Spiritual Scientific Notes on Goethe's Faust, Vol. II
10. Faust's Knowledge and Understanding of Himself and of the Forces Actually Slumbering in Man
17 January 1919, Dornach
The scene from “Faust” just presented, which comes at the end of the second act of Part II, forms the bridge for Faust's entrance into ancient Greece. Those who have gone most deeply into Goethe's world-conception will see how, through it he has penetrated deeply into the spiritual, in both universe and the mystery of man, in so far as the latter is connected with what is spiritual in the universe. It should first be emphasised, on the one hand, that what Goethe meant by saying he had put a great deal in a veiled way into Part II of “Faust”, applies especially to this profound, most significant scene. In this second part of “Faust” there is much wisdom. On the other hand, when represented on the stage, this wisdom is able through its imagery to make a great appeal to the senses.
If we are to understand Goethe's Faust, particularly the second part, we must always keep these two aspects in mind. As Goethe says, the simple minded spectator of Faust will experience pleasure and aesthetic satisfaction in its series of pictures; the Initiate, however, is meant to find there profound secrets of life. If we start with what the pictures give us, this scene represents a festival of the seas to which Homunculus has been taken by Thales. This festival, however, contains a great deal that is veiled, and is meant actually to introduce the demonic powers dwelling in the sea, — that is, the spiritual powers.
Why does Goethe have recourse to the demonic powers of ancient Greece when wishing to lead Faust to the highest point of self-knowledge and self-understanding in human evolution? It may be stated that Goethe was perfectly clear that it is impossible for man ever to arrive at a true conception of his own nature by merely acquiring knowledge received through the senses and the understanding associated with them. True knowledge of man can only be imparted through true spiritual perception. So that all the knowledge and perception of man sought simply through the external physical world, to which the senses and the physical understanding are directed, is no real knowledge of man at all. Goethe indicates this by introducing Homunculus into his poem.
Now Homunculus is the result of the knowledge of man to which Wagner is capable of aspiring with ideally conceived physical means, such ideally conceived means as would. naturally be considered by ordinary science to be its goal, from which, however, no result can be expected either today or in the future. Goethe advances the hypothesis that it might be possible to produce a Homunculus in a retort, that is, to gain such complete knowledge of combining the forces of nature that a human being could be intellectually put together out of various ingredients. But it is no man who arises thus, even when all that can be attained in the physical world is thought out to the highest point of perfection — no man arises, no homo, but only a homunculus. Considered dramatically, this homunculus is simply the image of himself that a man can form with the help of his reason, of his ordinary earthly knowledge. How can this man-made image that is a homunculus provide a true conception of man? How can it be brought about that in this conception man does not stop short at the simple homunculus but pushes on to the homo? It is clear to Goethe that this goal can only be reached through knowledge acquired by the human soul and spirit when free of the body.
Now, by most various ways Goethe endeavours to reach the realm to which a human being must come if he wishes to acquire complete knowledge of man, that is, the knowledge acquired when free of the body. Goethe really wishes to show that it is possible too out of the body to gain knowledge, decisive knowledge, concerning the nature of man. He was by no means one of those who plunges lightheartedly into such matters. His whole life through he was striving to to make his soul more profound. For it was clear to him that when a man grows old, he does not live in vain, but that the forces of knowledge are always increasing, so that in old age it is possible for us to know more than in our youth. But he realised, also the problematic nature of the sojourn of soul and spirit outside the body. Hence he sought in the most varied ways to bring man, to his Faust, knowledge in the form of pictures, that we call Imagination. And he does this first in the Romantic Walpurgis-Night of Part I, and then again in the Classical Walpurgis-Night where he takes the Imaginations from ancient Greece, whither he would transport Faust. We might perhaps say that Goethe thinks that, when a man leaves the body in order to change Homunculus into Homo, into man, he has Imaginations appearing to different people in different forms. And, in the perception of the ancient Greeks, these Imaginations in some degree still approached spiritual reality. Setting before the soul the demonic world of ancient Greece, we can see how, in this traditional realm of myths, when outside the body with his soul and spirit, in highly developed atavistic clairvoyance, man contemplated nature from whose womb he sprang. I might therefore say that Goethe, not wanting to invent an imaginative world himself, calls in the Greek world in order to tell us that, whatever a man may contrive out of his ordinary knowledge, he still remains a Homunculus; if, however, he wishes to become a real man, he must first advance to the world of Imagination, Inspiration, and so on. That is how the nature of man should first be conceived.
Why does Goethe choose a sea-festival, or rather the dream of a sea-festival? To understand his feelings, we must take ourselves back into the conceptions of the old Greeks, to which Goethe himself went back in his representation of this gay feast. We must realise that, to the Greeks, there was a special significance in foresaking the land and sailing out to the open sea. The Greeks, like all ancient peoples, still lived in the outside world. Just as a change took place in these people when they forsook the level ground, the plain, and went up into the mountains — a change experienced by modern man in an abstract prosaic way — so the was some tremendous change in their soul on leaving dry land for the open sea. This feeling that the open sea has special power to release the soul and spirit from the body was universally experienced in olden times, and much is connected with the feeling.
I must ask you, my dear friends, to remember what an important part in the various symbols, on the path of knowledge, was played by the Pillars of Hercules in ancient myths. It was constantly said that when a man has gone through various stages of knowledge he sails, through the Pillars of Hercules. This meant that he sails out into the limitless, open sea, where he no longer feels himself within reach of any coast. For man today that has ceased to mean very much, but for the Greek it meant entering a completely different world. Once past the Pillars of Hercules, he became free of all that bound him to earth, above all through his bodily forces. In olden days, when everyday matters were still experienced by soul and spirit, sailing over the open sea wan felt as freeing one from the body.
Goethe's poetical works were not like those of lesser poets; he wrote out of his feeling for the cosmos, and when he speaks of all that he transposed into the Greek world, he transposes himself there with his whole soul. It is of this that we must constantly remind those who read Goethe as if he were any other poet — those who, whey they are reading Goethe, have no consciousness of having been carried into another world.
Now as the scene begins, we see the ‘alluring Sirens.’ Goethe presents a scene that, though externally in picture-form, might equally be one of everyday life. For the Sirens are collecting wreckage for the Nereids and Tritons. Considered from the other side, however, these alluring creatures, these voices, are not only within man but also outside him. They are the voices of different stages in the world, and on these stages, as I have often shown, inner and outer flow together. The Siren-sounds are those that entice the souls of men out of their bodies, and set them in the spiritual cosmos.
Let us sum up all this. First, Goethe shows a festival of the sea, or rather, dreams evoked during this festival. Secondly, this festival took place during the night, under the influence of the Moon. Goethe arranges everything to show that here it is a question of having to gain a conception independently of the body, a conception of the kind that would be attained consciously, outside the body, is then experienced in pictures. And now we see that, while on the one hand, Goethe wishes to satisfy those who keep to the superficial — this is not said in any belittling sense — by making the Sirens collect wreckage for the Nereids and Tritons who covet it, yet these Nereids and Tritons are on the way to Samothrace to seek the Kabiri and bring them to the festival of the sea. By introducing the Gods of the primeval Samothracian sanctuary into this scene, Goethe shows that he is touching upon the highest human and cosmic secrets. What, then, must take place when Homunculus is to become Homo, when the outlook of Homunculus is to become the outlook of Homo? What must then actually happen?
Now the idea of Homunculus, as understood within the world of the senses, must be taken out of that world and transposed into the world of soul and spirit where, between falling asleep and waking, man has his being. Homunculus must be taken into the world man experiences when, free of his body, he is united with the existence of soul and spirit. It is in this picture-world that we must now find Homunculus, he must then transfer this picture of Homunculus, he must then transfer this picture into that other world, the world of Imagination, Inspiration, and so forth. There alone can the abstract idea of Homunculus be grasped by the real forces of being, those forces that never enter human knowledge when we stop short at the understanding through the senses. When Homunculus, the idea of Homunculus, is separated from the body and transferred to the world of so and spirit, then in all earnestness everything becomes real. Then we have to come upon those forces that are the real ones behind the origin and evolution of man.
In all this Goethe is showing that he had a profound and significant comprehension of the Samothracian Kabiri, that he had a feeling how, in primeval times, these Kabiri were worshipped as guardians of the forces connected with the origin and evolution of mankind. Thus, by evoking from the age if atavistic clairvoyance, pictures of the divine forces associated with human evolution, Goethe was touching upon what is highest.
When dealing with the Samothracian Mysteries, the conception of the Greeks referred back to what was very ancient. And it may be said that the ideas about these Samothracian Mysteries about the Kabiri divinities, permeated all the various ideas the Greeks held about the Gods, all their ideas concerning the connection between these Gods and mankind. And the old Greek was convinced that his idea of human immortality was a legacy bequeathed to the Greek consciousness by the Samothracian Mysteries. It was to the influence of these Mysteries he felt he owed the idea of man's immortality, the idea of man's membership of the world of soul and spirit.
Goethe therefore wishes at the same time to suggest that, were the impulses of the Greeks, that are associated with the Kabiri of Samothrace, grasped in a state free of the body, perhaps the abstract human idea of Homunculus might be united with the true evolutionary forces of man. In the Greek consciousness there was definitely something that could live again, vividly, in Goethe when he touched on this profound mystery. To take an example, this may be seen in what the Greeks used to say of Philip of Macedonia how, by watching the Mysteries of Samothrace, he found Olympia. And the Greeks had in their consciousness how, at that time, the great Alexander decided to descend to these parents when coming to earth, when soul to soul before the divinities of Kabiri Philip of Macedon and Olympia found each other. Those things must be touched upon for the awe to be felt which the Greeks actually experienced when the Kabiri were in question, an awe shared later by Goethe.
From an external point of view they are simply ocean-deities. The Greeks knew that, in an age relatively not very ancient, Samothrace had been inundated, rent asunder, and reduced to confusion by most fearful volcanic storms. The nature-demons had shown their power here in such a terrific way that it still remained in historic memory among the Greeks. And in the woods, in the forests of Samothrace, at that time very dense, the Kabiren Mysteries were concealed. Among the many different names they bore is one Axieros; a second, Axiokersos; a third, Axiokersa; the fourth was Kadmyllos. And a vague feeling existed that there were also a fifth, sixth and seventh. But man's spiritual gaze was mainly fixed on the first three. The old ideas of the Kabiri centered round the secret of men's becoming; and the initiate it in to the holy Mysteries of Samothrace was supposed to come to the perception that what is seen spiritually in the spiritual world corresponds to what happens on earth when, for an incarnating soul a man arises, a man comes to birth. In the spiritual world the spiritual correlate of the human birth was supposed to be watched.
Through such vision, Goethe believed he could change the idea of a homunculus to that of homo. And it was to this vision the Samothracian Initiates were led. We cannot see a man in his true nature when we regard him as a being enclosed within his skin and when we are under the delusion that all we are concerned with in man stands before us in external, physical human form, visible to the external eye. Whoever wishes really to know man must go beyond what is enclosed within the skin and look upon the human being as extending over the entire universe. He must have in mind, what extends spiritually outside the skin.
Now many of the ideas about the Gods depend on this impulse of the Greeks to see the human being outside his skin. And connected with these ideas there was an exoteric and an esoteric side. The exoteric side of man's becoming related, however, to the whole of nature's becoming; the connection of man's becoming with the becoming of nature was involved when, later, the Greeks spoke of Demeter, of Ceres. The esoteric side of Ceres, of Demeter, of the world in its becoming, was the Kabiri. We must know how to look at him, if in any way we are to be able to penetrate the secret of man.
You see, to look at man simply as a figure standing on the physical earth is, really, to deceive yourself about him. For the human being has been united from a threefold stream, a trinity. And as three lights cast their beams on a point — a circle — and we see the fusion of the lights and then refuse to recognise how one, perhaps yellow, another blue, and the third of reddish colour flow together into one, refuse to see this harmony, preferring to believe that what has arisen from a mingling of lights is a unity and so deceive ourselves in believing this mixed product we see before us as man in his skin to be a unity. He is not a unity and if we take him for one we shall never read the secret of mankind. At the present time man is unconscious of not being a unity. But he was conscious of it while atavistic clairvoyance glowed warmly through human knowledge. Thus, the Initiates of Samothrace put men together out of Axieros standing in the middle, and the two extremes, Axiokersos and Axiokersa, whose forces were united with those of Axieros. We might say than that there are three — Axieros, Axiokersos, and Axiokersa. These three forces flowed together to form a unity. The higher reality is the trinity; the unity springs from the trinity. This is what comes before the eye of man.
It might also be said that the Samothracian Initiate learned to know man who stood, physically perceptible, before him. He was told: You must take away from this man the two extremes, Axiokersos and Axiokersa, that only ray into him. Then you can retain Axieros. So the matter stands thus: Of the three, Axieros represents the centre condition of the human being, and the others the two invisible ones, merely shine upon him.
Thus, in the Mysteries of Samothrace, man is shown to be a trinity. Goethe asks himself: Can the idea of the abstract Homunculus perhaps be changed into that of the complete Homo by turning to what, in the Samothracian Mysteries, was regarded as the secret of man — the human trinity? And he said: This trinity can only be arrived at as a conception when man, with his soul and spirit, leaves the body. This is what he told himself.
We must, however, always emphasise that, as regards spiritual perception, Goethe was only a beginner. What is so wonderful about all that Goethe stands for will, as I said recently, only be rightly understood when we think of it as being continually developed, being necessarily developed in order to lend to ever greater heights. In Goethe himself we have the theory of metamorphosis, from leaf to leaf, from the green leaf of the foliage to the coloured petal of the flower, or from the spinal vertebrae, perhaps, to the bones of the head — this secret, if rightly understood, leading from one incarnation to another, from one earth-life to another, as I have often shown you. Hence, from the standpoint of Goethe's own conception of the world, we may ask: How then should the Mystery of Samothrace be pictured today? The Samothracian Mystery, as such, with its Kabiri-symbolism of the secret of humanity, corresponds entirely with the atavistic clairvoyant world-conception; but the living content of knowledge at any one human period, cannot be continued on in the right way, and must be re-moulded. It is not suitable for a return to old conceptions adapted to a quite different state of human evolution; the conceptions must be transformed. The Samothracian Mystery has naturally only historical value. Today we should say: We represent how in the centre of the Representative of Man there stands Axieros, how he is encircled by Axiokersa, and how Axiokersos must be placed in connection with all that is earthly — thus giving us the Representative of Man, Lucifer and Ahriman. And here we have the re-moulding suited to the present age, and on into the future, of the holy Mystery of Samothrace.
It might be said: Were Goethe to appear among us today, wishing, in conformity with all that man has since won for himself, to tell us what is able to change Homunculus to Homo, he would point to the Representative of Man, surrounded by, and in combat with, Lucifer and Ahriman. I beg of you, however, not to make an abstraction of these things, not to apply the favorite modern method of settling these matters by a few abstract concepts, and taking them for symbols. the more you feel that a whole world, containing the secret of man, lies hidden in the figure of the Representative of Man in connection with Lucifer and Ahriman; the more you repudiate the pride, the unjustified, childish pride, of modern man in his abstract scientific concepts; the more you open your soul to a world giving you a view of this image of the mystery of man — then the nearer you come to this secret.
Spiritual Science meets with all kinds of opposition today. But one of its strongest opponents is man's desire for abstraction, his desire to label everything with a few concepts. Goethe's teaching is, in feeling, the exact opposite of this mischievous modern habit of pasting concepts everywhere. One has peculiar experiences in this regard. Men come to a movement like Spiritual Science from very different motives. There are many who wish to reduce everything to abstractions. For instance, man consists of seven principles — I once had the experience, a horrible experience, of someone explaining Hamlet by attributing to him the principle of Buddhi on one place, in another, Manes, and so on. That, my dear friends, is something much worse than all materialism. These quite abstract explanations, all this symbolising of an abstract nature is, regarded inwardly, much worse than any external materialism. Anyhow, we see that, in showing his Nereids and Tritons on the way to Samothrace to fetch the holy Kabiri, Goethe wished, above all, to raise the idea of Homunculus to a very high human plane.
And so, with regard to the Kabiri, we must experience what the ancient peoples did with regard to their deities. These deities of primeval peoples appear primitive to man today — mere idols. This is so because modern man has no understanding for idols. This is so because modern man has no understanding for all that flows out of elemental forces. Not even in art does man rise today to anything really creative. He keeps to a model, or judges what is represented for him in art by the question: Is it like?—Often indeed one hears the objection that it is not natural, because, among men today, there is very little real artistic feeling. In any case, whoever wishes to understand the sometimes grotesque looking figures of the ancient Gods, must try to form an idea of the beings belonging to the third elemental world, from which our world springs, on the one hand in its mineral, on the other, in its organic products.
You know how the scene begins. The Nereids and Tritons are on their way to Samothrace to fetch the Kabiri, amongst whom Homunculus is to be transformed into Home. In the meantime, while they are on their journey, Thales, who is to be the guide of Homunculus in becoming man, betakes himself to the old sea God, Nereus. It was Thales, the old philosopher of nature, whom first Homunculus had sought out. Now, Goethe is neither a mystic in the bad sense of the word, not a mere natural philosopher, when it is a question of finding reality. Hence Thales himself cannot be made to help Homunculus to become Home. Goethe had a deep respect for Thales conception of the world, but did not attribute to him the ability, the force, to advise Homunculus how to become man, complete man. For this, one should betake oneself outside the body to a demonic power — to old Nereus. Goethe brings the most various demonic powers to Homunculus. What kind of power is this Nereus? Now we can see this by the way the old sea-God speaks in Goethe's poem. It might be said that Nereus is the wise, prophetic, but somewhat philistine inhabitant of the spiritual world nearest man, the world man first enters on leaving the body. And, we ask, does he know at all how Homunculus is to become man? Nereus has indeed understanding, even to the point of prophetic clairvoyance; and he makes noble use of this understanding, but even so does not really succeed in reaching what is innermost in the human being. Because of this he feels men do not listen to him, do not heed his counsel. He has, as it were, no access to the human soul. On many occasions he has advised men, warned men; once he warned Paris against bringing so much misery on Troy, but to no effect. Now Nereus, since he is not hampered by a physical body, has developed on the physical plane to a very high degree human understanding that is possessed in a much less degree by man. But even with this understanding he cannot help Homunculus very far on the road to becoming Homo. What Nereus is able to say does not entirely meet the case. So by that nothing is actually gained for Homunculus' task.
Nereus says, however, that although he will not concern himself in giving Homunculus advice about becoming Homo, he is expecting his daughters, the Dorides (or Nereides). In particular, he expects Galatea, the most outstanding of them; for they are to attend the ocean-festival. Galatea! and Imagination of a mighty kind.
What the question is here, is to see how things are connected in the world. It is not very easy to speak on this point, because of the soul's desire today to reduce everything to abstractions. But anyone who looks into these matters may experience a great deal. There are, no doubt, well-intentioned people who say they believe in the spirit. Certainly, it is not a bad thing at least to believe in the spirit; but how do they answer the weighty question: What do you mean exactly by the ‘spirit’ in which you believe? What is the spirit? Spiritualists generally renounce all claim to learning anything of the spirit by doing much that is quite unspiritual. Spiritualism is the most materialistic doctrine that can exist. Certain souls more finely tuned speak indeed of the spirit, but what is it exactly that they have i mind when so speaking? That is why very modern and sceptical minds prefer to forgo the spirit — I mean, of course, only in thought — prefer to give up the spirit as against what can be known today through the senses. Read the article called “Spirit” in Fritz Mauthner's Dictionary of Philosophy; there you will probably be able to get bodily conditions but not those of the head.
Now, you see, in Spiritual Science one should rise above all this abstract talking, even if it is about the spirit. Follow what is said in Spiritual Science, and you will see how it rises progressively as we work. Everything is drawn upon that, step by step, can lead into the actual spiritual world. What is said is not merely the spoken word but derives its force from a method of comparison. Only think how, by the very way Spiritual Science is presented here, it becomes comprehensible that man is pursuing a certain path in life, in the physical body. Read, for instance, what is given comprehensively in the October number of Das Reich (1918). It is shown there how, and by means of what forces, a human being while quite a child has the closest affinity to the material world; how in middle life his soul gains in importance; how in later life he becomes spiritual. This, however, he often does not recognise because he is not prepared for it. He becomes spiritual as the body falls into decay, as the body becomes dry and sclerotic the spirit becomes free, even during the waking condition. Only, a man is very seldom conscious of what he is able to experience if he grows old with a certain gift. I mean here with a gift of the spiritual; that is to say if, not simply growing decrepit in body, he experiences the soul becoming young, becoming spirit.
This makes us realise, my dear friends, that the spirit cannot be seen in an old man or old woman; naturally it is invisible. The decrepit body can be seen but not the spirit growing young and fresh. Wrinkles may be perceived in the flesh of the cheeks, but not the growing fullness of the spirit; that is supersensible. We can, however, indicate where the spirit may be found here in the world where we are leading our everyday existence. And if we then say: The whole of nature is permeated by spirit, we reach the point when we realise that outside in nature where the minerals and plants make manifest the external world, there dwells something of the same force into which we men and women grow as we become old. There you have the visible expression of it. To say, in a pantheistic way, that outside lives the spirit, means nothing at all, because spirit then remains a mere word. But if we say, not in a direct abstract way, but with the necessary and various details: To find the force that as you grow old is always becoming stronger in you, look to the innermost and most active of the forces of nature — then we are speaking of a reality. The essential thing is to set the one force by the side of the other, and to notice the place of each. These things can be livingly realised by turning one's gaze to the force-impulses in the whole connection of a physical human being's descent to earth — from conception, throughout the embryonic life till birth. The dull, dry-as-dust scientist stops short at this force; it is true, he examines it punctiliously but only in his own way, and then comes to a standstill. When a man is able to survey the world from the standpoint of Spiritual Science, he knows, however, that this force is also present in other places. Acting more quickly, the very same force makes itself felt when you wake in the morning, when you wake out of sleep. Exactly the same force, though in a more tenuous form, is present, as the one leading from conception through the embryonic life to birth; it is the identical force. This force is not only in you, in your innermost being; it is diffused outside, throughout everything and every process in the whole wide cosmos.
This force is the daughter of cosmic intelligence. You see, if we wish to describe these things, we must touch on many matters that, today, are quite out of the ordinary. What then does the modern scientist do, when wishing to come upon the secret of physical germination? He uses the microscope; he examines the germ-cell under the microscope, before it is fertilised, after it is fertilised, and so on. He has no feeling that what he thus examines in the smallest object under the microscope is constantly before his eyes in the macrocosm. The very same process that goes on, for example, in the womb of the mother, before and during conception, and during the whole embryonic life, this same process, this very same process, goes on macrocosmically when, after the seed has sunk down into the earth, the earth sends forth the little plant. The warmth of the womb, the warmth of the pregnant mother, is exactly the same as is the sun outside for the whole vegetation of the world. It is important to be able to realise that what can be seen in the smallest object under the microscope, can be looked upon macrocosmically all around in the external world. When we wander about among he growing plants, we are actually in the womb of the world. In short, the force underlying the becoming of man is outside in the whole macrocosmic world, seething and weaving there. Imagine this force personified, imagine this same force of human becoming grasped spiritually in its spiritual counterpart outside the human body, and you have Galatea, with those akin to her, her sisters, the Dorides. In these Imaginations we are led into a mysterious but quite real world. This is one of the most profound scenes written by Goethe, who was conscious that, at the most advanced age, man may have a premonition of these secrets of nature.
There is something overwhelmingly significant in Goethe beginning Faust in his youth and then, shortly before the end of his life, writing such scenes as are now being shown. For sixty years he was striving to find the way of putting into outward form what, at the beginning of that time, he had conceived. He draws upon everything he considers relevant to raise the idea of Homunculus to the idea of Homo, and to present man's becoming outside the body, in all its mystery. He draws upon the Kabiri Mystery, and the mystery of becoming man as it appeared in the figure of Galatea. And he knows that reality is so all-embracing, so profound, that the Imaginations awakened by the Kabiri impulses, by the Galatea-impulse, can do no more than hover on its surface. The mystery is far greater than what can be contained even in such impulses.
Goethe himself tried every means of approaching the secret of life in a true and living way. Thus he evolved his theory of metamorphosis, in which he follows up the different forms in nature — how one form develops out of another. Now Goethe's theory of metamorphosis must not be regarded in and abstract way. He shows us this himself. It is perhaps because it can only be conceived and brought to man's soul in a world-outlook free of the body that, with his theory of metamorphosis Goethe approaches what was atavistically experienced in the old Proteus-myth. Perhaps Proteus, who in his own becoming takes on such different forms, perhaps through his experiences it would be possible to find how Homunculus can become Homo. (You know how, in this scene, Goethe introduces him, and we present him, as tortoise, man, dolphin, three forms appearing one after another.)
But Goethe felt that there were still limitations to his theory of metamorphosis. Surely, you may say, a man with such profound, such fundamental knowledge, as Goethe could see what follows from this theory; with it one can watch one leaf of a plant changing into another, up to the petal of the flower, the spinal vertebrae transforming themselves into the bones of the head, the skull-bones? But Goethe — anyone who has worked on Goethe's world-conception knows how he wrestled in this sphere — Goethe knew he could go no farther. Yet he felt: There is something beyond all this. — We know what that something is — the head of the present man is the metamorphosis of the body of the previous man, the man of an earlier life on earth; the rest of his body in this earth-life will, in the next life, become the head. There, for man's life, we have metamorphosis — the crown of metamorphosis. He draws on what he feels about Proteus, but that can lead only to raising the idea of Homunculus to that of Homo. Goethe felt he had made a great beginning with the Protean idea of metamorphosis, but that this had to be developed were Homunculus to become Homo. Goethe in all honesty represents poetically both what he can and what he cannot do, and we see deep into his soul. It is no doubt, easier to picture an abstract, perfect Goethe and to assure ourselves he knew everything. But No! Goethe becomes all the greater by our recognising the limitations he himself so honestly admits, as may be seen, for instance, in his not allowing Proteus — that is, the way he conceives his theory of metamorphosis — to give counsel regarding Homunculus becoming Homo.
Goethe strove, indeed, form the most varied directions to approach this becoming — this growing to true man. For him, artistic conception was not, as it is for so many, fundamentally abstract. He considered that everything expressed in works of art was part of all that is creative in the world. Into this scene he puts all that was to have led him to his heart's desire — to fathoming the mystery of becoming man. As he stood before the Greek works of art, or rather, the Italian work which made Greek art real for him, he said to himself: I am an the track of what the Greeks were doing in the creation of their works of art; they acted in accordance with the same forces as does nature, in her creations. And he had the experience that, if the artist is a true artist, he unites himself in marriage, as it were, with the forces creating in nature; he creates his forms, and all that can be created artistically, out of what is working in the arising, the growing, of plants of animals, of man. But in all this there is still no inner knowledge. That is what Goethe had to admit to himself. The creative forces present themselves to our vision, allow us to feel them, but in metamorphosis we do not go right within them.
There next appear the Telchines of Rhodes. They are such great artists that, naturally. all external human art seems small in comparison. They forged Neptune's trident. They were the first who tried to represent Gods in human form, that is, to create man out of the actual cosmic forces. This art of the Telchines comes nearer reproducing man's becoming, but does not quite reach it. This is what Goethe is wishing to tell us. He expresses it through Proteus who says finally: Even this does not lead to the real mystery of man.
Thus does Goethe wish to evoke a true feeling that there are two worlds — the waking world of day, and the world that is entered when man is free of the body, the world he would see if, during sleep he became awake to this body-free condition. Everything of the kind that he would say, is indicated by Goethe in this scene most delicately and sublimely. Take, for example, the passage where the Dorides bring in the sailor-lads; read the works in which the world is described, how the physical world is set beside the world entered when man is free of the body — how this is pictured in the Dorides set beside the physical sailor boys. They have found each other and yet not found each other. Human beings and spirits meet one another, yet do not meet; they approach each other and remain strangers. In this passage, the relation of the two worlds is wonderfully indicated. Everywhere Goethe endeavours to show how essential it is to place oneself into the spiritual world to find what makes Homunculus into Homo. At the same time he delicately indicates how physical world and spiritual world are together yet apart.
One might say that in his artistic representation, Goethe sees — or rather, makes us see — how Homunculus can become Homo if the soul approaches the intimate mystery of the Kabiri, if it approach what Nereus evoked in his daughter Galatea. All that is active in the true art that works out of the cosmos. But, alas, it is as if one were grasping after reality in a dream, and the dream immediately fades away. It is as though one wished to hold fast what welds together the physical and the spiritual worlds. The Gods will not suffer it; the worlds fall apart.
This difficulty of knowing the spirit is the fundamental experience, the fundamental impulse in the soul of one who watches this scene with true understanding. It is this that leads Goethe to his mighty finale — the shattering of Homunculus against the shell-chariot of Galatea, the shattering that is at the same time an arising, a coming into being, the ascent into the elements, which is a finding of the self in reality.
We will speak again tomorrow of this conclusion of the scene, in connection with its representation.