Despite the Commission Scolaire des Patriotes decision not to renew the specialised school status granted to the École de la Roselière French school, its teachers will continue, until June 2013, to teach their students using an educational method that gives a central place to Christ. Two other public schools also base their teachings on this method: L’École Les Enfants de la Terre in Waterville and L’École communautaire l’Eau-Vive in Victoriaville. It should be noted that these two institutions are still, to this day, recognised by both the Ministry of Education and their respective school boards…
To fully understand the important role played by Christ within this Waldorf Educational Method, we must first dwell upon the teachings given by Rudolf Steiner, founder of Anthroposophy, a new religion that was used as the basis for the Waldorf Educational Method. Without getting ourselves too deep into esoteric and obscure details, it is nonetheless essential to understand Steiner’s thoughts on Christ before we address their presence within the world’s Waldorf schools.
For Rudolf Steiner, an Austrian and self-taught philosopher born in 1861 and who died in 1925, Christ is a spiritual entity that incarnated himself in the body of a certain Jesus of Nazareth. Here is how he presents him to his disciples:
The pupil must at least find it possible to believe that the most lofty Being, the Leader of the Fire-Spirits of the Sun evolution, was physically incorporated as Jesus of Nazareth (…). If one would undergo a purely Christian training one must be sure that in him lived a God-man of a unique nature, otherwise one has not the right basic feeling that enters the soul and awakens it. Therefore one must have an actual belief in the first words of the beginning of St. John’s Gospel: “In the beginning was the Logos and the Logos was with God and a God was the Logos “to the words” And the Logos became flesh and dwelt among us.” Thus the same Spirit who was the ruler of the Fire-Spirits, who was linked with the transforming of the Earth, whom we also call the Spirit of the Earth, has actually dwelt among us in a garment of flesh, he was actually in a physical body. That must be recognised! If one cannot do this then it is better to undertake another method of training. (http://wn.rsarchive.org/Lectures/GA099/English/RSP1966/19070606p01.html;mark=164,42,47#WN_mark)
When Jesus of Nazareth dies on the cross, Christ, this spiritual entity that journeyed within him, rises from the dead. By doing so, he allows the whole of humanity to get back on track towards its spiritual completion.
According to Rudolf Steiner, if Christ had not incarnated Himself in the body of Jesus of Nazareth and the resurrection had not taken place, humanity “would have given death to the earth” and, by doing so, prevented all spiritual evolution to come. One must know that for the founder of Anthroposophy, the ultimate goal of the human being is to get back its original state, which is a complete spiritual being. Man has lost this state in a breathtakingly fast descent towards the materialization of its body and the universe.
And so, according to Rudolf Steiner, Christ is capable of saving each human being. He can help him find once again its true spiritual nature. However, in order to manage to do so, Man must knowingly and freely choose Christ’s side. If the human being rejects Christ, he will materialize to a certain point after which it will be impossible for him to rise up towards the spiritual. He will then be a prisoner of the material for all of eternity.
Making Christ Known to the Students
And so it is not surprising that while he was alive, Steiner would give a thrilling calling to the Waldorf teachers so that they would make Christ known to their students.
Unless we succeed in calling to life between the ages of seven and fourteen the living Christ in the inner being of the child, with the help of the kind of pedagogy that anthroposophy describes, unless we succeed in doing this, human beings will step into later life unable to gain an understanding of the living Christ. They will have to deny Christ, unless they choose, somewhat dishonestly, to hold on to the traditional Christian beliefs, while lacking the inner means of soul to understand that Christ has risen insofar as the person experiences the resurrection, and insofar as the teacher experiences with the child the living Christ in the heart, in the soul. Christ can be awakened in the soul, and through this union with Christ, immortality can be restored to the soul. (Rudolf Steiner, «Why Base Education on Anthroposophy ?» in Waldorf Education and Anthroposophy part 2, Public Lectures 1922-1924, Foundations of Waldorf Education, Anthroposophic Press, 1996, 243 pages, p. 122, [http://steinerbooks.org/research/archive.php#waldorf])
In his book The Esoteric background of Waldorf Education, René M. Querido, the former General Secretary of the American Anthroposophy Society, goes over Rudolf Steiner’s thought:
If approximately between the ages of seven and fourteen the child is not introduced in a living way to the Christ, along the lines of the Waldorf Curriculum, in later life the youngster is more likely either to deny the Christ or to hold onto a traditional faith by means of which he or she cannot truly experience the Ressurected One. It may be worthwile to reflect upon this in our faculty meetings. (René M. Querido, The Esoteric Background of Waldorf Education: The Cosmic Christ Impulse, Rudolf Steiner College Press, 1995, 105 pages, page 36).
These clarifying quotes reveal to us that, if they remain faithful to their master’s opinion, the teachers must, in their teachings, give life to Christ. Yet, in our days, the majority of Waldorf institutions do not give religious anthroposophy classes. Only a certain number of them give this class, along with a ritual intended to students who have enrolled for it. This ritual was created by Rudolf Steiner himself (which demonstrates very well that the Waldorf Schools are fundamentally denominational). How then, do they fulfill their Master’s wish?
We will address here a question that is both esoteric and exoteric. Esoteric because Steiner’s Christ holds more of this field of interpretation than that of traditional Christianity. Exoteric because, as we shall see, the educational Curriculm of Waldorf schools is built to make Christ live, or the Christian impulse, in the heart of the students and the institution.
Christ inspiring religions
According to Rudolf Steiner’s teachings, the spiritual entity that is Christ has, throughout humanity’s history, contributed to the burst of religions that preceded Christianity. The descent of the Christian entity was spread out on millions of terrestrial years. As the Christian entity approached the Earth, the planet spread out his impulsions on religious people who were significant to their times. And so, Zarathustra, Hermes, Buddha, Moses, to name but those, were all insiders inhabited by the Christian impulse. In their teachings, they were speaking of Christ in the form of an image. The incarnation of Christ in the body of Jesus of Nazareth, while the latter was 30 years old, merged all the various religious currents. His crucifixion ran blood that mixed itself to the Earth. Since then, everything on this planet is intimately linked to Christ. And this includes the non-Christians.
This is why an anthroposophical author, who was a former catholic priest, can write the following:
Rudolf Steiner’s spiritual science offers us a heap of designations concerning the Christian being; and these do not characterise his distinction any less than the word “Christ”. This entity can be called: “the Solar Being”, “the Loving Being”, “The representative of humanity”, “the Son of Man”, “the Master of Karma”, “the Resurrected One”, “the One who Returns”, “the Master of the bodhisattvas”, “Dispenser of the Holy Spirit”, “the Cosmic Word”, “the Logos”, “the Cosmic Meaning”, “the being of Self”, “the I Am”, “The One that renders freedom possible”, “the Perfect Divine Being”, “the Son of the cosmic Father”, “the Son of God”. We can also use the pre Christian designations through which, in the mysteries, the insiders brought attention to the solar being that was approaching the Earth: “Vishva Karman” for the Hindus, “Ahura Mazdao” for the Persians, “Osiris” for the Egyptians, “Yahweh” for the Jews, etc. I have established this list without any trouble and I am sure that a number of other designations could be applied for this central and universal Being of our solar system. (Pietro Archiati, Christianity or Christ? (Original French Version, free translation), Éditions Anthroposophiques Romandes, 1996, 183 pages, page 171).
We will notice that this Christ is far from the one professed by the traditional Christian religions. Steiner made Christ into an entity that transcends them all. In his mind and in the minds of the other anthroposophist, as in the ones of the teachers, the Christian impulse can be found within Christianity just as well as within the pre Christian religions.
A Christian curriculum
Therefore, it is not surprising to notice that the educational curriculum of the Waldorf schools, be they public or private, have the goal of improving the “awakening of the religious sentiment”, such as explained by the École communautaire l’Eau-Vive of Victoriaville in a document intended for the Commission scolaire des Bois-Francs school board:
One of the distinctive features of the Waldorf method is its spiritual dimension. The method is based on the fact that there exists in the human being a part of himself that wants to connect itself to a divine or superior dimension, like it would to a great source. This individual bond with something greater goes beyond such or such denomination. It stirs within each one a feeling of gratitude towards nature and one of confidence in the human being.
The Waldorf schools are non denominational, they leave the choice of such or such religious tradition to the family, but they work on the awakening of the religious sentiment (written in italics in the original French text, author’s note). This sentiment opens the possibility of connecting ourselves to everything that is divine in nature, in the human being and also in the school of thoughts that have guided humanity in its evolution. (Periodical on the Distinctive Features of the Waldorf Educational Method in preparation for the elaboration of a joint plan of action between the École l’Eau-Vive and the Commission Scolaire des Bois-Francs, December 11th 2002, 216 pages, page 13. This document was obtained thanks to the Loi d’accès aux documents publics et sur la protection des renseignements personnels. Original French Version, free translation).
As we read this text, those accustomed to Rudolf Steiner’s anthroposophical and spiritual doctrine are in a well-known field. For this is exactly what this is all about. The authors subtly present the denominational basis of the Waldorf schools, Anthroposophy, to the officials of the Commission Scolaire des Bois-Francs.
Let’s continue reading this essential text:
How do we convey an awakening of the spiritual sentiment? The ways will vary according to the child’s age:
With the young ones: (pre school, kindergarten and first elementary years):
It is the recognition, the wonder towards nature’s displays and cycles (a plant that germinates and grows, the chick that comes out of its egg, the light of a candle, the change of seasons…). This connection with nature is taught through nursery rhymes, songs, and rhythmic parts. (…)
The divine feeling is taught through tales and legends in which the qualities of human beings are called on: goodness, the desire to help others, the love of truth, loyalty, courage, etc. (…)
With the older students:
The awakening of the religious sentiment is addressed through the biographies of historical and religious people who were capable of resolving problems in exemplary ways, by going beyond themselves. These figures embody the abilities of courage, perseverance and self-giving which are living references for the children.
Later, the class will approach the study of religions, as well as the lives of beings that have gown down in humanity’s history: Krishna, Moses, Jesus Christ … the study of these biographies will educate [sic] on man’s never ending search towards freedom.
Throughout this journey from the smaller to the bigger classes, the child can identify and feel the universal values of humanity, as well as the schools of thoughts that have shaped humanity. In this way, it stimulates its conscience and develops its identity.
This dawning also nourishes itself with some themes in each school year, which are backgrounds of all the activities for each class. These themes, some of which may first be seen as having a religious overtone, are elaborated throughout the years in a first and foremost historical perspective of the evolution of humanity. In concern of global development of the child that must lead him to an adult life in which he will feel responsible and will take his place as citizen of the society that will be his, the educational method will teach him to recognise, by means of the yearly themes, the evolution of humanity’s thoughts throughout the ages. This evolution of thought is not studied, but lived in some way through developed activities based on these themes. The idea here is not to indoctrinate the children to the Old Testament in 3rd grade or to Islam in 6th grade; the goal is to have the child live, in an intuitive way, the spiritual state of man in each of the respective day and ages, without omission, and this at a time when the child of each age has the maturity to feel it correctly. There is a correlation between the historical age studied in class and the child’s age. (Here, educational specialists will recognise the presages of an educational method that has become obsolete.)
In addition to the work in class, the entire school lives to the rhythm of the calendar celebrations. The celebrations will nourish the social aspect and enrich with images and experiences the interior life of the child. The great Christian celebrations that correspond to our western culture are mentioned: Advent, Christmas, Easter, St John, St Michael, St Martin are all occasions for the child to relate to the rhythm of the earth. These celebrations are the source of archetypal images that are essential to the society of the child. Through these different celebrations, the child can “draw up the strengths of interior balance and ideal no matter what religious orientation he shall take afterwards once he will be capable of shaping by himself his own convictions.” (Periodical on the Distinctive Features of the Waldorf Educational Method in preparation for the elaboration of a joint plan of action between the École l’Eau-Vive and the Commission Scolaire des Bois-Francs, (Original French Version, free translation), as mentioned above, page 14.).
In another document produced by the École communautaire l’Eau Vive goes back to the non-denominational character of the Waldorf institutions:
In the Steiner school (Waldorf educational method), the source of the educational process is the knowledge of man – in his physical, social and moral qualities; in other words as body, soul and spirit – as developed by anthroposophy. (Here, the authors are referring to the physical body, the etheric body and the astral body.) However, our teaching method does not aim to teach anthroposophy as any doctrine assigned or conveyed to the children. (…)
Our moral education has nothing denominational and does not contain any dogmas or articles of faith. It first and foremost wishes to be an in-depth cultural study. Its intention is to enlighten the students on the richness and possibilities that lay dormant inside them and in the world. (Fundamental Elements of the Waldorf Curriculum. Document prepared in the framework of a project to create a specialised school based on the Steiner Schools teaching methods (Original French Version, free translation). Presented by the École Communautaire l’Eau Vive Corporation to the Quebec Ministry of Education on February 21st 2000. 29 pages, page 22).
This “moral education” or “awakening of religious sentiment” proclaimed by the Waldorf teaching method followers are but mere paraphrases to talk about this Christ, this entity that transcends all religious denominations and who’s names are numerous. This Christ that inspired the founders of the great religious traditions. This anthroposophical Christ.
Lets continue by reading this other document that informs us on the real motives of the Waldorf teaching method. In order to explain to the Ministry of Education officials what disciplinary competencies the child can acquire through the moral and religious teachings that are experienced in the Waldorf schools, which is to say in a cross-disciplinarian way, the authors created a chart that speaks in itself:
As we read this chart, we come to better understand how the teachers initiate their students to a religious sentiment, in the presence of Christ throughout a multitude of educational activities that are not religious. Thanks to this very subtle way of doing things, the teachers avoid speaking openly of Anthroposophy, the one and only cornerstone of the Waldorf educational method, and all while being capable to confirm that their school is non denominational without raising any eyebrows.
None the less, in the Waldorf high schools, the students end up learning that some of their teachers are anthroposophists:
At one time or another, the students do learn that their teachers are anthroposophists or at least – that they have a specific conception of the world. If the students tease around about this, the teacher will try to respond with humour. As long as they are in school, the students generally do not demonstrate any profound interest in these questions. However, if such questions are asked in the bigger classes, it is the teacher’s duty to answer these with more objectivity than he would for any other questions about any other conception of the world. It is not up to him to guide the students towards such or such direction in this field, but to provide them with the material that will allow them to make their own opinion on the matter. (Frans Carlgren, The Rise Towards Freedom. Rudolf Steiner’s Educational Method (Original French Version, free translation), Les Trois Arches, 1992, France, 263 pages, page 106).
The author even admits the possibility to influence a teacher:
Of course, the Waldorf teachers, like any other instructors, cannot avoid their students to adopt, despite their efforts, certain personality traits or certain ways of thinking of the people who are teaching them. In this sense, any and all education implies a certain degree of “influence” (Ibidem)
Subtle influences and a non-direct teaching of Anthroposophy. Here is without a doubt why the omnipresence of the anthroposophical Christ is not always perceived by parents and the authorities. Nevertheless, this dissimulation must not allow one to forget that one of the main goals of the Waldorf educational method is to educate the students to a sense of the divine.