Cress eurythmy

By Martin Zabel, June 2019

An experiment by a class 12 shows how the growth of cress is influenced by eurythmy.

Eurythmy is often seen by Waldorf pupils as a – more or less popular – movement subject intended to provide a certain balance for all the sitting in the other subjects. Conversations with upper school classes or parents which seek to address the deeper action of eurythmy tend to be met with incomprehension. And it is indeed difficult to imagine from our everyday experience that apparently simple movements are supposed to have a deep-seated, harmonising and even healing effect on human beings. When pupils were asked, for example, to write down in a questionnaire how their wellness had changed before and after doing eurythmy rod exercises, it was evident how difficult it was for them to take their subjective perception seriously. This gave me the idea to carry out myself Tanja Baumgartner’s experiment, as described in Rundbrief No. 63of the Section for the Performing Arts  at the Goetheanum. 

Treatment with eurythmy

Since we had a main lesson available for preparation in the period before the eurythmy graduation, we used that time. The cress seeds (from Bingenheimer Saatgut, type Demeter “Einfache Kresse”) were split between four glass bowls and each bowl was treated with a eurythmy sound while one control bowl was not treated. The bowls were labelled. 

The sounds were: 

L: The inner picture for the pupils for this was to be something like a “fountain of light”; the viscously flowing light as imagined was taken hold of, lifted upwards and was then allowed to fall on the sides. 

B: “Domes of light” were formed through this sound like onion skins around the specimen. 

K: “Light pulses” were sent towards the seeds through the eurythmy K.

In this way we treated three different specimens each morning in a different sequence but always using the same procedure: the specimen was fetched from the adjoining room and placed in the middle of the eurythmy room. The class formed a large circle with the teacher and together performed the eurythmy exercise “I think speech ...” once. Everyone approached the specimen and knelt or bent down. The timer with a countdown of five minutes was started. The relevant sound for the respective specimen was first performed together in a tight circle. The next sound was then a little bigger and the circle grew a little. Until finally everyone was standing on the edge of the room and performed very large sounds. Everyone went back into the tight circle and started again with the very small sound. This exercise was performed until the alarm on the timer went. Then the pupils sat down again. After a brief period of waiting, the windows were opened, the treated specimen was taken to the adjoining room, and “step 1” was started again with the next specimen. 

Once all the specimens had been treated, the control group was brought in and put in the same place but there was no eurythmy. Then all the specimens were taken to the staff room where they remained untouched until the next day. We followed this procedure for four days. Then came the two-week Whitsun holidays. Immediately after the holidays, the cress was sown in normal potting compost in the same kind of bowl. From now on the cress was watered between step one and two, the rest of the process remained the same. 

This was again done for four days. The cress began to germinate on the second day and on the third day differences could be observed between the four specimens. Whereas most of the “B cress” was not jet upright and also looked slightly yellowy, the other specimens were already upright. Here the “L cress” was biggest and the “K cress” was in second place and both were also already green. The “control group” was upright but still looked somewhat yellowy. 

This was also the picture on the following days. The “B cress” was lagging behind the others in its development and the colour was also always somewhat paler. 

Influence on the growth forces

The pupils were able to experience that their eurythmy together had influenced the growth of the cress – without the seeds or plants having been touched. The cress could not be accused of having adjusted its growth to fit in with particular expectations but the germination process was clearly changed through the eurythmy since all other conditions were the same for all specimens. In anthroposophical terms, we were able to show with this experiment that the eurythmy movement is more than just a physical one, that it is also filled with life forces (etheric forces). These forces are evidently so strong that they can influence the growth forces, that is the etheric body, of the cress plant and thereby support (K and even more strongly L) or inhibit (B) growth. 

If we look at this experiment as a purely physical event, it is hard to imagine that growth could be influenced to such an extent on the basis of small air movements (caused by the eurythmy sounds). Because externally we did nothing more than move the air with our sounds. 

Thus a sense arose in the pupils that there might be more behind eurythmy than we would generally assume. 

About the author: Martin Zabel is a class and eurythmy teacher at the Freudenstadt Free Waldorf School.


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