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Eurythmy as Visible Speech
GA 279

A4. The Eurythmy Figures

From lectures given on 4th August, 1922 (Dornach) 26th August, 1923 (Penmaenmawr).

We have recently made the attempt here at Domach, to produce figures representing the movements of Eurythmy. And at the performances given at Oxford1These figures which are carved out of wood and coloured, are made at the Goetheanum at Dornach, where they may be bought. They were shown for the first time at Oxford, during a Conference at which Rudolf gave a course of lectures on the Art of Education. we showed how an understanding of eurythmy may be helped by means of such figures, and how they may serve to clear up our ideas with regard to the nature of this art. From what I am now going to say in this connection you will see that in these figures I have at least attempted to further the understanding of eurythmy from more than one point of view.

In these figures I have been able to reproduce just those three elements of eurythmy of which I have previously spoken. It is possible by this means to increase the appreciation of the onlookers; and at the same time the eurythmists themselves may learn infinitely much from looking at these figures, because they represent those elements of eurythmy which are absolutely essential. As I am showing you these representations, I must ask you first of all to notice that they should not in any way be copied or imitated: Reproduction strictly prohibited. That is the first point. And the second is that, if I now show them to you, you will not all push forward and thus cause confusion.

We have, in the first place, tried to represent the letters of the alphabet in the way I have just described. Thus you see here, in these figures, representations of the human being from which everything not belonging to the sphere of eurythmy has been omitted. You must not expect either pictorial or plastic representations of the human form; for here the human being has been depicted entirely from the point of view of eurythmy. It is, then, only the eurythmic aspect of the human being which has been taken into account; but every sound has been represented with the utmost completeness and detail. For this reason the eurythmy figures have no faces, or, to be more correct, their faces are used to express the character of the movement, the form of the movement, and so on.

Thus, taking these figures in their order, you have: A. E. I. O. U. D. B. F. G. H. That part of the figure which would usually represent the face is here formed in such a way as to represent the movement. This can, of course, only be indicated; but it is quite a good eurythmic exercise to picture oneself in fancy as really appearing like the figure in question. Proceeding, then, we have the letters: T. S. R. P. N. M. and L.

Let us, for example, take this eurythmy figure, which represents the experience lying behind the sound H. Now one might ask: In which direction is the face looking? Is it looking upwards or straight ahead?—This is really a matter of no consequence; we are concerned with something quite different. In the first place this figure, taken as a whole, represents the eurythmic movement, that is to say, the movement of the arms and of the legs. In the second place the figure shows how in the forms of the veil, in the way in which the veil is held, drawn closer, thrown into the air, allowed to fall or to undulate, the actual movement, that is to say, the more intellectual expression of the soul life in eurythmy, can be made more deeply expressive.

The significance of the different colours is always indicated on the backs of the figures. Then, in certain places, as for instance here on the head, we have the indication as to where the eurythmist, in carrying out the movement, should exert a certain tension of the muscles. Let us now examine this eurythmy figure and we shall see how the effect of the movement is made more complete by means of the treatment of the face. Observe how here, where blue is painted on the forehead, there is a tension of the muscles, as also here at the nape of the neck, while here (indicating the figure) the muscles are left more relaxed. In eurythmy one can differentiate quite exactly between the experience of moving the arm with the muscles relaxed and the experience of moving the arm with muscles that are stretched and tense, or with an exertion of the muscles in the fingers for instance. Thus, when taking up a bending posture, the feeling is quite different when the muscles involved are consciously exerted, from what it is when these muscles are allowed to relax and the back simply bends of itself. By means of this muscular tension, which must be inwardly experienced by the eurythmist, character is brought into the movement.

Thus it may be said: In the way in which the movement is formed there lies,—or rather the movement itself actually manifests,—all that the soul wishes to express by means of this visible speech. In the same way, however, as words have their timbre, their own special tone, brought about by the feeling lying within them, so too the movement,—by means of the way in which it is coloured by fear, for instance, when this is expressed in a sentence, or by joy, or delight,—so too must the movement be permeated by feeling. And this can be done by the use of the veil, by the way in which the veil is made to undulate, to float in the air, to sink down, and so on. Thus, movement accompanied by the veil is movement permeated by feeling. And movement accompanied by this inner tension of the muscles, is movement which carries with it the element of character. When a eurythmist experiences this tension or relaxation of the muscles in the right way, it can also be perceived by the onlookers. There is no necessity to explain and interpret all this, for the audience will actually feel everything that can be brought into the language of eurythmy by means of character, feeling and movement.

The figures arose through the initiative of Miss Maryon;2Edith Maryou, sculptress at the Goetheauum (died 1924) they have, however, been further worked out according to my indications.

Looking at the way in which these figures are carried out, both as regards the carving and the colouring, we find that the essential thing is to separate all those elements in the human being which do not belong to the realm of eurythmy from those elements which are in themselves eurythmic. If a eurythmist were to use charm of face in order to please, this would in no way belong to eurythmy; the eurythmist must understand how to make use of the face by means of the muscular tension of which I have spoken. For this reason anyone possessing a truly artistic perception will in no way prefer a beautiful eurythmist to one who is less beautiful. In all these matters no attention need be paid to what a human being looks like, simply as a human being, apart from the movements of eurythmy; such a thing must be left entirely out of account.

Thus in the formation of these figures, we have represented only that part of the human being which may be expressed through the movements of eurythmy.

It would indeed be a very good thing if this principle were more generally applied in the development of art as a whole; for it really is necessary, in the case of any art, to separate those things which do not come within its sphere from those things which should be expressed by means of its own special medium. And in the case of eurythmy, in the case of a manifestation of the life of the human body, soul and spirit which is so direct and so true, one must be specially careful to ensure the putting aside of all those elements in the human being which do not definitely belong to the art of which we are speaking.

Thus I have always said, when asked at what age a person can do eurythmy, that there are no age limits; beginning at three until the age of ninety, the personality can fully find its place in eurythmy, for every period of life can—as in other ways also—reveal its beauties in eurythmy.

All that I have been saying is related to eurythmy in its artistic aspect, to eurythmy purely as an art. And it was indeed as an art that eurythmy first came into being. At that time, in 1912, there was as yet no thought of anything else; the aim was to bring eurythmy before the world as an art.

Then, when the Waldorf School was founded, it was discovered that eurythmy could also be an important means of education, and we have since been able to prove that eurythmy is completely justifiable from this aspect also. In the Waldorf School eurythmy has been made a compulsory subject from the lowest to the highest class, both for boys and girls; and experience has proved that this visible speech or visible song, which is learned by the children, is acquired by them in a way which is just as natural as that in which they acquired ordinary speech and song in their earliest childhood. Children accept eurythmy as something quite self-understood. And we have also noticed that all other forms of gymnastics, when compared with eurythmy, prove themselves somewhat one-sided. For these other forms of gymnastics bear within them, as it were, the materialistic ideas of our age, and are based mainly upon the laws of the physical body. The physical body is of course also taken into account in eurythmy, but here we have a working together of body, soul and spirit; so that eurythmy may be said to be a form of gymnastics which is permeated through and through with soul and spirit. The child feels this. He feels, with every movement that he makes, that he is not forming the movements merely out of physical necessity. He feels how his life of soul and spirit flows into the movements of the arms, into the movements of the whole body. The child comprehends eurythmy in the inner depths of his soul. And now that we have a certain number of years of experience in the Waldorf School behind us, we are able to see what eurythmy is expecially able to develop. It is initiative of will, that quality so much needed by modern man, which is specially cultivated by eurythmy as a means of education. One must, however, be quite clear that, if eurythmy were only to be introduced into schools and not given its full value as an art, a complete misunderstanding would arise. Eurythmy must primarily take its place in the world as an art, just as the other arts also have their places in the world. We are taught the other arts at school when they have an independent artistic existence; and eurythmy also can be taught in the schools when, as an art, it is acknowledged and appreciated, thus becoming part of our modern civilization.

Later on a considerable number of doctors found their way into the anthroposophical movement, and through their activities the art of medicine began to be cultivated from the point of view of Anthroposophy. At this time the need made itself felt to apply the movements of eurythmy,—movements which are drawn out from the healthy human organism and in which the human being can be revealed and manifested in a way which is in truth suited to his organism,—to apply these movements in the realm of healing. Looked at from this aspect eurythmy may be said to be that part of the human being which demands free outlet. Anyone understanding the nature of a hand will know that a hand in the true sense is simply non-existent when it is regarded as something motionless. The fingers are quite without meaning when they are regarded as something motionless; their meaning first becomes apparent when they grasp at something and take hold of it, when movement arises out of the quiescent form. One can see the inherent movement in the fingers and hand. It is the same with the human being as a whole; and that which has come into being as eurythmy really is the healthy outpouring of the human organism into movement. Thus, when eurythmy is applied as curative eurythmy in the realm of therapeutics, the movements, although similar in nature, differ from those of artistic eurythmy; for they must, when used curatively, work back with a healing influence upon some particular part of the organism.

In this case, again, we have had considerable success in our treatment of the children in the Waldorf School. Natur-ally a real insight into child-nature is essential. Let us suppose that we are dealing with a child who is weak and ailing. He is made to do those movements which could help to bring about recovery. Results have proved, this can be said in all modesty,—that we have here had the most brilliant success. But all these things, and everything arising out of them, can only be successful if eurythmy as an art is really brought to complete development.

A statement must here be made: we are at the beginning. We have, however, certainly progressed some little way with eurythmy, and we are seeking to develop it ever further. At first, for instance, there were no silent forms at the beginning of a poem, which represents what can be expressed as introduction and again what can be expressed as the drawing to a conclusion. At first, too, there were not the changes of lighting, which must also be so conceived that the point is not that each separate situation should be followed by one or another lighting effect; but a light eurythmy has itself come about. The essential matter is not how a certain light effect is suited to what is happening at a particular moment on the stage, but the whole eurythmy of light, the play of one lighting effect into another, which itself produced a light eurythmy,—this bears within itself the same character, the same kind of experience, which otherwise comes to expression on the stage in the movements of a single human being or a group. Thus in the development of the stage picture, in the further perfecting of eurythmy, much will have to be added to what we are now able to see.

The wooden eurythmy figures are carried out in a special way. You must not look for anything in the nature of a plastic reproduction of the human form. This belongs to the sphere of sculpture or of painting. Here, in these eurythmy figures, it is only that part of the human being that is truly eurythmic which should be represented. Thus there is no question of a beautiful plastic reproduction of the motionless human form; the point here is to reproduce that aspect of the human being which is able to express itself in movements subject to form and themselves formative.

By means of these figures, certain details of the eurythmic movements, postures and gestures can be brought out and emphasized. These figures are only intended to reproduce such eurythmic impulses as can actually be led over into movement. In each figure there is embodied a three-fold eurythmic impulse; the movement as such, the feeling lying in the movement, and the character which wells up from the soul and pours itself into the movement.