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The Gospel of St. John

Gospel of John: Lecture XI: The Harmonization of the Inner Forces of Man through the Christ-Impulse.


The lectures thus far given in this cycle should have made it abundantly clear that spiritual-scientific research reveals the Christ event as the most supremely vital one in the entire evolution of mankind, that we must recognize it as having introduced a wholly new strain into the totality of Earth evolution. We learned that something completely new entered this evolution of mankind through the Mystery of Golgotha, through the event of Palestine and everything connected with it before and after, and that human evolution must needs have taken a totally different course had the Christ event not intervened. — If we are to understand the Mystery of Golgotha we must further examine some of the intimate details of the gradual approach of the Christ Being itself; but naturally, even fourteen lectures do not suffice to tell all there is to be told about a subject embracing the whole world. The author of the John Gospel pointed this out when he said that there was much more to be told, but that the world could not produce enough books to tell it. So you will not expect fourteen lectures to mention everything connected with the Christ event and with its narration in the Gospel of St. John and in the other, related ones.

Yesterday and the day before we learned how the dwelling of the Christ Spirit, the Christ Individuality, in the threefold sheath of Jesus of Nazareth gradually made possible all that is described in the John Gospel up to and including the chapter on the Raising of Lazarus. Thus we saw that Christ's task was the gradual development of the threefold corporeality — the physical, the etheric, and the astral body — that had been offered up to Him by the lofty initiate Jesus of Nazareth. But in order to understand exactly what Christ wrought in this threefold sheath we must first get a clear picture of the interrelationship, in man, of the three principles of his being. Hitherto we have only indicated in rough outline that in the waking state the physical body, the etheric or life body, the astral body, and the ego are seen by clairvoyant conciousness as interpenetrating each other, forming an interpermeating whole, and that at night the physical and etheric bodies remain in bed, while the astral body and the ego are withdrawn. Today, in order to describe the Mystery of Golgotha more closely, we must enquire more fully into the exact nature of this inter-permeation of the four principles of the human being during day consciousness; that is, in just what manner the ego and astral body enter the etheric and physical bodies upon awakening in the morning. I can best make this clear by means of a diagram.

Diagram 1

Suppose that in this drawing we had, down here, the physical body, and above it, the etheric body. In the morning, when the astral body and the ego re-enter the physical bodies from the spiritual world, this comes about in such a way that in the main (I beg you to take this qualification seriously) the astral body enters the etheric body, and the ego the physical body. In this drawing, then, the horizontal lines stand for the astral and etheric bodies, the vertical lines for the ego and the physical body.

I said “in the main” because naturally everything in the human being is interpenetrative: the ego, for example, is in the etheric body as well as elsewhere, and so on; but what is referred to here is the principal, the essential interpenetration, and the manner in which the latter prevails most completely can be represented by the diagram.

Next we must enquire, What, exactly, occurred at the Baptism? We have said that the ego of Jesus of Nazareth abandoned His physical, etheric, and astral bodies, leaving this threefold sheath for the Christ Being; so what remained of Jesus of Nazareth we can show in diagram as His physical, etheric, and astral bodies. The ego abandoned the physical body, and in place of the ego of Jesus of Nazareth there entered into this threefold sheath — occupying principally the physical body, though again not exclusively — the Christ Being.

Diagram 2

Here we indeed touch the fringe of a deep mystery; for if we consider what really took place at this point we realize that it bears on all the immense complexities of mankind which we have indicated in the last lectures. I told you that everything people have in common, the generic factor, so to speak, in man within a certain group, is to be found in the female element of heredity. I said that the outer facial resemblance among members of the same people is carried down through the generations by woman. The male element, on the other hand, passes on the distinguishing features in man: it is the factor that makes him an individual entity here on earth, that places his ego upon a footing of its own. Great minds who are in touch with the spiritual world have always felt this in the right way, and we can really learn to know and appreciate the utterances of great men who were close to the spiritual world only by penetrating to these depths of cosmic truths.

Look once more at our first diagram and reflect as follows: We have an etheric body, and in it lives the astral body. The astral body is the vehicle of our conceptions, ideas, thoughts, sensations, feelings, and it dwells in the etheric body. But we have learned that it is specifically the task of the etheric body to work upon the physical body effectively, so to say, containing as it does the forces that form it. We must therefore conclude that this etheric body, permeated as it is by the astral body, contains all that makes man a man, all that imprints in him a definite form from within, as it were, proceeding from the spiritual elements. So that whatever produces resemblance among men derives from what works within, and is not merely external; in other words, not from anything bound to his physical body, but from elements associated with his etheric and astral bodies, for these are the inner principles.

For this reason, anyone who can see into such matters will sense that what permeates his etheric and astral bodies comes from the maternal element, whereas all that gives his physical body its peculiar form, imprinted by his ego — the ego dwelling in the physical body — is a paternal heritage.

“My father gave my build to me,
Toward life my sober bearing;
From mother comes my cheerful heart,
My joy in storytelling.”[1]

These words spoken by Goethe are an interpretation of what I showed you in diagram. “From my father I have my stature” refers to what develops from the ego; and the imagination, the gift of storytelling, inherited from the mother, has its being in the etheric and astral bodies. The utterances of great minds are by no means grasped by those who believe to have understood them by means of trivial human concepts.

But now we must apply all this to the Christ event; and from this point of view we must ask, What would have happened to mankind if it had not taken place? If the Christ event had not occurred, the course of human development would have continued as we saw it commence with the post-Atlantean time. We learned that in very old times civilization rested upon a form of love closely linked with tribal relationship, with consanguinity. Those whom people loved were their blood relatives. And we saw how this blood bond kept fraying as humanity progressed.

Now let us pass from the earliest days of human evolution to the time of Christ Jesus' appearance. While in most ancient epochs marriage was always consummated within one and the same tribe, you will find that during the Roman dominion — and that is the time of the Christ event — the custom of endogamy was increasingly ignored, that a great variety of peoples were thrown together as a result of the Roman expeditions, and that the “close marriage” had very largely to give way to exogamy, the “distant marriage.” It was necessary for blood ties to lose their strength in the evolution of mankind because men were destined to take their stand upon their own ego.

Assuming, now, that Christ had not come to provide new forces, to replace the old love engendered by blood ties with a new spiritual love, we ask again, what would have happened? In that case love, the factor that unites men, would gradually have vanished from the face of the earth: that which brings men together in love would have perished in man's nature. Without the Christ the human race would have lived to see the dying out of love for each other: men would have been driven back into their own segregated individualities. Looked at only from the point of view of external science, these things do not disclose the profound truths underlying them. If you were to examine — not chemically, but by the means at the disposal of spiritual research — the blood of present-day man and compare it with that of people who lived several thousand years before the appearance of Christ, you would find that it had changed, had taken on a character tending to make it less and less a vehicle capable of bearing love. Imagine, in ancient times, a man of insight who could see deep into the course of human development, who could foretell what would needs come to pass should only the one antiquated tendency persist without the intervention of the Christ event: how would the course of future evolution present itself to an initiate of that sort? What images would he have to evoke in the human soul to indicate what would happen in the future if love in the soul, the Christ love, failed to replace the love arising from blood ties in the same measure as the latter disappeared? He had to say: If men become ever more isolated, more hardened in their own ego; if the lines separating souls become ever more marked so that souls understand each other less and less, then men of the outer world will fall increasingly into discord and contention, and the war of all against all will usurp the place of love on earth.

And this is indeed what would have ensued if evolution had proceeded on the basis of blood relationship without the intervention of Christ. All men would inevitably have been involved in the war of all against all. This war will come to pass in any case, but only for those who have not become imbued in the right way with the Christ principle. That is what a prophetic seer beheld as the end of the Earth evolution, and well could it fill his soul with terror: souls no longer understand each other, hence they must rage, soul against soul.

I have explained that only gradually can men become united through the Christ principle. In Tolstoi and Solovyev I gave you an example showing how two noble spirits, each thinking to proclaim the real Christ, can hold such contradictory views that one of them considers the other the Antichrist — for that is what Solovyev believed Tolstoi to be. The conflict of beliefs at first present in the souls of men would gradually come to expression in the outer world, that is, men would rage against each other. That would be the inevitable consequence of the development of the blood principle. — It would be pointless to object here that in spite of the Christ event we still see discord and contention on all sides, that we are still far from any realization of Christian love: I have told you that we are only at the beginning of Christian evolution. The great impulse has been given which enabled the Christ to imbue ever more the souls of men in the further course of earth development, and to unite them in a spiritual way. What still exists today in the way of discord and contention — and this will lead to even greater excesses — is a result of the fact that hitherto mankind has become permeated with the real Christ principle only to the most negligible extent: conditions that have existed among men from time immemorial still hold sway and can be overcome only by degrees, inasmuch as the Christ impulse will flow into mankind but slowly and gradually.

That, then, is a picture of what would have been foreseen in pre-Christian times by one who had clairvoyantly penetrated the future course of human evolution. He could have put it this way: I have been vouchsafed a remnant of the old power of clairvoyance. In primeval times all men were able to see into the spiritual world by means of a dim, dull clairvoyance, which has gradually vanished. But the possibility still exists, like a heritage from those ancient times, to penetrate the spiritual world in an abnormal, dreamlike state. In this way there can be seen something of what lies beneath the outer surface of things.

All the old legends, fairy stories, and myths, which truly are fraught with a wisdom deeper than is to be found in modern science, tell us that in the olden times the capacity for entering exceptional states was very wide-spread. Call such states dreams, if you like: they nevertheless heralded events; but they did not provide sufficient wisdom to protect men from the conflict of all against all. The sage of old emphasized this in the strongest possible terms, saying, We are heir to a primeval wisdom which people of the Atlantean era were able to perceive in abnormal states, and even now there are isolated men who can discern it under the same conditions; and what is heralded there is the course the near future will take. But the revelations of those dreams inspired no confidence: they were deceptive and destined to become ever more so. That was the wisdom taught in pre-Christian times, and in that form did the teacher proclaim it to the people.

That is why it is significant that an appreciation of the whole intensity and power of the Christ impulse leads us to the comprehension of a certain great truth: In a world lacking the Christ impulse the isolation and segregation of men, their mutual antagonism, something like a struggle for existence, would be brought about — similar to the materialistic-Darwinistic theory foisted upon us today — a struggle for existence such as reigns in the animal kingdom, but which should have no place in the world of men. Somewhat grotesquely we might say, when the earth has run its course it will present the picture of humanity painted by certain materialists in line with a Darwinistic theory borrowed from the animal world; but today this theory, when applied to mankind, is wrong. It is true in the animal kingdom because there no impulse governs which could transform discord into love. Christ, as a spiritual force in humanity, will confound all materialistic Darwinism.

But in order to grasp this, one must understand that in the outer sense world men can eliminate the antagonistic attitude arising from their differences of opinion, feelings, and actions only by combatting and adjusting within themselves all that would otherwise flow out into the external world. No one is going to quarrel with a different opinion in the soul of another if he first fights against all that must be combatted in himself, if he establishes harmony among the various principles of his being. He will confront the outer world as one who loves, not as one who quarrels. It is all a matter of diverting the conflict from the outer world to the inner man: the forces holding sway in human nature must battle each other within man.

Two conflicting opinions must be looked at as follows: This is one opinion — it is tenable; that is the other — it is also tenable. But if I recognize only the one and consider justifiable only what I want, resisting the other, then I shall be involved in a struggle on the physical plane. To insist on my opinion is to be selfish; to consider my action the only justifiable one means being egotistical. But if I consider the other man's opinion and endeavor to create harmony within myself, my attitude toward the other will then be a very different one; and only then will I begin to understand him. Diverting external strife into another channel — the harmonizing of inner human forces — that would be another way of expressing the idea of progress in the evolution of mankind. The possibility of inner concord, of finding the way to harmonize the resisting forces within, this had to be bestowed upon man by the Christ. Christ gives man the power first of all to eliminate the discord within himself, and without Christ this could never be achieved. In respect of outer strife the ancient, pre-Christian people rightly looked upon one special form of it as the ultimate horror: the child's strife against father and mother. Also, in the days when men knew what course evolution would take lacking the Christ-Impulse, parricide was considered the most terrible and abhorrent of all crimes. That was made very clear by those wise men of old who foresaw the coming of Christ. But they also knew what the inevitable result would be in the outer world if the battle were not first waged in every man's own soul.

Let us examine our own inner nature. We have learned that where the etheric and astral bodies interpenetrate the mother holds sway, while the father comes to expression in the ego-permeated physical body. In other words, the mother, the female element, governs in all that pertains to the traits we share with others, to the generic, to all that constitutes our inner life in so far as it expresses itself in wisdom and in conceptions; whereas every quality arising from a union of the ego and the physical body, in the externally differentiated form — all that makes man an ego — derives from the father, the male element. What is it, then, above all things that the ancient sages who thought along these lines had to demand of men? They had to insist on a clear understanding of the relation of the physical body and the ego to the etheric and astral bodies: on a mental grasp of the maternal and paternal elements. By reason of having an etheric and an astral body man has the mother principle in him: in addition to his outer mother, the mother of the physical plane, he has, so to speak, the maternal element within him — the Mother, and besides his physical father he has within him the paternal element — the Father. The proper adjustment of the relation between this inner father and inner mother is something that was held up to men as a lofty ideal to strive for. Failure to harmonize these two elements inevitably results in spreading discord within men out into the physical world — with devastating consequences. Therefore, said the old sage: Man's task is to bring about harmony within himself between the paternal and the maternal elements. If he does not succeed, there will appear in the world what we must recognize as the ultimate horror.

What we have just expressed in anthroposophical phraseology, so to say, was proclaimed to mankind by the ancient sages somewhat as follows: In primeval times we inherited a primordial wisdom, and even today men can participate in it when in an abnormal state. But the possibility of entering this state is becoming ever more remote, and even the old initiation cannot lead beyond a certain point in human evolution.

Let us once more consider this old initiation as we described it in the last lectures: what occurred there? Out of the complex composed of physical body, etheric body, astral body, and ego, the etheric and astral bodies were withdrawn, but the ego remained. Hence there could be no question of self-consciousness during the three and a half days of initiation: it was extinguished; and it was replaced by a form of consciousness from the higher spiritual world, instilled by the priest-initiator who guided the candidate throughout and placed his own ego at the latter's disposal. Now, what exactly was the result of this? Something occurred that was expressed in a formula which will strike you as strange; but when you have understood it, it will no longer seem so. It was expressed as follows: When a man was initiated in the old sense the maternal element withdrew and the paternal element remained; that is, the candidate killed the paternal element and united with the mother element. In other words, he killed his father within him and wedded his mother. So when the old initiate had lain three and a half days in the lethargic state he had united with his mother and had killed the father within himself. He had become fatherless; and that had to occur, because he had to renounce his individuality and dwell in a higher spiritual world. He became one with his people; but the factor inherent in a people was precisely that which was provided by the maternal element. He became one with the entire organism of his people; he became exactly that which Nathanael was, which was always designated by the name of the people in question — in Jewry, an “Israelite,” among Persians a “Persian.”

There can never be any wisdom in the world other than the wisdom proceeding from the Mysteries — no other is possible. Those who learn in the Mysteries what these reveal become messengers, and the outer world learns from them what is beheld in the Mysteries. One of the things acquired in line with the old wisdom was the exact knowledge of what had been achieved by uniting with the inner mother and killing the father. But this hereditary wisdom cannot help man past a certain point in evolution. Something different, something wholly new, had to replace the old wisdom. Had mankind continued indefinitely to receive the old wisdom gained in this way, it would have been driven, as already stated, into the war of all against all. Opinion would be arrayed against opinion, feeling against feeling, will against will; and that terrifying, gruesome image of the future, where man would unite with his mother and kill his father, would come true. All this was portrayed in pregnant pictures, in great and mighty images, by the old initiates who, though initiated, looked for the coming of Christ; and the imprint of this wisdom of the pre-Christian sages has been preserved in the legends and myths.

We need only recall the name of Oedipus and we are in touch with a myth expressing what the ancient sages had to say on this subject. The old Greek legend, presented in so mighty and grandiose a way by the Greek tragedians, runs as follows: There was a king in Thebes, and his name was Laios. His spouse was Iokaste. For a long time they had no progeny. Then Laios enquired of the Oracle of Delphi whether he could not be vouchsafed a son; and the Oracle gave him the answer: If thou wilt have a son it will be one who shall kill thee. — In a state of intoxication — that is, in a state of dimmed consciousness — Laios begot a son. Oedipus was born; and Laios knew that this was the son who would kill him. He therefore resolved to abandon the child; and in order to insure his complete annihilation he caused his feet to be pierced. Then he was left to die; but a shepherd found the child and took pity on him. He brought him to Corinth, and there Oedipus was reared in the royal household. When he was grown he learned of the Oracle's prophesy: that he would kill his father and wed his mother; but there was no escaping it. On account of being taken for the king's son he had to leave the place where he was reared. On his way he met his real father and, without recognizing him, killed him. He came to Thebes; and because he was able to answer the Sphinx' questions and solve the riddle of the grisly monster that led so many to their death, the Sphinx had to kill itself. Thus, for the time being, Oedipus was his country's benefactor. He was made king and received the queen's hand in marriage — his mother's hand! Without knowing it, he had killed his father and united with his mother. He now ruled as king; but by reason of having acquired his rule in this way and of all the dreadful misfortune that clung to him, he brought untold misery upon his country.— In Sophocles' drama we finally encounter him as blinded, as one who has destroyed his own eyesight.

That is a story whose imagery originated in the old temples of wisdom; and what it intended to tell was that in a certain respect Oedipus could still make contact, in the old sense, with the spiritual world. His father had consulted the Oracle. Those oracles were the last heritage of the old clairvoyance, but they were powerless to establish peace in the outer world. They could not provide that harmony of the paternal and the maternal elements which was to be striven for and achieved.

The circumstance that Oedipus solved the Sphinx' riddle indicates that he was intended to represent the sort of man who had acquired a certain old type of clairvoyance simply through heredity; that is, he knew the nature of man to the extent to which the last remnants of the old primordial wisdom could provide such cognition. But never could it suffice to stern the raging of man against man, as symbolized by the parricide and the union with the mother. Although in touch with primordial wisdom, Oedipus is unable, by its means, to see through its complexity. This old wisdom no longer induced seership — that is what the old sages wanted to proclaim. Had it been attended by clairvoyance as in the old way of consanguinity, the blood would have spoken when Oedipus confronted first his father, and later, his mother; but the blood was silent. That is a graphic presentation of the disintegration of primordial wisdom.

What had to happen in order that once and for all the inner harmonious compensation might be found between the maternal and paternal elements, between man's own ego that is of the father, and the mother principle? The Christ impulse had to come. — And now we can peer from still another angle into certain depths of the Marriage in Cana of Galilee. We are told:

The mother of Jesus was there: And both Jesus was called, and his disciples, to the marriage.

Jesus — or better, Christ — was to be the great example for humanity of a being who had achieved the inner concord between himself — that is, his ego — and the mother principle. At the Marriage in Cana of Galilee He indicated:

Something passeth from me to thee.

That was a new sort of passing from one to another: it was no longer as it had been, but implied a renewal of the whole relationship. It meant the lofty and enduring ideal of inner compensation and to lead them out of sin to salvation. In this way Judas Iscariot came into the environment of Christ Jesus and to cause the calamity which had been foretold, and which was destined to be fulfilled in the sphere of Christ Jesus. Schiller says:

“An evil deed its own curse bears within:
It multiplies, begetting evil brood.”[2]

Judas became the betrayer of Christ Jesus. True, everything that was destined to come about through him had already been fulfilled in the murder of his father and the wedding of his mother; but he survived, so to speak, as a tool, because he was to be the evil instrument for bringing about good, thereby performing an act of supererogation.

The individuality presented to us in the figure of Oedipus loses his sight, as a result of the evil he has wrought, the moment he realizes what he has done. But the other, whose identical destiny originated in his connection with the inherited primordial wisdom, does not become blind: he was chosen to fulfill destiny, to do the deed that would lead to the Mystery of Golgotha, that would bring about the physical death of Him Who is “the Light of the World” and Who enkindles the Light of the World in healing the man born blind. Oedipus had to lose his sight; to the blind man, Christ gave sight. Yet He died at the hands of one who, like Oedipus, was chosen to exemplify the gradual extinction of the ancient wisdom in mankind, to expose its insufficiency in the matter of bringing salvation and peace and love. For these to come, the Christ-Impulse was indispensable, and the event of Golgotha had to take place. There had first to come about something whose outer reflection is shown us in the relation between the Jesus-Christ Ego and His Mother at the Marriage in Cana of Galilee.

And one thing more was needed as well. The writer of the John Gospel describes it as follows: There beneath the Cross stood the Mother, and there stood the disciple “whom the Lord loved”, Lazarus-John, whom He Himself had initiated and through whom the wisdom of Christianity was to be handed down to posterity; he through whom man's astral body was to be so powerfully influenced as to render it capable of harboring the Christ principle. There in the human astral body the Christ principle was to live, and it was John's mission to pour the Christ principle into this astral body. But in order that this might come to pass, this Christ principle, raying down from the Cross, had still to unite with the etheric principle, with the Mother. That is why from the Cross Christ called down the words:

From this hour forth, this is thy
mother — and this is thy son

That means, He unites His wisdom with the maternal principle.

Thus we see the profundity, not only of the Gospels, but of all the interrelationships in the Mysteries. Truly, the old legends are related to the prophesies and Gospels of more recent times as is presage to fulfillment. In the legends of Oedipus and of Judas we are clearly shown that once upon a time there was a divine, primordial wisdom; that this wisdom vanished; and that a new wisdom had to come. And this new wisdom will carry men forward to a point that would never have been attainable through the old wisdom. The Oedipus legend tells us what must have occurred without the intervention of the Christ impulse; and the nature of the opposition to the Christ, the rigid clinging to the ancient wisdom, is made clear in the Judas legend. But the principle which even the old legends and myths had declared inadequate is brought to us in a new light through the new revelation, through the Gospel. The Gospel gives us the answer to what the old legends expressed in images of the old wisdom. In legends we were told that nevermore can the old wisdom provide what humanity needs for the future; but the Gospel, the new wisdom, says: I bring tidings of what mankind needs, of what could never have come without the influence of the Christ principle, without the event of Golgotha.



1. “Vom Vater hab'ich die Satur,
Des Lebens ernstes Führen,
Vom Mütterchen die Frohnatur,
Und Lust am Fabulieren.”

2. “Das eben ist der Fluch der bösen Tat,
Dass sie, fortzeugend, Böses muss gebären.”

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