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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…
Scrimshaw to Sandstone
Stone Sculpture – Class 11
It was hot, heavy work loading the large lump – block would be a charitable word – of sandstone into the school trailer. But that was the one Alan wanted. He said that he could ‘see’ the head entombed within; an entity he was going to tirelessly release over the next 3 weeks. Alan had seen the piece by the roadside at an excavation site, after it had been foreshadowed to Class 11 that they were going to have a 3-week Stone Carving Block Lesson.
Alan was one of those purists who believe that sculpture, being the living art that it is – Art of the Life Body indeed! – should be done out of the materials the artist lives with – in this case, the geological environment. “After all,” he reasoned “the Inuit people of the Arctic carve reindeer antler; and the Polynesians sculpt in coral. Our school sits on an immense bed of sandstone, of beautiful color and texture. Why should I import a block of, say, black granite!?”
“Because black granite might be the most perfect lithic substance with which to express the content.” Answered Art Teacher patiently, rolling her grey eyes skyward “For instance, the sculptor who created the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington used black granite to reflect the sadness in the souls of those who made their pilgrimage to it.
She, the sculptor, attracted opprobrium for rejecting the traditional white marble (‘purity of soul’), and the heroic figures of Marines storming the hill. Her sculpture, for that is what the wall truly is – even without a figurative dimension – is a plain black structure with the (unqualified – no officer/men distinctions) names of the fallen, or missing, carved in simple lettering.
The stroke of genius however was in working up this immensely hard black granite into a high polish. This darkly mirrored the observer – the mourner – whose image appeared ghost-like behind the names. The deeper meaning, and profound emotions, that this elicited are unnumbered. Perhaps a grieving father, while reading his son’s name on the wall, sees – superimposed – his own image; or is that his son? This deeply moving effect could not have been achieved with sandstone.”
And so, the discussion went in the preparatory stages of this exciting unit. Sculpture of course is one of the 3 Visual Arts, those which, in the context of the Will (block lesson), awaken ego consciousness.
This egoism is particularly apt here, because the mineral element, especially stone, was created by the World Ego. Both the ego and the mineral arrived in this 4th – Earth – planetary ‘glove’. When students confront the resistance of stone, and overcome it, they strengthen their own ego forces. In so doing, they also become more informed of this ego-mineral miracle.
Of the 3 Visual Arts (painting and drawing are the other two), sculpture occupies the 2nd strand, that of Feeling. Sculpture moves the soul as neither of the others can; perhaps it’s the 3-dimensionality, being more life-like than the other two. It was the art perfected by the Greeks; they whose task it was to incarnate the Rational Soul in human culture. This new-born faculty is of course the semi-transformed (lifted onto a culture-conscious level) etheric or ‘life’ body.
Many Greek marble statues move the sensitive viewer to tears, for no other reason than their sheer beauty and perfection. “How did they do it?!” one hears the awed whispers. It was this sense of wonder that Art Teacher was attempting to instill into her 17-year-olds, by showing them pictures and books of the great – and small but still great! – stone sculpture of the past.
She began with those charming little Neolithic ‘Venus’ figurines, of some 27,000 years ago. From the small to the large – make that gigantic! – the great pre-Christian White Horses of Britain, carved into the bride-white chalk. Young Alan looked a little dismissive when his teacher eulogized the massive black granite statues of Ancient Egypt!
“this brings up the issue of permanency” she said “There is a ‘weighty’ responsibility in the hands of the stone sculptor. It is likely that your statues will not only outlive you but survive for many generations! Even the Buddha figures cut into the limestone caves at Guilin in China survived the ‘Cultural Revolution’; although most of them have lost their noses – hands! Those too high for the teenage vandals to reach – yes, young people about your age – are still intact.
So the work should attempt to portray some timeless truth; or at least a level of artistic integrity which is a perennial constructive influence in the souls of those whose legacy the work becomes Stone sculpture is not a pastime; some of you will only be able to create one work in the coming 3 weeks – even then doing a lot of it in your own time. As long as the piece can stand the scrutiny of the years, then you have given a significant gift to the world. If not, then it was better that it were tossed, like the proverbial millstone, into the deep, blue sea… no, better to destroy it; there’s a good chance that future archaeologists would one day fine it – as they did this wonderful piece.”
Art Teacher paused to allow for the impact of the spectacular picture she held up. “The Winged Victory of Samothrace, in white marble, was found on the seabed over 2000 years after it was dumped … sunk? Now this artist left, not a cringe-creating expression of his own muddy subjectivity, but a work of unmatched splendor.”
The students leafed through the Stone Sculpture books scattered around the room, jotting down notes in preparation for their own initiation into this, at times monumental, always impressive, medium. Their teacher pondered on its esoteric origins. These began, in a ‘culture-conscious’ form, with the Tomb Mysteries of Ancient Egypt. Here the rites, which have been perpetuated, especially through Freemasonry, were immortalized in stone.
Spiritual truths are found in all aspects of the mostly sepulchral Egyptian stone sculpture, whether in content, proportions, medium, or siting In fact the word monument means ‘to remind’, which is the function of much ancient statuary – even as far back as those ‘monumental’ Easter Island heads. These are indestructible reminder of the grandeur of Ancient Atlantis.
As the Atlanteans had not yet bonded the etheric (memory) body with the physical, and hence suffered a kind of collective amnesia, they hewed great stone monuments, plinths, obelisques, walls, dolmens, stone circles, et al – to remind them of their momentous events, triumphs, and tragedies. Australia’s obsession with ‘Lest we Forget’ ceremonies, with their Mason-inspired lamentations, are always performed around statuary or monuments – this is actually a relic of Atlantan consciousness.
After all, ‘mason’, in the generic sense, means stone worker; the Order’s ascending/descending interpenetrating triangle compass-and-square emblem (stone working tools), is a symbol of the wedding of divine and earthly etheric energies; the same that will hopefully inspire the students in their igneous endeavors. Sculpture is after all the art of the Etheric Body.
The class had set up their ‘sculpture studio’ in a simple roofed area at the back o the school. the nature of this aspect of the art, stone carving, with its heavy, gritty material, lends itself to an outside venue. Here, where ethe chips fly and the dust drifts, no-one cares how messy it gets; hence the students can work away happily in an ambience of freedom – and anathema to those with a ‘precious’ disposition!
Art Teacher gave them the greatest possible range in selecting their material, subject, and size; one couldn’t expect a delicate boy, with hands like anemones, to carve a Brontosaurus from a big block of black basalt! Or someone like the sturdy Alan to be happy with Emu Egg carving!
And speaking of egg-carving; she also reminded them of bone, and even ivory carving “All it has to be is mineral, not necessarily stone.” She informed them generously “Then there’s clay; as long as you don’t model it, which calls on a different, softer faculty then carving, or ‘sculpting’ proper. With clay you can form a block to the size and rough proportions you need, when it has hardened, you carve it.” A couple of students subsequently chose this less demanding medium, sculpting some quite impressive portraits. These were later fine-sanded and enameled, looking almost marble-like in the end; especially the white clay works. Even unfired clay sculpture is durable.
“… and don’t forget limestone; slate; tuff; marble; pumice; shellstone (both very soft and easy to carve); mudstone; basalt – if you’ve got a year to do it! Yes Alan, what is it?” Art Teacher’s grey eyes turned skyward as her top sculpture student reminded her of the virtues of sandstone – yet again! His work was certainly taking shape; there did seem to be a gnome-like figure emerging from the pink-gold stone. Alan was carving freely, according to the many-colored layers in the block, its inherent laminal structure determining the forms. Alan was uncompromisingly dedicated to his art, coming down to the studio to chip away even in his lunchtimes. The venue may have been rough, but it was well-equipped, with a grinding wheel to sharpen the tools; large clamps and vices attached to rough-hewn but strong benches – and a shadow board full of chisels, rules, scribes, dividers, rasps, hammers, mallets, squares … !
The skills to set all this up were given by a consultant monumental mason, a parent of one of the students. How they enjoyed the visit to his huge studio – how they admired the talent in those massive hands, as they chiseled away at the scroll or Roman lettering on a polished slab; or put the finishing touches to a cherubic face destined to lovingly abide on the grave of a tragically-departed infant.
“But is that art?” a colleague quibbled later.
“It sure aint’ plumbing!” shot back Art Teacher, who went on to describe another productive activity which the class participated in, as a prelude to actual sculpting. This was a visit to a city park where many statues loitered around under their mantle of pigeon poo. Here the students photographed the works, with an emphasis on unusual angles and light-shadow play. These pictures formed part of the Sculpture Exhibition held for the rest of the school at the end of the unit. “You have to learn to look from every possible angle,” Art Teacher had insisted to a student who could only envisage the token middle-distance, three-quarter view. “Lie under the damn horse and photograph it!”
On the way home from the park, the class visited a couple of sites where nature was the sculptor, especially some fabulous honeycombing in the beachside sandstone cliffs – “yea sandstone!” crowed Alan!
Later back at school, Anna, when seeing a picture of the giant carved cliff-face at Mount Rushmore in America – the one with the faces of American presidents – wanted to do something similar at school – similar in concept if not size! Down in the gully, there were small, exposed sandstone ramparts; here the pretty – and ambitious – 17-year-old wanted to carve – ‘improve upon’ – an existing form in the living rock, a form that suggested a Goanna.
After a serious reminder of how permanent it would be, was she allowed to – under supervision – proceed. “Only if you make it as timelessly acceptable as the Aboriginal rock carvings in the area we saw the other day!” warned Art Teacher. And she did. Again, using the natural Feng Sui (‘wind water’) forms, of that master sculptor, Mother Nature, the reptile seemed to grow from the stone. In one place it jutted out, in another, melting right back into the rockface.
“What will future archeologists make of this!?” the young creator of ‘Goanna Frozen in Time’ enthused when it was done. She took another photograph for the end-of-unit Exhibition.
“The usual nonsense they make up about a lot of other ‘ancient’ works of art I daresay! They’d say it was 40,000 years old- and part of a primitive fertility ritual!” replied Art Teacher tersely. Anna’s earlier work was certainly a contrast; she had brought a slab of polished red granite which she had obtained (slightly damaged) from a stone supplier. On this she acid-etched a tranquil river scene.
“It barely makes it into the sculptural area; there is only a minimal relief effect – so why don’t you carve some of the prominent features a little deeper, to create ‘lowlights. In this context I suppose even glass etching is mineral sculpture’? mused an amused Art Teacher.
“I want to do some scrimshaw after this.” Said Anna.
“No problem, as long as you can supply the Sperm Whale’s tooth!”
“Oh dear, maybe we shouldn’t have campaigned so hard to have whaling banned back in Class 6!”