Rudolf Steiner Archive 

Lecture 12

Greek and Early Christian Art, Symbolic Signs,
the Mystery of Gold

October 22nd, 1917

Today, I shall bring some considerations, which will, given in the form they are given today, seem to stand in a looser connection with the continuity of explanations given in the last weeks. However, in spite of the aphoristic form which I will use today, what I feel I need to present today is a section of our continuous considerations, and I plan for the future, if further lectures should be possible, to come back to many a thing touched upon in these consideration in order to arrive at a climax, at a tableau of seeing the world in a way I consider necessary for the present, at least to bring it to people wherever possible.

I would like to show, by means of a few pictures and considerations, how, within the developmental process in the evolution of Europe, during the course of the last two or three millennia, the most manifold impulses have worked together, especially impulses of three types. Of course there is really an unending richness of impulses. However, for certain elements of reality it is already enough to consider those closest at hand.

We are living in the fifth post-Atlantian time. We are in that age of this fifth post-Atlantian time in which many elements will make themselves known externally — elements such as antagonism and impulses to battle — which will come to light in this time. We are living also within many an element which should warn humanity to be more and more awake to what is going on. For one may also say: there is hardly a time in the development of world-history — as far as this can be known — which called equally intensively for wakefulness. In no age has humanity shown itself to be as sleepy as in our time. In this fifth post-Atlantian time, with its very particular impulses, which we know to some extent through our spiritual-scientific considerations, there play the sounds of the fourth post-Atlantean age, but also those of the third post-Atlantean age. Now, within all that foams and plays in the events of the present, we can distinguish many elements. But we will restrict ourselves to presenting, from a certain point of view, to three main impulses which are the last resounding of the third and fourth post-Atlantean time, and to the fifth post-Atlantean time which is now active.

What became especially important in the area of artistic development in the forth post-Atlantian epoch — and this is the most important in these considerations — is the picturing, the describing, of what the human being can find within himself. The Greek, and after him the Roman, strove to describe within space and time what the human being experiences in himself as a human being. We know why this is so. We described it many times. It also comes to expression in the other forms of culture of the forth post-Atlantian epoch. But we meet it especially in the arts. Therefore, the picturing of the human being, the ideal human being, carries the highest value.

We might say that the highest which the sense-world can produce, which the sense-world can bring forth out of itself: the beautiful human being, within space, expanding in beautiful forms, moving in time, in beautiful movements in the widest sense of the word, this is what the Greek sought to present. (See lecture 9, Greek and Roman sculpture)

But into the description of the beautiful human figure there intrude constantly, during the fourth post-Atlantean time the reminiscences of the third post-Atlantean age. This is not limited to a certain territory, but is spread over the whole culture of the fourth post-Atlantean age, so that we may say: whatever has become most effective in the third post-Atlantean epoch remains effective in the fourth post-Atlantean epoch, and even remains effective, though sounding softly, in the fifth.

Christianity, the Christ-Impulse, had to consider these factors, this playing of the impulses into each other. The third post-Atlantian epoch could not unfold impulses which exist totally on the physical plane as did the fourth post-Atlantean time. For it was given especially to the fourth to give form to that which the physical world brings forth, the beautiful human, as the beauty of the human being. The third post-Atlantean epoch needed to bring forth more inward impulses, though they were atavistic. Therefore Christianity, had to reach back, in a certain sense to this impulse of the third post-Atlantean age. Hence we see that, as the Christ-Impulse expanded into the world, the artistic presentation of the human being receded, and something enters, something like a renewal of the impulse of the third post Atlantean epoch.

For, this Greek quality, which came to such a flowering in the arts, completely in the style and sense of the fourth post-Atlantian age, had to limit itself especially to picturing everything growing, blooming, flourishing. To the Greek, beauty never meant decoration. The Greek did not know the concept of decorating himself. Instead, he had the concept of living, growing, of flourishing. That one might place anything on anything to decorate it, is a concept which came into the world much later, namely through the proceeding cultural development. One concept which was as distant as possible to the Greek mind, is whatever is related to the word “elegant”. Elegance was unknown to the Greek. Elegance, which covers the living with decoration in order to let it glisten outwardly, that the Greek did not know. The Greeks knew only forms, only expressions, which arose out of that which was living.

Into this world, where the Greek placed preferably whatever is flourishing, growing, furthering life, Christianity, with its impulses, had to place death. The cross of Golgotha had to face Apollo. Yes, it was a great work of humanity, a great artistic work of humanity, to place what the world beyond can give, i.e. death, opposite to what is flourishing, growing, furthering life, at a time when the Greek culture had brought the world on this side to the highest flourishing of the sensual ideal.

This can be seen when one observes how the artistic skill of forming the beautiful, the growing, blossoming, youthful, flourishing of the human being, comes to further expression. Here, the Greco-Latin time has been especially successful. It is still possible to observe how the Greek still growth into the first Christian artistic creations, but also how at the same time these artistic creation wrestle, to gain hold artistically of what cannot be locked into the sense-world. Hence we see, how the perfection in picturing youth, life, healthy growth, place themselves next to the still clumsy description of death, which encloses in itself eternity, infinity, and is the gate to it.

I have combined two motifs from the old Christian art of the first Christian centuries. They will let you observe what I mean with this, what I want you to see. First, there is the way the “Good Shepherd” is pictured —

1. The Statuette, The Good Shepherd

a sculpture, in the Lateran. You can see from it how the artistic ability to describe what is growing, blossoming, flourishing, living; how it grows into the Christian art. For with the “Good Shepherd” really what is meant is the figure of Jesus. The art of Greece was dedicated to life, it was dedicated to what developed out of the sense-world all the way up to the human being, who represents the highest stage of life. But it is only after death that the human being reaches a consciousness which gives him access to infinity, to eternity, to the supersensible. We see how what was before only Apollo, Pallas Athene, Aphrodite, just that which pictured the youthfully-blossoming, the growing, the flourishing, how that wants to grow into something else. We see how there is an attempt to grasp also that which strives towards the infinite by means of mastering death, striving to the infinite, to the supersensible, in such a figure. It is the resonance of that art which works out of sensuality, and which blossomed particularly in the fourth post-Atlantian age.

And now we look at another piece of art, of almost the same time, carved out of wood, the picturing of the Cross of Golgotha.

2. A relief, wood, Crucifixion, on a door in St. Sabina, Rome.

Christ on the Cross between the two thieves. Observe how clumsy this looks compared to the previous picture. What entered as the Mystery of Christianity cannot yet be mastered artistically, it still faces centuries of work. In the earliest centuries we find only such clumsy descriptions of the central mystery of Christianity.

We may truly say, although one must not take these things as a false aestheticism, or a false protest to sensuality: The glance, the soul-view of the early Christian time was directed towards the mystery of death. Its supersensible importance was to unveil itself through the understanding of the Mystery of Golgotha. While believing to be connected with the Mystery of Golgotha, people believed to grow also into that, which one needed to feel, to sense, in order to look behind the door of death to the eternal value of the human soul. No wonder, then, that in this area of so many cultural forms, the cultus of death was especially noted by the sensitive Christians. And so we see this process of artistic creating. I have wanted to express this particularly by combining the “Good Shepherd” with this “Crucifixion”. We see this process appear in the early Christian centuries, especially also in the three dimensional works on the sarcophagus, and generally in the plastic work which we find there. To give to the dead whose remains rested inside the sarcophagus, to give them the memories of what was connected with the mystery of death, that was a deep desire for the first, devout Christians.

The secrets which the bible brings in the Old and New Testaments were especially favoured for use on the sarcophagus. To study the art of the sarcophagus in the early Christian centuries means, to seek deeply for what Christianity did, in order to, one might say: “master” the mystery of death artistically, in order to bring together this mystery of death, also there, where it shows its reality, on the sarcophagus, to bring it together with what was to be the manifestation, the message, of the eternal life: with the biblical secrets.

3. The doors in Santa Sabina. Rome.

So we see here, for instance, a sarcophagus of the early christian centuries.

4. Sarcophagus of a married couple in the Lateran Museum, from the 4th century.

Above, in the middle, portraits of the couple for whom the sarcophagus is made; then, above each other, two rows of scenes from the Old and the New Testament. As you see, it begins above with “Awakening of Lazarus”. Then you see further, at the right of the round, “The Sacrifice of Isaac”, further on one can find “The Betrayal of Peter.” Then, below, at the right for instance, (they are all biblical figures of the Old and the New Testament) Moses' Miracle of the Well. And so, there are all kinds of biblical figures. Above and below there are scenes from the bible. We see that what the Greek art has brought to perfection, namely the human figure, standing by itself. It had to be pressed into that which is the reality of the mystery of death, but it was a reality, which brings together this life and the beyond.

4a. Sarcophagus. 4th century

And so we see figures, lined up. Of course we see that the independence of the figures is disturbed, and to this we will now give our special attention. This kind of placing together the figures on a sarcophagus is an example of how the whole composition is pressed together. So please let us take that well into mind. The whole composition is pressed in, is Greece brought to its highest flowering, does retreat. The composition becomes important. We can say that out here, we have vertical lines, then two slanted lines angled against each other, and a middle.

If we would draw these lines, we would have this space-idea.

Then we place into these lines two plant-motifs and two figures who stream towards the middle in devotion.

We see that here, we might say, the symbolic sign is connecting itself with what naturalistically can only be imitated, because it itself hides the naturalistic in naturalism. That is the human figure, or generally, that which is organically alive. They move into each other in such a way that one barely can distinguish them. We will see that we will meet other things, totally different ones, in other such motifs, so for instance in the third sarcophagus:

5. Sarcophagus , in Ravenna

Here, you have already something else. Here, of course, you also have the plant-motif, filled with the same kind of lines, but not with human beings, but with animal beings. There is a middle-motif, but it is symbolic. The middle-motif is a sign, the monogram of Christ, the Chi (X) and the Rho (P), that is: Christ, thought of as the wheel of life, in the middle. In the sense of space, of composition, this Sarcophagus-Motif is the same as the previous one. Instead of the Christ-Figure, we have in the middle the Christ-Monogram; instead of the two humans who approach in devotion, the two animals. At the sides, are the plant-motifs.

But, strangely enough, we see that sign here formed still more completely.

Such monogram-figurations are always based on old ways of thinking, which, when used nowadays, appear somewhat grotesque. Yet they have a valid base. You must realize, that of the atavistic-gnostic wisdom much was known which really did not disappear until the 18th century, much of it only in the 19th. If you look at this picture, you will readily find that you have here, first of all the stone — physical; then the plant-motives left and right — etheric; the animal-motif - astral; and the monogram of Christ in the circle: the being-woven-in, the living-in of Christ in the Ego.

If we consider such signs, and consider what appears as such signs in what is pictured, is pictured in the naturalistic picturing as such signs, then we have that which plays into the fourth post-Atlantian time-space out of the third. For, what really was the most special element of the third post-atlantian time-space? There, where it worked so completely through its own impulses, this post-Atlantean time-space was mainly concerned with "finding the sign, the sign which brings “magic”. Take this well in mind! The sign which works magic! This really is the sign out of which writing develops. Do you remember how in the Egyptian culture, the priest receives the letters, the words as manifested from above, through the god Hermes? It is the sign through which the supersensible plays into the sense, into what can be perceived. It is the sign, which must appear again as that which is working into the sense-world out of the supersensible when the Christ-impulse comes.

For the Christ-Impulse must speak itself, not only about what must be formed externally. The Christ-Impulse cannot only place down a figure of Christ, as can be done with the incarnated Apollo. The Christ-Impulse must picture the Christ in such a way that he can say, “In the beginning was the Word”, this means that which came down from heavenly heights, what then moved into the physical human being: — “And the Word has become Flesh”.

So that which lives in the sign as the impulse of the third post-Atlantian time-space, what still shows itself in the fourth post-Atlantean time-space, must connect itself with the Christ-Impulse. Just as we find in Egypt that at a rather early age, there were transformed the signs for writing, so we also see in the Nordic lands how the signs of the runes are still active with their magic. And that Priest who didn't cast the runes, he had the task of attempting understand, through the runes, what the sign unveils, what manifests out of spiritual heights. There we see in the North also, how the third post-atlantean time-space is active. And we would find runes far, far back into the centuries before Christianity. This keeps growing. This streams together with what was given out of the Greek culture, given in the naturalistic depicting of the beautiful human being who is already spiritualized by nature. Both things stream together. And in the motif here we can see them stream together. That is the meaningful element, this reaching with each other, this flowing together of the third and fourth post-Atlantian age.

“If you look at the next motif, the "Presenting of the Offerings to the King”,

6. Sarcophagus, in Ravenna

(the other side of then you will see how the forming of the lines is living next to the presentation of what is naturalistically real.

Now we want to look at the next Sarcophagus motif:

7. Sarcophagus, in the Lateran-Museum

There, we have again the other principle, which does mainly picture biblical scenes. Even though there are again figures placed next to each other, we nevertheless see an attempt to bring to expression by the figures something of line, something of space. So that is again the other kind.

The next motif is from a sarcophagus out of the grave of Galla Placidia.

8. Sarcophagus, in Ravenna

Here you again see the space quality expressed more strongly. Only you see what we have met already more often, (compare (4) and (5) ) the secret of the five-foldness. You are finding it here, brought to expression through the fact that the lamb in the middle is brought to expression this time, — I would like to say — supported by the friends of the lamb — and again closing on the outside with the plant-motif. The art of the “Space-Sign” was to serve Christianity in the most varied manners in the third post-Atlantian age. It was to take part in order to support Christianity. And all this is the art of the sarcophagus.

Please do keep strongly in mind the reason why Christianity is including that which is a “sign.” For the “sign” is “secreted in”, so to speak. We have the “five-ness”. We have in the middle the “triangle”, that is, another “sign”. In addition, we have the lines in the manner I explained earlier. Why did Christianity allow “the sign” to enter? Because in the sign, the Magic was seen, the working of Magic which happens not merely through what moves through whatever is naturalistic, but which is supersensible A through the fact that in the sign, the supersensible comes to expression. The human being has brought down through the "sign" that, which the external, naturalistic form cannot bring to expression.

The next motif:

9. Sarcophagus, in Ravenna

Here you see the sign mingle again very much with the naturalistic. The monogram of Christ in the middle, the two animal-figures, which you have seen already, at both sides. But then you see the plant-motif as though especially formed, made manifold.

And then you see above again, the signs used. You see, then, sign and naturalistic description flowing into each other. You see the "sign" used as magic, as the sign which, when pictured with under¬standing, comes out of the same world which the dead enters at the portal of death. So, roughly, it was felt: Out of the world which the dead enters through the portal of death comes the sign which then transforms into writing. What is naturalistic, however, lives where the human being lives between birth and death.

10. The next motif is the “Wonder of the Increasing of Bread” Sarcophagus, in the museum at Arles

This is the other kind: compare (7) and (3) where only architectonic elements are placed into the sign.

Now, the next motif is not sarcophagus-art, but ivory-carving.

11. Ivory-relief. Byzantine Emperor

Through this artwork I want to show especially how here the manner of working grows out of the nature of the material in a way which then remained an art of the fourth post-Atlantean age. You can see how the manner of working is based on the nature of the material, how in the relief-art of ivory-carving in the early Christian centuries there was an attempt to bring to expression the naturalism of the fourth post-Atlantean time, the artistic naturalism.

The next motif is again an Ivory-carving:

12. Ivory Relief, Mary with the Child

Here, you already see more of the sign again, even though the figures, the pictures, are used to fill out the lines. But you also see how one could in a way, fill out whatever the figures are enclosed, lined up in, by means of geometric figures. [How the four figures relate to each other in the composition, can be pictured through geometric figures.)

Those are, I might say, the basic foundation, which Christianity acquired from "sign-are of the third post-Atlantean epoch, and which we see coming into view everywhere.

Now I do have one more example from the dome in Ravenna,

Sarcophagus, in Ravenna

The small sides of (4) (13), from where I can show you how again, the motifs were completely turned into the use of the sign. We have, left above, again the monogram of Christ, a simple motif, have below left and right again geometric figural motifs, above right in a similar way, the monogram of Christ, a simple motif, symmetric to left and right both. We will see from these motif, if we want to allow our fantasy to help a little, how a true evolution takes place from the first motif to the second. Visualize yourself above left, in the curve of the Chi(X) and the Rho (P), the monogram of Christ, simplified. Visualize the two beams of the Chi simplified, then you get the middle-motif above right [the cross-formed monogram, simplified]. Think that what is above left winds around the monogram (the wreath) with the simple plant-motif [the branch with the leaves], then you get at the right above the animal motif, left and right. You can imagine very well, as a simplified and yet higher forming, the right motif above forming out of the left. In the same way below, just visualize below the palm of the monogram formed into these winding forms which you have here, around the monogram. think of the left motif growing in a similar way as the one in our building, (in the first Goetheanum building), where one motif of the column grows out of the other. Visualize the geometric forms (of the monogram) simplified and more organically formed, then you have below also, the right motif developing out of the left one.

If one looks back into the mysteries of the third post-Atlantean age, then one finds all over Europe, spread up to the North and also to America, spread over Southern Europe, over North-Africa, over the known part of Asia, everywhere in the post-Atlantean epoch the mysteries, the true mysteries of that third post-Atlantean age. Later then, it was the latecomers of these mysteries. (There has always been a connection between Scandinavia and America. It got lost just a few centuries before America was discovered by Spain. From Scandinavia, there was always travel to America. Only in the 13th century was the connection lost briefly, until it was then found again by Columbus.)

In those days, there was spoken much about “the Magic of the Signs”. What Egyptian mythology tells about the relationship of the priests to Hermes are merely superficial exoteric remnants of what was taught esoterically in the mysteries concerning the “Magic of the Signs”. That was the magic which came from the one side, from the spiritual side, that magic, which one attempted to bring about by forming signs, purely out of the spiritual. One formed signs, purely out of the spiritual, in a way purely by human will, but so that just through making certain signs, the forces of the supersensible poured into these signs.

But this was not the only area where magic was sought. And this is very significant that on one side the magic was sought, I would like to say, in the supernatural. The natural, of course, was the Greek, which at the same time was spiritualistic in the art of the Greek. In supernatural signs, that magic was sought, which simply was contained in the sign. But the magic was sought also sub-naturalistically. And besides the mysteries which spoke of the “runes”, the “signs” in those old times, there were other mysteries which spoke of other riddles. They spoke of the sub-natural magic, of that magic which one discovers if one looks mostly at very special products which can be found below the surface of the earth. Going upward, one is met by the Gods of the Height, who give one the sense of the heights, in whom the supersensible works as magic, so that it can grasp what is perceived by the senses, can unite with it artistically. If one enters into what is below the naturalistic, into the inner part of the earth, then what one finds what contains the magic there.

Among the manifold “Magics”, one attempted particularly to recognize two riddles. If we wanted to present the tale of these two riddles nowadays, we would have to say that in the secret mysteries, there was being cultivated the riddle of gold as it is found in the veins of the earth, and the riddle of the jewels. As strange as it seems, this corresponds with the true, historic facts. The “Magic of the Sign” was taken on especially by the church. It sought to take over the “Magic of the Sign” from out of the third post-atlantean age. The “Magic of the Gold”, (this means that which forms into special matter, which exists in nature), as well as the magic of precious stones, (that which brings light to what usually fills space with dark, where light arises within what is material) with that, the priesthood did not get involved. It related rather to that part of humanity, which stood outside the church, was involved in the profane, was outside the church.

And this is how it happened that out of certain impulses which are very, very old, at the time when the “Free Cities” began, as I explained recently (Lecture XI), that in this free forming of cities there arrived something new. As though it were a wave of the spiritual life, there came to the surface the enjoyment of the jewel, the joy of the gold, and also the joy of working with the gold, the joy of using the jewel, the noble, the precious stone. It happened in this free forming of cities like waves of spiritual life. Just as the church wanted to bring the (sign) down from heavenly heights, so that which later was to become the culture of the cities wanted to bring out of the depth of the earth the “Secret of the Gold”, “the Secret of the Jewel”. It is not a mere accident, but a deep historical necessity that the art of the goldsmith developed out of the city-culture and — only as a part of the goldsmith's art — the other metallic arts as well, and that also there developed out of this the longing to use these precious stones because gold and precious stones contain the magic, because the magic from below, the naturalistic, that which spreads out for the senses, was to be made available.

Today, there still can be observed — I would call it: a last sounding — of this working with gold and jewels in the cities, through the art Bishop Bernward has founded in Hildesheim. In Hildesheim, in the middle of Northern Europe, we can see many such works of art, where precious stones are included in finely-worked pieces of metal. They exist also in other locations, but are especially numerous there.

Bernward von Hildesheim, Cross of Bernward

(14),(15), The Lamp of Bernward

(16), Cover for a Bible (17)

In Hildesheim, we meet something, which I would call of basic importance, and really, that which blossoms especially in middle-Europe originates from the same impulses which I just described, It meets one also in Italian towns. For basically the art of the goldsmith in Florence also goes back to the same origin, to what was formed through those goldsmiths who worked later, and through what then became a great art in the realm of three-dimensional, the Plastic arts, altogether. (See Lecture IX) Those things are related to each other in the most manifold ways.

Now, please consider also the following. I did say, that in the ninth century, the Church, the Papacy in Rome, still understood better than they did later, what really needed to happen in the occident. I did explain from certain points of view, how, from the 9th century on, the forces which, so to speak, are active from below, are being systematized, and how they ought to be enclosed into the laws received from the spiritual world. (See Lectures X & XI). And there one can see on one side Rome, in the South arising the “Magic”, the "World of the Sign", which comes from above. But the look is directed toward the North, where the appearance of the “Free Cities” is forming, where there flourishes the joy of “The Secret of Gold” of “the Secret of Precious Stones”. But this North has already formed something earlier out of its old Mysteries, something, which necessarily must be connected with this mystery. It had prepared something, which is connected on the one side with the mystery of the jewels — this we will not consider today — on the other hand with something connected with the mystery of gold. For Christianity did not develop out of just one impulse. It has also been opposed. Just as it was worked against in the South with the magic of the sign, so in the North there was being worked against it by making alive the great Mystery of the Gold
in the world of the sagas. in Middle and North-Europe.

And with this Mystery of the Gold, was connected the figure of Siegfried who acquired the gold, but perishes through the tragedy of the gold. Everything in the Niebelungen-Saga connected with the figure of Siegfried is connected with the Mystery of Gold. For it goes through the whole content of the Song of the Niebelungs, like a red threat, that the gold, with its magic, belongs only to the supersensible world, that it must not be dedicated to the sense-world.

If one grasps it this way, one grasps the mystery of gold most deeply and inwardly. For what is the message of Siegfried? What does the “Song of the Niebelungs” tell? What important instruction does it bring? “Sacrifice the gold to the dead! Leave it in the supersensible realm, for in the sense-world it creates disaster.”

This was the teaching, which in the Nordic lands preceded Christianity. This was understood in Rome, when the great synthesis occurred between that, which was Roman in the 9th century, and the more northerly located Europe, when also there was combined artistically that which on one hand could work out of the sign, on the other hand put the worked gold and the precious stone into the sign. It is beautiful, to see flowing together the art of the sign with the art of the gold and precious stones in the times of the 8., 9., 10., 11., 12., centuries. There we see the sign everywhere. By the fact that the other impulses connect themselves with it, we see the wrought gold and the precious stone growing into the sign.

Now this was truly striven for systematically by Rome. This also was prepared in Europe. For in the early times, we can see the Christian traditions rising in such a form, that even if something cannot be pictured, the sign works and weaves simply through what is communicated. The sign is active and is working. What is heathen comes to meet from the North in such a way, that one can offer to the sign that which is worldly, can offer that which is decorating, beautifying, that which contains the magic of what is below nature. And while the cross of the South connected with the decorative of gold and precious stones of the North, which came out of heathen mysteries, just as the sign of the cross itself had been used out of the mysteries for the Mystery of Golgotha, we see the three impulses growing together. They become the presentation in a naturalistic way, of the spiritualized nature, by the taking of the Greek ability to form into the fourth post-Atlantian time. Then come the other two impulses, the sign, the magic of the sign, and the magic of that which is “below the material” in Gold and in precious stones.

Yes, they are prepared in the development of history for a long time, these things which show themselves later. Our time already is a time when — I would like to say everything screams to the human being to learn, not only to look into the present sleepily, but to grasp the living impulses in the evolution with energy. For otherwise, we will never become master over that which has brought chaos into the present.

I do not have the possibility today, but perhaps in the near time a possibility will come about, to show to you, how one motif is developing. That is: The joining together of what is animal with that which is human. In such a way appears in the earlier time that which is later the co-operating of the dark with the light. Out of the dark, animalistic, what is humane lifts itself what is light and human when mastering the dragon through Michael. and so on — also in other ways of connecting the animalistic with what is human. That later becomes the art of dark and light. All these things are connected. And much, much would need to be talked about, to show how this working together of the old time with the new would also bring to expression the artistic. This penetrating of the heathen, naturalistic impulse with the Christian impulses would need, in order to be valid, to be renewing the old magic forces, only now, in order to have validity, with the old sense of magic modified and raised into the the true spiritual world.

This was especially well-understood in those centuries, the 11th, 12th, 13th, century. It was known then, that what is the old heathen way had become old. Much of it still remained, but had become old. And that which is the young and Christian needs to work itself into a thinking of the spiritual together with the external-real. That was known. We meet this in literature and art, in the forming of sagas, everywhere. I have called attention to this many times, how for the human being of the present, that thinking of what is the spiritual together with the external real has become lost almost completely. In the fifth post-Atlantean age, which has materialism written on its flag, this really has been lost almost completely. People can no longer visualize this streaming of the spiritual, of the meaningful, into the pure naturalistic, into what is purely material. Therefore, the gradual dying off of what is heathen, and the gradual growth of the Christ-Impulse in the European culture is presented as abstractly as possible. In the 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th, 13th, centuries that was not so. There, if one wanted to picture something like this, one presented it so that the soul and the external physical were thought of as belonging together even outside of the human being in what is historical as well as in the natural. No matter where one looked, one saw in that which was surrounding one geographically, that which was spiritually pictured at the same time. Therefore the visualizations also contained much which was prophetic.

In our time, (this was 1917, a critical part of the first world-war) if one does not wish to think in a superficial way, if one has a heart for the horrible which is happening, it is impossible to think of the Nibelungen-Saga without considering the deeply prophetic aspect it contains. Whoever understands the saga of the Nibelungen in its depth, feels that in it are prepared all the horrible occurrences passing through the present. For, when thinking in the way the thoughts of the Nibelungen-Saga were coined, one still thought prophetically, because the thought came out of the mystery of the Gold. Hagen's orders that the treasure of the Nibelungen, the treasure of gold, be cast into the Rhein, this sinking the treasure into the Rhein is a prophetic concept. At the time when the Nibelungen-Saga was formed, this was never thought of differently than being deeply tragic in regard to the future, deeply tragic in regard to what the Rhein will be as a cause for antagonistic impulses concerning the future. For at that time, that which was externally geographic-naturalistic was not thought of as being without soul, but rather, it was thought of as connected with the soul-element: in every breath of wind there is a soul element, in every course of a river, there is soul. Otherwise, one really would like to know what sense there is in the purely materialistic expression: “The Old Rhein”. What really is the old Rhein in a materialistic sense? Is it the water of the Rhein? The water which flows there these days will probably be somewhere else pretty soon. The water of the Rhein. at any rate, is not something which one can call "the Old Rhein", and usually one does not think that way about merely the dug-out part of the earth. That which is materiel flows past, does not remain. In the old times, thought was not given to what consists of material, which was anyway just thought of as an illusion. External happenings were not thought of either. What was external, was thought of at the same time as an expression for the soul-quality which weaves through everything material. And so, the attempt was made to think of what is the geographic from the point of view of the soul. It was an expression for soul which weaves through all material existence in the time, when it was still necessary to have the old heathen thinking taken over by the new Christian impulse, and that was still necessary in Europe in late centuries.

For instance, we are looking up at the Odilienberg, (the mountain of Odilia) and there we see, in the Vogese mountains, the christian cloister founded by Odilia. She had been blinded by her father, a heathen duke. We see at this place the heathen walls, the Christian cloister. Those heathen walls are nothing but the left-over of old heathen mysteries. We see there. flowing together at one geographic point the dying heathendom with the rising Christ Impulse. We see this expressed in the Myth about the blinding of Odilia, who was blinded through her own father, the heathen duke. She, however, was made seeing inwardly, through the priest from Regensburg, from the Christ-Impulse. We see that working together, which later blossomed in Regensburg, which later bore great fruit through Albertus Magnus. We see it blossoming there. We see it dropping the Christ-Impulse into the eyes of Odilia, who was blinded by heathen ancestors. We see in this situation, christian light and old, heathen darkness moving geographically into each other. We see this on the ground for which Rome sent the monition: Do take the gold, but bring the gold to those realms, which are the realms of the supersensible. Place the gold into that for which the cross is the sign.

Opposite to this, our time sees the moving of the gold totally understood in the sense it comes to expression in the old heathen, nordic saga. We are seeing the time placing itself into the service of the gold, for with that gold, something totally different still is meant than the "Gold of the Mysteries". We see the time placing itself against that which as supersensible light has placed itself opposite the gold. Siegfried went to Iceland in order to bring the gold out of the land of the Nibelungs. That which he brought as gold out of the land of the Nibelungs was sacrificed to the Christ-Impulse. This Christ-Impulse must not be denied. The Christ impulse must not be turned heathen again!

Oh, if one could only speak with much, much more fiery words than human words are, in order to characterize the frightening sense of this time in the right way! For in this time, so many signs are speaking. And in this time, people unfortunately want to hear so little. There came the first year of this terrible chaos [1914/15]. The people imagined that it would pass. They did not want to hear, neither in the second or third year, or even now, that deep forces are at work in this chaos. And only, when the gold that was prayed to will be chewed on, will the people have ears to hear that what this time needs cannot be met with the usual remedies. It cannot be fixed with remedies which have come over from old times, but singly and alone by means of renewing that which flows out of the Christ-Impulse, but in many ways has been forgotten as being the Christ-Impulse. In no other way can things get better, than when as many people as possible decide to learn something, to learn about the spirit. For since the arising of the fifth post-atlantean time, People have gotten further, and further into the denying of the spirit.

Let us look once, to begin with, how humanity used to understand in earlier times to think even of the direction of the wind not merely in a materialistic way, but to think of the compass as being ensouled. They thought of the area, the directions of the sky: on the one side the Odilia-mountain, on the other side the town of Regensburg. And with other locations the same is the case.

May humanity learn to feel again that above the soil of the earth there is not merely air, but above the soil of the earth, there is spirit, which must be sought; that below the soil of the earth there is not merely that which one must get in order to make tools, but that whatever is acquired from the sub-natural, must be sacrificed to the supersensible. May humanity understand again, that there exists a Mystery of the Gold! This, is not taught by spiritual science only, but equally, it is taught by a development of art if it is understood in a truly spiritual sense. Oh, it is terrible to see how humanity of today watches from day to day, and does not want to see that something new needs to be understood, that with the old, worn-out ideas it is impossible to make any progress!

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