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Alan speaks in a very symbolic and esoteric manner in some parts of his books. Although they can be read anthroposophically, passages speaking of Atlantis, archangels, gods, etc. do not need to be taken literarily to be meaningful. The more you read, the more you will realize he uses many different religions to express ideas in a symbolic manner and not in a religious manner. His writings are not religious. In some places his writings are meant to refer to religious events in a historical way. In some places he is using religious figures (from Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Paganism, Ancient Roman and Greek Religions, etc.) in a symbolic manner. However, at no point is he promoting a specific religion or speaking from a religious point of view.
I have kept the writing as close to one-hundred percent original so you will also find that he speaks of Australia often and some spelling or manners of speaking may be cultural. Any words I have changed are presented like this: <word>.
Also keep in mind that these books are written by a Waldorf teacher with decades of experience who also studied with a Steiner student himself, so he speaks to an audience that is dedicating their lives to the Waldorf method without exception.
Because of this, all of his views are not reflected in the Earthschooling curriculum and not all of them may be ones you want to embrace or are able to use. In all of Alan Whitehead’s writings the opinions are his own and may not align with Earthschooling or Waldorf Books. In some cases, we will be updating some of these chapters in the future with additional and/or updated information.
Ultimately, however, as I read through these passages I find I can distill wisdom from even those paragraphs that do not resonate with me.
We invite you to read with an open mind and heart and with eagerness to learn and discuss…
SPINNAKER OF THE SUN – CLASS 11
“And then one of the students asked the Iman why every mosque had a crescent moon on the top of the dome – you could see he didn’t expect a question like this from a 17-year-old.”
The dark-eyed Class 11 Guardian turned and looked out to sea; her gaze reflective. The teachers had accepted her invitation to have their meeting on Class 11 at Advocate’s home.
The group sat on the balcony perched high on a sandstone rampart, the mood was informal, the drinks chilled.
“Anyway the man said the crescent moon was probably just decoration. My students knew that was rot; after all, in our Theology Main Lesson they had become very conscious of the esoteric background of the 7 World Religions. Not that I pushed it mind, but whenever the debate turned to the mysteries and semiotics of the Magnificent Seven, the interest was insatiable – the questions just kept coming. What could I do, brush them off? They are after all young adults in Class 11.”
“I think you did the right thing.” Said Chairperson reassuringly, leaning back in his patio recliner, bare toes twiddling “that happens to any of us that teach your class – there emerges a spiritual inquisitiveness in this year, where they really want to know the reality behind external phenomena.
It is the year of Taurus in the Educational Zodiac – Taurus expresses the sense of thought. If we don’t give these young people, whose Ego is approaching like a figure out of the mist, rigorous intellectual content, they will become disenchanted with school. Thought however that is more than just cerebral activity for its own sake, such as an exam course gives, but ideas with a truly spiritual basis.”
“My students will be Class 11 next year,” chirped Athletic mischievously, balancing on the rail 200 feet above the surf, which was beating itself insensible on the rocks below “they will move from the Pictorial Aspect of the Astral Body in Class 10, to the Conceptual – thought again! Strange how the spiritual influences on human development are so harmonious.” He feinted a fall backwards, and chuckled merrily at the collective gasp emitted by his colleagues. Advocate went on quickly, her voice shaky.
“Although we, er, worked diligently on all the seven religions, assuming that they were all correct – that their mission was to incarnate a specific realm of truth into the world, the student’s greatest fascination was with Christianity. I was surprised how little they knew of our so-called national religion.”
Bee Man dispatched the last morsel of a honey roll and looked up in surprise “Christianity? The religion of the Sun God – in my understanding, each of the seven world religions corresponds to a planetary inspiration. Christianity is a ‘Sun’ religion, no wonder your kids hanker after insight -= they’re Sun beings themselves!
In the unfolding of planetary forces through the years 14 to 21, the 4th year, Class 11, is the Sun. Bees are Sun creatures you know.” Concluded Bee Man with a hint of proprietal pride.
“Hmmm, so they are,” said Advocate curiously “but before I forget, would you take my class for a 3-week afternoon Block Lesson in apiary? Sometime later in the year will do. These Sun qualities become very evident in this 17th year.
In the great cycle of life, 10-year-olds are also Sun beings, but they express it differently – in the harmonious way they move, and their light-filled, joyous dispositions. Seven years later the expression is more inward – a yearning for a ‘sun within’, to shine with the light of spiritual ideas. Of course some of them trowel on the materialism at this age – to disguise this nameless longing. After all, they don’t even understand it!
However there is always a point of breakthrough, where their questions become penetrating and earnest. Just as they had become Buddhists, we moved on to Shinto – and they all embraced the Bushido Code – ha, ha.”
An oil tanker as big as a small town tracked slowly along the horizon, all eyes followed involuntarily; a sailboat scudded into view, delighting in sunlight and sea breeze.
“Ah,” said Chairperson returning from the rail “The souls of 17-year-olds should be like that little boat – at one with their environment – psychic of course. Not like that tanker, moving relentlessly on its melancholy way, so big it can remain oblivious to wind or water even. If we don’t provide higher concepts to Class 11, they may enter life as opiniated bigots. The more one senses the presence of higher worlds, the less one takes life for granted.”
But the most perfidious enemy of the older adolescent is depression. Statistics confirm an alarming rate of suicides (and attempts) in young people from 17 to 22 or so. Young Turks who have passed by the Golden Gate of higher thoughts, and either not seen it, or chosen not to enter. Our task is at least to show them that the gate exists! Thoughts higher than those which inspire the tanker out there. At all costs, students should be encouraged to remain at school (if indeed school has its own Golden Gate) right through to Class 12.
The world outside will not readily provide young people with true knowledge, only that which can be stored in a computer, coercing them instead into careers, financial bondage, and the like.”
Prim pulled a small weaving frame out of her bag and warped and wefted on her rhythmical way “The tanker forces the outer world to submit to its sheer size and power – the sailboat is actually supported by that same environment. This reminds me of the human heart – our very own Sun organ. Your 17-year-olds are not only Sun, but Heart, beings. The heart, our body’s only wholly involuntary muscle, obeying God’s Will only, is structured something along the lines of this weaving, its strength is in its 2-fold warp and weft; so does the Sun dwell in two worlds. It is considered a member of the planetary family in the Solar System, as such ministering to the soul of Man. Yet it is also a star – a cosmic body of higher rank, and as such is a spiritualentity.
We must be aware of this Soul/Spirit reality in the being of Class 11, our attitudes and their responses change dramatically in this year. The Sun in heaven and Man bears three of the highest spiritual principles – in the order of their lower soul counterparts, Will, Feeling and Thinking – these three principles are Courage, Love and Truth. Again with Class 11’s primary parallel, Class 4, these three essences are presented in simple, self-evident terms; but with Class 11, they carry a spiritual component. The heart is the organ of all three, as depicted in story and song through the ages. Courage, love and truth should be expressed by the teacher of Class 11 every day in deed, word and thought respectively; being even brought into lesson content in the most diverse ways in divers subjects. For instance in the characters you choose to study in the 19th Century World History Main Lesson – that’s the ‘Spirit’ Social Science you do this year isn’t it Advocate?”
“Oh yes,” replied the Class 11 Guardian as she re-filled their glasses with fresh juices “in the evolution of consciousness, the students are pure Victoriana – much more conservative than you would expect. Sometimes they give the impression of being radical iconoclasts, but inwardly, as they stand at the doorway of adulthood, they are tentative, usually opting for a conventional position.
So in my history classes I choose to portray individuals who tore out of the straight jacket of traditionalism; great 19th Century eccentrics like Van Gogh, Oscar Wilde, and Brunel even. You see, an important spiritual event occurred in the last third of the 19th Century; for the previous 300 odd years, Western Man had enjoyed the cultural inspiration of the Archangel Gabriel, with its beautiful but conservative credo. And then in 1879 came the Michaelian Age. The Archangel Michael, the current Zeitgeist or Time Spirit, is just the opposite, promoting change and spiritual adventurousness. Michael attends the throne of the Sun god himself, inspiring courage, love and truth of a high order, for those who will listen that is!
Instinctively my class is going through this transition, re-living the consciousness of the end of the Gabriel Age, but being citizens of the Michaelian. It helps to resolve this apparent dilemma n their souls if we bring both Gabrielic and Michaelian images to the lesson. One of the manifold missions of Michael is to overturn existing and cobweb-shrouded values. The 1960s was engulfed by a Michaelian cultural tsunami, one which swamped those who rejected that ‘The times they are a-changin’.’.
This became a towering comber that would carry those who heeded the message, right up to the beach of contemporary culture and spirituality.” Advocate looked down to a small, yellow crescent of sand to check the tide. After a reflective pause, Chairman went on.
“This picture of Archangelic cultural inspiration ties in another way with 17-year-olds; in the recap of the Old Moon creation, the fourth stage was the contribution of the Archangels. They provided Man with the incalculable benefits of circulation and respiration – activities centered on, you guessed it, the heart. Man received his capacity for memory on Ancient Moon; the Archangels created the heart as a repository for memory, of course the brain is its monitor. The memory faculty of 17-year-olds increases dramatically – especially if the heart forces are nourished in this year. Students should meet content containing heart-wrenching images of courage, love and the pursuit of truth.”
Athletic climbed down from his rail, to everyone’s relief, before addressing the somewhat introspective group.
“Although it’s not my strong suit, I think that Class 11 should be academically rigorous – especially since we don’t have external exams. These of course provided an artificial kind of learning discipline (for some at least) – but we seek self-discipline for our emerging adults, young people growing inwardly as well as bodily.
The Archangeloi on Old Moon also contributed the forces of growth! And Memory is enhanced by scholastic discipline. Of course many of the students will do anything to get out of learning, they so often work against their better interests!
One reason for this cerebral ennui, is that the years 14 to 21 are, in the overview of life, the Phlegmatic years – that’s why the lazybones lie around all over the place.” There was a subtle adjustment of seat posture. “In another sense they’re Choleric.”
“A universally effective method of dealing with the phlegmatic temperament is ‘shock treatment’, no, not the evils of E.C.S.T., but shocking images, unpredictable initiatives, and outrageous revelations – only on occasions of course. Apart from waking the class up, it can also relieve boredom!
The moral message for Class 11 seems to be one of Harmony – living as it does in that great balancing organ, the heart. It seems that this class is subject to an inordinate amount of attacks and obstructions, most of which are meant to get them to leave school early – but all are threats to its need for harmony – yes, harmony must be the most important element – the harmony of the weaving Unio-Mystica muscle in the heart.”
“Oh I don’t think so, harmony’s not as important as imagination.”
“Rubbish, down to the nitty gritty I say…”
“Not that old chestnut again, they need more time in the outer world.”
The acrimonious debaters on the Harmony question quickly retired to their usual defensive positions – left/right, reformist/conservative – Gabrielic/Michaelian!
The sailboat had traveled way out to sea, it circumnavigated the tanker, that mindless marine behemoth; and now it danced happily back before a stiff nor-easter. Had the teachers taken the time to look up from their polemics, they would have seen that the full-bellied spinnaker bore upon it a symbol – a circular form containing some kind of symmetrical pattern – no matter, it was probably just decoration.