WALDORF / STEINER     

     NEWS      










The news items on this page are culled from media around the world — especially in English-speaking countries. The commentary appended to most items is my own. 


If any of the terminology used here ("Anthroposophy," etc.) is unfamiliar to you, consulting The Semi-Steiner Dictionary and The Brief Waldorf / Steiner Encyclopedia should help.


Momentous events, with potentially enormous consequences, are afoot in the wide world. Seen in this real-world context, events in and around Waldorf schools shrink to near-irrelvance. But as long as we care about the well-being of children who have been sent to Waldorf schools, or who may be sent there, we should carry on with our work here.

— Roger Rawlings







July 18, 2018



SIX ANTHROPO THEMES 
FOR SUMMER 


Announcement of an upcoming event at Great Lakes Waldorf Institute [Wisconsin, USA]:



ANTHROPOSOPHY, THE GOSPELS, AND THE FUTURE OF HUMANITY 

– A MORNING WORKSHOP WITH CLAUDIA BROWNE


Great Lakes Waldorf Institute is delighted to offer a mid-summer morning dedicated to exploring Rudolf Steiner’s path to spiritual understanding.


In this morning class we will study this wonderfully translated and abridged lecture [by Rudolf Steiner], which is an elegant summary of at least six complicated anthroposophical themes:  the relationship of anthroposophy to religion, the evolution of consciousness, mythology, biological evolution, the path of initiation, and, above all, the meaning of the Incarnation.  Accompanying our study will be some artistic exercises in geometric drawing.


Saturday, July 21st, 2018       –       9:00 am – 12:00 pm  


[https://greatlakeswaldorf.org/2018-summer-programs/]



◊ • ◊


The announcement refers to this lecture, abridged by Frederick Amrine:


[Independently published (January 16, 2018)]



◊ • ◊


Waldorf Watch Response:


Anthroposophy attaches great importance to the figure of Christ. Steiner taught that the future of humanity hinges on our acceptance of Christ. Steiner lectured on the four gospels of the New Testament, he prayed to Christ, and today throughout the Anthroposophical community — including in Waldorf schools — the festivals of the Christian calendar are celebrated. For all these reasons, Anthroposophy is often mistakenly deemed a branch or denomination of Christianity.

But the differences between Anthroposophy and Christianity are enormous. Anthroposophy is polytheistic, whereas Christianity is one of the world’s great monotheistic faiths. [See “Polytheism”.] The Christ revered in Anthroposophy is not, in the traditional Christian sense, the Son of God — rather, he is the Sun God, the god who dwells on, and controls, the Sun. He is the same god as Apollo, or Hu, or Baldr. [See “Sun God”.] Steiner found significance in the four Christian gospels, but he also found serious faults in them — so much so that he wrote his own, new-and-improved, fifth gospel. [See “Steiner’s Fifth Gospel”.] While Steiner’s teachings derive, in part, from the gnostic Christian tradition [see “Gnosis”], they include numerous beliefs that are incompatible with mainstream Christianity, such as karma and reincarnation. [See “Karma” and “Reincarnation”.] Overall, the differences between Anthroposophy and Christianity are far greater than their similarities. [See “Was He Christian?”]


The announcement of the upcoming class at Great Lakes Waldorf Institute mentions several topics. Let’s review them briefly. (I will not confine myself to the contents of the lecture in question but will range over Steiner's teachings more generally.)

1. The relationship of Anthroposophy to religion. Steiner claimed that Anthroposophy is a science, not a religion. This “science” employs clairvoyance to study the spirit realm. There are at least two major problems here. The first is that clairvoyance does not exist. [See “Clairvoyance”]. Thus there can be no science that depends on the use of clairvoyance. The second problem is that Anthroposophy is very clearly a religion. The practice of Anthroposophy entails faith, reverence, prayers, meditations, spiritual guides, spiritual observances, submission to the gods, and efforts to fulfill the will of the gods. Anthroposophy lays out the path to spiritual improvement and salvation for its adherents, and it threatens spiritual loss and perdition for everyone else. Anthroposophists believe that they are on the side of the gods, and they believe that their critics are on the side of the demonic powers. Anthroposophy is a religion. [See “Is Anthroposophy a Religion?”]

2. The evolution of consciousness. This is the central subject of Anthroposophy. Steiner taught that we are evolving, through a long series of reincarnations, to higher and higher levels of spiritual consciousness. We began our existence in an extremely dim state during an evolutionary period called Old Saturn. Subsequently, we evolved through the Old Sun and Old Moon periods. In the future we will evolve to the Future Jupiter, Future Venus, and Future Vulcan periods. Along the way, we are aided by nine separate ranks of gods. When we complete our evolution, we will stand above all these gods; we ourselves will be the supreme deity of the cosmos. [See “Everything”. Also see the entries for “evolution of consciousness” and “historical narrative of Anthroposophy” and in The Brief Waldorf / Steiner Encyclopedia.]

3. Mythology. Anthroposophists believe that myths are true — they are the stories told by ancient clairvoyants, describing the things they had seen and experienced during their visits to the spirit realm. The myths given greatest emphasis in Anthroposophy — and in Waldorf schools — are Norse myths, which Anthroposophists believe give a true account of human evolution. [See “The Gods”.]

4. Biological evolution. In Anthroposophical belief, the evolution of our bodies is far less important than our spiritual evolution (the evolution of our consciousness). But Steiner did teach that our physical, biological bodies are evolving in conjunction with the evolution of our souls. Steiner’s account of such evolution has nothing to do with Darwin’s account, and it is unsupported by any scientifically verifiable information. Thus, for instance, Steiner taught that when we lived “on” the Moon (that is, when we passed through the Old Moon period), we had soft, pliant bodies that floated through the dense lunar atmosophere. [See “Lunacy”.] Steiner's descriptions of our other stages of biological evolution are equally hallucinatory.

5. The path of initiation. This is Anthroposophy itself, the path we should follow if we want to evolve properly. We become “initiates” when we develop clairvoyance and then attain the hidden or “occult” spiritual knowledge needed for our spiritual advancement. Initiation is a central doctrine in Anthroposophy. [See “Inside Scoop”.] Most Anthroposophists consider themselves initiates, as do many Waldorf teachers. Steiner claimed that he has received a super, double initiation. One corollary of the concept of initiation is this: Initiates will usually withhold their great secrets from the uninitated. Thus, you cannot expect Anthroposophists to tell you things that they think are beyond you. Anthroposophists and Waldorf representatives are often highly secretive when dealing with outsiders. [See “Secrets”.]

6. The meaning of incarnation. The meaning is implicit in the points we have already reviewed. We incarnate on the physical plane, from time to time, as part of the process of our evolution. Between our lives on the physical plane, we dwell in the spirit realm, preparing for our future incarnations. Our goal is to evolve to higher and higher conditions of consciousness during our progressive incarnations. But it is possible to move downward instead of upward. Evildoers and the spiritually blind may fall to lower evolutionary conditions in their future incarnations. Truly evil souls may eventually “fall out of evolution” altogether, losing their possibility of accompanying Anthroposophists on their journey to the ultimate peak of evolution, when they will become the supreme deity of the cosmos. [See, e.g., “The Tenth Hierarchy”.]


That’s my summary of the six topics that will be discussed in the upcoming class. But of course I am standing on the outside, looking in. If you want to know for sure what will be revealed in the class, perhaps you should sign up.

— R.R.









July 17, 2018



◊ READINGS ◊


THE WALDORF   

AGENDA  



 

[Waldorf Publications at the Research Institute for Waldorf Education, 2016]



Waldorf education is based on an extraordinary conception of human nature. This is perhaps clearest in the earliest part of the Waldorf curriculum, the part aimed at the youngest children.


According to Waldorf belief, young children arrive on Earth through the process of reincarnation. [See "Reincarnation".] They have had many previous lives, alternating between lives on Earth and lives in the spirit realm. They descend into their newest Earthly lives bringing with them their karmas and their astrological identities. [See "Karma" and "Star Power".]


The kids come bearing, also, memories of their recent lives among the gods on high. [See "Higher Worlds".] These precious memories may be destroyed if the children are rushed into physical, Earthly existence. Therefore, Waldorf teachers should strive to preserve children’s dreamlike consciousness. Instead of encouraging young students to develop their intellects, Waldorf teachers should actively shield the kids from influences that would stimulate their rational minds. [1] They should help kids to remain as young as possible for as long as possible.


Here is a passage from a recent publication that outlines some of these propositions. Specifically, this passage deals with kids attending a Waldorf kindergarten:


“The lively, waking dream of the young child’s consciousness must be allowed to thrive in the early childhood group. This means that the teacher refrains as much as possible from verbal instruction. Instead, her gestures and actions provide a model for the child’s imitation. Familiar daily rhythms and activities provide a context in which the need for verbal instruction is reduced. Simple, archetypal imagery in stories, songs, and games provide experiences that the children can internalize but that do not require intellectual or critical reflection or explanation.” — Susan Howard, “The Waldorf Kindergarten”, in WALDORF EDUCATION - An Introduction for Parents, edited by David Mitchell (Waldorf Publications, 2016), p. 14. 


Rudolf Steiner spoke of the marvelous quality of young children’s dreams:


"The dreams of young infants are quite marvellous … They are truly cosmic. The child dreams of the things he experienced before he came down to earth." — Rudolf Steiner, FROM LIMESTONE TO LUCIFER (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1999), pp. 194-195. 


Steiner taught that the intellect, on the other hand, is destructive:


“The intellect destroys or hinders.” — Rudolf Steiner, WALDORF EDUCATION AND ANTHROPOSOPHY, Vol. 1 (Anthroposophic Press, 1995, p. 233.


For such reasons, Waldorf teachers try to retard the mental development of their young students:


“[I]n Steiner’s view…childhood is a time of contracting consciousness.... [The child] loses his dream-like perception of the creative world of spiritual powers which is hidden behind the phenomena of the senses. This is...the world of creative archetypes and spiritual hierarchies [2] … [T]he child [possesses] a dream-like yet intensely real awareness of spiritual worlds. This awareness fades quickly in early childhood, but fragments of it live on in the child for a much longer time than most people imagine ... [I]n a Waldorf school, therefore, one of the tasks of the teachers is to keep the children young.” — A. C. Harwood, PORTRAIT OF A WALDORF SCHOOL (The Myrin Institute Inc., 1956), pp. 15-16.


Later, of course, kids need to develop the capacity for rational or intellectual thought. Steiner himself was an intellectual. Intellect has its place, he said. But young kids should be protected from the cold, demonic influence of the intellect.

"Intellectuality flows forth from Ahriman [3] as a cold and frosty, soulless cosmic impulse.” — Rudolf Steiner,  ANTHROPOSOPHICAL LEADING THOUGHTS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1998), p. 98.


We should circle back to Susan Howard’s statement to glean a few more points.


“Verbal instructions” should be minimized because these would stimulate the kids’ rational brains. This would be bad. By comparison, “simple, archetypal imagery” is good for young souls. Such imagery does not need “intellectual or critical reflection or explanation.” In Waldorf schools, such imagery is mainly provided through extended, repetitive exposure to myths and fairy tales that reflect Anthroposophical beliefs about the spirit realm. [See “Sneaking It In”.]


The goal is for the children to “internalize” these Anthroposophic or semi-Anthroposophic images. Another way to describe this is to say that Waldorf schools aim to indoctrinate their young students. They immerse the kids in “stories, songs, and games” that provide “archetypal imagery.” According to Waldorf belief, Archetypes are spiritual beings who are perfect spiritual models for incarnated beings. Everything good that exists in the physical universe is a reflection of gods or Archetypes high above. 


“From the point of view taken by occultism [4], the things presented to us in the sense world can only be rightly understood if our knowledge includes cognition of the ‘above,’ the spiritual archetype, the original Spiritual Beings [5], whence all things manifest have proceeded.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE OCCULT SIGNIFICANCE OF BLOOD (Rudolf Steiner Publishing Co., 1922), pp. 11-12.


No Waldorf teacher would use Steiner’s high-flown, intellectually challenging words in a Waldorf kindergarten. But by filling the kids’ heads with imagery that reflects Anthroposophical beliefs, Waldorf teachers hope to steer kids toward embracing Anthroposophy in their hearts (when they are young) and, eventually, in their minds (when they grow up). In other words, Waldorf schooling is a covert process of conditioning, habituating, and — ultimately — indoctrinating. [See “Indoctrination” and “Spiritual Agenda”.]



Steiner once gave these words of guidance to a Waldorf teacher who seemed to be going astray:


“The problem you have is that you have not always followed the directive to bring what you know anthroposophically into a form you can present to little children. You have lectured the children about anthroposophy when you told them about your subject. You did not transform anthroposophy into a child’s level.” — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), pp. 402-403.


Steiner rarely put the matter so plainly, but indeed this is what Waldorf teachers are supposed to do: “bring what you know anthroposophically into a form you can present to little children.” Waldorf teachers should “transform anthroposophy into a child’s level.” This is the teachers’ “directive.”


Defenders of Waldorf education often say that the Waldorf approach is based on Anthroposophy, but Waldorf schools do not teach the kids Anthroposophy. This is disingenuous. It is misleading. It is untrue. And here we see the truth. Waldorf teachers should follow “the directive to bring what you know anthroposophically into a form you can present to little children.”



◊ • ◊



Waldorf Watch Footnotes:


[1] It may seem strange to speak of intellect when discussing very young children such as kindergartners. But, in fact, when very young kids learn the alphabet, and numbers, and how to read, and how to add — when they learn such things, they are using the rational parts of their brains, they are using their dawning intellects. It is telling, then, that Waldorf education usually tries to withhold such knowledge and skills from young students. Generally, Waldorf schools do not teach reading, writing, and basic math until kids reach the age of seven, or even later.


[2] i.e., gods. Anthroposophy is polytheistic. Steiner taught that there are nine ranks of gods, subdivided into three groupings that he called "hierarchies." [See "Polytheism".]


[3] Ahriman is one of the great demons Steiner often wrote and spoke about. The other is Lucifer. [See "Ahriman" and "Lucifer".]


[4] In Steiner’s vocabulary, “occultism” is good. Steiner taught that occultism is the study and acquisition of hidden (occult) spiritual truths. Steiner's most important book is titled OCCULT SCIENCE - AN OUTLINE. The "occult science" he primarily meant is his own body of teachings: Anthroposophy. [See "Everything".]


[5] I.e., creator gods. Steiner taught that all gods have played roles in creation and evolution, but some have been more central than others. [See, e.g., the descriptions of various "Spirits" in The Brief Waldorf / Steiner Encyclopedia.]


— R.R.










July 15, 2018


THE EMPIRE OF 

ANTHROPOSOPHY   




A lengthy article about Anthroposophy and its institutions has appeared in the July, 2018 edition of the monthly French newspaper LE MONDE DIPLOMATIQUE


The article offers a broad overview touching on some of the topics we have discussed here in recent days and weeks. Here are some excerpts. (I have added some explanatory footnotes.)



ÉDUCATION, SANTÉ, AGRICUTURE, BANQUES: LES BONNES AFFAIRES DES DISCIPLES DE RUDOLF STEINER

EDUCATION, HEALTH, AGRICULTURE, BANKS: GOOD DEALS FROM RUDOLF STEINER'S DISCIPLES

L’anthroposophie, discrète multinationale de l’ésotérisme

Anthroposophy, the discreet multinational of esotericism


[by] Jean-Baptiste Malet 


During his lifetime, [Rudolf] Steiner endowed his spiritual movement with a vision … A century later, Anthroposophy is an empire. With respectively 14 billion and 4 billion euros of assets under management, the Triodos and GLS banks, two institutions founded and managed by Anthroposophists…support Anthroposophically inspired companies. [1] No less than 1850 kindergartens and 1100 Steiner-Waldorf schools…spread over 65 countries, apply [Steiner's] pedagogical principles.… [2]

Anthroposophy is the paradox of a movement that seems to reflect contemporary attitudes, but it is born out of a reaction to modernity. At the end of the 19th century in Germany, preachers revived a mythical Germanic past, criticized technical and scientific progress, cities, and the Enlightenment. They exalted nature and the medieval roots of an organic, rural and unchanging Volk ("people"). In the 1880s, Steiner...published dozens of articles in the Pan-German press [3] … Passionate about esotericism, he joined the Theosophical Society in 1902 [4] … In 1913, he organized a split and founded the Anthroposophical Society, an attempted amalgamation of esotericism, idealistic philosophy, Christian mysticism, völkisch paganism (peopled with a pantheon of Norse gods, including Thor, Odin and Loki), and claims about science…. [5]

According to Steiner, Mars is a liquid planet, Earth a giant skull, the Moon a heap of vitrified horns, and knitting builds up good teeth; islands and continents float on the sea, held in place by the force of the stars; the planets have a soul; minerals come from plants; clairvoyants are able to detect atheists, because the latter are inevitably ill; initially immobile, the Earth was put into rotation by the human “I”.… [6]

Steiner's work has a darker dimension. From 1910 onward, he claimed that Germanic and Nordic people belong to the same ethnic group, the Aryan race, and denounced "the appalling cultural brutality that was the transplantation of blacks to Europe, causing the French people to regress as a race." A few years later, many Anthroposophists were members of the Nazi party, the SS or the SA…. [7]

From its beginning, the Anthroposophical Society has set itself the mission not of expanding through aggressive proselytism — Anthroposophists claim only 44,000 members throughout the world — but rather by creating hubs that germinate a counterculture … It is by changing people’s consciousness that we act on society as a whole, Steiner felt … More than a century later, Steiner's anti-modern, pantheistic, and puritanical counterculture enjoys solid support in the "official society"....

Mr. Gerald Häfner, co-founder of the party Die Grünen (the Greens), was elected to the Bundestag between 1987 and 2002, and to the European Parliament from 2009 to 2014. [8] Member of the Executive Committee of the German Anthroposophical Society from 2002 to 2005, Mr. Häfner heads the Society's Humanities Section....

Mr. Lukas Beckmann, another co-founder of Die Grünen (the Greens), general secretary of the ecologist group in the Bundestag from 1994 to 2010, has also been involved in Anthroposophic finance [9] ... [H]e was Executive Director of GLS Treuhand [10]....

To stand out from the norm in order to establish one's credit without contesting mainstream social structures, such is also the path followed by Anthroposophy in the field of education. Inaugurated in 2015, the Domaine du Possible, a non-contract school [11], was built in the heart of nature in Arles … On open house day, April 21, 2018…Mrs. Françoise Nyssen (who became Minister of Culture in May 2011) photographs the show. [12] With Mr. Jean-Paul Capitani…Mrs. Nyssen is the founder of the school.…

Inside the classrooms of the Domaine du Possible, we discover works of Steiner pedagogy, timetables announcing eurythmy lessons [13], the German magazine of Steiner schools [14], a medicine cabinet containing "Anthroposophic medicines" [15], dictation workbooks [16] alluding to medieval myths and gods in conformity with Steiner pedagogy [17]. "The teachers say this isn't a Steiner school [18], but it's 100% Steiner," says a sophomore. “I've been in Steiner School since I was eight. My parents moved me here. And, frankly, it's the same madness. We do exactly the same things at a Steiner school”….

[
https://www.monde-diplomatique.fr/2018/07/MALET/58830]



◊ • ◊


Waldorf Watch Footnotes:


[1] In addition to Waldorf schools (sometimes called Steiner schools), Anthroposophical enterprises include Camphill residential communities, biodynamic agricultural operations, Anthroposophical medical practices, cosmetic/medical manufactories and dispensaries, cultural organizations such as eurythmy troupes, and so forth. Anthroposophy is a revolutionary movement that aims to reform human institutions in compliance with Rudolf Steiner's directives. Steiner's overall scheme for social organization is called "threefolding." [See "Threefolding".]

[2] The number of Waldorf and/or Steiner schools fluctuates, as new schools are created but other schools collapse. [See, e.g., "Failure".] Advocates of Waldorf education often claim that theirs is the fastest-growing independent school movement in the world, but such claims are rarely buttressed by reliable statistics. The Waldorf movement has gradually grown, but it remains small by various measures. Many individual Waldorf schools are tiny, and some are short-lived. There are approximately 1,100 Waldorf schools in the world today (July, 2018); by comparison, there are about 7,000 Montessori schools. [See "Montessori FAQ's."] The number of Waldorf kindergartens is less certain. The totals are sometimes inflated by the inclusion of playgroups or informal home gatherings. Many of these groups have very small enrollments.

[3] Pan-Germanism (German Pangermanismus or Alldeutschtum) is, generally, a nationalistic movement that seeks to unite most or all German-speaking peoples in an enhanced German fatherland. [See, e.g., "Pan-Germanism" in The Encyclopaedia Britannica.]

[4] "Theosophy, occult movement originating in the 19th century with roots that can be traced to ancient Gnosticism and Neoplatonism." — Encyclopaedia Britannica. Steiner took many of his teachings from Theosophy. Indeed, Anthroposophy may be considered a variant or branch of Theosophy. [See "Basics".]

[5] See, e.g., the entry "Anthroposophy" in The Brief Waldorf / Steiner Encyclopedia.

[6] Although Steiner claimed to be a "spiritual scientist" who provided true, objective descriptions of both spiritual and physical reality, many of his teachings are plainly false or at least highly doubtful, and they often betray a deep anti-scientific bias. For further examples of Steiner's oddest teachings, see, e.g., "Steiner's Blunders". For Steiner's view of science, see "Science".

[7] The SS was a Nazi security force; among other duties, it administered concentration camps. The SA was a Nazi paramilitary force; its members were often called "brownshirts" (for the color of their uniforms).

Steiner's racial views rank among the most deplorable of his teachings, and the intersections between Anthroposophy and fascism define one of the most explosive subjects that arise in historical accounts of the Anthroposophical movement. [See "Steiner's Racism" and "Sympathizers?" ]

[8] Häfner, an Anthroposophist, is a German politician. The Green Party is a pro-environmental political party. The Bundestag is the German parliament. The European Parliament is the directly elected legislative body of the European Union (EU).

[9] Lukas Beckmann, an Anthroposophist, is a German politician.

[10] GLS Treuhand is a bank that underwrites initiatives consistent with Anthroposophical social goals.

[11] I.e., an alternative, private school that has no contract with the government. Freed from at least some government control, these schools are self-financed. (Steiner taught that all educational, cultural, and spiritual institutions should be kept separated from the political and economic spheres of life.)

[12] Françoise Nyssen, an Anthroposophist, is a French-Belgian politician. In 2017, she was appointed Minister of Culture in the French government.

[13] Eurythmy is a form of spiritualistic dance — in a sense, a new for of temple dancing — created by Steiner. The movements of the dancers are meant to open channels to the spirit world and to make manifest the inner meaning of language. [See "Eurythmy".] 

[14] One such magazine available online is Erziehungskunst [Educational Art].

[15] Steiner advocated numerous medicinal approaches that have little if any curative value. Some, indeed, may be seriously injurious. Arguably, Anthroposophical medicine is the most dangerous field established by Steiner. Waldorf education occupies an intermediate position on the scale of harm that may result from Anthroposophical practices. Biodynamic agriculture — which incorporates silly but generally harmless procedures — is perhaps the least harmful Anthroposophical undertaking. [See "Steiner's Quackery", "Who Gets Hurt?", and "Biodynamics".]

[16] I.e., lesson books, created by Waldorf students by taking down the words of their teachers and copying art created by their teachers. [See "Lesson Books".] In Waldorf schools, lesson books often substitute for textbooks, which are not often used in these schools. Thus, Waldorf students are usually not exposed to any views except those of their teachers (many of whom are typically Anthroposophists). The result, critics charge, is that Waldorf schools effectively indoctrinate students in Anthroposophical beliefs and attitudes. [See "Indoctrination" and "Sneaking It In".]

[17] Steiner taught that myths, legends, and even fairy tales are essentially true — they are reports of clairvoyant visions attained by the ancients. The mythology of northern Europe — Norse mythology — is given particular emphasis in Waldorf schools. [See "The Gods".]

[18] Spokespeople for Waldorf schools often deny the Anthroposophical tenets and purposes embraced by the faculty. [See, e.g., "Secrets".] In an extreme case, a Waldorf school might even deny that it is a Waldorf school. If the student quoted in the article, above, is correct, then this is what is happening at Domaine du Possible. In any event, Waldorf schools are often accused of deceptive practices. Many parents report that they were misled about the nature of the education their children would receive at a Waldorf school; and they were especially misled  when these schools concealed their allegiance to Rudolf Steiner's mystical doctrines. [See, e.g., "Our Experience" and "Coming Undone".]


My thanks to former Waldorf teacher Grégoire Perra for bringing this article to my attention. The English translation was prepared with the assistance of the online translation service DeepL.

— R.R.







July 14, 2018


OCCULTISM, NAZISM, 

(and Anthroposophy?)  




A book from Yale University Press touches, at least tangentially, on the question of intersections between Nazism and Anthroposophy. The following is from a book review in The Federalist [FDRLST Media]:




Indiana Jones Isn’t Wrong — 

The Nazis’ Fascination With 

The Occult Was Very Real


by Nathanael Blake


…Recently released in paperback by Yale University Press, Eric Kurlander’s book Hitler’s Monsters: A Supernatural History of the Third Reich, provides a sober scholarly treatment of a subject that has frequently been sensationalized in pop history potboilers as well as pop culture. Dr. Kurlander, a history professor at Stetson University, has written a thorough overview of the intersections between Nazism and various mystical, occult, and pseudo-scientific theories….


From astrology to racial mythology, the Nazi leadership was fascinated, in some cases enthralled, by a wide mix of pseudo-science and mysticism. And they put it into practice. “Nazi leaders sponsored everything from astrology, parapsychology and radiesthesia to biodynamic agriculture and World Ice Theory”....


[Heinrich] Himmler and the SS [the Nazi security organization led by Himmler] were the locus of occultism and mysticism within the Nazi regime, but they were not alone. Kurlander relates that Hitler read and carefully annotated books on magic, and that he “hired Germany’s most famous dowser…to police the Reich Chancellery for harmful death rays.” Meanwhile, [Hitler's Deputy Führer] Rudolph Hess sponsored “astrology, anthroposophy, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Tibetan mysticism”….


[7/14/2018   https://thefederalist.com/2018/07/13/indiana-jones-isnt-wrong-the-nazis-fascination-with-the-occult-was-very-real/   This review originally appeared on July 13.]



◊ • ◊


Waldorf Watch Response:


Few things enrage Anthroposophists more than the allegation that there were any connections whatsoever between their movement and Nazism. Yet several historians have traced such connections. [See "Sympathizers?"]

Certainly, the two ideologies have some things in common. They both assert the importance of race, assigning high rank to some races (white, "Aryan") and low rank to others (generally, the darker the lower). They both hold that some people, including members of the lowest races, are subhuman. And they both find great significance in the German national "mission." Historian Peter Staudenmaier has offered this overview: 


“Anthroposophy as Steiner taught it focused crucially on ideas like ‘the German spirit’ and ‘the German soul’ and ‘the German essence’ and ‘the German mission’ and so forth. These same concepts were central to several versions of Nazi thought as well. Nazis often found worldviews like Anthroposophy too flighty, too woolly, too religious, not political enough, while Anthroposophists often found Nazism too political, too materialist, not spiritual enough. But some Nazis had notably positive attitudes toward Anthroposophy, and some Anthroposophists enthusiastically greeted the rise of Nazism.” [http://groups.yahoo.com/group/waldorf-critics/message/9771  Also see Staudenmaier's BETWEEN OCCULTISM AND NAZISM - Anthroposophy and the Politics of Race in the Fascist Era (Brill, 2014).]


HITLER’S MONSTERS adds at least a little to the historical record. The book contains multiple references to Anthroposophy, Rudolf Steiner, biodynamic agriculture (farming based on Steiner’s occult teachings), Theosophy (Steiner was a Theosophist before breaking away to establish Anthroposophy as a separate movement), Theosophical evolutionary theory, Norse mythology (which is stressed in Waldorf schools), etc.


Kirkus Reviews had this to say about HITLER’S MONSTERS:


"Kurlander…delivers a serious consideration of the place of supernatural belief in the larger German society. The author writes of the influence of the so-called border sciences of parapsychology and their ilk on fascism, and vice versa, and of the identification of Jews and other 'undesirables' with vampires, zombies, ghouls, and kindred monsters, joining modern racism to older cultural touchstones. Kurlander traces much of that to the Romantic era, when 'folklore, mythology, and neo-paganism rushed to fill an important gap in the German spiritual landscape' … The Nazis made use of existing mythology and added elements to proclaim Hitler 'a ruler of souls' and a wizard possessed of powers no other earthly ruler held. Whether Hitler believed in such things himself is arguable, but clearly there was a kind of approved occultism that the regime tolerated even while rooting out 'rival esoteric doctrines' that did not cohere with the state-sanctioned forms…." [https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/eric-kurlander/hitlers-monsters/]


Steiner's teachings must be counted among the "rival esoteric doctrines" that partially overlapped, and partially contravened, Nazi occultism. If some Nazis were sympathetic to Anthroposophy, and if some of Steiner's followers joined the Nazi party (and the Fascist party in Italy), the historical record is complicated and contentious.


Steiner and Anthroposophy are by no means central to HITLER’S MONSTERS. But anyone interested in the history of Anthroposophy — the occult body of teachings that form the basis of Waldorf pedagogy — will want to dip into this book.

— R.R.









July 12, 2018


CONSPIRACIST THINKING  

AMONG ANTHROPOS  




Rudolf Steiner was a conspiracy theorist. [See “Double Trouble”.] Dark conspiracy theories exercise a deep fascination for many of Steiner’s followers. 


Conspiracist thinking seems to be strengthening within Anthroposophical circles these days. The problem has apparently gotten so bad that a splinter group of Anthroposophists is sounding the alarm.


The following are excerpts from an article in a German-language Swiss newspaper, Solothurner Zeitung:


 

[A]n initiative of various representatives of the anthroposophical scene has now emerged, who are openly criticizing [Anthroposophical leanings toward conspiracist thinking] for the first time. In a statement that has so far only circulated within the Steiner movement, they want to make it clear "that conspiracy theories in the anthroposophical movement do not remain unchallenged." They are critical of the fact that such theories "increasingly resonate" within the movement….


Two senior employees from [the Anthroposophical headquarters] are among the eight signatories of the declaration.…


David Marc Hoffmann, director of the Rudolf Steiner Archive, writes: "In the anthroposophical environment, I repeatedly meet representatives of the most crude ideologies: Holocaust denial, theories of conspiracy by Jews, Jesuits, Bilderbergers or Freemasons." He would be ashamed to be represented before the world by representatives of such thinking: "I don't want to have anything to do with these purveyors of simplistic thought”.…


[7/12/2018  Translated with the assistance of www.DeepL.com/Translator   The story originally appeared on July 11.]





At the Waldorf Critics discussion site, historian Peter Staudenmaier has offered a response:


[S]everal prominent anthroposophists have finally taken a public stance sharply criticizing the conspiracist tendencies within their movement. Their statements were published online by Info3 in late June … The statements are fairly brief but definitely worth reading; I found the one from David Marc Hoffmann particularly telling. There are aspects that fall significantly short of a full reckoning with this serious problem — they do not grapple with Steiner's own conspiracist teachings, to choose one conspicuous example — but this is nonetheless a positive development that critical observers of anthroposophy should support. It would be a nice surprise to see something similar from English-speaking anthroposophists someday.






Thanks to the Swedish blogger — and former Waldorf student — Alicia Hamberg for informing us English-speakers about the Solothurner Zeitung article. To follow Alicia on Facebook, see https://www.facebook.com/etherealkiosk.


— R.R.










July 11, 2018


SUPER-BRAINS  

AND THE MASTER




Rudolf Steiner’s followers have an enormously inflated opinion of their leader. For instance, did you know that the two most important historical figures of the early 20th century were Adolf Hitler and (wait for it) Rudolf Steiner? These two titans occupied opposite ends of the moral spectrum, one standing for all that is evil, the other standing for all that is good.

“The infernal powers know their own, but there are also rare souls, known and unknown, who are the servants of the light, unfailingly devoted to advancing the greater purposes of existence no matter what the sacrifice and inevitable hardships. In the future, we may well look back on the first third of the twentieth century and recognize the two major antagonists who epitomized the spiritual conflict — namely, Adolf Hitler and Rudolf Steiner.” — William A. Bryant, JOURNEY THOUGH TIME (Rudolf Steiner College Press, 2006), p. 163.

A new book, due out soon from the Anthroposophical publishing house Temple Lodge, again represents Steiner as the preeminent champion of the great and good. In this instance, he stands as the virtuous opponent of a new demonic threat: artificial intelligence (AI).




HUMANITY'S LAST STAND
The Challenge of Artificial Intelligence
A Spiritual-Scientific [i.e., Anthroposophical] Response
by Nicholas Perlas
(Temple Lodge, 2018)


Steiner certainly opposed most products of modern technology, and fear of modern technology runs through most Anthroposophical enterprises, including Waldorf schools. [See "Spiders, Dragons and Foxes".] According to Steiner, much of technology is literally demonic — it is a manifestation of the terrible demon Ahriman. [See "Ahriman".] Seen from an Anthroposophical perspective, electronic computing machines are hellish, and artificial intelligence intensifies this hellishness. 

This much, at least, is true: We are creating computerized systems that can outthink us in various ways. AI systems have already beaten the best human players at chess, for instance, and at Jeopardy. The worry is that metal-and-silicon super-intelligences may learn to outthink us in many other, more important areas. Then, having surpassed us so extensively, they may push us aside, becoming the new masters of the Earth. They will enslave us, making us into miniature, subjugated replicas of themselves. Or perhaps they will simply wipe us out, seeing no value in our continued existence.

The dangers of artificial intelligence may or may not be real. Some technologists, such as Elon Musk, take the threat seriously. Others, such as Bill Gates, say such worries are overblown. Perhaps we can at least agree that the matter deserves careful attention. 

In the meantime, Anthroposophists take comfort from their reliance on the wisdom and prepotency of Rudolf Steiner. Put it this way: They hope to be saved from a possibly overblown threat by a vastly overblown master.

Here are excerpts from Temple Lodge’s promo for their new anti-Ai book:

Although still in its earliest stages, artificial intelligence (AI) is radically transforming all aspects of society. With the immanent emergence of Artificial Super Intelligence (ASI)…mankind stands at a crossroads … [I]f we do not master [i.e., tame] it now, ASI will transform mankind into its own image. Ultimately, it will destroy the human race.

…Rudolf Steiner, however, not only foresaw these developments, but gave clear alternatives. Steiner...provided philosophical, ontological and social innovations to save humanity from the abyss….

…This, says the author [Nicholas Perlas], is humanity’s last stand, and failure is not an option.












July 8, 2018


◊ EDITORIAL ◊


APPENDIX X  

AND GROOMING THE KIDS


In discussing the concerns that have arisen due to the “grooming” of students in Steiner schools, I quoted from the book that gave rise to these concerns: A HANDBOOK FOR WALDORF CLASS TEACHERS, compiled by Steiner teacher Kevin Avison (Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship, 2004; reprinted 2011). I pointed out that the final appendix of the book — Appendix M — is ironic. Avison does not seriously advise Steiner teachers to follow the recommendations given in Appendix M: bribing the kids with chocolates, giving the kids pet names, cultivating certain students as allies, and so forth.


A new edition of the handbook makes Avison's ironic intention plainer. The dubious appendix has now been recast as Appendix X. And, crucially, it now begins with the following disclaimer:


"Warning Note    Anyone who believes this is ‘advice’ should think again. This page should be read with caution as a humorous exploration of what perhaps shouldn’t be done in the classroom." — A HANDBOOK FOR WALDORF CLASS TEACHERS (Floris Books, in association with the Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship, 2016), p. 146.


This warning note is reassuring (despite the ambiguous “perhaps” that Avison tosses in). But we shouldn’t drop the matter altogether. The sort of practices listed in Appendix M / X do occur in at least some Steiner schools. Steiner teachers often try to bond with their students to an uncommon extent. The ultimate aim is luring students into accepting the teachers’ Anthroposophical belief system. [See “Grooming, Nicknaming, Enlisting”, posted here on July 2, 2018.]


Consider the problems that have caused the Rudolf Steiner School Kings Langley to collapse. The foremost problem was the failure of the school to ensure the safety of the students. And this failure largely involved the creation of unhealthy, personal contact between teachers and students:


"[T]he school has been ordered to close down for good, with inspectors saying…there were no 'professional boundaries' between students and teachers, with some meeting up outside school … [T]eachers were far behind the necessary standards, with some even casually meeting children outside class. The [inspectors’] report said: 'Professional boundaries between staff, parents and pupils are not maintained ... Parents arrange for pupils to see their teachers, and former teachers, off the school site. This culture is unchanged, despite known serious safeguarding failings.’" — The Daily Mail, September 3, 2017. [See the Waldorf Watch item "Remembering RSSKL — The Faults Found", July 7, 2018.]


This report comes to us from the Daily Mail, a tabloid — not the most reliable source. But we have other, more credible sources of information about Steiner / Waldorf schools. For instance, former Waldorf teacher Grégoire Perra has written the following about life in a Waldorf school where he taught:


"[A]ll lines of separation are erased. Very soon, our colleagues become a kind of family … Students become for us both our children and our friends and associates.  There reigns a sort of permanent "incestuous" atmosphere that can go haywire very quickly for everyone … [There is] total confusion of identities … Nobody there knows who he is or what exactly his role is … [T]his nebulous dissolution of personalities and responsibilities gives rise to accounts of illicit relations between teachers and students. It is what often happens." — Grégoire Perra, “The Anthroposophical Indoctrination of Students in Steiner-Waldorf Schools”. [See “He Went to Waldorf”.]


Other accounts by other authors paint a similar picture of life within at least some Steiner / Waldorf schools. Incestuous involvements of all sorts tend to develop. Lines are erased, confusions proliferate, and the welfare of students is jeopardized. [See, e.g., “Extremity”.] 


And what is the reason for all this? It lies in the very purpose of Waldorf education, which is to spread Anthroposophy. In a word, the purpose is indoctrination — enticing, leading, and sometimes dragging children toward embracing Anthroposophy. Perra recounts multiple ways that Steiner / Waldorf teachers seek to infuse their students’ minds, hearts, and psyches with Anthroposophical beliefs. [See “Indoctrination.” Also see, e.g., “Sneaking It In”.]


In another of his essays, Perra gives a simple example of the problematic relationships between Steiner teachers and students. He writes about the practice of Steiner teachers writing personalized poems for their students.


"It is extremely gratifying when someone takes the trouble to write a poem about you … Who normally writes such poems, except distraught lovers?  … [T]he teachers in these schools do not only ask the students to physically strip down, as they do in kindergarten, but they ask for psychological nakedness as well. They ask the students to reveal their most private thoughts … [T]his unveiling process leads some parents to quickly and easily hand complete authority to the teachers and the school. The psychological effect includes the entire family." — Grégoire Perra, “Nearly Undetectable Influence and Indoctrination”. [See “Mistreating Kids Lovingly”.]


The implications of such developments help explain what the inspectors found so alarming at Rudolf Steiner School Kings Langely, and they suggest why there is now public concern about the “grooming” of students by faculty in Steiner / Waldorf schools. The lovely surface presented to the world by Steiner / Waldorf schools can be seriously misleading.


— R.R.












July 7, 2018


REMEMBERING RSSKL — 

THE FAULTS FOUND



As of today, visitors to the website of the Rudolf Steiner School Kings Langley would find no indication that the school has collapsed. The site's home page still paints a glowing portrait of the school and its claims:



The Rudolf Steiner School provides a comprehensive and well-rounded inter-disciplinary Steiner Waldorf education — Pre-school to A levels — that is permeated with sciences, arts, music and foreign languages. Our pupils develop creative, flexible, independent thinking, thereby preparing themselves for university and successful careers.

For 69 years we have been successfully preparing young people to live fulfilling and rewarding lives. Our spacious 10-acre campus is on the site of a 13th-century royal palace and priory and includes sports fields, a gymnasium, a large theatre, arts and crafts block, pottery and photography lab.


[7/7/2018   http://rsskl.org]



Undoubtedly the website will soon be revised or simply closed down, reflecting the closure of the school itself. [See the item dated July 6, 2018, below.]

In the meantime, it might be helpful to review the problems that led to the collapse of the school, which had been one of the foremost Steiner schools in the United Kingdom. Inspectors faulted the school for shortcomings on several fronts. Here are excerpts from news accounts that explain some of the reasons UK education authorities ordered the school to shut down.



The Hemel Gazette, May 29, 2018:


The [inspectors'] report says the school has failed to meet the necessary standards for safeguarding, handling of complaints, and quality of leadership.


And it says that the school’s leaders have “potentially put pupils at risk” with their recruitment policies. 


Criticisms include: “The lack of rigour and inaccurate recording amount to more than administrative errors. 


“They are indicative of leaders’ continuing failure to take their responsibilities seriously”.... 





The Hemel Gazette, April 27, 2018:


Ofsted [the Office for Standards in Education]...stated standards were not met in ‘Quality of education’, and in ‘Quality of leadership in and management of schools’.


About quality of education, the report says “Work was frequently unchallenging and teachers’ assessment of the progress made by pupils was still in its infancy”....


The section about ‘Welfare, health and safety of pupils’ adds: “Leaders have failed to ensure that all new employees have been thoroughly vetted prior to taking up their post. 


“They have accepted applications that fall far short of a professional standard and have not taken up appropriate references. 


“Once again, leaders have potentially put pupils at risk by not assuring themselves of the suitability of the staff they employ.”





The Daily Telegraph, June 24, 2018:

A flagship Steiner school is to close amid fears over child safety, after it emerged that parents who tried to raise the alarm about safeguarding lapses had been sent gagging letters [i.e., letters telling them to keep quiet].…


The school’s most recent Ofsted report noted that “the culture for safeguarding pupils at the school is not strong enough” and that leaders have “underestimated and downplayed these inadequacies”.


Inspectors said that the process for addressing historic safeguarding complaints has “stalled”, and that “resolution is no longer in sight”....





The Daily Mail, September 3, 2017:

A top £10,000 a year school has been ordered to close following a damning report from Ofsted that flagged up serious fears of child safety….

[T]he school has been ordered to close down for good, with inspectors saying data protection had been breached, pupils were able to wander off-site during lunch breaks and that there were no 'professional boundaries' between students and teachers, with some meeting up outside school.…

[L]ead inspector Philippa Darley and her team found that, in many respects, teachers were far behind the necessary standards, with some even casually meeting children outside class.

The report said: 'Professional boundaries between staff, parents and pupils are not maintained ... Parents arrange for pupils to see their teachers, and former teachers, off the school site. This culture is unchanged, despite known serious safeguarding failings.

The report also slammed the school for lying to parents about the severity of some of the issues, and for failing to keep data secure.

'Leaders have underplayed and misrepresented the school's safeguarding failings to parents,' it said....

'They have also stated that "no transgressions or wrongdoings were found to have taken place" and have implied that former parents who expressed concerns have misrepresented the position. These messages are not supported by the inspection evidence....

'Crucially, leaders do not base their decisions, at all times, on what is in the best interests of the child. This is the core principle of good safeguarding practice and a statutory requirement for all schools.'




The Telegraph News, September 2, 2017:

Britain's flagship Steiner school has been ordered to close amid fears over child safety....


The Rudolf Steiner School Kings Langley had already been banned by the Department for Education (DfE) from admitting any new pupils, following a series of damning Ofsted inspections which uncovered a raft of safeguarding failings.


It comes after Denis McCarthy, a senior staff member who was also a leading figure in the UK’s Steiner school movement, was sacked from the school for gross misconduct.…


The school has issued a public apology to children and their families for “real and serious failings going back several years”, acknowledging that it failed to act on “repeated concerns raised by parents” over safeguarding.





The Watford Observer, April 14, 2016:

An emergency inspection at a school has revealed procedures for safeguarding its pupils are not being met.

The Department for Education ordered the inspection of Kings Langley Steiner School following concerns raised about pupils’ safety and the management of the school….

Inspector Jane Cooper from the Schools Inspection Service said in her report that a number of changes at the school have had a negative impact on the management of safeguarding.

She said three teachers who held the key posts of education facilitator, designated safeguarding lead (DSL) and deputy DSL have recently given up their roles, which has highlighted the “ineffectiveness” of the current structure.

Children are at risk due to leaders not being clear enough about the interpretation of safeguarding requirements.…

Five months ago the school was visited by the education watchdog following complaints from parents.

During that inspection, inspectors found many of the risk assessments were out of date and that some were no longer applicable.




The school's failure to adequately safeguard students is surely the most dramatic of the issues raised by inspectors, and it has received the most coverage in the press.

We should note, however, that the school was also found to have serious deficiencies in other areas, including the quality of the instruction offered, the overall management of the school, recruitment practices, relationships with students' parents, and responsiveness to outside authorities. Taken altogether, the inspection reports indicate that the school failed in almost every way a school possibly could fail.

Another comment may be in order. Rudolf Steiner School Kings Langley was not just any Steiner school. It was old and venerable; it was one of the leading Steiner schools in Britain. The crash of this institution, caused by such a wide array of deficiencies, has potentially devastating implications for Steiner or Waldorf education generally. To the extent that other Steiner or Waldorf schools have failings like those at RSSKL, the entire Steiner/Waldorf movement may be called into question.

For more on this final point, see "King Langley's Karma", June 23, 2018.

— R.R.






 



July 6, 2018


AUTUMN TERM CANCELLED — 

STEINER SCHOOL CLOSING 




From the The Watford Observer [Hertfordshire, UK]:



Rudolf Steiner School in
Kings Langley
to close next week


[by] Nathan Louis

A private school will close next week after insurers were not found to keep the school open.

Rudolf Steiner School in Kings Langley hoped to remain open for the new term [next autumn] but in a letter today, trustees of the school announced this would not be possible.

The school had been threatened with closure for more than a year after a number of Ofsted [Office for Standards in Education] inspections found pupils were “at risk”....

In a letter to parents, the school said it was not "viable" to self-insure after potential insurers for the school stepped back. Consequently the school decided it was "untenable" to prepare for an autumn term and as such have voted to close the school on completion of the summer term next week.


It was in December 2016 that Rudolf Steiner School Kings Langley (RSSKL) was first told by Ofsted inspectors that it had serious problems with safeguarding of students.

The body [i.e., Ofsted] have since visited the school four times, failing in a number of categories on three occasions [i.e., the school failed three of four inspections]. The school was also threatened with closure by the government.

[6/6/2018    
http://www.watfordobserver.co.uk/news/16336099.rudolf-steiner-school-in-kings-langley-to-close-next-week/    This story originally appeared on July 5.]


◊ • ◊


Waldorf Watch Response:

This, presumably, truly is the end of the road for one of Britain's premier Steiner schools. The drama has been long and arduous, but now the school seems to have run out of options.

Of course, supporters of Steiner education may seek to replace RSSKL, in whole or in part, with other Steiner initiatives in the same geographic area. But this remains to be seen.

The effect for Steiner education generally, in Britain and beyond, also remains to be seen. The failure of RSSKL is surely a setback for the Steiner movement, but the extent of the setback will not be known for some time. It will largely depend on whether the problems at RSSKL are understood to reflect systemic problems in Steiner schools generally. I have argued that the RSSKL saga certainly should be understood in this way. [See my editorial dated June 23, 2018.]

We should note that inspectors found RSSKL deficient by several measures. Inadequate safeguarding of students topped the list, but the school was also faulted for the poor quality of the teaching it offered, and for the poor quality of the school's management. In other words, there were problems in virtually all parts of the school.

So the problems at RSSKL were numerous and deep. The following is from a news account published on June 5 in The Hemel Gazette dealing with an emergency meeting for parents and others at the school:


Chair of the trustees, Peter Harrington, told the meeting there was no single issue or member of staff which was to blame for the school’s plight, but that it was “consistent failings across a range of issues”. 

He said...“There are lots and lots of problems at the school.”



For previous Waldorf Watch coverage of events at RSSKL, see, e.g., items dated June 29, June 26, June 25, June 23, June 20, June 19, June 6, May 31, May 30, May 9, May 2, April 28, April 19, and April 14, 2018. A report on July 2 also referred to the situation at RSSKL.

— R.R.









July 5, 2018


ADMINISTRATORS, TEACHERS,     

AND PARENTS  






Leading with Spirit, 2018.




Announcement of an upcoming event on Whidbey Island in Washington State, USA:



LEADING WITH SPIRIT


THE ART OF ADMINISTRATION AND LEADERSHIP IN WALDORF SCHOOLS...


Whidbey Island, WA July 8 (eve), 9-13, 2018....

Waldorf Schools work with a new pedagogy based on a holistic, age-appropriate image of child development. They also practice a new form of community life in which teachers, administrative staff, and parents are partners in developing the community of the school. The working together of these three groups in the life of the school requires insight, social sensitivity, and competence so that the school can be healthy and best serve the needs of the children. This new professional development course offers teachers, administrators, board members and parents an opportunity to reflect on and work with the challenges of building a Waldorf School Community that is vibrant, innovative and effective while honoring the unique contributions of each member of the community.


[6/5/2018    http://www.leadingwithspirit.org]




◊ • ◊


Waldorf Watch Response:

Public announcements coming from within the Waldorf community are often written in a sort of code that conceals as much as it reveals. The art of administering a Waldorf school would seem to be a dry and uninteresting subject, but several points in the above announcement deserve our attention. They need to be decoded. The more we decode, the more the subject becomes riveting — and troubling.


◊ Waldorf schools do not work on the basis of a mere "image." They stand upon Rudolf Steiner's elaborate esoteric preachments, especially those laid out in the lectures Steiner delivered to the teachers at the first Waldorf school as they prepared to begin their work there. These lectures are compiled in a book that has been published under such titles as STUDY OF MAN and THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE. In the lectures, Steiner makes clear that Waldorf education is intimately linked to his occult belief system, Anthroposophy. So, for instance, he told the Waldorf teachers this:


“[Y]ou will understand why, as we begin this work today, we first reflect on the connection we wish to create from the very beginning between our activity and the spiritual worlds ... Thus, we wish to begin our preparation by first reflecting upon how we connect with the spiritual powers [i.e., gods] in whose service and in whose name each one of us must work.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 33.


Anyone who feels drawn to Waldorf education would do well to read, carefully, THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE. For an introduction to this key Waldorf text, see "Oh Humanity".


◊ Waldorf education is "holistic" only to the extent that it looks at children through the lens of Steiner's bizarre description of human nature. Steiner taught, for instance, that children develop three invisible bodies before becoming adults (the etheric body, the astral body, and the "I"). In addition, Steiner taught that humans have 12 senses, both a soul and a spirit, an astrological identity, an evolutionary status reflected by one's race, a long history of previous incarnations, and so forth. The "whole" human being, as conceived in Waldorf belief, is a fantastical (and invidious) concoction.

For more on these matters, see "Holistic Education", "Incarnation", "Our Parts", and "Races".

◊ Waldorf classes are "age-appropriate" only to the extent that they are geared to the strange account of human development provided by Steiner. So, for instance, Steiner said that the etheric body incarnates at or around age seven; the astral body incarnates at or around age 14; and the "I" incarnates at or around age 21. Similarly, Steiner said that as children grow, they recapitulate the spiritual/cultural evolution of humanity. Thus, for instance, he said that fifth graders stand at the level of the ancient Greeks, while sixth graders stand at the level of the ancient Romans. Children, therefore, should be taught only the sorts of things that were known at these various levels of human development — these things, and only these things, are "age-appropriate."

To delve into these matters, see, e.g., the entries for "bodies", "seven-year stages of growth", and "recapitulation" in The Brief Waldorf / Steiner Encyclopedia.

◊ The tripartite structure of Waldorf community life (described above as a cooperative endeavor between teachers, administrators, and parents) is based on Steiner's prescription for the reorganization of human societies, a prescription he called Threefolding. According to this plan, human societies would be divided into three distinct spheres (political, cultural/spiritual, and economic) that would be wholly separate; no sphere would interfere in any other sphere. One benefit of this approach is that Waldorf schools would be free to go their way unimpeded — no one from outside the cultural/spiritual core of the school would have any say within that sphere. Furthermore, threefolding means that neither administrators nor parents should interfere with the teachers. When you hand a child over to a Waldorf faculty, you are expected to give up much of your authority over the child — the Waldorf teachers will decide what the child needs. Your role is largely confined to providing resources (money, and your volunteer work) to keep the school functioning. In theory, Waldorf classrooms are little kingdoms presided over by kings and queens (teachers) who are answerable only to themselves.

For more about the relations between Waldorf teachers and the students' parents, see "Threefolding", "Faculty Meetings", and "Advice for Parents".

— R.R.












July 2, 2018


GROOMING, NICKNAMING,    

ENLISTING  





A new controversy about Steiner schools has erupted in the UK.


The following is from The Times:



Steiner book raises grooming concerns

by Anna Behrmann

A Steiner school handbook that suggested teachers visit children at home and give them chocolate has raised concerns about the potential for grooming.

The handbook, published and endorsed by the Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship, tells teachers that parents’ evenings should be followed by “home visits”, where the teacher can spend time with the pupil....

In the handbook, which combines supposedly lighthearted musings with advice, teachers are told that “class pet names can be enjoyable”. It adds: “Rewards, for example chocolates (especially if the school rule is no chocolate), should be awarded to indicate how pleased you are with the individual.”

The handbook goes on to recommend that teachers “cultivate the strongest leaders in the class so that they see you as their special ally, the only adult who understands them”.

Another section advises: “Tell the class that they are a very special group (they must be to have you as a teacher) and let them know implicitly and explicitly that you are the only person able to teach them. Alongside this, it helps to hint that no one else could handle them as you do.” Its author, Kevin Avison, an executive officer and adviser of the fellowship...describes the handbook as a “humorous exploration” of Steiner teaching but adds that all the points have “something positive.”

Mike Tomlinson, former chief inspector of schools, told The Sunday Telegraph that the handbook “raises serious questions about the philosophy of the schools and the way in which they choose to see the teacher’s role”. He added: “I suspect that this may well be a call to arms to the Department for Education and Ofsted [the Office for Standards in Education]...."

[7/2/2018    https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/steiner-book-raises-grooming-concerns-dz9zlndws]




An article in The Daily Mail provides some further information:



Steiner school handbook
raises grooming concerns
after it suggests teachers
visit children at home
and give them chocolates


by Zoie O'Brien

Steiner schools should be investigated for telling teachers to give children chocolates, visit them in their homes and make pet names for their favourite students, a former schools inspector said....

A source close to Stenier schools told The Sunday Telegraph the 'advice' is concerning.

They said: 'Steiner teachers really get to know the child and there is a massive opportunity for grooming by teachers with an inclination to do so.

'I am appalled that the advice is there, even ironically....'

Former chief inspector of school Mike Tomlinson [said the handbook] 'raises serious questions about the philosophy of the schools and the way they choose to see the teacher's role'....

[Steiner] schools have recently been criticised by Oftsed.

The Rudolf Steiner School, in Kings Langley, Hertfordshire, will close down after failing to make improvements since the education watchdog's last visit in December, when it stopped any new pupils from coming aboard.

Inspectors said in a damning report that data protection had been breached, pupils were able to wander off-site during lunch breaks and that there were no 'professional boundaries' between students and teachers, with some meeting up outside school.


'Leaders have underplayed and misrepresented the school's safeguarding failings to parents,' it said....

... Crucially, leaders do not base their decisions, at all times, on what is in the best interests of the child. This is the core principle of good safeguarding practice and a statutory requirement for all schools.'

[7/2/2018   
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5908493/Steiner-school-handbook-raises-grooming-concerns-suggests-teachers-visit-children-home.html]


◊ • ◊


Waldorf Watch Response:


This controversy may strike some readers as very strange. We might almost think that Steiner schools are being accused of treating students kindly — giving them candy, befriending them, making sure things are ok at home.


But in fact the implications of the cited practices are potentially dire. [See "Mistreating Kids Lovingly".]


Waldorf teachers often think of themselves as "priests" who oversee the spiritual development of their students. [See "Schools as Churches".] They generally do not place primary importance on educating children in any ordinary sense. Instead, their chief aim, often, is luring students and their families toward Rudolf Steiner's spiritual belief system, Anthroposophy. [See "Here's the Answer" and "Spiritual Agenda".] Ultimately, Waldorf teachers are often guilty of indoctrinating their students in Steiner's occult beliefs — they "groom" their students with this clandestine objective. [See "Sneaking It In" and "Indoctrination".]


Within Waldorf communities, the line between home and school may become blurred, with teachers seeking to supplant parents as the most important adults in students' lives. The Waldorf movement is quite prepared to direct and control students' families in virtually all spheres of life. Thus, there are Waldorf publications on how to make Waldorf-approved soups, and how to make Waldorf-approved bread, and how to make Waldorf-approved dolls, and how to be a Waldorf-approved housewife, and — overall — how to raise children in the Waldorf-approved way. [See "Discussions".]


Here are a few statements made by Rudolf Steiner, directing Waldorf teachers to consider themselves apostles of Anthroposophy who have a broad mandate:


◊ "[W]e [Waldorf teachers] wish to begin our preparation by first reflecting upon how we connect with the spiritual powers [i.e., gods] in whose service and in whose name each one of us must work.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 33. 


◊ "The position of teacher becomes a kind of priestly office, a ritual performed at the altar of universal human life." — Rudolf Steiner, THE ESSENTIALS OF EDUCATION (Anthroposophic Press, 1997), p. 23. 

◊ "You [Waldorf teachers] will have to take over children for their education and instruction — children who will have received already (as you must remember) the education, or mis-education given them by their parents ... [W]hen we receive the children into the school we shall still be able to make up for many things which have been done wrongly, or left undone [by parents and others], in the first years of the child's life." — Rudolf Steiner, STUDY OF MAN (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2004), p. 16.

 ◊ "Given the difficult, disorderly, and chaotic conditions of our time, it might almost be preferable from a moral viewpoint if children could be taken into one’s care soon after birth.” — Rudolf Steiner, WALDORF EDUCATION AND ANTHROPOSOPHY, Vol. 2, Foundations of Waldorf Education (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 69.

The purpose of all this, ultimately, is to spread Anthroposophy: 

“One of the most important facts about the background of the Waldorf School is that we were in a position to make the anthroposophical movement a relatively large one. The anthroposophical movement has become a large one.” — Rudolf Steiner, RUDOLF STEINER IN THE WALDORF SCHOOL (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p.156.

Waldorf or Steiner schools are integral parts of the Anthroposophical movement. But this fact must be disguised:

“[W]e have to remember that an institution like the Independent Waldorf School with its anthroposophical character, has goals that, of course, coincide with anthroposophical desires. At the moment, though, if that connection were made official, people would break the Waldorf School’s neck." — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 705.


Having reviewed these matters to this point, we should consider whether the handbook referred to in the news articles, above, has been misinterpreted. Are the objectionable passages in fact humorous or ironic?


The publication at issue is A HANDBOOK FOR WALDORF CLASS TEACHERS, compiled by Kevin Avison and published by the Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship (2004; reprinted several times, most recently in 2016).  I will quote from the 2011 edition. The objectionable passages arise principally in the final section of the handbook: Appendix M.


There is, indeed, a tongue-in-cheek quality to this appendix, which Avison subtitles "How to make it difficult for anyone else to teach your class — ever!" (He uses the word "class," here, in the standard Waldorf way: It refers to a group of children who proceed together, as a group, from one grade level to the next, generally under the primary tutelage of a single "class teacher.")


Here is a survey of some of the guidance given in Appendix M:


"Always refer to the class as 'my class'....


"Tell the class frequently that they are a very special group ... [I]t helps to hint frequently that no-one can or could handle them as you do....


"Fill every space on the blackboard with your artistry...preventing any [other] teacher from erasing even last week's reminder....


"Class 'pet names' can be useful. Rewards, for example chocolates (especially if the school rule is no chocolate), should be awarded....


"Make a special point of cultivating the strongest leaders in the class so that they see you as their special ally....


"Form cliques with chosen colleagues....


"Occasionally, but with powerful emotion, use your 'veto' [in faculty meetings] on the grounds that you alone are speaking for 'the children'...."


A HANDBOOK FOR WALDORF CLASS TEACHERS, pp. 90-91.


Much of this is clearly meant to be over the top and therefore amusing. But you should note that the humor here (like much comedy anywhere) depends on a shock of recognition. Most people who are acquainted with Waldorf schools know that many of the teachers there behave as Avison describes.This is how Waldorf teachers often conduct themselves. It is behavior that arises from excessive devotion to the vision Rudolf Steiner propounded. [See the quotations, above.] Avison's point is that Waldorf teachers, while engaged in their mission, should try to rein in their more extreme habits.


But, to repeat, the conduct Avison lampoons is indeed typical of the way many Waldorf teachers act, and it is closely bound up with Waldorf teachers' genuine conception of their job. If we dial back the humor in Avison's satire, we are left with statements that could very well be understood to contain serious recommendations for teachers in the Steiner/Waldorf system. [To consider some comedy-free descriptions of Waldorf teachers in action, see, e.g., "Ex-Teacher 2", "Ex-Teacher 5", and "His Education".]

— R.R.






 




July 1, 2018


WALDORF, CHILD CARE,   

AND MODERN MEDICINE  




As is often the case, Waldorf institutions have shown up on another list of child-care facilities having abnormally low percentages of fully vaccinated students.


The following is from The Oregonian/OregonLive [USA]:



The least-vaccinated
child-care facilities
in Oregon


by Mark Friesen

About 92 percent of children enrolled in child-care facilities in Oregon were fully vaccinated during the 2017-18 school year, data released recently by the Oregon Health Authority shows. The agency aims for at least a 95-percent immunization rate for community protection. Below are the child-care/preschool/Head Start facilities that had the lowest vaccination rate in that county….

Benton County
Corvallis Waldorf School

Children: 48
Children with all vaccinations: 66.7%
County child-care/preschool/Head Start vaccination rate: 92.6% (No. 22)….

Deschutes County
Waldorf School of Bend 
Children: 21
Children with all vaccinations: 42.9%
County child-care/preschool/Head Start vaccination rate: 90.4% (No. 29)

[7/1/2018    
https://www.oregonlive.com/expo/news/erry-2018/06/ac3b50b4913233/the_leastvaccinated_childcare.html    This story originally appeared on June 29.]


◊ • ◊


Waldorf Watch Response:


Many members of the Waldorf community have grave misgiving about vaccines. Fear of vaccination is often linked to basic Waldorf beliefs.


According to these beliefs, vaccination can be especially harmful if it prevents children from undergoing diseases that the kids need to endure in order to incarnate properly. Childhood diseases often result from a child's effort needed to overcome inherited characteristics that may interfere with karma. Kids need to have certain diseases that vaccination may prevent:


"Childhood diseases...result from a necessary developmental process in which the human being tries to overcome influences from the inherited physical body ... This basic concept of the origin of childhood diseases has been complicated by new forms of medication that suppress symptoms (vaccination)." — Waldorf teacher Henk van Oort, ANTHROPOSOPHY A-Z (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2011), p. 20. 


Thus, from a Waldorf/Anthroposophical perspective, children should be allowed to be sick. Childhood diseases are a blessing: 


"[W]e should consider [childhood illnesses] as the greatest blessings, because through them man is able to strengthen his personal form by conquering a predisposition, enabling him to incarnate better." — Waldorf teacher L.F.C. Mees, BLESSED BY ILLNESS (Anthroposophic Press, 1983), p. 192. 


The founder of Waldorf education, Rudolf Steiner, said that vaccination can be beneficial in some circumstances. But he also warned his followers that grave dangers lurk in modern medical practices, vaccination in particular:


◊ "[T]he heirs of modern materialism will look for the vaccine to make the body ‘healthy’, that is, make its constitution such that this body no longer talks of such rubbish as soul and spirit [i.e., vaccines will disable us from believing in spiritual realities] ... Materialistic physicians will be asked to drive the souls out of humanity.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE FALL OF THE SPIRITS OF DARKNESS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2008), p. 85. 


◊ “Certain circles in this materialistic age are striving to paralyse and make impossible all of humanity's spiritual development ... Endeavors to achieve this will be made by bringing out remedies to be administered by inoculation ... [T]hese inoculations will influence the human body in a way that will make it refuse to give a home to the spiritual inclinations of the soul.” — Rudolf Steiner, SECRET BROTHERHOODS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2004), pp. 90-91. 


The Waldorf view of childhood vaccination is ultimately rooted in Rudolf Steiner's occult preachments.

[For more on Waldorf beliefs concerning modern medicine, see "Steiner's Quackery".]

— R.R.



◊ • ◊


Addendum:



From Precision Vaccinations:


Anti-Vaxx Children Often Attend 
This Private School Organization

Waldorf Association Schools are leading vaccine exemption private schools

By Don Ward Hackett


June 25th, 2018 – If you believe it's best for your children’s health not to vaccinate, there is one private school organization that is a leader in Nonmedical Exemptions From School Immunization Requirements.

According to reporting by Dr. Vincent Iannelli, a board-certified pediatrician and Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, many parents of school-age children who are opting not to vaccinate enroll them into Waldorf schools.

There are over 160 Waldorf Schools in the USA.

Waldorf schools have their foundations in anthroposophy, which the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America defines as “the belief that humanity has the wisdom to transform itself and the world, through one’s own spiritual development.”

Some of these Waldorf schools are the leading Nonmedical Exemption (NME) schools in various states, such as:

• Waldorf School of Mendocino County (California) - 79.1%
• Tucson Waldorf Schools (Arizona) - 69.6%
• Cedar Springs Waldorf School (California) - 64.7%
• Waldorf School of San Diego (California) - 63.6%
• Orchard Valley Waldorf School (Vermont) - 59.4%
• Whidbey Island Waldorf School (Washington) - 54.9%
• Lake Champlain Waldorf School (Vermont) - 49.6%
• Austin Waldorf School (Texas) - 48%

Dr. Iannelli’s reporting is supported by new state-based, kindergarten vaccination data from 2017, which identifies Waldorf Association schools as NME leaders in these states:


Vaccinations have proven to be one of the most cost-effective and successful public health interventions, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Vaccines are effective not only because they protect individuals who have been vaccinated, but also because they confer a broader protection for communities by establishing “herd immunity.”

Which means, when a sufficiently high proportion of a population is vaccinated against communicable diseases, the entire population can obtain protection....











June 30, 2018


STARS, PLANETS,  

PRAYERS, AND ANTHROPOSOPHY  





Here is the quotation for today from the "The great Rudolf Steiner Quotes Site":



What could be more uplifting than to know that we can discover the fount of our life between death and rebirth. We can discover our kinship with the whole universe! What could give us greater strength for our duties in life than the knowledge that we bear within us the forces pouring in from the universe and must so prepare ourselves in life that these forces can become active in us when, between death and rebirth, we pass into the spheres of the planets and of the Sun.


One who truly grasps what occultism can reveal to him about man’s relation to the world of the stars can say with sincerity and understanding the prayer that might be worded somewhat as follows, “The more conscious I become that I am born out of the universe, the more deeply I feel the responsibility to develop in myself the forces given to me by a whole universe, the better human being I can become.”


One who knows how to say this prayer from the depths of the soul may also hope that it will become in him a fulfilled ideal. He may hope that through the power of such a prayer he will indeed become a better and more perfect man. Thus what we receive through true spiritual science works into the most intimate depths of our being.


Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 140 – Life Between Death and Rebirth: III – Hanover, November 18, 1912


Translated by Rene Querido


[6/30/ 2018   https://rudolfsteinerquotes.wordpress.com/2018/06/30/what-could-be-more-uplifting/]



◊ • ◊


Waldorf Watch Response:


Rudolf Steiner’s teachings (which he dubs, here, his “occultism,” his “spiritual science”) are indeed uplifting — if they are true. But that’s a big If.


When Steiner says “we bear within us the forces pouring in from the universe,” he is essentially talking about astrology (as reconceived by himself). We are tiny replicas of the universe, he taught — we are microcosms containing the imprint of the entire macrocosm. We are the center of everything. [See “The Center”.] The spiritual forces of the stars and planets flow down into us. [See “Astrology” and “Star Power”.] After we die, “we pass into the spheres of the planets and of the Sun,” rising progressively through these spheres and their presiding gods. [See “Higher Worlds”.]


Steiner’s professed “occultism” is his claimed possession of secret, gnostic, hidden — in a word, occult — spiritual knowledge. Like innumerable other mystics and occultists before him, Steiner taught that the gods have hidden much essential knowledge from us. But Steiner asserted that by becoming occultists — especially by buying into his version of occultism — we can acquire much of this knowledge. We can become, then, occult initiates. [See “Occultism”, “Gnosis”, and “Inside Scoop”.]


Steiner’s “spiritual science” is Anthroposophy, the system he offered that would enable us to crack the occult secrets of the cosmos. [See "Everything" and "Knowing the Worlds".] In calling Anthroposophy a science, Steiner followed the example of Theosophy, which identifies itself as a spiritual science.* But the truth is that Anthroposophy is a religion. [See “Is Anthroposophy a Religion?”.] To be “uplifted” by it, we need to believe it — we must have faith. [See “Faith”.] And to enact Anthroposophy, we must do such things as praying. Steiner offers us a prayer, here, and he prescribed many other prayers on many other occasions, including some prayers for Waldorf students to recite. [See “Prayers”.]


The key requirement for Steiner’s occultism or spiritual science is the use of clairvoyance. It is through disciplined use of clairvoyance that we can make spiritual discoveries, Steiner said. The problem in this is that clairvoyance does not exist. Nothing real comes from clairvoyance, which itself is unreal. [See “Clairvoyance”.]


Steiner’s teachings would be uplifting if they were true. But that’s a big If.



* Steiner was nominally still a Theosophist when he spoke the words we are considering here. Soon thereafter, he broke away to set up Anthroposophy as a separate movement. He began calling his own teachings “Anthroposophy” a good while before formally breaking away from Theosophy.


— R.R.










For previous news items,

see "Indications"

at the website

Waldorf Straight Talk.























[R.R., 2018.]