BY ARILD ROSENKRANTZ.
[See Baron Rosenkrantz's Artwork at: the e.Gallery.]
This article is an excerpt from the book The Fruits of Anthroposophy an Introduction to The Work of Dr. Rudolf Steiner, published in 1922 by The Threefold Commonwealth, London. The book was compiled and edited by George Kaufmann, M.A. Cantab.
RUDOLF STEINER appears in modern art as the bearer of a new invigorating teaching to all who recognize art to be one of the channels through which the evolution of mankind can be carried ever further. Not only has he, during the past thirty years, given innumerable lectures — the result of his own researches into the spiritual foundations of art, but he has also given concrete expression to his teaching through the erection at Dornach of the “Goetheanum.” It is therefore now possible for all who are interested in art to form their own impressions of this new art which springs from Spiritual Science. Rudolf Steiner has formulated this Science and given it to the world as an impulse necessary for the stage of culture that humanity has reached to-day.
It is significant that such a personality has arisen at this present time, when old ideals have lost their hold on civilised nations and the world is rushing into a chaotic condition both spiritually and materially. Through his teaching we can see the past evolution of the world as a preparation of the soil wherein it is the task of present-day humanity to sow seeds for the future. In every domain of life and culture the relation of the present stage of progress to what has been in the past is shown in its true aspect, and it can be seen how the development of mankind has been accomplished through the vanquishing of ever recurring difficulties and impediments, as perplexing as those with which we are confronted and which bewilder us to-day. In analysing the problems of life, it is by separating the spiritual evolution of the world and man from those forces which work against progress — the forces which appear to us as evil — that the road of future development can be pointed out. Our spiritual life to-day must receive a new impetus in order to raise it from the stagnation, and what is worse than stagnation, — the errors which actively assail it, and from becoming the tool of retrogressive forces which exist in the world and oppose development. Dr. Steiner, in his teaching, distinguishes the constructive influences from these, and shows it to be one of the missions of art to give voice to the spiritual advancement in humanity. In the history of art, we can see, when our vision is rightly directed, how human culture consists in the gradual progression of consciousness, step by step, from elementary beginnings to the moment when the individual sees himself as the summit of creation, when the Spirit can be manifested though his free-co-operation with progressive forces, — As the fruit of the past, art bears within it the seed of what is to come, and to Dr. Steiner therefore, the art of to-day contains what, through his teaching, can be made to grow and flower in perfect harmony with the laws underlying the spiritual progression of mankind. It is these laws which have to be studied and known, so that each individual may learn to be guided by them and thus bring out the qualities which will stamp him as a worthy product of his time. Dr. Steiner's own work is the outcome of this guidance and therefore it is an immediate expression of the spirit which should find expression in our age. Most of the art of today is an expression of what is retarding this manifestation.
In order to realize what are the aims of Dr. Steiner's art as it appears in his building at Dornach, it is necessary to become familiar with his teaching of Anthroposophy. It can then be seen that this art of the Goetheanum is an expression of what Dr. Steiner has presented to the world, in another form, as Spiritual Science. His art and his teaching are parallel expressions of the deep spiritual forces which govern life. On one hand arises a spiritual science, speaking more especially to the human intellect, and on the other hand is the art of the Goetheanum, appealing more to the feeling capacities of human nature. Thus we see that art and science have here become monumentally united. Since the days long ago when art lost touch with religion which contained the old forms of “science” or knowledge, no such unison has been achieved. And it suggests itself quite naturally to our mind that the steady descent of art from the halcyon days of the Renaissance can be attributed to its lack of a spiritual basis. If therefore, Dr. Steiner is able to create such a basis, one that is in keeping with modern times and in sympathy with modern thought, are we not justified in believing that a new art will emerge triumphant from the evils which threaten its life?
By examining the problems of existence in the light of what spiritual research can reveal, new roads are opened up for artists to-day. Spiritual Science gives Fresh inspiration to art.
Dr. Steiner has traced, in numerous lectures, the gradual development of art in past ages, analysed and understood in the light of evolution; and he is able to show how art has been the expression of human development and culture, — a garland of spiritual achievements. One of the most invigorating facts in his teaching is the proclamation that art springs from a source of inspiration which is latent in every soul. Each individual can draw from that source, provided he receives, in the right way, the inflowing spirit. In order to overcome the obstacles which impede this right communion with spirit, it is necessary that each artist should understand his own nature. Dr. Steiner has indicated, in his books on the attainment of higher knowledge, (Note 2) the steps which are necessary in order to attain to true inspiration. In these books the nature of man is analysed and methods are given for strengthening the life of the soul. No one will be able to realise fully the teaching of Dr. Steiner, or to apply it in life, unless he make himself familiar with the profound ethical teaching in these elementary works on Spiritual Science. The study of these books and the application of their directions will bear fruits of true inspiration suitable to the times we live in.
Pre-Christian art, the art of the Middle Ages and the art of the early Renaissance, all arose out of a relation of the human soul to the spiritual world, a relationship which was characteristic of the particular period. To-day our relation to that world has its own characteristics and therefore methods are required now which were not needed in the past. In ancient Greece, for instance, there persisted from still older periods a kind of clairvoyance which enabled artists to look into the spiritual world and echo it in outer forms. Human spiritual sight thereafter grew dim, evolution progressed, and to-day this form of inspiration has died out; and even if it were still alive it would not be in harmony with the stage at which mankind has now arrived. On this account there is the need for a new awakening of faculties which will to-day enable the man of modern time to come into contact with what is of the spirit. The above-mentioned books give an explanation of the methods now necessary for this development. Through the teaching of Spiritual Science each individual is able to become to the fullest extent a beacon light, through which the spirit can shine in on social life. The relationship to-day of the human soul to the higher spheres with which it is in contact, must be expressed in art through a consciousness which was quite impossible to the Greeks or even to the giants of the Renaissance. Dr. Steiner is a pioneer of this new consciousness, and the achievement in erecting the Goetheanum is a proof of his power to give a practical demonstration of the new message brought to the world of art through Spiritual Science. It is interesting to note that this building arose at the time when Dr. Steiner had completely formulated these principles and given them to the world. For years he had been lecturing on the subject, and at a moment when the need arose for giving it a suitable home from whence it could flow into modern culture, he was able to design and erect a building which gives expression in art to the message his teaching contains. In studying what he says about art and the way artistic inspiration arises — the understanding of which he gained through spiritual investigation — one can realize how he has been able to design the building and all its details. For he has made use of this inspirational power in its construction. The Goetheanum is the result of a new conscious relationship to the spiritual world, a relationship which seeks to give expression to spirit in material form. Here spirit is revealed through that outer form in which art can clothe it.
When standing in the Goetheanum, one should feel immediately conscious, in the whole of its structure and its decorations, of what can be revealed to the modern understanding. One who, like Dr. Steiner, is able to attain vision of the spirit which can thus be given expression in outer substance, enters the world which, in the subconscious soul-life, inspires all art. Artists live unconsciously in relation to those activities which the seer perceives through imaginative vision. The origin and nature of what rises in the intuition of the artist and is given form by him in outer material, this is directly perceived by the seer. To him there exists a definite relationship between the human being and the Cosmos, which art reflects. Humanity is the Microcosm reflecting the macrocosm, and the entire human being is built out of cosmic forces. These forces lie buried in the human soul-life, and though the artist is unconscious of them, all artistic creation is a manifestation of such activities. We may say that the expression of art in the world is a reflection of cosmic activity which can be recognised as working in Nature also.
If we seek the inspiration which produces Architecture, we find, just as Nature has built the human physical form out of these hidden forces, so do they operate in the architect, enabling him to create structures which contain those same laws of construction that exist within the human body. To-day the pure expression of these laws is obscured, because architecture is no longer the outcome of inner experiences but is approached from outside, intellectually: but in ancient architecture, buildings arose in conformity with static laws in the human body, under the hand of the architect who unconsciously allowed those laws to govern his creative activities from out of his own organism. Only in the Renaissance, when intellectualism swamped inspiration, did architecture cease to arise out of this living, creative power of the artist's intuitions, wherein he felt, inwardly, though unconsciously, the laws of construction as they exist cosmically. A new architecture must arise in which the architect, in full consciousness, gives these laws expression.
In sculpture, also, in olden times, the work created by sculptors bore an intimate relationship to the cosmic forces in Nature. That principle which manifests in life and growth has a parallel expression in human culture in the art of sculpture. To the seer the capacity to mould form into ideal shape springs from the relationship the sculptor has to those spiritual activities which culminate in Nature in outer living forms. These activities work within living organisms, and sculpture arises when the human genius unites itself with the activities of the etheric body, that is to say, to the life forces in man.
And in painting, all that exists as colour in Nature has become, in the human soul, a formative element. That instinct for colour which expresses itself in the painter is linked to definite activities. What exists in Red, Blue or Yellow, for example, bears a distinct relation to the life of the human soul, to the feelings of man. Imaginative vision reveals how painting springs from the affinity of the soul to the colour element in outer Nature, which enables the painter to identify himself with colour, to express his inner being in his work in combinations of colour. Music, Poetry, Drama, and Dancing have also their connexions with the forces at work in the human organism and in Nature. The new art of Eurhythmy now being developed at the Goetheanum seeks to give direct expression, from out of the individual performer, to the rhythm which pervades the human organism and Nature.
Dr. Steiner wishes to arouse an understanding in humanity to-day of the intimate connexion existing between the human creative faculty and the structure of man. Man, as the summit of Nature's work, can to-day independently confront her and recognise that he also, through the powers latent within him, is able to create on lines parallel to hers. It is by no means a copying of Nature but a producing out of inner spiritual forces, active within him, of works of art which bring the spiritual to manifestation in outer reality, just as Nature is a manifestation of the Spirit behind her. This relationship of humanity to art could not have existed in earlier times, as it can to-day. Humanity has near reached full individual independence, and it has become possible for the individual to create consciously out of his own relation to the Cosmos. This is the standpoint which Spiritual Science strives to put before the artist to-day. The Goetheanum is an expression of this, and bears an intimate relationship to humanity and all that goes to build up human individuality.
There is a deep connexion between the Goetheanum and the structure of man, not in the sense that the building is a kind of symbolic copy of the human being, but as an expression, in the various arts, of the same forces which in Nature have produced man.
The foundation stone of the Goetheanum was laid in September, 1915, when the need became urgent for a building where Dr. Steiner's Mystery Plays could be performed, where the possibilities of a new art would find monumental expression and where the work of Anthroposophy could find an adequate centre. In spite of almost insurmountable difficulties, building operations were continued throughout the years of the War: the indications given by Dr. Steiner in models and sketches being for the most part carried out by his students. Although not yet completed, the Goetheanum was sufficiently advanced in September, 1920, to allow of the first Anthroposophical University Course (Note 3) taking place there. This Course, dealing especially with Science, was attended by well-nigh a thousand men and women from many different continental countries, and it has been succeeded by Medical, Educational, and Art Courses which have all drawn increasingly large attendances, showing that the teaching of Spiritual Science is attracting the interest and attention of far-reaching circles.
The building itself consists mainly of two-interlaced, circular halls, crowned with interlacing domes and having three wings, one to the West, forming the entrance, one to the South and one to the North. The structure has only one axis of symmetry. from East to West. Now this and other points in the construction, in the light of what has just been said, suggest the expression of similarity to a human organism. In olden days such similarities were not allowed, and buildings did not possess any characteristics of organic life. In the Goetheanum the essential aim has been to give, not a resemblance to a human body, but the feeling of organic growth in the entire structure. The forms have all been felt in their organic relation to one another, and wherever a form passes over into another motive, the feeling is aroused that this transition makes as intimate a connection as the relation, for example, of the forehead to the chin or the lobe of the ear to the rest of the ear.
The laws that underlie the carrying of weight have been observed as they express themselves in Nature. Where there is great pressure, an arch is short and abrupt: where there is little, the curve of the arch falls away in a gentle slope.
While repetition plays an important part in architecture, forms do not repeat themselves in the Goetheanum, but follow the laws of growth and metamorphosis. This is brought out especially clearly in the 14 columns (Note 4) which support the architrave, and in the architrave itself. Starting with simple forms, for example in the architrave of the auditorium, these change and vary towards the proscenium and give the feeling of progressive growth. The capitals all differ, becoming more and more complicated towards the middle column, at which point there is an advance to simplification. Dr. Steiner points out that Nature works in this way, developing forms to greater and greater complexity and then reverting to simpler forms, which, however, retain hidden complexities not contained in the initial form. This law can be recognised in art, where one continually finds the complexity of early styles replaced by what is simpler, yet always containing added qualities. One can cite the Louis XVI. period following on the art of Louis XV., and modern movements in art abound in such instances. The modern stage also supplies us with an example.
In studying the Goetheanum, one realises forcibly its relationship to human life. While the structure itself upholds the laws of statics as they exist on earth and in man, and while the carving of the architrave suggests the living force which works in the plant through metamorphosis from leaf to leaf and finally to the petals of the flower, other experiences are aroused by the pictorial decorations of the two domes and the coloured windows round the auditorium.
The designs of the windows are indicative of the soul-life of man, and colour is used in its relation with each experience. In one window is the presentment of how the will-forces of the Cosmos unite with human will; in another the force is expressed of feeling in the outer world united with individual feeling, and in a third, how world-thought is united with human thought. Sleeping and waking, birth and death, as part of human relationship to the world, are also expressed in the windows in imaginative pictures. These pictures are engraved on coloured slabs of glass which permit the forms to emerge in different tones obtained by engraving the surface. Each window is of one particular colour; green, blue, red, purple and rose colour. When the sun shines through the windows a feeling is aroused of that intangible, inner illumination which the artist experiences in inspiration. (Note 5)
In the decoration of the two domes the world of colour has given form to what lives in the human soul as the formative, spiritual forces which have guided humanity throughout the ages. Here comes to expression, out of a sea of colour, the whole soul-evolution of humanity as outlined by Dr. Steiner in his book “Occult Science.” Not a series of pictorial illustrations of what is described in that book, but a direct conjuring out of colour, of forms which speak to the soul of all the phases of human evolution. Here we meet visions of past epochs of culture, conceived in mighty pictures which emerge directly out of turbulent sweeps of colour. In such imaginative presentation one feels conscious of the artist's vision being raised into direct contact with the forces which shape human destiny, and these paintings are in the truest sense of the word inspirations from hidden spheres, revealing cosmic realities. The feeling which is aroused is not that of looking upon a surface, but the eye seems to be carried out into space. The vault of the dome becomes a world of spiritual activities which form themselves into mighty pictures, translating into concrete representations, realities of intangible worlds perceptible only to the Vision of the seer.
Painting in the future, as indicated in the Goetheanum, must overcome the limitations of art to-day and become a window through which one gazes into the spiritual worlds. In this way will it fulfil its high mission. The art which comes to expression in the Goetheanum, captivates the soul through the enormous spiritual force which seems to stand behind it. One does not contemplate the outer form only but one experiences an actual union with the forms and colours themselves. In thus penetrating the outer presentation, one comes into touch with what exists behind, and in this experience one realises how the human being contains within him all those elements which, from out the Cosmos, have here been brought to expression. A communion arises between the soul and the building.
If one follows the creative thought through which the Goetheanum has arisen, if one tries to experience how the larger hall, with its 14 columns and progressive forms, presses on towards the East, meeting and interlacing with the smaller hall, then one dimly feels how the human soul can formulate the question: What am I as a human being and what must I strive for in order to reach the goal of humanity? The larger hall seems to contain the question and the answer rings out from the smaller dome. In this way the Goetheanum becomes the expression of all that is related to human existence, giving artistic form to the mysteries of life.
There is still wanting, in order to complete the interior of the building, the crowning feature of the decoration, which is to bring together what is spiritual and what is artistic in a mighty group, sculptured in wood, and about thirty feet in height. This is to stand at the east end of the smaller hall. Its position there is such that the whole artistic development of the building leads up to this group. Viewing it from the West Portal, which one must feel to be a point of departure, one will realise how this group is the spiritual as well as the artistic culmination of the edifice. A descriptive explanation of this sculpture must now be attempted, for its significance is vital.
Anthroposophy looks upon man as a meeting-point of the forces of the Universe. Here they find expression in the eternal battle between progress and retrogression, between good and evil, fought out within the human soul. The complex nature of man is imaginatively interpreted in this sculptured group. The forces which make of him a sentimental dreamer seeking to escape from earth's realities into a world of false idealism, are set against the opposite pole in human nature, which reaches down into those elements that destroy and petrify, that create in him the materialistic ideal which sees in Earth-life the sum total of all existence. Destructive and evil, when guiding the soul, these two tendencies in human nature have in modern times been expressed in the familiar figure of Mephistopheles, who unites in one personality the two opposite poles of evil in man. Rudolf Steiner, with the penetration of a true seer, has given each force an individual shape. On one side, on a mighty rock lies the form of Lucifer, the seducer, who lures the human soul into following the dictates of selfish, sensuous impulses. His efforts to gain the end he has in view are frustrated. He hangs in death-throes over a precipice, a weird, fantastic figure, with head barely shaped into form, with powerful wings, and a body not yet entirely human. Bound in a cavern below lies Ahriman, the Satan of Scripture, a petrified, angular figure, with a forehead that slopes back and eyes that are narrow and merciless — evil, sinister, sub-human. He crouches terrified in his cave, and is bound there by sun-rays which strike down from above. His body is entwined in roots and his skeleton limbs seem to be one with the rock on which he is stretched. One arm is raised in impotent rebellion against a central figure of the composition, standing between him and Lucifer. In this figure Dr. Steiner has given expression, in a majestic, Christ-Like form, to that spiritual element which for ever flows into the human soul that will receive it. As a guiding power to lead mankind in the right direction, holding in check and balancing those other forces which wage war upon the spiritual essence at the fount of existence, the Christ-principle in the human soul vanquishes all that counteracts spiritual progress, not by fighting, but by penetrating the soul as infinite love. Thus does this force gain the ascendancy over evil, on the one hand overthrowing all false idealism, which then, like a vanquished tempter, sinks powerless into the abyss with pinions crushed: on the other hand binding to earth what, from below, has wrongly usurped a place in the human soul. Thus does the Christ-force establish the right balance in man. This is the deep thought which, in art, finds realisation in this sculptured group.
Between the teaching given out by Dr. Steiner in Spiritual Science and the new impulse awakened by him in Architecture, Painting and Sculpture, stand, as a link, the four Mystery Plays. These, in poetic form, give expression to the result upon different temperaments of that deeper understanding of life and development of individuality which are sought by Anthroposophy. The Four Mystery Plays, which originally led to the erection of the Goetheanum as a suitable place for their production, have been translated, (Note 6) and the English-speaking public is thus enabled to come in contact with Dr. Steiner's teaching expressed through dramatic art.
Connected with the Plays is the new art of Eurhythmy, devised by Dr. Steiner and made use of in the presentation of scenes from these Plays and in other performances. Dr. Steiner calls Eurhythmy “Visible Speech,” and in the introductory addresses given by him at the performances, he explains its scope and aims. This new art of Eurhythmy, not to be confounded with “Eurhythmics,” (Note 7) seeks to give expression, out of the whole being of man, to that which poetry is the means of formulating. Ordinary speech is only related to outer, material existence; but poetry rises above the prose element of speech and carries into it what surges up in the soul of the poet, adding a deeper significance which prose — suited as it is to every-day requirements — does not possess. The poet tries unconsciously to bring back those spiritual activities which pervade the human organism and which have been exiled from speech. Through rhythm, versification, rhyme through what is musical, he reinstates that element by which the Spirit is revealed in man; for in poetry there come to expression the supersensible forces that flow into the human organism from out of the Cosmos. Intuitive vision reveals what stirs the poet's soul, for it penetrates to the source of all human impulses which lie at the base of expression, expression of the soul, of the mind and also of the body. It recognizes the impulses to movement, in the larynx and neighbouring organs, which become speech. Now these impulses can be arrested before they are transformed into words by the poet, or by the singer into song, and they can instead be allowed to flow into movements which make use of the whole body. Definite laws and principles are at work in translating into movements what otherwise would be speech, — and this is the art of Eurhythmy.
It is on the basis of Goethe's idea of metamorphosis that this art is brought into being. Goethe felt that one organ or complex of organs is the outcome of a metamorphosis or transformation of another organ or complex. Carrying this idea further — from organic form to organic movement — we are led to the conception that just as the larynx gives rise to speech and song, so can speech and song be expressed by the whole human organism in an art of movement. Goethe looked upon Art as the continuation of Nature's work in the world. He says: “Man, being placed at the summit and pinnacle of Nature, can regard himself again as a whole world of Nature, whose task it is to bring forth another summit within her. To this task he rises, permeating himself with every perfection and every virtue, calling forth order, harmony, meaning and selection, until at length he reaches the summit of his achievement in the creation of a work of Art.” (Note 8)
In plunging down to the sources of human impulses, the seer is able to perceive the forces which flow into the being of man from the Cosmos. These forces are expressed within us; they become in us the power of Will. Thus in Eurhythmy it is sought to bring the will-being of man into immediate expression. Every inward impulse of will can be manifested in movements of the body; all that lives in us and has its origin in the Universe can be expressed, and we — who contain all the secrets of the Universe — can become the instruments for revealing them to sense-perception.
We have seen how Dr. Steiner points to the origin of Art in the hidden spiritual activities which pervade the human being. These forces the artist co-ordinates, through his soul's faculties, into a work of art. In Architecture, Painting and Sculpture the artist uses lifeless materials, and in Music and Poetry sound is the medium in which he moulds the spirit. Dr. Steiner has demonstrated by his own work as an artist, how he himself is able to give concrete expression to this high concept of art. He reaches the summit of his achievements in the art of Eurhythmy, for through Eurhythmy he actually forms, out of human material, a work of art. Through this art the spiritual forces are made into visible speech in every gesture and movement of the individual.
The message which Dr. Steiner brings to the spiritual life of our times through his teaching in Anthroposophy, finds a noble parallelism in his art. He has opened up a new vista for the artists of our time, pointing a way for them to travel if they wish to fulfil the true mission of their calling. To-day the traditions in art are overthrown; artists have become hermits, striving in futility to find inspiration in their own soul. In every field of art men are starving for want of spiritual guidance. They can be fed from the inexhaustible fount of the Spirit if they will listen to the profound teaching of Rudolf Steiner and allow it to stimulate them to a new creative activity.