From Anthroposophy

Human speech is the use of the vocal chords and human breath to create and express sounds that convey soul meaning, either with or without the use of and alphabet and language for the use of phonetic combinations of vowel and consonant sounds that form the sound of its words.

When we form words, our mouth presses the air into a invisible gestures, imbued with thought, and those, by causing vibrations, becomes audible. (1923-05-18-GA276). These vocal flow forms can be observed clairvoyantly or also with modern technology (see Further reading section below).

That human vocal expression is much more than purely the strictly objective meaning of words in a language, is obvious from the dramatic arts such as poetry or opera. Depending on the intention, such as informing, declaring, asking, persuading, directing, human speech combines a multitude of effects to convey meaning through vocal means, ao enunciation, intonation, degrees of loudness, tempo.

Speech is also a means of expression beyond the conscious intention of the speaker, as it can convey information on gender, age, place of origin (through accent), physical states (alertness and sleepiness, vigor or weakness, health or illness), psychological states (emotions or moods), physico-psychological states (sobriety or drunkenness, normal consciousness and trance states), education, etc.

Rudolf Steiner describes that the faculty of speech arose in the Atlantean epoch, but it then consisted of sounds relating directly to soul experience (eg vowels and consonants) - quite unlike all later developments of language - see Schema FMC00.587. In the Current Postatlantean epoch, the ancient Sumerian culture in the Second Ancient Persian cultural age was still characterized by such universal spiritual "language of wisdom" (1910-12-30-GA126).

The meaning of sounds is a soul experience enabled by folk spirit beings of the order of archangels, and is related to how these orchestrate the activity in the lymphathic fluids (see also Schema FMC00.155). For every syllable, the folk spirit infuses an inherent colour or nuance into the individual organism in connection with the conception of the I. As a result, quite different feelings and quite trends of these feelings are expressed in the sounds as part of different languages. (1909-10-25-GA115)



  • the speech-center of right-handed persons lies in the left portion of the brain, in left-handed people the organ of speech lies at the right side of the brain. These facts indicate that what comes to expression in speech is connected with the search for equilibrium. ... The gestures of the [left or right] hand, executed by means of Man's willpower, are led, by some mysterious process, into the interior of the brain whence the faculty of speech is brought to the human being. (1923-04-06-GA224, 1923-05-18-GA226, 1923-08-30-GA227)

Spiritual scientific

  • speech is a sense (one of the twelve senses)
    • we could never understand the higher meaning of spoken words with the sense of hearing alone. To understand, we need the sense of speech, the sense for the meaning of what is expressed in the words. This sense of speech must not be confused with the sense of thinking, which in turn is not identical with the I sense (1916-06-20-GA169)
  • The organs of speech exercise formative processes on the exhaled air in the activity of speech which is a process by the human 'I' which lives in the warmth body. The human exhalation is an etheric process (1924-09-14-GA318) and the astral and etheric components of the fine breathing process are very dependant to Man's morality or moral qualities and constitution (1915-01-03-GA275).
  • visible speech - vocal (sound air) flow forms
    • spoken language (and the human expression of the sounds of vowels and consonants), consists not only of acoustic sound waves that transport information, but is also a form-creating event that affects the physiological processes of both the speaker and the listener.
    • Modern technology has allowed to study the dynamic formation process and spatial structure of the flow forms and shapes (for research by Johanna Zinke and Serge Maintier; see 'Further reading' section below)
    • in the formation of the letters in ancient languages (such as eg Hebrew) particularly in the case of the consonants, one can see sort of an imitation of what forms itself in the air when we speak. (1924-06-25-GA279)
  • role of archangels in speech
    • the archangels are at work when the child masters speech, they transmit what the human being experiences, between death and a new birth, by means of revelation .. and what makes us speak is nurtured, during the time between falling asleep and awaking, by beings belonging to the hierarchy of the archangels (1923-08-30-GA227)
    • The archangels, who permeate the human being with their etheric bodies, enable Man not only to hear a tone but to perceive a sound together with its meaning. Thus we can experience the inner nature of a sound we hear. (1909-10-25-GA115)
    • Tone force manifests its pre-eminent activity in the air, sound force only in the watery element. (1909-10-25-GA115)
      • In the sense of hearing the angels give outer expression to their activity through the medium of the air. They work with the air in the ears, and this results in external activity of the air.
      • The archangels produce activity in the lymphatic fluids, as in a watery substance. (see also Schema FMC00.155). Archangels penetrate Man with the sense of sound and vibrate in his whole watery substance. ... There is a link between the different ways how the lymphatic fluids flow in the various folk people, and their folk physiognomies and particular expression. ... For every syllable, the folk spirit infuses an inherent colour or nuance into the individual organism in connection with the conception of the I. As a result, quite different feelings and quite trends of these feelings are expressed in the sounds as part of different languages. (Examples are given in 1909-10-25-GA115)


  • In the future, Mankind will develop the creative power of speech - see also Language of creation
    • "Today speech arises inwardly and is sent out only into the air. In the future, the spoken word will not fade away into the air but will continue to exist, and with it a Man will create actual forms. During the Future Jupiter stage Man will have power to shape himself by his thoughts; during the Future Venus stage Man will give form to the world around him. During the Future Venus existence creative feelings will arise, creative speech, and the feelings that create through the word. If during the Future Venus-existence — when all substance will be as fine as air — he utters an evil word, something like a repulsive plant-form will come into being. Hence a man will be surrounded by the creations of his own speech." (1923-08-30-GA227, see Walking Speaking Thinking#1923-08-30-GA227)
    • see also: Schema FMC00.367 and first apocalyptic seal on The human heart as a future organ

Applications - arts and therapy

  • articulated artistic speech (see GA280 and GA282)
  • anthroposophical Therapeutic Speech - breathing therapy through speech exercises (see 'Further reading' section below, or for an introduction see also intro page on website Katherine Rudolph)

Various other

Inspirational quotes


The truth concerning the nature of speech is that it is based upon a real sense, the sense of sound. ... Speech did not arise arbitrarily. It is a spiritual product.


.. living with the other people around us means living with their souls: we live with the souls of others just as we live with colors and sounds. ..

The kind words spoken to us have a direct effect on us, just as color affects our eyes directly.

The love living in the other's soul is borne into your soul on the wings of the words.


.. the word is really expressive gesture in air .. when we form a word, our mouth presses the air into a certain invisible gesture, imbued with thought, which, by causing vibrations, becomes audible. .. with clairvoyant vision one can observe what is formed in the air by the speaking mouth, these invisible gestures being made there as words.


Schema FMC00.587: illustrates the fact that humanity originally had just one phonetic language made up of sounds, or letters based on the feeling contained in speech sounds. In this universal alphabet, sounds of vowels and consonants related directly to soul experience. In later developments of language this was completely lost.

The table is compiled from descriptions in lectures by Rudolf Steiner, including examples, and is illustrative and not meant to be complete.

Also in the context of interaction with deceased souls, Rudolf Steiner speaks of this heart-language of the deceased, not based on abstract meaning of words, but of feeling content and meaning that issues from the sounds themselves.

See also the air flow forms produced by the sounds of vocals and syllables, see Speech#Visible speech - vocal flow forms

illustrates the fact that humanity originally had just one phonetic language made up of sounds, or letters based on the feeling contained in speech sounds. In this universal alphabet, sounds of vowels and consonants related directly to soul experience. In later developments of language this was completely lost. The table is compiled from descriptions in lectures by Rudolf Steiner, including examples, and is illustrative and not meant to be complete. Also in the context of interaction with deceased souls, Rudolf Steiner speaks of this heart-language of the deceased, not based on abstract meaning of words, but of feeling content and meaning that issues from the sounds themselves. See also the air flow forms produced by the sounds of vocals and syllables, see Speech#Visible speech - vocal flow forms

Lecture coverage and references


see also: Walking Speaking Thinking#1909-10-25-GA115

As a still higher sense, the ninth, we mentioned the sense of speech, the word sense, the sound sense. To the functioning of this sense the human being can again contribute nothing by himself, can produce nothing. He has nothing to give, hence he must be entered and helped by beings of a substance similar in its nature to that of the human etheric body. These beings possess the corresponding astral substance as well, but this is forced out into the surrounding world during the process in question. They are the archangels, who permeate the human being with their etheric bodies, which he can then pour out into his surroundings. The archangels play a far more important role than the angels. They enable man to hear a sound. They are in man. They enable him not only to hear a tone but to perceive a sound, like “ah,” together with its meaning. Thus we can experience the inner nature of a sound we hear. These beings are at the same time the spirits of the several folk individualities, the folk spirits.

  • In the sense of hearing the angels give outer expression to their activity through the medium of the air. They work with the air in the ears, and this results in external activity of the air.
  • The archangels, on the other hand, produce activity in the lymphatic fluids, as in a watery substance. They guide the circulation of these fluids in a certain direction, enabling us to perceive, for example, the sound “ah” in its full significance. The outer expression of this work is the forming of folk physiognomies, the creation of the particular expression of the human organism as related to a certain people. From all this we can infer that the lymphatic fluids in man flow in a different manner, that the whole organism makes a different impression, according to the way in which the archangels of the people in question have imparted a certain sense of sound by means of the lymphatic current.

When a people designates the I with the word Adam (irrespective of the theories it holds regarding the human I), the Folk Spirit speaks through the two a's that succeed each other in consecutive syllables. A certain basic organization results. A member of that people must feel the nature of the I to be such as corresponds to the two a's, to “Adam.” The consequences are different when a people expresses the I with the word “ich.” [note on translation] Such a people must have a different conception of the I. A different feeling results when, in place of the two a's, the sounds “i” and “ch” are linked. A certain nuance, a certain color, is inherent in the “i,” suggesting what the Folk Spirit infuses into the individual organism in connection with the conception of the ego.

Through the sequence a-o something different is infused into a people than through the sequence i-e. The words amor and Liebe are very different things. When the Folk Spirit says amor we have one shade of feeling, and quite a different one when he says Liebe. Here we see the Folk Spirit at work, and we also see why the differentiation of sounds came into being. It is by no means immaterial, for example, that the word “Adam” was used in old Hebrew to denote the first human form, but by the ancient Persians to designate the I.

The fact shows that quite different feelings and quite definite trends of these feelings are expressed in this way.

Here we have the first hint of the mystery of speech, or rather, of its first elements. What is involved is the activity of spirits of the order of archangels, who penetrate man with the sense of sound and vibrate in his whole watery substance. One of the greatest experiences vouchsafed him who ascends to higher cognition occurs when he begins to feel the difference between the various sounds in relation to their creative force. Tone force manifests its pre-eminent activity in the air, sound force only in the watery element.

Here is another example. When you designate some being with the word Eva, and then wish to express something more, something that is related to this word as the spiritual is to the material, you can apply the reflected image, Ave. This sequence of syllables by which the Virgin is addressed actually affects in the human organism the exact opposite of the word Eva. Here we also find the reason for another variant of E-v-a; place a j before Ave, and you have Jave. When progressing to higher cognition, penetrating the secret of sound, you can learn to know all the connections between Jave and Eva. You will know what a higher being of the order of archangel has inspired in man. The truth concerning the nature of speech is that it is based upon a real sense, the sense of sound.

Speech did not arise arbitrarily. It is a spiritual product, and in order to perceive it in its spiritual aspect we have the sense of sound, which in a systematic enumeration of the senses is exactly as justified as the others. There are still deeper reasons why the senses must be listed in just this manner. In the next lecture we will ascend to the sense of concept and the higher senses in order to understand the microcosm anthroposophically.


lecture with title 'Spiritual science and speech'


see: Persian cultural age#1910-12-30-GA126


[Human speech in Atlantean epoch]

Now it is known through occult science that in ancient times, particularly in the Atlantean period, there existed a kind of primitive human language, a manner of speech, which was the same all over the Earth, because “speech” in those days came much more out of the depths of the soul than it does now.

This may be gathered from the following:

  • In Atlantean times, people felt all outward impressions in such a way that if the soul wished to express anything outward by a sound, it was constrained to use a consonant. What existed in space pressed for imitation in a consonant. The blowing of the wind, the murmur of the waves, the shelter given by a house were felt and imitated by man in consonants.
  • On the other hand, the sorrow or joy which was felt inwardly, or was observed as feeling in another being, was imitated in a vowel. From this we can see that the soul became one, in speech, with outer events or beings.


The following instance is taken from the Akashic Records:

A man drew near a hut, which was arched in the ancient fashion and gave shelter and protection to a family. He noticed this, and expressed the protective arch by a consonant; and by a vowel he expressed the fact, which he was able to feel, that within the hut the embodied souls were comfortable. Thence arose the thought “shelter”; “there is a shelter for me — shelter for human bodies.” The thought was then poured forth in consonants and vowels, which could not be otherwise than they were, because they were a direct impression of experience and had but one meaning. This was the same all over the earth.

It is no dream that there was once an original human root-language. And, in a certain sense, the initiates of all nations are still able to feel that language. Indeed there are in all languages certain similar sounds which are the remains of that universal language.

[different languages]

This speech was prompted in human souls by the inspiration of the super-human beings, Man's true predecessors, who had perfected their evolution on the Old Moon. From this it may be seen that if that evolution alone had taken place, the entire human race would practically have remained one great unity, and there would have been uniformity of speech and thought all over the earth. Individuality and diversity could not have been developed, nor at the same time could human freedom. In order that Man might become individual, cleavages had to take place in humanity, and the difference of language in different parts of the world is due to the work of those teachers in whom a Luciferic spirit was incarnated.

According as a particular angel-being, who had fallen short in his evolution, was incarnated in a particular race, was he able to instruct its people in a particular language. Thus the ability to speak a separate language is, in all races, traceable to the illuminating presence of these great beings who were angels in a backward state and who stood far above the people of their immediate environment.

For instance, the beings described as the original heroes of the Greeks and other nations, and who worked in a human form, were those in whom an angel who had fallen short was incarnated. Therefore these beings must by no means be characterized as entirely “evil.” On the contrary, they brought to man that which predestined him to be a free human being all over the globe, and they differentiated what otherwise would have constituted a uniform whole everywhere on earth. This is not only true of languages but of many other departments of life. Individualization, differentiation, freedom, we may say, come from the beings who fell short in their Old Moon-evolution. It is true that it was the purpose of the wise rulership of the cosmos to bring all beings in planetary evolution to their goal, but if this had been done in a direct way particular ends would not have been attained. Certain beings were therefore arrested in their development because they were to have a special mission in the progress of humanity. Since the beings who had fulfilled their mission on the Old Moon would only have been able to educate a uniform human race, beings who had fallen short on the Old Moon were set against them, and it thereby became possible for these backward ones to turn into good what appeared as a defect.


Our soul has the same relationship to these twelve senses as the sun does to the twelve signs of the zodiac. You can see from this that the human being is in the truest sense of the word a microcosm. Modern science is completely ignorant of these things; while it does acknowledge the sense of hearing, it denies the existence of the sense of speech although we could never understand the higher meaning of spoken words with the sense of hearing alone. To understand, we need the sense of speech, the sense for the meaning of what is expressed in the words. This sense of speech must not be confused with the sense of thinking, which in turn is not identical with the ego sense.

I would like to give you an example of how people can go wrong in our time in this matter of the senses. Eduard von Hartmann, who was a most sincere seeker, begins his book Basic Psychology with the following words as though he were stating a self-evident truth: “Psychological phenomena are the point of departure for psychology; indeed, for each person the starting point has to be his or her own phenomena, for these alone are given to each of us directly. After all, nobody can look into another's consciousness.” 2 The opening sentence of a psychology book by one of the foremost philosophers of our time starts by denying the existence of the senses of speech, thinking, and the I. He knows nothing about them. Imagine, here we have a case where absurdity and utter nonsense must be called science just so these senses can be denied.

If we do not let this science confuse us, we can easily see its mistakes. For this psychology claims we do not see into the soul of another person but can only guess at it by interpreting what that person says. In other words, we are supposed to interpret the state of another's soul based on his or her utterances. When someone speaks kindly to you, you are supposed to interpret it! Can this be true? No, indeed it is not true!

The kind words spoken to us have a direct effect on us, just as color affects our eyes directly. The love living in the other's soul is borne into your soul on the wings of the words. This is direct perception; there can be no question here of interpretation. Through nonsense such as Hartmann's, science confines us within the limits of our own personality to keep us from realizing that living with the other people around us means living with their souls. We live with the souls of others just as we live with colors and sounds. Anyone who does not realize this knows absolutely nothing of our inner life. It is very important to understand these things. Elaborate theories are propagated nowadays, claiming that all impressions we have of other people are only symbolic and inferred from their utterances. But there is no truth in this.

Now picture the rising sun, the emergence of the light, the setting sun. This is the macrocosmic picture of our microcosmic inner life. Though it does not move in a circle, our inner life nevertheless proceeds through the twelve signs of the zodiac of the soul, that is, through the twelve senses. Every time we perceive the I of someone else, we are on the day side of our soul-sun. When we turn inward into ourselves and perceive our inner balance and our movements, we are on the night side of our inner life.

GA281 - Poetry and the Art of Speech

A lecture-cycle held in Dornach, 1920, with additional lectures held in miscellaneous places, 1921–1923, together with an essay and an explanatory note by Marie Steiner.

These seven lectures are part of a fourteen lecture series entitled 'The Art of Recitation and Declamation', given in various cities from 1912 to 1923.µ


title: Anthroposophy and the Science of Speech


lecture titled 'Speech and Song' or ' Human Expression through Tone and Word'


We may say: mimic art is indicative gesture; art of dance, sweeping ecstatic gesture. Between the two stands the visible speech of eurythmy which is neither indicative nor sweeping but expressive gesture, just as the word itself is expressive gesture.

For a word is really a gesture in air.

When we form a word, our mouth presses the air into a certain invisible gesture, imbued with thought, which, by causing vibrations, becomes audible.

Whoever is able with sensory-supersensory vision to observe what is formed by the speaking mouth sees, in air, the invisible gestures being made there as words.

If one imitates these gestures with the whole body, one has eurythmy, an expressive visible gesture. Eurythmy is the transformation of an air gesture into a visible expressive gesture of the limbs.


cycle with the title: 'Eurythmy as Visible Speech'


Eurythmy as Visible Speech


The Character of the Individual Sounds

Today I would like to describe the characteristics of the individual sounds, for only when the character and inner nature of these sounds reveal themselves to us shall we be able to understand the elements of eurythmy. To begin with I should like to draw attention to the fact that in the life of humanity, in the course of human evolution, there has always been a more or less definite consciousness of these things. It is only in our time that, as I said yesterday, we have become so shrivelled up with regard to our attitude towards speech. There has always existed a certain consciousness of all that lies in the progression of sounds as they occur in language, an understanding of the fact that in the consonants there lies an imitation of outer forms and that an inward experience is contained in the vowel sounds.

This consciousness has been carried over more or less into the forms of the letters, so that in the formation of the letters in ancient languages, — in the Hebrew language, for example, particularly in the case of the consonants,— we may still see a sort of imitation of what takes place in the air, of what forms itself in the air when we speak. To a great extent this has been lost in all the more modern languages. (Among these I naturally include all those which, let us say, begin with the Latin language; the Greek language still retains something of what I mean.) Many things, however, still recall the time when an attempt was made to imitate in the forming of the letters that which actually lies in the formation, in the structure of the word; when a word was fashioned out of the consonantal element, — that is to say, the imitation of the external,— and out of the inner experience which had its source in the life of the soul. To-day it is only in certain interjections that we can still see dearly an instance of such imitation. Let us take an example which may serve to lead us more deeply into the real nature of eurhythmy.

When we pronounce the sound h, — clearly, not merely as a breath, — we have a sound which really lies midway between the consonants and the vowels. This is always the case with sounds which have a special relation to breathing. Breathing was always felt to be something in which the human being lives partly in an inner experience and partly in an out-going experience. Now the h-sound, this simple breath sound, may be felt, — and was indeed felt by primitive man, — as the imitation, the forming in the air of a wafting process, as the imitation of the way in which the breath is wafted into the surrounding atmosphere. Everything which is experienced as a wafting process is expressed through some word in which the h-sound is present, because the h itself is felt as the wafting process.

The vowel sound u can be felt as something which inwardly chills the soul, so that it takes on a certain rigidity and numbness. That is the inward experience lying behind u. U is the expression of something which chills, stiffens, benumbs; it is the sound which gives one the feeling of coldness. U, then, is the chilling, stiffening process.

And the sch, — that is the blowing away of something. It is the sound in which one feels that something is blowing past.

Now it is a fact that in certain districts, when an icy wind is blowing and one is numbed and stiff with the cold, people make use of the expression: husch-husch, husch-husch. In this interjection we still have an absolute experience of the h-u-sch: husch-husch. In primeval language all words were really interjections, ejaculations.

Let us take another combination of sounds. You all know the sound r. If one experiences the r-sound in the right way, one feels it as a turning wheel: r-r-r-r. Thus the r expresses a rolling, a revolving; it is the imitation of anything which gives the impression of turning, rolling, revolving. We must think of it, picture it, like this:

Yesterday I spoke already of the sound a. I told you that a expresses wonder. The sch-sound has already been described; it is the blowing past of something. And now we are able to feel the word ‘rasch’ (swift). It is easy to picture it. When anything rushes past it creates a certain wonder and disappears, is blown away: rasch.

So you see there is good reason for regarding the consonants as being an imitation. Here we have in the r the revolving, rolling, turning of something; in the vowel sound a the inner feeling of wonder: in the sch-sound something which goes away, which passes by.

From these examples you can already see that there is a certain justification for speaking of a primeval language, for you can feel that if human beings really experienced the sounds absolutely truly they would all speak in the same way; they would quite naturally, out of their own organization, describe things exactly in the same way.

It is a fact, as Spiritual Science teaches us, that there was once upon the earth a primeval language. You all know myths and legends dealing with this, - but it is much more than a myth or a legend. There is really something which lies at the back of all languages, and which is, in the way I have described, the primeval language from which all other languages have been built up.

When one turns one’s attention to certain facts of life and sees how, out of an infinite wisdom, they have been given similar names, then one is quite overwhelmed with the wisdom which reigns in the whole evolution of man, indeed in the whole evolution of the world. Consider the following, my dear friends,— and what I am now going to bring forward is no mere triviality, but it proceeds from out of a true and fundamental perception of the nature of man.

For people who think deeply over the problems which present themselves to the understanding, certain things that bear somewhat intimate relationship to life itself become riddles, — riddles which are simply passed over by the more blunted sensibilities of the average man. The fact that there is a similarity between the words ‘mother-milk’ and ‘mother-tongue’ may well be looked upon as a riddle of this kind. It is clear that one would not say ‘father-milk’, but the reason for not saying ‘father-tongue’ is less apparent. Where are we to seek for this parallel between ‘mother-milk’ and ‘mother-tongue’?

There are always inner reasons for such things. It is true that the external reason may frequently prove deceptive, but for these intimate facts of human evolution inner reasons are always to be discovered. When the child comes into the world the mother’s milk is the best nourishment for the physical body. Such things do not properly belong to lectures on eurhythmy, but if we had the necessary time, and if we were to analyse the mother’s milk in the right way,— not with the dead methods of chemistry but with a living chemistry,— we should find out why it is that the mother’s milk is the best nourishment for the physical body of man during the first stages of life.— Indeed, speaking from the medical-scientific point of view, one may go so far as to say that the milk of the mother is the best means of building up, of actually giving form to the physical body. This is the first thing we have to realize. It is the mother’s milk which gives form to the physical body. And it is the ‘mother-tongue’, — we said yesterday that the mother-tongue corresponds to the etheric body, — it is the mother-tongue which develops and gives form to the etheric body. For this reason we have a similarity between the words. First there appears the physical body with its need for the mother’s milk and then the etheric body with its need for the mother-tongue.

A deep wisdom lies hidden in such things. We find the deepest wisdom, not only in these word formations which can be traced back to ancient times, but also in many proverbial sayings and ideas. We should not look upon the wisdom concealed in old sayings and proverbs merely as superstition, but should recognize that very often wonderful and significant traditions are contained within them.

Having said this, having made my meaning clear to you, let us now proceed to a description of the nature of the sounds. When we understand what the sounds represent, how the vowels are the expression of inward experiences and the consonants the imitation of the external world, — when we understand how this is the case in every, single instance, — then we are led to a threefold study of eurhythmy, — artistic, educational and curative. I shall make use of everything which could possibly serve to give you a vivid picture of the individual sounds as they really are, so that tomorrow you will be able fully to understand the plastic gestures which we make use of in eurhythmy.

In a there lies a feeling of wonder, astonishment. In b, as I told you yesterday, we have the imitation of something which protects and shelters us from what is outside ourselves. In b we feel that we are enveloped in something. This can even be seen in the way that the letter is formed, only in modern writing the sheath is, as it were, doubled: B. B is always an enveloping, a kind of shelter. To put it somewhat crudely b might be said to be the house in which one lives. B is a house.

In my characterization of the various sounds in speech-eurhythmy I shall take the German language as my starting point. I could just as easily take the sounds of more ancient languages, but we will make a beginning with the German sounds and see how these reveal themselves to us in their true nature.[1]

Coming now to the sound c (ts), — I shall naturally not go into the formation of the written letters as these have mostly become degenerate and in any case, eurhythmists do not need to interest themselves so much in language from this point of view,— coming now to the sound c you will feel it to be some-thing which is in movement. It would be impossible to feel that with the sound c one would try to imitate anything which is in a state of rest. There is a certain force in the sound c; nevertheless, when you really experience what lies behind it, you will realize how impossible it would be to picture anything heavy in connection with it. It would never occur to you that with c you would wish to imitate something which would make you get into a great heat if you tried to lift it. On the contrary, the feeling that one has is that here is the imitation of something which is the reverse of heavy, which is really very light. It is the quality of lightness that is really imitated in the sound c. Thus one can say quite simply: In c we have the imitation of lightness.

If you enter into the intimate nature of the different sounds, you will, in the case of c, have much the same feeling as if in a circus you saw weights,— apparently made of iron and marked so and so many hundredweight,— lifted up quickly and easily by the clown. Imagine that you were to approach such a weight, in the belief that it were made of iron and immensely heavy, and that you were to lift it up. You would approach it, and in suddenly raising it, you would produce a movement very similar to the sound c. We have the same thing in Nature; for sneezing is not at all unlike a c. Sneezing is a lightening process.

It was said by the old occultists that the sound c in primeval language was the Regent of Health. And in Austria, when a person sneezes, we still have a saying: Zur Gesundheit (Your very good health). These are feelings which must be taken into consideration when studying the sounds, otherwise we shall not be able to come to any understanding of them in their reality.

D, — how should we most naturally express d? d. d. d. If someone were to ask you where a thing was, and you knew, the movement you would make to show him would very nearly approach the eurhythmic movement for the sound d. And if you wished to indicate that you expected your questioner to be astonished at getting such a speedy answer, then you would say: da (there). If you leave out the astonishment, the wonder, then there remains just the d. In such a case you are not so conceited us to wish to call up in your questioner the feeling of wonder; you simply show him where the thing is. In expressing d in eurhythmy one makes what may be called an indicating movement raying out in all directions. It is not difficult to feel this. So that we may say: D is the pointing towards something, the raying out towards something. The imitation of this pointing, of this raying out, of this drawing attention to something, all this lies in the sound d.

E is a sound which has always been of very special interest. As you already know e is the sound which gives expression to the feeling that something has been done to us and that we have to stand up against it. E: me will not allow what has been done to trouble us.

Here it may be well to introduce the sound t, Tao, and to explain its significance. You are perhaps already aware that a deep reverence rises up in those who begin to understand what lies in this sound. This Tao, t, is really the sound which has to be felt as representing something of the greatest importance. We may even go so fir as to say that it contains within it creative forces, forces which also have a radiating, indicating quality, but with t it is more especially a radiance which streams from heaven down on to the earth. There is a weightiness about the sound, and at the same time also a radiance. Thus we can say: T is the streaming of forces from above downwards.

Now it is, of course, possible for something which under certain conditions has to be felt as having great and majestic qualities also to make its appearance in ordinary everyday life. Let us take three sounds. Let us first take e as we have learned to know it. E expresses the feeling: Something has been done to me, but I stand up against it and assert myself. T, Tao: Something has burst in upon me. Let us try to show what is contained in this experience: Something has been done to me but I stand up against it — e. An event has taken place; it has suddenly burst in upon me — t: but it is soon over, it passes over; the blowing away of something — st. In this way we get the following combination of sounds: etsch. When do we make use of this expression? We use it when, for instance, somebody makes an important statement, which is, however, false, and we immediately jump to the conclusion that it is false. Now when we are in a position immediately to get rid of what has affected us, when this statement or whatever it is has burst in upon us like a flash of lightning but we destroy it and blow it away, then we say: etsch. Here you have an explanation of this combination of sounds. One feels the e particularly strongly, the being affected by something. One could not imagine saying itsch or atsch in such a case. But in an experience of this kind, when one has been affected by something but has been able immediately to get rid of it, then one obviously must use the expression: etsch.

Now out of the way in which you form the movement for e, out of your knowledge of eurhythmy, you will be able fully to enter into the gesture that in many districts accompanies this expression. This gesture is really very similar to the eurhythmic movement for e. Etsch, etsch (showing the corresponding movement). Here we actually have the eurhythmic movement for e. Such movements are absolutely natural and instinctive.

Thus behind the sound e there lies the experience of being affected by something and of withstanding it. Naturally when one describes such things the description tends to be awkward and inadequate. Everything depends on being able to feel what is meant.

F is a sound which is somewhat difficult to experience in an age which has such a lifeless, dried-up conception of language. But it may perhaps be of assistance to us, my dear friends, if I remind you of a phrase which you will know and which is in fairly general use. People say, when somebody knows a thing upside down and inside out: Er kennt die Sache aus dern ff. (He knows it out of the ff.) An extraordinarily interesting experience lies behind this phrase. When one finds the man in the street making use of such an expression and compares it: with what was said in the old Mysteries the result is truly remarkable. (You remember I said that I should make use of everything which could help us to gain a true understanding of the sounds, whether my examples were drawn from a cultured or from a more primitive source,— the latter being the more fruitful, naturally.) In the ancient Mysteries there was still a living understanding of the words: ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God’; there was still a living feeling for the creative power of the Word, of the Logos. (Logos is not to be translated ‘wisdom’; indeed, by doing so many modern scholars have betrayed their lack of understanding for these things. Logos must unquestionably be translated ‘Verbum’, ‘Word’, — only the word ‘Word’ must be understood in the right way, in the way in which I explained it yesterday.)

Now, in the old Mysteries of Western Asia, Southern Asia and Africa it was said, when speaking about the sound f: When man utters the sound f he expels out of himself the whole stream of his breath. It was by means of the breath that the Gods created humanity, and the whole of human wisdom is contained m the air, in the breath. So that all the Indian was able to learn when through Yoga Philosophy he learned to control his breathing and as a result was able to fill himself with inner wisdom, — all this he felt when he uttered the sound f. In the old Indian Yoga practices the pupil had the following experience: he practised Yoga exercises, the technique of which consisted in this, that he became inwardly aware of the organization of man, inwardly aware of the fullness of wisdom. In uttering the sound f he became conscious of the wisdom contained in the Word. F can therefore only be rightly understood when one tries even to-day to understand a certain formula, which is very little known in the world, but which nevertheless did once exist and in the old I? Egyptian Mysteries ran somewhat as follows: If thou wouldst proclaim the nature of Isis, of Isis who contains within herself the knowledge of the past, present and future and from whom the veil can never entirely be lifted, then thou must do this in the sound f. —

The making use of the process of breathing in order to fill oneself with the being of Isis, the experiencing of Isis in the out-going breath-stream, — this it is that lies in the sound f. So that f — not indeed exactly, but at any rate to some extent — can be felt as the expression of: I know. — But more lies in it than this. ‘I know’ is really only a feeble expression of what we should feel in the sound f. For this very reason the feeling for f was soonest lost. F may be felt somewhat as follows: Know thou, to whom I speak, when I say f to thee I would make thee aware that I can teach thee. Thou must know that I myself have knowledge. —

It would therefore seem natural to you, absolutely natural, if, someone desirous of putting another right were suddenly to approach him giving vent to a sound similar to f. There are many interesting words, words which would well repay study, in which the sound f occurs in some connection or other. This study, however, you can carry out for yourselves; and you will continually be reminded of all that I have told you about the inner nature of the sound f.

I have already spoken about the sound h; we know that it is the blowing, the wafting past of something.

And now i. It is easy to feel i as an assertion of oneself, as positive self-assertion. In the German language there is a very happy example of this. It is our word for the expression of the; affirmation or the assertion of something: Ja (yes). Here certainly there is the indication of a consonantal element, but the i is nevertheless present and is followed by wonder, by amazement. Assent, affirmation, cannot be better expressed than by an assertion coloured by wonder. We said yesterday that the quality of wonder really represented man in his true being; and when we add to this the assertion of oneself: Ja, then we could not have a dearer, more definite expression of the affirmative. Thus in i we have the assertion of self. We shall see how important it is for eurhythmists to understand that behind the sound i there is always a vindication of oneself, an assertion of oneself.

L is a very remarkable sound, — as I am pronouncing it now it contains a hint of e, — but I mean the pure sound l. Try to realize what you really do when you pronounce l. Try to, realize especially what you do with your tongue. You use your tongue in a very skilful way when you pronounce the sound l, l, l, l. You become aware of a creative, form-giving element when saying this sound. Indeed, if one were not too, terribly hungry, one might almost satisfy one’s hunger by, simply saying the sound l very distinctly and over and over again. We feel l to be something absolutely real, as real, for, example, as if we were to eat a dumpling — a specially nice, soft dumpling — and were to allow it to melt on the tongue with a feeling of great satisfaction. We can have a like experience, when we pronounce the sound l, l, l, very distinctly. There is: something creative, something form-giving in this sound. And the sculptor is very much tempted when working on the figures which he is creating to make a movement of the tongue similar to the movement which the tongue makes when forming the sound l. Though of course the sculptor does not say l aloud; he only makes a similar movement with his tongue. And anyone able to feel the shape of a nose, for instance, with his tongue, — where the feeling for form, the feeling of l is so strong, — such a one would undoubtedly be very successful in modelling noses! It was said in the old Mysteries that l is the creative, form-giving element in all things and beings, — the force which overcomes matter in the creation of form.

You will easily feel that the diphthong ei (German ri, English i (as in sight)) corresponds to an affectionate caress. When dealing with a child one often makes use of this sound. Ei, ei — an affectionate caress.

I shall next have to describe the sound m, and we shall see that m has the quality of entering right into something, of taking on the form of something outside itself. Let us now suppose, my dear friends,— and here again I am not merely trifling but what I have to say is drawn from out of the history of the ages,— let us suppose that we had some sort of substance and determined that this substance should be the means of transforming matter, of giving form to matter. Let us put the story together. In the first place we demand of this substance that it shall transform matters and give it form and shape. That la to be its main attribute. It is to give form to matter, but in such a way that it clings closely and lovingly to something other than itself, in much the same way as when one caresses a little child: ei, ei,— this is the expression of a caressing quality. The substance must cling to something. And this clinging quality must be retained; the substance must as it were take on a form which is foreign to it, so that it appears exactly the same as this external form; it imitates this form quite exactly. And now let us suppose that we express this transformation of matter into form by means of a combination of sounds. We say l. The clinging quality, ei. The taking on of some external form: m. Thus we have a word: Leim (putty) which is quite specially characteristic of the German language, quite apart from any other consideration. It is upon such combinations of sound behind which there lies hidden the active, evolving genius of language, that the life of this genius of language really depends. It occurs from time to time that when in some language or other a word already exists, although perhaps in a vague, indefinite form, that this word is metamorphosed and introduced again into a language of a later development. The original feeling: underlying the word, however, remains unchanged, and is retained by the people speaking the later language. An understanding of language is a much more complicated matter than is usually supposed. To-day people treat language in a really terrible fashion. In ordinary everyday life which rests upon superficiality and convention such a treatment of language is perhaps not out of place; but its effect upon the human soul is nothing short of devastating, how utterly devastating it is impossible to say. For instance, somebody wishes to translate a book or a poem. So he proceeds to hunt in the dictionary or to search his memory in order to discover the corresponding words. And having more or less transposed it in this way he calls it a translation. But it would really be more correct to call it a mistranslation, — for this is a wrong track altogether. Nothing is more appalling than this method of transferring something from one language into another.

Let us therefore study this question from the following point of view. Assuming that there was once a primeval language (alike of course for all men), — and there is no doubt that this language did exist, — assuming that there was once a primeval language, then the question naturally arises: How is it that the, many different languages came into being? How does it come about that if we take a German word, the word ‘Kopf’ (head) for instance, and translate this into Italian, we have to say ‘testa’? We have the German word ‘Kopf’ and the Italian word ‘testa’. When we begin to enter into the true nature of language we must ask ourselves the question: How is it that the Italian feels the sounds in ‘testa’ which are totally different from those felt by the German when he makes use of the word: ‘Kopf’? According to the rules of translation the two words should have the same significance. If the word ‘Kopf’ were really to be experienced, then the Italian, and even the Chinese would perforce have to say ‘Kopf’ also. How then can the origin of the different languages be explained?

What I am now going to say may make you double up with laughter, but it is nevertheless true. The German makes use of the word ‘Kopf’; the Italian would also make use of this word if he wished to designate the same thing. But he does not wish to do so. The German point of view lies outside his field of vision. What the German expresses in the word ‘Kopf’, that to which he gives the name ‘Kopf’ does not occur in the vocabulary of the Italian language. Were the Italian desirous of expressing the same thing, he, like the German would say: ‘Kopf’. What then does the German mean when he says: ‘Kopf’? He means to describe the form, the rounded form of the head. It is easy to feel this rounded form in the word ‘Kopf’. Later on when we have studied the sound k and all that we need in this connection, we shall be able to realize more dearly that it is the rounded form which is meant here. Now when the word ‘Kopf’ is shown in eurhythmy try to see how this rounding appears in the middle of the word. (Demonstration). The German describes as ‘Kopf’ the round form of the head as it rests on the shoulders.

Were the Italian to have the same experience, he also would say ‘Kopf’ not ‘testa’. What then does he experience? The Italian does not experience the rounded form, but he feels what is implied in a statement, in a testimony; he is more aware of what underlies the word ‘testament’. Thus the act of making a testimony, making a declaration, an affirmation, this it is which is felt by the Italian and for this reason he says: ‘testa’. He means something totally different from the German. The words ‘Kopf’ and ‘testa’ only appear to describe the same thing; in reality they are fundamentally different. In the one case, in the German word, the form of the head is described as it rests upon the shoulders. And in German, if one wishes to lay emphasis upon the roundness of the form one can make use of an expression which has in it at the same time a certain element of contempt and say: ‘Kohlkopf’. (Cabbage-head. Block-head.) You will agree with me that here there can be no shadow of doubt that the rounded form is meant.

But the head as it rests upon the shoulders is not felt as a round form by the Italian; he feels it to be something which makes an assertion, a declaration. For this reason he says: ‘testa’, and feels in this word all that I have described.

This lack of understanding is very general among translators. As a rule we translate without paying any attention to the fact that we should transpose ourselves into the whole atmosphere of the other language in order to catch its exact shades of meaning. Just think how external it is when one translates according to a dictionary. One misses just those things which are most essential and passes them by in sublime unconsciousness.

Let us now return to the sound m, — that sound which makes such a wonderful ending to the sacred Indian word Aum. M contains within it the element of comprehension, of understanding. In the way in which the sound is carried on the stream of the breath we feel that it conforms itself to everything and understands everything. M signifies that which is deeply felt and understood. I remember that my village schoolmaster said mhn when he wanted to show that I had answered a question rightly. At such times he always said mhn, — i.e., he understood; it, he agreed with it; the hn was only the expression of his satisfaction. M, therefore, may be said to be the expression of, agreement. It clings to something and is in agreement with it, as the m at the end of the word Leim.

It is clear from these few examples that in each sound there lies concealed a whole world of experience. And we can easily:, realize that if we were to express ourselves by means of sounds only, instead of using our ordinary words, we should indeed have a simpler and more primitive language, but it would be one which would combine with this simplicity a much deeper intimacy and understanding.

As eurhythmists it is very necessary that you should gradually feel your way into the real nature of the sounds; for eurhythmy does indeed consist of a plastic formation of movement and gesture. Such movements are, however, in no way arbitrary nor transient. On the contrary the movements of eurhythmy are cosmic in their nature, they are full of significance, they, could in no way be other than they are.

In the next lecture I shall describe to you the other sounds which I have not touched upon to-day, and then gradually we shall consider the main characteristics of the actual movements which we use in eurhythmy. We shall see how these movements express in their very essence exactly the same as is expressed by the sounds themselves as they are breathed into the air, as they take shape in the air.


The Individual Sounds and Their Combination into Words

I think that in yesterday’s lecture we reached the point at which we were considering the sound r, and I had previously unfolded before you the inner nature of most of the other sounds.

It is important above all that we should learn to understand the s-sound. S as we learned yesterday, was always looked upon in the Mysteries as a sound of the very highest importance. Indeed, it was looked upon as possessing magical qualities; for it can be felt as a sound which brings with it surety and certainty, a feeling of calm, a quietening element. This is induced by the fact that, with the impulse lying behind the sound s one can penetrate into the inmost nature of another being.

For this reason I said that when a pupil of the old Mysteries was asked by someone from the outer world what he had learned through the s-sound, he answered, as was customary at that time, in a somewhat humorous vein, and said: He who is master of the s-sound can see into the souls of men and into the hearts of women. There can be no question that in both cases this insight entails the necessity of bringing about a feeling of calm. And this led quite naturally to the more or less humorous use of a sentence such as the one I have described.

Now if in the f-sound we have the feeling: Wisdom lives in me, wisdom created me, I breathe out wisdom, wisdom is ever present within me, — then behind the s-sound we may say that there lies a slight element of fear, something before which we feel that we must protect ourselves. This is why in those ancient scripts, — in which, as I have already told you the s, or the snake-like curved line is to be found in the various letters, — writing was felt to be something uncanny, something which threw light into hidden depths. And to-day — using this word ‘to-day’ in the sense of an historical epoch — certain peoples still exist (though naturally very few) who, unaccustomed as they are to the art of writing, regard the written characters as being distinctly uncanny. When the Europeans, these ‘superior people’ of civilization, went to the North American Indians, the North American Indians found much that to them was unpleasant in the ways of these ‘superior people’, and the written characters were among those things which produced in them such an unpleasant sensation. They made it quite clear that in their opinion these ‘Pale Face’, as they called them, these strange, foreign ‘Pale Face’ conjured ‘little demons’ on to the paper. And as late as the nineteenth century there were certain Indian tribes who still regarded the printed letters as being the embodiment of little demons.

Let us consider these two sounds, these two letters, the f and, the s. They must be formed in eurhythmy in such a way that the onlooker can perceive a tremendous difference between them. When the movement for f is made, it must express the quiet sense of power over that which has been conjured up in the world by its means. The movement is created out of an element of peace. The hands must bend over a little towards the arm, but in an active manner.

They must not hang passively, but must be held as if covering something and protecting it.

Now s. You see in the s-sound how something is, as it were, moved out of its course with a sense of mastery. (The movement was demonstrated.) The cause of this feeling really lies in the relationship which arises between the two arms as a result of the movement.

Now let us pass on to sch. One could hardly fail to recognize the blowing past, the blowing away of something, as this is expressed in the sound sch. I made this quite clear to you when, I gave as an example the feeling lying behind the word husch-husch: the breeze wafts by and passes away: husch-husch.

But everywhere in words of an interjectional character you will observe how this sch sound conveys this feeling of blowing past. There are indeed many words which in this connection, are extraordinarily characteristic.

You must now consider the deep significance of something which I have already spoken about during these days, I mean the fact that in different languages things are called by different names. The reason for this is that the different languages are really describing different things. For instance, when in German, I say the word kopf, this indicates the form, the plastic form of the head; when, on the other hand the word testa is used in Italian it signifies what takes place by means of the head, it signifies a process of corroboration, of affirmation. Thus the two languages are describing completely different things. That which is called kopf in German would also be called kopf in Italian, if the Italian wished to express the same idea.

In this way languages differ very much from each other. When we take the German language we find that it is of a plastic nature. The genius of the German language is really a sculptor. This must not be overlooked. The peculiar characteristic of the German language is that it is plastic: the genius of the language is a sculptor.

The genius of the Latin language has, on the other hand, something of the lawyer about it, something of the advocate, of one who affirms, confirms, testifies.

This is in no way intended as a criticism, but merely as a description of certain characteristics. Each language contains within it the temperament and character of its genius. One may actually carry this so far as to say that when one hears Hungarian, Magyar or Finnish spoken, one cannot fail to have the feeling that something is really lacking. It is impossible to listen to the Magyar language without feeling that after every third word something is lacking. When the Hungarian or Magyar language is spoken one feels that after every third word a stag should be slain. The reason for this is that the genius of the Hungarian language is a hunter. In the Magyar language all words which have not arisen out of the activity of the hunt are in reality borrowed. The Magyar language has absorbed many such words, and when one arrives in Budapest one finds at once among the names written up in the streets such strange words as, for example: Kavehdz. (From the German: Kaffeehaus: Cafe). Such words as these have not, of course, the characteristic I have described; the Magyar language has adopted many such borrowed words. But when one listens to the Magyar language, it is certainly imbued with the element of the hunt, of the chase. Naturally there is nothing bad about this; the tiller of the soil, the hunter and the shepherd are invariably the source from which the whole human race has arisen. There still lives a primeval force in such a language as that of the Magyars. And the genius of the Magyar language is undoubtedly a hunter, or, if ye will, a huntress, Diana.

So we can say, in the German language we have the plastic formative element; that is a feature which is very much in evidence. For this reason we find many interjections, which are uncommonly characteristic. Well, it does not even need to be a snake,— even if a restless, agitated mouse is hidden under some leaves, we have already something moving and rolling about, and it gives us an uneasy sensation, we are astonished: r-a — now it scampers away: sch. The feeling of astonishment is not all, however; something is done to us, but we bear up under it: e. Now whatever is moving in this way clings to its surroundings, it adapts itself to them, burrows its way through; where there is a hollow space it makes its way through, creeping now lower, now higher: l. And when it emerges, then we understand what it was all about: n. rascheln (to rustle). Here you have the whole story of rascheln in plastic form.

The remarkable feature of the German language is that one can find in it so much that really corresponds to plastic art that really makes up the plastic element of language. Hence: it is perhaps not without significance that eurhythmy, in the first instance, could most easily arise within the German language, for eurhythmy may be said to be sculpture brought into the realm of movement, and it is from out of the German language that this living sculpture can be most easily developed at the present day. In ancient times all languages possessed a living, plastic element. It is true that other languages are more musical in their nature, as is the case, for instance, with the Magyar language. The German language cannot be said to be musical, but for this very reason the plastic element is all the stronger.

And it is just in this word rascheln, as also in the ‘husch- husch’, that we have the blowing away, the blowing past, the scattering of something.

The Hebrew man of ancient times experienced in the sch the presence of Jehovah in the blowing of the wind: sch.: Naturally this also may be felt as lying behind the plastic, eurhythmic movement for the sound sch. The movement must be rapid, then it has the true ‘rustling’ effect, (rascheln), and really gives the feeling that is expressed in the word. It is no; exaggeration to say that one actually hears the rustling in the form of the movement.

Yesterday I spoke to you also about the way in which the sound z is to be understood. I said then that there is a certain lightness in the experience of s. And this experience, together with its plastic, eurhythmic expression, is derived from this feeling of lightness, from something which is essentially light. Thus, when we turn our attention to z, we shall regard it in much the same way as one might do a child, who, having lost a new toy which has been bought for it, cries and is inconsolable. One would not wish to scold the child, but to comfort it. Let us suppose that it is not the mother or the father who is dealing with the child, but an aunt or grandmother, whose manner towards the child (who has been up to some mischief) is aunt-like, or grandmotherly. The gesture, especially with the right hand, suggests: Never mind, little one.... It would be quite good if we were to bear this little story in mind. You must feel the z more especially in the arm; not in the wrist, but in the downward movement of the arm.

Up to now, my dear friends, we have mainly considered the nature of the individual sounds as such. At this point it will be necessary for us to discover the right way of expressing the connection between the sounds; and in order to lead over gradually into this somewhat different sphere, I shall from time to time take the opportunity of making certain observations. As occasion offers I shall deviate from the purely artistic side of eurhythmy and refer to educational, and also to curative eurhythmy. Thus, when I pass over to educational eurhythmy, you will see how this aspect of eurhythmy must be derived from the inner nature of the sounds as we have studied them in these lectures. It is quite obvious that in the beginning, when teaching the movements, one should as far as possible choose words expressing a definite mood or feeling. So that one enters into the spirit of eurhythmy by means of the feeling contained in the sounds, and by this means we are able to conjure up a right attitude towards eurhythmy, a realization that eurhythmy is a language, a language which may indeed be understood if only approached without prejudice. Now everything is contained for us in this word rascheln, if you make the movement as clearly as possible, and with great precision; only you must never lose sight of the fact that it is not the external process only which is of importance, but that the movements must be permeated by feeling. When this word is shown now in eurhythmy I shall be able to tell you what is really contained within it just at one particular point, — and then you will indeed perceive what is hidden in this word... ! (The word was demonstrated.) Now, for instance, the person who has been disturbed by the rustling pokes his nose in the direction from which it comes!

So you see, when we take into account the subjective element of feeling, we find that absolutely everything is contained in eurhythmy.

We will now take another very characteristic word. You will remember my description of the sound c (ts); k is similar, but stronger. In the sound k we have matter governed, mastered by spirit. Suppose for a moment that you are confronted by a regular termagant, by somebody who appears all physical strength and of whom you are somewhat afraid. It is not easy to deal with such a person; but, although you have to brace yourself against his behaviour, you, nevertheless, wish to get rid of him, — as it were to ‘blow him away’. You say to him then, But in eurhythmy, kusch. In this word you have every possibility of feeling these things; there is the repulsing of the person in question, the feeling of gathering one’s self together in order to confront him, but there is also the mastery over him. In practising the word do it in such a way that you have a very clear sch at the end. For the pacifying element in the word kusch lies in the fact that one intends to get rid of something.

Now, in teaching eurhythmy, it is important to choose those words in which one can on the one side still feel the plastic formation of the sounds, and on the other side the inner life that is thereby developed.

Now these sounds make up in themselves the separate elementary parts of eurhythmy as a whole. From these parts words are then put together. When in a word, let us say for instance, the word rascheln, you simply make the sounds in an intellectual manner one after another, the result will not be a word in the true sense. It is an undeniable fact that a word is much more of a complete whole than one usually thinks. If this were not so, we, as speaking human beings, could never have become so dried up and lifeless as we unfortunately are. When we read aloud, we do not read the individual sounds quite distinctly; we glide over the whole word and only touch lightly upon the single sounds. The one sound passes over into the other; and in ordinary speech also, the one sound passes over into the next. In eurhythmy, therefore, we must not only pay particular attention to the forming of the single sounds, but above all to the movement which expresses the transition from sound to sound. A word can only become beautiful in eurhythmy if one succeeds in obtaining a natural transition from one sound to the next.

And so it becomes necessary to turn our attention to the way in which one sound proceeds out of the other. One should try to discover how this takes place, and for this reason it is good to take characteristic words, which occur very often; practising them, not so much from the point of view of the individual sounds, but as a whole.

Take, for instance, the word und (and,) the simple word und and try to show it in one continuous, unbroken movement. Try, before you have quite finished the u-sound, to begin the n. This lends itself very well to eurhythmy. Before the movement for u is really completed, let it pass over into n: u-n , — and from this immediately make the transition into the d: und.

From a study of eurhythmy it is really possible to discover the inner intentions of the genius of language. I told you that d is the indicating movement. This is shown dearly in eurhythmy. Now how does the word und end? It ends with d, with the indicating movement. What purpose does the word und really serve? We say, for instance, ‘sun and moon’, There is the sun. We turn from the sun to the moon, indicating the moon by means of the ‘and’. Thus through eurhythmy one is able to rediscover the primeval gestures underlying speech. All this must be felt and experienced.

Bearing this in mind, let us take a word that even in the German language has long lost its plastic form, which, however, it once possessed to a very high degree. When I say ‘once’, that does not mean centuries ago; I refer to a not so very distant past. At that time this word had a plastic form. It is true that the word as we now know it is comparatively modern, but as it emerged from the dialect it still had its plastic character. And as dialect it still retains this character to-day. As I said before we must not allow our feeling for such things to be disturbed by a philology which in its own place is fully justified. Let us take this German word Mensch (human being), and let us express it in eurhythmy, somewhat shortening the final sch-sound: Mensch. Here we have a distinct feeling of the blowing past at the end of the word


The Plastic Formation of Speech


The Word as Definition, and the Word in Its Context

1922-GA280 - Creative Speech: The Formative Process of the Spoken Word (Marie Steiner-Von Sivers, Rudolf Steiner)
1924-09-GA282 - Speech and Drama

volume consisting of 19 lectures (10 April 1921 and 5-23 September 1924), with a course designed for students and professionals in the stage arts, Rudolf Steiner begins with a fundamental and spiritually-rooted appreciation of human speech and what actually takes place during human communication. Speech is a spiritual activity as well as an art form, lending itself to real interaction with both higher spiritual worlds and the human world of social conversation.



1. The Forming of Speech Is an Art

2. The Six Revelations of Speech

3. Speech as Formed Gesture

4. How to Attain Style in Speech and Drama

5. The Secret of the Art of the Master ...

6. Sensitive Perception for Sound and Word ...

7. Some Practical Illustrations of the Forming of Speech


8. The Molding and sculpting of Speech

9. Style in gesture

10. The Mystery Character of Dramatic Art

11. The Relation of Gesture and Mime to the Forming of Speech

12. The Artistic Quality in Drama

13. Study of the Text from Two Aspects

14. Stage Décor: Its Stylization in Color and Light


15. The Esoteric Aspect of the Actor’s Vocation

16. The Work of the Stage from Its More Inward Aspect

17. Further Study of the Sounds of Speech

18. The Speech Sounds as a Revelation of the Form of Man

19. The Formative Activity of the World


Related pages

References and further reading

  • Hermann Beckh (1875-1937): 'The Source of Speech' (published in 2019)
    • subtitle: 'Word, Language, and the Origin of Speech: From Indology to Anthroposophy'
    • more info: source A
  • Karl Wilhelm Viktor Rössel-Majdan (1916-2000): 'Vom Wunder der menschlichen Stimme. Sprachgestaltung' (1975, republished in 2007)
  • Joscelyn Godwin: 'The mystery of the seven vowels' (1991)

Therapeutic Speech

  • Barbara Denjean-von Stryk and Dietrich von Bonin: 'Anthroposophical Therapeutic Speech' (2003)
    • Written for speech therapists and doctors, this book gives a precise, practical summary of anthroposophic therapeutic speech. Speech formation, or creative speech, is based on the ancient art of recitation and drama, and was revived and fundamentally redeveloped by Rudolf and Marie Steiner in the early 1920s. Such therapeutic work is based on speech exercises and Rudolf Steiner's indications about how to use them.
  • Dietrich von Bonin
    • as editor: 'The Background to Anthroposophical Therapeutic Speech' (2012)
      • A comprehensive overview of the development of speech therapy with biographies, exercises and essays. For the first time Rudolf Steiner's therapeutic speech exercises are published together. A comprehensive overview of the pioneering time of therapeutic speech, including biographies, speech exercises and background essays.
    • Sound Informed Breathing (SIB): atemstoerung.ch (Respiratory therapy through speech)
  • see also: Human breath#Further reading

Visible speech - vocal flow forms

  • Johanna Zinke (1901-1990), Armin Husemann, Peter Nantke, Rainer Patzlaff: 'Luftlautformen sichtbar gemacht. Sprache als plastische Gestaltung der Luft.' (2001)
    • spoken language consists not only of sound waves that transport coded information, but is rather a form-creating event that deeply affects the physiological processes of both the speaker and the listener.
    • photo documentation of Johanna Zinke's research opens up new perspectives on language and its effect on people: Each sound, as the numerous photos show, forms a specific, describable flow shape for a short time when exhaled, which can be made visible with certain aids; the various sounds thus result in a diverse world of forms. Volume contains photographs of the sounds and sound combinations of the German language, documentation of the dynamics and development of the air sound forms and the various visualization methods, as well as drawings of the spatial structure of the air sound forms to aid observation. Supplemented by explanations on the significance of this new research approach, its physical foundations, methodological issues and the background to human studies.
  • Serge Maintier:
    • Les formes aériennes des sons du langage : contribution à la mise en évidence des morphologies spécifiques des turbulences externes : une approche morphodynamique et acoustique (Ph.D. thesis)
    • Sprache – die unsichtbare Schöpfung in der Luft. Forschung zur Aerodynamik der Sprachlaute (2014). See source A.
    • 'Speech - Invisible Creation in the Air: Vortices and the Enigma of Speech Sounds' (2016)
      • In 1924, Rudolf Steiner expressed the wish that an experimental method would be found by which sounds from the speaker’s mouth could be rendered visible and thereby confirm the primal phenomenon embodied in the art of eurythmy as 'visible speech'. Following Steiner’s suggestions, Johanna Zinke first succeeded in capturing these air sound forms on photographic plates in 1962. She showed that each spoken sound generates a reproducible figure for a split second in midair. Maintier expanded on this work with the help of acoustic and laser-video phonetic analysis, showing that the segmentation of speech signals correlates with the speech air-flow figures. His results further reveal a surprising connection with modern flow and chaos research. Maintier therefore concludes that speaking goes far beyond production of acoustic waves; it arises through precise modulations of breath. It is an 'art of movement'.
    • see also youtube movie here: "Speech - Invisible Creation in the Air" by Serge Maintier

Speech eurythmy

  • Ilona Schubert (1900-1983): 'Ergänzende Hinweise zu den Grundelementen der Lauteurythmie' (1982)
  • Elena Zuccoli: 'Tone and Speech Eurythmy' (original in DE 1997 as 'Ton- und Lauteurythmie')


more references on: Music#References and further reading

  • Hilda Deighton and Gina Palermo (editors): 'Singing and the etheric tone: Gracia Ricardo's approach to singing based on her work with Rudolf Steiner' (1991)
  • Valborg Werbeck-Svardstrom: 'Uncovering the Voice The Cleansing Power of Song' (1938, 1980, republished 2008)

Vocal breathing exercises

see: Human breath#Further reading