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A Guide to the Spiritual Science of Rudolf Steiner

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

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A Guide to the Spiritual Science of Rudolf Steiner

Guide to Spiritual Science: Lecture 11



AST time we considered the three most significant pre-Christian streams, the ancient Persian, the Indian, and that stream which achieved expression in the Jewish people. We have said that all pre-Christian spiritual streams flowed together in the Christ Jesus, that they were rejuvenated in Him, and new-born, came to activity through Him in Christianity. So that in Christianity we find united all the earlier spiritual streams of the post-Atlantean periods. And therewith security should be given that the men of the post-Christian times, in so far as they strive after the spiritual must find themselves at one. To-day this ideal is not yet realised. But it will some day find its realisation when the people of all countries and of all religions will know of the different streams and will recognise them as all united in the true Christianity. Spiritual Science brings us this knowledge so that, later, that which is to-day only a teaching can live in mankind.

We shall now try to understand how it was possible for these streams to unite themselves in a human being. Let us see whether in the gospels are to be found standpoints such as can give confirmation of what the spiritual investigator imparts to us out of his investigations into this occurrence.

A quite remarkable criticism is made even by the theologians in regard to the gospels. People seek in them a kind of historical picture, and call the Matthew, Mark and Luke gospels the canonical gospels, because they consider them to have given the historical facts in a certain way. The fourth, however, so substantially contradicts the other three that it is considered impossible to take it as a description corresponding to historical fact; it is, therefore, taken as a kind of hymn by some loyal devotee inspired by the mission of Christ Jesus.

But the four gospels were not always so judged that agreements and contradictions were looked for with a physical-scientific intellectual outlook. The position taken up by men of the first centuries after Christ, in regard to what is described in the gospels, was quite different. These men were still filled with the deepest reverence for the great figure of Christ Jesus, and they accepted the four gospels as descriptions of Christ Jesus, and the events of that time, from four different standpoints. They realised the necessity that this great personality and the events of that time should be described from four different sides, because only so could a sufficiently complete picture of Him be given.

Now in the four Evangelists we have four different individualities, who were each in the position to describe one side of the personality of Christ Jesus and His deeds. These four personalities were initiates. In old times the way to attain the higher knowledge was different from that of to-day. To-day it is demanded from him who would stand within the spiritual worlds that he shall unfold to the highest degree the three souls-powers of thinking, feeling and willing, and indeed, in such a way that they do not, as is usually the case, work together involuntarily, so that an idea at once gives rise to a feeling, and the feeling calls up an impulse of the will. With him who has reached a certain stage of clairvoyance each thought does not call up a feeling, nor each feeling an impulse of the will, but the thought makes its appearance alone, as does the feeling and the will. Man, is, so to speak, divided into three beings. While formerly thinking, feeling, and willing were only forces in this soul, he must now become the master of a thinking being, a willing being, and a feeling being. He must, that is, become a stronger individuality. That is the present-day way. We find it described in the book Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and its Attainment, and in the Mystery Plays of Rudolf Steiner.

If a man in earlier times was led to the experience of the spiritual worlds, he did not in every case develop all three soul-forces equally, but he developed those corresponding to his capacities and to his karma. With the one it would be thinking brought to clairvoyance, with another feeling, and with the third the will developed into magic power. There were, therefore, four classes of initiates: initiates of Thinking, initiates of Feeling, and initiates of Willing, and a fourth kind of initiate in whom was developed something of thinking, of feeling and of willing. The latter did not reach so far in any one sphere as did the others, but they saw the connection of things in the three spheres. The initiates of Thinking were those who saw the spiritual worlds illuminated by wisdom. They were the wise men who were consulted in the mysteries when knowledge of the facts, and of the laws governing the relationships of things in the higher worlds was wanted. And when people wished to know that was the matter with someone who was sick and what to do to heal him, they consulted these wise men. When these had specified what was wrong, and what was to be done, then came the doctors, the healers, and gave their powers for the healing of the ailing man. These latter were the initiates of Feeling. In those times the doctors were not able to say what was wrong with a sick man, or what was to be done, but they developed their feeling to the highest power of capacity for sacrifice, to the giving of all the powers they possessed. Besides these, there were the magicians. These were the initiates educated into the sphere of the will. They had to do with outer order, they were the great organisers.

Now if the Christ Jesus were to be described it could only be done by initiates. In Jesus of Nazareth there appeared on the earth in a human, physical body, what the Greeks called the Pleroma, the fullness of wisdom, the fullness of love, the fullness of power; and besides these there were, as we have already said, all the united spiritual streams of the post-Atlantean times. All this could not be observed and described by one single initiate, therefore, it was necessary that four initiates should undertake to describe the life and the deeds of Christ Jesus. An initiate of thinking, who was therefore initiated in the facts and the laws governing connections in the cosmos, who described the Christ appearing in Christ Jesus of Nazareth as the Pleroma; that is the writer of the Gospel of St. John. He begins therefore, not with the description of the childhood of Jesus of Nazareth, but with the mighty words which embrace the whole cosmic evolution, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and a God was the Word. This was in the beginning with God, everything was made by Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made. In this was the life, and the life was the light of men, and the light appeared in the darkness, but the darkness knew it not.”

It would lead us too far to go more deeply into the contents of the different gospels. But I should like to describe, merely by way of intimation, what each evangelist describes in his gospel: for the rest I must refer to the lectures given by Rudolf Steiner on the gospels.

The writer of St. Luke's Gospel begins with the story of the childhood, and describes the personality of Jesus of Nazareth. He paints that side of the personality of Christ Jesus which he, as doctor and healer, could best observe — the healing power which went out from Christ: “And He laid His hands upon everyone of them and healed them” (Chapter iv.). “And the power of the Lord was present to heal them” (Chapter v.). Jesus said: “Somebody touched me, for I perceive that virtue is gone out of Me” (Chapter viii.).

St. Mark, as initiate of the will, describes the mighty miraculous strength of the will-force of the Christ. He tells us of the healing of those possessed. And he explains how Christ sent out the disciples: “By two and two, and He gave them power over unclean spirits.” As miracle worker He was able to describe the feeding of the five thousand and the four thousand, and the powers which the Christ was able to unfold for the guidance of the whole of mankind.

St. Matthew describes, not the full greatness of wisdom, not the full power of the healer, nor the full force of the will; he describes the man Jesus Christ and the harmonious working together of His soul-forces.

In the way in which the four Evangelists are depicted in old paintings with symbolic beasts, we see a final understanding for the different natures of men the writers of the gospels were. St. John was symbolised by the eagle, which raises itself as wisdom above everything human; the power of St. Luke, the healer, is symbolised by the bull, the beast of sacrifice; the strength of St. Mark by the lion; and St. Matthew by the man or angel — that man who had harmonised the forces of all three in himself.

As I said before, I cannot, within the limits of this introductory course, go into details. But read the gospels from the view-points indicated, and read them deeply, and you will yourselves soon find confirmation for all that I can here only indicate.

I should like, also, to touch upon a contradiction which particularly impresses us, when we study the gospels as deeply and earnestly as anthroposophy or spiritual science teaches us to do — a contradiction that comes to light so openly and clearly that it seems quite inexplicable. I should like to speak of the line of descent as we find it in St. Matthew and St. Luke. We have learnt to take the Evangelists seriously as initiates, and we must agree that when personalities like these initiates, in a biography of Christ Jesus, give the lineage through a long line of descent, that these lines of descent are right, and the writers of the gospels concerned want thereby to tell us something important. They at least consider the careful account of the physical descent of Jesus of Nazareth an important factor, in contrast to the writer of St. John's Gospel, who does not touch on the physical birth, nor the history of the childhood, but begins with the description of the baptism by St. John the Baptist — that is, with the descent of the cosmic power of the Christ into the physical bodily nature of Jesus of Nazareth, in the thirtieth year of his life. Neither does he describe the personality of Jesus of Nazareth, but of the cosmic Christ in His body — which is only three years of the life of Jesus of Nazareth. When we consider more closely the lineage as given by St. Matthew and St. Luke, we find they are two completely different lineages, of which the one begins with Abraham, and continues through David, to Joseph, and the other, beginning with Joseph goes back, through David and Abraham, to Adam, and even to God, for there stands at the end “which was the Son of God.” In agreement in these two lines of descent are only the members between Abraham and David. St. Matthew goes back only to Abraham, St. Luke goes further, to Adam “which was the son of God.” In the two lineages two different lines are traced from David. In St. Matthew's it stands: “David begat Solomon.” In St. Luke's, where the descent is given backwards, it stands: “Nathan, who was a son of David.” Therefore, from Abraham to David, we have a line of descent which agrees; thence, however, the lines proceed differently, the one goes through David's son Nathan, the other through David's son Solomon. Both lines end with Joseph, the husband of Mary, but by St. Matthew, his father is called Jacob, and by St. Luke, Eli. Here we have under our eye two different announcements of the physical descent of Jesus of Nazareth. Both statements are drawn up by initiates, and both initiates lay stress on the addition of their statement of the physical descent of Jesus of Nazareth. This contradiction will appear inexplicable to us. Rudolf Steiner gives us, however, in his book The Spiritual Guidance of Man and Mankind, the key to the understanding of the two different lineages, and at the same time the answer to the question: How was it possible for the three greatest spiritual streams of the post-Atlantean times to be united in one personality?

I should like here to give some words of Rudolf Steiner's “When one considers Jesus of Nazareth, one sees that He had quite exceptional conditions of existence. In the beginning of time as we reckon it, were born two Jesus children. The one belonged to the Nathan line of the family of David, the other to the Solomon line of that house. These two children were born not quite at the same time, but very nearly so. In the Solomon Jesus child, described in the gospel of St. Matthew, was incorporated that personality who had earlier lived on the earth as Zarathustra, so that in the Jesus child of the Matthew gospel the incarnated Zarathustra or Zoroaster is seen. And in this Jesus child, as Matthew describes him, until his twelfth year, there grew the individuality of Zarathustra.

“In that year the spirit of Zarathustra left the body of this child, and passed over into the body of the other Jesus child described by St. Luke. That is why this child suddenly became so different.”

His parents were astonished when they returned to find Him in the temple at Jerusalem, in that the spirit of Zarathustra had entered into him. This was indicated when the youth, having been lost and found again in the temple, so spoke that the parents did not recognise Him, they knew the Child, the Nathan Child, only as He was formerly. But when he began to speak with the scribes in the temple, he could so speak because into Him there had entered the spirit of Zarathustra.

In the young man Jesus, then, until his thirtieth year, lived the spirit of Zarathustra, i.e., in the young man who was descended from the Nathan line of the house of David. In this second body He reached to a still higher fulfilment. And it is to be noticed that in the astral body of this other child in which now the spirit of Zarathustra lived, the Buddha sent his impulses streaming from out of the spiritual worlds. The oriental tradition is right which relates that the Buddha would be born as a Bodhisattva and only in his earth life in his twenty-ninth year would he rise to Buddha. Asita the great Indian wise man, came weeping into the palace of the father of Gautama Buddha when the latter was still a small child. This was because, as seer, he knew that this royal child would become the Buddha, and because he, being already old, felt he would not live to see Suddhadana's son become Buddha. This old man was born again in the time of Jesus of Nazareth. He it is who is depicted in St. Luke's gospel as that priest of the temple who sees the Buddha manifested in the Nathan child Jesus. And seeing this he said: “Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace, for mine eyes have seen my Master.” What he could not see at that former time in India, that he now saw through the astral body of the child who meets us in the St. Luke's gospel as the Bodhisattva become Buddha.

That was all necessary in order that the body could reach the state in which, in Jordan, it received the baptism by St. John. Then the individuality of Zarathustra left the threefold body — the physical body, the etheric body and the astral body — of the Jesus who had grown up in such a complicated way, so that the spirit of Zarathustra could be in him. The re-incarnated Zarathustra had to go through the two possibilities of development given in the two Jesus children. Before the Baptist stood the body of Jesus of Nazareth, and into this now came the cosmic individuality — the Christ. With other men the cosmic spiritual laws act so that they only enter in his earth life. Then are they met by those which come from the necessities of earth life. With the Christ Jesus, after the baptism of St. John, there remained the cosmic spiritual forces without any influence from the laws of earth development.

We learn through Anthroposophy or Spiritual Science to read the Gospels from such standpoints, that the contradictions become self-explanatory. But the language of the Gospels must be understood, otherwise they remain foreign to us, like books written in an unknown speech. The Gospels do not treat of things of every day, therefore we cannot understand them when we imagine it possible to grasp them with our ordinary critical powers of comprehension. With those means they can only be pulled to pieces, and when that is done sufficiently thoroughly then nothing remains over except the contradictions. But when a contradiction, in face of which we stand helpless with our thinking, is explained through statements of spiritual investigators, then we indeed stand in the deepest reverence before the Evangelists, who have related so simply and yet in such a powerful and sublime way the greatest events in the history of the world and of mankind. And it is with boundless gratitude that we regard Rudolf Steiner the leader of our times, who has made the results of his spiritual investigations accessible to us, he who, through Anthroposophy, or Spiritual Science, has built a bridge to the spiritual worlds, — who has restored to us the unity of Science, Religion and Art.

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