Moral Experience of Tone

The world of music will deepen and enliven the life of the soul in a similar way [as to that of colour]. During the period that is now drawing to a close the essential thing was that a person experienced a musical note as such, and the relationship of one note to another. In the future people will be able to experience what is behind the note. They will regard the note as a kind of window through which they enter the spiritual world, and then it will not depend on vague feelings of how one note is added to another, forming melodies for instance, but by going through the note the soul will also experience a moral-spiritual quality behind the separate notes. The soul will enter the spiritual world as through a window. The secrets of the individual musical notes will be discovered behind the notes when they are experienced like this.

We are still a long way from this feeling of being able to go from the sense world to the spiritual world through the window of each note. But this will come. We shall experience the notes as an opening made by the gods from the spiritual world to this physical-material world, and we shall climb through the note out of the physical-material world into the spiritual world.

Through the prime, for example, which we experience as absolute and not in reference to previous notes of the scale, we experience danger as we pass from the sense world into the spiritual world. We are threatened on entry with being taken captive; the prime wants to suck us in most horribly through the window of the note and make us completely disappear in the spiritual world. Assuming that we experience the prime as absolute, we shall feel that we are still too weak in a spiritual sense in the physical world, and that we are sucked up by the spiritual world when we climb through this window. This is the moral experience to be undergone on entering the spiritual world through the prime. I am over-simplifying it now, though; in actual fact we shall have a very differentiated experience which contains an infinite variety of detail.

When we climb out of the physical world into the spiritual world through the window of the second, we shall gain the impression of powers in the spiritual world that take pity, as it were, on our weakness and say, 'Well! So you were weak in the physical sense world! If you only climb into the spiritual world through the prime I must dissolve you, suck you up and break you to pieces. But if you enter through the second, it is as though a number of notes were ringing out to receive us. We enter a totally silent world if we enter the spiritual world through the absolute prime. If we enter through the second we come to a world where, if we listen, notes of varying pitch resonate gently to comfort us in our weakness. Thus we have to go through the window into the spiritual world in a way we most certainly could not do in a physical house, for the owner would give us a strange look if we were to walk in through the window and bring the whole window with us. But in the spiritual world that is what we have to do, we have to bring the window with us, bring the notes with us and, in union with them, live over there in the beyond on the other side of the thin partition that then separates us from the physical-material world.

If you enter the spiritual world through the third, you will have the feeling of an even greater weakness. If you enter the spiritual world in this way, you will feel that you are really very weak in the physical-material world, where its spiritual content is concerned. But with regard to the third — and remember that you have become the notes, you yourself have become a third — you will feel that there are friends over there who, although they themselves are not thirds, approach you according to the kind of disposition you had in the physical-material world. If you enter through the second, it is like a gentle resonating of many notes, with whom you share life in general when you enter through them, whereas notes that are like friends with one another come to meet you through the third. People who want to become composers will have to enter especially through the third, for that is where the tonal sequences, the tonal compositions are that will stimulate their artistic creativity. You will not always be met by the same tonal friends, for which ones you meet will depend on your mood, feeling and temperament — in fact how you are disposed to life at the time when you go through the third into spiritual life. This results in an infinite variety of possibilities.

If you penetrate into the spiritual world through the fourth you will experience something strange. Although no new notes appear from any direction, those that have come before, when you were experiencing the third, will live lightly in the soul as memories. You will find that in contining to live with these note-memories they perpetually take on a fresh colouring; at one time they become as bright and cheerful as can be, at other times they descend to the utmost sadness; now they are as bright as day, now they sink down to the silence of the grave. The intoning of the voice, the way the sound ascends and descends; in short, the whole mood of tonal creation will have its origin along this path, from these musical note-harmonies.

The fifth will produce experiences that are more subjective, that work to stimulate and enrich the life of the soul. It is like a magic wand that conjures up the secrets of the music world over there, out of unfathomable depths.

Experiences of this kind will come to you when you no longer merely look at the things and phenomena in the world, or merely listen to them, but experience them from within.

(Steiner, Moral Experience of Colour and Music, Dornach, January 1, 1915; GA 275)


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posted: May 6, 2007