Monday, August 30, 2010
Rudolf Steiner, from a lecture given June 8, 1923:
I refer to an age when all the arts, except poetry, were but little developed. The other arts existed, to be sure, but in only a rudimentary state because the human beings of that time were deeply conscious of the fact that with the word, created out of their organisms' innermost secret, they could express something supersensible, that language was fitted to express what appears in star-constellations and star-movements; far better fitted than the art-mediums using substances taken directly from the earth. For language originates in spiritual man — this they felt — and is therefore eminently adapted to what, from cosmic reaches, manifests here on earth. Poetry, then, was not an offspring merely of phantasy but of spiritual perception; and it was by this means that man learned what he in turn poured into the other arts. Poetry, which finds expression through words, was the medium by which man entered into soul-communion with the stars, the extra-earthly.
This soul-communion constituted the poetic mood. Through it man saw how thoughts not yet separated from objects gain pictorial expression in his vault-like head, a head resembling the firmament; how thought represents a spiritual firmament, a celestial vault; how thought is inherent throughout the cosmos. Individual thoughts were expressed through the relative positions of the stars, by the way the planets moved past each other. In those ancient times man — unlike the free man of a later age — did not think merely by virtue of his own inner force. In every thought-movement he felt the after-image of some star-movement, in every thought-form the after-image of a constellation. Thus his thinking transported him into stellar space. The sunlight which illumined the day, and which would seem to be blinding out in the cosmos, was not considered the guide to wisdom, not the guiding force of thought, but, rather, sunlight as reflected by the moon. The following is ancient Mystery wisdom: During the day we see light with the physical body, at night we do more; we see it gathered up by the silver chalice of the moon. And this sunlight, collected by the moon, was regarded as the soul's Soma drink. Enspirited thereby, the soul could conceive those thoughts which were the result, the image, of the starry heavens.
Sunday, August 29, 2010
Focus lecture for the September 30 meeting of the Rudolf Steiner Study Circle
A lecture given by Rudolf Steiner October 15, 1923
What I have to say to you today will be expressed in the form of pictures drawn from the imaginative life, which is the expression, the revelation, of the spiritual world. The human being is woven with his whole existence and activity into the spiritual world. We know from the many and varied descriptions of it that have been given here, that an abstract manner of speaking, such as is applied to external, sense-perceptible nature, cannot be used in speaking of the spiritual world, if actual manifestations of that world are in question. We know too, however, that the manner of speaking we must then adopt is no unreal one, but, on the contrary, one far more realistic than the logical, abstract speech we employ to express merely natural truths. This I wanted to say about the attitude to be adopted in what I shall now put before you.
When man finds, with spiritual vision, the way out beyond the physically sense-perceptible world, there reveals itself to him a world of spirit. In that world he feels led to make use of the phenomena of the physical world as pictures, with which to express what is spiritually revealed to him. So let me now put a picture at the centre of our considerations; a picture which is in truth a deep reality. Mankind, throughout its evolutionary history, has always been guided by impulses from the spiritual world. Those who could see so far found these impulses written as it were in brazen letters in a spiritual light, indicating the direction they should take. What is thus found in the spiritual world might be compared with the signposts of the physical world; not those that have just a pointing hand perhaps, and the name of some place or other, but signposts on which is expressed in powerful words — or at least in powerfully sounding words — what changes are due to take place in human thinking, feeling, willing. I am speaking of spiritual signposts. Such directions in the spiritual world, however, are usually drawn up for human beings in a remarkable manner, and have been so in all epochs — namely, in a kind of riddle-language. One has in a certain way to make an effort to get behind the riddle. In order that one of these signposts in the riddle-language may become a real impulse for life, a great deal of what one knows has to be brought together. And so just at the present time, as something suited to our immediate present and the near future, one finds in the astral light, as I may call it, such directing words as can become impulses for mankind. On the most varied occasions — I might say in the most varied places — there comes before one to-day, if one has the faculties needed to behold it, something that is like a warning, having moreover the quality of a riddle, and it calls forth in man the feeling that he should be guided by it, should take it as a strong impulse into his will, into his whole life of soul. What thus shines out to meet us in the astral light, as one such spiritual milestone, consists approximately of the following words: —
Thou mouldest it to thy service,
Thou revealest it according to the value of its substance
In many of thy works.
Yet it will only bring thee healing
When to thee is revealed
The lofty power of its Spirit.
First of all there is a challenge to discover what is actually meant. Some sort of impulse is referred to, something which is already present, something known to man, since otherwise one could not reckon on his finding an answer:
Thou mouldest it to thy service,
Thou revealest it according to the value of its substance
In many of thy works.
Yet it will only bring thee healing,
When to thee is revealed
The lofty power of its Spirit.
The explanation of these words, which, as has been said, show themselves in the astral light like a directing impulse for human beings, will be the purpose of to-day's lecture.
Let us recall a number of things that I have already explained here. Let us recall how the year's course, in its regular sequence through Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter, has a spiritual content; how spiritual occurrences, supersensible occurrences, are revealed in what happens in the course of the year just as a man's supersensible soul and supersensible spirit are revealed in what happens in his bodily life between birth and death. Let us reflect how, in what appears outwardly during the year's course, in Winter's snow, Spring's sprouting, waxing life, in Summer's life of blossoming and Autumn's life of ripening and fruiting — how in all this which discloses itself physically to men something spiritual is hidden, something spiritual sustains it. And so let us turn our gaze first to what takes place in this yearly course, from spring to summer and on towards the autumn.
In all that Earth reveals, in stone and plant, in everything that has being, spiritual beings live; not a mere washed-out spirituality, but separate spirit-beings, Nature-spirits. These Nature-spirits hide during the winter in the bosom of the Earth; they are breathed in, as it were, by the Earth; they are within the Earth. When spring comes, Earth breathes out, as it were, her spirituality; these Nature-spirits strive upwards. They aspire upwards with the forces of springing, sprouting life; they are active in the life which is felt in the light-radiant, sun-warmed air; within this they aspire upwards. And as we approach St. John's Day and the time of midsummer, then in the heights above us, if we look up to them, we have a picture revealed there, embodied in the forms of clouds, embodied mightily in lightning, too, and thunder, embodied in all the meteoric element above us, all that lived in the form of Nature-spirits during winter in the Earth's dark bosom. During winter we must look down to the Earth and feel, or behold how, hidden beneath the covering of snow, Nature-spirits are working, so that out of winter shall come spring again, and summer, from the productive Earth.
But if in summer we look down to the Earth, then the Earth is as if impoverished by the loss of those Nature-spirits. The Nature-spirits have gone out into the wide universe; they have united themselves with the cloud-structures and everything that human sight encounters in the heights above. In all the ways I have mentioned they have streamed up to the heights, these Nature-spirits, and with them they have taken, in an extremely subtle form, extremely fine dilution, that which manifests outwardly as crude and lifeless sulphur. And in fact these Nature-spirits, as they billow and surge in cloud-forms and the like, during summer's height, weave and live pre-eminently in sulphur, the sulphur that is then present there in an extraordinarily subtle way, in the heights of the earthly realm. If we could speed through these high reaches of our earthly world during the height of summer with a sort of tasting-feeling sense, we should be aware of a sulphurous taste and even of a sulphurous smell, though in an extraordinarily dilute, subtle and intimate form. What develops up there, however, under the influence of the Sun's warmth and light, is akin to the process that goes on in the human organism when cravings, wishes, emotions and so on come welling up. Anyone who has the faculty for beholding and feeling such things knows that the Nature-spirits in the heights during midsummer live in an element which is as much saturated with desire as is the desire-life that is bound up with the animal nature of man — that animal part of man wherein he, too, is sulphurised, is permeated with sulphur in a very diluted form. We see, as it were, man's lower aspect, that which is animalised in him, arched as Nature's formation above us at the height of summer, filled with the life of Nature-spirits. What we thus recognise in its sulphurous quality when it weaves and lives in human nature, we call the Ahrimanic; in it the Ahrimanic actually lives. So we can also say: when in high summer-time we turn spiritual vision towards the heights, then in the cosmic sulphurous desires the Ahrimanic is revealed to us. So if we conceive of man in relation to this whole world nexus, we must say to ourselves: the Earth takes up in winter what exists in man as his lower nature and spreads over it crystalline snow, and in so doing the Earth receives the Ahrimanic from it. When in high summer the Ahrimanic is free, it works as cosmic desires out in the wide spaces of the world and is, indeed, subject to laws which proceed from the planetary neighbours of the Earth and are effective on them.
And now we see how against this Ahrimanic desire-element, against this animal desire-nature of man turned inside out, as it were, in the cosmos, an opposing force is present. The force which brings the human being into subjection through his emotions, dragging him down below the human to the animal level, and is revealed in full summer high above us — against this a counter-force is provided in the cosmos. This counter-force is seen in those remarkable products which from time to time fall on to the Earth as products of the cosmos and contain meteoric iron. If you look at a piece of meteoric iron, you have in it a remarkable witness of the iron dispersed in the cosmos. In the shooting stars which come so frequently in August and bring iron into special activity, as it were, in the cosmos, we see revealed this counter-force of Nature acting against the desire-element which by that time is out there in the cosmos. And in this cosmic iron, condensed to meteoric stones, we have the arrows which the cosmos sends out against the animal desire element which, as I have just described, is cosmically manifest.
So we can look with understanding and reverence upon the wisdom-filled guidance of the cosmos. We know, of course, that man needs this animal desire nature, precisely because in overcoming it, and not otherwise, he can develop the forces that first make him fully human. And man could not have this desire nature, this animalising element, if the same animal desire element were not a part also of the cosmos. The sulphur, then, the sulphurous Ahrimanic element is, as it were, one pole out in the cosmos, and the arrows discharged by the Cosmos through space to combat this sulphurous element are concentrated in meteoric iron — in the meteoric projectiles, so to say, of the universe.
Now man is a true microcosm, really a little world. Everything that manifests in the great world outside in gigantic and majestic phenomena such as the phenomena of meteors, manifests also within, in the inward nature of what he is himself as physical being. For this physical being is only an expression, a manifestation, of his spiritual being. And so in a certain way we bear within ourselves, starting from the animal lower nature, the sulphurous element. We must say to ourselves: this sulphurous Ahrimanic element storms through the human organism, stirs up his desire-nature, stirs up his emotions. We feel it within us; we behold it at high summer-time in the cosmic desire-covering above our heads. But we also behold how into this over-arching cosmic desire-covering there shoot the iron arrows of the meteoric phenomena, cleansing and clarifying it, acting as an opposite pole to the animal-like desire-nature. For through this shooting in of the meteoric iron arrows from the cosmos, the animal desire-covering of high summer time above us is purified. And what takes place in majesty and grandeur out there in the great cosmos, goes on continually also in us. We produce tiny iron particles in our blood, in combination with other substances, and while, on the one hand, there pulses through our blood the sulphurising process, there works against it inwardly, meteorically, as the other pole, the iron inside us, bringing about the same process as is effected outside in the cosmos by the meteoric iron. We can then so picture man's relationship to the cosmos that in the flashing meteoric element we find the cosmic counterpart of what within us is a million upon million-fold flashing forth of the meteoric element that sets us free by means of the iron in our blood, cleansing and clarifying us from the sulphurising process which is also active in the blood itself.
Thus we are inwardly a copy of the cosmos. In the cosmos this process is accomplished during the height of summer; man, because he stands within Nature as one emancipated from her in regard to time, has continually midsummer as well as the other seasons in himself, just as he has within him in the continuity of memory his former experiences. Outwardly they have vanished, but inwardly they remain. So is it too with what is present in Man as Microcosm in relation to the Macrocosm. What he thus carries in his physical body, however, he must grasp in soul and spirit, must become able to experience it within himself; he must learn to experience this meteoric shag of the blood-iron into the blood-sulphur as freedom, or initiative, as the strength of his will. Otherwise it remains an animal or vegetative process in him at the best. What precisely constitutes our becoming a human being in soul and spirit is that we grasp the processes which go on in us, such as this iron-sulphur process, with our soul and spirit, that we send the soul and spirit into them as an impulse. Just as when we have made an instrument and know how to handle it properly, we are able to perform something by means of it, so can we turn to the service of our will what works and lives in us as does this process of iron and sulphur, when once we know how to handle it; when, as human beings, we can handle and make use of what goes on as living processes within our body.
Let us now turn again to the cosmos and away from man. You can realise that what takes place out there in the cosmos is an earnest admonition to men. For this meteoric iron-process in the cosmos truly brings to mind our inner physical nature; this nature, however, can be placed at the service of our spiritual inner being. So now we come to the meaning which has to be ascribed to that brazen writing in the astral light: —
Thou mouldest it to thy service,
Thou revealest it according to the value of its substance
In many of thy works.
If we look round us at modern life, as it has developed in the course of recent centuries, we can see that the chief feature of this materialistic culture is the use of iron in the realm of earthly life. Look in any direction where our form of civilisation has flowered in recent times; it is iron that has planted in the physical world everything which has led to the culmination of this materialistic culture. We look for what it was that in so unparalleled a way has brought people together, and has laid down the paths for the various branches of materialistic culture and made them smooth; and everywhere we see it was iron and what can be developed out of it. When we speak of materialism in the life of thought it is true that the essence of materialism consists in the idea that everything is matter, and Spirit is a kind of vaporous result of the activities of matter. But the materialism of mankind in the last four centuries is shown not merely in the fact that people think materialistically; materialism is manifest also in the way we handle outer things. Out of the cultural impulses of recent times man has applied iron to this material culture, while the meteoric iron which falls from heaven is treated merely as a rarity, or as something one seeks to explain by means of a science that cannot grasp much about it. This meteoric iron, however, which falls to earth from out of the cosmos, which purifies and clarifies the animal-like life, is actually an admonition to us that we should look up from using iron materially for earthly purposes, and see what heavenly service iron performs in its meteoric aspect up above us, and, more especially, within us. For these meteoric processes within us go on all the time.
And so the first part of this warning speech, shining forth to meet us in the astral light, takes on the likeness of a word written in brazen letters, saying: O Man, thou hast put iron to thine earthly service.
Thou mouldest it to thy service,
Thou revealest it according to the value of its substance
In many of thy works.
Yet it will only bring thee healing,
When to thee is revealed
The lofty power of its Spirit.
It is not merely that we should look up in our thoughts from the materialistic world-conception to a spiritual world-conception, but that we should also look up from what we use in the service of material culture to the spiritual and cosmic aspects of what serves us in material form. And so precisely through these words, which have first to be unravelled like a riddle, we are directed to that Spiritual Being who lives in the universe in the revelation of meteoric phenomena, especially in what is revealed by meteoric phenomena at the height of summer. For at that time the Ahrimanic sulphurising process, which is otherwise present only within man, is there as a cosmic process, and the meteoric process is a counter-process to it; we have here the arrows which the cosmos discharges into the animalised cravings in the heights.
If one lets all this work upon the soul, one feels how truly man is connected with all that surrounds him in the world, and, within, one feels how one's very blood is permeated with soul, saturated with spirit. One feels in it this opposition between the Ahrimanic and that which purifies the Ahrimanic element, the iron in the blood; one feels the inner meteoric process. One looks up with comprehension to what is accomplished outside when the cosmic spirit-forces send the iron arrows into the animalised desire-world of the cosmos; one feels oneself entirely bound up with the cosmos and surrendered to it. Precisely in these particular phenomena, one feels entirely surrendered to the cosmos.
When one feels all this in full earnestness, then from this feeling there takes form a cosmic Imagination; one can indeed do no other than form and picture this cosmic Imagination. Just as animals have a different attitude towards outer Nature, being unable to form concepts or ideas of it, but only general impressions, whereas man forms pictures and ideas, so, when the soul has risen to exact clairvoyance, it is not possible for it to do otherwise, when it experiences such things as this — when its feeling turns inwardly towards its own meteoric process, and when looking outward it beholds in the cosmic meteor-process that rich fullness of life which is thus revealed — than to bring it all together in a comprehensive, inwardly saturated picture form, an Imagination in which is displayed how the human being, the Microcosm, and the Macrocosm are grown together. This does not mean that such an Imagination is merely built up out of fantasy; rather is it a real and true expression of a living process permeating the world and the human being; in this case, of a process that lives in the phenomena of the yearly course.
The Imagination which comes before man out of this experience is one that springs out of a living together with the natural processes of the year's course from midsummer on towards autumn, as far as the end of summer, the beginning of the autumn; And from this experience there arises, coming before the soul in living actuality, the figure of Michael. Out of what I have described to you is revealed the figure of Michael in his fight with the Dragon, with the animal nature of Man, the sulphurising process. And when one understands what is actually going on there, then the soul, which takes its own form and origin from the interweaving life forces of the cosmos, cannot but bring forth the fight of Michael with the Dragon. There appears as the outward expression of what is working out there in the cosmos in battle with the animalised desire nature, Michael himself. But he appears with a pointing sword, pointing it towards the higher nature of man. He shines forth with this pointing sword, and we picture Michael rightly when we find in his sword the iron that has been cosmically smelted and forged for this purpose. Thus there comes forth, one might say, out of the spiritual cloud-formations the figure of Michael with positive, searching and directing gaze, his eye like a guiding sign, its gaze sent outwards, never drawn back into himself; and the arm of Michael appears to us in the midst of a sparkling shower of meteor-iron, as though this were molten in cosmic desire forces and fused together again to form the flaming sword of Michael. Rightly do we picture Michael then, quite in accord with reality, when we think of his countenance as woven from the golden light of summer, with a positive gaze which is like a sign, as it were pointing outwards; like a ray of light from within which is sent actively out. We picture Michael rightly when his outstretched arm is flaming with flashing sprays of meteor iron, molten and fused together into the sword wherewith he shows humanity the way from the animal-like to man's higher nature, pointing the way from the summer season, when man most makes himself one with outer Nature, most nearly comes to a Nature-consciousness, to that other season, the time of autumn, when man, were he to continue to live united with Nature, could share only in her dying in the death she brings on herself. But it would be terrible for man, if he could only share with Nature, as autumn comes, this natural path to death, this self-destruction. When we experience Spring, then if we are really fully man, we yield ourselves to Nature in her sprouting, waxing, flourishing. If we are fully man, we blossom with each blossom, sprout with every leaf: with every seed we grow ripe ourselves. It is then that we give ourselves over to Nature's mounting, springing, sprouting life. For it is then her will to live, and we feel this impulse of life in experiencing hers. And we do well to devote ourselves to Nature at this season. But in autumn we cannot unfold this nature-consciousness in ourselves, for if we did that onesidedly we should have to share in the experience of the paralysis and death which she makes her own. Man dare not go with her in that direction; in the face of that he must rather increase his strength. Just as he must accompany living Nature in his own life, so must he set against dying Nature, against death, the Self. Nature-consciousness must be transformed into self-consciousness.
This is the great and powerful picture given us in the approach of autumn, so that from out of what happens in the cosmos we read the admonition: Nature consciousness must change in man into consciousness of self. But for this he needs the strength to overcome with his qualities of soul and spirit the inwardly death-bringing quality of animal-like Nature. For this he is given guidance when he looks out into the phenomena of the cosmos; to this he is guided by what is revealed in the figure of Michael, with his positive gaze and the flaming meteor-sword in his right hand. And Michael appears to us in that fight with the animalised desire-nature of which, also, a picture emerges from the loom of life. If we wish to paint this whole Imagination, we cannot paint it in any humanly arbitrary way; it can be painted only out of what is given by the cosmos. And the only way to picture the sulphurous element in it, rising into the heights with the elemental spirits in yellowish reddish shades, is in the figure of the Dragon, which takes shape from out of the sulphur. So that above the sulphurous Dragon, in whose burning head, as I might call it, is exhibited the desire-like process, above this Ahrimanised and sulphurised Dragon, we have Michael in the form I have described to you.
He who understands the world can describe it in Imaginations. And whosoever believes that one can paint the fight of Michael with the Dragon in any way one chooses, sins against the inner reality of the world. For the interplay of forces in the world has a definite ordering in relation to human beings. And all the great paintings and other works of art in the world have not come into existence out of arbitrary human choice. If that were so, they would scarcely have continued to appeal to man for centuries, even thousands of years. They have sprung from a real understanding of what weaves and lives out there in the cosmos, and also within the human being. And when out of the living and weaving in Nature and in man, in their mutual connection, there is created the substance of Imaginations, with all that is revealed from the mysteries of Nature, even to the colours and the way the colours gleam and shine, and the details of the forms — when all this is given artistic form, then it is that the great, genuine works of art arise, the great works that were created by the seers, that are imitated by the imitators and are decked out by the bunglers with all kinds of frippery till the real greatness that should go forth from these works, born out of the creative weaving of the cosmos, is no longer recognised. This is what gives these works of art the power to influence humanity through long periods of time. The great artistic motifs of painting and sculpture never would have become what they are had they not been created out of impulses seen to arise from the life of Nature and the life of man.
So we are able to direct our vision to what appears if Michael and the Dragon are painted in the spiritual sense of to-day (for older ways of apprehending it had to paint it according to their own knowledge); the countenance pictured in golden sun-gleam, the gaze positive, outward-looking, the sword of flame, molten and shaped anew out of the meteor-iron of the cosmos; and below, the Dragon, tormentor of human nature, the Dragon who manifests at high summertime, the sulphurous Dragon revealed in the weaving of flames rising up and at once fading again. This Dragon moving below in his own sulphurous element, taking form as the tormentor of humanity and the opponent of the higher hierarchies — this gives the necessary contrast over against the war-waging Michael, who compels the meteoric iron to his spiritual service.
Here you have an example of how the true iron passes over into art, must always pass over into art, since with abstract concepts one cannot compass the whole of reality. And this is the admonition to our times — that we should grasp just such a picture as this, for the awakening of strength, for the awakening of mankind. Therefore one would like to inscribe this picture in particular, this modernised picture of the fight of Michael with the Dragon, deep, deep into the human soul, the human heart, so that it may exert its influence in human forces of will and thought in the present time and in the future. And one can know that if a part of mankind were to take this picture in earnest, if a part of mankind were to understand how this picture takes shape from Nature's very self, and from the directive admonitions in the astral light, then to the material use of iron in the last few centuries, especially the 19th century, there would be added a spiritual element penetrated with the meaning and sense of iron. Then this picturing would kindle in man the force of soul and spirit which makes him able to take hold of the purpose of the meteoric iron within him, the iron that shoots into his blood, warring against sulphur. We must learn not to let this process go on in the subconsciousness, merely shaping the lower nature of Man; we must learn to place this process, this iron process in human blood, in the service of the soul-and-spiritual. That it is, that Michael wills in us.
This is what calls on us from the astral light — to celebrate worthily once more the Michael Festival when autumn is beginning. When now we speak of this Michael Festival which should take its place with the Easter and Christmas festivals and that of St. John, it must truly not be understood as meaning that here or there one celebrates a festival in an external way; the point is that we can celebrate such a festival only when we know how to link it with something really significant. The festival of Christmas has not arisen through any arbitrary convenient resolve, but because it is linked with the birth of Christ Jesus; the Easter Festival is linked with the Mystery of Golgotha; and these are very important events in the historical life of mankind. The Michael Festival must be linked with a great and sustaining inner experience of man, with that inner force which summons him to develop self-consciousness out of Nature-consciousness through the strength of his thoughts, the strength of his will, so that he may be able to master the meteoric iron process in his blood, the opponent of the sulphurising process.
To be sure, sulphur and iron have flowed in human blood ever since there was a human race. What takes its course there between sulphur and iron determines the unconscious nature of man. It must be lifted into consciousness. We must learn to know this process as the expression of the inner conflict of Michael with the Dragon; we must learn to raise this process into consciousness. Something has then come about to which the Michael Festival may be linked. But it must first be there, be fully understood, inwardly, deeply understood. Then it will be possible to celebrate the Michael Festival in the way a festival drawn from the cosmos can be celebrated by men. Then we shall have the knowledge which is really able to see something in iron other than what the chemist of to-day or the mechanic sees in it. Then we shall have what teaches us how to take in hand the iron in our own organism, in the inner part of our human nature. Then we shall have the majestic picture of Michael in battle with the sulphurous Dragon, of Michael with the flaming sword of iron, as an inspiring impulse to what man must become, if he is to develop the forces of his evolution for progress and not for decline.
This it is, which shows itself to us as an admonition from the spiritual world in the brazen letters that grow into enigmatic words but that can be understood precisely out of the conditions of our present time: —
Thou mouldest it to thy service,
Thou revealest it according to the value of its substance
In many of thy works.
Yet it will only bring thee healing,
When to thee is revealed
The lofty power of its Spirit.
That is Iron. Let us learn to know iron, and equally all other substances, not merely in terms of material value; let us learn to know them in their majestic spirit power! Then there will be human progress once again, progress for the Earth; and that is what we must will, if we want to be man in the true sense of the word.
Saturday, August 28, 2010
A lecture given by Rudolf Steiner on June 2, 1923
Yesterday I tried to show how the anthroposophical world-conception stresses, more intensively than is possible under the influence of materialism, the artistic element; and how Anthroposophy feels about architecture, about the art of costuming (though this may call forth smiles), and about sculpture as dealing artistically with the form of man himself, whose head, in a certain sense, points to the whole human being.
Let us review the most important aspects of this threefold artistic perception of the world. In architectural forms we see what the human soul expects when it leaves the physical body at death or otherwise. During earth life the soul is (so I said) accustomed to enter into spatial relations with its environment through the physical body, and to experience spatial forms. But these are only outer forms. When at death the human soul leaves the physical world, it tries, as it were, to impress its own form on space; looks for the lines, planes and forms which can enable it to grow out of space and into the spiritual world. These are the forms of architecture insofar as they are artistic. Thus, if we would understand architecture's artistic element we must consider the soul's space-needs after it has left the three-dimensional body and three-dimensional world.
The artistic element in costuming represents something else; and I have described the joy of primitive people in their garments, and their sense — on dipping down into the physical body — of finding in it a sheath which did not harmonize with what they had experienced during their sojourn in the spiritual world; and how out of this deprivation there arose an instinctive longing to create clothes which in color and pattern corresponded to their memory of pre-earthly existence. The costumes of primitive peoples represent what might be called an unskillful copying of the astral nature of man as it existed before he entered earthly life.
Thus a contrast. Whereas architecture shows the human soul's striving on its departure from the body, the art of costuming shows the human soul's striving after descent into the physical world.
Which brings us to a consideration of sculpture.
If we feel, intimately, the significance of the formation of man's head (my last point yesterday) as a metamorphosis of his entire body formation minus head, during his previous incarnation; if we see it as the work of the higher hierarchies on the force relationship of a previous life, then we understand the head, especially its upper part. If, on the other hand, we see correctly the middle of man's head, his nose and lower eyes, then we understand how this part is adapted to his chest formation, for the nose is connected with the chest's breathing. And if we see correctly the lower head, mouth and chin, then we understand that, even in the head, there is a part adapted to the purely earthly. In this way we can understand the whole human form. Furthermore, the super-sensible human being manifests himself directly in the arching of the upper skull, and the protrusion or recession of the lower skull, the facial parts. For an intimate connection exists between the vaulting of the head and the heavens; also an inner connection between the middle of the face and everything circling the earth as air and ether; also between mouth and chin and man's limb and metabolic system, the last an indication of how man is fettered to earth. In this way we can understand the whole human form as an imprint of the spiritual on the immediate present; which means seeing man artistically.
To sum up: in sculpture we behold, spiritually, the human being as he is placed into the present; in architecture we behold something connected with his departure from the body; and in the art of costuming something connected with his entrance into that body. Which means a sharp contrast: whereas architecture begins with the erection of tombs, sculpture shows how man, through his earthly form's direct participation in the spiritual, constantly overcomes the earthly-naturalistic element, how, in every detail of his form and in its entirety, he is an expression of the spiritual.
Thus we have considered those arts which are concerned with spatial forms and which illustrate the different ways in which the human soul is related to the world through the physical body.
If we approach a step nearer the spaceless, we pass from sculpture to painting, an art experienced in the right way only if we take into full account its special medium.
Today, in the fifth post-Atlantean age, painting has assumed a character leading to naturalism. Its prime manifestation is the loss of a deeper understanding for color. The intelligence employed in contemporary painting is a falsified sculptural one. Painters see even human beings this way. The cause is space-perspective, an aspect of painting developed only after the fifth post-Atlantean period. Painters express through lines the fact that something lies in the background, something in the foreground; their purpose being to conjure up on canvas an impression of spatially formed objects. But in doing so they deny the first and foremost attribute of their special medium. A true painter does not create in space, but on the plane, in color, and it is nonsense for him to strive for the spatial.
Please, do not believe me so fantastic as to object to a feeling for space; in the evolution of mankind the development of spatial perspective on the plane was a necessity; that fact is self-evident. But it must now be overcome. This does not mean that in the future painters should be blind to spatial perspective, only that, while understanding it, they should return to color-perspective, employ color-perspective.
To accomplish this we must go beyond theoretic comprehension; the artistic impulse does not spring from theory; it requires something more forceful, something elemental. Fortunately it can be provided. For that purpose I suggest that you look again at some words of mine about the world of color as reported excellently by Albert Steffen in the weekly Das Goetheanum. (The report reads better than the original lectures.) This is the first aspect.
I shall now deal with the second problem.
In nature we see objects which can be counted, weighed and measured; in short, objects dealt with in physics. They appear in various colors. Color, however — this should have become perfectly clear to anthroposophists — color is something spiritual. Now we do see colors in certain natural entities which are not spiritual; that is, in minerals. Recent physicists have made matters easier for themselves by saying that colors cannot inhere in dead substances because colors are mental; they exist within the mind only; outside, material atoms vibrating in dead matter affect eye, nerve, and something else undetermined; as a result of which colors arise in the soul.
This explanation shows physicists at a loss in regard to the problem of color. To throw light on it, let us consider from a certain aspect the colorful dead mineral world.
As pointed out, we do see colors in purely physical things which can be counted, measured, weighed on scales. But what is perceived in physics does not give us colors. We may employ number, measure and weight to our heart's content: we will not arrive at color. That is why physicists say that colors exist only in the mind.
I would like to explain by way of an image. Picture to yourselves that I hold in my left hand a red sheet, in my right a green one, and that with these colored sheets I carry out certain movements. First I cover the red with the green, then the green with the red, making these motions alternately; and in order to give them more character do something additional: move the green upward, the red downard. Say I have today carried out this maneuvre. Now let three weeks pass, at which time I bring before you not a green and red sheet, but two white sheets, and repeat the movements. You immediately remember that, contrary to my present use of white sheets, three weeks ago I produced certain visual impressions with a red and a green sheet. For politeness' sake let us assume that all of you have such a vivid imagination that, in spite of my moving white sheets, you see before you, through recollecting phantasy, the colored phenomenon of three weeks ago, forget all about the white sheets and, because I carry out the same motions, see the same color harmonies called forth, three weeks ago, with the red and green. Because I carry out the same gestures, by association you see what you saw three weeks ago.
The case is similar when we see in nature, for instance, a green precious stone. Only, the jewel is not dependent on this moment's soul-phantasy; it appeals to a phantasy concentrated in our eye, for this human eye with its blood and nerve fibers is in truth constructed by phantasy; it is the result of an effective imagination. And inasmuch as our eye is an organ imbued with phantasy, we cannot perceive a green gem in any other way than that in which, in the immeasurably distant past, it was spiritually constructed out of the green color of the spiritual world. The moment we confront a green precious stone, we transport our eye back into ages long past, and green appears because at that time divine-spiritual beings created this substance through a purely spiritual green. The moment we see green, red, blue, yellow, or any other color in a precious stone, we look back into an infinitely distant past. For (to repeat for emphasis) in beholding colors, we do not merely perceive what is contemporary, we look back into distant time-perspectives. Thus it is quite impossible to see a colored jewel merely in the present, just as it is impossible, while standing at the foot of a mountain, to see in close proximity the ruin at its top; being removed from it, we have to see it in perspective.
In confronting a topaz, say, we look back into time-perspective; look back upon the primal foundation of earthly creation, before the Lemurian epoch of evolution, and see this precious stone created out of the spiritual; that is why it appears yellow. Physics (I have characterized a recent stand) does something absurd. It places behind the world swirling atoms which are supposed to produce colors within us, when all the time it is divine-spiritual beings, creative in the infinitely distant past, who call forth, through colored minerals, a living memory of primeval acts of creativity.
And we can press on to the plant world.
Every spring, when a green carpet of plants is spread over the earth, whoever is able to understand this emergence of greenness sees not merely the present, but also the ancient Sun existence when the plant world was created out of the spiritual, in greenness. We see both mineral and plant colors in the right way when they stimulate us to see in nature the gods' primeval creative activity.
This requires an artistic living with color, which involves experiencing the plane as such. If someone covers the plane with blue, we should sense a retreat, a drawing back; if with red or yellow, we should feel an approach, a pressing forward. In other words, we acquire color-perspective instead of linear perspective: a sense for the plane, for the withdrawal and surging forward of color. In painting, the linear perspective which tries to create an impression of something essentially sculptural upon the plane falsifies; what must be acquired is a sense for the movement of color: intensive rather than extensive. Thus, if a true painter wishes to depict something aggressive, something eager to jump forward, he uses yellow-red; if something quiet, something retreating into the distance, blue-violet. Intensive color-perspective! A study of the old masters reveals that some early Renaissance painters still had what belonged to all pre-Renaissance painters: a feeling for color-perspective. Only with the advent of the fifth post-Atlantean period did linear perspective displace color-perspective.
It is through color-perspective that painting gains a relationship to the spiritual. Strange that today painters chiefly ask themselves: Can we by rendering space more spatial transcend space? Then they try to depict, in a materialistic manner, a fourth dimension. But the fourth dimension can exist only through annihilation of the third, somewhat as debts annihilate wealth. For we do not, on leaving three-dimensional space, enter a four-dimensional space; or, better said, we enter a four-dimensional space which is two-dimensional, because the fourth dimension annihilates the third; only two remain as reality. If we rise from matter's three dimensions to the etheric element, we find everything oriented two-dimensionally, and can understand the etheric only if we conceive of it so. Now you may demur: Yes, but in the etheric I move from here to there, which is to say three-dimensionally. Very well, but the third dimension has no significance for the etheric, only the other two dimensions. The third dimension expresses itself through red, yellow, blue, violet, in the way explained; for in the etheric it is not the third dimension which changes, but color. Regardless of where the plane is placed, the colors change accordingly. Only then can we live with and in color; live two-dimensionally; rise from the spatial arts to those which, like painting, are two-dimensional. We overcome the merely spatial. Our feelings have no relation to the three space-dimensions; only our will. By their very nature, feelings are bound within two dimensions. That is why they are best represented by two-dimensional painting.
You see, we have to struggle free from three-dimensional matter if we would advance from architecture, costuming as an art, and sculpture. Painting is an art which man can experience inwardly. Whether he creates as a painter or just lives in and enjoys a painting, it is a soul event. He experiences inner by outer; experiences color-perspective. We cannot say, as in the case of architecture, that the soul is striving to create the forms it needs when it gazes back into the body; nor, as in the case of sculpture, that the soul is trying to depict man's shape in such a way that it is placed into space full of present meaning. None of this concerns painting. It makes no sense in painting to speak of anything as inside or outside; of the soul as inside or outside. In experiencing color the soul is within the spiritual. Really, what is experienced in painting — despite the imperfections of pigments — is the soul's free moving about in the cosmos.
With music it is different. Now we do not merge inner with outer, but enter directly into that which the soul experiences as the spiritual or psycho-spiritual; leave space entirely. Music is line-like, one-dimensional; is experienced one-dimensionally in the line of time. In music man experiences the world as his own. Now the soul does not assert something it needs upon descending into or leaving the physical; rather it experiences something which lives and vibrates here and now, on earth, in its own soul-spirit nature. Studying the secrets of music, we can discover what the Greeks, who knew a great deal about these matters, meant by the lyre of Apollo. What is experienced musically is really man's hidden adaptation to the inner harmonic-melodic relationships of cosmic existence out of which he was shaped. His nerve fibers, ramifications of the spinal cord, are marvelous musical strings with a metamorphosed activity. The spinal cord culminating in the brain, and distributing its nerve fibers throughout the body, is the lyre of Apollo. Upon these nerve fibers the soul-spirit man is “played” within the earthly sphere. Thus man himself is the world's most perfect instrument; and he can experience artistically the tones of an external musical instrument to the degree that he feels this connection between the sounding of strings of a new instrument, for example, and his own coursing blood and nerve fibers. In other words, man, as nerve man, is inwardly built up of music, and feels it artistically to the degree that he feels its harmonization with the mystery of his own musical structure.
Thus, in devoting himself to the musical, man appeals to his earth-dwelling soul-spirit nature. The discovery by anthroposophical vision of the mysteries of this nature will have a fructifying effect, not just on theory, but upon actual musical creation.
In discussing the various arts I have not been theorizing. It is not theorizing when I say: In beholding the lifeless material world in color we stir cosmic memory: and through anthroposophical vision learn to understand how in precious stones, in colored objects of all kinds, we call to mind the creative acts of the primordially active gods; and feel, therefore, the enthusiasm which only an experience of the spiritual kindles. This is no theorizing; this permeates the soul with inner force. Nor does any theory of art emerge therefrom. Only artistic creation and enjoyment are stimulated. For true art is an expression of man's search for a relationship with the spiritual, whether the spiritual longed for when his soul leaves the body, or the spiritual which he desires to remember when he dips down into a body, or the spiritual to which he feels more related than to his natural surroundings, or the spiritual as manifested in colors when outside and inside lose their separateness and the soul moves through the cosmos, freely, swimming and hovering, as it were, experiencing its own cosmic life, existing everywhere; or (our last consideration) the spiritual as expressed in earth life, in the relationship between man's soul-spirit and the cosmic, in music.
Which summary brings us to the world of poetry and drama.
Often in the past I have called attention to the way poetry was felt in ancient times when man still had a living relationship to the spirit-soul world, when poetry, including poetic dramas, by reason of that fact, was artistic through and through. Yesterday I pointed out that in artistic ages it would not have been considered sensible for playwrights to copy on the stage the way Smith and Jones move in the market place of Gotham or at home, inasmuch as their movements and conversation, there, are much richer than in any stage representation; that it would have seemed absurd, for instance, to the Greeks of the classical age; they never could have understood naturalism's strange attempt to imitate nature right down to “realistic” stage sets. Just as it would not be true painting if we tried to project color into three-dimensional space instead of honoring its own dynamics, so it is not stage art if we have no artistic feeling for its own particular medium. Actually a thorough-going naturalism would preclude a stage room with three walls and an audience in front of it. There are no such rooms; in winter we would freeze to death in them. To act entirely naturalistically one would have to close the stage with a fourth wall and play behind it. But how many people would buy tickets to a play enacted on a stage closed on four sides? Though speaking in extremes, I refer to a reality.
Now I must draw your attention again to the way Homer begins his Iliad: “Sing, oh Goddess, the wrath of Achilles, Son of Peleus.” This is no mere phrase. Homer experienced in a positive way the need to raise himself up to the level of a super-earthly divine-spiritual being who would make use of his body in artistic creation. Epic poetry points to the upper gods, those considered female because they transmitted fructifying forces: the Muses. Homer had to offer himself up to these upper gods in order to bring to expression, in the events of his great poem, the thought element of the cosmos. Epic poetry always means letting the upper gods speak; means putting one's person at their disposal. Homer begins his Odyssey this way: “Tell me, oh Muse, of that ingenious hero who wandered afar,” meaning Odysseus. Never would it have occurred to him to impose upon the people something which he himself had seen or thought out. Why do what everybody can do for himself? Homer put his organism at the disposal of the upper divine-spiritual beings that they might express through him how they perceived earthly human relationships. Out of such a collaboration arises epic poetry.
And the art of the drama? It originated — we need only to think of the period prior to Aeschylus — from a presentation of the god Dionysus working up out of the depths. At first it was Dionysus alone, then Dionysus and his helpers, a chorus grouped around him as a reflection of what is carried out, not by human beings, but by the subterranean gods, gods of will, making use of human beings to bring to manifestation not the human but divine will. Only gradually, in Greece, as man's connection with the spiritual fell into oblivion, did the divine action depicted on the stage turn into purely human action. The process took place between the time of Aeschylus, when divine impulses still penetrated human beings, and the time of Euripides, when men appeared on the stage as men, though still bearing super-earthly impulses. Real naturalism became possible only in modern times.
In poetry and drama man must find his way back to the spiritual.
Thus we may say in summary: Epic poetry turns to the upper gods, drama to the lower gods. True drama shows the divine world lying below the earth, the chthonic world, rising up onto the earth for the reason that man can make himself into an instrument for the action of this netherworld. In contrast, epic poetry sees the upper spiritual world sink down; the Muse descends and, making use of man through his head, proclaims man's earthly accomplishments or else those out in the universe. In drama the subterranean will of the gods rises up from the depths, making use of human bodies in order to give free reign to their wills.
One might say: Here we have the fields of earthly existence: out of the clouds descends the divine Muse of epic art; out of earthly depths there rise, like vapor and smoke, the Dionysian, chthonic divine-spiritual powers, working their way upward through men's wills. We have to penetrate earth regions to see how the dramatic element rises like a volcano, and the epic element sinks down from above, like a blessing of rain. And it is right here on this same plane with ourselves that the cosmic element is enticed and made gay, joyous, full of laughter, through nymphs and fire spirits; right here that the messengers of the upper gods cooperate with the lower: right here in the middle region that man becomes lyrical. Now man does not feel the dramatic element rising up from below, nor the epic element sinking down from above; he experiences the lyrical element living on the same plane as himself: a delicate, sensitive, spiritual element, which does not rain down upon forests nor erupt like volcanoes, splitting trees, but, rather, rustles in leaves, expresses joy through blossoms, wafts gently in wind. In whatever on our own plane lets us divine the spiritual in matter, stretching hearts, pleasantly stimulating breath, merging our souls with outer nature, as symbol of the soul-spiritual world — in all this there lives and weaves a lyrical element which looks up, with happy countenance, to the upper gods, and down, with saddened countenance, to the gods of the underworld. The lyrical can tense up into the dramatic-lyrical or quiet itself down into the epic-lyrical. For the hallmark of the lyrical, whatever its form, is this: man experiences what lives and weaves in the far reaches of the earth with his middle nature, his feeling nature.
You see, if we really enter the spirituality of world phenomena, we gradually transform dead abstract concepts into a living, colorful, form-bearing weaving and being. Because what surrounds us lives in the artistic, mere intellectual activity can, almost unnoticed, be transformed into artistic activity. That is why we constantly feel a need to enliven impertinently abstract conceptual definitions — physical body, ether body, astral body, all such concepts, these impertinently rigid, philistine and horribly scientific formulations — into artistic color and form. This is an inner, not merely outer, need of Anthroposophy.
Therefore the hope may be expressed that all mankind will extricate itself from naturalism, drowned as it is in philistinism and pedantry through everything abstract, theoretical, merely scientific, practical without being really practical. Man needs a new impetus. Without this impulse, this swing, Anthroposophy cannot thrive. In an inartistic atmosphere it goes short of breath; only in an artistic element can it breathe freely. Rightly understood, it will lead over to the genuinely artistic without losing any of its cognitional character.
Friday, August 27, 2010
Thursday, August 26, 2010
Rudolf Steiner, from a lecture given May 27, 1923:
"Today we must more and more develop the faculty of disregarding the physical, disregarding the physical starry sky, disregarding the physical course of the year, disregarding our sensations when confronting objects. For we can no longer behold our thoughts in matter. We must acquire the possibility of discovering the divine-spiritual as something special above and beyond the physical sense world before we can find it again within the sense world."
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Oslo, Norway, May 20, 1923:
Day before yesterday I tried to show that the anthroposophical knowledge which accompanies an inner life of the soul does not estrange one from artistic awareness and creation. On the contrary, whoever takes hold of Anthroposophy with full vitality opens up within himself the very source of such activity. And I indicated how the meaning of any art is best read through its own particular medium.
After discussing architecture, the art of costuming, and sculpture, I went on to explain the experience of color in painting, and took pains to show that color is not merely something which covers the surface of things and beings, but radiates out from them, revealing their inner nature.
For instance, I pointed out that green is the image of life, revealing the life of the plant world. Though it has its origin in the plant's dead mineral components, it is yet the means whereby the living shows forth in a dead image. It is fascinating that life can thus reveal itself. In that connection, consider how the living human figure appears in the dead image of sculpture; how life can be expressed through dead, rigid forms. In green we have a similar case in that it appears as the dead image of life without laying claim to life itself.
I shall repeat still other details from the last lecture in order to show how the course of the world moves on, then returns into itself; and shall do this by presenting the colors which make up its various elements: life, soul, spirit. I said I would draw this complete circle of the cosmic in the world of color. As I told you before, green appears as the dead image of life; in green life lies, as it were, concealed.
If we take the flesh color of Caucasian man, which resembles spring's fresh peach-blossom color, we have the living image of the soul. If we contemplate white in an artistic way, we have the soul image of the spirit. (The spirit as such conceals itself.) And if, as artists, we take hold of black, we have the spiritual image of death. And the circle is closed.
I have apprehended green, flesh color, white and black in their aesthetic manifestation; they represent the self-contained life of the cosmos within the world of color. If, artistically, we focus attention upon this closed circle of colors, our feeling will tell us of the need to use each of them as a self-contained image.
Naturally, in dealing with the arts I must concern myself not with abstract intellect, but aesthetic feeling. The arts must be recognized artistically. For that reason I cannot furnish conceptual proof that green, peach-blossom, white and black should be treated as self-contained images. But it is as if each wants to have a contour within which to express itself. Thus they have, in a sense, shadow natures. White, as dimmed light, is the gentlest shadow; black the heaviest. Green and peach-blossom are images in the sense of saturated surfaces; which makes them, also, shadowlike. Thus these four colors are image or shadow colors, and we must try to experience them as such.
The matter is quite different with red, yellow and blue. Considering these colors with unbiased artistic feeling, we feel no urge to see them with well-defined contours on the plane, only to let them radiate. Red shines toward us, the dimness of blue has a tranquil effect, the brilliance of yellow sparkles outward. Thus we may call flesh color, green, black and white the image or shadow colors, whereas blue, yellow and red are radiance or lustre colors. To put it another way: In the radiance, lustre and activity of red we behold the element of the vital, the living; we may call it the lustre of life. If the spirit does not wish merely to reveal itself in abstract uniformity as white, but to speak to us with such inward intensity that our soul can receive it, then it sparkles in yellow; yellow is the radiance or lustre of the spirit. If the soul wishes to experience itself inwardly and deeply, withdrawing from external phenomena and resting within itself, this may be expressed artistically in the mild shining of blue, the lustre of the soul. To repeat: red is the lustre of life, blue the lustre of the soul, yellow the lustre of the spirit.
Colors form a world in themselves and we understand them with our feelings if we experience the lustre colors red, yellow, blue, as bestowing a gleam of revelation upon the image colors, peach-blossom, green, black and white. Indeed, we become painters through a soul experience of the world of color, through learning to live with the colors, feeling what each individual color tries to convey. When we paint with blue we feel satisfied only if we paint it darker at the edge and lighter toward the center. If we let yellow speak its own language, we make it strong in the center and gradually fading and lightening toward the periphery. By demanding this treatment, each reveals its character. Thus forms arise out of the colors themselves; and it is out of their world that we learn to paint sensitively.
If we wish to represent a spiritually radiant figure, we cannot do otherwise than paint it a yellow which decreases in strength toward its edge. If we wish to depict the feeling soul, we can express this reality with a blue garment — a blue which becomes gradually lighter toward its center. From this point of view one can appreciate the painters of the Renaissance, Raphael, Michelangelo even Leonardo, for they still had this color experience.
In the paintings of earlier periods one finds the inner or color-perspective of which the Renaissance still had an echo. Whoever feels the radiance of red sees how it leaps forward, how it brings its reality close, whereas blue retreats into the distance. When we employ red and blue we paint in color-perspective; red brings subjects near, blue makes them retreat. Such color-perspective lives in the realm of soul and spirit.
During the age of materialism there arose spatial perspective, which takes into account sizes in space. Now distant things were painted not blue but small; close things not red but large. This perspective belongs to the materialistic age which, living in space and matter, prefers to paint in those elements.
Today we live in an age when we must find our way back to the true nature of painting. The plane surface is a vital part of the painter's media. Above everything else, an artist, any artist, must develop a feeling for his media. It must he so strong that — for instance — a sculptor working in wood knows that human eyes must be dug out of it; he focuses on what is concave; hollows out the wood. On the other hand, a sculptor working in marble or some other hard substance does not hollow out; he focuses his attention on, say, the brow jutting forward above the eye; takes into consideration what is convex. Already in his preparatory work in plasticine or clay he immerses himself in his material. The sculptor in marble lays on; the woodcarver takes away, hollows out. They must live with their material; must listen and understand its vital language.
The same is true of color. The painter feels the plane surface only if the third spatial dimension has been extinguished; and it is extinguished if he feels the qualitative character of color as contributing another kind of third dimension, blue retreating, red approaching. Then matter is abolished instead of — as in spatial perspective — imitated. Certainly I do not speak against the latter. In the age which started with the fifteenth century it was natural and self-evident, and added an important element to the ancient art of painting. But today it is essential to realize that, having passed through materialism, it is time for painting to return to a more spiritual conception, to return to color-perspective.
In discussing any art we must not theorize but (I repeat) abide, feelingly, within its own particular medium. In speaking about mathematics, mechanics, physics, we must kill our feeling and use only intellect. In art, however, real perception does not come by way of intellect, art historians of the nineteenth century notwithstanding. Once a Munich artist told me how he and his friends, in their youth, went to a lecture of a famous art historian to find out whether or not they could learn something from him. They did not go a second time, but coined an ironical derogatory phrase for all his theorizing. What can be expressed through the vital weaving of colors can also be expressed through the living weaving of tones. But the world of tones has to do with man's inner life (whereas the sculptor in three-dimensional space and the painter on a two-dimensional plane express what manifests etherically in space). With the musical element we enter man's inner world, and it is extremely important to focus attention upon its meaning within the evolution of mankind.
Those of my listeners who have frequently attended my lectures or are acquainted with anthroposophical literature know that we can go back in the evolution of mankind to what we call the Atlantean epoch when the human race, here on earth, was very different from today, being endowed with an instinctive clairvoyance which made it possible to behold, in waking dreams, the spiritual behind the physical. Parallel to this clairvoyance man had a special experience of music. In those ancient days music gave him a feeling of being lifted out of the body. Though it may seem paradoxical, the people of those primeval ages particularly enjoyed the chords of the seventh. They played music and sang in the interval of the seventh which is not today considered highly musical. It transported them from the human into the divine world.
During the transition from the experience of the seventh to that of the pentatonic scales, this sense of the divine gradually diminished. Even so, in perceiving and emphasizing the fifth, a feeling of liberating the divine from the physical lingered on. But whereas with the seventh man felt himself completely removed into the spiritual world, with the fifth he reached up to the very limits of his physical body; felt his spiritual nature at the boundary of his skin, so to speak, a sensation foreign to modern ordinary consciousness.
The age which followed the one just described — you know this from the history of music — was that of the third, the major and minor third. Whereas formerly music had been experienced outside man in a kind of ecstasy, now it was brought completely within him. The major and minor third, and with them the major and minor scales, took music right into man. As the age of the fifth passed over into that of the third man began to experience music inwardly, within his bounding skin.
We see a parallel transition: on the one hand, in painting the spatial perspective which penetrates into space; on the other, in music, the scales of the third which penetrate into man's etheric-physical body; which is to say, in both directions a tendency toward naturalistic conception. In spatial perspective we have external naturalism, in the musical experience of the third “internal” naturalism.
To grasp the essential nature of things is to understand man's position in the cosmos. The future development of music will be toward spiritualization, and involve a recognition of the special character of the individual tone. Today we relate the individual tone to harmony or melody in order that, together with other tones, it may reveal the mystery of music. In the future we will no longer recognize the individual tone solely in relation to other tones, which is to say according to its planal dimension, but apprehend it in depth; penetrate into it and discover therein its affinity for hidden neighboring tones. And we will learn to feel the following: If we immerse ourselves in the tone it reveals three, five or more tones; the single tone expands into a melody and harmony leading straight into the world of spirit. Some modern musicians have made beginnings in this experience of the individual tone in its dimension of depth; in modern musicianship there is a longing for comprehension of the tone in its spiritual profundity, and a wish — in this as in the other arts — to pass from the naturalistic to the spiritual element.
Man's special relationship to the world as expressed through the arts becomes clear if we advance from those of the outer world, that is architecture, art of costuming, sculpture and painting, to those of the inner world, that is to music and poetry. I deeply regret the impossibility of carrying out my original intention of having Frau Dr. Steiner illustrate, with declamation and recitation, my discussion of the poetic art. Unfortunately she has not yet recovered from a severe cold. During this Norwegian lecture course my own cold forces me to a rather inartistic croaking, and we did not want to add Frau Dr. Steiner's.
Rising to poetry, we feel ourselves confronted by a great enigma. Poetry originates in phantasy, a thing usually taken as synonymous with the unreal, the non-existent, with which men fool themselves. But what power expresses itself through phantasy?
To understand that power, let us look at childhood. The age of childhood does not yet show the characteristics of phantasy. At best it has dreams. Free creative phantasy does not yet live and manifest in the child. It is not, however, something which, at a certain age in manhood, suddenly appears out of nothingness. Phantasy lies hidden in the child; he is actually full of it. What does it do in him? Whoever can observe the development of man with the unbiased eye of the spirit sees how at a tender age the brain, and indeed the whole of his organism, is still, as compared with man's later shape, quite unformed. In the shaping of his own organism the child is inwardly the most significant sculptor. No mature sculptor is able to create such marvelous cosmic forms as does the child when, between birth and the change of teeth, it plastically elaborates his organism. The child is a superb sculptor whose plastic power works as an inner formative force of growth. The child is also a musical artist, for he tunes his nerve strands in a distinctly musical fashion. To repeat: power of phantasy is power to grow and harmonize the organism.
When the child has reached the time of the change of teeth, around his seventh year, then advances to puberty, he no longer needs such a great amount of plastic-musical power of growth and formation as, once, for the care of the body. Something remains over. The soul is able to withdraw a certain energy for other purposes, and this is the power of phantasy: the natural power of growth metamorphosed into a soul force. If you wish to understand phantasy, study the living force in plant forms, and in the marvelous inner configuratons of the organism as created by the ego; study everything creative in the wide universe, everything molding and fashioning and growing in the subsconscious regions of the cosmos; then you will have a conception of what remains over when man has advanced to a point in the elaborating of his own organism when he no longer needs the full quota of his power of growth and formative force. Part of it now rises up into the soul to become the power of phantasy. The final left-over (I cannot call it sediment, because sediment lies below while this rises upward) — the ultimate left-over is power of intellect. Intellect is the finely sifted-out power of phantasy, the last upward-rising remainder.
People ignore this fact. They see intellect as of greater reality. But phantasy is the first child of the natural formative and growth forces; and because it cannot emerge as long as there is active growing, does not express direct reality. Only when reality has been taken care of does phantasy make its appearance in the soul. In quality and essential nature it is the same as the power of growth. In other words, what promotes growth of an arm in childhood is the same force which works in us later, in soul transformation, as poetic, artistic phantasy. This fact cannot be grasped theoretically; we must grasp it with feeling and will. Only then will we be able to experience the appropriate reverence for phantasy, and under certain circumstances the appropriate humor; in brief, to feel phantasy as a divine, active power in the world.
Coming to expression through man, it was a primary experience for those human beings of ancient times of whom I spoke in the last lecture, when art and knowledge were a unity, when knowledge was acquired through artistic rites rather than the abstractions of laboratory and clinic; when physicians gained their knowledge of man not from the dissecting room but from the Mysteries where the secrets of health and disease, the secrets of the nature of man, were divulged in high ceremonies.
It was sensed that the god who lives and weaves in the plastic and musical formative forces of the growing child continues to live in phantasy. At that time, when people felt the deep inner relationship between religion, art and science, they realized that they had to find their way to the divine, and take it into themselves for poetic creation; otherwise phantasy would be desecrated.
Thus ancient poetic drama never presented common man, for the reason that mankind's ancient dramatic phantasy would have considered it absurd to let ordinary human beings converse and carry out all kinds of gestures on the stage. Such a fact may sound paradoxical today, but the anthroposophical researcher — knowing all the objections of his opponents — must nevertheless state the truth. The Greeks prior to Sophocles and Aeschylus would have asked: Why present something on the stage which exists, anyhow, in life? We need only to walk on the street or enter a room to see human beings conversing and gesturing. This we see everywhere. Why present it on a stage? To do so would have seemed foolish.
Actors were to represent the god in man, and above all the god who, rising out of terrestrial depths, gave man his will power. With a certain justification our predecessors, the ancient Greeks, experienced this will-endowment as rising up out of the earth. The gods of the depths who, entering man, endow him with will, these Dionysiac gods were to be given stage presentation. Man was, so to speak, the vessel of the Dionysiac godhead. Actors in the Mysteries were human beings who received into themselves a god. It was he who filled them with enthusiasm.
On the other hand, man who rose to the goddess of the heights (male gods were recognized as below, female gods in the heights), man who rose in order that the divine could sink into him became an epic poet who wished not to speak himself but to let the godhead speak through him. He offered himself as bearer to the goddess of the heights that she, through him, might look upon earth events, upon the deeds of Achilles, Agamemnon, Odysseus and Ajax. Ancient epic poets did not care to express the opinions of such heroes; opinions to be heard every day in the market place. It was what the goddess had to say about the earthly-human element when people surrendered to her influence that was worth expression in epic poetry. “Sing, oh goddess, the wrath of Achilles, son of Peleus”: thus did Homer begin the Iliad. “Sing, oh goddess, of that ingenious hero,” begins the Odyssey. This is no phrase; it is a deeply inward confusion of a true epic poet who lets the goddess speak through him instead of speaking himself, who receives the divine into his phantasy, that child of the cosmic forces of growth, so that the divine may speak about world events.
After the times had become more and more materialistic, Klopstock, who still had real artistic feeling, wrote his Messiade. Inasmuch as man no longer looked up to the gods, he did not dare to say: Sing, oh goddess, the redemption of sinful man as fulfilled here on earth by the Messiah. He no longer dared to do this in the eighteenth century, but cried instead: “Sing, oh immortal soul, of sinful man's redemption.” In other words, he still possessed something which was lifted above the human level. His words reveal a certain bashfulness about what was fully valid in ancient times: “Sing, oh goddess, the wrath of Achilles, son of Peleus.”
Thus the dramatist felt as if the god of the depths had risen, and that he himself was to be that god's vessel; the epic poet as if the Muse, the goddess, had descended into him in order to judge earthly conditions. The ancient Greek actor avoided presentation of the individual human element. That is why he wore high thick-soled shoes, cothurni, and used a simple musical instrument through which his voice resounded. He desired to lift the dramatic action above the individual-personal.
I do not speak against naturalism. For a certain age it was right and inevitable. For when Shakespeare conceived his dramatic characters in their supreme perfection, man had arrived at presenting, humanly, the human element. Quite a different urge and artistic feeling held sway at that period. But the time has come when, in poetic art also, we must find our way back to the spiritual, to presenting dramatic figures in whom man himself, as a spiritual as well as bodily being, can move within the all-permeating spiritual events of the world.
I have made a first weak attempt in my Mystery dramas. There human beings converse not as people do in the market place or on the street, but as they do when higher spiritual impulses play between them, and their instincts, desires and passion are crossed by paths of destiny, of karma, active through millennia in repeated lives.
It is imperative to turn to the spiritual in all spheres. We must make good use of what naturalism has brought us; must not lose what we have acquired by having for centuries now held up, as an ideal of art, the imitation of nature. Those who deride materialism are bad artists, bad scientists. Materialism had to happen. We must not look down mockingly on earthly man and the material world. We must have the will to penetrate into this material world spiritually; nor despise the gifts of scientific materialism and naturalistic art; must — though not by developing dry symbolism or allegory — find our way back to the spiritual. Symbolism and allegory are inartistic. The starting point for a new life of art can come only by direct stimulation from the source whence spring all anthroposophical ideas. We must become artists, not symbolists or allegorists, by rising, through spiritual knowledge, more and more into the spiritual world.
It can be attained quite specially if, in the art of recitation and declamation, we transcend naturalism. In this connection we should remember how genuine artists like Schiller and Goethe formed their poems. In Schiller's soul there lived an indefinite melody, and in Goethe's an indefinite picture, a form, before ever they put down the words of their poems. Often, today, the chief emphasis in recitation and declamation is placed on prose content. But that is only a makeshift. The prose content of a poem, what lies in the words as such, is of little importance; what is important is the way the poet shapes and forms it. Ninety-nine percent of those who write verse are not artists. In a poem everything depends on the way the poet uses the musical element, rhythm, melody, the theme, the imaginative element, the evocation of sounds. Single words give the prose content. The crux is how we treat that prose content; whether, for instance, we choose a fast or slow rhythm. We express joyful anticipation by a fast rhythm. If we say: The hero was full of joyful anticipation, we have prose even if it occurs in a poem. It is essential, in such an instance, to choose a rapidly moving rhythm. When I say: The woman was deeply sad, I have prose, even in a poem. But when I choose a rhythm which flows in soft slow waves, I express sorrow. To repeat, everything depends on form, on rhythm. When I say, The hero struck a heavy blow, it is prose. But if the poet speaks in fuller, not ordinary tones, if he offers a fuller u-tone, a fuller o-tone, instead of a's and e's, he expresses his intention in the very formation of speech.
In declamation and recitation one has to learn to shape language, to foster the elements of melody, rhythm, beat, not prose content. One has also to gauge the effect of a dull sound upon a preceding light sound, and a light sound upon the following dark one, thus expressing a soul experience in the treatment of the speech sounds. Words are the medium of recitation and declamation: a little-understood art which we have striven to develop. Frau Dr. Steiner has given years to it. When we return to artistic feeling on a higher level we return to speech formation as contrasted with the modern emphasis on prose content. Nothing derogatory shall be said against prose content. Having achieved it through the naturalism which made us human, we must keep it. At the same time we must again become imbued with soul and spirit. Word-content can never express soul and spirit. The poet is justified in saying: “If the soul speaks, alas, it is no longer the soul that speaks.” For prose is not the soul's language. It expresses itself in beat, rhythm, melodious theme, image, and the formation of speech sounds. The soul is present as long as the poem expresses rising and falling inner movements.
I make a distinction between declamation and recitation: two separate arts. Declamation has its home in the north; and is effective primarily through the weight of its syllables: chief stress, secondary stress. In contrast, the reciting artist has always lived in the south. In recitation man takes into account not the weight but the measure of the syllables: long syllable, short syllable. Greek reciters, presenting their texts concisely, experienced the hexameter and pentameter as mirrors of the relationship between breathing and blood circulation. There are approximately eighteen breaths and seventy-two pulse-beats per minute. Breath and pulse-beat chime together. The hexameter has three long syllables, the fourth is the caesura. One breath measures four pulse beats. This one-to-four relation appearing in the measure and scanning of the hexameter brings to expression the innermost nature of man, the secret of the relation of breath and blood circulation.
This reality cannot be perceived with our intellect; it is an instinctive, intuitive-artistic experience. And beautifully illustrated by the two versions of Goethe's Iphigenie when spoken one after the other. We have done that often and would have done so today if Frau Dr. Steiner were not indisposed. Before he went to Italy, Goethe wrote his Iphigenie as Nordic artist (to use Schiller's later word for him), in a form which can be presented only through the art of declamation, chief stress, secondary stress, when the life of the blood preponderates. In Italy he rewrote this work. It is not always noticed, but a fine artistic feeling can clearly distinguish the German from the Roman Iphigenie. Because Goethe introduced the recitative element into his Northern declamatory Iphigenie, this Italian, this Roman Iphigenie asks for an altered reading. If one reads both versions, one after the other, the marvelous difference between declamation and recitation becomes strikingly clear. Recitation was at home in Greece where breath measured the faster blood circulation. Declamation was at home in the North where man lived in his inmost nature. Blood is a quite special fluid because it contains the inmost human element. In it lives the human character. That is why the Northern poetic artist became a declamatory artist.
As long as Goethe knew only the North he was a declamatory artist and wrote the declamatory German Iphigenie; but transformed it when he had been softened to meter and measure through seeing the Italian Renaissance art which he felt to be Greek. I do not wish to spin theories, I wish to describe feelings which anthroposophists can kindle for the world of art. Only so shall we develop a true artistic feeling for everything.
One more point. How do we behave on a stage today? Standing in the background we ponder how we would walk down a street or through a drawing-room, then behave that way on the stage. It is all right if we introduce this personal element, but it does lead us away from real style in stage direction, which always means taking hold of the spirit. On the stage, with the audience sitting in front, we cannot behave naturalistically. Art appreciation is largely immersed in the unconsciousness of the instincts. It is one thing if with my left eye I see somebody walk by, passing, from his point of view, from right to left, while, from mine, from left to right. It is quite another thing if this happens in the opposite direction. Each time I have a different sensation; something different is imparted. We must relearn the spiritual significance of directions, what it means when an actor walks from left to right, or from right to left, from back to front, or vice versa; must feel the impossibility of standing in the foreground when about to start a long speech. The actor should say the first words far back, then gradually advance, making a gesture toward the audience in front and addressing both the left and right. Every movement can be spiritually apprehended out of the general picture, and not merely as a naturalistic imitation of actions on the street or in the drawing-room. Unfortunately people no longer wish to make an artistic study of all this; they have become lazy. Materialism permits indolence. I have wondered why people who demand full naturalism — there are such — do not adopt a stage with four walls. No room has three. But with a four-wall set how many tickets would be sold?
Through such paradoxes we can call attention to the great desideratum: true art in contrast to mere imitation. Now that naturalism has followed the grand road from naturalistic stage productions to the films (neither philistine nor pedant in this regard, I know how to value something for which I do not care too much) we must find the way back to presentation of the spiritual, the genuine, the real; must refind the divine-human element in art by refinding the divine-spiritual.
Anthroposophy would take the path to the spirit in the plastic arts also. That was our intention in building the Goetheanum at Dornach, this work of art wrested from us. And we must do it in the new art of eurythmy. And in recitation and declamation. Today people do breathing exercises and manipulate their speech organism. But the right method is to bring order into the speech organism by listening to one's own rhythmically spoken sentence, which is to say, through exercises in breathing-while-speaking. These things need reorientation. This cannot originate in theory, proclamations and propaganda; only in spiritual-practical insight into the facts of life, both material and spiritual.
Art, always a daughter of the divine, has become estranged from her parent. If it finds its way back to its origins and is again accepted by the divine, then it will become what it should within civilization, within world-wide culture: a boon for mankind.
I have given only sketchy indications of what Anthroposophy wishes to do for art, but they should make clear an immense desire to unfold the right element in every sphere. The need is not for theory — art is not theory. The need is for living, fully living, in the artistic quality while striving for understanding. Such an orientation leads beyond discussion to genuine appreciation and creation.
If art is to be fructified by a world-conception, this is the crux of the matter. Art has always taken its rise from a world-conception, from inner world-experience. If people say: Well, we couldn't understand the art forms of Dornach, we must reply: Can those who have never heard of Christianity understand Raphael's Sistine Madonna?
Anthroposophy would like to lead human culture over into honest spiritual world-experience.