Re-imagining anthroposophical education for the 21st century

When Michael Hall, often regarded as Britain’s flagship Steiner school, reached its 90thanniversary in 2014, it published a splendid commemorative history written by Joy Mansfield and with additions and editing by Brien Masters and Stephen Sheen.

Called A Good School, the book’s title referred to an interview that four young women had had with Rudolf Steiner in 1923, while at the summer conference on education held in Ilkley that year, in which they asked for Steiner’s consent to their founding a school based on his educational methods.  Here is an account of that interview as related in the book:

“Steiner was seated at the end of a long table, Marie Steiner, his wife, was also present. George Adams (Steiner’s translator during his visits to England) put their case for them and he listened with close attention. They waited in trepidation. Then with great force and warmth he said one word: ‘Ja!’

After this confirmation of their decision, Steiner at once became extremely practical. They must realise, he said, how important it was that this first attempt should be a real success. They must think ahead to a modern, well-established school. It must not be a failure – and it was obvious that if it remained small and little known he would consider this a failure – or the whole possibility of spreading the educational work in England would be irredeemably weakened. It must not be amateurish in any way. They must see to it that it became a really ‘good’ school and acknowledged as such. It should be able to take its place in the educational life of the day.”

I referred to this story last February when introducing a talk by Aonghus Gordon at Emerson College, just before lockdown, on the theme of “Re-imagining anthroposophical education for the 21stcentury”. I then went on to say: 

“Thus was Michael Hall school born in 1925. Today, nearly one hundred years later, that really good school has been given a different verdict by Ofsted, the government quango which inspects schools in England. At the top of its inspection report dated 26thMarch 2019, Ofsted put the phrase: “This is an inadequate school.” And it’s not just Michael Hall: during recent rounds of Ofsted inspections of Steiner schools in England, nine schools were rated as “Inadequate” and a further seven were judged as “Requiring Improvement”.  We have also seen in the last few years the closure of a number of Steiner schools – Aberdeen, Canterbury, Michael House, Kings Langley – and recently Wynstones School was ordered by the Department for Education to close for an indefinite period due to safeguarding concerns.

So, however much we may disagree with Ofsted or question their methods, this is the situation of Steiner schools in England today; it is our present reality. In terms of what Steiner wanted – for our schools to be really good and acknowledged as such within the wider educational culture – as far as the public, media and government are concerned, we appear to have lost our way.”

It was against this background that Aonghus Gordon, founder of Ruskin Mill Trust, came to give his talk. Aonghus is an outstanding social entrepreneur whose educational work based on the insights of William Morris, John Ruskin and Rudolf Steiner is highly regarded both in governmental and anthroposophical circles. He founded Ruskin Mill Trust in 1981 as a centre for cultural development and it is now one of the UK’s leading educational charities working with learning disabilities, with twelve centres across England, Wales and Scotland. Thousands of young people have benefited from the integrative education method practised at these centres, which brings together the arts, crafts and work on the land. Aonghus has an ability to translate his educational method and the resulting successes for young people into terms that are measurable and visible to the eyes of the funding authorities and so has been able to secure public funding for his many projects. With apologies to Richard House who dislikes the phrase, Aonghus can not only render unto God that which is God’s but is also able to render unto Caesar that which the state requires of him – a skill which all Steiner schools need to acquire, if they are not only to survive but also to thrive in our current times.

Aonghus Gordon (photo via Ruskin Mill Trust)

It was therefore particularly interesting to hear Aonghus’s reflections on anthroposophical education in the 21stcentury and the kind of organising principle which may be needed to sustain us through these testing times. He began with a quotation from Rudolf Steiner:

“Anthroposophy herself is a human being. If she were not, she could not transform us. She makes another human being of us, is herself a human being. I say this very seriously: anthroposophy is not a teaching but has real being, is a human being. And only when our inner nature is wholly permeated by this, and when, like a person who thinks but also feels and has motions of will, she thinks, feels and wills in us, as, really, a whole human being – only then have we grasped her and possess her fully. She works as a being and enters modern culture and civilisation as a kind of being.” 1

This is a remarkable statement by Steiner and not at all easy to understand. Aonghus Gordon asked: Is he referring to the soul of the world and if so, how does this soul enter human consciousness and action? An example of this is the Statue of Khafre from Ancient Egypt, which depicts a Being, in the form of Horus, entering and embracing the pharaoh.

Rosicrucian thought from the 17thcentury can also offer a clue: the meta-soul in brotherhood draws itself down into individual practice. Rosicrucians feel connected to a meta-community but work as individuals. The Being they wish to express slowly enters and internalises.

Aonghus then observed the timeline of anthroposophy from 1913 to the present day, which he characterised as having four distinct phases:

1. 1913 to Rudolf Steiner’s death in 1925

This period is associated with the Sentient Soul connection and transformative relationships through Rudolf Steiner. There is a transfer of insight and knowledge and Steiner’s influence radiates through many individual biographies. This is a time when there is significant financial and personal giving for anthroposophical enterprises.

2. 1924 – 1990s

This period is associated with the Intellectual Soul and a certainty about how things are and what we need to do. During these years, anthroposophy consolidates and codifies itself. There is a rise in the number of anthroposophical institutions, which also receive individual, foundational and governmental support. Strong individuals hold a method and regard quality assurance as implicit.

3. 1990s – 2000+

During this period the Consciousness Soul starts to come to the fore, and there is an emphasis on the individual as researcher and the concept of collaborative action research begins to emerge. A ‘Gap’ begins to show up between the core and the periphery. Individual research generates new methods, and a sense develops that Rudolf Steiner does not belong only to anthroposophists. There is a rise in external criticism of anthroposophical organisations and a number of institutions, including the Goetheanum, begin to face financial challenges.

4. 2020 onwards

There is a worldwide expansion of the Consciousness Soul and collaborative action research supports the discovery of the Being. Aonghus suggested that, as anthroposophists, we need to avoid ‘doing things’ to the world, an attitude which he sees as more befitting to the Intellectual Soul. What do we want to do to the world?  is an often- heard statement in anthroposophic circles. Collaboration is limited. We may be left to undertake the project on our own.  Fundraising is exceptionally hard work in this context. However, if we were to reverse the question to How do we want our world to be? we elicit interest. It builds an outside-in perspective. The Consciousness Soul is activated. How do we want our world to be? draws in financial and human capital. The Being becomes present.

Anthroposophists in the era of Rudolf Steiner himself formed a fraternity of devotion, a Sentient Soul relationship. People poured in their resources at every level, both spiritual and financial towards supporting anthroposophy.  However, after his death, a crisis emerged which may be regarded as the awakening of the Intellectual Soul in the Being.  (There is a very good explanation of the terms Sentient Soul, Intellectual Soul and Consciousness Soul here.)

The Intellectual Soul awakened in great activity after the Second World War. The Being in Anthroposophy was accepted on the basis of the authority and insights of Steiner’s successors. External qualifications were not demanded and recognised individuals themselves generated the mandate and quality assurance. It became codified. There was an expansion in institutional development right across Europe and North America.  The Goetheanum Sections further mandated the individuals. Financial support grew both privately and governmentally. 

But during the 1990s, a new era emerged, as the Consciousness Soul became more evident. An increasing requirement for the ‘how’, the ‘why’ and the ‘what’ was demanded and significant new challenges and what Aonghus Gordon calls ‘The Gap’ emerged. Organisations who declined to subject their content to outside scrutiny and to receive external qualifications/ accreditation/ endorsements/ standards began to lose recognition and traction. Many places started to show the first signs of financial decline, particularly after the Millennium. It may be argued that a new tension emerged between the inside and the outside of the institution. To a significant extent, the Goetheanum has also found itself in this predicament.  The emergence of the Consciousness Soul within the Being and its impact on spiritual science, required a particular approach to maintain a connection between internal and external.  In the Anglo-Saxon arena, action research became a valid method in a number of UK/US universities and institutions.  Action research can be argued to be the Consciousness Soul method of choice for spiritual scientific practice.  From an internal perspective, we may perceive that the Being awakens as an inside out emerging necessity.

What does Aonghus mean by ‘action research’? He quotes Peter Reason: “Action research is an approach to the generation of knowing which aims to bring knowledge and action together, to produce practical knowing.” Following this line of thinking Aonghus and his colleague Simon Reakes have suggested that Goethean science research is an approach to the generation of knowing which aims to bring knower and known together, in empathic knowing. Action research, informed by Goethean science, can be seen as a form of participatory spiritual practice. It aims to realise the spiritual as hālig (Old English, “whole”). The whole here, however, is in the process of becoming. It becomes through participatory action research in a community of practice, and through Goethean science, encounters the being/s of the world. 

In other words, it is no longer good enough for anthroposophists simply to quote Rudolf Steiner; the world is demanding more of us than the assertion of what we believe to be true. Instead, in this age of the Consciousness Soul, it is necessary for us to own our truth, and to be able to back up our assertions with evidence. Research and enhanced practice must take place to challenge spiritual scientific assumptions and opinions and to ensure a new personal ownership within spiritual science. This is the challenge for Steiner schools and other anthroposophical educational organisations today. Unless we can rise to it, we will not be able to realise Steiner’s original intention for our schools to be really good, acknowledged as such and able “to take their place in the educational life of the day”.

Which brings us back to Michael Hall. The school has appointed a head teacher to help in dealing with the issues highlighted by Ofsted back in March 2019.  The school has also been working with the Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship and the Crossfields Institute to ensure that it can meet regulatory standards going forward. The teachers and staff were expecting to impress Ofsted with their newly embedded processes when the Covid-19 pandemic closed the school down and the inspection was postponed.

Michael Hall School, Forest Row, East Sussex.

Who would have thought that Steiner teachers could in these circumstances turn to remote learning and to make up lesson and activity packs for the younger year groups while also providing online lessons for the pre-teens and teenagers? And yet they have done all of this and much more, including a 3-5 year strategy for the school with a key focus on improving teaching practice and standards.  The postponed Ofsted inspection is now anticipated for early in 2021, when the school is hopeful of a return to a ‘Good’ rating. 

The School Council is in the process of updating the school’s purpose, aims, objectives and vision and at the same time focusing on student retention, marketing strategy, staff capability and capacity, and site development. To summarise, the school is embracing the age of the Consciousness Soul so as to deliver the best possible Steiner education with the child at the centre of the school, while demonstrating to Ofsted and the world at large just how it is going about this.

From an address to theologians in 1921 by Rudolf Steiner, found on p.310 in Volume 4 of Who was Ita Wegman (J.E. Zeylmans van Emmichoven) 


Filed under Aonghus Gordon, Michael Hall School, Ruskin Mill Trust, Steiner Waldorf schools

43 responses to “Re-imagining anthroposophical education for the 21st century

  1. Frank Thomas Smith

    It would seem, Jeremy, that UK Waldorf schools are too dependent on the political state. The original school in Germany was called the “Freie” WaldorfSchule – not meaning free of charge, but free of state control. The schools in Germany continue to carry the “freie” label. Once a school is economically dependent.on the state, they can do what they want with you. Would the UK schools be more free if they gave up such funding?


    • The situation in England (the other UK home nations have their own arrangements) is that Ofsted or its contractors inspect every school, whether they are state-funded or privately owned. So even if a latter day Emil Molt could be found who would bankroll a Steiner school in England, Ofsted would still come in and inspect according to their standards. As I mentioned in my blog post on ‘Anthroposophy and Social Justice’ of 5th July 2020, it is sobering to reflect that today, one hundred years after the first school opened in Stuttgart, here in England we are no nearer to achieving an educational system that is both free to all and free from state interference.


    • Silver Moon

      Interestingly, the Waldorf Schools in Germany are funded by the government there. Indeed, teachers are paid according to the wages of a state school teacher, albeit that teachers of Eurythmy are not. The College usually share out the wages equally (sometimes allowing for extenuating circumstances) and this will include the Eurythmy teachers.

      I will add that this does in fact show that there are governments that do not interfere in the way the British government does; but that in itself speaks of a government for whom freedom has little meaning


    • Frank,

      I am not sure “free” meant free of charge NOR free of the state (well not only that). “Free” signified inner freedom, an underlying impulse of the education.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Sally Jenkinson

    Excellent article, Jeremy. Thank you. All good wishes, Sally >


  3. I am saddened to hear about government attitudes towards Waldorf education in Britain. I’m guessing that the root cause is that the materialist mindset just can’t abide anything that runs counter to its agenda.

    I grew to know Michael Hall well during my time at Emerson College in the mid-70’s as I worked weekends in the boarding hostel kitchen.
    I and my 3 siblings attended Kings Langley while 6 of my cousins attended Wynstones, now to be shut down as well. It’s the end of an era.

    Now I’m remembering Aonghus showing my peruvian wife Lourdes and I all around Ruskin Mill in 2007. My mother lived just a short walk away in Nailsworth. He is an extraordinary chap who has managed to navigate within the constaints of british governmental regulations to establish some fresh, new anthroposophical initiatives.

    Thanks for another thoughtful article Jeremy.


  4. Silver Moon

    I find it interesting that it is in Britain where Waldorf schools are routinely abused by the government that should, in all honesty, be supporting such initiatives. They have been harried and hounded in a way that would make the Witchfinder General appear to be a lenient figure.


  5. Steve Hale

    Hi Jeremy,

    I would like to draw attention to Gordon’s initial quote from Steiner’s lecture to the theologians in 1921. Since these several lectures from GA 342 are not readily available, what he says to them here becomes a very important clue to what has only grown exponentially over the years, in terms of the so-called, “Being Anthroposophia”. Thus, for Steiner to characterize Anthroposophy as a human being has huge implications. I reiterate the citation:

    “Anthroposophy herself is a human being. If she were not, she could not transform us. She makes another human being of us, is herself a human being. I say this very seriously: anthroposophy is not a teaching but has real being, is a human being. And only when our inner nature is wholly permeated by this, and when, like a person who thinks but also feels and has motions of will, she thinks, feels and wills in us, as, really, a whole human being – only then have we grasped her and possess her fully. She works as a being and enters modern culture and civilisation as a kind of being.”

    Now, the only place I know where Steiner spoke along these same lines is in the course of lectures on the history of the anthroposophical movement, where he describes this “living and individual being that walks among us”, and how “she will remain close until our numbers rank in the millions; then, she can die”. Here is the lecture:

    I think that Steiner telling the young theologians about this had a huge bearing on what he foresaw even then about the possibility of a movement for religious renewal, which eventually occurred in September 1922. He wanted them to know that anthroposophy was grounded in a real person; a human being. Yet, as far as I know, Christian Community has yet to receive this human being as its fundamental inspiration. In a recent talk with a fellow comrade, she expressed disappointment that Christian Community does not overtly recognize the Divine Feminine. But, it seems clear that Rudolf Steiner was attempting to make this introduction from the very beginning of his talks with the theologians.

    There is, of course, a deeper biographical core to all of this. Steiner had an experience when he was a little boy of about seven or eight years old, and living in Pottschach, which he would recite in a lecture to the Berlin audience in early February 1913, when he was telling them of how the German Section of the Theosophical Society had been expelled. So, he was going forward under a new name; Anthroposophy. As such, he had occasion to be rather intimate with them in two lectures. The first, given on February 3rd 1913, concerned Dante, and the second the following day, concerned this very early and special experience that he had as a little boy while sitting in the Pottschach railway station.

    I am sure, and hoping that some here might know of what I am referring to because it all leads to a much deeper insight and clue that Steiner had given even before going to Berlin in February 1913. It comes from the course in Munich in August 1912, and where he explains that Dante had reincarnated in the 19th century for a special purpose, ref. lecture two.


  6. Steiner’s Leading Thoughts 1 (1924) on the Welcome page also indicates the ‘Being Anthroposophia’: “Anthroposophy is a path of knowledge to guide the spiritual in the human being to the spiritual in the universe. It [German: She] arises in man as a need of the heart, of the life of feeling; …” (see: The Archetypal Feminine, google 1bhc5EWUC, p.94)

    Leading Thoughts 147/148 are related, because they describe the development of the human form (German, female: die Gestalt), the visible I-form of the physical body.


    • Stephen Hale

      Here is where Steiner refers back to what he had told the theologians about anthroposophy being a human being:

      “Anthroposophists today must not think that they have only the same commitments which future anthroposophists will have when they exist by the million rather than the thousand. When limited numbers are active in the vanguard of a movement they have to show commitment of a much higher order. It means that they are obliged to show greater courage, greater energy, greater patience, greater tolerance and, above all, greater truthfulness in every respect. And in our present third stage a situation arose which specifically tested our truthfulness and seriousness. It related in a certain sense to the subject matter discussed at one point in the lectures to theologians. [ Note 5 ]. Irrespective of the fact that individual anthroposophists exist, a feeling should have developed, and must develop, among them, that Anthroposophia exists as a separate being, who moves about among us, as it were, towards whom we carry a responsibility in every moment of our lives. Anthroposophia is actually an invisible person who walks among visible people and towards whom we must show the greatest responsibility for as long as we are a small group. Anthroposophia is someone who must be understood as an invisible person, as someone with a real existence, who should be consulted in the individual actions of our lives.” GA 258, 16 June 1923

      Liked by 1 person

      • Steve Hale

        Steiner becomes even more specific about the importance of recognizing and following this invisible human being of Anthroposophia in the last lecture of GA 258. He sees the imperative of another 21 years of direct development of the anthroposophical cause. In other words, 42 years total in order for the anthroposophical movement to become a worldwide cause, or initiative. This would have taken us to 1944, but we know what happened instead.

        “Until anthroposophy is taken as a living being who moves invisibly among us, my dear friends, towards whom we feel a certain responsibility, this small group of anthroposophists I must say this too, will not serve as a model. And that is what they should be doing.

        If you had gone into any of the Theosophical Societies, and there were many of them, you would have encountered the three famous objects. The first was to build universal fraternity among mankind without reference to race, nationality and so on. I pointed out yesterday that we should be reflecting on the appropriateness of setting this down as dogma.

        It is, of course, important that such an object should exist, but it has to be lived. It must gradually become a reality. That will happen if anthroposophy itself is seen as a living, supersensory, invisible being who moves among anthroposophists. Then there might be less talk about fraternity and universal human love, but these objects might be more active in human hearts. And then it will be evident in the tone in which people talk about their relation to anthroposophy, in how they talk to one another, that it is important to them that they too are followers of the invisible being of Anthroposophia.

        After all, we could just as well choose another way. We could form lots of cliques and exclusive groups and behave like the rest of the world, meeting for tea parties or whatever, to make conversation and possibly assemble for the occasional lecture. But an anthroposophical movement could not exist in such a society. An anthroposophical movement can only live in an Anthroposophical Society which has become reality. But that requires a truly serious approach. It requires a sense of alliance in every living moment with the invisible being of Anthroposophia.”


    • More references to Anthroposophia by Steiner and Prokofieff, in:

      Steiner (1913), The Being of Anthroposophy,
      Steiner (1923), Awakening to Community
      Prokofieff (1993), google 9lAtjDiQ78cC, p.88 ff.
      Prokofieff (2003), google JPuBW6kB3XoC, p.5 ff. and 90 ff.


      • Stephen Hale

        Steiner’s lecture from 1913, The Being of Anthroposophy, is the one in which he informs his listening audience about Dante’s role in being reincarnated in the 19th century. Dante’s idea of “Philosophia” as his true love really meant Aristotle, and how much he admired Thomas Aquinas and Albertus Magnus for resurrecting the spirit of Aristotle into the fourteenth century.

        Steiner’s lecture the next day is the one in which he speaks for the first and only time about his cousin, who came to him one day when he was a little boy sitting in the Pottschach railway office. This is when the words and gestures of the cousin caused the “being of anthroposophy” to be born out of the little boy’s rather narrow world-view at the time. This is explained rather completely in the lecture on “self education”, 4 February 1913.

        Now, here is the root of all this, and Ton you are an extraordinary researcher today. You are a Parsifal in the making, my son. Steiner gave a lecture back in August 1912, the second in the course, “Initiation, Eternity, and the Passing Moment”. Herein, he describes how Dante reincarnated in the 19th century, and how it could be considered a downfall from his former greatness as an initiate. Yet, it was only for the purpose of bringing the little boy, described later, a step forward in bringing “Philosophia” into the realm of “Anthroposophia”.

        Ton, do me a favor and find this reference from lecture two and post it here. The very words contain the riddle and mystery of what would come next.


        • Steve Hale

          Okay, I’ll just write it out for you. Thanks anyway.

          “In the successive epochs of human evolution we find one remarkable phenomenon. I could give examples of what I have just told you of the confusing way in which initiates on reincarnating sometimes appear to have come down from their heights. You would probably be much surprised if I told you, for instance, in what way Dante was reincarnated in the nineteenth century. But it is not my task here to discuss further this result of my own investigation and what was established for me. Rather have I to bring forward with strong proof the things known to everyone conversant with occultism, letting everything else recede into the background and stating nothing that is not generally recognised where bona fide occultism is upheld.”


        • Steve, you have already commented on this specific Dante connection at

          Steiner’s invisible human being ‘Anthroposophia’ seems to be related to the Hebrew, Greek and Russian Sophia, to the archetypical feminine Wisdom and to the pentecostal Baptism with the Spirit. Prokofieff in his works described the relation of a supposed sevenfold Being Anthroposophia to the developing Anthroposophical Society, and ultimately to the Second Coming of the Son of Man. Gordon adds another timeline of threefold soul development.

, S. 5-6 (German)


          • Steve Hale

            Yes, indeed. But I am referring to the fact that Steiner’s own cousin was the reincarnated Dante. You forced me to blurt it out because if I didn’t, you would make it a corpse before its time. Read Steiner’s lecture of 4 February 1913,.

            We know that it was his cousin that came to him as a little boy sitting in the Pottschach railway station that day. And she implored him to help her now and later in her quest to serve the cause. So, his external eye was opened, and he looked out beyond for the first time. This is indicated in his autobiography when it shows how much he developed a keen interest for the outer-external world as a little boy. It was due to the cousin imploring him to “help me now and later”. This is what caused him to first look beyond his own little world. Just go look. His father would eventually see a railway engineer in the making with this little boy, who had just become very inquisitive. Hmmm, Now, why would that be?

            God moves in mysterious ways, and especially when destiny is involved. Dante reincarnated as the cousin of Rudolf Steiner, and came to him when he was just a little boy. Of course, it changed his life. She was expecting Aristotle, but he was able to give it in spades. In other word, Alexander. This is a big secret to this day.


            • tonmajoor

              Remarkably, Steiner’s crucial experience would have concerned ‘a visit of the spirit of a suicidal personality’ (Steiner’s maternal aunt), who asked for help.


              • Steve Hale

                It was the niece of Steiner’s father who committed suicide and came directly to the little boy in her etheric body. This experience caused him to look around for the first time, and the first thing he noticed was how grief-stricken his father was. Something went out of the father, and was experienced as loss of affection. But, the root of the being of anthroposophy begins here.


                This lecture also tells of someone who came into Steiner’s life when he was eighteen years old, and encouraged him to sell his school books and read all he could on Fichte. This can also be found in his autobiography.


                • Selg (2014) implies his mothers sister (his mother cried for days, similarity between the apparition and his mother), google BLtvBAAAQBAJ


                  • Steve Hale

                    T.H. Meyer’s book, “Milestones in the Life of Rudolf Steiner” describes the experience at Pottschach, pg. 9.


                    Here, it is clearly indicated that the father was distressed at the loss of a family member. As well, Steiner says it was a cousin who came to him, which would imply a niece on the father’s side. But, the main issue is what it caused to begin for the first time in the little boy. He began to look outward into the world that surrounded him. His precocity for all things scientific and mechanical began to appear. He stopped breaking his cups and saucers!! I’m sure his mother was happy about that bit of mischievousness coming to end.


                    • Selg (2014) uses a second source, mentioning the crying mother:

                      “My parents had no notice of her death. I sat in the waiting room of the train station and saw a vision of what had happened. I tried to tell my parents. They replied, “Don’t be a silly boy”. Some days later, I saw my father become pensive after receiving a letter. Later, in my absence he spoke with my mother, who cried for days thereafter. I heard the details of my aunt’s death only years later.”


  7. Steve Hale

    Hi Jeremy,

    I think I get the drift of what you are saying about the work of Aonghus Gordon in our day and age. Yet, if behind the financial element, which rules the world today, and Gordon duly espouses as a modern-day realist in our day and age, there is the Being Anthroposophia always looming, then what does it really mean to have a science of the spirit, which always seems to get lessened in favor of the outer-external element?

    Oftsted, of course, is an obstruction, and we have heard about this for a number of years now. The American scene, which I have described from time to time, would have it be in an ideal environment that Waldorf schools are left free to teach their method without outside interference. In other words, free to teach wholly out of the methods of the science of the spirit.
    This is the ideal setting, and if I remember a recent post in which I had occasion to talk to Richard House, I referred to Steiner’s promised lectures to the Department of Education, Basle, in the Spring of 1920; “The Renewal of Education”. This was the follow-on to the single lecture given on 27 November 1919, in which Steiner expressed how successful the Waldorf School at Stuttgart, Germany, was going to be. The folks in Basle were very impressed, and so Steiner gave them the full-blown treatment in the course given in April/May 1920. I have often defended Steiner’s pedagogical method with this course because of its easy and straightforward accessibility.

    Thus, it is America that has embraced this kind of curriculum, and upholds its ability to teach it without outside interference. Ofsted in England is a sad resolution to the failure of the British Empire to make its mark, and now must control its own in every respect. It expresses the former Roman Empire, its own conqueror in far earlier days, which is now a mere relic known as Italy, and bears the Pope of the Catholic Church. So, we can expect what we have from England today in terms of Steiner schools.

    What is needed is a complete reconsideration in terms of the present-day world, and wherein Steiner’s lectures here on “The Renewal of Education” are recast for a renewed consideration in our present day and age. Just looking at them starts the cycle anew. And 2020 is no better time because 2020 is a forefront. As such, it is an inauguration with directions. We can either ascend or descend. The signs are obvious today, and most overtly with the 20-20 designation, which involves both hindsight and foresight, and how clear they both can be with the science of the spirit. Sadly, most of us wear corrective lenses today because we are elderly, and bear the symptoms of an earlier time in which we had the opportunity to embrace the cause, and yet were confused and afraid. Age makes a big difference in eventually vanquishing fear. The Science of the Spirit is owing to those who behold its gifts and continue to express them.


  8. Steve Hale

    Ton, you wrote from the Selg source:

    “My parents had no notice of her death. I sat in the waiting room of the train station and saw a vision of what had happened. I tried to tell my parents. They replied, “Don’t be a silly boy”. Some days later, I saw my father become pensive after receiving a letter. Later, in my absence he spoke with my mother, who cried for days thereafter. I heard the details of my aunt’s death only years later.”

    According to Steiner’s own words in the lecture from 4 February 1913, ref, GA 250, he knew that he could not say anything about what he experienced. He simply knew that nobody would believe it. So, he kept it to himself, and simply observed what occurred around him. This is when he noticed his father being rather downhearted, and heard about a loss in the family; the cousin who had appeared to the young boy that day in the railway station. He remembers a face that looked vaguely familiar when she walked toward him, and likely from a photograph displayed at the family residence.

    So, what is the important issue here; cousin, aunt, or the reincarnation of Dante Aligheri for a certain purpose in the 19th century? This is what seems pertinent. The young boy receives an incentive to look outward for the first time, and this comes from the cousin who had committed suicide, and came to him rather directly in her etheric body.

    Steiner only told about this because the German section of the Theosophical Society had been expelled in 1912 by the order of Annie Besant, and he wanted Berlin to know that he was not a Jesuit, which they were charging him for, but rather a simple person who had received certain impulses since being a little boy. Thus, the story about the cousin, and then the layman who encouraged the study of Fichte, and then the herb-gatherer Felix K., who would take the same train into Vienna.


    • It’s all about (self)eduction. The awakening is comparable with Steiner’s “mental revolution” in the beginning of his 36th year (Autobiography Ch.22).

      For the second version (in Steiners notebooks) see: “Rudolf Steiner über seine Kindheit. Ein autobiographisches Fragment.” (printed in Beiträge 49/50, S.9). Also in: Lindenberg (2015), P5F4DwAAQBAJ, S.31.


      • Steve Hale

        Hi Ton,

        Steiner’s “mental revolution” when he was 36 is very important. From 1890 to 1897 he was in Weimar, working at the Goethe-Schiller archives, and this is where we was given ample opportunity to go in his own direction without too much authority. He gives it good attention in his autobiography. This is when he visited Friedrich Nietzsche in 1895, and wrote a book about him.

        So, you might say that the little boy meets the mature man here. When Steiner went to Weimar, Germany, from Austria in 1890, he was a fledgling soul who hadn’t left home since he was a little boy. He indicates how it was in his autobiography. He had to bring himself into the social scene as a kind of outsider; a visitor who still retained the original spiritual geometry from his youth. Then, by 1897, he descended, himself, into the three-dimensional world, with its subject-object distinctions. This is because his exact clairvoyant faculty had been vouchsafed to him by this time.

        Indeed, what Steiner experienced in 1897, when he was 36 years old, was pivotal. He still had to experience going to Berlin, and how a kind of marriage of convenience would prove to be helpful for him. You see, he was still a kind of lost soul when we entered the big city. This is also covered in his autobiography, and so no one is missing what you are saying Ton, except those who are not listening. The issue is the reincarnation of Dante in the 19th century, and for the purpose of coming to the little boy. Steiner said himself that nobody would understand it. Wasn’t that already explained?


        • Thank you all for your comments on this interesting diversion but we’re getting some way away from the topic of anthroposophical education for the 21st century – so I won’t be accepting any more comments that are not on that theme.


          • Steve Hale

            You need to understand something, Jeremy. Any main topic you offer can veer into a new direction, as it often does here, and it is a godsend because it reveals truths that have never been spoken before. It is designed to extend the subject, for example anthro education in the 21st century, and why it is so poorly received and understood. Steiner was simply born before his time, and grew up to see his mission, and the cards he was dealt. This is not unlike your own display with stirring the biodyn compounds with the help of your wife. This likely led to an extension of commentary on the subject, which was good.

            So, please stop being so British, and loosen up to the occasion which has been afforded to you. Please see your own opportunities which are right in front of you. If not, well there is always the Monarchy, but we have already had that conversation. We should move on to a new topic, with strict enforcement. This one got out of hand, and I apologize.


          • Steve Hale

            I wrote you here, on topic, and you had nothing to say. Why would that be? You see, it is all progressive, and wherein we take in each others viewpoints. That is the only way we can suffer each other 🙂



          • Okay, I thought Steiner’s story was an example of ‘personal ownership’ of our truth:

            “In other words, it is no longer good enough for anthroposophists simply to quote Rudolf Steiner; the world is demanding more of us than the assertion of what we believe to be true. Instead, in this age of the Consciousness Soul, it is necessary for us to own our truth, and to be able to back up our assertions with evidence.”


  9. Steve Hale

    As well, if we look back at the heart of this thread, and its essay, it was Aonghus Gordon who cited a passage from Steiner’s early lectures to the young theologians:

    “Anthroposophy herself is a human being. If she were not, she could not transform us. She makes another human being of us, is herself a human being. I say this very seriously: anthroposophy is not a teaching but has real being, is a human being. And only when our inner nature is wholly permeated by this, and when, like a person who thinks but also feels and has motions of will, she thinks, feels and wills in us, as, really, a whole human being – only then have we grasped her and possess her fully. She works as a being and enters modern culture and civilisation as a kind of being.”

    Then, Jeremy says:

    “This is a remarkable statement by Steiner and not at all easy to understand. Aonghus Gordon asked: Is he referring to the soul of the world and if so, how does this soul enter human consciousness and action? An example of this is the Statue of Khafre from Ancient Egypt, which depicts a Being, in the form of Horus, entering and embracing the pharaoh.”

    So, now we’re off topic just for trying to continue to explore this very important subject of the Being Anthroposophia. I wrote a scathing response to Jeremy because I felt that we were still very much on this topic. You see it as well, which gladdens my heart. Thus, Gordon’s own remarks, which Jeremy finds so interesting, suddenly became the substance of a very interesting further evaluation.

    Now, it has been ditched. I wonder how long this type of behaviour will be tolerated. We had a good discussion going, and over something seemingly very important, and yet admittedly obscure. The important thing is that we were pursuing its thought-line without deviation. Yet, of course, it solves nothing, and maybe that is what Jeremy means here with education in the 21st century.


  10. The moderation of comments to this blog is an area that I sometimes find difficult. Of course, it is good to see discussions developing in an interesting way out of the original post – but then I have to take a view on when these digressions become so far removed from the topic under discussion that it is time to call a halt. I won’t always get these decisions right. I also have to consider the interests of people who are less-prolific commenters and who may be intimidated from contributing to the discussion by the sheer volume of comments from a particular individual.

    The subject of the being Anthroposophia is a relevant one for consideration here, as it does arise out of the original post. The subject of Steiner’s experience as a small boy of seeing a vision of his dead aunt is not in my view relevant in this context, however interesting it may be. So I shall be grateful if all commenters will help me here by sticking only to topics which arise directly out of the original post.


    • Steve Hale

      Steiner indicates in the lecture from 4 February, 1913, that ii was a cousin, and not an aunt, who appeared to him. So, why shouldn’t we try to get right what is right? If I speak up in order to try to be informative, it is not to intimidate anyone, but to rather encourage interest and possible dialectics, which is an active dynamic. If you think that possible participants here are discouraged from making input because someone makes an informed contribution in the spirit of science, then I think you are wrong in this assessment. It has been proffered before in your defense of why people might be discouraged from writing here, and yet never proven. Why? Because it will never be proven until people take the incentive that has been given them to write based on what they have been told. You notice how nearly nobody here has anything to say other than Ton. Why? Because he is an astute student. If we waited for your other malingering aspirants, well, it could be a long wait. I am not trying to offend anybody, but this ploy of yours, Jeremy, has been used in the past in order to justify something. If people care, and have an opinion, they will write. If you think I am suppressing conversations, then you are cockeyed in your assessment. Yet, I seem to remember that you once had to restrict a prolific writer to this blog to four posts on a topic. Four. Now how British is that for you? Even when it was pleaded that she should be able to write freely, you refused to change. Now, how British is that?

      Here is what is important in this day and age, Jeremy. That we take every advantage and possibility to speak on the science of the spirit, and everyone is welcome. And this is exactly what has been taking place. If you disagree, then put me on suspension. Then, we will see if your correspondence increases. I doubt it, though. People are reading these posts that want to hear what they are hearing. Why? Because it is informative about stuff that they know little to nothing about. That is why I take the pains to contribute here. And you think I am a nuisance. I don’t leave anyone out of a conversation. It is completely free, isn’t it?

      Yet, you have this well-worn theory about poor suppressed possible participants on this blog who are so intimidated and fearful to speak up. Well, maybe so, but don’t attribute it to me. Why? Because I love the conversation and encourage with fire and enthusiasm every bit of the topic.


      • You have been very direct, Steve, so I shall respond with equal directness. I think you write too much and too often. I’ve checked the stats and your tally of comments is 233. In the same period, I’ve made 86 contributions and Ton has made 83. What this indicates to me is that you should consider starting your own blog where you can write as much as you want to your heart’s content, on any and every topic that catches your fancy. How many of the “malingering aspirants” to this blog would want to follow you there is another matter, of course. I don’t doubt your enthusiasm and love of the conversation and I do welcome much of what you contribute, but please remember that less is sometimes more.


        • Steve Hale

          Whatever. I really don’t care what your stats say. I have chosen to contribute to this forum over the last six years, and so please live with it. I actually had my own forum for a number of years, i.e., 2009-2019, but yahoo shut down its database, and we were canceled. So, I don’t really have to start something new, and especially when I have you.

          I do write a lot, and because you write so many interesting essays that I can’t contain myself. That doesn’t stop anyone from writing from their own perspective on the subject. Many discussions have occurred on this blog that have been ferociously insightful, and you can go look at your stats to find that out, and I’m not talking about Marilyn Monroe 🙂

          So, I am going to keep writing without what appears to be a warning from the moderator, which is you. Remember, when Steiner found out that his German Section of the Theosophical Society had been expelled in 1912, he simply kept going, and left it to others to change its name, and carry on the administrative details. In fact, he stayed out of it for the purpose of finding out if the movement that he had started in 1902 had the inherent strength to continue without him. He wanted to see if a leader might arise out of its ranks, and so chose to be a teacher for the cause until the refounding at Christmas 1923. Then, of course, he took charge, but that was because somebody said, “Oh please Dr. Steiner, don’t retire because you are tired and worn-out and certainly deserving of being professor emeritus to the cause; refound the society and take charge on your own”. Now, of course, this appeal is said to have come from Ita Wegman there in Holland, when he founded the Holland branch of the Anthroposophical Society in November 1923.

          And so, he did. Steiner was someone who was always looking for encouragement to extend himself. This is a lot like that, Jeremy. You say, “less is more”, but less will never be more in this day and age. Why? Because we are living in apocalyptic times, and these times need to be seen with a certain amount of consciousness, which is the anthroposophical endeavor today.

          If mere reflections on how the being Anthroposophia has arisen out of Steiner’s own experience as a little boy is considered offensive because it somehow hasn’t been proven, and yet we want to extend our efforts beyond the “Steiner saids”, well why not consider these findings? Aonghus Gordon is the one who cited this passage from Steiner’s early lectures to the young theologians in 1921, and because these lectures are not translated yet into English, he found its reference in Zelyman’s fourth volume on Ita Wegman. Yet, we have extended this discussion here, Jeremy, about its source. That was all that was taking place.

          Gordon gives his own timeline of events since 1913. I found this very interesting, and this also stimulates thought on the subject. And, so it goes, Jeremy, and this is how you get your input. Does that make sense?


  11. Midnight Rambler

    Here are further perspectives about the incarnation of the being called “Anthroposophia” by Rudolf Steiner at her current stage of development, taken from a lecture called “Perceiving the Thought Being” (Jan 10, 1915).

    “Something lives in history which passes through the etheric body, the sentient body etc., a real, actual Being. I said in my book (Riddles of Philosophy) that in the Grecian era thought was born. But in modern times it comes to actual self-consciousness in the consciousness soul: thought is an independent active Being.
    You see from this that very many impulses of transformation as regards the spiritual life are coming forward in our time. For here we see something evolving that is like a human being except that it has a longer duration of life than an individual man. The individual man lives on the physical plane: for seven years he develops the physical body, for seven years the etheric body, for seven years the sentient body etc. The Being which evolves as philosophy (we call it by the abstract name ‘philosophy’) lives for 700 years in the etheric body, 700 – 800 years in the sentient body (the time is only approximate), 700 – 800 years in the sentient soul, 700 – 800 years in the intellectual or mind-soul and again 700 – 800 years in the consciousness soul.
    A Being evolves upwards of whom we can say: if we look at the very first beginnings of Grecian philosophy this Being has then just reached the stage of development which corresponds in mankind to puberty; as Being it is like man when he has reached the 14th – 16th year. Then it lives upwards to the time when a human being experiences the events between the 14th and 21st year; that is the age of Greek philosophy, Greek thought. Then comes the next 7 years, what man experiences from the age of 21 to 28; the Christ Impulse enters the development of philosophy. Then comes the period from Scotus Erigena up to the New Age. This Being develops in the following 700 – 800 years what man develops between the ages of 28 and 35 years. And now we are living in the development of what man experiences in his consciousness soul: we are experiencing the consciousness soul of philosophy, of philosophical thought. Philosophy has actually come to the “forties”, only it is a Being that has much longer duration of life. One year in a man’s life corresponds to a hundred years in the life of the Being of philosophy. So we see a Being passing through history for whom a century is a year; evolving in accordance with Sun-laws though one is not aware of it.“


    • Thank you, M R, this is very helpful.


      • Steve Hale

        Yes, this is very helpful; an excellent excerpt. Yet, in the context of what we are really talking about here, it loses the drama of the moment. And what is that? Dante reincarnating in the 19th century! Remember what Steiner says about how people would be discouraged that the initiate Dante could reincarnate as an unknown commoner. So, what does he do? He doesn’t say any more about it. He waits until it becomes a paramount moment in which to reveal something concerning this, and yet still veiled in a certain way. This was in early February 1913, when he tells his Berlin members how they have now to either remain with him, or go elsewhere for their spiritual needs. I think the lecture in which he invokes Dante, and then the lecture from the next day, about the cousin who came to him when he was a little boy, were hugely important in keeping the incentive going, and he wanted to express it this way. Besant was out, and a new era was beginning.


  12. Mark McDougall

    Thanks to you all for your discussions and insights.
    Glad Aonghus is making things work. Would that more may.


    • Steve Hale

      Hi Mark. Glad to see a remark in two months. For me, making things work is also a matter of discussion and insight. I don’t believe in a lockdown mentality. Spiritual science in the 21st century might just have to go underground for a spell, but that has happened before. The Roman historian, Tacitus, remembers this. He is most famous for saying that “followers of a certain man named Jesus could be found living on a side street in Rome.” This is considered to be one of those meager proofs that Jesus actually lived. According to Rudolf Steiner, Tacitus reincarnated as Ralph Waldo Emerson, who established the Transcendentalist Movement in America in the very tumultuous nineteenth century of developing materialism. In the 1970’s, Francis Edmunds in England, established a college in the name of Ralph Waldo Emerson for the teaching of anthroposophy. I have always felt it an honor that Britain would embrace an American in seeing its spiritual impulses for the future. I mean, how would Carlyle College sound in this day and age? Thomas Carlyle and Ralph Waldo Emerson were friends and correspondents for many years, and had karmic connections.


  13. Hello Jeremy and others,
    I found this post a bit belatedly. However, in relation to the notion of research-based approaches to Steiner education, and in particular in updating it, and making it relevant, for the 21st century, I wonder if you know my recent book:
    “The Secret to Growing Brilliant Children: Steiner Education for the 21st Century”. It draws on research in Steiner schools in Australia, research from my PHD on “Evolving Education” – deeply inspired by Steiner philosophy and pedagogy, and my other book “Postformal Education: A Philosophy for Complex Futures” – again deeply inspired by Steiner.
    Links to my books can be found here:
    Cheers, Jennifer Gidley


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