Dornach's Dirty Little Secret


And how it came clean.

This story is another unveiling from my previous blog, Eurythmy Unveiled. The practices and habits that the Anthroposophical Society has embodied, when it comes down to understanding the place of Eurythmy in world culture, is out of step and sync with not only the times but the very premise of etheric movement. There is no one to blame in this tale, there is just a need for action. For what ever the past reveals, it can allow a peek into the future, just part of anyone’s given capacity for good ole wholistic living thinking.

This is written out of the “Spirit“ of the “Time“, that is sweeping the planet, Change! A prerequisite too change, is to look at the past. To put our energy into understanding the patterns and habits that have brought imbalance to the present. I do speak from roughly seventeen years of teaching eurythmy, with students from pre-K to twelfth in Waldorf schools, including adults and Waldorf teacher trainees. My voice is tempered not only with experience but pressing concern for the freedoms that any art form allows. 


This tale begins in Dornach, the Summer of 1989, when me and my girlfriend pulled up to the West portal of the Goetheanum, leaning our heavily laden touring bikes against the towering concrete structure. We had been on the road for a month and a half, exploring Holland, Germany and Switzerland, in search of either a Bio-Dynamic farm to work for, or a Eurythmy school to study at. We had both just completed our Waldorf teacher training at the Rudolf Steiner College in Sacramento California. This was our hands on investigative approach to finding a school or farm that spoke deeply to either of us and a remarkable way to see historic sites, works of art and just being so close to the spirit of each land. We ended up visiting ten different Eurythmy schools and two different farms. Sometimes we stayed up to a week at some schools and at others a matter of hours and we were on the road again.

We were graciously taken-in by so many wonderful and helpful people. The fabled stories of low budget traveling among Waldorf circles was a pleasant reality. Every Eurythmy school was quite unique, which is a story within the story, but the final decision as to where either of us would study, rested on our final most Southern destination, Dornach. My decision as to where I would study, rested upon three clear needs. One, the overall mood of the location and the people was enlivening. Two, I needed to land a job. Three, I needed to secure a place to live. When I arrived in Dornach, by the end of the first week I had landed all three. The Place was swarming with people from all over the world, with lectures to go too and workshops to attend. All the beautiful funky architecture and the historic nature of the place gave me years of discovery. Student jobs were plentiful, as a member of the clean-up crew at the Gortheanum, for their Summer Grossputz, cleaning and it just so happened that Haus Julian, a local student house, had an opening for one of its rooms.

Call it karma, destiny or curiosity, I landed in Dornach, studying at the Zucolli Schule, working at the Goetheanum and living in Haus Julian. That Summer was full of cleaning and familiarizing myself with the new surrounding and the German language. I began to share with my new young and inspiring house mates the concerns and ethical questions which were aroused in me by the conditions and practices the administration of the Goetheanum had instituted for the cleaning and maintaining of their building.

My house mates were equally concerned and urged me to stand up and speak out to the Goetheanum, at the annual Student and Vorstand gathering. That year it was held in the Grosse Saal, due to the remodel and artistic treatment that Herr Wagner was currently applying to the walls of the Grundstein Saal, where the event was traditionaly held. The gathering was a way for the Executive Branch of the Anthroposophical Society to greet new and returning students to Dornach and to address any concerns or needs that were living among the student body. Each member of the Vorstand was present and seated behind a long table on the stage, just beside the speakers podium. Each Vorstand member introduced themselves and spoke a bit about what they specialized in and how they could best serve the student body and individuals.

I was quite nervous, yet I knew that what I had witnessed and experienced that summer was no longer my own individual concern, but struck such an ethical cord with so many people, that it gave me the courage to stand up and try to articulate the issue among my peers and the individuals in charge. As soon as the leading member of the Vorstand opened up the gathering for student feedback and discussion I shot my hand up. I was quick about it and got chosen first off. I introduced myself and no sooner than I could get another word out, I was being asked to come down to the podium to address the crowd. The gentleman who asked me down was very sweet about it.. He seemed thrilled that I was an American and assured me that mostly everyone present knew enough English to understand me. That was comforting, because I was really not quite sure how to articulate myself given the crescendo of circumstance. There was well over one hundred people in the hall. I knew that I must first thank those before me and to express my gratitude to the Rudolf Steiner College back there in Sacramento for up-holding a healthy standard of practice with regards to the cleaning and maintenance of their institution.

The issue at hand in Dornach was grievous and yet what naturally fueled my courage was the fact that I got absolutely no traction talking to my immediate superiors, but was ignored and threatened with losing my employment with the building. There was a lot at risk here, so after my shared gratitude’s, it got real quiet. I asked my first question, “ Why has the Goetheanum chosen to clean their buildings with poisonous chemicals?” There was an overall gasp within the student body. Europeans make it really clear on labeling toxic chemicals. Since I didn’t read German at the time, that came in really handy. They use a big skull and crossbones on the outside of the containers with a numerical designation to classify the level of toxicity, called a “Gift Klasse”, or poisonous classification. “There was absolutely not one natural cleaning product in the entire building, I knew this because I helped do the inventory and gathering of all the cleaning products to be stored in the new North cellar.”

My second question, “ How can there be a way for the various departments in the Goetheanum to communicate with each other, for example students and employer?” It was my thought that as a student, bringing the wisdom of the next generation, that such a dilemma would have been remedied years ago. Here it was 1989, had the Goetheanum been flushing hard poisons down the drain all this time, from the very beginning?  My superior was unapproachable and here I was expected to use this poison, while a thriving Bio-Dynamic farm was in the back 40 of the Goetheanum.

My third question, “ With all these various trainings going on in and around the Goetheanum, sculpture, painting, speech, eurythmy, farming and education, it seemed time to initiate a new school about how to sustain our work in an ethical way.”

A week later I was in the office of the Youth director, formulating a plan for change. With the help of a environmentally minded co-worker and my house mates, we inventoried all the cleaning products in the building and what they were used for, with an environmentally friendly alternative. I collated all the information into a folder and submitted it to the Youth director. A year went by. I still maintained my cleaning job, still refused to use the chemicals provided and initiated a study group around a newly published book about the task of the house mother.

That summer a new pallet of poison chemicals arrived at the Goetheanum. I was in shock. It had already been ordered and was not going back to the supplier. I went back to the Vorstand Student Gathering for the second year and the tension was high among the crowd. There was some emotion shared and not just from me this time. Bringing light to the unacceptable practice of poisoning the local water cycle finally prompted the administration to change this deeply ingrained pattern of behavior.

The needed change in this story came about by standing up and speaking out, to have the courage to look over current practices and ask questions. Young people and the young at heart often provide such a catalyst for change. Now over twenty years later, people would have never dreamed that the Goetheanum had such a soiled past, because now the standards and practices are in concordance with the general ethos.

What dose this story have to do with Eurythmy? Or maybe you are seeing the thread of connection. Who knows how long the practice of poisoning the water cycle would have continued if someone like myself, with the support of friends, did not take the initiative to stand up and speak out for the Earth. So dear reader how long do we, the thousands of Anthroposophist and Steiner adherents have to wait to begin the necessary conversation about the glaringly obvious erosion of Eurythmy.

 I speak out for the students, teachers, parents and colleagues who take serious issue with Eurythmy in Waldorf schools and the methods of Eurythmy training centers that perpetuate the issues. In “Eurythmy Unveiled”, my previous blog, I have laid bare some of the essential issues with Eurythmy. Like my experience with the cleaning products at the Goetheanum, fellow Eurythmist, training centers and the Goetheanum itself again, is ignoring the issues, this time with Eurythmy, sweeping them out of sight, thus out of mind.

Over a year ago I personally gave my business card to the newly appointed leader of the Eurythmy and Speech section at the Goetheanum.  I introduced Applied Eurythmy as the fourth complementary discipline to the trio of Eurythmy practices.  If the individual in question were to read through the  website they would understand the wholistic principles behind the research and would thus conclude the need for a dialogue about a fourth discipline, which has been aptly named,  Applied Eurythmy. I have assumed that the person in charge of the Eurythmy and Speech Section would at the very least initiate an intelligent dialogue around such claims. Here again the “Head” at the Goetheanum is clearly showing zero interest in the “Periphery”, thus engendering more disconnect around the Being of Eurythmy. If that Being is so special,  then where is the show of respect and interest toward the upbringing of this Being.

This Being of Eurythmy , as we say in Waldorf circles, is growing down and waking up. Growing down literally means accessing and articulating the lower limb nature in the Being of the emerging child. Thus the creative and destructive power of the lower centers are emerging. This is the puberty of Eurythmy. To access the co-creative nature of Eurythmy, not just working from the imitative center of the throat. This is new territory, almost completely un-chartered territory for present training centers. This is not about being just an artist, scholar and healer as it stands now with Eurythmy in the world, it about our work and leisure moments, that fill the greater portion of our existence and how these universal archetypes in Eurythmy are in all our movement activities. How the “etheric body” connects to the “physical body” is the future field for Eurythmy research. Most of what is handed down in a classical eurythmy training is about how the “etheric body” connects to the “astral body”.  By understanding Eurythmy in an Applied way, we can begin to push against something, namely the earth, our own water and each other, a necessary activity in social , personal and planetary growth.

The Anthroposophical Society is avoiding the inevitable incarnation of Eurythmy. There will be no lost lecture from Rudolf Steiner to turn too with regards to the upbringing of this darling child of Eurythmy.  We, as wholistic free thinkers must do this one on our own, but you can rest easy in the knowledge that Rudolf Steiner did the bulk of his study not on clairvoyance alone, he schooled himself in the practice of wholistic living thinking. 

Socrates pointed out that dissent, like the gadfly, was easy to swat or ignore, but the cost to society of silencing individuals who were irritating could be very high. Upsetting the status quo by posing upsetting or truly novel questions is necessary. Given the past behavior of the Goetheanum, with the almost complete disconnect with the needs of a healthy local water-cycle, I get naturally concerned. How long will the behavior of continually ignoring the trouble signs with Eurythmy go on?