The Rudolf Steiner Archive

a project of Steiner Online Library, a public charity

Eurythmy as Visible Speech
GA 279

Synopsis of Lectures

I. Eurythmy as Visible Speech

It is necessary for the eurythmist to be able to enter into eurythmy with his whole personality, with his whole being, so that this art may become an expression of life itself. When we wish to penetrate into the nature of eurythmy we have to do with a penetration into the being of man. Eurythmy must be a creation out of the spirit and must make use of human movement as its means of expression. Speech itself is not the imitation of anything, and eurythmy also must represent an original creation. ‘In the beginning was the Word.' Primeval humanity conceived ‘the Word' as comprising in itself the entire human being as etheric creation. This human etheric body is in continual movement, ever taking on new forms; these forms are only to be captured when the whole content of speech is uttered aloud and thus given shape. These sound-forms which issue from the larynx are inherent in the formation of the larynx and its neighbouring organs. When we utter a word we produce a definite form in the air. If we were able to utter the alphabet from a to z, in such a way that the whole could take shape in the air, we should have the form of the human etheric body. This etheric body contains within it the forces of growth, of nourishment and of memory; all this is imparted to the air when we speak. In this way words arise. The etheric man is the word which comprises the whole alphabet. That which comes into being through speech is the birth of the etheric man. In the sound of each individual word some part of the human being is contained. Everything in the world is a part of us. Nothing exists which may not find expression through the human being. In the creative larynx we have the etheric man as an air form in a state of becoming. Spoken words are always a partial birth of the etheric man. When we speak we have to do with an etheric creation of the human being. In speech we are faced with a creative activity welling up from the depths of universal life. Speech is bound up with the origin of the human being. Human knowledge begins with wonder, with a; in b we have the protecting sheath; every sound tells us something about man; when we arrive at the sound z we have a synthesis of human wisdom. Nearly the whole life of the soul, in its aspect of feeling, is expressed in i, o, a. These possibilities of movement when held fast give us the physical form of man. This perfected form arose out of movement, out of primeval forms which continually came into being and again dissolved. Movement does not arise out of that which is at rest; the form at rest arises out of movement. The human form is the result of a divine eurythmy. Every art may be traced back to a divine source; but because eurythmy makes use of the human being as its instrument it enables us to see most deeply into the connection between the human being and the universe.

II. The Character of the Individual Sounds

Consonants: an imitation of external happenings; vowels: an inner experience; h: midway between the consonants and the vowels in its relation to the breath; for the breath is partially an inward experience and in part streams outwards. Primeval language. The nature of the individual sounds.

III. The Gestures: How They are Formed and Experienced

The mood and feeling contained in the sounds: s, z, a, e, u, ei, b, c, d, f, 1, m, n, z. An explanation of the way in which, by means of eurythmy, the experiences underlying the gestures may be carried over into their actual form.

IV. The Individual Sounds and Their Combination into Words

The inner nature of the sounds was revealed in the ancient Mysteries. The different characteristics of language; for instance the German language is a sculptor, the Magyar language a hunter. — Eurythmy is a language which may be understood if approached without prejudice. The sounds are the essential basis of eurythmy; special attention must be paid to the transition from one sound to another. By means of eurythmy it is possible to enter into the living spirit of language and to experience the essential nature of words. — In the Russian language one is always following on the tracks of the word; in the French language the movement is always in advance of the word. One may pass over from the nature of individual words to the inner logic contained in language. In this logic the character of the different peoples is brought to expression.

V. The Mood and Feeling of a Poem

Transition from the actual sounds to the logical or emotional content of speech. Emphasis. The question mark, exclamation mark, merriment, cleverness, knowledge, self-assertion, frenzy, insatiability, inwardness, charm, the bringing of tidings, sadness, despair. By means of these gestures different moods of soul may be brought to plastic-eurythmic expression.

VI. Different Aspects of the Soul-Life. The Inner Nature of Colour.

Description of gestures which are drawn out of the whole human organization and which express some underlying mood. Devotion, solemnity. The three categories of the life of the soul: Thinking, Feeling, Willing. The more intimate nature of a poem is expressed by means of the treatment of language. The use of the e-sound by poets tending more towards thought, the epic; the use of the sounds a, e, u, when the tendency is towards feeling; the use of many consonants when will is predominant. Straight and curved lines. — Significance of sound when choosing colour of dress and veil. It is only possible to enter truly into the nature of a sound when the corresponding colours are experienced. Colour is the life of the soul transfixed in the outer world. Every human being has a fundamental colour.

VII. The Plastic Formation of Speech

The structure of language as such and the character of the separate sounds must be brought to visible form in eurythmy. The ‘air-gestures' which may be said to be present in language are imitated and made externally visible. The consonant sounds are adapted to a more plastic interpretation. The character of the breath sounds is a yielding to the outer world. In the consonants of force man confronts the outer world as master; these sounds are an assertion of the inner life. Movement as such is expressed in the vibrating and wave-like sounds. The diphthongs: it is here that one best learns to observe the transition from one sound to another; the first sound is arrested when half completed and led over into the last half of the movement for the second sound. We weld the component parts together when we do not allow either to be fully formed. The diphthong has no sharply defined outlines; a feeling of plurality is given when the diphthong is fundamental to the structure of the word. When an impression is indefinite the diphthong makes its appearance. It is possible for eurythmy to bring to express-ion the inner character of sound. I, e, u, radiate a Dionysian fire. A, o, have a quiet power of attraction, an Apollonian form-giving element.

VIII. The Word as Definition, and the Word in Its Context

In the realm of sound we may differentiate between that which descends more into the physical and that which is borne upwards by the word into the spiritual world. When a vowel sound becomes a diphthong, thus losing its sharply defined outline, we have an ascent into the spiritual. The diphthongs reveal something of a more essentially spiritual nature than do the vowel sounds of which they are composed. That element of language which radiates up towards the spiritual does not lie in the sharply emphasized sound, but in the transition from one sound to the other. The dual nature of words: on the one side external imitation; on the other side the depicting of something in its connection with the entire world order, the relationship of some thing or process to a common whole. Personal pronouns and their forms.

IX. Plastic Speech

Walking as the expression of an impulse of will. Three phases : the lifting, carrying and placing of the foot. When lifting the foot we have to do with a will impulse as such; when carrying the foot with the thought which comes to expression in this will-impulse; and when placing the foot with the deed, with the fulfilment of the will-impulse. Rhythmic walking; poetic and prose language. The true nature of speech lies midway between thought and feeling. Man at an earlier stage of evolution heard inwardly when experiencing feeling; he had an inner experience of words. His was no abstract thought but an inner resounding of words. There was no self-contained life of feeling such as we have to-day; the primitive soul life was closely bound up with the inner configuration of words and tones. At one time the development of speech, thought and feeling was deeply connected with an inner recitation. Later this differentiated itself into language retaining its artistic nature, and into a musical, wordless resounding of tones. Then thought as a third element also took on independent existence. Be-cause the prose element of abstract thought is closely bound up with materialism, there is to-day little feeling for an artistic treatment of language.

The eurythmist must be able to acquire this. In the first place there must be a feeling for the Iambic and Trochaic rhythms, for these impart a special character to walking: the Iambic measure expresses the will character, the Trochaic measure the realization of thought. In the Anapest we have a more intimate aspect of language, one more bound up with the feeling life; it is a spiritualization of language. When the Trochaic is developed further we get the Dactyl measure, — an announcement, a statement, an assertion, made visible in space and time. By means of these movements in space one can enter into the poetic element in language more easily than in the case of recitation or declamation. In the artistic formation of speech one must endeavour to cultivate imagination and fantasy, for the inner formation of language depends upon the possibility of making pictures. A sound as such is always the picture of what it describes; anyone feeling this will develop in himself a feeling for the use of the pictorial in poetic language. Metaphor. Synecdoche. Walking backwards: an ascent towards that which is more comprehensive; walking forwards: the entering into that which is less comprehensive. Walking sideways: a conversation, for conversation has a metaphor formation, inasmuch as it has to do with the relationship between two things.

X. Movements Arising Out of the Being of Man

Up to this point the character of the eurythmy gestures has arisen out of the sounds of speech; we will now take our start from the being of man and develop other possibilities of movement and gesture. Twelve gestures which in their totality represent the whole being of man. They comprise all the qualities which together make up the human being and weld them into one whole in the Zodiac. In these postures and gestures the human faculties are brought to expression. From these static postures we pass over to movements representing the possibilities of inner activity, movements which have their origin in the planets. In their sevenfold nature we have synthesized the animal element in man. The nineteen possibilities of sound: the consonants have their source in the Zodiac; the vowels in the dance of the planets. A cosmic activity may be brought to expression by means of human gesture and movement. The word of the heavens is really the being of man. By means of an imitation of the dance of the stars, discovered through spiritual knowledge, we have the possibility of renewing in eurythmy the temple dancing of the ancient Mysteries.

XI. How One May Enter into the nature of Gesture and Form

Looking at speech from a spiritual aspect we find that what is of the most importance lies between the sounds. The spirit is manifested at the point of transition from one sound to another. Hence the movements must always be carried out with a deep feeling and inwardness. The essential spirituality underlying certain postures and movements must be brought out in the way in which the sounds are formed. Exercises based on the moving circles of the Zodiac and Planets and their corresponding spiritual gestures. Such exercises bring the eurythmic movements and postures right down in to the organism.

XII. The Outpouring of the Human Soul into Form and Movement: The Curative Effect of this Upon the Moral and Psychic Nature and its Reaction upon the Whole Being of Man

In the numbers Twelve and Seven we have brought certain moral impulses before our souls and these find expression in gestures which are either static or mobile. That which streams out in this way works back on to the human being; this is the basis of the curative effect of eurythmy. The effect of such curative methods upon the moral and psychic life will be especially beneficial when certain eurythmic truths are brought to the human being in childhood. With this in view we choose exercises in which form and content have been developed out of certain conditions of soul, exercises which are then able to react curatively. ‘I and Thou' exercise: excellent for educational purposes. Peace Dance, Energy Dance. The spiral forms.

XIII. Moods of Soul Which Arise Out of Gestures of the Sounds

Special character of certain eurythmic exercises: Hallelujah, Evoe. Irony as revealed by the gesture itself. Eurythmy forms may be made the basis of poetic structure. In certain Mystery Centres poetry arose out of gesture and form. The movements and forms of eurythmy preceded the shaping of a poem. True poetry always has eurythmy within it; it is as though the poet first carried out the corresponding movements and gestures in his etheric body. Herein we find the intimate connection between eurythmy and language. The use of accelerated and retarded tempo.

XIV. The Structure of Words, The Inner Structure of Verse

In order to make the structure of language intelligible it is necessary to divide words into categories according to the train of thought. This also must be taken into account in eurythmy. We must differentiate between nouns, adjectives, verbs, prepositions, etc., with their individual characteristics. Example of a form corresponding to a four-lined verse. The eurythmist can acquire a fine and delicate understanding for the secrets of the human organization by means of the meditation given in this lecture.

XV. In Eurythmy the Entire Body Must Become Soul

An inner strengthening by means of the g-sound. In the w-sound (English v) there lies the feeling of a moving shelter; this is the sound most naturally used in alliteration. — Difference between standing and walking: one imitates something when standing still; when walking one desires actually to be something. Poetry for the most part expresses what is living, the actual being of a thing, not what it signifies. — Connection of the human body with the whole cosmos; the feet are suited to the earth; hands and arms express the soul nature. It is the soul life especially which is brought to expression in eurythmy; this is why the most significant part of eurythmy is the movement of the arms and hands; the head expresses the spirit and, according to its organization, can be made use of in many ways. — The twelve movements connected with the Zodiac and the seven movements connected with the moving circle of the Planets may be variously applied. They may be used, for instance, to show the rhyme. — Harmonizing exercises: ‘Ich denke die Rede.' — The necessity of carefully analysing what is to be expressed in eurythmy; it is of more importance to study the sound-content than the sense-content. The eurythmist must first experience the formation and structure of the sounds of a poem and only later bring it to eurythmic expression. Movement, Feeling, Character. The soul must learn, as far as eurythmy is concerned, actually to live in the body. In eurythmy the whole body must become soul.