Tag Archives: etheric body

Why has eurythmy not yet gone mainstream?

I write this piece with some hesitancy and doubt, being only too aware of how little I know about the subject. Yet I feel that these present times are calling for a new type of eurythmy and that it is vital for all our futures that eurythmy should evolve to meet a new set of needs. It has often puzzled me as to why, among the various initiatives brought by Rudolf Steiner, only eurythmy has so far not been able to gain some measure of mainstream acceptance – why is this?

Before looking at some of the reasons why this might be so, it should be explained for those who are not yet familiar with eurythmy, that it is an art of movement developed by Rudolf Steiner in the early 20thcentury, so as to create a visible expression of the sounds, forms and dynamics that the human larynx makes while interacting with the environment during the activity of speaking and or singing. Why the larynx? It is because the larynx, like the foot or the hand (as we know from reflexology), contains within itself the whole map of the human being. You can see a performance of eurythmy from the stage of the Goetheanum in Dornach, here on YouTube.

In eurythmy the inner qualities of speech and song are made visible, and not the feelings evoked by what is heard. The performer becomes both the speech and the music so that the hidden inner life within them is revealed. This inner life is found in our etheric body.1

So eurythmy is thus an art of etheric movement, which as far as I am aware, makes the whole concept of eurythmy quite unique as a form of movement in the West. Steiner first developed eurythmy in 1912 and, like other developments he introduced (eg Waldorf education, anthroposophical medicine, and the birth of anthroposophy itself), it came about through a question brought to him by someone else. The questioner in this case was Clara Smits, who was looking for a career in movement for her daughter, Lori. Although Lori was still in her teens, Steiner began to introduce her to a new art of movement through exercises and imaginative pictures.

It soon became clear that eurythmy could be not only an art but also a health-promoting activity, and specific exercises for a wide variety of medical conditions were developed and came to be known as ‘curative eurythmy’or ‘eurythmy therapy’.

In 1919 the first Waldorf School opened and eurythmy was introduced as an integral part of the curriculum. Like the rest of the curriculum introduced by Steiner, the eurythmy lessons develop through the school in tune with the development of the children.

Since it was first created just over 100 years ago, eurythmy has developed into four main areas:

  1. As a performance art
  2. As a pedagogical activity within Steiner Waldorf schools
  3. As a curative therapy
  4. As Applied Eurythmy 2

I first came across eurythmy when I was a parent at my daughter’s Steiner school and saw performances of it by pupils and sometimes by teachers and/or visiting eurythmy troupes. Later, when I started to work at the school, I also became aware of curative eurythmy to help individual pupils. Later still, long after I had left the school, I was fortunate enough to receive curative eurythmy for some health issues of my own.

It’s curious how topics for this blog come about. I had no intention of writing about eurythmy until I received an email from a dear friend, Anne Davison, who said that she had for some reason felt moved to send me an article written about eurythmy by a friend of hers in New York. In my reply to thank her for the article, I said that: “… my view of eurythmy as a performing art is that it is severely hampered by two main factors: i) that for anyone who, like me, does not have an understanding derived from years of study and/or experience, it requires truly inspired performers if it is not to become a touch boring as a visual spectacle; and ii) that it really is time for eurythmists to evolve their art beyond the wearing of floaty coloured silk garments and to start to engage with the more visceral issues of today.”

I added that: “I have had a little bit of experience of curative eurythmy and I would like to have much more of it; I think it is a very profound and truly valuable addition to the healing repertoire.”

Anne replied to say that she agreed with me; she had gone to Dornach in the 1980s and had seen some performances of eurythmy. She thought that “men in floaty garments on their tippy toes was not such a good look. And, at a time when I was bent on ‘earth’ consciousness, I thought eurythmy was too ‘high’…(spiritual?).”

This accorded with my own responses to stage performances of eurythmy, and also reminded me of one performance that by contrast I had really enjoyed. It was at my daughter’s school and was by a group of boys from Class 12, who had been working with a newly-arrived eurythmy teacher to devise their own performance based on Martin Luther King’s famous “I have a dream” speech. While a speaker spoke out the words, these teenage boys moved rhythmically, thumping the ground with wooden staves as though to summon the earth to witness them. It was powerful and moving, demonstrating how to harness aggressive young male energy in the service of a high ideal – truly eurythmy for our times. As we applauded and cheered at the end of the performance, we heard a teacher behind us say: “That’s not real eurythmy.”

It was interesting that the performance which I and many others had found so inspiring, vital and relevant was decried by some teachers as “not being real eurythmy”. A short while later, the eurythmy teacher who had devised this production with the boys left the school, no doubt having been made aware that her approach to eurythmy was not welcome there.

That this kind of subtle bullying was a wider phenomenon, by those who thought they knew how eurythmy should and should not be done, came home to me when I read the following in Dean Pollard’s blog about his experiences at Dornach:

“During the breaks and after a eurythmy performance, the greater portion of the audience and especially the eurythmy students and teachers, were all in conflict and discussion around what they witnessed in the eurythmy performance. ‘Was that really eurythmy or not?’, or ‘It was way too athletic to be eurythmy’ or: ‘Too astral to be true etheric movement.’ Get real, people! For god’s sake, stop and look at that behavior.  If so many anthroposophists spend so much time disagreeing about what is Eurythmy or etheric movement,  how the hell do you expect the rest of the world to understand it?….Do some of you even care if anyone else on this planet has a grounded experience of Rudolf Steiner’s work?”

Later in the same piece, Dean says:

“If there is one thing that my experiences as a eurythmist have taught me, it is that as soon as human movements tend toward dance-like, physically strong or athletic expression,  the typically trained eurythmist will make statements and claims that what they are seeing is not ‘etheric movement’ but ‘physical movement’, or that what they are witnessing is ‘etherically bruising’. (…)

What is passed on as ‘etheric movement’ by eurythmy training centers can be easily summed up as, learning how to lead your movements from almost entirely the head and upper torso areas.  Sports and athletic movements, due to the sheer physics of the activity, must utilize and lead from the lower movement center and in concordance with the torso and head, thus inhabiting, articulating and using the entire human body as an instrument of expression. That is the paradox … it has become an acceptable, common practice to access the trunk (lower movement center) only during the naughty humorous portion of a eurythmy performance, but not encouraged to be developed any further by eurythmy students as part of their training.”

The floaty clothes, the subtle snobbery and the exclusiveness builds a picture of the shadow side of anthroposophy that one comes across occasionally. It is found in those anthroposophical enterprises that have ignored Karl Konig’s advice that “Tradition is nurturing the flame, not worshipping the ashes.” It is the same phenomenon seen in too many Steiner Waldorf schools right now, which have failed to evolve and develop their practice to meet the needs of the times – and as a result are facing severe problems.

Why I find this to be so relevant brings us back to my friend Anne Davison, who is a highly-developed channel in her own right. This is an excerpt from the April 2019 channelling on her website:

“The etheric body – the first layer in the human energy field – is disturbed. Everyone feels they are being prodded and cajoled and disturbed, as though somebody or something is poking into their etheric field.

The way to think of the current times is that the earth’s etheric field is being nudged and prodded, cajoled by universal energies that wish to destabilise the earth, destabilise individuals, in order now for a new etheric to take its place on planet earth. There really is a sense that everything has wobbled and changed and disturbed the status quo.

When this status quo has been disturbed in the etheric around individuals, and around the earth, it does have a huge effect; it feels so uncomfortable. And this discomfort makes you feel that things have to change. The disturbance tells you that we can’t carry on like this; there has to be a different way of doing so many things. And it’s urgent. (…)

Values and structures within society, were set up on old understandings; on a hierarchical (and monetary) system where there could never be equality, where certain people had value and others didn’t. This must change. Equality has to be universal.

When the etheric realigns, resettles its new form and influence, individually and collectively, it changes our understanding of how we are in the world. We will feel comfortable in this new world, in the new order where there are no anomalies, and no exceptions and no ‘specials’. We can live our lives in the most productive, caring, understanding and accepting way, with no special religions or companies or people telling us what to do.

In the coming weeks and months the realisation that there is no consensus for the old politics, the old monetary system, the old work system, will be a revelation to many, many people who will truly be relieved not to be on the treadmill of the old regime. They will realise in some way that this is what they have been waiting for. A conviction to change the hearts and minds of other people in a new recognition of what it is to be human on planet earth.”

 

I started this piece by outlining my doubts about expressing views on something of which I have far too little knowledge. I’m also conscious of the hard struggle that eurythmists endure to keep their art going in the face of lack of wider recognition, limited financial resources and public incomprehension. I also have my own positive experiences of the very real benefits of curative eurythmy. So what I am saying here is not said to discourage eurythmists on their difficult path but on the contrary to encourage them to find new ways to communicate and celebrate the vital contribution that eurythmy can make in these times when the etheric is shifting for all of us. Floaty coloured silks won’t cut it any more…

 

According to Steiner, the etheric body is essentially an energy body that contains and forms the physical. It is this etheric body which maintains the physical body’s form until death. Next to the etheric body is the astral body, which provides us with awareness and self-awareness, our emotions and our feelings and intentions. Then comes the ego, the immortal and inalienable core of a human being, which goes with us from one incarnation to the next. When we go to sleep at night, the physical and etheric bodies remain in our bed, while the astral body and ego go into the spiritual world for rest and inspiration and remain there until we wake up, when they re-enter the physical and etheric bodies.

“Applied Eurythmy is the application of the principles and elements of Artistic, Pedagogical, and Therapeutic Eurythmy into an individual’s work and leisure activities. Whether you use a shovel or a ball, jog or sweep, drive or ride, bringing moments of focused attention to everyday habitual movement patterns in the light of Applied Eurythmy can engender a natural reverence, respect, and playfulness to your connection with the universal in and around you.”  (Definition from Dean Pollard’s blog.)

42 Comments

Filed under Eurythmy

Rudolf Steiner and the Chinese yam

It’s interesting to see how time and again during the life of Rudolf Steiner, a new body of knowledge was able to begin only once someone had asked him a significant question. Examples of this include:

1. In 1900, Marie von Sivers, a gifted young Russian (who was to become the future Frau Dr Steiner), came to Berlin in order to make the acquaintance of Rudolf Steiner. Soon after meeting him, she asked him a question which had preoccupied her. They came to call this the Chrysanthemum Tea moment, because the room in which they were having tea was full of those flowers. She asked Steiner if there wasn’t a need to call a new spiritual movement into life, one which would be appropriate for Europe and the West, since the Theosophical Society contained so much Eastern spirituality. Steiner replied that this would only be possible if it could arise from the depths of esoteric Christianity. Thus was born anthroposophy.

2. On April 23, 1919, after a lecture Steiner gave to the factory workers of the Waldorf Astoria cigarette factory in Stuttgart, Emil Molt, the company director, asked Steiner to take on the planning and leadership of a new school for the company’s workers. This led to the birth of the first ever Waldorf school.

3. In August 1923, in Penmaenmawr in Wales where Steiner was leading a summer school, Dr Ita Wegman asked him: “Would it not be possible to found a form of medicine based upon the mysteries?” This led to their collaboration in writing a book and the beginnings of anthroposophical medicine.

It seems as though an initiate can only bring something new to the world when requested to do so through an act of free will by another human being – the initiate cannot act to impose new ideas without the way being cleared by someone asking for them.

The story of the Chinese yam is another example of a significant question being asked of Steiner that led on to new research and knowledge. I’m indebted for the following account to Hannah Townsend’s review of Ralf Roessner’s book The Light Root in the Autumn 2014 issue of New View magazine (article not online).

To quote from Hannah’s review:

“Rudolf Steiner was apparently just about to depart from the gathering at Koberwitz where he had been giving the course of lectures that would lay the foundation for the development of biodynamic agriculture. This was in 1924 and the effects of humanity’s gradual slide into a one-sidedly materialistic thinking was beginning to have an effect on food. Mechanistic agricultural practices were starting to deplete produce of the cosmic forces that food should carry into the human diet if people are to be enabled to pursue their rightful spiritual development. (Food is more than solely a means of keeping our physical bodies alive, but more fundamentally a source of nourishment for human consciousness.)…

Roessner relates how, as Steiner waited for his car to arrive to take him to the train station, two of the course participants came up to him with a question. They wanted to know whether, if all the indications that he had given were followed, it would be enough to raise the quality of nutrition to give adequate spiritual nourishment for our times. The answer that Steiner gave seems to have been both surprising and direct:

‘It will not be sufficient, even in the most favourable circumstances,’ he said. ‘What should be done is to cultivate Dioscorea batatas in Europe so that it can take over from the potato as the staple diet…’ ”

Well, who could resist following up on such an intriguing story? Certainly not the anthropopper, who promptly went out and bought a copy of The Light Root by Ralf Roessner (£8.99 from Temple Lodge Publishing, ISBN 978 1 906999 63 6).

Here's what the Chinese yam (or light root) looks like when well grown.

Here’s what the Chinese yam (or light root) looks like when well grown. (Photo via Apios Institute)

It turns out that what the author calls the Light Root is a particular type of Chinese yam. The special quality of this particular yam is that it is able to incorporate within its physical substance large quantities of the light ether, of which most of our foods are nearly or completely lacking. Why does this lack of light ether matter? It matters because without the light ether it is far more difficult for us humans to become aware of ourselves in our true nature, ie as spiritual beings currently living within physical bodies. Without the light ether, materialism holds sway and people are unaware of anything other than physical, material reality. So it is possible that this plant is not only a valuable food but also something which in the future could be a decisive influence in the development of humanity. (My wife, a specialist in fertility and maternity reflexology, is convinced that the other food which contains light ether is breast milk – which, if true, is yet another reason why breast is best.)

Here of course we dive straight into controversy: what is this light ether, which most scientists, if asked, would say does not exist? Those who are familiar with Steiner’s concepts will know that he thinks in terms of a spectrum of realities, from the physical to the etheric to various gradations of the spiritual. Living organisms which have a physical body or form also have an etheric body or form, which is essentially an energy body that contains and forms the physical. It is this etheric body which maintains the physical body’s form until death.

According to Steiner, the etheric body is made up of four ethers: warmth ether, light ether, chemical/sound ether and life ether (he said that there are in fact seven ethers but only four of them are currently susceptible to investigation). Materialists won’t go along with any of this, of course. However, two researchers, Dennis Milner and Edward Smart, in their work with Kirlian-type photography, seem to have been able to detect the four ethers identified by Steiner. My friend, Dr Siegfried Trefzer, has also used Kirlian photography as a means to detect illnesses in the etheric body before they manifest in the physical body. Between them, the etheric and physical bodies contain the meridian lines and acupuncture points which create a structured and permeable web of energy that helps to maintain the health of our physical body. This level can be weakened by various factors including: electromagnetic pollution, poor diet, drug misuse, trauma, sedentary lifestyle, genetic factors etc. From all this, it is clear that the medicine of the future will have to encompass energy medicine if real progress is to be made in treating pain and disease.

I can remember staying in a boarding house at Cliftonville with my parents when I was a young boy. On the table next to ours at breakfast was a man who had an artificial leg below one knee, which was of course fascinating to me. I have never forgotten how he said that he was having pain, not where the artificial limb joined his leg, but below this – where the amputated leg had been. This phantom limb effect is another example of the etheric body. Even when the limb has been removed, sensation can be felt as if it were still there, because the etheric form of the limb is still there.

Anyway, back to Ralf Roessner’s book about the Chinese yam or, as he calls it, the “light root”, a term he has patented in Germany as “lichtwurzel”. Roessner found that he had to go to the original growing areas in China to find suitable plants, as the specimens he had got from France, Africa and America did not show anything like the expected light ether qualities. The ability to store light ether in the plant is dependent on growing the plant at a sufficient depth (the tubers need to be at least four feet deep) as tubers grown near the surface do not have the same qualities at all. In addition, it is only the male plants of the Chinese yam which have the ability to store the light ether. At harvest time, according to Roessner, these tubers have a radiance that is noticeable even to the untrained observer.

The author clearly does not expect a sympathetic hearing from materialistic science, saying at one point: “spiritual scientific research should not try to gain a place among present day natural science (on the one hand it is still in its infancy, on the other it is more the task of natural science to venture into the spiritual), it is only right to renounce any acknowledgement from natural science.”

One can see why he should be cautious – he claims that the light root was rescued from Atlantis and brought to China, that the light root is a plant which nourishes yin or what Steiner calls the Venus principle, that to describe the effect of the light root on the human being requires faculties which go beyond ordinary sense-perceptible observation. He says that the light root’s unique light ether potential is able directly to strengthen the body’s formative forces (ie the etheric body), which is thereby enabled to take up with more ‘clarity’ those cosmic formative forces which underlie all earthly growth processes. Roessner sees the light root as providing an intermediate stage between a light nutrition of the future and our current one-sidedly materialist nutrition which is becoming less and less capable of truly nourishing us.

I can see why a scientist wouldn’t want to go to Monsanto or some other large corporation to ask for a research grant to look into this. However, in a few years time, when spiritual research has done all the heavy lifting and the reality of the etheric body has been established, I can also see these same large corporations trying to patent the light root, either to suppress it or else to exploit it so that they can market food based on it as “strengthening the etheric body, lengthening your life.”

What is more, the light root does have the potential to be a popular staple food: it is apparently delicious, makes good chips, and can be used in soups, sauces, pies etc. It has the property of filling you up with a small amount, so would be good for slimmers, as well as an excellent food for people with little money. It even has a beautifying effect, bestowing smooth, silky skin and shiny, strong hair. So, yes, I can see the Monsantos or Nestles of this world spotting vast commercial opportunities further down the line.

How would you like your light root cooked? Chipped, fried, in a soup or sauce? Yam, yam!

How would you like your light root cooked? Chipped, fried, in a soup or sauce?
Yam, yam! (Photo via AliBaba.com)

In the meantime, Ralf Roessner is doing his best to promote light root products on his website (German language only). Processing the light root so as to preserve the light ether it contains has its challenges, as the magnetic field associated with electricity soaks up the light ether quality. Even the fan in a conventional oven causes damage, while microwaves completely destroy the quality of light ether. Roessner says that there is an urgent need to develop appliances such as graters, mills and mixers, where a motor can be installed away from the actual appliance. Clearly at present it is best to use the light root as a fresh food. It may be, of course that we in the West are not yet ready to swap the potato for the Chinese yam and it is therefore the role of people like Ralf Roessner and his colleagues to research and to keep the knowledge alive until that time when we begin to awaken from our deep materialistic sleep. In this, they deserve our thanks and respect for ploughing their lonely furrow on behalf of the future.

It seems significant that the light root has come out of China and that advocates of anthroposophical medicine and ancient Chinese medicine are finding more and more parallels in their approaches. Yvan Rioux, in a fascinating article in the Winter issue of New View magazine, says that: “When the Chinese tried to grasp the activity of an organ, they looked for psychic activities as well as biological processes because our internal landscape is the basis of our soul life. “ And he quotes Steiner from lectures given a century ago: “What makes consciousness possible is not the brain as a producer of consciousness but the processes of the body as a whole. These serve as a mirror reflecting the activities of the soul. The bodily organs as living body processes act as reflectors of psychic activities.1” And again: “We must know that, in spite of the fact that they are not fully penetrated by the life of consciousness, all the organs contain the source of what surges in us as our psychic life.2

How did Steiner know all this stuff? And where are the true scientists who, even if something does not fit within their current paradigm (or especially because it does not fit within the current paradigm), will say: ”We must look into these matters and if necessary, we must develop new theories, methods and techniques to enable us to do so.” Those are subjects that the anthropopper will return to in future postings.

1 Rudolf Steiner, Psychoanalysis and Spiritual Psychology

2 Rudolf Steiner, Occult Physiology

9 Comments

Filed under Anthroposophy, Rudolf Steiner