the micha-el institute

it’s too hot to think (finally! something to blame for the lack of thinking) but @thetismercurio tweeted an interesting link today — to the Micha-el Institute which offers teacher training for presumptive waldorf teachers. Why not Mi-cha-el Institute? Well, I don’t know. Wouldn’t that make more sense? Anyway, they certainly can’t be blamed for offering a run-of-the-mill teacher training. No, this program aims at the development of ‘a deep understanding of the human being and his/her development through incarnation and excarnation.’ Something prospective waldorf parents are rarely informed of when they enroll their children in a waldorf school, one might add. The excarnation bit was a funny but unusual twist.

The child’s eventual excarnation is probably not a paramount worry for most parents deciding on a particular school for their small child. It is my guess that many parents are largely unaware that some waldorf teachers concern themselves not only with the present situation of the child but with its present entire incarnation (as in present physical existence from birth to old age) and what ensues after it ends (the child’s fate over several lifetimes even). It is also indicated that teacher training is meant to assist the teacher student in developing spiritually, as it is said to help him or her gain self-knowledge (in an anthroposophical sense, obviously).

What might the teacher training student expect?

Most of our students go through some sort of catharsis during the first few months of the course, though some have also faced difficulties at other times on the course.  There is not really a pattern to this as each person meets their own individual problems in their own individual way and time.  However, it is good to be prepared for this to happen for once such things are overcome there is usually a new found enthusiasm for life and to some extent a new found identity.

This is a most troubling aspect of the program. Aren’t they saying that, essentially, that waldorf teacher training students will go through a cult experience, extending far beyond the more common feelings of upheaval which may accompany a change of environment, a new social setting or an influx of novel impressions? According to some literature on cults, there is commonly a powerful experience in the introductory phase when the individual is getting involved in the cult. In this context, it is rather spooky to learn, in the end of that passage, that there is usually ‘a new found enthusiasm for life’ and also a ‘new found identity.’ What kind of enthusiasm? Why the new identity and what is it for? And what happened to the old identity, or is there perhaps a point in attracting a kind of student who may have a relatively fragile sense of identity to begin with? The risks this may entail for the individual are rather obvious. Of course, questioning the potential perils is futile in light of karma. If people are harmed, this may simply be explained as fate, as something meant to happen because they needed it to happen. (Not to imply the program organizers are aware of any inherent risks. I bet they’re more focused on the supposed greater good. And that they don’t possess any knowledge which would prevent them from causing harm when messing with people’s minds.) In any case, the decision to become a waldorf teacher, and where to do your training, is not a matter of rational consideration.

Where you choose to do your Waldorf Teacher Training is largely a question of destiny or karma.

This kind of stuff isn’t exactly something positive for those who wish to present waldorf education as a non-cultish community. The catharsis mentioned above is quite clearly not just a procedure essential to the education of a teacher (as commonly understood); it is a religious experience aimed at creating a commitment to a movement, and the way to ensure this commitment is by making certain the person changes and feels this change profoundly. He or she is in some ways getting a new life, which conveniently aligns with the life prescribed by his or her anthroposophical elders.

[Quote source: The Micha-el Institute FAQs page.]

18 thoughts on “the micha-el institute

  1. > The child’s eventual excarnation is probably not a paramount worry for most parents deciding on a particular school for their small child.

    Although many Waldorf children may *wish* they could excarnate, i.e., leave their bodies, as a way of getting through the school day.

  2. Nick,

    thank you for the link. It can be used when a waldorf school (somewhere, again) distributes brochures of the kind “oh now, we have nothing to do with anthroposophy!”

    Also: “el” means “God” in Hebrew, isn’t it? I have seen “B” in eurythmy demonstrated somewhere, “B” for “beit”, isn’t it? (beit = house in Hebrew)
    Anthroposophy is a pottage (some theosophy, some Catholicism, some Hinduism a.s.o.)

  3. alfa-omega-

    Briliant! Anthroposophy certainly is a pottage, a wonderful archaic word for ‘something-in-a-pot.’

    And the whole edifice is indefensible, thus the spinning and the desperation, the struggles of a Rumplestiltskin as the internet repeats that hidden name out loud.

    I could hear “Parsifal’ looking at that link of yours, Nick, as if the thing wasn’t disturbing enough.

  4. @ Diana: Well, yes… it would have helped. The art of not paying to much attention is certainly honed in waldorf schools, with that perpetual boredom reigning. It’s sort a metaphorical excarnation. During eurytmy or music or water-colour painting I was not really there in mind.

    @Nick: Thanks! No I didn’t see it. In fact, I got no further than the FAQ.

    @alfa-omega & thetis: Pottage indeed. The B is, I think, similar to the written B — only with your hands in a forward motion (as seen from your own perspective). It’s funny how the spiritual world to some extent supposedly uses our alphabet and not the chinese.

  5. from the link Nick provided:

    ‘This is an ideal introduction to Anthroposophy or Waldorf Education for all adults who wish that they could have had a Waldorf education in their childhood and youth.’

    I say it again: waldorf education is about the sentimental and romantic dreams of adults, it’s about them fulfilling their psychological needs, giving in to a longing for something they probably can’t always define. It’s much less about the actual needs of the children. The children are more or less an excuse for grown-ups to pursue elusive personal spiritual satisfaction.

  6. Zooey,

    your excellent comment: ” waldorf education is about the sentimental and romantic dreams of adults, it’s about them fulfilling their psychological needs, giving in to a longing for something they probably can’t always define. It’s much less about the actual needs of the children. The children are more or less an excuse for grown-ups to pursue elusive personal spiritual satisfaction.”

    I think that is a wonderful way of putting it and fits very well with the way defenders of Anthroposophy treat other adults too; assuming that any old explanation is sufficient. I’m reminded of the adolescent propensity for rhetorical argument that rests almost entirely upon the desire for self actualisation and independence in the face of the unworthy adult world. In other words, in order to feel like adults, the Waldorf teachers and parents have to exert the kind of control over their children normally associated with playground bullies – no wonder the corporate world is so keen on cosying up to them.

    I wonder if any independent psychologists have produced any academic work around the phenomenon you’ve described?

    best wishes

    Nick

  7. “It’s funny how the spiritual world to some extent supposedly uses our alphabet and not the chinese.”

    It would, though, see, the Chinese are not as spiritually advanced as we are in the West, hence clearly our alphabet is superior (spake Steiner).

  8. @Nick:
    An inherent risk in any such pursuit is that other people become mere props in a self-improvement (the term improvement used losely in this context) scheme. As opposed to the situation when a teacher-to-be regards the teaching profession as a job — intending to fulfil a sort of service to the child. One which is grounded in reality, that is. Maybe this ‘perversion’ of the professional role doesn’t *have to* happen when spirituality is involved, but it seems to me the risk is significant.

    I guess it’s not dissimilar to other movements which offer the same kind of self-fulfillment, so possibly there could exist research on these things, even if not specifically about anthroposophy. Then again, anthroposophy, with its practical applications which involve many non-anthroposophists, run into certain problems I suspect other spiritual movements are able to avoid.

  9. “waldorf education is about the sentimental and romantic dreams of adults”

    Totally true.

  10. Dear Zooey and Thetis,

    A thousand thankyous. I’ve noticed the various tweets from you both directing readers to my blog; I have so few readers that I often think the whole enterprise is a waste of time and the encouragement and support is very much appreciated. I’m away for another two weeks and will spend my last week at my dad’s house. He’s back home from hospital and all is well as far as I know. I’ll miss my little apartment as I grown fond of its simplicity and anonymity.

    I’ve just spent over an hour trying to send an email, due to the poor connections here, so I hope this message does not seem too odd – the wordpress server is at least more reliable.

    Thanks too for sending me the link to the dissertation, I’ll sign up for a google account and read it.

    I’ll be back home in about 3 weeks and look forward to not having to rely on dodgy connections.

    Nick

  11. Hello Nick,

    We’ll continue to tweet about your blog and blog posts — it’s important stuff. There’s a massive shortage on critical perspectives on biodynamics. (On Twitter there’s so much stuff about biodynamic wine. It’s unbelievable actually.) Stuart’s blog and your blog are most welcome additions to the debate. Despite not being entirely negative towards biodynamic products myself ;-) I do think people know way too little about what it is and what anthroposophy is and what they’re actually buying.

    It takes a while to build up a blog (I would guess recently started blogs do fairly bad on google, for exemple… )… and anthroposophy is a fringe topic, criticism of anthroposophy even more so… Have you registered the blog at places like Technorati? I’m really crap at these things, so there probably are many options.

  12. yes, as you know Nick, it’s no hardship to link to your blog. Thank YOU.

    I refused to buy some chips in the farm shop today because they were biodynamic – I wouldn’t have bothered so much before (nor would I normally buy chips: holiday children spotted them) but I just couldn’t stomach the damn things, more than anything because of the utterly asinine people who grow the ridiculous stuff. If there’s a prize for smug & stupid, they are contenders.

  13. Always out-classing all other contenders in the annual Smug Award. Nobody else bothers to watch the ceremony anymore, much less give their best in the competition. There has been discussions about placing the Smug Trophy permanently at some biodynamic headquarters somewhere. No use shipping it about, really. Come to think of it, I can’t believe people bothered in the first place, didn’t they know they could never really compete with the vastly superior. Also, the trophy being a gnome attached to a dung-coloured cow-skull should have been a hint…

  14. ha ha. I wish I’d thought of that.

    It was the comments on the blogs you linked to today on twitter that alerted me to the insufferable smugness of the above, or friends of the above.. So many people want to stroke that gnome, no wonder he has a smile on his face.

  15. There’s a thin line between niceness and obscenity. The gnomes (not the trophy gnome, obviously, he’s rather dull and brainless) sort of accept biodynamic farmers because of, you know, the food. They even smile. However, the increasing gnomeophilia problem has led to much less smiling among the gnomes over the past century. It’s not very pleasant to be the object of attraction for waldorf teachers and eurythmists. They’re preparing a big plot which will fool the eurythmists that gnomes are really the incarnations of ahriman. (It’s widely known in the gnome community that eurythmists shun computers. That’s why they hide in there, somtimes getting stuck and dying… and, well, we discussed that already.)

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