Adult Education Conference 2007

Spring Valley, New York

Second Anthroposophical Adult Education Conference


On November 2, 2007 a group of about fifty assembled at Green Meadow Waldorf School’s Arts Center for the second Adult Education Conference.  Almost four years previously, January 8 -11, 2004 at Sunbridge College, about eighty had gathered who were connected with education, training, outreach, creative arts and therapy programs where adults encounter anthroposophical ideas and practice. During this 2004 meeting, the question had arisen about the General Section’s relation to adult education. Next, some members of the School of Spiritual Science met in Chicago August 25, 2006 for a Symposium on the General Anthroposophical Section (reported by David Schwartz in News for Members 3/2006). An initiative committee for Adult Education formed from this General Section gathering, also attended by Virginia Sease, who stated that those introducing individuals to anthroposophy need the protection of the Society and the School of Spiritual Science.


This year’s assembly was greeted by conference committee member, Michael Soulé of AWSNA, who acted as general facilitator for the two days.  “Our work affects the world,” he said, and we are here to share “what we are really doing.”  Each individual introduced herself or himself in relation to adult education activities and burning issues. They came from US and Canadian foundation studies and teacher training centers, curative, biodynamic, and artistic training, parent education, outreach programs, the Rudolf Steiner Institute, AWSNA, the Barfield School, the Open Eye Center of New York City. The widely experienced, cosmopolitan company was ready to share present realities and shape intentions for future directions.  Panel I of the Foundation Stone was read.


Next, a panel of program leaders and administrators conveyed their leading concerns.  Robert Schiappicasse succinctly described the “education industry” components driving his institution, Sunbridge College: the overwhelming majority of teacher training students are “in-service” (currently teaching in Waldorf Schools and completing the job requirements); and 2/3rds opt to take advantage of the accredited Master’s program. Gayle Davis connected the theme of “consumer protection for those who come to buy their livelihoods” with the first of her three Rs, Regulation. Accreditation and licensing have grown into a mania during her time at Rudolf Steiner College, and she joked about “accrediting a mystery center.”  The liberal arts education of the whole human is also constrained by the second R, Research.  The academic critical style is at odds with that of spiritual scientific research.  To contend with these stifling trends, she proposed that a third R, Relationship (between ourselves and with the world) can muster pooled resources to stand for what we believe in the world.


Moving into emerging pedagogical findings, German scholar Fred Amrine took up some links between Foundation Studies, university procedure, and the Barfield School where he teaches. The student begins free, submits to discipline (the academic Research rigor Gayle Davis noted) to become more free.  In pursuit of the goal of freedom and autonomy one applies a series of methodologies, all of which are partially useful, none of which are complete.  In the process one learns to respect the scope and depth of any subject, which in turn considerably broadens one’s capacity for autonomy.  Anthroposophy is different from academia, but not by being less. Barfield students are provided with a series of meditations which help them transcend the constraints of needing to learn rigorous methodology. Anthroposophy also has a built-in method of self-criticism which opens the possibility of anonymous peer review within anthroposophy, something Heinz Zimmermann has been interested in developing.


Douglas Gerwin of the Center for Anthroposophy applied the pedagogical law to adult education.  How can one teach out of the Spirit Self to adult “I” beings?  He advised we can observe how the “I” learns: working with polarities, running the emotional spectrum, taking up enigmas, riddles, mysteries. Plato’s questions facilitated his pupils’ discoveries.  People of our time need questions from themselves, not what they’re told. The I learns by discovering hidden connections autonomously. So for the “teacher” of adults, content switches to form, what to how, result to process, earth to water. He enjoined us to “teach as if swimming in water,” turn the tables on yourself for the purpose of stimulating a new question, not the one you wanted to educe. 


After some left for their hotels, others remained to enjoy ? Koetz’s  refreshing anthroposophical stand-up comedy act.  Saturday began with singing led by Patti Reagan and the second panel of the Foundation Stone. Brief presentations with opportunity for discussion took up the rest of the morning.  Chris Schaefer brought insight into generational shifts in values, imaginations, strengths and what questions this poses for us in our work since many of our adult students are not of our generation.  Jan Goeschel described a two-year research project funded by a Leonardo da Vinci grant from the European Union (  The program integrated theory, practice and the arts into a curative education professional training;  the report articulates for a larger audience how the arts are integrated into social group work based on an anthroposophical human development and world view and can be applied to all adult learning scenarios. 


Lenore Russell, Waldorf teacher, adult educator, and founder of Eurythmy in the Workplace, brought guidelines from a successful adult education model she experienced at the National Center for Literacy Training in Louisville, where adults are trained to assist adult learners gain literacy and pass the GED.  She also took up the question: how best does one teach the “I”?  The adult individual is safely in the self and can notice the periphery and receive support, so the facilitator finds ways to urge them to let old skills/reflexes “go to sleep.”  It is especially important to overcome the critical analytical impulse, for which the best antidote is artistic experience. On the practical level, let the learners figure out what to do and how to do it.  Always give a choice.  The experiences need to be more potent than those used with children, and multi-disciplinary, so the ego can practice.  Use eurythmy as a ground everyone shares.  Theories fit into the contexts of life; meaning is discovered in heart content. Curriculum development should also consider sleep and time to allow integration.  The feminine gesture of taking everything from the periphery is an expansive one.  Lenore Russell was enthusiastic about the aliveness and soundness she found in this training, and noted that “we are needed” out in like institutions.


Dorit Winter of the San Francisco Teacher Training Center showed slides of charts created in classes on The Study of Man depicting the content of chapters in two dimensions.  Seeking the balance between information and flow, each student was invited to develop and follow her or his own technique.  Many chose one quotation to hang things on.  The immense variations in techniques and charts demonstrated how each person saw the same content and flow uniquely.


After a break, everyone reconvened in the Threefold Auditorium. Eurythmy teacher Cynthia Hoven of Rudolf Steiner College spoke of how eurythmy creates questions from the egos of adults: how to live authentically, how to find one’s core of being, how to find spirit in the West.  The evidence of their spiritual being living in the divine temple of the body effectively challenges the habits of passive learning: ipods, cell phones, food without vital forces, synthetic environments. The arts awaken the creative core of the being, enable seekers to learn how to ask questions on their quest. Specifically, eurythmy awakens the miraculous inherent in being incarnated, the marvels of standing and walking, moving in time in the virginal innocence of the etheric body, the soul colors of astrality, the meaning-bearing spirit of creation in the logos: poetry and music.


A performance followed of the Macbeth project Eurythmy Spring Valley has taken around the country for adult audiences.  Prefaced and closed with Antonio Machado’s “Last Night As I Lay Sleeping,” the extraordinarily effective selection of spoken sequences from the play with eurythmy portrayals of Lady Macbeth and Lady Macduff took violence, its origins and consequences directly to the soul level. The ensemble, Jennifer Kleinbach, Barbara Schneider-Serio, and Christina Beck (the entire current faculty) then took questions.  The unique power of eurythmy (both seen and enacted) for inner wake-up and change was highlighted in the immediacy of the atmosphere.  Finally, the whole group, led by Barbara Richardson of the Center for Anthroposophy, participated in eurythmy exercises on the stage.


After lunch Rudiger Janisch reflected on the role of adult education in section work, and began with a question about the spirit guiding the Sektion Allegemeine (which means Universal human being), to which all members of the School of Spiritual Science belong as well as their particular sections.  Liberal arts, apprenticeship (in-service) and research are components actively engaging human-being-ness. Our spiritual research-based culture puts us in the vanguard.  We need to imagine the worthiness of our collective work as we bring courage to the questions: What is adult education? What is needed to sustain it?  How can we deepen our authenticity?  How are we a community?


Four break-out groups then took up the themes of (1) assessment and evaluation; (2) how are we planning and envisioning our work out of the future? (3) how are we fostering adult educators to sustain the work and be effective in training programs?  After sharing group work, some general discussion ensued.  The evening was open, but many opted to attend the All Souls program offered at Threefold Auditorium by the local community.


Sunday morning, after singing and the third panel of the Foundation Stone, four groups met to establish the essentials of anthroposophical adult education, and what is unique to anthroposophy in this field.  Next the results of each group were shared and the notes posted and photographed.  We ended up visualizing the ideal anthroposophical adult educator and the ideal application of our essentials to the programs.   A committee to establish links between us via email was established and the need to set a date for another meeting this time next year was stated.  (Subsequently November 7-8, 2008 was reserved for the next Adult Education meeting.) We ended with the last panel of the Foundation Stone and sang the songs we had learned together. Here are some list results, with some overlap and divergent wordings.  Please contribute more from your notes.










Picture of an ideal anthroposophical adult educator:


Has been a teacher.                                                     Striving human being

Had a healthy childhood.                                           Knows what she doesn’t know

Is experienced in the school of life.                           Has fluidity with living questions

In-service, action research, group research               Artistic imagination

Collaborates and shares                                             Process oriented

Is a mentor rather than a teacher                                Humility

Related to School of Spiritual Science                      Works with 6 basic exercises

Humor                                                                         Joy in life                   

Connected with others striving                                  Apprenticeship

Has balance between self-confidence and openness




work to achieve self-knowledge                                self-development

practice self-knowledge (self-transformation)          listening to destiny of individual

artistic practice                                                           community

study the human being                                               autonomy

mystery of consciousness                                          karma / reincarnation

meditation practice                                                    macrocosm /microcosm

Imagination                                                                reality of spiritual worlds and beings

helping adults to incarnate                                         Social Arts

specific cosmology                                                    Real life service

sleep night  good health  breathing                            Rhythmic schedule

Religion, science, art                                                  Theory, practice, arts

Walk side by side                                                       Non-judgmental

group process                                                             individual process

spiritually alive                                                          experiential

aesthetic setting                                                          professionalism         





Image of 4-fold human being                                     3-fold social order

Christ Impulse as understood in anthroposophy       Pedagogical law

Spiritual scientific research                                       Life and work of Rudolf Steiner

Integration with local initiatives and community     Practice of 6 basic exercises

Eurythmy                                                                    Biodynamics

Anthroposophical Medicine                                       Rudolf Steiner’s Pedagogy