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The Rudolf Steiner Archive

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Things in Past and Present in the Spirit of Man
GA 167

I. Examination of Anthroposophic Literature

13 February 1916, Berlin

Today we want to listen to a recitation from the poetry of Friedrich Lienhard and Wilhelm Jordan. Then I will add something of an anthroposophical literary consideration to it about the present time and its tasks. This will conclude our evening, but first I would like to say a few words by way of introduction.

Friedrich Lienhard is one of those poets of the present time of whom we are able to say that as far as his own striving in a certain connection, he comes near to the striving of spiritual science. On October 4, 1915, he celebrated his 50th birthday and we at Dornach joined others from all sides in sending our congraulations to this spirit-filled poet. We can look in a certain way into the actual artistic content of the poetical nature of Friedrich Lienhard who in a certain sense has been very friendly to our movement. He himself, says that he originated from the French Alsace Lorraine region where he had to pass through many difficulties in order to attain what he calls his world conception. He tried to develop out of the European German nature so as to bring to effectiveness the actual beating in of the waves of this Central European German being. We can say how there lives within him above all that which I have just attempted to characterize, an element that can perhaps only be evaluated correctly when we realize its worth as we approach it from the spiritual artistic point of view which is fostered in the science of the spirit. In Lienhard's poetry we have, above all, the wonderful description of nature, lyric nature, but put in a very special way when he attempts to bring human beings into speech with nature. Also there is something of the nature of the human being which actually proceeds directly out of the natural way and shows its spirit in nature existence. Now, what does all this come from?

It comes from something that one can perhaps only correctly notice with Friedrich Lienhard when one attempts to evaluate art today which one should always do—so as to realize that there is something which has been completely extinguished from the consciousness of mankind: people no longer are able to evaluate artistic representations. Today they focus completely upon the content of the art, on its representation characteristics and allow that to work on them, but they fail to realize that the important thing is the formal element, the artistic formal element of what is being attempted, not the content so much but how the ideas and the feeling come together, how they undulate in waves and then dissipate. It is very important to see how the poetic language comes into existence in the actual undulation of the waves. In Lienhard you can see quite readily how in the poetical expression of his experiences there is a swaying of the ruling of elemental spirituality, a sort of participation of the poetic soul with that which we would characterize as something which lives in an elementary way in the ether world behind the pure sense existence when the etheric element is brought to manifestation in a natural way as, for example, in the expression of the soul life of young children. If you follow the words of Friedrich Lienhard in a literal way, it appears as if the elementary spirits want to move on further through these words, they sort of ripple through, warm through, weave through all this natural phenomena and this rippling, this warming, this living, this weaving through of elementary beings in relationship to nature continues itself with such a poet who understands how to really live with the spirit of nature.

A further element of Friedrich Lienhard is that precisely through his ability to grasp the great connections of mankind and of the world, with which, I might say, he with his feelings is inwardly connected without anything of the narrow chauvenistic nationalistic spirit entering into these feelings, you can find in him the driving, working forces and beings of the folk life; and again the folk life not out of the details of the accidental individuals, but from the whole weaving and swaying of the priciple of the Folk Soul itself and being able to grasp all that and to place the single personalities into the great spiritual connections in which they are able to stand within the life of the folk. Through that fact Freiedrich Lienhard is in a position of being able to represent such a figure as that of the priest Oberlin of the Alsace Steinthal who was spiritualized by a kind of atavistic clairvoyance. He was able on the one hand to present Oberlin in a real plastic three dimentional way and on the other hand to grasp him in an extraordinarily intimate soul way. Out of these impulses, Lienhard was able to call forth into the present time the divine figures of antiquity, not in the way of these ancient hero sagas, but he took not only the content of it but also attempted in present day speech to find the possibility of again reawakening that which as a beating in of the waves lived through this ancient time and to be able to realize it can still beat into our present age. Lienhard was able to awaken all this and therefore we can say in a certain sense, as it were, that Friedrich Lienhard is one of the most superior poets of the present age, because other poets of this age have attempted to transpose themselves more into the naturalistic, the realistic aspect also rejecting the real artistic spiritual and in that way wanted to create something new. However, the real poet, when he wants to create something new, does not try to use these naturalistic whimsies of our present age, but creates something new by being able to grasp in a new way the stream of the eternal beauty; he grasps that which is eternal in a new way so that art remains art. And real art can never remain real art without being permeated by the spirit. Through this aspect it was possible for Friedrich Lienhard to approach much nearer to that which he called: The Way Toward Weimer. Acutally in his free time he had produced this periodical for a long time which he called Ways Toward Weimer in which he attempted to turn to the ideas and artistic impulses of that great period which began towards the end of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th century, and to recognize that which is in these, precisely much of real worth which existed in that particular period which had been forgotten and had faded away. For that reason, in his later artistic period he attempted again to deepen, to make it more inward, I might say, so that ultimately it was possible for such inward poems to come out as those who relate to personalities such as Odelia and the like. He knew how to unite himself with all that in a true sense with the Christian impulses which weave and undulates through mankind. And it is very noticeable that he, not by the external content of his poetic creation but through the way in which they carry the elementary nature right into the details, that he was able to approach the alliteration aspect of the artistic element which appeared as if it was being lost from the whole of German literature. This allilteration and that which is related to the German nature, has with it the whole central European German Folk substance. Because of Lienhard's ability to do that, that brought him close to Wilhelm Jordan, another peot who partly through his own fault and partly through the fault of our age has been little understood by our present time. We shall attempt to bring Wilhelm Jordan to you later on through recitation.

Precisely through alliteration, Wilhelm Jordan attempted again to renew, as he called it, a way of speaking which belonged to times gone by. He could do nothing else than bring this formal element of the ancient poetry, again into the present time. He attempted to lift it up to great moving impulses out of the smallness of everyday things. One must say that it is literally a calamity, although it is not quite without Jordan's own fault that such a poem as “The Damier” which attempted to bring the world moving spiritual principles into connection with mankind upon the earth, that such a creation as “The Danier” should be passed over without effect in our present time. This is partly his fault, because he allowed himself to be damaged by the natural scientific way of looking at things. Much of this damaged his poem “The Niebelungen”, whereas instead of having the deeper principles which should have been applied in this poem, he allows the naturalistic principle of heredity to dominate it; he allowed the substance transition of the forces of inheritance from one generation to another to dominate instead of the soul aspect dominating. There is too much domination of the blood aspect in a certain sense through that. You can say that Wilhelm Jordan paid his tribute to the natural scientific grasping of the present age. However, on the other hand he has taken away from his poems what perhaps already in an earlier time would have been able to give the great spiritual impulses to the artistic striving of mankind, so that not everything would have had to sink into the inartistic barbarism, which in many cases in the later period appeared in the place of the earlier spiritual principles. We can indeed see how today people want to scoff about that which Wilhelm Jordan wanted to do. But I might say that as far as we are concerned, it is our job to be able, in a certain sense, to allow these great impulses to work upon our soul wherever they might appear, because nevertheless there will come a time when these inpulses will have to fulfill a certain mission in mankind's development.

Certainly the poet, Friedrich Lienhard, will be recognized in wide circles. However, in our circles we should attempt to discover that which perhaps can be found precisely in him, because that will be, above all, what I believe will be able to carry his artistic strivings together upon the waves of the spiritual scientific strivings into the future.

Having said that now we will listen to the poems of Friedrich Lienhard and then to some extracts from the poem “Niebelungen” by Wilhelm Jordan. (The following are the poems recited by Frau Dr. Steiner: “Faith”; “The Morning Wind”; “A Greeting to the Forest”; “TheCreative Light”; “The Lonely Stone”; “Have You Also Experienced?”; “All The Tender FLower Cups”; “Soul Wandering”; “The Dance of the Elves”; “The Summer Night”. “The Songs of Odelian”; “Autumn On the Mount of Odelian”; “St. Odelia” then a recitation from the Niebelungen Song by Wilhelm Jordan.)

It is also good to allow this type of poetic art to work upon us. We have in Friedrich Lienhard a poet who really attempts in the present time to carry in spiritual idealistic soul experiences which are strong enough to unite themselves with nature experiences; and with such things one can detect something which is more appropriate to the ‘how’ in art than to the ‘what’ in art. How wonderful is that which draws itself to the magic in the district around the Mount of Odelian and how beautiful it is, how directly lyrical is the perception which streams out of this protective patroness, Odelia, of the Cloister of Mount Odelian. The fact that Odelia was once persecuted by her horrible father, that she was blinded and precisely through the loss of her eye sight, she achieved the mystical capacity of healing the blind, making them see, this is the saga around which all the rest gathers itself. All that which in truth gathers itself around this saga in deep mysticism is lyrically united with the nature which is around the Alsacian Mount of Odelian and it finds itself precisely within these poems by Friedrich Lienhard which have been recited to you. You can find in these poems that he gives the real opportunity for, I might say, the swinging in of an elemental nature which weaves itself in the form of his poems much of which reminds you of the forgotten Wilhelm Jordan. From this small sample which we have been able to hear today you will be able on the one hand to realize how very much this poet attempted to place these figures from the great spiritual weaving of life before us to create them out of this spiritual weaving of life and to allow us to realize that the weaving of the spiritual world works in the external world. You can experience precisely through Wilhelm Jordan, I believe, how the poetic soul can unite itself with a world historical streaming so that in that which confronts us in a poetic artistic form, there actually lives the striving of a spiritual stream which works through the development of the world.

When we were together last Tuesday, I had to ask the question: What would be the outcome of the development of mankind on earth if it were not possible for a spiritual beating-in to find its way into that which exists in the pure external physical existence. Not only in the external realm of scientific knowledge, of the social life and so on, but also in the realm of art, the fact that confronts us and comes to meet us very strongly is that we live in a very critical age, an age which is filled with crises, because if that which is living in spiritual science is not able to take hold of human soul life, then art itself would gradually disappear from mankind, because it cannot exist without the spirit. This art is trying to disappear from such figures as Wilhelm Jordan. However such figures as Friedrich Lienhard have attempted to hold fast to that which tried to disappear—the spiritual aspect—from Wilhelm Jordan. Today people do not see much of the threatening danger of the artistic decay, because in many connections, intoxication also dominates in this realm of dream life of which I spoke Tuesday, of which one can really only perceive if one has an organ to grasp it. I can only wish that more and more people were actually able to realize from a spiritual scientific perception what it means for the ... is an indication of what is going to come into art if this rejection of all spirtual life, of spiritual perception, still continues. One of the great tragedies of the modern times is that such a large nunber of people are able to consider art as all that which is represented by Rheinhard. When one receives a real artistic perception from Spiritual Science, then one will be able to see clearly the so-called rubbish involved in Rheinhard, because that which in modern life appears in the artistic domain is nothing other than a distorted world. When one really attempts to grasp the life of the present time, one can, I might say, indicate the actual places where a life which has been eaten up by materialism affects the art of our age and causes it to fall into a morass. You can see how everything of what art really is is forgotten. In order for a real artistic sense to continue itself into the development of mankind, it is necessary that that which comes to us from earlier times, which, for example, lives also in Lienhard's poetry and which in a certain way is a kind of nature pantheism and a kind of spirit pantheism can develop from that into something more concrete, so that human beings are able to learn to understand the manifoldness of life so that they can see the etheric, astral and the spiritual by the side of the physical sense aspect. Without seeing these things mankind remains blind, blind precisely in relationship to the artistic. As far as the artistic perceptions is concerned, the world as it is today is predisposed to only take in the quite solid external sense aspect, to look on it exactly as it is and to describe it as it is; and that is not art.

One can also experience this nonsensical unclear staggering and wabbling, this frenzy we find with reference to the phenomena of life as it is regarded by people who are called fine psychologists. It often makes your heart sad to see that so few people are strongly adapted enough to perceive what is happening in this realm, to see it in such a way as to be able to rebel against it. Contemplate human beings as they confront us. The artist must indeed look upon them in so far as he is able to place them into the deeper life of the world. If one looks upon people with that particular soul organ which the evolutionary development of mankind has already brought into existence, then we need the possibility of saying the following. There is a person; he is configured in such and such a way. He has experienced this or that thing. We know that this person is more inserted into his physical life, another is more inserted into his ego, another more into his astral body. We must have a living feeling for the fact that the characteristics of mankind can divide themselves in so far as they are taken hold of more by the physical in one case, another more by the etheric, another more by the astral and another more by the ego aspect; and if one is not able to do this in our present time and still wants to describe people artistically in poetry, etc, then one gets the sort of staggering which today is regarded as art.

You must, I might say, take hold of the significant phenomena of our age in order to obtain a real understanding of what is actually happening. For example, one can meet four people who, shall we say, have been brought together by karma. Then one can understand how they are brought together in certain connections through karma when we see them together, how the stream of karma also flows in the progress of the world and how these human beings precisely in a certain way, through their karma, wanted to insert themselves into the world. One will never be able to understand things from the standpoint which is possible today if one is not able to see such karmic connections. Let us take the four brothers, Dimitri, Ivan, Alyosha and Smerdyakov in Dostoevski's novel The Brothers Karamazov. When you are really able to see them with the eye of the soul, you actually see in these four brothers four types which you can only understand through the way they are carried by karma. Thus one knows the following. The four brothers carry a stream of karma into the world in such a way that they must be the sons of a typical scoundral of the present age who has these four brothers as his sons. They are carried in in so far as they have selected it through this karma. They are placed one by the side of the other so that one sees how they differ from each other, and this can only be understood when one knows the following. In Dimitri Karamazov there is an overpowering by the “I”; in Aloysha Karamazov there is an overpowering by the astral body; in Ivan Karamazov there is an overpowering by the etheric body and in Smerdyakov there is a complete overpowering by the physical body. A light of understanding falls upon these four brothers when one is able to consider them from this standpoint.

Now, just think how a poet with Wilhelm Jordan's gift and with a spiritual grasping of the world as it must be in accordance with our modern age, how such a person would place these four brothers side by side, how he would grasp their spiritual and fundamental conditioning. How would Wilhelm Jordan do it?

Let us consider Dostoevski; how does he grasp the situation? He grasps it in no other way than that he places these four brothers as the sons of a quite typical drunken man in a certain stagnated society of the present age. Let us take the first son, Dimitri, the son of a half adventurous, half hysterical woman who after she first elopes with the drunken sop, Fyador Karamazov, beats him and finally cannot endure him anymore and leaves him with his son, Dimitri, the eldest son. Everything is now placed only an inheritance, it is so placed that one has the impression that here the poet describes something like a modern psychiatrist who only focuses upon the coarsest principle of heredity and has no inkling of the spiritual connections, and wants to bring before us the sin of heredity. Now we have the next two sons, Ivan and Aloysha. They come fron the second wife. Naturally the sin of heredity will work differently with these two sons. They come from the so-called screaming Liza, who, because she is not half hysterical but completely hysterical has spasms of screaming. Whereas the first wife soundly thrashed the old drunkard, now the old drunkard thrashes the screaming Liza. Now we have the fourth son, who, I might say, is overpowered by everything which is in the physical body have Smerdyakov, a kind of mixture of a wise, thoughtful and idiotic man, someone who is quite imbecilic and also a partly clever man. He is also the son of the old drunkard and has been begotten with a deaf person who was regarded as the village idiot, namely, the stinking Lizaveta who is seduced by the old drunkard. She dies in childbirth and it is obvious that he does not know that Smerdyakov is his son. Smerdyakov then remains in the house and now all the scenes which occur between these personalities are played out.

As far as Dimitri is concerned it is understandable that he is influenced by his heredity. He is a man in whom the quite unconscious ego flows and pushes him further in life so that he acts out of the unconscious, but of the thoughtlessness and he is so delineated to us that, in the main, you realize that you are not dealing here with a healthy spiritual person, but with someone of a more hysterical nature. Therefore you will find the effect of all that from the nature evolution of the present, that present which will not permit itself to be influenced by that which comes from the spiritual world conception. All the unclear instincts which can actually just as well develop themselves into the best sort of mysticism as well as the most external criminality, in all that you can find the transition from the unconscious, all that Dostoevski deliniates in Dimitri Karamazov. He wants to depict as Russian, because he always tries to describe the true Russianness.

Ivan, the other son, is a Westerner, they call him the Wesler because he wants to familiarize himself with the culture of the West; whereas Dimitri knows very little of the culture of the West but prefers to function out of the Russian instincts. Ivan was in Paris. He studied all sorts of things. He has taken up the Western world conception; he argues with people; he is completely filled with the materialistic world conception of the West modified however by the brooding of the Russian. He argues with all types of people using all sorts of thoughts about how the modern spiritual culture can enter into the midst of the instincts: Should a person be an athiest? Should a person not be an athiest? Can you assume that there is a God? Can you say that there is no God? Can you arrive at an assumption of God? Yes, I accept God, but I do not accept the world. That is the sort of discussion that goes on and on. This is how it is with Ivan.

Now, the third son, Aloysha, becomes a monk early. He is the one in whom the astral body has the superior powers but it also shows that all sorts of instincts work in him, the same instincts as his older brother had developed in him developed through mysticism. Dimitri, who comes from another mother, actually is predisposed to criminality which manifests itself as with other people, but in the case of Aloysha it manifests itself differently, he becomes a mystic. You can say that criminality is only a special development of the same instinct which on the other hand prays for self-emulation—the belief in divine love which goes through the world. Both of them come out of the lower instinctive nature of men, but they develop themselves in different ways. We are not objecting to having these personalities in art, because anything which is real can be the object of art. The important part is not so much the content but how it is presented—is there a weaving of the spiritual in it?—that is the important point.

In Russian culture you have a certain spirituality which is a further development of natural relationships which I have described in my previous lectures as a contrast of spiritual relationships. From the very beginning Dostoevski was a hater of Germany. He had his task of instinctively letting none of West European culture flow into his soul. Because of his being a true Russian, Dostoevski did not come out of the real soul aspect, but that which comes from his subconscious nature arose, all the brooding in the inner human being, that sort of worked itself out and developed itself in the art with the exclusion of all spirtual aspects.

Now we have in Dostoevski's Brothers Karamazov that remarkable episode of the great inquisitor in front of whom the reincarnated Christ appears. And being a true orthodox Christian of his time, this priest knows that he has to put Jesus Christ in prison. That is the first thing that he does. Then he gets the inquisition to give him a hearing. The great inquisitor who develops religion in the sense of the Christianity of our age says to himself: “Ah, yes, Christ has come back. You are indeed the Christ. However, you cannot enter into Christianity as it is now with our priests of the holy order, because you do not understand these things. Take what you yourself have performed. Has it done anything to make people happy? We had to put right what was impractical in your approach. If Christianity as you know it came among people, it would not have the sort of salvation which we have brought to the people, because when you really want to bring salvation to people, you have to bring them a teaching which actually works upon human beings. Now, you believe the teaching also must be the truth. However, you cannot begin to confront human beings with such things. Above all, human beings have to believe the teachings we have given to them; they have to be forced to accept those teachings. We have done better than you. We have established authority. Therefore the only thing that can be done is to take this reincarnated Christ over to the inquisition.” In the case of Dostoevski you see that there is nothing at all spiritual; you see Christ appearing externally in the physical body and then His being broken up by the-great inquisitor.

It is very necessary that we understand the characteristics of our present age where you get books entitled: Jesus, A Psychopathical study; another entitled: Jesus Christ Considered from the Psychiatric Standpoint. Here you have the standpoint of modern evolution which is the pathological situation of Jesus Christ. A well known psychiatrist—people run after this—writes epoch making works about psychiatry; he gives talks to students and colleagues not only about Goethe, Schiller, Nietzsche, all sorts of people, then he also talks about Jesus Christ.

Now if we just sit down and listen to Anthroposophy with a sort of lust for sensation or some mystical sensation, we cannot move forward; that is not good enough. This Spiritual Science must become living, it must become living impulses within us. We are not anthroposophists because every week we learn about the elementary spirits, about the hierarchies, and so on. No, we really become spiritual scientists if we are able to carry our ideas into all the single details of life and Anthroposophy gives us the sort of mood which will enable us to actually feel a disgust for many things that are going on at the present time. But let us not be fooled by the sort of standpoint which the Theosophists think they are duty bound to follow, the idea of universal human love. Because we believe in universal human love, we avoid all the disgusting things that are happening all around us, we avoid giving them the right names because we are filled with universal love. People today are not inclined to keep their eyes open. Now this is not the guilt of a single people; it is the guilt of the whole spiritual life of the present. Before we come to any judgements about anything, it is necessary that we make sure that we know all that we need to know so that a judgement can be formed. Let us consider Tolstoy, for example. Now everyone who has listened to me for any length of time knows how I see the greatness which is in Tolstoy; nevertheless we must not forget the other aspects of his personality. Here we have a great spirit of the East filled with bitter hatred for what comes fron Germanism. People did not know about that, because the translators of Tolstoy into German left out these very reprehensible passages. Therefore they presented literature with a false Tolstoy. The so-called critics of our age consider Goethe and Schiller and then they put Dostoevski side by side with them without realizing the vast difference. Whereas Goethe and Schiller had some spiritual motivation in them, Dostoevski was thoroughly absorbed by our modern culture; he reflected it. Now, these things must be brought out in order that one can get a perception of the significance of our anthroposophical striving.

I wanted to add this sort of anthroposophical literary consideration to the recitation which you heard today.