Copyright Alan Whitehead & Earthschooling: No Part of this book, post, URL, or book excerpt may be shared with anyone who has not paid for these materials.
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…
Kingdom of Capricorn
Relief Sculpture – Class 8
“The blind shall see again” thought Art Teacher as she saw 14-year-old Jasmin feel her way to her desk. Even if mostly unseeing, Jasmin’s large, hazel eyes sparkled with expectation as she thought of the possibilities of this 3-week afternoon Sculpture block lesson that was just beginning. Jasmin had always loved modeling, and as such, right through childhood, was no stranger to the world of form.
She had found the earlier painting block a little hard, but with her heightened sense of touch, she should really be able to express her inner being through sculpture. This art harmonizes the opposite but complementary senses of touch and sight as no other. A blind person, by just feeling the sculpture of the face, can tell what a friend actually looks like – and Jasmin had some good friends – especially Steen!
Sculpture is one of the classic 3 Visual Arts, those that rest safely in the spiritual chalice of Capricorn, the sign that eternally bequeaths the sense of Sight to mankind. In the great ordering of the cosmos, the Zodiac – the ‘body’ spiritual home, expressing as the Birth sign – makes available to man the whole range of the 12 Senses. With these he perceives, and participates in, the incarnate world – after death reporting back to the Spirit, so to speak.
The high gods cannot directly see the material world, being spirit-beings as they are; so Man is the eyes and ears – and all other 10 senses – of our divine benefactors. WE must consciously and conscientiously develop the 12 senses – sometimes parallel: and at others, with a strong bias – life after life after life…
These 12 Zodiacal Sense are most powerfully informed by the 12 Zodiac Subjects taught in most schools (even if they don’t know it). Each subject has its home in one or other sign. With the Visual Arts, this ‘house’ is Capricorn, with its nominal sense of sight – as the Masters of the Formative Forces assert.
Through painting, sculpture and drawing, Art Teacher’s eager 14-year-olds would learn a whole range of subtle sight-enhancing skills. With the lovely Jasmin, most of this sublime experience would be through the art of sculpture. Even now her sunny, round face was smiling like a lamp at the prospect of getting her hands in it!
Over the 5 years of visual arts, the students’ eyes would gradually be disciplined to define shades of colors, tones, compositional elements, reflection, chiaroscuro, forms, and movement. These enhanced visual skills, a form of rudimentary spirituality, would be taken as hand-luggage when the learners, on each one’s melancholy day, joined the star ship for that long voyage to the Great Art Studio in the sky.
Through the Planetary realms they sail – then the Sun world – and finally the most distant of all, they enter the great wheel of the Zodiac – the Starry Main itself. Passing through sign after sign, they arrive at the heavenly ‘mansion’ of Capricorn. Beyond the portals of the Sea Goat is an effulgent world of spirit light, of indescribable grandeur and beauty.
Poor souls who have spent their precious life on earth watching television (this electronic equivalent of visual art doesn’t travel well in the spirit)’ or who may have rarely if ever admired the sky; or rejected the opportunity to advance self-knowledge through the visual arts, are rendered spiritually blind by the impact of the Capricorn realm. They are unable to recognize what they ‘see’; and the merciful gods put their ‘eyes’ out.
They are then led by the hand, as they grope pitifully and sightlessly (relatively speaking) though this peacock-bright world of Capricorn. Perhaps they may catch a yearning glimpse of the splendor they are surrounded by, but cannot experience it either directly, or completely. Unlike Jasmin, they chose not to see on earth, in the artistic sense that is, so they are self-condemned to be blind in the spirit.
A comprehensive visual arts program, from Class 1 to 12, is regarded as one of the most holy gifts a school can bestow on its young. Art Teacher, running a hand through her fine, blond hair, was about to bestow yet another impactful, 3-week sight experience on her Class 8.
“Now we’re going to create a small relief sculpture;” she began as the curious teenagers settled behind their studio desks “as you know, sculpture is an art, and we approach art as an end in itself. We do not create art to perform a function; in this case like a kettle stand or something. That is more the ream of craft; that’s why, speaking as a purist, pottery for instance is a craft rather than an art.”
Art Teacher held up one of her own small ‘art’ pieces; it was a flat plaque, about as large as a breadboard. It seemed to shine with a much-buffed patina of soft brown, with a tincture of green – and there was even a gold sheen about it. On the plaque was a carved/modeled design in high and low relief. These ‘mountains and valleys’ crated a pleasing light and shadow effect. The design was quite simple really, being more symmetrical than not – in the ‘Classical’ style one might say.
Centered on Art Teacher’s plaque was a head of a male lion; this was very high relief indeed, with aspects like brow, cheeks and ears standing out strongly. Around the head was a pattern of papyrus-like scrollwork, the treatment here being shallower – an artistic device which high-lighted the lion-head even more. Surrounding and containing the whole thing was a heavy, beautiful, highly-polished wooden frame. It was a very attractive piece indeed, designed to hang on a wall which received oblique light, say new a window – light which enhances the modeling of the work.
“You’re going to make one of these,” she said “oh, not the same design of course, you’ll probably come up with something better than this, not so old-fashioned perhaps – but not crass mind! To do a good job will take some time, quite a few afternoons in fact – so don’t hurry it. Now you first draw the design you want, after careful consideration; this is the all-important ‘idea’ stage.
Until you’re really happy with the design, you shouldn’t proceed. Do the drawing same-size as the finished sculpture. Okay, that having been done, take a block of soft clay (we’ll go down to the craft room for this) and roll and press out a flat pad the size you have chosen. This should be about 2 cm thick, more so if you want a really deep relief.
Now carefully transfer, by eye, the design from the paper onto the clay; use a scriber or pointed knife for this. Then press, cut, groove, model, gouge – whatever – the elements of the design, which of course must be conductive to soft clay. Overnight this will harden, and you can continue with the next stage of cutting, scraping, pattering, abrading, etc. the now hard clay – the finer techniques can be done at this stage. You will then be finished with the relief section. I want to check that!
Having made sure that the new sculpted clay pad has straight, even edges, in whatever shape you like – rectangle, oral, even circle! (Rectangle/square is easiest of course), you build a little box around it. Use thin wooden slats, scraps will do. This ‘form-work’ will be about 2 or 3 centimeters higher than the clay. Then you mix a pourable solution of plaster of paris and pour it into the mold.
Oh, first we will put a skin of very fine sandwich-wrap plastic over the clay to prevent the plaster sticking to it. Don’t forget that; that is if you don’t want to spend hours picking out bits of clay from the plaster when you separate the two!
Having freed your now-hard plaster from the mold (if you’re careful, you can make many plaster casts from one mold – how about a wall frieze of repeat panels?) you can go on working, further improving the design by cutting in new elements, or just tidying up.”
After buffing to get a nice surface, colors of your choosing can be added – don’t make it garish though, you will nullify the lovely form aspect of the work. Usually one color is enough, like plum boot polish or something, applied briskly with a rag. The color collects in the crevices, intensifying the light/dark effect as does the near-white highlighting on the raised surfaces. When we’ve finished this, we build the permanent frame around it, and hang it on the wall – or the set of 3 for a frieze whatever!”
Anna flicked trough the sculpture book that Art Teacher had brought in to ignite ideas. She paused at the Celtic carvings on Hibernian crosses and sacred objects. “It seems that the more primitive type of people prefer relief, while advanced artistic cultures – like the Greeks and Renaissance artists – prefer statues proper, or sculpture in the round?” Art Teacher looked over her shoulder’ she was actually observing the student’s strong hands, common in people who choose sculpture as their means of expression.
“Good thought,” she replied “3-dimensional sculpture is a far more difficult and sophisticated medium. One could say that relief carving is a kind of transition from drawing to sculpture. The more immature artistically the culture is, the shallower the relief. A lot of that Celtic material is merely etched patterning into the stone, whereas – over here, turn a few pages – this Medieval relief work on the cathedral columns is deep-cut indeed. It still doesn’t compare with the great sculptural creations of Donatello or Michelangelo. I think you, even as the young sculptor you are, should keep your designs simple at this stage.”
Art Teacher stared out of the window at the sun twinkling through the colored leaves of the maple tree. She thought of the origins of sculpture – this Art of the Etheric Body, according to Rudolf Steiner. She considered the forces of form, movement, and light, which were born on that ether-creation center, Ancient Sun.
Here the Spirits of Form, the Exusiai; those of Motion, Dynamis – and of Harmony, the mighty Kyriotetes, cooperated in creating this etheric entity which give life to every person; and in a higher sense, sculptural talent. She thought of the maple tree, as a symbol of the 2nd Earth epoch, Hyperborea – yet another plateau of etheric evolution. The classic form of the maple leaf is an expression of Hyperborea – Canada, the country of young Jasmin’s birth, is in that ‘beyond the North’ region. Hyperborea was an earthly recapitulation of Ancient Sun, a period when true air as we know it came into Being. These two elements, the light of the sun manifesting in the human heart, and the air of the lungs, truly are the physiological home for the Art of Sculpture.
This cardiac-pulmonary, blood-air system is the life-center of man, sculpture being its cultural reflection. In the 3 ‘blood’ aspects of the visual arts, this is the central system. Painting relates to the arterial blood system, and drawing to the venous, or ‘blue’ blood. Painting is essentially, according to the Doctor, a Will art; drawing – more concept-related as it is – is inspired by Thinking.
Art Teacher could see the Feeling element of sculpture pouring its coruscating power into the souls of her toiling class. Jasmin had proceeded straight to the clay stage, not finding the image-related sketching stage necessary. Dennis, having worked out his design, was pushing away at the clay with vigor his strong face intense, his muscular hands intelligent.
She thought perhaps that the dreamier Kathy, at the moment resting her clay-soiled hands – hands which recoiled from the fold substance – might have preferred a different, but equally valid, kind of relief sculpture. Maybe something that didn’t get those slim, white fingers dirty, like paraffin wax caring with beaten copper shim.
She knew that young Steen would have loved simple relief wood carving, even though his application to his clay-plaster work was excellent. His refined etheric body would have been inspirited by a similar quality in the timber, expressed through its beautiful grain, smell, texture, warmth/light colors…
Art Teacher also wondered how adventurous these budding artists would be; she didn’t want to stifle inventiveness by suggesting all the possibilities of this ‘art of the formative forces.
‘Hey!” it was Steen, his shock of curly hair came up in surprise “If I model the clay so that some parts go above the mold box, there will be holes right through the plaster. I can get a kind of fretwork that way. I’d better be careful though, so that it’s not too fragile.”
“It’s funny,” said Kathy now happily working away on her clay with a wooden spatula! “you’ve got to think in reverse with this. When you make a dent in the clay, it’s going to be a bump in the plaster – and vice versa!”
“Indeed” replied Art Teacher but thought “And what an etheric exercise that is, thinking in reverse. This is the artistic counterpart of that other etheric activity, meditating on the day backwards! The etheric world always expresses as an opposite by complementary process to the physical.” Jasmin let her fingers rove adoringly over the surface of her plaque “Gosh I love sculpture” she whispered.
“At least she won’t be blind in the Kingdom of Capricorn” smiled Art Teacher to herself as she wrapped up the block of wet clay.