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The Imagery of the Goetheanum Windows

Rudolf Steiner Archive & e.Lib Document

Sketch of Rudolf Steiner lecturing at the East-West Conference in Vienna.

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The Imagery of the Goetheanum Windows

On-line since: 15th September, 2017

Introduction by Wilhelm Rath

In the verses that follow an attempt has been made to express in rhythmical form what these unique works of art can convey to the beholder.

The verses should, however, not be regarded as intended to stand by themselves. Some parts of them would then seem to be meaningless. They should be looked upon as an ‘elucidating description’ accompanying the beholder — and not in any way claiming to be the only explanation.

Employing a new kind of engraving in glass of a single colour the windows were intended to awaken in the ‘eye of the soul’ an experience of the imaginative world in much the same way as was intended for the ceiling paintings of the small and large cupolas.

For the art of the Goetheanum is not decoration, nor is it merely art per se — rather is it an art that speaks. Whosoever is able to understand its language will discover in it secrets of the human being. Rudolf Steiner called the Goetheanum “the house of the word” not only because the spirit manifesting itself to humanity in the word of anthroposophy resounded in it, but also because all forms and pictures were intended by their own ‘language’ to open the soul to the spirit, to lead man from sense experience to higher faculties of perception.

Whereas the paintings of the large cupola in their colours and images born of the colour-worlds pointed to the imaginations of former states of the earth and of human cultures, and in the smaller cupola present and future of human development were revealed to the soul in significant pictures, the motifs of the windows show the path of inner development towards an imaginative experience of the spiritual background of man's life of soul.

The starting point for this path is the experience of the image of man's egoity as it is begotten in its primordial form from the macrocosm (centre motif of the West window), whilst the windows on either side remind man that he can only cross the threshold to higher cognition by courageously facing the animality of his own ‘abyss’ and overcoming it.

The green windows depict the striving soul's relation to the powers of opposition — to Lucifer in the South and Ahriman in the North.

The blue windows reveal the foundation of the human power of will, enabling man to arrive at free decisions (in the South window) and the cosmic origin of his head organization for perception and cognition through thinking (in the North window).

The violet windows tell of the soul's descent to incarnation (in the South window) and its re-ascent to the spirit in life after death (in the North window).

Finally, the windows in the colour of peach blossom (now rose) reveal the spiritual reality of sleeping (South window) and waking (North window).

In the first Goetheanum each of the windows was in the form of a triptych, so that the eye of the beholder was naturally drawn first to the main motif of the centre light and subsequently to that of the left and right. [The glass obtainable then must have been much truer to what Rudolf Steiner was looking for, witness the fact that the last pair are designated as rose-coloured but had almost reached peach blossom. In the present Goetheanum, tall narrow windows were required and so the central light of the triptych now occupies the upper portion of the window and the flanking lights occupy the lower. (Tr.)]

To see the windows in a meaningful sequence you should begin with the red window in the West — continuing from here to the green window in the South — then to the green window in the North and so on till you arrive at the peach blossom (rose) window in the North showing the spiritual aspect of man in the waking state, which is after all basic for all Ego development on earth. For only the consciously awake human being can work for the redemption of the earth in the sense of the Christ event by his spirit-filled actions.

In this manner, the path of a spiritualized Platonism as represented by the windows in the South combines with the spiritualized Aristotelianism in the North windows.

As in the new Christianity of the anthroposophical movement t lie spiritual currents of Platonism and Aristotelianism combine forces, so does the Platonic view of the prenatal life in anthroposophical human science unite with the Aristotelian view of the condition of man in the life after death.

And as the Platonically inclined soul looks yearningly to the spiritual world in which it originates and out of which it gathers strength for earthly life and ever again refreshes itself in sleep — of this the windows in the South speak to us — so the Aristotelian soul finds contentment in the affirmation of the earth, in the confrontation with the Ahrimanic power in complementing sense perception with understanding thinking — and lastly in the grasping of the spiritual significance of his purposeful awake-ness for the redeeming of all creation. This is revealed to him by the windows in the North.

The path of inner schooling of the spiritual soul in the age of Michael is to be found in the alternating and intertwining rhythm of the South and North windows. This can balance out the onesidedness of our karma and prepare the soul for an understanding of the encounter of the great Platonists and Aristotelians at the end of the century. The side lights of the rose-coloured window in the North in particular point to this future when man, having arrived at higher wakefulness, is capable, out of the strength flowing to him from the Mystery of Golgotha, of working at the redemption of the Luciferic and Ahrimanic powers.

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