THE POSSIBILITIES OF DEVELOPMENT
IN EASTERN CHRISTIANITY
One of the most important experiences that can be had amongst the peoples of Eastern
Europe is that in those countries an intensive participation of the soul in the life of the Church is no hindrance
to the taking up of Rudolf Steiner's spiritual science. No conflict arises in the souls of those people who, on
the one hand through destiny and inner propensity, are strongly connected with everything that belongs to the life
of the Eastern Church, and on the other, have turned with the same devotion towards anthroposophical life. It is
even possible -- apart from various outer situations to observe the opposite : Not only does the coexistence of
Anthroposophy with Eastern Christianity not cause any conflict in the souls of honest, unprejudiced people ; but
rather it tends to cause an inner security in the whole soul-life of such people. Out of this there develops a
soul-life which combines clarity of thought with warm open-heartedness and a naturalness of the whole personality.
So we can say : In the realm of the soul, Anthroposophy is wedded with the spirit of Eastern Christianity. Through this marriage there arises something just as positive as arises through the marriage of a truly scientific attitude of mind with Anthroposophy. For just as the meeting between a scientific outlook and the communications of spiritual investigation creates no conflict in the soul, so such religious convictions meeting with anthroposophical truths create no conflict.
Now a religious conviction of this kind that keeps the heart open for the truths of spiritual science is, in spite of all, still existent in Eastern Christianity ; for there was in it up to the very recent times, always more love of Christ than anything else. The essence of the life of Eastern Christianity was the inner communing of men with the actually present Christ. This communing and this love of Christ was held to be more significant overall than problems of dogma and organization, for the essential difference between Greek and Roman Catholicism lies primarily in the fact that dogma and organization play quite a different role. A fact that can be observed everywhere is that the Greek Christian does not fee] himself bound in his thinking to definite forms ; it is no sin for him to think freely. The faithful Roman Christian, on the other hand, merely through the face of belonging to the Roman Church, is duty bound to a particular kind of chinking laid down by the Church leaders. The thinking of the Catholic has to submit to the orders of the "infallible" official teaching in Rome. The infallibility dogma, decreed from Rome, is a final break with the free spiritual life.' It is no longer compatible to think freely and to be a Catholic. In the Eastern Church it is still compatible. Personalities such as Soloviev and Dostoyevsky were free in their thinking, and yet absolutely Orthodox. This was only possible because the dogma was not really grasped intellectually. It hovered in the heights of heaven, high above the level of the intellect. And therefore it did not pressure the intellect -- it is actually more the object of an upward-gazing contemplation than an ordinance for thinking. In the East the dogma did not crystalize out as thought alongside other thoughts. It remained 'hovering' at a certain supra-thought level, without descending into the realm of intellectual chinking, as if awaiting men -- with their faculties of comprehension -- to grow upwards toward it. The dogma was experienced, for instance by Soloviev, not as an ordinance, but as a goal for thinking. For him the Nicean Creed, for example, (which by the way is not spoken in the Church, but sung) was not to prohibit other modes of thought, but rather a call to research, a stimulus for independent cognition. And this stimulus, in his case, has the best possible results. For in him we have a man who ascended in his chinking co a comprehension of Christianity, without, in the process, estranging himself from the spirit of the Eastern Church.
Because the dogma in the East was preserved at a certain starry height, it does not work coercively on thinking as is the case in Catholicism (and also in Protestantism) ; but rather it leaves a free space for the intellect. During the millennia of her development, the Eastern Church had little interest in the intellectual. She had the feeling that the teachings of Christianity were exalted above human opinions. The source out of which the convincing efficacy of Christian truths should flow into the souls of men cannot be sought either in the realm of argument, nor in authoritative ordinances ; but rather in the immediate influence of Christ Himself. The Church is the place where one communes with Christ. And all men have a right to this communing, the laymen as well as the Patriarch. No representative of Christ is needed on earth, no "throne of Peter", because Christ has risen and lives with us even until the end of time. And the actually present Christ was loved by many people in the East -- nor merely believed in, but loved. This love has always been the true inner life of Eastern Christianity.
Neither the Bible, nor Church tradition, are the essence which Eastern Christianity is based upon ; rather it is based on the love of Christ. And why a free spirit still holds sway there is because nothing in the world can compel one to love. Love arises in freedom. The magic breach, the unspeakable beauty of the Christ Figure, is the source from which conviction of the truth of Christianity streams into the souls of men. It is this immediate breach which makes up the true life of Eastern Christianity. Moreover, it is also true that in Russia there is no doubting of Christ's existence. He is either loved or hated there. Even the godless Bolshevik movement is, in its true soul depths, far from doubting the reality of Christ. What provides the thrusting power of that movement, what fires its ardor, is certainly not doubt. It is hate -- the fiery will to destroy this Christ breath. One does not "doubt" what one hates with all one's soul. One is not "skeptical" regarding what one is determined to kill.
Now it is none the less true that all prominent representatives of Russian spiritual life (to the extent that they are truly representative ) had the consciousness deep in their souls chat Christ lives. Not only Dostoyevsky, Soloviev, and Tolstoy, but there are also less significant representatives of Russian spiritual life who live today, and who all have, each in his own way, a relationship to Christ. Dostoyevsky's striving to understand and describe the battle of Christ with the dark forces in men, Soloviev's striving to foster knowledge of Christ through his sophianic philosophy, Tolstoi's yearning to make outer life an expression of Christ -- these impulses of the great ones go on working even today, and are elaborated by a whole series of personalities (unfortunately sometimes in a most fruitless direction). What Dostoyevsky through his life's work sent flowing into the human feeling by violently stirring it and awakening it for the cask of modern man ; that to which Soloviev strove to lead thinking in free cognition ; what Tolstoy (not as thinker, but as a striving person) brought into the world as a mighty impulse for the will -- this was simply and solely the Christ presence close behind the souls of these three.
And when we ask the question as to the possibilities of the development of Christianity, we must not seek the answer in the abstract, but in real life. And real life gives us in answer to our question three life stories of outstanding, characteristically representative personalities of Eastern Christianity. Dostoyevsky, Soloviev and Tolstoy are in fact figures of the greatest possible significance for the development of Eastern Christianity. They are fit to cell us in the language of reality what are the paths of thinking, feeling and willing of a Christianity tested by experience and pursued in the East.
However, before we take up that subject (which we will do in the next essay) we must first direct our attention towards the other essential difference between Eastern Christianity and Catholicism. We have spoken above of one difference -- the significance of dogma. Now it is a question of gaining insight into the difference of their relationships to the realm of organization ; specifically, Church organization. For as in the East, dogma hovers in the heights and religious life consists not in a particular Creed but in direct Communion with the Christ Being ; so also is the Church in the East more supersensible than organizational. Her power lies not in her outer organized structure, but in a spiritual being whose name is Sophia.
If we would understand the true significance of the "Church" (as in the East it is more or less clearly grasped), we will have to concern ourselves with things which are very hard to force into sharply outlined concepts. But this much can at least be clearly grasped by thought : that the outer Church is only the body, in and above which live both a soul and a spirit.'
( To avoid misconceptions, readers may be reminded here that the Eastern Church only recognises seven Ecumenical Councils, and therefore the decisions of the eighth Council, from which followed the negation of the Spirit as an independent principle alongside soul and body, have, for the Eastern Church, not the significance of a dogma, but merely of an"opinion", with regard to which a person may freely take his own stand.)
The body of the Church is the outer organization which is founded on the threefold basis of the Creed, the Seven Sacraments, and the Hierarchy who are called to fulfill these Sacraments. This body is fragile and imperfect (not in its form as Creed, Sacraments, and Hierarchy, but in its substance : the men who fill out this form). But there lives in this body its soul, and there works in it its spirit. Sophia is the soul of the Church, the Being of Wisdom, who cannot be possessed by a single human being because she can only reveal herself to the community of human beings. And Christ is the spirit of the Church. Sophia, as the soul of the Church, belongs at the same time to the Being of Christ. She is the breath which goes out from the Being of Christ and is directly received by souls. She is the effective radiance around Christ, the aura of his Being. At the same time, however, she is an independent being whose image is Mary, the Mother of God.
This conception -- that Sophia is on the one hand the aura of Christ, but is on the other hand Mary, an independent being -- explains the almost uncomprehended fact that, for instance in Icon pictures, both Christ and Mary are represented as Sophia. For they are members of one Being.
And a further member of the same Being is also the visible Community. But this is a member which belongs to the realm of death and suffering.
So now we might ask : Should not this extended body have to take the same path as was taken by the human body of Jesus of Nazareth ? Should it not also go through suffering and death in order to resurrect as a new body, as Spirit body ? Have we -- in the case of Eastern Christianity -- not only an ideal analogy before us, but also an analogy of destiny, a repetition of the Path? Do we not see chat Eastern Christianity, which has remained essentially true to the Spirit of Christianity, is taking a Path of Suffering which is leading to the death of its body, the Church ? And do we not hear out of the West how -- in a thousand ways -- there come cries from those who pass by unconcerned, cries to the crucified Eastern Christianity : "Save thyself, and come down from the Cross !" ?
Yes, and furthermore, already the lots are being cast (by certain "secret" societies who have their own special plans) for the garments of the not yet dead one.
The body of Eastern Christianity is being destroyed. We can expect that it will be destroyed. It is heading for death. But it is not the death of old age, of exhaustion --it is a martyrdom.
This death is a Path. And since this path was taken, it will lead to its goal. After suffering and death, follows resurrection. therein lies the possibilities of development of Eastern Christianity.