Not I, but the Christ in me

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"Not I, but the Christ in me" is a word of Saint Paul often quoted by Rudolf Steiner. In the original Greek it reads:

ζῶ δὲ, οὐκέτι ἐγώ, ζῇ δὲ ἐν ἐμοὶ Χριστός
zô dè, oùketi égó, zē dè én émoi Christós.“

„I live, yet now not I, but Christ lives in me“

Translated approximately literally, it means more precisely: "I live, yet no longer the ego, but Christ lives in me." This means no more and no less than that the Christ Himself - in a fully individualised way - lives as the real I, as in man:

„No external name can name "me", this Being; a completely different name only can express this: "I am the I-am!" There is no possibility of finding the name of the Sun-Spirit elsewhere than in the human being. That which lives as I in man is the Christ-being.“ (Lit.:GA 109, p. 154)

This real I, which as a monad forms the creative core of man's being, originates from the Nirvana plane (Lit.:GA 93a, p. 125f), to which, according to ancient and medieval cosmology, corresponds the Empyrean, the outermost and highest heavenly sphere filled with divine fire and light and still situated above the crystal heaven. According to later Christian views, it is the seat of the Trinity and the blessed and is also described in this way in Dante's Divine Comedy.

„Such people, who condemn precisely what spiritual science has to say about the Christ and the Mystery of Golgotha, lean little on the beautiful Pauline word: Not I, but the Christ in me. - Spiritual science is clear about the fact that the Christ has been drawn from supersensible heights into this earthly development and that he is so connected with this earthly development that the human being of today cannot live into the coming day out of passive hope, but that he must develop in his own inner being the power as a human being which will bring about this coming day. But because the power of Christ has entered into the development of humanity through the Mystery of Golgotha, he who unites himself with this power of Christ will not merely have in Christ the "Redeemer of sinful man" who passively counts on his Redeemer, but he will have in himself the helper in bringing about the coming day. He will say in truth: Not I, but the Christ in me - but the Christ not merely as the redeemer of sins, but the Christ as the instigator and resurrector of all the forces that will subsequently be able to emerge as forces of human progress. And those who believe they must rebel against such a thing out of confession perhaps misunderstand the most serious demands of the coming day, for they understand nothing of the real meaning of this Pauline word. "The Christ in me" is not merely something passively believed, but an active force that moves me forward as a human being. Not I, but the Christ in me - so says spiritual science. But the others, who fight this spiritual science, do not say at all: Not I, but the Christ in me -, but they say: Not I, but the old opinions that I want to have about the Christ in me. - They do not say: The Christ in me - but: my old accustomed opinions in me; my old accustomed ideas about the Christ in me. - The right understanding of the Pauline word, that is what will fulfil a most serious demand of Christian progress in particular.“ (Lit.:GA 335, p. 76f)

What we do in the sense of this Pauline word becomes, after our death through the Christ, the fruitful common property of all humanity and contributes to the real creative renewal of the whole world, indeed the whole progress of humanity in the sense of the "White Lodge of the Masters of Humanity" is thereby symbolised:

„But something else can become reality, become reality in a humanly tremendously significant way, of what this human soul, which feels itself christened, can say to itself in this life: the Pauline word "Not I, but the Christ in me". If one knows how to think of it in such a way that it is inner truth, this word "Not I, but the Christ in me", then it is realised after death in an enormous, in a significant way. For what we take up in the world from this point of view of life, from the point of view of life, "Not I, but the Christ in me", becomes our property, becomes our inner nature between death and a new birth, so that through what has become our inner nature we may give it as fruit to the whole of humanity. What we receive in such a way that we receive it from the point of view of "not I", Christ makes the common property of all humanity. What I receive from the point of view of "not I" I may say and feel after death: Not to me alone, but to all my human brothers! And then alone may I pronounce the word: Yes, I have loved him above all things, even myself, therefore I have obeyed the commandment, "Love thy God above all things." "Not I, but the Christ in me."

And I have fulfilled it, the other commandment, "Love thy neighbour as thyself." For that which I have acquired for myself becomes, through the fact that the Christ carries it into reality, the common property of all earthly humanity.“ (Lit.:GA 155, p. 174f)

Paul talks about obedience to the law and faith and the grace of God in the passage mentioned:

„11 But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. 13 And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?”

15 We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; 16 yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified. 17 But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! 18 For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor. 19 For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.“

„Let us construct this feeling of Paul. All around is the corpse of what people once saw in ancient times. People saw nature as the body of the divine, the soul-spiritual. Just as we see our fingers today, these people saw mountains. It did not occur to them to think of the mountains as lifeless nature, any more than we think of the finger as a lifeless limb; but they said: There is a spiritual-soul, that is the earth; it has limbs, and one such limb is the mountain. - But nature became dead. Man experienced the "I am" within. But he would only stand there as a hermit on the de-spiritualised, disembodied earth if he could not look towards the Christ. This Christ, however, he must not merely look at from the outside, so that he remains external, he must now receive him into the I. He must be able to say, by looking at himself, "I am". He must be able to say, by lifting himself out of the everyday "I am": not I, but the Christ in me. - If we depict schematically what was there, we could say: Man once felt nature around him (green), but this nature was everywhere infused and spiritualised (red). That was in an older period of humanity.

Drawing from GA 211, p. 58
Drawing from GA 211, p. 58

In later times, man also felt nature, but he felt the possibility of perceiving his own "I am" (yellow) in relation to the now de-souled nature. But then he needed the image of the God present in man, and he felt this in the God Dionysus, who was presented to him in the Greek drama.

Drawing from GA 211, p. 58
Drawing from GA 211, p. 58

In even later times, man again felt the de-souled nature (green), the "I am" (yellow) within himself. But the drama becomes a fact. On Golgotha the cross rises. But at the same time, that which man had originally lost emerges and radiates (red) from within himself: Not I, but the Christ in me.

Drawing from GA 211, p. 59
Drawing from GA 211, p. 59

What did the man of ancient times say? He could not say it, but he experienced it: Not I, but the Divine-Spiritual around me, in me, everywhere. - Man has lost this "divine-spiritual everywhere, around me, in me"; he has found it again in himself and in a conscious sense he now says the same thing that he originally experienced unconsciously: Not I, but the Christ in me.- The original fact, which was unconsciously experienced in the time before man experienced his I, becomes a conscious fact, the experience of the Christ in the human interior, in the human heart, in the human soul.“ (Lit.:GA 211, p. 57ff)


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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