Rudolf Steiner Archive 

The Riddles in Goethe's Faust — Exoteric

Berlin, 11th March, 1909

It was in August 1831, when Goethe sealed a parcel, passed it on to his loyal secretary Eckermann and devised the publication of the sealed treasure. For this parcel contained Goethe's whole life striving in a comprising sense. It contained the second part of his Faust that should be published only after Goethe's death. Goethe himself was aware of the fact that he had put in the contents of his rich, widely ramified life going into the depths of human existence in this work; and how much this moment was important for himself, this may arise from the words which he spoke in this time. He said, now I have finished my life work, actually; what I do furthermore and whether I do anything generally, this is irrelevant.

If we open ourselves to such a fact, we say, a human life cannot be made fertile in a nicer and more harmonious way for the remaining humanity, namely that is essential that it is made fertile consciously. It is something deeply shocking if we pursue Goethe's life of this time it did not last longer than one year and we open ourselves to that fact that he then visited Ilmenau once again and read those beautiful verses again which he had written on the 7th September, 1783, in his youth, so to speak:

Over all mountains
there is rest;
in all treetops
you perceive
barely a breath;
the songbirds are silent in the forest.
Just wait, soon
you will rest too.

(Wayfarer's Night Song)

There you may probably say to yourselves, these verses may have signified a current mood in those days, they aligned themselves to the general view of Goethe in a new way when he read them again in tears of emotion in his old age.

Goethe's Faust is a testament first-rate in literary and spiritual respect to humanity. What Goethe completed at that time in 1831, after he had recently worked since 1824 energetically on this second part of Faust was begun since the earliest youth of Goethe. For we realise how Goethe felt what one could call the Faustian mood since the beginning of the seventies of the eighteenth century, and how he began then in 1774 to write down the first parts of his Faust. At the important moments of his life, he came back repeatedly to this poem of his whole existence.

It appears strange before our eyes: he brings the first parts of Faust with him to Weimar, when he entered the big world in his own way. However, they did not yet appear there, but because a Weimar lady-in-waiting, Miss von Göchhausen, made a duplicate of that Faust, it was preserved and we have the figure of the Faust as it was when Goethe arrived at Weimar. The figure is known in which Faust appeared in print to the public in 1790 for the first time; then also the version that was published in the first complete edition of Goethe's works in 1808.

All that we have about Faust, including that important document which Goethe left behind as his testament, shows us the different stages of Goethe's development. For it is infinitely interesting to observe how these four stages of Goethe's Faust face us differently, showing an advancement of Goethe's whole striving.

What Goethe brought to Weimar is a literary work of quite personal character in which he poured the moods, the levels of knowledge and of desperation of knowledge as they accompanied him in his Frankfurt time, in the Strasbourg time and still in the first Weimar time. It is the work of a human being striving fervently for knowledge. He had experienced any desperation that a sincerely and honestly striving human being could experience, and poured it in this work. All that is included in the first version of Faust. When Faust appeared as a fragment in 1790, Goethe had reshaped it and had worked on it after he had clarified his whole striving and inner life by watching the Italian nature and the Italian pieces of art he had deeply longed for. The personal work of a storm-tossed man had changed into the work of a man who was serene to a certain degree who had now a perspective of life before himself, which stood in a very certain way before his soul.

Then comes the time of his friendship with Schiller (Friedrich Sch., 1759–1805, German poet), the time when Goethe learnt to recognise and to experience a world in his inside which was founded in him already long before, a world about which one can say that someone experiences it whose spiritual eye has been opened to behold the spiritual environment. The Faust becomes a being to him that is put between two worlds: between the world of the spiritual, which the human being strives for by purification, and that world which draws down him. Faust becomes a being between the world of the good and the world of the bad. While we recognise the single personality struggling in life in the first version of Faust, now we see a big fight of the good and the bad powers represented around the human being who is put in the world struggle as the worthiest object for which the good and the bad beings fight in the world. While the human being despairing of knowledge is immediately represented to us in the beginning of Faust, a human being faces us now who is put between heaven and hell, and with it the poem is raised a level to an elevated existence. It seems to us, as if in the Faust version of 1808, millennia of the human development convene.

There we must think of the greatest dramatic representation of human life that the ancient time produced, of the Book of Job — when the bad spirit walks around in humanity and then approaches God, and God says to him: you have looked around on earth; have you paid attention to my servant Job?

What sounds to us there, it sounds to us in Faust again. In the Prologue in Heaven, God talks with Mephistopheles, with the messenger of the evil spirituality:

“Do you know Faust?” — “The doctor?” — “My servant!”

What sounds to us in the book Job: do you know my servant Job? — Echoes in Goethe and makes the whole Faust riddle appear in the right light

Then Goethe's rich life continues deepening in the human existence of which the world has no notion. After he expressed what he experienced in his soul in this or that work in manifold ways, he starts once again working on Faust in 1824 looking back at his whole life. He now describes Faust's passageway through the big world, but in such a way that the second part completely becomes a portrayal of soul development.

If we look at the first part, we must say, a striving soul is characterised infinitely naturalistically. Everything that faces us in the first part, in particular in the first originated parts, is of deep, physical truth, but various things that sound into it, sound to us still like a kind of theory, as if anybody speaks about things that he has not yet completely experienced in his soul.

Now the second part: there is everything innermost experience of the own soul. There are the highest spiritual experiences with which the human being ascends the stages of existence, penetrates the physical world, and invades where the human soul becomes merged with universal spirituality and survives with the world in which it finds space and light at the same time and what gives it freedom, dignity, and independence. All that is included like the innermost experience in this second part of Goethe's Faust.

The time will come when one looks at Goethe's Faust different from today when one better understands what Goethe wanted to say when he said to Eckermann on 29 January 1827: “However, everything is sensuous and is pleasing everybody if it is presented on stage. I have not wanted more. If it is only in such a way that the spectators enjoy the appearance, the higher sense will not escape the initiate at the same time ...”

If the first part seems to us in certain respects still theoretical, not realistic, the second part is one of the most realistic works of world literature going the deepest into reality. For everything in the second part of Faust is experienced, only not experienced with physical eyes and physical ears, but with spiritual eyes and spiritual ears. That is why this second part has been understood so little. One has seen symbols, allegories in that which is for the spiritual researcher something much truer and more real than that which physical eyes see and physical ears hear. Really, from such a work one can expect a lot. It is the task of the talks of today and tomorrow to consider some that is contained in this work. I present the more exterior side of it today; tomorrow I show how Goethe's Faust is a picture of an internal, esoteric approach to life and worldview in the true sense of the word. We attempt gradually to penetrate into the inside and to look behind the curtain behind which Goethe experienced the deepest secrets of his life.

Faustian mood already existed in Goethe when he was a Leipzig student. We know that he faced up to death by an illness in Leipzig. At that time, a lot of that which can grasp a human soul penetrated Goethe's soul. Still various other things had taken place in him. He had got to know the way how external science considers life. He did not much care about his scientific discipline in Leipzig; he looked around in various other sciences, in particular in natural sciences. Goethe never lost the firm confidence that one can look just by natural sciences into the deeper secrets of existence, but he stood desperately before that which the external science had to say and to give. This was a jungle of concepts, of dismembered observation of nature. Nowhere could he find what he had already searched as a seven-year-old boy when he took a music stand, put minerals of his father's collection, plants and other, geologic products on it, took a little aromatic candle and a burning glass, and waited for the morning. When the first beams of the morning sun shone into the room, he took the burning glass and directed the sunbeams on the little aromatic candle, and kindled it on the altar, which he had offered to the “great God of nature.” This fire should come out of the origins and the springs of existence. However, how far away were these springs of existence from that which Goethe met in philosophy, natural sciences and in the different branches of the search for knowledge! How far away were these “springs of all life” from all such striving!

Goethe came then back to Frankfurt and met thoughtful human beings with a developed soul-life. These felt their inside flowing together with the living spirituality of the world. They were human beings who felt in the full sense in themselves what Goethe expresses with the words: “The own self extends to a spiritual universe.” Even then, in Frankfurt the mood came over him: go beyond the mere striving for concepts! Go beyond the mere sensuous observation material! There must be a way to the springs of existence!

He got to know alchemical, mystic and theosophical literature. He made practical alchemical experiments. He himself tells how he got to know a work in which some people searched similar ways at that time: Welling's (Georg von W., 1655–1727, German alchemist and theosophist) Opus mago-cabalisticum et theosophicum (1719), a work which was regarded at that time as a way to recognise the springs of existence. He gets to know Paracelsus, Basil Valentine (Basilius Valentinus, unidentified German alchemist), and above all a work which had to make a deep impression on all striving people, the Aurea catena Homeri (1723, published anonymously). This was a representation of nature as the medieval mystics believed to behold. The mystic, alchemical and theosophical works Goethe got to know made the impression on him that possibly today any similarly striving human being gets if he, for my sake, takes books by Éliphas Lévy (1810–1875, French occultist) or similarly minded spirits. Yes, at that time these things made a more confusing impression on Goethe because the representation of the different writings, which dealt with magic, theosophy and so on, was such that, indeed, behind the external symbols secrets were hidden which those who had written these books no longer understood.

Because one could not pronounce the real ancient wisdom in its immediate greatness and meaning, it is clothed in an external unsubstantial garment, clothed in all kinds of physical and chemical formulae. However, on someone who saw what he can read in the books externally it made the impression of absolute nonsense, and at that time there was no way to unravel the secrets and to penetrate into the sense. However, is not allowed to misjudge that Goethe was an apprehensive spirit because of the depth of his quest for knowledge. There it must appear odd to him opening the Aurea catena Homeri and looking at the symbol on the first page deeply touching his soul: two intertwined triangles, at the corners the planetary signs, around them two dragons, a flying one above, and one without wings below, forming a circle. When he read the words on this page that the volatile dragon symbolises the current that instils those powers to the dragon below which flow down from the universe, or how heaven and earth are connected, with other words, as one reads there: “How the heaven's spiritual powers pour forth in the centre of earth.”

Such signs and words must deeply work on Goethe. For example, those that showed the whole development of the world, as one said “from the chaos up to the universal quintessence.” It shows a strange transition in oddly intertwined signs from the chaotic matter, which is not yet differentiated through the mineral, plant, and animal realms up to the human being and to those perspectives, to which the human being advances, to continuous refinement.

However, one did not easily find a way to penetrate into the deeper sense. At that time, Goethe went away from Frankfurt in a mood, which one can possibly describe in such a way: I have found nothing! The naturalists can give me dry, sober concepts, from which all real water of life is pressed out. Here I have roved out in various matters that are preserved from times, which stated to look into the secrets of life. However, the way is enough to drive one to despair! — This was the mood of Goethe's soul sometimes. Furthermore, he was not apt, of course, to get involved with simple speculation and simple philosophising, with wild symbolising and sensualising in that which worked so apprehensively on him from these old books. They appeared to him with their secrets as something to which he cannot find the way. It was for someone who knows Goethe's soul at that time already the germ in this soul to penetrate really into the secrets of existence once, but it should develop only later. Thus, Goethe felt like pushed away, unworthy to get into the secrets of existence.

Now he came to Strasbourg. He met persons there who had to interest him from the one and from the other side. He got to know Jung-Stilling (Johann Heinrich J.-S., 1740–1817, German oculist, author) who had a deeply mystic, “psychic” disposition, who had put deep looks into the hidden sides of existence by the development of peculiar forces otherwise slumbering in the human soul. He also got to know Herder (Johann Gottfried H., 1744–1803, German theologian, philosopher) in Strasbourg who had experienced similar moods, and had often got up to complete negation of life in times of desperation. Goethe got to know a person in Herder who suffered from the surfeit of existence, and who roughly said the following: I have studied many matters, have found various things about the connection of the human work and the human striving on earth. — However, he could not say to himself, never have I had one single moment when my longing for the springs of life would have been satisfied! — Added to this, he was ill, and that is why he was inclined to deny anything with bitter criticism. Nevertheless, Herder called Goethe's attention to several profundities of the riddles of existence. Goethe got to know Herder as a really Faustian human being. Later Goethe got to know that side of the negating man who does not come out of derision and scorn in his friend Merck (Johann Heinrich M., 1741–1791, German author and critic). Even Goethe's mother, about whom we know that she rejected all moralising and criticising of persons, said about Merck, this Merck never leaves Mephistopheles at home, one is used to that. — Goethe got to know Merck as a negator of many things which are desirable in life.

Compared with all impressions that Goethe received from these persons in Strasbourg, it was the consideration of nature with which he realised various riddles of existence. At the same time, we have to imagine Goethe as a human being with penetrating, sharp mind, and as a practical one. Goethe became, as everybody knows, a lawyer. He exercised this activity for a short time only. Who knows, however, the activity of Goethe as a lawyer or later as a Weimar minister knows that an eminently practical sense appertained to him. As a lawyer, he did not know more than the memorised codes, but he was a human being who could decide with quick look what he had received. Such a human being also knows to draw the lines of life with sharp outlines before himself. Thus, on one side Goethe appears to us with the talent to have the sharpest concepts about the world, on the other side to feel the deepest grief of a dissatisfied thirst for knowledge. He appears to us as somebody who searched the deepest things and was rejected by them. Something else was added.

Goethe got to know that mood which one can characterise: he knew what it means to feel guilty! He felt guilty towards the simple country girl Friederike Brion (1752–1813) in Sesenheim (a little village in Alsace/France) in whom he had aroused various hopes and soul moods, and nevertheless whom he had to leave then. All that collided in the strangest way in Goethe's soul. From all these moods, a poetic figure took shape, which was based on the observation of that figure which could face him at every turn in those days. The figure of Faust, that strange personality, lived in the first half of the sixteenth century. Faust was the object of manifold folk plays and puppet shows, he attained literary significance by Christopher Marlowe (1564–1593, English dramatist), and who became a living problem at that time, actually, for many poets, like for Lessing, for example, for Goethe. How did it happen that Goethe connected his own grief and his moods with the figure of Faust?

Faust, one tells, lived in the first half of the sixteenth century, a time in which many things were decided in history. If you compare this time to the eleventh and twelfth centuries when one led a life of knowledge, you find these times very different. In the twelfth century, it was possible for those spirits who penetrated into that which time offered them to reconcile what they could find in their souls with it. If they looked spiritually at the creative of the world sitting enthroned in divine heights and if they formed concepts about that, they could go back to the external natural sciences. The souls got to know something like a sequence of steps there. At the bottom, on the lowest step one recognised what one gets to know as a physicist. On the next step one gets to know the higher secrets of existence, the concealed side of existence, which the spiritual eye and the spiritual ear could attain. On the highest stages, one got to know the stages of the divine existence in sublime, in fine crystal-transparent concepts which were, however, lively and efficient on the soul, and everything was connected with each other.

One may look down at the spirits of that time with a shrug today; it is a way, which is nowhere interrupted. If you take, for example, the way of knowledge of Albertus Magnus (~1200–1280, German theologian and philosopher) who begins below in the lowest nature and ends with a view of God, there are not dry and sober concepts, but concepts which make the soul warm and shine through the heart.

This did no longer apply to the times in which Faust lived. There were the concepts also abstract, which were coined by a theologian about the steps of the divine existence but dry and sober. These were concepts which one could study in which one could immerse with reason and mind. However, reason nowhere found the possibility to connect these concepts to the living existence surrounding us. It also nowhere found the possibility to make the soul clear and the heart warm. Then it had happened that the science which one had as mysticism, magic, theosophy and which dealt with of the matters that one perceives with spiritual eyes and spiritual ears, was in a complete decline, above all, because various things, which were once hidden in the handwritings, were published by the letterpress. They were grasped by spirits who did not understand them who saw in them nothing else than something that they had to copy. One committed some nuisance and nonsense with them in the laboratories. One took literally, what should be experienced spiritually, what were only external formulae in the books, what had, however, a deep sense. One did all kinds of stuff with formulae and in retorts, and the result was that at this time theosophy, magic, occultism approached fraud and charlatanism alarmingly.

It is in such a way that the path to the spiritual worlds is connected with dangers in a certain respect, and that human beings whose striving is not sincere whose mind and reason are not purified who do not attain pure concepts free of sensuousness easily falter, can easily come to this abyss. Thus, it could happen that those who still knew something or studied the writings of the mystics with hot endeavours did not find the way, or also because they could not find it, approached fraud and charlatanism. However, the other could also occur that this striving among many misunderstandings in the people was ill reputed as magic. Therefore, Tritheim von Sponbeim, Agrippa von Nettesheim and some others, who looked honestly and fairly for spiritual forces in nature, were regarded as black magicians and swindlers, as people who had deviated from the good way that the old religion had predetermined for them.

Faust lived in this period, in the sixteenth century, in a time that saw the afterglow of an old spiritual current, which was, however, also the aurora of a quite new time at the same time, a time that produced such stars like Giordano Bruno, Galilei, Copernicus, and others. One calls various times “times of transition.” Of all times, however, none deserves this name as much as the time of Faust.

From all that we know the Faust figure was such who deeply felt the inadequate of the study about the spiritual world at that time. He had studied theology, turned away from it, and looked for the springs of existence in the last remainders of medieval magic and similar. Because the figure of Faust is understood best of all oscillating between the honest striving for knowledge and the borders of charlatanism, it is also better if we let him in this light and do not even try to grasp him with sharp contours. For he was also not grasped by the spiritual current as he was real; but now all striving which existed in the folk was comprehended like the external dress of this Faust figure of the sixteenth century. Thus, he approaches us in fabulous figure or in the drama as a human being who had seceded from the old traditions of religion, of theology who had dedicated himself to a striving — as one believed from a view becoming more and more narrow-minded — which could never lead to anything good in life. The whole worldview of the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries expresses itself in the words that one could read about Faust in the book of folk tales. “He laid the Holy Scripture behind the door and under the bank — and wanted then no longer to be called a theologian, but became a man of the world and was called a doctor medicinae.”

One put into such words, what one thought and felt about Faust. One felt that he searched the spring, which led to the depths of life and its origins, and that he wanted to free himself in his way from the old traditions. In addition, what had survived of this figure in the folk plays and puppet shows was not appropriate to give more than the external figure of Faust. But on Goethe all that worked, which had remained as Faust tradition in such a way that he could confide to this figure what lived in himself as life striving and thirst for knowledge. Thus, we see how he begins during the seventies of the eighteenth century to concretise himself in the Faust figure. He deposited all unsatisfactory, all grief arising from an unsatisfying thirst for knowledge in this Faust figure. If we look at the first monologue of Faust, we see in the truest sense of the word what we have characterised at the beginning of this consideration. We see the man who has looked around in the external science in many respects who despairs, and who is on the brink to perishing completely in life, to bursting in the thirst for knowledge. We see him seizing the old books. Goethe calls it the book of Nostradamus (Michel de Nostredame, 1503–1566, French physician and seer), but someone who is competent in the literature of magic, which Goethe also knew at that time, easily recognises what Goethe meant with the book, in which Faust sees the sign of the macrocosm. He lets him say about it:

Lo! heavenly forces rise, descend,
pass golden urns from hand to hand,
crowd from on high through all the earth
on pinions redolent of blessings
and fill the universe with harmony!

What attaches itself like a portrayal of feelings to these words so that it penetrates him like with delight at the sight of this page, we recognise in it what worked on Goethe at that time. Such moods and images could flow into Goethe's soul. He could write them down with such truth when he stood before that strange sign. It showed two intertwined triangles, and of two dragons, the upper spiritual one and the lower physical one where on the corners of the triangles the planetary signs are whose forces penetrate each other, so that one really sees the golden-shining planets like golden buckets (translated as “urns”). Between them, the forces flow which harmoniously sound through the universe.

Considering such a thing, you have Goethe's soul before yourselves with all its deep and honest thirst for knowledge, and then you almost doubt whether you should bring all that in sharp concepts and speculate on them. One would like to put such a fact only before the soul, so that a soul, which has a feeling of such things, may have infinitely more of it. However, someone who knows life how it develops through the ages knows that — considering such deep mental strives — one is entitled to say, indeed, Goethe was one of those with whom the seeds are laid in the soul at first, which mature and yield fruit much later. We see as it were the seeds of that which sprouted in the later Faust so marvellously. Some people, who have a certain drive for spiritual science, may also take various teachings for life from it.

Today, unfortunately, one considers such striving too cursorily. Today one sees people approaching swiftly, and then they are soon ready with it if they have a few concepts in the soul. Someone only knows which riddles are there who can look back at the time twenty, thirty years ago when a fluid flowed into his soul. There many things have settled on it and many a thing approached him. Years and experiences have followed; and thirty years later is that which flowed into his soul mature to receive an answer to it if only roughly. We cannot look deeply enough just from this point of view at Goethe's life, and we feel the mood Goethe himself could feel from the Aurea catena Homeri, the Golden Chain of Homer (see this poem by Robert Thibodeau: The Seven Planetary Conditions in the Waking Day, Homer's Golden Chain or Golden Thread Sutra); we see it expressed if he erupts in the words of Faust: “How grand a show!” Indeed, it is a tremendous show, if the soul immerses in these pictures without having any notion of what they are. It is a show. However, does it keep to this notion?

Then the words inevitably come: “But, still, alas! mere show!” Goethe did not yet understand these deep words at that time; but at that time that already lived as feeling in his soul: “All that is transitory is only a symbol!” As in pain, he might say to himself if he had the strange figures before himself: even if one draws so artificial figures, nevertheless, they are external symbols!

How grand a show! But, still, alas! mere show.

Infinite nature, when can I lay hold on you

and of your breasts?

Any phrase is deeply felt: a show is only what depicts the macrocosm. However, he had looked around in various riddles of natural sciences, and he had got to know what gives that deep experience to the human being where he must say to himself: “You have become guilty!” He had experienced this. There he could hope to be able to feel more if he examined the other signs that join more the immediate human life. In addition, this mood expresses itself in Faust. He turns the page. The sign of the macrocosm replaced by that of the microcosm, the pentagram and what is around it, and before Goethe's soul the magic word emerges by which certain slumbering forces can be properly aroused. Indeed, Goethe got an idea that there is such a thing as it has been characterised here. Goethe knew that the human being could arouse slumbering forces in himself by watching certain symbols and images, so that he can behold in the spiritual world.

He could believe that he is affected by that which is close to the human soul, what expresses itself in the sign of the microcosm. He lets his Faust pronounce the word, by which certain inner experiences appear if the human being dedicates himself to it in deep, inner meditation. He lets him pronounce it, and the “Earth Spirit” appears, the spirit that animates the earth and causes that on earth from the general life stream and world stream the human being can originate and grow. Goethe understood it wonderfully to press together everything briefly in words what the secrets of the Earth Spirit are. This Earth Spirit behaves possibly to the whole earth like the single human soul, the human spirit to the physical body of the human being. He is, so to speak, the regent of all natural human development and all historical becoming. He has no visible figure, but he approaches someone who opens his spiritual eyes and can behold, so that he knows, there is such an Earth Spirit. Goethe characterises that wonderfully:

In the tides of life, in action's storm,

I surge and ebb,

move to and fro!

As cradle and grave,

as unending sea,

as constant change,

as life's incandescence,

I work at the whirring loom of time

and fashion the living garment of God.

One could penetrate into any word of this formula and would realise that someone experiences really, what Goethe characterises developing his soul up to the corresponding stages of existence. However, it happens, what all of you know: Faust does not feel and cannot feel equal to that which appears there. He does not know the way to the mysterious depths of existence. To him is that which lives and acts “in the tides of life, in the action's storm” “a fearful apparition.” He cannot endure it. He turns away and must hear the words:

Your peer is the spirit you comprehend

mine you are not!

He believed from the old traditions, he were “the image of God,” and now he must say to himself, not equal even to the Earth Spirit! “You resemble the spirit you comprehend.” If only people could feel this sentence! That Goethe felt it, this shows the whole situation in the first part of Faust. The human being can recognise nothing else than this to which he has developed himself. “Like someone is, his God is,” Goethe said this another time. It is like a self-confession of Goethe that he has not yet found the way to the sources of existence, a confession which he links here at this point of Faust. If we consider this first version of Faust, we realise how Goethe himself has difficulties to show the connection of his world with the spiritual world for which he strive. Without real transition the meeting of Mephistopheles with the pupil takes place in the first Faust immediately afterwards. Who is Mephistopheles?

Who knows the way to the spiritual worlds knows that there this Mephistopheles is real as one of both tempters whom the human being meets walking the way to the spirit-land, searching the way to the spiritual world.

There are two powers, which the human being meets. One power is that which we call the luciferic power which seizes the human being more internally, in the centre of his soul, and draws down his passions, desires, impulses and so on a degree into the personal, into the ignoble. Everything that works on the human being that seizes the human being in his core is luciferic. Because the human being was once grasped in his development by this luciferic principle, he was at the mercy of another power. If the human being had never been grasped by this luciferic principle, the outside world would never face him in an only material form; then the outside world would face the human being in such a way that he could say to himself from the start that all appearance is the expression, the physiognomy of the spirit. The human being would see the spirit behind all materially sensuous. Because all material was condensed by the influence of the luciferic power, that interfered with the external view which leads the human being to believe in the phantasmagoria of something external material. The outside shows that to the human being in the form of Maya or illusion, as if it is not the external physiognomic expression of the spirit.

Zarathustra was the first to recognise this power completely, which shows the outer world in a false figure to the human being. Under the name “Ahriman,” Zarathustra showed that figure first which opposes the god of light. Zarathustra calls this adversary of the god of light Ahriman, and then to all who linked to the culture of Zarathustra Ahriman became that deceptive being which intersperses everything with smoke and fog so that it becomes illusion which the human being would see, otherwise, in transparent spiritual clarity. If one wanted to express it especially brusquely, one called this figure, which spoilt the human being Mephistopheles. For he forced him in the chains of matter and lied to him about the true figure of the material. This figure was called Mephistopheles in Hebrew, “mephiz” meaning spoiler, and “topel” liar. This figure went over to the West, was transformed to the medieval figure of Mephistopheles. There we see in the Faust books Faust opposed to this power; one calls it also the “old serpent.”

Goethe got to know this Mephistopheles. Then the later Faust tradition could no longer distinguish the figures of Lucifer and Mephistopheles substantially. One had no clear idea of these figures in the times, which followed the sixteenth century. One did no longer know how Lucifer and Ahriman differ, all that flowed together into the figure of the Devil or the Satan. Thus, both flowed together without distinction, and because one generally knew nothing about the spiritual world, one did not differentiate in particular. However, Goethe faced everything as Mephistopheles that the outer senses and the human intellect give as view of the outer world. The human being who appeals only to this ability of the usual mind was to him, as it were, like another ego of the human being striving for the spiritual world.

As to Goethe, everything that appealed — as with Merck and Herder — to the mere intellect, marvellously represented in the figure of Mephistopheles, who does not believe in a world of the good or does not regard it as important. In Goethe himself this second ego existed, which could come up to the doubt about the spiritual world, and Goethe sometimes felt being put in the conflict with the Mephistophelian power. He felt put between this bad power, which burrowed in his soul, and the honest striving of his soul for the spiritual heights. Goethe felt these two powers in his soul. Goethe did not yet know how to position himself to the spiritual world. He was still far away from the experience that faces us then with him in such a magnificent way in the second part of Faust.

Mephistopheles, the representative of the intellect bound to the outer material science, confronts the inner human being striving for the spiritual heights in the second part of Faust, in the scene A Dark Gallery (The Mothers). He stands there with the keys. Indeed, this science is good; it leads up to the gate of the spiritual world. However, Mephistopheles is not able to enter it, and he declares that, in which Faust has to go, as “nothingness.” We hear sounding from that which Mephistopheles speaks there, in classically magnificent way, what the materialistic mind of the human being objects also today to someone who strives to investigate the primal grounds of existence spiritual-scientifically. There one says to him, you are a daydreamer! We do not embark on what you, dreamer, tell us about the spiritual primal grounds of the things. This is nothing for us! — The spiritual scientist may answer quite correctly as Faust answers to Mephistopheles: “In your Nothingness I hope to find my All!”

However, Goethe is far away from such clarity of his soul when he produced the first version of Faust energetically in his young years. There he does not yet know how he should make Mephistopheles approach Faust. Mephistopheles is there as Goethe had experienced him as a pulling down power where he appears sneering in the scene with the student. Only later, Goethe found the mediation where Mephistopheles gradually approaches Faust in the changing figures.

Then we see where Faust is pulled down by Mephistopheles in the scene Auerbach's Wine-Cellar where he hurls himself into the strudel of sensuousness, where he begins to become guilty. In the fragment of 1790, the end, the Prison scene, was not yet contained. Goethe had restrained it. Nevertheless, it was already in the first fragment, this stupefying Prison scene. Goethe put that side of his life in this Gretchen tragedy, which expresses itself in the words, I have become guilty! — What expresses Goethe in the first part of Faust is the word “personality.”

Only that Goethe, who travelled to Italy, can unfold a part of the seeds, which are sown in his soul there. He finds a strange way on his Italian journey. One can pursue it gradually. He writes to his Weimar friends, “It is certain that the old artists have as big a knowledge of nature and such a concept of that which can be imagined and how it must be imagined as Homer had. Unfortunately, the number of prime pieces of art is too small. However, if one sees them, one has nothing else to wish than to recognise them correctly and then to part in peace. At the same time, these high pieces of art were produced as the highest physical works by human beings according to true and natural principles. All arbitrary, imaginary disappears: there is necessity, there is God.” ... “I suppose that they proceeded (the creators of these pieces of art) according to the same principles after which nature itself proceeds and which I trace.” — There he shows that he is not only that Goethe, who is fulfilled with an abstract longing, but also that he is ready to investigate the existence devotedly step by step, that he is on the self-sacrificing way where the riddles of life reveal themselves to him.

One is not surprised if people do not achieve anything concerning the big spiritual goal of humanity that they want to accomplish only from an abstract striving. They directly approach the biggest issues of life; they are not inclined to compare the single plants, the single animals, to compare bone to bone; they do not go through the world gradually composedly to find the spirit in the details: with them, the abstract longing leads to nothing. Look at Goethe how he gets around to finding the archetypal plant gradually on the Italian journey. He collects stones, he prepares himself for it, and he does not directly look at that which “interweaves in one.” He says to himself, if you want to get an idea how “one works and lives in the other how heavenly forces rise and descend and pass the golden urns from hand to hand,” then observe how the vertebrae of the spinal cord are strung together, how the forces co-operate. Search in the smallest the picture of the biggest! — Goethe already became an industrious student by the Italian journey who observed everything in detail who searched the biggest in the smallest and said to himself, if the artist proceeds in the sense of the Greeks, namely “according to the principles after which nature itself proceeds,” then the divine that is found in nature is contained in his works.

Goethe considers art as “a manifestation of secret physical laws.” What the artist creates is physical work on a higher level of perfection. Art is a continuation and human end of nature. For “while the human being is put on the summit of nature, he regards himself as a whole nature which has to produce a summit in itself once again. To this end he improves himself, while he penetrates himself with all perfection and virtues, invokes choice, order, harmony and meaning and rises, finally, up to the production of the piece of art.”

One can say that all that faced Goethe in sharp contours, in serene inner soul experiences during the Italian Journey (1786–1788, published as book 1816–1817). Then there he took up his Faust again, and there we see how he tries to connect the isolated parts. However, we also see how he delved objectively into that which Faust could become within the Nordic nature. He realised in particular in Italy how different a figure is which has grown up in sites of classical education. There he says, it is strange that one does not hear so many ghost stories in Rome as they appear in the north. Moreover, we see him writing the Witch's Kitchen in the Villa Borghese, like someone who has already gone adrift from the whole, but as one who remembers the Earth Spirit again.

At that time, when he had written about the Earth Spirit first, he could show him only in such a way that Faust turns away like a “worm that writhes away in fright.” Nevertheless, also such a fact that one turns away, even if one cannot yet understand it, remains in the soul, it works. In Goethe, it continued working. Only those people who are impatient and cannot wait, until the seeds sprout after decades, do not find the way. When Goethe is in Italy now, he knows that also such a “writhing away in fright” has its effect on the soul. Now those words originate:

Spirit sublime, all that for which I prayed

all that you now have granted me. In fire

you showed your face to me, but not in vain.

You gave me for my realm all nature's splendour,

with power to feel and to enjoy it. You grant

not only awed, aloof acquaintanceship,

you let me look deep down into her heart

as if it were the bosom of a friend.

You lead the ranks of living beings past me,

and teach me thus to know my fellow creatures

in air and water and in silent wood.

And when the storm-swept forest creaks and groans,

when, as it falls, the giant fir strips down

and crushes neighbouring boughs and trunks, and when

the hill echoes its fall as muffled thunder,

you guide me to the safety of a cave,

reveal my self to me, and then my heart's

profound and secret wonders are unveiled.

Goethe realises the possibility of the human soul to extend to a spiritual universe by its own development. By a devoted, composedly resigned searching Goethe faces the fruits that germinated at that time when he met the Earth Spirit. The monologue in Forest and Cave shows what a great leap forward that was; he shows us that the seeds, which were sown in him at that time, were not sown in vain. Like a reminder of patience, of waiting, until such seeds mature in the soul, the fragment of Faust faces us, which appeared in 1790 with these passages. Now we see how Goethe finds the way bit by bit, after he has been led to “the safety of the cave” where deep wonders of his heart have been revealed. There he gains the overview to adhere not only to own grief; there he obtains the possibility to stay aloof from own pains, to send the guessing look into the macrocosm, to look at the fights of the good and bad spirits and to see the human being on their battlefields. In the Faust of 1808, he sends ahead the Prologue in Heaven:

In ancient rivalry with fellow spheres
the sun still sings its glorious song,
and it completes with thread of thunder
the journey it has been assigned.

Then we see the macrocosmic powers combating each other. We see from experiences of Goethe's soul a strange light shining on both dragons that Goethe faced in his youth.

Therefore, this Faust is such a world poem because it contains so many reminders, because it says to us — it is a golden word: wait in confidence in the development of your inner forces, even if it means to wait for a long time! — Like such a reminder also the words sound that are inserted as Dedication before Faust, where Goethe looks back to those “elusive shapes hovering close my eyes but dimly glimpsed when I was young,” which are penetrated now by clearness. Now, after he had to wait so long, those friends have already died who have taken an active interest in it when he met them with the first Faust, and he had to say about the others who had not died that they are far far away. Goethe had to wait in the development of the seeds, which were in him at that time, so that now the affecting words sound to us:

My tragic song will now be heard by strangers

whose very praise must cause my heart misgivings,

and those to whom my song gave pleasure,

if still they live, roam scattered everywhere.

It is no longer for those who felt with him when they were young. He had to wait as the two last lines of this i>Dedication express it so nicely, what was real to me once, it disappeared to unreality. However, what has remained to me and what appeared to the external view as unreality is truth to me, now I can pour it only in the forms in which it appears as truth.

Thus, we see how just this poem, even if one looks at it only externally, as we did it today, leads into the depths of the human soul. Faust was begun in this kind of continuations that always pushed parts between the others only. Goethe could not show there what he had experienced in his soul in the meantime. The fact that Goethe also expressed his deepest soul experiences in Faust, brought about something else.

The Helena scene belongs to the first parts of Faust. However, we see it not included in the Faust of 1808. Why not? Because it could not be included in such a way as Goethe had Faust ready at that time. What Goethe wanted to show with Helena was the expression of such a deep notion of the deepest riddles of existence that the complete first part was not sufficient to incorporate it. Only in his old age, Goethe was able now to shape what his real inner lifework was.

Thus, we see how his view has opened itself up to the macrocosmic worlds as he expresses it in the Prologue in Heaven.'However, we still want to see how Goethe knows to show the way, the steps of the soul experiences, which lead the human beings from the first steps up to imaginative view where the soul penetrating deeper and deeper busts the gates of the spiritual world, which Mephistopheles wants to close. Goethe also shows these inner experiences. Because he shows what the soul can experience in the spiritual, spiritual-scientific schooling realistically in the second part of Faust, we see the deepest riddles of existence. That faces us almost if it is recognised as a Western announcement of spiritual science in brilliant style. One is tempted to put such a poem as, for example, the Bhagavad Gita beside the second part of Faust. Great, tremendous profundities speak from such Eastern writings. It is, as if the gods wanted to speak to the human beings and express that wisdom, from which they created the world. Indeed, that is true. We now look at the second part of Faust; we see it brought to the human beings. We see the striving human soul, which rises from the external sensuous view to the height of spiritual beholding working up to the true clairvoyance, where Faust enters the spiritual world and the spiritual choir surrounds him:

In these sounds we spirits hear

the new day already born.

Cavern portals grate and rattle,

rolling wheels of Phoebus clatter,

light arrives with deafening din!

Brasses blare, the trumpets peal,

eyes are blinking, ears astounded -

things unheard you must not hear ...

Up to the passage where Faust loses his eyesight, so that the outer world disappears to his perception, and he must say to himself, “but in my inner being there is radiant light,” up to that passage where the soul works up to the spheres of the world existence, where the world riddles reveal themselves to the soul. This is a way, which we have to call an esoteric one.

Tomorrow, we shall see how one penetrates from the outer into the inner life of the Goethean world riddles. Tomorrow, we shall see from which depths Goethe spoke the words, which gave him the certainty of all longings, of all sufferings and pains of his life, striving, and quest for knowledge:

For him whose striving never ceases,

we can provide redemption;

and if a higher love as well

has shown an interest in him,

the hosts of heaven come

and greet him with a cordial welcome.

(Verses 11,936–11,941)

The talk of tomorrow shows us how Goethe solves these riddles of existence and shows how that which lives in the soul can ascend to its true homeland. It will deal with Goethe's riddles of existence, about which he gives us so hopeful answer at the end of the second part of Faust:

This worthy member of the spirit world
is rescued from the devil:
for him whose striving never ceases
we can provide redemption.

With it, he says to us, Faust can be saved! The spirits that want to lead the human beings to the mere material and to destruction are not allowed to be victorious.

We need your support!

We are a small nonprofit with the expenses of a large website. Your generous financial gifts make this venture possible. If you can't contribute now, please visit our Help Out page for additional ways to support our work in the future. Thank you!

External Links