A beautiful saying in this Gospel is usually quite wrongly translated. In its true form, the saying is: ‘I have not come to send peace away from this Earth but to send away the sword!’ The most beautiful message of peace has in the course of time been distorted into its very opposite! (Matt. 10, 24). Christ entered into the spiritual sphere of Earth-existence in order gradually to rescue it from elements that bring about discord and disharmony in mankind. Spiritual Science will establish peace when it is truly Christian, in the sense of bringing about the unity of religions. It can unite not only those in regions immediately around us but can establish peace over the whole Earth, because it understands the nature of the deed wrought by the greatest bringer of peace. It is certainly not in accordance with Christ’s will that fanatical men and women should journey from one part of the Earth to another in attempts to force a narrow, hard-bound Christianity upon human beings who have no aptitude for its teachings when these are presented in a form appropriate for a different people. Proposals to carry Christian teaching to the East in the form it has assumed in some particular region are apt to be very mistaken. As anthroposophists we know well that Christ does not belong to the ‘Christians’ only; we know that He is the same being whom Zarathustra called Ahura Mazdao and the seven Rishis of ancient India, called Vishva Karman. We in the West realize that even if the East men use different names, it is in reality the Christ of whom they are speaking.
Our aim is to understand Christ in the way that keeps abreast of the evolution of humanity, of progress among men. We realise that no records or forms of knowledge in which Christ is repudiated can shed light upon His life and nature, but those alone which consciously bear within them His own living influence. If in the truly Christian sense we speak to other, non-Christian peoples of Vishva Karman, of Ahura Mazdao, we know well that they understand us although no name is forced upon them, and that of themselves they will eventually come to understand Christ. We have no wish to force the name of Christ upon them. For if we are not only anthroposophists but occultists too, we are well aware that names in themselves are of no account, that it is the Being alone who is of importance. Could we for one moment persuade ourselves that it would be permissible to call the Christ Being by a different name, we should not hesitate to do so. For to us it is the truth that matters and not any predilection due to the fact that we inhabit a particular area of the Earth and belong to a particular people. Let it not be thought that Christ can be understood by means which His influence has not reached. Christ can indeed be found by other nations but He Himself must be the source of the means for understanding Him.
This shows us how the religions work together in order to ensure that mankind shall progress. It is not enough to lecture about anthroposophical principles; what matters is to transform them into feeling; nor should we talk of tolerance and at the same time be intolerant because of predilection for some particular religion. We are truly tolerant only when we measure each religion by its own standard and understand the fundamental character of each.–Naturally, when we speak of the different systems of religion having worked together to bring Christianity into existence, this is not due to our own particular viewpoint. The truth is that in those lofty heights where the great spiritual Beings are at work, events have been different from those caused by the actions of adherents of particular religions on the Earth.
The best outcome of our studies will be that we do not only grasp these things intellectually but make them part of the very fibres of our soul life, part of our life of feeling and of our hearts, and allow them to live on there. If the words of the Gospels are imprinted in our hearts and we truly understand them they become powers and forces which fill our whole being and engender great inner strength. And we shall find that this strength remains with us through life.
What is it that strikes us particularly about the Matthew Gospel, where from the very beginning the manhood of Christ Jesus is brought into prominence? Great though the distance assuredly is between an ordinary man on the Earth and the one who was able to receive the Christ Being into himself, nevertheless the Matthew Gospel shows us –when we accept it with all humility– the dignity of man and what he may become. For although our own nature may be far, far removed from that of Jesus of Nazareth, we may yet say to ourselves that they human nature we bear is able to receive into itself the Son of God, the son of the living God. Herein lies the promise that the Son of God will henceforth remain united with spiritual Earth-existence and that when Earth-exsitence has reached its goal all men will be filled with the substance and being of Christ insofar as they themselves have inwardly desired this. We need humility to harbour such an ideal. For if we harbour it without humility it gives rise to our arrogance, to pride; we think only about what we can be as men reminding ourselves all too seldom of how little we have hitherto achieved. This ideal must be approached with humility. Then it appears so great, so mighty, so majestic, so impressive in its brilliance, that in itself it has an exhortation to humility. And when we are aware of the truth of this ideal, no matter how major our forces may be they will bear us to ever higher stages along the path to our divine goal.
Johannes Thomasius is shattered in soul under the impression of the words: ‘O man, know thyself!’ And then, in the ninth scene under the impression of the words: ‘O man, experience thyself!’ He is transported in exultation to cosmic realms. This brings home to us once again the majesty and grandeur of the figure of Jesus in the Matthew Gospel; humility fills us and our own insignificance becomes doubly apparent. But through the inner truth and reality revealed to us we are rescued from the abyss that seems to stretch between our own littleness and what we should and can become. If at times we feel overwhelmed when contemplating the stature of the Gods in a man, we shall nevertheless, as human beings, feel something of the divine impulse, something of the ‘Son of the living God’, by turning our minds to Christ Jesus who is the highest representative of the ‘I’, Himself exhorts us in the worlds that will ring through all our ages to come: ‘O man, experience thyself!’
If we understand the human aspect of Christ Jesus as presented in the Matthew Gospel–and that is why it is closer to us than the other Gospels–there will stream from it courage in life, strength, hope in all our labours. This will be the very best proof that we have understood what these words were intended to convey.
~ Lecture 12, The Gospel of St. Matthew (The Gospel of Christ’s Humanity) By Rudolf Steiner