Wednesday, February 25, 2009

I finished Secrets of the Soil and now I’ve started The Foundations of Human Experience, the only Steiner book the library had. It consists of a series of lectures Steiner gave when he was forming his first Waldorf school and was intended largely for the prospective teachers.
It’s quite fascinating, although a lot of it seems a little off base and still substantial amounts of it seem wacky. But other parts really jive with my recent ideas and it just gives me goosebumps. I definitely need to delve into his writings more because I suspect a lot of the remaining wackiness will wear off as I learn more. I do believe he was intuiting truths, but he had a quaint way of expressing them that gives his whole body of work an aura of quackery. The challenge is to uncover the nuggets of truth.
There was something he said in his first lecture that really struck me. He was talking about how teachers need to bring into the classroom the totality of who they are—who they’ve become in the entire course of their existence. It’s not enough to simply bring their knowledge. By bringing their totality they bring more than mere personality and ego and they can reach the children through the spiritual. The next part was what was really interesting to me:
When you enter the classroom in this unpretentious state, then through inner powers a relationship is created between you and the students. In the beginning, it is possible that superficial occurrences contradict this. You go into the school, and you may have rascals before you who laugh at you. Through thoughts like those we wish to cultivate here, you must so strengthen yourself that you pay no attention to this laughing and accept it simply as a superficial occurrence in the same way you would regard being out without an umbrella when it suddenly begins to rain. This is certainly an unpleasant surprise. Normally, people differentiate between being laughed at and being surprised by rain when they have no umbrella. However, no difference may be made. We must develop such strong thoughts that we will not differentiate between being laughed at and an unexpected rain shower.
That paragraph was tailor-made to grab my attention because it compared human activity with—what else—the weather! You walk into a new classroom and the children laugh—what is this? It is a manifestation of the local influences—the children are expressing their environment. Everything they’ve become until then, all that has influenced them—their environment internalized—sits there and greets the teacher on her first day. If all of that precipitates out as laughter, so be it—that is what wants to manifest here now, given all the preceding conditions. Just like a rain shower.
The gift of that paragraph is that it deepens a little more my explorations of the question, what wants to manifest here? I hadn’t so much looked at human behavior yet as a manifestation of place. Most human behavior is off balance—what is causing that to manifest? What are the local conditions that have caused a particular behavior to precipitate out? How can the local conditions be improved so that balanced, harmonious actions and attitudes will precipitate?
If people have lost their connection with the natural world what wants to manifest will not be good. What can precipitate out of the matrix in an inner city?

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