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The Problem of Faust

Schmidt Number: S-3310

On-line since: 15th September, 2014

Lecture II

The Romantic Walpurgis-Night

10th December, 1916
Dornach

I should like, my dear friends, to make a few remarks about the Walpurgis-night performed yesterday, which we shall be playing again tomorrow, because it seems to me important to have a correct idea of how this Walpurgis-night fits in with the whole development of the Faust poem. It is indeed remarkable that, having brought such calamity upon Gretchen — her mother killed herself with a sleeping-draught, her brother coming into his end through the fault of Faust and Gretchen — Faust should then flee, leaving Gretchen completely in the lurch, and knowing nothing himself of what is happening.

An incident of this kind has naturally made no small impression on those who have studied the Faust poem with most sympathy. I will read you what was said on the subject by Schröer would certainly studied Faust with great warmth of heart. (You will find a note on Schröer in my recent publication Riddles of Man.) He says concerning the “Walpurgis-Night”:

“We are to suppose of Faust urged on by Mephistopheles, has fled, leaving Gretchen behind in misery. Her mother was dead, her brother killed. Close upon all this followed her confinement. She lost her reason, drowned her child, and wandered around until she was arrested and thrown into prison. Although Faust could not have known what befell Gretchen after Valentine's death, yet he had parted from her in circumstances that make it appear very unnatural to see him now, two days after, strolling — as it appears in the text — at his ease on the Brocken. It is obvious, however that the Walpurgis-night was not written in close coordination with the poem as a whole. The poet is clearly no longer in a prophetic vein, but attacks his subject with a touch of irony. The underlying idea of linking this scene with the whole is quite clear. Mephistopheles takes Faust away to the Brocken to bewilder him and make him forget Gretchen. But the love in Faust is stronger than Mephistopheles can understand. The witch-apparitions did not attract him; in the midst of the frenzied confusion the image of Gretchen rises before him — this thought certainly does not arise with sufficient insistence in the whole Walpurgis-night take too great a place in relation to the dramatic action. It grew to an independent whole becoming all the more excessive by reason of the addition of the Walpurgis-night dream. This of course applies only to the Walpurgis-night as part of the tragedy.”

Thus, even a man having a real love for Faust cannot explain to his own satisfaction how it comes about that, two days after the calamity, Faust is to be seen full of vigour walking with Mephistopheles on the Brocken.

Now I should like your here to set against against this, something purely external — that the Walpurgis-night belongs to the most mature part of Goethe's Faust. It was written in 1800–1. As a quite young man Goethe began to write his Faust, so for that we may go back to the beginning of the seventies of the 18th century — 1772, 1773, 1774; it was then he began to write the first scenes. In 1800 or so he was all that older and had passed the great experiences, recorded, for instance, in the story of the Green Snake and the Beautiful Lily written before the Walpurgis-night that he now adds to his Faust. The Walpurgis-night dream was actually written a year earlier than the Walpurgis-night itself. We may therefore slows that Goethe took it very seriously the fitting of the Walpurgis-night mysteries into Faust. But the difficulty of understanding can never be overcome unless we bear in mind that Goethe's meaning was really of a spiritual nature.

I have a pretty considerable knowledge of the commentaries on Faust written up to the year 1900, but not so much of those that were later; but up to 1900 I know them almost all, though since that time, I have not gone so deeply into what has been written on the subject. This I do know, however, that no one has taken it from a spiritual point of view. It may be objected, no doubt, that is asking too much of us to suppose that, two days after such a great misfortune, Faust should have gone off on a ramble in this carefree way. But Goethe was really not the commonplace, imperturbable Monist he is often pictured; he was a man, as the details of this Walpurgis-night themselves show, deeply initiated into certain spiritual connections. Anyone familiar with these connections, can see that there is nothing dilettante about the Walpurgis-night; everything in it shows deep knowledge. To speak rather trivially, you can see that there is something behind it, that it is not an ordinary poem but written out of understanding for what is spiritual. Anyone with the certain knowledge, can easily judge by details whether realities are spoken of, whether a poet's description is the result of spiritual understanding, or whether he is just thinking out something about spiritual worlds and their connections — for instance, the world of witches. One must cultivate a little observation in such matters.

I will tell you a simple story — I could tell you hundred of the same time — to illustrate how it can be seen from details whether, in what one is dealing with, there is anything behind. It goes without saying that sometimes one may be mistaken; it depends on the way the matter is presented.

I was once in a gathering of theologians, historians, poets, and so on. In this assembly the following story was told. (This was all long ago, nearly thirty years, in the eighties of the 19th century). Once in a church in Paris a Canon was preaching in a very fanatical way against superstition. He would only concede that what the Church conceded. Above all he wished to prevent people from believing things that were objectionable to him in particular. Now this Canon in his fanatical sermon tried to convince his hearers that Freemasonry was a very evil thing. (Catholic clergy, you know, very often preach about Freemasonry and its potential dangers). He now only wished to maintain that it is a very reprehensible doctrine, and that those connected with that are thoroughly bad men. He would not allow that there was anything spiritual and many of such brotherhoods. Now, a man is listening to those who had been taken there by a friend, and it seemed to him very strange that the Canon of a great community should be speaking thus to a large congregation, for he himself believed that spiritual forces do work through such societies. The two friends waited for the preacher after the sermon and discussed the matter with him. He, however, fanatically persisted in his opinion that all this had nothing to do with what is spiritual, but Freemasons were just evil men with a very evil doctrine. Then one of the two, who knew something about the matter said: I suggest, your reverence, that you should come with me at a fixed time next Sunday. I will put you in the private seat in a certain lodge, from which you can watch what is going on unseen. The preacher said: very well. But may I take sacred relics with me? — he was beginning, you see, to be frightened! So he took the relics with him and was led to the place where he could sit in concealment. At a given signal he beheld a very strange-looking individual with a pale face moving towards the presidential chair, and he moved without putting one foot before the other, but making himself glide forward. — this was all described very exactly in the man continued: now he set his relics to work, pronounced the blessing, and so on, so that there immediately arose a great disturbance in the assembly, and hold me was broken up.

Afterwards, a very progressive priest, a theologian, who is present, declared that he simply did not believe in the thing, and another priest alleged that he had heard in Rome that ten priests there had taken an oath vouching for the Canon's veracity. But first priest replied: I would rather believe that ten priests had taken a false oath then that the impossible is possible. Then I said: the way in which it was told is enough for me. For the way it was, was the important thing with regard to the gliding.

You meet with this gliding in the Walpurgis-night also; Gretchen, when she again appears, also glides along. Thus with Goethe even such a detail is relevant. And every detail is presented in this way, nothing is irrelevant from a spiritual point of view.

What is it then we are dealing with? We are dealing with something which shows that, for Goethe, the question was not whether it would be natural for Faust, two days after the catastrophe, to be going for a pleasant country ramble on the Brocken. No, what we are dealing with is a spiritual experience coming to Faust during Walpurgis-night, an experience he could not avoid which came to him as the definite result of the shattering events through which he had passed. We must realize, therefore, that his soul has been snatched out of his body, and has found Mephistopheles in the spiritual world. And it is in the spiritual world that they wandered together to the Brocken, that is to say, they meet with those who are also out of their bodies when they go to the Brocken; for naturally the physical body of those who make this journey remains in bed.

In the days when such things were intensively practiced, those who wished to make this journey to the Brocken (the time for it is the night of April 30) rub themselves with a certain ointment whereby — as otherwise in sleep — the complete separation of the astral body and ego is brought about. In this way the Brocken journey is carried out in spirit. It is an experience of a very low type, but still experience that can be carried out. No one need think, however, that he can obtain information about the mixing of the magic ointment any more easily than he can obtain it about the way in which van Helmont, by rubbing certain chemicals into parts of the body, has contrived consciously to leave it. This leaving of the body has happened to van Helmont. But this kind of thing is not recommended to those who, like Franz in Hermann Barr's Ascension, [See lecture 10th December, 1916. Also Cycle XLIII, Lecture 3] find it too tedious to do the exercises and to carry out the affair in the correct way. I know well that many would consider themselves lucky were methods of this kind to be divulged to them!

Well then, my dear friends, Faust, that is, Faust's soul, and Mephistopheles, on the night of April 30, actually find themselves together with a company witches also outside their bodies. This is a genuine spiritual occurrence, represented by Goethe out of his deep knowledge. Goethe is not merely showing how one may have a subjective vision; to him it is clear that when a man leaves his body he will meet with other souls who have left theirs. Mephistopheles indicates this conclusively when he says:

In the realm of dreams and glamour
as it seems we now have entered.

They have actually entered another realm, they have entered the soul-world and there meet with other souls. And we naturally find them within this world as they have to be in accordance with the after effects of their physical life. Faust has to go back into his physical body. So long as the conditions are there are for man to go back into his physical body, that is, while he is not physically dead, so long does he bear about with him, on going out with his astral body, certain inclinations and affinities belonging to his physical existence. Hence, what Faust says is quite comprehensible, that is, how he is enjoying the Spring air of the April night just passing into May; naturally he is perfectly conscious of it since he is not entirely separated from his body, but only temporarily outside it. When a man is outside his physical body, as Faust was here, he can perceive all that is fluid and all that is of an airy nature in the world, though not what is solid. Of solid things he can only perceive the fluid in them. Man is more than 90% fluid, a column of fluid, and has in him quite a small percentage of what is solid. Thus you need not imagine that when outside he is unable to see another man; he can only see, however, what is fluid in him. He can perceive nature too, for nature is saturated with fluid. All that is here pictured that shows deep knowledge. Faust can perceive in this way. But Mephistopheles, that is Ahriman, as an Ahrimanic being has no understanding of the present earth; he belongs relate to what has lagged behind, and hence he feels no particular pleasure in the Spring. You remember how I explained to you in one of my last lectures that in winter a man can remember what is connected with the Moon. But what is connected with the present moon, now that it is Earth-moon, does not particularly appeal to him. What has to do with the Moon, that unites itself with the former Moon-element, when fiery, illuminating forces issued from the Earth — that is man's element; the Will-o'-the-wisps, issuing from the moon element still in the Earth, it is in accordance with the exact truth.

I draw your attention in passing to the fact that the first part of the manuscript of the Walpurgis-night is not clear owing to some negligence; in these editions there is everywhere something almost impossible. It did not occur to me until we were rehearsing that corrections would be needed even in the Walpurgis-night. In the first place., in these copies, the alternated song between Faust, Mephistopheles and the Will-o'-the-wisps, the alternate singing and the alternate dancing, are not assigned to the several characters. Now the learned people have made various distributions that, however, do not fit the case. I have allotted it all in such a way that what we so often find given to Faust belongs to Mephistopheles:

“In the realm of dreams and glamour,
As it seems, we now are entered.
Lead us truly through the clamor (this is said to the will-o'-the-wisps)
Thither where our aims are centered
Through the wide and desert spaces.”

Even in Schröer's version I find this given to Faust, but it really belongs to Mephistopheles — as it was spoken, you will remember yesterday. What comes next lost to the Will-o'-the-wisps:

“Lo now! Lo! how swiftly races
Tree past tree! How the gigantic
Crags lean over, and the antic
Rocky snouts that stand in cluster
Now they snort and how they bluster!”

Then it is Faust's turn where reference is made to these things remind him of the shattering experience he has passed through:

“Through the stones and turf what lustre,
Stream and streamlet downward springing.
Hark! ’tis murmurs! Hark! ’tis singing.
Hark! ’tis love-plaints sweet and olden,
Voices from yon-days all golden!
All our hope, and love and longing
Echo, too, like tales once told in
Far-off times, comes faintly ringing.”

Then, strangely enough even Schröer assigns what comes next Mephistopheles: it belongs, of course, to the Will-o'-the-wisp:

Woo hoo! shoo-hoo! nearer hover
Cry of screech-owl, jay and plover.” (and so on)

Schröer gives these lines to Mephistopheles, that is obviously wrong. That last lines should go to Faust:

“Nay, but tell me, are we biding
Still, or are we onward riding?
Cliffs and green trees are sliding,
Will-o'-the-wisps their number doubles,
Blown up like transparent bubbles.
All in giddy whirls are gliding.”

I will here point out that there are still mistakes in what follows. Thus after Faust has spoken the words:

“Now through the air the wind doth howl and hiss,
And with what buffets beats upon my shoulder!”

You will find a long speech given to Mephistopheles. But it does not belong to him (though assigned to him in all editions). Only the first three lines are his:

“Clasp thou the cliffs old ribs! Cling to the boulders!
Else will it hurl thee headlong into the deep abyss!
The night is thick with rack.”

The lines following are Faust's:

“Hark how the groaning woods do crack.
Startled fly the solemn owls ...” (and so on).

Not until the final line does Mephistopheles speak again:

“... Hearest thou voices o'er us?
Far and dear that sing in chorus
All the magic mount along
Wildly streams the wizard song.”

This had to be corrected, for things must stand in their right form. Then I have taken upon myself to insert just one line. For there are some things, especially where witches are concerned, that really cannot be put on the stage, and so have thought fit to introduce a line that does not actually belong.

Now I must admit that it has distressed me a good deal to see how corrupt the rendering is in all the editions and how it has occurred to no one to apportion the passages correctly. It must be kept clearly in mind that Goethe wrote Faust bit by bit, and that much in it naturally needs correction, (he himself called it the confused manuscript). But the correction must be done with knowledge. It is not Goethe, of course, who is to be corrected, but the mistakes made publication.

From what has been said it will be clear that Mephistopheles makes use of the Will-o'-the-wisp's as a guide, and that they go into a world that is seen to be fluctuating, in movement, as it would be perceived were everything solid away. Now enter into all that that is said there. How much real knowledge is shown in the way all that is solid is made to disappear! How all this is in tune with what is said by the Will-o'-the-wisp, Mephistopheles and Faust, as being represented by Goethe as out of the body. Mephistopheles indeed has no physical body, he only assumes one; Faust for the moment is not in his physical body; Will-o'-the-wisps are elemental beings who naturally, since it is solid, cannot take on the physical body. All this that proceeds in the alternated song shows that he wishes to lead us into the essential being of the supersensible, not into something merely visionary but into the very essence of the spiritual world.

But mow our attention is drawn to how, when we are thus in the spiritual, everything looks different; for in all probability any ordinary onlooker would not see Mammon all aglow in the mountain, nor the glow within it. It is hardly necessary to explain that all here described shows that the soul pictured is outside the body. It is a real relation then between spiritual beings that we are shown, in the Goethe lets us see what unites him with knowledge of the spiritual world. That Goethe could placed Mephistopheles so relevantly into his poem at all, proves that he has knowledge of these matters and that he knew perfectly well that Mephistopheles is a being who has lagged behind. Hence he actually introduces other retarded beings of that ilk. Notice this — a voice comes:

“Which way, comest thou here?”

A voice from below answers (and this means a voice proceeding from a being with sub-human instincts):

Over the Ilsensteep.
In the owlet's nest I took a peek
She had eyes like moons!”

Voice: to hell with a wanion!
Why so hot-foot thou run yon?

Voice: She hath well-nigh flayed me!
See the wounds she hath made me!

Now notice that later the answers given by a voice above.

“Come with us, come, from the Felsenmere.”

Voices from below: “We would climb with you the mountain sheer.”

Voice from above: “Who calls from out the rocky cranny?”

And then we hear the voice of one who has clambered for three hundred years. That means that Goethe calls up spirits who are three hundred years behind. The origin of Faust lies three hundred years back; the Faust legend arose in the sixteenth century. The spirits left behind from that time appear, mingling now with those who come to the Brocken as witches in the present — for these things must be taken literally. Thus Goethe says: Oh, there are many such souls with us still, souls akin to the witch souls, for they are three hundred years behind. Since everything in the Walpurgis-night is under the guidance of Mephistopheles, it would be possible for young Mephistopheles beings to appear among the witch-souls. And then comes a present-day half witch, for the voice that earlier cried:

“Take me with you, take me up!
Three hundred years I've clambered zealous.”

is not that of a half-witch but of a being who is really three hundred years old. The witches are not as old as that although they go to the Brocken. — The half-witch comes slowly trotting up the mountain. Here then we meet something genuinely spiritual, something that has overcome time, that has remained behind in time. Many of the words are positively wonderful. Thus, one voice, the voice of the one who has been clambering for three hundred years, says:

“Yet I cannot reach the top.
Fain would I be beside my fellows!”

In these words Goethe very beautifully expresses how the witch-souls and the souls belonging to the dead who, in like manner, have remained so very much behind, are akin. These souls remaining behind would fain be with their fellows — very interesting!

Then we see how all the time Mephistopheles tries to keep Faust to the commonplace, the trivial; he tries to keep him among the witches' souls. But Faust wants to learn the deeper secrets of existence, and therefore wants more, wants to go farther; he wishes to get to what is really evil, to the sources of evil:

“Up yonder, though, I'd rather be!
The smoke with lurid splendour lit
Rolls on. The crowd streams to the devil,
What riddles there one might unravel!

For this deeper element Faust is seeking in Evil, Mephistopheles has no understanding; he does not want to take even faust there because there things will naturally become rather — painful. It is all very well to be taken to the witches as a soul; but when a man like Faust, having been received into this company, goes still farther towards evil, he may discover things highly dangerous to many. For, in Evil, is revealed the source of much that the witches should be burnt. for although no one need practise witchcraft, yet by reason of the existence of witches and their being used to a certain extent for their mediumistic qualities, by certain people wishing to fathom various secrets, if their mediumistic powers went far enough the source of much that is in the world could be brought to light. Things were not allowed to go to these lengths, hence the witches were burnt. It was definitely to the interest of those who burned witches, that nothing could be divulged of what comes to light when those experienced in such matters probe deeper into with secrets. Such things can only be hinted at. The origin of all sorts of things would have been discovered — no one who had not this to fear has been in favour of burning witches.

But, as we have said, Mephistopheles wishes to keep Faust more to trivialities. And then Faust becomes impatient, for he had thought of Mephistopheles as a genuine devil, who would not practice trifling magic arts upon him but, once he was out of his body, would take him right into Evil. Faust wants Mephistopheles to show himself as the Devil, not as a commonplace magician able to lead him only to what is trifling in the spiritual world. But Mephistopheles shirks this and is only willing to lead him to the trivial. It is exceedingly interesting to notice how Mephistopheles turns aside from actual Evil; that is not to be disclosed to Faust at this stage, and he directs his attention once more to the elemental. The following is a wonderful passage:

“See where yon snail comes creeping
She with her groping face hath nosed
Some inkling of ny secret out.”

Wonderfully to the point is this jolt down into the sphere of smelling! It is actually the case that in the world into which Mephistopheles has led Faust, smelling plays a bigger part than seeing. Her ‘groping face’ — a wonderfully vivid expression, for it is not the same sense of smell as men have, neither is it a face; it is as if one could send out something from the eyes to touch things with delicate rays. It is true, the lower animals have something of the kind, for the snail not only has feelers, but these feelers lengthen themselves into extraordinarily long etheric stalks with which an animal of this kind can really touch anything soft, but only touch it etherically. Think what deep knowledge this all is — in no way dilettante.

And now they come to a lively club. We are still in the spiritual world, of course, and they come to this lively club. Goethe understood how to be one of those who can talk of the spiritual world without a long and tragic face, and how to speak with humour and irony when these are necessary and in place. Why should not an old General, a Minister (His Excellency), a Parvenu and an Author, discussing their affairs together while sipping their wine, find themselves by degrees so little interested in what is being said that gradually they fall asleep? Or, when they are still under the particular influence of what is going on at the Club — a little dicing perhaps, a little gambling — why then should not these souls so come out of their bodies that they might be found in a lively Club among others who have left their bodies? At a Club — the General, His Excellency the Minister, the Parvenu, and now the Poet as well; why not? One can meet with them for they are outside their bodies. And if one is lucky, one can really find such a party, for it is something like that in this sort of assembly, that they fall asleep in the midst of amusing themselves. Goethe is not ignorant of all this, you see. But Mephistopheles is surprised that here, through nature herself, through nothing more than a rather abnormal occurrence of ordinary life, these souls have come to be in this position. He is so surprised to come across it in this way, that he has to recall a bit of his own past. For this reason he becomes suddenly old on the spot, or in his present form he is not able to have this experience. The human world is meddling with him and this he does not want. He tells the will-o'-the-wisp it should go straight not zigzag, lest its flickering light should be blown out. The will-o'-the-wisp is trying to ape man kind by going zigzag. The Mephistopheles wants to go straight — men go zigzag. So it disturbs him that, merely through an abnormal way of proceeding in life and not through any hellish machination, for respectable members of human society have appeared on the Brocken scene.

But then things begin to go better. First there enters the Huckster-witch, naturally also outside her body. She arrives with all her arts — so beautifully referred to here:

“No chalice but into the healthy frame
Hath poured the poison's slow-assuming flame;
No jewel but to shame beguiled some winsome woman,
No sword that hath not stabbed i’ the back the foeman.”

So now he feels himself again. This witch has certainly been properly anointed; he wants more feels quite in his element, addresses her as ‘Cousin’, but tells her:

“Nay, thou dost read the times but badly, Cousin,
For done is past, and past is done!
Only for novelties we clamour,
Should'st lay in novelties alone.”

He want something of more interest to Faust. But Faust is not at all attracted. He feels that he is in a very inferior spiritual elements and now says — what I asked you to notice, or it is wonderful:

“If only I don't take leave of my senses!” (If only I don't loose my consciousness!)

That means he does not wish to go through the experience with a suppressed consciousness, in an atavistic way; he prefers to have the experience in full consciousness. In such a Witches' Sabbath he consciousness might easily be blunted, and that should not be. Think how deep Goethe goes!

And now references made to how the soul element has to leave the body, and how a part of the etheric body too must be lifted out, and what I might call a kind of Nature-initiation, that during the whole earth-evolution only happens in exceptional circumstances. Part of Faust's etheric body has gone out; and because a man's etheric body, as I have often told you already, is feminine, this is seen as Lilith. This takes us back to times when man was not constituted at all as he is now. According to legend Lilith was Adam's first wife and the mother of Lucifer. Thus we see here how Mephistopheles is making use of the luciferic arts at his disposal, but how something lower also enters in that, in the following speech amounts almost to a temptation. Faust moreover is afraid he may lose consciousness and losing consciousness he would fall very low — so that Mephistopheles would like to promote this. He has already brought Faust to the point of having part of his etheric body drawn out, which makes him able to see Lilith appear. But Mephistopheles would like to go still farther, and thus tempts Faust to the witch-dance, when he himself dances with the old witch, Faust with the young. But it all results in Faust being able to lose consciousness — he is unable to lose the!

Thus we are given an accurate picture by Goethe of a scene taking place among spirits. When souls have left their bodies they can experience this, and Goethe knew how to represent it. But there are other souls who can enter such an assembly, and they to bring their earthly qualities with them. Goethe knew that in Berlin lived Nikolai, a friend of Lessing's. Now this Nikolai was one of the most fanatical, so-called enlightened men of his time; he was one of those who, had a Monist society then existed, would have joined it, would indeed have directed it, for men were like that in the 18th century, they made war upon everything spiritual. A man of that kind is like the ‘Proktophantasmist’. (You can look this word up in the dictionary). Thus Nikolai not only wrote The Joys of Young Werther in order from a free-thinkers point of view to make fun of Goethes's sentimentality in The Sorrows of Werther, but also wrote for the Berlin Academy of Science — to prove himself, one might say, a genuine monist — Concerning the Objectionable Nature of the Superstitious Belief in a Spiritual World. And he was in a position to do that, for he suffered from visions — he was able to see into the spiritual world! But he tried the medical antidote of the time; he had leeches applied to a certain part of his body, and low and behold the visions disappeared. Hence he was able to give a materialistic interpretation of the visionary in his discourse to the Academy of Science, for he could prove by his own case that visions can be driven away by the application of leeches; therefore everything is entirely under the influence of the material.

Now Goethe knew Nikolai, Friedrich Nikolai, bookseller and writer, who was born in 1733 and died in 1811, he knew him very well. So perhaps he was not blindly inventing. And that there should be no doubt that Nikolai is meant, he makes the Proktophantasmist say, after he has been drawn in as a spirit among the spirits, and has tried to talk them down:

“Are you still there? Well, well! Was ever such a thing?” They ought to have gone by now for he hoped to drive them away by argument.

“Pack off now! Don't you know we've been enlightening!” Today he would have said: we have been preaching Monism.

“This crew of devils by no rule is daunted.” Now he must see, for he really can see, since he suffers from visions. Such men are quite fit to join in the Walpurgis-night.

Again it is not as an amateur that Goethe has pictured this; he has chosen a man who, if things go favorably, can enter even consciously into the spiritual world on this last night of April, and can meet the witches there. And he must be such a one. Goethe pictures nothing in a dilettante way; he makes use of thoroughly suitable people. But they retain the bent, the affinities, they have in the world. Therefore even as a spirit the Proktophantasmist wants to get rid of the spirits, and Goethe makes this very clear. For as a sequel to the treatise about leeches and spirits, Friedrich Nikolai had also conjured away ghosts on Wilhelm von Humboldt's estate in Tegel. Wilhelm von Humboldt lived in Tegel, in the neighborhood of Berlin and the Friedrich Nikolai had fallen foul of him also, as one of the enlightened. Hence Goethe makes him say:

“We're mighty wise, but Tegel is still haunted.” Tegel is a suburb of Berlin; the Humboldt's any property there and it was there that the ghosts appeared in which Goethe was interested. Goethe also knew that Nikolai had described it, but as an enlightened opponent.

“I've swept and swept at this vain fancying,
Yet cannot sweep clean! Was ever such a thing?”

So even in the house of the enlightened Wilhelm von Humboldt in Tegel there are apparitions. Nikolai cannot endure this spirit despotism; it refuses to follow him and will not obey him:

“My spirit cannot discipline it.”

And to make it perfectly clear that with full knowledge he is describing just such a personality as Nikolai, Goethe adds:

“A last, today 'tis useless. Now I know it.
At least I'll take a journey with them though.
And still I hope,ere my last step, to show
My mastery alike o'er devils and poet.”

For at that time Nikolai had taken a journey through Germany and Switzerland, of which he had written a description where was recorded everything noteworthy he came across. And there one can find many shrewd and enlightened remarks. Everywhere he contended particularly against what he called superstition. Thus even this Swiss tour is alluded to:

“And still I hope, ere my last step, to show
My mastery alike o'er devils and poet.”

‘Devils’ because he attacked the spirits; ‘poets’ because he attacked Goethe — in the “Joys of Young Werthur”.

Mephistopheles is quite clear about such people, and says:

“To seek relief, as usual in a puddle
He'll seat himself, and when the leeches feast
Upon his ramp, from all his brains that muddle
From phantoms and from fancy he's released.”

Also a reference to Friedrich Nikolai's leech theory. (You may read about it in the Transactions of the Academy of Sciences in Berlin. Nikolai delivered the lecture in 1799).

But now, when this affair is over, Faust sees a very ordinary phenomenon — a red mouse jumping from the beautiful witch's mouth. That is a very common phenomenon and a proof that Faust has remained completely conscious; for had he not been conscious but only dreaming, it would have remained a red mouse, whereas now he is able to change this vision called up by sense-instinct into what it should really be for him. Everything is transformed — I think this is most impressive — and the red mouse becomes Gretchen. The blood-red cord is still about her neck. The Imagination has grown clear, and Faust is able to pass from a lower imagination to the vision of the soul of Gretchen who, by reason of her misfortune, now becomes visible to hem in her true form.

You may think as you like, my dear friends, the connections of the spiritual world are manifold and perhaps bewildering — but what I have just shown you in this changing of a lower vision of a red mouse into something lofty, true and deep, is pre-eminently a spiritual fact. It is highly probable that Goethe originally planned the whole scene quite differently represented. A little sketch exists in which it is differently represented — in the way Mephistopheles might have conjured up the scene before Faust. But Faust has been sufficiently conscious to elude Mephistopheles here, and to see a soul to whom Mephistopheles would never have led him. To Mephistopheles himself she appears as Medusa, from which you see that Goethe is wishing to show how two different souls can quite differently interpret one and the same reality — the one way true, the other in some respect false. His own base instincts giving colour to the phenomenon., Mephistopheles flippantly utters:

“Like his own love she seems to every soul.” And here again we find that this is a spiritual experience through which Faust had to pass. He is not just a vigorous man enjoying a walk, he is a man undergoing a spiritual experience; and what he now sees as Gretchen is actually what lives within him, while the other serves merely to bring this to the surface.

Now, Mephistopheles, wishing to lead Faust away from the whole, from what is now the deeper spiritual reality, takes him to something which he just introduces as an interlude, and which we must regard as the conclusion of the “Walpurgis-night's Dream”, that will be performed, but the whole of it is inserted into the Brocken scene to show how Mephisto wishes to get hold of Faust. This Walpurgis-night's Dream — about which I shall say no more today — was introduced by Mephisto in order to turn Faust's thoughts in a quite definite direction. But here we have a remarkable kind of poetical paraphrase. You remember how Mephistopheles says:

“Go to! slight Reason, now, and Science slight,
Wherein doth lie man's greatest might!
Let but the spirit of lies enamour
Thy soul of sorcery and glamour
And, pact or none, I hold thee tight — ”

In the Walpurgis-night Dream everything is reasonable, but Faust has to be shown how to enjoy this reasonableness. Goethe has translated the Italian dilettare into the German dilettieren that is actually to divert; and Servilibus, a servant of Mephistopheles invented by Goethe, is to persuade Faust to find diversion in what is reasonable, that is, to treat it in a low and flippant way. Hence though the Walpurgis-night Dream is to be taken seriously it is said:

“We're just about to begin
A brand new piece. 'Tis the last of the seven;
To give so many is the custom here.
A dilettante wrote it. Even
The players are dilettante too.
Excuse my vanishing. As dilettante 'tis my diversion
To pull the curtain up.”

This then is the way Mephistopheles tries to tempt Faust to despise the reasonableness of the Walpurgis-night Dream. That is why he places it before him in this kind of aura. For it suited Mephistopheles cunningly to introduce the rational into the Brocken; he finds that right for in his opinion it is where it belongs.

So you see in Goethe's poem we are dealing with something that really rises above the lower spiritual world and shows us how well Goethe was versed in spiritual knowledge. One the other hand, it may bring to our notice the necessity of acquiring a little spiritual science — for how else can we understand Goethe? Even eminent men who love Goethe can otherwise merely conclude that he is a bit of a monster — they don't say it, they are silent about it, and that is one of the lies of life — such a monster that he takes Faust, two days after causing the catastrophe with Gretchen's mother and brother, for a pleasant walk on the Brocken. But, we must constantly repeat, Goethe was not the commonplace, happy-go-lucky man he has hitherto appeared. On the contrary, we must accustom ourselves to recognise more in him than that, something quite different, and to realise that much concealed in Goethe's writings has yet to be brought into the light of day.




Last Modified: 15-Nov-2017
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