return to articles page
Here's a rough translation a friend sent me of an article describing the experiences of a German man who was sent to Waldorf teacher training from an employment assistance center. I'm working on getting a good translation, but I thought people would be interested in seeing it now.
It blows away some myths that Walforf promoters try to pass off. One is that cult-like behavior and strange doctrines are a symptom of immaturity in the American Waldorf movement, excessive zeal of new converts, etc., but that the mature European Waldorf culture is modern and rational.
Another myth is that Steiner's racial mythology has no connection with Waldorf education.
Wondrous Waldorf Pedagogy or Atlantis as State of Consciousness
Author: Andreas Lichte
German original: http://www.novo-magazin.de/71/novo7138.htm
Names of those involved have been changed by the author.
Job Centre Berlin-West, May 2001
L. does not have a clue what Waldorf pedagogy is all about but is reassured it does not matter, only given the advice he need not mention it during the job interview.
Interview, Waldorf Pedagogy Seminary, Berlin, May 2001
L. does mention it but is reassured he need not turn into an anthroposophist but needs to be open in regard to questions regarding the philosophy of life. The job centre does not have any objections either.
Waldorf Pedagogy Introductory Course, 14th May - 11th July, 2001
A warm welcome to the participants, an easy way to solve daily conflicts and a relaxed atmosphere are considered to be of importance. Lack of stress somehow turns into boredom for L. He does not know what to make of the lecturer's monologue on Rudolf Steiner but no one expects him to.
Soon he is to leave the seminary temporarily for the Berlin Rudolf Steiner school. Before he is getting ready to teach he is to witness a play by 6th grade pupils (in Germany usually roughly aged 11-12, WS maybe a year older), the history of Rome. L. is concerned about the depiction of so much bloodshed but suppresses his feeling of discontent wondering if the harmonious mood at the seminary made him overly sensitive.
During his first real school day pupils learn a poem by repeating the teacher's recitation:
"Wir bauen nicht mit Mörtel noch mit Steinen,
[we build using neither mortar nor stones]
zwei Speere pflanzt, quer überbindet einen,
[two spears planted, tying one across]
zwei Römerköpfe d'rauf, es ist getan,
[two Roman heads on top, it's done]
das Joch umstehen verweg'ne Kriegsgesellen
[the yoke surrounded by daring war folk]
mit Auerhörnern* und mit Bärenfellen
[with bull's horns and bearskin]
und schauen sich das Bauwerk an,
[looking at the building]
die Hörner dröhnen der blut'gen Pforte zu.
[the horns rumbling towards the bloody gate.]
*Auer is an old breed of cattle now extinct
Zu der blut´gen Pforte strömt her das Volk
[People approaching the bloody gate]
aus jedem Tal und Orte,
[from each valley and place]
groß wundert sich am Joch die Kinderschar,
[the crowd of children standing astonished at the yoke]
ein Mädelreigen springt in heller Freude
[a girls' round jumping with sheer joy]
um das von Schande triefende Gebäude,
[around the shame ridden building]
den blühenden Veilchenkranz im Haar."
[the blossoming garland of violets in their hair.]
Gets everyone in the mood, especially since the teacher loves a martial deliverance and illustrates how to build a yoke: "Up top you'll plant the skull of a dead Roman."
Back at the seminary L. talks about being surprised to see 6th graders wade knee high in blood. He also is suprised not to get any answers, just looks telling him 'One day you'll understand, at the moment you lack the necessary requirements.' Soon everyone's back to daily life at the seminary, L. is left with the images of pupils who willingly assist him in his first attempts to teach. Maybe he is just imagening this strange feeling and decides to continue on.
Waldorf Pedagogy Course, 3rd September, 2001 - 5th July, 2002
A friendly hello which seems less heartical than during the introductory course. It is claimed that all those who have not signed the list by 9 a.m. are regarded as not present, L. doubts it is in the interest of the job centre but abides by the rules.
On to Rudolf Steiner; Steiner, Steiner above all else [this seems to be reminiscent of the first verse of the German national anthem 'Deutschland, Deutschland ueber alles' which is no longer in use]. Where did all the art go? Down to half a day.
They are being asked if Atlantis is a geographical space or a state of consciousness. L. feels worn out by this esoteric excursion. Participants are expected to forget everything they had envisioned as true and accept the existence of higher worlds which will subsequently lead to the 'look of the seer'.
Favourite subject of the Knowledge of the Higher Wolrd: Mankind being portrayed as one whole: animal kingdom, plant kingdom, mineral kingdom, its genius being expressed in its upright walk. The animals being the last stop, something of a devolution, mankind being the beginning and the end.
L. starts to get an impression of what is taught, Darwin is a thing of the past, Steiner is up to date. Having developed out of humans animals somehow are waste. It is important to distance oneself from 'evil' animals who lack morality.
A break. Moaning and groaning it is decided to leave the seminary and drink coffee. Heated discussions as to what precisely was taught. Then the course is back to aquarells restricted to two colours. Time flies. L. wonders if he had been dreaming in the morning. Unfortunately the subject matter of the next lesson does not live up to his expectations, instead of a few valuable hints helping to improve teaching methods they are being offered the meaning of the four temperaments (sanguic, phlegmatic, melancholic, choleric), if that isn't sufficient one could still consider the 'star children'.
Twentieth century psychology is absent, Freud's name obviously unknown. Being asked about what was being taught the lecturer refers to the four divisions within the class. Slowly it dawns unto L.: there is a invisible division between the teacher and the pupils which ought not be crossed, teachers are teachers, pupils are pupils.
L. looses his sense of time. His goal to become a teacher seems to have vanished into the distant future, all they are dished out is Steiner, Steiner, Steiner. He wonders how his fellow participants are doing. Those who think everything's great had already been anthroposophists - that's how they refer to themselves. Do the already feel elevated? Now they are among their own kind. Sometimes they seem to float through the air inspired by the "Spirit." But if someone ask all too wordly questions they know precisely how to silence him quickly.
The biggest group of participants is that of the silent indifferent ones who know why they are here: to get a job. Twenty out of twenty-five participants are unemployed, half of the women single mothers and a few more 'victims' of the "Wende" (=change, a term explicitely used to refer to the fall of the wall and Germany's reunification). Not surprisingly they are not expected to ask questions. The third group is mixed, unemployed academics, teachers who had problems at public schools.
Differences become more and more evident, conflicts are worsening on both sides, each citing Steiner. Some adore him in a rather cultic fashion, others want to be left alone, some ask whether they'll ever be able to understand all this. Open dispute erupts during the 'Study of Man' (GA 293). The difference of being satisfied and not satisfied with one's accomplishments is viewed as separating the culture of higher and lower standing peoples. L. wonders about the higher and lower standing human beings and starts to ask questions and is being told it is meant to inspire people to try their best. L. views such an approach as dangerous but is intercepted by another particpant who is convinced there are higher and lower standing human beings, not viewing it as a problem. L. counters that those who perceive themselves to be of higher standing will demand different rights. He in turn is asked whether he has a problem with hierachies. L. insists such thoughts are dangerous, after all Germany did see where all that can lead. A female particpant finishes off the 'discussion' claiming it is clear she ranks higher than someone who's in prison. The lesson over L. is left speechless.
L. gets the impression the others only want to help him, they already came to understand anthroposophy puts a lot of emphasis on hierachies, human hierachies, angel hierachies, leaders. Mankind advances but only those with special qualities do. Three pages of Steiner per lesson hardly give an impression of Steiner's collected works. Do they cover thousands or million of pages Steiner put on paper? Every little talk / lecture being published. None of the lecturers consider to offer a summary of a subject: lessons have more the feel of a church service interpreting Steiner's word. Lecturer Klein puts it this way: "I am a missionary on behalf of Steiner." Over and over one gets lost in details: Which hierachies of angels do we have? - it is of importance insomuch as angels are human beings on a higher stage of development: They have taken on the role of leaders (that's why Waldorf schools always place a depiction of archangel Michael next to the obligatory portrait of Rudolf Steiner). One of the teachers at the seminary explains he is capable of calculating the duration of one's personal purgaratory ...
How to teach geography is the subject offered by lecturer Vormann. His goal is to slowly lift the veil for a higher holism behind the outward impressions. He takes a week to accomplish the task introducing two continents: "Geographical polarities. Central and Eastern Asia in comparison to Northern America." First more or less the regular school like comparison between the Yangtse and the Colorado River. Then it is down to the real subject matter "Mankind and landscape". Asian architecture - the pagoda - makes the lecturer conclude the Asian is turning towards the sky - tien. The typical architecture of Northern America being the step pyramid. L. dares to ask: "What about Indians of Nothern American - the pueblo architecture? Or the tent of the nomading peoples of the prairies?" "They are irrelevant to the greater oversight, the Indians already were a perishing race," the lecturer responds. "A perishing race, what do you mean by that, that the Indians were driven out of their land by the whites?" "No, the Indians already had been a perishing race, they did lack in what it takes to develop into higher cultures." None of the other participants utters a word. L. is enraged, he remember his trip to the American West: "Don't you think it is unfair putting the blame on the Indians considering what they've been through?!" "Why are you getting so upset, after all the ancient Egyptians also been a perishing race." L. is struggling for words: "You may refer to the ancient Egyptians as a perishing race but I really do not feel like telling a hitch hiking Indian that he is a member of a perishing race!"
"Mr. Vormann is annoyed about so much lack of respect."Let us continue with the lesson, this question cannot be sufficiently resolved now!" Are we over and done with this issue? L. does not hear a word from he lecturer ... - but from the seminary's administration, three weeks later.
In the meantime L. had been off to teaching in Schloss Hamborn, Westphalia, "the Anthroposophic community" (including its own cemetary) and Waldorf school. Everything went well, lots of joy and no problems, not even with troubled kids.
Back at the seminary a lecturer approaches L.. "We decided to meet tomorrow to sit down and clarify matter - that's of utmost urgency!" Sounds 'bad', the next day he sees himself sitting opposite three lecturers attacking him verbally, preferably under the waistline: "Your demeanour is adolescent! ... You do not assume you'll ever get a job at any Waldorf school?! What do you think I'll tell them when asked for a confidential report ... " "Yeah what? In school I managed very well!"
The following day Mr. Fuchs hands him the answer: "We did not send this written warning to the job centre due to a formal mistake. You were not supposed to attend the meeting without being accompanied by another participant of the seminary." I read:
"We once again would like to summarize the main points of our concerns:
1. The teachers' college of the house and guest lecturers alike often view the educational atmosphere severely disrupted due to the style of your explicit as well as passing contributions .
2. The same applies to an increasing number of participants of the seminary.
3. It is rarely the content of your contributions but the way it's being voiced, beyond the measure of critical analysis a breach of basic rules of politeness, consideration, tolerance towards different ways of thinking have been observed.
4. This has repeatedly lead to circumstances which disproportionally puts the focus of attention on you as a person and your need to clarify matters.
5. It is understandable that this is the flipside of your at times considerable commitment, but that's no excuse.
6. The general impression of your demeanour currently leaves considerable doubts in regard to your fitness to teach and your position within the teachers' college.
L. thinks, "Thanks for the eulogy!" and needs to admit he is a little proud of himself, feels complimented: No one can seriously expect him that he quietly accept when living people are being labeled as members of a perishing race. His questions did have an impact.
On the other side he is shocked: What kind of brute force is used to get rid of him? Does he still want to be here? He himself has doubts regarding his fittness to teach within a teachers' college - who are anthroposophists - for quite some time now.
Yet does decide to stay on. First it is defiance: "Not that way!" he tells himself, and then there are additional reasons: His situation is still the same, it is not that easy to get a job. And he did like working with pupils, so why burry the dream to become a teacher?
Maybe he'll have the opportunity to teach at a public school. His family also had been delighted: "Finally you pursue a respectable career!", he does not disappoint anyone. But the main reason is a different one - L. wants to see the outcome of the story. Why does anyone watch a horror film? One is fascinated; the more horrifying the better. Only very few will leave the cinema early.
But L. wants to change his demeanour. He no longer wants to ask questions, act as inconspicuously as possible and do nothing but watch. But the lecturers give him a hard time - once identified as the enemy they try their utmost best to provoke him.
They are supposed to have a conversation, about an anthroposophic subject. Everyone at the seminary calls it an exam, the lecturers call it a conversation. So it's important to be well prepared; "just do not attract any attention" is what L. think. He crams Steiner so badly he had not done in ages: learn by heart regardless of what's written down. The conversation is moving and keeps moving; moving so well it makes lecturer Klein remark: "Well said!" "Thank you!" "But do you believe what you said?!" L. responds "Sure!" and is reminded of his interview. Didn't someone say: "No one expects you to become an anthroposophist ...?"
"I should have been able to envision that." L. asks himself: "Why had I been so naive?" He types three key words into the internet search engine ("google"): "Wolfgang Schad, anthroposophy, racism." Loads of entries. L. thinks "How simple it is when trying to find out about something, it is absolutely no problem." One of the articles summarizes exactly what he experiences and heard of at the seminary. After reading the article his sister-in-law remarks: "That stuff is so crude - honestly speaking I did not really feel like wanting to read it ... " "Thanks you did anyway," L. responds, aware where the problem lies: Those who have not been through all this are simply unable to believe it. Half a year ago he would not have either. Understanding. And half a year ago he had not yet had an idea who Wolfgang Schad is: Professor of evolutionary biology at the privately run university of Witten Herdecke and admirably viewed as an authority by one of the lecturers. Within the anthology "The living character of the earth (teaching senior classes geography)" he [Wolfgang Schad] writes the following: "Africa - birth place of mankind": "Equatorial heat and saturated 100% humidity seem to have mainly created the kind of 'wash house climate' only permitting the development of dwarf kind of human being during the course of human development." Reading this L. asks himself how he ought to view pygmies in the future: as humans or animals? - maybe as subhumans?
L. still wants to become a teacher, so: "Do forget everything as quick as possible! Maybe teaching practice looks a lot different, all these all being silly exceptions? Single cases. Yes, maybe ... "
During upper grade pedagogy lessons an interesting subject is being discussed: "How do I handle pupils in puberty?" Well, if that is not down to practical teaching! His joy is further exceeded by a working text which happens not to be authored by Steiner! But then we read what we already knew: the individual human development progresses in three step lasting 7 years each; the physical body is being developed until age 7, followed by the etherical body from age 7 to age 14 and finally the astral body, including the all crowning I ... that's original Steiner although not labelled Steiner.
Teachers are supposed to talk to pupils according to their maturity trying their utmost best to prevent "prematurity" from setting in. In case interest in sexuality should arise prematurely the teacher ought to stir a sense of beauty in the pupil ("therapeutically") ... " - that's how puberty is being handled! Heated debates follow, always the same question: "How am I to act when this and that happens?" There are no answers. Instead the lecturer outlines a diagram of the entire human development, emphasis on sexuality: mankind has developed from original asexuality into the division of the two sexes.
That's the present situation. "But there is hope because this situation will be overcome in the future, mankind will develop into an aexual being again ... " or does the lecturer say "hermaphroditic?" In any case he further explains: "If you look at it that way you might be able to deal with the job of harmonious togetherness in a more relaxed manner, to approach this job in a more relxed manner."
"What's the origin of the expression 'substratum incarnatum'?" asks the lecturer.
I just made that up answers M. The lecturers are all surrpised about the depth of his spiritual vision ... Is this an expression of good mood? No. L. knows that M. suffers: "I am getting depressions here - they make me sick!" He is mostly bothered by the lack of humour (at Waldorf schools they offer an epoch of humour), the endless repetition of the same: it really leads to something of a routine.
The effect of adaptation - no one utters a word, everything is accepted. Even the Klein version of creation. Free speech is practiced. Fairy tales are being told ("expressing the spirit of the people"), myths, stories of heroes and saints, biographies of the "world's great". And the story of creation, for 3rd graders, suitable for children. Mr. Klein knows "It is difficult, that's why I get it started." All of a sudden the workroom is swarmed by devils - "Lucifer" - , angels and other beings: " ... Germanic mythology also is perfectly suitable to depict the story of creation ... " Mr. Klein explains. Embarrassed faces everywhere, but no one has the courage to profess Christianity ...
"Just get out of here!", leave the workroom, the seminary - the only reflex. More and more start to feel that way. Luckily practical training is approaching: four weeks off!
L. is mighty nervous - what did he learn at the seminary that might help him in school? Nothing. L. teaches grade 10 art and crafts all on his own straight away. After 4 weeks he is almost slightly disappointed: "They could have at least tricked me once - they've almost been too well-behaved." No military device or frontier involved [Front-(alunterricht) is a wordplay; Front = frontier, 'Frontalunterricht' is referring the the traditional way of teaching the class pupils facing the teacher mostly sitting in rows following what the teacher offers].
The art and crafts teacher approaches him: "Don't you feel like wanting to finish the remainder of the epoch?" "Sure! - That would be another 4 weeks ... " "Yes. I need to ask the pupils if they agree." They do.
But back at the seminary L.'s plan is met by a gruff reply: "It interferes with the course of things at the seminary, you cannot miss lessons!" Do keep in mind we are talking about four lessons [in Germany usually 45 minutes each] per week.
Almost all the other participants are delighted about their practical teaching experiences too - "it is exactly the way Steiner has ordered it to be!" - no one wants to be at seminary any longer.
Therefore lecturers change procedures: "Study of Man" is now taught by three lecturers - concurrently, in a joint effort against the those possessed by Ahriman ("Ahriman" is the Persian equivalent of Lucifer, among others it stands for "materialism" (according to Steiner)). The subject always is the same but the tone aggravates: "We pay billions to feed these scientists who do nothing but produce shit!" Mr. Gerber expresses his critique of of modern scientists. "Probably only a verbal slip!" L. thinks but the lecturer already adds: "That's exactly my viewpoint!"
Lecturers do not always voice their opinion so openly, Mr. Klein says: "Carbon thinking, that corpse type of thinking, astract thinking ... " however anthroposophists may define this.
The anthroposophic paper "J. Robert Oppenheimer - Natural Science and Sin in the 20th Century" states "that electricity is a natural force which also has moral qualities, namely that of the objective evil beyond the subjective norms of ethics. Entirely new concepts to be conquered .. It is unthinkable that human beings who continuously deal with these kind of forces which are harmless compared to atomic energy, are not affected by the amoral forces of evil which are linked to it."
L. thinks, "Can someone switch off the light, so we can conquer these new concepts?!" "Thinking is alright," L. tells himself, in spite of their "clairvoyance" what's going on within him seems to escape the lecturers' attention. He now knows what they wanna hear and sometimes he is having fun surpassing their expectations: "Ahrimanic forces are becoming effective through Mephistopheles - Mephistopheles enables Faust to gain independence and the possibility to freely decide between good and evil. That makes him a complete human." Why "Faust?" The seminary reads Goethe. "There must be very good reasons for any Waldorf school in Germany to exclude that" Mr. Fuchs explains. "Why?" "I want to keep objectives as unclear as possible ..."
It takes a while until these objectives become clearer, the strategy is to give the trainee the feeling of having discovered what the teacher wants to hear. The seminary does not seem to suceed, toward the end of the book everyone's weary. So the lecturer has to take care of it, and here comes the anthroposophic interpretation of the classic. Wonder what Goethe's take on this would be. At the seminary they are talking about "brainwashing."
L. seems to have been one of the few who was able to follow the lecturer and is being rewarded: L. is offered a job, not openly though. L. thanks the lecturer but is sure he will turn down the offer but why is he so sure all of a sudden? Did he not want to become a teacher at any price? By now he knows not with anthroposophists. He did something 'forbidden', he read a writing by Steiner which is reserved for the initiated.
L. had tried to explain the content of a book entitled 'Cosmic Memory', the history of mankind as revealed to the initiated, something of an history of evolution, except that the initiated is able to look into the future. According to Steiner mankind develops on seven different planets. Mankind rising higher and higher from planet to planet being assisted by leaders who already are on a higher stage of development. Seven planets, on each of them mankind passes through seven times seven stages of development. L. is being reminded of science fiction, Perry Rhodan magazines, his friend rather likens it to videogames trying to reach the next level. It seems so trite but what's real bad is the path development takes, plain malicious and therefore deserves to be quoted:
"The second group of astral humans has acquired this ability by getting rid of another part - the first group - and condemning it to do lower kind of work. Had they kept these forces within themselves which cause lower kinds of work they themselves could not have climbed higher. We are therefore confronted with a process which is made up of something more elevated developing at the expense of someone else which it gets rid of."
Steiners repeats this thesis a number of times concluding: "We see mankind is climbing into higher spheres by pushing his mates into a lower one. We will see a repetition of this within the following stages of development. It corresponds to the basic principles of development."
Finally Steiner makes the final connection to the here and now: "In theosophical writings they are being called Lemurians. After they went through various stages of development most of them fell into decay. They developed into languishing humans whose descendents still populate parts of the earth as socalled savages."
L. wonders about the Indians and the perishing races, about the bloodshed in grade 6. He is certain he no longer is able to adhere to Germans' favourite excuse 'but I did not know anything about it.'
Good-bye anthroposophy. No see you again at the Waldorf school.
return to articles page