The Michael Impulse - Lecture X
from The Mysteries of Light, of Space, and of the EarthDornach, December 13, 1919
Translated by Frances E. Dawson
I spoke to you yesterday of the relations of anthroposophical
spiritual science to the forms of our building, and I wished particularly
to point out that these relations are not external ones, but that
the spirit which rules in our spiritual science has flowed, so
to speak, into these forms. Special importance must be attached
to the fact that it is possible to maintain that an actual understanding
of these forms through feeling indicates, in a certain
sense, a deciphering of the inner meaning existing in our Movement.
Today I should like to take up a few things concerning the building,
in order then to present today and tomorrow some important anthroposophical
You will see when you contemplate the building that its ground-plan consists of two intersecting circles, one smaller than the other; so that I may sketch it roughly thus:
The whole building has an east-west orientation;
and you will note that this east-west line is the only axis of
symmetry; that is, everything is constructed symmetrically upon
For the rest, we do not have a mere mechanical repetition of forms, such as we find elsewhere in architecture, perchance with identical capitals, or the like, but we have an evolution of forms, as I explained in detail yesterday, with the later ones emerging from the preceding.
You will find seven columns on the left and seven on the right, defining the outer circular passage; and I mentioned yesterday that these seven columns have capitals and pedestals, with corresponding architraves above, which develop their forms in continuous evolution.
When you feel this ground-plan - and you must comprehend it through feeling - you will have, simply in these two intersecting circles, something which points to the evolution of humanity. I said yesterday that a very significant, incisive change in the evolution of humanity occurred about the middle of the 15th century. What is exteriorly and academically called "history" is only a fable convenue, for it records external facts in such a way as to make it appear that the human being was essentially the same in the 8th or 9th century as, let us say, in the 18th or 19th. There are, however, modern historians-for example, Lamprecht - who have discovered that this is nonsense, that as a matter of fact man's soul-constitution and soul-mood were entirely different before and after the point of time indicated. We are at present in the midst of an evolution which we can only understand when we realize that we are developing toward the future with special soul forces, and that those soul forces which had been developed before the 15th century are now still, we might say, haunting the souls of men, becoming fainter and fainter; but that they belong to what is perishing, to what is condemned to fall out of human evolution. We must develop a consciousness concerning this important change in the evolution of humanity if we are to be qualified at all to have anything to say about the concerns of humanity in the present and the immediate future.
Such things find expression particularly when people wish to refer significantly to what they feel, what they sense. We need only to remind ourselves of one fact in the development of architecture which has already been mentioned here, but to which I wish to refer again today, in order to show by an example how the evolution of humanity strides forward.
Just observe the forms of a Greek temple! How can they be understood? Only by realizing clearly that the whole architectural idea of this Greek temple takes its orientation from the fact that it was the dwelling place of a god or a goddess, whose statue was placed within it. All the forms of the Greek temple would be absurdities if it were not conceived as the shelter, the abode, of the god or goddess who was intended to dwell in it.
If we proceed from the forms of the Greek temple to the next forms of construction which are significant, we come to the Gothic cathedral. Anyone who has the feeling upon entering a Gothic cathedral that in this cathedral he has before him something completed, something finished, does not understand the forms of Gothic architecture; just as anyone fails to understand the forms of the Greek temple who can regard it as if it contained no statue of a god. A Greek temple without the image of a god - we need only to imagine that it is there, but it must be imagined in order to understand the form - a Greek temple without the statue of a god is an impossibility to the understanding which comes through feeling. A Gothic cathedral which is empty is also an impossibility for the person who really has some feeling for such things. The Gothic cathedral is complete only when the congregation is in it, when it is filled with people - really, only when it is filled with people and the word is spoken to them so that the spirit of the word rules over the congregation or in their hearts. Then the Gothic cathedral is complete. But the congregation belongs to - it; otherwise the forms are unintelligible.
What kind of an evolution really confronts us in the evolution from the Greek temple to the Gothic cathedral - for the other forms are actually intermediate ones, whatever mistaken historical interpretation may say about it - what kind of an evolution confronts us there? If we look at the Greek civilization, this flower of the fourth post-Atlantean period, we must say that in the Greek consciousness there still lived something of the tarrying of divine-spiritual powers among men; only that the people felt impelled to erect dwelling places for their gods whom they could represent to themselves only in images. The Greek temple was the abode of the god or the goddess, of whose presence among them the people were conscious. Without this consciousness of the presence of divine-spiritual powers the phenomenon of the Greek temple in the Greek civilization is unthinkable.
If we go on now from the summit of the Greek civilization to its close, toward the end of the fourth post-Atlantean period. that is, toward the 8th, 9th, or 10th Christian century, we come to the forms of Gothic architecture, which requires the congregation to complete it. Everything corresponds to the feeling life of the humanity of that time. Human beings were then naturally different in their soul-disposition from those living when Greek thought was at its height. There was no longer a consciousness of the immediate presence of divine-spiritual powers; they were thought of as being far removed to the beyond. The earthly kingdom was often accused of having deserted the divine-spiritual powers. The material world was looked upon as something to be avoided, from. which the eyes were to be averted and to be turned instead toward the spiritual powers. The individual sought by joining with the others in the congregation - going in quest, as it were, of the group-spirit of humanity - the rule of the spiritual, which in this way acquired a certain abstract quality: hence the Gothic forms also produce an abstract mathematical impression, as contrasted with those of Greek architecture, which appear more dynamic, and which have something of the comfortable inclusion of the god or goddess. In the Gothic forms everything is aspiring, everything points to the fact that what the soul thirsts for must be sought in remote spiritual regions. For the Greek his god and his goddess were present; he heard their whispers, as it were, with the ear of the soul. In the time of the Gothic architecture the longing soul could only have an inkling of the presence of the divine in upward-pointing forms.
Thus in its soul-mood humanity had become filled with longing, so to speak; it built upon longing, upon seeking, believing that it was possible to be more successful in this seeking through union with the congregation; but it was always convinced that what is recognized as the divine-spiritual is not directly active among men, but conceals itself in mysterious depths. Now if one wished to express what was thus yearningly striven for and sought, it could only be done by linking it in one way or another with something mysterious. The contemporary expression of this whole soul-mood of the people was the temple or, we could also say, the cathedral, which in its proper typical form is the Gothic cathedral. But, again., if that which man yearned for as the highest of all mysteries was observed with spiritual vision, then at the very moment when one was about to rise from the earthly to the super-earthly, it would be necessary to pass over from the mere Gothic to something else, which - we might say- -did not unite the physical congregation, but caused to tend toward one central point, toward a mysterious central point, the whole spirit of humanity strivng together - or the souls and spirits of humanity striving together.
If you imagine, let us say, the totality of human souls as streaming together from all directions, you have in a certain way united on the earth the humanity of the whole earth, as in a great cathedral, which was not however thought of as Gothic, although it should have the same significance as the Gothic cathedral. In the Middle Ages such things were connected with the Biblical narrative - and if you imagine that the seventy-two disciples (it is not necessary to think of physical history, but of the spirituality which in those times actually did permeate the physical view of the world) - if you imagine, as was believed in accordance with the spirit of the time, that the seventy-two disciples of Christ spread out in all directions and implanted in souls the spirit which was to flow together in the Mystery of Christ: then in all that streamed back again from those in whose souls the disciples had implanted the Christ Spirit, in the rays which come from all directions from all those souls, you have that which the man of the early Middle Ages conceived in the most comprehensive and universal way as striving toward the Mystery.
It is not necessary perhaps to draw all seventy-two pillars, but I merely indicate them (see drawing) and you are to imagine that there were seventy-two. From these seventy-two pillars, then, would come the rays which tend from all humanity toward the Mystery of Christ. Enclose the whole with some kind of wall - it would not be Gothic, but I have already told you why one did not stop sharply with the Gothic enclose it with a wall whose ground-plan is a circle; and if you imagine here the seventy-two pillars, you would have the cathedral which encloses all humanity, so to speak. And if you also imagine it as having an east-west orientation, then naturally you must sense in it an entirely different ground-plan from that of our building, which is constructed from two segments of circles - the feeling toward this ground-plan must be entirely different, and I tried to describe this feeling roughly for you: it would then be supposed that the principal lines of orientation of a building erected according to this ground-plan would have the form of a cross, and that the main aisles would be arranged according to this cross-form (see drawing.)
This is the way the man of the Middle Ages conceived
his ideal cathedral. If east is here and west here (see drawing),
then we should have north and south here. And then in the north,
south, and west there would be three doors, and here in the east
would be a sort of lateral high altar, and a kind of altar at
each pillar; but here, where the beams of the cross intersect,
would have to stand the temple of the temple, the cathedral of
the cathedrals - a sort of epitome of the whole, a representation
in miniature of the whole. We should say in modern speech, which
has become abstract: here would stand a little tabernacle, but
in the form of the whole.
What I have drawn for you here you should imagine in a style of architecture which only approximates the real Gothic, which still includes all sorts of Romanesque forms, but which has throughout the orientation I have indicated. In this I have drawn for you at the same time the sketch of the Grail-temple, as conceived by the man of the Middle Ages, that Grail-temple which was, so to speak, the ideal of construction toward the end of the fourth post-Atlantean epoch, - a cathedral in which the longings of all humanity orientated to Christ flowed together - just as in the single cathedral the longings of the members of the congregation flowed together; and just as in the Greek temple the people felt themselves united even when they were not in it - for the Greek temple demands only that the god or goddess be in it, not the people - in other words, as the Greek people of a certain territory felt that they were united through their temple with their god or goddess. If we wish to speak in accordance with the facts, we can say: When the Greek described his relation to the temple, he did it in somewhat the following way: When he said in speaking of any person - say Pericles - "Pericles dwells in this house," this was not intended to mean that the man himself who uttered it had a relation of ownership or any other relation to the house; but he simply realized the fact of his union with Pericles when he said: "Pericles dwells in this house." With exactly the same shade of feeling the Greek would also have expressed his relation to what was to be deciphered in the style of architecture, thus: "Athene dwells in this house," - it is the abode of the goddess - or, "Apollo dwells in this house!"
The congregation of the Middle Ages could not say that with regard to their cathedral, because it was not the house in which the divine-spiritual being dwelt; it was the house which expressed in every single form the gathering-place where the people attuned their souls to the mysteriously divine. Therefore, in what I might call the prototype-temple, at the end of the fourth post-Atlantean period, there stood in the center the temple of the temple, the cathedral of the cathedral; and of the whole one might say: "If anyone enters here, he will be able herein to lift himself to the mysteries of the universe." It was necessary to enter the cathedral. Of the Greek temple it was only necessary to say: "That is the house of Apollo; that is the house of Pallas." And at the central point in that prototype-temple, where the beams of the cross intersect-at the central point the Holy Grail was enshrined, there it was preserved.
You see we must in this way follow the soul-attitude characterizing each historical epoch, otherwise we cannot come to know what really happened. And most of all, we cannot without such observation learn what soul-forces are beginning to bud again in our time.
The Greek temple, then, enclosed the god or goddess, and the people knew that the gods were present among men. But the man of the Middle Ages did not feel that; he felt that in a sense the earthly world was deserted by God, forsaken by the Divine. He felt the longing to find the way back to the gods, or to God.
Indeed we are today only at the starting point, for only a few centuries have elapsed since the great change in the middle of the 15th century. Most people scarcely notice what is unfolding, but something is unfolding; human souls are becoming different; and that must also be different which must now flow anew into the forms in which the consciousness of the time is embodied. These things cannot, of course, be grasped by speculating about them with the reason, with the intellect; they can only be sensed, felt, viewed artistically. Anyone who wishes to put them into abstract concepts does not really understand them; but - they can be indicated descriptively in the most various ways. So it must be said that the Greek felt the god or the goddess as his contemporary, as his fellow-citizen. The man of the Middle Ages had the cathedral which served, not as the dwelling-place for the god, but which was intended to be in a sense the entrance-door to the way which leads to the divine. The people gathered together in the cathedral and their yearning arose, as it were, out of the group-soul of humanity. That is the characteristic quality, that this entire humanity of the Middle Ages had something which can be understood only in the light of the group-soul. Up to the middle of the 15th century the individual human being was not of such importance as he has become since that time. Since then the most essential characteristic in the human being is the striving to be an individuality, the striving to concentrate individual forces of personality, to find a central point within himself.
Neither can that be understood which is arising in the exceedingly varied social demands of our time unless the dominion of the individual spirit in each single human being is discerned, the desire of each individual to stand upon the foundation of his own being.
Because of this there is something that becomes especially important fur man at this time; it began about the middle of the 15th century and will not come to a close until about the third millenium - something of very special importance for this time set in then. You see it is quite indefinite to say that each man strives for his particular individuality. The group-spirit, even when it comprises only small groups, is much more comprehensible than is that to which each single human being aspires out of the well-spring of his own individuality. For this reason it is particularly important for the people of modern times to understand what may be called seeking balance between opposite poles.
The one wishes to soar beyond the head, as it were. All that causes a man to be a dreamer, a visionary, a deluded person, all that fills him with indefinite mystical impulses toward some indefinite infinity - even if he is pantheist or theist or whatever else, and there are many of the kind today - that is the one pole. The other is that of prosiness, aridity - expressed trivially, but not with unreality as concerns the spirit of the present time, certainly not - the pole of philistinism. of narrow-mindedness, the pole which draws us down to earth into materialism. These .two poles of force are in man, and between them stands the essential being of man, seeking equilibrium. In how many ways can equilibrium be sought? You can represent that to yourselves by the illustration of the scales (see drawing). In how many ways can one seek balance between two poles pulling in opposite directions?
If here on one side of the scales there are 50 grams
or 50 kilograms, and also here on the other side, they balance,
do they not ? But if here on one side there is one kilogram and
one kilogram on the other, they still balance; and if there are
a thousand here and a thousand here, they balance! You can seek
equilibrium in innumerable ways. That corresponds to the infinite
number of ways of being an individual human being. Hence for
people of the present it is very essential to comprehend that
their nature consists in the struggle for balance between two
opposite poles, And the indefiniteness of the effort for balance
is that very indefiniteness of which I spoke before. Therefore
the man of the present time will succeed in his seeking only if
he unites this seeking with the struggle for balance.
Just as it was important for the Greek to feel: In the commonwealth to which I belong Pallas rules, Apollo rules; that is the abode of Pallas, that, of Apollo; just as it was important for the people of the Middle Ages to know: There is a place of assembly which enshrines something - be it relics of a saint, or even the Holy Grail - there is a place of assembly, in which, when the people gather, the soul-yearnings can flow toward indefinite mysterious things, - so is it important for modern man to develop a feeling for what he is as an individual human being; that as an individual human being he is a seeker for equilibrium between two opposite, two polaric forces. From the point of view of the soul it may be expressed thus: On one side that force holds sway through which man wishes to soar beyond his head, as it were, the ecstatic, the fantastic, that which would develop rapture and takes no account of the real conditions of existence. As from the point of view of the soul we can characterize one extreme in this way, and the other by saying that it pulls toward the earth, toward the insipid, the barren, the aridly intellectual, and so on, and so on, we can also say, speaking physiologically, that the one pole is everything that heats the blood, and if heated too much it becomes feverish. Expressed physiologically, the one pole is everything connected with the forces of the blood; the other pole all that is connected with the ossifying, the petrifying of man, which if it goes to the physiological extreme would lead to sclerosis in most varied forms. And man must also maintain his balance physiologically between sclerosis and fever as the terminal poles. Life consists fundamentally in seeking the balance between the insipid, the arid. the philistine, and the ecstatically fantastic. We are healthy in soul when we find this balance. We are healthy in body when we can live in balance between fever and sclerosis, ossification. That can be done in an endless number of ways, and in it the individuality can express itself.
It is in this sense that modern man must come to understand. through his feeling, the ancient Apollo-saying: "Know thou thyself." But "Know thou thyself" not in some abstract way; "Know thou thyself in the struggle for balance." Therefore we have to set up at the east end of the building what is intended to cause the human being to feel this struggle for balance. That is to be represented in the plastic wood group mentioned yesterday, with the Christ-Form as the central figure - the Christ-Form which we have tried to fashion in such a way that one may imagine: It was really thus that the Christ went about in Palestine at the beginning of our era in the man Jesus of Nazareth. The conventional pictures of the bearded Christ are actually only creations of the fifth or sixth century and they are really not in any way true portraits, if I may use the expression. That has been attempted here: to produce a true portrait of Christ, Who is to be at the same time the Representative of the seeking human being, the human being striving for balance.
You will see then in this group two figures (see drawing below) here the falling Lucifer, here the upward-striving Lucifer; here below, connected with Lucifer, as it were, an Ahrimanic form, and here a second Ahrimanic form. The Representative of Humanity is placed between the Ahrimanic form - the philistine, the insipid, the aridly materialistic - and the Lucifer-form - the ecstatic, the fantastic; between the Ahriman figure - all that leads to petrifaction, to sclerosis - and the Lucifer-figure - the representation of all that leads man feverishly out beyond the limit of what his health can endure.
After we have placed in the center, as it were, the Gothic cathedral, which encloses no image, but either the relics of saints or even the Holy Grail - that is, something no longer directly connected with beings living on Earth - then we come back again, I might say, to the idea of the building as enclosing something, but now enclosing the being of man fit his struggle for balance.
If destiny permits it, and this building can some
day be completed, he who sits within it will have directly before
him, while he is looking upon the Being who gives meaning to the
earth evolution, something which suggests to him to say: the Christ-Being.
But this is to be felt in an artistic way. It must not be
merely reasoned about speculatively as being the Christ, but it
must be felt. The whole is artistically conceived, and
what comes to artistic expression in the forms is the most important
part. But it is nevertheless intended to suggest to the human
being through feeling - I might say to the exclusion of the intellect,
which is to be merely the ladder to feeling - that he is to look
toward the east of the building and be able to say: "That
art thou." But now, not an abstract definition of man, for
balance can be effected in innumerable ways. Not an image of
a god is enclosed, for it is true for Christians also that they
are to make no image of God - not an image of a god is enclosed,
but that is enclosed which has developed out of the qualities
of the human group-soul into the individual force-entity of
each separate human being. And the working and weaving of
the individual impulse is taken into account in these forms.
If you do not reason about what I have now said (that, of course, is the favorite method today), but if you penetrate it with the feeling, and realize that nothing is symbolized or thought out with the intellect, but that first of all the effort has at least been made to let it flow out in artistic forms: then you have the basic principle which is intended to be expressed in this Goetheanum Building; but you have also the nature of the connection between that which purposes to be anthroposophically orientated spiritual science and the inner spirit of human evolution. In our time one cannot reach this anthroposophical spiritual science except by way of the great modern demands of humanity's present and immediate future. We must really learn to speak in a different way about that which is actually bearing mankind toward the future.
There are now many kinds of secret societies which take pride in themselves, but which are really nothing more nor less than mere custodians of that which is still being projected into the present out of the time before the great turning point in the 15th century, - a fact which frequently comes to expression even quite externally. We have also repeatedly been able to experience that such aspiration has penetrated our ranks. How very often, when some one wishes to express the. special merit of a so-called occult movement is reference made to its age. We had among us at one time, for example, a man who wished to play himself up a little bit as a Rosicrucian; and when he said something, which was generally his most personal, trivial opinion, he almost never failed to add: "as the old Rosicrucians used to say;" and he never omitted the "old." If one looks about among many of the secret societies of the present time, it will be seen everywhere that the value of the things advocated consists in being able to point to their venerable age. Some go back to Rosicrucianism - in their own way, of course - others naturally go back much farther still, especially to Egypt; and if anybody today can retail Egyptian temple wisdom, a large proportion of humanity will be taken in at the mere announcement.
Most of our friends know that we have continually emphasized that this anthroposophically-orientated spiritual movement has nothing to do with this straining after the ancient. Its endeavor concerns that which is now being revealed directly from the spiritual world to this physical world. Therefore about many things it must speak differently from some secret societies, - which are to be taken seriously, but which are nevertheless building upon antiquated foundations, and are at present still playing a prominent role in human events. When you hear such people talking (indeed, sometimes in this day their own inclinations make them speak), people who are initiated into certain mysteries of present day secret societies, you will notice that they speak chiefly of three things. First, of that which the real seeker for the spiritual world experiences, and which he cannot possibly avoid when he first crosses the threshold of that world, namely, the meeting with powers which are the actual enemies of mankind, the real essential opponents of the physical human being living here on earth as he is intended by the Divine Powers to live. That is to say, these people know that what is concealed from the. ordinary human consciousness is permeated by those powers which may be called with some justice the essential causes of illness and death, but with whom also is interwoven all that is connected with human birth. And you can hear from the people who know something of these things that one ought to be silent about them, because what lies beyond the normal consciousness cannot be revealed to profane humanity. (In speaking thus they really mean the immature souls who have not made themselves strong enough for it-and indeed that includes a large proportion of humanity.)
The second experience is, that at the moment in which man learns to recognize the truth (it can be recognized only when one has knowledge of supersensible mysteries) he learns to recognize also to what extent everything that can be affirmed merely through sense observation of the environing world is illusion, deception, - indeed, the more exact the external research, the greater the illusion. This loss of the solid ground from under his feet which the man of our time especially needs, so that he can say, "That is a fact, for I have seen it" - this loss takes place with this crossing of the threshold.
The third is, that at the moment we be-in to do the work of a human being - whenever human deeds are accomplished, whether working with tools or cultivating the ground, but especially when we perform human deeds which we weave into the web of the social organisnim - when we work in this way we do something which not only concerns us as men, but which is related to the whole universe. Of course man believes today that when he builds a locomotive, or makes a telephone or a lightning conductor or a table, or when he cures the sick, or even fails to cure, or does anything at all, - he believes that such things play a role only within human evolution on earth. No; it is a deep truth which I have indicated in my mystery-drama, The Portal of Initiation, that when something occurs here, there are resultant events in the whole universe (call to mind the scene between Strader and Capesius).- The people who today know something of these things begin with these three experiences, which are, however, preserved in these societies in the form they had before the middle of the 15th century-and in this form they are often greatly misunderstood. Such people begin with these things, referring first to the mysteries of illness, health, birth, and death; second, to the mystery of the great illusion in the sense world; third, to the mystery of the universal significance of human work; and they speak in a certain way. What is said about all these things, and especially about these most important things, must be different from the past. I should like to give you an idea how differently such things were spoken of in the past, how what was said flowed out into the general consciousness, how it permeated the ordinary natural science, the ordinary social thinking, and so on; and how they must be spoken of in the future, whenever the truth is really spoken; how what then comes from the secret sources of the striving for knowledge must flow out into the external knowledge of nature, into the external social view, and so forth.
Of this mighty metamorphosis - which should be understood today, because men must awake fully from the group consciousness to the individual consciousness - of this great metamorphosis, this historic metamorphosis, I should like to speak to you further.
This page maintained by Robert F. Lathe and Nancy Parsons Whittaker.
Please mail comments and questions to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Last update: November 29, 1997