Jordan baptism

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Jordan Baptism (Visegrád Codex, 1085, Prague)
Icon of the Baptism of Jesus
The baptism of Jesus in the Jordan, depiction from the Hortus Deliciarum of Herrad of Landsberg, c. 1175

With Jordan baptism (also baptism of Jesus), which took place near Bethany[1], situated on the eastern bank of the Jordan, at almost the lowest point of the solid earth[2], the Christ moved into the threefold earthly shell of Jesus of Nazareth, consisting of physical body, etheric body and astral body, in order to live on earth from then on for three years.

„28 These things took place in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing. 29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’ 31 I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.” 32 And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 33 I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me: ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.“

Through his spiritual-scientific research, Rudolf Steiner had come to the conclusion that around the turning point of time, not one, but two Jesus boys had been born, the Nathanian and the Solomonic Jesus, both descended from the lineage of David. A clear indication of this is given by the two very different birth narratives in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. In neither of these two Jesus boys did the I of the Christ initially dwell. At the age of 12, the I of the Solomonic Jesus, who according to Rudolf Steiner was the reborn Zarathustra, passed into the body of the Nathanian Jesus, in order to prepare until his thirtieth year for the great act of sacrifice with which he surrendered his body-shells to the incarnating Christ. Steiner was well aware that these insights could appear strange or even offensive:

„For many people, what spiritual science has to say about the Christ Being is particularly offensive. And yet this too is only based on a misunderstanding. If, for example, someone says that spiritual science maintains that Jesus did not mature into the Christ from a young age under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, but that in the first thirty years of his life he only prepared the bodily shell into which the Christ settled at his baptism by John, he distorts the results of spiritual science on this point. Spiritual science investigates what actually happened through John's baptism, which, according to the Bible, is undoubtedly an important event in the life of Jesus. (There are translators of the Gospel who reproduce the important passage in Luke: "This is my much beloved Son; today I have begotten him".[3]) And this research finds that the Christ-Spirit, which guided Jesus of Nazareth until his thirtieth year as if from without, then moved into the innermost part of his being in that year. Biblical research in the future will certainly recognise that on this very point the Gospel, too, does not prove the opponents of spiritual science to be right, but this one.“ (Lit.:GA 35, p. 167f)

The Christ, the Divine Word of Creation (Honover according to Persian tradition) is the same being of whom it says in the Old Testament: "And the Spirit of God brooded upon the waters." (Genesis 1:2). To the imaginative vision, the spiritual of Jesus, which detaches itself from the body with the baptism of the Jordan, shows itself in the form of the white dove.

„Thus the I of Zarathustra, the highest ascended human I, could be chosen to dwell for 18 years in the sheaths which were then to receive the Christ. His I left the shells shortly before John's baptism in the Jordan. Thus he was not present in the flesh when the Christ walked on earth. Zarathustra himself incarnated soon after leaving the three shells of Jesus of Nazareth; his I united with the etheric body of the Solomonic Jesus, which at his death had been taken into the spiritual world by the mother of the Nathanian Jesus.“ (Lit.:GA 264, p. 231)

„Anthroposophical research shows that a view which was also alive in early Christianity is correct: the deeper connection of the cosmic Christ-being with the man Jesus of Nazareth came about only in the thirtieth year of this human life, and that through the baptismal event.“ (Lit.: Hans-Werner Schroeder, The Cosmic Christ, p. 142)

„When Jesus of Nazareth was thirty years old, he had also come so far through what he had experienced in his incarnation at that time that he could carry out a process which can be carried out in exceptional cases. We know that the human being consists of a physical body, an etheric body, an astral body and an I. This four-membered human being is the human being who lives among us. When man has reached a certain level of development, it is possible for him at a certain point in time to take his I out of the three bodies and leave them intact as completely healed bodies. This I then goes into the spiritual world and the three bodies remain behind. We sometimes encounter this process in the evolution of the world. In some human being there is a particularly high, rapturous moment, which may extend over a longer period of time. Then the I leaves, goes into the spiritual world; and because the three bodies are so highly developed through the I that was in them, they are useful tools for an even higher being that takes possession of them. In the thirtieth year of Jesus of Nazareth, that being which we have called the Christ took possession of his physical body, etheric body and astral body. This Christ being could not incarnate in an ordinary child's womb, but only in a body that was first prepared for this by a highly developed I. For this Christ being had never before been incarnated in a physical body. From the thirtieth year onwards we have to do with the Christ in Jesus of Nazareth.

What had occurred there in truth? In truth, this physicality of Jesus of Nazareth, which he had left behind, was so mature, so complete, that the Solar Logos, the essence of the six Elohim, as we have described it as the spiritual essence of the Sun, could penetrate into it. It could incarnate for three years in this corporeality, could become flesh. The Sun Logos, who can shine into the human being through enlightenment, he himself, the Holy Spirit, enters, the world I, the cosmic I enters, and from then on the Sun Logos speaks out of the Jesus body during these three years. The Christ speaks out of the body of Jesus during the three years. This process is indicated in the Gospel of John and also in the other Gospels as the descent of the dove, the Holy Spirit, on Jesus of Nazareth. In esoteric Christianity it is said that at this moment the I of Jesus of Nazareth leaves his body and that henceforth the Christ-Spirit is in him, speaking out of him to teach and to work. This is the first event that happens, in the sense of the Gospel of John. Now we have the Christ in the astral body, etheric body and physical body of Jesus of Nazareth.“ (Lit.:GA 103, p. 206f)

Rudolf Steiner compares the entry of the Christ into the body of the Nathanian Jesus, who had been abandoned by the I of Zarathustra, with the process of conception in earthly human beings. One may speak here in the highest sense of an immaculate conception:

„Let us start, in order to arrive at some clarity, from what is usually called the baptism of John in the Jordan. It is presented in the Fifth Gospel, in relation to the earthly life of the Christ, as something like a conception in an earthly man. We can understand the life of the Christ from then until the Mystery of Golgotha if we compare it with the life that the human germ undergoes in the womb of the mother. So it is, so to speak, a germinal life of the Christ being that this being goes through from the baptism of John to the Mystery of Golgotha. We must understand the Mystery of Golgotha itself as the earthly birth, that is, the death of Jesus as the earthly birth of the Christ. And we must look for his actual life on earth after the Mystery of Golgotha, since the Christ had his contact, as I indicated yesterday, with the Apostles, when these Apostles were in a kind of other state of consciousness. That was what followed the actual birth of the Christ Being. And what is described as the Ascension and the subsequent outpouring of the Spirit, we must understand in the case of the Christ Being as that which we are accustomed to regard in human death as the entry into the spiritual worlds. And we must compare the further life of the Christ in the earthly sphere since the Ascension or since the Pentecostal event with what the human soul experiences when it is in the so-called Devachan, in the spirit-land.“ (Lit.:GA 148, p. 41)

At the baptism of the Jordan, the Christ became more intimately united with the bodily vessels than had ever been possible before for a human being. The incarnation went so far that the Christ was able to gain conscious dominion over all the bodily vessels, even into the inner processes of the bone system. This had not been possible before even for the highest initiates. Thus the conditions were given by which the Christ could overcome death for himself and for all humanity, for the form of the bone system conquers death in the physical sense when it is consciously grasped. This fact is of supreme importance for the whole evolution of the earth: Man first acquired the form of the bone system, which ultimately determines his whole human form, on earth, not on the earlier planetary stages of world evolution, but he would lose it again because of the destructive after-effects of the Fall, had not the Christ descended into a human body. Man would not be able to take anything with him into the future as the fruit of earthly development if the Christ had not seized the bone system from within and thus supplied the form shape of man, the phantom, with its healing powers.

With the baptism in the Jordan, when the infinite fullness of the cosmic Christ descended into the earthly body of Jesus, this could not remain without effects in the environment of Jesus. The first and most immediate effect was that the Mother of the Solomonic Jesus became in a certain sense virginal again in her inner organisation. (Lit.:GA 112, p. 178ff)

„Then also the immortal of the original mother of the Nathanian Jesus descended again, and changed that mother which was received into the house of the Nathanian Joseph, and made her virgin again, so that the soul of that mother, whom the Jesus had lost, was restored to him at the baptism of John. This mother, therefore, who remained to him, contains within herself the soul of his original mother, who is called in the Bible the Blessed Mary (Luke 1:28).“ (Lit.:GA 114, p. 112)

„The following presents itself to the spiritual researcher: At the same moment that this baptism took place in the Jordan, the Mother also felt something like the end of her transformation. She felt - she was then in the forty-fifth, forty-sixth year of her life - she felt all at once as if she were permeated by the soul of that mother who was the mother of the Jesus boy who had received the Zarathustra I in his twelfth year and who had died. Just as the Spirit of the Christ had descended upon Jesus of Nazareth, the spirit of the other mother, who was meanwhile in the spiritual world, had descended upon the foster mother with whom Jesus had that conversation. Since then she felt like the young mother who had once given birth to the Luke Jesus boy.“ (Lit.:GA 148, p. 85)

„When an ordinary birth takes place, that which comes from the human being's earlier embodiments unites with that which the human being acquires through heredity. The human individuality that was there in earlier lives unites with that which he receives as his carnal-etheric shell. Thus something that comes from the spiritual world unites with the sensual-physical. Those who have often heard lectures from me know that in the spiritual world, as soon as we enter it, everything exists in mirror image, everything in reverse. So when someone is made clairvoyant by rational methods, when his eyes open to the spiritual world, he must first slowly learn to germinate in the spiritual world, for there everything appears reversed. When he encounters a number, for example the number 345, he must not read it as in the physical world, that is, not 345, but 543, he must read it the other way round. So you must learn to look at everything in a certain way in reverse, not only numbers, but everything else too.

In that the Christ united with the outer shell of Jesus of Nazareth, this event in its outer appearance also shows itself in an opposite appearance to him who has opened his spiritual eyes. Whereas in a physical embodiment a spiritual substance comes down from higher worlds and unites with the physical, that which in this case was sacrificed to receive the Christ-Spirit appears above the head of Jesus of Nazareth in the form of the white dove. A spiritual appears as it detaches itself from the physical! This is certainly a clairvoyant observation. And it is very little correct to say: This is meant merely allegorically or symbolically. It is a real clairvoyant spiritual fact which really exists for the clairvoyant faculty on the astral plane. Just as a physical birth is a drawing in of a spiritual, so this birth was a sacrifice, a surrender. This made it possible for the spirit which "hovered over the water" at the beginning of our earthly evolution to unite with the threefold shell of Jesus of Nazareth, and to penetrate and glow through it in the way we have described.

Now you will understand that at the moment when this happened, not only the small part of space was involved in which the baptism of John took place. That would only be short-sightedness on the part of people if they believed that something that happened in relation to some being was enclosed within the limits that the eye sees. That is the strong illusion to which people can succumb if they trust only their outer senses. Where, then, is the limit of man for the outer senses? If one spoke superficially, one would see this limit in one's skin. That is where man stops on all sides. Someone could even say: If I cut off your nose, which belongs to you, you are no longer a whole human being; by this I recognise that all this belongs to your being. - But that is a very short-sighted view. A few decimetres from the skin of the human being, one no longer looks for what belongs to the human being, if one restricts oneself to physical observation. But consider that with each breath you inhale air from the entire air circuit of your surroundings. If your nose is cut off, you are no longer a whole human being; but if your air is cut off, you are also not! It is only an arbitrary view if you imagine the human being limited in his skin. Everything that is all around belongs to the human being. Even in the physical sense it belongs to the human being. So that when something happens to the human being in a certain place, it is not the case that only the place occupied by the human body is involved. If you were to try to pollute the air within a mile of a human being in a sufficiently strong way so that the vapours extend to the human being, then you would very soon notice that the whole space within a mile is involved in the life processes of this human being. And the whole earth is involved in every life process. If this is already the case in the physical process of life, it will not seem incomprehensible to you that in an event such as John's baptism the spiritual world was involved in the widest circle, and that much, much happened so that this could happen.

If, however, you have a person to whom you spoil the air within a mile of him, so that his life processes are affected by it, and you place another person near him, then this other person will also suffer an effect. Perhaps this effect will be somewhat different, depending on whether the other person is a little nearer or farther from the spell of this mile. If he is far away, for example, the effect will also be weaker, but there will still be an effect. Therefore, you will no longer find it strange when the question is raised today whether there are not other effects that were connected with John's baptism. And here we touch the edge of another profound mystery which can only be expressed today with shyness and reverence. For only little by little will humanity be prepared to understand such things.

At the same moment that the Spirit of the Christ entered the body of Jesus of Nazareth and a transformation took place, as we have described, an effect was also exerted on the mother of Jesus of Nazareth. And this effect consists in the fact that at this moment of John's baptism she again regained her virginity, that is, her inner organisation became like that of the female organisation before virginal maturity. The mother of Jesus of Nazareth became a virgin at the birth of the Christ.“ (Lit.:GA 112, p. 183ff)


References to the work of Rudolf Steiner follow Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works (CW or GA), Rudolf Steiner Verlag, Dornach/Switzerland, unless otherwise stated.
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Index to the Complete Works of Rudolf Steiner - Aelzina Books
A complete list by Volume Number and a full list of known English translations you may also find at Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works
Rudolf Steiner Archive - The largest online collection of Rudolf Steiner's books, lectures and articles in English.
Rudolf Steiner Audio - Recorded and Read by Dale Brunsvold - Anthroposophic Press Inc. (USA)
Rudolf Steiner Handbook - Christian Karl's proven standard work for orientation in Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works for free download as PDF.


  1. Not to be confused with the second Bethany mentioned in the New Testament. This was located about 15 stadia (just under 2.8 km) southeast of what was then Jerusalem on the eastern slope of the Mount of Olives. According to John 11:18, it was the home of the three siblings Mary, Martha and Lazarus and it was here that the raising of Lazarus took place.
  2. The lowest point of the solid earth at 420 m below sea level is where the Jordan flows into the Dead Sea. The Jordan Rift Valley is part of the Great African Rift Valley, which is the "deepest and most conspicuous scrape on the face of the Earth."