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Art as Seen in the Light of Mystery Wisdom

Schmidt Number: S-2995

On-line since: 31st October, 2008

Lecture Two

IMPULSES OF TRANSFORMATION
FOR MAN'S ARTISTIC EVOLUTION I

Dornach, 29th December 1914

In the course of the following considerations I shall be speaking to you about the important impulses of transformation present in our era for the artistic evolution of mankind. I would like to connect this with what may occur to you as a result of your own observation of this building footnote 1 ], or rather with that of which this building is merely a beginning. But as a basis for these considerations it will be necessary to establish a connection between art and the knowledge we have gained about man and his relationship with the world in general. I will begin today with these seemingly more theoretical considerations and continue tomorrow with our actual theme concerning the impulses of transformation in artistic development.

Though I said that I would begin today with a seemingly more theoretical basis, in actual fact anyone who looks upon spiritual science as something living will find these preliminaries very much alive and not at all theoretical. They will, however, only be quite clear to those for whom the ideas of physical body, etheric body, astral body, ego, and so on, are not mere designations in a diagram of man's being but the expression of actual experiences in feelings and ideas relating to the spiritual world.

If we consider the different forms of art, it appears that architecture is the one that has become most separated from the human being as a whole. Architecture is separated from the human being, because it is placed at the service of our external impulses, either those of utility, which call for utilitarian structures, or those having idealistic aims, as in the case of religious buildings. We shall see during the course of the lecture how other forms of art have a more intimate connection with the real being of man than has architecture. Architecture is in some way detached from what we describe as the laws of man's inner being. And yet, seen from the point of view of spiritual science, this external character of architecture very largely disappears.

When we begin to look at the human being, the part that first strikes us, because it is the most outward, is the physical body. But this physical body is permeated and penetrated and filled by the etheric body. The physical body might be simply called a space body or described as an organisation in space. But the etheric body, which dwells in the physical body and, as you know, also extends beyond the limits of the physical body and is intimately connected with the whole cosmos, cannot be contemplated without the aid of time. Basically everything in the etheric body is rhythm, a cyclical rhythm of movement or activity, and it has a spatial character only in as far as it inhabits the physical body. For human imaginative perception, it is true, the etheric body also has to be conceived in spatial pictures; but these do not show its essential nature, which is cyclic, rhythmic, moving in time.

Music takes up no space, but is solely present in time. In the same way, what matters with regard to the human etheric body in reality (not in the imaginative picture we draw) is mobility, movement, formative activity in rhythmic or musical sequence, in fact the quality of time. Of course, this is a difficult thing for the human mind to conceive, accustomed as it is to relating everything to space; but in order to gain a clear concept of the etheric body we must try much harder to allow musical ideas rather than spatial ideas to come to our aid.

In order to bring to the fore another characteristic of the etheric body it can be said: Occupying the physical body and extending, as it does, its activity and rhythmical play into this physical body, it is above all a body of forces. It is a flowing-out of forces, a manifestation of forces, and we notice them in a number of phenomena that occur during the course of a man's life. One of these phenomena, to which not much attention is paid by external science or from an outward view of the world, but one which we have often stressed, is the ability of the human being to stand upright. On entering the world at birth we are not yet able to assume this vertical posture, which is the most important of all postures for the human being. We have to acquire the ability. It is true that this is initiated by the astral body, which as it were transfers its power of upward-stretching to the etheric body, but it is the latter which in the course of time sets about raising the physical body into a vertical position. Here we see the living interplay of the astral and etheric bodies in the formation of the physical body.

But this acquisition of the upright posture is only the most striking of these phenomena. Whenever we lift a hand a similar process takes place. In our ego we can only contain the thought of lifting a hand; this thought must at once act upon the astral body, and the astral body transfers its activity, which lives in it as an impulse, to the etheric body. And what happens then? Let us assume that someone is holding his hand in a horizontal position. Now he forms the idea: I want to raise my hand a little bit higher. The idea, which in life is followed by the act of lifting the hand, passes over to the astral body; there an impulse arises and passes over from the astral body to the etheric body. And now the following happens in the etheric body: The hand is at first horizontal; then the etheric body is drawn up higher, then the physical hand moves, following what occurs first as a development of force in the etheric body. The physical hand follows the etheric.

I shall explain the whole process tomorrow. At the moment I simply want to point out that the making of any movement involves a development of force which is followed by a state of equilibrium. In the life of our organism we are continually dealing with a development of force followed by a state of equilibrium. Of course the human being has no conscious knowledge of what is really going on within him; but what takes place is so infinitely wise that human ego cleverness is nothing by comparison. We would be unable to move a hand if we had to depend on our own cleverness and knowledge alone; for the subtle forces developed by the astral body in the etheric body and then passed on to the physical body are quite inaccessible to ordinary human knowledge. And the wisdom developed in this process is millions of times greater than that required by a watch-maker in making a watch.

We do not usually think of this, but this wisdom actually has to be developed. It must be developed and it is developed as a result of our being left to ourselves with our ego. But the moment the ego sends the impulses of its concept into the astral body we need the help of another being; unaided we can do nothing here. We are dependent on help from a being belonging to the hierarchy of the angels. For even the tiniest movement of a finger we need the assistance of such a being, whose wisdom is far in advance of our own. We could do nothing but lie on the earth immobile, making concepts in utter rigidity, if the beings of the higher hierarchies did not constantly surround us with their activity.

Therefore the first step towards initiation is to gain an understanding of how these forces act upon the human being.

I have tried to show here what is involved even in a movement as simple as resting the head in the hand. We learn to know, in the form of a spatial system of lines and forces, the exterior of our being, that which happens to our physical body through the activity of the etheric body. If we carry this spatial system of lines and forces constantly active in us out into the world, and if we organise matter according to this system, then architecture arises. All architecture consists in separating from ourselves this system of forces and placing it outside in space. Thus we may say: Here we have the outer boundary of our physical body, and if we push the inner organisation, which has been impressed by the etheric body on to the physical body, outside this boundary, then architecture arises. All the laws present in the architectural utilisation of matter are to be found also in the human body. When we project the specific organisation of the human body into the space outside it, then we have architecture.

Now we know, in our way of looking at things, that the etheric body is attached to the physical body. Looking once more at any work of architecture, what we can say to ourselves about it? We can say that here, carried into the space outside us, is the interaction between vertical and horizontal and between forces that react together, all of which are otherwise to be found within the human physical body.

In the same way we can carry what streams from the etheric body into the physical body, not outside ourselves this time, but down from the etheric into the physical body. In other words we can bring about something which we do not separate from ourselves by placing it outside us, but which we only push down into ourselves. This is the process by which the laws of the etheric body, which it has received from the astral body, can become physical, just as in architecture the laws of the physical body are projected into the space outside us. Through this process, sculpture arises out of the etheric body, just as architecture arises out of the physical body. In a way we push the laws of the etheric body down one step.

Physical Body

Architecture

Etheric Body

Sculpture

Just as in architecture we push the laws of the physical body into the space outside us, so in sculpture we push the laws of the etheric body one step downwards. We do not separate these laws from ourselves, we push them directly into our own form. Just as we find in architecture the expression of the laws of our own physical body, so we find in sculpture the natural laws of our etheric body; we simply transfer this inner order into our works of sculpture. In architecture we transplant into the space outside ourselves only the laws of the physical body, its spatial lines and interplay of forces, taking nothing of the etheric body, nothing of the astral body, nothing of the ego. In the same way, where sculpture is concerned, we take only the laws of the etheric body and bring them down one step lower, using nothing of the astral body and nothing of the ego except in so far as they send impulses into the etheric body. This is why a work of sculpture appears to be alive. It would actually be alive if it contained also the ego and the astral body. So if we seek the laws of sculpture we must realise that they are in fact the laws of our etheric body, just as the laws of architecture are to be seen in the laws of our physical body.

If we do the same in connection with the astral body, as it were pushing what is in us of an astral nature a step lower down into the etheric body, we are pushing down what lives inwardly in man. Now nothing arises that could truly have a spatial nature, for the astral body, when it moves down into the etheric body, is not entering a spatial element: the etheric body is rhythmic and harmonious, not spatial. Therefore what arises can only be a picture, indeed a real picture, in fact the art of painting. Painting is the form of art which contains the laws of our astral body, just as sculpture contains the laws of our etheric body and architecture those of our physical body.

Physical Body

Architecture

Etheric Body

Sculpture

Astral Body

Painting

If we now take the fourth member of the human being, the ego, and push it with its laws down into the astral body, there allowing it to move and act, then we obtain yet another form of art. This art does not contain what works in the ego as something which can be expressed in language or ordinary ideas; it is something that has moved from the ego down one step towards the subconscious. It is as though the horizon of consciousness were to be moved down by the amount of half a member of the human being; we take half a step downward, our ego descends into the astral body: then music is born.

Physical Body

Architecture

Etheric Body

Sculpture

Astral Body

Painting

Ego

Music

So music contains the laws of our ego, though not as they are manifested in ordinary, everyday life, but pressed down into the subconscious, into the astral body; the ego dives, as it were, beneath the surface of the astral body, there to flow and stream within the organisation of the astral body.

If we go on to speak about the higher members of the human being, starting with the spirit-self, we can refer to them only as something which is still outside the human being. For, in this fifth post-Atlantean epoch, we are only just beginning to make this spirit-self one of our inner members. But if we accept it as a gift from a higher sphere and sink it into our ego, if we dive down, like a swimmer into the water, into our ego, taking with us what as yet can only be dimly felt of the spirit-self, then poetry is born.

Physical Body

Architecture

Etheric Body

Sculpture

Astral Body

Painting

Ego

Music

Spirit-self

Poetry

And proceeding still further, one can say, though to a limited extent: Round about us, in the environment of soul and spirit which we shall absorb at a later stage, the life-spirit is also present. Therefore one day the life-spirit may come to be lowered into the spirit-self. But of course at the moment this is something that will only reach a certain degree of perfection in the very distant future. For when he tries to lower the life-spirit into the spirit-self, man will have to be living entirely in an element which as yet is absolutely strange to him. So what we can say in this domain is like the babbling of a child when compared with the later perfection of speech. One can foresee for the far distant future that there will be an art of great perfection that will stand out beyond poetry, as poetry stands out beyond music, music beyond painting, painting beyond sculpture, and sculpture beyond architecture (this being a question not of superiority, but of arrangement). You will guess, of course, that I am referring to something of which we know only the most elementary beginnings today: Something of which we can only receive the very first indications: the art of eurythmy.

Eurythmy is indeed something that must appear in human evolution at this time; but there is no call for pride, for at present it can be a mere babbling compared with what it will become in the future.

Physical Body

Architecture

Etheric Body

Sculpture

Astral Body

Painting

Ego

Music

Spirit-self

Poetry

Life-spirit

Eurythmy

We can now begin at any point with a somewhat more extended view. But in order to do so we must realise that the organisation of man's being is not nearly as simple as we would like to imagine in our intellectual indolence.

It is incredibly easy simply to imagine that the human being consists of physical body, etheric body, astral body, ego, and so on. If one is able to enumerate these various members and has an approximate conception of them, one may easily consider this rather simple form of knowledge quite satisfactory. But things are not so simple. Physical body, etheric body, astral body, ego are not simply sheaths which fit easily into one another; they are, on the contrary, very complex structures. Take, for instance, the astral body. It is not enough merely to say: This is the astral body and nothing more. Things are much more complicated.

Words here are only an approximation, but we could say that the astral body, for instance, is in itself structured and consists of seven members. Just as the human being can be said to have seven members (physical body, etheric body, astral body, ego, spirit-self, life-spirit, spirit-man), so the astral body has a connection with each of these. There is as it were a ‘thinnest’ part of the astral body which could be described as being especially moulded and fashioned for the physical body. That is to say: there is a living system of laws in the astral body for the physical body, a living system of laws in the astral body for the etheric body, a living system of laws in the astral body for itself, a living system of laws in the astral body for the ego, a living system of laws in the astral body for the spirit-self, for the life-spirit, and for the spirit-man. Thus each member of the human being has in turn seven members. So taking into consideration that the human being consists of seven members which are in turn each structured into seven members, we already find we have a total of forty-nine members. This of course sounds perfectly horrible to modern psychologists, who like to regard the soul as a unity and would prefer to have nothing to do with these things. But for true knowledge, which must gradually arise in the course of the spiritual evolution of mankind, it is certainly not without significance. For when we know that the astral body is sevenfold in its nature and that it is an organism of inner living impulses, then we shall say to ourselves: Within this astral body, with its sevenfold organisation, individual activities must surely take place between the various members. The part of the astral body that corresponds to the physical body must have a certain interplay with the part that corresponds to the etheric body and with the part that corresponds to the astral body itself, and so on. These are no mere abstract suppositions; it is quite possible in the human organism for a man to feel inwardly — though more subconsciously than consciously — a movement of that part of the astral body which corresponds to the physical body. And then something may produce another movement which will have to start in that member of the astral body that corresponds to the astral body itself, and so on. This is not a mere theory; it really happens.

Now imagine the seven members of the astral body to be interrelated as are the tones of the scale: tonic, second, third, fourth, etc. If you allow the effect of a melody to work upon you, you will find that your human organisation permits this to occur because the various tones of the melody are experienced inwardly in the corresponding member of the astral body. The interval of a third is experienced in the part of the astral body which corresponds to the astral body itself. A fourth is experienced in the part of the astral body which — well, let us now be more specific — corresponds to the intellectual or mind soul. A fifth is experienced in the part of the astral body which corresponds to the consciousness or spiritual soul. And remembering that when we divide the human organism more exactly we find it contains nine members, we must, accordingly, structure the astral body in the same way. Instead of saying “the member of the astral body which corresponds to the physical body” when enumerating the various members, I could now say “the member experienced in the tonic”. Instead of “the member of the astral body which corresponds to the etheric body”, I could say “the member experienced in the second”. And instead of saying “the member of the astral body which corresponds to the astral body itself” I could say “the member experienced in the third”.

Figure 1

You can now also see that the existence of the major third and the minor third really corresponds to the incorporation of the astral body in our whole human organisation. If you look up the relevant passage in my book Theosophy you will see that there is an overlapping of what we call the sentient soul on the other. Therefore what I described as an interval of a third can correspond either to the astral body or to the sentient soul: in the one case we have the major third and in the other the minor third.

It is a fact that our ability to experience a musical work of art depends upon this inner musical activity of the astral body: only while we listen to the music with our ego we immediately sink the experience into our astral body, into certain realms which are subconscious.

This leads us to a very important fact. Let us look at ourselves as astral beings, as possessors of an astral body: what is our nature in this respect? As astral beings we have been created out of the cosmos according to musical laws. Inasmuch as we are astral beings we are musically connected with the cosmos. We are ourselves an instrument.

Let us now suppose that we do not need to hear the physical sound of tones, but are able to listen to the creative activity of the cosmos that has brought us into existence as astral beings out of the cosmos: in such a state we should hear the universal music, what has always been called the music of the spheres. Let us suppose that we are able to dive down consciously into our astral entity, developing its spiritual strength to such an extent that we can hear the creative activity of the cosmic music; we could then say to ourselves: With the help of our astral body the cosmos is playing our own being. This thought, which I have just expressed to you, was alive in men in ancient times, really alive. And in pointing this out one is also pointing to the way in which right into the fifth post-Atlantean epoch human evolution has become more and more materialistic. For we all know that this thought is not alive in the external human culture of today; humanity knows nothing about the fact that, so far as the astral body is concerned, the human being is a musical instrument. But this was not always the case, and the fact that it was not always the case has been, so to speak, forgotten. For there was a time when men said: A man once lived who was called John, and this John was able to transport himself into a state of spiritual consciousness in which he could hear the music of the heavenly Jerusalem. They said: All earthly music can only be a copy of the heavenly music which began with the creation of mankind. And the more religious part of humanity felt that by passing over into the world of physical desires, man had absorbed impulses which veiled and darkened the celestial music for him. But at the same time they felt that there must exist in human evolution — through purification from external and chaotic life — a road leading to the goal of hearing the spiritual cosmic music, as it were, through and beyond the external music of the physical world.

In the tenth and eleventh centuries, this relation between external, materialistic music, of which the divine origin was pointed out, and its heavenly prototype, was still beautifully expressed: men were required to employ music as a form of sacrificial or religious service and were expected to free themselves of their connection with the purely chaotic and — as it was felt to be — impure outer world when they produced musical sounds. Life in ordinary external speech was felt to be impure. People felt themselves transported to spiritual heights when they lifted themselves up from speech to music, which is the image of celestial music. This feeling was expressed in the following words.

Ut queant laxis
resonare fibris
mira gestorum
famuli tuorum
solve polluti
labii reatum,
S.J. (Sancte Johanne)

To translate this we would have to say: “So that thy servants may sing with liberated vocal cords the wonders of thy works, pardon the sins of the lips which have become earthly — one might say which have become capable of speech — O Saint John.” It was to one who could hear the heavenly Jerusalem that men looked up in this connection. Let us extract certain things that lie hidden in such a verse: Ut (this word was later replaced by do), resonare (re), mira (mi), famuli (fa), solve (sol), labii (la), S.J. (si). So you find that ‘do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, si’, the names of the notes in medieval musical notation, have been carefully hidden in this verse.

In such an instance we can go back to what still lived in human minds right until the eleventh or twelfth centuries through atavistic clairvoyant cognition, and we see how it all disappears in the flood of materialistic views and passes out of the consciousness of men. But now we are living at a time when through spiritual knowledge we must find it again and recreate it. Everything points clearly to the way in which evolution has made a descent so deep that a swamp has formed. The muddy water of this morass is made up of all the ideas originating in a materialistic view of the world. And now we are about to struggle up again out of the swamp of materialism, to ascend and rediscover what mankind has lost in its descent.

I have pointed out that properly speaking we do not sleep by night only but that certain parts of our being also sleep by day. At night it is principally the thinking and feeling parts which sleep, while during the day it is more the willing and feeling parts which sleep. It is in this will sphere that we are submerged when we dive down with the ego into the astral body. And when we hear a musical work, what happens is that we consciously dive down with our ego into the part of us which is otherwise asleep. When you sit and listen to a symphony, the inner process which takes place is a dulling of your ordinary, everyday thought life while you plunge with soul and spirit down into a region which otherwise sleeps during daytime consciousness. This brings about the connection between the effect of music and all the life-giving forces in the human organism, all that streams with living force through the whole human being, letting him grow together as one with the streaming volume of sounds.

And at night we sleep; then our ordinary thought life is dulled in an element which as yet is not present in our normal consciousness. But if we succeed in bringing into ordinary everyday consciousness that which awakens when we sleep; if that in which we live when asleep dives down into our waking experience, then . . . . Just in contrast: I have just said that when we experience music the ego's awareness dives down into a region which sleeps during the day. But when we submerge what we experience at night into the consciousness of daytime, then poetry arises. This is what people like Plato felt when they called poetry a ‘divine dreaming’.

When we thus explore the connection that exists between man and the whole cosmos, which we can do to a certain extent under the guidance of art, we can bring a certain measure of life into what otherwise remains a mere skeleton of ideas. Please do realise that these things are not a mere skeleton! Some people take such pleasure in arranging what I have described in my book Theosophy in the pattern of a diagram; no doubt they thought that it was from pure obstinacy that I deviated from the pattern of earlier theosophical teachings, when I described three threefold organisations that are not separate but interlaced. But if these matters are approached through what one experiences and what is absolutely real, then even the nature of major and minor melodies will show that things are deeply rooted in the whole structure of the cosmos. Only when things are taken as living entities out of the whole structure of the cosmos do they correspond to a true reality.

Of course it was necessary in the beginning to say a number of things, the reasons for which have only appeared by degrees during the course of many years. This naturally involved the risk that people would start to criticise, because they did not know on what certain statements were based, nor how things of necessity present themselves when the whole structure of the cosmos is taken into consideration. This is still the case with many matters. Many things that are said now are open to numerous objections if they are approached with superficial ideas. But in the course of years even decades they will certainly be verified. And the knowledge gained through spiritual science will become fruitful as soon as it is no longer a theory but a living experience.

All depends upon the capacity to surmount the first ideas presented by the words: physical body, etheric body, astral body, etc., so that these ideas can become alive; a real understanding of the universe radiates from this process of bringing to life. Those who are able to do this should now compare the kind of aesthetics that have come to the fore during the last century and a half, with what can be learned from a knowledge of the human being in discovering the origin of the arts. Those who make this comparison will see that, unless there is an understanding of the human organisation, it is impossible to reach a real comprehension of what lives around us and gives us joy.

I want to awaken in you a recognition of the fact that spiritual science is itself an initial impulse that will continue to grow and develop, that we are in a sense called upon to make the very first steps, and that we can imagine what these first steps will lead to, long after we have laid aside our bodies in our present incarnation.

 


Footnotes:

1. i.e. the Goetheanum.





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