The Crucifixion with Saint Jerome and Saint Francis, tempera on wood by Pesellino,
probably c. 1440–45; in the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
Image Courtesy of the National Gallery of Art, Washington; Samuel H. Kress Collection
THE MYSTERY OF GOLGOTHA.
Lecture by Dr. R u d o l f S t e i n e r.
Given at C o l o g n e on the 2nd of December, 1906.
[From greatly abbreviated notes unrevised by the lecturer]
The Mystery of Golgotha is one of the profoundest secrets of the evolution of the world. In order to understand it, we must shed light upon the occult wisdom of thousands of years ago, an the remote past of the world's development. It is not a plausible argument against a more penetrating knowledge of the Mystery of Golgotha to say that the life and work of Christ Jesus should be accessible to the simplest mind. This is indeed the case. But a full, encompassing comprehension of this greatest event on earth must be drawn out of the depths of Mystery-wisdom.
In this lecture we shall penetrate into the depths of Mystery-wisdom in order to understand how an event such as the Mystery of Golgotha could take place. In this connection we should bear in mind that with the appearance of Christ Jesus upon the earth something occurred which divided mankind into two parts. We can grasp this best of all by seeking an answer to the question: Who was Christ Jesus?
For the occultist this question is a double one: For we must distinguish between the personality who lived at that time in Palestine and reached the age of thirty, and what became of him afterwards. In the 30th year of his life Jesus became Christ.
In the case of ordinary people, only insignificant portions of the astral body, the etheric body and the physical body are transformed into Manas, Buddhi and Atma, or into Spirit Self, Life-Spirit and Spirit-Man. Jesus of Nazareth was a Chela of the third degree, and his bodies were therefore in a state of high purification.
When a Chela has absolved the purification of his three bodies, then he acquires at a certain moment of his life the capacity to sacrifice himself. In his 30th year, the Ego of Jesus left his three bodies and passed over into the astral world, so that the three sanctified bodies remained behind on earth, emptied as it were of their Ego, so that room was made for a higher individuality. In the 30th year of his life, the Ego of Jesus of Nazareth made the great sacrifice of placing his purified bodies at the disposal of the individuality of Christ. Christ filled out these bodies. And from that time onwards we speak of Christ-Jesus who lived upon the earth for three years and fulfilled all his great deeds within the body of Jesus.
In order to understand the true being of Christ, we must go far back into the history of the development of the earth and of mankind. Before the earth became Earth, it was the old Moon, and the present moon is only a fragment of the old Moon. Before the Earth was Moon, it was Sun, and at a still earlier stage it was Saturn. We should bear in mind that milliards of years ago there existed in the cosmic spaces a heavenly body, Saturn. Also planets develop through different incarnations: Before the Earth was EARTH, it existed as Saturn, Sun and Moon.
Let us now transfer ourselves upon the Sun. There, the so-called Fire-Spirits had the same rank which human beings now have upon the earth. Of course, they did not have the same appearance, they did not look like men of to-day; these high individualities passed through the human stage upon the Sun under conditions which were quite different from the present human conditions. Also upon the Moon a host of Beings passed through the stage of humanity, and they came down to the Earth as higher Beings, as Lunar Pitris or Moon-Spirits, that had reached a higher stage than that of man upon the Earth. In Christian esotericism they are called Angeloi = Angels. Only upon the Earth the human being became MAN. The Lunar Pitris are Beings one degree higher than man, and above them stand the Fire-Spirits, who are one degree higher than the Lunar Pitris. The Fire-Spirits have reached a very high stage of development.
Now we come to the Earth, to the Lemurian race which lived upon a continent situated between present-day Asia, Africa and Australia. There, man took on his present form through the fact that below, upon the physical earth, there lived highly developed beings, but physical beings, higher than the present animals and less developed than present-day man. These physical beings formed a kind of shell, a dwelling-place and they would have been condemned to decadence had they not been fructified by higher Beings. Only at that time the human souls entered the physical human bodies, and then began to shape the Subsequent form of the human body. In the past, the human soul was an integral part of higher Spiritual Beings. The physical shells of human bodies were upon the earth, and into these streamed the souls of higher Beings coming from above, from the spiritual worlds. In the spiritual worlds the souls were connected like drops of water in a sea, which were then poured into a number of vessels.
The beings who poured out the souls from above were those who had passed through their human stage upon the Moon, the Moon-Spirits, whose stage of development was one degree higher than that of Man so that they could pour one part of their being into mankind, thus enabling it to develop further, Man could then transform his organism more and more. He could lift himself up from the earth and stand upright, he learned to walk, to speak and to become independent.
There was a certain relationship between all these souls, for they came from a common spiritual chorus. All those who had received a drop from the same being, greatly resembled each other. Members, of the same tribe first had such related souls, then the members of a race or nation, for example, the whole Egyptian or the whole Jewish nation. They had souls that had come from a common source. From the Moon-Spirits man had received the Spirit-Self and this enabled him to become an independent being, an Ego.
But something which man could not obtain from the Moon Spirits, could only be given to him by a still higher Being, common to all men, who had already completed its humanity upon the Sun: a Fire-Spirit. Many Fire-spirits had developed upon the Sun and exercised their influence upon the Earth, for they were high spirits. One of these Fire-Spirits was called upon to pour out his being upon the whole of mankind. A Spirit who belonged to the whole Earth was able to pour out over the whole of mankind, into each one of its parts, the element of the Sun or Fire-Spirits, the Buddhi, or the Spirit of Life. But in the Lemurian and in the Atlantean age the human beings were not ripe enough to receive this from the Sun-Spirit.
When we read the Akasha Chronicle (See Rudolf Steiner's book. “THE AKASHA CHRONICLE”) we find that something very strange took place at that time: The human beings consisted of physical body, etheric body, astral body and Spirit Self, but this only lived in them in a very weak form. The Buddhi or Life-Spirit soared above every human being — it could be perceived in the Akasha spaces. In the astral space every human being was surrounded by Buddhi, but it remained outside and was not strong enough to enter man. This Buddhi was a part of the great Fire Spirit who had poured out his drops on the human beings, but these drops could not enter the human beings.
Christ's deeds on earth gave man the capacity to absorb into his Manas what we designate as Buddhi.
What Christ fulfilled upon the earth, was prepared by other great teachers who had preceded him, by Buddha, by the last Zarathustra, by Pythagoras, who all lived about 600 years before Christ, and who were men who had already absorbed a great deal of what lived in the surroundings of man. They had absorbed the spark of Christ. Also Moses belongs to them. But the Ego of the other people had not yet absorbed this spark.
Into the physical, etheric and astral body of Jesus of Nazareth had entered the whole Fire-Spirit, the one source of all the different sparks that lived in the human beings. This Fire-Spirit is the Christ, the only divine Being who lived on earth in this form. He entered the body of Jesus of Nazareth and as a result, all those who feel united with Christ Jesus are able to absorb Buddhi. The possibility to absorb and take in the Buddhi begins with the appearance of Christ Jesus. St. John the Evangelist designates it as the Divine Creative Word. The Fire-Spirit that poured his sparks into men is this Divine Creative Word.
As a result, the following took place: Whereas the Moon-Spirits could create differentiated tribes among men by sending down their drops, Christ was a uniting Spirit for the whole earth, and the human beings were thus united into a family all over the world. Whereas the differentiations among men were brought about by the drops poured out by the different Moon-Spirits, the unity among men was brought about by the Spirit poured out by Christ Jesus. What unites men came down to the earth through Christ Jesus.
When speaking of the last Judgement, Christ says in his prophecy: “When the Son of Man shall Come in his glory” (he means by this: when the drops of Christ shall all have entered into the human beings, when all shall have become brothers) “he shall say unto them on his right hand: Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was hungred and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty and ye gave me drink.” (St. Matthew 25, 35) Then the only difference among men will be that between good and evil.
Christ says to His disciples: “What ye have done unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done unto me.” This signifies: Christ Jesus indicates the time when the drops poured out by Him will all be absorbed, so that when one man faces another, this drop of Christ within him will face the drop of Christ in the other. The power whereby the Buddhi could be called into life in man, this power went out from the life of Christ upon the earth. We should therefore look upon Christ as the uniting Spirit of the Earth.
If we could look down upon the earth from a distant star, through an epoch of many thousands of years, we would find a moment when Christ was active on the earth, so that the whole astral substance of the earth was permeated by Christ. Christ is the Spirit of the Earth, and the Earth is His Body. Everything that grows upon the earth is Christ. He lives in every seed, in every tree, all that grows upon the earth. That is why Christ indicated the bread and said: “This is my Body.” And of the juice of the grapes (at the LAST SUPPER the juice of grapes was passed round, not fermented wine) he had to say: “This is my Blood,” for the juice of the fruits of the earth is his blood. Consequently mankind must appear to him like beings who walk about upon his body. That is why he told his disciples after having washed their feet: “He that eateth bread with me, lifts up his heel against me.” (Treads on me). This must be taken literally, in the meaning that the earth is the body of Christ Jesus. Because he took upon himself the evolution of the earth, a distant spiritual being might see that more and more of Christ's spirit flows into the human beings; the single drops of Christ Jesus penetrate into the individual human beings. Finally the whole earth will be peopled by transformed, Christianised men, by men who have become divine through Christ. Only those who do not participate in this, will be put aside as evil; they must wait for a later time in order to follow a course of development leading to goodness.
All the different nations had Mysteries, before Christ appeared on earth. The Mysteries revealed what was to take place in the future. After a long training, the pupils had to undergo a preparation which consisted in a sepulchre. The hierophant was thus able to transfer the pupil into a higher state of consciousness which made his body lie inert in a kind of deep slumber. In ancient times, the consciousness always had to be abated in order that the divine essence might enter man. In this lowered state of consciousness, the soul was led through the spheres of the spiritual world and after three days the hierophant called the pupil back into life. Through this experience he felt that he had become a new man and he obtained a new name. He was called Son of God. The whole process took place upon the physical plane, when Christ appeared and passed through the Mystery of Golgotha. In the ancient initiations the life-drops of Christ's spirit first called the pupils back into life and they were told: “He who will Christianize all men, will appear one day. And He will truly be the Incarnated Word. You can only experience this for three days, when you travel through the kingdoms of heaven; but One will come, Who will bring the Kingdoms of Heaven down to the physical world.”
The Initiate experienced upon the astral plane what Christ lived through upon the physical plane, namely that from the very beginning there existed a Divine Word that poured out its drops over the human beings; but the Ego-men could not absorb these drops. St. John, the herald of the Christianized Ego-man who has taken in the Christ, or the Word, reveals this. St. John speaks of the Word that existed upon the earth from the very beginning:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.
The same was in the beginning with God.
All things were made by him and without him was not anything made that was made.
In him was life and the life was the light of men.
And the light shone in the darkness, but the darkness comprehendeth it not.
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.
The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the light, that all men through him might believe.
He was not the light-, but a witness of the Light.
For the true Light that lighteth every man was to come into the world.
He was in the world and the world was made by him and the world knew him not.
He came to each man (to the individual Ego-man) but the individual men (the Ego-men) received him not.
But as many as received him, to them he gave power to manifest themselves as children of God.
Those who believe in his name, are born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us and we have heard his teaching, the teaching of the only begotten of the Father full of grace and truth.”
The word “grace” in verse 14 has for St. John the same meaning as Buddhi; “truth” is Manas, the Spirit-Self.
“John bare witness of him and cried saying: This was he of whom I spoke. After me cometh one who existed before me. For he is my predecessor.
And of his fullness have we all received grace upon grace.
For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.
No man hath at any time seen God with eyes. The only begotten Son who lived in the bosom of the Cosmic Father hath become our guide in this vision.”
[Dr.Rudolf Steiner's rendering of the text.]
All initiations into the Mystery of the Spirit pointed to the coming of Christ Jesus. This initiation was attained in the Yoga sleep, in the Orphic sleep, in the Hermes sleep. When the initiate woke up again and returned into his body, so that he could again hear and speak with his physical senses, he uttered the words which are rendered as follows in the Hebrew language: “Eli, Eli, lama sabathani.” The pupil of the Mysteries woke up with the words: “My God, My God, how thou hast raised me!”
This was the initiation during the ancient Jewish epoch. During his three days' sojourn in the higher worlds, the initiate experienced the whole course of mankind's future development, all that awaited him in the future development of humanity. As a rule, these future stages of human development were not perceived abstractly in his vision.. Each stage was represented by a personality. The seer saw twelve individualities. They represented twelve stages of soul-development. The soul-forces thus appeared in the external form of twelve persons. At a certain moment, the initiate saw a certain scene: His own individuality became transfigured — the stage which the whole of humanity will reach when it shall be filled by Buddhi, when it shall be Christianized. He identified himself with God and behind him he saw the twelve soul-forces. John was immediately behind, he was the last of the twelve who announced his fulfilment. And he saw himself transfigured, he saw the stage which he would reach when perfection will be attained; he saw his soul-forces in the external form of persons, and perceived St. John, the herald of the Christ-stage of development. During the Yoga-sleep, these twelve figures grouped themselves around him, and the scene arose which was designated as the Mystical Supper. This image had the following meaning: When the initiate sits there surrounded by his soul-forces, he says to himself: These are one with me; they have led me through the development of the earth; the feet of this apostle enabled me to walk on along my path, the hands of that apostle gave me the power to work. ... The Holy Supper is the expression of man's fellowship with the twelve soul-forces.
Human perfection consists in the falling away of the lower soul-forces, so that only the higher forces remain behind; in future, man will no longer have the lower forces; he will, for example, no longer have the forces of procreation. John's soul-power above all will raise those lower forces to the loving heart. It will send out streams of spiritual love. The heart is the most powerful organ, when Christ lives in man. The lower soul-forces are then raised from the abdominal regions to the heart.
Every initiate experienced this in the Mysteries of the heart. It re-echoed in the words: “My God, my God, how thou hast raised me!” With the appearance of Christ Jesus, the whole Mystery, the whole experience, became reality upon the physical plane. At that time there were brotherhoods in Palestine which had developed out of the old order of the Essenes. Among their institutions, they also had a meal symbolizing the mystical Holy Supper. “To eat the Easter Lamb” is a general expression for something which took place at Easter. Jesus sat down with the Twelve and inaugurated the Holy Supper with the words: “At the end of the evolution of the earth, all men will have absorbed what I brought down to the earth, and the words, ‘This is my Body, This is my Blood,’ will then be true.” Afterwards he said: “There is one among you who will betray me.” This is brought about by the power of egoism. But as surely as this power of egoism is the source of treason, so surely will this lower soul-force be raised to a higher stage. One of the disciples rested upon Jesus' bosom, he rested upon Jesus' heart. This means that all the lower forces, every form of egoism, will be raised to the heart. At this point Jesus repeated to his Disciples the words: “Eli, Eli, lama sabathani” — “Now the Son of Man is glorified, and God is glorified in Him!”
The same event which took place upon Golgotha took place in the ancient Mysteries. Under the Cross stood the Disciple “whom the Lord loved,” the Disciple who had rested upon his bosom and had been raised to his heart. Also the women are there under the Cross: the mother of Jesus, his mother's sister Mary, and Mary Magdalene. John does not say that the mother of Jesus was called “Mary,” but that this was the name of his mother's sister. His mother's name was “Sophia.”
John baptises Jesus in the river Jordan. A dove descends from heaven. At this moment a spiritual act of conception takes place. But who is the mother of Jesus who conceives at this moment.
The Chela, Jesus of Nazareth, at this moment divests himself of his Ego, his highly developed Manas is fructified and the Buddhi enters into it. The highly developed Manas that received the Buddhi is Wisdom — Sophia, the Mother who is fructified by the Father of Jesus. Maria, which is the same as Maya, has the general meaning of “Mother name.” The Gospel records: “The Angel came in unto her and said: Hail thou that art highly favoured, — behold thou shalt conceive in thy womb and bring forth a son — the Holy Ghost shall come upon thee and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee.” The Holy Ghost is Jesus' father: the descending dove fructifies the Sophia that lives in Jesus.
The Gospel should therefore be read as follows: “Under the Cross stood the mother of Jesus, Sophia.” To this mother Jesus says: “Woman, behold thy son.” He himself had transferred the Sophia that lived within him to the Disciple John; he transformed him into a son of Sophia and said: “Behold, thy mother.” “Henceforth you should recognise the divine wisdom as your mother and dedicate yourself to her alone.” John had recorded this divine wisdom; Sophia is embodied in the Gospel of St. John. Jesus had given him this wisdom, and he was authorized by Christ to transmit it to the world.
The highest Spirit of the Earth had to incarnate in a physical body; this body had to die, it had to be killed and its blood had to flow. A special meaning is attached to this. Wherever there is blood, there is Self. The Self rooted in the blood had to be sacrificed in order that the old communities based on Self might come to an end. All individual forms of egoism flow away with the blued of the Crucified Christ. The blood of racial communities changes into a blood which is common to the whole of mankind, because the blood of Christ was sacrificed at the moment when he hung upon the Cross.
Here too something took place which might have been observed by an astral observer in the astral atmosphere. When Christ died upon the Cross, the whole astral atmosphere changed, so that events could take place which could never have taken place before. This has become possible because by shedding His blood, Christ gave the whole of mankind a Self that is common to all. The blood that streamed out of the wounds of Christ Jesus gave to the whole of humanity a Self which is shared by all. His three bodies remained hanging upon the Cross and were then revived by the Risen Christ. When Christ abandoned his physical frame, the three bodies were so strong that they could utter the words of initiation which follow the transfiguration: “Eli, Eli, lama sabathani!”
To all who know something of the Mystery-truths, these words must have revealed that a Mystery had been enacted. A small correction in the Hebrew text therefore gave rise to the words contained in the Gospel: “Eli, Eli, lama sabathani!” “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me!”