‘the incorporation of the “I” into the body’ (teachers conferences)

I’m reading a document I found a while ago at the website of Goetheanum’s pedagogical section. It’s a newsletter [pdf]. You almost get the impression that the Goetheanum worries about waldorf schools not being fundamentalist enough:

Is it possible that elements have crept into the lessons which are alienated from the study of man? [p 3]

Oh no! What if something crept in that has not been directly derived from the study of man (as it was devised by Steiner… that’s the only way to know it isn’t alienated from the origin, after all!). Apparently they aren’t concerned about stagnation or the inability to meet contemporary demands. (They should be.)

To reassure you, let me mention that in 2012, two important conferences will take place at the Goetheanum. One for kindergarten teachers and one for school teachers, both addressing ‘the relationship of our Ego to our physical body’.

The article I’m most intrigued by is the last one in the newsletter, which happens to be a presentation of these 2012 conferences. On p 21 a ‘theme’ is mentioned which must be, it is said, carried through and ‘transformed into meaningful practice’ in kindergarten and in schools:

This has to do with the incorporation of the “I” into the body. Expressed in other words: what dynamic relationship between the true I (self) and the body is created through education?
In the first lecture of the Study of Man (GA 293) this relationship is spoken of as the task of education itself: “The task of education, conceived in the spiritual sense, is the harmonizing of the soul spirit with the life body must come into harmony with one another; they must be attuned to one another, for when a child is first born into the physical world, they do not as yet fit one another. The task of the educator, and of the teacher, is the mutual attunement of these two .”

See Study of Man. [In the quoted quote above, I edited an obviously misplaced punctuation mark.] The newsletter continues.

The mighty process is described through which the “soul spirit” comes to inhabit, step by step, the bodily sheaths.

Waldorf education is not based upon religious beliefs? Oh, come on… Then they go on about the etheric body becoming freed and:

At each stage, there is a relationship to balance. How deeply will the “I” penetrate the body – will it perhaps be held by the body as a prisoner? Or how loose is the connection to corporeality?

After this, the author reminds us that these are great tasks for a teacher to handle (and ‘prepare’ and ‘tune’ the ‘individuality’ — I will avoid saying what I think this sounds like) and that the responsibility is great. And:

This task is at the same time a universal one, for all human beings in the most diverse cultural realms around the world.

Oh, really? I wonder if it is that simple for waldorf education. It’s easy to speak of great tasks and universality and the inclusion of all human beings — another thing entirely to put this in practice. As long as the underlying issue is ignored — i e, the race doctrines of Steiner’s teachings — the big promises and lofty ideas seem futile and rather hypocritical and, most importantly, they are utterly deceptive. What about the ‘transformation’ into ‘meaningful practice’? What about basic honesty? That would work for a start.

____________

Edit: It’s worth noting the recommended literature teachers are supposed to study in preparation for the conferences — the list consists of nothing bust Steiner! The already mentioned GA293, of course, but also GA 302 and 302a as well as Steiner’s The Education of the Child in the Light of Spiritual Science.

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16 thoughts on “‘the incorporation of the “I” into the body’ (teachers conferences)

  1. I thought the other articles weren’t worth reading, but what about this:

    ‘The learning child detaches itself from its hereditary stream …’

    Enter the waldorf teacher!

    ‘Young children are gladly prepared to build up a community together with the teacher.’

    Exit the parents!

    See p 19.

  2. And what about this:

    ‘Thus, the circle of a healthy community closes; from the individual to the group to the class, together with the teacher, a whole organism is formed, strengthened through a parental community that, as a mirror of the world in which we live, accompanies this process.’

    The circle closes! Bye bye world! Our lovely little cult is a self-contained unit.

    So much fun for the child who does not fit in.

  3. Hi Zooey

    I have just finished reading Steiner’s ‘Foundations of Human Experience’.

    I was astounded at this paragraph (p36)

    “You will be teaching children (of course, children of a particular
    age) and you must consider that you will be receiving these
    children after they have undergone the upbringing (or perhaps
    the neglect) of their parents during the first period of their lives.
    What we desire can first be completely accomplished when
    humanity has progressed so far that parents understand that,
    even in the first period of upbringing, modern humanity has
    special tasks. We will be able to correct much of the neglect of
    the first period of life when we receive the children at school.”

    Not very strengths based is it?

    Any system which is based on one person’s spiritual beliefs and is not rigorously debated and tested is, I believe, a religious cult.

    As you went to a Waldorf school, what is your understanding of the teacher helping the incarnation process of the child?

    Kind Regards

  4. hakea – also a sharp analysis. Thank you so much for commenting on your reading here, it’s so interesting.

    As a mother of children who were in a Steiner school, I must say that if I’d realised the teachers believed they were helping the incarnation process of my children I would have been alarmed. If I’d seen the teacher training materials I’d have been even more worried.

  5. ‘Thus, the circle of a healthy community closes; from the individual to the group to the class, together with the teacher, a whole organism is formed, strengthened through a parental community that, as a mirror of the world in which we live, accompanies this process.’

    The language of this one is very chilling; it makes clear that the unit of interest consists of children + teacher and that the parents play a supporting role only, but aren’t part of the “whole organism” in question.

  6. Thetis — thanks!

    Hakea — ‘As you went to a Waldorf school, what is your understanding of the teacher helping the incarnation process of the child?’

    Well, no, I never heard those words. As far as some aspects of waldorf are concerned, I can see that this was what they were doing — but it really is about remembering and interpreting. I can now see that some things waldorf teachers were obsessed about — things where I couldn’t meet their demands, i e, completely failing in flute playing, painting & drawing waldorf style, eurythmy, knitting but being an early reader (early for waldorf, which wasn’t really extremely early according to the rest of the world) — were things you also see mentioned as being helpful in the incarnation process. But as a child I, of course, didn’t even realize there was an ‘incarnation process’. Plus, you know, that constant knowledge that I was… inadequate. Everything I did was failure. No wonder, if I was incarnating wrongly. Even though I already read — and nobody else did when I came to 1st grade — they wanted me to stay behind in kindergarten a whole year! Despite my intellectual abilities and my ‘artistic’ inabilities! (My parents didn’t agree, so I didn’t stay behind.) It would have been so wrong — but apparently, anthroposophically speaking, the right thing.

    My main school teacher wasn’t really that deeply involved in anthroposophy. She was a properly trained teacher and had been teaching in a public school and had gone through some kind of additional waldorf teacher courses later.* I’m not sure if the wackiest anthroposophical ideas appealed to her. I don’t know though, but it seems likely to me that the teaching environment she came from hadn’t included assessing children’s incarnation process. She was a lot less wacky than most other teachers in this school (including my kindergarten teachers), for which I’m most grateful. (It could have been even worse.)

    (*It used to be possible for teachers coming from the state system to take additional training for waldorf without having to go through the entire waldorf teacher training.)

    Thetis — yes. I’m afraid some parents, even if they saw these words, would think ‘incarnation process? uh?!?’ and leave it at that, believing it’s ‘too difficult’ to understand. I mean, ‘incarnation process’ isn’t something that means something intelligible to most people…

    Diana — ‘The language of this one is very chilling’

    I agree, it really is. It’s probably meant to sound nice, safe, wholesome… but it doesn’t.

  7. “It’s probably meant to sound nice, safe, wholesome… but it doesn’t.”

    The language should be a giveaway: “the circle of a healthy community closes.” Healthy communities tend not to be closed. A healthy community isn’t focused on who to include and who to exclude, but is welcoming. Certainly a healthy school community does not define parents as outsiders.

    Defining the parents as a “mirror of the world in which we live,” in anthroposophic terms, actually is pretty close to defining parents as the enemy. The outside world, to anthroposophists, is materialistic, evil, and damaging to children. The “world in which we live” is what anthroposophy is trying to rescue children from. Defining the children’s parents as part of the dreaded “world in which we live,” as outsiders to the so-called “healthy community,” is pretty sinister.

  8. Thanks for that analyis! It’s a very revealing passage, actually. Though it needs to be taken apart like that.

    “[T]he circle of a healthy community closes” struck me as a contradiction in terms. It’s really the opposite of healthy. And being closed means it won’t continue to be healthy even if it were in the beginning (– though that’s impossible unless we think of waldorf as some kind of utopia).

  9. Diana: ‘Defining the children’s parents as part of the dreaded “world in which we live,” as outsiders to the so-called “healthy community,” is pretty sinister.’

    I would like to add that, on top of that, there is, too, the fact that many accounts of former Waldorf/Steiner acquaintances reveal the reality. The Waldorf/Steiner communities are not healthy communities.

  10. Thanks all.

    I have to do some more investigating, but as I said on my blog, I just can’t get a handle on this incarnation process. It’s linked to the temperaments, but I don’t know if incarnation is self-realisation/self-actualisation, or alignment/integration of the physical/etheric/soul bodies, or something else entirely.

    I read somewhere, that the teacher develops clairvoyance in order to be able to see how the child is incarnating.

    If I find the answer, I’ll let you know.

  11. An equation for the Waldorf teacher and the Waldorf Parent.

    Anthroposophical beliefs + no prior understanding of child development + unresolved childhood issues + the illusion of full control over the child = An unhealthy teacher.

    No prior research/understanding into/of Anthroposophy + need for community + no prior understanding of child development + unresolved childhood issues = A Waldorf Parent.

  12. Yes, Margaret.
    That’s the reality I have seen while being a part of a Waldorf school for a while.

  13. hakea — the incarnation process is the ‘freeing’ of these different ‘bodies’ (etheric, astral, and then, later, the higher I/the ego); preferably at the ‘right’ times, in the ‘right’ ways, accompanied by the ‘right’ methods/procedures (et cetera) which are supposed to be as beneficial to the incarnation process as possible. Making things happen at the right pace.

    ‘that the teacher develops clairvoyance in order to be able to see how the child is incarnating’

    I think that’s the only way to see how the child is incarnating! Thus, there’s no doubt it’s preferable that teachers work on it. Doesn’t mean a professed non-clairvoyant teacher couldn’t work in a waldorf school…

    Margaret — brilliant! And in the centre of this mess stands the confused child.

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