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  The Aspects of the Human Being in a Michelangelo Sculpture

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By: Rudolf Steiner
pgs. 73-75.doc

(English of the above version by A. R. Meuss, FIL, MTA.)

Evening, Night, Dawn, Day (Tomb of Guiliano and Lorenzo de' Medici)

If we begin with the figure "Night," this marvelous "Night," we'll not get anywhere so long as we believe we are looking at an allegory. But if we visualize the ether body, in so far as we know it, in full activity, and in doing so ask ourselves: "If the ether body were to produce the gesture that is most fully in accord with its own nature while the astral body and the I are free of it, what would that gesture be?", the answer would be: "It would be the gesture which Michelangelo has given his 'Night'." This "Night" is truly marvelously created to give expression to the free, independent ether body as it comes to expression in the physiognomy of the physical body when astral body and the I are outside it. This figure is no allegory but really and truly the human being, showing the physical and ether body when the astral body and the I are outside them. Thus we can understand the figure and its posture, for it is an absolutely true expression of the living ether body.

If we use this approach to look at the "Day" figure, we arrive at the grotesque view that when the I is most active, when it is least influenced by the astral, ether and physical bodies, we get the strange turning gesture Michelangelo has given to this figure. When the astral body acts on its own, independent of physical body, ether body and I, the gesture of the "Morning" figure emerges, and for a physical body independent of the other three aspects we get the gesture of "Dusk."

I resisted this realization for a long time, initially thinking it a crazy notion; yet the more one enters into it, the more does the truth that has been poured into the stones force one to accept it. Michelangelo would not have consciously known this; but it entered into his intuitive creative work. We can also understand the meaning of the legend which says that when Michelangelo was alone in his workshop at night, the "Night" figure would come to life and walk around. It illustrates the fact that we are dealing with the ether body. The world of the spirit influences everything in human evolution, in art, and so on. We really only begin to understand the sense- perceptible world when we understand how the spiritual is active in the reality of the senses.

1 Life between Death and Rebirth (GA 140). Lecture given in Bern on 15 December 1912. Tr. R M. Querido. New York Anthroposophic Press 1968.

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