A drama of human cognition by Katherine Rudolph

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 Air-Sound Forms (Luftlautformen,  recorded by Johanna F. Zinke) as basis 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 small group therapy. Between colour and sound lies my approach.

         The speech exercises are said to organise the astral body, 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 soul.

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 the colour.

Much 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.

   Rudolf 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.

  Our 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. 

 In the 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

  First 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).

  In the 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.’ 

  In the 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 are:

1 The Region of Burning Desire

2 The Region of Mobile Sensitivity

3 The region of Wishes

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

  The development of Equilibruim, Balance of Soul is of special significance to the painter who paints on through the ups and downs of creative activity.

 In 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 respective organs.

 Just 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.

  One 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 etc.). 

 Let us 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 environment.       This ‘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. 

  As we 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 context:

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’ thought.

  This 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 soul’

  This 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. 

  In the 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.

  It 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.


  So it 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 being.

 Spiritual 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 process.

  If we 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.

 In 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?  


 As an 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’:


 …‘O all 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.


   These forms,

   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!’


 Strader is able to open up to understanding ‘invisible’ phenomena involving spiritual science in later scenes, especially with help from his relationship to the character Theodora.



 An 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 Sophia. 

  1. Theosophyby Rudolf Steiner, Anthroposophic Press, Inc. 1946.
  2. Art in the Light of Mystery Wisdom Rudolf Steiner (see www.amazon.com)
  3. 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.
  4. ‘The Portal of Initiation’ A Rosicrucian Drama, translation by Ruth and Hans Pusch, Anthroposophic Press, 1997.