Gospel of John as an initiation document

From Anthroposophy

The Gospel of John is not just a text, it is a work of art and composition with not just esoteric meaning but also spiritual forces behind it that can serve as an initiatory pathway. That is, if one uses the verses for deep repetitive meditation and contemplation, it affects one's spiritual development.

It is also a form of early theosophical or spiritual sciencific text written in christian symbolic form.

The Gospel of St John was written by Lazarus-John, the 'disciple whom Jesus loved'.

More info on the individuality and incarnations, see: Christian Rosenkreutz


Lecture coverage and references

1904-07-25-GA090A expands on the Gospel of Mark as an special initiation document ('urkunde') that was existed a century before the founding of Christianity. Through the ages these were not written down, but more rarely and later they were described in symbolic language that required occult studies for anyone to understand or use them. The process of baptism - suffering - death and resurrection is something that was enacted in the three years by Christ Jesus, but this process had been enacted countless times in the temples of initiation and is thus also a mystical fact. Reference is made to old ages and cultures in India, Middle Asia, Iran, the Egyptian priests and Druid priests. It is this process that was in this special initiation document that was used also by the first teachers of christianity to tell about what happened in the old initiation temples.

The Gospel of John is truly the occult or esoteric gospel: from the 13th chapter onwards it is impossible to comprehend the contents intellectually, but each individual sentence is filled with occult forces. .. The Gospel of John was therefore used by the rosecrucian pupils as life elexir. From the washing of the feet onwards, the whole contact has to be lived mystically. If one applies the Gospel to one's whole being and permeates himself with it lively, will have inner experiences and afterwards comprehend a lot that just cannot be understood without this experience. Every person can experience and 'live' every sentence in this mystical way. That is how to consider the position of this great teacher standing in the beginning of Christianity, and the new element was that hereby became public what before was mystery wisdom.

The lecture continues on the importance of devotion and

GA117A is about the Gospel of John and the other gospels, eg in 1910-01-15-GA117A is mentioned:

the Gospel of John has the power to convey the Christ Impulse. The more we read and contemplate the Gospel of John, the more we will be filled with the glowing spiritual fire that Christ Jesus talked about.


The disciple who wrote down the gospel of John first of all described something he had himself experienced. Chapters 1 to 12 are experiences in the astral world, chapter 13 and those that follow experiences at the spirit world. This is highly significant and characteristic of the whole of it. .. .. This is a meditative prayer from the beginning to 'and the darknesses did not comprehend it.' When the soul gains living experience of what lies in those words, the powers arise that enable us to grasp the content of chapters 1 to 12.

1906-02-13-GA097 In 1907-06-27-GA100 (SWCC) , Rudolf Steiner gives a German version of the key first section.

The purest of Gospels is the Gospel of St. John: it is not only a poetical work, but a book of life, it needs to be experienced. ..

.. Among many books, the Gospel of St. John is the one which indicates the methods by which it is possible to fathom the depths of Christianity. Even when Christianity did not as yet exist in its present form, it was already taught in the Mystery-schools; for instance, in the school of Dionysius the Areopagite, a disciple of the Apostle Paul. ..

Those who immerse themselves into the first words of the Gospel of St. John from the standpoint of esotericism, experience that they become within them a quickening force. But the Gospel of St. John must be applied as it was originally intended to be applied; and we must have the patience to take the first sentences of the Gospel of St. John again and again as a subject of meditation, and to let them pass every morning before our soul. They will in that case have the power to draw out of our soul deeply hidden forces. But we must of course have a correct translation of these words expressed in German word-characters, they must more or less express what the original text contained. In a translation which is as faithful as possible, let me now show you that the real life of the spirit is indicated in the words of the Gospel of St. John.


By continually meditating upon passages of the Gospel of St. John, the Christian pupil is actually in a condition to reach initiation without the three and a half day continued lethargic sleep. If each day he allows the first verses of the Gospel of St. John,

  • from “In the beginning was the Word”
  • to the passage “full of devotion and truth,”

to work upon him, they become an exceedingly significant meditation. They have this force within them, for this Gospel is not there simply to be read and understood in its entirety with the intellect, but it must be inwardly fully experienced and felt. It is a force which comes to the help of initiation and works for it. Then will the “Washing of the Feet,” the “Scourging” and other inner processes be experienced as astral visions, wholly corresponding to the description in the Gospel itself, beginning with the 13th Chapter.

The Rosicrucian initiation, although resting upon a Christian foundation works more with other symbolic ideas which produce katharsis, chiefly with imaginative pictures. That is another modification which had to be used, because mankind had progressed a step further in its evolution and the methods of initiation must conform to what has gradually been evolved.


Other references: 1902-02-15-GA087


Related pages

References and further reading

  • Fred Poeppig: 'Das Johannes-Evangelium as Meditationsbuch' (published as 'Das Johannesevangelium' (1961))
  • Adrienne Von Speyr:
    • 'The Word: A Meditation on the Prologue to St. John's Gospel' (2019, original 1953)
    • 'Water and Spirit: Meditations on Saint John's Gospel 1:19 to 5:47' (2019, 1949 in DE)
    • 'John, Volume 1: The Word becomes Flesh' (1994)

General on John's Gospel:

  • Rudolf Steiner: 30 lectures in GA100, GA103, GA112, GA117A (and GA094/094.3, GA097)
  • Hermann Beckh: 'John's Gospel: The Cosmic Rhythm -Stars and Stones' (1930 in DE, 2015 iN EN)
  • Friedrich Rittelmeyer: Briefe über das Johannes-Evangelium (1938)
  • Christoper Rau: 'Struktur und Rhythmus im Johannes-Evangelium' (1972)
  • George Mlakuzhyil: 'The Christocentric Literary Structure of the Fourth Gospel' (1987, 2011)