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Rudolf Steiner ART, An Introductory Reader
Introduction and notes by Anne Stockton
Pocket Library of Spiritual Wisdom (2008)

When fire destroyed part of Charles Saatchi's collection of 20th and 21st century art in London recently, the public response to this destruction ranged from deep shock at the loss, through to complete indifference. One view, however, stood out for me from all the rest and this view came from Zoe Wanamaker, one of our best loved actresses. She saw the event as a call to move on from an era of "Fast Art" into one of "Slow Art" - a phrase and a call that would have appealed to Dr. Steiner, I think.

Rudolf Steiner saw Art as a record of the footprints made by man on his path of human evolution and spiritual development. He showed how Art can become a discipline, a path to the spirit and an education of the soul to the realms of the supersensible.

The extreme materialism, dry intellectualism and undermining of things spiritual in present day Britain is reflected in some of the more high profile art of our time. Revering the sneer and elevating the crude and the shocking in Art to undeserved heights through skilful spin and studied bravado, is a stance destined to wither in the face of Art's reconnection with the spiritual.

In this introductory reader, compiled with an introduction, commentary and notes by Anne Stockton, are excerpts from Steiner's many talks on Art. He introduces us to his world view on the roll of Art through the ages and its task alongside technology, science and religion today. "Art has to speak in a new way to souls today, (we have) to create the kind of art that calls on the soul to be active on the lines of the whole of modern life, yet a spiritual conception of modern life".

Through his powerful faculty of seership, Steiner spoke passionately about the arts and their mission. His great building, the First Goetheanum, was a testimony to his ability to ground into the physical world a vision of a new unity of the arts. This unity and interplay of the arts was for the individual soul to encounter and "..the experience of this encounter to be a work of art in itself".

Anne Stockton's commentary throughout the reader is welcoming, elegant and informative, it will lead any newcomer to Anthroposophy into each chapter in a sensitive and helpful way. Her writing is permeated with her own direct experience of anthroposophical art and its effect on the soul life. In her introduction, she has chosen some superb quotations to illustrate her points and by placing the parable of "The Being of the Arts" at the beginning of the book, she sets a wave of new understanding in motion that rolls through the ensuing chapters. Every true artist must surely be struck by a poignant ache of recognition when he or she reads this parable for the first time. Knowledge of the Grace and Deed of Sacrifice given over to us by these mighty Creator Spirits will serve to ignite our own will to create to the best of our ability, thus offering up a little grace in our turn.

With such a parable at the beginning and Steiner's beautiful Rainbow Meditation at the end, a meditation that unlocks the mystery within each colour and reveals a bridge between fear and courage, I recommend this book to all who wish to add dimension and spiritual understanding to their artistic expression.

In closing, I return to the phrase "Slow Art". Does it refer to the speed at which we make a brushstroke, the tempo of a song or a movement in a dance? It can of course include all three... but I believe what it really calls for is time spent in seeking and finding a unity with the "Being of the Arts" and in choosing wisely the imaginations we harvest from the waves of the astral sea.

Review by Susan Raven


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