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The Eternal in the Human Soul. Immortality and Freedom

Schmidt Number: S-3486

On-line since: 31st August, 2018


Goethe as Father of Spiritual Research


Berlin, 21 February 1918


I would well understand if anybody considered the whole idea of this talk as an aberration. I would also understand if anybody said how one can abuse Goethe's name while making a relationship to spiritual science, because it is sufficiently known that Goethe's view is typical just because it is directed to the outer nature, and it regarded it as rather dubious to raise the lawfulness of the world to ideal heights, as Schiller did it. Then one can say how Goethe would have behaved negatively if one had related his mental pictures to that which accepts a concrete real spirit from particular inner experiences that places itself beside the natural world. I know very well that to the production of such relation such a rich spirit can be abused like Goethe. Since if one still brings in so many remarks of Goethe to confirm this or that own view, it is always possible of course to bring in other remarks of Goethe to confirm the opposite opinion. However, compared with all that I am allowed to mention from the start that I never wanted in case of my really long-standing occupation with Goethe and the Goethean worldview to state these or those contents of a Goethean sentence to confirm the worldview meant here. I always wanted to characterise the whole way, the inner structure of Goethe's soul life in its relation to the natural phenomena. Since it seems to me if one goes into the inner structure of Goethe's nature that one will also gain an understanding of the fact that such a spirit like Goethe expressed apparently opposite views about the same. One can always easily argue something can from the most different sides against the intention to connect Goethe with the investigation of spiritual life.

At first the philosophers feel called because of their ability of thinking if it concerns the investigation of the supersensible compared with the sensory. One has always reminded that Goethe characterised the whole way of his position to the world repeatedly while he said, he owes everything that he got as knowledge about the world to the fact that he never thought about thinking. With it, the whole philosophical attitude of Goethe seems to be condemned to many philosophically thinking people.

It seems necessary to reject Goethe's nature for the investigation of the world as far as one has to exceed with such an investigation what it presents immediately to the senses. On the other side, religious people who want to direct the soul to a world that is beyond the sensory, of course, are irked by such a concise sentence as he did. He always felt it unpleasant to the highest degree to speak of things of another world. He expresses himself even once about the fact in such a way that he says, as a spot is in the eye, which sees, actually, nothing, a cavity is in the human brain. If this hollow place, which actually sees nothing, dreams all kinds of stuff in the world, so one speaks of such nullities like of the things of another world. When Goethe said this, he also pointed to the fact, that such a person inclined to the spiritual like Johann Georg Hamann (1730-1788) was worried if one spoke only of the things of another world. Goethe agrees with Hamann in this respect completely. In the most vigorous way, Goethe refused to speak of the things of another world. Yes, the naturalists themselves, although on them the influence of Goethe has worked strongly, can refer if they stand quite sincerely on the ground of modern natural sciences to the fact that Goethe showed, for example, in his theory of colours that he never could penetrate into the strictly scientific way of research that this never was adequate to him, and that he came just thereby to a view deviating from the ruling theory of colours.

Now here it cannot be my task to justify the Goethean natural sciences. I have done this in a number of writings. Today it should be only my task to attach some connections from spiritual science to the Goethean natural sciences. Above all, I would like to go back to something that is exceptionally typical with this spirit for someone who approaches Goethe: the refusal of thinking about thinking. One has the sensation with the Goethean worldview where one only wants to recognise it, that Goethe himself was afraid instinctively of submitting the thinking itself to a consideration. He shrank from it as from something that constitutes, otherwise, the strength of his worldview. At such a place where Goethe characterises himself, you have to stop, because you can rather deeply look from here into the structure of the Goethean mind. If one considers just philosophically disposed people who have struggled with that which the thinking means for the human soul, you can realise if you make the thinking an object of observation like other objects of our world experience that you always evoke something in the soul that appears like an insurmountable obstacle. While you direct the thinking to the thinking itself, you cause a sum of uncertainties in the human being. Although you have always to ask yourself if you want to investigate the supersensible seriously: is this human thinking able to penetrate into the spiritual world? — You still face doubt, indecision.

As a single factual proof of it which could be increased a hundred times I would like to quote the sentence of a thinker who is less famous, indeed, who, however, is counted by those who know him among the deepest ones, among the most impressive thinkers of our time, Professor Gideon Spicker (1840-1912), the philosopher with the strange destiny who has worked his way out of a confessional ecclesiastical worldview to a free philosophical viewpoint. You can pursue how there once a thinking really soared by own power from a traditional viewpoint to a free one if you read his book At the Turning Point of the Christian World Period. The Philosophical Confession of a Former Capuchin that appeared in 1910 as a kind of philosophical autobiography. You find the following sentence there that describes a self-experience with the thinking:

“To whichever philosophy you confess — whether to a dogmatic or skeptical one, to an empiric or transcendental one, to a critical or eclectic one — any without exception takes an unproven and unprovable sentence as starting point, namely the necessity of the thinking. No investigation figures this necessity out one day, as deeply as it may prospect. One must accept it and one can reason it with nothing; every attempt to prove its correctness already requires it. Beneath it a bottomless abyss yawns, a spooky darkness illuminated by no beam of light. We do not know where from it comes nor where to it leads. It is uncertain whether a merciful god or a bad demon put it in the reason.”

This is a self-experience of a thinking which tried to bring to mind what is, actually, a thinking which has struggled to grasp the human being in the point where it thinks to find that in this point where the temporal, the transient of the human being is connected with the everlasting. To this point everybody must come who wants to approach the everlasting nature of the human being. However, what does Gideon Spicker find? He finds if one has arrived at the place where one can consider the thinking, indeed, the necessity of the thinking appears, but there also a bottomless abyss appears. Since beyond this thinking — what is there? Is it a merciful god or a bad demon who put the thinking in the reason? An abyss, a desolate darkness is that what Gideon Spicker sees. One can find out immediately that those who cannot get further with the pursuit of thinking than up to the thinking cannot still satisfy themselves within this thinking.

All that is like a spiritually instinctive experience in Goethe's healthy worldview. One cannot say that he was prepared in his inside one day to bring the bottomless abyss home to himself of which Gideon Spicker speaks. However, Goethe felt that such a thing could happen if one wants to solve the world riddles only with the mere thinking. Hence, he did not approach at all this point. We will see immediately which deeper impulses formed the basis of this Goethean instinct. For the time being I only wanted to point out that Goethe was very well at that point where the philosophers are if they want to investigate the everlasting in the human being and in the world that he avoided, however, this point, did not approach it.

You can understand Goethe's character immediately if he does not defer to things of another world. There just the oppose impulse appears with him who argued from immediate spiritual instinctiveness that one does not need to go out of the world which presents itself immediately to the senses to find the spirit. Goethe was clear in his mind that someone who is able to find the spirit does not need to search it in another world, and vice versa, that someone who feels nature as little filled with spirit so that he needs to reflect on another world can only find fantastic, dreamy things in another world but never really the spirit. Goethe searched the spirit so much within the things of this world that he had to refuse to search it in any other world. He already regarded the feeling that one must leave this world to get to the spirit as something brainless.

In particular, you get an impression of the kind of the Goethean world observation if you look at how Goethe behaved to the phenomena of nature how he searched the spirit and the spiritual life really in nature. You know that Goethe did not study the various fields of natural sciences during his school years but approached them only later in his life and that he had to manage the phenomena of nature with mental pictures that he had compiled in his life. Herman Grimm emphasised rightly as a significant characteristic feature in the life of Goethe that, while others are introduced by teachers gradually methodically in this or that scientific approach, Goethe approached scientific attempts as a ripe man by life praxis, so that he had to form own mental pictures of these or those natural phenomena with a certain maturity.

As a rule, he got to mental pictures, which deviated significantly from that what about the same things just the authoritative scientists of his time meant. One can say that the Goethean viewpoint is diametrically opposed not only to the natural sciences of his time but also to the natural sciences of the present in a certain respect.

It is inadmissible if from some side single remarks of Goethe are picked out repeatedly to prove the views of Haeckel or also of his opponents one-sidedly. One can prove and confirm everything with Goethe if one wants it. Goethe got to botany because he wanted to care about the agriculture in the Grand Duchy of Weimar, so out of life praxis. He got to geology by the Ilmenau (little town in Thuringia) mining, to physics because the scientific collections of the University of Jena had been assigned to him. Therefore, from necessity of life he tried to get mental pictures by which he could penetrate into the secrets of nature. You know that he formed views this way that found their confirmation partly in the course of the nineteenth century, as far as they point to outer scientific facts. However, Goethe did not get these views like other naturalists, but rather he was urged by his enclosing way of thinking to think in a way about certain natural processes and essentialities. You can say that immediately with his first, epoch-making discovery this is the case.

When Goethe became acquainted with zoology and human biology by observing the anatomical and physiological collections in Jena, he also familiarised himself with all kinds of teachings which were usual in natural sciences at that time about the human being as sensory being. One looked in those days still for outer differences of the human being and the animals. One looked in a way that the modern natural sciences do no longer understand.

One linked, for example, the difference to a detail, while one stated that in the upper jaw of the human being no intermaxillary existed, while all higher animals would have this bone. Goethe disliked this, simply because he could not imagine at first that the remaining skeleton of the human being would differ in such an unimportant detail. Now Goethe looked, while he himself became an anatomical researcher, while he investigated skeleton after skeleton and compared the human construction to the animals in relation to the upper jaw whether that had an inner significance what the anatomists said. Then Goethe could show really that there is no difference between the human and the animal skeletons in this respect. He already consulted the embryological research that became especially important later and showed that with the human being relatively early during the embryonic development the other parts of the upper jaw grow together with the intermaxillary so that it does not seem to exist with the human being. Goethe had become clear in his mind that it was right what he had felt first that the human being is different from the animals not by such an anatomical detail, but only by his whole posture. Of course, Goethe thereby did not become a materialistic thinker. However, he could get closer to the ideas that immediately suggested themselves to him, above all, by his acquaintance with Herder (Johann Gottfried H., 1744-1803) who wanted to extend an enclosing way of thinking to all world phenomena, so that the evolution of the world shows an inner necessity that finally generates the human being at its summit.

How can one imagine, Goethe thought in harmony with Herder, that in the evolution a big harmony, an inner lawful necessity prevails, and that then suddenly somewhere a line is drawn so that on this side of the line the complete animal development is and beyond this line the human development which should be different by such an unimportant detail? One can realise from how Goethe speaks, what was near and dear to him, actually. Not to make a single scientific discovery, but to behold a harmonious order in the whole enclosing nature, so that the details put themselves everywhere in a whole so that jumps are nowhere to be found in the evolution of the world. You can notice in a letter to Herder in which he informed his discovery joyfully with the words: “It is there too, the small bone!” that Goethe found something like a confirmation of his worldview in this single fact.

He continued this view just in relation on the animal forms. There he got also to single facts that were important, however, for him not as those, but confirmed his worldview only. He himself tells that he found an animal skull at his stay in Venice on a cemetery that showed him clearly that the cranial bones are nothing but transformed vertebrae. He thought that the ring-shaped vertebrae contain concealed possibilities of growth, can be transformed into the cranial bones that surround the brain. Goethe thereby got to the idea that the human being and the animal, the different beings of organic life generally, are built from relatively simple entities that develop in living metamorphosis into each other or diverge.

One can immediately receive the sensation with the research intentions of Goethe that he wanted to apply this idea of metamorphosis not only to the skeleton, but also to all other parts of the human being. He could carry out his research only on a special field because one human being cannot do everything, and because he worked with limited research means. Someone who knows Goethe's scientific writings knows that Goethe carefully indicated the cranial bones as transformed dorsal vertebrae. However, one can just have the feeling that Goethe's ideas advanced farther in this field. He would generally have had to carry the view in his mind that the complete human brain is only a transformed part of the spinal cord as a physical-sensory organ that the human formative forces are able to transform what is only a part of the spinal cord on a low level into the complex human brain.

I had this feeling when I received the task in the end of 1889 to incorporate the handwritten notes in the Weimar Goethe and Schiller Archive into Goethe's scientific writings published until then. It was especially interesting to me to pursue whether such ideas have really lived in Goethe from which one could have the feeling that they must have been there, actually, with him. In particular, it interested me whether Goethe really had the idea to regard the brain as a transformed part of the spinal cord. Lo and behold, with the examination of the manuscripts it really resulted that Goethe had written the following sentence in a notebook with pencil like an intuition: “The brain is only a transformed cerebral ganglion.” Then the anatomist Bardeleben (Karl von B., 1849-1919) revised this part of Goethe's scientific writings.

Then Goethe applied the same way of thinking to the plant realm. There his views concerning the outer facts have found just as little contradiction as in anatomy. Goethe interprets, actually, the whole plant as composed of a single organ. This organ is the leaf. Backward and forward, the plant is always leaf. The coloured petal is the transformed green leaf, also the stamens and the pistil are to him only transformed leaves, and everything of the plant is leaf. That what lives in the plant leaf as formative force can accept all possible outer forms. Goethe explained this so nicely in his writing Metamorphosis of Plants (1790).

Howsoever one may behave now to the details with Goethe, the way is important how he generally did research. This was and is to many people something strange. Goethe himself was clear about that. Imagine how the human soul that looks at the organic world in Goethe's sense sees such an organ like the plant leaf changing into the petal, then into the filamentous stamen, even into the root. Imagine a simple ring-shaped dorsal vertebra fluffed and flattened by laws of growth, so that it is qualified for enclosing not only the spinal cord, but also the brain which itself is transformed from a part of the spinal cord, and that the inner mobility of his thinking is necessary. He probably felt what prevents us from looking at the world phenomena this way. Someone who has a rigid thinking who wants to develop sharply outlined concepts only forms the firm concept of the green leaf, of the petal and so on; however, he cannot go over from one concept to the other. In doing so, nature breaks into nothing but details. He does not have the possibility because his concepts have no inner mobility to penetrate into the inner mobility of nature.

However, thereby you become able to settle down in Goethe's soul and to convince yourself of the fact that with him cognition is generally something else than with many other people. While with many other people, cognition is joining of concepts which they form apart, cognition is with Goethe immersing in the world of the beings, pursuing that what grows and becomes and transforms perpetually, so that his thinking changes perpetually. Briefly, Goethe sets that in inner motion, which is mere thinking, otherwise. Then it is no longer a mere thinking. About that, I will speak in detail in the next talks. It matters that the human being arouses the only inferring thinking to the inner living thinking. Then thinking is a life in thoughts. Then one can also no longer think about the thinking, but then it generally changes into something else.

Then the thinking about the thinking changes into a spiritual view of thinking, then one faces the thinking as usual outer sensory objects, save that one perceives these with eyes and ears, while one faces the thinking mentally. Goethe wanted to go over everywhere from the mere thinking to the inner spiritual views, to the beholding consciousness as I have called it in my book The Riddle of Man. Hence, Goethe is dissatisfied because Kant said that the human being cannot approach the so-called “things in themselves” or generally the secret of existence, and that Kant called it an “adventure of reason” if the human being wants to ascend from the usual faculty of judgement up to the “beholding faculty of judgement.”

Goethe said, if one accepts that the human being can ascend by virtue and immortality — the so-called postulates of practical reason with Kant — to a higher region, why one should not stand the “adventure of reason” courageously while beholding nature? Goethe demands from the human being this beholding faculty of judgement. From this point, one can understand why Goethe avoided the thinking about the thinking. Goethe knew that if one wants to think about the thinking one is, actually, in the same position, as if one wanted to paint the painting. One could imagine that anybody wants to paint the painting even that he does it. However, then he exceeds the real painting.

In the same way, you have to exceed the thinking if it should become concrete. Goethe knew from a spiritual instinct that the human being can wake concealed forces and abilities in himself and get to the beholding consciousness, so that the spiritual world is around him, just as, otherwise, the sensory world is around his senses. Then you leave as it were not only your usual sensory life but also your usual thinking. Then you look at the thinking as a reality. You cannot think the thinking; you can behold it. Hence, Goethe always understood if philosophers approached him who believed to have the ability to look at the thinking spiritually. He could never understood if people stated, they could think about the thinking. Only a higher ability lets the thinking appear before the human being. Goethe had this ability. This simply shows the kind of his view of nature. Since the ability to put the thinking in living motion to pursue the metamorphosis of the things is on a lower level the same as the beholding consciousness on a higher level. Goethe felt thinking while looking. However, Goethe had a special peculiarity.

There are certain persons who have a kind of naive clairvoyance, a kind of naive beholding consciousness. Now it is far from my mind to state that Goethe had a kind of naive beholding consciousness only, but Goethe had a special disposition by which he differs from someone who only is able to get to the beholding consciousness by the conscious development of the deeper abilities of his soul. Goethe had this beholding consciousness not from the start as the naive clairvoyants have it, but he could put his thinking, the whole structure of his soul in such a motion that he could do research really not only externally and got thereby to physical laws grasped in thoughts, but he could pursue the inner life of the natural phenomena in their metamorphoses.

It is peculiar that this predisposition, if one wants to develop the ability of the spiritual beholding consciously, is impaired at first, it is even extinguished. Goethe had this natural predisposition in himself to develop a certain beholding consciousness gradually in himself with natural phenomena. He did not want such rules, as I have described them in my book How Does One Attain Knowledge of Higher Worlds?. Goethe did not have the beholding consciousness from the start, but in the course of his development it was to him a self-evident fact to develop certain abilities unlike other people do. This naive talent would have been extinguished at first. If the talent does not exist, one does not want to extinguish it, and then one can quietly develop these abilities consciously. Because it existed with Goethe as an inner spiritual desire, he did not want to disturb it; he wanted that it was left to itself. Hence, his shyness to look at the thinking, which he only wanted to behold, with the thinking. Otherwise, one has to try to go to the point of thinking to grasp the thoughts themselves and to transform them gradually into forces of beholding.

This is a special peculiarity of Goethe that he felt those forces growing up which can be also developed artificially. He did not want to destroy this naive while he spread, I would like to say, too much consciousness about it. However, this shows that it is not unjustified to observe not only how his soul forces work internally, but also how his soul forces immerse in nature. Then without fail Goethe is a model of the development of the beholding consciousness, of those spiritual forces, which really lead into the spiritual world, into the everlasting.

If you settle in Goethe's natural sciences in such a way that you observe them not only externally, but that you try to observe how you yourself become, actually, if you activate such forces in yourself, you can also transfer that what Goethe pursued with his view of nature to the human soul itself. Then comes to light what Goethe omitted because his senses were directed outward at first, to nature which he considered spiritually in her spirituality, namely that one has to look at the human soul life also under the viewpoint of metamorphosis. Goethe became aware of nature due to his special predisposition, and because this predisposition was especially strong, he looked less after the soul life.

However, you can apply his way of looking at the world to the soul life. Then you are led beyond the mere thinking. Most people who deal with these things simply do not believe this. They believe that one can think about the soul exactly the same way as one can think about something else. However, one can direct thoughts only to that what can be perceived outwardly. If you want to look back at the soul itself, on that what activates the human thinking, then you cannot do it with the thoughts. You need the beholding consciousness that exceeds the mere thinking; you get to the Imaginative knowledge, as I called it in my book How Does One Attain Knowledge of Higher Worlds? and in other books. One cannot apply the same abstract, pale thoughts with which one grasps nature to the human soul life. One simply does not grasp it with them. Such thoughts are like a sieve, through which you pass the human soul life.

This occurred once in a great historical moment when Goethe and Schiller (1759-1805, German poet) met. Just in this point, you can realise what happens if you want to enter from Goethe's view of nature into a soul view. Schiller had written an important treatise, On the Aesthetic Education of Man in a Series of Letters (1794). I want to indicate only briefly, which soul riddle Schiller had in mind. Schiller wanted to solve the problem of the artistic. He wanted to answer the question to himself: what happens, actually, in the human soul if the human being creates or feels artistically if he puts himself in the world of beauty? Schiller found, if the human being is only given away to his sensory drives, he is subject to the physical necessity.

As far as the human being is subject to the physical necessity, he cannot approach beauty and art. Also, not if he dedicates himself only to the thinking if he follows the logical necessity only. However, there is a middle state, Schiller thinks. If the human being impregnates everything that the sensory gives him with his being so that it becomes like the pure spirituality, if he raises the sensory to spirituality and presses the spirituality down into the sensory, so that the sensory becomes spiritual and the spiritual becomes sensory, then he is in beauty, then he is in the artistic. The necessity seems to be reduced by the desire, and the desire seems to be improved by the spirit. Schiller spoke a lot about his intention to Goethe to invigorate the human soul forces so that in the harmony of the single soul forces this middle state appears which enables the human being to create or feel the artistic. In the nineties, from the deeper acquaintance of Goethe and Schiller on, this important life riddle played a big role in the correspondence and in the conversations of Schiller and Goethe. In the Letters on the Aesthetic Education of Man Schiller tried to solve this problem philosophically. Goethe also dealt with this problem because this problem occupied Schiller so much. But Goethe had the beholding consciousness which Schiller did not have; this enabled him to submerge with his thoughts in the world of the things themselves, but also to grasp the soul life more intimately.

He could realise that the human soul life is much more extensive, is much more immense than that what one can grasp with abstract thoughts, as Schiller did in his Letters on the Aesthetic Education of Man.

Goethe did not want simply to put such dashes, such contours of thoughts to characterise this richly structured human soul life. Thus, a little work of quite different nature originated about the same problem.

It is very interesting to consider more closely this point of the acquaintance of Goethe and Schiller. What did Schiller want, actually? Schiller wanted to show that in every human being a higher human being lives, as compared with what the usual consciousness encloses is a lower one. Schiller wanted to announce this higher human being who carries his desires up to the spirit and brings the spirit down to the desires, so that the human being, while he connects the spiritual and sensory necessities, grasps himself in a new way and appears as a higher human being in the human being. Goethe did not want to be so abstract. However, Goethe also wanted to strive for what lives as a higher human being within the human being. This higher being in the human being appeared to him so rich in its single member that he could not grasp it with mere thinking, so he put it in mighty, important pictures. Thus, The Fairy Tale of the Green Snake and the Beautiful Lily (1795) originated from forms at the end of Conversations of German Emigrants.

Someone who symbolises a lot in this fairy tale does not come close to its deeper sense. The different figures of this fairy tale, they are about twenty, are the soul forces, personified in their living cooperation which lift the human being beyond themselves and to the higher human being. This lives in the composition of The Fairy Tale of the Green Snake and the Beautiful Lily. Only in pictures, Goethe could grasp the problem that Schiller grasped in thoughts philosophically; but in pictures which are an entire world.

You do not need to grasp the soul life pedantically only in Goethean way, so, actually, only in poetic pictures, but one realises — just if one goes into the inner structure of the Goethean worldview if one applies this to the soul life in same way, as Goethe applied his ramble spirituality in the metamorphosis — that the metamorphosis of the soul forces grasps the human being vividly and leads him from the transient that he experiences in the body to the imperishable that he experiences as that which is in his inside and goes through births and deaths. The usual psychology deals a lot with the question: should one take the one or the other soul force as starting point? Is the will original, is the imagination, or is the thinking original? How should one imagine the mutual relation of imagination, thinking, feeling, and percipience? One applied a lot of astuteness to grasp the cooperation of the different soul forces in such a way as the outer natural sciences grasp the interaction of green leaf and petal or the interaction of cranial bones and cerebral ones without considering the inner transformation.

Somebody who can turn his view from the outside inwards with Goethean sense can behold the soul life; however, he has to do it even more vividly than to the outer life of nature because one can rest in the outer life as it were with the spiritual view. The outer life gives you the material; you can go from creation to creation. The inner life seems to disappear perpetually if you want to look at it. However, if you turn the ramble thinking inwards, which just becomes a beholding one, then that becomes what appears as thinking, feeling, willing, and as perceiving, nothing but something intrinsic that changes into each other. The will becomes a metamorphosis of the feeling, the feeling a metamorphosis of imagining, the imagining a metamorphosis of the perceiving and vice versa.

The development of the forces and abilities slumbering in the human being, of the meditative thinking, which leads into the spiritual world, is based on nothing but on the living pursuit of the inner metamorphoses of the soul forces. On one side that tries who wants to become a spiritual researcher to develop his imagination, his percipience in such a way that he leads the will which only slumbers, otherwise, in percipience and imagination, into this percipience and imagination repeatedly in such a way that he brings that consciously to mind what, otherwise, appears as an involuntary mental picture. Thereby the usually pale thinking or forced percipience changes into the pictorial beholding. Since one can behold the spiritual only in pictures. The will and the feeling that one can imagine only, otherwise, but not in their real nature are recognised, are transformed by the meditative life, so that they become an imagining life, a perceiving life.

Leading the imagination into the will, leading the will into the imagining, changing the will into imagination and vice versa, the transformation of the imagining into the will in inner liveliness, the transformation of the single soul forces into each other, this is meditative life. If this is pursued, that announces itself for the inner observation what cannot announce itself if one looks only at thinking, at feeling and willing side by side. If one looks at them side by side, only the temporal of the human being appears. If one learns to recognise how imagining changes into feeling and the will changes into imagining and perceiving, one gets to know the metamorphosis of the inner soul life, as vividly as Goethe pursued the metamorphoses in the outer nature. Then the everlasting of the human soul announces itself that goes through births and deaths. The human being thereby enters the everlasting.

What did Goethe want while he removed such a prejudice that the human being differs by a detail like the intermaxillary bone in the upper jaw from the animal? He did not want that the human being faces as an isolated being the remaining world, he wanted, completely in harmony with Herder, to survey nature as a big whole and to look at the human being arising from the whole nature. When Schiller had got rid of some prejudices towards Goethe and had reached a pure free recognition of his greatness, he wrote to Goethe, how he had to think about Goethe's way of looking at nature. Among the rest, he wrote the nice words: “You take together the whole nature to get light for the single; in the entirety of her phenomena you look for the explanation of the individual ... A great and really heroic idea which shows only too well, how much your mind holds together the rich whole of its mental pictures in a nice unity.”

It attracts Schiller's attention that Goethe wanted to understand the human being while he assembled him from that which is separated, otherwise, in the different beings of nature but which can change by inner formative forces so that the human being appears like a summary of the outer natural phenomena in his outer figure, the crown of the outer nature.

One has to form a correct mental picture of that which there Goethe wanted, actually, if one envisages the other side now that arises for the soul life. If one envisages the metamorphosis of the inner soul forces as Goethe envisaged the metamorphosis of the outer forms of the human being, that arises what appears in the human being as a summary of the metamorphosing soul forces from the underlying world of spiritual beings and spiritual processes, as on the other side if one looks at the human being as a physical being in the Goethean way, this human physical being arises as a summary of the physical world. As Goethe's natural sciences connect the outer human figure to the whole remaining physical world, a Goethean psychology connects the human soul to the everlasting, concrete, enclosing spiritual world and allows it to concentrate in the human being. Not while you take this or that sentence of Goethe to confirm your own view you can build a bridge between spiritual science and the Goethean world consideration, but while you try to solve the problem internally — vividly, not in the abstract — logically how does one come close to such a kind to delve into nature?

Goethe himself possessed this ability to delve into nature naively. If you search it by deepening in his way to look at the world, to bring it back to life in yourself, then you get to the necessity to extend that which Goethe had as disposition for the view of nature also to the world of the mental. Then you get by the human soul life to the everlasting spiritual world as Goethe got by the human natural life to his consideration of the outer physical world. You have to approach Goethe internally; you have to try to want that in love what he wanted concerning nature. Then you get around to wanting the same concerning the spiritual world whose image is the human soul world. You get around to looking from the human soul into the spirit as Goethe looked from the human nature into the remaining nature. In this sense, one can already say that one understands Goethe little if one takes him only in such a way as he behaved at first. Goethe himself did not want to be taken in such a way. Since Goethe was very close to the whole way that must appear again with spiritual research, he was close to it also in the non-scientific areas, in the area of art.

If you yourself try to settle in the beholding consciousness, you realise that it is necessary above all that this settling does not perpetually disturb itself by all kinds of prejudices which are transferred from the sensory world or from the abstract, only logical thinking to the spiritual world. An important viewpoint of the investigation of the spiritual world is that you are able to wait. The soul can exert itself ever so much to investigate something in the spiritual world, it wants to investigate it absolutely, but it will fail, it will fool itself. It can exert itself ever so much unless in it those abilities have still matured which are necessary to the view of certain beings or certain facts, it will not yet be able to recognise them. Maturing, waiting is necessary until in the soul that has grown up which faces you in a certain area of the spiritual world. This is something that is necessary in a particular way for penetrating into the spiritual world. The spiritual researcher must have patience and energy to a high degree. I characterise other rules in later talks. Goethe was minded by his whole nature to be also as an artist in such a way that he waited everywhere.

Nothing is more interesting than to pursue those poetries of Goethe that he could not finish if one pursues how he got stuck with the Pandora, how he got stuck with the Natural Daughter which should have become a trilogy and became only one part. If you compare it to that which he finished brilliantly, like the second part of Faust or the Elective Affinities, one recognises his innermost nature. Goethe could not “do” anything, he had always to form that only to which he had advanced by the maturity of his being, and if he did not attain this maturity, he left it, and then he was not able to work on. Someone who creates artistically only combining can work on. Someone who lets the spirit create in himself like Goethe cannot advance sometimes just if he is great as Goethe was. Where Goethe had to stop, he was of particular interest for that who wants to penetrate into his inner being. If one pursues something like the Elective Affinities, one realises that that which lives in it existed already in relatively early time, but not the possibility to develop figures really that could embody this riddle of nature and human being. Goethe left them, and thus he handed over the Elective Affinities to a time when the persons did no longer live who could still have understood it because they had experienced the first youth impulses together with him.

Thus, Goethe was close to spiritual science by this real experience of the mental as it were, he was close to it by the desire not to stop at the abstract thinking but to advance from the thinking to reality, indeed, as a naturalist, but as a naturalist who searched the spirit. Therefore, he was so glad when during the twenties the psychologist Heinroth (Johann Christian H., 1773-1843, German anthropologist) said that Goethe had a concrete thinking. Goethe understood this straight away that he did not have a thinking that keeps on spinning a thread but that submerges in the things.

However, the thinking submerges in the things, it does not find abstract material atoms in them, but the spirit, as well as by the beholding consideration of the soul life the everlasting spirit of the human being is recognised. Therefore, Goethe's view envisaged what reveals itself within the world of the sensory as something spiritual. You can understand from those indications that Goethe did not want to think about the thinking because he only knew too well that one could only look at the thinking. One can also understand well that Goethe did not at all mean anything irreligious when he said that it is antipathetic to him to speak of the things of another world. Since he knew that these things of another world are in this world, penetrate it perpetually, and that someone who does not search these spiritual things and beings in nature who denies them in nature does not want to recognise the spirit in the phenomena of nature. Hence, Goethe did not want to look behind the natural phenomena, but he wanted to search everywhere in the natural phenomena. Hence, it was unpleasant to him to speak of an “inside of nature.”

So about many philosophical minded people look for the “thing in itself.” They face the world of the outer sensory perceptions; they recognise that they are only sensory perceptions, reflections of reality. There they look for the “things in themselves,” but not, while they withdraw from the mirror and search in that which the spirit can grasp as spirit, but while they smash the mirror to reach for the world of the dead atoms from which one can never grasp anything living.

This inside of nature was for Goethe completely beyond his imagination. Hence, with his review on all efforts which he had to do to penetrate into the spirituality of the natural phenomena, that severe quotation which he did about the great naturalist Haller who had become unpleasant to him because he had said once: “No created mind penetrates into the being of nature. Blissful is that to whom she shows her appearance only!” Goethe did not at all want to speak about nature this way. He answered to it:


“No created mind penetrates
Into the being of nature.”
O you Philistine!
Do not remind me
And my brothers and sisters
Of such a word.
We think: everywhere we are inside.
“Blissful is that to whom she shows
Her appearance only!”
I hear that repeatedly for sixty years,
I grumble about it, but covertly,
I say to myself thousand and thousand times:
She gives everything plenty and with pleasure;
Nature has neither kernel nor shell,
She is everything at the same time.
Examine yourself above all,
Whether you are kernel or shell.


Goethe believes that someone who looks at nature as something that is an outside of the spirit cannot penetrate into the spirit of nature. While she shows her shell in her different metamorphoses to the human being, it reveals the spirit to him at the same time with her kernel. Spiritual science wants nothing to be in this respect but a child of Goethe, I would like to say. It wants to extend that which Goethe applied in such fertile way to the world of the outer natural phenomena also to the soul phenomena by which they immediately receive active life and reveal the internal spiritual, that spiritual which lives in the human being as his everlasting immortal essence. We look closer at this in the following talks.

I wanted to show this today. Not because one grasps Goethe in his single statements, one can call him a father of spiritual science — since in this way one could make him the father of all possible worldviews —, but while one tries to settle affectionately in that what appeared to him so fertile. Then one does not repeat what he already said, but then spiritual science appears rightly as a continuation of the Goethean worldview. It seems to me that it is in its sense if one ascends from the physical life to the spiritual life.

Goethe himself showed when he wanted to summarise his worldview in his essay about Winckelmann (Johann Joachim W., 1717-1768, German art historian and archaeologist) the living together of the human being with the whole universe as an interaction of spirits, while he said: “If the healthy nature of the human being works as a whole if he feels in the world as in a big nice and worthy whole if the harmonious ease grants a pure, free delight to him, then the universe would shout out and admire the summit of its own being and becoming if it could feel itself because it has attained its goal.” Thus, Goethe lively imagined the essence of the human being together with the essence of nature in interaction: nature, the world perceiving itself in the human being, the human being recognising himself as everlasting, but expressing his eternity in the temporality of the outer world. Between world and human being, the world spirit lives, grasping itself, knowing itself, even confirming itself in the sense of Goethe.

Hence, those who have thought in the sense of Goethe were never tempted to deny the spirit and to apply the Goethean worldview to confirm a more or less materialistic worldview. No, those who have understood Goethe have always thought that the human being, while he faces the things of nature and lives among them, lives at the same time in the spirituality into which he enters if he dies. These human beings have thought in such a way as for example Novalis (1772-1801) did.

Novalis, the miraculous genius, who wanted to submerge in nature in certain phases of his life in quite Goethean way, knew himself immersed in the spiritual world. His many remarks about the immediate present of the spirit in the sensory world go back to the Goethean worldview. Hence, I am allowed, while Goethe is put as it were as a father of a spiritual worldview, to close with a remark, which Novalis did completely in the Goethean sense that summarises that which I briefly outlined today as Goethean worldview in a way:

“The spiritual world is also not closed to us here. It is always manifest to us. If we can make our souls as elastic as it is necessary, we are like spirits among spirits!”




Last Modified: 02-Dec-2018
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