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Goethe's Secret Revelation

Schmidt Number: S-1955

On-line since: 15th October, 2012

(b) ESOTERIC

One idea Goethe had for his ‘Faust’ was that at the end of Part II, Act 3, Mephistopheles, who in this Act had worn the mask of Phorkyas, should step in front of the curtain, take off the mask, descend from the Kothurni and deliver a kind of Epilogue. The idea, as the now meaningless stage instruction tells us, was that this Epilogue was to indicate the manner in which the final figure of Faust was to be taken. The words Mephistopheles was to speak as Commentator are not in ‘Faust,’ but they have been preserved on a single sheet among Goethe's literary remains. Through the mouth of Mephistopheles Goethe seeks to tell the public in a not unhumorous way what attitude to adopt towards his Faust. These words are worthy of notice, and in a certain respect to-day's study is to be conducted in their spirit. They refer to Euphorion who was born in some spirit fashion, and jumps and hops about immediately after his birth and utters ‘a tender word.’ In this way these words refer to him:

‘Enough, ye see him, though it is much worse
 Than on the British stage, where a small child
 Grows step by step to take heroic shape.
 Here it is madder still: for, scarce conceived,
 He's also born:
 He leaps and dances, speaks a tender word.
 If many criticize,
 There are who think this is not to be taken
 So straight and crudely, that there's more behind.
 One scents the Mysteries, perhaps withal
 Mystifications, Indian and may be
 Egyptian; for the man is right who knows
 How to squeeze all together, brew it well
 And twist and turn in etymology.

 We say it also, and the true disciple
 Of the newer symbolism will agree.’


Thus all such explanations as rest on a basis of old traditions are to be straightway excluded. On the contrary, an explanation is demanded drawn from the depths of spirit-life. Therefore also Mephistopheles says: ‘We say it also, and the true disciple of the newer symbolism will agree.’ If you read carefully Part II of ‘Faust,’ you will know that Goethe is rich in word-construction in this poem, and that we must not therefore cavil at what appears to be ungrammatical. Here in this sentence is clearly expressed that the man who understands Faust rightly in Goethe's sense, also sees that deeper things lie behind. But everything that rests on study or might lead to a merely symbolic explanation is discouraged. The demand is that the explanation of Faust is to depend on the faithful discipleship which is aware of the spiritual experience which we may call ‘experience in the sense of the new Spiritual Science.’ ‘The true disciple of the newer symbolism’ is the commentator of Faust in Goethe's sense. Thus it is to be done by drawing direct from spirit-life; and Goethe no doubt here betrays that he has put something into it which made it possible for him to get away from old symbols and to coin new and independent symbols out of direct spirit-life. If we want to compare the presentation of the spiritual world in the two parts of ‘Faust,’ we might say that Part I presents to a large extent the fruits of knowledge — the outer influences on one who has dim ideas of the spiritual world, and who tries to enter it through reading all kinds of things and conducting all kinds of experiments. Part I contains this studied view of the supernatural world.

Part II contains experience, living experience, and if you understand rightly, you know that it can derive only from a personality which has learnt to know the reality of the spiritual, supernatural worlds behind the physical world. Truly, Goethe was consistent in his presentation, although some things in Part II are so dissimilar from Part I. What he had learnt in Part I, he experienced in Part II, he has seen it. He was in the spiritual, supernatural world: he indicates this, too, clearly enough, where in Part I he makes Faust say:

‘What says the Sage, now first I recognize:
 “The Spirit-world no closures fasten;
   Thy sense is shut, thy heart is dead:
   Disciple, up! untiring, hasten
   To bathe thy breast in morning-red!”‘

Scene I, p. 15.


Goethe can point — from personal knowledge — to what he sees who ‘bathes his breast in morning-red,’ in order to await the rising of the spiritual sun. We find in the whole of Part I — no doubt you realize it from yesterday's discourse — an energetic upward-striving of Faust the student, to this dawn, but we also find clearly indicated that the path is nowhere traversed in a satisfactory way. Now how does Part II begin? Is the advice of the wise man, ‘to bathe the breast in morning-red,’ carried out in one respect?

We find Faust ‘bedded on flowery turf, fatigued, restless, endeavouring to sleep,’ surrounded by spiritual beings. We find him withdrawn from all physical vision, veiled in sleep. Beings from the spiritual world are busy with his spirit, which is withdrawn from the physical world. Marvellously and forcefully we are told what direction Faust's soul takes in order to grow into the spiritual world. Then we are shown how his soul really does grow into that world which is described as the spiritual world in the ‘Prologue in Heaven,’ in Part I. Goethe says from deep experience what was always told the pupil in the School of Pythagoras, that he who enters the spiritual world is met by the secret music of the universe:

‘The sun-orb sings, in emulation,
 'Mid brother-spheres, his ancient round:
 His path predestined through Creation
 He ends with step of thunder-sound.’


This must be the music from the worlds of the spiritual life, if they are to be depicted as they are. What is said here of the ‘music of the spheres’ is not a poetic image, nor a metaphor, but a truth, and Goethe remains consistent to it, in that Faust, withdrawn from the physical world, now proceeds to grow, like an initiate, into that world from which this music comes. Therefore, in the scene where at the beginning of Part II Faust is withdrawn into the spiritual world, it is written again:

‘Hearken! Hark! — The Hours careering
 Sounding loud to spirit-hearing.
 See the new-born day appearing!
 Rocky portals jarring shatter,
 Phœbus' wheels in rolling clatter,
 With a crash the Light draws near!
 Pealing rays and trumpet-blazes —
 Eye is blinded, ear amazes:
 The Unheard can no one hear!’

Faust II, Act I.


Would that those people who think that they can understand a poem only if they can say ‘Such things must be taken as the poet's images, created by right of poetic licence’ — would that they would cease to call these things realistic. The physical sun makes no sound! It is the spiritual sun behind the physical which sounds in the ears of him who is entering the spiritual life. They are spiritual, not physical sounds. In this passage, again, we hear the sounds of thousands of years harmonizing. Unconsciously he who can follow the course of the human spirit through thousands of years will be reminded in this passage of some great words spoken thousands of years ago; words spoken by one who through his initiation knew that what appears to us as the physical sun is the expression of the sun-spirit and the sun-soul, as the physical human body is the expression of the human spirit and the human soul. He looked up to the spiritual sun and called it ‘Ahura Mazdao,’ ‘The great sun-aura.’ We are reminded of Zarathustra, who, looking thus at the sun, and feeling the world full of spirit, spoke the great and powerful words:

‘I want to speak! Listen to me, all ye who from far or near, desire to listen: Mark well, for He will be revealed. No more shall the False Teacher destroy the world — he who has professed evil faiths with his tongue. 1 shall speak of what is the highest in the world, what He, the Great, Ahura Mazdao, has taught me. Whosoever will not hear His Words, as I speak them, will suffer misery when the Earth-Cycle is fulfilled!’

Before the spiritual sun rises in the soul, the learner must bathe in the dawn which precedes it. Hence the words of the Wise Man: ‘Disciple, up! untiring hasten to bathe thy breast in morning-red!’ Does Faust, the disciple, do this?

After the spiritual beings which surrounded him had been busy with him while his soul was for a time withdrawn from his body, he awakes as a changed man. The soul has entered the body, so that he has a dim idea, or he bathes in the morning-red, of the rising sun of the spirit:

‘Life's pulses now with fresher force awaken
 To greet the mild ethereal twilight o'er me;
 This night, thou, Earth! hast also stood unshaken,
 And now thou breathest new-refreshed before me,
 And now beginnest, all thy gladness granting,
 A vigorous resolution to restore me,
 To see the highest life for which I'm panting. —
 The world unfolded lies in twilight glimmer,
 A thousand voices in the grove are chanting;
 Vale in, vale out, the misty streaks grow dimmer;
 The deeps with heavenly light are penetrated;
 The boughs, refreshed, lift up their leafy shimmer
 From gulfs of air where sleepily they waited;
 Colour on colour from the background cleareth,
 Where flower and leaf with trembling pearls are freighted,
 And all around a Paradise appeareth.’

Faust II, Act I.


Faust now feels also that he has awakened in that world, into which he has been translated during his unconsciousness, and he bathes his earthly breast in the morning-red. But it is only the beginning of the journey. He feels that he is at the gate of initiation, and thereupon he cannot yet bear the direct vision of the spiritual sun:

‘But if there burst from those eternal spaces
 A flood of flame, we stand confounded ever;
 For Life's pure torch we sought the shining traces,
 And seas of fire — and what a fire! — surprise us.’


Wherefore he sees at first the world of the spiritual — but still, as we shall see in a moment, as a symbol.

‘Behind me, therefore, let the sun be glowing!
 The cataract, between the crags deep-riven,
 I thus behold with rapture ever-growing.
 From plunge to plunge in thousand streams't is given,
 And yet a thousand, to the valleys shaded
 While foam and spray in air are whirled and driven.
 Yet how superb, across the tumult braided,
 The painted rainbow's changeful life is bending,
 Now clearly drawn, dissolving now and faded,
 And evermore the showers of dew descending!
 Of human striving there's no symbol fuller:
 Consider, and 't is easy comprehending —
 Life is not light, but the refracted colour.’

Faust II, Act I.


This is Faust bathing his earthly breast in the morning-red, in order to prepare himself to look straight at the spiritual sun, which rises at initiation.

Now Faust is to go into the great world with the gifts he has received as one approaching illumination. It might be thought remarkable that Faust is now transplanted to the Imperial Court, when he is in the midst of all kinds of masques and revels. All the same, these masques and pranks contain deep truths and are everywhere significant. It is not possible to enter upon this significance to-day. It will be in any case the task of this study to bring out only a few moments from the whole content of Part II of ‘Faust’ Many lectures would have to be given, if we wanted to throw light on everything. We shall say only this about the general idea of these Masque scenes: For a man who surveys human life with an enlightened eye, certain words will have a different meaning from what they have in ordinary external life. Such a man, steeping himself in the whole great course of human evolution, knows that such words as ‘Folk spirit’ (Volksgeist), ‘Time-spirit’ (Zeitgeist), are not mere abstractions. He sees in the spiritual world the true and real beings corresponding to what one ordinarily calls abstractly ‘Folk spirit and Time-spirit.’ [See Cycle XIII, Mission of the Folk-Souls, by R. Steiner.] Thus, since he has the vision, it is made clear to Faust as he enters the great world where decisions affecting the world are made from a Court, that in all these happenings there are supernatural powers at work. Outside in the physical world one can observe only individual people and the laws they have. In the spiritual world there are beings behind all that. Whereas people are under the impression that what they do is prompted by their own souls, and that they make their own resolutions, human acts and human thoughts are really pervaded and permeated by beings from the supernatural world — national spirits, time-spirits, and so on. People think they are free to make resolves, to think and to form ideas, but they are guided by spiritual beings behind the physical world. What men call their understanding, by which they believe they can control the course of time, is the expression of spiritual beings behind. Thus, the whole Masque, which is to have some meaning, becomes for Faust the expression of the fact that one can realize how in the course of world-events a part is played by powers originating in those beings which Faust met already in Part I, originating, in short, in Mephistopheles. Man is surrounded by such spiritual beings, towering above him. Thus Mephistopheles appears at the turn of the modern age as that being which prompts the human intellect to the discovery of paper money. And Goethe presents the whole affair with a certain humour: how the same spirit, the same intellect which in man is bound to the physical instrument of the brain, when inspired by the related spirit which lets nothing count but the physical, gives rise to such phenomena as can control the world — phenomena however which have an importance only for the physical world. In this way the deeper sense of development is indicated precisely in this Masque and mummery. But we are soon led out of the world which lies before us, where we are shown the part played by supernatural powers, and into the really spiritual world.

After it has been made rich, the Court wishes to be amused by the presentation of figures from ancient history. Paris and Helena are to be conjured up from the past. Mephistopheles, who belongs to those powers of the spiritual world which inspired the discovery of paper money, cannot penetrate to the worlds which give rise to the whole deeper development of men. Faust carries in him the soul and spirit which can penetrate these spiritual worlds. For he is the disciple who has bathed the earthly breast in the morning-red, and we are shown how Faust has already experienced something which can be looked upon as the first stage of clairvoyance — the stage completed by the clairvoyant when he has put his soul through the appropriate exercises. There are certain exercises which the student has to perform, in meditation, concentration, and so on, which are set him in occult-scientific symbols, in which he steeps himself, whereby the soul, withdrawing from the physical and etheric body, is transfigured in the night, as it at first becomes clairvoyant in the spiritual world. What is it that the student experiences here, when he has received the effect of those exercises?

The first stage of clairvoyance is something which can bring people to a condition of great confusion. We shall see best why this is if we look at what are sometimes called the ‘dangers of initiation.’

Living in the physical world of the senses, one sees the objects round one in sharp contours, outlined in space, and the human soul makes halt at or attaches itself to these firm outlines, which one finds everywhere, filling the soul when it gives itself to sense-phenomena. Now just imagine for a moment all these objects round you becoming misty, losing their contours, merging into each other, becoming like cloud-pictures. It is something like this in the world into which the clairvoyant enters after the first exercises have taken effect. For he arrives at what is behind the whole sense-world, what lies behind all matter, what gives rise to the sense-world. He arrives at the stage where the spiritual world first approaches him. If you think how, in the mountains, crystals form themselves out of their mother-substances into their shapes and lines, so is it, roughly, when the clairvoyant human being comes into the spiritual world. At first it all appears confusing if the student is not sufficiently prepared. But the figures of the physical world grow out of this chaotic world, like the crystal shapes out of their mother-substance. At first the spiritual world is experienced like the mother-substances of the physical world. Into this realm man enters by the gates of death. The images, indeed, will take on other, fixed shapes, when the clairvoyant is further developed, shapes which are interwoven with those outlines which exist in the spiritual world, and which resound with what we have called in the spiritual sense, the music of the spheres. The clairvoyant experiences this after a time, but at first it is all confusing. Still, into this realm enters man.

Now if the images of Helena and Paris are to be brought up, it must be from this world. Faust alone, who has bathed the earthly breast in the morning-red, and found the entrance to the spiritual world, can step into this world, Mephistopheles cannot. He can achieve only what the world of reason can achieve. He can go as far as the key that opens the spiritual realm. But Faust has the confidence and certainty that he will find there what he seeks: the everlasting, the permanent residue when the physical form of man is dissolved at death into its elements.

Now it is wonderful how we are told the way in which Faust is to descend into the spiritual realm. The introduction already shows us that the man who depicts it is well acquainted with the facts — as well as with the perceptions and feeling which come over anyone who really knows these things and does not merely play at them. It all stood in grand manner before Goethe's soul — all that exists of this world of feeling when the seed for initiation, described yesterday, was opened by a particular event.

He read a passage in Plutarch, where is described how the city of Engyium seeks an alliance with Carthage. Nicias, the friend of the Romans, is to be arrested. But he poses as a man possessed. The pro-Carthaginians want to seize him, but they hear these words from his mouth: ‘The Mothers, the Mothers press hard on me!’ That was a cry which in old times one heard only from a man who was in a condition of clairvoyance and withdrawn from the physical world. Nicias could be regarded either as a fool, as one possessed, or as a clairvoyant. But how could this be known? Because he said what those who had some knowledge of the spiritual world recognized. At the utterance of: ‘It is the Mothers who press hard on me!’ the citizens realize that he is not possessed, but inspired; that he can say something as a real witness which can be learnt in the spiritual world — and so he remains unmolested.

On reading this scene, there is released in Goethe's soul something which had been sown as the kernel of initiation already during his Frankfort period. He knew what it meant to penetrate into the spiritual world. Hence also the words put into the mouth of Faust, when Mephistopheles speaks of the ‘Mothers,’ Faust shudders. He knows what it means — that lie touches on a holy but forbidden kingdom, forbidden, that is, for him who is not sufficiently prepared. Mephistopheles, indeed knows also of this realm, that he may not enter it unprepared. Hence the words: ‘Unwilling I reveal a loftier mystery.’ Still, Faust must descend into this kingdom in order to bring to pass what has to be brought to pass — into this kingdom where one sees what is otherwise firm and solid in transfigurations of eternal being. Here the spiritual sense catches sight behind the physical forms of the sense-world of what penetrates into this sense-world to maintain in it its sharp outlines. And then Mephistopheles says, describing this realm as it appears to all who step into it:

                                        ‘Escape from the Created
 To shapeless forms in liberated spaces!
 Enjoy what long ere this was dissipated!
 There whirls the press like clouds on clouds unfolding.’


One cannot depict more vividly a real experience of a man truly initiated. The things ‘long ere this dissipated’ will be found in this world, when it is presented thus. ‘To shapeless forms of liberated spheres,’ i.e., into that realm where the forms of the sense-world are no more, where they do not exist, which is ‘liberated’ from them — there where ‘what long ere this was dissipated’ does exist — into this realm Faust is to betake himself. And when one reads ‘There whirls the press, like clouds on clouds unfolding,’ one recognizes again something which is characteristic in the highest degree. Let us think of the entry into the supernatural world as a gate. Before one enters, the soul has to be prepared by means of worthy symbols. One of these is taken from the appearance of the rising sun, and completes the image of bathing the earthly breast in the morning-red: the sun making a particular triangle round itself. The soul goes through this symbol and experiences its after-effects when it has passed through the gate, when it is within, in the spiritual world. Hence these effects: ‘There whirls the press, like clouds on clouds unfolding.’ Every word would be a living proof of what this scene is meant to be: Faust's penetration to the first stages of the supernatural world, which you find called the ‘imaginative world.’ When Goethe presented this, he was not obliged to compound a picture of the spiritual world from old Indian or Egyptian descriptions; he was able to put down quite realistically what he himself had experienced; and this he did.

Now Faust brings up the ‘glowing tripod,’ round which the Mothers sit, the sources of existence in the spiritual world. With its help Faust is able to conjure up Paris and Helena before men, and to present pictures from the spiritual world. It would lead too far to explain in detail the important symbol of the glowing tripod. We are concerned to show how a kind of initiation is really depicted in Part II of ‘Faust.’ But we see how carefully and correctly Goethe proceeds by the fact that he shows us the way into the spiritual world which he only who is worthy can tread slowly and with resignation. He shows us that Faust is not even yet worthy enough. Only he is worthy to enter the spiritual world who has put off everything that is connected with narrow personality so that no wishes or desires, arising from it, any longer exist. This is apparently to say little, but in truth it is saying a great deal. For usually between what is sought and what is to be achieved by the cancellation of all personal wishes and desires, there lies not only one human life, but many. Goethe shows with the certainty of knowledge that Faust is not yet worthy. Desire awakes in him; he wants to embrace Helena from a personal desire. Whereupon the whole thing collapses — it vanishes. He has committed a sin against the spiritual world. He cannot hold her. He must penetrate further into the spiritual world. And so we see him in the course of Part II going further on his way. We see him after being ‘paralysed by Helena’ again in another state of consciousness, withdrawn from the physical body and fallen into sleep; and how something happens around him which as it were clambers from the sense-world into the supersense-world. What this is shows us nothing other than that Faust, once again withdrawn from the physical world, experiences something which can only with full consciousness be experienced in the supersense-world. What he has now to go through is the complete growth of man. He must go through those mighty events which take place behind the scenes of the stage of the physical world, so that he really can behold what he wants to behold. Helena must be brought back again into the physical world, she must be reincarnated into a new body. When he brings back the merely imaginative image from the spiritual world the whole thing breaks down. He must go deeper. We see him now overcoming a second stage. In this state in which he is put we now see how the consciousness gradually lives upward from the sense-world into the supersense-world. This is done in a poetically masterly way. It is not a case of marvelling at the reality of it, for that is explained simply by the fact that Goethe depicts Part II of ‘Faust’ from his own experience. But the way is masterly in which Goethe represents the secret of Helena's becoming mortal, it is also poetic.

Whoever is acquainted with the elementary truths of Spiritual Science, knows that man, in assuming life on our earth, brings with him an eternal, spiritual part from quite other realms, that this spiritual part is combined below with the physical hereditary line, taken from the physical-sense-world and bequeathed finally by father and mother. On the whole — taking the various parts of man altogether without entering more precisely upon human nature — we may say that in man are combined something eternal and something earthly. The eternal part, going on from life to life, which descends from the spiritual world to be embodied in a physical form — this we call ‘spirit.’ And in order that this spirit can combine with physical matter, there must be an intermediate part, and this in terms of Spiritual Science is the soul. Thus spirit, soul and body are combined in the formation of a human being.

Now Faust with his increased consciousness is to experience how these parts of human nature combine. The spirit descends from spiritual spheres, gradually surrounds itself with the soul which is derived from the psychic world, and then draws the physical covering round itself in accordance with the laws of the physical world. If one knows the principle which attaches itself as ‘soul’ around the spirit, and often called by us the ‘astral body,’ if one knows what is between spirit and body, one has that intermediate member, which as it were binds together spirit and body.

The spirit Faust finds in the realm of the Mothers. He knows already where to look for it, whence it comes, when it betakes itself into a new embodiment. But he has yet to learn how the tie is formed, when the spirit comes into the physical world. And now we are shown in that remarkable scene, how, starting from the sense-world and touching the boundary of the supersense-world, the ‘Homunculus’ is produced in Wagner's laboratory. Mephistopheles himself has a hand in it, and we are told in spirited words that only the conditions of his creation are provided by Wagner. Thus this remarkable figure, the Homunculus comes into being, assisted as it were by the spiritual world. Much thought has been spent on this Homunculus. But thinking and speculating on such things lead nowhere. The problem who he is can be solved only by real creation out of Spiritual Science. To those who spoke of him in the Middle Ages he was no other than a definite form of the astral body.

This scene is not to be pictured in the sphere of sense — but in such a way that it must be thought of as quite removed into the spiritual world. You must follow all the events in Faust's condition of consciousness. The way in which the Homunculus is described in the subsequent scenes shows him to be really the representative of the astral body.

‘He has no lack of qualities ideal
 But far too much of palpable and real.’


That is the characteristic of the astral body, and he says of himself:

‘Since I exist, then I must active be.’


an astral figure, which cannot stay still, compelled to live in continuous activity. He must be taken away to those spheres, where he can actually combine spirit and body.

And now we see the creation of man, which Faust experiences, represented to us in the ‘Classical Walpurgis-Night.’ There we are shown the sum of all the powers and beings which are active behind the physical-sense-world, and spirits from the physical world are continually being interspersed, which have trained their souls so far that they have grown together with the spiritual world, and that they are at the same time conscious in the spiritual world. The two great philosophers Anaxagoras and Thales are figures of this kind. The Homunculus wishes to find out from them how one can come to be, how one can proceed to a physical form, when one is spiritual. All the figures which we see in this ‘Classical Walpurgis-Night’ are there to assist — figures of the realization of the astral body which is ready to enter the material, physical world. If one could follow it all exactly, every detail would be a proof of its meaning. The Homunculus seeks information from Proteus and Nereus as to how he can enter the physical world. He is shown how he can wrap himself in the elements of matter, and how the spiritual qualities are in him — viz., how the soul gradually betakes itself into the physical-sense elements — through that which has played its part in the realms of nature kingdoms. We are shown how the soul has to traverse again the states of the mineral, the plant and the animal realms, in order to rise to human shape:

‘On the broad ocean's breast must thou begin!’


that is, in the mineral realm; then you must go through the plant realm. Goethe, indeed, invents an expression for it, which does not otherwise exist. He makes the Homunculus say: ‘Es grunelt so:’ [Dictionary: grows green. – Ed.]

‘Here breathes and blows a tender air;
 And I delight me in the fragrance rare.’


It is pointed out to him what road he has to take till a physical body is formed by degrees round him. Finally comes the moment of love. Eros will complete the whole. Thales gives the advice:

‘Yield to the wish so wisely stated,
 And at the source be thou created!
 Be ready for the rapid plan!
 There, by eternal canons wending,
 Through thousand, myriad forms ascending,
 Thou shalt attain, in time, to Man.’


Then, when the Homunculus has entered upon the physical world, he loses his qualities, the ego becomes his master!

‘But struggle not to higher orders:
 Once Man, within the human borders,
 Then all is at an end with thee.’


So says Proteus — i.e., at an end with the astral body which has not yet penetrated into the human realm.

Goethe's whole theory of nature, with its relationship between all life, and its metamorphosic development from the incomplete to the complete appears here in the picture. The spirit can at first be only like a seed in the world. It must pour itself into matter, into the elements, and dive below in them, in order to assume from them a higher form. The Homunculus is shattered on Galatea's shell-chariot. He dissolves into the elements. It is a marvellous presentation of the moment when the astral body has enwrapped itself in a body of physical matter — and can now live as man.

These are experiences Faust goes through while he is in another state of consciousness, a condition outside the body. He is becoming gradually ready to behold the secrets lying behind physical-material existence. And now he is able to behold the spirit of Helena, from the realm of things ‘long ere this dissipated’ appearing in bodily shape before him. We have in Act 3 of Part II the re-embodiment of Helena. Goethe represents the idea of re-incarnation cryptically — as he had to in his day; how spirit, soul and body unite from the three realms, to form a human being — and before us stands the re-incarnated Helena.

We must of course remember that, since he is a poet, Goethe presents in pictorial form the experience of the clairvoyant consciousness. Wherefore we must not rush in with heavy-fisted criticism and ask: ‘Is Helena now really re-incarnated?’ We must keep in mind that a poet is speaking of what he has himself experienced in spiritual worlds.

In this way Faust, after having conquered a new stage of life, is able to experience harmony with what is ‘long ere this dissipated,’ the union with Helena. We see now how a being springs from the union of the human soul with the spiritual when the soul has raised itself up into higher worlds; a child of the spirit, subject not to the laws of the sense-world, but to the laws of the spiritual world: Euphorion. We shall understand what springs from the union of the raised spirit with the sense-world if we remember the previously-quoted passage from the proposed Epilogue of Mephistopheles-Phorkyas at the end of Act III, and if we realize that Goethe has in ‘Euphorion’ put in traits which belong to Byron, whom he much honoured. In doing so he may, after all, apply the laws of the spiritual world to it, since he is concerned with events in the spiritual world. And so Euphorion, though scarce conceived, may be already born and at once jump about and stir himself and say spirited things. Once more we see how strictly and conscientiously Goethe takes the entry into the spiritual world. In his aspiration for supernatural worlds, Faust is far beyond his present experiences. But even so he is not free from those powers from which he must liberate himself, if his soul is to unite completely with the spiritual world. He is not free from what Mephistopheles mixes into these spiritual experiences. Faust is what one calls a mystic, who — in the Helena-Euphorion scene — lives and moves completely in the spiritual world. But because he has not yet scaled the necessary step which makes him capable of being absorbed entirely by the spiritual world, so, once more, what he can experience in it escapes him: viz., Helena and Euphorion. What he had brought by his experience from the spiritual world eludes him yet again. He has become capable of living in the spiritual world, of experiencing Euphorion, the child of the spirit, who springs from the marriage between the human soul and the world-spirit — but it escapes him again and vanishes. Now there sounds from the depths a remarkable call. He is now like a mystic, stumbling for a time, one who has had a glimpse into the spiritual world and knows what it is like, but could not remain, and sees himself suddenly cast out again into the material world: he feels his soul to be the mother of what was born from the spiritual world, but what he has born sinks again into the spiritual world, and it is as if it were to call out to the soul itself:

‘Leave me here, in the gloomy Void,
 Mother, not thus alone!’


as if the human soul had to follow into the realm which has once more disappeared. Faust retains nothing more than Helena's robe and veil. The man who goes deeper into the meaning of such things, knows what Goethe meant with the ‘robe and veil;’ it is so exactly what remains when one has once peeped into the spiritual world and has then had to withdraw. There remains with one what is nothing else but the abstraction, the ideas, which stretch from epoch to epoch — nothing else but robe and veil of spiritual powers which endure from age to age.

So the mystic is again thrust out for a time and confined to his thoughts, like the intelligent historian, with everywhere robe and veil which carry him from age to age. These ideas are not unfruitful; for him who is limited to the sense-world, they are very much of a necessity. For him, who has already a feeling and an experience of the spiritual world, they contain another importance. They stand out dry and abstract for the man who in any case is an abstractionist, but the man who has once been touched by the spiritual world — even if he grasps only these abstract ideas — is carried by them through the world into quite another age, in which he can again experience something of the effect of the powers throughout the great world.

Faust is transplanted again into the world he once before experienced at the Court. He sees again how the beings, in whose deeds man is only embedded, play the chief part. He sees again how supernatural threads are spun, and how the same power which he knows as Mephistopheles helps to spin them. So his life passes once more from the sense-world into the super-sense — he learns how powers worm themselves into our sense-world which we see out there in the world of nature, how Mephistopheles leads, as it were, the spirits behind the forces of nature on to the battlefield: ‘Hill-folk,’ he calls them. The powers behind the material world are represented as if the hills themselves bring their people into the war. But here is a life that stands on a subordinate plane. This participation of a world that lies below the realm of man, though directed by spiritual forces, is here plainly depicted. There follows, grandly shown, the description of the part played by the historical forces, which are real forces for the spiritual spectator. Out of the old armouries and storerooms where lie the old helmets, come those beings of whom the abstractionist would say they are ‘historical ideas’ — of whom, however, he who can look into it knows that they live in the spiritual world. And we see how Faust in his higher state of consciousness is led to the great powers in history, we see these powers of history arise and being led into the field. Faust's consciousness is to be raised still higher. The whole world must appear to him spiritualized — all the events we see around us, which the ordinary abstractionist describes only with his understanding, for being limited to a physical brain, he imagines he has done everything when he describes the externals. But all this is connected, and is guided and directed by supernatural beings and forces.

When man's life is carried in this way to spiritual heights, he discovers the whole might of that which is to drag him down again into the material world. He gets to know in a remarkable manner him whom he has not quite got to know before. So it is now with Faust. He stands now at an important point in his inner development: he has to complete the journey: Mephistopheles is involved in everything he has seen up to now. He can be free from Mephistopheles — from those spiritual forces which bind man to the sense-world, and try to prevent his liberation — only when he accosts Mephistopheles as the Tempter. There where the world with its realms, nature and history with its spirituality confront Faust, he experiences something in which the man who understands these things can without difficulty recognize from what depths Goethe spoke. The ‘Tempter,’ who would drag man down when he has risen a certain way into the spiritual world, comes to man and tries to give him false feelings and sensations concerning what he sees in the supernatural world. The approach of the Tempter to man is presented in the grand manner. He is the same who came to the Christ and promised him all the kingdoms of the world and their glories.

Something like this happens to the man who has entered into the spiritual world. He is promised by the Tempter the world with all its glories.

What does this mean? Nothing else than that he may not believe that anything of this world could still belong to his narrow egoism. That all personality with its egoistic wishes and desires must be thrust away, that the ‘Tempter’ must be overcome, Goethe points out through Mephistopheles in such a way that it may be a touchstone for us of what his meaning is:

‘Yet now, with sober season to address thee,
 Did nothing on our outside shell impress thee?
 From this exceeding height thou saw'st unfurled
 The glory of the Kingdoms of the World.’

(Matt. 4.)


One might say that Goethe points out with these words, more than clearly enough for those who refuse to understand, what he really intends, in order to represent also this important stage in the spiritual growth of man. Then Faust succeeds in so far overcoming the egoism of persona! wish and desire, that he dedicates all his activity to that piece of land with which he has been enfeoffed. He does not desire possession of this land — he does not desire fame — nothing of all that — he wants only to devote himself to work for other people:

‘Stand on free soil among a people free!’

We must take these words to mean that personal egoism gradually departs from the human soul. For no one who has not overcome this personal egoism, can really reach the last stage, which Goethe still wants to depict. So he shows Faust at the point where the garments of human personal egoism fall away like scales, where Faust gives himself absolutely to the spiritual, where in fact all the frippery of fame and external honours in the world are nothing more to him. But one thing Faust has not even yet overcome. And again we see from a spiritual point of view deep, deep into Goethe's heart, as he now describes what happens next.

Faust has become a selfless man up to a point. He has learnt what it means to say: ‘The act is all, the glory is nothing.’ He has learnt to say: ‘I desire to be active. My activity must flow out into the world — I will have nothing as reward for this activity!’ But in one small incident it is revealed that his egoism has not completely disappeared. On his wide territories there stands an old cottage on rising ground, in which lives an old couple, Philemon and Baucis. In all things Faust's egoism has disappeared, except with regard to this cottage. Here there is a last remnant of egoism which speaks in his soul. What he could do with this rising ground! He could stand up there and survey at a glance the fruits of his labour — and rejoice at what he had accomplished! That is a last bit of egoism, the enjoyment in a physical survey. Gratification in a commanding material view, that remains to him still. He must get beyond. Nothing of desire and comfort, i.e., of direct surrender to the outer world, with which egoism is connected, may remain in his soul. And once more we see Faust in touch with spiritual forces. In the ‘Midnight’ scene, enter four Grey Women. They come up near to him. Three of them, Want, Guilt and Necessity cannot do anything to him, but now something emerges which belongs to the experiences of the Way of Initiation. Along the Way of Initiation there is a secret connection between all that a man's egoism can make him do and that attitude of soul which is expressed by the word ‘Care.’ In that man who is far enough to look selflessly into the spiritual world, there is no care. Care is the companion of egoisms. And as little as some can perhaps believe that when Care is present, egoism has not disappeared, so true is it that on the long, self-denying path into the spiritual world, egoism must completely vanish. If man steps into the spiritual world and brings with him into it any trace of egoism, Care comes and reveals itself as a disturbing power. Here we have something of the dangers of initiation. In the material world, the kindly powers of the spiritual world take care to see that the power of Care cannot thus come near human beings. But the moment they grow together with the spiritual world, and learn to know powers which are at play there, such things as Care become disturbing forces. Some things may have been overcome by means of the keys which lead into the spiritual world, but Care slips through all key-holes. To be sure, if man is far enough, and faces Care bravely, Care becomes a power that can remove from him this last remnant of egoism. Faust goes blind. Why? He goes blind because the power of the last bit of egoism remaining in him is cancelled by the power of Care. The last possibility of personal enjoyment is removed. It gets darker and darker all round. Now his soul feels the last remnant of egoism when he has ordered the cottage to be pulled down, from whose site the selfish pleasure of satisfaction in his work could have been derived.

‘But in my inmost spirit all is light!’

Now Faust's soul belongs to that world over which Care and all the disturbing elements which vex the body have no power, and he experiences what those about to be initiated into the spiritual world experience. He takes part as an outside observer, in events which he does not experience in the physical world, his own death and burial. He looks down from the spiritual world upon the physical world and upon all that happens to him as if it were another. The events concern now only those powers which are in the physical world.

It would take us far to explain how Goethe now makes the ‘Lemures’ appear, which consist only of sinews and bones, so that they have no soul; they represent man at the stage before he has received a soul. But Faust himself is carried into the spiritual world. We see Mephistopheles fighting a last battle for Faust's soul — a significant and remarkable battle. If one were to divide this battle up into its details one would see what a deep knowledge of the spiritual world Goethe had.

There lies the dying Faust. Mephistopheles fights for the soul. He knows that this soul can leave the body at several places. Here there is much to be learnt by those who read in one or other handbook how the soul leaves the body. Goethe is further. He knows that it is not always the same place, but that the soul's departure from the body in death depends entirely on the state of development of the person. He knows that the soul, while in the body, receives a shape corresponding to the body only because of the elastic power of love. Mephistopheles believes Faust's soul to be ready for the Kingdom of darkness. In that case it could have only the shape he describes as a ‘hideous worm.’ When a soul has given itself to its own powers, it can have only a shape expressing its virtues or vices. If Faust's soul were ripe for the Kingdom of darkness, its shape would have been as Mephistopheles thought. But now it is developed and is carried away, because its virtues are such as correspond to the spiritual world and spiritual worlds take possession of it.

Next we meet those people who are, so to speak, the connecting units between the physical and the spiritual world, who stand as initiates in the physical world and range with their spirit into the spiritual world: supernatural men of experience and observers — so they are introduced to us. Goethe tells in his poem that he has inscribed as ‘Symbolum’ how two voices resound out of the spiritual world:

‘Still call from beyond
 The voices of spirits,
 The voices of masters:
 To exercise fail not
 The powers of goodness.’


Here also Goethe is consistent with his knowledge. He represents the spirits which are not incarnate in the material world. But first he represents those to whom the name ‘Masters’ is often applied, who are incarnate in the material world. He represents them in the garb which was the handiest in his day, as ‘Pater Ecstaticus,’ ‘Pater Seraphicus,’ and ‘Pater Profundus.’ Concerning this he said to Eckermann: ‘In any case you will allow that the ending, where the rescued soul rises to heaven, was very difficult to do, and that I might have easily lost myself in vagueness with such supernatural, scarcely guessable things, unless I gave my poetic intentions a delimiting form and firmness by means of the sharply-outlined, ecclesiastical figures and ideas.’

Whoever heard here the lectures on ‘Christian Initiation’ will recognize again to what extent Goethe was initiated into those things.

Thus Faust's soul rises through the regions, through which those souls have passed which have grown accustomed to the spiritual world and are active in it, and assist in bringing other souls into it. And then we see how Goethe lays down, so to speak, his ‘credo’ — that ‘credo’ which marks him as a member of that spiritual-scientific stream, which has also so often been spoken of here, especially in the lecture ‘Where and how does one find the Spirit’ [15th October, 1908, Berlin.] in which an example was given of how man ‘lives’ himself into the spiritual world. There was mentioned the ‘black Cross with the red roses.’ Powers are awakened in the soul when man yields himself to this ‘Cross of roses,’ which represents in the black cross the sinking down of the sense world and in the red roses the blossoming up of the spiritual world. It represents what the abstract words say:

‘And until thou this thing hast,
 This death and birth,
 Thou art but a sorry guest
 On the dark earth.’


What man attains through spiritual understanding, through the power of the red roses, Goethe was well aware, and he confesses it: the red roses fall down from the spiritual world, as the immortal part of Faust is taken up. And so we see how Goethe really shows us the path of the human soul into the spiritual world.

Some things could be presented only sketchily. For there is something peculiar about this ‘Faust’ of Goethe: it becomes deeper and even deeper, the more one grows into it, and only then one learns what Goethe can become for humanity. One learns to recognize what he will one day become, if Spiritual Science or Anthroposophy will illuminate Goethe's esoteric poetry, where he speaks of the spiritual world from his own experiences. Goethe depicts realistically what he knows to be facts of the spiritual world. This second Part of Faust is a realistic Poem — closed of course to those who do not know that the spiritual worlds are realities. [See Rudolf Steiner's Spiritual Scientific Elucidation of Goethe's Faust, Vols. I and II, in course of translation (1933).] What we have are not ‘symbols,’ but only a poetic clothing up of quite realistic, albeit supernatural events, such as the soul experiences when it becomes one with the world that is its original home; when it feels itself possessed, not of knowledge which is only an abstraction, a growing together with sense observation or abstract understanding, but of knowledge which is a real fact of the spiritual world. Certainly one will for a long time yet be far from an understanding of Goethe's ‘Faust;’ for one will first have to learn the language of ‘Faust’ if one wants to get inside it. One can take up commentary after commentary: not only once are the words explained by otherwise quite clever people. As Wagner sees the ‘Homunculus’ sprouting in the retort, he says — (you can read in commentaries what his words are supposed to mean):

‘'Twill be! the mass is working clearer!
 Conviction [Uberzeugung.] gathers, truer, nearer!’


I say it as wrongly as all those since Goethe have said, who make it mean that Wagner has the conviction that the Homunculus will come into being: ‘The conviction in Wagner is working clearer!’ And the explainers of ‘Faust’ imagine they can ladle out the whole of its depth with such trivialities! Certainly our age, which has also another word coined by Goethe in its mouth, viz. ‘superman,’ without grasping its deeper meaning, could not explain these words otherwise. Their true meaning, however, is this: that which is conceived in the physical world is a ‘conception’ (‘Zeugung ‘); that which is conceived here in the astral world is a ‘super-conception,’ (Uberzeugung — conviction). One has first to learn how to read Goethe, when like all great minds, he makes his own words. Then one will be able to measure the whole earnestness, out of which the Faust arose. Then one will, above all, not commit the triviality of understanding the final words of Faust to mean by ‘eternal-feminine,’ something which has to do with the feminine in the sense-world.

The ‘eternal-feminine’ is that power in the soul which lets itself be fertilized by the spiritual world, and thereby grows together in its clairvoyant and magical deeds with the spiritual world. What can be fertilized there is this ‘eternal-feminine’ in every human being, which draws him up to the spheres of the eternal; and Goethe has depicted in Faust this course of growth of the eternal feminine into spiritual worlds.

Look round in the physical world: we really see everything properly for the first time, when we see in it, not the true reality, but a symbol of eternity. This eternity is experienced by the soul when it passes the gates into the spiritual world. There it experiences what can be explained in matter-of-fact sense terms, if they are used in a quite special way. On this point Goethe has also expressed himself — and as a great warning for all who of set opinion insist in abstractions concerning something or other. In two successive poems Goethe has expressed, like a great exhortation to mankind, that when someone speaks of a thing in the spiritual world, he can express it in diametrically opposite views. In the first poem he says:

‘The eternal must persist through all:
 For into nothing all must fall
 If it insists in being.’


While he here gives utterance to the thought of his ‘eternal flux’ philosophy, he says immediately afterwards in the next poem:

‘No being can to nothing fall,
 Eternity persists in all,
 Rejoice in that thou art.’


While the opposite thoughts of the sense-world are used as the contrasted reflexions of the super-sense world, the latter cannot be described in terms of the former. Material words are always insufficient when used in a special sense.

So we see how Goethe, while representing the ‘indescribable’ from the most diverse sides, causes it to be done before the eyes of the spirit. What is ‘unattainable’ for the material world is within the reach of spiritual vision, if the soul schools itself in that part which can be developed by means of the powers which Spiritual Science can give it. It is not for nothing that Goethe makes that work in which he has exposed the most exquisite and richest of his experiences, ring forth in a ‘Chorus Mysticus,’ which of course must contain nothing trivial. For in this Chorus Mysticus he points out to us how that which is indescribable in material words is done, when the language of imagery is used: how the soul, by means of the eternal womanhood in it is drawn into the spiritual world.

‘All things transitory
 But as symbols are sent:
 Earth's insufficiency
 There grows to Event:
 The Indescribable,
 Here it is done:
 The Woman-Soul [Ewig-Weibliche; the Eternal Feminine.] leadeth us
 Upward and on!’


In such words could Goethe speak of the way to the spiritual world. In such words could he speak of the powers of the soul, which when developed, lead mankind step by step into the spiritual world.

End Sheet Diagram





Last Modified: 15-Nov-2017
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