The following lecture was given by Rudolf Steiner to an audience
familiar with the general background of his anthroposophical
teachings. He constantly emphasised the distinction between his
written works and reports of lectures which were given as oral
communications and were not originally intended for print. It should
also be remembered that certain premises were taken for granted when
the words were spoken. These premises, Rudolf Steiner writes
in his autobiography, include at the very least the anthroposophical
knowledge of Man and of the Cosmos in its spiritual essence; also of
what may be called anthroposophical history, told as an
outcome of research into the spiritual world.
SUMMARY OF CONTENTS
The older we grow, the more we begin to love the wisdom revealed by
life. In the wisdom revealed by life, man forms the seed of his next
life as the spiritual core of his being ripens. But the deeds of love
are not deeds which look for compensation in the next life. By
everything we do out of love, we pay off debts. The only actions from
which we have nothing in the future are those we perform out of true,
genuine love. It is because men are subconsciously aware of this that
there is so little love in the world. A soul must be very advanced
before deeds can be performed from which nothing is to be gained for
itself; but then the world profits all the more. Love is the moral
sun of the world. Interest in the earth's evolution is the necessary
antecedent of love. A Spiritual Science without love would be a danger
for humanity. Without sense-born love, nothing material comes into the
world; without spiritual love, nothing spiritual. Creative forces
unfold through love. We owe our existence to deeds of love wrought in
the past. To pay off debts through deeds of love is therefore wisdom.
As well as love there are two other powers: might and wisdom. To these
two, the concepts of magnitude and enhancement are applicable, but not
to love. The all-embracing attribute of the Godhead is therefore not
omnipotence, not omniscience, but love. God is supreme love, not
supreme might, not supreme wisdom. The Godhead has shared these two
with Ahriman and Lucifer. Wisdom and might unfold in the world, but
love is a unique, Divine Impulse. The Mystery of Golgotha was
fulfilled as a counterweight to the impulses of might and of wisdom.
Therefore anyone who knows the mystery of love can be a Christian.
Spiritual Science must include this love otherwise it leads to egoism.
The Mystery of Golgotha is a Deed of the Gods and a concern of the
Gods. This Deed cannot be understood out of wisdom but only out of
love. Together with selfishness, evil came into the world. It had to
be so, because without the evil, man could not lay hold of the good.
But through man's conquest of himself the unfolding of love has been
made possible. The darkness has enabled the light to come into our
LOVE AND ITS MEANING IN THE WORLD
WHEN we say that at the present point of time in his evolution man
must learn to understand the Christ Impulse, the thought may well
occur: What, then, is the position of one who has never heard of the
Christ Impulse, may perhaps never even have heard the name of Christ?
Will such a man be deprived of the Christ Impulse because he has not
heard the name of Christ? Is it necessary to have some theoretical
knowledge of the Christ Impulse in order that Christ's power may flow
into the soul? We will clarify our minds about these questions by the
following thoughts concerning human life from birth until death.
The human being comes into the world and lives through early childhood
in a half-sleeping state. He has gradually to learn to feel himself as
an I, to find his bearings as an I, and his life of
soul is constantly enriched by what is received through the I.
By the time death is approaching, this life of soul is at its richest and
ripest. Hence the vital question arises: What of our life of soul when the
body falls away? It is a peculiarity of our physical life and of our
life of soul that the wealth of our experience and knowledge increases
in significance the nearer we approach death; but at the same time
certain attributes are lost and replaced by others of an entirely
different character. In youth we gather knowledge, pass through
experiences, cherish hopes which as a rule can only later be
fulfilled. The older we grow, the more do we begin to love the wisdom
revealed by life. Love of wisdom is not egoistic, for this love
increases in the measure in which we draw near to death; it increases
in the measure in which the expectation of gaining something from our
wisdom decreases. Our love for this content of our soul steadily
increases. In this respect Spiritual Science may actually become a
source of temptation, inasmuch as a man may be led to believe that his
next life will depend upon the acquisition of wisdom in this present
life. The effect of Spiritual Science may be an extension of egoism
beyond the bounds of this present life, and therein lies danger. Thus
if wrongly understood, Spiritual Science may act as a tempter this
lies in its very nature.
Love of the wisdom acquired from life may be compared with the
flowering of a plant when the necessary stage of maturity has been
reached. Love arises for something that is contained within ourselves.
Men have often made the attempt to sublimate the impulse of love for
what is within themselves. In the Mystics, for example, we find
evidence of how they strove to transmute the urge of self-love into
love of wisdom, and to let this love ray out in beauty. By sinking in
contemplation into the depths of their own soul-life they strove to
become aware of the Divine Spark within them. But the truth is that
the wisdom which man acquires in life is only the means whereby the
seed of his next life is unfolded. When a plant has completed its
growth through the year, the seed remains. So it is with the wisdom
acquired from life. Man passes through the Gate of Death and the
spiritual core of being in its process of ripening is the seed of the
next life. A man who feels this may become a Mystic and mistake what
is only the seed of the next life to be the Divine Spark, the
Absolute. This is his interpretation of it because it goes against the
grain for a man to acknowledge that this spirit-seed is nothing but his
own self. Meister Eckhart, John Tauler, and others, spoke of it as the
God within, because they knew nothing of reincarnation. If we
grasp the meaning of the law of reincarnation we recognise the significance
of love in the world, both in a particular and in a general sense.
When we speak of karma, we mean that which as cause in the one life
has its effect in the next. In terms of cause and effect we cannot,
however, speak truly of love; we cannot speak of a deed of love and
its eventual compensation. True, if there is a deed, there will be
compensation, but this has nothing to do with love. Deeds of love do
not look for compensation in the next life.
Suppose, for example, that we work and our work brings gain. It may
also be that our work gives us no joy because we do it simply in order
to pay off debts, not for actual reward. We can imagine that in this
way a man has already spent what he is now earning through his work.
He would prefer to have no debts, but as things are, he is obliged to
work in order to pay them. Now let us apply this example to our
actions in general. By everything we do out of love we pay off debts.
From an occult point of view, what is done out of love brings no
reward but makes amends for profit already expended. The only actions
from which we have nothing in the future are those we perform out of
true, genuine love. This truth may well be disquieting and men are
lucky in that they know nothing of it in their upper consciousness.
But in their subconsciousness all of them know it, and that is why
deeds of love are done so unwillingly, why there is so little love in the
world. Men feel instinctively that they may expect nothing for their
I in the future from deeds of love. An advanced stage of
development must have been reached before the soul can experience joy in
performing deeds of love from which there is nothing to be gained for
itself. The impulse for this is not strong in humanity. But occultism
can be a source of powerful incentives to deeds of love.
Our egoism gains nothing from deeds of love but the world all the
more. Occultism says: Love is for the world what the sun is for
external life. No soul could thrive if love departed from the world.
Love is the moral sun of the world. Would it not be absurd if a
man who delights in the flowers growing in a meadow were to wish that the
sun would vanish from the world? Translated into terms of the moral
life, this means: Our deep concern must be that an impulse for sound,
healthy development shall find its way into the affairs of humanity.
To disseminate love over the earth in the greatest measure possible,
to promote love on the earth that and that alone is wisdom.
What do we learn from Spiritual Science? We learn facts concerning the
evolution of the earth, we hear of the Spirit of the earth, of the
earth's surface and its changing conditions, of the development of the
human body and so forth; we learn to understand the nature of the
forces working and weaving in the evolutionary process. What does this
mean? What does it mean when people do not want to know anything about
Spiritual Science? It means that they have no interest for what is
reality. For if a man has no desire to know anything about the nature
of Old Saturn, Old Sun, Old Moon, then he can know nothing about the
Lack of interest in the world is egoism in its grossest form.
Interest in all existence is man's bounden duty. Let us therefore long
for and love the sun with its creative power, its love for the
well-being of the earth and the souls of men! This interest in the
earth's evolution should be the spiritual seed of love for the world.
A Spiritual Science without love would be a danger to mankind. But
love should not be a matter for preaching; love must and indeed will
come into the world through the spreading of knowledge of spiritual
truths. Deeds of love and Spiritual Science should be inseparably
Love mediated by way of the senses is the wellspring of creative
power, of that which is coming into being. Without sense-born love,
nothing material would exist in the world; without spiritual love,
nothing spiritual can arise in evolution. When we practise love,
cultivate love, creative forces pour into the world. Can the intellect
be expected to offer reasons for this? The creative forces poured into
the world before we ourselves and our intellect came into being. True,
as egoists, we can deprive the future of creative forces; but we
cannot obliterate the deeds of love and the creative forces of the
past. We owe our existence to deeds of love wrought in the past. The
strength with which we have been endowed by these deeds of love is the
measure of our deep debt to the past, and whatever love we may at any
time be able to bring forth is payment of debts owed for our
existence. In the light of this knowledge we shall be able to
understand the deeds of a man who has reached a high stage of
development, for he has still greater debts to pay to the past. He
pays his debts through deeds of love, and herein lies his wisdom. The
higher the stage of development reached by a man, the more does the
impulse of love in him increase in strength; wisdom alone does not
Let us think of the meaning and effect of love in the world in the
following way. Love is always a reminder of debts owed to life in the
past, and because we gain nothing for the future by paying off these
debts, no profit for ourselves accrues from our deeds of love. We have
to leave our deeds of love behind in the world; but they are then a
spiritual factor in the how of world-happenings. It is not through our
deeds of love but through deeds of a different character that we
perfect ourselves; yet the world is richer for our deeds of love.
Love is the creative force in the world.
Besides love there are two other powers in the world. How do they
compare with love? The one is strength, might; the second is wisdom.
In regard to strength or might we can speak of degrees: weaker,
stronger, or absolute might omnipotence. The same applies to
wisdom, for there are stages on the path to omniscience. It will not
do to speak in the same way of degrees of love. What is universal
love, love for all beings? In the case of love we cannot speak of
enhancement as we can speak of enhancement of knowledge into
omniscience or of might into omnipotence, by virtue of which we attain
greater perfection of our own being. Love for a few or for many beings
has nothing to do with our own perfecting. Love for everything that
lives cannot be compared with omnipotence; the concept of magnitude,
or of enhancement, cannot rightly be applied to love. Can the
attribute of omnipotence be ascribed to the Divine Being who lives and
weaves through the world? Contentions born of feeling must here be
silent: were God omnipotent, he would be responsible for everything
that happens and there could be no human freedom. If man can be free,
then certainly there can be no Divine omnipotence.
Is the Godhead omniscient? As man's highest goal is likeness to God,
our striving must be in the direction of omniscience. Is omniscience,
then, the supreme treasure? If it is, a vast chasm must forever yawn
between man and God. At every moment man would have to be aware of
this chasm if God possessed the supreme treasure of omniscience for
himself and withheld it from man. The all-encompassing attribute of
the Godhead is not omnipotence, neither is it omniscience, but it is
love the attribute in respect of which no enhancement is
possible. God is uttermost love, unalloyed love, is born as it were out of
love, is the very substance and essence of love. God is pure love, not
supreme wisdom, not supreme might. God has retained love for himself
but has shared wisdom and might with Lucifer and Ahriman. He has
shared wisdom with Lucifer and might with Ahriman, in order that man
may become free, in order that under the influence of wisdom he may
If we try to discover the source of whatever is creative we come to
love; love is the ground, the foundation of everything that lives. It
is by a different impulse in evolution that beings are led to become
wiser and more powerful. Progress is attained through wisdom and
strength. Study of the course taken by the evolution of humanity shows
us how the development of wisdom and strength is subject to change:
there is progressive evolution and then the Christ Impulse which once
poured into mankind through the Mystery of Golgotha. Love did not,
therefore, come into the world by degrees; love streamed into mankind
as a gift of the Godhead, in complete, perfect wholeness. But man can
receive the Impulse into himself gradually. The Divine Impulse of love
as we need it in earthly life is an Impulse that came once and
True love is not capable of diminution or amplification. Its nature is
quite different from that of wisdom and might. Love wakens no
expectations for the future; it is payment of debts incurred in the
past. And such was the Mystery of Golgotha in the world's evolution.
Did the Godhead, then, owe any debt to humanity?
Lucifer's influence brought into humanity a certain element in
consequence of which something that man had previously possessed was
withdrawn from him. This new element led to a descent, a descent
countered by the Mystery of Golgotha which made possible the payment
of all debts. The Impulse of Golgotha was not given in order that the
sins we have committed in evolution may be removed from us, but in
order that what crept into humanity through Lucifer should be given
Let us imagine that there is a man who knows nothing of the name of
Christ Jesus, nothing of what is communicated in the Gospels, but that
he understands the radical difference between the nature of wisdom and
might and that of love. Such a man, even though he knows nothing of
the Mystery of Golgotha, is a Christian in the truest sense. A man who
knows that love is there for the paying of debts and brings no profit
for the future, is a true Christian. To understand the nature of love
that is to be a Christian! Theosophy
(see Note 1)
alone, Spiritual Science
alone, with its teachings of Karma and reincarnation, can make us into
great egoists unless the impulse of love, the Christ Impulse, is
added; only so can we acquire the power to overcome the egoism that may
be generated by Spiritual Science. The balance is established by an
understanding of the Christ Impulse.
Spiritual Science is given to the
world today because it is a necessity for humanity; but in it lies the
great danger that if it is cultivated without the Christ
Impulse, without the Impulse of love men will only increase their
egoism, will actually breed egoism that lasts even beyond death.
From this the conclusion must not be drawn that we should not cultivate
Spiritual Science; rather we must learn to realise that understanding
of the essential nature of love is an integral part of it.
What actually came to pass at the Mystery of Golgotha? Jesus of
Nazareth was born, lived on as related by the Gospels, and when He was
thirty years old the Baptism in the Jordan took place. Thereafter the
Christ lived for three years in the body of Jesus of Nazareth and
fulfilled the Mystery of Golgotha. Many people think that the Mystery
of Golgotha should be regarded in an entirely human aspect, believing
as they do that it was an earthly deed, a deed belonging to the realm
of the earth. But that is not so. Only from the vantage-point of the
higher worlds is it possible to see the Mystery of Golgotha in its
true light and how it came to pass on the earth.
Let us think again of the beginning of the evolution of the earth and
of man. Man was endowed with certain spiritual powers and then
Lucifer approached him. At this point we can say: The Gods who further
the progress of evolution surrendered their omnipotence to Lucifer in
order that man might become free. But man sank into matter more deeply
than was intended; he slipped away from the Gods of progress, fell
more deeply than had been wished. How, then, can the Gods of progress
draw man to themselves again? To understand this we must think, not of
the earth, but of Gods taking counsel together. It is for the Gods
that Christ performs the Deed by which men are drawn back to the Gods.
Lucifer's deed was enacted in the super-sensible world; Christ's Deed,
too, was enacted in the super-sensible but also in the physical world.
This was an achievement beyond the power of any human being. Lucifer's
deed was a deed belonging to the super-sensible world. But Christ came
down to the earth to perform His Deed here, and men are the onlookers
at this Deed. The Mystery of Golgotha is a Deed of the Gods, a concern
of the Gods at which men are the onlookers. The door of heaven opens
and a Deed of the Gods shines through. This is the one and only Deed
on earth that is entirely super-sensible. No wonder, therefore, that
those who do not believe in the super-sensible have no belief in the
Deed of Christ. The Deed of Christ is a Deed of the Gods, a Deed which
they themselves enact. Herein lies the glory and the unique
significance of the Mystery of Golgotha and men are invited to be its
witnesses. Historical evidence is not to be found. Men have seen the
event in its external aspect only; but the Gospels were written from
vision of the super-sensible and are therefore easily disavowed by
those who have no feeling for super-sensible reality.
The Mystery of Golgotha as an accomplished fact is one of the most
sublime of all experiences in the spiritual world. Lucifer's deed
belongs to a time when man was still aware of his own participation in
the super-sensible world; Christ's Deed was performed in material
existence itself it is both a physical and a spiritual Deed. We can
understand the deed of Lucifer through wisdom; understanding of the
Mystery of Golgotha is beyond the reach of wisdom alone. Even if all
the wisdom of this world is ours, the Deed of Christ may still be
beyond our comprehension. Love is essential for any understanding of
the Mystery of Golgotha. Only when love streams into wisdom and then
again wisdom flows into love will it be possible to grasp the nature
and meaning of the Mystery of Golgotha only when, as he lives on
towards death, man unfolds love of wisdom. Love united with wisdom
that is what we need when we pass through the Gate of Death, because
without wisdom that is united with love we die in very truth.
Philo-sophia, philosophy, is love of wisdom. The ancient wisdom was
not philosophy for it was not born through love but through
revelation. There is not such a thing as philosophy of the East but
wisdom of the East, yes. Philosophy as love of wisdom came into the
world with Christ; there we have the entry of wisdom emanating from
the impulse of love which came into the world as the Christ Impulse.
The impulse of love must now be carried into effect in wisdom itself.
The ancient wisdom, acquired by the seer through revelation, comes to
expression in the sublime words from the original prayer of mankind:
Ex Deo Nascimur Out of God we are born. That is ancient wisdom.
Christ who came forth from the realms of spirit has united wisdom with
love and this love will overcome egoism. Such is its aim. But it must
be offered independently and freely from one being to the other. Hence
the beginning of the era of love coincided with that of the era of
egoism. The cosmos has its source and origin in love; egoism was the
natural and inevitable offshoot of love. Yet with time the Christ
Impulse, the impulse of love, will overcome the element of separation
that has crept into the world, and man can gradually become a
participant in this force of love. In monumental words of Christ we
feel love pouring into the hearts of men:
Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there
am I in the midst of them.
In like manner does the ancient Rosicrucian saying resound into the
love that is wedded with wisdom: In Christo Morimur In Christ we
Through Jehovah, man was predestined for a group-soul existence; love
was to penetrate into him gradually by way of blood-relationship; it
is through Lucifer that he lives as a personality. Originally,
therefore, men were in a state of union, then of separateness as a
consequence of the Luciferic principle which promotes selfishness,
independence. Together with selfishness, evil came into the world. It
had to be so, because without the evil man could not lay hold of the
good. When a man gains victory over himself, the unfolding of love is
possible. To man in the clutches of increasing egoism Christ brought
the impulse for this victory over himself and thereby the power to
conquer the evil. The Deeds of Christ bring together again those human
beings who were separated through egoism and selfishness. True in the
very deepest sense are the words of Christ concerning deeds of love:
Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my
brethren, ye have done it unto me.
The Divine Deed of Love flowed back upon the earthly world; as time
goes on, in spite of the forces of physical decay and death, the
evolution of mankind will be permeated and imbued with new spiritual
life through this Deed a Deed performed, not out of egoism but
solely out of the spirit of love. Per Spiritum Sanctum Reviviscimus
Through the Holy Spirit we live again.
Yet the future of humanity will consist of something besides love.
Spiritual perfecting will be for earthly man the goal most worthy of
aspiration (this is described at the beginning of my second Mystery
Play, The Soul's Probation) but nobody who understands what
deeds of love truly are will say that his own striving for perfection is
selfless. Striving for perfection imparts strength to our being and to
our personality. But our value for the world must be seen to lie
wholly in deeds of love, not in deeds done for the sake of
self-perfecting. Let us be under no illusion about this. When a man is
endeavouring to follow Christ by way of love of wisdom, of the wisdom
he dedicates to the service of the world only so much takes real
effect as is filled with love.
Wisdom steeped in love, which at once furthers the world and leads the
world to Christ this love of wisdom also excludes the lie. For the
lie is the direct opposite of the actual facts and those who yield
themselves lovingly to the facts are incapable of lying. The lie has
its roots in egoism always and without exception. When, through
love, we have found the path to wisdom, we reach wisdom through the
increasing power of self-conquest, through selfless love. Thus does
man become a free personality. The evil was the sub-soil into which
the light of love was able to shine; but it is love that enables us to
grasp the meaning and place of evil in the world. The darkness has
enabled the light to come into our ken. Only a man who is free in the
real sense can become a true Christian.
- Note 1:
- In connection with the use of the word Theosophy, the
following passage is quoted from Rudolf Steiner's Introduction
to his book
The highest to which a man is able to look up he calls the
Divine. And in some way or other he must think of his
highest destiny as being in connection with this Divinity.
Therefore that wisdom which reaches out beyond the sensible and
reveals to him his own being, and with it his final goal, may very
well be called divine wisdom, or Theosophy.
To the study of the spiritual processes in human life and in the
cosmos, the term Spiritual Science may be given. When, as is
the case in this book, one extracts from this Spiritual Science those
particular results which have reference to the spiritual core of
man's being, then the expression Theosophy may be
employed to designate this domain, because it has been employed for
centuries in that direction.