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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 Soul's Probation

Scene 1

The library and study of Caaesius. Prevailing colour brown. Evening. First Capesius, then the Spirit Forms who are powers of soul later Benedictus.

Capesius (reading in a book):
‘By inward gazing on the Beingless,
And dreaming through the shadowy picture realm
Of thought, conformably to self-made laws: —
Thus erring human nature often seeks
To find the meaning and the goal of life:
The soul from its own depths would draw replies
To questions that concern the universe.
Yet such attempts are vain, illusory
E'en at the outset, and they lead at last
To feeble visions which destroy themselves.’

(Speaking as follows.)

Thus is portrayed in words of import grave
Through Benedictus' noble spirit-sight,
The inward life of many human souls.
Each phrase goes home destructive to my heart —
Unfolding truly mine own way and life
Until this day, with cruel vividness.
And should a god this very hour appear
Descending on me in a raging storm
And clad in wrath, yet could his threatening might
Not torture me with more appalling fears
Than do the Master's words, as strong as fate.
Long hath my life been, but its web displays
Nothing but pictures shadowy and dim
Which haunt my dreaming soul and fondly strive
To mirror truths of nature and of mind.
With this dream-fabric hath my thought essayed
To solve the riddles of the universe.
Down many a path my restless soul I turned.
Yet do I clearly see that I myself,
Was not the active master of my soul
When threads of thought along illusion's path
Spun themselves out to cosmic distances.

So that which I in my content beheld
In pictures, left me empty, led to naught.
Then came across my path Thomasius,
The youthful painter. He indeed strode on,
Upheld by truest energies of soul
To that exalted spiritual way
Which transforms human life, and makes to rise
From hidden gulfs of soul the energy
Which feeds the springs of life within ourselves.
That which awoke from out his inmost soul
Abides in every man. And since from him
I gained this revelation, I do count
As chief amongst the many sins of life
To let the spirit's treasure grow corrupt.

I know henceforth that I must search and seek
And nevermore allow myself to doubt.
In days gone by my vanity of thought
Could have enticed me to the false belief
That unto knowledge man aspires in vain;
And only failure and despair belong
To those who would lay bare the springs of life,

And were all wisdom to unite in this,
And were I powerless to reject the claim
That human destiny demands of man
That he shall lose his individual self
And sink into the gulf of nothingness,
Yet would I make the venture unafraid.

Such thoughts would be a sacrilege to-day,
Since I have learned I cannot win repose
Until the spirit treasure in my soul
Hath been unveiled to the light of day.

The fruits of work of lofty spirit-beings
Have been implanted in the human soul,
And whoso leaves the spirit seed to lie
Unheeded and decay, he brings to naught
The work divine committed unto man.
Thus do I recognize life's highest task;
Yet when I try to take one single step
Across the threshold that I dare not shun,
I feel my strength desert me, which of yore
Did pride itself on elevated thought,
And sought the goals of life in time and space.
Once did I reckon it an easy thing
To set the brain in action and to grasp
The nature of reality by thought.
But now, when I would search the fount of life
And comprehend it as in truth it is,
My thought appears as some blunt instrument;
I have no power, no matter how I strive,
To form a clear thought-image from the words of
Benedictus, though his earnest speech
Should now direct me to the spirit's path.

(Resuming his reading.)

‘In silence sound the depths of thine own soul,
And ever let strong courage be thy guide.
Thy former ways of thinking cast away
What time thou dost withdraw into thyself;
For only when thine own light is put out
Will spirit-radiance show itself to thee.’

(Resuming his soliloquy.)

It seems as though I could not draw my breath
When I attempt to understand. these words.
And ere I feel the thoughts that I must think,
Fear and misgiving have beset my soul.
It is borne in on me that everything
Which hitherto was my environment
Is crumbling into ruin, and therewith
I too am crumbling into nothingness:
An hundred times at least have I perused
The words which follow, and each several time
Darkness enfolds me deeper than before.

(Resuming his reading.)

‘Within thy thinking cosmic thought loth live,
Within thy feeling cosmic forces play,
Within thy will do cosmic beings work;
Abandon thou thyself to cosmic thought,
Experience thyself through cosmic force,
Create thyself anew from cosmic will.
End not at last in cosmic distances
By fantasies of dreamy thought beguiled.
Do thou begin in farthest spirit-realms
And end in the recesses of thy soul.
The plan divine then shalt thou recognize
When thou hast realized thy Self in thee.’

(Becomes entranced by a vision, then comes to himself and speaks.)

What was this?

(Three Figures, representing soul forces, float round him.)

Abundant power is thine
For lofty spirit-flight;
Its sure foundation rests
Upon the human will.
Its temper hath been tried
By sure and certain hope.
It hath grown strong as steel
By sight of future times.
Thou dost but courage lack
To pour into thy will
Thy confidence in life.
Into the vast Unknown
Dare but to venture forth!

From cosmic distances
And from the sun's glad light,
From utmost realms of stars
And magic might of worlds,
From heaven's ethereal blue
And spirit's lofty power,
Win mightiness of soul;
And send its radiant beams
Deep down within thine heart;
That knowledge glowing warm
May thus be born in thee.

The Other Philia:
They are deceiving thee
This evil sisterhood;
They seek but to ensnare
By trickery and guile.
Thy gifts so seeming fair
Which they have offered thee
Will vanish into air
When thou wouldst hold them fast
With all thy human strength.
They lead thee on to worlds
Inhabited by gods,
Where thou wilt be destroyed
If thou mak'st bold to rise
Into their cosmic realm
With thy humanity.

It was quite plain that here some beings spake —
And yet it is most sure that no one else —
Beside myself — is present in this place.

So have I but held converse with myself
And yet that too seems quite impossible
For ne'er could I imagine such discourse
As here I listened to —

Am I still he was before?

(From his gestures it is plain he feels unable to reply ‘yes.’)

Oh! I am — I am not.

The Spirit-Voice of Conscience:
Thy thoughts do now descend
To depths of human life
And what as soul loth compass thee around
And what as spirit is enchained in thee,
Expands in cosmic depth,
From whose fulness quaffing
Mankind doth live in thought
From whose fulness living
Mankind illusion weaves.

Enough ... Enough ... Where is Capesius?
You I implore ... ye forces all unknown ...
Where is Capesius? Where is ... myself?

(Once more he relapses into a reverie.)

(Enter Benedictus. Capesius does not notice him at first. Benedictus touches him on the shoulder.)

I learned that thou didst wish to speak with me,
And so I came to seek thee in thy home.

Right good it is of thee to grant my wish.
Yet it had scarce been possible that thou
Shouldst find me in worse case than now I am.
That I am not this moment on the ground
Prostrate before thy feet, after such pain
As even now hath racked my soul, I owe
To thy kind glance alone which sought mine own,
So soon as thou didst with thy gentle touch
Arouse me from the horrors of my dream.

I am aware that I have found thee now
Fighting a battle for thy very life.
Since I have known full well this long time past
That thus it was appointed us to meet.
Prepare to change the sense of many words
If thou wouldst understand my speech aright,
And do not marvel that thy present pain
Bears in my language quite another name —
I call thy state good fortune.

Then indeed
Thou dost but heap the measure of the woe
Which casts me into gloom's abysmal deeps.
Just now I felt as if my real self
Had flown afar to cosmic distances,
And unfamiliar beings through its sheaths
Were speaking here. But this I took to be
Hallucination, spirit mockery,
And mourned that thus my soul could be deceived:
This thought alone kept me from breaking down.
Take not away my right thus to believe,
The only prop I lean on; tell me not
My fevered dreaming was good fortune; else
I shall be lost indeed.

A man can lose
Nought else but that which keeps him separate
From cosmic being. When he seems to lose
That which in dreamy fantasies of thought
He misapplied to labours purposeless,
Then let him seek for what has gone from him.
For he will surely find it, and withal
The proper use to which it should be put
In human life. Mere words of comfort now
Were nothing more than clever play on words.

Nay — teachings that by intellect alone
Are comprehended, thou dost not impart.
Bitter experience has shown me this.
Like deeds which lead one on to lofty heights
And also cast one to abysmal depth,
Thy counsels pour a stream of fiery life
And also deathly chill into men's souls.
They work at once e'en as the nod of fate
And also as the storms of life and love.
Much had I sought and thought in earlier days
Before I met thee; yet the spirit's powers,
Creative and destructive, I have learned
Only since I have followed in thy steps.
The turmoil and confusion of my soul,
Caused by thy words, was evident when thou
Didst come within my chamber. Oft I felt
Much pain whilst reading in thy book of life,
Until to-day my cup of woe was full.
And so my agony of soul o'erflowed,
Spilled by thy fateful words. Their meaning swept.
O'er all my soul unrecognized, and yet
Like some elixir they revived my heart.
In such wise wrought they in the magic worlds
That all my clarity of sense was lost.
Then ghostly phantoms made a mock of me,
And words of import dark I seemed to hear
Issue from my distraught tormented soul.
I know that all the secrets thou dost guard
For human souls may not be written down,
But that the answer to men's doubts may be
Revealed to each according to his need.
So grant me that of which I stand in need;
For verily I must indeed be told
What robbed me of my senses and my wits
And compassed me with magic's airy spells.

Another meaning hides within my words
Than that of the ideas which they convey;
They guide the natural forces of the soul
To spirit-verities their inward sense
Cannot be understood until the day
On which they waken vision in the soul
That yields itself to their compelling power.
They are not fruitage of mine own research;
But spirits have entrusted them to me,
Spirits well skilled to read the signs in which
The Karma of the world doth stand revealed.
The special virtue of these words is this,
Unto the source of knowledge they can guide.
Yet none the less it must be each man's task,
Who understands them in their truest sense,
To drink the spirit-waters from that source.
Nor are my words designed to hinder thee
From being swept away to worlds that seem
To thee fantastic. Thou. hast seen a realm
Which must remain illusion just as long
As thou dost lose thyself on entering it.
But wisdom's outer portal will be found
Unsealed to thine advancing soul so soon
As thou dost near it with self-consciousness.

And how can I maintain self-consciousness?

The answer to this riddle thou shalt find
When, with awakened inner eye, thou dost
Perceive before thee many wondrous things,
Which shortly will be found to cross thy path.
Know that a test path been ordained for thee
By lords of fate and by the spirit-powers.


Although their meaning is not clear to me
I feel his words at work within myself.
He hath appointed me a goal; and I
Am ready to obey. He doth not ask
For stress of thought; it seems that he desires
I should press forward with exploring feet
To find the spirit-verities myself.

I cannot tell how he was sent to me;
And yet his actions, have compelled my trust;
He hath restored me to myself once more.
So though at present I may not divine
The nature of the spell that shook me so,
I will not shrink from facing these events
Which his prophetic vision hath foretold.

Curtain whilst Capesius remains standing

Last Modified: 28-Apr-2024
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