The Gospel of Matthew
7 September 1910, Bern
The law concerning the stages of the perfecting of human qualities (the Eight-fold path). Nature of Initiation in pre-Christian Mysteries. Descent into the physical body and expansion into the Macrocosm. The dangers connected with this. The twelve helpers of the Hierophant. The Christ-event the beginning of freedom. Christ the model — the fulfilment — of the great Initiation
Our endeavour in these lectures is to explain the significance of the Christ Event in human evolution. The main outlines of that Event will be placed before your souls to-day; the details will be filled in subsequently. An understanding of one of the fundamental laws of human evolution, already described at Basle in the course of lectures on the Gospel of St. Luke, is necessary to this outline: the law, that all through human development new faculties are ever emerging and attaining ever higher degrees of perfection. This fact emerges in an external way when we look back into the short periods of time covered by ordinary history when certain human faculties had not yet developed. Throughout the ages we can trace the development of new faculties in man which have finally brought about our present civilization; but before any entirely new faculty can appear, spread, and in due course become the property of all, special conditions are necessary; it is necessary that this faculty should appear somewhere for the first time in a quite special way.
In the earlier cycle on the Gospel of St. Luke I drew your attention to the ‘eight-fold path’ which men can follow who hold to the teaching which flowed into human evolution through Gautama Buddha. This is usually given as: right opinions, right judgments, right speech, right actions, right standards, right habits, right memories, and right contemplations. These are qualities of the human soul. It may be said: before Gautama Buddha lived, human nature lacked the power to develop such faculties, but since then it has advanced sufficiently to make the gradual development of these qualities of the eight-fold path possible as faculties of man's inner being. Before Gautama Buddha lived on earth in his Buddha incarnation, the independent development of these qualities was not possible. In order that they might gradually be developed, a being like Gautama Buddha had to come in the flesh to give the necessary impulse so that in the course of hundreds and thousands of years they might develop independently in mankind. This fact must be emphasized. In the lectures already referred to, I said that in a certain number of people these faculties are already developed, and when this number has sufficiently increased the earth will be ripe for the reception of the next Buddha, the Maitreya Buddha, who at the present time is a Bodhisattva. Enclosed between these two events lies the period during which a sufficient number of men will have acquired the higher intellectual, moral, and emotional qualities of the eight-fold path. It was, however, necessary at the birth of this period, that once, and for the first time, the impulse whereby all the qualities of the eight-fold path could be developed, should find expression in a single exalted individual, in the personality of Gautama Buddha. Such is the law of human evolution. A faculty destined for development in the whole human race must, in the first place, be fully evolved in a single person; then by slow degrees, throughout the ages, maybe thousands of years, these faculties pass into mankind as a whole.
But that which is to enter humanity through the Christ Event will not be confined within some five thousand years — the period of the influx of the Buddha impulse — it will come to life and continue working as a special faculty to the very end of our earthly evolution. But what is it that actually entered through the Christ Event, in a way similar to what entered through the Buddha, but in an infinitely greater and more exalted manner?
It can be described as follows: That which in pre-Christian times could only draw near to man through the Mysteries, can, since the Christ Event, become to some extent a common attribute of human nature, and this possibility will increase. To comprehend this, an understanding of the nature of these ancient Mysteries and pre-Christian initiations is necessary.
Initiation varied among the different peoples in different parts of the globe, as indeed it has varied in post-Atlantean times. One part of initiation would belong to one nation, another to another. It was unnecessary that every people should possess every form of initiation. Souls by reincarnating successively in different peoples, gained experience of the various initiations. Initiation is the power of looking into the spiritual world; this is not revealed through physical perception or through the external understanding dependent on the instrument of the physical body.
In ordinary life, twice in every twenty-four hours, a man has to be, so to say, where the Initiate also is; but the Initiate is conscious of his surroundings, ordinary man is unconscious of them. In twenty-four hours the life of man alternates between sleeping and waking conditions of consciousness. The fact of the withdrawal of the astral body and ego from the physical and etheric bodies during sleep is familiar to you. The astral nature and the ego on expanding into the more immediate universe, derive thence the forces needed during waking life. From the time he falls asleep until he wakes man is actually poured forth into the surrounding world. He is, however, ignorant of this, for the moment he falls asleep his consciousness is extinguished. During sleep he actually lives in the macrocosm.
Initiation consists in man's learning to partake consciously in this experience, to slip consciously into the existence in which our earth is united with other heavenly bodies. This is the essence of initiation into the macrocosm or Great World.
If a man were to fall asleep and behold all unprepared that world into which he enters, then through the mighty, overwhelming impression made upon him, he would be as one who with unprotected eyes attempts to gaze on the Sun. He would suffer a cosmic blinding that would bring death to his soul. All initiation is for the purpose of enabling man to enter the macrocosm, not unprepared, but with organs strengthened and ready to withstand the shock. Blindness and confusion would otherwise occur while sojourning in the macrocosm, because existence there is so far removed from that to which man is accustomed.
It is usual for man to regard everything in the sense world from one aspect only; anything that approaches him in a sense contrary to this seems false and discordant. As long as he holds the opinion that everything should conform to this view, a view quite natural on the physical plane, the seeker for initiation into the cosmos could never feel at ease there. Man lives within his narrow snail's shell of the sense-world, concentrated on one point of view from which he judges every circumstance. What harmonizes with the opinions he has formed he regards as true; all else he considers false. But when he passes through initiation man must expand into the macrocosm. Suppose he were only to expand in one direction, his experience would be limited to that direction, and he would be ignorant of everything else; but expansion in one direction into the macrocosm and with one point of view is impossible. Man cannot help expanding in all directions. The very fact of passing out into the cosmos is an expansion, an enlarging of himself into the macrocosm. It is impossible to have only one point of view there. He must be able to see the world not only from one point — from himself looking back — but also from a second, a third, and many other points of view. The seeker must develop flexibility of outlook, and be able to see things from every side. This does not imply that an infinity of conditions has to be reckoned with, for their number is limited. Theoretically, an infinite number of points of view is possible, but actually, twelve are sufficient. These are symbolized in the star-language of the Mystery schools by the Twelve Signs of the Zodiac. Man must not reach out only towards Cancer, for instance, but must view the world from all twelve points of the Zodiacal Circle. It is vain to seek agreement by means of abstract words suited to the understanding; the first step towards real agreement here on earth will be taken when the world is viewed from many different aspects.
Parenthetically it may be stated that the great difficulty in all world movements based on occult truths is that the ordinary habits of life are so apt to be carried over into them. When a man is constrained to communicate truths which are the results of super-sensible investigation, it is necessary, even when describing them exoterically, to observe the rule of doing so from different points of view. Those who have watched our movement attentively for some years must have noticed that we have always been striving to describe things not from one aspect but from many. Hence judgments formed in accordance with the usage of the physical plane discover contradictions here and there, for a matter seen from one aspect may appear very different when viewed from another. In a spiritually scientific movement it is necessary to emphasize from the beginning, that when a statement made on one occasion apparently contradicts another given previously, the matter needs careful consideration, each being correct in its own setting. In order to avoid such an unjustified spirit of contradiction among ourselves, we take the course of characterizing things from different sides. Those who attended the lectures given at Munich last year on ‘The Children of Lucifer and the Brethren of Christ’ heard of far-reaching cosmic mysteries from the standpoint of Oriental philosophy. It is therefore necessary for the seeker who ventures on the path leading into the cosmos to acquire adaptability of outlook, otherwise he will be lost in a labyrinth. For though man may adapt himself to the world, the world does not adapt itself to him. While the prejudiced man progresses only in one direction, remaining fixed at one standpoint, the world, ignoring him, moves on, and he is left behind in evolution. In the imagery of the stars, a man may desire to advance only in the direction of Aries and to remain with the surrounding world in that constellation, but the world moves on and presents to him the constellation of Pisces. Such a man will see what comes from Pisces as an experience of Aries; confusion results, and so he finds himself in a labyrinth. To find a way through the labyrinth of the macrocosm, not one point of view but twelve are required.
We have here described one way by which a man may pass out into the Cosmos. But there is another way by which a man may enter into the divine spiritual world without being aware of it, namely, during the other portion of the twenty-four hours. When a man awakes from sleep he plunges down into his physical and etheric bodies, but quite unconsciously, for his perceptions connect him immediately with the external world. Were he to descend consciously into his bodies, he would perceive something quite different. During sleep he is preserved from conscious participation in the life of the macrocosm (for which he is unprepared), and he is preserved from entering consciously into the life of the physical and etheric bodies through his perceptive faculties being immediately directed to the world surrounding him. The danger attending the conscious experiencing of this physical world is somewhat different from the confusion and blindness associated with a view of the other.
When a man enters without preparation into the nature of his physical and etheric being, identifying himself with it, the purpose for which these bodies were given him is developed to an extraordinary degree. That purpose is the development of ego-consciousness. The ego enters the world of the physical and etheric body unprepared, and impure. Were this to happen consciously instead of unconsciously, as is usual, the resulting mystic preception would exclude inner truth, and present illusion to him. Because the eye of man's inner being is then opened, he is united to all the egoistic wishes and desires, all the depravity within him. Ordinarily this does not happen, for during waking hours, with his attention directed to the physical world, he does not contact what may evolve out of his own inner nature.
Other lectures have referred to the experiences of Christian martyrs and saints on first touching and plunging into their own nature. These experiences illustrate the statements just made. Through the withdrawal of outer perception and the stimulation of the inner, the Christian saints were able to speak of the temptations and delusions that took possession of them. The descriptions they give are in strict accordance with truth. It is therefore wonderfully instructive to study the lives of the saints from this point of view; to see how the passions, emotions and desires implanted in man work — things from which he is preserved in ordinary life.
By sinking down into his inner being, by being compressed within his ego, and concentrated into one point, by desiring to be nothing else than an ego — this is what renders man incapable of experiencing anything except the satisfaction of his own wishes and desires. The evil in him can then lay hold of his ego.
We thus find that to seek to expand into the cosmos unprepared, means the danger of cosmic blinding; on the other hand to plunge into one's own etheric and physical bodies unprepared, is to be cramped, confined, and contracted entirely within oneself. There is, however, yet another side of initiation which was cultivated by certain other peoples. While expansion into the cosmos was followed more especially by the Aryan and Northern peoples, the other form was largely practised among the Egyptians. There is also this initiation where man draws near to Divinity by following the more inward path and an intensification of the inner life, by sinking within his own being, and striving to learn how divine activity works there.
In the days of the ancient Mysteries mankind as a whole was not sufficiently advanced for initiation, whether directed outwards to the macrocosm or inwards to a man's own self — the microcosm, for it to attain that high point where a man could be left entirely to himself. When for instance, an Egyptian initiation was being carried out the neophyte was inducted into the powers of his physical and etheric bodies so that he should experience with full consciousness what took place there. Dreadful passions and emotions would then arise from every side of his astral nature; demoniacal influences would proceed from him. Hence in these Mysteries the hierophant had to be assisted by helpers who drew these evils towards themselves and through the power of their own nature turned them aside. The Initiator had to be assisted by twelve helpers who received the expelled demons into themselves. Thus in ancient initiation a man was never entirely left to himself; for what was necessarily developed through his sinking into the physical and etheric was only possible when he was surrounded by the twelve helpers who accepted and overcame the demons.
In the northern Mysteries, where similar results were brought about by expansion into the macrocosm, twelve servers were required by the Initiator. They surrendered their forces to the would-be initiate, enabling him to develop the necessary methods of thought and feeling that could guide him through the labyrinth of the macrocosm.
Initiation where a man was dependent on those who assisted the Initiator, and where, because of this help he was safe from the danger of demons, was destined to be gradually replaced by one in which the novice had to rely more on himself. In this case he was given certain instructions which he had to follow; the gradual attainment of initiation was thus left more to the man himself. At the present time man is not far advanced upon this path; but by degrees an independent faculty will develop in humanity. By means of this faculty he will be able without any assistance, either to ascend to the macrocosm or descend into the microcosm. He will thus be able to pass as a free being through both forms of initiation.
The Christ Event took place in order that this might come to pass. This Event means for man the starting point from which, with complete independence, he can either sink inwards into the physical and etheric body or expand outwards into the macrocosm. Both this descent and this expansion had to be fully carried out once and for all time by a Being of a most exalted nature — Christ Jesus. The essence of the Event of Christ is: That this all comprising nature of the Christ accomplished ‘in anticipation’ for all mankind what will now be possible of achievement by a sufficient number of human beings at least, in the course of earthly evolution.
What actually did take place through the Christ Event?
On one hand the Christ Being had himself to descend into a physical and etheric body, and because the physical and etheric body of one human Being had been so sanctified that the Christ could descend into it (which happened only once), an impulse so great was given to human evolution that the possibility was given to every human being who sought it, of experiencing the descent into the physical and etheric body as a free agent. For this the Christ came down to earth, and accomplished what had never been accomplished before. This is something quite different from what was attained in the Mysteries through the co-operation of helpers. In the Mysteries man could descend into the secrets of the physical and etheric bodies, and could ascend to those of the macrocosm, but only when not really living within the physical body. He certainly could penetrate to the secrets of the physical body, but not when in it, only when quite free from it. On returning, he brought back into the physical body a remembrance of his experiences, but this was a remembrance, not a participation when in the physical body.
The Christ Event was to change all this radically, and it did so change it. Before this Event there never had been a physical and etheric body in existence capable of experiencing complete inner penetration by the ego. Up till then no human ego had really taken possession of a physical and etheric body. This occurred for the first time through the Deed of Christ.
From Him originated also that other outpouring, whereby a Being, though infinitely exalted above humanity, yet united Himself with human nature, and poured Himself into the macrocosm without external aid solely through the force of his own Ego. This was only possible through the Christ. Only through Him did it become possible for man to acquire the faculties by which he could gradually penetrate into the macrocosm, with complete freedom. These are the two main pillars that support both the Gospel of Matthew, and that of Luke. How was this?
We know that Zarathustra was the great teacher of Asia in far past post-Atlantean ages, that he subsequently incarnated as Zarathos or Nazarathos, and again later as the child Jesus of the house of David, who sprang from the Solomon line of this house, as described in the Gospel of Matthew. For twelve years, as we have seen, this individuality developed within the child Jesus every faculty it was possible for him to develop in the physical and etheric instruments of a member of the house of Solomon. The Zarathustra individuality then forsook this child and entered the other Jesus, the child of the Gospel of Luke, who was descended from the Nathan branch of the house of David, and was brought up in Nazareth, close to the other Jesus, the child of whom the Gospel of Matthew tells. This event took place at the moment described in the Gospel of Luke when Jesus was missing during the festival, and was later discovered in the Temple. While the Solomon Jesus died shortly after this, Zarathustra continued to live in the Jesus of whom St. Luke tells, until his thirtieth year, and during this time he developed all the qualities it had been possible to acquire through the instrumentality of the carefully prepared physical and etheric body of the Solomon Jesus on the one hand, and further, through having added to these what could be acquired through that very special astral body and ego-bearer belonging to the Nathan Jesus of the Gospel of Luke. Thus Zarathustra evolved within the body of this Jesus up to his thirtieth year. He had then advanced so far in this body with the qualities he had acquired, that he was able to make a third great sacrifice — the sacrifice of the physical body, which then for three years became the body of the Christ Being. Thousands of years before, the Zarathustra individuality had sacrificed his etheric and astral bodies to Moses and Hermes; he now sacrificed his physical body to Christ; that is, he forsook this physical sheath with everything of an etheric and astral nature remaining in it. What had formerly been occupied by the Zarathustra individuality was now occupied by a being of unique nature, the fountain head of all the wisdom of the mighty wisdom-teachers of the world: by the Christ.
This is the event presented to us at the baptism by John in Jordan, the event whose all-embracing nature and infinite greatness is revealed in one Gospel in the words — ‘Thou art my well-beloved Son, in Whom I behold Myself, in Whom I am confronted by Myself,’ which should not be translated by the trivial words: ‘In Whom I am well pleased.’ In other Gospels it is even given as: ‘Thou are my well-beloved Son, this day I have begotten thee!’ These words clearly show that we are here concerned with a birth, the birth of Christ in the sheaths first prepared and then offered up by Zarathustra. At the moment of the baptism by John, the Being of Christ passed into the human sheaths prepared by Zarathustra; hence we are now speaking of the rebirth of these three sheaths, since they were permeated by the substance of Christ. The baptism by John is the rebirth of the sheaths acquired by Zarathustra and the birth of Christ on earth. Christ was now within a human body, a body certainly prepared in an unique manner, yet a human body like that of other men however less perfect these may be.
Christ, the most exalted individuality who can be united with the earth, had now entered a human body. If He was to be an example to all mankind, if He was to go through the great experience of complete initiation, He would have to experience this from both sides — the descent into the physical and etheric body, the microcosm, and the ascent into the macrocosm. Christ did pass through both these experiences as an example for mankind. We must, however, realize, as is necessary from the very nature of the Christ Event, that in considering these events, that is His descent into a physical and etheric body, the Christ was proof against the temptations which certainly assailed Him, but which rebounded from Him; and we must also realize that He was quite untouched by those dangers which affect ordinary humanity when seeking to expand into the macrocosm.
The Gospel of Matthew now tells how after the baptism of John, the Christ Being actually descended into the physical and etheric bodies. The account of this is found in the story of the temptation. We can see how the details of these scenes reproduce in every particular the experiences a man passes through when he descends into his physical and etheric bodies. In the descent of the Christ into a human physical and etheric body we see the compression of the human ego lived through before our eyes, and we can say This is true; all this can happen to us! If we remember Christ and desire to become like unto Him, we can acquire power to face all these things, and to conquer all that on such occasions emerges from our physical and etheric bodies.
The scene of the Temptation might be called the first great outstanding event of the Gospel of Matthew. It reproduces one side of initiation, the descent into the physical body and etheric body. The other side of initiation, the expansion into the macrocosm, is also described in such a way that we are indeed shown how the Christ endured this expansion absolutely in accordance with His human nature. I should like to mention here an obvious objection often made, namely: If Christ were indeed such a high Being, why had He to endure all this? Why had He to descend into a physical and etheric body? Why, like men, had He to go forth and expand into the macrocosm? What the Christ did was not done for Himself, but for humanity. In higher spheres and with the substances of these higher spheres, beings of a like nature to Christ could do this, but never before had it been done in a human physical and etheric body, for never before had a human body been permeated by the Christ Being.
Divine substances had before this gone forth into space, but never that which lives in man. Christ alone could take this human nature into Himself and pour it forth into space. This had to be done for the first time by a God in human nature!
And this second great event, the setting up, so to say, of the second pillar of the Gospel of Matthew, is recounted when we are shown how the second side of initiation, expansion to the sun and stars, was really accomplished by Christ while in His human nature. For this He had first to be anointed — anointed as another man would be, that he might be purified and sanctified, so as to be proof against what would approach Him from the physical world. Here we see how the anointing, which played a part in the ancient Mysteries, is again met with, this time on a higher level in the course of history, for formerly anointings were confined to the temples. We see how at the Last Supper the Christ gives expression to this ‘going forth into the universe,’ not only ‘existence within Himself’ when in the words, ‘I am the Bread,’ He tells those around Him that He feels Himself to be a part of what is expressed in the solid substance of the earth and likewise in all that is fluid. Expression is given to this conscious expansion into the macrocosm as distinct from the unconscious expansion of man during sleep, and all that is experienced by man as a blinding, is expressed in the monumental words, ‘My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death.’
Christ Jesus actually felt what is experienced by man as the pains of death, of injury, or blinding. In the scene at Gethsemane He experienced what can be described as the soul revealing its own agony when forsaken by the physical body. In other words it is what is felt by the soul on leaving the body and expanding into the universe. All that follows is really an account of expansion into the macrocosm: The Crucifixion, and what is represented by the Burial, all these were formerly enacted in the Mysteries. This is the other pillar of the Gospel — the living out into the macrocosm.
The Gospel of Matthew tells us clearly that Christ Jesus lived in a physical body, which later hung upon the Cross. He was concentrated within this one point in space; but now He expands into the whole cosmos, and those who would seek Him then must do so no longer in this physical body, but they would have to seek Him clairvoyantly in the Spirit; the Spirit which fills all space.
After the Christ had actually accomplished that which formerly, and only with help from outside, was accomplished during three and a half days in the Mysteries; after He had done that which awakened so much opposition among the Jews, by saying that if they destroyed the Temple He would restore it again in three days (thus clearly referring to initiation into the macrocosm, formerly accomplished in three days), He further tells them that when this is fulfilled He would no longer be found where the Being of Christ Jesus now was, enclosed within a physical body, but that He would have to be sought in the Spirit permeating Universal Space. This is usually translated as follows (and even through the feebleness of the translation the full glory of the new age that was approaching can be seen): After this ye will have to look for the Being who is to be born out of human evolution, at the right hand of Power, and He will appear to you out of the clouds. It is there we must seek the Christ, the Christ Who is poured forth into the world as a prototype of the great initiation which man passes through on forsaking his body to expand into the macrocosm.
Herein we have the beginning and the end of the actual life of Christ. It begins with the birth of Christ, at the baptism in the Jordan, into that body of which we have spoken. It begins with one side of initiation, the descent into the physical and etheric bodies, as set forth in the story of the Temptation, and it ends with the other side of initiation: the expansion into the macrocosm. This expansion begins with the scene of the Last Supper, is continued in that of the Scourging, the Crowning with Thorns, the Crucifixion, and the Resurrection.
Between these two points lie all the events with which the Gospel of Matthew is concerned; so far we have but sketched the outline of these events, which will be amplified in subsequent lectures.