Spiritual science therapy

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In 1958 in United Kingdom, Paul Nordoff and Clive Robbins paired up and developed a creative music therapy approach based on anthroposophical concepts. Improvisational music was used to help children with multiple disabilities. In the 1960’s, they began to spread this approach to all around United Kingdom, Europe America, New Zealand and Australia. In the 1980’s, the Nordoff-Robbins’s training reached the University of Herdecke at the same time when Mary Priestley was giving her training on Analytical Music Therapy. Herdecke was also the place where one of the earliest anthroposophical hospital started. These various streams merging at Herdecke gave a strong impulse to the development of anthroposophical music therapy. These pioneers were very influential in the development of music therapy in West Germany. (Wheeler 2015)      

The following paragraphs provide an overview of current anthroposophical music therapy and is referenced from the book “Musik in Pädagogik und Therapie” (2004) edited by Gerhard Beilharz, a leading anthroposophical music therapist in Germany.   

Music therapy can be considered as a form of psychotherapy, therapy for the soul at the nonverbal level that goes right into the body. It is a combination of free play and directed exercise. In free play form, the therapist will follow the child’s own will. In therapy, the inner world of feelings of the individual is mirrored in music and the therapist has to find an access point into this world for treatment.  

The therapy process begins with diagnosis by collecting perceptions and gathering background on the individual. In a systematic way, the therapist will discover the area or areas in the individual that need to be supported in therapy.

Following are some questions that the therapist will consider:

– how does the individual make music?

– how experienced is the individual in making music?

– what connections the individual has with melody, harmony and rhythm?

When the individual can observe himself or herself in the musical element during therapy, it will bring about self knowledge and the possibility of change. This is an integration process where the patient can be more whole than before. Therapy is not about creating art but rather to help the individual connect with the artistic process towards wholeness. To connect with the artistic process and to have the self-awareness during therapy, all the senses of the individual need to be engaged. For instance, the eye-hand coordination and sense of balance when playing the instrument during therapy. In this active therapy of music making with the therapist, the individual’s senses are connected with their inner activity and this gives the possibility to express their inner experience. A connection is made between music, feeling and movement. When these 3 elements are in alignment, there is a very good possibility of expression during therapy. This process also supports the various senses to work together and be integrated. Following is an example used in a hospital setting by music therapist Joke Bradt:

“Dr. Bradt asked each child to select from a variety of musical instruments and mimic what pain might sound like. She asked them, “Which of these instruments sound most like the pain you’re having right now? Does your pain have a beat? How strong/ intense is your pain right now?”. Bradt improvised around those sounds and asked the child to suggest modifications to create sounds that were more resonant with the sensation of pain. Once the child agreed that the sound match was accurate, Bradt attempted to improvise sounds that soothed, or represented “pain-healing sounds.” She played with these new sounds and instruments until the child agreed that the effect was soothing”. (Hanser 2016)

Music creates a special space that supports free expression. The border between inside and outside of the soul is loosening from the physical body and new integration processes are made possible. Music therapy works at the level of thinking, feeling, willing, psychological and vital forces, between conscious and unconscious psychological experiences as well as between different senses.

Music therapy is a kind of illness prevention as well. In the healing process, one needs both medical and therapeutic help. The impulse towards health needs to arise from one’s own will and cannot be forced upon from the outside Music therapy can be used to support the will of the individual to change. In this change, the personality has a chance to develop further. 

Following are general steps taken in the anthroposophical music therapy process:

– diagnosis

– formulate the direction of treatment

– doing the treatment

– evaluation and writing a report

These are outer states of a therapeutic process. The patient undergoes inner steps of development in this process. Detailed and clear observation is needed to determine the needs of the individual and what can meet the needs effectively.  

There has to be a good balance of rational thinking and intuition during therapy. The rational aspect is stronger in diagnostics. There is more intuitive element during the actual treatment for eg what instrument and musical elements to use. Deep listening and observation are important to determine the impulses coming from the individual and the developmental direction that he or she would like to take. When intuition is given space to flourish, the therapeutic process gains depth. A critical review is useful after the therapy as a reflection to give the possibility of change in the therapeutic process to better support the individual.  

In the diagnostics, it is important to have a rich image of the individual built by perceptions of what the problem is. The musical medium is chosen and there is a question if the individual in his or her subjective experience can accept the musical instrument and elements chosen. The musical instrument becomes effective when the will of the individual can connect with it. This is a research process to find together with the individual which musical elements connect best with him or her. The therapist should proceed with the actual treatment in a meditative and intuitive manner towards the individual rather than rigidly following a formulaic process.

When there is a team of therapists to work on the same individual, then everyone can contribute their own observations which can give a well-rounded image of the individual and helps in the inspiration to search for what to do in the actual treatment.

The soul is always singing, playing and improvising. It needs to be set free, has an outward expression, being creative, have fun and enjoy. Music can give structure to the soul processes which are out of balance and bring them into balance again.


“What a piece of work is man!”- Shakespeare

Waldorf Man

The physical form of a human being reveals a head, a torso and the protruding limbs. In terms of bodily functions, the head is the centre for perceiving the external world through the eyes, ears, nose and mouth which constitutes the nerve-sense system as termed by Rudolf Steiner. The torso is the region where substances like air and food are brought in from the external world. The torso is the centre of the rhythmical system comprising of the breathing and blood circulation processes. The lower and periphery of the human being constitutes the metabolic-limb system where legs serve the function of mobility and hands that can be used freely by Man to work and leave his imprint on the world.

The human arms and hands are symbolic of the freedom in Man (Steiner 2000). This form of the human limbs differs from animals where often all 4 limbs are needed to support and move the animals from place to place. It is only in Man where the hands are free from basic physiological functions and used by Man for work and contribute to the world.

According to Rudolf Steiner and Ita Wegman,  “All findings made in established modern science are essentially based on impressions gained through the human senses”. (Steiner and Wegman 1996)

There exists in addition to what can be perceived by the senses another inner world of sensations, feelings, dreams and struggles within the human being. Such an inner world cannot be observed on the outside by researchers but merely remain in the realm of the subjective personal human experience.

The sight of surrounding mountains, smell of the pine trees, the warmth of the sun’s rays all stir sensations and emotions that may be uniquely different from individual to individual. To one, the feeling of being surrounded by the mountains may be one of awe whereas for another, it may be one of great fear and entrapment. This inner world of sensations and emotions remain strictly subjective and is as real to the individual as the physical reality outside. It is only made conscious when one looked inwards into his or her own personal experience.

In addition, there is another layer to the human experience. This is the layer of morality and spirituality; a struggle internally often between the true and the good versus one’s own selfish desires. 2 streams seem to be working against each other, one towards the good and true whereas the other towards personal selfish desires. These 2 streams cannot be easily made visible regardless of how advanced scientific research may develop.

According to Steiner,

“We have seen that as human beings we belong to three worlds. The substances and forces that build up our bodies are taken from the world of inanimate matter. We know about this world through the perceptions of our outer physical senses. Anyone who trusts these senses exclusively and develops only their kind of perception cannot gain access to the other two worlds, the soul and spiritual worlds”. (Steiner 1994)

It is highly plausible to believe that Man has a body, soul and spirit. The visible physical body share some similarity with the mineral and plant kingdom: “like the minerals, we build up our bodies out of natural substances; like the plants, we grow and reproduce”. (Steiner 1994)

The soul can be described as the personal and subjective inner world. It is very fluid, often changing between the feelings of like and dislike. This soul world receives stimuli from the outer world, but creates an inner private world according to them. Bodily existence becomes the basis for soul existence. (Steiner 1994)

The soul needs the body to create this inner world as the body is the sensory channel whereby various stimuli like sounds, pictures, smells, etc are perceived that will later become sensations and feelings within the soul.

The spirit has the quality of transcendence, with the individual consciousness going beyond the physical body and the soul to the eternally good and true. In mainstream psychology, this concept has also been added. Abraham Maslow added the 6th need to his hierarchy of needs in his later years. Originally, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs has only 5 levels and ends at self-actualization. This 6th need is termed self-transcendence defined by Maslow as “The self only finds its actualization in giving itself to some higher goal outside oneself, in altruism and spirituality, which is essentially the desire to reach infinite”. (Maslow cited in wikipedia, 2017)

In major religions, spirituality is linked to the consciousness of a creator God and a realm which is higher than the physical world. Many meditative practices are helping individuals reach unity or cosmic consciousness where it is believed that all is one and everything is interconnected.

For a large part of human history the conception of Man as body, soul and spirit is closely held to be true. Healing practices were also closely linked to the spiritual world. The spirit was gradually separated from Man’s conception of itself. According to cultural historian Markus Osterrider (2017), this process is a gradual one, taking many centuries led by the evolution of modern, empirical natural science.

The final blow came in the 14th century with nominalism in Western scholastics, developing as a consequence of this evolution. This was the breakthrough for a purely secular view of the world. A science “without the need of God”. This scientific approach was purely empirical, experimental and material. It took over in the West in the 18th century during the Age of Enlightenment.

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