Update – I feel I need to point out that some religious beliefs do not mesh with anthroposophy and that one can homeschool with elements of Waldorf Education without delving into anthroposophy at all. I also feel the need to point out that since the Waldorf curriculum, while not stated to the child, is based upon a specific spiritual worldview, and some mothers will not feel comfortable with it at all. The Roman Catholic Church has things to say about Steiner’s worldview as well, and American Catholics seem to take this to heart. I have left this article on my blog for mothers who are searching for a thumbnail kind of view of what Steiner wrote about.
I would like to thank Donna Simmons of Christopherus Homeschool (www.christopherushomeschool.org) for helping me so much with this post as I wrestled and pondered the question of anthroposophy. Thanks for your patience and warmth Donna with my many questions.
This post has taken me forever to write, I have been working on it on and off for weeks. Much of this is because while I have read so much of Steiner’s work on education, I have read very little of anthroposophy. So I barely feel qualified to answer this complex question of what is anthroposophy?
So my main purpose today is to start you all hunting amongst these links and articles I have found for your own educational purposes, and to point you to people who are well-versed in anthroposophy (not me).
Donna Simmons has told me it helps to look at anthroposophy as a tool to understand the human being. Steiner called anthroposophy “spiritual science” as he saw it in this way:
“Not so long ago it was still possible to believe that natural science – which is by no means unappreciated by spiritual science but is as regards to its great advances fully valued – had the means to solve all the great riddles of human existence. But those who have entered with heightened inner faculties into the achievements of modern science have been increasingly aware that what natural science brings as a response to the great questions of human existence are not answers but, on the contrary, ever new questions.”
Rudolf Steiner. “Approaches to Anthroposophy.” Sussex: Rudolf Steiner Press, 1992. Page 39-40.
Wikipedia defines spiritual science in this way, [that spiritual science] “postulates the existence of an objective, intellectually comprehensible spiritual world accessible to direct experience through inner development—more specifically through cultivating conscientiously a form of thinking independent of sensory experience. In its investigations of the spiritual world, anthroposophy aims to attain the precision and clarity of natural science‘s investigations of the physical world.”
Donna Simmons writes that Steiner was adamant that one needs to be rigorously scientific in one’s thinking – and thus in one’s path through life and through understanding the world. The complex thing is for people to get how that could be – most people do not understand how the spiritual and what is commonly viewed as the scientific – can be worked with in the same breath. I think she is right!
The expanded Wikipedia definition of anthroposophy seems to be on target, and looks at anthroposophy in the realms of spiritual freedom and spiritual knowledge, nature of the human being, the role of Christ. Here is the link so you read the article yourself: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthroposophy
Here is a wonderful article from Donna Simmons’ website that may be of service to you all: http://www.christopherushomeschool.org/learning-more/articles-on-aspects-of-waldorf-education/working-with-the-spiritual-basis-of-waldorf-education.html
Anthroposophy is not a religion. Period. There is no “creed” to follow per se, there are not any prescribed spiritual exercises you “have” to do (although Steiner does have meditation exercises out there for each day of the week), there are no religious practices or sacraments, there is no one spiritual guide (no, Steiner is NOT a prophet nor viewed as one by the Anthroposophical Society even though he founded the Anthroposophical Society!), anthroposophy is not a way to salvation or anything else. There are no sacred texts associated with anthroposophy.
(Perhaps where people get confused concerning the question of anthroposophy and religion is that there is The Christian Community, founded in 1922 in Switzerland by Lutheran theologian Friedrich Rittlemeyer, with the help of Rudolf Steiner. However, according to the website of The Christian Community, even this is “not an “anthroposophical church,” although it is the only Christian church whose clergy recognize Anthroposophy and have accepted it as a decisive aid for the broadening and renewal of theology.” The link to The Christian Community can be found here: http://www.thechristiancommunity.org/about.htm).
One of anthroposophy’s main goals is to bring together the sciences, the arts and the religious strivings of man and to build from that a basis for the future. Steiner worked with many different kinds of people in many different occupational fields when he was alive, and this led to many different applications of his philosophy in the practical realm, including anthroposophic medicine, curative education techniques, biodynamic farming, eurythmy and also education.
I am not a philosopher, and I do not have many answers on this difficult philosophical subject. There are others out there who do though!
For more information on this important and misunderstood subject, please see these links:
For what Steiner said regarding the question of whether anthroposophy is a religion or not, please see here:
This is a lengthy article regarding how Steiner started looking at things as a reaction to Kant’s assumptions (anyone take philosophy in college and remember Kant’s assumption of doing things for the greater good???!!) and because Goethe resonated with him so well.
Here is a site regarding some of the issues surrounding criticism of Steiner and anthroposophy:
As a homeschooling parent, it is easy to present your own religious or worldviews throughout the curriculum. Anthroposophy is also not taught in any of the Waldorf schools, and nor is it in any direct way of the homeschooling curriculum written by Donna Simmons.
Thanks for reading,
Carrie, you did a beautiful job with this post. This is not an easy topic to discuss or explain! You did so in a manner that is easy to understand. Fantastic! 🙂
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This is a great synopsis of Anthroposophy (if I can even spell it!). Its an amazing thing to get into it – but I always remind myself that Steiner said he wanted to be ‘understood’ rather than ‘believed’ – so if there are things you don’t agree with as a Waldorf parent that is OK too. I do think Waldorf parents should try to really understand the anthroposophical underpinnings of why things are done a certain way … and it takes a lot of work to ‘get it’ – and then make their own decisions for their home and their children.
I was an an anthro mothers workshop the other week and a mother was questioning why lego and barbies are ‘so bad’ – she said that she didn’t really understand but was going along with it because it was the school she had chosen. I completely sympathised with her and was pleased she felt she could admit that and was seeking knowledge – rather than feel she was breaking some kind of ‘rule’.
If one can start to understand the three and four -fold human being, it really does help one understand why certain things are brought in or not and at least what the ideal is whether you decide to make a different choice or not…..At least if you make a different choice, it is an informed choice. I agree with you, the schools, the parent groups, should be doing much to educate the parents as to the “why’s” behind the “this is what we do”.
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