This is the 7th of 7 lectures given by Rudolf Steiner at various cities and dates from 1917 to 1918. The title of this series of lectures is: Death as a Metamorphosis of Life. They were published in German as: Der Tod Als Lebenswandlung. The lecture was transcribed from a typescript version, and the translators are A. P. Shepherd, D.D., and D. S. Osmond. It is presented here with the kind permission of the Rudolf Steiner Nachlassverwaltung, Dornach, Switzerland. From GA# 182.
Donated by an anonymous donor, this lecture has been made available to everyone.
HOW CAN I FIND THE CHRIST?
In the lecture given here a week ago [ See note 1 ] I spoke of that participation in the spiritual world which, from now onwards into the future, the human soul must strive to achieve. Today I shall speak in rather more detail of matters connected with the direct experience of the Christ Mystery, for which lofty spiritual concepts such as those recently presented should be the preparation.
If we study man's soul-life in the light of modern Spiritual Science, we can say that in the human soul, inasmuch as it is connected on the one side with the bodily life and on the other with the spiritual life, there is a threefold inclination towards the super-sensible world. This threefold inclination will inevitably be denied by those who have no desire to know anything of that world.
In the first place there is in man an inclination, a proclivity, to know what may be called in a general sense, the Divine.
The second inclination in him — that is, in the man of today — is to know the Christ.
The third inclination in man is to know what is usually called the Spirit or also the Holy Spirit.
As we have said, there are men who deny all these inclinations. There has been abundant evidence of this, particularly in the course of the nineteenth century, when in European culture at any rate, things reached such a climax that men have denied the existence of anything Divine in the world.
In Spiritual Science — where the existence of the Divine in the realm of the super-sensible cannot be a matter of doubt — the question may be asked : What is it that makes a man deny the existence of the Divine — the Father God in the Trinity? Spiritual Science shows us that in every case where a man denies the Father God — that is to say, a Divine Principle in the world such as is acknowledged, for example, in the Hebrew religion — in every such case there is an actual physical defect, a physical sickness, a physical flaw in the body. To be an atheist means to the spiritual scientist to be sick in some respect. It is not, of course, a sickness which doctors cure — indeed they themselves very often suffer from it — neither is it recognised by modern medicine ... but Spiritual Science finds that there is an actual sickness in a man who denies what he should be able to feel, in this case, not through his soul-nature but through his actual bodily constitution. If he denies that which gives him a healthy bodily feeling, namely that the world is pervaded by Divinity, then, according to Spiritual Science, he is a sick man, sick in body.
There are also many who deny the Christ. Spiritual Science regards the denial of the Christ as something that is essentially a matter of destiny and concerns man's soul-life. To deny God is a sickness; to deny the Christ is a calamity. This must inevitably be the view of Spiritual Science. To be able to find Christ is a matter of destiny, a factor that must inevitably play into the karma of a man. To have no relationship with Christ is a calamity.
To deny the Spirit, the Holy Spirit, signifies dullness, obtuseness, of a man's own spirit. The human being consists of body, soul and spirit; in all three there may be a defect. Atheism — denial of the Divine — denotes an actual pathological defect. Failure to find in life that link with the world which enables us to recognise the Christ, is a calamity for the soul. To be unable to find the Spirit in one's own inmost being denotes obtuseness, a kind of spiritual mental deficiency, though in a subtle and unacknowledged form.
The question then arises: How can man find the Christ? It is of this that we shall speak today, this finding of the Christ which can take place in the course of life through man's own soul. ‘How can I find the Christ?’ is a question often put by earnestly seeking souls. An intelligent answer will be found only when the question is placed in a certain historical setting. This we shall attempt to do and in this way we shall finally be led to the answer.
Our present epoch, viewed in the light of Spiritual Science, began in the fifteenth century. The year 1413 can be cited as the approximate date, but without giving any exact time-indication it is quite correct to say that in the fifteenth century the nature of man's soul became what it is today.
If this is not admitted in modern history, the reason is that modern history has eyes for external facts only, and — as a ‘fable convenue’ — has no inkling whatever that prior to the fifteenth century, men thought differently, felt differently, acted differently in response to the impulses in them; in short, their life of soul was radically different from that of the men of the present day. The epoch which came to an end in 1413, began in 747 B.C., in the eighth century B.C. This was the Graeco-Latin culture-epoch. As we know, it was approximately at the end of the first third of this epoch that the Mystery of Golgotha took place.
Throughout the centuries which followed, the Mystery of Golgotha was the pivot of the thinking and feeling of many human beings. It was particularly in the life of feeling that the Mystery of Golgotha was apprehended by human souls in the times preceding the modern age, that is to say, prior to the fifteenth/sixteenth centuries. Then came the time when the Gospels began to be widely read by the populace; and it was then that the contention arose as to whether or not the Gospels are to be regarded as original, historical records. As you know, this contention has continued to our time and has been carried to extremes. We shall not concern ourselves with the various phases of it which play such an important part in Protestant Theology, but consider only what actually underlies it.
In this age of materialism it has become habitual to demand that everything must be capable of materialistic proof. When anything is established by documents it is said by history to be ‘proved.’ When documentary records are discovered, it is assumed that some historical event of which these records tell, actually took place. It would not, however, be possible to insist that the Gospels can be taken as such proof. From my book Christianity as Mystical Fact [ See note 2 ] you know that the Gospels are anything but accounts of historical happenings; they are inspired writings, the source of which was Initiation-wisdom. They were at one time considered to be ‘historical records’, but authentic research has now discovered that they are no such thing. It has also been found that the same must be said of all the records of Christianity included in the Bible. Adolf Harnack, a renowned theologian — though mistakenly renowned — has asserted that according to the findings of modern biblical research, what can be known historically about the personality of Christ Jesus could be written on a quarto page.
The only correct point about this — if I may put it paradoxically — is that what might be written on this quarto page would itself also not be true! The only point in connection with this subject that is true is that there are no historically authentic accounts of the Mystery of Golgotha! When a historian asks today whether the Mystery of Golgotha can be proved in the historical sense, the answer of modern research must inevitably be That there is no such external proof.
Furthermore, there is a good reason why there is none. Divine Wisdom decreed that the Mystery of Golgotha was not to be capable of outer, factual proof, simply because, as the most momentous of all earthly events, the Mystery of Golgotha was to be revealed to super-sensible perception only. Anyone who searches for factual materialistic proof will find none; and in the end critical examination will discover that no such proof exists. Mankind was meant to be confronted with the conclusion that we can discover the meaning of such a happening as the Mystery of Golgotha only if we have recourse to the super-sensible. The Mystery of Golgotha was intended to compel the human soul, as it were, to find the way into the realm of the super-sensible, where material proof does not apply.
Thus there is good reason why this Event cannot be proved either by the methods of natural science or in any other historical sense. When all external science, all science based purely on sensory evidence, has to admit that it has no access to the Mystery of Golgotha, when critical theology itself only arrives at conclusions that are a denial of Christianity, the essential significance of Spiritual Science will be apparent in the fact that it is by Spiritual Science alone that men can be led to the real discovery of the Mystery of Golgotha. But that discovery will be along a super-sensible path.
What was the situation of humanity when the Mystery of Golgotha took place in the Fourth post-Atlantean, Graeco-Latin epoch of culture? You know what this epoch signifies. The functions of the different members of which man's nature is composed unfold in humanity as evolution proceeds through the ages. In the Egypto-Chaldean epoch — the epoch prior to the year 747 B.C. — the Sentient Soul developed in man; in the Graeco-Latin epoch the Intellectual or Mind Soul; and since the year 1413, in our Fifth post-Atlantean epoch, the Spiritual or Consciousness Soul has been in process of development. Thus we may say that the essential feature of Graeco-Latin culture from 747 B.C. to A.D. 1413 is that humanity was being ‘educated’ — to use Lessing's phrase — into the unhampered exercise of the Intellectual or Mind Soul. [ See note 3 ]
Let us now consider the middle point of this epoch which lasted from 747 B.C. to A.D. 1413. Up to that middle point the evolution of the Mind Soul was on the ascending arc; then began the arc of descent. This point you can easily calculate; it is the year 333 after the birth of Christ Jesus. The year A.D. 333 therefore marks a very important point in the evolution of humanity.
It is only by asking ourselves what would have happened if the Mystery of Golgotha had not taken place that we can rightly assess the whole situation in which humanity was placed at that time, and properly understand what the Mystery of Golgotha meant for mankind. If that Event had not taken place, humanity would have been brought to the middle point of the Fourth post-Atlantean epoch in the year A.D. 333 through its own, inherent forces alone. Humanity would have developed out of itself all the faculties belonging to the Intellectual or Mind Soul and would have possessed them through the following centuries. An essential change, however, was wrought through the Mystery of Golgotha. Something utterly different from what would otherwise have happened came to pass. Now in assessing this unique Event which gave new meaning to the whole Earth, it is very important to keep in mind the fact we have already noted, namely, that the only avenue of approach to the understanding of this Mystery is a super-sensible one.
Although in the Fourth post-Atlantean epoch, towards the year A.D. 333, the Intellectual or Mind Soul was coming to its prime, yet in his physical life between birth and death man was totally unable to understand the nature of the Mystery of Golgotha through his ordinary human faculties. Indeed, however much mankind may develop and grow, with the faculties we unfold as the result of our bodily development between birth and death we cannot comprehend the Mystery of Golgotha.
Even those contemporaries of Christ Jesus who truly love Him — the disciples, the apostles — were only able to understand, to the extent to which they were meant to understand, who was in their midst, because they still possessed certain faculties of ancient clairvoyance. It was this that enabled them to have some inkling of the One who walked among them. But this inkling was not the outcome of their own human faculties. The Evangelists wrote the Gospels by drawing upon ancient Mystery-forms. They wrote these mighty Gospels through the power of ancient clairvoyance — not through the human faculties which had unfolded in them in the natural course of their evolutionary development.
Now the soul continues to develop after having passed through the Gate of Death. [ See note 4 ] Its power of understanding constantly increases in the life after death. So we arrive at the strange fact that the companions of Christ Jesus, whose love for Him had prepared them for a life in Christ after death, were not able to grasp the full significance of the Mystery of Golgotha by means of their own human powers until the third century after that Event. Those who had lived in communion with Christ as His disciples and apostles died and lived on in the spiritual world, and during this life in the spiritual world their powers increased, just as they do on Earth. But it was not until the second century A.D. — towards the beginning of the third — that Christ's companions had advanced to the stage in the spiritual world between death and rebirth where they were able by means of the development of their own powers to understand what they had experienced on the Earth two to three hundred years before. Then, from the spiritual world, they inspired men who were living below on the Earth.
If, keeping this in mind, you read the writings of the Church Fathers in the second or third century — when the inspiration from the spiritual world began in the real sense — you will realise how what these Church Fathers wrote about Christ Jesus can be understood. The inspirations, coming from those who had been companions of Christ Jesus on Earth and were now living through their life after death, appear in the writings of the Church Fathers in the third century A.D. These Church Fathers wrote of Christ Jesus in strange, remarkable words — in language that to modern men is often unintelligible.
I am going to cite a certain individual — I could also cite others, but I choose one whom modern materialistic culture regards with disdain, attributing to him the dreadful utterance: Credo quia absurdum est (I believe because the belief is absurd). It is of Tertullian [ See note 5 ] (c. A.D. 160–240) that I am going to speak.
Tertullian lived approximately at the time when the inspiration was beginning to flow down from those who had been companions of Christ Jesus and were now in the spiritual world, and as far as his human powers allowed he received this inspiration. If we read the works of Tertullian carefully we get a curious impression. Naturally, he wrote in the way determined by his particular nature and constitution. A man may have inspirations, but they always manifest in accordance with his capacity to receive them. So it was too, in the case of Tertullian. He did not transcribe the inspirations in an absolutely pure form, but in the way in which his human brain was capable of expressing them; firstly because he was living in a mortal body, and secondly, because in a certain respect he was a passionate and fanatical individual. Nevertheless the form in which he gave expression to the inspirations he received was remarkable in the highest degree, when regarded rightly.
Tertullian stands before us as a Roman of no particularly high literary standing, but as a writer with a magnificent power of language at his command. It can truly be said that Tertullian was the one who in his writings forced the Latin language for the first time into doing justice to Christianity. He was the first who succeeded in imbuing this most prosaic, unpoetical language, this purely rhetorical Latin language, with such temperamental fire, such impassioned ardour, that intense vitality of soul is manifest in his works. This is especially so in his De Carne Christi (On the Flesh of Christ), and also in other works where he sets out to repudiate all the charges brought against the Christians. These works are written with a holy fervour and a magnificent eloquence. Although he was a Roman, Tertullian was absolutely unbiased by his own citizenship, as is clearly evident in De Came Christi. His defence of the Christians against the persecutions of the Romans is couched in words of tremendous forcefulness. With the utmost vehemence he condemns the tortures to which the Christians were subject in order to compel them to deny their adherence to Christ Jesus. Is not your behaviour as judges of the Christians, he wrote, proof enough of your injustice? You are obliged to alter the whole of your wonted judicial procedure when you judge the Christians. In the case of others you force a witness by torture, not to deny, but to avow the truth, to confess his real belief. With the Christian you do the reverse. — You torture him in order to make him deny his belief. As judges, your behaviour to the Christians is exactly contrary to your behaviour to others. In their case you try to get at the truth through torture; in the case of the Christians you try by torture to get at a lie. [ See note 6 ] ...
Tertullian wrote of many things in a similar vein, in words that strike right home, but besides the fact that he was a courageous, forceful character, and that he saw through and exposed the hollowness of Roman worship, all his writings give evidence of his links with the super-sensible world. When he refers to the super-sensible world it is quite obvious that he well knows how to speak of it. He speaks of demons as if he were speaking of human acquaintances. Ask the demons, he says, whether the Christ, the One whom the Christians assert to be a true God, is in fact a true God! Confront a Christian with a man who is possessed, out of whom a demon speaks ... you will find that if you can make this man speak he will confess that he is a demon; for he speaks the truth, (Tertullian knew that the demons do not lie when they are questioned!). But the demons will tell you too — when a Christian questions them rightly — that Christ is verily God. Only they hate Him because they are fighting against Him. But from the demons you will learn that Christ is the true God. Thus writes Tertullian.
He therefore cites not only the testimony of man but also the testimony of the demons. He speaks of the demons as witnesses who do not merely talk, but who also recognise that Christ is the true God. Tertullian says all these things out of his own knowledge. When we study his writings we are led to ask what was the inmost conviction of his soul, inspired as he was in the way of which I have spoken? This inmost conviction of Tertullian's soul is highly instructive. For in his own day he already divined something that was not to become manifest in humanity until a considerably later time.
Fundamentally, Tertullian held a threefold conviction in regard to human nature.
Firstly: human nature is such that at the present time (i.e. towards the end of the second century A.D.) it may incur the ignominy of denying the greatest of all events on Earth. When a man follows only the dictates of his own nature, he cannot become a participant in the greatest event on Earth.
Secondly: man's soul is too feeble to comprehend this greatest event.
Thirdly: when man follows only what his mortal body renders feasible, he cannot possibly enter into any relationship with the Mystery of Golgotha.
These three points approximately represent the avowed conviction of Tertullian. Out of this conviction came his words: ‘The Son of God was crucified; I am not ashamed because men must needs be ashamed of it. And the Son of God died; it is by all means to be believed because it is absurd.’ Prorsus credibile est, quia ineptum est. This sentence is to be found in De Carne Christi. [ See note 7 ] Thirdly: ‘And He was buried’, says Tertullian, ‘and rose again; the fact is certain, because it is impossible.’
This threefold utterance of Tertullian is naturally regarded by clever modern minds as an abomination. Just imagine what a dry, materialistic scholar will think when he hears that somebody has written: ‘Christ was crucified; we must believe it, because it is shameful. Christ died; we Must believe it, because it is absurd. Christ rose again; we must believe it, because it is impossible.’ Just imagine what a typical Monist of today will make of such sentences! But what did Tertullian mean? Through his inspiration he had become a true knower of the men of his day, and he recognised the path along which human nature was advancing at that time. [ See note 8 ] Humanity was going forward into the following centuries of the Fourth post-Atlantean (the Graeco-Latin) culture-epoch.
We have already noted that the middle point of this culture-epoch was the year A.D. 333. Now it had been the intention of certain spiritual powers hostile to man, at a point exactly as many years after this middle point as those by which the Mystery of Golgotha had preceded it, to guide the Earth's evolution into channels quite different from those into which it actually was guided, as a result of the Mystery of Golgotha. Now 333 years after the year 333 is the year A.D. 666, of which the writer of the Apocalypse speaks so dramatically. Read the passage where the writer of the Apocalypse speaks of what is connected with the year 666! [ See note 9 ] The intentions of certain spiritual Powers were that at that time something should happen to humanity, and it would indeed have happened but for the Mystery of Golgotha.
The year A.D. 333 marked the zenith of the epoch of the Intellectual or Mind Soul; thereafter the descending path of that epoch could have been used for the purpose of guiding the human race into a course altogether different from the one intended by those Divine Beings who have been connected with man from the beginning, from the Saturn-evolution onwards. This deviation was to be brought about through the endowment of man with something that ought properly to come to mankind only at a later epoch, namely, the Consciousness Soul and its functions. Through a kind of premature revelation these faculties were to be bestowed upon humanity in the year 666.
If this had been achieved, if these intentions of certain Beings who, in opposing the evolution of humanity, want to seize hold of it for their own purposes, had been realised, then in the year A.D. 666 humanity, caught unawares, would have been endowed with the Consciousness Soul, functioning as fully in man as will now be the case only after a considerable period of future time.
This is in line with the invariable practice of the Beings who are the enemies of the Gods who love mankind. What the good spiritual Beings desire to bring about at a later time, these other Beings want to bring forward to an earlier period, before mankind is ready to receive it. What should rightly come about only in the middle of our own epoch of 2,160 years — that is to say, not until 1,080 years after A.D. 1413, in the year A.D. 2493 when man's own personality should be consciously within his grasp — this was to be inculcated into men in the year A.D. 666, through Ahrimanic-Luciferic Powers.
What was it that these Beings desired to achieve by these means? They wanted to give to man too soon the Consciousness Soul, whereby they would have instilled into him a nature making it impossible for him to find the further path to the Spirit- Self, the Life-Spirit, the Spirit-Man. These Beings would have cut man off from the path to his future destiny and would have claimed him for a quite different kind of evolution.
This project was not fulfilled in this particular form, phenomenal, majestic, but diabolical, as had been the intention of these evil spiritual Beings; but the traces of it have nevertheless taken effect in history. This came about because of human deeds, of which one can only say that while men on Earth perform these deeds, they are acting always as the agents of certain spiritual beings. The Emperor Justinian was an agent of these hostile beings when, as an enemy of everything that had emanated from the lofty wisdom of Greece, he closed the Schools of Philosophy in Athens in the year A.D. 529. The last representatives of Greek scholarship, with their sublime Aristotelian-Platonic knowledge, were banished and fled over to Persia, where the Syrian scholars had already taken refuge when in the fifth century the Greek sages had been driven from Edessa by the Emperor Zeno Isaurikus. Thus, when the year 666 was approaching, there had gathered in the Persian Academy of Jundi-Shapur a matchless scholarship that had come over from ancient Greek culture and had taken no account of the Mystery of Golgotha, And the scholars who taught in the Academy of Jundi-Shapur were inspired by Luciferic-Ahrimanic Powers. [ See note 10 ]
If what had been intended to come upon humanity in A.D. 666 had been achieved, it would have raised men even at that time to the level of the Consciousness Soul and have led to the severance of mankind from the later course of its evolution. If this aim of the Academy of Jundi-Shapur had fully succeeded, numbers of men of supreme learning, and endowed with extraordinary genius, would have travelled through North Africa, Western Asia, and Southern Europe, and then through all Europe, spreading that Jundi-Shapur culture of A.D. 666. The primary purpose of this culture was that at that premature time man should be made to rely entirely upon his own personality, because the Consciousness Soul had been brought into full operation within him.
This attempt failed. The world had already assumed a configuration different from that which alone would have enabled such a thing to come to pass. Therefore the whole thrust which it was the intention of the Academy of Jundi-Shapur to give to Western culture was blunted. Instead of the spread of a wisdom expounded by brilliant erudition — in comparison with which all that is known in the external world today would be utterly trifling — instead of inspired wisdom concerning those things that will only gradually be mastered through experiment and through natural science in the period up to the year A.D. 2493 — instead of this, only remnants survived in what Arabian scholars brought over to Spain. Even that was already blunted; it did not penetrate in the form or in the way that had been intended. In its place there arose Mohammedanism — Mohammed and his teaching. Islam came in the place of what had been intended to go forth from the Academy of Jundi-Shapur.
Through the Mystery of Golgotha, then, the world was diverted from this pernicious course. It was diverted not merely because the Mystery of Golgotha had previously taken place, but also because — since this was an Event beyond the grasp of man's ordinary earthly faculties — inspired understanding had come to Western humanity from the Dead, as in the case of Tertullian and many others. Thereby the minds and hearts of men were guided to something altogether different from what had been intended to emanate from the Academy of Jundi-Shapur, and there spread abroad an influence which, for the salvation of mankind, stemmed the flood of that lofty, but diabolical, wisdom promulgated by the Academy of Jundi-Shapur. Much of the inspiration from the Dead came through in a fragmentary form, but humanity was nevertheless thereby protected from what must otherwise have taken effect in the souls of men had the policy of the Academy of Jundi-Shapur succeeded.
Now operations such as were aimed at by the Academy of Jundi-Shapur proceed behind the scenes of external evolution, in the super-sensible. Men are related to them, but they take place in the realm of the super-sensible. Neither the intention of the Academy of Jundi-Shapur nor the Event of Golgotha can be judged only in the light of what takes place on the physical plane. If we want to understand the nature of such happenings we must explore in depths infinitely deeper than we generally look into.
As we have said, something of what was intended to happen, but was blunted in its effects, did indeed remain for humanity, inasmuch as out of those grand beginnings, fantastic Islam — pitiful Islam — emerged. But something further still happened to all that part of humanity in which the impulse of Jundi-Shapur had taken effect. From that Neo-Persian influence by which, out of due time, the Zarathustra-impulse was resuscitated, humanity was given an ‘injection’, if I may use a homely expression. It was an injection reaching into its actual bodily constitution, and we are born with it to this day : it is an impulse actually identical with the one of which I spoke at the beginning. There was injected into humanity that sickness which, in its effect, leads to the denial of the Father God.
Please take me literally. Humanity — that is to say, civilised humanity — has a ‘thorn in the flesh’ today. St. Paul has much to say about this ‘thorn.’ [ See note 11 ] He speaks prophetically, as an especially advanced man; the thorn was in him already in his own day. To others it was given in the real sense only later on, in the seventh century. But its effects will become more and more widespread, more and more significant. A man today who surrenders wholly to this thorn, to this sickness — for in the physical body this thorn is an actual sickness — becomes an atheist, one who denies God, who denies the Divine. In every human being belonging to modern civilisation there is, fundamentally speaking, the tendency to atheism; the question is only whether a man lends himself to it. He has within him the sickness which incites him to deny the Divine, whereas if he obeyed the promptings of his true nature he would acknowledge God. His nature was, as it were, mineralised to a certain extent at that time, retarded in its development, with the result that we have within us the sickness which gives rise to the denial of Divinity.
This sickness has many consequences. Through it a bond of attraction is created between the soul of a man and his body stronger than that which formerly existed, stronger than that which arises from human nature itself. The soul is shackled more firmly to the body. Whereas through its essential being, the soul is not intended to share the destinies of the body, through this plan it would have taken a course leading to greater and greater participation in the destinies of the body, including those of birth, heredity and death.
The aim of the sages of Jundi-Shapur — in a more amateurish form it is also the aim of certain occult societies in our own time — amounted to nothing else than this: to make man very great, very wise, on the Earth, but, by instilling this wisdom, to lead his soul to partake of death, so that when he had passed through the Gate of Death he would have no inclination to participate in spiritual life or in subsequent incarnations. The intention was to sever man from his further evolution, and so win him for the aims of certain Beings in a quite different world. It was to preserve him as he is in his life on Earth, in order to divert him from the purpose of that earthly existence, which purpose he was meant to discover only slowly and by degrees, thereby finally attaining to Spirit-Self, Life-Spirit, Spirit-Man.
The human soul would have become more intimately bound up with the Earth than had been intended. Death, which is foreordained for the body only, would in a certain respect have become the destiny of the soul as well. This was prevented by the Mystery of Golgotha. Man did become related to death, but through the Mystery of Golgotha he has been given a means of protection against it. Although, on the one side, a certain stream in world-evolution brought about a relationship between the soul and the body stronger than that originally prescribed for man, in order to maintain the balance Christ linked the soul with the spirit more strongly than had been originally planned. Through the Mystery of Golgotha the human soul was brought nearer to the spirit. [ See note 12 ]
This enables us to realise how throughout the centuries the Mystery of Golgotha is connected with the inmost forces of human nature. We must know how to relate the interrelationship between the body and the soul brought about for man by Ahriman and Lucifer, with the interrelationship between the soul and the spirit through Christ, if the right historical approach is to be made to the Mystery of Golgotha.
The Catholic Church, strongly influenced by the remains of the impulse emanating from Jundi-Shapur, decreed as a dogma at the Eighth Ecumenical Council at Constantinople in A.D. 869 that men were not to believe in the spirit. ... This was because the Church did not desire that everybody should be enlightened about the Mystery of Golgotha, but that it should be kept hidden. In the year A.D. 869, belief in the spirit was abolished by the Catholic Church. The dogma then decreed was to the effect that men must not believe in man as spirit, but only as body and soul, the soul possessing certain spiritual qualities. [ See note 13 ] Thus the truth that man is a being of body, soul and spirit was abolished by the Catholic Church, acting directly under the influence of the impulse of Jundi-Shapur. History often presents a different spectacle from the one in which it is presented for the ordinary use of those whom one party or another would like to control.
Through the Mystery of Golgotha, however, man was related more closely to the spirit. Consequently there are two forces in him: the force whereby in his soul he is allied to death, and the force which liberates him from death and leads him inwardly to the spirit.
I have told you that the urge in man which makes him deny God is a kind of sickness. This tendency is a kind of sickness we all have potentially within us today in our civilised humanity, by reason of our very physical nature. To deny God, so says Spiritual Science, is veritably a sickness — but it is in all of us.
If we rightly understand our own nature, we realise that we cease to deny God only when, through Christ, we find him again. [ See note 14 ] Just as our body has within it a potential sickness tending towards denial of the Divine, so, having the Christ-Power within us in consequence of the Mystery of Golgotha, we have a health-giving, healing force within us. In the truest sense of the word, Christ is for one and all of us the Redeemer the Healer of the sickness that can make a man deny God. Christ is the Physician for that latent sickness.
In very many respects our own age is a revival of those times which developed as they did partly as the result of the Mystery of Golgotha, partly through what happened in A.D. 333, and partly again through what happened in A.D. 666. This fact has quite definite results. The Mystery of Golgotha can be rightly understood only through the realisation that it cannot be comprehended by means of the forces with which man is endowed during his life on earth in a physical body. As we have seen, even the Apostles, the contemporaries of Christ Jesus, were unable until the third century, that is to say, a long time after their death, to understand the Mystery of Golgotha by means of their own human forces.
Now all these facts are taken up into the process of evolution itself and have many effects, one of which is the following. We today are in an altogether different position from the men who were contemporaries of Christ Jesus or who lived in the first seven centuries of Christendom. We are living in the twentieth century, well on in the Fifth post-Atlantean epoch. This being so, when we are born as souls and pass out of the super-sensible into the physical world, we have already experienced something of the Mystery of Golgotha in the spiritual world in the centuries before our birth. Just as those who were contemporaries of the Mystery of Golgotha only reached full understanding of it centuries later, so we ourselves experience a kind of reflected picture of an experience we had long before — hundreds of years before we were born. This applies to men of the present time only. All of them, when they are born into the physical world, bring with them something that is like a reflected picture of the Mystery of Golgotha, a mirror-image of what they experienced in the spiritual world in the centuries after the Mystery of Golgotha.
Naturally, this impulse cannot be directly perceived by one who has not super-sensible vision; but all human beings can experience its working within themselves. And when they experience it they discover the answer to the question: How can I find the Christ?
We find the Christ only when we have the following experiences. Firstly, we must say to ourselves: ‘I will strive for self-knowledge as far as in me lies, as far as my whole human personality makes this possible.’ Now nobody who strives honestly for self-knowledge today can fail to come to the conclusion that he is incapable of laying hold of that for which he is striving; that his power of comprehension lags behind his striving. He feels the ineffectiveness of his efforts. This is a very real experience. A certain feeling of ineffectiveness is experienced by everyone who in the quest for self-knowledge takes honest counsel with himself. It is a wholesome feeling, for it is nothing else than awareness of the sickness in us, and when we have an illness without being aware of it, then we are all the more ill. In feeling at some point in our life the powerlessness to lift ourselves to the Divine, we become aware of that sickness of which I have spoken, the sickness that has been implanted into us. And in becoming aware of this sickness, we feel that as the body is today, our soul would be condemned to die with it.
When this powerlessness is experienced with sufficient intensity, there comes the sudden reversal — the other experience which tells us that if we do not depend only upon what our bodily forces by themselves enable us to achieve, but devote ourselves to what the spirit gives — we can overcome this inner death of the soul. We find our soul again and unite ourselves with the spirit. We can experience the futility of existence on the one side and, on the other, the triumph of it within ourselves, when we have overcome the feeling of helplessness. We can be aware of the sickness, the powerlessness which has become allied with death in our soul, and then of the redemptive, healing force. And then we feel that we bear in our soul something that can at all times rise above death. It is in seeking for these two experiences that we find the Christ in our own soul.
Humanity is approaching this experience. Angelus Silesius spoke of it in the significant words:
It is raised up in man when he is conscious of the two poles: powerlessness through the body, resurrection through the spirit.
This twofold experience leads to the understanding of the Mystery of Golgotha. It is a happening in regard to which the excuse of lacking faculties of super-sensible perception is invalid. Such faculties are not essential. All that is essential is to be resolute in the practice of self-examination and to have the will to overcome the attitude of self-sufficiency that is so prevalent today, and which prevents man from realising that insistence upon placing reliance solely in his own faculties is a result of pride. A man whose pride renders him incapable of feeling that his own forces can but lead him to powerlessness, will be unable to have the experience either of death or of resurrection; nor will he ever know the reality contained in the thought of Angelus Silesius:
But when we can experience powerlessness and recovery from it, the benediction of actual relationship with Christ Jesus is vouchsafed to us. For this experience is the recovery of what we experienced in the spiritual world hundreds of years before our birth. We must seek here, on the physical plane, for its mirror-image in the soul. Seek within yourselves and you will discover the powerlessness! Seek, and you will find, after the experience of powerlessness, the redemption from it, the resurrection of the soul to the spirit.
But do not allow yourselves to be misled in these matters by what is put forward today as mysticism or actually preached as a tenet by certain denominations. When Harnack, for example, speaks of the Christ, what he says is not true, for the simple reason that it can equally well apply to God in the general sense. It can be said alike of the God of the Hebrews, of the God of the Mohammedans, of all the other Gods. You will hear many a one who claims to be awakened today, saying: I experience God within me ... but it is the Father God only that such people experience and that in a very weakened form, because they do not realise that they are sick and are speaking merely in accordance with tradition. Johannes Muller is an example of this. But none of these men have found Christ, for the Christ-experience does not consist of the unitary realisation of the Divine, but of the twofold experience of the death in the soul wrought by the body and the resurrection of the soul wrought by the spirit. A man who can say that he feels not only the Divine within him — as mystical theosophists eloquently assert — but can speak of the two experiences — of powerlessness and the resurrection from it — such a man is speaking of the true Christ-experience. And after all, he has found his way to the Mystery of Golgotha along a super-sensible path, he has found within himself the strength whereby certain super-sensible faculties are quickened to life and lead him to the Mystery of Golgotha.
Verily there is no need today to despair of finding the Christ in immediate experience, for He has been found in very truth when a man has rediscovered his own true being — but always after the realisation of powerlessness. The feeling of futility that comes upon us when, without self-sufficiency, we contemplate our own faculties, must be the preliminary to the experience of the Christ Impulse. When mystics say: I have found in my ego the higher Ego, the Divine Ego ... they believe that this is Christianity. It is by no means so! Christianity must be based on the principle:
The truth of what I am saying can be felt in detailed occurrences of life and from the consideration of these we can rise to the great experience of powerlessness and of resurrection from it. It would be good, particularly in our own age, if the following were realised. There is undoubtedly in the depths of men's souls a tendency towards truth and, consequently, the urge to speak the truth. But it is just when we are most determined to speak the truth, and then reflect upon how to do it, that we begin to realise the powerlessness of the human body in face of Divine Truth. The moment you practise self-examination in respect of speaking, you will discover a very remarkable fact. The poet felt it when he wrote the words: ‘When the soul speaks, alas, the soul no longer speaks.’ On the way to the point where what we experience in our inmost soul as truth becomes articulate language, truth is already blunted. It is not yet completely killed in spoken language, but it is already blunted. Anyone who understands what language is, knows that proper nouns alone, which relate exclusively to one particular thing, are true designations of that thing. As soon as we use generalised expressions, be they substantives, verbs or adjectives, we are no longer giving utterance to the full truth.
Truth, then, lies in our conscious realisation that with every sentence we are bound to deviate from truth. In Spiritual Science we endeavour to surmount the admission that with every statement you make you are uttering something that is not wholly true, by proceeding in a way of which I have often spoken. I have said on so many occasions that in Spiritual Science the essential is not so much what is said — for that would always be subject to the risk of ineffectiveness — but how it is said. Try to realise — and you can see this in my own writings — every possible aspect and every possible angle from which any subject can be described, for only in that way can we get near to the truth of things.
Those who believe that words themselves are anything other than a Eurythmy, are greatly in error. Words are nothing but Eurythmy brought to expression by the larynx with the help of the air. They are no more than gestures — made with the larynx instead of with the hands or feet. [ See note 16 ] We must be fully aware that in using words we merely point to something, and that we have a right relation to the truth only when we regard the words as pointers to what we want to express, and when we bring this consciousness into our common life. One of the purposes of Eurythmy itself is to draw attention to this. In Eurythmy the whole human being is made into a larynx — that is to say, it brings to expression through the whole human being what is otherwise expressed through the larynx only — in order that men shall again become aware that in their articulate language they are merely making gestures. I say: ‘Father’, I say: ‘Mother’ ... but when I use generalised terms I can speak effectively only when the other man has become acquainted in our common social life with the things to which these terms apply, when he understands the gestures. We surmount the ineffectiveness which can be felt in regard to speech and language, we celebrate the resurrection from ineffectiveness, when we realise that the moment we open our lips we must be truly Christian. What the Word, the Logos, has come to be in the course of evolution can be understood only when the Logos is again related to the Christ and we become conscious of the fact that our body, being the instrument for utterance, forces the truth downwards to the point where, on our lips, it undergoes a partial death; we bring truth to life again in Christ when we are conscious that we must spiritualise the words, imbue them with spirit-reality. This means that we must be mindful of the spirit-reality — not take language merely as language, but at the same time ‘think’ the spirit-reality expressed in it. That is what we must learn to do!
Now there is a particular example of what I have been saying publicly in different places. I have given close study to extremely interesting essays by Woodrow Wilson — they were addresses on American history, American literature. American life. Woodrow Wilson describes American life in its development from the East to the West of that continent in a really brilliant, most impressive way. His descriptions are those of one who is an American to his very bones, and these addresses, published as essays, are very fascinating. The volume is entitled Mere Literature and other Essays. [ See note 17 ] By reading these essays we really get to know the American character, for Woodrow Wilson is the most typical American who could possibly be found.
I have compared — and this can be done quite objectively — many passages in these essays with utterances, for example, of Hermann Grimm, who is.through and through a typical German, a typical Mid-European, of the nineteenth century — a man whose style of writing I admire as much as I dislike that of Woodrow Wilson. That is merely a personal aside. I love Hermann Grimm's style of writing and I find Woodrow Wilson's style repugnant, but for all that, one can be quite objective. Woodrow Wilson, the typical American, writes brilliantly about the development of the American character. And then something else struck me when I compared essays by him and by Hermann Grimm, in which both of them have written about the methodology of history. Passages of Woodrow Wilson tally exactly, almost literally, with passages of Hermann Grimm; passages of Hermann Grimm can simply be transposed into statements by Woodrow Wilson. There is, of course, no question whatever of plagiarism; I do not for one instant suggest that, for it is absolutely out of the question. But here, without becoming bourgeois or philistine, we can learn that when two men say the same thing, it is not the same! Here is the problem. Is it not remarkable that Woodrow Wilson describes his Americans really much more penetratingly, much more suggestively, than anything described by Hermann Grimm when he is writing of methodology in history, and that yet in his descriptions, Woodrow Wilson uses practically the same passages as Hermann Grimm? What is the explanation? It is a real problem.
When we go into it closely, we find the following answer. In Hermann Grimm's style, in everything he has written, it is obvious that every sentence is the outcome of intense individual struggle; from sentence to sentence, everything has been wrestled for! Everything is a product of nineteenth-century culture, but written out of the Consciousness Soul itself.
Woodrow Wilson writes brilliantly, but he is possessed by something in his subconsciousness. It is a case of daimonic possession. There is something in his subconsciousness that inspires into him what he then writes down. It is the daimon who is speaking through his soul — the daimon who naturally manifests in a particular way in an American of the twentieth century. Hence the brilliance, the forcefulness!
Today, lazy people, concerning themselves with the content of words only, often say when they read something: ‘I have read this before somewhere or other.’ They must learn to realise that what is of real importance is not the content of what is said, but who it is who is speaking; to realise that the man must be recognised from what he says, because the words are only gestures and the real point is to know who is making these gestures. That is what humanity must come to realise.
Here we have a great mystery of everyday life. It makes all the difference whether each sentence is the outcome of intense struggle on the part of the personal Ego or has been ‘inspired’ in some way either from below, or from above, or from one side or another. The power of suggestion is actually the greater in what has been inspired in this way, because in reading what has been the outcome of struggle, we ourselves have to wrestle with it. The time is approaching when the primary importance must no longer be attached to the purely literal content of what is before us, but above all to who is saying this or that — I do not mean only the actual physical personality, but the whole human-spiritual setting.
When people ask today: How can I find the Christ? — we must answer them in this sense, for they will not reach the Christ through cogitation, however subtle it may be, but only when they have the courage to enter with their whole being into the experiences of daily life. Even in regard to language you must feel the powerlessness caused by the body because it is the vehicle of language — and then, afterwards, you must feel the resurrection of the spirit in the word. ‘The letter killeth, the spirit maketh alive’ is one of those utterances that have often been misunderstood. The ‘letter’ (the articulated sound) does kill and the ‘spirit’ must be made living again, in that as an actual experience of his own, man links himself with the Christ and with the Mystery of Golgotha. This is a first step towards finding the Christ.
Seek therefore always for the human setting in which words are used, do not think only about their content — as is the custom today. Think of how the words come forth from the source whence they are uttered. If many among us would be mindful of this, we should not so often find people saying: ‘So-and-so spoke quite “anthroposophically”, or “theosophically” — just read what he says!’ I repeat — the actual words themselves are not the essential; the essential is out of what spirit they were uttered. It is not words that we want to spread through Anthroposophy, but a new spirit, the spirit which from the twentieth century onwards must be that of a Christ-ruled world.
References and Quotations
A translation of the writings of Tertullian by Peter Holmes, D.D., is contained in several volumes of the series: Ante-Nicene Christian Library; Translations of the Writings of the Fathers down to A.D. 325. (Published by T. & T. Clark, Edinburgh, 1874.)
The text of the translation of De Carne Christi (On the Flesh of Christ) is to be found in Vol. XV (vol. 2), pp. 163–214.
Vol. XV (vol. 1) includes Tertullian's Apologeticus, one of the writings in which he inveighs against the Romans for their persecutions of the Christians. The following is a typical passage from chapter 1:
It is also in the Apologeticus (p. 99) that a passage occurs on the subject of possession by demons: ‘Let a person be brought before your tribunals, who is plainly under demoniacal possession. The wicked spirit, bidden speak by a follower of Christ, will as readily make the truthful confession that he is a demon, as elsewhere he has falsely asserted that he is a god ...’
In Vol. VII of the same series, The Five Books of Tertullian against Marcion, the translator includes in his Introductory Notice (p. XVI) the following quotation from Vincentius Lirinesis:
‘And for his (Tertullian's) wit, was he not so excellent, so grave, so forcible, that he scarce ever undertook the overthrow of any position, but that either by quickness of wit he undermined, or by weight of reason he crushed it? Further, who is able to express the praises which his style of speech deserves, which is fraught (I know none like it) with that cogency of reason, that such as it cannot persuade, it compels to assent: whose so many words almost are so many sentences; whose so many sentences, so many victories? This know Marcion and Apelles, Praxens and Hermogenes, Jews, Gentiles, Gnostics, and divers others, whose blasphemous opinions he hath overthrown with his many and great volumes, as it had been with thunderbolts ...’