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RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Do Atheists have any problem with Rudolf Steiner schools?

Asked by RealEyesRealizeRealLies (30864points) 2 months ago

I think Rudolf Steiner concepts are making the world a better place for everyone. Steiner is not your standard spiritual teacher. His concepts threaten established dogmas of popular religions.

Steiner does not evangelize or preach doctrine from glass towers. But instead he employs his ideas to produce real world change.

There are over one thousand Steiner Waldorf schools worldwide. Here is a three hour documentary explaining the real world effects of Steiner philosophy. I’d like to know if Atheists have any problems with Steiner brand of spiritual philosophy, or the impact that his ideas are creating to build a better future for everyone.

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67 Answers

ragingloli's avatar

Can you summarise this “spiritual philosophy” of his?

Muad_Dib's avatar

Never heard of it, not watching a three hour documentary. Do you have the cliffs notes version?

rebbel's avatar

@Muad_Dib “Cliffs notes”, what are that?
Made me think of Cliff Clavin.
Would love to hear his notes on Steiner.

JLeslie's avatar

Cliff Notes are a shortened version of a great piece of literary work. Students often used them to avoid reading an entire book, but most teachers ask a few questions to nail down that the student read only the Cliff Notes. When not used for cheating they can be a good way to get the basics of the classics.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Biodynamic agriculture is a form of alternative agriculture very similar to organic farming, but it includes various esoteric concepts drawn from the ideas of Rudolf Steiner (1861–1925).[1][2] Initially developed in 1924, it was the first of the organic agriculture movements.[3] It treats soil fertility, plant growth, and livestock care as ecologically interrelated tasks,[4][5][6] emphasizing spiritual and mystical perspectives.

The mystical perspective relates the concept that you are not in the garden alone, but are accompanied by the forces (archetypal forms) of the entire universe.

On biodynamic farms cows keep their horns, as they are viewed as a vital sensory organ that keeps the cow happy with a sense of individuality, instead of being clustered together. I must say, those are some of the healthiest looking cows I’ve ever seen.

Kids don’t just study farming, they actually do farming.

A group of children can stay with the same teacher for up to eight years.

Children are not taught computers until upper school, but instead their curriculum involves hands on physical activities in the spirit of play and imitation.

The enveloping concept of Steiner Waldorf schools is to teach the philosophies of service, instead of accumulation.

Rudolph Steiner respected science a great deal. He founded Anthroposophy a philosophy founded by Rudolf Steiner that postulates the existence of an objective, intellectually comprehensible spiritual world that is accessible by direct experience through inner development. More specifically, it aims to develop faculties of perceptive imagination, inspiration and intuition through the cultivation of a form of thinking independent of sensory experience,[1][2] and to present the results thus derived in a manner subject to rational verification. Anthroposophy aims to attain in its study of spiritual experience the precision and clarity attained by the natural sciences in their investigations of the physical world.

Yes, this is obviously an evolution of Hermeticism. But one that combines alchemical notions with science. If it speaks of Jesus Christ, or Buddha, it speaks of them in terms energetic archetypal forms that we can access the wisdom of through individual meditative inspection, rather than being preached at through dogmatic principles. And we can use that wisdom in service to the planet and society.

kritiper's avatar

To a real Atheist, there is no god. It doesn’t matter how someone else slices it.

Muad_Dib's avatar

So… It’s teaching them how to be hippie farmers?

I like patchouli and all, but I’d want my kid to learn how to function in the modern world.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

I see nothing in the school that teaches god or hippie concepts.
The question is about the school system, which teaches accessing wisdom of energetic archetypal forms. If a god is to be found, it will be found within… But that’s not the school teaching. That’s just standard Hermetical Rosicrucianism

I didn’t see anything about patchouli “and all”.
And I didn’t say computers were never taught.

Please resist the temptation to project.

cookieman's avatar

Dude, does Rudolf & Friends have an elevator pitch I could read?

Muad_Dib's avatar

“accessing wisdom of energetic archetypal forms”

That’s a lot of syllables for not really meaning anything.

That’s my opinion, as a professional atheist.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Sorry @cookieman, that’s like asking for an elevator pitch for calculus, or quantum physics. Beyond the pitch I’ve already provided, further knowledge rides upon your own curiosity. I appreciate you asking for more rather than commenting on something you’re not interested in. Good on you!

@Muad_Dib
Each word in your quoted sentence has an established definition. Those definitions combine to represent meaning. If it doesn’t mean anything to you, that’s fine. But that sentence does represent meaning for those who understand the definitions of the words.

“Le ciel est bleu” means nothing to me. I don’t speak French. But a little understanding reveals those symbols to represent the same archetypal form that “The sky is blue” represents. Two different telescopes pointing at the same star.

cookieman's avatar

@TripleR: You make a good point. Then as an Agnostic/Atheist, consider me not that curious.

Muad_Dib's avatar

If you’re not interested in explaining the topic in a concise way for the benefit of the people you’re asking the opinions of, are you really interested in our opinions?

LostInParadise's avatar

I don’t see the difference between spirits and gods.

There are two types of questions that can be asked, and answered, regarding ways of acting in the universe.

The first type of questions is covered by science. They are such that they can be experimentally tested. If the experiments negate the statements then they are false. If the experiments support them then they are provisionally accepted until such time that they may be shown to be false.

The second type of question regards evaluations of actions that cannot be experimentally tested. This includes matters covered in philosophy, like morality and aesthetics.

Everything else, including gods and spirits, is gobbledygook.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Are your comments made from opinion, or in the spirit of truth?

Rarebear's avatar

I read his Wikipedia article. Your description sounded suspiciously like Theosophy, and it turns out I was right! He was related to Theosophy although a different branch than Blavatsky. I spent years studying Theosophy and still have many books. You know me, as a purely skeptical empiricist I’ve now rejected it all now, but I respect the body of work.

My problem with the Waldorf school is that our local Waldorf school in Berkeley is filled with liberal hippies who refuse to vaccinate their children. But I had no idea the Waldorf school had these roots. I’ll put on the documentary and listen to it in the background while I sit at work.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Thank you S. That’s exactly the type of info I’m interested in.

Specifically about the vaccinations. Do they refuse because they believe spirit world will save them? Or do they refuse because they believe their farming techniques and lifestyle negates the need?

Yes, a different branch than Blavatsky. Steiner is Hermetic Rosicrucian.

CWOTUS's avatar

I have a problem with being roped into watching a 3-hour documentary on something that I had never even heard of until now, simply to answer a question on Fluther.

Pass.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Steiner heavily influenced by Goethe.

Rarebear's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies No, I think the vaccine thing has nothing to do with spiritualism or anything, but more to do with the population of the people going to the school. The parents are very left-wing and have naturalistic fallacious thinking. Homeopathy, holistic healing, shit like that. It goes with the territory. Fortunately, the State of California now mandates vaccines.

So it’s not the Waldorf school, per se, but the Venn Diagram of a Waldorf school in Berkeley and the population it attracts.

Rarebear's avatar

And here:
http://www.mercurynews.com/2015/01/31/measles-outbreak-raises-fury-over-californias-vaccine-exemptions/

“At the Waldorf-inspired Berkeley Rose School in North Berkeley, 87 percent of kindergartners had exemptions, according to the 2013–2014 database of the California Department of Health Services. The rate at some other Bay Area Waldorf schools ranges from 50 to 65 percent.

“Our families, in general, seek more alternative health care,” said Beverly Amico, a spokeswoman for the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America.”

So in thinking about it I guess the original answer to your question is “yes”. I have a problem with Rudolf Steiner schools. The Waldorf philosophy, in digging deeper in research, is that they have no official position on vaccines and leave the decision to the parents. I am STRONGLY opposed to this position as it is a public health issue, not a personal choice. And in extension, I have a problem with any school that allows for such anti-science attitudes to fester.

janbb's avatar

I have friends whose kids went to Steiner Waldorf schools. They were Reform Jews and no doubt atheists. I think the experiential and engaged aspects of the pedagogy are much more salient than the philosophical underpinnings. I am a Unitarian for personal growth, community, intellectual development and social action. I am also an atheist. I don’t cringe when on occasion a god is mentioned. You don’t have to buy the whole cow to get the milk.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

That’s interesting about the vaccinations @Rarebear. Thanks for that!

Interesting comment and perspective @janbb. Thank you.

Rarebear's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies I tried watching the video, I really did. But when they started talking about spiritual oneness with the cosmos in some raspberry plants I had to stop.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Completely understandable.

Darth_Algar's avatar

Call it whatever you like, it’s still mystical woo-woo and of no use or interest to me.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

How Steiner negates Theosophy and promotes respecting science.

Rarebear's avatar

I’ll just add that my objections to Waldorf have absolutely nothing to do with me being an atheist. Our Catholic schools in the area are quite good.

Rarebear's avatar

Thanks for putting me to that clip. I’m kind of “meh”. On the one hand he says that Steiner rejects Ouiji boards. Fine. But then in the next breath he talks about spiritualism.

LostInParadise's avatar

Are your comments made from opinion, or in the spirit of truth?
First answer my question. What is the difference between spirits and gods? If, as I suspect, there is no real difference, then atheists should oppose any talk about spirits.

In answer to your question, what I gave is my opinion. I welcome any well reasoned rejoinder.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Hey don’t get me wrong… I’m having a difficult time with this myself.

Mixing manure with crystals, storing it for a season in bull horns, and then spraying it on farmland to enhance the sunlight intake is a little hard for me to wrap my head around. Then planting certain crops based upon their astrological sign, because they flourish better that way… well, I dunno. But those who do it seem to claim it’s beneficial on many levels.

@LostInParadise I understand where you’re coming from. But there are deeper levels to consider.

Spirits are literally archetypes. I consider them equal to thoughts. Absolutely equal.

A spirit of greed, or anger, or charity, is identical to thoughts of greed, or anger, or charity. We can’t see spirits any more than we can see thoughts. They are identical concepts with different labels from different disciplines.

As to what a God, or god, or gods are… Well, just pick a definition from any myriad offshoot of any thousands of religions from current day, past, and future gods to come. Or perhaps it’s combinessence. Whoever claims they know surely doesn’t have a clue.

Rarebear's avatar

Writing as a skeptic and empiricist, spirits do not exist. Thoughts are merely organized electrical impulses within a bunch of meat.

LostInParadise's avatar

I agree completely with @Rarebear.

What exactly do these disembodied thoughts/spirits do? If they have an impact, we should be able to conduct an experiment to verify it. If not, they fall into the category of gobbledygook.

Do you think these results could be reproduced? If they could, you would certainly have heard about it.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

How is it then, if I have no access to your electrical meat pulses, that I have access to your thoughts? Your sentence is a password, just like your email password, which gives me access to your thoughts. I could not know them otherwise.

It doesn’t matter if you’re alive or dead. I have access to your thoughts through that sentence. You could have written that two thousand years ago. Is the thought the meat pulse, or the words I see on my screen? Or could it be that the meat pulse, and the written words, are two separate mediums pointing to the same non material form? As two telescopes may view the same star, albeit from slightly different perspectives.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

@LostInParadise “If they have an impact, we should be able to conduct an experiment to verify it.”

The words you wrote, represent your thoughts. That’s all they do. That’s their purpose. They impacted me to reply. In kind, you may be impacted enough to reply back. Sometimes these thought spirits author government constitutions, or build skyscrapers. They are quite impactful.

Irukandji's avatar

Atheists are people who don’t believe in god. You can be an atheist and still believe in mystical mumbo jumbo. So I’m guessing you meant to ask whether metaphysical naturalists have any problem with Rudolf Steiner schools. But even that isn’t a well-formed question yet because we can separate the theory from the methods and the outcomes. A metaphysical naturalist can think the idea behind Steiner education is wrong while still thinking that the methods used get acceptable results, the same way that someone can recognize that the theory behind chiropractic is complete bunk while still acknowledging that there is some scientific evidence in favor of using chiropractic methods to treat lower back pain.

A metaphysical naturalist should probably judge these schools based on how well the things they provide match with what their children need. Some kids would probably be fine in that kind of setting. Others are really going to miss out if their talents tend toward the mechanical or the technological (since Steiner education is purposefully low tech). The spiritual teachings might be a little off-putting, but plenty of metaphysical naturalists have sent their children to Catholic schools when the local public schools weren’t up to their standards. Very few people live privileged enough lives to have everything around them designed with their preferences in mind.

CWOTUS's avatar

You do realize that there’s no “Atheist Bible”, right? Atheists’ views are not – in any way – orthodox.

Muad_Dib's avatar

I’d be 100% ok with a school teaching kids how to farm.

If you want to teach kids about the crop cycles and nitrogen levels and how chlorophyll works, knock yourself out.

Once you start “enhancing sunlight with crystals” because it makes the spirits of the plants happy or whatever, you’ve lost me.

Whether it works or it doesn’t, it doesn’t work like that, and kids deserve a real world, scientific explanation. Not a bunch of magical psychobabble.

Irukandji's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies “But that sentence does represent meaning for those who understand the definitions of the words.”

“Colorless green ideas sleep furiously.” I know the meaning of every word in that sentence. That doesn’t mean their combination has any meaning. In fact, it’s a classic example of a grammatically correct but semantically nonsensical sentence.

“How is it then, if I have no access to your electrical meat pulses, that I have access to your thoughts?”

But you do have access to our electrical meat pulses. It’s just indirect access. Similarly, you only have indirect access to our thoughts. That’s why it’s possible to lie to other people.

“Sometimes these thought spirits author government constitutions, or build skyscrapers.”

Thoughts aren’t spirits. They are physical things that are sometimes expressed via other physical means (like writing or talking). Thoughts do not author constitutions or build skyscrapers. People do these things, with their thoughts being just one element of the process.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

”“Colorless green ideas sleep furiously.” I know the meaning of every word in that sentence. That doesn’t mean their combination has any meaning.”

Sure, words can be intentionally arranged to form an intentional representation of an idea that none of us can see, touch, taste, smell, or point to. Sentences relate intentions. And your intention was to illustrate your thought.

“But you do have access to our electrical meat pulses. It’s just indirect access. Similarly, you only have indirect access to our thoughts. That’s why it’s possible to lie to other people.”

Indirect access is curiously allowed when it suits the promoter of a particular argument. I cannot empirically prove that your meat pulses ever existed, exist now, or will continue to exist. I can only prove that a thought exists because its representative sentence demands that I do. That’s all sentences do, represent thoughts.

I must therefor infer that meat pulses once existed to have originally represented that thought, before written as a sentence. But I cannot prove it.

“Thoughts aren’t spirits. They are physical things…”

I see the sentence as evidence of your thought.
But you will never be capable of showing me that thought.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Is it the word that bothers you? “Spirit”? Those who know me know that I’ve equated thought/spirits and mind/souls here for years. I just recently discovered Steiner did the same.

I made my definition clear so we could communicate on equal footing. I’m not using your definition of “spirit”.... I’m using mine. I could say it in a thousand different ways in a hundred different languages… It would still point the same concept.

Just like your “Irukandji” handle represents you… The only you that you want me to know. But certainly “Irukandji” isn’t really you. Certainly those symbols only represent the idea of you that you wish to share.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

“Thoughts are merely organized electrical impulses within a bunch of meat.”

Here’s the real problem. That’s probably not your original thought. You probably got it from someone else, who got it from another, and thus representation of the ghostly meme spread. All those meat pulses are NOT new thoughts. They represent the same original thought. Just like all the writings we’ve seen saying the same thing are representing the original thought.

Your copy of photoshop is not photoshop. It’s a representation of the thought collective that we agree to label as photoshop. My copy represents the same thoughts.

Rarebear's avatar

You don’t have access to my thoughts. You only have access to what I am writing (or when I visited;you in person my voice or visual cues). You have no idea what I’m really thinking about right now, (which is a quote from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy)

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

That’s the beauty of it. Telepathy exists. We just give out pass codes in the form of sentences, which limit our thought sharing to only those parts we care to share.

The way I see it, skeptics, through their words, are literally expressing the spirit of skepticism. Not a whole bunch of spirits… or a whole bunch of thoughts… But only the one slice of that spirit that they can describe with words. The idea of skepticism is bigger than any one person can relate. We all describe different parts of the elephant from our individual perspectives.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

And a thousand years from today, when someone digs up the fluther archives, the future generations that read our words will have just as clear of access to the thought spirit as we do today… long after our meat pulses have stopped pulsing.

LostInParadise's avatar

It is true that thoughts can travel from one person to another, but they must be carried by some other form, like speech or writing. Richard Dawkins wrote about this. We can imagine a thought as being represented by some neural configuration in our brains. Dawkins called these memes. Memes can pass from one person to another. Like genes, their survival depends on their ability to enhance fitness.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

I understand and mostly agree with the concept you’re relating. But I choose to represent that concept in an entirely different manner, which makes more sense to me.

Thoughts don’t travel. I have no empirical evidence that a thought even exists. I’ve never seen a thought any more than I’ve seen photoshop or a life insurance policy. I’ve only seen physical representations of a non physical agent. How can I therefor attribute physical notions of traveling to a non physical agent?

But I do have empirical evidence that codified representation can be copied. Here I’ll prove it.
@LostInParadise “It is true that thoughts can travel from one person to another”.

The physical representation of pixels that I copy/pasted has been replicated. But those pixels represent the same identical thought that no one can verify exists. When you see these pixels again, there will be four copies, two on your screen, and two on mine. Many more copies will leap into existence when others revisit this thread and new pixels form on their computer screens. We have no way of knowing how far or fast these replications will occur. The only thing we can say for sure is that they all represent the same identical thought, although none of them are the thought themselves.

Rarebear's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies Slow day in the studio? :-)

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Haha just wrapped up a number of big jobs.
I’m cleaning today (all those dusty lenses) and hovering fluther having fun talking with friends about weirdo ideas.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

“Memes can pass from one person to another. Like genes, their survival depends on their ability to enhance fitness.”

Not necessarily. The ideas of Trump, which others mimic, may or may not enhance fitness. Bad ideas can be transmitted just as effectively as good ideas. It is the perception of fitness that allows cancer (chaos) to trick and corrupt an otherwise healthy functioning organism.

LostInParadise's avatar

Bad ideas can proliferate quickly, but over the course of generations, those ideas will survive which are the most useful. Direct fitness enhancement is a bit of an oversimplification. People also learn from the successes and failures of others.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

We certainly hope so. I’m still awaiting the thousands of years old bad idea of all religions to come to an end.

Irukandji's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies “Sure, words can be intentionally arranged to form an intentional representation of an idea that none of us can see, touch, taste, smell, or point to.”

They can also be arranged that way unintentionally. So there’s no guarantee that just because every word in a sentence means something that the sentence itself means something. Or to restate the original point more clearly: your response to @Muad_Dib is inadequate.

“Indirect access is curiously allowed when it suits the promoter of a particular argument.”

In other words, you have no counterargument and have therefore substituted an insinuation in its place. Duly noted. I accept your capitulation.

“I cannot empirically prove that your meat pulses ever existed, exist now, or will continue to exist.”

Sure you can. There are plenty of instruments that can be used to measure them. All you have to do is come to where I am and use them. Perhaps that is not practical, but it is certainly possible.

“I can only prove that a thought exists because its representative sentence demands that I do.”

This does not follow. Sentences can be created by things that do not have thoughts (e.g., chat bots). Therefore, the mere existence of a sentence does not prove the existence of a thought.

“But you will never be capable of showing me that thought.”

Nothing I’ve written here depends on my ability to show you that particular thought, regardless of what you might mean by “that thought.”

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

“They can also be arranged that way unintentionally.”

Think about what you are saying. “be arranged”… cannot be unintentional.

“In other words, you have no counterargument…”

As I said before, in reference to this very topic “I cannot empirically prove that your meat pulses ever existed, exist now, or will continue to exist. I can only prove that a thought exists because its representative sentence demands that I do. That’s all sentences do, represent thoughts.”

Please don’t accuse me of not having a counter argument when it’s sitting right there in front of you.

“This does not follow. Sentences can be created by things that do not have thoughts (e.g., chat bots). Therefore, the mere existence of a sentence does not prove the existence of a thought.”

The apparent answers of the chat bot represents the thoughts of the original programmer to accomplish the given task. The chat bot does not answer anything. It’s just a program that reacts to stimuli in a predefined manner, and it is always traceable back to, the degree of thought the original programmer represented with the original code.

“Nothing I’ve written here depends on my ability to show you that particular thought, regardless of what you might mean by “that thought.””

Agreed. We don’t need to see a thought to infer that one actually exists.

Muad_Dib's avatar

What the hell does any of this have to do with hippie farm school?

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Someone earlier insisted that I define the difference between a spirit and a god, before answering one of my questions. This discussion about thought/spirit was born from that.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

More about chat bots. Believing that a chat bot is actually answering a question is like believing the magic eight ball is actually answering a question. Even worse, this kind of belief will cause people to believe that sexy robot really loves and cares for them, when in fact it is incapable of such notions. The chat bot does not answer. The capacity for reply was preprogramed by a thoughtful author long before the questioner ever asked.

Rarebear's avatar

My sexy robot does not care for me?

Muad_Dib's avatar

Of course they do, @Rarebear, they said sentences at you, didn’t they? Those telepathic spirit thoughts were of true love and don’t let any spiritual speciesist tell you different.

kritiper's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies In Catholic grade school, we were told that when all people become Catholic, Judgment Day will arrive. (Oh, those Sisters of the Sacred Heart!!)

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

I don’t begin to know what to say about that. I’d just hate to think they might be right.

Can’t imagine.

LostInParadise's avatar

Religion seems to be an idea whose time has passed, at least in wealthy nations. There are European nations with majority atheists. In the U.S., about 25% of the population marked “none” in answer to the census form question asking for religious preference. That is about the same as the percentage of Catholics. It will be interesting to see what the next census shows. Polling indicates that among millennials, the rate of non-belief is about 30%.

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