Goethe's Secret Revelation
III. The Riddle in Faust: Exoteric
11 March 1909, Berlin
It was in August, 1831, that Goethe sealed up a packet and handed it to his faithful secretary Eckermann and prepared his testamentary directions for the editing of this sealed-up treasure. This packet contained in a comprehensive way the whole striving of Goethe's life. It contained the second part of Goethe's Faust; which was not to be published until after Goethe's death. Goethe was aware that in this work he had given the contents of his rich, many-sided, far-reaching and deeply-penetrating life to human existence, and the importance of this moment for him may be gathered from the words he uttered at the time, ‘I am now finished my life's true work, anything I do further and whether I do it or not, is all the same!’ If we permit a fact such as this to work on the soul we can say: It would not be easy for a human life to become fruitful for the rest of humanity in a more beautiful, harmonious way, or indeed to become fruitful in a more conscious manner. There is something deeply affecting in the thought of Goethe's life at this point of time — for he lived barely one year longer — in that he should have visited Ilmenau once more and there re-read the beautiful verse he had written on the 7th of September, 1783, when he was still a comparatively young man.
‘Above all heights
In the tree tops
Scarce a breath,
The birds are silent in the woods,
Only wait, soon
Thou too shalt rest.’
One may well ask whether these lines may not have signified at that time a frame of mind regulating Goethe's ideas in a new way as he re-read them in the evening of his life with affecting tears.
Goethe's Faust is truly a testament of the very first order when considered with reference to its literary and intellectual standpoint.
In 1831 Goethe finished the work which had occupied him from his earliest youth, having worked energetically from the year 1824 at the second part of Faust. We find that Goethe knew from the beginning of 1770 that he had what may be called the Faust disposition and that he began in 1774 to write down the first part of Faust, returning again and again to this poem in the most important moments of his life.
Notably he took the first part of Faust with him when he went to Weimar and owing to his position there entered the great world. Certainly it was not produced there. But because one of the Weimar Court ladies, Fräulein von Göchhausen, preserved a copy of the Faust which Goethe took with him to Weimar, we to-day possess the form in which it was when he took it there. We therefore know the form in which Faust was printed for the first time and published in 1790, and further we know the setting in which the whole of Goethe's works appeared in 1808 in the first edition. All that we have of Faust, including that very important document which Goethe left as his testament, shows us the different stages of Goethe's growth. It is endlessly interesting to observe how these four stages of Goethe's Faust-creation appear to us in different ways, according to its inner nature, and how they represent a crescendo in the whole of Goethe's life-endeavour. What Goethe took with him to Weimar is a literary work of a quite personal character into which he had poured the feelings, the degrees of knowledge and also the despair of knowledge, as they went with him through the Frankfort time into the Strassburg time and also into the first Weimar period. It is the work of a man hotly striving after knowledge, striving to feel himself into life, experiencing every despair that an upright honourable man can go through, and all this he had poured into this work. All this is in the first part of Faust. But when Faust appeared in 1790 as a fragment, it was recognized that Goethe had worked at it and transformed it out of a longing lying deep in his soul and inner life which had become enlightened through his contemplation of Italian nature and of Italian works of Art. Out of this personal work of one who had been tossed to and fro in life's storms there emerged the work of one, who to a certain degree, had become unshackled and who had a very clear view of life before his soul.
Then came the time of Goethe's friendship with Schiller. The time when in his inner being he learned to know and experience a world which had long become rooted within him. A world of which one can say that he who experiences it has had his spiritual eyes opened, so that he can see into the surrounding spiritual world. And now Faust's personality becomes a being placed between two worlds, between the spiritual world to which man can raise himself through purification, through the ennobling of himself and that world which drags him down. Faust becomes a being placed between the world of good and the world of evil. And while previously we saw in Faust the life of the single striving personality, now we see before us a great conflict carried on between the good and evil powers around man. Man is thus placed in the centre as the worthiest object for which the good and evil beings fight in the world. Though in the very beginning Faust is seen as a man doubting all knowledge, he now comes before us as one placed between heaven and hell. Thus the poem reaches an essentially higher stage and a higher existence.
In the form in which Faust appears in 1808 it seems as if thousands of years of human development resound. We are reminded of the great dramatic representation of man's life produced in ancient times in the Book of Job, where the evil spirit went among men and stood up before God, and God said to him: ‘Thou hast been to and fro on the earth, hast thou considered my servant Job?’ What is here said we find in the poem, ‘The Prologue in Heaven’ where God speaks with Mephistopheles, the messenger of the evil spirituality:
The Lord: Know'st Faust?
Mephistopheles: The Doctor Faust?
The Lord: My servant, he —
So out of what Goethe wrote in order that his Faust Mystery should appear in its right light there sounds an echo of the Book of Job, ‘Dost thou know my servant Job?’
Then Goethe's fine, full life continued further, going ever deeper into the human existence of which the world to-day knows so little. And having brought to expression in many different ways what he had experienced in his soul, in 1824 he looked back on his whole life, and once more sat down and described Faust's passage through the great world, but in such a way that the second part is a complete character picture of the inner human development of the soul.
Looking back to the first part we can see how completely true to life and to the reality of life is this description of a striving soul. Everything that meets us in the first part, especially in the beginning, is full of deep truths regarding nature, but much in it resembles a kind of theory of art — as if someone spoke of things that his soul had not yet fully experienced.
And the second part: Here everything is the inward experience of his own soul. Here are the highest experiences of a spiritual kind by means of which man climbs the stages of existence, passes through the physical world and penetrates to the place where the human soul is united with the spirituality of the world, dissolves together with it and knows wherein it finds peace and at the same time that which gives freedom, dignity and self-dependence. All this is given in the second part of Faust as his own inner experience. The time will come when Goethe's Faust will be understood in quite another way from what it is to-day, when people will understand what Goethe wished to say when he said to Eckermann on 29th Jan., 1827: ‘All in Faust is of the senses, material, thought out in terms of the theatre to please everyone and I wished for nothing more than that. If the crowd of onlookers takes pleasure in its appearance, the higher meaning will not escape the observation of the initiated.’
Though the first part in many ways appears to be theoretical and not worked down into life, the second part is one of the most realistic of those pieces of world literature which go most deeply into reality; for everything in the second part of Faust is experienced, though not with the physical eye, because to have such experiences, spiritual eyes and spiritual ears are necessary. It is for that reason that the second part of Faust has been so little understood. People merely saw symbols and allegories in what is for the spiritual inquirer, who can experience it in the spiritual worlds, something far more true and real than anything that can be seen with the outer physical eyes or heard with the outer physical ears. From such a work we can promise ourselves much, and the task of the lectures to-day and tomorrow will be to consider something of what lies in it. To-day we will consider the matter more from the outer side, but tomorrow we will show how Goethe's Faust poem, in the true meaning of the word, is a picture of an inner esoteric life and intuitive vision of the world. Step by step we will endeavour to penetrate into that which is within and to look behind the curtain where the deepest secrets of Goethe's life lie hidden.
The Faust mood was in Goethe even when he was a student at Leipzig, and we know that at that time he had a very serious illness, bringing him very near death. Much that a man's soul can grasp at such a time passed before Goethe, but many other things had already preceded this. He had learnt to know the way in which outer science looked at life. Certainly he had troubled himself very little about his own profession at Leipzig, but had occupied himself with many other sciences, more particularly with natural science. A strong faith never left Goethe that it would be possible to look into the deeper secrets of life through natural science; but at Leipzig at that time he stood full of despair before all that an outer knowledge could give him, in many ways a mere jumble of ideas and disconnected observations of nature. Nowhere could he find what he had already looked for as a boy, when at the age of seven he took a writing desk, placed on it some minerals and other geological products and plants, a wax taper and a burning glass. Then waiting for the morning, as the first rays of the sun came in, he took the burning glass, let the sun rays fall through it on to the wax taper and in this way lighted a fire on the altar which he had erected to the ‘great God’ of Nature, a fire which should have come from the foundation and source of life itself. But how far away were these sources of life from what Goethe met in the different branches of knowledge of the High School (Hoch-Schule), how far these ‘sources of life’ were removed from all such striving!
Goethe then went to Frankfort and came into touch with thoughtful, sensible men who possessed above all things through their developed soul life, something of the flowing together of the human inner life with the spiritual weaving and living in the world; men who in the fullest meaning of the word, felt in themselves what Goethe expresses in the words: ‘The self in them expands to a spiritual universe.’ At that time at Frankfort he had the feeling, ‘Away from the mere striving after ideas! Away from the merely perceptive sense observation! There must be a path to the sources of existence!’ and he came into touch with what one can call alchemistic, mystical and theosophical literature. He himself attempted the practice of alchemy. He relates how he came to know of a work through which many sought for similar knowledge at that time, Welling's ‘Opus Mago-Cabalisticum et Theosophicum.’ This book was much thought of then as giving a knowledge of the sources of existence. Goethe studied by degrees Paracelsus, Valentinus and above all a work which from its whole method must have produced a deep impression on all those who strove after such knowledge, ‘Aurea Catena Homeri.’ This was a representation of nature the Mystics in the Middle Ages believed to see. The study of these mystical, alchemistic, theosophical books must have had a similar effect on Goethe to that which a man striving to-day after the same things would experience if he took up the books of Eliphas Levy or any other thinker on the same lines. Indeed at that time these things must have had an even more bewildering effect upon Goethe because these different writers no longer really understood the magic, theosophy, etc., of which they wrote. It was impossible to speak in direct way of the real grandeur and meaning of these things, proceeding from an ancient wisdom which had lived in human souls, for the meaning was hidden under an outer garb which included all kinds of physical and chemical forms. For those who merely saw what appeared outwardly in these books it was the greatest nonsense, and at that time it was most difficult to penetrate behind these secrets and arrive at the real meaning. But we must not forget that Goethe from his deep striving for knowledge had developed an intuitive mind. He must have been greatly pleased when on opening the ‘Aurea Catena Homeri’ he saw on the first page a symbol which had a deep effect on his soul; two triangles interlaced; in the corners the signs of the planets, drawn in a wonderful way, a flying dragon wound round in a circle, beneath which another dragon had fixed stiffening itself, and when he read the words on the first page, saying that the flying dragon symbolizes the stream which sends those forces which stream down from out of the Cosmos to the stiffened dragon, showing how heaven and earth hang together, or as it is expressed there: ‘How the spiritual forces of heaven pour into the earth's centre.’
These mysterious signs and words must have made a great impression upon Goethe. For instance, those which depict the whole growth of the earth: ‘From chaos to that which is called the universal quintessence’ — a remarkable sentence, curiously mixed up with signs of a chaotic nature, still undifferentiated right through the mineral, plant and animal kingdoms, right up to man and to that perspective to which man is developing in ever greater refinement. But it was not easy to find a way of penetrating to the deeper meaning. So Goethe left Frankfort in a frame of mind which can be described in the following words: I have found nothing. These seekers into nature can only give me dry, empty ideas; anything that can be squeezed out of them is but life's water. I have busied myself with much that has come down to us from the past from those who declare that they saw into the secrets of life. But the way, the way drives one to despair!
This was sometimes the mood in Goethe's soul. He was not to be bewitched by easy speculations or philosophizing, or by confused symbols and explanations from those old books, which worked so wonderfully and forebodingly on him. They looked at him with their mysteries as something to which he could find no way. But anyone who knew Goethe's soul, knew the seed was already sown in his soul which was to germinate later. But he felt himself as one who was rejected and unworthy to unravel the secrets of life. Then he went to Strassburg.
There he met people who must have interested him in one way or the other. He got to know Jung-Stilling with his deeply mystical soul, who owing to the development of peculiar forces generally found sleeping in men, had looked deeply into the hidden side of existence. He met Herder at Strassburg, who had gone through similar moods and who in times of desperation had often been at the point of a denial of future life. In Herder he learnt to know a man who suffered from a surfeit of life and who said, I have studied much, discerning sundry things connected with men's works and men's strivings on the earth. But he was unable to say to himself, I have had one moment when my longing after the sources of life has been satisfied. This was when he was ill and inclined to deny everything with bitter irony. Yet it was Herder who pointed out many depths in the riddles of life, and Goethe found in him a truly human Faust. But that side of negation which is not the outcome of mockery and scorn Goethe learnt to know later through his friend Merck. Goethe's mother who disliked criticism of people and all moralizing said of Merck, he can never leave Mephistopheles at home, in him we are quite used to it. In Merck Goethe found a disclaimer of much that is worth striving for in life. Over against all these impressions which Goethe received from the Strassburg people, it was through Nature and his observation of Nature that many of life's puzzles were cleared up for him.
At the same time we must think of Goethe as a man possessed of a sharp, penetrating mind; he was not an unpractical man. He was an advocate, but only practised for a short time. Those who knew Goethe's work as an advocate and later as a Minister, were acquainted with his eminently practical mind. As advocate he knew little more than what he had learnt by heart from law books. But he was a man able to decide very quickly on any point laid before him; such a man can also map out clearly life's course.
So Goethe comes before us with, on the one side, faculty for the clearest thinking with relation to the world; and on the other, for feeling in the deepest way the sorrow attached to an unsatisfied pursuit of knowledge, seeking for the deepest things and yet defeated by them.
And then there came something else. Goethe had learnt to know that frame of mind which we can only characterize as the feeling of guilt! He felt guilty in respect of the simple country girl, Friederike at Sesenheim, in whose soul he had awakened so many hopes and desires and whom he had all the same to forsake later. All this was mixed up in Goethe's soul in the most remarkable way and out of these feelings there grew within him a poetic figure, which had its rise in the perception of a form which at that time followed him step by step. This was the figure of Faust, that remarkable character who had lived in the first half of the sixteenth century. This Faust had been the object of innumerable folk-plays and pantomimes and through Christopher Marlowe had reached a literary significance and had become a living problem for poets, especially for Lessing and Goethe. How did it happen that Goethe connected his own sorrow and his own feelings with this figure of Faust?
It is related that Faust lived in the first half of the sixteenth century, at a time when for history much had been decided. If we compare this time with the eleventh and twelfth centuries, when studious lives were led, we find a great difference. In the twelfth century it was possible for those minds to unite the knowledge of what the times offered them with what they could find in their own souls. When they raised their spiritual vision to the creative power of the world, enthroned in the heights, and out of it formed their ideas, they were able to unite them with what they had learnt to know through external Natural Science. What they learnt was like a natural process. On the lowest step they studied what they called physical knowledge, on the next step they learnt to know what was taught of the higher mysteries of life, the hidden mysteries of existence, which could be reached through the spiritual eye and the spiritual ear; and on the highest step they reached to the recognition of the sublime, through ideas which were fine and transparent as crystal, but full of life, and working powerfully on the soul. These were the steps to the divine knowledge and were all connected with each other. Man may shrug his shoulders and look down on the minds of that time, but their way was one which never suffered intermission. If for instance we take up the ‘Way of Knowledge’ by Albertus Magnus, we find it begins with a description of the lowest part of nature and ends in a vision of God. You find here no dry, empty ideas, but ideas which enlighten the heart and warm the soul. When Faust lived this time had passed. Ideas then became dry and empty; though they had the stamp of the theologian, they were abstract or drawn from thought. They were ideas which could be studied by men and into which the reasoning of the understanding could sink, but no connection could be found by reason between these ideas and the living existence lying around us, or any possibility of enlightening the soul or bringing warmth to the heart. And then it came to this, that the science of that time — a mysticism, a magic, a theosophy, treating of things which are only to be perceived through spiritual eyes and spiritual ears — was caught in a complete decline, chiefly because much that was previously hidden in handwriting, was now published in print, and thus read by minds understanding nothing of it and who merely copied it. Humbug and nonsense of all kinds went on in the laboratories. What should have been experienced in a spiritual manner, was understood merely according to the words appearing in the books, although they were really only an outer form, but possessing a very deep meaning. Through formulae and retorts all kinds of stuff was made, with the result that what at that time was called theosophy, magic and the occult, came very near to being what we should now look upon as swindling and imposture. In a certain sense the way to the spiritual is connected with danger. Those whose striving has not been honest, whose understanding and reason has not been purified, who are unable to arrive in thought at ideas freed from the physical, may easily stumble and easily fall into the abyss. Therefore it was possible for those who still knew something or who studied the writings of the mystics with great pains, to miss the way and being unable to find it to be deceived by the swindling and charlatanism then prevalent. But it could also happen that the opposite view was taken by many people. This striving for higher things was denounced as witchcraft, and men such as Sponheim, Agrippa von Nettesheim and many others who sought honourably and blamelessly for the spiritual forces in nature, were branded as black magicians and swindlers, as men who had quitted the right path given them through religion. Faust lived during this time in the sixteenth century, a time when many saw the setting of an old spiritual movement as a rosy evening which at the same time became the rosy dawn of a new time bringing out such stars as Giordano Bruno, Galileo, Copernicus and others. Such times are called periods of transition. But of all these periods, none deserves the name so much as the time of Faust.
From what we know of Faust he appears as one who felt very deeply the insufficiency of the knowledge of that time concerning the spiritual world. Theology he had studied and had turned away from it. He sought for the sources of existence from the mediaeval remnants of magic and similar things from the Middle Ages; and because Faust was a brilliant figure oscillating between an honourable striving after knowledge and those limits which passed over into charlatanism, it is better to consider him in this way and not attempt to understand him with sharper outlines. As he really was, the spiritual tendency at that time failed to understand him, and the general popular striving of the time was regarded as the outer garment of this Faust-figure in the sixteenth century. So he meets us as a legendary figure or dramatically as a man fallen away from the old traditions of religion and theology, who had given himself up to an endeavour, which owing to the narrow-minded ideas of that time could not possibly lead to any good in life. The opinion of the world between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries is expressed in the words from a popular book of that time on Faust: ‘He has for a time put the Holy Scriptures behind the door, and laid them under the bench, and wishes to hear no more of Theology, as he has become a man of the world and calls himself a D. Medicinæ.’
What was felt and thought about Faust was expressed in such words. It was felt that he sought in his own breast for the source leading to the depths of life and his own origin, and that he wished to free himself in his own way from the old traditions. Anything in the old folk-plays or pantomimes referring to this figure of Faust was little adapted to give more than his outward appearance. But all that had remained as the tradition of Faust influenced Goethe, and he entrusted to this character his life's striving and his urgent desire for knowledge. So we find him in his 70th year beginning to see himself in the character of Faust. In this character he expressed all the dissatisfaction, and all the sorrow proceeding from the desire for knowledge which remained unsatisfied. And when we look at the first monologue in ‘Faust’ we see clearly what was described at the beginning of to-day's lecture. We see a man who having occupied himself deeply in outer science had reached a state of despair which threatened to shatter his life completely. We see how he seizes on the old book — Goethe called it the Book of Nostradamus, but anyone acquainted with the literature of magic also known to Goethe, will clearly recognize the book to which he referred — in which Faust perceived the sign of (lie macrocosm and of which he says:
‘Like heavenly forces rising and descending,
Their golden urns reciprocally lending,
With wings that winnow blessing
From Heaven through Earth I see them pressing,
Filling the All with harmony unceasing.’
Faust, Scene I.
and then added to these words a description of feeling, a kind of rapture that passed through him at the sight of this page.
Through all this we see what at that time worked on Goethe. It was possible for such moods and ideas to flow into Goethe's soul, that he could truthfully describe them. When he stood before the remarkable sign of the two interlaced triangles and the two dragons — the upper one representing the spiritual and the lower one the physical — with the signs of the planets in the corners of the interlaced triangles, such forces penetrated through them that he really had the shining planets before him as the golden urns, with the forces flowing between them and filling the All with harmony unceasing.
When we consider Goethe's soul with its deep and honest striving for knowledge, we begin to doubt whether it is possible to have clear ideas or to speculate much about it. We can only try to place the fact before our souls so that any feeling for such things may be satisfied. But anyone understanding life and the way in which it develops through age, knows that in spite of such battles, Goethe was a man in whose soul a germ had been laid which would ripen and bear fruit very much later, in years to come. We see too how the germs which developed later so wonderfully in Faust were really there, and much can be gained from the study of this life by those who have a distinct leaning to spiritual science.
To-day unfortunately such striving is very superficial. We see many people taking it up in a hurry, but they drop it again after having acquired a few ideas. The riddles that exist are only known to one who can look back to a time twenty or thirty years previously when a fluid was poured into his soul and then stored over by the events of the following years and by many experiences, so that only thirty years later he is able to give an approximate answer respecting what was poured in his soul so long before. From this point of view we cannot look too deeply into Goethe's life. We see the echo of his feeling in relation to the ‘Aurea Catena Homeri’ or ‘The Golden Chain of Homer.’ We see it expressed when Faust breaks forth into the words, ‘What a show!’ Yes, a very powerful show, when the soul sinks deeply into these pictures, without even a guess of what they will become in the future. It is a show. But does it stop at mere guessing?
Then these words necessarily follow:
... but only a show! ...
At that time Goethe did not understand the deep meaning of these words, but a shade of that feeling already lived in his soul, for ‘All that is transient is but a semblance!’ and having these remarkable pictures before him, he could say as if in pain, ‘However artistically these characters are drawn, they are but outer symbols!’
‘How grand a show! But, ah! a show alone.
Thee, boundless Nature, now make thee, my own.’
Each line is deeply felt: — only a show, something which copies the great world. But Goethe had studied the many problems of natural science and had learnt the deep experience given to man, when he has to say to himself: ‘Thou art guilty!’ Having experienced this, he could hope for more depth of feeling on perceiving other signs closely connected with man's life. This feeling is expressed by Faust: — The book is turned over and in place of the sign of the great world, there appears the sign of the little world, the pentagon, and its surroundings. Then the magic word, which if rightly applied can awake certain slumbering forces, appears before Goethe's soul. Goethe certainly had a premonition that there is something, characterized here as slumbering forces in man, and that through gazing at certain symbols and images these forces could be awakened, so as to make it possible for him to look into the spiritual world. He could believe that he came into contact with that which stands very near to man's soul and expresses itself in the signs of the microcosm, the little world. He expresses this through his ‘Faust’ when he says that if man gives himself up to deeper inner meditation certain inner experiences develop and the ‘earth spirit’ appears, that spirit which quickens the earth and which sees to it, that out of the general life and stream of the world man comes to be and increases. Goethe understood in a marvellous way how to compress into a few words what are the secrets of the earth spirit, and in what way he belongs to the whole earth — just as each human soul and human spirit is related to the physical body of man — who is, we might say, the ruler of all the natural development, increase and historical growth of man. This ruler has no visible form, but can appear to a man whose spiritual eyes are opened, so that he can perceive and know that there is such a spirit of the earth. Goethe has characterized Him in a wonderful way:
‘In the tides of Life, in Action's storm,
A fluctuant wave,
A shuttle free,
Birth, the Grave,
An eternal sea,
A weaving, flowing
‘Thus at Time's loom 'tis my hand prepares
The garment of Life that the Deity wears!’
If we could penetrate every word of this formula we should find that what is described by Goethe, can be really experienced by anyone whose development has brought his soul to the requisite stage of existence. But all know what comes to pass: Faust does not feel himself and cannot feel himself as developed to what thus presents itself. He has not found the way to the secret depths of life. What ‘flows in life and lives and weaves in action's storm’ exists for him as a ‘terrible face.’ He turns away and hears the words:
‘Thou'rt like the spirit thou comprehendest, Not me!’
Out of the old traditions he gained the belief that he was the exact image of the Divinity, and now he had to say to himself, ‘Not even thee!’
‘Thou resemblest the mind thou canst grasp.’ If only people could once feel this sentence! That it was felt by Goethe can be seen from the whole situation in the first part of ‘Faust.’ Man can understand nothing beyond that point to which he has developed himself.
On another occasion Goethe said, ‘As one is, so is one's God,’ and this resembles a confession on Goethe's part, that he had not, up to that time, found the way to the source of life. A confession which he here connects with Faust. When we consider Faust in this first form, we see what difficulties Goethe had to contend with in order to connect his world with the spiritual world towards which he was striving. We find in this first ‘Faust’ immediately afterwards, and without any real transition, the meeting of Mephistopheles with the student.
What is Mephistopheles? Anyone who knows the way into the spiritual world, knows that there really is a Mephistopheles, that he is one of the two tempters who meet man when he desires to enter the road to the spiritual land, when he seeks the way to the spiritual world. There are two potencies or powers whom man meets. One power we call Lucifer. He lays hold of man in a more inward way, in the centre of his soul, seeking to drag him down through his passions, desires, lusts, etc., into the lower scale of the personal and ignoble. All that works on man himself is Luciferic, and because man was once caught in his earthly life by this Luciferic principle, he was delivered up to another principle. If man had never been seized by this Luciferic principle, the outer world would never have appeared to him in its merely material outward form, but would have presented itself in such a way that man could have said from the beginning that all outward things were physiognomic expression of the Spirit. Man would have seen the Spirit behind all physical material things. But because matter became condensed through the influence of the Luciferic power that which was false became mingled with (lie outer appearance, so that its outward form seemed Maya or illusion, as if it were not the outer physiognomic expression of the spirit. This power presenting the outer world to the view of a man in an untrue form was first recognized in its complete depth by Zarathustra. Under the name of Ahriman, Zarathustra first presented this being as the opponent of the God of Light. In everything connected with the teaching of Zarathustra, Ahriman was the deceitful being, who hid everything in mist and smoke which otherwise would have been visible to man as a transparent, spiritual splendour. To express it plainly, this being who caused the ruin of man, because he forced him into the fetters of matter, and also deceived him about its true form, was called Mephistopheles. This figure was called in Hebrew, Mephiz, the spoiler, and Topel, the liar. This being passed over into the West in the Middle Ages in the form of Mephistopheles. In the books on Faust, we see as opposed to Faust this Power, also called the ‘old serpent.’
Goethe learnt to know this Mephistopheles. The later traditions of Faust no longer distinguished properly between the forms of Lucifer and of Mephistopheles. In the age following the sixteenth century there was no longer a clear idea of these forms. Men no longer knew how to distinguish between Lucifer and Ahriman, and they united them in the form of the Devil or Satan; and because nothing was known of the spiritual world, no particular difference was made. But to Goethe, all that he received through the outer senses, and through the human understanding, with its physical instrument the brain, by which he gained perception of the outer world, appeared to him as Mephistopheles. The man appealing to these qualities of the ordinary understanding, was the same to him as one who through the ego strove to enter the spiritual world. So that for Goethe — as also for Merck or Herder — all that appealed merely to the understanding is represented in a wonderful way in the figure of Mephistopheles, who does not believe in a world of the good, or consider it significant or important. In Goethe himself was this second ego, which could be brought to a state of doubt concerning the spiritual world, and sometimes he felt in himself the discord caused by what we may call the Mephistophelian power. He felt himself placed in conflict between this evil power raging in his soul and the truly honourable striving of his soul for the heights. Goethe felt both these forces in his soul. But in what position to place himself with regard to the spiritual world Goethe at that time did not know. He was a long way from that experience which we find in the second part of ‘Faust’ in such a magnificent way. In the scene ‘The way to the Mothers’ we see the man striving inwardly for the spiritual heights but detained by a deceptive picture and captivated by reason of what Mephistopheles has placed before him through trickery. Mephistopheles represents all that can be found in outer physical science which is bound up with the understanding. He stands there with the keys — this knowledge is certainly good, for it leads to the door of the spiritual world. — But within Mephistopheles cannot go. Therefore he describes that into which Faust must go as a ‘nothing,’ And we hear from the words of Mephistopheles, spoken in a classic, grandiose manner, what is thrown by the materialistic minds of men in the face of those who are striving to discover the foundations of life out of spiritual science. He says: ‘Thou art a dreamer and a fantastic. We are not going to be taken in by what such dreamers tell us about the spiritual foundations of things. We care nothing for that!’ And the spiritual enquirer can reply as did Faust to Mephistopheles, ‘In thy nothing I hope to find the all!’
But Goethe was experiencing that boisterous youth out of which he had just brought Faust and was far from possessing at that time such clarity of soul. He did not know then how to bring Mephistopheles into touch with Faust, for Mephistopheles is there in the original Faust as Goethe had experienced him as the power that drags man down, and represented him as a mocker in the ‘student scene.’ Only later did Goethe find the means for Mephistopheles by degrees to approach Faust though his changing forms.
We find next that Faust is drawn by Mephistopheles and falls into the abyss of sensuality in the scene in ‘Auerbach's wine cellar’ and the road begins down which Faust is led to evil. The end of the ‘prison scene’ is not given in the fragment which appeared in 1790; Goethe kept it back, but this terribly affecting scene was in the first fragment. It was in what we may call the tragedy of Gretchen that Goethe placed that side of his life which can be expressed by the words ‘I am guilty.’ What Goethe expresses in the first part of ‘Faust’ is the word ‘Personality.’
It was in that Goethe, who travelled to Italy, that a part of the seed sown in his soul first began to develop. He found a wonderful road during his Italian journey; it can be followed step by step. He said when he wrote at last to his friends at Weimar, ‘So much is certain, the old artists had quite as great a knowledge of nature and just as good an idea of that which we see and the manner in which it should be seen, as Homer had. Unfortunately the number of works of art of the first order is much too small. But anyone able to see them, need wish for nothing further than the right to recognize them and then go in peace. These great works of art were produced according to true and natural laws; the arbitrary, the fanciful collapses; here is necessity; here is God!’ — ‘I have an idea that the creators of these works of art acted according to those laws which guide nature, and on whose tracks I am.’ He is no longer the same Goethe who was full of an abstract longing, but is filled with self-denial and resignation, ready to investigate existence step by step along the road by which he hopes to discover the problems of life revealed.
It is not surprising if nothing is discovered of the great spiritual aim of mankind, if it is only sought in an abstract way, but which if sought for in the right way leads directly to the highest problems of life. Those who have no inclination to compare one plant with another, one animal with another, one bone with another, or to consider life, step by step, as they go through the world in order to find the spirit in each single being, in such people an abstract longing will lead to nothing.
Let us consider Goethe when during his Italian journey, he gradually arrived at the discovery of the primeval plant, he collected stones, prepared himself diligently to take up the work of research, and did not seek to know immediately ‘how one thing strives to enter another’ but said to himself: ‘If you would gain a premonition’ of ‘how one thing works and lives in another’ as heavenly powers rise and fall, offering each the ‘golden urn,’ examine the vertebras of the spinal column and the way in which one bone is connected with the next; and how one faculty helps another. Seek in the smallest thing the picture of the greatest.
Goethe became a very diligent student during his travels in Italy, examining everything. He formed the opinion that if an artist acted ‘according to the laws which are followed by nature herself’ and understood by the Greeks, the divine will be present in his works even as it is in the works of creation. For Goethe, art is a ‘manifestation of the secret laws of nature.’ The creations of the artists are works of nature on a higher stage of perfection. Art is man's continuation and conclusion of nature. ‘For since man is the head of nature so he regards himself as a complete nature, but also as one which can call forth a further rise. He strives for this through the acquisition of all accomplishments and virtues which call for choice, order, harmony, and meaning, and at last rises to the production of the work of art.’
We can say that during the Italian journey everything that came before Goethe took on definite forms and through inner soul experiences appeared clearly before him. So once again he took up ‘Faust,’ and we perceive how he endeavoured to bring the separate parts into union. But we also perceive how he interested himself in an objective manner in what Faust could become for the people of the North. In Italy he became particularly conscious of the great difference between people who had been brought up amid classical surroundings and those who had not. He found it strange that so little should be heard in Rome of ghost stories such as were common in the North. In the Villa Borghese he wrote at this time the ‘Witches Kitchen’ scene, as one who had lost touch with all such things, but also as one who recalled to memory the spirit of the earth. When he had previously written about the earth spirit, he represented it in such a way that Faust turned away from it, as from a ‘hideous worm.’ But the fact of turning away from it, even without understanding why, remains in the soul and works on further, as it did in Goethe. But those who become impatient and refuse to wait until after long years the seed grows, are unable to see the way clearly. And when in Italy Goethe knew that a turning away from the terrible countenance would have its effect upon his soul, and now these words arise:
‘Sublime Spirit, thou gavest me, gavest me all
For which I begged. It was not without reason
That thou didst turn thy face in fire to me
And for a kingdom gavest me the glorious nature
With strength to feel it and to enjoy it. Not
A coldly astonished gaze didst thou grant to me
But didst permit me to look into her profound bosom
As into that of a friend.
Past me didst thou lead the ranks of the living
And didst teach me to know, in the quiet bushes,
In air, and in water, my brother.
And when the storm roared and rattled in the woods
And there fell the neighbouring branches of the giant fir
Squashing the undergrowth and in their fall
Sounding like thunder in the hollow of the hills,
Thou didst lead me to a safe Grotto, where
Thou didst show me myself and opened my heart
To deep and secret wonders.’
Before Goethe, there stands the possibility of the human soul, through its own development expanding to a spiritual universe. Through a patient sacrificial resigned search, the fruits stand before his soul which as germs were planted when he came into touch with the earth spirit. We can see through this monologue in ‘Wald und Höhle’ (wood and grotto) what a forward jerk this was towards the ripening of the fruits in his soul, for it shows us that the seed already sown was not sown in vain. And as a warning to have patience, to wait until such seeds had ripened in his soul, that fragment of ‘Faust’ meets us which appeared with this setting in 1790. And now we see how Goethe finds the way step by step after being led to his ‘safe grotto where the secret deep wonders of his own heart were opened to him,’ he obtains that comprehensive survey which bids him no longer abide with his own sorrow, but teaches him to rise above his sorrow, to send his foreseeing spirit out into the Macrocosmos, watch the fighting of the good and evil spirits and see men on their battle ground. And in ‘Faust’ in 1808 he sent out beforehand the ‘Prologue in Heaven:’
‘The sun-orb sings, in emulation,
'Mid brother-spheres, his ancient round:
His path predestined through Creation
He ends with step of thunder-sound.’
We next see how the macrocosmic Mights oppose the forces of the great world. We see too from out the experiences of Goethe's soul, what a remarkable light falls on the two dragons with which at one time in his youth he came in touch.
‘Faust’ is such a universal poem because it contains so many warnings. It also gives us that golden saying: ‘Wait in confidence for the development of thy inner forces, even if that means waiting a very long time!’ These words also sound as a warning which stand as an attribute before Faust, when Goethe looks back to those ‘fluctuating figures which in early days had once shown a troubled countenance’ but which now are flooded with light. Now he had waited so long that the friends who had taken such a vivid interest in Faust as he had appeared to them in the first form, had died, and those who had not died were very far away. Goethe had been obliged to wait for the development of the seed already sown in him.
Now these striking words meet us:
‘My sorrow speaks to an unknown crowd,
Their applause e'en makes my heart feel heavy,
And those who once delighted in my song
If they still live, in other lands are scattered.’
No longer did it matter to those who in youth had felt with him. He had had to wait, as the last lines of this dedication so beautifully express it — ‘What was once a reality to me, has gone into the unreal: but what has remained for me and appears to outer vision as unreal, that to me is now true, and it is only now that I can give it as truth.’ So we see how this poem, even if only looked at in such an external manner as we have to-day, leads us into the depths of the human soul.
‘Faust’ was begun in a desultory manner, some parts being pushed in between others, and therefore Goethe was unable to show in a continuous way what he had experienced in his soul. But something else led to the fact that Goethe expressed his deepest experiences in ‘Faust.’
The ‘Helena scene’ also belongs to the first part of ‘Faust’ written by Goethe. But we find it was not included even in the ‘Faust’ of 1808. Why not? Because the manner in which Goethe had finished ‘Faust’ at that time would not allow it. What Goethe wished to say through the Helena scene was the expression of such a deep premonition of the deepest riddle of existence, that the first part was not sufficiently prepared to allow of this. Only when Goethe had reached an advanced age, was he able to give a true form to what really was the inner work of his life.
We see how his mind had expanded so that he was able to grasp the worlds of the macrocosm, as expressed in the ‘Prologue in Heaven.’ We shall also see the way in which Goethe represents the stages of the soul's experience, leading men from the first stage up to that of imaginative vision, where the soul penetrating ever deeper and deeper, bursts at last the doors of the spiritual world, which Mephistopheles would close. Goethe also represents these inner experiences. For he places in the second part of ‘Faust’ the experiences of a soul through secret scientific study, and we see here one of the deepest riddles of existence, which if recognized, would be found to be an announcement of Western spiritual science given in imposing language. One is tempted to place such a poem as the ‘Bhagavad Gita’ and the second part of ‘Faust’ side by side. For great and powerful wisdom speaks out of such Eastern writings. It seems as if the gods themselves desired in them to speak with men to express the wisdom out of which the world was formed. Indeed it is so.
Now let us look at the second part of ‘Faust.’ Here we see a striving human soul which has raised itself to spiritual vision from outer physical perception; we see how it has worked its way up to true clairvoyance when Faust enters the spiritual world and finds the spiritual choir around him ...
‘Hearken! Hark! — The Hours careering
Sounding loud to spirit-hearing.
See the new-born day appearing!
Rocky portals jarring shatter,
PhSbus' wheels in rolling clatter,
With a crash the Light draws near!
Pealing rays and trumpet-blazes —
Eye is blinded, ear amazes:
The Unheard can no one hear!’
Faust II, Act I.
to that passage where Faust is outwardly dazzled, so that the outer world is lost to his perception and he says to himself: ‘Only within shines clear light! ...’ up to that passage in which the soul works itself up to the spheres of world existence, where the spiritual worlds are to be seen in all their purity, and the riddle of the world discloses itself to the soul. This is a way which we must designate as an esoteric one.
The way in which we can penetrate from the outer to the inner life of Goethe's world enigma, we shall see tomorrow, and we shall also see from out of what depths Goethe spoke the word which at last gave him the certainty he needed with reference to all the longings, all the sorrows, pains and strivings for knowledge in his life.
‘Whoever zealously strives
We can redeem him;
And if love from above
Feels an interest in him,
The blest choir will be there
With a friendly greeting.’
We shall consider tomorrow how Goethe solved this riddle of existence, and how that which lives in the soul can rise up to its true home. It will give us the answer to what Goethe placed as the riddle of his existence and about which he gives us such a hopeful answer at the end of the second part of ‘Faust:’
‘For the spiritual world,
That noble member,
Is saved from evil.
Whoever strives zealously
We can redeem him! ...’
This tells us Faust can be saved and those spirits will not conquer who by bringing men into the material bring them also to destruction.