Education

Finding Inner Security

“Knowledge in respect of the human self — that is, self-knowledge — is one of the means of ensuring inner security and our true alignment in the order of life's development. The impulse to self-knowledge is found in every soul; it may be more or less unconscious, but it is always present. It may vent itself in quite indefinite feelings which, welling up from the depths of the soul, create an impression of dissatisfaction with life. Such feelings are often wrongly explained, and their alleviation sought in the outer circumstances of life. Though we are often unconscious of its nature, fear of these feelings obsesses us. If we could overcome this anxiety we should realize that no external measures, but only a thorough knowledge of the human being, can prove helpful. But this thorough knowledge requires that we should really feel the resistance of the two obstacles which human knowledge is liable to encounter when it would enter more deeply into the knowledge of the human being. They consist of two illusions, towering as two cliffs, between which we cannot advance in our pursuit of knowledge until we have experienced their true nature.” - Rudolf Steiner, Stuttgart in 1908, CW 35

I found this quote after my weekly talk with Christopher Bamford. I shared that six years ago my husband and I downsized into a family life where we all could be together and be ourselves, a life that feels like a favorite pair of jeans.

We opted out of Kindergarten with our boys to explore the world of homeschooling in 2014. We began with the support of the Treehouse Learning Community, a Waldorf-inspired class for homeschoolers in Georgetown, Texas and found a group of families who celebrated the freedom to guide their children according to their needs and to nurture them through nature, storytelling, and the arts.

We did not know why handcrafts and storytelling were so crucial in nurturing the spirit and minds of children. We did not realize that homeschooling with the indications of Rudolf Steiner nurtures the entire family.

We found a subtle gift that weaves into your life with new rhythms and seasonal festivals. We found a philosophy of life that allows each parent to take the ideas into their mind and spirit and decide for themselves what that means to them. It is never imposing, but rather encouraging and enriching in so many aspects of your life.

It changed how we see education.

We are still homeschooling, although earlier this year my husband took responsibility for the daily lessons. The boys are learning that to be guided in learning by someone that loves you and loves the subject matter has the most significant effect on your success. They are excited to share their latest math discovery or a tale of the middle ages. After a long spring Saturday outside, running from backyard to backyard with friends, they are ready to come in and share their new kitchen skills and their latest recipe - pad thai anyone?

“The soul has a natural trust in thinking. It feels that it would inevitably lose all certainty in life if it were unable to have this trust. Healthy soul life ceases when doubt in thinking begins.” - Rudolf Steiner, The Threshold of the Spiritual World: Aphoristic Contemplations (CW 17), Chadwick Library Edition

Our children come to us to teach us that to be happy, truly happy, we must pursue our self- knowledge to experience our true nature and push away the noisy modern world of doubt. It is they who show us that we once had that natural connection to certainty and will bring us by the hand back to ourselves.

Separating Grief and Trauma

How do we proceed with such important matters so that, by cultivating the right attitude and taking the right actions, we might even prevent certain developments? Because that also is part of our task since Anthroposophy would be meaningless if we only practiced it privately for ourselves.—Ita Wegman, 1933


Over the past week, I attended the London Book Fair and was able to meet some friends of SteinerBooks in the UK. This meeting of people from around the world was united through the written word and its ability to bring people together. While we were there, we heard about rising knife violence in London, a tragic plane crash in Ethiopia, and a shooting at a mosque in New Zealand. The outside world kept moving, while we learned of new thoughts and ideas that could help the world.

How do we help our communities overcome the trauma, begin to grieve, and finally heal? How do we continue to live in the world, while learning new ways to engage and support our fellow citizens? Today, I will share some books that are helping me work through these questions.

“Despite some essential similarities between trauma and grief, there are obvious differences that one needs to be aware of. As part of a sociological study, William Steele and Melvyn Raider (2001, 155) listed the following differences between trauma and grief responses. While the grieving process involves feelings of sadness that have no effect on the griever’s self-image or self-confidence, trauma evokes a sense of horror and overwhelming powerlessness and leads to a loss of any sense of safety, a distorted self-image and the loss of self-reliance. Grief results in despondence while trauma leads to silent suffering.” - Bernd Ruf, Educating Traumatized Children

We need to understand the difference between trauma and grief if we are to help our communities heal after tragic events and to provide a process to help others restore their faith in the world. We can do this through soul nurturing activities like reading fairy tales to children, connecting to nature, and establishing rituals to ground us in times of inconceivable world events. We need to practice activities that interrupt what Bernd Ruff calls “shock energy”.

Many of us would like a handbook for working through trying times such as these. No matter how we work through this shock energy, we must move through it.

More Radiant than the Sun will be a valuable companion for anyone ready to move beyond reading verses into working with verses by Rudolf Steiner. This handbook offers verses, exercises, and original instructions from Steiner, along with commentary, suggestions, and context from Gertrude Reif Hughes, a student of Anthroposophy for much of her life.

Centering Prayer and the Healing of the Unconscious is an essential work for all those interested in the history and practice of centering prayer. In addition to describing the background of this unique and effective practice, Fr. Ó Madagáin offers unique insights into the ideas of one of its leading contemporary teachers and practitioners.

Our world will continue to swing between tragedy and joy, but we have an opportunity to grow stronger and wiser during the times of conflict so that we can live more deeply in joy in times of health.



What Forces are at Work in Waldorf Education?

All our methods, all our ingenious, formed, outer methods of education, are of little value in this respect. Answers to the question —how can this or that be achieved? — are of little use. What is of the greatest importance, however, is for a person to have enthusiasm in his work and to be able to develop this enthusiasm to the full if he is to be a true teacher. This enthusiasm is infectious, and it alone can work miracles in education. The child eagerly responds to enthusiasm, and, when there is no response on his part, it usually indicates a lack of this enthusiasm in the teacher. - Rudolf Steiner

Forces Leading to Health and Illness in Education

We can say, of course, that the outer life within which human beings stand, making it possible for them to earn a living, requires them to have capacities that they cannot have yet as children. We must impart such capacities to them. The behavior proper for adults is also, perhaps, something that the child cannot acquire by himself; it must be imparted to him through education. - Rudolf Steiner

This weekend, I am fortunate to witness the burning fire of education, as I meet early childhood teachers from around the country at the WECAN Early Childhood Educators Conference. As I watched a workshop led by Dr. Adam Blanning, I could see this infectious enthusiasm that Steiner spoke about, the great humility of the task of a teacher and physician, and the experience of a former Waldorf student as he now stood as the teacher of teachers.

This is the magic I have witnessed within the Waldorf education community, a place that nurtures the enthusiasm and love for children and the reserved task of education. As we share lectures and books each Sunday on this blog, it is my hope that it will invite you into this magical world of education that has as its focus a reverence for what it means to be human. A place where human development and the nurturing of each soul is of the highest importance.

As I spoke to Dr. Blanning after his workshop, he shared that as a child in a Waldorf school it was this underlying intention that energized his schooling years. As you read the complete lecture take time to sit with it and take it into your work with children as a neighbor, community member, or family member. Our world’s children need us to share our gifts with enthusiasm to kindle their own light for the world. - Kathy Donchak

Forces Leading to Health and Illness in Education by Rudolf Steiner

The Task of Education is Connected with the Development of Humanity

Now that I am at the beginning of what I actually want to dis-

cuss about education, you can see that I do not wish to begin

with some theoretical discussion, but rather with a feeling. We

cannot begin with a pedagogy of rules, but with a feeling. We

must feel that the content of the human soul has been given to

those who are to teach and educate young people. It is healthy to

feel within ourselves the future of humanity. That is the proper

starting point, not whether we know one thing or another, but

when we feel that the entire task of education is connected with

the development of humanity. - Rudolf Steiner


The beauty of the educational ideals espoused by Rudolf Steiner can be seen in his reverence for human development. He crafted his lectures and shared his indications for an educational model that is responsive to the needs of children and the world in which they live.

As I read Steiner’s lectures, I am encouraged to read and then think about how those words can change the way I feel about the children I am guiding as a parent. It must begin with the sense of feeling if we are to support the development of future generations. I encourage you as teachers, parents, grandparents, and community members to read Steiner’s words on education and then allow them to transform your individual gifts as a guiding force in your communities.

Kathy Donchak


THE TEACHER AS SCULPTOR OF THE HUMAN SOUL

Rudolf Steiner

Basel, April 23, 1920

Everything depends upon your working inwardly with what such books or lectures offer as a thread. - Rudolf Steiner

Up to now I have tried to show how we can approach the human being from the outside. Today I would like to approach our task from the other side, from the side of inner experience. Through this way of considering things—the way of science in the future—the human being becomes transparent from the outside. In a sense, this kind of consideration of the human being, of the activities of the organs and all of human nature, can lead us to discover a person’s inner experiences, what he or she experiences as thinking, feeling, and willing. The commonly held perspective confronts us with a dark, impenetrable, incomprehensible being.

At the same time, we are concerned with more or less abstract inner experiences of thinking, feeling, and willing that we cannot perceive or feel concretely. We have seen that the human being has three aspects: thinking, feeling, and willing. Let us look at these three aspects from within. We will soon see how the inner and outer paths of consideration are connected. The content of thoughts is essentially very abstract. As teachers, we cannot approach the developing human being through these thoughts. In a certain sense, there is an impenetrable wall between us. That wall exists in social life and brings us many social problems. It also exists in areas such as teaching and education.

Through the scientific materialism that has taken over all our thinking and, to an extent, our feeling, everything we have to say about the soul or spirit has slowly become empty words. We cannot work out of empty words. We can find no relationship to other adults through empty words, nor can we find a relationship to children through them. We need to move forward to reality. We cannot encounter reality if we have only the abstract intellectual reasoning that modern science has implanted in us. We do, however, come to the spirit through this reasoning. The entire content of reasoning within our intellectually oriented education is spirit, but it is a filtered spirit. It is a spirit that in a way cannot break out of its own confines, which cannot experience itself as real content, and thus remains brutal. This spirit controls our lives. This spirit penetrates nothing; it is a spirit that in art creates only the external form instead of developing the form out of the material itself. It is a spirit that wants to force itself upon the external social relationships connected with the shape of human society instead of developing those relationships directly from living human beings. We can arrive at a very different position in regard to the spirit if we hold to what spiritual science can give us. The way spiritual science approaches things is much more important than its actual content. If you stay with what is knowledge today, you will find that it simply reflects what already exists. That is how we have arrived at a kind of naturalism that only recreates the external world in art, because our understanding does not penetrate beyond the external world; it has no independent content. We move about in a mere copy of the external world. We do not understand how living content can germinate from the human being, since this living content cannot arise from anything other than the spirit. Let us contrast spiritual science and conventional science. When they first hear what spiritual science has to say, many modern people understand it as something silly, a fantasy. Why? Simply because people are not accustomed to hearing in the way that spiritual science speaks. People are accustomed to speaking about the world so that it is possible to compare what is said with what we see, with what the eyes perceive or we perceive in other ways.

Spiritual science presents things to which we cannot find any correspondence in the external world, things we cannot find when we observe only with our senses. It presents things we can understand only when we work out of our own spirit. Of course, what we create comes from a deeper aspect of the world, but we must actually produce that out of the spirit. This creation out of the spirit is important. When we study spiritual science, we do not wait until we encounter a tree or an animal that we can then conceptualize. Instead we form the concept in our inner life. In a moment, we will see some examples of how we create concepts inwardly through spiritual science and how they can become alive in the human being. We can therefore say that our intellectual reasoning has slowly lost all meaning, and that spiritual science gives our reasoning something through which it can regain some content. If you take my book An Outline of Esoteric Science and read it like any other book, you may not understand it. Today, even with art, we ask ourselves where in the world we would find something like it. In dramas and novels, that is, in products of our imagination, we demand that their content can be found in exactly, or nearly exactly, the same way as in the world. You cannot do that with the content of Esoteric Science. You have to do something else, which is why there is so much opposition to spiritual science: people must do something quite different than in modern conventional science or art. You need to carry out an inner activity for each step described by the writer of such a spiritual scientific book. You will gain nothing from reading such a book if you do not produce something from yourself according to the directions in the book. In this way spiritual science runs quite counter to our modern way of thinking. Today people love to attend lectures that present what they are to learn through slides or other perceptible means. People go to movies because they can see something there. They do not value the fact that there are also some words. People want to remain passive; they just want to be people who watch. You will gain nothing from a spiritual-scientific book or lecture if you allow these modern habits to predominate, as spiritual scientific lectures or books contain nothing of that sort. Everything depends upon your working inwardly with what such books or lectures offer as a thread.







Education and the Moral Life

Today we have anthropology and we have psychology.

Anthropology’s main concern is the abstract observation of the

physical aspect of the human being, while that of psychology

is the abstract observation of the human soul and spirit as

entities separate from the physical body. What is missing is the

anthroposophical perspective, which observes the human

being—body, soul, and spirit—as a unity; a point of view that

shows everywhere how and where spirit is flowing into matter,

sending its forces into material counterparts.

- Rudolf Steiner, Waldorf Education and Anthroposophy Part 2


Education and the Moral Life

Rudolf Steiner

STUTTGART — MARCH 26, 1923

Everyone involved to any degree at all in social life will certainly feel that the moral aspect is one of the most important aspects in the entire field of education. At the same time, one realizes that it is precisely this aspect that is the most subtle and difficult one to handle, for it relates to the most intimate area of education.

I have already emphasized that educational practice needs to be built on real knowledge of, and insight into, the human being. The comprehension, perception and observation that I tried to characterize last night will give the knowledge necessary to train the child’s cognitional capacities. Practically speaking, knowledge of the human being, supported by the science of the spirit, will enable one to reach, more or less easily, the child’s powers of cognition. One will be able to find one’s way to the child. If, on the other hand, one wishes to appeal to a child’s artistic receptivity as described yesterday, which is equally important, it is necessary to find a way to each child individually, to have a sense for the way various children express themselves from an artistic comprehension of the world. When it comes to moral education, all of one’s skill for sensitive observation and all of one’s intimate psychological interest must be kept in mind, so that all the teacher’s knowledge of the human being and of nature can be put at the service of what each child brings forth individually. To reach children in a moral way, the only choice is to approach each child on an individual basis. However, with regard to moral education, yet another difficulty has to be overcome—that is, an individual’s sense of morality can only be appealed to through full inner freedom and with full inner cooperation.

This requires that educators approach moral teaching so that, when later in life the students have passed the age of formal education, they can feel free as individuals in every respect. What teachers must never do is to pass on to developing students the relics of their own brand of morality or anything derived from personal sympathies or antipathies in the moral realm. We must not be tempted to give our own ethical codes to young people as they make their way into life, since these will leave them unfree when it becomes necessary that they find their own moral impulses. We must respect and acknowledge the young person’s complete inner freedom, particularly in the realm of moral education. Such respect and tolerance truly demand a great deal of selflessness from educators, and a renunciation of any self-interest. Nor is there, as is the case in all other subject matters, the opportunity of treating morality as a subject in its own right; as such, it would be very unfruitful. The moral element must be allowed to pervade all of one’s teaching.