DAS MÄHRCHEN VON DER GRÜNEN SGHLANGE
UND DER SCHÖNEN LILIE
SECOND LECTURE ON THE FAIRY TALE
BY DR. STEINER
Second lecture on
the Fairy Tale
by Dr. Steiner.
27th Nov. 1904.
We have over and
over again laid stress on the fact that Anthroposophy is no new thing
brought to humanity only in our own times. It is particularly
interesting that certain individuals not far behind us in time may be
reckoned among those who may be described as Anthroposophists.
Besides Herder, Jean Paul, Novalis and Lessing Goethe steps
forth as one of the most prominent. Many will object to this
statement, because not much Anthroposophy can be traced in his
well-known works. At the time of Goethe it was not possible to give
out esoteric truths to all the world. Only in small circles, such for
instance as that of the Rosicrucians, could the higher truths be
promulgated. Nobody was admitted into this society without proper
preparation: but those who belonged to it gave various hints as to
its existence, and this Goethe did in many different parts of his
works. Only a man filled with the wisdom of Anthroposophy can read
Goethe aright. It is impossible for instance rightly to understand
Faust without this help. The Fairy Tale
is Goethe's Apocalypse, his Revelations and in its symbolical
presentation the profoundest secrets are concealed. We can only
understand when we have the key to it, that in this Fairy Tale Goethe
revealed his Anthroposophical conception of the world. Schiller asked
Goethe to work with him on a magazine called die Horen
to which Schiller had contributed an article On the aesthetic
education of the human race. In this the question was put:
How can a man living in the every-day world preach the highest
ideals, and establish communion between the super-sensible and that
which belongs to the world of sense? In a wonderfully
impressive way he found words to point out that which to him seemed
the bridge leading from the world of sense to the super-sensible
declared that it would be impossible to him to speak of the highest
questions of existence in philosophical terms, but that he would do
so in a great picture. He then contributed the Fairy Tale, in which
he tried to answer his question in his own way, and sent it to the
Magazine, Die Horen.
Elsewhere too Goethe
expressed himself in an absolutely Anthroposophical sense. In his
earlier youth he had already concealed his conceptions in Faust.
Between his student years in Leipzig and his stay in Strassburg,
Goethe received an Initiation at the hands of a man who was himself
deeply initiated into the secrets of the Rosicrucians. From that time
on, Goethe spoke a mystical Anthroposophical language.
In the first part of
Faust there is a remarkable sentence which comes under the
introductory notices. It is: The Sage speaks. At this
time Goethe already had the Anthroposophical idea that there are
beings among us to-day who are further on in evolution than man, and
form a ladder between him and the super-earthly spheres, although
they too are incarnated in bodies.
They have attained
to a knowledge reaching far beyond what can be understood by the
senses. The passage is as follows:
The Spirit world is not locked;
Thy mind is closed.
Thy heart is dead!
Up, Disciple, bathe, and cleanse.
Thy earthly breast in Morning-Redness.
When you become
acquainted with Jacob Boehme you find one of the sources (Dawn of the
moving Redness, the astral world) from which Goethe created his world
of Theosophy. There is much in Goethe which we can only understand
when we take it in this sense. In the poem The Divine,
Goethe speaks of the law which we call Karma, and also speaks of
Nach ewigen ehern'n
Müssen wir alle
Heil den unbekannten
Die wir ahnen. Volume 2, Page 67 68.
In accordance with mighty iron laws
We must all accomplish the cycles of our being
Hail to the unknown higher Beings
Whom we divine!
Anyone who wants a
verbal proof of Goethe's Anthroposophical line of thought, need
only read the poem which, under the title God and the World
is called Howard's memory.
When Goethe spoke
intimately to those who were in the same Lodge, he spoke of the ideal
Divine Beings, which are ahead of man and shone forth to him as a
prototype. What he wrote in the poem Symbolum for
instance was intended for a small circle:
Doch rufen von drüben
Die Stimmen der Geister
Die Stimmen der Meister.
The voices of spirits,
The voice of the Masters,
Call from above.
He here speaks
openly of the Masters, for he is speaking intimately to his brethren
of the Lodge. But he leads us furthest of all in his Fairy Tale of
the Green Serpent and the Beautiful Lily. Therein we
find represented the three kingdoms in which man lives, the physical,
the soul-world or Astral world, and the Spirit-world. The symbol of
the astral or soul-world is the water. By water Goethe always
symbolised the soul, as in his poem Fate and the Soul.
Book 11, Page 46.
Seele des Menschen
Wie Gleichs't du dem Wasser!
Schicksal des Menschen
Wie gleichs't du dem Wind!
Soul of a man,
How like to the water!
Fate of a man,
How like to the wind!
He was also
acquainted with the Spiritual realms in which man lives between two
incarnations, between death and re-birth; that is Devachan, the
Kingdom of the Gods. Man is ceaselessly striving to reach this
kingdom. The Alchemists took the chemical processes as the striving
after this Spiritual kingdom. They called it the Lily,
the realm of the Lily. And man they called the
Lion who fights for the kingdom, and the Lily is the bride of
the Lion. Goethe indicated this in his Faust, when he says:
Then a red Lion with the Lily wedded,
A wooer bold.
speaks of the marriage of man with the spirit. (in tepid
bath, the bath of the soul. The soul, the water, the red Lion,
man) In the Fairy Tale Goethe also represents the three kingdoms. The
kingdom of the senses as the one shore; the kingdom of the
soul as the river, and Devachan (the Spiritual Realm) as that
shore on which is to be found the garden of the beautiful Lily, which
to the Alchemists is the symbol of Devachan. The whole relation of
man to the three kingdoms is symbolised in this beautiful story. We
came across from the kingdom of the Spirit and are striving, to get
Goethe had the Will
of the Wisps brought across by the Ferryman from the kingdom of the
spirit to that of sense. The Ferryman can bring anyone across, but he
may not take them back. We come across by no will of our own, but we
cannot get back again in that way. We must ourselves find the way
back into the Spiritual realm.
The Will of the
Wisps take gold as nourishment, they eat it, and it permeates their
bodies. But at the same time they throw it from them on all sides.
They wish to throw it to the Ferryman as payment, he says however,
that a River cannot bear gold, it would make it surge up wildly. Gold
always signifies wisdom. The Will of the Wisps are those who seek
after wisdom, yet do not mingle it with their nature, but give it
away again undigested. The River is the Soul-life; the totality of
human instincts, desires and passions. When wisdom is introduced into
that, the soul is thrown out into a state of disturbance. Goethe
always pointed out that a man must first undergo Catharsis
(purification) before he can take in wisdom. For if wisdom is brought
into the uncleansed passions, they become fanatical; and a man then
remains the slave of his lower ego. The ascent from Kama to Mana is
dangerous, unless at the same time the lower ego is sacrificed. With
reference to this Goethe says in his Westöstlichen
Divan, Book 4, Page 17
Und so lang du das nicht hast
Dieses Stirb and Werde
Bist du nur ein trülber Gast
Auf der dunklen Erde.
As long as thou hast not got
This dying or becoming
Thou art but a gloomy guest
Upon the dark Earth.
A man must be
prepared to sacrifice himself. The Will of the Wisps are still in
Ahamkara, the slaves of the lower Ego. This wisdom cannot endure. The
soul-life must be purified slowly and must ascend slowly.
The Will of the
Wisps scatter their gold about in the meadow. There they meet with
the Serpent who devours it and unites itself with it. The Serpent has
the strength not to fill its Ego with pride, not to allow it to
become self-seeking, not to raise itself up in pride to an upright
position, but to pursue its way in a horizontal position and to move
into the clefts of the Earth and there attain perfection gradually.
A Temple is
represented, which is to be found in the clefts of the earth.
The Serpent had
already passed in and out of this, and had sensed that mysterious
beings are to be found therein. And now comes the Old Man with the
Lamp. The Serpent, through the gold it had swallowed, has become
luminous, and the Temple is illuminated by its radiance. The lamp of
the Old Man has the property of only shining where light is, and it
then shines with a very peculiar light. Thus, on the one hand there
is the Serpent, luminous through the gold, and on the other the Old
Man with the Lamp, which is also a light. Through this two-fold
illumination every thing in the Temple becomes visible. In the four
corners are four kings; a golden, a silver, a bronze king and one
composed of a mixture of them all. Till now they could not be seen by
the Serpent, he could only find them by the sense of touch; but they
now become visible through their own light. They are the three higher
principles of man, and the four lower principles. The bronze king is
Atma the divine Ego; the silver king is Buddhi the
love whereby all men can understand one another, and the golden king
is Manas, the Wisdom that radiates out into the world and can take in
the radiating Wisdom. When man has acquired Wisdom in a selfless way,
he can then see things in their true nature, without the veil of
Maya. The three higher principles of man now become visible to the
Serpent. The golden king is Manas, for gold always signifies Manas.
The four lower principles of man are symbolically represented by the
fourth king, who is composed of mixtures. Atma, Buddhi and Manas are
drawn into the spheres of Phenomena, but in a state of disharmony.
Only when this is purified can something develop which could not live
where there was a lack of harmony.
The Temple is the
Sanctuary of Initiation, the Mystery school which can only be entered
by those who themselves bring light, when they also are selfless like
the Serpent. The Temple was one day to be revealed, and to raise
itself above the river. That is the kingdom of the future, towards
which we are striving, the secret places of learning must be brought
up into the light of day. Everything which is man must struggle
upwards, must become harmonious, must strive after the higher
principles. That which was formerly taught in the Mysteries must
become an open secret. The wanderers are to cross the river, must
pass from the world of sense to the super-sensible world and vice
versa. All mankind shall be united in harmony. The Old Man with the
Lamp represents man who can today attain knowledge without climbing
to the apex of wisdom, namely to the forces of piety of mind and of
faith. Faith requires light from without, if it is really to lead to
the higher Mysteries. The Serpent and the Old Man with the Lamp have
the forces of the Spirit, which already shines in those who are to
lead in the future. Even to-day anyone who feels these forces is
aware of this, through certain secrets. The Old Man says he knows
three secrets. But the strangest thing is said of the fourth secret.
The Serpent whimpers something into his ear, whereupon the Old Man
calls out, The time has come when a great number of people
shall understand which is the right road. The Serpent has proclaimed
that it is ready to sacrifice itself. It has reached the point of
recognising that man must die, in order to become. (‘Denn
so lang du das nicht hast, dieses stirb and werde’) (As long as
thou hast not, this ‘dying and becoming’!)
in order in the fullest sense of the word to be; that
man can only accomplish through love, devotion and sacrifice. The
Serpent is ready for this. This will be made manifest, when man is
ready for this sacrifice, then the Temple will be raised above the
The Will of the
Wisps were not able to pay their debt; they had to promise the
Ferryman to settle it later. The river received three of the fruits
of the Earth; three cabbages, three onions and three artichokes. The
Will of the Wisps go to the Wife of the Old Man and there they behave
in a very curious manner; they licked the gold off the walls. They
wanted to stuff themselves with wisdom in order to be able to give it
forth again. Mops eats the gold and dies; for everything living must
die of it; he cannot take in the truth and transmute it as does the
Serpent, and therefore it is death-giving. The Old Woman had to
promise the Will of the Wisps to settle their debts with the
Ferryman. When the Old Man with the Lamp comes home he sees what has
occurred. He tells the Old Woman she must keep her promise, but must
also carry the dead Mops to the beautiful Lily, for she can bring all
dead things to life. The Old Woman goes with her basket to the
Ferryman: on the way she has two remarkable experiences. She
meets the great Giant, whose peculiarity is that in the evening he
throws his shadow across the River so that the wanderer can pass over
on it. Besides this the way is also passable when at the noonday hour
the Serpent ramps across the river. The Giant can make a bridge
across, but when the Sun is at its highest point, the Serpent can do
so too; when through the radiant Sun of knowledge man raises his Ego
to the Divine. In the sacred moments of life, at the moments of the
complete blotting out of self, man unites himself with the Godhead.
The Giant is the
rude physical development along which man must necessarily pass. In
so doing he also reaches the yonder realm, but only in the twilight,
when his consciousness is blotted out. That however is a dangerous
path, which is followed by those who develop psychic forces and go
into states of trance. This crossing of the bridge is accomplished in
the twilight of trance. Schiller also wrote on one occasion about the
Shadow of the Giant: These are the dark powers which lead man
across the Threshold.
When the Old Woman
passes him by, the giant takes from her one cabbage, one onion, and
one artichoke, so that she only retained a part of that with which
she was to pay the debt of the Will of the Wisps. The three-fold
number is thus no longer complete. That which we require and which we
must weave into our soul-life is taken from us by the twilight
forces. There is danger in yielding oneself to such forces. The lower
forces must be purified by the soul-forces, the body itself can only
ascend when the soul completely absorbs it. Everything which encloses
an inner kernel as in a shell, is a symbol for the sheaths of man.
Indian allegory describes these sheaths as the petals of the lotus
flower. The physical nature of man must be purified in its shell. We
must pay our debts, and yield our lower principle to the soul-life.
We have expressed the paying of this debt by saying that payment must
be made to the river. That is the whole course of Karma. As the
payment of the Old Woman was insufficient, she had to plunge her hand
into the river; after that she could only feel her hand, but could no
longer see it. That which in man's external, physical
appearance, that which is visible in him, is the body. That must be
purified by the Soul-life. This means that if man cannot pay with the
plant-nature, he remains in debt. Then the actual bodily nature of
man becomes invisible; because the Old Woman was not able to pay her
debt she becomes invisible. The Ego can only be seen in the light of
day, when purified by the soul-life; Oh, my hand, the
loveliest part of me The very part of man which distinguishes
him from the animals. That which as spirit shines through him
becomes invisible if it is not purified by his Karma.
The beautiful youth
who strove after the kingdom of the Lily (Spirituality) was crippled
Goethe by this meant
the ancient Wisdom, for which man must be prepared and purified and
have undergone Katharsis, so that he should no longer reach Wisdom
through sin but might take into himself the higher Spirituality. The
youth had not been prepared by Katharsis. Every living thing which is
not yet mature, is killed by the Lily. All the dead that have passed
through Stirb und Werde, Dying and Becoming,
are brought to life again by the Lily. Now Goethe says that one who
has attained freedom within himself, is ripe for freedom. Jacob
Boehme too says that man must develop himself out of his lower
principle. He who does not do this before he dies, is destroyed at
death. Man must first mature and be purified, before he can enter the
kingdom of the Spirit (The Lily). In the old Mysteries a man had to
go through various stages of purification before he could become a
Mystic. The Youth too had first to pass through these stages, and he
is guided through them by the Lily. The Serpent signifies
development. We see the Lily gathering those together who are seeking
the new way, all those who are striving after the Spiritual. But the
Temple must first be lifted up above the river. They all move towards
the River, the Will of the Wisps are in front and they open the door.
The self-seeking Wisdom is the bridge to the selfless Wisdom. Wisdom
leads a man through self to selflessness. The Serpent sacrificed
itself. And now we understand the meaning of love, it is a Sacrifice
of the lower self for the good of humanity, of complete brotherhood.
The whole company moves towards the Temple, which rises above the
river. The youth is brought to life again. He is furnished with Atma,
Buddhi, Manas; Atma, in the form of the Bronze King, appears before
him and gives him a sword. This represents the higher will, and is
not connected with the lower will. Atma is so to work in man that the
sword shall be on his left and the right hand free, till then man
works separately; the War of all against all. But when man is
purified, peace comes instead of war. Only when man is purified will
peace take the place of War; the sword will then be worn on the left
side, for defence only, leaving the right hand free for well-doing.
The second King
signifies that which at one time was known as the second principle.
Buddhi (Piety, the mood in which a man turns in faith to the
highest). Silver in the symbol of piety. The second King says Feed
my sheep, for here we are concerned with the force of the
spirit. The radiance here is that of Beauty. Goethe connected with
art a feeling of religious reverence. He saw in it the manifestation
of the Divine of the kingdom; the beautiful radiance, the realm of
piety. The Bronze King signifies strength without the lower
principles, the Silver King signifies peace, and the Golden King
Wisdom. He says Recognise the highest The youth
is the four principled man, who is developing his higher principles.
The four lower ones are crippled by the spirit until they have
undergone the purifying development; after that the three higher
principles work together harmoniously in Man. He then becomes strong
and able, and may mate with the Lily. That is the union between the
soul and the spirit of man. The soul is always represented as
something feminine in man. The Mystery of the eternal and immortal is
here represented. The eternal feminine draws us along.
Goethe makes use of the same image in his story, in the union of the
Youth with the beautiful Lily. Now the sacrificed human self and all
living, pass over the bridge that arches across the river. Wanderers
go to and fro and all the kingdoms are now united in beautiful
harmony. The Old Woman grows young, and the Old Man with the Lamp is
rejuvenated; old age has passed away and everything has become new.
little hut has been gilded over, and is now preserved as a sort of
Altar in the Temple. What man formerly took over unconsciously, he
now takes over in full consciousness. The king of many parts has
collapsed. The Will of the Wisps lick the gold out of him, for that
is still connected with the lower. The Giant now indicates the time.
What formerly were the sense-principles (which can only lead into the
shadows) which lead man across in the hour of twilight and belong to
the things of sense, to nature-conditions, now points to the even and
regular course of time. As long as man has not developed the three
higher principles, the past and the future are in conflict. The giant
then works inharmoniously. Now, through these ideal conditions, time
is in harmony. Thought permanently strengthens that which was
wavering, and makes it steady.
Was im schwankende Erscheinung lebt
Befestigt mil dauernden Gedanken.
Faust; Prologue in Heaven.
What lives in transient phenomena
Is justified by lasting thoughts.
That which in the
Pythagorean schools was called the Rhythm of the Universe,
The Music of the Spheres, of the planets, rhythmically
revolving around the Sun, is brought about by the accomplishment of
Divine Thought. To the mystic a planet was a Being of a higher order.
Thus Goethe too says;
Die Sonne tönt nach Alter Weise,
In Bruder-Sphären Wettgesand,
Und ihre vorgeschriebene Reise
Vollendet sie mit Donnergang.
The sun rings forth in ancient fashion
In the spheres of his brother-singers.
He accomplishes his allotted journey
‘Midst resounding claps of thunder.
That man indeed has
the capacity of developing to the highest Divine, Goethe says in the
words; Wär nicht das Auge sonnenhaft, Die Sonne könnt
es nicht erblicken; wohnt nicht in uns des Gottes eigene Kraft, Wie
könnt uns Göttliches entzücken?
If the eye were not fashioned for the sunlight
It could not gaze upon the Sun!
If there were not in us the very force of God
How could we be charmed by the Divine?