If all of us bear part of the guilt for this terrible tragedy, it is because throughout all of Europe, in spite of culture, schools, and other educational facilities, we have gradually forfeited our independent thinking.O, freedom of thought, in vain have the greatest poets called for you in the name of humanity. You languished, faded — you sank down as if dead! Unfree, we parroted others, our power of thinking chained, lamed, and weary.We had time, desire, and ambition for everything except actual thinking. Even here, in the erstwhile nation of poets and philosophers, thought has become an illustrious stranger, a rare, disquieting guest. Reading and writing are no longer of any help to us; indeed, they can only be harmful if we do not know how to think.Recently everything has been conducive to wean us of thinking altogether — everything, even our education, our art, recreation, work, social life, travel, and domestic life.But genuine culture should teach us above all to think, for feelings and instincts alone will never suffice to make possible a peaceful coexistence of people and nations. For this, a sound, carefully trained, political mind is necessary.
Since the Vienna Congress of 1815, all nations have made a certain effort to get along and settle down on this planet. Innumerable treaties, attempts of every kind, bear witness to this. People believed that by struggling for a constitution and suffrage they would gain real participation in government and be able to determine their own fate.
Indeed, we have not made such wonderful progress when everything that formerly would have been spun into the yarns of the most harebrained poets has become reality. We are in such an immense and frantic jumble, more fantastic than anything that happened during the migration of peoples. Senegalese kill our poets, artists groom horses, professors tend sheep. Theater managers give orders of execution over the telephone, pious Indians seek death on our battlefields in accordance with their ancient rites. Beautiful buildings fall into ruins and shelters fit for cave-dwellers are built. Millionaires starve and struggle with vermin, while beggars sit at abandoned sumptuous tables in old castles. Suspicious characters are rehabilitated and the most harmless people languish and die in prisons.
I had the gift that when I closed my eyes, and with bowed head imagined a flower in the center of my eye, it did not stay for even a moment in its first form, but unfolded itself and new flowers with colored as well as green leaves grew out of it. They were not natural flowers, but imaginary ones, yet regular as the roses of a sculptor. [Note 8]
It was impossible to fix this creation welling forth in me, but it lasted as long as I wished, and neither faded nor grew stronger. I could produce the same thing by imagining an ornamental, many-colored disc, which also continually changed from the center to the periphery, exactly like the recently discovered kaleidoscope ...Here afterimage, memory, creative imagination, concept and idea are all at work at once, manifesting with complete freedom in the inherent living nature of the organ, without design or guidance.
Long ago, in the time of his [Goethe's] youth, the famous Kant-Laplace fantasy [you see, Grimm calls it a fantasy!] about the origin and future destruction of the earth had taken root. Out of the rotating cosmic nebula our children leam about in school, a central nucleus of gas forms, which later becomes the earth. During unfathomable periods of time, this congealing globe goes through all its developmental phases, including that of human habitation, until it finally falls back into the sun as a piece of burnt-out slag. This long, but to the public fully comprehensible, process would need no outside intervention to run its course, except the exertion of some exterior force to keep the sun at an equal temperature. It is impossible to conceive of a more barren prospect for the future than this, urged upon us as scientifically logical and necessary. A carrion bone that a hungry dog would not go near would be a refreshing, appetizing morsel compared to this final excrement of creation our earth is supposed to be when it finally falls back into the sun. The eagerness for knowledge that makes our generation accept and believe theories of this kind is a sign of a sick imagination, a historical phenomenon it will take future scholars a lot of ingenuity to explain.
Goethe never entertained such comfortless theories ... Goethe would have taken care not to derive the Darwinists' conclusions from what he had first learnt in this respect from nature and has expressed in his works.