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Curative Eurythmy
GA 315

Lecture I

12 April 1921, Dornach

In these afternoon hours I wish to present the first seeds of a curative eurythmy. Today we will have a sort of introduction, and what we gain from it we will develop into definite forms in the days following. First of all I want to draw attention to some basic matters. What has been practised up until now is eurythmy as art; and as such it should be concomitantly accepted as the eurythmy pedagogically and didactically suited for children, since what has been developed until now as eurythmy is in every way drawn out of the formation of the healthy human being. We will see that certain points of contact appear, by means of which it will be possible to distil a hygienic-therapeutic discipline from the eurythmic, and how certain artistic forms transform themselves in one direction or another to become what can be called a sort of curative eurythmy.

It will, of course, be essential to emphasize that artistic eurythmy—which is in essence the expression of that element inherent in the formation and in the tendencies to movement of the human body—is that which must be adjudged correct for the development of the human organism as soul, spirit and body, even as it is appropriate for visual presentation. However, one can also work towards a curative eurythmy which will be of extensive use in the treatment of various chronic and acute conditions, but which will prove to be especially important and to the point in those cases specifically where we attempt to treat impending sicknesses and tendencies to sickness, prophylactically through eurythmy. Here is the point at which the didactic-pedagogical element in eurythmy flows gradually over into the hygienic-therapeutic.

However, for those who wish to practise artistic eurythmy, I want to specifically emphasize that they will have to forget in the most thorough fashion what they have acquired in these hours when they do artistic eurythmy. Then precisely in this area one must maintain a strict separation between those goals which one pursues in hygiene and therapeutics and that artistic quality which one must strive to attain in eurythmy. And anyone who persists in mixing the two will first of all ruin his artistic ability in eurythmy and secondly find himself unable to achieve anything of importance in respect to its hygienic-therapeutic element. Apart from this it will be necessary to acquire certain physiological knowledge—which will transform itself into a sort of feeling for the processes forming the human organism—in order to apply the hygienic-therapeutic side of eurythmy practically, as we will see in the following lectures.

Now, having given this preface, I would like to speak more specifically about what may be considered the basis for human eurythmy itself since it appears to me to be pertinent to the goals we wish to attain. If one wishes to understand what eurythmy in its most varied aspects is, one must first of all gain a certain understanding of the human larynx. We will come to know the other vocal organs of man precisely through the course of our exercises relating to it. But the first thing which we must obtain will be a certain knowledge of the human larynx and its importance for the human organization in general. There is much too strong a tendency to regard each human organ as a thing unto itself. That isn't the case, however. That is not how a human organ is. Every human organ is a member of the organization as a whole and, at the same time, a metamorphic variation of certain other organs. Basically, every self-contained human organ is a metamorphosis of other self-contained human organs. Nevertheless, the case is that certain human organs and groups of organs prove to carry this metamorphic character more exactly within them, more precisely, I would like to say, and others less precisely.

An example of an organ where one can penetrate through that one organ into the essence of the human organism solely through a properly understood metamorphosis is the larynx. Recall from your anatomical and physiological knowledge how peculiarly the human larynx is formed.

What I wish to convey can be grasped only through Goetheanistic contemplation of the human larynx. However, if you will make the effort to attain to this Goetheanistic contemplation of the organs involved to which we will now direct our attention, you will see that it is possible. If you take the larynx first of all as an upwards directed extension of the windpipe, you will discover when you study its forms that it may be characterized as a reversed, a from front-to-back reversed piece of the human organism; from another place, another piece of the human organization turned around. Picture to yourself the back of the human head, including the auricular parts, and think of what you are picturing to yourself as the back of the human head, including the auricular parts—insofar as these are localized in this part of man—excluding the frontal lobe1Vorderhirn; literally, the frontal lobe of the brain for the moment, and extending downwards so that it becomes the human ribcage with its vertebrae, including the beginnings of the ribs which have the much softer breast bone to the front that falls away altogether lower down. Picture to yourself, then, this less clearly defined—system of organs that I have presented to you: the posterior part of the head including the auditory parts, broadening out into the ribcage below.

And now think of this part somewhat transformed; imagine the diameter of the ribs greatly reduced. Imagine that which is very wide in the ribs, in the ribcage, here transformed into a pipe, the bony material being replaced by cartilage. That part which I isolated as the head, imagine that to be filled out in such a way that the less well filled out parts of the head, were poured out, and then that what is now filled in with thicker tissue were left out; think of that which in the head is actually filled with a liquid solid mass replaced. When you imagine this transformation of these parts of the human organism, then you have the metamorphosis of the larynx: the posterior head with the attached ribcage, reversed. The upwards extension into the larynx is truly a sort of posterior head, transformed. It is actually so: the etheric formative forces of the larynx bring about an inversion when we compare them with the formative forces of the aforementioned part of the posterior head with the attached ribcage. Considering the matter etherically, we carry in our breast, in the larynx, a second man, in a manner of speaking, who is, to be certain, in a way rudimentary, but who is in his dispositions, in his beginnings nevertheless at a certain stage of development.

If that which I have just described to you were to be turned around again to its former position so as to appear as the posterior head, then it would, in accordance with the formative forces, of necessity add on those parts of the brain lying further forwards. The tendency to build something similar on is also present in the larynx. The larynx has for this reason the thyroid gland in its neighborhood. What appears in more recent physiology as the peculiar conditions of the thyroid can be understood metamorphically, if you can see a sort of decadent frontal lobe in the thyroid which to a certain extent performs functions taken over from the frontal lobe in the speaking man. The thyroid must co-operate with the frontal lobe. If the thyroid is in any way diseased, you can easily imagine what sort of conditions arise; simply because he has the thyroid, man is organized to use it as an additional organ of thought related more to his breast being.

That which I have designated as etheric formative forces which are at work to bring this second man, who takes up an appositive position in us, into being:—these etheric formative forces are in fact very differentiated. When we breathe and this breathing expresses itself in speaking or singing, when this modified breathing (for from a certain point of view one must call it that) lives as speech or song, then that whole system of organs in man, which I have already indicated as the posterior head continuing down into the breast, is in such inner movement, that this movement experiences its reflexes in the organization of the larynx. So we must picture to our-selves that this whole system—that together with the ear is nothing other than a larynx, only metamorphosed—there is a frontal lobe—calls forth certain effects which are reflected. Thus our larynx performs backwards, in eurythmy, in the form of forces, what we think, feel and so on. This eurythmy really goes on within us. Our larynx eurythmizes; and we have then the assignment to turn around again that which arises sensibly-supersensibly through the reflex-reaction of the larynx, and to make it visible, so that our arms bring to expression that which has already been relayed forth and back again. Thus we have to do here with something which is taken directly from the human organism.

Figure 1

One must make it clear to oneself that we are drawing attention to that organ which like an additional head with a downward extension has been set into the rhythmic system. Our ordinary head, the more or less thoughtful head, has the peculiarity of quieting down what pulses up rhythmically into it through the arachnoidal cavity, which is an extension of the respiratory system. It is by means of the transformation of the movement from below in the rhythmic system into quiet; and by virtue of the fact that a state of balance is reached and stasis is developed out of elements in movement, reciprocally conditioning each other in motion, that thinking is conditioned: through statics arising in the head out of the dynamics.

The reverse is also true: what we develop in the quiet, in the stasis of the head, influences the dynamic of the rhythmic man, to begin with in a retardative manner. The fact is that an unnatural exertion of the soul-spiritual in connection with the head tends to slow down the circulation. A further consequence is that chaotic or sloppy thinking transforms the rhythmic into the arhythmic, changes the natural rhythm which should play in the human rhythmic system into arhythm, even into an antirhythm when it comes to full expression. And if one wishes to understand man, one must observe the connection between the circulatory and respiratory system, and careless, chaotic thought, as well as logical thought, Logical thinking as such carries within it the tendency to slow down the rhythm. Logical thought has the peculiarity of falling out of rhythm. Therefore, the soul-life that wishes to fall into rhythm will try to supercede logic and attempt to frame sentences and verses that follow not syntax, but rhythm in their course. By striving to return to rhythm in poetry, by resisting the enemy of poetry, that is prose (with the exception of rhythmical prose, of course), one tries to become more human. I am not claiming that through logic one's development will tend more towards the animalic; when you wish, you can always imagine that one evolves towards the angelic. But when one strives to turn back from the logical towards the human, one must try to bring into the succession of the syllables and their movement, into the movement of the sounds and into the sentence structure, not that which is demanded by the syntax, but that which the rhythm requires. We must pay heed to the rhythmic man when we want to return to the realm of poetry; we should listen to the head-man when we wish to enter into prose.

This will serve as an indication of the connection which in fact exists between that manifest part of man which I have described and that part which, as a metamorphosis of it, is somewhat concealed. He is there within us, however, this eurythmist who performs as the etheric body of the larynx a distinct eurythmy intimately connected with the normal development of our respiratory system, with our whole circulatory system and, naturally, through the intermediary of the circulatory system even with the metabolic system, as you can surmise from all that I have presented to you.

Now all possible sorts of occasions arise for this very complicated arrangement, this dove-tailing of a forwards- and a backwards-orientated system, to become disjointed. It would be accurate to say that they are properly articulated in only very few people of today's culture. It will be necessary to develop a certain ability to observe this since when the head system, for example, has been so dealt with in childhood that the transgression against the rhythmic system is too great everything possible can develop in later years simply through an irregularity in what I have described. This is precisely because in the case of the human organism, as in an avalanche, small provocations may build up to great effects.

In observing children from this aspect one will find that it is extremely significant to what degree their unconscious living in rhythm predominates in their soul-life over the quieting element of the head organization; for example if this is the case, if the rhythmic system predominates, one must ask oneself if something should not be introduced into the education of the child. If in time the condition appears to he habitual, then something must be clone. When, as a result of the anomaly to which I have drawn attention, the child becomes increasingly excited, ever more and more fluttery and one can do nothing with him, one must attempt to bring an iambic element into his whole organization. This can be done by having the child move in such a manner that, in full consciousness—and for that he must have your guidance—he moves first the left arm and the left hand forwards, thereafter the right arm, so that this becomes the more conscious. The child must be aware: that is the first and was the first. Throughout the entire exercise the consciousness must prevail: that was the first and remains the first; it began with the left. One can reinforce the whole affair by having the child walk, stepping out with the left leg and bringing the right leg up to it, so that the leg and foot exercise is added to the hand and arm exercise, but only as a reinforcement, however. The arm exercise is really the essential. If one has the child practise in this iambic manner, as one may call it, one will see that the exercises will calm the fluttery child, the excited child and so on provided they are continued over a sufficiently long period of time.

Out of your knowledge of eurythmy you could describe it thus:2The sounds are given throughout the English text as they are written in German: German “a”, “ah” as in English “father”, German “e”, “a” as in English “say”; German “i”, “ee” as in English “feet”; German “ei”, “i” as in English “light”; German “au”, “ow” as in English “how”; German “eu”, “oi” as in English “joy”. You have the child make half an “A” with the left arm and then complete this half “A” to a whole “A” with the right arm, and so on, so that the child remains in motion and the “A” does not come into being all at once, but as the result of successive movements.

If on the other hand one has a child who is phlegmatic, who doesn't want to take things in—our Waldorf teacher know these children well, they can at times bring one to mild despair; they actually hear nothing of what one says to them, everything passes them by—in this case one would do well to treat this child trochaically, that is to say, in just the opposite manner. Naturally one cannot begin with everything all at once; this is an element which has yet to he brought into Waldorf education. One forms the “A” so that the child knows: first the right arm, then the left arm, right arm, left arm and then further that first the right leg is placed in front and the left leg brought up to it; thus one has the arm movements forming the “A” (one after the other) reinforced by the leg and foot movement. One must pay particular attention that these things are done in such a way that they live in the child's consciousness; so that the child is really aware: on one occasion the left arm was the first, on the other the right arm was the first.

You will find that these things present difficulties for an inner understanding if someone is in every way a physiologist in the modern sense and believes that man's whole soul-life is mediated through the nervous system, that is, if you do not know that feeling is mediated by the rhythmic system and the will by the metabolic system, and that only thought formation is mediated by the nervous system. If you do not know these things you will have great difficulty in grasping the significance of what happens in any part of the body, both in respect to the soul-spiritual part and the bodily part of man's being.

The person who has developed an ability to observe knows that when a person has clumsy hand and finger movements and so on, he will exhibit a particular manner of thinking as well which one can compare with what happens in the fingers. It is really extremely interesting to study the connection between the manner in which a person controls the mechanics of the arm and the finger-physiognomy with the way in which he thinks. Then the soul-spiritual qualities which a person portrays proceed from the whole human being, not solely from the brain and nervous tissue. One must learn to understand that one thinks not only with the brain but also with the little finger and the big toe. There is a certain significance in achieving lightness—particularly in the limbs—as this will bring lightness into the soul-life as well. These ideas will only become applicable—as we shall see in the following lectures—when one has the possibility of providing a truly complete school hygiene to accompany the other instruction. It can happen, for example, that a child has the peculiarity of being unable to comprehend geometric figures. He cannot understand a geometric figure by looking at it. However difficult it may be you will do this child a great service when you have him take a small pencil between the big toe and the next toe, hold it and write really proper letters. That is something which carries a certain significance and which points in a fully justified manner to an inter-relationship in man.

Especially in the case of children, one may notice that the three members of the human organization do not snap properly into one another. A really large part of the anomalies of life are due to this improper articulation. To begin with, the children have headaches and at the same time one notices that the digestion is disturbed and so on. The most varied conditions may appear. We will give further indications in this regard in conjunction with other exercises which will be shown in the next days. However, when one is confronted with a situation such as I have described one can achieve a great deal with the child or children through having them do the following exercise: a eurythmic I—as you already know—a eurythmic A and a eurythmic O; but so that the children make the “I” with the whole upper body. For our physician friends I want to emphasize particularly, that what is essential in eurythmy, and that through which one achieves what is essential in artistic eurythmy as well, is not the mere form of the limb in position seen from without, but that which comes into being when the stretching or the bending within the positioned limb is felt. What is felt in the limb is what is important. Assume that you make an “I” with both arms; this “I” will not appear as it should when seen from without if you observe only its line, its content as a form. You must feel concurrently and you can tell by looking at the person—that he feels the stretching power in the I as he does it. Similarly when a person makes an “E”, for example, the important thing is not that he does this (crosses the arms), but that he feels: here one limb comes to rest on the other. In this feeling of one limb on the other lies the “E” in reality. And that which one sees in the expression for this sensing of one limb through the other. Then what you do here is no different from what you do when you look. You are continually carrying out an “E” by crossing the axis of the right eye with the axis of the left in order to find a point and so arrive at a crossed line. That is actually “the primeval E”. What has been demonstrated here is basically an imitation of it; however, everything in man is a metamorphosis, and this is a perfectly justifiable imitation, as in speaking “E” the larynx carries out exactly the same form to the rear in the etheric.

When you practise this exercise with a child it is necessary that the “I” be done with the upper body, that is to say, the child stretches out his upper body. He feels the whole body stretched. He makes the “A” with his legs and the “O” by moving his arms so. have the child do the following as quickly as possible in sequence: stretch the upper body vertically, separate the legs, and make the “O” movement with the arms; release and repeat, release and repeat and so on. One can practise such a thing with the children in chorus, of course. However, in principle such exercises should not be practised with the children as a class. Artistic eurythmy and the eurythmy for pedagogic and didactic reasons should be done by a class as a whole, for here children of the same age belong together. In order to make the transition from the usual class eurythmy to these matters related to hygienic-therapeutic eurythmy, one must take those children out of various classes who, due to the peculiarities which I have described—the disharmony of the three members of the human organism—have need of such an exercise, in order to practise with them. One can take them out of the most varied classes and then practise this exercise with those particularly suited for it. That really must be done if one truly wishes to pursue hygienic eurythmy, therapeutic eurythmy, in the school. Thus we are already on the path which as we follow it further will lead us to study certain movements that are actually only metamorphoses of the usual eurythmic movements and to trace their effect on the human organization. The fact is that we have organs in our interior and these organs have certain forms. These forms may he subject to anomalies. The form of each organ stands in a certain relationship to a possible form of movement of the outer man. Therefore the following may be said. Let us assume that some organ, let us say the gall, has the tendency to deformation, a tendency to assume an abnormal form. A form of movement exists which will counteract this tendency. And such is the case with every organ.

It is in this direction that we intend to develop what will follow. What I have given today was meant as an introduction to guide you to the path leading into this subject.