The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists

“Poverty is not caused by men and women getting married; it’s not caused by machinery; it’s not caused by “over-production”; it’s not caused by drink or laziness; and it’s not caused by “over-population”. It’s caused by Private Monopoly. That is the present system. They have monopolized everything that it is possible to monopolize; they have got the whole earth, the minerals in the earth and the streams that water the earth. The only reason they have not monopolized the daylight and the air is that it is not possible to do it. If it were possible to construct huge gasometers and to draw together and compress within them the whole of the atmosphere, it would have been done long ago, and we should have been compelled to work for them in order to get money to buy air to breathe. And if that seemingly impossible thing were accomplished tomorrow, you would see thousands of people dying for want of air – or of the money to buy it – even as now thousands are dying for want of the other necessities of life. You would see people going about gasping for breath, and telling each other that the likes of them could not expect to have air to breathe unless they had the money to pay for it. Most of you here, for instance, would think and say so. Even as you think at present that it’s right for so few people to own the Earth, the Minerals and the Water, which are all just as necessary as is the air. In exactly the same spirit as you now say: “It’s Their Land,” “It’s Their Water,” “It’s Their Coal,” “It’s Their Iron,” so you would say “It’s Their Air,” “These are their gasometers, and what right have the likes of us to expect them to allow us to breathe for nothing?” And even while he is doing this the air monopolist will be preaching sermons on the Brotherhood of Man; he will be dispensing advice on “Christian Duty” in the Sunday magazines; he will give utterance to numerous more or less moral maxims for the guidance of the young. And meantime, all around, people will be dying for want of some of the air that he will have bottled up in his gasometers. And when you are all dragging out a miserable existence, gasping for breath or dying for want of air, if one of your number suggests smashing a hole in the side of one of the gasometers, you will all fall upon him in the name of law and order, and after doing your best to tear him limb from limb, you’ll drag him, covered with blood, in triumph to the nearest Police Station and deliver him up to “justice” in the hope of being given a few half-pounds of air for your trouble.”

Robert Tressell (1870 – 1911)


Mystery Drama

The Goetheanum

For twelve weeks,
twelve long weeks Maria,
I dripped with sweat
beneath the colours
of world evolution
on this stage of
utter loneliness,
we the stage hands
(bühnen helfers)
scurried like church
mice at the altar
of your becoming,
you never spoke to me,
but memory will never
let you go, having seen
your art, your mastery,
when from the wings,
in hushed shadows
I watched you,
mesmerised,
as if you softly breathed
another soul into you,
my body shivered in awe,
seeing you become
someone else.

Lazure Painting as a Healing Art

The following article was written in 1998 by John Stolfo, a US lazure painter now based in Hong Kong. I had the pleasure of meeting John in 2004 in Chicago. Over the years I have collected various articles about lazure painting and this is one of my favourites.

Lazure painting, as first explored in architecture by Rudolf Steiner and his collaborators in constructing the first Goetheanum building, has become one of the many anthroposophical healing arts- It slowly took root in Central Europe, spread to Scandinavia and Western European countries, and is now, after 80 years, utilised worldwide. Lazure has found its way into every imaginable building environment from Waldorf and public schools to retail and commercial spaces, corporate offices, meditation rooms, university lecture halls, prisons, children’s bedrooms, and even a basement in Brooklyn! Seen against the backdrop of serious concerns for the qualitative conditions of building environments, lazure painting has come of age. Its importance in providing health supporting, healing solutions will increase as more people realise its real worth.
What is it about lazure painting which seems so worthy of attention? How is it that this uniquely delightful way of transforming building spaces somehow affects our well-being, helping us to feel more harmonised in our breathing and possibly even changing our attitude or disposition in a positive way?
In 1911 Steiner spoke about color in building environments- He wished to awaken a sense in his listeners for the significance of color mood or atmosphere in providing support for the function of, or activity in a given space. Also, he considered the influence of certain colors on people of various temperaments, intellect, and character. For example, in a space used repeatedly for contemplation, a suitable color mood would be indigo blue. In 1907 in Munich, he chose an intense, deep red for the festive occasion of an international Theosophical congress, a serious yet one-time event in that space. This was before lazure painting was introduced and was accomplished by hung drapery. It was his position that certain color moods have a decidedly advantageous effect on the souls occupying specific spaces for a specific purpose at a particular time. Not only should form follow function, but color should follow function as well.
This lecture provided the seed for lazure painting as a cultural impulse later planted in 1917 in the Goetheanum project. This became clear when he with radiantly transparent colours (in painted glazes) in contrast to painting with opaque colors. When we paint transparently, so that the colors are freed from fixed surfaces, we allow the all-important principle of through streaming light to become co-active with the multi-layered paint glazes. This, he explained, allows us to achieve a healthy relationship with certain elemental beings. The helpful elemental beings have to do with the kingdoms of nature— animal, plant and mineral— that are closest to the human kingdom, and whose primary task is to provide the best forces supporting our ether body. The ether body, the individual life body, is that portion of the human organism which, among other functions, seeks to continually sustain our physical body and to improve an organic vessel for our higher, more individualised principles of astral-soul and spirit I. These best forces support our ether body and assist in our development as soul-spirit beings.
Clairvoyant sight, happens whether or not we are conscious of it. I wonder if clair-sentience, a term which Steiner used for an emerging sensibility accessible to agriculturalists, is similar to a contemporary artistic sensibility by which we are able to discern that something is qualitatively different about lazured spaces when compared with spaces which are opaquely painted. I conjecture that clair-sentience is a state of consciousness where we almost acutely sense the presence of elemental beings and possibly other higher beings. An artistic or aesthetic language which we all use daily regardless of our spiritual development would express our experience of lazured spaces in terms of being beautiful, delightful, refreshing, enlivening, invigorating, calming, soothing, tranquil… even peaceful.

Further, I would like to point out what I think is a significant concern. What does it mean when we lazure with acrylic/latex resin paints with highly synthetic pigments which come from the petrochemical industry? These paints, not available in Steiner’s time, contain ingredients obtained from highly processed chemicals, bound by gravity, cold and darkness, and emit toxic hydrocarbons in production and usage. While it is not necessary to go overboard and condemn these paints, which can nevertheless be quite inexpensive and easy to work with, we can ask what Steiner envisioned with lazure as a means toward creating a living interior? When he began to explore his painting media, he took genuine living raw materials as ingredients for glaze paints: casein powder obtained from milk protein (curds), pure beeswax, pure linseed oil, lavender and rosemary essential oils as preservatives for the casein binder, natural tree resins, natural fillers, and even pure plant pigments for coloration. It is clear to see the contrast between the paints derived from the petrochemical industry and paints which come from living nature, the realm of the etheric forces of light and warmth.
Wholesome lazure paints, which are in commercial production today, are without a doubt the highest professional quality available. They oxygenate which means that they emit oxygen into the space and do so for quite a long time. Not only are the paints kind to the environment in the production process, but they are delightfully fragrant to work with in application and to our senses for a long time afterwards. These paints, produced from Steiner’s well tested and improved recipes, afford the most suitable organic vessel for pigmentation and serve that quality of life we seek to create in our interior surroundings through lazure painting— a healing art.

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