Spiritual Tasks of the Homemaker – Part 9

After discussing how rhythm can be a tremendous source of strength for the homemaker, we will now look at the interaction between the home and cultural life.


Where do we find a basis for human relationships in our current culture? This clearly is the household.

Culture used to be carried by one’s city or country — being a Parisian or from Mexico clearly described one’s culture. Now societies are much more pluralistic, and large communities no longer represent a single cultural impulse. This is a new development in humanity, distinctive to the modern era — with the previous exception of the Jews in diaspora. Since the Jewish culture was no longer identified with a geographical area, the household necessarily took up the continuance and preservation of Jewish culture.

This experience of the Jews mirrors what is now true for all people: culture is no longer “ordered from above” by the state. Only individuals and small groups of people can now create and maintain culture.


Culture can be defined as human activity in the areas of art, science, and religious-social life. (Rudolf Steiner tied closely together the concepts of religion and social life.) The elements of art and science are easily seen in families with children, where books, art activities, and explorations of matter and the laws of nature are part and parcel of the life of the child. Most homes, with or without children, have some element of culture even if only a few pictures hung on the walls or the radio playing each afternoon.

The religious-social element comes into play quite naturally with children as well, though in a truthful way only if the parents participate freely as well. Children always perceive when something is being forced on them or parents are hypocritical! And then imposing on a household an artificial sort of religious experience, one without a true foundation of self-understanding, is truly anti-social.


We can see that truth is a critical factor in the cultural life of the home. External imposition of cultural mores does not satisfy the modern need for inner freedom and individual consciousness. So, “the important thing is that the homemaker look at the facts freely without prejudice” and decide what is best for their household. Civilization will thrive if individuals can take what is provided by society freely and from it create a life of culture.


Culture has always had two sides. For example in religion, the external force of cultural duties was fulfilled in such things as sacred buildings, artwork, and music. Since the end of the Middle Ages, an opposite internal force arose, that of an egoistic satisfaction through entertainment. The homemaker must find a middle path between these impulses.

What is the middle way here? Friedrich Schiller gave some indication in his work On the Aesthetic Education of Man. On the one hand we have the cosmic world of ideals; on the other, the world of matter. (In anthroposophy, these would correspond to Lucifer and Ahriman, respectively.) Balance comes when human beings can “play” freely — play in terms of the free play of forces, not compelled or frozen by an imbalanced focus on either abstraction or materialism.

The homemaker will bring health and life into the home if he or she can imbue the cultural life of the home with neither compulsion or egoistic pleasure, but rather freedom.


Next time: The Path of Development of the Homemaker

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

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Filed under Anthroposophy, Books, Deep Thoughts, Homemaking, Religion

8 responses to “Spiritual Tasks of the Homemaker – Part 9

  1. I’m interested in other comments on this because I’m still not sure what it means to imbue the cultural life of the home with freedom.

  2. Mon

    “… imposing on a household an artificial sort of religious experience, one without a true foundation of self-understanding, is truly anti-social.”

    Heck yeah. One thing I have witnessed is that friends around our age who were never religious, then have kids, suddenly start taking their kids to church. It’s not that the parents have become religious but they feel obligated by tradition. Or, they have a genuine desire to preserve a link to their ethnic line, and it’s the only way they can think of.

    Then you see situations such as solstice celebrations that have become new to a family, not flowing from a place of heart, but rather of a need that we are supposed to do x, y, or z.

    “…middle path between these impulses.”

    Our societies are surely saturated by the imbalance of entertainment. I would say, specifically passive entertainment.

  3. That word, balance, has been one that I’ve been meditating on often this past month or so. I’ve appreciated this book and these posts, from which I’ve gained even greater insight. You are a wonderful teacher and writer.

  4. Coming back to read comments–I would also say that commercialism as well as entertainment enters into that imbalance. I have really noticed this with Advent in blog world–opening gifts every single day, the focus on the stuff. All this said, I still am not sure what it means by “an opposite internal force arose, that of an egoistic satisfaction through entertainment”. How is this internal and how is it opposite from “the external force of cultural duties”. Both seem fairly external to me.

  5. Sarah: Your questions are wonderful, and point to a difficulty I have had with this study. This book goes through huge concepts rather quickly and sparsely. I think that is due in part to it being in translation, and partly because the book is composed of lectures given to anthroposophists at the Goetheanum. So there was likely an underlying assumption that these concepts were understood by the audience.

    I also wish he would have given a little background to his pronouncements! I can easily see the externalized authority of religion in the Middle Ages and prior . . . but where exactly does he see this egoistic pursuit of pleasure beginning, and how does it differ from medieval pleasure seeking? There sure were plenty of shallow, hypocritical, sensual people in the Canterbury Tales, for example.

    My thought on what the idea of freedom in the culture of the home means: “religious duties” is an example of externally imposed culture. Religious tradition and authority give the structure and require the activities that make up that culture. Ego-driven materialism and pleasure-seeking are certainly encouraged by the external world, but I think he’s saying that they are rooted in the individual’s egoism and personal decision to focus on pleasure, rather than on any imposed authority. Maybe it’s a manifestation of the increasing individuality and Ego forces beginning in the Renaissance?

    To balance that in the home out of freedom means that we must take all of the aspects of society given to us — both authoritative structures like religion and materialistic ideals like commercialism, as well as their higher counterparts (I might say these are spirituality and recognizing the value and beauty of the material world without valorizing it) — and freely choosing which of them, if any, to incorporate into the culture of our homes. Mindlessly consuming popular culture and fetishizing materialism is no more free or conscious than blindly following religious strictures, of course.

    Mon: What you said speaks to Sarah’s question as well. Since religion can be seen as an artificially imposed external structure by definition (as opposed to spirituality, which I am taking as a personal truth–I am not going to argue over the divinely inspired nature of one religion or another!), then it is very easy to embrace it rather thoughtlessly, and heartlessly, in the pursuit of conventional social acceptance.

    Dawn: Thank you! I’ve struggled with how much of my own thought to incorporate in these posts as opposed to just summarizing. I hope I’ve struck a balance, though I can see that the more recent posts seem to have less commentary. Which do you think is better?

  6. Well, I’m always interested in your commentary. 😉

  7. I guess my very long comment I made yesterday never made it to the blogosphere…so I will just say thank you for this. I still haven’t had my morning caffeine and my brain is not quite up to speed.
    (Just got back from Sunbridge, I thought of you as I walked by the little houses along the stream. Amazing lectures, good people, and great Eurythmy, I am still digesting it all.)

  8. Lisa Anne: Darn! Can you recreate it some time? I’d like to hear your thoughts. I’m so sorry we weren’t at Sunbridge to meet you! I will always have a tender little spot in my heart for our little house by the stream, if only for the wonderful experiences my children had there.

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