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The Sources of Artistic Imagination and
The Sources of Supersensible Knowledge

The Sources of Artistic Imagination and the Sources of Supersensible Knowledge

Schmidt Number: S-3520

On-line since: 8th June, 2013

The Sources of Artistic Imagination and
The Sources of Supersensible Knowledge

Rudolf Steiner Archive Document

Lectures Section

This lecture was given by Rudolf Steiner on May 6th 1918 at Munich, Germany. It is lecture number 6 of 9 from the lecture series entitled, Art and the Experiencing of Art, published in German as, Kunst und Kunsterkenntnis. Grundlagen einer neuen Aesthetik. Das Sinnlich-Uebersinnliche in seiner Verwirklichung durch die Kunst. The translation was made by an unknown translator. The transcriptionist is unknown, as is the date of publication. From Bn/GA 271.

By Rudolf Steiner

Unknown Translator
Bn/GA 271

This lecture was given by Rudolf Steiner on May 6th 1918 at Munich, Germany. It is lecture number 6 of 9 from the lecture series entitled, Art and the Experiencing of Art, published in German as, Kunst und Kunsterkenntnis. Grundlagen einer neuen Aesthetik. Das Sinnlich-Uebersinnliche in seiner Verwirklichung durch die Kunst. The translation was made by an unknown translator. The transcriptionist is unknown, as is the date of publication.

It is presented here with the kind permission of the Rudolf Steiner Nachlassverwalting, Dornach, Switzerland. From Bn/GA 271.

This e.Text edition is provided through the wonderful work of:
Various e.Text Transcribers

Thanks to a donation by the Los Angeles Rudolf Steiner Library, this Lecture has been made available.

The Sources of Artistic Imagination and the Sources of Supersensible Knowledge

Munich 6th May, 1918

It has been felt from of old that a certain kinship or at least a connection exists between the impulses inherent in artistic imagination, artistic creative power and appreciation, and the impulses inherent in super-sensible knowledge.

Those who come across artists realise the fear, very prevalent among; them, that artistic creative power might be disturbed by any approach to conscious experience of the super-sensible world whence artistic imagination receives its impulses, such experience of the super-sensible world as is striven for in Spiritual Science. On the other hand it is also widely known that certain gifted artists whose creations suggest a kind of instreaming from the super-sensible world, do experience something like seership in the functioning of their creative imagination. Writers of fairy-tales or other artists who try to depict things that seem to shine from the super-sensible into the physical world, know how figures, but wholly spiritual figures, appear before their eyes, so that the feel they are conversing with these figures of phantasy, or that these figures are conversing with each other. In such cases, provided there is present the full consciousness which enables a man at any moment to wrest himself away from the visions that come to him, it is legitimate to speak of seership in the sense of Spiritual Science. There are points of resemblance between artistic creation, artistic imagination and the conscious vision that can function in the spiritual world with knowledge. Nevertheless, many people feel obliged to adduce against the spiritual-scientific point of view the argument that the artist ought not to allow his original impulses to be superseded by what is consciously assimilated of the spiritual world. This attitude ignores the essentials of the connection between artistic imagination and clairvoyant vision of the spiritual world. For what we mean by clairvoyant vision is the kind of vision which unfolds purely through activity of the soul, independently of the bodily, physical instrument. I cannot speak at length to-day of the extant to which it is possible for the soul, free of all bodily influences, to live consciously in the spiritual world. I want only to say at the outset that the spiritual-scientific investigator is more interested in the connections of true artistic creation and appreciation with genuine seership, than in the connection of seership with abnormal visionary states which, although they may be designated as ‘clairvoyance’, are connected with bodily conditions and are not the expressions off, experiences of the soul in its pure state. In order, however, to understand the real nature of the connection between artistic imagination and seership it is necessary to realise the difference between them and it is a considerable one.

A man who is creating out of artistic imagination or phantasy will not — as happens in ordinary sense-perception and subsequent thought about what has thus been perceived — take in and reproduce inwardly the external world of sense. He will change it, idealise it — no matter what name may be given to the process. The nature of the tendency which makes a man think realistically or idealistically, or makes his an Impressionist or Expressionist, is not the important point. A certain transformation of what a man reproduces within himself from the reality takes place in all artistic activity. In artistic creation, perception of the external world remains alive and active. The artist adheres to his perception of the external world. In his artistic creation there remains the image of the conceptions which are based upon external perception and what is connected therewith in remembrance and memory. Everything that the artist has absorbed in life works on as an aftermath in his subconsciousness, and the richer the resulting experience in his soul, the fuller his productions will be of artistic imagination, based upon his personal surrender to sense-impressions and to his own mental pictures and memory. The power of seership possessed by a man who penetrates to the spiritual world through super-sensible perception is quite different. The essential point to realise is that a man can only penetrate into the spiritual world when he is able to eliminate sense-perception as well as the process of mental presentation which functions in his memory. Remembrance, memory, the faculty of perception of external sense-impressions, must be completely suppressed and silent in super-sensible cognition. It is very difficult to convey to our contemporaries that the human soul can so strengthen its slumbering powers that soul life can function in complete wakefulness of consciousness when the faculties of mental presentation and perception are suppressed. When, therefore, the striving for super-sensible knowledge proceeds by true methods, it should not be objected that conscious seership is composed merely of remembrances surging up from the subconscious. The kernel of the matter is that the man who desires to penetrate into the spiritual world as an investigator must learn the methods which make it possible so completely to eliminate the faculty of remembrance that his soul lives only in immediately present impressions, unmingled with any reminiscences arising from the subconscious; so that the soul with its inner pictures and experiences lives in a world which it tries to penetrate consciously; no trace of anything unconscious or subconscious remains.

There is a tendency in so-called theosophical, mystical striving, to yearn for cloudy, nebulous experience of all kinds; it is easy to understand that this should be mistaken for what we mean by seership — even by those who believe themselves to be adherents. We need not, however, go into that; the point is to understand what is meant by genuine seership.

Genuine seership differs fundamentally from the activity out of which artistic creation arises. The constitution and attitude of soul are quite different. Those, however, who strive for super-sensible knowledge, as we understand it, will have experiences of a definite kind in connection with Art.

To begin with, a cardinal experience. It is not possible to engage in spiritual research all day long. Seership in the spiritual world is connected with definite periods of time. There is full consciousness of the beginning and ending of the condition in which the soul penetrates into the spiritual world. While in this condition the soul is able, through its own power, completely to disregard any impression from the senses. All impressions of colours, sounds and the like are absent. Perception of the spiritual world proceeds, indeed, from this gaze into ‘Nothingness.’ I mean this: The seer is able to eliminate everything that presses in upon him from the external world, everything that wells up from his ordinary faculty of remembrance into his conscious life of soul; but even when he deliberately puts himself into this condition, he cannot eliminate certain impressions which come to him from works of art originating from genuine creative imagination. I do not mean by this that the seer, when in such a condition, receives the same impressions from works of art as does a man who is not a seer. The seer has these impressions in moments when higher vision is not operating. But in moments of seership it is possible for him completely to eliminate everything of a material nature or of the nature of remembrance of the external world — not, however, in connection with a work of art which enters into his ken.

All such experiences are specific. The seer has definite experiences in connection with each of the arts. Precisely in the details of the experience, such words as ‘Art’ lose their ordinary meaning. Each of the several arts, from the standpoint of super-sensible knowledge, becomes a domain distinct in itself. Architecture differs from music, painting, and so on. But in order to understand the nature of the seer's experience in connection with art, we must ask this question: If the seer must suppress the workings of the external world and all that belongs to the power of remembrance, what remains to him?

The process of mental presentation (conception) and perception are absent, but feeling and willing are present — although in a quite different form from that of ordinary life. Supersensible knowledge must not be confused with the nebulous, emotional surrender to the spiritual world which goes by the name of mysticism. It must be realised that super-sensible knowledge, although it buds forth from feeling and willing, is not to be identified with them. In super-sensible knowledge, feeling and willing must fill the soul in such a way that the soul is at rest, that the whole of the rest of man's being is quiescent. Feeling and willing must unfold entirely towards within — which is not the direction when feeling and willing are functioning in the ordinary way. Impulses of will come to expression in the external world; no such expression must take place in seership. Dervish customs and the like are not the expression of true knowledge of the spiritual world.

When feeling and willing develop towards within, an activity of soul that is full of light and has clear definition develops from them. It is an activity of soul to which thought-structures are similar. An ordinary thought-structure is ephemeral. In seership, however, something quite objective, but no loss full of reality than ordinary thinking, is born from feeling and willing.

Experiences of the seer in connection with art can be described specifically. As he tries to penetrate inwardly into architectonic forms and proportions, into what the architect introduces into his buildings, by means of the thinking that unfolds within him as a seer and is quite different from the shadowy thinking of ordinary life, he feels related to these architectural proportions and harmonies. It can be said that the clairvoyant develops a new kind of thinking that is to nothing so closely akin as to the forms in which the architect thinks and which he elaborates: Thinking as it is in ordinary life has nothing to do with genuine seership. The thinking that is active in seership embraces space within its creative experience. The seer knows that together with these forms — they are living thought-forms — he penetrates into the super-sensible reality behind the world of the senses, but that he must develop and elaborate this thinking that expresses itself in forms of the world of space. The seer realises: In everything that expresses itself in harmonies of proportion and form, willing and feeling are working. He learns to recognise the forces of the universe in these forms which weave through proportion and the relations between numbers as they exist in his thinking; hence, in his thinking, he feels related with what the architect creates. As a new life of feeling — different from that of ordinary consciousness — is quickened within him, he feels kinship with what the architect and sculptor create in forms. An activity of intellect is born, which thinks in terms of objects and space-forms; and these space-forms shape themselves into curves and the like through their own inherent life. These are the thought-forms by means of which the soul of the seer penetrates into spiritual reality which is felt to be related with all that lives in the forms created by the sculptor. Thus, it is possible to describe the nature of the seer's thinking and new life of feeling, by considering his experiences in connection with architecture and sculpture.

Experiences of seership in the domain of music and poetry are of a quite different nature. Before he can establish connection with music, the seer must penetrate still further than the sphere just described. To begin with, as we have heard, this new spiritual intellectuality develops out of the feeling and willing that have been turned inwards. This enables the seer to penetrate into the spiritual world, knowing that the soul — which bears him into that world — is served by no element whatever of the bodily organisation. Then comes the next stages penetration into the spiritual world would be incomplete if this next step were not taken. Not only does a spiritual activity of intellect unfold, but the seer is as conscious of his existence outside the body, in the spiritual world, as he is when he is standing in the physical world with two feet on the ground, of grasping objects and so forth. After knowing himself to be in the spiritual world with his different kind of thinking and perception, the seer begins to develop a new and much deeper kind of feeling and willing — but it is a willing that expresses itself in the spiritual world, not in the material world. Only when he lives consciously in this willing can certain experiences in connection with music and:the art of poetry arise in him.

The experiences that come from music in the realm of super-sensible knowledge are related particularly with this new kind of emotion and feeling. In the condition of seership, music is not experienced as it is in ordinary consciousness; the seer feels as though he has become one with every tone, with every melody, as though his very soul were living in waves of tone and sound. The soul is outpoured into the surging tones. Hardly anything gives one a truer and more vivid conception of Aphrodite rising from the foam of the sea than realization of the way in which the human soul, in the state of conscious seership, lives within and is lifted upward from the element of music.

And just as if around Aphrodite, as she rises over the surface of the sea, there hovered denizens of the air, coming to her as demonstrations of the living life of the world of space, so does poetry associate itself with music in the consciousness of the seer. While the soul is having the experience of being borne upwards and again drawn within the element of music, feeling identified with it, poetry — the poetic element — enters with intensity into the experience of the seer. What he experiences depends upon the degree to which his faculty of seership is developed. There is something unique about the art of poetry. The poet expresses through language or other instruments of his art, what comes from poetry itself into the sphere of the seer's experience. For example, character in a drama, into whose mouth the poet puts only a few words — this character shapes itself out of these few words into a self-contained imagination of a human personality. That is the reason why everything that is unreal in poetry, that is mere phraseology, and not the product of creative power, makes such a disagreeable effect upon the seer. Writing that is not genuinely poetic but nevertheless attempts to form something by means of catchwords and phrases appears to him as grotesque caricature. Whereas plastic art (architecture, sculpture) is transformed into spiritual intellectuality, the poetic art is transformed into plastic, objective forces which the seer beholds. He sees what is genuine, what has been formed out of those truly creative laws which govern all that Nature creates and he distinguishes this sharply from what is produced by human caprice simply out of a desire to write poetry, although the imagination has no real link with the creative forces of the universe. Such are the seer's experiences: with regard to music and poetry.

The way in which painting is experienced in seership is also specific and unique. Let me make a rather trivial comparison. Just as a geometrician, in order to illustrate some purely mental image, is obliged by means of compasses and lines to delineate it on a surface, just as the geometrician is obliged to give body to the mental picture, so too is the seer obliged to transpose into form, into substantiality, his experience which is in the spiritual world, formless. To achieve this he so intensifies the experience that he makes it into an inner perception, into an imagination, filling it with soul-substance, if I may use this expression. In the inner condition of creative seership, the seer carries out a process that is the reverse of that of painting. The painter shapes his phantasy and imagination by the application of inner, form-giving forces to the content of materiel perception. From without inwards, he comes to the point where he so transforms what exists in space that it works in lines, forms, colours. The seer starts from the opposite side. He densifies the content of his seership to colours, as they are in the life of the soul; he permeates what is colourless with colour, he develops imaginations. It is important, however, to realise that the process used by the painter starts from the opposite side and from there enters into the imaginations the seer creates from within outwards.

In order to envisage this, we should read the last chapters of Goethe's Theory of Colours about the material-moral effects of colours, where he says that every colour sets free a mood or condition of soul. With this mood the seer imbues colour into what would otherwise be colourless and formless. When the seer speaks of the aura and of colours in what he sees, we should understand that he is colouring what he is experiencing inwardly, while this mood is working within him. When the seer says that what he sees is red, he is experiencing what in other circumstances he experienced in connection with the colour red; the experience is the same as it is at the sight of red — only in this case it is a spiritual experience. What the seer beholds and the artist charms on to canvas is identical, but it is perceived from different sides. That is the way in which the seer comes into contact with the artist; the meeting is a noteworthy and significant experience, sharing that in regard to painting super-sensible knowledge operates in a very particular way. An instructive example is a phenomenon which constitutes a problem for every thoughtful mind, namely, peach-colour, the colour of human flesh, which to sincere students has both mystery and charm, opening up vistas into great depths of Nature and of Spirit. The seer experiences flesh-colour in a particular way. And here I want to draw attention to a certain matter.

When one speaks of seership, of clairvoyance, the usual idea is that it is something with which a few crazy people are endowed and which lies quite outside ordinary life. This is not correct. Serious vision is always present in life, We are all of us clairvoyant in certain aspects. It is very important to realise that a seer who is to be taken seriously does not represent something that is outside life, but that is an enhancement of life in certain directions. When are we clairvoyant in ordinary life? We are clairvoyant in a case that is grossly misunderstood nowadays because materialism has given rise to such fantastic speculation about the way in which a man becomes aware of another Ego, the Ego of another human being standing before him. There are actually people who say that a man becomes aware of another Ego or soul only through subconscious deduction. We see the oval shape of the face and its other lines, its colour, the shape of the eyes; we have become accustomed, when we see a bodily structure like this to assume that a human being is standing in front of us; we draw the conclusion by analogy that such a form contains a human being. Supersensible knowledge, however, reveals something quite different. When we perceive a man's form and colouring, this is a kind of perception similar in character to the perception of the colour and shape of the crystal. Colour, form and surface in a crystal present themselves as they actually are in themselves. Surfaces, colouring in the human dissolve, as it were become transparent — in the conceptual sense. Material sense-perception of the other human being is eliminated and we have direct perception of the soul of the other. When we, as human beings, stand in front of another man, a wonderful and mysterious process is enacted in the soul that passes right over into the other soul. The soul steps forth, as it were, and passes over into the soul of the other. This is a form of clairvoyance which is always and everywhere present. This form of clairvoyance is inwardly connected with the secret of flesh-colour, as the seer realises when he comes to one of the,most difficult problems in seership, namely, the clairvoyant perception of flesh-colour. To ordinary vision, flesh-colour gives the effect of rest, repose; to the seer it appears to be in inward movement, it is not static or final; he perceives it as an intermediate state between two other states. When he concentrates on the colour of a human being, he perceives a continual wavering of the man between blanching and a kind of reddening — at a higher level than ordinary reddening — which becomes outstreaming warmth. Those are the two boundary conditions between which the colouring of man oscillates, the flesh-colour lying in the middle. The seer is aware of a constant to-and-fro vibration. Through the blanching he understands what the man is in mind and intellect and, through the reddening, what he is as a being of will, and the nature of his relation to the external world. The higher, finer content of the character of a man vibrates and is perceived by the seer.

You must not imagine that seership arises when a man ‘develops’ and is then able to see spiritually all other human beings and material objects. The way into the spiritual world takes many forms and is highly complex. Realisation of the innermost being of another man has as its main problem the experiencing of the mysteries of flesh-colour.

Thus the seer has manifold experiences in connection with the arts. There is still something else that is indicative of the position of seership in life, namely, its relation to human speech, human language.

In reality, speech lives in three different spheres. There is the sphere where speech can be regarded as an instrument for mutual understanding between human beings and in science. What the seer experiences with regard to this may seem strange, but none the less it is a fact; the seer feels this application of speech, as a means of everyday mutual understanding and for the expression of intellectual science, to be a degradation of speech to something that is alien to its innermost nature. Seership realises speech to be the instrument enabling a race of men to live in community. What lives in speech, with its manifold forms and nuances of sound, etc., is, if rightly understood, art. Speech, as the instrument of expression in a race, is art, and the creative power in speech is the creative power common to the people who speak it.

Use of speech as the means of everyday mutual understanding is really a degeneration of its fundamental nature. Those who have a feeling for what lives in speech and is revealed in the subconsciousness, know that the creative power in speech is akin to poetry, to art. Artistic natures have a disagreeable impression when speech is debased unnecessarily into the sphere of commonplace intercourse. Christian Morgenstern is an example. He was not afraid to build the bridge between artistic creation and seership; he did not believe that artistic originality is spoilt by endeavors to penetrate into the spiritual world; he felt that the poetic urge is in him was akin to the forces underlying plastic, architectonic art. Morgenstern expresses what he feels about speech when he says that chatter is an abuse: “All careless chatter has, at its basis, uncertainty about the import and value of the single word. To the chatterer, speech is something indefinite, vague ... but speech gets its own back in the very sound of such words as Verschwommenes, Schwimmer.

Morgenstern felt that there is a creative power in speech and that a degeneration takes place when, in prose, speech becomes merely an instrument of understanding between human beings.

The seer has still a third kind of spiritual experience in regard to speech, What he sees is not in the form of words, nor does it express itself directly in words. Thus it is difficult for the seer to make himself intelligible to the external world, because most people think in words and cannot conceive of living activity that transcends words. A man who has conscious experience in the spiritual world has a feeling of frustration when he has to pour into an already formed speech what he experiences; but because he silences the factors of mental presentations and memory, he is able to quicken within him the creative forces of speech themselves — creative forces that were working at the evolution of man at the stage when speech was born. The seer must put himself into the condition of soul-life prevailing at the birth of speech; he must develop the twofold activity of giving form to the Spiritual inwardly, and of so immersing himself in the spirit of speech-formation that he is able to make the union between the two processes. And so it is important for us to realise that our attitude to the words of a seer must be different from our customary attitude to words. If the seer is to impart information he is obliged to make use of speech, but he does this in such a way that he allows the creative forces of speech to work; he uses the formative forces of speech. He gives form to the spoken word by greater or less emphasis, by speaking of certain matters first and others later, or again by introducing illustrations at some particular point. A man who desires to clothe spiritual truths in speech, must have a particular technique when he wants to express what is living within him. As regards the utterances of a seer, we must pay attention to the “How” — to how he expresses himself, not merely to what he says. It must be remembered that he has first to give form; what is important is how he speaks of things of the spiritual world, not so much what he says. Because this is so seldom realised, and because people think always of the ordinary meaning of words, they find it difficult to understand a seer. He has to unfold (in a relative sense of course) the faculty of speech-creation, so that he expresses the Supersensible through the way in which he speaks. More and more it will be necessary for men to realise that the all-important factor is not the actual content of what is said, but that through the way in which the seer expresses himself, people have the living impressions he is speaking out of the spiritual world. And so speech, even in ordinary life, is an artistic activity With speech too, the seer has a particular relationship.

And now the question arises: Upon what are these conditions between the seer and the artist based? Why is it that the seer cannot ignore the impression that comes to him from a work of art? It is because in the work of art there is something akin to super-sensible knowledge, only in different clothing.And it is also because the inner life of man is much more complex than modern science is able to conceive.

I want to speak on this subject from an angle that will seem to savour of science, and will indicate something that must more and more develop in order to build the bridge between the ordinary perception of reality on the one side and artistic imagination and super-sensible knowledge on the other. A question arises: By means of what process does the musician produce from within himself what lives in his music? First of all, it must be understood that what goes by the name of self-knowledge is usually something extremely abstract. Even the ideas about self-knowledge held by ‘Mystics’ and nebulous theosophists are very abstract. Genuine seership regards all such talk about experiencing the Divine in the soul as nebulous, lacking in clarity. A human being has his life of inner experience, his thoughts, feelings, impulses of will; he can sink down into this realm and then speak of mysticism, philosophy, science ... but if once he has contacted living reality, he knows that this is all too empty, too unsubstantial, in spite of efforts to fill it with content. Even in intense mystical experience a man always flutters above the reality, does not penetrate to the true reality, experiences inner pictures only, mere aftermaths of reality; neither does he reach reality through his ordinary perception of the material process of Nature.

Du Bois-Reymond has said, with truth, that contemplation of Nature (the sense world) can never produce knowledge of what lives in space. The scientist speaks of matter, of substance, existing in space, but this evades the faculties with which we try to grasp reality. In ordinary consciousness there is, on the one side, man's inner life which does not reach to reality and, on the other, the external reality which evades his inner life. An abyss lies between. This abyss, the existence of which must be realised, is an obstacle to man's power of cognition. The only means for overcoming it, is for the soul to develop super-sensible perception — the kind of seership I have been describing to-day by explaining its connection with different forms of artistic activity.

When this faculty of seership develops, we enter into a different relationship with our own being and with the material reality that in present as our body. The body becomes something new, ceases to be the object that evades and resists the inner life. The inner life no longer hovers above the reality but impregnates, saturates itself, within its own bodily natures with everything that has material existence in the body. But in all material existence there is spiritual existence, spiritual reality.

Let us try to envisage this by thinking of the art of music,. While a man is unfolding musical or other mental images, and while in his ordinary consciousness he is engaged in acts of perception, complicated processes are taking place within the body. He knows nothing of them, but they are taking place nevertheless. Clairvoyant consciousness penetrates to this inner sphere of complicated and very wonderful bodily experience. With every out-breath the cerebral fluid in which the brain is contained pours into the spinal marrow, passes downwards, forces the blood into the veins of the lower part of the body. With every in-taken breath everything is borne upwards again. A wonderful rhythm takes place, accompanying all our activity of mental presentation and perception. Breathing, with its plastic rhythm, passes in and out of the brain. A process takes place which helps to produce an experience within the human being. It is enacted in the subconsciousness and the soul has knowledge of it. Modern physiology and biology are still almost entirely ignorant of these matters, but they will, in time, become the subject of a widespread science.

In epochs, to the customs of which we cannot return, men were obliged to seek for the spiritual life in a different way. It is no longer suitable to seek for Spiritual Science in an oriental, Indian form. This may be taken as a subject of subsequent study, but it is quite erroneous to think that there must be a return to Indian methods. They are not suitable for our epoch and would lead men along a wrong path. The methods that are right for us are of a much more intellectual kind, although it is well to study and understand the aims of ancient Indian culture. In Indian culture a considerable part of the training for higher knowledge consisted in subjecting the breathing process to rhythm; the aim was to regulate and control the breathing. Think of this in connection with what has been said and you will realise that the aim of the pupil of Yoga was to develop, through inner awareness of the path taken by the breathing, what I have been describing. The aim was to become conscious of the ebb and flow of the breathing process.

Our methods are different. Those who understand such matters know that it is not right for us, in our epoch, to sink down in this physical sense into the bodily organism; but to endeavour through a meditative, intellectual activity to grasp what streams downwards and, through exercises of the will, what streams upwards. We confront the upward and downward currents with our life of soul, feeling their ebb and flow.

This denotes a definite advance in human evolution. Science and the everyday consciousness know nothing about the process, but the soul, in its depths, is aware of it. And what the soul experiences in this domain can, under special circumstances, be raised up to the level of consciousness, as happens, for instance, when a man has genuine-musical talent. How does this happen? In the normal condition of a human being there is a strong connection between the soul-and-spirit and the physical body. The soul-and-spirit is closely connected with the processes described above. When the balance is very delicately adjusted, and the soul-and-spirit is loosely connected with the body, this particular constitution (which is the result of inner destiny) produces musical talent or sensitiveness to music. Other special artistic faculties also depend upon this labile connection. Men who are gifted in this way are able to raise to a higher level an activity which, in other circumstances, proceeds only in the depths of the soul (where we are all of us musicians). When the balance is not labile this process cannot be raised to a higher level, and then artistic talent is lacking. A man in whom the balance between soul and body is labile, (scientific Philistines may speak of degeneration in such cases) such a man raises upwards, either clearly or dimly, inner rhythmic forces and gives them form through sound and tone. If we study the stream of the nerve currents, from below upwards to the brain, there we find music. The process by which the optic nerves connected with the blood vessels, spreads out in the eye, remains in the subconscious. Something happens here that is eliminated when the human being; confronts external nature; the external sense-impression is eliminated. But between nerve-currents and sensory processes a “poet” is present in every human being. And again, whether or no a man is able to raise this process to a higher level and turn it into poetry, depends upon the kind of balance which exists between soul and body.

Think now of the process of radiation, the current that flows downwards and meets the stream of the blood as it branches out; at this point our own balance or equilibrium is inserted into the balance of the surrounding world. A most intense experience arises in the subconscious when the human being ceases to be a crawling baby and acquires equilibrium in the upright posture. Something that is distorted in the ape but is of great significance for man, namely, the line through the central point of the body coinciding with the line of gravity — this coincidence is an intense and profound experience; it is an unconscious experience of the architectonic principle. When the nerve current downwards meets the blood-stream, architecture, sculpture are experienced — and again the labile or rigid condition of the balance determines whether the experience can or cannot be raised upwards and given form.

Painting, and what comes to expression there, is experienced inwardly at the point where nerve-currents and blood-currents meet. The artistic process itself is a conscious one but the impulses underlying it are unconscious. In seership there is clear consciousness of the impulses underlying artistic imagination; it is an inner experience, not abstract but so concrete and real that each single phase is discovered again in the form and configuration of the human body. In ancient tines it was felt, and with truth, that every form, every proportion in architecture exists also within man's own being as he stands in the external world. The experience of these proportions which gave rise to the architecture of antiquity was different from the experience which expressed itself in the Gothic style, but both styles originate from a realisation of the connection between a man's own equilibrium and the equilibrium of the macrocosm. The human being, in his structure, is an image of the macrocosm. Hence the body is called the temple of the soul. Such expressions contain great truth. Thus we can say: The sources out of which a true artist and a seer create, are really the same; the seer raises to the level of consciousness both impulses that are meant to remain such, and also those impulses which the artist shapes into a concrete picture — only in the artist's case the impulses remain in the subconscious. These regions are quite separate in human experience. The fear, therefore, that the artist's originality might be spoilt by seership is unfounded. Seership develops out of conditions which can be altogether separate from artistic creation and experience; the one activity need not in any way be injurious to the other. Indeed the contrary is the case.

The time has arrived when men must become more and more conscious, freer and freer in their spiritual activity. The artist himself must bring the light of consciousness into the sphere of art, and in this way the bridge will be built between artistic creation and seership, between which, in reality, there are no disturbing elements.

It is understandable that the artist should feel uneasy about the growth of a science of art modeled after the pattern of modern science or intellectual aesthetics. The kind of knowledge which would have vision enough to understand art in its real nature is not yet in existence, but then such knowledge is born artists will feel that it enriches and is not in any way a destructive factor.

Those who use the microscope know how to adjust it in order that they may closely scrutinize the object under observation. But just as the faculty of real ‘microscopic’ perception from within has yet to be developed (and when this happens inner activity does not hinder, but quickens external vision) so a time will come when genuine seership will impregnate and pervade the elementary faculty of production and creation in the artist.

What is meant by ‘seership’ is sometimes misunderstood because in thinking about super-sensible science and knowledge people are too apt to take ordinary, material science as their model. Moreover, those who approach Spiritual Science sometimes feel disappointed; instead of finding ready answers to their commonplace questions, they find other worlds whose problems are often much deeper than those of the material world. In Spiritual Science new problems arise which are not solved by theoretical speculation, and which indeed resolve themselves into processes of life, thus generating fresh problems. But within this world of enhanced life, man's relationship with art remains. Hebbel actually asks for conflicts and struggles which necessarily remain unsolved, and he regards Grillparzer as a Philistine because, in spite of the beauty of his writing, he resolves all conflicts simply by managing to be a little cleverer than his hero. Genuine seership does not dole out cheap answers, but adds conceptions of the world to to those evolved by materialistic thought. Certain deeply thoughtful artists have realised this. In his recent book Stufen (Steps), Morgenstern says that those who, like the artist, really want to reach the Spiritual must set out to assimilate what, even to-day, super-sensible knowledge can grasp of the Divine-Spiritual. He says: A man who is willing only to have feelings about what can be grasped of the Divine-Spiritual to-day, in like an illiterate who passes through life asleep with a primer under his pillow.

This indicates the point at which we are standing in our cultural life. If we can realise what our epoch really needs, we shall, like Morgenstern, be convinced that we must not remain illiterate as regards clairvoyant knowledge; if we are artists we must find the connection with super-sensible knowledge. Just as it is important for seership to Pour light into artistic creations, so is it equally important for the Philistine seership of to-day, which is very far from having the inspiration of the Muses, to imbibe and be enriched by true artistic taste.

To the knower of the spirit, the bridges that can be built between art and seership are more important than any form of pathological clairvoyance. Men who understand this realise that the healing of mankind in the present and future lies in the quest for spiritual knowledge. The light of seership must shine out in art, in order that the warmth and splendour of art may work in and through the wide horizons of seership. This is necessary for all art which seeks to penetrate into that form of true existence which is needed by man if he is to be capable of mastering the great tasks approaching him from unfathomed depths.






Last Modified: 15-Nov-2017
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