Our Dear Kyle J. wrote in response to yesterday’s post about Sirius with a powerful connection to Till Eulenspiegel – which reminded me of presentation I love to give called ‘Lifting the Veil of the New Isis’, where I bring Rudolf Steiner’s imagination of the Statue of the Representative of Humanity as a veil covering the New Isis. And how in the corner of that statue is the Being of Cosmic Humor. In the Epiphany lecture of 6th January 1918 – ANCIENT MYTHS, THEIR MEANING AND CONNECTION WITH EVOLUTION, GA 180, Lecture III, in Dornach. Steiner likens this being of humor to the legend of ‘Till Eulenspiegel’:
‘So one day someone came before the provisional form of the statue of the new Isis, and up above at the left was placed a figure of humorous deportment, which in its world-mood had something between seriousness, a serious idea of the world and, one might say, even a chuckling about the world. And lo and behold! as once upon a time someone stood opposite this figure in a specially favourable moment, the figure became alive and said quite facetiously: Humanity has only forgotten the matter, but centuries ago something was placed before the new humanity about the nature of the new humanity, in so far as this new humanity is still only master of the abstract word, the abstract concept, the abstract idea and is far removed from the reality.
This new humanity keeps well to words and always asks: Is it a pumpkin or is it a flask? …when it happens that a flask has been made from a pumpkin…always clings to definitions, always stops short at words! (This is a reference to the cosmic script revealed in the cresent moon – spelling out the name Parzival, the Holy Fool who at 1st did not speak the words, but thru many trails is now the New Grail King)
In the 15th, 16th, 17th centuries — so said the chuckling being — mankind still had self-knowledge about this peculiar situation of taking words in a false sense, not relating them to their true reality, but taking them in their most superficial sense. Today, however, men themselves have already forgotten what was put before them for the benefit of their self-knowledge, in the 15th, 16th, 17th centuries.’
And the being went on chuckling and said: ‘What modern humanity should take as a real recipe for its abstract spirit is depicted on a tombstone in Mölln in the Lauenburg district. Because a tombstone stands there and on this tombstone is drawn an owl (Eule) which holds before itself a looking-glass (Spiegel). And it is related that Till Eulenspiegel, after he had wandered through the world with all sorts of buffoonery and pranks, was buried there. It is related that this Till Eulenspiegel existed, that he was born in the year 1300, went to Poland, even reached Rome, and in Rome even had a wager with the Court-jesters over all sorts of odds and ends of wisdom, and initiated all the other Till Eulenspiegelisms, which indeed are to be read in the literature about Till Eulenspiegel himself.’
Learned men — and the men who are scholars, are indeed very learned today and take everything with extraordinary gravity and significance — these have naturally discovered — they have discovered various things: for example, that there was no Homer, etc. — the scholars have naturally also discovered that there never was a Till Eulenspiegel. One of the chief reasons why the actual bones of the actual Till Eulenspiegel, who was only the representative of his age, are not supposed to lie beneath the tombstone in Lauenburg, on which is depicted the owl with the looking-glass, was because another tombstone had been found in Belgium upon which there was likewise an Owl with a mirror. Now the learned men naturally have said — for that is logical is it not, and logical are they all — how does it go in Shakespeare — for they are all honourable men — all, all, all! — logical are they all! They have said: if the same sign is found in Lauenburg and Belgium then naturally no Eulenspiegel existed at all. (Because their logic did not tell them, that like the name Parzival, the name Till Eulenspiegel is a title – held by those who have achieved that rank)
Generally in life if one finds a second time what one has found a first time, one takes this as a reinforcement — but it is logical, is it not, in these things to take matters so. Well, we say, if I have one franc, then I have one franc. I believe it. So long as I only know that I have a franc, I believe it! But then I get another and I now have two. Now I believe that I have not one at all! — that is the same logic. This is the logic in fact that is to be found in our science — if I were to recount to you how everywhere it is to be found wry frequently!
But what is the essential point of the Eulenspiegel-buffoonery? Read it up in the book: the essential thing of the Till Eulenspiegel-buffoonery always consists in the fact that Eulenspiegel is given some sort of commission, and that he takes it purely literally and naturally carries it out in the wrong way. For obviously if, for instance — to exaggerate somewhat — one were to say to Eulenspiegel (whom I now take as a representative figure) ‘Bring me a doctor,’ he would take the word literally and would bring a man who had graduated as doctor from a University. But he would perhaps bring a man who was — excuse the strong language — a perfect fool, he only went by the sound of the word. All the fooleries of Till Eulenspiegel are like this, he only goes by the wording. But this makes Till Eulenspiegel precisely the representative of the present age. Eulenspiegelism is a keynote in our modern times. Words today are far removed from their original source, ideas are often still farther removed, and people do not notice it, but behave in an Eulenspiegel way to what civilization happens to serve up. People have no notion how far they are removed from reality in what today they call ideas, and even ‘ideals’. In other words: mankind does not know at all how it has made Eulenspiegel into its patron saint, how Eulenspiegel is still wandering through the different lands.
One of the fundamental evils indeed, of our time, rests on the fact that modern humanity flees from Pallas Athene, that is, from the Goddess of Wisdom, and clings to the symbol, the owl (Eule). And mankind no longer has the least idea of it — but it is true, as I have often shown, that the foundation of external knowledge is only a reflection — but, my dear friends, in a mirror one sees that which one is! And so the owl … I mean the modern scientific profundity, sees in the glass, in the world-maya illusion just simply its own face.
Over such matters as these the being at the left above the modern Isis Statue chuckles and sniggers, and over many other matters which, out of a certain courtesy towards mankind, shall not be mentioned at the moment.
But, a feeling should be called forth that with the peculiarity of this presentation of human mysteries through the real existence of the Luciferic, Ahrimanic, in connection with the Representative of humanity itself, a state of consciousness is to be roused in mankind which wakes those very impulses in the soul which are necessary for the coming age.”
Steiner speaks again about Till Eulenspiegel in direct relation to the Grail Legend in OLD AND NEW METHODS OF INITIATION, GA 210, Lecture XIII, 26 February 1922, Dornach, Connecting Christoffel von Grimmelshausen’s fool, Simplicissimus representing the Fool of the intellectual soul, with Parzival, the Fool of the Consciousness soul age & with Till Eulenspiegel the Fool of the earlier sentient soul.
“People ought to consider what they actually have in their soul in conjunction with what they do externally; the relationship between the two would be like an owl looking in a mirror! If someone were to do exactly what the words say, it would be like holding up a mirror to an owl. Out of this, in the second half of the fourteenth century, Till Eulenspiegel arose. The owl’s mirror is held up in front of mankind. It is not Till Eulenspiegel who has to look in the mirror. But because Till Eulenspiegel takes literally what people say with their dry, abstract words, they suddenly see themselves, whereas normally they do not see themselves at all. It is a mirror for the owls because they can really see themselves in it.
Night has fallen. In past times, human beings could see into the spiritual world. And the activity of their words was in harmony with the world. Human beings were eagles. But now they have become owls. The world of the soul has become a bird of the night. In the strange world depicted by Till Eulenspiegel, a mirror is held up before the owl.”
In ANCIENT MYTHS, THEIR MEANING AND CONNECTION WITH EVOLUTION, GA 180, Lecture IV, Dornach 8th January 1918 – Steiner relates Till Eulenspiegel with the absurdity of modern science, the lies of politics & even names Woodrow Wilson!
Thanks Kyle for inspiring me to revist these ideas…
28 October 2022 – “Speaking with the Stars”: The waxing crescent Moon is back in the evening sky, low in the southwest. As twilight deepens and the stars begin to come out — but before the Moon gets too low — look for the Sagittarius Teapot in its background.
Rudolf Steiner’s Lectures on this day
ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY
1871 – Birthday of Michael Bauer, Anthroposophical teacher, poet, wrote: “The Life and Work of Christian Morgenstern“
Our Annual All Souls Celebration –
A Community Circle to Honor Our Beloved Dead
Wednesday, November 2, 2022
In-person at the Rudolf Steiner Branch
4249 N. Lincoln Ave, Chicago, IL. 60613
Doors open 5 pm
5:15-6:00 Potluck Dinner & Conversation
Transition to the Upper Room
6:05 Verse for the So-Called Dead
6:20-6:30 Speak Their Names
6:30-6:40 Social Art for the Dead
6:40-7:10 Conversation RE Experience
7:10 Closing Verse
For those wishing to attend All Souls Day Vesper Service
at The Christian Community, please arrive at the Church and be seated by 7:25 pm
The service will begin promptly at 7:30pm
2135 W WILSON AVE
CHICAGO, IL 60625
For more info. contact Coordinators Deborah Rogers or Paulette Arnold
Rudolf Steiner Branch of The Anthroposophical Society
4249 North Lincoln Avenue. Chicago, IL 60618 (map)
12 thoughts on “Cosmic Humor”
Hazel, you reminded me of a movie The Beautiful Green (La Belle Verte – 1996). The movie is rather silly, but also has profound meaning and also quite beautiful. It definitely has a Eulenspiegel element to it. At least, your post today reminded me of it 🙂 It can be watched for free here:
I love how you find these wonderful films…
Thanks I’ll check it out…
ha ha ! this morning I had just given the skinny old guy a hug and 1/2 a sandwich and your post came through.
Excellent, I love these syncronicities
And Yes we must feed humor!
The Open Secret:
‘It was in the age of scientific profundity, in the midst of the land of Philisterium that upon a hill in spiritual seclusion was erected a Building which was considered to be very remarkable in the land of Philisterium.’ If one wanted to use the language of Goethe one could say that the Building represented an ‘open secret’. For the Building was closed to none, it was open to all, and in fact everyone could see it at convenient times. But far the greater number of people saw nothing at all. Far the greater number of people saw neither what was built nor what this represented. Far the greater number of people stood — to use Goethe’s words again — before an ‘open secret’, a completely open secret.
A statue was intended to be the central point of the Building. This statue presented a Group of beings: the Representative of Man, then — Luciferic and Ahrimanic figures. People looked at the statue and did not know in the age of scientific profundity in the land Philisterium that the Statue, in fact, was only the veil for an invisible statue. But the invisible statue was not noticed by people, for it was the new Isis, the Isis of a new age.
Some few persons of the land of scientific profundity had once heard of this remarkable connection between what was visible and what, as Isis-image, was concealed behind what was open and evident. And then in their profound allegorical-symbolical manner of speech they had put forward the assertion that this combination of the Representative of Man with Lucifer and Ahriman signified Isis. With this word ‘signified’, however, they not only ruined the artistic intention from which the whole thing was supposed to proceed — for an artistic creation does not merely signify something, but is something — but they completely misunderstood all that underlay it. For it was not in the least the point that the figures signified something, but that they already were what they appeared to be. And behind the figures was not an abstract new Isis, but an actual, real new Isis. The figures ‘signified’ nothing at all, but they were in fact, in themselves, that which they made themselves out to be. But they possessed the peculiarity that behind them there was the real being, the new Isis.
‘I am Man, I am the Past, the Present and the Future. Every mortal should lift my veil.’
Three years before Steiner’s description on the day of Epiphany 1918, which conveys the New Isis that you so excellently present here, he envisioned It in some detail in a lecture from the series, “The Mystery of Death”, GA 159. Using the imaginative chisel of his mind he begins to say on May 18, 1915:
“Some day when the building in Dornach that is dedicated to the spiritual sciences is completed, it will contain, in a significant spot, a sculpture dominated by three figures. In the center of this group a figure will tower as if it were the manifestation of what I would call the most sublime human principle ever to unfold on earth. Hence, one will be able to experience this representation of the highest human principle in the evolution of the earth-the Christ, who in the course of this evolution lived three years in the body of Jesus of Nazareth. A special task in the portrayal of this Christ figure will be to make two ideas visible. Firstly, it will be important to show how the being that we are concerned with dwells in a human body. Secondly, it must also become apparent how this human body, in every facial expression and in every gesture reflects a magnificent degree of spiritual refinement, which descended with the Christ from cosmic and spiritual heights into this body in its thirtieth year. Then there will be the remaining two figures of the group, one to the left and the other to the right of the Christ figure, if that is the proper name for the figure that I have just sketched. This Christ figure is placed in such a way that it seems to be standing in front of a rock that towers noticeably at His left side, with its peak extending over His head. On top of the rock there will be another figure, winged but with his wings broken, who for this reason begins to fall into the abyss. One feature in the Christ figure that must be worked out with special artistic care is the manner in which he raises his left arm, for it is precisely this gesture that precipitates the breaking of the wings. It must not appear, however, as if the Christ Himself were breaking the wings of this being. Rather, the interaction of the two figures must be portrayed artistically to show how the Christ, by the very motion of raising his hand, is expressing his infinite compassion for this being. Yet this being cannot bear the energy flowing upward through arm and hand, an energy that is evidenced by indentations that the fingers of the extended hand seem to leave in the rock itself. When this being comes into proximity with the Christ being, he feels something that may be expressed in the words: I cannot bear the radiation of such purity upon me.
This feeling dominates so essentially as to break this upper beings wings and cause his imminent plunge into the abyss. To make this visible will be a particularly important artistic task and you will see how the meaning of this interaction could easily be misunderstood. Imagine, for example, an artistic portrayal of the Christ suggesting that merely by raising His hand He would radiate such power onto the being that his wings would be broken, forcing the plunge into the abyss. In that case it would be the Christ Himself who irradiated this being, as it were, with hatred, and thereby caused his descent. Such an impression must under no circumstances be conveyed. Rather, the being must be portrayed as having caused his own fall, for what is to be shown plunging downward, with broken wings, is Lucifer.
Now let us consider the other side of the group, toward the right of the Christ figure. There, the rock will have a ledge and, therefore, will be concave underneath. In this depression there will be another winged figure, who with his arm-like organs turns toward the ledge above. You have to visualize this as follows. To the right is the depression in the rock and in it stands this winged figure with wings entirely different from the figure on top of the rock. The wings of the figure on top of the rock resemble those of an eagle, whereas the figure in the depression has bat-like wings. This figure virtually buries himself in the cave, working in shackles, ever busy undermining the earthly realm.
The Christ figure in the middle has his right hand directed downward and the left one upward. Again, it will be an important artistic task not to show the Christ as wanting to shackle this figure; rather, he has infinite compassion for this being, which is Ahriman. Ahriman cannot bear this compassion and he writhes with pain from what the hand of the Christ exudes. This radiance from Christ’s hand causes the golden veins down in the rock depression to wind around Ahriman’s body like strong cords and shackle him. What is happening to Lucifer is his own doing; the same is true with Ahriman. This concept is going to take form as a sculpture that will be set up in a significant place in the new building. Above the sculptured group we will attempt to express the same motif through the medium of painting, but then the concept must be expressed differently. To summarize, the group of three figures: Christ, Lucifer and Ahriman will stand at the bottom as a sculpture, and above, the same motif will appear as a painting.”
O Steve, this is beautiful, thank you I had not read this before. How long this idea worked in Steiner is amazing…
As far as Humor is concerned, the story I remember hearing from the Christian Community Priest Daniel Hafner, is that a woman artist who was working on the Goetheanum (can’t remember if she was named) mentioned to Steiner that she thought The Sculptural Group was not balanced, that it needed something in the top corner. Steiner agreed & thus Cosmic humor was added…
‘Semblance’ might be a better term for them to use than ‘signify’. Steiner uses the word ‘semblance’ in relation to art. For example, an archetype of a tree. In the physical, natural word, we do see many trees but they are a semblance of that archetype.. which in the spiritual sense, is the ‘actual’ reality of the ‘thing’. So I suppose that is the challenge of our time, to see the reality ‘through’ this illusion of maya.
The German word for semblance translates to mean shine.
A week ago I had a dream that I have been working on since:
I’m traveling alone in a world of strangers. I walk into a neighborhood deli and there’s an old man making sandwiches. I have a $100 bill, then it’s only $1, then it’s $100 again, then I have two bills: $101.
I can buy a turkey sandwich. The man builds one one but starts putting in ham. “no, turkey please” Another twisted man is standing nearby – wearing Jester’s clothing, watching everything. I don’t want to be distracted by him – something is ‘off’ about him – he smells funny. I walk out into the park with my sandwich to eat alone on a large rock shelf in the sun. The Jester has followed me. I’m a little annoyed – because I feel a need for space. What do I do? The turkey sandwich is too big, I can only eat half. Should I share it, or just try to get rid of him, or try to find out more about who he is?
Thanks for your post – maybe now I know more about who he might be!
Wow Carolyn, thanks for sharing! So deep & wide!
I can see why you relate it to this post. Not only the Jester aspect, which is interesting, but the $ bills – perfectly illustrating Steiner’s example.
Have fun with the revelations you are receiving!