My life among the anthroposophists, part II

My Life Among the Anthroposophists

by Grégoire Perra

Part 2

 

I Would Leave
After a while, I felt an increasing need for the school to justify all the requirements it placed on me. I did not feel it was right that I should invest so much in a school that was run so badly. I started to send memos to the « college of teachers » about problems that I saw. [55] I wrote one memo explaining that it was not proper for the membership of the college of teachers, which is the governing body of the school, to be indicated on a loose piece paper pinned behind the door the staff room, bearing only indecipherable sets of initials. It was therefore impossible to know who was officially a member of the management! Similarly, after several messages delivered to one of the members had been « lost, » I remember writing a memo asking that the « college management » set up a mailbox for itself. These things seemed to me basic common sense. But in this school, making these requests caused a scandal. It made me understand that formally functioning this way was out of the question. I was accused of wanting to bring the bureaucratic stiffness of public education into Waldorf. When I pointed out that their way of functioning caused incredible dysfunction, such as forgetting to prepare graduating students for university baccalaureate programs, they instructed me to stop making such demands, otherwise there would be retaliation. The teacher in charge of the high school, who had « lost » some of my messages to the college of teachers because their contents bothered him, one day began literally screaming at me during a meeting. The next day I went to him, saying that — whatever our differences — he should not talk to me like that. He did not like this at all. He seemed to be governed by a spirit of jealousy, fearful of any questioning of his status or aura. Two weeks after this incident, I was summoned to a meeting with three senior teachers. After that, I submitted my resignation.
At the meeting, I was told that a decision to release me had actually been made nine months earlier, in June of the year before. In retrospect, I’ve often wondered why the request for me to leave was never presented to me orally or in writing, even though the decision concerning my departure presumably had been an official act of the college or teachers. I had indeed never received any warning letter or been laid off for any reason whatsoever, even though the criticisms leveled at me during the meeting — such as not entering into the spirit of the institution, and other charges — had presumably been on the minds of the school’s leaders for many years? Why wait so long? Today I think the answer is that it is not enough for Anthroposophists to expel someone who resists them, first they must demolish him, morally, socially, and psychologically. Certainly, if the individual emerges still standing, there is a serious risk that he will tell what he saw and heard. It is therefore necessary to take him apart him first. This probably would have worked with me, if I had not had unexpected resources. [56]
 
The reader should realize that my account of the circumstances that led to my resignation from the Waldorf school is not conclusive. In fact, I myself am not able to explain everything, given the fact that I am still far from knowing all the background of the event. Many things took place in the shadows. Vital information did not reach me until years later, especially during the trial that was brought against me by the Federation, which the Federation lost. [57] Some faculty members at this school, for various reasons, wanted me to lose. But others did not. I mention this because I think it is often this way when departures and « resignations » occur in Steiner-Waldorf schools: The people involved often do not fully understand — then or later — what is being done to them or what allegations have been made against them. Therefore, they cannot respond or resist the institution, if appropriate. You are never informed to your face. The principle of secrecy prevails. [58] Differing rumors circulate in the school, so no single version ever becomes clear, meaning that just two or three people may foment the departure in question. But the college of teachers system is so complex and confusing in its decision-making procedures that you cannot determine who is behind any particular event. Out of a fog, emerging from an incomprehensible drama, the person who must leave cannot reconstruct what has happened and usually prefers to focus his remaining energies on healing his wounds.
In what can only be called a nightmare, I think I also had a huge opportunity, because at the same time I worked in a public school. [59] What would have happened to me if I had not received a constantly reminder that things could work differently, that the administration and collective life of a school did not need to be absurd and totally ineffective? I’d probably have grown accustomed to the Waldorf way, as did my colleagues who did not resign or fall into depression — they considered these things to be the normal state of an educational institution.
It seems important to mention that I also have some very fond memories of my time at this institution, especially before the final year, when I was teaching philosophy to a certain class of students who were real pearls intelligence.

 

 

 

 

 
In 2007, at the time of my departure from the Steiner-Waldorf school where I worked four years.

 

 

Perceval Theme Week

 


In this school, some adjustments had been made in accordance with the standards of a normal school. Thus, in the upper grades, there were no « periods » set aside for the study of PERCEVAL and FAUST, such as occur in most Waldorf curriculums, but we had « theme weeks » instead. [60] For one to two weeks, we completely suspended the usual structure of our days in order to dive into a single topic. Hence we had weeks devoted to the novel PERCEVAL in eleventh grade and Goethe’s FAUST in twelfth grade. By my second year, I was in charge of the Faust theme week, which was an opportunity to teach the students Anthroposophic concepts of the kind I myself had absorbed during my schooling. I think it important to say a few words about the « theme week » devoted to 
PERCEVAL, which was led by the teacher-guru whom I mentioned previously. Certainly some of his teaching methods should be revealed today, in my view, because of their potentially dangerous nature.

During this week, the teacher in question invited his eleventh grade students to gather in a circle in the classroom for very solemn discussions about topics related to the work being studied. Because, in the eyes of Anthroposophists, PERCEVAL revolves around the standard biography of the human being, the students were invited to tell about moments in their own lives that reflected certain Anthroposophical concepts. For example, they were asked to tell what happened in their lives during the « passage of the Rubicon, » that is to say, at about nine years old, which according to Anthroposophy marks the first empowerment of the individual. [61] Or the teacher encouraged them to speak about their experiences when they reached puberty. [62] The teacher joined the class and, in connection with these topics he raised, he told about very intimate episodes in his life. Everyone was invited to participate in what resembled a type of group therapy. Some girls, encouraged by the teacher, told the whole class about their first menstruations. The boys were led to speak about their first ejaculations. At other times, the teacher asked them to tell about any mystical events they had experienced. He stated, « We place it all in the center of the circle, and no judgment will be passed on anything that is said! »
 
One day during these exchanges, a teenager began to tell about mystical visions that had disturbing content. He said he saw supernatural apparitions and was the victim of an esoteric conspiracy. The teacher-guru reported this to the upper school faculty. He was quite inclined to believe these ravings, but he worried that the rest of the class was disturbed at hearing them. In fact, I believe that the student in question had all the symptoms of schizophrenic and paranoid delusions. In a normal environment, such ravings would be reported to the school doctor, who would guide the young person to suitable medical care. In no case would the doctor encourage a child to publicly voice such delusions expecting to receive credit for them. But Anthroposophic doctrines create a predisposition to believe such statements. The immediate impulse of an Anthroposophic teacher is to believe the visions shared in this way by any of his students. « It’s amazing how many of our students have spiritual perceptions, » boasted the teacher-guru, attributing this to the fact that our school was a haven for talented souls who possessed higher faculties. [63] Likewise, in a Waldorf school, when a student reports hearing disembodied voices, the immediate impulse of the teachers will be to believe that the child is truly hearing demons or higher entities. [64] A Waldorf teacher will not readily consider the possibility of schizophrenic pathology, and he may not even know the nature of such a condition. Consequently, many sick students remain enrolled in these schools without being diagnosed or treated, because the manifestations of their mental illnesses fit into the esoteric fantasies of Anthroposophists. I can even say that comments like the ones made by this student arouse a kind of enthusiasm and excitement among Waldorf teachers. [65]
 
 
The Tragic History of a Waldorf Visual Arts Teacher
 
 
Among the things that deserve to be told is the case of a teacher of fine arts who resigned at about the same time I did. This story is a bit complex, but its tragic and revealing character should interest the reader. She had been hired by the school to give courses of fine arts, having received a university degree in photography. She did not know anything about Anthroposophy or Waldorf education. Quite young, she had not paid for nor received teacher training. However, she was devoted to her work and her first two years went well, with her students expressing satisfaction. She then decided to take educational training at the Waldorf Institute, paying most of the fees herself. [66] At that time, she was living with a partner and had an infant child. Then a personal tragedy of a particularly atrocious kind occurred in her life: One morning, her partner had an unexplained mental breakdown and tried to strangle her. She escaped only narrowly. She then had to begin a contentious process of legal separation. Traumatized by the attack, she began wearing a scarf around her neck when at school, as if to hide her injuries.
 
At that time, the Waldorf high school was going through an identity crisis, suffering major disruptions in terms of administrative organization. We formed a small group of teachers from the upper grades to meet regularly, including weekends, to reflect on the situation and try to find solutions. The chief causes of these failures were many, but mainly they stemmed from the collective nature of our governance. [67] But, prisoners of our Anthroposophic beliefs, we could not identify where the evil lay. One day, however, one of the members of the school’s college of teachers, who was looked upon as a guru by his colleagues, came to a meeting with a categorical diagnosis: The school was in distress because of the poor quality of its visual arts courses! [68] According to him, a school like ours should have a strong identity in terms of visual arts, but the arts instruction we offered our students did not trigger their creative passions. « When parents come to visit the school, they need to see trees painted blue or other exuberant student creations like that! » he exclaimed emphatically. « Instead, our two teachers of fine arts are weak! » he railed. « If we could create a strong identity for our Waldorf school in fine arts, our identity crisis would be resolved and our staffing problems, too! » he proclaimed glowingly. This fiery speech was able to convince us at the time, because he spoke with great conviction. From that moment, the two teachers of fine arts became targeted enemies within the school, people whose departure and replacement would be a radical and blessed change. However, the second teacher had twenty years of service and was keen on Anthroposophy. So he was secure. But the young teacher, weakened by her troubles, offered an easier target. Relayed among students by teachers who had children in the high school, rumors immediately began to circulate about the poor quality of her teaching. A petition was written against her, started in the same way. The college of teachers convened and launched a « separation process » — that is to say, regular meetings were held, intended to convince the teacher of her incompetence so that she would resign. During meetings of the upper school faculty, she was so distressed that in her personal notebook she wrote notes about her emotions at that moment, such as « I feel awful, » « I feel rejected, » « I suffer, » and so forth. The institute where for years she received her Waldorf teacher training refused to intervene and did not defend her, despite her pleas. When other trainees asked those in charge for news about her, the trainers replied that they had none. At the end of the year, she agreed to resign. So she found herself almost penniless and seriously depressed. Two years later, a trainee learned that she had made a suicide attempt. For this reason, her son was removed from her custody. I do not know what became of her after that.
 
I mention the history of this case, of which I have personal knowledge, because I believe it is representative of serious abuses that can occur in Steiner-Waldorf schools. In order to avoid facing real problems in the management of these schools caused by the operating dogma left by Steiner, some senior faculty do not hesitate to put the blame on scapegoats in order to protect the system and protect themselves. Then, due to opinion stirred up among student leaders (often the children of teachers), the victims lose credibility in everyone’s eyes. Moreover, people who were recruited despite being untrained can often be easily criticized for classroom shortcomings: Put in a teaching situation without any prior preparation — which in itself is a form of violation — these individuals are in effect thrown into the arena and told « Now tough it out. » But at the time of recruitment, when they rescued the school from the embarrassment of having no one to teach certain courses, there were no complaints about their lack of training. When parents became concerned, they were given rhetoric praising the wonderful qualities of these new recruits. Moreover, the absence of professional trade unions — and the total disregard for procedures that could protect teachers — makes possible despicable behavior on the part of management. I speak out now not only because I felt no compassion for this colleague when the machinery was set in motion against her, but also because I did not lift a finger to come to her rescue when I myself was still in the institution. It was not until shortly after my departure that I realized what was happening, and then I wrote a letter to a member of the collective management telling him how shocked I was by what they doing to that person. Yet anyone endowed with a minimum of moral sense should have acted as soon as the situation arose. But while I was still on the faculty, I did not. Instead of taking care of a person who was being overwhelmed by misfortunes, we were all hell-bent against her because of her fragility, even though we had spent years together in an almost familial intimacy. The Anthroposophic institution had made our hearts cold as stone and our minds half-berzerk. If one day she reads these lines, I want her to know that I beg her forgiveness.
This dramatic event is unfortunately not an isolated event. To my knowledge, such things occur regularly in these schools, often with tragic outcomes. I have personal knowledge of similar cases occurring while I was still a Waldorf student. [69]

 
 
Here I have skipped, at least temporarily, sections titled
« Des soutiens inattendus » 
(« Unexpected Support »).
and
« Une étrange prophétie qui se réalise »
(« A Strange Self-Fulfilling Prophecy ») 
— R.R.
 
 

 
 
 
 
Waldorf Teacher Training
From March 2005 to July 2007, I received training at the main French institute that offers training in Waldorf education. Today, it seems useful to say a few words about this « training » and to describe what I understand about it now that I can see more clearly the events that I experienced in the Anthroposophic community .
The training took place one weekend per month and its duration, at that time, was four years. This was a new regimen substituting for the older system in which full-time training was provided over two years. The old system — which was too expensive for students who could not afford it without working, and too demanding for students who could not train while working to pay for it — had gradually been abandoned. Today, the weekend training scheme takes only three years. My training cost about 1700 euros per year. Much of this was at my own expense, since the school where I taught agreed to pay only a paltry sum to support my training. The situation was the same for other active Waldorf teachers who had decided to take this training. They paid their own expenses, even if their school salaries were very low. So we received Waldorf salaries, much of which we paid to another Waldorf institution, to pay the salaries of Waldorf trainers who often turned out to be — our Waldorf colleagues. I mention this because it is a perfect example of the closed economic system that exists around Steiner-Waldorf schools. Thus, parents pay a tuition for their children. These children work to prepare festivals and other celebrations at the school, where objects such as candles made by the children are sold. Parents buy these gifts made by their children, and the money goes to the school or to firms such as Weleda or Anthroposophic publishers that have booths at the event. [70] Similarly, we employees of a Waldorf school subsidized Waldorf institutions with our Waldorf salaries.
The first year of training included a fair number of people who had only a vague knowledge of ​​Waldorf education and knew very little about Anthroposophy. They had come with a desire for training in an alternative form of education, or training in infant care, or — in many cases — with no specific project in mind. Others wanted to transfer from very different forms of education. Most had no teaching experience. Many of these students were uncertain, seeming a little lost in their lives. They were mostly women. The training center offered them a kind of community that could, seemingly, serve as a kind of extended family. Everything was arranged to create this impression: We had meals together, we sang together, we had artistic group activities, there were opportunities for exchanging and sharing, and so forth. At first, Anthroposophic doctrines were introduced only on tiptoe by the trainers. There was only one hour per weekend devoted to the study of a work by Steiner. It was THE STUDY OF MAN or THEOSOPHY. [71] But these books are so abstract and esoteric that they passed over the heads of 90% of the students. The newcomers were certainly impressed by the apparently profound character of the works we studied and by the subtle comments offered by our trainers, but they grasped almost nothing. Some read these books for several weeks without even realizing that some of the chapters dealt with reincarnation and karma. [72] For many, these studies were a bad trip, they were so difficult and obscure. But this was not the case for me, since the concepts in the books were my bread and butter. Often, I was the only one in my class to answer our trainer when he asked us for our own views.
So Anthroposophy was imparted to the trainees not so much through their intellects as through the habits that were gradually instilled into the life of the group. For example, at the beginning of each meeting devoted personal exchanges, a faithful student of the trainers would « spontaneously » offer to read a verse from the CALENDAR OF THE SOUL by Rudolf Steiner. [73] This kind of reading at the beginning of every meeting is neither more nor less than an Anthroposophic custom, practiced in almost all the « branches » and « working groups » of the Anthroposophical Society. Since most trainees did not know this Anthroposophic religious custom, they had no objection to what they took to be a kind of poetic recitation. Then, gradually, they were introduced to the custom of reading these mantric verses in German in addition to French, which is also in accordance with Anthroposophic practice. In all areas and at every opportunity, characteristic Anthroposophic behaviors were put in place, but the rationale for these activities was not explained, and the trainees were not told that these were Anthroposophic communal rituals.
But it is not on the level of thinking that the most subtle and deep changes occur. We were indeed constantly asked by our trainers to discuss our feelings, our interior states. We were asked on all occasions, such as after performing eurythmic exercises, [74] to express nebulous emotions. Many students enjoyed this game and launched into confused expressions of virtually mystical feelings or sensations that they experienced — or felt their were supposed to experience — due to our training. To convey an idea of ​​what happened among us during the first two years of training, I should try to describe the types of exercises we performed and the states they plunged the students into. Many of these states were often close to the limits of normal psychology. It was not uncommon at the end of a course for many students to burst into tears, or to rush from the room to hide their unconstrained emotions. But in later group exchanges, the trainers questioned those had behaved in these ways, and asked them to discuss with the entire group the emotions that had overwhelmed them. It was much more like collective psychodrama than teacher education. You have to imagine what can happen to a person who is required to recount an intimate and deeply felt experience under the gaze of an entire community: The person truly feels stripped bare, reduced to a helpless state that necessarily makes her become submissive to others.
What had caused such emotional states? Mainly, it was the exercises our trainers put us through. At first glance, they seem like simple theater exercises, singing, art activities, diction exercises, or eurythmy. But in every instance, the trainers asked us to reach down to our bottom-most levels to recapture intimate memories from infancy or early childhood. Sometimes they even asked us to reach even deeper in ourselves, to release primal screams or animal cries. What came out of our unconscious depths, as a result, surprised and upset us. Some found it unbearable. The youngest trainees were sometimes deeply destabilized. I witnessed one student repeatedly return to states in which she spoke openly and worrisomely about suicide. Overall, most of the trainees who were in their twenties could not handle this training and, deeply disturbed, dropped out at the end of the first or second year. Only students aged thirty or more seemed able to bear the shock of what we were asked to do.
But what was the point of continually plunging us into such states, which you would normally expect to see done in sessions of hypnosis or transcendental meditation, not in ordinary teacher training? Officially, it was supposed to help us experience the states and emotions children and adolescents undergo in their development. But in reality, our trainers were carefully noting the reactions and special weaknesses of each trainee. This gave them the tools to use in molding each trainee as they wanted. Thus something was found that would encourage our minds to gradually lower their barriers and leave the field free for the subtle manipulation that our Anthroposophic trainers could now enforce. This manifested as an ability to influence us through seemingly insignificant things like gestures, simple words, or glances. At other times, there were intimate conversations in which the Waldorf trainers evoked the deep weaknesses of the students. Eventually, there would be a decisive moment that individuals might barely notice, something inside would crack, and students would abdicate their own free will. They became submissive then. This was done smoothly and quietly, without the person concerned realizing she had abandoned her free will. I will try to give an example of this kind of inner abdication. One day, my Anthroposophic companion — who had attempted this training before, intending to become a kindergarten teacher —  returned to the institute, saying she had previously failed to block out everything, but she had recovered and was now certain to follow through. Several times she had expressed doubts to me about this training and, in general, about Steiner-Waldorf schools and Anthroposophy, which had constituted her entire environment throughout childhood and adolescence. Each time, I had encouraged her to continue. When I asked her why she had considered quitting but then set aside her doubts, she told me about a meeting she had attended:
We were all future teachers gathered around our trainer. Each was invited to speak in turn about the artistic exercises we had been through. One after another, students began to express their intense internal sensations with an air of mystical ecstasy and tumult that made me think I was in crazy. I almost slammed the door then. But at that moment, I met the gaze of my trainer and I saw that she understood my confusion. She took me under her wing and I knew that I could continue my training and receive special treatment. 
And she was right. Sometimes individuals having an intelligence superior to the rest of the group are identified and then enticed to continue this training. With such people, Waldorf trainers know they must take a more mental approach than with other trainees. They tell them they will not be asked to surrender their ability to think and exercise free will. This means they may join the small number who will one day lead others. Thus these people will be called later to become leaders of Waldorf schools. For, while a part of their psyche has agreed to play the game, another is not fooled. They become beings who are deeply divided internally, but who are formidable in their ability to play a double game. This is what enables these people to achieve credibility with outsiders, because they have not surrendered their intelligence in the same way as ordinary Waldorf teachers. They can still present a good face and keep one foot in the real world. This allows them to fool regulators, inspectors, or other people from the « outside world » when necessary, in accordance with what Rudolf Steiner says himself in CONSEILS DONNÉS AUX PROFESSEURS at the first Waldorf school in Stuttgart:
We must get through his somehow. Be aware that it may be necessary, in order to achieve our goals, to talk to people in such a way as to inwardly fool them. (p. 266) [75]
Indeed, my ex-girlfriend actually became, a few years later, the head teacher of a Waldorf kindergarten. As for me, my entry into the training program provoked the team at the training center to hold a kind of crisis meeting, as I was to learn later when one of trainers let it slip. Many of the trainers feared accepting me because I knew too much about Anthroposophy:
Can we accept Grégoire Perra in our courses and in our training, asked the head of the institution, when he has read more books by Steiner than any of us!? he asked, although among the trainers was an individual who ran an Anthroposophic publishing house.
This statement would appear strange, or even flattering, if we did not know more about this institution. Indeed, how can they fear the arrival of someone who has a thorough knowledge of the subject that will be the center of the training? On the contrary, it should be seen as an advantage. But we must understand that the Steiner-Waldorf teacher training institutions do not have a mission of conveying mere knowledge that could lead to conversions. They aim to totally transform each person who, by the end, will work in Steiner-Waldorf schools. Ultimately, the person should become a completely different person. She should become an Anthroposophist. This does not necessarily mean that each trainee will eventually join the Anthroposophical Society! But she will have adopted the intellectual, social, and behavioral characteristics of Anthroposophists. (See my article titled « Who Are the Anthroposophists?« ) When I discussed this objective with some of my trainers, I could see that they understood it quite well. To be sure, they used different terms for this process of dismantling and restructuring the self, calling it « giving inner birth to the teacher, » « achieving one’s karma, » or other things of that sort. But ultimately the trainee would be so changed that her former associates would no longer recognize her. Often, she would decide to cut her ties with them. The process was particularly accentuated during the final two years, when everything that had been introduced gradually and attractively at the beginning of the training was now hammered continuously into people’s minds so that it was imprinted there in bright red letters. The trainee should not merely obey, she should think and feel Anthroposophically. This is why I consider this training a process of psychic transformation that reshapes the rest of one’s life — it is a particularly insidious form of sectarian alteration. In hindsight, I think what happens there is, simply put, appalling.
Many people dropped out along the way and did not finish the training, despite the money they had invested. Something inside them rebelled against what was happening to them. They had serious doubts. It was impossible for them to function within this context. The motives for their hurried departures were often unclear. We could only sense that they felt a deep unease, which we attributed to internal flaws that would have been cured by the spirit of Waldorf education and Anthroposophy. Once I saw a young woman collapse in tears in front of all the other students, explaining that she was exhausted, she felt terrible, and she wanted to leave. Another time, it was an older student who had been very involved in the training, who announced she was leaving because questions had arisen within her, and she needed some distance. We never heard from them again. We were not able to understand that it was actually their inner selves and their real personalities that resisted what this training was doing to them. For some, the only way out was to plunge into severe depression. Others escaped through forms of « social suicide, » as in the case of a young woman who was in training with me, who vanished overnight and evidently became a prostitute in the south of France. Or they had affairs, causing women to get pregnant in the middle of the program, which ended their training. How many came to even more dire ends as they looked for ways to escape the hold that had been put on them? I cannot say, because when we asked our trainers about these « disappearances, » they always responded with stock phrases saying they had no news.
A Three-Year Relationship
At that time, in 2007, my Anthroposophic partner and I began the life of a young couple. We set up house together. She came from a devoted and hardline Anthroposophic family that could even be described as fanatical. Her parents were both members of the Anthroposophical Society in France, and the father was among the leading figures of the movement. [76] Having been a cook for years in a Waldorf school, he had published a book about Anthroposophical principles of nutrition. [77] He had earned a reputation as a specialist in these matters and, described as « healthy eating advisor, » earned a living by giving personalized nutritional coaching sessions. I had experienced in my life significant problems with overweight or obesity, which I had treated successfully thanks to a specialist in mainstream nutritional medicine — so I must say that I was leery of the dangers involved in the dietary advice this Anthroposophist was allowed to provide. He was also a member of the college of teachers in the school where I worked, and it must be said that he was partly responsible for the inhumane climate prevailing there. The mother was the partner in an Anthroposophic bookstore with whom I had worked a few years earlier. [78]
During our relationship, the young Anthroposophist told me a lot about what it had been like to be raised by Anthroposophic parents. For example, she told how, from an early age, she had been forced by her mother to recite Rudolf Steiner’s prayers and mantras every night before falling asleep. She also told me that her younger brother, beginning at the age of eight, was considered by their parents to be a medium, so that each of his visions or premonitions was taken very seriously. [79] As a teenager, he displayed significant mental disturbances, such as agoraphobia and a morbid taste for hallucinatory visions in which he saw himself crucified. She also told me that her parents had taught her early on that everyone accepted the evidence for reincarnation, and she told how badly she was shaken when she realized this belief was actually uncommon. She spoke of her grief that her parents had, with blind faith, entrusted her to a Waldorf school, not realizing that her main teacher for six years had held her down — he neither understood nor respected her. For her parents, as for most Anthroposophic parents who put their children in Waldorf schools, it was simply impossible to conceive that the teachers there could be wrong or could do a bad job. These parents therefore prefer to doubt their children when they tell about difficulties or problems, rather than questioning the teachers in whom they have placed unconditional faith. I realized that I was paired with a very intelligent individual who would probably have done brilliantly in high school if the narrow educational system in which she was placed had not consistently worked to curb the development of intelligence and asked the students to do little work. [80] She also told me that she had been sexually assaulted by a classmate.
At the beginning of our relationship, we could discuss these topics related to Waldorf schools and Anthroposophy. She often told me that I should be more careful about what I said concerning Anthroposophists because they scared her. I had in fact published, in Anthroposophic journals, various articles that included substantive criticism. It started in 2008 with an article that had received a large response, entitled « The Philosophical Root of Anthroposophy and the Return of Witches ». [81] Others followed. But at the same time, she showed signs that she had undergone a deep conditioning, despite being partially aware of what had been done to her. She was fascinated by all forms of mediumship, frequently embarked on dangerous diets, stated her beliefs with unshakeable conviction, and filled her conversation with esoteric Anthroposophic concepts that had been put in her mind at an early age, such as the polarity Lucifer/Ahriman, the true nature of the Christ, the role of the « double », etc. [82] After a while, I think that my approach to the search for awareness — which had initially been liberating for her — became intolerable to her, as it involved working on herself in ways that she could not undertake at that time. She could not follow a process that might separate her from the worldview on which she had become psychologically dependent.

 
 
Here I have skipped sections titled
« Une amie un peu bizarre et potentiellement dangereuse » 
(« A Friend Kind of Weird and Dangerous »),
« ‘Soigné’ par des médecins anthroposophes »
(« ‘Treated’ by Anthroposophic Doctors »), 
and
« Les ennuyeuses rencontres des jeunes et du Comité Directeur de la S.A.F.
(« Boring Meetings for Young People and the Steering Committee of the S.A.F. »
— R.R.

 
 
 
Member of the School of Spiritual Science 
and Its Fine Writing Section

From 2003 to 2009, I was a member of the School of Spiritual Science. [83] This « school » is an integral part of the Anthroposophical Society. It is halfway between an intellectual organization and a religious order. Or rather, it exhibits a strange confusion between what is intellectual and what is sacramental. Specifically, the « school » is arranged for its members to meet once a month to listen to « class lessons, » that is to say, special Rudolf Steiner lectures. A « reader » intones a lecture aloud, standing behind a lectern, as if he were Rudolf Steiner himself, or rather the voice of Rudolf Steiner. These meetings include the presentation of certain esoteric mantras, which summarize or condense the material presented. Listeners are encouraged to note these at the end of each session and take them home to meditate upon. Besides reading the special esoteric lectures, the reader will also explain the worshipful actions that accompany the mantras and that must be made to complete each meditation. Other indications are also given for some mantras, such as their rhythms (spondee, throchée, etc.). These must be applied to a particular stanza of each mantra when it is recited, so as to achieve the desired spiritual effect. The sessions also present information about certain images that should be developed mentally when reciting the mantras during meditation. There are a total of eighteen of these « lessons, » so a member of the School of Spiritual Science will require about two years to hear them all.

 
When I applied to enter this school, the reader who interviewed me began by asking many questions about my personal life. He particularly wanted to know if I used drugs or had previously belonged to another esoteric group. Then he explained that the purpose of the school’s curriculum was to gradually and safely make me clairvoyant. At one point in our conversation, he collapsed in tears. This happened when he was describing how a former student, who worked in the public sphere, had one day returned to tell him that his teaching was unlike anyone else’s and there was something very special about him. Then he gathered himself and told me that this was precisely the effect we should aim for as members of the School of Spiritual Science: Never make an open or direct display, but behave in such a way that people in the « outside world » can feel that we carry something special inside, so that they will be drawn to Anthroposophy.

The first time I attended one of the lessons, I was horrified at the end when — to accompany the words of a mantra — the reader made in the air a gesture that strongly resembled both the attitude and tone of a Nazi salute. He stood there in a black suit, arm stretched forward while he spoke words in German with a martial air, so the thing was striking and truly could confusion. Later, I realized he was giving the invocation of the spirit of the Archangel Michael. [84] Nevertheless, I’ve never been totally comfortable with this as a sacramental action, even when other readers enacted it in a more restrained way.
 
When I now reflect on my participation in the School of Spiritual Science for nearly six years, I must say that I got little out of it. For one thing, as might be expected, I did not become clairvoyant. [85] Then, too, I did not receive much intellectual instruction: The lectures are so confused that it is difficult to identify specific thought content in them. At best, we can say that they have some poetic force.
 
My participation in the Section of Fine Writing was shorter, i.e. from 2007 to 2009. The School of Spiritual Science consists of « professional sections » that focus on particular subjects such as education, agriculture, the arts, social sciences, etc. The Section of Fine Writing was established for professionals in literary fields: teachers of French, speech therapists, writers, grammarians, etc. It had come to revolve around the personality of Jean Poyard, the President of the APAPS, the association responsible for promoting Steiner-Waldorf education. [86] Personages such as Jacques Dallé, from the Federation of Steiner-Waldorf schools of France [87], also made a few appearances at our meetings. Once, he came to talk about the importance of the practice of calligraphy to overcome the influence of Ahriman on our civilization. I myself gave presentations on several occasions to share my literary and philosophical research. One of these studies, titled « The Enlightenment of Man and the Enchantment of the World », was published in the newsletter of the S.A.F. [88]
 
 


The arch-demon Arhiman, as represented by Rudolf Steiner.
Good penmanship helps ward him off.
Towards the end, I could no longer bear to attend these meetings. I found they lacked true interest in life and culture. The worst for me was that belonging to this Section of Fine Writing did not give me any desire to actually read and immerse myself in literature. Behind the simplifications and chatter, the reality was that we were clinging to sectarian beliefs that gradually imprison the mind. I got tired of the constant diatribes aimed at one trend of another showing that the « outside world » was in distress and it would crash because it had failed to embrace Anthroposophy. What takes place within the School of Spiritual Science is not, in itself, very important. But belonging to this group, formed within an esoteric cult and confined to privileged members, is meant to be an honor. It induces the heady satisfaction of belonging to a secret congregation. In contrast, giving even a hint that you want to leave is very difficult. If you resign, you lose the right to participate in these « lessons » and you are required to surrender both your membership card in the School of Spiritual Science and, at the same time, your membership in the Anthroposophical Society. It is never easy to give up what we have been taught to regard as a privilege. But for my part, I had a clear motivation, having seen through the vanity of these institutions, so my decision was not too difficult.
The Dawning of Awareness
It is not easy to explain precisely what makes a person wake up one day and realize that the environment he has lived in is dogmatic — especially when he has been in that environment since childhood. There are, of course, many factors. For my part, I think my resistance to the Anthroposophic mindset began with some lifestyle choices that I made, such as persisting in my desire to become a teacher of philosophy. Indeed, without the strength I drew from philosophy and from the normal academic training that I received in this subject, my mind never would have rationally confronted the sprawling doctrines of Rudolf Steiner. Nor would I have been able, without philosophy, to crystallize my thoughts about the Anthroposophic community. I have not only drawn from this instructive training, but I have followed my natural inclination to take my thoughts to their logical conclusion. It is often because Anthroposophists do not take their thinking to its logical conclusion that they fail to challenge the sectarian environment in which they are trapped. Some of them certainly recognize, at one time or another, serious problems. But examining these to their foundations is impossible. They stop and prefer not to think. [89] Or they are beguiled by smoke screens and reassurances. Taking a different route, becoming a teacher of philosophy, I was exposed to another system than Anthroposophy and to other operating modes than those of Waldorf schools. Somehow, for me, philosophy defeated Anthroposophy.
Of course, finding the strength to go through with this business was not simply a matter of intellectual commitment. I had to distance myself from some of my social relations, including some « friends » and others. This was difficult, having lived for thirty years in a circle like that of Anthroposophy, which is akin to a kind of extended family. But it was empowering to see pretty quickly how these so-called friendships were actually strained and artificial compared to the new ones that you can build with normal people. Indeed, as soon as I started to distance myself from Anthroposophy, I no longer existed for my old « friends ». [90] The clearest example was the attitude of Antoine Dodrimont [91] who — as soon as he learned of my resignation from the Anthroposophical Society — broke off all contact with me, although we had worked together for years and he had invited me to his home just a few weeks earlier. It was the same for Bodo von Plato [92] who had previously told me that our friendship was deep and timeless. If Anthroposophy were anything but a sectarian enterprise, the bonds of friendship formed within it would not depend on membership in the Anthroposophical Society or commitment to Anthroposophy. But this is not the case, far from it!
In other cases, I myself took the initiative to break a relationship. This was not because I could not accept friendship with those whose views differed from mine, but because I knew that if I stayed in touch with them, they would continue providing information about me to people in high places within the movement. In fact, I learned from some sources that, for years after my resignation, questions came down about my actions. These requests for information about me came from the Anthroposophical Society and from the Federation of Waldorf Schools. I do not think this was inspired by concern for my welfare, because then they would just pick up the phone and call me personally. The most obvious example of this desire to gather information about former members who leave, including efforts to exert control over them through any contacts they maintain in the Anthroposophic community, was given to me a few months after the publication of my article on the UNADFI website. [93] In fact, the only connection I had maintained with the Anthroposophic community was my continued attendance at the services of the Christian Community in Paris. [94] I’d speak to almost no one and leave immediately after the ceremonies. However, this did not prevent the priest from trying to contact me via a clever message in which he pretended not to take sides or judge my writing. He just implied that my work seemed motivated by pain and suffering, and he offered to discuss this with me. If I had accepted, no doubt he would have tried to change my mind, or he would have passed vital information to the Federation of Waldorf Schools, which had decided to sue me. [95] Thus, a person who decides to leave a sectarian movement has no option but to completely break with his former friends. Shortly after my refusal, I received another message from the priest, informing me that the Office of the Christian Community of Paris had decided to end my participation in the development of New Year’s greeting cards, work I had done for ten years as a volunteer in memory of the deceased priestess whom I mentioned earlier. [96] It was clearly retaliation for the publication of my article. This event shows, if proof were needed, that the Christian Community actually is not independent from the milieu and institutions of Anthroposophy. Thus, even a priest was unable to behave morally in the highest sense of the word. For what is morality except the ability to make one’s own decisions? It means taking a stand in one’s own soul and conscience! In life, we must indeed be able to attend to our consciences, even when our decisions cause disagreement with our loved ones and our circle. A religious movement or an individual who cannot do this fails on all levels. Because morality is not only the condition of the sacred, as Christianity teaches: It is the essence of true sanctity! An approach to the sacred that disallows morality is a poison.
 
 
How I Came to Testify
 
 
In 2003, I became a philosophy teacher at the Waldorf school Perceval de Chatou, carrying a teaching load of a few hours, in addition to my more normal duties in public education. Having a foot in both systems allowed me to make comparisons. So I began to offer constructive statements or proposals, questioning the running of our Waldorf school. In that environment, these were seen as attacks. For my part, I was not thinking about overturning Waldorf education: I was thinking of improvements. Moreover, I had gained another point of comparison when I started my Waldorf teacher training at the Institute Rudolf Steiner de Chatou. I perceived a huge gap between the correct practice of Waldorf education and what we actually did at the Waldorf school where I taught. So I was trying to make proposals for improvement in this sense, too. I thought at that time that we were not sufficiently faithful in our approach, that we were not truly following the principles of Rudolf Steiner, so our inefficiency was a betrayal of the spirit of the school. I thought that Rudolf Steiner would never have wanted us to remain frozen in rigid forms of teaching and operation; he had encouraged adaptation to changing circumstances, professing this at the beginning of his book STUDY OF MAN, which is the key guide for Anthroposophic educators. [97] But the members of the college of teachers at the Perceval Waldorf school reacted more and more negatively to my questioning of their operations. My resignation followed on March 22, 2007. [98] After my resignation, I was in contact with Jacques Dallé, then president of the Federation of Steiner-Waldorf Schools, and Raymond Burlotte, director of teacher training at the Institute Rudolf Steiner de Chatou. I described to them in detail the actual situation at the school Perceval de Chatou and everything that the situation produced. I was allowed to continue my Waldorf teacher training, if I wished. So from March to June, 2007, I continued spending weekends in teacher training at the Institute Rudolf Steiner de Chatou. But this caused me to become increasingly aware that the methods taught to us were themselves deficient. I sometimes expressed this openly to my trainers, some of whom secretly agreed with me. In September, 2007, I made the decision to quit this training, even though I was encouraged to stay on, and I gave my resignation. Yet I still wanted to work in Steiner-Waldorf schools, although I thought a major renovation of this form of education was necessary.
 
Then from July, 2007, I came to work closely with Antoine Dodrimont, president of the Anthroposophical Society. Antoine Dodrimont had invited me to participate in an Anthroposophic congress. Beginning in August, 2007, he wanted to intensify our collaboration; this came after my participation with him at a conference for young Anthroposophists on « cosmic humor, » where I gave a lecture titled « The Philosophical Root of Anthroposophy and the Return of Wizards« . Subsequently, in late 2007, I was received by the Executive Committee of the Anthroposophical Society, which directed me to consider the issue of training for young Anthroposophists. I wrote two successive reports that I sent to Antoine Dodrimont and Bodo von Plato. At the same time, Daniéla Hucher became the director of the Anthroposophical Society Steering Committee. She was the director of a Waldorf school in the south of France, in Pau, and she was also a member of the Federation of Waldorf Schools. She asked me to prepare another report, this time on the Steiner-Waldorf schools themselves. I presented this report on January 28, 2008 (it is now on my blog, in the article titled « My Reports on Anthroposophic Training and the Steiner-Waldorf Schools in 2008« ). It was during the writing of these reports that I started to perceive the shortcomings of Anthroposophy and Waldorf schools. I say « started » because I previously had not considered the system as a whole or the stature accorded Rudolf Steiner and his teachings. But I was still an avid Anthroposophist practicing Anthroposophy in daily meditations and participating in worship at the School of Spiritual Science. I thought it would be possible to improve and reduce the systemic faults that were causing serious problems within Anthroposophy. Antoine Dodrimont evidently agreed with me, saying that together we would renovate the Anthroposophical Society.


In November, 2008, as an indication of his good intentions, Antoine Dodrimont invited me to participate as a speaker at a large conference on biodynamics [99], alongside Michaela 
Glöckler [99] and Jean-Marie Pelt [100]. I gave a lecture and hosted a workshop.

 
During 2008, I gave Antoine Dodrimont and Bodo von Plato the first report I had been assigned to prepare. It spurred various comments and proposals for reform, especially after a working session with Bodo von Plato in September, 2008. The second report, which incorporated these ideas, was readied on December 15, 2008. However, Antoine Dodrimont’s reaction to this report — he wanted to hide the conclusions from everyone — angered me and caused me to realize that the problematic nature of this movement had been embraced by its leaders.

Along with these three reports commissioned by the Anthroposophical Society and the Federation of Waldorf Schools, I also was writing feature articles about Anthroposophy that appeared in the Journal of the Anthroposophical Society (The News). [101] This work was more philosophical. In these articles, my conclusions again questioned the dubious nature of the Anthroposophic community and even the doctrines that underlie it. In one article, entitled « From Idealism to Anthroposophy« , which appeared in The News for March-April, 2009, I denounced the fact that Anthroposophic institutions often lead their members to become « spiritual slaves. » I drew in part from a book that had been essential for me, DIFFICULT FREEDOM, by Emmanuel Lévinas. [102] In this philosophical essay, Levinas considers two types of relationship with the divine or sacred — what in Anthroposophy would be called the « numinous » or the « spiritual world. » He distinguishes between possession, which is the abnegation of self in order to journey into the sacred or divine 
(l’enthousiasme {enthusiasm} in the etymological sense of « en » and « théos ») [103] compared to the relationship to the divine exemplified by Judaism. I realized that what I was seeing in the Anthroposophic community was more akin to possession than a real relationship to the divine. My article immediately aroused the hostility of some important leaders of the movement. Here again, this response showed me that advocacy of freedom of thought and expression, which is loudly proclaimed in Anthroposophy, is purely fictitious and hypocritical. [104] This is the line of reflection, starting on the one hand with my three reports, and on the other hand with my philosophical articles on Anthroposophy, that culminated in my decision to resign from the School of Spiritual Science in June, 2009. [105] This resignation gave me the opportunity finally stand aside and begin a normal life, which became for me a blossoming. It is impossible to understand the true nature of the Anthroposophic community when you still have one foot in it. Only a radical break truly opens your eyes. I thus could continue, in an intellectually freer way, my work analyzing the self-enclosed character of Anthroposophy and Waldorf schools. This led to a presentation I made at a conference held at the headquarters of the Anthroposophical Society in April, 2010, which I titled « The Anthroposophic Way, Animalizing the Life of Thought« . [106] I clearly denounced the « vampiric » nature of Anthroposophy and its institutions, as well as the mental confinement that Steiner-Waldorf schools impose on their students.

 
 

 
 
 
In order to have sufficient space to cover Perra’s trial at some length,
I will skip various passages in this portion of the memoir.
Perra describes making notes and conducting interviews that would enable him
to write the article that eventually was published at the UNADFI website.
[For an English translation of that article, see « He Went to Waldorf« .]
Ironically, he says that much of the think that would coalesce in that article
stemmed from the work he did preparing reports for Anthroposophical officials.
He also points to three specific episodes that opened his eyes:
 
 
 
The first intellectual and moral shock occurred when, at a meeting of key members of the School of Spiritual Science — which took place in the presence of Bodo von Plato — I heard the statement that « students in Waldorf schools are destined to come to Anthroposophy. » This was very serious, because it showed that the leading authorities of the Anthroposophical Society looked on the students at Steiner-Waldorf schools as potential recruits for their institution, despite the assertion I had always heard that Waldorf schools are absolutely independent and respect the freedom of each individual. [107] The second shock occurred during my participation in the biodynamics conference on November 22, 2008, when I heard the remarks of Michaella Glöckler, a high authority at the Goetheanum. [108] Her speech amounted to a eulogy for the inspired activity of thinking for oneself. But listening to her, I was struck by the fact that the very words she used were clearly meant not to inspire thought but to seduce. A philosopher is indeed able to distinguish where there is real thought and where mere rhetoric is deployed. [109] The last shock occurred when Antoine Dodrimont « proposed » a two-year moratorium on the publication of my articles in the News of the S.A.F., showing very clearly that genuinely free intellectual thought was impossible in the Anthroposophic world. They wanted to control not only my life, but even the intimate sphere of my mind. It was too much!
 
 
At this point, Perra reviews his relationship with Antoine Dodrimont
and other high Anthroposophical officials. He says that Dodrimont initially
sought to befriend and, apparently, control him. But when Perra began
publishing articles that were too frank about problems within Anthroposophy,
things changed profoundly and the Anthroposophical community began
aiming unfounded attacks at him:
 
 
 
This is roughly the time that rumors began to circulate in the Anthroposophic community about of my sanity. [110] There was a rumor that I had become paranoid and that’s why I wrote as I did. From being an individual who was admired for the intelligence and insight for his articles (and because I was protected by the S.A.F. president), I became suddenly a person who had serious problems. The Anthroposophic community is a small world where everyone knows each other, and thus it is very easy to circulate destructive rumors of this kind. Attacks on one’s mental state are obviously very difficult to counter, because whatever you say can immediately be ascribed to your supposed paranoia. Moreover, the people in this community are generally inclined to discredit anyone who challenges the sectarianism in which they are themselves prisoners. By the sectarian logic that gradually makes people crazy, they charge than anyone who resists them is the crazy one.
 
This method was used to offer me a sort of Anthroposophic psychoanalytic treatment in the presence of the president of the Anthroposophical Society in France, so that my grievances against the Anthroposophical Society could be aired and we could « discover what was wrong with me » (sic). The first session took place in the personal home of the president, in a dark attic, while I was on vacation in the east of France. It lasted for hours. I was bombarded with questions and comments while my « analyst » noted everything I said, including intimate details of my life. When he consulted my file, I saw notations from discussions my interlocutor had held with others. Leaving the session, I felt deeply hurt, as if a kind of psychic rape had occurred. I was so ashamed and confused, I could not even talk to my girlfriend about it, although I usually confided everything to her. It was agreed that this kind of session was to be held every month.
 
Two weeks after this event, my girlfriend suddenly decided to leave me, practically from one day to the next, without giving me any real explanation although we had lived under the same roof for two years. Just two days earlier, she had asked me about starting a family, because she wanted children. Although the end of a couple’s relationship can be traced to many factors, I am convinced that my damaged reputation within the Anthroposophical Society played a part. Undoubtedly, it caused this separation to be more abrupt than it would have been otherwise. I think she probably had come under pressure to use our family life to bring me back into the ranks, but she could not bear to play such a role. In a sense way, her decision to leave me so wrenchingly was perhaps a way for her to retain her integrity. In any case, there was more to it: For several months, in fact, she had been trying hard to sway me. Whenever I was critical or made a sarcastic remark about the Anthroposophic milieu, she flared up, yelling at me, using esoteric arguments to turn the criticism back on myself. She told me that I was possessed by my « double, » that I had to resist this temptation, etc. Even my cats became stressed: Deeply sweet creatures who never scratched anyone, they began showing their fangs as her incessant cries affected everyone. Indeed, her desire to correct things among us extended ever to the cats, which she said were behaving in ways inconsistent with their « soul-group. » [111] Thus, she could not bear to see them stand up on their hind legs.


So, after her departure, I was on my own. I gave thought to my situation, and two months after these events, I decided to tender my resignation to the Anthroposophical Society. Thus ended my thirty-year journey in Anthroposophy.
 
 
 
 
 


 
 
 
This is the end of Part 2.
Use the following links to visit the other parts of this memoir:
 
 
 
 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Grégoire Perra when a Waldorf high school student, sculpting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

One of Grégoire Perra’s Anthroposophical publications,

 in this case a book co-authored with Christophe Dekindt:

 
DE SPIRITUEL AU CINEMA 
Les arriere-plans occultes du cinéma d’action americain
Essai sur le cinéma d’action et l’occultisme contemporain

{THE SPIRITUAL IN THE CINEMA

The Occult Background of American Actions Films

An Essay on Action Movies and Contemporary Occultism}

(Éditions Pic de la Mirandole, 2008).

 

Applying an Anthroposophical analysis to contemporary culture,

the authors suggest the continuing relevance of Rudolf Steiner’s thinking today.

 

 

 

 

 


Above is the penultimate page of the book, displaying terms even

non-French-readers can grasp: the name « Rudolf Steiner, »

the word « disciple », the word « initiation » (meaning entry into

the inner circle of occultists), and the phrase « la science de l’occulte »

(meaning « occult science » — the term Steiner applied to his own teachings,

which he also called « spiritual science » or « Anthroposophy »).

 

 

———————

 

 

Predominantly an Anthroposphical publishing house,

Éditions Pic de la Mirandole has put out LA PORTE DE L’INITIATION

{THE PORTAL OF INITIATION}.

L’´EPREUVE DE L’AME

{THE PROOF OF THE SOUL},

and numerous other works by Rudolf Steiner.

 

Visit http://www.editions-mirandole.com/.

 

 

[For more on Anthroposophical occultism, see « Occultism« .]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Anthroposophical journal L’ESPRIT DU TEMPS.

This issue — autumn, 2002 — 

included one piece by Rudolf Steiner

(a reprint, needless to say)

and two by Grégoire Perra

(arguably less universe-shaking).

Perra’s contributions were

{« Shakespeare and the Mystery of the Word »}
(« Star Wars and the Occult Imagination of Our Time »}.

 

 

 

———————

 

 

Below is a slice of text from 

« Shakespeare et le Mystère de la parole« .

It is harder for non-French-readers to parse,

but you should spot references to Rudolf Steiner,

Ahriman, and occult science:

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

———————

 

 

 

Some other issues in which Grégoire Perra’s work appeared:

 

 

 

 



 

 

 

Most Anthroposophical productions 

— like these magazines, like Waldorf schools —

are attractive.

But what we discover when we consider their contents

carefully and rationally is often a different matter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



 

 

 

 

Here are a few thoughts from the Master.

Citizens of France who find Anthroposophy alluring 

may want to meditate upon these words:

 

 

 

« We can clearly see the decadence of French culture in the language. Among the common languages of Europe, French is the language that, in a sense, most forces the human soul to the surface. It is the language in which it is possible (and this is a paradox) to lie in the most honest way. In that language, it is easiest to lie in the most naïve and honest way, because it lacks any real connection with the inner human being. French is spoken entirely at the surface of the human being … The French language is currently something that paralyzes — it directs the soul. It rapes the soul, and thus makes the soul hollow, so that French culture is hollowed out under the influence of the French language. Those who have a feeling for such things can see that the soul does not speak in French culture, only a petrified formalism has a voice. The difference is that, in speaking French, the language rules the speaker. The infinite freedom possible in German, and that we should use more than we normally do, that enables you, for instance, to put the subject in any position, depending upon your inner life, does not exist in French. »

— Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 553.

 

 

« The use of the French language quite certainly corrupts the soul. The soul acquires nothing more than the possibility of clichés. Those who enthusiastically speak French transfer that to other languages. The French are also ruining what maintains their dead language, namely, their blood. The French are committing the terrible brutality of moving black people to Europe, but it works, in an even worse way, back on France. It has an enormous affect on the blood and the race and contributes considerably toward French decadence. The French as a race are reverting. »

— Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), pp. 558-559.

 

 

 

 

 

 



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ENDNOTES

 

 

 

[55] See the previous note about the college of teachers — the central committee that controls most things in a typical Waldorf school. Another author who reveals some of the inner realities of Waldorf education has written: “The College of Teachers of which I was privileged to be a member for many years had a strong tendency to oscillate between two extremes and I have seen similar tendencies in my travels as a visiting teacher [at other Waldorf schools]. One extreme is the position that the College should concern itself with purely spiritual matters and leave the nuts and bolts to other groups or individuals. The other is that the College should take the responsibility for everything, right down to the shape of the bathroom doorknob. Proponents of the first view say that it is the task of the College to maintain the lines of communication with the spiritual beings who hover over the school, and if the College doesn’t do it perhaps no one will. The school is a spiritual organism and there must be an organ to receive and cherish what flows in from the spirit [realm]. Those who take the second view say that decisions about nut and bolts are spiritual matters.” — Keith Francis, THE EDUCATION OF A WALDORF TEACHER (iUniverse, 2004), p. 184. Francis remains a Steiner loyalist, yet his descriptions often parallel Perra’s. The title of Francis’s book misleads some aspiring Waldorf teachers, who expect the contents to be  wholly upbeat account of Francis’s training and development as a committed Waldorf teacher. Instead, trying to be evenhanded, Francis devotes parts of the book hard, disillusioning lessons he had to absorb in the Waldorf universe.

 
[56] In THE EDUCATION OF A WALDORF TEACHER, Keith Francis confirms that the departure of Waldorf faculty members often occurs in an atmosphere of rancor and strife, although the details may vary from case to case. • Sometimes, he says, good people leave because of dysfunction in the schools. « I remember several occasions when the work of the College [of Teachers] ground to a halt for weeks or even months because of implacable bees in the bonnets of one or two members. I remember other occasions when good people left the school because they couldn’t stand it any more.” [p. 103] • Sometimes troublemaking teachers depart, having sown chaos. « [T]hree years of productivity and relative peace were followed by a period of discord which led to another outbreak of the old [battles] … Soon after that the teacher in question took a job at another Waldorf school, leaving the faculty bitterly divided and the school seriously damaged. » [p. 102] • Francis himself left at one point. « Between them the school’s managers and their protégés had turned the Rudolf Steiner School into a place where I didn’t want to be … I got myself a job at the [non-Steiner] Lenox School … My work at Lenox was rather trying, since the students were much nastier than the ones at the Rudolf Steiner School and this was only partly compensated for by the fact that the teachers were considerably easier to get on with. » [p. 115]
[57] This is the lawsuit, brought by the Federation of Waldorf Schools in France, which Perra mentions in the first part of his memoir. We will reach his account of the trial later in this part of the memoir.
[58] Secrecy is endemic in Anthroposophy and Waldorf education. At the deepest level, the teachings of Anthroposophy are considered « occult » — that is, they are meant to be concealed from the uninitiated. At a practical level, much of the rationale behind the policies and practices of Waldorf schools is kept hidden from « outsiders, » which often includes the students, the students’ parents, and even junior faculty members. [See, e.g., « Secrets« .]
[59] When he began teaching in the Waldorf system, Perra simultaneously had to complete an internship in public education in order to receive his teaching credentials.

[60] The school’s assertion of a difference between « periods » and « theme weeks » was apparently little more than a PR ploy. In any event, Anthroposophists revere works such as PARZIVAL, by Wolfram von Eschenbach, and FAUST, by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, which they think confirm their own beliefs. Generally Waldorf schools deem these works to be nearly divine, and they use them to draw students toward Anthroposophy. [See Perra’s sections « Hiding Anthroposophy in the Subjects Taught » and « Making Cultural Works Sacred » in his essay « The Anthroposophical Indoctrination of Students in Steiner-Waldorf Schools« .]

 
[61] Anthroposophists believe that children mature through three seven-year-long periods, culminating at ages 7, 14, and 21. Three invisible bodies — the etheric, astral, and ego bodies — supposedly incarnate at those ages. [See « Incarnation« .] But by no means are these the only important ages for a child. In fact, Waldorf educators generally believe that each year of a child’s life has a special character, so that, for instance, all eight-year-old children pass through roughly the same developmental stage during that year. The same is true for all the years of childhood, with all children being deemed more or less alike at each age. The ninth year is often considered especially important. The etheric body has incarnated, the astral body is on its way to incarnation, and the child is becoming more fully adapted to life on Earth as unconscious memories of life before birth recede. Becoming conscious of oneself as a separate being in a world of other beings and phenomena is called by Anthroposophists « crossing the Rubicon ». (The Rubicon is a large stream in northern Italy; when Caesar led his troops across this stream, he committed himself to a military campaign. In common usage, « crossing the Rubicon » refers to taking an irrevocable step.)
[62] As eleventh graders, the students would have been about 17 years old, three years past the normal time of puberty: age 14, when the astral body incarnates.
[63] Rudolf Steiner claimed to be clairvoyant, and he gave instructions for his followers to use in their own quest to become clairvoyant. [See, e.g., « Knowing the Worlds« .] True-believing Waldorf teachers strive to follow these instructions, and many believe that they are indeed clairvoyant. [See « The Waldorf Teacher’s Consciousness« .]
[64] In Anthroposophical belief, there are several types of demons and perverse spiritual beings. [See « Evil Ones« .] The « higher entities » of Anthroposophy are gods of various ranks. [See « Polytheism« .]
[65] The Waldorf school I attended was nearly ripped apart when senior faculty members decided to believe, and take « guidance » from, the ravings of a « psychic » former student. [See « The Waldorf Scandal« .]
THE NEW YORK TIMES,
Feb. 16, 1979
[66] Waldorf teacher training is distinct form normal educational practices. It usually occurs at special Anthroposophical institutions and generally involves broad exposure to the mystical teachings of Rudolf Steiner. [See « Teacher Training« .]
[67] Some Waldorf schools have more or less conventional organizational arrangements, with headmasters, department chairpeople, and so forth. But as mentioned previously, other Waldorf schools try to operate collegially, trying to embody the social principles enunciated by Rudolf Steiner. [See « Threefolding« .]
[68] The arts are often central to Waldorf education, and the schools can be quite beautiful as a result. But as with all things, arts are stressed at Waldorf because of their supposed spiritual powers. Steiner taught that the arts transport us directly and literally into the spirit realm. [See « Magical Arts« .]
[69] For other accounts of Waldorf faculty experiences, see « Ex-Teacher 2 » and the pages that follow it.
[70] Weleda is an Anthroposophical firm that makes health and beauty products consistent with Anthroposophical health and beauty doctrines.
[71] These are fundamental Waldorf texts. THE STUDY OF MAN is usually considered the foundational text for all of Waldorf education. [See « Oh Humanity« .] THEOSOPHY is Steiner’s exposition of his own brand of Theosophy, which amounted to Anthroposophy. [See « Basics« .] Before breaking away to found Anthroposophy as a separate movement, Steiner had led the German branch of the Theosophical Society. [See « What a Guy« .]
[72] Reincarnation and karma are key Anthroposophical beliefs, and they constitute one of the core differences between the doctrines of Anthroposophy and those of mainstream Christianity. When outsiders are first exposed to Anthroposophy, they generally either find it so recondite and strange that they can scarcely penetrate it, or — learning that Christ is revered by Anthroposophists — they conclude that Anthroposophy must be a form of Christianity. In reality, Anthroposophy is an polytheistic, essentially pagan religion that calls itself a science. It derives largely from Theosophy, Hinduism, and Gnosticism. [For more on these matters, see, e.g., « Karma« , « Reincarnation« , « Sun God« , « Gnosis« , and « Was He Christian?« ]
[73] This is a book of Anthroposophical religious meditations. There is one verse for each week of the year. Here is the verse for the fifth week:
 
Within the light that out of spirit depths
Weaves germinating power into space
And manifests the gods’ creative work:
Within its shine, the soul’s true being
Is widened into worldwide life
And resurrected
From narrow selfhood’s inner power.
[THE CALENDAR OF THE SOUL
(Anthroposophic Press, 1982).]
 
Note that Anthroposophy reveres many gods (« …manifests the gods’ creative work » [emphasis added]). [See « Polytheism« .]
 
[74] Eurythmy is a form of spiritual dance practiced by Anthroposophists. It is usually a required activity for students in Waldorf schools. [See « Eurythmy« .]
 
[75] This is from a faculty meeting led by Rudolf Steiner on September 22, 1920. The discussion dealt with a new German law that would have prevented the Waldorf school from functioning as Steiner intended. A fuller version of Steiner’s statement is this:
 
We must worm our way through. We have to be conscious of the fact that this is done in life — not through an inner provocation, then it would be the way the Jesuits work — but done with a certain mental reservation in response to external requirements. We have to be conscious that in order to do what we want to do, at least, it is necessary to talk with the people, not because we want to but because we have to, and inwardly make fools of them. — Rudolf Steiner, CONFERENCES WITH THE TEACHERS OF THE WALDORF SCHOOL IN STUTTGART, Vol. 1 (Steiner Schools Fellowship Publications, 1986), p. 125.
 
A later translation tries to tone this down, but it still shows Steiner saying it is okay to lie if, inwardly, one has good intentions:
 

Somehow we need to feel our way through this. We need to be aware that such things happen in life, but we should realize that they do not arise inwardly — that would be deceptive — but from without, and that we should do them with a certain mental reservation. We should be aware that we need to do things, but not inwardly, to achieve at least the minimum of what we want, and that we will need to speak with people while inwardly tweaking their noses. — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER, Vol. 1 (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), pp. 175-176.

 
Steiner often urged Waldorf his followers to deceive outsiders. [See « Secrets« .]
 
[76] The central organization of the Anthroposophical movement is called the General Anthroposophical Society. Housed in the Anthroposophical headquarters, the Goetheanum, it is the body constituted by Rudolf Steiner in 1923, after the original Anthroposophical Society appeared to lose direction. Branches of the General Anthroposophical Society exist in many countries, including France.
 
[77] Anthroposophy prescribes organic gardening and farming. Nutrition, from an Anthroposophical perspective, is a matter of promoting the health of the physical body so that it is a fit vessel for the etheric, astral, and ego bodies. [To look into some of these subjects, see, e.g., « Biodynamics« , « Incarnation« , and « Our Parts« .]
 
[78] See the section, « Working in an Anthroposophic Bookstore », in the first part of Perra’s memoir.
 
[79] Seances presided over by mediums are not central to Anthroposophy, and Steiner sometimes derided them. Nonetheless, Steiner indicated that some mediums possess true clairvoyant powers. [See, e.g., « Seances« .]
 
[80] To investigate the Waldorf/Anthroposophical stance on intellect and academic work, see, e.g., « Thinking« , « Steiner’s Specific« , and « Academic Standards at Waldorf« .
 
[81] « La racine philosophique de l’anthroposophie et le retour des sorciers », Les Nouvelles de la Société Anthroposophique en France, pp. 4-8. [See http://gregoireperra.wordpress.com/2010/12/28/la-racine-philosophique-de-l’anthroposophie-et-le-retour-des-sorciers/.]
 

[82] In Anthroposophical belief, Lucifer and Ahriman are demonic partner-rivals. Lucifer tempts mankind toward false spirituality; Ahriman tempts mankind toward excessive materialism. The god of the Sun, known to us as Christ, balances the influences of Lucifer and Ahriman so that we can derive benefit from them. All of this is complicated by the convoluted nature of humanity, including the presence within us of spiritual doppelgängers or doubles. [See, e.g., « Lucifer« , « Ahriman« , « Sun God« , and « Double Trouble« .]

[83] This is a school devoted to Steiner’s doctrines and to clairvoyant spiritual research. A part of the General Anthroposophical Society, the School includes sections focusing on art, astronomy, mathematics, medicine, etc., as defined from an Anthroposophical perspective. Membership is restricted to practicing Anthroposophists.

[84] In Anthroposophical doctrine, Michael is a warrior god who is currently overseeing human spiritual evolution. Michael is the Archangel of the Sun, and as such he is the lieutenant of Christ, the Sun God. Michael fights for us against Sorat, the Sun Demon (the Antichrist) and other foes such as Ahriman. [For more on all this, see, e.g., »Michael« , « Evil Ones« , and « Violence« .]
[85] Anthroposophists would surely attribute this failure to a deep spiritual flaw in Perra. But the reality is that no one is clairvoyant; clairvoyance is a delusion, a practice of self-deception. [See « Clairvoyance » and « Why? Oh Why?« ] Anthroposophy and Waldorf education depend on clairvoyance, and they aim for its enactment. This is gaping void at their center. Clairvoyance does not exist, which means there is no justification, at the core, for either Anthroposophy or Waldorf education. 
 
[86] APAPS is the Association des parents et amis pour le soutien et la promotion de la pédagogie Steiner-Waldorf {The Association of Parents and Friends for the Support and Promotion of the Steiner-Waldorf Pedagogy}.
 
[87] La Fédération des Ecoles Steiner-Waldorf de France {The Federation of Steiner-Waldorf Schools in France} is the official association of French Waldorf schools. It is similar to the Steiner-Waldorf School Fellowship in Great Britain and the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America, which operates primarily in the USA and, secondarily, in Canada.
 
[88] « L’Homme des Lumières et le Réenchantement du monde » [see http://gregoireperra.wordpress.com/2010/12/28/l’homme-des-lumieres-et-le-reenchantement-du-monde/]. SAF is the Société anthroposophique en France {The Anthroposophical Society of France}. Perra published articles in the Anthroposophic journals L’Esprit du Temps, Tournant, Perspectives Chrétiennes, and Les Nouvelles de la Société Anthroposophique en France.
 
[89] This may seem like an extreme charge: Anthroposophists don’t think. Many Anthroposophists are undeniably intelligent, and often they use complex terminology that certainly seems smart. But, indeed, in Anthroposophical doctrine, thinking is suspect. « When we think, » Rudolf Steiner said, « we die continually. » He said that intuition should be cultivated, « supplanting thinking’s power. » He made such points repeatedly; in general, he discouraged the use of the brain. [See, e.g., « Steiner’s Specific« , « Thinking« , and « Thinking Cap« .] The ultimate test of Anthroposophical « thinking, » of course, is to be found in the doctrines of Anthroposophy. What do Anthroposophists believe? What, in a manner of speaking, do they think? The sad truth is that their beliefs are almost impossible for a thinking person to take seriously. The doctrines of Anthroposophy are absurd. [See, e.g., « Oh Man« , « Oh Humanity« , and « Steiner’s Blunders« .] Likewise, comprehending Steiner’s lectures — which tend to be turgid and disorganized — requires intelligence. But believing what Steiner says betrays a failure of intelligence — a failure to actually think. [See, e.g., « Steiner Static« , « Say What?« , « Lecture« , and « Oh Man. »]
 
[90] People who leave Waldorf schools or other Anthroposophical enterprises often find that they become outcasts, shunned and despised by their former acquaintances. For personal accounts by people who once loved Waldorf education and then became disillusioned — and who in some cases had to endure painful attacks by people they had considered friends — see, e.g., « Our Experience« , « Coming Undone« , « Moms« , and « Pops« .
 
[91] A former Waldorf teacher, Antoine Dodrimont was president of the Anthroposophical Society in France. He had mentored Perra.
 
[92] Bodo von Plato was another leading Anthroposophist. He served on the Executive Council at the Goetheanum, the Anthroposophical world headquarters. He, too, had mentored Perra.
 

[93] UNADFI is an anti-cult organization in France: the Union Nationales des Associations de Defenses des Families et de l’Individu Victimes des Sectes {National Union of Associations for the Defense of Families and Individual Victims of Sects}. [See UNADFI]. On the UNADFI website, Perra published an article titled
« L’endoctrinement à l’Anthroposophie dans les écoles Steiner-Waldorf » {
« The Anthroposophical Indoctrination of Students in Steiner-Waldorf Schools »}. [See « L’endoctrinement« .] For an English translation, see « He Went to Waldorf« .

[94] The Christian Community is a gnostic religion tightly entwined with Anthroposophy. See Perra’s description in the first part of this memoir [« Part 1« ].

[95] The Federation sued Perra following the publication of his article at the UNADFI website, charging him with malicious slander. We will come to Perra’s account of the trial later in this memoir.
 
[96] See Perra’s account in Part 1 of this memoir: The priestess had tried to recruit him into the Christian Community priesthood. Perra resisted, and thereafter he reduced his involvement in the church, although he continued to attend services and he honored the memory of the priestess following her death.
 
[97] See the earlier note on STUDY OF MAN. English-language editions have borne such titles as A GENERAL KNOWLEDGE OF THE HUMAN BEING and THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE, in addition to STUDY OF MAN. [See « Oh Humanity« .] Steiner occasionally encouraged his followers to exercise initiative and make their own spiritual discoveries. However, he also stressed that his own teachings resulted from his use of « exact » clairvoyance [see « Exactly« ], which makes them nearly infallible. In practice, Anthroposophists tend to feel bound by the precedents set by Steiner, treating his utterances virtually as Holy Writ — as evidenced, for instance, in the operations of the School of Spiritual Science, where the same eighteen Steiner lectures are read over and over, interminably.
[98] See the section, « I Would Leave », above.
[99] « Biodynamics » is the label for the type of organic agriculture advocated by Rudolf Steiner. [See « Biodynamics« .]

[100] Michaela Glöckler, an Anthroposophical doctor and author, is leader of the medical section at the Goetheanum. Jean-Marie Pelt is a botanist and pharmacist who advocates the medicinal use of « healing plants. »

[101] Les Nouvelles de la Société Anthroposophique {The News of the Anthroposophical Society}.
 
[103] « Enthusiasm, » in this sense, generally means religious fervor — giving oneself over to a rapturous sense of being filled with spirit. When one is « possessed, » the self is replaced by the spirit that presumably have taken control of one’s being. These terms are often used disparagingly by those who prefer a more reasoned approach to spiritual matters.
[104] One of Steiner’s early books is THE PHILOSOPHY OF FREEDOM, and Anthroposophists often affirm that their movement aims to free humanity. Likewise, Waldorf education is often represented as promoting individual freedom. However, Steiner taught — and his followers generally believe — that there is really only one correct spiritual path for humanity today, the path of Anthroposophy. Seen from this perspective, the « freedom » to choose one’s own course in life comes down to little more than the freedom to choose between truth and error. [See « Freedom« .]
[105] Perra’s disengagement from Anthroposophy came in stages, entailing various resignations, In June, 2007, he resigned from the Waldorf school where he worked, but he remained an active Anthroposophist. [See the section, « I Would Leave », above.] In September, 2007, he quit Waldorf teacher training. He continued as a member of the Anthroposophical Society untii June, 2009, when he left both the Society and the School of Spiritual Science. [See the section, « Member of the School of Spiritual Science and Its Fine Writing Section ».]
 
[106] Steiner taught that the brain is an animal organ, and no real thinking occurs within it. People who rely on their brains and the « thoughts » coming from their brains are bestial materialists. [See, e.g., « Materialism U. » and « Criticism« .] 
 
[107] Waldorf schools generally deny that they teach students Anthroposophy, and this is true in the sense that they really explain Anthroposophical doctrines explicitly. However, the schools find many ways to convey the gist of Anthroposophy to attentive students, and the underlying purpose of the schools is to lead students toward Anthroposophy. [See, e.g., « Spiritual Agenda« , « Here’s the Answer« , and « Sneaking It In« .] For Perra’s summary of the ways Waldorf schools seek to indoctrinate students, their parents, and new faculty members, see « Indoctrination« .
 
[108] As the international Anthroposophical headquarters, the Goetheanum is the holy of holies for Rudolf Steiner’s followers. In everything but name, it is a cathedral. [See « Is Anthroposophy a Religion? » The building, designed by Steiner, is named for the German author Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, whom Steiner admired. See « Goethe« .]
[109] See Perra’s previous description of the eighteen Steiner lectures that are read over and over during meetings of the School of Spiritual Science. He said these lectures have poetic power but lack ideational content. Much Anthroposophical discourse is similar, employing emotive and even inspiring rhetoric that tends to collapse when examined rationally. This is to be expected in a movement that disparages use of the brain. [For samples of Anthroposophical rhetoric, see, e.g., « Today« , « Who Says?« , and « Steiner Static« . To walk through a representative Steiner lecture, see « Lecture« .]
[110] This is a standard practice among Anthroposophists, one that surely seems justified from their perspective. They think they possess Truth and, moreover, they work in service to the divine cosmic plan. Thus, anyone who opposes them stands on the side of the evil forces of the universe and must be, in some deep way, demented or perverse. Indeed, Rudolf Steiner encouraged his followers to believe that they are beset by unbalanced enemies. [See « Enemies« .] If Anthroposophy is the highest sanity, then opposition to Anthroposophy must be insanity. This attitude, clearly, makes calm, rational discussions between Anthroposophists and their « enemies » extremely difficult if not impossible.
[111] In Anthroposophical doctrine, human beings are the only earthly creatures who possess individual souls. Animals have « group souls » — over-souls shared by all the members of a species. Thus, no cat has its own soul; it only has a small portion of the general soul shared by all cats. Anthroposophists also believe that human beings have group souls in addition to their individual souls (all members of a race share that race’s group soul, for instance), but in general humans have been evolving toward greater individuality. [See, e.g., « Four Group Souls« .]
 
 

 

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