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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…
FIRE OF THE WILL
LIGHT OF THE HEART
RAINBOW OF THE MIND
Art History – Class 8
Paleolithic to Greece
Art history was the first lesson I ever taught – I had hung around Australia’s first Steiner School, Glenaeon, like a stray cat. Until one day they generously allowed me in to replace the departed-san-notice art teacher for their beginning high school. this was in 1967, and for the whole year I taught part-time for so salary, regarding it as valuable on-the-job training. During the day I continued as Studio Manager of a city commercial art studio – a flimsy qualification for academia!
This entry into teaching was relatively smooth due to the agreeable nature of the subject; the healthy soul loves art in general, and art history in particular – and the students in the junior high school at Glenaeon were – on the whole – soul-healthy.
Alas the program was contaminated by being subject to the School Certificate; and later, as the school grew up to Class 12, to the Matriculation. I continued in this happy teaching role for the next 6 years. Then into a long pralaya of some 9 years, before I had the privilege of designing a non-exam – hence genuine Steiner! – Art History curriculum for the second Steiner School in Australia, Lorien Novalis, of which I was principal founder and pioneer high school class guardian.
The new Art History course was programmed as a middle or ‘heart’ lesson, taught of 1 ½ hours each day for 3 weeks – a total of 23 hours per years for 5 years (115 hours of Art History – yea!). All this in the rich context of a universal curriculum!
The division of periods was – and this is flexible according to the perception of the teacher – Paleolithic to Greece Class 8 – Rome to Renaissance Class 9 – Baroque to Impressionism Class 10 – Contemporary World Art Class 11 – Australian Art Class 12. Being a middle lesson, the content should appeal firstly to the feeling of the students – and high art can certainly evoke some lofty – and other! – feelings!
This is not to say that an understanding – a conceptual grasp – of the periods and specific works of art history should not be striven for, but it is not the central focus. There is even opportunity for will activity in the form of small sculptures, drawings, paintings, and so on. How about a quick painterly rendition – using only ochres or earth colors, of one of the Stone Age marvel from the caves of Altimira or Lasceau? They love it! Or a small Neolithic, in this unit context, of a Venus figurine in clay?
The middle lessons devolve into 4 streams: appealing to ego, astral, etheric and physical bodies respectively. These are Professional; Cultural; Service; and Industrial. As stated, art history is part of the cultural-astral stream, calling on the forces of the soul, or image life.
The cultural further devolves into 3 strands; Visual Arts-Will; Performing Arts-Feeling; and Literary Arts-thinking. Rudolf Steiner described an education in the visual arts in general, and painting in particular, as ‘a training of the will’. So, art history is a middle-feeling, cultural-astral, art history-will lesson!
How wholesome your author found the unit, or 3-week block teaching method employed in Lorien Novalis, to be, compared with the fragmenting ‘period’ teaching of his earlier teaching. This holistic theme system is one of the most inspired innovations The Doctor brought to education. Alas he could only implement it in the morning main lessons. This was due to government demands on may subject being taught each week, such as religion and foreign languages.
Class 8 students, in their introduction to a formal art history course, can benefit greatly from it; not just in the furtherance of knowledge, but in the combating of sin!
What can this mean? With the 14th year, the emancipation of the astral (’soul’, sentient’) body begins; this is accompanied by an attack of sin, or ‘temptation’ as the Lord’s Prayer refers to it. This is not to be thought of as evil, which is an ego – wholly conscious – activity.
Sin is rather all our shortcomings, errors, misdemeanors and so forth. The ‘woman taken in adultery’ was told by Christ to ‘sin no more’ – she never did commit evil. So sin assails the teenager, through the errors of the emerging astral body; this psychic organ has a choice to descent into salaciousness, or e elevated through art – hance the therapeutic value of a continuous, intelligent art history course.
This is especially beneficial to 14-year-olds, as in the Educational Zodiac they are in their Aquarius year – they are all ‘water bearers’. Aquarius has ascribed to it by Rudolf Steiner the ‘quality’ – man in a state of balance.
Aquarius ‘balance’? Imbalance is the enemy of pubescents, their hormones being in a state of war as they are. Water – ‘aqua’ as in Aquarius – is the astral element, both being created on the Old Moon. In cabbalistic lore, that individuality (Hebrew wisdom sees all occult phenomena in terms of individuals, or egos) which represents Aquarius is Noah. He is the quintessential astral initiate, delivering his animal (astral) cargo – from sin – across the stormy, astral waters.
The Ark is of course the physical body, into which the astral is bonded; it is the vehicle for the Noah-astral force. This is so with adolescents, whose now-independent astral bodies are so obviously bonding with their strapping – or pulchritudinous! – physical bodies.
So, the teacher calls especially on the students’ Aquaria-Noah natures when teaching Art history, lifting the astral impulses into the prismatic realms of sacred form and image. Ideally we teach only 3 aspects of Art History, those are the 3 pure Visual Arts, painting, sculpture, and drawing. These enhance and inform the students’ will, feeling, and thinking respectively. Painting ignites the fire of the will; sculpture irradiates the light of the heart; and drawing manifests the rainbow of the mind. Now that’s balance!
An exam Art History course usually includes architecture, craft, and other visual ‘art’ expressions, but these are dealt with separately in the non-exam Steiner syllabus. So, what of the structure of this 3-week Paleolithic to Greece unit? Well with its 15 days, we might have one day for introduction, where ewe present an overview of the content the class will explore; then there’s a day for an excursion (mandatory I’d say for a lesson of this nature); and one day for a test at the end.
With the rejection of external exams, there must be some kind of recorded, tangible statement of achievement. This is included in the Report written by the teacher at the conclusion of the unit – and every unit right through the 5 years of high school. This Report contains a precis of the lesson; a positivestatement of the students’ conduct, product, photos, poems, etc. – and the test result! This package is an incentive to cooperation, as well as a valuable record of content and achievement to be kept for life.
That leaves 12 days, these might include:
- Indigenous Art – African, American, Oceanic – Australian is left till the Class 12 Australian Art unit. Much ‘native’ art mirrors a more simple – often savage – soul life, being obsessed with fertility and fear as it is. Statues from Central Africa and the Sepik River area of New Guinea often have black magic themes, so warning! Although it is recommended to deck out the classroom with all kinds of atmosphere-enhancers, like art books, posters, artifacts, reproductions and the like, do not display objects or pictures created in this evil idiom; there are instances where tragedy has occurred by this ill-advised practice – display only art created with positive intent. Beauty is a good guide to goodness.
- Paleolithic to Neolithic – even though these art forms are usually far older than indigenous art, they are purer in form. Again fertility is foremost, but the beginning of a civilizing – an incipient urbanity – can be seen; especially in the elegant stylization of much of their art, particularly in the so-called Bronze Age.
- Egypt – virtually all students fall in love with Egyptian art, more so when accompanied with stories and anecdotes. One such was when the mummy of Rameses II was being transported down the Nile from the Valley of the Kings to its final resting place in the Cairo Museum. Peasants all along the shore – quite spontaneously! – fell down in grief as their 4000-year-old pharaoh passed by. And they were Muslims! Speculations on why this happened can make an interesting lesson segment indeed!
Much of Egyptian symbolism reflects Rudolf Steiner’s nomination of Egypt as the Age of Astrology; that is with the exception of that interloping family, the 18th Dynasty under the rulership of Akhen-Aton – Aton is the Sun rather than the fixed stars. Amen, as in Tut-Ankh-Amen, is of the Zodiac. Even the facial features of this infamous immigrant family, the Atons, beautifully expressed by Nefertiti, show their non-Semitic origins.
- The Middle East, including Sumeria, Assyria, Chaldea, Babylon, and Persia. These peoples, like the ‘3 Wise Men from the East’, who followed a ‘star’, were also ‘astrologers’. Their repeated use of bull imagery reflects this, as for much of this period the sun was rising in the vernal equinox of Taurus.
- The Aegean – what a lovely study area this is, exploring the majesty of Minoan, Cretan, and Etruscan art. (Yes I know, Etruria is not in the Aegean, but seems to fit nicely in here anyway).
- Indian Art – is even more hoary in occult terms, Ancient India was governed by the Moon (genital region); how we can now make sense of the sensuality and sexuality of much of the (albeit latter-day) temple decorations and paintings. This Kama Sutra mentality was an essential part of the Indian spiritual evolution.
- Chinese and Japanese – this too is very ancient and depicts much wisdom through the understanding of the weaving harmony of humanity and nature – as unlikely as this seems! A painting of a wooded hillside is actually improved with a well-placed pagoda!
A study of Chinese/Japanese art is a journey through the weaving wonders of Feng Shui. This is an occult-knowledge relic from Ancient Atlantis, but still retains vitality, as seen in so much of their silk landscape paintings and writhing dragons.
- Greek – what can one say? This most artistic of cultures deserves a whole 3 weeks of its own; but it does enter into many other areas of study throughout the child/student’s education – such as history and literature. Fortunately, one only really has to focus of Greek sculpture in the context of this Art History course, as virtually no drawing or painting has survived. (Don’t forget, architecture and craft, which includes pottery, is not studied here – but I can’t resist the temptation to show the class some of the superb black and red figure amphoras – after all, rules are meant to be broken1)
Rudolf Steiner descries the Greek (and Roman) civilization as one of Meteorology, meaning ‘of the planets’. This is not spirit-centered, as is ‘astrology’, the impulse of the earlier Egyptian civilization, but of the soul. The teacher will find a new, higher degree of psychic truth embodied in such marvelous marbles as the Winged Victory, Discus Thrower, and Venus de Milo. Each expresses through Greek genius some pure soul aspect as no other culture before – or probably after!
How lovely to end the lesson with the students forming a frieze – perhaps of the Elgin Marbles on – or fromat least – the Parthenon. Students can even depict individual statues; and if there extends to a small performance of some kind, they can be appropriately dressed (modesty prevailing) in the beautiful flowing raiment of Greece.
The turbulent, a-balanced astral bodies of 14-year-olds can hardly resist being dignified like this onto ta higher expressive plateau; it becomes an aesthetic marriage of the performing and visual arts. This alone could make the lesson memorable – for life – which is one of the hidden goals, as is balance, of the dedicated Steiner teacher.
And is there any other kind? Alas. However when I entered the classroom way back in 1967 to take my first lesson, I did have dedication – expertise no – but dedication. For this I largely have to thank my colleagues in Glenaeon who set the standards of dedication – of serving – for me and every other Steiner teacher to follow over the next 3 decades – thank you.