“Nothing is so beautiful as spring!”
Here in California, spring is in its full glory. The flowering trees are bedecked with color, the crocuses and daffodils have opened their jewels buds, and the grasses are luminescent with green. Each day as I walk on the banks of my beloved river, my ears are filled with the unending jubilation of birdsong, as feathered flocks fly in exuberant circles through the air, singing their tiny hearts out.
The world has been released from the thrall of winter, and the etheric world is dense with life.
In all of this, I am invited to open my heart to the beauty of the world.
In my last essay, I wrote painstakingly of our search for truth. To find our way to truth, we must make earnest efforts to train our minds to think clearly and honestly. We must discard habits of laziness and opinions, and look for the shining jewels of objective reality that exist as archetypes in the world of the archetypes.
In our search for truth, we embark on a journey of waking up.
Our search for beauty has a much different flavor. Beauty is much more an experience of our awakening feeling life than of our analytic consciousness, touching our hearts even more than our minds.
I can think of little in the natural world that is not beautiful. Even the most bizarre toad or horrendous beast has a kind of elegance in its majesty.
And what of the man-made world?
If we are in tune with a sense of esthetics, we can create objects that are harmoniously beautiful, both in themselves and in relationship to their environment. Persons with peaceful hearts and skillful hands can craft things as beautifully as the things of nature.
Yet all too often, we are surrounded by the un-beautiful, the un-penetrated, the fallen and the ugly.
Research has shown that in schools, hospitals, mass transport systems, buildings, communities and even prisons that are built with a sense for beauty, those who study, live or travel therein thrive far better than in places created out of the hardened, mechanized forms of the hyper-rational world.
For there, where beauty is missing, our hearts seem to harden. There, where we should feel joy and well-being, we feel cynicism and distrust, unease and anxiety.
We can aspire to create beauty even as we strive to apprehend the truth.
Some may say that this appreciation of beauty is “Pollyanna-ish,” is childish and naïve. I would assert, however, that it is precisely on the foundation of such deliberate naivity that we can build a better world.
Philosophers have long sought to define beauty, yet I have no intention of doing so here. I have no need of justifying beauty through words or thoughts. Rather do I urge us towards developing a sense for beauty, a culture of esthetics. Friedrich Schiller, one of the great German thinkers and a friend of Goethe, wrote a lengthy and much-quoted book advocating “The Esthetic Education of Humanity.” He made an urgent case for us to build a more noble society by learning to value things of beauty.
In everything we do—in eurythmy gesture, in architecture and stonemasonry, in garden design and painting, in music and painting—we can let beauty be our inspiration.
This does not mean that we need adhere to an old-fashioned or stilted form of beauty. True beauty will not be dated: it can be modern, daring, dramatic. But true beauty is created by a soul who has learned to discover the laws behind harmony, the dynamics behind things that are in right relationship to each other, and who then learns to play with the process of artistic creativity. How different is something created in beauty and something created out of cleverness! What a contrast exists between an emoji, for instance, and something drawn with love!
In our home, when our daughter was still a toddler, we loved looking at books with her on the couch. However, we never chose books with cheap or baby-like pictures. We chose books of beauty, with lovely drawings of people and nature. Her favorites were books from museums, showing pictures of the great artists of the world (particularly of the Renaissance period), and she would lug these from the table to our laps, eagerly waiting to be shown the world of beauty within them. In the earliest years, she was most nourished by paintings of the Renaissance period. Over the years, her tastes matured, so she could appreciate art from a multitude of cultures and periods. Always, however, her sense of esthetics guided her.
In the Waldorf schools, great emphasis in placed on the cultivation of beauty. Every room, every surface, every drawing all the supplies are chosen as much as possible with great emphasis on their esthetic value. From the care of the very youngest child all the way through high school, schools take great care to emphasize the importance of art. For indeed, art is not merely a sweet additive to life: in art, the human being develops the skills of being a creator, and can practice doing it with the integrity, care and love of the Creator.
This is the importance of eurythmy in the Waldorf school, for in the Waldorf schools we learn to treat the body with respect. We learn to move our bodies to create gestures with grace and beauty.
This is also the reason behind learning drawing, painting, calligraphy, beeswax modeling, clay work, geometric drawings, music, drama and much more. These awaken in the child a true sensitivity for the deeper worth of life.
Let us remember here the sequence of thoughts I am presenting in these essays, as we move through the season of Lent towards a consideration of resurrection forces.
We human beings come from another dimension. Before birth, our spiritual essence was held in the safe womb of the worlds. Only gradually have we descended from the Periphery to the Center, from the stars to the earth.
“We are in fact slow-bloomers, creatures who take many years to fully mature on the earth. We lay the foundation for our soul capacities, as we develop our natural, bodily skills.”
In my last essay, I described how the child’s capacity for learning to think is ready to be educated when the surplus forces of the etheric body have set free at about age 7. After that age, the child can be helped in the task of deliberately making mental images and memories.
Now we can consider that the child will be able to reflect upon and cultivate their esthetic and artistic sensitivities after about age 14. Up until that age, the astral forces are vigorously engaged in the physical-etheric body, individualizing it and maturing it. This process culminates with the stage of puberty. Thereafter, the surplus of forces of the astral body are freed from their service in the body, and made available for the richness of the feeling life, often marked by tumultuous swings in moods and capacities. The child who has been prepared for health in the feeling life will find within him/herself the tools necessary for compassion and empathy. With these tools, the child will be able to perceive and cultivate Beauty.
We are “multi-dimensional beings, ” and as we grow, we mature not only physically, but also etherically, astrally, and individually.”
- As the physical body develops, it releases etheric forces for thinking
- as the etheric body develops, it releases astral forces for feeling
- as the astral body develops, it releases ego-forces,
so the matured human fully appears at or about age 21.
May your days be filled with Beauty.
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