This lecture is in the collected edition of Rudolf Steiner's works; the volume containing the German texts is entitled, Von Jesus Zu Christus, From Jesus to Christ (Vol. 131 in the Bibliographic Survey, 1961). It is the first lecture in this series of ten lectures.
5 October 1911, Karlsruhe
The object of these lectures is to place before you an idea of the Christ Event in so far as it is connected with the historical appearance of the Christ in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. So many questions of the spiritual life are bound up with this subject that the choice of it will enable us to make a wide survey of the realm of Spiritual Science and its mission, and to discuss the significance of the Anthroposophical Movement for the spiritual life of the present time. We shall also have the opportunity of learning what the content of religion is. And since this content must spring from the common heritage of mankind, we shall seek to know it in its relation to the deeper sources of religious life, and to what the sources of occult science have to tell us concerning the foundation of all religious and philosophic endeavors. Much that we shall have to discuss will seem to lie very far from the theme itself, but it will all lead us back to our main purpose.
We shall best come to a more precise understanding of our subject — modern religious life on the one hand and the spiritual-scientific deepening of spiritual life on the other — if we glance at the origins both of religious life on the one hand and of occult spiritual life in recent centuries, for as regards spiritual development in Europe during this period, we can discern two directions of thought which have been cultivated with the utmost intensity: on the one hand an exaggeration of the Jesus-Principle, and on the other a most careful, conscientious preservation of the Christ-Principle. When we place before our minds these two recent streams, we must see in the exaggeration of the Jesus-Principle a great and dangerous error in the spiritual life of those times, and on the other side a movement of deep significance, a movement which seeks above all the true paths and is careful to avoid the paths of error. From the outset, therefore, in our judgment of two entirely different spiritual movements, we have to ascribe serious error to one of them and most earnest efforts after truth to the other.
The movement which interests us in connection with out spiritual-scientific point of view, and which we may call an extraordinarily dangerous error in a certain sense, is the movement known in the external world as Jesuitism. In Jesuitism we encounter a dangerous exaggeration of the Jesus-Principle. In the other movement, which for centuries has existed in Europe as Rosicrucianism, we have an inward Christ-movement which above all seeks carefully for the ways of truth.
Ever since a Jesuitical current arose in Europe, much has been said and written in exoteric life about Jesuitism. Those who wish to study spiritual life from its deeper sources will thus be concerned to see how far Jesuitism signifies a dangerous exaggeration of the Jesus-Principle. If we wish to arrive at a true characterisation of Jesuitism, we must get to know how the three chief principles of world-evolution, which are indicated in the most varied ways in the different world-outlooks, find practical statement in human life, including exoteric life. Today we will first of all turn quite away from the deeper significance and characterisation of these 3 fundamental streams, which run through all life and all evolution, and will review them from an external point of view.
First of all we have the cognitional element in our soul-life. Now, whatever may be said against the abstractions of a one-sided intellectual search for truth, or against the alienation from life of many scientific, philosophical and theosophical endeavors, anyone who is clear in his own mind as to what he wills and what he can will, knows that Cognition belongs to the most deeply rooted activities of the soul. For whether we seek knowledge chiefly through thinking, or more through sensation or feeling, Cognition always signifies a taking account of the world around us, and also of ourselves. Hence we must say that whether we are satisfied for the moment with the simplest experiences of the soul, or whether we wish to devote ourselves to the most complicated analysis of the mysteries of existence, Cognition is the primary and most significant question. For it is basically through Cognition that we form a picture of the content of the world — a picture we live by and from which our entire soul-life is nourished. The very first sense-impression, in fact all sense-life, must be included in the realm of Cognition, along with the highest formulations of the intellect.
Under Cognition we must include also the impulse to distinguish between the beautiful and the ugly, for although it is true in a certain sense that there is no disputing about taste, yet cognition is involved when someone has adopted a certain judgment in a question of taste and can distinguish between the beautiful and the ugly. Again, our moral impulses — those which prompt us to do good and abstain from evil — must be seen as moral ideas, as cognition, or as impulses to do the one and avoid the other. Even what we call our conscience, however vague the impulses from it may be, comes under the heading of Cognition. In short, the world we are consciously aware of, whether it be reality or maya; the world we live in consciously, everything we are conscious of — all this can be embraced under the heading: cognitive spiritual life.
Everyone, however, must acknowledge that under the surface of this cognitive life something else can be discerned; that in our everyday existence our soul-life gives evidence of many things which are not part of our conscious life. When we wake up in the morning, our soul-life if always strengthened and refreshed and newly born from sleep. During the unconsciousness of sleep we have gained something which is outside the realm of conscious cognition, but comes from a region where our soul is active below the level of consciousness.
In waking life, too, we must admit that we are impelled by impulses, instincts and forces which throw up their waves into our conscious life, while they work and have their being below it. We become aware that they work below the conscious when they rise above the surface which separates the conscious from the subconscious soul-life of this kind, for we can see how in the moral realm this or that ideal comes to birth. It takes only a little self-knowledge to realise that these ideals do rise up into our soul-life, but that we are far from always knowing how our great moral ideals are connected with the deepest questions of existence, or how they belong to the will of God, in which they must ultimately be grounded. We might indeed compare our soul-life in its totality with a deep ocean. The depths of this oceanic soul-life throw up waves to the surface, and those that break out into the realm of air, which we can compare with normal consciousness, are brought within the range of conscious cognition. All conscious life is rooted in a subconscious soul-life.
Fundamentally, the whole evolution of mankind can be understood only if a subconscious soul-life of this kind is acknowledged. For what does the progress of spiritual life signify save that many things which have long dwelt down below take form for the first time when they are brought to surface level? So it is, for example, when an inventive idea arises in the form of an impulse towards discovery. Subconscious soul-life, as real as our conscious life, must therefore be recognized as a second element in our life of soul.
If we place this subconscious soul-life in a realm that is at first unknown — but not unknowable — we must contrast it with a third element. This element is immediately apparent to external, exoteric observation, for if we turn our attention to the outer world through our senses, or approach it through our intellect or any form of mental activity, we come to know all sorts of things. But a more exact consideration of every age of cognition compels us to realise that behind everything we can know about the world at large something else lies hidden: something that is certainly not unknowable but in every epoch has to be described as not yet known. And this not-yet-known, which lies below the surface of the known in the mineral, plant and animal kingdoms, belongs as much to ourselves as it does to external nature. It belongs to us in so far as we absorb and work up in our physical organism the materials and forces of the outer world; and inasmuch as we have within us a portion of nature, we have also within us a portion of the unknown in nature. So in the world wherein we live we must distinguish a triad: our conscious spiritual life; our subconscious soul-life below the threshold of consciousness; and that which, as the unknown in nature and at the same time in man, lives in us as part of the great unknown Nature.
This triad emerges directly from a rational observation of the world. And if looking away from all dogmatic statements, from all philosophical or theosophical traditions, in so far as these are clothed in conceptual definitions or formulations, we may ask: How has the human mind always expressed the fact that this triad is present not only in the immediate environment, but in the whole world to which man himself belongs? We must then reply: Man gives the name of Spirit to all that can be known within the horizon of the conscious. He designates as the Son or the Logos that which works in the subconscious and throws up only its waves from down below. And to that which belongs equally to the unknown in Nature, and to the part of our own being which is of one kind with Nature, the name of the Father-Principle has always been given, because it was felt to express the relation of the third principle to the other two.
Besides what has now been said concerning the Spirit, the Son and the Father-Principle, it can be taken for granted that other differentiations we have formerly made, and also the differentiations made in this or that philosophy, have their justifications. But we can say that the most widely accepted idea of this differentiation corresponds with the account of it given here.
Now let us ask: How can we characterise the transition from that which belongs to the Spirit, and so plays directly into the conscious life of the soul, to the subconscious element which belongs to the Son-Principle? We shall best grasp this transition if we realise that into ordinary human consciousness there plays quite distinctly the element we designate as Will, in contrast to the elements of ideations and feeling. If we rightly interpret the Bible saying, ‘The Spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak’, it indicates that everything grasped by consciousness lies in the realm of the Spirit, whereas by ‘the flesh’ is meant everything that lies more in the subconscious. As to the nature of the Will, we need only think of that which plays up from the subconscious and enters into our consciousness only when we form concepts of it. Only when we transform into concepts and ideas the dark impelling forces which are rooted in the elemental part of the soul — only then do they enter the realm of the Spirit; otherwise they remain in the realm of the Son-Principle. And since the Will plays through our feelings into the life of ideas, we see quite clearly the breaking out into the conscious of the waves from the subconscious ocean. In our threefold soul-life we have two elements, ideation and feeling, which belong to conscious life, but feeling descends directly into the realm of the Will, and the nearer we come to the impulses of Will, the further we descend into the subconscious, the dark realms into which we sink completely when consciousness is engulfed in deep, dreamless sleep.
Thus we see that the Will-element, because it descends into the realm of the subconscious, stands towards the individual being of man in a relationship quite different from that of cognition, the realm of the Spirit. And so, when we differentiate between Spirit and Son, we may be impelled to surmise that man's relationship to the Spirit is different from his relationship to the Son. How is this to be understood?
Even in exoteric life it is quite easy to understand. Certainly the realm of cognition has given rise to all kinds of debate, but if people would only come to understand one another concerning the concepts and ideas they formulate for themselves, controversy over questions of cognition would gradually cease. I have often emphasised that we no longer dispute over mathematics, because we have raised mathematics entirely into consciousness. The things we dispute about are those not yet raised into consciousness: we still allow our subconscious impulses, instincts and passions to play into them.
On the other hand, we must recognise the Will-element, and everything in another person's subconscious, as something which should on no account be intruded upon; it must be regarded as his innermost sanctuary. We need consider only how unpleasant to a healthy soul-life is the feeling that the Will of another man is being put under compulsion. It is not only aesthetically but morally unpleasant to see the conscious soul-life of anyone eliminated by hypnotism or any other powerful means; or to see the Will-power of one person working directly on the Will of another. The only healthy way to gain influence over another person's Will is through Cognition. Cognition should be the means whereby one soul comes to an understanding with another. A person must first translate his wishes into a conceptual form: then they may influence another person's cognition, and they should touch his Will only by this indirect route. Nothing else can be satisfactory in the highest, most ideal sense to a healthy life of soul. Every kind of forcible working of Will upon Will must evoke an unpleasant impression.
In other words, human nature strives, in so far as it is healthy, to develop in the realm of the Spirit the life it has in common with others, and to cherish and respect the realm of the subconscious, in so far as it comes to statement in the human organism, as an inviolable sanctuary that should rest in the personality, the individuality, of each man and should not be approached save through the door of conscious cognition. So at least a modern consciousness, attuned to our epoch, must feel if it is to know itself to be healthy.
In later lectures we shall see whether this was so in all periods of human evolution. What has been said today will help us to think clearly about what is outside us and what is within us, at least for our own period. This leads to the conclusion that fundamentally the realm of the Son — embracing everything that we designate as the Son or Logos — must be awakened in each individual as a quite personal concern; and that the realm of common life, where men may be influenced by one another, is the realm of the Spirit.
We see this expressed in the grandest, most significant way in the New Testament accounts of the attitude of Christ Jesus towards His first disciples and followers. ====================== From all that is told concerning the Christ-Event we can gather that the followers who had hastened to Jesus during his life-time were bewildered when His life ended with the crucifixion; with that form of death which, in the land where the Christ Event took its course, was regarded as the only possible expiration for the greatest crimes. And although this death on the cross did not affect everyone as it did Saul, who later became Paul, and as Saul had concluded that someone who suffered such a death could not be the Messiah, or the Christ — for the crucifixion had made a milder impression on the disciples, one might say — yet it is obvious that the writers of the Gospels wished to give the impression that Christ Jesus, through his subjection to the shameful death on the cross, had forfeited some of the effect He had had on the hearts of those around Him.
But with this account something else is connected. The influence that Christ Jesus had acquired — an influence we must characterise more exactly during these lectures — was restored to Him after the Resurrection. Whatever may be our present thoughts about the Resurrection, we shall have to discuss it here in the light of occult science; and then, if we simply go by the Gospel narratives, one thing will be clear: for those to whom Christ appeared after the Resurrection He had become someone who was present in a quite special way, different entirely from His previous presence.
In speaking on the Gospel of St. John I have already pointed out how impossible it would have been for anyone who knew Jesus not to regognise Him after 3 days, or to confuse Him with someone else, if He had not appeared in an altered form. The Evangelists wish particularly to evoke the impression that the Christ appeared in this altered form. But they also wish to indicate something else. For the Christ to exert influence on human souls, a certain receptivity in those souls was necessary. And this receptivity had to be acted on not merely by an influence from the realm of the Spirit but by the actual sight of the Christ-Being.
If we ask what this signifies, we must realise that when a person stands before us, his effect upon us goes beyond anything we are conscious of. Whenever a human being or other being works upon us, unconscious elements affect our soul-life; they are produced by the other being indirectly through consciousness, but he can produce them only if he stands before us in actuality. What the Christ brought about from person to person after the so-called Resurrection was something that worked up from the unconscious soul-powers of the disciples into their soul-life: an acquaintance with the Son. Hence the differences in the portrayal of the risen Christ; hence, too, the variations in the accounts, showing how the Christ appeared to one or other person, according to the disposition of the person concerned. Here we see the Christ-Being acting on the subconscious part of the souls of the disciples; hence the appearances are quite individual, and we should not complain because they are not uniform.
If, however, the significance of the Christ for the world was to be His bringing to all men something common to all of them, then not only this individual working of the Son had to proceed from the Christ, but the element of Spirit, which can encompass something that belongs to all men, had to be renewed by Him. This is indicated by the statement, that after the Christ had worked upon the Logos-nature of man, He sent forth the Spirit in the form of the renewed or ‘holy, Spirit’. Thus was created that element common to all men which is characterised when we are told that the disciples, after they had received the Spirit, began to speak in the most diverse tongues. Here we are shown how the common element resides in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. And something else is indicated; how different is this out-pouring of the Spirit from the simple imparting of the power of the Son, for in the Acts of the Apostles we are told that certain persons to whom the apostles came had already received the Jesus-baptism, and yet they had now to receive for the first time the Spirit, symbolically indicated by the laying on of hands. In the characterisation of the Christ-working, which acts upon the subconscious impulses of the soul and so must have a personal, inward character, and the Spirit-element, which represents something common to all mankind.
It is this Spirit-element that those who have named themselves ‘Rosicrucians’ have sought to preserve most carefully, as far as human weakness permits. The Rosicrucians have always wished to adhere strictly to the rule that even in the highest regions of Initiation nothing must be worked upon except the Spirit-element which, as common between man and man, is available in the evolution of humanity. It was never an Initiation of the Will, for the Will of man was to be respected as a sanctuary in the innermost part of the soul. Hence the individual was led to those Initiations which were to take him beyond the stage of Imagination, Inspiration, and Intuition, but always so that he could recognise within himself the response which the development of the Spirit-element was to call forth. No influence was to be exerted on the Will.
We must not mistake this attitude for one of indifference towards the Will. The point is that by excluding all direct working upon the Will, the purest spiritual influence was imparted indirectly through the Spirit. When we come to an understanding with another man with regard to entering on the path of knowledge of the Spirit, light and warmth are radiated from the spiritual path, and they then enkindle the Will, but always by the indirect path through the Spirit — never otherwise.
In Rosicrucianism, therefore, we can observe in the highest sense that impulse of Christianity which finds twofold statement: on the one hand in the Son-element, in the Christ-working which goes down deeply into the subconscious; on the other, in the Spirit-working which embraces all that falls within the horizon of our consciousness. We must indeed bear the Christ in our Will; but the way in which man should come to an understanding with each other in life concerning the Christ can be found only — in the Rosicrucian sense — through a conscious soul-life which penetrates ever more deeply into the occult.
In reaction against many other spiritual streams in Europe, the opposite way was taken by those who are usually called Jesuits. The radical, fundamental difference between what we justifiably call the Christian way of the Spirit and the Jesuit way of the Spirit, which gives a one-sided exaggeration to the Jesus-Principle, is that the intention of the Jesuit way is to work directly, at all times upon the Will. The difference is clearly shown in the method by which the pupil of Jesuitism is educated. Jesuitism is not to be taken lightly, or merely exoterically, but also esoterically, for it is rooted in esotericism. It is not, however, rooted in the spiritual life that is poured out through the symbol of Pentacost, but it seeks to root itself directly in the Jesus-element of the Son, which means in the Will; and thereby it exaggerates the Jesus-element of the Will.
This will be seen when we now enquire into the esoteric part of Jesuitism, its various spiritual exercises. How were these exercises arranged? The essential point is that every single pupil of Jesuitism goes through exercises which lead into the occult life, but into the Will, and within the field of occultism they hold the Will in severe discipline; they ‘break it in’, one might say. And the significant fact is that this discipline of the Will does not arise merely from the surface of life, but from something deeper, because the pupil has been led into the occult, in the way just indicated.
If now, leaving aside the exercises of prayer preparatory to all Jesuit exercises, we consider these occult exercises, at least in their chief points, we find that the pupil has first to call up a vivid Imagination of Christ Jesus as the King of the Worlds — mark this carefully: an Imagination. And no one would be received into the degrees of Jesuitism who had not gone through such exercises, and had not experienced in his soul the transformation which such psychic exercises mean for the whole man. But this Imaginative presentation of Christ Jesus as King of the Worlds has to be preceded by something else. The pupil has to call up for himself, in absolute solitude and seclusion, a picture of man as he was created in the world, and how by falling into sin he incurred the possibility of most terrible punishments. And it is strictly prescribed how one must picture such a man; how if he were left to himself he would incur the utmost of torturing penalties. The rules are extraordinarily severe. With all other concepts or ideas excluded, this picture must live uninterruptedly within the soul of the future Jesuit, the picture of the God-forsaken man, the man exposed to the most fearful punishments, together with the feeling: ‘That am I, since I have come into the world and have forsaken God, and have exposed myself to the possibility of the most fearful punishments.’ This must call forth the fear of being forsaken by God, and detestation of man as he is according to his own nature.
Then, in a further Imagination, over against the picture of the outcast, God-forsaken man, must be set the picture of the God full of pity who then became Christ, and through His acts on earth atones for what man has brought about by forsaking the divine path. In contrast to the Imagination of the God-forsaken man, there must arise that of the all-merciful, loving Being, Christ Jesus, to whom alone it is due that man is not exposed to all possible punishments working upon his soul. And, just as vividly as a feeling of contempt for the forsaking of the divine path had first to become fixed in the soul of the Jesuit pupil, so must a feeling of humility and contrition now take hold of him in the presence of Christ.
When these 2 feelings have been called forth in the pupil, then for several weeks he has to practise severe exercises, picturing to himself in Imagination all details of the life of Jesus from his birth to the Crucifixion and Resurrection. And all that can arise in the soul emerges when the pupil lives in rigorous seclusion and, except for necessary meals, lets nothing else work upon his soul than the pictures which the Gospels give of the compassionate life of Jesus. But these pictures do not merely appear before him in thoughts and ideas; they must work upon his soul in vivid, living Imaginations.
Only someone who really knows how the human soul is transformed through Imaginations which work with full living power — only he knows that under such conditions the soul is in fact completely changed. Such Imaginations, because they are concentrated in the most intense, one-sided way, first on sinful man, secondly on the compassionate God, and then only on the pictures from the New Testament, evoke precisely, through the law of polarity, a strengthened Will. These pictures produce their effect directly, at first hand, for any reflection upon them must be dutifully excluded. It is solely a matter of holding before one's mind these Imaginations, as they have been described.
What then follows is this. In the further exercises Christ Jesus — and now we may no longer say Christ, but exclusively Jesus — is represented as the universal King of the Worlds, and thereby the Jesus element is exaggerated. Because Christ had to be incarnated in a human body, the purely spiritual took part in the physical world; but over against this participation stand the monumental and most significant words: “My kingdom is not of this world.” We can exaggerate the Jesus element by making Jesus into a king of this world, by making Him that which He would have become if He had not resisted the tempter who wished to give Him ‘all the kingdoms of the world and the glory thereof’. Then Jesus of Nazareth would have been a king who, unlike other kinds who possess only a portion of the earth, would have had the whole earth under his sway. If we think of this kind portrayed in this guise, his kingly power so increased that the whole earth is his domain, then we should have the very picture that followed the other exercises through which the personal will of each Jesuit pupil had been sufficiently strengthened.
To prepare for this picture of “King Jesus”, this Ruler over all the kingdoms of the earth, the pupil had to form an Imagination of Babylon and the plain around Babylon as a living picture, and, enthroned over Babylon, Lucifer with his banner. This picture had to be visualized with great exactitude, for it is a powerful imagination: King Lucifer, with his banner and his hosts of Luciferic angels, seated amidst fire and dense smoke, as he sends out his angels to conquer the kingdoms of the earth. And the whole danger that issues from the ‘banner of Lucifer’ must first of all be imagined by itself, without casting a glance upon Christ Jesus. The soul must be entirely engrossed in the Imagination of the danger which issues from the banner of Lucifer. The soul must learn to feel that the greatest danger to the world's existence that could be conjured forth would be a victory for the banner of Lucifer. And when this picture has had its effect, the other Imagination, ‘The banner of Jesus’, must take its place. The pupil must now visualise Jerusalem and the plain around Jerusalem; King Jesus with His hosts, how he conquers and drives off the hosts of Lucifer and makes Himself King of the whole earth — the victory of the banner of Jesus over the banner of Lucifer.
These are the strength-giving Imaginations for the Will which are brought before the soul of the Jesuit pupil. This is what completely changes his Will; makes him such that in his Will, because it is trained occultly, he turns away from everything else and surrenders absolutely to the idea: ‘King Jesus must become the Ruler upon earth, and we who belong to His army have to employ every means to make Him Ruler of the earth. To this we pledge ourselves, we who belong to His host assembled on the plain of Jerusalem, against the host of Lucifer assembled on the plain of Babylon. And the greatest disgrace for a soldier of King Jesus is to forsake His banner.’
These ideas, gathered up into a single resolution of the Will, can certainly give the Will immense strength. But we must ask: what is it in the soul-life that has been directly attacked? The element that ought not to be touched — the Will-element. In so far as this Jesuit training lays hold of the Will-element, while the Jesus-idea seizes the Will-element completely, in so far is the concept of the dominion of Jesus exaggerated in the most dangerous way — dangerous because through it the Will becomes so strong that it can work directly upon the Will of another. For where the Will becomes so strong through Imaginations, which means by occult means, it acquires the capacity for working directly upon the Will of another, and hence also along all the other occult paths to which such a Will can have recourse.
Thus we see how in recent centuries we encounter these two movements, among many others: one has exaggerated the Jesus-element and sees in ‘King Jesus’ the sole ideal of Christianity, which the other looks solely at the Christ-element and carefully sets aside anything that could go beyond it. This second outlook has been much calumniated because it maintains that Christ has sent the Spirit, so that, indirectly through the Spirit, Christ can enter into the hearts and minds of men. In the development of civilisation during the last few centuries there is hardly a greater contrast than that between Jesuitism and Rosicrucianism, for Jesuitism contains nothing of what Rosicrucianism regards as the highest ideal concerning human worth and human dignity, while Rosicrucianism has always sought to guard itself from any influence which could in the remotest sense be called Jesuitical.
In this lecture I wished to show how even so lofty an element as the Jesus-Principle can be exaggerated and then becomes dangerous, and how necessary it is to sink oneself into the depths of the Christ-Being if we wish to understand how the strength of Christianity must reside in esteeming, to the very highest degree, human dignity and human worth, and in strictly refraining from groping our clumsy way into man's inmost sanctuary. Rosicrucianism, even more than Christian mysticism, is attacked by the Jesuit element, because the Jesuits feel that true Christianity is being sought elsewhere than in the setting which offers merely ‘King Jesus’ in the leading role. But the Imaginations here indicated, together with the prescribed exercises, have made the Will so strong that even protests brought against it in the name of the Spirit can be defeated.