From Jesus to Christ (single lecture)
Rudolf Steiner Archive & e.Lib Document
FROM JESUS TO CHRIST
by DR. RUDOLF STEINER
As our subject is arousing the very widest interest everywhere, it seems justifiable to approach it from an anthroposophical standpoint. The manner in which it is being discussed and brought to public notice is, of course, very far removed from this point of view. If it is true that Anthroposophy [‘Theosophy’ was the original term, but in later lectures Dr. Sterner changed the word to ‘Anthroposophy’] is little understood and liked to-day, it may be said at once that the treating of this theme in an anthroposophical manner presents peculiar difficulties. It is unusual in our age for the feelings to be so attuned as to appreciate anthroposophical truths bearing on the more obvious matters of spiritual life, and it is directly repugnant to our present-day consciousness when a topic has to be discussed which calls for the application of Anthroposophy or Spiritual Science to the most difficult and holiest subjects.
It may be safely affirmed at the outset that the Being around Whom our thoughts are about to centre has been for many centuries the turning point of all thought and feeling, and moreover that He has called forth widely differing judgments, emotions and opinions. Countless as are those who for centuries have held firmly as a rock to all that is connected with the Name of Christ and of Jesus, beyond number also are pictures of Him which have moved souls and occupied thoughtful men ever since the Event in Palestine. Always the picture has been modified according to the general views of the times, to what was felt and considered true at any given period. Thus, when the way had been prepared by the intellectual currents of thought of the eighteenth century, it came about in the course of the following century that what could be intellectually grasped as “Christ” withdrew into the background as compared with what was called later the “Historical Jesus.” It is around the “Historical Jesus” that the widely extended controversy has arisen, and which has here in Carlsruhe its most important protagonists and its most vigorous combatants. For this reason it is as well to give a short indication of the actual position of the controversy before entering on the subject of “Christ Jesus.”
We might say that the Historical Jesus of nineteenth century thought originated under the influence of the intellectual current that takes a merely external view of spiritual life and judges it by means of external documents: that there is evidence of His having lived at the beginning of our era in Palestine, that He was crucified and, according to the faithful, rose again. It is quite in line with the character and nature of the present era, now approaching its termination, that in the case of theological research, faith limited itself to what it was thought could be confirmed by historical documents in the same way as any ordinary event is confirmed by independent writings. It may be said that all the historical written traditions elsewhere than in the New Testament could, in the opinion of one of the most important judges, be “easily contained in a quarto page.” All the other references to the historical Jesus in any documents whatever, such for example as in Josephus or Tacitus, may be put out of court, for they can never be used from the standpoint of that historical science which holds good to-day. Beyond these there are only the Gospels and the Pauline Epistles. How did the historical research of the nineteenth century examine the Gospels? Regarded purely externally how do they appear? If taken like other records, such as those of military engagements and so forth, they seem to be very contradictory documents of the physical plane, the fourfold presentation of which cannot be brought into harmony. In face of what we call historical criticism these records fall to pieces. For it must be allowed that everything which the earnest and diligent research of the nineteenth century collected out of the Gospels themselves, in order to gain a true picture of Jesus of Nazareth, has crumbled away through the presentation of the kind of research brought forward by Professor Drews. As to all that can be said against the Gospels as facts of history, it is evident that nothing can come to light about the Person of Jesus of Nazareth if we apply the methods whereby accurate science and strict criticism ratify other historical facts. We can only be considered very dilettante scientists if we do not make this concession to the science of the day.
Is it not the case that those who in the nineteenth century presented the teaching of Jesus of Nazareth, and wanted to arrive at an historical portrait of Him, had an entirely false conception of the Gospels? Were the Gospels really intended to be historical records in the sense understood in that century?
Whatever was to be said on this subject I endeavoured to state many years ago in my work, Christianity as Mystical Fact, and our present question, as to what was the real object of the Gospels, was intended to receive its answer not merely through the contents of that book but through the tide itself. For the title was not ‘The Mysticism of Christianity,’ nor ‘The Mystical Contents of Christianity:’ its object was rather to show that Christianity in its origin and its whole being is not an external fact but a Fact of the Spiritual world, and one that can only be comprehended by an insight into a realm lying behind the world of sense and behind what can be corroborated by historical records. It was shown that the forces and causes which brought about the Event of Palestine were not to be found in that region wherein external historical events take place, and thus that possibly not only may Christianity have a mystical content but that Mysticism — the actual gazing into the spiritual — is necessary to disentangle the threads that were woven behind the Event in Palestine and made it possible.
In order to realize what Christianity is, and what it can and must be in the soul of man to-day if he is to understand it aright, let us see how deeply grounded in the spiritual facts of human development were the words of St. Augustine: “That which we now call the Christian Religion already existed among the ancients and was never absent from the beginning of the human race up to the time when Christ appeared in the flesh, from which time forward the true religion which was already there received the name of the Christian Religion.” Thus does a standard authority point to the fact that it was not something new which came into humanity with the events of Palestine, but that in a certain sense a transformation had taken place in that which from time immemorial the souls of men had sought and striven for as knowledge. Something was given to humanity which had always been in existence, though hitherto along other lines than the Christian. If we wish to test the other way in which the preceding ages could come to the truths and wisdom of Christianity, we are referred by the historical development of humanity to the Mysteries of Antiquity or the Ancient Mysteries. What is meant by these expressions is little understood to-day, but it will become clearer the more men grasp the conception of the cosmos as presented by Spiritual Science.
Not merely upon the external religions of the people of antiquity must attention be focused, but upon what was practised in pre-Christian times in those mystic abodes designated by the name of the Mysteries. In the book Occult Science is to be found an explanation from the aspect of Spiritual Science, and there are also numbers of secular writers who have declared publicly what was the secret of mankind in antiquity. We read that only a few were admitted to the schools which were designated “The Mysteries,” and that these schools were the homes of the cults. Also there was a small circle of men admitted to the Mysteries by the priestly sages, and for them this meant a kind of retirement from the outer world: they realized that if they were to reach what was to be attained they must lead a different life than they had so far lived openly, and above all that they must accustom themselves to another way of thinking. These Mysteries existed all over the world, among the Greeks and Romans and other peoples, as may be confirmed by referring to extensive literature which still exists. The pupils admitted to the Mysteries were taught something comparable with what is now called science or knowledge, but they did not receive it in the same way, for by what they experienced they became quite other beings. To them came the conviction that in every man there lives, deeply hidden and slumbering so that the ordinary consciousness knows it not, a higher man. As the ordinary man looks through his eyes upon the world and with his thought-power thinks over what he experiences, so can this other man — at first unknown to external consciousness, but capable of being awakened in the depths of his nature recognize another world unattainable by external sight and thought. This was called “The birth of the inner man.” The expression is still used, though in these days it is dry and abstract in character and regarded lightly, but when the disciple of the Mysteries applied it to himself it stood for a tremendous event to be compared in some measure with being born in the physical sense. As man in the physical world is born out of a dark substratum (be it one of nature according to the materialistic idea, or a spiritual sub-stratum in the view of Spiritual Science) so, physically speaking, there was really born through the processes of the Mysteries a higher man who previously had been as little present as was the human being before birth or conception. The disciple was a new-born being. The present view of knowledge, as given everywhere in answer to a deeply philosophic question, is exactly the opposite of that which formed the central point of the whole idea and outlook of the Mysteries. It is now asked in the sense of Kant and Schopenhauer, “Where lie the limits of knowledge? What is it in the power of man to know?” We need only take up a newspaper to meet the answer that here or there lie the limits and that beyond them it is impossible to go. Certainly it was admitted in the Mysteries that there were problems which man could not solve, but it would never have been held in the sense of Kant or in Schopenhauer's Theory of Cognition that “Man cannot know” this or that! What would have been appealed to was man's capability of development, to the powers lying dormant within him which must be evoked so that he might rise to higher capacities of knowledge. The question in those times resolved itself into what was to be done in order to get beyond that which in normal life is the boundary of knowledge; how to develop deeper powers in human nature.
Something more is needed if we are to feel the whole magic charm of the Mysteries that, like a breath, pervades the works of the exoteric writers, Plato, Aristides, Plutarch and Cicero. Here we must be clear that the kind of mental comprehension present in the forming of the disciples of the Mysteries was quite different from that of the men of to-day when they confront scientific truths. What we now call science is open to anybody and everybody in any condition of receptivity whatever. It is just here that we recognize the characteristic of Truth, that it is independent of mood and feeling. For the pupil of the Mysteries the most necessary thing was that, before he was brought to the great Truths, he should go through something whereby his soul was transformed in his feelings and impressions. What to-day appears as a simple scientific truth would not have been put to him so that he could grasp it externally with his understanding, but his natural temperament would have been prepared beforehand so that he could draw near with reverential awe to what could approach him. Consequently his preparation was not one of learning; it was a gradual and radical transformation and education of his soul. The question was how the soul approached the great Truths and Wisdom and how it reacted to them, and hence arose the conviction that through the Mysteries man was bound up and united with the very foundations of the Cosmos and with what flowed from the springs of all cosmic beginnings. Thus was the disciple prepared for the experiencing of something which is described by Aristides. He who, according to what is to be found in my Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and its Attainment has lived through what these disciples experienced can himself bear witness. He knows that the words of Aristides correspond with the truth when he writes, “I seemed to be approaching God, I seemed to feel His Presence, and I was in a state between waking and sleeping; my spirit was quite light — so light that no one who was uninitiated could describe or understand it.” There was a way, therefore, to the divine foundations of the Universe which was neither Science nor one-sided Religion, but consisted in a thorough preparation of the soul for the realization of the ideas about the Evolution of the Universe so that it might draw near to God and those spiritual foundations. As we take in the external air with our breath and make it a part of our body, so did the disciple of the Mysteries receive into his soul that which pulsates spiritually through the Universe until he was united with it and so became a new man permeated by the Divinity.
Now, however, Anthroposophy or Spiritual Science shows that what was then possible was only an historical phenomenon in human evolution, and when the question arises as to whether the Ancient Mysteries of pre-Christian times are still possible in the same way it can only be said that historical research verily proves that what has just been described did really exist but that it exists no longer in the same form. The pre-Christian method of Initiation is not now possible. A man must indeed be short-sighted if he believes that the human soul is the same in all epochs, or that the spiritual path of the olden times holds good for the present. The path to the divine and primal sources of the world has now become another, and intellectual historical research shows that it did so in its very essence at the time ascribed by tradition to the Events of Palestine. These Events made a deep incision in the evolution of man. Something entered into human nature in the post-Christian period which entirely differed from what was there before. Such a method of thinking as is possible nowadays — the method of drawing nearer to the Universe through scientific thought — did not exist in pre-Christian ages. The Mysteries did not conduct man in the manner described to the very highest treasures of Wisdom in order that he might do something in secret, or acquire something special for himself as a member of a small circle, but because our modern way of combining thoughts through logic was not possible at that time. A glance at the history of humanity will show that in the course of two centuries, during the time of the Greek philosophers, the present mode of thinking was gradually prepared, and that only now has it reached the point of embracing external nature so wonderfully. Thus the entire form our consciousness takes and the way we create our conceptions of the Universe differ entirely from pre-Christian times. For the moment we are only concerned with this fact as showing that human nature has changed. A careful review of human evolution makes it clear that the entire consciousness has altered in the course of evolution (the results arising from research are to be found in my Occult Science. The men of old did not regard things and think about them as we do with our senses and understanding; they had a kind of clairvoyance, but this was of a dim and dreamlike nature (not such as is described in my The Way of Initiation). Herein lies the import of evolution, that an old clairvoyance which in primitive times was spread over all humanity gave way to that form of thought which we possess to-day. The ordinary inhabitants of every country had this kind of clairvoyant power, and a path leading from that to higher stages was provided in the Mysteries. Thereby development was given to the normal soul-faculties of man.
Observation of the world by what we call reasoning and logic having displaced the old clairvoyance, the latter is no longer a natural faculty, but it lasted right through the historical period and reached its culmination in the Greco-Roman era during which the Appearance of Christ occurred. At that point of time collective humanity everywhere had come so far in its evolution that the old clairvoyance had passed away and the old Mysteries were no longer possible. What then took the place of the old Mysteries and what did man acquire through the Mysteries?
These were of two kinds: the one proceeded from that centre of civilization which was afterwards occupied by the ancient Persians, and the other was to be met with in its purest form in Egypt and Greece. They were entirely different throughout those times. It was the endeavour of all the Mysteries to produce in man an extension of his soul-powers, but this was achieved in a different way in Greece and Egypt, than in Persia. In the two former, which agreed essentially, the object was to effect in the disciples a transformation of their soul-powers. This transformation took place under a certain supposition which must be understood before anything else. It was that in the depths of the soul there slumbers another, a divine man; that from the same sources whence the rock forms into crystal and the plants break forth in the Spring the hidden man originated. Plants, however, had already utilized all that was contained within them, whereas man, in so far as he had understood himself and worked with his own powers, had remained an imperfect being, and that which was within him had only come to the fore after much endeavour. Appeal, therefore, in the Egyptian and Greek Mysteries was made to a spiritual, a divine inner man, and when this was referred to, allusion was made also to the powers within the Earth. For according to the views held the Earth was not regarded as the lifeless cosmic body of modern astronomy, but as a spiritual planetary being. In Egypt reference was made to the wonderful spirit-forces and nature-forces, called by the names of Isis and Osiris, when it was desired to contemplate the origin and source of what could be experienced as manifestation in the inner man. In Greece this primal source was referred to under the name of Dionysos. As a consequence of this, profane writers asserted that the nature and being of things were the objects sought for, and in the Greek Mysteries they called what was found of the forces of human nature the “sub-earthly” portion of man, not the “super-earthly.” The Nature of the great “Daemons” was spoken of, and under this tide was represented all that worked on the Earth of the nature of spiritual forces. The nature of these daemons (in a good sense) was sought for through that which man was to bring forth from himself. Then the disciple had to go through all the feelings and perceptions that were possible for him in the course of evolution. He had to experience what was meant by “going down into the depths of his soul;” to learn that a fundamental feeling so dominated all soul-being that in ordinary life no conception of it could be formed, and that that feeling was a deep egoism — the almost unconquerable selfishness lying within the inner recesses of a human being. By means of struggling against and conquering all selfishness and egoism the disciple had to go through something for which we have to-day only an abstract expression, i.e., the feeling of all inclusive love and sympathy for men and beings. Sympathy, in so far as the human soul was capable of it, was to take the place of selfishness. It was clearly understood that if the disciple evoked this sympathy, which belonged in the first place to the hidden forces of the world of feeling, it could draw out from the depths of his soul the divine powers slumbering therein. It was held moreover that as he looked out upon the world with his ordinary understanding he must soon become aware of his powerlessness as a man with reference to the Cosmos, and that the further he projected his conceptions and ideas the stronger this feeling grew until in the end he was led to doubt what indeed could be called knowledge, i.e., Gnosis. Arrived at that point he must then overcome this feeling of emptiness in his soul whenever he desired to encompass the Cosmos with his ideas. This consciousness of a void was accompanied by fear and anxiety, and consequently the Greek disciple of Mysticism first filled himself with a dread of the unknown and then by coupling this with sympathy drew forth the divine powers lying within him. So did he learn to transform fear into awe and reverence, and to realize how the highest kind of awe and reverential devotion for all the phenomena of the Universe was able to penetrate every substance and conception that lay beyond the scope of ordinary knowledge.
Thus the Greek Mysteries, as also those of Isis and Osiris in the Egyptian Mysteries, worked outwards from the inmost nature of man and sought to lead him into the spiritual worlds. It was a living apprehension of the “God in Man.” A real acquaintance was formed between man and God, and immortality ranked not as mere abstract theory and philosophy but as something known, something as firmly grounded as the knowledge of external colours, and this was experienced as an intimate connection with external things. With no less certainty was this experienced also in the Persian or Mithraic Mysteries. Whereas man was led in the Greek and Egyptian Mysteries through the unfettering of his soul-powers, he was confronted at once with the Universe itself in the Mithraic Mysteries; not only did the Universe work upon him through the great and mighty Nature which is overlooked by those who regard the world in its external aspect, but by gaining a deep intimacy with Nature, he could gaze upon phenomena that lay outside the limits of the human understanding. By the methods then used the most terrible and magnificent powers were brought before the pupil from Universal Space. Whereas the Greek disciple was affected by a deep feeling of reverence, to the Mithraic disciple alone was given the knowledge of the terrible and awe-inspiring powers in Nature so that he felt himself infinitesimally small in comparison. So powerful was this impression, consequent upon his alienation from the primal source of being, that he felt that in its vastness the Universe could at any moment overwhelm and annihilate him. The first impulse came from his being led through a comprehensive astronomy and science away from external things to the greatness of the phenomena of the Universe, and what he further developed in the Mysteries was then more a consequence of the Truth in all its ramifications when Nature in her details (science in the old sense of the word) worked upon his soul. The Greek disciple became fearless through the setting free of his powers. The Mithraic disciple was brought so far that he drank in the greatness of Cosmic Thought, and thereby his soul also became strong and courageous. A knowledge of the dignity and value of a human being was gained, and with it a feeling for truth and fidelity; the disciple learned to recognize that man must always hold himself under control during his earthly existence.
Such were the benefits obtained especially through the Mithraic Mysteries, and whereas the Greek and Egyptian Mysteries are to be found spread over Greece and Egypt, the Mithraic are diffused from Persia as far as the Caspian Sea, along the Danube into Germany, and even to the South of France, to Spain and to England. Europe was indeed permeated by the Mithraic Mysteries, and everywhere it was seen clearly that something streamed into man from the Universe if only he could learn to understand it, and this that could be received was Mithra, the God that streams through the world in all worlds. It was through this power of action that courage was aroused: the warriors, the Roman legionaries, were filled with the Mithraic service or cult of Mithra. Both leaders and men were initiated into the Mysteries. Thus was God sought on the one hand by the freeing of the individual soul-powers, and it was quite evident that through this process something streamed out from the depths of the soul. On the other hand, however, it was equally evident that when man sought God by devoting himself to the great cosmic phenomena, something streamed into his soul as the essence, the finest life-sap contained in the world. There were found the primordial forces of the Universe. God came as it were into human souls through this development which was attained in the Mystery schools. A veritable process is to be seen here: each soul became a door for the entrance of the Godhead into human evolution on earth. Few were able to undergo such a development, and a special preparation for it was necessary. The teaching consisted in showing that what was hidden in external nature (Mithra) as also in the inner man of the Greek, poured through the world as a stream of divine consecration.
The evolution of man has now changed, and the entire method of Initiation is different. Here we touch upon what must be called the Mystical Fact of the Christ Event. To penetrate deeply into history is to see that the early Christians were more or less dimly conscious that the same force which entered the soul only through devotion to the Mysteries, to the Divine Principle of the Universe (streaming forth from Cosmos as the Mithra or out of the depths of the soul as the Dionysos), was as the deed of a unique Cosmic Divinity in one single Fact in the evolution of the Earth. That which was sought for beyond this, and was not to be found except by those who alienated themselves from outer life in the Mysteries, was at a given time incorporated into the Earth by the Divinity. No human effort was needed, for the Divinity once and for all permeated the Being of the Earth, and henceforth even those who had lost the power to penetrate to the Divine Principle of the Cosmos could meet Him in another way. The God Who could now penetrate into the human soul (neither as Mithra from without nor Dionysos from within) was Himself a fusion of Mithra and Dionysos, and also was related to human nature in its depths. He was embraced and encompassed by the Name of CHRIST. Mithra and Dionysos were united in the Being Who entered humanity in the Event of Palestine, and Christianity was the confluence of both Cults. The Hebrews, who were chosen that they might provide the necessary body through which this Event might take place, had become acquainted with the Mithraic and Dionysian Cults, but they remained far removed from either. The Greek thought of himself as a weak man who must develop deeper powers before he could penetrate into the depths of his soul, while the follower of Mithra felt that by letting the whole surrounding sphere of the air work upon him he might become united with the divine qualities of the Universe. The Hebrew, on the other hand, held that the deeper human nature, with all that was hidden within it, was already there in the first Man, and the ancient Hebrews called this Primal man Adam. According to old Hebraic ideas that which man could seek, and which joined him with the divine, was present originally in Adam, but in course of evolution the descendants of each generation became further and further removed from the Source of Existence. Being “subject to original sin,” as they put it, meant that man had not remained as he was and had been ejected from the sphere of the Divine; regarding himself as standing below Adam he sought the reason in original sin. But though less than that which lived in the depths of human nature, he could unite himself with the deeper powers and thereby be raised again. This point of view, that once man had stood higher and that through the qualities connected with the blood-ties he had lost something, was an historical one. What the adherent of the Mithraic Mysteries saw in humanity as One Whole the Hebrew saw in his own nation and was conscious that its original source had been lost. So that while among the Persians there was a kind of training of the consciousness, there was among the ancient Hebrews a consciousness of a historical development; Adam, by falling into sin, had fallen from the heights where he once stood. Consequently the Hebrews were the best prepared for the thought that that which had happened at the initial point of evolution (and which had brought about a deterioration in humanity) could only be raised again through an historical Event, i.e., by something actually taking place in the spiritual sub-strata of the Earth's being. The ancient Hebrew who rightly understood evolution felt that the Mithra God, equally with the God Who is evoked from the depths of the human soul, could come down without man going through a development in the Mysteries.
Thus in these people, and above all in the case of John the Baptist, there arose a consciousness of the fact that the same which the Mysteries had handed down in the form of Dionysos and Mithra was born at one and the same time in One Man. Those of them who felt this in a deeper sense held that even as through Adam the descent of man into the world was brought about (all men having descended from one forefather and inherited from him all the deeper forces that lead to sin and error) so, through One Being Who descends from the spiritual worlds as the union of Mithra and Dionysos, must the initial point be formed to which men can look when they have to rise again. As in the Mysteries human nature was developed through the setting free of the deeper soul forces or through a view of the Cosmos, the Hebrews now saw in the God Who came down into physical being Him on Whom the soul must look and believe, for Whom it must develop the deepest love, and Who as the Great Example could lead them back to their divine origin.
He who had the profoundest knowledge of this fact of Christianity was Paul. The Apostle recognized that as men looked to Adam as their physical progenitor they could, through the Christ Impulse, look to the Christ as the Great Example, and so attain to what was striven for in the Mysteries and must be born again if they were to know their own original nature. The knowledge that was kept within the recesses of the Temples, and could only be attained after ascetic training, was set forth neither in mundane document nor as some external fact but as having been accomplished as a mystical fact, the God Who pervaded the world having actually appeared in one single Form. What the disciples of the Mithraic Mysteries acquired through looking upon the Greatest Model had now been attained through Christ. The courage, self control and energy acquired by those disciples had also to be acquired by those who could no longer be initiated in the old Mithraic sense; through the Model of the historical Christ and the gazing upon Him the impulse towards this fortitude was now to pour itself out upon the soul. In the Mithraic Mysteries, as has been shown, the whole Universe was in a certain sense born in the soul of the disciple, and the courageous soul was fired with all the inner forces of initiative. In the Baptism of John something was poured down from above of which human nature could be the vehicle; when a man was permeated with the thought that his nature was capable of assimilating the profoundest harmony of the Universe, the view of the Baptism aroused within him the understanding that Mithra could be born in human nature. Those, therefore, who grasped the original meaning of Christianity, acknowledged that the end of the Mysteries had come: the God Who formerly had poured Himself into the Mysteries had now flowed directly into the being of the Earth through the Personality Who stood at the beginning of a new era (our present one).
The connection with the Greek or Dionysian Mysteries has now to be considered. Through the fact that the human gaze was guided to Jesus of Nazareth in Whom Mithra lived and Who then passed through death, an indication was given that Mithra (the bestower of courage, self control and energy) had Himself died with the death of Jesus. It was further seen that because Mithra had so vanished that which man found in his deepest nature, and had attained earlier through the Dionysian Mysteries, had now become in Jesus of Nazareth the immortal conqueror over death. Herein lies the true Christian meaning of the Resurrection if it is grasped in its spiritually scientific sense. The Baptism by John in [the] Jordan demonstrated that the old Mithra had entered into man, that thereby human nature had won the victory over death, and that by the example so created the soul could unite itself in the deepest love in order to come to that which lived in its own depths. In the Risen Christ was seen the fact that man, by living according to the event that had taken place in history, could rise above the level of ordinary humanity.
Thus in the centre of the history of the world was set an historical event in the place of that which had been sought in the Mysteries times without number. The great revelation that came to St. Paul was that human nature had thereby become different, and this was concealed within what is known as “The Event of Damascus.” Writing of what he experienced before Damascus, the Apostle relates how he learned to understand, not from external documents but through a purely spiritual clairvoyant experience, that the moment when the Incarnation itself should take place in an historical personage had already passed. The existence of Christ as a real man could never be experienced by Paul through an external fact, and what he could learn in Palestine did not convince him that the Union of Mithra and Dionysos had lived in Jesus of Nazareth. But when, before Damascus, his spiritual sight was opened, it became clear that a God Who could be called by the Name of Christ not only worked through the world as a super-sensible Being but had actually come to earth and conquered death. Henceforth he preached that what for the Initiates had previously been a streaming substance was now to be found as continuous historical fact. This lies at the basis of his words, “If Christ be not risen then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.”
Such was the path by which Paul came to Jesus by the indirect way of Christ, it being clear to him that something had taken place in Palestine which previously could only be experienced in the Mysteries. And this still applies to-day. Because Christ is the focus of all human development and the highest example for the inmost powers of the soul the bond established with Him must be of the most intimate kind. To become a disciple it is required of a man that he set little value upon his own life, and so it must be regarded as of small importance to lay aside all documentary evidence and historical traditions in order to come to Christ. Indeed there is cause for thankfulness that the fact that there ever was an historical Christ Jesus cannot be established, for no document could prove that He was the most significant of all that has passed into humanity.
The connection between Christ and the ancient Mysteries is therefore quite clear. The disciples of the latter had to go through what may be called intimate soul experiences in order to come to God; their inner feelings and sensations were more lively and intense than those of the ordinary man, and so they became aware that they were set fast in a lower nature which hindered them from arriving at the Sources of Being. This lower nature was indeed a seducer leading them away from the upward path, and that which so allured them had also become their own lower nature, and herein lay the “Temptation” that came to every disciple of the Mysteries. At the moment when God awoke within them they became aware also of their lower or sensual natures. It was as though some strange unknown being were urging them not to follow the unsubstantial and airy heights of the spiritual world, but to seize the coarse and material things that lay close at hand. Each disciple had to pass through a time when everything spiritual seemed unreal in comparison with the ordinary way of looking at things, and all that was connected with the senses appeared alluring as against the stress of spiritual effort. At another stage in mystic development these lower forces were overcome, a higher outlook being attained with the growth of invigorated powers of courage and so forth. All this teaching was clothed in certain instructions that may be verified from the writings of exoteric authors, as also in the methods of Initiation given by Spiritual Science and set forth in Occult Science. There were various methods both in the Greek and the Mithraic Mysteries. Finally the disciples experienced the “at-one-ment” with Him Who was the Divine Man, but here the methods were different and varied widely in the many countries where Initiation existed.
In my Christianity as Mystical Fact the purpose is to show that in the Gospels nothing is to be met with but a rebirth of old Initiation instructions. What took place externally had already taken place similarly in the course of the Mysteries, and therefore the Divine Being Who was in Jesus of Nazareth after the descent of the Mithra Being had to experience the “Temptation.” As the Tempter came on a small scale to the pupil of the Mysteries so did he also confront the God become man. All that was true in the Mysteries is to be found repeated in the Gospel records which were new versions of the old inscriptions and instructions given in the Initiations. The writers of the Gospels saw that once that which hitherto had lain only in the Mysteries had been enacted on the plane of Cosmic History, it was permissible to describe it in the same words as those in which their directions for Initiation were recorded. It is for this very reason that the Gospels were not intended to be biographies of Him Who was the vehicle for the Christ. This is just the mistake of all modern criticisms of the Gospels. At the time they were written the sole object was to lead the human soul to a real love for the Great Soul, the Source of the world's existence. Strangely enough a clear consciousness of this prevailed almost to the end of the eighteenth century. It is pointed out in isolated writings of remarkable interest that through the Gospels the soul can be so transformed as to find the Christ. Old Meister Eckhardt writes, “Some people want to look at God with their eyes as they look at a cow, and want to love God as they love a cow. They love God as an outward possession and an inward comfort, but these people do not love Him aright ... Simple folk imagine they ought to see God as if He stood there and they here; it is not so; God and I are One in recognition.” In another passage he writes, “A Master says, ‘God has become man, and thereby the whole human race is raised in dignity. We may rejoice that Christ our Brother has through His own power passed beyond the choir of angels, and sits at the right hand of the Father.’ This Master has spoken rightly, but verily I do not pay much attention to it. What help would it be to me if I had a brother who was a rich man, and I was at the same time a poor one? How would it help me if I had a brother who was a wise man, and I myself a fool? ... The heavenly Father begat His only Son in Himself and in me. Why in Himself and in me? I am one with Him, and it is not possible for Him to exclude me. In the same work the Holy Ghost received His Being, and is from me as from God. Why? I am in God, and if the Holy Ghost does not receive His Being from me neither does he receive it from God. I am in no way excluded.”
That is the point: that man through mystic development, without external mysteries but through the simple evolution of the soul, will in later times be able to experience that which was once experienced in the Mysteries. This, however, will only be possible because the Christ Event took place. Even if there were no Gospels, no records and no traditions, he who experiences the Christ in himself along with the being filled with Christ has the certainty, as St. Paul had it, that at the beginning of our era Christ was incarnated in a physical body. An historical biography of Jesus of Nazareth can never be gathered out of the Gospels, but through the right unfolding of his soul powers man can and must raise himself up to the Christ, and through the Christ to Jesus. Thus only can be understood what was the aim of the Gospels and what was lacking in the whole of the nineteenth century researches on the subject of Jesus. The picture of the Christ was allowed to recede into the background in order to present a tangible Jesus quite externally from the historical records. The Gospels were misunderstood, and consequently the methods of investigation crumbled to pieces.
Herewith the way is at the same time made clear to Spiritual Science. Its object is to show what are the deeper powers that have lain in man since the coming of Christ, and which he can develop. Not in the depths of externally appointed Mysteries, but in the stillness of his room, man can attain by devoting himself to what happened in Palestine that which was attained by the disciples of the Mysteries. By experiencing the Christ within himself he gains in courage and energy and in a consciousness of his dignity as man, and comes to the knowledge of how he has to take his place in humanity in the right sense. And at the same time he experiences, as could the adherent of the Greek Mysteries, the Universal Love which lives in Christ and embraces all external creatures. He learns never to be afraid or to despair in face of the world, and in full freedom and at the same time humility is sensible of devotion to the secrets of the Universe.
All this comes to the man who permeates himself with the Mystical Fact of Christianity, the successor of the old Mysteries. Simply through a cognitional development of these fundamental thoughts the Historical Jesus becomes a fact for those who have a deep knowledge of Christ. In Western philosophy it was said that without eyes none could see colour nor hear without ears; the Universe would be without light and sound. True as this is with regard to seeing and hearing, it is equally true that without light no eye could have come into existence nor could man have had any perceptions connected with it. As Goethe says, “If the eye were not born of like nature to the sun it could never look upon the sun,” and “The eye is a creation of the light.”
The Mystical Christ, spoken of by those whose spiritual sight is opened and who behold Him as Paul did, was not always in man. In pre-Christian times He was unattainable in any development through the Mysteries in the way in which He was to be found after the Mystery of Golgotha. That there might be an inner Christ and that the higher man could be born an historical Christ was needed, the Incarnation of the Christ in the Jesus. As the eye can originate only through the effect of light, so in order that there could be a Mystical Christ the historical Christ must have been there. Had there been no documents containing a biography of Jesus of Nazareth this could still be said and felt, for Jesus is not to be recognized through external writings. This fact was long known in the evolution of the West and will again be known. Spiritual Science will so formulate that it can draw together from out its various spheres what will lead to a real understanding of the Christ, and thereby to an understanding of Jesus. It has come about that Jesus has been actually alienated from the world and the methods of the Jesus investigations have melted away, but the deepening of ourselves in the Christ Being (in the Christ as a Being) will lead to a recognition of the greatness of Jesus of Nazareth.
This path, by which the Christ is first recognized through inward soul experience, leads through what really has developed out of the soul to the understanding of the Mystical Fact of Christianity, and of the gradual development of humanity, as being such that the Christ Event must take place within it as the most significant point in the evolution of man. The way leads through the Christ to Jesus. The Christ Idea bears fruitful seed that will bring humanity not merely to the apprehension of a general pantheistic Cosmic Spirit, but the individual man to the understanding of his own history; as he feels his Earth to be bound up with all cosmic existence so will he recognize that his past is bound up with a super-sensible and super-historical Event. This Event is that the Christ Being stands as a super-sensible Mystical Fact at the middle point of human evolution, and that so will He be recognized by the humanity of the future apart from all external historical research and documents. Christ will remain the strong cornerstone of mankind's evolution. Man will bring the forces out of himself to renew his own history, and therewith also the history of the evolution of the world.
|Last Modified: 24-Apr-2021||
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