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The Christmas Conference

Schmidt Number: S-5516

On-line since: 21st December, 2008

Introduction to the Eurythmy Performance

by Rudolf Steiner

23 December, 1923

 

My dear friends!

Today our guests from further afield who have already arrived make up the majority of those present at this opening performance of eurythmy. There is no need for me to speak particularly about the nature of eurythmy, for our friends know about this from various writings which have appeared in print. But especially since we are gathering once more for an anthroposophical undertaking I should like to introduce this performance with a few words.

In the first instance eurythmy is that art which has originated entirely from the soil of Anthroposophy. Of course it has always been the case that every artistic activity which was to bring something new into civilization originated in super-sensible human endeavour. Whether you look at architecture, sculpture, painting, or the arts of music or poetry, you will always find that the impulses visible in the external course of human evolution are rooted in some way in occult, super-sensible ground, ground we may seek in connection with the Mysteries. Art can only flow into human evolution if it contains within it forces and impulses of a super-sensible kind. But the present-day view of art arises in the main from the entirely materialistic tendency in thinking which has seized hold of Europe and America since the fifteenth century. And though a certain kind of scientific knowledge can flourish in this materialism, anything genuinely artistic cannot. True art can only come forth out of spiritual life.

Therefore it is as a matter of course that a special art has arisen out of the spiritual life of the Anthroposophical Movement. It is necessary to understand that art must be born out of the super-sensible realm through the mediation of the human being. Considering the descending scale stretching from the super-sensible realm down to externally perceptible phenonema, you find the faculty of Intuition at the top, at the point where — if I may put it like this — the human being merges with the spirit. Inspiration has to do with the capacity of the human being to face the super-sensible on his own, hearing it and letting it reveal itself. And when he is able to link what he receives through Inspiration so intensely with his own being that he becomes capable of moulding it, then Imagination comes about.

In speech we have something which makes its appearance in an external picture, though it is an external picture which is extraordinarily similar to Inspiration. We might say that what we bear in our soul when we speak resembles Intuition; and what lies on our tongue, in our palate, comes out between our teeth and settles on our lips when we speak is the sense-perceptible image of Inspiration.

But where is the origin of what we push outwards from our inner soul life in speech? It originates in the mobile shape of our body, or I could say in our bodily structure in movement. Our ability to move our legs as well as our arms and hands and fingers is what gives us as little children our first opportunity to sense our relationship with the outside world. The first experience capable of entering into the consciousness of our soul is what we have in the physical movement of arms, hands and legs. The other movements are more connected with the human being. But the limbs which we stretch out into the space around us are what gives us a sense of the world. And when we stretch out our legs in a stride or a leap, or our arms to grasp something, or our fingers to feel something, then whatever we experience in doing this streams back to us. And as it streams back, it seizes hold of tongue, palate and larynx and becomes speech.

Thus in his organism the human being is through movement an expression of man as a whole. When you begin to understand this you sense that what in speech resembles Inspiration can descend into Imagination. We can call back something that is a gift to our limbs, to our tongue, our larynx and our palate and so on, we can recall it and let it stream back, asking: What kind of feelings, what kind of sensations stream outwards in our organism in order to create the sound Ah? We shall always discover that an Ah arises through something which expresses itself in one way or another in the air, through a particular movement of our organs of speech; or an Eh in optical axes crossing over, and so on. Then we shall be able to take what has streamed out in this way and become a sound or element of speech, and send it back into our whole being, into our human being of limbs, thus receiving in place of what causes speech to resemble Inspiration something else instead, something which can be seen and shaped and which therefore resembles Imagination.

So actually eurythmy came into existence when what works unconsciously in the human being to transform his capacity for movement into speech is subsequently recalled from speech and returned to the capacity for movement. Thus an element which belongs to Inspiration becomes an element belonging to Imagination.

Therefore an understanding of eurythmy is closely linked with discovering through eurythmy how Intuition, Inspiration and Imagination are related. Of course we can only show this in pictures, but the pictures speak clearly.

Consider, dear friends, a poem living in your soul. When you have entirely identified yourself inwardly with this poem and have taken it into yourself to such an extent and so strongly that you no longer need any words but have only feelings and can experience these feelings in your soul, then you are living in Intuition. Then let us assume that you recite or declaim the poem. You endeavour, in the vowel sounds, in the harmonies, in the rhythm, in the movement of the consonants, in tempo, beat and so on, to express in speech through recitation or declamation what lies in those feelings. What you experience when doing this is Inspiration. The element of Inspiration takes what lives purely in the soul, where it is localized in the nervous system, and pushes it down into larynx, palate and so on.

Finally let this sink down into your human limbs, so that in your own creation of form through movement you express what lies in speech; then, in the poem brought into eurythmy, you have the third element, Imagination.

In the picture of the descent of world evolution down to man you have that scale which human beings have to reascend, from Imagination through Inspiration to Intuition. In the poem transformed into eurythmy you have Imagination; in the recitation and declamation you have Inspiration as a picture; and in the entirely inward experience of the poem, in which there is no need to open your mouth because your experience is totally inward and you are utterly identified with it and have become one with it, in this you have Intuition.

In a poem transformed into eurythmy, experienced inwardly and recited, you have before you the three stages, albeit in an external picture. In eurythmy we have to do with an element of art which had from inner necessity to emerge out of the Anthroposophical Movement. What you have to do is bring into consciousness what it means to achieve knowledge of the ascent from Imagination to Inspiration, and to Intuition.

* * *

The shorthand report ends here. The eurythmy performance began after a few more words on the actual programme.

The Christmas Foundation Conference was opened on 24 December. [ See the facsimile of the Programme] It had been preceded during the course of the year by a number of general meetings of the Anthroposophical Society in Switzerland at which the problems needing an early solution were discussed. The discussions had been particularly lively during the conference of delegates from the Swiss branches of 8 December 1923, [ Note 20 ] and preparatory meetings had also taken place on 22 April and 10 June. A good many representatives of non-Swiss groups had been present as early on as the general meeting of the Verein des Goetheanum [ Note 21 ] on 17 June. These non-Swiss representatives had arrived in large numbers for the international meeting of delegates from 20 to 22 July, [ Note 22 ] which had been devoted to the problems of rebuilding the Goetheanum and establishing it on a firm financial footing.

Dr Steiner had agreed to be present at these consultations but was not prepared to take the chair. His opinion had been sought quite a number of times, and he had emphasized above all the need for a moral basis. Rudolf Steiner und die Zivilisations-aufgabe der Anthroposophie contains many of the contributions he gave on that occasion. In the minutes of the meeting of 22 April we find the following:

‘Let me add a few words, not as a statement but simply in the realm of feeling, to what has been said so far today.

‘What we would look forward to in the outcome of the recent meeting in Stuttgart, [ Note 23 ] and also of today's meeting — and I hope similar meetings in other countries will follow — is that they should take a definite positive course, so that something positive can genuinely emerge from the will of the meeting. Mention has been made of the way the Anthroposophical Society is organized. But you see it has to be said that what marks the Anthroposophical Society is the very fact that it is not organized in any way at all. Indeed, for the most part the membership has wanted to have nothing to do with any organizing whatever, even on a purely human level. This was manageable to a certain degree up to a particular moment. But in view of the conditions prevailing now it is impossible to carry on in this way. It is necessary now to bring about a situation in which at least the majority of the membership can represent the affairs of the Society in a positive way, or at least start by following them with interest.

‘The other day I was asked what I myself expect from this meeting. I had to point out that it is now necessary for the Anthroposophical Society to set itself a genuine task, so that it can take its place as something, with its own identity, that exists beside the Anthroposophical Movement; the Society as such must set itself a task. Until this task has emerged, the situation we have been speaking about today will never change. On the contrary, it will grow worse and worse. The organization of the opposition exists and is a reality. But for the majority of members the Anthroposophical Society is not a reality because it lacks a positive task which could arise out of a positive decision in the will. This was the reason for calling the meetings in Stuttgart and here. In Stuttgart the delegates meeting could not decide on a task for the Society. Instead it sought a way out in the suggestion that the membership of the Anthroposophical Society in Germany should be divided into two parts in the hope that out of the mutual relationship between these two Societies something might gradually develop of a kind that was not forthcoming from the delegates meeting. Today's meeting should have the great and beautiful aim of showing how the Anthroposophical Society can be set a positive and effective task which can also win the respect of those on the outside. Something great could come about today if those present would not merely sit back and listen to what individuals are putting forward so very well, as has happened so far, but if indeed out of the Society itself, out of the totality of the Society a common will could arise. If it does not, this meeting, too, will have run its course to no purpose and without result.

‘I beg you, my dear friends, not to break up today without a result. Come to the point of setting a task for the Anthroposophical Society which can win a certain degree of respect from other people.’

The Christmas Foundation Conference for the founding of the General Anthroposophical Society was opened at 10 o'clock on the morning of 24 December. Dr Steiner greeted those present and introduced the lecture by Herr Albert Steffen on the history and destiny of the Goetheanum.




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