Chapter Eight ~ Rudolf Steiner’s Fifth Gospel in Story Form
To warm and cheer readers for Winter 2023, the first book I edited
In profound neutrality of consciousness, under no impulse to do anything, yet unconsciously drawn by inner necessity to turn and face the highest light known to him, Jesus made his way to the Jordan, to John the Baptist. It was the Nathan-Jesus as he had been up to his twelfth year who now made his way to the Baptism in the Jordan. The deep, soul-wrenching disappointment and contraction of ambition and purpose in the Zarathrustra-Ego gave way to surrender. This became the prelude for the great expansion and outpouring about to take place.
In a kind of dream, actually a sublimated consciousness, he went along in a completely neutral state. He was hardly aware of what was around him, no longer having an Individuality to guide and direct him. His whole being was caught up in a vision of human destiny and especially what was lacking for the future.
As he was walking along the road to the Jordan, he met two Essenes with whom he had often spoken with on occasions as we have already heard. As the Zarathrustra-Ego had gone out of him, he did not immediately recognize them. The two Essenes, however, recognized him, as his outer countenance had not changed. The two Essenes addressed him: “Where do you go, Jesus of Nazareth?”
Jesus replied in such a way they did not know where the words came from. They seemed to come from him and yet not from him, “I go where souls of your kind are not willing to gaze, where the pain of humanity can feel the rays of the forgotten Light.”
The two Essenes did not understand what he said. They saw now he did not recognize them. The two spoke again, “Jesus of Nazareth, do you not know us?”
Now still stranger words came to them, as though Jesus was saying, “It is so long since you fled from me into the world. You are like lambs gone astray. I was the shepherd’s son from whom you strayed. When you truly recognize me, you will yet stray again.”
The two Essenes were greatly perplexed for they did not understand how anyone could utter such words. They gazed at Jesus questioningly not knowing what to make of him. While he spoke with them, a strange expression came into his eyes. They seemed to be looking both outwards and yet inwards at the same time. The two Essenes felt the reproach of the two eyes, eyes full of gentle love, yet a love which seemed to reproach them. Then again, it was as though the reproach was coming from their own souls.
Jesus spoke again: “What manner of souls are you? Where is your home? Why do you envelop yourselves in sheaths of deceit and illusion? Why does there burn within you a fire kindled in my Father’s house? At these words the two Essenes became mute; Jesus continued: “You have upon you the mark of the Tempter whom you have met on your flight. The false glitter of the fire of pride is upon your wool, making it shining and glistening. The hairs of this wool prick my eyes. Straying lambs, the Tempter has filled your souls with pride.”
One of the distraught Essenes urged a reply: “Have we not shown the Tempter the door? He has no longer any part in us.”
Jesus continued: “True, you showed the Tempter the door, so he ran and came to the other men, setting upon them from every side. He leers at you from their souls. Do you believe you are exalted if others are thereby abased? You think yourselves exalted. Yet this is only because the rest of the community has been abased. You do not exalt yourselves when others are abased. You remain as you were, imagining yourselves to be great when it is because others have been abased.”
The Essenes were afraid. What he said so depressed them their sight now failed them. Their physical sight grew clouded and Jesus of Nazareth seemed to vanish from their sight. In his place, they beheld in the distance a kind of Fata Morgana, revealing to them — enlarged to gigantic proportions — the countenance of the one who had just stood before them. From this Fata Morgana they heard words that filled their souls with dread: ‘Vain is your striving, for empty is your heart. Your heart is filled only with the spirit which conceals pride in the guise of humility.’
The Fata Morgana faded yet the two Essenes remained stupefied, heavy-hearted and perplexed. When their sight returned, they saw Jesus had walked along further down the road while the countenance had spoken to them. Heavy-hearted they returned to the abode of their Order. To the end of their lives they never spoke of their experience. They became deeper and richer in soul than their companions, but they became silent brothers, speaking no more than was needed for everyday transactions. They were present for the Mystery of Golgotha. Through what happened to them on the road, they were able to experience it with particular intensity. Their Brothers did not know why they had changed so much. To the day of their death they never betrayed what had happened to them.
When Jesus walked a little further along the way, he met a man in deep despair. The man’s despair gave the impression of agonizing suffering. The presence of this strange person, Jesus, clearly made a powerful impact on his soul. Jesus was transported so far from earthly conditions the other perceived him as a being impossible to comprehend. The man’s reaction drew from Jesus words somewhat as follows: “Where hath your soul led thee? Many thousands of years ago I saw thee. Then thou were different.”
The man said, “Once I had a dream, a terrible dream! As I dreamed, my soul was filled with shame at having such a dream. In my dream I realized distinctly I was so proud in my life. A question was put to me. I knew I was beholding myself. It asked: ‘Who has made you great?!’ Then a Being stood before me and said: ‘It is I who have raised you up. I have exalted you; and, in return for this, you are mine!’ I felt the deepest shame of all. I believed I owed all my earthly success to myself. Now I saw I was a completely ordinary soul who was raised up to my high earthly position by this Being. In the dream I ran away.”
“When I awoke, I actually took flight, abandoning all my honors. I went not knowing what I was seeking. For a long time now I have been wandering about the world, trying to escape from myself, from all my past achievements. I am ashamed of everything which once, in my pride, I believed myself to be. I am seeking for something; yet, do not know what I seek.”
When the despairing man uttered these words, the Being who had spoken to him in his dream stood again before him, between him and Jesus of Nazareth, concealing the form of Jesus. When this dream picture, as it were, dissolved into mist, the despairing man looked around for Jesus and found he had walked on and was already much further away. The despairing man was obliged to wander on in his despair.
Then Jesus of Nazareth met a leper in whom disease and suffering had reached their uttermost. Again because of what his soul was enduring, Jesus was constrained to utter to the leper: “Where hath thy soul led thee? Many thousands of years ago I saw thee; then thou were different.”
The leper answered: “I know not why the disease fell on me; it came on me by degrees. Men have thrust me away; they have made me an outcast. I could not even beg my bread. I was obliged to wander in desolate places, hardly able to beg at the doors for what the people might throw out to me. Then one night I came into a dense forest. In a clearing I saw a shining, luminous tree which drew me towards it. The tree drew me to it; I wanted to approach. When I came near, a skeleton detached itself from the shimmering light of the tree. I knew it was Death standing before me in this form.
Death said to me: ‘I am in thee. I feed on thee. Fear not! Why do you fear? Did’st thou not once love me?’ I knew I had never loved Death. So Death said, ‘You did not know it was I whom you loved, for I appeared to you as a beautiful Archangel.’ Death changed into this beautiful Archangel whom I had often seen and said, ‘It was he you thought you loved.’ I knew this image to be the one I loved. Then he vanished. When I awoke the next morning, I found myself lying at the foot of the tree, with my leprosy growing steadily worse. I knew all the pleasures of life I had treasured, all my self-love, were connected with the Being who appeared to me both as Death and as an Archangel, who declared that I loved him; and, he and I were one. Now I stand before you and do not know who you are.”
Now the Archangel appeared again and also Death. They stood between the leper and Jesus of Nazareth, hiding him from the sight of the leper. While the leper could see them, Jesus vanished. Then Death and the Archangel dissolved as well. Seeing Jesus had already walked on further, the leper was obliged to go on his way.
These were the happenings along the path taken by Jesus of Nazareth between his conversation with his stepmother and the Baptism by John in the Jordan, as revealed by actual investigation of the Akasha Chronicle. We will hear shortly how these events, the meetings with the two Essenes, the despairing man and with the leper, worked on in Jesus of Nazareth. These contacts with the world, when Jesus hardly understood because he was in such an altered state, merged into what came into him at the Baptism. It was as if the connection of Earth’s evolution with the Luciferic and Ahrimanic forces were mirrored in these events. The whole meaning and course of humanity’s evolution was crystalized in these events, if only such understanding is looked for.
To those who find the events taking place between the conversation with his stepmother and the Baptism, strange or fantastic, Dr. Steiner only says, yes, they are unique in their nature. They are unique as they must be, as part of the preparation for an event which could happen only once in the Earth evolution, the event we know as the Mystery of Golgotha. Those who are skeptical of the thought something unique came to pass there will find it difficult to understand the course human evolution takes.