HOLY WEEK CONTEMPLATION
|HOLY WEEK CONTEMPLATION|
Have you wondered: what would you do if you were quarantined in your home?
For the past six years, I have traveled repeatedly to mainland China and Taiwan, offering in-depth workshops in Eurythmy and Anthroposophy.
This year, we are compelled to call off our spring workshops, due to the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) that is affecting every aspect of life in China. Today’s news said that as many as 760 MILLION people are quarantined in their homes. This accounts from more than half of the citizens of mainland China.
Of course I feel tremendous compassion for the pain and suffering of individuals who have contracted the disease themselves or have seen their loved ones suffer. When the disease becomes acute in a person, it attacks first the lungs and then can lead to pneumonia. In severe cases, it continues to create massive organ failure and possibly death.
How is it then for the millions of people who are quarantined in their homes, unable to socialize, unable to reach out beyond their own four walls except possibly through the internet? And so, as much as I regret the interruption in our work, and even as care deeply for those who are afflicted, I have also been so curious about those others whose lives have been curtailed so radically.
To find out more, I called some people last week to hear their stories.
As far as I could tell, all—or nearly all—the major cities in China are shut down. Wuhan, the epicenter of the disease, has been described as a “ghost town.” The streets are empty: the only vehicles one might see are the patrolling military, the ubiquitous delivery trucks, and the medical cars. The silence is stunning: only the occasional barking of a dog or the wail of a distant ambulance punctuate it.
Even in other cities, in which the virus is perceived more as a distant threat, the streets are largely empty. The majority of businesses are still closed: people work from home when possible. A family I know of there that owns a restaurant has no idea when it might be allowed to open again. Schools are shuttered: it is likely that when they are allowed to reopen, summer vacations will be cancelled to resume teaching as vigorously as possible.
Those who are quarantined are virtually confined to their homes. If they want to go out, they have to have a permit. Even then, they know that when they walk on the streets they will be subjected to frequent stops by security forces who are mandated to check everyone’s temperature.
I confess that all this sounds very difficult.
And then, as always, I look deeper. I wonder: is there anywhere some redemption, some blessing in all of this?
Yesterday I called two of my friends who live in two different cities to ask them how they are doing. And both of them, independently of one another, aid “I actually think that this will be good for our country.”
“Please,” I urged, “tell me what you are seeing.”
“This can bring us back to our roots. Here in China, we are living such a crazily busy lifestyle. We are always rushing, buying, desiring things. We are so restless. We have lost our center. We have lost our way. Now we are forced to become quiet. We have to find a new way of being.”
One friend, a master teacher of NVC (non-violent conversation) imagines how people have received the challenge and the gift of having to look for new depths of connection and relationship with the people they live with. How easy it is, she said, for us to live a distracted life! How easy to turn our attention away from our families or those with whom we live, and lose ourselves in the drive and stimulation of daily urban life. How different it is in these days, when people must sit together, must re-learn and re-discover how to share life.
My friend in Shanghai told me of another woman, a spiritual teacher there, who, focusing on the nature of the disease which aggressively attacks the lungs, proposed this picture. She says that in the chaos of life, the Chinese people have lost their center, their middle, their breath. They need to learn to breathe again. To that end, she proposes that people should cultivate practices of quiet breathing during the day. They should strengthen their heart, their lungs, their sense of rhythm.
This is a reality that is also at the heart of anthroposophical medicine, which affirms that “all true healing comes from the balancing of the Rhythmic system, the heart-lung center.”
I have heard that many people in their homes are turning to Art. Those who have studied to become Waldorf teachers have been instructed in many practices of painting and music-making. Now, in these long hours of confinement, they finally are finding the time to turn to their inner journeys of self-transformation and renewal through the arts. In that way, the hours and days and weeks of confinement can lead to a new-found sense of the meaning of life.
And those who have worked with me are telling me that they now know in a new way how to turn to eurythmy. Now they can understand on new levels how to practice it, so it can bring them into contact with the true sources of their humanity.
It heartens me to hear this news. I understand well, how easy it is to forget. Now they now, vividly, how much health and well-being, so much spiritual reality flows to us through the personal practice of eurythmy.
And so I invite us all to ask ourselves: what would I do, if I were confined to the small world of my house and home? In all earnestness, I know I would take up my study of spirituality, of anthroposophy, of meditation, and of eurythmy. That is where we can find true healing. That is where we can find our true selves, born out of the love of the creator and learning, slowly but surely, to become truly Human.
What star will inspire your journey this year?
The Three Kings
“Hearts must now learn to think”
And so: now the new year begins. And now we ask: what star will we follow, as we begin our new year?
New Year’s Day, January1, marked the beginning of the new calendar year. But the Festival of 12 Holy Nights that stretches between Dec. 25 and Jan.5 ends on Three Kings’ Day, January 6.
Thus, we have just finished the sacred journey that we traverse every winter, from the two distinct hallmarks of Christmas.
It opens with the image of shepherds, people in touch with the natural wisdom of the earth and its season, opening their hearts as they celebrated the birth of light in the darkness.
It ends now with the festival that celebrates three Wise Kings. These represent those who have cultivated the paths of wisdom and head-knowledge. The kings were guided to the midwinter mystery of birth by reading the stars. As kings, they were the wisdom-holders of the cultures, the sages and initiates who could read the patterns written in the stars and match them with the event on the earth.
These archetypes find deep resonance in our souls as well. As modern human beings, we are called to practice clear, radiant, non-sentimental thinking, developing our consciousness to be vessels for the divine. We must be kings in our practices of consciousness, for there is much that could lead us astray.
And all the more are we called to open our hearts, to find the limitless wellspring of love that has made the world and has made us. We must find the true sources of kindness, compassion and even wisdom in our loving hearts.
This is the way of the future. Love of power and wealth, self-image and prestige, comfort and greed will blind us. But there is a way through all of this: the path of the heart.
“So there abide: faith, hope and love, these three. But the greatest of these is love.”
Now, as we aspire to give shape to the resolutions we have made, the dreams we have envisioned during the 12 Holy Nights, the image of the star can guide us. We can resolve, every day, to align ourselves with the best that lives in us, with the Good, the True and the Beautiful in service of Love.
With this, the baptismal blessing of the epiphany can awaken us.
Winter’s Cloak by Joyce Rupp
This year I do not want
the dark to leave me.
I need its wrap
of silent stillness,
of long lasting embrace.
Too much light
has pulled me away
from the chamber
Let the dawns
let the sunsets
let the evenings
while I lean into
the abyss of my being.
Let me lie in the cave
of my soul,
for too much light
steals the source
Let me seek solace
in the empty places
of winter’s passage,
those vast dark nights
That never fail to shelter me
What star will inspire your journey this year?
Deepen your experience of the Holy Nights with a profound eurythmy study of the zodiac.
From the bottom of my heart, I wish you all a very beautiful Christmas season. Here in my home, the skies are gray, the grass is green, the trees are bare, the birds have arrived from high in the mountains, and chirp in all the trees as they wait for spring. Everything is becoming quiet in preparation for the Christmas Eve, the prelude to the 12 holy nights.
We are all familiar with the popular tune, “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” But what do they really signify?
Many ancient civilizations followed the course of the year by using the Lunar Calendar. This calendar measures the time it takes for the moon to complete one full cycle, such as from full moon to full moon, or from new moon to new moon. This cycle takes just less than 29.5 days. Twelve lunar cycles complete one lunar year, the time it takes for the moon to return to its starting point. (For instance, if the first full moon would be in Capricorn, the next would be in Aquarius, the next in Pisces, etc. After 12 cycles the next moon would again be in Capricorn.) Thus, the lunar year takes just over 353 days.
The calendar commonly used in the west, the Christian calendar, follows instead the cycle of the sun. It thus takes 365 (or 365.25) days for the sun to return to where it had been a year previously.
Deep mysteries are woven into this story. We must cultivate here the difference between sun knowledge and moon knowledge. The moon is a perfect reflector, whereas the sun serves as the source of light and love. In our souls, the moon seeks to serve what is greater, whereas the sun is the source itself. Our soul, our psyche, lives in the dynamic interplay between the moon aspect of our daily self and the sun aspect of our authentic self. This dance is a precious mirror of the connection between sun and moon.
You will have seen that the difference between the lunar calendar and the solar calendar is 12 days. An old tradition chose to honor the dynamic tension between the two calendars now, during the 12 days that follow Christmas.
We can follow this story deeper. Thus:
December 25 is thus considered the day when the shepherds visiting the holy child in the simple cattle stall in Bethlehem. It is a time of quiet blessing and inwardness.
January 6 is considered by many to be the day when the three kings, who had traveled from distant lands, finally found their way to the holy child and offered their more worldly gifts. (In many cultures, this is the day when presents are shared.) To one who pays attention, the mood from the inwardness to worldliness always changes on New Year’s Day, halfway through the twelve days.
January 6 is also called the day of Epiphany, the day when Jesus, at age 30, was baptized in the river Jordan and began to embody the spirit of the Christ-Logos in himself.
If we are able to cultivate a special spiritual practice during these twelve days and nights, we can experience them as a journey that feels somehow “lifted out of time.” It is felt that the formative forces of the spiritual beings who have made our existence stand guard over us in this season, holding a space free for our growth. If we choose to look deeply, the demands of daily life can fade into the background, leaving for us a free space to look for the ‘sun in the midnight hour,” the glow of the living heart forces within and around us.
Tradition holds that these 12 days may pre-visage the year to come. The first day of Christmas may be a microcosmic precursor of January: the second day of February, and so on. This happens through the doorway of the twelve signs of the zodiac, the portals through which the spiritual beings can work upon our earth.
Farmers and stewards of the land watch these days to gain an inkling of what the weather might be in these months. Superstition? or fact? It may be tested to find out.
Those who dream make a special practice of noticing their dreams in those nights, and possibly catch a vision of what dynamic will play out in the months to come.
THE TWELVE SIGNS THROUGH EURYTHMY
Through the journey of eurythmy, we can consciously approach the beings and powers of the constellations through meditatively and eurythmically engaging with the twelve signs of the zodiac.
In this sense, I invite you now to look back over the twelve free lessons that I created for you over the course of the past year. Each lesson is a deep meditative picture of the unique power of each sign of the zodiac. You can read the essay that I wrote and you can watch the video I recorded and learn how to move the gesture and the sound that belongs to each sign of the zodiac.
It would be a wonderful practice to begin with Capricorn on the first day of Christmas, and continue through the 12 signs of the year, working with one sign each day. If possible, live with the imprint of that sign in your work and your study and your art.
With these words, I send you my heartfelt Christmas greetings. I wish you joy, and beauty, and peace, and fellowship, even as I also hope you will find the way to open your heart deeply to the love that is looking for you.
Here are the links to the studies and the videos for each day:
PLEASE NOTE: IF ANY OF THESE VIDEOS DO NOT PLAY FOR YOU, THEY CAN ALL BE FOUND ON MY YOUTUBE CHANNEL, “CYNTHIA HOVEN”
EurythmyAlive in Asia Spring 2019
It has been nearly six years since I first began teaching Anthroposophy and Eurythmy in China. On my first visits, I taught in Waldorf Teacher Training Seminars and also Waldorf Community Education programs. Soon, however, a new task became evident, which I have been developing over the past few years.
Again and again, workshop participants have asked me to please move to China and open a eurythmy training. I firmly refused, for I have never had that intention. Yet it is clear that many people are eager to go much more deeply into the authentic study of eurythmy than they can go merely with semi-regular classes. I know that not everyone can, or even should, make the intense commitment to do a professional eurythmy training. But everyone can benefit through a deep immersion into eurythmy.
In eurythmy, every movement is deeply integrative, balancing body, soul and spirit. Nothing is random, nothing is unconscious, and nothing is possible without training in self-development. In eurythmy, we learn to be fully present, aware of ourselves as spiritual beings, centered in inner light and suffused with warmth of heart. We learn to transform the unconscious habits and patterns of the astral, etheric and physical bodies, and use them to move the amazing gestures of song and music in healing art.
As we immerse ourselves in these experiences, I know that we can come to the deepest experiences possible in anthroposophy.
With this in mind, I created EurythmyAlive, a series of 7 5-day courses that I teach to committed students over the course of 2 to 3 years. Every day, students have 3 eurythmy classes and one study class, to create an ever-deepening journey.
As present, I am running EurythmyAlive modules in three cities.
The first course was started in Chengdu: there we have just finished module 6. The students are all women, many of whom travel from other cities to take part. Not all are connected to the Waldorf school movement.
Next was in Taiwan, in conjunction with the CiXing Waldorf school, which could possibly be the biggest Waldorf school in the world, with nearly 1000 students in grades PreK-12. There we have just finished module 4, with 28 committed students. This past month, our theme was a deep study of Occult Science and life between death and rebirth.
The youngest module is in Shanghai, where we just finished module 3 with 18 students. This session offered a study of the planets and a beautiful tone eurythmy project learning intervals with a Celtic song played on the violin.
Experiences of the East
Six years is not a long time to become an expert on China! My language skills are still minimal, and my knowledge of social norms still developing. Yet there are many principles that I know are important for being an effective teacher there.
At every step, I remind myself of the deep and rich cultural history of these countries. I want to understand what the real gifts and the tasks of the ancient people were. This requires a rigorous commitment to humility on my part. Only in this way will I be able to rightly understand the task of anthroposophy in the East.
At the same time, I always am aware that the people who live in the East now have all lived many other lives, in places all over the globe. In the individuals I meet, I must look for their spiritual core and not for the limiting elements they have internalized from the Eastern environment they live in. This awareness makes it possible for me to meet many souls whom I can recognize as Michaelic colleagues.
One thing that often puzzles me in China and Taiwan is my research into the ancient mythologies. In contrast to the other cultures in the world, there is not a rich narrative of a World Creator.
Of course, through the teachings of Lao Tzu, many people have an impression of the TAO, the creative unity that existed in the beginning, and from which the duality of Yin and Yang were later created. But this TAO does not inherently have “being-quality.” And, interestingly, when I speak about the TAO to my students in China, they often ask me to explain to them much more deeply what I know about the TAO, because the current generations were not taught about it during the years of the cultural revolution.
There also is an interesting being in Chinese myyhology called “Panchu.” This being seems to me to be very much like “Adam Kadmon,” an immense Human-Being that existed long ago and from whom all of the life on the earth was created. I cannot find any narrative, however, of his origin.
It remains a challenge to speak of the great creative hierarchies to the Chinese students. Because these gods are absent for them, the world seems to be much more mechanical, materialistic. On the other hand, they recognize the existence of many nature-gods through Taoism, and also honor many spirits who live just beyond the threshold through popular Buddhism.
Any of us who teach in the East have the task of weaving the thoughts of anthroposophy into these cultures in an appropriate way.
Once again, I find that eurythmy is a powerful tool for doing so. A eurythmical study of anthroposophy offers the possibility of it being a genuine experience and not merely a complex of concepts and diagrams!
Impressions of Contemporary Culture
Even in the six short years of my visits to China and Taiwan, I have seen things change. Only seldom do people do double-takes now when they see me, as a foreigner. Most people have become accustomed to seeing westerners on their streets.
The citizens of Taiwan are very different from those in China. Through past historical periods, they had far more contact with other nations–European, Japanese and Polynesian—and they are culturally much more diverse. I can experience this immediately when I teach eurythmy in Taiwan, especially tone eurythmy, for they are more in sync with the evolutionary development familiar to me as a westerner.
China presents many different experiences. Increasingly, the government is investing heavily in infrastructure in the rural areas. I now see roads being built deep into the countryside, reaching places that were previously only services by muddy or dusty tracks.
The cities, on the other hand, are amazing. Many are huge, with over 10 or even 20 million people. And some of these mega-cities, like Shanghai, are truly modern, with spotless subways and an international sophistication equal to Paris, London, or Dubai. Consumerism is rampant. I know people who carry several cell phones with them, for their different businesses. Fashion is fabulous. And all of the modern trends in cultural and spiritual growth can be found there—-personal and business coaching, yoga, sex counseling, raves, ecology movements, up-cycling, and more. My life in Sacramento is really simple, in comparison.
In China, the government surveillance is an ever-constant presence, and growing ominously. In addition, the realization of the impending onslaught of Artificial Intelligence on daily life provided an ever-present background to our eurythmy classes, as I emphasized how important it is to know what it means to be truly present in a human—not mechanical—way.
There are currently several opportunities for Chinese and Taiwanese students to become trained in Eurythmy. There will soon be several dozen native Mandarin speakers available to teach there. We will soon see these new graduates trying out their eurythmy “wings” as they learn to work in Waldorf schools, in public situations and also—excitingly—in their own performing groups! These pioneers will also be at the forefront of discovering how to move the diverse sounds native to their language in eurythmy, and how to cultivate a Chinese eurythmy style appropriate for contemporary poetry and music.
I will continue my work in EurythmyAlive modules. Soon I will begin new modules in these cities I am visiting, even as I am also invited to begin offering new programs in several other places.
The EurythmyAlive Curriculum
Having taught thousands of students over the years, I have learned to develop a very supportive curriculum that focuses less on artistic precision and more on creating experiences of authenticity. I never want to give students the experience that they are doing something “wrong:” instead, I consider it to be my responsibility to speak so clearly and design the movement experiences so carefully that I pave the way for them to discover how the body can learn to speak and sing in harmony with creative forces. My job is to help them succeed!
I generally begin each module with experiences of standing straight, connected to heaven and earth. Then follows the experience of finding the heart-center between these two poles. Through contraction and expansion exercises, the soul begins to find its inner core.
Now that the students can imagine a “crown of light” on the head, and a “golden sun” in the heart, they are ready to sink their feeling all the way into their feet, and learn to talk to the earth through walking.
Once the body has been thus tuned, we continue by building social awareness—for what use is it for a person to find individual excellence if they cannot connect to others around them? With balls and weaving forms, we create a joyful experience of our group.
With this as a foundation, we are ready for all the other myriad experiences of eurythmy. We build agility skills with rods, and spatial orientation with geometric forms.
Module by module, we develop a complete understanding of the living Word as experienced and expressed in eurythmy. Because this is not a training, we are free to choose poems that coordinate with the lecture theme of the modules. We also dive into tone eurythmy, studying many of the scales and all of the intervals. The students find deep joy in working with complex forms for rich musical pieces.
Throughout all the eurythmy classes, we remind ourselves to stay present and centered in the body. It is obvious when a student is looking up, or at the floor, or when the fingers are unpenetrated, or when the sounds are formed with automatic arm gestures and without feeling without learning how to shape space and time, that the spirit is not yet awakened in the body. Developing a genuine sense of presence – without mystical sentimentality –is imperative for eurythmy movement!
As we work our way through the seven modules, the lecture themes take up different topics. The first modules are an introduction to anthroposophy, affirming with the students the meaning of life by looking at body, soul and spirit. We then turn to the four-fold nature of the human being and the natural world, and follow this with Goethean observation of the plant world, to understand the laws of life and change. Other topics include cosmic evolution, planets and constellations as formative forces, karma and reincarnation, and biography work.
It is, thus, my constant commitment to work out of the very core of eurythmy. For us, the essential goal is not in creating eurythmy as a performance art, but rather in healing the self and community by learning to live in our bodies as completely healthy, integrated human beigns.
If you would like to invite a eurythmyalive program to your community, contact me at Cynthia@eurythmyonline.com.
Follow these links to watch short videos of the EurythmyAlive student work from my recent workshops in Taiwan, Chengdu, and Shanghai:
Beethoven in Taiwan: https://youtu.be/URK5ITLt_y4
Bagatelle in Chengdu: https://youtu.be/s-UOvkhbUY4
LittleBird in Shanghai: https://youtu.be/gyT7xWHKx98
I Live my Life in Shanghai: https://youtu.be/YLOMZPdKnHA
Nine months after an enforced hiatus necessary for my recovery from a broken shoulder, I am deeply grateful to all my healers, and thrilled to be traveling again, offering my EurythmyAlive workshops in Asia.
I began with a 7-day workshop in eastern Taiwan, with a group of 28 committed students. This was their 4th EurythmyAlive module, and we worked intensively on tone eurythmy to a piece by Beethoven, as well as on several speech eurythmy pieces. Our study focused on Cosmic Evolution and the personal journey towards self-actualization.
One of the main practices her community has developed is their ritualistic Tea Ceremony, and it is an honor for me to take part in it every time I visit.
The small group of five participants are ushered into a quite room, and offered seats on tatami mats on the floor, around a low table made of polished wood. There we are greeted by the “hostess,” a novitiate who has spent months or years learning the art of tea ceremony. She has meticulously prepared the space by laying out cloths in beautiful patterns. She has cleaned and arranged the teapots and pouring vessels and the 6 tiny teacups in which the tea will be served. There is a quiet floral arrangement near her serving table, and behind her hangs a quite picture of Qwan Yin, the Buddhist goddess figure whose name means “She who listens.” She represents the capacity to listen beneath the surface of things, to perceive the essences of the world.
After we take our places, we close our eyes for a few moments, to still our minds and become fully present. From that point on, all is done in silence, without conversation, until the ceremony is finished 90 minutes later.
Even as we took the time to slow way down to be present in those minutes, I will painstakingly and lovingly describe at least a bit of the ceremony, so you can imagine the experience of quieting the inner chatter and entering into the condition of “Zen mind,” presence-without-absence.
Continuing in graceful stillness, when the dish returns to her, she lays it down. Then she smoothly pours boiling water into the tiny waiting clay teapot with her left hand. This warms the pot, and for a few moments all is still. Then she pours the hot water away, into an empty ceramic bowl. Next, she pours the tea leaves into the warmed teapot, and the steaming heat it holds causes the tea leaves to release their next layer of fragrance.
Now she lifts the pot, again first to her heart, and then to her nose, and smells the new scent. This pot is once again passed around the circle to all the guests, slowly and patiently.
When the pot returns, she places it carefully in the middle of the space on the floor in front of her. Then all the tea cups are ritualistically warmed, one by one, with hot water. This hot water is then poured into the same large ceramic bowl.
At length, hot water is poured over the waiting tea leaves. Instantly, the leaves flavor the water, and the tea is poured off, only half a minute later, into a beautiful small serving cup. From there, the six tea cups are filled. Only now, at this point, does everyone lift their cup. Slowly and thoughtfully, we drink the tea, letting the heat and the fragrance and the smell fill our senses.
After we have drunk the tea, the cups are carefully returned to the space in front of the hostess. Four more times she carefully repeats the action of pouring water over the tea, pouring the tea into the serving cup and then into the tiny tea cups, and sharing them with the participants. Her exquisitely patient movements continue to hold us in the quiet of the present moment.
At last the teacups are carefully rinsed one last time, the tea leaves are smelled one last time and emptied into the ceramic bowl. Then the hostess pours opens a second basket that sits beside her, and takes out six simple napkins and six pieces of beautiful dried fruit as a delicate desert.
After all is finished, the participants are invited to engage in quiet conversation, reflecting upon the experiences they just had.
CAPRICORN, THE SEA-GOAT
FROM THE SEED FORCES OF THE DYING WORLD, THE FUTURE WILL BE BORN
This is the eurythmy gesture for Capricorn. To see the video, click here: https://s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/eurythmy-online/Capricorn.mp4 or here: Capricorn—https://youtu.be/7nRHX92eNB8
In our studies of the zodiac and eurythmy, we have now reached the signs that rule the winter. When the sun traverses its low path across the sky in Capricorn, the trees are bare of leaves, the temperatures are cold, and the ground is often frozen hard, even covered with snow. Through the help of the earth elemental beings, the Earth Mother is harboring the seeds safe underground. Spiritual science directs our vision to consider that it is exactly in this season when the forces beneath the surface of the earth are most active.
Capricorn, the tenth sign of the zodiac, is a cardinal Earth sign. This is the season to contemplate the death of winter, and the birth of the Christ child as a seed of light in the darkness.
In the season of Capricorn, we may also pause to remember the myth of Persephone, daughter of Demeter, the goddess of the harvest. Persephone, the goddess of spring, was kidnapped by Hades, god of the underworld, and carried off to be his bride. Filled with grief, her mother Demeter no longer allowed the earth to bring forth crops. At length, Zeus instructed Hades to release Persephone. He complied, but because he had tricked her into eating food while she was with him in the underworld, she was compelled to return to live in the dark for six months each year.
The layers of this story are myriad, but they present a mythological picture of what happens in winter, when the forces of spiritual life are active in the depths of the earth. Persephone’s banishment to the underworld represents to us the cosmic forces that are captured and held by the earth throughout the winter months. Contemplating her life-giving presence in the realm of death, we are given a clue to the forces of life that overcome death in the natural world. Capricorn rules the season in which Persephone is the bride of death, when life succumbs to death in the natural world.
In this spirit, the celebrations of the winter solstice and of Christmas fall within the seasons of Sagittarius and Capricorn. The sacred Christmas festival directs us to contemplate the infinitely tender child of the universe born in the manger, recognized and worshiped by both simple shepherds and wise kings, representing the twin paths of love and of knowledge.
Capricorn thus instructs us to consider this great mystery of birth, death and rebirth for the human being. We enter into nature at birth, but we are also more than nature, by virtue of the spiritual forces that we develop through our repeating earth lives. From the perspective of the spiritual world, when we are born on earth we leave our origin and “die” into the physical world. Here on earth, we live as spiritual beings within the world of matter. In this dimension, spirit has been condensed into substance, into matter, and surrounds us as the natural world. Here, the laws of cause-and-effect, of material logic, of cold and hard facts hold sway.
Death can only be overcome when the material world can be permeated by life. Etheric, or “qi” forces, such as unfold in the plant kingdom, cause the world of nature to flourish. Where sentience and spirit conscious are also active in these living-material bodies, they become vehicles for the evolution of consciousness.
We carry death in our bones, life in our etheric (qi) body, and the sensations and feelings stimulated through our senses. As evolving I-conscious beings we find our homes in these earth-bodies, woven out of these substances of spirit/matter. And to the extent that we are “well-incarnated,” we can use our bodies to fulfill our biographies healthily on earth.
In Capricorn the mysteries of the physical, material world are shown in their extreme. This is the season to contemplate how, as infants, we begin our existence here on earth in a passive, receptive state. In a state of pure receptivity, we live our way this world of light and color and sound and texture, even as we are fed and warmed by the gifts of creation.
Yet we are not meant to remain as passive consumers of creation. We are not merely creatures of the natural world, and we need not blindly follow our greed, passions and instincts. Maturing towards adulthood, we unfold our thinking, feeling and willing forces.
Gradually, we awaken, becoming aware of the virtually limitless possibilities of our spiritual consciousness. In truth, we have an absolutely essential role to play in the evolution of the world, for we hold the keys to advance the earth or to destroy it. Our thoughts, our feeling and our free deeds are all essential for the creation of the new world, even as the old world passes away. When we become inwardly active enough to notice the activity of our own self-awareness, we become aware of our own role in this universe. Through our humanity, we affect the world even as it impacts us.
And by learning to discern the original archetypes of creation, we can choose to act in harmony with the original moral forces. Acting out of them, we can create a future worthy of the gift of life we have been given. Once we have witnessed the sacred power of the human heart and mind, we are astounded to what extent the human being harbors the forces that will build the future of our world.
The human body, woven as it is out of the same forces as the world of nature, is in truth a sacred temple for the spirit. The infinite potential of the human spirit has been laid, seed-like, into this sacred temple. Evolving through lifetimes in this so-called world of death, we all must pass through the trials of existence, as we unfold into freedom and live our lives in love.
Although it is an earth sign, Capricorn carries the deepest possible power of new life. Capricorn teaches us how we “die” into the material world, there to awaken in the power of the depths. We learn how our spirit can take hold of the world of matter and lead it into what is known as trans-substantiation. The awakened human being participates in the resurrection of matter and the creation of the future of the universe.
Between lifetimes on earth, we exist spread out into the infinite periphery of the spiritual world. Here, in our earth bodies, we have been compressed into the smallest possible “point” of the center of the world. Our existence pendels constantly between point and periphery, in our repeating cycles of birth, death and rebirth.
On a microcosmic level, this dynamic is also imprinted upon the body. Our head represents the “point,” and the limbs stretch into the “periphery,” while the dynamic middle lives in the rhythms of the heart and lungs.
Ruled by Saturn, Capricorn forces are found in all the bones of the body. More specifically, Capricorn rules the joints of the body, represented archetypally by the knees. The joints of all the limbs are made up of a ball at the end of one bone and a socket at the end of a second. These represent the dynamic balance between the periphery and the center. Capricorn in the joints enables our will to be flexible and adaptable. Consider for a moment how your limbs would be if they had no joints: it would be virtually impossible to move!
Capricorn, thus grants buoyancy to our existence in the world of matter.
The mythological animal connected to Capricorn is the sea-goat, a strange figure with the head of a goat and the curved tail of a fish. It is also sometimes described as a mountain goat, a creature of the flatlands who has evolved to survive on the highest peaks of rugged mountains.
We need to understand the forces of Capricorn as creating a bridge between the heights and the depths, even as the sea-goat lives in the mountains and in the oceans. In the gesture for eurythmy, we practice feeling how the forces of the mind, of thinking (represented by the goat who lives in the heights), are used to guide and direct the actions of the will (represented by the fish who lives in the depths).
In the gesture for Capricorn, the left hand indicates the head forces. We make a fist with the left hand and place it on the forehead, indicating and intensifying the feeling of the rounded head. The right arm extends outward, representing the will. We hold the right arm straight in front of us, palm facing outwards. We take a large step forward with the right leg, and a somewhat smaller step with the left leg, and, bending the legs, intensify the feeling of the lower will.
Remembering the power of Capricorn in the joints, pay special attention to the power of the knees.
The sound L is found in some of the most beautiful words of language, including light, love and life. The L speaks of transformation and illumination. It speaks of how the forces of death and darkness that have descended into the realm of earth are transformed back to spirit union, feeling love and affirming light.
L is found in everything that moves through death and life. Its gesture guides the changing of the seasons, the cycles of evaporation and precipitation, the flow of fluids passing through plant life, and the cycles of dying and becoming. No death is too dark, no destruction so great that the forces of Spirit cannot reach into them and transform them. L changes darkness into light, destruction into love, death into life.
Thus, through L I engage the force of life that will bring rejuvenation to all that is stagnant within and around me.
Begin by feeling yourself clothed in silver gray, surrounded by a gentle lilac-colored field of life. You are poised between polarities, between the endless cycle of life and death, matter and spirit, metamorphosis and transformation accompanying life.
With golden-orange lightness in your joints and muscles, begin by lifting your arms to the sides with your palms down, sensing an imaginary horizon line between gravity below and light above. With rounded arms, curve your arms downwards and reach into the depths, bringing your hands together in front of you. When you have reached the lowest point, allow the forces of levity, the force of counter-gravity to raise your arms. Hold your hands side by side as you let your arms be lifted almost weightlessly in front of you. (Take care that your hands point downwards as you lift them, and keep them close together without crossing them as they pass the horizon lines and rise further to the zenith.) Rotate your palms at the very top of your ascent so that they face upwards, blossom-like, as you open your arms wide like a great rainbow arch above your head, and let the colors flood the space above you as your arms sink lightly to the horizon. Creating a new L, turn your palms downwards once again and reach into the depths again, entering a new cycle of metamorphosis.
Now explore the many wonderful pictures that come alive when you work with L.
Imagine that you plant a small seed into the ground, and let its roots grow deep. Let life rise through the stem, until the blossom unfolds into a wonderful flower. The new seeds will then sink into the earth and the cycle will begin again.
Or imagine the water that flows like a river through a mighty tree. The water sinks deep into the roots of the tree, rises through the great trunk, and unfolds in a majestic crown.
Or then again, think of the greater cycles of water, going deep into the earth and then rising through evaporation into the clouds, falling like rain, only then to go deep again and again.
On a more personal level, you can discover how you enter with your feeling into realms of darkness and transform them into light.
Through L, you transform death into life.
Through L, you transform hate into love.
On Christmas Eve, the festival of the Nativity, time seems to stand still. For as long as I can remember, the elements grow calm on Christmas Eve. Even storms that have been forecast seem to hold back on that evening, as a mantel of stillness spreads around the globe. For on that night, the earth remembers the birth of the one called the Prince of Peace.
The sacred hour of Christmas happens at midnight, the darkest time of the night. At midnight, when the earth is wrapped in sleep, it remembers the birth of light that happened long ago, at the turning point of time. At that hour, a child was born who would prepare himself to become the earthly bearer of the World Creator, the Christ. It is said that this birth had been prepared over long ages of time. For earth evolution to take its next step, it was necessary that a human being would be born who would be able to sustain the purity of soul, the strength and health of the body, and the clarity of consciousness necessary to receive into himself the divine I-AM. The constitution of this child was so harmonious that body, soul and spirit would be able to be in perfect harmony. This person, the first Son of Man, would embody the prototype that all human beings can evolve towards.
On that cold and dark night in the Middle East, the earthly journey of this human child began in great humility. The Gospel of St. Luke tells us that Jesus was born in the most simple of circumstances. His mother gave birth to her son in a stable, possibly in a cave. Nestled into a manger, he was received into the earth even as a seed is laid into the ground. Around he stood were the goodly animals of the stable, kind creatures who embody the pure elements of the soul.
An old legend tells that those animals in the stall that witnessed the birth of the child who would embody the World Creator, the Cosmic Word, were able to understand human speech on that night. Even as the rocks and the plants, even as the simple shepherds who came to offer their gifts and the angels in the skies, the beasts of the stable were present to welcome his coming. And for that, on that one night, they were released from their mute language and become our soul-kin. And even today, it is said, the animals draw nearer to us at Christmas than at any other time in the year, to hear and understand our speech.
On Christmas Eve, my family and I turn off all of our electric devices. We light a fire in our wood stove and use candles for illumination. We eat a simple meal, and speak in quiet voices, attentive to the blessing spirit of the night.
Late in the evening, some of our dear friends come to our home to be gather around our tree and sing songs. We then take our candles and leave the house. We walk to the farm that is my husband’s creation, directly behind our home. We visit first the cows in the stable and sing to them. Then we trudge across the fields in the darkness to the bees in their hives and the chickens in their coops, the sheep in the stall and the ducks pen. We sing and speak to the animals, and thank them for their gifts.
If time permits, we walk further, down to the river where we may hear the salmon jumping and the beaver slipping into the water.
In the silence of that night, I can feel a wave of world-peace spreading around the world. It has already been midnight in many, many time zones on earth, and people are already sleeping their mid-winter dreams. And as they sleep, they are blest by the spirit of Christmas.
The blessing of Christmas Eve continues for twelve nights, the so-called “Twelve Days of Christmas.” During these twelve nights, the World Creator Spirit draws near to the earth. Even as the earth herself receives life forces for her sustenance and growth in the dark of winter, so too do we receive the deepest blessings of the spiritual world at Christmas. It is possible to become conscious of these deep processes, if we learn to pay attention, especially at night.
My wish and hope for all humanity is that we will be able to open ourselves in this Christmas season to receive the living good-will, love and wisdom of the Creative World as they shine down to the earth, and take root not only all around us but deep within our own hearts.