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Alan speaks in a very symbolic and esoteric manner in some parts of his books. Although they can be read anthroposophically, passages speaking of Atlantis, archangels, gods, etc. do not need to be taken literarily to be meaningful. The more you read, the more you will realize he uses many different religions to express ideas in a symbolic manner and not in a religious manner. His writings are not religious. In some places his writings are meant to refer to religious events in a historical way. In some places he is using religious figures (from Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Paganism, Ancient Roman and Greek Religions, etc.) in a symbolic manner. However, at no point is he promoting a specific religion or speaking from a religious point of view.
I have kept the writing as close to one-hundred percent original so you will also find that he speaks of Australia often and some spelling or manners of speaking may be cultural. Any words I have changed are presented like this: <word>.
Also keep in mind that these books are written by a Waldorf teacher with decades of experience who also studied with a Steiner student himself, so he speaks to an audience that is dedicating their lives to the Waldorf method without exception.
Because of this, all of his views are not reflected in the Earthschooling curriculum and not all of them may be ones you want to embrace or are able to use. In all of Alan Whitehead’s writings the opinions are his own and may not align with Earthschooling or Waldorf Books. In some cases, we will be updating some of these chapters in the future with additional and/or updated information.
Ultimately, however, as I read through these passages I find I can distill wisdom from even those paragraphs that do not resonate with me.
We invite you to read with an open mind and heart and with eagerness to learn and discuss…
SUNRISE OF THE NEW AGE
Art History – Class 11
Post-Impressionism to Today
Wally was on the way to catch a plane to Melbourne to present the season’s advertising campaign to the bigwigs of our women’s underwear client, Hickory. Other agencies spend thousands mounting their sales pitch, but Wally did it on an airline napkin! But he was none-the-less successful; and all sans expensive color layouts, TV storyboards, poster ideas, overhead projector displays, etc.!
Instead, he would assail the bewildered client with a stream of such original thought, psychological depth and sheer marketing magnetism, that they would approve spending millions on a high-risk ad campaign without demure. Their confidence was simply based on this oblique man’s raw creativity – but that’s how it is with 20th Century Art.
Wally was a ‘modern artist’ – of a kind; he knew that associations of ideas sell; women do like panties which have the virginal freshness of sunrise. It was merely my art department’s job to portray it, with shivering models, down to their smalls being photographed reclining on cold rocks at Long Reef in the winter dawn!
Contemporary art works, among other ways, on the principle of power; there was creative valency in Wally’s ideas – and they sold lots of underwear! Power is the essence of the current Time Spirit dispensation of the Archangel (Archai!) Michael. From 1510 to 1879 the regency was one of Gabriel, of the ‘beautiful’; but when the golden scepter was handed to the warrior Zeitgeist, nothing would ever be the same again. Modern art is not great just because it’s beautiful (it still can be), but because it has power; the strength to truly represent the Spirit of the new age; therefore, it must, to qualify as modern art, embody one or more Michaelian elements; the first being for the artist to have the temerity to throw out the old in a quest for the new.
So, the first Michaelian element is New Values; a painting, drawing or sculpture must tell us something we’ve never known before. This is the Moon factor in this ‘new age’ art; our values, in a general as well as a specific sense, being lunar based. Psychedelic art is of the Moon.
Then there’s Universality; Michaelian art must have global relevance; it does not appeal just to regional, parochial, or sectarian interests. This internationalism is of Mercury – ‘Round the world in 40 minutes’ said Puck, the ultimate quicksilver spirit. A Mondrian abstract can as easily be appreciated, by the internationally discerning, in Ireland or Italy.
The work must be inherently Creative, the Venus quality, exploring new techniques, colors, forms, and media. The wave of creativity which has swept the European art community since 1879 is sweeping still! Christo’s headland wrapping in pink plastic may not satisfy lovers of good drawing, but it was – outrageously perhaps – creative.
The integrity of the Individual, the Sun aspect, is implied in much spirit-imbued modern art. It is a celebration of the Self, that which stands separated from the crowd – Michaelian-like – in a column of spiritual sunlight in a dark and soul-amorphous world. Mark Chagall courageously broke the age-old Hebrew ‘no image’ proscription in his demand for self-expression. It would have been so much easier to be a classical musician!
Spiritual Courage is the 5th, the Mars Quality. Many of the bet Mars-inspired 20th Century artists have risked all to make visual statement which have shocked humanity into wakefulness. It takes courage to invite scorn and opprobrium towards that which one loves.
From the earliest exhibitions – around 1879! – at the Paris Academy where the first modern art, as we think of it, made its tentative appearance, the detractors of the new have been unrelenting in their opposition; say to Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Tins. They yearn for the halcyon days when art was ‘beautiful’; it may not have actually said much, but it was beautiful. Michael is not a gentle landscape watercolorist, and Gabriel is not a warrior of reform!
Then there’s the ‘weighing of souls’; the Jupiter Michaelian quality. Justice is not as easy to discern in art, rather in human behavior, but it expresses through social comment in subject matter, through a quest for justice in an unjust world. Picasso’s Guernica is an example of Jupiter Michaelian art, depicting, through his eye-popping Cubism, the horror of war in general, the Fascism in particular.
Finally Cosmic Intelligence, the highest of the 7 planetary Michaelian qualities; this is of brooding Saturn. It is that which the contemporary artist worldwide is trying to wrest from Ahriman.
Ahriman, when he ‘fell’, stole Cosmic Intelligence from its high home; over time mineralizing it into natural science; and wrapping it in a shroud of intellectual materialism. It is the task of Michaelians, whether modern artists or otherwise, to bequeath this last, this Saturnian, intelligence treasure back to its heavenly home.
The Surrealist, Salvador Dali, forced us to reconsider the permanence and immutability of matter in his melting clocks. It would be difficult to imagine an artist, let alone a single painting/sculpture/drawing, which could incorporate all 7 Michaelian qualities – but in this world of spiritual impoverishment, one’s enough!
This 3-week Art History unit with Class 11 covers the world art scene (not Australian, dealt with next year) from 1879 to today. The teacher draws on this Michaelian wisdom, without necessarily mentioning it, in everything s/he presents – or the class discusses.
There is lots of free dialogue at this age, in this lesson, due to the fact that, as we’re living in the contemporary art process, we still can’t really understand it – we’re too close! No-one has resolved the mystery of, say abstract art, as we have Flemish 17th Century portraiture. Here we know it’s great, conforming to a long list of aesthetic canons as it does; and having stood the test of time.
But how do we know a munch ‘Scream’ is good, let alone great, when it (intentionally) breaks so many rules (the Moon Michaelian quality!) of good drawing, composition, color, etc. We will only really be sure that it has spiritual integrity in 500 years or so! This Gabriel/Michael complement, so wisely placed in juxtaposition by those On High, is sublimely expressed by the words Impressionism and Expressionism.
For over 300 years, humanity struggled, in this case artistically, to make sense of its ‘impressions’, the outer world of nature, people, of spirit even; all that worked from outside in – that which made an impression on the soul. Literally to the year the process reversed, with post-1879 European humanity searching within for an understanding of the mystery of life, and ‘expressing’ what it discovered.
The Gabriel time was an awakening to the outer world, the Michaelian to the mystery of the soul withing – even the body within! This soul-body duality expresses in some ways as a revisiting of Renaissance/Gabriel art, in its north-south dynamic. Most 20th Century famous artists are either North or South Europe in origin (whence modern American art?).
The north is centered on Germany (Feininger for instance), land of Ego-Michaelian consciousness par excellence, with areas like Scandinavia, the Low Countries – Russia even – adding their bit.
If the body of modern art is the north of Europe, then the soul is expressed rather in southern climes, like Italy, Spain and especially France. Modigliani’s tenuated figures are an aspect of the soul in tension. Curiously the best sculptors of the age are English; their color arts fading into obscurity. Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore are among the most important pioneers in this little-understood – in a modern context at least – art form. A good 3-week break-up of this unit might be one each for painting, sculpture, and drawing – will, feeling, and thought.
Americans may not often shine in the fine-art field, past or present (apologies to Jackson Pollock); but they do create the best advertising campaigns! After all, Coca Cola was supposed to have invented, late last century, from fragments of a Norse Mysteries character and St. Nicholas, that ubiquitous and decadent god of greed, Santa Claus – and you can’t bet that for commercial, if not aesthetic, success!
The best approach to Gabrielic art is through the feelings, Michaelic through thought. How apt then to present this unit to 17-year-olds who, to use a Steiner term, are experiencing their year of The Conceptual Aspect of the Astral Body. This literally means ‘thinking about picture’; thinking is an ego faculty. Cubism is an ego manifestation, the cube being the timeless symbol – the creation reality! – of the ego.
Students in junior high school simply cannot exert the necessary cerebral/soul power to comprehend the enigma of modern art, but Class 11 can. In the 7-year planetary cycles which accompany and awaken us right through life, Class 11 is, counting from Saturn in Class 8, the Sun Year. The sun is the home, as Rudolf Steiner tells us, of the ego; Michael is the Sun Archangel – ‘with God’ as his name means.
As the 7 Archangels represent an aspect of the 7 planets, we could give one of these ‘Fire Spirits’, as this 2nd angelic ranking is known, a nomination to each year of the 14 to 21 developmental period: Class 8, Oriphiel; 9, Zachariel; 10, Samael, 11, Michael; 12, Anael – then Raphael and Gabriel up to 21. How fitting then to teach a Michaelian – modern – art dispensation in the Year of Michael, Class 11. How armed are the students now with sun-enlightened concepts – the potential for Michaelian Cosmic Intelligence even!
And what of Steiner Art? Well let’s take geography again; this impulse arrived in Switzerland, the epicenter in Europe between north, south, east, and west! The sacred mission of Steiner art is, over time, to harmonize all aspects of Michaelian art; it is a quest for the Invisible, to paint, sculpt and draw (of which Steiner executed copious amounts) not merely body and soul, but the Spirit of Art itself – Michaelian in the highest sense.
Even though the ‘Steiner Art’ path is an inner one, it still requires a level of objectivity unobtainable by most artists; as such, it has not exactly swept the world, as Steiner education or agriculture is doing for instance. This Spirit art will however mature in the 3rd Millennium – the New Age of Abraham, or of Spiritual Revelation – becoming a cultural power we can only dream about.
But the pendulum will swing back sometime in the 23rd Century when Michael hands over the reins of regency to Oriphiel – what art then? A shadow of his last governance, from 200 B.C. to 150 A.D. – Roman art?! Oriphiel is The Witness among the Archangels, he who beheld the greatest event in the history of the world – that of the Mystery of Golgotha.
The scope of expression brought to the students can be very wide indeed in this unit, form advertising art (95% rubbish – 5% Michaelian-inspired)’ cartoons – “A cartoon doesn’t put something in, does not even inform, but awakens something already within, so that you exclaim ‘Ah yes, I know that!’” – Michael Leunig. Then there are all the post-modern schools, like kinetic art and so on.
A friend of mine, painter of abstracts, is going to die of liver cancer soon – “Religion has nothing to offer me,” she told me warily “but my art, now that’s different …” She went on to explain how her paintings give her comfort by externalizing the unique color configurations of her soul, even in the face of The Reaper. Is art a new religion in this Age of Disbelief? Current persuasions, especially of the Fundamental variety, seem to be bankrupt of art, unlike the majestic past, a poor testament to their veracity.
Stories of struggling modern Michaelian artists, living or dying, will touch the ‘unique color configurations’ of the souls of 17-year-olds as well. This raises the mystery of why, against popular belief, the abstract, the painting of the soul, is the most difficult of all styles to master. Anyone can learn representational painting, conforming to clear formulas as it does; but why an abstract picture or sculpture works – and 100 others do not! – remains an enigma.
One has to have spiritual courage of a high order to attempt abstract art – and the benison of at least one of the ‘7 Michaelian Qualities’ to succeed – even if one is merely designing a women’s underwear campaign on an airline napkin!