The Verlag am Goetheanum (Goetheanum Publishing) with its task of editing books on all aspects of anthroposophy has now become a part of the Literary Arts and Humanities Section, providing us with the wonderful opportunity of being actively involved in a practical field.
Last autumn we were able – with the support of the Friedrich Hiebel Foundation and the Literary Arts and Humanities Section – to newly edit Friedrich Hiebel's late work Entscheidungszeit mit Rudolf Steiner, one of the most beautiful memories of Rudolf Steiner. We warmly recommend this book to anyone who has not read it yet. It is also available in English translation (by M. St. Goar) as Time of Decision with Rudolf Steiner. We would also like to call your attention to Andrei Bely's remarkable and very interesting work Notes of a Crank, now available for the first time in German translation. Bely is one of the most famous Russian symbolists of the 20th century. He wrote this novel, which features a most wonderful description of the First Goetheanum, shortly after returning from Dornach to Russia in 1916. Andrei Bely is – next to Albert Steffen and Christian Morgenstern – one of the three “poet columns” of the Section. On 8 January 2014 we commemorated the 80th anniversary of his death. We are planning to devote a weekend conference to him within the Section next year or in 2016 at the latest.
For the latest programme of the Verlag am Goetheanum, with a separate section for the Literary Arts and Humanities, please visit www.vamg.ch, where you can also order the Verlag’s regular newsletter with recommendations and new publications.
The year 2013 began with the conference on Albert Steffen’s work that takes place every year at the end of January and was this year entitled “Finding one’s humanity in contemporary drama.” We were particularly pleased to see performances of the play “The Fall of the Antichrist” and scenes from “Hiram and Solomon“, presented by two independent ensembles. The performance of “The Fall of the Antichrist” seemed particularly relevant and inspired awareness of our present situation. Steffen set the play, which he wrote in 1928, at the end of the 20th century. The events that occurred, starting from 1933, show Steffen’s poetic prescience of Nazi totalitarianism. We are similarly endangered today, but on other levels. Steffen's play can open our eyes to the powers at work in our time.
(Unless otherwise indicated, the contributions are written by Christiane Haid)
In February and March we had two seminars to deepen the study of folktales. One was with Almut Bockemühl and Heidrun Stöbe-Eckardt on 'Folktales and Rosicrucianism'. The other was a seminar entitled 'Time to wait – time to act', with Angelika Schmucker and Silvia Studer-Frangi, which explored various folktales and their meaning. During the Folktale Colloquium we celebrated the 80th birthday of Almut Bockemühl, who has been responsible for the folktale studies within our Section for many years. The celebration included a review of the folktale research at the Goetheanum since the 1970s, during which Almut Bockemühl underlined the importance of folktales for the understanding of anthroposophy and the unfolding of the imagination, pointing out that the true significance of folktales is still not understood. The central-European folktales in particular, which were collected and passed on by the Brothers Grimm, were intimately associated with Rosicrucianism, as Rudolf Steiner explained in a number of lectures. It was important, Almut Bockemühl continued, that this aspect was studied in-depth in the future and that the results of such studies informed the anthroposophical work in general. Folktales could only be understood in all their depth out of anthroposophy.
The Folktale Colloquia are study weekends that take place twice a year at the Goetheanum. They focus on ancient myths and folktales, seen from the point of view of anthroposophy. The participants come from all kind of backgrounds and include people with a general interest in folktales, folktale researchers, storytellers and puppeteers. Together we study the origin, images and symbols of folktales as well as their structure and style. The fruit of this work inspires the regular folktale seminars and conferences that take place at the Goetheanum. In the past two years we pursued the aspect of probations in folktales, in association with the chapter on ‘Initiation’ in Rudolf Steiner's How to Know Higher Worlds, the ‘Red Window’ above the Goetheanum’s West entrance, and the Russian Folktale of the Frog Princess. There will be a seminar on this topic on 21 and 22 February 2014.
These new poetry evenings have proved very popular. Through the presentation of poets and leading cultural figures such as Eduard Mörike, Fercher von Steinwand, Rainer Maria Rilke, Inger Christensen, Adelheid Petersen von Sybel, as well as Chinese poetry from three millennia and Albert Steffen's Christmas poems through lectures, recitations, music and eurythmy, these evenings have opened up the worlds of these artists, allowing us to enter deeply into their individual poetic styles. Experiencing the poets’ language, mood and destinies as well as the moments in their lives when a piece of poetry was born, made it possible for us to sense the life-transforming power of the poetic word. We realized how deeply culture-enhancing poetry is and how important a role it therefore plays for the future.
The word 'weit' from the previous colloquium led into a web of related
concept and concept types, and the relationships between them and
between concepts and words ('far', 'wide' 'close/narrow') (Magdalena Zoeppritz). A text on the concept of 'red' (from the lecture of 2 January 1915), eurythmy on ‘red’ and the motif of 'God's Wrath' from the painted ceiling in the Main Auditorium (Rozanne Hartmann) led us to experience how concepts emerge in various ways – through active thinking, participation or observation. These processes were enhanced through artistic speech exercises in connection with word and concept, using poems by Ingeborg Bachmann and Paul Celan and an exercise guided by Jutta Nöthiger.
We expanded on the theme with contributions on the limits of what is sayable: '…can the unsayable be said' by Lia Abuladze (see also the journal Die Drei, No 1, 2014) – and on the difficulty of recognizing communicative utterances as such in people with severe speech impediments. 'Speech or not?' - a contribution by Hortense Nötzli-Van den Eede.
Our weekly work in Dornach on the Twelve Moods, from autumn 2012 to the summer of 2013, focused after Christmas mainly on the astral cross of Taurus, Leo, Scorpio and Aquarius. We look closely at the language (parts of speech, syntax, sounds, vowels, consonants and planets in connection with the vowels). We accompany this study with eurythmy exercises, which allow us to experience, through movement, the aspects of the zodiac in conjunction with the corresponding planets. We also spoke the verses, individually and in the group, so we could also experience them in that sphere.
With these yearly conferences on Rudolf Steiner's work we would like to celebrate the many centenaries that lie ahead up until 2025, not so much as outer anniversaries but as opportunities to look at these works with new eyes, against the background of current events. Focusing on different chapters in The Threshold of the Spiritual World, Robin Schmidt, Corinna Gleide, Helmut Goldmann, Constanza Kaliks, Paul Mackay and Christiane Haid presented their individual access to these themes. This work was further deepened in two study groups. We also experienced the theme of the threshold artistically through Barbara Stuten’s recitation of poems by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Peter Handke and Paul Celan. The participants – almost all age groups were represented – were delighted with the variety of inspirational contributions. Apart from looking at The Threshold of the Spiritual World from the point of view of the present time, we also looked back to the year 1913 when the book was written. This showed impressively how Rudolf Steiner saw the Fourth Mystery Drama, the lecture cycle on the 'The Secrets of the Threshold', which he gave for the premiere of that drama, and the book The Threshold of the Spiritual World', which came out at the same time, as a unity that would enable members to experience and study the topic of the threshold in a time-appropriate, existential way, in the written and spoken word and in the performance on stage. This triad, which brought together art and science, was clearly meant by Rudolf Steiner as a motive for inner development.
The May meeting had two main topics: 'Appearance' as a fundamental category of the aesthetic and 'Photography and Anthroposophy'.
Artistic appearance is something that exists for itself, independently, between the true and the good. Freely connected with, but not dependent on these, appearance can be conceived as a function of the spirit ('appearance of the idea'). The experience of spirit is evoked in the observer, not by the content but the quality of the appearing form. Artists tend to describe this relationship as 'coherence'. This refers to the sense that subtly examines whether all details in a piece of art are put together in a way that makes them a whole. How this coherence is achieved depends on the individual artist and is a factor that needs to be considered in art observation.
The second topic was introduced with the question, 'Can we develop criteria for understanding photography as a modern form of art based on Rudolf Steiner's deliberations on an aesthetics of the future?
In anthroposophical circles we have the discrepancy that photography is used in manifold ways while being rejected as an art form.
What are the archetypal means of artistic photography? It became apparent that the actual creative process begins only with the observation of the image as seen through the lens of the camera. Aesthetic qualities interact with those of documentation. We need to develop the faculty to discriminate so that the aesthetic qualities can be perceived, for, in photography, the emphasis is often on the documental aspect.
Alexander Schaumann, Jutta Wortmann
May and October: Colloquium on the language of poetry
Invitation: Colloquium on Rainer Maria Rilke's Duino Elegies
In the past two years, three weekend colloquia were devoted to Rainer Maria Rilke's Duino Elegies (12-14 October 2012, 3-5 May and 11-13 October 2013). Rilke himself saw these Elegies as the goal and culmination of his work. It is interesting that they were composed at the time when anthroposophy was brought to life.
The motif of the 'angel' appears repeatedly in Rilke's poetry. He does not mean anything traditionally religious by it but sees the angel as the representative of an 'open' world, which includes this world as well as the beyond. 'The angel of the elegies is the being which guarantees that we can recognize a higher degree of reality in the invisible.' (Letter to Witold Hulewicz). Christian Morgenstern, who died early and whose 100th death day we will commemorate in 2014, was a contemporary of Rilke. We will study his poetic work at our next colloquium (16–18 May 2014).
The Whitsun Conference was organized by the Section for Performing Arts, the Literary Arts and Humanities Section and the General Anthroposophical Section. It consisted in a multi-faceted journey through the various kinds of arts which could meet in the work we did together. Embedded in a rich programme of eurythmy and music, the priest Michael Debus, the physician Armin Husemann, the sculptor and architect Christian Hitsch and Christiane Haid pursued in their lectures the process of the spiritualization of matter – in eurythmy, music, aesthetics, poetry and architecture. The Heiligenberg String Septet played contemporary compositions on instruments fashioned from the seven planetary woods according to indications by Rudolf Steiner. Deeply impressive was also the speech chorus performance with works related to Whitsun. The cooperation of the different sections allowed for a wide range of insights and experiences. The artistic groups were another important part of the conference, with seven full hours available for entering deeply into activities such as painting, drawing, eurythmy or artistic speech.
Labyrinths are phenomena that appear in all cultures and ages. Wolfgang Schad explained that labyrinths were found even from prehistoric times and that they underwent many metamorphoses across the millennia. They give insights into human beings, as if – in their labyrinths – they had created a mirror of their brain activity. In their lectures, Wolfgang Schad and Roland Halfen described the motif of the labyrinth in its diverse meanings and manifestations across the millennia up to the present. Our work was enhanced by the intensive eurythmy exercises we embarked on with Werner Barfod, who made it possible for a group of almost 90 participants to have an inner and outer experience of the multiple forms and movements of labyrinths. In this conference, too, an important part was played by the harmonious meeting of science and art.
On the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of Albert Steffen's death the Section organized a conference on his work that highlighted different aspects of his creative work. Bodo von Plato, for instance, described aspects of Steffen's intensive work on inner development. Christof Wiechert then looked at Albert Steffen’s renditions of Rudolf Steiner's lectures in relation to the study of the human being. Rudolf Steiner thought more highly of these renditions than of the shorthand records of his lectures. We have here an extraordinary treasure of Steffen's creativity that has so far hardly been explored. The lieder performed by Marret Winger and Steffen Hartmann, with poems by Albert Steffen set to music by the composers Raimund Schwedeler and Torben Maiwald, created a truly magical experience. It was also very special that three plays by Albert Steffen were performed by independent ensembles during this weekend: The dramatic play 'Hiram and Solomon', published in 1925, was introduced by Christiane Haid, and the dramatic sketch 'The Fall of the Antichrist', staged in German and French. In his concluding lecture, Michael Kurtz traced an arc from Albert Steffen's play 'Peace Tragedy', which is about Woodrow Wilson and the Treaty of Versailles, to Steffen's tragedy about the Chinese national hero 'Lin', the result of his exploration of the contrasts between East and West. In summary it can be said that the lectures in conjunction with the artistic performances provided an enlivening experience that illustrated the forward-looking impulses in Steffen’s work.
Every year a class conference takes place within the Section that cultivates the study of the class lessons from the point of view of the Literary Arts and Humanities. Members of the School of Spiritual Science may apply for an invitation.
On the occasion of Richard Wagner's 200th birthday, a bridge was built from Chrétien de Troyes to Richard Wagner. Bruno Sandkühler called attention to Chrétien's and Wolfram von Eschenbach's excellent knowledge of the orient, showing how the Grail poems, as an ideal, were intended as an active cosmopolitan impulse for a culture that envisaged the peaceful harmony between muslims, Christians and members of other religions. Corinna Gleide presented central motifs in Wolfram von Eschenbach's Parzival, relating them to the question of inner development in the age of the consciousness soul. Michael Debus explained how, since the Mystery of Golgotha, this development has been placed into our hands. The mysteries of wisdom have been transformed into mysteries of the will. Wagner's Parsifal takes this into account, because his Parsifal does not meet the world with a question of knowledge but with affection nurtured by compassion. He seeks and finds spirituality in the spiritual aspects of the sensory world, in nature (Good Friday Spell) – herein lies the mystery of the grail. It is part of our human condition that this is an immense battlefield and that humanity, instead of being aware of the spiritual world, is to be fettered to the sense world. Wagner’s Parsifal points to deeper levels of being human today. The lectures were accompanied by musical demonstrations, performed by the singer and violinist Katrin Ellger and the pianist Jochen Gerlinger, who knowledgeably presented the essential leitmotifs of Wagner's music and led the audience into improvised singing. The conference was enthusiastically received by the 300 people who attended it.
This programmatic title designates a study group that meets twice yearly to explore the language Rudolf Steiner created especially for his literary work. The main focus is on Steiner’s poetry and verses and on essays or book chapters. We work artistically, which means that we focus on how Rudolf Steiner formed his language so that it can lead us to its spiritual contents. Our very lively discussions centred this year on the verses of Aries and Libra from the macrocosmic poem 'The Twelve Moods'. This word creation speaks directly from the spiritual sphere of the zodiac and the planets, and its contents can therefore not be understood in the usual way, especially if one considers the barely intellectually conceivable content of this 'spiritual poem'. It is like being within a vibrant, moving, verbal process of language gestures and allusions. The structure of the verses helps: by trying to inwardly experience the stylistic (imagery, word figures) and rhythmic elements (meter) and the sound, we begin to divine the spiritual content of this extraordinary poetry. We furthermore discussed chapter I of The Threshold of the Spiritual World, speaking of the trust we can have in thinking and of the essence of the thinking soul, of meditation. We examined the various aspects of the text, such as the use of imagery, its structure and the movement of the thinking behind the language. One interpretation that was suggested related the individual thoughts to the qualities of zodiac: an unusual methodical approach that can open up new insights. – Our work on this chapter will continue. In the light of the present debate, the introduction to the first volume of Christian Clement's Critical Steiner Edition (SKA) was discussed controversially, but the edition was ultimately welcomed as a new and noteworthy editorial approach.