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the Goetheanum Sacred Art & Architecture

kristena briem-west

For me, my dear friends, this Anthroposophy is the spontaneous result of my devotion for more than four decades to Goethe's world-conception, and to his whole activity. Of course if anyone studies Goethe's world-conception and what he did by considering only what is actually written in Goethe's works, and from that deduces logically, as it were, what may now be called Goethean, he will not find what gave occasion to call the Dornach Building the “Goetheanum,” But there is, I might say, a logic of thinking and a logic of life. And anyone who immerses himself in Goethe, not merely with a logic of thinking, but who takes up actively his impulse-filled suggestions, and tries to gain from them what can be gained — after so many decades have passed over humanity's evolution since Goethe's death — he will believe — no matter what he may think of the true value of Anthroposophy — that by means of the living stimuli of Goetheanism, if I may use the expression, this very Anthroposophy has been able to come into being through a logic of life, by experiencing what is in Goethe, and by developing his conclusions, in a modest way.

Now this Goetheanum was first called “Johannesbau” by those friends of the anthroposophical world-conception who made it possible to erect such a building. The name was in no way connected with the Evangelist, St, John; but the building was named — not by me but by others — for Johannes Thomasius, one of the figures in my Mystery Drama; because, above all, this Goetheanum was to be dedicated to the presentation of these Mystery Plays, besides the cultivation of all the rest of the anthroposophical world-view. But of course it was inevitable that this name, “Johannesbau,” should lead to the misunderstanding that it was meant for the author of St. John's Gospel.

Hence, I often said, I think even here in this place, in the course of the years in which the Goetheanum was being built, that for me this building is a Goetheanum; for I derived my world-view in a living way from Goethe. And then this name was officially given to the Building by friends of the cause. I have always regarded this as a sort of token of gratitude for what can be gained from Goethe, an act of homage to the towering personality of Goethe; not because it was supposed that what was originally given by Goethe would be cultivated in the best and most beautiful way in the Dornach Goetheanum, but because the anthroposophical world-view feels the deepest gratitude for what has come into the world through Goethe.

If, then, the name “Goetheanum” is taken as resulting from an act of homage, an act of gratitude, then no one, as I believe, can take exception to it. For the rest, it is quite comprehensible that anyone unacquainted with the anthroposophical world-view, when approaching the building on the Dornach hill, would be at first peculiarly affected by the two dove-tailed dome-structures, by the strange forms without and within, and so forth. But this building proceeded as an inner artistic consequence, from the anthroposophical world-view. Therefore, I shall be able to form the best connecting link with what the Building stood for, if I try first — today in a somewhat different way from the one I have employed here for many years — to answer the question: What is Anthroposophy? 

Rudolf Steiner (Lecture What is the Purpose of the Goetheanum?

Rose Window Rudolf Steiner

Entrance stairs of the Goetheanum in Dornach. Photo: Marten Kuilman (2013).
goetheanum staircase & light

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