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  Chiaroscuro in Painting Therapy

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By: Elisa Metrailler
Painting Therapy.doc

(Original title: Die Licht-Finsternisarbeitsweise am Beispiel der Maltherapie. Der Merkurstab 1996; 49:491-9. English by A. R. Meuss, FIL, MTA.)

Rudolf Steiner's Anthroposophy added knowledge of the spiritual human being to the knowledge of the human physical body presented in modem science, with the new insights presented in Extending Practical Medicine.(1) This opened the way and showed the necessity for new therapies. Eurythmy therapy,(2) was given by Rudolf Steiner himself, and other arts were also to be used.

Dr. Margarethe Stavenhagen-Hauschka, one of the physicians working with Dr. Ita Wegman at her newly-established clinic in Arlesheim, was asked to develop a spiritual-scientific basis in medicine and the study of man so that the arts might be put to therapeutic use. In the early days of practical anthroposophical medicine, Liane Collot d'Herbois, a young painter trained at art school, worked in curative education with Dr. Hilma Walter in England. Both worked in close collaboration with Dr. Ita Wegman. In this destiny-guided context, Liane Collot d'Herbois considered new ways of healing through painting therapy.(3)

The central question she had to ask was: how does the human spirit and soul unite with an earthly body?

This question lies at the heart of our medical, educational and curative educational work. The moment she was able to link this question with the question of the origin of color, she found the bridge between painting and the human being and was able to develop her approach to painting therapy.

Liane Collot d'Herbois has presented the spiritual background to her painting impulse in Color, a textbook for painters.(4) In it, she gives brief notes based on decades of teaching in different countries (American friends had asked her to write these down).

A passage from Dr. Margarethe Hauschka's introduction to the book shows how this approach fits into the progress of cultural evolution:

"In the last Century, Philip 0. Runge responded to Goethe's theory of color by doing work of his own. This book is an affirmative echo of Rudolf Steiner's theory of color, which is one level higher than Goethe's.

Newton was entirely concerned with the physical plane. Goethe rose to contemplation of the creative principles; his theory of color reflected the laws of life. Rudolf Steiner went higher, seeing color as the language of the soul; he entered the worlds where creative powers of soul and spirit are at work beyond time and space. One of the high points in the book is the discussion of light and darkness. As Goethe would say, we are taken into the workshop of the Earth Spirit who initially weaves the garment of the Divine Spirit out of color, interweaving light and darkness.

When Liane Collot d'Herbois says darkness is the weft moving through the warp of light, as it were, darkness is the original creative principle that bears within it the impulses for movement in all directions. Light is the wisdom-filled element that gives form and with this kills, illumining only the past, performing only one movement which is to radiate out from a point.

Images such as these offer new insight even to those with experience. The subtle characterization of individual colors that follows is a priceless treasure for artists as well as therapists.(5)

Liane Collot d'Herbois started her research about 70 years ago. The realization that color is an interval in the world of the senses between the creative acts of invisible light and invisible darkness raises our perception of color to a level where exact fantasy, the inner response of the artist who understands the essential nature of color, comes together with the spiritual-scientific view of the world.(6)

Liane Collot d'Herbois briefly sums up the trail-blazing thoughts presented in her book:
"The three cosmic principles - light, darkness and color on one hand and the essential human being as the three principles of spirit, soul and body (thinking, feeling and will) as a microcosm - are the basis of everything I have to say.(7)

Here, she touches on the very secrets of existence.

We find the archetypes of light and darkness working together when we follow Rudolf Steiner in his description of the far-distant past. He has shown that we owe the whole of our evolution to sacrifices made by sublime spirits who gained fulfillment in pouring out their will, giving of their will substance.(8) This will had entirely constructive, all-penetrating, sustaining qualities and came to expression in moving, brooding warmth. There was as yet no light. This will and warmth organism, given the name Ancient Saturn, changed to become the Ancient Sun stage. The transition involved separation between Saturn spirits, whose evolution was regular and progressive, and Saturn spirits who lagged behind, keeping the Ancient Saturn qualities. Under the influence of the progressive Saturn spirits warmth became enhanced into light, leaving behind an element that in relation to light was dark and shadowy. This element also reflected condensation, relative to the more subtle etheric substantia:

We must have a state of alternation, with Sun spirits and Saturn spirits, spirits of light and of darkness, working together. To guide the activity of the light spirits in the right way, the Elohim had to literally weave the work of the spirits of darkness into their work. Nothing has continuity in cosmic acti-

Four examples of regular light-darkness movements out of which color arises. From the therapists' schooling path, not intended for patients. The examples shown here are the work of E. Leonora Hambrecht, Bemadette Hegu, Elisa Metrailler.

1) (Left) Light coming down in front of darkness, illuminating the darkness behind. The light is semitransparent for the movement of darkness behind it.

2) (Above) Movements of darkness before the light.

3) Central light, with darkness behind the light.

4) Central light, with darkness moving toward it from various directions.

vities unless force of darkness is everywhere woven into the force of light. And in the interweaving, creating a web, as it were, offerees of light and of darkness, lies one of the secrets of cosmic alchemy.(10)

These creative principles provide a genuine key to understanding our present stage in world and human evolution.

Rudolf Steiner said in 1920:

Something that should really matter to us today is that the world, including the human being, consists entirely in light of thought, thoughts of light being organized with substance of will, will substance, and that the objects we meet are configured or filled with content in all kinds of different ways out of light of thought, thoughts of light, substance of will, will substance.(11)

"As the world outside may be seen as a symphony of darkness and light, so may our inner life initially be seen in terms of light and darkness insofar as it extends in space. For our own conscious mind only, light is thought or idea;
darkness is the will in us, becoming kindness, love, and so on.(12)

So far, we have had a brief outline of the cosmic evolution of light and darkness, their interweaving holding one of the secrets of existence. We'll now consider images that show how this interweaving gives rise to color.

Light must be seen as the destructive element working out of cosmic powers of antipathy, and darkness as the epitome of sublime cosmic sympathy, an element that is wholly constructive. They must enter into relationship with one another, and this comes to expression in the genesis of color.

Movement arises as soon as cosmic light enters into the darkness. The light's powers of antipathy drive the darkness away, breaking it up; they create a void or, in other words, space. The darkness wants to fill and fulfill this void and crowds toward the light so that we may speak of a darkness before the light that is shone through, and which may appear in all shades of red, and of darkness behind the light, darkness that is shone upon and may present in all shades of blue. Darkness holds the movement impulse in it. It is not itself movement, but it quickens as soon as light shines on it because of the will that lives in it and wants to fill the void created by light. It wants to take the light into itself, muting the destructive powers of light. Light sets limits to this welling, filling, quickening quality. The formless, soft, calm movements of the darkness that become apparent when the first brightness appears change more and more the closer they come to the light source.

This indicates that light creates or destroys form. Form is movement come to rest. The mobile, processual nature is the element that sustains color. Movement is a manifestation of the will, and color therefore is closer to darkness than to light.

At this point brief reference may be made to the polar lights. Partial or, ideally, complete darkness is the only precondition. These glorious colors have nothing to do with the light of the sun.(14)

How are light of thought, or light thoughts, organized through with substance of will or will substance? In other words, how does the human spirit and soul unite with an earthly body?

Human beings are organized from two directions in spirit and soul, firstly out of the physical, etheric cosmos and, secondly, out of earlier lives on earth.(15)

Union occurs in rhythms: breathing, sleeping and waking, being born and dying. When we go to sleep the I and astral body separate partly from their union with the physical and ether body. They enter into a world of weaving light. "In sleep we live in the light of the dying thought world of earliest times." When we "enter into the body with the I and astral body as we wake up, our inner soul becomes receptive to darkness..." "In sleep we were receptive to light, on waking up we become receptive to gravity.(16)

In sleep, human beings are given up to the cosmos. They take into the cosmos what they brought with them as the fruits of earlier lives when they descended from the world of spirit and soul into the earth world. They withdraw this content of their human nature from the cosmos whilst awake. Life between birth and death proceeds in this rhythm of being given up to the cosmos and withdrawing from it.

Withdrawal from the cosmos at the same time means that the human being of spirit and soul is taken up into the organization of senses and nerves. When human beings wake up, the element of spirit and soul unites with the physical and life processes in this organization to work in unison. This mode of work includes sensory perception, generation of memory pictures, and the life of imagination. The activities are bound up with the physical body. Ideas, the experience of thinking, when human beings gain conscious awareness of elements are only half conscious in sensory perception, imagination and memory, are bound to the thinking organization. This uniform organization includes the realm through which human beings gain self-awareness.(

The part of human beings that is born from the light of thought enables them to think. What does this mean? It means that in the sum of all earlier lives lies an inherent, purposeful shaping and organizing power of thought that enables human beings to find their way from the world of spirit to the parents they are meant to have. This power of thought then penetrates the elements the parents provide on conception so that

development of the child's life consists in the will being gradually captured, as it were, by the powers of thought that we bring with us into physical existence as we are born... The child uses those thoughts as guiding principles in developing the body until the time of the changing of the teeth. They then emerge as power of thought.

We may thus draw the human being in schematic form by saying he brings his world of thoughts with him as he comes down from the world of spirit... And he brings the life of will to bear in the body given by his parents. Powers of will are in there that come to chaotic expression. Powers of thought are in there, and they initially serve as guides to bring the spirit into the will in the right way in the human body

The constructive aspect of the neurosensory system which the light thoughts that come from before birth use as their instrument originates in the child's head. This holds all the activities that occur in the organism. Health and illness and, indeed, the whole of development depend on how the interplay of light organization and darkness organization proceeds.

Light and darkness in painting therapy
Light and darkness are invisible, spiritual powers, but there is a way of drawing with charcoal that allows us to show their qualities and effects. This technique is very useful in therapy. The actions of light and darkness can be revealed in images, and by thinking in images we can enter into the way in which the human spirit and soul, woven of light, unites with the darkness of the physical body.

Light, originating in a source, has direction. It illumines the darkness that withdraws from it; it shines through the darkness that arises before it. To create an image using these laws calls up the I in our thinking and will. Adhering to the creative logic of these exercises anyone doing them prepares the ground for the health-giving powers taking effect in thinking and in will. They are particularly suitable for the treatment of mental diseases. The logic of the light-darkness exercises gives the I orientation and wakes it up. Taking account of the soul aspects of light and darkness we enter into the world of color. Here, the movement inherent in color, stimulating processual elements, has major significance.

The choice of charcoal or color is determined by the type of illness and the age. The strict mental logic of the light-darkness exercises can only be asked of individuals who have reached maturity in the I; prior to this, the soul quality of color is the medium of choice.

Treatment always starts with three freely-produced pictures. At the beginning of every session one shows and speaks of the qualities of light and darkness and the way they relate to one another; the patient then works alone, with no interference from the therapist. In his first pictures, the patient shows how his light and darkness organization interweaves. The dynamics are apparent in both charcoal and color exercises.

Evaluation takes account of how far light and darkness deviate from their characteristic qualities, distorting their healthy interrelationship.

What can be seen in the first three pictures, which reinforce each other, serves as a basis for the goal and approach used in the treatment.

Elisa Metrailler
Hinter den Gasrten 1
D-88696 Owingen

1 Steiner R, Wegman I. Extending Practical Medicine (GA 27) Ch. 1. Tr. A. Meuss. London: Rudolf Steiner Press 1996.
2 Ibid, Ch. 18.
3 Collot d'Herbois L. Licht, Finstemis und Farbe in der Maltherapie S. 293. Dornach: Verlag am Goetheanum 1983.
4 Collot d'Herbois L. Colour.
5 Collot d'Herbois L. Colour. Preface by M. Hauschka.
6 Steiner R. A Picture of Earth-Evolution in the Future (in GA 204) 13 May 1921. Tr. not known. Golden Blade 1960.
7 Collot d'Herbois L. Licht, Finstemis und Farbe in der Maltherapie S. 21.
8 Steiner R. Occult Science - An Outline (GA 13). Tr. G. & M. Adams. London: Rudolf Steiner Press 1962.
9 Ibid.
10 Steiner R. Genesis. Secrets of the Bible Story of Creation. (GA 122) 21 Aug. 1910. Tr. D. Lenn and 0. Barfield. London: Rudolf Steiner Press 1982.
11 Steiner R. Die Bruecke zwischen der Weltgeistigkeit und dem Physischen des Menschen. Die Suche
nach der neuen Isis, der goettlichen Sophie (GA 202) 5. Dez. 1920 S. 82. 12Ibid.lO.Dez.l920S.87.
13 Collot d'Herbois L. Licht, Finstemis und Farbe in der Maltherapie S. 22.
14 Falk Ytter H. Polarlicht. Die Christengemeinschaft Heft 12/95, S. 560.
15 Steiner R. Anthroposophical Leading Thoughts (GA 26). Tr. G. & M. Adams. London: Rudolf Steiner Press 1973.
16 Steiner R. Die Bruecke zwischen der Weltgeistigkeit und dem Physischen des Menschen. 10. Dez. 1920S. 90.
17 Steiner R. Anthroposophical Leading Thoughts (GA 26). Tr. G & M Adams. London: Rudolf steiner Press 1973.
18 Steiner R. Thinking, Feeling and Will in their Relation to Past, Present and Future. 15 July 1921. Tr. not known. Anthroposophical Monthly 1931; 8: Sup. 1.

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