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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…
THE SPIRIT MOVES
The Language of Movement in World Fauna
Movement had always fascinated me; I guess that’s why I tried so many different sports when I was young. Most were satisfying, in their own way, but none completely so. Very early on I recognized a dominance of ‘body’ in most sporting activities, whether surfing, football, jogging, swimming, or even hang-gliding.
So, in my pilgrimage to transcend matter, I turned to dance. I learnt the steps, and even became a pretty good ‘improvised’ dancer, being able to interpret a piece of music in my inimitable way. What pleased me most, however, is that dance had more than mere body, it had ‘soul’ as well. As such it was an art, not just an activity. I have always objected to people calling a beautiful dance like ballroom a sport.
Did Fred and Ginger pump iron to get in shape? Were they athletes? Certainly not, but classic artists they assuredly were. I soaked this higher cultural element up by traveling (with my wife) widely to observe the dances of many peoples. As well, I have seen almost every dance film ever made – all being box-office successes it should be noted! Apparently a sedentary culture like our own likes to at least watch other folk move gracefully.
But I knew there was more; as well as body and soul, there must be spirit in movement – then I discovered Rudolf Steiner’s Eurythmy.
At first I was taken aback by the sexless, almost sepulchral tone of this highest of all movement arts (they call it ‘objectivity’). But after a few more performances, I began to detect the hidden substance, the sublime meaning, behind each ordained movement and gesture.
This is quite unlike dance, which, while its beauty and excitement remain undiminished, seems somewhat arbitrary. One can really do anything one pleases to interpret the particular music, story, etc. – or so my jazz ballet teacher once told me. The apparent constraint of freedom in eurythmy caused some conceptual problems for me at first.
“Why can’t they just make any movements they feel like?” I protested. But gradually I learnt that the so-call ‘free’ movement simply would have failed to express the supersensible reality of the expressed sound, tone, color – whatever.
“From where does movement originate?” I asked the eurythmy teacher one day. I was quite unprepared for her cryptic answer; one which I’m sure no athlete or dancer would be given.
“From the realm of the Dynamis; the Dance of All Worlds.”
Still puzzled – or even more so! – I pressed her for details.
“In the ranks of the Nine Choirs of Angels, the Dynamis at number five occupy the very center – they are the hub of Creation – of the universe indeed. After all, without movement there is no life; the movement universe being a limitless sensible and supersensible wheel – or a progressive spiral, actually.”
She went on to explain the ranking of the nine ‘angels’, four being below the Dynamis, or Spirits of Motion as they’re called. These are the Elohim, Archai, Archangels, and lastly those closest to man, the Angeloi. Above we have the Kyriotetes, Thrones, Cherubim, and the highest of the high, the Seraphim. As well, the nine hierarchies are grouped into three ‘Heavens’, the Dynamis being in the central heaven or Sun ream (Devachan in Hindu mythology). This contains the Elohim, Dynamis and Kyriotetes. Again, the spirits of movement occupy the hub of this wheel within a wheel. It is these who make all movement possible, from the squiggle of a worm to the dance of the planets themselves – and they are the inspirers of eurythmy.
The equivalent in man if this central Sun heaven is the rhythmic system; its epicenter being the chest. Here dwell the luminous Elohim, Dynamis, and Kyriotetes. This holy Trinity cooperates in every aspect of man’s ‘life’ or etheric processes – not least his movement.
We see this mystery unfold in the evolution of the wonderful animal world. First we have the invertebrates, the ‘head’ animals; from these evolved, in a manner of speaking, the cold-blooded vertebrates; the ‘chest’ animals. A fish is a good example of the cold-bloods, being merely a head with a chest attached, the long-ribbed backbone.
The kinetic laws embodied in this new vertebrae (meaning, aptly, ‘to turn’), were bequeathed by the all-generous Dynamis; as they were in our own spine. In fact, the backbone is the organ of the Spirits of Movement. That’s why when any damage occurs to the all-important spine, movement is painfully, and at times permanently, inhibited.
The strongest of men can barely crawl out of their armchair if they’ve slipped a disc. Due to men in particular abjuring graceful movement, they suffer much more back pain problems than women.
Oh, if they would only learn to dance – or do eurythmy even!
The vertebra is a miracle construction; every one of the 28 (adult) segments is an actual being or the osseous expression of one at least.
To paint a single vertebra is to imbue this calcified residue with color and life. Painted from whatever perspective -plan, anterior, elevation – each bone is a spiritual being, an awesomely lovely form.
Indeed, a different Dynamis impressed part of its being into the living bone in each of the 33 fetal vertebrae. Even the two spinal numbers, 28 and 33, are sacred, the first relating to the Moon, the second the Sun. The life of Christ, a Sun god, was 33 years.
With animals with long necks or tails, the Dynamis activity becomes varied indeed. The animal with one of the longest backbones of all, the snake, is also the most elegantly mobile. This creature is almost al backbone, from head to tail tip. With this range of spinal forms comes unlimited movement potential, and with it, unlimited soul potential.
The word animal is variously translated from the Latin as ‘movement’, or ‘soul’ – as expressed in words like ‘animate’, to move, or ‘animus’, negative emotion. This ‘soul’ moved from without to within with the evolution from the invertebrate exoskeleton to the vertebrate endoskeleton (represented most dramatically by the spine).
Though of course the head or skull of vertebrates is still exoskeletal – hence our cranium remains a paleologic reminder of the Archeozoic-Polarian invertebrate era. So, as soul internalized, so did ‘body’ – and so did movement. Invertebrates are considered, with their external soul and skeletal natures, to be exokinetic, their movement stimulated by the outside world. If conditions change for some insects, they just stop moving. Conversely, if the weather warms up, there will be a frenzy of moths throwing themselves against the screen door. These animals have no control over this externally generated animation. In essence all invertebrates are somewhat mechanical or robotic.
A new level of kinetic freedom is found, however, in the vertebrates, especially those higher on the evolutionary tree. These are rather endokinetic, their movement being generated from impulses within; from the internalized soul represented physically by the endoskeleton, the backbone especially. This osseous system is actually a Sun or etheric organ, and all movement, as we have seen, has its origins in the Sun realm. (The three ranks of the Second Hierarchy are known as the ‘Governors’ in Esoteric Christology).
Indeed, it was the mighty Dynamis (an epithet of these beings is the ‘Mights’) who initiated the Ancient Moon planetary evolution, that in which man achieved ‘animal’ status with his new astral, soul, or sentient body. In fact, we humans learnt the infinitely complex laws of movement on Ancient moon., Alas, we have now forgotten most of what we learnt’ which was admittedly sub-conscious, as it still is in animals whose kinesis is still of a dream nature at best. On Earth we forgot so that we could re-learn, in elevated awareness. Hence movement will one day again be beautiful and perfect as, in a specialized way, it still is with animals, especially vertebrates.
Re-enter ‘sport’; its task being to make movement conscious at a bodily level; whereas ‘dance’ lifts it into the realm of art. Eurythmy is the most conscious movement of all, replicating that of divine beings.
Eurythmy calls upon the Spirits of Movement for inspiration.
In ancient times, man, in his dream-like movement phase, even had a tail; a fact preserved in many old legends, and even in the fetus.
As our movement degenerated on becoming upright, the spine retreated, even fusing with the pelvis. This led to mobile constriction, compared at least with the movement of most animals today.
Man, however, has the unique potential of all vertebrates for pankineticism – all movement. Most animals can do one or other movement type very well, perfect almost – certainly much better than man.
Ah, if only I could swim like a sailfish! But none are as universal as our own, or even close. But caution: if our movement degenerates even further, thanks to our sedentary lifestyle and general materialism, our souls will be permanently imprisoned in our rigid bodies; and our spirit exiled without. The mighty mission of eurythmy is to prevent this.
Even though one can’t actually see the Dynamis, except with higher vision, one can see their wrought works. How often is the spirit uplifted to see an animal move, like a fine stallion in full gallop, or the sweeping dive of a falcon? Very often, especially if one has an artistic turn of soul! When observing animal movement, one is actually peeking into the Sun realm itself; that from which all the laws of movement – which are observable – come. For example, the overall external form of an animal conditions its movement patterns.
This is a sublime cooperative effort from both the spirits of form and those of motion. A round bear tends to roll along, its movement circular; whereas a rectangle-form horse steps along in crenellated patterns, in right-angles. And it is the smooth curve of a puma that dictates it sinuous gait. Even the wave-like motion of a kangaroo in full flight is an exact image of the shape of the animal.
Then there are the legs. These of course play a vital role in animal movement. Vertebrate limbs are divided into three sections, thigh, calf, and feet: being an anatomical expression of physical, ether and astral bodies, in the same order. The heavy femur of the thigh, with its physical body principle of unity, is dominant in animals that need to push their world to survive – clearly a physical body principle – as seen in rhinoceroses and … dinosaurs!
Even the lordly lion, he that is compelled to bring down large prey, has a dominant thigh, compared with the other two limb elements.
If the thigh is physical body, then the calf is etheric in nature, seen especially in, not femur-unity this time, but its tibia-fibula duality.
Long-legged running animals, like greyhounds and antelope, have long calves. These principles apply also to humans of course. A ‘push’ is needed in the rugby player, he with the massive thighs; but the marathon runner, he who moves in a sustained conveyor-belt-like etheric movement style, has long calves. We also see the extended calf in the hosiery model; she who moves svelte-like along the catwalk – the cat of course being the classic ether animal.
The foot, its many bones expressing rather the plurality of the astral body, is seen in extreme in dolphins and whales; the other two limb members degenerating to mere stumps. So too, in a different way, we have foot-dominance in bats and birds. The bird’s wing is actually an extended foot – some would say a hand, but this we reserve for humans; the hand being an expression of the ego, as it is.
In fact, consciously or not, aviation designers have copied birds’ wings in the aerodynamic shapes of planes. The hang-glider, with its large surface area, imitates the updraft-loving eagle; whereas ordinary glides have long, slim wings more like the albatross, primarily seeking wind currents as they do. This streamlining enables gliders to travel long distances, like albatrosses – that do so without a wing beat!
Fighter planes, striving for greater maneuverability, copy the short, stubby wings of hummingbirds or flycatchers, nature’s supreme aerobates. Planes that seek speed above all else, like the Concorde, have swept-back wings as seen in the falcon.
An aircraft designer must indeed become intimate with the laws of the Dynamis – of the Sun – whether he knows it or not!
So, one must consider the overall form of an animal to determine its general movement pattern, and the limbs for the specifics. Except this doesn’t account for one of the most important movement organs of all – the tail. As mentioned, we humans had a tail in dim ages past; in fact, this sometimes re-emerges in individuals today; often in the form of a small curly pit’s tail, an extension of the coccyx. Of course, in every animal the tail is part of the spine, the movement organ par excellence; the central bone of the rhythmic system. As the spine is the sacred shrine of movement, tailed animals have a distinct advantage in both mobility and flexibility. One of the finest tails belongs to the cheetah, fastest land animal on earth; its overly long tail giving it increased linear dimension, hence balance. Compare the cheetah’s sweeping gait with that of its prey, the art hog, with its tiny – piggy! – tail. This it holds up in the air like a kind of flag as it minces across the savannah.
A degenerating tail-kinetic principle is seen when a tail can be used as a fly stitch, as in gnus and zebras. One certainly cannot imagine a jaguar’s tail so demeaned; one which can even be used as s backwardmoving aid; the wary cat swishing it from side to side sensing its path of retreat as it melts back into the jungle. What a contrast this is to the rag-end tail of the hyena with its awkward, broken-back lope.
In fact, most cats, with their more elegant tails move more gracefully than dogs – except perhaps greyhounds; then look at their lovely, curved tails. A cat exception is the bobcat, with almost no tail at all; and how does it move – it bobs! The thick sagebrush hides the quarry, so the bobcat has to bounce around in a series of high leaps to gain height. This is a movement type for which a tail is an actual impediment. Short-tailed goats nimbly jumping around from rock to rock embody the same principle – with springboks being the extreme example of bobbers. A ragged tail is one in decline, as is the motive faculties of its owner, like cows for instance. Yet its domestic peer, the horse, with its flowing tail, is one of the highest expressions of animal movement. The form-flexibility (a horse’s tail has almost no bone) of the equine tail reflects the versatility of its movement patterns, from galloping, to cantering, walking, trotting – and bucking even.
The kangaroo is another great mover, its long, powerful tail being really a giant spring. The macropods (‘big feet’!) have the most efficient ‘movement for energy expended’ of any animal.
To deepen the sense of reality of this movement-tail phenomenon, one has to just imagine, say, a swift-funning fox with its tail cut off; an obscenity too horrible to contemplate. Reynard simply could not survive without what dog dockers call its ‘unnecessary accessory’; the bumbling antics of a tail-docked boxer dog proving the point.
And talking about tail docking; no animal can fare worse that those at the mercy of criminals who cut off a shark’s fin and tail to provide an unconscionable Asian market its shark fin soup. They then heartlessly throw the still alive fish back into the sea for an excruciatingly slow death. Sharks have a longitudinal, triangular tail, one that creates an angular swimming pattern. This is employed to advantage by the thresher shark, which, as the name implies, cuts a swathe through a school of fish threshing away with its immense triangular tail, efficiently stunning its dinner, to be consumed at leisure later.
The dolphin has an astral rather than etheric tail; as it is gracefully curved and latitudinal, pushing its similarly curved owner along in undulating astral patterns. Spider monkeys – like almost all tailed primates – move with incredible agility through the canopy; their long, curved prehensile tails a kind of fifth limb. Yet the tail-less monkeys, like chimpanzees and gorillas, are relatively gross in their movement – as is the case, to an even greater extreme, with koalas and wombats.
The tail contains an entire language of movement; one to be read with great accuracy by those with eyes to see – and the Virgoan ‘sense of movement’ to perceive. We indeed absorb the mysteries of movement through the Virgo region, that of the upper abdomen, the diaphragm in fact – the center of Dynamis activity in man.
So, after years of such ruminations, I at last felt comfortable about learning, as well as sport and dance, the beautiful, intelligent art of eurythmy. This is especially so due to it expressing and indeed illuminating such sublime knowledge as animal movement.
Even deeper insights of this mystery can be found in a study of the 12 Greek Zodiacal Rhythms (see my book A Children’s Anthology).
Here one is led to an understanding of both the short-long iambic Cancer rhythm and the soul nature of a sheep when one is asked by one’s teacher to skip around the room like a spring lamb – short-long, short-long, short-long…!
Australian’s wild dog, the Dingo
FROM: Sacred Fauna: Zoology in Light of Steiner’s Spiritual Science
Four Kingdoms Companion volume to: Sacred Places Minerals & Land; Sacred Fauna Botany; Sacred Faces A Study of Man