This is the title of a chapter in Roy Wilkinson’s extremely revealing book “The Spiritual Basis of Steiner Education”.
As mentioned in a previous post, the book details how the teacher can incorporate spiritual science into every subject on the Steiner school curriculum.
In case anyone thinks this has little relevance for children in Steiner education here it is worth pointing out this book was written and published in England less than 20 years ago and refers specifically to English schools; as Mark commented, is on the recommended reading list for the state-funded Steiner Academy Exeter.
The chapter on esoteric development explains the path which can be taken by Steiner teachers to attain “spiritual perception, enhanced consciousness or knowledge of higher worlds”
Roy points out “The interesting thing in the context of Steiner education is that this….path …should be followed by every teacher who takes his vocation seriously. He needs to be both doctor and initiate, but that is perhaps too much to expect in the present state of evolution.”p115
Doctor and initiate? Well, that is an interesting idea of the necessary qualifications for a teacher. We know Steiner teachers do not need to be qualified as are teachers in other schools; but what is regarded as important is “knowledge of higher worlds.”
Even the trainees who sign up for the anthroposophical teacher training courses such as the one at Wynstones (Marling until recently) are not informed at the beginning about these unusual extra requirements for Steiner teachers, and I am sure this piece of information is not shared with prospective parents either.
“Initiates” apparently are the lucky few who have retained the clairvoyant vision of “the ancients” which has been lost by everyone else.
The main way teachers are supposed to become initiates is through “enhanced thinking, or meditation”.
Roy elaborates on what the meditation could be; “the content of the meditation might be an objective look at incidents in one’s own life and their relationship to the world. It might be connected with nature – stones, cryastals, plants, animals, and their respective significance in the world order, recognising the divinity in all things. In particular the content of a meditation could fill the soul with cosmic thoughts as given by the adepts.” p120
The teachers are asked to reflect meditatively on the individual children they teach “even to the extent of asking the assistance of their guardian angel”. p122
I suppose this is what Steiner schools are describing when they say they provide a “child-centred” education, – but it is probably not what most parents and the Department for Education have in mind.
“The teacher has a specific task…and a great responsibility. He of all people needs not only the knowledge that spiritual science gives but an inward acceptance of such knowledge as well, which also means practicing the given exercises. Inner activity means esoteric development…” p120
The reason why all this meditation and spiritual perception is deemed necessary is essentially to counteract the general wickedness of the modern world as Steinerians perceive it. Never mind all the advancements in technology and medicine society is benefiting from, Steinerworld sees the current “age of the common man” as being in a poor condition;
“In many ways science has come to an impasse, and is leading us to Armageddon. Many people feel this and seek solutions. They have an inner perception that all is not well, despite the repeated reassurances by the respective authorities. Natural science has not and does not fulfil the longings of the soul.” P116
Spiritual science and meditation are supposed to provide answers and fulfil the longing.
The importance of the “Ruckschau” is emphasised – to strengthen the power of the mind; “review the events of the day in backward sequence , even reversing the order of procedure”.p119
What a shame that Steiner schools have decided this kind of nonsense is more important for children than a firm grounding in science, history and geography.
They spout a whole load of rubbish about Guardian Angels and soul forces but are not so keen to teach what will be useful later in life.
Looking at the latest OFSTED report on Ruskin Mill College, this peculiar view of what a teacher should be explains some reasons for the failings, if the focus is more on the spiritual welfare of the students and on the “esoteric development” of the staff . Evidently this does not cut much ice with the authorities who find unchecked bullying and safeguarding failures.
It also explains the difficulty the new Steiner schools are experiencing in recruiting senior staff; Not only are they looking for teachers who are experienced in the ways of Steiner and happy to continue their esoteric development to satisfy the SWSF, but they need to be management material too.
It’s a tall order,since most people would say, as Bristol Steiner Academy have found, that one cancels out the other.