Spiritual Tasks of the Homemaker – Part 5

From the physical realm of the household, we will now move on to the etheric realm.


The etheric world does not consist of solid, measurable, graspable aspects, but rather of processes, movement and interpenetration. It is thus not a world of things but of living beings.

In the home, etheric processes are everywhere:

creating — cooking, sewing and crafts

changing — cleaning, decorating, mending and repairing

Long ago, people perceived the etheric world in the form of elemental beings — the helpful brownie behind the stove, the watchful tomten in the barn, and mischievous sprites tangling the hair of lazy householders as they sleep.

These elemental beings were once seen as helpers in the household, and given a nightly bowl of milk or porridge in gratitude. But human intellect came to the fore over and above the feeling realm of the soul, and the helpful beings seemed to fade from existence.

However, it is a fact, a “practical occultism,” that etheric beings still exist wherever material is handled. Only the factual, physical world has no true life. Understanding that working with etheric processes enlivens the home will help the homemaker in daily life.


This section of the book includes one of my favorite quotes from Steiner ever:

For wherever material is handled, there are processes. Rudolf Steiner gave an often cited example: to the homemaker who complained to him that her household responsibilities gave her no time to read his lecture cycles he answered gravely, “When you clean your living room, you release elemental beings. When you read a lecture cycle, you release no elemental beings.”

So . . . elemental beings get “stuck” when dust and dirt accumulate, because there is no movement there, no processes. And thus when we clean, we “free” these beings, and the work becomes easier. Maybe that’s why if you clean things up right away, the messes don’t seem as overwhelming as when they sit and grow and stagnate!


Manfred Schmidt-Brabant, The Spiritual Tasks of the Homemaker, Temple Lodge, 1996.

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Filed under Anthroposophy, Books, Deep Thoughts, Homemaking

14 responses to “Spiritual Tasks of the Homemaker – Part 5

  1. I find this to be very true in my own home and life. When I take the time to tend to my family and housework, there always ends up being MORE time to do my creative writing or crafting. When I convince myself that I have no time to care for the house, I feel overwhelmed and find little free time to write.

    Thank you for these posts. Love them!

  2. As someone who has a housekeeper, I wonder how much etheric processing I’m missing out on. Then again, I wasn’t more creatively productive when I did all my own cleaning … I was just a lot more tired. 🙂

  3. I think I feel more tired when I neglect household tasks. It’s never a good feeling to wake up in the morning to a sink full of dishes; it just makes me want to turn around and get back in bed. Although, if someone else did them, I’d be just fine. 😉

    I’ve really been enjoying these posts so I finally went ahead and ordered this book…it should arrive this week and I can’t wait to read it!

  4. Mon

    I feel stagnant energy acutely. That’s mainly why I’m big on decluttering. I’m not a clean freak though, but I do feel the re-awakened energies when I do clean.

  5. Eileen: It’s definitely seems like a mental state, doesn’t it? There are still the same 24 hours in the day, but somehow productivity waxes and wanes. Lots of old stories and fairy tales include the idea that only those people who did their share of the work would be helped by the elementals, and the lazy ones would be tormented.

    David: Well, there needs to be balance. If one’s physical health does not allow heavy housecleaning, then attempting it wouldn’t really help the etheric body of either the person or the home! But you still cook for yourself, make jam, etc. You clean your own body, which is also an etheric process.

    Dawn: Maybe FlyLady knows about elementals! Her advice to “polish your sink” before you go to bed at night has worked for me. There’s something about doing that one little task that makes the morning much easier to handle. But I sure appreciate it when Anthropapa does it 🙂

    Mon: Decluttering is another huge thing that helps. Clutter is like manifested stagnation!

  6. rebecca

    Sincerely, I am left wondering if Steiner did his any/some/all of own cooking, cleaning, house work?

  7. Rebecca: I don’t know the answer to that. Certainly men in his time and culture would not have normally done their own housework, and also in Schmidt-Brabant’s time to some degree. But as I mentioned to David, we all have processes in our lives, if only bathing ourselves!

  8. I read an article by Linda Thomas, one of the women who cleans the Goetheanum, who also shared a lot of insight on working with the elementals while cleaning. (Lilipoh Spring 2004)

    I am reminded of the song we used to sing at clean-up time at the Waldorf School. “I have met a dusty gnome, it is time to clean our home-Dust, dust, dust, sweep, sweep, sweep…clean our home.” I have lots of little dusty gnomes running around here!

  9. Lisa Anne: Yes, I was thinking of her as I wrote this! Probably the same article is available here.

  10. This is such an ambitious series! Actually, I’ve always liked the occult trope of the created elemental being – I certainly think we create that sense of rhythms in our homes. (Hopefully our own elemental domestic beings are as friendly as they are probably chaotic…)

  11. Different article but I just printed it off so I can read it in a bit, thanks. Now I am back to peruse the on-line library some more.

  12. Those elementals exist in your garden too. I have a lot of unhappy dusty gnomes and sprites around here. guess I’d better get on the stick and liberate them.

  13. Alida

    I love the idea of a helpful brownie. I don’t have a dusty gnome anywhere in my home…here they are bunnies, multiplying faster than I can shake my swiffer at them!

  14. URD: Well, Steiner would have said that we don’t create them but merely anthropomorphize already existing beings. But we certainly do a lot for ourselves by creating rhythms of our own.

    Lisa Anne: We just found my box of old LILIPOHs, I’ll have to check for that one.

    HMH: Oh yes, the natural world and the garden are full of them! Ha, I think we could empower ourselves by calling homemakers the ELF: Elemental Liberation Front 🙂

    Alida: Our elementals are currently coated in cat hair and begging for the vacuum!

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