kandinsky and steiner

This is from an article by Sixten Ringbom, Art in the ‘epoch of the great spiritual’, published in 1966.


In the article, which is quite interesting, we also learn that Paul Klee thought anthroposophy was ‘either false or a piece of self-deception’. (Though, Ringbom points out, Klee’s own ideas were hardly more rational.)

I came across it when meandering my way through the internet, reading all kinds of things about art inspired by occultism and esotericism, because, well, I’m still obsessed with Hilma af Klint and one thing led to another. (Perhaps someone will enjoy this article! I did.) And because I recently read Kandinsky’s On the spiritual in art. Fascinating indeed. And I realize that I must read more by Steiner on art. Ringbom mentions, among other texts, this piece.

Ringbom’s article is available for free, but you have to register to read it. You’ll find it here.

reading esoteric lessons

I continue to read Frank Smith’s translations of the esoteric lessons for the first class. I’ve come to lessons 7 and 8. Here’s a snippet from lesson 7:

If on seeing the head from the other side of the threshold one recognizes how will goes through the head and how the senses represent will, then he will realize how the heart contains the soul and how one can feel the soul within the heart just as he can will the head’s spirit when observing the head. And now we know that when thinking is not considered as a function of the head, but as a function of the heart, of the soul, we realize that thinking does not belong to an individual, but to the world; then one experiences cosmic-life, the music of the spheres.

Lesson 7 also contains an intriguing section on sleep, which I quoted back when I had only the german text to quote from. (The old blog post is here; they’re some fascinating quotes.) One might also ponder Steiner’s words about truth. If one is that way inclined.

In the most recent edition of Southern Cross Review you’ll find the 8th lesson. Steiner first talks, at some length, about the movement, membership (and the laborious task he has: signing membership cards! no, he doesn’t want to get a stamp instead, and says why), the Vorstand, the school of spiritual science, et c. It can be skipped, but it is quite interesting in its own way. (Most fascinatingly, he dismisses esoteric school members who think that it’s better to remain silent about anthroposophy and about being its representative. He says, also: ‘Those who continually claim that you can’t confront people with anthroposophy immediately, that you must somehow talk them into it gradually, may choose to exercise their opinion outside the School.’ I wonder about how to interpret this.) But to proceed to the actual lesson, where he teaches, among other things, that feeling is ‘a waking dream’. In the beginning of it, however, he says this:

My dear friends, my dear sisters and brothers, there exists no knowledge which is not closely tied to the spiritual world. Everything we call knowledge which is neither investigated in the spiritual world nor imparted by those who are able to investigate in the spiritual world, is not real knowledge. We must be clear about the fact that when we look around in the world, in the kingdoms of nature, see the colors and the radiance manifested, see what lives above in the shining stars, in the warming sun, what springs up from the depths of the earth – it is all sublime, grand, beautiful, full of wisdom. And we would be very mistaken to ignore this beauty, sublimity, this wisdom. If one wishes to become an esotericist, if he strives for real knowledge, then he must have a sense for the world around him – an open, free sense. For during the time between birth and death, during his earthly existence, he is obliged to absorb his strength from the forces of the earth, and to return the results of his work to the forces of the earth.

Go on reading.

steiner anecdotes

A while ago, I read the collection of anecdotes about Steiner, edited by Wolfgang Vögele. (Sie Mensch von einem Menschen: Rudolf Steiner in Anekdoten.) It’s highly amusing. I can recommend it for that reason, which is certainly reason enough. However, I’d like to share one of the anectodes in the book. It’s about smallpox immunisation.


«In Berlin waren an einer Ecke die Pocken ausgebrochen. So viel ich mich erinnere, wurden in den Schulen und Kinderhorten die Kinder geimpft. Dr. Steiner ordnete an, dass auch die Kinder in unserem Kinderhort geimpft würden und auch die Menschen, die im Kinderhort aus- und eingangen. Dr. Steiner sebst lieβ sich auch impfen, auch Frau Dr. Steiner und auch wir alle oder fast alle, die im Hause aus- und eingingen. Dr. Steiner bekam selbst einen schlimmen Arm, die Pocken schlugen an, wie man sagt. Es ging damals der Witz rund, Dr. Steiner mache die Frauenbewegung mit — die darin bestand, dass wir alle, meistens Frauen, eben oft den kranken Arm gerieben haben.»

It is from a document of memories of Steiner written down by Hedda Hummel. The document itself remains unpublished. Hedda Hummel was one of Steiner’s stenographers.

Not to make too much of it — it is still just an anecdote — but considering the opposition to vaccines cultivated by some waldorf fans today, it is nonetheless fascinating. It isn’t too surprising, though, if you’ve read Steiner on the subject. His stance is — to be charitable — a little  bit more ‘nuanced’ than that of many anti-vaccine enthusiasts today or — to be a little less charitable — simply contradictory (meaning, you can find statements to support rejection of vaccines — and statements supporting vaccine). I wonder what he would have to say if he were here today? What would he say to those parents who eschew vaccination altogether, even for the most horrible diseases, like polio?


Well, the book is worth reading. Here’s the publisher’s page.

‘nature leaves man alone with himself’

(fire spouting dragons like these colours, I imagine)

Some people know, some people don’t; some people don’t really care, but who cares about that? Today is michaelmas. Which is supposed to be important, and I suppose it was. It may still be. I’m not going to write about michaelmas, or how it’s celebrated (for children: reenacting or telling the tale of Michael’s victory over the dragon). But a while ago, I searched for some quotes and came upon some other passages in a lecture about michaelmas. I thought it more appropriate to save them for today and, oddly, today I remembered I had saved them (what a marvellous coincidence! It usually doesn’t happen). And they were worth saving. I’ll get to them, right after this road with a disused phone booth (the little white shed).

Steiner says, this is late september 1923, and I think we are transported to Dornach:

‘And now, when conceptions of this kind were living in a man’s soul, how must he look out upon external Nature? The time of the approach of Autumn must needs recall the fight with the Dragon. The leaves fall from the trees, all the flowering and fruiting life of the plants dies away. In gentle and friendly guise did Nature receive man in Spring; tenderly she cherished him through the long Summer days, nurturing him with the warmth-laden gifts of the Sun. When Autumn comes, she has nothing more to give him. Her forces of decay press in upon him, through his senses he beholds them in pictures. From out of his own being man must give himself what hitherto Nature has given him. Her power grows weaker and weaker within him. From out of the Spiritual he must create for himself forces that shall help where Nature fails. And with Nature the Dragon too loses his power. The picture of Michael rises up before the soul — Michael the opponent of the Dragon. That picture was dimmed, when Nature, and with her the Dragon, was all-powerful. With the oncoming of the frost, the picture looms up again before the soul. Nor must we think of it merely as a picture, it is a reality for the soul. It is as if the warmth of summer had dropped a curtain before the spiritual world, and this curtain were now lifted. Man partakes in the life of the year, he goes with it in its course. Spring is his earthly friend and comforter; but she enmeshes him in that kingdom where the ‘adversary’ sets the ugliness of his invisible power within man over against the beauty of Nature.’

Some passages later, in the same lecture:

‘Our experience of Nature is incomplete as long as we partake in our inner being with her ascending life alone — seed, shoot, leaf, bud, blossom, and fruit. We need to have a feeling also for the withering and dying away. Nor shall we thereby become estranged from Nature. We have not to shut ourselves up from her Spring and her Summer, we have but to enter as well into her Autumn and her Winter.’ [Source.]

Anyway. I’m not sure what this is supposed to tell us — even less sure what it’s going to tell you! –, so if you want to, do tell me. What I do know, however, is that here in the north, winter is approaching rapidly. It’s much colder than last year, in fact, it’s colder than when Melanie was here, in late october.

The season is really over now; people are taking their boats up on land, most of the island is deserted, the cottages are empty. Life in the city seems cosier, unless you like the grey, and unless you actually like solitude. In which case, the archipelago is still tolerable. Even more than tolerable, nice. On the night of the 26th, last week, a white-grey fog enshrouded the sea. Despite the darkness, there was a peculiar presence of an odd light, and the soft mist appeared like diluted milk, only air-borne; perhaps it was the moon behind the clouds, but you could not detect it at all. The lighthouse disappeared in swathes of grey, airy cotton. If you’re inclined that way, it was a virtual fairy conference (I think they would have liked the tranquil waves). On thursday, the internet connection disappeared, too, for hours, which caused an eerie feeling that perhaps the world had ceased to exist. You just never know. There would be no way to tell. (There would. But let’s imagine not.)

meteor-like air-spirits?

I was looking for some place where Steiner says that nature is spiritually waking up during autumn to be most alive during winter (under the surface, you see, nature’s ways are very occult), whereas spring is for dying and summer… dead. I didn’t find it. But I found this instead. And it somehow fit very well to my photo of the last dying flowers of autumn. I assumed — naturally! — that the white fluff was fairies, but… maybe it’s something else? Perhaps it’s a swarm of meteor-like air-spirits descending upon the flowers and plants that are destined to die while nature wakes up and comes alive under the surface of the earth? Here’s Steiner:

‘I have told you that those beings which we call the nature-spirits of the water, work especially in the budding and sprouting plant-world. Those which we may call the nature-spirits of the air, play their part in late summer and autumn, when the plants prepare to fade and die. Then these meteor-like air-spirits sink down over the plant-world and saturate themselves, as it were, with the plants, helping them to fade away in their spring and summer forms. The disposition that at one time the spirits of the water, and at another the spirits of the air should work in this or that region of the earth, changes according to the different regions of the earth — in the northern part of the earth it is naturally quite different from what it is in the south. The office of directing, as it were, the suitable nature-spirits to their activities at the right time, is carried out by those spiritual beings which we learn to know when the occult vision is so far trained that, when we have freed ourselves from our physical and etheric bodies, we can still be conscious of our environment. There are spiritual beings, for instance, working in connection with our earth, with our earth-planet, who allot the work of the nature-spirits to the seasons of the year, and thus bring about the alternations of the seasons for the different regions of the earth, by distributing the work of the nature-spirits. These spiritual beings represent what we may call the astral body of the earth, into which man plunges with his own astral body at night when he falls asleep. This astral body, consisting of higher spirits which hover round the earth-planet and permeate it as a spiritual atmosphere, is united with the earth; and into this spirit-atmosphere man’s astral body plunges during the night-time.’ — Source.

Well, one can always speculate.

spun out of the astral plane

‘Certain kinds of animals also have a consciousness on the astral plane, which is likewise the plane of idiot consciousness. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky mentions especially certain Indian night insects, nocturnal moths. Spiders also have an astral consciousness; […] the delicate spider webs are actually spun out of the astral plane. The spiders are merely the instruments of astral activity. The ants too, like the spiders have a consciousness on the astral plane. There the ant heaps have their soul. This is why the behaviour of the ants is so precisely regulated.’

Steiner, illuminating as always. This is, by the way, one of the lectures where Steiner mentions that man, compared to a plant, is upside down. Or the other way around. He also says that the plants will speak to us, if we listen properly (that is, observe them on the correct plane).

sixth esoteric lesson

I have continued reading the english translation, so here’s another one of the important lessons, the 6th esoteric lesson for the first class, published by Southern Cross Review (sporting a naked lady on the front page as usual):

‘And when we feel our relationship with the world’s water, with the water elements, then we realize: as far as water is concerned, we should not be human, but vegetables.  And our feelings, which have a dream-like nature, as I have often explained, our feelings have a continuous tendency to be vegetable-like. Just try to think seriously about your innermost feelings and you will feel the vegetative nature of the life of feeling. And then you will have the feeling that you are not only in danger of descending to animality, but also of living on with a lamed consciousness, like a vegetable – sleeping, dreaming. But this feeling of lameness, which lies deep in the [sub]conscious, must be transformed into the feeling of awakening to humanity. Fear of animality must be transformed into the courage to raise yourself to humanity. The feeling of vegetable lameness must be transformed into an awakening call to inner strength, to develop into a fully awake person in the world.’

It’s partly odd, odder than the previous lesson. I wondered how we’re going to square that Steiner says that man, on earth, is an animal. So, alright, man is more than animal, more than plant, more than what’s present in the other ‘kingdoms’ of nature. But some anthroposophists seem to object to the idea that man is animal at all. Have I misunderstood this? It’s been discussed on the critics list, I believe, this anthroposophical difficulty seeing the human as an animal, related to other animals.

But the human is still not a dog, mr Dog reminds me. Or even related to dogs, infinitely superior as they are. Perhaps the human is a kind of dumb cat or perhaps a lazy cactus. Chasing bunnies, mr Dog often complains I’m duller and slower than a vegetable. He agrees with Steiner:

‘There is something in you that is as sleepy and as dreamy as the plants.’

‘Your running ability and your predatory instincts’, he adds (mr Dog, not Steiner, who, to my knowledge, never chased bunnies or cats, only other spiritual entities). Well, straying off the path here and into the dreamy jungle, so I’d better stop. Though, of course, canineosophy is the one true path. (Also for anthroposophists in Minnesota.)

‘man is as great as the universe’ (esoteric lesson five)

I’m behind in reading the english translation of the first class esoteric lessons. Here’s a nugget.

‘For the person who really stands before the Guardian of the Threshold this is not speculation, but experience. And this is what constitutes spiritual progress, that man integrates with the surrounding world. It is of little use to speak of these things theoretically. It is not particularly profound mystically to say that you are one with the world by merely thinking that you are, if you do not begin to experience the fact that when you are thinking you are living in the entire earth’s light, are becoming one with the earth’s light, and how by doing so, by becoming one with the light of the earth, you go out of yourself – go out, so to speak, through all the pores of your skin into a divine-spiritual being – you become one with the essence of the earth itself and with the other elements of the earth’s being. This is something which must be understood in all seriousness by anyone who strives toward relationship with the spiritual world.’

The five to ten passages following this one are fascinating and essential. There are also interesting things about colour.

What is perhaps more well known is that in waldorf education, the colour black is normally avoided. The blackest you get is dark blue, perhaps mixed with red, creating dark purple (make sure you read the part of Steiner’s lecture to find out about the role of blue and purple). What is less well known is that you aren’t supposed to leave white spots on paintings, and there is no white to paint with, only blue, red, yellow. The whitest you get is yellow (again, check what Steiner says!).

As a critically minded person — that one part of me that sits around in my brain and nags all the time — I’d like to advise you to remember, as you read this lecture, how Steiner in his other works relate the capacities of willing-feeling-thinking to the developmental stages of human nature.

That aside, if you can avoid reading it in the light (ha!) of Steiner’s race teachings (they tend to fuck things up, that’s the reason),* I wonder what would or could happen if the content of what Steiner conveys in these lectures was put in a different language shroud. If the same things were said in a more ordinary language, possibly poetic (that wouldn’t be a problem), ditching the linguistic esoteric garbage? What would happen?

(*What I’m saying is: if you entirely ignored that he connected certain capacities with human races. That connection is not essential to the thoughts he’s conveying here anyway.)

‘a jack-the-ripper masquerading as a saint’

yesterday night, I was reading some cheap old collection of Henry Miller’s work. Excerpts and aphorisms and stuff. One thing that hit me was: if Rudi had possessed a greater talent for expressing himself in a modern way, and a greater talent for poetry too… there were similarities. Anyway, I won’t go into that. But as you know, Rudi stalks me. That’s odd, you say. Nevertheless, it’s true. I didn’t know Miller was familiar with Steiner. Inspired by what I read yesterday, I picked another book by Miller from my bookshelf. It’s been standing there, unread, for fifteen years, and I opened it at random. This is what I found:

The last time I stood at that bar my friend Edgar was trying to sell me Rudolf Steiner, rather unsuccessfully I must say, because just as he was getting on to group souls and the exact nature of the difference between a cow and a mineral, from the occult standpoint, a chorus girl from the theatre opposite, who was now on the bum, wedged her way in between us and diverted our minds to things less abstruse. (Henry Miller in The Collossus of Maroussi.)

So I googled. About one book, it is written:

Miller comments on all manner of things, including Rudolph Steiner: “He is a Jack-the-Ripper masquerading as a saint.” (Link.)

And here’s an excerpt from Miller’s The Books in my Life:

(Screenshot from google books.) He then goes on to say that what they had in common, the followers, the admirers of these gurus, was their helplessness; that they were out to save him, but could not save themselves. What they conveyed, the quotes from these works, weren’t — he later thought — so ‘silly and preposterous’, but what mostly prevented him from seeing their worth was the inability of these spiritual followers to ‘profit from the wisdom they were so eager to impart.’ (He continues about Krishnamurti.)

life on mars

Evidently, some gadget — called Curiosity — has landed on Mars and is supposed to discover the planet and send the information collected back to earth. We are to learn more about that red planet in the sky, sometimes visible from my window, a little more orange than the stars. Don’t imagine, however, that Curiosity will find the whole truth. It will not be able to glean any knowledge through clairvoyant means. Somebody else did, hundred years ago. First, one must be clear that Steiner spoke about the planets in two different senses: as physical planets and as stages of earth evolution and in the evolution of consciousness. Only then can one continue. I want to focus on what Steiner said about the planet Mars, the physical planet, what it is like, according to him… and what about the Martians?

Here’s Steiner answering a question from his audience. The question is about Mars, more specifically about what we know about Mars. Apparently, there was a discussion (in society or in science or both, I don’t know) about the planets merging again with the earth. Steiner says there’s no cause for concern, because:

If Mars, for instance, were actually to come down and unite with the earth, it would not be able to lay waste the land but only to inundate it. For as far as investigation is possible — it can never be done with physical instruments but only through spiritual science, spiritual vision — Mars consists primarily of a more or less fluid mass, not as fluid as our water but, shall we say, more like the consistency of jelly, or something of that kind.

He then continues to say that Mars is not solid, so what from earth looks like canals on Mars are in reality something more like trade winds. What about life on Mars then?

… everything on Mars is much more full of life than on the earth. The earth is a dead planet in a far stronger sense than Mars, on which everything is still more or less living.

He later goes on to describe it the situation in a bit more detail:

You must remember that the constitution of Mars is quite different from that of the earth. As I said, Mars is not densely solid in the sense in which today the earth is solid, But I described to you quite recently how the earth too was once in a condition when mineral, solid matter took shape for the first time, how there were then gigantic animals which, however, had as yet no solid bones. Mars today is in a condition similar to that of the earth in that earlier epoch and therefore also has upon it those living beings, those animal beings which the earth had upon it at that time. And “human beings” on Mars are as they were on the earth at that time — still without bones. /…/ These things can be known. They cannot become known by the means employed in modern science for acquiring knowledge; nevertheless it is possible to know these things. If, then, you want to have an idea of what Mars is like today, picture to yourselves what the earth was like in a much earlier age: then you will have a picture of Mars.

Note that none of this is knowable through modern science. What a pity, NASA! Sending all that stuff up there, and yet Curiosity will never satisfy our curiousity for details and photos of Martians! Or will it? How shall we interpret Steiner here? Did it not occur to him that people might one day send a little machine up there? That clairvoyant gazing would, at some point in the future, not be the only means of knowing what takes place on other planets? I’m waiting for Curiosity to send back photos of boneless Martians.


‘It certainly cannot escape us that the birds which live in the air, creating the conditions of their existence out of the air, are formed differently from the animals which live either on the actual surface of the earth, or below it. When we consider the kingdom of the birds, we shall naturally find, in accordance with the generally accepted views, that in their case, as with other animals, we must speak of head, limb-system, and so on. But this is a thoroughly inartistic way of looking at things. I have often drawn attention to the fact that, if we are really to understand the world, we cannot remain at the stage of mere intellectual comprehension, but that what is intellectual must gradually change into an artistic conception of the world. Then you will certainly not be able to regard the head of a bird — so dwarfed and stunted in its form when compared to the head in other animals — as a head in the true sense. Certainly from the external, intellectual point of view one can say: The bird has a head, a body, and limbs. But just consider how stunted are the legs of a bird in comparison, let us say, with those of a camel or an elephant, and how dwarfed its head when compared with that of a lion or a dog. There is really hardly anything to speak of in a bird’s head; there is hardly more to it than what in a dog or an elephant or a cat, is to be found in the front part of the mouth. I could put it in this way: it is the slightly more complicated front part of a mammal’s mouth which corresponds to the head of a bird. And the limb-system in a mammal is completely stunted in the case of a bird. Certainly, an inartistic method of observation does speak about the fore-limbs of a bird as being metamorphosed into wings. But all this is thoroughly inartistic, unimaginative observation. If we would really understand nature, really penetrate into the cosmos, we must consider things in a deeper way — and this most especially in regard to their formative and creative forces. The view that the bird, too, simply has a head, a body and limbs can never lead to a true understanding of a bird’s etheric body. For if, through imaginative contemplation, we advance from seeing what is physical in the bird to seeing what is etheric, then in the etheric bird there is only a head. When looking at the etheric bird one immediately comprehends that the bird allows of no comparison with the head, body and limbs of other animals, but must be regarded simply and solely as head, as metamorphosed head. So that the actual bird-head presents only the palate and front parts of the head, in fact the mouth; and what extends backwards, all those parts of the skeleton in the bird which appear similar to ribs and spine, all this is to be looked upon as head — certainly metamorphosed and transformed — but nevertheless as head. The whole bird is really head.’ — Steiner, attempting to confuse us about the natural world and its winged inhabitants.

hermann hesse on steiner

Hesse wrote that the individual ‘has as well in the deeper recesses of his being the need to see meaning attached to all that he does and strives for, to his existence, his life, and the inevitability of death. This religious or metaphysical need, as old and as important as the need for food, love, and shelter, is satisfied in calm, culturally secure times by the churches and the systems of itinerant thinkers. In times like the present a general impatience and disillusion with both received religious creeds and scholarly philosophies grow; the demand for new formulations, new interpretations, new symbols, new explanations is infinitely great. These are the signs of the mental life of our times: a weakening of received systems, a wild searching for new interpretations of human life, a flourishing of popular sects, prophets, communities, and a blossoming of the most fantastic superstitions.’ 

Later he continued: ‘That there is no shortage of tasteless, silly, even dangerous and bad substitute candidates is obvious. We are teeming with seers and founders; charlatans and quacks are mistaken for saints; vanity and greed leap at this new, promising area—but we must not allow these facts alone to fool us. In itself this awakening of the soul, this burning resurgence of longings for the divine, this fever heightened by war and distress, is a phenomenon of marvelous power and intensity that cannot be taken seriously enough. That there lurks alongside this mighty current of desire flowing through the souls of all the peoples a crowd of industrious entrepreneurs making a business of religion must not be allowed to confuse us as to the greatness, dignity, and importance of the movement. In a thousand different forms and degrees, from a naïve belief in ghosts to genuine philosophical speculation, from primitive county-fair ersatz religion to the presentiment of truly new interpretations of life, a gigantic wave is surging over the earth; it encompasses American Christian Science and English theosophy, Mazdaznan [neo-Zoroastrian cult] and neo-Sufism [Muslim sect], [Rudolf] Steiner’s anthroposophy, and a hundred similar creeds; it takes Count Keyserling around the world and leads him to his Darmstadt experiments [a spiritual School of Wisdom], supplies him with such a serious and important collaborator as Richard Wilhelm, and concurrently gives rise to a whole host of necromancers, sharpers, and clowns.’

On the second page of the article, Hesse says that to him the intellectualism of philosophies like that of Steiner ‘too rational, too little bold, too little prepared to enter upon the chaos, upon the underworld’. 

The article is well worth reading in its entirety, perhaps in particular for his analysis of his and Steiner’s times. There’s, by the way, an older article in Info3 which contains some interesting stuff on Hesse’s relationship to anthroposophy (he once claims: none). Listening to one of Steiner’s lectures seems to have left him cold and wondering wherein the reason for Steiner’s sucessess lies. He admits to having tried to read some Steiner books, but gave up as he found them unenjoyable, in particular the language.

(Via Peter S on the waldorf critics list.)


In water, as you know, there are the water spirits. I don’t need to tell you, of course; you know all these things. But perhaps you need to be reminded?

You must hear what Rudi says — quite poetically — about the beings that are connected with this element, water:

‘Once the plant has grown upwards, once it has left the domain of the gnomes and has passed out of the sphere of the moist-earthly element into the sphere of the moist-airy, the plant develops what comes to outer physical formation in the leaves. But in all that is now active in the leaves other beings are at work, water-spirits, elemental spirits of the watery element, to which an earlier instinctive clairvoyance gave among others the name of undines. Just as we find the roots busied about, woven-about by the gnome-beings in the vicinity of the ground, and observe with pleasure the upward-striving direction which they give, we now see these water-beings, these elemental beings of the water, these undines in their connection with the leaves.

‘These undine beings differ in their inner nature from the gnomes. They cannot turn like a spiritual sense-organ outwards towards the universe. They can only yield themselves up to the weaving and working of the whole cosmos in the airy-moist element, and therefore they are not beings of such clarity as the gnomes. They dream incessantly, these undines, but their dream is at the same time their own form. They do not hate the earth as intensely as do the gnomes, but they have a sensitivity to what is earthly. They live in the etheric element of water, swimming and swaying through it, and in a very sensitive way they recoil from everything in the nature of a fish; for the fish-form is a threat to them, even if they do assume it from time to time, though only to forsake it immediately in order to take on another metamorphosis. They dream their own existence. And in dreaming their own existence they bind and release, they bind and disperse the substances of the air, which in a mysterious way they introduce into the leaves, as these are pushed upwards by the gnomes. For at this point the plants would wither if it were not for the undines, who approach from all sides, and show themselves, as they weave around the plants in their dream-like existence, to be what we can only call the world-chemists. The undines dream the uniting and dispersing of substances. And this dream, in which the plant has its existence, into which it grows when, developing upwards, it forsakes the ground, this undine-dream is the world-chemist which brings about in the plant-world the mysterious combining and separation of the substances which emanate from the leaf. We can therefore say that the undines are the chemists of plant-life. They dream of chemistry. They possess an exceptionally delicate spirituality which is really in its element just where water and air come into contact with each other. The undines live entirely in the element of moisture, but they develop their actual inner function when they come to the surface of something watery, be it only to the surface of a water-drop or something else of a watery nature. For their whole endeavour lies in preserving themselves from getting the form of a fish, the permanent form of a fish. They wish to remain in a condition of metamorphosis, in a condition of eternal, endlessly changing transformation. But in this state of transformation in which they dream of the stars and of the sun, of light and of warmth, they become the chemists who now, starting from the leaf, carry the plant further in its formation, after it has been pushed upwards by the power of the gnomes. So the plant develops its leaf-growth, and this mystery is now revealed as the dream of the undines into which the plants grow.’ [Source.]

Look how clear the water is! How else would the water spirits see anything?

fourth esoteric lesson

It’s a bit late, but I’ve finally read the english translation of the fourth first class esoteric lesson. (I say sorry, before I even begin, to my reader in Minnesota! I’m throwing pearls for swine again, or perhaps roses for donkeys, which is another expression I recently came across in a similar context — that of esoteric wisdom being wasted on those who do not take it seriously… and reverentially…!) Here are a couple of quotes, to tempt and seduce you all:

‘A relationship with the spiritual world cannot take place without this understanding of the meeting with the Guardian of the Threshold, because the spiritual world is on the other side of this threshold.’

‘It is in fact true that whenever we are dealing with esoteric truths we should not think: Oh, I know that already. For the essence of the esoteric does not lie in knowledge, but in direct experience. And inwardly, in deeper levels of our souls than where memory has its roots, is where we should grasp and retain the esoteric.’

It is also about animosity in ordinary life (and thinking and feeling and such things in esoteric life), Skakesperean villains, esoteric couch-potatoes, the contemplation of trees, and more.

‘The esotericist must also use words, for he must speak.’

Well, yes, he must. And some of them certainly speak a lot!

It’s quite a nice lecture but I instinctly oppose, I think (with my earthly, materialistic brain), what he says about earthly, ‘sub-humanizing’ forces and the ‘true’ human being. Perhaps someone can explain why I should not feel alarmed by the thought of the ‘true’ human being rejecting the earthly in favour of the supposedly higher and perfect, an elusive utopia — denying, in effect, much of what (it seems to me) makes us human. Yes, ‘godly forces’ vs evil and all that — but I still can’t… fathom. And I can’t grasp how this idea makes it any more likely that you experience yourself as ‘one with the world’, which he talks about. But then…:

‘Think, my dear friends, about standing outside in a field looking up at a star-bedecked sky. It becomes clearer when we have the opportunity to choose; it can also happen in daylight, but it is clearer at night. We feel at one with the world; we feel: that is you. But the point on earth we stand on, which we consider to be so important that it only encompasses our individual self, dissolves when we gaze up into space. It expands to the hemisphere.’


reading esoteric lessons

Since my last post, Frank Thomas Smith has continued to publish two more of the esoteric lessons in his own translation. For anyone new to this: the esoteric lessons for the first class are very serious stuff, indeed, it is advanced anthroposophy! But don’t be shy. In the second lecture, Steiner speaks about lies, thoughts that are dead corpses (thinking is dead, materialism, et c), spirit-scoffers, Ahriman, and the role of the guardian. Among other things. He says, for example, that ‘Humor may be called for with respect to some aspects of life. But the humor must then be serious. When we compare earnestness with mere game-playing, it is not sentimentality, false piety or the rolling of eyes as opposed to games.’

Later he talks about truth:

In esoteric life there is no possibility of introducing what is so prevalent in life: interpreting lies as truth. If one tries to do this in esoteric life it is not the interpretation which matters, but the truth. In esoteric life only the truth works, nothing else. You may color something because of vanity, but what has been colored makes no impression on the spiritual world. The unvarnished truth is what is effective in the spiritual world.

Then there’s one part of the lecture I guess might be interesting to bark at:

Take one of the saddest – to the spirit saddest – occurrences of our times, my dear friends. When people think clearly they are citizens of the world, for they well know that thinking makes you human, even when it is dead in the present age.

But people are separated by their feeling into nations, and especially today they let this unconscious feeling dominate in the worst possible way. Because people feel themselves as only belonging to a certain group, all kinds of conflicts arise.

For example, one might in this context (and being a real critic, not a phony one, like I am these days) ask how thinking, feeling, willing relate to the human races. In which race do those individuals incarnate who are capable of doing the thinking… and of leading humanity in spiritual progress? So — what Steiner says sounds nice, but is it?

(Hell, you’re going to suspect I bring these things up only to wind people up. After all, I know what gets people going. And here he is, saying something that seems so nice, why am I trying to wreck it, just to agitate someone. Try figuring out which of the three beasts — which Steiner talks about in this lecture — is most connected to my spiritually deficient state of mind, and give me a diagnosis. Please.)

So let’s talk about the latest edition of Southern Cross Review. In addition the third esoteric lesson, there is among things a short story about a magician cat, which, given the canineosophical circumstances, I cannot possibly recommend to you. So don’t read it. Do not read it. (Mr Dog will hate you.) Then there is, as said, the third lesson. It’s about the spiritual world again, of course, and about the physical world, too; about reality and illusion, truth and error, and separating one thing from another. He talks about thinking, feeling, willing in the spiritual world and about memory.

And when one enters the spiritual world, he immediately senses that his feeling does not stay with him. Thinking at least goes out into the presently existing universe. It disperses, as it were, in cosmic space. Feeling goes out of the universe and if one wants to follow feeling one must ask: Where are you now? When you have become 50 years old, then you have gone back in time farther than 50 years; you have gone back 70 years, 100 years, 150 years. Feeling leads you completely out of the time in which you have lived since childhood.

And willing, if you take it seriously, leads you ever farther back in time, back to your previous earth lives. That is something which happens immediately, dear fiends, when you really come to the threshold of the spiritual world. The physical body ceases holding you together. One no longer feels within the confines of the skin; one feels split into parts.

He talks about the necessity of cultivating reverence for the spiritual in life. (I know — do you draw any educational conclusions?) He talks about honesty in meditation, but before this explains:

When a person begins to meditate, when he or she is really dedicated to the meditation, he would like to continue in tranquility. He does not want it to deprive him of life’s comforts. Well, this desire not to be deprived of life’s comforts is a strong producer of illusions and semblances. Because when you dedicate yourself completely to meditation, necessarily from the depths of your soul the question arises about your capacity for evil. One cannot do otherwise than to feel through meditation, through that penetration into the depths, everything you are capable of perpetrating. But the urge to deny this is so strong that one submits to the illusion that one is essentially a very good person.

The mantras and stuff you’ll just have to read for yourself. They are, in a very special way, quite enjoyable. (It is in the reading of the mantras that I find the biggest difference, I feel, between the German original and Smith’s English translation. Not in a bad way. Somehow, the English language suits the mantras better. Oddly, very oddly. But so it is.)