Tuesday, December 5, 2023

The Three Kinds of Veneration


Rudolf Steiner:

Perhaps the wealth of wisdom in [Goethe's] Wilhelm Meister is fatal for those who know everything and have nothing more to learn.

It is precisely in this second part of Wilhelm Meister that we find described in a wonderful way how the Ego can rise to ever higher levels and become the peak of existence. We are shown in a particularly beautiful way how Wilhelm Meister takes his son Felix to a remarkable educational establishment. This, too, has been condemned by the Philistines. They have not stopped to think that Goethe had no intention of presenting this establishment as though it existed somewhere or other in the real world. He wished to give a kind of symbolic survey of the nature of education in his “pedagogical province”.

People who visit this establishment are surprised to see how the life of the soul is given expression in certain gestures. In one gesture the hands are folded on the breast and the eyes turned upwards. In another, the hands are clasped behind the back while the pupils stand side by side. Especially significant is the gesture which gives an impression of the soul bowing towards the earth. If questions are asked about the meaning of all this, one is told that the boys are taught to kindle in their souls the “three venerations”, whereby the soul's development can be carried to ever higher levels. The three venerations are presented as the most important of all educational principles. First, a man must learn to look up with veneration to what is above him. Then he must learn to venerate what lies beneath him, so that he may realise how he himself has grown up from it. Then he must learn to venerate what stands beside him as equality between man and man, for only thus can he learn to venerate his own Ego in the right way. By these means he will be brought into harmony with the world around him and egoism cannot go astray.

We are then shown how the most important religions are to carry their influences into the human soul. The folk or ethnic religions should take the form of gods or spirits standing above man. The philosophical religions, as they could be called, are to inculcate veneration for our equals. And the teaching that leads us down into existence and enables us to look with proper veneration on death, sorrow and the hindrances in the world — this teaching, though it can easily be despised, leads to a right understanding of the Christian religion. For it is emphasised that the Christian religion shows how God came down into a physical body, took on himself all the misery of life and went through everything human. Veneration for what is below us should especially promote a right understanding of the Christian religion.

Source: November 25, 1909. GA 58

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