in the Light of the Gospel of St. Matthew by Rudolf Steiner
Published by Rudolf Steiner Press, London in 1985
Book Notes by Bobby Matherne ©1995
In this paean to the evolution of consciousness, Steiner devotes much of the three lectures
he gave in Berlin (1909) to the story of Abraham. Steiner lines up for us the following co-incidences: the two-horned Ram, the two-petalled lotus, the third-eye chakra, and the power of
clairvoyance, then explains how Abraham, the first possessor of reasoned consciousness, was to
father an entire people through his son only after sacrificing the gift of clairvoyance (represented by
the Ram) in his son's place. After that anyone who sees directly into the spiritual world is cast out,
as happens to Joseph. In Egypt, where such gifts were still a common human capability, Joseph was
sought out by the Pharaoh. With Joseph's clairvoyance and inherited gift of reasoning from
Abraham, he became the most powerful man in Egypt next to the Pharaoh. Later in the time of
Moses the dual gifts of clairvoyance and logical reasoning were united in the entire Hebrew people,
and they were at last able to leave Egypt. (Notice also that Abraham's substitution of a lamb for his
son in a sacrifice presaged the Sacrifice of the Mass today, in which the priest as Lamb of God
offers a wafer of bread and says to us, "This is my Body -- take it and eat.")
Abraham has two sons, Ishmael by Hagar (Sarah's handmaiden) and Israel by Sarah.
Ishmael was cast out into the desert where he infused the race of Arabs with the blood of Abraham.
Later the spirit of Ishmael returns in the form of the Law that Moses receives from Mount Sinai
which is the same word in Hebrew as Hagar. From Israel and Sarah came the faculties of the blood,
from Ishmael and Hagar came the Law of Moses.
In the hairy Esau, whose inheritance the smooth-skinned Jacob obtained in a reasoned
bargain, we see the residue of the old paradigm, a way of being that like Esau, must be cast out as
we near the time of Christ. The sect of the Nazarenes ate carob beans (called locusts in the Bible)
and wild honey while allowing their hair to grow long so that they could see directly the spiritual
world as Esau did.
In the desert the Nazarene John was baptizing all comers in water. Steiner points out that
near drowning, the etheric body is loosened from the physical body, where it has been confined
since the advent of rational thinking in the person of Abraham. Thus the cry of John the Baptist,
"Repent Ye!" may be understood as "Change the tenor of your minds!" That admonition, followed
by a loosening of the etheric body, produced a powerful change in the lives of those baptized. John
attacked the Pharisees, descendants of Ishmael, and warned them that in a true baptism, they will
experience their etheric body as the "Lamb of God" and not as the "Serpent", as their ancestors had
As Steiner closed these lectures he said:
These are but fragmentary contributions towards an understanding of the mission of the Hebrew people. Only when we fully understand this mission can we begin to comprehend the majestic figure of Christ-Jesus as presented to us in the Gospel of St. Matthew.