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Ancient Wisdom and the Heralding of the Christ Impulse

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Sketch of Rudolf Steiner lecturing at the East-West Conference in Vienna.



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Ancient Wisdom and the Heralding of the Christ Impulse

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Ancient Wisdom and the Heralding of the Christ Impulse

Rudolf Steiner Archive Document

Lectures Section

This single lecture, given by Rudolf Steiner in May of 1912 at Cologne, is the 10th of 14 lectures in the lecture series entitled, Experiential Knowledge of the Supersensible, published in German as, Erfahrungen des Uebersinnlichen. Die wege der Seele zu Christus. This interesting lecture was also published as, Prophecies and Heralds of the Christ Impulse.

By Rudolf Steiner

Translated by Dorothy S. Osmond
Bn 143; GA 143; CW 143

This single lecture, given by Rudolf Steiner in May of 1912 at Cologne, is the 10th of 14 lectures in the lecture series entitled, Experiential Knowledge of the Supersensible, published in German as, Erfahrungen des Uebersinnlichen. Die wege der Seele zu Christus. This interesting lecture was also published as, Prophecies and Heralds of the Christ Impulse.

This lecture series is presented here with the kind permission of the Rudolf Steiner Nachlassverwaltung, Dornach, Switzerland. From Bn 143; GA 143; CW 143.

Copyright © 1973
This e.Text edition is provided through the wonderful work of:
The Anthroposophical Publishing Company
London

Thanks to a donation by Brane Žilavec, this Lecture has been made available.

ANTHROPOSOPHICAL QUARTERLY, VOLUME 18, NUMBER 1, SPRING 1973





Ancient Wisdom and
the Herald of the
Christ Impulse





RUDOLF STEINER



Lecture given in Cologne, 8 May 1912. Translated from a shorthand report unrevised by the lecturer. The original German text is included in the volume of the Complete Edition of the Works of Rudolf Steiner entitled Erfahrungen des Übersinnlichen. Die Wege der Seele zu Christus (Bibl. No. 143).
This English translation of the following lecture is published by permission of the Rudolf Steiner Nachlassverwaltung, Dornach, Switzerland.

 
The meeting today is an occasion that demands an introduction to our studies. It is the day known in the Theosophical Movement [See Note 1 at end of lecture.] as White Lotus Day, commemorating the yearly anniversary of the day on which Madame Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, the founder of the present Theosophical Movement, left the physical plane. It will need very little effort to touch a chord in every soul present here today in order to evoke feelings of admiration, veneration and gratitude towards the individuality who came to the Earth in Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, and inspired men to turn their minds again to the ancient, holy Mysteries whence all the forces and impulses needed for man's spiritual development have proceeded. By devoting herself to what she clearly realised to be the task of the modern age, H. P. Blavatsky was able to present in a popular form what was accessible to her of the Mystery wisdom, a form which differed from that in which Mystery wisdom has, through secret channels, influenced men's activities and endeavours. The significance of the modern age lies in the fact, that what was formerly accessible only to the few, must be given in a form comprehensible to wider circles. And to have acted, as she did at first, in accordance with this trend in the modern age — this was the mission of Madame Blavatsky. Thus, she turned the minds of men to something which has, in truth, always been held sacred by those who had knowledge of it. To indicate that this is so we will begin with the recitation of a poem by a thinker known to the so-called educated public — or rather known only as a dry, abstract thinker and as an architect of systems of remote philosophical ideas. But that what this thinker seems to give only in the form of crystalline ideas were the product of intense warmth of feeling, and that ideas alone were not the only expressions of the dictates of his heart — this he shows us in a poem addressed to the holy Mysteries.

Hegel — one can call him ‘the thinker of Europe’ — who has become so ‘well known’ to modern scholars that in the libraries one can still find many uncut volumes of his — has left us a poem written from the very fibres of his heart. I mean the poem ‘Eleusis’, [Translation by Owen Barfield. Published by his permission.] dedicated to Hölderlin, which will now be recited by Fräulein von Sivers. [Since 1914, Frau Doctor Steiner.] With the recitation of this poem we will pay our tribute to the genii of H. P. Blavatsky.


ELEUSIS

To Hölderlin

Rest all about me and within me rest,
The ever-grinding cares of busied men
Asleep at last! To me they proffer
Repose and liberty. My thanks to thee,
Dear freedom-bringer, Night! Now the moon veils
The uncertain outline of the distant hills
With gauzes of white mist. The clear line of the lake
Looks kindly on me.
The long-drawn-out loud noises of the day
Seem years and years away.
Thy image steals, beloved Friend, upon me
With joys from byegone days, with longings
That soon give way to sweeter hopes
Of future meeting. Fancy paints
The ardent, the long-hungered-for embrace,
The questions asked and answered;
Intimate probings whether time has changed
His mien, his look, his feelings — then the joy
Of certainty, finding the pact maintained
Firmer and riper now than then,
That ancient pact no oath had bound us to
To live for freedom and for truth alone,
Never and never to make peace
With the laws that rule sensations and beliefs!
Now the mood that bore me lightly over hills and dales to thee
Compounds with dull reality.
Ah, but a tell-tale sigh betrays their discord,
And with it flies away my fancy's happy dream
I look up to the eternal vault of heaven,
To thee, thou gleaming star of night!
Oblivion of all wishes and all hopes
Comes streaming down from thine eternity.
Reflection dies away in contemplation.
All that I labelled ‘mine’ is here no more.
I yield myself up to the Infinite,
I am within it, am naught else, am All.
Thought, soon returning, feels estranged,
Trembles before the Limitless; amazed, it cannot grasp
Such depths of contemplation.
Imagination links eternity
To sense. Ye lofty Shades, Spirits sublime,
Welcome! Ye from whose brows Perfection shines,
Ye fright me not. I feel: This also is my home,
This radiance austere that wraps you round.
Ha! Might the portals of thy Temple part,
O Ceres, erstwhile in Eleusis throned!
Drunken with ardour, now I feel
The terror of thy coming,
Even as thy Revelations dawn on me —
Then would I tell the sense sublime
Of figured images, would hear and understand
The hymns sung at a banquet of the Gods. Alas, thy halls are silent, Holy One!
Fled is the choir of Gods into Olympus,
Bare their polluted altars;
Fled from the grave of unenlightened Man
The genius of spotless magic that was here.
The wisdom of thy priests is dumb, no echo from their hallowed rites
Hath been preserved to us. In vain it quests,
The scholar's prying itch, without the love
Of wisdom. So possessed, they still despise thee.
Somewhat they hope to gain by grubbing after words,
Words that thy giant Meanings once informed -
In vain! They only turn up dust and ashes
And never never find therein thy life renewed.
What if in that disanimated trash
They found some pleasure? The complacent ghouls
Mistook: no vestige, not a trace remained
Of sacraments and images once thine.
Sons of initiation felt that high
Doctrine ineffable too full, too deep
To be bestowed in shrivelled vocables.
The soul touched by Eternity,
Immersed beyond the bounds of space and time,
By thought now unconfined forgets itself,
Then back to consciousness once more
Awakes. Who seeks to speak of this at all
To others feels, had he the tongues of angels,
The poverty of words — is horrified
To find the Sacred dwarfed by thoughts as small
As words will hold. His lips are sealed
Fearful before the sin of utterance.
What the adept forbade himself, wise laws
Enjoined on weaker minds: not to divulge
Aught that they saw, heard, felt throughout that holy night,
Lest the devotion of some better spirit
Be mischiefed by its noise; their pack of words
Might foster wrath with the Divine itself,
Were that so trodden in the mire
As even to be memorised, become
A toy, a Sophist's article on sale
For any shopper's obol,
Clothes for a fluent phraseman, even a task
Imposed on careless schoolboys — till at last
'Twere left an empty thing, its living root
Only an echo heard through foreign tongues.
Oh never, Goddess, did thy sons with greed
Bandy thy Honour in the market place,
Rather were fain to guard it well
Within the arcane sanctum of the breast.
Therefore, not on their lips, but in their lives
Thou lived'st. In their deeds thou livest yet.
This night I too discerned thee, Holy One.
Often thy children by their life reveal thee.
I scent thee as the Soul within their deeds!
Thou art the exalted mind, the constant faith
Which, still, though ruin reign, betrays not the Divine.


I feel in full accord with the individuality of H. P. Blavatsky if, especially on this day, a few words of plain truth are spoken about heir. It was characteristic of her that when she was fully herself, she desired, above everything else, to be true. Therefore we can best honour her when we direct our grateful thoughts to her and speak a few words of unvarnished truth.

In her being as a whole, in her individuality, H. P. Blavatsky revealed what inner strength, what a powerful impulse was inherent in the spiritual Movement we call the Theosophical Movement. To substantiate this, I need refer only to the first of H. P. Blavatsky's more important works, Isis Unveiled. This book must give to an ordinary reader the impression of a veritably chaotic, bewildering hotchpotch. A reader who is aware of the existence of an age-old wisdom, guarded through the ages in the Mysteries and protected from profane eyes, and who knows that this wisdom has not been acquired by any external human effort but has been harboured in secret societies, such a reader too finds in the book much that is chaotic — but he finds something else as well. He finds a work that, for the first time, presents to the secular world, courageously and daringly, certain secrets of the Mysteries. One who understands these things finds what an infinite amount has been co4ectly interpreted — an achievement that would have been possible only by Initiates. Nevertheless, the impression of chaos remains and can be explained by the following reasoned consideration. The outer personality of H. P. Blavatsky, to the extent to which she was incarnated in her physical body, with her intellect, also with her personal characteristics, her sympathies and antipathies, shows us by the very way in which Isis Unveiled is written, that she could not possibly have produced out of her own personality, out of her own soul, what she had to give to the world. She communicates things that she herself was quite incapable of understanding, and if one follows this line of thought further it proves clearly that higher, spiritual Individualities used the body and personality of H. P. Blavatsky in order to communicate what, in accordance with the need of the times, had to be inculcated into humanity. Indeed, the impossibility of attributing to her what she has given is in itself living proof of the fact that those Individualities who are connected with the Theosophical Movement, the ‘Masters of Wisdom and Harmony of Feelings,’ found an instrument in H. P. Blavatsky. Those who see clearly in such matters know that the knowledge did not originate in her but that it flowed through her from lofty spiritual Individualities. Naturally, today is not the appropriate time to speak about these matters in detail.

Now the question might arise — and it often does — why did those lofty Individualities choose Madame Blavatsky as their instrument? They did so because in spite of everything she was the most suitable. Why did the choice not fall upon one of the learned specialists dealing with the science of Comparative Religion? We need think only of the greatest, most highly respected authority on oriental religions, the renowned Max Müller, and his own pronouncements will tell us why he could not have proclaimed what had to be communicated through the human instrument of Madame Blavatsky. When the religious systems of the East and the expositions of them through Madame Blavatsky became known, Müller said: ‘If, somewhere in the street, a pig is seen and is grunting, that is not considered very remarkable, but if a human being walks along the street grunting like a pig, that is considered remarkable indeed.’ — The implication is that one who is not prepared to distort the religious systems of the East in the style of Max Müller is like a man who grunts like a pig. In any case the comparison does not seem to me very logical, for why should one be astonished when a pig grunts; but if a human being grunts, that would be a feat of which by no means everyone is capable. The comparison is rather lame, but that it could be made at all shows clearly enough that Max Müller was not the right personality.

So, the choice had to fall upon a person of no particular intellectual eminence — a situation which naturally had many disadvantages. Thus, Madame Blavatsky brought all the sympathy and antipathy of her extremely passionate nature into the great message. She had a strong antipathy to the world. conception which springs from the Old and the New Testaments, a strong antipathy to Judaism and Christianity. But to apprehend the ancient wisdom of humanity in its pure, primal form one condition is indispensable, namely to face the revelations from the higher worlds in a state of perfect mental and emotional balance. Antipathy and sympathy form a kind of fog before the inner eye. Thus, it came about that Madame Blavatsky's perception became more and more enveloped in a kind of fog, and her mind remained clear only for so-called purely Aryan traditions. Here she looked into spiritual depths with great clarity but became one-sided as a result and so it came about that in her second great work The Secret Doctrine, the early Aryan religion was presented in a biased form. To look for anything about the mystery of Sinai or of Golgotha in Blavatsky's writings would, because of this antipathy, be useless. Hence, she was led to Powers who with great forcefulness and clarity, could impart all non-Christian wisdom. This is revealed in the wonderful ‘Stanzas of Dzyan’ which Madame Blavatsky has quoted in The Secret Doctrine. But this diverted her from the path of Initiation in the physical world that was indicated, although only in a fragmentary way, in Isis Unveiled. But bound as she was by a one-sided Initiation, Madame Blavatsky could present in The Secret Doctrine only the aspect of spiritual knowledge that was inspired by the non-Christian world-conception. Thus, The Secret Doctrine is a book containing the greatest revelations of this order which humanity was able to receive at the time. It contains themes which can also be found in other writings, namely the so-called letters of the ‘Masters of Wisdom and Harmony of Feelings.’ [See Note 2 at end of lecture.] There again some of the greatest wisdom given to mankind is to be found. But there are other sections of The Secret Doctrine, for instance those dealing in great detail with the Quantum theory. Anyone who, out of true understanding, includes the stanzas of Dzyan and the Letters of the Masters among the highest revelations vouchsafed to humanity, gains the impression from the extensive sections dealing with the Quantum theory that they were the work of a person suffering from a mania for writing down whatever came into his head and being incapable of laying down his pen. Then there are other sections where a deeply rooted passionate nature discourses on scientific topics without reliable knowledge of the subject. Thus, The Secret Doctrine is a weird mixture of themes, some of which should be eliminated, while others contain the highest wisdom. This becomes comprehensible when we consider what was said by one of H. P. Blavatsky's friends who had deep insight into her character. He said: Madame Blavatsky was really a threefold phenomenon. Firstly, she was a dumpy, plain woman with an illogical mind and a passionate nature, always losing her temper; to be sure, she was good-natured, affectionate and compassionate but she was certainly not what one calls a gifted woman. Secondly, when the great truths became articulate through her, she was the pupil of the great Masters: then her facial expression and her gestures changed, she became a different person and the spiritual worlds spoke through her. Finally, there was a third, a regal figure, awe-inspiring, supreme, in those rare moments when the Masters themselves spoke through her.

Lovers of truth will always carefully distinguish in Madame Blavatsky's works what is essential and what is not. To her who is in our thoughts today, no greater service could be rendered than to look at her in the light of truth; no greater service could be done to her than to lead the Theosophical Movement in the light of truth.

Naturally, the Theosophical Movement had at first to follow an individual course; but it has become a matter of great importance that another stream should flow into the Movement. It has become necessary to add to the Theosophical Movement the stream which since the thirteenth century has been flowing from occult sources — sources to which Madame Blavatsky had no access.

So today we are doing full justice to the aims of the Theosophical Movement not only by recognising the religious creeds and world-conceptions of the East, but by adding to them those that came to expression in the revelations of Sinai and in the Mystery of Golgotha. And perhaps today it may be permissible to ask whether the scope of the Theosophical Movement as a whole calls for the addition of what in the nature of things could not be given at the beginning, or whether specialisation of an extremely questionable kind should by means of doctrine or dogma be given out as truth? I for my part say unreservedly that I know how great a wrong we should be doing to the spirit of H. P. Blavatsky now in the spiritual world, if the latter course were taken. I know that it is not opposing but acting in harmony with that spirit if we do what it wants today, namely, to add to the Theosophical Movement what that spirit was unable to give while in the earthly body. And I know that not only am I not speaking against Madame Blavatsky but in complete harmony with her when I say to you: the one thing I wish for is that our Western conception of the world shall come to its own in this Theosophical Movement. In recent years knowledge and truths of many different kinds have become available. Now let us assume that in fifty years' time everything would have to be corrected, that of our spiritual edifice, as we picture it today, not one stone is left upon another, that in fifty years' time occult investigation would have to rectify everything fundamentally, then my comment would have to be this: May be! But one thing will remain of our aims here, and that it should remain is the object of the main endeavour of our Western Theosophical Movement. [This lecture was given before the formation of the Anthroposophical Society, while Dr. Steiner was still lecturing within the Theosophical Society. See note at end of text.] It is that it may truly be said that there was once a Theosophical Movement whose one ideal in the field of occultism was to establish only that which springs from the purest, utterly unsullied sense of truth. Our aim is that one day this may be said of us. Things still in doubt are better left unsaid than to deviate in any way from a course for which a pure sense of truth can take full responsibility before all the spiritual Powers.

From this, however, something else follows. Someone might feel called upon to ask: Why do you reject this or that? Our answer is: although others may have a different idea of tolerance, our conception of it is that we feel obliged to protect mankind from what could not hold its own before the forum of pure truth. Although our work may be misrepresented, we shall stand firm and try to fulfil our task by rejecting whatever must be rejected if we are to serve our purpose. Therefore, when anything conflicts with our sense of truth, we reject it, but only then. We obey no other reasons or sentiments. Nor will we indulge in trite phrases about equal rights of opinion, brotherhood, and so on, knowing that the love of men for one another can bear fruit only if it is sincere and true. It is fitting, particularly on this day of commemoration, that this will to be inspired by the purest sense of truth should be expressed.

Since new knowledge has been gained in the way I have indicated, much that can help to explain mysteries of the universe has come to light. Nothing is ever said to discriminate between the great cultures or religious movements of the human race. Has it not been said many times when considering the first post-Atlantean epoch with the spiritual culture inspired by the holy Rishis, that there we have something that is spiritually more sublime than anything that has followed it. Neither should we ever think of belittling Buddhism; on the contrary, we emphasise its merits, knowing that it has given humanity benefits such as Christianity will be able to achieve only in the future. What is of immense importance, however, is that again and again we point to the difference that distinguishes Oriental culture from Western culture.

Oriental culture speaks only of individualities who in the course of evolution have passed through several incarnations. For instance, it speaks of the Bodhisattvas and describes them as individualities who pass through their human development more quickly than is usual. Thus, Oriental culture is concerned only with what, as individuality, passes from incarnation to incarnation until in a certain incarnation such a Bodhisattva becomes a Buddha. When a Bodhisattva has become a Buddha — which he can do only on Earth — he has advanced so far that he need not descend again into a body of flesh. And so, the further back we go, the more do we find interest focused primarily on the individuality and less on the single incarnation. What is really in mind when speaking of the Buddha is not so much the historical Buddha, the Suddhodana Prince, but rather a degree of attainment, a rank which other Bodhisattvas also attain in the course of their successive lives.

In the West, however, it is different. We have lived through an epoch of culture which has nothing to say about the individuality who passes from life to life, but values only the single personality. We speak of Socrates, Plato, Caesar, Goethe, Spinoza, Fichte, Raphael, Michelangelo, and think of them only in the one incarnation. We do not speak of the individuality who goes from incarnation to incarnation, but we speak of the personality. We speak of one Socrates, one Plato, one Goethe and so on, we speak only of a single life in which the individuality has found expression. Western culture was destined to stress the importance of the single personality, to bring it to vigorous, characteristic maturity, and to disregard the individuality passing from life to life. But the time has come when we must again learn gradually to recognise how the eternal individuality passes through the several single personalities. Now we find that mankind is striving to apprehend what it is that lives on from personality to personality. That will fire the imagination and illumine the souls of men with a new light of understanding. This can be illustrated by a particular example.

We turn our eyes to a figure such as the Prophet Elijah. First of all, we think of the Prophet himself. But the essential significance of this Prophet is the fact that in a certain way he prepared for the Mystery of Golgotha; He indicated that the Jahve impulse is something that can be understood and grasped only in the ego. He was not able to reveal the full significance of the human ‘I’ for as regards ego-consciousness he represents a half-way stage between the Moses-idea of Jehovah and the Christian Christ-idea. Thus, the prophet Elijah is revealed to us as a mighty herald, an advance messenger of the Christ-Impulse, of what came to pass through the Mystery of Golgotha. We see him as a great and mighty figure.

Now let us turn to another. The West is accustomed to think of him as a single personality. I refer to John the Baptist. The West sees him confined within his personality. But we ourselves learn to know him as the herald of Christ Himself; we follow his life as the forerunner of Christ, as the man who first uttered the words: ‘Change the disposition of your souls for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ He indicated the impulse that was to come through Golgotha; that divinity can be found within the human ego, that the Christ-Ego is to enter more and more deeply into the human ego, and that this impulse is near at hand. Now, through Spiritual Science, we learn the truth that is also indicated in the Bible, namely that the same Individuality who had lived in the prophet Elijah, lived in J9hn the Baptist. He who as Elijah heralded the Christ was reincarnated as John the Baptist, again heralding the Christ in the way appropriate for his time. For us these two figures are now united. Eastern culture proceeds in a different way, concentrating on individualities and neglecting the single personality.

Passing on now to the Middle Ages we find that extraordinary figure who was born — as if to give an outward indication of his special connection with the spiritual world — on Good Friday in the year 1483 and died in early manhood at the age of thirty-seven, a phenomenal influence through his gifts to humanity. I am speaking of Raphael. He was born on a Good Friday as if to show that he is connected with the event commemorated on Good Friday. What, in the light of Spiritual Science, can the West experience through the figure of Raphael? If we study this figure in the light of Spiritual Science, we shall discover that Raphael accomplished more for the spreading of Christianity, for the penetration of an interconfessional Christianity into the hearts of men than all the theological interpreters, than all the cardinals and popes of his time. Before the eyes of Raphael's soul there may have risen a picture of the scene described in the Acts of the Apostles. [See, Acts of the Apostles, ch. XVII, verses 22-31.] One stands up before the Athenians and says: Ye men of Athens worship the gods ignorantly, with external signs. But there is that God whom one can learn to know, the God who lives and weaves in everything that has life. That God is the Christ who suffered death and has arisen, thereby giving man the impulse leading to resurrection. Some did not listen, others thought it strange. In Raphael's soul this event came to expression in the painting now hanging in the Vatican, incorrectly named ‘The School of Athens.’ In reality it depicts the figure of Paul teaching the Athenians the fundamental principles of Christianity. In this picture Raphael has given something that seems like a heralding of the Christianity that transcends denominations. The profound meaning of this picture has not yet dawned upon men.

Of the other pictures of Raphael, it must be said that whereas nothing has remained of what cardinals and popes did for humanly at that time, Raphael's work is only today becoming a vital force. How little Raphael was understood in recent times is shown by the fact that Goethe, when visiting Dresden, did not admire the Sistine Madonna, having heard from the official at the Museum — and he was only expressing the general opinion of the day — that there was something commonplace about the facial expression of the Child Jesus, that the two Angels at the bottom of the picture could only have been added by some dauber, that the Madonna herself could not be the work of Raphael, but must have been painted over. If we look through the whole of eighteenth-century literature, we shall find hardly anything about Raphael; even Voltaire does not mention him.

And today? Today, whether Protestants or Catholics or anything else, people are inwardly moved by Raphael's pictures. It can be seen how in the Sistine Madonna a great cosmic mystery reveals itself to human hearts and will carry its impulse through them into the future, when mankind will have been led to an interconfessional, broad and all-embracing Christianity, as we already have it in Spiritual Science. And that impulse will continue to work as a result of the fact that a wonderful mystery has inspired human souls through the Sistine Madonna. I have often said that when someone looks into a child's eyes, he can know that what is gazing out of those eyes is something that has not come into existence through birth, something that reveals the depths of the human soul. One who studies the children in Raphael's Madonna pictures can see that divinity itself, an occult and superhuman reality, looks out of those eyes — something that is still present in the child in the earliest period after birth. This can be perceived in all Raphael's paintings of children, with one exception. The portrayal of one child is different — it is that of the Jesus Child in the Sistine Madonna painting. Whoever looks into the eyes of that Child knows that they already reveal more than can be embodied in a human being. Raphael has made this distinction to show that in this one Child, the Child of the Sistine Madonna, there lives something that is already experiencing, in advance, a reality of pure spirit, a Christ-like reality.

Thus, Raphael is a harbinger of the spiritual Christ who is revealed again by Spiritual Science. Through Spiritual Science too we learn that in Raphael there lived the same individuality who had lived in Elijah and in John the Baptist. And we can understand that the world in which he lived as John the Baptist reappears in Raphael when we observe how his relation to the historic Christ-Event is indicated by the fact that he was born on a Good Friday.

Here, then, we have the third harbinger after Elijah and John the Baptist. Now we understand many of the questions inevitably raised by those possessed of wider powers of perception. John the Baptist dies the death of a martyr before the event of Golgotha is drawing near. He lives through the dawn leading to the Mystery of Golgotha, through the time of prophecies and predictions, through the days of rejoicing, but not through the period of lamentation and sorrow. When this same mood becomes manifest again in the personality of Raphael, do we not find it comprehensible that with such deep devotion he paints pictures of the Madonna and of children, and is it not obvious why he does not paint the betrayal by Judas, the bearing of the Cross, Golgotha, the Mount of Olives? Any existing pictures of these subjects must have been commissioned, for the essential being of Raphael finds no expression in them. Why are such pictures alien to Raphael? Because as John the Baptist he did not live to experience the Mystery of Golgotha.

And then, as we think of the figure of Raphael, how he has lived through the centuries and is still living today, and then think of what remains of his work and what has already been destroyed, and when we reflect that all material things must eventually perish, then we know well that the living essence of these pictures will have been taken into the souls of men before the pictures themselves have perished. For centuries yet, reproductions will of course be available; but that which alone can give a true idea of Raphael's personality, of what he was, what his own hands accomplished — that will crumble into dust, his works will have perished. And nothing on our Earth can preserve them.

But through Spiritual Science it is clear to us that the individuality in Raphael bears with it what has been achieved in one incarnation, into the next. And when we learn that this same individuality appears again in the poet Novalis, and we take his first proclamation which, like a radiant sunrise, reveals a new and living concept of Christ, then we say to ourselves that long before Raphael's works disappear from the outer world, the individuality in that personality has come again, in order to bequeath his gifts in a new form to mankind. How good it is that for a time Western culture has paid attention only to the actual personality, that we have learnt to love a personality simply from the fruits of a single life! And how immeasurably enriched must our souls feel when we learn that the eternal part of man passes from personality to personality. And however different these personalities may seem to us to be, the concrete facts which spiritual knowledge can tell us about reincarnation and karma will somehow bring us understanding. Humanity will not profit as greatly from general concepts and doctrines, as from details that can throw light upon individual cases. Then much that is attainable only through intuitive vision and occult investigation can be brought to bear on these matters and at last we are able to turn our gaze to the Mystery of Golgotha itself and remind ourselves that in the thirtieth year of the life of Jesus of Nazareth the Christ Being entered into him and lived through the Mystery of Golgotha

When it is maintained nowadays that the Christ Being cannot incarnate in a physical body, it must be said that that has really never been asserted. For the physical body into which the spiritual Christ Being entered at that time was the sheath of Jesus of Nazareth. In that case it was not as it is with other individualities who build up their body themselves, but into the body which had been prepared by Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ Being descended only at a later point of time. True, there was then union, but we cannot really speak of a physical incarnation of Christ. These matters are self-evident to one who has knowledge.

But now we know that through this Christ-Impulse, as it streams into the different civilisations of mankind, something has come to the Earth, has flowed into humanity, for the benefit of all mankind. Thus, that which went through death is like a seed of corn which multiplies, can make its way into individual human souls and spring to life. As we know that the body of Jesus of Nazareth had received the Christ Being who, by passing through death, united Himself with the Earth, let us now ask: what will be the outcome of this when the Earth has reached its goal and comes to its end? Christ who united Himself with the Earth, will be the one reality on Earth when it has reached its goal. Christ will be the Spirit of the Earth. This in fact He is already, only then the souls of men will be permeated by Him, and men will form a totality together with Him.

And now another question arises. We have learnt that man in his form on Earth is to be regarded as ‘Maya.’ The form disintegrates after death; what appears outwardly as the human body is an illusion.

The external form of the physical body will no more remain than the physical bodies of the plants, animals and minerals will remain. Physical bodies will become cosmic dust. What is now the visible physical Earth will have completely vanished, will exist no longer. And what of the etheric bodies? They have meaning and purpose only as long as they have to renew the life of physical bodies, and they too will cease to exist. When the Earth has reached its goal, what will remain of all that man beholds? Nothing at all will be there, nothing of himself, nothing of the beings of the other kingdoms of nature. When the Spiritual is set free nothing will be left of matter but formless dust, for the Spirit alone is real. But something will then have become a reality, something that in times gone by had not been united with The Earth at all and with which human souls will now unite — namely, the Christ Spirit. The Christ Spirit will be the one and only reality that can remain of the Earth.

But how does this Christ Spirit acquire His spiritual sheaths? In the Mystery of Golgotha, He descended into the sphere of Earth as an Impulse, as the soul of the Earth.

It does not happen in the same way as in human beings, but the Christ Being too must form for Himself something that can he called His sheaths. Christ will eventually have a kind of spiritualised physical body, a kind of etheric body and a kind of astral body. Of what will these bodies consist?

These are questions which for the time being can only be hinted at. When the Christ Being descended to the Earth He had to provide Himself with something similar to the sheaths of a human being: a physical body, an etheric body and an astral body. Gradually, in the course of the epochs, something that corresponds to an astral, an etheric and a physical body formed around the originally purely spiritual Christ Impulse which descended at the Baptism by John. All these sheaths are formed from forces which have to be developed by humanity on Earth. What kind of forces are they?

The forces of external science cannot produce a body for Christ because they are concerned only with things that will have disappeared in the future, that will no longer exist. But there is something that precedes knowledge and is infinitely more valuable for the soul than knowledge itself. It is what the Greek philosophers regarded as the beginning of all philosophy: wonder or astonishment. Once we have the knowledge, the experience which is of value to the soul has really already passed. People in whom the great revelations and truths of the spiritual world can evoke wonder, nourish this feeling of wonder, and in the course of time this creates a force which has a power of attraction for the Christ Impulse, which attracts the Christ Spirit: the Christ Impulse unites with the individual human soul when the soul can feel wonder for the mysteries of the world. Christ draws His astral body in earthly evolution from all those feelings which have lived in single human souls as wonder.

The second quality that must be developed by human souls to attract the Christ Impulse is a power of compassion. Whenever the soul is moved to share in the suffering or joy of others, this is a force which attracts the Christ Impulse; Christ unites Himself with the human soul through compassion and love. Compassion and love are the forces from which Christ forms His etheric body until the end of earthly evolution. With regard to compassion and love one could, to put it crudely, speak of a programme which Spiritual Science must carry out in the future. In this connection, materialism has evolved a pernicious science, such as has never previously existed on Earth. The very worst offence committed today is to correlate love and sexuality. This is the worst possible expression of materialism, the most devilish symptom of our time. Sexuality and love have nothing whatever to do with each other. Sexuality is something quite different from and has no connection at all with pure, original love. Science has brought things to a shameful point by means of an extensive literature devoted to connecting these two things which are simply not connected.

A third force which flows into the human soul as if from a higher world, to which man submits, to which he attributes a higher significance than that of his own individual moral instincts, is conscience.

With man's conscience Christ is most intimately united. From the impulses which spring from the conscience of individual human souls Christ draws his physical body.

The reality of an utterance in the Bible becomes very clear when we know that the etheric body of Christ is formed from men's feelings of compassion and love: ‘What ye have done unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me’ — for to the end of the Earth's evolution Christ forms His etheric body out of men's compassion and love. As He forms His astral body out of wonder and astonishment, His physical body out of conscience, so does He form His etheric body out of men's feelings of compassion and love.

Why do we speak of these things at the present time? Because one day a great problem will have to be solved for humanity: namely, how to present the figure of Christ in its relation to the various domains of life. This will be possible only if account is taken of many things that Spiritual Science has to say. When after long contemplation of the Christ-idea as conceived by Spiritual Science, an attempt is made to present the figure of Christ, the countenance will be found to contain something that can, and indeed will, baffle all the arts. The countenance will give expression to the victory of the forces that are contained only in the face over all other forces in the human form. When men are able to fashion eyes that radiate only compassion, a mouth not adapted for eating but only for uttering those words of truth which are the words of conscience, when a brow can be shaped whose beauty lies in the moulding of the arch spanning the position of what we call the lotus-flower between the eyes ... when it becomes possible to accomplish all this, it will be understood why the Prophet says: ‘He bath no form nor comeliness.’ (Isaiah, 53, 2.) What is meant is that it is not beauty that counts, but the power that will gain the victory over decay: the figure of Christ in which all is compassion, all love, all devotion to conscience.

And so Spiritual Science passes over as a seed into human feeling, human perception. The teachings that spiritual investigation can impart do not remain mere teachings; they are transformed into life itself in the human soul. And the fruits of Spiritual Science will gradually mature into conditions of life which will appear like an external embodiment of spiritual knowledge itself, of the soul of future humanity.

With thoughts such as these I would like to have spoken to you in the way that one likes to speak to those who are striving for spiritual knowledge, not in dry words, but in words conveying ideas and stimulating feelings which can live and be effective in the outer world. When such feelings are alive in men's hearts, they will become a source of warmth streaming into all mankind. And those who believe this will also believe in the effectiveness of their own good feelings; they will also believe that this can apply to every soul — even though karma may not enable it to be outwardly manifest. Invisible effects can thus be engendered whereby all that ought to come into the world through Spiritual Science can actually be brought there.

That is the feeling I should like to have awakened in you on the occasion of my present visit to Cologne.

Translator's Notes

  1. Most readers of the Quarterly will be aware that shortly after this lecture was given, the Charter of the German Section of the Theosophical Society was cancelled by Mrs. Besant and the Anthroposophical Society was then founded as a separate body. The separation had become inevitable after the announcement in the Theosophical Society that the Christ would shortly incarnate in the physical body of a Hindu boy, a protégé of Mrs. Besant and Mr. Leadbeater. Such a development could not be countenanced by the members of the German Section who ever since the beginning of the century had been receiving the teachings of Western esotericism given by Dr. Steiner. In spite of this difference, however, the German Section had been an integral part of the Theosophical Society although always working quite independently and as Dr. Steiner constantly emphasises (e.g. in the lecture-course entitled Occult History, p. 55) in harmony with much that was originally transmitted through that ‘extraordinarily useful instrument, H. P. Blavatsky.’

  2. The ‘Masters of Wisdom and Harmony of Feelings’ are individuals who have developed to stages of Initiation-knowledge beyond those attained by average human beings. The ‘letters’ to which Dr. Steiner is here referring are ‘communications’ in which much of the ancient Eastern wisdom, and also certain Rosicrucian wisdom, presented in Madame Blavatsky's works Isis Unveiled and The Secret Doctrine was contained. The whole subject of these ‘communications’ is full of pitfalls and study of the many Theosophical publications dealing with the matter would be an arduous task. The best known publication on the subject is probably the collection entitled The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett, compiled and with an introduction by A. T. Barker. (T. Fisher Unwin, London, 1923). But the contents of the letters — it must be remembered that they dated from the eighties of last century — vary considerably in value and it is questionable whether all of them emanated from genuine Initiates with no selfish or nationalistic aims and desiring only the good of humanity as a whole. Anthroposophist's will find the subject dealt with exhaustively in the lecture-course given by Dr. Steiner in 1915, entitled The Occult Movement in the Nineteenth Century. Publications dealing specifically with H. P. Blavatsky and the earliest occult ‘communications’ received and transmitted by her, are as follows: Letters from the Masters of Wisdom, a series published at Adyar, Madras; The Early Teachings of the Masters, edited by C. Jinarajadasa and published at Adyar; Reminiscences of H. P. Blavatsky, by Countess Constance Wachtmeister; vol. 5 of the Collected Writings of H. P. Blavatsky, edited by Boris de Zirkoff, published in 1950.




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