Notes of a lecture given in Berlin in 1903 or 1904:
There is a beautiful saying by Hegel: The most profound thought is bound up with the historical, external Figure of Christ. And the greatness of the Christian religion is that it is there for every stage of development. It is within the grasp of the most naive consciousness and at the same time it is a challenge to the deepest wisdom.
That the Christian religion is comprehensible to every stage of consciousness is shown by the very history of its development. Properly understood, it must be the task of Theosophy, or of Spiritual Science in general, to show that the Christian religion calls for penetration into the deepest Wisdom-teachings. Theosophy is not a religion, but an instrument for understanding the religions. Its relation to the religious documents is rather like the relation of mathematics itself to the writings in which it was originally taught. A man can understand mathematics through his own spiritual faculties and comprehend the laws of space without having to refer to any such early text. But if he has really absorbed the truths of geometry, he will value all the more highly the original texts through which these laws were first presented. So it is with Theosophy. Its sources are not in ancient documents, nor do they rest upon tradition; they lie in the reality of the spiritual worlds. It is therethat they must be found and grasped by the development of a man’s own spiritual powers, just as he grasps mathematics by endeavouring to develop the faculties of his intellect. Our intellect, by means of which we are enabled to comprehend the laws of the world of sense, is supported by an organ, the brain. Similarly, in order to grasp the laws of spiritual worlds, we need appropriate organs.
How have our physical organs developed? Because forces from outside have worked upon them: the forces of the Sun, the forces of sound. Thus did eyes and ears come into being – out of neutral, sluggish organs into which, at first, the sense-world could not penetrate, and which opened only by degrees. If our spiritual organs are worked upon by the right forces, they too will open.
What then are the forces which surge in upon our still inert spiritual organs? During the daytime, the astral body of modern man is assailed by forces that work against his development, and even destroy such organs as he formerly possessed before the dawn of his clear day-consciousness. In earlier times, man received direct astral impressions. The surrounding world spoke to him through pictures, through the form in which the astral world comes to expression. Living, inwardly organic pictures and colours hovered freely in surrounding space as expressions of pleasure and repugnance, sympathy and antipathy. Then these colours wrapped themselves, as it were, round the surface of things, and objects acquired fixed outlines. This was when the physical body of man was steadily gaining in solidity and becoming more highly organized. When his eyes opened fully to the physical light, when the veil of Maya spread itself over the spiritual world, his astral body received impressions of the surrounding world by way of the physical and etheric bodies. The astral body itself transmitted these impressions to the `I’ and from the `I’ they passed into his consciousness. Thus he was personally involved and continuously active. But the forces working upon him were no longer plastic, weaving forces akin to the nature of his own being; they were forces that fed upon him, destroyed him, in order to awaken the I-consciousness. Only in the night, when he sank down into the rhythmic-spiritual world homogeneous with him, did he acquire new strength and become able once more to feed forces into his physical and etheric bodies. Out of this conflict of impressions, out of the deadening of the astral organs formerly working unconsciously in man, the life of the individual `I’, the I-consciousness, arose. Out of life-death; out of death-life. The ring of the serpent was complete. And now from this wakened I-consciousness there had to arise forces that would kindle life again in the defunct vestiges of earlier astral organs, shaping and moulding them.
Mankind is moving towards this goal, guided by its Teachers and Leaders, the great Initiates, of whom the serpent is also the symbol. It is an education towards freedom, hence a slow and difficult education. The great Initiates could have made the task easier, for themselves and for man, if they had worked upon his astral body during the night, when it is free, in such a way as to impress the astral organs into it from outside. But such an act would have operated in man’s dream-consciousness; it would have trespassed on his sphere of freedom. The highest principle in man, the Will, would never have unfolded. Man is led onward stage by stage. There has been an Initiation in Wisdom, an Initiation in Feeling, an Initiation in Will. True Christianity is the summation of all stages of Initiation. The Initiation of antiquity was the prophetic announcement, the preparation. Slowly and gradually the man of later times emancipated himself from his Initiator, his Guru. Initiation, to begin with, proceeded in deep trance-consciousness, but was equipped to imprint in the physical body a remembrance of what had transpired outside the body. Hence the necessity of releasing the ether-body, the bearer of memory, as well as the astral body. Astral body and ether-body sank together into the Ocean of Wisdom, into Mahadeva, into the Light of Osiris. This Initiation proceeded in deepest secrecy, in absolute seclusion. No breath from the outer world might intrude. The man was as if he had died to outer life, and the tender seeds were nurtured away from the blinding light of day.
Then Initiation came forth from the darkness enshrouding the Mysteries into the clearest light of day. In a great and mighty Personality, the Bearer of the highest unifying Principle, of the Word – of Him who is the expression and manifestation of the hidden Father, and who taking on human form became the Son of Man and thereby the Representative of all mankind, the Bond uniting all I’s – in Christos, the Life-Spirit, the Eternal Unifier, the Initiation of mankind as a whole was accomplished, as historical fact and at the same time as symbol, on the plane of feeling. So potent was this Event that in every individual who modelled his life on it, its power could continue to work – right into the physical, expressing itself even in the appearance of the stigmata and in the most piercing pains. Feelings were shaken to their innermost depths. An intensity of emotion, the like of which has never surged through the world before or since, arose in mighty waves. In the Initiation on the Cross of Divine Love the sacrifice of the `I’ for All had taken place. The blood, the physical expression of the `I’ had flowed in love for mankind, and the effect was such that thousands pressed forward to this Initiation, to this Death, letting their blood flow in love and devotion for mankind. That blood untold was poured out in this way has never been sufficiently emphasized; the thought no longer enters the consciousness of men, not even in theosophical circles. Yet the waves of ardour which in this streaming blood flowed down, and then ascended, have fulfilled their task. They have become the wellsprings of powerful impulses. They have made mankind ripe for the Initiation of the Will.
And this is the legacy of Christ.