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Eurythmy as Visible Speech
GA 279

VI. Different Aspects of the Soul-Life

1 July 1924, Dornach

The Inner Nature of Colour

My Dear Friends,

Yesterday we concerned ourselves with various moods and eludes of feeling and with the way in which these can be expressed by means of eurhythmic gesture. To-day, to begin with, we will continue along somewhat similar lines. Taking our start from the point at which we left off yesterday, we will first consider the mood of Devotion or Piety (Andacht). It is very necessary, when trying to experience some such mood of soul, to realize that eurhythmy does not attempt to interpret by means of ordinary mime. On the contrary, as we saw when studying the vowels and consonants, eurhythmy seeks to draw the plastic form corresponding to such a feeling and mood from out of the whole human being, the whole human organization. We know that, in the case of the vowels and consonants, the movements are formed in such a way that they actually imitate and make visible what really exists as a kind of air form when the human being speaks. When we speak we make certain forms in the air. If by any means we were able to retain these forms and to hold them fast, we should have the original forms of the gestures which we use to express the sounds.

If, however, we wish to express some definite mood of soul, then we naturally approach much more closely to the arbitrary gesture, to the gesture which arises in ordinary, everyday life when we ourselves are experiencing the mood in question.

It is undeniable that to-day many people avoid the use of gesture, because, apparently, they have an idea that gesture is not the thing. On the other hand, however, the more the human being loses himself in feeling, the more he develops a mood of soul transcending the ordinary life of everyday, so much the more does the use of gesture become necessary. And such a mood of soul is that of Devotion.

In this devotional mood man has always felt the need for making a certain gesture. And the eurhythmic gesture for Devotion is one which, in its very nature, corresponds to the instinctive attitude adopted when this mood arises in the soul. For this reason the eurhythmic gesture for Devotion approximates more nearly to the natural position than is the case with most of the other movements. To express this mood of Devote the arms are held downwards close to the body, and then bent upwards from the elbow, the hands and fingers taking up a position corresponding to one of the vowels, u for instance, or a. Thus according to the shade of feeling which one wishes to introduce into the mood of Devotion, any one of these postures may be adopted.

It is important that the gesture expressing this mood should be carried out in such a way that it is separated right off from, the movements otherwise occurring in the course of the poem. So that in order to get the best effect it is as well in such a cash to make use of the gesture at the beginning and again at the end of the poem. If, however, a devotional mood runs continuously through the whole of the poem, the movement can be made at the beginning and at the end of every verse.

Will you now make use of this gesture when I say the following words:

‘O Holy Spirit,
Hearken to the cry of my soul!’

Oh, göttlicher Geist, erhöre
meines Herzens Ruf!

The gesture should here be made both before and after the sentence. It would also be especially good if the onlooker were actually to see how the upper arms are drawn downwards, pressed against the sides. This should precede the actual gesture for Devotion. (See diagram.)

An intensification of the mood of Devotion is the mood of Solemnity, of Ceremonial (Feierlichkeit). This mood of Solemnity is in a way not unlike the mood of Knowledge, of Wisdom, only in the latter case the movement is reversed. Thus to express Knowledge we make use of the same movement towards the right as we use towards the left when expressing Solemnity. This can only be experienced when there is an absolutely clear realization of the relation existing between these two moods of feeling.

Knowledge entails the taking into ourselves of something outside, something which we wish to unite with our own being. If man had no knowledge he could not be said to be man at all. It is through the capacity for absorbing knowledge that he first becomes truly human. So that knowledge, wisdom, should be looked upon as something which adds to the dignity of man, but which, on the other hand, contains within it a certain activity of soul. Activity is always expressed in eurhythmy by turning towards the right. If we take the mood of Knowledge and change it, making it more passive, more devotional, we get the feeling of Solemnity.

But wherever the passive element enters in, wherever there is little feeling of activity, then we turn towards the left and make our movements towards the left. And it is in this way that we express the mood of Solemnity. We make a movement similar to that of Knowledge, but in this case towards the left. Let us take an example in which we can make use of this gesture.

‘Over the destiny of man
Shine the inviolable stars....’

‘Über menschlichen Schicksalen
glänzen heil’ge Sterne

Here you should make the gesture both at the beginning and at the end. Begin by indicating the gesture for Knowledge and then carry it over into that of Solemnity.

In eurhythmy we have chiefly to do with the expression and revelation of certain qualities of soul; and we shall see that the whole content of the soul life may be divided into three categories, into Thinking, Feeling and Willing. Now it is important, when interpreting a poem, really to express its fundamental character and when this character changes in the course of a poem,—when for example, thinking passes over into feeling, or feeling into will,—it is then very important that this should be shown in the whole bearing and in the character of the movements.

Let us take to begin with the two polar opposites, thinking and willing. They are indeed the most contrasted activities of the human soul. When the human being thinks,—I am speaking here in the widest sense of the word,—this is a process which, depends upon the head as it rests quietly on the shoulders. By means of external sense-perception we cannot see the process of thought. It takes place in the quietly resting head. The activity of will is the extreme opposite of this. When the activity of will does not make its appearance in the external world in, some form or another, then it remains intention only. Real activity of will makes its appearance in the external world; such activity can be seen, But in so far as the inward experience of, the human being is concerned, this will-activity remains dark, just as what takes place within the human being during the night remains dark to him. The human being knows nothing of his experiences as these take place during the night; he is just as little conscious of the relation between his soul, his muscles and his bones, when some movement arises which is the expression of will-activity.

When you have a straight line you have something before you which is absolutely definite. You need only have a small portion of a straight line and its direction as a whole is absolutely determined. The straight line is something about which there can be no doubt whatever.

The curved line, on the other hand, is something which impels us to follow it, but we do not know exactly where it is going to lead us.

There are, it is true, regularly formed curved lines but even in this case one experiences such regularity differently from the way in which one experiences the straight line. For this reason in eurhythmy the straight line is used to denote thought and the curved line to denote will. You must, therefore, try to introduce straight lines into your form when you wish to express the element of thought and curved lines when you wish to express Will-activity.

Now here, of course, much depends upon the eurhythmist’s conception of a poem. One might say: In this particular poem I intend to express the element of will. Another says, perhaps I shall express thought, the imparting of something by means of thought. Two quite different conceptions! So in cases where the matter is not absolutely obvious the choice of interpretation lies in the hands of the individual eurhythmist. This makes it necessary, when you begin to work out a poem, to put yourselves the following question: What, in my opinion, is the fundamental character of this poem? Does it lean more towards, thought? Does it impart something? Let us take, for example, the following :—

Zu Aachen in seiner Kaiserpracht,
Im altertümlichen Saale,
Sass König Rudolfs heilige Macht
Beim festlichen Krönungsmahle.
Die Speisen trug der Pfalzgraf des Rheins,
Es schenkte der Böhme des perlenden Weins,
Und alle die Wähler, die sieben,
Wie der Sterne Chor um die Sonne sich stellt,
Umstanden geschäftigt den Herrscher der Welt,
Die Würde des Amtes zu üben.

In this poem there is a succession of thoughts, as is usually the case with the pure epic. But if, at any point, the thought element were to pass over into the element of will, we should have to show this also in the eurhythmic form. The particular verse I have just quoted, however, would best be expressed by moving as far as possible in straight lines.

Now it is, of course, also possible to combine straight lines in such a way that various figures are formed, so that you can introduce other characteristics besides thought by moving in a triangle, a square, or a pentagram as the case may be.

On the other hand, if the thought is of a more complicated nature, you might perhaps make use of such a form as this:

Every conceivable curved line serves to express the element of will.

Feeling is shown by making use of some sort of combination of straight and curved lines. Here you have opportunity for a wide play of fancy.

Now it will be necessary to work out eurhythmy forms along these lines. All of you will be able to make such forms for yourselves, and by trying to do so you will create an inner relationship between the eurythmy and the poem. Then the question naturally arises: What is the connection between such forms as these, and those forms which have been given as standard forms, as forms which have been worked out in such a way as to bring out the special character of the poem? You will discover, however, that these guiding lines really underlie;: all such forms. You will invariably find this to be the case.

On the other hand, you will also find, when working out such forms, that care has been taken to show where called for, the more intimate character of a poem. What does this mean? The fact of the matter is that by far the greater number of so-called poems are in reality not poetry at all. For a true poet must be able to enter into the essential nature of language, so that what he has to say is not merely prose content more or less crudely clothed in verse, but is expressed through the way in, which he handles the language itself. To express wonder in a poem by making use of some such phrase as: O how wonderful!—cannot be said to be artistic. A truly artistic sense will lead one to introduce as many a-sounds as possible into a poem at the moment when one most wishes to express this feeling of wonder. In the same way it would be good to make use of the u-sound when dealing with the past, when looking back into the past. On the other hand, when there is the wish to express the gathering together of inner forces as a result of some external contact, it would be well to introduce the sound e.

Thus, when a true poet wishes to express the element of thought he will make special use of the e-sound. I am speaking now in quite an idealistic sense, for it will rarely be possible to carry out all the demands of art. If this were done very, very few poems would be written—for which one might indeed be thankful—for the poet would not quickly acquire the necessary intuition. If a poet makes use of many e or i sounds, you may be sure that he is a poet who chiefly tends to express the element of thought. He tends to the epic in poetry. Whereas you will find that a poet who is continually making use of the vowel sounds a, o and u, tends more to express feeling in his poems. A poet who makes little use of vowels and much use of con-sonants is one who is developing the will side of his nature. Therefore, you must follow closely the character of the poet when building up a eurhythmic form.

When, therefore, you observe that a poem arises more out of the intellect,—and this is, of course, perfectly justifiable—you will make use of straight lines in the form. When you observe that feeling is more in evidence you will combine both straight and curved lines. When, however, the element of will comes most strongly to expression in a poem, even though coloured by feeling, then you must make use of curved lines only.

If now, bearing this in mind, you proceed to examine the various forms which have been given from time to time, you will discover, and only then can you discover, how the more intimate structure of a poem must be built up and followed in the form.

It will perhaps be interesting to see,—paying at first no attention to its content,—what sort of result is obtained when a poem is interpreted, in the first place, according to the indications which have been given for Thinking, Feeling and Willing. One can think of poems which lend themselves to all three methods, each of which has its own particular beauty. Let us take for example the well known poem:


Ich ging im Wald
So für mich hin,
Um nichts zu suchen,
Das war mein Sinn.

(Wandering upon a day
Through the woods alone
Following no end or purpose
Letting fancy lead,—

Im Schatten sah ich
Ein Blümchen steh’n,
Wie Sterne leuchtend,
Wie Äuglein schön.

Lo, in the shade,
I saw a little flower!
Shining like a star in heaven,
Lovely as a child’s blue eye).

Let us in the first place interpret the poem in such a way that we bring out the story, that we emphasize the thought-element. Try, therefore, to improvise a form consisting of straight lines, avoiding as far as possible all rounded movements.


Ich ging im Walde
So für mich hin,
Um nichts zu suchen,
Das war mein Sinn.

Wandering upon a day
Through the woods alone
Following no end or purpose
Letting fancy lead,—

Im Schatten sah ich
Ein Blümchen steh’n
Wie Sterne leuchtend,
Wie Äuglein schön.

Lo, in the shade,
I saw a little flower!
Shining like a star in heaven
Lovely as a child’s blue eye.

Ich wollt’ es brechen,
Da sagt’ es fein:
Soll ich zum Welken
Gebrochen sein?

I made as if to pluck it
But gently did it say:
Shall I then be broken
To wither and to fade?

When the poem is expressed in this way we are left with the impression that something has been related, that we have been told something.

And now try to make a form consisting of curved lines:

Ich ging im Walde ...

In this case you see that the story-telling element falls completely away, and there is also nothing to represent the feeling-life.

There is, however, a strong element of feeling in this poem, when, for example, the flower says: Soll ich zum Welken gebrochen sein?—or again when the poet says: Wie Sterne leuchtend, wie Auglein schön.—This poem, then, contains the three elements of thinking, willing and feeling. Now try to make a form consisting of straight and curved lines.

Ich ging im Walde...

By so doing you give the impression that the poem is being inwardly experienced. Straight and curved lines together indicate that the eurhythmist who is interpreting the poem continually withdraws into himself: in the case of straight lines the interpretation becomes more abstract, less apparent. And by this means the whole thing retains its inward character.

Much more is manifested outwardly when one passes over into curved lines.

Now to-day I want to speak about the significance of the colours which are to be seen on the eurhythmy figures, because the study of colour in this connection will do much to deepen our whole attitude towards eurhythmy.1It was found that the eurhythmic gestures could best be portrayed by means of figures cut out from a flat surface of wood, each one being painted with three harmonizing colours. They were carried out according to directions given by Dr. Steiner at the Goetheanum, Dornach, where they may be obtained.

Here, for instance, you have in this figure an indication of the colours corresponding to the sound a.

Of course it is obviously impossible in our eurhythmy to show the colours of all the different sounds as this has been done in the case of the eurhythmy figures; for if one were to do so, one would have, for instance, when an a and an o occurred in the same line, to change, while this line was being recited, from one costume into the other. That is altogether beyond us. (We already know by experience the difficulties which arise when the costumes have to be changed between two consecutive poems. But if in the course of a poem of four verses, let us say, perhaps twenty-two or twenty-eight changes had to be effected, there would be no coping with the situation.)

Nevertheless the colours as represented here in these figures are fundamentally true. And it is a fact that one is only able to enter right into the nature of the different sounds when one is able to express them also as colour.

Let us consider once again the sound a, the sound expressing wonder, astonishment. Fundamentally speaking, colour may be said to be the external expression of our feeling-life. Our feeling-life is objectified in the outer world as colour. The reason why there is so much disagreement as to the nature of colour is that people do not observe that colour is really the external counterpart of the life of the soul.

Now to return to the feeling of amazement, of wonder. You will experience this feeling in the gesture for a. And you must ask yourselves: What colours are called up in me by this gesture?—Here your feelings will lead you to the colour-combination seen on this figure, blue-violet,—that is to say a combination of the so-called dark colours.

Let us, on the other hand take o. The mood lying behind o is that of embracing something. Here you need brighter colours such as shown in the eurhythmy figure for the o-sound.

For the reason already given it is not always possible to use these colours as they are represented here in the eurhythmy figures; it will, however, be of the very greatest assistance to you if, when practising, you call up in yourselves the feeling of colour in sound, the colours for instance, of a, o or i, or again of u, which is, as we know, the expression of fear. In this way you enter by degrees into a more intimate relationship with the nature of the different movements. Thus when practising it is a good exercise to dress oneself in imagination in accordance with the colours of the eurhythmy figures. This is very much to be recommended.

Picture now the colours for the sound e, the pale yellow combined with a certain amount of green. One feels how red and blue lose themselves in green. While with blue and violet one has the feeling of yielding oneself up, as in the case of a and u, one has, in the mood of self-assertion or of taking some-thing into one’s own being, the feeling of the lighter colours. In the e-sound we have the expression of being affected by something and of standing up against it. This is expressed in the green colour. Green is obtained by mixing together yellow and blue; thus by a combination of a light and a dark colour. And it is through this combination that you have the direct expression for the sound e. You grow into the feeling of this gesture when you associate it with this colour.

It is quite impossible to enter into these things with the understanding; they can only be felt and experienced inwardly. For our purposes, however, we will assume that we have absorbed all this, and have come so far as to recognize that the mood of any particular sound is really represented by the corresponding eurhythmy figure. Let us take the mood of the e-sound. One will gradually discover for oneself that whole poems are really permeated throughout with the e-mood. How-ever many other vowels were to occur in such a poem, it might, nevertheless, have the e-mood running right through it. Take, for example, a poem or any text which is to be expressed in eurhythmy, in which, let us say, there continually occurs the feeling of being unpleasantly affected by something, but at the same time a certain resistance against what is affecting one in this way. When a poem has such a mood running through ’it, we shall do well to choose these colours (e-figure) for the dress and veil. The important thing is to learn to associate definite colours with each particular sound; then we shall gradually reach the point at which we are able to select dresses and veils suitable to a poem as a whole.

I mention all this for a very good reason, and that is to prevent the delusion arising that when a eurhythmist has learned the movements for a, e, i, o, etc. there is nothing more to be done. Certainly the eurhythmist may be able to do it all, but this by itself is no proof that he can convey it to others. You must not forget that the impression created by the eurhythmic gestures is very powerful; very powerful forces are at work, although we may not be .conscious of them. There is all the difference in the world between those who, in their desire to master eurhythmy very rapidly, would be liable to believe for instance, that the sound i has been made when the arm is simply held out in the right direction, and those who make the i in such a way that the stretched movement is clearly visible. There is a great difference whether I make the movement in this way... or in this way, whether I merely extend the arms or whether I bring the stretched feeling to visible expression.

In order to acquire free artistic movements while actually carrying out any gesture, it is necessary to be conscious of the feeling and mood contained in the sound in question. This, however, can only come about when one really studies the individual sounds. And an important feature of this study is the clothing of oneself in imagination in the corresponding colours. All this should be taken into account in the teaching of eurhythmy, both as an art and as a means of education. Eurhythmists must accustom themselves to live in the world of colour.

This experience of colour was natural to humanity in the days of the old clairvoyance, but has since been lost. It appeared again in a somewhat distorted form at the end of the Kali-Yuga in certain more or less pathological cases. And at that time one met such people who maintained that Vienna was the colour of dark lilac, Czernowitz yellow, Prague yellowish-orange. Berlin a combination of yellow and grey, Paris a shimmering of rose-colour and blue, etc., etc. At that time people were to be found who talked in this sort of fashion; and anyone possessing a feeling for such things could up to a point understand what it was that they were trying to express.,

In the same way every human being has his own particular colour. This colour is of course closely connected with the astral body, which, as we know, changes with every varying emotion. Nevertheless, each individual human being may be said to possess his own fundamental colour. Thus, to the question: You were at such and such a place; what sort of people did you meet there?—one might answer: The colour of the man I saw was blue,—and another: The colour of the man I saw was red.—Such a point of view is quite justifiable. It is possible to feel things in this way; for in reality it is the same impression as that which arises in the case of ordinary physical colour.

It is therefore a good exercise to call up in one’s mind the connection existing between any special movement and its underlying character and colour ... (see eurhythmy figures). Here it will be of assistance to practise the sound in some such way as this. You might, for instance, take the vowel-sounds a, u, e, o, i, and allow the following colours to stream through the movements: blue-violet; blue-green; greenish-yellow; reddish-yellow; red-yellow-orange. You must experience the colour and make the movements simultaneously, thus working at the same time in the realm of colour and of sound. By this means: the movements will become noticeably flowing and supple, and you will soon see that a certain ‘style’ is being developed.

This brings us to the end of to-day’s lecture, and tomorrow, we shall continue the study of the characteristics underlying the various aspects of the soul life.