The Occult Significance of Blood
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Pages (PDF): 25
Publication Date: 1912
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Steiner begins this book by quoting Faust: 'Blood is a very special fluid.', and then goes on to explore the significance of blood in occult rituals. It's quite a short book and is comprised of only the one chapter. If you want to know more about why blood is so important in the occult, this makes an interesting read.
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Each one of you will doubtless be aware that the title of this lecture is taken from Goethe’s Faust. You all know that in this poem we are shown how Faust, the representative of the highest human effort, enters into a pact with the evil powers, who on their side are represented in the poem by Mephistopheles, the emissary of hell. You will know, too, that Faust is to strike a bargain with Mephistopheles, the deed of which must be signed with his own blood. Faust, in the first instance, looks upon it as a jest. Mephistopheles, however, at this juncture utters the sentence which Goethe without a doubt intended should be taken seriously: “Blood is a very special fluid.”
Now, with reference to this line in Goethe’s Faust, we come to a curious trait in the so-called Goethe commentators. You are of course aware how vast is the literature dealing with Goethe’s version of the Faust Legend. It is a literature of such stupendous dimensions that whole libraries might be stocked with it, and naturally I cannot make it my business to expatiate on the various comments made by these interpreters of Goethe concerning this particular passage. None of the interpretations throw much more light on the sentence than that given by one of the latest commentators, Professor Minor. He, like others, treats it in the light of an ironical remark made by Mephistopheles, and in this connection he makes the following really very curious observation, and one to which I would ask you to give your best attention; for there is little doubt that you will be surprised to hear what strange conclusions commentators on Goethe are capable of drawing.
Professor Minor remarks that “the devil is a foe to the blood”; and he points out that as the blood is that which sustains and preserves life, the devil, who is the enemy of the human race, must therefore also be the enemy of the blood. He then – and quite rightly – draws attention to the fact that even in the oldest versions of the Faust Legend – and, indeed, in legends generally – blood always plays the same part.
In an old book on Faust it is circumstantially described to us how Faust makes a slight incision in his left hand with a small penknife, and how then, as he takes the pen to sign his name to the agreement, the blood flowing from the cut forms the words: “O man, escape!” All this is authentic enough; but now comes the remark that the devil is a foe to the blood, and that this is the reason for his demanding that the signature be written in blood. I should like to ask you whether you can imagine any person being desirous of possessing the very thing for which he has an antipathy? The only reasonable explanation that can be given – not only as to Goethe’s meaning in this passage, but also as to that attaching to the main legend as well as to all the older Faust poems – is that to the devil blood was something special, and that it was not at all a matter of indifference to him whether the deed was signed in ordinary neutral ink, or in blood.
We can here suppose nothing else than that the representative of the powers of evil believes – nay, is convinced – that he will have Faust more especially in his power if he can only gain possession of at least one drop of his blood. This is self-evident, and no one can really understand the line otherwise. Faust is to inscribe his name in his own blood, not because the devil is inimical to it, but rather because he desires to gain power over it.
Now, there is a remarkable perception underlying this passage, namely, that he who gains power over a man’s blood gains power over the man, and that blood is a “very special fluid” because it is that about which, so to speak, the real fight must be waged, when it comes to a struggle concerning the man between good and evil.
All those things which have come down to us in the legends and myths of various nations, and which touch upon human life, will in our day undergo a peculiar transformation with regard to the whole conception and interpretation of human nature. The age is past in which legends, fairy-tales, and myths were looked upon merely as expressions of the childlike fancy of a people. Indeed, the time has even gone by when, in a half-learned, half-childlike way, it was the fashion to allude to legends as the poetical expression of a nation’s soul.
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