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Four Mystery Plays

Rudolf Steiner e.Lib Document

Sketch of Rudolf Steiner lecturing at the East-West Conference in Vienna.

Mystery Plays
Main Index
Cover Sheet
1. Portal
Scene 1
Scene 2
Scene 3
Scene 4
Scene 5
Scene 6
Scene 7
Scene 8
Scene 9
Scene 10
Scene 11
2. Probation
Scene 1
Scene 2
Scene 3
Scene 4
Scene 5
Scene 6
Scene 7
Scene 8
Scene 9
Scene 10
Scene 11
Scene 12
Scene 13
3. Guardian
Scene 1
Scene 2
Scene 3
Scene 4
Scene 5
Scene 6
Scene 7
Scene 8
Scene 9
Scene 10
4. Awakening
Scene 1
Scene 2
Scene 3
Scene 4
Scene 5
Scene 6
Scene 7
Scene 8
Scene 9
Scene 10
Scene 11
Scene 12
Scene 13
Scene 14
Scene 15

Four Mystery Plays

The Portal of Initiation

Scene 1

Room. Dominant note rose-red. Large rose-red chairs are arranged in a semicircle. To the left of the stage a door leads to the auditorium. One after the other, the speakers introduced enter by this door; each stopping in the room for a time. While they do so, they discuss the discourse they have just heard in the auditorium, and what it suggests to them.

Enter first Maria and Johannes, then others. The speeches which follow are continuations of discussions already begun in the auditorium.

My friend, I am indeed distressed to see
Thy spirit and thy soul in sadness droop,
And powerless to help the bond that binds
And that has bound us both for ten blest years.
E'en this same hour, filled with a portent deep
In which we both have heard and learned so much
That lightens all the darkest depths of soul,
Brought naught but shade and shadow unto thee.
Aye, after many of the speakers' words,
My listening heart could feel the very dart
That deeply wounded thine. Once did I gaze
Into thine eyes and saw but happiness
And joy in all the essence of the world.
In pictures beauty-steeped thy soul held fast
Each fleeting moment, bathed by sunshine's glow —
Flooding with air and light the forms of men
Unsealing all the depths and doubts of Life.
Unskilled as yet thine hand to body forth
In concrete colour-schemes, those living forms
That hovered in thy soul; but in the hearts
Of both of us there throbbed the joyous faith
And certain hope that future days would teach
Thine hand this art — to pour forth happiness
Into the very fundaments of Being;
That all the wonders of thy spirit's search
Unfolding visibly Creation's powers
Through every creature of thine art would pour
Soul rapture deep into the hearts of men.
Such were our dreams through all those days of yore
That to thy skill, mirrored in beauty's guise,
The weal of future men would trace its source.
So dreamed mine own soul of the goal of thine.
Yet now the vital spark of fashioning fire
That burned within thee seems extinct and dead.
Dead thy creative joy: and well-nigh maimed
The hand, which once with fresh and youthful strength
Guided thy steadfast brush from year to year.

Alas, 'tis true; I feel as if the fires
That erstwhile quickened in my soul are quenched.
Mine eye, grown dull, doth no more catch the gleam
Shed by the flickering sunlight o'er the earth.
No feeling stirs my heart, when changing moods
Of light and shade flow o'er the scenes around;
Still lies my hand, seeking no more to chain
Into a lasting present fleeting charms,
Shown forth by magic elemental powers
From utmost depths of Life before mine eyes.
No new creative fire thrills me with joy.
For me dull monotone obscures all life.

My heart is deeply grieved to hear that thou
Dost find such emptiness in everything
Which thrives as highest good and very source
Of sacred life itself within my heart.
All, friend, behind the changing scenes of life
That men call ‘Being,’ true life lies concealed
Spiritual, everlasting, infinite;
And in that life each soul doth weave its thread.
I feel afloat in spirit potencies,
That work, as in an ocean's unseen depths,
And see revealed all the life of men,
As wavelets on the ocean's upturned face.
I am at one with all the sense of Life
For which men restless strive, and which to me
Is but the inner self that stands revealed.
I see, how oftentimes it binds itself
Unto the very kernel of man's soul,
And lifts him to the highest that his heart
Can ever crave. Yet as it lives in me
It turns to bitter fruitage, when mine own
Touches another's being. Even so
Hath this, my destiny, worked out in all
I willed to give thee, when thou cam'st in love.
Thy wish it was to travel at my side
Unhesitating all the way, that soon
Should lead thee to a full and perfect art.
Yet what hath happened? All, that in mine eyes
Stood forth revealed in its own naked Truth
As purest life, brought death, my friend, to thee
And slew thy spirit.

Aye. 'Tis so indeed.
What lifts thy soul to Heaven's sun-kissed heights
When through thy life it comes into mine own
Thrusts my soul down, to death's abysmal gloom.
When in our friendship's rosy-fingered dawn
To this revealment thou didst lead me on,
Which sheds its light into the darkened realms,
Where human souls do enter every night,
Bereft of conscious life, and where full oft
Man's being wanders erring: whilst the night
Of Death makes mock at Life's reality.
And when thou didst reveal to me the truth
Of life's return, then did I know full well
That I should grow to perfect spirit-man.
Surely, it seemed, the artist's clear keen eye,
And certain touch of a creator's hand,
Would blossom for me through thy spirit's fire
And noble might. Full deep I breathed this fire
Into my being; when — behold — it robbed
The ebb and flow of all my spirit's power.
Remorselessly it drove out from my heart
All faith in this our world. And now I reach
A point where I no longer clearly see,
Whether to doubt or whether to believe
The revelation of the spirit-worlds.
Nay more, I even lack the power to love
That which in thee the spirit's beauty shows.

Alas! The years that pass have taught me this
That mine own way to live the spirit-life
Doth change into its opposite, whene'er
It penetrates another's character.
And I must also see how spirit-power
Grows rich in blessing when, by other paths,
It pours itself into the souls of men.
(Enter Philia, Astrid, and Luna.)
It floweth forth in speech, and in these words
Lies power to raise to realms celestial
Man's common mode of thinking; and create
A world of joy, where erstwhile brooded gloom.
Aye, it can change the spirit's shallowness
To depths of earnest feeling; and can cast
Man's character in sure and noble mould.
And I — yes, I am altogether filled
By just this spirit-power, and must behold
The pain and desolation that it brings
To other hearts, when from mine own it pours.

It seemed as though the voices of some choir
(Enter Prof. Capesius and Dr. Strader.)
Mingled together, uttering manifold
Conceptions and opinions, each his own,
Of these who formed our recent gathering.
Full many harmonies there were indeed,
But also many a harsh-toned dissonance.

Ah, when the words and speech of many men
Present themselves in such wise to the soul,
It seems as though man's very prototype
Stood centred there in secret mystery:
Became through many souls articulate,
As in the rainbow's arch pure Light itself
Grows visible in many-coloured rays.

Through changing scenes of many centuries
We wandered year on year in earnest search;
Striving to fathom deep the living force
That dwelt within the souls of those who sought
To probe and scan the fundaments of being,
And set before man's soul the goals of life.
We thought that in the depths of our own souls
We lived the higher powers of thought itself;
And thus could solve the riddles set by fate.
We felt we had, or seemed at least to feel,
Sure basis in the logic of our mind
When new experiences crossed our path
Questioning there the judgment of our soul.
Yet now such basis wavers, when amazed
I hear to-day, as I have heard before,
The mode of thought taught by these people here.
And more and more uncertain do I grow,
When I perceive, how powerfully in life
This mode of thought doth work. Full many a day
Have I spent thus, thinking how I might shape
Time's riddles as they solved themselves to me
In words, that hearts might grasp and trembling feel.
Happy indeed was I, if I could fill
Only the smallest corner of some soul
Amongst my audience with the warmth of life.
And oftentimes it seemed success was mine,
Nor would I make complaint of fruitless days.
Yet all results of teaching thus could lead
Only to recognition of this truth
So loved and emphasized by men of deeds,
That in the clash of life's realities,
Thoughts are dim shadows, nothing more nor less:
They may indeed wing life's creative powers
To due fruition, but they cannot shape
And mould our life themselves. So have I judged
And with this modest comment was content:
Where pale thoughts only work, all life is lamed
And likewise all that joins itself to life.
More potent than the ripest form of words,
However art might weave therein her spell,
Seemed nature's gift, man's talents — and more strong
The hand of destiny to mould his life.
Tradition's mountainweight, and prejudice
With dull oppressive hand will always quench
The strength of e'en the very best of words.
But that which here reveals itself in speech
Gives men, who think as I do, food for thought.
Clearly we saw the kind of consequence
That comes when sects, in superheated speech,
Blind souls of men with dogma's seething stream.
But nought here of such spirit do we find;
Here only reason greets the soul, and yet
These words create the actual powers of life,
Speaking unto the spirit's inmost depths.
Nay even to the kingdom of the Will
This strange and mystic Something penetrates;
This Something, which to such as I, who still
Wander in ancient ways, seems but pale thought.
Impossible, it seems, to disavow
Its consequences; none the less, myself
I cannot quite surrender to it yet.
But it all speaks with such peculiar charm
And not as though it really meant for me
The contradiction of experience.
It almost seems as if this Something found
The kind of man I am, insufferable.

I would associate myself in fullest sense
With every one of thy last spoken words:
And still more sharply would I emphasize
That all results in our soul-life, which seem
To spring forth from the influence of ideas,
Cannot in any wise decide for us
What actual worth of knowledge they conceal.
Whether there lives within our mode of thought,
Error or truth — 'tis certain this alone
The verdict of true science can decide.
And no one would with honesty deny
That words, which are, in seeming only, clear,
Yet claim to solve life's deepest mysteries,
Are quite unfit for such a scrutiny.
They fascinate the spirit of mankind,
And only tempt the heart's credulity;
Seeming to open door into that realm
Before which, humble and perplexed, now stands
The strict and cautious search of modern minds.
And he who truly follows such research
Is bound in honour to confess that none
Can know whence streams the wellspring of his thought,
Nor fathom where the depths of Being lie.
And though confession such as this is hard
For souls who all too willingly would gauge
What lies beyond the ken of mortal mind,
Yet every glance of every thinker's soul
Whether directed to the outer side,
Or turned towards the inner depths of life,
Scans but that boundary and naught beside.
If we deny our rational intellect
Or set aside experience, we sink
In depths unfathomable, bottomless.
And who can fail to see how utterly
What passeth here for revelation new,
Fails to fit in with modern modes of thought.
Indeed it needs but little thought to see,
How totally devoid this method is
Of that, which gives all thought its sure support
And guarantees a sense of certainty.
Such revelations may warm listening hearts,
But thinkers see in them mere mystic dreams.

Aye, thus would always speak the science, won
By stern sobriety and intellect.
But that suffices not unto the soul,
That needs a steadfast faith in its own self.
She ever will give heed to words that speak
To her of spirit. All she dimly sensed
In former days, she striveth now to grasp.
To speak of the Unknown may well entice
The thinker, but no more the hearts of men.

I too can realize how much there lies
In that objection; how it seems to strike
The idle dreamer, who would only spin
The threads of thought, and seek the consequence
Of this or that premise, which he himself
Hath formed beforehand. Me — it touches not —
No outer motive guided me to thought.
In childhood I grew up 'mid pious folk
And, following their custom, steeped my soul
In sense-intoxicating images
Of future sojourn in celestial realms,
Wherewith they seek to comfort and beguile
Man's ignorance and man's simplicity.
Within my boyish soul I sensed the throb
Of utmost ecstasy, when reverently
I raised my thoughts to highest spirit-worlds;
And prayer was then my heart's necessity.
Thereafter in a cloister was I trained;
Monks were my teachers, and in mine own heart
The deepest longing was to be a monk, —
An echo of my parent's ardent wish.
For consecration did I stand prepared
When chance did drive me from the cloistered cell;
And to this chance I owe deep gratitude.
For, many days before chance saved my soul
It had been robbed of inward peace and quiet;
For I had read and learned of many things,
That have no place within the cloister-gate.
Knowledge of nature's working came to me
From books that were forbidden to mine eyes;
And thus I learned new scientific thought.
Hard was the struggle as I sought the path
Wandering through many a way to find mine own;
Nor did I ever gain by cunning thought
Whate'er of truth revealed itself to me.
In fierce-fought battles have I torn the roots
From out my spirit's soil of all that brought
Peace and contentment to me when a child.
I understand indeed the heart that fain
Would soar up to the heights — but for myself,
When once I recognized that all I learned
From spirit-teaching was an empty dream,
I was compelled to find the surer soil
That science and discovery create.

We may surmise, each after his own kind,
Where sense and goal of life doth lie for each.
I altogether lack the power to prove
According to the science of to-day,
What spirit-teaching I have here received:
But clear within my heart I feel and know
My soul would die without this spirit-lore,
As would my body, if deprived of blood.
And thou, dear doctor, 'gainst our cause dost fight
With many words, and what thou now hast told
Of thy life's conflict lends them weight indeed
Even with those who do not understand
Thy learned argument. Yet would I ask
(Enter Theodora.)
Exactly why it is that hearts of men
Receive the word of Spirit readily,
As though self-understood: yet when man seeks
Food for his spirit in such learned words
As thou didst use his heart grows chill and cold.

Although I am at home 'mid just such men
As circle round me here, yet strangely sounds
This speech I have just heard.

What strangeness there?

I may not say. Do thou, Maria, tell.

Our friend has oftentimes explained to us
What strange experiences come to her.
One day she felt herself completely changed,
And none could understand her altered state.
Estrangement met her wheresoe'er she turned
Until she came into our circle here.
Not that we fully understand ourselves
What she possesses and what no one shares.
Yet we are trained by this our mode of thought
The unaccustomed to appreciate,
And feel with every mood of humankind.
One moment in her life, our friend perceived,
All that seemed hers aforetime, disappear;
The past was all extinguished in her soul.
And since these wondrous changes came to her,
This mood of soul hath oft renewed itself;
It doth not long endure; and other times
She lives her life as ordinary folk.
Yet whensoe'er she falls into this state,
The gift of memory doth fade away.
She loseth from her eyes the power to see
And senseth her surroundings, seeing not.
With a peculiar light her eyes then glow,
And pictured forms appear to her. At first
They seemed like dreams; anon they grew so clear,
That we could recognize without a doubt
Some prophecy of distant future days.
Full many a time have we seen this occur.

It is just this that little pleaseth me
Amongst these men; who mingle with good sense
And logic, superstition's fallacies.
'Twas ever thus where men have walked this path.

If thou canst still speak so, thou dost not yet
Perceive our attitude towards these things.

Well, as for me, I freely must confess,
That I would sooner revelations hear
Than speak of questionable spirit-themes.
For even if I fail to read aright
The riddle of such dreams, yet those at least
I count as facts; and would 'twere possible
To see one instance of the mystery
Of this strange spirit-mood before mine eyes.

Perchance it is for look, she comes again.
And it doth seem to me as though e'en now
This mystic spirit-mood would show itself.

I am compelled to speak. Before my soul
A pictured form stands wrapped in robes of light;
From which strange words are sounding in mine ears.
I feel myself in future centuries,
And men do I behold as yet unborn: —
They also see the pictured form; they too
Can hear the words it speaks, which thus resound —
'O ye, who lived in faith's security,
Take comfort now in sight, and look on Me.
Receive new life through Me. For I am He
Who lived within the souls of those who sought
To find Me in themselves, by following
The gospel-words My messengers did bring
And by their own devotion's inward power.
The light of sense ye saw — believe ye now
In the creative spirit-world beyond.
For now indeed ye have yourselves achieved
One atom of divine prophetic sight.
Oh, breathe it deep, and feel it in your souls.'
A human form steps from that sphere of light.
And speaks to me: ‘Thou shalt make known to all
Who will give ear to thee, that thou hast seen
What all mankind shall soon experience:
Once, long ago, Christ lived upon the earth,
And from this life ensued the consequence
That in soul-substance clad He hovers o'er
The evolution of humanity,
In union with the earth's own spirit-sphere;
And though as yet invisible to men,
When in such form He manifests Himself,
Since now their being lacks that spirit sight,
Which first will show itself in future times;
Yet even now this future draweth nigh
When that new sight shall come to men on earth.
What once the senses saw, when Christ did live
Upon the earth; this shall be seen by souls
When soon the time shall reach its fullness due.’

This is the first time we have heard her speak
In such a manner to so many folk.
At other times she felt constrained to speech,
Only when two or three were gathered round.

To me indeed it seems most curious,
That she, as though commanded or required,
Should find herself to revelation urged.

It may so seem; but we know well her ways
If at this moment she desired to send
Her inward soul-voice deep into your souls,
The only reason was, that unto you
The source, whence came her voice, desired to speak.

Concerning this strange future gift of sight;
Whereof she spake, as dreaming, we have heard
That he, who of this circle is the soul,
Hath oft already given full report.
Is it not possible that from his words
The content of her speech hath origin,
The mode of utterance coming from herself?

If matters thus did stand, we should not deem
Her words of any consequence or weight:
But we have tested this condition well.
Before she came into our circle here,
Our friend had never heard in any way
Of that same leader's speeches, nor had we
Heard aught of her before she came to us.

Then what we have to deal with is a state,
Such as so often happens, contrary
To all the laws of nature; and which we
Must merely estimate as some disease.
And only healthy thought, securely based
On fully conscious sense-impressions, can
Pass judgment on the riddles set by life.

Yet even here one fact presents itself;
And what we now have heard must have some worth —
For, even if we set aside all else
It doth compel the thought that spirit-power
Can cause thought-transference from soul to soul.

Ah me, if ye would only dare to tread
The ground your mode of thought doth choose to shun:
As snow before the sunlight's piercing glare
Your vain delusion needs must melt away,
Which makes the moods revealed, in such minds
Appear diseased, abnormal, wonderful.
They are suggestive, but they are not strange.
And small this wonder doth appear to me
When I compare it with the myriad
Of wonders that make up my daily life.

Nay, nay, one thing it is to recognize
What lies before our eyes on every side,
But quite another, what is shown us here.

Of spirit 'tis not necessary to speak
Until there are things shown to us which lie
Outside the strictly circled boundary
Set by the laws of scientific thought.

The clear shaft of the sunlight on the dew
Which glistens in the morning's golden light,
(Enter Felix Balde.)
The hurling stream that riseth 'neath the rock,
The thunder rumbling in the cloud-wrapped sky,
All these do speak to me a spirit tongue:
I strove to understand it and I know
That of this speech's meaning and its might,
Only a faint reflection can be glimpsed
Through your investigations, as they are.
And when that kind of speech sank deep within
My heart, I found my soul's true joy at last.
Nor could aught else, but human words alone
And spirit teaching grant this gift to me.

Felix Balde:
Those words rang true indeed

I must essay
To tell what joy fills all my heart to see
(Enter Felicia Balde.)
For the first time here with us yonder man,
Of whom we oft have heard; and joy doth cause,
The wish to see him here full many times.

Felix Balde:
It is not usual for me that I should
Associate with such a crowd of men:
And not alone unusual —

Aye, 'tis so.
His nature drives us into solitude
Away from all; year in, year out, we hear
Scarce any other converse save our own.
And if this good man here from time to time
(Pointing to Capesius.)
Came not to linger in our cottage home,
We scarce should realize that other men,
Besides ourselves, live on the earth at all.
And if the man, who spake such wondrous words
But recently in yonder lecture-hall,
And who affected us so potently,
Did not full many a time my Felix meet,
When he is gone about his daily tasks,
Ye would know nought of our forgotten life.

So the professor often visits you?

Assuredly. And I may tell you all,
The very deep indebtedness I feel
To this good woman, who doth give to me
In rich abundance, what none other can.

And of what nature are these gifts of hers?

If I would tell the tale, then must I touch
A thing that verily doth seem to me
More wonderful than much that here I've heard,
In that it speaks more nearly to my soul.
But were I in some other place, these words
Would hardly pass the barrier of my lips;
Yet here they seem to flow therefrom with ease.
In my soul-life there often comes a time
When it doth feel itself pumped out and dry.
It seems as though the very fountain-head
Of knowledge had run dry within my heart.
Then can I find no word of any kind
Worthy to speak or worthy to be heard.
And when I feel such spirit barrenness
I flee to these good people, and seek rest
In their reviving, peaceful solitude;
Then Mistress Felix tells me many a tale
Set forth in wondrous pictures, manifold,
Of beings, dwelling in the land of dreams,
Who lead a joyous life in fairy realms.
When thus she speaks, her tone and speech recall
Some oft-told legend of the ancient days.
I ask no question whence she finds these words
But this one thing alone I clearly know:
That new life flows therefrom into my soul,
And sweeps away its dull paralysis.

To hear such splendid witness to the skill
Of Dame Felicia doth, in wondrous wise,
Harmoniously blend in every way
With all that Benedictus told to us
About his friend's deep hidden knowledge-founts.

Felix Balde:
He who spake words to us just now, which showed
(Benedictus appears at the door.)
How in the realm of universal space,
And vast eternities his spirit dwelt,
Hath surely little need to speak o'er much
Of simple men.

Thou errest friend. For me
Infinite value hath each word of thine.

Felix Balde:
It was presumption only, and the bent
Of idle talk, when thou didst honour me
To wander at thy side our mountain paths.
Only because thou didst conceal from me
How much thyself dost know, I dared to speak.
But now our time is up, and we must go —
A long way hence doth lie our quiet home.

It hath been most refreshing once again
To come amongst mankind: and yet I fear
It will not happen very soon again:
There is no other life which Felix deems
Better than living in his mountain heights.
(Exeunt Felix and his wife.)

Indeed I well believe his wife is right,
Nor will he come again for many days.
It needed much to bring him here to-day.
And yet the reason lies not in himself
Why no one knoweth aught of him or his.

He only seemed to me eccentric, strange;
And many an hour I found him talkative
When I was with him; but his mystic speech
And strange discourse remained obscure to me,
When he revealed all that he claims to know.
He spoke of solar beings housed in rocks;
Of lunar demons, who disturb their work;
And of the sense of number hid in plants;
And he who listens to him cannot long
Keep clear the thread of meaning in his words.

And yet 'tis also possible to feel
As if the powers of Nature, through these words,
Sought to reveal themselves in their true state.

Already do I feel forebodings strange
That now dark hours are coming in my life.
For since the days of cloistered solitude,
Where I was taught such knowledge, and thereby
Struck to the very darkest depth of soul,
Not one experience has stirred me so,
As this weird vision of the seeress here.

Indeed I cannot see that aught of that
Should prove unnerving. And I fear, my friend,
That if thou once dost lose thy certainty,
Dark doubt will soon envelop all thy thought.

Too true! And 'tis the fear of just this doubt
That causeth me full many an anxious hour.
From my experience I know nought else
Of this strange gift of seership, save that when
Life's vexing problems sorely trouble me,
Then, ghostlike, riseth from dark spirit-depth,
Before my spirit's eyes, some phantom form
Like some dream-being, grim and terrible,
Pressing with fearful weight upon my soul,
And clutching horribly around my heart.
It seems to speak right through me words like these:
‘If thou dost fail to gain the victory
O'er me with those blunt weapons of thy thought,
Thou art a fleeting phantom, nothing more,
Formed by thine own deluded imagery.’

That is the destiny of all such men,
As do approach the world by thought alone.
The spirit's voice dwells deep in every soul.
Nor have we strength to pierce the covering
That spreads itself before our faculties.
Thought doth bring knowledge of things temporal,
Of things that vanish in the course of time:
The everlasting and all spirit-truth
Are found but in the inner depths of man.

If, then, the fruitage of a pious faith
Is able to give rest to weary souls,
Such souls may wander safely in that path,
And find sufficiency within themselves.
And yet the power of knowledge, pure and true,
Doth never bloom on such a. path as this.

Yet there can be no other way to light
True spirit-knowledge in the hearts of men.
Pride may seduce and change to fantasies
The soul's true depths of feeling, and may see
A vision only where faith's beauty lies.
One thing alone of all we here have heard
From spirit-teaching of the higher worlds,
Strikes clear upon our honest human sense:
That only in the spirit-world itself
The soul can feel itself in its true home.

The Other Maria:
So long as man feels need of speech alone,
And nought besides, so long such words as these
May satisfy bim: but the fuller life
With all its strife, its yearnings after joy,
And all its sorrow, needeth other food
To nourish and sustain the fainting soul.
For me, an inner voice did drive me on
To spend all the remaining days of life
Which were allotted me, in helping those
Whom stress of destiny had smitten down
And plunged in deepest poverty and need.
And far more oft I found it necessary
To soothe the anguish of the soul of man
Than heal his body's pain and suffering.
But I have felt indeed in many ways
My will's weak impotence to comfort men.
So that I am compelled to seek fresh strength
From out the treasured store which floweth forth
Abundantly from spirit-sources here.
The quickening warmth of words which greet my sense,
Flows forth with magic force into my hands;
And thence, like healing balsam, forth again,
When those hands touch some sorrow-laden soul.
It changeth on my lips to strengthening words
Which carry comfort unto pain-racked hearts.
The source of words like these I do not ask;
I feel their truth — they give me living life.
And every day more clearly do I see,
That they derive their strength not from my will
In all its weakness, but create anew
Myself each day unto myself again.

Yet surely there are men enough on earth
Who, though they lack such revelation's aid,
Perform innumerable deeds of good?

In sooth there is no lack of men like these
In many places; but my friend doth mean
A different thing; and if thou didst but know
The life she led, thou wouldst speak otherwise.
Where unused powers in full abundance dwell
There love will cause the seed to germinate
In rich abundance in the heart's good soil.
But our friend here exhausted life's best powers
In never-ending toil beyond her strength;
And all her will to live lay crushed and dead
Beneath the cruel weight of destiny,
Which fell upon her. All her strength she gave
To careful guidance of her children's weal:
And low already had her courage ebbed
When early death took her loved husband home.
In such a state as this, days dull and drear
Seemed all fate had in store whilst life remained.
But then the powers of destiny prevailed
To bring her 'neath the spell of spirit-lore;
And soon with us she felt the vital force
Of life break forth in her a second time.
Fresh aims in life she found, and with them came
Fresh courage once again to fight and strive.
And thus in her the spirit hath achieved
In very truth to fashion from decay
A new and living personality.
And when the spirit in such fruit as this
Shows its creative potency, we learn
It s nature, and the way it speaks to us.
And, if no pride lies hidden in our speech,
And highest moral aims live in our hearts;
If we believe that in no way at all
Our teaching is our own; — but that alone
The spirit shows itself within our souls —
Then may we surely venture to assert
That in thy mode of thinking may be found
But feeble shadows waving to and fro
Athwart the real true source of human life:
And that the spirit, which ensouls our work
Is linked in inward harmony with all
That weaves the web of destiny for man
Deep in the very fundaments of life.
I have been privileged for many years
To give myself to vital work in life:
And during all this time more bleeding hearts
And yearning souls have come before mine eyes,
Than many would conceive were possible.
I do esteem thy high ideal flight, —
The proud assurance of thy sciences:
I like to see the student-audience,
Respectful, sit and listen at thy feet:
And that to many souls thy work doth bring
Ennobling clarity of thought, I know.
But yet regarding thought like this, it seems,
Trustworthiness can only dwell therein
So long as thought lives in itself alone.
Whereas the realm of which I am a part
Sends into deep realities of life
The fruitage of its words, since it desires
To plant in deep realities its roots.
Far, far away from all thy thought doth lie
The written word upon the spirit-heaven
Which with momentous tokens doth announce
New growth upon the tree of humankind.
Thought on the old lines clear and sure may seem,
Yet can it only touch the tree's coarse bark,
And never reach the living sap within.

For my part I do seek in vain the bridge
That truly leadeth from ideas to deeds.

'Tis true our friends do over-estimate
The power that can be wielded by ideas,
But thou dost in another way mistake
The actual course of true reality:
For it is certain that ideas must form
The germ of all the actual deeds of men.

If this friend doth so many deeds of good,
The impulse thereunto lies in herself
And her warm-hearted nature, not in thought.
Most certainly 'tis needful for man's soul,
After the busy day of toil and work,
With noble thought to edify the mind.
But yet 'tis only schooling of man's will
In harmony with all his skill and power
To undertake some real work in life
Which will help forward all the human race.
When whirr of busy wheels sounds in mine ears,
Or when I see some creaking windlass drawn
By strong stout hands of men content to work,
Then do I sense indeed the powers of Life.

Often in careless speech have I maintained
That I preferred things droll and humorous
And held these only full of wit and charm,
Deeming that for my brain at any rate,
They always would provide material
Best fitted to fill up the time that lies
Between my recreation and my work.
But now quite tasteless to me seem such things;
The Power Invisible hath conquered me;
And I have learned to feel that there may be
More powerful forces in humanity,
Than all our wit's frail castles in the air.

And did it seem that nowhere else but here
'Twas possible to find such spirit-powers?

Indeed the life I used to live did offer me
Full many a type of spiritual work:
Yet cared I not to pluck or taste its fruit.
But this strange mode of thought which blossoms here
Seems to attract and draw me to itself
However little I desired to come.

Most pleasant hath this hour of converse been,
And we are debtors to our hostess here.
(Exeunt all, except Maria and Johannes.)

Oh, stay a little while yet by my side,
I am afraid: — so desperately afraid: —

Tell me; what is it aileth thee, my friend?

The first cause was our leader's speech; and then
The chequered converse of these people here.
It all hath moved and stirred me through and through.

But how could simple speeches such as these
Seize on thine heart with such intensity?

Each word seemed in that moment unto me
A dreadful symbol of our nothingness.

Indeed it was significant to see
Pour forth in such short time so many kinds
Of life and man's conflicting tendencies,
In all the speeches that we lately heard.
Yet 'tis indeed a most peculiar trait
Of life, as it is lived amongst us here,
To bring to speech the inner mind of man;
And much that otherwise comes slowly forth,
Stands here revealed in little space of time.

A mirrored picture 'twas of fullest life
That showed me to myself in clearest lines:
This spirit-revelation makes me feel
That most of us protect and train one trait
And one alone in all our character,
Which thus persuades itself it is the whole.
I sought to unify these many traits
In mine own self and boldly trod the path
Which here is shown, to lead unto that goal;
And it hath made of me a nothingness.
Keenly I feel what all these others lack,
And yet I sense as keenly that they all
Have actual part in life itself, whilst I
Stand but on unsubstantial nothingness.
It seemed whole lines of life ran into one
Significant in those brief speeches here.
But then mine own life's portrait also rose
And stood forth vividly within my soul.
The days of childhood first were painted there,
With all its fullness and its joy in life:
Then came the picture of my youthful prime
With that proud hopefulness in parent-hearts
Awakened by the talents of their son.
Then dreams concerning my career in art,
Which formed life's all in those old happy days,
Surged up from out my spirit's inmost depths
Exhorting to fulfil my cherished hopes;
And then those dreams in which thyself didst see
How I translated into coloured form
The spirit-life that liveth in thy soul.

Then saw I tongues of fire spring up and lick
Around my youthful dreams and artist hopes,
Reducing all to dust and nothingness.
Thereafter rose another pictured form
From out that drear and dreadful nothingness —
A human form, which once had linked its fate
In faithful love with mine in days long past.
She sought to hold me by her when I turned
Long years ago unto my home again,
Called to attend my mother's funeral rites.
I heeded not, but tore myself away;
For mighty was the power that drew me here
To this thy circle and the goals of life
Which here are set before our eager gaze.
In those dark days I felt no sense of guilt
When I did rend in twain the bond of love,
That was unto another soul its life.
Nor later when the message came to me
How that her life did slowly pine away,
And finally was altogether quenched
Did I feel aught of guilt until to-day;
But full of meaning were those recent words
In yonder chamber which our leader spake;
How that we may destroy by power misused
And perverse thought the destiny of those
Whom bonds of loving trust link to our souls.
Ah, hideously these words again resound
Out of the picture, thence re-echoing
With ghastly repetition from all sides:
‘Her murderer thou art! her hast thou slain!’
Thus whilst this weighty speech hath been for all
The motive to probe deep within themselves,
Within my heart it hath brought forth alone
The consciousness of this most grievous guilt.
By this new means of sight I can perceive
How far astray my striving footsteps erred.

And at this moment, friend, in dark domains
Thou walkest, and none else can help thee there,
Save he, in whom we all do put out trust.
(Maria is called away; re-enter Helena.)

I feel constrained to linger by thy side
A little while; since now for many weeks
Thy gaze hath held so much of grief and care.
How can the light, which streams so radiantly
Bring gloom unto thy soul, which only strives
With utmost strength to seek and know the truth?

Hath then this light brought naught but joy to thee?

Not the same joy as that which once I knew,
But that new joy which springeth from those words,
Through which the spirit doth reveal itself.

Natheless I tell thee that the self-same power,
Which doth in thee create, can also crush.

Some error must have crept into thy soul
With cunning tread, if this be possible;
And if dull care instead of happiness,
And moods of sorrow flow forth from the source
Of truth itself instead of spirit-bliss
In free abundance: seek then in thyself
The stumbling-blocks that thus impede thy way.
How often are we told that only health
Is the true fruitage of our teaching here,
Which makes to blossom forth the powers of life.
Shall it then show the contrary in thee?
I see its fruitage in so many lives,
Which gather trustingly around me here.
Their former mode of life grows day by day
Strange and still stranger to such souls as these;
As well-springs are fresh opened in their hearts,
Thenceforth renewing life within themselves.
To gaze into the primal depths of being
Doth not create those passionate desires
Which torture and torment the souls of men.

It took me many years to understand
And know the vanity of things of sense
When spirit-knowledge is not joined with them
In close and intimate companionship.
But that the words of highest wisdom's light
Uttered by thee, are empty vanity
One single moment hath sufficed to prove.


Last Modified: 22-Jun-2024
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