Four Mystery Plays
The Guardian of the Threshold (Written 1912)
Ahriman's Kingdom. No sky is visible. A dark en-closure like a mountain gorge whose black masses of rock tower up in fantastic forms, divided by streams of fire. Skeletons are visible everywhere; they appear to be crystallized out of the mountain, but are white. Their attitude suggests the habitual egoism of their last life. Prominent on one side is a miser and on the other a massive glutton, etc., etc. Ahriman is seated on a rock. Hilary, Frederick Trustworthy, then the Twelve who were gathered together in the first scene; then Strader; later on Thomasius and Maria; last of all Thomasius' Double.
How often have I trod this realm before. —
And yet how horrible it seems to me
That e'en from here we must so often fetch
The wise direction for full many a plan
Which is important for us and our league,
And points significantly to our aims.
The grain of corn must fall to earth and die
Before the life within it can return.
All that in earthly life hath run to waste
Shall here unto new being be transformed.
And when our league desires to plant the seeds
Of human acts, to ripen in due course,
'Tis from the dead that we must fetch the grain.
Uncanny is the lord who here bears rule;
And if it were not written in our books,
Which are the greatest treasures of our shrine,
That he whom here we often meet, is good,
One would indeed as evil reckon him.
Not only books, but e'en my spirit-sight
Declares that what is here revealed is good.
Ahriman (in a feigned voice, sardonically):
I know why ye are gathered here again.
Ye would discover from me how 'twere best
To guide the soul of him who oft before
Hath stood upon the threshold of your shrine.
Because ye think Thomasius is lost
Ye now believe that Strader is the man
To do you service in the mystic league.
What he hath won for progress of mankind
By use of powers which follow nature's laws,
For this he oweth thanks to me, since I
Hold sway where powers mechanical obtain
Strength for themselves from their creative founts.
So all that he may do to help mankind
It needs must turn itself unto my realm.
But this time I myself will see to it
That what I wish shall happen to this man
Since ye can only bring me loss on loss
By all your influence with Thomasius.
If ye desire to serve the spirit-powers
Ye first must conquer for yourselves those powers
Which in this case ye tried to cast aside.
(Ahriman becomes invisible.)
(after a pause, during which he has with-drawn into himself):
Exalted Master, care oppresseth me
Though I have striven long to banish it,
For this is laid upon me by strict rules
Which have been ordered for us by our league.
But much that shows the life of this same league
Hath made the struggle in my soul severe;
Yet would I ever thankfully submit
My darkness to the spirit-light, which thou
Art capable of giving through thy powers.
But when I must full often clearly see
Thou wert a victim of delusion's snare
And how thy words, e'en as events fell out,
Did often prove so grievously at fault,
Then have I felt as though a grievous weight
Were resting painfully upon my soul. —
And this time also were thy words at fault:
How couldst thou with such firm assurance think
That from this spirit we should hear good things?
'Tis hard to understand the cosmic ways. —
My brother, we are well-advised to wait
Until the spirit indicates the way
Which is ordained for that which we create.
(Exeunt Hilary and Trustworthy.)
They see, but do not recognize me yet;
For had they known who rules within this place
They certainly would not have ventured here
To seek direction; and they would condemn
To age-long pains of hell that human soul
Of whom, they heard, that it did visit me.
(All the persons who at the beginning of the play were assembled in the ante-room of the mystic league now appear on the scene; they are blindfolded to show their ignorance of the fact that they are in Ahriman's kingdom. The words they speak live in their souls, but they know nothing of them. They are experiencing during sleep unconscious dreams which are audible in Ahriman's kingdom. Strader, who also appears, is however semi-conscious with regard to all that he experiences, so that later on he will be able to recollect it.)
The hint that Benedictus gave to me
That I should cultivate my power of thought,
Hath led me to this kingdom of the dead.
Although I hoped that raised to spirit-realms
I should find truth on wisdom's sun-clad heights.
What thou canst learn of wisdom in this place
Thou wilt find all-sufficient for long time,
If here thou dost comport thyself aright.
Before what spirit doth my soul then stand?
That shalt thou know when memory presently.
Can call again to thee what here thou see'st.
And all these folk, why do I find them here
Within thy darksome realm?
'Tis but as souls
That they are in this place: they do not know
Aught of themselves when here, since in their homes
Sunk now in deepest sleep they would be found.
But here quite clearly all will be revealed
That lives within their souls, though they would scarce
On waking think such thoughts could be their own.
So too, they cannot hear us when we speak.
The soul should not in blind devotion think
That it can raise itself in haughty pride
Up to the light, or that it can unfold
Unto its full extent its own true self.
I will but recognize what I do know.
only to Strader):
And dost not know how bluntly thou dost lead
In haughty pride thyself into the dark.
She too will serve thee, Strader, in the work
That thou hast wrung so boldly from my powers.
She doth not need for that the spirit-faith
Which seems so ill-accorded with her pride.
Entrancing are indeed these mystic paths;
Nor will I henceforth fail in diligence,
But give myself completely to the lore
That I can gather from the Temple's words.
The impulse after truth within my soul
Is drawing me toward the spirit-light;
The noble teaching which now shines so clear
In human life, will surely find that I
Am the best pupil that it ever had.
I ever have been deeply moved by all
That hath revealed itself from many a source
Of noble mystic spirit-treasuries.
With all my heart would I yet further strive.
only to Strader):
Such men mean well: yet doth their striving stay
But in the upper layers of their souls.
And so can I make use for many years
Of all these mighty treasures which lie hid
Unconsciously within their spirits' depths.
They too seem useful to my constant aim
That Strader's work in mankind's life on earth
Shall with proud brilliance unfold itself.
A healthy view of life will of itself
Bring to the soul the fruits of spirit-realms
When men join reverence for the universe
To a clear view of sense-reality.
only to Strader):
She speaks in dreams of this reality;
She'll dream so much the better when she wakes.
Yet she will be of little service now.
Perchance in her next life she'll help me more,
For then she will appear as occultist
And as need may arise will teach mankind
About their life since first the Earth began.
And yet she scarce will treasure truth aright;
In former lives she oft did Strader chide
And now she praiseth him: so doth she change,
And Lucifer will be more glad of her.
The sacred mystic realm shall one day make
Man's being truly a harmonious whole,
When thought through feeling shall express itself
And feeling let itself be led by thought.
Unkind, 'tis true, doth strive to see the light;
But strange indeed the methods he pursues,
For first he quencheth it, and is surprised
That he can find it nowhere in the dark.
only to Strader):
So too with souls: they find it good to talk
As voicing the well-being of their mind,
But underneath they fail in constancy.
Such are for me quite unapproachable,
And yet they will in future much achieve
From which I'll reap a harvest of good fruit.
They are by no means what they think themselves.
If knowledge is not gained through cautious search
Then fantasy brings nought but airy forms
To solve the riddle of the universe,
Which only can be mastered by strict thought.
The cosmic substance must for ever change
That all existence may unfold itself;
And he who fain would keep all things the same
Will lack the power to understand life's aims.
To live in fantasy, doth only mean
To rob men's souls of every power in life
Through which they can grow strong to serve themselves
And do true service to their fellow men.
Souls that would stunt their own inherent strength
May let external powers mould their life
True man will only seek development
From his own deepest personality.
only to Strader):
It is but human what these souls conceal.
One cannot tell what they may yet achieve;
For Lucifer may try his power on them,
And make them think they are but working out
Each his own powers of soul with steadfast aim;
And so perchance he hath not lost them yet.
He who would cosmic riddles rightly read
Must wait till understanding and right thought
Reveal themselves through powers within his life,
And he who fain would find his way aright
Must seize all he can use that gives him joy.
Above all else the search for wisdom's lore
To give high aims to weak humanity —
This leads to nothing on this Earth of ours.
only to Strader):
He hath been chosen as philosopher,
And such he will appear in his next life —
With him I do but balance my account.
Seven of twelve I ever need myself
And five I give to Brother Lucifer.
From time to time I take account of men
And see both what they are and what they do.
And when I once have chosen out my twelve
I do not need to search for any more.
For if I come in number to thirteen
The last is just exactly like the first.
When I have got these twelve within my realm
And can through their soul-nature fashion them,
Then others too must ever follow them.
(To himself holding his hands over Strader's ears so that he shall not hear.)
True, none of this have I achieved as yet,
Since Earth refused to give herself to me.
But I shall strive throughout eternity,
Until — perchance — I gain the victory. 1Very solemn and slow.
One must make use of what is not yet lost.
(The following so that it is again audible to Strader):
Thou seest I do not flatter with fine words,
Indeed I do not wish to please mankind.
He who would inspiration seek for lofty aims
In speech well-regulated and arranged,
Needs must betake himself to other worlds.
But, who with reason and a sense for truth
Perceives the things which here I bring to pass,
He can acknowledge that it is with me
The powers are found, without which human souls
Must lose themselves whilst living on the Earth.
The very worlds of gods make use of me,
And only seek to draw souls from my grasp
When I grow active in their own domain.
And then if my Opponent doth succeed
In leading men astray with this belief
That my existence hath been proved to be
Unnecessary for the universe,
Then souls may dream indeed of higher worlds,
And strength and power decay in earthly life.
Thou seest in me one who would follow thee
And give his powers to thee to use at will.
What I have witnessed here doth seem to show
That all that makes mankind thine enemy
Is lack of reason's power and strength of mind.
In truth thou didst not flatter with fine words;
For thou didst well-nigh mock these poor weak men
When it did please thee to portray their fate.
I must confess that it seems good to me
What thou wouldst give unto the souls of men,
For they will only be enriched with strength
For what is good through thee; they will but gain
The bad from thee if they were bad before.
If only men did better know themselves
They must for certain feel with all their hearts
The bitter scorn that thou dost cast on them.
But what is here wrung forth from out my soul?
I speak such words as would destroy my life
If on the Earth I found that they were true.
Thou must so think; I cannot otherwise
Than find that what thou hast just said is true;
Yet 'tis but truth when in this realm of thine
It would be error for the world of Earth
If it prove there to be what it seems here.
I must no further trace my human thoughts
Within this place-they now must have an end.
In thy rough words there soundeth pain for thee,
And they are painful too in mine own soul.
I can--whilst facing thee — but weep — and cry —
(Enter Maria and Thomasius both fully conscious, so that they can hear and understand all that goes on, and speak about it.)
Maria, terror reigns on every side,
It closeth in and presseth on my soul;
Whence shall come inward strength to conquer it?
My holy, earnest vow doth ray out power:
And thou canst bear this pressure on thy soul
If thou wilt feel the healing power it gives.
'Tis Benedictus who hath sent them here;
He guided them that they might recognize
And know me, when they feel me in my realm.
(He speaks the rest so that Thomasius and Maria can hear.)
Thomasius, the Guardian did direct
Thy footsteps first of all toward my realm
Since they will lead thee to the very light
Thou seekest in the depths of thine own self.
Here I can give thee truth although with pain,
As I have suffered many thousand years;
For though the truth can penetrate to me,
It must first separate itself from joy
Before it dares to venture though my porch.
So must I joylessly behold the soul
Whom I so ardently desire to see?
A wish doth only lead to happiness
When warmth of soul can cherish it; but here
All wishes freeze, and needs must live in cold.
E'en in the ever empty fields of ice
I may go with my friend, where from his soul
The light will surge which spirits must create,
When darkness wounds and maims the powers of life.
Thomasius, feel now thy soul's full strength.
(The Guardian appears upon the Threshold.)
The Guardian himself must bring the light
That thou dost now so ardently desire.
'Tis Theodora whom I wish to see.
The soul that on my threshold clothed itself
In that same veil which many years ago
It wore on earth, hath kindled in the depths
Of thine own soul in solemn hours of life
The strongest love which was concealed in thee.
While thou wert standing yet outside this realm
And first didst beg from me an entrance here,
It stood before thee in a pictured form,
And, being thus conceived by inward wish,
Can only show delusion's vain conceits.
But now thou shalt in very truth behold
The soul that in a life of long ago
Was dwelling in that old man whom thou saw'st.
I see him now again in his long cloak,
That worthy ancient with his earnest brow;
0 soul, who dwelt within this covering
Why dost thou hide thyself so long from me?
It must — it can — but Theodora be.
Ah, see — now from the covered picture, comes
Reality: 'tis Theo ... 'tis myself
(As Thomasius begins the name Theodora, his Double appears.)
His Double (coming close up to Thomasius)
Perceive me — and then know thyself in me.
And I may follow thee to cosmic depths
Where souls can win perception e'en as gods
By conquest that destroyeth, yet acquires
By bold persistence life from seeming death.
(Peals of thunder, and increasing darkness.)