Note: All text consists of quotations from Joseph Beuys, made in an interview with Louwrien Wijers, November 22nd 1979; published in Writing as Sculpture (1996).
I have edited the text for clarity based on my understanding of what was intended - for which I take responsibility. Because although Beuys was fluent in English - he was not idiomatic; and often deployed German grammatical constructions - plus some personal terminology, and some from Rudolf Steiner. It is probably best to try and get an overview (Gestalt) of his meaning, rather than trying to build understanding from the accumulation of specific statements.
Also, because this was a conversation the recorded and transcribed words benefit, I believe, from some re-arrangement, excision, and slight verbal expansion.
My point here is to emphasize - and this surprised me considerably! - that Joseph Beuys was a serious, and tough-minded, hard-nosed, Christian; in his primary motivations, and his understanding of art, politics, society...
And he was a romantic Christian, because he saw that (here-and-now) Christianity depends on the individual human being, personally choosing to take an active and conscious role in addressing the problems of mundane modern existence: materialism, meaninglessness, purposelessness - dead life in a dead world.
And Beuys saw that the escape from dead-ly materialism was forward-and-through - and out the other side - by a spiritual repetition (individually, and socially) of Christ's death and resurrection.
Christ is not symbolized: he is real!
Christ is not a symbol for something else. He is the substance in himself. It means life, it means power - the power of life.
Christ has already brought life. Without the substance of Christ the earth would already have died.
So Christ is not a symbol of something... I always fear this application of 'symbols'.
The most important power exists in Christ, in the elements and substance of Christ. He is a germination: the idea of the Son coming-out from spiritual entities (abstractly called 'God').
In the Christ element, the spiritual entities are showing the reality that this element also exists in humankind itself. We can speak of the human being because this element exists in him.
The most important declaration of Christ in that Man is the spiritual co-operator*. This shifts the whole energy-problem to the spiritual abilities of the people, of humankind.
Interviewer: When you say we do not need mediators between gods and people in our times, do you mean that this is a task we have to do ourselves, now?
Beuys: Yes, sure: certainly.
And we can do it ourselves. But there must first appear, or should appear - and in fact appears already in humankind - a kind of interest to ask; and that is surely a necessity.
To approach an understanding of world, and Man, and nature; asks for a very individual methodology. An individual mentality or ability...
At present the churches avoid speaking about the possibilities of humankind using such soul-powers, will-powers; powers of thought; and intuition, imagination and inspiration - and to come with this kind of 'ability' towards such an understanding.
We need to understand that to reach the earthly condition of materialism, and to get incarnated with this idea of death; there must be a resurrection...
The Christ spirit was related to the development of the idea of analysis [leading to materialism].
The whole range of philosophy throughout the Western world shows more and more this analytic way, and reaches a materialist consciousness. Thus it comes to death, like Christ.
So, in the Western world there is a kind of repetition of the mystery of Christ's life and death. It ends with the fact that we now have a materialist understanding of the world. And because of this spiritual declaration of the material intention, materialism (as a whole) is a spiritual thing...
First the earth was dead in part; but Men have long been giving death to death - they have added death articles to death principles.
So now our earth is dead! How can this death be surpassed, renewed, regenerated? That is the great question.
Only humankind can do this. Only. Nobody else. People must do it. Men are now totally responsible for the fate of the earth and for life on earth.
We must see that all is alive - and surpass death.
Solving the problem of life and death is the mission of the methodology of materialism.
People have to die, in a way; have to feel what death means - have to reach the earth.
Death belongs to life, you know! In the spiritual meaning, life is not possible without death.
That sounds like mysticism, but is not, because this mystery is experienced by everybody.
People have to have, and to develop, another understanding than the materialistic understanding - which is only looking for power to exploit, with a distorting and debasing understanding of energies.
Everything depends on us!
It is absolutely necessary to see that everything depends on us; and that we can do it!
Very easily we can do it - it is not so difficult to do.
The whole power exists with the people. But if the the people do not use it, then the regressive powers will get stronger.
In future; we need the strongest of human spirits - those who are able to resist in the middle of the shit!
Who live in the midst of things; and who feel that their own abilities can only grow in the midst of problems.
Not those who want a kind-of weak environment with a kind-of 'spiritual feeling'...
*Meaning - Man's cooperation with God has been necessary since the time of Christ, and is ever more necessary. This is clear from (too spread-out to summarize) remarks made elsewhere.