A Lecture on Eurythmy
GA Unk (formerly 279)
26 August 1923, Dornach
In 1923 Rudolf Steiner gave a series of lectures at a Summer School in Penmaenmawr, which have since been published under the title The Evolution of Consciousness. These lectures formed the main event of the School, but there were other activities as well. Steiner had brought with him a group of Eurythmists and a performance was arranged in spite of the inadequacy of the stage and its equipment. On the day before the performance he gave the introduction to this new art of movement, which appears in the following pages.
Eurythmy differs from other arts of movement in that it is an interpretation of speech as well as of music. Steiner here deals principally with the interpretation of speech, perhaps because he considered that his audience would be most interested in this aspect of Eurythmy. But he always regarded it as essential that in a performance there should be the interpretation of speech as well as of music.
The performance at Penmaenmawr was followed by others in London, and gradually sufficient interest was aroused to promote the building of a small theatre to be dedicated to the development of Eurythmy, the Rudolf Steiner Hall, in Park Road, Baker Street, now the location of the London School of Eurythmy.
Steiner would have been profoundly happy to see the development of this new art since his death. Performances at the Goetheanum in Dornach, Switzerland, now include the interpretation of whole symphonies, in which different Eurythmists, or groups of Eurythmists, interpret the parts of the different instruments. On that great stage, with its superb lighting, Eurythmy can be seen in its highest development. But there are flourishing Schools of Eurythmy in other centres as well, and recently a Congress of Eurythmists held at the Goetheanum was attended by over six hundred Eurythmists from every part of the world. Eurythmy also plays a vital part in the Rudolf Steiner Schools and Curative Homes which have been established in nearly all European countries, as well as in the Americas and the Southern hemisphere. But Steiner always emphasised (as he does in the Introduction) that educational and curative Eurythmy cannot exist without the establishment of Eurythmy as an art in its own right, just as painting, sculpture and music exist as arts in their own right, although they may be used educationally in schools and institutions.
This Introduction anticipates some of the difficulties which the newcomer may experience with an art of movement based on new and profound considerations as to the nature of man. It gives a comprehensive picture of the whole field of Eurythmy and of the need for such an art in the modern world.
A. C. Harwood, 1967
Eurhythmy has grown up out of the soil of the Anthroposophical Movement, and the history of its origin makes it almost appear to be a gift of the forces of destiny. In the year 1912 the Anthroposophical Society lost one of its members, the father of a family, and as a result it was necessary for his daughter to choose a profession, a profession, however, which could be found within the field of Anthroposophical activity. After much thought it seemed possible to make this the opportunity for the inauguration of a new art of movement in space, different from anything which had arisen up to that time.
And thus, out of the teaching given to this young girl, there arose the very first principles and movements of Eurythmy.
Eurythmy must be accounted one of the many activities arising out of the Anthroposophical Movement, which have grown up in such a way that their first beginnings must be looked upon as the result of the workings of destiny. I spoke some days ago about the forms of the pillars of the Goetheanum, and mentioned how I had stood before these pillars, and realised that through artistic activity they had gained a life of their own, and had developed quite different qualities from those with which they had originally been endowed. The same may be said about the art of Eurythmy.
This is always the case when one draws upon the creative forces of nature, either in one's work as an artist or in any other form of human activity. Just as the creative forces of nature draw upon the inexhaustible source of the infinite, so that it is always possible to perceive in something which has come to fruition much more than was originally implanted in it, so is it also when artistic impulses unite themselves with the mighty creative forces of nature. In such a case the artist is not merely developing some more or less limited impulse, but he reaches the point when he makes of himself an instrument for the creative powers of the universe, so that very much more grows out of his activity than he could originally have intended or foreseen.
At the time of which I speak, Eurythmy was studied only by a very few people. At the beginning of the war, (the first world war) Frau Dr. Steiner undertook their further training, and from that time on Eurythmy became more and more widely known, and its artistic possibilities very much enriched. The art of Eurythmy, as we know it today, has developed out of the first principles which were given in the year 1912. The work since then has been carried on without interruption; but Eurythmy is still only in its first beginnings, and we are working unceasingly towards its further development and perfection.
I am, however, convinced that Eurythmy bears within it infinite possibilities, and that, in the future, when those who were responsible for its inauguration must long have left their work in other hands, Eurythmy will develop further until it is able to take its place as a younger art by the side of those other arts having an older tradition.
No art has ever risen out of human intention intellectually conceived, neither can the principle of imitating nature ever produce an art. On the contrary, true art has always been born out of human hearts able to open themselves to the impulses coming from the spiritual world, human hearts which felt compelled to realise these impulses and to embody them in some way in external matter.
It can be seen how, in the case of each separate art — architecture, for example, sculpture, painting or music — certain spiritual impulses were poured into humanity from higher worlds. These impulses were taken up by certain individuals specially fitted to receive them, and in this way, through human activity, pictures of the higher worlds were reflected in the physical world; and the various arts came into being.
It is true that the arts, in the course of their further development, have for the most part become naturalistic, and have lost their connection with the impulses which originally inspired them, a mere imitation of external nature taking their place. Such imitation, however, could never be the source of any true art.
To-day, when a sculptor or painter wishes to represent the human figure, he does so by studying and working from a model. It can, however, easily be shown that the art of sculpture, which reached its zenith during the civilisation of ancient Greece, did not arise through the artist working from a model, and in his way more or less imitating the external impressions of the senses, but at that time, when the plastic art of Greece was in full bloom, man was still to some extent aware of the etheric body — which contains within it the formative forces and the forces of growth. At the height of Greek civilisation man knew how to make use of the etheric body when bringing an arm or hand, for instance, into a certain attitude, and the position and arrangement of the muscles were an actual experience to him. He had an inner understanding of the possibilities of movement in the arm and hand, of the possibilities of muscular expansion and contraction. And he was able to bring this inner experience to physical expression, making use of physical materials.
Thus the Greek sculptor incorporated into matter a real, inward experience, not merely the external impression of the eye. He did not say to himself: the lines go in this or that direction, and then proceed to embody in plastic form the perceptions of his physical senses; but for him it was indeed an actual inward experience which he re-created out of the creative forces of nature, and entrusted to external physical matter.
This is true of every form of art. There have always been, and will always be, in the course of human evolution on the earth, epochs during which art is at its height, during which influences from the spiritual worlds penetrate more easily into the souls of men than at other times, urging them to turn their gaze towards the spiritual worlds and to carry down from thence living spiritual impulses. This is how every true art is brought to birth.
Such periods of civilisation are always followed by others of a more naturalistic tendency, in which certain arts often attain to a greater external perfection than they had possessed at an earlier stage; but this perfection bears within it traces of decadence, whereas in their beginnings, these arts were permeated with a more vital, a more powerful and enthusiastic spiritual impulse. At that earlier stage they had not yet lost their true reality; their technique was the outcome of man's whole being. It was not a merely external, traditional technique, but was based on the body, soul, and spirit of man.
The realisation of this fact of human evolution might well give one courage to develop ever further and further this art of Eurythmy, which has been borne on the wings of fate into the Anthroposophical Movement. For it is the task of the Anthroposophical Movement to reveal to our present age that spiritual impulse which is suited to it.
I speak in all humility when I say that within the Anthroposophical Movement there is a firm conviction that a spiritual impulse of this kind must now, at the present time, enter once more into human evolution. And this spiritual impulse must perforce, among its other means of expression, embody itself in a new form of art. It will increasingly be realised that this particular form of art has been given to the world in Eurythmy.
It is the task of Anthroposophy to bring a greater depth, a wider vision and a more living spirit into the other forms of art. But the art of Eurythmy could only grow up out of the soul of Anthroposophy; could only receive its inspiration through a purely Anthroposophical conception.
It is through speech that man is able to reveal his inner being outwardly to his fellow-men. Through speech he can most easily disclose his inmost nature.
At all periods of civilisation, in a form suited to the particular epoch, side by side with those arts which need for their expression either the external element of space or the external element of time, accompanying and completing these, we find that art which manifests itself through speech — the art of poetry.
The art of speech — I purposely use the expression ‘the art of speech,’ to describe poetry, and the justification for doing so will appear later — is more comprehensive and universal than the other arts, for it can embody other forms of art within its own form. It can be said that the art of poetry is an art of speech which in the case of one poet works more plastically, and in the case of another more musically. Indeed one can go so far as to say that painting itself can enter into the art of poetry.
Speech is a universal means of expression for the human soul. And one who is able to gaze with unprejudiced vision into the earliest times of human evolution on the earth, can see that in certain primeval languages a really fundamental artistic element entered into human evolution. Such primeval languages were, however, to a far greater degree than is the case with modern languages, drawn out of the whole human organisation.
When one investigates without prejudice the course of the evolution of man, one discovers certain ancient languages which might almost be likened to song. Such singing was, however, enhanced by accompanying movements of the legs and arms, so that a kind of dancing was added. Especially was this the case when a dignified form of expression was sought, the form of some ritual or cult.
In those primeval times of human evolution the accompanying of the word which issued forth from the larynx with gesture and movement was felt to be something absolutely natural. It is only possible to gain a true understanding of what lies behind these things, when one realises that what otherwise appears only as gesture accompanying speech can gain for itself independent life. It will then become apparent that movements which are carried out by the arms and hands, from the artistic point of view can be not merely equally expressive, but much more expressive than speech itself.
It must be admitted that such an unprejudiced attitude with regard to these things is not always to be found. One often observes a certain antipathy towards the accompanying of speech by gesture. Indeed, I myself have noticed that certain people even go so far as to consider it not in very good taste when a speaker accompanies his discourse with pronounced gesture. As a result of this the habit has grown up, and is by no means unusual at the present day, of putting one's hands in one's pockets when making a speech. I must say that I have always found this attitude most unsympathetic.
It is a fact that the inmost nature of the human being can be revealed most wonderfully through movements of the arms and hands. My fingers often itch to take up my pen and write an essay on the philosopher, Franz Brentano, a dear friend of mine who died some years ago. I have already written a good deal about him, but I should much like to write yet another essay, based on what I shall now relate.
When Franz Brentano mounted the platform and took his place at the lecturer's desk he was himself the embodiment of his entire philosophy, the spiritual content of which called forth such deep admiration when clothed in philosophical terms and concepts.
Brentano's philosophy, in itself, was far more beautiful than his own description of it. All that he could say in words was revealed through the way in which he moved his arms and hands while speaking, through the way in which he held out the piece of paper containing the notes of his lecture. It was a very remarkable type of movement, and its most striking characteristic was, that by means of this piece of paper, and, indeed, by his whole attitude, he gave the impression of imparting something of great significance, while at the same time preserving an appearance of unconcern. So that in the course of one of his lectures one could see his entire philosophy expressed in these gestures, which were of the most manifold variety.
What is especially interesting about Franz Brentano is the fact that he founded a psychology in which he departs from the theories of all other psychologists, Spencer, Stuart Mill and others, by refusing to include the will among the psychological categories. I am acquainted with all that Franz Brentano brought forward to substantiate this theory of his, but I found nothing so convincing as the way in which he held his piece of paper. The instant he began to make gestures with his hands and arms, all trace of will disappeared from his whole bearing as a philosopher, while feeling and idea revealed themselves in the most remarkable manner. This preponderance of idea and feeling, and the disappearance of will, underlay every movement which he made with his hands. So that one day I shall really find myself compelled to write an essay: The Philosophy of Franz Brentano, as revealed through his Gesture and Bearing. For it seems to me that much more was expressed in these gestures than in any philosophical discourse on the subject.
Those who enter deeply and without prejudice into this matter will gradually realise that the breath which we expel from our lungs, our organs of speech and song, when vocalised and given form by means of the lips, teeth and palate, is really nothing else than gesture in the air. Only in this case these air-gestures are projected into space in such a way that they conjure up sounds which can be heard by the ear.
If one succeeds, with true sensible-super-sensible vision, in penetrating into the nature of these air gestures, into all that the human being actually does when he utters a vowel or consonant sound, when he forms sentences, uses rhyme and rhythm, the Iambic, for instance, or the Trochee — when one penetrates into these gestures of the air, the thought arises; alas, the languages of modern civilisation have indeed made terrible concessions to convention. They have become simply a means of expression for scientific knowledge, a means of communicating the things of everyday life. They have lost their primeval spirituality.
Civilised language bears out what has been so beautifully expressed by the poet: “Spricht die Seele, so spricht ach schon die Seele nicht mehr.” (“Alas, when the soul speaks, in reality it speaks no more.”)
Now all that can be perceived by super-sensible vision, all that can thus be learned about the nature of these forms and gestures of the air, can be carried into movements of the arms and hands, into movements of the whole human being. There then arises in visible form the actual counterpart of speech. One can use the entire human body in such a way that it really carries out those movements which are otherwise carried out by the organs connected with speech and music. Thus there arises visible speech, visible music — in other words, the art of Eurythmy.
When one brings artistic feeling to the study of the nature of speech, one finds that the individual sounds form themselves, as it were, into imaginative pictures. It is necessary, however, entirely to free oneself from the abstract character which language has taken during the so-called advanced civilisation of the present day. For it is an undeniable fact that modern man, when speaking, in no way brings his whole human being into activity.
True speech, however, is born from the whole human being. Let us take any one of the vowels. A vowel sound is always the expression of some aspect of the feeling life of the soul. The human being wishes to express what lives in his soul as wonder — Ah. Or the holding himself upright against opposition — A; or the assertion of self, the consciousness of ego-existence in the world — E. Or again he wishes to express wonder, but now with a more intimate, caressing shade of feeling — I.
The character of the sounds is of course slightly different in the different languages, because each individual language proceeds from a differently constituted soul-life. But every vowel sound does in its essence express some shade of the feeling-life of the soul; and this feeling only has to unite itself with thought, with the head system, in order to pass over into speech.
What I have said about the vowel sounds of speech can be applied equally to the tones of music. The various sounds of speech, the use of idiom, the construction of phrases and sentences — all these things are the expression of the feeling-life of the soul.
In singing also the soul life expresses itself through tone.
Let us now consider the consonants. The consonants are the imitation of what we find around us in external nature. The vowel is born out of man's inmost being; it is the channel through which this inner content of the soul streams outwards. The consonant is born out of the comprehension of external nature; the way in which we seize upon external things, even the way in which we perceive them with the eyes, all this is built into the form of the consonants. The consonant represents, paints, as it were, the things of the external world. In earlier times the consonants did actually contain within themselves a kind of imaginative, painting of what exists in external nature.
Such things are, certainly, dealt with by many students of the science of language, but always in a one-sided manner. For instance, there exist two well-known theories with regard to the origin of language — the Ding-Dong theory and the Bow-Wow theory — which have been set forth by investigators who are, as a matter of fact, absolutely lacking in any real understanding of their subject, but belong to that type of person who is constantly originating all sorts of scientific theories. The Ding-Dong theory is based upon the assumption that, as in the case of the bell — to take an extreme example — so within every external object there lies some sort of a sound, which is then imitated by the human being. Everything is included in this theory of imitation; and it has been named the Ding-Dong theory after the sound made by the bell, which is perhaps its most striking example. The idea is, that when one says the word “wave,” one is imitating the actual movement of the waves — which is, indeed, perfectly true in this instance.
The other theory, the Bow-Wow theory, which could equally well be called the Moo-Moo theory, is one which assumes that speech in the first place arose from the transformation and development of the sounds of animals. And because one of the most striking of these sounds is “Bow-Wow,” this theory has been called the Bow-Wow theory.
Now all these theories do actually contain a certain element of truth. Scientific theories are never without some foundation. What is remarkable about them is that they do always contain say, a quarter, or an eighth, or a sixteenth, or a hundredth part of the truth; and it is this fraction of the truth, put forward as it is in a very clever and suggestive manner which deceives people. The real truth is that the vowel arises from the soul-life, and the consonant out of the perception and imitation of the external object. The human being imitates the external object through the way in which he holds back the stream of the breath with his lips, or gives it shape and form by means of the teeth, tongue and palate. While the consonants are formed in this way, by the fashioning of gestures in the air, the vowel sounds are the channel through which the inner soul-life of the human being streams outwards.
The consonants give plastic form to what is to be expressed.
And in the same way as the single sounds are formed, the single letters, so are sentences also formed, and poetic language becomes actual gesture in the air. Modern poetry, however, shows very clearly how the poet has to struggle against the abstract element in language.
As I have already said, our soul-life does not in any way flow into the words which we speak; we do not enter into the sounds of speech with our inner being. How few of us really experience wonder, amazement, perplexity, or the feeling of self-defence simply in the vowel sounds themselves. How few of us experience the soft, rounded surface of certain objects, the thrusting hammering nature of others, their angular or undulating, their velvety or prickly qualities, as these are expressed by the different consonants. And yet all these things are contained in speech.
If we follow the successive sounds as they occur in a single word, entering into the real nature of this word as it originally arose out of the whole being of man, then we can experience all possible shades of feeling, the ecstasy of joy, the depths of despair; we can experience the ascending and descending of the whole scale of the human emotions, the whole scale of the perception of external things.
All that I have been describing can be conjured up in imaginations, in the same way as speech itself once came forth from the world of imagination. One who has this imaginative vision perceives how the E sound (as in me). always calls up in the soul a certain picture, a picture which expresses the assertion of self and shows how this self-assertion must be expressed through the stretching of the muscles, in the arm for example. Should anyone be able to use his nose in a skilful manner, he could also make an E with his nose! An E can also be shown by the direction of the glance of the eye; but because the arms and hands are the most expressive part of the human body, it is more natural to make an E with the arms and it has a more beautiful effect. But the essential thing is that the stretched, penetrating feeling should really come to expression in E.
If we utter the sound A, (as in mate) and take this out-going stream of the breath as the prototype for the Eurythmic movement, we find that this breath stream reveals itself to our imagination as flowing in two crossed currents. This is how the Eurythmic movement for A is derived. All these movements are just as little arbitrary in their nature as are the sounds of speech, or the tones of music.
There are many people who are inclined to say that they have no wish for anything so hard and fast, that there should be more ways than one of expressing any particular sound in movement. They feel that the movements should arise quite spontaneously out of the human being. If, however, one desires such absolute spontaneity, one should carry this desire into the realm of speech itself, and declare that there should be no German, French, or English language to interfere with the freedom of the human being, but that each individual should feel himself at liberty to express himself by means of other sounds if he should so choose. It would be just as rational to say that the freedom of the human being is hindered through the fact that he must perforce speak English, or some other language.
But the existence of the different languages in no way interferes with human freedom. On the contrary, man could not express beauty in language, if language were not already there to be used by him as an instrument, and in the same way beauty can only be expressed in the movements of Eurythmy through the fact that Eurythmy actually exists. Eurythmy in no way infringes upon human freedom. Such objections really arise from lack of insight.
Thus Eurythmy has come into being as a visible language, using as its instrument the arms and hands, which are undeniably the most expressive part of the whole human organism.
To-day it would really be possible to come to an understanding of these things by purely scientific means. Science, however, although on the right path with regard to much of the knowledge it has acquired, knows about as much of this matter as someone with a veal cutlet on his plate knows about a calf — namely, the most insignificant fraction! Scientists know that the centre of speech lies in the left region of the brain, and that this is connected with what the child acquires for himself by means of movement of the right arm. In the case of left-handed people the centre of speech is situated in the right side of the brain.
One might almost say that the scientist has no knowledge of the calf in its entirety, but is only acquainted with the veal cutlet! Thus he is aware only of the merest fraction of the whole connection between the life-processes in one or other arm and the origin of speech.
The truth is that speech itself arises out of those movements of the human limb system which are held back, and do not come to full expression. There could be no such thing as speech were it not for the fact that, during the natural course of his early development, the child has inherent within him the instinct to move his arms and hands. These movements are held back and become concentrated in the organs of speech; and these organs of speech are in themselves an image of that which seeks outlet in movements of the arms and hands, and in the accompanying movements of the other limbs.
The etheric body — I can, after what you have heard in the morning lectures, (published as The Evolution of Consciousness.) speak to you quite freely about the etheric body — the etheric body never uses the mouth as the vehicle of speech, but invariably makes use of the limb-system. And it is those movements made by the etheric body during speech which are transferred into the physical body. Of course you can, if you choose, speak quite without gesture, even going so far as to stand rigidly still with your hands in your pockets; but in that case your etheric body will gesticulate all the more vigorously, sheerly out of protest!
Thus you can see how, in very truth, Eurythmy is drawn out of the human organisation in just as natural a way as speech itself.
The poet has to fight against the conventionality of speech in order to be able to draw from speech that element which could make of it a way leading to the super-sensible worlds. Thus the poet — if he is a true artist, which cannot be said of most of those people whose business it is to manufacture poems — does not over-emphasise the importance of the prose content of the words he uses. This prose content only provides him with the opportunity for expressing in words his true artistic impulse. Just as his material — the clay or the marble — is not the chief concern of the sculptor, but rather the inspiration which he is striving to embody in form, so, the chief concern of the poet is the embodiment of his poetic inspiration in sounds which are imaginative, plastic and musical.
And it is this artistic element which must be brought out in recitation and declamation.
In our somewhat inartistic age, it is customary in recitation and declamation to lay the chief stress on the prose content of a poem. Indeed, in these days, the mere fact of being able to speak at all is looked upon as sufficient ground for becoming a reciter. But the art of recitation and declamation should rank as highly as the other arts; for in recitation and declamation there is the possibility of treating speech in such a way that the hidden Eurythmy lying within it, the imaginative, plastic, coloured use of words, their music, rhythm and melody, are all brought to expression. When Goethe was rehearsing his rhythmic dramas, he made use of a baton just as if he were the conductor of an orchestra; for he was not so much concerned with the merely prosaic content of the words, but with the bringing out of all that lay, like a hidden Eurythmy, in their construction and use.
Schiller, when writing his most famous poems, paid little heed to the actual sense of the words. For instance he wrote, “Das Lied von der Glocke” (The Song of the Bell), but, as far as the prose content of the words is concerned, he might just as well have written a completely different poem. Schiller first experienced in his soul something which might be described as a vague musical motif, a sort of melody, and into this melody he wove his words, like threaded pearls.
Language is truly poetic only in so far as it is used musically, plastically, or only in so far as it is filled with colour.
Frau Dr. Steiner has given many years to the development of this special side of the art of recitation and declamation. It is her work which has made it possible to bind together into one artistic whole, much in the same way as the various instruments of an orchestra, the picture presented on the stage by the “visible speech” of Eurythmy and with what is expressed through a truly Eurythmic treatment of speech, a truly Eurythmic recitation and declamation. So that, on the one hand, we have the visible speech of Eurythmy, and, on the other hand, that hidden Eurythmy which lies, not in tone-production alone, but in the whole way in which speech and language are treated. As far as the artistic element of poetry is concerned, the point is not that we say: “The bird sings,” but that, paying due regard to what has gone before and to what is to come, we say with enthusiasm, for instance: “The bird sings,” or, again, in a more subdued tone of voice, at a quite different tempo: “The bird sings.” [The reader must imagine the difference of tone which Rudolf Steiner gave to these repetitions of Der Vogel singt.] Everything depends on giving due form and shape to the words and sentences. And it is just this which can be carried over into Eurythmy, into our whole conception and treatment of Eurythmy.
For this reason we must put before ourselves as an ideal this orchestral ensemble, this interplay between the visible art of Eurythmy and the art of recitation and declamation.
Eurythmy cannot be accompanied by the ordinary conventional recitation, which is so well liked to-day. It would be impossible to do Eurythmy to such an accompaniment, because it is the soul-qualities of the human being which must be given expression here, both audibly through speech, and visibly through Eurythmy.
Eurythmy can be accompanied, not only by recitation and declamation, but also by instrumental music. But here it must always be borne in mind that Eurythmy is music translated into movement, and is not dancing in any sense of the word. There is a fundamental difference between Eurythmy and dancing. People, however, often fail to make this distinction when seeing Eurythmy on the stage, owing to the fact that Eurythmy uses as its instrument the human body in motion. I myself know of a journalist — I am not personally acquainted with him, but his articles have been brought to my notice — who, writing on Eurythmy, says: “It cannot be denied that, when one witnesses a demonstration of Eurythmy, the performers on the stage are continually in motion. Eurythmy must, therefore, be looked upon as dancing, and must be judged accordingly.” Now I think it will be admitted that what we have seen here of Tone-Eurythmy, of this visible singing, accompanied as it is by instrumental music, is clearly to be distinguished from ordinary dancing. Tone-Eurythmy is essentially not dancing, but is a singing in movement, movement which can be carried out either by a single performer, or by many together.
Although the movements of the arms and hands may be accompanied and amplified by movements of the other parts of the organism — the legs, for instance, or the head, the nose, ears, what you will — nevertheless these movements should only be used to strengthen the movement of the hands and arms in much the same way that we find means of emphasising and strengthening the spoken word. If we wish to admonish a child we naturally put our reproof into words, but at the same time we assume an expression suitable to the occasion! To do this electively, however, a certain amount of discretion is required, or we run the risk of appearing ridiculous. It is the same with regard to Eurythmy. Movements of a type approaching dancing or mime, when they are added to the essentially Eurythmic movements, are in danger of appearing grotesque; and, if made use of in an exaggerated manner, given an appearance of crudity, even of vulgarity. On the other hand purely Eurythmic movements are the truest means of giving outward and visible expression to all that is contained in the human soul.
That is the essential point — that Eurythmy is visible speech, visible music. One can go even further and maintain that the movements of Eurythmy do actually proceed out of the inner organisation of man. Anyone who says: “As far as I am concerned, speech and music are all-sufficient; there can surely be no need to extend the sphere of art; I, for my part, have not the slightest wish for Eurythmy”; — such a man is, of course, perfectly right from his particular point of view. There is always a certain justification for any opinion, however conventional or pedantic. Why should one not hold such opinions? There is certainly no reason why one should not — none at all; but it cannot be said that such a standpoint shows any really deep artistic feeling and understanding. A truly artistic nature welcomes everything that could possibly serve to widen and enrich the whole field of art.
The materials used in sculpture — the bronze, clay and marble — already exist in nature, and yield themselves up to the sculptor as the medium of his artistic expression; this is also true of colour in the case of the painter. When, however, in addition to all this, the movements of Eurythmy, drawn forth as they have been from the very fount of nature and developed according to her laws — when such movements arise as a means of artistic expression, then enthusiasm burns in the soul of the true artist at the prospect of the whole sphere of art being thus widened and enriched.
From a study of the Eurythmy models or wooden figures, very much can be learned about the individual movements. [Rudolf Steiner here refers to a series of coloured wooden figures illustrating the fundamental Eurythmy gestures.] Here it is only possible to give some indication of what underlies these wooden figures, and of all that can be revealed by them with regard to the nature and character of the various movements. These models are intended to represent the fundamental laws of Eurythmy which are carried over into the actual movements themselves. Every Eurythmic movement may be looked upon as being of a threefold nature; and it is this threefold aspect which is embodied in the models. In the first place there is the movement as such; then there is the feeling which lies within the movement; and lastly there is the character which flows out of the soul-life, and streams into the movement.
It must, however, be understood that these wooden models have been designed in a quite unusual manner. They are in no way intended to be plastic representations of the human form. This comes more within the sphere of the sculptor and the painter. The models are intended to portray the laws of Eurythmy, as these are expressed through the human body. In designing them the point was not in any way to reproduce the human figure in beautiful, plastic form. And, in witnessing a Eurythmy demonstration, anyone who would regard beauty of face as an essential attribute of an Eurythmist, is labouring under a delusion as to the nature of Eurythmy. Whether the Eurythmist is beautiful or not beautiful, young or old, is a matter of no consequence. The whole point is whether the inmost nature of the Eurythmist is carried over into, and expressed through, the plastic form of the movements.
Now if we look at the Eurythmy model for H, for instance, the question might naturally arise: “In what direction is the face turned? Do the eyes look upwards or straight ahead?” But that is not the first thing to be considered. In the first place we have, embodied in the model as a whole, the movement as such, that is to say, the arm movements or the movements of the legs. Secondly, in the draping of the veil, in the way the veil is held, drawn close to the body, or thrown into the air, or allowed to fall again or to fly out in waves — all this gives the opportunity for adding to the more intellectual expression of the soul-life, as this is shown through the movement, another quality of the soul-life, that of feeling.
At the back of the models there is always an indication of what the different colours are intended to represent. In the case of all the models certain places are marked with a third colour, and this is intended to show where the Eurythmist, in carrying out the particular movement, should feel a definite tension of the muscles. This tension can be shown in any part of the body. It may have to be felt in the forehead, for instance, or in the nape of the neck, while in other places the muscles should be left in a state of complete relaxation. The Eurythmist experiences the movements quite differently according to whether they are carried out with relaxed muscles or with the muscles in a state of tension; whether the arm is stretched out more or less passively, or whether there is a conscious tension in the muscles of the arm and hand; whether, when bending, the muscles which are brought into play are stretched and tense, or whether the bending movement leaves the muscles comparatively inactive. Through this consciously experienced tension of the muscles, character is brought into the movement.
In other words: there lies in the whole way in which the movement, as such, is formed, something which might be described as being the expression of the human soul, as manifested through visible speech. The actual spoken words, however, also have nuances of their own, their own special shades of feeling; for instance, fear may be expressed in a sentence, or joy, or delight; all these things can be shown by the Eurythmist in the way in which he or she carries out the movements. The manipulation of the veil — the way in which it floats, the way in which it is allowed to fall — all this provides a means whereby these feelings can be brought to expression in Eurythmy. So we see how the movement, when accompanied by the use of the veil, becomes permeated with feeling, and how, when there is added a conscious tension of the muscles, the movement acquires character as well as feeling. If the Eurythmist is able to experience this tension or relaxation of the muscles in the right way, a corresponding experience will be transmitted to the onlooker, who will himself feel all that lies in the visible speech of Eurythmy as character, feeling and movement.
The whole artistic conception of these models, both as regards their carving and their colouring, is based on the idea of separating the purely Eurythmic element in the human being from those elements which are not so definitely connected with Eurythmy. The moment a Eurythmist becomes conscious of possessing a charming face, in that moment something is introduced into Eurythmy which is completely foreign to its nature; on the other hand, the knowledge of how to make conscious use of the muscles of the face does form an essential part of Eurythmy. For this reason, the fact that many people prefer to see a beautiful Eurythmist on the stage, rather than one who is less beautiful, shows a lack of true artistic judgment. The outward appearance of a human being when not engaged in Eurythmy should not in any way be taken into consideration.
These models, then, have been designed in such a way that they portray the human being only in so far as he reveals himself through the movements of Eurythmy.
It would indeed be well if, in the whole development of art, this principle were to be more generally adopted — I mean the principle of putting on one side everything which does not definitely belong to the sphere of the art in question, everything which cannot be expressed through the medium of this art and which does not strictly come within the range of its possibilities. A distinction should always be made, particularly when dealing with an art such as Eurythmy, which reveals so directly, so truly and so sincerely, the life of the human being in its threefold aspect of body, soul and spirit — a distinction should always be made between what can legitimately be revealed through the medium of any particular art and what does not lie within its true scope.
Whenever I have been asked: “Up to what age can one do Eurythmy?” — my answer has always been: There is no age limit. Eurythmy can be started at the age of three and can be continued up to the age of ninety. The personality can find expression through Eurythmy at each and every period of life, and through Eurythmy the beauty of both youth and age can be revealed.
All that I have said up to this point has reference to Eurythmy purely as an art, and, indeed, it was along purely artistic lines that Eurythmy was developed in the first instance. When Eurythmy was inaugurated in 1912 there was no thought of its developing along any but artistic lines, no thought of bringing it before the world in any other form.
But some little time after the founding of the Waldorf School, it was discovered that Eurythmy can serve as a very important means of education; and we are now in a position to recognise the full significance of Eurythmy from the educational point of view. In the Waldorf School, (The original Waldorf School in Stuttgart of which Steiner was educational director.) Eurythmy has been made a compulsory subject both for boys and girls, right through the school, from the lowest to the highest class; and it has become apparent that what is thus brought to the children as visible speech and music is accepted and absorbed by them in just as natural a way as they absorb spoken language or song in their very early years. The child feels his way quite naturally into the movements of Eurythmy. And, indeed, in comparison with Eurythmy, the other forms of gymnastics have shown themselves to be of a somewhat one-sided nature. For these other kinds of gymnastics bear within them to some extent the materialistic attitude of mind so prevalent in our day. And for this reason they take as their starting point the physical body. Eurythmy takes the physical body into consideration also; but, in the case of Eurythmy, body, soul and spirit work harmoniously together, so that here one has to do with an ensouled and spiritualised form of gymnastics. The child feels this. He feels that each movement that he makes does not arise merely in response to a physical necessity, but that every one of his movements is permeated with a soul and spiritual element, which streams through the arms, and, indeed, through the whole body. The child absorbs Eurythmy into the very depths of his being. The Waldorf School has already been in existence for some years, and the experience lying behind us justified us in saying that in this school unusual attention is paid to the cultivation of initiative, of will — qualities sorely needed by humanity in the present day. This initiative of the will is developed quite remarkably through Eurythmy, when, as in the Waldorf School, it is used as a means of education. One thing, however, must be made perfectly clear, and that is, that the greatest possible misunderstanding would arise, if for one moment it were to be imagined that Eurythmy could be taught in the schools and looked upon as a valuable asset in education, if, at the same time, as an art it were to be neglected and underestimated. Eurythmy must in the first place be looked upon as an art, and in this it differs in no respect from the other arts. And in the same way that the other arts are taught in the schools, but have an independent artistic existence of their own in the world, so Eurythmy also can only be taught in the schools when it is fully recognised as an art and given its proper place within our modern civilisation.
Shortly after the founding of the Waldorf School, a number of doctors having found their way into the Anthroposophical Movement, there arose the practice of medicine from the Anthroposophical point of view. These doctors expressed the urgent wish that the movements of Eurythmy, drawn as they are out of the healthy nature of the human being, and offering to the human being a means of expression suited to his whole organisation — that these movements should be adapted where necessary, and placed at the service of the art of healing. Eurythmy, from its very nature, is ever seeking for outlet through the human being. Anyone who understands the hand, for example, must be aware that it was not formed merely to lie still and be looked upon. The fingers are quite meaningless when they are inactive. They only acquire significance when they seize at things, grasp them, when their passivity is transformed into movement. Their very form reveals the movement inherent within them. The same may be said of the human being as a whole. What we know under the name of Eurythmy is nothing else than the means whereby the human organism can find healthy outlet through movement. So that certain of the movements of Eurythmy, though naturally differing somewhat from the movements which we use in Eurythmy as an art, and having undergone a certain metamorphosis, can be made use of and developed into a Curative Eurythmy. This Curative Eurythmy can be of extreme value in the treatment of illness, and can be applied in those cases where one knows the way in which a certain movement will react upon a certain organ with beneficial results.
In this domain also we have had good results among the children of the Waldorf School. But it is of course necessary that one should possess a true insight into the nature of the child. For instance, a child may have certain weaknesses and be generally in a delicate state of health. Such a child is then given those particular movements likely to assist in the re-establishment of his health. And along these lines we have indeed had the most brilliant results. But this, as also the educational side of Eurythmy, is entirely dependent on the successful development of Eurythmy as an art.
It must frankly be admitted that Eurythmy is still at a very early stage of its development; a beginning, however, has certainly been made, and we are striving to make it ever more and more perfect. There was a time, for instance, when we had not as yet introduced the silent, unaccompanied movement of the Eurythmist at the beginning and end of a poem. Such movement is intended to convey in the first instance an introductory impression, and, in the second, an impression reminiscent of the content of the poem. At that time also there were no effects of light. The lighting in varied tones and colours has not been introduced with a view to illustrating or intensifying any particular situation, but is in itself actually of a Eurythmic nature. The point is not that certain effects of light should correspond with what is taking place on the stage at a given moment, but the whole system of lighting, as this has been developed in Eurythmy, consists of the interplay between one lighting effect and another. Thus there arises a complete system of Eurythmic lighting which bears within it the same character and the same shades of feeling as are being simultaneously expressed on the stage in another way through the movements of the Eurythmists, or the Eurythmist, as the case may be.
And so, as Eurythmy develops and attains to ever greater perfection, very much more will have to be added to the whole picture of Eurythmy as this is presented on the stage, very much will have to be added to all that we can now see when witnessing a Eurythmy demonstration.
I could indeed speak about Eurythmy the whole night through, carrying on this lecture without a break into the lecture of tomorrow morning. I am afraid, however, that my audience would hardly benefit by such a proceeding, and the same certainly applies to any Eurythmists who may be present! The great thing is that all I have said to-day in this introductory lecture will be practically realised for you tomorrow, when you witness the performance; for a practical demonstration is, after all, where art is concerned, of more value than any lecture.