The Key to the World

Here’s a summary of the meeting on April 4, 2020.

Meeting Summary

The group in Fair Oaks has decided to study Novalis. We put aside our months-long study of British Romanticism — I’m not sure if we will return to this topic, except in so far as this topic is relevant to our study of Novalis.

At our second Zoom meeting on April 4, we began with a check-in. Each person shared how she or he is doing in the current situation. I then gave a short introduction to the life and times of Friedrich von Hardenberg, Novalis. I used the “share screen” feature to show photos of Novalis, his family, his friends, his environment. We then had a discussion of Chapter Two of the novel Heinrich von Ofterdingen. The meeting concluded with an evaluation and with our decision to continue to meet weekly on Zoom. We will continue to read Heinrich von Ofterdingen. For the next meeting, we will continue to discuss Chapter Two, but feel free to roam ahead.

Our study of Novalis consists of two aspects: 1) the primary texts (in this case, for the moment, Heinrich von Ofterdingen); 2) the critical reception of Novalis. By critical reception I mean: how Novalis was received and read by his contemporaries and by those in succeeding decades and centuries. Some of the important contemporaries of Novalis are Friedrich Schlegel and Ludwig Tieck. Among those who come later, some of those readers are people like Thomas Carlyle, Rudolf Steiner, Marie Steiner, Sergei Prokofieff, Friedrich Hiebel, Manfred Frank, Albert Steffen, Florian Roder, Herbert Uerlings, Thomas Mahoney, Richard Samuel — among others.

As we know, Rudolf Steiner placed extraordinary emphasis on Novalis in the Last Address. We briefly discussed a few paragraphs from this lecture last night. As we move ahead, I expect that we will delve more deeply into the significance of those indications.

Rather than detail all the points covered in the second Zoom meeting, I will conclude this update with words from Novalis, Friedrich von Hardenberg. I shared these words with the participants last night. Some persons, understandably, find the Zoom medium off-putting and awkward — and I completely sympathize! For that reason, during these times of change, I am looking into other ways to share our local work, such as a website to share meeting summaries, announcements, forums, essays, literature, etc.

Here are the texts I shared during the meeting. These are my personal translations and arrangements of the German — and I assume my license as a poet. The Verse used at the beginning and end of the meeting is highlighted in the main image of this article above.

These are the texts presented during the meeting. The first poem is from the unfinished portion of Heinrich von Ofterdingen. The second is a fragment from the philosophical writings.