After the Speech and Drama Course given by Rudolf Steiner in 1924, Albert Steffen spoke the following lines:
…‘ We artists live in a world of semblance, but we have here been enabled to see that this semblance, this glory, comes from a light that is at the very foundation of all being – comes from the Word’… 1)
Anthroposophical Formative Speech is an art that spans a bridge between all languages. Rudolf Steiner was able to ‘read’ the Eurythmy forms for the vowels and consonants clairvoyantly, out of the spiritual world, directly as Marie Steiner spoke them, in the early days of Formative Speech. Speech and Eurythmy were thus bonded together from the beginning, as well as Speech and Drama. A qualified speaker accompanied the Eurythmy in a kind of spontaneous artistic creation of the arts. These new arts seek the spirit behind language itself and can be applied to all languages.
The experience of placement : palatal speech, speech on the lips, and speech spoken on the teeth are all in conjunction with speaking ‘on the breath’. Through a deepening of this experience, one can reveal the inner nature of the various languages, in their rhythms and intonations. Such understandings, as applied to specific languages, would entail a lifelong study of linguistic applications of Formative Speech; and that would be only a beginning. One day in the far future nations and folk souls will disappear and the humans will truly be together. That is a Michaelic thought. Language will be one, and no doubt, much different than it is today.
The theme of the spiritual journey in literature, as well as that of the English language is to be brought forth in view of the spiritual seeking in which we are all involved. Mantric verse is brought into being in literature to invoke a spiritual content. Conceiving and bringing ideas from the spiritual worlds, transformed into poetry and drama is a service to humanity. It is related to the aspiration of becoming truly human.
Writing is actually a will activity. In ‘The Sensible-Supersensible Spiritual Knowledge and Artistic Creation’ 2), Steiner speaks of writing, as body-free willing. The spiritual forces of the hierarchies help to enable this, but each individual’s striving brings forth something unique. Many of the works here have been chosen to bring forth a sense of resurrected feeling. As spring is in the air now, it is a moment in our southern hemisphere that engenders a mood of new birth in nature. Michaelmas in the springtime strives to incarnate new ideas for human evolution.
First of all what is Drama as such? Each individual biography can be seen as a drama. There is a quest in each life, in the riddle of each individual’s existence, as well as in human evolution. That is perhaps why the initiation-quest theme never dies in literature.
In our life–after-death experience, after the Angels, Archangels and Archai of the Third Hierarchy have helped us through the Moon, the Mercury and the Venus spheres, where our beings have begun to be spiritually healed and restored, we enter the Sun sphere, the Second Hierarchy, wherein the Kyriotetes, Dynamis and Exusiai are active. Afterwards we continue on through the First Hierarchy of Thrones, Cherubim, and Seraphim in the Mars, Jupiter and Saturn spheres, seeking the Midnighthour, which is in the Saturn sphere. We then experience the next step in our individual quest. At that point, a new incarnation is at hand. 3)
The after death evolution certainly must be a dramatic experience as well, seen in a different light; remember Maria’s experience of the midnight hour while meditating in the 8th Scene of ‘The Soul’s Awakening’ by Rudolf Steiner. 4)
In the spiritual world our lives are said to appear as rivers and tributaries, which eventually lead us to our true individualities. These etheric watercourses may be seen as scenes and acts, which eventually resolve into karmic understandings in the dramas of human evolution. It may take a few lifetimes to lead up to a dramatic resolution of karmic understanding along the path to individuality. In literature we travel along the path of imagination and of pictures, following forms that are of phantasy’s creation.
If the human being were perfect in moral development, there would be no need for drama, as we know it. Indeed the whole effort of becoming human is a drama, interspersed with poetic statements and expression.
In the theatre arts one can find several different phases, says Hans Pusch who was my first Formative Speech teacher in Spring Valley, New York. He has given a good background for contemplating these, some part of which I shall use here.
In his book Working Together on the Mystery Dramas (page 117- 119) Hans begins with a certain exercise, which anyone might experience:
‘When I place my back against a wall, and try to feel it, sense it, become a part of it; it reminds me of the happenings in early childhood, when the surrounding world was shaping me, moulding me, exerting its full influence.’
This is I would say, the beginning of the play of our lives,
He goes on to ask us to take one or two steps forward, detaching from the determining background, and growing into a world of one’s own choice. This is a basic experience of dramatic art as well as of life itself.
‘In Egypt, the priests enacted such a detachment, but in those times it concerned the separation that the soul makes from the body after death. They followed the soul’s path after death into the spiritual world where it received the holy name Osiris as the expression of its immortal self.
In Egypt, the perception that the bodily nature belongs to a cosmic whole was still there, even
though the physical form had become solid. As in all pre-Christian mysteries, the longing was to go back to the relationship to the gods in order to witness and take part in the manifestations of the first beginnings. They sought to find the clairvoyance that was disappearing; such longing was always there’.
As the plant is forever going into expansion and contraction, so one can also see from the point of view of longing. ‘The Egyptians sought for the cosmos and the stars, although they feared them as well, and indeed, worshiped the sunlight of morning. The star wisdom was yet approachable through the after death link in the process involved in the Pharoah’s mummification.’ From this point of view, I think, expansion was sought by the Egyptians.’
‘In Greecethe detachment was enacted by actors, who still preserved the priestly gestures and movements. The human being was liberating his personality from the background of
divine guidance. The human being as PERSONA, which means ’sounding through’, wore a stylised mask and used his own voice. The mask at first represented the god Dionysus, but later the human being.’ Such understandings belong to the ancient mysteries of ELEUSIS. I think these masks represent what we may now experience as an aspect of the ‘self’.
‘The human began to grow into his own soul world, contradicting words and chants, in which the chorus expressed the will of the gods, who guided human destiny.’ 5) The Greek longing was for a contraction into the world of the senses ‘ Rather a beggar on earth than a rich man in the shadow land’. At this point there was a major contraction in the calyx of the blossom of humanity. It is of interest that calyx and larynx have the same ending.
For the development of poetry, I would like to cast a glance at The Mysteries of EPHESUS.
The ancient initiation of the Word brought the pupil at Ephesusto the evolution of the earth. It is deeply concerned with the representation of ‘Adam Cadmon in Early Lemuria’, one of the Motif Sketches for painters, given by Rudolf Steiner. Of this study, I will bring forth only a few conceptions. The sense of hearing was of great importance. For, before the human being was incarnated, he was living in the spirit as Adam Cadmon.
In Steiner’s Mystery Centres one can read:
‘When the human being was still one with the macrocosm, he experienced the universe as if in himself. The Word was at the same time his environment. Man heard, and the thing he heard was World. He looked up from what he heard, but he looked up from within himself. The Word was first of all sound. The Word was something, which struggled, as it were to be solved like a riddle; in the rising of the animal creation something was revealed which struggled for a solution. Like a question the animal- kingdom arose within the chalk. Man looked into the silicic acid, and the plant creation answered with that which it had taken up as the sense nature of the earth, and solved the riddles, which the animal creation presented. These beings themselves mutually answered each other’s questions. One being, in this case the animal, puts a question: the other beings, in this case, the plants, supply the answer. The whole world becomes speech.
In the creating of the world, the chalk ascended as vapour and fell down as rain; the chalk was of a fluid nature. As it descended, it changed into solid substance…’ 6).
During a Speech and Drama Conference at the Goetheanum, the word for ‘fell down’, in Steiner’s German the word ‘traeufeln’, was brought specifically to our consciousness. It means rather to drip or drip down. In speech we must always be recreating poetry, as if we were the poet. Each poetical creation harbours back to this ‘traufeln’ as an initial kind of experience. The rhythm the poet is using rests as a structure below. The poet’s flow of creation grasps the thought from above, and lets it ‘traeufeln’ or drip down, so to speak, into the rhythm.
Many people have experienced this way of writing poetry. When I presented the hexameter in a lecture some time ago, spontaneous poetry was created in this way through the audience’s participation. This experience is consciously or unconsciously going on, I think, in the creation of all rhythmical poetry. An internal seeking to express and understand some facet of the riddle of humanity is given voice.
Animals present their riddle to the plants, and finally the ‘crown of creation’, perhaps the greatest riddle of existence, becomes incarnated. Now this mantric verse by Rudolf Steiner gains enhanced meaning:
‘In den unermesslich weiten Raeumen,
In den endenlosen Zeiten,
In der Menschenseele tiefen,
In der Welten Offenbarung:
Suche des grossen Raetzsels Loesung.’ 7)
‘In the vast immeasurable world-wide spaces
In the endless tides of time,
In the depths of human soul-life,
In the world’s great revelations:
Seek the solution to life’s great riddle.
Let us begin our study in Greek times. In the initiation process, there were originally 24 rhythms which were chanted and played on a drum by a priestess. (See Anthroposophical Therapeutic Speech, www.exploringtheword.com.au) The outer manifestations and the inner contemplations were represented as polarities, i.e. the process in the seasons of the year, etc.
In the beginning of the Gospel of St John there is a clear example of mantric speaking. It is a ‘cosmic lyrical’ placement, where the breath is blown through an etheric placement on the lips. Breathing deeply from the diaphragm is necessary for this speaking, which can be sent forth through the interplay between thinking, feeling and willing, as the soul forces manifest; but the primary placement of the breath must proceed from the lips to keep the lyrical quality. This Cosmic Lyric or Spirit Lyric which is another name for it, is the technique used in Anthroposophical Formative Speech for all mantric speaking:
First these words in English, then in Greek:
In the beginning there was the Word.
And the Word was with God.
And a God was the Word.
This was in the beginning with God.
All things were made by him,
And without him was not
Anything made that was made
In Him was life.
And the life was the light of men…. 8)
‘En Archai en ho Logos,
Kai ho Logos en pros ton Theon.
Kai Theos en ho Logos.
Hutos en, en Archai pros ton Theon.
Panta di autou egeneto
Kai chioris autou
Egeneto ude hen ho gegonen
En autou zoe en
Kai he zoe en to phos ton anthropon.’
Old Greek root words such as: Logos– The Word, Theos – Theology, or egeneto – generated, have become a part of English today.
‘The Revelation’ of Saint John the Devine represents the evolutionary quest of mankind. ( First Century after Christ) Yet here is, indeed, another riddle for : ‘…the time is at hand.’ 9) can be experienced on an individual level, as well as concerning mankind’s evolution as a whole.
One of the first voyages of initiation was written down in the Odyssey, by Homer, six centuries before Christ. Learning to know oneself in the process of a journey can be an experience in any age. In the Odyssey we would hear the Epic placement, on the hard palate:
Tell me, O Muse, of the man of many ways
After he had sacked the sacred city of Troy.
And the Greek Hexameter:
Andra moi ennepe Musa polutropon hos malapola
Plankthee epee Trois hieron Ptoliethron epercen. 10)
In the Greco-Roman times, we also find ‘The Aeneid’ by Virgil: 70 –19 B.C. where a soul-spiritual journey has been undertaken. This is Epic, which begins with a more declamatory quality:
Ye realm yet unrevealed to human sight
Ye gods who rule the regions of the night,
Ye gliding ghosts, permit me to relate
The mystic wonders of your silent state.
Obscure they went through dreary shades that led
Along the waste dominions of the dead…’
‘Di, quibus imperium est animarum. Umbraeque silentes
et Chaos et Phlegethon, loca nocte tacentia late,
sit mihi fas audita loqui, sit numine vestro
pandere alta terra et caligine mersas.
Ibant obscuri sola sub nocte per umbrum
Perque domos Ditis vacuas et inania regna…’ 11)
Where the Greek Odyssey was in the outer world, Aeneas enters into an inner voyage to the underworld, to the blessed light of Elysium, land of the blessed. He is obsessed with guilt and horror, looking in retrospect at what his mission has cost in terms of human tragedy. Dido’s suicide he sees as his fault. Somehow his unredeemed state represents mankind before Christ.
Many Latin words, such as imperium – empire have become incorporated into English.
THE MIDDLE AGES
While the Greek hero was clever and independent, the Anglo-Saxon was brave and independent. As we approach the early Middle Ages, the beginnings of the English language come into existence. The Friesians invaded England in the 5th Century and brought a Germanic language with roots that have similarities to the sound of modern day Dutch. Then came the Celtic influence, which we still find in such words as crag, Doverand London. Germanic invasions in the 6th Century brought what would eventually be called Anglo-Saxon. Words like youth, son and daughter.
Then came the Latin, from the Christian missionaries. (c.a. 597 after Christ) They brought the Latin script to replace the old Runes. This was a huge influence, but Latin was rather the language of the priests, not to be heard in the marketplace.
In the spirit of English individuality, Beowulf then emerged out of the Folk-Soul, (9th Century) (Juxtaposed, the Song of Roland in France, which characterises the French quest in those times 742-815); Despite the early Christian Latin influence, Beowulf became known as the first classical Anglo-Saxon literature.
The difference in rhythm and mood from the pre-Christian to the Christian can be heard in this old Scottish Lyke-Wake Dirge:
This ae nighte, this ae nighte
Every nighte and alle,
Fire and fleet and candel lighte
And Christe receive thee saule.
The word soul has evolved from saule.12)
Later Pier’s Ploughman in 1382, depicted the English farmer’s life and religious yearnings. The Epic qualities of graphic description and alliteration are present in the Anglo-Saxon. This ‘northern’ poetry incarnated the limbs, whereas the hexameter of the south played into the head forces. The word for body in Anglo-Saxon, for example, was ban-huf, meaning literally bone-house. Experience the difference in soul mood from the following 8th Century verse about a ‘Storm at Sea’ in English and then Anglo-Saxon:
‘Weather candle flickers
Winds wax, wave grow.
Streams are straining the tackle.
Out of the water terror
Threatening, from the deep.’
‘Weder Kandel Zuerk
Windas Weoxon, waegas grundon.
Streamas Sturedon strengas guron
Weato geweate wetersechsa stod
Threata thru thum.’ 13)
Windas are winds, Streamas are streams etc.
The Lord’s Prayer, could well be invoked in such a time of trial. It is a good example of mantric speech
Speech, and was translated into Anglo-Saxon. Experience the difference in relation to modern day English:
‘Our Father who art in heaven
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come, thy will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven
Give us this day our daily bread,
And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us,
Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil,
‘ Faeder Ure, pu pe eort on heofenum,
Si pin name gehalgod.
To becume pin rice, geweoroe pin willa,
On eorpen, swa, swa, on heofenum.
Urne doeghwamlican hlaf, syle us todaeg.
And forgyf us ure gyltas, swa, swa
We forgyfao urum gyltendum.
And ne geleade pu us on costnunge
Ac alys us of yfle.
Todaeg – today, forgyf – forgive, gyltas – guilt (now trespasses), yfle – evil….
The Danish then invaded England in the 9th century. And later the French came out of Normandy with words such as, city, market etc. Their feudal system, however, made the common man into a serf.
In the development of Anglo-Saxon, there was a seeking to name the world again. There were at one time, seven similar ways to say the word church. This new language was at first suppressed by French and Latin, but its strength still remained in the common people. The strength of the English Folk-Soul could not be extinguished. At the time of Henry of Anjoucame the influence of the troubadours. Through intermarriage of the French and the English, a certain bilingual influence had gradually come about.
In the mid 13th century, trade brought the influence of Arabic, which gave us our number system. Strangely enough, during the bubonic plague, which was brought by trading ships, many of the French clergymen died, and their replacements were Englishmen who hadn’t learned Latin. This, along with the refusal of the Pope to grant King Henry a divorce from Eleanor of Aquitaine, turned the tide towards the English language.
Around this time, Eschenbach’s Parzifal, (1200-1210), the quest for the Holy Grail became recorded into conscious being. Dante (1265-1321) was writing ‘The Divine Comedy’, a spirit land pilgrimage in a world redeemed by Christianity. Wilhelm Jordan, also in the 13th Century, in Germanywas writing The Twilight of the Gods or Nibelungen which travelled into a mythological world of ages past.
These strict words from the Nibelungen, remind Siegfried how hard his fate is to overcome or change. In a world where there is only a glimmering of freedom, one’s tendencies to err might well dictate one’s future undoing. The hero carries on however, without a hope. The individual being decides what his deed must be.
Dein eigen ist alles It’s all of your own self
Dein Heil und dein Unheil Your health and undoing
Dein Wollen und Waehnen Your will and illusion,
Dein Sinnen und Sein. Your sense and existence. 15)
A completely different mood reigns in England, where Geoffrey Chaucer (1342-1400) hearkened to spirit of English in The Canterbury Tales; he was ahead of the times. In daylight worlds, the dawn of the consciousness soul was in the becoming. The human has to think for himself now. Chaucer inaugurated the iambic pentameter, as the new individual flowing form of the English language, so different from the more guttural earthy quality of Anglo-Saxon. The pilgrims on their way to CanterburyCathedral included not only the clergy, but all manner of people. Each individual made his own choice about whether to go on a pilgrimage to celebrate the deed of the martyr Thomas Beckett, 1118-1170, (the Archbishop who had been murdered, for insisting, against King Henry’s wishes, on the separation of church and state. It was said that a light emanated from his tomb.
In The Canterbury Tales, there was a detailed descriptive quality involved in the biographical story of each pilgrim. As Hans Pusch writes…not only did Chaucer identify himself with another person but he was able for a moment to eliminate himself and slip under the other’s skin….’5)
I lived near Canterburyin 1991. One might say that my pilgrimage for Formative Speech brought me there. The people of that city still celebrate The Canterbury Tales regularly in festivals where they speak Chaucer’s English.
The fiery and earthy elements inherent in Anglo-Saxon were enhanced by an airy quality reminiscent of the French language, and the watery flow of Middle English thought. The rising rhythms are felt in this iambic dawn of new consciousness.
From ‘The Prologue’:
‘Whan that Aprille with his shoures sote
The droghte of Marchehath perced to the rote,
And bathed every veyne in swich licour
Of which vertu engendred is the flour;
Whan Zephirus eek with his swete breeth
Inspired hath in every holt and heeth
The tender croppes, and the yonge sonne
Hath in the Ram his halfe cours y-ronne,
And smale fowles maken melodye,
That slepen al the night with open ye,
(So priketh hem nature in hir corages):
Than longen folk to goon on pilgrimages
(And palmers for to seken straunge strondes)
To ferne halwes, couthe in sondry londes;
And specially, from every shires ende
Of Engelond, to Caunterbury they wende,
The holy blisful martir for to seke,
That hem hath holpen whan that they were seke….’
‘When April with his showers sweet with fruit
The drought of March has pierced unto the root
And bathed each vein with liquor that has power
To generate therein and sire the flower;
When Zephyr also has, with his sweet breath,
Quickened again, in every holt and heath
The tender shoots and buds, and the young sun
Into the Ram one half his course has run,
And many little birds make melody
That sleep through all the night with open eye
(So Nature pricks them on to ramp and rage)—
Then do folk long to go on pilgrimage,
And palmers to go seeking out strange strands
To distant shrines well known in sundry lands.
And specially from every shire’s end
Of Englandthey to Canterburywend
The holy blissful martyr there to seek
Who helped them when they lay so ill and weak…’ 16)
Trans. – Thomas Carlyle
In the 15th century, Mystery Pageants of the Bible became popular. Below is a short quote from ‘The Annunciation’, of the Coventry Pageants by the Shearers and the Tailors. These colourful folk plays were performed on wagons. The words of the Bible were brought to life and communicated to every man. One can hear the decided iambic quality:
‘The sovereign that seeth every secret
He save you all and make you perfect and sound.
For now in great misery mankind is bound:
The serpent has given us so mortal a wound
That no creature is able us for to release
Till thy right unction of Judahdoth seize;
Then shall much mirth and joy increase
And the right root in Israelspring
That shall bring forth the green of holiness,
And out of danger he shall bring us.’ 17)
In Spain, Miguel Cervantes (1547-1616) was writing about Don Quixote and his quest for knightly adventure. The theme of the squire-become-friend arises in the character of Sancho Panza. The interplay between spirituality and earthiness, in Don Quixote and Sancho, eventually comes into balance; each one partakes of the other’s character.
The spiritual journey called The Alchemical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz Anno 1459 was written in High Dutch and was later recorded by Johann Valentin Andreae. The hermetic understandings given there are clothed in a language of occult symbols, a riddle to decipher in the course of seven days. On the fourth day, the following song is sung by nymphs during the course of events. It celebrates all aspects of the transforming power of love:
‘There’s nothing better here below,
Than beauteous, noble, Love;
Whereby we like to God do grow,
And none to grief do move,
Wherefore lets chant it to the King,
That all the sea thereof may ring,
We question; answer you.
What was it that at first us made?
And what has grace a fresh conveigh’d?
Whence was’t (pray tell us ) we were born?
How came we then again forlorn?
Who was it (say) that us conceived?
Who suckled, nursed, and reliev’d?
What is it we to our parents owe?
Why do they us such kindness show?
Who get’s herein the victory?
How many a man good works perform?
Who into one can two transform?
Then let our song sound,
Till it’s echo rebound,
To Loves honour and praise,
Which may ever encrease
With our noble Princes, the King,
And the Queen,
The soul is departed, their body’s within.
And as long as we live,
God graciously give;
That as great love and amity,
They bear each other mightily;
So we likewise,
By Love’s own flame,
May reconjoyn them once again.
Then this annoy
Into great joy
(If many thousand younglings deign)
Shall change, and ever so remain.’18)
In 1616, The Alchemical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreuz was finally published. In 1690 there was a translation by E. Foxcroft.
In the MunichConference of 1906, Rudolf Steiner speaks generally of the time around Copernicus (1473 –1543) as representing the moment when the human soul could begin to delve down into the depths of the knowledge that emerged from the astral plane. The need was to carry spiritual understandings into the physical world. This is reflected in the deeds of individuality carried out by the ‘I am’ in the writings of poets and playwrights of this age. Now the task is how the spirit is to arise again out of the bonds of the physical world. Anthroposophical art can give us the beginnings of an answer.
However, let us go back to 1524, where we find an Englishman, William Tyndle. He has gone to Franceto translate the Bible from the Greek and Hebrew into Anglo Saxon and to smuggle copies by ship into England. This was done so that the spiritual content of the Bible could be understood by the common Englishman, who did not know Latin. Indeed , because of the invention of the printing press, (Gutenberg 1428) the spiritual understandings in the Bible could by that time be brought to all people. When Tyndle returned to England, he was imprisoned, and later strangled and burned at the stake; later his skeleton was burned and his ashes thrown into a river. All this only helped the cause in the end, for Henry finally legalised Bibles in 1539. The King James version came out in 1611.
Thus long hidden spiritual truths were brought to all the people. The fight for the Spirit of the English language entailed a great deal of martyrdom.
In 1564, William Shakespeare was born. His thirty-seven plays are said to encompass the gamut of possible plots, not to speak of his development of the sonnet. According to Hans Pusch, what Chaucer had begun, by slipping into the skin of the Canterburypilgrims, was brought to perfection by Shakespeare. ‘The actor now began to undergo a threefold transformation, which still holds today: he has to discipline his own habitual self; he has to identify himself with the other person, his part; then he has to re-act that moment of true creating – which can only be sustained as long as he remains creative – while he lives, oblivious of himself, within the other person.’5)
Let us speak Portia in ‘The Merchant of Venice’, now, as she describes the quality of mercy, a feeling, which also lives in relation to the Class Lessons:
‘The quality of mercy is not strained.
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest:
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.
‘Tis mightiest in the mightiest; it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown;
His sceptre shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty,
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;
But mercy is above this sceptred sway,
It is enthroned in the hearts of kings,
It is an attribute of God himself;
And earthly power doth then show likest God’s
When mercy seasons justice.’19)
So much more could be said and written about William Shakespeare, his poetry and sonnets, so that my talk would be a year and not an hour.
Moliere (1622-73) was to follow in France, a century later, where human weaknesses of character were alleviated by means of comedy. Here is an example of Alexandrine from ‘The Misanthrope’
A flirtatious lady is in conversation with a rather prudish one.
If my person is prone men’s love to inspire
And if they continue to offer each day
Those vows that you certainly do not approve,
Then I cannot help it and am not in fault.
The English translation misses a lot, as you can hear.
‘….Si ma personne aux gens inspire de l’amour,
Et si l’on continue a m’offrire chaque jour
Des voeux que votre coeur peut souhaiter qu’on m’ote,
Je n’y saurais que faire, et ce n’ai pas ma faute.’ 20)
The beauty of the sentient soul seems to reign here in French, whereas the intellectual or philosophical soul predominates in German, and the consciousness soul awakens in English. There is an elemental feeling, a fluidity in English. In The Karma of Untruthfulness by Rudolf Steiner, Lecture 7, one can read how the thought in the Russian language hovers actually over the thought process itself as the word comes into being, while the German thought hovers philosophically over the word. In the French language, thought and word weave together; while in English, thought actually penetrates deeper than the word, into the limbs, where the will forces are existent. That was needed most likely to allow the spiritual understandings to sink down into the human consciousness. Steiner speaks of a kind of clairvoyance in the possibilities of English.
In Goethe’s writings (1749-1832)‘Faust’,’ The Green Snake and the Beautiful Lily’ a bridge across the threshold in day waking consciousness was sought.
In keeping with the atmosphere of new birth, one might mention a poem by Wordsworth (1770-1850) ‘Intimations of Immortality’ part of which is presented here;
‘Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The soul that rises with us, our life’s star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar;
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home.’21)
Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834) wrote a poem about a soul-spiritual journey of initiation in ‘The Rhyme ofthe Ancient Mariner’:
‘O’ Wedding –Guest! This soul has been
Alone on a wide, wide sea;
So lonely ‘twas, that God himself
Scarce seem-ed there to be.
O sweeter than the marriage feast,
‘Tis sweeter far to me,
To walk together to the kirk
With a goodly company!’ (22)
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), experienced a quality of thought that rings down into the clairvoyant expression possible in the English language:
The rounded world is fair to see,
Nine times shrouded in mystery.
Though baffled seers can’t impart
The secret of its labouring heart,
Throb thine with nature’s throbbing breast,
And all is clear from east to west.
Spirit, that lurks each form within,
Beckons to spirit of its kin.
Self-kindled, every atom glows,
And hints the future which it owes. (23)
Francis Thomson (1859-1907) wrote an initiation poem called ‘The Hound of Heaven’ where he hears an answer from heaven, after a long soul-spiritual journey:
‘…All which I took from thee
I did but take,
Not for thy harms,
But just that thou might’st
Seek it in My arms.
All which thy child’s mistake
Fancies as lost, I have stored
For thee at home:
Rise, clasp my hand, and come!’ 24)
I would like to go back to Canterburynow, and bring something from the play ‘Murder in the Cathedral’ by T.S. Eliot, (1888-1965) written for the CanterburyFestival 1935. From one point of view, it can be said to be a mystery play. There is a Tempter, and a Chorus.
The play begins in the Archbishop’s Hall on December 2nd, 1170. Thomas Beckett, the Archbishop of Canterburystood for the separation of church and state in England. In 1170, he was murdered by four knights before the high altar in CanterburyCathedral.
The following lines can be experienced as the ‘double’ taking leave of Beckett. He overcame the Tempter:
‘Then I leave you to your fate.
I leave you to the pleasure of your higher vices,
Which will have to be payed for with higher prices.
Farewell, my Lord, I do not wait on ceremony,
I leave as I came, forgetting all acrimony,
Hoping that your present gravity
Will find excuse for my humble levity.
If you will remember you my Lord at your prayers,
I will remember you at kissing time below the stairs.’ 25)
Listen to Beckett’s words in the play, on what peace is :
‘…Reflect now how our Lord himself spoke of peace. He said to his disciples, ‘Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you.’
Did he mean peace as we think of it?…..Those men his disciples, knew no such things : they went forth to journey afar, to suffer by land and sea, to know torture, imprisonment, disappointment, to suffer death by martyrdom. What then did He mean? If you ask that, remember then that He said also, ‘Not as the world gives, give I unto you.’ So then he gave to His disciples peace, but not peace as the world gives.’ 26)
Here I have tried to show only an overview of some quests and spiritual themes in a constellation of poets and playwrights up to ‘modern’ times. There is of course no way to include the countless examples which may occur to the reader. A contemplation of ‘modern’ poetry and drama, quests and spiritual phantasies must be left for a later time.
Arvia Mackaye Ege, was a student of the Swiss poet and playwright, Albert Steffen; she wrote a poem which speaks of an initiation quest in today’s consciousness.
‘Clear eye, dear eye,
Filled with the sun,
Vessel where earth
And heaven are one.
Blue eye, true eye,
Flower and star,
Chalice where love
And wonder are.
Eye of the infinite, eye of man!
Who is it wakens you,
Orb of the All –
In the depths, in the height,
Who kindles your sight?
Only He can
Whose voice is the light! 27)
Albert Steffen, lived from 1884-1972. I will end with a translation of the last lines of his ‘Choral Requiem’:
This is written for Cosmic Lyric.
‘Chorus of all the living’
‘For the grave,
for the grief,
for the virtue,
for the sacrifice.
hold thy body fortified.
By the earth
by the water,
by the air,
by the light,
shall thy soul be purified.
To the death,
to the judge,
to the creator,
to the Christ,
let the spirit be thy guide.’ 28)
- Speech and Drama, Rudolf Steiner, Anthroposophical Publishing Co., London, 1959, p. 408.
- Kunst und Kunst Erkenntnis, Rudolf Steiner, ‘Das Sinnlich Ubersinnliche – Geistige Erkenntnis und Kunstlerisches Schaffen’, Wien, 1 Juni 1918, p. 180.
- The Evolution of Consciousness, Rudolf Steiner, Rudolf Steiner Press, Great Britain, 1966, pp. 141- 169.
- ‘The Soul’s Awakening’, Rudolf Steiner, Steiner Book Centre, Great Britain, 1973, pp. 102-188.
- Working Together on the Mystery Dramas, Hans Pusch, Anthroposophic Press, 1980, pp. 117-121
- Mystery Centres, Rudolf Steiner, Anthroposophic Press, New York, 1943, Lecture 6, 2 December,1923, pp 50-56.
- Creative Speech, Rudolf Steiner, Marie Steiner von Sivers, Rudolf Steiner Press, London, 1978, p.38
- Bible, St. John, verses 1-4.
- Bible, The Revelation of St. John the Devine, verse 3.
10)The Odyssey, Homer, First lines.
11)The Aeneid, Virgil, First lines.
12)‘The Lyke-Wake Dirge’, Old Scottish example, Speech training- Harkness Studio, Sydney, 1
Mechthild Harkness, 1985.
13)‘ Storm at Sea’, Anglo-Saxon example, Speech training, Ulrike Brockman, London SpeechSchool, (Canterbury), 1991.
14)Bible, ‘The Lord’s Prayer’ in Anglo-Saxon, Victoria StateLibrary, Melbourne, AU.
15) Nibelungenlied, Die Nornen, Speech training, with Ulrike Brockman, Canterbury, 1991.
16)The Albatross Book of Verse, William Collins Sons and Company. Ltd. Great Britain,
1960, Geoffrey Chaucer – pp. 80-81
17) Everyman And Medieval Miracle Plays, J. M. Dent and Sons Ltd., Aldine House, London,
1960, “The Annunciation”, p. 71.
18)The Chymical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreuz Anno 1459, Johann Valentin Andraea, 1690, published by Geoffrey Orson, London House, pp. 37-38.
19)The Complete Works, William Shakespeare, Collins, Great Britain, 1951, ‘The Merchant of Venice’, p. 246, lines 179-192.
20)See Note 1), Speech and Drama…., ‘The Misanthrope’, Moliere, Act 3, Scene5, p. 124.
21)See Note 16), The Albatross Book of Verse, William Wordsworth, p.317.
22)See Note16), The Albatross Book of Verse, S. T. Coleridge, p.340.
23)Speech Exercises, Hans Pusch, page 26, ‘Nature’, R. W. Emerson.
24)See Note 16), The Albatross Book of Verse, F. Thomson, p.192.
25)‘Murder in the Cathedral’, R. MacLehose and Company Ltd. Great Britain, 1959, Part 1, p.31.
26)See Note 25) Interlude, p.56
27)The Secret Iron of the Heart, Arvia Mackaye Ege, Adonis Press, N. Y. 1982, p. 116.
28)Translation and Tribute, Albert Steffen, Adonis Press, N. Y. 1959, p. 102. (‘Choral Requiem’Trans. Virginia Brett).