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Origin and Destination of Humanity
GA 53

XV. Goethe's Gospel

26 December 1905, Berlin

Note to the reader:

The text of this lecture is not to be regarded as literally spoken that way. It is rather a more or less extensive summary based on two incomplete transcripts.

In this lecture, I want to give a picture of the theosophical world view that is completely free of any dogmatism, while I want to show its characteristics with the help of some phenomena of our Central European cultural life. It is not a matter of importing any foreign oriental world view but of showing that theosophy is life and must become life. It is no new Gospel, but the renewal of sensations deeply rooted in the human soul.

We have to be interested most of all how geniuses, affiliated to us, are filled with the theosophical world view. Thus Lessing believed in reincarnation. In Herder's writings, we find ideas of reincarnation. We find them with Schiller in his Philosophical Letters (1786), in the Letters from Raphael to Julius (Christian Gottfried Körner in Schiller's Thalia) and in On the Aesthetic Education of the Man in a Series of Letters (1793/94). Novalis also believed in it. In particular, we find a theosophical world view in the later works of Goethe. Indeed, this can surprise at first, but who occupies himself with the study of Goethe, especially with the profound Faust drama, immerses himself more and more into that which I try to explain. What I try to tell now has arisen very easily to me.

Goethe was a theosophist according to his whole nature, to the innermost sense of his life, because he did never accept any limit of his knowledge and work. Goethe was determined by his whole disposition to the world view we represent here. He was convinced that the human being is deeply connected with the world, and that this world is nothing material, but active, creative spirit; his world view was not an uncertain pantheism, but he believed that we can attain a living relation to God.

As a seven-year-old boy he collected the sunbeams and enkindled a little candle; he wanted to enkindle a sacrificial service by the fire of nature. In Poetry and Truth he says: if we oversee the different religions, we find a common core of truth in them. The sages of all times always showed the swing of a pendulum between the higher and lower self,

When Goethe had returned home after his Leipzig study and after a severe illness, he devoted himself to mystic studies. He decided to express what took place in him, the whole urging, in the Faust drama; in the legend in which the Middle Ages wanted to describe the fight between the old and the new world views.

The 16th century did not think that one could progress to redemption by the own soul force; it let Faust perish. However, Goethe did it. After he had represented Faust as a striving human being, in the first version of Faust, he put him on a new basis in the nineties of the 18th century. In his Faust Goethe shows the development of the human being from the lower to the higher soul forces and as we will still see also in the Fairy Tale of the Green Snake and the Beautiful Lily.

His view was: only somebody who has passed the stages of development, who has felt attracted to the divine, who has passed doubts, has the full conviction, has gained the confidence and has brought himself from disharmony to harmony. His Faust is a song of human perfection. We need not to seek for the way to perfection in the Bhagavad Gita. We find the big problem also in the Faust. Goethe sets himself the task in his Faust to uncover the secret of evil.

Goethe uses the Prologue in Heaven to show the intention of his drama. The physical world is a reflection of force relations of the super-sensible world. With the words of the Prologue in Heaven Goethe describes the world of devachan, the sounding world. He represents it in the picture of the Pythagorean music of the spheres:

In ancient rivalry with fellow spheres
The sun still sings its glorious song...

Who says there that it concerns a superficial picture only says something superficial.

He also says at the end of the Ariel scene:

Hearken! Hear the onrush of the Horae!
In these sounds we spirits hear
The new day already born.

Goethe always speaks of the sounding of the spiritual world.

Theosophy speaks of three worlds: of the dream world, of the astral or soul world and of the mental or spiritual world. The emergence of the spiritual eye produces immense changes in the dream life first. If the new beholding, the new world becomes accessible, it is very regular. Of course, one must not found any science on what the human being experiences there. The student or chela has to learn to take this consciousness of the astral world along with him from the dream into his day consciousness. Later then he experiences the spiritual world in the dreamless sleep.

The consciousness of the astral world expresses itself in pictures, the consciousness of the spiritual world in spiritual hearing. The Pythagoreans called it the music of the spheres.

Still an important principle of the human being appears in the Prologue: the principle of karma. Who knows that Goethe knew the mystics of the Middle Ages thoroughly, does not speak of external pictures if Goethe says:

The spirit world is not sealed off
Your mind is closed, your heart is dead!
Go, neophyte, and boldly bathe
Your mortal breast in roseate dawn!

Dawn or “aurora” is an expression which is familiar to the mystics. Jacob Böhme's first work was called: Aurora or the Rising of Dawn.

From the start, Faust strives beyond the limits of the physical life. The portrayal of the earth spirit is completely given in technical-mystic terms, a wonderful portrayal of the astral body of the earth, of the imperishable soul cover spiritually created from the fruits of life. The earth spirit is no symbol; Goethe considers him as a real being. He supposed that in the planet planetary beings are and have their bodies, like we have our bodies of flesh. Goethe's creed was: the earth spirit taught him not only to consider but to feel and sense the uniform being of stone, plant, and animal up to the human being. He taught him the brotherliness of everything created up to the human being, the crown of creation. He also expressed his creed as 35-, 36-year-old man in The Secrets. A pilgrim walks to a cloister. He sees a rose cross at the gate. The rose cross is the symbol of the realms of nature; stone, plant, animal = cross, roses = love. Goethe himself says later that each of the twelve personalities represents a great world view or world religion in The Secrets. The aim of the pilgrim was to seek for the true core of the world religions.

In the first part, we see the young Faust being full of sensation and disharmony. With the help of the tempter Faust has to lead his lower self through all mistakes. In Mephistopheles Goethe created the picture of an ancient idea that is included in any profound wisdom. He tried to solve the problem of evil. Evil is the sum of those forces which oppose the progress of human perfection. If truth consists of the further development, any obstacle is a lie. Mephistopheles is called the spoiler, mephiz, the liar tophel in Hebrew. He leads through all kinds of experience of the lower self.

At the end of the first part, Faust stands differently before the earth spirit; he attains the insight that it is possible to really recognise the self. After he has finished the errors, he gets to the spiritual world by purification.

Faust dies at an old age, and there he becomes a mystic. In the conversations with Eckermann (Johann Peter E., 1792–1854) Goethe says: for the initiate will be soon evident that a lot of profound is to be found in this Faust.

The descent to the mothers: in any mysticism the highest psychic is female; cognition is a conception process. The fire on the tripod is the primary matter. The realm of the mothers is the primary source of all things; the spirit comes from there. A moral qualification is necessary to enter the spiritual world devachan in the language of theosophy. The aim of theosophy is to lead the human beings upward. The human being must make himself appropriate and worthy of that. When Faust leads Helena upward for the first time, he breaks out in consuming passion and, hence, Helena disperses.

Faust should fathom the profound secret of the human nature, how body, soul and spirit combine.

Spirit is the eternal; it was before birth and will be after death; soul is the connection between spirit and body; it tends more to the body first then to the spirit in the course of development, and with the latter to the everlasting. The development of the spiritual eye supports that.

In Faust you are now led into the laboratory in which Homunculus is generated; Homunculus becomes wonderfully understandable if he is understood as a soul that has not yet incarnated. Homunculus has to receive a body. Goethe shows the gradual development of the bodily in a magnificent picture at the Classical Walpurgisnight. Proteus is the sage who knows how the physical metamorphoses proceed. Homunculus has to start with the mineral, and then the realm of plants follows. For going through the plant realm Goethe uses the expression “es grünelt so.” [ Note 1 ]

Sexuality appears only on a certain stage. Eros combines with Homunculus: The human being comes into being from the connection of the male aspect of the soul and the female one.

Faust's loss of sight shows: the physical world dies for him; the internal vision rises in him. A magnificent picture of this process: “And as long you do not have this dying and becoming ...” The mystics express it in such a way: “for death is the root of all life.” And: “who does not die, before he dies perishes, before he dies.”

In the final picture of Faust the Chorus mysticus says:

All that is transitory
is only a symbol;
what seems unachievable
here is seen done;
what's indescribable,
here becomes fact:
The eternal-female
shows us the way.

In any mysticism the striving human soul is female. The connection of the soul with the world secret: the spiritual connection is expressed with the mystics as a wedding of the lamb. Goethe expressed this view even deeper in The Fairy Tale of the Green Snake and the Beautiful Lily.

Goethe himself said of the last passages of Faust in the conversations with Eckermann that he wanted to show Faust ascending the Montserrat. In the poem The Secrets it is indicated. Parzival, the traveller through the valley. When Faust lost his eyesight, he got the possibility to quickly develop. There he came to the higher regions, to the devachan, we would say. However, Goethe also needed Catholic ideas. Thus he let Doctor Marianus appear in the “neatest cell.” This indicated: the release from anything sexual, being above man and woman. That is why he also added the female name with masculine ending to him. Now asexuality takes the place of uni-sexuality. He had completely awoken in buddhi. Buddhi, the sixth member, had got the upper hand over all the other members.


Es grünelt so: the verb “grüneln” is a nonce word: being or becoming something that reminds of green; the translation of this sentence reads: “the air smells fresh and green.”