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The Sermon on the Mount

A Lecture By
Rudolf Steiner
Munich, March 15, 1910
GA 118

The Sermon on the Mount, a lecture, was given in Munich, March 15, 1910. It is included in Das Ereignis der Christus-Erscheinung in der ätherischen Welt (#118 in the Bibliographic Survey, 1961), and was translated from the German by Frieda Solomon. This lecture is sub-titled, The Land of Shamballa.

We published it here with the permission of the Rudolf Steiner Nachlassverwaltung, Dornach, Switzerland.

Copyright © 1978
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The day before yesterday we spoke of how humanity is confronted by difficult conditions. We will be better able to understand why this is so if we consider our times in terms of the whole of human evolution, and thus bring ourselves up to date regarding many things known and unknown.

You know that one of the most significant pronouncements made as the Christ event approached was, “Change the disposition of your souls, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” These are words of the deepest meaning. They indicate that something of a most essential nature took place in man's entire soul development at that time. When these words were spoken, more than three thousand years had passed since the beginning of Kali Yuga or Age of Darkness. What is the significance of this age? It was the era in which it was normal for man to depend solely upon what was accessible to his senses, and also upon his brain-bound intellect. Only such things as were experienced by these means could be known and understood in the dark age of Kali Yuga.

Kali Yuga was preceded by an age in which man was not dependent only upon his outer senses and intellect, but then he still retained a memory, more or less, of the ancient dream-like condition in which he was able to feel a connection with the spiritual world. It is of this primeval age that we wish to create a picture.

Man could see not only the mineral, plant and animal kingdoms, as well as himself, within the physical realm, but he could also, in a condition between waking and sleeping, perceive a divine world. He saw himself as a member of the lowest kingdom in the hierarchical order, and above him he perceived the angels, archangels and so forth. He knew this from his own experience, so that it would have been absurd to deny the existence of the spiritual world, just as it would be absurd today to deny the existence of the mineral, plant and animal kingdoms. Not only did he possess a knowledge of what streamed toward him from spiritual realms, but he had the capacity to become completely permeated with those forces. Then he was in a state of ecstasy. His sense of ego was submerged, but the spiritual world with its forms flowed into him. Thus, he had not only a knowledge, an experience of the spiritual world, but could, if he were ill, for instance, derive healing and refreshment by means of this ecstatic state.

Oriental wisdom refers to the ages in which man still had a direct connection with the spiritual world as Krita Yuga, Treta Yuga and Dwaparu Yuga. In the latter age, however, it was no longer an actual seeing, but a remembering that took place, in the same way that an old man might remember his youth. Then the doors to the spiritual world closed. Man could no longer have converse with it in his normal state of consciousness, and the time came when only by means of a long and rigorous preparation in the mysteries could he turn again toward the spiritual.

During Kali Yuga, however, something did occasionally penetrate into the physical world from spiritual realms. As a rule, it did not come from the good powers, but was of demoniacal nature. All the strange illnesses described in the Gospels, where people are referred to as possessed, are attributable to demoniacal forces. In them we must recognize the work of evil spirits. This Little Kali Yuga began about the year 3,000 B.C. and is characterized by the fact that the spiritual world has gradually become completely closed to man's normal consciousness, so that all knowledge has had to be drawn from the world of the senses. If this process had continued unabated, all possible connection with the spiritual world would have been lost to him. Up until the time of Kali Yuga man remembered some things that had been retained by tradition, but in time even these connections gradually faded. Even the teacher, the preserver of tradition, could not speak to him about spiritual worlds because man no longer had the capacity to understand. His knowledge gradually became limited to the physical world.

If this process had continued, man would never again have been able to establish a connection with the spiritual world, try though he might, had not something occurred from another direction; that is, the embodiment on the physical plane of that divine Being to whom we refer as the Christ.

Formerly, man had been able to raise himself up to the spiritual beings, but now they had to descend into his realm, appear close to him, before he could recognize them with his ego consciousness. This moment had been foretold by the prophets of ancient times. It was said that man would be able to find his connection with God within, and this by means of his own ego. But when the promised time came it had to be brought forcefully to man's attention that that moment had actually arrived. The one who did this most powerfully was John the Baptist. He announced that the times had changed, that “the Kingdom of Heaven was at hand.” Later, this was indicated in a similar way by Jesus Christ, but the most significant sign was given in advance through the many baptisms performed by John in the Jordan, and through his teaching.

Still, by these means alone the change would not have been possible. A number of men would have had to have a much greater experience of the spiritual world so that the conviction could be born in them that a divine being would reveal himself. This was achieved by submerging them in water. When a person is about to drown, the connection of the etheric body to the physical body is loosened, even partly withdrawn. Then he can experience a sign of the new impulse in world evolution. From this comes the powerful admonition: “Alter the disposition of your soul, for the Kingdoms of Heaven are near. The disposition of soul is come upon you through which you will enter a relationship with the descended Christ. The times have been fulfilled.”

Christ Jesus Himself expressed, in the most penetrating thoughts, the fulfillment of the times in the Sermon on the Mount, as it is called. This was by no means a sermon for the masses. The Gospels read, “When Christ saw the multitudes of people, He withdrew from them and revealed Himself to His disciples.” To them He disclosed that man, in ancient times, could become God-imbued during states of ecstasy. While outside his ego, he was blissful and had direct experience with the spiritual world from which he could draw spiritual and health-giving forces. But now — so said Christ Jesus to His disciples — a man can become God-imbued who becomes permeated within himself with the God and Christ impulse, and can unite himself as an ego with this impulse. In the past, he alone could ascend to spiritual spheres who was filled with divine streamings from them. Only he, as possessor of the spirit, could be called blessed. Such a man was a seer in the old sense and he was a rare personality. The majority of the people had become beggars in the spirit. Now, however, those who sought the Kingdom of Heaven could find it through their own egos.

What occurs in such an important epoch in world evolution always affects the whole of humanity. If only a single member of a man's being is affected, the others all respond. All the members of his being — the physical and etheric bodies, the sentient, rational and consciousness souls, the ego, and even the higher soul members — receive new life through the nearness of the Kingdom of Heaven. These teachings are in complete accord with the teachings of primeval wisdom.

In order for an individual to enter the spiritual world in earlier times, the etheric body had to be slightly separated from the physical body, which was thus formed in a special way. Christ Jesus therefore said in regard to the physical body, “Blessed are the beggars, the poor in spirit, for if they develop their ego-ruled bodies in the right way, they will find the Kingdom of Heaven.”

Of the etheric body He said, “Formerly, men could be healed of illnesses of the body and soul by ascending into the spiritual world in a state of ecstasy. Now those who suffer and are filled with the spirit of God can be healed and comforted by finding the source, the comfort, within themselves.”

Of the astral body He said, “In former times those whose astral bodies were beset by wild and tempestuous passions could only be subdued when equanimity, peace and purification streamed to them from divine spiritual beings.” Now men should find the strength within their own egos, through the in-dwelling Christ, to purify the astral body on earth. Thus, the new influence in the astral body had to be presented by saying, “Blessed and God-imbued in their astral bodies are those who foster calmness and equanimity within themselves; all comfort and well-being on earth shall be their reward.”

The fourth beatitude refers to the sentient soul. The ego of him who purifies himself in his sentient soul and seeks a higher development, will become permeated with the Christ. In his heart he will thirst for righteousness; he will become pervaded with godliness and his ego will become sufficient unto itself.

The next member is the rational soul. In the sentient soul the ego is in dull slumber; it only awakens in the rational soul. Because the ego sleeps in the sentient soul, we cannot find in another man the ego that truly makes him a human being. Before an individual has developed the ego within himself, he must allow his sentient soul to grow into higher worlds to be able to perceive something there. But when he has developed himself in his rational soul, he can perceive the person next to him. Where all those members previously referred to are concerned, we must bear in mind what was given them in earlier realms. It is only the rational soul that can fill itself with what flows from man to man.

In the fifth beatitude the sentence structure will have to take on a special form. The subject and the predicate must be alike, since it concerns what the ego develops within itself. The fifth beatitude says, “He who develops compassion and mercy shall find compassion in others.”

The next sentence of the Beatitudes refers to the consciousness soul. Through it the ego comes into being as pure ego and becomes capable of receiving God into itself. If man can elevate himself to such a degree, he can perceive within himself that drop of the divine, his ego; through his purified consciousness soul he can see God. The sixth sentence of the Beatitudes must, therefore, refer to God. The external physical expression for the ego and the consciousness soul is the blood, and where it brings itself most clearly to expression is in the heart, as expression of the purified ego. Christ said, therefore, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Thus, we are shown how in the most intimate sense the heart is the expression of the ego, the divine in man.

Now let us advance to what is higher than the consciousness soul, to manas, buddhi and atman, or spirit self, life spirit and spirit man. Contemporary man may well develop the three members of the soul but not until the distant future will he be able to develop the higher members, spirit self, life spirit and spirit man. These cannot as yet live in themselves in man; for this to occur he must look up to higher beings. His spirit self is not yet in him; only in the future will it suffuse him. Man is not yet sufficiently evolved to take the spirit self completely into himself. In this respect he is still at the beginning of his development and is like a vessel that is gradually receiving it. This is indicated in the seventh sentence of the Beatitudes. At first, the spirit self can only weave into man and fill him with its warmth. Only through the deed of Christ is it brought down to earth as the power of love and harmony. Therefore, Christ says, “Blessed are those who draw the spirit self down into themselves, for they shall become the children of God.” This points man upward to higher worlds.

Further on, mention is made of what will be brought about in the future, but it will encounter in ever-increasing measure the opposition of the present time and be fiercely rejected. It is said in the eighth sentence of the Beatitudes, “God-imbued or blessed are they who are persecuted for righteousness sake, For they will be fulfilled in themselves with the Kingdom of Heaven, with life spirit or buddhi.” Connected with this we find references also to the special mission of Christ Himself, in the sentence that reads, “Christ's intimate disciples may consider themselves blessed if they have to suffer persecution for His sake.” This is a faint allusion to spirit man or atman, which will be imparted to us in the distant future.

Thus, in the Sermon on the Mount the great message that the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand is proclaimed. In the course of these events the mystery of human evolution was fulfilled in Palestine. Man had reached a degree of maturity in all the members of his being so that he was able with his purified physical forces to receive the Christ impulse directly into himself. So it came to pass that the God-man Christ merged with the human being Jesus of Nazareth and these united forces permeated the earth for three years with their powers. This had to happen so that man would not lose completely his connection with the spiritual world during Kali Yuga.

Kali Yuga, the Dark Age, however, continued until the year 1899. That was a particularly important year in human evolution, for it marked the end of the five thousand year period of Kali Yuga and the beginning of a new stage in the evolution of mankind. Onto the old faculties present during Kali Yuga man would now develop new spiritual faculties. So we approach a period in which new natural capacities and possibilities for gaining access to divine spiritual worlds will awaken in man. Before the first half of the twentieth century has passed, some people will, with full ego consciousness, experience the penetration of the divine spiritual world into the physical sense world in the same way as did Saul during his transformation into Paul before Damascus. This will then become the normal condition for many people.

Christ will not incarnate again in a physical body as he did in Jesus; now nothing would be achieved by it. It was dictated then by profound cosmic-earthly laws of evolution; otherwise, people would not have been able to recognize Him. But now men have evolved further and possess soul powers with which they can penetrate into the etheric. Thus, in future, Christ will become visible to mankind in the etheric and not in a physical body. From the middle of the twentieth century on, and continuing for the next twenty-five hundred years, this will happen more and more often. Enough people will by then have experienced the event at Damascus that it will be taken to be a common occurrence all over the world.

We study spiritual science so that these faculties, which are at first barely perceptible, may not be overlooked and lost to mankind, and that those blessed with this new power of vision may not be considered dreamers and fools, but may instead have the support and understanding of a group of people who in their common purpose may prevent these delicate soul seeds and soul qualities from being roughly trampled to death for lack of understanding. Spiritual science shall indeed prepare the conditions whereby these faculties can flourish and thrive.

Recently, I explained that these new qualities give us an insight into the Land of Shamballa, so that we may learn to know the significance and true nature of Christ, whose second coming indicates a maturing of mankind's cognition.

Generally speaking, the ages of history repeat themselves, but always in a new form. In spiritual science the beginning of Kali Yuga is seen as the closing of the portals of the spiritual world. After the first thousand years had passed there was the first compensation for it. In the individuality of Abraham, after his initiation by Melchisedek, it became possible for a human being to recognize God in the surrounding world through true insight and a proper evaluation of the external world spread out, as it were, like a carpet before his senses. In Abraham we see the first dawning of a knowledge that enables man to comprehend the true essence of an Ego-God, a God related to man's ego nature. Abraham realized that behind the phenomena of the sense world was something that made it possible for the human ego to conceive itself as a drop of the infinite, unfathomable world ego.

A second stage of God revelation was experienced at the time of Moses, when God approached man through the elements. In the burning bush, in the thunder and lightning upon Sinai, He manifested himself to man's senses and appealed to his innermost being. In the third thousand years in which a knowledge of God was breaking through there followed the age of Solomon. God revealed Himself through the symbols of the Temple that Solomon built in Jerusalem.

Thus, the divine revelation proceeded in stages. God first appeared to Abraham as Ego-God, or the Jehovah God, then to Moses in the burning bush, in thunder, and then to Solomon in the symbols of the Temple.

What is representative of a particular age repeats itself later in reverse order. The turning point is the appearance of Christ Jesus in Palestine. What immediately preceded that time is the first to reappear. Consequently, the first thousand years after Christ are again a Solomon epoch; the spirit of Solomon is active in the best men of that time so that the Mystery of Golgotha may be inculcated. In those early centuries after Christ, Solomon's symbols could be interpreted most readily by those who were most deeply affected by the event of Golgotha.

In the second thousand years after Christ we can recognize a repetition of the Moses epoch. What Moses experienced outwardly, now appears in the mysticism of men such as Eckhart, Johannes Tauler, and so on. The mystics experienced in their inner beings what Moses experienced outwardly in the burning bush, in the thunder and lightning. They spoke of how the Ego-God revealed Himself to them when they withdrew into themselves. When they perceived within their souls the spark of their egos, then the Ego-God, the One-God Jehovah appeared to them. This was the case with Tauler, who was a great preacher and made powerful revelations. To him came the layman who was called, “The Friend of God, of the Mountain,” of whom it was thought that he wished to become Tauler's pupil. But he soon became his teacher instead, after which Tauler was able to speak of God with such inner force that a number of pupils and listeners were reported to have fallen prostrate, lying as if dead, as he preached. This is reminiscent of the events that occurred when Moses received the Laws on Sinai.

The centuries up to our present time have been filled by this spirit. Now, however, we are entering an era that recalls and revives the age of Abraham, in the sense that men are being led away from the world perceptible to our physical senses. The spirit of Abraham will influence our knowledge so that men will renounce the old mentality that only laid store in the physical world. But in contrast to Abraham, for whom the spirit of God was only to be found in the world of the senses, we shall now grow beyond the sense world and into the spiritual world.

Even though men knew nothing of all this in the past, we may well say that it has not interfered with our development. In the era now approaching, however, we will be placed in circumstances that will require men consciously to take their destiny into their own hands. They must know how Christ will be perceivable in the future. It is truly related that after the event of Golgotha Christ descended to the dead in the spiritual world to bring them the Word of Salvation. The Christ event is active today in the same way. Therefore, it is the same whether a person lives in the physical world here on earth or has already passed through death. If he has gained an understanding for it here on earth, he can still experience the Christ event in the spiritual world, and that will indicate that man has not lived upon this, our earth, without reason. If, however, a person fails to acquire an understanding for the Christ event here on earth, the effects of the event of Golgotha will pass him by without a trace during the period between death and a new birth. He will then have to wait until his next return to the earth, until a new birth in order then to be able to prepare himself.

Man must not believe that Christ will reappear in the flesh, as some false teachings claim, for in that case it would be impossible to believe in the progressive development of man's faculties, and we would have to say that events repeat themselves in the same way. But this is not so. They do repeat themselves, but on ever higher levels.

In the next centuries it will often be proclaimed that Christ will return and again reveal Himself. False messiahs or Christs will appear. But those armed by the above explanations, with a true understanding of Christ's real coming, will reject such manifestations. The knowledgeable ones who can see the history of the last centuries in this light will be neither surprised nor exhalted that such messiahs appear. As an example, this happened just before the Crusades and also in the seventeenth century, when a false messiah. Shabattai Tzevi, appeared in Smyrna. Pilgrims flocked to him even from France and Spain.

At that time such a deceptive belief did not do so much damage. But now, when man with his more advanced faculties should be able to recognize that it is a mistake to believe in Christ's second coming in the flesh, and that it is in accordance with truth that He will reappear in the etheric body — now it is an absolute necessity to distinguish such things plainly. A confusion of these facts will have serious consequences. We cannot believe in an alleged Christ who reappears in the flesh, but only in a Christ who appears in the etheric body. This manifestation will take the form of a natural initiation, just as at present the initiate experiences this event in a special way.

Thus, we are approaching an age in which man will not only feel himself surrounded by a physical sense world, but also, according to the degree of his development, a spiritual world. The leader in this new world of the spirit will be the etheric Christ. No matter what religious community or faith people belong to, once they have recognized these facts in themselves, they will acknowledge and accept the Christ event. The Christians who have the experience of the etheric Christ are perhaps in a more difficult situation than those who belong to other religions, yet they should endeavor to accept this Christ event in just as neutral a way as the others. It will, in fact, be man's task to develop, especially through Christianity, an understanding for the possibility of entering the spiritual world independently of any special religious confession, but simply through the power of good will.

Anthroposophy should help us above all in this. It will lead us into that spiritual land, described in ancient Tibetan writings as a remote fairyland but meant to be the spiritual world, the Land of Shamballa. Not in a dreamy way but in full consciousness should man enter this land under the guidance of Christ. Even now the initiate can and must go often to the Land of Shamballa in order to acquire new forces. In future, other men, too, will enter the Land of Shamballa. They will see its radiant light, as Paul saw above him the light that streamed from Christ. This light will stream toward them, also. The portals of this realm of light will open to them and through them they will enter the holy Land of Shamballa.



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