This booklet was written by Keith Jefferson (Themba Sadiki) while working at the Seattle Waldorf School in 1986. Keith/Themba was a class teacher, talented social development thinker, and creative influencer at the school.
This booklet was written by Keith Jefferson (Themba Sadiki) while working at the Seattle Waldorf School in 1986. Keith/Themba was a class teacher, talented social development thinker, and creative influencer at the school.
Returning to a Renewed Community Life in Our Schools:
Four Keys to help regain Vibrance
Lisa Mahar is a co-director of the Art of Administration summer training program of Leading with Spirit., offering week-long administrative training focused on the foundations of Waldorf education, explorations in school governance, school communication, meeting facilitation, roles and responsibilities, community building, leadership development, collaboration, and more.
As Longer, warmer days and the tentative emergence of buds and blossoms let us know that spring is underway and we are happily anticipating our return to community celebrations and festival life after many months of limited contact, modified events, and sustained precautions, many school leaders are facing the reality that large portions of their student bodies and their parent bodies have yet to experience the full rhythm and richness of our Waldorf community celebrations, festivals, special events, and school traditions.
While reintroducing a renewal of community life promises the special kind of refreshment, nourishment, and sustenance we long for, we are presented with a unique opportunity and challenge to pause and ask:
How do we best renew our community activities?
What new opportunities present themselves for a full refreshment of community life?
How might we adopt and incorporate our ongoing and meaningful work aimed at broadening circles of inclusion and welcome?
Which traditions still pulse with life, and which are ready to become meaningful memories of a past time?
What new events and celebrations are peeking over the cradle’s rim ready to be taken up?
Each school community will answer these questions in its own way. What follows are some reflections and insights from the work of Jorgen Smit on elements that make up a healthy, vibrant, balanced community life. Schools might find these insights useful as they plan for a full return to community life.
Jorgen Smit, a long time Waldorf teacher and anthroposophist, studied human community and observed human relationships. He developed his observations and experiences into a picture of the healthy human social organism, based on four dynamics of community life: Warmth, Initiative, Form, and Continuity. When each of these four dynamics is present and lively and when these dynamics are actively and consciously balanced and rebalanced, a living and vibrant sense of community carries us all. (See a brief introduction to Jorgen Smit below)
Consider these four elements and your own school community.
Community warmth creates an atmosphere of welcome, of extension toward the other, of striving for connection. Warmth is interest, curiosity. Warmth flows through and breaks down any separation between the long-time members of the community and the brand-new ones. Warmth brings a sense of welcome, comfort, acceptance, enthusiasm. Diversity, and its essential companion, inclusion, thrive in a community permeated by human warmth. In such a community, even challenges are welcomed because they often generate “heat” in our human connections. Warmth is a necessary condition for growth, raying out and engaging those it touches.
Proposing, exploring, and manifesting new approaches demonstrate a commitment to our healthy future. Initiative asks questions, is willing to experiment and takes risks. Balanced with warmth, form, and continuity, it’s the fuel that moves a community forward. Vibrant wholeness and energy characterize communities friendly to initiative. A school community that works to sense the future welcomes initiative from all quarters, including from new teachers, new staff members, and new parents, and from the students themselves. After all, our new and our young community companions bring us the gift of fresh eyes. When balanced with warmth, form, and continuity we find initiative to be an inspiring energizer keeping us fresh and engaged.
Form is the structure of the community and its policies, procedures, protocols. Form reflects our living values, what is important to us. It holds us up and holds us together. If we are committed to professional development for teachers, our budget should support it. If we are committed to financial accessibility for all, our tuition policies should make that possible. If we are committed to diversity and inclusion, our curriculum, staffing, enrollment, festivals, and celebrations reflect these commitments. We experience form in a framework: our values lead to principles; principles lead to policies; policies lead to practices. Form has a sturdiness and durability to it. We can count on it. Form is, of course, open to transform, yet it is, at best, the set of firm yet supple golden threads that weave our school community together.
Continuity embraces and continually refreshes what is valuable, inspiring, what works. It lives in community rhythms, predictability, tradition, and the honoring of history. Continuity is carrying forward what is lively and true. Continuity gives new ideas time and space to work. Continuity is sensing and celebrating what we can rightly rely on: it was, it is, it will be. This is a gift for our children, a source of strength, trust, and security. Dynamic continuity calls us to be attentive, perceptive, and especially awake, avoiding doing a thing because “we’ve always done it”.
Warmth, initiative, form, continuity, these four elements are guiding lights illuminating the path of community health and well-being. We can ask ourselves: Are all of these elements present in our school community? Which element are we especially good at? Does one or another need to be strengthened? How does each manifest in the life of the school? Are these elements well-balanced with one another? Are there groups or individuals especially gifted in holding one or more of these elements? Where do we see opportunities for further growth and development of warmth, initiative, continuity, and form?
In this new moment we are offered a unique opportunity: returning to fuller expression of a vibrant community life. With a nod to the thoughtful work of Jorgen Smit, we look forward to making the most of the compelling possibilities that lay ahead. Kind thoughts to all as you examine, strengthen, and renew your community relationships and deepen your school culture now and for our future. Happy Spring!
Jorgen Smit (1916 – 1991) was a Waldorf Educator—a class teacher, trainer of teachers, international pedagogical leader, and one of the founders of the anthroposophical center in Jarna, Sweden, which now includes a teacher education seminar, a cultural center, hospital, school, biodynamic farm, dairy, and the international Youth Initiative Program (YIP). Jorgen Smit was a warm–hearted, compassionate human being, deeply interested in others. He inspired many young people to pursue careers of service in Waldorf Education and other anthroposophically based initiatives. Stories abound of his interest in others, his humor, curiosity, and encouraging guidance.
Like everyone, we at Leading with Spirit are finding these days to be challenging. The rhythms of our lives have been disrupted, and the events unfolding around the world can easily lead us into a kind of despair. It feels at times that there is little we can do to make a difference in the systems we all would like to see changed - deeply embedded racism, economic inequity, a militarized world, and many people with great power continuing to promote negative untruthful narratives that separate people. Through this seeming darkness, it is possible to see new light - A growing light of self-reflection and personal transformation, of empathy for others, of finding small and large groups who share positive values and are working for change. Hope is needed more than ever in these times and it can only come through our own effort. We can see hope in others, and we can be hopeful in ourselves. We have to make hope. Working with our teacher training students at Sound Circle Center, and our Leading with Spirit Administrative training advisees, we are aware of the challenges people are facing, and the ways they are, day by day, meeting them with courage. This continues to be the joy and inspiration in our work. As we continue, please let us know if we can be of help in any way.
Here is an inspiration that I have found helpful in these times:
“Let your loyalty to another human being come about in this way: there will be moments — quickly passing by — when he will seem to you filled and illumined by the true, primal image of his spirit.
Then can come, yes, will come, long stretches of time when your fellow-being seems clouded, even darkened. But learn at these times to say to yourself: The spirit will strengthen me; I will remember the true, unchanging image that I once saw. Nothing at all — neither deception nor disguise — can take it away from me.
Struggle again and again for the true picture that you saw. The struggle itself is your faithfulness.
And in those efforts to be faithful and to trust, a human being will come close to another as if with an angel’s power of protection.”
Working Together Digitally and Staying Whole
by Michael Soule
Almost overnight, there has been a significant shift towards the use of screen technology as a primary means of communication. While this technology is not new, social distancing has brought us into a new level of dependency on it. As a consequence, many people are experiencing increased stress and a lack of vitality, phenomena described recently in articles in the National Geographic and the New York Times.
We already know about some of the negative effects of extensive screen time: exposure to EMFs and screen light; the lack of physical movement; and an overstimulation of the eyes. All of these are particularly harmful when not balanced with in-person human interactions, time in nature, full-body movement, and play.
Here are some thoughts about how to counteract these effects and stay healthy both in this challenging time and beyond.
Be grateful every day for the opportunity to connect online. Appreciate everything and everyone who has helped make our computers, the internet, and video conferencing possible and be grateful for the technologies themselves. They are truly amazing tools. When we are grateful for something, our relationship to it changes for the better.
Appreciate Real Human Connection. Do not think for a moment that web calls can replace real-time face-to-face in-person meetings. They are only a substitute for those situations where it is not safe or spatially possible to meet in person. The power of human connection cannot be replaced by a virtual meeting. Even now we can find ways to connect with people in face-to-face conversations from a safe distance. Do not underestimate the power of a single in-person conversation to bring joy into your day.
Have the Right Expectations. Do not expect virtual meetings to provide you with the warmth and the range of experience that in-person meetings offer. At the same time, treat an on-line meeting with the same respect you would an in-person meeting. Many people are finding it helpful to prepare for an online meeting by imagining the others who will be on the call and thinking about them ahead of time. Even when we are meeting face to face, this is a helpful practice.
Create a Comfortable Space. The space you create for the meeting is important whether you are all together in the same place or in a virtual setting. Be comfortable. Be aware of what is behind you that others can see. Dress appropriately. Limit background noise. Try not using background pictures of a different setting, as this can be distracting to you and the others and it adds nothing to the meeting. It just brings in another illusory element to the event. It is helpful to have something beautiful to glance at when you need to turn your eyes away from the screen. It is much like driving – it is good and less stressful to keep your eyes moving, not just peeled on the road ahead. Sit where you can occasionally glance out the window or glance at something beautiful.
Be Conscious of Your State of Mind. Take a minute or more before the meeting to check in on your mood and your frame of mind. Your thoughts and feelings are real and have an effect on you, on the space around you, and on other participants. Bringing your most positive self to the meeting may have a significant effect on what can happen in the meeting. Simple rituals can also help you feel more present. Consider lighting a candle or holding a stone in your hand. Consider turning off the video for parts of the meeting/conversation. Just listening, without added visual distraction can be less stressful.
Go Slowly, Breathe, and Look for Balance. The added stress of web conferencing requires more rest time for both your mind and your body. Find a few moments each day to be quiet, especially between meetings. The mind and the computer can move at a pace that the body cannot. Virtual meetings are better when breaks occur regularly that allow everyone to breathe out and recenter. You will find your own rhythm for this. Many people use games, breaking into small groups, or other activities to break up longer sessions. Make sure that the mission of the group is touched upon regularly. Make sure that everyone touches in (when groups are not too big). Begin and end the meeting with an inspirational quote or poem.
Recognize the difference between the picture and the person. It helps to remember that the other person is not what you see on the screen. The screen offers only a facsimile. The real person is vastly more dynamic, complex, whole, and wonderful than any screen image can convey. In many ways, the picture you have in your imagination, with all of its connections of memories, stories, feelings, etc. is a much more living picture of the person than what you see on a screen. Bringing an image of the other into your mind can help the screen connection be more living. When meeting with new people, take a few minutes to introduce each other, to share something personal so that the screen image is more alive. It helps to think of the person(s) before the meeting to bring more life to the online interaction. The interest you take in others, whether in person or virtual, can make a significant difference in the quality of your connection and your time together.
Take an Active Interest, Stay Open-minded to Others. Keeping an open heart and mind to colleagues, friends and new acquaintances can make a significant difference in the quality of interactions with them. There are many practices to help maintain an open attitude with others. Try to see them in a positive light. Be grateful for how they are part of your life. Loving interest is a living force that can overcome all manner of interpersonal hindrances.
Separateness and Wholeness. In an online meeting, the digital nature of the medium cannot capture the wholeness of the meeting or the group. The participating human beings give the meeting a sense of wholeness, purpose, and camaraderie. To be really enlivening a meeting needs to provide a sense of individuality and wholeness.
We always live life on two levels at the same time. We experience our life as a world of separate things, people, and places. At the same time, we also experience life and the world as a unified whole, interpenetrated, interwoven, and full of unexplained wonder.
It is the combination of these two levels that allow us to create wholeness out of separateness.
One image that can help is to remember that the physical distance that separates people also connects them. We stand on the same earth. We breathe the same air. We are warmed by the same sun, see the same moon in its phases, and wonder at the same stars. The mountains, the valleys, the rivers, and the seas are all connected. Through them, we are and can feel connected and in touch no matter where we are.
All of these suggestions have a common foundation – the practice of interest, respect, and care for the self and others. One possible result of this global pandemic will be a much greater understanding and consciousness of the ways we are and can be connected, heart to heart, even over long distances.
This article about the balance between power, wisdom, and love is especially relevant in this season and at this time in the world. While Steiner's terminology is fairly esoteric (he gives names to spiritual beings behind the impulses of love, power, and wisdom), the essential ideas illuminate how in this age we are given the task to find a path of love to overcome the tendency towards over-relying on either power or wisdom. We need both power and wisdom in our lives, but in their highest regard, they need to be tempered and guided by our capacity for love if we are to be in true service to the world and our fellow human beings. Enjoy.
|Notes on Rudolf Steiner's Lecture - Love and It's Meaning in the World
The older we grow, the more we begin to love the wisdom revealed by life. Love is the “moral” sun of the world. Life without love would be both dull and a danger for humanity. Without sense-born love, nothing material comes into the world; without spiritual love, nothing spiritual. Creative forces unfold through love. We owe our existence to deeds of love wrought in the past.
As well as love there are two other powers in the world: might and wisdom. To these two, the concepts of magnitude and enhancement are applicable, but not to love. The all-embracing attribute of the spirit is not omnipotence, not omniscience, but love. Spirit is supreme love, not supreme might, not supreme wisdom. Wisdom and might unfold in the world, but love is a unique impulse developed by humanity.
In our lives, we learn to accept and to understand love only when we begin to love out of ourselves. Real love cannot be understood by wisdom alone - one must experience it by acting from it. Without a lack of love, we cannot know what love is. As we grow and develop and seek self-understanding, real love becomes possible. The light of the sun that gives brightness to our days and gives substance and sustenance to the world can begin to be reflected back through our loving deeds.
To read Steiner's lecture, go here.
Leading with Spirit
Waldorf schools, like many modern organizations, have a culture of collaboration in which much of the work, decision making and planning happens in meetings. How these meetings are planned, prepared for, conducted and followed are essential to the ability of the coworkers to get things done, learn as they go and build strong relationships – all of which are essential to the health of the organization. Meetings may take many forms, and may be more formal and structured or more informal and fluid. Regardless of the meeting style, form or culture of the organization, the understanding and skills of the coworkers to shape and conduct meetings and the overall strength of the relationships between coworkers, there are a few fundamental principles and practices that contribute to healthy meetings.
Overall, in meetings, a few higher goals include to:
There are many good resources available to help one understand, plan, conduct and follow up on healthy meetings.
The Art of Planning and Preparing for Meetings is a newsletter at www.leadtogther.org with the following articles:
The Art of Planning and Preparing for Meetings
The Art of Creating an Agenda
Working Together, by Chris Schaefer
The Artistic Meeting: More Space for Spirit, by Holly Koteen Soule
Other related articles: Creating Board Agendas, Planning for Meetings,
Below is a Facilitation Guide developed st Stanford that is a good summary of many aspects of meetings.
Getting the Discussion Started
"How do you feel about the points made in the presentation?"
"What in your experience has led you to the view that you just expressed?"
"Would anyone be willing to share their reactions to the program?"
"Does anyone have any ideas about how we should start this discussion?"
"Does anyone have an issue or concern that they would like to raise to get us started?"
"What experiences have any of you had with this issue?"
"Tom, what do you think about the issues raised in the article?"
"Allison, how do you feel about what is happening in the dorm now, on the topic of X?"
" Eric, you have done a lot of reading in this area, how do you see the issue?"
"What are some of the major pros and cons from your perspective?"
"What statements did you actually hear made during the presentation that made you upset?"
"Who on campus is best suited to talk further about this issue?"
"How do some of the rest of you feel about that?"
"That may be your experience, but others may see things differently. Do any of you have a counter example or opinion.?"
"I have an opinion I would like to share, so I am taking my facilitator hat off for a comment."
- Talking too much
- Feeling the need to address all questions
- Talking more than your co-facilitator(s)
- Seeing the group interacting more with you rather than with each other
- Engaging in dialogue with individual members of the group
" How would you handle that?"
"Thanks for saying that Linda. No one had mentioned that before."
"Thanks for that helpful contribution. It is not easy to share such a personal experience. That was very courageous."
"Dave, I appreciate your offering a different view."
"You made a strong general statement, Mary. Is that what you think (or feel)?"
"Could you restate your point using 'I' instead of 'we' or 'you' or 'people think'?
- Ask the group to brainstorm ideas - Ask the group to identify pros and cons of a position rather than having individuals explain or defend a position
- Divide the group in half, being sure each half includes representatives of different viewpoints and ask each group to develop one side of the argument
- Go around the circle asking everyone to say something about the topic and indicate in what ways he or she agree with previous speakers. Then ask a recorder to summarize the primary feelings expressed by the group
- Create small groups, each with a reporter who will bring ideas of the small group back to the whole group
- Redirect people who make personal comments about others.
"Can you give an example of what you are talking about from your own experience?"
"You have made an interesting point, but how would you say that relates to X (the topic under discussion)?"
"It seems that we have started another topic without finishing the first. Should we return to the issue we were discussing before going on?"
"Some of the main points I have heard are..."
"What were some of the main themes here tonight?"
"Can someone give a brief distillation of the discussion that we just had?"
"People seem a little restless, why don't we take a break."
"It looks as if people are uncomfortable with what we have just been discussing."
"The energy of this discussion seems low, should we wind this up for now?"
"Can we explore each of the viewpoints as a group and try to understand them rather than having one or to persons defend each view."
"It's clear that there is not agreement on this issue which is perfectly fine. Can we all agree not to be in agreement on this and move on to consider another facet of this issue.."
"Let's remember our ground rule about not attacking each other."
"It is really hard to focus on what is being said here. There are so many side conversations."
"We hope that you will say what is on your mind. What we say here today is for the group and will not go beyond the group."
"The men in the group have been pretty quiet. We'd be interested in what you think."
"I have noticed that some of you have not said what you think. I hope you will find a way to let us hear from you at some point" (be careful of this kind of statement; it may put people on the spot)."
" I have noticed that some of you haven't said anything. Please feel free to jump in at any point."
"John, you made some good points; let's hear from someone else."
"Sam, I can see how upset you are. what would you like to hear from the group?"
"I bet you are not the only one here who has that reaction. Has anyone else ever felt the same way?"
"It seems to me that the discussion has brought up painful feelings for several people. What shall we do at this point? Would you like to talk about feelings that have been expressed? do you want to keep going? Shall we take a break?"
"This seems to be where a lot of discussions on this issue break down--how can we keep going and get past this point?"
"When I see people angry it is hard for me to listen because I am worried about people getting (emotionally/physically) hurt. Could we just take a minute here to breathe, and make sure we can talk about this respectfully"
"People are expressing many different and deep emotions here which may feel hard and uncomfortable, but that is the reason we are all here, to try to come to grips with emotionally difficult issues."
"It's not easy to share such a deeply held beliefs"
"What is your opinion, given the facts as you have said them?"
"When I here those facts, it makes me feel like.....?"
"These are interesting facts; would you like to share how you feel about them?."
- Take some risks yourself, including admitting your mistakes
- Take a risk yourself and be vulnerable by sharing a personal experience or risky feeling
"Can you say a little more about that?"
"What do you mean by that?" "Can you give us an example?"
"How did you come to this view?."
"What convinced you of your opinion?"
"As I understand what you are saying, ..."
"Let me see if I understand what you are saying, ..."
"Can you clarify that last comment, I am not sure that I understood what you were saying."
"Can I try to clarify what I think you just said."
"Can you restate that in a different way?"
"What do you mean by that?"
Troubleshooting During the Discussion
- Ask for any comments
- Suggest an answer and ask for agreement or disagreement
- Find something in their answer that is close to a serious answer and in a serious tone repeat it to the group.
- Ask them if they can think of another answer
- Compliment them when they give a serious answer
"I think most people are here because they think the topic is a valuable one. Does anyone feel differently about this?"
"Please try to respect other people's feelings here; this is a serious issue."
"I know that laughter can mean that people are nervous or feeling uncomfortable. Does anyone have any special concerns?"
- Say, "I'd like to hear what the rest of the group has to say."
- Ask another person a question just as soon as they pause.
- Ask for agreement or disagreement from others.
- Explain that you appreciate his or her comments, but it is important for everyone to have a chance to talk.
- Establish ground rules at the beginning (or mid-stream) that one of the goals is to provide everyone an opportunity to share.
-Say, "That is very interesting but how do you feel about .....?"
-Refocus their attention by saying "I know you are enjoying sharing your experience with each other, but there are some issues I would like to share with you now."
- Say, "In order to accomplish our goal today, we really need to move on. Perhaps we can go back to this topic later."
"Could we remember just to have one person talk at a time and let people finish their statements."
"Okay. First Sarah, then Randy, then Marie."
"Jim, you have got a lot of god point, but it is important to let Renee finish, and then I know that Tom is dying to say something as well."
-Keep your cool. Try to incorporate negative comments in a positive way. "That's an (interesting, unique, different) way to look at this situation. I appreciate your contributing that different point of view."
-If it continues, try to meet with the person at a break and confront them on their behavior. If it is really disruptive, tell them that if they choose to stay, you would like their cooperation. o Someone puts another person down.
-Remind the group that there are no wrong answers. Everyone has the right to his/her opinion.
- Don't let inappropriate humor go by.
" I realize that you may not have intended it, but this is a pretty sensitive topic, and that kind of humor makes a lot of people very uncomfortable."
"I don't find that remark very funny personally. Were you aware that some people might find that remark offensive?"
- Don't panic or start rushing. Get as far as you can. - Prioritize questions/points. Try to address the important ones
- Decide on a time for a follow-up session o Someone challenges your role as group leader.
- Don't become defensive. Let the group air their dissatisfactions. Express your feelings after they have cooled off. Discuss solutions with the group.
- Redirect the question to the group
- If no one in the group has a response, defer the question by having someone in the group come back with pertinent information at a later time.
- Don't take sides
- Remind people of the areas of agreement - Ask people in conflict to agree to restate what they heard before they state their arguments.
- Remind people that they are not there to judge others or to persuade others of their views, but to further mutual understanding.
- Summarize the conflict and ask for ideas from the whole group as to how to proceed.
- Acknowledge the disagreement and agree to move on. Tell the group that conflict is a healthy part of group dynamics, and can enhance learning.
- Try to put yourself in each person's position and try to understand the emotional impact that the situation is creating for them. Empathize verbally with each side.
- Acknowledge each persons concerns and needs.
- Try to elicit where each persons ideas may have come from in their experience.
- Try to be flexible about time. If something good is happening, assess the value of leaving that discussion in favor of completing an agenda. Get the group to help make this decision.
- Give a two-minute warning or some other transition time to prepare the group to change direction.
- Acknowledge at the beginning of the session that time will be a factor and that some issues may not be discussed.
- Acknowledge the difficulty of leaving a good discussion and get the group to decide how to proceed, or set up another time to finish the agenda.
- Legitimize dissenting opinions/ideas. Don't let misinformation stand. It implies that you agree with it. Ask for other opinions/ideas ("Are there other views?" "Does everyone agree?"
- Agree to disagree to give people space to object without destroying the discussion.
- Acknowledge discomfort over a comment...but own it as your discomfort. Don't speak for the group.
- The major points of agreement and disagreement, if appropriate.
- Issues that were discussed but not resolved
- Where action has been agreed on, the decision should be stated and the next steps and person responsible should be identified.
- How do participants feel about their own participation? - What was good about the discussion and what could have been better?
- Did people feel free to express their opinions?
- Do they have suggestions for better facilitation?
- Did people feel free to express their opinions?
Post Discussion Review
After the discussion is over, take a few minutes (with your co-facilitator) to reflect on the content and process of the discussion; a few written notes for future reference might be helpful. Consider:
Seek feedback from others (other staff members present or participants). You will learn much from seeking feedback from others, especially from your co-facilitator or other staff members. Ask what you did that went well (what you did to keep the discussion moving, motivate others to take risks and set the appropriate tone., etc.) and what improvements they would recommend.
The following lecture was given by Rudolf Steiner to an audience familiar with the general background of his anthroposophical teachings. He constantly emphasized the distinction between his written works and reports of lectures which were given as oral communications and were not originally intended for print. It should also be remembered that certain premises were taken for granted when the words were spoken. “These premises,” Rudolf Steiner writes in his autobiography, “include at the very least the anthroposophical knowledge of Man and of the Cosmos in its spiritual essence; also of what may be called ‘anthroposophical history’, told as an outcome of research into the spiritual world.”
When we say that at the present point of time in his evolution man must learn to understand the Christ Impulse, the thought may well occur: What, then, is the position of one who has never heard of the Christ Impulse, may perhaps never even have heard the name of Christ? Will such a man be deprived of the Christ Impulse because he has not heard the name of Christ? Is it necessary to have some theoretical knowledge of the Christ Impulse in order that Christ's power may flow into the soul? We will clarify our minds about these questions by the following thoughts concerning human life from birth until death.
The human being comes into the world and lives through early childhood in a half-sleeping state. He has gradually to learn to feel himself as an “I”, to find his bearings as an “I”, and his life of soul is constantly enriched by what is received through the “I”. By the time death is approaching, this life of soul is at its richest and ripest. Hence the vital question arises: What of our life of soul when the body falls away? It is a peculiarity of our physical life and of our life of soul that the wealth of our experience and knowledge increases in significance the nearer we approach death; but at the same time certain attributes are lost and replaced by others of an entirely different character. In youth we gather knowledge, pass through experiences, cherish hopes which as a rule can only later be fulfilled. The older we grow, the more do we begin to love the wisdom revealed by life. Love of wisdom is not egoistic, for this love increases in the measure in which we draw near to death; it increases in the measure in which the expectation of gaining something from our wisdom decreases. Our love for this content of our soul steadily increases. In this respect Spiritual Science may actually become a source of temptation, inasmuch as a man may be led to believe that his next life will depend upon the acquisition of wisdom in this present life. The effect of Spiritual Science may be an extension of egoism beyond the bounds of this present life, and therein lies danger. Thus if wrongly understood, Spiritual Science may act as a tempter — this lies in its very nature.
Love of the wisdom acquired from life may be compared with the flowering of a plant when the necessary stage of maturity has been reached. Love arises for something that is contained within ourselves. Men have often made the attempt to sublimate the impulse of love for what is within themselves. In the Mystics, for example, we find evidence of how they strove to transmute the urge of self-love into love of wisdom, and to let this love ray out in beauty. By sinking in contemplation into the depths of their own soul-life they strove to become aware of the Divine Spark within them. But the truth is that the wisdom which man acquires in life is only the means whereby the seed of his next life is unfolded. When a plant has completed its growth through the year, the seed remains. So it is with the wisdom acquired from life. Man passes through the Gate of Death and the spiritual core of being in its process of ripening is the seed of the next life. A man who feels this may become a Mystic and mistake what is only the seed of the next life to be the Divine Spark, the Absolute. This is his interpretation of it because it goes against the grain for a man to acknowledge that this spirit-seed is nothing but his own self. Meister Eckhart, John Tauler, and others, spoke of it as the “God within”, because they knew nothing of reincarnation. If we grasp the meaning of the law of reincarnation we recognise the significance of love in the world, both in a particular and in a general sense. When we speak of karma, we mean that which as cause in the one life has its effect in the next. In terms of cause and effect we cannot, however, speak truly of love; we cannot speak of a deed of love and its eventual compensation. True, if there is a deed, there will be compensation, but this has nothing to do with love. Deeds of love do not look for compensation in the next life.
Suppose, for example, that we work and our work brings gain. It may also be that our work gives us no joy because we do it simply in order to pay off debts, not for actual reward. We can imagine that in this way a man has already spent what he is now earning through his work. He would prefer to have no debts, but as things are, he is obliged to work in order to pay them. Now let us apply this example to our actions in general. By everything we do out of love we pay off debts. From an occult point of view, what is done out of love brings no reward but makes amends for profit already expended. The only actions from which we have nothing in the future are those we perform out of true, genuine love. This truth may well be disquieting and men are lucky in that they know nothing of it in their upper consciousness. But in their subconsciousness all of them know it, and that is why deeds of love are done so unwillingly, why there is so little love in the world. Men feel instinctively that they may expect nothing for their “I” in the future from deeds of love. An advanced stage of development must have been reached before the soul can experience joy in performing deeds of love from which there is nothing to be gained for itself. The impulse for this is not strong in humanity. But occultism can be a source of powerful incentives to deeds of love.
Our egoism gains nothing from deeds of love — but the world all the more. Occultism says: Love is for the world what the sun is for external life. No soul could thrive if love departed from the world. Love is the “moral” sun of the world. Would it not be absurd if a man who delights in the flowers growing in a meadow were to wish that the sun would vanish from the world? Translated into terms of the moral life, this means: Our deep concern must be that an impulse for sound, healthy development shall find its way into the affairs of humanity. To disseminate love over the earth in the greatest measure possible, to promote love on the earth — that and that alone is wisdom.
What do we learn from Spiritual Science? We learn facts concerning the evolution of the earth, we hear of the Spirit of the earth, of the earth's surface and its changing conditions, of the development of the human body and so forth; we learn to understand the nature of the forces working and weaving in the evolutionary process. What does this mean? What does it mean when people do not want to know anything about Spiritual Science? It means that they have no interest for what is reality. For if a man has no desire to know anything about the nature of Old Saturn, Old Sun, Old Moon, then he can know nothing about the Earth. Lack of interest in the world is egoism in its grossest form. Interest in all existence is man's bounden duty. Let us therefore long for and love the sun with its creative power, its love for the well-being of the earth and the souls of men! This interest in the earth's evolution should be the spiritual seed of love for the world. A Spiritual Science without love would be a danger to mankind. But love should not be a matter for preaching; love must and indeed will come into the world through the spreading of knowledge of spiritual truths. Deeds of love and Spiritual Science should be inseparably united.
Love mediated by way of the senses is the wellspring of creative power, of that which is coming into being. Without sense-born love, nothing material would exist in the world; without spiritual love, nothing spiritual can arise in evolution. When we practise love, cultivate love, creative forces pour into the world. Can the intellect be expected to offer reasons for this? The creative forces poured into the world before we ourselves and our intellect came into being. True, as egoists, we can deprive the future of creative forces; but we cannot obliterate the deeds of love and the creative forces of the past. We owe our existence to deeds of love wrought in the past. The strength with which we have been endowed by these deeds of love is the measure of our deep debt to the past, and whatever love we may at any time be able to bring forth is payment of debts owed for our existence. In the light of this knowledge we shall be able to understand the deeds of a man who has reached a high stage of development, for he has still greater debts to pay to the past. He pays his debts through deeds of love, and herein lies his wisdom. The higher the stage of development reached by a man, the more does the impulse of love in him increase in strength; wisdom alone does not suffice.
Let us think of the meaning and effect of love in the world in the following way. Love is always a reminder of debts owed to life in the past, and because we gain nothing for the future by paying off these debts, no profit for ourselves accrues from our deeds of love. We have to leave our deeds of love behind in the world; but they are then a spiritual factor in the how of world-happenings. It is not through our deeds of love but through deeds of a different character that we perfect ourselves; yet the world is richer for our deeds of love. Love is the creative force in the world.
Besides love there are two other powers in the world. How do they compare with love? The one is strength, might; the second is wisdom. In regard to strength or might we can speak of degrees: weaker, stronger, or absolute might — omnipotence. The same applies to wisdom, for there are stages on the path to omniscience. It will not do to speak in the same way of degrees of love. What is universal love, love for all beings? In the case of love we cannot speak of enhancement as we can speak of enhancement of knowledge into omniscience or of might into omnipotence, by virtue of which we attain greater perfection of our own being. Love for a few or for many beings has nothing to do with our own perfecting. Love for everything that lives cannot be compared with omnipotence; the concept of magnitude, or of enhancement, cannot rightly be applied to love. Can the attribute of omnipotence be ascribed to the Divine Being who lives and weaves through the world? Contentions born of feeling must here be silent: were God omnipotent, he would be responsible for everything that happens and there could be no human freedom. If man can be free, then certainly there can be no Divine omnipotence.
Is the Godhead omniscient? As man's highest goal is likeness to God, our striving must be in the direction of omniscience. Is omniscience, then, the supreme treasure? If it is, a vast chasm must forever yawn between man and God. At every moment man would have to be aware of this chasm if God possessed the supreme treasure of omniscience for himself and withheld it from man. The all-encompassing attribute of the Godhead is not omnipotence, neither is it omniscience, but it is love — the attribute in respect of which no enhancement is possible. God is uttermost love, unalloyed love, is born as it were out of love, is the very substance and essence of love. God is pure love, not supreme wisdom, not supreme might. God has retained love for himself but has shared wisdom and might with Lucifer and Ahriman. He has shared wisdom with Lucifer and might with Ahriman, in order that man may become free, in order that under the influence of wisdom he may make progress.
If we try to discover the source of whatever is creative we come to love; love is the ground, the foundation of everything that lives. It is by a different impulse in evolution that beings are led to become wiser and more powerful. Progress is attained through wisdom and strength. Study of the course taken by the evolution of humanity shows us how the development of wisdom and strength is subject to change: there is progressive evolution and then the Christ Impulse which once poured into mankind through the Mystery of Golgotha. Love did not, therefore, come into the world by degrees; love streamed into mankind as a gift of the Godhead, in complete, perfect wholeness. But man can receive the Impulse into himself gradually. The Divine Impulse of love as we need it in earthly life is an Impulse that came once and forever.
True love is not capable of diminution or amplification. Its nature is quite different from that of wisdom and might. Love wakens no expectations for the future; it is payment of debts incurred in the past. And such was the Mystery of Golgotha in the world's evolution. Did the Godhead, then, owe any debt to humanity?
Lucifer's influence brought into humanity a certain element in consequence of which something that man had previously possessed was withdrawn from him. This new element led to a descent, a descent countered by the Mystery of Golgotha which made possible the payment of all debts. The Impulse of Golgotha was not given in order that the sins we have committed in evolution may be removed from us, but in order that what crept into humanity through Lucifer should be given its counterweight.
Let us imagine that there is a man who knows nothing of the name of Christ Jesus, nothing of what is communicated in the Gospels, but that he understands the radical difference between the nature of wisdom and might and that of love. Such a man, even though he knows nothing of the Mystery of Golgotha, is a Christian in the truest sense. A man who knows that love is there for the paying of debts and brings no profit for the future, is a true Christian. To understand the nature of love — that is to be a Christian! Theosophy (see Note 1) alone, Spiritual Science alone, with its teachings of Karma and reincarnation, can make us into great egoists unless the impulse of love, the Christ Impulse, is added; only so can we acquire the power to overcome the egoism that may be generated by Spiritual Science. The balance is established by an understanding of the Christ Impulse. Spiritual Science is given to the world today because it is a necessity for humanity; but in it lies the great danger that — if it is cultivated without the Christ Impulse, without the Impulse of love — men will only increase their egoism, will actually breed egoism that lasts even beyond death. From this the conclusion must not be drawn that we should not cultivate Spiritual Science; rather we must learn to realise that understanding of the essential nature of love is an integral part of it.
What actually came to pass at the Mystery of Golgotha? Jesus of Nazareth was born, lived on as related by the Gospels, and when He was thirty years old the Baptism in the Jordan took place. Thereafter the Christ lived for three years in the body of Jesus of Nazareth and fulfilled the Mystery of Golgotha. Many people think that the Mystery of Golgotha should be regarded in an entirely human aspect, believing as they do that it was an earthly deed, a deed belonging to the realm of the earth. But that is not so. Only from the vantage-point of the higher worlds is it possible to see the Mystery of Golgotha in its true light and how it came to pass on the earth.
Let us think again of the beginning of the evolution of the earth and of man. Man was endowed with certain spiritual powers — and then Lucifer approached him. At this point we can say: The Gods who further the progress of evolution surrendered their omnipotence to Lucifer in order that man might become free. But man sank into matter more deeply than was intended; he slipped away from the Gods of progress, fell more deeply than had been wished. How, then, can the Gods of progress draw man to themselves again? To understand this we must think, not of the earth, but of Gods taking counsel together. It is for the Gods that Christ performs the Deed by which men are drawn back to the Gods. Lucifer's deed was enacted in the super-sensible world; Christ's Deed, too, was enacted in the super-sensible but also in the physical world. This was an achievement beyond the power of any human being. Lucifer's deed was a deed belonging to the super-sensible world. But Christ came down to the earth to perform His Deed here, and men are the onlookers at this Deed. The Mystery of Golgotha is a Deed of the Gods, a concern of the Gods at which men are the onlookers. The door of heaven opens and a Deed of the Gods shines through. This is the one and only Deed on earth that is entirely super-sensible. No wonder, therefore, that those who do not believe in the super-sensible have no belief in the Deed of Christ. The Deed of Christ is a Deed of the Gods, a Deed which they themselves enact. Herein lies the glory and the unique significance of the Mystery of Golgotha and men are invited to be its witnesses. Historical evidence is not to be found. Men have seen the event in its external aspect only; but the Gospels were written from vision of the super-sensible and are therefore easily disavowed by those who have no feeling for super-sensible reality.
The Mystery of Golgotha as an accomplished fact is one of the most sublime of all experiences in the spiritual world. Lucifer's deed belongs to a time when man was still aware of his own participation in the super-sensible world; Christ's Deed was performed in material existence itself — it is both a physical and a spiritual Deed. We can understand the deed of Lucifer through wisdom; understanding of the Mystery of Golgotha is beyond the reach of wisdom alone. Even if all the wisdom of this world is ours, the Deed of Christ may still be beyond our comprehension. Love is essential for any understanding of the Mystery of Golgotha. Only when love streams into wisdom and then again wisdom flows into love will it be possible to grasp the nature and meaning of the Mystery of Golgotha — only when, as he lives on towards death, man unfolds love of wisdom. Love united with wisdom — that is what we need when we pass through the Gate of Death, because without wisdom that is united with love we die in very truth. Philo-sophia, philosophy, is love of wisdom. The ancient wisdom was not philosophy for it was not born through love but through revelation. There is not such a thing as philosophy of the East — but wisdom of the East, yes. Philosophy as love of wisdom came into the world with Christ; there we have the entry of wisdom emanating from the impulse of love which came into the world as the Christ Impulse. The impulse of love must now be carried into effect in wisdom itself.
The ancient wisdom, acquired by the seer through revelation, comes to expression in the sublime words from the original prayer of mankind: Ex Deo Nascimur — Out of God we are born. That is ancient wisdom. Christ who came forth from the realms of spirit has united wisdom with love and this love will overcome egoism. Such is its aim. But it must be offered independently and freely from one being to the other. Hence the beginning of the era of love coincided with that of the era of egoism. The cosmos has its source and origin in love; egoism was the natural and inevitable offshoot of love. Yet with time the Christ Impulse, the impulse of love, will overcome the element of separation that has crept into the world, and man can gradually become a participant in this force of love. In monumental words of Christ we feel love pouring into the hearts of men:
“Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”
In like manner does the ancient Rosicrucian saying resound into the love that is wedded with wisdom: In Christo Morimur — In Christ we die.
Through Jehovah, man was predestined for a group-soul existence; love was to penetrate into him gradually by way of blood-relationship; it is through Lucifer that he lives as a personality. Originally, therefore, men were in a state of union, then of separateness as a consequence of the Luciferic principle which promotes selfishness, independence. Together with selfishness, evil came into the world. It had to be so, because without the evil man could not lay hold of the good. When a man gains victory over himself, the unfolding of love is possible. To man in the clutches of increasing egoism Christ brought the impulse for this victory over himself and thereby the power to conquer the evil. The Deeds of Christ bring together again those human beings who were separated through egoism and selfishness. True in the very deepest sense are the words of Christ concerning deeds of love:
“Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”
The Divine Deed of Love flowed back upon the earthly world; as time goes on, in spite of the forces of physical decay and death, the evolution of mankind will be permeated and imbued with new spiritual life through this Deed — a Deed performed, not out of egoism but solely out of the spirit of love. Per Spiritum Sanctum Reviviscimus — Through the Holy Spirit we live again.
Yet the future of humanity will consist of something besides love. Spiritual perfecting will be for earthly man the goal most worthy of aspiration — (this is described at the beginning of my second Mystery Play, The Soul's Probation) — but nobody who understands what deeds of love truly are will say that his own striving for perfection is selfless. Striving for perfection imparts strength to our being and to our personality. But our value for the world must be seen to lie wholly in deeds of love, not in deeds done for the sake of self-perfecting. Let us be under no illusion about this. When a man is endeavouring to follow Christ by way of love of wisdom, of the wisdom he dedicates to the service of the world only so much takes real effect as is filled with love.
Wisdom steeped in love, which at once furthers the world and leads the world to Christ — this love of wisdom also excludes the lie. For the lie is the direct opposite of the actual facts and those who yield themselves lovingly to the facts are incapable of lying. The lie has its roots in egoism — always and without exception. When, through love, we have found the path to wisdom, we reach wisdom through the increasing power of self-conquest, through selfless love. Thus does man become a free personality. The evil was the sub-soil into which the light of love was able to shine; but it is love that enables us to grasp the meaning and place of evil in the world. The darkness has enabled the light to come into our ken. Only a man who is free in the real sense can become a true Christian.
In connection with the use of the word “Theosophy”, the following passage is quoted from Rudolf Steiner's Introduction to his book Theosophy:
“The highest to which a man is able to look up he calls the ‘Divine’. And in some way or other he must think of his highest destiny as being in connection with this Divinity. Therefore that wisdom which reaches out beyond the sensible and reveals to him his own being, and with it his final goal, may very well be called ‘divine wisdom’, or ‘Theosophy’. To the study of the spiritual processes in human life and in the cosmos, the term Spiritual Science may be given. When, as is the case in this book, one extracts from this Spiritual Science those particular results which have reference to the spiritual core of man's being, then the expression ‘Theosophy’ may be employed to designate this domain, because it has been employed for centuries in that direction.”
Threefold Social Organism in Organizations: The Responsibilities of Collaborative Leadership
Jessica Heffernan Ziegler
2017 AWSNA Conference
June 27, 2017
What I would like to do this morning is offer a framework for understanding and working collaboratively within our organizations. I will not be proposing any specific leadership model or structure per se
– each school has its own particular set of circumstances, and more importantly, its group of people that bring their talents, interests and skill sets to the school. Taken together, these create the context within which each school will be able to address their own questions around the theme of collaboration and leadership. I hope that the framework I will be introducing here, along with some leading thoughts and principles on the subject, will help in this endeavor.
The questions that are raised as the core theme of this conference – how do we share responsibility for guiding and leading our schools in a collaborative and effective manner, which I think have at their core the theme of finding the balance between power and trust, are ones that keep not only the schools but also other anthroposophical organizations up at night, a lot. They are questions that I have been working with for over 20 years in the different roles I have held in the Waldorf movement, as a cofounder and administrator of a Waldorf school in Germany, traveling and working with other schools and organizations in Germany and the US, and in my role at Sunbridge Institute.
I use an archetypal structure that my colleagues and I have been working with for many years as a blueprint when working with these questions, which has proven very useful in both understanding and navigating our organizations – our schools – and as a tool for diagnosing and correcting the imbalances that can lead to unsustainable situations or crises.
This archetypal structure, a set of three of realities as we call them, is what our organizations are based on.
It is a picture of the Threefold Social Organism, originally developed by Bernhard Lievegoed, specifically in relation to organizations, and is made up of three main realms.
The three overarching realities are: the ideal reality, the social reality, and the material reality. We use the term realities here because that is what they are – they prevail in every organization, whether a family, a school or a multi-million $ international. The archetype lives behind each and every one. They are just as real as the make-up of a human being – spirit, soul and body. The health of an organization, as with the health of a child, depends on the recognition of these realities, as well as on their balance with each other. Too much of one, or too little of another, causes discordance and can eventually lead to a breakdown of the organization.
The ideal reality is made up of our vision and mission, our principles and values, and our strategies and goals. This is where we determine our direction. As an individual, we choose to connect with the spiritual world (or not) –when we do this work.
This realm is where each of us as individuals enjoy our purest form of freedom. The freedom of thought – our ideals – the freedom to create our own value system, our own principles that we choose to live by, and to set our own goals. This is where individualism reigns – no one can determine for us what to think – or what intentions to formulate – here, we are free.
This is where I am I.
Now I will go to its polarity - The material reality – or the economic reality – which is where our vision, mission, values and goals are put into action. We connect with the material world when we work in this realm. It is about our commitment to bring our ideals into the material world.
This is where the rubber hits the road – where our goals meet form, our values meet process, and vision meets resources. In this realm, individual freedoms take a subordinate role to the collective will, to the purpose of fulfilling the mission of the school.
This is where you and I become We.
The social reality – in the middle – is the realm of relationships – is where individuals meet – the open space where individuals recognize each other, or You - where an I and an I agree to come together to form a We. Where we discover our common visions, our common values and our common goals – in the ideal realm - and align with each other in the social realm, to create form and process in the material realm – in order to bring the ideal into reality. We connect with each other in the social world when we do this work.
This is where You and I meet.
We do this all the time. Years ago, in Germany, a woman I had recently met through the biography work network and I became inspired while lamenting how little biography work was being offered in the city we lived in. We began to share what was important to each of us about the work, and our own visions on how we could be the ones to bring it. As we got to know each other better, and each other’s pictures of why, how and what we wanted to do, it became clear that we were closely enough aligned, that with some compromises on each side – I wanted to hold courses that ran once per week for a couple of hours, and she wanted to run weekend courses (we settled on the weekend version) - that we wanted to commit to giving our little initiative a shot. We only ran 2 of them in the end, but it was an incredibly fulfilling experience of meeting another individual, collaborating on an idea, and forming it enough that we together could bring it into a reality.
Now, leadership is responsible for assuring that these three areas are attended to in a school. Leadership is tasked with assuring that we have shared direction in the ideal realm, alignment in the social realm and commitment in the material realm.
In order to do this, leadership must do two things: Bring awareness, and provide guidance. Creating healthy processes in order to fulfill our mission is at the core of this work. Processes based on, imbued by and reflective of the principles our school community has articulated.
Bringing awareness around the current state of the school, broken down by the archetypal structure - how strong are we in our ideal reality, our social reality and our material reality? Where do we do well? Where are we experiencing challenges? – asking these questions is crucial for understanding what areas are in a healthy state and what areas need further development and attention.
For instance, if we feel rudderless in our allocation of resources – if we can’t agree on how many hours the second foreign language teacher should be teaching, or, if we can’t agree on whether or not we should expand, and found a high school, we would need to go back to the ideal reality that we have committed to.
Is the direction of our programming clear? Have we determined that a focus on two foreign languages throughout the grades is part of what makes us unique? Is it a core aspect of our identity? And if we have, are we able to fulfill that promise – the one we made to each other when we made these commitments? Or are there new circumstances that require us to review and perhaps revise our vision and mission? Has there been a major shift in our focus, in our purpose? Are our vision and our mission still relevant? Guiding us back, and asking these questions, is a leadership task.
Using the model of the three realities of an organization gives us a tool we can use to navigate our way through the complexities of figuring out which area our questions lie in, which in turn helps guide us in how best to approach them.
We saw in the example of the foreign language teaching hours that the question behind it was one of identity – of our ideal reality. We can then return to what it was we originally committed to, and evaluate if that is still relevant. By doing this – by returning to the agreements we made -we shift the discussion and take pressure off the immediate situation, and importantly, off the players in that situation. We bring objectivity to whatever decision will need to be made. It is not me, the teacher, hoping to be able to truly bring the language and culture in a meaningful way to the children, or the college chair or administrator, or whoever is responsible for teaching hours and tasked with sticking to the budget. Rather, the decision must be based on the direction we gave ourselves when we determined our vision and mission, when we determined our principles, and when we determined our strategies and goals. This is the realm that gives direction to all we do.
Therefore, it is imperative that when we make these promises, we have sought wide counsel and wide agreement within the community on our ideals, as they are what inform our practices.
In the foreign language example, it would be in the leadership’s hands, if others have not seen it themselves, to shine the light on where we are in this situation, what questions to ask, and what action will help us move forward. To guide us back to our original vision and mission, back to the identity realm, to check in and be sure we are still on course. Now, we may not always find a clear answer – a definitive decision – when we go up the ladder, so to speak, for direction. But the work we did in that realm should inform us as to where to focus our resources going forward.
We all have examples of where we failed to get critical input to inform a major decision, and the resulting inability to implement it.
The other major role of leadership is to be sure we recognize where we are – what the current situation is – that we take the steps necessary to do the work of picture building. In any given situation where a problem solving or decision-making process is called for, the first and crucial step is to be sure we agree on what is.
This does not mean we have to agree on the reasons on how we got here, nor how we each feel, or what it means for the future – we do not need to agree on anything at this point other than the fact that we have arrived at this place in time – that we agree that this is the current state, that we recognize and acknowledge the facts and the feelings involved. Once we agree, once we are all on the same page as to what is, then we can move on to determine the urgency of the matter, and further steps. We can have a situation where some think we are in a crisis, and others don’t. This is where we have to listen to each other. Arriving at this place is harder than it sounds, as most of us know. It takes resolve and courage and time and good will to listen to each other – to accept there are differing versions of the past and of what brought us to where we are. To accept that some of us are perhaps hurt, even though no offense was intended and others are perhaps impervious.
It is all part of our shared history, and belongs in the picture. We don’t need to hash it out – we don’t need to get mired in debate. We need to recognize that it is. If conflicts or other disputes emerge, then managing them must be the very first thing we tend to. Resolving conflicts comes first – always. No sustainable progress can otherwise be made.
The ability to competently build pictures as a group is an essential part of collaborative leadership – to recognize our current state of being; to face it. Without this step, any further actions or decisions will surely falter, as they will be based on only partial realities.
This is work we did at Sunbridge when I came on almost 9 years ago. Our resources were depleted, and we had to make very tough decisions. Our vision and mission no longer represented the reality of the college. The most painful decisions had already been made, and it was up to those of us remaining, or newly coming on as I was, to determine the future direction of Sunbridge. We had to, we chose to, go back and revisit our ideal reality – our vision, mission, principles, strategies and goals - we held meetings all summer long with as many of our constituents as were interested in our future, to determine what that future would look like. We spent time aligning each of our pictures of what Sunbridge was to be – what our promise, a newly formed group of colleagues, to each other, and to the world, would be. That promise was our commitment to devote ourselves and our resources to strengthening our core programming – that is, Waldorf Teacher Education. Running bookstores and dorms was not what we did well, but teacher education was, we felt.
That commitment has guided us these past 8 years, and given us direction at the different junctures in our path. This work in the ideal realm has also provided a bond in the social realm that helps carry us when we are faced with more difficult decisions in the material realm.
As I said earlier, the core of leadership’s responsibility is to assure that healthy processes are created and followed in order to provide direction, alignment and commitment. Schools that have the ability to scrutinize themselves, create healthy processes, and work together out of an attitude of compassion, build confidence and trust in their communities, which of course form the basis for collaborative leadership.
I would like now to give some more depth on the three realities of an organization, and their underpinnings.
Direction is what the work in the ideal reality, or realm, gives us – our vision, mission, principles and values and strategies and goals are what give our work direction, meaning and purpose. These are promises that we make. This is what we connect with when we join, or help form an organization. And it is our main reason for staying -- because we personally identify with these areas – they represent to a certain degree our own vision, values and goals. If we don’t feel connected here, money or status will not move us to remain, or to do our utmost to be our best selves.
And this is the area that all other areas should flow from and be connected to. A strong understanding of who we are – of what inspires our work, what our values are and what it is we want to achieve, directs our will. This strong sense of identity also and just as importantly allows us to communicate to the world who we are and what we stand for – what our purpose and goals are. We are thus able to interact with the world in an honest and authentic manner – we show ourselves – we can be seen and known for who we are.
Commitment –the polarity - refers to the realm where we fulfill those promises we made in the ideal realm – the material or economic reality – where our action, our performance, counts. This is the realm that we are judged by – we are not judged by what we think, or what we proclaim we will do, we are judged by what we actually do, and how well we do it. This realm is made up of structures and roles, processes and policies, and resources.
Our structures and roles are there to serve our goals and strategies – our processes and policies must be reflective of our principles, and our material resources should be allocated in fulfillment of our vision and mission.
I want to talk now for a minute about policies and processes, and their use. Unfortunately, I think, they often receive a bad rap in our communities. There is fear that structures, policies and processes hollow out, stifle and ignore the ideal and social realities of our communities. I would like to argue that they are in support of, and balance out the other two realms.
Processes and policies that are imbued by, enlivened by and reflective of our ideal realm create predictability, congruence and reliability in managing our work together. We are free in the creation of these, our individual creativity and pursuit of higher ideals should be activated and employed when we come together to determine what processes and policies we create to systematically manage our work. Once these have been agreed upon, they provide the framework within which we maneuver. The principle here being that we remove any sense of arbitrary behavior, or personal or individually-motivated actions that are unfairly or unjustly carried out.
Let’s use a simple example of a teacher who, despite multiple conversations and pleas, has made a habit of coming to class late every day. Hopefully we have a policy in our faculty handbook that we can turn to which states that all teachers must be in class on time. And if we don’t, then this might prompt us to create one.
We don’t have to worry that bringing this policy to their attention will be taken as a personal slight; that the person who brings it to their attention is doing so for any negative, personal reasons.
Rather, presumably it is clear that this policy has been agreed to by the appropriate bodies, and there is nothing personal about calling for accountability. For upholding the agreements that we have made with each other. This is a non-negotiable – we all have agreed that in order to fulfill our mission, based on our mutual values, we must all show up to class on time. Now, I know that the real work is in defining what “on time” is – my “on time” and your “on time” could very well be different things.
And this is where the work of the larger, consulting body comes in. This is where those who are tasked with ensuring these policies are created, and adhered to, must first be sure the group that is being asked to carry them out – namely the teachers - is in agreement on the definition of “on time”.
Like laws, we don’t need policies and processes, until we do. We need them to govern the areas of our working together that lie outside of the realm of ideals, to fall back on. The need to create a policy usually arises when an everyday matter that affects a part of or the whole the school is handled in such an arbitrary manner that the lack of reliability and predictability in carrying it out causes concern or impedes the work of others. Of course, there must be room for discernment and compassion, when circumstances justify an exception.
Processes are the manner in which we come to decisions or conclusions. They are made up of interdependent and linked tasks, set in a sequence, that lead to an end. The ability to create processes that are reflective of our values, and further adhere to what most organizations agree solid processes are namely – effective; efficient; obvious – not hard to decipher or understand; and transparent. Transparency of process of course does not mean transparency of content.
Being able to create healthy processes, both for standing needs such as hiring, budgeting, or curriculum development, and for ad hoc purposes as situations arise that need problem solving, or decisions that fall out of the ordinary day-to-day affairs, engenders trust, and creates confidence. Leadership that can nimbly, reliably and ethically guide organizations by creating healthy processes towards finding solutions - and not towards foregone conclusions – time and again is one of the critical elements of a healthy and sustainable organization.
If we know how we are going to approach a problem, if we know how the hiring process is designed and carried out, if we know that the tenets that that last decision was based on are the same that guide all our processes, we can have faith and trust, and feel confidence in the integrity of the process and in those carrying it out. Leadership can build trust and confidence by employing, time and again, such healthy structures for creating processes. This is where predictability in the material realm plays a key role.
Think of the needs of the parents here – how often are we confronted with the complaint that they don’t know who to turn to, or what the process is for addressing their concerns (let’s just work with the legitimate complaints here). And it’s not just the parents we owe it to to create reliable and predictable processes. We owe it our colleagues as well.
I would be remiss if I didn’t emphasize here the importance clarity of roles play. In my work with schools and other organizations, most of the conflicts that arise do so out of a lack of clarity around roles. Job descriptions are vague, decision-making processes are unclear or unreliable, people are not given the time or support to grow into their roles, or there is a culture of feeling that by defining roles, we are somehow stultifying creativity or individual freedoms. A lack of clarity as to who actually has the authority to act and to call for accountability arises out of role confusion.
The crises that this lack of clarity and agreement around roles engender are ones that we are all-too familiar with.
So, we have our direction-giving identity – our “I” - in the ideal realm, and our commitment, and the actions we take – where we come together as “we” – in the economic realm.
The piece missing here is the social realm – where “I” meet “you”, and together we go into the beautiful, messy business of aligning ourselves. This is the area where we attempt to connect the inherent tensions between our vision and our resources. It is in the social realm that we bring alignment between what it is we say we want to do, and what we are actually able bring to earth – what is possible.
And this is real, hard work – aligning our ideal reality with our material reality. We do this through negotiation and dialogue - we come to the agreements on the vision we aspire to – on which set of values and principles we will adopt as a community to guide us - and on the goals and strategies we set in order to carry out our mission. We define our Rights relationship with one another in a collaborative process in this realm. And when I talk about negotiation, I don’t mean a battle of the wills – sitting across the table from each other, or bullying as we are now seeing played out on the national stage. I mean a meeting of interests, partnering, sitting side by side. This is where we create the criteria upon which our decisions are made. Everything that we do must go through this realm, at some point. Like a lemniscate, weaving in and out. We awaken to each other here. And this is where our potential lies – in collaborating in the open middle – dialogue.
Dialogue is the tool we use to reflect upon ourselves – the key to being a learning organization – by which I mean one that is able to, through following processes that incorporate reflection and review, see itself. The ability to reflect in order to see what is.
The people we entrust with guiding the activities of our schools have the responsibilities I just described, mostly in assuring that these activities occur in a healthy, collaborative manner.
They are not necessarily entrusted with making all the decisions themselves, although certainly there will be specific decision-making authority delegated to them. They are entrusted with assuring that the decisions that need to be made are made. That processes are developed and adhered to that embody the values and fulfill the mission of the school. And that the school strives to be a learning organization – that it self reflects, has the courage to acknowledge where it is, and the resolve to commit to activities that bring it forward.
Dialogue assumes we know how to listen to each other, but it also assumes we know how to contribute. It is not just talking, or debating. It needs honest, non-violent engagement, appreciation and respect for differences, the ability to reflect, and commitment to each other an d to fulfilling the purpose and goals of the school.
Leadership leads and guides organizations –not people. We are responsible for leading ourselves.
One expression of this is what Steiner referred to in “Awakening to Community”, which is a series of lectures given in Stuttgart and Dornach in 1923 after the burning of the first Goetheanum, and a crisis of identity ensued, where he talks about what is needed to rebuild the work of the anthroposophical society.
“We must make anthroposophy real by learning to be aware in anthroposophical community life that where people in anthroposophical tasks are together, there they experience their first awakening in the encounter with the soul-spiritual element in their fellows. Human beings wake up in their mutual encounter with other human beings. As each one has new experiences between his encounters … and has grown a little …these awakenings take place in an ever new way as people go on meeting.”
He is speaking here about meetings that engage in spiritual study in the anthroposophical society.
He then goes on to say that “When you have discovered the possibility that human souls wake up in the encounter with other human souls, and human spirits wake up in the encounter with other human spirits, and go to anthroposophical groups with a living awareness that only now have you come awake and only now can you begin to grow together…, then the true spirit of community descends upon the place where you are working…”.
He goes on, in the fourth lecture, to speak of the ‘in-turned will’ – which, when applied, “becomes a striving to make one’s ethical-moral and religious being a full inner reality.”.
This becomes the basis for the soul attitude we must adopt when we come together to join in human endeavors. We all know the work involved in shedding our antipathies and sympathies in order to build and strengthen our ethical-moral, higher selves. Compassion, or objective compassion, is at the center of this soul attitude. It is what helps us see the other, accept the other, and extend trust, with the faith that they too are striving to make their ethical-moral and religious being a full, inner reality. Love is of course, what we are talking about here.
For me, an integral part of this soul-attitude, which we strive to adopt when encountering each other, is forgiveness, charity. There is a tragedy that Steiner talks about when a soul is caught between the “…longing for full humanness and soul’s feeling of alienation from the conditions existing in the world today…”, and the pain and suffering that entails. He talks about taking refuge from life’s disappointments in the world of thought – “…thoughts that fly easily to every part of the world and are thus very satisfying. They make up for one’s external life, which is always causing one such justifiable dissatisfaction.”
Yet it is true that “…real human strength can only be developed by
rising above suffering- by making it a real living force – the source of one’s power to overcome.”. The power to overcome one’s suffering, the power to overcome our deep disappointments with our own and each other’s inadequacies and failings, fortifies our ability to come together in the social realm to, as Steiner says, “…apply our intelligence and genius to stiffen and strengthen our will forces.”, in order to create commitment in the material world.
So, it’s all about balance in the three realms – a budget-driven process has no inspiration – holding on too tightly to your principles leads to intolerance – these imbalances lead to unhealthy and unsustainable organizational life.
What do our principles and values mean for our lives – how are they actually manifested?
They are there to guide us, to give meaning to our actions. Alone they serve no purpose. All the elements in the ideal realm must be in
support of our mission. If there are principles that stand in the way of fulfilling our mission – that is, of providing an excellent school experience, then they are no longer serving us. They are hindering us.
We devote ourselves to greater and deeper understanding of the wisdom given to us by Rudolf Steiner and others, let us devote as much of ourselves towards not only creating governance structures that we agree on, but more importantly to living into them – empowering those we mandate with responsibilities with the authority to act.
The verse that contains the line: “Matter is never without spirit and spirit is never without matter” is often cited as an argument that Steiner meant for us to see that all three realms are essential elements to our social order, and one is not inherently more important or essential than the other. In fact, they are only to be seen as an interdependent trio - they are a package deal.
I was asked specifically to talk about administrators and their role in relationship to the principle of collaborative leadership, which I am happy to do.
The questions of leadership, governance structures and the rights relationships between the realms has been the topic and theme for many books and conferences in Waldorf schools around the world for decades. As our world has become more complex, so has the organizational life of our schools. We have had to contend with more and more external pressure as well as changing attitudes of new generations of teachers and parents. These complexities created a great challenge to the health and sustainability of our schools.
Over the last 20-30 years, in response, our schools have recognized that we need to strengthen our ability to manage the material realm, and bring balance to the ideal and social realms, which precipitated the advent of administrators as having a major role in the makeup of the school’s structure. At that time, it seemed they were brought in to be “fixers” – they were turned to just as things were blowing up – the family was on their way out the door or the colleague was failing miserably – with no chance of rectifying the situation. This has changed over the years, as the role they fulfill and its centrality to the healthy functioning of school life has become more accepted. Nevertheless, I would say the role of the administrator is still seen as suspicious – as something to fear…as though they are out to steal the family jewels. We understand that this suspicion and fear has a whole host of roots, and not all of them rising out of misinterpretations of Steiner’s writings on the matter.
We are talking here, of course, about a lack of trust, that somehow the administrators are exercising too much power – even making a grab for it. Or that they are just a proxy of a frustrated board. I would though like to say here that when I have encountered an imbalance or misuse of power, it has usually not been the administrator who has been the culprit. Honestly, more likely than not, they are cowed by a forceful group of faculty members, and thus so cautious in their dealings that in the end they are not able to be effective.
That being said, I have also met some very effective, brave and compassionate administrators who have been integral members of school leadership teams.
I will add here that I feel we owe thanks to that first generation of administrators and the groundbreaking work they did – we know the life of an administrator is short, and by all accounts, that is due to the stress of being held responsible for the performance of the school’s employees – from faculty to administration to grounds and maintenance - yet without being given the requisite authority to actually have an impact.
It’s not a job most of us would want. So, again, thank you very much to those who have braved the waters and jumped in. You have paved the way and brought attention and focus to the imbalances that can afflict our schools.
A vertical definition of the three main pillars of the life of a Waldorf school, namely faculty, administration, and parents / board, has been a picture that most schools have lived with and tried to parse out meaning for in their own schools for many years now. Every type of organization has their own version of these areas of responsibilities.
This picture shows faculty as being responsible for the ideal or cultural life of the school, - the Thinking - , and administration for the social or rights life of the school, - the Feeling -, and parents / board as being responsible for the material or economic life of the school, - the Willing. (I am referring to this model here because it is widely referred to throughout the country – I think there may be other ways to depict the structure of our schools, including the where parents fit in and what the core corresponding task areas are.)
There has been much discussion and many attempts to apply this structure to the decision-making responsibilities of each area. While I see how this definition has helped to bring overall clarity to the structure, especially in a time when administration and administrators were still a fairly new phenomenon, I think we can add to that picture now in order to illustrate the dynamics of what I mean by collaborative leadership and decision-making responsibilities, and how it applies to all areas equally and simultaneously.
Let’s assume that we agree that the three areas of responsibility of leadership are to assure and guide Direction in the ideal reality, Alignment in the social reality, and Commitment in the material reality, within the school.
Let’s then layer these areas of responsibility horizontally across the diagram of the vertical pillars.
This second layer illustrates the interconnectivity and interdependence of those vertical pillars, of the three main sections of the school.
It illustrates the collaboration and partnering necessary in the leading of the school. Each section of the school must come together with the other sections to collaboratively assure that there is Direction, Alignment and Commitment. We all have roles in all three realms, this is what self-administration is all about.
I would like to come to an end with the quote from Socrates “Man, know thyself”, and implore us all to do our work in the identity realm – to understand who we are individually, and understand who we are as a community.
We need to know this so we can be good partners to each other – so that we can truly and honestly collaborate - so a yes can be a yes and a no can be a no.
I need to be able to rely on your commitment, and you must be able to rely on mine. And I can’t truly make that commitment without knowing myself. We must take each other seriously in what we say we will do – and that we will do what we say – fulfill our promise. I think that’s called accountability.
Each of us must be able, out of themselves; to align with what it is we are promising to the world. From the I to the You to the We.
We know that organizations cannot evolve beyond the developmental level of their leaders. So, let’s make sure the people that step up to the plate – the ones that have shown the courage and resolve to help guide our schools – receive our full support, which includes helping them attain and practice the skills and tools necessary to do their jobs, and give ourselves opportunities to practice this work.
Know what is most important to your school body – what core criteria are “must haves” when choosing your leadership, and understand which areas are not their strengths – and provide them either with more training and / or key partners whose skills and talents are complementary.
Look carefully. Choose carefully. Then give them your full support; invest in them, and allow them to do their jobs.
Our communities depend on us to not undermine ourselves.
This is of course the work of the Consciousness Soul in our times. This is why it is so hard and yet so important – and so full of potential for us all!
Below are two diagrams.
The first depicts the archetype of an organization based on Bernhard Lievegoed’s work, as described in the above talk. We call this model the Seven Levels of an Organization, or the Jacob’s Ladder.
The second is a sketch of the two overlapping layers – the three pillars of a school: faculty, administration and board, overlapped by the three realities of an organization: ideal, social and material. We all work together across all three realms.
Between Our Demons and Our Gods Human Encounter in the Light of Anthroposophy Elan Leibner
AWSNA Summer Conference
June 26, 2017
When Melanie Reiser asked me if I would speak at the opening of this conference, she read me AWSNA’s Shared Principle #7. It begins with the words “Waldorf schools are self-administered. This work is strengthened by cultivating a shared anthroposophical understanding of social interactions.” She said, “Talk about what that means.”
My mind quickly turned to my earliest days as a Waldorf teacher. There were two teachers in the school I joined, and every week during the faculty meeting a strange ritual would unfold: some topic or other would be up for discussion; sooner or later, one of the two would take a stand, usually in strong, confident words. With the predictability of a Swiss watch, the other would take the opposite point of view. It didn’t matter whether we were talking about a child, a festival, or where teachers should park their cars in the morning. Sometimes it even seemed that one of them would try to take the point of view that the other was usually espousing, as if to make nice. No matter: the other would contradict his usual approach just for the occasion, as if saying, “I usually stand for X, and you stand for Y, but today, since you suggest X, I must advocate for Y.” It became clear to me that the topics were not really what mattered; rather, it was the encounter between these two that had its own special signature gesture. Two consequences of these weekly events were that the meetings often felt both predictable and exhausting. I can even say predictably exhausting. I would like to leave this little image, surely not one that is entirely unfamiliar to many of you, as an example of one kind of encounter.
The other example I want to present is from a College of Teachers meeting several years later. The context is a review of the work of the College during the previous school year. A colleague said something deeply significant: “Two things really strike me about our meetings: the first is that they always surprise me. We find new ideas and solutions that no one seemed to have when the meeting began, and I personally often leave feeling that I have more energy than I had when I came in.” So that’s a different kind of encounter, with radically different results. I would like to posit that surprise, in the good sense, and renewed energy are two hallmarks of the encounters we should foster.
Back to Melanie and the shared principle: I pondered the wording, particularly wanting to focus on the “anthroposophical understanding of social interactions.” In the end, it struck me that anthroposophy has one essential contribution to make to the study of social interactions. It is strikingly simple to articulate: spiritual beings interpose themselves between us as we meet. Whatever techniques, practices, policies, and structures we can find helpful from the world outside of Waldorf education, this essential insight will always form a dimension that must be taken into account. Spiritual beings interpose themselves between us as we meet.
Mainstream psychology and sociology books that have looked into the area of social interactions have not been able to explore this possibility, for three reasons: first, because the requisite conceptual framework that would allow for this contribution is missing. Second, therefore the language that would allow for an articulation of insights is missing or ignored. And third, the capacities that would need to develop in order for meaningful research to unfold are nowhere to be found, since no one recognizes that they are needed in the first place.
When we undertake the task of leading an organization as a team, clarity about, and a conscious cultivation of the relationship with spiritual beings is an ever-urgent pair of challenges. We will first look at the historical development of our relationship with certain spiritual beings and then consider a few suggestions for cultivating healthy human encounters in light of the presence of those beings.
Soul Encounters as a Particular Challenge
The image of the human being in anthroposophy is of a threefold being: body, soul, and spirit.
Physical encounters are not usually overly challenging in the context of a Waldorf school. Our body odors or sloppy attire don’t commonly rise to existential levels of crisis. Spiritual aspects can sometimes create crises, for example around differing interpretations of pedagogy, but it is not very common. In this article I will focus on the third aspect of the human constitution, namely the soul.
Because they are often shrouded in the miasma of emotions, difficult soul encounters challenge us in ways that can feel overwhelming and insurmountable. They lack the clarity of spiritual principles, so they remain nebulous, but they carry a powerful surge of emotional intensity.
Rudolf Steiner describes two phases in the relationship of the “I”, the Self, to the lower members of the human constitution. The first phase entails an unconscious, the second a conscious set of transformations. The first phase produces an elaboration of the lower members (developed for us by spiritual beings) into three soul layers. The second phase produces three layers of spirit. I would like briefly to describe the stages of the first phase, and to characterize the resulting soul layers. In anthroposophical nomenclature, all of these layers have particular names. My language here, as possible, will avoid these names in favor of signature gestures. This is not to deny the validity of the usual terminology, but in order to encourage both you and me to avoid familiar words that we, too easily, assume we understand, perhaps more than we actually do.
At the outset of the transformational process just mentioned, the human constitution included three facets that Rudolf Steiner called physical, etheric, and astral “bodies,” as problematic as that English translation can be for the second and third of them, since they lack obvious physical characteristics. (The German “Leib” is not as problematic; it is used as the word “body” is used in expressions such as “body of knowledge”.) The first was a physical body. We can think of it as the material level that we share with all mineral, living, and sentient beings. The second was the life “body,” which we can think of as the level we share with living organisms that grow and reproduce, namely plants and animals. The third Steiner called the astral or soul “body.” It is the level we share with all sentient beings, namely animals. Its signature gestures are movement, both inner (as in a response to stimuli and circumstances) and outer (in autonomous movement such as plants cannot achieve); another way of saying it is that beings endowed with an astral body exhibit some degree of consciousness.
When the human Self, or “I,” was introduced into evolution, it began interacting with the existing “bodies.” These interactions were completely unconscious initially. And although they have produced increasingly conscious results, as we shall see, they only recently began, themselves, growing more wakeful within us.
The Desiring Soul; The Spirit of Fun and Freedom; Illness, Suffering, and Pain
At first, during a period that Rudolf Steiner calls Lemuria, the Self began interacting with what we have termed the astral body. The mere instinctual, animal-like responses to stimuli grew more individualized. People could begin to like and dislike aspects of their environment in ways that differed from their peers. Rudimentary personality began emerging. At this point, an important spiritual intervention took place. Up until then, only benevolent spiritual beings were involved in earth evolution. But now, spiritual beings of an adversarial level equivalent to what Western traditions call angels developed a different relationship with humanity. Collectively, we can refer to these sprits in the singular as The Spirit of Fun and Freedom. Genesis depicts it as the serpent; elsewhere it is called the Devil, or also Lucifer. It introduced the possibility of error into human conduct. The result was, on the one side, a greater level of separation from the divine origins of humanity, and therefore freedom for the human being, and on the other the development of desires, cravings, and lust for sensations. It was the first elaboration of the human soul, and we can call it the Desiring Soul. Think of the moment when you meet a person and feel either an irresistible desire or an equally strong repulsion towards that person. On a more trivial level, you open a catalog that just arrived in the mail, or surf the website of a merchant, and suddenly you cannot live another moment without owning an item that five minutes earlier you did not even know existed. Or you see something that someone else has and you really, REALLY want it.
An important characteristic of the Desiring Soul is that it is inherently insatiable. No amount of goods, food, or pleasure is ever enough for more than a brief interval of time.
In order to mitigate the results of what The Spirit of Fun and Freedom wrought, the benevolent spiritual forces had to introduce illness, suffering, and pain into the life of humanity so that we would not utterly succumb to the temptations of the senses. This may sound cruel to the modern mind, but we can also think of it as being given the opportunity to learn to live with consequences. Other terms for that are growing up, or maturing. Like a young person coming into adulthood, one has to learn there is a price for bingeing on anything, and sometimes even for trying just a little taste. A hangover after a night of drinking is one small example of how our desire for sensations can result in adverse consequences. Addictions of all kinds are further examples.
The Explaining/Planning Soul; The Spirit of The Machine; Karma The next step in evolution involved the Self-penetrating and unconsciously transforming the life body. This took place in the period that Steiner terms Atlantis. Living organisms grow in lawful ways, which shows us that there is an intelligible pattern governing their life cycles. This pattern is coded, so to speak, into the life body. When the Self-finished “working through” the life body, the result was a second layer of the soul, one that we can designate The Explaining, or Planning Soul. To get a feeling for it, we can imagine that the Desiring Soul wishes for some item or experience. It is the role of the Planning Soul to figure out how to satisfy the wish of the Desiring Soul. For example, we can plan on buying it, stealing it, or killing our neighbor in order to get it. All three would achieve the desired result, and for the planning soul there isn’t yet a particular preference for one over the other, except expediency. In the realm of knowledge acquisition, the Explaining Soul does just that: it explains things, which means replacing mysterious phenomena (e.g., nature’s) with models that are easier to comprehend. The entire edifice of natural science is the glorious, and problematic, triumph of the Explaining Soul, essentially replacing the mysteries of nature with mathematical formulations. It is immensely satisfying to feel that we know what something “really is,” even if, for example, we are not much closer to understanding the nature of pleasure when we say that pleasure “really is nothing but” the body secreting certain hormones (e.g., serotonin, oxytocin, or dopamine). We have just turned our gaze to where the street lamp is lighting a section of the sidewalk, though it isn’t where we lost the keys, or at least not most of them. But we are left with the satisfying illusion of knowing. In effect, we made the world into math, and now a blind person understands color as well as a seeing person because “color is nothing but an angle of refraction, or a wavelength, that can be expressed mathematically.” The same goes for all other senses and even for consciousness itself. We think that we have explained them, but we have really only explained them away. The world disappears, and all that’s left is math.
When the Explaining/Planning Soul came into being, there was a second intervention of spiritual beings, this time of the adversarial level equivalent to that of the archangels. We can name them, in the singular, “The Spirit of the Machine.” The Persians, and anthroposophists, name it “Ahriman.” Others call it Satan. Initially, this spirit’s influence led to the possibility of what we call sin. Sin differs from error in being deliberate. Human beings could now know in advance that they were violating the intended order of the universe. A second consequence of the presence of the Spirit of the Machine was that knowledge of the spiritual origins of existence was gradually lost, and people could not see beyond the senses. We can see, therefore, how materialism could develop.
To mitigate the influence of the Spirit of the Machine, the benevolent forces introduced death and the law of karma. We shall return to death a little later. But karma is really a wonderful thing! We usually think of it as the source of all manner of difficulties, but we should be eternally grateful that it exists, for it allows for the balancing of sins. Imagine if your sins were written into your being in such a way that it would be impossible to make matters right. Next time you find yourself in a karmic knot, be glad and thankful for it. You may not be able to untie it yet, but at least you have the opportunity to try.
The Understanding/Empathetic Soul; The Spirits of Darkness;
The third chapter in the Self’s unconscious transforming of the lower members was its penetration of the physical body. It is still ongoing, and has been bringing a third soul facet into existence. This facet we can designate “The Understanding or Empathetic Soul.” Its chief attribute is that it can serve as a moral compass. In the example I gave earlier, the Planning Soul can find different ways of satisfying the cravings and wishes of the Desiring Soul. How would one choose which of these ways is best? For the materialistic-thinking Planning Soul, expediency is the only arbiter. But what of ethics? If the former can say “true or false; fast or slow,” the Understanding Soul can tell, and FEEL, good from evil. It is the soul facet that can understand, rather than merely explain, and that can empathize with another human being. After the increasing distance from the phenomena that the Desiring Soul and Explaining Soul produced, the Empathetic Soul can re-connect with phenomena, this time without disappearing completely into a dreamy or sleepy state of consciousness. “I” can understand “you,” rather than merely feeling attraction or repulsion, as with the Desiring Soul, or explaining you (using extrinsic measures) to myself as with the Explaining Soul.
There is also a third intervention of adversarial spiritual beings that is beginning, and this one has a particular twist. These beings are the adversarial equivalents to the spiritual hierarchy designated in Christian esotericism as the “Archai.” The benevolent Archai are the ones that bestowed the Self on humanity, while these adversarial counterparts work in precisely the opposite direction. They encourage human beings to use the understanding capacities that the Self has been developing in order to manipulate others in purely egotistical ways. Sociopathy and psychopathy are examples of this type of action, and orgiastic behaviors, for example, point towards a future in which some people will arrange their entire lives to gear towards incessant sensual pleasure. The sociopath has a keen understanding of others, but does not care about their wellbeing. The psychopath is similarly insightful, but goes even further by actually enjoying the pain he can inflict. The twist in the narrative here is that, according to Rudolf Steiner, the benevolent spiritual powers cannot help us find redemption for acts committed under the influence of these new adversarial forces, which he names (using an old term for the Archai) the Asuras; every time we choose the path of pure egotism, a sliver of our divine Self is lost to darkness. This is a new reality in human evolution, and means that we are now increasingly capable of self-annihilation. It is darkness, the likes of which humanity has never encountered before.
But where great darkness appears, a great light must also be present. This light I would like to designate AHAVA, as the acronym for the “Archetype of Human Amity, Verity, and Altruism.” Conveniently, AHAVA means, “love” in Hebrew, and we can think of “the archetype of the human capacity for love” as another name or designation for AHAVA. I will use “the Love Impulse” to describe what AHAVA is trying to help us develop. Rudolf Steiner referred to it, in a term that was less problematic for his milieu than it is for our time, as the Christ Impulse. According to Steiner, there was a moment in history when AHAVA joined the earthly, human stream of being for a brief period. It penetrated the lower sheaths, or bodies, of a human being and, as a human being, shed blood into the earth as it died. This love- infused blood turned into life forces (ether), and the earth itself began, for the first time, to radiate light into the cosmos. AHAVA moved its sphere of action into the sheaths surrounding the earth, and the light associated with Love began radiating as the earth’s own emanation. This light was not yet physical, but if human beings take this Love Impulse into themselves, it will increasingly condense into physical light until the earth itself will become a new sun!
The Etherization of Blood and the Love Impulse
As if the idea of helping to make the earth into a new sun is not inspiring enough, Rudolf Steiner also says that every human heart turns a portion of the blood that passes through it into a fine stream of life (or etheric) forces that flows upwards into the head. When human beings take up the Love Impulse into themselves, the individual stream of etherized blood joins the etherized stream of the Love Impulse, and completely new capacities can arise in the soul. Those capacities are key elements of any potential progress for humanity, and, I suggest, for the potential survival and success of Waldorf schools. They entail, among other things, direct perception of spiritual realities and an ability to act out of the highest moral ideals.
.Human Encounter on the three levels; Proposed Practices
Thus far we have surveyed an evolutionary process and followed the appearance and influence of various spiritual beings, both benevolent and adversarial. It is time to “get down to brass tacks,” as it were: what can we do in a school context in order to facilitate healthy human encounters, knowing that our demons and our gods, as the title suggests, are both eager for our cooperation?
I would like to take each of the three soul facets, or members, characterize its typical appearance in human relationships, and propose a salutogenic approach.
The Desiring Soul
The two archetypal gestures of the Desiring Soul are attraction and repulsion. A new colleague or parent comes into view, and one feels a strong attraction towards this person, or perhaps a strong revulsion. In our culture, it is not acceptable to express these sentiments. I don’t think that school communities would benefit by encouraging verbal expression of the animal-level desires and revulsions that we feel towards one another. The point here is not to externalize that which is ordinarily expressed only in anonymous online chat rooms. There are not only humane grounds for the idea of restraint but legal ones as well.
But I also think that suppressing the lower impulses of the Desiring Soul is not a good practice if it remains the only thing we
So the two extremes of repression and expression are not healthy for us or for the school. What I would like to suggest is that ther is a way of processing the impulses of the Desiring Soul that can be healthy: engagement with the arts, specifically in what I would call chamber arts: eurythmy, chorus, speech chorus, drama, music making, and so on. There is a whole field of artistic endeavor, some extent and some waiting to be developed that would allow teams to work through the impulses of the Desiring Soul so that beauty can emerge out of the process. Since The Spirit of Fun and Freedom is also a key inspiration for artistic creativity, we would be using his gifts to neutralize his malevolent influence!
Another essential benefit of chamber arts is that they provide a strong impetus for recognizing the spiritual in our fellow human being. Artistic processes, when done well, move people through obstacles and long-established patterns, and allow them to grow. When we witness someone growing we know that we are in the presence of a “human becoming” entity. This experience should always leave us hopeful: what is problematic today may change in time. As long as we are hopeful, progress is possible. The main problem with our patterns of desire and revulsion is that, especially with the latter, we assume permanence. But when our “enemy” has overcome an artistic blockage or, better yet, helped us overcome one of our own, a layer of enmity is shed. Over time, enough of those layers can be shed so the two of us can see the better aspects of each other that were hidden from our view before. Real conversations, verbally or through correspondence, are another way of overcoming these impulses. They are seeds of the future social art of conversation. A striking and very moving example is the late-life correspondence between Thomas Jefferson and John Adams. So I would like to throw down something of a gauntlet here to my art-teaching colleagues: there is a whole field of exercises that you can develop to help teams process the lower impulses of the soul healthfully. I want to be clear that individual artistic work can also be helpful. I have written a lot of poetry to process my life’s events. But individual work helps an individual. Chamber work helps those who are in the chamber, which in our sense is the relevant group within the school. It helps, in part, by inviting the spiritual beings that support harmony and collaboration to be active for the time people strive together artistically.
The Planning/Explaining Soul
The signature gestures of the Explaining Soul have in common that they are past-oriented and replace genuine encounter with analyses and prescriptions of all kinds. Since the birth of the Explaining Soul was accompanied by the possibility of sin, policies, and procedures are introduced in order to prevent sinfulness. This leads to a safer environment, but also to a stilted and warmth-less one. Every bureaucrat says, “That’s the policy; I did not make it, I just administer it.” The policy was no doubt created because someone did something that had the “flavor” of sin, so there was some justification for it. I do not suggest that policies and procedures have no place in a school. But they do present a new kind of challenge in that they eliminate the human being as a complex and individual reality in favor of a species-wide, one-size-fits-all approach.
A second common gesture of the Explaining Soul is the dissection of another person in psychoanalytic language. This language is invariably past-oriented. Parents or food or some trauma are held responsible for something that a person did or is doing. Again, there is some justification for this approach, but it comes with the danger that we distance ourselves from the other, and most importantly that we feel superior. Since we think we know why she behaves in this particular way, we could respond with empathy, but all too often we remain with the self-congratulatory mood of seeing the other “from above.”
I would like to suggest three practices that can help us work with the gifts of the Explaining Soul in order to neutralize its deleterious aspects:
Secondly, healthy study is context-rich. It arises out of and in turn creates context and relationships. Anything, even anthroposophical concepts, studied in isolation is a lie. For example, the cultural, political, and location-specific circumstances of Steiner’s lectures are important; we can also follow up a reading with a discussion of how the themes he develops might need to be articulated in our own circumstances. It is inconceivable to me that Steiner would be saying the same things in the same language a hundred years later. He was the consummate innovator and revitalizer of culture; how would he develop his themes in light of what has transpired since he first brought them forth?
Thirdly, the study should be deed-oriented. We should ask ourselves what is indicated by this study for our work. How do we translate the inspiration of the text into action?
The Empathetic Soul:
Encounters that originate with the Empathetic Soul are most easily characterized as the experience that someone else sees us. Beyond gender, race, age, appearance, status, and all the other veils that hide us from one another, we are, each one, a human being, a species onto ourselves. When another person can see us, we are neither simply attractive or repulsive, nor are we explained through some pre-existing model (not even the anthroposophical one). While these interpretations will, no doubt, play into what another sees, he or she can see something else. It is an exhilarating moment. It is also interesting that it is also exhilarating when we manage to see another human being, really see. On the few occasions in my life when that’s happened, I felt like Adam in the Garden of Eden. There is such simplicity and purity in an encounter that leaves your heart open and receptive, sans the veils that customarily come between people.
The question then becomes: what happens now?
When one person sees another, there are usually only two basic choices to be made: to love, or to hurt. I don’t mean sensual love; I mean that you have seen another human being, including his or her golden qualities and less-than-golden needs. To the needs you can respond with whatever it is you have to offer. To the other’s golden qualities you respond by calling them forth. Or you can put a hook into the need and begin to manipulate. You can also ignore, remain indifferent, but that is just another way of hurting. And you can try to undermine the golden qualities.
We have all met people of both kinds of resolve. In the presence of someone who has seen another and chosen love, we feel peace.
With those who lust for power and who utilize their insights for control and manipulation, we can feel helpless. They are far too clever and skilled to meet head-on. We can sense that ultimately only love can counter their power. It cannot redeem it, but it can serve as a countermeasure within individuals and communities. The opportunity for love to build momentum in our situation may take time. In the meantime, they can do a lot of damage.
As I mentioned before, there is no direct remediation of the dark impulses we are talking about. But if love is ultimately the antidote, there are a couple of practices that we can take up in order to strengthen our relationship with the Love Impulse. There are others, too, but we are focusing now on collegial relationships.
When death is approached without fear, anger, or resentment, it can be the most amazingly graceful moment in the whole of life. We can “gift” our dying to those around us as their opportunity to care. In the realm of ideas, death means renouncing our ownership and attachment to what originally came to us, allowing it to be owned and revised by the group. And when we see another person, with their physical, emotional, karmic, or any other illness, we can ask ourselves: “Were she on death’s bed, would I love her?” If the answer is yes, and few of us would choose to attack or ignore a person on death’s bed, the next question is: “Why should I wait until she is on death’s bed to love her?”
We find, approaching our fellow human being with the mindset that “Love shouldn’t wait” that the twin experiences of surprise and invigoration meet us all the time. Just like a good College meeting!
The Deed of Christ and the Opposing Spiritual Forces (GA 107)
The Etherization of the Blood (GA 130)
From Jesus to Christ (GA 131)
The Gospel of St. John and it Relation to the Other Gospels (GA