french anthroposophists determined to proceed with their legal folly

The Steiner Waldorf School Federation in France is not backing down from its legal claims against Grégoire Perra, a former waldorf student, anthroposophist and Steiner school teacher. They are pursuing the proper course of action… proper, for a cult: they’re suing to protect themselves from a reputation as a cult. One could have hoped that, in order to spare themselves embarrassment, they would have realized that this is a genuinely bad idea, and that they would have backed off voluntarily, once they had given it some more thought. Even if they win, they lose. The desire to deprive people of their right to speak their minds — about their beliefs, their experiences or whatever they wish to — is unfortunately characteristic for a cultish mindset, and it is clear that anthroposophy in France is exactly the cult it claims not to be.

How the anthroposophical movement has come to believe they have something to gain from this, is beyond me. The actions of the French Steiner Waldorf Federation reflects badly on the entire movement. Other parts of the movement remain silent, and although this is hardly surprising, it is regrettable. It is unfortunate that the freedom this movement claims to espouse only applies to themselves, and rarely to detractors. It seems to me that even if there are people who agree that this behaviour — taking people to court instead of accepting free speech and engaging in debate — is wrong, they are too few, do not care enough or are not daring enough to protest.

One thing that could wake up the French Federation is that other anthroposophical organisations and individual anthroposophists object to their dragging the movement into the gutter. The might be the only thing — with one exception: huge amounts of bad press. In other words: public shaming. Hopefully, when the trial gets going, the French press will come to consciousness and sniff out the rotten anthroposophical carcass — and begin to unveil this movement. They might — if they do what they should, and I hope they will — not stop at the lawsuit and they may not be as balanced and knowledgeable in their criticism as Grégoire Perra is. They may cause a lot more PR damage than he could possibly do. I guess the French anthroposophical movement is too dumb — and too blind to the rest of the world — to realize this.

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Grégoire Perra has written a new blog post. In it he reveals the name of the lawyer chosen by the French Waldorf Federation to represent them in this court case; this is, apparently, a lawyer with a previous reputation for representing large corporations wanting to quash criticism. As Grégoire notes, it is remarkable that the Waldorf Federation has the financial means to proceed with this — as it must be excessively expensive (unless, I suspect, the lawyer is himself an anthroposophist). What is even more telling — regarding the movements moral standing — is that they are prepared to spend so much time and resources to silence criticism, to stop someone from talking about his experiences. I agree with Grégoire’s interpretation that it might be a symbolic move for them — that they are not only trying to eliminate him and the danger they must be perceiving he poses to them, but they’re attempting to dissuade anyone from ever again doing what he did. I don’t have to point out the inherent dangers: when future wrongs take place, which they inevitably will, there’s a risk nobody will be prepared to come forward, nobody will call attention to these things and nobody will dare to report anything either to authorities or the media. The waldorf movement wants a bubble of silence and secrecy around themselves, and are trying to create it by force.

Hopefully the mask falls off, and they reveal themselves for who they are. They have already revealed that they are thugs who, in their supreme intolerance, want to stop others from voicing their opinions, expressing their concerns and speaking about their experiences. It is my conviction, though, that once the mask falls, a lot more than that will be revealed. And it won’t necessarily be pretty or fun. The lawsuit brought by the Waldorf Federation ought to prompt French media to launch thorough investigations into the anthroposophical movement. Any organisation that tries to suppress criticism and free speech deserves attention — and scrutiny. To quote Grégoire:

Quoiqu’il advienne, tout ceci permet d’ores et déjà de faire en sorte que les masques tombent. Par le choix qu’elle a fait, par les sommes qu’elle investit et la rage que cette entreprise manifeste, par les personnes qu’elle choisit pour la représenter publiquement, la Fédération des Écoles Steiner-Waldorf aujourd’hui se dévoile, qu’elle le veuille ou non. C’est pourquoi les anthroposophes devraient tout bonnement avoir honte d’eux-mêmes et de ce que certains dirigeants font en leur nom. Que ce dévoilement puisse devenir un signe, un appel à la lucidité, pour tous ceux à qui le courage manque encore de sortir de l’entre-deux, qui savent des choses mais préfèrent les oublier ou ne pas les dire, qui ont peur des conséquences d’une prise de parole libre, ou qui préfèrent se réfugier dans le confortable compromis consistant à ne pas y regarder de trop près dès lors qu’il s’agit de porter un jugement sur ces écoles et cette « pédagogie » !

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The text that caused the Steiner federation to sue Grégoire Perra can be found here. (Link to pdf-file at the end.) Here is a translation into english.

I have previously blogged about the case, e g, here.

translations of grégoire perra’s article

Most people who read this blog are already aware that both Pete and Roger have posted translations of Grégoire Perra‘s article. I wrote about it last weekend, and I think I’ve already said the important things that need to be said. This is basically only intended as information about the available translations by Roger and Pete. Roger’s is still a work in progress. I regret not having read through these translations before posting this, but I figure that information about their existence is more important than me reading them.

I also wish, some time in the future, to discuss what Grégoire has to say in his essay (something which will be much easier now that there are English translations of it). There was an interesting discussion on Facebook after I posted the link to my previous post. I happen to think there were several strands of thought worth pursuing again, not only in that discussion but in the article itself. (I discussed a few things in a response to one of Grégoire’s blog posts earlier, although I feel my random reflections then were quite inadequately developed.)

However, at this point, the one thing that really matters is this: expressing one’s thoughts and experiences, the way Grégoire has done, should not end you up in court. No matter how frustrated, hurt, insulted, defamed, et cetera, the anthroposophists, with their sensitive toes, feel — there’s no way taking legal action is the right path to tread. Even if Grégoire was entirely wrong about everything — which is not the case — would this be the correct manner of dealing with it. I have already argued this emphatically, and I can only reiterate: anthroposophists can’t win this fight about their reputation in a trial. Even if they won, they would have proven what they set about to disprove, namely that they’re a cult to beware of. Which seems pretty stupid, quite frankly.

french anthroposophists practicing the (perhaps not so) michaelic art of slaying dissenters

Grégoire Perra is no longer an anthroposophist. He used to be one, however, and spent many years within the anthroposophical movement, first as a Steiner school student from the age of nine and later becoming a committed anthroposophist and a Steiner teacher himself. But he chose to quit, and he wrote an article about his experiences in the world of Steiner education and anthroposophy. In a blog post, he eloquently describes the reasons compelling him to do this. I’m sure I can’t do his case justice in a short blog post, but if I can I want to try to call attention to what is going on.

His writing was not tolerated by people in the anthroposophical movement in France. They could not accept that a person should have the freedom to express himself, to tell others what he thought was true and to recount his experiences in his own words. These words, they thought, defamed the anthroposophical movement. So one anthroposophical organisation — the Federation of Steiner Waldorf Schools in France — decided to take legal action against Grégoire Perra and the organisation (UNADFI) which had published the article.* A letter in which they make the initial threats to take action is available here and Grégoire confirms that he is awaiting trial.

It is still not too late, of course, for the Steiner Federation to back off from what appears to be a rather ill-conceived and counter-productive mission. They have embarked on a journey that is intellectually barren and ethically compromised, and I for one am not at all sure why they would want to go where they seem to be heading. They are  not, by any means, a Michael bravely slaying the dragon.

If there’s one phenomenon I’m strongly averse to, it’s when people use the law as though it were a tool for clowns who can’t abide seeing their ways and ideas challenged openly. My intolerance for such shenanigans is the main reason I care about this. I intend to inform myself better of Grégoire Perra’s case, but from what I’ve seen and read so far, it appears to me that the anthroposophical movement in France, and in particular the Steiner Federation, would be well advised to act less foolishly.

What seems to have happened is this: the anthroposophical movement has come up with the idea that in order to protect themselves from the unfortunate reputation of being a cult, they would happily (and in a magnificently paradoxical way) behave as a cult would behave. A cult, which will not tolerate dissent. Cults often don’t. Anthroposophy, unfortunately, sometimes (this is not the first time) seems all too willing to join other cults in this untoward habit. Again, I can’t comprehend why; it is not criticism or dissent — even if it were unfair — that will suffocate anthroposophy, it is lack of breathing space that will. The enemy is within the movement itself. It is its own mentality — or perhaps, to speak Anthroposophese, the aberrations, nay, the pathologies of its group soul.

Naturally, this development ought to concern not only critics of anthroposophy but also — and perhaps even more — other anthroposophists.

I can certainly understand if anthroposophists and adherents of waldorf education don’t feel flattered by Grégoire Perra’s criticism and that they fear that a dissident who thinks what he thinks and writes what he writes poses a serious threat to the movement. It is understandable, even predictable, that people who are still anthroposophists don’t share Grégoire’s perspective. It is not difficult to comprehend that they feel the need to defend themselves, even against arguments which are likely to be more true than they would be able to admit. But will they be able to rescue their reputation in a courtroom? Of course not. They have lost such a battle before they have even begun fighting it.

You see, it doesn’t even matter much if they are right or wrong, they have lost already, because they have, by their very own actions, proven themselves to be a cult worthy of being called a cult. Simply by initiating a procedure of this kind — instead of arguing openly and fairly for their cause — they lose. They lose the moment they attempt to suppress another individual’s right to freely express himself. They lose, because merely by doing this, they show us their real intentions, their true mindset. They display disrespect for other perspectives on and experiences of their movement. They show their disdain for the right and freedom of other people to form their own views, make their own interpretations and to voice them. They prove they can’t tolerate criticism very well or at all. Cults usually can’t.

There is no point insisting anthroposophy is not a cult, if it acts as a cult (even Steiner had a glimpse of an understanding of this basic fact). And the movement has to show it is not a cult out there in the real world, not in a courtroom. It has to do so by anthroposophists meeting dissent with fair arguments and by presenting their side, their views and ideas, not with threats or trivial legal action.

So far everything suggests to me that the Federation of Steiner Schools in France deserves a fair bit of negative attention. Thus, let’s help give the French anthroposophical movement the reputation they vainly — and desperately, perhaps — tried to avoid by taking Grégoire Perra to court: that of a menacing cult. Because the moment they showed they can’t tolerate the existence of dissenting views or criticism, that is exactly what they are.

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* UNADFI (Union Nationale des Associations de Défense des Familles et de l’Indivu Victimes de Sectes) is an organisation which ‘gathers and coordinates the Associations de défense des familles et de l’individu (ADFI), whose purpose is to acquire information on the cult phenomenon, with prevention and assistance for its victims’, according to Wikipedia. Read more in French here. You’ll find Grégoire Perra’s blog here, and the website of the French Steiner Federation is here.

celebrity swamp

I’m sorry, but this is simply bullshit. Pathetic bullshit.

…Waldorfschüler [sind] glücklicher an ihren Schulen als Schüler staatlicher Schulen. Sie haben seltener Angst vor dem Unterricht, den sie in der Regel interessanter finden als die Zöglinge der herkömmlichen Einrichtungen. Das ist kaum verwunderlich bei einem Unterricht, der keine Noten kennt, kein Sitzenbleiben, dafür viel Zeit für Kunst, Musik, Theater und Arbeit auf dem Bauernhof. Wer meint, die jungen Menschen, die nach zwölf Jahren Kuschel-Schule ins echte Leben entlassen werden, seien zum Scheitern verurteilt, der irrt. Der sollte sich die Liste der erfolgreichen Waldorfschüler ansehen, die von Hollywood-Stars wie Sandra Bullock und Jennifer Aniston bis zu Wirtschaftsgrößen wie dem Manager Wolfgang Porsche oder dem ehemaligen Präsidenten des Bundesverbands der Deutschen Industrie, Michael Rogowski, reicht.

Die Waldorfschulen vermitteln eben mit ihrer ganz eigenen Methodik nicht nur den üblichen Lehrstoff, sondern auch im verstärkten Maße die im Arbeitsleben gefragten Softskills, zu denen vor allem eine starke freie Persönlichkeit gehört. Das ist das Besondere an der Anthroposophie: diese Besinnung auf das Ich, diese Anregungen, nach dem Sinn zu fragen, selbstbewusst zu sein, aber auch sozial, demütig und dankbar für das Leben, das nach Steiners Ansicht für jeden eine Aufgabe vorsieht. Das sind unschätzbare Lebenshilfen.

And it isn’t just bullshit; as always, the references to celebrities are nauseating. The celebrities, however insignificant, are important; ordinary people are not important. Now, that’s one way to show your deep insights about the nature of the human being, waldorf proponents! In other words, your insights are shallow as a documentary soap opera. And nobody ever wonders about all the celebrities who didn’t attend waldorf school and ended up with Hollywood careers all the same… Because, honestly, why would it matter? Just as it doesn’t matter one bit that Jennifer Aniston went to waldorf school.

No, there’s no development of free personality in waldorf; not for those of us who don’t fit in with the dogma. And the unhappy waldorf students tend to leave. Sooner or later. But they leave. You can’t leave state school, at least if there are no decent alternatives.

The only truly redeeming aspect of this dreary piece of promotional junk is that some of Steiner’s less appealing sides are at least mentioned, as are a few issues with waldorf education, for example, the uniformity and the lack of change. I don’t object to some of the things said about Rudolf Steiner either. But in light of the article as a whole, the few positive or neutral aspects sadly fade away.

Ironically, this is how the article ends:

Die Welt dreht sich weiter. Und die beste Reformbewegung ist keine, wenn sie nicht bereit ist, sich ständig wieder infrage zu stellen.

I wonder what makes the author think this particular movement is prepared to critically and seriously question itself and its ways? Maybe to some extent, but surely far from enough has been done or is likely to be done in the near future. Eventually it may be forced to — but is it going to take on that path willingly? The answer seems less than obvious to me.

when a supersensible movie just isn’t enough

Some Steiner folks have suddenly become interested in reality, and ask: ‘Can you help this film become reality?’

If you’re going to make a movie about someone, at least you could try to tell us something interesting. This just isn’t. It’s boring, and Rudolf Steiner deserves better. It’s actually true, he does.

Who was this man whom many see as the greatest holistic pioneer of modern times?

This is why people laugh at anthroposophists. It’s not really Steiner’s fault. He’s either hailed as the greatest man ever or he’s not to be mentioned at all because his name is bad for PR reasons. Depending on circumstances, no doubt. I’m sure the people behind this film have thought that if they show everybody what a fantastic, super-human human being Steiner was, then people will stop thinking anthroposophists are in some kind of bizarre religious cult. But anthroposophists who admire Steiner unexceptionally, who write promo texts like this, only manage to do one thing: prove to us the cultishness is a fact. Hint: giving people the impression you’re brainwashed knuckleheads may not really be a good idea, unless you wish to appear like brainwashed knuckleheads. Another hint: making an utterly boring, hagiographic movie won’t bring a ‘potential for the generation of revenue’, I’m sorry to say. You cannot expect people — with the exception of anthroposophists and a few clueless waldorf parents — to pay for a promotional movie. It’s meant to sell a product — or a cult — and that’s neither appealing, nor interesting.

Also, in regard to the about-section, the filmmakers are right that people know too little about the person and the ideas behind biodynamic products, waldorf education, and so forth. Again, this seems to be a conscious tactic to some degree: talking about Steiner or anthroposophy is thought to be bad for business. Paradoxically, anthroposophists want to have it both ways. Depending on the context and the circumstances.

There will also be a sequence filmed during an international conference at the Goetheanum in Dornach. Such a gathering will illustrate how more and more people from all over the world are seeking to nurture and to deepen the insights that this Austrian scholar and visionary gave into every area of modern life, and above all into the nature of the evolving human being.

If nothing else, it will show that even anthroposophists can find Dornach on a map of Switzerland. I never suspected it…

The director — if the movie becomes reality — will be Jonathan Stedall, a documentary filmmaker (for, e g, the BBC) and author (published by anthroposophic Hawthorn Press). The producation company is Cupola Productions Limited and its adress is listed as that of the Ruskin Mill trust — an anthroposophical trust fund.

dear incarcerated individuals!

This makes me laugh. It’s not the first time I read about the Anthroposophical Prison Outreach project, but it still makes me laugh. I don’t really know why, they may be doing some good for all I know, but the thought of it is quite comical. For some reason, I got the project’s very first newsletter, from 2003, in my google reader today [pdf]. But, as funny as it is thinking about eurythmists taking on the rehabilitation of hardened murderers and unrelenting drug dealers, this newsletter contains some quite interesting material. On p 3-4, there’s an article by Mark Robertson, an anthroposophist prisoner himself, who writes about prisoners and art: Continue reading “dear incarcerated individuals!”

anthropo-who?

At this very moment, the Goetheanum is preparing to host a week-long conference with programs in English. The events have already begun, though, on July 29, with the first of Rudolf Steiner’s mystery dramas, of which one will be performed each day over four consecutive days. The plays begin at around 2 pm and last well into the evening. (I assume there must be a break somewhere in the midst.) The conference begins on Monday, August 2 — its title being ‘Entering the 21st Century Spiritually’ — and ends next Saturday, August 7. ‘Anthropo-who?’ is supposedly the program for a ‘humorous evening’ which takes place on Thursday night.

Apart from the usual routine surrounding the rescuing childhood (this time the rescue operation is discussed by a theme group led by Joan Almon, a waldorf education guru), one work-shop group tackles ‘Death as a Spiritual Challenge’. I bet it is. (This group can perhaps be complemented with the one dealing with ‘Beyond Survival Spiritually’?) Another group takes on a lesser challenge than death, namely how to support ‘the Karma of Illness with Anthroposophic Medicine’. Paul MacKay, of the executive council, goes on a hunt for the ‘Universal Human’.  Another executive council member, Virginia Sease, ponders ‘Rudolf Steiner’s Relevance Today: Biographical Highlights of an Initiate’. A professional comedian leads a group called ‘You Are Funnier Than You Look’, which may or may not be true in regard to eurythmists.

The lectures are also impressive. Pediatrician Michaela Glöckler speaks about ‘The Confrontation with Forces of Destruction’ (one wonders where a pediatrician finds these forces) and executive council boss Prokofieff speaks about really important stuff: ‘The Experiences of the Threshold and the Spiritual Tasks of our Time’. The cosmic effects of meditation are dealt with one morning; fortunately the lecture lasts only one hour, as otherwise the potentially dire effects on the cosmos are too difficult to predict. In short:

This International English Conference will address the times in which we live.

(The program should still be available somewhere on the Goetheanum’s website.)

mystic shadows

German magazine Der Spiegel has an amazing archive of old articles. Here’s one example, ‘Der Weltenplan vollzieht sich unerbittlich’, written by Peter Brügge in 1984. An interesting claim which figures in the article is that for every ‘true’ anthroposophist (that is, member of the Anthroposophical Society) there are 50 ‘sympathizers’; people who, for one reason or other, support and like anthroposophy without ever having inquired or cared about its content sufficiently to be inspired to read Steiner’s works.

Waiting lists for enrollment in anthroposophic waldorf schools are almost endlessly long. But of all the celebrities and powerful people who chose waldorf schools — some of them, like Ulrike Meinhof, rarely mentioned on the celebrity lists maintained by the waldorf school movement — most of them probably never knew much about anthroposophy, concludes Brügge. Some things were exactly the same 25 or more years ago, no doubt. You wonder, though, why they are still not spoken about. You still never get this kind of information directly from the waldorf schools themselves, neither does the Swedish press ever mention it (the press ought to reconsider its position of ignorance):

Es wäre ein Trugschluß, anzunehmen, daß sich dieser Personenkreis ausreichende Kenntnis über das okkult-phosphoreszierende Werk Rudolf Steiners verschafft hat. Über Karma, das unauslöschliche Schicksalskonto des Menschen, von dessen Vorhandensein Steiners Denken und Pädagogik ebenso absolut ausgehen wie von der Annahme der Wiedergeburt, haben die Freiheitsgaranten und Geldbeschaffer dieser Anthroposophen-Gründung sich nicht unterrichten müssen.

Anthroposophists are no missionaries. Of course, this would still be the reply today, should anybody bother to ask about reincarnation:

Sie versichern ja auch, die Waldorfschule, obschon in Wahrheit eine Schule für Wiedergeborene, sei dessen unerachtet keine Einrichtung zur Aufzucht kommender Anthroposophen.

Der Spiegel asks the still so relevant question: how come so many people accept anthroposophy to influence, e g, the education, without asking what it is and what it means? What its aims are? Don’t people want to know about the anthroposophical underpinnings?

Wo alle allenthalben Stoffliches und weiter nichts erkennen, suchen Anthroposophen auf okkultem und spirituellem Wege dem ihrer Überzeugung nach in und hinter aller Materie letztlich wirkenden Geist auf die Spur zu kommen. Für eine seit den Tagen der Alchimisten und christlichen Mystiker zunehmend unwillkommene kosmische Gesamtschau möchten sie der vom Wissenschaftsglauben beherrschten Epoche das innere Auge öffnen.

But, well yes, an it all gets complicated when Luzifer and Ahriman get into the picture. With all of anthroposophy’s idealism, its reverence for nature, its striving to protect the environment (and humanity, from the advances of ahrimanic technology), what’s to make of guys like Peter von Siemens?

Was für einen Vers sollte wohl ein Uneingeweihter sich darauf machen, wenn etwa der Anthroposoph Peter von Siemens, Atomkraft-Exporteur, Vorsitzender der Weltenergiekonferenz, auf einmal anfängt, sich der Kultsprache seiner Überzeugung zu bedienen?

Cosmic plans? Epochs? The astralisation of the earth? Ahriman as the force of influence over matter? Ahriman in magnetism, in technology and in nuclear power? It’s in there. Read the article. Peter von Siemens read Steiner. He meditated over Steiner’s words.

Kernkraftnutzung, darauf läuft die Siemenssche Elektro-Mystik hinaus, sei durchaus im Sinne Rudolf Steiners, damit “die Erde stufenweise in neue Daseinsformen überführt werde”.

Steiner is described in this manner by Brügge:

So, zwischen hermetischem Geheimwissen und empirischer Naturforschung, zwischen Hellsicht und Hegel, Geometrie und Goethe pendelte der werdende Weisheitslehrer und Vielschreiber, der “lunatische Steiner”, wie ihn der Marxist Ernst Bloch verachtend nannte, sich ein: auf seine beispiellose Laufbahn des geistigen Grenzgängers zwischen Materialismus und Okkultismus.

How could this man attract so many seemingly rational people, he asks.

Womöglich liegt gerade darin die Faszination Steiners für eine zunehmende Zahl sinnsuchender Verstandesmenschen. Ich habe höchst qualifizierte Anhänger der Anthroposophie im Göttinger Max-Planck-Institut für Strömungsforschung ebenso gefunden wie in Münchens Amt für öffentliche Ordnung.

Heinz Dietrich Stark, der bislang experimentiermutigste Leiter des Strafvollzugs in Hamburg-Fuhlsbüttel, handelte als Anthroposoph, indem er Straftätern Urlaub auf Ehrenwort bewilligte. Professor Ernst Schuberth, der in Bielefeld Mathematik lehrt, erklärt regelmäßig in überfüllten Sälen Seelenwanderung mit den Methoden seiner Wissenschaft.

Mediation and initiation; no evidence, no openness:

In der Regel ist diese Erscheinung [through meditation] leider eine Selbsttäuschung.

Aus solchem Stoff besteht das Instrumentarium des Erkennens, mit dem Anthroposophie sich anheischig macht, die überprüfbare Methodik der materialistischen Wissenschaft jenseits des sinnlich Wahrnehmbaren zu ergänzen. Die auf diesem eigenen Wege erreichbaren Forschungsergebnisse, heißt es, seien “auf ihre Art so exakt wie die Ergebnisse der wahren Naturwissenschaft”.

Wörtlich so steht es in den noch von Steiner mitgestalteten Grundsätzen der “Allgemeinen Anthroposophischen Gesellschaft”. Von Beweisen ist nicht die Rede. Was wahr ist und was nicht, darüber zu befinden erlaubt die, wie sie sich nennt, “durchaus öffentliche Gesellschaft” allein noch ihren in “stufenweiser” Schulung im Goetheanum aufwärts entwickelten Eingeweihten.

Weiter oben also ist die Gesellschaft geschlossen, und von mancher ihr erwünschten Wirksamkeit schließt sie sich damit selber aus. Geistiger Hochnebel zieht durch die kanonisierte Sprache dieser Goethe mitunter arg auswalzenden, ja manchmal sogar für kritische Anthroposophen nervgoethenden Denker. In ihrem Deutsch “kraften schaffende Wirklichkeiten”, vom “schöpferischen Weltengrund” werden “Gedanken abgezogen”, und der “Gottesgrund” ist “jeder Ichheit eingeborenes Eigentum”.

Eine ohnehin esoterische Lehre bedient sich der Sprache oft ganz ohne Not wie einer Jalousie, mit der sie sich hermetisch abschirmt. Dabei hat der Gründer einst vorgelebt, wie einer mit so hohem geistigem Anspruch sich der übrigen Gesellschaft Schicht um Schicht erklären kann.

Last but not least (the article is very long, but do read it all, it’s worth it, there were lots of things I wanted to quote but didn’t):

Es zeichnet den subtilen Steiner-Leser aus, sich in Gesprächen dieser Richtung tüchtig Selbstironie abzuverlangen: verstandesklar und dennoch unverbesserlich okkult. “Denken Sie nur”, gestand mir einer belustigt beim Anblick meines Tonbandgerätes, “so ein ahrimanisches Zeug habe ich jetzt selbst gekauft.”

Einige nennen ihren Steiner “Rudi” und führen einen gleich von der Flurgarderobe weg vor die TV-Ecke, das Ausmaß ihrer Liberalität anzudeuten. Ja, sie unterbrechen sogar für einen Schluck die von Rudolf Steiner, des puren Denkens wegen, vorgelebte Alkoholabstinenz. Mühelos kann selbst dies ja mit einem Hinweis auf den vorübergehend unheimlich trinkenden Meister begründet werden. Ein Bewunderer aus der Arbeiterbildungsschule rühmt sich, ihn sogar im Besitz einer als Steiner verkleideten Schnapsflasche gesehen zu haben. Und bei einer Befragung hat er während seiner Boheme-Zeit jedenfalls noch völlig unmißverständlich “Frankfurter Würste und Cognac” für seine “Lieblingsnahrung” ausgegeben.

Luckily, his favourite food and drinks, Frankfurter Würste (sausages!) and Cognac, are served in the ethereal kiosk. (In addition to the ice-cream and champagne.)

the dangers of living in a cocoon

a poster on the critics list made an attempt to discuss how things go bad in anthroposophical and waldorf enterprises, that is, where do things begin to go wrong? Is the problem limited to individuals who fail — the problem then having nothing to do with anthroposophy  — or perhaps a consequence of inherent characteristics of the movement as such and of its beliefs, I asked; and wrote

… it’s the humans involved in it who make it this way… . The question is — has there ever been anthroposophy (i e, a community of people who adhere to anthroposophical beliefs more or less strongly — and more or less knowingly) or waldorf without these exact problems arising? Is it even possible? Perhaps it isn’t due to anthroposophy in itself, but isn’t it nonetheless an inevitable consequence of what anthroposophy “offers” people combined with the needs of those people who seek it out to participate in it?

A viable question, it seems to me; not that I expect any kind of answer (I think some of us, who are somewhat critical of anthroposophy, have an inkling what the answer might be, but anthroposophists in general are unlikely to even acknowledge the legitimacy of the matter, perhaps justifiably so, perhaps not). Can there be anthroposophy without social and emotional dysfunction? Is it, in some ways, a set-up for failure? Are the malign consequences inevitable? Does it have to do with whom anthroposophy attracts and the reasons why certain people are drawn to it? Continue reading “the dangers of living in a cocoon”

where’s that group soul when you need it?

Dear Swedish Anthroposophical Society,

on so many occasions, individual members of your noble and dignified community have offered me their expert opinions on my mental defects and illnesses, and graciously suggested what treatment options I ought to pursue. (Yeah, I erased most of it, ’cause let’s face it, this world isn’t ready for spiritual truths of such dignity!) It just dawned on me that I ought to do something in return for this much needed health care advice, so selflessly provided to me by your faithful followers.

I perceive you have some issues — they maybe not pathological in nature, but slightly neurotic, if you get my drift — with your blessed group soul. The group soul can clearly have mental health issues, i e soul disturbances. Running the risk of offending you, by indirectly claiming that not everybody knows what a group soul is, I’ll explain it, an explanation you may certainly skip; Steiner wrote “Besides the separate individuals, a very real family and national group soul and racial spirit is at work in the life of a family, a people, or a race. Indeed, in a certain sense the separate individuals are merely the executive organs of these family group souls, racial spirits, and so on.” [Steiner, Knowledge of Higher Worlds, chapter X.] Antroposophia is a being in her own right: “Anthroposophia is someone who must be understood as an invisible person, as someone with a real existence, who should be consulted in the individual actions of our lives.” [Steiner, The Anthroposophic Movement.] So, now we can move on.

Well, one can clearly see how this arrangement could turn out as an intricate psychological affair. Naturally, through what I’ve learnt from current Waldorf school presentations available on internet, the collective soul life is sufficient for a child below the age of 9 or so. A small child needs to identify herself only with the group she belongs to, and not with an individual self in form of an independent entity in her own right. However, the Anthroposophical community is quite obviously not a Kindergarten class. Perhaps the treatment of individual souls — contained as they are within a big loving biodynamic soul — in an infantile manner is causing an unhealthy regression of these souls, a retreat into perpetual childhood? This particular soul predicament seems to be strikingly present in some of your less influential members who  roam around the internet screaming like babies in front of the candy shelf in the supermarket (please, do not feed more sugar, it’s not good for them). Continue reading “where’s that group soul when you need it?”