by Rudolf Steiner
for members of the Theosophical Society
From stenographic notes not reviewed by the speaker
Translated by Maud B. Monges, edited by Frank Thomas Smith
Hamburg, May 20, 1908 – GA 103
The Mission of the Earth
Yesterday we saw what profound contents are concealed within the first words of the Gospel of John and we shall now be able to summarize our observations by saying that the writer of this Gospel pointed to the creation of a pre-humanity in the far distant past and indicated that, according to Esoteric Christianity, everything leads back to the Word or the Logos. The Logos was already a creating power even in the ancient Saturn Period; it then became Life while our Earth was passing through its existence as the Sun, and it became Light while the Earth was passing through the ancient Moon state. Under the influence of divine spiritual forces and powers, in the course of the three planetary states of evolution, the human being reached the point in his development at which he became permeated by the human I, the Earth having by then developed into our present planet.
Thus we may say that a creature, like a kind of seed, came over to the Earth from the ancient Moon, consisting of a physical body, derived from the divine, primal Word; an ether or life body having its source in divine Life; and an astral body issuing from divine Light. During life on the Earth, the light of the I itself was now enkindled and this three-fold bodily nature, physical, etheric and astral, became capable of saying to itself I am. Thus, in a certain sense, we may call the Earth stage the evolution of the I am the evolution of self-consciousness in the human race. This I am, this capacity for self-consciousness, developed slowly and gradually in the course of the evolution of the Earth. We must clearly understand how this evolution of humanity proceeded, how slowly and gradually the I, that is to say, full self-consciousness, made its appearance within it.
There was a stage of our earthly evolution which we call the ancient Lemurian period. It is the earliest period of our life upon the Earth in which men appeared in the form they possess today. Then, for the first time, what we may call the incarnation of the I, the true inner being of man, took place within the three bodies, the astral, etheric and physical bodies. After that came the Atlantean period when humanity dwelt for the most part upon the ancient continent of Atlantis, a region lying today on the bed of the Atlantic Ocean, which sank beneath the waters during the great Atlantean flood, remembrance of which has been preserved in the deluge-sagas of nearly all peoples.
In harmony with their inner natures, men have passed through successive incarnations during the post-Atlantean period right up to our present day. As has been stated, it was in fact during the Lemurian period that our souls were incarnated for the first time in a threefold entity, consisting of physical body, ether body and astral body, as we have learned to know them. What preceded this will be left for a later consideration. Thus we must go far back into the past if we wish to consider the course of evolution, for the human being evolved very slowly and gradually to his present condition of existence.
From the standpoint of Spiritual Science what does occultism call our present existence? It calls it a state of consciousness which the present day human being possesses from the morning when he awakens until the evening when he falls asleep. During that time, by means of his outer physical senses, he sees the objects about him. From the evening when he falls asleep until the morning when he awakens, he does not see the objects about him. Why is this so? We know that it is because during the day, under present evolutionary conditions, the real inner human being, namely the I and the astral body, are within the physical and ether bodies upon the physical plane; in other words, they are in the physical world. Thus the astral body and the I can make use of the physical organs for hearing and seeing in the physical world, for observing physical things. From the evening when we fall asleep, until the morning when we awaken, the I and astral body are out of the physical world on the astral plane. There they are detached from the physical eyes and ears and therefore are not able to observe what is about them.
The alternating state of waking by day and sleeping by night developed slowly and gradually. This was not yet the case in the ancient Lemurian period when the human being for the first time passed through a physical incarnation. At that time the I and astral body were only for a very brief portion of the day within the physical body, by no means as long a period as now. Therefore, because the human being was outside of his physical body for a longer time and entered it only for a brief period in a waking state, life during the Lemurian period was very different from life as we experience it now. Our state of unconsciousness during the night, when we are not merely in the act of dreaming, is a state that has developed slowly and gradually. Day and night consciousness were very differently apportioned during the Lemurian period. At that time everyone still possessed a dull clairvoyant consciousness, and during the night, when they were out of the physical body and in the spirit world, they perceived this spirit world around them, although not so clearly as we of the present see the physical objects about us during the day. We should not simply compare this perceiving in the spiritual world with present dreaming. The present dream-state is only like a last stunted remnant of this ancient clairvoyance. However, the same images were perceived at that time as are perceived today in dreams, but they had a very real meaning. Let us be quite clear about the meaning of these images.
In ancient times the human being, living a very brief portion of the twenty-four hours in waking-consciousness (a much shorter time than today), saw the external physical objects very dimly as though wrapped in a mist. The capacity to see physical objects as we do today developed very slowly. At that time he saw the first indication of a physical body enveloped in a mist just as we can see the lamps surrounded by a mist, by a kind of light-aura, when we walk through the streets on a misty evening. This, however, is only an illusion. But that is the way mankind at first saw physical bodies emerging about him, and when he slept he did not sink into unconsciousness, but during his sleep-consciousness images emerged, pictures in colour and form. At that time there was around him a world, in comparison with which the most vivid dream-world of today is only a weak, dim echo. These images signified something psychic and spiritual in his environment. At that time, in the beginning of his earthly course, when during his night wanderings he approached a creature harmful to him, he did not see it as we would now see it. For example, he did not see a lion approaching him as a lion's form, but he saw emerging an image of colour and form and instinctively it told him that here was something harmful to him, something that would devour him, something he must avoid. These were true images of something psycho-spiritual occurring about him. All that belonged to the soul and spirit was seen in the night, and evolution proceeded in such a way that slowly and gradually the human being immersed himself in his physical body for a longer and longer time. Ever shorter grew the night, longer and longer lasted the day, and the more he lived within his physical body, the more the nightly clairvoyant images disappeared and the more did the present waking-consciousness emerge.
However, we must not forget that a truly genuine self-consciousness, such as should be acquired during life upon the earth, can only be attained by submersion in a physical body. Prior to this, the human being did not feel himself as an independent entity, but as a part of divine spiritual beings from whom he was descended. Still possessing a dull clairvoyance, he felt himself a part of a divine spiritual consciousness, part of a divine I, just as the hand feels itself a part of the physical organism. He could not have said of himself I am but would have said God is — and I in Him.
As we shall see more and more, a very special mission was reserved for the Earth, which had, during its evolution, passed through three earlier stages: Saturn, Sun and Moon. Do not imagine that the different planetary conditions can be considered as existing alongside one another, one planet exactly equivalent to the other. Divine creation is not simply a repetition of something already existing. Each planetary existence had a very definite mission. The mission of our Earth is the cultivation of the principle of love to its highest degree by those beings who are evolving upon it. When the Earth has reached the end of its evolution, love should permeate it through and through. Let us understand clearly what is meant by the expression: The Earth is the planetary life-condition for the evolution of love.
In Spiritual Science we say that the ancient Moon preceded the Earth. This ancient Moon planetary stage of evolution also had a mission. It did not yet have the task of developing love, but it was the planet or the cosmos of wisdom. Before it reached our earthly condition, our planet passed through the stage of wisdom. A simple and one might say logical observation will illustrate this to you. Just look about you at all the creatures of nature. If you do not observe them merely with your understanding but with the forces of your heart and soul, then you will find wisdom everywhere stamped upon nature. The wisdom of which we are here speaking is a kind of spiritual substance lying at the foundation of all things. Observe anything you wish in nature, and you will find it there. Take, for example, a piece of the thigh-bone and you will see that it is not composed of a solid mass, but it is a fine interweaving of supports which are arranged into a marvelous structure. And if we seek to discover the law upon which this bone is constructed, we find that it follows the law which develops the greatest strength with the least expenditure of material in order to be able to support the upper part of the human body. Our engineering art is not yet so far advanced that it can build such a highly artistic structure as the all encompassing wisdom has fashioned.
Mankind will not possess such wisdom until later in its evolution. Divine
wisdom pervades the whole of nature; human wisdom will only gradually reach this height. In the course of time human wisdom will inwardly acquire what divine wisdom has secreted within the Earth. Just as wisdom was prepared upon the Moon, that it might be found everywhere on the Earth, so is love now being prepared here in this Earth evolution. If you were able to look back upon the ancient Moon with clairvoyant vision, you would see that wisdom was not to be found everywhere at that time. You would find many things still lacking in wisdom. Only gradually throughout the whole of the Moon evolution was wisdom stamped upon the outer world. When the Moon had fully completed its evolution, everything was then pervaded by a wisdom which was to be found everywhere. Inner wisdom first appeared upon the Earth with the human being, with the I. This inner human wisdom had to be developed in stages.
Just as wisdom was evolved upon the Moon in order that it might now be found in all things, so in like manner is love evolving. Love came into existence at first in its lowest, its most sensuous form, during the Lemurian period, but during the course of life upon the earth it will become ever more and more spiritualized, until at last, when the earth has reached the end of its evolution, the whole of existence will have become pervaded with love, as today it is pervaded with wisdom, and this will be accomplished through the activity of human beings if they but fulfill their task.
The Earth will then pass over to a future planetary condition which is called Jupiter. The beings who will walk about on Jupiter, just as human beings move about on the earth, will find love exhaling from all creatures, the love which they themselves, as human beings, will have placed there during their life upon the earth. They will find love in everything just as we today find wisdom everywhere. Then human beings will develop love out of their own inner selves in the same way that they are now little by little evolving wisdom. The great cosmic love that here upon the Earth is beginning its existence will then permeate all things. The materialistic mind does not believe in a cosmic wisdom, only in a human wisdom. If men would consider the course of evolution with unprejudiced minds, they would be able to see that all cosmic wisdom in the beginning of the Earth's evolution was advanced as far as human wisdom will be at the end of it. In those times when names were more accurately chosen than they are today, the subjective wisdom active in the human being was called “intelligence,” in contra-distinction to the objective cosmic wisdom. People do not notice that what they discover in the course of Earth-life had already been won during life on the Moon and implanted in the earth by divine-spiritual beings. Let us take an example.
How the great progress humanity has made through the discovery of paper is drummed into the heads of school children! But wasps had already produced paper many thousands of years ago, for what the wasps build into their nests consists of exactly the same substance as that out of which men now produce paper and it is produced by the wasp in exactly the same way — only by means of a living process. The wasp-spirit, the group-soul of the wasps, which is a part of divine-spiritual substance, was the discoverer of paper long before men made the discovery.
The human being, in fact, always follows along groping his way behind cosmic wisdom. As a principle, all that men will discover in the course of the Earth's evolution is already present in nature. But what the human being will really give to the Earth is love, a love which will evolve from the most sensuous to the most spiritualized form of love. This is the mission of the Earth's evolution. The Earth is the cosmos of love.
Let us ask: — What then is essential for love? What is essential in order that one person love another? It is this: that he be in full possession of his self-consciousness, that he be wholly independent. No one can love another in the full sense of the word if this love be not a free gift of one person to another. My hand does not love my organism. Only one who is independent, one who is not bound to the other person, can love him. To this end the human being had to become an I-being. The I had to be implanted in the threefold human body, so that the Earth might, through mankind, fulfill its mission of love. Therefore you will understand Esoteric Christianity when it says: Just as other forces, of which wisdom is the last, streamed down from divine beings during the Moon period, so now love streams into the Earth and the bearer of love can only be the independent I which develops by degrees in the course of the evolution of the Earth.
The human being, however, had to be very slowly prepared for all this, likewise for his present stage of consciousness. Let us suppose, for instance, that in the ancient Lemurian period, the human being had been immersed in his physical body. He would then at that time have seen the full outer reality, but at such a swift tempo that he would not have been able to implant love in the world. He had to be guided little by little in his earthly mission. The first instruction in love was given him during the time of a dawning consciousness, before he possessed full self-consciousness, before he was evolved far enough to observe the objects about him with clear, waking-day consciousness. Thus we see that during those ages when the human being still possessed an ancient, dreamy clairvoyant consciousness, when the soul was for long periods outside the physical body, love was being implanted within him in his dull, not yet self-conscious condition. Let us clearly picture the soul of this human being of olden times which had not yet reached the height of full self-consciousness.
The human being fell asleep at night, but there existed no abrupt transition from waking to sleeping. Images emerged, vivid dream-pictures, which however, possessed a living relationship to the spirit world. This means that the human familiarized himself with the spirit world during sleep. Into him, into his dull state of consciousness, the Divine Spirit planted the first seed of all love. The power that manifests itself as love in the course of evolution on the Earth streamed at first into humanity during the night. The God who brought the true earthly mission to the Earth revealed himself first in the night to the dim, ancient clairvoyant consciousness before he could reveal himself to clear, waking day-consciousness.
Then slowly and gradually the time spent in a dim, clairvoyant state of consciousness became shorter and shorter, the day-consciousness became ever longer, and the boundaries of the aura around the physical objects gradually lessened and disappeared, the objects taking on clearer and clearer outlines. Formerly the sun and moon were seen surrounded by a mighty halo as though existing in a mass of fog. Only slowly did the whole aspect become clear and objects assume distinct outlines. By degrees the human being arrived at this condition. What he then saw externally, while the sun shone upon the earth revealing to him by means of visible light the whole of earth-life, minerals, plants and animals — all this he experienced as the revelations of the Divine in the outer world.
From the standpoint of Esoteric Christianity, what is it that is visible during waking-day consciousness? In the broadest sense of the word, we may ask: of what does the Earth consist? It is a manifestation of divine forces, an outer material manifestation of inner spirituality. If you turn your gaze upward toward the sun, or toward what is found upon the earth, you will see everywhere a manifestation of divine-spirituality. This divine-spirituality in its present form, existing as it does as the foundation of all that appears to clear, waking-day consciousness, in other words, the invisible world behind this entire visible day-world, this is called in Esoteric Christianity, the Logos or the Word. For just as from the human being speech could finally come force, be uttered from his own inner being, so too has everything, animal kingdom, plant kingdom, mineral kingdom, first come into existence from the Logos. Everything is an incarnation of the Logos, and just as your soul rules invisibly within your inner being and creates an external body, so too everything in the world of a soul nature creates for itself the external body fitted to it and manifests itself through some sort of physical organism. Where, then, is the physical body of the Logos, of which the Gospel of John speaks? It is this we wish today to bring more and more into our consciousness. In its purest form, this external physical body of the Logos appears especially in the outer sunlight. But the sunlight is not merely material light. To spiritual perception it is just as much the garment of the Logos, as your outer physical body is the garment of your soul.
If you were to confront a human being in the same way the greater part of humanity today confronts the sun, you could never learn to know that human being. Your relation to each human individual possessing a feeling, thinking and willing soul would be such that instead of presupposing a psycho-spiritual part within him, you would simply touch a physical body and imagine that it might even be made of papier maché. If, however, you wish to penetrate to the spiritual in the sunlight, you should consider it just as you consider the bodily part of a human being in order to learn to know his inner nature. The sunlight has the same relationship to the Logos as your body has to your soul. In the sunlight something spiritual streams down upon the earth. If we are able to conceive not only of the sun-body, but also the sun-spirit, we find that this spiritual part is the love that streams down upon the earth. Not alone the physical sunlight awakens the plants into life — they would wither and die if the physical sunlight did not act upon them — but together with the physical sunlight, the warm love of the Godhead streams to earth. Human beings exist in order that they may take into themselves the warm love of the Divine, develop it and return it again to the Divine. But they can only do this by becoming self-conscious I-beings. Only then will they be able to render back this love.
When people began — at first for a very short time — to live in waking-day consciousness, they could perceive nothing of the light, that light which at the same time kindled love. The light shone into the darkness, but the darkness was unable yet to comprehend it. If this light, which is at the same time the Logos's love, had only manifested itself during the short daylight hours, humanity would not have been able to grasp this light of love. But love streamed into human beings in the dull clairvoyant dream-consciousness of those ancient times. Now, let us glance behind existence at a great cosmic mystery.
Let us express it thus: The cosmic guidance of our earth was of such a character that for a time, in an unconscious way, love streamed into humanity in its dim, clairvoyant state of consciousness and inwardly prepared it to receive this love in full, clear, waking-day consciousness. We have seen that our Earth gradually became the cosmos that was to accomplish this mission of love. The sun shines upon the earth. Just as human beings dwell upon the earth and little by little receive love into themselves, so too do other much higher beings dwell upon the sun and enkindle love, because the sun has reached a higher stage of existence. The human being is an earth-dweller and to be an earth-dweller means to be a creature which appropriates love unto itself during the Earth-period. A sun-dweller in our time means a being that can enkindle love, a being that can permit love to flow into the earth. The earth-dweller would not have developed love, would not have been able to receive it, had not the sun-dwellers sent down ripened wisdom to them with the rays of light. Because the light of the sun streams down upon the earth, love is developed here. That is a very real truth. Those beings who are so exalted that they can pour forth love have made the sun their scene of action.
When the ancient Moon had completed its evolution, there were seven great beings of this kind who had progressed far enough to pour forth love. Here we touch upon a deep mystery which Spiritual Science reveals. In the beginning of the Earth-evolution, there was on the one side the childlike humanity which was to receive love and become ready for the reception of the I, and on the other side there was the sun which separated from the earth and rose to a more exalted existence. Seven principle Spirits of Light, who at the same time were the dispensing Spirits of Love, were able to evolve upon this sun. Only six of them, however, made the sun their domain and what streams down to us in the physical light of the sun contains within it the spiritual force of love from these six Spirits of Light or, as they are called in the Bible, the six Elohim. One separated from the others and took a different path for the salvation of humanity. He did not choose the sun but the moon for his domain. And this Spirit of Light, who voluntarily renounced life upon the sun and chose the moon instead, is none other than the one whom the Old Testament calls Jahve or Jehova. This Spirit of Light who chose the moon as a dwelling-place is the one who from there pours ripened wisdom down upon the earth, thus preparing the way for love. Now, let us consider for a moment this mystery which lies behind the outer facts.
The night belongs to the moon and it belonged to the moon to a much greater extent in that ancient time when the human being was not yet able to receive the force of love in the direct rays of the sun. At that time he received the reflected force of wisdom from the moonlight. This wisdom streamed down upon him from the moonlight during the time of night-consciousness. Therefore Jahve is called the Ruler of the Night who prepared humanity for the love that was later to manifest during full waking-consciousness. Thus we can look back to that ancient past in human evolution when spiritually that event occurred which is merely symbolized by the heavenly bodies, the sun on the one side, the moon on the other. (See drawing). During the night, at certain times, the moon sends down to us the reflected force of the sun, but it is the same light which also shines upon us directly from the sun. Thus in ancient times, Jahve or Jehova reflected the force of matured wisdom, the force of the six Elohim, and sent this force down into human beings while they slept, preparing them to become capable later, by degrees, of receiving the power of love during waking-day consciousness.
The above drawing attempts in a symbolic manner to show the waking-day human being when his physical and etheric bodies are dependent upon the Divine and his I and astral body are within the physical and etheric bodies on the physical plane. Here the whole human organism is shone upon by the sun from without. We now know that for the humanity of primeval ages, night was much longer and much more filled with activity than it is at present. The astral body and I were then outside of the physical and etheric bodies, the I existing wholly within the astral world, and the astral body sinking into the physical body from without, having, however, its entire inner being still embedded in the divine-spiritual world. Therefore, the sun could not shine directly upon the human astral body and enkindle in it the force of love. Hence the moon, which reflects the sunlight, was active through Jahve or Jehova. The moon is the symbol of Jahve or Jehova and the sun is none other than the symbol for the Logos, which is the sum of the other six Elohim. This drawing, which you should study, and upon which you should meditate, tries to indicate this in a symbolic way and if you reflect upon it you will discern what deep, mystery-truths are presented in it, namely: that during long periods of time, in sleep-consciousness, the force of love was being implanted in human beings by Jehova in a manner of which they were unconscious. In this way they were being made capable of experiencing the Logos, of feeling the force of Its love. One can ask: How was this possible, how could that happen? We come now to the other side of the mystery.
We have said that the human being was destined for self-conscious love upon the earth. He must, therefore, have a leader, a teacher, during his clear day-consciousness; a leader who stands before him so that he can be perceived by him. Now it was only during the night, in dim consciousness, that love could be implanted within the human being. But little by little something happened which made it possible for him to see outwardly, physically, the Being of Love. But how could that happen? It could only happen because the Being of Divine Love, the Being of the Logos, became a man of flesh and blood whom people could perceive upon the earth with their physical senses. It was because mankind had developed to a condition of perceiving by means of outer senses that the God, the Logos, had himself to become a sensory being. He had to appear in a physical body. This was fulfilled in the Christ Jesus, and the historical appearance of the Christ Jesus means that the forces of the six Elohim, or of the Logos, were incarnated in Jesus of Nazareth at the beginning of the Christian era and were actually present in him in the visible world. That is the important thing. The inner force of the sun, the force of the Logos-Love, assumed a physical human form in the body of Jesus of Nazareth. For as an external object, as an outer being, the God had to appear to earthly human sense-consciousness in a bodily form.
You will ask who that Being who appeared at the beginning of our era as the Christ Jesus? It was the incarnation of the Logos, of the six other Elohim, whose advent had been prepared by Jahve who preceded them. This figure of Jesus of Nazareth, in whom the Christ or the Logos was incarnated, brought into human life, into human history itself, what previously streamed down upon the earth from the sun and was only present in the sunlight. “The Logos became flesh.” It is upon this fact that the Gospel of John places the greatest importance, and the writer of this Gospel had to lay great emphasis upon it because it is a fact that after the appearance of a few initiated Christian pupils who understood what had occurred, there followed others who could not fully understand it. They understood full well that at the foundation of all material things, behind all that appears to us in substantial form, there exists a psycho-spiritual world. But what they could not comprehend was that the Logos itself, by being incarnated in an individual human being, became physically visible for the physical sensory world. This they could not comprehend. Therefore, that teaching which appeared in the early Christian centuries called the Gnosis, differs from the true Esoteric Christianity on this point. The writer of the Gospel of John pointed to this fact in powerful words, when he said: No, you should not look upon the Christ as a super-sensible, ever invisible being only, one who is the foundation of all material life, but you should consider this the important thing. Gnosis, as well as Esoteric Christianity, recognizes the Christ, but the former only as a spiritual being, and in Jesus of Nazareth it sees at most a human herald, more or less bound to this spiritual being. It holds firmly to an ever invisible Christ. On the contrary, Esoteric Christianity has always held the idea of the Gospel of John, which rests upon the firm foundation of the words: “And the Logos became flesh and dwelt among us!” He Who was there in the visible world is an actual incarnation of the six sun Elohim, of the Logos! With the incarnation of the Logos, the earthly mission — or in other words, what the earth was to become through the Event of Palestine — first really began. Previously, all was only a preparation.
What then did the Christ, who dwelt within the body of Jesus of Nazareth, especially have to represent himself to be? It may be said that he had to represent himself as the great bringer and quickener of the self-conscious, independent human being. Let us express this living Christ-teaching in a few short, paradigmatic sentences. The earth exists in order that full self-consciousness, the I AM, may be given to mankind. Previously everything was a preparation for this self-consciousness, for this I AM; and the Christ was that being who gave the impulse that made it possible for every human being, each as an individual, to experience the I AM. Only with his advent was the powerful impulse given which carries earthly humanity forward with a mighty bound. We can follow this by means of a comparison of Christianity with Old Testament teaching. In the latter, the human being did not yet fully feel the I AM in himself. He still possessed a remnant of a dreamy state of consciousness, held over from those ancient times when he did not feel himself as a personality, but as a part of a Divine Being, just as the animal today is still a member of a group-soul. Mankind had its beginning in the group-soul and then advanced to a state of independent, personal existence, in which every individual experiences the I AM, and the Christ is the force that has brought it to this consciousness. Let us consider this for a moment in its full inner significance.
The follower of the Old Testament did not feel himself as much enclosed within his own individual personality as did the follower of the New Testament. He did not yet say as a personality, “I am an I.” He felt himself within the whole ancient Jewish people and experienced the group-ego of his folk. Let us enter in a living way into the consciousness of a follower of the Old Testament. The Christian feels the I AM”and gradually will learn to feel it more and more, but the follower of the Old Testament did not feel the I AM in this way. He felt himself as a member of the entire folk and looked up to its group-soul. And if he wished to express this in words, he would have said: “My consciousness reaches up to the Father of the whole people, to Abraham; we — I and Father Abraham — are one. A common I encompasses us all, and I only feel myself safe within the spiritual substantiality of the world when I feel myself resting within the whole folk-substance.” Thus the follower of the Old Testament looked up to Father Abraham and said: “I and Father Abraham are one! In my veins flows the same blood that flows in the veins of Abraham.” He felt Father Abraham as the root from which every individual Abrahamite had sprung as a stem.
Then the Christ Jesus came and said to his nearest, most intimate initiates: Hitherto, mankind has judged only according to the flesh, according to blood relationships. Through this blood relationship, men have been conscious of reposing within a higher invisible union. But you should believe in a still higher spiritual relationship, in one that reaches beyond blood ties. You should believe in a spiritual Father-substance in which the I is rooted, and which is more spiritual than the substance which as a group-soul binds the Jewish people together. You should believe in what reposes within me and within every human being, in what is not only one with Abraham, but one with the very divine foundation of the world. Therefore the Christ Jesus, according to the Gospel of John, emphasizes the words: “Before Father Abraham was, was the I AM!” My primal I goes not only to the Father-Principle that reaches back to Abraham, but my I is one with all that pulses through the entire cosmos, and to this my spiritual nature soars aloft. I and the Father are one! These are important words which one should experience; then will one feel the forward bound made by mankind, a bound which advanced human evolution further in consequence of that impulse given by the advent of the Christ. The Christ was the mighty quickener of the I AM.
Now, let us try to hear a little of what his most intimate initiates said, how they expressed what had been revealed to them. They said: Heretofore, no individual physical human being has ever existed to whom this name of I AM could be applied; He was the first to bring to the world the I AM in its full significance. Therefore, they named the Christ Jesus the I AM. That was the name in which the closest initiates felt themselves united, the name which they understood, the name “I AM.” We must in this way delve deeply into the most significant chapters of the Gospel of John. If we take that chapter where we find the words: “I am the Light of the world,” we must interpret them literally, quite literally. Now, what was this I AM which for the first time appeared in a physcal form? It was the force of the Logos that streamed to earth in the sunlight. All through the entire eighth chapter, beginning with the twelfth verse which is usually entitled “Jesus, the Light of the World,” we find a transcription of this profound truth concerning the meaning of the I AM. When you read this chapter, emphasize the words “I” or “I AM” wherever they appear and realize that I AM was the name in which the initiates felt themselves united. Then you will understand it and it will seem to you that this chapter must then be read in somewhat the following manner:Then Jesus spoke to His disciples and said: That which is able to say “I AM” to itself, is the Force of the Light of the World, and whoever follows after me will see in clear, waking consciousness what those who wander in darkness do not see.But those who clung to the old belief that only by night can the Light of Love be implanted within the human being, those who were called the Pharisees, answered: Thou callest upon thy “I AM” but we call upon Father Abraham. In this way we feel the power which justifies us in acting as self-conscious beings. We feel ourselves strong when we immerse ourselves in the substance of a common I which reaches back to Father Abraham.Jesus said: If one speaks of the I, as I speak, then is the testimony a true one; for I know that this I comes from the Father, from the primeval foundation of the world and I know whither it tends.
Now, let us consider those important words of Chapter VIII, verse 15, which should be translated in the following manner:Ye judge all things according to the flesh, but I judge not the perishable that is in the flesh.And if I judge, then is my judgment true. For the I does not exist for itself alone, but it is united with the Father from whom it has descended.
That is the meaning of this passage. Thus everywhere you find reference to a common Father. We are now able to bring the idea of the Father still more clearly before our souls. Then we see that the words, “Before Father Abraham was, was the I AM,” contain the living essence of the Christian doctrine.
Today we have gone deeply into the words of the Gospel of John, more deeply than we would have been able had I interpreted them from an external point of view. We have drawn these words out of Spiritual Wisdom and have alluded to certain important words in the Gospel of John which show the very essentials of Christianity. We shall see that just by understanding such germinal and primal keywords, light and clarity will be brought into the whole of the Gospel.
Let us consider all this as a teaching that was given in the Christian esoteric schools, a teaching which the writer of the Gospel has transcribed — in a way which we shall discuss — in order that he might hand it down to posterity for those who really wish to penetrate into its meaning.
Thanks to the Rudolf Steiner Archive
Continued in the next issue of SCR.