Christ in Relation to Lucifer and Ahriman
A Lecture by
Linz, May 18, 1915
The decision to construct the first Goetheanum in Dornach, Switzerland, was made in May 1913, when Rudolf Steiner visited the future building site. Construction began within a few weeks and the exterior of the building was completed in April, 1914. Work on the interior proceeded at a slower pace and lasted through World War I (1914-1918). In 1914, Rudolf Steiner had begun a scaled-down model of the Christ sculpture that was later to be installed in the Goetheanum. As the work on the sculpture itself began, he frequently explained its significance in his lectures.One of Rudolf Steiner's lecture tours, May 6 through May 18, 1915, took him to Vienna, Prague and Linz. In all three cities he stressed that the Christ figure in the sculptured group would have to be portrayed as a being in equipoise between the polar forces of Lucifer and Ahriman and that this being was symbol of, and model for, man's own existence here on earth. The Linz lecture, which is here translated, presents the group in a world-historical context and relates the significance of the Lucifer-Christ-Ahriman configuration to the events surrounding World War I. Steiner sees a parallel between Christ's central, but equalizing position and Central Europe's mission in World War I. He implies that Germany's and Austria's militarism and political intransigence alone did not lead to war against the world powers in the East (Russia) and the West (France, England and, since 1917, the United States). According to Steiner, World War I was the earthly expression of a struggle between luciferic forces in the East and ahrimanic forces in the West, and it was Central Europe's destiny to mediate between these forces.The fundamental polarization of East and West that Rudolf Steiner saw emerging more than six decades ago is now a political reality. While most historians today concede that World War II was in part caused by the circumstances surrounding World War I, few would accept Rudolf Steiner's statement from his Linz lecture that World War I was “destined by the European karma” or, to state it more concretely, that it was unavoidable. If the war could not have been avoided, then the question of who was to blame or who caused it is, as Steiner says, irrelevant. Based on this position, Steiner suggests that only one question has relevancy: “Who could have prevented the war?” This question seems to contradict Steiner's statement that World War I was destined by the European karma. A quick glance at the historical record may help to clarify what Steiner meant.In suggesting that the Russian government, and possibly England, could have prevented the war, Steiner simply deals with possibilities outside the realm of what had to happen according to European karma. Russia's instigation of the two Peace Conferences in the Hague (1899 and 1907) was indeed self-serving and hypocritical, for it was Russia that, in 1914, mobilized its armed forces without considering British proposals for peace negotiations. Under these circumstances and considering the political immaturity of the German leadership, it was not surprising that the German Kaiser and his generals over-reacted to the Russian mobilization and interpreted it as a declaration of war. Kaiser Wilhelm II and Czar Nicholas II, who were cousins, frantically exchanged telegrams in which one beseeched the other to preserve the peace, but to no avail. The war machinery was already overheated by the forces of chauvinism and materialism so that even from this vantage point Steiner was correct in maintaining that war was unavoidable.Regarding the possibility of preventing the war, a glance at the major Western powers involved in the controversy, and at Germany, reveals the following historical facts. France, for thirty years an ally of Russia, did nothing to prevent the war because she did not attempt to delay the hasty Russian mobilization. Her representatives said later that France regretted the Russian action, but there seems little doubt that France was more interested in presenting herself as the innocent victim of an attack. On the other hand, England's foreign secretary, Sir Edward Grey, could have prevented the war if he had taken earlier measures to discourage Germany's militarists from asserting themselves in their country, but in view of the English tradition and the English Constitution, this was probably not possible. Finally, the confusion in Germany itself was caused by a lack of understanding of who had legitimate authority to make decisions. Eventually, the political decisions were made by generals who managed to spread the belief that the fatherland was in peril and that Germany herself was not the attacker, but the attacked. Thus, theoretically, any one of these three powers could have prevented the war, but that, as Rudolf Steiner points out in the lecture, is not the real issue. Furthermore, the war did not emerge out of a French or Russian moral conviction that was responsive to German militarism. Rather, the goal of crushing German militarism emerged well after the war had begun. The war could be interpreted, in this sense, to be inevitable because it was not generated from a goal, but exploded and then developed its goals. In this war of attrition, materialism camouflaged itself with nationalistic sentiment and strove for absolute expression and triumph.
It is against such a background of perplexity and misguided fervor that Rudolf Steiner's message to Central Europeans must be read. In rejecting the question of who had caused the war, Steiner dismissed as equally irrelevant the question of who was to blame for materialism. Materialism was there, as was Ahriman. Steiner admonished the Central Europeans to counterbalance materialism by adopting a spiritual perception of life and by striving for an encounter with the Christ.This profound spiritual responsibility that Steiner put on the Germans in 1915 was disregarded and the challenge passed by. After World War I it was not the Christ but Adolf Hitler who, under the guise of “savior,” emerged as Germany's Nemesis and was thus catapulted into a central position. When Hitler was finally destroyed, Central Europe broke up into two parts, one of which disappeared behind the Iron Curtain, while the other aligned with the West.As it stands today, Rudolf Steiner's call to instate the Christ in His central position has yet to be fully received and responded to not only by the people living in what is left of Central Europe, but also in the rest of the world.— Peter Mollenhauer
CHRIST IN RELATION TO LUCIFER AND AHRIMAN
Then there will be the remaining two figures of the group, one to the left and the other to the right of the Christ figure, if that is the proper name for the figure that I have just sketched. This Christ figure is placed in such a way that it seems to be standing in front of a rock that towers noticeably at His left side, with its peak extending over His head. On top of the rock there will be another figure, winged but with his wings broken, who for this reason begins to fall into the abyss. One feature in the Christ figure that must be worked out with special artistic care is the manner in which he raises his left arm, for it is precisely this gesture that precipitates the breaking of the wings. It must not appear, however, as if the Christ Himself were breaking the wings of this being. Rather, the interaction of the two figures must be portrayed artistically to show how the Christ, by the very motion of raising his hand, is expressing his infinite compassion for this being. Yet this being cannot bear the energy flowing upward through arm and hand, an energy that is evidenced by indentations that the fingers of the extended hand seem to leave in the rock itself. When this being comes into proximity with the Christ being, he feels something that may be expressed in the words: I cannot bear the radiation of such purity upon me.
From the warrior's valor,
From the blood of battles,
From the pain of the bereaved.
From a people's sacrifice
Will the spirit fruit arise —
Will the souls embrace the spirit
Consciously, with inner eyes.
NOTESTRANSLATOR'S NOTE: The footnotes below are translations of the annotations appended to the original publication of this lecture. Titles of books and articles are given in their German form; they are followed by free translations in parentheses which do not necessarily refer to an English translation.
- “Die übersinnliche Erkenntnis und ihre stärkende Seelenkraft in unserer schicksalstragenden Zeit” (“Supersensible Perception and Its Strengthening Soul-force in Our Time of Destiny”). Corresponding remarks can be found in the Berlin lectures of April 16 and 23, 1915, published as: “Aus schicksalstragenden Zeit”, (“From a Time of Destiny”) Bibl.-No. 64 in the Gesamtausgabe (Complete Works [of Rudolf Steiner]), Dornach, 1959.
- “Welten-Neujahr. Das Traumlied von Olaf Åsteson” (“Cosmic New Year. The Legend of Olaf Åsteson's Dream”), Hanover lecture of January 1, 1912. Published as a separate edition in Dornach, 1958; Gesamtausgabe (Complete works), Bibl.-No 158.
- In this form the pronouncement was first made by Karl von Linné in his Philosophia Botanica, Stockholm, 1751, no. 77.
- Cf. especially “Die spirituellen Hintergründe der äusseren Welt — Der Sturz der Geister der Finsternis” (“The Spiritual Background of the External World — The Fall of the Spirits of Darkness”), 14 lectures, Dornach, September 29 to October 28, 1917. Gesamtausgabe (Complete works), Bibl.-No. 177, Dornach, 1965.
- “Die Pforte der Einweihung” (“The Portal of Initiation”), first scene. Gesamtausgabe (Complete works), Bibl.-No 14, Dornach, 1962.
- The alliance was negotiated in 1897 by President Faure of France and Czar Nicolas II of Russia.
- Houston Stewart Chamberlain, Neue Kriegsaufsatze (New War Essays), Munich, 1915, p.36.
- “The reference is to the Hague Peace Conference of 1899 and 1907, which were both initiated by Czar Nicholas II.
- Rudolf Steiner was asked in 1882 to edit Goethe's scientific writings in Kürschner's Deutsche National-Literatur. Volume I was published in 1883; it contained writings on the formation and transformation of organisms. Rudolf Steiner's introductions and critical commentaries to the four volumes were published as a special edition, entitled: Rudolf Steiner, Goethes Naturwissenschaftliche Schriften (Goethe's Natural-Scientific Writings), Dornach, 1926. A German edition was published in Freiburg, 1949. Gesamtausgabe (Complete Works), Bibl.-No. 1. Cf. the correspondence between Karl Julius Schröer, Joseph Kürschner and Rudolf Steiner in Blätter für Anthroposophie,. 13 Jg. No. 2, February 1961.
- Ernst Haeckel: “I have always readily acknowledged the magnificent contributions of the small insular British empire to the enrichment of human civilization. These were possible because of its advantageous insular position and its geographic alliances. In addition I worked on Darwinism for the past fifty years and had many personal dealings with Darwin, Huxley, Lyell, John Murray, and many other famous natural scientists in England and Scotland; these were pleasant and fruitful personal relationships.” Haeckel, Ewigkeit. Weltkriegsgedanken über Leben und Tod, Religion und Entwicklungslehre (Eternity, World War Reflections on Life and Death, Religion, and the Theory of Evolution), Berlin, 1915, p.65 and 114.
- Robert Hamerling, 1830-1889. Cf. Rudolf Steiner, Gesammelte Aufsätze zur Literatur 1886-1902 (Collected Essays on Literature, 1886-1902), Bibl.No. 20, Gesamtausgabe (Complete Works), Dornach, 1957; Mein Lebensgang (The Course of My Life), Bibl.-No. 28, Gesamtausgabe (Complete Works), Dornach, 1962; “Robert Hamerling, ein Dichter und ein Denker und ein Mensch” (“Robert Hamerling, the Poet, the Thinker and the Man”), Dornach, 1939.
- Bartholomäus Ritter von Carneri, 1821-1909. Cf. Rudolf Steiner, “Carneri, der Ethiker des Darwinismus” in Methodische Grundlagen der Anthroposophie 1884-1901 (“Carneri, the Moral Philosopher of Darwinism” in Methodological Foundations of Anthroposophy, 1884-1901), Bibl.-No. 30, Gesamtausgabe (Complete Works), Dornach, 1961: also “Vom Menschenrätsel” (“On the Riddle of Man”) and Mein Lebensgang (The Course of My Life).
- Anton Bruckner, 1824-1896.
- Wincenty Lutoslawski, “Rudolf Steiner's sogenannte ‘Geheimwissenschaft’” in Hochland, 8.Jg., 1.Heft Oktober 1910, S.45-58. (“Rudolf Steiner's so-called ‘Occult Science’” in Hochland, VIII, 1, October 1910, p.45-58). Professor Karl Muth, editor of the journal, writes an editorial comment in No. 7 of the same year, in which he describes Lutoslawski as an “author who is eminent as a man and as a thinker.” Later, in Krisgshefte der Suddeutschen Monatshefte, Munich, February 1915, p.623-631, Muth refers to his correspondence with Lutoslawski and writes, among other things: “in addition to making several small contributions to Hochland, Lutoslawski also published in this journal three lead articles which aroused considerable attention among the readers: one article on the theosophy of Rudolf Steiner, another one on exercises to strengthen the will, and the third one on his conversion to the Catholic faith. His published notes contain peculiar biographical clues ... Where in Germany — except in an insane asylum — would there be a human being like this lector of philosophy from the University Geneva — a man who seems to be completely disoriented as he confronts the magnitude of our contemporary world-historical situation with complete blindness and a paucity of ideas! The relief which his overwrought brain received through his epistolary outpouring did not satisfy him; he now insists that his latest letter should come to the attention of the public as well.”