Holy Week Contemplation Nr 5
Standing in the Balance with Mercury
(Slow down and read slowly. These essays are intended to be read with the heart, not merely with the head)
Holy Week marks the journey of Christ’s last week of his life on earth in the body and soul of Jesus. We could also say it marks the journey of the human being Jesus as he walked through the last week of his life on earth bearing the stupendous power of the Christ in every aspect of his being.
How could this Creating Spirit and this earth-man merge into one? How could God become so small, and the human being become so pure a vessel that they could become one perfect union?
How can I work on my own self so that I, too, can become a vessel for creation, for God?
Wednesday stands at the midpoint of Holy Week, the fulcrum in the unfolding drama. Midpoints always imply a crisis, a point of balance and a turning point. Here we move from what has been towards what will become.
In the story of Holy Week in the Bible, Wednesday presents us with two powerful archetypal figures in Jesus’ circles. One is Mary Magdalene, who kneels at his feet with a bottle of precious ointment and anoints him with the devotional power of her overwhelming love. The other is Judas Iscariot, the disciple who betrayed Jesus. It is said that he had been hoping that Christ would reveal himself to the world as a fully public savior and bring political and social peace to the world. He grew impatient with Mary’s deed, and fled to Jesus’ enemies. For the price of 30 pieces of silver, he revealed to them where Jesus could be found, and led them to him the following night.
In the crisis of Wednesday, these archetypes can speak deeply to our souls. Don’t we all bear within ourselves two souls: the idealist and the pragmatist, the generous and the greedy, the pure and the impure? How can we balance the polarities in our being? How can we create the active center point in ourselves that can endure the tension between extremes?
The planet Mercury rules Wednesday, and speaks through the vowel sound I (ee). In the eurythmy gesture for I (ee), we can experience the archetype of the Divine Ego, of the I-Am, as it strives towards self- actualization. I invite you to consider the drawing above (from my book Eurythmy Meditations and Movements), and then actively move this with your own body.
This I (ee) is spirit self is the Ego, the I-Am, and its invisible fuel is the essence of spirit-being. So, too, in the course of each human life, we can evolve past the immature experience of defining ourselves by what we are not, and begin to define ourselves from within. The Ego, the I-Am of the human being is the eternal flame that burns in the inner core of our being. It is never in a stagnant condition. In constant self-creating, it lives in the dynamic relationship between being and non-being, interior and exterior, right and left, up and down, heaven and earth. As if on a tightrope, the I-Am seeks and creates balance between polarities. It creates itself anew whenever it awakens into self-consciousness. The sound I (ee) rings forth from the soul when it manifests its own light-being in spirit filled self-manifestation.
Begin by imagining yourself clothed in radiant yellow-orange. Feel your heart, the center of your being. A stream of light radiates outward from this center with energetic red brilliance, expanding outwards through the upper arm into the space above you. Balance this outgoing energy with a blue counterweight in your other arm. The lower arm grounds you, helps you feel the earnest necessities of life. Feel the dynamic tension of the forces of the two. The awakened human begin can balance heaven and earth, spirit and matter,
light and dark. As you practice this gesture in eurythmy, learn about your own soul. Do you tend more towards the light or towards the darkness? Can you be both practical and enlightened.? Can you bear responsibility and align yourself with high spiritual striving?
Who are you? Who are you becoming?
This is the gesture of the awakened heart, a heart that allows itself to learn through constantly practicing awareness of the I-Am. This is the prototypal gesture of Christ, imprinted into human beings for the first time through one human being, and vouchsafed for all humanity as our future birthright. Walking the path through matter, we awaken through balancing heaven and earth.
Holy Week Contemplation Nr 4
Tuesday: Speaking Truth to Power
Read slowly, and allow the words to come alive within you.
As Holy Week unfolds, we meet the power of Mars on Tuesday. Mars has long been associated with masculine, self-assertive actions, with power.
What are the true sources of Power? And what power has been vouchsafed to human beings?
We can imagine the tremendous forces of the natural world: volcanic eruptions, tectonic shifts, hurricanes, tornadoes. Far greater are the forces of the cosmos, where stars are born and explode, or collapse into black holes.
We might well believe that these are mere mechanical process, because they can be explained through physical laws. But if we long to go deeper, then we may ask: “What being or beings are moving behind the phenomena we perceive?” Without denying the validity of scientific explanations, can we explore Consciousnesses that are active behind the phenomena of the world? Are they the source of the power that we now perceive enchanted into forms and mechanics?
The spiritual science of Rudolf Steiner urges us to consider ranks and ranks of beings, each of whom have different levels of consciousness. We human beings are but beginners on the journey of our acquisition of consciousness, and we rely on our modest physical senses to reveal to us the ways of the physical world we live in. But higher ranks of beings have more subtle and more expansive consciousness and abilities. Their very being IS source of love, of will and intention, of wisdom and movement and form. Their deeds and thoughts are the powerful sources of all aspects of our world.
We live in a living world, yet as long as we remain passive in our knowledge, we believe our world is dead. These are the great mysteries I seek to understand at Easter. Christ the Creating Spirit was born as the Son of God, and lived as a human being on earth. His level of consciousness contains and encompasses that of all other ranks of beings. Entering into embodiment into this world of substance, He consciously sacrificed His original power. He became infinitesimally small, infinitely human. This was the greatest test of Spirit Consciousness: would the power of Love and Being be extinguished, or would it be able to overcome Death?
What then is Death? There are many layers of death. One is the death that we experience at the end of life. Another consists of the small deaths we go through every day, in our body, in our thoughts and feelings as we evolve.
And yet I believe the actual death consists of our descent into matter. We have died to the spiritual world through being born into the world of maya. We are developing our capacity to be conscious through being taught by the senses. Yet this is but an intermediary level. When we grasp the force of Seed of Spirit that has been given to us, we will be able to be alive, to think living thoughts and have living consciousnessby dint of practicing our awareness, constantly.
Power? Power surrounds us on all sides. Cosmic power created the world, and its effects are found in all things. Humanity lives in this world of power, and has seized power and is learning to wield it. Humanity’s capacity to use power has evolved over long ages, and can be seen as a motive force behind all of human history. Power can be used wisely, kindly, lovingly, or it can be horribly abused. When humans misuse power in their treatment of other people, the results include control, murder, enslavement, wars and torture. When humans misuse power in their treatment of the natural world, the results are the fearsome destruction of forests, oceans, ecosystems, and now of food systems, seed crops, genetic integrity.
On Tuesday of the first Holy Week, Christ Jesus openly challenged the power wielders in his world. He spoke words of Truth to the false priests, the money changers, the hypocrites and the fundamentalists. I imagine the force of His spirit-force charging the words that He spoke, as He lay clear to them how they were misusing power. In the face of the absolute moral power that Christ wielded, there is no place to hide. Human beings must judge themselves when they realize the cosmic consequences of their own misdeeds.
The power of speech:
Tuesday is the day of Mars, and every Tuesday we meet its challenge. Mars rules not only power but also Speech. It is said that the World was originally spoken into being by the Creator, and that Christ is that very Creating Word. By becoming fully human Christ gave the power of the living Word to humanity. In the fullness of time, conscious human beings will be able to unite with Christ is such a living way that our Word also will be capable of cosmic Creating.
On the journey towards such a foretold future, human beings will hopefully seek to permeate all power with love, and wisdom. The first step towards this consists in learning to perceive the Created World with living thinking that can perceive the moral laws made the world. We can internalize this morality by uniting ourselves with Christ, with Him who made Himself small so that we can be re-born in spirit.
The Journey through Holy Week
Monday, the Day of Reflection
Holy Week Contemplation #3
The Seven Days of Holy Week. Monday, the Day of Reflection
How did the days of the week receive their names? As manifest in the laws of musical harmonies, the laws of the chemical period table, the story of Creation as told in the Book of Genesis, time, space and evolution unfold in a seven-fold pattern. This seven-fold pattern resounds in the seven primary planets in our solar system, in the seven primary organs in the human body, and in the seven-year cycles we honor in child development. These all follow the archetype of what is known as the seven stages of Cosmic Evolution. The ancient teachers commemorated these stages by allowing our earth-time to be measured in seven-day weeks, punctuating the flow of time with rhythmical, cyclical procession.
The seven stages of Cosmic Evolution correspond to the seven major planets, and each of these is recognized in the names of the days of the week. All unknowingly, we commemorate this evolutionary cycle in a microcosmic way every week.
SATURDAY is dedicated to Saturn, the outermost of the major planet. It commemorates the beginning and the end of all things
SUNDAY is dedicated to the Sun, the radiant living source of life, love and light.
MONDAY is the day of the Moon, whose serves exists in reflecting the light of the sun.
TUESDAY is the day of the red planet Mars, which has long been associated with masculine, self-assertive and even aggressive actions.
WEDNESDAY is the day of the planet Mercury, whose short and agile orbits around the sun cause it to be seen only rarely, peeking out sometimes in the evening and sometimes in the morning, but always close to the sun.
THURSDAY is the day of Jupiter, understood of old to be the home of the great and generous god Jupiter, or Thor.
FRIDAY is dedicated to Venus, the bright morning or evening star associated with the forces of kindness, love and peace.
The story of Holy Week begins on a Sunday. On Palm Sunday we considered the Lord entering Jerusalem on the back of a donkey, praised by the people who lined the streets. The jubilant crowds saw in Christ-Jesus the hoped-for hero who would solve all their political and social problems. Yet this was not the task of the Christ. In esoteric language we can understand that the people were imagining that salvation would come to them from without. They had not yet understood that humanity was finally ready for a new step in evolution. THE OLD CREATION WOULD NOW COME TO AN END, SO THAT THE NEW CREATION COULD BEGIN.
Christ was not interested in solving the social problems as a hero or authority. Everything that He did was born directly out of the Source of all being. He bore within himself the intention to take all the power of Creation with him right through the most condensed, the most concentrated, the most tragic human experience, even through death—–so that He could wrest from it the power of life and rebirth. His intention was to give to humanity everything that we need to take our next evolutionary step. When we follow His intentions, we can begin to cultivate new levels of consciousness in ourselves. With our minds, our heart, our bodies we can now become the Seeds of a New Earth.
As Christ walked through the last week of His life on earth, his deeds imprinted new archetypes onto the signatures of the seven planetary powers.
If we choose to, we can make a yearly practice of honoring the days of Holy Week through cultivating a new and conscious relationship to the planets.
On Palm Sunday, we could honor the life-giving forces of the Sun, from which still stream the light and life and love of the world we live in.
Today, on Monday, we meet a new archetype. The Moon represents above all the gesture of reflecting the light of the Sun. Moon consciousness does not yet access pure Source, but lives only out of Maya. Moon consciousness is content with images instead of reality, with information instead of wisdom, with brain thinking instead of heart thinking. In this sense, Moon consciousness is dream consciousness, but not in a modern or positive sense. It may rise from body instincts, from subliminal messages, or even from eternal authorities whose sources we cannot trace.
Human consciousness has grown from the soil of Moon consciousness. We had to begin our process of cognition by through dreams, through instincts, through associative thinking.
Now, however, the new mind is awakening. Now hearts will learn to think. Now we will begin to understand the sources of things, not only the surfaces of things. Clear, illumined Sun-thinking is born out of resurrection powers. Humanity is now ready to develop the new thinking, the new mind. This thinking lives in a state of consciousness that will not die. This consciousness lives in the sources of eternal life.
On the evening of Palm Sunday, Christ withdrew with his twelve disciples into the quiet of their inner room. No more would He be heralded as the long-awaited hero. On Monday, he began his task of showing to humanity the futility of lazy thinking, of mediumship, of dogma, of external authority, of power. Step by step in this week we are called to discover in ourselves the workings of our shadow mind, so that we can lay it aside and recognize the new, germinating capacities within that enable us to step into eternal life.
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
Cynthia and Harald Hoven
offer 2 parallel workshops in
Eurythmy and Biodynamics
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
Discounts available for seniors, students, and low income persons up to 30%
For more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call (808) 878-2511
“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.