The Phenomenon of Colour and the Astral Body
drama of human cognition
My individual path has developed since 2004 into what I call
Exploring the Word in Colour and Speech. Since 1972 ,
I have been especially involved, artistically and therapeutically,
with the Anthroposophical Arts
of Speech Formation and Drama, both in England at The Speech
School, 1991, and later in Dornach Anthroposophical Therapeutic Speech,
2000. I have embraced Visual
Arts, especially painting ‘out of the colour’ from wisdom
gleaned in Rudolf Steiner’s Training Sketches for painters, as
taught by Gerard Wagner,
1984, and later with a Therapuetic Diploma in 2001. My most recent
artistic contribution has been an exhibit called ‘The Seed
Quest’. It was given this July for the
Anthroposophical Conference in Alice Springs, Northern
Territory,Australia; and comprised a synthesis of the two arts. It
depicted Sacred Abodes, as seen in cross-section, using the
(Luftlautformen, recorded by Johanna F. Zinke)
for anexploration of colour and form.
On a day to day basis, my work has become an artistic
therapeutic practice, mainly involved with one to one, and
therapy. Between colour and sound lies my approach.
The speech exercises are said to organise the
which as we shall see is the instrument of the painter, whose field
of play is the two dimensional etheric plane. The Ego
is the instrument of the writer or poet, whose field of play is the
astral body. So if one paints after speaking exercises
followed by the writer’s works, there is an awakening of
consciousness, which is therapeutic for awakening the human
In preparing this essay,I find it necessary to bring
something concerning the colour - wisdom from the training first
given by Rudolf Steiner through Henni Geck, who first asked him for
a painting training. There exists a relationship between our
astral body and the colour work made manifest in painting out of
of the following information will be nothing new to seasoned
Anthroposophists, yet in depth penetration into this subject matter
is a different matter for our consciousness.
Steiner describes the threefold nature of humans as body,
soul, and spirit. Body is dead matter, which is
sustained by the life of the etheric body. Spirit is
involved with higher worlds.
soul is now embodied within a physical form. The soul
can be said to be a link between the lower physical world and
the higher world of the spirit in which we participate at the same
time. The body seen as the temple of the soul is an
ancient occult picture image.
astral body, the soul has its being. There impulses,
wishes, longing, desires, and passions of the human being are
primarily active, in as far as they are felt by the individual
involved; sense perceptions are also active therein. The astral
body in the human being came into existence in the Moon evolution
of mankind. It is still in the process of
development. Within the workings of the
astral body, one can experience the sentient, the
intellectual, and the consciousness soul beings,
which work together to bring us sense perception and soul
consciousness involving thinking, feeling and willing.
Within the consciousness soul, as we understand from
Steiner’s Theosophy, there lives the divine seed of
spirit life, the Ego consciousness which holds the
individual gleanings, the talents acquired from our past lives and
our present quest, the ‘I am’ sense. This Ego being opens
into the further spiritual evolving of imagination,
inspiration, and intuition.
of all I must say that three-dimensional painting, as we know it,
is not the goal in our striving. We are seeking a two-dimensional
colour experience, and this is still in the process of becoming.
In this painting, the astral body itself becomes our
instrument; it is an organ or soul-structure, which is not
physical, also known as the astral sheath. This is may be
called the ‘organ of the soul’. Its field of play, so to
speak, is the two-dimensional, flat, etheric plane. (Paper,
in the ‘physical’ world, is as close as we can get to a two-
dimensional plane surface).
process of painting, the astral body evolves gradually into
a higher organ not yet developed for us by nature herself. However
it is not unnatural to do this, for in a higher sense, as Rudolf
Steiner writes in his book, Theosophy, 1)’ …all that
man accomplishes belongs also to nature. Only the person who is
ready to maintain that the human being should remain standing at
the stage at which he left the hand of nature, could call the
development of the higher senses unnatural.’
astral realm of being, there are regions of soul, finally leading
to higher realms. It appears that one may be arising and descending
all the time. As we read in Theosophy (Page121), they
1 The Region
of Burning Desire
2 The Region
of Mobile Sensitivity
3 The region
4 The Region
of Liking and Disliking
5 The Region
of Soul Light
6 The Region
of Active Soul Force
7 The Region
of Soul Life
development of Equilibruim, Balance of Soul is of special
significance to the painter who paints on through the ups and downs
of creative activity.
Art in the Light of Mystery Wisdom 2), Rudolf Steiner
describes not only the art of painting as being involved with the
development of higher organs or instruments. Other arts have their
above the painting organ, the Ego, seen as an instrument for
art, is the writer’s instrument. The speaking of speech exercises
organises the astral body, whose realm is the field of play for the
writer. The whole above process benefits the painter, clears and
orders his instrument for painting.
step down the scale, in the art of sculpture, the etheric
body becomes the organ or instrument and the field of play
becomes the physical matter (the stone or the clay
go on to our sense perception in seeing. A part of our soul, called
the ‘sentient soul ‘ is responsible for the experience of
sensation. When external light reaches the eyes, the sense organs
initially register many neutral impressions from our
‘registering’, I believe, is a word that has to do with the brain
process itself. But this recording is ‘after the fact’, so to
speak. According to Steiner, the brain and nervous system act as
mirrors. The moment of recording is actually in the immediate past,
compared to the soul process, which is going on in a more immediate
present time occurrence.
begin to focus, something lights up in the sentient soul, as
certain impressions are filtered, and sensations come alive with
personal vividness and quality.
The phenomenon of colour has a special connection to this
sensing activity of the sentient soul. Where does the
sentient soul come from? In The Art of Colour, Gerard
Wagner there is an essay by Theodor Willman, who knew Rudolf
Steiner. Willman writes on page 96 of that work (see the
translation -- www.exploringtheword.com.au).
3) The work Psycosophy and Pneumatosophy was also mentioned in that
The sentient soul is prepared, brought into existence, by
the etheric body (the body which also brings life to our
bodily physical substance). This etheric body is perceptible to
clairvoyant vision and appears as a light-filled outline of the
physical body; the etheric body pours itself into the sense of
sight. Its remarkable functioning is developed through the thought
nature, relating to perception. A thought-imbued principle is made
manifest during this process.
Now, it is important to say that, all these concepts must be
held in abeyance by the individual first confronting them.
Certainly first hand experience is of great importance. Opening up
to the possibility of these new viewpoints allows one to begin
‘stepping along’ the path. Openness requires one to be open
to a change of understanding at every moment. The conceptions of
the astral body and the substance of the sentient
soul differ from anything described in usual ‘scientific
terms’, because they belong to the realm of ‘spiritual scientific’
preliminary perception of colour in the world around us is at first
subconscious. This subconscious perception is a part of the
sentient soul. The sensory information is linked by a
function of what we call the intellectual soul, but the
subconscious itself is first brought to conscious thought by what
we call the ‘consciousness
consciousness soul manifests a faculty beyond the
intellectual appearance of the information. It is involved in
a cognitive, face-to-face gleaning and understanding of perceptions
and conscious abstract understandings carried on and discovered in
the present moment by the individual involved.
act of seeing, thought-perception streams through the eyes by means
of the sentient soul ‘substance’. This thought substance has
by far more elasticity than other substances that stream out of
smell and taste, says Rudolf Steiner. It can spread out far into
the distance, and penetrate into things from a much broader scope.
In fact, it is really something of an astral substance,
which streams out of human beings. It becomes permeated with
qualities of soul impressions.
streams far out into the distance, until it reaches and is answered
by an object. This occurs through another astral happening-
a happening pertaining to soul experience.
is something astral, which streams toward matter. This
counterpart of astrality streams toward matter,
leaves the body and penetrates as far as necessary to stand
opposite to another astral counterpart. In the confrontation
between astrality and astrality, colour comes into
science has brought us to an incredible principle: we have seen
that the sentient soul is actually a thought process in the
act of perceiving. But this perceptive thinking has its appearance
in the intellectual soul and then attains
understanding in the consciousness soul. In the sentient
soul, it is subconscious.
We may feel thankful for this process as we strive to paint.
So it is: we observe a thing with our two eyes, we have two
impressions, which don’t immediately come into consciousness, even
though they spring from an unconscious thought process. These two
perceptible functions must occur because we have two eyes. One
pointed seeing, while painting, tends to synthesise the
become conscious, we must travel the road back from the sentient
soul into the consciousness soul. Therefore one could
certainly imagine that there are possible subconscious impressions
of the sentient soul, which are just in the process of becoming
conscious to the human being.
Egypt, the yellow-red hues were prominent; in Greek times we first
saw the colour blue, in the late 19th century, the
impressionists first observed peach-blossom, now red-green is a
colour to differentiate: What is coming?
illustration of a soul phenomenon which may occur when the sentient
soul perception cannot yet penetrate back to the consciousness soul
understanding, I have chosen to bring a portrayal of a character in
the first Mystery Drama, ‘The Portal of Initiation’ 4). In Scene 8,
Strader, who is a scientist, has rejected the possibility of
spiritual seeing. Yet, in a scene where he confronts a portrait of
Professor Capesius, painted by his friend Johannes. Strader is
astounded and completely unnerved, because he sees the revelation
of a colour phenomenon, which shines out beyond physicality. It has
been painted with spirit sight, which reveals to Strader much of
that which lies just beyond the surface in his karmic relationship
to Professor Capesius.
Strader’s sentient soul perceives colour-light in a
semi-unconscious state. He ardently tries to understand with
scientific reasoning, through his intellectual soul development,
but he cannot bridge the gap. There is something beyond the
intellectual capacity, which is revealed in the painting. The path
of understanding is ‘short circuited’, not yet finding conscious
understanding of the phenomenon.
Strader reacts according to his temperament, first tremulous and
then angry almost out of his senses, so to speak. He blames
Johannes for upsetting his fixed view of the ‘physical’ world. Many
can be the reactions to such experiences, according to the
temperament. Tears sometimes reveal the complete inability to reach
understanding regarding such experiences. It becomes what one might
call an existential reaction, one of the many questions one must
patiently carry in the consciousness until, one day, understanding
begins to dawn. Listen to the following excerpt from Scene 8 of
‘The Portal of Initiation’:
these colours,- they are only surface,
And yet they are not.
It is as if they’re only visible
To make themselves invisible to me.
emerging from the colours’ interplay,
speak of the spirit’s weaving.
Indeed they speak of much
which they themselves are not.
Where can it be of what they speak?
It cannot be upon the canvas,
for there are only colours stripped of spirit.
Then is it Capesius?
But why can I not see it in him?
Thomasius, what you have painted
its being destroys itself
the moment that the eye would grasp it.
I cannot understand
whereto this picture’s driving me,-
What is it urging me to grasp it?
It seems that ghosts are tricking me,-
A ghost that is invisible,-
And in my weakness
I cannot yet discover it.
Thomasius, you are painting ghosts,-
Into your pictures you have conjured them
But will not let themselves be found.
O cruel are your pictures!’
able to open up to understanding ‘invisible’ phenomena
involving spiritual science in later scenes, especially with help
from his relationship to the character Theodora.
artist’s inner productive forces, such as after images, come from
what Goethe spoke of as the primal organ. This is a faculty of the
‘organ of the soul’. He wrote that he could inwardly perceive the
metamorphosis of seed, to leaf, to blossom etc. This work of the
‘primal organ’ must be allowed to unfold freely. Artists’
perceptions need to grow, expand and contract in order to
eventually evolve objective being- out of the shadowy images. This
inward development is fostered by what can be called the divine
Rudolf Steiner, Anthroposophic Press, Inc. 1946.
- Art in the
Light of Mystery Wisdom Rudolf
Steiner (see www.amazon.com)
- The Art of
Colour, Gerard Wagner (see www.exploringtheword.com.au
About Gerard Wagner, The Art of Colour, translation
by Katherine Rudolph, Theodor Willman ‘The Architectural Concept of
the Goetheanum’ pp. 96.
- ‘The Portal
of Initiation’ A Rosicrucian Drama, translation by Ruth and Hans
Pusch, Anthroposophic Press, 1997.
© Copyright 2012 Katherine Rudolph
Exploring The Word in Colour and Speech