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The Rudolf Steiner Archive

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Art as Seen in the Light of Mystery Wisdom
GA 275

Introduction by Marie Steiner

The impulses of regeneration given to mankind in this series of lectures, Art as Seen in the Light of Mystery Wisdom,1Art as Seen in. the Light of Mystery Wisdom: In the set of publications, the following eight lectures were published in six numbers: I. ‘Impulses of Transformation for the Artistic Evolution of Mankind’, 29th and 30th December 1914 (in the present volume); II. ‘The Supersensible Origin of the Artistic’, Dornach, 12th September 1920 (in Kunst und Kunsterkenntnis, Bibl. No. 271, GA 1961); III. ‘Human Utterance through Tone and Word’, Dornach, 2nd December 1922 (in Das Wesen des Musikalischen und das Tonerlebnis im Menschen, Bibl. No. 283, GA 1975); IV. ‘Truth, Beauty, and Goodness’, Dornach, 19th January 1923 (in Lebendiges Naturerkennen, Bibl. No. 220, GA 1966); V. ‘The Realisation of Tone in the Human Being’, Stuttgart 7th March 1923 and 8th March 1923 (in Bibl. No. 283, GA 1975); VI. ‘The World of the Hierarchies and the World of Tone’, Dornach, 16th March 1923 (in Bibl. No. 222, GA 1976). Numbers VII, VIII and IX followed later with Rudolf Steiner's GA291/English/RSPC1935, Rudolf Steiner Press, London 1983. will only be understood by those who are able to assimilate the nature of spiritual science fully in such a way that for them the concreteness of the spiritual world, its richness of form and being, has become a self-evident fact. Rudolf Steiner, fully equipped with the most modern scientific methods and with the utmost singleness of thought, has brought the reality of the spiritual world close to his contemporaries and has shown them how the ego of mankind is placed at the focal point of the development of consciousness and how mankind must grasp this ego with full knowledge. One path towards the grasping of the ego in the fullness of life's experience, but also in sun-filled contemplation, is the path of art. It is one of the healthiest and most revealing and most direct; it was the last to leave its source in the temple of mystery wisdom and has not been so quickly buried as has the path of religion by the passion of the church for power or the path of science by the rigidity of thought born out of the materialistic age. For these three paths once more to find each other, for art, science and religion once more to unite and intermingle—it was for this that Rudolf Steiner worked among us. He turned his fullest attention to each of these paths; in their living synthesis he saw the salvation of mankind. They worked together once in the ancient, holy mysteries, bringing into existence and filling with light and nourishment all the cultural epochs of the earth; in the same way they must again be brought together and reunited through the knowledge of their undivided spiritual origin.

Man must now awaken within himself a knowledge of this living and essential union. This he can do in complete freedom through careful investigation and practice, if he does not timidly close his being in the face of superior and as yet unknown powers, if he does not bow before the restraining influence of the church, nor before the authority of dogmatic science. The stages along the path have been revealed to man under the wise and entirely impersonal guidance of one who knows it and who, in conformity with the demands of our time, has not appealed to the human craving for submission and devotion but only to men's capacity for knowledge.

The first stage is study; the basis for understanding what is presented in this series of lectures is the study of spiritual science. The works of Rudolf Steiner can supply this basis for penetrating the mysteries which are the foundation of man's artistic creativity. Their impulses, acting from the super-sensible sphere, must now be led from the dullness of the subconscious into the wakefulness of ego-consciousness. Art is beginning to wither; art, too, has already choked the flow from its living spiritual source. Observation through the senses, imitation of fortuitous situations on the physical plane, over-emphasis of the personality: along these paths art has moved right away from its spiritual origin. To tie the torn threads together again, to recover the original spirit, once more to tread the lost road in freedom and the joy of knowledge with the newly-acquired forces of the awakened personality: this is the task of mankind today. It is hoped that the deep wisdom, the beauty and the strength speaking out of the words of Rudolf Steiner published in this book will be a help to this end!

A renewal of art will never be brought about by dallying with modern decadence or by compromise, but only by a return to the spiritual founts of life. How great is the responsibility of anyone who has drunk at these springs. Surely he cannot see mankind thirsting without pointing out the remedy which could restore health?

The remedy lies in unlocking the wisdom of the mysteries and presenting it to humanity in a form adapted to contemporary demands. The new initiation science must call upon man's power of thought, his sense of art and style, and also the eternal essence of his being, by summoning him to conscious alertness in all these domains.

Through words, pictures and deeds Rudolf Steiner summoned human beings to wakefulness in each of these three spheres. He has created works that give art a new orientation. He has delivered it from rigidity and brought movement into it; he has restored life to what had been strangled. Perhaps his manifold obligations in other domains would never have given him the chance to revive all the realms of art as he did, if the erection of the Goetheanum2The first Goetheanum, destroyed by fire on New Year's night, 1922–3. had not demanded it of him and if the World War, by curtailing some of his other activities, had not given him the time.

In the Goetheanum, Rudolf Steiner was able to realise his living thoughts about architecture. He could entrust them to wood, the most alive of all building materials. A work of inexpressible beauty came into being, deeply affecting to the beholder by reason of the stirring force which went forth from its forms in their succession of organic developments and from the counterbalancing relations of direction—the proportions of upward movement and downward movement. Number, dimension and weight were triumphant in a triad of sweep, elevation and direction. The building stood as man, and man as building. The genesis of worlds, the genesis and deeds of mankind, the deeds of the gods were all inscribed in it; they were revealed in the waves of colour in the dome, in the organic growth of motifs in columns and architraves, in the luminous creation of the windows. Sculpture and painting passed beyond their own sphere, conquered line and were transformed into movement. Colour created form from within by virtue of its own creative soul quality. In the newly-blossoming art of eurythmy, tone and speech became movement and were made visible through the instrument of the human body. The creative forces of speech thus made visible were reflected back to the other forms of art, reviving them and kindling the fire of spiritual creativity. The inner tone of creativity was able to grasp the physical tone that moulds the air, filling it with spiritual substance and elevating it to higher spheres. Rudolf Steiner called his building the House of Speech. All forms of art, together with science and mystery wisdom, had found a home there. The synthesis of art, science and religion was once more accomplished.

Such a building cannot rise again, unless perchance it shall be granted to the individuals who executed the artistic work to transform what they have learned and experienced into another structure like it.

Otherwise a work that even by this time might have been an immense help for the spiritual development of mankind will sink back as a memory into the past, yet bearing within it a spiritual germ for a new future. The flames on the eve of the New Year 1923 have for the present destroyed a mighty impulse for progress.

The retarding powers have willed it so. They incited the mob against Rudolf Steiner and are still at work trying to blacken his memory. But the resounding clamour is impotent to destroy his spiritual work. For it is rooted too firmly in the soil of spiritual reality and in the needs of contemporary souls.

For the new building,3The second Goetheanum, now the centre of the General Anthroposophical Society. the most rigid material has been employed: concrete. Like a fortress it stands, but not withdrawn in defiance. An abode for spiritual striving, it radiates over the landscape, welcoming all who desire to strive for that noblest of treasures, the knowledge of the world and of man.

The new Goetheanum does not claim to compete in form or effect in any way with its predecessor which was destroyed by fire. Nevertheless, its external form strives impressively upwards with a bold and harmonious beauty, a final gift left to us by the deceased master of the impulses of beauty. When he had created this form he laid down hammer, trowel and plumb-line and worked at the word in stillness for a little while before leaving us. The work upon the building is now being carried on by his pupils according to their gifts.

It was the master's last bequest. But they have been restricted by the hard constraint of inadequate funds; at the stubborn behest of financial insufficiency they have had to sacrifice their own intentions and often even specific directions given by the master. Involuntarily the thought arises: How different it might have been had there been sufficient funds to carry out also inside the building what would be required by the force of mystery impulses rooted in esoteric wisdom. Involuntarily again and again the thought forces it way into our minds: When and where, in what country and at what time will it be possible to erect a building to concentrate within itself and to radiate out again these eternal impulses that united every detail of the burnt Goetheanum into one world-embracing whole, bringing to expression in their forces man and the universe, microcosm and macrocosm, thus working with spiritual creativity and soul-fashioning force?