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Art as Seen in the Light of Mystery Wisdom
GA 275

V. Moral Experience of the Worlds of Colour and Tone

1 January 1915, Dornach

Everything in the world, each event and every act of human conduct has two sides, which are, as it were, polar opposites.

Yesterday it was my task to point out to you that through a feeling understanding of our spiritual-scientific world outlook, the human soul should acquire reverence and devotion for the spiritual worlds. The opposite pole to this devotional attitude is energetic work on our inner life, an energetic taking-in-hand of the evolutionary factors of our own soul, making a point of always using our experiences for the purpose of learning something from them and making progress with regard to our inner forces, so that—whatever meets us in life and whatever takes place around us, whether it is easy to understand or not—we shall always avoid the danger of losing ourselves. May we always have the chance of keeping hold of ourselves and of finding within ourselves the strength to develop an understanding for what can encounter us in an often incomprehensible way, and may the kind of devotion for things we were talking about yesterday make such an impact on the development of our souls, that we acquire a proper understanding of universal existence; this, my dear friends, is the New Year greeting I wanted to give you today at the start of the year. We have just been remembering devotion, and I would like to follow that with a reminder of the energetic work on our inner life. The full moon shining down on us out of the cosmos on New Year's Eve is a symbol for the sequence in which we are remembering these things. If it had been the other way round, and the year had started with the new moon, I should have done the right thing in bringing these reminders to you in the opposite order. I should then have closed the year with a reminder of the power of inner development and should have had to leave the thoughts on reverence until today.

We must attach more and more importance to really noticing a symbol like this that shines on us out of the macrocosm. And in our quiet moments this year let this indication work on us in such a way that it can have a special significance, to think first about the transformation the power of reverence can bring about in us, then to follow this with thinking about the transformation that the power of inner preservation, the maintaining of inner soul energy, should bring about in us.

The sequence of these thoughts has been set for the coming year by the writing of the stars, and the world will gradually come to realise again that reading the star script really has a meaning for man. So let us try even in details like this to pay heed to the great law of human existence and to strive for harmony between the macrocosm and the microcosm. The macrocosm is speaking to us over these days in the most obvious way and we shall find how to keep our microcosm in harmony with the macrocosm, if we conduct ourselves in line with it, in the course of this year that has begun amidst such painful events.

If you try and notice what has been the prevailing mood of our talks in the last few days you will discover that, regarding the facts that spiritual science has made significant for us, we live in a time of change, in a time of hope, as it were, for we should now be getting an inkling of the direction the further course of human cultural development should take; of the change that has to come about from a purely materialistic world conception to a spiritual one. What is meant here, however, cannot really fully take place unless it enters every sphere of life and particularly takes hold of the spiritual cultural areas to a marked degree.

We have already had various indications showing that an understanding of the spiritual-scientific outlook, which has taken hold of our feelings and is not merely rational, is bound to bring a change into both artistic creativity and artistic appreciation, because the forces we gain from this can give us an artistic conception of the world. And in our Goetheanum building we have just made the attempt to show at least a small part of what can take an artistic form, from out of spiritual-scientific impulses.

We can see a time coming when we shall be able to enter fully into the feelings that can arise from the spiritual-scientific world conception, a time when the way to artistic creation will in many respects be different from the past; it will be much more alive and the medium of artistic creation will be experienced much more intensely in the human soul; the soul will be capable of experiencing colour and sound far more inwardly, in a kind of moral-spiritual way, and in artists' creations we shall meet, as it were, traces of the artists' experiences in the cosmos.

In essentials, the attitude of artistic creation and artistic appreciation in this past epoch was a kind of external observation, an appeal to something that affects the artist from outside . The need to refer to nature and to a model for external observation has become greater and greater. Not that in the art of the future there is to be any one-sided rejection of nature and outer reality. Far from it, for there will be a much more intimate union with the external world; so strong a union that it will cover not merely the external impression of colour and sound and form, but that which one can experience behind the sound and colour and form; what is revealed in them.

Human beings will make important discoveries in the future in this respect. They will actually unite their moralspiritual nature with the results of sense perception. An infinite deepening of the human soul can be foreseen in this domain. Let us pick a particular example to start from. We will simply imagine that we are looking at a surface shining all over with the same shade of strong vermilion, and let us assume we succeed in forgetting everything else around us and concentrate entirely on experiencing this colour, so that we have the colour in front of us, not merely as something that works upon us but as something with which we ourselves are united, that we are within. You will then be able to feel as though you were in the world, and in this world the whole of you has become colour, the whole of your innermost soul, and wherever your soul goes in the world you will be a soul filled with red, living in, with and out of red. Yet you will not be able to experience this intensely in the soul unless the corresponding feeling is transformed into moral experience, real moral experience.

If we float through the world as though we were red, had identified ourselves with red, and our very soul and the whole world were entirely red, we shall not be able to help feeling that this whole red world is filling us with the substance of divine wrath, coming towards us from all sides in response to all the possibilities of evil and sin in us. In this infinite red space we shall be able to feel as though we were before the judgment of God, and our moral feeling will become the kind of moral experience our souls can have in infinite space. And when the reaction comes, when something emerges in our soul as we are having this experience in infinite red or, I could also say in the one and only red, I can only describe it by saying we learn to pray. If you can experience the raying and glowing of divine wrath, together with all the possibilities of evil in the human soul, and if you can experience in the red how one learns to pray, the experience of red is enormously deepened. We can also experience the form red takes on when it enters space.

We can then understand how we can experience a being that radiates goodness and is full of divine kindness and mercy, a being that we want to feel in the realm of space. Then we shall feel the need of expressing this divine mercy and goodness in a form which arises out of the colour itself. We shall feel the need to let space be pushed aside so that goodness and mercy may shine forth. Before space was there it was all concentrated at the centre, and now goodness and mercy enter space and, just as clouds are driven apart, space is rent asunder and recedes to make way for mercy, and we have the feeling that what is being scattered must be drawn in red. Here in the centre (a drawing was done) we shall have to indicate faintly a kind of magenta shining into the scattering red.

We shall then be present with our whole soul as the colour takes on form. And with our whole soul we shall feel an echo of how the beings who belong especially to our earth process felt, when they had ascended to the Elohim stage and learnt to fashion the world of forms out of colours. We shall learn to experience something of the creative activity of the Spirits of Form who are the Elohim, and we shall then understand how colour can create forms, as indicated in our first Mystery Play. We shall also understand something of how the surface nature of the colour becomes something that has to be overcome, as it were, because we accompany colour into the cosmos. If strong desire is also present, a feeling can arise like Strader has when he sees the portrait of Capesius, and says he would like to pierce the canvas.

You will see that an attempt has been made in these Mystery Plays really to show in artistic form what it is like for the soul, when it attempts to expand in the cosmic forces and to feel what the spirits of the cosmos are feeling. That was, in fact, the beginning of all art. But the materialistic age had to come, and ancient art, with its divine quality of differentiation, in which spirit was revealed in matter, had to change into secondary, materialistic ‘after’-art, which the art of the materialistic age is, in essence; the kind of art which cannot create but only imitate. The sign of all secondary art, all after-art, is that it needs objects to imitate, and that it does not produce the form primarily out of the material.

Let us take another example. Let us imagine we do the same thing with a more orange coloured surface that we did with the red surface. We shall experience something quite different this time. If we submerge ourselves in it and unite with it, then instead of feeling divine wrath bearing down upon us, we shall have the feeling that what comes to meet us here has much less of the serious side of wrath about it and does not only want to punish us, but wants to impart itself to us and arm us with inner strength.

When we enter the world and unite with the orange surface we move in such a way that with every step we take, we feel that by experiencing orange, by living in the forces of orange, we are becoming stronger and stronger, and that what comes to us out of orange does not come merely to punish us and break us with its judgment, but is a source of strength. This is how we go into the world in orange. We then feel the longing to understand the inner nature of things and to unite it with ourselves. By living in red we learn to pray, by living in orange we experience the desire for knowledge of the inner nature of things.

If we do the same thing with a yellow surface we feel as though we were transported back to the beginning of our cycle of time. We feel that we are then living in the forces out of which we were created when we entered upon our first earthly incarnation. You feel an affinity between what you are throughout the whole of earth existence, and what comes to meet you from the world into which you take the yellow with which you are united.

And if you identify yourself with green and accompany green into the world—which can be done very easily by gazing at a green meadow, shutting out everything else and concentrating completely on it, and then trying to immerse yourself in the green meadow as if the green were the surface of a coloured sea—you experience an inner increase in strength in what your are in that particular incarnation. You feel yourself becoming inwardly healthy, yet at the same time becoming inwardly more egoistic, you feel a stimulus of the egoistic forces within you.

If you did the same with a blue surface, you would go through the world with the desire to accompany the blue forever and to overcome your egoism, become macrocosmic, as it were, and develop devotion. And you would find it a blessing if you could remain like this for your meeting with divine mercy. You would feel blessed by divine mercy if you could go through the world like this.

Thus we learn to know the inner nature of colour and, as I said before, we can foresee a time when an artist's preparation will mean a moral experience in colour of this kind, when the experience preparatory to artistic creation will be much more inward and intuitive than it ever was in past ages. For these are only a few indications I am giving you, and they will be developed much further in the future. They will take hold of men's souls and enliven them with a tremendous sense for artistic creativity, whereas the materialistic culture that has entered our modern age has dried up the soul and made it passive. Souls must be stimulated again by a power from within; they must be taken hold of by the inner forces of things. As a specific example I have taken the colours that flood the world.

The world of sound will deepen and enliven the life of soul in a very similar way. During the period that is now drawing to a close, the essential thing was that a person experienced a tone as such, and the relationship of one tone to another. In the future people will be able to experience what is behind the tone. They will regard the tone as a kind of window through which they enter the spiritual world, and then it will not depend on vague feeling of how one tone is added to another, to form melodies for instance, but by going through the tone the soul will also experience a moral-spiritual quality behind the separate tones. The soul will enter the spiritual world as though through a window. The secrets of the individual tones will be discovered in this experience behind the tones.

We are still a long way away from this feeling of being able to go from the sense world to the spiritual world through the window of each tone. But this will come. We shall experience the tone as an opening made by the gods from the spiritual world yonder to this physical-material world, and we shall climb through the tone out of the physical-material world into the spiritual world. Through the tonic, for example, which we experience as absolute and not in reference to previous tones of the scale, we experience danger as we pass from the sense world into the spiritual world. We are threatened on entry with being taken captive; the tonic wants to suck us in most horribly through the window of the tone and make us completely disappear in the spiritual world. Assuming that we experience the tonic as absolute, we shall feel that we are still too weak in a spiritual sense in the physical world, and that we are sucked up by the spiritual world when we climb through this window. This is the moral experience to be had on entering the spiritual world through the tonic. I am over-simplifying it now, though; we shall have a very differentiated experience which contains an infinite variety of detail.

When we climb out of the physical world into the spiritual world through the window of the second, we shall have the impression of powers in the spiritual world yonder that, as it were, take pity on our weakness and say, ‘Well! so you were weak in the physical sense world! if you only climb into the spiritual world through the tonic I must dissolve you, suck you up and break you to pieces. But, if you enter through the second, I will offer you something from the spiritual world and remind you of something that is there.’ The peculiar thing is that when we climb from the physical to the spiritual world through the second, it is as though a number of tones rang out to receive us. We enter a totally silent world if we enter the spiritual world through the absolute tonic. If we enter through the second we come to a world where, if we listen, various quiet high-pitched tones ring out wanting to comfort us in our weakness. Yet we must go through the window in a way we most certainly could not do in a physical-material house, for the owner would give us a strange look if we were to walk in through the window and take the whole window with us. But in the spiritual world that is what you have to do, take the tones with you and, in union with them, live over there in the beyond, the other side of the thin partition that separates us from the physical-material world, and in which we have to imagine the tones as windows.

If you enter the spiritual world through the third, you will have the feeling of an even greater weakness. If you enter the spiritual world this way, you will feel that you were really very weak in the physical-material world, where its spiritual content is concerned. But with regard to the third—and remember that you have become sound; you yourself have become a third—you will feel that there are friends over there who, although they themselves are not thirds, approach you according to the kind of disposition you had in the physical-material world. If you enter through the second, it is like a gentle sounding of many tones, with whom you share life in general when you enter through them, whilst tones that are, as it were, friends with one another, come to meet you through the third. People who want to become composers will have to enter especially through the third, for that is where the tone sequences, the tone compositions are, that will stimulate their artistic creativity. You will not always be met by the same tone friends, for which ones you meet will depend on your mood and your feeling and your temperament—in fact how you are disposed to life at the time when you go through the third into spiritual life. This results in an infinite variety of possibilities.

If you penetrate through the fourth into the spiritual world, you will have a strange experience. Although no new tones appear from any direction, those that have come before, when you were experiencing the third, will live lightly in the soul as memories. And you will find that in continuing to live with these tone memories they perpetually take on a fresh colouring; at one time they become as bright and cheerful as can be, at other times they descend to the utmost sadness; now they are as bright as day, now they sink down to the silence of the grave. The modulating of the voice, the way the sound ascends and descends; in short, the whole mood of a tonal creation will have its origin along this path, from these sound memories.

The fifth will produce experiences that are more subjective, that work to stimulate and enrich the life of the soul. It is like a magic wand that conjures up the secrets of the sound world yonder, out of unfathomable depths.

Experiences of this kind will come to one when one no longer just looks at the things and phenomena in the world, or just listens to them, but experiences them from within. These are the kind of experiences mankind must have, particularly through colour and sound, but also through form; in fact, altogether through the realm of art, in order to get away from the purely external relationship to things and their functioning—which is characteristic of the materialistic age—and to penetrate into the inner secrets at the heart of things.

Then something tremendously significant will happen to man, and he will be filled with the awareness of his connection with the divine spiritual powers, which are sub-conscious when his awarenesss is confined to the material realm, and which guide and lead him through the world. And then, above all, he will have inner experiences, such as experiencing the forces which guide man from one incarnation to the next.

If we omit to heat a locomotive, it cannot pull a train. The forces which make things happen in the world have to be continually stimulated. The forces which drive mankind forward also need to be stimulated. And this does happen. However, man has to learn that he is connected with these forces.

I once had the following remarkable experience. There was a lawyer, a famous advocate, in the town where I lived for a while, an extraordinarily famous advocate, whom the people absolutely flocked to, because they believed he was bound to win the most difficult lawsuits. And this was often the case. His legal dialectic was extraordinary, and people who knew him had the deepest respect for it. Now he was once entrusted with the difficult case of a rich man. The rich man would have to suffer a severe penalty if the lawsuit resulted in his being sentenced. The advocate used his greatest dialectic and the most wonderful of his legal skills. He made a long speech, and the people who heard him were convinced that if the jury were not to acquit the accused, nothing further could be done about it. Everyone who heard the advocate's amazing skill were absolutely convinced the jury would now withdraw and acquit the accused.

But in the law court there was not only a skilful counsel but also a skilful judge, and although the hour was not yet so advanced that a judgment could no longer be given, the judge said, ‘Let us close the session for today and continue tomorrow.’ So the jury's session was to take place the following morning, and this gave them time to think the matter over again during the night. The following day came. This ‘overnight delay’ as he called it, had already proved very irksome for the advocate. The session began, the jury withdrew, and everyone awaited their return with tense expectation, most of all our advocate. The jury came back after only a quarter of an hour, and when the advocate heard them coming back from the conference room so soon, he fainted. Yes, he fainted. He did recover again, and a friend helped him up. The accused really had been sentenced, but the advocate only heard this after he had recovered from fainting.

Now what could be said about the course of events looked at from the point of view of external perception? One could say that the advocate was a very ambitious man, for he cared so much about winning this lawsuit that he lost consciousness before the verdict was pronounced. As soon as he saw that the jury had only conferred for a short time he was sure the accused had been sentenced, for if they had acquitted him they would, of course, have taken much longer.
But that was not how the matter stood; it only appeared to be so from an external point of view. There was a kind of second layer of events behind what I have just told you. This other layer, or story, is like this: Before this lawsuit took place this advocate had become addicted to what one can call the demon of gambling—I knew him well, of course. He used the sums of money entrusted to him, as deposit to gamble with. It was an absolute passion with him, and not long before this lawsuit began he had reached the point where he had gambled away large sums of money entrusted to his care. But he had been promised that if he should win this suit, he would be paid so much that he could more or less balance the difference.

So he did not faint only out of wounded ambition; he fainited when the jury returned with the verdict after only a quarter of an hour, because his existence had in fact been destroyed. For he had no hope any more of replacing the deposit money he had lost. Therefore his whole existence had depended on the outcome of the lawsuit. He fainted as symbolic indication that he was now completely ruined for this incarnation. He had to escape to America after that, and had to endure a not very enviable existence there for the rest of his life.

An example of this sort shows us that judgment can very often be wrong, for some people might never have had the chance to hear anything about what went on behind the lawsuit. If these people had only heard the clever advocate during the lawsuit and seen him fainting, they could very well have concluded that some people are so ambitious that they lose consciousness if a speech of theirs misfires. And they could have left it at that.

To be able to judge correctly you would therefore have to know a further layer of facts. In many instances you would even have to know several more layers, otherwise you could be correct with regard to the layer you can see and yet make a wrong judgment. That is the external aspect. But the matter has more behind it. The fellow also had to find a way of getting from this incarnation to the next one. And here we have an example of how wise world guidance puts into the soul the forces it needs to lead it from one incarnation to the next. The man was in such inner conflict that it had destroyed his existence. He was in a terrible position. A situation had been created in which there were no forces left to carry him over to his next incarnation. Also, a situation had been created in which forces of that nature could not be brought to his conscious mind. So his consciousness had to be extinguished for a moment. During short breaks in consciousness all kinds of other spirituality can enter the human soul. And in that moment he received forces capable of restoring his impulse to go forward into the next incarnation. Of course an impulse like this can be given in many different ways. What I have described here was one particular case.

These impulses are always there. But I just wanted to show you that man's conscious life is linked with an ongoing process in the unconscious, and that in man's conscious life there are really points where the consciousness is suppressed so that something can enter out of the unconscious. Sometimes these unconscious moments need not be long; they can be short spells similar to fainting. Yet a tremendous amount of spiritual life forces can stream into the human being at such moments, both good and bad, and capable of good and evil.

What I want to show you with this example is that, in observing the world, mankind must try to notice links of this kind, which are of no significance to a materialistic outlook.

You will gradually reach the point of becoming so perceptive for living links that you will recognise the moments in which the spirit comes near to each human being. In the future the world will no longer be explained so unequivocably as it is now, on the basis of material causes, but matter will be relegated to its right place, and at the same time people will realise that the material phenomenon is not the only thing, for spirit shines through

We have seen that colours and sound are windows through which we can ascend spiritually into the spirit world, and life also brings to us windows through which the spiritual world enters our physical world. The advocate's fainting fit was this kind of window. If we interpret this phenomenon correctly we have to say that spiritual life streams down to us through this window. It is clear to us that these forces flowing into us cannot be explained on a purely material level. So there are windows in the tones through which we ascend from the physical-material world into the spiritual world; and there are also windows through which, if we remain in the physical-material world, the spirit can descend to us.

If we do not perceive the fact that spirit descends to us through such windows, it is like someone opening a beautiful book who cannot read. He has the same thing in front of him as someone who can read, but if he cannot read he sees unintelligible scribble on the white pages which, at the most, he can just describe. Only a person who can read is capable of following a biography, perhaps, or a piece of information that has been laid down in these strange signs. A person who cannot read world phenomena is like a cosmic illiterate where these phenomena are concerned. A person who can read, however, reads the ongoing process of the spiritual world in them. It is characteristic of the present materialistic age that materialism has made people illiterate with regard to the cosmos, almost a hundred per cent so. At a time when people are so proud of having reduced the percentage of illiteracy in civilised countries to such a great extent, they are enthusiastically heading towards illiteracy where the cosmos is concerned.

It is the task of spiritual science to eliminate this cosmic illiteracy. Few people nowadays are illiterate in the ordinary sense. In the time of ancient clairvoyance human beings were far less illiterate in the spirit. But this must not make us conceited. It is a fact that when we acquire an inkling of our task in the spiritual-scientific stream, we ought to change from being illiterate to becoming people who can read the cosmos. Yet we should remain humble, for the times are such that we are still very much in need of the elementary level of education. We can hardly read yet, but only spell out the letters. Yet we can be gripped by the impulse to change, an impulse which is breaking in upon mankind through these things. And if we are gripped by them we shall have the right attitude to what the signs of the times are demanding of us, and we shall enter into them as people who rightly belong to the spiritual-scientific world conceptual stream.