education affects the excarnation process

Again. Waldorf education is not aimed at teaching the child the knowledge and skills he needs. It aims at influencing his entire life in the most unexpected ways. It’s not just education, in the way we normally think of it. Here’s a case in point. Michaela Glöckler, MD and leader of the Medical Section at the Goetheanum, writes in waldorf journal Erziehungskunst about how the education and the teacher can affect a child’s health much later in life, even in the second half of life, during the ‘excarnation’ process. Well, sure, teachers and education do impact on a person’s life. What is slightly astounding is how. Research shows, Glöckler writes:

•  that a choleric and aggressive educational style increases the predisposition in later life to suffer from cardiovascular diseases,

•  that a phlegmatic teacher habitually produces boredom among pupils which later shows itself in a tendency towards nervosity,

•  that in lessons a sanguine teacher increases the tendency among pupils to have little vigour in later life as he always calls for action and sets tasks the success of which he does not, however, check or monitor because the set task had already escaped his consciousness or he has already moved on to something else,

•  that the melancholic with his weighed down attitude and the tendency to moralise and “appeal to the conscience” produces a trend in the second half of the biography of digestive and metabolic disorders. Such an educational style makes it more difficult to process impressions with the necessary ease on the one hand and fully enough on the other.

She also discusses effects over multiple lifetimes.

Read more.

‘scientific basis’

The political agenda to further anthroposophic medicine in the EU now supposedly has a scientific basis. Or so it is said. The International Federation of Anthroposophic Medical Association writes:

ivaa_121202.pngI’m unsure what they mean when they talk about a ‘scientific basis’. Presumably the answer is to be found among the documents here. Although, to me, their nature seems more political and ideological than concerned with anything scientific. None of the documents seem to provide any scientific evidence as to the efficacy of anthroposophical medicine, which, I would propose, is reasonably needed for a ‘scientific basis’ to the political demands put forward. I guess it’s close-minded to assume that a scientific basis would require more than popular demand, et c. With the logic of the three points above, one could just as easily suggest there’s a scientific basis for the claim that god is real: lots of people believe in his existence and boldly demand that others recognize and respect it too (and even pay for it), accurate information about him is scant (as is any objective evidence of the efficacy of his ways), and anyone can claim to be his prophet, messenger or interpreter without being restricted by any state or EU regulations whatsoever, as far as I’m aware. The same seems to apply for anthroposophical medicine, and I’m not sure why this topic ought to be of any interest to anyone but those who believe in these things — and they can then pay for it and for any spiritual benefits themselves. Because the positive scientific basis simply isn’t there — other than as a hope or possibly, when a supposed remedy’s material efficacy has already been disproven, a fantasy.

a healthy human being is born three times

The journal of the German association of waldorf schools is often surprisingly informative. You learn about these Steiner things waldorf schools in Sweden or the UK don’t want to speak about (because presenting ‘loony’ ideas might disqualify from state subsidies?). Here’s an article by Bernd Kalwitz (M.D. and waldorf school doctor) in Erziehungskunst, which explains that we’re covered in invisible sheaths that protect us from harmful influences; these sheaths are (sort of, but not really) shed when the child grows up. To every developmental stage, one sheath is associated. Ether body, astral body. And the sheaths which protect the ‘body’ that is in the process of being developed, so to speak.

None of this is news to anyone who has read up on the background of waldorf education. Of course not. But this is worth repeating anyway. We learn that the child’s spiritual core must incarnate in a physical, earthly body, and childhood is characterized by this process of incarnation. In the first developmental stage (up to 7), the physical body is the focus of attention; the child’s spirit must work on it, penetrate it. During this period, the child is protected by one type of supersensible sheath:

Das [said incarnation process] nimmt uns ganz in Anspruch, und wir sind in dieser Zeit von einer kosmisch-geistigen Hülle davor geschützt, dass unsere Lebenskräfte von anderen Anforderungen in Anspruch genommen werden.

This sheath is shed when the process is finished; this happens around the time when the baby teeth are also shed. The child’s ether body is ‘born’. Only then, not before, can the child begin to entertain more abstract thoughts, can investigate ideas. To engage with the abstract before this age puts the child’s health in danger, according to dr Kalwitz. Thus — no abstract activities, like reading or maths, for waldorf children before the age when the adult teeth appear. During the next seven years, the child is protected on the emotional level by a sheat that lets it develop its soul life — this goes on until the astral body is born, around puberty. And seven more years on after this, at around 21, the human I is supposedly fully developed, and another sheath is shed.

When the sheats are broken prematurely, there are horrible consequences (of course!). Premature abstract thinking ruins physical health. When the emotional life is too early sexualised, for example, the soul is in danger, and the personality remains immature. Premature development can also lead to fanaticism (which makes you wildly hypothesize a thing or two about some anthroposophists).

There’s a connection to diseases, of course. Inner development or transformation takes place through processes of warmth, for example through the fevers of childhood diseases. The doctor writes: ‘In der Fieberglut der Kinderkrankheiten schmelzen wir unseren Körper um und machen ihn zu einem Instrument unseres inneren Wesens.’ Inner ‘fire’ in another, less literal sense is also good for correct development. Unless this inner warmth is active in the battle against ‘cold’ forces (e g, materialism, intellectualism), there’s a risk for future illness and weakness, he claims.

lyme disease in the light of anthroposophy

Well, of course I had to google it.

Did you know that, in our dreadful modern times, the weakening of our human I ‘means the protective, self-regulating systems that help our immune system distinguish between self and not-self are being weakened from many directions: devitalized foods and soil, heavy metals toxicity, overuse of pharmaceuticals like antibiotics, chemicals, vaccinations, family emotional dysfunctions, and early over-intellectual education’? Robert Zieve, anthroposophical M.D., writes this. In earlier times (at one point humans and Lyme disease bacteria actually even co-existed harmoniously, we were not adversaries), our immune systems fought against illnesses, but now it, too, together with our I, is weakened which leads to diseases such as chronic Lyme disease (in mainstream medicine a contested diagnosis, I think, by the way) ‘because of an inner premature hardening of soul/spiritual life manifested as an inner tissue rigidity in our biochemistry and physiology, induced by combinations of the above contributing factors.’ (He means the factors mentioned in my previous quote.) Treatments that are recommended include: nutrition, herbs, ‘injectable bee venom’, acupuncture, homeopathy, colour therapy, eurythmy… among other therapies (all equally pointless as far as the infection is concerned, on the physical level). Antibiotics can harm in these so-called chronic cases, although it is useful in acute cases, he concedes. And of course there are emotional and spiritual issues as well, not to be forgotten:

‘… the deeper emotional issues call to be addressed and healed, such as with family constellation work. Stress on more subtle emotional and spiritual levels, if too strong to bear, will go down to the next vibratory level and manifest in physical biochemical and physiological dysfunctions and lead to symptoms.’

We must make friends with the bacteria again, and realize that ‘that healing is not merely personal but also social and cultural.’ I assume should we take precaution against the hazards Zieve mentions. Over-intellectual education might, after all, cause all kinds of harms.

Here’s an event I regret having to inform you that you have already missed:

‘Dr. Basil Williams is board certified in Anthroposophic Medicine, Internal Medicine, Infectious Disease and Osteopathic Medicine. For the past four years he has given workshops at the Medical conferences in Dornach, Switzerland on topics ranging from Lyme disease in the Light of Anthroposophy to working with Elemental beings and healing substances. He is currently researching Autistic Spectrum Disorder.’

And, last but not least, treatment advice from True Botanica, a manufacturer of anthroposophical medicines.

anthroposophical medicine and the breathed-in upwards syndrome (and a few words about rubella)

Mats Reimer wrote yesterday about a case study of a young woman with severe anxiety disorder who was treated with homeopathy and eurythmy. The study was a co-operation between anthroposophical therapists and researchers in Sweden and Germany and the woman was treated at the state-funded anthroposophical clinic in Järna, Vidarkliniken. The report about the study, which is in English, is fascinating to read, and details both the diagnosis of the woman as well as the treatments she received, that is, what homeopathic remedies she was prescribed and which eurythmy movements. It can be downloaded here. Nothing is extremely surprising, to be frank; for anthroposophical medicine, this is nothing out of the ordinary, and it ought not come as a surprise that an anthroposophical clinic works with anthroposophical diagnoses and offers anthroposophical treatments. There’s an interesting separate section of the text, called ‘Anthroposophic concept of the human organism and pathogenesis’. It’s important, and quite informative for anyone who’d like to understand how anthroposophical medicine differs from ordinary medicine, apart from the different treatments and methods. I mean by this how it differs in its ‘philosophical essence’, so to speak, in how it views the human being and illness and health. Worth reading — it begins on p 63. The above picture is a screenshot of one part — the oddest — of this section of the text.

Apparently, the patient is ok these days, but after being treated at Vidarkliniken she was diagnosed with OCD at another clinic and treated with a conventional drug.

Mats Reimer’s article cause some uproar on Twitter which was expected — presumably lots of people were hit by a sudden bout of the  breathed-in upwards syndrome — and at least one newspaper writes about it today, in the editorial blog.

*

This news about the above case study comes at a time when Järna is hit by another epidemic, this time rubella. (Earlier this year, it was measles.) 32 cases are confirmed to date, but the actual number of cases is very likely higher, as rubella is quite a mild disease for kids even if it’s dangerous for pregnant women. Pregnant women in the area are cautioned to check their immunisation status (apparently there’s some test for anti-bodies). Several newspaper editorials about this news have been published recently. As they are in Swedish, they may be uninteresting here, but I’ll mention them anyway: SvD, Aftonbladet, DT. Last year there was a debate about Vidarkliniken’s advice on how to treat measles. In that discussion, part of the focus was on the specific anthroposophical-spiritual reasons for abstaining from vaccination. This was very good, as it meant people are more aware that the anthroposophical motivations differ significantly from other strands of anti-vaccinationism (although these strands are present in anthroposophical circles as well).

This news too has led to harsh feelings and criticism in social media such as Twitter. Sometimes it gets a bit too hostile, in my view; I don’t believe in, e g, forced vaccinations, which I’ve seen the occasional call for. I think that inflicts a greater cruelty than is constituted by the risk it’s supposed to prevent. It’s quite a severe infringement of someone’s autonomy too, and needs to be justified properly — which I don’t think it can be. One must remember that vaccination coverage is very good in Sweden and the epidemic unlikely to spread beyond Järna and that any threat of force or expressions of hostility by the public are only likely to cause resentment rather than compliance. What people don’t always get is that for anthroposophists, i e those who abstain for anthroposophical reasons, it’s not really a question of ignorance about vaccines, stupidity or lack of information. (All these things may be present on occasion, of course. I’ve seen it…) It’s about taking the spiritual consequences utterly seriously.

cultural crankiness (anthroposophical psychiatry conference)

At the Goetheanum, this fall of 2012, there will take place a psychiatry conference for anthroposophical doctors. Here’s a part of the description, taken from the program:

… since the nineteenth century we have been able to observe the rise of forms of illness such as neurotic disorders, personality disorders, eating disorders, traumatic disorders, attention deficit disorders and many others which are connected with the challenges of our time and which Rudolf Steiner described as “cultural disorders”: “That is where all the cultural disorders, the cultural decadence, all the psychological emptiness, hypochondria, eccentricities, dissatisfaction, crankiness and so on come from, also all the aggressive instincts which attack a culture, which reject a culture. Because either one accepts the culture of an age and adapts to it, or one develops the corresponding poison which is deposited and which will only dissolve through acceptance of the culture.”

The ethereal kiosk would be classified as at least half-way insane, no doubt, due to its general decadence and eccentricity. Other than that, we do not recognize anything in the description above that resembles our particular culture. A slight neuroticism may perhaps surface from time to time and some of us are a bit attention deficit (especially mr Dog, attention deficits are part of the terrier condition, in case you didn’t know, but he’s getting older now, we may need anthroposophical trauma treatment for that).

I love reading anthroposophical medical conference programs. I don’t know medicine, you know, but they’re always eminently readable compared to much else in the field. ‘The human soul, a dramatic battleground’, ‘Depression as an existential experience at the abyss of being’ (that’s got to do with transformation in the face of the Great Guardian of the Threshold) — this stuff is at times more ‘literary’ from me than it is medical, I suppose, and that seems more interesting and enjoyable from where I come, being neither a medical doctor nor a proper anthroposophist (although I’ve had my encounters with smaller guardians of small thresholds; they were gnome-like). There’s a lecture on karmic consequences of psychopathology. It’s something I’ve wondered about many times. On page 8 we learn not only about soul exercises but also about a workshop on ‘fairy tale work with acute psychiatric patients’. I’m not dismissing the idea; quite the contrary. I’m only noting its existence. I’m saying, because I think you may think I’m laughing and thinking about gnomes and bats in the belfry (you know, in Swedish we can combine these themes into one, it’s called ‘tomtar på loftet’ in case you ever need the expression), but I’m certainly not. In fact, I suspect fairytales and fiction can be helpful in almost any situation. On p 18: ‘Incarnation of the borderline ego through the psychotherapeutic use of mentalisation.’ That one kept calling for my attention. The one immediately after is about psychotherapy based in the spirit-self, for healing of a fractured soul (from unconscious threshold crossings). All in all, quite interesting reading. I highly recommend this conference brochure.

H/t Michael Eggert, whose post (in german) about it is well worth reading.

university of aberdeen and anthroposophical medicine

In Times Higher Education today, there’s an article about the plans for an alternative medicine chair at Aberdeen University. If coming into existence, this chair would be financed by an anthroposophical clinic, the Raphael Clinic, and German foundation, Software AG Stiftung, whose ties to the anthroposophical movement are strong and which is known for funding anthroposophical projects, such as the Hereford Academy or the Alanus university. Eventually, the chair might grow into an entire centre for alternative/anthroposophical medicine, anthroposophists hope. The Times Higher Education article builds on the investigations by James Gray into this matter.

In a submission to the governance and nominations committee obtained by Mr Gray, Mike Greaves, head of Aberdeen’s College of Life Sciences and Medicine, suggests that the chair might eventually grow into a research centre. The website of the umbrella group the Anthroposophic Health, Education & Social Care Movement says such a centre has been agreed “in principal” (sic) with Aberdeen and would be “key to furthering the anthroposophic healthcare approach worldwide”.

The chair would be the first of its kind outside central Europe. The university also offers an undergraduate degree in “social pedagogy”, which also has its roots in anthroposophy and is taught in collaboration with a local Steiner school.

James Gray has a post about the social pedagogy course, too. (I’ve written about it twice.) In the article, Edzard Ernst points out that there is no evidence for the efficacy of anthroposophical medicine, it’s ‘pure quackery’.

There seems to be some people at the University of Aberdeen who have misgivings about this new chair, suspecting that bad publicity and actions by the anthroposophical movement might harm the university’s credibility. Read more.

XXI: mistletoe

Mistletoe has been tested extensively as a treatment for cancer, but the most reliable randomised controlled trials fail to show benefit, and some reports show considerable potential for harm. The costs of regular mistletoe injections are high. I therefore recommend mistletoe as a Christmas decoration and for kissing under but not as an anticancer drug.At the risk of upsetting many proponents of alternative medicine, I also contend that intuition is no substitute for evidence. (Edzard Ernst.)

That’s Edzard Ernst’s summary on the popular christmas decoration. But it isn’t that of an anthroposophist. Not that there’s anything to be surprised about. Steiner said, and this is still the most important explanation for why anthroposophists still use mistletoe (although the ‘official’ justifications have been manifold):

Mistletoe provides, beyond question, a means which — when given in potencies — should enable us to dispense with the surgical removal of tumours. The point is only to find out how to treat the mistletoe fruit in combining it with other forces of the mistletoe plant, in order to arrive at a remedy. The peculiar “madness” of this plant is shown in its method of fertilisation, which depends on transport by birds from one tree to another. The plant would become extinct were it not for this service of the birds. In a curious way, the fertilising elements of the mistletoe choose the path through the birds, and are excreted on another tree trunk or branch, where they “take root” anew. All these peculiarities illuminate the whole formative process of the mistletoe. The task is to blend the glutinous substance of the mistletoe in the right way with the triturating medium, and so increase gradually the potency of the viscum substance to a very high degree. Having ascertained the main formula, we should vary it, specialising according to the requirements of this or that organ; and also bearing in mind the particular tree on which the mistletoe grew …

Mistletoe, Steiner said, is a plant with an aristocratic attitude. Read more about the properties of mistletoe here, where you’ll learn more about its etheric organisation, and so forth. He also spoke about mistletoe in non-medical contexts. For example this time, when he talked about the Baldur myth.

This myth indicates that that which is invulnerable upon the Earth can only suffer harm through that which has remained behind from another existence as something evil. In the mistletoe people saw something which had entered the present state of existence from an earlier one. All the beings now living upon the earth can only suffer harm through that which has remained behind from an earlier one. All the beings now living upon the Earth are connected with Baldur. But it was otherwise upon the Moon; consequently that being which had remained behind from the Moon was able to kill Baldur. All the various customs connected with the mistletoe arise out of this foundation. [Source.]

And here he also talks about how mistletoe has preserved the conditions of the old Moon. I’d go with Ernst though and say that today the strange parasitic plant is best used for decorative purposes. And mr Dog is carrying a couple of branches of mistletoe with him on the walks. So that the fur-girls cannot resist his kisses.

mistletoe in nature, april 2011

trauma, anthroposophically

We have discussed the anthroposophical trauma interventions earlier on this blog. I wish I had found this document long ago, but, as it happens, I didn’t. It’s the Anthroposophy Worldwide January edition, 2011. On page 3, after a list of very real trauma situations and serious symptoms:

Expressed simply, the members of the human being are loosened. When trauma is viewed anthroposophically, this persistent condition can be compared with an initiation experience, a meeting with the threshold in combination with an existential ego experience — it is just that the experience comes without preparation or consciousness.

[…]

The issue of spiritual-scientific approaches to dealing with trauma also resurfaced in the conversation about the work of the School for Spiritual Science. Here it became clear that those who pursue the anthroposophical path of schooling as therapists will have a basis for understanding the phenomenon of trauma as a threshold experience, and those who were victims will be able handle it without becoming ill.

Then there are questions that lead beyond destiny—e.g., to a relationship with the world of the dead if the abuser is no longer alive as is often the case. Something is always lost through a traumatic experience, and that brings pain. This pain itself draws attention to the need to move forward if life is to continue.

The question of why this experience gets stuck in a person also requires an answer based on knowledge of the human being.

I don’t so much object to the notion that someone sees or explains his or her own trauma this way; I think it might even be, in some cases, a meaningful pursuit. What I do take issue with, however, is that this is an approach in therapy — that supposed professionals manage their treatment of trauma victims according to these beliefs.

And, sure, superficially it does sound ok to see it as a threshold experience. To some extent, perhaps there are similarities, mostly in subjective experience though. One question is about the content of the anthroposophical threshold experience. And of how we know someone has had it, and thus possesses the ‘understanding’, and is fit to handle trauma patients — if indeed it can be said to lead to greater understanding of trauma in the first place. There’s no way to tell what this supposed threshold experiences looks like for individual anthroposophical therapists and no way of knowing how it shapes their understanding. There’s no scientific research, just spiritual speculation.

measles transmission from an anthroposophical community

A new study (‘Measles transmission from an anthroposophical community to the general population …’) on a measles outbreak in Germany and Austria in 2008 has been published in June. I find it rather interesting in the light of recent debates and previous blog posts. From the discussion section:

Our investigation showed, that introduction of measles virus into a pocket of susceptible persons like the students of the anthroposophic school in Salzburg city provoked an outbreak and was followed by further spread to the general population with a vaccination coverage below the WHO recommended level.

They discuss why parents choose to not vaccinate, and seem to believe that increased knowledge about the safety of vaccines would change people’s attitudes. However, as (at least some of) these parents are anthroposophists, information about vaccine safety may not be sufficient to convince them. For non-anthroposophist waldorf parents, it may have an impact, though. It is also mentioned that health care providers should inform parents about the benefits of vaccination. But if parents consult anthroposophical doctors, this may not happen; anthroposophical doctors are not always positively inclined towards childhood vaccination… The study recommends awareness campaigns — but why would that help, if those, who are supposed to be made aware, already hold convictions which are (more or less) incompatible with vaccination? Such as a belief that disease is good and even necessary for spiritual reasons? From the conclusions:

This outbreak investigation shows that once the measles virus has found its way into a low-immunized population like an anthroposophic community, the general population – if having vaccination coverage below the WHO recommended level, such as in Bavaria – is at risk of measles outbreaks.

As an aside, I noted an ironic but trivial thing: ‘The National Reference Centre for Measles, Mumps and Rubella in Berlin (NRC) used the Enzygnost Anti-Measles Virus IgM ELISA (Siemens, Germany) for the detection of anti-measles IgM in serum.’ [My emphasis.]

anthroposophy, disease and vaccination

Waldorf schools are infamous for low rates of vaccinated students and for occasional outbreaks of vaccine preventable diseases. To some extent, waldorf parents’ reluctance to vaccinate their children have certain characteristics in common with other groups of parents who refuse vaccination (supposed risks, wanting to lead a ‘natural’ life, and so forth). However, there’s also an other element guiding the decisions of some waldorf parents, namely anthroposophy. In anthroposophy, disease is seen as a natural and often necessary event in a person’s life and as an opportunity for development and maturation. Illness is not merely a meaningless suffering. Basic to this understanding of disease is the anthroposophical knowledge of the human being, which includes a belief in visible and invisible aspects of man (for example: in addition to the physical body, there are three supersensible ‘bodies’) and the belief in an eternal spirit. This soul-spiritual core of man goes through repeated earth lives. Each life has something to teach, and the individual is supposed to progress to ever higher evolutionary stages. Diseases and other hardships have a role to play in this cosmic scheme of continuous development and progression of individual men as well as of mankind at large.

Childhood diseases and their symptoms, such as fever, are considered as positive events in a child’s life, enabling the child to incarnate in his or her inherited physical body. This physical body is, in some sense, ‘foreign’ to the incarnating child, and through disease, the child is assisted in making this physical shell his or her own, to adapting it to his or her individuality. Childhood diseases actually act as a kind of regulative force; they help the child develop in a balanced way, according to anthroposophical beliefs. This is why childhood diseases usually appear during childhood, this is the time when they are needed. (When these diseases appear in adults, something more serious is amiss.) Also, the fever common in childhood and accompanying most childhood diseases helps counteract premature ‘hardening’ — which is, anthroposophically speaking, a bad thing; it’s associated with Ahriman. Fever is luciferic — that is, an opposing force to anything ahrimanic. Thus, vaccination deprives the child of an opportunity for assistance in the incarnation process and poses a risk concerning premature hardening processes. This is not insignificant, from a spiritual viewpoint. The spiritual risk of vaccination is, supposedly, higher before the first seven-year cycle of the child’s life has ended. These first seven years are characterized by hardening of the organism, which culminate at the change of teeth; the key factor for natural development, anthroposophically speaking, is not that it happens but the pace at which this happens.

Another anthroposophical aspect worth noting in this context is the belief in karma. As already noted, Anthroposophy holds that the spiritual core of the human being is immortal and goes through repeated lives on earth. Before we’re born, we choose which circumstances to incarnate into — with the aim of furthering our spiritual progression. This means, we also choose our diseases because we ‘need’ them, for reasons which may be inconceivable to us during our earthly existence but which appear clearly to us during the time we spend in the spiritual realm after death and before rebirth. Consequently, we can place ourselves in a setting where we will be confronted with a disease we need to live through (or, in some cases, even die from), either because of something — for instance, a personality flaw — from a past life which needs to be rectified or as a preparation for lives to come.

This was written based upon several recent texts in Swedish. A few references for further reading: Continue reading “anthroposophy, disease and vaccination”

illness and karma

Why resistence towards vaccination — from an anthroposophical viewpoint? Vance Dietz, MD, explains at AnthroMedLibrary:

Anthroposophic medicine sees humans as passing through successive earthly lives in­carnated in a physical body, “laying one’s karmic founda­tion in one incarnation for the next.” Illness comes to an individual not by chance but as an opportunity to come to terms with one’s karma from previous incarnations. Ill­ness provides an individual with a message which ulti­mately assists in self-growth and development. The re­sponsibility of a healer is to assist the human being expe­riencing the illness to deal with it karmically. Thus, pre­vention of an illness may be beneficial in the course of one incarnation but may not be for the entire soul life and development of the person. Anthroposophy views that in early childhood years, soul-spiritual forces permeate the organism and have an organizing effect involving growth. […] [T]hese childhood illnesses are viewed by anthroposophic medi­cine as a necessary instrument in dealing with karma and […] the incar­nation of the child. During childhood illnesses, anthroposophic medical practitioners administer medical remedies to assist the child in deal­ing with the illness not only as a dis­ease affecting their physical body in the physical plane, but also for soul ­spiritual development, thereby pro­moting healing. In contrast, allopathic medicaments are aimed at suppression of symptoms and not necessarily the promotion of healing. […] Anthroposophic medicine teaches that to prevent a disease in the physical body only postpones what will then be produced in an­other incarnation.

Serious complications are karmically meant to occur. Another anthroposophical MD writes:

Each child gets ill in his or her own individual way, and each illness a child gets has a meaningful part to play among the challenges belonging to that child’s life.

A third one says that:

Children’s illnesses modify the body and make it more akin to the individuality inhabiting it. There is now greater com­patibility between the outer person (body) and the inner person (soul/spirit). The child becomes more stable, more enclosed. The fire/fever process sweeps away in­herent weaknesses, chronic colds, bed wetting, psychic problems – even, mother can attest to this.

Thus, it’s not that anthroposophical medical practitioners don’t know about the risks of disease, or that they’re consciously evil — they believe that this spiritual stuff is more important than avoiding suffering or death, and, from their viewpoint, they’re doing good and they’re helping the child avoiding more detrimental consequences (in the — very — long run). It shouldn’t be a part of any medical practice, because the aims are obviously spiritual.

There are several other articles on ‘child health’ on the library’s website. I can but recommend them.

Other blog posts about anthroposophic medicine on this blog.

measles

This document [pdf] — published by the German organization for anthroposophical doctors — on measles doesn’t seem so crazy at all. It details the horrible risks of measles. It doesn’t pin untruths on the MMR-vaccine (good!). You’d think the recommendation would be to vaccinate. It isn’t. It ends with an account of the anthroposophical view of measles and fiever (and a note that parents are legally allowed to decide against the vaccine, which is so obvious, I can’t understand why they emphasize it):

Einen weiteren Gesichtspunkt zur Sinnhaftigkeit einer Masernerkrankung gibt die Anthroposophische Medizin. Sie zieht die geistig-seelische Individualität des Kindes als eigenständige, nicht von den Eltern abstammende Realität in Betracht. Diese muss und will den von den Eltern ererbten Leib individualisieren. Im Rahmen akutentzündlicher, hochfieberhafter Erkrankungen kann dies in besonderem Maße gelingen, da es dabei zu einem starken Abbau und eigenständigen Neuaufbau leiblicher Strukturen kommt. Im Fieber, in der selbst gebildeten Wärme, ist aus dieser Sicht die geistig-seelische Individualität des Kindes in gesteigertem Maße leiblich tätig. Durch das Fieber überwindet das Kind nicht nur die Maserninfektion, sondern individualisiert dabei seinen Organismus. So kann die Regulation des Immunsystems dabei ausreifen, die jeder Mensch individuell erlernen und erwerben muss. Mit der Abheilung des Ausschlags, der Bindehautund Atemwegsentzündung bildet das Kind neue, stabilere Leibesgrenzen aus.

Erziehungskunst doesn’t take a stand for vaccination either. It talks about mutual respect. I assume it’s considered respectful to spread dangerous diseases among your neighbours. It’s worth reading this letter, sent in by a waldorf parent (and homeopath); a letter which Erziehungskunst apparently thought worthy of publication:

Ich beantworte die Frage vorab als Vater, Erzieher, Heilpraktiker/Homöopath und denkender, freier Mensch: Impfungen sind medizinisch das gleiche, was Atomkraft in der Energiepolitik darstellt: der Gipfel der Unvernunft.

Vaccination is the height of unreason. No wonder they’re closing schools due to measles epidemics.

hereford academy’s visions

The first — and still the only — publicly funded Steiner school in the UK is the Hereford Steiner Academy. This is from a document entitled Report of the governors for the year ended 31st August 2010. It seems to be a statement of their vision:

To enable children to have a full experience of childhood that can nourish and develop their innate gifts and potentials, so that they may become responsible, free individuals who think clearly, observe perceptively and act considerately and constructively for the good of the world.
The ethos and educational activity in the Academy is informed by a developing body of work initiated by the scientist, philosopher and educator Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925). Essentially, the education is based on an understanding that each child develops through a sequence of physical, emotional and cognitive stages through an integrated approach to teaching and learning which emphasises the dual aspects of care and learning. Hence the curriculum content & materials and teaching methods relate to the age and developmental needs of the pupils. The teacher is guided by observing and understanding the nature of the growing child and accordingly responds to each child’s potential, emergent capacities and developing qualities with a belief that this education provides nourishment for the body, the soul and the spirit.

I can’t help but think they need to really explain a few words and concepts better, because this text paints an innocuous and deceptive picture. It’s filled with half-truths. Sure, if you know the Steiner texts and previous anthroposophical publications, you know a little about what they’re talking about. Lots of people don’t, however, and may make the wrong decision based upon reading this text and similar (they are by no means unusual). The Academy’s representatives need do be explicit about what they mean by ‘full experience of childhood’, child development and its stages (as envisioned by anthroposophy), ‘innate gifts and potentials’, ‘free individuals’, what’s ‘good’ for the world, what ‘relates to the age and developmental needs’, the teacher’s ‘observing and understanding’, what the ‘nature’ of the child is, ‘child’s potential, emergent capacities and developing qualities’, and, last but not least, ‘the body, the soul and the spirit’. The vision statement is totally inadequate — either you explain what you mean, or you can just as well leave it to everybody’s imagination. This wouldn’t be such a big thing, were it not for the fact that this text has to be interpreted in the light of anthroposophy, and everybody who supports the Steiner Academy ought to know exactly what this means. My hunch is that it isn’t unusual that they don’t. And the school, like most waldorf schools, is perfectly prepared not to be explicit about its foundation and its beliefs. Instead it serves us the usual fluff words that could be taken to mean just about anything — until you know the background of these words and concepts and can decipher them. Instead of talking broadly about child development and the nature of the child, they need to be explicit that their beliefs don’t coincide with mainstream beliefs about development and nature.

In this document, a new book is mentioned; it is about Steiner education and will be published in April by Routledge. See description here. Already in the title, we’re faced with a somewhat insidious assumption: that Steiner schools are ‘meeting the child’. It’s written by people involved in Steiner education, so I guess what is to be expected from it. Another assumption is that other school types can learn from waldorf; interestingly, waldorf educators rarely seem to think they may learn anything from others or from mainstream education. It’s usually more like this: they’re here to save the world and rescue childhood from these dreadful materialistic practices. Other schools should reform and become more like waldorf, while they never need to do anything differently at all. It makes me wonder: what about all those children for whom waldorf is a really bad fit? Why don’t waldorf ever talk about these children before failure is a fact? Then, and only then, does it suit waldorf to say: ‘Oh, but waldorf is not for everyone…’ What about the children waldorf schools can’t meet but who are still stuck in these schools?

Mary Jane Drummond and Sally Jenkinson are two of the authors who contribute. Here’s an earlier post on one of their projects. (Book cover image from Routledge.)

To return to the Hereford report:

The Academy works with the school doctor in order to gain advice and support for all the children who are moving from kindergarten into class 1.

An (anthroposophical, I assume) doctor is called upon to give advice about children who are to begin first grade. Why? Do medical doctors possess special pedagogical knowledge about school readiness?

Speaking of school doctors, parents who wish to enroll their children at the Hereford Academy have to sign an agreement. It’s called a ‘home-school agreement’ and can be downloaded from the school website. Assuming that the school doctor is an anthroposophical doctor, this should scare the hell out of any parent, because he or she would have to agree to:

Enabling my child to see the School Doctor at the Academy’s request and taking my child to any therapy sessions or special needs assessment required by the Academy. I understand this is necessary to support my child accessing the education and the teachers’ ability to meet his/her needs.

Not only will an anthroposophical doctor assess the child’s readiness to begin school (using anthroposophical knowledge to do so), he will also prescribe anthroposophical therapies. This means, e g, curative eurythmy and similar therapies with no real-world effects at all. Luckily, if the therapies are pure fantasy, so are most of the diagnoses made. (The school doctor in my school thought I would die soon. Presumably because my reincarnating spirit was gangrenous.) Another document (entitled Homeopathy Policy) from Hereford makes clear that homeopathy is used to ‘treat’ children.

Also among the things parents are required to agree to is this:

Protecting my/our child from unsuitable and unwarranted access to some of the concerns and worries of the adult world and from unmonitored exposure and un-mediated access to media such as television and DVD, computer games, internet chat-rooms and so on. Medical research shows that screen-based activity such as TV, videos, films and computer games can have a negative effect on children (brain activity, concentration, heart-beat, emotional balance and well-being). The younger the child, the greater the effect. For the well-being of your child and their ability to access the education and programme of teaching and learning, please allow no regular screen-based activity/watching for under 8s, no more than 3 hours a week for 9 to 14s and moderate and selective use for young people aged 15 and over. Please try to make sure TVs and computers are not kept in your child’s room so that his/her bedroom is free to be a place of rest and comfort. (Further reading ‘Remote Controlled’ by Dr Aric Sigman & ‘Toxic Childhood’ by Sue Palmer, amongst others)

I wonder if it is ok for a publicly funded school to interfere in this manner with a student’s home life? And is it really morally acceptable for an educational institution to spread unfounded and misleading junk? Clearly, the intention is to scare parents who don’t know better. Equally obvious is that what science says isn’t what informs waldorf school policies. They only refer to science when they think it reinforces their beliefs. And they will never acknowledge science which contradicts their beliefs. Thus they back up their convictions with stuff like Toxic Childhood. Besides — why can’t a TV in the bedroom offer comfort? (I don’t think it would be a bad idea at all for children who, like I was, are insomniacs.)

‘based on many mystical ideas’

Sciencebased Medicine takes on anthroposophic medicine which is scandalously taught at the University of Michigan.

Personally, I think that Robert Carroll gets it right when he characterizes anthroposophic medicine as being “even more out of touch with modern, science-based medicine than homeopathy.” Think about it. Homeopathy is based on just two magical ideas: The Law of Similars and the Law of Infinitesimals, which together can be viewed as an expression of the ancient principles of sympathetic magic. In marked contrast, anthroposophic medicine is based on many mystical ideas. Indeed, anthroposophic medicine resembles more than anything (to me, at least) naturopathy in that there doesn’t appear to be a form of unscientific, prescientific, vitalism-based woo that it doesn’t embrace. In fact, anthroposophic medicine appears to go far beyond naturopathy in that respect. It also brings into play a veritable cornucopia of magical and mystical concepts, such as the etheric body, the astral body, and the ego, postulating that the soul, the senses, and the consciousness are beings that have an independent existence outside of the body, further asserting that herbs, essential oils, and movement therapy known as eurythmy can bring these things into harmony and balance with each other and the physical body. … [A]nthroposophic medicine openly denigrates science-based medicine for only being able to diagnose and treat disease according to its understanding of the laws of physics and chemistry, to which I respond: What else would a physician base his or her understanding of disease upon?

I recommend reading the entire post!

It mentions the resistence to vaccination, the use of mistletoe, and other relevant topics. I’ve written about anthroposophic medicine before.