Book Review: Towards the Deepening of Waldorf Education October 19 2017
A Hidden Treasure Made Visible
The Pedagogical Section Council of North America (PSC) in cooperation with Waldorf Publications and the Research Institute (RIWE) just reprinted the important, linen, hard-bound book, Towards the Deepening of Waldorf Education. It is exciting to have this book back in print, especially considering the coming Waldorf 100 celebration.
Packed into the beautiful but small package of the book are essays, lectures, and documents by Rudolf Steiner containing the esoteric contents at the heart of Waldorf education. What has become known as the college imagination, striking contents on the reality of karma, the connection of the human being to the Hierarchies, ceremonial words spoken at the founding of the first Waldorf school and the laying of the foundation stone for the first Goetheanum, the concluding remarks at the training seminars with the first teachers, strong words spoken at the conclusion of the course for adolescence, and the two teacher’s meditations, the morning verses, and the contents of the free religion lessons and the special Sunday service. In addition to these listed contents, there are others, and also lectures Rudolf Steiner gave the first teachers concerning the Republican nature of the administration of the first Waldorf school. Essays by prominent Waldorf teachers of the twentieth century are also included. In other words, everything a Waldorf teacher might wish to know about what Rudolf Steiner said about the esoteric nature of Waldorf education is contained in this tome of 132 pages.
It is worth knowing the history of the book and why there is excitement around having the book in print once again.
In the 1980s and early 1990s, The Pedagogical Section Council of North America worked closely with the Pedagogical Section in Dornach, Switzerland, to develop a publication that gathered the esoteric material Rudolf Steiner gave to the Waldorf teachers in the first Waldorf school in his first training lectures and along the way at teachers’ meetings. The book was beautiful and lovingly compiled. It had a linen hard cover with gold leafing for the title.
This book was to be given only to those members of the faculties in Waldorf schools who were members of the college of teachers. The name of each college member was entered in the book along with the date it was delivered into the hands of the teacher. The teacher paid $12 to the Pedagogical Section Council and promised to return the book to them once the teacher stopped teaching or retired from the college of teachers.
It’s good to note here that a member of the “college of teachers” or the “council of teachers” is often in a Waldorf school a subset of the full faculty. Those joining the college of teachers are those teachers committed to the school beyond the work involved in the class or classes she or he teaches, committed to a life of meditation as described by Rudolf Steiner, and wanting to join with colleagues to connect the work of the school with the members of the third Hierarchy of angels.
This system of giving books to college members for a time and reassigning them was designed to make visible the history of Waldorf teachers from generation to generation with the names in the books, and also to protect the spiritual contents from misuse, ridicule, or criticism. These less-than-respectful events are all experiences Waldorf communities know well! However, just three or four years after this careful system was put into place, word came from Europe that all the knowledge that Rudolf Steiner ever wrote or spoke had been published, and the material including that in Toward the Deepening was all being made available on the internet which was in its very early stages of common use.
After an initial reaction of shock that all the protected material was suddenly unprotected, the PSC began cultivating enthusiasm and commitment to using the material to inspire our own meditative efforts used to enliven the esoteric material given by Rudolf Steiner to render its public publishing irrelevant to the mastering of the contents and its strength in protecting Waldorf schools. The teachers then could buy the books directly from the PSC if they were college members, without names in the front or promises to return the book.
Though practices in handling this book have changed the value of the contents have not. The need to introduce spiritual realities to our awareness, and to view human beings as beings of body, soul, and spirit has never been more urgent. The materialistic denial of all things spiritual has led to unchecked misery in human lives. This spirituality transcends religion and encompasses a simple reality that just might transform much of our social capacities and forms.
The Pedagogical Section in Dornach with the International Forum for Steiner/Waldorf Education (formerly The Hague Circle) is working to publish a book much like Towards the Deepening of Waldorf Education that will serve the whole world. It was seen as helpful by the PSC, RIWE and Waldorf Publications, to preserve this especially North American styled collection, even as the new book to serve all world cultures enhances it with its own gathering. The hope is that it will illuminate for everyone what makes Waldorf education so magical for children and so effective right through to graduation from the twelfth grade.