THE MISSION OF CHRIST
Millions of people all over the world profess to a belief in Christianity and its message of love and brotherhood yet there is precious little evidence of it among the so-called Christian nations. On the other hand there is much outward testimony to its influence. The cathedrals, churches and chapels in the villages, towns and cities of the Christian world illustrate this. The Bible is the world's best selling book. In the western world, time is reckoned from the birth of Christ; our main festivals are connected with His life. Countless words have been written and spoken on various aspects of Christianity. Wars have been waged in support of it and as a result of various interpretations. The life of Christ has been made the subject of plays and films.
Is it not strange that Christianity has had such an impact on the world when it cannot even be proved in the accepted sense that Christ ever lived at all? The Gospels are records of a sort but they are not reliable historical documents. They are a mixture of apparent fact and symbolism and do not even agree in content. Christ himself left no record in writing.
As soon as one begins to think about Christ and Christianity one runs into problems. Many explanations are offered but often they seem trivial and superficial, and at times contradictory. Who was the Christ? What is meant by Christ the Saviour? What is the meaning of original sin, redemption, resurrection? What is one to understand by life everlasting?
These matters have occupied great minds for centuries. Since historical records are non-existent and might be difficult to comprehend even if they did exist, the ordinary human mind applies reasoning and speculation with results that may, or may not, be correct. But there is a record of all Earth's events available to those who can decipher it. This is a sort of imprint in the spiritual world that can be read by one who has the faculty of penetrating beyond the physical. Such a person was Rudolf Steiner and what he has to say provides a coherent account and explanation of world evolution, including the events in Palestine. Nevertheless it is not easy to understand these matters, neither is it to be expected since the advent of Christ is acknowledged as the greatest event in human evolution.
The understanding of Christianity is central to Rudolf Steiner's work, however much it may appear otherwise. In his writings and lecture courses the subject is dealt with extensively and further references to Christ and the Christ impulse are scattered throughout his works. He gave a series of lectures on each of the different Gospels and on the Apocalypse. These are not commentaries as such but elucidation of his world outlook in connection with Christianity. To study all that he has said in this connection might prove the study of a lifetime and it must therefore be appreciated that what follows here can only be considered bare outlines of the main themes.
A central thought to hold in mind is that Christ was a sublime cosmic Being who descended to the Earth and incarnated as man in order to bring new, revitalizing forces into the Earth's spiritual atmosphere. Through this deed man is enabled to shake off the fetters of materialism into which he had been seduced at the Fall. It is not what Christ taught that is of paramount importance but what He was, and what He gave. Christ infused the Earth aura with His being and in so doing gave man the ability to acquire new forces. Thus Christianity is not a sectarian or national religion. Christ came for all men. His advent was a decisive turning point in world history.
In the process of evolution the mind of man changes. What may be right at one time is not necessarily so at another. Many people no longer look to the church as the intermediary between themselves and God (the spiritual world) but seek a personal relationship. This is in keeping with the newly developed ego-consciousness. Belief is no longer sufficient; the modern mind requires knowledge. An understanding of the Christ event from the modern standpoint is essential. This shows that through the power of Christ direct knowledge of the spiritual world or, in biblical terms, the Kingdom of God, can be attained. Such knowledge is more than ever necessary in the present chaotic state of the world. Man needs to be reassured concerning his spiritual origin and nature and of his immortality.
Much of the following may appear strange at first sight. It is a summary of events as described by Rudolf Steiner, taken from his reading of the cosmic script. It must also be said that matters are much more complex than would appear from the reading of this chapter and only intense study of Dr Steiner's own works can yield a more perfect understanding.
Man's Expulsion from Paradise
In the Bible we read the story of the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden. It is symbolic of the descent of man from the spiritual world to the physical. Formerly he had existed as a purely spiritual being, but now he has acquired a physical counterpart. This descent to the material world was due to the activity of the so-called Spirits of Adversity (Lucifer or the devil) who 'tempted' man. They 'opened his eyes' and awakened passions and desires which affected the physical body so that it lost its original purity.
The time of these events lies a long way back. In chapter 4 the various Post-Atlantean epochs of civilization have been described, namely: Ancient India, Ancient Persia, Egypt/Chaldea, Greece/Rome and the present. Before these was the age of Atlantis and, before that, of Lemuria. The continent of Atlantis was situated in the region of the present Atlantic ocean, i.e. between Europe/Africa and the Americas. Lemuria was in the area of the present Indian ocean. These continents have now, for the most part, disappeared. The story of Noah and the flood refers to the sinking of Atlantis.
The so-called Fall took place in the Lemurian period. At that time the Earth was in a much more mobile and liquid state. At the beginning of the period the human spirit did not inhabit a physical body. A change came about through the Spirits of Adversity. Lucifer tempted man. He told him that he could become like God, knowing good and evil. He instilled into man an enhanced sense of self, giving him thereby the prospect of freedom. But with freedom comes the possibility of choice, good or evil. The soul nature of man was contaminated and desire opened his eyes to the material world, i.e. he took on a physical form. His consciousness changed and he came to know sickness and death.
The descent into matter and the preoccupation with it was not a single event. In Atlantis, other Spirits of Adversity (known as Ahrimanic), sought to beguile man into believing that the material world was the only reality. Such temptations continued and have persisted to the present day, but since the incarnation of Christ and the availability of the forces that he brought with Him man has the ability to redeem the evil influences.
Such redemption, however, does not happen overnight. Just as remnants of spiritual vision linger on, so does the effect of the Fall, and counteraction becomes possible in accordance with historical developments.
New faculties within man began to develop at the time of the Reformation and Renaissance. In the course of time new powers from the spiritual world are made accessible to man. If he chooses to avail himself of them, personal spiritual effort and exertion are required.
Furthermore, spiritual science speaks of various ages in the history of mankind. One of these is known as Kali Yuga (the Dark Age) which ended in 1899. At this time the spiritual atmosphere — so to speak — brightened. The spiritual world came nearer.
The new possibilities for spiritual perception are connected with the development of the ego.
The Development of Ego-consciousness
The fact that people of the past were not conscious of themselves as individualities is evidenced by history. People were led by divinely inspired leaders and felt themselves essentially as members of a tribe or family, behaving in unison as a corporate body. At the same time they enjoyed a measure of spiritual vision. They were directly aware of the existence of a spiritual world in which lived human souls and beings of other orders.
In Egyptian times, about 2000 BC, the awareness of the spiritual world was already fading and hence began the preoccupation with the significance of death. In Greek times the faculty of spiritual perception became even dimmer and the power of thinking developed in its place. (See chapter 3) At this period it was said, 'Better a beggar on Earth than a king in the realm of the shades'. It is significant also that only in the Greek epoch does a feeling of conscience develop. Before that man had experienced apparitions known as the Eumenides, or the Furies, which were creations of his own wrongdoing. Now conscience became an inner force.
With the loss of spiritual vision, i.e. direct divine guidance, there came a feeling of increasing independence, a feeling of individuality.
It was the Luciferic forces that put man on the downward path but it was also the Luciferic forces that gave man his first feeling of self. However, he did not become fully self-conscious immediately at the time of the Fall. We may compare the development with human growth. The child has an ego but in the earliest years it has no capacity of self-direction. When it begins to say 'I' at about the age of three, it is beginning to differentiate between itself and the rest of the world but still not really consciously. Only in adulthood is full awareness of 'I am an I' experienced. Humanity follows the same pattern.
Similarly, consciousness of the ego has only developed in the course of time. Historically, we can say that a certain peak is reached with the advent of Rome when the law is established as between man and man. But the birth of Christ took place in Roman times and therefore we can equally well say that man becomes conscious of his ego at the time of Christ. It was, in fact, the advent of Christ that gave man this possibility.
The development of ego-consciousness becomes more obvious with the Reformation and the Renaissance. It is evidenced by the activities of a whole host of independent thinkers in realms of science and the fact that portraits (individualities) are painted by the great painters. In due course freedom from domination of every kind becomes a goal. The French and American revolutions are symptomatic of this striving. Even the industrial revolution can be considered in this light as it held the promise of freedom from toil. The great philosophers strive for freedom in the realm of thought and seek to learn the nature of the self. In our own times ego-consciousness reaches another peak.
But ego-consciousness has a direct relationship with the material world. Contact with the physical brings about an awakening. Running into an object makes us very conscious of it. Thus contact with material things brings about a feeling of self, of individuality, of ego. 'The object is something outside of myself and I therefore differentiate' is the experience. However, if the process goes too far and only the material aspect is considered without the spiritual, the soul withers. A parched soul affects the body. Historically, the physical condition of human bodies was deteriorating before the advent of Christ, making it difficult for human spirits to incarnate in them.
At this point Christ incarnated and brought a new revitalizing force to the Earth. Man had lost the connection with the divine but the divinity came to man. The quality with which he impregnated the spiritual atmosphere of the Earth is a force by which the ego, by its own efforts, can re-open the spiritual gates. 'I am the Light of the World' means 'I am the first to give expression to the ''I am'' and the impulse for it'.
The Cosmic Christ and His Descent to Earth
The Gospel of St John begins with the words 'In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God ... and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.' St John is referring to a creative force or Being, a cosmic spirit or a principle that has been connected with mankind since time began and which eventually appeared on the Earth clothed in physical form.
It would be natural therefore to try to trace some historical sequence.
Religion means the establishment of a connection with the divine. Different peoples have sought this connection in different ways according to their state of mind. It must be appreciated that this has changed in the course of evolution. In former times men perceived creative beings or their creative life-power; they perceived their God or gods in different spheres. We can observe this if we study the religious outlook in the various pre-Christian epochs of the Post-Atlantean age. In fact religion is a characteristic of this period. In earlier times man's mind was more attuned to the spiritual than to the physical, and since there was direct connection with the divine there was no need to establish it.
Before the continent of Atlantis finally disappeared, the initiate (Noah) led a selected group to central Asia from whence a new impulse radiated.
The wise men of Ancient India (c. 9000 BC looked up to a universal divine power which they called Brahma and whose home was the spiritual sphere of the Sun. What lived in man was also Brahma, an extract of the divine substance. As the Sun pours its light and strength physically through the universe so was there also an outpouring of spiritual power. This power was called Vishva Karman, a name that means the Word.
In Ancient Persia the great Zarathustra spoke with the Radiant Star, Ahura Mazdao, the cosmic spirit who lived in the aura of the Sun. Light and darkness were entities. On the instructions of Ahura Mazdao men cultivated the earth to bring light into darkness. They spoke truth to bring light into darkness in the moral sphere.
The Egyptians had a Sun-god, Ra. The one who represented the Sun forces as far as Earth was concerned, which man also carried within him, was the god-king, Osiris. The Egyptians perceived forces coming to the Earth from the Sun and also from the Moon, which reflects the light of the Sun. Akhenaton, who ascended the Egyptian throne in 1375 BC, declared that the great Being whose home had been in the Sun was no longer there.
In Greece men did not have the same feeling for the one Sun spirit as did the Persians. They had a dual concept. On the one hand they looked to the physical Sun, which they termed 'Helios', but they also felt the presence of a spiritual Sun that permeates both Earth and man. The spiritual atmosphere they called Zeus. His son, Phoebus Apollo, was the most widely revered and influential of the Greek gods. His functions were many. Among them was the duty of communicating the will of his father to men. He was the protector of crops and herds. 'Phoebus' means 'bright' or 'pure' and Phoebus Apollo was looked upon as a Sun-god. He personifies the spiritual Sun-forces which the Greeks felt to be active in the elements and in nature.
Contemporary with the Egyptians and the Greeks were the Jews, the 'chosen' people, directed by their personal god Jehovah. For reasons connected with evolution and beyond our immediate consideration, Jehovah had made his spiritual home in the Moon-sphere, and just as the Moon reflects the sunlight so Jehovah reflected the Sun-spirit. In very mundane terms he was the acting representative.
(It is interesting to note that the Jews had originated from Ur, 'Ur of the Chaldees', a city that was a centre of Moon worship, and that other peoples of the period also worshipped the Moon.)
In the course of time the divinity came nearer to the Earth and Moses experienced the god in the elements, as 'a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night'. He heard a voice in the burning bush announcing itself as the 'I am'.
Mithras, originally a Persian god and popular with the Roman legions, was a Sun-god. Druid worship, too, was connected with the Sun.
In all these instances we have to appreciate a connection with the Sun, and in the sequence of the epochs of civilization we can observe how men experienced the spirit of the Sun approaching the Earth. Vishva Karman, Ahura Mazdao, Osiris, Apollo are all identified with the spiritual essence of the Sun. This essence or being seems to be far away in Indian times but comes nearer to the Earth in the course of time. Just before the birth of Christ it is in the immediate neighbourhood; then it is clothed with a human form.
This was something unprecedented in history. In earlier times men may have been guided or inspired by gods, or even have perceived them, but now a divine Being actually became man. It was a new experience in the cosmic order.
Let us quote St Augustine: 'That which is now called the Christian religion existed already among the ancients, even in the earliest days of the human race. When Christ appeared in the flesh, the true religion, which was already in existence, was called Christianity.'
We also have the words of St John Crysostom (golden-mouthed), the greatest orator of the early Christian church: 'The Kingdom of heaven has come down ... we have seen the Sun wandering on the Earth.'
For such a Being as the Christ to incarnate, very special preparation was necessary.
This particular phase of the story begins with Abraham, who was called upon by the Lord to be the father of a great nation. The Lord in this case is Jehovah. Under his guidance and that of later inspired human leaders the Jewish race grew and developed. Strict laws of conduct were imposed. No intermarriage with other races was allowed and a particular type of human being evolved. The mission of the Jewish people was to provide a suitable physical vehicle for the Christ spirit to enter.
It is difficult to reconcile the two Gospel accounts of the birth of Jesus with one another but they become clear when it is recognized that they refer to different children.
St Matthew describes a boy called Jesus who was born in Bethlehem of the Solomon line of David. St Luke writes about a boy, also called Jesus, who was born in Bethlehem and who was a descendant of the Nathan line. In the St Matthew child the mighty individuality of Zarathustra was incarnated. In the other Jesus lived an entity — a provisional ego one could say — which had never before appeared on the Earth. If one thinks of the ego as a drop of the Divine Essence, then this was an original, an innocent ego in the sense that having had no earthly experience it had acquired no karma and had remained uninfluenced by all the events of earthly evolution.
(In passing, it is interesting to note that certain painters of the Renaissance depict the Madonna with two children.)
The sequence of events is this — two of David's sons were Solomon the King and Nathan the Priest, and in the course of generations there were contemporary descendants of each called Joseph and each had a wife called Mary. The St Matthew pair had their home in Bethlehem, took refuge in Egypt to avoid the massacre and then came to live in Nazareth. Other children were born to them.
The Joseph and Mary of St Luke lived in Nazareth but their boy was born in Bethlehem as related in the Gospel story. They returned to Nazareth and lived in close proximity to the other family but there were no more children of this union. They had not been involved in the massacre of the innocents as their child was born subsequent to this event.
The two children were very different in disposition. The Solomon Jesus was clever in a worldly sense, endowed with great intelligence and talent; the Nathan boy was untalented in the intellectual sense but blessed with an unusual kindness of heart and a special gift of radiating love. When the children were 12 years of age, there occurred that dramatic event which is known as the scene in the temple. The parents of the Nathan child had journeyed with others to Jerusalem but missed him on the way back. On searching they found him in the temple disputing with the learned doctors. On reprimanding him for causing them distress they were told that he had to be about his Father's business. These events and remarks were something which greatly puzzled them and which they could not understand, although his mother may have had an inkling since we read in St Luke that she kept all these sayings in her heart. Then we are told that Jesus 'increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man'.
A dramatic event had taken place which ordinary mortals may find a little difficult to comprehend.
The Zarathustra individuality who had lived in the body of the Solomon Jesus transferred the scene of his activity to the Nathan boy and became, so to speak, the ego of this person. The new ego then worked within this physical frame to the thirtieth year to make it capable of receiving the Being of the Christ. The relinquished body of the Solomon Jesus died soon afterwards and so did the mother of the Nathan child. The father of the Solomon child also died and the widowed father of the Nathan child took the widow with her children into his home. From this time onward then we are concerned with only one Jesus boy, one who combined earthly wisdom with heavenly love.
This Jesus followed his father's trade of carpenter. He became a travelling craftsman, a journeyman. Finding favour with God and man indicates that he was welcome wherever he went. He showed particular interest in the religious situation and he was connected with the religious community known as the Essenes. He was not, however, happy in their presence. They lived in settlements, withdrawn from the mass of the people. They considered the Pharisees and Sadducees to be self-righteous and hypocritical. Orthodox Judaism they thought degenerate and believed themselves to be the genuine upholders of the faith. Although they possessed great spirituality, Jesus found them too self-centred, and preferred to live among the common folk and share the common lot.
When Jesus was 30 the baptism in the Jordan took place. It was another great transformation. This was the moment when the actual Christ-spirit supplanted the previous individuality and became the new ego. From this time onward to the crucifixion we can speak of a God incarnate, a God in a human frame, Christ in Jesus — Jesus Christ.
The Turning Point of Time
The fact has already been mentioned that, in the course of his evolution, the human being became free from divine guidance and conscious of his ego. To find his way back to the spiritual, consciously, through the ego, a Divine Being came to the physical plane to point the way.
Through the example of His life Christ demonstrated and taught the existence of a spiritual world and the way to attain it. He came to give men the possibility of regaining consciously what had been lost and to inspire them to this end. His deed is the antidote to that of Lucifer. He gives a glimpse into future evolution.
Let us consider three aspects of the Christ impulse:
- The example of His life
- His teaching
- The cosmic power.
To understand what is implied here it is necessary to look back into the pre-Christian 'Mysteries'. For those not familiar with this term, let it not be confused with the usual meaning of the word 'mystery'.
At all times in history there have been those who by special gift or special development have had access to the spiritual world. They are known as 'initiates'. In cases where the mass of people had spiritual vision, the initiates were those who had enhanced faculties. These individuals participated in the 'Mysteries', i.e. they communed with the gods. By the time of Christ this faculty had almost died out and the Mysteries had fallen into decadence. Had there been no new impulse men would have sunk too deeply into matter and have lost touch with the spiritual worlds entirely.
The decadence of the Mysteries is directly connected with the descent of Christ to the Earth. One of the things that the initiates of old had experienced was the divine foundation of the world, the One who was in the beginning, i.e. the Christ, although the term was not used. But now the One had left the cosmic heights and was on the Earth.
It is thus that we may understand the proclamation of John the Baptist 'Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand', i.e. Change your attitude, change your way of thinking, the Divine Being is no longer to be found in cosmic heights but here on Earth.
The spiritual vision had faded and man was very engrossed with the material world, hence what was demonstrated in the physical could be understood. Thus men observed the life and deeds of Christ on the physical plane and Christ himself demonstrates openly and publicly what had formerly only been attainable through the Mysteries. His teaching showed the way of spiritual development and the way to attain spiritual perception. His deed brought rejuvenating forces from the cosmos into the Earth.
The example of His life
Christ was a leader who had not undergone the acknowledged training in the Mysteries and this was one reason why there was such opposition to him from the Jewish sects in Palestine.
One striking demonstration that He gave, showing that the old order was changed, was in the raising of Lazarus. This was an old type initiation brought about by the Christ publicly and not in the secrecy of the Mystery temple.
The Gospel accounts seem to describe very strange events if they are taken at their face value. They can only be understood if we appreciate that some of them are symbolic. For instance, reference is often made to going up into the mountain or being by the sea. These can be understood as portraying different levels of consciousness. That is to say, Christ is speaking in the spirit or is communing with His disciples in a spiritual state. The spiritual world is portrayed as physical.
Another matter was His gift of healing. In His time the human constitution was different from what it is today and healing by the laying-on of hands was not unusual. The physicians of that time were trained in the Mystery schools and it was possible for them to direct the flow of divine forces to a sick person. What was remarkable in Christ is that He could do it without training, but it is to be noted that the sick had to participate in the healing process. 'Thy faith hath made thee whole.'
But Christ's life itself parallels the initiation process. In the Mysteries the neophyte (novice or candidate) had to follow a strict code of conduct. He had to resist temptations both of the physical world and of self-aggrandisement.
In the case of Christ we are told that after the baptism He went into the wilderness. Is this real, symbolic, or both? A feeling of loneliness, of being cut off, of being thrown onto one's own resources, is a common fate of man. Christ experienced this and then came what is described as the Temptation — to turn stones to bread, to cast Himself down from the temple, to bow down and worship the tempter. Christ does not seek power in this way. He resisted the temptation through the power of His own Being, what in man we should term the 'I' or the ego.
An interesting sidelight is provided by St Mark who tells us that Christ was then among the wild beasts, and Angels ministered unto him. We are given the picture of the human being, of human nature, between beast and Angel.
To become an initiate in the old Mystery schools, the candidate had to develop particular qualities. He had to develop an attitude of gratitude to all that is of a lower order, to learn to accept rebuffs without retaliation, to renounce blood ties, to endure suffering, to experience evil and the equivalent of death in order to be reawakened in the spirit. All these are illustrated in the life experiences of the Christ — the positive attitude, the rejection, the agony in the garden, the scourging, the crown of thorns, crucifixion, death and resurrection. In this case the events led to an actual death. Throughout all these experiences is the assertion of that power, the ego, which gives the possibility of saying 'I am'. Christ demonstrates not only the existence of the spirit but also its triumph.
The initiation process is also the way of development of the human being. By overcoming selfish passions and desires, by enduring and by positive activity man purifies his soul. Christ not only illustrated this but he also demonstrated developments which will take place in the far distant future.
To understand this we must recall the fourfoldness of the being of man, as described in chapter 1. Besides ego and astral body, man has an etheric and a physical. At the present stage of evolution man is able to take himself sufficiently in hand that he can begin to transform his astral body, i.e. to purify his soul. In time there will come a stage in human affairs when the etheric body also will be purified and transformed, and then the physical.
One who has spiritual vision would see the transformed etheric body as if radiating and this was the experience of the disciples at the event known as the Transfiguration.
With regard to the physical body, it will be remembered that in the story of the resurrection Christ appeared in a spiritual form — but there was a sequel. When the tomb was opened after three days, the physical body of Christ had gone. The explanation is that this physical body had been so permeated by the great cosmic spirit that its substance had dematerialized quickly. What the disciples saw was the purified physical form, i.e. the purified body permeated by the Christ forces. It was the body released from the forces of materialism, the non-physical, original pattern of a human body as it had first existed as a thought of the gods before it was clothed with the garment of flesh, but with this difference: it had been through the earthly process and was therefore an advance on the original creation of the Hierarchies. This is what can be understood as the resurrection of the body. In the course of evolution the physical body will be purged or transformed. The effects of the Fall will be cancelled and man will have advanced to a higher stage.
What was experienced and what existed in one personality on Earth for three years, humanity will develop in its evolution.
Christ's teaching is also the way of initiation. What is His essential message? It might be epitomized in two sentences:
Seek ye first the Kingdom of God.
Love the Lord thy God and thy neighbour as thyself.
In modern terminology we call the Kingdom of God the spiritual world. The path to it is by purification of the soul and meditation (prayer), i.e. by inner activity. The development of morality is a necessity but times have changed since Moses proclaimed the Ten Commandments. These were given by the Sun-spirit speaking through Jehovah. Their purpose was to develop morality at a time when humanity did not possess the ability for giving itself direction from within.
In the Christ-like way of life the external law (the Ten Commandments) is no longer necessary since love and moral principles become part of human nature.
The Gospels are not primarily factual records. They were written by initiates from spiritual inspiration. They are to be understood as a path of development. The events described are part historic, part inner experience, part symbolic, or even all three combined. Nevertheless the Gospels contain what we might term the teaching of Christ and it is put very lucidly in the Sermon on the Mount.
An inner purification is required, a social awareness and responsibility, an enhanced mental alertness which will lead to the Kingdom of God — in other words, spiritual perception. Faith is also required but faith in the Gospel sense is not blind belief. When it is stated 'Thy faith hath made thee whole', it is implied that some active force has been set to work within the human being whereby spiritual sources are tapped sufficient to overcome the disability.
With spiritual perception man is conscious of the spiritual world and of himself as a spiritual being. Thus he may be aware of a transition but not of death. He is conscious of his immortality.
The cosmic power
We said already that the great cosmic spirit whom we call the Christ brought a new revitalizing spiritual substance to the Earth which now permeates our spiritual atmosphere in the same way that the air permeates the physical.
This must be understood in a literal sense but it may help our understanding if we recall the fact that every human being affects the world in some way and also leaves an influence which continues after his death. How much greater then are the results of a Divine Being who has lived on Earth! Christ also experienced earthly death and in so doing united himself with earthly evolution. Whatever example he may have set, whatever ethical instruction he may have given, the important fact is that he brought with him a spiritual force which has been bestowed on the Earth to awaken the ego and the power of love. As a dissolving crystal will colour a whole volume of water, so has the Christ force permeated the spiritual atmosphere of the Earth. It means that there are now forces available to the human being which were not there before. It means that humanity now has new possibilities of advancing.
When Christ lived in the flesh, a cosmic power flowed from Him which gave Him the ability to heal. It stimulated the forces of the sick. After his death the Earth itself received this power. It gives man the possibility of transforming himself through his own will, of meeting evil and of overcoming it. It is there for every man or woman, of every race, of every nation.
The advent of Christ on Earth was a turning point in history but man has to work out his own salvation. In the ancient Mysteries the would-be initiate spent three days in a state of deathlike trance supervised and guided by priests. This is no longer the path of initiation for modern ego-conscious man. It was no longer the right path of initiation in Christ's day, since when mankind has evolved even further. During this period man has had the opportunity to savour the full flavour of materialism and, together with it, the consciousness of self. Man now has the forces within, given by Christ, to strive to a new understanding of things spiritual and to a new kind of perception. Evolution is continuous. To accept Christ as example or teacher is not sufficient. It is now a question of transforming oneself so that some positive force flows in from the spiritual world and then one may speak of Christ within or of the Higher Self. That is what it means to be a Christian.
To quote Rudolf Steiner: 'Christianity teaches the seeker to behold the Christ, to fill himself with the power of His image, to seek to become like Him and to follow after Him. Then his liberated ego needs no other law. Christ brings freedom from the law; then good will be done because of indwelling love within the soul.'
The Second Coming
According to modern scholars of the Greek language this popular phrase is a misnomer. The original Greek speaks not of a 'coming' but of a 'presence' or an 'appearance'. Had one of these words been used in the early translations, it is possible that a different understanding of the event would have been the result.
Whatever the expression, however, it must be realized that Christ's coming to Earth was a unique occasion which will not be repeated. Christ came to the Earth and he has remained united with it. His being is now to be found in the etheric substance of the Earth, in the spiritual atmosphere. In the Bible it is expressed that the coming (presence) will be 'in the clouds', 'to meet the Lord in the air'.
This event has to be understood not as a coming again of the Christ but as a raising of the human power to perceive Him spiritually. As men develop powers of spiritual perception, they will have an experience similar to that of Saul (St Paul) at Damascus. But there will be a difference. To St Paul it came as a shock but thanks to spiritual science mankind today has some knowledge of what to expect. Furthermore, it is not likely to be a sudden experience since the acquisition of spiritual vision is a gradual process. When a man eventually perceives Christ in the etheric, it will be an experience of blessedness and illumination.