The Geometrical Polarity
of the Round Head and
of the Linear Limbs
IN RELATION TO APOLLONIAN TONE EURYTHMY
AND DIONYSIAN SPEECH EURYTHMY
A PHILOSOPHICAL APPROACH TO THE TWO DISCIPLINES
STRUCTURED BY THE LAWS OF PROJECTIVE GEOMETRY
As thoughts advance beyond the mind frames of intellectualism and become subject to the laws of life, to the laws of the qualitative, they develop within themselves a heart, a living, beating heart. This heart is felt each time a statement resounds inwardly as a quality appealing to the life of feeling.
The clarity one directs as beams of light when one thinks true thoughts then inwardly resounds as something approaching a colour, and what was previously thought through as true becomes felt as a reality imbued with beauty.
This transformation of truth into beauty is the wellspring of artistic creation, true thoughts brought into the inner world of the human being.
As such, each human being artistically creates when he thinks a thought through his heart.
Each human beings happens as a creative artist in the act of transforming truth into beauty.
This creative process stands apart from artistic rendition, as it involves ultimately just one’s own relationship to a truthful reality and one’s acceptance of it into one’s inner soul world.
Artistic rendition is by contrast an extremely social act. It takes place when this creative feeling is brought out of the inner world one step closer to tangible reality, and becomes an action. Not any kind of action what-so-ever, but a transformation of what was inwardly lived as a beautiful reality into an act of goodness.
What was thought as truthful, felt as beautiful now becomes something good. Art is the translation through the human being of a truth into an inner beauty, back out into a social deed whose very fabric is woven out of goodness. This is why art touches us, why it affects our morality.
One begins to feel that to utter a lie and paint, do eurythmy, or play violin becomes impossible. Not because artists are superior beings in any way, but because they are leaning in a different direction. Like trying to walk physically in two directions at once.
I have briefly touched on the above to introduce this article, as it was written as a result of trying to do what I am writing about, of thinking a thought through my heart; becoming attentive to the qualities of the linear limbs that serve as basis for all eurythmical movements and of the spherical head that remains as a hovering cosmos hung in the middle of the stage space, I actively felt what I describe below.
UNDERSTANDING THE POLARITY
I will address the polarity which finds expression in the spherical structure of the head and in the linear nature of the limbs by quoting the poet Novalis and the philosopher Rudolf Steiner.
Their polar statements, each pertaining to one aspect of the duality of the human physical body, were uttered more than two hundred years ago for Novalis, and in the first quarter of the last century by Rudolf Steiner.
“There is only one Temple in the World, and that is the Human Body. Nothing is more sacred than this highly developed Gestalt” (Novalis, Aphorisms).
“Man as he stands before us in the physical world represents – within this physical world – a true image of the supersensible. This supersensible is filled with physical, sense-perceptible material, and so becomes a physical seed, perceptible within the world of sense, of the spiritual” (Steiner, 1922, GA 218).
In Novalis’ statement, the Body, our human body, can only be regarded as a Temple if the office that is to be held within is a human mass of the soul. Novalis sees the body as an outer sheath that contains our inner human nature. Polar, yet not contrary to this, Rudolf Steiner’s statement speaks of the physical body as the condensed part of a much larger reality.
Speaking in geometrical terms, the human body is understood either as periphery of a circle, whose center is of a non-physical essence (Novalis); or as center of a non-physical reality (Steiner), reality which finds its center in the physicality of the body. In both cases, the physical sheath of the human body complements a non-physical nature.
The spacial reversal of the non-physical and of the physical natures, as a reversal of what is normally known as “inner” and “outer” nature, is best understood through projective geometry.
In projective geometry, the notion of infinity is dealt with as a part of accountable reality: at infinity, a principle is transformed into its reversal. As a sock can be turned inside out, what was the innermost becomes the outer most, and vice versa. Yet the reversal in this case is both spacial and qualitative, a purely spacial reversal being drawn thus:
We will come back to this qualitative reversal addressing the subjects of Apollo and Dionysos. Let us focus at the moment purely of the inner outer reversal of body and spirit.
These two realities of the physical body in relation to its spiritual complement are addressed in the difference that lies between Tone Eurythmy and Speech Eurythmy.
Movement in Eurythmy has two possible points of departure: it can come from the so-called outer world, from the very periphery of this outside world , from the far reaches of the cosmos, and pick up the eurythmist like a wave, carrying him along in his path, until the eurythmist is completely moved by a movement that is greater than him - From the OUTER, INWARDS
Movement may also be a surging outward from the eurythmist’s inner soul world towards the world that lies outside of him -> From the INNER, OUTWARD
Tone eurythmy obeys the first principle: it streams in from the periphery of the cosmos inwards.
Speech eurythmy obeys the second principle: it surges from the inner nature of the human soul and directs itself outward.
As such, tone eurythmy is Apollonian and speech eurythmy is Dionysian.
Novalis' quote addresses the body in its Apollonian element, and Steiner's in it's Dionysian element.
To understand this vast concept of the human being in its make-up in relation to the cosmos, could we find an example of the same principles active in the bodily nature visible to our eyes? Are the two principles drawn above to be found in polarity in our own physical constitution?
We can answer this question positively when we consider the hard/soft structure of the head and the soft/hard nature of the limbs. The head is a ‘Temple’ whose spherical bone structure holds the ‘soft matter’ of the brain within itself; the bones of the limbs are ‘condensed’ in the innermost part of the limbs, wrapped at the center of the soft tissues of muscles.
Novalis’ body is a giant head, and Steiner’s a giant limb.
Another element will allow us to go further. That is that the polarity we are working with between head and limbs expresses itself in another aspect, that is to say, in the geometrical shape of the members. The head is round, a complete sphere, while the limbs are linear: an arm or a leg stretched out is an incredibly straight line!
To the laws of projective geometry, a curve and a line are two polar expressions of one aspect.
A curve belongs to the periphery of circle whose center is present before our eyes, while a straight line is a part of the periphery of a circle whose center has been moved to the plane at infinity. On the human body, we see that the head is a sphere whose center is before our eyes, while the limbs are a small visible portion of the periphery of a circle whose center lies at the plane at infinity.
The two geometrical principles of the point and line are understood as polar manifestations of one entity, the entity being either completely visible in the circle which holds both center and periphery within itself, or partially visible when reversed upon itself through the plane at infinity into a line, partial periphery of a circle whose center lies at the plane at infinity.
To the laws of comparative anatomy, the corporeality of the head is to be found fully 'present' in the three-dimensional physical human being as it stands before us, while the physical corporeality of the lombs is to be seen only partially present, the 'entirety' of the limbs' corporeality stretching to the plane at infinity.
In the two quotes by Novalis and Steiner, the body was considered a periphery whose center was of a non-physical nature (Novalis) or a center (Steiner) whose periphery was of a non-physical nature, cosmically large.
We have up till now addressed the bodily make-up in relation to its counterpart in terms of SPACE. It was addressing the couple they form through the lens of the body. But in this couple, what is the essence of this non-physical counterpart?
This counterpart will manifest itself in the human being as the opposite of a body, that is to say, as an ACTIVITY. As an activity that unfolds IN TIME. This activity manifests a polarity to physicality, but in a different medium. We have shifted from SPACE to TIME.
Time! What does our head do in time? It thinks. Or rather, it allows thoughts to stream in from the entirety of the world, from the most distant places... What do our limbs do in time? They move! The activity condensing itself towards a body is a streaming-in of intellectual forces. The activity arising out of the movements of the limbs is outer action. The physically peripheral head then becomes a ‘point’ whose periphery streams in as the activity of thinking. The human limbs, whose corporeality stretch to infinity, will themselves on the contrary through their small and humble activity.
While I can instantly think myself very far, it will take me a while to walk down the street.
Novalis’ statement, which ‘shrunk’ the entire cosmos into a body, into a large head, allows for the thought activity to reach to infinity. Tone eurythmy, thought in movement, manifests cosmic thought on the Earth. Cosmic thoughts are humanly thought through in movement.
Rudolf Steiner’s statement, which took its point of departure from the entirety of the Supersensible, speaks to the limb nature, nature which allows us to walk down the street to the baker. But translated into the conscious will activity of Speech eurythmy, it gives human beings the possibility to completely renew the qualitative consciousness they bring to their human deeds.
Tone eurythmy is a truthful rendition of the forces streaming in from the cosmos towards the human being, condensing in the physicality of the head, but whose gestures of intervals and tones redeem the frozen music of our bony system into the singing out of tone eurythmy, as thought redeems the frozen cosmos that crowns the human figure. As the brain floats in the cerebral liquid, its physicality ‘taken over’, so that the essential activity it allows may take place freed from the weight of gravity, so do tone eurythmy gestures and tone eurythmy forms matter ‘little’: the physicality of the gestures exists only to allow another activity to take place, that is to say, the DYNAMIC OF MOVEMENT through a space become visible time.
Speech eurythmy is a language spoken out in goodness and warmth from the inner forces of the human being into the socially meaningful human gestures of speech eurythmy. It is an artistic rendition of humane actions on earth. In speech array of vowels and transformed vowels, soul gestures. The human being lives on the earth.eurythmy, space becomes more spacial than we usually know it, for each direction is inherently expressive of a unique quality. The gestures too are imbued with earthly life, made up as they are of colours, fiery, airy, watery or earthly consonants; the feet have expressive movements, the head character positions, the soul a complete array of vowels and transformed vowels, soul gestures. The human being lives on the earth.
In tone eurythmy, the gestures stream from the periphery of the cosmos into the human heart. They are spiritual movements that condense in the physical organ of the heart. In speech eurythmy, the gestures stream from the human heart outward, into the cosmos. They are human soul movements that express themselves outwardly.
The limbs and the head always being the directors of movement, the two poles between which weave the movement are the human heart and infinity. Thus is the body as a whole not to be found at the ‘same place’ in speech eurythmy and tone eurythmy. In Tone eurythmy, my gestures come from the periphery of the cosmos but, as thought, are a higher reversal of the physical. The activity asks of the body to flip itself inside out, and to become active as a limb activity everywhere my corporeality is not. In speech eurythmy on the other hand, my body is to be found within my corporeality. Thus is the activity-man asked to render itself perceptible.
This leads us to the question: how many planes of space does one then ‘see’ during a eurythmy performance? And how does the third actor, the audience member, weave himself into the happening which takes place through time as a performance?
EURYTHMY AND THE HUMAN BEING
Observing a performance quite simply, one of the first things one may notice is that, while we hardly move our heads in eurythmy, our limbs are incredibly active! While our head stays still, entire cosmos resting upon the verticality of the back bone, the limbs, ‘hardly there’, ‘hardly present’, move around us and enliven the space all the way to infinity.
One might here object that all limb movements have this envergure, whatever the discipline. While that is true of the limb usage in any willed activity, a difference is to be taken into account when dealing with eurythmical movement and which is that the eurythmist works with the space and with a CONSCIOUSNESS of the space that is unique, and most importantly, allows the observer to himself experience space through time in a unique way.
When the circle has traversed infinity and comes back towards the finite, it has turned inside out: what was the inside is now the outside, what was the outside is now the inside. That is why the space is ‘sculpted’, for I am not moving ‘in nothing’, I am moving in a space stretched as a violin string between the plane at infinity and my human heart.
The stage must now be regarded as consisting of two types of space that complement each other simultaneously: physical space, formed by the curtains, the backdrop… and space reversed through the plane at infinity, which allows eurythmical movements. The eurythmists must be regarded as consisting of two bodies, which complement each other: one fully visible in the head, but whose activity comes from the reaches of the cosmos as tone eurythmy gestures, and one partially visible in the limbs, whose activity is fully present on stage in the movements of speech eurythmy. And so do apollonian tone eurythmy and dionysian speech eurythmy provide through their opposition an experience of the full spectrum of space. The space is vivified both from the human being and from the periphery of the cosmos, from the will and from the forces that stream in from the periphery of the cosmos, and the interaction of these two origins of movement in the human heart allows the human being to hold the center between himself and the world. “A living being belongs to the whole universe” (Steiner, 1923, GA 307: #12) and the artistic enactment of eurythmy, living movement, in its relationship to space, is one manifestation of such a principle. By belonging neither solely to his inner world, nor solely to the outer world, but instead by weaving a balance between his experiences of both, the human being has there also a doorway into the experience of freedom.
The meeting ground of these different yet fully coherent planes of movement can only fully happen in the observer. There and there only can the event that is a eurythmy performance truly attain its synthesis. For eurythmy is an art that is first and foremost a social art. And it may become truly social only when a third takes part, and harmonically integrate the wealth of what is offered him as self comprehension.
When we become sensitive to the qualitative principles working on in eurythmy, we become touched by the care that has been given to offer human beings an art in which they can consciously work with the forming principles of thought and will, death and life, structure, form and chaos, light and warmth, in a truly unique way: experienced in time, through one’s own heart space. Observing eurythmy allows the observer, if he chooses to, to become touched by the wealth of his own humanity, and by the qualitatively meaningful social interactions one can have as human beings.