The Event of the Appearance of Christ in the Etheric World
Preparation of Human Beings for the Second Coming of the Christ Through the Development of Etheric VisionKarlsruhe, January 25, 1910
Our fellow internet anthroposopher, Fred Coats, sent us this public domain translation. We are very grateful to him, not only for the lecture, but for his timing. Joyous Easter, 1997!
When a person has concerned himself for some time with the world
conception of spiritual science, and then permits the various
thoughts, ideas and kinds of knowledge which he has thereby acquired
to work upon him, this varied knowledge suggests to him the most
manifold questions. And, indeed, one develops as a spiritual
scientist through connecting such questions -- which are in reality
questions of the heart and mind and character, in short, questions
of life -- with the ideas of spiritual science.
These ideas do not serve merely to satisfy our theoretical or scientific curiosity. Rather, they give us an insight into the riddles of life, the mysteries of existence, becoming truly fruitful for us only when we no longer merely think about and feel their content and significance, but when we learn under their influence to look at the world about us differently. These ideas should permeate us with warmth; they should grow in us into impulses, into forces of heart and mind. This they do increasingly, when, as it were, the answers which we have obtained to certain questions present us in turn with new questions, when we are led from question to answer and the answer gives rise to further questions. In this way we advance in spiritual knowledge and in spiritual life.
It will be some time yet before it will be possible to reveal the more intimate aspects of spiritual life to present-day humanity in public lectures, but the time should be drawing ever nearer when the more intimate questions can be discussed within our own Groups. In this connection it will continually happen that new members may be taken by surprise by one thing or another, may be shocked. But we should never make progress in our work if we could not advance to the discussion of the more intimate questions of life out of the depths of spiritual scientific research and cognition. Therefore today -- even though it may perhaps give rise to misconceptions on the part of those of you who have been committed to the spiritual life for only a comparatively short while -- today we shall once more bring to mind some of the more intimate facts of spiritual knowledge.
Without doubt a significant question arises before us when we consider the idea of reincarnation, of repeated earth lives, not merely in an abstract way, but when instead we let ourselves become thoughtfully absorbed in a contemplation of this fact of spiritual life. Then, with the answer given us in reincarnation, which provides such valuable fruit for our lives, there will in turn be connected fresh questions. As an example we may raise the following query: If we do live on earth more than once, if we do return ever and again in new embodiments, what can be the meaning, in a deeper sense, of this passing through life repeatedly? As a rule, this is answered by saying: Undoubtedly we keep on ascending higher in this way, and through experiencing in later earth lives the products or fruits of previous lives, we finally perfect ourselves. That, however, still represents a rather general, abstract opinion. It is only through more exact knowledge of the whole meaning of earth life that we penetrate the significance of repeated lives on earth. If, for example, our earth itself were not to change, if we were to keep returning to an earth which remained essentially the same, then indeed there would be little to learn through successive embodiments or incarnations; on the contrary, their real value for us lies in the fact that each of these incarnations on our earth presents us with fresh fields of learning and experience. This is not so apparent over short periods, but if we survey long stretches of time, as it is possible to do through spiritual science, then it at once becomes obvious that the different epochs of our earth assume quite different forms and that we continually face new experiences. But here we have to get an insight into something else: We must keep these changes in view in the life of the earth itself. For if we neglect something which should be learned, something which should be experienced during a certain epoch of our earth evolution, then, although, to be sure, we come again into a new incarnation, we have missed something entirely, we have failed to assimilate something which should have been assimilated during the preceding epoch. And as a result we are unable in the succeeding period to employ our forces and faculties in the right way.
Speaking still quite generally, we can say that during our period of time something is possible on earth, almost anywhere on the globe, which was not possible, for example, during the previous incarnations of the people who are living now. It seems strange, but it is none the less true that this fact is of definite, indeed of great significance. In the present incarnation it is possible for a certain number of persons to come to spiritual science, that is, to take up such conclusions of spiritual scientific research as can be taken up today in the field of spiritual science. Of course, it may be regarded as of trifling significance that a few people should come together who allow the discoveries of spiritual science to permeate them. But those who find this of little import do not at all understand the significance of reincarnation and of the fact that a certain thing can be assimilated only during one certain incarnation. If we fail to take it up, we have missed something entirely and will lack it then in the following incarnations.
We must above all impress it upon our minds that what we learn today through spiritual science is united with our souls and that we bring it with us again when we descend into the next embodiment.
We will endeavor today to gain an understanding of what this means for our souls. Toward this end we must link up many facts of spiritual life which are more or less new or entirely unknown to you with much that you already know from other lectures and from your reading. To begin with, we must go back to earlier periods in the evolution of mankind. We have often before looked back to earlier periods of our earthly development. We have remarked that we are now living in the fifth period after the great Atlantean catastrophe. This fifth period was preceded by the fourth or Graeco-Latin period, in which the Greek and Latin peoples indicated the principal ideas and feelings for the earth-will. This in turn was preceded by the third or Chaldaic- Babylonian- Assyrian- Egyptian period, and this by the Old Persian, which followed the ancient Indian. And if we delve even further into antiquity, we come upon the great Atlantean catastrophe that destroyed an ancient continent, an ancient mainland, ancient Atlantis, which once extended where today the Atlantic ocean lies. Little by little this cataclysm engulfed the continent, and on the other hand gave our solid earth its present conformation. Then going back further we should come upon still earlier periods which existed before the Atlantean catastrophe; we should arrive at those civilizations and conditions of life which developed on this continent and which we call Atlantean, the civilization of the Atlantean races. And even earlier conditions preceded these.
When we consider what history tells us -- it does not indeed reach very far back -- we can quite easily fall into the belief (although this is, even for shorter periods of time, entirely without foundation) that things on earth have always appeared as they do now. However, this is not the case. On the contrary, conditions of our earth have altered fundamentally, and the soul conditions of men have also changed in the greatest degree. The souls of those persons who are sitting here were incarnated during each of these ancient periods in bodies which were in keeping with the various epochs, and they absorbed what was to be absorbed in the respective periods of earth evolution. With each succeeding incarnation, then, the soul developed other faculties. Our souls were entirely different from what they are today -- perhaps not so noticeably different during the Graeco-Latin era, but in the Old Persian period they differed very greatly from those of today, and still more in the Old Indian. In those times our souls were endowed with quite different faculties, and they lived in those ancient periods among quite different conditions. Therefore today, in order that we may clearly understand each other with reference to what follows, we shall call before our mind's eye as distinctly as possible the nature of our souls, let us say -- so as to be dealing with something richly significant -- after the Atlantean catastrophe, when they were incarnated in the bodies which were possible on earth only during the first Indian civilization. We must not conceive of the Indian civilization as having been dominant only in ancient India. The Indian people were merely the most representative, the most important, but the civilization of the whole earth was different from our own, deriving its characteristic qualities from the indications of the leaders of the Old Indians.
If we consider the nature of our souls at that time, we must remark to begin with, that the kind of knowledge men have today was as yet utterly impossible. There was then no such clearly defined consciousness of self, no such clearly defined ego-consciousness. It had hardly occurred to men that they were egos. To be sure, the ego already existed as a force in men, but knowledge of the ego is a different matter from the force of the ego, from its activity. In other words, men were not yet endowed with such an intimate inward life as they have at present. Instead they possessed entirely different faculties -- possessed, for example, what we have often called an ancient shadowy clairvoyance.
When we regard the human soul as it was during the daytime in that period, we find that it did not actually feel itself to be an ego; instead, a man felt himself to be a member of his tribe, of his people. Just as the hand is a member of the body, so the separate ego represented, as a member, the whole community formed by the tribe, the people. A man did not yet, as he does today, perceive himself as an individual ego; it was the tribal ego, the folk ego, on which he fixed his attention. Thus men lived during the day, not knowing clearly that they were men. However, when evening came and they passed over into sleep, their consciousness did not become totally darkened as it does today, but, instead, the soul during sleep was able to perceive spiritual facts. Thus, for example, they perceived in their environment facts of which the modern dream is only a shadow -- spiritual events, spiritual facts, of which the dreams of the present day are as a rule no longer true representations. Such were the perceptions of the human beings of that time, and from these they knew that a spiritual world existed. To them the spiritual world was a reality -- not through any kind of logic, through anything that required proof, but simply because each night they found themselves within the spiritual world, even though only with a dull and dreamlike consciousness. That, however, was not the essential thing.
Besides the conditions of sleeping and waking, there were also in-between states during which the human being was neither wholly asleep nor wholly awake. At such a time the ego-consciousness was even more abated than by day, but at the same time the perception of spiritual events, the dream-like clairvoyance was noticeably stronger than otherwise during the night. Thus there were intermediate states in which men lacked ego-consciousness, to be sure, but in which they were endowed with clairvoyance. In such states the human being was as though in a trance, so that he knew nothing of himself. But while he was not able to say to himself, "I am a man", he could say, "I am a member of a spiritual world in which I am able to perceive; I know that there is a spiritual world." These were the experiences of the human souls of that time. And this consciousness, this life in the spiritual world, was much clearer still in the Atlantean period -- very much clearer... Thus when we survey this, we look back to a distant era of dim dreamlike clairvoyance for our souls, which gradually diminished during human evolution.
If we had remained at the stage of this ancient dreamlike clairvoyance we could not have acquired the individual ego-consciousness which we possess today. We could never have known that we are human beings. We had to lose our awareness of the spiritual world in order to exchange it for ego-consciousness. In the future we shall possess both at the same time. We shall all attain once more what results in full clairvoyance, while maintaining our ego-consciousness, as is possible today only to one who has traveled the path of initiation into the spiritual world and yet feels himself as a human being, as an ego.
Picture to yourselves again what has taken place. The soul has passed from incarnation to incarnation. At first it was clairvoyant. Then later the consciousness of becoming an ego grew ever more distinct, and with it, the possibility of forming one's own judgments increased too. For as long as one still looks clairvoyantly into the spiritual world and does not feel oneself to be an ego, so long is it impossible to form judgments, to combine thoughts. The latter faculty gradually expanded, but in exchange the old clairvoyance diminished with each succeeding incarnation. A man dwelt less and less in those states in which he could look into the spiritual world. Instead, he became acclimated to the physical plane, developed logical thinking and felt himself as an ego; and as he did this, clairvoyance gradually receded.
The human being now perceives the outer world and becomes ever more involved in it, but his connection with the spiritual world becomes more tenuous. One can therefore say that in olden times man was a kind of spiritual being because he associated directly with other spiritual beings, was their companion, so to speak, and felt himself as belonging with other spiritual beings, to whom he can no longer look up with normal senses today. As we know, there are also today, beyond the world which immediately surrounds us, other spiritual worlds inhabited by other spiritual beings. But the man of today cannot look into those worlds with his ordinary consciousness. At one time, however, he dwelt in them, both during the sleeping consciousness of the nighttime and in that intermediate state of which we spoke. He lived in the spiritual world then, and had intercourse with these other beings. He can no longer do this normally. He was, as it were, cast out of his home, the spiritual world, and with each new embodiment he became more and more firmly established in this earth world below.
In the sanctuaries of spiritual life, and in those fields of knowledge and science in which such things were still known, they always took into consideration the fact that our incarnations have traversed these different earth periods. They looked back to a very early time, even before the Atlantean catastrophe, when human beings dwelt in direct contact with the Gods, or Spirits, and when they naturally had entirely different feelings and impressions. For you can imagine that the human soul must have had very different impressions in an age when it knew quite certainly that it could look up to the higher beings, and when it was aware of itself as a member of that higher world. Thus it had learned to experience entirely different feelings.
You must picture to yourselves, when you consider these facts, that we can learn to speak and to think today only if we grow up among humankind; for these are faculties that can be acquired only among men. If a child were to be cast upon some lonely island and were to grow up there, lacking association with human beings, it would in no case acquire the faculties of thinking and speaking. Thus we see that the way in which any being develops depends in part on the class of beings it lives and grows up among. Evolution is affected by this fact. You can observe this among animals. It is known that dogs that are removed from association with men to some place where they never meet a human being, actually forget how to bark. As a rule, the descendants of such dogs are unable to bark at all. Something depends upon whether a being grows up and lives among one kind of beings or another kind. Because of this dependence upon one's associates, you can imagine that it makes a difference whether you dwell on the physical plane among modern human beings or whether you -- the same souls, as it were -- lived at an earlier date among spiritual beings in a spiritual realm which the normal vision of today no longer penetrates. Then, the soul developed in a different way; the human being had within him different impulses when he dwelt among the Gods. The human being developed one kind of impulses among men and another kind when he dwelt with Gods.
The higher knowledge has always known this, has always looked back to the time when men dwelt among divine beings. And, on account of this direct intercourse with the Gods, the soul felt itself as belonging to the Divine-Spiritual world. However, this also engendered forces and impulses in the soul which were still Divine-Spiritual in quite another sense than are the forces of today. Then, when the soul still functioned in such a way that it felt itself as a part of the higher world, there spoke a will out of this soul which also derived from this Divine-Spiritual realm. One could say of this will that it was inspired, because the soul dwelt among the Gods.
This period when man was still united with the Divine-Spiritual beings is spoken of in the ancient wisdom as the Golden Age or KRITA YUGA. We have to look back to a time preceding the Atlantean catastrophe to find the greater part of this age. Afterward, a time followed when men no longer felt their connection with the spiritual world so strongly as during Krita Yuga -- when they felt their impulses to be less determined by their association with the Gods, when even their vision began to grow dimmer with regard to the spirit and the soul. But they retained the memory of having dwelt with the Gods. This was especially distinct in the Old Indian world. There they spoke easily of spiritual matters; they could call attention to the outer world of physical perception and yet, as we say, recognize the Maya or illusion in it, because men had had these physical perceptions a comparatively short while. That was the situation in Ancient India. The souls in Ancient India no longer saw the Gods themselves, but they still saw spiritual realities and lower spiritual beings. The lofty Divine Beings were still visible to a few people, but a living companionship with the Gods was obscured even to these. Will impulses from the spiritual world had already completely disappeared. On the other hand, it was still possible to get a glimpse of spiritual realities, at least in the states of consciousness that obtained during sleep and during the intermediate state we have already mentioned. But the most important realities of the spiritual world, which had previously been a matter of experience, had become merely a sort of awareness of the Truth, like something that the soul still remembered distinctly, but which had only the effect of knowledge, of truth. To be sure, human beings were still in the spiritual world, but their assurance of it was less distinct in this later time than it had been before. -- This is known as the Silver Age, or TRETA YUGA.
Then came the time of the incarnations in which men's vision became more and more cut off from the spiritual world, became more and more adjusted to the immediate outer world of the senses, and accordingly more firmly entrenched in this world of the senses. This period, during which also the inner ego-consciousness, the awareness of being human, emerged, is known as the Bronze Age, or DVAPARA YUGA. Although human beings no longer had the lofty direct knowledge of the spiritual world belonging to earlier periods, humanity in general still retained something of the spiritual world. Perhaps it might be described like this: To men of the present day, when they grow older, there remains something of the joy of youth. It has indeed fled, but once having experienced it, one knows it and can speak of it as something with which one is familiar. Similarly, the souls of that time were still to a certain degree familiar with what leads to the spiritual realms. This is the essential feature of the Dvapara Yuga.
However, there followed a period when even this familiarity with the spiritual world came to an end, when, as it were, the doors of the spiritual world were closed. Thereafter men's vision became so much confined to the outer world of the senses, and to the intellect which elaborated the sense impressions, that they could now only reflect upon the spiritual world. This is the lowest means by which the spiritual world may be known, what human beings now actually knew from their own experience with the physical, sensible world. If men wanted to know something of the spiritual world, they had to accomplish this through reflection. This is the period when men became the most unspiritual and accordingly the most firmly rooted in the sense world. However, this was necessary in order that consciousness of self might gradually attain the peak of its unfoldment. For only through the sturdy opposition of the outer world could man learn to distinguish himself from the world and perceive himself as an individual being. This last period is called KALI YUGA, or the Dark Age.
I should like to emphasize that these expressions can also be used to refer to more extensive epochs; for example, the designation KRITA YUGA may be applied to a much broader period. For before this Golden Age which has been described even existed, the human being participated with his experience in still higher spheres; hence all these still earlier periods might be included in the term 'Golden Age'. But if one is, so to speak, moderate in one's demands, if one is content with that measure of spiritual experience which has been described, it is possible to divide the periods of the past in this way. Definite periods of time can be assigned to all such eras. Now to be sure, evolution moves forward by slow stages, but there are certain demarcations of which we may say, "Prior to this, such a thing was true, in the main, and after this some other condition of life and consciousness prevailed." Accordingly we must calculate that, in the sense in which we first used the term, Kali Yuga began approximately in the year 3101 before our era. Thus we see that our souls have appeared repeatedly on earth in new incarnations, during which men's vision has become ever more shut off from the spiritual world, and at the same time ever more restricted to the outer sense world. We thus see that actually our souls come with each new incarnation into new conditions, from which there is always something new to learn. What Kali Yuga offers is the possibility of becoming established in our Ego-Consciousness. This was not possible previously, for the human being had first to absorb the Ego into himself.
Now when souls fail to receive in a given incarnation what that particular epoch has to offer, it is very difficult to make up for the loss in some other epoch. They must then wait a long time before it becomes possible to make good the loss in a certain regard. But we certainly dare not depend on this chance.
Let us, therefore, call to mind the great importance of what took place at the time when, as it were, the doors of the spiritual world were made fast. That was the period in which John the Baptist worked, as well as the Christ. It was important for this time, which had already witnessed the passing of 3100 years of the Dark Age, that the people living then had all incarnated several times, or at least once or twice, during this Dark Age. Ego-consciousness had become firmly rooted; memory of the spiritual world had already disappeared; and, if men did not want to lose all connection with the spiritual world, they had to learn to experience the spiritual within the ego. They had to develop their ego in such a way that this ego, within its inner being, could at least be sure that there is a spiritual world, that man belongs to it, and that there are also higher spiritual beings. The ego had to qualify itself inwardly to feel, to believe in, the spiritual world.
If in the time of Christ Jesus, someone were to have expressed what was indeed the truth in that period, he might have said, "Once upon a time human beings were able to experience the Kingdom of Heaven outside of their own egos, in those spiritual distances which they reached when they went forth out of themselves. At one time the human being had to experience the Kingdom of Heaven, the spiritual world, as remote from the ego. But now this Kingdom of Heaven cannot be so experienced, for the human being has changed so greatly that now the ego must experience this Kingdom within itself. The Kingdom of Heaven has approached man to such an extent that it now sends its effects into the ego." And John the Baptist did proclaim this to mankind in saying, "The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand," that is, approaches the ego. Previously it was to be found without, but now man must embrace in the very core of his being, in his ego, a Kingdom of Heaven now come near at hand.
And precisely because in the Dark Age, in Kali Yuga, man was no longer able to go forth from the sense world and enter into the spiritual world, the Divine Being, the Christ, had to come down into the physical sense world. That is the reason for Christ's descent into a man of flesh, into Jesus of Nazareth, in order that, through beholding the life and the deeds of Christ on the physical earth, human beings in physical bodies might obtain a connection with the Kingdom of Heaven, with the spiritual world. Thus the period when Christ walked upon earth fell in the midst of Kali Yuga, of the Dark Age, when men who comprehended their time and did not live in a dull and unenlightened way therein, could say to themselves, "It is necessary that the God should descend among men in order that a connection with the spiritual world which had been lost may be won again."
If there had been no human beings at that time capable of understanding this, capable of establishing an active soul connection with the Christ, then all human connection with the spiritual world would gradually have been lost, for human beings would not have accepted into their egos the connection with the Kingdom of Heaven. It might have happened, if all the men living at that crucial time had persisted in remaining in darkness, that this significant event would have passed unnoticed by them. Then men's souls would have become withered, desolate, and depraved. To be sure, they would have continued to incarnate for a while without the Christ, but they would not have been able to implant in their egos what was necessary in order that they regain their connection with the Kingdom of Heaven. It might have happened that the event of the appearance of Christ on earth should pass unmarked by anyone, just as it did pass unnoticed, for example, by the inhabitants of Rome. Among these it was said, "Somewhere in a dingy side street lives a strange sect of horrid people; and among them lives an arrant spirit who calls himself Jesus of Nazareth, and who preaches to the people, inciting them to all kinds of heinous deeds." That is how much they knew of Christ in Rome at a certain period! And you are perhaps also aware that it was the great Roman historian, Tacitus, who described Him in some such way about a hundred years after the events of Palestine.
Indeed it is true, not everyone realized that something of the utmost importance had taken place -- and event which, striking into the earthly darkness as divine light, was capable of saving men by carrying them over Kali Yuga! The possibility for further evolution was given to humanity through the fact that there were certain souls who comprehended that period of time, who knew what it signified that Christ had walked upon the earth.
If you were to imagine yourselves momentarily in that period, you could then readily say, "Yes, it was quite possible to live at that time and yet know nothing of the appearance of Christ Jesus on the physical plane! It was possible to dwell on earth without taking this most significant event into one's consciousness."
Might it not then be possible that today also something of infinite importance is taking place, of which men are not at all conscious? Could it not be that our own contemporaries have no presentiment of something tremendously important which is taking place right now? This is indeed so. For something highly important is taking place which is, however, perceptible only to spiritual vision. There is much talk about periods of transition. We are indeed living in one, and a very momentous one it is. The significant fact is that we are living just at the time when the Dark Age has run its course and that a new epoch is beginning now, when human beings will slowly and gradually develop new faculties, and when the souls of men will gradually undergo a change.
It is hardly to be wondered at that most men are in no wise aware of this, considering that most men also failed to mark the occurrence of the Christ event, at the beginning of our era. Kali Yuga came to an end in the year 1899; now we must adapt ourselves to a new age. And what is beginning at this time will slowly prepare mankind for new soul faculties.
The first indications of these new soul faculties will begin to appear relatively soon now, among isolated souls. And they will become more apparent in the middle of the fourth decade of this century somewhere between 1930 and 1940. The years 1933, 1935 and 1937 will be especially significant. Faculties which are quite unusual for human beings will then manifest themselves as wholly natural abilities. At this time great changes will take place and Biblical prophecies be fulfilled. Everything will be transformed for the souls who are sojourning on earth, and also for those who are no longer within the physical body. Regardless of where they are, they are approaching entirely new faculties. Everything is changing, but the most significant event of our time is a decisive transformation of the soul faculties of man.
Kali Yuga has come to an end, and now human souls are commencing to develop new faculties which (because this is precisely the purpose of the age) as though of themselves will cause the souls to put forth certain clairvoyant powers that were necessarily submerged in the unconscious during Kali Yuga. There will be at this time a number of souls who will have the singular experience of having ego consciousness, and at the same time the feeling of living in another world, actually an entirely different world from the one of their ordinary consciousness; it will seem shadowy, a dim presentiment, as it were, as though one born blind were to have been operated on... Through what we call esoteric training, these clairvoyant faculties will be achieved much more readily. But because humanity progresses, they will appear, at least in rudimentary form, in the natural course of human evolution.
Now it might very easily happen in our epoch (indeed, more easily than has ever been the case before) that men should not be able to comprehend an occurrence like this, which is of utmost significance for mankind. They might fail to realize that such a thing is an actual glimpse into the spiritual world, even though still only shadowy and dim. There might, for example, be so much wickedness, so much materialism on earth that the majority of mankind would not show the slightest understanding but would consider the people who had this clairvoyance as fools, and would clap them into insane asylums along with others whose souls develop in a muddled fashion. This epoch could, as it were, pass by mankind without notice, although we also, this very day, are letting the call sound forth, even as John the Baptist, the forerunner of Christ, and Christ Himself once let it resound: A new age is come upon us, when the souls of men must take a step upward into the Kingdom of Heaven!
It could easily happen that this great event might pass by without the understanding of men. ... If then, in the years between 1930 and 1940, the materialists should triumph and should say, "Yes, there have indeed been a number of fools, but no sign of the great happenings anticipated" -- even if they should say this, it would not disprove what we have said. But if they should triumph, and if humanity should overlook these events, it would be a great misfortune. Nevertheless, even though they should be unable to perceive the great occurrence which may take place, it will none the less occur.
The possibility to which we refer is that men may acquire the new faculty of perception in the etheric realm - a certain number of men to begin with, followed gradually by others; for mankind will have 2500 years in which to complete the development of these faculties. Men dare not miss the opportunity offered in this period. To let it pass unheeded would be a catastrophe, and mankind would then have to wait until later in order to make up the loss, in order to ultimately develop this faculty. This ability will enable men to see in their surroundings something of the etheric world which up to now they have not normally been able to perceive. The human being sees now only man's physical body; then, however, he will be able to see the etheric body, at least as a shadowy image, and also to experience in the etheric world the relationship of all profounder events. He will have pictures and premonitions of events in the spiritual world and will find that such events are carried out on the physical plane in three or four days. He will see certain things in etheric pictures and will know that tomorrow, or in a few days, this or that will take place.
Such transformations will come about in human soul faculties, resulting in what may be described as etheric vision. This will come about. And what is bound up with this fact? That Being Whom we call the Christ appeared on earth in the flesh at the beginning of our era. He will never come again in a physical body, for that event was unique. But the Christ will come again in an etheric form in the period we have been speaking of. Then men will learn to perceive the Christ, because through this etheric vision they will grow upward toward Him Who now no longer descends so far as into a physical body but only as far as an etheric body. Therefore it will be necessary for men to grow upward to a perception of Christ. For Christ spoke truly when He said, "I am with you always, even unto the end of the Earth cycles." He is here; He is in our spiritual world...And those who are especially blessed can perceive Him always in this spiritual-etheric world.
It was Paul, in particular, who was convinced through such perception, in the event of Damascus. But this etheric vision will be developed as a natural faculty by individual persons. To experience an event of Damascus, a Paul-event, will be more and more possible for men in the coming period.
Thus we arrive at a quite different conception of spiritual science. We learn that it imposes a tremendous responsibility upon us, since it is preparation for the actual event of the reappearance of Christ. Christ will reappear by reason of the fact that in etheric vision men will be raising themselves toward Him. When we grasp this, then spiritual science appears to us as the preparation of men for the return of Christ, so that they will not have the misfortune to overlook this great event but will be ripe to seize the great moment which we may describe as the second coming of Christ. Man will be capable of seeing etheric bodies, and among these etheric bodies he will be able also to see the etheric body of the Christ; that is, he will grow into a world in which the Christ will be visible to his newly awakened faculties.
It will then no longer be necessary to prove the existence of Christ through all sorts of documents, for there will be eye witnesses to the presence of the living Christ, in those who will know Him in His etheric body. And through this experience they will learn that this Being is the same as the One who consummated the Mystery of Golgotha at the beginning of our era, that it is the Christ. Just as Paul was once convinced before Damascus that this was the Christ, so there will be men who will be convinced through experiences in the etheric realm that the Christ truly lives.
The greatest mystery of our time is this one concerning the second coming of Christ -- and thus it appears in its true form. But the materialistic mind will in a certain way usurp this event. What has just been said will indeed often be proclaimed in the coming years, namely: That all genuine spiritual knowledge points to this time. But the materialistic mind today corrupts everything, and so it will come about that this sort of mind will be unable to imagine that the souls of men must advance to the etheric vision and with it to Christ in the etheric body.
It will conceive of this event as another descent of Christ into the flesh, as another bodily incarnation. There will be a number of persons who in their colossal conceit will turn this to their own advantage by giving it out among men that they are the reincarnated Christ. Accordingly the coming period may bring us false messiahs. Anthroposophists, however, should be people who will be so ripe for spiritual life that they will not confuse the second coming of Christ in a spiritual body, perceptible only to a higher vision, with a reappearance in a physical body. That will be one of the direst temptations that will beset mankind. And to help humanity overcome this temptation will be the task of those who learn through spiritual science how to raise themselves to a comprehension of the spirit -- of those who do not wish to drag the spirit down into matter but to ascend into the spiritual world themselves. Thus we may speak in this way of the second coming of Christ, and of the fact that we raise ourselves up to Christ in the spiritual world by acquiring etheric vision.
Christ is always present, but He is in the spiritual world; we can reach Him by rising into that world. And all Anthroposophical teaching should be transformed in us into the earnest desire to prevent humanity from letting this event pass unnoticed, and in the time at our disposal gradually to educate a humanity which may be ripe to cultivate these new faculties and thereby to unite anew with the Christ. for otherwise, humanity would have to wait a very long time for such an opportunity to be repeated -- indeed, until another incarnation of the earth. If mankind were to ignore this event of the return of Christ, then the vision of Christ in the etheric body would be limited to those who through esoteric training prove themselves to be ready to rise to such an experience. But the momentous thing, the possibility that these faculties might be acquired by mankind in general, by all men, and that this great event might, by means of these faculties, be developed naturally, be understood by all men -- this would be impossible for a long time to come.
Thus we see that there is indeed something in our epoch which justifies the existence and the activity of spiritual science in the world. Its aim is not merely the satisfying of theoretical wants or scientific curiosity. Spiritual science prepares human beings for this event, prepares them to relate themselves in the right way to their period and to see with the full clarity of understanding and cognition that which is actually there, but which may pass men by without being brought to fruition. This is its aim!
And it will be of the utmost importance to grasp this event of Christ's appearance, for other events will follow upon this. Just as other events preceded the Christ-event in Palestine, so those who foretold that event prophetically will, after the period indicated, when Christ Himself in the etheric body will have become visible to mankind again, -- those who previously foretold Him will now become His successors. All those who prepared the way for Him will become recognizable in a new form to those who will have experienced the new Christ event. Those who once dwelt on earth as Moses, Abraham, and the prophets will again become perceptible to men. And we shall realize that, even as Abraham preceded Christ, preparing His way, he has also assumed the task of helping later with the work of Christ. Thus the human being who does not sleep through the greatest event of the near future, gradually enters into association with all those who, as patriarchs, preceded the Christ event; he unites with them. And then appears once more the great host of those toward whom we shall be able to rise. The one who led man's descent to the physical plane appears once more after Christ and leads man upward again to unite him once more with the spiritual worlds.
Looking far back into human evolution we see that there is a certain point after which humanity may be said to be descending ever farther from its fellowship with the spiritual world and entering more and more into the material world. Although the image has its material side, we may nevertheless employ it here and say that man was at one time a companion of spiritual beings, a spirit within the spiritual world; and by reason of the fact that he dwelt in the spiritual world, he was a son of the gods. But that which constituted this constantly reincarnating soul participated increasingly in the outer world. The son of the gods was within man, who took delight in the daughters of the earth, that is, in those souls who felt drawn to the physical world. This in turn means that the human spirit which had previously been permeated by divine spirituality now sank down into the physical sense world. He became the mate of the intellect, which is bound to the brain and which entangled him in the sense world. And now this spirit must find the path by which he has descended, and, climbing upward again, become once more the son of the gods. In his present state as the son of man, he would perish here below in the physical world if he were not to ascend once more as son of man to the divine beings, to the light of the spiritual world -- if he were not in the future to find delight in the daughters of the gods. It was necessary for the evolution of humanity that the sons of gods should unite with the daughters of men, with the souls which were fettered to the earth, in order that, as son of man, the human being should learn to master the physical plane. But it is necessary for the human being of the future that, as the son of man, he shall find pleasure in the daughters of the gods, in the divine-spiritual light of wisdom with which he must unite himself in order to rise once again into the realm of the gods.
The will shall be enkindled by divine wisdom, and the mightiest impulse toward this will arise when, for him who has prepared himself for it, the sublime etheric figure of Christ Jesus will be perceptible. For men who have developed clairvoyance in a natural way, it will be like a reappearance of Christ Jesus, just as this etheric Christ appeared to Paul as a spiritual being. He will appear once more to men if they will understand that these faculties which will arise through the development of the human soul are to be used for this purpose.
Let us so use spiritual science that it may serve not merely to satisfy our curiosity, but in such a way that it will prepare us for the great tasks, the great missions of the human race for which we must grow ever more mature.
Dr. Steiner's Answers to Questions in Connection
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