From Anthroposophy

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) was a German writer, scientist, and statesman. His works include:

  • four novels, including his masterwork 'Faust', epic and lyric poetry; prose and verse dramas; memoirs; an autobiography; literary and aesthetic criticism
  • scientific treatises on botany (theory of metamorphosis of plants), light and colour, and anatomy.



Lecture coverage and references

Lecture coverage



.. I already spoke at this place some time ago of a young artist who grew up while Plato was still living, not exactly in Plato's School of the Philosophers but under Plato's influence. Indeed I mentioned this matter already many years ago. Having passed through other incarnations in the meantime this individuality was reborn, not out of the Platonic philosophy but out of the Platonic spirit. He was reborn as Goethe, having karmically transformed in the Jupiter region what came to him from former incarnations, and notably from the one in which he partook of the Platonic stream, so that it became that kind of wisdom which does indeed permeate all the contents of Goethe's work. Thus we can indeed turn our gaze to a noble and pure relationship between Plato and this — I will not say “disciple” — but follower of Plato. For as I said, he was not a philosopher but an artist in that Grecian incarnation. Nevertheless Plato's eye did fall upon him and perceived the infinite promise that lay within this youth.

Quotes by Goethe

  • Letter to C.F. Zelter on 6 Jun 1825 (ao from 'Rudolf Steiner and Christian Rosenkreuz', by Peter Selg (2010), note 72)
    • "Wealth and rapidity are what the world admires, and what everyone strives to attain. Railways, quick mails, steamships, and every possible kind of facility in the way of communication are what the educated world has in view, that it may over-educate itself, and thereby continue in a state of mediocrity. Properly speaking, this is the century for clever people, for practical people of quick perception, who, because they possess a certain adroitness, feel their superiority to the multitude, even though they themselves may not be gifted in the highest degree. Let us, as far as possible, keep the attitude with which we came here; we shall, with a few others, be the last of an era that will not so soon return again."



His initiation happened in the period he was ill, he was unaware of it (RSL quote).

As a result had imaginative consciousness.


A large part of Goethe's initiate knowledge stems from the knowledge of the Rosicrucians.



To use Goethe's phrase: the spiritual ears and eyes awaken, and then the soul of man can perceive in its environment what is otherwise concealed.

Interestingly that same lecture contains a statement about Moses (see below)

Anyone who from the point of view of Spiritual Science, reads of the call to Moses at the Burning Bush will understand that in reality Moses was then raised into the Spiritual world.

1911-03-09-GA060 talks about the link between soul powers and clairvoyant faculties:

... It is a striking and pertinent fact that Goethe, when he looked out of a window could often predict, hours in advance, what kind of weather was in store.

Previous incarnations(s)

Clearly Rudolf Steiner regarded Goethe as a high individuality, and there are many links between Steiner's life and work and that of Goethe. Steiner was choosen at age 21 to be responsible for editing Goethe's scientific writings in the 1880s, he named the Dornach building 'Goetheanum' after him, etc.

There are arguments and/or insinuations to believe Goethe would be an incarnation of Moses. This remains speculation however as Steiner explicitly never mentioned this, quite consciously.

Sources: Konrad Burdach on the report by Rudolf Meyer in 1984; heard from witness report Schröder in Bremen around 1920 (Der Europäer, May-98), with reference to 1913-08-28-GA191

In the lecture on Moses of 1911-03-09-GA060, Steiner mentions Goethe three times:

The account of the experiences of Moses while a disciple of this great wise priest, opens with a description of his meeting with Jethro’s seven daughters [in the land of Midian. Ex. ii, 15, 16] near-by to a well (a symbol betokening: — source of wisdom). Anyone who would comprehend the deeper significance underlying a graphic narrative of this nature must above all remember that mystical descriptions of every period have symbolically portrayed all such knowledge and power as the soul itself may display in the form of female figures — even down to Goethe, who in the closing words of Faust, alludes to the ‘eternal feminine’.

In another lecture of 1908-12-05-GA068 also Goethe and Moses are both mentioned.


Steiner calls Goethe 'the great opponent of Kant' in 1917-04-19-GA175

Related pages

References and further reading