Art as Seen in the Light of Mystery Wisdom
III. Impulses of Transformation for Man's Artistic Evolution II
30 December 1914, Dornach
We can obtain maybe the best survey of what ought to enter into our souls and hearts as a result of our efforts in spiritual science if we turn our attention for a moment to the greater part of what I have dealt with in my book Occult Science, an Outline. Leaving aside the introductory chapters, which are necessary as a preparation for the subject, we can begin with those chapters that introduce us to the being of man, his relation to birth and death, and his life in the spiritual worlds. After this comes a description of the great cosmic relationships, of course only in rough outlines; we are led through the transformations of our earth before it became the earth, through the Saturn, Sun, and Moon evolutions leading up to our present Earth evolution. Then follows a sketch in the form of brief hints giving us a glimpse of the future Jupiter, Venus, and Vulcan evolutions. Finally, instead of a more detailed description of the Jupiter, Venus, and Vulcan evolutions we have an account of what must be undergone by the individual who wishes to set in motion within his being those inner soul experiences which must eventually lead him to initiation. These processes have been described in greater detail up to a certain stage in the book Knowledge of the Higher Worlds: How is it Achieved?.
It will become apparent that for us spiritual science falls into two parts. In one part we describe cosmic relationships; we describe how what we have before us today as the earth and its beings and as the rest of the cosmos has been coming into existence out of the very, very distant past, and we describe the prospect of how it will develop further. If you review the many observations that we have made, you will see that a large part of them are in a way under the influence of what we take into ourselves concerning the development and coming into being of the cosmos.
The other part of spiritual science is concerned for us with what the soul must do in order to enter the spiritual worlds or, in other words, to reach initiation. It is these inner experiences, conquests, battles, redemptions, and achievements of the soul with which we are always concerned in this second sphere of observation. Our observations always belong essentially to one or other of these two spheres.
Starting now with the first sphere of observations, we see that by describing the Saturn, Sun, and Moon evolutions up to the present Earth evolution, we are placing something in the world which is entirely contrary to both the religious and the scientific world concepts of today; indeed the modern world for the most part considers these descriptions to be absurd. It is quite natural that to our modern minds a description of a world order appropriate, for instance, to the conditions of the Saturn evolution must appear too fantastic; the description of a cosmic order of this kind must appear to our present way of looking at things as absolute nonsense, as something that cannot exist, as the outcome of fantastic speculation. And this is just as true of the other parts of our portrayal.
Now bear in mind a remark that I have made here several times: The human being does not only sleep at night, when his conscious thoughts and ideas are dulled, but a part of his being is also asleep during the day. At night it is more the life of concepts that is asleep; but during the day, in a part of our being, the life of the will is more asleep. The will sleeps in the depths of our bodily being, or at least a large part of the will sleeps thus. This sphere of our will is much more comprehensive than the part which we develop consciously; the latter is only a small part. We may say with complete assurance that in his ordinary daily consciousness, either at work or enjoying leisure, the human being is really for the most part a sleepwalker. A vast number of things take place within him unconsciously; and even a great part of what seems to be done consciously is, in reality, done half or more than half unconsciously.
If we observe the human being exactly in what he does half or more than half unconsciously, then we may see with our spiritual eyes that during sleep he is not nearly so unbelieving as when awake. When awake his modern view of the world prompts him to say: The description of the Saturn evolution in a book like Occult Science is pure and absolute nonsense! Of course he must say this. But as a complete human being he does not speak like this; for he carries within himself something through which he — if I may say so — knows unconsciously that there was once upon a time a Saturn existence. He does something which proves that he in a certain way unconsciously remembers this Saturn existence: he becomes an architect. Architecture would never have come into being if man did not now carry within himself the laws which were imprinted on his physical body during the ancient Saturn period. Yesterday we discussed how these laws in the physical body can be projected into the space outside, where they become the laws of architecture. Man mysteriously projects into the laws of architecture all that he took into his being during the ancient Saturn period. Obviously he has to use such means as are at his disposal today; accordingly the present aspect of architecture is quite different from what we know of ‘Saturn architecture’. But the essential and living elements in our architectural activities stem from what was implanted in us during the ancient Saturn evolution.
Let us enter still deeper into the matter which we thus place before our souls. What does the human being do when he becomes totally absorbed in the creativity of architecture, either as the architect or as the observer or admirer? He lives within the Saturn laws of his physical body; if he immerses himself entirely into the laws of architecture, he forgets all about the life of his etheric body, his astral body and his ego: he becomes once more a Saturn man. All the impressions produced by architecture, its austerity, its chaste proportions, its silence which is yet so eloquent, result from the fact that, abandoning the higher members of his being, he immerses himself in what was given to him by the spirits of the higher hierarchies, the Thrones and Archai, who were active at the beginning of the Saturn period. It was mainly these two groups of higher spirits who were active then, assisted by the other beings belonging to the higher hierarchies.
So when he creates or enjoys architecture (where it is a case of real art of course), the human being really lifts himself not only out of the present Earth existence but also out of the more distant past and places himself once more into the period of Saturn existence.
Let us now pass on to sculpture. Yesterday we saw that the laws of sculpture are the laws of the etheric body which have been pressed down one step into the physical body. Just as that which lives in the physical body, when compelled into the space outside, becomes architecture, so sculpture appears when what lives in the etheric body is made to descend into the physical body. In enjoying sculpture we abandon the astral body, the ego, and all the higher members of our being, living as though we had only the physical body, and in the physical body an expression of the etheric body; in such a condition we are once more participants of the ancient Sun condition. All that the ancient Sun evolution planted in us reappears when we enjoy or create works of sculpture. On the one hand these works appear so congenial to us because they give us back our own very distant past which is still creative within us, our Sun period; and on the other hand they are so smooth and cold in their marble because what rays out to us from them is like light coming to us from the far distances of the cosmos.
Now let us pass on to painting. We know that painting comes about when the inner impulses of the astral body are pressed down into the etheric body; in painting we abandon the ego and live as though we were only in the astral, but were pressing it down into the etheric body. We experience ourselves in all that the ancient Moon evolution has implanted in us, this being our inner astral nature as human being. Painting is, as it were, the outward projection of this inner astral nature of ours. Just as we experience in our astral nature sorrow or joy, things that affect or impress us, whatever fate brings us, so do we experience what the painter conjures upon the canvas for us, which is a reflection of our own inner astral being.
If you try to enter a little into what is described in Occult Science as the Saturn, Sun, and Moon evolutions, you will discover that an architectural mood underlies the description of the Saturn evolution, a sculptural mood underlies the description of the Sun evolution, and a pictorial mood underlies the description of the Moon evolution; an attempt was made to express these moods by choosing suitable words. The presentation of occult events definitely requires more than the current literary equipment of today. It would be an entire misconception of the style of an occult description to believe that it could be achieved by the dreadful literary devices of our time.
We now come to the Earth evolution. Here we are in the immediate present, in the reality appointed for us; what we experience here we do not immediately feel the need to place before ourselves in the form of art. But the need the human being feels of projecting his inner life outward in the form of art is not exhausted by, as it were, recreating his cosmic past in architecture, sculpture, and painting out of the memory implanted in him.
Our need for art progresses further and we can find the spiritual foundation for this if we turn again to the book Occult Science. After the descriptions of the Saturn, Sun, Moon, and Earth evolutions and after the brief outline of the future Jupiter, Venus and Vulcan evolutions, we come to the description of the processes of initiation, which are essentially at first inner human processes. These initiation processes are, in the form in which we encounter them today, the beginning of important changes for the life of human beings on earth and for the whole of future humanity.
Is it not so that our deeper experience of the life of humanity on earth is expressed in the words: Alas, in so far as man is consciously aware during life on earth he appears to be but an orphan in the cosmos, a child abandoned by the cosmos, or even a traveller who has lost his way in the cosmos!
For his everyday waking consciousness man does not know the origin of what lives in him as a result of the Saturn, Sun, and Moon evolutions; nor does he know what will become of him in the Jupiter, Venus, and Vulcan evolutions. Knowing neither his origin nor his future he wanders about at the edge of the abyss that bounds our earthly valley. Sometimes his consciousness may give him a feeling of assurance or he may feel secure as to his future; nevertheless, neither the past nor the future can be determined objectively and competently by man on earth. But something capable of giving him clear guidance in his life will appear before his soul. This will come about when man makes himself acquainted with the guidelines given him in the laws of initiation. Initiation, in ancient times, took the form of a kind of inheritance left to men by the gods, which manifested itself as atavistic clairvoyance; but in the course of our progress towards the future it must take hold of man more and more firmly and actually shape his inner soul life.
The path to initiation has two sides. The one side leads man to discover the secrets, the riddles of life so that he can enter into the spiritual experience of existence. The other side may be called the more subjective side of initiation that takes place more within the soul itself. It is, at the same time, the side from which men shrink the most, because it presents in fact something which does not fit in with the comfortable indolence of experience to which the soul so easily yields or wants to yield. An extremely wide and detailed range of inner experiences awaits the one who is to be gradually led by his inner experience to initiation. Conquest and liberation, hindrance and redemption alternate in manifold ways with inner experience on the way to initiation. One goes through everything the soul experiences when it suddenly feels it has become an entire stranger to itself; as though it had been cast into an abyss where it cannot help feeling that it is eternally lost and can never recover anything which it may have acquired during any lifetime. It may feel an unlimited dismay and grief at the loss of the existence already won. Then the soul may feel itself forced into complete fragmentation, as though it must disintegrate into an endless multiplicity and dissolve into all the beings out of which the cosmos is composed. Further the soul may feel itself wandering through the beings of the cosmos, becoming akin to one of them, then leaving it again and becoming akin to another, in the way I have described it in my book The Threshold of the Spiritual World, in the part dealing with experiences that are always attended by painful privations, painful loneliness as they are passed through one by one. Then comes the experience of the most radical transformation of all, when the soul must decide to undergo what can be expressed with the words: Now you must lose yourself for a while, you must thrust yourself away from yourself; but you must have faith that while you are losing yourself, while you are thrusting yourself away from yourself, beings reposing in the wide expanses of the divine hierarchies will protect you, will cause you to find yourself again after you have lost yourself. This is the passage through births and deaths. This is to be undergone among the inner experiences which lead to initiation.
At last comes the awful passage through all the forces which are not necessary for life on earth, but which are necessary for the life of the extra-terrestrial cosmos and which become the forces of evil when they are brought without justification into the life of the earth by Lucifer or Ahriman. It is the dreadful passage through the forces of evil, together with all the disruptive, devouring, engulfing forces they represent throughout the cosmos. And finally man passes through a stage when he ought to feel himself to be only an instrument, a tool through which the spiritual beings speak; he becomes symbolically what his larynx is as a single organ, he becomes the larynx of the divine spiritual beings, he feels himself to be resting in the all-powerful divine world. And then at last a condition will be reached in the future in which this feeling emerges into sharing the experience of the divine will, working in the cosmos itself.
Only single stages have been described here. But the grades of experience through which the soul passes are infinite. In Knowledge of the Higher Worlds: How is it Achieved? and, more descriptively, in The Threshold of the Spiritual World, you will find set forth as far as is necessary for the present time, how the soul is able to adjust itself to all these states and how, at each stage, it advances one step further into the spiritual world. All that the soul passes through on the path to initiation is consciously undergone and consciously experienced.
This is why this path of knowledge is so beset with pain and yet so full of liberation. But long, long before the human being enters consciously into all that I have described to you as the stages of the path to initiation, he is able to express these experiences in his own way in pictures, and this is done through music! In the last analysis genuine music is essentially a process of life taking its course in tones, which is an external picture of what the soul experiences consciously in initiation.
If he remains in the everyday sphere, the human being cannot at once accomplish what we described yesterday as the submerging of the ego in the astral body. To submerge the ego in the astral body in the right way is to enter into the divine world, and this is the passage through initiation. A picture of this is given to us in the processes we perceive in musical compositions. When he surrenders himself to musical creativity, either as the composer or the listener, the human being abandons his ego, he pushes it back; but at the same time he surrenders it to those divine spiritual powers who are to work upon his astral body when he has ascended to existence on Jupiter.
Please observe how we are entering upon a consideration of the creative art of music which links us with the future of mankind. It is almost, one feels, lacking in modesty to say that musical creativity is called upon to perfect itself more and more in the world, to become continually more profound, and that the musical creativity that has entered into our world so far is still more or less at the experimental stage, even though so much greatness and so much genius has already been involved. So far we have made attempts at what will be infinitely more meaningful in the musical creativity of the future. And this musical art of the future will be most significantly stimulated when human beings begin to engage in learning to know the inner nature of the path of initiation.
When one day what can be described concerning the path of initiation will no longer be experienced by human beings as it is today, but will be experienced in such a way that the description of what the soul must feel will cause human beings to go through bliss and bitter disappointment; when the knowledge that can be gained by reading about the path of initiation has become a complete inner experience: only then will it be possible for human souls to be so deeply moved through their participation in the destinies of all those beings who take part in the events of the cosmos outside the human realm, that they will feel within themselves the shocks, privations and liberation that will impel the soul to express in tonal relationships what is experienced through the description of the path of initiation.
In time to come there will be individuals who will feel what is described as the path of initiation; they will feel that things which are put before us in such an apparently abstract way can be intensely experienced, much more intensely than is the case with our outward physical experience. Then a moment will come when those who are able to experience the truth of what is described as the path of initiation will say to themselves: Now I feel that what I am experiencing does not connect me with the realm of nature that surrounds me on the earth but with all that lives and weaves in the cosmos; not only can I experience all this, but I am able to sing it, to set it to music!
In what can thus be described we have an indication of what spiritual science is to become for human beings. Spiritual science must be a living stimulus for the human soul; it should be more than mere theory, mere understanding, mere knowledge. Spiritual science must live in the soul, taking hold of all its powers, transforming the human being into another being. Or vice versa, the human being must transform himself into another being when he becomes devoted to spiritual science.
In ancient times, even in the case of the Greeks who were Sun men, an atavistic clairsentience led men to abandon their astral and their ego beings completely and only to express the laws of the physical human form created during the Saturn and Sun evolutions. Thus Greek statues were made, those works of sculpture that really stand before our physical eyes as the mankind of the Sun evolution must stand before our spiritual eyes, when we understand that the human being of that period consisted only of the physical human body which contained within it the living etheric forces but not as yet the astral.
Indeed, a work of Greek art such as the Venus of Milo stands before us as the personification of absolute chastity, since unchastity is only possible in the astral body, in all that permeates the astral body as passion and desire. Unchastity is not yet possible in the etheric body. It was a heritage from the gods bestowed upon men which caused them to create such works of art. The human being has lost this ability to feel himself within the etheric and physical bodies alone, without the ego or the astral body.
When he awakes and submerges his ego and his astral body into his etheric and physical bodies, he feels and experiences only what is present in his ego. Even the processes in the astral body are in the subconscious realm, and he has no inner knowledge at all of what takes place in the etheric and physical bodies. The ancient Greeks were still dimly aware of all this. But today, when we seek to bring spiritual knowledge to life once more within ourselves and cause it to embrace not only our abstract and theoretical thoughts but also the whole of our soul life, we gradually penetrate the different members of our being and learn to know what permeates our astral and etheric bodies in rhythmical and harmonious cycles. Then we become able to follow with the soul the etheric forces which pulsate through the body and through space, calling forth forms out of the etheric.
An attempt of this kind was made in the creation of the columns and architraves in our Goetheanum building; it was a diving down into the spheres made accessible to us by spiritual science which have been forgotten by mankind. In this we must indeed take deeply seriously what spiritual science can mean to us. You can glean from all that has so far been said about spiritual science that when we enter consciously into the spiritual world (and one must enter the spiritual world consciously), in other words when with understanding we give form to what lives in the etheric world and in the human etheric body and wish to enjoy what we have thus formed, then we must inevitably make the acquaintance of those beings which are called the luciferic and ahrimanic spirits.
Now consider how much of what we create today has an ahrimanic character. You will remember 1see lecture ‘Technology and Art’, p. 5 et seq. of this volume. what I have said with regard to our modern technical environment; and of course we cannot do otherwise than use modern technical methods in our work. If we wished to do without them we would produce the equivalent of hothouse plants. So it afforded me a certain satisfaction that we were able to use concrete, one of the most modern building materials, for part of our building here. For progress consists not in shutting oneself off, as in a hothouse, from the life around one, but in using what is offered by it. By grasping the spiritual nature of the world through spiritual science, we try to use modern materials in such way that what we know through spiritual science finds a living expression in them.
Of course this is only possible up to a certain point, and you will understand why this is so when you perceive all the implications of what has been said about the technical environment. For it is not possible to separate technical methods from ahrimanic forces, for instance, if we wish to create something in architecture or sculpture for ourselves. Thus it was a difficult task to take what of necessity had an ahrimanic nature in our building and, as it were, banish it from the building as something rendered harmless. It really was a difficult task, for we know that the ahrimanic element is inseparable from modern technology. For a while it seemed that Ahriman would easily gain the upper hand. Then we should have been compelled to incorporate into our main building all the technical equipment necessary for running it. As a result, Ahriman would have been permanently installed within the building. We had to think of a way of excluding the ahrimanic forces from the building, and the only possibility was to take the boiler house out and make it a separate unit. This has been done, as you can see for yourselves, and with great success.
It has been possible to create, in the most modern building material, forms that truly express the following: Here, near the building, but outside it, stands the part that must not be included in it, though it must be present outside; and the material out of which it has been formed represents an architectural structure that is truly in keeping with spiritual-scientific knowledge.
It was of immense importance that this should be achieved, particularly as the most modern building materials were employed. For if you look more deeply into what I have written about spiritual science, taking in this case the last chapter of The Portal of Initiation, you will find expressed there the fact that Lucifer and Ahriman are at their most harmful when they are not seen, when they remain invisible. Let us suppose that somebody is tormented by ahrimanic forces; what would be the best remedy? The best remedy would be for him to have some kind of picture made of Ahriman which he could place in his room. The best remedy against an astral being which torments one, is to place it before oneself in a physical form. It is incorrect to suppose that if we have Ahriman before us we will be persecuted by him; the contrary is true. Things must be made visible. But we must not let the matter get on our nerves; we must not develop a condition in which, if we happen to pass by the picture of Ahriman and look at it unconsciously, we then carry the image within ourselves. For this image will then be invisible inside us, thus making us nervous or excited.
You will also see, if you study our ahrimanic chimney along with the whole boiler house, how it is indeed possible to make an architectural structure of what belongs, one might say, to the most blatant elements of ahrimanic civilisation in our time. Certain defects of this civilisation will not vanish until mankind resolves to give architectural form to the things that concern the ahrimanic elements of our civilisation. Apart from all else, apart from our having a building for our own purposes, it is simply important that the first step should be taken in relating our present culture to art and in relating spiritual science to our present culture. Our boiler house is a first small step in this direction, and will lead, it is hoped, to the solution of other problems later. One enormous problem, for instance, would be to find a suitable form for the modern railway station; for the horrors and abominations which perform that function today are a contradiction of all decent human requirements. In its entire form our boiler house is not only suited to its specific purpose but also corresponds to the whole relationship of Ahriman to our building; in the same way the form of a railway station must correspond to what happens through it, with it, and in it within the framework of our modern civilisation.
Such things as these should indicate the way in which spiritual science can provide inspiration for artistic creativity and for many other fields. And we may rest assured, if we enter into the true sense and spirit of what is to develop for us out of spiritual science, that one day, when human beings immerse themselves in the nature of the Saturn condition, then the deeper laws of architecture will reveal themselves; and if people immerse themselves in the nature of the Sun condition, the the deeper laws of sculpture will reveal themselves; and if they immerse themselves in the nature of the Moon condition, then the deeper relationships between form and colour and the nature of chiaroscuro will become apparent, creating inspiration for the art of painting.
And from the description of the path of initiation will spring inspirations and intuitions for the creation of music and yet further for the creation of poetry. Then the time will come when poetic creativity in the true sense of the word will reappear in the world. For poetic creativity has to a certain extent died away. The ‘divine dreams’ incorporated in the work of the true poets were the last vestiges of the ancient heritage from the gods. But a time must come when, out of an understanding of the mysteries of initiation, poets will speak in dramatic or epic or lyric poetry about those intimate processes which take place in the soul when the human being is not alone with himself, but lives together with the gods of the higher hierarchies. In the not too distant future people will be saying: Stop bothering me with your perpetual jingles about men's experiences in the physical world; your daily routine of love and hate and enjoyment is your own affair. It is about what they experience together with the gods when they have found their way outside earthly experience, that men will sing in their music and in their dramas, epics, and lyrical poems. For we know that all men's experiences with the extra-terrestrial world must be brought into these arts through true creativity that is not involved in everyday life.
We have now seen what impulses of transformation lie in the knowledge brought to us by spiritual science, even in the field of artistic appreciation. And we have now seen how, if we enter into spiritual-scientific knowledge, we can dimly perceive the forces which must reign over the spiritual culture of future humanity. Indeed, we may believe that without achieving a profound inner transformation nobody can really make contact with spiritual science; and we may believe that spiritual science is something which can grasp man in a deeply inward way, leading beyond the narrow connections of physical life alone. If we bear in mind this ideal of spiritual science, if we bear in mind that spiritual science can lead out into a sphere that is different from ordinary experience, then it is always an event of immense significance to see somebody within the spiritual-scientific movement, really igniting within himself the spark that leads him out of and beyond the narrow limits of ordinary personal experience. In a way, the only joyful experience which is so far made possible for us through the spiritual-scientific movement is, that as a result of this movement, individuals can appear among us who really find their way out of their personal sphere into those spheres where the personal element ceases to exist.
In our everyday life we must, of course, cultivate the personal element; but in so far as we are together as students of spiritual science, all personal willing and feeling is changed into something impersonal if we take hold of spiritual science in the right way. And every victory over personal feelings and over the weight of personal feelings and over the weight of personal matters in life is of immense significance and value. But on the other hand it is one of the bitterest disappointments if something that is striven for in spiritual science with a will that is purely spiritual, becomes entangled again in the merely personal will and purpose of human beings, and if personal matters begin to play a role within a society whose object it is to unite us in striving for spiritual-scientific knowledge.
I shall not elaborate on these concluding remarks or go into more detail because I believe that there are a good many among you who will perhaps understand much of what is meant by them, who will understand that they were intended as an indication of a number of things that are satisfactory and a number that are disappointing. Today, having tried for a while to walk together along a path of spiritual science, it is good to think about these things for a moment; for there are various reasons why we should reflect and ask ourselves to what extent our own soul is participating in the sincere and honest effort to achieve the spiritual purposes which are nourished by the current of spiritual science. What a superb perspective unfolds before us when we say: Life, science, religion, and also art can receive impulses of transformation from spiritual science when it is truly understood. In the case of the pictorial and plastic arts the impulses come from what we learn in spiritual spheres about the past; and in the case of the arts involving music and speech the impulses come from that which we are striving for inwardly, in order to be able to approach the future. This perspective is so immense and so powerful that we cannot bring enough realisation to bear on it, in order to make it more intensely clear to ourselves. And the more we succeed in making clear to ourselves the inner mood resulting from this vision, the better we shall be as true members of that great organism known to us as spiritual science, an organism which is small today, but which has within it great possibilities. With this today I not only want to appeal to your reason and your understanding, but I also want to sow it as a seed in your souls and in your hearts.