It is one of those curious words that keep popping up when you look into anthroposophy, and it is not immediately obvious why.
For Steiner, the human ability to stand physically upright is one of the key differences between animals and humans, and as such must be accentuated.
As mentioned before, in Steiner belief humans came to earth from space; Darwinian evolution does not feature in anthroposophy, it is an alien concept for them.
Followers have a particular horror of any activity which to them resembles animal behaviour – sports being a good example.
In an article on child development for under three year olds in the Waldorf Journal, we learn the following
“…it takes two and a half years to develop uprightness fully, not only one year. It takes all that time for the I together with the spiritual hierarchies to fine tune the skeletal/muscular system, the speech organs and the human brain as physical foundation for the development of the human soul forces of willing, feeling and thinking.”
For Steiner physical uprightness in humans is associated with moral behaviour;
This is from a 1923 Steiner lecture called Education and the moral life;
“…moral forces express themselves in the way a child performs physical movements in space. What the child achieves by assuming the upright posture and thus becoming free of the forces that keep the animal’s spine parallel to the earth’s surface…is the physical expression of the moral nature of its will energy. It is this achievement that makes the human individual into a moral being.”
He follows this with
“…within this upright position the physical expression of human morality can be seen, which allows the human countenance to gaze freely into the world.”
He frets slightly that during sleep the human spine is in a similar position to that of an animal, but it’s ok, because it’s all about “the way spatial dimensions are organised into the human being”.
Phew, no need to worry then.
In addition, the ideas of humans having their hands free, as a result of walking on two feet, and this unique “gaze”, are all used in anthroposophical settings to emphasise human separateness from other animals.
Eugen Kolisko a Steiner disciple explained in a lecture on anthroposophy in 1920;
“The faculty of standing upright and walking has origin in the lower region of the organism where the Ego unfolds its forces of Will. The body stands there, having overcome the earthly force of gravitation which always tend to counteract this upright position of man. The first action of the Ego is revealed when a little child, in the first year of life, attains this free position of the body as a symbol of its cosmic descent and origin.”
In anthroposophy there are three faculties which primarily distinguish man from the animals :
- Standing erect and walking.
These three faculties are developed during the first three years of a child’s life when “the powers of the Christ are still living in it.”
Scary, I would say, especially when you consider this is what teachers in Steiner schools mean when they talk about Steiner “child development”.
Lastly on this topic,in Gregoire Perra’s fascinating account of his life among the anthroposophists there is a striking paragraph where he describes his then partner’s dismay at the behaviour of their cats, which sometimes rose onto two legs. She said they were “behaving in ways inconsistent with their soul-group…thus, she could not bear to see them stand up on their hind legs.”
Roger Rawlings explains about “soul groups” on Waldorf Watch;
“In Anthroposophical doctrine, human beings are the only earthly creatures who possess individual souls. Animals have “group souls” — over-souls shared by all the members of a species. Thus, no cat has its own soul; it only has a small portion of the general soul shared by all cats. Anthroposophists also believe that human beings have group souls in addition to their individual souls (all members of a race share that race’s group soul, for instance), but in general humans have been evolving toward greater individuality.”