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Old and New Methods of Initiation

Old/New Methods: Lecture Twelve

LECTURE TWELVE


Dornach, 25 February 1922


We have been speaking about the tasks facing the leaders of spiritual and cultural life, tasks arising out of the great change that took place in the transition from the fourth to the fifth post-Atlantean period. I endeavoured to describe the forces which emanated from this, such as those which were made manifest in the figure of Faust and the figure of Hamlet. When you consider the essential core of the matter, you find that spiritual leaders such as the poets who created these figures found themselves faced with the task of answering, in poetic form, the question: What will become of the human being when he has to find inner satisfaction of soul from intellectual life alone, living exclusively in abstract thoughts? For obviously the soul's mood as a whole must arise from the impression made on it because it is forced to contemplate, with the help of abstract thoughts alone, all that is most dear to it, and all that is most important for it. All the evolutionary factors we considered yesterday were what Goethe and Schiller had to draw on in their creative work.

We also saw how Goethe and Schiller felt themselves to be ensnared in these evolutionary factors. We saw how both express the feeling that truly great poetic creation cannot be accomplished without some inclination towards the real spiritual world. But the inclination towards the spiritual world which was still characteristic for western cultural development in the eleventh, twelfth, thirteenth centuries was no longer possible in ensuing times. It retreated, you might say, in the face of the stark intellectual view. Yet on the other hand this intellectual view, this living in thoughts, had not yet developed sufficiently to allow access to real, genuine spiritual aspects in the thought life.

What typifies the position of Schiller and Goethe within the cultural evolution of humanity is the fact that their most important creative period falls in an age when the old spirituality has gone, but when it is not yet possible for living spirituality to burgeon out of the new intellectualism. I described a little while ago Note 1 ] how that which fills the soul in an intellectual way is actually the corpse of the spiritual life lived by the soul in the world of spirit and soul before birth, or before conception. This corpse must be brought back to life. It must be placed once more within the whole living context of the cosmos. But this point had not yet been reached at that time, and what Goethe and Schiller were wrestling to achieve, particularly in their most important period, was a mood of soul which could somehow be satisfying during this period of transition, and out of which poetic creation could be achieved.

This shows most clearly and most intensively in the collaboration between Goethe and Schiller. When they met, Goethe had completed a considerable part of Faust, namely the Fragment which appeared in 1790 and some additional parts as well. Goethe held back the dungeon scene, even though it was by then already completed. The Fragment has no Prologue in Heaven, but begins with the scene ‘I've studied now Philosophy ...’ If we examine this Fragment, and also the parts which Goethe omitted, we find that here Faust stands as a solitary figure wrestling inwardly to find a satisfying mood of soul. He is dissatisfied with stark intellectualism and endeavours to achieve a union with the spiritual world. The Earth-Spirit appears, as in the version now familiar to us. Goethe was certainly striving towards the world of spirit and soul, but what is still entirely lacking, what was still quite foreign to him at that time, was the question of placing Faust within the whole wider cosmic context. There was no Prologue in Heaven. Faust was not yet involved in the battle between God and Satan. This aspect only came to the fore when Schiller encouraged Goethe to continue working on the drama.

Schiller's encouragement inspired him to change Faust's solitary position and place him within the total cosmic context. Encouraged more or less by Schiller, the Faust which reappeared in the world in 1808 had been transformed from a drama of personality, which the 1790 version still was, into a drama of the universe. In the Prologue — ‘The sun makes music as of old, amid the rival spheres of heaven’ — in the angels, indeed in the whole spiritual world, and in the opposition with Satan, we see a battle for the figure of Faust which takes place in the spiritual world. In 1790, Faust was concerned only with himself. We see this personality alone; he alone is the focus. But later a tableau of the universe appears before us, in which Faust is included. The powers of good and evil do battle to possess him. Goethe wrote this scene in 1797, placing Faust in a tableau of the universe, after Schiller had demanded of him that he continue work on Faust.

As shown in the ‘Dedication’, Goethe felt somehow estranged from the manner in which he had approached his Faust when he was young. We see also in Schiller what was actually going on in the souls of the most outstanding human beings. He began as a realist. I showed you yesterday how the luciferic and ahrimanic elements confront one another in Karl Moor and Franz Moor. But there is no suggestion of any appearance of the spiritual world in some archetypal figure or other; we see the luciferic and the ahrimanic element simply in the character traits of Karl Moor and Franz Moor. It is quite typical of Schiller to make his point of departure a perfectly realistic element. But when he has completed the plays of his youthful phase, when he has met Goethe, and when he takes up writing again in the nineties, we see that now he is compelled to let the spiritual world play into his poetic creations. It is one of the most interesting facts that Schiller now feels compelled to let the spiritual world play into his poetic figures.

Consider Wallenstein (Wallenstein's Camp). Wallenstein makes his decisions in accordance with his belief in the stars. He acts and forms resolves in accordance with his belief in the stars. So the cosmos plays a role in the figures Schiller creates. The Wallenstein (Wallenstein's Camp) drama is comprehensible only when we take into account that Wallenstein feels himself to be filled with the forces which emanate from the starry constellations. At the end of the eighteenth century Schiller felt compelled to return to a contemplation of the stars which was familiar in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries to those who thought about such things. He felt he could not depict significant events in human life without placing this human life within the cosmos.

Or take Die Braut von Messina (Bride of Messina). He is experimenting. He tries to shape the dramatic action in accordance with the ancient idea of destiny in connection with the wisdom of the stars. It is perfectly obvious that he is trying to do this, for we, too, can experiment with this drama. Take out everything to do with the wisdom of the stars and with destiny, and you will find that in what remains you still have a magnificent drama. Schiller could have written Die Braut von Messina (Bride of Messina) without any wisdom of the stars and without any idea of destiny. Yet he included these things. This shows that in his mood of soul he felt the need to place the human being within the cosmos. This quite definitely parallels the situation which led Goethe, on once again taking up work on his Faust drama, to place Faust within the tableau of the universe.

Goethe does this pictorially. Angels appear as starry guides. The great tableau of the Prologue in Heaven presents us with a picture of the cosmos. Schiller, who was less pictorial and tended more towards abstraction, felt obliged during the same period to bring into his Wallenstein (Wallenstein's Camp) and his Braut von Messina (Bride of Messina) something which would hint at the position of the human being within the universe. He even went so far as to include the destiny concept of ancient Greek tragedy.

But look at something else too. Just at the time when he was getting to know Goethe, Schiller, in his own way, adopted the French Revolution's ideas about freedom. I mentioned yesterday that in France the revolution was political, whereas in Central Europe it was spiritual and cultural. I would like to say that this spiritual revolution took on its most intimate character in something Schiller wrote which I have quoted here in all kinds of connections: his Letters on the Aesthetic Education of Man (Aesthetical Essays).

Schiller asks: How can people achieve an existence which is truly worthy of human beings? Something that might have been called a philosophy of freedom was not yet possible at that time. Schiller answers the question in his own way. He says: A person who follows the course of a logical thought is unfree. Of course he is unfree, because what logic says cannot be developed freely in any way, and so he is subject to the dictates of reasoning. He is not free to say that two times two is six, or perhaps five. On the other hand he is also subject to the dictates of natural laws if his whole organism is given over to the dictates of nature.

So Schiller sees the human being occupying a position between the dictates of reason and the dictates of nature, and he calls the balance between these two conditions the aesthetic condition. The human being shifts the dictates of reason downwards a little into whatever likes and dislikes he may have, thus gaining freedom in a certain sense. And if he can also moderate his urges and instincts — the dictates of nature — raising them up to an extent to which he can rely on them not to debase him to the level of an animal, then they meet up in the middle with the dictates of reason. The dictates of reason take a step down, the dictates of nature take a step up, and they meet in the middle. By acting in accordance with what pleases or displeases him, the human being is in a condition which is subject to neither dictum; he is permitted to do what pleases him, because what pleases him is good by virtue of the fact that at the same time his sensual nature also desires what is good.

This exposition of Schiller's is naturally quite philosophical and abstract. Goethe greatly approved of the thought, but at the same time it was quite clear to him that it could not lead to a solution of the riddle of man. He is sure to have felt deeply for the exceptional spiritual stature of the exposition, for what Schiller achieved in these Letters on the Aesthetic Education of Man (Aesthetical Essays) is indeed one of the best treatises of recent times. Goethe sensed the genius and power of these thoughts. But at the same time he felt that out of such thoughts nothing can come which in any way approaches the being of man. The being of man is too rich to be fathomed by thoughts such as these.

Schiller, if I may say so, felt: Here I am in the intellectual age, but intellectualism makes the human being unfree, for it imposes the dictates of reason. So he sought a way out by means of aesthetic creativity and aesthetic enjoyment. Goethe, though, had a feeling for the infinitely abundant, rich content of human nature. He could not be satisfied with Schiller's view, profound and spiritually powerful though it was. He therefore felt the need to give his own expression to the forces working together in the human being. Goethe, not only by nature, but also because of his whole attitude, was incapable of expressing these things in the form of abstract concepts. Instead, under the influence of the kind of thoughts developed by Schiller, he wrote his fairy-tale of the Green Snake and the Beautiful Lily. Here, about twenty figures appear, all of which have something to do with the forces of the human soul. They work together, not only as the dictates of reason and the dictates of nature but as twenty different impulses which, in the end, depict in the most manifold way something signifying the rich nature of the being of man. We must take note of the fact that Goethe gave up speaking about the being of man in abstract concepts altogether. He felt bound to move away from concepts.

In order to characterize the relationship of Schiller to Goethe in connection with the Letters on the Aesthetic Education of Man (Aesthetical Essays) and the fairy-tale of the Green Snake and the Beautiful Lily, we have to say the following: Goethe wrote the fairy-tale under the immediate influence of Schiller's letters. He wanted to answer the same questions from his point of view and out of his feelings. This can be proved. Indeed I proved it historically long ago and it was seen to make sense. Note 2 ] So in order fully to characterize what took place between these two personalities we should have to say: In olden times when, in seeking knowledge, human beings caused beings from the spiritual world to visit them; when they still worked in their laboratories of knowledge in order to penetrate to the mysteries of the universe, and when spiritual beings came into their laboratories — just as the Earth Spirit and many another spirit visit Faust — this was very different from how things are today. In those days people felt themselves to be relatives of those spiritual beings who visited them. They knew, although they were living on the earth and had perforce to make use of the instrument of a physical body, that before birth and after death they were nevertheless beings just like those who visited them. They knew that for earthly life they had sought out an abode which separated them from the spiritual world, but that this spiritual world nevertheless visited them. They knew that they were related to this spiritual world and this gave them an awareness of their own being.

Suppose Schiller had visited Goethe in 1794 or 1795 and had said: Here are my letters on the aesthetic education of man, in which I have endeavoured, out of modern intellectualism, to give people once more the possibility of feeling themselves to be human beings; I have sought the ideas which are necessary in order to speak about the true being of man; these ideas are contained in these letters about aesthetic education. Goethe would have read the letters and on next meeting Schiller he would have been able to say: Well, my friend, this is not bad at all; you have provided human beings once more with a concept of their worth, but this is not really the way to do it; man is a spiritual being, but just as spirits retreat from light, so do they also retreat from concepts, which are nothing other than another form of ordinary daylight; you will have to go about this in a different manner; we shall have to go away from concepts and find something else.

You can find everything I have expressed here, in the form of direct speech, in the correspondence between Goethe and Schiller. It is all there, in hints and intimations. In the process, Goethe wrote his fairytale of the Green Snake and the Beautiful Lily, which was to depict how the soul forces work in man. It is Goethe's admission that to speak about man and the being of man it is necessary to rise up to the level of pictures, images. This is the way to Imagination. Goethe was simply pointing out the path to the world of Imaginations. This fairy-tale of the Green Snake and the Beautiful Lily is so very important because it shows that out of his own struggles, and also in his Faust, Goethe felt impelled, at a most important moment, to the path towards Imaginations.

To Goethe, the statement that thinking, feeling and will work together in man would have seemed philosophical. He did not say this, but instead he depicted a place where there were three kings, one of gold, one of silver and one of iron. These images signify for him something which cannot be expressed in concepts. We see that Goethe is on the way to a life of Imagination. This brings us to one of the most profound questions with which Goethe is concerned. He himself did not care to discuss the true profundity of this question with anyone. But we can see how this question concerned him, for it appears in all sorts of places: What is the point of fathoming the being of man by using the kind of thinking to which intellectualism has led? What use would it be? This is a riddle of earthly evolution, a riddle belonging to this epoch, for in this strong form it could only have come into question in this epoch. Sometimes, in all its profundity, it makes its appearance in paradoxical words. For instance in Faust we read

The lofty might
Of Science, still
From all men deeply hidden!
Who takes no thought,
To him 'tis brought,
'Tis given unsought, unbidden!
Note 3 ]

This is extraordinarily profound, even if it is only the witch who says it: ‘The lofty might of Science, still from all men deeply hidden! Who takes no thought’ — in other words to one who does not think — 'tis given unsought, unbidden!’ However much we think, the lofty might of science remains hidden from us. But if we succeed in not thinking, then it is given unsought, unbidden. So we should develop the might to not think, the skill to not think, in order to achieve not science or knowledge — for this cannot of course be achieved without thinking — but in order to achieve the might of science or knowledge.

Goethe knows that this might of science works in the human being. He knows that it is at work, even in the little child who as yet does not think. What I said in my book The Spiritual Guidance of Man Note 4 ] was taken very much amiss. On the very first pages I pointed out that if the human being had to fashion all the wisdom-filled things found in the form of the human body by means of his thoughts — consciously using the might which also holds sway in science — then he would reach a ripe old age without ever discovering those delicate formative forces which work with the skill of a sculptor! The might of science is indeed needed in the early years of childhood to transform this brain from a rather formless lump into the sublime structure it has to achieve.

This is a question with which Goethe is profoundly concerned. He of course does not mean merely a dull absence of thinking. But he is quite sure that the might of science can be discovered if we do not destroy our links with it by means of our intellectual thinking. This is even the reason why he makes Mephisto take Faust to the witches’ kitchen. Commentaries on these things always distort matters. We fail to know Goethe if we do not link his purpose — in creating a scene like that in the witches’ kitchen — with what we sense to be the essence of his own being. Faust is presented with the draught of youth. In one sense he is given a perfectly realistic draught to drink. But the witch says:

See, thus it's done!
Make ten of one,
And two let be,
Make even three,
And rich thou'lt be.
Cast o'er the four!
From five and six
(The witch's tricks)
Make seven and eight,
'Tis finished straight!
And nine is one,
And ten is none.

Now imagine Goethe standing there. If you have a sense for his essential being you cannot but ask: Why is the witch made to declaim this witches’ multiplication table? Goethe did not like speaking about these things, but if he were in the right frame of mind he might reply: Well, the lofty might of science, still from all men deeply hidden! Who takes no thought, to him 'tis brought. You see, the power of thought fades when you are told, make ten of one, and two let be, make even three, and rich thou'lt be, and so on. Thinking comes to a standstill! So then you enter into a state of mind in which the lofty might of science can be given to you without any thinking. — Such things are always an aspect of Goethe's Faust and indeed of all Goethe's poetic work.

So Goethe was faced with this question, which was for him something exceptionally profound. What was it that Faust lacked, but gained through his sojourn in the witches’ kitchen? What did he not have before? If you think of Faust and how he could have been Hamlet's teacher, disgusted by philosophy and jurisprudence, medicine and theology, and turning instead to magic — if you imagine what he is like even in the Easter scene, you will have to admit that he lacks something which Goethe possessed. Goethe never got to the bottom of this. He felt he was like Faust, but he had to say to himself: Yes, all the things with which I have invested Faust are also in me, but there is something else in me as well. Is it something I am permitted to possess? What Faust does not have is imagination, but Goethe did have imagination. Faust gains imagination through the draught of youth which he receives in the witches’ kitchen. In a way Goethe answered his own question: What happens when one wants to penetrate to the universal secrets with the help of the imagination? For this was the most outstanding power possessed by Goethe himself.

In his youth he was not at all sure whether looking into the universal secrets with the help of the imagination was anything more than a step into nothingness. This is indeed the Faustian question. For stark intellectuality lives only in mirror images. But once you come to the imagination you are a step nearer to the human being's forces of growth, to the forces which fill the human being. You approach, even though only from a distance, the formative forces which, for instance, shape the brain in childhood. There is then only one more step from the ordinary imagination to the faculty of Imagination! But for Goethe this was the all-important question.

Thus Goethe takes Faust to the witches’ kitchen so that he can extricate himself from that confounded capacity of thinking — which may lead to science but does not lead to the might of science — in order that he may be allowed to live in the realm of the imagination. Thenceforward Faust develops his imagination. By means of the draught in the witches’ kitchen, Goethe wins for Faust the right to have an imagination. The rejuvenation he experiences is simply a departure from the arid forces he had as, say, a thirty-five year old professor, and a return to his youth where he takes into his soul the youthful formative forces, the forces of growth. Where the imagination flourishes, the youthful formative forces remain alive in the soul.

All this was present as a seed within Goethe, for he wrote the scene in the witches’ kitchen as early as about 1788. It was there as a seed, beginning to sprout and demanding a solution. But from Schiller he received a new impulse, for now he was urged on to the path towards the faculty of Imagination. Schiller was at first nowhere near to seekingfor the faculty of Imagination. But in Wallenstein (Wallenstein's Camp) and in Die Braut von Messina (Bride of Messina) he sought the cosmic element. Note 5 ] And in Die Jungfrau von Orleans (The Maid of Orleans) he endeavoured to fathom the subconscious forces of the being of man.

The immense profundity of the struggle going on may be seen in the fragment Demetrius which Schiller left behind when he died. The dramatic power of this fragment surpasses that of everything else he wrote. In his desk there was also the draft of a play about the Knights of Malta. This, too, if he had succeeded in writing it, would probably have been truly magnificent. The whole principle of the Order of the Knights of Malta — a spiritual order of knighthood resembling that of the Templars — unfolds in their battle against Sultan Suleiman. If Schiller had succeeded in depicting this, he would have been forced to face the question: How will it be possible to bring the vision of the spiritual world down into human creative activity? For this question was indeed alive for him already.

But Schiller dies. Goethe no longer benefits from the stimulus he gave. Later, stimulated by Eckermann — who was less of a spiritual giant than Schiller, if I may put it this way — he finishes Faust, working on the second part from about 1824 until his death. Shortly before his death he has the package containing the work sealed. It is a posthumous work. We have considered this second part of Faust from many different angles, and have discovered, on the one hand, deeply significant, sublime insights into the manifold mysteries of the spiritual world. Of course we can never understand it entirely if we approach it from this one angle, and we must seek ever higher viewpoints.

But there is another angle too. Note 6 ] Goethe felt compelled to complete this poetic work of Faust. Let us examine the development of the philosophy of Faust and go back a stage further than we have done so far. One of the stages was the figure of Cyprianus, about whom we have already spoken. Before that, in the ninth century, the legend of Theophilus was written down. Note 7 ] Theophilus is once again a kind of Faust of the eighth, or ninth century. He makes a pact with Satan and his fate very much resembles that of Faust.

Consider Theophilus, this Faust of the ninth century, and consider the legendary Faust of the sixteenth century, to whom Goethe refers. The ninth century profoundly condemns the pact with the devil. Eventually Theophilus turns to the Virgin Mary and is saved from all that would have befallen him, had his pact with Satan been fulfilled. The sixteenth century gives the Faust legend a Protestant slant. In the Theophilus legend, incipient damnation redeemed by the Virgin Mary is described. The sixteenth century protests against this. There is no positive end; the story is told in a manner suitable for Protestantism: Faust makes a pact with the devil and duly falls into his clutches.

First Lessing and then Goethe now protest in their turn. They cannot accept that a character — acting with worldly powers and in the manner of worldly powers — who gives himself over to the power of Satan, entering into a pact with him, must of necessity perish as a consequence of acting out of a thirst for knowledge. Goethe protests against this Protestant conception of the Faust legend. He wants Faust's redemption. He cannot abide by the conclusion of Part One, in which he made concessions and let Faust perish. Faust must be saved. So now Goethe leads us in sublime fashion through the experiences depicted in Part Two. We see how the strong inner being of man asserts itself: ‘In this, thy Nothing, may I find my All!’ Note 8 ] We need only think of words such as these with which a strong and healthy human nature confronts the one who corrupts.

We see Faust experiencing the whole of history up to the time of ancient Greece. He must not be allowed to perish. Goethe makes every effort to arrive at pictures — pictures which, though different in form, are nevertheless taken from the Catholic cultus and Catholic symbolism. If you subtract everything that is achieved out of Goethe's own imaginative life, fuelled as it is by the great riches of the tremendously rich lifetime's experience that was his — if you subtract all this, you find yourself back with the legend of Theophilus in the ninth century. For in the end it is the Queen of Heaven Note 9 ] who approaches in all her glory. If you subtract all that specifically belongs to Goethe, you come back to the Theophilus described by the saintly nun Hrosvitha — not identical, of course, but nevertheless something which has not succeeded in an independent approach to the poetic problem but still has to borrow from what has gone before.

We see how a personality as great as Goethe strives to find an entry to the spiritual world. In the fairy-tale of the Green Snake and the Beautiful Lily he is seeking for an Imagination which will make the human being comprehensible. In Faust he is also seeking for an Imagination, but he cannot achieve an independent Imagination and has to draw on help from Catholic symbolism. Thus his final tableau resembles the clumsy depiction by Hrosvitha in the ninth century — though of course in Goethe's case it is obviously executed by one of the greatest poets.

It is necessary to indicate the intricate paths followed by the spiritual and cultural history of humanity in order to arrive at an understanding of all that is at work in this spiritual history. Only then can we come to realize how the working of karma goes through human history. You need only consider hypothetically that certain things happened which did not actually happen — not in order to correct history in retrospect, but in order to come to an understanding of what is actually there. Imagine that Schiller, who died young, had remained alive. The drama about the Knights of Malta was in his desk and he was in the process of working on Demetrius. In collaboration with Goethe the highest spirituality developed in him, living in them both at once. But the thread broke. Look at the second part of Wilhelm Meister, look at Elective Affinities, and you will see what Goethe was striving for but failed to achieve. Everywhere he was striving to place the human being within a great spiritual context. He was unable to do so, for Schiller had been taken from him.

All this is an expression of the way in which the recent spiritual and cultural evolution of mankind is striving for a certain goal, the goal of seeking the human being in his relationship with the spiritual world. But there are hindrances on every side. Perhaps something like Goethe's Faust can be comprehended in all its greatness only when we see what it does not contain, when we see the course on which the whole spiritual evolution of mankind was set. We cannot arrive at an understanding of the spiritual grandeur present in human evolution by merely giving all sorts of explanations, and exclaiming: What an incomparably great masterpiece! We can only reach such an understanding by contemplating the striving of the whole human spirit towards a particular goal of evolution. We are forcefully confronted with this when we consider these things. And then, in the nineteenth century, the thread breaks entirely! The nineteenth century, so splendid in the realm of natural science, sleeps as far as the realm of the spirit is concerned. The most that can be achieved is that the highest wisdom of natural science leads to fault-finding with a creation such as Faust.

Goethe needs Schiller, in order to place Faust — whom he first depicted as a personality — within the context of an all-embracing universal tableau. We can sense what Goethe might have made out of the philosophy of Faust if he had not lost Schiller so soon. Yet those who think about these things come along and say that Faust is an unfortunate work in which Goethe missed the point entirely. Had he done the thing properly, Faust would have married Gretchen and made an honest woman of her, and then gone on to invent the electro-static machine and the air-pump. Then mankind would have been presented with the proper Faust!

A great aesthete, Friedrich Theodor Vischer, Note 10 ] said: Faust Part Two is rubbish. So he drafted a plan of what it ought to have been. The result was a kind of improved Eugen Richter out of the nineteenth century, a man of party politics, only a bit more crude than were party men in the nineteenth century. It was not an unimportant person but a very important person — for Friedrich Theodor Vischer was such a one — who stated: The second part of Faust is a piecemeal, fragmented construction of Goethe's old age!

Any connection with a striving for the spirit was lost. The world slept where spirituality was concerned. But out of this very situation the people of today must find their tasks with regard to a new path to the spiritual world. It is of course not possible for us to refer back to:

The lofty might
Of Science, still
From all men deeply hidden! Who takes no thought,
To him 'tis brought,
'Tis given unsought, unbidden!

We cannot simply decide to stop thinking, for thinking is a power which came with the fifth post-Atlantean period, and it is a power which must be practised. But it must be developed in a direction which was actually begun by Goethe in his fairy-tale of the Green Snake and the Beautiful Lily. It must be practised in such a way that it leads to Imagination. We must understand that the power of the intellect chases away the spirit, but if the power of the intellect itself can be developed to become the faculty of Imagination, then we can approach the spirit once more. This is what we can learn by considering in a living way what has taken place in the field we have been discussing.




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