heart. But it was just the fact of this inspiration through Bath Kol that caused him to experience bitter inner struggles when he was sixteen, seventeen years old. For the Bath Kol revealed to him – and he believed it to be true – that in the continuation of the stream of the Old Testament, the same spirit which had spoken to the Jewish teachers of long ago would no longer do so. One day – and it was terrible for his soul – he believed that Bath Kol revealed to him the following: I no longer reach to the heights where the spirit can reveal to me the truth about the future of the Jewish people. It was a terrible moment when the Bath Kol seemed to reveal that she could not continue the old revelations, that she was incapable of continuing to inspire the old Judaism. Jesus of Nazareth felt the ground under his feet swept away, and many times he said to himself: All the soul powers with which I thought myself to possess only allow me to understand that in the evolutionary substance of Judaism no capacity remains to ascend to the revelations of the spirit of God.

Imagine ourselves for a moment in the soul of Jesus of Nazareth when such he experienced this. It was at the same time – in his sixteenth, seventeenth, eighteenth years – when he traveled, partly because of his trade, partly for other reasons. On those travels he got to know various regions of Palestine, and probably various places outside Palestine. At that time an Asiatic cult was propagated over the Middle East, and even in Europe, an Asiatic cult which was a mixture of many other cults, but which was mainly the Mithras cult – one can see this clearly when one clairvoyantly absorbs the Akasha Record. In many places in various regions temples for the Mithras rituals existed. In many places it was similar to the Attis ritual, but it was essentially the Mithras ritual. In a certain sense it was ancient paganism, but penetrated by the Mithan or Attis ceremonies. An example of the extent to which it spread is the fact that St. Peter's Cathedral in Rome stands on the same spot where a Mithras cult was previously celebrated. Yes, one must say what for many Roman Catholics will seem blasphemous: that the rituals of St. Peter's cathedral and everything which derives from them is in its outer form not unlike the old Attis ritual, on whose site St. Peter's stands.

Jesus of Nazareth learned about what was done in those sites when he began traveling around during his sixteenth, seventeenth, eighteenth years. And he continued doing so later. He learned to know the souls of the pagans through physical, outer observation. Because of the incorporation of the I of Zarathustra into his soul the capacity to do this developed in a natural way, something that others could only attain with great effort: clairvoyant power. He experienced in those pagan religious rituals something which others did not – shocking things. It may sound fantastic, but I must emphasize that when Jesus was present at certain pagan rituals as the priests carried out the ceremonies at the altars, he saw that demonic beings were attracted to them. He also discovered that many idols which they prayed to were not images of good spiritual beings, but of demonic powers. Yes, he also discovered that the demonic powers often merged with the faithful who were attending the services. It is not difficult to understand why these things are not described in the other gospels. And it is only now possible to speak about them in the confines of our spiritual movement, for human souls can only now, in our times, understand the enormously profound experiences which played out in the young Jesus of Nazareth.

His wandering continued into his twentieth, twenty-second, twenty-fourth years. He always felt bitterness in his soul when he saw the force of demons spawned by Lucifer and Ahriman and how paganism had gone so far as to take the demons for gods, even to depict wild demonic powers in idols, and the powers were attracted by these images and rituals and merged with the praying people, possessed them. They were bitter experiences, and they came to a climax when he was about twenty-four years old.

It was a new, difficult experience added to the Bath Kol disappointment. I must say that at this time I am not able to indicate at which place in his travels this experience took place, although it was possible for me to decipher the scene correctly to a large extent. Only the place is still unknown to me. It seems to me that the scene took place outside Palestine. Although I cannot say that with certainty, I must describe the scene.

In his twenty-fourth year Jesus of Nazareth came to a place where sacrifices were being made to a certain god at a pagan place of worship. Around it, however, were sad people affected by all kinds of terrible mental and physical illnesses. The place of worship had long since been abandoned by the priests. And Jesus heard the people wailing: “The priests have abandoned us and the blessings of the sacrifice do not come to us and we are leprous and sick because the priests have abandoned us.” Those people cried out to Jesus. Infinite love for these aggrieved people flared up in his soul. The people must have noticed something of this infinite love; it must have made a profound impression on those lamenting people who had been abandoned by their priests and, as they believed, by their gods. And then arose, instantaneously, in the hearts of most of them who saw the expression of infinite love on Jesus' face, the need to say: “You are the new priest sent to us.” They pushed him to the altar, they placed him at the pagan altar. He stood there and they demanded of him that he perform the offering in order that they receive the gods' blessings. While that happened, while they were pushing him to the altar, he fell down like dead, his soul left him and the people around him who thought their god was to come back saw that the one they took to be the new priest sent from heaven fell down as if dead. But Jesus of Nazareth's soul felt itself carried up to a spiritual height, to the realm of the sun. And now he heard, as if coming from the realm of the sun, words which he had previously often heard through Bath Kol. But now Bath Kol was transformed, had become something completely different. The voice also came from a different direction, and what Jesus of Nazareth heard, translated into our language, may be summarized by the words I was first able to pronounce when we recently laid the foundation stone of our building in Dornach. [See Note 3]

Occult obligations exist! And following one such occult obligation I disclosed what Jesus of Nazareth heard from the transformed voice of Bath Kol. He heard the words:

AUM, Amen!
Evil rules,
Witness of the severing I,
Selfhood's guilt by others owed,
In daily bread now felt,
In which heaven's will be not done,
For man deserted your kingdom,
And forgot your names,
You fathers in the heavens.

I cannot otherwise translate these words which Jesus of Nazareth heard from the transformed voice of Bath Kol. [See Note 4] Not otherwise! It was what the soul of Jesus of Nazareth brought back when he awoke again. And when he looked for the crowd of troubled and burdened people who had carried him to the altar, they had fled. And when he directed his clairvoyant gaze to the distance he could only see a horde of demonic beings united with those people.

That was the second meaningful event, the second meaningful climax of the various periods which Jesus of Nazareth lived through since his twelfth year. No, my dear friends, the events which made the strongest impression on the maturing Jesus of Nazareth were not of the pleasant kind which could have a happy effect on his soul. He had to encounter the depths of human nature before the baptism in the Jordan took place.

Jesus of Nazareth returned home from his travels. It was when his father, who had remained at home, died – when Jesus was about twenty-four years old. When Jesus came home his soul contained the powerful impression of the demonic forces which deeply influenced the pagan religions. But it is the case that one only reaches certain stages of higher knowledge by encountering the depths of life, and it was also so for Jesus of Nazareth that he – in a place that I don't know – when he was around twenty-four years old, saw so deeply into human souls, in souls in which were concentrated all the human sorrows of that time; he had also delved deeply into wisdom, which is like a red hot iron penetrating the soul. But it makes the soul so clairvoyant that it can see into the spiritual reaches of space. Thus was the relatively young soul of Jesus equipped with a calm, vivid ability to read the spirit. Jesus of Nazareth had become a person who could look more deeply into the secrets of life than any other earthly being, because no one previously had been able to observe how profound human misery can be. He had seen concentrated misery – how through religious ceremonies one can conjure all the demonic powers. Surely no other person on the earth had so deeply observed this human misery as Jesus of Nazareth had, none had such an infinitely deep feeling in his soul as he had when he saw those people possessed by demons. Surely no other was so prepared for the question: How, how can the spreading of this misery be prevented?

Thus Jesus of Nazareth became an initiate not only through the ability to see, and through wisdom, but also through life itself. That became known to people who at that time had come together in a certain order, which is known the world over as the Essene Order. The Essenes were people who cultivated a kind of secret rite and teachings at certain places in Palestine. It was a strict order. Whoever wanted to enter it had to first pass through a strict probation year, mostly longer. He had to show by his conduct, his culture, by his dedication to the highest spiritual powers, by his sense of justice and human equality, by his disregard for earthly possessions and so forth, that he was worthy to be initiated. Then there were various degrees which one passed through to reach a life determined by separation from normal humanity in a strict monastic discipline and by certain purification exercises through which all that was physically and spiritually unworthy was meant to be eliminated in order to approach the spiritual world. This was expressed in various symbolic laws of the Essene Order. Deciphering the Akasha Record shows that the word Essene derives from, or is at least related to the Hebrew word “essin” or “assin”, which means “shovel” or “trowel”, because the Essenes always carried a small trowel as an insignia, something that in many of today's orders has been retained. The Essenes' objectives were also expressed in certain symbolic practices – that they never carried coins, that they could not pass through gates which had been painted or were even close to graven images. As the Essene Order at that time enjoyed a certain degree of recognition, unpainted gates were made in Jerusalem so they could enter the city. If an Essene came to a painted gate he would have to turn back. The Order possessed ancient manuscripts and traditions, about whose contents the members were obliged to maintain strict silence. They could teach, but only what they had learned in the Order. All who entered the Order had to give all their possessions to the Order. The number of Essenes was four to five thousand. People came from all over the known world and observed the strict rules. Even if it was far away, in Asia Minor, or even farther, all property, a house for example, had to be given to the Order. So the Order possessed small properties from many places – houses, gardens, acres of land. None was admitted to membership who did not contribute everything he owned to the Essene community. Everything belonged to all, there was no personal ownership. A very strict rule for our present day mentality – but what was understandable was that the Essene could care for the needy with the goods belonging to the Order, except those who belonged to his own family.

There was an Essene community in Nazareth, made possible by a donation, so the Order was known to Jesus. At the Order's center they were aware of the wisdom which Jesus' soul possessed – especially among the most important members. They had what we can call a prophetic view that a Messiah must come to the world. Therefore they were on the lookout for especially gifted people. They were deeply impressed when they learned about Jesus of Nazareth. It is no surprise, then, that they accepted Jesus of Nazareth in their community – not as a member of the Order proper – more as a guest, without him having to pass the trials of the lower degrees. And the wisest Essenes were, in a certain sense trusting, open-hearted towards this wise young man in respect to their secrets. In fact Jesus of Nazareth heard more profound things about the secrets which were kept in that Order than from the scribes and scholars. He also heard much that he had previously learned through Bath Kol as an enlightenment which shone in his soul. In short, a lively exchange of ideas took place between Jesus of Nazareth and the Essenes. And Jesus of Nazareth learned almost everything that the Essenes were able to give during his 25th, 26th, 27th, 28th years, and beyond. For what was not communicated to him by words was expressed by all sorts of clairvoyant impressions. Jesus of Nazareth received important clairvoyant impressions either within the Essene community or a short time later at home in Nazareth, where a more contemplative life was possible; they penetrated his soul from powers which had come to him and which the Essenes had no idea, but which were experienced in his soul.

One of these experiences, these inner impressions, must be particularly emphasized, because it can cast light on the whole spiritual course of human evolution. It was a meaningful vision manifested by a kind of separation from his body in which the Buddha appeared to him directly. Yes, the Buddha appeared to Jesus of Nazareth as a consequence of the exchange of ideas with the Essenes. One can say that a spiritual conversation took place between Jesus and Buddha. We may and must touch upon this meaningful secret of human evolution today. In this meaningful spiritual conversation Jesus heard that the Buddha said something like this: "If my teaching, as it is, is completely fulfilled, then all men on earth must be like the Essenes. But that cannot be. That was the error in my teaching. The Essenes can only progress if they separate themselves from the rest of humanity; other human souls must be there for them. The fulfillment of my teaching would mean nothing but Essenes. But that cannot be." That was a meaningful experience, which Jesus of Nazareth had through his association with the Essenes.

Another experience was that Jesus of Nazareth made the acquaintance of a slightly younger man who had joined the Essene Order, but in an entirely different way than Jesus had, but who nevertheless did not completely become an Essene. He was John the Baptist, who lived as a lay brother within the Essene community. He dressed like the Essenes, who used clothing of camel's hair in winter, but he never completely exchanged Jewish teaching for Essene teaching. But the teachings and life of the Essenes made a great impression on him, so he lived the Essene life as a lay brother. He was stimulated and inspired and by and by became the John the Baptist described in the Gospels. Jesus of Nazareth and John the Baptist conversed often. One day – I know what it means to simply tell these things, but nothing can stop me; I also know that these things must be told – One day when Jesus of Nazareth was talking with John the Baptist, the physical body of the Baptist seemed to disappear and Jesus had a vision of Elias. That was the second meaningful experience in the Essene community.

But there were still other experiences. For a long time Jesus of Nazareth had observed something noteworthy. When he came to a place where imageless Essene gates were, Jesus of Nazareth couldn't pass through those gates without again having a bitter experience. He saw those imageless gates, but for him there were spiritual figures on the gates. To him appeared on both sides of those gates what we have learned to know from many spiritual scientific explanations under the names Ahriman and Lucifer. And gradually he became convinced that the Essenes' aversion to images on the gates had to have something to do with the attraction of such spiritual beings to them, that images on the gates were images of Lucifer and Ahriman. Jesus of Nazareth noticed this often.

When one experiences such things he doesn't dwell on them overmuch, for they are too shocking. One also soon feels that human thoughts are insufficient to understand them. One considers thoughts incapable of penetrating these things. But the impressions not only engrave themselves deeply on the soul, but become a part of the soul's life. One feels himself united to the part of his soul in which such experiences have been stored and carries them through life.

Thus Jesus of Nazareth carried through life the images of Lucifer and Ahriman which he had seen on the Essene gates. He also became aware that a secret existed between those beings and the Essenes. Since that experience, Jesus and the Essenes could no longer understand themselves well. For something lived in Jesus' soul about which he couldn't speak to the Essenes. What he had seen on the gates always injected itself into the conversations.

One day after an important conversation in which many sublime spiritual themes were discussed, as Jesus of Nazareth was leaving through the gates of the Essenes' main building he encountered the figures who he knew were Lucifer and Ahriman. He saw them fleeing from the gates of the Essene monastery ... and a question entered his soul, not as though he asked it himself, but a strong elemental force instilled in his soul the question: Where are Lucifer and Ahriman fleeing to? For he knew that the sanctity of the Essene monastery had caused them to flee. But the question remained: Where to?

The question burned like fire in his soul and he lived with it continuously during the following weeks. After that spiritual conversation when he left through the gates of the Essenes' main building, the question burned in his soul: Where did Lucifer and Ahriman flee to?

What he did under the influence of this question in his soul and having fallen on the pagan altar and heard Bath Kol's changed voice, and what it means – we'll speak of all that tomorrow.

[Note 1] —
These lectures were given to members of the Anthroposophical Society, who were familiar with Steiner's previous lectures and writings about the two Jesus children. Essentially, he maintained that the Gospels of Luke and of Matthew relate the birth and infancy of two different Jesus children, one descendent from the royal Jewish line – the Matthew Jesus; and the other descended from the priestly line – the Luke Jesus. (See the differing genealogies in these Gospels.) When they were 12 years old the Matthew Jesus died, but his “I” incorporated into the body of the other Jesus. See: From Jesus to Christ


[Note 2] — Bath Kol
bath'-kol, bath kol (bath qol, "the daughter of the voice"): Originally signifying no more than "sound," "tone," "call" (e.g. water in pouring gives forth a "sound," bath qol, while oil does not), sometimes also "echo." The expression acquired among the rabbis a special use, signifying the Divine voice, audible to man and unaccompanied by a visible Divine manifestation. Thus conceived, bath qol is to be distinguished from God's speaking to Moses and the prophets; for at Sinai the voice of God was part of a larger theophany, while for the prophets it was the resultant inward demonstration of the Divine will, by whatever means effected, given to them to declare (see VOICE). It is further to be distinguished from all natural sounds and voices, even where these were interpreted as conveying Divine instruction. The conception appears for the first time in Daniel 4:28) (English Versions 31) — it is in the Aramaic portion — where, however, qal = qol, "voice" stands without berath = bath, "daughter": "A voice fell from heaven." Josephus (Ant., XIII, x, 3) relates that John Hyrcanus (135–104 BC) heard a voice while offering a burnt sacrifice in the temple, which Josephus expressly interprets as the voice of God (compare Babylonian SoTah 33a and Jerusalem SoTah 24b, where it is called bath qol). In the New Testament mention of "a voice from heaven" occurs in the following passages: Matt. 3:17; Mark 1:11; Luke 3:22 (at the baptism of Jesus); Matt. 17:5; Mark 9:7; Luke 9:35 (at His transfiguration); John 12:28 (shortly before His passion); Acts 9:4; 22:7; 26:14; (conversion of Paul), and 10:13,15; (instruction of Peter concerning clean and unclean). In the period of the Tannaim (circa 100 BC–200 AD) the term bath qol was in very frequent use and was understood to signify not the direct voice of God, which was held to be super-sensible, but the echo of the voice (the bath being somewhat arbitrarily taken to express the distinction). The rabbis held that bath qol had been an occasional means of Divine communication throughout the whole history of Israel and that since the cessation of the prophetic gift it was the sole means of Divine revelation. It is noteworthy that the rabbinical conception of bath qol sprang up in the period of the decline of Old Testament prophecy and flourished in the period of extreme traditionalism. Where the gift of prophecy was clearly lacking — perhaps even because of this lack — there grew up an inordinate desire for special Divine manifestations. Often a voice from heaven was looked for to clear up matters of doubt and even to decide between conflicting interpretations of the law. So strong had this tendency become that Rabbi Joshua (circa 100 AD) felt it to be necessary to oppose it and to insist upon the supremacy and the sufficiency of the written law. It is clear that we have here to do with a conception of the nature and means of Divine revelation that is distinctly inferior to the Biblical view. For even in the Biblical passages where mention is made of the voice from heaven, all that is really essential to the revelation is already present, at least in principle, without the audible voice.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia —


[Note 3] —
This refers to the first Goetheanum, for which the foundation stone was laid in 1913.


[Note 4] —
This English translation (from German) is tentative because, for me at least, the German is enigmatic. (trans.)

AUM, Amen!
Es walten die Übel,
Zeugen sich lösender Ichheit,
Von andern erschuldete Selbsheitschuld,
Erlebet im täglichen Brote,
In dem nicht waltet der Himmel Wille,
Da der Mensch sich schied von Eurem Reich
Und vergass Euren Namen,
Ihr Väter in den Himmeln.


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