SPIRIT IN DRAMA AND POETRY
With special emphasis on the
development of the English language
After the Speech and Drama Course given
by Rudolf Steiner in 1924, Albert Steffen spoke the following
…‘ 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’...
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
The difference in rhythm and mood from the pre-Christian to the
Christian can be heard in this old Scottish Lyke-Wake
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
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 –
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
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.
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
It’s all of your own
Dein Heil und dein
Your health and undoing
Dein Wollen und
Your will and illusion,
Dein Sinnen und
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
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
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
From ‘The Prologue’:
‘Whan that Aprille with his shoures
The droghte of Marchehath perced to the
And bathed every veyne in swich
Of which vertu engendred is the
Whan Zephirus eek with his swete
Inspired hath in every holt and
The tender croppes, and the yonge
Hath in the Ram his halfe cours
And smale fowles maken
That slepen al the night with open
(So priketh hem nature in hir
Than longen folk to goon on
(And palmers for to seken straunge
To ferne halwes, couthe in sondry
And specially, from every shires
Of Engelond, to Caunterbury they
The holy blisful martir for to
That hem hath holpen whan that they
‘When April with his showers sweet
The drought of March has pierced
unto the root
And bathed each vein with liquor
that has power
To generate therein and sire the
When Zephyr also has, with his sweet
Quickened again, in every holt and
The tender shoots and buds, and the
Into the Ram one half his course has
And many little birds make
That sleep through all the night with
(So Nature pricks them on to ramp
Then do folk long to go on
And palmers to go seeking out
To distant shrines well known in
And specially from every shire’s
Of Englandthey to
The holy blissful martyr there to
Who helped them when they lay so ill and weak…’ 16)
Trans. - Thomas
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
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.
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
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
‘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
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
Je n’y saurais que faire, et ce n’ai pas ma faute.’
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
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
So lonely ‘twas, that God
Scarce seem-ed there to
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
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
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,
10)The Odyssey, Homer, First
11)The Aeneid, Virgil, First
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,
16)The Albatross Book of
Verse, William Collins Sons and Company. Ltd. Great
1960, Geoffrey Chaucer - pp. 80-81
17) Everyman And Medieval
Miracle Plays, J. M. Dent and Sons Ltd., Aldine House,
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,
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.
24)See Note 16), The Albatross Book of Verse, F.
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.