Monday, April 05, 2010

The 40 days between the Resurrection and the Ascension

During this period, Christ taught many things to his disciples that are not recorded in the ordinary Gospels. But many of the Gnostic Gospels give an excellent insight with regard to these teachings, and I highly recommend Pistis Sophia, A Gnostic Gospel, which is "a Gnostic miscellany being for the most part extracts from the books of the Savior to which are added excerpts from a Cognate literature." My own copy was published by Spiritual Science Library in New York, 1984.

Some of this reading is heavy, although there are passages that read as easily as any other Gospel for those who are familiar with these. There are many extensive dialogues between Christ Risen and his disciples, especially with Mary.

Anyway, nobody has succeeded in introducing some of this material to modern-day listeners and readers better than Rudolf Steiner. It's useful to keep in mind that we have to do with several levels, or modes, of communication here. When the Christ spoke in parables, for instance, he used a picture language like that of the Buddha, which everyone could understand. Then, when alone with his disciples, he explained these parables in a language similar to that of Socrates, for those who had developed a sufficient intellectual culture to understand it.

Furthermore, the Gnostic writings came out of a culture consisting of people steeped in a depth of wisdom that was rooted in the background of Paganism. This ancient Pagan wisdom is no longer with us today, which makes it very difficult for modern people to understand Gnosticism. But in those days, in the very earliest Christian era, the Gospel story itself, the Mystery of Golgotha, was understood, in spite of its very simple presentation, precisely because the culture at the time was permeated by the Pagan wisdom from the Orient and Persia and Mesopotamia and Egypt and so on.

Because this old Pagan wisdom has been lost to us, has evaporated so to speak through the Enlightenment and the rise of scientific intellect, Rudolf Steiner took the insight with regard to this greatest and most important Mystery of all time to the next level, namely that of the Consciousness Soul, which in our own era is superseding the Age of the Intellectual Soul, which ended after the first third of the 15th century. The evolution of the Consciousness Soul is linked to the present-day cultural epoch, beginning in the 15th century and ending some time in the 43rd century. This means that the relevance and usefulness of Rudolf Steiner's works will continue to grow for at least another two thousand years. (If I'm off target on these epochs or seem to get them mixed up, please correct me under comments.)

On April 2nd, 1922, Rudolf Steiner gave a profoundly interesting lecture in Dornach about the esoteric teaching given by the Risen Christ to His initiated pupils, under the title Exoteric and Esoteric Christianity (GA 211), which is also available on my own old website here (in a different English translation).
"If the higher Hierarchies had, as it were, been holding council among themselves before the Mystery of Golgotha had taken place on Earth, they would have said: 'We have been able to build up the Earth from Saturn, Sun and Moon. But if the Earth were to contain only what we have been able to incorporate from Saturn, Sun and Moon, no beings could develop who, knowing death, are able to unfold intellect. We, the higher Hierarchies, are unable to bring forth an Earth from the Moon embodiment — an Earth on which men know nothing of death and therefore cannot unfold the faculty of intellect. We, the Hierarchies, cannot so fashion the Earth that it will produce the forces necessary for the development of intellect in man. For this purpose we must allow another Being to enter, a Being whose path of development has been different from ours. Ahriman is a Being who does not belong to our hierarchy. He enters the stream of evolution by a different path. If we tolerate Ahriman, if we allow him to participate in the process of the Earth's evolution, he will bring death, and with death, intellect; the seeds of death and of intellect will then be implanted in the being of man ... Ahriman is acquainted with death; he is interwoven with the Earth, because his paths have connected him with earthly evolution. Ahriman is a knower of death; therefore he is also the Ruler of intellect.'

"The Gods were obliged — if such a word is permissible — to enter into dealings with Ahriman, realising that without Ahriman there could be no progress in evolution. But — so said the Gods — if Ahriman is received into the stream of evolution to become the Ruler of death and therewith also of the intellect, the Earth will fall away from us; Ahriman, whose only interest is to intellectualise the whole Earth, will demand the Earth for himself.

"The Gods were confronted with this dilemma that their dominion over the Earth might be usurped by Ahriman. There remained only one possibility, namely, that the Gods themselves should acquire knowledge of something inaccessible to them in their own worlds — worlds untouched by Ahriman; that they, the Gods, should learn of death as it takes place on Earth through One sent by them, through the Christ. It was necessary for a God to die upon the Earth, moreover for that death to be the result of the erring ways of men and not the decree of Divine wisdom. Human error would take root if Ahriman alone held sway. It was necessary for a God to pass though death and to be victorious over death.

"The Mystery of Golgotha signified for the Gods an enrichment of wisdom, an enrichment gained from the experience of death. If no Divine Being had passed through death, the Earth would have been wholly intellectualised without ever entering into the evolution originally ordained for it by the Gods.

"In very ancient times men had no knowledge of death. But at some point it was necessary for them to face the realisation: death, and intellect together with death, brings us into a stream of evolution quite other than that from which we have proceeded.

"To His initiated disciples Christ taught that He had come from a world wherein there was no knowledge of death; that He had suffered death upon the Earth and had gained the victory over death.

"When this connection of the earthly world with the Divine world is understood, intellect can be led back to spirituality. Such, approximately, was the substance of the esoteric teaching given by the Risen Christ to His initiated disciples: it was a teaching concerning death — death as seen from the arena of the Divine world."
At the moment, we're at the conclusion of the Easter Festival, when the Risen Christ is discovered first by Mary Magdalene and later on by all the other disciples. The topic described above, namely the esoteric teachings that the Risen Christ gave to his disciples between the Resurrection and the Ascension, is an excellent one to explore between now and the next Christian Festival.

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