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The Gospel of St. John

The Christians of St. John. The rebirth of the higher Ego in man and in humanity.


Cassel, St. John's Day, 1909

My Dear Friends,

The celebration of a particular festival on the present day of the year was a custom to which a large portion of aspiring humanity adhered, and it is a matter of importance for the friends of the anthroposophical movement assembled with us in this city that the present series of lectures should begin precisely on midsummer or St. John's Day. As long ago as in ancient Persia a festival known as the ‘Baptism of Fire and Water’ was associated with a day which would roughly correspond to a day in June at the present time. In ancient Rome the festival of Vesta fell on a similar day in June, and that again was a festival of ‘Baptism by Fire’. And if we look back upon European civilization before the spread of Christianity, we again find a June festival which coincided with the time of the year when the days begin to shorten and the nights to lengthen — when the sun begins to lose a part of the strength he lavishes upon all growth and increase on earth. To our European ancestors this June festival appeared as a gradual withdrawal and disappearing of the God Baldur — Baldur who, in their minds, was associated with the Sun. In Christian times this same festival gradually became that of St. John, the forerunner of Christ Jesus. Thus it can also be our starting-point for the considerations to which we will devote ourselves during the next few days, bearing upon this most important event in the evolution of humanity — upon the Deed of Christ Jesus. Indeed, the subject of the present course of lectures will be founded upon the whole import of this Deed for the evolution of humanity, and upon its manner of presentation, firstly in the most significant of human documents, in the Gospel according to St. John, then, by comparison, in the other Gospels.

The festival of St. John reminds us that the greatest Individuality who participated in the evolution of humanity was preceded by a ‘Forerunner’, and we here touch upon an important point which must precede our further considerations, also as a kind of ‘forerunner’. In the course of the development of humanity there occur, ever and again, events of surpassing importance shedding a stronger light than others. We can observe these essential occurrences in epoch after epoch of history, and ever and again we are told of men who, in a measure, know of them in advance and can foretell their coming. These are no arbitrary events; indeed, whoever has insight into the whole meaning and spirit of human history is aware that such events must come, and knows how he himself must work in preparation for them to take place.

During the next few days we shall often have occasion to speak of the Forerunner of Christ. Today we shall consider him from the standpoint that he was one of those who, by virtue of special spiritual gifts, have a deeper insight into things and know that there are super-eminent moments in the evolution of humanity. Hence he was fitted to pave the way for Christ Jesus. But when we look upon Christ Jesus Himself, we clearly realize that the division of chronology into epochs before and after His appearance upon earth is not without good reason. By adhering to this division, humanity to a large extent shows that it is sensible of the incisive significance of the Christ-Mystery. But whatever is real and true must ever and again be proclaimed in new forms and new ways, for the requirements of humanity alter from epoch to epoch. Our time needs, in a sense, a new annunciation of this greatest of events in the history of man, and it is the will of Anthroposophy to be this annunciation.

This anthroposophical annunciation is new only in respect of its form; its content, the subject of these lectures, was for centuries taught within our European civilization and spiritual life. The one difference between the former and the present annunciation is that the latter may be addressed to a wider circle. The smaller circles within which this teaching has been heard for centuries recognized the same sign which