‘spiritual, not religious’

Melanie retweeted a link to an article about a recently published book that seems intersting, Despirited by David Webster. It’s about the ‘spiritual, but not religious’. He argues that these popular, modern spiritualities risk ‘making us stupid, selfish, and unhappy’. I quote:

Finally, I argue that the dissembling regarding death in most contemporary spirituality—the refusal to face it as the total absolute annihilation of the person and all about them—leaves it ill-equipped to help us truly engage with the existential reality of our own mortality and finitude. In much contemporary spirituality there is an insistence of survival (and a matching vagueness about its form) whenever death is discussed. I argue that any denial of death (and I look at the longevity movements briefly too) is an obstacle to a full, rich life, with emotional integrity. Death is the thing to be faced if we are to really live. Spirituality seems to me to be a consolation that refuses this challenge, rather seeking to hide in the only-half-believed reassurances of ‘spirit’, ‘energy’, previous lives, and ‘soul’.

Read more.

anthroposophy and induction stoves

I had one of these silly ideas one can have when when is delirious with hunger. Over-hungry sometimes has the same effect as over-tired, I’ve noticed. For some inexplicable reason, I suddenly had to know what anthroposophy might say about induction cooking. I learnt about the importance of cooking pots, about cosmic energy and composition, about open-fire cooking being suited best for cave-men, about how electricity is anti-natural, ruled by evil spirits, opposed to good… and so on. The computer can turn you into a zombie, I should warn you. Ceramic pots are the best, in case you can’t afford gold, although I’m sure all of my readers can afford gold pans. (In the ethereal kiosk, we cook all our food in gold pans. Over an open fire in the garden cave after chasing out the gnomes who have taken up residency there.) Unfortunately, there’s not much reliable holistic science on induction stoves and their effects on the spiritual properties of food. But there are a few things that can be said:

I have very limited knowledge of induction cooking, and even less practice! But a large appliance reliant on electro-magnetic waves does not sound an attractive thing to have in one’s kitchen. I have to add that I am also no fan of mobile phone (stations) in a kitchen. So, I might be a little too neurotic about dotting i’s and crossing t’s when it comes to electrical goods. After all, I would not do without a fridge (but I have a tiny ice-cube freezer only). The problem with the electricity of an induction cooker is that it goes directly into the pot: here it creates the heat. In effect the food is directly exposed to electro-magnetic waves, unlike with a tradtional coil or smooth top electrical cooker, where a pan still mediates. You lose the protective bedding of the pan, and end up with a kind of modern cave-man situation of cooking over an open fire, but then a dead one.

Next we will have to conclude that non-metallic cooking pots are not favoured by induction cooking (bad conductors of heat). So we lose that dynamic and potentising force already. Not very much else can be said about this method of cooking, since holistic sources make little mention of it when a gas (or if without a choice, electric) cooker and an electric oven are good enough for what you would like to prepare holistically.

Now you know more, and I can focus on curing my starvation. (In fact, I’m cooking on my very ahrimanic induction stove right now.) That article, entitled ‘Induction cooking health hazards’, is worth reading.

‘it’s really hard when you start your hat’

From an article found by PeteK:

In a sunny classroom, first graders at the Chicago Waldorf School are not picking up books.  Instead, in every student’s hands are two wooden knitting needles.

Seven-year-old Henry Gordon is carefully wrapping the yarn around one needle, then pulling his stitch through with the other hand.

“It’s really hard when you start your hat—it’s like, complicated,” says Henry. “And then, pretty soon we all got better at knitting and we started finishing our hats and going on to our scarves and then doing our sleeping bag.”


“I think the fact that these children have not been pressured at a young age to learn how to read has allowed it to unfold in a very natural way,” Triggiano said.

Again, the waldorf folks go on about reading early being horrible because it’s ‘pressure’. What about pressuring children to knit early? Really? Why is it ok to pressure kids to knit? Why is it so difficult for waldorf proponents to see that what they subject children to is merely an other kind of pressure? Whether it’s good or bad is another thing — and I don’t think you can avoid pressuring children. But pressure it is. And, although they rarely seem to want to acknowledge this, there are children who don’t experience reading as a ‘pressure’. Because what is felt as ‘pressure’ must vary from person to person. If you suck at knitting, a school focused on knitting puts some pressure on you. Actually. Perhaps there’s a good reason for it, but you can’t deny it’s pressure. The risk of this late reading but early knitting policy is mentioned: that dyslexia goes undetected for too long.

demonstration för waldorflärarutbildning

Just nu cirkulerar upprop och anordnas en demonstration som, bland annat, uppmanar politiker att ta ansvar för waldorflärarutbildningen. I klarspråk, att se till att den ges ekonomiska förutsättningar, och för att vara ännu tydligare: att waldorflärarutbildningen tilldelas offentliga medel.

Insikten i vem som egentligen bär ansvar för situationen verkar vara anmärkningsvärt bristfällig. Det är naturligtvis waldorfrörelsen själv och kanske i synnherhet Kristofferseminariet och Rudolf Steinerhögskolan, som senare samarbetade med Lärarhögskolan (innan Stockholms universitet sa upp samarbetet), och som ännu senare förvandlades till det som nu är Waldorflärarhögskolan.

Under de år som Steinerhögskolan hade ett samarbete med Lärarhögskolan, varför såg man inte till att försöka höja utbildningens kvalitet och framför allt att ta den till en akademisk nivå bortom (eller över) Steiner-materialet? (För att det inte går?) Borde man inte ha förstått att detta är nödvändigt?

Och begriper man inte nu, 2012, att om man önskar få sig offentliga medel tilldelade — då medföljer krav? Då är man inte själv ensam om att bestämma hur utbildningen ska se ut, vad den ska innehålla, vilka resultat den ska ha och vilken kvalitet som måste upprätthållas. En del element i waldorflärarutbildningen framstår som oförenliga med offentlig finansiering. Att bara ignorera detta i kampen för pengar tyder antingen på dumhet, på okunnighet eller på en vilja att förleda. Jag vet inte vilket alternativ som är värst.

Det finns egentligen bara en sak att säga: waldorflärarutbildningen befinner sig i den här situationen för att dess anhängare försatt den där. Skyll inte på någon annan eller någon utomstående, skyll inte på politiker och akademiska institutioner som inte förstår eller uppskattar waldorflärarutbildningens förtjänster. Skyll på dem som är ansvariga för waldorflärarutbildningen och dess utveckling och kvalitet.

För att återigen citera Stockholms universitets rektor, Kåre Bremer, som uttalade sig i samband med att waldorflärarutbildningen stoppades av Stockholms universitet:

Det är fakultetsnämndens ansvar att garantera utbildningens vetenskapliga kvalitet, ja faktiskt att ”sätta sig till doms” som insändarna iuttrycker det, över innehållet i den utbildning som universitetet förmedlar, och litteraturen håller helt enkelt inte måttet. Jag instämmer helt med nämndens bedömning, efter att ha tagit del av delar av kurslitteraturen. Delar av innehållet är inte bara vetenskapligt ohållbart, det är helt enkelt osant.

Detta är en del av waldorflärarutbildningens problem — och problemet är helt och hållet rörelsens egen skapelse.

tulips (rosendal)

The above was shot, I think, purely random. It’s funny how the most random photos, the ones shot without thinking and without planning, (sometimes) turn out to be the ones that fascinate me most afterwards. When I think, I don’t get pictures like this one. I should think less. Chance more. Take chaos seriously. Never mind the dirty window. Watch the sun make things come alive, even when there is impurity. The dirt just makes it better, doesn’t it?

I like how they make tulip chaos at Rosendal. Wonderful, disorganized chaos of colour. I’ve never seen such wild tulip chaos anywhere else. Last year, there was an entire flowerbed. This year, only a small greenhouse, which I caught in the evening sun a couple of weeks ago.

Edit: some photos in larger versions on flickr!

a song

Travelling on a bus the other day, I listened to this song again, and I listened many times, and it struck me: I think this is — must be — the song Rudi kept singing to me during all those years. I never knew. But now you get a song instead of a proper post. That’s good, I believe.

Incidentally, and perhaps surprisingly, it was Morrissey’s advice that led me to Fernando Pessoa. Long ago.


I’ve been thinking. I need to do something about my life. It’s in a state of unacceptableness. That’s the worst state. I’m not joking. And I know this, because my mind is in such an unprecedented, acceptable state!

What am I doing, writing yet one more post on some darn moronic Steiner waldorf education topic? Really, what? You see, I’m at least considerate enough not to say that in some important thread, so that it not be ruined, but can be used productively.

But, actually, the question is relevant. Why do I do this? It’s not very likely to make any difference to me now, or is it? Waldorf education is so much a thing of the past, and if parents today want to throw their kids into that bottomless pit, as far as I’m concerned they’re welcome to go ahead. What do I care? I don’t.

It’s an honest question — how much of my life am I wasting? Not that I know what I’d be doing. After all, the blog (for example) is lovely (and so is the ethereal ice-cream and champagne, not to speak of the chandeliers), but it seems like it’s too much of a replacement for something else, that thing called real life, that thing other people have (I’ve heard). The writing is my parallel reality, but parallel to what? So, there in plain view it is. Failure. Because that’s what it is, right?

I guess the real question is why I had to throw myself into that bottomless pit (again, as an adult) to find out what things were about (finding that the pit was not, in fact, bottomless) and neglect (somewhat) to lead a life at the same time and thus creating for myself another pit that may very well be bottomless or at least impossible to get out of. Apparently neglecting life. That thing that happens to other people because they make it happen. Or perhaps it is their destiny, their karma, to be immersed in it. Life.

Frankly, I never knew how to. As a child I saw other children play, but I seem to be born the spectator, not the participant. Those are two different things. Two very different roles in life. And no matter what you want to be, you get stuck in one category. Some people are spectators; they keep looking at things, but keep their hands and their heads, their minds, away from humdrum reality or, for that matter, exciting reality. They watch, but don’t take part. They keep themselves confined to fantasy land. But the desire to be real keeps pressing on.

Ah, the agony. I feel suitably pessimistic, melodramatic and alien. I should go read some Pessoa. It’s not so bad. It never was. Perhaps I realize the stupidity and futility of my project (or projects) because I see I could have done better. Avoided regrets (of course, regret might be good, and am I really regretting anything?). And don’t tell me that what I’ve done and written was helpful or useful or whatever — I don’t give a damn. I did it for egoistic reasons. I just think that, perhaps, I should have been even more of an egoist — understanding myself better and predicting what I was going to want and need later. Not waking up at this old (oh, yes, old) age, thinking what the heck. But then again, I never really understood myself. Or mr Dog. Or the world.

fourth esoteric lesson

It’s a bit late, but I’ve finally read the english translation of the fourth first class esoteric lesson. (I say sorry, before I even begin, to my reader in Minnesota! I’m throwing pearls for swine again, or perhaps roses for donkeys, which is another expression I recently came across in a similar context — that of esoteric wisdom being wasted on those who do not take it seriously… and reverentially…!) Here are a couple of quotes, to tempt and seduce you all:

‘A relationship with the spiritual world cannot take place without this understanding of the meeting with the Guardian of the Threshold, because the spiritual world is on the other side of this threshold.’

‘It is in fact true that whenever we are dealing with esoteric truths we should not think: Oh, I know that already. For the essence of the esoteric does not lie in knowledge, but in direct experience. And inwardly, in deeper levels of our souls than where memory has its roots, is where we should grasp and retain the esoteric.’

It is also about animosity in ordinary life (and thinking and feeling and such things in esoteric life), Skakesperean villains, esoteric couch-potatoes, the contemplation of trees, and more.

‘The esotericist must also use words, for he must speak.’

Well, yes, he must. And some of them certainly speak a lot!

It’s quite a nice lecture but I instinctly oppose, I think (with my earthly, materialistic brain), what he says about earthly, ‘sub-humanizing’ forces and the ‘true’ human being. Perhaps someone can explain why I should not feel alarmed by the thought of the ‘true’ human being rejecting the earthly in favour of the supposedly higher and perfect, an elusive utopia — denying, in effect, much of what (it seems to me) makes us human. Yes, ‘godly forces’ vs evil and all that — but I still can’t… fathom. And I can’t grasp how this idea makes it any more likely that you experience yourself as ‘one with the world’, which he talks about. But then…:

‘Think, my dear friends, about standing outside in a field looking up at a star-bedecked sky. It becomes clearer when we have the opportunity to choose; it can also happen in daylight, but it is clearer at night. We feel at one with the world; we feel: that is you. But the point on earth we stand on, which we consider to be so important that it only encompasses our individual self, dissolves when we gaze up into space. It expands to the hemisphere.’


‘a different class’ (on steiner education in the guardian)

There’s a new article about Steiner education in The Guardian and I’m sure everybody has read it and is talking about it already. On the upside, some negative sides of waldorf schools are mentioned. On the downside, the article is pretty lame, as though the guardian of the newspaper threshold had been preventing a decent job on this topic. The comment section is only for the brave, those of you who can stand a certain amount of stupidity. Apparently, the waldorf drones have been brought out in daylight, to submit positive comments that reek of advertisement brochures. (Tell me, how can a parent who investigated Steiner education 20 years ago, and then decided not to go there, still regurgitate all the right buzzwords?)

Jeevan Vasagar starts out the article by presenting to the readers a picturesque portrait of the Hereford Steiner academy. Trevor Mepham, the academy’s principal, talks about common sense, curiously enough, and about vitality and twinkling eyes. As for mind-blowing wisdom, he proposes that the human being needs a ‘relationship with the natural world’. It’s difficult to understand why this would have to be obtained within the framework of Steiner education though. Or why people would be willing to compromise a good education to obtain, for their children, a relationship with the natural world — as if you couldn’t have both. Of course, Trevor Mepham thinks waldorf education offers both. Critics would say he’s wrong — perhaps even that it offers neither a meaningful contact with the natural world nor a good education.

Among the good things about the article is the space given to waldorf school science teaching and the findings of Mark Hayes, who has read a book on the Steiner science curriculum. One that, moreover, was recommended to him by the movement itself.

Darwinism, the book notes, is “rooted in reductionist thinking and Victorian ethics”, while homeopathy is given as an example of “an effect that cannot be explained”. A typical passage on biology reads: “A reductionist biology which states or implies that the human body is a machine … is not one which nourishes the adolescent’s deepest concerns. The current theories are just that – theories. They have not been in existence long and though presented as ‘truth’ they will inevitably change.”

Mark is right to point out that anthroposophy is the basis of the education. This, of course, should have been the focus of Trevor Mepham’s lyrical exposition, but waldorf proponents frequently leave that side of it out. Better, they think, to talk generally about sufficiently nice but rather unspecified things, and let the parents make their own interpretations to suit their own minds, than to spell it out: anthroposophy. Jeevan Vasagar also makes his own interpretation, one which suggests that maybe he’s not too familiar with how, when and why anthroposophy influences Steiner education:

There’s little evidence of this philosophical backdrop [ie, anthroposophy /a] in the Herefordshire school’s everyday life, however.

Perhaps, I conclude, he just doesn’t know what to look for. (Perhaps he didn’t really get access to all aspects of the school’s everyday life, either.) He continues:

It’s clear from talking to the pupils that they don’t regard Steiner as a religious movement.

This, of course, comes as no surprise whatsoever. Their parents and teachers don’t regard the school as a religious/spiritual movement — at least not in public, even if they are anthroposophists. So why would the children do that, and especially children who may not even have heard much about anthroposophy? You see, that’s just not how it works. Steiner schools don’t ‘preach’ anthroposophy (if they did, I’m sure people would be less deluded and more capable of making decisions not regretted later). They work with anthroposophy as their foundation and immerse children in an anthroposophically ‘appropriate’ environment. That’s the point of it. What you get from talking to the children is a consequence of this approach. That they don’t recognize Steiner education, or even anthroposophy, as a religious/spiritual movement is all par for the course — it’s supposed to be that way.

Another highlight is, of course, the presence of Melanie Byng (woof!).

She feels embarrassed to admit that the aesthetic was part of the appeal. “An ordinary nursery seems messy, crowded, full of plastic. In a Steiner kindergarten, they use natural materials – wood, wool, everything very neatly and pleasingly arranged.”

But the academic part of the experience showed itself to be quite a disappointment, she says. I think not a few parents have discovered the same. And it isn’t embarrassing to fall for the aesthetic part. Even I could do that, and I should know better. Ironically, going back to the beginning of the article and looking at what Vasagar writes, one gets the impression he’s falling, at least a little, for the same things.

Vasagar’s lack of real insight shows most spectacularly, however, when he writes that ‘eurhythmy‘ is ‘a Steiner exercise involving stretching and hopping to music.’ Stretching and hopping to music, well, that’s a description that could work for comical purposes (perhaps), but as information it’s simply pathetic and entirely inadequate. He ends the article by saying:

But it’s not just a matter of attractive wooden furnishings and organic food – Steiner schools offer a radically different take on the world.

They do indeed ‘offer a radically different take on the world.’ What a pity that The Guardian fails to tell us much at all about that take on the world. Because an account of what that ‘take on the world’ entails would have been truly interesting and informative.


Read also the BHA’s comment on the article.

‘sol, jord og regn’

Till den tidigare texten ville jag också, av någon anledning, citera den underbare Bjørneboe — min favoritantroposof! –, men så kom jag förstås på att han är på norska, och inte på engelska. Han får därför sin egen plats.

‘… Hele haven var fylt av den røde farven fra soloppgangen, men den glitret også i orange og violett. Himmelen var av gull, av et slags sydende, kokende gull hvor det blå beveget seg i striper og linjer, linjer som var myke og slangeaktige og fulle av liv.

‘”Solen,” gjentok Lefévre; “den er det eneste som er sant.”

‘Jeg forsto med en gang hva han mente, og merkte at over meg hadde nu solen bredt seg over hele himmelen, — alt var gull og solskinn, gull og solskinn. Alt var seg selv og var sin egen forklaring, farvekaskaderna i løvverket, den sprutende ilden i bekken, alt fløt over i en foss av farver.

‘Så kom havet, det uendlige, mørkeblå, gylne hav, skummet og lyset, og alt var omfavnet av solen, jorden ble båret av de uendlige flammearmerne som omslynget den og holdt den oppe.’


‘Vi spiste som vi aldri hadde spist før. Den samme økningen av sanseevnen som gjorde farvene omkring oss synlige slik som de virkelig er, gjaldt også smaksnerverne. Bare brødet og smøret, med en munnfull vin til, inneholdt allverdens rikdom av smak, av sol, jord og regn, av kornet og av melken som smøret var blitt til av. Det var eftermiddag.’

[Jens Bjørneboe: Kruttårnet. Eventuella skrivfel mina, så klart. Det är inte lätt att skriva av norska.]

spirituality of imperfection

I really should have included this in my previous post, but I couldn’t quite fit it in. It’s an article I read a couple of days ago and it’s about a book, from which this quote comes:

‘The problem with organized religions, Bill Wilson once complained, ‘is their claim how confoundedly right all of them are.’ The spirituality of imperfection … makes no claim to be ‘right.’ It is a spirituality more interested in questions than in answers, more a journey toward humility than a struggle for perfection.

‘The spirituality of imperfection begins with the recognition that trying to be perfect is the most tragic human mistake.’

Read more on the excellent Brain Pickings blog.


Only the fool would do such a thing, and I know for a fact that none of you are fools. The Baltic sea is not even 10° C, so of course you wouldn’t; you’re all eminently sane people, after all, and as anybody sane knows, there’s no such thing as swimming, in the Baltic, at this time of the year.  And the air, by midnight, is not much warmer than the sea. So I know you wouldn’t. Nobody would. Unless. Unless, of course, they were utterly raving mad. Then maybe, only maybe. You’d have to be a death-defying lunatic (or a polar bear) for attempting it, and mad like that you shouldn’t be. You should be rational. Seeing things sanely. Keeping yourself safe and warm. I, of course, would never recommend anything else. Like any sane person, I’d stay away from the sea. I’d say, don’t be tempted by it, not by its salty attraction or its alluring perfume of sea-weed. Don’t be crazy.*

As you might have guessed by now, mr Dog and I have spent some days on the island, amongst sun-burnt cliffs and the lush and exuberant greenness of late spring, and returned to the city on thursday evening. We’ve had time to think all kinds of thoughts, not all of them entirely productive. Never underestimate nature, is one of those, and it is, indeed, a multi-layered one. (No, mr Dog did not kill a real bunny, only a supersensible one and a plush rat.) Never underestimate the power of the busy sea turning, after sunset, into dark-grey stillness and silence. Never think tranquillity won’t do anything to you; it will. As will the sky, with its few pale stars that are visible on a light summer sky. In fact, these particular burning objects of the cosmos must be the largest and closest to our earth, not the palest. Some of the brightest are probably planets, not stars. Things aren’t what they seem. There’s a sky full of stars rendered invisible by the summer night. I know, if only because they were there last autumn. I have no use for my star map now, or for the smartphone’s Google sky map. It will be a couple of months. Let’s not think about that. I don’t want to go to sleep, when I’ve just woken up.

Because the spring is almost over, the nights are light and the scents of early summer rise from the soil and the vegetation at dusk and at dawn, and you cannot protect yourself from them. They enclose you, and make you want to bow down and inhale; they make you want… infinitely more. It’s just that the air is only saturated so much, nature wants to keep its subtlety; all you can ever have is a forceful whisper. So we walk; we take our evening walks in that cathedral of old oak trees and light green birches and archipelago pines, breathing the incense of nature itself. Then, returning home, slowly recognizing more and more of the soft, salty scents of sea. You can’t breathe water, no matter how tempting.

Sometimes spiritual people, when asked to define what spiritual is, say that it’s the experience of art, of nature, of a piece of music, or something else they happen to appreciate. I use the word experience, because I can’t find any word more appropriate and broad enough to describe this. But, to me, this description seems slightly nonsensical. Then you have to ask — are their experiences, really and truly, any different? Are they somehow deeper? Somehow more meaningful? How, then? Or are they simply elevating themselves, feeding a superiority complex? And, by the way, where do awe and reverence ever get us — apart from away from the moment, from experience to duties? What I feel most suspicious of — possibly more suspicious of than of the supposedly fuller ‘experiences’ of spiritual people — is spiritual utopia. Of placing the state of human spiritual perfection at some point in the elusive future — in that epoch or state of mind we’re not yet capable of attaining. It’s always elsewhere, and never where we are. Always in another place, another time, in other circumstances. And, strangely, it’s always about getting there, about the arduous work of humanity on the path towards a goal, whose properties are almost (if not actually) intangible. It’s not about the fullness of the experience of the moment. Strangely, because it’s somehow paradoxical — isn’t it?

Why is it that those who claim that science can’t have all the answers also seem to be those who are most inept at accepting that our human knowledge is imperfect and start inventing intricate systems of explanations? Who is it that can’t bear to live with the unknown? Is the unknown so difficult a burden that an irrational explanation — encapsulated, funnily, in a seemingly rational, logical system of irrational beliefs — is better than none at all? But this seems to go against the popular spiritual idea that ‘everything’ can’t be explained. And yet… if you ‘buy’ anthroposophy, you have an explanation for virtually everything (for being, supposedly, a ‘method’ not a teaching, it certainly presents a wide range of doctrines). Who is it that needs the comfort of an all-encompassing explanation of life, the earth, cosmos and everything and who needs the promise of a future spiritual utopia? Anyway, to me the rationality of the system of irrational ideas and the quest for an ever more perfect future, seem quite bereft of something essential.

It’s lacking in the opportunity for elation — of the moment of elation amidst all the imperfections of life. It focuses more on a duty towards what can be and what can become, not on what is here and now. I guess, then, you really need reincarnation, because you have to postpone enjoyment — perhaps even the desire for it — to your next time around or even to a future state of consciousness… and, for some reason, the descriptions of these future states never portray them as very enjoyable either, except, I guess, at that point in time you’d see it all with other eyes, the new, spiritual eyes of the future, not yet even imaginable. I suppose I’m asking of spiritual enlightenment something it can’t be according to some or even most spiritualities — I’m asking that furthering humanity should not mean to remove its humanness (which seems to be one of the goals). That we should stop being what we are, to further progress — towards, well, something utopian. My question, though, is can you have the lows without the highs? The warmth without the cold? What is perfection without its contrast? And is it worth it? Why do people need to fully explain and systemize everything, even if it means they must to grasp any straw — and it appears spiritual people are no different from others, but instead arguably worse? So much for leaving the mysterious a mystery, so much for leaving things we can’t explain unexplained (for now). Instead, inventing the most intricate system of unlikely explanations that you can imagine.

You can’t do, I think, without the highs, not in this incarnation or epoch — not even with the promise of blessings in next epochs or of stages of planetary evolution when we’ve shed our physicalness and dog knows what else of that dreadfully human stuff that causes as much pain as it causes pleasure –, and why should you? Why do we need a system of explanations (that explain little) or a future of perfection (and thus of humans lacking some chief human characteristics like imperfection and limitations in knowledge)? Why do we need to get rid of the contrasts, of ahriman and lucifer and opposing forces and whatnot, for the benefit of a state of harmony and completeness, harmony without insecurity and without elements of the unknown?

I’m suspicious of any spirituality that places perfection somewhere in the future, in some seemingly distant state of things or state of mind, possibly not attainable for those who remain merely imperfect humans. I’m suspicious of anyone who doesn’t acknowledge that for brief moments, here and now, there is something resembling perfection — but for the rest of it, we must accept the imperfect, the paradoxes and the contradictions and the fact that, for all we do know, we don’t know all. My own brain is too small. I have to accept that there are both knowable and unknowable things that I will never know. That’s ok too. I don’t exactly need invented un-knowledge to fill up the space. There’s so much else to fill the space with.

So, what is there in spirituality that us non-spiritual among the human race do not possess? What have the spiritual attained that we can’t?


*I always wanted a post with that title and now I have one, appropriately or not; at least, one might argue, it’s swimming, or drowning, in thoughts and in nonsense! (Hopefully charming; charm is the only thing that can rescue nonsense from well-deserved oblivion.) You can watch the utterly adorable Michael Stipe singing the song, though, while remaining as sane as you always were. Listen to this live version. At one particular moment in the song, it’s much more beautiful than the studio version.


Last sunday night, when heavy winds made the island cottage very cold, I had to make a fire. Did you know there are elemental beings of fire? Well, of course you do. And that the element of fire itself, according to Steiner, interpenetrates all the other three elements. He speaks of it here, where he also, very poetically, describes why we have daylight — you see, we wouldn’t, unless some elementals were ‘imprisoned in night’, as this makes it possible for night to be separated from day. Being immersed in light from early morning till late at night now — the northern summer is arriving — I surmise lots of elementals must be ‘chained … to the night-time.’ According to the theory. Which I do not claim to understand. I’m not exactly sure what this has to do with the elementals of fire. But look at the photo, and see if you can spot any! Treat it as a Rorschach test of spiritual perception! Or… something. Well, even if you don’t see any elementals… If you see bunnies, door-handles or pretty ladies — anything, really, anything! –, please report your observations of those phenomena! They would provide such fascinating clues about your spiritual biography, I’m sure. I’ll ask my guru to interpret them. Of course, in his eyes, not seeing bunnies counts as a serious spiritual deficiency. Actually, I just thought I saw a burning frog sitting on one of the logs.

vad är sant om waldorfelever i högre utbildning? (om Dahlin-rapporten)

Bo Dahlin, professor i utbildningsvetenskap vid Karlstads universitet, skrev härom dagen en bloggkommentar där han hävdade att Ulf Ärnström och jag ljuger. Först trodde han förvisso att det var jag som ljög, men såg därefter han att han adresserade något som Ulf hade skrivit och ändrade sig sålunda. Eftersom jag är enig med Ulf i hans tolkning av den här delen av Dahlins forskning, får Dahlins ord anses träffa mig i lika hög utsträckning.

Ulf Ärnström hade skrivit:

I en undersökning som antroposofer själva finansierade (Dahlin 2003-2007) visar det sig att minst 15% färre waldorfelever går vidare till högre studier jämfört med motsvarande vanliga gymnasieprogram (Dahlin själv jämför med alla program, inklusive de yrkesförberedande, och då ser naturligtvis siffrorna snyggare ut).

Bo Dahlin svarade:

Alicia fortsätter att fara med halvsanningar och lögner – ingenting i vår rapport (Dahlin, Nobel, och Liljeroth var författarna, inte bara undertecknad) säger att 15% mindre av waldorfeleverna går vidare till högre utbildningar.

Sorry, min websida krånglade och jag såg inte att det var Ulf Ärnström som påstod att 15% färre waldorfelever gick vidare till högre studier, inte Alicia.

Låt oss inte stanna för länge vid att Bo Dahlin menar att jag ‘fortsätter’ att ljuga, vilket ger en antydan om en historia av något slag. Bo Dahlin är mycket välkommen att förklara vad han menar också med detta, men jag tycker att vi i första hand ska fokusera på att reda ut om Ulf och jag faktiskt far med halvsanningar och lögner vad gäller waldorfelevers övergångsfrekvens till högre studier.

Frågan är alltså, ljuger Ulf och jag om vi — baserat på Bo Dahlins forskningsrapporter* — fortsätter att påstå att 15% färre waldorfskoleelever, jämfört med elever i andra skolor, går vidare till högre utbildning? Eller är det kanske mer som Bo Dahlin själv uttrycker det här, nämligen att ‘resultatet av jämförelsen beror på hur man jämför’?

Öppnar waldorf dörren till högre studier?**

Detta med waldorfelevers övergång till högre studier utgör helt uppenbart en viktig fråga för waldorfrörelsen. En av Dahlins populära tolkningar av forskningsresultatet — nämligen att fler waldorfelever går vidare till högre utbildning — har okritiskt omnämnts i såväl media som av waldorfskolor och waldorfskoleföreträdare i olika sammanhang. Resultatet sprids till och med av waldorfentusiaster utomlands. Då, får man förmoda, är det också av vikt att slutsatsen som Bo Dahlin gör är sann och rimlig, och att han, när han menar att vi ljuger, faktiskt har något på fötterna.

Både Ulf Ärnström och jag tolkar nämligen Bo Dahlins resultat annorlunda än han själv nu tycks göra, och kommer således till en annan slutsats, en slutsats som vi anser att Dahlin öppnar för i sitt eget material. Jag anser inte att vi ljuger; det kunde vi bara göra om vi inte trodde att det vi säger stämmer överens med sanningen. Däremot kan vi ju ha fel, och då är detta ett ypperligt tillfälle för Bo Dahlin, eller någon annan hågad, att förklara varför. Än så länge är det omöjligt att veta vilka argument Bo Dahlin stöder sig på i sin kommentar, men det vore intressant att få ta del av dem.

Ulf Ärnström, som har läst både delrapporten och slutrapporten, kommenterar Bo Dahlins inställning så här:

[läsare som är överkänsliga även för enklare statistik varnas]

I slutrapporten Dahlin m.fl. (2006) säger man att 58% av eleverna från waldorf går vidare till högre studier inom tre år. Vad ska man då jämföra den siffran med? Rapporten nämner två alternativ, ett där 15% färre elever går vidare. Den siffran är alltså inte något lögnaktigt påhitt av mig, den står där i svart och vitt på sidan tolv. Uppenbarligen bortglömd och förnekad av dess skapare.

Som jag redovisade i min kommentar; rapporten förespråkar en annan jämförelse. Enligt den skulle 11% fler waldorfelever gå vidare till universitetsstudier. Så hur rimliga är dessa jämförelser? Det är inte särskilt svårt att avgöra detta själv.

I rapporten får man fram siffran 11% bättre övergångsfrekvens för waldorfskolorna genom att jämföra dem med samtliga gymnasielinjer, inklusive de rent yrkesförberedande. Argumentet är att waldorf skulle vara både studieförberedande och yrkesförberedande. Men vilket yrke är det waldorf förbereder eleverna för? Inget särskilt. De som slutat waldorf är precis lika väl eller illa förberedda för arbetsmarknaden som elever från rent studieförberedande kommunala gymnasier. Medan elever med avgångsbetyg från en riktig yrkesförberedande linje har större chans att gå direkt ut i arbetslivet. Och därmed har mindre behov av högskoleutbildning. Därför fortsätter också mycket färre till universitet. Det vet naturligtvis Dahlin och hans medförfattare också.

Jämför man istället med de studieförberedande linjerna hamnar man alltså på siffran 15% färre. Det är en betydligt rimligare jämförelsegrupp. Märkligt nog föreslår författarna till delrapporten från 2003 ett helt annat alternativ, nämligen 8% färre. Där är det inte tal om waldorf som yrkesförberedande. Istället jämför man med den linje som har den lägsta övergångsfrekvensen av de studieförberedande, den estetiska. Man säger också att det troligtvis rör sig om ännu färre, av ett skäl som inte nämns 2006.

Det borde ha nämnts i samband med att man hävdar att bortfallet på 32% är “lågt”. Det är det inte alls – om man har skäl att misstänka ett s.k. systematiskt bortfall. 2003 var de som skrev den rapporten högst medvetna om att rimligtvis kommer fler av de som studerat vidare att svara på enkäten. Varför nämns inte det 2006?

Det finns ytterligare ett skäl till att den reella skillnaden i övergångsfrekvens troligen ligger en bra bit över 15%, oavsett om man jämför med estetisk linje eller samtliga studieförberedande. Waldorfelevernas föräldrar hade nämligen högre utbildning, tjänade mer och hade i större utsträckning svensk eller inomeuropeisk bakgrund. De har också aktivt valt en friskola. Hade man valt att jämföra med en sådan grupp istället för med kommunala skolor hade det kunnat se betydligt värre ut. Rapporterna redovisar en hel del komplicerade statistiska analyser kring detaljer i liknande frågor. Men ingenstans försöker man besvara den grundläggande frågan om hur jämförelsen av övergångsfrekvenser hade sett ut ifall man hade tagit hänsyn till familjebakgrunden. Varför inte det?


*Det handlar om två rapporter:

Delrapporten (delrapport 1 i Projektet Waldorfskolor i Sverige): Bo Dahlin, Cathrine Andersson, Elisabeth Langmann. Waldorfelever i högre utbildning, (Karlstads universitet, 2003).
Slutrapporten: Bo Dahlin, Ingrid Liljeroth, Agnes Nobel. Waldorfskolan — en skola för människobildning? (Karlstads universitet, 2006).

Dessutom finns ett par engelska sammanfattningar:

En engelsk sammanfattning av slutrapporten: Bo Dahlin. The Waldorf School — Cultivating Humanity? (Karlstads universitet, 2007).
En tidig engelsk sammanfattning av de första delrapporterna: Bo Dahlin. A Summary of the Swedish Waldorf School Evaluation Project. (Year unknown.)

De medförfattare till slutrapporten som Dahlin nämner i sin kommentar har inte varit ansvariga för den delrapport som utgjort underlag för slutrapporten. Dessutom bör något sägas om projektet som sådant, för den som inte redan känner till bakgrunden. Det finansierades av Kempe-Carlgrenska stiftelsen, en stiftelse med anknytning till den antroposofiska rörelsen. Stiftelsen utformade frågorna (se bilaga 1, s 42, delrapport 1). Forskarna, som skrivit rapporterna, är ‘positivt inställda’ till waldorfpedagogiken (ibid).

**Dörrhandtag, Kristofferskolan, en av de skolor som deltog i Dahlins projekt.