(…) “We keep Easter, the festival of Resurrection, but in our materialistic outlook we have long ago ceased caring whether or not we have a real understanding of the Resurrection. We set ourselves at enmity with the truth and we try to find all manner of ingenious ways of accepting the cosmic jest — for indeed it would be, or rather it is a jest that man should keep the festival of the Resurrection and at the same time put his whole faith in modern science which obviously can never make appeal to such a Resurrection. Materialism and the keeping of Easter — these are two things that cannot possibly belong together; they cannot possibly exist side by side. And the materialism of modern theology — that too is incompatible with the Easter festival. (…)
The only possible way in these days for man to unite a right feeling with Easter is for him to direct his thought in this connection to the world-catastrophe of his own time. For in very deed a world-catastrophe is upon us. I do not mean merely the catastrophe that happened in the recent years of the war, but I refer to that world-catastrophe which consists in the fact that men have lost all idea of the connection of the earthly with that which is beyond the earth. The time has come when man must realise with full and clear consciousness that super-sensible knowledge has now to arise out of the grave of the materialistic outlook. For together with super-sensible knowledge will arise the knowledge of Christ Jesus. In point of fact, man has no other symbol that fits the Easter festival than this — that mankind has brought upon itself the doom of being crucified upon the cross of its own materialism. But man must do something himself before there arises from the grave of human materialism all that can come from super-sensible knowledge.
The very striving after super-sensible knowledge is itself an Easter deed, it is something which gives man the right once more to keep Easter. Look up to the full moon and feel how the full moon is connected with man in its phenomena, and how the reflection of the sun is connected with the moon, and then meditate on the need today to go in search of a true self-knowledge which can show forth man as a reflection of the super-sensible. If man knows himself to be a reflection of the super-sensible, if he recognises how he is formed and constituted out of the super-sensible, then he will also find the way to come to the super-sensible. At bottom, it is arrogance and pride that find expression in the materialistic view of the world. It is human pride, manifesting in a strange way! Man does not want to be a reflection of the divine and spiritual, he wants to be merely the highest of the animals. There he is the highest. But the point is, among what sort of beings is he the highest? This pride leads man to recognise nothing beyond himself. If the natural scientific outlook on the world were to be true to itself, it would have the mission of impressing this fact again and again upon man: You are the highest of all the beings of which you can form an idea. The ultimate consequences of the point of view that sets out to be strictly scientific, are such as to make a man turn pale when they show him on what kind of moral groundwork they are based — all unconscious though he may be of it. The truth is, we are today living in a time when Christ Jesus is being crucified in a very special sense. He is being put to death in the field of knowledge. And until men come to see how the present way of knowledge, clinging as it does to the senses and to them alone, is nothing but a grave of knowledge out of which a resurrection must take place — until they see this, they will not be able to lift themselves up to experiences in thought and feeling that partake of a true Easter character.
This is the thought that we should carry in our hearts and minds today. We still have with us the tradition of an Easter festival that is supposed to be celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon of spring. The tradition we have, but the right to celebrate such a festival — that we have not, who live in present-day civilisation.
How can we acquire this right again? We must take the thought of Christ Jesus lying in the grave, of Christ Jesus Who at Easter time vanquishes the stone that has been rolled over His grave — we must take this thought and unite it with the other thought which I have indicated. For the soul of man should feel the purely external, mechanistic knowledge like a tombstone rolled upon him; and he must exert himself to overcome the pressure of this knowledge, he must find the possibility, not to make confession of his faith in the words: ‘Not I, but the fully developed animal in me,’ but to have the right to say: ‘Not I, but Christ in me.’ ”
This extract comes from the lecture given on April 2nd1920 in Dornach.
With thanks to James Stewart and the invaluable Rudolf Steiner Archive.