Introduction - on the importance of illustrations
The power of image
We believe that, in modern times of digital multi-media, the message should not only be brought with words and logic. Putting a train of thought in a sequential stream of words may be a normal way to convey a certain reasoning logic, however we believe - as is said in 'a picture is worth a thousand words' - that illustrations may be very complementary and valuable because they allow the mind to approach the image freely and process it in whatever way a person wants. It seems as if the soul takes easier ownership of this process, earlier on, and this even works better with one's own schemes, drawings and scriblings because they stem from you. Similarly one can sense that sequential word streams 'belong' to a certain person's thought stream, whereas an image leaves more open and requires active participation to make sense of it. In that process the person who is looking at the image connects with all he/she knows, connects with existing knowledge feelings experience.
And like everything, we can always 'say it with a quote', for example:
These sorts of things, if they are rightly felt, are those artistic means which completely replace what a lecture does not need, namely, sheer logic. Logic is for thought, not for speaking; I mean for the form of speech, not the way of expression. Naturally, the illogical may not be in it. But a speech cannot be put together as one combines a train of thought. You will find that something may be most acute and appropriate in a debate and yet really have no lasting effect.
What does have a lasting effect in a speech is an image which grabs, that is, which stands at some distance from the meaning, so that the speaker who uses the image has become free from slavish dependence on the pure thought-sense.
Metaphors are important to build imaginative pictures. Imagination as as knowledge through feeling. Visualization in one's mind is important, therefore we want to 'evoque', meaning to 'work on feeling'. This way we can get out of rational-intellectual thoughts, words as empty husks (pointer, label .. but with no content related to what it stands for, for that part of reality (experience) it refers to). Thoughts and words offer no link to reality and what is truly there or happening.
- Drop -> air vapour
- Butterfly <-> reincarnation image for children
- Electromagnetic cfr IIH
- Artist divers bringing back corals = images
- L & A .. representative humanity, images clouds
- Spiral in reincarnation journey through the spheres – zodiac – embryo
Limit to the power of diagrams and need for imaginations
Diagrams may be useful, but they are not the final answer, they may just be of use during the process of mental study to develop imaginations.
That Man alone understands who has made it his own, who in every conception that we evolve — sacrifice, bestowing virtue, resignation — is able to feel in every word what it is that is trying to burst forth in that word or idea, what at the most can flow forth in the many-sided significance of the pictures.
If a Man believes the evolution of the world is accomplished by means of abstract conceptions, he will perhaps make diagrams.
If we wish to represent living conceptions such as sacrifice, or the virtue of bestowal and renunciation, diagrams are of no use; we must paint pictures in our minds like those described in the last lectures: of the Thrones offering sacrifice and sending up to the Cherubim the smoke of the sacrifice, ever spreading more widely and of the Archangels sending back the light; and so on.
And when in our next study we pass on to the Old Moon-existence we shall see how much richer the picture becomes, how something like the liquefying of the dammed up masses of cloud actually had to take place, and that this becomes drizzling rain, into which flashes the lightning of the Seraphim. We must then pass on to richer conceptions with regard to which we must say:
The future of mankind will certainly find the possibility, the artistic ways and means to express to the outer world what can otherwise only be read in the Akashic Records.
Types of illustrations used
In this initiative and on this site, we can distinguish various types of graphical illustrations:
Staying with the lecture illustrations
- blackboard drawings (BBD) - quite obviously, if available they are more authentic, sometimes colourful, better than what is available in the printed editions or online versions of the lectures
- original drawings from manuscripts or typoscripts in the Rudolf Steiner Archive in Dornach, this in cases where no BBD is available. Experience shows that with copying, details got lost, and the people who were attending the original lecture made the most truthfull sketches. If only for the sake of diligent verification, it always adds a dimension to see a modern reworked table in the way it was in the most original capture of the lecture, example 1907-04-22-GA104a
Value add is also possible here:
- to combine illustrations across lectures, eg FMC00.028, FMC00.020 or FMC00.013, or FMC00.029 .. as a way to present the reader with something new and interesting
- to bring dynamic rendering with focus on the relevant section (as the lecture text explains)
- visualization of concepts by images or pictures that provide a better visual representation of concepts that are taken into consideration,
- eg when one discussed the ground plan layout of the Goetheanum and compares it with the two blood circuits in Man
- eg maggots in cheese, special fish, ..
- artworks mentioned in lectures eg lucifer -
- illustrations of direct references made
- artworks, eg Lucifer by Betram, Da Vinci Last Supper, ..
- books, eg Goethe’s theories of colours or plants
- modern high quality illustrations eg of Goethe's plant metamorphosis publication,
- contemporary best illustrations of principles
- the principle of metamorphosis
- graphic materials for the different dimensions of the human body (eg brain skull vs backbone skeleton, endocrine glandular system, chakra/wheels, ..)
- drawings and animations for precession, spiral solar system movement (earth follows sun), see ao astronomy course, nutation (eg man hieroglyph cycle)
- see work of Grohmann, metamorphosis is a good example
- tabular structures either listing items or, much better, providing a synthesis in multiple dimensions of a thought that has been put forth and elaborated. We can call the latter 'synthetic tables' or 'tabular summaries' because they don't have any meaning without having read the lecture(s). These synthetic tables are no replacement, just an aid to memorize, recap, or capture in one glimpse the core message after having assimilated the lecture, it is also a basis to facilitate effective personal annotations during the study processHowever, when one has done the soul work and read, studied and contemplated the subject matter, these synthetic tables are like a 'lamp post' or a 'sigil'.
Note on the use of synthetic tables: A sigil is a symbol used in magic, the symbol is linked with the soul content and mental-astral energy of the practitioner, in this case we could say the 'synthetic table' is a bit like a symbolic representation of the desired outcome, being the imaginative insight or understanding. It does not contain the subject matter, but we can refer to it and use it to call up all we know about it, and what it means for us.
As such they become 'puzzle pieces' that we can use to build our imaginative pictures, because they link together and we can freely overlay and connect them - or rather their meaning -in our minds. Underlying all this is, and this is important, that we are using our soul as the most important tool and goal, not any materials in the physical world. Not the diagram, the study volume book form is important, and surely not the sequence of 0s and 1s on a machine like our digital computer. It does not matter whether we use bytes on a computer or words in a book, because what we are building through our work is soul content in the spirit world.
The nice thing about the synthetic tables is that they are not limited to a single lecture, on the contrary they are an ideal means to integrate, consolidate various snippets or different perspectives taken from different lectures. This is especially relevant given the important of various perspectives to see something in it's true nature, as a whole (whereas a single view is always a filtered selection limiting true understanding).
- mind-map type, free-form structures of the contents of a lecture, to provide a graphical and/or outline-like overview of the topics covered and their relationships. Ideally these are actively made by the student as a reflection of a personal process.
- eg the top lectures on Christ
The idea here is that a topic which was studied is represented by a symbolic representation (see above); and these views can illustrate (a) the relationships between different topics, as well as (b) different perspectives to a topic (and across topics). This is key as it is a key charactertisic of anthroposophy and Steiner’s lecture that a topic is not covered once, or from a single perspective, but always studied by approaching it and illuminiating it from different perspectives. A graphical representation is an effective and nice way to provide an overview to these different perspectives offered, as a jumpboard - similar to a hypertext link page. In this way the ‘multidimensionality’ of the anthroposophical knowledge can be mapped to a hypertext-network fashion of navigation, in contrast with the purely sequential way to process texts.
- evocation images that can expose ourselves to as if 'breathing in the subject matter' through their visual appeal, and 'tuning into that subject matter's frequency' with the soul. Examples are slide shows with beautiful pictures of nature kingdoms (plant, animal, ..) or weather elements.
Or: historical artwork, eg of man microcosmos macrocosmos, war in heaven, Michael & the dragon, War in Heaven.
Tradition of illustrations
Whereas art, just like myths and legends, represents an 'ageless' tradition of illustrating important themes, illustrations have been widely used in predecessors of contemporary spiritual science since the middle ages. We can point specifically to the rosecrucian, alchemical, and theosophical streams with examples:
- rosecrians: see Secret Symbols of the Rosicrucians (compiled between 1785-1788)
- downloadeable from this page (on www.rosicrucian.org)
- many versions since the 18th century, a well known is the 1935 edition by Harvey Spencer Lewis (1883-1939), the founder of AMORC
- theosophy: the illustrations to the work of Jacob Boehme by Johann Georg Gichtel (1682 edition) and William Law (4 volumes published 1764-1781), for an overview see eg this page (in FR)
- alchemy: for an overview, see this page (on Adam McLean's website www.levity.com)
Furthermore, one could say another category are religious illustrations, such as those in the Beatus commentary to the Book of Revelation
Examples of such illustrations on this site are on: FMC study schemas#Integrating tradition of illustrations