Steiner believed in reincarnation, that a child chooses his or her parents and that a child becomes progressively “incarnated” as he or she grows older. His ideas became formulated and promoted during his life and after his death, forming the belief system known as “Anthropophosy”. Its adherents often claim that it is not a religion (worship is not specifically a part of their practise and their view of how the world came to be is rather hazy) but rather an approach to life. “Anthroposophy fosters a spiritual view of the human being and his place in the cosmos, but it emphasizes knowing, not faith. It is a path in which the human heart and hand, and especially our capacity for thinking, are essential. Anthroposophy begins with the understanding that we have the capacity to know the spirit in matter - that is, we have the ability to develop organs of spiritual perception. It leads, in Steiner's words, "from the spirit in the human being to the spirit in the universe," because only if we first come to experience the spirit in ourselves can we know the cosmic spirit. By applying the wisdom gained through spiritual perception, we consciously contribute to the positive evolution of humankind and the universe. Humanity (anthropos) has the inherent wisdom (sophia) to transform both itself and the world.” (ASA) .
The Waldorf or Rudolf Steiner schools often claim that they do not teach Anthroposophy but that merely “ This is the background out of which the curriculum, method of presentation and the attitude of the teachers are formed “ Yet there is a recognition that the spiritual is immanent in good education. Anthroposophy provides the rational for all that is done in Steiner schools; it is the world view conveyed by all of the activities in which the children are engaged. “Evidence shows that when teachers have to face a class of children they feel at a loss and the question must pose itself as to why. Could it be that they have not been taught about the essential nature of man?” Steiner wonders. He sets out to teach educators about this essential nature as he sees it, the better to prepare them for understanding and educating children. He explains; “Before conception and birth, soul and spirit inhabit super-sensible realms. At death, they return. On descending to earth a soul- spiritual being unites, for its earthly existence, with three bodies or vehicles, known as the astral, etheric and physical..The astral is the vehicle of sensation and the etheric, the life force.. The physical form is prepared by the parents and in due course it is abandoned…”
Parents are a channel through which the child is reborn and need to be helped by the educator to see this and to support the work of the Steiner teacher.
“Soul and spirit descend into a physical body but they do not come naked from the spiritual world. They bring “karma” with them in accordance with past experiences from previous lives on earth. Karma can be defined as the sum of a person’s actions in one of his successive lives which influence his fate in the next. That is to say that the incarnating human being has gifts, desires, impulses, potentialities and he needs and wants to progress according to what he has brought with him…”
Waldorf education sees the human individual as developing in 7 year cycles. “For the first seven years.. The etheric, astral [dimensions] and ego are still intimately connected with the physical body.. At the age of seven, one could speak of a freeing of the etheric, At fourteen, the astral, at twenty-one, the ego… the child…[especially in the first seven year]s.. is best left in a gentle dream-like existence for as long as possible. P45” (Rudolf Steiner on Education)
The Steiner approach not only blurs the boundary between fantasy and reality but even questions whether there is such a division. “The child’s intelligence becomes invested in his imagined transformation of self and world. And these are singularly compelling. His awareness locks into fantasy; reality becomes that play. For the child, the time is always now; the place, here; the action, me. He has no capacity to entertain adult notions of fantasy world and real world. He knows only one world, and that is the very real one in which and with which he plays. His is not playing at life. Play is life. As Piaget expressed it: (For the child) play cannot be opposed to reality, because in both cases belief is arbitrary and pretty much destitute of logical reasons. Play is a reality which the child is disposed to believe in when by himself, just as reality is a game at which he is willing to play with the adult and anyone else who believes in it.... thus we have to say of the child’s play that it constitutes an autonomous reality, but with the understanding that the true reality to which it is opposed is considerably less true for the child than for us”.( “A look at Waldorf and Montessori” by Barbara Shell). Steiner teachers Christopher Clouder and Martin Rawson write “Often we can’t answer the question; “Is it right?”. We can however ask ;”Is it fruitful?”” (p22 “Waldorf Education”). “Man” says Steiner, “is the answer to the world riddle” (RSoE).