The human heart can go to the lengths of God.
Dark and cold we may be,
But this is no winter now,
The frozen misery of centuries breaks, cracks, begins to move,
The thunder is the thunder of the floes. The thaw, the flood, the upstart spring—
Thank God our time is now, when wrong comes up to face us everywhere!
Never to leave us till we take the longest stride of soul men ever took.
Affairs are now soul-sized.
The enterprise is exploration into God.
Where are YOU making for?
It takes so many thousand years to wake,
But will you wake, for pity’s sake?
Quoted from Christopher Frye’s Sleep of Prisoners
One week ago, I was still in Shanghai as mainland United States was counting its Tuesday night votes. Hour by hour we watched from thousands of miles away as the poles closed, and the votes of one state after another were tallied up.
I had planned to write an in-depth report of my workshops in China and my impressions of a changing country this weekend, as soon as I recovered from jetlag. I still intend to write that report, for there is much to share. Today, however, I must first reflect on my considerations of what is happening, and where we will all go from here.
Having just returned from another culture, another country, I feel like a stranger in a strange land. I am trying to read the body language, the attitudes of the people I meet in the aftermath of the election. I am reading a lot on the internet, in both the mainstream and alternate press as well as social media, and also discovering essays of writers and bloggers struggling to make sense of what is going on.
Full disclosure: I loved Bernie, because I felt he was genuine and a truth-speaker. I considered him to be a bit of a utopian, but I wanted to world he strives for to become real. When he dropped out of the race, I turned to Hilary, not because she is a woman, nor because I condone how entangled she is with the big corporations. Rather, I considered that she would be a safer bet, because the world is in a precarious place right now. Here I am thinking of international relations in the far east, the middle east, the refugee crises, energy crises, global warming and environmental disasters.
As we neared election day, however, I began to read more and more about the possibility of civil war. Even as it became clear to me that there is truly a sharp division in this country, I was pained to realize how many people were ready to explode with racial, religious, sexual hate and bigotry.
And now. Here we are, one week later, and the new story is already unfolding.
I am not nearly as concerned with the protests on the streets as I am with the dozens of reports of personal attacks, property damage, hate crimes and even murder that have been committed in the past three weeks.
This is where my deep questioning leads me.
In my community, we have a weekly study to consider leading thoughts of Anthropsophy. This autumn, as we studied Rudolf Steiner’s lecture series called “From Symptom to Reality,” I was struck by a leading thought that he presented. He said that it is the central task of our age to come to terms with evil. In our age, even as we awaken more and more to our spiritual maturity, we will have to recognize that each of us bears within ourselves not only great goodness but also the forces of the great hindrances to evolution. Any one of us could, if we succumbed to our base natures and instincts, commit the great or small transgressions against one another.
Small transgressions including petty littering, or straining our environment a little bit by using too much plastic. Larger transgressions contribute to the collapse of entire ecosystems or outright murder.
Where do I really monitor my own behavior?
My own “small evils” begin with my impatience or dismissal of another’s worth. As a consciously striving woman, I wish I could always be as consistently good as my intentions are. I could be kind and helpful and generous in all my thoughts and actions. Even my subtle violence bears within itself the seeds of the great violence that lives in the psyche of a person who neglects to so his or her self-regulation.
I am reminded of the late Sir Laurens van der Post, a South African author whose childhood was molded in equal parts by his family, British landholders in the African bush, and his caretakers and life-teachers, the bushpeople and the Maori. He perceived from an early age how those who were considered to be the primitive folk of Africa actually carried extraordinary wisdom and knowledge that was inaccessible to his intellectual comrades. When World War II broke out, it seemed to him that the horrible crimes being perpetrated against the minority peoples –in that case, the Jews in Central Europe—were only possibly because the perpetrators of hate had lost their own connection to the good and true forces. This schism in the soul, he said, is a direct result of the tyranny of intellectuality, of people’s alienation from their capacity for love, and the loss of an authentic relationship to nature and to spirit. In this, he became a Jungian, and spoke of the shadow of the collective unconscious that was driving the madness of the war years.
My thoughts? In the hate movements of our age, that which is less-than-human, the shadow of our lower selves, our beastiality has been unleashed. This crisis is of our own making, and none of us is so evolved yet that we don’t bear part of the shadow in ourselves. Those hate crimes and acts of bigotry and violence that we see are born out of the way that we have become alienated from our own higher selves. Do I carry even the smallest possibility of such hatred in myself, in some judgmental part of my soul? How did that possibly take root in me? My education? Consumerism? Egotism?
What feeds my shadows and makes me less than human?
By daring to write these painful words in the first person, I insist of myself that I look my own shadow in the face. And in looking, I look for the healing that will help me overcome the shadow.
How can I evolve, to be in Right Relationship to the earth, to my fellow humans, to my Creator?
I hold that Love is truly a Being, a god who has united him/herself with our earth. Love lives both in the heights of heaven and in the depths of our souls. This Godly Being of Love will not command us, but his/her ways are uncompromising, and waits to be sought for, greeted, and welcomed.
This Being of Love, whom I will name God-become-Human, stands with us, ever present, as the living archetype of the fully evolved human being. Where that Sun shines in our souls, we find the inspiration and the power to choose Love instead of hate.
Rudolf Steiner urges us to seek to understand the nature of evil, as it lives in our souls and in our world.
As human beings we are still a “work in progress:” we are still evolving towards our godly future. On this journey we must learn to recognize that which is “not-god” within us, and be willing to renounce whatever petty joys our grudges, spitefullness, laziness, prejudices, fear, hate, love of comfort (please, continue the list yourself) may afford us.
In the great journey of human-earthly-godly evolution, I hope we can follow the words of the playwrite quote above.
“It takes so many thousand years to wake,
But will you wake, for pity’s sake?”
In the aftermath of this election, as a new phase in American life begins to evolve, I am heartened to read the voices of some of my friends and heroes, great writers of our age who call upon us to use this phase of history to take the next step of evolution. If you are interested, please check out some of the following articles.
By Otto Sharmer: On the Making of Trump: the Blindspot that Created Him http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/58264d03e4b02b1f5257a1ca?timestamp=1478908400601
By Charles Eisentein: The Election: of Hate, Grief and a New Story
By Adebayo Akomolafe: On Trump: An Open Letter to the Brokenhearted
A Thanksgiving Eurythmy Prayer.
A Eurythmy movement to move alone or share with your loved ones.
For the dark earth that cradles the seed,
For the rain that brings forth the green leaves,
For the stars that give form to the flowers,
For the warm sun that ripens the fruit,
For all this goodness and beauty,
Father-mother God, we thank Thee.
This lovely table blessing lends itself beautifully to eurythmy, and can be done by beginners or experienced eurythmists. If you are inspired by the words, take a few moments to let the pictures come alive inside you. See the rich black soil moistened with rain, the seed hull softening until the tender roots and the first leaves unfold. Watch how the plant is held and supported in its life cycles through the cycles of nature. As you do so, practice concentrating your forces of attention and enlivening your thinking. Allow the experience of deep thanksgiving and gratitude flood your soul.
Would you like to try moving this in eurythmy? I will find it difficult to explain to you how to move this in language, but let’s give it a try.
The art and prayer of eurythmy entails letting the inner life of a poem become visible throughout your whole being–spirit, soul and body. As a eurythmist, you will easily feel that the living pictures of this prayer expand and contract throughout the entire poem. If you are only starting your eurythmy practice, you can move this with simple, breathing gestures. If you have already learned how to make the sounds of language come alive through gesture, you can weave the sound-gestures into your movements.
Because this is a poem about the gentle forces of a plant, you can allow your arms gestures to weave in living, etheric fields. Begin with the first four lines like this.
1: Dark earth—open. Seed–close
2: Rain—open. Green leaves—close
3: Stars—open. Flower—close
4: Warm sun—open. Fruit—close
Now go further, and use the different zones of below, middle and above to help your expression.
1. Begin with the first line: envision the dark earth and spread your arms wide below you, then picture the seed, and bring your hands together, cupped around a seed.
2. For the second line, raise your arms and spread them wide around you as you picture the blessings of rain, and then picture green leaves and stems and bring your hands together, cupped around the unfolding plant.
3. For the third line, lift your arms high to the stars, far beyond your hands, imagining the wisdom of geometric forces weaving a web around the earth. Then cup your hands around a flower, imagining its perfect miniature star shape.
4. Now imagine the deep warmth of a summer day, and spread your arms wide, and then gather that warmth and bring it to the fruit of the plant that will bear the new seeds.
Finally, after all of these polarities, the last two lines breathe differently. Now we focus on virtues of the soul instead of on nature forces. Spread your arms wide to open to goodness and beauty, and then imagine even larger universes for “Father-mother God.” Then,in this sequence, the word “we” becomes microcosmic, being personal and of this world, so bring your arms to your heart for “we.” And finally, lift your heart and arms to the heavens again for “thee.
Even such a simple exercise as this will be a great beginning for your eurythmy journey. You become enlivened in your mind, you feel the dynamics, and you move your body. You become quiet and attentive, and breathe more deeply.
Bring the verse into movement: If you would like to go even deeper with this process, you can start to move with your whole body, and walk backwards and forwards as you expand and contract. That is to say, when you walk backwards you can feel the great mysteries behind you, and when you walk forwards you find your way into the things of this sense world. It will suffice to take only one or two steps.
The dynamic power of language: You will notice that we began by experiencing the nouns. Now, to bring it even more alive eurythmically, notice the dynamic of the verbs in the poem, and how they carry the activity of the nature forces to the small plant. As you move from large to small, again and again, catch the energy of each verb in your movements. How is cradling different from ripening? As you walk forwards and backwards, use different images, different speeds and different energies to connect the universe and the plant.
Create a form for the movement: If you like, create spirals and star forms for the different lines as you move forwards and backwards
Beyond dance: making speech visible. Eurythmy actually unveils its true power once we start working with the sounds of language. If you are able to do a few sounds, begin with these:
For the dark earth that cradles the seed: D ā S (dark, cradles, seed) (S going down)
For the rain that brings forth the green leaves: R BF L (rain, brings forth, leaves)
For the stars that give form to the flowers: ST F L (stars, form, flowers) (S going up)
For the warm sun that ripens the fruit: S P F U (Sun, ripens, fruit) (S going up)
For all this goodness and beauty: Ah U U (all, goodness (down), beauty (up))
Father-Mother God, we thank Thee: Ah, ee, ee (father-mother-God, we (left arm up) Thee (right arm up))
Dear readers, please accept this bold attempt to describe for you in written text how to do a poem in eurythmy in the spirit it is intended—-as part of my commitment to find ways to empower everyone to weave eurythmy into their personal lives! Yet I promise you that the activity is hugely creative, joyful and regenerative if you join in a live class somewhere, wherever you live!
In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I wish you the best of holidays.
Report from the National Biodynamic Conference in Louisville, Kentucky
“Spirit is never without matter: matter never without spirit.”
These words by Rudolf Steiner were never far from our minds at last week’s biannual National Biodynamic Conference in Louisville, KY, attended by 600-700 farmers, gardeners, physicians, microbiologists, pharmacists, ecologists, and economists. We were a mixed crowd of barefoot farmers, urban sophisticates and small-town families, gathered to address the urgent needs of our planet, our soils, our food systems and our bodies. Our focus was profound question of how to use the anthroposophically inspired insights of BD to teach us how to bring spirit and matter into right relationship. My husband and I were both presenters at the conference, offering eurythmy, lectures and workshops.
A “sister movement” to Eurythmy, Biodynamic agriculture is a way of farming that understands how to work with the dynamic interplay of spirit and matter to create truly healthy ecosystems. Biodynamics has techniques far beyond the ethos of “do-no-harm:” it actually heals and revitalizes impoverished soils and enables plants, animals and humans to thrive.
One of the fundamental understandings that inspires my work with eurythmy is the consideration of how spirit and matter are interrelated. Spirit is close to source, full of fire, consciousness and original creative intent. Matter is its image, its complement: matter is spirit that has evolved through time and space to become independent, cool and dense.
In our eurythmy practice, we learn to ground ourselves in spirit self-awareness, and work out of that mindfulness into our body to create health and well-being. Through the practices of Biodynamics, we find other techniques to bring spirit and matter into balance. For instance, BD practitioners understand how to use the rhythmic interplay of spirit and matter that are revealed in the rhythms of the seasons, of day and night, of the moon and planets. They work with the forces of light and darkness, of crystals and manures, to enhance the effects of sunlight and photosynthesis and of darkness and soil heath.
They also understand how to work with the forces of life, a field that is not yet accessible to conventional scientists. To be truly healthy, a plant must be filled with life forces, so it will have strong cells, build stems that can stand up in wind and rain, have long shelf lives and impart true vitality to animals and humans. This health is only created if the plant grows in healthy soil, rich in the microbial milieu created through the use of Biodynamic practices. Then the plant can perceive and absorb what is needs through the roots and transform light through the leaves. Soils treated with artificial chemicals and pesticides, on the other hand, create plants that are weak and sickly.
My husband is a specialist in the making and use of compost, understanding how to take decaying plant and animal waste and turn it into rich, loamy humus, augmented by the powerful biodynamic compost preparations that inoculate the piles with homeopathic herbal remedies. His compost piles remind me of a holy altar, and he works with them like a priest, at the threshold of life and death. Plants grown in his soil feel confident in their ability to pick up soil nutrients through their root hairs: they grow strong and green and vital.
This conference powerfully underscored the need for such an agriculture to address the needs of planetary ecosystems. Not only the airs and the oceans, but also the soils are collapsing: scientists are speaking of a “silent spring of the microbial world.” This collapse has a statistically direct correspondence with the rise in allergies in children and adults. What we are doing to our soils is immediately revealed in what happens in our stomach. Conventionally grown food no longer offers true nutrition: I heard in this conference that we now must eat 5 oranges to receive the same nutritive value that our grandparents could get from one orange!
It is not only bodily health that we get from food: Rudolf Steiner was once asked why is it so difficult for human beings to do their spiritual work? And his answer—almost 100 years ago—was that the food itself did not impart the strength people need for their consciousness.
My husband and I are so lucky to be able to share our life work in the parallel tasks of Eurythmy and Biodynamics. We are both stewards of the forces of life: I through the movement art of eurythmy and he through the tremendous art of service to the land in biodynamic agriculture.
It was hugely inspiring to be able to share conversations, workshops, and friendship with this fellowship of BD practitioners. Whether in poverty or wealth, in cities or on the land, they share a deep commitment to serve the planet, including its soils, its plants, its animals, and its humans, through their loving hard labor.
And I believe that through our consciousness of giving thanks when we eat, we sanctify the food and the spirit that has made it.
Please join me in giving thanks for the web of spirit and matter, the foundation of our human existence.