Page 16 - Rudolf.Steiner's.Vision.for.the.Future.(Being.Human.magazine.debut.issue)
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Discovering a Genius: Rudolf Steiner at 150

incarnations, absorbing (or at least being given workers, an industrialist named Emil Molt, who As Steiner’s 

the chance to absorb) the best that each owned the Waldorf-Astoria cigarette factory in contemporary, the 

culture has to offer. It is a deeply cosmopolitan Stuttgart, asked Steiner whether he could provide poet and esotericist 

vision: all of us, over time, wittingly or not, are the workers’ children with an education more ap- William Butler 

gradually becoming citizens of the world and propriate to their needs and to their humanity. Yeats put it so very 

whole human beings. Capacities acquired Steiner agreed, subject to a set of conditions that well,“Education is 

through hard work (or suffering, or other trials) were revolutionary for the time: the school would not the filling of a 

in one incarnation metamorphose into new be co-ed; all students would be taught to the pail, but the 

talents in the next. Genius is no accident.
same, comprehensive curriculum; and the teach- lighting of a fire.”

ers would be given the final say in all pedagogical Together, reincarnation and karma deliver

decisions. With Molt’s generous backing, Steiner concrete justice – and mercy – in this world, rather

opened the first Waldorf School in 1919, near the than a vague promise of recompense in the next.

factory in Stuttgart. Nine years later, the first Our labors come back as new capacities, but our

Waldorf school in North America opened in New failings and our misdeeds also come back to meet

York City. The movement continued to grow, us in our next incarnation, confronting us as

and, despite having been banned by the Nazis seemingly accidental encounters and outer events.

(and the Bolsheviks), Waldorf schools have gone By letting us experience on our own skins the 

on to become the largest non-sectarian educa- consequences of our actions, and by giving us an 

tional movement in the world, with more than opportunity to grow and to enact compensation,

900 schools and 1,600 early childhood programs karma is an act of Grace, a higher lawfulness that
Waldorf education 

on six continents.
allows us to make ourselves whole. Steiner warned
imposes many 

The foundations of Waldorf pedagogy are that the laws of karma are immensely complex,
demands on class 

Steiner’s deep insights into human and child de- and that karma is endlessly inventive, so he
teachers, who must 

velopment, the changing role of the teacher, and moved rather quickly from a set of lectures estab-
become ‘Renaissance 

a rich, holistic curriculum. Steiner understood lishing some basic principles to a long series of
men and women,’ 

that children learn very differently at each stage examples from the biographies of real figures from
mastering new 

of development, and that real learning should be history. The Greek counterpart to the Sanskrit
material each year, 

a gradual metamorphosis not just of thinking, word ‘karma’ would be ‘drama,’ and Steiner
and growing 
but also of feeling, and of the will. As Steiner’s exhorted us to view our biographies as unfolding
together with
contemporary, the poet and esotericist William moral dramas, or to think of karma as a sculptor
their class.
Butler Yeats put it so very well, “Education is not
shaping our living clay. If, as Steiner asserted,

the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” Young children “Karma is the greatest artist,” then our very lives must be the 

learn principally through imitation and play, and they learn greatest works of art. Everything that we do, and everything 

best when one appeals to their imagination. Intellectual tasks that we suffer, has meaning.

(which even the youngest children can be made to perform 
A New Art of Education
– or rather, mimic) are best deferred until later, when the 

adolescent begins to develop real powers of abstract think- In the aftermath of World War I, the social and political 

ing, which can then be engaged directly in the high school institutions that had failed so miserably crumbled away, leav- 

curriculum. The foundation of cognition is play, and chil- ing a terrible vacuum. The world cried out for renewal. Dur- 

ing the last decade of Steiner’s life, anthroposophy gave birth 
dren who have not been allowed to play will become stunted 
to a wide range of ambitious practical initiatives that were 
adults – full of facts, perhaps, but lacking creativity. Young 
meant to address the crisis. After hearing Steiner address his
children learn chiefly through their wills, by doing. Then, as

14 • being human

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