Spiritual Scientific Notes on Goethe's Faust, Vol. II
1. The Problem of Faust
30 September 1916, Dornach
My dear friends,
Today I should like to link on what I am about to say to the laboratory scene in Goethe's Faust just represented, and to connect it in such a way that it may form a unity, as well as a starting point for more thorough deliberations tomorrow.
We have seen that the transition from the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries to the sixteenth and seventeenth forms a remarkably significant and suggestive incision into the whole course of human evolution — a transition from the Greco-Latin age to our fifth post-Atlantean epoch in which we are now living, out of which flow the impulses for all our knowledge and all our action, and which will last until the third millennium. Now, from all that you know of Goethe's Faust, and of the connection between this Faust and the figure of Faust originating in the legend of the sixteenth century, you will see that not only this sixteenth century Faust but also what Goethe has made of him is most closely connected with all the transitional impulses introduced by the new age, both from a spiritual and from an external, material point of view.
Now for Goethe the problem of the rise of this new age and the further working of its impulses was something very powerful, and during the sixty years in which he was creating his “Faust” he was wholly inspired by the question: What are the most important tasks and the most important trends of thought of the new man? Goethe could actually look back into the previous age, the age that came to an end with the fourteenth, fifteenth centuries, of which now so little is known even to science. As I have often said, what history tells of man's mood of soul, of his capacities and needs in former centuries, is indeed nothing but colourless theory. In the souls of men in the earlier centuries, even as in the centuries immediately preceding the age of Faust, things looked completely different from how they appear to the soul modern man, to human souls in the present epoch. And in his Faust Goethe has created a figure, a personality, who looks back in the right way on man's mood of soul in former centuries, in centuries long past, while at the same time he looks forward to the tasks of the present and those of the future.
But although at first Faust looks back to an era preceding his own, he can actually only see the ruins of a culture, a spiritual culture that has come to an end. He can look back only on ruins. To begin with we must always keep in mind the Faust of the sixteenth century, the historical Faust who actually lived and then passed into folklore. This Faust still lived in the old sciences that he had made his own, lived in magic, in alchemy, and mysticism, all of which was the wisdom of former centuries, and also the wisdom in particular of pre-Christian times. In the age, however, in which lived the historic Faust of the sixteenth century, this wisdom was definitely on the decline. What was accepted as alchemy, as magic, as mysticism, by those among whom Faust lived, was already in a state of confusion. It all originated in tradition, the legacy of older ages, but it was no longer possible to find one's bearings in it. The wisdom contained there was no longer recognisable. There were,all kinds of sound formulas here from past ages, and much real insight, but these could hardly be understood. Thus the historical Faust was placed into an age of decaying spiritual life. And Goethe constantly mingled the experiences of the historical Faust with those of the Faust he was creating, the Faust of the eighteenth century, of the nineteenth and indeed of many centuries to come. Hence we see Goethe's Faust looking back to the ancient magic, to an older type of wisdom, mysticism, that did not deal with chemistry in the modern, materialistic way, hoping to make contact with a spiritual world through its dealings with nature but no longer having the knowledge enabling it to do so in the way that was right for an earlier age. The art of healing, as it was looked upon in centuries long past, was by no means so foolish as modern science sometimes makes it out to be, but the real wisdom contained in it has been lost. It was already to a great part lost in Faust's time and Goethe knew this well. He knew it not only with his intellect but with his heart, with those soul forces that have specially to do with the well-being, the soundness, of man. He wanted to find an answer to the questions, the problems, arising from it; he wanted to know how a man, continually advancing, could arrive at a different kind of wisdom with regard to the spiritual world, a wisdom adapted to the new age, as the ancients had been able to attain their kind of wisdom which in the natural course of human affairs had now to die out. For this reason he makes his Faust a magician. Faust has given himself up to magic like the Faust of the sixteenth century. But he is still unsatisfied for the simple reason that the real wisdom of the old magic had already faded away. It was from this wisdom that the old art of healing sprang; all dispensing, the whole science of medicine, was connected with the ancient chemistry, with alchemy.
Now in touching on such a question we come at the same time to one of the deepest secrets of humanity — these secrets going to show that no one can heal diseases without also being able to produce them. The ways leading to the healing of disease are the same as those leading to its production. We shall shortly hear how completely in the ancient wisdom the principle prevailed that he who healed diseases was likewise able to produce them. Thus, in olden days, the art of healing was associated in men's s minds with a profoundly moral conception of the world. And we shall also shortly see how little what is called the new freedom in human evolution would have been able to develop in those days. Actually this freedom was not taken hold of until this fifth epoch of ours, the epoch following the Greco-Roman. We shall see what it would have been like if the ancient wisdom had persisted. But in every sphere this wisdom had to disappear so that man might make, as it were, a fresh start, striving towards freedom in both knowledge and action. This he could not have done under the influence of the old wisdom. In such times of transition as those in which Faust lived the old is passing away, the new has not yet come. Then arise such moods as may be seen in Faust in the scene preceding the one produced today. Here we see clearly that Faust both is and feels himself to be a product of the new age, in which the ancient wisdom still existed though it was no longer fully understood. We see how Faust accompanied by his famulus, Wagner, goes out from his cell into the green world where, to begin with, he watches the country people celebrating the Easter Festival out-of-doors in the meadows, until he himself is affected by the Easter mood. We see at once, however, that he refuses the people's homage. An old peasant comes forward to express this homage, for the folk think that Faust, as son of a former adept in the art of healing, must be distinguished in the same way, and be able to bring them health and blessing:
“Nay, of a truth, it is but meet
Our joyful day should see you here.
You proved a very friend in need,
In evil days when death was near.
And many a man stands here alive
Whom your good father, wrestling yet,
Snatched from the fever's burning rage,
When for the Plague a bound he set.
And you yourself, a young men then,
In every stricken house were found,
And corpse on corpse was carried forth,
But you came out, aye, safe and sound.
Steadfast in trials did you prove;
Helped was the helper from above.”
Thus speaks the old peasant, remembering Faust's connection with the ancient art of healing, not only the healing of physical diseases in the people but also the healing of their moral evil. Faust knows that he no longer lives in an age when the ancient wisdom could be really helpful to humanity, for it is already in decline. Humility begins to glimmer in his soul, and at the same time despondency over the falsity he is opposing. He says:
“Yet a few paces onward, up to yonder stone;
Here a brief while we'll rest us from our straying.
Here have I often sat and mused alone,
And racked myself with fasting and with praying.
For rich in hope and staunch in faith,
With tears and sighs and frenzied wringing
Of aching hands, to stay the Death
I thought, Heaven's Lord to mercy bringing.
And now the crowd's applause rings in my ears like scorn!
O could'st thou read what in my heart is hidden.
Father and son, no more than babe unborn,
Merit the fame that seeks them thus unbidden.
My father was a worthy gentleman,
To fame unknown, who sought with honest passion,
Yet whimsical device, as was his fashion,
Nature and all her holy rounds to scan;
In the Black's Kitchen's murky region,
Cloistered with masters of the craft.
He, guided by prescriptions legion,
Concocted nauseous draught on draught.
There a red lion with lily wedded,
A wooer bold within the tepid bath,
From bridal bower to bridal bower was speeded,
Racked by the naked fire's flaming wrath.”
After the manner of those days Goethe had thoroughly studied how the “red lion” (mercury-oxide, sulphurated mercury) used to be dealt with, how the different chemicals had been combined, what the results of these processes were, and how medicines had been manufactured from them. But all that no longer represented the ancient wisdom. Goethe also knew their mode of expression; what was to be shown was put into pictures; the fusion of substances was represented as a marriage. Hence he says:
“From bridal bower to bridal bower speeded,
And, thereupon, in gorgeous hues attired,
Shone the young Queen within the glassy cell.”
This was a technical expression; just as modern chemistry has its technical terms so in those days, when certain substances had reached a definite condition and colour, the result was called the young Queen.
“Here was the medicine, but the patients died”; they died in the days of Faust as they still die today in spite of many medicines.
“Here was the medicine but the patients died.
None asked the question: Who got well?
Thus have we wrought among these hills and valleys,
With hellish lecturaries, worse havoc than the malice
Of that same desolating pest.
Myself to thousands have the poison given;
They pined away — and yet my fame has thriven,
Till I must hear their shameless murderers blessed.”
This is Faust's sell-knowledge. This is how ho sees himself, he of whom you know that he has studied the ancient magic wisdom in order to penetrate into the secrets of nature. And through all that he has become spiritualised. Faust cannot remain satisfied like Wagner his famulus. Wagner contents himself with the new wisdom, relying on manuscripts, on the written word. This Wagner is a man who makes far fewer claims on wisdom and on life. And while Faust tries to dream himself into nature in order to reach her spirit, Wagner thinks only of the spirit that comes to him from theories, from parchments, from books, and calls the mood that has come over Faust a passing whimsy:
“I too have had my whimsies and my fancies,” (says Wagner)
“But no such freaks as that by any chances.
On woods and fields I soon have looked my fill.
I never shall begrudge the bird his pinion.”
He never wants to fly out on the wings of a bird to gain knowledge of the world!
“How elsewise flit we through the mind's dominion
From book to book, from leaf to leaf at will?”
Such snug delights the wintry eve console;
A blissful warmth in every limb comes o'er you;
Some venerable parchment then if you unroll
Ah, then, all heaven opens out before you!”
A thorough bookworm, a theory-monger! And so the two stand there after the country folk have gone — Faust, who wishes to penetrate to the sources of life, to unite his own being with the hidden forces of nature in order to experience them, and the other, who sees nothing but the external, material life, and just what is recorded in books by material means. It does not need much reflection to see what has taken place in Faust's inner being as the result of all the experiences which, as described by Goethe, he has passed through up to this moment. When we consider all that we meet with in Faust, we can be sure of this, however, that his inner being has been completely revolutionised, a real soul-development has taken place in him and he has acquired a certain spiritual vision. Otherwise he would not have been able to call up the Earth-spirit who storms hither and thither in the tumult of action. Faust has made his own a certain capacity not only to look at the external phenomena of the outside world, but to see the spirit living and weaving in all things. Then from the distance a poodle comes leaping towards Faust and Wagner. The way the two see the poodle — an ordinary poodle — the way Faust sees and the way Wagner sees it, absolutely characterises the two men, After Faust has dreamed himself into the living and weaving of the spirit in nature, he notices the poodle:
“Dost thou see yon black dog ranging through shoot and stubble?”
Wagner: “I saw him long ago; he struck me not in the least,”
Faust: “Look at him narrowly. What mak'st thou of the beast?”
Wagner: “A poodle who like any other poodle breathing
casts for the scent strayed from his master's heels.”
(The poodle goes circling round them.)
Faust: “Mark how, a mighty spiral round us wreathing,
Nearer and ever nearer yet he steals,
And see! unless mine eyes deceive me queerly,
He trails a fiery eddy in his train.”
Not only does Faust see the poodle but something stirs within him; he sees something that belongs to the poodle appearing as if spiritual. This Faust sees. It goes without saying that Wagner cannot de so; what Faust sees cannot be seen by the external eye.
Wagner: “I see a poodle, a black poodle only.
’Tis but some sport, some phantom of your brain.”
Faust: “Meseemth he softly coileth magic meshes
To be a future fetter round our feet”
Wagner: “He frisks in doubt and fear around us, lest ungracious
The strangers' welcome be. He thought his lord to greet.”
In this simple phenomenon Faust sees also something spiritual.Let us keep this firmly in mind. Inwardly struck by a certain spiritual connection between himself and the poodle, he now goes into his Laboratory. Naturally the poodle is there dramatically represented by Goethe as a poodle, and so it must be; but fundamentally we are concerned with what is being inwardly experienced by Faust. And in Goethe's every word he shows us in a most masterly fashion how in this scene Faust is passing through an inner experience. He and Wagner have stayed out of doors till late in the evening, till outwardly the light has gone, the dusk has fallen. And into the twilight Faust has projected the picture of what he spiritually wishes to see. He now returns home to his cell and is alone. When alone, such a man as Faust, having been through all this, is in a position to experience self-knowledge, that is, the life of the spirit in his own ego. He speaks as though his inmost soul were stirred, but stirred in a spiritual way:
“Now field and mead have I forsaken,
Which night enshroudeth, deep and still,
In us the better soul doth waken,
with a presaging, holy thrill.
Now stress of deed and storm of yearning
Sleep, at her all-compelling nod;
The love of man now bright is burning,
and burning bright the love of God.”
The poodle growls. But let us be quite clear that those are spiritual
experiences; even the growling of the poodle is a spiritual experience,
although dramatically it is represented as external. Faust has
associated himself with decadent magic; he has associated himself with
Mephistopheles, and Mephistopheles is not a spirit who can lead him to
progressive spiritual forces. Mephistopheles is the spirit whom Faust
has to overcome, and he is associated with him just in order that he may
overcome him, having been given him not for instruction but as a test.
That is to say, we now see Faust standing between the divine, spiritual
world that bears forward the evolution of the universe, on the one hand,
and on the other the forces stirring in his soul which drag him down
into the life of the ordinary instincts, and these divert a man from
spiritual endeavor. Directly anything holy stirs in his soul, it is
ridiculed, the opposing impulses ridicule it. This is wonderfully
presented now in the form of external events — Faust striving with
all his knowledge towards the divine spiritual, and his instincts
growling, as the materialist's mind growls, at spiritual endeavor. When
Faust says: “Be quiet poodle,” he is really saying this to
himself. And now Faust speaks — or rather, Goethe makes Faust
speak — in a wonderful way. It is only when we study it word by
word that we realise how wonderfully Goethe knows the inner life of man
in spiritual evolution:
“When in our narrow chamber kindled
The lamp its cheerful radiance throws,
Bright gleams the light that erst had dwindled
Within the heart itself that knows.”
This is self-knowledge; seeking the spirit within itself.
“Reason again begins to speak”
A significant line, for whoever goes through the spiritual development Faust passes through during his life, knows that reason is not merely something dead within man, not only the reasoning of the head, but he realises how reason can become living — the weaving of an inner spirit that actually speaks. That is no mere poetical image:
“Reason again begins to parley
And hope to bloom that seemed dead.”
Reason again begins to speak of the past, of what is left alive out of the past. “Hope, blooms again that seemed dead,” that means that we find our will transformed, so that we know that we shall pass through the gates of death as spiritually living beings. Future and past are dove-tailed together in a wonderful way. Goethe now makes Faust say that through self-knowledge he can find the inner life of the spirit.
“Then for life's fountains long we dearly,
Ah, dearly, for life's fountain-head.”
And now Faust seeks to come nearer that towards which he is being pressed — nearer life's fountain-head. To begin with he seeks the path of religious exaltation; he picks up the New Testament. And the way in which he does so is a wonderful example of the wisdom in Goethe's drama. He picks out what contains the deepest wisdom of the new age — the John Gospel. He wants to translate this into his beloved German; and it is significant that Goethe should have chosen this particular moment. Those who know the workings of the deeply cosmic and spiritual beings realise that when wisdom is being put from one language into another, all the spirits of confusion make their appearance, all the bewildering spirits intervene. It is especially in the frontier regions of life that the powers opposed to human evolution and human well-being find expression. Goethe purposely chooses translation, to set the spirit of perversity, the spirit of lying (still inside the poodle) over against the spirits of truth. If we look closely at the feelings and emotions to which such a scene may give rise, the wonderful spiritual depths concealed in it become evident. All the temptations I have characterised as coming from what is inherent in the poodle, the temptation to distort truth by untruth, these go on working, and now they influence an action of Faust's which gives ample opportunity for such distortion, Yet, how little it has been noticed that this is what Goethe meant is still today made evident by the various interpreters of “Faust”; for what do these interpreters actually say about this scene? Well, you can read it; they say: “Goethe is indeed a man of external life, for whom the Word is not enough; he has to improve upon John's Gospel; he has to find a better translation — not: In the beginning was the Word, the Logos, but: In the beginning was the deed. That is what Faust after long hesitation decides on. This is a piece of Goethe's deep wisdom!” But this wisdom is not Faust wisdom, it is pure Wagner wisdom, genuine Wagner wisdom! Just like that wisdom quoted over and over again when, later, Faust speaks such beautiful words to Gretchen about the religious life:
“Who, then, can name Him? who thus proclaim Him? ...
The All-embracing, the All-sustaining ...”
And so on. What Faust says to Gretchen then is quoted repeatedly and represented as deep wisdom by the learned gentlemen who quote it:
“Who can name Him?
Who thus proclaim Him:
I believe Him?
Who hath that feeling,
His bosom steeling,
Can say: I believe Him not?
Clasps and sustains He not
Thee, me, Himself?
Springs not the vault of Heaven above us?
Lieth not Earth firm — ’stablished ’neath our feet?
And with a cheerful twinkling
Climb not eternal stars the sky?
Eye into eye gaze I not upon thee?
And floats in endless mystery
Invisible visible around thee? ...
These words of Faust's are often represented as deep wisdom! Now if Goethe had meant it to be accepted as such deep wisdom, he would not have put the speech into the mouth of Faust when he was trying to instruct the sixteen-year-old Gretchen. It is Gretchen-wisdom! We must take things seriously. The pundits are under a misapprehension and have mistaken this Gretchen-wisdom for deep philosophy. Faust's suggestion for the translation of the Bible is also taken for especially profound wisdom, whereas Goethe simply means to represent how men bandy about truth and error when they undertake much a task. Goethe has represented the two souls of Faust very profoundly indeed, here in this scene of the translation of the Bible.
“It is written: In the beginning was the Word.” We know that this is the Greek Logos. That actually stands in the John Gospel. In opposition to it there rises up in Faust what is symbolised by the poodle and it is this that prevents him from reaching the inner meaning of the Gospel. Why does the writer of the John Gospel choose precisely the Word, the Logos? It is because he wishes to emphasise that the most important thing in the evolution of man on earth, what really makes him externally man in this Earth-evolution, has not evolved gradually but was there in the primal beginning. What is it that distinguishes man from all other beings? The fact that he can speak, whereas no other being, animal, vegetable or mineral, can do so. The materialist thinks that the Word, Speech, the Logos, through which thought vibrates, was required by man only after he had passed through animal evolution. The Gospel of John takes the matter more deeply and says: No, in the primal beginning was the Word. That is to say, man's evolution was planned from the beginning; he is not in the materialistic Darwinian sense, simply the highest peak of the animal world; in the very first design of Earth-evolution, in its primal origin, in the beginning, was the Word. And man can develop on Earth a ego, to which animals do not attain, only by reason of the Word being interwoven with human evolution. The Word stands for the Ego in man. But against this truth the spirit of falsehood which has entered Faust rebels; he must go deeper to understand the profound wisdom of John's words,
“Already I am held up!”
But actually it is the poodle, the dog in him and what dwells in the dog, that is holding him up. He can get no higher; on the contrary he sinks much lower.
“Already I stick, and who shall help afford?
The Word at such high rate I may not tender;
The passage must I elsewise render,
If rightly by the Spirit I am taught.”
Seeing Mephistopheles coming to him he thinks that he is being “enlightened by the Spirit,” whereas in reality he is beclouded by the Spirit of darkness, and sinking lower.
“ ’Tis written: In the beginning was the Thought.” What is not higher than the Word. Sense, as we can easily prove, plays its part in the life of animals also, but the animal does not attain to the human Word. Man is capable of sense, thinking, because he has an astral body. Faust descends from the Ego to the astral body more deeply into himself.
“... In the beginning was the Thought. (Sinn)
By the first line a moment tarry,
Let not thine eager pen itself o'er hurry!”
He thinks he is rising higher but he is sinking lower.
“Does Thought work all, and fashion all outright?”
No, he is descending lower still, from the astral body to the dense, more material etheric body; and he writes:
“... In the beginning was the Force.”
(Force is what dwells in the etheric body.)
“Yet even as my pen the sentence traces,
A warning hint the half-writ word effaces.
The spirit helps me!”
(The spirit dwelling in the poodle. )
“From all-doubting freed,
Thus write I: In the beginning was the Deed.”
And now he has arrived at complete materialism; now he has reached the physical body through which the external deed is performed.
Thus you have Faust living and weaving in self-knowledge. He translates the Bible wrongly because the several members of man's being of which we have so often spoken — the ego, the astral body, the etheric body, and the physical body are working together in him, through Mephistopheles' spirit, in a chaotic way. And now we see how these impulses prevail, for the external barking of the dog is what stirs him up against the truth. In all his knowledge he cannot yet recognise the wisdom of Christianity. This is shown the way he connects Word, Thought, Force, Deed. But the impulse, the urge, towards Christianity is already alive in him, and by making use of the living force of what dwells there as the Christ, he overcomes the opposing spirit. He first tries to do this with what he has received from ancient magic. But the spirit does not yield, does not show himself in his true form. He then calls up the four elements and their spirits — the salamanders, sylphs, undines and gnomes, but nothing of all this affects the spirit in the poodle. But when he calls upon the figure of Christ, “the shamefully Immolated, by Whom all heaven is permeated” then the poodle has to show its true shape.
All this is fundamentally self-knowledge, a self-knowledge that Goethe makes quite clear. And what appears now? A travelling scholar! Faust is genuinely practising self-knowledge, he stands actually facing himself. Now for the first time the wild impulses in poodle-form, which have been resisting the truth, are working, and now he sees himself with a clearness that is still not clear! The travelling student stands before him but this is only Faust's other self, for he has not become much more than a travelling student with all a student's errors. Only now that he has learnt through his bond with the spiritual world to recognise the impulses more accurately,the travelling scholar — his own ego as up to now, he has developed it — confronts him as something more definite and solid. Faust has learnt like a scholar; he has given himself up to magic and through magic scholastic wisdom has been bedevilled. What has developed out of the old, good Faust, the old travelling student, is merely the result of his having added ancient magic to his learning. The travelling scholar is still present in him and meets him under a changed form; it is only his other self. This travelling student is himself. The struggle to be free of all that confronts him as his other self, is shown in the ensuing scene.
Indeed, in the different characters whom Faust meets, Goethe is always trying to show Faust's other ego, so that he may come to know himself better and better. Many of the audience may remember how in earlier lectures I explained that even Wagner was to be found in Faust himself, that Wagner was just another ego of Faust's. Mephistopheles, also, is only another ego. It is all self-knowledge; self-knowledge is practised for knowledge of the universe. But, for Faust, none of this is yet clear spiritual knowledge; it is all wrapt in a vague, dull spirit seership, impaired by the old, atavistic clairvoyance. There is nothing clear about it. It is not knowledge full of light, but the knowledge of dreams. This is represented by the dream-spirits fluttering around Faust — really the group-souls of all the beings that accompany Mephistopheles — and represented also by his final waking. Then Goethe says, or makes Faust say, clearly and unmistakably:
“What! am I once again then cheated?
And vanishes the spirit-foison thus?
That but a dream the devil counterfeited,
A poodle from my room broke loose?”
Goethe employs the method of directing attention over and over again to the truth. That he is representing a spiritual experience in Faust, is clearly enough expressed in the above four lines. This scene shows us too how Goethe was striving for knowledge of the transition from the old era to the new in which he himself lived, that is, from the fourth post-Atlantean epoch to the fifth. The boundary line is in the fourteenth, fifteenth, sixteenth centuries. As I have said before, whoever thinks as men think today can hardly picture — unless he makes a special study of it — the soul-development of past centuries. In the days of Faust only the ruins of it remained. How often we experience today that men are not trying to come to the new spiritual research for which we are striving; they are trying to renew the old wisdom. Many indeed think that by renewing what was possessed by the people of old they will be able to find a deeper, magical and mystical wisdom about nature. There are two errors closely connected with all human spiritual striving. The first is that men buy ancient books and studying them come to prize them more highly than the newer science. They generally prize them more highly simply because they do not understand them, the language in which they are written being actually no longer comprehensible. Thus, the content of old books that has become double-Dutch being often put forward when spiritual research is under discussion is the one mischievous thing. The other is that whenever possible old names are given to new endeavours in order to justify them. Look at many of the societies calling themselves occult, or secret, or something of the kind; their whole endeavour is to give themselves an early origin, to talk as much as possible about a legendary past, and they delight in the use of old names. That is the second mischievous error. We do not have to do all this if we really see into the needs and impulses of our own age and of the inevitable future. If we pick up any book where traditions still existed, we can see from the way they were presented that, through the legacy of the past, the memory of an ancient wisdom formerly possessed by man, was still there, this wisdom had fallen into decay. Its modes of expression, however, continued for a considerable time.
I have at my disposal a book printed in the year 1740, that is, in the eighteenth century, from which I should like to read you a short passage, and we may be sure that many seeking spiritual knowledge today, coming upon such a passage will say: What depths of wisdom we have here! Indeed, there are many who believe they understand a quotation of this kind. Let me read you the one I am referring to:
“The King's crown should be of pure gold, and he must be married to a chaste bride. Now, if thou desirest to work upon our bodies, take the Greedy Grey Wolf who, according to his name, is subject to the warlike Mars but by birth is a child of ancient Saturn, and found in the hills and dales of the world, obsessed by hunger. Throw him the body of the King that he may feed upon it.”
This is the way chemical processes were described in olden days, the way to which Faust alludes when he talks of how Red Lion is married to the Lily in the glass. We should not make fun of such things for the simple reason that the way we speak of chemistry today will sound to those who come later just as this sounds to us. But we must be quite clear that this particular passage belongs to a late period of decline. Allusion is made to a “Grey Wolf.” Now this “Grey Wolf” stands for a certain metal found everywhere in the mountains, that is then subjected to a certain process. “King” is a name given to a condition of substances; and the whole paragraph describes a chemical process. The grey metal was collected and treated in a certain way; then this was called the “Greedy Grey Wolf”, and the other the “Golden King”, after the gold had gone through a process. Then an alliance was made and this is described: “And when he had devoured the King. ...” It comes about, therefore, that the Greedy Grey Wolf, the grey metal found in the mountains, is amalgamated with the Golden King, a certain condition of gold after it has been treated chemically. He represents it as follows:
“And when he has devoured the King, then make a great fire and throw the Wolf into it.”
— thus the Wolf who has eaten up the Golden King is thrown into the fire.
“So that he may be completely burnt up and the King released again.”
The gold once more makes its appearance.
“When that has happened three times the Lion will have overcome the Wolf, and will find nothing more of him to consume. Then our body is ready to begin our work.”
In this way then he makes something. To explain what he makes, we should have to describe these processes in greater detail, especially how the Golden King is made; but that is not told us here. Today these processes are no longer used. But for what does the man hope? He hopes for what is not entirely without reason for he has already made something. For what purpose exactly has he made it? The man who had this printed will certainly not have done anything more than copy it from some old book. But for what purpose was it done at the time when such things were understood? That you may gather from the following:
“And know that this alone is the right way thoroughly to purify our bodies; for the Lion cleanses itself by the blood of the Wolf; for the tincture of this blood delights marvelously in the tincture of the Lion's, for the two kinds of blood are closely allied.”
Thus he praises what he has been the cause of producing. He has invented a kind of medicine.
“And when the Lion is satiated, its spirit becomes stronger than before, and its eyes dart forth a gleam of pride, bright as the sun.”
(This describes the properties of what he has in the retort.)
“Its inner being is then able to do much, and is useful for all that is demanded of it. When it is made ready, children of men attacked by severe sickness and many diseases are grateful to it; the lepers run after it, hankering after its soul's blood, end all who have infirmities rejoice heartily in its spirit; for he who drinks of this golden spring, experiences a complete renewal of his nature, the removal of evil, strength in the blood, force in the heart and perfect health in all the limbs.”
This, you see, indicates that we are concerned with a medicine, but it is also sufficiently indicated that this also has to do with man's moral character. For naturally if a healthy man takes it in the right quantity then what is here described will make its appearance. This is what he means, and this is how it was with the men of olden days who understood something of these matters.
“For he who drinks of this golden spring, experiences a complete renewal of his nature”
Thus, by means of the art he describes here, he strives to discover a tincture that can arouse an actual stirring of life in man.
“Thanks to the strength of the heart's blood, and the perfect healthiness of all the limbs, they are either enclosed within or sensitive outside the body, for it opens all the nerves end pores so that evil can be driven out and good can peacefully take its place.”
I have read this aloud chiefly to show how in these ruins of an ancient wisdom one may find the remains of what was striven for olden times. By external means taken from nature men strove to stimulate the body, that is, to acquire certain faculties, not only through inner moral endeavour, but through the medium of nature herself, applied by man. Keep this in mind for a moment, for from it we shall be led to something of importance which distinguishes our epoch from earlier epochs. Today it is quite the thing to make fan of the ancient superstitions, for then one is accepted in the world as a clever man, whereas this does not happen should one see any sense in the old knowledge. And all this is lost, and had to be lost, for reasons affecting mankind; for spirit-freedom could never have been attained through what was thus striven for in ancient days. Now you know that in books of an even earlier date than this antiquated volume — that indeed belongs to a very late period of decline — you find Sun and Gold indicated by the same sign ⊙; and Moon and Silver by the sign ☾. To the modern man the application of the one sign used for Sun and Gold, and the other used for Moon and Silver, two faculties of the soul he necessarily has himself, is naturally sheer nonsense. And it is sheer nonsense as we find it in the literature that often calls itself “esoteric”. For the most part the writers of such books have no means of knowing why in the olden days Sun and Gold, Moon and Silver, were characterized by the same signs.
Let us start from Moon and Silver with the sign ☾. Now if we go further back in time, say a few thousand years before the Mystery of Golgotha, before the Christian reckoning of time, men did not only possess the faculties later in ruins; at the time when such things came into existence they possessed still higher faculties. When a man of the Egypto-Chaldean culture said ‘Silver’ he did not mean only what we mean when we say ‘Silver’. In the language of that time, the word signifying a ‘Silver’ was quite differently applied. Such a man had the spiritual faculties, and he meant a certain kind of force-activity found, not only in a piece of silver that actually spread over the whole earth. What he wished to say was: We live in Gold, we live in Copper, we live in Silver. He meant certain kinds of living forces were there, and these flowed towards him especially strongly from the Moon. This he felt that something sensitive and delicate that was in its coarsest, most material form in the piece of silver. He really found these forces flowing from the Moon, but also spread out over the whole earth, materialized in a particular way in the piece of silver. Now, the enlightened man of today says: Yes, of course, the Moon shines with a silvery light so they believe that it consisted of silver. It was not so, however, but rather men had an aerosol experience, lost today, in connection with the Moon, in connection with something dwelling as a force in the whole terrestrial globe, and materialized in the piece of silver.
Thus, the force lying in the silver has to be spread out over the whole earth. Naturally when this is said today it is regarded as absolute nonsense, yet, even from the point of view of modern Science it is not so. It is not nonsense at all, quite the contrary. For I will tell you something that science knows today although it is not often mentioned it. Modern Science knows that rather more than four lbs of silver, finally distributed, is contained in a cubic body the length of an English knot that you may imagine out of the ocean. So that, in all the seas surrounding the earth, there are two million tons of finally distributed silver. This is simply a scientific truth that can be proved today. The oceans of the world contain two million tons of finely distributed silver — distributed in an extreme homeopathic degree, one might say. Silver is actually spread over the whole earth. Today this must be substantiated — if one does so in the way of ordinary Science, by taking water from the sea and testing it by the most exact methods of investigation; then, with the means of modern Science itself it is found that there are two million tons of silver contained in the oceans. It is not that these tons of silver have been somehow dissolved in the ocean, or anything of that kind; they belong to it, belong to its nature and being. And this was known to the ancient wisdom through those delicate, sensitive forces originating in the old clairvoyance, at that time still in existence. The old wisdom also knew that the earth should not be looked upon merely in the way of modern Geology, but that in this earth, most finally dissolved, we have silver.
I could go further; I could show how gold is also dissolved, how, besides being materially deposited here and there, all these metals finely dissolved are really present. Ancient wisdom, therefore, was under no misapprehension when it spoke of silver; it is contained in the sphere of the earth. It was known, however, as a force, a certain kind of force. The silver sphere contains certain forces, the gold sphere other forces, and so on. More still was known of the silver that was dispersed throughout the earth-sphere; it was known that in the silver lies the force controlling the ebb and flow of the tides, for a certain force animating the whole body of the earth lies within this silver and is relatively identical with it. Without it there would be no tides; this movement, peculiar to the earth, was originally set in motion by the silver-content. It has no connection with the Moon, but the Moon is connected with the same force, and hence ebb and flow appear in certain relation with the movements of the Moon, because both they and the tides are dependent on the same system of forces. And these lie in the silver-content of the universe.
Even without clairvoyant knowledge we are able to see into such things, and to prove with a certainty unattainable in any other sphere of knowledge, unless it be Mathematics, that there used to be an old science knowing these things and knowing them well. With this knowledge and what it could do the ancient wisdom was connected, the wisdom that actually controlled nature has to be regained only through spiritual research, as it is today and as it goes on into the future. We live in the age in which an ancient kind of wisdom has been lost and a new kind only beginning to appear. What arose out of this ancient wisdom? Those consequences I have already indicated. If we knew the secrets of the universe we could make man himself more efficient. Think of it! By external means we could make man more efficient. It was possible simply by concocting certain substances and taking them in appropriate quantities, to acquire faculties which today we rightly assume to be innate in a man, such as genius, talent, and so forth. What Darwinism fantastically dreamed was not there at the beginning of earth-evolution, but the capacity to control nature existed, and from that to give man himself moral and spiritual faculties. You will now see that, for this reason, man had to keep the handling of nature within limits; hence the secrecy of the ancient Mysteries. The knowledge connected with these Mysteries, the secrets of nature, did not consist merely of concepts, ideas and feelings, nor merely of dogmatic imaginations. Whoever wished to acquire it had first to show himself wholly fitted to receive it; he had to be free from any wish to employ the knowledge selfishly, he was to use both knowledge and the ability derived from it solely in the service of the social order. This was the reason why the knowledge was kept so secret in the Egyptian Mysteries. In preparation for such knowledge, the one to whom it was to be imparted gave a guarantee that he would continue to live exactly as he had lived before, not taking to himself the smallest advantage but devoting the efficiency he would acquire, by his mastery over nature, exclusively to the service of the social order. On this assumption initiation was granted to individuals who then guided the ancient culture, of which the wonderful works are still to be seen, though, because men do not know their source, they are not understood.
But in this way men would never have become free. They would, through their nature-influences, have been made into a kind of automata. An epoch had to supervene in which man would work through inner moral forces alone. Thus, nature becomes veiled for him because in the new age, his impulses, his instincts, having become free, he has desecrated her. It is at most since the fourteenth, fifteenth, centuries that his impulses have been thus freed. Hence the ancient wisdom is growing dim; there is nothing left but the book-wisdom and that is not understood. For no one who really understood such things as the passage I have just read you would refrain from using them for his own advantage. That, however, would call forth the worst instincts in human society, worse instincts than those produced by the tentative progress of what today is said to be scientific, where, without insight into the matter, it is in a laboratory, without being able to see deeply into things, they obtain some result or other, perhaps that one substance affects another in a certain way — well, just what goes on today in chemistry. They go on trying this and find that but it is spiritual science that will have to find a way back into the secrets of nature. At the same time it must found a social order quite different from that of today, for men to be able, without being led away into a struggle with the most unruly instincts, to realize what nature conceals and her inmost depths.
There is meaning and there is wisdom in human evolution; I have tried to show you this in a whole series of lectures. What happens in history happens — although often by means of most destructive forces — in such a way that meaning runs right through historical evolution. It is often not the meaning man imagines and he has to suffer much on the paths history takes to its ends. Everything that happens in the course of time is sure to make the pendulum sometimes swing towards evil, sometimes towards the lesser evil; but by this swinging a certain condition of balance is reached. So then, up to the fourteenth, fifteenth centuries, a certain number of the forces of nature were known at least to a few; but this knowledge is now lost because the men of the newer age have not been attuned to it.
You see how beautifully it is pictured in the symbol standing for the forces of nature in the Egyptian legend of Isis. This image of Isis — what a deep impression it makes upon us when we picture it standing there in stone, but covered from head to foot with a veil, also of stone — the veiled Isis of Sais. It bears the inscription: “I am the Past, the Present in the Future; my veil no mortal man has yet lifted”. That has given rise to an unusually clever explanation — and a very clever people have accepted this clever explanation. We are told that the image of Isis is the symbol of a wisdom that can never be attained by man. Behind this veil is a being must remain eternally hidden, for the veil can never be lifted. Yet the inscription is “I am the Past, the Present and the Future; my veil no mortal man has yet lifted”. All the clever people then say: no one can fathom this being — are speaking about as logically as anyone who was to say: “I am John Miller you shall never know my name”. To say this is on a par with what you thus always hear said about the figure of Isis. To interpret the inscription: “I am the Past, the Present in the Future; my veil no mortal man has yet lifted” in this way, is as complete nonsense as to say: “I am John Miller, you will never know my name”. For what Isis is, stands written — Past, Present and Future; Time in its flight. Something quite different, therefore, from the clever explanation referred to is expressed in the words: “By veil no mortal man has yet lifted”. It means that this wisdom must be approached as those women are approached who have taken the veil, the vow of chastity; it must be approached with the same reverence, with a feeling that excludes all egoistic impulses. This is what is meant. It is like a veiled nun, this wisdom of ancient days. This is the feeling behind what is said about the veil.
Thus we see that in the days when the primal wisdom was a living thing, then either approached it in the proper way or had no access to it at all. But in the newer age men had to be left to themselves. They could no longer have this wisdom of old days, nor the forms of that wisdom. The knowledge of certain forces of nature was lost, those forces only to be known if experienced within — if they were at the same time lived inwardly. And at the time when materialism was at its height in the nineteenth century, at the beginning of the century, a force of nature appeared, the characteristic of which is recently expressed as follows: We have this nature-force but no one can understand it; it is even a secret for science. — You know how the force of electricity came to be used by man, and that electric power is such that no one can experience it inwardly through his normal forces; it remains an external force. And to a greater degree than one thinks that all the greatness of the nineteenth century arise through electricity. It would be quite easy to show how infinitely much in our present civilization depends upon electric power, and how much more, how very much more, will depend upon it in the future — even if it is employed in the present way without any inward knowledge. For in the evolution of human culture electric force has been put — as something by which man will be matured morally — in the place of the old, known force. Today in making use of electricity there is no thought of anything moral. There is wisdom in the progressive historical evolution of humanity. Man will mature by being able for a time to develop in his lower ego-bearer, in his uncontrolled egoism, what is deeply harmful — and in all conscience there is sufficient of this, as our own times clearly show. This would be quite out of the question should men have retained the ancient forces. It is electricity as a force in civilization which makes this possible. It is to a certain extent true of steam-power but to a lesser degree.
Now this is how the matter stands as I have explained to you. The first seventh part of our culture-period, that will last on into the third millennium, has passed; the peak of materialism has been reached. The social framework in which we live, that has brought about such lamentable occurrences in our days, is such that man cannot be subjected to it for another half-century without a fundamental change taking place in soul. For those having spiritual insight into world-evolution, this electoral age is, at the same time, the challenge to seek greater spiritual depth, a genuine spiritual deepening. For, to that force which remains outwardly unknown to sense-observation, there must be added in the soul the spiritual force line as deeply hidden as the electrical forces that also have to be awakened. Think how mysterious electrical power is! It was first drawn out of its secret hiding places by Galvani and Volta. And what dwells in the human soul, what is explored by Spiritual Science, that, too, lies hidden. The two like poles must meet each other. And as surely as the electric force is drawn out as the force hidden in nature, so surely will the force hidden in the soul,the force that belongs to it and is sought by Spiritual Science, also be drawn forth. This will be so, although today there are still many who look upon the endeavors of Spiritual Science as — well, almost as they might have looked upon the experiments of Galvani and Volta in the days they prepared their frogs and observed in the twitching of a leg that some force was at work. Did Science know that in the frog's leg lay the whole of Voltaic electricity, of Galvanism, all that is known today of electricity? Think back to the time when Galvani, it his primitive laboratory, was hanging his frog's leg to the window-latch; think of the moment when it began to twitch, and for the first time he was sure of this! It is true that it is not a question here of electricity itself being stimulated, but of contact electricity. When Galvani established this for the first time, could he suppose that the force that moved the frog's leg would someday be used by railways as a means of transport all over the world, or that with its aid thought would someday encircle the globe? It is not so very long since Galvani noticed this force in his frog's leg. If anyone had been expected such results to flow from this knowledge, he would certainly have been considered a fool. Thus, in our day, a man who presents the first beginnings of a spiritual science is considered a fool. A time will arrive when all that comes forth from Spiritual Science will be as important to the world, the moral world of soul and spirit, as a result of Galvani's experiment with the frog's leg for material civilization.
It is thus that progress is made in human evolution. It is only when we are aware of the things that we develop the will to collaborate in what can only be a beginning. If that other force, the force of electricity, which has been drawn out of its hiding place, has direct significance only for external, material culture, and only an indirect significance for the world of morality, what comes out of Spiritual Science will be of utmost importance in terms of its social significance. For the future, social institutions will be regulated by what Spiritual Science can give to humanity. Moreover, the whole of external, material culture will be indirectly stimulated by this Spiritual Science as well. I can only point to this today in closing.
Today we have seen Faust standing, as I said today, half in the old world and half in the new. Tomorrow we will expand this picure of Faust into one that will be a sort of worldview.