30 January 1913, Berlin
Translated by Rick MansellRaphael is one of those figures in the spiritual history of mankind who rise like a star. They stand there, making us feel that they emerge suddenly out of the dark depths of the spiritual evolution of humanity and disappear again, when through their mighty creations their being has been engraven into the spiritual history of man. On closer observation it becomes evident that such a human being, whom we have at first compared to a star that flashes out and then disappears again, becomes a member of the whole spiritual life of mankind, like a limb in a great organism. This is very especially so in regard to Raphael.
Hermann Grimm, the eminent thinker on Art, has tried to follow Raphael's influence and fame through the ages down to the present day. Grimm has been able to show that Raphael's creations went on working after the painter's death as a living element, and that a uniform stream of spiritual development has flowed onwards from the life of Raphael to our own time. Grimm has shown how the evolution of humanity has proceeded since the creations of Raphael, and on the other side of the spiritual conception of history it may be said that preceding ages too give the impression as if they were themselves pointing to the Raphael who was later to appear in world evolution like a limb inset in a whole organism. We may here recall an utterance once made by Goethe and from the world of Space apply it to the world of Time. Goethe once wrote these significant words: “What would all the starry world and all that is spread out in Space amount to if it were not at some time reflected in a human soul, celebrating its own higher existence for the first time in the experiences of this human soul?” Applying these words to the evolution of the ages, we may say that in a certain sense, when we cast our eyes back into antiquity, the Homeric gods who were described so gloriously by Homer nearly 1000 years before the founding of Christianity, would seem less to us if they had not risen again in the soul of Raphael, finding their consummation in the sublime figures of his pictures. What Homer created long ages before the appearance of Christianity unites in this sense into an organic whole with what was born from the soul of Raphael in the 16th century. Again, we turn our gaze to the figures of the New Testament, and in the face of Raphael's pictures we feel that something would be lacking if the creative, formative power in the Madonnas and other pictures which have sprung from Biblical tradition and legend, had not been added to the Biblical description. Therefore we may say: not only does Raphael live on through the following centuries but his creations form one organic whole with all preceding ages. Most ages indeed already pointed to one in whom they should find their consummation, although this, it is true, could only be discovered in later history.
The words of Lessing when he speaks of “the Education of the Human Race” assume great significance when we thus see how a uniform spiritual essence flows through the evolution of humanity, flashing up in figures like Raphael. The truth of repeated earthly lives that has so often been emphasized from the spiritual-scientific standpoint in connection with the spiritual evolution of humanity is perceived with special vividness when we bear in mind what has just been said. We realize then for the first time what it means that the being of man should appear again and again in repeated earthly lives through the epochs, bearing from one life to the other what is destined to be implanted in the spiritual evolution of humanity. Spiritual Science is seeking the meaning and purpose in the evolution of mankind. It does not merely seek to portray the consecutive events of human evolution in one straight, continuous line, but to interpret the various epochs in such a way that the human soul, appearing again and again over the course of the ages, must have ever new experiences. Then we can truly speak of an “Education” which the human soul undergoes as the result of its different earthly lives, — an education proceeding from all that is created and born from out of the common spirit of humanity.
What will here be said from the standpoint of Spiritual Science in regard to Raphael's relationship to human evolution as a whole during the last few centuries, is not intended to be a philosophical or historical study, but the result of many-sided study of Raphael's creative activity. There is no question of giving a philosophical survey of the spiritual life of humanity for the sake of bringing Raphael into it. Everything that I myself have experienced after study and contemplation of his different works has crystallized quite naturally into what I propose to say tonight.
It will be impossible, of course, to enter in details into single creations of Raphael. That could only be if one were able by some means to place his pictures before the audience. A general impression of the creative power of Raphael arises in the soul and then the question arises: what place has this in the evolution of humanity? The gaze falls upon a significant epoch, — an epoch to which Raphael stands in inner relationship when we allow him to work upon us — I refer to the Greek epoch and its development. All that the Greeks not only created but experienced as the outcome of their whole nature and constitution appears as a kind of middle epoch when we study human evolution during the last few thousand years. Greek culture coincides in a certain sense with the founding of Christianity and all that preceded it seems to bear a different character from following ages. Studying humanity in the Pre-Grecian age of civilization we find that the soul and spirit of man are much more intimately bound up with the corporeal, with the outer corporeality than is the case in later times. What we speak of today as the “inwardness” of the human soul, — the inward withdrawal of the soul when applying itself to the spiritual or the spiritual becoming conscious of the Spiritual underlying the universe, — this inwardness did not exist to the same degree in Grecian times. When man made use of his bodily organs in those days, the spiritual mysteries of existence simultaneously lit up in his soul. Observation of the sense-world was not so detached and aloof as is ordinary Science to-day. Man beheld the objects with his senses, and with his sense impressions he simultaneously perceived the spirit and soul-elements weaving and living within the objects. The Spiritual was there with the objects as they were perceived. To press forward to the Spirituality of the universe in ancient times it was not necessary for man to withdraw from sense impressions or to give himself up wholly to the inner being of the soul. Indeed in very ancient times of evolution “clairvoyant perception of things” — in the very best sense of the word — was a common possession of man. This clairvoyant perception was not attained as the result of certain given conditions, but was as natural as sense perception.
Then came Greek culture with the world peculiar to it, — a world where we may place the beginning of the inward deepening of spiritual life, but where the inner experiences of the spirit are still connected with the outer, with processes in the world of sense. In Greek culture the balance is between the Sensible and the Psychic-Spiritual. The Spiritual was not so immediately present in sense perception as was the case in Pre-Grecian times. It lit up in the soul of the Greek as something inwardly apart, but that it was perceived when the senses were directed to the outer world. The Greek beheld the Spirit not in the objects, but with the objects. In Pre-Grecian times the soul of man was poured out, as it were, into corporeality. In Greek culture the soul had freed itself to some extent from the corporeality, but the balance between the Psychic-Spiritual and the bodily element was still held. This is why the creations of the Greeks seem to be as fully permeated with the spirituality as that which their senses perceived.
In Post-Grecian ages the human spirit undergoes an inward deepening and is no longer able to receive, simultaneously with the sense impression the, Spiritual living and weaving in all things. These are the ages when the human soul was destined to withdraw into itself and experience its struggles and conquests in an inner life before pressing forward to the Spiritual. Spiritual contemplation and the sense perception of things became two worlds which the human soul must experience. How clearly evident this is in a spirit like Augustine, for instance, who in the Post-Christian epoch is really not so far removed from the founding of Christianity as we are from the Reformation. The experiences and writings of Augustine as compared with the traditions of Greek culture are highly characteristic of the progress of humanity. The struggles of the inward turned soul, the scene of action existing in the inner being of the soul apart from the external world that we see in Augustine, — how impossible all this appears in the Greek spirits who everywhere reveal how deeply their soul-content is united with the processes of the external world.
The evolutionary history of humanity shows evidence of a division, a mighty incision. Into this evolutionary picture there enters on the one side Greek culture, where man holds the balance between the Psychic-Spiritual and outer corporeality; on the other side there is the founding of Christianity. All the experiences of the human soul were thereafter to become inward, to take their course in inner struggles and conquests. The mission of the founding of Christianity was not to direct man's gaze to the world of sense in order that he might become conscious of the riddles of existence, but to all that the spirit might intuitively behold when giving itself up wholly to the powers of the spirit and soul. How utterly different, — divided by a deep, deep cleft, are those beautiful, majestic Gods of Greece, Zeus or Apollo, from the figure dying on the Cross, — a figure, it is true, full of inner profundity and power, but not beautiful in the external sense. Already here we find the outer symbol of the deep incision made by Christianity and Greek culture in the evolution of humanity. And in the spirits of the Post-Grecian ages we see the effects of this incision as an ever more intense inward deepening of the soul.
Thence forward this inner deepening has been characteristic of the onward progress of evolution. And if we would understand human evolution in the sense of Spiritual Science we must realize that we are living in an age which represents a still greater inward deepening, the more we observe it in relation to the immediate past and the prospect of the future in which a cleft, still deeper than that which the contemplation of the past reveals, will appear between all that is proceeding in the world in a more or less mechanical, technical life of the outer world, and the goal ahead of the human soul as it endeavors to scale the heights of spiritual being, — heights which open up only in our inner being as we attempt to ascend to the Spiritual. More and more we are advancing into an age of inner deepening.
A mighty incision in the progress of humanity in Post-Grecian times toward an energy being is what has remained to us in the creations of Raphael. Raphael stands there as a mighty spirit at a parting of the ways in human evolution. All that preceded him marks the beginning of the process of this inner deepening; what follows him represents a new chapter. Although much that I have to say in this lecture may have the appearance of symbology, it should not be taken merely as a symbolical mode of expression, but as an attempt to create as broad a conception and idea as possible, that which can be clothed only in the “trivial concepts of man” on account of Raphael's towering greatness.
When we try to penetrate into the soul of Raphael we are struck, above all, by the way in which the soul appears in the year 1483 in a “spring-like” birth, as it were, passing through an inner development radiating forth its glory from the most marvellous creations. Raphael dies at an early age, at 37. In order so to deepen ourselves in this soul so that we can follow all its stages, let us turn our attention for the moment away from all that was going on in world history and concentrate wholly on the inner nature of this soul.
Hermann Grimm has pointed out certain regular cycles in the inner development of Raphael's soul. And indeed it may be said that Spiritual Science today has no need to be ashamed of directing the attention of modern skeptical mankind to the existence of cyclic laws holding sway along the path to the spirit, in all evolution andalso in that of individual human beings, if so eminent a mind as Hermann Grimm was led, without Spiritual Science, to the perception of this regular inner cyclic development in the soul of Raphael. Grimm speaks of the picture called “The Marriage of the Virgin” as being a new phenomena in the whole evolution of Art, saying that it cannot be compared with anything that had gone before. From infinite depths of the human soul, Raphael created something entirely new in the whole of spiritual evolution. If we thus gain a conception of the gifts lying in Raphael's soul from birth onwards, we can readily agree with the following passage of Hermann Grimm: “We now see Raphael's soul developing onwards in regular cycles of four years duration. It is wonderful to observe how this soul advances onwards thus, and studying one such period we find that at the end of it, Raphael stands at a higher stage of his soul's development. Four years after the picture The Marriage of the Virgin comes The Entombment; four years later again the frescoes in the Camera della Segnatura in the Vatican, — and so on, by four year stages up to The Transfiguration which stood unfinished by his death bed.”
We feel the desire to study this soul for its own sake because its development is so harmonious. Then however we get the impression that in the Art of Painting itself an inwardness had to develop, — an inwardness such as that expressed in figures which only Raphael could create. It is an inwardness borne out of the depths of the soul experience although it appears in pictures of the world of sense, and it then becomes part of history itself.
Having thus contemplated the inner nature of the soul of Raphael, let us allow the age in which he lived and all that was around him, to work upon us. While Raphael was growing up more or less as a child in Urbino, his environment was of a kind that could stimulate and awaken any decisive talents. The whole of Italy was excited at that time about a certain palace that had been built in Urbino. This was something that imbued the early talents of Raphael with an element of harmony with their nature. After that, however,we find him transplanted to Perugia, thence to Florence, thence to Rome. Fundamentally speaking, his life ran its course within narrow circles. These towns seem so near when we study his life. His world was enclosed within these circles so far as the world of sense was concerned. It was only in the spirit that he rose to “other spheres.” In Perugia, however, which was the scene of his youthful soul development, fierce quarrels were the order of the day. The town is populated by a passionate, tumultuous people. Noble families whose lives were spent in wrangling and quarreling fought bitterly against each other. The one drove the other out-of-town, then after a short banishment the other family would try again to take possession of it. More than once the streets of Perugia flowed with blood and were strewn with corpses. One historian describes a remarkable scene, and indeed all the descriptions of that epoch are typical. A nobleman of the town enters it as a warrior in order to avenge his relatives. He is described to us as he rides through the streets on horseback like the spirit of War incarnate, beating down everything that crosses his path. The historian evidently has the impression that the revenge was justifiable and there arises before his soul the picture of St. George bringing the enemy to his feet. Later on, in a work by Raphael, we feel the scene as described by the historian rise up before us in picture form and our immediate impression is that Raphael must surely have allowed this to affect him; and then what seemed so terrible in the outward sense is deepened and rises again from out of his soul in the subject of one of the most wonderful pictures.
Thus Raphael saw around him a quarreling humanity; disorder upon disorder, battle upon battle, surrounded him in the town where he was studying under his master Pietro Perugino. One gets the impression of two worlds in the town, — one, the scene of cruelty and terror, and another, living inwardly in Raphael's soul, which had really little to do with what was going on around him in the physical world.
Then, later again we find Raphael transplanted to Florence in the year 1504. What was the state of Florence then? In the first place the inhabitants give the impression of being a wearied people who had passed through inner and outer tumults and were living in a certain ennui and fatigue. What had been the fate of Florence? Struggles, just as in the case of the other town, bitter persecutions among different patrician families, and of course, quarrels with the outer world. And on the other hand the stirring event that had thrown every soul in the town into a state of upheaval when Savonarola, a short time previoulsy, had been martyred. This extraordinary figure of Savanarola appears before us uttering words of fire against the current misdeeds, the cruelty, materiality and heathendom of the Church. The words of Savonarola seem to resound again in our ears, words by which he dominated the whole of Florence and to such an extent that the people not only hung upon his lips but revered him as deeply as if a spirit from a higher world were standing before them in that ascetic body. The words of Savonarola transformed Florence as if the direct radiations of the Reformer of Religions Himself had permeated not only the religious conceptions, but the very social life of the town. It was as though a citadel of the Gods had been founded. Such was Florence under the influence of Savonarola. He fell a victim to those Powers whom he had opposed, morally and religiously. There rises before our soul the moving picture of Savonarola as he was led to the fire of martyrdom with his companions, and how from the gallows whence he was to fall onto the burning pyre, he turned his eyes — it was in May 1498 — down to the people who had once hung upon his words, but who had now deserted him and were looking with apparent disloyalty at the figure who had for so long inspired them. Only in a very few, — and they were artists, — did the words of Savonarola still resound. There were painters at that time who themselves donned the monk's robe after Savonarola's martyrdom in order to work on in his Order under the influence of his spirit.
One can visualize the weary atmosphere lying over Florence, Raphael was transplanted into this atmosphere in the year 1504. And he brought with him in his creations the very Spirit's breath of Spring, although in a different way from Savonarola. When they contemplate the soul of Raphael in all its isolation, — a soul so different from the mood surrounding it in this town, visualizing him in the company of artists and painters working at his creations in lonely workshops in Florence or elsewhere, another picture rises up, showing us visibly in history how Raphael's soul stands out inwardly aloof from the outer life around it. And there arises before us the figures of the Roman Popes, Alexander VI, Julius II, Leo X, in fact the whole Papal system against which Savonarola directed his words of scorn, the Reformers their attacks. Yet this Papacy was the Patron of Raphael who entered its service, although inwardly his soul had little in common with what we find in his Patron Pope Julius II for instance. It was said of Julius II that he gave the impression of a man with a devil in his body, who always likes to show his teeth to his enemies.They are mighty figures, these popes, but “Christians” in the sense of Savonarola or of others who thought like him, they certainly were not. The Papacy had passed over into a new “heathendom”. In these circles there was not much Christian piety. There was, however, much brilliance, ambition, lust for power in the Popes as well as in their environment. We see Raphael in the service as it were of this heathenized Christendom, but in what sense in this service? From out his soul flow creations which give a new form to Christian conceptions and ideas. In the Madonnas and other works, the tenderest, most inward element of Christian legend rises again. What a contrast there is between the soul inwardness in Raphael's creations and all that was going on around him in Rome when he entered into the outer service of the Popes!
How was this possible? We see the contrast between outer life and Raphael's inner being in the early student days in Perugia, but we see it's still more intensely in Rome where his all-conquering works were created in the midst of an officialdom of Cardinals and Priests which had been intolerable to Savonarola. True, the two men were different, but we must nevertheless contrast Raphael with his environment in this way if we are to obtain a true picture of what was living in his soul.
Let us allow the picture of Raphael to work upon us. This cannot be done in detail in a lecture, but we can at least call up before the mind's eye one of the more widely known works for the purpose of contemplating the peculiar qualities living in Raphael's soul, — I mean the Sistine Madonna which is familiar to everybody in the innumerable copies existing all over the world. The Sistine Madonna is one of the greatest and noblest works of Art in human evolution. The “Mother with the Child” hover towards us on clouds which cover the Earth globe, — hover from the shadowy world of spirit and soul, surrounded in clouds which seem naturally to form themselves into human figures, one being the Child Himself. Feelings arise which, when we permeate them with soul, seem to make us forget all those legendary conceptions which culminate in the picture of the Madonna. We forget all that Christian traditions has to tell of her. I say this not for the sake of giving any dry description, but in order to characterize as fully as may be the feelings that arise within us at the site of the Madonna.
Spiritual Science raises us above all materialistic conception of human evolution. Although it is difficult to understand in the sense of Natural Science according to which the development of lower organisms proceeded until finally it reached the stage of the human being, — nevertheless it is the fact that man is a being whose life transcends everything below him in the kingdom of Nature. Spiritual Science knows that man contains a something within him much more ancient than all the beings who stand in greater or lesser proximity to him in the kingdom of Nature.
Man existed before the beings of the animal, plant and even of the mineral kingdom. In a wider perspective we look back to ages when that which now constitutes our inner being was already in existence andwhich only later was incorporated into the kingdoms which now stand below man. We see the being of man proceeding from a super-earthly world and realize that we can only truly understand it when we rise above all that the Earth can produce out of herself to something super-terrestrial and pre-terrestrial. Spiritual Science teaches that even if we allow all the forces, all the living substances connected with the Earth herself to work upon us, none of this can give a true picture of the whole essence and being of man. The gaze must rise beyond the Earthly to the Supersensible whence the being of man proceeds. Speaking figuratively we cannot but feel how something wafts towards the Earthly when, for instance, we gaze at the golden gleaming morning sunrise, — and especially is this the case in a region like that in which Raphael lived. Forces which work down into the Earth seem here to flow into the Earthly elements, — forces which inhere in the being of the Sun. And then out of the golden radiance there rises before our soul the sense image of what it is that is wafting hither in order to unite itself with the Earthly.
Above all in Perugia we may feel that the eye is beholding the very same sunrise once seen by Raphael, who in these phenomena was able to sense the nature of the Super-Earthly element in man. And gazing at the Sun-illuminated clouds there may dawn on us a realization that the picture of the Madonna and Child is a sense picture of the eternal Super-Earthly element in man that is wafted to Earth from super-earthly realms themselves and meets, in the clouds, those elements that can only proceed from the Earthly. Our perception may feel itself raised to the loftiest spiritual heights if we can give ourselves up — not theoretically, or in an abstract sense, but with the whole soul — to what works upon us in Raphael's Madonnas. This perfectly natural feeling may arise before the world-famous picture in Dresden. And to prove to you that it has indeed had this effect upon many people I should like to quote words written about the Sistine Madonna by Karl August, Duke of Weimar, the friend of Goethe, after a visit to Dresden: He says:
“In regard to the Raphael picture that adorns the collection, I felt as if the whole day long I had roamed over the heights of the Gotthard, through the Urner cleft and looked down from thence to the green, blossoming valley. As I looked at the picture and again away from it, it always seemed to me a revelation of the soul. Even the most beautiful Correggios were pictures only of the human; the memory of them tangible like beautiful forms. Raphael, however, remained with me as a breath, as one of those revelations sent to one in women's form by the Gods to bring us happiness or sorrow, like a figure that arises before one again and again in waking or dream life, whose gaze, once experienced, is with one forever, day and night, moving the innermost being.” (Karl August to his friend Knebel, 14th October, 1763)
Another remarkable thing is that if we study the literature of those who speak of the experiences of deep emotion at the site of this Sistine Madonna and also of other pictures of Raphael, we shall always find that they use the analogy of the Sun, all that is radiant and spring-like.
This gives us a glimpse into Raphael's soul and we realize how from amid the environment already described, it held converse with the eternal mysteries of the genesis of man. And then we feel the uniqueness of this soul of Raphael, realizing that it is not a “product” of its environment, but points to a hoary antiquity. There is no longer any need for speculation. A soul like this, looking out into the wide universe, — a soul which does not express the mystery of existence in ideas, but senses and gives it form in a picture like the Sistine Madonna, stands there in its inner perfection quite naturally as mature in the highest degree. Truly, the gifts inherent in this soul represents something that must have passed through other epochs of human evolution, not many such epochs which poured into it a power able to reemerge in what we call the “life of Raphael”. But from what it re-merges?
We see the living content of Christian legends and traditions appearing again in Raphael's pictures in the midst of an age when Christendom had, as it were, become heathenised and was given up to outer pomp and show, just as Greek paganism was represented in the figures of its gods and honoured above all else by the Greeks in their intoxication with beauty. We see Raphael giving form to the figures of Christian tradition in an age when treasures of Greek culture which had for long centuries been buried under ruins and debris on Roman soil were unearthed, Raphael himself assisting. It is a remarkable spectacle, the Rome where Raphael found himself at this time. Let us consider what had gone before.
First there are the centuriesof the Rise of Rome, — a Rome built upon the Egoism of individual men whose aim it was above all to establish a human society in the external physical world on the foundation of what man, as the citizen of a State, was meant to signify. Then during the age of the Emperors, when Rome had reached a certain eminence, it absorbs the Greek culture which streams into Roman spiritual life. Rome subdues Greece in the political sense, but in the spiritual sense Greece conquers Rome. Greek culture lives on within Roman culture; Greek art, to the extent to which it has been imbibed by Rome, lives on there; Rome is permeated through and through by the essence of Greek culture.
But why is it that this does not remain through the following centuries as a characteristic quality of the development of Italy? Why was it that something entirely different made its appearance? It was because soon after Greek culture had streamed into the life of Rome there came the influx of that other element which impressed its signature strongly into the spiritual life that was developing on the soil of Italy, I mean, Christendom. The mission of this inward deepening of Christendom was not that of the external sense element in the Greek State, Greek sculpture, or Greek philosophy. A formless element was now to draw into the souls of men and to be laid hold of by dint of inner effort and struggle. Figures like Augustine appear, — men whose whole being is inward turned. But then, — since everything in evolution proceeds in cycles, we see arising in men who have passed through this inward deepening and whose souls have long lived apart from the beauties of external life, a yearning for beauty. Once again they behold the inner in the outer. It is significant to see the inwardly deepened life of Francis of Assisi in Giotto's pictures for those pictures express the inner experiences called forth in the soul by Christianity. And even if the inner being of the human soul speaks somewhat haltingly and imperfectly from Giotto's pictures, we do nevertheless see a direct ascent to the point where the most inward elements, the very loftiest and noblest in external form confronts us in Raphael and his contemporaries. Here we are directed once again to a characteristic quality of this soul of Raphael.
If we try to penetrate into the kind of feelings and perceptions which Raphael himself must have had, we cannot help saying to ourselves: “Yes, indeed, in the contemplation of pictures like the Madonna della Sedia, for instance, the whole way in which the Madonna with the Child, and the Child John in the foreground are here represented, makes us forget the rest of the world, forget above all that this Child in the arms of the Madonna is connected with the experiences of Golgotha. Gazing at Raphael's pictures we forget everything that afterwards proceeds as the “life of Jesus”; we live entirely in the moment here portrayed. We are gazing simply at a Mother with a Child, which in the words of Hermann Grimm, is the great Mystery to be met with in the outer world. Peace surrounds this moment; it seems as though nothing could connect with it, before or afterwards; we live wholly in the relationship of the Madonna to her Child and separate it off from everything else. Thus do the creations of Raphael appear to us, — perfect and complete in themselves, revealing the Eternal in one moment of Time.
How shall we describe the feelings of a soul able to create like this? We cannot compare them to the feelings of a Savonarola, who when he uttered his words of scorn or was speaking those uplifting, godly words to Christian devotees, was seized with inner fire and passed through the whole tragedy of the Christ. We cannot conceive that Raphael's soul burst forth suddenly like the genius of a Savonarola, or others like him; nor can we conceive that it was swayed by the so-called “fire of Christendom.” Raphael could not however have portrayed the Christian conceptions in such inner perfection if his soul had been as foreign to this “Christian fire” as may appear to have been the case.
On the other hand, the forms in all their objectivity and roundness could not have been created by a soul permeated with Savonarola's fire and winged by the experience of the whole tragedy of the Christ. Quite a different peace, quite a different Christian feeling must have flowed into the soul. And yet no soul could have created these pictures if the very essence of Christian inwardness were not living within it. Surely it is almost natural to say: here indeed is a soul which brought with it into the physical existence of the artist Raphael, the fire that pours forth from Savonarola. When we realize how Raphael brings this fire with him through birth from earlier experiences, we understand why it is so illuminating and inwardly perfect; it does not come forth as a consuming and shattering element but as the reliance of plastic creation. In Raphael's innate gifts one already feels the existence of something that in an earlier life might have been able to speak with the same fire that is later found in Savonarola. It need not astonish us to find in Raphael a soul reincarnated from an age when Christianity was not yet expressed in picture form or in Art, but from the age of its founding, the starting point of the whole mighty impulse which then worked on through the centuries.
In the attempt to understand the soul like Raphael's, it is perhaps not too bold to say something of this kind, for those who have steeped themselves again and again in the works of Raphael and have thus learnt to reverence this soul in all its depth, cannot but realize what it is that speaks from those wonder-works into which the artist poured his soul. Thus the mission of Raphael only appears in the right light when, — to use an expression of Goethe, — we seek in a life already past for the Christian fire that is revealed in the radiance of the Raphael life. Then we understand why his soul was necessarily so isolated in the world and why it was that having possessed to an intense degree in an earlier existence something of the nature of a Savonarola. It was able to refresh and renew all that had arisen in the spiritual evolution of Italy in the 16th century.
I have already described how in the age of the Rise of the Empire, the influence of Greek culture has entered into Roman development and how an inward deepening of the soul had set in. Later on, in the age of Raphael, — the Renaissance, — we see on the one side the reappearance of this old Greek culture that had long been buried under ruins and debris. We see in Rome with the remnants of this Greek culture, the reappearance of the Greek spirit that had once adorned and beautified the city; the eyes of the Roman people turn once again to the forms that had been created by this Greek spirit. On the other side, however, we see how the spirit of Plato, of Aristotle, of the Greek Tragedians, penetrates Roman life in the epoch. Once again the victory of Greek culture over the Roman world! The Greek culture which was emerging from ruins and debris and spreading over the Italian peninsula could not help having a refreshing and renewing effect on a spirit like Raphael's, who in an earlier existence was imbued, to the exclusion of everything else, with the moral-religious conception of Christendom.
If we see the moral-religious impulse of Christendom born in the gifts of Raphael, we also see that element which these gifts did not at first contain rising before his eyes in the resurrected culture of Greece. And just as the city, rising out of ruins and debris, influenced this soul more deeply than all others, so also did the spiritual yields of Greek culture that were unearthed in the hidden manuscripts. Raphael's inborn gifts, united with his “super-spiritual” devotion to everything of a cosmic nature, worked hand-in-hand with the Greek spirit that was emerging again in his age. These were the two elements that united in Raphael's soul; this is why his works express the inwardness proceeding from the post-Grecian age, — the inwardness poured by Christianity into the evolution of humanity which was expressed in outward manifestation in a world of artistic forms permeated with the purest Greek spirit.
We are faced, then, with the remarkable phenomenon of the resurrection of Greek culture within Christendom through Raphael. In him we see the resurrection of a Christendom in an age which in a certain respect represents the “Anti-Christian” element around him. In Raphael there lives a Christianity far transcending what had gone before him and rose to a much loftier conception of the world as it was at that time. Yet it was a Christianity that did not dimly and vaguely direct the attention to the infinite spheres of the Spiritual, but was concentrated into forms that delight the senses too, just as in earlier times the Greeks expressed in artistic forms their ideas of the gods united with the formless element living and weaving in the universe.
This is what we find when we try to form a general picture of Raphael, allowing one or another of his creations in all their sublime perfection yet marvellous superfluity of youth, — for Raphael died at the age of 37, — to work upon us. Not for the sake of any colorless theory, or for the purpose of building any kind of philosophical history, but as the result of a conception born out of Raphael's works themselves, it must be said that the law holding sway in the course of human spiritual life finds its true revelation in a mighty spirit such as his.
It is not correct to think of this course of spiritual life as a straight line where effect follows cause as a natural matter of fact. It is only too easy in this connection to quote one of the so-called “golden sayings” of humanity to the effect that the life and nature does not advance by leaps and bounds. Well and good, but the fact is that in a certain respect both life and nature do continually do so, as can be seen in the development of the plant from the green leaf to the blossom, from the blossom to the fruit. Here everything does indeed “develop” but sudden leaps are quite obvious.
So too is it in the spiritual life of humanity, and this, moreover, is bound up with many mysteries, one of them being that a later epoch must always have its support in an earlier. Just as the male and female must work in conjunction, so may it be said that the different “Spirits of the Age” must mutually fertilize and work together in order that evolution may proceed. Roman culture, already at the time of the empire, had to be fertilized by Greek culture in order that a new “Spirit of the Age” might arise. This new Spirit of the Age had in its turn to be fertilized by the Christ Impulse before the inwardness which we then find in Augustine and others was possible. This human soul that had been so inwardly deepened, had once again to be fertilized by the spirit of the Greek culture which, although it was doubly buried, doubly hidden, was made visible again to the eyes of man in the works of Art resting beneath the soil of Italy, and to their souls in the rediscovered literary manuscripts.
The first Christian centuries in Italy were extraordinarily uninfluenced by what lived in Greek Philosophy and Poetry. Greek culture was buried in a double grave and waited in a realm beyond as it were, for an epoch when it could once again fertilized human soul that had meantime passed through a new phase. It was buried, this Greek culture, hidden from the eyes of men and from souls who did not know that it would live and flow onwards like a river that sometimes takes a track under a mountain and is not seen until it once again comes to the surface. Hidden, outwardly from the senses, inwardly from the depths of the soul was this Greek culture and now it appeared once again. For sense perception it was brought to the light of day from out of the soil of Italy and flowed into the works of art; for spiritual perception it was not only unearthed from the ancient manuscripts; men began once again to feel in the Greek sense how the material is the manifestation of the Spiritual. They began to feel all that Plato and Aristotle had once thought.
It was Raphael in whom this Greek culture could bring forth its fairest flower because the Christ Impulse had reached a greater ripeness in his soul than in any other. This twice buried and twice resurrected Greek culture worked in him in such a way that he was able to impress into forms the whole evolution of humanity. How marvellously was he able to accomplish this in the pictures in the Camera della Segnatura in the Vatican! The ancient spiritual contests rise again before our eyes, — the struggles and activities of those Spirits who developed onwards during the epoch of inward deepening, who were not there in the Greek culture as it reappeared in the time of Raphael. The whole period of inward deepening was necessary before Greek culture could become visible in this particular form, and then it is painted on the walls of the Papal Chambers.
What the Greeks had conceived of in forms only, has now become inward; we see the inner struggles and conflicts of humanity itself charmed onto the walls of the Vatican in the spirit of Greece, of Greek Art and beauty. The Greeks poured into their statues their conception of the way in which the Gods worked upon the world. How this working of the Gods is experienced by man, so that he presses onwards to the foundations and causes of things, — this is what is expressed in the picture so often called “The School of Athens”. The conceptions which the human soul had learned to form of the Greek Gods is expressed in the Parnassus, with its new and significant interpretation of the Homeric gods. These are not the gods of the Iliad and Odyssey; they are the gods as perceived by a soul that had passed through the period of inward deepening.
On the other wall there is a picture that must remain indelibly in the memory of everyone, whatever their religious creed, — I refer to the fresco of the “Dispute about the Mass” which portrays the deepest inner truths. Whereas the other pictures, — in a Greek beauty of form it is true, — express the goal to be attained as the result of a certain philosophical striving, we have in the “Dispute about the Mass”, the fairest thing that the soul of man may experience. Here we find “Brahma”, “Vishnu”, “Shiva” portrayed in quite a different sense, — a proof to us that there is no need to adhere rigidly to a narrow Christian dogmatism. What can be inwardly experienced by every human soul, irrespective of creed or confession, as the “Trinity”, faces us in the symbolism, — though the portrayal is not merely “symbolical”, in the upper part of the picture. We see it again in the countenances of the Church Fathers, in their every gesture, in the whole grouping of the figures, in the wonderful coloring, indeed in the picture as a whole which portrays the inwardness of the human soul in a beauty of form permeated by the spirit of Greece.
And so the inward deepening experienced by the soul man in the course of 1500 years rises again in outer revelation. Christianity, not as the heathendom of the Roman popes and cardinals, but as the wonderful paganism of Greece with its mighty Gods, is resurrected in the works of Raphael.
Thus the soul of Raphael stands at the turning point of ages, pointing back to days of yore, containing within itself all that had developed up to the time of Christendom in the beauty of external revelation, and yet at the same time permeated by what had been brought about by the so-called “education of the human race”, namely an inward deepeningin the reincarnated soul. These wonderworks of so rare and art stand before us like a fusion of two ages, each clearly different from the other, — the pre-Grecian and the post-Grecian epochs, the one of external, the other of inner life. But the pictures also open up a glimpse into the future. Those who realize what the fusion of external beauty and the inner wisdom-filled urge of the human soul may signify, cannot but feel security and hope that this inward deepening — despite all the materiality that must develop more and more as humanity progresses, — must increase in the course of evolution and that the soul of man through successive lives will enter into greater and greater depths of inwardness.
If we now turn to literature and study not as “Art critics” or mere readers, the works of a spirit like Hermann Grimm, who tried with his whole soul to portray the workings of human fantasy, we can understand the depths of inner sympathy with which he contemplated the creations of Raphael. If we ourselves study a spirit like Hermann Grimm with this same inner sympathy, we can understand the significance of certain words of his which express what was passing through his soul when he makes a somewhat tentative utterance at the beginning of his books, in a passage dealing with the way in which Raphael is a product of all the ages. Grimm's formal descriptions of the various works of Raphael do not show us whence this particular thought has sprung. In the middle of other wider historical considerations into which Raphael is introduced, Hermann Grimm is struck by a thought which he records somewhat tentatively in these words: “When we contemplate the spiritual creations of humanity and see how they have passed over from days of yore into our own time, we may well be aware of a longing to tread this Earth once more in order to see what has been their fate as they have lived on.”
This desire for “reincarnation” expressed by Hermann Grimm in the introduction to his book on Raphael is remarkable, and moreover, deeply characteristic of the feeling living in the soul of a man of our own time, — I mean of course one who tried to penetrate into the very soul of Raphael and his connection with other epochs. Surely this makes us feel that works like those of Raphael are not merely a “natural product”; they do not only induce a sense of gratitude for all that the past has hitherto bestowed. They rather give birth to a feeling of hope, because they strengthen our belief in an advancing humanity. We feel that these works could not be what they are if progress were not the very essence of humanity. A feeling of security and hope arises when we allow Raphael to work upon us in the true sense and we are able to say: Raphael has spoken to humanity itself in his artistic creations.
In front of the Stanzas in the Camera della Segnatura we do indeed feel the transitoriness of the outer work and that those ofttimes repaired frescoes can no longer give any conception of what Raphael's magic once charmed on those walls. We realize that at some future time men will no longer be able to gaze at the original works, but we know too that humanity will never cease progressing. Raphael's works began their march of triumph when out of sheer love of them the innumerable reproductions now in existence were made. The influence of the originals live on, even in the reproductions. We can so well understand Hermann Grimm when he says that he once hung a photograph of the Sistine Madonna in his room but always felt that he had no right to go into that room; it seemed to him to be a sanctuary of the Madonna in the picture. Many will have realized that the soul is changed after they have entered livingly into some picture of Raphael, even though it is only a reproduction. True one day the originals will disappear, but may it not be said that they exist nonetheless in other worlds?
The words of Hermann Grimm in his book on Homer are quite true: “Neither can the original works of Homer truly delight us in these days for when we read the Iliad and Odyssey in ordinary life without higher spiritual faculties, we are no longer able to enter fully into all the subtleties, beauty and power of the Greek language. The originals exist no longer; yet in spite of this Homer speaks to us through his poems.” What Raphael has given to the outer world however will always remain as a living witness of the fact that there was once an age in the evolution of humanity when the mysteries of existence were indeed revealed through mighty creations, although at that time men could not penetrate into these mysteries through printed writing. In the age of Raphael men read less, but they beheld a great deal more.
Raphael's eternal message to humanity will bear witness to this epoch, — an epoch differently constituted but that will nevertheless work on through all the ages to come, because humanity is one complete organism. Thus Raphael's creations will live on in the outer course of human evolution and inwardly in the successive lives of the spirit of man, bestowing ever mightier and more deeply inward treasures.
Spiritual Science points to a twofold continuation of life, one aspect of which has been described in previous lectures here, and will be still further described, and to another spiritual life towards which we are ever striving. This spiritual life becomes our guide as we pass through the epochs of earthly existence. Hermann Grimm spoke words of truth when he expressed what his study of Raphael imparted to his feeling and perception. He says: “A time must come when Raphael's work will have long since faded and passed away. Nonetheless he will still be living in mankind, for in him humanity blossomed forth into something that has its very roots in man and will forever germinate and bear fruit.” Every human soul who can penetrate deeply enough into Raphael's soul will realize this. Indeed we can only truly understand Raphael when we can sublimate and deepen in the sense of Spiritual Science a feeling which permeated Hermann Grimm when he turned again and again to the contemplation of the painter. (In the last lecture we saw how near Hermann Grimm stood to Spiritual Science.) It will help us to understand our own relation to Raphael and the sense in which thoughts such as have been given today may grow into seeds. If we conclude with a passage from Grimm which expresses what I have really wished to say: “Men will always long to understand Raphael, the fair young painter who surpassed all others, who was fated to die early and whose death was mourned by all Rome. When Raphael's works are lost his name will nevertheless remain engraven in the memory of man.”
Thus wrote Hermann Grimm went in his own particular way he began to describe Raphael. We can understand these words and also those with which he concludes his book: “All the world will long to know of the life work of such a man for Raphael has become one of the basic elements in the higher development of the human spirit. We would fain draw nearer to him nay, we need him for our healing.”