The History of Art
XII. Greek and Early Christian Art, Symbolic Signs, the Mystery of Gold
22 October 1917, Dornach
Today I will introduce some observations and the way in which these will be presented will appear to be more loosely connected than those of the previous discussions which I have been giving you during these past weeks. Despite the aphoristic form in which I will speak today there is still a part for future considerations; I'm thinking of the next time when it will be possible to come back to some items which were attached to these contemplations in order to arrive at a culmination, a world view tableau, which I believe is necessary now, into which the human being may be placed.
Today I would first like to show through some observations which can't be supported by images — because I don't have images to illustrate this — how within history, within Europe's unfolding evolution during the last two to three centuries the most varied impulses worked together, impulses of a threefold nature. There were of course actually an infinite number of impulses but it is actually sufficient to look at particular elements which are the closest to reality in these impulses.
We live in the 5th post-Atlantean epoch. We stand in this epoch which expresses itself outwardly in many antagonistic and battling impulses these days. We live right inside many things which admonish mankind to be ever more and more awake for what is happening around us. One can say that never in the unfolding of history, as far as it can be researched, is mankind so called upon to wake up. In no other time had mankind shown such sleepiness as in ours. In this 5th post-Atlantean time with its particular impulses which we have come to know through our anthroposophical considerations, there play echoes of the 4th post-Atlantean time into it, but also echoes of the 3rd post-Atlantean epoch. Inside all that is bristling and playing in our present events we can distinguish between various things but today we will focus from a particular viewpoint on three principal impulses, echoes of the 3rd and 4th post-Atlantean epochs and how these work on our present 5th post-Atlantean epoch.
In the 4th post-Atlantic epoch one element asserted itself in particular — here we approach the development in art for our observation — in particular, and most valid, in artistic development's depiction was what there was to be discovered within the human being him- or herself. The Greeks and after them the Romans strived to present time and space as experienced within themselves as part of being human. We know why this is so; we have often considered this. In other cultural forms of the 4th post-Atlantean epoch, the Greek-Latin time, this also revealed itself and we find it expressed particularly in art. As a result, in the Greek time period typical individuals were idealized and particularly elevated in art. One could say the highest, most elevated form which could be found in the sense world were the beautiful people who took on such attractive forms and wandered around at that time, in the most beautiful movements in the widest sense of the word — Hellenism strived to depict them this way. During no other time of earth's development can such a similar striving be found; because each epoch of the earth's evolution has its particular impulse.
Within this representation of the beautiful humanity of the 4th post-Atlantean time was a resonance from the 3rd post-Atlantean time. This echo was not limited to a particular territory but rayed out over the cultural world of the 4th post-Atlantic epoch. Thus one can say: the 3rd post-Atlantean epoch became particularly active by influencing the 4th post-Atlantic epoch and continued to be active, even though it was now a weak echo, in the 5th post-Atlantean epoch.
As Christianity and the Christ impulse spread, it had to deal with these interweaving impulses. Art impulses simply could not unfold in the 3rd post-Atlantean time on the physical plane as was the case in the 4th post-Atlantean time, because even in the 4th the depiction of the physical world was granted through beautiful people, in beauty humanity was created. The 3rd post-Atlantic epoch had to express many more, even if they were atavistic, internalized impulses. In order to bring this about, it had been necessary to reach back to grasp this kind of impulse from the 3rd post-Atlantean epoch, in a certain sense. Thus we see, while the Christ impulse spread through the world, the artistic depiction of beauty within humanity reaches back, and sometimes has an impact which is like a kind of renewal of an impulse from the 3rd post-Atlantean epoch.
The Greek impulse which brought art to such a blossoming, quite within the style and sense of the 4th post-Atlantean epoch, had to preferably be limited to express growing, flowering and thriving. Beauty for the Greeks was never adornment. The idea of embellishment was unknown to the Greeks. The Greek had the idea of everything alive, growing and flourishing. The idea that embellishment could be added was something which came much later into the world again, namely in the continuing cultural development. The idea to which the Greek world was the furthest removed can perhaps be found in the word “elegant”. Elegance was unknown to the Greeks — elegance which the living used to bedeck themselves with adornments so that they would “shine” on the outside — this was unknown to the Greeks. The Greek only knew form and expression as originating from what was alive itself.
The impulses of Christianity also represented death; the Greek epoch mainly represented all that sprouted, grew, and was life-giving. The Cross of Golgotha had to stand opposite Apollo. Yes, this was the great task of humanity, the great artistic work of humanity, to work against death, in other words all that could come from the world beyond because Hellenism regarded ideals sensually represented as its highest accomplishment.
This becomes obvious in all that is juxtaposed in an artistic expression. This is evident when one sees how artistic skill strived to express the beautiful, growing and blossoming, youthful and prosperous people. This artistic skill brought the Greek-Latin time particularly far. One can also see how Hellenism was already growing in the first artistic Christian creations, but how simultaneously these artistic creations struggled with what couldn't be captured in the physical world or dealt with artistically. As a result, we see how the perfection of the representation of youth, vitality and prosperity is placed beside the still clumsy representation of death, eternity, including infinity which is the door to it all.
I have put together two motifs from the ancient Christian art of the first centuries, to illustrate what I'm trying to present. Firstly, the “Good Shepherd”:
... a statue to be found in Lateran, in which you can see how the artistic skill is presented in the growing, blossoming and prospering element, the vitality as it grows within the Christian art; if one believes that the Jesus figure is linked to the “Good Shepherd”. Greek art was dedicated to life, dedicated to depicting the world of the senses with the human being as the highest accomplishment of life, who in death will grasp the consciousness which alone will give access to infinity, eternity, and the supernatural. One can see how they tried to adapt this to Apollo, Pallas Athene and Aphrodite who really represented youthful blossoming, growing and thriving, how this development wants to merge with the other form, yet still holding on to the striving in the artistic sense, with death, the infinite, towards the supernatural. This is the echo in art which came out of the sense world and became the magnificent flowering in the 4th post-Atlantic epoch.
Now we take another artwork carved out of wood — coming from about the same time period — the representation of the crosses on Golgotha:
Christ on the cross, between the two thieves.
If you look at it you realize how unskilful it looks in comparison with the previous image. The mystery of Christianity could not be mastered artistically, it still had the work of an entire century ahead. During the very first centuries of Christianity one finds such inadequate representations of the central mystery of Christianity.
One can already say that these things should not be taken up in the sense of false aesthetics or in hostility towards sensory impressions, because the gaze, the soul gaze during the first Christian times was focussed on the mystery of death, which had to be validated in a super-sensory way through knowledge of the Mystery of Golgotha. By believing one is connected to the mystery of Golgotha, it was believed that one could grow into feelings and experiences and see the infinite validity of the human soul which lay behind the door of death. No wonder that as a result, in the field of the most varied cultural forms of worship of the dead during the first centuries this was particularly noticeable in sensitive Christians. So you see why this characteristic style which I want bring into expression is directly linked for you in the Good Shepherd (661) to this “Representation of the Mystery of Golgotha” (662). Thus we see the characteristic style in the artistic creations of the first Christian centuries depicted in reliefs and most of all in the carved reliefs found in sarcophagi. The dead, the remains of the dead, memories of the dead combined in the sarcophagus, are linked to the Mystery of the Dead, this was a profound need of the first sensitive Christians. The secrets of the Old and New Testament were the favoured elements to be depicted on the walls of the sarcophagus. To study the sarcophagus art of the first Christian centuries in particular, means to delve into what was being done in Christianity, to a certain extent the Mystery of Death is also there, where it shows itself in reality: with the sarcophagus, expressed artistically with the mystery of death, it is brought together with the knowledge of the revelation of everlasting life, with biblical mysteries.
So we see for example the sarcophagus of the early Christian art:
In the centre is the married couple to which the sarcophagus is dedicated, presented in portraits, then the two rows above and below of biblical scenes from the Old and New Testaments. It starts, as you can see, at the left top with the resurrection of Lazarus. You then see the continuation, to the right of the rounding shell, the sacrifice of Isaac, continuing further one recognises the betrayal by Peter. Below, right, you see for example — they are all biblical figures — here it is unfortunately too small — above and below are Bible scenes. We see what Greek art created up to its culmination, the free standing human figure, which here has to be squashed into reality, but reality connecting this world to the world of the afterlife. So we see the figures lined up. Here we see the free depiction obviously impaired, this impaired composition is exactly what we want to look at in particular. In this example we have for example a sarcophagus configuration, an extraction of the materials in form, as an example of an entire composition pressed into it. Please look carefully, the entire composition is compressed and composed of human forms. Overall we have physical forms: Moses, Peter, the Lord Himself, Lazarus being awakened, Jonah there in the centre; thus we have the composition, possibly reducing spatial depiction, the geometric figural moving back to allow the refinement of human form. I ask you please to particularly consider this because we shall see quite different things in the following sarcophagus. Already here you see that not everything is pressed into the human depiction, these are only one behind another, but look at the centre, below, how in the Jonah scene composition comes very obviously to the fore.
The central figure: the Christ. Notice how the two other figures are produced, and behind them the plant motifs on both sides.
Do you remember the very first lecture which I held here in Dornach, in which I tried to show the motifs of the acanthus leaf, how it didn't grow as a copy of nature but came out of geometric form, out of an understanding of guidelines and only later, as I showed, did it adapt itself to the naturalistic acanthus leaf? So we see, like here (667) lines and line ratios build a kind of central theme ... and how to some extent the pictorial, which Hellenism brought to its highest expression, now recedes and becomes threaded into the compositional. We can say we have vertical lines, then two opposing angular lines and a centre. When we draw these lines we start to consider spatial relationships:
Let us then add two plant motifs and two figures — ostensibly filled with reverence — rushing towards the centre
We see that it is possible to say that the symbolic image becomes connected with something which can only be suggested as naturalistic because naturalism itself is idealistic: the human figure or even the organic being and the symbol are interwoven and become hardly distinguishable from one another.
We shall see that quite other, quite different motifs will come to meet us in other sarcophagi as for example with the following one.
Here we have something quite different. Here we have admittedly also plant motifs; you have the same lines — now not with human beings — but filled in with animals. You have the central motif but this motif itself is symbolic; this motif is a sign, a monogram of Christ, Chi (X) and Rho (P); therefore, Christ construed as the Wheel of Life in the centre. Considered spatially this composition is the same as the one before. Instead of the central Christ figure we have the Christ monogram in the centre; instead of the two figures approaching in reverence, we have animals; and on the sides, plant motifs. Yet, in a remarkable way, we see the image formed here as more complete.
The basis of such a monogram representation is always linked to an ancient view but in today's opinion may appear somewhat bizarre, yet that is the basis of it. You must clearly understand that people had some knowledge, even before atavistic Gnostic wisdom — which only really withered in the 18th Century, some even as late as the 19th century. When you take this presentation (666) then you will easily find yourself entering into the artwork despite the naturalistic drawing: the stone as such — physical; the plant motifs left and right — etheric; the animal motif - astral; and the monogram of Christ in the centre — the indwelling of Christ in the “I”.
When we gaze as such signs, at the imagery, the naturalistic images shown in such signs, we see an interplay coming out of the 3rd into the 4th post-Atlantean epochs. What were the most profound characteristics of the 3rd post-Atlantean epoch? There where it really acted out of its own impulses, this 3rd post-Atlantean epoch mainly strived to find the sign, the actual symbol which works magic. Understand this well: the sign which works magic. The symbolism was there and gave birth to script. Remember how within the Egyptian culture the priest was handed the letters through the god Hermes himself, the revealed words were received from above. These sign were revealed from the supersensible by the sensible. The signs were to reappear as something in the sense world which had come out of the super-sensible as a Christ impulse because the Christ impulse had to speak not merely of outer manifestations but the Christ figure had to represent the embodied Apollo. The Christ impulse had to present the Christ in such a way that it could be said: “In the beginning was the Word” which means that the sign originated in the heights of heaven, and has come down, “and the Word became flesh”.
Thus we need to bring together what lived in the signs as impulses in the 3rd post-Atlantic times with the Christ impulse living in the 4th post-Atlantic time. In Egypt during a relatively earlier time signs could be transformed into script; we see also in northern countries signs in the runes are charged with their own magic, and the rune priests who threw the runes tried to read them, tried to recognise what revelations the runes revealed from spiritual heights. Thus we see the influence of the runes in the 3rd post-Atlantean time, runes which can be found way back in all the centuries before Christendom. This propagated and streamed together with the naturalistic, Hellenic presentation, then already presented out of nature by spiritually beautiful people. Both streams merge. This we can see in the motif (666) as coming together. This is most important here: the grasping of one over the other, the flowing together of the 3rd and 4th post-Atlantean epochs.
Look at the next motif, the “Presentation of the Offerings of the Kings”:
... we see how the expression of the linear lives beside the naturalistic reality.
Let us look at the next sarcophagus motif:
Once again we have something else, despite the succession of the figures which mainly present a biblical scene, although we have the figures simply in a row we see how an attempt was made in the movement of the linear quality of the figures, how the spatial aspect is expressed. So this again is done in the other way (like 664).
The following motif is from the sarcophagus of the grave of Galla Placidia:
Here the spatial aspect is expressed to a strong degree yet we only see the same thing we've often encountered before (664, 666), the secret of multiples of five you see expressed here, in the centre is the Lamb this time — one could say the Lamb is supported by others — and once again the plants close off the periphery. In the most diverse ways the spatial artistic element of the 3rd Post-Atlantean time will support Christianity, and again penetrate it, as a support for Christianity. All that comes as sarcophagus art.
I ask you to really hold on to the idea that the basis of these signs was allowed to flow into Christianity, secretively: you have the pentagonal, you have the triangle in the centre, again a sign; besides this you have the line as I explored earlier. Why did Christianity allow these signs to flow into it? Because they saw magic within the signs, magical effects which did not only happen in the naturalistic area where it became blurred, but worked through the supersensible; within the signs a supersensible expression came about.
The next motif:
Here we see the signs again mixed in a particular way with the naturalistic elements: the monogram of Christ in the centre and the two animal figures which you have seen already, on both sides. However, the plant motifs are designed in multiples. Above you can see the sign applied. Here you have signs and naturalistic depictions intermingled, the signs as magic, the signs which originate from the same world if they are depicted meaningfully, which the dead enter at the portal of death. One felt something like this: out of the world into which the dead enter at the portal of death these signs come, they are transformed into script. The naturalistic element however exists there where humanity lives between birth and death.
The next motif is the Miracle of the multiplication of Bread:
Here in contrast is another way (663, 338) where the mere architectural has inserted the signs.
The following is not a sarcophagus motif but is an ivory carving.
With this I want to make a definite point regarding the way the material was worked in the same way it had remained in the art of the 4th post-Atlantean epoch. The manner in which it was created out of the ivory as relief art during the first Christian centuries was a capability of the 4th post-Atlantean time when naturalism was expressed artistically.
The following motif is likewise an ivory carving:
Here you already see likewise more signs complimenting the lines as well as the figures and images being applied to the imagery, you can clearly see how it is possible to fill to a certain extent the area into which the figures are threaded, pulled in, how they can be expanded as geometrical figures.
These are, one could say, the backbones which Christianity has brought in the form of the symbolic art of the 3rd post-Atlantean epoch and which we see appearing everywhere.
I have another example out of the Dome in Ravenna:
... in which I can show how completely the motifs are converted by the application of the signs. On the left at the top we have the Christ monogram, below left and right we again have geometrical and figurative motifs, above in a similar fashion the Christ monogram, a simple motif, symmetrical left and right. We can, if we get a bit of help from our imagination, see how a real evolution has taken place from the first to the second motif. Just imagine in the top left under the curvature, the Chi (X) and the Rho (P), the Christ monogram simplified, think of the Chi crossbars simplified and then you arrive at the central motif, top right, as the monogram forming the cross. Imagine the growing together of the monogram at the top left, with the wreath, a mere plant motive of creeper with leaves, and you will come to the animal motif on the left and right. Simultaneously you could imagine the top right motif in a simplified and more elevated configuration as the evolution of the left motif. In the same way the right sided monogram can be a forerunner of the left. Just imagine for a moment the left palm of the monogram configured in these entanglements around the monogram, consider how the left motif is similarly growing here as is apparent in our (Goetheanum) Building, where column motifs develop out of one another; consider the simplified geometric forms more organically depicted, then you have the right side motif as it develops from the left one.
When one goes back into the mysteries of the 3rd post-Atlantean epoch, you find spread all over Europe, from the north and even into America — because there has always been a connection between Scandinavia and America which was only lost for a short while, a few centuries before America was discovered by Spain, much earlier one always sailed from Scandinavia to America; they lost their connection for a short while and it was only re-established after Columbus rediscovered it — one finds, spread out over southern Europe, over North Africa, over familiar regions of Asia, the front area of Asia in particular in the 3rd post-Atlantean epoch of the Mysteries, afterwards some latecomers — one finds the real mystery centres of earlier, of the third post-Atlantean epoch. Here magic and signs were spoken about in particular. What Egyptian mythology related in regard to the priesthood of Hermes are the outer exoteric echoes of the esoteric elements in the Mysteries regarding the magic of signs, which was learnt in northern lands as the magic of the runes. This was the magic which came, on the one side, from a spiritual side, from magic which was used to try and form signs which came forth purely out of the spiritual realm and to some extent permeate this realm of signs by human will in order to create particular signs into which the forces of the supernatural would be poured.
This was not the only place where magic was searched for. It is very significant that magic was looked for on the other side, one could say, in the supernatural. Isn't it true that the naturalistic as well as art was simultaneously spiritual for the Greeks? In supernatural signs magic was searched for which merely lay within the signs themselves. However, magic was also sought in sub-nature. Besides the mysteries which speaks about the runes and signs in olden times, there were other mysteries which spoke about other riddles regarding sub-nature. This sub-nature one discovers in quite particular products when one looks for them mainly under the surface of the earth. If one goes above then one meets the gods in the heights who give sense to the signs, where the supersensible works as magic, then it is possible to grasp it in the sensual sense and unite it artistically. If one goes however into sub-nature, into the inner earth, one finds a kind of magic held there.
Among the manifold magical things, one sought in particular for the identification of two riddles. If we today express the knowledge of these two riddles, we could say that in the secret mysteries the riddle of gold was well kept, as it is sought in the veins of the earth, and also the riddle of gemstones. This sounds extraordinary but it really correlates historic fact. The magic of the signs was particularly connected to the church. In the 3rd post-Atlantean time they sought to incorporate magic into the signs. The magic of gold — where in particular it is formed as it appears in nature — and then the magic of gemstones which bring light into what had been dark, where light is held in something material, material which was held in darkness — this didn't enter into the priesthood but gave itself into the profaneness of humankind who stood outside the church.
So it happened that out of certain impulses which were very, very old — when liberated town culture established itself in art which I have just recently explained, as everywhere the liberated town teachings developed, that these liberated town developments came to the surface -the joy of gemstones, the joy of gold, the delight in gold processing and the delight in precious stone application came through as waves in the spiritual life. Just as the church wanted to bring signs out of the heights of heaven so from the depths of the earth came the secret of gold and the secret of the gemstones as part of the liberated town culture. Not just by coincidence, but through deep historic necessity the art of the goldsmith developed and I would like to say, only as an annexure to the goldsmith art, other metal art grew out of the desires of town culture, by applying gemstones, because gold and gemstones contained magic, a magic from below in nature that should be loosened and spread before the senses.
Still today an echo of this urban working with gold and gemstones can be seen in art, as founded by the Bishop Bernward of Hildesheim. In Hildesheim, situated in the midst of northern Europe's centre one sees many such works of art — otherwise also available but particularly concentrated there — where gemstones are incorporated into the most delicate artistic metallic works of art.
Bernward of Hildesheim
In Hildesheim it comes across to one as phenomenally important in its ancient form. It spread out, and actually this which I have pointed out as appearing and blossoming particularly because Central European impulses are also found in Italian cities. Basically the art of the goldsmith in Florence and what was designed by later goldsmiths to become the great art in the arena of sculptural relief and sculpture as such, dates back to this same origin. These things are interlinked in the most manifold ways.
Now consider the following. I had said that in the 9th Century when the church of Rome and the papacy had a different understanding than later, of what actually had to happen in the western world, from a certain viewpoint I represented this, how from the 9th Century onward forces in Rome, which one could say rose from below and became valid, how these laws from Rome became systemized just like laws originating from the spiritual world should have been included. On the one side Rome can seem thus: from the South rose the magic and sign world which came from above but with a focus towards the North where liberated town culture was being developed, focussing towards the North where joy grew in the secret of gold, in the secret of gemstones. However, this northern influence had already produced something out of its old mysteries, which necessarily had connections through the mysteries to, on the one side, the mystery of gemstones — this we can leave out of the game today — and on the other side, connections to the mystery of gold. Christianity didn't simply develop out of a single impulse and impulses also worked against Christianity. Just as it was opposed in the South by the magic of signs, so in the North it was opposed by the world of Central European legends and out of the North incorporated by the great gold mystery, as illustrated.
With the gold mystery the figure of Siegfried is connected, who looted gold and perished through the tragedy of gold. Everything which is connected to the Siegfried figure is related to the mystery of gold. The theme that gold and its magic only belong to the supersensible world is like a red thread throughout the Nibelungenlied, gold is not to be dedicated to the sense world.
If one considers it in this way, then your mind understands the deepest mystery of gold. What did Siegfried's friend tell him? What does the Nibelungenlied say? What is its great teaching? Offer the gold to the dead! Leave it to the supersensible realm; in the sensible world it makes mischief.
That was the teaching which propagated through Christianity in the northern countries. This is what was understood in Rome during the great synthesis taking place between Roman elements of the 9th Century in the northern European areas when within art it united with what rose from the one side out of signs and on the other side from symbols added into the gold and gemstone work. How beautiful this confluence of symbol-rich art and gold-gemstone art is during the 8, 9, 10, 11, 12th centuries. Everywhere we see this ancient Christian art of symbols. By connecting other impulses, we see the incorporation of the symbols into the working of the gold and gems.
This was now systematically sought in Rome, but was also prepared for in Europe. As a result in the early days we see, rising from the south, the Christian traditions in a form that even in a non-pictorial, purely by word-of-mouth form, the symbols moved and worked. The heathens coming from the North were heralds of everything worldly, embellished, and ornamental, linking the magic of the symbols to the sub-nature. By associating the cross of the South with the gold and gems of the North which originated in the heathen mysteries, just like the symbol of the cross itself out of the mysteries is applied to the Mystery of Golgotha, so we see three impulses combining: the naturalistic depiction of spiritualised nature taking the Greek power of form from the 4th post-Atlantean epoch, and the other two impulses: the symbol of the magic in signs, and the magic of sub-nature, of gold and gems.
Yes, to find the preparation of ancient times in the historic development of becoming, the further back we need to go. Our time is already in the epoch in which, I might say, everything battles with the human being, in order for him to learn and not remain sleepy by gazing into the present, but that lively impulses of evolution are really grasped, otherwise he might nevermore be forced to see how chaotic the present has become.
Today I have the opportunity, but in the near future this opportunity might not be so, to show you how, by the art influenced by the South being brought towards the North, that a particularly strong motif is expressed by the merging of the animalistic and human. In earlier time this started to appear and later became seen as the interworking of darkness and light. Out of the figurative dark animalistic realm the bright human form rises in the relationship of the dragon with Michael, and so on, also seen in other compilations of the animal and human. This becomes the light-dark artistic expression later. All these things are interconnected. Much, very much has to be spoken about if one wants to show the artistic expression of this interworking between the olden and newer times, this penetration of the naturalistic heathen impulses with the Christian impulses, which however, to be valid, has to renew the old magical motifs, now to have this magic in the old heathen sense undressed and lifted up into the real spiritual world.
This was known particularly in the 9, 10, 11, 12, 13th centuries. It was then known that the ancient heathen elements had become obsolete, but lots remained behind — yet these elements had become old — and that the young Christianity of that time had to work into this, was known. This we meet in literature, in art, in the creation of legends, everywhere. I have already often pointed this out, how present time humanity has become completely lost to the idea of spirituality working in outer reality. In the 5th post-Atlantean time when materialism is written on people's banners, this idea has nearly become lost completely. People are unable to imagine the streaming in of the spiritual, of the meaningful elements in pure naturalism, in pure matter. As a result, the gradual dying of the heathen and the gradual becoming of the Christ impulse in European culture is considered, at best, in abstract terms. In the 9, 10, 11, 12, and 13th centuries this was not the case. Then one presented it, if a representation was wanted at all, in such a way that the soul and outer corporeality were considered simultaneously as outside of the human being in history and in natural events. Everywhere one looks at the physical geographical surroundings something spiritual is simultaneously expressed. Hence much in the prophetic line came to be seen in these ideas.
People at present, if they do not only want to have superficial feelings but have a heart for the monstrous events taking place in our time, cannot today think of the Nibelungen legend without seeing prophetic depths within it. Whoever understands the Nibelungen legend in its depths, feel prepared for all the terrible events which flash through the present. By thinking in the same way in which thoughts are shaped in the Nibelungenlied, one thinks in a prophetic manner because then thoughts are formed through the mystery of gold. Hagan allowing the Nibelungen treasure, the gold treasure, to sink into the Rhine, was a prophetic idea at the time the Nibelungen saga was created and is experienced as deeply tragic in view of the future, on all that the Rhine will become as a cause for antagonistic impulses against the future. At that time the outer geographic natural world was not regarded as soulless, but was seen in connection with the soul, in every breath of wind was a soul quality, in every flowing stream something of a soul. At that time, it was also really known in what sense the purely materialistic reference meant regarding “the old Rhine River”. What is the Rhine actually in a materialistic sense? It is the water of the Rhine. What flows in it these days will in future be somewhere else. The water of the Rhine is actually not really something one can call the old Rhine, and one does not usually think of the mere coincidence of the earth. All that is matter flows on, it doesn't remain. In olden times external matter was given no thought, other than everything being an illusion; it was not believed that external events were merely embedded in the flow of what was described as naturalistic. Whatever was external was simultaneously a soul expression permeating physical existence. For this reason and particularly during this time it was a necessity to allow the old heathendom to dissolve and allow the new introduction of the Christian impulse — that was necessary in Europe in the later centuries — there people tried to think soulfully about geography, making geography plausible to the soul, the heart, to the mind.
Let us look at the example of the Odilienberg there in the Vosges and see the Christian monastery of Odile, to whose father, the pagan Duke, she was born blind; we see on this site the pagan walls of the Christian monastery. These pagan walls are nothing other than the remainders of old pagan mysteries. We see a merging of dying paganism and the rise of the Christ impulse at this geographic location. We see this expressed in the myth with remnants of the own pagan ancestry imposed by Odile being blind but who becomes inwardly, spiritually seeing through the Priest of Regensburg, through a Christ impulse. We see a working together in Regensburg a blossoming later as in the great fruitfulness of Albertus Magnus, we see it blooming, we see it instilling the Christ impulse in the eyes of Odile whose pagan ancestors had blinded her. We see geographically at this place the telescoping of the Christian light into the old pagan darkness. We see this as the basis imposed by Rome: take up the gold, but bring the gold as offering from the realms of the supersensible. Let the gold enter into that, of which the Cross is a sign! In our time we see by contrast, the flood of gold taken up by the senses as it was brought into expression in the old heathen legends.
We see how time takes a stand of opposition to the supersensible light contrasted by the gold. Siegfried was drawn to Isenland to fetch the Nibelungen gold. The Nibelungen gold he brought was offered to the Christ impulse. This Christ impulse dared not turn pagan again!
Oh, one could use many, many fiery words, as human words are, to really depict the terrible sense of this time. This time is filled with signs. During this time human ears unfortunately wanted to hear very little. The first year of chaos arrived - and it was believed that it would soon be the past. They didn't want to listen to the deep powers moving within this chaos - also into the second, the third year — and also now. Firstly, when this adored gold can be eroded, will people have ears to hear that no ordinary tools can be found which are so needed during this time, tools brought over from the past, but that it is only possible with the forces of renewal brought about from within the flowing Christ impulse, which in many cases had already been forgotten as Christ impulses. In no other way could these things improve than if as many people as possible decided to learn from the spirit.
Let us look for once at the manner in which earlier humanity comprehended things, even thinking of the direction of the wind not in a materialistic sense but that the windsock was inspired, ensouled by the region with, on the one side, the Odilienberg and on the other side, Regensburg. It was the same with other places.
Learn once again how humanity experienced not mere air moving over the earth but that there is spirit above the earth, spirit which must be searched for; that beneath the earth there is not only stuff which they could take out with the aid of material tools, but that which was to be unearthed from the sub nature had to be offered up to the super-sensory. To understand mankind again, that is the mystery of gold! Not only spiritual science teaches this but this can also be learnt through the real understanding of the history of art in a spiritual sense. Oh, how terrible it is to see how the present day humanity wait day after day and do not want to understand the necessity to grasp the new; that they make no progress through old, worn-out imaginations. More about this again at another time.