lantern festival (st martins)

This is a tradition I don’t think I’ve mentioned on the blog before. It is — as far as I can tell — less important than michaelmas, but that’s not to say it’s unimportant. It’s basically the waldorf take on an old european tradition. The children usually make their own lanterns and then — on a dark afternoon or evening, usually on the 11th of November (three days after St Martin’s day of death, chew that anthroposophical chew-bone!) — walk in procession carrying their lanterns while singing. Anthroposophically speaking, what can be better than the pentagon-dodecahedron lantern with its neat pentagram stars?

pentagon-dodecahedron lanternI urge you to look up the dodecahedron and the foundation stone (in the context of anthroposophy). And the importance of pentagrams in anthroposophy. However, I shall not delve into the spiritual symbolism and significance of the geometrical shapes of lanterns. You don’t actually need to have the dodecahedron, although it is interesting to note — given the anthroposophical meaning of them — the presence of dodecahedron lanterns. (They’re too advanced for kindergarten kids to make. So there are several types of lanterns. Round, cylindrical, even squares; sometimes coloured silk papers glued together very simply into globes…)

Instead I want to share with you a recent article in German waldorf education magazine Erziehungskunst. It deals with this November celebration. I assure you, who don’t read German, that it is worth running this article through google translate!

The author, Fabrizio Venturini, writes:

So kann das einfache Kinderlied: »Ich geh mit meiner Laterne / und meine Laterne mit mir« – zum Lebensmotto werden: Man trägt das Ziel, dem man folgen will, selbstgesetzt vor sich her! Das Laternenlicht wird zum Bild für den inneren Leitstern. Es ist berührend, die jüngeren Kinder ihr »Licht-Ich« vor sich her tragen zu sehen: Man weiß zuweilen nicht, ob die Laterne vom Kind getragen oder ob dieses vom vorangehenden Licht gezogen wird. Ist es mit den Idealen im Leben nicht ebenso?

I think that (the child being ‘pulled’ by the light rather than the child carrying the light) is a subtle reference to reinkarnation and karma.

Das Laternenlicht-Ich symbolisiert das idealische Selbst des Menschen, das mit der Welt und dem Kosmos verbunden ist. Sonne, Mond und Sterne treten in der Laterne auf; sie auf »Sternenbahnen« zu tragen gleicht ihrem kosmischen Umlauf. Diese Sphärenharmonie sollte deshalb von Singen, nicht von Schwatzen begleitet sein.

The ideal self is, supposedly, the reincarnating spirit. The eternal core, with its cosmic connections. The reference to a harmony of the spheres is pure anthro-speak, too. Which again sets Erziehungskunst apart — on the one hand, they fail to explain some things and remain anthroposophically obscure, on the other: at least they use the concepts, they mention the ideas. They don’t completely ignore that this element of anthroposophical spirituality is a vital part of waldorf education. And should be, if the education is to be called ‘waldorf’.

Die Ich-Flamme in jedem Menschen ist in der geistig finster werdenden Welt gefährdet; die Mächte der Dunkelheit wollen sie auslöschen – deshalb muss sie geschützt werden, deshalb braucht sie eine Hülle. Aber diese Hülle darf das Leuchten des Ichs nicht zudecken, sie muss durchlässig, durchsichtig, transparent gemacht werden. Dafür muss die Seele geläutert werden.’

I don’t need to tell you how anthroposophical this is, do I? The struggle of the eternal human spirit in a dark world where sinister forces battle for domination. Ahriman, Lucifer, materialism, intellectualism, et cetera. Of course, waldorf education is there to protect children from such detrimental influences of this world during their incarnation process, that is, during the time when they grow up…

Read more.


46 thoughts on “lantern festival (st martins)

  1. Hmm … i don’t know how it is in Sweden. Here in the UK, the season of November 11 is carried as a time of remembrance and solemn recollection of the destruction and loss of life from war. i’m sure that many of these commemorations, especially those in London, would have been broadcast via the Internet.

    Still, an interesting season and time of year that i can find difficult as i still strive to appreciate its qualities. From conversations, I reckon others struggle to find meaning.

  2. No, we weren’t in the war. Also, the continental St Martins tradition much predates the war. And, lastly: That’s not the reason this lantern festival is celebrated in waldorf schools worldwide!

    But it would not surprise me if parents in the Uk are told that the celebration is a little bit the same as the commemorations. Saves them having to explain the other, real reasons.

    Perhaps Uk parents or others know.

  3. You are right Alicia, St. Martin has nothing to do with commemorating the war dead.

    I was on the St Martin Lantern walk with my two little grand-daughters last Friday evening. It is a lovely thing to do and they really enjoyed it.

    It is about the light of the ego in the ‘darkness’ of earthly incarnation. Nobody tried to fudge the issue or pretend it was about anything else.

    You say, ‘Of course, Waldorf education is there to protect children from such detrimental influences of this world during their incarnation process, that is, during the time when they grow up…’
    Yes, and most Steiner schools are pretty open about that. They are usually very clear that they believe children should not be exposed to influences they cannot deal with before they are ready.

    An obvious problem in England is the access of young children and teenagers to pornography on the internet. According to reports some teenagers, both boys and girls, are growing up with very unbalanced ideas about sex. Porn is nearly always diminishing and exploitative of the female, nearly always coloured by male fantasy, I agree with those who would like children and young teenagers to be protected from it. Having said that there is no easy solution to this problem – I do not want to see any form of censorship on the internet.

    What we are talking about here is values. Education is always a value-laden enterprise.
    I value protecting children from ‘Ahriman, Lucifer, materialism, intellectualism, ….’.
    I think if we made suitable substitutions for the names Steiner gave to represent aspects of the human soul I would find many people in principle agreed with me.
    The objective of Steiner education is to enable children to meet things when they are sufficiently mature to deal with them in a balanced way.

    You say, ‘No, we weren’t in the war.’ It is true Sweden was officially neutral. But the war had an impact on Swedes as it did in every country. I have spoken to many older people about that time and many Swedes behaved honourably and heroicly.

  4. Having seen the lantern festival myself, i acknowledge and recognise your comments about the worldwide tradition. Mine referred to the (for me) multifaceted season itself and my deep personal struggle with its layers of meaning here. Again through UK news via the Internet, you may be aware that views of the “official” commemorations can vary quite markedly, both among and within communities across the several nations and regions of the UK. As i write, i reckon the lantern festival itself may somehow be a quiet common element that is brought to expression across the increasingly diverse and variegated cultures and geographies of the UK.

    Giving an adult education class at a UK Waldorf school tomorrow, I’ll ask. Anyway, i reckon it would also make an interesting theme for conversation (close to my heart actually), especially as the first Waldorf school was established in the same year as the now influential academic discipline of International Relations was established in Wales-UK.

    Thank you. Once again, it is interesting to compare notes from the opposite shores of such historically significant seaways.

    i’m wondering

  5. Another thought I have is that it’s quite possible for lantern festival to sort of merge a bit with local traditions — much in the way michealmas is often merging or even being rebranded as harvest festival. (Wonder what happens in the southern hemisphere!)

    As for the lantern festival, I think it’s quite beautiful, and have nothing against it. It wouldn’t hurt being open about what it is though (what it is, in the context of anthroposophy), and I believe they neglect that. As usual!

  6. Tom:

    ‘Yes, and most Steiner schools are pretty open about that.’

    You’re right. They advertise it proudly. What they don’t talk as much about is the reasons — I mean all the reasons, not just the superficial ones. And this depending on the clientele the particular school is trying to attract.

    Almost everyone would want to protect children from seeing porn. However, that’s not the only reason for waldorf schools to recommend — or even ‘demand’ — that computers, tv, et c, are avoided. When I was a kid, they didn’t want the kids to see or talk about an educational TV show (teaching reading and writing). It certainly wasn’t pornographic. It was considered a bad influence nonetheless. Just to name one example.

    ‘I think if we made suitable substitutions for the names Steiner gave to represent aspects of the human soul I would find many people in principle agreed with me.’

    Maybe not for exactly the same reasons though. And can we just substitute the concepts?

    I think many agree with the conclusions — that porn is detrimental, that other activities should replace or at least complement time in front of the screen, and so forth. They might not agree with all the (anthroposophically motivated) steps coming towards these conclusions.

    ‘You say, ‘No, we weren’t in the war.’ It is true Sweden was officially neutral. But the war had an impact on Swedes as it did in every country.’

    Of course! I only mentioned it because there’s no such day of commemoration. And the impact was much less severe.

    I wonder if rememberance day is ever acknowledged in waldorf schools at all?

  7. “the first Waldorf school was established in the same year as the now influential academic discipline of International Relations was established in Wales-UK.”

    What a co-incidence you should mention this, David. My path towards shipping my moorings from my ‘hard science’ background was via the same academic discipline! My friend, and intellectual mentor, had been taking a first degree (his second: he already had one in English and History from Adelaide) in the International Relations department at Aberystwyth (the Welsh end of the axis you mention) whilst I was doing Physics and Maths. Prompted by inspiring talks with him at our Cwrt Mawr halls of residence, I later embarked on the one year PG Dip International Studies at Warwick (with no humanities background, I couldn’t do the MA; a course lecturer was Barry Buzan, brother of Tony;  my friend went on to a doctorate at Oxford, which he hated: Oxford, that is). And now here we all are!



  8. Alicia, some key words in the legend of St Martin are these (from the article):

    “Sankt Martin wird im Lied in jeder Strophe drei Mal angerufen. Ihn kennzeichnet, dass er den Unbehausten, Frierenden, Bedürftigen, den der »im Dunkeln sitzt«, sieht, dass er bereit ist, von seinem »hohen Ross« herab sich ihm zuzuneigen, und dass er ihm von seinem schützenden »Eigentum«, dem Mantel, den halben Teil schenkt”.

    The legend has lived on, inspiring many a good turn through the ages, ending as described in Wikipedia:

    “The basilica was sacked by Huguenots in 1562, during the French Wars of Religion. The abbey recovered, but was disestablished during the French Revolution.[20] It was deconsecrated, used as a stable, then utterly demolished, its dressed stones sold in 1802 when two streets were opened on the site, to ensure it would not be rebuilt”.

    For the historian the interesting queston arises: Why was St Martins Shrine so important to destroy? An enormous amount of churches and cathedrals survived the revolution. This onewas utterly annihilated, well into Napoleon´s era. Why? Speculations wellcomed!

  9. I used to like the lantern festival, I can still sing the song: ‘I go with my own little lantern…’

    But NO, we were not told what it meant. There was never any mention of ‘incarnation’ either.

  10. Well. We met yesterday for the adult education class and paused briefly as a class of younger children set out on their festival. After a gap of many years, I also experienced great joy and delight as i participated in the evening festival. As an older person, i felt the need this time to stay by those who knew me because my enhanced CRB was unfortunately at home. Feeling quite vulnerable much of the time. Wonders of the Internet i suppose! :-)

    Alicia, many thanks for sharing your ethereal spaces with me. In return, i would like to invite you across to the UK …..

    As you can see/feel, it is much warmer here. In passing, i must say that the ethereal return flight home was rather turbulent. Quite a lot of feverish disturbances up in the clouds about elementals. i actually felt a lot better on realising that i neither believed in gnomes or in the witty comments of those who seemed to do so. But then i don’t believe everything i read on the Internet either. Yet, i suppose it does provide a few IT experts with a living. Who am i to criticise? They certainly seem to know more than i do. Anyway, i wasn’t scared for long. Very sorry, Alicia, i digress …

    Welcome to the UK. i imagine that you have ethereally rented one of those 1960’s UK ice cream vans. In my mind’s eye, it is parked at the side of the road – did you know about those ethereal yellow lines as a (t)rusty lawyer? :-) Away from the Waldorf school (and its playground :-) ).As a planner in a “previous incarnation” :-) i can firmly confirm that we are definitely on the ethereal public highway.

    Mine’s a mint ice cream with chocolate. i rarely have any other sort.

    Please imagine that i’m now juggling an ethereal newspaper and an ethereally ancient computer with battery problems – no prizes for guessing :-) Now, i’m also juggling the ice cream.

    Aargh!! Now everything is starting to move – and i’ve woken up Rufus. Growl!!! As you know, I have a cat. Help!!

    Phew, it’s much calmer and quieter now, until …. Alicia!!! Please turn off the chimes! They will disturb the children and the neighbours find them annoying!

    Where was i? Oh yes. the Lantern Festival.

  11. Very sorry. Other practical commitments beckon suddenly. Back later today. i hope you have some more customers in the meantime. Please wait. i’ll be back.

  12. Melanie — I remember that song too… Odd, isn’t it, how even the same songs are sung… And Tom, that blog is hilarious.

    ‘Quite a lot of feverish disturbances up in the clouds about elementals. i actually felt a lot better on realising that i neither believed in gnomes or in the witty comments of those who seemed to do so.’

    Well, if you don’t believe in them, no wonder they’re angry and cause disturbances! Your ethereal flights are bound to be turbulent until you recognize the gnomes and their needs.

  13. Hi Alicia,

    Can you make an irish coffee? OK. If not, i’d welcome an americano please. Small, with milk.

    Well, yesterday’s Festival(s) were quite amazing. Early in the day, the younger children walked past, guided by their teachers. We could see that the process of the Festival was all important. Led in a line and then encouraged to sing while stepping. Careful activity.

    Our conversation was very interesting. From UK news you will be aware of recent events in Afghanistan. These touched us. A page in the bulletin had been dedicated to the St. Martin legend and one of us read it out. This content sparked an interesting discussion that demonstrated both the polarity of views on formal remembrance and the inherent contradictions that may be felt during this season. Almost as i write, i realise that these may be summarised as a contrast between “light into darkness” (Martinmas) and darkness into light (formality).

    At “my” state school, there was a stone war memorial set into the wall of one of the corridors. At the set date and time, former pupils gathered in alcove opposite the memorial and boys from the whole school walked in step, saluting by turning their heads as they passed by in strictly observed silence. For various reasons, i don’t think Waldorf schools remember in this way. Ideally, the tragedies and consequences of war are highlighted in the Upper School curriculum through attentive presentation of Modern History. As relatively new foundations, UK (and i expect those elsewhere) Waldorf schools would only have been created after World War 1 by definition. In passing, I sometimes imagine Main Lessons being given at the Stuttgart school as the sounds of gunfire from the opposing factions of the civil war/revolution were being heard in the streets.

    But what happened next? As they say on some TV programmes in the UK

  14. All with lighted lanterns, adults and children gathered in a corner of the school site. Slightly embarrassed parents and restless children. Before setting out, one of the teachers outlined the suggested process following song and careful walking. We (struggled) to practice songs and then set out.

    Well, I can only reflect on my observations. Gradually, a hush descended on us all as the parents became increasingly attentive to their children. An amazing mood of gentle caring and concern gradually opened up, demonstrated by (unhurried and uncritical attention) to mud and clothes for example. At the same time, the children could give voice to their own direct experiences. You may know the paintings of Joseph Wright of Derby. These give a pale image of what could be discovered then.

    This, people were left quite free to make their own discoveries. Interestingly, a child within earshot saw various electrically powered lights on houses, a car and a bicycle (on a public road) and commented “They’re cheating” on several occasions.

    As an adult, I’m surprised and disappointed at the rapid fading of such experiences into memory. Speaking personally, i spend much more time in the company of other human beings and sunlight than i do in the world of experiment. For personal reasons, I reckon my connection with technology has been rather closer…

    *sip” Do you have another of those ice creams, Alicia? Great. Thanks. i can see it is getting darker and we will soon need to pack up leave in our separate directions. Ah! Problem. i can only pay you in ethereal £. Did you expect to receive euros?

    So, to sum up, i reckoned one aspect of the St. Martin’s Festival was a celebration among human beings. Somehow, this manifest and subtle dimension is often neglected in life.

    Striving to promote the well-being of vulnerable people, i’m frequently caught up with contradictions in “care”. While health professionals may use information from the British National Formulary to support their clinical decisions, this “digest for rapid reference”. As noted, in p. iii of the September 2010 edition: “The BNF should be interpreted in the light of professional knowledge and supplemented as necessary by specialised publications and by reference to the product literature.”

    This statement may be taken widely as a sensibly safe and conservative view of the academic, professional and scientific position. Yet, once again, what happens next, following references to the BNF? Well, much of this accepted usage lies in a carefully controlled human domain. Is mental health different? Fortunately for me as a consumer, the BNF gives careful, highly detailed and technical information about products.

    Clearly, such explanations provide an essential basis for scientific medicine and support appropriate innovation. Several years ago, i applied for registration at the then London University School of Pharmacy to pursue postgraduate research into themes of exercise and effectiveness as relating to treatment and effectiveness. At that time, I was frustrated that my application was unsuccessful. Having reflected for several years, i have concluded that this evidence points to the possibility that the “human” dimension is excluded from what i may call the “” approach. Of course, I accept that the situation may have changed since 2010.

    To me, this seems very well until the dimension of polypharmacy is considered. Here, i should make clear my own situation. While a social scientist and not a health professional, this theme was brought to my notice several years ago by a health professional. Aware of my advocacy activities, he suggested that i should carry our research into “polypharmacy” and “treatment and recovery”. Having done this, i wonder whether the biographical (in vivo?) aspect is accounted for in the same way as the statistical aspect.

    In many ways, this awareness of boundaries would also suggest agreement upon limitations. For example in England-UK, media coverage of a recent NICE decision sparked some interest. By removing recognition of exercise from its remit, it was seen as acting out of harmony with general opinion. Yet, accepting the above method, the decision is quite consistent. While not qualified to say so as David Clark, this does not seem in any way to be “improbable science”.

    Yet, i can still hear the TV announcer say “But what happens next?” A great deal of discipline and rigour have been dedicated towards ensuring the effectiveness and safety of medicines. Clearly, one can only be pleased that such endeavours continue. Yet some vulnerable people have a complex biographical and product history in this area. From experience, i know that they struggle in many ways, some in long term institutions. Looking in from outside, i reckon exercise and fresh air in various forms may enliven. Sometimes, i’m saddened that justified recognition of clinical standards may be accompanied by this more challenging human dimension.

    Sorry, Alicia. i haven’t finished yet. In the circumstances, i’ll get on with other tasks and meet you in the ethereal departure lounge for some parting remarks on gnomes and international relations. Hope you can wait. Bye.

  15. Hi Alicia.

    About gnomes. At Martinmas, i feel quite safe when i think about them.

    Phew! So glad we managed to meet. It’s been foggy today and i reckon there is likely to be a delay. Air transport is currently quite contentious here. Many years ago, i handled airports and air transport in professional life. It always intrigued me that forecasts seemed so elastic and variable. Initially, i thought it was because aircraft could fly anywhere :-) After much reflection, i reckoned that this seeming inaccuracy was affected by technical innovation and the use of ICT. Very briefly, after a hiccup, innovations in computer technology enabled the design and development of larger aircraft. Quite a story actually, summarised in “Fundamentals of Aerodynamics” Fifth edition in SI units by John D. Anderson Jr. published by Mc Graw Hill. From my reading, the use of ICT is less evident as theory and more as application. More aircraft into the same airspace and safer flight.

    For me, Chapter 1 of Anderson’s book is especially interesting as it refers to the life and work of the late Geoffrey de Havilland. There is a memorial to him outside the University of Hertfordshire (former Hatfield College of Technology that i attended, While i digress, you may notice how intimately the world of computers is connected to life. Geoffrey de Havilland died when his aircraft hit the sound barrier and was destroyed. Later calculation and computer technology enabled advances in fluid mechanics that allowed design of faster, larger and safer aircraft.

    i will get round to talking about gnomes, promise.

    Reflecting once again on the St. Martin’s walk, i don’t think any complex introduction was needed. Very quickly, people realised that they were sharing a common experience through shared activity. Hopefully, some became conscious of that, especially those who, like myself were in the rear. What “concept” may be applied to these “percepts”? To start with, this has to be a matter of freedom – do i struggle with incarnation or prefer embodiment? do i really notice anything and/or wish to hurry home and watch the TV :-) Another question is whether my experience of the walk may be related to a concept of embodiment – would i prefer to be a passenger in the car, away from the mud?

    Sorry Alicia. i’m reminded of a closely related theme. During the Festival, i was especially touched by the subtler qualities of the event. Just skip the politics. Parents and children. Steiner parents? Give the guy a break! Are there no limits to worship of authority? Wag tail! To paraphrase my one of my daughter’s favourite expressions: “Leave him alone!” As an aside, Alicia, i’m all in favour of good animal care and connection. i suspect that you may know much more about elementals and reincarnation than i do. To be both practical and skeptical (is this possible:-)) i’m really wondering whether 1) anyone could have so many parents and 2) have surviving parents still alive now, so long after their offspring’s death. Certainly my Asian friends would laugh.

    Maybe it would be good to explore this further.

    sorry, i must stop for now. Just an inkling of where i’m coming from, ie my destiny connections. This background will become more important in connection with gnomes, i promise.-

    David Clark B.Sc.(Econ.), M.Sc., M.R.T.P.I., C.M.I.L.T., M.R.I.N.

  16. At last! It is a matter of public record that i do not believe in gnomes. So why not stop there? Well others’ beliefs and comments continue and i feel compelled to present a research account. Following other disciplines, I reckon this is OK. Now in 2012, I reckon this may be the best i can do.

    Firstly, to my credentials. Pretty atheist first degree, many years ago, Master’s in Property Development – finance, bricks and mortar; Town planner – economics, rights, bricks and mortar and air transport/aviation professional – noisy metal, use of sophisticated computing and lots of concrete. With this background, i tend to approach themes of elemental beings in a quite hard-boiled, skeptical sort of way. Yet, Martinmas somehow manages to intrigue me greatly. Still.

    Am i writing to fellow non-believers? How and why do you approach this difficult subject?

    Anyway, let’s set off. So far, no ducks. Looking at the Oxford English Dictionary (2nd, Ed. 1989) just now, i found a definition of “gnomometry” or gnome measurement. You’re right, i would have no ambitions in that direction. In passing, i saw in the 17 November NS – No..2891 p.p.46-49 an article “Deprive Yourself”. Thinking about gnomes, i’d agree, but i’m slightly concerned about the notion that “a simple measure could improve your health and brain functioning”.


    Yet i digress. My deep opposition to the idea is coming to the surface again. Tee .. Hee ..

    Aaarrgh! i really must get a grip!! :-)

    Initially, I would refer you to my sources:

    “Horse and Hound” 15 November 2012
    “Man as Symphony of the Creative Word” Twelve Lectures given in Dornach, Switzerland October 19th to November 11th (yes, that date again) pub. Rudolf Steiner Press, London in 1923 with caveat to readers on p.5
    “The Influence of Spiritual Beings upon Man” Eleven Lectures delivered in Berlin between January 6 (celebrated in various ways) and June 11 1908 pub Anthroposophic Press Inc. NY 1961 with preceding caveat to readers.

    What is your initial comment on this literature? Can perhaps hear something faintly in the distance?

    Aasrrgh! Tee .. Hee …

    Aaarrgh! Must get a grip!

    OK. My thoughts at this stage are:

    1. Rudolf Steiner’s perspective on elementals are clearly related to the human being – thanks presumably to the Editor/Publisher.
    2. The title of “Horse and Hound” does not refer to the human being (directly – think about it! again!)
    3. in “The Influence of Spiritual Beings on Man”, Rudolf Steiner defines what is effectively a research qiestion that relates to human beings and horses. Can i suggest that you look this up?

    Household tasks call. Back later. Sorry, more credentials.

    David Clark, M.Sc. (Cirencester), M.R.A.C.

  17. Sorry. “Man as Symphony of the Creative Word” was published in 1970. This book contains lectures that were given in 1923. ‘Bye …

  18. Hi All,

    Interesting responses and challenging themes on what, after all, is a personal account of my own experience.

    Not yours. Mine.

    Absolutely no pressure accept or agree.

    That’s quite fine with me.

    Just seeking to communicate, seeking to link past and present. in this connection, i would note that my principal career history has not been pursued in anthroposophical contexts.

    By now, i have made it clear that expressions of difference are to be expected in research. To me, this is no surprise, although it may surprise some users of the web. Absolutely no surprises here. indeed, i reckon these expressions may be seen as part of a legitimate rights sphere. i’m here to read and respond.

    Anyway, i reckon it’s really good to share experiences. Somehow that’s quite authentic, liberating and wholesome. Hopefully, you’ll agree.

    Perhaps surprisingly for some, the Journal noted above is not an anthroposophical one. This may not be a surprise for readers in the UK, for whom it may seem quite out of place, if not controversial. Hopefully, they may choose to pick up a copy and have a look. It is quite relevant to the question as a scientific one. My selection of the (to me, quite secular) Journal derives from my personal connection with educators at the Royal Agricultural College Cirencester as a researcher.

    i first met the title while working with horse people at the grass roots element of the equestrian world. Yes, muddy boots, rural environment, conversations in the open air. Getting my hands and feet dirty. Absolutely nothing wrong with this at all. Great! Quite different to my previous technical role. My research project required me to engage with understanding their interest in equestrian matters for the College’s M.Sc.

    At that time, my greatest problem was that i’m a skeptical, technical professional at heart. At the time, that placed me in quite a difficult situation. For this reason, i’m not sure why anthroposophists are considered by some as a separate “breed”. The research placed me in a specific situation where i had to meet other people in a quite different situation. Actually, i reckon this was quite healthy. Good experience for a technical professional. The project had its biography. How is this non-anthroposophical context relevant? Am i missing something here? What’s the problem? What’s the point? i struggled to gain my M.Sc., not yours.

    For personal reasons, i didn’t choose this project, instead, it was passed to me. indeed, i faced externally given deadlines. i’ve stated my position already. What’s yours?

    To continue, as i grappled with this question, i signally failed to grasp what many expected. Why are horse people quite passionate about horses? Looking back, i now realise that there was an important methodological point. i had in fact largely spoken with “horse people” in lectures and conferences. Namely, when they had their feet on the ground or were away from their horses.

    Again back to my personal background as noted above. For me, the key theme was not at all that i was an anthroposophist. i was employed in secular activities, trying very much to make sense of life. You may not perhaps be so surprised that this was not a standard of judgement. indeed, i initially protested against pursuing this project. Others – you’ve guessed it – circumstances prevailed. The eventual point was that, as a skeptical, technical professional, i was struggling to discover a practical and sensible research methodology that was appropriate for the particular subject matter. Namely, local people. Not outsiders. i was definitely one in my inability to comprehend their non-bureaucratic, impassioned world. For a while, this was quite scary.

    While i noted few sources for the above enquiry, they were in hard copy, but are all publicly available. i reckon my personal thoughts on using search engines are by now now on record. The Journal is linked with countryside sport. Thus, i don’t expect “karma” to figure in any Boolean Search. Just imagine my own existential difficulties as 1) i strove to understand a totally alien area, 2) i had to meet others’ imposed deadlines, 3) i had to explain myself to people i actually met.

    Far from straightforward.

  19. Well, Alicia.

    For me, this has been a very special Martinmas Tide that i will remember and treasure for a long time.

    Prompted by the “Horse and Hound” article, i was prompted to use the Google Scholar search engine. i was very surprised to find many references to the “Gnomes of Zurich” and the very lively debate surrounding Harold Wilson’s original attribution of the term.

    In addition to being a Prime Minister in the UK, Harold Wilson was an Economist and Statistician educated at Oxford University. Many of these sources, skeptical or not, rely on mathematical economics. As you may guess, i’m slightly skeptical. Many of those that rely on its insights also believe that financial judgements can be characterised and understood by using computers.

    Following news of upcoming events in the Eurozone, you may have guessed that i am skeptical. That is why i’m pursuing an academically based research project.

    I reckon skepticism is fine. My problem is with the acceptance of difference.

  20. Hi Alicia,

    Alicia, Thanks.

    If you choose to moderate me out that’s quite fine by me. Here, you may quite legitimately be the guardian of public morality. Definitely not an ambition that i share. This mesage is as quarrelsome an an anthropopsophical meeting. Great.

    As you know, the sources listed refer to gnomes and their response to myself and other people. In modern parlance, i was modelling this in my writing. Annoying eh? Please remember i have been trying to respond to your interests. Not mine. Again, nobody asked. You will be interested to learn that the UK Sunday Times this week also has a highly relevant Magazine Section.

    Again, nobody asked me whether i believed in gnomes. I see no reason not to do so, but im awaiting proof either way. I reckon this is a robustly skeptical view. OK, i’m still looking – that is the burden of my reference to sources. I spent several years and put my career on the line, at the same time open to others’ criticism. Yes, research and enquiry may be maddening. On this subject, i’ve great respect for a lady in Scotland who is quite widely known for her efforts and also subject to harsh criticism.

    Again, i’m very happy to short circuit your investigations by contributing my own understanding and explaining it.

    I reckon this is the way investigation should work. Present findings and then explain them. Debate.

    I will be away for the rest of today and will attempt to respond tomorrow with my conclusions. Not those of others. But mine. For those, I will take responsibility.

    Just in case I’m moderated out, best to All.

    It’s perhaps your call now Alicia.


  21. David, the fact that you’re jumping between threads and seemingly posting your comments randomly in this thread and the karma thread doesn’t actually make it less confusing. Now you’re apparently responding to the other thread, yet placing your comment here. I don’t understand it. I’m going to reply there.

  22. Hi Curt,

    I’ve not forgotten your intriguing message – it may take a little time to respond, but I’ll be back. Initially, I’m thinking about facets of Napoleonic history and the redevelopment of Paris.



  23. Hi Alicia,

    Sorry. I don’t understand the message. Please explain if it relates to me. I’m confused.

    Scrolling back, I had remembered an item from an earlier part of this thread and was picking it up.

    Apologies, I don’t do Internet acronyms.



  24. Hi Alicia,

    Curt Janssen

    November 12th

    “Speculations welcomed”

    St. Martin’s Shrine

    Please let me know if there is a blogging convention that I’ve missed.

    Merely trying to engage



  25. Sorry, David, I actually only remembered the stuff that had to do with martinmas celebrations in Steiner schools… and had forgotten Curt’s mention of cathedrals, destruction and Napoleon. I suppose it was because I had no idea why the shrine was destroyed and why it would be important.

  26. That’s fine Alicia. At this time, I don’t know the answer either. Just setting out the current directions of my researches, hoping to re-establish contact. These early thoughts may change. Over the winter, I’ll do a little digging – and reading :-) Thanks for connecting.

  27. David Clark, sir! I must interrupt these august (actually November) proceedings at the Ethereal Kiosk to acknowledge and honor your extraordinary and proficient abilities to weave a magical web of obfuscatory non sequiturs all over Alicia’s already sprawling blog. David, sir, I must say that we at the Kiosk are in the presence of a gifted genius of a fine stage magician whose deft sleight of hand at scholarly misdirection is first rate! Bravo, Sir David, bravo!

    Moreover, Sir David, sir, you are able to take us all on the internet equivalent of a “magic carpet ride,” which I would like to re-christen here as a “Magic Tangent Ride.” Nay, having suddenly been inspired by the Beatles, I shall now call it the “Magical Obliquity Tour.”

    And here is where I see your value — not only to the Anthroposophical Society at the Goetheanum — but more directly and effectively in your native land of the UK where The Frome Steiner school initiative is under such heavy attack from that heaving horde of grousing blinkered Waldorf-Steiner critics.

    Sir David, it is my unyielding belief that you would so discomfit and confound that sullen horde with your resplendent obfsucatory drollness that I encourage you to volunteer immediately for the position of public relations spokesman for the Frome school initiative.

    Sir David, I also believe that you may be well nigh the British equivalent of the amazing American master of karmi-cosmi-comic erudition, Professor Irwin Corey, who is still with us today at age 98. Please consult his biography here:

    Indeed, I can only wax lyrical and musical here at the conclusion of my paean to your irresistibly discombobulating wit, Sir David. So I shall select a most appropriate song from a favorite British rock band of my teenage years in New York City, a group that is, astonishingly enough, named after you! Imagine that!

    I mean of course, The Dave Clark Five here singing their hit song from 1965, “Catch us if you can,” a song which I heartily suggest you establish as a thrilling anthem for the Frome Steiner Academy as they try to outwit and outmaneuver the monomaniacal hordes of Waldorf and Steiner critics who dare to dash their plans for such a Steiner freeschool in the UK.

    Sir David Clark, I dedicate this song to you, sir —- as you run linguistic interference for the Frome Steiner Academy against the Steiner-Waldorf critics, daring them to: “Catch us if you can!”

    Hollywood Tomfortas
    13th Sacred Tomfool Dzogchen of Los Angeles

  28. ‘Sir David, it is my unyielding belief that you would so discomfit and confound that sullen horde with your resplendent obfsucatory drollness that I encourage you to volunteer immediately for the position of public relations spokesman for the Frome school initiative.’

    I think you’re absolutely right, Tom.

  29. Hi Alicia. Hi Tom,

    Of necessity my latest comments concerning abuse are on another thread, where in my view they belong and others may read them. How is that a problem? Are you suggesting that I’m not concerned with these extremely serious and weighty matters? Explain. Now.

    Lovely, witty comments. Gosh! As you may guess, I’ve never heard that linguistic and rhetorical joke before :-) Droll. As you may guess, I didn’t listen to the extract on You Tube. Thanks anyway.

    I hear you. This may all be a distant rumour. We’ve never met.

    At least you engage. Many thanks. Others do (can) not, even though some are closer. Pity that. I’m now beginning to wonder why.

    Sorry, you’ve got me wrong. Currently, I’ve no connections with Frome, except potentially as a UK taxpayer. I have no pecuniary, personal, or professional ambitions in that direction. By now you will know about my adult education role. Do you have any interests to declare?

    As you may guess, I’m no fan of public relations and as you may see, I lead a busy enough life already. How about you?

    Over the winter months, I’ll be enjoying a “magical tangent ride” as I read my chosen book in between other matters. I also reckon it’s OK to pursue a historical investigation in my spare time. These are personal choices.



  30. “magical web of obfuscatory non sequiturs …Magic Tangent Ride…heavy attack from that heaving horde of grousing blinkered Waldorf-Steiner critics…volunteer immediately for the position of public relations spokesman for the Frome school initiative.”

    Worthy of your Buddha at the Jet Propulsion Lab and Drag Queens at LA (Peter Staudenmaier and I) days on critics, Tom! Cracked me up similarly. Thanks (the smaller BSM pumpkin head gnome quip on quacks was nearly as funny).

  31. BTW, Tom, is this Dadaesque, life as theatre of the absurd, play one end against the other, theistic atheism, your last word on life’s riddles and meaning, do you think? I think laughter is all very well but a poor second fiddle to thinking (especially as life’s great, dark, cliff edge starts to loom in the distance).

  32. ‘Of necessity my latest comments concerning abuse are on another thread, where in my view they belong and others may read them. How is that a problem? Are you suggesting that I’m not concerned with these extremely serious and weighty matters? Explain. Now.’

    I’m not Tom, and I can’t explain why he chose this thread over another thread to respond in. (Also, I’m not very keen on that demanding tone: ‘Explain. Now.’ I don’t have any such duties. Thank you very much.)

    I assume that Tom has noted that you’ve posted (at least partly) incomprehensible comments on a large number of posts. And he then pretty randomly chose a thread to respond in (or make jokes about it in).

    But he’s right. Your comment in the abuse thread was, like so many other comments you’ve posted on other threads, incomprehensible. It wasn’t even possible to know what ‘extremely serious and weighty matter’ you were addressing, if any at all. At least I didn’t understand it.

    This comment of yours is equally incomprehensible. What does passages like these even mean? What are you trying to convey?

    ‘Lovely, witty comments. Gosh! As you may guess, I’ve never heard that linguistic and rhetorical joke before :-) Droll. As you may guess, I didn’t listen to the extract on You Tube. Thanks anyway.
    I hear you. This may all be a distant rumour. We’ve never met.’

    I have absolutely no idea. It makes no sense. Seemingly, it’s words piled up without context, without coherence, without meaning — it’s not even possible to know who you’re talking to. Yourself, me, us, someone here?

    ‘Sorry, you’ve got me wrong. Currently, I’ve no connections with Frome, except potentially as a UK taxpayer. I have no pecuniary, personal, or professional ambitions in that direction. By now you will know about my adult education role. Do you have any interests to declare?’

    Tom pointed it out as a possibility for humorous reasons. I think you should become the press speaker for the entire SWSF, though.

    Your involvement in Steiner study groups for parents was extremely easy to discover through a google search. No need for you to exhort anyone else to ‘declare their interests’ because you’re pissed that the rest of us know how to type ‘david clark steiner school’ into the google search bar.

  33. ‘Laughter means distance. Where laughter is absent, madness begins. The moment one takes the world with complete seriousness one is potentially insane.’ (Jens Bjørneboe)

  34. “‘Laughter means distance. Where laughter is absent, madness begins. The moment one takes the world with complete seriousness one is potentially insane.’ (Jens Bjørneboe)”

    Oh, all right!

  35. I’ve heard that (Tarjei is a big fan). Times like this make me wish I was better linguist (I’m considering going back to school for German with Rossetta Stone).

  36. “American master of karmi-cosmi-comic erudition, Professor Irwin Corey, who is still with us today at age 98”

    This reminds me of Tom’s characterisation of me on critics as a “failed lounge singer”, after another American comedy icon, who, since I’m not American, I don’t remember the name of. However, the idea was that the guy played a lounge singer who was so bad and pathetic that he parodied himself and became funny in a tragi-comic manner. I think Tom thought the parallel was with the quality of my argumentation for some reason…

  37. Thanks. Ah, yes, I remember the America quote -must be from Tarjei’s influence. I’ll take a look at some more, which also looks familiar, around the edges at least.

  38. I don’t know, Tom – did it then? Maybe, sort of –  I was playing a role (whilst trying to learn the ‘game of polemics’). Maybe this fitted:

    “Many people misunderstood Kaufman’s intent, focusing on the character’s foul language and prima donna antics while failing to appreciate the fact that Clifton was meant to be the comic antithesis of the typical lounge
    singer, a bland, genial entertainer designed to add a touch of class to a hotel and make guests feel welcome.”

    If for ‘bland, genial entertainer’ we substitutes ‘politico, polemical academic’.

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