The Physical-Superphysical: Its Realisation Through Art
15 February 1920, Munich
Violet E. Watkin
It was certainly out of a profound understanding of the world in general but above all out of a deep feeling for art, that Goethe coined the words: “The man to whom nature begins to reveal her open secret feels an irresistible longing for her worthiest exponent — art.” Without sacrificing any of the spirit in Goethe's words we may perhaps complete what he said by adding: “The man to whom art begins to reveal her secret feels an almost invincible antipathy towards her least worthy exponent, the science of aesthetics.” That science is not what I wish to dwell upon today. It seems to me not only true to the spirit of Goethe's words but wholly in sympathy with it if we speak of art and the experiences we can have, and may frequently have had, in connection with art, in the way we like to relate those we had, or still have, with a trusty friend.
When human evolution is in question we speak of “original sin”. Today I don't want to enlarge upon whether the shadow-side of man's life — important as that side is — can be exhausted if we speak of original sin in the singular. But it seems to me that in connection with a perceptive feeling for art and the creations of art it is necessary to speak of two original sins. Certainly one of these is the copying, the reproduction of the physical, that is, of what belongs purely to the world of the senses. The other seems to me to be the wish to express, represent or reveal, through art, the super-physical,. But it becomes very difficult to approach art either perceptively or creatively if both physical and super-physical are rejected. Yet the following seems to me to be in keeping with a sound human feeling: Anyone wishing in art for the physical alone can hardly get beyond a refined form of illustration, imitation which may indeed be raised to the level of art but can never become true art. And it can well be said that it reflects a life of soul run wild when anyone is willing to be satisfied by the merely illustrative element, of copying the physical or what is given in any other way by the sense world alone. It is due, however, to a kind of possession — possession by one's own understanding and reason — when there is a desire for the embodiment of an idea, for the artistic embodiment of what is purely spiritual. Interpreting a world-conception poetically, or through pictorial art, is not compatible with cultured taste; rather does it correspond to a state of barbarism in man's life of feeling Art itself, however, is deeply rooted in life; were this not sort through the whole way in which it arises it would have no justification for existence. For in face of a purely realistic world-conception art must exhibit all manner of unreality and into it must play many of the illusions of life. It is precisely because art is obliged to introduce into life what for a certain understanding is unreal, that, in some way or other, its roots must go deep down into life.
Now it may be said that from a certain boundary of perceptive feeling — from a lower boundary up to one that is higher, which in many people has to be first developed — artistic feeling in life makes its appearance everywhere. Even if not in the form of art itself this feeling arises when, in the ordinary physical existence met with in the world of the senses, what is super-physical and occult somehow makes its presence known. It arises within the super-physical, the result of pure thought, what is feelingly perceived and experienced in spirit — not by means of empty symbols or lifeless allegories but as if it would itself take on life in a physical form — lights up in a form that is perceptible to the senses. That what is ordinarily physical in everyday life has within it the super- physical, as if conjured there by magic — this is perceived by everyone who confines his mood of soul within the two boundaries mentioned.
We can certainly say this: If I am invited by anyone into a room with red walls, I take something for granted about the red walls which has to do with artistic perception. When I am taken into a red room and am face to face with the man who invited me there, I shall have the quite natural feeling that he is about to tell me all kinds of interesting things. If he does not do so I shall feel that my being invited into the red room had something insincere about it and I shall go away dissatisfied. If anyone receives me in a blue room and by his chattering stops me from getting a word in edgeways, the whole situation will make me uncomfortable and I shall complain that in the very colour of his room the man has been lying to me. One is constantly coming across such things in life. On meeting a woman in a red dress we shall feel that she rings untrue if she seems shy; and a woman with curly hair will appear genuine only if rather pert and if she is not pert we shall feel disappointed. It goes without saying that things need not be like that in in life; it is right that life should lead us away from such illusions. But there is a certain limited sphere in our mood of soul in which our feelings tend in this direction.
Naturally, too, these things are not to be taken as universal laws; they may be differently perceived by many people. The fact remains, however, that everyone in life, when confronting the external things of the sense-world, has a feeling that they contain, enchanted within them, what is spiritual — a spiritual situation, a spiritual attitude, a spiritual mood.
It may really appear as if what is seen here to be a demand of our soul, and which so often in our existence affords us bitter disappointment, must call for a special sphere of life to be created for the satisfaction of these particular needs. This special sphere seems to me that of art. Art fashions out of the rest of life precisely what satisfies the tendency lying within the limits of perception mentioned above.
Now it may be that we can fully realise what is experienced in art only by investigating more deeply the processes taking place in the soul, either in artistic creation or in the enjoyment of art. For we need only to have lived a little with art, we need only have made some attempt to get on intimate term with it, to find that the soul-processes in the artist and the lover of art we are about to describe are in a certain sense inverted yet in reality the same. What I am wanting to describe is experienced in advance by the artist; he experiences to begin with a certain process of the soul which then resolves itself into another process; whereas the man who just enjoys works of art experiences first the second process I refer to, and only afterwards the one from which the artist makes his start. Now it seems to me that the difficulty in approaching art psychologically lies in people not going deeply enough into the human soul to grasp what actually evokes the need for art. Perhaps ours is the first age fitted for giving clearer expression to this artistic need. For whatever we may think about a great many of the trends in the art of recent times, whatever we may think about impressionism, expressionism, and so on — the discussion of which often springs from a source that has nothing to do with art — whatever we may think about all this, one thing cannot be denied. We cannot deny that since these trends have prevailed, artistic perceptions, artistic life, out of certain regions of the soul far down in the subconscious and formerly not drawn from thence, have now been brought more to the surface of consciousness. Today there is of necessity more interest in the artistic and art-appreciating processes of man's soul — promoted by all the talk about things such as impressionism and expressionism — than was the case earlier, when the artistic concepts of the scholar were very far from what was actually living in art. In recent times, where the study of art is concerned, concepts, conceptions, have arisen which in a certain respect — at least in comparison with former days — come very near the creations of present-day art.
The life of the soul is really infinitely more profound than is generally supposed. Few people have any idea that, subconsciously and unconsciously, the human being has in the depths of his soul a number of experiences seldom spoken of in ordinary life We have to go deeper down into this life of the soul to discover the mood lying between those two boundaries. Our life of soul swings, as it were, between the various conditions, which all more or less represent two different types. On the one hand there is in man's soul something that seems to surge freely from its depths, something that often torments it, though quite unconsciously. It is something that, when the soul is especially susceptible to the mood mentioned, has a constant urge to discharge itself into consciousness as vision — though this should not take place in the case of a soundly-constituted human being. Our life of soul, when it has a tendency to this mood, is always striving, far more than we recognise, to transform itself in the sense of this vision. A healthy life of soul consists simply in confining the wish for visions to the striving for them, so that they may never actually arise.
This striving after the vision, which in reality exists in the soul of each of us, can be satisfied if we confront the soul with an external impression, an external form — for example, a work of sculpture — containing what is striving to arise but should not succeed in doing so when the soul is sound: the morbid vision. This work of art then, this outer form of what is thus striving to arise, will confine in a beneficial way to the depths of the soul what is actually wanting to become vision. We offer the soul, as it were from outside, the content of the vision, but we offer it a real work of art only if we are able out of our legitimate striving for the vision to divine what form, what plastic impression, we have to offer the soul to compensate for its longing after the visionary. I believe that many of the modern ways of approach which meet us in what is called expressionism get near this truth, and that explanations of them show a groping after what I have just been saying. People do not go far enough, however; they do not look sufficiently deeply into the soul, nor do they come to know that irresistible desire for that is visionary which is actually In the souls of us all. This is however, only the one side, and on becoming familiar with artistic creation and the appreciation of art, we can very well see how there is a source of artistic work which reflects this need of man's soul.
But there is another source of art. The source of which I have just been talking lies in a certain constitution of the human soul, in its desire to have what is visionary as a spontaneous conception. The other source lies in this — that secrets magically conjured within nature herself can be discovered only by allowing oneself, not to make scientific assumptions which are not needed, but to perceive what these deep mysteries really are in the nature that surrounds us.
These deep mysteries in nature around us, when spoken of, may perhaps appear very strange to the consciousness of present-day people. Yet there is something that precisely from our time onwards will make the kind of kind of mysteries to which I refer more and more recognized by the general public. There is in nature something which is not just the growing, sprouting life that delights the healthy souls in nature, there is also what we call death, destruction, what is constantly destroying and overcoming one life by another. Whoever is able to perceive this will also find — to make this excellent example — when confronting the human figure that this figure in its outer realisation in life, is all the time being killed by a higher kind of life. It is the secret of all life that there is ceaseless extermination of lower life by one that is higher. The human form, permeated as it is by the human soul, the human life, is continuously being killed, overcome, by this human life, this human soul. This happens in such a way that the human form may be said to bear something within it which, if left to its own life, would be quite different. It cannot pursue its own life, however, because within it a higher life, a life of another kind, is always deadening it.
On approaching the human form the sculptor, if only unconsciously, discovers this secret through his perception. He finds that this human form is wishing for something that does not come to expression in the human being but is killed by a higher life, the life of the soul. The sculptor conjures forth from the human form what is not existing in the actual man, something missing in the actual man hidden by nature. Goethe perceived something of this kind when he spoke of “open secrets”. We can go further and say: This secret is underlying the wide realms of nature everywhere. Strictly speaking no colour, no line, appear in nature without something lower being overcome by what is higher. The reverse can also be true; the higher can be overcome by the lower. It is always possible, however, to break the spell and to re-discover what has thus actually been overcome — and this is what constitutes artistic creation.
If , on reaching what has been overcome and then freed from enchantment, we know how to experience it in the right way, it becomes artistic perception.
About this same artistic perception I should like to say something more precise.
A great deal in Goethe's work still has to be brought to light, and that often contains truths very important from the point of view of man. Take Goethe's theory of metamorphosis which starts out with how, for example, the petals in a plant are merely transformed leaves, and which is then extended to all forms in nature. When once what lies in this theory is brought fully to light by a more comprehensive development of natural science than was possible in Goethe's day, when through an all-embracing perception nature has been unveiled, Goethe's theory of metamorphosis will be capable of fuller life and of far wider application. I may say that the understanding of this theory of his is still very limited; it is capable of wide extension.
If we keep to the human figure the following may be said by way of illustration: Whoever studies the human skeleton finds, even when studying it quite superficially, that this human skeleton consists of two definite members; this might be carried further but would lead us too far afield for today. The skeleton consists firstly of the head, which to a certain extent merely rests on the remaining skeleton, and secondly of that remaining skeleton. Anyone sensitive to the metamorphosis of form, anyone. who can see how one form passes over into another — in the sense Goethe meant when he said the green leaf passes over into the colourful petal — will be able, on extending this mode of observation, to see that the human head is a whole, the rest of the organism another whole, and that one is the metamorphosis of the other, In a mysterious way the whole of the rest of man may be said — when suitably perceived — to be capable of transformation into a human head. And the human head is something which in a rounded and more developed form contains the entire human organism,. The remarkable thing is, however, that when we are capable of perceiving this when inwardly we are able really to transform the human head into the appearance of man himself, the result in both cases is something quite different, In the one case, when the head is transformed into the whole organism, something appears which shows man as a kind of ossified being, contracted, narrowed, driven throughout. into a sclerotic condition. If we let the rest of the organism work upon us so that it becomes head, we get something in appearance very unlike an ordinary man but reminding us of one only in the forms of the head, Something appears that in its growth shows no tendency to form the bony structure of the shoulder-blades, but aims at becoming wings, at spreading indeed above the shoulders, and from the wings. developing upwards over the head to appear like a kind of hood that is trying to seize hold of the head in such a way that what in the human form constitutes the ear is spread out and joined up with the wings, In short, there appears a kind of spirit-form and this spirit-form rests enhanced within the human form. This it is which, if we develop further the perception of what Goethe foreshadowed in his theory of metamorphosis, throws light into the mysteries of human nature. From this example we can see how nature in all her various spheres has the characteristic of striving — not abstractly but visibly, concretely — to be something absolutely different from what is presented to our senses. When our perceiving is thorough, nowhere do we have the feeling that any form, anything at all in nature lacks the possibility of developing beyond what it is into something quite different. Such an example as this shows particularly well how in nature one life is constantly being overcome, and even killed, by a higher life.
We do not bring to visible expression what is thus perceived as a double man, as this twofold quality in man's growth, only because something higher, something superphysical, so unites these two sides of the human being, so balances them, that we have the ordinary human form, The reason why nature — not now in an outward, spatial way but inwardly and more intensively — seems to us so magical, so mysterious, is because in each of her works she is wanting to offer us more, infinitely mores than she can, and because she puts together her several parts, all that she organises, in such a way that a higher life swallows up the life inferior to it, allowing it only partial development. Whoever directs his perception to this, will everywhere find that this open secret, this magical quality running through the whole of nature is — like the inward striving after the vision, but here working from outside — what stir a man up to take his stand somewhere beyond nature, to choose something special out of the whole, and from there to let shine forth what nature is seeking to do in one of her works — what can become a whole but has not become so in nature herself.
Perhaps I may mention here that in the Anthroposophical Society's building at Dornach, near Basle, an attempt has been made to realise in plastic form all that has just been indicated. We have tried to make a sculptural group in wood to represent what may be called the typical man; but this group represents the typical man in such a way that what otherwise is only tendency, and held in check by higher life, first comes to expression in the whole form only in gesture which is then brought back into a state of rest. The endeavour has been made plastically to awaken this gesture which in the ordinary human being is kept under — not the gesture made by the soul but the one that is killed before it leaves the soul, the one held under by the life of the soul — and then to bring it to rest again. Thus it has been sought first to set the resting surface of the human organism in movement through gesture and then to return it to a state of repose. Through this one came quite naturally to see that something had to be given greater prominence. This something, a potentiality in every man but obviously held under by the higher life, is the asymmetry existing in us all — no-one's right and left sides being formed alike. But when this has been given greater prominence and what is held together in a higher life has been set free, then with a slightly humorous touch it has to be united with another, higher stage; then it is necessary for what approaches us in a natural way from outside to become reconciled. It becomes necessary to atone artistically for the offence against naturalism — for this stressing of asymmetry and for this translating into gesture of various things which have then to be brought to rest again. This inner offence had to be atoned for by our showing, on the other hand, the overcoming brought about when, through metamorphosis, the human head passes over into the sombre, constricted form which, in its turn, is overcome by the representative of man. This form is at the feet of the representative of man and thus can be felt as member, as part of him. The other form we had to create in addition expresses what feeling demands when not the head but the rest of the human form becomes powerful — as indeed it is in life though held in check by higher life — when all that generally remains in a stunted state is too prolific in its growth; what, for example, is characteristic in the shoulder-blades, what unconsciously is in a man's very formation, in him as a certain Luciferic element, an element that strives to get outside man's essential being. If all that lies in the human form, as arising from impulses and desires, takes actual shape — whereas otherwise it is overrun by a higher life, by the life of the understanding, the life of the reason, which develops and comes to realisation in the human head — then this makes it possible for us to free nature from enchantment, to capture from nature its open secret, by ourselves separating again the parts which nature killed by making them into a whole. Thus the onlooker is obliged in his heart to bring about what nature has already done before him. Nature has done all this, she has brought harmony to man in such a way that his various single members are combined in a harmonious whole. By setting free what has been enchanted into nature, we at the same time break nature up into her super-physical forces. Then there is no need to seek through dry allegory, nor in a way that is intellectual and without artistic feeling, for any idea, anything thought out, anything purely superphysical and spiritual, behind the objects of nature. One just asks nature quite simply: How would you develop in your various parts were your growth undisturbed by a higher life? We come to the rescue of something superphysical that has been held in the physical by enchantment and free it from the physical bonds that held it spellbound. We actually come to be naturalistic in a supernatural way.
I believe that in all the various tendencies and endeavours of recent times, still very much in an elementary stage, which call themselves impressionism, I believe we may perceive in all these the longing of our time really to discover and give shape to secrets of this kind, to this kind of physical-superphysical. For a feeling is abroad that what is actually accomplished in art — in artistic creation and in the appreciation of art — must today be raised into fuller consciousness than has been the case in former epochs. What is accomplished, namely, that a suppressed vision is appeased or that nature is confronted by something which repeats her process — this has always been striven for. Actually these are the two sources of all art.
But let us go back to the time of Raphael. In his time the striving naturally took a different form from that of our day, of, for example, Cézanne or Hodler. What in art is represented by these two streams, however, has always been aimed at, though more or less unconsciously. But in former times it would have been looked upon as very primitive had the artist himself been unaware that in his soul something approaches nature, of a spiritual though unconscious kind, which when the artist seeks it in the physical-superphysical removes the spell from what has been enchanted into nature. Thus if we stand before one of Raphael's works we always have the feeling — if we are willing to attempt the interpretation of what otherwise remains in the obscurity of the subconscious without occasion for expression — the feeling that in this work of art we come to an understanding with something, and also indirectly with Raphael himself.
About all this we may have the feeling (as I said, there is no occasion to speak of it even in our own soul) that we have been together with Raphael in a former life on earth, when we learned from him many things that have entered deeply into our soul, and that this centuries-old connection with the soul of Raphael had become entirely subconscious — suddenly, however, springing into life again as we stand in front of his works. We believe we are face to face with something that took place long ago between our soul and that of Raphael.
From the artist of more recent times we get no such feeling, The modern artist leads one spiritually, as it were, into his studio; what there takes place comes very near to the level of consciousness and belongs to the immediate present. Because this longing, this need of the age, prevails, the rising conception that is actually a suppressed vision, seeks in our time satisfaction through art. On the other hand there meets us, though today in a rather elementary form, a breaking- up of what is otherwise union — an imitation of nature's own process.
What infinite significance everything gains that recent painters have attempted in order to study the various colours, to study the light in its variety of shades, and to discover how, ultimately, every effect of light, every shade of colour, aims at becoming more than it can be when forced into a whole where it is killed by a higher life. What have they not attempted in order that, starting from a feeing of this kind, light should be awakened to life, treated in such a way as to set free what, when the light has to serve in bringing about the ordinary processes and happenings in nature, remains enchanted within light. We are only at the very beginnings of all this. From these beginnings, which today are the expression of a legitimate longing, it will probably be possible, however, to experience that something in the realm of art becomes a secret — a secret which is then revealed. When put into words this sounds rather trite but many things that sound so hide secrets; we have to draw near these secrets, especially to perception of them. What I am meaning here answers the question: Why is it impossible to portray fire and air? It is quite clear that in reality fire cannot be painted. No one could have the true perception of the painter who would want to paint the glittering, glowing life that is only to be held fast by the light. It should never enter the head of anyone to want to paint lightning — still less to paint the air!
On the other hand we have to admit that everything contained in light conceals within it what is striving to become like fire, striving to develop in such a way that it says something, gives an impression of something welling up out of the light, out of each single shade of colour — just as human speech wells up from the human organism. Every effect of light wants to tell us something, every effect of light has something to say to some other effect of light nearby. In every effect of light there is a life which is overcome, deadened, by higher conditions. If our perception takes this path we discover what the colour feels, what the colour is saying, and what is being striven for in this age of “plain air” panting. If we discover the secret of colour this perception is widened and we find that, strictly speaking, what I have just been saying is perfectly valid; but not in the same way for all colours because the colours say very different things. Whereas the bright colours, the reds and the yellows, attack us and tell us a great deal, the blue colours take the picture more into the realm of form. Through blue indeed we enter form, enter essentially into the form-creating soul. We have been on the road to such discoveries but often we have stopped short halfway. Many of Signac's pictures seem so little satisfying — though in another respect they can give much satisfaction — because blue is always treated in the same way as, let us say, yellow or red, without any recognition that a patch of blue when next to yellow expresses something quite different in value from yellow beside red. This appears rather trivial to anyone with a feeling for colour, yet in a deeper sense people are only just beginning to discover such secrets. Blue, violet, are colours which take the picture right out of the realm of the expressive into that of the inner perspective. It is quite conceivable that, solely by the use of blue in a picture by the side of the other colours, one can produce a wonderfully intensive perspective without the aid of any drawing. It is possible to go further in this direction. We come then to recognise that a design might be called the work of colour itself., When anyone succeeds in putting movement into his use of colour so that, in a mysterious way, the design follows the guidance of the colour, he will notice that this is particularly the case with blue. It is less so with yellow and red for it is not in their nature to be led in that way to inner movement, to move from one point to another. If we want to have a form inwardly in movement — in flight, for instance — a form which by reason of its inner movement at one time becomes small inwardly, at another big, a form moving in fact within itself, then without having recourse to any rational principle or any, never justifiable, intellectual aesthetics, but proceeding from a quite elementary feeling, we shall find ourselves absolutely obliged to use and bring into movement various shades of blue. We shall notice that in reality a line is able to come into being, the design able to make its appearance, definite form to arise, only when we continue what we began when setting the blue colour into movement. For every time we pass from the realm of painting, of working in colour, to that of outline of form, we carry the physical over into what is essentially superphysical. Passing from the bright colours through the blue and from there somehow inwardly into the picture, we shall have in the bright colours the transition to a physical-superphysical, which may be said to contain a slight superphysical tone: this is because colour always has something to say, because colour has soul that is always superphysical. We shall then find that the further we go into the realm of drawing the more we enter the abstract superphysical, which, however, because it makes its appearance in the physical must take to itself physical form.
Today I can give you only an indication of these things. It is clear, however, that this is the way to understand how in one particular sphere the colour, the sketch, can be so used in creative art that in its application is everything of which I said it is held under the spell of nature, and from this spell we free the super-physical, which is hidden in the physical and deadened by a higher life.
How, if we look at plastic art we shall find that here both for plane surfaces and lines, there are always two interpretations only one of which, however, I shall be speaking about. To begin with, right feeling will not suffer the plastic surface to remain what it is, for example in the ordinary human form; there it is killed by the human soul, by the life of the human being, thus by what is higher. When we have first drawn out, spiritually, the life of the soul in the human form, we have then to seek the life of the surface itself, the soul of the soul of the form itself. We see how this is to be found if we do not bend the surface once only but a second time as well, so that we get a double curve. We notice how in this way we can make the form speak, how, deep in our subconscious, as opposed to what I have shown to be more an analysing tendency, there is also a tendency that is synthetic. The physical nature falls into what is genuinely physical-superphysical, which is overcome only by the higher stages of life. Inside those barriers of the soul of which we have spoken, we have as instinctive urge to free nature from enchantment in this way, in order to see how the physical-superphysical lies hidden in nature in as many different forms as, shall we say, crystals in their rock bed, which because they are in that rocky bed have their surfaces worn down. But a man has within him, often very decidedly so, just when in his subconscious this cleavage, this analysing, this breaking down of nature into the physical-superphysical is very pronounced — he has within him the faculty that may be called aesthetic synthesis, a tendency to synthesize in art.
The strange thing is that anyone with a capacity for rightly observing his fellow men will discover how they always use one of their senses in a very one-sided way. When with the eye we see colours, forms, effects of light, we are giving the eye a most one-sided development. In the eye there is always something resembling the sense of touch; the eye while looking is, at the same time, always feeling. In ordinary life this is suppressed. Because the eye is given this one-sided trend, however, if we are able to perceive such things, we still find the urge in us to experience what is thus suppressed, namely, what the eye develops as a sense of feeling, a sense of self, a sense of movement when we move through space and feel the motion of our limbs. What in the eye is thus suppressed of the other senses, we feel — although it remains quiescent — to be aroused by looking at the other man, What is thus aroused by what we see, what, however, is suppressed by the one-sided trend of the eye, it is this that is given form by the sculptor.
The sculptor actually models forms which the eye indeed sees but sees so dimly that this dim vision remains in the subconscious. The sculptor makes use of that point where the sense of touch is just passing over into the sense of sight. Therefore he must, or will anyway try to, reduce the quiescent form, which to the one-sided eye is only an object, to reduce this form to gesture that is always inciting imitation of itself, and then to bring back this gesture, that has been thus conjured up, into a state of rest. In reality what in one direction has been aroused and in another direction brought again to rest, what when we create or enjoy artistic work is active in us as a process of the soul, is always, from one aspect, like a man's in-breathing and out-breathing in ordinary life. This process drawn up from the human soul has, at times, a grotesque effect, although on the other hand it promotes a feeling of the vastness, the endlessness, of all that has been enchanted into nature. The development of art — we see this in certain attempts made in recent decades and especially in those of today — moves altogether towards penetrating these secrets and more or, less unconsciously putting such things into form. There is no need to talk much about them; they will increasingly find expression through art.
We shall perceive, for example, the following. In the case of certain artists it can indeed be said that more or less consciously or unconsciously they have perceived something of this kind — we understand the recently-deceased Gustave Klimt, for instance, particularly well if we allow such assumptions to hold good for his perceptions and his reason. Some day the following will be perceived. Let us suppose someone were to feel the desire to paint a pretty woman. There must then take shape in his soul some kind of image of her. Anyone, however, who is sensitive can perceive that, the moment he has made this fixed image of her, he has inwardly, spiritually, super-physically deprived her of life. The very moment we decide to paint a portrait of a pretty woman we have spiritually given her over to death, we have taken something away from her. Otherwise, we could look at the woman as she is in life, we would not give shape in our picture to what it is possible to present there artistically. For artistically we have first to kill the woman; then we must be able to bring to bear that light touch of humour in order inwardly to call her back to life.
Now anyone with a naturalistic approach cannot do this; naturalistic art suffers from the inability to adopt this lighter touch. Naturalistic art therefore offers us a great deal that has no life, that kills all that is higher in nature; and it lacks that light touch needed for giving renewed life to what in the first place it has to kill. In the case of many charming women it appears indeed as if they had not only been secretly killed but maltreated beforehand. This deadening process always moves in one direction and is connected with the necessity for creating anew that which, on a higher level of life, overcomes in nature what is striving for existence There is always first a deadening, then through this lighter mood a giving of fresh life. This process must take place both in the soul of the creative artist and in that of the art-lover, Anyone wishing to paint some cheery young mountain-peasant has no need to make a faithful copy of what he sees; he must above all be clear that his artistic conception has killed the young peasant or anyway benumbed him and that he must awaken fresh life in this stiff image by fashioning him in a way that brings him into new connection with the rest of nature. This was attempted by Hodler and. is entirely in sympathy with what artists are longing for today,
These two sources of art can be said to represent very deep needs, subconscious needs, of the human soul. The satisfying of what would become actual vision, but is not permitted to do so in a man of a sound nature, this always develops more or less into the form of art called expressionism — though the name is not of importance. What is created with the purpose of re-uniting what in some form has been broken up onto its physical-superphysical constituents, or has been deprived of its immediate physical life, will lead to impressionism. These two needs of the human soul have ever been the source of art; and by reason of man's general development in recent times, the first of these needs has taken the expressionistic path , the second the impressionistic. In all probability as we hasten towards the future this will increase very much. If our perception is extended, and not just our intellectual consciousness, the art of the future will be perceived as the intensifying particularly of these two trends. These two trends — and this must be constantly emphasized if we are to avoid certain misconceptions — do not represent anything in the least unsound. Men will fall into an unsound condition if, between those two boundaries, the healthy, primitive and natural pull towards the visionary is not satisfied through artistic expression. Or they will do so when what is always going on in the subconscious, namely, the breaking down of nature into what is physical-superphysical in her is not, through the true touch of artistic humour, constantly permeated by a higher life so that they are enabled to recreate in their artistic work what is creatively brought to expression by nature.
I firmly believe that the processes of art lie in many respects extremely deep in the subconscious, yet in certain circumstances it can be important for life to have living, telling conceptions of the artistic process such as have an effect upon the soul that no weak conceptions can exercise, conceptions which flow actually into the feeling. When in accordance with feeling these two sources of art hold sway in the human soul, we shall certainly realise out of what sound perception Goethe spoke when at a certain moment of life (such things always savour of one-sidedness) he felt the pure, genuine, artistic nature of music: “Therefore music represents what is supreme in art, because it has no possibility of imitating anything in nature, being in its own element both content and form.” (As I said, this is one-sided, for every art can reach these heights; but characterizations are always one-sided.) Every art, however, in its inherent element becomes its own content and form, when it does not wrest nature's secrets from her by subtle reasoning but discovers in the way indicated today, the physical-superphysical. I believe that in the soul there often takes place a quite secret process when we become aware of the physical-superphysical in nature. It was Goethe himself who coined the expression “physical-superphysical”; and in spite of his having called the secret “open” it can be discovered only when subconscious forces of the soul are able to sink themselves deeply into nature.
What is visionary comes into being in the soul because the superphysical experience is pressing to discharge itself, is surging up out of the soul. The outward experience that is spiritual experience, not through vision — which in spiritual science is purified till it becomes Imagination — but through Intuition. Through the vision we place what is within us to a certain degree outside, so that the inner becomes in us the outer. In Intuition we go outside ourselves — step out into the world. This stepping out, however, remains an unreality as long as we are unable to set free what is spell-bound in nature and is always wishing to overcome nature by a higher life. If we made our way into what belongs to nature when this is freed from enchantment, we then live in Intuitions. In so far as these Intuitions prevail in art, they are indeed connected with intimate experiences possible for the soul when, outside itself, it is united with external things. This is why Goethe, out of his actual, highly impressionistic art, could say to a friend: “I will tell you something that can explain people's attitude to my work. It can be really understood only by those who have had the same kind of experience as myself, those who have been in a similar situation.” Goethe already possessed this artistic perception. This is apparent poetically in the second part of his Faust, which up to now has met with but little understanding. He was able artistically to perceive that the physical-superphysical is to be sought in the recognition of how each part of nature is striving beyond itself to become a whole, through metamorphosis to become something different; it comprises with this something different, a new product of nature but is then killed by a higher life.
When we thus penetrate into nature we come to true reality in a much higher sense than ordinary consciousness believes. What we here come to is the most conclusive proof that art has no need either to make merely a faithful copy of the physical or to bring to expression the superphysical, the spiritual, alone That would mean erring in two directions, But what art can shape, can express, is the physical in the superphysical, the superphysical in the physical. It is perhaps just this that constitutes man's naturalism in the truest sense of the term — that he recognises the physical-superphysical and can grasp it precisely through his being at the same time a super-naturalist. Thus, real artistic experiences can, I believe, be developed in the soul in such a way that they arouse understanding of art, appreciation of art, and that a man is enabled indeed to train himself to a certain extent to live in art as an artist. In any case a profound study of this kind of the physical-superphysical, and its realisation through art, will make Goethe"s words comprehensible — words arising out of deep perception and wide understanding of the world, words with which I began this lecture and now bring it to a close. These words will give a comprehensive picture of man's relation to art when once we are able to grasp in all its depths the relation of art to what is genuine, superphysical reality. Because human beings can never live without the superphysical, they will through their own needs be brought to realise more and more the truth of what Goethe has said: “The man to whom nature begins to reveal her open secret feels an irresistible longing for her worthiest exponent — art.”