Goetheanism as an Impulse for Man's Transformation
V. Paganism, Hebraism, and the Greek Spirit, Hellenism
11 January 1919, Stuttgart
Wishing to bear in mind the importance for the present time of penetrating into the world in accordance with Spiritual Science, we should not fail to notice that this penetration, as we may have gathered from the various studies made here, will bring with it an essential increase in man's understanding of the Mystery of Golgotha. And it may be said: whoever in his whole soul, his whole heart and not just by ordinary intelligent reflection, unites himself with the knowledge gained by anthroposophical research, when in any other way he is connected with modern culture, will have repeatedly to ask himself what attitude to the Mystery of Golgotha is taken by anyone to a certain degree changed through knowledge derived from this anthroposophical research? From very various points of view we have surveyed this most important of all events for mankind. Today we will try to look at it in such a way that we shall be striving to follow the stream flowing from this mystery down into the most recent times. The fruitfulness of anthroposophical knowledge can be shown in a certain sense by its success, or at any rate its ability to succeed, in rightly understanding in a similar way what has happened both in the world and in mankind up to the present. Whereas human observation otherwise generally recoils in fear from having recent history permeated by what is spiritual.
In contemplating the Mystery of Golgotha we shall have our attention drawn above all to the impossibility of this Mystery of Golgotha being grasped, being understood, if we wish to start out from a material study of world events. It is only when we try to grasp a spiritual event spiritually that we arrive at area understanding of the eatery of Golgotha. It is true that you may say the Mystery of Golgotha is for all that like other historical events a physical event of the physical world. But only recently I have pointed out to you that knowledge at the present time, when sincere, cannot say this. It cannot recognise the Gospels as historical records in the same sense as other historical records, neither can it accept in the same sense as historical records the few highly contestable historical notes which, in addition to the Gospels, we have about the Mystery of Golgotha. These cannot indeed be taken like the historical accounts about Socrates or Alexander the Great, about Julius Caesar, the Emperor Augustus and people of this kind. And I have often emphasised that just what creates the special relation of Spiritual Science to the Mystery of Golgotha is that Spiritual Science will establish the Mystery of Golgotha as a reality at the very time when every other method of mankind, all other paths of mankind, will be found to lead to nothing when trying to draw near to the Mystery of Golgotha as a reality. For the Mystery of Golgotha must be understood spiritually as a spiritual event. And it is only through spiritual understanding of the Mystery at Golgotha that the external reality of this Mystery of Golgotha can be grasped. (see The Spiritual Guidance of Mankind)
Now what is of most significance in the Mystery of Golgotha? In spite
of all the so-called liberal theology of Protestantism the most
significant part of the Mystery of Golgotha is the thought of
Resurrection. The saying of Paul is still undoubtedly true: “And
if Christ be not risen then is our preaching vain and your faith is also
vain”. In other words, it is necessary for Christianity, true,
real Christianity, to have the possibility of understanding
that Christ Jesus went through death and overcame this death after a
certain time by livingly re-uniting Himself with earthly development.
It goes without saying that in relation to its inner law this belongs
only to the spiritual worlds.
Now I have also pointed out to you something that, when looked at purely from the point of view of reason, might break our hearts because it represents one of these contradictions there must always be in life, which logic would always like to clear away—the Christ was put to death. The most guiltless One who ever trod the earth was put to death through the guilt of man. We can gaze upon this human guilt and regard it in the way human guilt, such great human guilt, is regarded. This is the one side of the matter. But next we have to look at the other side and say to ourselves: And had Christ not been crucified, had He not passed through death, it would not have been possible for Christianity to arise. This means, the greatest human guilt was necessary for the greatest blessing to enter the evolution of the earth, for the evolution of the earth to acquire its meaning. We could speak of this point in paradox—had men not taken upon themselves the burden of that guilt, that greatest of all guilt, the significance of the earth would not have been fulfilled. And in this way we characterise one of those great, fundamental contradictions life provides, which the logic of the world would do away with. For what is logic meant for? Logic is meant to do away with contradictions wherever they are found. Logic today however does not yet know what it is doing by this. With the removal of the contradiction, logic kills the life in human understanding. This is why people do not arrive at any living understanding when they want to give merely abstract, logical form to this understanding. And because of this a man comes to a living understanding only when he is willing to rise above logic to Imagination, Inspiration, Intuition.
Looked at superficially, the Mystery of Golgotha gives this picture—that at a certain point of time, in a little mentioned province of the world-wide Roman Empire, the man Jesus was born, lived thirty years in the way we have often described and was then permeated by the spirit of the Christ; as Christ-Jesus he lived on another three years, during the last year going through death and rising again. This event at first remained unnoticed anywhere in the whole Roman Empire. Throughout the centuries this event worked in such a way that the culture of the civilised world not only was absolutely transformed but entirely renewed. This is to begin with the external side. We penetrate to the inner side by trying to become clear how this Mystery of Golgotha arose out of Judaism and within the midst of the heathen world. In its religious conception Judaism has something radically different from any heathen religious conception. It may be said at once that Judaism and paganism exclude each other as the two poles of all religious conception.
Let us therefore first consider paganism. All paganism—whether or no what I want to say is, in paganism, more or less hidden—all paganism starts out with the idea that for human perception the divine-spiritual is in some way to be found in nature. Pagan religion is at the same time essentially the perception of nature. In the heathen the contemplation of nature is always there as a more or less unconscious basis: he feels that even man arises out of the becoming and the weaving of the phenomena of nature, that as man he feels himself related in his whole existence in his whole evolving, with what is there in nature and what is coming into existence through nature. Then, to crown what he is able to gain by his perception of nature, the heathen seeks to grasp as it were with his soul what is living in this nature as divine and spiritual. We see this in those ancient times by the way which man out of his own bodily nature becomes able to grasp the divine spiritual, in visions, in atavistic clairvoyance. In the lofty Culture of Greece we see how man tried in pure thought to grasp the divine spiritual. But everywhere we see man as a heathen tries to prepare a path for himself leading straight from the observation, the contemplation, of nature to the crowning point of her edifice—the perception of the divine spiritual within nature.
Now if one goes deeply into the essential being of all paganism—today I can only give an outline of these things—it will be noticed that a perception such as this cannot bring us to a full understanding of the moral impulses in the human race. For however hard it is sought to recognise from nature the divine spiritual impulse, this divine spiritual impulse remains without morality as a content. In the culturally advanced pagan religion of the Greeks we see that the Gods cannot be said to have had much moral impulse.
Naturally everything is expressed in a more or less masked way, the reality clothing itself in some kind of metamorphosis: but to all intents and purposes it is quite possible to say that in Judaism the matter, the very basis of the matter, shows itself as the polar ic opposite of the pagan religion. If we would put it tritely, Judaism might be called the actual discovery of the moral impulse in the evolution of man. The characteristic feature of all ancient Jewish religion lies in the essential pulsing and weaving of the Jahve Impulse into mankind in such a way that its weaving and coming into being bring the moral too into the development of mankind. But this caused a difficulty to enter into this Jewish religious conception which the pagan religious conception did not have. This difficulty lay in the inability for Judaism to arrive at an intelligent relation to Nature. The God Jahve, Jehovah, waves and weaves through the life of man. But when man then turns his gaze to the Jahve God who brings about human birth, then punishes bad and rewards good actions in the course of life, and when he next turns his gaze away from the Jahve God to the events of nature into which man also is interwoven on earth, then there is no doubt it becomes impossible to bring the events of nature into harmony with the working of the Jahve God. The whole tragedy of this impossibility of reconciling what happens in nature with the impulse of the Jahve God is expressed in the great and powerful tragedy of the Book of Job. In this Book of Job we are particularly shown how, purely in the course of nature, the just can suffer, can be brought to misery, and how in contradiction with what nature brings, the just man has to believe in the justice of his Jahve impulse. The whole underlying tone, however, the deeply tragic underlying tone, which might be said to ring in the human soul of the Book of Job with a feeling of isolation, from nature, from the cosmos, shows us what difficulty exists between the simple conception of what the Jahve-Being actually is, and an unprejudiced contemplation of what presents itself to the human gaze, to everything in human life, as the course of natural events in which won is interwoven. And yet this Jahve-God, this Jahve-impulse, what is it for those who really grasp the Old Testament but the essential innermost being weaving in the human soul itself? Whither is the ancient Hebrew conception driven by being so polarically opposed to the outlook on nature prominent in paganism?
The old Hebrew conception is with necessity driven by all this to the idea of a being in addition to the Jahve impulse, a being having a part in human nature as this human nature is in the present time of world existence, namely, the serpent of Paradise, Lucifer. Satan, a being who, opposed to the God, the Jahve God, is obliged to play a part in what man has become in earthly existence. A believer in the Old Testament must look upon the Jahve-God as the innermost impulse to which he directs his veneration and devotion. But it is not possible for him to ascribe to this Jahve impulse the only share in bringing about man; he has to ascribe a substantial share in man to the devil, as he was called in the Middle Ages. But it is mere dilettantism to believe that it is very scholarly to establish the contrast between the Jahve-God and the devil, the old serpent, as though it were the same as, for instance, the contrast between Ormuzd and Ahriman in the Persian religion. The basis of the Persian religion is indeed of pagan nature and Ormuzd and Ahriman confront each other in such a guise that we can rise by way of the perception of nature to their essential being in the world-outlook. And the whole process of the world struggle, represented by the Persian religion in the battle between Ormuzd and Ahriman, is a process such as has been taken up by the other pagan religions into their religious conceptions. What in the Old Testament is thought of as the contrast between the Jahve-Impulse and and the satanic impulse, on it meets us in the Book of Job, is a moral contrast; and in this book of Job the whole picture of this contrast is permeated through and through by a moral tone. There a spiritual kingdom is in fact indicated, in which are the good and the evil and this is rather different from the Kingdom of Nature. It may be said that at the time the Mystery of Golgotha was approaching human evolution, mankind had not come to the point of having done with these two main streams—the pagan way to the divine and the Jewish way to the divine. Both of these, however, had reached their highest point of development. For it must not be forgotten, again and again we must remind ourselves, that such a refinement of spirituality, such a height in the conceptual life of man, as had developed in the paganism of the Greeks is unique in human evolution. Neither has it since been reached again nor was it there before. On the contrary, a firm, clear hold on the moral Jahve-impulse through natural events, such as is found in the Book of Job, is also unique and not to be discovered anywhere else. In this particular direction the Book of Job is indeed one of the miracles of human evolution.
When the time of the Mystery of Golgotha was coming near, mankind had arrived as it were at a dead end. They could go no further. They had conceived, or had tried to conceive, Nature in the old sense, on the one hand, on the other hand the moral world in the old sense. It was impossible for them to advance. In their outer form both had in man's view reached the highest point and there was no higher point to be gained. And now world-evolution actually resulted in contrasts. It does not move forward so simply, so easily, in such a straight-forward ascending development as the modern theory of evolution would have it. This modern theory of evolution imagines, first, what is simple then rising in a straight line—and so on and so forth. But this evolution is not like that; another evolution lies at the basis of this one, in that certain evolutionary impulses reach their highest point, but at the same time as these impulses are approaching the highest point, others are descending to the lowest depths. There are always these two streams flowing—the one to the highest outer development and at the very time one is coming to this highest outer development the other is coming to its greatest inner development. And at the same time men have arrived on the one hand at a certain height, where the pagan conception is concerned, and on the other hand at a certain height in regard to the Jewish conception, what developed inwardly in mankind on earth was only to be reached through such an event that indeed happened historically, although outwardly it took the form, as it were, of a world symbol.
Thus, it could only be the death of the spirit that was to give the earth its meaning. Highest life, as this life developed in the course of ages, highest life brought to its zenith, at the same time inwardly, spiritually, implied the necessity of death. Only out of death could new life then proceed. This death on Golgotha is therefore the necessary contrast, and the greatest contrast to the abundant life acquired at this time in the world-outlooks of the areas and the Jews.
It is true that the matter can be represented from the most varied
standpoints. We have already done this. But the following, for example,
can also be said: the old world-outlooks all more or less based on
atavistic clairvoyance, outlooks which were first advanced to pure
thought by the Greeks—all these ancient world-outlooks were
finally aimed at discovering man here on the earth. And particularly in
Greece, and in another way in Judaism, this is exactly what happened at
the time of the Mystery of Golgotha. Going farther back in former times
it is found that to a certain extent man in that he was thinking about
himself was nearer the divine not having yet come to a conception of
himself. At the time the Mystery of Golgotha took place man had arrived
at his own conception of himself. For when such a thing comes about
there arises one of those events when in a certain measure through its
on force the event changes into its opposite.
Now if you watch a pendulum swinging from left to right you will find the following. I have often used this illustration. Whereas the pendulum swings here it falls back again here through gravity; and having sunk to here through gravity, at this point because the pendulum cord is in exact opposition to the direction of gravity the latter cannot work; but the pendulum does not remain still. And why? It is because by falling down, as the physicist expresses it (and we can apply the same expression though it is not correct spiritually) the pendulum has gathered so much inertia that through its own inertia it swings to the other side.
This inertia is exhausted, reduced to nil, the moment the pendulum has swung out as far to the left as it did to the right. The agent towards the left comes about through the pendulum's own inertia but is then exhausted. This is a universal law in any process in the world at all, namely that something happens and in happening nullifies the impulse to happen. And so the moment pagan and Jewish culture had reached their zenith the force that had brought them there was exhausted and brought to naught. And the entrance of a new impulse into the world was needed to lead evolution onward.
This impulse was the Christ, for Whom in the way we know, the vessel of Jesus was prepared. So we can put it thus, that had a man been able, at the point in our reckoning of time which might be called zero, to see right into what was actually taking place inwardly in mankind, he would have had to says mankind at this moment meet the tragic destiny that the forces given them at the outset of earthly evolution had been brought by the time at which we have arrived to their highest development where the inner constitution of soul was concerned, but that at the same time these forces had been exhausted. Men were faced with the death of the culture that at the beginning of earth evolution took the course of the impulse which the men of old had received as mankind's heritage. Then anyone thus experiencing mankind's fate could look to the hill of Golgotha and see the external historical symbol, the dying body of Jesus, the dying representative at mankind, and from the Resurrection could take hope that a new impulse would not abandon mankind on the earth but would lead them onward. This impulse, however, could not arise out of what it was possible up to then for earth to give mankind. In other words looking to Golgotha and on Golgotha experiencing the possibility of mankind's further development, men had to aspire to something the world was not able to give. To look up to something coming as a new impact into the evolution of the earth—this is what had to be done, or would have had to be done at that point of time by anyone with an intimate vision into the affairs of mankind's evolution. This is what happened and this was the significance of it. It is a matter of external history whether certain events have been more or less grasped. The essential for Christianity is that this happened, and took place as an objective fact. Christianity is not a doctrine. Christianity is the perception of this objective event being played out in earthly evolution.
And now let us look at the remarkable way in which this perception of Christianity was spread abroad. Recently I have expatiated on this fact from another point of view. Today we will observe only how the conception of the Christ impulse, that has come into earthly evolution, spread out over the lands of Judaism, of Greek paganism, of Roman paganism, If without prejudice we observe the historical development we cannot help saying—Christianity most certainly did not take such thoroughly deep root in Judaism, but in spite of the Gospels having been written out of the Greek spirit, neither did Christianity take deep root in Greece, and when we come to the Roman Empire it quite decidedly did not do so there. You need only take what is left of the Christianity out of the Roman Empire, namely Catholicism, and out of this Roman Catholicism merely take the Mass, in its way great and powerful, it is true, and you will see what a peculiar significance underlies this very spreading of the Christian conception throughout the old Roman Empire.
For what strictly speaking is the Mass? The Mass, as well as other ceremonies of the Catholic Church, are indeed in their magnificence, in their incomparable greatness, taken from the pagan mysteries. You have only to look at the Catholic ritual and to understand it correctly, and you have in this ritual a reproduction of the way of initiation in the old pagen mysteries. The chief parts of the Mass—Gospel, Offertory, Transubstantiation, Communion—represent the path of those seeking initiation in the Ancient pagan mysteries. The Christ impulse had to be clothed in the form of the old pagan mysteries to be spread abroad throughout the regions of the Roman Empire. You can reed in my book Christianity as Mystical Fact how what has been experienced in the conception of Christ-Jesus was represented to those entrusted with the results of Initiation in the old pagan mysteries. There we are shown how on Golgotha, on the scene of world-history, there took place what otherwise was always presented as individual human experience on another plane, in the secret depths of Mystery Initiation, Thus we see that the secret of Christianity in its diffusion over the civilised countries of the fourth post-Atlantean epoch, known to us as the Greco-Latin epoch, is steeped in pagan ritual. What was received in the Christ-impulse as idea, lived on in the sacrifice of the Mass. To all intents and purposes it still lives on today in the Catholic sacrifice of the Mass. For he is an orthodox Catholic who experiences Christ-Jesus in all His mystery when at the altar they elevate the Host, the Bread transformed into the body of Christ. In this ritualistic action the true Catholic who experiences the pagan form of Christianity feels what he is intended to feel. This is not an immediate relation to Christ-Jesus; here we have a relation in which through the form of the pagan ritual it is sought to come on, to press on to man.
It is only when having passed through the civilised lands of the south which imbued it with paganism or Judaism it arrives among the barbarians of the north, that Christianity first arises in a quite different form, a form that is intimate and human. For this reason the prevalent attitude of these northern barbarians to Christianity was such that they accepted it in a much more primitive form. And for a long time these barbarian Arians (cf. R. XLVII.) of the north, kept aloof from the complicated conceptions simply embodied in the pagan ritual, and represented Christ-Jesus to themselves more or less as an idealised man, as an idealised man raised to the level of the divine, as the foremost brother of mankind, though still a brother. The relation of the Christ to some kind of unknown God did not much interest them; on the contrary, what interested them extraordinarily was how human nature stood in relation to the Christ nature, what immediate connection the human heart, the human mind, is able to have with the ideal man Christ-Jesus, And this was bound up with the outlook concerning the external social structure for mankind. Christ became a special King, a special Leader of the people. How in their imagination they would follow a leader in whom they had trust so they wished to follow Christ-Jesus as the outstandingly illustrious Leader. Something here arose that might be described as seeking a personal relation to Christ Jesus in contrast to the complicated relation of the south, which could only be expressed by the imaginative picture realised in the ritual.
Now what brought this about? Indeed, my dear friends, these barbarian peoples to whom Christianity penetrated in the north are the germ of what later was to arise in human evolution as the fifth post-Atlantean period. They were not completely men by the time the people of the fourth post-Atlantean period had already come to a comparatively high point. They absorbed into their still primitive human nature what can only enter a highly developed mankind in the form of the realised imaginations of the ritual. The barbarians' hearts and minds absorbed intimately, personally, what in a changed human nature was received in lofty spirituality, nevertheless in the south received only in a pagan form.
Thus we see the germ of Christianity falling into southern hearts and into hearts of the barbarians of the north quite differently. These northern barbarian hearts are far less mature than the hearts of the southern peoples, and the Christ impulse sinks into this immaturity. And we are faced by the remarkable fact that in the whole south, throughout Christianised Judaism, throughout the Christianised paganism of the Greeks, the Christianised paganism of Rome, Christianity so permeated the spirit that before the coming of the Christ impulse that was approaching man, the Christ conception was determined and was given form in the way it was possible to form it according to the old experiences of the soul. For these ancient people had a significant life of soul, a life of soul, in a certain sense, of grandiose development. The northern barbarians had a primitive, simple soul-life, accustomed only to what was nearest the soul, to the closest relations of a personal kind between man and man. And into these close relations there streamed the Christ impulse. These men had no conception at all of scientific knowledge as it was developed among the Greeks, nor had they any political views concerning the structure of the State, as formed by the Romans. There was nothing of this kind among the northern barbarians. Their conceptual life of soul could be said to have been so far disengaged. They could not think much. They could hunt, they could fight, they could do a little tilling of the ground, they could do something else too—well, you have only to read about the old barbarians of the north; but they could not develop any kind of organised science. They had no conceptual life before the coming of the Christ impulse, conceptions could only come to the people with the Christ impulse. Therefore it may be said that to men in the south Christ came in such a way that He to come to had to standstill in face of the Conceptual life which they brought to meet Him. These men of the south erected a gateway. “You must first pass through this”, they said to the Christ. This gateway was still what had been built out of the old traditional conceptions. The barbarians of the north had no such gateway, there was no barrier to admission, the Christ impulse could enter freely. Between the people or peoples who lived their lives there in the north as barbarians, these peoples to whom the Christ came, and Jesus himself as the individual man to whom Christ came, there is only a difference of degree. In Palestine Christ came to the individual man Jesus. Then the impulse spread itself out over the southern lands; everywhere in these southern countries was the gateway of the conceptual life, where the impulse could not enter as it entered into the man Jesus. In the way the Christ impulse came to the northern barbarians it could not, it is true, enter every individual man—they were no Jesuses—but it was able to enter the folk souls; these in a certain relation accepted it as the Christ. And between the folk souls and the Christ a process took place similar to the one between Jesus and the Christ. (cf. R XLVII.)
This is the inner secret of the journey of Christianity up through the southern lands to the barbarians of the north. But they had not progressed very far, these northern barbarians. And even when the Christ had been able to make a direct entry there was nothing very grand in the dwellings He could set foot in. Primitive, the most primitive conceptions, were there. I might say: what in the south was already highly developed had been unfolded as if beneath the aegis of world evolution, but the evolution of a previous stage—what was highly developed in the
south during the fourth post-Atlantean, the Greco-Latin culture stage, in the north was still quite embryonic, waiting on till later. Thus it may be said: we have the fourth post-Atlantean culture stage, the fifth post-Atlantean culture stage; (cf. R XLVII.) we know that the fourth post-Atlantean culture stage runs from 747 years before the event of Golgotha to the year 1413 of our era after which it still goes on; we live now in the fifth post-Atlantean culture epoch. Take any point of the fourth post-Atlantean culture stage, let us say a point during the fifth century before the event of Golgotha, when evolution was already advanced in the Greco-Latin countries; it was, however, very backward among the northern barbarians. It was awaiting the later development; the same point only arrived for them much later. In other words, in the north, even though they finally came to a higher stage, men were much later in arriving at the same point as was reached earlier by men in the south. It is important to bear this in mind. For only by remembering this do we see how the inner evolution, the inner development, of human life takes form throughout the earth.
Only consider to what a height this Graeco-Latin culture has come by the time the great—one cannot call him merely a philosopher but the great man Plato arose in this Greco-Latin culture, Plato with his raising of the human myth into the kingdom of ideas. When he spoke of ideas, it was not to the abstract ideas spun by modern men Plato looked up. Plato's ideas are the very being of the spirit itself. Whoever really knows in Plato on whet heights this old Greco-Latin culture of the fourth post-Atlantean culture period stood. During the time the great Plato was towering above all that was Greece, the northern barbaric culture still had much to pass through until, for its part, it had brought forth out of its own flesh and blood, if only for the fifth post-Atlantean period, the same as had been produced out of Greece in the lifetime of Plato.
We may ask when it was that the barbarian natures of the north, out of their own flesh and blood, first worked themselves up to the heights on which Plato had already stood at an earlier epoch? An the answer to the question is, at the time of Goethe! What in the Greek civilisation was Platonism, is Goetheanism for the fifth post-Atlantean period. For how many years go by, my dear friends, in one culture period? You know that if you take 1413 years after the Mystery of Golgotha and 747 years before, that gives us one culture period, 2160 years, a little over 2000 years. This is about the time that passed between Plato and Goethe, a rather long culture period lies between these two.
And while we consider Plato, one thing stands out concerning him that lights forth from the rest of ancient culture in a grandiose way. There meets us what lies in Plato's words when his philosophy ascends to religious inspiration and he says: “God is the Good”, where he has the feeling that the perception of nature in accordance with ideas must be bound up with the moral ordering of the world—the divine is the good. With these words the promise of Christianity enters Greek civilisation.
But with these words there would also be an indication of a promise with Goethe in the north—an expectation of a renewal of Christianity. Who could look inwardly upon Goethe either in any way but as having within him the promise of a renewed understanding of the Mystery of Golgotha? The boy Goethe, the seven-year-old boy, still stood like a pagan before nature, and lived again all that once lay in Greece. He takes a reading desk, places on it all kinds of stones and bits of rock representing nature's processes, lights a pastille from the direct light of the sun through a burning-glass and thus offers his sacrifice to the great God of nature. Purely pagan worship of nature, nothing lives in this of Christ-Jesus, in this lives the God who can be contemplated in nature. And Goethe is sincere to the innermost fibre of his being. Outwardly he does not acknowledge any God, any divine Being, with whom he cannot inwardly unite himself in all sincerity. To agree with the conception of God given him by a priest is for him an impossibility; to learn outwardly what does not surge up from his inmost soul is an impossibility. Thus, still in the year 1780, there springs forth from his inner being his Hymn to Nature. that wonderful Hymn in prose to nature which begins:
“Nature! We are surrounded and enveloped by her, unable
to step out of her, unable to get into her more deeply.
She takes us up unasked and unwarned into the circle of
her dance and carries us among till we are wearied and
fall from her arms . . . (see George Adams translation: A. Q.)
Everything is nature. We belong to her, she drives us along with her. Even what is unnatural is nature, The greatest philistinism has something of her genius. It is she who places me here and she will not hate her work. The profit is hers, the debt is hers.
This outlook itself springs forth from his intimate inmost being because Goethe is so honestly seeking it in the way it has to be sought by him as representative of his stage of humanity in which there is nothing Christian. You find a wonderful leaning towards God in the whole prose-hymn to Nature, almost as though he were still the seven-year-old boy erecting his pagan altar with its products of nature; but you do not find anything Christian. For Goethe stands as the honest representative of mankind in the fifth post-Atlantean period which for him stood as the period of waiting. But Goethe clearly expresses that it is not possible to remain at the stage of paganism, when on the one hand, in his morphology and his colour theory he comes to his grandiose outlook on nature, an outlook that is at the same time scientific. But this is also expressed from another aspect when he has to go beyond this perception of nature, beyond this paganism. From this point of view take the inner impulse of Faust, take from this point of view particularly all that Goethe has secretly introduced into his fairy tale of The Green Snake and the Beautiful Lily, take everything about the re-birth of man expressed in this fairy tale—and then try not just to remain on the surface but to press on to what was living in Goethe's mind, then, my dear friends, the idea will come to you: here in the soul of a man is living a new Christ impulse, a new impulse for transforming mankind, brought about by the Mystery of Golgotha, a striving after a new understanding of this Mystery of Golgotha. For the whole fairy tale of the Green Snake end the Beautiful Lily breathes forth this mood of expectation.
Where Plato stands in the culture of the Greeks, Goethe stands in the fifth post-Atlantean period. The question “Where does Goethe stand” leads us on to say: As Plato with the definition of the Divine as the Good pointed to the Mystery of Golgotha as a key to understanding the fourth post-Atlantean period, in all that rings forth from his fairy tale of The Green Snake and the Beautiful Lily, Goethe was pointing to the fresh understanding of the Mystery of Golgotha that had perforce to come. This is the answer to the question of where Goethe stands. What is there that up to most recent times one can picture as spiritualising all that happens to mankind? The outer historical understanding that just counts up men and events one after the other, says actually nothing at all that can touch upon the real inner being of man. But if we look at the inner side of what happens, if we see that at the same point as Plato stood for the fourth post-Atlantean period, Goethe now stands for the fifth period, then there is revealed to us the spiritual wave that up to the present day has been creatively surging into the world. During very recent times history for modern man has in general became thoroughly unspiritual in the way it is grasped. Goetheaism is at the same time a mood of expectancy in which one is waiting for a new understanding of the Mystery of Golgotha.
We come to an understanding of what happened as the eighteenth century passed into the nineteenth, only by trying to penetrate to the depths of the events affecting mankind. (cf. Karma of Vocation.) My dear friends, as ennobling conceptions can be called up in the human heart if anyone tries today to renew certain experiences that were aroused in paganism—for example if we look up to the conception of the great Isis of the Egyptians. Certainly even up to the time of Plato the conceptions about the Egyptian Isis as the impulse holding sway throughout nature still resounded towards men. If today we hear about Isis, if we hear about Isis without powerfully experiencing anew what people felt in those times, we are left with the mere words. If we are honest it is all mere words. If we are not intoxicated by the sound of words simply words are there—the matter does not grip the heart. what can modern man do if he wishes to awaking the same conceptions within him that in ancient days were aroused in human hearts when Isis was spoken of?
Modern men can let work upon him Goethe's Hymn in prose to Nature. There man is spoken to in the same way as when Isis was spoken of to those men of old. And what sounded to those men of old when Isis was spoken of rings still directly from the hidden depths of the cosmos.
Let us for once think what wrong we do, wrong to world evolution as well as to our own hearts, when we do not wish to hear in this way, when we prefer to take up a purely external attitude, because the way in which the men of old spoke about Isis has round it a glory of the past. When Isis was spoken of by those ancient people there sounded forth from the words a primeval holy secret. And language in our time ought to speak of this secret, truly, actually speak of this secret deeply in the same way as it came from the lips of the Egyptian Priests when they sang about Isis. We should not fail to recognise when deep things hold sway in the new life of spirit. In this way, too, we shall once again feel ourselves true men when we are not prosaic in our feeling, when what is holy sounds towards us in the way it will sound forth out of the newer impulse of historical evolution. Then when we prepare ourselves by paganism, as one might say, through something of the nature of the hymn in prose, with all the widening of soul we can get from this, with all the deepening of soul that makes itself felt within us, with all the ennobling of soul we can experience, we shall sink deeply into what there is in many of the scenes in Faust or in the fairy tale of The Green snake and the Beautiful Lily, where we shall find expressed the mood of waiting for a new understanding among the most modern people of the Mystery of Golgotha.
This is an indication of something about the finding of Goethe and Goetheanism that I wanted to give you, not in the form this discovery often takes but a discovery that really finds the Goethe spirit in the whole course of human evolution, for the understanding of the immediate present, for the strengthening of the impulse we need if we would take our right place today and in the near future, in which we must take our place not sleeping—as I have so often emphasised—but awake, if we do not want to sin against the progress of man's evolution.
More of this tomorrow.