Thus we see how the Sermon on the Mount directs Christianity from out of the great teachings of cosmology and humanity, while everywhere directing attention to the force within, the centre point of which must be found in the Ego itself. The time has now come when this must be understood, and understood in such a way that people must not believe themselves to be true Christians because they try to find Christianity in some dogmatic collateral signification or side issue, but rather those are true Christians who understand the meaning of the text: ‘Change the disposition of your souls, for the kingdoms of heaven have descended even into the ego!’ Those persons can be called ‘Christians’ in the true sense who realise that this is the essential point, and who further understand that this had to be put at the beginning of our era in a different way from that in which it must be given out now! It would be a mistaken idea of Christianity to believe that what was considered Christian in the words spoken two thousand years ago has not since then undergone further development. Christianity would stand for nothing but a dead stream of culture. But it is a living one! It is developing, and will continue to develop! Just as it is true that Christianity had to start from the time when man had descended right down to the physical plane, when a Divine Being became man in a physical human body, so it is also true that at our present time man must learn to rouse himself to the understanding of Christianity and of the Christ Being Itself, from a Higher Spiritual Standpoint! — What does this mean?
Just as it is true that the old dreamy clairvoyant forces had been lost, so that at the time of Christ those persons who were filled ‘with God’ in the old sense could no longer be described as ‘blessed,’ but only such as formed the kingdoms of Heaven within them, it is also true that the ego of man will reascend into the Spiritual world in full consciousness and will develop ever new forces and capacities. Just as it is true that the time of the Baptist was the time when those capacities which led down to the physical plane had reached a crisis in humanity, it is also true that we have now again reached an important time. What is called the ‘Dark Age,’ which began in the year 3101 B.C. and reached its height at the time of the Incarnation, came to an end at the close of the 19th Century. The Kali-Yuga was concluded in 1899! We are now approaching a time when new forces and capacities will be developed by man and these will be distinctly apparent in the last half of our present century. These new forces and capacities must be understood. Particularly those persons who have studied and understood Anthroposophy must realise that such an uplifting of humanity towards the Spiritual has again become possible. For during the important times that will follow after 1930, single individuals will find it possible to develop higher forces in their nature, whereby what we know as the etheric body will become visible. A certain number of people will develop etheric clairvoyant powers.
One of two things will then be possible, either the materialism of our age will continue, in which case when these forces are manifested men will fail to understand that they lead into the Spiritual worlds; they will then be wrongly understood and so be crushed. Should that occur, would not people, speaking in a materialistic sense at the end of the year 1940, be justified in saying: ‘Now see what fantastic prophets those were who spoke at the beginning of the 20th century! Nothing of what they foretold has been fulfilled.’ But if the new capacities have not appeared, that would not contradict what may be said now, and must indeed be said; it would only prove that people without the right understanding have choked them in the bud and that they have missed something which humanity must possess if its further evolution is not to collapse into dissolution and decay. That is the great responsibility of Anthroposophy. Anthroposophy has sprung from a knowledge of the necessity for an advanced preparation for something which will come, but which might be overlooked and suppressed. Anthroposophy has the task of bringing about an understanding of the Spiritual forces developing in man. If these forces are suppressed humanity will sink deeper into the mire of materialism.
On the other hand, Anthroposophy may be successful in spreading through its teachings an understanding of the fact that man must rise into the Spiritual worlds; it may succeed in lifting mankind out of the materialistic frame of mind. For this, however, something must now come forth from the anthroposophical movement, something that was prepared centuries ago, but which must now, in our own age, evolve to a particular and important turning-point.
The centuries that lie behind us were fitted for cultivating to an increasing extent the materialistic ideas of man. Under this materialistic influence it was easy to believe that the Christ-Impulse and the Christ-Being would come into touch with the world by incarnating once again — or perhaps oftener — in a physical, material body. Instead of acquiring clear notions of the fact that men must grow up as regards their capacities so that a great number, and finally all, might experience the Event of Damascus — that is: might experience the Christ in the atmosphere around the earth, and see Him in His etheric body — it was believed that Christ would descend again in a physical body, for the materialistic satisfaction of those who refuse to believe in the spirit, and who will not believe what St. Paul saw in the Event of Damascus: that Christ is in the Earth-atmosphere and that He is always there! ‘I am with you always, even unto the end of the world!’ Those who develop the methods of clairvoyant vision into the Spiritual world will find what, could not be found there in the pre-Christian time: the Christ in His etheric body. That is the important progress in the evolution of humanity; before the first half of our century has elapsed, those faculties by means of which the event of Damascus becomes a personal experience, will develop naturally as it were, and men will see the Christ in His etheric body. He will not descend into flesh, but man will ascend when he has acquired understanding of the spirit.
That is the manner of Christ's return in our own age, for in this 20th century men must work their way up out of the Kali-Yuga into a century of clairvoyance. They must ascend to Christ by means of the capacities which they will develop; they must ascend to the Christ where He is and where He can be seen, at first sight, by those in the vanguard, those who through the teachings of Anthroposophy can be guided to what in the course of the next 2,500 years will be experienced to a greater or less degree by every human soul.
The great event which awaits mankind in the near future is, that those who raise themselves — with full Ego-consciousness — to the etheric vision of Christ in His etheric body, will be ‘God-filled’ or blessed. For this, however, the materialistic mind must be thoroughly overcome, and men must acquire understanding of Spiritual doctrine and Spiritual life.
In bygone centuries it was, comparatively speaking, not harmful for men continually to return to the materialistic conception of the so-called return of Christ. Particularly at the small times of transition, when that which has now reached its climax in a materialistic sense was being prepared for, as, for instance, in France in 1137, when a Messiah was expected, and was awaited by many in wide circles. A Messiah did actually appear then, but he led the people astray, because the belief in him had arisen through their materialistic ideas, for it was believed the Messiah would come in the flesh. Thirty years before, another Messiah appeared in Spain; there, too, it had been foretold that a Messiah would come in the flesh. At about the same time another new Messiah appeared in North Africa; there, too, it had been prophesied that one would come from the East, and appear in the flesh. Throughout the whole time during which the materialistic mind was being prepared, in that the highest things were being grasped by it, there appeared such prophets whose coming was foretold. Such phenomena are well known to those who understand the times, and they continued into the 17th century, when the approaching appearance of a sort of Christ, a Messiah, was proclaimed far and wide. This again found acceptance by the materialistically religious minds of men. Based on these prophecies, a false Messiah was thus able to arise in Smyrna, in 1667, bearing the name of Shabbathoi Zewi. He wrote letters and epistles at that time from Smyrna, which, although they contained nothing but false matter, being written in a materialistic sense, shook the world as greatly as had once the Epistles of St. Paul. In the 17th century there went forth from Smyrna the proclamation that in that city there dwelt a Messiah in the flesh! And Shabbathoi Zewi, the ‘just man of God’ was so considered, that it was said the whole world-reckoning would now take on another form. ‘He will pass through the world with his faithful disciples and all must believe in him who are willing to see the truth, who wish to see Christ in the flesh!’ It was preached to the people that his birthday must be held as the greatest Festival on Earth! Whole hosts of people undertook pilgrimages there — not only from Asia and Africa, but also from Poland, Russia, Spain, France, and so on; great numbers of persons traveled as pilgrims to Smyrna to see Shabbathoi Zewi, who was supposed to be Christ in the mesh, until the thing grew beyond all limits and he was arrested by order of the Sultan! This, said the people, was but the fulfilment of the prophesy, for it was foretold he would be in prison for nine months! The Sultan could think of no other method than to have him brought forth and stripped, saying: ‘We will see whether thou be a Messiah, a Christ; I shall have thee shot!’ And so it was finally proved that Shabbathoi Zewi was only an ordinary Ba Rabbi after all!
Such impersonations are the result of the materialistic thinking of our times, and there will be more of the kind, for the materialistic mind will make use of men.
What I am now saying will often and often be said during the next few decades: that the capacities of man will develop up to seeing the Etheric vision of Christ, in the reality of which they can then believe, just as firmly as did St. Paul himself! This is the immediate future of man, and this it is for which Spiritual Science must prepare him. But on account of the materialistic thoughts of men the time will also come when strong temptations will arise; false Messiahs will appear in the flesh. It will then be proved whether Anthroposophists have rightly understood Anthroposophy. Those who have not will be so adversely affected by the materialistic mind that they will succumb to the temptation. Although they believe in Christ they will believe in an incarnated Christ. But those who have gained understanding of true Spiritual life will realise that the ‘second Coming of Christ’ in our century, that greatest of Events, signifies that He comes to man in the Spirit, because mankind in the course of its development will have developed up to the Spiritual, will have evolved up towards Christ! Therefore in our century, the Sermon on the Mount undergoes a complete modification. It must be entirely re-modeled, so to speak. Those persons will be God-filled (or blessed) who, through having been beggars for the spirit in their past incarnations, have now advanced so far as to be able to ascend to that part of the kingdom of Heaven where Christ will appear before their spiritual sight!
Every single sentence of the Sermon on the Mount in its present form might be reconstructed in this sense. Christianity will only re-conquer its ancient documents when they are grasped in a living sense, when it is realised that they are living, not dead writings. When the time comes — and that time is here now — when materialistical research extends to the Gospel and takes away the tradition of Christ, then, as we have often stated, Spiritual research will give back the Gospels to mankind! This coincidence will not be accidental, it will come of necessity. It may be that in our own time — during which the materialistic mind having gone as far as it can, will reach a crisis — certain unfortunate persons having, through their mistaken philosophy been led into curious ideas, may conclude that effects may be produced without causes, and that there never was an historical Jesus-Christ. This should be comprehensible to Anthroposophists. They ought, indeed, to feel a certain pity for those poor men who, notwithstanding their philosophy, are so entangled in materialistic thought that they have altogether lost the faculty of imagining the existence of spirit, and who, consequently, keep flying in the face of the saying, that there is no effect without a cause. Christianity as an effect could not have existed without a cause! Anthroposophy, speaking from spiritual investigation, will tell men of Christ in the form in which He now lives, if they will but listen with an understanding mind. The understanding must be sufficiently matured to recognise definitely that the Christ will reappear, but as a reality higher than a physical one, a reality to which one can only look up, after first having acquired a sense and an understanding for spiritual life.
Inscribe in your hearts that Anthroposophy must be a preparation for the great epoch of humanity which is immediately ahead of us. Do not in this look upon it as matter of the first importance whether the souls now incarnated are still incarnated in physical bodies when Christ appears in the manner described, or whether they will then have already passed through the Portal and stand in the life between death and rebirth. For that which takes place in the 20th century is not of importance to the physical world alone, but to all the worlds with which man is connected. Just as those persons who will be in incarnation between 1930 and 1950 will experience the vision of the Etheric Christ, so a mighty revolution will also take place in the world in which man lives between death and rebirth. Just as Christ after the Mystery of Golgotha descended into the underworld, so will the effects of the Event which will occur for the inhabitants of the physical plane, rise into the spiritual plane. Those people who have not been prepared for this by Spiritual Science will miss the great and mighty Event, which will also take place in the Spiritual worlds in which man then lives. Those persons will have to wait for a new incarnation to experience on earth what makes them capable of receiving the new Christ-Impulse. For it is on earth that we must acquire the capacity of grasping all the Christ-Impulses, no matter how high they may lead us! Not in vain has man been placed in the physical world; for it is here we must acquire that which leads us to an understanding of the Christ-Impulse! For all the souls now living, Anthroposophy is the preparation for the Christ-Event that awaits us in the near future. This preparation is necessary. Other events will follow this Christ Event in the course of the development of mankind. It will therefore be a great omission, if those who have the opportunity of raising themselves during this century to the Christ-Event, do not take advantage of it.
Only if we look upon Anthroposophy in this way and inscribe it in our souls, can we realise what it means to each human soul and what it ought to become to all humanity.