Tag Archives: Homemaking

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)


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.



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.

Next time: cultural life and the household.

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


Filed under Anthroposophy, Books, Deep Thoughts, Homemaking

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)


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.


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)


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.


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.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]


Filed under Anthroposophy, Deep Thoughts, Homemaking

Spiritual Tasks of the Homemaker – Part 6

And now, the astral realm!


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.


Next time: the spiritual realm of the home.

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

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]


Filed under Anthroposophy, Deep Thoughts, Homemaking

Spiritual Tasks of the Homemaker – Part 4

In Part 3 we learned that we can look at the home as an organic unity, and as such we can perceive the same four members of the human being in the household as well. Let’s begin to look at these members in greater depth, with the realm of the physical from page 18.*



Three kinds of matter dominate in the household: food, textiles, and the solid materials such as wood, glass, and stone.


The modern relationship to food has become overly materialistic: we concern ourselves solely with the nutritional content without paying much attention to the growth processes or the affect of our cooking methods. If we believe that there are aspects of reality that are not normally sense perceptible, then why do we focus so much on the supposed constituent parts (vitamins, minerals, etc.) of our food and not the organisms and processes as a whole? A microwave certainly heats up our food, but what else might it be doing that our senses cannot tell us? Similarly, food grown with chemical fertilizers might seem the same as organic or biodynamic food, but are its life forces really the same? Might we be missing the forest for the trees — the organic unity of the food for isolated nutritional measurements?

Cooking was once an art — a humanization of matter, and truly an etheric/alchemical process. Food preparation is one place where the homemaker can easily bring in an artistic feeling into the home, simply by the food and cooking choices made.


Textiles have traditionally been formed from products of the plant and animal kingdoms, and can also be seen in relation to the four members. I will give you an imaginative picture of why each material is connected with its respective member:

cotton — physical (Cotton grows from a shrub, low to the ground, in hot, dry climates. It is close to the earth.)

linen — etheric (The flax plant must be retted, or soaked in water, before it can be spun into linen. Water is a symbol of the etheric realm.)

wool — astral (The animal kingdom symbolizes the astral or soul/consciousness realm.)

silk — ego (Perhaps we could connect the silkworm moth, whose sole food is the leaf of the tall mulberry tree, with the spirit flying high?)

Solid Materials

Though many anthroposophists eschew certain materials in their homes, there is no real right or wrong. Whether the homemaker chooses wood and stone or glass and chrome, the choice reflects the individual. The important thing is to pursue balance.

An important question to ask in the choice of materials is what happens when we surround ourselves with “false” materials. Is there a qualitative difference between a solid wood shelf and one made of particle board and veneer? Can we create a “humanized” home if we are surrounded by plastic — from polyethylene storage containers to polyester textiles made from petroleum? Perhaps other aspects of the home are more important in our efforts to enliven and support our families, but I think it’s still useful to consider even the materials in our surroundings.

Next time we’ll look at the etheric realm and how it manifests in the home.


* The text puts the physical realm at the end of this section, so we will skip back to page 13 next time.

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

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]


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

Spiritual Tasks of the Homemaker – Part 3

Last time we looked at how the home can be a source of cultural renewal, a “new mystery center”. But we were left with the question of how that might be achieved and what might help a homemaker in that effort. Let’s now look at pages 11-13 for the beginning of an answer.


The Life Organism of the Household

When a child learns to walk, every movement, every moment of balance and imbalance takes concentration and concerted effort. And similarly when we later learn to drive, we must continuously pay attention to both what we must do to operate the car as well as the road conditions and other drivers. But when we have mastered the skill of walking or of driving, we no longer need to pay so much attention. Our actions become in a sense automated and unconscious. It is as if all of the various actions involved have become a unity, simply “walking” and “driving”.

We can look at the household as a unity as well. Prior to the twentieth century, homemaking was done primarily through instinct and tradition. Women passed on the secrets of running a home from generation to generation, and there was not very much individual expression. Homemaking was a relatively unconscious, automated process.

Since the beginning of the twentieth century (and particularly since mid-century), individuality and emancipation have determined our lives to a larger and larger degree. How can we now regain a sense of organic unity in the home when we have lost our anchor of tradition and instinct?


Aspects of the Household

Through anthroposophy we view the human being as having four main members or bodies.* We can view social life and its smallest component, the family and home, in the same way. In relation to the home, these four members are:

  • physical: the living space and surroundings
  • etheric: the activities and processes
  • astral: the soul life and emotions
  • spiritual: religion, culture, and relationships

The homemaker must work consciously with these members and how they interrelate in order to create a truly human home

Next time we will look at these four members in more depth.


* In anthroposophy we can divide the human into three, four, seven, or up to nine members! More information on this can be found in Rudolf Steiner’s Theosophy.

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

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]


Filed under Anthroposophy, Books, Deep Thoughts, Homemaking

Spiritual Tasks of the Homemaker – Part 2

In the first section we read how, over time, human beings have become more and more individualized and less guided by norms. We also read how homemakers of today are still influenced by the social expectations set up during the Victorian era, but that we can become free of these expectations by adopting the view that we have in some ways chosen our life paths. We ended with the question, “What effect does the homemaker have on history?” Now we’ll explore the beginnings of the answer to that question, in pages 7-10.


The New Mysteries

Before modern times, freedom did not exist as it does today. The Mystery Centers (the two most well known and last of the ancient mystery centers were Delphi and Ephesus) provided norms for all aspects of life — agriculture, religion, education, and so on. People were more open to the spiritual world at that time, and its influence guided human activity more directly than today.

At a certain point, freedom needed to arise in human beings, and so independent thinking arose, exemplified in the work of Plato and Aristotle. The spiritual world still strongly influenced the religious sphere, but no longer the other aspects of daily life. There were no more “directions from above.”

Today, religions, governments, and other cultural groups can provide insights to help us, but a new Mystery culture must be created through individual effort — in the home. “For where homemakers are working out of spiritual understanding, that is where the new society will arise. . . . The homemaker’s whole existence stands at the centre of one of the greatest changes ever to take place in human history.”

A renewal of civilization is possible if we can incorporate the spiritual back into our culture. We must realize that we are inherently spiritual beings, and that through love and freedom we can properly order civilization. If we only have freedom, then will have chaos; if we only have love, then we will have compulsion. The homemaker can create renewal by working with these ideas within the most basic social structure, the family.


If the homemaker can lead a cultural renewal, where will he or she find the strength for this task, and what is the path of development and insight to assist in this work? We’ll look at these questions next time.

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


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