It was another journey through the night to reach Denver. We arrived in the morning just in time to meet Robin Mitchell for breakfast. Robin had been part of the group originally planning to be in Dornach this past February but was unable to attend. So good then it was to be able to meet up with him on our travels. Robin has been a huge support to us for our whole journey, sharing ideas and contact information, and sending his words of encouragement.
His life story is so amazing! If Robin were the only person we met on our whole trip, his story of finding his way to eurythmy would make everything worthwhile!
Robin grew up in England with his father’s side being a British army family of high-ranking officers such as brigadier generals and his mother’s side Scottish merchants who built famous ferries and ships. He was supposed to go to public school, building respectable social connections characteristic of the time. Once there, however, he did not fit in. He was even sent to the school psychologist to sort out what was going on with him. The doctor determined that there wasn’t a problem with Robin; he just wasn’t in the right school. Luckily, the psychologist recommended that his parents send him to the Steiner school!
Robin’s mother had gone to finishing school in Paris and, while there, had a dear friend named Antoinette who had been to the Waldorf School. So when she received the doctor’s recommendation, she could remember her friend’s good stories from her childhood. Off Robin went to the Edinburgh Steiner School at age 11 or 12.
The main lesson really spoke to him, and he appreciated the depth that was offered in the subjects. When Robin went to his first eurythmy class, however, he found it to be a weird lesson, not sure what to make of all the copper rod throwing. He even went to the teacher after class and offered his impressions, asking her why the students should be doing eurythmy! She responded plainly: “Eurythmy is in the curriculum of the Waldorf School. We do it; we do not talk about it.” Well, this answer did not help Robin form a relationship to this new subject! As he shared this part of the story with us, it was as if that Edinburgh eurythmy teacher was there in the Denver café with us; he brought the moment forward so fully.
The next year, he transferred to the Kings Langley School. Robin hammed it up so much that he was thrown out of his eurythmy lessons. (There were a couple of eurythmy teachers who were among the first English eurythmists and had been present at the Christmas Conference of 1923. Robin did not try to mess with them!) Eventually, he was told that, in order to pass to the next grade, he would need to make up the classes that he had missed by having been thrown out. How would he make them up? The teacher was free on Saturday mornings and would be happy to make time for Robin in her own studio! Robin was on the soccer team and could not see how this was going to work out with Saturday morning eurythmy, but the other boys said he’d better go. Above all, he could not face his parents having failed eurythmy!
Robin went to the eurythmy teacher’s studio for the first time on the Saturday just before Easter when he was 14. The teacher’s husband was a world-famous violinist who accompanied the practice sessions!
To begin, the teacher told Robin to stretch into the horizon. Then they began to practice the Halleluiah. As he moved from the “H” to the “A,” the teacher told him to pay attention to what he was feeling. He experienced a tension and release. They moved through speech with A, E, I, O, and U. For the first time, Robin truly experienced these sounds. He realized their progression from back to front of our speech organ. These are realities that we don’t take the time to experience, Robin said. With the Halleluiah, Robin says he still gets the shivers on the fifth L. This was a unique experience that worked into the marrow of his being. “This is real!” he thought at the time. Robin kept returning to the studio and practiced solos, accompanied by the violinist.
At that time, Robin had a classmate named Sally Pride whose father was the local reader for the First Class group. She invited him to accompany her family to London to see Tobias and the Angel performed on the stage. Cecil Harwood had rewritten the piece for eurythmy, and Robin was captivated by the veils and the stage lighting, which seemed to change the colors of the veils from one scene to the next. This event took place on the purpose built stage of the Rudolf Steiner House in London! To Robin, the eurythmists appeared as somewhere between angels and Greek goddesses. (There were no men in that particular performance.)
At age 16, Robin was living in a house with other students where he was allowed one bath a week on a strict schedule. Robin’s bath was to take place at a particular time on Friday afternoons and at no other time. If he missed it, that was it! He would need to wait another week. The boys were, of course, interested in meeting up with the girls and wanted to be bathed! The way to meet girls at that time was to go to dance lessons where they would all learn the fox trot, the quick step, and other moves. When were the dance lessons scheduled? The same time as Robin’s appointed bath! He decided that he would go to the dance lessons and leave early enough to make it home just in time for his weekly bath.
One day, he set out on a borrowed bike at 4:30, checked for traffic, and moved into the center lane. Suddenly, he got hit by a car! He bounced 15 meters on the road. From there, he came in and out of consciousness. Once in the hospital, he could hear the doctor speaking. He realized his class teacher had come to visit, and the doctor was saying that Robin was dying. “That’s not HIS decision,” Robin thought to himself! During this time, an angel appeared to Robin and asked him what he was going to do with his life. Robin immediately responded, “I’ll do eurythmy!” He had made a promise: if he was given his life back, he would do eurythmy.
When Robin was told that he was paralyzed, he knew that he wasn’t. He told them that he was going to do eurythmy! His back had been broken in five places, he was in a cast all the way up to his neck, and the doctors didn’t think a recovery was possible. They even tried to send him to another psychologist to cure him of thinking that he was going to move again to do eurythmy! Still, Robin was not deterred, having made a promise to his angel. He inwardly practiced E’s and L’s in eurythmy, recreating the experience without physically moving. He carried on this way until one day he was able to move his big toe. When he showed his nurse, she dropped her tray! No one had told Robin about therapeutic eurythmy at that point; he discovered it in his own healing process.
Soon Robin received a visit from a friend who was a stagehand in Faust. His friend told him he had a ticket for him to see a performance of Faust in Dornach. He was able to be released from the hospital just in time. When he arrived, he realized his seat was with the orchestra! What a perspective he had from that vantage point! It took a week to see the whole performance, which Robin understood with his limited German. He still clearly remembers the recitation from Redlich, who had been a student of Marie Steiner. We could imagine it, too, based on Robin’s reliving!
After that experience, Robin decided to study eurythmy in Dornach. The problem was that he was only 18—too young to begin eurythmy training. The ideal age was thought to be 21-28, the fourth 7 year life cycle, and Robin was told he would not be able to join. Still undeterred, Robin asked to be given a three-month trial. At the end of that time, there could be a determination as to whether or not he could continue. When the time came, he was given permission to stay on, and at age 20, he was invited to join the stage group for Faust. Robin became one of the first eurythmists recognized by the Goetheanum to teach in English, German, and Dutch.
Robin’s stage experience does not end with eurythmy. He has also worked as a stage manager in theater as well as a rock and roll tour manager. Living in Dornach in the 1960s, Robin was part of a cabaret at the Goetheanum. He joined together with a group of young people to form Die Seelenfüssler, bringing comedy to Dornach. Finances were so poor at that time that the cleaning staff could not always get paid properly. When they noticed new rose bushes being planted around the grounds, Die Seelenfüssler responded with the call:
“Warum pflanzt man Rosen an
Als man Leut nicht zahlen kann?!”
The rose bushes had been given as part of a restricted gift to the Goetheanum. The Vorstand responded to Die Seelenfüssler by declaring no more purpose-bound gifts for the next several years. In addition, they said how fine it was to have a cabaret group at the Goetheanum. There had not been such comedy since Rudolf Steiner’s time!
Years later, having left Dornach, he found himself in Australia just before his move to America. Eventually, he was asked to consider a move to Denver to teach at the Waldorf School there. He didn’t even plan to visit, but the calls kept coming. He agreed to just come see the place, not really thinking it was in his destiny to live there. Upon his arrival, a fourth grade boy came right up to him and said, “There you are! We’ve been waiting for you a long time!’ After a week of classes, deeply touched by the community, Robin began to feel himself more at home in Denver. At the end of one of his lessons, he looked over to the see the observing teacher in tears. He accepted a job at the Denver Waldorf School. Having visited the school, we can attest to what a beautiful community it is!
Reflecting on the role of anthroposophy and the Society in our time, Robin asks, “Where would the world be if there were no Anthroposophical Society?” Rather than getting caught up in disagreements, we should be asking ourselves: What are we creating in our hearts, our thoughts, our souls, and our deeds? Many of the disagreements he sees are just skirmishes, and mature people don’t need to have fistfights.
We need to have a deep-seated trust in the workings of the spiritual world, says Robin. So much needs to be done! “I hope I can continue doing my little bit.” His questions are: “How should I do? What is needed?” Threefold is even more needed now, he says, and he sees new changes taking place. Robin sees that people will wake up because of so many realizing that the current state of affairs is not the way to go. Considering the economic sphere, this is where we are all brothers and sisters. Robin asked us if we knew the three M’s and, realizing the we did not know them fully!, brought forward all three. The ground beneath our feet shook in that moment as Robin offered eurythmy from the diner booth! He shared that a true meeting is reflected in the “M” : “That good May become!” …
That good may become
What from our hearts
We are founding,
What from our heads
With focused will.
Meeting with Robin was deeply touching. To join together with someone who has embodied his work so fully and so joyfully encourages us in our standing for anthroposophy! We come away from this conversation with such hope for the future. The heart forces are strong and vibrant in Denver, CO!