Das Fremdsein – Von einem gewissen Alter an – sagen wir heute wohl zwischen 12 und 14 Jahren – beginnen wir mehr oder weniger, uns als Fremde zu fühlen. Zunächst fühlen wir uns fremd in der Umgebung, die zu uns gehört. Wir bemerken, dass wir anders sind, unserer Umgebung nicht gleich, nicht zu ihr passend. […] Nicht nur meine Umgebung ist mir fremd, ich selbst bin mir fremd.
That is from an article (originally a lecture) by Bodo von Plato. It’s quite a decent article, presumably owing to the fact that von Plato belongs to the faction of the relatively sane. Also because it resonates with me in some ways (ways that — probably? — have little to do with anthroposophy).
But it is puzzling, this quote; I haven’t been able to let it go. The idea isn’t new. There’s another one resembling it: the crisis in the life of the nine-year old who at that age, according to anthroposophy, begins to discover that he is a separate individual. He not longer experiences himself (if one can indeed say he “experiences himself” at all) only as an unseparable part of a collective entity, as it were, or a cog in a social wheel, be this wheel his family or his peers, but as an independent person and a separate being; he’s his own, uniquely his own. That happens a couple of years after the incarnation of the etheric body (supposedly). What von Plato refers to here, I suppose, is the beginning of the third seven-year period and the development of the astral body.
But what mystifies me is not so much that. Instead it is this: how come the feeling of ‘Fremdsein’ develops only at that late age? (I do not know how to translate it! But the meaning is so obvious, I think, it shouldn’t be necessary.) If indeed it does (I’m certainly willing to consider the idea that anthroposophists are wrong).
If it is so, and considering the development at around age nine, I can sort of understand why my very way of being was so at odds with waldorf pedagogy — with the underlying assumptions of it. These theories seem to have nothing to do with my experiences. Perhaps it is that my experiences differ vastly from the norm, or perhaps the theories are wrong. I can’t say which, not from experience alone. In this life, I’ve only been me! And, frankly, if I’ve had other incarnations, I’ve blissfully forgotten them. (That’s the worst thing about reincarnation as an idea, by the way: you’ll be forced to be a child again! As if once wasn’t enough.)
I definitely had a feeling of being a separate person long before the age of nine. I certainly felt I was completely my own, and ultimately on my own, years before that; in fact, I can’t remember it was ever any different. I think in a way perhaps the collective approach of the waldorf kindergarten was made more difficult for it. Not so much because of the practical side — to some extent, every kindergarten and school has to approach the group of children as a collective — but because of the, sorry, spiritual element or, let’s be more secular, the psychological side. These ideas form assumptions that colour how you see a child. How could they not? And as to the feeling of ‘Fremdsein’: how is it possible to be alive on this earth and not experience it?
“Fremdsein” seems to me to be one of the essential feelings of being a child, and having been thrown into the world, and it doesn’t get much better later on — except that one gets used to it somewhat. Consciousness of separateness or ‘Fremdsein’ (or, for that matter, other related aspects such as loneliness, isolation or alienation) is perhaps not stable over time, though, it’s more like a tidal wave that ebbs and flows. But I don’t believe it is ever not there.