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Christ and the Human Soul

Christ and the Human Soul: Lecture Three

Schmidt Number: S-2942

On-line since: 31st March, 2006


One of the concepts which must occur to us when we speak of the relation of Christ to the human soul is undoubtedly that of sin and guilt. We know what an incisive significance it had in the Christianity of St. Paul. Our present age, however, is not well adapted for gaining a really deep inner understanding of the wider connections between the concepts “death and sin” and “death and immortality” which are to be found in Paul's writings. That cannot be expected in our materialistic times. Let us recall what I said in the first lecture of this course, that there can be no true immortality of the human soul without a continuation of consciousness after death. An ending of consciousness with death would be equivalent to the fact, which would then have to be accepted, that man is not immortal. An unconscious continuance of man's being after death would mean that the most important part of him, that which makes him a man, would not exist after death. An unconscious human soul surviving after death would not mean much more than the sum of atoms which, as materialism recognizes, remain even when the human body is destroyed.

For Paul, it was an unshakable conviction that it is possible to speak of immortality only if individual consciousness is maintained. And since he had to regard the individual consciousness as subject to sin and guilt, he would naturally think: If a man's consciousness is obscured or disturbed after death by sin and guilt, or by their results, this signifies that sin and guilt really kill man — they kill him as soul, as spirit. The materialistic consciousness of our time of course is remote from that. Many modern philosophical thinkers are content to speak of a continuance of the life of the human soul, whereas the immortality of man can be identified only with a continuing conscious existence of the human soul after death.

Here, certainly, a difficulty may easily arise, especially for the anthroposophical world-view. To approach this difficulty we need only look at the opposition between the concept of guilt and sin and the concept of Karma. Many anthroposophists get over this simply by saying: “We believe in Karma, meaning a debt which a man contracts in any one of his incarnations; he bears this debt with him, as part of his Karma, and discharges it later; so, in the course of incarnations, a compensation is brought about.” Here the difficulty begins. These people then easily say: “How can this be reconciled with the Christian acceptance of the forgiveness of sins through Christ?” and yet the idea of the forgiveness of sins is intimately bound up with true Christianity. We need think of one example: Christ on the Cross between the two malefactors. The malefactor on the left hand mocks at Christ: “If thou wilt be God, help thyself and us!” The malefactor on the right says that the other ought not to speak thus, for both had merited their fate of crucifixion, the just award of their deeds; whereas He was innocent and yet had to experience the same fate. And the malefactor on the right went on to say: “Think of me when thou art in thy kingdom.” And Christ answered him: “Verily I say unto thee, today thou shalt be with me in Paradise.”

It is not permissible merely to gainsay these words or to omit them from the Gospel, for they are very significant. The difficulty for anthroposophists arises from the question: If this malefactor on the right has to wash away the Karma he has incurred, what does it mean when Christ, as though pardoning and forgiving him, says: “Today thou shalt be with me in Paradise”? An objector may say that the malefactor on the right will have to wash away his Karmic debt, even as the one on the left. Why is a difference made by Christ between the malefactor on the right and the one on the left? There is no doubt at all that here the anthroposophical conception of Karma meets a difficulty that is not easy to solve. It can be solved, however, when we try to probe more deeply into Christianity by means of spiritual science. And now I shall approach the subject from quite another side, a side already known to you, but it can bring certain remarkable circumstances to light.

You know how often we speak of Lucifer and Ahriman, and how Lucifer and Ahriman are represented in my Mystery Plays. If one begins to consider the matter in a