Sophia's room. The colour scheme is a yellow red. Sophia, with her two children, a boy and a girl; later, Estella.
Children (singing, whilst Sophia accompanies them on the piano):
The light of the sun is flooding
The breadths of space;
The song of the birds is filling
The heights of air;
The tender plants are shooting
From the kind earth;
And human souls in reverent gratitude,
Rise to the spirits of the world.
Sophia: Now, children, go to your rooms and think over the words we have just practised.(Sophia leads the children out.)
Estella: How do you do, Sophy? I hope I'm not intruding?
Sophia: Oh no, Estelle. I am very glad to see you.
(Asks Estella to be seated and seats herself.)
Estella: Have you good news from your husband?
Sophia: Very good. He writes to me saying that he is interested in the Congress of Psychologists; though the manner in which they treat many great questions there does not appeal to him. However, as a student of souls, he is interested in just those methods of spiritual shortsightedness which makes it impossible for men to obtain a clear view of essential mysteries.
Estella: Does he not intend speaking on an important subject, himself?
Sophia: Yes, on a subject that seems important both to him and to me. But the scientific views of those present at the Congress prevent his expecting any results from his arguments.
Estella: I really came in, dear Sophy, to ask whether you would come with me this evening to a new play called Outcasts from Body and from Soul. I should so like to hear it with you.
Sophia: I'm sorry, my dear Estelle, but to-night is the date set for the performance of the play, which our society has been rehearsing for a long time.
Estella: Oh yes, I had forgotten. But it would have been such a pleasure to have spent this evening with my old friend. I had set my heart on having you beside me, and gazing with you into the hidden depths of our present-day life. ... I only hope that this world of ideas, in which you move, and which is so strange to me, will not finally destroy that bond of sympathy, which has united our hearts since we were at school together.
Sophia: You have often said that before; and yet you have always had to admit that our divergent opinions need not erect barriers between those feelings which have existed between us in our companionship from our youth upwards.
Estella: True, I have said so. Yet it always arouses a sense of bitterness in me, when, as the years roll on, I see how your affections are estranged from those things in life that seem to me worth while.
Sophia: Still, we may be of much mutual help to one another if we recognize and realize the various points of view which we reach through our different inclinations.
Estella: Yes! My reason tells me that you are right. And yet there is something in me that rebels against your view of life.
Sophia: Why not candidly admit that what you require of me is the renunciation of my inmost soul-life?
Estella: But for one thing, I should admit even that. And that is, that you always claim that your view is the more profound. I can readily understand that people whose conceptions differ radically may still meet in sympathy of feeling. But the nature of your ideas actually forces upon you an inner assumption of a certain superiority. Others can compare views and realize that they do indeed diverge towards different standpoints, but they nevertheless stand related by an equality of values. You, however, seem unable to do this. You regard all other views as proceeding from a lower degree of human development.
Sophia: But you realize, I hope, from our previous discussions, that those who think as I do, do not finally measure the character of man by his opinions or by his knowledge. And while we consider our ideas such, that without vital realization of them life has no valid foundations, we nevertheless try most earnestly not to over-estimate the value of the individual, who has been permitted to become an instrument for the manifestation of this view of life.
Estella: All that sounds very well, but it does not remove my one suspicion. I cannot close my eyes to the fact, that a world-view which ascribes to itself illimitable depth must needs lead through the mere appearance of such depth to a certain superficiality. I rate our friendship too high to point out to you those among your companions who, whilst they swear allegiance to your ideas, yet display spiritual arrogance of the most unmitigated sort, despite the fact that the barrenness and banality of their soul speaks in their every word and in all their conduct. Nor do I wish to call your attention to the callousness and lack of sympathy shown by so many of your adherents towards their fellow men. The greatness of your own soul has never permitted you to stand aloof from that which daily life requires at the hands of the man whom we call good. And yet the fact that you leave me alone on this occasion, when true and artistic life comes to be voiced, shows me that your ideas too with reference to this life are to a certain extent superficial — if you will forgive my saying so.
Sophia: And wherein lies this superficiality?
Estella: You ought to know. You have known me long enough to understand how I have wrenched myself away from that manner of life, which, day in and day out, only struggles to follow tradition and convention.
I have sought to understand why so many people suffer, as it seems, undeservedly. I have tried to approach the heights and depths of life. I have consulted the sciences, so far as I could, to learn what they disclose.
But let me hold fast to the one point which this moment presents to us. I am aware of the nature of true art; I believe I understand how it seizes upon the essentials of life and presents to our souls the true and higher reality. I seem to feel the beating of the pulse of time, when I permit such art to influence me, and I am horrified when I have to think what it is that you, Sophy, prefer to this interest in living art. You turn to what seem to me the obsolete, dogmatically allegorical themes, to gaze on a show of puppets, instead of on living beings, and to wonder at symbolical happenings which stand far away from all that appeals to our pity and to our active sympathies in daily life.
Sophia: My dear Estelle, that is exactly the fact that you will not grasp — that the richest life is to be found just there where you only see a fantastic web of thoughts: and that there may be, and are, people who are compelled to call your living reality mere poverty — if it be not measured by the spiritual source from whence it comes. Possibly my words sound harsh to you. But our friendship demands absolute frankness. Spirit itself is as unknown to you as it is to the multitude. In its place you know only the bearer of knowledge. It is only the thought side of spirit of which you are aware. You have no conception of the living, the creative spirit, which endows men with elemental power, even as the germinal power of nature shapes living entities. Like many another, for instance, you call things in art which deny the spirit, as I conceive it, naive and original. Our conception of the world unites a full and conscious freedom with the power of spontaneous creation. We consciously absorb this power, and do not thereby rob. it of its' freshness, its fullness, and its originality. You believe that the character of man shapes itself, and that we can merely form thoughts and considerations about it. You will not see that thought itself actually merges into-creative spirit; reaching the very fountain of Being; and developing thence into an actual creative germ.
Our ideas do not teach, any more than the seed-power within a plant teaches it how to grow. It is the actual growth itself, and in like manner do our ideas flow into our very being, kindling and dispensing life. To the ideas that have come to me, I am indebted for all that makes life worth while; not only for the courage, but also for the insight and power that make me hopeful of so training my children, that they shall not only be capable and useful in ordinary everyday life, in the old traditional sense, but that they shall at the same time carry inward peace and contentment within their souls. I have no wish to stray from the point, but I will say just one thing. I believe — nay I know — that the dreams which you share with so many can only be realized when men succeed in uniting what they call the realities of life with those deeper experiences, which you have so often termed dreams and fantasies. You may be astonished if I confess it to you: but much that seems true art to you is to me a mere fruitless critique of life. No hunger is stilled, no tears are dried, no source of degeneracy is discovered, when merely the outer show of hunger, or tear-stained faces, or degenerates are shown upon the stage. And the customary method of that presentation is unspeakably distant from the true depths of life, and the true relation-ship between beings.
Estella: I understand your words indeed, but they merely show me that you do prefer to indulge in fancies, rather than to look upon the realities of life. Our ways, indeed, part. — I see that my friend is denied me to-night. (Rises.) I must leave you now. But we remain friends, as of old, do we not?
Sophia: We must indeed remain friends. (While these last words are spoken, Sophia conducts her friend to the door.)