Steiner asserted that Christ is the most important spiritual being who has concerned Himself with human evolution, at least to the present. The "Christ Event," like the "Christ Being," like the "Christ Impulse," is incomparably important for humanity and its hopes for future spiritual elevation. Many mainstream Christians might agree, up to a point — but Steiner veers far from orthodox Christian teachings.

Here is an series of excerpts from Steiner's lecture "Pre-Earthly Deeds of Christ" (March 7, 1914, GA 152). In it you will learn, among other things, that Christ (who, according to Steiner, is the Sun God) united with the man, Jesus (who, according to Steiner, was just one of two Jesuses), more than once. The physical existence of Christ Jesus, the series of events we read of in the New Testament, was preceded by three other occasions when Christ united with Jesus. Thus, the "second coming" that Christians anticipate will actually be the fifth arrival of Christ. Or so Steiner says.

When you reach the end of the lecture, you might pause and look back. Did you find Steiner's statements plausible? In what sense? Has Steiner given you any reason to believe him? Has he provided evidence? Has he cited any sources you trust? Has he done anything but spin a yarn? The language Steiner uses is often cloudy, as if he were discussing profound spiritual mysteries. But in itself, does this prove anything? Likewise, Steiner weaves together strands from different spiritual traditions and schools, reworking them so that they may seem consistent with one another. But in itself, does this prove anything?

"[I]n preparation for the Mystery of Golgotha [1] two Jesus-children were born. [2] The one was the Jesus who descended from the line of Solomon and bore the Ego of Zarathustra. The other, coming from the Nathan line of the House of David, was a very special Being. In the twelfth year of the life of the latter the Ego of Zarathustra passed over into him from the child of the line of Solomon, and from that time until his thirtieth year the Nathan child with the Ego of Zarathustra made himself ready to receive the Christ-Being.

"... At His death [the Crucifixion] the Christ-Being poured Himself out into the spiritual Earth-sphere....

"...[T]his Mystery, as I have already pointed out, had already been accomplished three times before for the salvation of mankind: once in the old Lemurian epoch, then in the Atlantean, and once again at the end of Atlantean times [3] ... That which we know as the Mystery of Golgotha, however, was the only one enacted on the physical plane. The other events, which were preparatory, took place wholly in the spiritual world ... In all three of these preparatory events that same Being was present who was born later as the Nathan-Jesus and who was permeated by the Christ-Being ... He who was later the Nathan-Jesus had been present in the three earlier events, but not incarnated as physical man; he lived in the spiritual worlds as a spiritual Being of the nature of the Archangels; and in the spiritual worlds, in the preparatory stages of the Mystery of Golgotha, in the Lemurian age and twice in Atlantis, he was permeated by the Christ-Being. [4]

"...As in Christ Jesus we have a Man permeated with the Christ-Impulse, so it may be said that three times previously we have an Angel permeated with that Impulse. [5] And as that which was accomplished by the Mystery of Golgotha streamed forth into the spiritual atmosphere of the Earth, so did that which was brought about by the first three events pour into the Earth from out the Cosmos. Looking at the course of our human evolution we note that the Mystery of Golgotha stands in its very center. Everything that went before was in preparation for and pointed to this Event, which was the center-point of human development, and everything that has since happened is a gradual advance in the streaming of the forces of the Mystery into the hearts and souls of men. [6]

"...If, during the old Lemurian epoch, the first Christ-Event had not taken place, Lucifer and Ahriman would have been able to bring about disaster to the whole of humanity ... [T]he being who later became the Nathan-Jesus, and who otherwise would have had the form of an angel, took on human form (not of flesh, but a human etheric form). [7] In the super-earthly region Jesus of Nazareth is to be found as an etheric angel-form. Through permeation with the Christ he then assumed etheric human form. Thereby something new entered the Cosmos and rayed down upon Earth and made it possible for man, the physical earthly human form, into whom streamed the force of the etheric super-earthly Christ-Being, to protect himself from that destruction which must have overtaken him. [8]

"...You will have seen from my descriptions of Atlantean times taken from the Akashic Records [9] that our Atlantean forefathers were dumb [i.e., they could not speak]. The Atlantean man was actually the first to learn to speak, and the Akashic Records show how that came about ... The Spirits of Form [10] poured themselves into man and permeated him, and thereby he became able to speak a language, to live his earth life on the physical plane.

"Thus, by means of two principles, viz., the upright position and speech, [man] wrests himself free from those spiritual forces that are active upon the Earth. Animals are permeated by those forces. [11]

"... If he had been abandoned entirely to the Earth, if Cosmic-spiritual influences had not come down to Earth and poured into him, everything connected with his speech must have become debased through the Luciferic and Ahrimanic influences. If nothing had been brought about by Christ, man in the Atlantean epoch would so have developed his whole life-culture — all his bodily organs: larynx, tongue, throat, etc., and indeed even the organs lower down such as the heart in so far as they are connected with the former — that he would only have been capable of expressing his own selfish joy or pain, desire or bliss, in poor babbling sounds somewhat like the utterances of Sibyls or mediums ... Through the fact that for the second time the Being in the etheric heights, who later became the Nathan-Jesus child, received into himself the Christ-Being who henceforward permeated the bodily organs of man, man became capable of uttering more than interjections. The power of grasping the objective was brought about through the second Christ-Event. [12]

"But the human capacity for expressing the working of the mind in words was again faced with danger. Through the second Christ-Event it might indeed have come to pass that man would have found not only sounds, interjections and words to express the feelings of his inner being; in a certain sense he might also have been able to give out what he had called forth as an inner speech movement. But the power of so describing outer things in words, in order that the words should rightly indicate them, was still in danger from the Luciferic and Ahrimanic influences right into the Atlantean epoch. [13] Then came the third Christ-Event. For the third time that Being in the spiritual heights, later to be born as the Nathan-Jesus, united himself with the Christ-Being and again poured the forces so received into the human power of speech. The force of this Christ-Jesus Being now permeated once more the organs of the human body in so far as those organs come to expression in the power of speech. In this way it was made possible for the power of speech to create, by means of words, actual signs representative of the external environment, thus enabling mankind to create language as a means of communication between the different inhabited regions. [14]

"...After the occurrence of the three Christ-Events, which have again been described to-day from a certain standpoint in their influence on human evolution, came the post-Atlantean epoch. In this evolution the mission of the peoples belonging chiefly to that stage of man's development known to us as the Egyptian-Chaldean was to recapitulate what had happened for humanity in the Lemurian epoch; but at the same time to permeate it with consciousness ... [15] [T]he peoples of Egypt, who were not yet fully conscious but in a condition preparatory to the attainment of full consciousness, had to be led to revere what dwells in the human power of erectness. The Initiates, whose mission it was to influence the culture of Egypt, taught the people to revere that power by causing them to build the Pyramids which reach up from the earth towards the Cosmos. [16]

"...As regards the power of speech, however, the Egyptians could not even acquire that dim comprehension which they had for the power which enables man to stand upright. Their souls had first to undergo the right schooling, so that in later times they might be able to understand the riddle — how the Christ lives in man's gift of speech ... In the contemplation of the silent Sphinx, from which sound only proceeded at sunrise under certain cosmic conditions and in certain relations, there came to man that deep reverence by which the soul was prepared to understand the language which must be spoken when it would be brought to higher consciousness how the Christ-Impulse gradually enters into the evolution of earthly humanity. [17]

"... [The] power of thinking was reserved for the humanity of the post-Atlantean epoch [18]; and, indeed, for the humanity of the fourth age in that epoch. Before that men thought in pictures. I shall treat of this subject further in my book, RIDDLES OF PHILOSOPHY, which is about to be published. [19] The child, too, thinks in pictures. It was only gradually given to humanity to think in thoughts, this faculty not being aroused in man until the sixth and seventh centuries before Christ. From that time onwards the thinking of thoughts has developed more and more; we now stand in the middle point. It is through the development of this power that the Ego can be grasped. [20] In order that thinking, too, might be united with the Christ-Impulse, that thinking as such might not come into disorder in its activity on the Ego, there came the fourth Christ-Event, the Mystery of Golgotha. [21]

"...[M]an is saved by permeation with thoughts on such forms as live within him — forms such as that which flowed out into the spiritual sphere of the Earth through the Mystery of Golgotha. [22] This can be the case even now if man will prepare himself for it through Spiritual Science.

"...Human thought attained its highest point with Hegel: 'The living and weaving of thought in truth is the causative Spirit.'

"...[I]nasmuch as we stand within the fifth Post-Atlantean epoch, inasmuch as we foster Spiritual Science and have continuously more to contribute to the understanding of living thought, of the thinking which is becoming clairvoyant — we have at the same time the sixth Post-Atlantean epoch. [23]

"Just as the Christ-Impulse now streams into the thoughts of life, so will it stream later into something which is indeed one of the qualities of the human soul but must not be confused with mere thinking.

"...[A] time will come for humanity which is now being prepared but which will only be fulfilled in the Sixth Great Period of humanity when men will look back upon that which they have lived through and experienced, upon that which lives on within them as memory. They will be able to realize that Christ Himself is present in the power of Memory. [24]

"...Our power of Memory can only develop in the right way if the Christ-Impulse is perceived aright. History will then be a living memory because a true understanding of events has entered the memory; human memory will understand the central point of world-evolution. A perceptive faculty will then arise in man and his ordinary memory, which at present is only directed to one life, will extend over former incarnations. Memory at the present time is in a preparatory stage, but it will be endowed through the Christ.

"...The Christ-Event which is now approaching us [25] — not in the physical but in the etheric, and connected with the first kindling of the power of Memory, with the first kindling of the Christ-permeated Memory — will be such that Christ will approach man as an Angel-like Being. For this event we must prepare ourselves.

"Spiritual Science [26] is not simply to enrich us with mere theories. It is to pour into us something which will enable us to accept that which meets us in the world, and that which we ourselves are, with new feelings and perceptions. Our life of feeling and perception can be enriched if, through Spiritual Science, we penetrate in the right way into the nature of the Christ-Impulse and its sovereignty in man, in the spiritual being of man.

"...May we learn, through Spiritual Science, to live not only for the transitory man who exists between birth and death but for that man who passes through ever-recurring incarnations. Let us learn, through Spiritual Science, what it means for the full development of the individual soul to have the right understanding, the right feeling and perception for the most powerful Impulse in the whole evolution of humanity — the Christ-Impulse."

Christ as depicted in the monumental statue

at the Goetheanum, the Anthroposophical headquarters


[1] Golgotha is Calvary, the site of the Crucifixion. The "mystery" of Golgotha is the occult meaning of Christ's mission on Earth. The Sun God, whom we call Christ, came to Earth to show us the way forward in our spiritual evolution. He set the example we should follow, and he provided a new spiritual impulse enabling us to evolve properly. This is the "salvation" the Sun God offers us, and it is the explanation of the apparent paradox of the Crucifixion, that life results from death. "The most heinous crime in the history of the world [the Crucifixion] proved to be the salvation of mankind." — Rudolf Steiner, BUILDING STONES FOR AN UNDERSTANDING OF THE MYSTERY OF GOLGOTHA (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1972), lecture 2, GA 175.

[2] This is Steiner's solution to the puzzle caused by differing accounts of Jesus's boyhood given in the New Testament: There were actually two Jesuses, Steiner says. The Nathan Jesus is of greatest importance, because he received the Sun God: This is "Jesus of Nazareth," according to Steiner. "If Jesus of Nazareth had remained a Jew, even He could only have taught a Moon Religion [i.e., Judaism]. But a different impulse, a spiritual influence proceeding directly from the Sun entered into him in the course of His life." —Rudolf Steiner, STAR WISDOM, MOON RELIGION, SUN RELIGION (Rudolf Steiner Publishing Co., 1950), lecture 1, GA 353. 

Actually, there are several Sun Gods, but the highest of them is the being we know as Christ, according to Steiner. "This was why a Sun God had to come, a higher being than Lucifer. There still existed what are known as the Solar Pitris ["Fathers"]. The most exalted among these is Christ. As Lucifer represents the Manas element, so the Buddhi element is represented by Christ." — Rudolf Steiner, FOUNDATIONS OF ESOTERICISM (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1982), lecture 26, GA 93a.

"Pitris" is a Theosophical term for spiritual forebears of humanity, our "fathers," as it were. "Pitri(s) pitr (Sanskrit) Fathers; referring to the merely human deceased father and grandparents; also to the progenitors of the human race. The pitris (progenitors) are of seven classes: three classes of arupa-pitris or higher dhyanis, which in our own solar system we call the solar pitris or agnishvattas; and the four lower classes known as barhishads or lunar pitris. The lunar pitris came from the moon-chain, while the solar pitris are those dhyan-chohans which have all the spiritual-intellectual fires, although they are too spiritual to have the physical creative fire. In preceding manvantaras they had finished their physical and astral evolution, but by cyclic necessity, enlightened the lunar pitris which had only the physical creative fire." — ENCYCLOPEDIC THEOSOPHICAL GLOSSARY (Theosophical University Press, 1999).

[3] Having evolved on Old Saturn, Old Sun, and Old Moon, humans arrived at the Earth stage of evolution. The first two sub-stages of Earth evolution were the Polarian and Hyperborean ages. After them, we lived for a while on the continent of Lemuria, before it went under, and then on the equally ill-fated continent of Atlantis. We currently live in what Steiner called the Post-Atlantean age.

[4] It's a little complicated. Christ is the Sun God. The Nathan Jesus is more or less an archangel. But the Nathan Jesus later was born as a human being on Earth, and from the Solomon Jesus he received the ego of Zarathustra. Christ then inhabited the body of Nathan Jesus/Zarathustra. This is the being Christians know as Jesus Christ, according to Steiner.

Both Christ and Jesus-the-archangel are spiritual beings, gods. The words Steiner uses to discuss them tend to weave and flow: "Christ" and "the Christ Being" and "the Christ Impulse" are essentially synonymous terms in Steiner's lectures. (An impulse is a spirit, and Christ's impulse is the spirit of Christ.) "Christ Jesus" is the Nathan Jesus/Zarathustra inhabited for three years by Christ. When this being was crucified, His blood flowed into the Earth, and thereby Christ united his Being with the Earth.

[5] The Jesus being is "of the nature of the Archangels" and as such is an exalted angel.

[6] The chief way in which Steiner's doctrines may be considered "Christian" is this: Steiner assigns tremendous significance to Christ. But his "Christ" is rather different from the Son of God worshipped by mainstream Christians. Steiner's "Christ" is the "son" only as a sort of metaphor: Christ stands in relation to the Godhead as a son stands in relation to a father.

The benefit Christ bestowed on us while inhabiting the physical body of Nathan Jesus was to become the sort of perfected human being we all should become: He became our model, and he gave us the "impulse" enabling us to emulate that model. We should evolve to become like Christ. “Christ shows himself to him as the great human Prototype and Example, united with the Earth's true evolution.” — Rudolf Steiner, OCCULT SCIENCE - AN OUTLINE (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1979), p. 296.

[7] Steiner taught that we have several invisible bodies as well as the visible, physical body. Our higher bodies exist primarily on spiritual planes that are higher than the physical plane.

[8] Sometimes Steiner indicates that Lucifer and Ahriman play constructive roles in human evolution, but more often he offers the view we see here: Lucifer and Ahriman are our enemies. They have not destroyed us thanks to the intervention of Christ and Nathan Jesus.

[9] Steiner gained "wisdom" from many sources other than the Bible. Indeed, he reinterpreted the Bible in light of these other sources. His chief source, he claimed, was the Akashic Chronicle — a supersensible storehouse of wisdom open to clairvoyants such as himself.

[10] According to Steiner, these are gods four levels above man.

Note that, according to Steiner, Christ is the not only god who has come down to our level and joined with us. Here he describes Spirits of Form doing so: They "permeate" man just as Christ has permeated man.

[11] The lecture traces the effects of Christ's various incarnations (which have mostly occurred on planes above the physical plane). The first such "Christ Event" enabled us to stand erect. The second enabled us to speak. The third enabled us to think. These stages — learning to stand erect, gaining the power of speech, and gaining the power of thought — are recapitulated, Steiner taught, in each growing human child.

Animals exist on the physical plane. Everything is full of spiritual forces, but Steiner taught that the forces within the physical Earth are lowly — and animals are closely bound to them. In learning to stand erect, we separated ourselves from the animals, Steiner said.

[12] This is the effect of the second Christ Event, separating us further from the lowly animals.

[13] "Objective" or scientific, intellectual thinking is dangerous, Steiner said; our thinking must be imbued with inspiration, warmheartedness. (More on this in the next endnote.) Unless our thinking is permeated with Christ's influences, it is dominated by devils — especially Ahriman (the chief devil of Zoroastrianism). Ahriman’s cardinal evil attribute is that he is “the supreme intellectual power: Ahriman.” — Rudolf Steiner, NATURE SPIRITS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1995), p. 167.

[14] As usual, Steiner presents a tangled narrative here, hard to follow. The third Christ Event came at the end of the Atlantean period. Its effect was to enable us to begin "thinking." By this, Steiner means abstract thought, intellect. It is "the power of so describing outer things in words ... [I]t was made possible for the power of speech to create, by means of words, actual signs representative of the external environment." Steiner taught that we need to develop the power of intellectual thought, but it is a dangerous power, and it does not really lead to truth. “The intellect destroys or hinders.” — Rudolf Steiner, WALDORF EDUCATION AND ANTHROPOSOPHY, Vol. 1 (Anthroposophic Press, 1995, p. 233. We must attain it and then proceed to higher forms of consciousness.

[15] Just as each child recapitulates the evolutionary history of humanity, evolutionary periods themselves recapitulate prior periods, with changes and improvements. Evolution, as Steiner described it, is a sort of spiral, or actually a series of spirals within spirals.

[16] Initiates are spiritual insiders who possess secret knowledge that is hidden from most other humans. Steiner presented himself as a premier initiate.

Building on Theosophy, Steiner surveyed spiritual traditions around the globe and throughout history, reshaping them so as to fit them into a single vision. Here we see him "explaining" ancient Egypt in terms of Anthroposophical doctrine. Steiner had a genius for systematization. Some people are impressed by the result, the intricate narrative Steiner developed. Others find it hollow or even deplorable, noting that Steiner changed the things he claimed to explain. Perhaps the foremost example is Christ. The Sun God Steiner describes bears very little resemblance to the Lord worshipped by mainstream Christians. "Occult clairvoyant research tells us that in our epoch Christ becomes the Lord of Karma for human evolution.” — Rudolf Steiner, FROM JESUS TO CHRIST (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2005), p. 47. 

[17] Having worked the pyramids into his narrative, Steiner now includes the Sphinx. This is a fair example of his usual technique. How much he has to change something to fit it into his system varies from case to case. Since religious and spiritualistic systems generally arise from the same human needs and impulses, sometimes the changes are minor. In other cases, they are very great.

[18] Steiner taught that the ancients didn't "think" because they were not highly evolved, but also because they didn't need to — they had natural clairvoyance. We can think now, and Steiner sometimes indicated this is a good thing — it is an evolutionary advance. However, we need to get beyond it. "Real" thoughts, for Steiner, are "living" thoughts that we do not create with our brains but that we receive from the spirit realm. Moreover, we may soon all rise to the same level as Steiner and attain "exact" clairvoyance, making thinking unnecessary. Certainly the use of the brain (usually deemed the part of us that thinks) has little value, and we will soon stop relying on it. “[T]he brain and nerve system have nothing at all to do with actual cognition....” — Rudolf Steiner, THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 60.

Note that while Steiner here speaks of "pictorial" thinking as a lower stage of thinking, at other times he said something different — "real" thinking is pictorial. "We must see that thinking is a pictorial activity which is based on the activities we experienced before birth." — Rudolf Steiner, THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 62. This is nearer his true opinion. He decried abstract, intellectual thinking; he advocated imagination, intuition, inspiration, clairvoyance: forms of "thought" that produce pictures, not words as such.

[19] When lecturing, Steiner often plugged his books. Perhaps he did so with the best of motives, informing his listeners where they can find the highest human wisdom.

[20] Again building on Theosophy, Steiner taught that the "ego" is our highest invisible body; it is a spark of divinity.

[21] Steiner says that Christ came to Earth (the Mystery of Golgotha, the event described in the Bible) to correct our thinking. This is the gnostic concept that Steiner embraced: Salvation comes not through faith or good works, but by the possession of secret "mystery" wisdom. (See "Gnosis".)

[22] "Salvation" comes through the possession of living thoughts, Steiner said.

[23] We currently live in the fifth Post-Atlantean epoch. In the coming epoch, the sixth, exact clairvoyance will be common. Steiner claimed to possess sixth-epoch capabilities during the fifth epoch.

[24] Moving beyond "mere thinking," we will rely on memory, specifically memory of our past lives, including those in the spirit realm, where truth (living thoughts) will be imbedded in us.

Some may be surprised to see Steiner assigning memory a higher place than thinking. He argued that both are uniquely human attributes — animals neither think nor remember. This is another of the innumerable points where his system diverges from recognizable reality. The mental capacities and memories of animals have been well documented. [See, e.g., "Steiner's Blunders".]

[25] This is Steiner's description of the "second coming" of Christ, which he said would happen not on the physical plane but on the "etheric" plane. Thus, it would be Christ's fifth coming. Christ came wholly down to the physical plane only once, according to Steiner

On other occasions, Steiner dated the second coming as being so imminent that, for us today, it should already have occurred.

[26] "Spiritual science" is Anthroposophy, and it is crucially important, according to its founder, Rudolf Steiner.

— Compilation and commentary by Roger Rawlings

Other intriguing lectures can be found in

[Anthroposophic Press, 1998.]