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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…
HEAVENLY TABLE TOPS
Freehand Geometric Drawing – Class 4 – Middle Lesson
Gaia is the Greek Spirit of the Earth; in Latin she has been entombed in matter to become Geo – found in words like St. George patron saint of the earth); geography; geology … and Geometry. This word means ‘earth measure’, so it behooves caution on the curriculum planner to introduce this subject – this descent knowledge – at the right time.
To measure the earth, to enter its matter-bound laws, is to raise these laws to consciousness in the child. This is a weighty responsibility indeed. Taught too early, Geometry can imprison the soul in its immutable and eternal forms; taught too late (or not at all!) prevents a timely and necessary incarnational imperative; one vital element in bracing the child with a matrix of intelligence for earth existence – to resist spiritual flabbiness!
An anagram of geo is ego; not accidental either – geo and ego are two aspects of the same thing, the metaphysical/material passport required to support mankind on its long voyage over the evolutionary sea to become the 10th Hierarchy, the Spirits of Freedom – an extended journey indeed!
In the primary context, the ego bonds with a 7-year emancipating etheric body in Class 4. This process is called, ty Rudolf Steiner, the Conceptual (ego) Aspect of the Etheric Body. The wo-called ‘9 ½ year split; is confirmation of this ego descent. Conceptualization is distinctly an ego faculty.
The ego lives in the physical body (in the blood actually) – it is the spiritual being in the armor of St. George. Conversely geo lives in the spiritual ambience of St. Ego! This wonderful geo/ego duality is expressed nowhere as strongly – in the 10th years at least – as in Geometry.
There has been a long and gentle preparation for this introduction to earth measure in the previous 3 years; this has been in the Form/Dynamic Drawing middle lessons (in the same equivalent strand). In the spirit of artistry and imagination, 7, 8, and 9-year-olds enjoyed the soft-geometry progression of radial and bilateral symmetry in Class 1 and 2, and asymmetry in 3.
This 3-week middle lesson, Freehand Geometric Drawing, is the next step of the luxury cruise around the Form Mysteries Islands. The use of geometric instruments, like compasses, protractors and set squares, is not introduced – for this subject at least – until Class 5. These can have a hardening influence on the soul; one that can only be taken on board the child’s development baroque without damage when this conceptual/ego factor is well established. Not only is it not harmful in Class 5, it is necessary.
So Freehand Geometric Drawing in 4th Class is a transition from the more expressive Imagination of the pre-9 ½ year period, to the Rationalization (a Greek faculty) of the 11-year-old and beyond, with its demand for fine-line accuracy.
This unit is taught in the Numeracy stream, a middle lesson, due to the potentially expressive/artistic nature of geometry. The ‘heart’ part of the day also is a palliative to the possible hardening that might occur if taught in a main lesson, with its academic emphasis. AT this stage at least, we try to make a smooth (geometric) berthing at the dock of educational incarnation, by avoiding the scleroticism inherent in earth measure.
Of the 3 numeracy strands, Freehand Geometric Drawing falls naturally in the 2nd, aptly titled Diagrammatic Number – programming it here also contributes to the mollifying influence. The diagrammatic is the ‘Feeling’ of the 3 numeracy strands, providing geometry yet again with an artistic interpretation more easily than any other area of maths.
Finally, in Numerological terms, 10 is the number of matter itself – of body. The 10th ‘Civilization’ was the Egypto/Chaldean; they who descended deeply into earth existence from a more spiritualized past – this is the World History study period for the 10th year. The 10 Commandments of Moses, carved in stone, the ego element, is a symbolic picture of this materializing process. 10-year-olds are truly receiving the 10 Commandments – in this case in earth measure form – into their souls.
So how to proceed? For a start, there is little need for a story in this unit; the drawings take up most of the time. From a practical point of view, all construction should be done with a yellow – or very light – colored pencil, with a fine or hard point. The rendering, both outlining and coloring in, is also with colored pencil, but a softer type, in bright, harmonious colors. The finished drawings can be real works of art.
AS a presentation, the teacher usually draws the geometric figure for the day in clear stages, from absolute simplicity, to complex completion. This can be on the blackboard, or on a pre-prepared large sheet of paper.
Since we’re involving the ego faculties, we might begin with Man – or the Spirit actually, the World Ego. This is in the form of a circle; within this we can draw a spread-eagled human figure. The child can even include personal identification to sheet this Self message home – ‘See, that’s my red T-shirt!’
This recourse to placing Man as the center of his/her geometric world, is done each time a new form is launched. In this lesson there are 3 families of forms – circles, triangles and squares. These appeal to – and perennially express – the 3 soul forces of Will, Feeling and Thinking in that order.
Like the an-in-circle, we could next create Man-in-triangle-in-circle. There are two of these; the first has the legs apart, and the raised hands together above the head – the second, arms wide with legs together. This would reflect the timeless mystery found in such geometric semiotics as the Star of David – the descending and ascending triangles of spirit and earth etheric forces respectively. The descending is usually the male (wide shoulders), the ascending, aspiring to the heights, the female (wide hips). This accords with the Father Sky, Mother Earth reality.
Next we can show the Man-in-square-in-circle; indeed almost all drawings created in this lesson should begin with the circle, to demonstrate their divine-origin Unity – even matter has a spiritual home. Designs, for the sake of clarity, can be exclusively based on the 3, circle, triangle and square, but should lead to combinations of these. An example is the pentagram-in-circle, with (to introduce, yet again) the 5-pointed human being in the middle.
This has an esoteric background, this lovely form is that of the Etheric Archetype of Man. Make sure the pentagram is always drawn point up – inverted, it becomes a symbol of evil!
When introducing a form, there should be wide discussion on where it is found in the world. This can even take the form of ‘homework’, with children searching their small world for that really unusual example of a circle: face, moon, wheel; fruit section; crystal … especially crystals. The gleaming Copper Pyrite dollars often look as if they were drawn with a compass. Crystals are the ultimate geological/geometric creations!
So from the ‘cave treasures of St. George’, and other rich images, we lead naturally into the drawings; first the Circles, the Will – circles in circles; half circles; concentric circles; progressive circles. How wonderful if, by prior arrangement, the eurythmy teacher can re-enforce the lesson with circular exercises in his/her class. Many of the forms can be, as well as whole-body movement, inscribed in the air with the hands. The more layers of reality the child is exposed to, the better. This body-to-drawing, or small reflecting large, is an example of so-called Chaos Theory – ironically based on there being no chaos in the universe! The macrocosm can truly be seen mirrored in the microcosm in these revealing drawings.
The there are the ‘feeling’ Triangles; worldly examples being: pyramids; flower petals; sails; and … crystals! The level of complexity in a drawing should be tailored to the skill of the individual child. In a pentagram for instance, it’s probably enough if the dreamiest (a euphemism for slow) child simply draws and colors the base form – again and again if necessary, to experience the dynamics. This can be on little blackboards, or throw-away paper. Some, however can find ways to elaborate on the core 5-sided shape, extending int into a mosaic – a mandala even!
On this initiative question; after they get the general idea, children (according to talent) should be encouraged to create their own designs – on geometric canons of course.
At last we come to the Squares, the quintessential ‘thought’ forms. Here discussion will range around where the square is found in nature, and in the wrought work of Man, examples might be: chessboard (a good drawing exercise); toy blocks; the Red Cross; buildings; and crystals!
A salutary design exercise is to make a small half-hexagon template (this short cut will be self-evident in a moment) and see how many ‘table surfaces’ one can invent. One of the most innovative of geometry teachers, my sadly-departed colleague, Rainer Fieck, designed and made a set of light and lovely half-hexagon kindergarten tables, In spite of continual re-arrangement, the kindy teacher never exhausted the form variables in this remarkable but simple design.
And neither will the children as they trace dozens of patterns off their templates, both elementary and complex. This, and other like exercises, brings a living, practical element to the lesson.
This gold thread of practicality through the tapestry of the Freehand Geometric Drawing lesson extends the child’s form consciousness from head-in-understanding, to heart-in-loving, to hand-in-manifesting. And rightly so, the hands are indeed the organs of the ego – and of geo. Rainer had highly intelligent hands.