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Goethe and reincarnation – Before Our Wondering Eyes

Goethe and reincarnation

It is “impossible for a thinking being … to imagine a non-existence, to imagine that thinking and life should cease to exist”. On 19 October 1823, the German author Johann Wolfgang von Goethe wrote these lines in a letter to a friend [1]. Literary experts have different opinions on Goethe’s views on religion. As an adult, he had abandoned his parents’ traditional Lutheran Church which he grew up in. But his comprehensive literary works often deal with spiritual and existential topics, such as the unity of man and God, nature and spirit, light and darkness.

For people who study Martinus’ works, it is interesting to note that Goethe was convinced that there is life after death, and he also embraced the idea of reincarnation. In his famous poem “Why did you give us deep insights” (Warum gabst du uns die tiefen Blicke) dedicated to his “soul friend” Charlotte von Stein, he wrote (excerpt):

Charlotte von Stein

You knew every trait of my being
You discovered the sound of my purest strings
You could read me with a glance
He who is hard for mortal eyes to penetrate
You dripped moderation into the hot blood
Directed the wild, confused course
And in your angel’s arms
The shattered breast recovered.

And of all that, only a vague memory remains
Hovering around the uncertain heart.

Oh, you were in times gone by
My sister or my wife. (1776)


Goethe also wrote to his poet colleague Christoph Martin Wieland that he could not explain “the importance, the power, that this woman has over me” in any other way than through reincarnation: “Yes, we were once husband and wife!”[1]

In his talks with Johann Peter Eckermann, he is also quite convinced that our spirit is “a being of a completely indestructible nature”. This being continues to create, he states, “from eternity to eternity, it is like the sun, which only sets for our earthly eyes. But it actually never sets, it continues to shine perpetually” [1].

According to Martinus, advanced artists have developed their feeling and intelligence enough to develop their intuition further. Through this faculty of intuition, artists can sometimes immediately get wonderful new ideas for poems, dramas, paintings and so on (see Livets Bog, vol. 1, sect. 200). I believe that Goethe’s belief in reincarnation and the eternal existence of the human being may be be due to a highly developed faculty of intuition.

[1]  The quotes above have been translated from German by myself. They are quoted from an article by Ursula Homann about “Goethe and Religion”: Goethe und die Religion

Here you can read Martinus’ Livets Bog online: The Martinus Institute

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