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The Green Snake and the Beautiful Lily (synopsis)

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  • Mathew Morrell
    Anyone who is capable of understanding [The Green Snake and the Beautiful Lily] knows that Goethe was a Theosophist and a mystic. Goethe was acquainted with
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 1, 2007

      "Anyone who is capable of understanding [The Green Snake and the Beautiful Lily] knows that Goethe was a Theosophist and a mystic. Goethe was acquainted with the wisdom and the worldview we try to present in a popular way through Theosophy, and the fairy tale itself is proof of this. When Goethe was writing, no attempt had yet been made to clothe the highest truths in words and present them in open lectures through the power of reason. These intimate human soul truths were not yet spoken of openly. Those who hinted at them put them into a symbolic form and expressed them through symbols."

       —Rudolf Steiner (April 04, 1904)


      The Green Snake and the Beautiful Lily is one of the most important stories of the Anthroposophic and Rosicrucian streams. It is a timeless, allegorical tale of initiation and had a profound impact on Rudolf Steiner and on the formulation of his teachings. He called the fairy tale a kind of "secret revelation," an "apocalypse." As the authors point out in The Time Is At Hand!  Goethe's fairy tale begins with a specific image: a river separating two lands that contrast to each other, as do the sensory world and the spiritual world. The story ends with a bridge, created through sacrifice, that spans the river between the two lands.

      Indeed, Rudolf Steiner was so deeply impressed by Goethe's fairy tale, that he used it as the model for his first mystery drama, The Portal of Initiation.  It is said that, prior to its first performance, he told friends, "I know how long and deeply you have loved Goethe's fairy tale, and today I am happy to tell you that you will see it performed on stage."

      This is a fairy tale for meditation—and for building bridges of the soul and spirit.

      The twelve paintings in this book represent the soul experiences of the "Youth" in the fairy tale. They are the fruit of an intense collaboration between Hermann Linde and Rudolf Steiner, who commissioned the work. Steiner visited Linde's studio each day and provided him with detailed indications on how to treat the various motifs.

      Once Linde had finished the original panels—done mainly in tempera—he had planned to rework them in transparent watercolor glazes, intending to follow Steiner's suggestion of working wholly "from the color itself." Unfortunately, Hermann Linde was unable to realize his intention; he died suddenly, just a few months after the first Goetheanum was destroyed by fire on New Year's Day 1923.

      For anyone who is unfamiliar with The Green Snake and the Beautiful Lily, this excellent edition will provide an excellent introduction to Goethe's delightful fairy tale. And for those who know it well, the images and fresh translation will give the story new life in the imagination. It also makes an excellent gift for all ages.

      ** The preceding synopsis was cut and paste from Steiner Press, I believe.  I can't remember.

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