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The Rudolf Steiner Archive

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Part III
GA 291

2. Artistic and Moral Experience

1 January 1915, Dornach

The understanding of the spiritual-scientific view of life not merely with the mind but with the heart has as a result a corresponding revolution in artistic creation and enjoyment. The forces which we derive from this world-outlook can also flow into the understanding of the world from the point of view of Art. We have recently tried to indicate with our building (the Goetheanum at Dornach) at least a small part of the spiritual-scientific impulses which can flow into artistic forms. We would see a time, before us, if we examine closely the experiences and feelings to be derived from spiritual science, when the path to Art would be in many respects different from what it has been in the past, when the means of artistic creation will be experienced in the human soul much more intensively than before, when colours and sounds will be much more intimately felt in the soul, when, as it were, colours and sounds can be felt morally and spiritually in the soul, and when in the creations of the artists we shall meet the traces of their souls' experiences in the Cosmos.

In essentials the attitude of artistic creation and artistic appreciation in the 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 the model for outward 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 outward reality. Far from it, but there will be a much more intimate union with the external world; so strong a union with it, that it covers not merely the external impression of colours and sound and form, but that which one can experience behind the sound and colour and form, in what is revealed by them.

In this respect mankind will make important discoveries in the future; it will unite its moral-spiritual nature with the results of sense-perception. An endless deepening of the human soul can be foreseen in this domain. Let us take first of all a single point. We will take the case when we direct our gaze to a surface evenly covered with vermilion. Let us assume we succeed in forgetting everything else round us and concentrating 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 wherein we ourselves are, with which we ourselves are one. We shall then be able to have the experience: you are now in the world, you yourself have become colour in this world, your innermost soul has become colour. Wherever you go in the world, your soul will be filled with red, everywhere you live in red and with red and out of red. But we will not be able to experience this in intensive soul-life, unless the feeling is transformed into the corresponding moral experience, into real moral experience. If we float through the world as red, and have become identical with red, we shall not be able to help feeling that this red world in which one is oneself red is pierced with the substance of divine wrath, which pours upon us from every direction on account of all the possibilities of evil and sin in us. We shall be able to feel we are in the illimitable red spaces as in a judgment court of God, and our moral feelings will be like what a moral experience of our soul would become in all-embracing “illimitable” space. Then when the reaction comes, when something rises in our soul one can only describe it by saying that one learns to pray.

If one can experience in the colour red the radiation and fusion of the divine wrath with all that can lie in the soul as the possibility of evil, and if one can experience in red how one learns to pray, then the experience of the colour red is enormously deepened. Then we can also experience how red can express itself plastically in space.

We can then understand how we can experience a Being who radiates goodness, who is filled with divine goodness and mercy, a Being such as we long to experience in 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 of allowing space to recede, so that the goodness and mercy may shine forth. As clouds are driven asunder so space is rent by goodness and mercy and we shall get the feeling: you must make that a red which is fleeing.

Here we shall have to indicate faintly a kind of rose-violet streaming into the fleeing red. We shall then be taking part with our whole soul in a self-forming of colour, and with our whole soul shall feel an echo of what those beings have felt who specially belong to our earth, and who, when they had ascended to the Elohim-existence, learnt to fashion the world of forms out of colours. We shall learn to experience something of the Spirits of Form, who as spirits are the Elohim. And we shall then understand how the forms of the colours can be realities as is indicated in my first and second Mystery Plays, and we shall understand a little of how the colour-surface becomes something we have overcome, because we go out with colour into the Universe. If this is accompanied by strong desire, a feeling can arise like that in Strader when, looking at the picture of Capesius, he says: “I fain would pierce this canvas through and through ...”

If you consider this you will see that an attempt has been made in these Mystery Plays to present something of this sort really artistically, how something appears before our soul when it attempts to expand in the cosmic forces, when it feels one with the cosmic spirits. That was in fact the beginning of all art. Then the materialistic time had to come, and this old art, with its inner divine subtlety, had to be changed into the secondary “After-Art, Post-Art” which is essentially the art of the materialistic age, the art which cannot create, but only imitate. It is the sign of all secondary art, all derivative art that it can only imitate, and that it does not create form directly out of the material itself.

Let us assume something else, that we do what we did with the red surface, only with a more orange colour. We shall have quite different experiences with it. If we sink ourselves in the orange surface and become one with it, we shall not have the feeling of the divine wrath bearing down upon us; we shall rather have the feeling that what meets us here, though having something of the seriousness of wrath in a modified form, is yet desirous of imparting something to us, instead of merely punishing us, is desirous of arming us with inner power. If we go out into the Universe and become one with the orange colour we move in such a way that with every step we take we feel that this experience, this living in the orange forces, gives us the impression of becoming stronger and stronger, not merely that the judgment-seat is shattering us. So that orange gives us something strengthening, and does not bring only punishment with it. Thus we experience orange in the Universe.

We feel then the longing to understand the inner side of things and to unite it with ourselves. By living the red we learn to pray, and by living in the orange we experience the desire for knowledge of the inner nature of things. And if it is a yellow surface, and we do the same thing, we feel ourselves transferred to the beginning of our time-cycle. We feel: now you are living with the forces out of which you have been created, when you entered upon your first earth-incarnation. One feels an affinity between what one was during the whole of the earth's existence, and what comes towards one from the world into which one carries the yellow oneself.

And if one identifies oneself with green, and goes with it through the Universe, which can quiet easily be done by gazing at a green field, and by shutting out all else and concentrating entirely upon it, and by then trying to dive down into it—as if green were the surface of a coloured sea—one experiences an inner increase of strength in what one happens to be in that one incarnation. One experiences a feeling of inner health, but a the same time of inner selfishness—a stimulus of the inner egoistic forces.

And if one did the same with a blue surface, one would go through the world with the desire, as one proceeded, to overcome the egoism, to become macro-cosmic. One would feel the desire to develop self-surrender, and one would feel happy to remain in this condition to meet the divine mercy. Thus one would go through the world feeling as I blessed with the divine mercy.

So one learns to know the inner nature of colour, and as I said, we can get an idea of a time when the preparation through which the painter as artists will go, will mean a moral experience in colour of this kind; when the experience preparatory to artistic creation will be much more inward, much more intimate than it has ever been.

These are, after all, only a few indications I am giving you, which will be developed much further in the future, and will take hold of the souls of men and instigate them to artistic production. The adaptation of the material culture of old to modern times has dried up the soul and made it passive. Souls must be taken hold of and stimulated again by the inner forces of things.