Art as Seen in the Light of Mystery Wisdom
I. Technology and Art
28 December 1914, Dornach
The main intention of these lectures is to build a bridge from spiritual-scientific knowledge to the kind of conception of life which our time demands, and I intend also giving a few indications on this theme in the coming days.
What we call modern life takes living hold of all those people who, through living in towns or in similar circumstances, have been torn away from a direct connection with nature. And we know that since the advent of modern life people have always thought about its significance both for the intellectual as well as the material progress of human civilisation. And now it is time that the impulses we are acquiring from spiritual science should enter into modern life. Gradually we shall have won through to the feeling that with respect to many a thing that meets us in life today we need spiritual science as a kind of compensation for those things in modern life that weaken, we might actually say destroy, something of the general divine-spiritual life forces of man.
People who are able, by means of the first stages of the life of initiation, really to let modern civilisation affect them in all its aspects, will have experiences that give them deeper insight into the significance which modern life has for man's whole existence, than that obtained from an external view of life unsupported by spirituality. People who have taken the first steps in the life of initiation will pass differently through the experience of spending a night in a train or on a steamer, especially if they sleep on the journey. What is different for the person who is in these first stages of initiation and the one who has not had any connection with it is that the experiences become conscious for the former, and he finds out what is actually happening to him when he spends a night travelling on a train or a ship, especially if he goes to sleep. Of course the person who does not acquire initiation knowledge of things also undergoes the effects that an experience of that sort has on the whole human organism. With regard to the whole effect on the human being there is, of course, no difference.
If we want to understand what these indications actually mean we must recall to memory a spiritual scientific truth which you no doubt know, namely, that whilst we are asleep our ego and astral body are outside our physical and etheric body. In fact, because of certain limitations which cosmic laws impose on us in the natural order of things, our ego and astral body are very close to our physical body and etheric body in a case like this, so that if we are asleep on a train journey our ego and astral body are right inside all the rattling, rumbling and braking going on in the wheels and the engine of the train. And it is just the same on a modern steamer. We are inside everything going on around us. We are inside these not exactly musical experiences in our surroundings, and you need only have taken the very first steps in initiation to notice on waking up that when the ego returns with the astral body into the physical body and etheric body they bring with them what they experienced while they were being squeezed through the machinery, for they really were inside the moving machinery right up to the moment of waking.
We bring all this disharmonious squeezing and tearing back into our physical and etheric body, and if you have ever woken up with all the after-effects of what the engines of a steamer or a train have done to your ego and astral body, and bring that into your waking consciousness, you will notice how little it synchronises with what is going on within you in the way of a kind of experience the ego and the astral body have of the inner harmony of the physical and etheric body. You do in fact bring back with you the wildest confusion, the most frightful din of pulling, screeching and rattling and if you are sensitive to it you will feel that the effect on the etheric body really is as though your physical body were being bruised and dismembered — which is, of course, a clumsy expression, but you will not misunderstand. This is an absolutely unavoidable side-effect of modern life, and I want to give a word of warning right at the outset, as the kind of lecture I want to give today can very easily rouse what I would call theosophists' hidden arrogance, which flourishes very well here and there.
I am not making a general allusion, of course, let alone a particular allusion, for when one holds a talk on a matter like this, one immediately provokes judgments. I think that in the case of this theosophists' arrogance, it can easily happen that people imagine they must take great care not to expose themselves to these destructive forces; that they must protect themselves from all the influences of modern life; that they must closet themselves in a room containing the right surroundings, with walls of the colour indicated by theosophy, to make sure that modern life cannot reach them in any way that would be harmful to their bodily organisation.
I really do not want my lectures to have this effect. Everything of the nature of withdrawing and protecting oneself from the influences of all that we necessarily have to encounter as world karma arises out of weakness. But anthroposophy can only strengthen the human soul (Gemüt), and should develop those forces that inwardly strengthen and arm us against these influences. Therefore, never within the compass of our spiritual movement could any kind of recommendation be given to cut oneself off from modern life, or to turn spiritual life into a kind of hothouse culture. This could never apply in the realm of true spiritual culture. Although it is understandable that weaker natures prefer to withdraw from modern life and go into one or another kind of settlement where they are out of reach of it, the fact remains that this arises not from strength but from weakness of soul. Our task, however, consists in strengthening our soul life by permeating ourselves with the impulses of spiritual science and spiritual research so that we are armed against the onslaughts of modern life, and so that our souls can stand any amount of hammering and knocking and are still capable of finding their way into the divine-spiritual realms right through the hammering and knocking of the ahrimanic spirits.
One thing must be taken into account, however, which I have often referred to. We human beings do not only sleep at night. We actually sleep in the daytime as well, only we do not notice our daytime sleep as much as our nighttime sleep. During the night our thought life is dimmed down, and because our soul lives predominantly in our thoughts we are, as a matter of course, more aware of the dimming down of our thought life during nighttime sleep. During the day our life of will is more at rest, yet we are less aware of this because we live less in our will. All the arguing the philosophers have done about the freedom and lack of freedom of the will is due to this. As they have not taken into account that they are investigating the will whilst they are daytime sleepers and therefore cannot arrive at its true nature, they talk a lot of nonsense about free will and unfree will, indeterminism and determinism. In actual fact, whilst we are open to the waking life of day, we are only conscious of our will life to a very small degree; it dips down into the subconscious, into the region that belongs purely to the astral body.
Thus during our waking day, too, we are involved in all that modern life has produced around us in the way of the stress and noise of modern technology. During the night it is more our life of thought and feeling that becomes submerged in the noise and stress, during the day it is more our life of feeling and will.
Now in the course of human evolution what we call modern life has not always existed. It came on the scene essentially at the beginning of the fifth post-Atlantean epoch. 41413. See Rudolf Steiner's Occult Science, an Outline, chapter on ‘Future Evolution of the World and of Mankind#8217;, Rudolf Steiner Press, London 1979. The beginning of the fifth post-Atlantean epoch actually coincides with the beginning of the modern age. What does modern intellectual culture say about the beginning of the modern age? As we know, modern intellectual culture is proud of the achievements of modern life. It is expressed somewhat like this: Throughout antiquity and the Middle Ages people were incapable of developing a real observation of nature such as could have led to natural science. This did not happen until modern times. And when people talk of modern times like this they are speaking of the time which began with the fifth post-Atlantean epoch. That was when people broke away from the old way of observing nature and observed it impartially, solely according to abstract laws. And it was through this knowledge of the laws of nature that natural science came into the position of opening up the possibility of mastering the forces of nature, and mastering them in an unprecedented way, as we so often hear. Yet this is just what modern technology is. And the characteristic nature of modern technology arose as a result of man acquiring knowledge of natural laws and then proceeding to use the material world to fashion his machines according to these natural laws, machines with which he can then work back on nature and life by filling modern life with them and creating his own technological setting; that is, modern life in its essence and function. Thus we see that it is the modern age that has established real natural science and the resultant mastery over nature and its forces.
You often hear people speaking like this. However if we speak like this we are speaking Ahriman's language for this is using the language of Ahriman. But let us see if we can translate this language of Ahriman into the real and true language that we are trying to acquire again by means of spiritual science, a language where words not only acquire the meaning ascribed to them through observation of external nature, but also acquire the meaning ascribed to them when we look at the cosmos in its entirety, that is, both as nature and as spiritual life.
Let us start by looking quite superficially at what happens when we develop modern technology. What is happening in the first place is just work being carried out in two stages. The first stage consists of destroying the interrelationships of nature. We blast out quarries and take the stone away, maltreat the forests and take the wood away, and the list could go on — in short, we get our raw materials in the first instance by smashing and wearing down the interrelationships in nature. And the second stage consists of taking what we have extracted from nature and putting it together again as a machine according to the laws we know as natural laws. These are the two stages, if we look at the matter on the surface.
But what is it like if we look below the surface? Looking at it from inside, the matter is like this: When we take things from nature, mineral nature to begin with, we know from previous lectures that this is linked with a certain feeling of well-being belonging to the elemental spiritual beings that are within it. This, however, does not concern us so much now. What is important here is that we cast out of nature the elemental spirits belonging to the sphere of the regular progressive hierarchies who, in fact, are the very spirits who maintain nature. In all natural existence there are elemental spiritual beings. When we plunder nature we squeeze out the nature spirits into the sphere of the spirit. That is, in fact, what is constantly happening during the first stage. We smash and plunder material nature and thus release the nature spirits, driving them forth from the sphere allotted them by the Jehovah gods into a realm where they can fly about freely and are no longer bound to their allotted dwelling places. Thus we can call the first stage the casting out of the nature spirits. The second stage is the one where we put together what we have plundered from nature, according to our knowledge of natural laws. Now when we construct a machine or a complex of machines out of raw material according to our knowledge of natural laws, we put certain spiritual beings into the things we construct.
The structure we make is by no means without its spiritual beings. In constructing it we make a habitation for other spiritual beings, but these spiritual beings that we conjure into our machines are beings belonging to the ahrimanic hierarchy. Thus at the first stage we encounter nature spirits who are in progressive evolution and cast them out and at the second stage we unite these ahrimanic spirits with our mechanisms or other products of technology. This means that by living in this technological milieu of modern times we create an ahrimanic setting for everything that goes on in us in a sleeping state, by night or day. So it is no wonder that a person at the first stages of initiation, bringing back with him into his waking life all that he has experienced outside in the way of noise and confusion, feels its destructive character when he comes back into his physical and etheric body with this in his ego and his astral body. For he is bringing back into his own organism the results, as it were, of his having been in the company of the ahrimanic elemental spirits. Thus we could say that at the third stage, at the cultural level, we have technology around us, stuffed full of ahrimanic spirits which we have put there. This is what things look like from inside.
Now if we turn our attention away from the occult side of modern life and look back at those times when people slept with only a thin partition dividing them from nature, a partition through which spirit could easily pass, and when their daytime work was within the realm of nature that still harboured regular spirits of the Jehovah hierarchy, we have to admit that in those times people's souls, their egos and astral bodies, brought back into their physical and etheric bodies the kind of nature spirits that had an enlivening effect on their inner life of soul. And the further we go back in the history of mankind's evolution the more we find what is becoming a greater and greater rarity today, namely that people did not fill themselves with the ahrimanic spirits of technology, but with nature spirits that were progressing on a straight path and which the good spirits of the hierarchies, if we may use the expression, have linked to the events and being of nature.
Now man will only attain the kind of connection he needs in order to be truly human if he seeks it in his inner life, if he delves so far down into the depths of his soul that he reaches the forces that connect him with the spirit of the cosmos, out of which he was born and in which he is embedded, but from which he can be separated. A separation has already taken place in his sense perception and intellect, and now again through his being filled with ahrimanic beings in the course of modern life, as we have seen. Only by penetrating into the depths of his own being will man find the connection with divine spiritual beings that he needs for his salvation, the spiritual hierarchies that are progressing on a straight path. This connection with the spiritual hierarchies for which we were actually born, in the spirit, this living connection with them, is made difficult to the highest degree by the saturation of the world by modern technology. Man is being, as it were, torn away from his spiritual-cosmic connections, and the forces which he should be developing within him to maintain his link with the spiritual-soul being of the cosmos are being weakened.
A person who has already taken the first steps in initiation will therefore notice how the mechanical things of modern life penetrate into man's spiritual-soul nature to such an extent that a great deal of it is smothered and destroyed. He will also notice that the destruction of these forces makes it particularly difficult for him really to develop those inner forces which unite the human being with the ‘rightful’ spiritual beings of the hierarchies — please do not misunderstand the word. When a person who has taken the first steps in initiation tries to meditate in a modern railway carriage or on a modern steamer, he makes a great effort, of course, to activate the necessary forces of vision to lift him into the spiritual world, yet he notices the ahrimanic world filling him with the kind of thing that opposes this devotion to the spiritual world, and the struggle is enormous. You could call it an inner struggle experienced in the etheric body, a struggle that wears you out and crushes you. Other people who have not taken the first steps in initiation also go through this struggle of course, and the only difference is that the student of initiation experiences it consciously. Everyone has to go through it; the effects of this are experienced by everyone.
It would be the worst possible mistake to say that we should resist what technology has brought into modern life, that we should protect ourselves from Ahriman by cutting ourselves off from modern life. In a certain sense this would be spiritual cowardice. The real remedy for this is not to let the forces of the modern soul weaken and cut themselves off from modern life, but to make the forces of the soul strong so that they can stand up to modern life. A courageous approach to modern life is necessitated by world karma, and that is why true spiritual science possesses the characteristic of requiring an effort of the soul, a really hard effort.
You so often hear people saying “These books of modern spiritual science are difficult; they make you exert yourself in order to develop your soul forces and really penetrate into spiritual science.” This is why ‘well-meaning’ people — and I am saying this in inverted commas — keep on coming to me and saying that they want to smooth out difficult passages for their fellow men and change what is written in rather a difficult style into something as trivial as can be — and these last words are not said in inverted commas. However, it belongs to the essence of spiritual science that it makes demands on soul activity, that you do not accept spiritual-scientific truths lightly, as it were, for it is not just a matter of taking in what spiritual science says about one thing and another, but of how you take it in. You should take it in by dint of effort and soul activity. To make spiritual science your own you must work at it in the sweat of your soul — please forgive me for not being very polite. That belongs to the business of spiritual science, if you will excuse the mundane expression.
It shows a further misunderstanding of the actual nerve of spiritual science if people shy away from the difficult ideas and conceptual structures of spiritual science. And don't we know how many people shy away from it, how many people would prefer to dream — the Lord gives it to His Own in sleep! They would far rather have things conjured up before them in all kinds of visions of the spiritual world than acquire knowledge through the activity of exerting their inner life of soul. We know how many people there are who prefer having visions rather than sitting down and studying a difficult book of spiritual science, even though it is capable of speaking to the human soul forces that are asleep during ordinary daily life, for spiritual science really does activate the part of man that is otherwise unconscious and transport him into the life of the spiritual world. The right approach is not to receive conscious daily life apathetically and to grope in the dark, but to make an effort out of soul activity to get through what is given for the development of thoughts and ideas. For when you make an effort and have the courage to make yourself at home in this development of thoughts and ideas, this brave and active effort will bring you to the stage where mere theorising on what is given and mere acceptance in thought passes over into seeing and really being in the spiritual world. However, the really modern conception of life that arises for us from these considerations is that, because of our technological surroundings, we descend into a kind of ahrimanic sphere and become filled with ahrimanic spirituality.
The most terrible calamity would have come about in earth evolution if, in earlier ages, provision had not been made for these experiences of ahrimanic spirituality that world karma is bringing to modern mankind. Life always progresses like the swing of a pendulum. It is experienced like a pendulum swinging in one direction or the other. You cannot say “Beware of Ahriman!” for nothing can protect you from him. And if someone longs to shut himself up in a room surrounded by the colour that suits him best, where he has no factories near him or trains passing by if he can possibly help it, but is completely cut off from modern life, there are many, many ways in which ahrimanic spirituality can get into his soul. Even though he withdraws from modern life, modern spirituality will still reach him.
Now something entered into human evolution that, as it were, held off the calamity, and I gave an indication of this a long time ago in a lecture cycle in Munich. 3Secrets of the Threshold, lecture VI, Anthroposophical Publishing Co., London 1928. We must take all these things together, for that is also part of the active experiencing of modern spiritual science. Man has been given art; art, which also takes its raw material from nature by reducing and wearing it down, and at the second stage puts it together again to make something new, with a breath of life in it, although it is only of a pictorial nature. The life of the artistic impulses given us in the past has the capacity, as I said in Munich, to imbue its material with a more luciferic spirituality. Luciferic spirituality, beauty as an illusion, in fact everything that has an effect on man through the medium of art, leads man away from matter into the spirit, yet it does so through the life in the material. Lucifer is the spirit who constantly wants to flee from matter and bear man into the life of the spirit in an unjustified way. That is the other swing of the pendulum. It is only because we have to go through a technological atmosphere in the present incarnation that it is possible for us to come into connection with Ahriman, whereas in earlier incarnations we were more connected with a quality that could be steeped in art. Thus we are countering certain luciferic forces by means of the present-day ahrimanic forces, which together form a balance, whilst the pendulum of life swung one way in the past and swings the other way now.
What spiritual science quite specifically has to want at the present time is that human beings do not sleep and dream through what world karma is imposing on them. Yet people who wish to know nothing about spiritual science do sleep and dream through all the influences of Ahriman and Lucifer. They are exposed to these influences even if they themselves know nothing about them. But ‘life cannot go on like this; life has to be lived consciously from now on, and that is what spiritual science is for, so that people do not go through the world sleeping and dreaming, but understand what is around them. For this to happen, however, we must really get down to the subtleties of our spiritual-scientific business — if you will forgive the word. Such subtleties often go unnoticed, and this is the sort of thing I find when I read through transcripts of lectures I have given. Often what is of essential importance to me does not appear at all in the transcript. Just look at two examples of this. I used a certain sentence a little while ago and did not say that spiritual science wants something, but that spiritual science should want it, or has to want it. That is a particular expression which comes quite naturally to a person who is speaking out of the spirit of spiritual science, for spiritual science leads as a matter of course to a more impersonal grasp of the truths of spiritual life than other sciences do. Speaking in the manner of other sciences we would say “Spiritual science wants something”. But spiritual science says “what it should want or must want” And I say “The way I must express myself” and not “The way express myself”.
A great deal depends on such subtleties; we must not pass them by. On the contrary we must begin to believe that everything depends on spiritual science taking hold of man's innermost soul forces, and that it is capable of transforming them. Therefore it will not do to approach spiritual science with the kind of thinking one is in the habit of using in ordinary life. People are still largely unaware of what I mean by this. This can be seen, actually sensed, so to speak, in certain crude symptoms in the evolution of ordinary science.
Let us take one example out of many. Modern science of religion — irreligious science of religion — is especially proud of the fact that it has found a connection between New Testament utterances and commandments and Old Testament and heathen utterances and commandments. People have followed up the origin of every phrase in the Lord's Prayer, for instance, and said “This particular phrase comes from here and that one from there”. If you hear it like this it can sound credible. Yet the moment you approach the Mystery of Golgotha in a spiritual world-historical light you notice that all these things appear in a new context, and that the important thing is not the discovering that all these expressions were there in earlier times but looking at them in the context which gives them a new shade of meaning. In this respect the Old and the New Testament differ entirely. Subtle things like this convey the essence of the Mystery of Golgotha. The words and even the word connections often stay the same but their shade and colouring is different, and that makes all the difference.
There is something tremendous behind the fact, for instance, that the conception of the ego in the whole evolutionary system of language is quite differently constructed the further back we go in pre-Christian times, than it is later on when we go forwards from the Mystery of Golgotha. The way people spoke about the ‘I’ changed, and this can be seen in the configuration of language. When the ‘I’ becomes part of the word for the verb, as is the case in many languages, it signifies something entirely different from when it is separated from the verb and spoken as a separate word, and so on.
The important thing is to work our way with the help of spiritual science to an approach to life which looks consciously at the things which influence our human organism of spirit, soul and body. The way I have described man's relationship to his technological surroundings is, of course, only in its beginning stages. It was about four centuries ago that things began to get like they are today. Then the nineteenth century that was so proud of itself took a tremendous leap forward in the ahrimanisation of human life. Yet a great deal more will take place in future human evolution in the direction of this ahrimanisation. We have been in it for about four hundred years. It is coming slowly and gradually. It has already reached a certain climax among the vast numbers of our fellowmen who, because of the isolation caused by living in towns, hardly have any connection any more with real nature spirits. I once said, symbolically, that it is important for man's development to be able to distinguish oats from barley. Yet really, how many people are there in a town environment today who cannot tell the difference any more between oats and barley! Perhaps they can distinguish the plants, as that is comparatively easy in the case of oats and barley, but where the grains are concerned they can no longer tell the one from the other. If they have lived in a town or were actually born there, they usually cannot tell the difference.
Now it happens like this in the evolution of mankind, that when human beings have progressed a stage, this progress is always bound up with another experience that is at another stage, as it were, in a parallel stream. And this has happened. Whilst technological life has been drawing modern man closer to Ahriman in the way I have described, he has also been getting closer to him in another way. When a spiritual view of history replaces the crude way of viewing history introduced by materialism, people will understand what spiritual science has to say on this matter.
If we go back to the time that preceded the last four centuries, man not only had a different relationship to his environment than he has today, but he had, above all, an entirely different relationship to something that comes to expression in himself, really comes to expression in himself; he had a different connection with his speech, to the way he spoke. Speech does not only contain what modern materialistic science believes it does; there is something in speech which in many ways is connected with man's not fully-conscious experiences, which often occur in the subconscious realms of his being, and which are therefore interpenetrated by spiritual beings. Spiritual beings live and are active in man's speech, and when man forms words, elemental spiritual beings pour into these words. During human conversations spiritual beings fly about the room on the wings of the words. This is why it is so important that we pay attention to certain subtleties of speech, and do not simply let uncontrolled feelings get the better of us when we speak.
Right into the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries we could say that man still possessed the remnant of a living experience of the elemental spirituality contained in language. The spirituality of language was still active within him, for language is in a certain respect more inspired and spiritual in many ways than an individual human being. It is only occasionally nowadays that we notice a person reverting from a materialistic way of thinking to a feeling for the inspired spirituality of language.
On one occasion 4On 3rd October 1914, towards the end of the first lecture on Occult Reading and Occult Hearing, Rudolf Steiner Press, London 1975. here I gave a very clear if trivial example showing in what way a person's mind can revert from the materialistic role of today. On the whole it still happens to many people, but they are not immediately aware of it. If someone is travelling down the Rhine and he speaks for instance of the ‘old Rhine’, what does he mean? No doubt he feels something. But what is he referring to? When people speak of the ‘old Rhine’ I do not think they mean the riverbed, the hollow in the ground. That would be the only permanent part, of course. But we cannot discover what else the ‘old Rhine’ is supposed to be, for the water is certainly absolutely new; it keeps flowing on, and if you try and find anything old except the hollowed out riverbed, it cannot be done. The old Rhine! Language is more inspired than man, because the language obviously means the River God, even if people are not conscious of it. One is describing the elemental being that belongs to it very suitably when one says the ‘old Rhine’.
That is a rough example. This spirituality, this belief in spirituality exists throughout language. And a feeling, at least, for this connection with spirituality in language still really existed in the disposition of soul of all the peoples of Europe, during the course of the fourth post-Atlantean epoch and right up to modern times as far as the fifteenth and sixteenth century. If you are not aware of this fact you cannot have the right feeling for the beginning of the St. John's Gospel. For the opening words of the St. John's Gospel, “In the beginning was the Word”, arose, in fact, out of a consciousness that the part the word plays within the whole human organism and human life, provides the connection for man, by way of elemental spirituality in the first place, to the whole of the world lying behind the world of the senses.
If, with the means that spiritual science puts at our disposal, we observe the way human life has run its course from the Middle Ages up to modern times, and are able to look right into the soul, we shall in fact find that man's relationship to speech was altogether different in the fourth post-Atlantean epoch, even in the last phase of it that lasted up till the fourteenth and fifteenth century. Whenever they spoke people heard undertones, genuine undertones. People no longer believe this, because nowadays human beings really only live in the material aspect of the sounds of speech. A spiritual element joined with the sound as though it sounded again an octave lower. Thus when people spoke, or heard people speaking, something resounded in the words that was not differentiated according to one or another language, but was of a universal human character. One can really say that when human experience comes to expression, as it were, in the flowering of the separate languages, mankind today experiences the flowering as a vibrating of sounds in the ear, and experiences the sounds as something that have a meaning. Whereas in earlier times they experienced a steeping of the whole element of speech in something that joined with it and was not differentiated into the various languages. The dividing line between the one experience and the other fell in the fifteenth and sixteenth century. Mankind was torn away from the genius of language.
Nobody can understand the actual jolt mankind was given in the fifteenth, sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, unless he studies the special character of this damping down of undertones in the experiencing of speech. Something was lost to mankind, and this comes to light in the happenings of the times, whether they be battles or peacetime creations. Before the point of time mentioned the human soul still experienced it. Whenever people spoke, this resounding of undertones in the experiencing of speech still lived in human souls. That is why the whole of history has an entirely different quality before this turning point, than afterwards. Through spiritual science we must develop a spiritual ear, as I would like to call it, for the completely different tone that events had in the Middle Ages than they have today, as human souls were connected to their experiences in quite a different way in those times.
I will choose the Crusades as an example of a general human soul-experience. They are only conceivable in the way they came about in the Middle Ages if we know of the existence of these spiritual undertones in the experiencing of language. The present-day peoples of Middle and Western Europe would most certainly not be so affected by the words of Clermont's synod: 5convened by Pope Urban II in 1095. Here the decision was taken for the First Crusade. God wills it — Dieu le vent — as the peoples of the Middle Ages were. The reasons for this, however, can only be recognised if we take into account what has just been said.
An important phenomenon in all modern intellectual life is also connected with this. The whole formation of modern history has to do with this. If you once envisage history with these subtle language undertones in mind, you will understand why, at the point of time I have indicated, the various European nationalities grouped themselves together, those nationalities who before that time had quite different relationships with one another; who were governed by quite different impulses in their relationships to one another. The way the different nationalities group themselves in the various parts of Europe, right up to the present day, has to do with impulses that we interpret quite falsely if we go back from the present to the Middle Ages to look for the origins of nations, without bearing in mind the tremendously important rubicon that had to be crossed in the life of the soul.
I can only give you indications of these themes whereas they would actually require a whole series of lectures. The most important part of all this must be left to your meditation, which will discover what can be found as a result of these indications. What I would hope to have achieved is to have given you a picture of how to build a bridge between spiritual science and knowledge of life, and shown you how spiritual science can lead to a conscious approach to the reality in which we live. Having spoken of the real foundations on which these indications are based, it would appear quite natural that this modern age of ours makes a renewal of many things necessary, compared to the past. Through being placed today by world karma in a setting that functions in an especially ahrimanic way, and through having to make our soul forces strong enough to find our way into spiritual spheres, despite all the hindrances that come to us from ahrimanic spirituality, our souls are in need of different kinds of sustenance than before. For the same reason art must also adopt new paths in all its branches.
Art obviously had to speak differently to the souls that were less exposed to the attacks of Ahriman than we are today. Art has to speak in a new way to souls today, and our Goetheanum building 6Laying of foundation stone 20th September 1913. Burning of the Goetheanum, 31st December 1922. is meant to be the very first step, really and truly the very first step towards art of this kind, and not anything perfect. It is an attempt actually to create the kind of art that calls on the soul to be active, on the lines of the whole conception of modern life, yet a spiritual conception of modern life. Let us remember the frightfully trivial comparison I made regarding the Goetheanum building a few weeks ago. I asked, “How does the effect our Goetheanum building is intended to have, compare with that of an older building, or an older work of art in general?
A work of art from the past made an impression by means of its forms and colours. Its forms and colours made an impression. If we make a diagram of it and the form is like this, this form had an effect on the eye (he did a drawing). What was in space and what the form was filled out with, was what made the impression. And it is the same with the colours. The colours on the walls made the impression.
I said that our building is not intended to be like that; our building is meant to be — and this is the terribly trivial comparison — like a jelly mould that does not exist for its own sake but for the sake of the jelly. Its function is to give a form to what is put into it, and when it is empty you can see what it is for. What it does to the jelly is the important thing. And the important thing with our building is what a person who goes inside it experiences in the innermost depths of his soul, when he feels the contours of the forms. All that the forms do is set the process going that creates the work of art. The work of art is what the soul experiences when it feels the shape of the forms. The work of art is the jelly. What has been built is the jelly mould, and that is why we had to try and proceed on an entirely new principle.
Likewise what you will find in the way of paintings in our Goetheanum building will not be there for their direct effect, as used to be the case with art in the past, but will be there for the soul to encounter, so that the experience resulting from this encounter will be a work of art. This of course involves a metamorphosis — I can only give indications of all this — the metamorphosis of an old artistic principle into a new one, which we can depict by saying that when the sculptural, the pictorial element is taken a stage further, it is led over into a kind of musical experience. There is also the opposite step, from the musical element back into the sculptural-pictorial.
These are things which are not created arbitrarily by the human soul, but have to do with the innermost impulses we have to go through, because we are in the first third of the fifth post-Atlantean epoch. It has been, as it were, ordained by the spiritual beings that guide this evolution.
A start has to be made in every realm. If people find things about our building that are imperfect they may be assured that the people who are actually engaged in building it will find far more imperfections than the people who criticise it — far, far more. There are faults to be found in it which people who just look at it would not think of. But that is not the point. The point is that a start is being made, for there are so many things that have to happen. The important thing is not the perfection we achieve in what we must will to happen, but that a start is made on what has to come to life here, however imperfect it has to be. For everything new that comes into the world is imperfect compared with old things that have stood the test of time. Things that are old have reached their highest level, whereas new creations are still in their infancy. That is quite obvious.
I will begin tomorrow where we have stopped today, and consider the renewal of an artistic conception of the world and the connection this has with the whole cultural life of today.