some days I feel barely human at all. This is one such day. And people address me as if I were in fact human, and I can’t respond as a human. I behave like an alien. I am an alien. I just want to depart in my space-ship. Maybe I can have an imaginary flying saucer? Humanity is too complicated for me. And the streets of Stockholm are way too untidy for mr Dog and his holy fur and royal paws. There’s no clean white snow anymore… there’s only this rock-hard, dirt-coloured, sanded, salted, many times frozen-melted-and-refrozen ice. Awful, just awful.
This morning, when drinking my coffee (first) and eating breakfast (later), I began to read George Metaxa’s translation of Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and its Attainment. (I’ve read Bamford’s translation before, but there’s no doubt in my mind that Metaxa’s is much cooler.) At the beginning of the book, Steiner explains that in these matters of spiritual science, the fundamental attitude of the soul of the student must be “the path of veneration“. He then continues to say that in some children, the right attitude is already present, which would be a prediction of their later spiritual abilities. He says
[t]here are children who look up with religious awe to those whom they venerate. For such people they have a respect which forbids them, even in the deepest recess of their heart, to harbor any thought of criticism or opposition. Such children grow up into young men and women who feel happy when they are able to look up to anything that fills them with veneration. From the ranks of such children are recruited many students of higher knowledge. (Steiner, R. Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and its Attainment, Steiner Books/Anthroposophic Press, 1947/2009, p 6.)
Although I do think Steiner says a great deal of reasonable things in this book, there are sections, like the one above, which fill me with fear. Because in that passage he doesn’t say that during meditation or during a time of intense focus — that is, within a limited time, before going back to “normal” — it is advisable to leave criticism or any judgmental attitudes behind. What he says is, there are people, children, who cannot harbour any criticism or opposition — not at any time, not even deep down within themselves — and that this something good. It’s not about them letting go of certain attitudes temporarily — it is about their very being. They are constitutionally unable to formulate criticism of an individual whom they venerate. If there really are such people, I believe they are more likely to be dangerous than they are to be wise initiates.
Well, Steiner does go on to say that this childish veneration transforms into a veneration of truth and knowledge, and I suppose this provides an amelioration of a kind of his prior statements about wholly uncritical veneration (how can you ever venerate truth and knowledge without applying your critical faculties to the object of knowledge?), but still… there’s something highly problematic about this, about his opinions about and predictions for such children. Moreover, since waldorf teachers are usually also anthroposophists, in the process of studying anthroposophy or committed to anthroposophy one way or the other, this raises important questions: do waldorf teachers have this in the back of their minds when they deal professionally with children? That from these “ranks … are recruited many students of higher knowledge”? It wouldn’t surprise me if it were so. Potentially adding to this (somewhat sordid) business is the emphasis of waldorf education on awe and reverence.
The student who is gifted with this feeling [of true devotion], or who is fortunate enough to have had it inculcated in a suitable education, brings a great deal along with him when, later in life, he seeks admittance to higher knowledge. (ibid, p 8.)
Apart from the obvious objection — what Steiner designates as gifted, I would call ignorant and naïve, something very much unwished for — where can we find such a suitable education which will increase the students chances when he later seeks admittance to higher knowledge? I wouldn’t call it fortunate to have had something inculcated either. My impression is one of passivity and unfreedom.