Ch.5 ~ Rudolf Steiner’s Fifth Gospel in Story Form
To warm and cheer readers for the Winter Solstice, serializing my first 1991 book as editor
He worked diligently in his father’s carpentry shed as a kind of carpenter or joiner. While he worked, he was haunted by the experiences just described. When he was eighteen years old, a new period of his life began. Between the ages of eighteen and twenty-four, he wandered through neighboring and more remote districts. Moving from place to place, he worked among the people. Working in different families, at various branches of his craft, he traveled through Palestine and through neighboring heathen districts, led by the things this Individuality had agreed to fulfill before His thirtieth year.
As he wandered through Palestine, the uniqueness of his character was apparent to everyone he came into contact with. By day he worked; in the evenings he sat together with the people where they always were around the fire or at their table. They responded to everything he said, for his words were filled with the gentleness and loving-kindness of his heart. It was if a magic breath was pouring into their souls.
People received him differently from other men. Deep relationships were formed wherever he spent time with people. All those who sat with him felt something difficult to be fully conscious of which nevertheless made an emphatic impression upon them. It was the feeling a unique human being was in their midst, the likes of whom they had never before encountered nor imagined to exist. So each of his hosts and visiting neighbors, after a time sitting and talking in his presence, felt an awe of Jesus of Nazareth, a gentle and deep awe, as if their own humanity was being reflected back to them in a greater way. In short, they did not know what to make of him!
The heart connection he could make with ordinary people — anyone for that matter — was due to how young Jesus of Nazareth had transmuted his experience of deep suffering into compassion for the human experience. Much of the highest love known in life is transmuted suffering of this kind, a capacity we must remember to develop in our own lives. Deepest pain has the power to transmute itself into loving compassion, a love which does not work in the manner of ordinary love; rather, it works through the mere presence of the one who loves. Such love streams out as far-reaching auric rays. Because of this, these people Jesus spent time with believed they had among them a being who was much more than a man. The pain he had transmuted into love was what made his influence so strong. Many of the men and women he came to know personally grew to know His gentle, tender wisdom. In every house, in every neighborhood he visited, he was deeply loved.
After Jesus of Nazareth left a family, after their daily labors, when the sun had gone down, the family sat together and spoke again of the man who had come among them and was so dear to them. A spirit of love remained with them. They spoke for hours at a time of His love and gentleness and how their hearts and souls had warmed when he had lived under their roof.
Then, in accordance with the Fifth Gospel, a strange thing happened. Through the working of cosmic law, it happened again and again. As people sat around their table in the evening, they one and all saw him enter as a spirit-form, a vision in which all shared. The vision was of Jesus among them again, speaking with them, telling them things as once he had done when he was present in the body. Either Jesus came to them in spirit, or the family, on their side, conjured up a spiritual picture of him. You can imagine how deeply such families were moved when he appeared in a vision shared by all. In this way he lived as a visible reality amongst many people with whom he had visited and shared himself with long after he had gone away from them physically. The families he had been with continued to feel a close bond with him, a bond of union with him; they never again felt separated from him. They felt he remained with them and that he came again and again.
In his journeys during his sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth years, he not only traveled about Palestine, he was led into heathen districts as well. Partly because of his handicraft of carpentry and partly owing to other circumstances, he made many journeys and came to know many parts of Palestine and the surrounding lands. Here he perceived, just as in Judaism, the primal revelations of ancient paganism, in heathen rites and religious institutions, once attained, had now died out. The decline in Judaism revealed itself to him more though inner illumination. His realization of the decline in Paganism came to him more through meeting heathen peoples.
As a result of the Zarathrustra-Ego passing over into his soul, Jesus of Nazareth possessed a high degree of clairvoyance. Because of his efforts in other times, he received this in a natural unfolding such as others could only achieve by intense conscious effort. He was able to learn by actual first hand observation of the souls of the heathen people. In witnessing the rites of these cults he experienced many things remaining hidden from others — many terrible things. Fantastic as it may seem, Dr. Steiner testifies how when Jesus of Nazareth witnessed a priest at many a heathen altar, enacting rites of the local cult, he saw how numerous demonic beings were attracted to the spot. He discovered many idols worshipped by the people were in reality not images of good spiritual Beings of the higher Hierarchies. Rather, they were images of demonic powers. During these heathen services, he often observed these demonic powers passing over into the believers participating in these rites.
It is easy to understand why these things have not found their way into the other Gospels. Now such things can be disclosed. In our time, the human soul is ripe enough, resilient enough, to understand and make constructive use of the deep and overwhelming experiences which came to Jesus of Nazareth while he was still a young man.
His long journeys continued though his twentieth, twenty-second, and twenty-fourth years. Always with bitter sorrow he witnessed the power wielded by the demons, issuing as it were, from Lucifer and Ahriman, and saw how the heathen peoples had actually come to the point of taking the demons for gods, even to having in their idols the images of wild, demonic powers. Demonic powers were attracted by these images and rites and entered into the people while they prayed to and obsessed over them. Many bitter experiences among the heathen districts fell to the lot of Jesus of Nazareth and lead to a culminating experience.
When he was about twenty-four, a painful new experience was added to the disillusionment coming to him through the Bath-Kol. In a place where the sacred Pagan rites had become particularly decadent, the conditions prevailing in Paganism were brought home to him. Dr. Steiner was not in a position to indicate the place precisely. It seems it took place on a journey outside Palestine.
In the Akasha Chronicle, clearly perceptible to Dr. Steiner’s clairvoyant sight, was a certain Asiatic cult, very widespread in those days. Temples dedicated to the worship of Mithras were to be found in many widely scattered regions. The cult was a favorite of Roman soldiers in certain quarters. It predominated in Western Asia, spreading even into certain parts of Europe. Though it was a mixture of several different rites, in the main, it was a Mithras cult. The Church of St. Peter in Rome stands over the site of one of these places of worship. This shows how this cult had spread far and wide. The rites often included elements of the Attis cult, but were in essentials a form of Mithraic worship. Temples and centers dedicated to the worship of Mithras and Attis were numerous and widespread. This particular cult was a form of ancient pagan religion comprised of many practices and ceremonies common to the worship of these two, Mithras and Attis.
Jesus of Nazareth came to a heathen shrine where a certain Deity was worshipped. The people around were in a state of dire misery. Here the decadence was apparent even in the leprosy and other terrible diseases of soul and body laying hold of the people. Some of the people were thoroughly vicious; others feeble and palsied. The priests had long ago forsaken this place of worship leaving the people deserted. Jesus heard the people crying, “The priests have forsaken us. The blessings of the sacrificial offerings do not descend on us. We are leprous and diseased because the priests have forsaken us!” They believed they had not only been forsaken by their priests, but by their god also.
Jesus of Nazareth grieved for the people and an infinite love for them flamed in his soul. Yet he had no intention of celebrating the heathen rites. To behold in spiritual vision demonic actions at a shrine believed to be holy, is a far cry from learning of it in the abstract. The knowledge of how the Emissaries of Lucifer and Ahriman were working and what they had wrought among the people came to Jesus of Nazareth through direct spiritual vision. Now the whole riddle of the fall of Paganism from its former spiritual prime revealed itself to him in vivid imaginations. He saw directly what had poured into the Pagan Mysteries. He saw how forces of lofty Divine Beings had once streamed down on heathen sacrificial altars. Yet now, instead of the good spirits, hosts of demons, emissaries of Lucifer and Ahriman, were streaming down.
The people around him must have felt something of this infinite love welling up within him and remarked on it to each other in conversation. A deep impression must have been made upon the sorrowing people. As onlookers in the crowd recognized the expression of infinite love in the countenance of Jesus, the idea was born: a new priest has been sent to us. The rumor was whispered from one to another and spread like lightning: a unique being had come into our midst. In the hearts of the majority of the people there arose the words: “Thou art the new priest who has been sent to us!” They pressed him towards the altar of the sacrifice, believing a priest had been led to them able to perform their rites and connect the people again with good spirits. The people cried for him to offer the sacrifice so the blessing of the god might come upon them. While this was happening, while the people were lifting him at the altar, he fell down in a faint as if dead. His soul was wafted away. The people first believing a priest of their god had been given back to them, now witnessed the terrible spectacle of the one they held to be the new priest, sent from heaven, had fallen down as if dead. The people took flight, rushing away in alarm.
The soul of Jesus was aware of being transported into spiritual realms, into the sphere of Sun-existence. While he lay unconscious, transported into a spiritual world, pictures came to him of the ancient pagan revelations communicated to the heathen peoples through their rituals. Just as he had fathomed how the mysteries once alive in the ancient Jewish prophets were no longer alive in Judaism today, not even alive as shadows; now, he “heard” the spiritual origins of the pagan mysteries originally proclaimed to the heathen peoples.
Resounding from the sphere of the Sun, his soul “heard” words such as it had often heard through the Bath-Kol. But now the Bath-Kol was entirely transformed and it came to Jesus of Nazareth from quite a different direction. What he became aware of now, if one translates it into our language becomes:
The Evils hold sway,
Witness Egoity becoming free,
Selfhood guilt through others incurred, Experienced in the Daily Bread,
Where the Will of Heaven does not rule,
In that Man severed himself from
Your Kingdom, and forgot
Your Names, Ye fathers in the Heavens.
In stammering words this expresses the futility felt by earthly humankind enduring the destiny formed through embodiment in dense physical substance from birth until death. Concentrated in these words is the characteristic quality of the harshness of physical embodiment lived exclusively under the Law of Karma.
When Jesus of Nazareth came to himself again and looked around for the crowd of wretched people who had brought him to the altar, he saw they had all fled. Letting his clairvoyant vision widen into the distance, he discerned a host of demonic powers and beings connected with the people pursuing them.
He then understood the whole sad story of Paganism. First he had recognized the decline in Judaism; now a similar history revealed itself among the heathen peoples. The feeling now came upon him this might be put into words: ‘These people once had ears to hear. Now they are incapable of hearing the song of the universal mysteries. Once legitimate good spiritual Beings had been attracted here because of the understanding of Spirit living in the souls of the priests and the peoples. Now the old understanding has withered, worship has fallen by degrees; and now, only attracts those demons who attend mere magic.
The decay of the ancient pagan teachings came before the soul of Jesus of Nazareth even more forcibly than the decline of the ancient Hebrew wisdom. In the one, people had merely lost the capacities they once had to respond to revelation. In the other, truly demonic powers were being invoked by once-sacred rites. What had the experience of intercourse with the ancient Gods become?! Once again he felt unlimited compassion for human beings, the same compassion which had always lived in him. For the first time he now realized these insights should be shared around among mankind — but where are there any messengers who could communicate such insights?
These two insights, gained through his own experience were how the two major religious activities of his entire native region were in complete decline; as well, how no new religious or spiritual impulse to replace them was visible on any horizon. These despairing insights were deeply imprinted on his soul. They became formative experiences deeply etched on his adult years. Truly the events which most colored his adult years were not conducive to inner elation and happiness! It was the lot of this soul before the Baptism in the Jordan to know the darkest depths of souls in the physical-material human experience.
Just as certain stages of spiritual attainment for men can be entered into only by plumbing the darkest despairs of life, so it was in a sense, with Jesus of Nazareth. In the experience just described, he had gazed into infinite depths of despair experienced by our immortal-eternal soul in earthly human experience. He had seen into particular souls where all the grief of humanity of those times was concentrated. In this way he was steeped in a wisdom which indeed pierces the soul like a red-hot iron. Such insights also make the soul so clairvoyant, it is able to gaze into the radiant worlds of the Spirit. This youthful soul was able to read the things of the Spirit with discerning, clear-sighted vision. Jesus of Nazareth became one who gazed deeply into the mysteries of life, more deeply than any person living on Earth up to his time. No one previously had been able to witness the degree of intensity human misery can reach. He had seen this misery in its direst, most concentrated form; how, once sacred rites could now evoke all manner of demons. In very truth, no human being on Earth before him had ever gazed so deeply into all this wretchedness; nor, had one been as capable of a mature compassion when confronted with those possessed by demons. Nor was anyone before him as ready as he, to face the question: How, how can an end be made of this misery?
After these journeys Jesus of Nazareth returned to Nazareth, where his father remained. When Jesus came home, his soul was still under the powerful impression of how demonic activity had permeated much of the old but still active heathen religion. The Nathan-Joseph then died about this time, when Jesus was in his twenty-fourth year or thereabouts. After the death of his father, Jesus of Nazareth lived with his step-brothers and sisters and his step-or foster mother, the Solomon-Mary. His stepmother, like his brothers and sisters, had up to then understood him only a little. However she showed greater and greater understanding for his intense suffering. So although there was difficulty, from his twenty-fourth to his twenty-eighth, twenty-ninth and thirtieth years, he met with more and more understanding from his step mother. At some point during this time, the brothers and sisters moved out and he lived alone with his foster or step-mother.
These were the years during which he became closely acquainted with an Order known very widely as the Order of the Essenes. It was the mission of the Essenes to see that among a few at least there should be an understanding of what the Christ would be. Jesus of Nazareth had in a sense become an Initiate though the experience of his life. This achievement came to the knowledge of certain people who gathered together in the Order.