Christianity as Mystical Fact and the Mysteries of Antiquity
Written 1902 (CW 8)
“As simultaneously mysticism and fact, Christianity is a breakthrough in the historical development of humanity for which the mysteries, with the results that they brought about, form a prior evolutionary stage.” —Rudolf Steiner
During the fall and winter of 1901–02, Steiner gave a series of lectures called “Christianity as Mystical Fact” to members of the Theosophical Society. The lectures were rewritten and issued as a book later that year. They mark a watershed in the development of Western esotericism. Steiner wrote of the idea behind his book:
“The title Christianity As Mystical Fact was one I gave to this work eight years ago, when I gathered together the content of lectures given in 1902. It was meant to indicate the special approach adopted in the book. Its theme is not just the mystical side of Christianity in a historical presentation. It was meant to show, from the standpoint of a mystical awareness, how Christianity came into being.
“Behind this was the idea that spiritual happenings were factors in the emergence of Christianity, which could only be observed from such a point of view. It is for the book itself to demonstrate that, by ‘mystical,’ I do not in any way imply a vague intuition rather than strict scientific argument. In many circles, mysticism is understood as just that, and therefore it is distinguished from the concerns of all ‘genuine’ science.
“In this book, however, I use the term to mean a ‘presentation of spiritual reality’—a reality accessible only to a knowledge drawn from the sources of spiritual life itself. Anyone who denies the possibility of such knowledge in principle will find its contents hard to comprehend; any reader who accepts the idea that mysticism may coexist with the clarity of the natural sciences, may acknowledge that the mystical aspect of Christianity must be described mystically.”
This is a significant book—for Steiner’s own development, that of Western esotericism, and our own understanding of the Christ event. Readers will find the evolutionary development from the ancient Mysteries through the great Greek philosophers to the events portrayed in the Gospels.
Included are an informative introduction and annotated notes by Andrew Welburn and an afterword by Michael Debus, a priest of The Christian Community, who summarizes the book and places it in context.
Introduction by Christopher Bamford
Preface by Andrew Welburn
1. The Mysteries and Mysteriosophy
2. The Mysteries and Pre-Socratic Philosophy
3. Platonic Mysteries
4. Myth and Mysteriosophy
5. The Egyptian and Other Eastern Mysteries
6. The Evidence of the Gospels
7. The “Miracle” of Lazarus
8. The Apocalypse of John
6. Jesus in His Historical Setting
10. The Essence of Christianity
11. Christian and Pagan Wisdom
12. Augustine and the Church
Appendix: Original Prefaces and Additional Materials
Afterword by Michael Debus
This Collected Works edition contains a new introduction, a chronology of Rudolf Steiner’s life, and an index. German edition: «Das Christentum als mystische Tatsache und die Mysterien des Altertum» Cover image: Photo of Bordeaux Cathedral by James Nicholls.
About the Author
Rudolf Steiner (1861–1925) was born in the small village of Kraljevec, Austro-Hungarian Empire (now in Croatia), where he grew up (see right). As a young man, he lived in Weimar and Berlin, where he became a well-published scientific, literary, and philosophical scholar, known especially for his work with Goethe’s scientific writings. At the beginning of the twentieth century, he began to develop his early philosophical principles into an approach to systematic research into psychological and spiritual phenomena. Formally beginning his spiritual teaching career under the auspices of the Theosophical Society, Steiner came to use the term Anthroposophy (and spiritual science) for his philosophy, spiritual research, and findings. The influence of Steiner’s multifaceted genius has led to innovative and holistic approaches in medicine, various therapies, philosophy, religious renewal, Waldorf education, education for special needs, threefold economics, biodynamic agriculture, Goethean science, architecture, and the arts of drama, speech, and eurythmy. In 1924, Rudolf Steiner founded the General Anthroposophical Society, which today has branches throughout the world. He died in Dornach, Switzerland.
Christopher Bamford is Editor in Chief for SteinerBooks and its imprints. A Fellow of the Lindisfarne Association, he has lectured, taught, and written widely on Western spiritual and esoteric traditions. He is the author of The Voice of the Eagle: The Heart of Celtic Christianity (1990) and An Endless Trace: The Passionate Pursuit of Wisdom in the West (2003). He has also translated and edited numerous books, including Celtic Christianity: Ecology and Holiness (1982); Homage to Pythagoras: Rediscovering Sacred Science; and The Noble Traveller: The Life and Writings of O. V. de L. Milosz (all published by Lindisfarne Books). HarperSanFrancisco included an essay by Mr. Bamford in its anthology Best Spiritual Writing 2000.
Andrew Welburn is a fellow of New College, Oxford. He has written, translated, and edited numerous books on spiritual science and early Christianity, including The Beginnings of Christianity: Essene Mystery, Gnostic Revelation and the Christian Vision (1991); Gnosis: The Mysteries and Christianity (1994); and Myth of the Nativity: The Virgin Birth Re-examined (2006).
Michael Debus is a leader of The Christian Community seminary in Stuttgart.