Warm and Woolly? An anthroposophical experiment

This article is copied, with permission, from the Nowegian Waldorf critics page Steinerkritikk.
By Kristin A. Sandberg and Trond K.O. Kristoffersen
Is Jrna the society of the future? asks A-magasinet (24.nov. 2006) presenting children joyfully playing outdoors, eating organic food. Wool for the children and apples for all. How romantic! It’s almost enough to make us wish we were there by the cosy fire in a community lost in the mists of time.

The Steiner movement appears ever so charming: Postman Pat’s Greendale meets the musical Hair. With its funny architecture, natural materials, soft colours and organic food they appear to be an important, valuable alternative for people who hold a child centred view of development and want only the best for their children. Green values and art! If only that were true!

However, all that glistens is not gold and it is not the case that Rudolf Steiner invented green values, antimaterialism, baking bread and joyful outdoor play. Hats off to all schools and nurseries offering children play based learning, indoors and out. The Steiner movement, in common with the Scientologists, offers a so-called scientific approach to the religious. Like the Adventists they care for healthy food, and have pictures of the Virgin Mary in the classroom as the Catholics do. For the anti-consumerist among us, the Steiner-movement is one of several religious communities with a focus on environmental issues. It is, however, most disturbing when A-Magasinet stands on the soapbox for a religious sect without revealing their spiritual worldview.

It is a human right to believe in angels, demons and the divine visions of one single person, but the way this was presented by A-magasinet could clearly leave one with the impression that J�rna is a political alternative for environmentally aware people. The Steiner-movement bases its experiment on Rudolf Steiner’s occult visions found in the passing phase from sleep to awakening. They choose to hold obscure their religious foundation and secure 85% state funding for an alternative science of education, even though their pedagogical methods and their whole worldview is faith-based.

The Steiner-school presents its pedagogy as independent of their religious views. This is, in fact, contrary to the actual praxis and the teachings of Rudolf Steiner himself:

It is obvious that knowledge of the human being must be the basis for a teacher’s work; that being so, he must acquire this knowledge for himself, and the natural thing will be that he acquires it through Anthroposophy. If, therefore, we are asked what the basis of a new method of education should be, our answer is:
Anthroposophy must be that basis. But how many people there are, even in our own circles, who try to disclaim Anthroposophy as much as possible, and to propagate an education without letting it be known that Anthroposophy is at the back of it. [1] 

A-magasinet’s article chose to present the facade of anthroposophical effects without questioning, not even explaining, concepts like reincarnation, archangels, anthroposophical medicine, eurhythmy, biodynamics and cosmic forces. Why on earth not?

R. Steiner made the soul a subject of research. His research, however, was by no means scientific, in the sense we know it. Steiner had, as far as we know, no children. He never undertook any educational scientific research and he never actually taught children. Steiner teachers call this Spiritual Science. R. Steiner maintained that there were people living at the same time as the dinosaurs, and that these people were incorporeal. These revelations underpin the teaching of Steiner teachers, implying that they have a conviction that the development of the child is a microcosm of the historical development of humankind. They believe the pupils have been reincarnated from previous lives. This entails the need for children to learn about historical events at the right time so that their subconscious recognizes them from their previous lives.

The Steiner Schools claim they bring up children to be free. According to R. Steiner, and Steiner teachers themselves, anthroposophy is the only way to obtain true freedom. The so-called “experiment” of the Steiner movement exists in a very hierarchical world of ideas. The true freedom will enable you to free yourself from the vices preventing your advancement in your earthly lives. Steiner’s thoughts about reincarnation imply also the rather interesting observation that European culture, funnily enough, is seen as more advanced than other cultures. African and Asian cultures have not, as yet, reached the higher evolvement of enlightenment. But beware! This is nobody’s fault; we’ve all been there. It’s just one of those things.

We shall not dwell upon what Steiner claims about the Indians and the Jews here and now. But according to Steiner’s spiritual science some races are more developed than others due to their geographical placement on earth.

The Steiner School’s idea of differentiated teaching rests upon the teacher’s analysis of the child’s process of incarnation. This can lead to most interesting experiences for the child and the parents. If, for instance, the child does not place their foot down firmly, it means the child probably was superficial in his/ her previous life. [2]

Steiner teachers refer to children with ADHD or Aspergers syndrome as children with difficulties incarnating. That is, somehow a beautiful image, but oh so open to analysis… The child with ADHD is a part of the millennium mythology and struggles with forces of death (Luciferic forces). Not so beautiful, perhaps? It is ever so possible Ritalin is not the ultimate answer for all these children, but as a parent you should know that eurythmy (magical movements stimulating body and soul) seek to help your child to incarnate, and that learning difficulties or Special Educational Needs are seen as difficulties inherited from a previous life. Why does the journalist not ask about these things?

The worldview of the Steiner movement is truly experimental! Orchards and organic food are far more mainstream. Anthroposophical medicine too bases itself on an epistemy that is an alternative to a Western biological outlook; holistically alluring. Therefore head lice, measles and whooping cough flower epidemically in these communities. All is part of the development of the soul. Freedom? Experiment? They speak of children as souls with different, but mapped personalities, as if the soul itself is in fact a scientific matter only the anthroposophists can truly understand.

The man guiding the journalist in J�rna states that the Steiner movement has more to offer curious people than simply psalms. Funny, isn’t it, that these Steiner Schools, unlike any other Norwegian or Swedish school, start each day with a religious prayer!

But is it always this religious? Always. Not outspoken, not declared, but always implied. In all the rituals, the celebrations, the decorations and in the teachers views on child development.

At the moment we are all looking forward to Christmas. In the Steiner nurseries and pre-schools the children bring their candle into the advent spiral, marking the end of the Atlantic and the beginning of the Aryan era. Easily confused with the lighting of advent candles in Nordic winter darkness. The anthroposophical kindergartens and schools are an offer to people wanting an anthroposophical upbringing of their child. In addition they offer their own church, food production and grocers, bank, doctors-even a whole little village in Sweden which the journalist from A-magasinet covered with seven pages of dreams of apples, star signs, breast-feeding and wool. Seduced by the appearance of spiritual pilgrims who already know where they’re headed.

[1] Steiner, Rudolf. The Kingdom of Childhood: Seven
lectures and answers to questions given in
Torquay, 12th-20th August, 1924. (GA 311) Trans.
Helen Fox. Hudson, NY: Anthroposophic Press,
1982-1988, pp. 19-20

[2] Steiner, Rudolf. The Kingdom of Childhood: Seven
lectures and answers to questions given in
Torquay, 12th-20th August, 1924