Category Archives: Homemaking

Be It Ever So Humble…

…We’ve Finally Got a Home.

I’ve been feeling a bit too overwhelmed to create blog posts lately and have just been updating Facebook. Then I realized that not all of the people who read this blog are also on Facebook, so to update you:

We bought a house. It’s more or less right across the street from the kids’ school. It’s a tri-level, with 4 but technically 5 bedrooms (one room doesn’t have a closet and has a door to the backyard, but we’re going to use it as a bedroom). The yard has an ancient sandbox that needs some rehab work, and a mature apple tree that has lovely little sweet apples.

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By far the most unusual feature of the house is the finished crawl space in the lower level, which we refer to as the “play cave”. The previous owners had finished it with drywall and carpet for their kids to play there. We hope to do the same, but we’ll have to do some work down there first. Last weekend, when we got the keys, we found a wet area down there, around the furnace. We think that rain got in through an exterior vent that was pointed upward when the previous owners replaced the furnace for us. Anyway, we’re concerned about mildew and might need to rip out the carpet. And we’d like to put in a real wall and door under there to block off the furnace from the kids’ space.

The other lovely homeowning adventure we’ve already experienced was with the hot water heater. It sits in the downstairs bathroom in a little curtained recess in the wall beside the clothes washer and dryer. Yesterday we had the gas company come out to turn the gas back on, for the furnace and the hot water. Turns out the water heater violated city code in not being sufficiently separated from the living space, and the chimney that had been shared by the water heater and furnace was no longer up to code with the new furnace! At one point we had the city inspector and the furnace installer there; then a bit later we had two water heater installers plus an electrician to install a new electric water heater; earlier in the day we had two delivery men bring the washer and dryer! So it was a very expensive, Grand Central Station day at the Anthrohaus. We were also informed by the inspector that the water softener was cracked, so we’ll be buying one of those pretty soon too (we have incredibly hard water: Anthropapa told me that the existing water heater, which we think is only about 4 years old, literally had rocks in the bottom!).

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We took advantage of the $8,000 tax credit (or will, when we get the money) to either pay off credit cards or pay off the appliances we had to buy. I’m excited to think that by next year our finances will be much more positive and under control, even as we take on this larger debt. We can add value to the home, as the kitchen needs refinishing and the yards need work. We’re also excited by the neighborhood, which is quiet and has tons of kids. I am sad to report, however, that the neighborhood has CC&Rs that prohibit backyard chickens!

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Spiritual Tasks of the Homemaker – Part 10

Last time we looked at the relationship between the home and cultural life. Today we will see how the homemaker can set out on a path of self-development.

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In fostering the home as a locus for cultural renewal, the homemaker must work to strengthen his or her inner life in order to work toward the ideals of this renewal. It may seem like we have no time for such an undertaking, but even in very short bits of time we can do significant work.

The path described here has two parts: meditation and exercises.

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For the meditative work we can find a sentence that holds meaning for us that we can ponder. Rudolf Steiner gave us many such sentences, or one could find rich sources in the Bible or other spiritual books. Focusing on a meditative sentence each day for even a short time will strengthen one’s heart forces. To balance these forces, we also must develop our will forces.

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Rudolf Steiner described what are often called the “six supplemental exercises,” about which I have written in more detail in relation to parenting here. In brief, the exercises are:

concentration, in which we focus our attention on a common, otherwise uninteresting object for five minutes each day,

initiative, in which we do an otherwise unnecessary action each day at a predetermined time,

equanimity, in which we hold back the expression of our feelings (though not suppressing the feelings themselves) for a short time at an appropriate moment,

positivity, in which we try to find something positive in every situation or thing,

open-heartedness, in which we attempt to look at every new thing without prejudice,

and persistence, in which we create harmony by willfully repeating the previous five exercises.

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Next time: The Sacrament of the Home

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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Spiritual Tasks of the Homemaker – Part 8

After going through the fourfold nature of the home, let’s go back to the role and experience of the homemaker within that structure. (pp. 21-24)

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All human activity takes place within a certain tension. This arises between the ideal — a career ideal, a life ideal, or a religious ideal — and the impossibility of living up to it.

Animals don’t have this tension, as their pursuits of food, procreation, and other activity encapsulate their whole existence. But human beings have cognition, and the ability to form mental pictures, and thus we can formulate ideals beyond what is apparent to our senses.

This of course leads to conflict, because ideals are so often unattainable. For homemakers, the old ideals of perfection need to be changed to meet the needs of the modern person. In particular, the homemaker must be able to freely accept the ideal and choose to strive for it. No longer are these social structures given from on high.

Unlike with other efforts, where one might train or be educated in order to pursue a goal, in homemaking we must find our own way. “The homemaking career is a question of self-education. Self-education is a sign of modern humanity.” So we can look at the homemaker as a representative of the modern form of self-development.

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Rhythm

How can the homemaker form the household? One of the most obvious structures in daily life is time. We can roughly divide our time in three: work, sleep, and free time. The person who goes out of the home to work experiences this quite clearly, but the homemaker may not have such a clear division between work and free time. But the homemaker is right in the thick of this structure, as the work in the home allows the other members of the family or household to have free time.

Of primary help to the homemaker in working with the structure of time is rhythm. We find ourselves within the rhythms of nature, but we must work to find our own human rhythms.

Families naturally have daily rhythms, of work, school, and meals. Weekly rhythms are supported by society with customary times set aside for work, school, and religious observance. Over the course of the year, religious and cultural festivals mark the passage of time in a rhythmic way, and bring refreshment to everyday life.

The key for the homemaker is to emphasize these rhythms in a conscious way, so that the family is not bogged down in monotony. “It is one of the greatest secrets of life: to form the course of events so that time neither presses nor depresses but becomes a source of strength and inspiration.” It can be as simple as a quiet moment with a cup of coffee, or the security for the young child of having the same bedtime routine each evening. These consciously emphasized rhythms are a source of joy.

Working with rhythm in a conscious way becomes a source of of strength for the homemaker, both inwardly as a path of development and outwardly in structuring the home. When we know that certain things will happen at a certain time, we are freed from the effort of constant decision making, and we have built up inner strength in the ability to look over the day or week and enact a plan.

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Next time: cultural life and the household.

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

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Spiritual Tasks of the Homemaker – Part 7

In this last section on the “bodies” or realms of the home, we will look into the spirituality of the home space, and how working in the home is a transformative process. (pp. 16-20)

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The most important level in the home is that of spirituality, for it completes the home organism. Every home has a certain spirituality:

A certain tone is established through one’s religion and philosophy of life. . . . How does a family live with the elements of culture? How are questions of knowledge, art, the religious life and human relationships handled?

Each member of the household has a guardian angel, who work along with deceased family members within the home, just as the elemental beings of the etheric realm do. Through working with the processes of the home, the homemaker becomes aware of these etheric and spiritual helpers, and so gains a new kind of consciousness. We can also begin to become aware of the two great powers that work in opposition to unbalance us: Lucifer and Ahriman.

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Luciferic forces lead us away from the earth and incarnate consciousness, dissolving us up into the clouds and away from daily obligations into chaos.

Ahrimanic forces seek to bind us to the earth, into materialism, dogma, and sterility.

The homemaker keeps these forces in balance by developing the ego, the individuality, the true sense of humanity. Balance must also be maintained within the home itself:

chaos –> overtaxing the etheric body (which can lead to illness)
(but abundance –> inspiration)

absolutism –> soul poverty
(but emptiness –> imagination)

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It can easily be thought that anthroposophists are some sort of modern-day Luddites, what with the emphasis on natural materials and the somewhat shunning attitude toward modern technology. However, Rudolf Steiner felt that the true human task was not to refuse the material world but rather to take hold of it with our human spirituality and transform it.

Three elements of the home have been greatly changed through modern technology:

Light: It used to be that light was precious; people were drawn to it. Now we obtain light through the flick of a switch, and a loveless relationship has developed.

Warmth: Until recently, warmth only entered the home by something being burned, and again people gathered around it. This too is now available with little effort and remotely; here too we have a lack of consciousness and feeling.

Power: Labor was once only provided through simple mechanical machines (such as windmills) or through human effort. Now with electricity we have numerous machines around us to do our work. As much as we cannot now do without electricity, we must also develop new ways to compensate for what has been lost. How may this be done?

We have already spoken of the home as the site of process and much non-sensible activity. Another way to look at the home is as an “alchemical laboratory”. Here we again look at the human task as that of grasping the material world and transforming it, which Rudolf Steiner identified as the modern Rosicrucian path. The homemaker seeks to enact this transformation in a balanced way without withdrawing from life; this is the spiritual path of the homemaker.

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Next time we will begin to see how this spiritual path is the “point of departure for the new Mysteries.”

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

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Spiritual Tasks of the Homemaker – Part 6

And now, the astral realm!

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The astral realm relates to the soul life, that of emotions and basic consciousness. In a household, often the “aura” of the space reflects the activities and soul processes of the residents. Don’t some homes radiate welcome and joy, while others are clearly sheltering unhappy people?

Artistic activities are an obvious example of an astral influence, but more important is the sense of humor displayed in the home. Now, by “humor” we mean something fairly specific:

Only someone who can laugh about himself has humour. Laughing at others only is not true humour, but to have humour means to lift oneself above the dichotomies of the world.

When I read this last sentence, I was struck by the word dichotomies. In anthroposophy, the primary dichotomy is that of what we call the “adversarial forces.”

Steiner spoke of Ahriman and Lucifer: the being who wants us to rebuke the spirit and focus solely on the physical world, and the opposite being who wants us to renounce the material and focus solely on the spirit. Steiner places Jesus as the representative of the human being in balance between these forces.

Perhaps we can link these esoteric ideas to humor in this way: if we always laugh at others, we are probably avoiding some sort of realistic picture of our own selves. Perhaps these adversaries are nudging us into superiority or lack of compassion through excessive self-regard, whereas true, healthy humor brings cheerfulness.

Just as there are beings who live in the etheric processes of the household, so other beings work within the astral realm of the home. In ancient Rome, the astral beings of the home were known as penates. These beings are to the home and the family as a whole what guardian angels are to individual human beings, for anything that is formed intentionally as an organism has an angelic helper.

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Next time: the spiritual realm of the home.

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

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Spiritual Tasks of the Homemaker – Part 5

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

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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.

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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!

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

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