education, the limb man, the chest man (and some other oddities)

There are a some interesting things about Claus-Peter Röh’s lectures at an american waldorf teacher training center (the Bay Area Center for Waldorf Teacher Training). Claus-Peter Röh is a leader of the pedagogical section at the Goetheanum in Dornach. I’m going to subject the text to a rather crude — even impudent, I admit — treatment. I’ve simply picked out the sentences or passages I think you ought to pay particular attention to while reading the summaries of the lectures.

The first graders live strongly in their will forces. […] Growing up is a gradual process of moving from doing, where the young child lives in their surroundings, to the thinking realm where the young adult lives largely in the head. […] Nowadays, children are waking up and are being called upon to use their head forces too early. This can lead to imbalance and rigidity. […] Our astral body is much better at sensing and exploring an impression, of having a correct feel for it. […] The teacher must then use the curriculum to bring about the balance between the ego and the body. […] Forces of soul cultivated early on transform into forces of cognition in later years. […] Rudolf Steiner indicated that it was our task as teachers to develop the limb man and part of the chest man and then let them awaken the other part of the chest and the head. […] In the case of his example, Claus-Peter’s students were too deep in their limbs and needed awaken the chest through music and speech before they could work from the head in language class. […] The teacher who radiates this care for the child is not judgmental but interested in seeing the child as a spirit force that comes to the teacher for higher reasons. The teacher does not fixate upon pushing the children to have success, but rather seeks to appreciate the mystery of this spirit force that the child bears. […] Claus-Peter spoke about how daily meditation can help us reach deeper levels in our teaching, allowing us really to see the children. We strive to reach beyond our conscious mind, into the realm of living pictures, and even beyond that to the realm of will, so that we will be able to follow through and actually carry out our ideas and plans for teaching.

Read the lecture summaries in their entirety.

I wish I could comment on everything, but just a few things then. The spirit force has to do with reincarnation; the higher reasons have to do with karma. Lots of what he says has to do with how human development during childhood appears in an anthroposophical perspective, the unfolding of the ether body, the astral body, the 7-year cycles, will for the 7-year old, head for the child of over 14, et c. This ‘determines’ what they’re thought capable of emotionally, academically and intellectually. For anyone reading the summaries of Röh’s lectures the notion that anthroposophy is not deeply ingrained in waldorf education becomes ludicrous. Also anyone will notice that anthroposophical ideas and concept are presented as though they were factual. One question: what method would you use to refute the astral body’s ability to sense and explore an impression? Is it even possible? And what conclusions can we draw if it turns out it is actually not possible to dispute this supposed fact scientifically? (Perhaps: that we’re talking about belief, and that, thus. waldorf teacher training needs a lot more imput from scientific theories about the human being, the development of the child and from research on education in general.)

13 thoughts on “education, the limb man, the chest man (and some other oddities)

  1. ‘One question: what method would you use to refute the astral body’s ability to sense and explore an impression?’

    This is a really important question, and I think your secondary question, ‘Is it even possible?’ points to the fact that it is probably not possible, the reason being that the astral body is not something susceptible to observation and analysis in the way that, for example, the flow of hormones in the human body is susceptible to observation and analysis. I have chosen hormones because they can be demonstrated to have an effect on the emotional state of a human being. But furthermore this is a conceptually weird statement. The astral body does not have senses so how does it ‘sense…..an impression’?

  2. Well, that is indeed the reason — to make observation and analysis with scientific methods is not possible. Of course, there are other things that aren’t either, but it would then be unwise to present the ‘facts’ with such (sciency sounding) certainty.

    ‘The astral body does not have senses so how does it ‘sense…..an impression’?’

    It would be interesting to know… I’m not sure though there’s a huge conceptual difference between ‘sensing and impression’ and ‘having a correct feel’ either.

    One caveat, when reading the summaries: students seem to have written them. They may have got things wrong. I still think they give a general impression as to what kinds of things were discussed, and how far away from mainstream educational discourse they are.

  3. “… how far away from mainstream educational discourse they are.”

    “For anyone reading the summaries of Röh’s lectures the notion that anthroposophy is not deeply ingrained in waldorf education becomes ludicrous.”

    “Also anyone will notice that anthroposophical ideas and concept are presented as though they were factual. One question: what method would you use to refute the astral body’s ability to sense and explore an impression? Is it even possible?”

    All practical consequences of Waldorf ideas about pedagogy are possible to observe and evaluate. The theories behind it are not, because you have to use spiritual science or as Steiner says, “occult investigations”. That´s no problem if you see anthroposophy as an inspiration for a personal spiritual journey. Use it as a basis for a school and you run into serious trouble concerning knowledge. I think Steiner should have said no to the first Waldorf school.

  4. ‘That´s no problem if you see anthroposophy as an inspiration for a personal spiritual journey.’

    Absolutely. That’s a different thing. Although I wouldn’t go on such a journey without a spiritual GPS device with updated maps.

  5. Haha, I do hope canineosophy isn’t as complicated as the thousands upon thousands of confusing Steiner lectures ;-) One of the pedagogical maps which seems totally resistant to any kind of updating during the last hundred years seems to be the mystical 7 year developmental cycles. Non-spiritual science during that time has shown more and more how capable very young kids are and how important the intellectual and cognitive development is also in the early years (parents have known a lot of this all the time, but now scientists have finally seen it too ;-). While Waldorf still has this notion of young kids learning only through imitation. It is an AMAZINGLY outdated and rigid system, which spectacularly fails to see all the strengths and possibilities in children.

  6. In the Bay Area there are schools with very high numbers of hispanic children where often English is not their first language, and the teachers work so hard to provide these children with a good quality education.
    It is depressing that the type of teaching you mention here is going on there and using up valuable resources.

  7. No no, you see, Ulf, canineosophy also needs lots of heavy volumes with thousands of lectures, but because canineosophy is simply truth, it’s not as complicated as having to make things up would be.

    Yes, you’re both right that it is… well, not necessarily a good idea to stick to these particular waldorf ideas.

  8. So perhaps I’ll have to wait until some canineosophy-critic gets around to summarize the basic teachings then ;-)

    Helen speaks about using up valuable resources. In a recent post here in swedish: http://bit.ly/yzR31P a report on the organization of waldorf schools is discussed. My main impression of that is the overwhelming demands on a waldorf teacher. Not only should you cope with all the “usual” tasks, you should also master the anthroposophical kind of knowledge of humans and make your teaching artistic. And do the headmaster’s job. According to the experiences of the writer, a lot of the time with collegues is also spent in studying the work of Steiner. Add to that the extra energy needed in bilingual or multilingual settings – how much is left for actual teaching?

    The summaries of Röh’s lectures are very interesting, I think. On the surface much sounds wise and creative, well worth exploring. But the theory behind these words is anthroposophy. Developing or delving deeper into this is a pedagogical dead-end street.

    Such a waste of energy, creativity and good intentions!

  9. Yes, I think those trainees do possibly have good intentions, but combined with delusions.
    Probably they have travelled from all over the US to attend the lectures, and have no idea what is going on in nearby Berkeley.

  10. ‘So perhaps I’ll have to wait until some canineosophy-critic gets around to summarize the basic teachings then ;-)’

    If Diana’s and Melanie’s cats even so much as consider that, there’ll be blood-bath, promises mr Dog! I mean, come on, the dogs won’t be satsified writing to various internet sites threatening them with lawsuits!

    As for the teachers’ workload, yes. Add to that the general stress and personal development and intrigues and conflict and, well, there you go. These environments aren’t exactly more harmonious just because they teachers are on a ‘spiritual journey’.

    To the Röh’s credit, he seems not to try to hide that waldorf is anthroposophical. (Over all, that’s not so much a problem with the folks who work closer with the Goetheanum, it’s more a problem with local folks at the schools. Who realize that that connection might scare some customers away.)

Comments are closed.