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The Gospel of John

Rudolf Steiner

Hamburg, May 31, 1908 GA 103

A lecture for members of the Theosophical (later Anthroposophical) Society

Translated by Maud B. Monges – lightly revised here

Lecture XII

THE NATURE OF THE VIRGIN SOPHIA
AND OF THE HOLY SPIRIT

Yesterday we reached the point of discussing the change which takes place in the human astral body through Meditation, Concentration and other practices which are given in the various methods of initiation. We have seen that the astral body is thereby affected in such a way that it develops within itself the organs which it needs for perceiving in the higher worlds and we have said that up to this point, the principle of initiation is everywhere really the same — although the forms of its practices conform wholly to the respective cultural epochs. The principal difference appears with the occurrence of the next thing which must follow. In order that the pupil may be able actually to perceive in the higher worlds, it is necessary that the organs which have been formed out of the astral part, impress or stamp themselves upon the ether body, be impressed into the etheric element.

The re-fashioning of the astral body indirectly through Meditation and Concentration is called by an ancient name, “catharsis,” or purification. Catharsis or purification has as its purpose the discarding from the astral body all that hinders it from becoming harmoniously and regularly organized, thus enabling it to acquire higher organs. It is endowed with the germ of these higher organs; it is only necessary to bring forth the forces which are present in it. We have said that the most varied methods can be employed for bringing about this catharsis A person can go very far in this matter of catharsis if, for example, he has gone through and inwardly experienced all that is in my book, The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity [The Philosophy of Freedom], and feels that this book was for him a stimulation and that now he has reached the point where he can himself actually reproduce the thoughts just as they are there presented. If a person holds the same relationship to this book that a virtuoso, in playing a selection on the piano, holds to the composer of the piece, that is, he reproduces the whole thing within himself — naturally according to his ability to do so — then through the strictly built up sequence of thought of this book — for it is written in this manner — catharsis will be developed to a high degree. For the important point in such things as this book is that the thoughts are all placed in such a way that they become active. In many other books of the present, just by changing the system a little, what has been said earlier in the book can just as well be said later. In the The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity this is not possible. Page 150 can as little be placed fifty pages earlier in the subject matter as the hind legs of a dog can be exchanged with the forelegs, for the book is a logically arranged organism and the working out of the thoughts in it has an effect similar to an inner schooling. Hence there are various methods of bringing about catharsis. If a person has not been successful in doing this after having gone through this book, he should not think that what has been said is untrue, but rather that he has not studied it properly or with sufficient energy or thoroughness.

Something else must now be considered and that is that when this catharsis has taken place, when the astral organs have been formed in the astral body, it must all be imprinted upon the ether body. In the pre-Christian initiation, it was done in the following manner. After the pupil had undergone the suitable preparatory training, which often lasted for years, he was told: The time has now come when the astral body has developed far enough to have astral organs of perception, now these can become aware of their counterpart in the ether body. Then the pupil was subjected to a procedure which today — at least for our cultural epoch — is not only unnecessary, but is not in all seriousness feasible. He was put into a lethargic condition for three and a half days, and was treated during this time in such a way that not only the astral body left the physical and ether bodies — a thing that occurs every night in sleep — but to a certain degree the ether body also was lifted out; but care was taken that the physical body remained intact and that the pupil did not die in the meantime. The ether body was then liberated from the forces of the physical body which act upon it. It had become, as it were, elastic and pliable and when the sensory organs that had been formed in the astral body sank down into it, the ether body received an imprint from the whole astral body. When the pupil was brought again into a normal condition by the Hierophant, when the astral body and I were again united with the physical and etheric bodies — a procedure which the Hierophant well understood — then not only did he experience catharsis, but also what is called “Illumination” or “Photismos.” The pupil could then not only perceive in the world around him all those things that were physically perceptible, but he could employ the spiritual organs of perception, which means, he could see and perceive the spiritual. Initiation consisted essentially of these two processes, Purification or Purging, and Illumination.

Then the course of human evolution entered upon a phase in which it gradually became impossible to draw the ether body out of the physical without a very great disturbance in all its functions, because the whole tendency of the post-Atlantean evolution was to cause the ether body to be attached closer and closer to the physical body. It was consequently necessary to carry out other methods of initiation which proceed in such a manner that without the separating of the physical and ether bodies, the astral body, having become sufficiently developed through catharsis and able of itself to return again to the physical and etheric bodies, was able to imprint its organs on the ether body in spite of the hindrance of the physical body. What had to happen was that stronger forces had to become active in Meditation and Concentration in order that there might be the strong impulse in the astral body for overcoming the power of resistance of the physical body. In the first place there was the actual specifically Christian initiation in which it was necessary for the pupil to undergo the procedure which was described yesterday as the seven steps. When he had undergone these feelings and experiences, his astral body had been so intensely affected it formed its organs of perception to be pliable — perhaps only after years, but still sooner or later — and then impressed them upon the ether body, thus making of the pupil one of the Illuminati. This kind of initiation, which is specifically Christian. could only be described fully if I were able to give lectures about its particular aspects every day for about a fortnight instead of only for a few days. But that is not the important thing. Yesterday you were given certain details of the Christian initiation. We only wish to become acquainted with its principle.

By continually meditating upon passages of the Gospel of St. John, the Christian pupil is actually in a condition to reach initiation without the three and a half day continued lethargic sleep. If each day he allows the first verses of the Gospel of St. John, from “In the beginning was the Word” to the passage “full of devotion and truth,” to work upon him, they become an exceedingly significant meditation. They have this force within them, for this Gospel is not there simply to be read and understood in its entirety with the intellect, but it must be inwardly fully experienced and felt. It is a force which comes to the help of initiation and works for it. Then will the “Washing of the Feet,” the “Scourging” and other inner processes be experienced as astral visions, wholly corresponding to the description in the Gospel itself, beginning with the 13th Chapter.

The Rosicrucian initiation, although resting upon a Christian foundation, works more with other symbolic ideas which produce catharsis, chiefly with imaginative pictures. That is another modification which had to be used, because mankind had progressed a step further in its evolution and the methods of initiation must conform to what has gradually been evolved.

We must understand that when a person has attained this initiation, he is fundamentally quite different from the person he was before. While formerly he was only associated with the things of the physical world, he now acquires the possibility of association with the events and beings of the spiritual world. This presupposes that the human being acquires knowledge in a much more real sense than in that abstract, dry, prosaic sense in which we usually speak of knowledge. For a person who acquires spiritual knowledge finds the process to be something quite different. It is a complete realization of that beautiful expression, “Know thyself.” But the most dangerous thing in the realm of knowledge is to understand these words erroneously and today this occurs only too frequently. Many people construe these words to mean that they should no longer look around the physical world, but should gaze into their own inner being and seek there for everything spiritual. This is a very mistaken understanding of the saying, for that is not at all what it means. We must clearly understand that true higher knowledge is also an evolution from one standpoint, which the human being has attained, to another which he had not reached previously. If a person practices self-knowledge only by brooding upon himself, he sees only what he already possesses. He thereby acquires nothing new, but only knowledge of his own lower self in the present meaning of the word. This inner nature is only one part of what is necessary for knowledge. The other part that is necessary must be added. Without the two parts, there is no real knowledge.

By means of his inner being, he can develop organs through which he can gain knowledge. But just as the eye, as an external sense organ, would not perceive the sun by gazing into itself, but only by looking outward at the sun, so must the inner perceptive organs gaze outwardly, in other words, gaze into an external spiritual realm in order actually to perceive. The concept “Knowledge” had a much deeper, a more real meaning in those ages when spiritual things were better understood than at present. Read in the Bible the words, “Abraham knew his wife!” or that Patriarch “knew his wife.” One does not need to seek very far in order to understand that by this expression procreation is meant. When one considers the words, “Know thyself,” in the Greek, they do not mean that you stare into your own inner being, but that you “procreate” yourself with what streams into you from the spiritual world. “Know thyself” means: Procreate thyself with the content of the spiritual world!

Two things are needed for this namely, that the human being prepare himself through catharsis and illumination, and then that he open his inner being freely to the spiritual world. In this connection we may liken his inner nature to the female aspect, the outer spiritual to the male. The inner being must be made susceptible of receiving the higher self. When this has happened, then the higher human self streams into her from the spiritual world. One may ask: Where is this higher human self? Is it within the individual? No, it is not there. On Ancient Saturn, Sun and Moon, the higher self was diffused over the entire cosmos. At that time the Cosmic I was spread out over all humanity, but now people have to permit it to work upon them. They must permit this I to work upon their previously prepared inner natures. This means that the human inner being, in other words the astral body, has to be cleansed, purified and ennobled and subjected to catharsis, then a person may expect that the external spirit will stream into him for his illumination. That will occur when the human being has been so well prepared that he has subjected his astral body to catharsis, thereby developing his inner organs of perception. The astral body, in any case, has progressed so far that now when it dips down into the ether and physical bodies, illumination or photismos results. What actually occurs is that the astral body imprints its organs upon the ether body, making it possible for the human being to perceive a spiritual world about him; making it possible for his inner being, the astral body, to receive what the ether body is able to offer to it, what the ether body draws out of the entire cosmos, out of the Cosmic I.

This cleansed, purified astral body, which bears within it at the moment of illumination none of the impure impressions of the physical world, but only the organs of perception of the spiritual world, is called in esoteric Christianity the “pure, chaste, wise Virgin Sophia.” By means of all that he receives during catharsis, the pupil cleanses and purifies his astral body so that it is transformed into the Virgin Sophia. And when the Virgin Sophia encounters the Cosmic I, the Universal I which causes illumination, the pupil is surrounded by light, spiritual light. This second power that approaches the Virgin Sophia, is called in esoteric Christianity the “Holy Spirit.” Therefore, according to esoteric Christianity, it is correct to say that through his process of initiation the Christian esotericist attains the purification and cleansing of his astral body; he makes his astral body into the Virgin Sophia and is illuminated from above — if you wish, you may call it overshadowed — by the “Holy Spirit,” by the Cosmic, Universal I. And a person thus illuminated who, according to esoteric Christianity, has received the “Holy Spirit” into himself, speaks forthwith in a different manner. How does he speak? When he speaks about Ancient Saturn, Sun and Moon, about the different compenents of the human being, about the process of cosmic evolution, he is not expressing his own opinion. His views do not at all come into consideration. When such a person speaks about Saturn, it is Saturn itself that is speaking through him. When he speaks about the Sun, the Spiritual Being of the Sun speaks through him. He is the instrument. His personal I has been eclipsed, which means that at such moments it has become impersonal and it is the Cosmic Universal I that is using his I as its instrument through which to speak. Therefore, in true esoteric teaching, which proceeds from esoteric Christianity, one should not speak of views or opinions, for in the highest sense of the word this is incorrect; there are no such things. According to esoteric Christianity, whoever speaks with the right attitude of mind toward the world will say to himself, for instance: If I tell people that there were two horses outside, the important thing is not that one of them pleases me less than the other and that I think one is a worthless horse. The important point is that I describe the horses to the others and give the facts. In like manner, what has been observed in the spiritual worlds must be described irrespective of all personal opinions. In every spiritual-scientific system of teaching, only the series of facts must be related and this must have nothing to do with the opinions of the one who relates them.

Thus we have acquired two concepts in their spiritual significance. We have learned to know the nature of the Virgin Sophia, which is the purified astral body, and the nature of the “Holy Spirit,” the Cosmic Universal I, which is received by the Virgin Sophia and which can then speak out of this purified astral body. There is something else to be attained, a still higher stage - the ability to help someone else, the ability to give him the impulse to accomplish both of these. People of our evolutionary epoch can receive the Virgin Sophia (the purified astral body) and the Holy Spirit (illumination) in the manner described, but only the Christ Jesus could give to the earth what was necessary to accomplish this. He has implanted in the spiritual part of the earth those forces which make it possible for that to happen at all which has been described in the Christian initiation. You may ask how did this come about?

Two things are necessary for an understanding of this. First, we must make ourselves acquainted with something purely historical, that is, with the manner of giving of names which was quite different in the age in which the Gospels were written from the way it is done at present.

Those who interpret the Gospel at present do not at all understand the principle of giving names at the time the Gospels were written and therefore they do not speak of it as they should. It is, in fact, exceedingly difficult to describe the principle of giving names at that time, yet we can make it comprehensible, even though we only indicate it in rough outlines. Let us suppose, in the case of someone whom we meet, that instead of holding to the name which does not at all fit him, and which has been given to him in the abstract way customary today, we were to pay attention to his most distinguishing characteristics, and were to notice the most prominent attribute of his character, and were in a position to discern clairvoyantly the deeper foundations of his being, then were to give him his name in accordance with those most important qualities which we believe should be attributed to him. Were we to follow such a method of giving names, we should be doing something, at a lower more elementary stage, similar to what was done at that time by those who gave names in the manner of the writer of the Gospel of John. In order to make very clear his manner of giving names, let us consider the following:

The author of the St. John's Gospel regarded the physical, historic Mother of Jesus in her most prominent characteristics and asked himself, — Where shall I find a name for her which will express most perfectly her real being? Then, because she had, by means of her earlier incarnations, reached those spiritual heights upon which she stood; and because she appeared in her external personality to be a counterpart, a revelation of what was called in esoteric Christianity the Virgin Sophia, he called the Mother of Jesus the “Virgin Sophia;” and this is what she was always called in the esoteric places where esoteric Christianity was taught. Exoterically he [John] leaves her entirely un-named in contradistinction to those others who have chosen for her the secular name, Mary. He could not take the secular name, he had to express in the name the profound, historic evolution. He does this by indicating that she cannot be called Mary and what is more, he places by her side her sister Mary, wife of Cleophas and calls her simply the “Mother of Jesus.” He shows thereby that he does not wish to mention her name, that it cannot be publicly revealed. In esoteric circles she is always called the “Virgin Sophia.” It was she who represented the “Virgin Sophia” as an external historical personality.

If we now wish to penetrate further into the nature of Christianity and its founder, we must take under consideration yet another mystery. We should understand clearly how to make a distinction between the personality who, in Esoteric Christianity, was called “Jesus of Nazareth” and he who was called “the Christ Jesus,” the Christ dwelling within Jesus of Nazareth.

Now what does this mean? It means that in the historical personality of Jesus of Nazareth we have to do with a highly developed human being who had passed through many incarnations and after a cycle of high development was again reincarnated; a person who, because of this, was attracted to a mother so pure that the writer of the Gospel could call her the “Virgin Sophia.” Thus we are dealing with a highly developed human being, Jesus of Nazareth, who had progressed far in his evolution in his previous incarnations and in this incarnation had entered upon a highly spiritual stage. The other evangelists were not illuminated to such a high degree as the writer of this Gospel. It was more the actual sense-world that was revealed to them, a world in which they saw their Master and Messiah moving about as Jesus of Nazareth. The mysterious spiritual relationships, at least those of the heights into which the writer of the Gospel of St. John could peer, were concealed from them. For this reason they laid special emphasis upon the fact that in Jesus of Nazareth lived the Father, who had always existed in Judaism and was transmitted down through the generations as the God of the Jews. And they expressed this when they said: “If we trace back the ancestry of Jesus of Nazareth through generation after generation, we are able to prove that the same blood flows in Him that has flowed down through these generations.” The evangelists give the genealogical tables and according to them they also show precisely at what different stages of evolution they stand. For Matthew the important thing is to show that in Jesus of Nazareth we have a person in whom Father Abraham is living. The blood of Father Abraham has flowed down through the generations as far as Jesus. He thus traces the genealogical tables back to Abraham. He has a more materialistic point of view than Luke. The important thing for Luke was not alone to show that the God who lived in Abraham was present in Jesus, but that the ancestry, the line of descent, can be traced back still further, even to Adam and that Adam was a son of the very Godhead, which means that he belonged to the time when humanity had just made the transition from a spiritual to a physical state. Both Matthew and Luke wished to show that this earthly Jesus of Nazareth has his being only in what can be traced back to the divine Father. This was not a matter of importance for the writer of the Gospel of St. John who could gaze into the spiritual world. The important thing for him was not the words, “I and Father Abraham are one,” but that at every moment of time there exists in the human being something Eternal which was present in him before Father Abraham. This he wished to show. In the beginning was the Word which is called the “I AM.” Before all external things and beings, He was. He was in the beginning. For those who wished rather to describe Jesus of Nazareth and were only able to describe him, it was a question of showing how from the beginning the blood flowed down through the generations. It was important to them to show that the same blood flowing down through the generations flowed also in Joseph, the father of Jesus.

If we could speak quite esoterically it would naturally be necessary to speak of the idea of the so-called “virgin birth,” but this can be discussed only in the most intimate circles. It belongs to the deepest mysteries that exist and the misunderstanding connected with this idea arises because people do not know what is meant by the “virgin birth.” They think that it means there was no father. But it is not that; something much more profound, more mysterious lies behind it which is quite compatible with what the other disciples wished to show, that is, that Joseph is the father of Jesus. If they were to deny this, then all the trouble they take to show this to be a fact would be meaningless. They wish to show that the ancient God exists in Jesus of Nazareth. Luke especially wished to make this very clear, therefore he traces the whole ancestry back to Adam and then to God. How could he have come to this conclusion if he really wished only to say: I am showing you that this genealogical tree exists, but Joseph, as a matter of fact, had nothing to do with it. It would be very strange if people were to take the trouble to represent Joseph as a very important personality and then were to shove him aside out of the whole affair.

In the event of Palestine, we have not only to do with this highly developed personality, Jesus of Nazareth, who had passed through many incarnations, and had developed himself so highly that he needed such an extraordinary mother as the Virgin Sophia, but we have also to do with a second mystery. When Jesus of Nazareth was thirty years of age he had advanced to such a stage through what he had experienced in his present incarnation that he could perform an action which it is possible for one to perform in exceptional cases. We know that the human being consists of physical, ether and astral bodies and an I. This fourfold human being is the human being as he lives here among us. If a person stands at a certain high stage of evolution, it is possible for him at a particular moment to draw out his I from the three bodies and abandon them, leaving them intact and entirely uninjured. This I then goes into the spiritual worlds and the three bodies remain behind. We meet this process at times in cosmic evolution. At some especially exalted, enraptured moment, the I of a person departs and enters into the spirit world — under certain conditions this can be extended over a long period — and because the three bodies are so highly developed by the I that lived in them, they are fit instruments for a still higher being who now takes possession of them. In the thirtieth year of Jesus of Nazareth, that Being whom we have called the Christ, took possession of his physical, ether and astral bodies. This Christ Being could not incarnate in an ordinary child's body, but only in one which had first been prepared by a highly developed ego, for this Christ-Being had never before been incarnated in a physical body. Therefore from the thirtieth year on, we are dealing with the Christ in Jesus of Nazareth.

What in reality took place? The fact is that the corporeality of Jesus of Nazareth which he had left behind was so mature, so perfect, that the Sun Logos, the Being of the six Elohim, which we have described as the spiritual Being of the Sun, was able to enter into it. It could incarnate for three years in this corporeality, could become flesh. The Sun Logos, who can shine into human beings through illumination, the Sun Logos himself, the Holy Spirit, entered. The Universal-I, the Cosmic I entered and from then on, during three years, the Sun Logos spoke through the body of Jesus. The Christ sppke through the body of Jesus during those three years. This event is indicated in the Gospel of St. John and also in the other Gospels as the descent of the dove, of the Holy Spirit, upon Jesus of Nazareth. In esoteric Christianity it is said that at that moment the I of Jesus of Nazareth left his body, and that from then on the Christ is in him, speaking through him in order to teach and work. This is the first event that happens, according to the Gospel of St. John. We now have the Christ within the astral, ether and physical bodies of Jesus of Nazareth. There He worked as has been described until the Mystery of Golgotha occurred. What occurred on Golgotha? Let us consider that important moment when the blood flowed from the wounds of the crucified Savior. In order that you may understand me better, I shall compare what occurred with something else.

Let us suppose we have here a vessel filled with water. In the water salt is dissolved and the water becomes quite transparent. Because we have warmed the water we have made a salt solution. Now let us cool the water. The salt precipitates and we see how the salt condenses below and forms a deposit at the bottom of the vessel. That is the process for one who sees only with physical eyes. But for a person who can see with spiritual eyes, something else is happening. While the salt is condensing below, the spirit of the salt streams up through the water, filling it. The salt can only become condensed when the spirit of the salt has departed from it and become diffused into the water. Those who understand these things know that wherever condensation takes place, a spiritualization also always occurs. What thus condenses below has its counterpart above in the spiritual, just as in the case of the salt, when it condenses and is precipitated below, its spirit streams upward and disseminates. Therefore, it was not only a physical process that took place when the blood flowed from the wounds of the Savior, but it was actually accompanied by a spiritual process; that is, the Holy Spirit which was received at the Baptism united Itself with the earth, and the Christ himself flowed into the very being of the earth. From then on the earth was changed, and this is the reason for saying to you, in earlier lectures, that if a person had viewed the earth from a distant star, he would have observed that its whole appearance was altered with the Mystery of Golgotha. The Sun Logos became a part of the earth, formed an alliance with it and became the Spirit of the Earth. This He achieved by entering into the body of Jesus of Nazareth in his thirtieth year, and by remaining active there for three years, after which He continued to remain on the earth. Now, the important thing is that this Event must produce an effect upon the true Christian; that it must give something by which he may gradually develop the beginnings of a purified astral body in the Christian sense. There had to be something there for the Christian whereby he could make his astral body gradually more and more like a Virgin Sophia, and through it, receive into himself the Holy Spirit, which was able to spread out over the entire earth, but which could not be received by anyone whose astral body did not resemble the Virgin Sophia. There had to be something which possesses the power to transform the human astral body into a Virgin Sophia. What is this power? It consists in the fact of the Christ Jesus entrusting to the disciple whom He loved — in other words to the writer of the Gospel of St. John — the mission of describing truly and faithfully through his own illumination the events of Palestine in order that men might be affected by them. If men permit what is written in the Gospel of St. John to work sufficiently upon them, their astral body is in the process of becoming a Virgin Sophia and it will become receptive to the Holy Spirit. Gradually, through the strength of the impulse which emanates from this Gospel, it will become susceptible of feeling the true spirit and later of perceiving it. This mission, this charge, was given to the writer of the Gospel by Jesus Christ. You need but read the Gospel. The Mother of Jesus — the Virgin Sophia in the esoteric meaning of Christianity — stands at the foot of the Cross, and from the Cross the Christ says to the disciple whom he loved: “Henceforth, this is thy Mother” and from this hour the disciple took her unto himself. This means: “That force which was in my astral body and made it capable of becoming a bearer of the Holy Spirit, I now give over to thee; thou shalt write down what this astral body has been able to acquire through its development.” “And the Disciple took her unto himself,” that means he wrote the Gospel of St. John. And this Gospel of St. John is the Gospel in which the writer has concealed powers which develop the Virgin Sophia. At the cross the mission was entrusted to him of receiving that force as his mother and of being the true, genuine interpreter of the Messiah.

This really means that if you live wholly in accordance with the Gospel of St. John and understand it spiritually, it has the force to lead you to Christian catharsis, it has the power to give you the Virgin Sophia. Then will the Holy Spirit, united with the earth, grant you illumination or photismos according to the Christian meaning. And what the most intimate disciples experienced there in Palestine was so powerful that from that time on they possessed at least the capacity of perceiving in the spiritual world. The most intimate disciples had received this capacity into themselves. Perceiving in the spirit, in the Christian sense, means that the person transforms his astral body to such a degree through the power of the Event of Palestine that what he sees need not be before him externally and physically visible. He possesses something by means of which he can perceive in the spirit. There were such intimate pupils. The woman who anointed the feet of the Christ Jesus in Bethany had received through the Event of Palestine the powerful force needed for spiritual perception, and she is one of those who first understood that what had lived in Jesus was present after His death, that is, had been resurrected. She possessed this faculty. It may be asked: Whence came this possibility? It came through the development of her inner sensory organs. Are we told this in the Gospel? We are indeed; we are told that Mary Magdalene was led to the grave, that the body had disappeared and that she saw there two spiritual shapes. These two spiritual shapes are always to be seen when a corpse is present for a certain time after death. On the one side is to be seen the astral body, and on the other what gradually separates from it as the ether body, then passing over into the cosmic ether. Wholly apart from the physical body, there are two spiritual shapes present which belong to the spiritual world.

Then the disciples went away again unto their own home. But Mary stood without at the sepulcher weeping; and as she wept she stooped down and looked into the sepulcher, and saw two angels in white sitting.

She beheld this because she had become clairvoyant through the force and power of the Event of Palestine. And she beheld something more: she beheld the Risen Christ. Was it necessary for her to be clairvoyant to be able to behold the Christ? If you have seen a person in physical form a few days ago, do you not think you would recognize him again if he should appear before you?

And when she had thus said, she turned back and saw Jesus standing and knew not that it was Jesus.
Jesus said unto her, Woman why do you weep? Whom do you seek? She, supposing it to be the gardener . ...

And in order that it might be told to us as exactly as possible, it was not only said once, but again at the next appearance of the Risen Christ, when Jesus appeared at the sea of Gennesareth.

But when the morning was now come, Jesus stood on the shore: but the disciples knew not that it was Jesus.

The esoteric pupils find Him there. Those who had received the full force of the Event of Palestine could grasp the situation and see that it was the Risen Jesus who could be perceived spiritually. Although the disciples and Mary Magdalene saw Him, yet there were some among them who were less able to develop clairvoyant power. One of these was Thomas. It is said that he was not present the first time the disciples saw the Lord, and he declared he would have to lay his hands in his wounds, he would have to touch physically the body of the Risen Christ. You ask: What happened? The effort was then made to assist him in developing spiritual perception. And how was this done? Let us take the words of the Gospel itself:

And after a week His disciples were again within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus the doors being shut, and stood in their midst, and said, Peace be unto you.
Then He said to Thomas, reach hither your fingers and behold my hands, and reach hither your hand and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing. And you shall behold something if you do not rely upon the outer appearance, but are impregnated with inner force.

This inner force which should proceed from the Event of Palestine is called “Faith.” It is no ordinary force, but an inner clairvoyant power. Permeate yourself with inner power, then you need no longer hold as real that only which you see externally; for blessed are they who are able to know what they do not see outwardly!

Thus we see that we have to do with the full reality and truth of the Resurrection and that only those are fully able to understand it who have first developed the inner power to perceive in the spirit world. This will make the last chapter of the Gospel of St. John comprehensible to you, in which again and again it is pointed out that the closest followers of Christ Jesus have reached the stage of the Virgin Sophia, because the Event of Golgotha had been consummated in their presence. But when they had to stand firm for the first time, had actually to behold a spiritual event, they were still blinded and had first to find their way. They did not know that he was the same One who had earlier been among them. Here is something which we must grasp with the most subtle concepts; for the grossly materialistic person would say: “Then the Resurrection is undermined!” The miracle of the Resurrection is to be taken quite literally, for he said: “Lo, I remain with you always, even unto the end of the age, unto the end of the cosmic age.”

He is here and will come again, although not in a form of flesh, but in a form in which those who have been sufficiently developed through the power of the Gospel of St. John can actually perceive him and, possessing the power to perceive Him, they will no longer be unbelieving. The mission of the Spiritual Science movement is to prepare those who have the will to allow themselves to be prepared for the return of the Christ upon earth. This is the cosmic historical significance of Spiritual Science: to prepare mankind and to keep its eyes open for the time when the Christ will appear again actively among men in the sixth cultural epoch, in order that was indicated to us in the Marriage at Cana may be accomplished for a great part of humanity.

Therefore the cosmic concept obtained from Spiritual Science appears like an execution of the testament of Christianity. In order to be led to real Christianity, the people of the future will have to receive the spiritual teaching which Spiritual Science is able to give. Many people may still say today: Spiritual Science is something that really contradicts true Christianity. But those are the little popes who form opinions about things of which they know nothing and who make into a dogma: What I do not know does not exist.

This intolerance will become greater and greater in the future and Christianity will experience the greatest danger from just those people who believe they can be called good Christians. The Christianity of Spiritual Science will experience serious attacks from Christians in name only, for all concepts must change if a true spiritual understanding of Christianity is to come about. Above all, the soul must become more and more conversant with and understanding of the legacy of the writer of the Gospel of St. John, the great school of the Virgin Sophia, the St. John's Gospel itself. Only Spiritual Science can lead us deeper into this Gospel.

In these lectures only examples could be given showing how Spiritual Science can introduce us into the Gospel of St. John, for it is impossible to explain the whole of it. We read in the Gospel itself:

And there are also many other things which Jesus did; and I suppose that were they all written down one after the other, the world could not contain all the books that would have to be written.

Just as the Gospel itself cannot go into all the details of the Event of Palestine, so too is it impossible for even the longest course of lectures to present the full spiritual content of the Gospel. Therefore we must be satisfied with those indications which could be given at this time; we must content ourselves with the thought that through just such indications in the course of human evolution the true testament of Christianity becomes executed. Let us allow all this to have such an effect upon us that we may possess the power to hold fast to the foundation which we recognize in the Gospel of St. John, when others come to us and say: You are giving us too complicated concepts, too many concepts which we must first make our own in order to comprehend this Gospel: the Gospel is for the simple and naive and one dares not approach them with many concepts and thoughts. Many say this today. They perhaps refer to another saying: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” One can merely quote such a saying as long as one does not understand it, for it really says: “Blessed are the beggars in spirit, for they shall reach the kingdom of heaven within themselves.” This means that those who are like beggars of the spirit, who desire to receive more and more of the spirit, will find in themselves the kingdom of heaven!

At the present time the idea is all too prevalent that everything religious is identical with all that is primitive and simple. People say: We acknowledge that Science possesses many and complicated ideas, but we do not grant the same to Faith and Religion. Faith and Religion — so say many “Christians” — must be simple and naive! They demand this. And many rely upon a conception which is little quoted perhaps, but which in the present is haunting the minds of men and which Voltaire, one of the great teachers of materialism, has expressed in the words: “Whoever wishes to be a prophet must find believers, for what he asserts must be believed, and only what is simple, what is always repeated in its simplicity, that alone finds believers.”

This is often so with the prophets, both true and false. They take the trouble to say something and to repeat it again and again and the people learn to believe it, because it is constantly repeated. The representative of Spiritual Science desires to be no such prophet. He does not wish to be a prophet at all. And although it may often be said: “Yes, you not only repeat, but you are always elucidating things from other sides, you are always discussing them in other ways;” when they speak thus to him, he is guilty of no fault. A prophet wishes that people believe in him. Spiritual Science has no desire to lead to belief, but to knowledge. Therefore let us take Voltaire's utterance in another way. He says: — “The simple is believed and is the concern of the prophet.” Spiritual Science says: — the manifold is known. Let us try to understand more and more that Spiritual Science is something that is manifold — not a creed, but a path to knowledge, and consequently it bears within it the manifold. Therefore let us not shrink from collecting a great deal in order that we may understand one of the most important Christian documents, the Gospel of St. John. We have attempted to assemble the most varied material which places us in the position of being able to understand more and more the profound truths of this Gospel; able to understand how the physical mother of Jesus was an external manifestation, an external image of the Virgin Sophia; to understand what spiritual importance the Virgin Sophia had for the pupil of the Mysteries, whom the Christ loved; again to understand how, for the other Evangelists — who view the bodily descent of Jesus as important — the physical father plays his significant part when it was a question of the external imprint of the God-idea in the blood; and further, to understand what significance the Holy Spirit had for John, the Holy Spirit through which the Christ was begotten in the body of Jesus and dwelt therein during the three years and which is symbolized for us in the descent of the Dove at the Baptism by John.

If we understand that we must call the father of Christ Jesus the Holy Spirit who begot the Christ in the body of Jesus, then if we are able to comprehend a thing from all sides, we shall find it easy to understand that those disciples who were less highly initiated could not give us so profound a picture of the Events of Palestine as the disciple whom the Lord loved. And if people, at present, speak of the Synoptics — which are the only authoritative Gospels for them — this only shows that they do not have the will to rise to an understanding of the true form of the Gospel of St. John. For everybody resembles the God he understands. If we try to make into a feeling, into an experience, what we can learn from Spiritual Science about the Gospel of St. John, we shall then find that this Gospel is not a text-book, but a force which can be active within our souls.

If these short lectures have aroused in you the feeling that this Gospel contains not only what we have been discussing here, but that indirectly, through the medium of words, it contains the force which can further develop the soul, then what was really intended in these lectures has been rightly understood. Because in them, not only was something intended for the understanding, for the intellectual capacity of understanding, but that what takes its round-about path through this intellectual capacity of understanding should condense into feelings and inner experiences, and these feelings and experiences should be a result of the facts that have been presented here. If, in a certain sense, this has been rightly understood, we shall also comprehend what is meant when it is said that the movement for Spiritual Science has the mission of raising Christianity into Wisdom, of rightly understanding Christianity indirectly through spiritual wisdom. We shall understand that Christianity is only in the beginning of its activity, and its true mission will be fulfilled when it is understood in its true spiritual form. The more these lectures are understood in this way, the more have they been comprehended in the sense in which they were intended.


Thanks to the Rudolf Steiner Archive



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