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The Rudolf Steiner Archive

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The Renewal of Education
GA 301

A2. Introduction to a Eurythmy Performance

16 May 1920, Dornach

Today, as in the past, I would like to say a few introductory words before this performance of eurythmy. I do this not in order to explain what will be presented since, of course, what is artistic will need to have its effect through direct experience, and it would be inartistic to give some theoretical explanation before such a performance. Nevertheless I might say that the art of eurythmy is an attempt to reach down into a source of art that exists in human beings. That wellspring seeks expression in artistic forms that are particularly well-suited for revealing the needs of all art, namely, to bring what is artistic into the realm of the sense and super-sense-perceptible.

Goethe coined the expression “sensible and supersensible viewing” 1out of the depths of his world perspective and his feeling for art. The form of the art of eurythmy is completely based upon this sense and supersensible perception.

On the stage you will see all kinds of movements performed by individuals and groups. At first you might have the impression that the eurythmy presentation should be accompanied by poetic or musical performance and that the eurythmy is simply another expression of that. You might have the impression that eurythmy is simply gestures invented to mimic what is presented through the poetry or music. That is not the case. Eurythmy is based upon movements exercised by the organs of speech themselves and which have been revealed through a careful sensory and supersensible study of human speech.

In normal speech, the movements of the lips and gums and so forth directly affect the air. They are transformed into subtle vibrations that form the basis of what we hear. It is, of course, not these vibrations that are important here in eurythmy; rather what is important lies at the basis of an entire system of such vibrations.

This has been studied and was transferred from the organs of speech to the entire human being according to the Goethean principle of metamorphosis, according to which, for instance, the entire plant is only a leaf that is more complicated in form.

What you will see on the stage are not simply random movements. Instead they are movements that strictly follow certain laws. They follow the same laws and occur in the same order as do the movements of the organs of speech when giving tone while speaking or sounds while singing. Within these forms resides an inner necessity of the same sort as is created by music in forming a series of tones. What we are concerned with here is, in fact, a kind of visible speech that closely follows certain rules.

Modern culture will need to find its way into this visible speech, as modern culture contains something quite inartistic within it. Things that were quite common during the Romantic period are much less so today — for example, people intently listened to poems when they did not actually understand the words; they listened more to the rhythm and the inner form of the sounds. We will see this in the recitations that accompany the eurythmy presentations in much the same way as does music, that there is nothing other that we could emphasize in this element of artistic eurythmy than the actual artistic element of the poetry itself. It is not the word-for-word content of the poem that is important; rather, it is the formal form that the artist has created which is important. Thus you will see that we attempt to present forms and spatial forms created by groups. They are not simply mimicking the content of the poetry; rather something follows from the character of the poem that the poet developed into the words. Even when the presentation is concerned with something surreal, something affected, such as we will attempt to present in the second part of the presentation today, you will see that it is concerned not with some imitative presentation of the content, but rather with forming connections of such a nature that the individual movements have little effect; the effect is formed through the harmonious forms acting together.

In general, we can say that through eurythmy we return to the sources of art because eurythmy is an art that should not affect us solely through our thoughts. When our concern is with science in our modern materialistic sense, it is only thoughts that affect us, and for that reason, we can penetrate only into the sense-perceptible content of the world. In the art of eurythmy, our concern is more that the sense and supersensible character should be expressed than the fact that the entire human being or groups of human beings are the means of expressing it.

We can thus say that the human being, the ensouled human being, the human being permeated by spirit, places soul and spirit into each movement, namely, that soul and spirit that we can hear through the truths sounding from the poetry. All this shows how the sense-perceptible, which we can see through the limbs of the human being, at the same time carries the spirit on its wings. It is, therefore, genuinely sensory and super-sensibly perceptible. Eurythmy thus expresses what Goethe demanded of all art when he said, “Those to whom nature begins to reveal its secret will have a deep desire for nature’s highest level of expression, namely, art.”3 For Goethe, art is in a certain sense a way of experiencing nature through feeling. How would it be possible to better correspond to nature than to bring to expression those capacities that enable human beings to move based upon their will, so that a kind of visible speech is therefore expressed? Thinking, which in general ignores art, is thus shut out. It is only will that is expressed in the movements. The personality of human beings is transferred to these movements in an impersonal way, so something that is highly artistic and represents something sense- and super-sense-perceptible is expressed through these presentations.

Eurythmy also has a significant educational effect in that it is at the same time a kind of ensouled gymnastics. If you think about these things objectively, then you will see that what has long been treasured as gymnastics and something which we certainly do not wish to eliminate is something that experiences a particular kind of growth when we place alongside it this ensouled form of gymnastics as we have done for the children at the Waldorf School in Stuttgart. You will see some of this children’s eurythmy during the second part of our presentation today.

Normal gymnastics strengthens the body, of course, and for that reason we certainly do not want to go without it. However, ensouled gymnastics, which has an effect not simply upon the physical body but the spirit and soul as well, is particularly effective in developing the will. Future generations, who will have an increasingly difficult life, will need stronger will energies.

Eurythmy also has an important hygienic side. The movements of eurythmy are those movements through which individuals can best place themselves into the rhythm and harmony of the world. All unhealthy things are essentially based upon people separating themselves from that rhythm. We are certainly not doing anything reactionary, and I would ask therefore that you do not consider me to be rejecting the aspects of modern culture. There are many things today that are necessary, things we need, things we cannot eliminate. We must also admit there are many reasons modern human beings would want to separate themselves from the rhythm and harmony of the world. Each time we sit in a railway car or an automobile, and when we do many other such things at the same time, we undertake actions that separate us from universal rhythms. This separation sneaks slowly into human health and undermines it in a way that is not even noticed. These things can be seen only by those who have an intimate understanding of the relationship of human beings with the universe. However, the universe seeks today to give something that will return human beings to health.

Where do people today seek health? I know that with the following I am saying something contrary to what is commonly held today, but in the future people will think more objectively of this. Prior to this terrible world catastrophe that crashed in upon us, there was an attempt to achieve health through such things as the Olympic Games. That is a terrible thought that lies entirely outside of any genuine understanding. The Olympic Games were appropriate for the Greek body. When undertaking such things, people do not at all realize that each cultural period has its particular requirements.

That is something, however, that we attempt to do through the art of eurythmy. We do not attempt to provide humanity with something based upon some abstract theory or something from the past. Instead we try to do what is necessary for modern civilization, something that we can find within human nature and which is appropriate for the structure of modern humanity.

Such things certainly cannot be proven anatomically or physiologically, because we cannot dissect the ancient Greeks. Those who can look into cultural development through spiritual science recognize that modern human beings in their physical form and especially in their soul and spiritual structure require something else. Eurythmy is a beginning toward finding those requirements placed before us by our cultural period itself. Eurythmy attempts to correspond to our culture.

As you know, what we will present here today is at its very beginnings, and therefore remains simply an attempt. We are nevertheless convinced that because we are serious about working based upon the requirements of our cultural period, others will further develop what we can present here today, so that a mature art form will arise that is worthy of being placed alongside its older sisters.