How important did Rudolf Steiner consider eurythmy to be?
"Eurythmy is obligatory. The children must participate.
Those who do not participate in eurythmy will be removed from the school."
— Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER
(Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 65.
Eurythmy (pronounced yur-ITH-me) is a form of mystical dancing
performed by Anthroposophists and by students in Waldorf schools.
Here are a number of intriguing statements about eurythmy.
Some were made by Rudolf Steiner; others were made by Anthroposophical editors;
and one was made by Rudolf Steiner's wife, Marie Steiner.
They are taken from EURYTHMY AS VISIBLE SPEECH (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1984).
I am indebted to Maura Kwaten for pulling the quotes together.
[What It Is] "[E]urythmy is actually a visible speech." — p. 23.
[Our Bodies Are Created by Divine Eurythmy] "The human form is the result of divine eurythmy. Every art may be traced back to its divine source: but because eurythmy makes use of the human being as its instrument it enables us to see most deeply into the connection between the human being and the universe." — p. 13 - lecture synopsis.
[The Zodiac and Planets] "[W]e pass over to movements representing the possibilities of inner activity, movements which have their origin in the planets. In their sevenfold nature we have synthesized the animal element in man. The nineteen possibilities of sound: the consonants have their source in the Zodiac; the vowels in the dance of the planets. A cosmic activity may be brought to expression by means of human gesture and movement. The word of the heavens is really the being of man. By means of an imitation of the dance of the stars, discovered through spiritual knowledge, we have the possibility of renewing in eurythmy the temple dancing of ancient Mysteries." — p. 18 - lecture synopsis.
[The Zodiac and Planets] "Exercises based on the moving circles of the Zodiac and Planets and their corresponding spiritual gestures. Such exercises bring the eurythmic movements and postures right down into the organism." — p.18 - lecture synopsis.
[Body and Soul] "The soul must learn, as far as eurythmy is concerned, actually to live in the body. In eurythmy the whole body must become soul." — p. 20 - lecture synopsis.
[Clairvoyance, Color] "The experience of colour was natural to humanity in the days of old clairvoyance, but has since been lost ... In the same way every human being has his own particular colour. This colour is of course closely connected with the astral body, which, as we know, changes with every varying emotion." — p.113.
[Lucifer and Ahriman] "It is deeply interesting to consider such things, for in the breath sounds what really comes to expression is this: I will have nothing to do with Lucifer: everything which is Luciferic must disappear. — And the consonants of force express this feeling: I will hold fast to Ahriman, for if he escapes me he will poison everything: he must be held fast. — Thus the influence of Lucifer and of Ahriman has been implanted into these sounds." — p. 119.
[Magic Cures] "Now this exercise is most excellent in the teaching of eurythmy from an educational point of view. Indeed, when one has observed in a child the tendency towards jealousy and ambition — qualities which one wishes to eliminate — one must persuade such a child to do this exercise with special warmth and ardour ... It can also be said that this dance is a remedy against jealousy and false ambition." — p. 190.
[Magic Cures] "In curative education, this first spiral exercise is specially applicable to children who are the reverse of anaemic, and it can be applied to combat undue egoism." — p. 200.
[Magic Cures] "But if you form two groups — the one group of choleric, the other group of phlegmatic children — and make both these groups run the spiral forms, and in such a way that the children must constantly look into each other's eyes, then they will mutually correct each other." — p. 202.
[Body and Soul] "Yet another thing must be born in mind, and that is the fact that the learning of eurythmy entails an actual transformation of the human organism. Any performance which reveals the slightest trace of struggle between body and soul must be looked upon as unfinished and imperfect. In a eurythmy performance the whole body must have become soul." — p. 238.
[Promoting Anthroposophy] "If we can feel ourselves as helpers of eurythmy, either in an active or in a more passive sense, then eurythmy will be able to fulfill the mission which it can and should fulfill in the general development of Anthroposophy ... [L]et us build up and develop each separate activity as it should and will be developed if we prove ourselves worthy of the real aims of Anthroposophy." — p. 241.
[Racism, Technology, Stars] "If we allow ourselves to receive this aid, we shall be in the position to open ourselves to the spirit in every sphere of activity — in that sphere also which this book illumines with spiritual revelation and human knowledge. Then we shall no longer need to stimulate our slackened nerves by means of decadent negro dances which are hammered into us by machinery, turning us into machines and gradually killing out our finest human qualities: but we shall gain an understanding for a noble art of movement, having its source in the spirit, an art of movement which is the reflection of the Dance of the Stars, and which makes the language of the stars sound visibly within us in purity and truth." — p. 253 - Marie Steiner.
- Compilation by Maura Kwaten
Impression of eurythmy
[R. R. photo rendering, 2010,
based on p. 31, THE GOETHEANUM
(Philosophical-Anthroposophical Press, 1961).]
Eurythmists usually perform in long, flowing gowns
and prismatic veils that billow like wings.
Feet are usually clad in light, silent slippers.
"Eurythmy makes soul and spirit directly visible, ensouls and spiritualizes everything that moves in us. It makes use of everything human beings have developed for themselves during their evolution." — Rudolf Steiner, EDUCATION FOR ADOLESCENTS (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 43.
Four eurythmic positions demonstrated during
a lecture by Rudolf Steiner
[see lecture 10, EURYTHMY AS VISIBLE SPEECH
(Rudolf Steiner Press, 1984)].
The positions are tagged with their associated
astrological signs: clockwise, from the top,
Leo, Virgo, Aquarius, and Scorpio.
[R. R. sketch, 2013, based on the one in the book.
The astrological signs appear in the book just as shown here.]
Dervish dance arising from Hindu tradition and sometimes practiced by Theosophists;
Steiner, who at one time led the German branch of Theosophy, drew on Theosophical
practices and teachings in developing his derivative spiritual system, Anthroposophy.
Anthroposophists usually speak of eurythmy as if it is a totally original development attributable to Rudolf Steiner. But in fact eurythmy grows out of a discernible cultural and religious history. While eurythmy is more sedate and programmatic than many other systems of devotional movement, and even though it was meant to be antithetical to prevailing forms of dance — especially modern dance — eurythmy can be located in a long tradition that might best be labeled temple dancing.
A solemn, reverent mood is usually aimed at, and great spiritual profundity is supposed to flow from each movement performed. Eurythmy has virtually no purely artistic value. This is why, for example, THE INTERNATIONAL ENCYCLOPEDIA OF DANCE (Oxford University Press, 2004) — a three-volume set of over 4000 pages — has no entry for eurythmy. The value (if any) of eurythmy is spiritual. The "temple" in which eurythmy is performed is any space that Anthroposophists use for holy purposes. The Goetheanum is foremost among these, but Waldorf or Steiner school assembly areas are used similarly.
The focus of eurythmy is the spirit realm and its manifestation in the physical realm. In particular, eurythmy is meant benefit the "etheric body" — the lowest of the three invisible bodies that Anthroposophists believe true human beings possess. "[E]urythmy is spiritually restorative by forming and strengthening the performer's subtle, etheric body." — Robert McDermott, THE NEW ESSENTIAL STEINER (Lindisfarne Books, 2009), p. 49.
As always, Steiner himself is the best authority to consult concerning Anthroposophical beliefs. He taught that eurythmy prepares us for our next lives, after death. Eurythmy links us directly to the spirit realm, and in a sense our physical bodies exist only so that we may do eurythmy. "Consider the art of eurythmy, through which we move the human body. What exactly are we moving? We are moving the human organism by making the limbs move. The limbs, more than any other part of the human body, pass into the life of the next incarnation ... We directly link what precedes birth with what follows death. In a certain sense, we take from earthly life only the physical medium, the actual human being who is the tool or instrument for eurythmy. But we allow this human being to make manifest what we study inwardly, what is already prepared in us as a result of previous lives; we transfer this to our limbs, which are the part of us where life after death is being shaped in advance. Eurythmy shapes and moves the human organism in a way that furnishes direct external proof of our participation in the supersensible [i.e., invisible, spiritual] world. In having people do eurythmy, we link them directly to the supersensible world." — Rudolf Steiner, ART AS SPIRITUAL ACTIVITY (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), pp. 246-247.
Eurythmy, usually described as visible speech, is more aptly described as a physical form of prayer. It takes us directly into the spirit realm, and — by drawing on our past lives (karma) — it strengthens our invisible etheric bodies, thereby preparing us for our future lives (reincarnation). The purpose, in other worlds, is spiritual and religious. Specifically, eurythmy is meant to facilitate our spiritual evolution, which will ultimately lead us to become God the Father. This is the core of the religious system known as Anthroposophy. [See, e.g., "The Father" and "Tenth Hierarchy".] In "having" students "do eurythmy," Waldorf teachers lead them into a physical enactment of Anthroposophical religious doctrine.
Eurythmy is so central to the spiritual purposes of Waldorf schooling that, when Steiner considered which classes might be pared back in an effort to improve the quality of Waldorf education, he explicitly exempted eurythmy. “Sadly, [we can trim] technology and shop, as well as gymnastics and singing. We cannot drop eurythmy...." — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 688. [See "Academic Standards at Waldorf".]
[R.R. copy, 2013.]
Here, as depicted in Cynthia Hoven's book EURYTHMY, are four typical eurythmic gestures:
Reading from left to right, they are E, O, G, and R.
Using these gestures, you can spell — in eurythmic movement — any word consisting of these letters,
such as "goer," "ergo," "ogre," or (harrumph) "Roger."
In Anthroposophic belief, eurythmic gestures have astrological associations.
“Twelve particular constellations, known as the zodiac...have a particular formative presence in our universe. Their relative movements can be experienced as an ever-changing dance or conversation ... Out of his spiritual research, Rudolf Steiner...recognized the living quality of the zodiac circle. He experienced it speaking or singing to us, and perceived that a specific consonant...sounds out of each sign of the zodiac ... Likewise, each of the planets sings to the earth with a different vowel quality.” Cynthia Hoven, EURYTHMY (HeartSong Press, 2012), pp. 29-30.
Steiner himself said "[Ancient] human beings, feeling transported into the Zodiac, incorporated into themselves from zodiacal constellations the twelve consonants, and from the movements of the planets past the fixed-star constellations, the vowels."
— Rudolf Steiner, THE ARTS AND THEIR MISSION (Anthroposophic Press, 1964), lecture 5, GA 276.
Here is the list of astrological associations for consonants and vowels
as reported by Hoven on p. 30 of EURYTHMY:
Aries : W, V
Taurus : R
Gemini : H
Cancer : F
Leo : D, T
Virgo : B, P
Libra : C (ts)
Scorpio : S
Sagittarius : G, K
Capricorn : L
Aquarius : M
Pisces : N
Sun : Au
Moon : EI (i)
Venus : A (ah)
Mars : E (ã)
Mercury : I (e)
Jupiter : O (oh)
Saturn U (oo)
This is a sketch of the Eurythmeum, a training center
for students of eurythmy, designed by Rudolf Steiner.
Anthroposophical structures, including various Waldorf schools,
often exhibit odd angles, planes, and curves
meant to detach us from our normal perspective
and invoke the spirit realm.
[R. R., 2010,
based on photo on p. 207 of Rudolf Steiner
ARCHITECTURE: An Introductory Reader
[Rudolf Steiner Press, 2003.]
In Theosophy, as in most Eastern traditions, dance is generally seen as a metaphor for the interplay between gods and mortals, the created and the creators. At the literal level, dances are performed in temples and elsewhere to depict the universal spiritual dance and also to elevate the individual soul. The results can be considerably more energetic than most eurythmic performances, although the goal of spiritual progress is the same.
◊ “All ritual, whether Confucian in the East, Vedic in India, or ecclesiastical or magical in the West, reminds us that such stylized behavior can transform the participant, enabling him or her to lose the ego-self and become something greater, an ideal whose role is being acted out as by a performer in a great dance.” — Robert S. Ellwood, THEOSOPHY: A Modern Expression of the Wisdom of the Ages (Quest Books, 1986), p. 143.
◊ “The theme of the Dance Recital was an emotional interpretation of the aspirational outpourings of the Soul, and the ecstatic identification of these with the very Soul of the Universe itself — the merging of the individual soul in God. Every movement, every gesture, every pose, each song, expressed an aspect of such union, so that the whole Dance became an intricate yet beautifully rhythmic symbol of a soul’s awakening to its Divinity. Yet, emotional in texture though this particular Dance undoubtedly was, it had a very high intellectual content, appealing no less to the mind than to the emotions themselves. — George S. Arundale, Shrimati Rukmini Devi and C. Jinarajadasa, THEOSOPHY AS BEAUTY (Theosophical Publishing House, Adyar, Chennai [Madras] India, 1936), No. 208.
Eurythmy fits many elements of these descriptions: stylized movement, the use of such movement to express profound meaning, the transformation of the dancer, perception of and approach to higher spiritual states, the soul's awakening (a term Steiner used as the title for one of his mystery plays), the expression of high intellectual content, the identification with God, and so on.
"Anthroposophists believe the movements [of eurythmy] are a sign language with spiritual significance that help the child communicate with the spirit world." — Ex-Teacher 18.
Here is an item from the Waldorf Watch "news" page:
Eurythmy [pronounced yur-ith-me] is a form of dance emphasized in Waldorf schools. Indeed, it is often required for all students. A modern variant of temple dancing, eurythmy is meant to make direct connections to the spirit world. "In having people do eurythmy, we link them directly to the supersensible [i.e., supernatural] world." — Rudolf Steiner, ART AS SPIRITUAL ACTIVITY (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 246-247. Waldorf schools and their proponents push eurythmy hard, although the kids at the schools often hate it:
"• i went to a waldorf school and i HATED eurythmy. It seemed too hippyied out. We got into Tai Chi later which seemed to make more sense. But looking back on it I see how the concept of moving together and grace is a helpful skill to have....
“• lol yeah it isn’t exactly everyone’s favorite subject, especially when they make you do it through high school, which they didn’t at my school… I mean, did you see the looks on those kids faces in that video?
“• yeah, I mean, long ago at Waldorf schools it would have been the tradition to try and force them into their gender role. They even used to go as far as trying to make left-handed children write/draw with their right hand. But I didn’t have either of these experiences, and I am a Waldorf lifer....
“• I went from a public school to Waldorf in 8th grade. I got kicked out of my first Eurythmy class for laughing to death and causing 'disturbance' to the environment and degrading her [i.e., the eurythmy teacher] by doing so. I was told what it was all about.. Couldn’t stop laughing tho’, and I still do....
“• best eurithimist teenagers are brazilian. period....
“• WHERE’S MY GODDAMN WALDORF SALAD!?!?!!....
"• ....I find that most students in the school don’t understand the subject until later when reflecting on it. In our school during the Waldorf Week of interviews it is then that the seniors begin to talk about Eurythmy that I feel they begin to appreciate it. Out of my observation though, very few students like me appreciate it as of now. I’m currently a junior....
“• I do eurythmy at my school, and I find it totaly pointless. not at all educational. sorry for those who like it, this is just my opinion, most of my school also agree with me....
“• the waldorf education system loves to parade its successfuly schools around but dont be fooled, i went to a waldorf school that was horrible and i have heard stories about other bad ones, i transfered into the high school after going to public school and the students discluded me and talked down to me because i didnt have their ‘supirior’ education. College time came and 3 of the 14 people in my class dropped out of college, 2 more flunked out.” [8-14-2011 http://educationonlineusa.net/2011/08/03/education/eurythmy-and-waldorf-education-excerpt-from-eurythmy-dvd-viedo/]
Steiner's followers believe eurythmy has great healing powers. Here is some of what is said about "curative eurythmy" at anthromedia.com:
"Eurythmy therapy is a movement therapy based on specially modified eurythmy movements geared to the sick organism. Eurythmy therapy treatment is useful as prophylaxis where a tendency to illness exists, but is chiefly used in acute and chronic conditions.
"These include: internal medicine, psychiatry, paediatrics, gynaecology, psychosomatic medicine, neurology, surgery, ophthalmology, orthopaedics, special needs education....
"Eurythmy therapy began in 1921. It was developed by Rudolf Steiner and Dr. Ita Wegman MD as an autonomous movement therapy based on the movement art of eurythmy. Eurythmy therapy, in distinction to artistic eurythmy, works with movement directed towards the body, the effect of which is comparable to a medicine.
"...Eurythmy therapy exercises geared to the individual clinical picture lead to balance in the patient’s body, soul and spirit constitution....
"The eurythmy therapist will have completed a eurythmy training and a supplementary training to become a eurythmy therapist. The basic training allows him to develop proficiency in the movement art of eurythmy and to use his own body as a sensitive movement instrument. The separate training to become a eurythmy therapist enables him to apply eurythmy movement in ways specifically appropriate to different illnesses. It develops the capacity to form a therapeutic relationship with the patient and to cooperate with the doctor...."