Four Mystery Plays
The Soul's Probation (Written 1911)
A room whose prevailing tint is rose-red;
Johannes at an easel; Maria enters later; finally the Spirit-Figures representing soul-powers.
Maria, when she saw my picture last,
Stood silent. Heretofore she ever gave
Hints to assist the progress of my work
From her rich store of wisdom manifold.
Little as I can trust myself to judge
Whether my art indeed accomplishes
The task our spirit-current hath imposed,
Yet is my confidence in her complete.
And ever through my spirit ring her words
Which lent me strength and brought me happiness
When I took courage and began this work.
‘In such a way as this,’ she said, ‘thou canst
Attempt this enterprise, and so reveal
Thy spirit's visions unto earthly eyes.
Thou wilt not fail to recognize how forms,
Fashioned like thoughts, shape matter to their will;
Nor yet how colour, to desire akin,
Doth fill thy vital energy with warmth.
In such wise canst thou even represent
On canvas through thy skill the higher realms.’
I feel the power that dwells within these words
And diffidently yield to that belief
That I am drawing nearer to the goal
Which Benedictus hath appointed me.
Full oft I sat discouraged at my work;
It seemed at one time so presumptuous,
And at another so impossible
To represent in colour and in form
The visions that are granted to my soul.
How can the ceaseless web of spirit-life,
Which is revealed to inner sight alone
And is so far withdrawn from outward sense,
Be manifest in matter which is drawn,
As drawn it must be, from the realm of sense?
This question have I asked myself full oft.
Yet when I banish personality,
And follow spirit-teaching faithfully,
And feel myself caught up in blessedness
Unto creative forces of the worlds,
At once belief awakens in an art
As true and mystic as our spirit-quest.
I learned to live with light, and recognize
In colour's power the action of that light,
As faithful students of true mystic lore
See in realms reft of colour and of form
The spirit's deeds and soul's reality.
Relying on this spirit-light, I won
This power, to feel in flowing sea of light,
And live within the stream of glowing tints;
And sense those spirit-forces which maintain
Their might in non-material webs of light,
And radiant colours filled with spirit-life.
(Enter Maria, unobserved by Johannes.)
And when my courage faileth me, once more
Of thee, my friend most noble, do I think.
At thy soul's fire my love of work is warmed;
Thy spirit-light awakes my faith anew.
(He sees Maria.)
Oh, thou art here ... Impatiently I craved
Thy coming, yet I marked not thine approach!
I must rejoice to find my friend so wrapt
In work as to forget his friend herself.
Nay, speak not thus, since thou dost know full well
That I cannot create one single thought
Which hath not first been hallowed by thine aid.
No work of mine owes not its life to thee.
Through thy love's fire have h been purified;
Through thee my art hath learned to represent
The beauty of the truths revealed to thee,
Which warm my heart, illuminate my sense,
And clothe in radiant light the spirit-world.
The current of my work must take its rise
From thy soul's spring and flow thence into mine,
Ere I can feel the wings that lift me,up
To lofty heights of spirit, far from earth.
I love the life that quickens in thy soul,
And, loving it, can give it form and hue.
Love only can beget artistic power
And make an artist's work bear fruit and live.
If I, as artist, am to. carry back
Pictures of spirit to the world of sense,
Then cosmic spirit must speak forth through me,
My personality be but its tool.
First must I burst the bonds of selfishness
Ere I can know that I shall not mistake
For spirit-worlds my own vain fantasies.
And if thou hadst to seek through thine own sight
And not through mine the true course of thy work,
It may well be that, coming from one soul
Thy beauty's being might be unified.
I should be spinning webs of idle thought
In speculating which I should prefer:
Whether to incarnate thy spirit-sight,
Or in myself to seek my vision's source. —
I am convinced I could not find it thus.
I can withdraw to deep retreats of soul
And find delight in wide-flung spirit-worlds:
I can pour out my soul in worlds of sense
And follow colour-wonders with mine eye
And watch creative energies at work,
If I am left with mine own soul alone.
Whate'er may thus befall me I am not
Thereby impelled to my creative art.
But if I follow thee to cosmic heights,
And in warm rapture live again what thou
Already hast in spirit there beheld,
I feel a fire in thy spirit sight
Which burns on in me also, and whose flames
Kindle the powers that drive me to my work.
If my desire were simply to relate
That which I can find in higher worlds,
Then with my soul I well might upward soar
To spheres where spirit unto spirit speaks.
But as an artist I must find that fire
Which lights the picture and inflames the heart.
And my soul cannot to my picture give
The magic warmth that streams through human hearts,
’fill it can quench its thirst with spirit-truths
Revealed from out the depths of thine own heart.
How primal force by longing is condensed,
How powers creative blaze with spirit-light,
And, sensing even then their need of man,
Display themselves as gods in earliest times.
All this, my friend, thy soul in noble speech
Hath often led me on to learn unseen.
In hues ethereal of the spirit-world
I sought to densify what hid from sight;
And felt how colours longed to see themselves
Mirrored as spirit in the souls of men.
So loth my friend's soul speak as it 'twere mine
Out of my pictures to the human heart.
Bethink, Johannes, how the One Soul must —
A personality apart from all —
Evolve from out the womb of time.
Love serves to knit together separate souls
Not kill their individuality.
The moment is upon us, when we twain
Must test our souls, and find the spirit-path
That each must follow for its separate good.
What meant my friend? Her words did sound so strange.
Maria, I must follow thee forthwith.
(The three Spirit-Figures of the soul-powers appear with the Other Philia.)
Thou canst not find thyself
Portrayed in other souls.
The power of thine own self
Must root in cosmic soil,
If from the spirit-heights
Thou wouldst indeed transplant
Their beauty to earth's depths.
Be bold to be thyself,
That thou, strong souled, mayst give
Thyself to cosmic powers — a willing sacrifice.
In all thy ways on earth
Thou must not lose thyself;
Mankind doth not attain
To sun-kissed distances
If he would rob himself of personality.
So then prepare thyself,
Press on through earthly love
To utmost depths of heart
Which ripen cosmic love.
The Other Philia:
O heed the sisters not;
They lead thee far astray
To cosmic distances,
And rob thee of earth's touch.
They do not understand
That earthly love bears trace
Of cosmic love itself.
In cold their natures dwell
And warmth flies from their powers.
They fain would lure mankind
From out his own soul depths
To cold and lofty worlds.
Curtain: Johannes, Philia, Astrid, Luna, and the Other Philia still standing