The Damascus experience led Paul of Tarsus to an encounter with the risen Christ on the way to Damascus. This convinced him that in Jesus of Nazareth the Messiah (Greek: Χριστός Christós "the anointed one") expected in Jewish tradition had indeed already appeared on Earth. Paul, who until then had relentlessly persecuted the followers of the Christ out of "zeal for the law", then became the apostle of Jesus Christ.
In the Acts of the Apostles, Paul's Damascus experience and its immediate consequences are described in detail:
- The Conversion of Saul
1 But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. 3 Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. 4 And falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” 5 And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. 6 But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” 7 The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. 8 Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. 9 And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank. 10 Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” 11 And the Lord said to him, “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, 12 and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” 13 But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. 14 And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.” 15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. 16 For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” 17 So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized;
- Saul Proclaims Jesus in Synagogues
19 and taking food, he was strengthened. For some days he was with the disciples at Damascus. 20 And immediately he proclaimed Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.” 21 And all who heard him were amazed and said, “Is not this the man who made havoc in Jerusalem of those who called upon this name? And has he not come here for this purpose, to bring them bound before the chief priests?” 22 But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Christ.
In two other passages in Acts (Acts 22:6–16 and Acts 26:12ff) the Damascus experience is described as Paul's own account. Paul also describes the encounter with the Risen Lord several times in his letters (Gal 1:15ff; Phil 3:7ff; 1 Cor 15:8f).
„What was it then that Paul, as Saul, persecuted the Christ-followers? It was because Paul, as Saul, had learned to recognise in the ancient Hebrew initiation: the Christ lives only outside in the cosmos, and those are in error who claim that the Christ lives in the earth. When Paul had his enlightenment before Damascus, he first learned that he was in error, because he only believed what had been true before. But what had formerly been true had now become different, what had formerly dwelt only in the sun had descended to the earth and henceforth lived in the forces of the earth. And so, for those who first made it known to men, the Mystery of Golgotha was not an earth event alone, but a world event; a world event which in the first post-Christian times was taught by the actual initiates in the following manner.
They were so deeply initiated, these first Christian initiates, that they knew: The Christ who appears today as the Being who passed through the Mystery of Golgotha in the beginning of the age, the Christ descended to the Sun from still further heights, there Zarathustra beheld Him. Then his power passed into the rays of the sun, and he was seen by the Egyptian initiates. Then his power lived in the circle of the earth, and the Greek initiates saw him. Now he is to be seen as he himself walked among men as a being with an earthly body, now he is to be seen in such a way that one beholds his right form in the Risen One, in him who is in the earth, who has seen the mystery of the earth, who can now gradually let this mystery flow over into the development of mankind.“ (Lit.:GA 211, p. 187)
Krishna and St. Paul's Damascus Experience
The sister soul of Adam remained in the soul world after the Fall as an angelic being. From the beginning, it was in close relationship with the Christ, who worked through it and was thus able to accomplish the preliminary stages of the Mystery of Golgotha. Shortly before the dawn of the Kali-Yuga, the dark age in which natural clairvoyance was extinguished in most people, she appeared in the form of Krishna, through whom Vishnu-Christ revealed himself. At the turn of the age, she was born on earth as the Nathanian Jesus boy, whose bodily wrappings made possible the bodily incarnation of the Christ with the Jordan baptism.
„Now the same Jesus boy of whom the Gospel of Luke tells us, is first of all the embodiment of this same soul, which never dwelt in a human body before, but is nevertheless a human soul, because it was a human soul during the old Lemurian time, in which our actual evolution began. It is the same soul that revealed itself as Krishna. Thus we have what the Krishna impulse means, the impulse to human self-consciousness, embodied in the body of the Luke Jesus boy. That which was embodied there is related to the forces which are dormant in childhood, in such innocence, before they awaken as sexual forces. In the Jesus boy of St. Luke they can be active and manifest themselves up to this age, when the human being otherwise enters sexual maturity. The body of the Jesus boy, which was taken from the general humanity that had descended into the incarnations, would no longer have suited the forces that are related to the fair, innocent sexual forces in the child. Therefore the soul which is in the other Jesus boy and which, as most of our dear friends know, is the Zarathustra soul, that is, a soul which has progressed from incarnation to incarnation and which has just reached its height through special work within many incarnations, therefore this Zarathustra soul passes over into the body of the Luke Jesus boy and from then on - as you will find it described in my book "The Spiritual Guidance of Man and Humanity" - is connected with this body of the Luke Jesus boy. There we touch a wonderful mystery. There we see how the human soul enters into a human body, into the body of the Luke Jesus boy, as it was before the human being went down into the earthly series of incarnations. Then we understand that this soul could only rule in the human body until the twelfth year of this body, and we understand that then another soul, which has gone through all the transformations of humanity, like the soul of Zarathustra, must take possession of this special body. The marvellous thing happens that that which is innermost in man, his actual self, which we have seen spoken of as Krishna, have seen flashing up as an impulse in the Krishna impulse, permeates the Jesus boy who is described to us in the Gospel of Luke. Those forces are in it which are the innermost forces of humanity. We can also call them the Krishna forces, for we know their origin. What I drew in the previous lecture, as it were without a root, this Krishna-root reaches up into Lemurian times, into human primeval times. It was connected with humanity at a time before the physical evolution of humanity began. This root, these Krishna forces coming together, uniting in the indeterminate, then worked so that the human interior unfolded, developed from within. Concretely, in the interior of an individual being, this root is present in the boy Luke Jesus, grows up and remains active under the surface of existence after the Zarathustra soul has moved into this particular human body. Then, at that moment which is described in the Bible by the baptism of John, that is, in the thirtieth year of this peculiar human body, that which now belongs to the whole of humanity comes to this body. At the moment which is signified by the voice: "This is my much-loved Son, today I have begotten him", the Christ now approaches the physical from the other side. Here we have the moment: in the body that stands before us we have concretely that which we yesterday considered abstractly. What belongs to the whole of humanity approaches this body, which contains within itself that which, from another impulse, has brought to the highest ideal the individual forces of the human interior, which man still wants to unfold.“ (Lit.:GA 146, p. 119ff)
It was also through the light of this sister soul of Adam that Paul of Tarsus recognised the Risen Christ during his Damascus experience.
„What was it actually, why was Paul able to perceive the Christ in the way he appeared to him before Damascus? Why was there in it for Paul the certainty: This is the risen Christ? This question leads us back to another question: What was necessary for the whole Christ-being to enter into Jesus of Nazareth at that event which is indicated to us as the baptism of John in the Jordan? - Well, we have just said what was necessary in order to prepare that physicality into which the Christ Being was to descend. But what was necessary for the Risen One to appear as densely spiritual as he appeared to Paul? What was the light in which the Christ appeared to Paul before Damascus? What was it? Where was it taken from?
If we want to answer this question, then we have to add a few things to what I have just said. I told you that there was, as it were, a sister soul of the Adam soul that entered into the human generation sequence. This sister soul remained in the spiritual world. It was this sister soul that was incarnated in the Luke Jesus boy. But it was not incarnated for the first time like a physical human being in the strict sense of the word, but it had already been prophetically incarnated once before. In the past, this soul was also used as a messenger of the sacred mysteries. I have told you that it moved in the Mysteries, was nurtured and cared for in the Mysteries, so to speak, and was sent out where there were important things in humanity. But it could only be present as an apparition in the etheric body, and could therefore in the strict sense only be perceived as long as the old clairvoyance was present. But this was present in earlier times. So this old sister soul of Adam did not need to reach the physical body in order to be seen. So it really did appear, sent by the impulses of the Mysteries, repeatedly within the evolution of humanity on earth, whenever important things had to be done in the evolution of the earth. But she did not need to embody herself in ancient times, because clairvoyance was there.
It needed to embody itself for the first time when clairvoyance was to be overcome in the transition of human development from the third to the fourth post-Atlantean age, which we spoke of yesterday. There it took on, as it were, a substitute embodiment, an embodiment in order to be able to assert itself in the time when clairvoyance was no longer there. This sister soul of Adam was embodied in Krishna, so to speak, the only time it had to appear in order to become physically visible, and then again it was embodied in the Jesus boy of Luke. So that we now understand why Krishna speaks in such a superhuman way, why he is the best teacher for the human I, why he represents, so to speak, an overcoming of the I, why he appears so soul-sublime: because he appears as the human being in that sublime moment which we let appear before our soul a few days ago, as the human being who is not yet submerged in the human incarnations.
Then he appears again to be embodied in the Jesus boy of Luke. Hence the perfection that comes about when the most important world views of Asia unite in the twelve-year-old Jesus boy, the Zarathustra I with the Krishna spirit. It is not only Zarathustra who speaks to the teachers in the temple - he speaks as I - but he speaks with the means with which Krishna once proclaimed yoga; he speaks about a yoga which has again been raised one step higher; he unites with the Krishna-power, with Krishna himself, in order to grow up to the age of thirty. And only then do we have that complete corporeality which can be taken into possession by the Christ. This is how the spiritual currents of humanity flow together. Thus we really have, since the Mystery of Golgotha takes place, a collaboration of the most important leaders of humanity, a synthesis of spiritual life.
When Paul had his apparition before Damascus, that which appeared to him was the Christ. The light in which the Christ is clothed is Krishna. And because the Christ has taken Krishna as his own soul-sheath, through which he then continues to work, contained in that which shines forth is also in the Christ all that was once the content of the sublime Gita.“ (Lit.:GA 142, p. 120ff)
- Rudolf Steiner: Die Bhagavad Gita und die Paulusbriefe, GA 142 (1982), ISBN 3-7274-1420-0 English: rsarchive.org German: pdf pdf(2) html mobi epub archive.org
- Rudolf Steiner: Die okkulten Grundlagen der Bhagavad Gita, GA 146 (1992), ISBN 3-7274-1460-X English: rsarchive.org German: pdf pdf(2) html mobi epub archive.org
- Rudolf Steiner: Das Sonnenmysterium und das Mysterium von Tod und Auferstehung, GA 211 (1986), ISBN 3-7274-2110-X English: rsarchive.org German: pdf pdf(2) html mobi epub archive.org
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