ASSOCIATED with the Magazine group was a free Dramatic Society. It did
not belong so intimately with the Magazine as did the Free Literary
Society; but the same persons were on the board of directors here as
in the other Society, and I was elected a member of this board
immediately after I came to Berlin.
The purpose of this Society was that of producing plays which, because
of their special character, because they fell outside the usual taste
and tendencies and the like, were at first not produced by the
theatres. It was no light task that rested upon the directors, to
succeed in the midst of so many dramatic attempts with the
The productions were carried out in such a way that in each case a
company of actors was made up of artists who played on the most varied
stages. With these actors the play was given in the morning in a
theatre rented or else lent freely by its managers. The actors proved
to be very unselfish in relation to this Society, for it was not able
by reason of its limited means to offer adequate compensation. But
neither actors nor managers had any inner reason to object to the
production of works of an unusual sort. They simply said: Before
the ordinary public and at an evening performance, this cannot be
done, since it would cause financial injury to any theatre. The public
is simply not ripe for the idea that the theatre should serve
exclusively the cause of art. The activity associated with this
Dramatic Society proved to be of a character in a high degree suited
to me; most of all the part having to do with the staging of the
plays. Along with Otto Erich Hartleben I took part in the rehearsals.
We felt that we were real stage-managers. We gave the plays their
stage forms. In this very art it became evident that all theorizing
and dogmatizing are of no use unless they come from a vital artistic
sense which intuitively grasps in the details the general requirement
of style. One must steadfastly resist the resort to general rules.
Everything which the circumstances in such a sphere render possible
must appear in a flash from one's sure sense for style in action, in
arrangement of the scenes. And what one then does, without any logical
reflection but from the sense for style, gives a feeling of
satisfaction to every artist in the cast, whereas a rule derived from
the intellect gives them the feeling that their inner freedom is being
interfered with. To the experiences in this field which were then
mine, I had occasion afterwards again and again to look back with
The first play that we produced in this way was Maurice Maeterlinck's
Otto Erich Hartleben had made the
translation. Maeterlinck was then considered by the aesthetes as the
dramatist who was fitted to bring upon the stage before the eyes of
the susceptible spectator the invisible which lies amid the gross
events of life. That which is ordinarily called incident in drama, the
form of development in dialogue, Maeterlinck so employs as to produce
thereby upon the susceptible the effect of symbols. It was this
symbolizing that attracted many whose taste had been repelled by the
preceding naturalism. All who were seeking for the spirit,
but who did not desire a form of expression in which a world of spirit
is directly revealed, found their satisfaction in a symbolism that
spoke a language not expressed in naturalistic form and yet entered
into the spiritual only to the extent that this was revealed in the
vague blurred form of the mystic-presentimental. The less one could
tell distinctly what lay behind the suggestive symbols,
the more were many enraptured by them.
I did not feel at ease in the presence of this spiritual glimmering.
Yet it was delightful to work at the management of such a play as
The Intruder. For the representation of just such symbols by
appropriate stage means required in an unusual degree a managerial
function guided in the way described above.
Moreover, it became my task to precede the production with a brief
introductory address. This practice, common in France, had at that
time been adopted also in Germany in connection with individual plays.
Not, of course, in the ordinary theatre, but in connection with such
undertakings as were adapted to the Dramatic Society. This did not
occur, indeed, at every production of the Society, but infrequently:
when it seemed necessary to introduce the public to an artistic
purpose with which it was unfamiliar. The task of giving this brief
stage address was satisfying to me for the reason that it afforded me
an opportunity to make dominant in my speech a mood radiated to me
myself from the spirit. And I was happy to do this in a human
environment which had otherwise no ear for the spirit.
Being vitally within this dramatic art was, at all events, really
important for me at that period. From that time on I myself wrote the
dramatic criticisms for the Magazine. Concerning such
criticism, moreover, I had my own views, which, however,
were little understood. I considered it unnecessary that an individual
should pass judgment upon a play and its production. Such
judgments, as these were generally given, should really be reached by
the public for itself alone.
He who writes about a theatrical production should cause to arise
before his readers in an artistic-ideal picture what combination of
fantasy-form stands behind the play. In artistically fashioned
thoughts there should arise before the reader an ideal poetic
reproduction as the living, though unconscious, germ from which the
author produced his play. For to me thoughts were never merely
something by means of which reality is abstractly and intellectually
expressed. I saw that an artistic activity is possible in
thought-conceptions just as in colours, in forms, in stage devices.
And such a minor work of art should be created by one who writes about
a theatrical production. But that such a thing should come about when
a play is produced before an audience seemed to me a necessary
co-operation in the life of art.
Whether a play is good, bad, or
mediocre will be evident in the tone and bearing of such
an art-thought form. For this cannot be concealed even
though one does not say it in the form of crass judgments. Anything
which is an impossible artistic structure will be visible in the
thought art reproduction. For one there sets forth the thoughts, but
they appear as utterly unreal if the work of art has not come from
true and living fantasy.
Such a vital working in unison with the living art I wished to have in
the Magazine. In this way something would have come about that would
have given to the journal a character different from that of merely
theoretical discussion and judgment upon art and the spiritual life.
The Magazine would actually become a member of this spiritual life.
For everything which the art of thinking can do for dramatic poetry is
possible also for theatrical art. It is possible by means of
thought-fantasy to bring into existence that which the art of the
manager has introduced into the stage-conception; in this way it is
possible to follow the actor, and, not through criticism but by
positive presentation, cause that which is alive in him to
stand forth. Then one becomes as a writer a formative
participant in the artistic life of the time, and not a
judge standing in the corner, dreaded,
pitied, or even despised and hated. When this is practised
for all branches of art, a literary-artistic periodical is in the
midst of actual life. But in such things one always has the same
experience. If one seeks to bring them into effect with persons who
are engaged in writing, they either fail completely to enter into
these things, because they are contrary to the writer's habits of
thought, or else they laugh and say: Yes, that's right, but I
have always done so. They do not observe at all the distinction
between what one proposes and what they themselves have always
One who can go alone on his spiritual path need not be disturbed in
mind by this. But whoever has to work among persons united in a
spiritual group will be affected to the depths of his soul by these
relationships. Especially so if his inner tendency is one so fixed,
grown into him, that he cannot withdraw from this into another vitally
Neither my articles in the Magazine nor my lectures gave me at that
time inner satisfaction. Only, anyone who reads them now and thinks
that I intended to be a representative of materialism is mistaken.
That I never wished to do. This can clearly be seen from the essays
and abstracts of lectures that I wrote. It is only necessary to set
over against those individual passages which have a materialistic note
others in which I speak of the spirit, of the eternal. So it is in the article
Ein Wiener Dichter(2).
Of Peter Attenberg I
say there. What most interests the person who enters deeply into
the world harmony seems foreign to him ... From the eternal ideas no
light penetrates into Attenberg's eyes ... (Magazin, July
17, 1897). And the fact that this eternal world harmony
cannot be meant to signify something materialistic and mechanical
becomes clear in utterances such as those in the essay on Rudolf
Heidenhain (November 6, 1897): Our conception of nature is
clearly striving toward the goal of explaining the life of the
organism according to the same laws by which the phenomena of
inanimate nature must also be explained. General laws of mechanics,
physics, chemistry are sought for in the bodies of animals and plants.
The same sort of laws that control a machine must also be operative in
the organism only in immeasurably more complicated and scarcely
comprehensible form. Nothing is to be added to these laws in order to
render possible an explanation of the phenomenon we call life ... The
mechanistic conception of the phenomena of life steadily gains ground.
But it will never satisfy one who has the capacity to cast a deeper
glance into nature's processes. Contemporary researchers in nature are
too cowardly in their thinking. Where the wisdom of their mechanistic
explanations fails, they say the thing is to us inexplicable ... A
bold thinking lifts itself to a higher manner of perception. It seeks
to explain by higher laws that which is not of a mechanical character.
All our natural-scientific thinking remains behind our natural
scientific experience. At present the natural-scientific form of
thinking is much praised. In regard to this, it is said that we live
in a natural-scientific age. But at bottom this natural-scientific age
is the poorest that history has to show. Its characteristic is to hang
fast to the mere facts and the mechanistic forms of explanation. Life
will never be grasped by this form of thinking because such a grasp
requires a higher manner of conceiving than that which belongs to the
explanation of a machine.
Is it not obvious that one who speaks thus of the explanation of
life cannot think materialistically of the explanation of
But I often spoke of the fact that the spirit issues from
the bosom of nature. What is meant here by spirit? All
that out of human thinking, feelings, and willing which begets
culture. To speak of another spirit would then
have been quite futile. For no one would have understood me if I had
said: That which appears in man as spirit and lies at the basis
of nature is neither spirit nor nature, but the complete unity of
both. This unity the creative Spirit which in its creating
brings matter into existence and thereby is at the same time matter,
but which also shows itself wholly as spirit this unity is grasped
by an idea which lay as far as possible from the habits of thought of
that period. But it would have been necessary to speak of such an idea
if one was to present in a spiritual form of thinking the primal state
of the evolution of earth and man and the spiritual material Powers
still active to-day in man himself, which on the one hand form his
body and on the other cause to issue forth the living spiritual by
means of which he creates culture. But external nature would have
needed to be so discussed that in it the primal spiritual-material is
represented as dead in natural laws.
All this could not be given. It could be linked up only with
natural-scientific experience, not with natural-scientific thinking.
In this experience there was something present which could set in
shining light before a man's own mind a true, spirit-filled thinking
regarding the world and man something out of which might again be
found the spirit now lost from the sort of knowledge confirmed by
tradition and accepted on faith. The perception of spirit-nature I
desired to draw from the experience of nature. I wished to speak of
what is to be found on this side as the spiritual-natural,
as the essentially divine. For in the knowledge confirmed by tradition
the divine had come to belong to the beyond because the
spirit of this side was not recognized and was therefore
sundered from the perceptible world. It had become something which had
been submerged in man's consciousness into an ever increasing
darkness. Not the rejection of the divine-spiritual, but its setting
within the world, its calling to this side, lay in such
sentences as the following in one of the lectures before the Free
Literary Society: I believe that natural science can give back
to us the consciousness of freedom in a form more beautiful than that
in which men have yet possessed it. In the life of our souls there
operate laws which are just as natural as those which send the
heavenly bodies round the sun. But these laws represent something
which is higher than all the rest of nature. This something is present
nowhere save in man alone. Whatever flows from this, in that is man
free. He lifts himself above the fixed necessity of laws of the
inorganic and organic; he heeds and follows only himself.
(The last sentences are italicized
for the first
time; they were not italicized in the Magazine. For these sentences
see the Magazine of 12th February, 1898.).
- The Intruder.
- A Viennese Poet.
- That is, in the German text.