materialism

anthroposophists often denounce materialism. Materialists, they claim, are ignorant about the spiritual. Materialists are naturalists. Materialists only care about the physical, unlike anthroposophists who care about the spiritual. Anthroposophists believe that non-anthroposophists raise their children to become materialists, robbing childhood of mysteries and children of spiritual development. However, getting acquainted with the anthroposophical milieu, one soon realizes that for being the saviours of spiritual values, anthroposophists are surprisingly stuck in the material. Too an astounding degree, they hook their spirituality on to both material objects and to concepts and ideas that directly influence material life.

The spiritual seems to have its main importance in its material manifestations. Spirituality is attached to objects outside of the self more than to inner reality, to a state of mind or to the psychological capacities of the human being. The waldorf child is schooled in the practical, while the intellectual is neglected; knitting enhances spirituality, poetry does not. Doing is emphasized over thinking. This may not be the original intent of waldorf education, but it is, nevertheless, the actual practice.

Children’s thinking life is less important than the physical world which surrounds them. A good parent makes sure the child owns the right (expensive) wooden toys. It’s wholly material. The reasons for devoting thought to children’s toys become irrelevant: instead there’s consumption. The material is, somehow, supposed to ensure spiritual development — and no further thought is given to how this is to be achieved through the crass buying of physical goods. The fact that a waldorf doll is not, in itself, much different from a Barbie doll remains unconsidered and unexplained. As long as the spiritual guide-book — Finding Your Way Around Paradise — has been adhered to, the parent can rest contentedly and avoid conscious and independent thinking.

Clearly, if one hinges the spiritual on the colours of the walls, then the rest of the world — the non-anthroposophical world — seems utterly bereft of spirituality. The exploration of the natural world and the intellectual grappling with ideas seem like activities devoid of spiritual consideration. But what makes the natural world less spiritually meaningful than a make-believe world populated with gnomes, fairies and angels? What makes practical activities, like knitting, more spiritual than thinking or being intellectually creative? What about this supposed spirituality, attached to the material more than anything else? Wherefrom do some anthroposophists derive their sense of spiritual superiority? From active thinking or from consumption of anthroposophically approved food-stuffs?

5 thoughts on “materialism

  1. also from telling everyone else they’ve got it wrong. I was once told off for having stainless-steel saucepans. My children’s t shirts (though cotton) were too bright … the kindergarten teacher turned her head away as if they hurt her eyes. I remember IKEA seemed to be popular, why was that? Possibly chintz rots the faculties. Possibly gnomes mistake our native furniture for a garden and become bewildered. Broken Britain.

    You have it right again – there’s the Camphill families in their Boden and German leather children’s boots. Even the paint is more expensive. The crayons, the round-edged wax rectangles, so lovely you almost want to eat them. These people are the ‘Mystic bourgeoisie.’

  2. Oh yes. That one’s so obvious I forgot it momentarily. Stainless-steel? That’s odd. Don’t they use stainless-steel pans? And IKEA? Are you kidding me? Perhaps anthroposophy really isn’t totally international in traditions. Or maybe it is that I was a kid and can’t remember. But no, no IKEA.

    Kids weren’t very well dressed at all, according to mum (who was into french children’s fashion back then…). Paint is more expensive, indeed, although I believe it is also more expensive to produce these paints (as compared to acrylic paints).

    The wax most definitely looks edible.
    http://www.mercurius-international.com/product_info-22_211-3215-stockmar_modelling_beeswax__15_colours__100x40_mm.html

    And I can tell you one thing, it is possible to eat it. It doesn’t taste that bad, actually.

  3. Here IKEA must have been ‘other’: clean lines, Scandinavian. A sort of pared-down, woody chic. Whereas in Scandinavia they long for other things. The saucepan business was odd, our house-guest was mad and grumpy. She said they should have been earthenware. She said stuff would leech out of them into our food. Still, it was she and not us who ended up buried under the patio.

  4. That’s what my mum says about aluminum, and that’s why she always preferred stainless steel. How odd. Lots of weird ideas, though. She looks with suspicion on my microwave oven. And then there are toxic stuff in plastic, of course, which is why stainless steel and glass dominate in her kitchen.

    IKEA uses “unnatural” materials — how could it possibly be ok among waldorf people? I’m amazed.

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