Heiner Ruland

Music Therapy.doc

(Original title: Grundlagen der Musiktherapie. Der Merkurstab 1996; 49:392-3. English by J. Collis.)

Rudolf Steiner pointed out that the ear as the organ of hearing is not required for genuine musical experience. Its task is to separate off the sense-perceptible, airy quality, overcoming it and thus projecting the genuine musical note into our inner space as a resonance, a "purely etheric experience."(1) Our eyes link us with the external world, even through art and painting. By contrast in music, our ears take us into our inner space, our etheric organization, and this is different from our ordinary, sense-perceptible, external perception through hearing. It is most important for music therapy, and is all too often forgotten. Having discussed the nature of melody, harmony and rhythm in the second lecture in The Inner Nature of Music, Steiner expressed it like this: "What is it that I have described to you? I have described the human ether body.(2)

A passage in Goethe's Tonlehrtafel, has hung for 100 years in the room in Weimar where he died. I am moved by the fact that a passage in it has consistently been misread. It is the passage where Goethe, otherwise more aware of what he perceived through his eyes, was obviously trying to formulate for himself his first inkling of how the ears really function in music. Under "Acoustics" we read: "...In the case of the ear, it is what the ear conducts inwards that merits special attention, for this has a most stimulating and productive effect."

"Inwards" is what the original clearly says, yet in every edition of Goethe's work on music known to me, even the Kuerschner edition edited by Rudolf Steiner in 1883-97, the text says "always."

In this inner experience of the ether body in music, meditative work can help us distinguish between all four ethers so as to use them therapeutically:
1) Life ether, that can bring buoyancy and life even into what is physically heavy and dead: rhythm as the living, carrying stream in music, which can even supersede the heaviness of a beat or be damned up and strengthened by it.
2) Chemical or number ether, that continuously weaves numerical relationships into this streaming flow, lending it harmonious qualities: in the rhythmical sense, it is the harmonious ratios of long to short (what is ordinarily understood as rhythm), of heavy to light (3/4 beat, 4/4 beat, etc.); in the melodic sense it is the numerical ratios of the intervals (in chords, usually called "harmony").
3) Light ether in the different luminosity of notes; this is something children express clearly when they speak of dark or light notes (not yet low or high ones). The inner light qualities that arise from the actual melody then also communicate themselves to the harmonies in the light and dark of major and minor, sharp and flat.
4) Warmth ether, the ether that carries the "I," plays an all-encompassing role in music as the art of the "I." No genuine musical note can be produced or experienced without a sense of inner warmth. At the beginning of the second lecture in Eurythmy as Visible Music, Steiner said that the compressions of air in the physical transverse vibrations of an external note must always generate heat: "In this element of warmth lives the ego."(3) As a quality that is half physical and half etheric, warmth forms the bridge between the external, sense-perceptible and the inner, supersensible aspects of the note. In his Tonlehrtafe, Goethe was obviously pointing to this link when he used the expression "sensual-moral enthusiasm."

Whereas the warmth ether carries our "I," the light ether that is experienced, especially in melody, evidently has something to do with our astral body. As a "star body" or "consciousness body" it possesses inner, supersensible light qualities that are interwoven in music with the laws of the "I." The most obvious place to experience this is in the melodic intervals. One of the main characteristics of the "I" is unity, identity, that which remains the same; we sense this when we experience the prime and the octave. Out of our experience of their unity or identity we give the notes of the prime and the octave the same name: c - c'. That is an “I”-quality.

At the same time, we also experience c - c' as a polarity of a dark c and a light c' within the space unit of the octave, its beginning and ending. Between the two extends the sevenfold string of the intervals, mirroring the law of the astral body, since "the number seven is concerned with the mysteries of the astral body."(4 ) Polarity and metamorphosis are characteristics of the astral world. In this sense, the seven intervals are not only stations on the path from prime to octave; meditatively experienced, they also reveal themselves to be actual metamorphoses from an inner to an outer experience.

Beginning with the octave, the human "I" has been incarnating downwards step by step from divine heights via the Atlantean, ancient Indian experience of the seventh, the ancient Persian sixth, the Egyptian fifth, the Greek fourth, and today's third. Steiner hinted at further developments for the present and future via the second to the prime. Since Golgotha, the actual birth of the "I" into earthly evolution, the feeling for the sequence of intervals in the musical scale has turned round from a downward to an upward movement. Thus, the intervals are increasingly becoming something that human beings themselves have to fill with a fitting “I”-gesture. The journey along the intervals back to the octave gives us an artistic, musical foretaste of the entire initiation path leading up to the divine, to our highest "I," even though we cannot yet tread that path.

It seems to me that the most essential aspect in music therapy is to move from music as a gift from the gods - which it still is - to a strong sense of our own creative "I”-gesture which, as a "purely etheric experience," can take effect right down into our vital organization.

Heiner Ruland
Klinik Oeschelbronn
D-75223 Niefem- Oeschelbronn

1 Steiner R. The Inner Nature of Music and the Experience of Tone. (GA 283). Tr. M. St. Goar. New York: Anthroposophic Press 1983, lecture of 7 March 1923.
2 Ibid., lecture of 8 March 1923.
3 Steiner R. Eurythmy as Visible Music (GA 278). Tr. V. & J. Compton-Bumett. London: Rudolf Steiner Press 1977, lecture of 20 February 1924.
4 Steiner R. The Riddle of Humanity. The Spiritual Background of Human History. (GA 170). Tr. J. Logan. London: Rudolf Steiner Press 1990, lecture of 12 August 1916.


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