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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…
LOVE OF THE LAND
LOVE OF ART
Art History – Class 12
Ahhh, across the atrium into the last of five 23-hour Art History units in high school: Class 12 students are experiencing, in the Educational Zodiac, the inspirational power of Taurus. How apt this is for the teaching of this oh-so-astral subject, The Bull being the astral representative of the cardinal four of the animal circle as it is.
In the Esoteric Christianity zodiacal exposition, Taurus is the sign of Gabriel, Patron Archangel of Painting; the Patron Saint of Painting being St. Luke. Taurus is traditionally the House of Luke (the symbol of Luke being the winged bull) in the zodiac.
Art History of course is programmed in the 2nd, the Cultural stream of the middle lessons, that which awakens the astral organs of the adolescent. This timeless bull symbol is also a will expression; the will dwells in the metabolism. Bovines are, with their 4 stomachs, will animals. Art History is the will strand of the cultural stream. So we see a wonderful supporting synchronicity in both the Taurus year and Art History being astral/will in nature – as first principle anyway.,
One of the central goals of this 3-week unit is to open a door of opportunity for our 18-year-olds into the spiritually alive, soul-wholesome, financially lucrative …!? – Well, these 3 are there in potential anyway! – world of fine art, with its Bohemian undertones, social status, and cultural growth possibilities.
My own path was such: I studied art at night at East Sydney Tech in the late 1950s. In the early ‘60s I would journey with a group of artists to old Hill End in Central N.S.W. – this was before it was ‘discovered’ by the tourists. Here, with luminaries like the cartoonists Eric Jolliffe and Mollie Horseman, I would set up my easel in the middle of the empty street to sketch a quaint pioneer cottage – only to be moved on by the local – art-ignorant! – constabulary.
In my early Glenaeon days (late ‘60s) our Artist Holiday Weekends would attract a prestigious coterie of painters, sculptors, and craftspeople. One remarkable old man being Desiderius Orban.
Oh, how this aspiring young artist – me – hung on every wise word of Desiderius, this painter of renown with the funny name – the Father of Australian Contemporary Art! Another artist of renown from the Glenaeon days, one who combined a knowledge of Spiritual Science with a celebrated career as an abstract painter was Godfrey Miller, his brother Louis was the handyman at Glenaeon! Then there was the well-known Steiner/straight painter, John O’Brien.
And what about that group of artists of amazing vitality and ‘Left Bank’ mentality living in the Dural hills in the early ‘70s? They brought their children to Lorien Novalis, the most celebrated being Joh Olsen, whose daughter Louise was in my class. This highly talented girl later built an international career in creative jewelry. Others in the Dural group were the sculptor Gerard Havekes and painter Fred Williams.
But enough of me and mine; I got side-tracked and became an art teacher instead. AS they say, ‘If you can’t do it, teach it!’. So, what of your students, and ways to introduce them to the exciting art world through this lesson? Some ways to do this might include visits to galleries; art studios; exhibitions – and most important of all, entry of their own work. No matter the seeming hopelessness of winning, encourage your 18-year-olds – near adults – to enter local or even national art competitions.
Then you can ask artists, gallery owners and art critics to visit the school. How about after a visit to an art show, get the class to write a review and submit it to newspapers and/or magazines! You never know, they just might get one published. There should also be an art clippings pinboard – and festoon the room with Australian art pics!
In the planetary unfolding through each 7-year period, Class 12 are enjoying their Venus year; one in which the Cosmic Emotion, as described by Rudolf Steiner, is – unsurprisingly – Love. This Love is of course a far-reaching principle, encompassing love of nature, girlfriend – of themselves even. But most importantly, for this Australian Art unit, a love of art … no? Actually, it’s a Love of the Land.
One cannot fully appreciate our artistic outpourings without an understanding of Australian geography. This does not suggest that we only paint landscapes; rather how the landscape, cloudscape, seascape – the very texture of the continent – secretly infuses the soul of the truly inspired artist to manifest the Earth Spirit itself.
All regional art dos this; a study of, say, German art must consider that country’s climatic, telluric and topographic nature. In the case of Australia, this process is so much easier, being the only continent/country in the world as it is.
Another difficulty of, say, German national art is that it often overlaps so much with the global scene. What is Durer, a world or Teutonic artist? Well both of course, but this dilemma is not ours, as no Australian artist has ever ascended to international recognition. Possibly our art tradition, with the exception of Aboriginal art – the world’s oldest continuous culture! – is so hort. Besides, our population is so small, and its philistine component so big!
Australia is superbly positioned to comprehend the mystery of its own identity – ‘girt by sea’ as it is. There is a clear 4-fold ‘Body’ expression, as there is in all countries to some degree. But the picture, so to speak, is so much clearer here.
Firstly, Oz is known, in esoteric as well as lay circles, as the Fire Continent; fire is the element of the Physical Body, externally manifesting as it does in the red spectrum. Australia, or much of it, is indeed the Red Continent. When reds, ochres, browns, and golds dominate a picture, the work is likely to be drawing on this unconscious physical body inspirational realm – traditional Aboriginal art is a perfect expression of this.
Highly stylized Koorie art is often concerned with disembodiment – being so tentative that it was blown away by the next wind, literally; much of it drawn in the sand as it was. The vision, necessarily in earth colors, was from above, as plan.
The artist rose in spirit to follow a song line or overview a dreamtime image as his/her gnarled finger moved the sinewy forms in the dust – and dotted in the scared circles. In depicting animals on cave walls, again a psychic voyage led the artist to actually enter the animal, rather than portray it externally – hence their amazing X-ray pictures.
A journey through ‘European’ Australian painting from the first delicately toned watercolors of the early settlers to contemporary times, sees a gradual increase in, and understanding of, this earth spectrum. It took almost 100 years before artists looked, not with immigrant eyes, but the clear gaze of Terra Australis Del Espirito Santo on our ‘sunburnt country’. This was exemplified in the new awakening of the Heidelberg School, and later by Russell Drysdale and Sali Herman et al! Not that all artists employ this ochre palette, but those who do draw on, partly at least, this fire-body principle.
The second element, the air, is the vehicle for the Etheric life of the continent. This moves in an invisible wave from south to north from the ever-restless Southern Ocean. This ‘Southern Ether’ carries the formative forces across our – light-filled this time – continental home. These forces slowly diminish as we travel north.
If the Southern Ether fades with northern latitudes in Australia, so also does the form element in the visual arts. A display of Australian painting from north to south reveals this dwindling form-force – from Leonard French in chilly Melbourne, to Ian Fairweather on Dunk Island … tie for a joke: Which Oz painter pair would you least call upon in a crisis? … Fairweather-Friend!!
Much southern painting is almost cubist in its quest for form, structure, and pattern, whereas the more northerly expression is fanciful and image-based. The central regions of N.S.W. tend to be transitional in this context; look at Brett Whitely and Lloyd Rees. Lloyd, as did the Heidelberg’s, mostly painted rather the ‘light’ element of the southern ether than its form. See also Tom Roberts and Charles Conder in this light aspect.
Then there’s Australia’s Astral Body; this is dominated by our unique position as the smallest continent surrounded by the largest oceans. If the physical lives in fire and the etheric in air, then the astral ‘lives in’ the waster element. This works from outside in, being stronger around the coastal fringes Even Aboriginal art is more pictorial near the sea.
This astral element is further reinforced by The Great South Land being the continental response to the destruction of Ancient Lemuria; the 3rd, the astral-water epoch in this earth incarnation. The astral con be seen as a shipping force in nature; most of our eucalypts and other trees have a lunette-astral leaf profile – from the single leaf to the canopy!
Early 19th Century painters somehow managed to transform gum trees into elms; that’s why these pictures are so unconvincing. Virtually all Australian animals have this astral curve, like kangaroos, emus, possums, wombats and more. Compare these with, for instance, the ego-square fauna of South America!
The astral works through the artist’s soul, not necessarily as desire to shape all compositional elements into half-moons, but in the imagery itself. Narrative painting, like Sidney Nolan’s Ned Kelly series, is perennially popular in Australia with both the art elite and the public. But so are portraits, which, in a more subtle, subliminal way, tell a story too. The manifest an imagination, in this case of a person’s life.
Perhaps that’s why the Archibald, a portrait competition, is this country’s most coveted art prize? The Art Gallery of N.S.W. becomes a ‘sea of soul’ – of astrality – when the Archibald is hung. William Dobell, perhaps our greatest master, could, on occasion, capture all three ‘geo-art’ elements in a painting, for instance his Billy Boy. This is a glowing ochre palette with radiant air-light luminescence (tattoos and all!) – and an enticing biography waiting to be revealed.
The Ego of Australia resides deep in the crystalline power of its minerality; this country is in so many respects the mine and quarry of the world – or is that The Aladdin’s Cave?! There is greater variety and abundance of metals, gems, and rock types on this continent than any other. It is more mineralized because it is older – the oldest of the seven continents in fact.
This process of hardening and contraction is directly related to time. As Rudolf Steiner teachers us, the ego lives in the mineral element, and this ego expresses powerfully in this country through an unexpected aesthetic flowering – black and white art. Oh how this ego factor was revealed about 100 years after white settlement with the support of the Bulletin for a whole stable of clever cartoonists and quality comic creators, the best of course being Norman Lindsay.
Get your students to try their hand at cartooning, they might surprise themselves – and in time the world! – with their raw originality, philosophical insight, satire, or humor. The brilliantly conceived and well-drawn cartoon is fine art indeed, and invariable created by ego types – original thinkers.
This phenomenon completes an artistic circle, as the ego dwells in the sphere of the physical body – both in human and continental terms – the mineral was indeed born from fire. The sparkling crystals of this country, those which soundlessly inspire especially our black-and-white artists, were case-hardened in the fiery forge of Lemuria, birthplace of Adam (meaning ‘red earth’!) and Eve; and cradle of the first of the 7 Continental Brothers. Australia is truly the Land of Cain, of Prometheus, of ego-imbued creativity.
So through the 4 Elements/Bodies we can look forward to a future of artistic inspiration, and a plenitude of aesthetic power. We in Australia may not yet have had one of our own elevated to international status – but soon….
It may be one of your eager Venus-inspired 18-year-olds who eventually crests the world wave of great art; more important though, through the magic of an intelligent and comprehensive 5-year Art History course, s/he may be led, through a love of Art, to a love of Self as artist, and finally to a love of the Land itself.
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