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The Rudolf Steiner Archive

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Curative Eurythmy
GA 315

Comments by the Editor of the Third German Edition

The present edition of this course—which Rudolf Steiner gave in 1921 in order to bring to realization the hygienic-therapeutic side of eurythmy, which, as he explained in his introductory words to eurythmy performances, was given this name to distinguish it from artistic and pedagogical eurythmy—is the first edition to appear in print and be available to a wider public. Since those days curative eurythmy has become much used on a worldwide scale as a therapy in connection with medicine, and it takes its place alongside other recognized therapies in the same way as, according to Rudolf Steiner, artistic eurythmy does among the other arts.

In the main there are two things to be said about this edition. Firstly,—and Rudolf Steiner said this very strongly—curative eurythmy must only be given when a doctor prescribes it and is in charge of it. Secondly, a proper training in eurythmy is required as a preliminary to learning curative eurythmy for use as a therapy. Rudolf Steiner said that at least two years should be spent on a thorough study of eurythmy. The normal eurythmy training takes four years at present. As this course is now available to everyone, it should be said that it is quite impossible to study curative eurythmy on one's own with the help of this book. Collaboration with a doctor and the study of eurythmy are both inescapable. Rudolf Steiner puts it in the following way in the “Course for Curative Education” (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1981)

“When you bring curative eurythmy into curative education you are bringing the whole of eurythmy into it. So you should be aware that you must acquire a living connection with it, and this should be such that anyone who does curative eurythmy ought to a certain point to have learnt basic eurythmy. Curative eurythmy ought to be based on a general knowledge of speech and tone eurythmy, even if artistic perfection has not been attained. Then, above all, people must be filled with the conviction that they must work with others, and therefore, when curative eurythmy is going to be put into practice the therapist must get the support of a doctor. When curative eurythmy was given to the world it was stipulated that it should not be put into practice without the collaboration of a doctor. All this points to how inter-connected in a living way, things have to be when they come out of Anthroposophy.”

The present lectures—with the exception of the one given on April 18,—were made available in manuscript form by Frau Marie Steiner in 1930. They were edited by Elisabeth Baumann, who had taken part in the course. Rudolf Steiner's executors produced a new edition in 1952 edited by I. de Jaager. The lecture to doctors given on October 28, 1922 was included in this edition. Both these editors made important comments on the course and summaries of these will follow.

For the present edition the notes were examined and the whole text checked against the available shorthand reports. Some additions and corrections could consequently be made. Some parts that had been revised now follow the shorthand notes more closely.

Where the story of eurythmy is concerned a detailed account is given in the volume of Rudolf Steiner's complete works “Die Entstehung and Entwickelung der Eurythmie” (the origins and development of eurythmy).

The following words are taken from Frau Baumann's introduction: “Children of all ages grasped and carried out the movements of eurythmy so naturally that we experienced every day of our lives that the visible language of eurythmy movement is a language that is in genuine harmony with the laws and requirements of both man's spiritual-soul nature and his bodily nature. We also experienced daily that hindrances the children had, whether in the realm of the will or in the realm of thought—the thinking activity—could be loosened up or actually overcome by eurythmy. At the Waldorf School we had to deal with children, almost from the very beginning, who had hindrances of this sort. Sometimes these difficulties were only slightly in evidence, sometimes the children were so overwhelmed by them, that they could not keep up with the lessons of their class, and a special remedial class was started where they could be given what Rudolf Steiner prescribed for their care.

Experience showed that for children of this sort eurythmy more than anything else could get across to them and they could take immediate hold of it. Therefore we asked ourselves whether it would be possible to find exercises that would help the spiritual part that was having such difficulty in incarnating because it met with such strong bodily resistance—exercises that would give the physical sheath a better form, movement exercises which would help the etheric formative forces to penetrate better and give their support to the creative upbuilding forces of the organism.

Out of our close connection with so-called difficult cases, with retarded children, with those in need of special care, we acquired the most intense desire to discover and take hold of the hygienic, curative element of eurythmy. From many conversations with Erna van Deventer-Wolfram, who was actively engaged in eurythmy in various parts of Germany, it transpired that through the work she was doing she, too, had been powerfully drawn to this curative aspect of eurythmy. After due reflection we decided to ask Dr. Steiner for instructions on curative eurythmy. Rudolf Steiner agreed with alacrity and promised to think about it. It was not long before Frau van Deventer and I were requested to go to Dornach in April where he wanted to give lectures on curative eurythmy alongside the doctors' course he was going to give at the Goetheanurn.

And so during the clays of April 12 to 17, 1921, Rudolf Steiner presented the gift of the third element of eurythmy, and the doctors and eurythmists who were present experienced a whole new world of possibilities for therapy opening up before them, which, in its variety and effectiveness and the way in which Rudolf Steiner presented it, is bound to have made an unforgettable impression on them. Instead of the few instructions and indications we had asked for we were given a complete and detailed method of eurythmy therapy in which we could directly experience that even today the creative and curative power of the Word, with its capacity to take hold of the movement potential in the human body, is still at work. It often happened that it was not easy to find our way into it, for even those of us who had been familiar with the eurythmic art of movement for many years found that the exercises Rudolf Steiner either performed himself or asked Frau van Deventer-Wolfram and myself to perform were utterly new and surprising. It was especially difficult for the doctors present, as only a minority had had anything to do with eurythmy up till then. Two eurythmy courses were organized where we discussed and practised basic eurythmy with the doctors, and also the exercises that had been given by Dr. Steiner in the curative eurythmy lecture that day.

Regular work at curative eurythmy now started up in various places. In the clinics in Arlesheim and Stuttgart and also at the Waldorf School, Rudolf Steiner gave several more indications for the use of curative eurythmy in special cases, he himself varied one or another exercise, and he gave certain sound sequences that were to be practised with individual patients under his special observation. These indications offer doctors and curative eurythmists a rich opportunity to learn more about a methodical approach, adapting of exercises to the individual needs of patients, and the scrupulous observation required for this.

The real basis of all curative eurythmy work is given in this course, as is clearly stated in Rudolf Steiner's own words. In October 1922, on the occasion of a medical week in Stuttgart he was again asked to speak about curative eurythmy, this time by doctors. That lecture is included here with the 1921 course. Right at the beginning Rudolf Steiner says ”I have been requested to say something more about this curative eurythmy of ours. Fundamentally speaking I presented the empirical material for this curative eurythmy at the last doctors' course in Dornach (see “The Spiritual Scientific Aspect of Therapy”), and it is hardly necessary to go further than that. For if it is put to proper use it can have far-reaching significance.”

From Frau I. de Jaager's epilogue (1952 edition):

“It will soon be evident to the reader that unless you make a thorough study of Anthroposophy you will not get very far with this curative eurythmy course. Curative eurythmy arises out of Anthroposophy just the same as artistic eurythmy does. A living grasp of Man and the world is a necessary basis for its use. Only on this assumption will it avoid becoming a system or something that is grasped and applied in an abstract, intellectual way; a danger that is ever present in our times. Curative eurythmy also requires an extensive knowledge of artistic eurythmy. Imaginative forces, the coming into motion of the whole being of man, are prerequisites for the application of this therapy, where it is essential to have an artistic understanding of the patient. All the delicate and minute nuances we need in order to help a sick child or adult come to us out of artistic eurythmy. You will continually find new inspiration there.

I would like to stress that a young person should not devote herself exclusively to curative eurythmy. Up to the age of 28 a person should be able to give her imagination and creative forces free rein. The more this can happen the better she will be able to develop devotion, patience and empathy when doing eurythmy later on. It is essential to devote oneself wholly to the patient and carry him with artistic warmth of heart.

As Rudolf Steiner often mentions in the course, curative eurythmy should never be used without a doctor's thorough diagnosis. The greater the collaboration with the patient's doctor the more effective the curative eurythmy will be.”