Tuesday, June 30, 2009

mystery dramas

"Art's way of absorbing a philosophy like anthroposophy was quite different from that of rationalism and intellectualism. Artistic representation is fuller of spirituality than the rationalistic concept."
- excerpt from Rudolf Steiner: An Illustrated Biography, Hemleben, page 22

Munich was home to Steiner's mystery dramas. These performances were not like theater plays in the traditional sense of the word. Acted out by dedicated professionals and amateurs, they were about human destinies. "Pilgrims of the spirit" travel in the spiritual world along a road of self-knowledge. In this life of meditation, they encounter trials and find consolation that go beyond the bounds of "normal earthly experience." The mystery dramas embody the knowledge found in Steiner's work; one might add that as an art form they represent his revelations of the spirit.

The first of these mystery dramas was presented in 1910 The Portal of Initiation. One every year thereafter was then produced. The Soul's Probation, 1911; The Guradian of the Threshhold, 1912; and The Soul's Awakening in 1913.

Christian Morgenstern wrote in 1913 "Steiner's Mystery is not a play but a portrayal of spiritual spheres and truths. "

Monday, June 29, 2009

young rudolf

"Thus my life flowed in two streams; I followed one as a lonely wanderer, the other in the lively companionship of people whom I had learned to love."
- excerpt from Rudolf Steiner's autobiography, Mien Lebensgang, in Hemleben's Rudolf Steiner, An Illustrated Biography

In Hemleben's book, chapter one on Rudolf Steiner's childhood and youth, we see that there were several people who had influenced the young Steiner before the age of twenty. Beginning in Neudorfl, Hungary, as an eight year old attending the village school, to Weiner-Neustadt as an eleven year old at Realschule, to his time in Vienna at the Technical University of Vienna.

In Neudorfl, there were the assistant schoolmaster who sparked Steiner's interest in geometry and the arts, and the priest who introduced the Copernican system. At Realschule, there was Georg Kosak, his teacher in math. In Vienna as a young man, he met Felix Koguzki, an herb gatherer whose mental life "bore the marks of elemental creative freedom." Karl Julius Schroer, his German teacher, was passionate about Goethe. Steiner was also influenced by the opposing force of Marie Eugenie della Grazie and Laurenz Mullner, who had formed active intellectual circles in Vienna. Wilhelm Neuman, a priest of the Cisterian Order, whose discussions with Steiner about reincarnation and the catholic church led to the precepts of anthroposophy. Rosa Mayreder, a painter, authoress, and poetess, and friend, helped Steiner formulate the Philosophy of Freedom. Finally, Otto Specht, a boy whom Steiner privately tutored, had allowed him to formulate the basis for therapeutic education.

Steiner's quote may demonstrate the inner struggles that Steiner had with his own intellectual endeavors as both bringing him close to those that support his work and isolating him simultaneously.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

shining star

"Anthroposophy is not a philosophy, it is a way of life."
Astrid Schmitt-Stegmann, full time faculty at Rudolf Steiner College

A warm evening in Fair Oaks, but Stegmann Hall at the College was filled with upbeat, joyful souls ready to start the Summer Teacher Education program. Noteworthy speaker was Astrid Schmitt-Stegmann (yes, the building we were in was named after her family). She was a bright-eyed woman with silvery gold hair, dressed this evening in a white linen suit, looking like an angel, with a hint of a German or Austrian accent in her melodic voice. Despite her gentle demeanor, she spoke with authority, charisma, and an authentic love of her calling. It inspired us in the room with her to be excited about our pursuit as Waldorf educators.

She spoke briefly about the five components that a Waldorf teacher must possess. She drew it as a five-pointed star. At the legs of the star are curriculum and child development, at the two arms are method and relationships, and at the top is spirituality.

All components are essential to the success of the Waldorf educator. She expanded on relationships, teacher-student dynamic, and posed the question, "How do we prepare our soul to connect with the children?" She believes we must see each child as coming to us from the realm of truth and morality, a spiritual being that transcends space and time, and when that child first meets the teacher, it s a "destiny meeting." This is more than just a child's first day of school, this is the fist day of a life journey. The teacher is the gate (I would also add the bridge) that connects the child to the world.

Astrid described the importance of the impact of the teacher. The mood, the atmosphere you create, the confidence and security you project will all be seen and felt by the students in your classroom, they will experience the "totality of your soul."

The teacher must be a courageous being, actively engaged in the work of the world. It is not enough to love the children, the teacher must also love what he or she is doing. A shining star to light the way.

fantastic four

"Spiritual science, by its inherent character and tendency, has the task of providing a practical concept of the world - one that comprehends the nature and essence of human life."
-- from The Education of the Child, Steiner, chapter 1, page 3

Steiner gets right down to business and describes the major points of spiritual science, stating that "a spiritual-scientific insight into the being of humankind must provide the most fruitful and the most practical means for the solution of the urgent questions of modern life." (chapter 1, page 4) He does so because he offers spiritual science as a means of answering the problematic questions of modern education.

According to spiritual science, the human being has four aspects: the physical body, the etheric body, the astral body, and the I.

The physical body is that which contains the same minerals as those of other earthly organisms, regulated by the same laws of physics, mixing, combining, and dissolving with other substances.

The etheric body corresponds in shape to the physical body and that which can be referred to as the vital force or life force, producing the phenomena of reproduction, growth, and other physiological functions. Basically, it is what gives the physical body the mysterious juice to power up its processes.

The astral body is the sentient body, sensing the environment, the "vehicle of pain and pleasure, of impulse, craving, passion, and so on..." (page 8) It does not correspond in shape to the physical body, instead reaching beyond its corporeal boundaries, kinda like an aura but not really, described by Steiner as an "elongated ovoid form in which the physical and etheric bodies are embedded." (page 9)

The I body is the higher soul of the human being. What sets the human I apart from all the other aspects is that it is not shared with any other organism. In fact, it is not even shared with another human being. When one says "I," it refers to only that one individual and no one else.

Steiner further describes each aspect in relation to other earth creatures. The physical body is shared with other mineral-based organisms such as earth elements, plants, and animals. The etheric body is shared with plants and animals, things that maintain homeostasis. The astral body is shared only with other animals, not plants, since, according to Steiner, plants do not have sentient perceptions as animals do. (I did see in an episode of Mythbusters that plants may actually respond to human thoughts and may have feelings.) And the I body is shared with no other being than the one individual.

The fantastic four aspects of the human being organizes the complexity of our make up. But we are not static creatures, satisfied with simply having these reside within us. By nature, we are always striving for transformation. Steiner goes on to explain that the products of transforming these four aspects are as follows: the astral body, through the I, becomes the sentient soul; the etheric body becomes the intellectual soul; and the transformed physical body becomes the spiritual soul.

How is all this connected with the education of a child? To be an effective educator, one must know the qualities of the human being, the developmental stages, the idiosyncracies of the human mind, body, and spirit. Investigating the four aspects, delineating the what and when of their formations, brings the educator closer to truly serving the child in the best possible way.

The rest of the book, which I have yet to read, most likely will reveal how the fantastic four applies to education and how I can use this knowledge to be an awesome Waldorf teacher!

choose happiness

"We rise rapidly when we fill our consciousness in such moments with thoughts evoking in us admiration, respect, and veneration for the world and for life."
-- from Knowledge of Higher Worlds and its Attainment, Steiner, chapter 1, page 11

Welcome to The Waldorf Way blog. I will tell you now that I am not a veteran scholar of Rudolf Steiner, anthroposophy, and Waldorf education. I am neither a philosopher in the formal sense of the word, although I often like to ponder stuff and try to make sense of stuff.

I will say that, despite not having previously formally studied the Waldorf way, I find that through my endeavors as an artist, musician, designer, wood worker, crafter, and home schooling parent, through my belief that education should be integrated, multidisciplinary, and developmental, and through personal explorations in spirituality, I lead a Waldorf-y life!

So why not write a Waldorf-inspired blog!

In starting out my studies as an educator in Waldorf teaching (I am enrolled in the Summer Teacher Education - Grades Track - Year One program) at Rudolf Steiner College in Fair Oaks, creating this blog gives me an exciting and hopefully beneficial medium in guiding me through the intensive five week course.

What I'd like to do as I read the texts and participate in the coursework is to post on my blog and share it with you. You are welcome to leave comments, maybe even share your email if you want to discuss the topics, or you can simply follow the blogposts whenever you like. Ultimately, I hope to inspire your soul-life to do great things in the world!

Starting out with the above quote, it seems straightforward enough. As Steiner poses, if we fill our minds with positive thoughts, then we reach higher levels of being. Admiration, respect, and veneration for each other, for ideals, for truth lead to attainment of knowledge and understanding. And understanding leads to peacefulness and happiness. In chapter 1, Steiner believes that we all have it in us the faculties with which to attain knowledge of higher worlds, and for now, I will translate that as saying we have it in us to be truly spiritual beings in touch with our inner soul.

To me, it's all about choosing happiness. Think happy thoughts, and it connects you with your spirit, your life, your world.