An accidental blog

"If God is sovereign, then his lordship must extend over all of life, and it cannot be restricted to the walls of the church or within the Christian orbit." Abraham Kuyper Common Grace 1.1.

Thursday, 16 June 2005

Botton and the anthroposophical worldview


Channel 4 this evening showed a programme called 'The strangest village in Britiain' as part of 'Only Human'. It was the story of Botton a village of handicapped people run along Rudolf Steiner's anthroposophical philosophy. (It's now available here.)



At one point in the documentary it suggested that Steiner's perspective was Christian. It is anything but. I dug up some old notes of mine about the anthroposophical worldview and have posted them here. My interest in Steiner stems from the time I stayed at a Camphill community for a weekend to see my youngest brother who was living there get married (he was a co-worker, not a villager).

The four elements of a worldview: story, questions, symbols and praxis are taken from Tom Weright's excellent The New Testament and the People of God (London: SPCK, 1992)


Story

The story of anthroposophy is tied up with Rudolf Steiner’s (1861-1925) personal story.
Steiner has had many influences on him. The most notable being: Catholicism, Goethe, Theosophy and strands of Eastern mysticism.

He was born into a poor family in Feb 1861 on the Austrian side of the Austria-Hungary border. His clairvoyant experiences divide his world in two: one he could talk about the other he couldn’t. He soon developed an interest in science.

The attraction of Goethe for Steiner was that his scientific writings had provided a bridge “between Nature and Spirit”.

Goethe The year book for the Goethe society in 1897 said of Steiner:
What he has achieved through the harmonious working together of his critical and his productive faculties, has won the acclamation of all experts. It is thanks to his self-effacing and untiring effort that we now have in our hands in a well-ordered sequence and unified form a wealth of material which assures Goethe a deeper and more complex appreciation as a natural scientist (cited in Moffat, nd: 81).
Catholicism His connection with Catholicism came during his time in Vienna. Here he met writers and university professors who “gave him an insight into the spiritual traditions of the Church” (Lissau 1987: 7).

From Vienna he moved to Wiemar (1890-1897); there he came into contact with Ernest
Haekel and Freidrich Nietzsche.

Theosophy It was at Vienna he first met theosophists. Though it was at Berlin that this link developed. He eventually became the general secretary of the then recently formed German theosophical society. His links with it were severed as a result of a disagreement with Annie Besant over her view that Krishnamurti was a reincarnation of Christ. Hence on 2 February 1913 the Anthroposophical society was born.



Eastern Mysticism Anthroposophy has much in common with Hinduism, particularly the notions of karma and reincarnation. Anthroposophy though is very much a westernised version.

Steiner has also been very influential. He was not only concerned with education but also developed new approaches to art, architecture, agriculture, medicine and eurhytmy (not to be confused with eurhytmics – or even Annie Lennox!).

Questions

Who are we? Steiner’s anthropology is complex. He describes humans as many-fold entities:
Three fold as body, soul and spirit
Fourfold as four bodies: physical, ethereal, astral and ego
We are the same stuff as the earth and the universe; there are essential connections between all three

Man is not an animal to be trained. He is not an inanimate object to be processed. He is a being of body, soul and spirit, through his physical body he is related to the world of matter. He has a life force in common with the plants. Emotions and sensations he shares with the animals. In his inner core he is an individual possessed of the divine spark. Man is related to all things and is the centre of all things. His evolution is not yet complete. He has the possibility of infinite development. (Wilkinson 1975:7)

Where are we? We are in a mysterious universe, with which we have essential connections

What is wrong? One problem is that we gloss over the mystery; the advances in science have not been matched by a corresponding advance in spirituality.

What is the remedy? There needs to be a refining of the scientific method to overcome its materialism and an increasing self-knowledge. The human spirit needs a full unfolding. The purpose of education is thus the full unfolding of the human spirit.

Symbols

Natural products particularly woollen garments and wooden artefacts. Very few right angles in their architecture. All reflecting a “back to nature” philosophy. Purple and mauve clothes. Much of their art is instantly recognisable.



Praxis

The phrase “building alternatives” perhaps best describes anthroposophical praxis. The alternatives include Waldorf and Camphill schools, biodynamic farming, the use of natural products (particularly wood), colour therapy.



References and bibliography


Rudi Lissau Rudolf Steiner: Life, Work, Inner Path and Social Initiative (Stroud, Glos: Hawthorn Pres, 1987)
Rudolf Steiner Theosophy (London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co., Ltd, 1922)
Roy Wilkinson Commonsense Schooling: Based on the Initiatives of Rudolf Steiner (East Grinstead: Henry Goulden, 1975)

18 comments:

Katrina Turner said...

Hiya,

I lived for a year in a Camphill when my mother was a house mother in a Camphill household.

I totlally agree with what you say about Anthroposophy.

Did you know that Anthroposophy is backed by Prince Charles and the matron of Camphills is one of the Princes (her name escapes me right now).

It is scary how much power and right to mess with people's lives Anthroposophical centres (such as Camphills, Steiner Schools, and Anthro Healing centres) are allowed to practice...

You wouldn't believe how much literature there is for and against Anthropposphy on the net...

Take care

KTurner

Steve Bishop said...

Hi Katrina,

Thanks for your comment - I hadn't realised that Charlie was a backer. I'm not suprised though! On the surface the schools and villages look very appealling - and there is much to be learned from them - However, it's only when the peal is peeled away the true horrors are revealed.

Anonymous said...

what exactly are the horrors? Are these the fault of Steiner or some of the people employed at these place. And, incidently, Steiner's worldview was Christian. Unless by "christian" you mean some narrow minded doctrinaire interpretation of the bible.

Bruce said...

Hello Steve,
No you are dead wrong. Pity you didn't have the time to do a proper job.

There were plenty of Lutherans who followed Steiner for a start.

Some of these founded the Christian Community on his instructions.

Who else would work for years earning no money helping the needy but real Christians? Not those fakers in many of the churches who are only seeking the lusts of Baal.

Anonymous said...

Hi- I have had alot of invilvement with steiner Camphill. The central core of all of it is anthroposophy.It is a self named esoteric society and only a few have full knowledge. It certainly isn't Christian- tho' the Christian community was sanctioned by Steiner, he didn't think of Christian in the sense most people would- he drew from all religions- as he believed we passed through them on our Karmic journey.
Most people at Steiner schools and Camphill don't have the first idea about anthroposophy- and this suits the main players- as we are seen as empty vessls to be helped to reincarnate for the greater good of humanity- so eventually we reach higher spiritual planes.
They are very secretive and evasive. Their publicity machine is well oiled. They are also vey wealthy. www.chaseuk.info is a good site, as is www.easeonline.org www.waldorf-problems.com zooey.wordpress.com www.waldorfcritics.org And these are just a few.
They are apparently blocking comments on youtube at the moment.
Personally I think they have sinister cult like overtones and should be exposed.

Thebee said...

Hm, it seems Northernrefugee 39, the fast typing mother in Pinkerton, who has had "alot of invilvement with steiner Camphill" has put down her foot here too in her world wide anti-Steiner trolling crusade on all blogs, discussion forums, and comments section of Youtube clips she has been able to find since 2007, in some way related to, or that mention Steiner Waldorf education, to promote nonsense and defamation of it.

For some info on Steiner Waldorf education, see the Wikipedia on the subject.

For some info on the WC-group she promotes, see here.

Dan Stelzer said...

I will not take the time to explain proofs for steiner being a Christian for no one who thinks he isn't hasn't taken the time to read him. Steiner is one of the highest servants of Christ, standing next to Christain Rosenkruetz. To understand anything you need to be immersed in it and love it. There is no understanding without love. Can you evn grasp this concept.

Steve Bishop said...

Thanks for your comments Dan. How would you define a Christian?

Dan Stelzer said...

That would take a book or more, but the simple concept is there are as many ways to be a Christian as there are human beings. Christ Jesus is such a being that he can be a friend to all at the same time in such a personal way (heart) that no other human being can purposely try to influence it or all this in-fighting among Christians is the result. No worries though, in the future Christ's influence will be soooo much stronger even into our being and conscience that we will be able to focus on our karma over which he is lord. I guess you could say a Christian is one who in his own way to the best of his ability to become more like Christ.

Steve Bishop said...

Hi Dan,

Thanks for your response. I guess this shows that we have very different views of what it means to be a Christian. For me a Christian is a Christ follower, a disciple of Jesus.

There is no way in my own ability I could become like Christ. That's why I need God the Holy Spirit to help me.

What do you think of Jesus? Is he God, did he become a god, or what .... ?

Steve Bishop said...

Dan, if I have misrepresented the anthroposophical worldview in my post in anyway please do let me know.

Dan Stelzer said...

Your response about what it means to be a christian is true , it would be a chapter for sure, that is why it is so hard to communicate through typing, it really removes the soul , especially from people who have not met physically. Anyway I can agree with and see your view I am sorry you cannot reciprocate mine, but I digress.

I think jesus was a man(a bad ass man), he prepared a body for gods son(Christ), it clearly states this in the bible that Christ came in at his baptism. Shit, just so no one would be confused everyone showed up, your holy spirit (dove) and the father(here is my son), yet we still all confused. But as long as we agree that Christ is the way, the truth and the light, we all brothers!

Dan Stelzer said...

Yes you misrepresented anthroposophy, but you were just taking random notes and reissuing them. Heck anything spiritual, even the bible would be misunderstood or misrepresented in that form...
Unfortunately for the society there are two requirements for anthroposophia to be served or recognized, 1) to learn to love truth more than anyone or anything else, and 2) to be mature enough to phrase questions properly, yet because it is a free society even these requirements cannot be given, hence all the chaos regarding anthroposophy on the web and for people trying to figure it out, the holy spirit works through everyone so when we get certain responses we have to learn to look at the situation from many perspectives to figure it out.

Dale said...

I notice that the defenders of Anthroposophy are not bringing up some of the deeper mystical beliefs. As for Christianity, it is not up to some universal worldview that embraces whatever perspective one may choose. It is very narrow in its Biblical definition. Only the same one who offered Eve that same fruit off the Tree of Knowledge would want to "universalize" the definition of the Gospel.
By the way, I am told by adherants to Steiners mystical beliefs that it is actually a good thing to eat the fruit off that tree because it makes us like God. Wow.
One last comment - I believe what is written in the Word of God. Mystical books and writings from ancient sources have all sorts of facinating things to say about the universe, but in the end they are nothing more than the musings of men and cannot be taken as bedrock Truth.

Steven Kvinlaug said...

Hi everybody :)

Jesus left us with only two rules to follow.. To love God with all our might and to love our neighbor as ourself..

Thats it..

And the Bible itself tells us that the Holy Spirit will teach us what scripture means.. not the other way around like all "Christian faiths" dictate..

And last but certainly not least, the only way to find and communicate with Christ Jesus is on a personal level.. and since we are all different and unique, it is logical that we hear and portray God in our own personal way..

But for some reason, most Christians are provoked by anyone who doesn't hear God like their "religion does.."

Which is absurd..

Rudolf Steiner understands the meanining of who Christ is, what He did and does and what it means to us like no other living "Prophet" and he explains it eliquently as a science that can be understood logically.. not bound by any religion..

only Jesus Christ who is the centerpiece of Anthroposophy..

Do you want to understand what you believe? Here's your chance :)

http://www.rsarchive.org/

Happy Easter :)

Gordon said...

Anthroposophy is complicated to understand because Steiner developed his ideas over a long period of time. The main thing to understand is that Steiner denied dualism and conventional monism. To Steiner the world we perceived was both physical and spiritual at the same time and they were inseperable. It is possible to KNOW as well as believe.

Because Anthroposophy uses the Christian story as its core (the crucifixion and resurrection are the pivotal events in world history to Steiner) it is not possible to separate the two.

Anthroposophists in theory are using a technique of spiritual investigation or perception to find out things about the world we live in and the spiritual universe. However, like a lot of spiritual movements it has become a largely credal movement with a lot of emphasis on knowing what "the doctor said". That was never Steiner's intenetion, but its where things have ended up. Many anthroposophists don't follow Steiner's exercises for spiritual development (e.g. meditation).

You could characterise Anthroposophy as a form of gnostic Christianity, but Steiner specifically denied this because he felt that he was not adding to anything just revealing what was already there.

As for secrecy, there is a meeting called "first class" which was set up to encourage spiritual development, but its hardly secret. I think anyone who has been a member of the society for two years can go to it. All of the texts used in it are in the public domain.

In my experience Anthroposophy has an influence far beyond its size and that influence is a very positive thing for most people.

If you want to have some fun with this have a read of this article:

http://www.ecalpemos.org/2011/09/similarities-between-doctor-who-rudolf.html

Flavia said...

There is just something that doesn't feel right with anthroposophy. They never as far as I've heard use the word Jesus, if mentioned in literature , it is "the christ". Is it not Gnostic aswell? This involves demoting Jesus to a lesser role. Also, they claim to have all this esoteric knowledge that looks down upon others that are not part of their world-view.
Wool can be very abrasive for those on the autism spectrum, and the excessive use of wood only toys and priority with regard to Gnomes is eerie!
As is their insistence on homeopathy

Steve Bishop said...

Hi Flavi and Gordon

Thanks for dropping by. Gordon - enjoyed the Dr Who comparisons, very good!

Flavia, I would agree there are certainly Gnostic aspects to it.

Cheers

Steve