Notes on a Painting Exercise for Cancer

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By: Phoebe Alexander

Warm and Cold
In anthroposophical medicine, ill­nesses are viewed from the standpoint of the polarities of warm and cold— the loos­ening, dissolving, fever illnesses that pre­dominate in childhood vs. the hardening, sclerotic illnesses such as arthritis, heart disease and cancer predominant in adult­hood and old age. Because humanity as a whole has now passed the midpoint of its development in terms of earthly evolution and is entering into its adulthood, even our children today are developing these cold illnesses. These are illnesses of our time rather than of personal karma, and there is only so much we can do to keep them at bay. Humanity no longer has the youthful vitality it once had in the days when the great fever plagues swept across continents. In the great chilling off pro­cess of ageing and hardening, we are now much more vulnerable to auto-immune conditions such as Lupus, and diseases of weakened immunity, such as AIDS. But through the same processes, we have also evolved into more defined and unique in­dividuals with active cognitive faculties. How do we recover this lost warmth to find healing for the future?

Mistletoe and the Tree
From out of his spiritual research, Rudolf Steiner pointed to the white-ber­ried mistletoe, Viscum album, as the basis for the treatment of cancer. The plant, which grows on apple, oak, poplar, elm, pine and fir trees, is now known to be a hemi- or holo-parasite living in symbiosis with its host tree (a true parasite weakens its host, eventually killing it, by sapping its vitality). In fact, according to what I learned during my horticultural training at the New York Botanical Garden in the early seventies, mistletoe is only to be found on unhealthy trees, and can only be intentionally sown or planted on mistle­toe-receptive trees— trees that already have mistletoe growing on them. These mistle­toe-receptive trees tend to grow above or near to moving water, and rather than hav­ing caused the weakness of the tree, the mistletoe has been found to play a signifi­cant role in maintaining the life of the tree.

When mistletoe plants, thought to have been culprits in the trees' demise, were removed from their living but ailing hosts, the trees promptly died—often with split or burst limbs. The mistletoe was found to have functioned as kind of release valve for the pressure of superabundant growth forces that the tree alone could not con­tain or withstand. To put this in anthro­posophical terms, the mistletoe receives its life from an over-activity or superfluity of etheric forces from the tree. So the mistle­toe needs the tree, but the tree also needs the mistletoe.

Mistletoe and Mercury
According to Leen Mees, M.D. of the Netherlands, Rudolf Steiner spoke of the mistletoe as a carry-over from Atlantean times when there were a greater number of in-between life forms—animal-plants and plant-animals—than are commonly found now on earth. Not having roots of its own, and being ball-formed—neither heliotropic nor geotropic—are two such characteristics. This ball-like form of the mistletoe further creates a sort of enclosed soul-space or astrality, common to the ani­mal world. (The tumor also has such a form.) Further, the rhythmical pattern of its growth: contraction—the seed, expansion—the leaves, contraction—the bud, expansion—the berry, are the qualities attributed to mercury in its ten­dencies to dispersion (expansion, or cen­trifugal activity) into multiple tiny drop­lets— and vapor— and its polar tendency toward pulling together (contraction, or centripetal activity) into a tight spherical form. Also, because mercury is the only metal which is liquid at room temperature, it is said to possess inner heat.

 the seed        
 the leaves   

Color, Warmth and the Soul
Warmth is an astral or soul quality that we share with the animal world, es­pecially with the warm-blooded species, whose moods and whose tenderness to­wards their young strike a reflective note in our own souls. The as­tral body gives us our consciousness—our life of soul—our inner life, in­ner light, in­ner warmth. The warmth of the soul lives in feel­ings and moods— in the world of color. And it is only in the light of consciousness that color can be per­ceived. Color is the language of the soul, and it finds its reflection in the colored world of outer nature. We find we are warmed within by the fiery glow of the setting sun even on a chilly evening, and will shiver a bit and reach for a sweater in the gathering blue dusk of evening, though the temperature may be quite warm. Our experience of inner temperature, or of soul mood is strongly affected by the moods of outer nature, including the moods of those around us, and is experienced by the soul in color qualities, each with its own inner soul gesture. The outward shining of yel­low (the color closest to light) and the inward shining of blue (the color closest to darkness) are at the two poles of the expansion and contraction in the life of the soul. Mediating between the ex­pansiveness of light (yellow) and the con­tracting darkness (blue), is warmth (red)—the warmth of our feeling life, the fire of our vitality and enthusiasm, the love of the heart.

Unlike light and darkness which re­main in dynamic tension with one another, warmth can penetrate and permeate both light and darkness. Red, which is the color of warmth and activity, has its own inner contraction and expansion, its own inner mercurial activity like the beating or pulsating of the heart. It is in red, in this warmth element in the blood, that our human ego, our spirit, comes to dwell. This ego-imbued warmth gives us life and vitality, strengthens our etheric body, brings purpose and compassion to our soul, and enlivens our body. Light disperses darkness, and darkness can encroach upon light. Only our warmth can infuse them both.

Painting Therapy and Iscador
Through conscious, intentional ac­tivity in thought and deed warmed by the forces of the heart, true healing can take place. From the mistletoe plant imagina­tion, Iscador therapy has been developed from the plant substance itself for various cancers and for AIDS and likewise from the mistletoe imagination illustrated here was developed. While watercolor painting­ with prismatic colors has a general warm­ing and dissolving effect, the particular painting exercise shown here requires that the individual make an effort of the will—powerful and difficult—first to find a bal­ance between the light and the darkness (expressed by color intensity, and dimen­sion and proportion of light and darkness), and then to bring a halo of warmth be­tween the light and darkness, letting it first penetrate inward toward the source of the light, and then outward toward the cold­est reaches of the darkness—warming the light and warming the darkness. Each time the exercise is repeated, an effort is made to spread the warmth a little further than the time before into whichever area it is having difficulty penetrating.

It is very visible from the illustrations that some individuals can bring their warmth into the light with ease, but not into the darkness, and vice versa. The aim is a balance of light and darkness, a pal­pable rather than a pale use of color, and a good penetration of the ego/warmth into both the light and darkness with an over­all sense of harmoniousness and a breath­ing of the colors. Warmed light appears as orange or golden yellow—the saffron color of monks' robes—the color of spiri­tual joy. Warmed darkness appears as vio­let or purple—the color of the robes of kings—the color of spiritual wisdom. In this circular rainbow around our inner light, the green of the plant world (the etheric) is called up—activated—as after-image in our souls when we breathe in the spiritual love of red.

This exercise is always enormously gratifying as well as very meditative and inwardly activating. One is literally warmed by it. I use it frequently in my therapeutic painting group at The Fellow­ship Community in Spring Valley, NY as a general tonic, especially during the dark and cold winter months. When the basic exercise is completed, we may choose to make the source of light and warmth a candle flame, painting the candle down­ward from the flame to a table or bench below (blue)—a Christmas/Chanukah ex­perience. At the beginning of February (Candlemas), we celebrate the pregnant earth by creating a cozy and warm hollow from which new life is preparing to emerge. Varia­tions and manifestations of the theme are limited, or given flight, by the imagination.

Phoebe Alexander studied Waldorf educa­tion at Emerson College in England and art therapy at "De Wervel" Academie voor Kunstinninge Therapie in Holland. She has a master's degree in therapeutic recreation and is a certified Recreational Therapist. Phoebe has given public courses and workshops and leads a weekly therapetuic arts group at the Fellowship Com­munity in Spring Valley.

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