Lecture 3, Pt.1
The Christ Impulse and the Development of the Ego-Consciousness
Berlin, 2nd February, 1910.
THE ENTRANCE OF THE CHRIST-BEING INTO THE EVOLUTION OF HUMANITY
In each of the Gospels light is thrown on the great Mystery of Golgotha from one particular aspect. I have drawn your attention to the fact that the secret of Golgotha, the secret of Christ Jesus, is presented by the Gospel of St. Mark from the aspect of the great Cosmological connections, while that of St. Matthew shows how this secret was developed out of one special people, the ancient Hebrews. We have seen how that people had to develop little by little, from generation to generation, from the time of Abraham, so as to bring forth later, as their flower, the Human Being in whom could be contained the individuality of Zarathustra or Zoroaster. We have seen how all the qualities peculiar to the Hebrew people — qualities which had to become more and more intensified in the course of their descent from one generation to the next — were based entirely on the principle of physical inheritance. We were thus able to describe how the character of the mission of the old Hebrew people differed from that of others in that it had to inherit certain qualities, which could only be attained by physical inheritance, and which had gained in intensity from the oldest generations of the time of Abraham down to Jesus. The Gospel of St. Matthew contains many other secrets, as indeed do all the Gospels. Although in the course of this Winter we shall open up a few aspects and perspective glimpses into the Gospels, these can at the most only stimulate the understanding. For in order to understand the Gospels completely a never-ending spiritual work is necessary. Light shall be thrown to-day from one particular side on the Gospel of St. Matthew and it will be shown how the lessons to be drawn there from can be usefully applied by those who now form part of the anthroposophical spiritual stream.
If we look back at much of what we have learnt as the years went by, we shall see that the development of humanity, as described by Spiritual Science, passes through various crises; it reaches an important point, then continues for a while along a more level road, then comes another important point, and so on. We have often emphasised that one such important point in the development of humanity on earth was reached when the Christ-Impulse was given at the beginning of our era, according to the modern reckoning of time. When we look back beyond the Atlantean into the Lemurian age, we come to that point in time when the first rudiment of the human ego was implanted in the human being. To understand such an event, the words must be taken very accurately. For instance, we must make a clear distinction between the statement that in the Lemurian epoch ‘the first rudiments of the ego were implanted in the human being,’ and that other, that at the time of the Mystery of Golgotha began the period, the age, in which humanity became conscious of this ego. ‘There is a great difference between having the ego only in rudiment, as something working in man, and the knowledge that one possesses it. A sharp distinction must be made between these things, for otherwise it is impossible to understand the true laws of evolution.
We know that the implanting of the ego in man is part of the collective development of the earth. The earth passed through the Saturn, Sun and Moon ages, and then only did it become the structure it is to-day. On Saturn the germ of the physical body was laid, on the Sun that of the etheric body, on the Moon that of the astral body, and the germ of the ego was added on the earth; this germ was placed in the development of the earth in the Lemurian epoch. Now something else also took place in the Lemurian epoch, something that we have always called the ‘luciferic influence’. During that epoch man was endowed with the germ of the ego, which in the course of the subsequent earth-periods was destined to attain greater and greater perfection, and at the same time his astral body was ‘inoculated’ with the luciferic influence. The whole nature of man was altered by this influence, even to the forces and elements in his etheric and physical bodies. Thus in the Lemurian epoch man became an entirely different being from what he would have been if there had been no luciferic influence. We see him altering in two respects: we see him becoming an ego-being — and we see him becoming a being in whom the luciferic principle is hidden. Even if the luciferic principle had not set in, the ego-influence would still have entered man.
Now what took place in the human being as a result of the luciferic influence having made itself felt in the Lemurian epoch?
When such a circumstance is described from one aspect or another, I beg you not to consider that as all that can be said on the subject; for this may well be only one point of view, selected for the moment. In the course of years a great deal has been said as to what the luciferic influence brought about in the evolution of man; it is all part of the same, but we cannot repeat it all now. To-day we will select one point of view only, that describes one aspect; that is, that as a result of the luciferic influence man reached a certain point in evolution earlier than was intended, earlier than the wise guidance of the world had predestined for him. The luciferic influence caused him to descend more deeply into the three principles which came over from the former embodiments of the earth, (the astral body, etheric body and physical body) and he has become more entangled in them than would have been the case if no such influence had prevailed. Man, with his ego, would have remained nearer to the spiritual worlds, he would have continued for a longer time to feel himself, through his ego, a member of the spiritual world, if the luciferic influence had not caused that ego to descend more deeply into the three principles. We may say that as a result of the luciferic influence, man descended more deeply on to the earth in the Lemurian epoch. We can indicate the time when he would have descended thus far to the earth or into physical matter had there been no luciferic influence; it would have been in the middle of the Atlantean epoch. If no luciferic influence had come about man would have been obliged to wait till then for his descent to earth; but that influence caused him to descend earlier. It enabled him to become a free being, able to act in accordance with his own impulses. He would otherwise have remained entirely dependent upon the spiritual world until the middle of the Atlantis epoch; neither would he have been able before then to distinguish between good and evil, nor act from his own impulses. He could only have acted from psychic influences, that is to say, from forces implanted in his soul by Divine Spiritual Beings. The luciferic beings made it possible for him to begin at an earlier stage to decide between good and evil; not simply to allow himself to be guided by the laws of the divine-spiritual world Order, but to decide for himself, creating a kind of law and order for himself. This fact is expressed in a very profound way in the description of ‘the Fall’ which represents in a wonderful imaginative picture, what I have just stated. The Old Testament describes this by saying that Divine Spiritual Beings implanted into man a living soul. ‘Now if this living soul had merely remained as it was, man would have had to wait until later on, until the Divine Spiritual Beings had brought the living soul, or, in other words, the yet undeveloped ego, to the degree of maturity able to make distinctions. But now there came the luciferic influences, represented in the Bible as ‘the Serpent.’ Through these, man himself became able to distinguish between good and evil, instead of merely instinctively following the inpourings of Jehovah or the Elohim. From a being who till that time had been guided and led by Divine Spiritual Beings, man thus became a being able to decide for himself. The Bible clearly shows that self-decision was brought to man by the Serpent, or in other words, by the luciferic beings. We then hear the words ring forth, words spoken from the side of the gods: ‘Man has become as one of us!’ Or, if we wish to put this into plainer words: — ‘Man has acquired something through the luciferic influence which has till now been reserved only for the gods. It was given to the gods to decide between good and evil, the beings dependent upon them had no such decisions to make.’
As a result of the luciferic influence man now became a being capable of making distinctions; that is, he became a being who developed divine qualities within him prematurely. In this way and through this influence, something entered human nature which would otherwise have been withheld from his evolution till the middle of the Atlantean epoch. As you can well imagine, man would have been quite different if this descent into matter had not taken place till then; his soul would have been more mature for the descent. He would have descended into matter as a better, a riper, man. He would have brought quite different qualities into his physical, etheric and astral bodies and would have possessed a very different power of distinguishing between good and evil. Because man was already a being able to distinguish between good and evil from the Lemurian epoch to the middle of the Atlantean epoch, he made himself worse than he would otherwise have been; he entered a state of lesser perfection. He would otherwise have spent all the intervening time in a much more spiritual way; but as it was, he passed through it more materially. The effect of this was that if he had received in the middle of the Atlantean epoch what the gods had intended him to have, he would have fallen utterly and completely.
What was it that would have been given to man at the middle of the Atlantean epoch, if he had continued to be guided and directed till that time, instinctively, as it were, by Divine Spiritual Beings?
He would have then received that which, the luciferic influence having in the meanwhile intervened, was afterwards given to him through the Mystery of Golgotha. The Christ-Impulse would have been given to man at the middle of the Atlantean epoch. Now, however, on account of the luciferic influence, man had to wait as long a time for the Christ-Impulse as had elapsed between the intervention of the luciferic influence and the middle of the Atlantean epoch. There was the same span of time between the entrance of Lucifer and the middle of the Atlantean epoch, as between that time and. the arrival of the Christ-Impulse. Thus, through man's having acquired a likeness to the gods before he was meant to do so, we have to describe a delay of the Christ-Impulse. For before that could come man had to go through the Earth-Karma due to him on account of the evil that had entered the earth through the luciferic impulse. He had to wait, not only till that influence had rendered him able to distinguish between good and evil, but until, in the course of the earth's development, all the consequences of the luciferic influence had come. He had to wait for these, for then only could the Christ-Impulse descend to the earth. In accordance with the wise guidance of the earth, man was not intended to escape for ever from what was to come to him through the luciferic influence, but it would not have come upon him till the middle of the Atlantean epoch. It must have come in any case; but it would certainly not have come in the same form. Not only did man acquire from Lucifer the power of free decision in everything connected with spiritual things, but also the capacity of enthusiasm for what is good and noble, wise and great. As human beings, we are not only able coldly to distinguish between good and evil, but also to feel a warm glow for the noble, good and wise. That is because something was carried into our astral body, which, if it had only reached man in the middle of the Atlantean epoch, would have been taken into the ego, that ego which is capable of judgment. All the feeling, the idealism and enthusiasm for what is good, for high ideals, we owe to the circumstance that something entered our astral body before we had acquired the likeness to God in our ego, before the acceptance of the Christ had taken place therein. The essential point is that this likeness to God, the possibility of finding the good within ourselves, had to come to man. If the luciferic influence had not come, this impulse would have come in the middle of the Atlantean period, but as things are it came in the age in which Christ Jesus Himself worked.
Thus through the Christ-Impulse the consciousness came to man that in his ego he had something of Divine substance and of Divine nature. The thought that man can take in the Divine in his Ego-being and that this Divine part can be active therein and distinguish between good and evil, underlies all the deeper sayings of the New Testament. We may therefore say that with the reception into the inner nature of man of the Christ-Impulse, it was made possible for man to say: ‘I must be my own guide for the knowledge of my existence and the distinction between good and evil.’
Now if we look back to the pre-Christian time, we must say that when the impulse enabling man to distinguish between good and evil was not yet present, such distinction, and the judgment of man as to the good, the beautiful and the true, was necessarily meagre; it did not actually proceed from his inner being. He could not, before the Christ-Impulse, have distinguished in his inner being between good and evil. In the pre-Christian time the decision as to the really Good, Beautiful and True could only be accomplished through certain beings — such as the Bodhisattvas — reaching up as time went on with a part of their being into the divine-spiritual worlds; the distinction between good and evil was therefore not made from out of man's inner being, but in the divine worlds. Through their companionship with divine spiritual beings these Guides acquired it and it flowed from them into the souls of men, as though by suggestion. Had it not been for those guides, men could only have made feeble distinctions between good and evil in those days. If these guides had depended on their own hearts alone, they could not have done this either; but because they descended into those depths of the soul which were not yet accessible to man and entered in their ego-being into the kingdoms of heaven, they received the impulse needed by man to help him to decide between good and evil at the time of his need, that the good might nevertheless be implanted in the earth by way of preparation. Thus, before the time of Christ, man was a being still insufficiently prepared to acquire the likeness to God. On this account, since the Lemurian epoch, everything done by man was done less well than would otherwise have been the case. This applies above all to what regards himself. His astral, etheric and physical bodies, which but for the luciferic influence would have remained more spiritual, were, through that influence, less well formed, made more material. That was the reason of all the evil which developed in the life of man as time went on. In the course of a very long time have these evils developed.
From the Lemurian epoch to the Mystery of Golgotha they developed in the physical, etheric and astral bodies. In the astral body a high degree of egotism was developed; in the etheric body the possibility of mistaken judgment and the possibility of lying. If man had remained under the influence of divine-spiritual beings, acting instinctively in accordance with their impulses, he would not to-day, when he desires knowledge of the world around him, be able to fall into error, nor could he be led into untruth. Thus did the tendency to lying and the danger of error find place in the development of man; and since the spiritual is always the origin of the physical, and because the luciferic influence and its consequences ate their way more and more deeply into the etheric body during incarnation after incarnation, the possibility of disease entered the physical body. Illness is the evil that entered the physical body through that development; but something of still greater significance has come. If man had not been subject to these influences, if he had not allowed them to work upon him, he would never have supposed that anything more than a change of life takes place when the physical body falls away from us; consciousness of death would not have come to him. If man had descended less deeply into matter and had kept hold of the threads uniting him with the divine-spiritual, he would have been aware that when the physical sheath is laid aside, a new form of existence begins; but he would never have looked upon that as a loss, as the end of an existence he had grown fond of. Everything in evolution would have taken on a different aspect.
Man descended more deeply into matter, he thus made himself more free and independent, but he also thereby made his own development more limited than it would have been.
Everything lacking in man will be made good by the Christ-Impulse; but one must not expect that to be done in a short time nor even in a comparatively short time. A very long time elapsed between the Lemurian epoch and the Mystery of Golgotha. Slowly and gradually, during incarnation after incarnation, came egotism, error and lying, disease and the realisation of death. Man is being led back into the spiritual world, so to speak, with the qualities he has acquired “from below.” The re-ascent will be a quicker progress than the descent; but it cannot be expected that in one or two incarnations man will be enabled, through what he can take in of the Christ-Impulse, to overcome selfishness and to heal his etheric body to such an extent that all danger of lying and error is at an end, still less can he be expected to be able to work healingly on his physical body. All this must go on slowly and gradually; but it is going on. Just as man has been led down into all those qualities by the luciferic impulse, so will he be led up out of them by the Christ-Impulse. Selfishness will be transmuted into selflessness, lying into truthfulness, the danger of error into absolute certainty and true judgment. Illness will become the foundation for more complete health; the illness we have overcome will be the germs of greater good-health; and when we have gradually learnt to understand death in such a way that the Death at Golgotha works as a prototype of death in our own soul, death will then have lost its sting. Man will then know why from time to time he must lay aside his physical covering, in order to rise higher and higher in the course of his embodiments. In particular, the Christ-Impulse brought with it the impulse to make good something connected with man's knowledge and observation, with his knowledge of the world.
We have said that man has become more entangled in matter, less perfect in his three bodies than he would have been if there had been no luciferic influence; this caused him to be possessed by an urge to sink more deeply into material existence, to soak himself more completely in mere matter. This refers more especially to his knowledge, but even that only came about slowly and gradually. Man did not, as soon as the luciferic influence made itself felt, immediately sink down so deeply as to close all the doors into the spiritual world behind him. He still remained, for a long time, in connection with the spiritual world from which he grew forth and with which he would have remained in connection with his whole being, if the luciferic influence had not come. He long remained a participator in it; for a long time he continued to feel that his finer, more spiritual instincts were guided by the threads from the divine-spiritual world. For a long time he still continued to feel that his impulse was not a merely human one, it was as though the Gods had been at work behind it. That was more particularly the case in more ancient times. Man was driven slowly into matter and he thus gradually lost the consciousness of the divine.
Those spiritual movements and world-conceptions of humanity which had knowledge of these things, have also hinted at this. They said: There was once upon a time an age in which man was driven some way into material existence by the luciferic influence — though not so far as to prevent the divine influence from still having a powerful effect upon him. In the early ages of man's development this was known as the ‘Golden Age.’ This is no fanciful conception: ‘Golden Age’ is simply the expression used by those men of olden times who still had an inkling that there had been something like a primeval age of humanity, such as has just been described. This Golden Age, known to Eastern philosophy as Krita-Yuga, lasted, comparatively speaking, much longer than the Ages we still have to describe. After the Golden Age came the so-called ‘Silver Age.’ Man was pushed further down into the physical world; but the process went on slowly and gradually. Even then the doors of the spiritual world were not yet completely closed. Man still had intense moments in which, in a dreamy sort of clairvoyance, he saw the Gods at work behind his instincts. Man could no longer be called a companion of the Gods in this Silver Age, but he could still perceive them standing behind him. Eastern philosophy calls this age, Treta-Yuga. Then came an Age which extends into our own Post-Atlantean period; its last stragglers extended into historical times when there still were people gifted with the old dream-like, twilight consciousness. The consciousness of a spiritual world from which man had come forth, still existed; though only as a kind of memory remaining over from former incarnations. It was just as when we now remember our own childhood, our youth, and our present age. In childhood we had direct experience of our childish happenings; in like manner man still experienced in Treta Yuga in a direct way, the impulse of a divine-spiritual world. In the Age following on that, known as the ‘Bronze Age,’ what man had was more like a memory. It might be compared with the way a grown man contemplates his childhood; for we say: ‘I experienced my childhood; it was not a dream!’ That was like the state of things in the Third Age. Men then knew: ‘In earlier ages we had experience of communion with the Gods; that is now nothing but a memory!’ I have explained at some length how in the Old-Indian period of civilisation the memory of the Atlantean epoch worked retrospectively, thus enabling the holy Rishis to reveal their great divine teachings. This Bronze Age is known in Eastern philosophy as Dvapara-Yuga. That is followed by an Age in which all memory of the divine-spiritual world is lost, when man, with his knowledge and perception, is entirely given up to the physical world. That age began about the year 3101 B.C. In Eastern philosophy it is known as Kali-Yuga, ‘the dark age’; because man had then lost all connection with the spiritual world and become completely one with the physical world. I wish expressly to note that I am now using these expressions for smaller divisions of time, but they can also be applied to larger spans. We are now speaking of the divisions of time corresponding to the smaller ages, and we make Kali-Yuga begin, as does Indian philosophy, with the year 3101 before our era. The Age was then being prepared in which men were taught only to see that which conceals the divine-spiritual world as by a veil, by a covering; when they only perceived the external physical. At the beginning of Kali-Yuga there were still many who could either see or recollect the divine-spiritual world, but for normal humanity the time set in when they could only see the physical world of nature.
That was the descent of man to Kali-Yuga. It was the time of deepest descent. Into that had to come the impulse for re-ascent. That is why this impulse, the Christ-Impulse, had to come during the Kali-Yuga, in the “dark” age.
To Be Continued--