anthroposophy without eurythmy?

Can you be an anthroposophist and not care a lot for eurythmy? I posted this delightful image on facebook. It’s from the most recent Anthroposophy Worldwide newsletter, containing some stuff about the annual meeting last weekend.

gensekSee page 4 (make sure you enlarge the pdf image, it is quite good). Supposedly (if I’m guessing correctly), these are the national societies’ general secretaries conferencing. They’re making a ‘t’. Described by Steiner:

The Eurythmy gesture for /t/ is tremendously large. One starts with the hands low, at the hips, with the palms turned outwards, and then lifts symmetrically upwards, gathering an enormous armful of space. One feels that one is reaching towards the stars, reaching towards God, towards what is great and inspiring. At the highest point, the arms curve together, the backs of the hands are laid against one another, and the entire harvested dynamic is directed downwards, landing on the top of the head in a point. Alternately, the /t/ can be directed anywhere in space, taking accumulated energy and directing it towards a point, touching a vividly imagined goal. As with its partner dental sound, /d/, there is much tension in the fingertips of the gesture. [OpenWaldorf]

I find the image rather entertaining, in a certain sense even… charming. But also scary. If somebody asks me what anthroposophy is, I might show them this picture. No, just joking. Or perhaps not, it sort of sums it up.

This is one aspect of eurythmy which creeps me out, and very similar to what kids have to do. In the basic exercises, everybody stands around or moves around, performing the same gestures — mindnumbing gestures, I’d say, but I guess people might feel differently about that. But everybody imitates the same thing. I’ve never had an easy time doing that. I still feel awkward having to clap my hands when everybody else does. I understand it is required and I obey, but it feels… awkward. I would never run a marathon, that’s for sure.

So I thought, well, this is a funny picture. I made some jokes to myself about it.

But then, on our evening walk, while mr Dog was watching out for easter bunny, I got back to thinking about this image. And I thought: what if somebody is an anthroposophist but doesn’t like eurythmy? Perhaps you’re at a conference but you just don’t feel like making a ‘t’ movement when everybody else is? Perhaps, while having coffee during the break, you’d say to some of the other anthroposophical big-wigs that eurythmy is not your cup of tea? Perhaps it just makes you feel awkward and although you understand the reasons for it — eurythmy, that is — it just doesn’t do it for you?

Honestly, I do wonder. Can you be an anthroposophist and never do eurythmy? Are there anthroposophists who avoid eurythmy?

(I’ll leave comments open. I really do want to know.)

12 thoughts on “anthroposophy without eurythmy?

  1. Eurythmy, like a lot of things I first encountered through anthroposophy, demanded something of me and I found it quite challenging, but I think it helped me. For some people the gestures they make will allways be empty, It’s their free choice

  2. Of course it is, in the end, their choice; I do understand that not doing eurythmy does not lead to death penalty, not even among anthroposophists. But I wonder how making such a choice is regarded. You came to feel that you benefit from it, and I assume that’s true for the majority of anthroposophists (given the importance eurythmy enjoys), but I’m guessing there might be those who don’t, those who can’t summon up the enthusiasm. It’s no point saying ‘it’s their free choice’ if such a choice is met with a negative social reaction. I understand it’s a free choice, but I’m still interested in the reaction!

  3. Sometimes seeing grown men doing eurythmy in public is quite excrutiatingly painful to watch. But then I suppose mostly it is to be experienced rather than to be viewed. Not unlike dancing in at a party. There are always those who do not dance because they are uncomfortable about expressing something personal in public. Is the point about eurythmy not different though as it is meant to expres something universal or cosmic rather than personal?

  4. I have known anthros who didn’t like it. One quite fanatical man always referred to it as ‘antics’.
    There are definitely anthros who avoid doing it. It isn’t essential to anthroposophy. What is essential is ‘the image of the human being’.

    There is peer group pressure in anthroposphical circles, but I am not sure that it is any more intense than in other small societies or associations.

    Some people hate eurythmy – others love it.

    The problem really occurs when people (children) are compelled to do it.

    And that is a problem with quite a lot of things which happen in schools.

    Most very young children can be drawn into doing most things without coercion, through the teacher’s own enthusiasm, and the fact that all the other children may be doing it and even enjoying it. (Have you read ‘Pig will and Pig wont’, by Richard Scarry?) When that doesn’t happen is it ever right to coerce the child into doing it?

  5. With an enthusiastic and talented person leading the event eurythmy can be a lot of fun, both in a school or at a conference. It can also be a way in to experiencing the space and people around us, rythm in words and tone in music to greatly enhance their experience and give us other ways of living and interacting with the world. Gives joy and happiness.

  6. Eva, in a Steiner school, would you accept Eurythmy being optional for the children? So anyone who doesn’t want to do it wouldn’t have to?

  7. Interestingly, a long discussion ensued on facebook after I posted the image there. I thought I’d mention it even though that discussion is in Swedish. If you want to read it, you’ll find it here:

    But to move on to this thread: I’ve never noted any such difference in how I perceive men doing eurythmy vs women! If anything, I’d say the opposite, men look much more cool. (Might have to do with it being slightly effeminate. And I… find that cool.)

    As for the personal vs universal/cosmic — well, I assume that, no matter what the loftier motivations, when it comes to actually performing it, the human is so bound to his/her body that the awkwardness is basically no different from other kinds of dance/movement.

    I find it interesting what you write about anthrosophists who don’t like it, Tom. I assume from what you write that such a person will still need a bit of self-confidence to go against the prevailing sentiment.

    Definitely true — you don’t have to coerce young children. They comply. Whole groups of children comply, too; disobedience comes in later, when frustration has been growing for years. (No, haven’t read it. Or I don’t think so. I remember having some Richard Scarry books as a child though.)

    I do think Tom’s question is valid — would it ever be optional?

    No matter how enthusiastic or talented the eurythmist, there will always be children who don’t think it gives joy and happiness. And it’s difficult to argue that eurythmy is necessary, like maths or reading or geography.

    (In addition — bad eurythmy teachers seem far too common. Even if the school can’t find good teachers, and the lessons regularly turn into chaos, and all the children despise it — waldorf schools still cling to eurythmy.)

  8. Easter holidays and people have time to play about on the computer…”And it’s difficult to argue that eurythmy is necessary, like maths or reading or geography.” Not difficult to argue about this at all. I might even be brave enough to say that Eurythmy protects the child from the onesided input of subjects, like maths, geography and reading by facilitating therapeutic physical and socially interactive experiences.

  9. Then I’d argue that there’s absolutely nothing speaking for eurythmy in particular in that regard. It would be more successful to let children experience some physical exercises or artistic movements they can actually enjoy.

  10. I am puzzled by Eva’s comment, ‘Easter holidays and people have time to play about on the computer…’. Is she referring to herself or someone else?

  11. To me it seems being an ‘anthroposophist’ is another rigid identity defined by some kind of relationship to anthroposophical practices like eurhythmy. Expressing dislike towards eurhythmy would be maybe like a Catholic expressing a dislike of rosary — maybe not a breach of the most important taboo, but still a breach..

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