Spiritual Scientific Notes on Goethe's Faust, Vol. II
7. Some Spiritual-Scientific Observations in Connection with the “Classical Walpurgis-Night” from the Point of View of Spiritual Science
27 September 1918, Dornach
My dear Friends,
I had intended to make a few remarks from the artistic point of view about the scenes from “Faust” which were to have been performed today. Since, however, on account of illness, the performance is not taking place and the lecture can therefore be independent of it, I shall arrange matters rather differently. My lecture will have to do with the scene to be given next Sunday, but I wish to stress the fact that I shall not be speaking from the standpoint of art, but from quite another point of view. It is more that to the presentation of the scene as Goethean achievement I shall add some Spiritual-Scientific observations that will also in some respect link up with what has already been said here during the autumn.
Anyone allowing this scene — “On the Upper Peneus as Before” to pass before his soul, has an opportunity to look deeply into Goethe's soul, in that this scene — as also the following one which leads to the phantasmagoria of Helen — specially shows how Goethe divined and felt the truths of Spiritual Science even though these truths did not yet come to him in clearly defined ideas. A poet whose understanding did not reach up to the truths of Spiritual Science would certainly never have created these scenes in the way Goethe has done. It would lead us too far even to speak briefly of the path by which Goethe arrived at his insight into Spiritual Science. I can do this some other time. I shall only say enough to make it clear to you that Goethe must have seen certain things in the spiritual world to be able to give this scene the form it has. It is true that what I was explaining to you a few days ago about the evolution of man as a physical-temporal being could not have been known to Goethe in definite ideas. Nor can it be said that there is anything in the course of Goethe's development pointing to definite knowledge that not until the middle of life man first gains, through his bodily organism, the capacity for self-knowledge. From our studies during the past weeks we know that it is only at about the end of his twenties that man, through the forces he develops out of his own bodily organisation, becomes capable of achieving self knowledge. If we wish to learn the truth about these matters, we have to bear in mind that man is really a complicated being. We only understand man by first becoming clear to what extent he is a creature — if I may use a term much assailed by modern science — and that this creature points us back to his creators, his spiritual creators.
Now, by a kind of spiritual chemistry, so to say, we can extract from man what he is solely by virtue of his dependence on his own particular spiritual creators, on those beings among the hierarchies of the cosmic order whose special mission in the universe reaches its culmination in the creation of man, on those beings with whom man, as man, must therefore feel himself quite specially connected. If we separate man out in this way — (we wish our understanding of these things to be exact) we can show him diagrammatically as follows:
Let us suppose that this circle represents man at a given point in his evolution; if we then trace the human being indicated by this circle backyards in the line of his emergence from his spiritual creators we have this stream which I will colour orange. Were we to go back and examine now man has evolved through Moon, Sun and Saturn ages and later through the Earth age, we should find the special characteristics of the several beings of the higher hierarchies, as they are made known to you in my book “Occult Science”. We should discover the working-together, the mutual relations, of these hierarchies; and were we to look deeply enough into this connection of man with the hierarchies, we should perceive how he is, in a sense, the goal of divine creation. I have shown how this is so in a conversation between Capesius and the Hierophant, in the first scene of the second Mystery Play, “The Soul's Probation.” I have also pointed out there the hazardous side of such knowledge for those who are insufficiently prepared.
But suppose we go on to ask what man would be like in the course of his physical development between birth and death if he were only subjected to the influence of these creators of his? He would then be the being who only becomes ripe for self-knowledge in the physical world at the end of his twenties. For these creative beings set themselves the task of so forming man that in the course of his earthly development he should attain what is to be attained on the basis of his bodily organisation, that organisation that is itself derived from the earthly and thus is akin to earthly substances and to the interplay of earthly forces. I mean that these divine beings intended to give man the opportunity through his bodily organisation to go through a period of sound, all-round preparation for self-knowledge and for the knowledge of the world derived from self-knowledge right up to the end of his twenties. Then, in the second half of his life, they intended to give him the opportunity to pursue this self-knowledge in a very different measure from that in which man, as he now is as earthly man, can pursue it. If man had only first awakened to self-knowledge at the time that the spirits of the hierarchies concerned with him intended, at the end of his twenties, it would admittedly have been late, but he would have attained self-knowledge and the world-knowledge bound up with it in enhanced splendour. He would have been able from his innermost being to give a solution to the question: What am I as man? This under ordinary conditions at the present time he cannot do. e would have had this self-knowledge as insight, as vision, he would not have had to acquire it through abstract concepts.
Neither of these things has come about. In the first half of life we do not find that state of subdued consciousness. If he had it, man, rayed through by higher intelligences and not by his own, in a life not of sleep but of twilight, would build up his bodily organisation in a very different way, in order then to awaken to self-knowledge. But such a twilight condition does not exist. On the contrary, a certain self-knowledge appears comparatively early in man, though not with the radiance originally intended by his creators. Again, the self-knowledge that arises after the middle of life is not the self-knowledge that man's creators intended. And when we ask where the blame lies for this, we come to the other currents influencing man. We come to a stream that does not actually belong to man's nature, but which is, so to say, for the time being associated with him; we come to the Luciferic stream (yellow in diagram), we come to that stream which makes it possible for man to have a certain self-knowledge in the first half of his life, although it is not the luminous self-knowledge just described.
As you know, there is another current which unites for a time with man somewhat later; it is the Ahrimanic stream (blue). This stream prevents man, as he is on earth at present, from attaining in the second half of his life that luminous self-knowledge to which his creators had destined him. According to their intentions, the consciousness of man should have been in a much more enlightened state than the one he actually enters upon during the second half of his life, which is dimmed by ahrimanic influences. Naturally we need not think that luciferic influences are present only in the first half, ahrimanic influences only in the second half of life; they both persist throughout the whole of life. But these two influences are respectively concerned at the times in human life I have mentioned, with what I have just been describing. At other periods they have to do with something else. It is very important that no wrong conclusions should be drawn from what has been said. For instance, no one ought to say he has been told here that in the first half of his life man is luciferic, in the second half, ahrimanic. That would be completely untrue. Such misunderstandings often arise and it is important that no one should be misled by them. That is why over and over again I emphasise that in Spiritual Science we shall strive to speak accurately. Much harm is done by the way in which accurately given information about Spiritual Science is then repeated in public in another form, changed through preference or carelessness.
Thus, man stands in a threefold stream, to only one of which he really belongs. The other two were not originally in human evolution but have united themselves with it for a time. We can even say exactly when these influences entered in; you will find it in my “Occult Science” — the luciferic influence in the Lemurian age, the ahrimanic in the Atlantean age.
Now we cannot say that Goethe definitely knew anything of that phase of development, peculiar to man, beginning in the middle of his life. But he felt, he divined — divined very clearly — that through impulses inherent in the world-order man is a different being in the second half of his life from what he is in the first. And if we look into Goethe's soul-life more deeply than modern superficiality generally desires to do, we see his intense longing to gain something quite exceptional for his own life from the culture of the south — the culture of Italy. And if we follow up what he himself records of the benefits he reaped from the Italian tour, for himself, for his knowledge, for his art, we begin to feel hoe Goethe wished to make the transition into the second half of his life fruitful for himself through a deeply penetrating influence which he believed it impossible to experience by always remaining in his old surroundings. Goethe was conscious that in the forties something takes responsibility for the human soul which throws a very different light upon the nature of man than a man can gain through the human forces of the first half of life. And this knowledge, so clearly divined, flowed into the creation of the second part of his “Faust”. It was always particularly difficult for Goethe to approach the question: How does one acquire self-knowledge? If we follow his development aright, we may see his struggle for self-knowledge in a most interesting, most significant light. And little by little — not in the beginning, when he was still writing the youthful part of Faust, but later, gradually — the creation of Goethe's Faust-figure, and the whole poem, acquired such a stamp that the struggle for human self-knowledge may be said to find in “Faust” its most outstanding expression.
It was in this connection that Goethe thought out the figure of Homunculus, As I said before, I am not speaking to-night from the artistic standpoint but am relating to “Faust” a few remarks out of the essence of Spiritual Science. Thus Goethe thought out the figure of Homunculus in connection with his endeavour to depict in Faust man struggling towards self-knowledge. And what did the Homunculus-figure become under the influence of this preoccupation? The answer is that it came to represent all that man knows about man. What can we know about man by collecting together that knowledge which we have about the substances and forces of the earth? How can anyone imagine that those ingredients of earth-existence surrounding us in the kingdoms of nature can combine to form man? How is it possible to think that? For Goethe this became a burning question.
Remember how, when Schiller made friends with Goethe, he wrote him a most significant letter. I have often quoted this letter because it is characteristic both of the friendship between Goethe and Schiller and of the whole character of Goethe's soul. Schiller writes
“Though from some distance, I have for a long time been watching, with ever increasing admiration, the nature and course of your spiritual life. And I have seen that you are striving, so to say, to gather together all that is offered by the rest of nature, in order at length in your mind to put together man out of the sum-total of nature's works. This is a heroic undertaking before which any other intellect would have quailed. Had you been born a Greek, or even an Italian, an imaginative force enabling you to think of man as made up of the various ingredients of nature would have lived within you from your earliest youth. Since, however, you were born as a Northerner, you have been obliged to produce a spiritual Greece in your soul, and to supply by means of your imagination what did not exist in your surroundings.”
Thus Schiller attributes to Goethe this striving to obtain a knowledge of man by piecing together all the details to be gleaned from a knowledge of the kingdoms of nature. And that is actually the ideal which Goethe had before him. What can man know about man? But then there came to him at certain times the thought that the knowledge of man possible to acquire by earthly science is in truth small, that'll is no scan that comes into being through,this knowledge — only a manikin, a Homunculus. And Goethe was often assailed by the burning, tormenting thought: “We are in the world as men, feeling, thinking and willing as men, but we really only know something about Homunculus, not about Homo. The ideas we form concerning man bear as little relation to what man is in truth as does a little manikin in a glass test-tube”.
And for Goethe this burning question was associated with another: How can that element in knowledge which does not correspond to nature, to cosmic existence, be quickened so that it may, in knowledge at least, grow near to what in reality man is — of which he knows so little that actually it only amounts to knowledge of a Homunculus. That is why Goethe makes Wagner produce this manikin, Homunculus. Then, in the further development of his poem, he undertakes to show what sort of experience a man can have whereby his knowledge of man is widened, so that out of Homunculus there may grow something at least approaching Homo.
Now it was a belief of Goethe's that the only ideas which could be acquired in his day, the ideas which could be acquired from the culture of the North, were not sufficiently pliant and flexible to carry the Homunculus-knowledge further. Goethe believed that one could do better by endeavouring to clothe the knowledge of man that it,was still possible to acquire in one's soul life in such ideas as existed in an age that was nearer nature — such as the Greek age. It, was Goethe's firm belief that, by entering into the style and the form of Greek thought, one receives a deep, significant and vivifying impression, one's ideas acquire an added truth. This feeling lies at the root of his taking Faust to Greece, of his wanting to take him to Greece, to live there as a human being and to acquire Greek culture. Had Goethe been asked to state on his honour — I put it thus strongly on purpose — what he believed the men of his circle actually thought and felt, or had thought and felt, about the Greeks, he would probably have answered: “Oh, I should think more rubbish! They talk of Greek life, but have no ideas with which to grasp it. All that our pundits” — this is the sort of thing Goethe would have said — “all that our pundits think, write and print about Helen of Greece in modern times is just philistine trash, for in spite of it all they know nothing of Helen, nor of any other Greek, man or woman, as the Greeks really were”. But that was precisely what Goethe was striving after — to get nearer Greece in his soul. Hence his Faust had to get nearer Greece and had to live as a man among Greek men. Helen — as a Greek and the most beautiful of Greek women, as an outstanding Greek about whom so much strife and discord had arisen — Helen only supplied the point of contact for this. It the heightening, widening, strengthening of the knowledge of man, of the conception of man, that Goethe wants to accomplish in Faust.
Now in that Goethe kept all this clearly before him, (but as a kind of dim apprehension that became at the same time a torment for him) he was conscious that the abstract, philosophical path to knowledge, the path of science, regarded by many as the only right one, is all the same only one way of knowledge, and he dimly felt that there are many ways,. And whoever believes that Goethe was a rationalistic philistine — as really all upholders of modern science must be, otherwise they would not be genuine scientists, for science in the modern sense is itself pedantic, philistine, and rationalistic — whoever believes that Goethe was this kind of pedantic, rationalistic, philistine, understands nothing of him. He understands nothing at all of Goethe, my dear friends, who believes that he could for a single instant have supposed that, through ordinary scientific reflection any real knowledge could be acquired of the nature of man in his fulness. Goethe knew well that the human soul cannot discover truth merely on the path of thought or even on the path of that activity which takes place on the physical place; he knew that the soul of man has to find its way into reality and truth by several paths. Goethe was well acquainted with that approach to truth which takes a deeper course than the ordinary life of waking consciousness. This conscious, waking life in which our bright ideas run round, this life so highly valued by all the pedants, lies fundamentally very far from all that lives and weaves in the world as the basis of existence. In a certain respect man approaches nearer what lives and weaves below the surface of existence if — but this must not be misunderstood — out of his subconscious he sees and feels the arising, however chaotically, however sporadically, of significant dreams. In former years I have often told you that the content of dreams is of little importance; what is of importance is the inner drama, the connection between dream-life and deep human reality.
In a pamphlet, called “Dream-Fantasy”, a philosopher, Johannes Volkelt, in the seventies of last century, ventured timidly to suggest that man in his dreams comes near the riddle of the worlds. If only he had not later rectified this terrible professorial error by respectable pedantic works on the theory of knowledge! But then he never would have become Professor Johannes Volkelt, nor been allowed to teach philosophy in Basle, Würzburg, Jena, Leipzig. For it is a heinous sin against modern science to hint such a thing as that during his sleep-life man sinks into a real, cosmic stream, and that out of this experience things emerge which to be sure show themselves only in pictures, chaotically, and are therefore not to be accepted in their immediate form, but which nevertheless reveal how man, in the weaving of his sleep, is in a sphere that brings him nearer to the fulness of the living and weaving from which the physically visible springs than do his waking moments.
Now when a man plunges into this world — a world that the man of today only comes to know through his dreams, which do interpret it for him, even if badly — his situation within the entire world-order is different from what it is in ordinary waking consciousness. Of course the dream-life alone does not enable us to perceive the difference between the life in waking consciousness and the life we live down there in the sphere whence the dreams arise. But spiritual science can guide us into this sphere. Down there even language ceases to have its correct significance. That is why it is so difficult to come to an understanding. Down there in that sphere the words which we have formed for use in the sense-world cannot be properly applied to what takes place down there. Take for instance what used to be called the elements. Today we call them physical conditions describing them rather differently, But we can quite well understand if the old names earth, water, air, fire or warmth are used. We know these things from “Occult Science”; we can call what is solid, a solid physical condition, the earthly; what has a fluid physical condition, water; what has such a physical condition that, when it is not enclosed, it expands, we call air; whereas what permeates these three substances we call warmth or fire. Yes, my dear friends, we may call them so when, from the point of view of our waking consciousness, we speak here about our surroundings, because, if I may so express it, the things we denote by these words — earth, air, fire, water — are present with us. But if we plunge into the world out of which dreams are working, there are no such things as earth, air, fire, water, they do not exist; these words applied in the same way as for the world in which we are with our waking consciousness, no longer have meaning. As soon as we enter a different sphere of existence, a sphere that has to be grasped by a different consciousness, we see at once the relativity of these things. There — the things regarded by the ordinary materialistic consciousness as absolute — no longer exist. There earth is not earth. It has no meaning at all to talk of such things when we immerse ourselves in the world that, although also a reality, must be grasped by a quite different consciousness. To be sure, there is something there which may be said to stand midway between air and water; it is experienced in this different consciousness, through quite different forms of thought. Air is not air, water is not water, but there is something midway between air, and water; we might call it a sort of watery vapour, (German – Rauch) still called Ruach in the old Hebrew language. It does not mean the physical vapour or the mist we have now, but this intermediary something between water and air.
And another intermediary thing is there between earth and fire. This you must picture as though our metals were gradually to become so glowing and fiery that at last they become actually nothing but fire, fire through and through. And these things — intermediary between earth and fire and between air and water — are down there in the world out of which dreams come whirling. As you will easily understand we could not exist in that world in our physical body, we could not breathe in that world; we have to enter it with our souls, between falling asleep and waking. With our physical body we could not breathe in that world for there is no air. I have pictured in one of my Mystery Plays (“The Guardian of the Threshold”) a being who can breathe in this world, a being having no need of air, for he breathes light. Such beings may indeed be pictured by one who knows them. But no man may take his physical body into this world, for he could not breathe there and would be consumed by the fire. Nevertheless, man is united with this world, from falling asleep to waking, and out of it spring dreams.
Now this world that man encounters beneath the threshold of his consciousness is quite unlike the world we see today during our waking hours but it is not so unlike those worlds from which the present one has evolved. Former worlds, certainly the Sun-world — and this you can gather from the description in my “Occult Science”the Sun-world was even so formed as a physical world that in it fire-earth, earth-fire and water-air whirled and simmered together, not conveniently separated as they are today. Thus, if we are to grasp world-evolution cosmically and historically, we must picture earlier conditions of our evolution as similar to what we find today when we dive down into the world to which we belong between falling asleep and waking.
These worlds, however, that were formerly physically present, just as now our world is physically present, can only be experienced today in sleep, and no one can penetrate to them unless he imagines what is no longer visible in our present world to be visible and manifest. You cannot think of water-air in the same way as today you have to think of water and air as existing side-by-side. Today you think of water and air as separate. That has come about because the water-air, substantially one in former times, has now been differentiated. Water-air is now separated into the two polaric opposites — water and air. Formerly it was a unity, water-air, but was permeated instead by another pole. Today, man has so to say descended, and has completely lost the other pole of the water-air, instead the water-air has itself separated into the two poles — water and air. If we want to get an idea of what the other pole of the water-air was, we must imagine something having reality also experienced in the world where man is between falling asleep and waking, the world from which dreams arise. But too if we go back to the old Sun-existence, we have to think of the water-air as having had side by side with it something of a spiritual nature, something of the essence of the elemental spirits. You still find the elemental spirits belonging to the water-air in mythology, where echoes of ancient truths still remain. And among the beings associated with the water-air are those that in Greek mythology — or indeed in any ancient mythology — are called Sirens. So that when out of real knowledge we say of the world we are referring to that there are in it water-air and Sirens — that it is composed of water-air and Sirens — we are speaking with as much truth as when we say of our external world that it contains water and air. Thus the Sirens belong to those elemental beings who are the other pole of water-air.
The other thing in the old Sun existence was earth-fire or fire-earth, Whereas today we have earth that has been pushed down below the level of the water, with fire or heat above it, formerly these two were one. And among those beings who were related polarically to the earth-fire as are fire or warmth to earth today, is that being whom Goethe, following the Greeks, called Seismos. By bringing Sirens into the relevant scene, Goethe points at the same time very clearly to their connection with water; not however with water as it is today, for that has grown denser and is only one pole of the old water-air. The Sirens feel themselves related to water only in a spiritual way. If we think of water as the old water-air, the Sirens belong to that water as air belongs to the water of today. And as the air produces chaotic sounds in the wind, so the spiritual element in the Sirens produces what belongs to water or water-air; the spiritual element is combined with water-air as air is with our water. And the activity of the Seismos, regarded as cosmic force, is the part played by fire in nature's economy. This is what the myth means, this is what Goethe means. And his presentation of the matter makes everyone acquainted with the reality feel that Goethe had a dim apprehension of these things. He knew that things are thus in the world we enter between falling asleep and waking, the world we find again if with understanding we turn our gaze back to the primal sources of our present existence.
But consider, my dear friends, what a shock you would have if you were suddenly in full consciousness — not as in dreams but quite consciously — transported into an element, into a sphere, where you had no solid earth beneath your feet, a sphere where everything that should be earth was fire, and where there was no earth! There you could even melt if you wished, and become hot or cold in the element of fire. And in the water-air, where you could not breathe but only experience alternations of light and darkness — think how alarmed you would necessarily be at first by the insecurity into which you had plunged, in all this surging and whirling. What then entered into man in those cosmic epochs when the earth solidified (as must once have happened, for at one time men had been living in this surging and weaving element I have described) so that he too could stand firm? What was it that took hold of man? The Sphinx-nature! This gives the firm centre of gravity in the surging element. The same force that gave to the earth the form whereby it has become this solid planet on which man can stand, at the same time wove into man what can be described, pictured, as the nature of the Sphinx.
Now in this scene Goethe introduces what can actually only be experienced between falling asleep and waking. And he believed this can best be presented not in the concepts of our modern waking consciousness, but in Greek concepts. He finds them more flexible and more suitable. Therefore he transfers the whole scene to Greece, thinking that with ideas taken from Greek nature he will be better able to characterise all that man experiences today between falling asleep and waking, all that he experienced in ancient times when air was not opposed to water, nor fire to earth, but when the Sirens formed the opposite pole to water-air, and some being like the Seismos formed the opposite pole to earth-fire or fire-earth.
So now he allows this world to make its appearance in his “Faust”. And why does he do this? It is all a question of proceeding from Homunculus to Homo, the point is that Homunculus should be given a prospect of not remaining merely Homunculus but of becoming Homo — of understanding enough to become man. Therefore his experience of the world has to be enlarged. And so aptly does Goethe bring this about that when he introduces Homunculus to this ancient cosmic world he at once places Sphinxes in it. “The Sphinxes have taken their seat”, and these form the solid element. There is a surging all around that, in these days, could not be suffered, for mortal terror would assail mankind. Everything is surging. But though the whole of hell break loose when the spirits behave as the Sirens and Seismos are doing it is pointed out that man has found his foothold — his centre of gravity:
“What a sickening thrill hereunder!”
Here is pictured the world of which I have been speaking,
“What a dire and dreadful thunder!
What a heaving, what a quaking,
Rocking to and fro and shaking,”
Were you to plunge into this world you would soon experience the ‘rocking to and fro’.
“What unbearable annoy.”
But now comes the reflection:
“Yet we” (the the Sphinxes) “budge not, though the nether
Hell should all burst forth together.”
Into the ideas of men something of such a conception perpetually flows. Men do not know it, but their ideas are influenced by what dwells at the foundations of existence. And this is the cause of many fanciful theories. The theory that the mountain ranges were formed by fire, is quite right for more ancient epochs of cosmic evolution, but this was earth-fire, fire-earth, not fire as we know it. This has introduced an element of confusion into modern ideas. And from a higher point of view, most modern ideas are confused. They can only be understood — however strange this may sound, my dear friends, it is true — these ideas, these theories can often only be understood if they are translated. They are heard in the ordinary, common-place, philistine language of men; they first begin to have meaning when translated into the language that must have been used between falling asleep and waking, for then it becomes clear that these theories bear within them faint indications of earlier earth-epochs. And the only way to understand the scene beginning here, is to realise that Goethe wanted to show the experience man would have were he conscious from falling asleep to waking, an experience that would develop in him a consciousness of a former cosmic condition of the earth.
Think how clearly Goethe must have foreseen the knowledge of Spiritual Science, to have presented these things so correctly. And that is not all. Homunculus is to be introduced to this world. Goethe seems to say — if once more I may be permitted to express it rather strongly — “Now when I turn to the ideas of philistine science, I naturally find nothing able to make a Homo of Homunculus; I can get nothing from that quarter. But if I make use of such ideas as can be acquired when a man consciously experiences the world he enters between falling asleep and waking, and, absorbing them into my soul, embody them into the scene of ‘Faust’, then perhaps I shall be more successful in acquiring, a wider knowledge of man, so that Homunculus may become Homo.” — Therefore Goethe makes Homunculus plunge, not into the philistine, scientific world experienced by man today, but into another world, introduced here, the world man experiences from the time he falls asleep to the time he wakes. In that world a man experiences so many things; curiously enough, he experiences something of how unequal in their evolutionary stages are the beings who live close to us in the cosmos. We understand nothing, literally nothing, of this world, when we consider these beings side-by-side, giving them all an equal value. When we observe ants or bees, or the whole unique insect-world in general, then, my dear friends, we arrive at the conclusion (I have put this before you at other times, in other places, as the view of Spiritual Science) that these are either forms left behind from former epochs, or forms anticipating what is to come later — like the bees, the hive of bees; they are beings projected into our epoch, though by their form they actually belong to another.
You see, when scientific nit-wits describe the world — as for instance Forel who made such a study of ants, then one finds most amazing things said. For if these people cling to their crude scientific methods, and never come to Spiritual Science, of course they are unable to give any explanation of what is really to be wondered at in this world — this world permeated everywhere by reason; not over the single ant, but over the ant-hill as a whole, over the whole ant-world, over the whole bee-world, cosmic reason, so much wiser than brain reason, is outpoured. And, in a certain respect these all really belong to a former world. Just think how aptly Goethe describes it when he brings in the ants, the emmets; and when he makes a mountain arise, as it was in an earlier cosmic evolution, and as one sees it in another sphere of reality, during the time between falling asleep and waking, he makes ants appear and begin to busy themselves with what the mountain has brought into existence. But, as companions for these ants, he makes other strange beings. For in fact the ants together with pretty well the whole of the insect-world constitute a race that does not properly belong to the earth as it is at present. This world of the ants feels itself as an anachronism in the present world. The ants have not much in common with it and have no real companions. The other animals are of quite another kind. There are tremendous differences between the soul-spiritual quality of the insect-race, for example, the ants, and that of other animals. The companions of the ants are actually not the physical animal-forms of today, but spiritual elemental beings that Goethe introduces as Pygmies, as dwarfs, as Dactyls; though the ants have succeeded in acquiring a physical nature on earth, the pygmies and the dactyls are more closely akin to them than to the beings of the present day. Thus, Goethe knows of this ant-race belonging to an ancient cosmic epoch, and introduces it covertly into this scene.
Now how has this world of ours arisen? As you know, its present condition has developed out of the old. We have now spoken of the old condition, and the present one only needs to be mentioned, for it is all that surrounds us on the physical earth. But this present earth has not come about without a struggle. It was through a mighty cosmic conflict that the old developed into the new. And the question arises: Can one observe this struggle? The answer is that we observe it when we can become conscious of waking from a very vivid dream to a condition of half-wakefulness; when we are aroused from a state of deep sleep to one less deep, and though not quite awake, are on the way to being so. We are approaching the sense-world but have not completely left the world below, and we find ourselves in a struggle closely resembling the conflict that went on when the old world was changing into the new. Again Goethe presents it all so faithfully that, while to express the old world-order he makes a dream arise, he also represents the waking from the dream by describing a struggle in the cosmos. The present comes into conflict with all that belongs to the past. The pygmies belonging to the old world come into conflict with the herons belonging to the waters of the present. The sight of this conflict as it takes place is at the same time an awakening. And Goethe makes it so clear that we are concerned with an awakening that he even alludes to what often happens on waking: one hears something that appears to be still in the dream spiritually, in imaginative picture form, and which then passes over into external reality — the coming of the cranes of Ibycus that appear in this scene. In the first part of the scene, Goethe shows us what can be experienced in dream-consciousness when it is fully developed, something which points to earlier earth-conditions; and this he believed he could more easily accomplish with Greek ideas than with those of the present day.
And now, for Homunculus. He has not yet got so far as this, for the man of today is not able to become fully conscious of what takes place in that lower sphere. Goethe intimates this quite clearly. Man today is hampered by fear, by anxiety, even though these may be unconscious. I have often spoken of this. Homunculus will not venture into that world and says so quite clearly. When he makes his re-appearance in the scene, he declares that he will not go in; he wishes to rise, that is, he wishes to become Homo, but into that world he refuses to enter.
“From place to place I flit and hover,
And fain would I in the best sense exist.
Impatiently I long my glass to shiver.
To risk me though I do not list
in aught I yet have seen. ...”
Thus it is a dangerous world into which Homunculus will not plunge. He would like to take the step from Homunculus to Homo in a less perilous world.
Now, had someone asked Goethe “Then you don't think much use can be made of the dream-world, the sleep-world, in changing Homunculus to Homo in the human head; but what about philosophy? Philosophers reflect upon the riddle of the world. What about philosophy? How would it be if Leibnitz or Kant were asked about true manhood?” Then Goethe would have put on a very sceptical expression — very sceptical indeed. He ascribed all kinds of good qualities to modern philosophers, but he did not believe them capable of penetrating into the being of man, of contributing anything to enable Homunculus to become Homo in a human life-time. Here too he thought one would get nearer by using Greek ideas. Goethe was well acquainted with the life of ancient Greece, with the times in which Anaxagoras and Thales lived. Their ideas came nearer the old Mystery outlook, they still retained some knowledge of those spiritual worlds from which for man only dreams arise. For this reason he makes Homunculus meet two ancient Greek philosophers, of whom the one, Anaxagoras, still knew a great deal of the old Mystery-wisdom, especially of the secrets of the fire-earth. Into the thinking, into the wise philosophy of Anaxagoras, ideas still rose up of the ancient Mysteries connected with what happened in the fire-earth.
With Thales, too, there were still recollections of old ideas, associated with the secrets of the water-air; but at the same time Goethe makes it clear that the conceptions of Anaxagoras though loftier, are becoming superseded, and that with Thales the new age is beginning. The history of the new philosophy, the history of philosophy in general, begins rightly with Thales. I have mentioned this in my “Riddles of Philosophy”. He is, it may be said, the original philistine, as Goethe's shows him here; he has to introduce the philistine outlook of the fifth post-Atlantean epoch that indeed in a certain, but only shadowy, way is connected with the secrets of the water-air.
Thus, in the first part of this scene in which he is describing things out of experiences of the dream-world,the world of Seismos, to which the pygmies belong, Goethe is describing all that is associated with the creative forces of Seismos. And the element of water that he uses to make the transition to the present time, describing it not as water-air, but as water, with herons and so on — this element of water he places in contrast to fire; water versus fire, actually water-air versus fire-earth. And water and fire come into conflict — pygmies versus herons. And it is the same battle, only in another sphere, transferred into the sphere of reason, that takes place between Anaxagoras, the philosopher of fire, and Thales, the philosopher of water, as has previously taken place between the pygmies as representing the earth or earth-fire, and the herons, as representing the water or water-air.
So good is the parallelism that, in this second stage of his representation, Goethe correctly shows how Homunculus, who has not ventured himself below into the subconscious element with a view to becoming man now takes refuge above in the conscious. He wants to learn how to become Homo from the philosophers, from those who would still preserve in consciousness much that should be experienced in the subconscious. But it turns out that, because the philosophers derive their impulses from different spheres of experience, they do not agree, and themselves come into conflict, the same conflict of ideas as those that lie at the foundation of cosmic conflicts. There is the same conflict between the views of Anaxagoras and those of Thales as between the pygmies and the herons — the very same.
And what is Goethe doing? He first pictures what goes, on down in the unconscious world, and then leads up to the world of consciousness but associates this world with the recollections arising from the unconscious, recollections specially clear in Anaxagoras. This is why Thales looks upon Anaxagoras as a visionary.
But we have already had to do with a second stratum, with the sphere in which the waking consciousness too is intermingled, albeit in a more or less spiritual fashion, or as I have described it, half-asleep and half awake. This is the second layer of experience that Goethe has shown. And it is very significant that he gives what is experienced in this sphere in a different form from that in which he gave the first. He makes the scene open with the Sirens. We are in the world of sleep, the world of dreams; to be in this world, there is no necessity to do anything; Goethe, therefore, simply places it before us. Then we wake up out of this world, and in waking come to our ordinary-consciousness. For a special reason Goethe has combined Lucifer and Ahriman into the one Mephistopheles. This waking he shows in the experience of Mephistopheles, and it is interesting that, as long as Mephistopheles represents the condition of being but half-awake, he is still down below, experiencing it through the Greek Lamiae. Then the scene rises into conscious life, But if Homunculus-Mephistopheles is now to enter fully conscious life, the life of reason, the man must rouse himself, he must pull himself together, and wake out of dreams to reality. Hence, when he wakes, Mephistopheles meets the Oread, who indicates very clearly in Goethe's language that this is so,
“Up hither,up; My mount is old,
And still loth keep its primal mould,
Honour the rude cliff-stair ascending,
Last-spur of Pindus, far extending.
Already thus firm-stablished
I stood as Pompey o'er me fled.
That fabric of a dream will fade
At cockcrow with the nightly shade.”
While sleep-consciousness is being shaken into waking consciousness, the Oread points out that a transition is now taking place from the world called the world of illusion — though in one way it is, as I have shown, a world of reality — a transition to the world where mountains stand firm, and everything does not rock up and down. And Goethe does not hesitate to indicate quite clearly how one wakes out of this world. Think how often we are wakened out of the world from which dreams surge by the crowing of a cock. Goethe makes it perfectly clear that we are coming up into the waking world where philosophers have to hold forth, where through what they have to say it is expected that Homunculus will become man.
There is much I could add, perhaps tomorrow. In the meantime I shall only draw your attention to the fact that, after we have done with this world, Goethe still points us to a third. And just as it was the mountain nymph, the Oread, who gave the first indication of this waking world, so now it is another nymph, that is, an elemental being, who does the arousing. The tree nymph, the Dryad, leads Mephistopheles to a third layer of consciousness, in which understanding and clairvoyance are united: unconscious, conscious, super-conscious. And, in a certain respect, Goethe already points to the world we also would point to through Spiritual Science. Only, he does so in a quite unique way. The beings whom Mephistopheles finds next are the Phorkyads.
From our coming performance you will see what pleasant, beautiful beings these Phorkyads are, and particularly what an impressive, heart-stirring language they speak! And yet, anyone realising what experiences a man must be prepared to meet, on consciously winning through to the spiritual world, will understand this meeting of Mephistopheles with the Phorkyads.
This matter cannot be completely dealt with in one lecture; we will speak further about it tomorrow.