Anthroposophy in Education
In April of 1919, Rudolf Steiner visited the Waldorf Astoria cigarette factory in Stuttgart owned by the industrialist, Emil Molt. The German nation, defeated in war, was teetering on the brink of economic, social, and political chaos. Steiner spoke to the workers about the need for social renewal, for a new way of organizing society and its political and cultural life. This was expounded in his book “The Threefold Social Commonwealth” which proposed the idea of society based on the principles of Liberty in the cultural sphere, Equality in the rights or political sphere and Fraternity in the economic sphere.
Emil Molt asked Steiner if he would undertake to establish and lead a school for the children of the employees of the company. Steiner agreed but set four conditions, each of which went against common practice of the day:
1. that the school be open to all children,
2. that it be coeducational,
3. that it be a unified twelve-year school,
4. that the teachers, those individuals actually in contact with the children, have primary control of the school, with a minimum interference from the state or from economic sources.
“The need for imagination, a sense of truth, and a feeling of responsibility.
These are the three forces which are the very nerve of education.”
Steiner’s conditions were radical for the day, but Molt gladly agreed to them. On September 7th 1919, the independent Waldorf School (Die Freie Waldorfschule) opened its doors.
Waldorf Education has its roots in the spiritual-scientific research of the Austrian scientist and thinker Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925). According to Steiner’s philosophy, man is a threefold being of spirit, soul, and body whose capacities unfold in three developmental stages on the path to adulthood: early childhood, middle childhood, and adolescence.
There are now over 900 Steiner (or Waldorf ) schools throughout the world. In these schools the education addresses the physiological, psychological and spiritual needs of the developing child. Art, science and practical skills development are integrated in the flexible curriculum which follows the different stages of a child’s development.
There are 19 kindergartens and 5 primary schools in Ireland and a growing interest to start up more.
Modern medicine is extended, widened and deepened through Anthroposophy. Anthroposophical doctors are fully qualified doctors and work together with therapists to address the person as an integrated threefold being of body, soul and spirit. In treatment, homeopathic and anthroposophic medicines are used in conjunction with conventional medicine.
The approach was founded in the 1920s by Rudolf Steiner in conjunction with Ita Wegman. Dr. Ita Wegman opened the first anthroposophic medical clinic, now known as the Ita Wegman Clinic, in Arlesheim, Switzerland. Wegman was soon joined by a number of other doctors. They began to train the first anthroposophic nurses for the clinic.
At Wegman’s request, Steiner regularly visited the clinic and suggested treatment regimes for particular patients. Between 1921 and 1925, he also gave several series of lectures on medicine. In 1925, Wegman and Steiner wrote the first book on the anthroposophic approach to medicine, Fundamentals of Therapy.
Anthroposophical Medicine employs modern diagnostic and therapeutic methods and complements these with medicines, artistic therapies, counselling and physical therapies such as massage therapies and art therapy. It activates the individual’s self-healing powers . Anthroposophical Medicine aims at maintaining and restoring health and not merely at the elimination of disease or its symptoms.
One of the most prominent and well-researched anthroposophical treatments is a range of mistletoe extracts used to treat patients with cancer. It is marketed as Iscador and currently is undergoing clinical trials in the US.
” Our aim was to supplement the science already in existence by the illumination that can flow from a true knowledge of the Spirit, towards a living grasp of the processes of illness and of healing.”
-Dr Ita Wegman-
Anthroposophy and the Arts
From its inception, Anthroposophy has been inspirational for the arts. Architecture, sculpture, the visual arts, music and the literary arts all find in Anthroposophy a source of renewal. New arts such as eurythmy – an art of movement, sound and colour – and speech-formation, have been developed out of Anthroposophy.
“We must emphasize again and again that the anthroposophical world-conception fosters a consciousness of the common source of art, religion and science. During ancient periods of evolution these three were not separated; they existed in unity. The Mysteries which fostered that unity were a kind of combination art institute, church and school. “
Eurythmy is an art of movement, devised by Rudolf Steiner. The art aims to bring to visible expression the inner gestures inherent in sounds – both in speech in music. Steiner described Eurythmy as an ‘art of the soul’.
The Eurythmist uses movement and gestures which correspond to the rhythm and sounds of speech, to tonal experiences in music, and soul experiences (grief, joy etc). These fundamental gestures are used as a palette to be composed into free artistic expressions.
Literary Arts and Humanities
This area of anthroposophical endeavour is concerned with the artistic development of the human being. Its vast range of subjects responds to the various attractions we experience in the course of our lives in the world of drama, literature, history, philosophy, music, and language. The manner of studying and experiencing such themes depends on the individuals and groups. The approach to the Arts is both innovative and disciplined, bringing reflection and experience into conversations that renew and energise our daily lives.
Eurythmy as therapy
Eurythmy means “harmonious rhythm”. Therapeutic eurythmy can affect a profound change when the human organism tends in the direction of imbalance and illness.
After training for 4 years as an artist, the eurythmist can add a further specialisation in the medical realm which leads to an authorised diploma in curative eurythmy. Its field of application is manifold: in clinics, hospitals and sanatoria, in schools and in private practice.
Educationally, curative eurythmy can be of benefit to children with various developmental needs. Curative eurythmists work in association with a doctor, since an exact diagnosis is necessary for correct treatment.
“Not so long ago it was still possible to believe that natural science – which is by no means unappreciated by spiritual science but is as regards to its great advances fully valued – had the means to solve all the great riddles of human existence. But those who have entered with heightened inner faculties into the achievements of modern science have been increasingly aware that what natural science brings as a response to the great questions of human existence are not answers but, on the contrary, ever new questions”
Anthroposophy and its relationship to Science can be traced back to when Rudolf Steiner was asked by Joseph Kürchner to edit a publication of the scientific works of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe for the Deutsche National-Literature which appeared in five volumes between the years 1883 and 1897. It was during this time that Steiner also published his own epistemological writings which included his doctoral thesis Truth & Science (1892), A Theory of Knowledge Implicit in Goethe’s World Conception (1886) and what many agree is his most important written work The Philosophy of Freedom (1894). The latter is subtitled The Basis for a Modern World Conception : Some results of introspective observation following the methods of Natural Science. With this work Steiner went beyond ‘Goethean’ science and lay the seed of what he later would term Anthroposophy.
Many scientists attended Steiner’s lectures and were influenced by his work. Some scientists also worked with Steiner at the research institute of the Kommenden Tag AG in Stuttgart, Germany and the research laboratories at the Goetheanum School of Spiritual Science in Dornach, Switzerland. The Kommenden Tag institute was shortlived, however, and came to an end in 1924 due to financial difficulties. Most of the scientists at the Kommenden Tag research institute were closely associated with the School in Dornach, which was founded in 1923. Of the Stuttgart scientists, Rudolf E. Maier (1886-1943) and Hans Buchheim (1899-1987) continued their researches at Einsingen, near Ulm. Lilly Kolisko (1893-1976) stayed at Stuttgart until 1936 under the auspices of the Stuttgart Goetheanum Biological Department.
By far the dominant research theme of the early 1920s, and a theme which continues at the Goetheanum research institute to this day, is finding ways to experience and understand what Rudolf Steiner referred to as the etheric and etheric formative forces. This refers to something perceptible which living organisms have compared with minerals. But it cannot be conceived in the same physical terms as the forces of nature, as was erroneously done by the 19th century vitalists.
A second sphere of scientific activity was instituted in the Mathematical-Astronomical Section of the School under the leadership of Dr Elizabeth Vreede (1879-1943) who was, with Wachsmuth, part of the founding Vorstand (Executive Council) of the General Anthroposophical Society, based at Dornach. A third member of the founding Vorstand who made a contribution to research in the medical sciences was Dr Ita Wegman (1876-1943), leader of the Medical Section.
So far as the development of this scientific stream in the UK is concerned two approaches to understanding the etheric are of particular interest. The first concerns ‘sensitive imaging’ techniques which are designed as aids to the mode of cognition needed for grasping the etheric, namely Imagination.
Lilly Kolisko developed one form called capillary dynamolysis. This is a form of qualitative chromatography in which aqueous extracts of biological tissues are allowed to move either radially or vertically through chromatography or filter paper, followed by drying and repeating the process with a metal salt, e.g. 1% silver nitrate, in daylight.
Considerable experience of the coloured patterns formed is required to ‘read’ the processes going on in the organism from which the sample was obtained. Pfeiffer, as already mentioned, developed sensitive crystallisation. The biological material is mixed with a metal salt, most commonly Copper(II)-chloride, the latter allowed to crystallise in shallow dishes. The huge variety of crystallisation patterns formed allows the condition of the biological fluid (blood, plant extract, food etc.) to be ‘read’. Both methods are conducted under elaborately controlled conditions. Later, Dipl. Ing. Theodor Schwenk developed the ‘drop picture’ method which involves photographing under carefully chosen illumination the pattern formed when a drop of water is allowed to fall onto the surface of water. The condition of the water or the substances added to it is ‘read’ from the picture that is obtained
” How different it is, in all that is here said out of Spiritual Science! Underlying it, as you have seen, is the entire household of Nature. It is always conceived out of the whole. Therefore, each individual measure is truly applicable to the whole, and so it should be. If you pursue agriculture in this way, the result can be not other than to provide the very best for man and beast. “
Biodynamic agriculture was the first form of scientific organic agriculture. Today, it is practised all over the world. It works in harmony with the natural processes and rhythms of nature, taking into account the influences not only of the climate and soil, but also the planets and the stars.
The biodynamic approach to organic farming practice has as its roots a series of agriculture lectures given by Rudolf Steiner, at Koberwitz, the estate of Count and Countess Keyzerlink, in 1924.
The impulse that led to the lectures was twofold and is well worth a mention, as these same issues concern us just as much today. Firstly, the farmers of central Europe found their yields diminishing alarmingly over time, and realised that their traditional farming methods were no longer effective. Secondly, based on his great interest in the health and future of the human being on earth, Steiner claimed that it was of utmost importance that human nutrition be based on food produced from a living soil, in harmony with the greater influence of the cosmos.
In the early years of the biodynamic movement quite astonishing results were achieved by a small number of devoted followers. During the Second World War the movement went more or less underground and its recovery afterwards was very slow. In the ’60s and ’70s many young people sought apprenticeships on biodynamic farms and the biodynamic trademark, DEMETER, became widely recognised.
Biodynamic farmers are well known internationally for taking part in Organic development, both with regard to standard making, and for the high quality of their produce.
To become a recognised biodynamic farmer, one has to abide by the standards laid down by the European Organic Regulation 2092/91 and its amendments, as well as following the International Biodynamic Guidelines for production, and most importantly to become familiar with and to use the biodynamic preparations. There are two important spray preparations, and six compost preparations, Chamomile, Stinging Nettle, Oak bark, Yarrow, Dandelion and Valarian. The aim when using the preparations is not necessarily to increase the yield, but rather to improve the quality of crops, especially from a nutritional point of view. Instructions for making or acquiring these preparations can be got from the Biodynamic Agricultural Association of Ireland. By becoming a member of the association, one can gain contact with others working biodynamically, attend workshops, conferences and receive the Irish and British BD Newsletters.
The Approved Biodynamic Inspection Body is Demeter Standards, and they can be contacted at the same address as the BDAAI., at the Watergarden, Thomastown, Co. Kilkenny.
Fax and phone 056 54214. The association has a lending library.
Stewart Easton Library
The Anthroposophical Society in Ireland has an extensive library of books and other documents, thanks to a generous bequest from the author Stewart C. Easton. This library has been added to and expanded over the years. It is housed in Kildare, with a satellite library in Cloughjordan, Co. Tipperary.
The list of books and other items is available to view or search online.