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Background to the Gospel of St. Mark

Rudolf Steiner Archive & e.Lib Document

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

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Background to the Gospel of St. Mark

Schmidt Number: S-2331

On-line since: 31st July, 2014



What is the meaning of the temptation of Jesus by Satan? Are Satan and Lucifer identical? How can the highest of all Beings be tempted by one of a lower order?

Satan is Ahriman. In the Gospels of St. Luke and St. Matthew, Lucifer is meant; in the Gospel of St. Mark, Ahriman. An impressive description is given in that Gospel of how hideous animal forms make their appearance when a man enters the spiritual world in the usual way. There are people who believe that entrance to the spiritual world can be achieved by adopting some special diet and other material practices of a similar kind. But everything they then see, particularly when it takes the form of sublime figures of light, is only a reflection of their own self, an Ahrimanic deception. Both Lucifer and Ahriman are tempters; and Christ in human form showed how man must resist them when he begins to find his way into the spiritual world.


Shall we see in higher worlds those who belong to us?

Spiritual seeing is very different from physical seeing. In the spiritual sense we shall certainly see again those who belong to us. The fact that Mary Magdalene did not immediately recognise Jesus is an indication that the Risen Christ cannot be recognised by everyone; certain powers must first have been developed. These powers began to function in Mary Magdalene only when Christ spoke her name. Much of what Spiritual Science teaches is regarded as heretical, although the Gospels confirm it. The Risen Christ could be recognised only by clairvoyant sight.


Are not the contents of the Babylonian Tables and the Ten Commandments practically identical?

People who speak about similarities in such a case are not aware of the essentials. This is very evident in the case of the Sermon on the Mount. The Bible does not say: ‘yours is the kingdom of heaven’, but: ‘you will find the kingdom of heaven within yourselves’. The Ten Commandments too are fundamentally different from anything previously in existence. Hebraism and Christianity added the impulse of the ‘I AM’ to what was already contained in earlier religions. When such things are studied in depth they are extraordinarily enlightening.


How is the doctrine of reincarnation to be reconciled with the Bible?

It is not yet possible to understand the Bible fully. Each epoch has translated it in the way that suited itself. The Bible has nothing to fear from the doctrine of reincarnation. It used to be thought that every discovery of a new scientific truth constituted a danger to the Bible.


What is the relation between Christ and Lucifer?

It is not easy to explain this briefly. We have often spoken of how man has passed from incarnation to incarnation and how the Luciferic power took root in very early times in the astral body and Ahriman later on in the etheric body. With the coming of Christ all this acquired a new meaning. We are only at the beginning of Christian evolution. If the Gospels are understood they make it clear that Christ was obliged to deal with Lucifer and Ahriman. But there are very few who realise to-day that the stories of the Temptation differ in the Gospels of St. Matthew, St. Mark and St. Luke. Occultists know that there is not only a Luciferic temptation by way of man's desires, but also an Ahrimanic temptation — when a man carries his own passions out into the Macrocosm and sees all manner of animal figures and forms. The Gospel of St. Matthew describes a Luciferic temptation: in the Gospel of St. Mark, Jesus is ‘with the wild beasts’ of human nature. In all occult writings Lucifer is pictured as a serpent, Ahriman as a hound.

These stories of the Temptation point to deep mysteries. Just as the advent of the Luciferic and Ahrimanic powers was a necessity in order that man might become a free, independent being, so he must tear himself away from them again through the power of Christ in his soul. The spheres of Lucifer and Ahriman will gradually be reversed. Men will take the Christ Impulse into themselves, confronting Ahriman in the outside world. Up to now, and at present, the opposite has been the case. Such things can be studied in The Portal of Initiation. You should pay attention to the vowel sounds. These things are in accordance with an inner necessity. The verses in the first part change in the second into their opposite. This is intentional.


Question not recorded.

It is true that Jesus did not write anything. There is actually a theologian who discusses whether He could write at all! — In four hundred years people will call what is said nowadays about Copernicus and Galileo a modern form of mythology. Theosophists of all people should not talk about ‘Ptolemaic childishness’.


A question about the authenticity of the writings of Dionysius.

It is usual nowadays to regard the actual writer as more important than the spiritual originator and inspirer. (Rudolf Steiner here referred to his own experience in connection with Goethe's prose-hymn, Nature, the authorship of which had been disputed by some philologists.) Dionysius, the disciple of the Apostle Paul, actually wrote nothing down because in those days to have done so would have seemed unimportant. But his successors, who, as was customary in those times, were also called Dionysius, presented a faithful account of his teachings as handed down by tradition. These were the writings of the so-called pseudo-Dionysius.

To ‘believe in good faith’ is not enough; everyone should convince himself of the truth. People to-day have no conception of what is possible and what is impossible. Things become tragic in this respect when, for instance, the Bible is ruthlessly analysed by scholars. Erudition and nonsense often go hand in hand!


Can Christ Jesus appear to men on Earth?

In the way in which He appeared to St. Paul, this is possible. When this happens it is a kind of Initiation which can sometimes take place without previous training. From the middle of the twentieth century onwards many people will have this experience.

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