Holy Week Contemplation #2
Palm Sunday–An Ecstasy of Spring
Palm Sunday—A Ecstasy of Spring
(Number 2 of a series of daily posts for Holy Week. Take your time and let the words come alive in you.)
Nothing is so beautiful as spring—
When weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush;
Thrush’s eggs look little low heavens, and thrush
Through the echoing timber does so rinse and wring
The ear, it strikes like lightnings to hear him sing:
The glassy pear tree leaves and blooms, they brush
The descending blue; that blue is all in a rush
With richness: the racing lambs too have fair their fling.
What is all this juice and all this joy?
A strain of the earth’s sweet being in the beginning,
In Eden garden. – Have, get, before it cloy,
Before it cloud, Christ, lord, and sour with sinning.
Innocent mind and Mayday in girl and boy,
Most, O maid’s child, thy choice, and worthy the winning.
Every spring, nature re-enacts this first celebration of existence with the exuberance of spring, as life unfurls in dizzying colors and fragrances and shapes.
Each year I return at this season to this sonnet by Gerard Manley Hopkins, as my senses are re-enlivened and I am drawn out of my winter introspection into the festival of nature. With the eyes of the poet, I see the grasses, the thrushes, the blooming trees and the blue of the sky. I hear the birds above and the lambs on our farm. With the heart of a eurythmist, I savor the dance of sound, the repeating consonants and the rhyming vowels so powerfully woven in the alliteration of sounds.
In this poem, I can imagine the first day of Creation. God (the unlimited source of all) could no longer contain the abundance of love, and overflowed with an outpouring of living ideas and thoughts, some as big as universes and some as intimate as molecules. God created us, too, on this first day, as creatures equipped to receive all this beauty, all this world, all this love.
This is the glory of Palm Sunday, a celebration of all that we have been given for our joy and well-being. Palm Sunday celebrates Christ as the Son of God, the Sun God, the spirit of the Sun who walked on earth as a human being. Songs of praise surrounded Him as he rode into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey those many years ago.
As we considered yesterday, every birth inevitably contains the coffin of a future death. The poet writes that the Garden of Eden will soon come to an end, but we are urged to “have, get, before it cloy, before it cloud, Christ, Lord, and sour with sinning.”
Where will we find the forces of resurrection?
In the journey from Palm Sunday through Holy Week to Easter, Christ, the child of the Maid, did not turn away from death. He too walked into the world of the senses. The Lord of Life continued on his sober, conscious journey, so that He could plant the seed of spirit-future into the center of the earth, into the hearts of human beings. In the days of the week to come, He will enter ever more fully into kingdom of death, until He can completely experience the human condition of separation from source. He will feel on the cross entirely forsaken by his Creator.
Palm Sunday is the last Sunday of the “old mysteries.” We must acknowledge that only if we can re-discover the living forces of creation that lie behind the world of the senses can we unite with the forces of life and rebirth.
And on Easter Sunday, through connecting with the very source of life, Christ will illumine for us the path of resurrection.
For, in the words of the poet, this earth is indeed “worthy of winning.”
Holy Week Contemplation #1
Seed thoughts for an Esoteric Christianity
Read slowly, and let the pictures come to life within you…….
Every birth bears within itself the coffin of a future death. And every death bears within itself the promise of new life. This great cosmic truth —the cycling of birth, growth and flowering, fruiting and seed formation, dying and disappearing—this is the ever-present backdrop of our lives on earth, as we seek to understand the meaning of existence.
This is the season of budding, of exuberant life, of joy and new beginnings. Here in California, everything is already intoxicatingly green and rich with the colors and fragrances of new life, the thrill of bird song and the wild croaking of night-time frogs. And even those of you who live in those places that have been buried under the deep snows of winter can feel the promise of new life.
Spring is the season to celebrate new life and birth. Our hearts swell with gratitude and hope in the season of new beginnings.
For every spring is a birth won out of the darkness of seeds, the still time in the womb. Only a few months ago, the plants withered and faded, and their life withdrew back into the dark of the earth, the hardness of the wood. Yet even in their dying, they created the hope of new life by creating the seeds that would sprout in the fullness of time.
What metaphor is nature speaking to us? What we behold in the magnificence of Mother Nature, God’s most generous creation, is replayed on another level in the human being. In the microsmic journey of humanity, the birth and death of the Creating-Spirit in Christ pre-figures the personal journey of separation, self-realization, and unlimited Divine Consciousness that every single human being can grow towards in the fullness of time.
As human beings, we are part of nature, yet we are also separate from it. For when, as we are told in the book of Genesis, God “blew the breath of spirit into the human being,” we became individualized. This inaugurated the great cycle of devolution, or involution, in which creation grew richer and more radiant, yet also, more distance from the creative source, and ultimately subject to death.
The seeds for new life on the earth are created by the plant world. Where are the seeds of new life for the human being?
Our bodies are of nature, and we live our lives in nature, but our consciousness is of spirit. Cosmic, or esoteric, Christianity leads us to contemplate Christ as the great creating God, the Sun-Spirit. At the great “turning point of time,” Christ united His unlimited self with the human race through his life in the earth-man Jesus. The human spirit was given the unimaginable gift of becoming bearers of Seed-forces. He planted into humanity the possibility that every one of us can, in time, become Creators in Spirit even as we were created in the beginning. Christ-Jesus became the prototype of what we, as human, are capable of becoming. He was the first God-Man, the New Adam.
Yet to bring this gift to humanity, Christ had to unite Himself with every bit of the human experience. He had to unite himself even with the forces of Death, so that through him even Death could die. This was the only way that he could bring Resurrection to humanity.
By actively participating in the journey through the seasons, we can invite the cycles of nature to inspire us to understand our place in creation.
On this weekend we stand at the doorway to what is known as “Holy Week,” the week before Easter. In an esoteric Christian tradition, we can deepen ourselves every day this week in contemplations of birth, glory, pain and betrayal, suffering and death, and, ultimately, resurrection. These, the backdrop of our personal lives, of the life of our planet, of the evolution of the cosmos are the inescapable questions of existence.
I warmly invite you to travel through this week with me. Each day I will send to you a short essay to inspire your microcosmic journey through the macrocosmic story of the death and resurrection of a God, and the gifts of the seed-forces for a new universe, laid in the heart of the human race.
I hope you enjoy these essays, written in 2015 and reprinted here because so many people appreciated them.
“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.
How do we Think the Truth? The Mystery of Thinking
As part of my contemplative essays for the season of Lent, I am writing about the three archetypal powers of our soul in our lives on earth: thinking, feeling and will. There are movements afoot (I am thinking here of groups like the “trans-humanists”) who would completely marry the human being to the computer. My deepest values, as expressed in my work as a eurythmist, focus constantly on the sacred relationship between the human spirit and the human body. There, where they interact, the human soul comes to birth, in thinking, feeling and willing. There, we are inspired by the three virtues of truth, beauty and goodness.
I will resume where I left off in my last essay.
“not in utter nakedness, and not entire forgetfulness, William Wordsworth
but trailing clouds of glory do we come,
from God, who is our home.”
The newborn on the earth is not initially accustomed to using the body.
Newly arrived from another, distant state of being, we have to learn, step by step, what it means to deal with the material world.
Before birth, when we wear no body, all our impressions are brought to us through non-material states of consciousness. I imagine our existence to be in a field of being
, and our knowing
to be a kind of cosmic “atune-ment.”
In the womb, we entered softly in a world of substance. We were bathed in water, rocked in the womb-movements of the mother.
It was at birth that we first felt skin-touch and taste and the impact of noises and light. The more gentle these were, the gentler was the landing in the world of matter.
The first tasks of the very young child are profound: learning to live into and use the human body. They begin with learning to absorb food into the very tender metabolism, and put it to use in building up the inner organs, which are still in a nascent, imperfect state. There follow the tasks of learning to move arms and legs, to balance, to walk, to talk.
And so we arrive only gradually on the earth. We are in fact slow-bloomers, creatures who take many years to fully mature on the earth. (This in contrast to other mammals, such as sheep and cows, who jump to their feet within the first hour after birth!) We lay the foundation as we develop our natural, bodily skills.
But as human beings, we have to do more, for we are “multi-dimensional beings, ” beings of body, soul and spirit. As we mature, we grow not only physically, but also etherically, astrally, and individually. In doing so, we develop higher capacities and faculties in the mind, the heart, the body.
- 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 that unfold in our will,
so the matured human fully appears at or about age 21.
So, now imagine the interaction that ensued between your spirit, born out of infinity, and your body. Imagine yourself, oh, so gently, feeling yourself into this world of matter, so different from the world of pure being-ness that you came from. Imagine stretching your tentacles of consciousness into your sense organs, and gradually integrating all of the input that came into you.
That infinity of being where we used to exist is now contracted into a point. We must now look at the world from “inside-out.” The spirit exchanges the bliss of eternity for the vividness of the present, point-centered consciousness.
And so the individuated soul is born. We are each entrusted with our own small part of eternity, and it is our sacred task to develop it as best we can, even as we are woven into the material world .
“Heaven lies about us in our infancy.
But chains of the prison house begin to close around the growing child.”
What next? How does the child’s mind develop? How do we learn to think? How is our adult thinking related to the child’s thinking? Level 1
: The most fundamental things that we think about are stimulated through our senses. The outer world impinges on our inner world through the gates of the senses. But at this point, an impression is not yet a thought: it is only an sensation.
What we call our “sentient body” receives the impressions, and our soul then experiences (or “reads”) the impression in its field. This activity is reflected in the brain, but still has not become a thought. Here another step is necessary, for the soul must also
stretch its tentacles back into the spiritual world to find an archetype that corresponds to the object in the sense world that is impinging on it. That is to say: just as we “sense into” the outer world, we “sense into” the archetypal world. When the image and the archetype are matched, then a thoughtful understanding arises in the soul. (Truly, no one could possibly assert that the brain itself is “secreting” thoughts. The thought is what arises in the soul in perceiving what is happening in or to the body.)
We can now understand that the sages of ancient days taught that this sense world is a world of maya, of illusion. From a spiritual perspective, the world that we perceive through our body senses is but an image of the great living archetypes that created it.
As the child’s consciousness matures, s/he must be able to hold onto these thought-archetypes. They are imprinted upon the etheric body (also called the life-body or chi-body), and there become memories. The young child can have impressions but not yet independently master the way these are held in memory until after about age seven. But that time, enough etheric forces have been freed from their initial task of body-building that they can be put at the service of holding on to memory-pictures. From that age on, we begin to build our bodies of thoughts.
And what a world of thoughts we live in! All the impressions we have shape and mold our freed etheric forces. Most of them fall deeply below the level of our conscious awareness. These contribute towards building the unconscious patterns of our opinions. Many, however, rise into our consciousness, and when we process them, we build our understanding of the world. Level 2
: In time, we can learn to reflect upon our own reflections. We can think about the things that we have met through our senses, even if they aren’t actually present any longer. This marks the unfolding of a higher, less materialistic capacity of our soul. Level 3
: The soul begins, however, to awaken to its own spiritual nature when it turns its attention towards the non-material activity of moving through the world of thoughts itself. This is the process that is cultivated in what is known as “spiritual research,” or “sense-free thinking.” This is also the starting point for anthroposophically-directed meditative practice. In this activity, the self is awakening to its own true dimension, its spiritual nature.
What, then, is truth?
To move accurately through this world of spiritual beings, we must have learned to eliminate from our own selves any self-serving desires or impulses. Anything that is polluted by our impure senses, our attachments, our egoism prevents us from seeing things as they truly are. Level 1
: As we learn from our interactions with this world of senses, we can practice seeing things accurately,
by observing with loving, active attention. The more we see, the richer the harvest of thoughts will be that we garner. Level 2
:As we move through our own inner worlds, remembering things and experiences we have had, or imagining possible futures things we want to accomplish, we can practice purifying our own memories and desires without imposing wishes upon them. Level 3
: Then we will be prepared to move into realms of pure thinking, to be able to see into the world of thinking with complete honesty.
This will open the door to what we can call true spiritual communion
I offer these thoughts at part of my contemplation at Easter, in consideration of what it means for a spiritual being to “die into” the grave of the physical body, and from there to awaken to spiritual self-awakening. This is the great, over-arching reality of our lives on earth, and it is a long, hard and beautiful unfolding.
Educators in Waldorf schools know that thinking
is the first of the three gifts that unfold in the young child. Through a carefully guided education, the tools for very clear observations and perceptions are laid in the young child. The goal is that the child will be able—for their whole life—to observe clearly and to have living thoughts
. These are thoughts that are able to grow and evolve through a person’s whole life, and a person experiences more and more. These thoughts are not limited by narrow definitions or memorized answers: they are trained through creative practices, and become richer and deeper through the course of a person’s biography.
Essential, too, is that the child have as many experiences as possible drawn from real-life situations. The Waldorf community thus deliberately minimizes early computer exposure for children, so the children are learning from multi-dimensional real-life sense impressions, and not by synthetic reality. The value of real, nutritious food drawn from healthy plants (and animals) and real toys and textures drawn as much as possible from the natural world and not the synthetic world is also emphasized. We hope that children who are raised in this way will have the tools to contribute in the best possible way to a future worthy of the great gifts of life we have been given!
EXPERIENCE THE LIFE IN ANTHROPOSOPHY
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offer 2 parallel workshops in
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Haleakala Waldorf School, Maui, Hawaii
Friday, 2-5:30, all participants will join to begin with talks and Group Eurythmy
Saturday 9-5 and Sunday 9-noon, gardeners will work with Harald: Eurythmy lovers will study with Cynthia
Saturday, 4:30-6:30, all participants will join to stir and apply biodynamic preparations.
Full Weekend – $165 Friday Only – $30 Saturday and Sunday only – $150
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“I wish I could show you, when you are lonely or in darkness, the astonishing beauty of your own Light.”Hafiz
The four weeks preceding the sacred mdi-winter festival of Christmas are called the season of “Advent,” of “The Coming.” In the season, we can prepare ourselves for the deepest mystery of Earth evolution by turning our thoughts to the four kingdoms of nature, one by one, week by week. We cultivate an ever-deeper relationship to the Created World as we extend our gratitude, first to the mineral kingdom, then to the plants, and next to the animals. In the fourth week, we turn our thoughts to ourselves, to the Human Being. In the fifth step, on the night of holiness, we contemplate our anticipated Angelic-selves: we take a moment to acknowledge where we are now, in our present stage of evolutions, with our hopes and dreams and frailties, and all that we can become in the fullness of time. It is in that spirit that I offer this blog:
Growing up as the middle daughter in a middle-class family in the middle of America (Chicago), I might have led a fairly predictable life. Yet already throughout my childhood I was asking deep questions: Can we be conscious of the spirit? Is reincarnation real? What does it really mean to be a human being?
After graduating from college, I embarked on what ended up being a two-year journey around the globe, traveling through Europe, across the Near East, through the Indian sub-continent, Southeast Asia, and then landing in Japan for a year. Initially, when I left the States, I told myself I was looking for a “guru” in India, but I can recognize now that I was looking for spiritual certainty, a perspective that would illuminate what this experience of existence is.
In the end, I never found a teaching in the East that satisfied me, but soon after returning to the US, I was able to formulate a new question: how can I learn to be a healer using deep wisdom about how spirit relates to matter? This question led me directly to my studies of Eurythmy, Therapeutic Eurythmy, and Anthroposophy.
Now, many decades later, I am once again traveling around the world, teaching, mentoring, advising and witnessing. I am trying to understand what is going on in the world in these years. We live in an age of technological wonders, hand-held computers and implant-able computer chips, rushing towards an intended future of artificial intelligence and robots. Simultaneously, we are also finding ourselves embroiled in a world of anger, disparagement, even cruelty. Yet in so many places and so many circumstances, people of all ages are waking up to the reality of spirit. Those who discover how to ask living questions are finding that spirit is everywhere present, waiting to be perceived.
Traveling around the world those many years ago, what was probably my most significant experience was seeing “how many ways there are to be human being.” There are those of us trained through science in the west, those of us privileged to have money and comfort, and others who live instead in bustling communities close to the land and shop in colorful bazaars filled with spices and music, such as those I saw in the Middle East and in Latin America. There are those who live in the vast sandstone expanses of Afghanistan, while others dwell in the majestic highlands of the Himalayas, and untold millions lead their lives of abject poverty on the streets of the mega-cities of the world. I have mingled with those who can walk daily through the golden temples of Thailand; I have spent time with Vietnamese war refugees in camps on the Mekong River in Laos: I spent a year living in the austere aesthetics of Japan. My eyes were opened to the marvels of life: there are so many different ways to be human.
And when I ask myself: where did I experience the most love, the most kindness? Surely not in the war zones I passed through, for I often met danger and darkness there. But there, where people lived in truly modest, even humble situations, I found a beautiful image of how humans can live out of love and kindness. I learned that luxury isolates, but shared need unites. There was so much more joy and community visible in the cardboard communities of the streets of Calcutta than in many other places I visited.
Now, once again, life is giving me the opportunity to travel widely. I watch the world deeply, observing our shared struggle to evolve towards a future that will really be worthy of the gift of life that we have been given.Shadows are deep, now, but if we are attentive, we can sense how the healing spirit is ever-present in the realms of life that we move through. These are the realms we touch in eurythmy: these are the dimensions that we can access with our meditations and our spiritual movement practices.
The dozens of Chinese and Taiwanese students and contacts with whom I regularly work are fast, super-modern, terrifically engaged, and also really thirsting for our studies of Eurythmy and Anthroposophy. And I know that, although there are countless differences between my fellow westerners and those millions in the east, yet I am always searching to tap into the core essence of human-ness.
And now, returned to my homeland, my heart feels the pain of dramas I never dreamed we would be living through. Is this— bigotry and social Darwinism–what it means to be human?
Christmas: The Light in the Darkness
At the dark time of the year, we gain an intimation of the inner dimensions of the soul. I make a practice in this season of turning inwards, withdrawing from the outer drama and from everything that is driving me and drawing me through outer circumstances. This is a time to light candles, to meditate, to do daily eurythmy, to cultivate moments of stillness.
This is a time to ask again, “What does it truly mean to be human? Am I merely a product of my society? Merely a consumer? Am I only a robot, a thinking machine? What untold faculties lie inside me, waiting to be awakened through my own diligent practice? How can I move the center of my being away from my own self-ish self-hood and cultivate a real fountainhead of love in my core? And I can I live in integrity with these core values so that my teaching, with children and adults, is genuine, giving them seed experiences so that they, too can strengthen their own core?”
Vignette: I teach eurythmy three days a week to children in a public Waldorf school. Following the government mandate that we may not teach religion in a public school, I take care not to speak of the Christmas mysteries. Yet earlier this month, I brought four candles to the classroom, and lit them, one by one. With the first, I spoke of the light in the heart of crystals: with the second, of the light in the growth of the plant; with the third, with the light in the animals. Then, as I was ready to light the fourth, several children exclaimed—“the fourth is for people! But that doesn’t count, because we are just animals!” Ah, I thought, even the tender children have internalized the contemporary perspective that we are only beasts: so they will also assert that they are only machines.
“Of course,” I explained, “we all have an animal nature in us. But we also have the amazing ability to learn to think creatively, and to understand everything things in a way that no computer-facts will reveal to us. Yes, the animals manifest a beautiful harmony with nature, but we humans don’t have that assignment. We have something else to learn.
“To be truly humans,” I continued, “we must grow the tiny spark of love within us into an endless sun that shines through our world.”
And as I looked at them, I felt deep reverence for the mystery of being a human. I pondered how in the core of every single one of them, there flames is a spark of spirit light that they alone must find and tend for.
Each one of them will play a part in taking our planet into the future. How can they find the truly human in themselves, that is stronger than their animal self, more original than the machine?
In Search of Love
And I continue in my life-long search for humanity. What does it really mean to be a human being?
As I approach Christmas this year, my heart is troubled for the well-being of our planet. The next passage we must pass through will not be easy.
And yet I know, deeply, that in this dark time of the year, the experience of inner light will grow increasingly close to us. I know that God (whatever name you may use) loves us. We can rise above our shadow sides. We can each become a stable, a manger, a sacred space in which an unlimitable shining, loving God-presence is born.
We can be protectors and worshippers of the truly divine that lives in each of us.
We can, we must, we will—in time—evolve to be true carriers of love and wisdom, worthy of the gift of creation that we live in, and able to serve and heal the wounds of the world, and offer it all back to the Creator, in a form that honors the great generosity with which it was given to us.
“From their heights, the Gods reach down into the ozone of humanity
and feel the warmth of love.
We know that the Gods lack something when man does not live in love.
The more human love there is on earth
the more food for the Gods there is in heaven
the less love there is,
the more the Gods hunger.”
Rudolf Steiner – Universe, Earth and Man – Lecture XI
We human beings need to have strong hearts to be centered, creative and loving.
There is much that is testing humanity in these times.
There is unrest in our country, with an emergence of violence and bigotry that we thought we had evolved beyond.
There is unrest in the natural world, which has manifested in the immense disasters of earth, water, air and fire this summer.
There is unrest in the human heart, which suffers with all the pains of the earth and of humanity.
Where do we find the sources of strength that we need in these times?
In our meditative practices we can find the strength to center ourselves. Through mindful breathing, we can calm ourselves and become fully present. Continuing, we can go beyond this, through mindful awareness, to experience our Selves as spirit beings, grounded in these four elements in our day-waking lives, but also able to access non-physical realms, beyond the input of our normal sensory input.
In our eurythmy practice, we can bring the experience of this Spirit Self through gesture. We begin by invoking this awareness of our Self as Spirit, and then center its glow in our heart. From there, we let it stream into our whole body in streaming etheric-physical movement..
The right archetype for the healthy, conscious heart lives in the sound EE. When spoken, the sound itself vibrates like a strong, clear beam of light. We can imagine it as an infinite long light line. To make this visible in Eurythmy movement, we must let this line of light shine right through our body, for the EE is the archetype of our human uprightness. Through the power of the EE, we have been given the strength to connect heaven and earth. We carry the gift of the EE through the fact that our spine lives in the vertical plane.
To create the EE in eurythmy: begin by centering your self-awareness in your heart. Find in yourself the “inner door” to the sources of love, which feels as a warm glowing light. Let this spirit light shine through you, connecting you both to the heights of heaven and to the depths below us. See lines stretching in both directions, and then em-body the EE in movement, stretching one arm in each direction while feeling the power of the heart grow strong enough to hold the extremes in love.
Through practicing this EE again and again, there will awaken in you a new self-awareness. You will find that you carry your body in a new way, even through the vicissitudes of life. You will stand more upright, because you know that you carry heaven in yourself. You will be able to hold your heart open, because you have learned to em-body the sources of love. You will have the courage to be fully present, with eyes wide open, because you are aware that you are, at every moment, spanned between heaven and earth.
Indeed, we humans are multi-dimensional beings, and everything depends upon what sources we draw upon.
Head-thinking no longer suffices to give us truth. It is true that clear thinking is essential for us to be able to access reality. However, the light of thinking alone can be a cold, hard light.
In our age, we are called upon to cultivate heart-thinking. The inner door of the heart opens not only to this world, but also to another dimension, to the divine sources of warmth and love. When the heart experiences truth, it glows with love, and knows that its only purpose is to share this true love with the world.
When the warmth of the heart and the light of the head find their right relationship, we humans will find a way to stand rightly in the world. Through the warmth of our enlightened hearts, we will be able to do the right good deeds in the world.
In response to the urgent needs of our times, please download the eurythmy lesson for the sound EE for free this month. Go to https://eurythmyonline.com/product/e-the-vowel-of-balance/, and use the coupon code healingheart for a 100% discount.
To read more the movement meditations for all eurythmy sounds, purchase my book Eurythmy Movements and Meditations: A Journey to the Heart of Language, https://www.createspace.com/3837137.
“Who is like God?”
Here in California, the heat of a brutally hot summer has finally subsided. The fields have long been brown, and the soil dry and caked. The air is thick with dust and, in places, with the smoke of fires. We welcome the approaching gentleness of autumn, even as we long for the relief of rain.
Autumn, the time of the dying-away, is the season known as Michaelmas. At this time, we can draw inspiration from the deeds and the archetypal virtues of the Archangel Michael. He has been known even since pre-Christian times as a protector of humanity, who helps us find the courage to face darkness and fear. In the west, through the Middle Ages, he was called upon as the standard-bearer of knights, those who have the courage to “face the dragon.”
Let’s to a moment to peel back the layers of this mythological language.
The legendary dragons of the western cultures, as known in numerous stories, are greedy, fiery beasts who seek to steal hidden treasures and gold from humanity.
They also capture fair maidens, or even princesses, and take them away to their caves, holding them prisoner until they could be rescued by a brave knight.
What story is this telling? I see in this legend the conflict between everything in us that is divine (the knight, the gold, the princess) and that which is beastly. True, so-called dragon forces live as real forces in the power of volcanoes and earthquakes, and are re-created by humans in our destructive technologies. They also live in human society, and they rage there, as war, oppression and repression.
Yet, we human beings are complicated beings, and we must soberly admit that the powers of evil do not only live outside of us: they are closer than our own skin. Dragon evil lives in our souls, when the untamed desires and untransformed selfishness in us reign. Evil lives there, where we speak violence and cruelty to one another, and when we act out of our selfish values.
In the language of mythology, of knights and dragons, the true knight is the human being who takes upon himself the task of overcoming his own lower self, so that he may tame his dragon nature. This must be done with courage and strength, yet the one who wields this power must have discovered how to do so with sober focus, and dedication to higher purposes.
And what of the maiden? In former times, it was sufficient to speak of the knight as the man, and the besieged maiden as the woman. She was the pearl within the oyster shell, the pure and chaste soul whom the knight vowed to protect and serve through noble deeds. Her story speaks the child-self inside of us who still dreams of God and longs to be united with spirit.
Now, however, it is clear that each one of us is both male and female in our spiritual nature. Each of us has a fierce and focused dragon-fighting self we can call upon as we do our inner work. Girls as well as boys must be empowered to be fierce as well as kind.
Likewise, men as well as women must seek for the best, the highest, the purest forces. The dragon is seeking to steal these forces, the sun-forces that have been offered to humanity as symbolized by the gold. And in the maiden he is seeking the Divine Feminine. The innocent child within us is in danger of losing her way because of the dragon forces of the beast.
And when the knight and the lady work together, the dragon can be subdued.
In powerful language, Rudolf Steiner has written that the fundamental task of our present age – the age of the Consciousness Soul—is to come to terms with Evil. We may not be able yet to overcome evil fully, because in its cosmic dimension it is far greater than we are. Yet, if we can recognize it, we can see the contrast between our lower selves and our higher selves. Thus continues our personal evolution towards God.
At no other time of the year as in the autumn are we so dramatically confronted with the need to deal with the dragon forces. This year, in 2017, we see with even greater clarity the forces that are besetting and besieging our better selves. Even the apocalyptic earthquakes and hurricanes of the past month, in the lunar cycle that followed the great North American eclipse can be seen as outer manifestations of dragon forces in human life.
And in our inner lives, much is shifting. There is so much confusion around us, and so much goodness possible to us. Where do we stand?
And so I return to the title of this Michaelmas essay: “who is like God?” These words are actually the literal meaning of the name “Michael.” This message is especially timely now, for this is the age in which human beings have been increasingly liberated from blind obedience to God. This is the age in which each must choose to follow the dark paths or the paths of love. Michael, hero of the dragon-slayers, is also known as the inspiring spirit of this present age. He bears the signature of courage, commitment, valor, honesty. He will never appear to anyone in a body of flesh-and-blood, telling anyone how to act. To do so would violate the fact that each human must take on his or her own spiritual path in this age, without being compelled by any outside authority.
It is said that Michael lives “in the supersensible realms immediately adjacent to the physical world.” We cannot see him with physical eyes, but we can look for him in forms of light and thought. We can apprehend Him in contemplation and meditation. He is known as the “Countenance of Christ:” in every thought, deed and gesture he urges us to seek forego power and seek love, life and light.
In the last years of his life, Rudolf Steiner spoke with great urgency, of the need to align modern civilization with Michael. He tells that Michael has already won the battle with the dragon in a spiritual dimension, but that what will happen with humanity is truly up to us.
With powerful images, we read that, although Michael will never compel humans to any deeds, he will always help us to think living thoughts. Thus, what is asked of us, is constantly to be aware of what pictures we hold in our minds, what motives drive us, what values we espouse. He can help humans on the level of consciousness. And in this knightly quest, we will feel that the power of the true Christ lives in our hearts. By learning to weigh the gold of each thought we entertain against the sun-gold of our loving hearts, we can evolve, to be like Gods.
“….ALL WAS IN SUSPENSE, ALL CALM, IN SILENCE: ALL MOTIONLESS….”
Eurythmy belongs to the world—not only to artists, children, or fervent students of Anthroposophy, but to those whose hearts yearn to find a modern spiritual movement path. Born out of the heart of Anthroposophy, Eurythmy allows the conceptual understanding of spirituality to be warmed through the heart and grounded in the body. Having taught eurythmy to thousands of people, I know this to be a powerful reality. And my commitment to share eurythmy wherever it is asked for has brought me to diverse communities around the country and around the world.
In addition to writing about eurythmy itself, this blog page offers a place for me to share with you the experiences of bringing this work to the diverse communities I visit.
This week, I am happy to describe recent experiences in Central America. My husband and I have just returned from a 4-week trip to Guatemala. The images are still vivid in me when I close my eyes: soaring volcanoes on every horizon; deep greens in vibrant forests; the brilliant colors of tropical flowers, echoed in cloths woven into clothing, hammocks, blankets and more; the noise and bustle and people-press of the market places; the sweaty jostling of bodies crushed together into the chicken-buses (public transport buses) rattling across hundreds of kilometers of pot-holed roads; fields of coffee, cacao, spices, sugar cane and bananas. And most precious of all: the serenity of Lake Atitlan, one of the so-called “planetary vortices,” a large and beautiful mountain lake rich with spiritual energy.
Guatemala is the most populous of the Central American countries, and has the largest economy, yet it is the second poorest nation in the western hemisphere. Its infrastructure is poorly funded, as taxation accounts for only 10% of the GDP and corruption bleeds the nation of much-needed finance. The gap between the wealthy and the poor is extreme. The public education system is woefully inadequate, while social instability and gang violence wreak havoc on the nation.
There are approximately 18 million Guatemalans, of which about 48 percent are mixed-race Ladinos and another 48 percent indigenous Mayan people,scattered throughout the highlands of this vast and rugged land. Having been isolated from one another for thousands of years, what might once have been one common language uniting the Mayans has been splintered into about two dozen distinct languages.
Even as the Egyptians were building their pyramids as burial or initiation structures in northern Africa, the highly sophisticated Mayan people were building their own pyramids in their jungles. The scale and grandeur of some Mayan cities rivaled that of their European contemporaries in the period from about 200 BC to 800 AD. It is estimated that there were over ten million people living in the area now known as Guatemala, Belize and the Yucatan by 800 AD.
Beginning with their decline through overpopulation in the ninth century, and continuing through the years of the Spanish conquest, and even unto the contemporary influx of ex-Pats and gringos (including us!) the Mayan culture shows little of its ancient sovereignty. Yet in the past few decades the indigenous people have begun to re-claim their own self-knowledge and taken steps to learn of their cultural roots.
The Spirituality of the Mayans
It is possible that the Mayans, the first people of Guatemala, traveled across the Bering straits millennia ago, bringing with them the ancient spiritual wisdom still found in the Tibetan traditions. Traces of this can be found in the Popol Vuh, the sacred book of the Mayans. There, the creation story begins thus:
“This is the account of how all was in suspense, all calm,in silence; all motionless….
[…..] Then Tepeu and Gucumatz came together; then they conferred about life and light, what they would do so that there would be light and dawn, who it would be who would provide food and substance. Thus let it be done! Let the emptiness be filled! Let the water recede and make a void, let the earth appear and become solid; let it be done. Thus they spoke. ‘Let there be light, let there be dawn in the sky and on the earth! There shall be neither glory nor grandeur in our creation and formation until the human being is made, man is formed.”
In the centuries of colonization, the proselytizing missionaries soon brought their version of Christianity to the Guatemalans, teaching their doctrine and building their churches, often on top of the sacred ceremonial and burial sites of the Mayans. What has evolved out of this is a unique blend of indigenous and Catholic religiosity. One often sees statues of the Crucified one as a black man nailed to the cross. There are statues in the churches of the Madonna holding two children in her arms, symbolizing the two twin brother-heroes of the Mayan creation myth. Indigenous shaman-priests often hold ceremonies on both the interior steps and the inner aisles of the churches to sanctify their dead, swinging incense burners and offering flowers, fruits and abundant candles, to honor the souls of their departed elders.
It was deeply moving to see the fervent piety of the worshippers who visited the churches all day long. Again and again, people crawled the long length of the church on their knees until they reached to front altar. There they would pray with passionate gestures and uttered prayers, obviously experiencing a personal closeness to the divine world, invoking a mood of soul seldom encountered in much of the modern world.
Working with Waldorf Education
There are two growing Waldorf schools in Guatemala, and I was able to teach eurythmy and anthroposophy to the faculty in both of them this summer.
The younger of the two schools is “Colegio Waldorf” in Guatemala City. It was founded just three years ago, by a woman who saw clearly that the only viable path to a new future in her country was through education. As the granddaughter of an anthroposophist, she committed herself with a clear vision and dedication to the creation a Waldorf School in the capital. Unconventionally, the school opened only three years ago with grades K-6, double-tracked in each grade. Today the school has full classes through 9th grade, and will soon run through high school. Unfortunately, few of the teachers are adequately trained in Waldorf understanding and methods, so there is an urgent need to work with them intensively. I was privileged to work with three highly capable training colleagues for a week this summer, and have committed myself to building a five year curriculum for teachers with my colleagues.
The other school is smaller, yet older. Escuela Caracol, in the highlands of Lake Atitlan, was founded a decade ago to serve the largely indigenous population of the region with Waldorf education. Its social commitment is truly inspiring: 75% of the students are low-income indigenous children, and their tuition is paid largely by donors from first-world countries. (Check out their website to get involved!) The members of the faculty study anthroposophy weekly, nourishing themselves through deep work together.
Among my many impressions of the schools I worked with, there remains this thought: Waldorf education is so inherently true and flexible, that it can exist in a vast number of different forms. It can serve the most humble and modest communities and well as the wealthy and privileged. The essential question: “what does it mean to be a spiritual human being?” can be cultivated and developed in every circumstance.
Contained within the task of creating Waldorf schools is included the question of how to find right relationships to economic and social relationships. How can a strong school be built even before teachers are adequately trained? Because private Waldorf schools are tuition-based, can one ensure that the motives for forming a school are clean and not profit-driven?
In Guatemala as in China, we find the need to contextualize Waldorf education, so it can take root in its own soil and not exist merely as a European transplant. I have found it fascinating to see the parallels between the work in China and in Guatemala. Both are new territories for Waldorf education. In both countries, the need for new educational models is urgent. Waldorf offers a way to create a bridge to the future.
A New Certificate Course in
Eurythmy and Anthroposophy as Life Practices
A Series of IntensiveWorkshop Modules with Cynthia Hoven
Seven Modules—-5 Days Each—–1-3 years
Eurythmy Alive a series of modular workshops to bring the enlivening gifts of eurythmy and anthroposophy in a new and fresh way. Thousands of people have felt the magic of eurythmy, but are unable to take a full, four-year training. These workshops will offer a non-professional course to people who want to go deeper without becoming professional eurythmists.
Over the course of one to three years, Cynthia will offer a series of seven 5-day workshops modules that will build upon each other. Participants are encouraged to attend all seven courses, because the exercises that are developed in each module will be increasingly difficult, so that earnest students can truly develop their eurythmy skills. Those who attend all seven courses and practice diligently at home in between classes will receive a certificate of completion.* Gifted students may be recognized as capable of sharing in small circles with family and friends, as part of a new movement to expand eurythmy into general community life.
*This certificate is no substitute for a full training, and does not certify students to charge money for their work, nor to teach children or do therapy.
All courses will consist of 4.5 hours of eurythmy each day, plus one lecture on the workshop theme, concentration exercises, and conversation.
Contact Cynthia Hoven at email@example.com www.eurythmyonline.com & www.cynthiahoven.com
The Eurythmy Curriculum:
What you’ll learn
- Social exercises: Learning to move as a group
- Eurythmy with balls, Learning to be aware of others while you move, Coordinating geometrical forms with others, Coordinating poetry and music forms with others
- Warm-up Exercises:
- The 3 dimensions of space, Standing and posture development, Threefold (eurythmical) Walking—in different speeds, Contraction and expansion, The 7 basic rod exercises
- The Heart of Eurythmy: Sounds of Language
- The 7 primary vowels, Diphthongs, long vowels and short vowels, Over 22 primary consonants
- Eurythmy as Living Poetry
- In each module, 3 new poems will be learned
- Sacred Eurythmy
- Halleluiah, IAO, TIAOAIT
- Eurythmy for Health and Healing
- Eurythmy exercises that can support your energetic and emotional health
- Cosmic Archetypes
- The seven planets and the vowels, The twelve constellations and the consonants
- Colors and eurythmy gestures
- Colors as gesture and movement quality in eurythmy
Languages and eurythmy
- Each language can be moved in a different way. Explore at least two different languages, their sounds and qualities
- The human soul and eurythmy
- Thinking, feeling and willing forms
- Rhythms and eurythmy
- The role of rhythms as cosmic-earthly archetypes, The archetypal rhythms in movement: rising rhythms, falling rhythms, balanced rhythms
- The Human Being and Music
- An Introduction to the basic musical elements in eurythmy: Beat, Rhythm, Pitch, Tones, Intervals and Melody
Your other Artistic Courses
- Speech formation
- Drawing from the book of nature
- Form Drawing
A Different Topic each Session
- The Nature of the Human Being: Body, Soul and Spirit
- The Four-fold Human Being: Physical, Etheric, Astral, I-Am
- Nature Observation
- Phases of Life: the Seven-year Cycles and Personal Biography
- Cosmic Evolution: Finding our place in Time and Space
- Life before Birth and after Death, and the Meaning of Karma
- Epistemology: the Philosophy of Spiritual Activity and Living ThinkiThe Mo
*Subject to Change in Accordance with the Needs of Students
Module Number 1:The Human Being between Heaven and earth
- Social exercises
- Geometric forms
- 7 vowels
- 3 Poems
Lecture and discussion topics
- The spiritual meaning of eurythmy
- Spiritual traditions of different cultures: East and West
- The 7 fold human being
- Looking up, looking down, looking within
- Inner work, outer deeds
- Concentration exercises
Module Number 2: The Human Being and the natural world
- All the above plus:
- Rod exercises
- Consonants, evolution series
- Auftakts (group forms)
- 3 Poems
Lecture and discussion topics
- Nature observation
- The kingdoms of nature
- Drawing nature
Module Number 3: The Human Being and the Soul World Part 1
- All the above plus:
- Geometric forms, straight lines and curves
- Look into yourself, look into the world
- 2 Poems
Lecture and discussion topics
- Communication skills
- Biography part 1: Life Cycles
Module Number 4: The Human Being and Soul World Part 2
- All the above plus:
- Thinking, feeling and willing
Lecture and Discussion topics
- Communication skills
- Child Development
- Biography/Fairy Tales
- Speech or Painting
Module Number 5: Cosmic Evolutions—Finding meaning in Existence
- All the above plus:
- The Healing Nature of Eurythmy
Lecture and Discussion Topics
- Cosmic Evolution
- The Cosmic-Creative Word
- Life before Birth and after Death
Module Number 6: The Human Being and Consciousness: How do we know?
- All the above plus:
- Poems and music
Lecture and Discussion Topics
- The Spiritual meaning of eurythmy, part 2
- Philosophy of Freedom
Module Number 7:The Human Being and the Universe
- All the above plus:
- Planets and constellations
Lecture and Discussion Topics
- The Philosophy of Freedom
- Living thinking
Because in eurythmy, we truly become Human Beings. Eurythmy is
a beautiful, unique spiritual-physical practice that brings us into the heart of Anthroposophy, into the heart of our selves. We overcome the cold, hardening forces of consumerism and intellectuality, and unite body, soul and spirit into a beautiful harmony.
In our age, everyone suffers under the pressure of intellectualism. We may be clever, but are we loving? We may be successful, but are we in touch with our spiritual source? Anthroposophy, Spiritual Science, is a modern and active way of learning to bring cosmic light and warmth into our thinking, feeling and willing. This involves personal examination, dedication, practice and work, because our powerful spiritual core lies sleeping within us, and we ourselves must do the work of awakening it. But through this journey, we discover the true joy of being alive, of being human.
With the study of anthroposophical lectures, we transform our thinking, entering into a new relationship to heaven, earth and our social life.
Yet all thinking can have the potential of remaining cold and abstract if it does not become alive! We must learn how to overcome “automatic” or “dead” thinking, so we can connect our mental activity with warmth of heart.
In creating the new art of Eurythmy, Rudolf Steiner gave us tools to become fully present and active, not only in our minds and feelings, but all the way into our bodies! In Eurythmy, our Soul-Spirit overcomes the robot-like habits of modern life. Every thought, every feeling, every gesture, every step in eurythmy is developed not according to earthly laws, but in harmony with the divine-cosmic archetypes out of which we are born and which make us truly human.
Contact Cynthia Hoven at firstname.lastname@example.org
www.eurythmyonline.com & www.cynthiahoven.com
China is a land of speed and vigor, of ancient wisdom and modern consumerism, of fabulous wealth and desperate poverty, of top-notch intellectuals, scientists and financial wizards as well as of the laborers in the urban shadow economy, the stooped rice farmers of the hilled terraces, and the millions of minority tribes, some of which still practice the ancient ways of their elders.
I have just returned from my seventh trip to China in the past four years, where I am active as a lecturer and workshop leader, specializing in Eurythmy as a Personal Practice and Anthroposophical topics. In this last trip, my husband Harald was able to join me, teaching Plant Observation and also consulting with various growers about how to grow biodynamic crops.
Through my semi-regular trips to the East, I am able to keep my finger on the rapidly evolving societal and cultural developments I have experienced, even though I know that through my insights I can only scratch the surface of this ancient and complex land.
In this last trip, my husband Harald was able to join me, teaching Plant Observation and also consulting with various growers about how to grow biodynamic crops.
First: China is vast. That which is modern is far more modern that what I know of from the US. In Shanghai, which I consider the world’s greatest mega-city, the subways are super-fast and clean. Mile after (seemingly) endless mile of skyscrapers fill the skyline, from the south of PuDong to the north of PuXi, and the super-high skyscrapers are lit each night from top to bottom with magical LED lights. Traffic is riotous, and no westerner in their right mind would dare to drive some of the roads here. Conversations are bright and intelligent, and life fast-paced and stressful. Yet even in the midst of the fabulously wealthy and well-heeled newly-rich, job-seeking immigrants from distant cities live in abject poverty.
China is, however, a large country (roughly the same size as the US), and there are great differences between the regions. Those who live in the first-world consciousness of the mega-cities lead completely different lives that do those who dwell in country villages still largely untouched by the rush and stress of the modern world.
Through my workshops and lectures on Anthroposophy and Eurythmy, I have visited many of the major cities. I have taught in Beijing in the north, Xi’an in the middle, Chengdu in the west, Guangzhou in the south, and QingDao, Shanghai and Nanjing in the East. Recently I have also begun teaching in Taiwan, (which presents a strong counter-point to mainland China, and deserves an entire blog on its own). I have vacationed in Yuunan, and, most recently, in Guilin, the land of the fables karst mountains, where thousands of single limsestone peaks rise up from the plains as fingers of God pointing heavenwards.
There are ever fewer places in rural China that are untouched by modern life. Roads have reached most of the distant villages, even those more easily accessed by foot. Horses, as beasts of burdens, carry the supplies of the modern world, but so also do diesel-spewing trucks. Tourist industries have helped fan the hunger of the villagers for an easier, more “comfortable” life. I have seen this myself, and talked to guides and hosts in distant places who have their finger on the pulse of the regions they serve. And as much as I may rue the disappearance of the old, romantic lifestyle of such figures as the rice famer with water buffaloes, I must acknowledge that the winds of change are also bringing positive benefits to these communities.
Wherever I went in China, nearly everyone I saw was technologically “plugged in.” Even in the most remote valleys that I have visited, I have been able to access 4G on my cell phone, and in the big cities 9 out of 10 people on the street are negotiating phones as they walk. In my experience, the consumer and the tech industries in China are “on steroids.” People have dozens (perhaps 6 or 7 dozen) different cell phone models to choose from, each one classier than the last. Everyone wants a bigger and better television/ stereo system/ home security system/ smart car than the one they bought last year. In these things, they are leaving the rest of the world “in the dust.”
Pollution is pervasive, and I fear that the environmental consciousness has not yet awakened. Only a few of my friends here know that GMO crops are being planted everywhere in China (and are present in the daily food of most citizens), the fisheries in the oceans are dying, trash that is being (illegally) dumped all around the cities is poisoning the soil, and schools are being built on top of toxic dumps. The skies are mostly gray, and the stars can seldom be seen. I hope we will see big changes in ecological consciousness soon!
TEACHING IN CHINA
As the rising Chinese middle class evolves out of survival mode into a bit of a leisure-society, hundreds of thousands –perhaps millions—of people have begun to examine their lives and values on deeper levels. Self-help groups, meditation groups, NVC workshops, family-constellation and yoga and tai chi lessons abound in the new China: the possibilities seem endless.
And in the midst of all this, there is a vigorous movement examining the educational systems of China. There exist quite a few alternative education models, with Waldorf education one of the most sought-after, with hundreds of school initiatives across the country. Their challenges are many: how can there be enough trained teachers? How can their teachers be helped to connect deeply with the roots of Waldorf principles? And very importantly: can they collaborate and cooperate so that the term “Waldorf” always refers to a vibrant and rigorous education and not an improvised system? How can they contextualize Waldorf education so that the richness of their own cultural heritage finds its rightful and valuable place in the curriculum? And, equally importantly, what do we, as Westerners, have to learn from the heritage of the Chinese people? What have they been given to carry into our time, what wisdom have they been guardians of? I find it fascinating to observe that, as the movement grows, there is an increasing number of schools that are including finding ways to integrate Chinese arts, history, philosophy and values into the Waldorf sol.
Much of the pioneer teacher training work in Waldorf education was begun through dedicated teachers from the English-speaking world, but I am finding an increasing number of German teachers who are carrying the teacher training work in the larger centers.
However, nearly every school that I know of aspires to run their own teacher-training program. While I am excited at the idea of seeing vibrant teacher mentoring programs as well as parent-education initiatives, I am concerned when resources for teacher training are scattered and educators are not deeply enough trained to be able to have a deep understanding of the underlying principles of anthroposophy, the philosophy that underlies the work.
My own work, meanwhile, is focusing on students who have been inspired by my workshops with Eurythmy and Anthroposophy. In addition to short courses, in various cities, I have also started a EurythmyAlive, a certificate course for serious students. In seven 5-day long consecutive eurythmy modules, we focus on deepening themes: Nature of the Human Being, Biography classes, Nature Observation, Karma and Reincarnation, Planets and Constellations, and the like. These 5-day modules are spread out over the course of 2-3 years, and committed students get together in the intervals between modules to practice together. These courses are running in Taiwan and in Chengdu, and are scheduled to begin in Shanghai in the fall.
WEST MEETS EAST MEETS WEST
I find that my greatest personal challenge when teaching in China is understanding the deep levels of the collective unconscious that lives in the foundations of Chinese culture. Eastern wisdom is ancient, resting on primal dualistic philosophies of the Yin and the Yang. These understandings still color all of daily life, reaching into habits of food and medicine and clothing and architecture. In the bedrock of the culture are also the expectations of respect and duty. For China, the most important value was always the thriving of the community, even at the expense of the individual.
Most of the ancient wisdom was, however, ruthlessly destroyed during the 20th century. Much of the ancient insights have now faded into what I experience to be tradition or even superstition. And it is upon this phenomenon that the intense modern drive for individuation arises.
My Chinese friends and colleagues are beautiful, loving people, and I hold them in high esteem. It is an honor to be invited to work with them. Anthroposophy and Eurythmy have sprung from a universal philosophy, yet were rooted in the Western world. Those of us who teach these subjects in China carry a great responsibility to discover how this modern mystery wisdom can find its right relationship to the cultural tasks of the people of the East.
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Here in California, spring has sprung!
Spring has sprung in all of its glory. The bulbs have bloomed— and faded; the flowering trees are heavy with blossoms; the trees are thick with fresh new spring-green foliage.
Yet, standing before the mystery of the sacred year, we have not yet reached the point of Easter, the point at which the yearning human soul finds the certainty that Spirit is stronger than Matter, Life is stronger than Death.
In the week ahead, known as “Holy Week,” the spiritual seeker can go through a deeply cathartic journey by studying and contemplating the seven archetypal aspects of the human soul.
Although contemporary world-views may urge us to believe that our souls are merely the creation of our body chemistry or our animal nature, in fact our souls are born of pure, radiant spirit. Our souls have been created through the activity of the world-spirits, the singing of the seven planetary spheres.
Each planet has its own “Color,” such as RED for Mars, or GREEN for Venus. By deepening our experience of these, we grow to understand the colors of our soul, and also how to use the powers of each color when and as we need them.
Yet in EURYTHMY, we have a powerful and unique opportunity to understand the soul even more deeply through the gifts of language, for each Planet stands as an archetype behind one of the seven primary vowel sounds. Red Mars is the power behind Ā, the sound of boundaries: Green Venus is the power behind Ah, the source of wonder.
To accompany you in your journey, this monthI am offering a 50% discount (coupon code Vowels” on the VOWEL MODULE in my website, https://eurythmyonline.com/product/the-heart-of-eurythmy-part-1-the-vowels/.
Please enjoy these lessons as you read the daily Holy Week essays from my blog Archive, which will be sent to you daily in the coming week.
More about Vowels: The Sounds of the Soul
Life is a constant interplay between the external and the internal, the world that surrounds us and our inner world.
These two dynamics are reflected in language in the contrast between consonants and vowels.
Whereas the former speak of the world around us, its landscapes and shapes and forces, the vowels sing our from our heart to express how we are experiencing the world, in joy or pain or love or sorrow. They express our thoughts and feelings, as well as our impulses to do things in the world. Vowels are truly the language of the soul, and each of the vowels expresses one of the pure, archetypal human feelings. An exploration of the vowels can open up a whole treasure box of experiences for us. For many people, the feeling life is turbulent: for others it is flattened and dull. When we learn to feel deeply the power of each of the different vowels, it is as if we meet the blessing fairy godmothers whom we heard about in children’s stories, each of which gave one gift to the small child.
Indeed, as we enter the world of the vowels in eurythmy and speech, we realize how the vowels are the signature of the truly human. The depth of experience that we experience in the vowels is a world that will never be available to machines. The journey through the vowels is one more way in which eurythmy helps us know what we really are as human beings: human spirits living consciously in the physical-material world.
Each of the vowels has a special correspondence to one of the planets. The fairy godmothers I mentioned are like the gods or goddesses of the planets who have given to the human being mythological soul archetypes. These archetypes live in our feeling life and in the organs of our body. They support us as we learn to stand in our selves and develop our biographies on earth. They guide the different life cycles we pass through as we grow, leading us through archetypal life patterns in harmony with the planets. Nothing, however, is predetermined, and as we grow and develop, we also separate ourselves from the general human-consciousness, and become individuated ego beings. This entire story is revealed in the vowels.
In these essays I will concentrate on only seven major sounds, corresponding to seven major planets. I will, however, have to omit most of the diphthongs, or combination vowels, such as au, i, oi, and the like. Nor will I go into the differences between long vowels and short vowels.
Remember that any sound that can be made by the mouth can also be expressed in movement: the sounding and the movement are identical in nature. It requires a bit of practice, however, to be able to perceive how to vary a sound to express its unique coloring. In English we have what is called a “vowel cloud,” in that in addition to the archetypal vowel sounds, we have almost infinite variations on all of them. Linguists acknowledge, for instance, that the sound A (ah) is a basic archetypal sound, but in English we vary that to include uh and æ and many more sounds that exist as combinations between A (ah) and E (ā) or O (ō).
The most beautiful way to introduce the vowels is to bring them in the order that they appear in the classical romance languages, namely, AEIO and U (in English, ah, ā, ē, ō and oo). In this sequence, they tell a beautiful story of the unfolding and the maturing of our soul life. They can tell us the story of the evolution of a human being from birth to death, or the evolution of a loving relationship from wonder through separation to higher union. Essentially, they tell the great story of humanity, who has evolved from innocence through pain to self-conscious individuation, rising to love, from which the fruits of our biography can be offered back to our Creator, on a dearer and higher level.
These vowels bring love and clarity and grounded-ness to us. Enjoy your journey!