seaside adventures & evenings in the kiosk

The weather was sunny and unusually mild on the day Thetis, in the most dramatic way, approached Sandön — one of the archipelago outposts farthest away in the Baltic sea — with sea-weed in her hair. Once ashore, she demanded to meet the local elementals. We spoke to the gnomes and the fairies, had lunch at the Sandhamn inn (she preferred fish — naturally!) and then went to the old familiar place, the ethereal kiosk, and ate cheese, drank wine, and talked and talked and talked. And talked some more. ‘I’m bored!’ cried mr Dog. ‘Give me snacks!’ Thetis, being a canineosophist who understands these things, had brought him delicious snacks in a water-tight container. All the way from England! Imagine that! Me she gave a book she wrote in a previous incarnation as Lucretius. (We’re grateful to Sune for bringing this important karmic connection to attention! We wonder if he really exists, though. Sune, not Lucretius.) Rudolf Steiner was present, of course; more handsome than ever. On one of the days we ventured out into the real world, in other words, we went to the biodynamic garden Rosendal. The food was splendid, the spiritual beings benevolent. We looked at art. We drank a lovely sparkling wine from the UK and ate more cheese, bread, nuts, and vegetables. We talked. Eventually, Thetis had to dive into the sea and swim back to England. And I’m tired now. I am, after all, a hermit. My brain is working slowly. I need to find the restart button before I can write anything intelligible.



‹Der Anthroposophische Bilderrahmen› lautet der Titel der am 3. Oktober 2011 in Dornach eröffneten Ausstellung. Sie zeigt vorwiegend leere Rahmen, nur einige Exponate beinhalten die Bilder, für die die Rahmen gefertigt wurden – eine kunstgeschichtliche Premiere, die erstmals ‹anthroposophische› Bilderrahmen in großer Vielfalt und herausragenden Exemplaren würdigt und kontrastreich im und zum östlichen Rohbautreppenhaus des Goetheanum inszeniert. Zwar ist das Adjektiv ‹anthroposophisch› für den Rahmenstil aus Dornach weder definiert noch etabliert, aber wer diese Rahmen kennt, weiß, wovon die Rede ist. Oder meint es zu wissen, denn wir reden von zweierlei Rahmen: Es gibt viele sehr gute Rahmen und sehr viele weniger gute. Wer vorwiegend mit letzteren Bekanntschaft gemacht hat, wird vielleicht der Ansicht sein, dass man anthroposophische Rahmen besser stillschweigend ignorieren sollte, statt sie auszustellen. Denn der Zeitgeschmack tendiert nach schlichteren Formen des Bilderrahmens und ganz anderen Auffassungen seiner ästhetischen Funktion.

In the most recent edition of Das Goetheanum (43/2011), there’s an article by Reinhold J Fäth (who wrote a dissertation on Steiner’s design) about anthroposophical picture frames. (It also has a section on the Steiner portraits that are ever so present in many anthroposophical environments — in anthro wooden frames, of course.) Worth reading. In addition to this article, there are several related to the (now closed) Steiner — Turrell — af Klint exhibition in Järna. (The total number of visitors seems to have been 24 500; it’s the first time I’ve seen a number.)


This is anthroposophical jewellery. Or so I think. Does anyone have an explanation for these items? One of them looks like a skull with red eyes and another one like the face of a blue-eyed alien (or is it grey? purple?). Anyway, this (below) is parts of the Sloterdijk talk; the screenshot above is from that film. Watch it! In the beginning, they show various anthroposophical items.

knitting socks

Speaking of Diana’s comment the other day.

On a recent Tuesday, Andie Eagle and her fifth-grade classmates refreshed their knitting skills, crisscrossing wooden needles around balls of yarn, making fabric swatches. It’s an activity the school says helps develop problem-solving, patterning, math skills and coordination. The long-term goal: make socks.

This is from an article in New York Times about parents who work in the technology industry and send their children to waldorf school. It also has other strange pieces of information:

Here, as in other classes, the day can start with a recitation or verse about God that reflects a nondenominational emphasis on the divine.

Can? It always does. Oh, and what about the ‘nondenominational emphasis on the divine’? But, well, does the knitting work then?

Is learning through cake fractions and knitting any better? The Waldorf advocates make it tough to compare, partly because as private schools they administer no standardized tests in elementary grades.

Upon being told by AWSNA that waldorf students go on to higher education at prestigeous universities (what’s the reliability of AWSNA’s research into this — anyone knows?), NYT correctly observes:

Of course, that figure may not be surprising, given that these are students from families that value education highly enough to seek out a selective private school, and usually have the means to pay for it. And it is difficult to separate the effects of the low-tech instructional methods from other factors.

Further down the article continues:

And where advocates for stocking classrooms with technology say children need computer time to compete in the modern world, Waldorf parents counter: what’s the rush, given how easy it is to pick up those skills?

“It’s supereasy. It’s like learning to use toothpaste,” Mr. Eagle said. “At Google and all these places, we make technology as brain-dead easy to use as possible. There’s no reason why kids can’t figure it out when they get older.”

No, there’s no reason why they can’t figure that stuff out when they’re older. It’s much worse to delay the teaching of reading, writing, maths and so forth. Understanding science is not like learning to use toothpaste if you have not learnt how to read properly first. The thing is, as one waldorf official admits, these students home environments compensate for the elements that are lacking in the education:

the typical Waldorf parent, who has a range of elite private and public schools to choose from, tends to be liberal and highly educated, with strong views about education; they also have a knowledge that when they are ready to teach their children about technology they have ample access and expertise at home.

A waldorf student says:

“Besides, if you learn to write on paper, you can still write if water spills on the computer or the power goes out.”

And children who spend less time copying handwriting from the blackboard would have a problem doing that?



Shared by AWSNA on facebook:

“If you’ve had the experience of binding a book, knitting a sock, playing a recorder, then you feel that you can build a rocket ship-or learn a software program you’ve never touched. It’s not bravado, just a quiet confidence. There is nothing you can’t do. Why couldn’t you? Why couldn’t anybody?”
Peter Nitze, Waldorf and Harvard graduate, and Director of an aerospace company

This says it all, I guess. You feel (if you’re good at fooling yourself) that you can do a lot of things you don’t have the knowledge or skills for. You don’t feel at all inhibited by a bad education (or by learning sock knitting instead of learning academic subjects), because you’re told it’s so fantastic not to learn the way they do in other schools. Right? You don’t even need to know how to read, you know everything better than those other, less fortunate but literate kids anyway. Good thing again for waldorf education that most of the children come from fairly privileged homes. Some go to Harvard despite getting an education that taught them more knitting than maths.

I would call this bravado, not confidence. Confidence seems to need some substance at least.


reading recommendation!

Three years ago he began, together with other teachers, to set up the anthroposophic track at the Ort High School in Tivon. Anthroposophy is a worldview founded in the early 20th century by philosopher and mystic Rudolf Steiner, who tried to build a cosmic spiritual world in accordance with the needs of modern man. While doing so, he established foundations for various practices that operate in light of man’s spiritual understanding, such as medicine, drama, art, agriculture, architecture, politics, economics and education.

In Tivon there is a veteran anthroposophic community, but until recently there was no post-elementary anthroposophic educational framework, and those who wanted to study in such a high school traveled to the Waldorf High School at the anthroposophic Kibbutz Harduf. Levy has a deep family connection to anthroposophy. “My grandmother Hava Levy, who died this year, was one of the first anthroposophists in Israel, so I was familiar with it from home. When I was older, I began independent research and studied for an introductory year at Harduf. But I wouldn’t describe myself as anthroposophical. On the other hand, I wouldn’t describe myself at all, not as anything else either. This is the path on which I have found myself in my present incarnation, and I’m enriched by this worldview – even if at the same time I reject overly comprehensive theories.”

I’m particularly intrigued by the play (a scandal, it was said, see the section The devil and the play: ‘The shocked spectators, parents and teachers, stormed the stage and began digging with their hands in order to rescue the actress’) and how he contrasts waldorf education with state education. (The latter is materialistic, teachers are totally unindependent, poetry is quantified, et c.) Very instructive. Oh, and Lucifer and Ahriman is there, too.

kingdom of childhood (novel)

This is most likely not literature of the more sublime kind. I don’t actually think it’s worth reading, but still…*

Initial critiques of Bowie resident Rebecca Coleman’s manuscript “The Kingdom of Childhood” suggested it was too dark. When protagonist Judy McFarland, 43, becomes involved in a sexual relationship with Zach, 16, a student at the Waldorf School where Judy has taught for 19 years, they begin a tense and tangled affair.


“The Kingdom of Childhood” also touches on the philosophy of Waldorf schools. Founded by Austrian Rudolf Steiner in 1919, the Waldorf curriculum is based on an early 20th-century idealistic philosophy that advocates the use of natural materials, imagination and artistic elements in the education of children.

The book’s title is both a reference to the main characters’ plight and to Steiner’s handbook of the same name, Coleman says.

“I think pretty highly of the schools, but when you have an environment that is that idealistic, the stakes are that much higher for things to go wrong,” she says of the book’s educational setting. “Although Judy is pretty bad, Zach is a pretty good kid and draws from what he learned [in school] to figure out a way out of the situation. I feel it’s affectionate toward the system, but I am curious to see how the Waldorf community receives the book.”

Article h/t Dan Dugan.

This appears to be from a description provided by the publisher:

An emotionally tense, increasingly chilling work of fiction set in the controversial Waldorf school community, it is equal parts enchanting and unsettling and is sure to be a much discussed and much-debated novel.

I’m not sure about that.

(Image borrowed from Adlibris. Is that supposed to resemble the evil witch’s house in Hansel and Gretel?)

*Edit: to avoid confusion, I’d just like to say it’s got to do with my taste. From the description in the article and the one by the publisher, I just know it. I mean, this: ‘”The Kingdom of Childhood” is the story of a boy and a woman: sixteen-year-old Zach Patterson, uprooted and struggling to reconcile his knowledge of his mother’s extramarital affair, and Judy McFarland, a kindergarten teacher watching her family unravel before her eyes’ just fails to excite me.


We went on a little excursion, mr Dog and I. It didn’t work out very well. There was too much mud, I had the wrong shoes, mr Dog ate horse manure and hyperactively jumped around in every direction. It was cold and windy. Public transportation was horrible. I hadn’t brought a map either, which added to the almost epic failure. Continue reading “today”

off the hook

Steiner schools in New Zealand are off the hook over standards, ensures their minister of education. That means, they don’t have to adhere to them. And Steiner school students don’t get a chance to learn what children in other schools are privileged enough to learn.

The letter said the special character of the school would not be jeopardised, and schools would not be required to change their programmes.

“The Ministry is fully aware of the special character of these schools and you can assure both [names blanked out] that younger students not meeting national standards will not make Steiner schools a target for closure.

“You are welcome to tell your constituents that the implementations of National Standards will not require Steiner schools to change their programmes.”

That is, they won’t have to teach the children basics in reading, writing and maths when other schools are required to do this. Nor will they have to teach the basics of any other subjects, because that’s not really possible when you haven’t taught reading and maths. Instead the children will be doing eurythmy and painting water colour blobs. Way to go! What they don’t realize is that children who are not meeting national standards — because they attend schools that don’t have to adhere to them — will be locked into that particular educational environment. They can’t transfer easily to other schools, when they’re getting bored or their parents begin to realize their mistake. They’re left behind, unless they have a strong personal capacity to catch up or parents who can afford private tutoring.

The Taikura school (which seems to be the center of attention) is, naturally, happy about the development:

“… we are pleased that the minister is sending a strong signal that the Steiner schools’ special characters will not be jeopardised.”

the fiery thought king of the universe

ok, I’ve been reading too much junk today and won’t be able to read this entire article thoroughly to the end now (my eyes, sorry, but I’ve tried to skim it), but since I promised (see comments) I’d post a link to it today, I will. It’s about the dragon-slaying archangel, Michael, of course (St George, who was the object of my photographic attention yesterday, is also mentioned). I’ve chosen two passage that might be particularly interesting to discuss, they appear towards the end of the article. What do you think about this?

Let us think now in smaller terms asking another question: Do you or I believe in our neighbor? Do we acknowledge the Buddha nature or the Christ within them? Or do we hold the individuals around us captive to their past? We have seen them fail perhaps countless times. Do we think of them as hopeless and never able to progress or change? By doing so we ally ourselves with the adversary of our soul’s progress and theirs. This is probably not the case with those whom we choose to associate with most. But, how about those who live in the other neighborhoods in our town or city that are not as affluent as ours? Or the ones that are living “up on the hill” who are more affluent than we can even imagine? Or how about those of different races that we meet? Do we unconsciously cast judgment on any of them? Is there a subtle condescension in us when we speak to them or of them to others? How about those who ascribe to a different social philosophy or support a different political party—do we judge them as inferior for their beliefs and unworthy of our help or support? If we see the Buddha nature, what is sometimes called “the beginner” in our neighbors and friends and coworkers and in those who live across town or on the other side of the world, we will not lose hope for them—we will not hold them to their past “sins.” We will forgive them and be the person in their life that helps them to see the next step forward on their path. If you are able to do this, then you are working with Michael as a mirror to the divine nature within others.

What does it mean to us to be “seen” either in the monumental sense I first spoke of or in the everyday sense I outlined in the last paragraph? We shouldn’t be too quick to answer. It is hard to even think of hope or of a future for ourselves as individuals, or for our world as a whole without this essential activity of The Fiery Thought King—Michael! There would be very little spiritual progress in the world without this essential element to affirm us as individuals. Reflecting upon this, perhaps now we have a sense of the regal majesty of the being we have sought to discover expressed by this exalted moniker for Archangel Michael—The Fiery Thought King of the Universe— which otherwise in our time, might tend to elicit condescending smiles of skepticism and visions of an antiquated, naïve and sentimental culture laden with superstition. But not to those who know him.

Read the whole article here!

fire breathers

‘A teacher: But there are still the fire breathers.
Dr. Steiner: Yes, those beasts, they did breathe fire, the Archaeopteryx, for example.
A teacher: You mean that animals whose bones we see today in museums still breathed fire?
Dr. Steiner: Yes, all of the dinosaurs belong to the end of the Tertiary Period. Those found in the Jura are actually their descendants. What I am referring to are the dinosaurs from the beginning of the Tertiary Period. The Jurassic formations are later, and everything is all mixed together. We should treat nothing pedantically. The Secondary Period lies before the Tertiary and the Jurassic belongs there as does the Archaeopteryx. However, that would actually be the Secondary Period. We may not pedantically connect one with the other.’ [Faculty Meetings, p 26.]

Previous discussion here. Above St George, on his horse, slaying the dragon.

a warning to gnomes in Frome

The application for state-funding of Frome Steiner school has gone through. Gnomes need be cautious and should preferably, if circumstances permit, stay far away from the Frome area. As Thetis points out, ‘The state-funded Steiner teachers will be out hunting from today.’ Frome Steiner school announces that:

“Our dream is a reality – Free Steiner education for all.”
We have been APPROVED and will be opening a State funded Steiner school in Frome in September 2012.

The gnomes didn’t share this dream; in fact, they’re now experiencing some serious distress about the future. On this blog, the most recent conversation on Steiner schools has occured in the comment thread to this post.


New York Times calls anthroposophy gobbledygook.

Marion Mahony, an M.I.T.-trained architect, made Frank Lloyd Wright’s early career possible. In the early 1900s she spent a decade producing renderings that kept his clients enthralled, despite his scandalous personal life. She drew borders of dense forests and flowers around his dry floor plans and facade proposals. […] In this fall’s spate of scholarship “Marion Mahony Reconsidered,” a book edited by David Van Zanten, a Northwestern University historian, explores how she drew inspiration from Wright’s collection of Japanese prints and her faith in the gobbledygook of Rudolf Steiner’s anthroposophy.

H/t Roger.

flight of fancy

am chuckling at this Goetheanum entry in an online travel guide:

It’s as though a flight of fancy had swooped down upon the hillside to hatch the edifice. The building currently houses the Anthroposophical Society and the School of Spiritual Science founded by Rudolf Steiner. It’s possible to enter and explore the building – the terrace on the monumental second storey offers the strangest emotions, seemingly rings the entire structure, giving you the impression that you are standing on a ghostly tectonic surface outside space and time and whatever is happening below.