In Scene Five of ‘The Soul’s Probation’, the second of RudolfSteiner’s Four Mystery Dramas 1),Felicia Balde’s fairy tale known as ‘The Rock Spring Wonder’ offers a therapeutic and spiritual scientific perspective, which sheds light on the process of human initiation.
The drama was first performed in Munich a hundred years ago this August.:
‘The Portal of Initiation’ 1910
‘The Soul’s Probation’ 1911
‘The Guardian of the Threshold’ 1912
The Soul’s Awakening’ 1913 2)
Felicia Balde, a character, who can make of herself a vessel wherein the creative process can occur, tells ‘The Rock Spring Wonder’, a fairy tale out of Spiritual Science to Capesius, a platonic historian, who seeks to study the course of history in the inner evolution and in cultural development. Felicia Balde has a special connection with him in the process of initiation. Strader, who is an aristotilian type scientist, will have a deep connection in his initiation, with another character, named Theodora.
Capesius and Strader, though quite opposite in nature, share a sense of brotherhood in their quest. The Platonist would see in depth to the wide overview and thence later come to the details, while the Aristotilian would see the outer detail and follow the logical clues to the depth of the overview.
As we shall see, this tale, ’The Rock-Spring Wonder’ is especially meant to help Capesius in his soul trial. Felicia’s husband, Felix Balde is also present. All of these characters are on the path of initiation and were together with others in the first drama.
In 1930 this fairy tale was published separately with illustrations by Assja Turguenieff. (Philosophisch-Anthroposophischer Verlag, Dornach, Switzerland). As Christy Barnes states in her book For the Love of Literature (no longer available) ‘Assja, who preferred to spell her name as above, was a niece of the novelist Ivan Turgenev, one of the highly cultivated community of writers who were introduced to Rudolf Steiner by Vladimir Soloviev. Soon afterwards a number of them were to come to Anthroposophy. (Assja was later to etch the glass windows of the present Goetheanum.) She was ‘a quiet, independent figure…with her pale green Slavonic eyes and her broad cheekbones’.
In order to grasp the significance of Frau Balde’s Tale in a wider sense, let us look at it from various points of view.
As this year the study of Christian Rosenkreutz is our Anthroposophical theme, I will mention how this fairy tale is related to the Rosicrucian stream in the evolution of human consciousness. In The Chemical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz by Valentin Andreae 3) one can symbolically experience the path towards the spiritual regeneration of the human being. It is also clothed in the language of occult fairy tales.
The spirit has descended the deepest that it ever has into physical matter, as Rudolf Steiner spoke about in the Munich Conference of 1907. 4) There it confronts the dragon, having to do with the lower being of mankind. Knowledge of self is now potentially present with the ability to understand our individual and earthly karma. This coming to consciousness has been gleaned as an effect of incarnating more deeply. In our striving we are actually seeking the true self, the individuality and the role it plays in world evolution. Through the Christ Impulse we can endure all the many trials involved in this process.
Each individual needs to activate the soul forces, which help us work through the consequences of past misdeeds, and help us to set the touchstones for future development. The soul forces represent the regenerate forces in our thinking, feeling and willing. ‘To regenerate’ means ‘to breathe new higher spiritual life into the human being, as well as to improve moral conditions’. For the healing of humanity, the spirit needs to ascend again with full consciousness of self and individuality.
One link in this process is happening through spiritual scientific art, such as Frau Balde’s fairy tale, which could be experienced also in the realm of folk-literature.
She gives a many-faceted account, a Rosicrucian Fairy Tale, which pertains to the moral and spiritual rebirth of mankind. (Thus it could actually be recited in a mixed chorus of individuals.)
On one level, ‘The Rock-Spring Wonder’ mirrors a step in the development of the human soul all the way from Egyptian times (the third Cultural Age of mankind, when the human being was still to some extent, clairvoyant) to the far future of the earth’s Mercury evolution, which can be viewed in the Fifth Apocalyptic Seal, given in the Munich Conference.
Rudolf Steiner speaks of this human development in the his lecture of 21/5/1907 4):
‘In the fifth picture we see a being overcoming the dragon. That is the future human being who has the dragon or the lower forces, bound and chained. It has to do with self-knowledge. That has to do with the cosmic conditions, which ensue when we have conquered what is called ‘Kama’ (the lower being of mankind ) so that we can stand upon it.
The condition, which comes forth when that has happened is symbolised in the Holy Grail of the last picture, the Seventh Seal. The transparent cube below represents a transparent diamond cube, which is made out of pure carbon. When the human being has progressed so far that he can use carbon itself for the fashioning of his body (without the combined activity of the plant) then the human being will be able to produce that cube.’ .
One cannot help thinking of the present earthly ‘carbon crisis’. An enormous metamorphic change will eventually have to occur for human beings to ‘breathe’ oxygen as described above!) Three more dimensions will have come into our consciousness, which will mirror the first three dimensions. This will take place in the far future of humanity, after the Mercury, Jupiter, and Venus evolutions have been fulfilled.
A prefiguration of this process could be seen in the far-reaching view of the last words of the fairy tale, which are:
-‘He dreamed a dream:
a savage dragon prowled
in circles round about him,-
And yet could not come near him.
He was protected from that dragon by
the beings he had seen beside the rock-born spring
and who had left his home with him
for this far-distant place.’
On another level, The Rock-Spring Wonder initially evokes an autobiographical mood related to Rudolf Steiner’s childhood, and, later, to certain aspects of his development.
When ‘The Soul’s Probation’ was first played in August, 1911, Rudolf Steiner was 50 years old, and definitely able to look back:
“At the age of eight Steiner was already aware of things and beings that are not seen as well as those that are.
…………..In 1888 he met Eduard Hartman…He describes the chilling effect of the way this philosopher of pessimism denied that thinking could ever reach reality, but must forever deal with illusions…………….After publishing The Philosophy of Freedom in 1894, Steiner wrote, ‘The further way could now be nothing else but a struggle to find the right form of ideas to express the spiritual world itself.’……. From 1911,he turned also to the arts – drama, architecture, painting, Eurythmy and Speech Formation, which show the creative formative process.’”5) Thus there is the experience in Steiner’s biography of arising out of disappointment to conquer doubt on a large scale.
In ‘The Soul’s Probation’, of course, ‘The Rock-Spring Wonder’ also prefigures the soul trial that the character Capesius will begin to fulfil in the process of the next two dramas. The waning of clairvoyance he could already view in his Egyptian incarnation. The longing to regenerate that experience on a higher level evolved from the example of Benedictus in his present day times. Then the reliving of his medieval incarnation in meditation, the confrontation with his failings, and finally overcoming the luciferic temptation to escape from his present destiny (through matured soul forces and the courage of love), all comprised the ‘scene’ of his ‘struggle with the forces of the dragon’.
Thus one can experience a weaving together of individual destiny and human evolution in the expression of this spiritual scientific fairy tale, written by Rudolf Steiner through the personage of Frau Felicia Balde.
In Scene 10 of ‘The Guardian of the Threshold’ Felicia Balde speaks of her attainment of spirit light, which illumines inwardly for her creativity:
‘I can but tell the fairy tales
which form themselves to images within.
I only know of their true spirit sources
from what Capesius has often told me.
In all humility I must believe
What he has said about my gift of soul;………’
– As ‘The Rock-Spring Wonder’ develops, we see a young clairvoyant boy who lives with his parents in the heart of a forest ( Rudolf Steiner also grew up in such an atmosphere during his childhood in Austria.)
The fairy tale child can experience the elemental beings in trees and flowers. He can understand the language of spirit beings.
While sitting close to a moonlit waterfall, in the purified watery air, he has a vision of the three women of the spring, (who are actually related to the soul forces, Philia -feeling, Luna -willing, and Astrid -thinking). Working together, they silently form and give him a wonderful chalice.
As Rudolf Steiner has indicated, the three qualities of astonishment, love, and conscience 6) create the sheath or vessel for the Christ Impulse. The vessel brings the image of the Grail, which receives the blood of Christ, or the life of Christ. This is a picture of the first chalice.
-Then the child dreams that the chalice is stolen away by a wild dragon. This prefigures future events involving consciousness- of-self. (In the case of Capesius, it could be related to the retrospection of his medieval incarnation, and its confrontation in consciousness of self.
In relation to mankind, losing the chalice can also be seen as the descent of the spirit involving the effects of the Industrial Revolution and the advances in technology)
– After experiencing the Rock-Spring Wonder three times the child’s vision of the three ladies is also taken away.
In the course of his growth and development, he also has to lose the treasure and nourishment of the nature-world, to live and attain self-knowledge in a city environment. When in this ahrimanic environment, he is able as a grown man in the depth of loss, nonetheless to come back to inner contemplation, he rediscovers the three ladies within himself. They come into connection with the present day virtues of hope, faith, and love.
In the lecture of Rudolf Steiner, Theosophical Morality, 28 – 30 Mai, 1912, 6) it is explained how, with the help of the Christ Impulse, the courageousness of the intellectual soul becomes transformed into the active strength of love in the course of human development. Seeking to find the truth is no longer only an intellectual pursuit, but involves deeds of love. (These can also be inward deeds, as exemplified in the meditation scenes in the Mystery Dramas,especially those involving the active help of Theodora, Maria, and Benedictus.) The understanding of the consciousness soul becomes transformed into loving interest, or ‘compassionate interest’.
Now, to return to ‘The Rock Spring Wonder’, another aspect of metamorphosis in the soul forces becomes manifest.
– In a heightened state of consciousness, the three women reveal the fullness of their gifts to the grown human being in the fairy tale, and he can hear them speak.
(The speaking, like most of the Mystery Dramas is written in iambic. – — , which evokes the flowing feeling, which leads to experiencing and empathising with the characters)
– The three women now have the power to protect the human being from the wild dragon, as the child grown to manhood will behold in the last dream of the fairy tale. The women now represent the matured soul forces, which are constantly metamorphosing in the course of human development. Through them flows the Christ Impulse into all soul regions, and this is how the might of the dragon is overcome.
A child only has sentient soul qualities; thus his first perception of the three ladies must be different. The adult of 21 is now on the path to developing the intellectual soul and the consciousness soul. (Capesius is at least 42, one can estimate, at the time he hears the fairy tale. Yet he has to become as a child, listening to Frau Balde, to reawaken and heal his sentient soul.)
– At the time the child in the fairy tale, now grown to manhood, has attained the ability to hear the women speak, he is worn out and has little hope and enthusiasm for the future. But he still has openness. Their words revitalise him:
“The first one said to him:
‘Remember me at any time
you feel alone in life.
I lure man’s eye of soul
to starry spaces, and eternal realms.
And whosoever wills to feel me,
I offer him the draught of hope in life
Out of my wonder chalice.’”-
This contains characteristics of Philia. To understand the evolution of hope, let us refer to Plato’s teachings, as Rudolf Steiner describes in the 1912 lectures of Theosophical Morality. 6) First there comes faith in the divine grounds of the human soul. Working together with this faith is the second quality, an unlimited, active love for mankind. Thirdly, a human being who has developed these two qualities; even though he may at some fall from the heights of the spiritual worlds, he can nevertheless find his way back to the divine spiritual. This is inherent in the draught of hope in life, and is as necessary for Capesius, as for the present day human being. The ‘Wonder’ continues:
“And then the second spoke:
‘Do not forget me at the times
when courage in your life is threatened.
I lead man’s yearning heart
to depths of soul and up to spirit heights.
And whosoever seeks his strength from me,
for him I forge the steel of faith in life.’”
This contains characteristics of Luna. A manifestation of higher law (such as the Rock-Spring Wonder) brings forth spiritual astonishment and the courage for deeds. Now the third woman:
“The third one could be heard:
‘To me lift up your eye of spirit
when your life’s riddles overwhelm you.
I spin the threads of thought that lead
through labyrinths of life and the abyss of soul.
And whosoever harbours trust in me,
For him I weave the living rays of love
Upon my wonder loom.’”
This contains characteristics of Astrid, who is revealed in the present intellectual and consciousness soul. Love can create social freedom to eventually unloose the knots of Karma. Again Steiner’s indication comes to mind – that with the help of the Christ Impulse, the courageous attitude of the intellectual soul is transformed into ‘the active strength of love’ and the understanding of the consciousness soul into loving interest, which is a step on the way to compassion. (This is important for the healing of Capesius.
The fairy tale man is protected from the dragon. It is clear, that is, as long as he does the conscious deeds, which allow the women to fulfil their wondrous talents. They are :
-thinking of Philia’s qualities and feeling Philia;
-not forgetting Luna, and seeking strength from her in times that courage is needed;
– and lifting one’s spirit-eye to Astrid, and harbouring trust in her, when riddles of life are overwhelming. Doing this, one never more has to fear the dragon.
Capesius must eventually learn to use the coming self-knowledge he is to glean from his earlier incarnation as a Knights Templar to begin fulfilling karma in his present day situation.
In the earlier part of Scene 5, before Felicia’s fairy tale, Felix Balde had been trying to help him understand that he would hear the voice of truth.
Capesius had earlier become aware that his usual thinking was too dull to penetrate into the well of existence in the light of truth. In the first scene of ‘The Soul’s Probation’, he has finally been able to experience the spiritual beings of Luna, Astrid, The Other Philia, and a Spirit Voice through the flowing light of body-free thought. One can only perceive this higher thought in picture memories. In order to grasp it, Capesius’ thought had to be disciplined, his memory needed tp be sharpened, and the thoughts of various philosophies had to be understood. Capesius had certainly prepared himself for the experience.
But the actual spiritual experience at the beginning of the drama was all so surprising and different from his everyday shadow-thought experience that he felt frightened and scattered, as if the grounds have been removed from underneath him.
Rudolf Steiner says in the 10th lecture of the 17th cycle :
‘When we will to expand the present consciousness into the world distances, there stands before us, as a horror–vision, the fear of world emptiness. The soul knows that in normal consciousness it can only have thoughts in relation to Maya.’ (Realising the limitations of its faculties, it feels as if empty in relation to comprehending the actual realities of the spiritual world). Steiner continues, ‘No one who takes our normal present consciousness seriously can be spared from this experience. Such a trial must be fulfilled by any soul who wants to experience the sense and spirit of our times.’
The image of the dragon represents the consciousness of lower self. In it there is also the faculty of memory. Capesius’ power of thought had been depleted. He had been nourished in the past by what he called ‘the refreshment that flows out of Felicia’s picture treasury’. Realising his need, he asked for the fairy tale.
Her creation, as we have said points to the new art in the age of Michael which relies on spiritual knowledge. Rudolf Steiner describes the development of this kind of Phantasy in the lecture ‘Symbolism and Phantasy’, 19 December 1911.
‘In that phantasy, which is a shadow-image of the imagination, there works something, which doesn’t have this or that single form as such, but which at first does not know what its outer form entails, nor what will become created. Something from the inner world urges on to be created into an outer kind of substantiality; at that point there ensues a darkening of the light process….Out of one centre moves everything, which as a spiritual content stands (at first as an imaginative reality) behind our sense reality And what comes into being is a phantasy-reality.’
This is similar to an experience related to the phantasy of painting, as well as that of musical composition.
The phantasy-reality created by Felicia Balde is the key, for Capesius, which allows him to attain the state of imaginative cognition he needs look back into an earlier life in the 14th century. He must recognise his karmic situation and experience the forces of the Cosmic Creative Word where world harmony holds sway.
After the cosmic retrospection, he speaks in Scene 10:
“And words resounded from this picture world
Thinking themselves; and thrusting themselves on me
From out of life’s needs they brought to being things
And gifted them with power from deeds of good
Thus they resounded through the cosmic space
‘O Man, know thou thyself in thy world.’”
Capesius’ inner penetration into history no doubt helps him, eventually, to shoulder the load of guilt and shame of having abandoned his two children to take up the initiation of the Knights Templar in that previous incarnation. This was his fall from the spiritual world. This knowledge he was able to remember, confront, and, ultimately learn from his retrospective experience. Going back to the fairy tale, the knowledge of the lower self is all related to the wild dragon, which can be seen as the image of our faults and failings.
Capesius goes through disdaining his physical and etheric, escaping, and soaring upwards in ecstacy into Lucifer’s astral spheres. Over the next two dramas he is helped by Felicia, Maria, and Benedictus to return to himself.
In Scene 9 of ‘The Guardian of the Threshold’ Capesius is finally able to say to Benedictus:
‘So I must thank my destiny’s stern powers
which had to be at first incomprehensible,
that they at the right moment showed me clearly
the aims that make my life now meaningful.’
‘The Rock- Stream Wonder’ can work therapeutically for aspirant human beings, who undergo such trials of the soul. Speaking it aloud especially dispels fear.
It is of interest to mention something further about the transformation of the soul forces, as they are revealed in this fairy tale. There is not just one quality for each soul force. The characteristics of Philia, Luna, and Astrid can however be accurately discerned in the three women, as stated earlier.
These transformations and many other secrets of the Mystery Dramas, have become clarified to me from reading The Contemplations concerning ‘The Soul’s Probation’ (about Rudolf Steiner’s Mystery Dramas), one of the four books in German, by Hugo Reiman (written using the source of notes by Mathilde Scholl).6) These books contain a wealth of information, with many quotes from Rudolf Steiner’s lectures. They are the main source, which has shed light on the Mystery Drama characters for our small study group in Melbourne. I was also fortunate to attend a Mystery Drama Study Group in Dornach for some years, lead by Ruth Dubach.
In Scene 5 of the Guardian of the Threshold, when Capesius asks for help in the spirit, Frau Balde reveals a therapeutic secret, which is of great benefit to all those involved in therapeutic story telling. She says to Capesius:
‘So, then, if I collect myself enough
to speak my tales in silence to myself,
I’ll think of you with love – so that they may
be audible to you as well, in spirit land.’
From the words of the three women of the spring who revealed themselves to the child, grown to manhood, the first offers the living drink of Hope, the second, the living strength of Faith, and the third, the living strands of Love. There is a cosmic lyric feeling-consciousness connected with this word ‘living or life’.
Just before Frau Balde’s last fairy tale about Phantasy, in ‘The Guardian of the Threshold’, Scene 6, Capesius has attained a step in his healing. As he speaks to Benedictus:
‘I may belong in the future to myself again.
Now I will seek myself, because I dare,
beholding myself in cosmic thought, to live.
Katherine Rudolph – Given in Canberra 29/5/11
See Four Mystery Dramas, Steiner Book Centre, 151 Carisbrooke Crescent, North Vancouver, V7N 2S2, Canada, 1973.
See The Time is at Hand, Paul M. Allen, Anthroposophic Press, Hudson, New York, 1995. p. 48.
See The Chymical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz,
Magnum Opus Hermetic Sourceworks
4) See Bilder Okkulter Siegel und Saulen, Der MunchnerKongress, Pfingsten 1907 und seine Auswirkungen, Rudolf Steiner Verlag, 1977.
5) See Introduction to The Philosophy of Freedom
Michael Wilson, 1969.
6) See Rudolf Steiners Mysteriendramen, Betractungen,
Scene 1 and Scene 5:
‘Die Prufung der Seele’, Hugo Reimann,
Philosophischer Anthroposophischer Verlag,
Dornach, Schweiz, 1977