From the Standpoint of Spiritual Science
This lecture is the 1st of 15, in the lecture series entitled, Spiritual Scientific Note on Goethe's Faust Vol. I.
23 January 1910, Strassburg
That which strives to enter our modern culture under the name of Spiritual Science claims to be nothing new and thereby differs from various current world conceptions and other spiritual movements which base the justification of their existence upon their claim of being in a position to bring something new regarding this or that question of spiritual life. But this Spiritual Science aims at emphasizing that the fountains of its knowledge and its life were available at all times when humanity has thought and striven after a solution of the sublime questions and problems of existence. This I have often emphasized in this city, when I had the pleasure of speaking to you in earlier lectures.
It must be especially attractive for man not only to examine, from this point of view, the many and various religious beliefs and world conceptions as they appeared during human evolution, but also to study personalities which have passed before us in history. For, if Spiritual Science is true, at least the nucleus of this truth must be present and discoverable in all those personalities who honestly and energetically strove after knowledge of the core of true human existence.
Whenever today Spiritual Science is spoken of, a variety of opinions are expressed from one side to the other, and anyone who has not penetrated this field sufficiently or formed a merely superficial idea of it from lecturers or brochures will certainly judge it from his own standpoint, as the fantasy or dreaming of a few people alienated from the world and its affairs, who indulge in curious notions about life and its foundations. It must be admitted that such a judgment is perfectly comprehensible if one does not go deeper into the subject; and though we cannot deal today with the deeper facts — having a special theme to speak upon — I nevertheless intended to bring to your notice several of the principal facts of this Spiritual Science. And even when such facts shall have been named and described, a feeling, quite honest, may easily arise within the minds of our contemporaries to the effect that all this is a most curious viewpoint.
Spiritual Science as a whole rests, in the first place, upon the preconception that all that surrounds us in the world of sense — all we can perceive through our senses and understand with our intellect — which is bound to the senses — is not the whole world, but that behind it all lies a spiritual world. And this spiritual world lies not in some undefined “beyond” but surrounds us here and now in exactly the same way as color and light phenomena surround a person born blind. But in order to perceive our environment we need an organ of perception. And just as a blind man cannot see color or light, so man of our age cannot, as a rule, perceive the spiritual facts and beings surrounding him here if he possesses only his normal powers of perception. But when we are lucky enough to perform a successful operation upon a blind person, there comes to him the moment of and “awakening” of the eye, and what previously did not exist for him — color and light, now flows into him. A new world is now perceptible to him. In a similar manner a higher awakening is possible on the Spiritual plane — that awakening which leads to initiation into the world of spirit. To use Goethe's words: there are spiritual eyes and ears, but human souls are not, as a rule, advanced far enough to use these. But when we apply the means and methods calculated to develop these powers, something happens within us similar to the new power given to the man born blind through the operation. A man becomes “awakened” when these new eyes and ears are opened; a new world surrounds him — a world that was always present, but remained invisible to him before his awakening. And now, when he has advanced thus far he learns to make his own the various sources of knowledge which illuminate life, give him power and security for his work and the ability to penetrate into the fundamentals of human destiny and the secrets of it.
One of these cognitions — one of those appearing to modern man, if not crazy, at best chimerical — shall now be dealt with, if only introductorily. It is the restoration or revival of a primeval process of perception, it's continuation upon a higher plane, pure truth which only comparatively recently has been attained for a lower plane. Humanity as a whole has a very short memory for great events in the world of spirit; hence little is thought to-day of the fact that in the 17th century not only the laity but also scientists believed that from riverslime lower animals, even worms and fishes, could develop. It was the great naturalist Francesco Redi who first said that no worm nor fish issues from riverslime unless a worm or fish germ has first been deposited therein. He said that life can spring only from life, and from this assertion we realize that it is only a superficial, inexact observation which can conclude that from lifeless slime can evolve life in the shape of fish or worm; accurate examination shows that we must go back to the living germ, and that this germ can only attract from out of its environment the forces contained therein in order to bring to the highest state of development all that reside as life within the germ or seed.
Redi's precept that life develops only from life is in modern science recognized as self-evident. But when Redi, in his day, gave utterance to it, he barely escaped the fate of Giordano Bruno. It is the same with the evolution of man. First, a truth pronounced thus brings accusation of heresy; then it becomes self-evident and common knowledge of humanity. What Redi did for natural science is to be done for the spiritual man through Spiritual Science by transferring Redi's precept through the cognition of the awakened spiritual eye and ear to the psychic sphere. And then this precept runs: the Psycho-Spiritual can develop only from the Psycho-Spiritual, in other words, it is an inexact method of observation that claims the genesis of a man being dependent only upon father, mother and ancestors. As we must return from the living worm to the living worm-germ, so we have to go back in the case of man, who has evolved from the germ to a definite being, to an earlier spiritual existence and realize that this being, which enters life through birth, only attracts from his physical ancestors the powers for his own development, as does the worm from his lifeless surroundings. And by corresponding extension of Redi's precept we get another: The present life, entering existence through birth, leads not only back to physical ancestors, but through the centuries to an earlier, psycho-spiritual condition. And if you delve yet deeper into this idea, you'll find it shown quite scientifically that there are not only one, but repeated earth lives; that that, which resides in us as life between birth and death, is a repetition of a psycho-spiritual condition already present in earlier stages of existence, and that our present life is, in its turn, the starting point for succeeding lives. The psycho-spiritual comes from the psycho-spiritual, returns to the psycho-spiritual which existed before birth and which descends from the spiritual world to exist in a physical incarnation. From this point of view we observe something very different when we, for example, study a child from the position of parent or teacher, and see the gradual development of inner powers. At birth we are confronted by something indefinite in its features; then we notice how step-by-step something is developed from within, becoming ever more and more definite — something not inherited, but issuing from a former life. We see how, from birth onwards, this psycho-spiritual center develops by degrees through the talents.
That is the message of Spiritual Science today in relation to repeated earth lives. Today it may be considered as dreaming — like the conviction uttered by Francesco Redi in the 17th century — but tomorrow, in the not-too-distant future, it will take its place as a self-evident truth, and the sentence: the psycho-spiritual comes from the psycho-spiritual will become the universal possession of humanity.
In our day the heretic is not treated as he was formally. He is no longer delivered to the stake, but looked upon as a dreamer and fool speaking from some fantastic imagination. He is made ridiculous by those who sit upon the lofty seat of science saying that all this is irreconcilable with true science, unaware that it is the true, pure science which is demanded by this truth. We could give hundreds of such truths that would show how Spiritual Science can illuminate life by demonstrating that an immortal germ resides in man, a germ which goes into the spiritual world at death, to return again to physical existence when its task in the higher world has been completed, so that new experiences may be gathered which are once again carried into the realms of spirit through the gates of death. We would see how the bond created between man and man, from soul to soul in every walk of life, those attractions of the heart uniting one soul with another — can be explained by their earlier creation in former life conditions; and how those new inner connections and sympathies formed today do not cease to be when death passes over physical life but are immortal like the human soul itself; how these accompany us through the world of spirit and later live again in future earthly conditions and new incarnations. And it is only a matter of further evolution for man to remember his former earth experiences — those psycho-spiritual events of earlier lives and conditions of existence.
These truths will, in a not very remote future, permeate, as necessary concepts, human life, and man will gain power, hope and confidence from these. Today we can only see that a few people in the world are, through their healthy sense of truth, attracted to what spiritual investigators can communicate of their experiences in the spiritual world. But true knowledge of the facts of spiritual science will become universal among men as a result of earnest search for the truth. And all those who have trodden the path of this research in the past have always given to mankind the profound wisdom and understanding which is today offered again them by Spiritual Science.
Let's consider an example taken from a time that lies very near to our own — the example of Goethe, and also the work which occupied him during his whole life as his greatest most comprehensive: his “Faust”.
Where we thus approach Goethe and try to illuminate his striving with the insight given us a Spiritual Science, we can begin very early. True it is, that from his predispositions one can discern the state of his soul and spirit. Everything within him which urged him to seek a spiritual background behind all the phenomena of nature was an early predisposition. We see the seven year old boy — Goethe — who could have absorbed quite ordinary ideas from his environment as any other boy would be able to do; but that did not satisfy him. He himself tells us so in his “Poetry and Truth”. There we see this boy begin something quite extraordinary in order to express his longing for the Divine. He takes a music stand from his father's effects and transforms it into an altar by placing upon it all kinds of minerals and plants and other products of nature from which the spirit of nature speaks. With a certain premonition this boy-soul builds an altar, places a candle upon it, takes a burning-glass, waits for the first rays of the rising Sun, gathers these with his glass and focuses them upon the candle 'til the smoke rises. And in advanced age he remembers how he, as a boy, sends his pious feelings to the great God of nature Who speaks through plants and mineral and sends us His fire through the rays of the Sun. All this develops further in Goethe. We see how it comes to expression, at a more mature age, after he arrives in Weimar and is called as advisor to the grand Duke — in the beautiful prosahymn, in which he says: Nature, we are surrounded and embraced by thee, unable to leave thee, and unable to enter deeper into thee. Unwarned and unmasked she takes us into the cycles of her dance, hurrying along with us until we fall exhausted from her arms. Not we, but she has done what is done; she thinks and meditates perpetually, looks with 1000 eyes into the world. — And again, later, he says in the book about Winckelmann “Antiques”: “When the healthy nature of man acts as one whole; when he feels himself in the world as in a great, beautiful, majestic and worthy whole; when that harmonious ease endows him with a pure, free rapture, then would this universe, could it perceive itself, feel itself at its goal and admire, joyfully, the culmination of its own being and evolution”. In this manner did Goethe sense how everything living and moving in outer nature celebrates a new resurrection in the human soul, and how a higher nature — a spiritual nature — is borne out of the soul and spirit of man. But only gradually does Goethe fight his way to full clarity of spiritual knowledge of nature. And in nothing else do we see plainer and clearer how Goethe during his entire life remained striving, with rest, to transform his knowledge again and again and so to rise to a higher stage than in his life's work — “Faust”.
In his earliest youth he began to incorporate into his poem all that filled his longing and feeling soul; and as aged man, in his last years, shortly before his death, he completed this work upon which he had spent fifty years of his life and laid into it the best fruits of his existence. At his death the second part lay there sealed, like the great testament to be bestowed upon humanity. It is a significant document, which we understand only if we follow Goethe in his efforts to win through to cognition. We find him, for example, a student at the University in Leipzig. He should have become a lawyer, but this occupied him only as a secondary interest. An unconquerable urge towards the secrets of the world — toward the spiritual — already existed within this young student, even in those days. He therefore absorbed all that Leipzig had to offer on natural science, and to hearken to the world for her problems of existence. But in order to transform what natural science offered him, into that urge which permeated all his inner forces, and aimed not at abstract knowledge, but a warm perception of the heart, he needed for its development a great experience — one that leads man to that knowledge in reality — the gate towards which we gaze with uncertain feelings and which shuts away from the normal human being of today the super physical, the invisible — the gate of death. Death passed him by at the end of his studies in Leipzig. A severe illness brought him near death's door. Hours, days, passed by where he felt that that mysterious portal would open to him at any moment and let him pass through. The exceptionally powerful urge towards knowledge demanded the higher degree of endeavor. And with this developed mood of perceptive he returned to his native city Frankfurt. There he found a circle of persons at whose head stood a woman of deep, extensive ability: Suzanne von Klettenberg. Goethe has erected a wonderful monument to her in the form of “The Confessions of a Beautiful Soul”. In it he showed that in this soul, which he at that time became spiritually intimate, something lived that cannot be expressed in any other way than to say: in Suzanne von Klettenberg lived a soul that endeavored to contain within itself the Divine and through this find the Divinity interpenetrating the world. Through this circle Goethe was introduced to studies which, were they applied today to any truly modern man, would appear crazy. They were medieval writings, and Goethe absorbed their contents. Anyone who today should study these could do little or nothing with them. When one observes the remarkable signs therein, one asks: what really is all this as compared with today's striving after truth by our science? At that time there was one book, The Golden Chain of Homer — Aurea catena Homeri. When opening this, one finds a remarkable symbolic drawing — a dragon full of life in the upper half circle bordering on another dragon, one which is dried-up and dying. Various signs are connected with this: symbolic keys, two intersecting triangles and the planetary signs. All this is mere fantasy for our contemporaries of a scientific bent, because they know not what to do with them. Goethe feels that they represent something. They do not express directly something to be found here or there in our world. But if these symbols are allowed to work upon us by, so to speak, becoming blind and deaf to our physical environment, letting only these signs act upon us, then we experience something highly peculiar — we feel, that the soul becomes aware of something that has been asleep — like a spiritual eye which has opened. And if one has sufficient perseverance, one takes to what is called meditation and concentration which so develop the soul that, as an actual fact, something like a spiritual eye operation is performed and a new world makes its appearance. Such a new world could not disclose itself to Goethe at that time, for he had not developed so far. But in his soul arose a presentiment that there exist keys for that spiritual world and that one can enter it. We have to realize this mood of Goethe's: The living sensation or feeling; something within me becomes active, compelling me to the belief that something exists which leads into the world of spirit. But simultaneously he feels his powerlessness to enter that world. If at anytime Goethe had been identical with Faust, we could say that he was in the same position as Faust when we see him at the beginning of the first part, where Faust, after studying the most varied departments of science, opens books containing those signs and symbols, feels himself encompassed by a spiritual world, but lacks the means of entry. But Goethe never was identical with Faust in that way; one part of him was Faust, but he himself grew beyond that part of himself. And so developed that which transcended Faust, through his disregard of any inconvenience, more and more and his continuous striving brought him to the conclusion that one cannot get behind the secrets of existence at one bound, not through formula and incantations, but through the patient and energetic effort to penetrate all that surrounds us in the physical world — gradually, step by step — with a true, psycho-spiritual perception. It is easy to say: this higher knowledge must arise in the soul. True, but it arises in its true form only if we are striving with patience and endurance to recognize, step-by-step, the real nature of the phenomena of the physical world and then, behind them, seek the spiritual. But Goethe could compress all this, could see it all in a different light, with what he had gained in his Frankfurt period.
Goethe came from Frankfurt to this city — Strassburg — we could indicate much that has here led him higher. Especially characteristic was the effect upon him of something that has so great a significance for this city — the Cathedral. The idea behind this building came to him and he understood why each single line must be as it is. With spiritual perception — gained during his Frankfurt meditations — he observed each triangle, each angle of this beautiful erection as part of the whole; and in his soul this great idea of the architect celebrated a resurrection and he believed he could recognize the thought, the idea, behind it. And so we could mention many instances where, so to speak, a marriage took place in his soul between his inner perception and the things it absorbed from the outer world. It is therefore not to be wondered at that, when later he returned to Weimar, he began to take up natural science from a new angle — botany, zoology, osteology, etc. and consider them all in the light of letters which together produce the book of life and lead into the secrets of existence. Thus originated his studies of the development of plants, of the animal world, in the same manner as he dealt with these subjects during his student days, except that everywhere he sought the spirit behind the sensual phenomena of existence. So we see him during his Italian Journey consider, on the one side, art, and nature's creations on the other, as he studied the plant world so as to recognize the spirit ruling within. Great and beautiful are the words he wrote to his friends who were familiar with this kind of spiritualized natural science: “Oh, everything here appears to me in a new guise; I would like to travel to India and there study, in my own way, what is already discovered ...” that is, study it in a manner demanded of him by his development. We see how he considers the works of art he meets with. He writes in one letter: "This much is certain, the old artists possessed a knowledge of nature and as sure a conception of what can be presented and how it must be presented as had Homer. Unfortunately is the number of works of art of first-class value much too small. But when one sees them one has nothing else to wish for as to understand them rightly and pass on in peace. These sublime artistic creations are, like the highest of man's natural works, built up in accordance with true and natural laws; everything imaginary, arbitrary collapses; there is only necessity — there is God”. Just as the great Spirit of Nature spoke to the boy of seven from his self constructed altar, so now did the great Spirit of Existence in the world of Spirit speak to him through the works of art which he looked upon as a unity. Thus did Goethe advance more and more towards the contemplation of the unity (of things) by energetic and devoted work. He could now quietly await the moment when, out of his observations, there should grow a real cognition of the world of Spirit, a true Spiritual Science, which we meet - transformed by the artistic treatment, in his “Faust”.
The first parts of “Faust” thus display the mood of a man who suspects the mysteries of existence but cannot penetrate them. We see then how Faust lets himself be influenced by those signs which surround him with the spiritual, and also that he is not yet ripe to really feel this spiritual environment. This is shown by the lines where Faust is acted upon by the symbolic signs of the macrocosm and the Earth spirit and the latter appears before him. With wonderful words Faust characterizes the Earth spirit. We perceive how he suspects that the planet Earth is not simply that physical globe which is described by natural science, but has within it a soul, as our physical body contains a spirit.
In the currents of life, and action's storm, I float and wave With billowy motion! Birth and the grave, A limitless ocean, A constant weaving With change still rife, A restless heaving, A glowing life — Thus time's whirring loom unceasing I ply, And weave the life-garment of deity.
That is the spirit residing in the Earth, as our spirit lives in us. But Goethe presents to us Faust as unripe, his spirit as incomplete. He must turn away from that fear-inspiring sign like a crooked worm. The Earth spirit answers him: “Thou'rt like the spirit thou dost comprehend, not me!” Goethe's soul knew, if only surmisingly, that we must not be satisfied with any of the steps we take, but strive ever higher; that we cannot claim to have achieved something but must go forward yet further. Goethe centers upon these mysteries his assiduous studies, and we now see him growing. The same spirit whom he first called and of whom he could only say “Dreadful Shape”, Goethe addresses through Faust after Goethe himself has attained a step higher, subsequent to his Italian Journey, regarding which I said that he endeavored to penetrate both nature and art according to his lights. Faust is now of the same frame of mind as Goethe himself. Faust now stands before the spirit and says:
Spirit sublime! Thou gav'st me, gav'st me all.
For which I prayed! Not vainly hast thou turn'd
To me thy countenance in flaming fire:
Gavest me glorious nature for my realm,
And also power to feel her and enjoy;
Not merely with a cold and wondering glance,
Thou dost permit me in her depths profound,
As in the bosom of a friend to gaze.
Before me thou dost lead her living tribes
And dost in silent grove, in air and stream
Teach me to know my kindred. And when roars
The howling storm — blast through the groaning wood,
Wrenching the giant pine, which in its fall
Crashing sweeps down its neighbor trunks and boughs,
While with the hollow noise the hill resounds:
Then thou dost lead me to some shelter'd cave,
Dost there reveal me to myself, and show
Of my own bosom the mysterious depths,
And when, with soothing beam, the moons pale orb
Full in my view climbs up the pathless sky,
From crag to dewy grove, the silvery forms
Of bygone ages hover, and assuage
The joy austere of Contemplative Thought.”
Here we see Goethe, and with him Faust, arrived at the height where he will not again turn away from the Spirit whom he had wanted to reach at one leap. Now this spirit faces him as one from whom he does not need to turn. Now he recognizes him in everything living, in all the kingdoms of nature, in the forest and water, in the still bush, in the giant pine, in storm and thunder. And not only in these. After his appearance in the magnitude of nature he knows him also within his own heart: his secret, profound wonders are revealed.
That is a step forward in Goethe's spiritual perception and he takes no rest, but endeavors to make still further progress. We then see how he, encouraged by Schiller, he tries to go still deeper, especially during the nineties of the 18th century. These years brought him the possibility of transcending that indefinite characteristic of consciousness of the spirit limited to the conception that in everything there is spirit. He succeeded in grasping this spirit in the concrete. But Goethe needed much preparation before he was able to present the life of the human spirit in the sense that the psycho-spiritual can arise only from the psycho-spiritual. That Goethe never neglected the effort to enter still further into this, is shown by various works created before the completion of the second part of “Faust”; and the degree of his progress in that direction is found in that second part. Many turned away from Goethe when they came to know him — an introspective Goethe — in the “Pandora”. Even today we hear it uttered: the first part of Faust is full of life, breathes direct naturalness; but the second part is a product of Goethe's advanced age, crammed with symbolisms and artificialities. Such people have no idea of the eternal wisdom embodied in this second part, a wisdom to which Goethe could attain only in the evening of his life, and leave it as testament behind him. And, because of this, we can understand Goethe, in connection with many works which already breathe the spirit of Faust, writing lines from which we see Faust presented as a contending soul — a soul into which a new element has penetrated. We realize it in his anger poured out over those who have called "Faust" and inferior work of age. He says of them:
My Faust some people praise
And what not else
That I in writings phrase
To their advantage tells.
The oldest tag-and-rag
Pleases the pit;
The rabble cannot see
There's more in it.
(My Translation. P.S.)
Here Goethe has for once clothed his opinion in words which he thought justifiable in reference to those who believed that only Goethe's more youthful accomplishments had any value; those who would not ascend to the work of his maturer years.
After Goethe has introduced his Faust to the life that closely surrounds us, has had him experiencing that wonderful Gretchen-tragedy, he leads him out into the great, exterior world — the world of the Emperors Court. Goethe here will show that Faust shall really enter in spirit into the secrets of this world. And then he was to be led into the true spiritual world — the Supersensual.
In the very beginning of the second part we see how Goethe has Faust surrounded by diverse spiritual beings in order to indicate that he was not only to be introduced into an exterior physical world, but should experience all that can be experienced by one whose spiritual eye is opened and whose spiritual ear sensitized. Hence does Goethe show us in the second part the essence of the human soul — of human evolution. What are Faust's experiences to be? The perception of the super-physical world into whose mysteries he is to be initiated. Where is this super-physical world?
Here is an opportunity — if we consider the spiritual content of Faust — in the first place to become occupied with Mephistopheles — that spirit who environs Faust from the beginning, who plays his part in everything Faust undertakes. But only in the second part, where Faust is to be introduced into the world of Spirit, can we realize the actual role Mephistopheles plays. After Faust has passed through the events in the Imperial Court, he begins to see that which is no longer a part of the physical world — the spirit of Helena, who lived many centuries ago. She has to be found for Faust. But that is impossible in the physical world; so Faust must descend into the spiritual world. Mephistopheles has the key to that world, but cannot enter there himself. He can describe it reasonably; he can say: you will descend, or we may say — ascend; and he then actually describes the world into which Faust is to submerge in order to familiarize himself with it and therein find the spirit, the immortal, the eternal, that remains of Helena. A word is sounded — a wonderful word —: Faust shall descend to the Mothers. Who or what are the “Mothers”? One could speak for hours to explain what they are. Here we need only say that the Mothers were for spiritual science at all times that which man learns to know when his spiritual eye is opened. When he looks into the physical world, he sees all things limited, bounded; when he enters the world of spirit he merges with something from which come all things physical, as does the ice from a pond. Just as someone unable to see water would say that there is nothing but ice which towers up out of nothing, so can a man who is ignorant of the spirit, claim that only physical things exist. He does not discern the spirit within and behind the physical, out of which all things physical are formed, as is ice out of water. There, at the foundation of physical things, no more discernible by the physical eye — there are the Mothers. Mephistopheles is that being which is to represent the kind of intelligence able to understand only the things formed in outer space, though aware of the existence of a spiritual realm, but unable to enter it. Mephistopheles stands at the side of Faust as today the materialistic thinker stands by him, saying: O, you Spiritual Scientist: you Theosophist: you want to look into a spiritual world? Why, there is nothing in it; you are only dreaming! And to this Materialist, who wants to build upon what the microscope and the telescope disclose, but denies all that lies behind physical appearance, the Spiritual investigator calls: “In your nothing I hope to find the All.” Thus the materialist thinker compared with the spiritual man who hopes to discover the spirit where the other perceives nothing. These two powers stand in opposition eternally. And from the very beginning Mephistopheles stands before Faust as the Spirit who can lead to the door, but no further. The Theosophist or Spiritual Scientist does not say that physical science is valueless and unnecessary, and possesses the key only. Instead he maintains: We must take this science earnestly and study it, and although the key is in its hand, it leads us to where the true spiritual life can finally be found.
Then Faust descends into the realm of the Mothers — the spiritual world; he succeeds in bringing up with him the spirit of Helena. But he is not ripe enough to unite this spirit with his own soul. Hence the scene where desire stirs in Faust, where he wishes to embrace the archetype of Helena with sensual passion. He is therefore thrust back. That is the fate of everyone who seeks to approach the Spiritual World harboring personal, egotistical feelings; he is repelled like Faust. He must first mature; must learn the real relationship between the three members of man's nature: the immortal spirit which goes on from life to life, from incarnation to incarnation; the body, commencing and ending its existence between birth and death, and the soul between the two of them. Body, soul and spirit — how they unite, how they mutually react — that is the lesson Faust must learn. The archetype of Helena, the immortal, the eternal, that passes from life to life, from one incarnation to the other, Faust has already tried to find, but was then immature. Now he is to become ripe so that he is worthy to truly penetrate into the spirit realm. For this purpose he had to learn that this immortality comes to man only when he can be re-embodied repeatedly within physical existence — have new lives extending from birth to death. Therefore must Goethe show how the soul lives between spirit and body, how the soul is placed between the immortal spirit and the body which exists only between birth and death. The second part of Faust shows us this.
Goethe conceals the soul in that wonderful form about which investigators of his Faust have little to say, while spiritual investigators who are experienced perceive therein the archetype of the soul. That form is nothing else than the Homunculus — the little man. It is a picture of the human soul. And what has this soul to do? It is the mediator between body and spirit; it must attract all the elements of the body out of all the kingdoms of nature in order to ally itself with them. Only then can it become united with the immortal spirit. In that way we can see how Faust is led by the Homunculus to the classical Walpurgisnight as far as the natural philosophers Anaxagoras and Thales who have investigated the origin of nature and life.
And there is given that true teaching of evolution which says, that not only is the animal at the foundation of man's development but a soul-element that gathers together the elements of nature and with them gradually commences to build. Hence Homunculus receives the counsel: You must begin with the lowest kingdom and rise higher and higher. The human soul is, in the first place, sent to the mineral kingdom. There man is informed that he has to pass through the vegetable kingdom: there the soul gathers all the natural elements so as to develop further. It is expressly said: “And up to man thou hast sufficient time.” There we see approaching the spirit of love, Eros, after the soul has formed the body from out of the kingdoms of nature. There the soul unites with the spirit. Body, soul and spirit are united. That which is the soul of the Homunculus, with its newly organized body, comes into union with the spirit of Helena who now, in the third act of the second part, can appear to us incarnate. The teaching of reincarnation we see artistically and practically interspersed in the second part of Faust. One cannot unite with Helena by approaching her with stormy passion, but must experience the mysteries of existence in reality — pass through rebirth.
Goethe, in his days, was as yet unable to express the idea of reincarnation as we do today; but he inserted it into the second part of Faust nevertheless. Hence he could say to Eckermann: I have written my Faust in a way suitable for the stage; and the illustrations presented are, exteriorly, sensually interesting for him who will see only the exterior — the sensual. But the initiated will at once perceive that profound spiritual truth has been included in the second part of Faust. And so has Goethe indicated that we can find his life conception — his spiritual attitude — in this work; and we can now understand that Goethe could demonstrate in this reunion of Faust with Helena the nature of true mysticism.
Faust unites with the spiritual world. Not an ordinary child is the result, but Euphorion who is just as true as he is poetic. Just as truthfully does he show, what comes to life in our soul when it unites with the spiritual world — when the soul penetrates into the secrets of the world of spirit — in it's evolution a moment arrives which is of enormously profound meaning for the soul. Before the soul progresses further, it experiences, only for short moments, its unity with the spiritual world; it knows, for quite short periods, what the spiritual world is. Then it is as if, from out of this spiritual perception, were born a spiritual child. But then again come the moments of ordinary life, when this child vanishes into the spiritual world. This one has to grasp vitally with one's whole heart, and one feels how Euphorion, the spiritual child of the mystic, and despite all poetic truths of life, sinks down into the realm of spirit into which Faust cannot, as yet, quite enter; but how he also draws across something else. It is an experience of the spiritual investigator, the seeker, when our soul has her hour of really feeling her relationship to the spiritual world, and where the knowledge, or perception, appears like the child of a marriage with the spiritual world. Then the soul has the profound experience — when returning to everyday life — of losing or leaving behind the best of her possessions. It is as though our own soul might altogether escape and remain in the spiritual world. If one has felt this, one hears the echo of the spiritual words of Euphorion who has descended and calls from out of the depths:
Leave me in realms forlorn,
Mother, not all alone!
This voice is known to the true mystic — the voice of the spiritual child calling to our soul as its Mother.
But this soul must go on. She must be severed from all that is only personal desire. Quite impersonally must we merge into the spirit existence. As long as there remains one selfish aim, one tinge of self-will, we will fail to perceive the spiritual world. That is possible only when every personal interest is eradicated. Only then can we really grasp the world of spirit permanently. But even then come various moments — after we have gone through the one that forces us back into the physical world — moments which deprive us of all mysticism for prolonged periods. They are those moments of which we must say: Yes, when we have overcome all that savours of selfishness and self-will, something still remains, as it did in Faust after he had said that “now I stand upon a free foundation; I will endeavor to gain from nature everything that I can use for the benefit of others.” But he has not advanced so far. As he gazes upon the hut of Philemon and Baucis and the sight attracts him, he shows that the egoism which wishes to experience pleasure through this view is not yet exterminated. He wanted, unselfishly, to create a place for himself within that realm, but could not yet bear the sight of what spoiled the view — the hut of Philemon and Baucis. And once more the spirit of evil approaches him. The hut is destroyed by fire. Now he sees what anyone sees who passes through this development: the anxiety which meets anyone still harboring selfish aspirations which present his ascent into the spiritual world. Here it faces us — this anxiety, here we learn to know it in its true form; and simultaneously it is something which can really lead us to the true spiritual perception. This does not mean that man shall become alienated from this world — feel any antagonisms towards it — but that he shall learn to know what it is that will not allow him to sever himself from it. Through wise self-knowledge we are to face this trouble so that we may become freed from the egotism of the anxiety, and not from the anxiety itself; from the feeling awakened and it is said that it slips through the keyhole. When we come to know this — trouble — not merely feel, but learn to bear it — then we attain that degree of development which opens our spiritual eye. This is presented to us by Faust's blindness in advanced age; his physical site has gone, but he can see the spiritual world. Night penetrates deeper and deeper, but within is a bright light — a light capable of illuminating the world in which lives the soul between death and birth — the realm of the Mothers. Only now can Faust commence his journey into the spiritual world, so beautifully presented by his ascension.
Now can Goethe compress all that Faust has achieved since the time of premonitory striving, the time when he despaired of science and turned away from it, till he gained his highest degree of spiritual perception. This he does in the chorus mysticus which, by its name alone, indicates that it contains something very deep. Here, in this chorus, is to be condensed in few words — paradigmatically — that which offers the key to all the world mysteries: how everything temporal is only a symbolism for the eternal. What the physical eye can see is only a symbol for the spiritual, the immortal of which Goethe has shown that he, when entering into this spiritual realm, even gains the knowledge of reincarnation. He will finally show man's entrance into the spiritual kingdom coincides with the knowledge that what was premonition and hope in the physical is truth in the spiritual; what was aspiration in the physical becomes attainment in the spiritual world.
It may sound almost pedantic if I mention something here which must be known if the final words are to be understood.
Goethe spoke rather indistinctly in his late years because of the absence of teeth. He dictated the second part of his Faust to a writer. As he still retained something of his Frankfurt dialect, several words and sounds were not quite clearly pronounced. Thus has a “G” been substituted for several “Ch's”. For instance, for “Erreichnis” (attainment) was written “Ereignis” (event). Goethe, in his final lines of Faust said “Erreichnis”. Here, the inadequate becomes something attainable or “erreichbar” — to be written with two “r”s and a “ch”. Everywhere, in all Goethe publications, we find “Ereignis”. So little can these Goethe-investigators enter into the sense of the work. The “inadequate” of the physical world becomes the “attained” in the spiritual; what here cannot be described, becomes there a living fact.
Finally we touch that Great Fact, which Goethe incorporated into his final words: the “ever-womanly.” It is a sin against Goethe to say that here he means the female sex. He refers to that profundity signifying the human soul as related to the mystery of the world; that which deeply yearns as the eternal in man, the ever-womanly which draws the soul to the eternally immortal, the eternal wisdom, and which gives itself to the “eternal masculine.” The ever-womanly draws us towards the ever-masculine. It has nothing to do with something feminine in the ordinary sense. Therefore can we truly seek this ever-womanly in man and woman: the ever-womanly which aspires to the union with the ever-manly in the cosmos, to become one with the Divine-Spiritual that inter-penetrates and permeates the world towards which Faust strives. This mystery of man of all ages pursued by Faust from the beginning, this secret to which Spiritual Science is to lead us in a modern sense, is expressed by Goethe paradigmatically and monumentally in those five words at the conclusion of the second part of Faust represented as a mystic Spirit Choir; that everything physical surrounding us in the sense world is Maya, illusion; a symbol only of the spiritual. But this spiritual we can perceive if we penetrate that which covers it like a veil. And in it we see attained what on earth was impossible of attainment. We see that, which for ordinary intellect is indescribable, transformed into action as soon as the human spirit unites with the spiritual world. “The ineffable wrought in love.” And we see the significance of the moment when the soul becomes united with the eternal masculine of the cosmic world. That is the great secret expressed by Goethe in the words:
All of mere transient date
As symbol showeth;
Here the inadequate
To fullness groweth;
Here the ineffable
Wrought is in love;
Draws us above ...
How could Goethe say: I have now completed my life's work. It is now almost immaterial what I may do during the rest of my life on Earth. — He sealed up the second part of Faust, and only after his death was it given to humanity, and this humanity will need to concentrate deeply upon Spiritual Science in order to penetrate the mysteries of this powerful work.
It was unfortunately impossible to do more than deal with this subject in a sketchy manner today. One could illuminate by all methods of Wisdom this testament of Goethe for hours and weeks. May humanity enter more and more into its contents! Seal after seal will fall if mankind has the will to penetrate the secrets of this second part. Dumb will be the voices that say: “you seek something which Goethe never intended.” Those who speak thus, know nothing of the depths of Goethe's soul. Only those realize these depths who can see the highest in this work and in all that he condenses in the mystic choir as meditations leading to the spirit.