An Almost Imperceptible Manipulation and Indoctrination

The following is the unabridged translation of Grégoire Perra’s excellent and highly revealing article, “Une emprise et un endoctrinement presque indétectables”, with his kind permission. You are free to link to this page but please credit us and link to this site when publishing extracts elsewhere.

“Merci pour ce beau travail ! c'est une belle traduction, très fidèle et élégante !”

(thank you for this beautiful work! It’s a beautiful translation, very accurate and elegant!)

Grégoire Perra


We meet at a small table in a parisian cafe. I’m as surprised at his appearance, changed by the years, as he is by mine. It’s nearly 20 years since we’ve seen one another. We spend a few minutes exchanging details of our domestic and professional lives, then there seems to be a lull in the conversation. A kind of embarrassment seems to suddenly slip in, which my companion finally finds the courage to overcome:

“You know Grégoire, I recently read your piece on the UNADFI site.  It made me think a lot... but I’ll tell you straight out, I don’t feel that I was indoctrinated during my schooling a Verrières-le-Buisson. In fact, I mostly have incredible memories of our teachers. Amazing people! Do you remember Mr so and so? And Mrs so and so? They were extraordinary. On the other hand, for the Federation to sue you, it’s vile of them. They’ve got the right to disagree with what you’ve written, sure, but it’s not ok to try to prevent its publication.”

I look at my old friend for a long moment without speaking. His sincerity unnerves me, and I have no idea how to respond. He’s obviously read my article, and recognised the truth of all the elements I describe and the authenticity of my approach, but he seems incapable of acknowledging the indoctrination which is at the heart of that article. Isn’t it obvious from the facts as presented? How to explain such blindness, in someone whom I’ve known to be both intelligent and wise for many years? Eventually I decide to reply:

“You know, indoctrination isn’t the same thing as brainwashing.  Indoctrination has two distinct elements; implanting a doctrine and emotional manipulation. Let’s start with manipulation. Do you remember the way our teacher shook our hand for a long time every morning, looking us straight in the eye, just before we went into class, one by one? Do you also remember, on your first class outing, in class 3, that he went to each pupil in turn in their beds to do that odd little ritual of the “comforting cuddle”, to help us over our fears of sleeping without our family for the first time? Do you remember how, on every class trip, he always slept with us, in the same room?”

“Yes that’s true, when I think about it now, that is a bit weird!” he interrupts, “we were always intrigued by how his Adam’s Apple moved as he snored, and we stayed awake to watch him.”, he adds, laughing. “But that was 30 years ago, before all the stories of pedophilia wasn’t it?  They don’t do that anymore in Steiner Waldorf schools, do they?”

“To my knowledge, and according to the testimonies that I’ve gathered, yes”, I reply. “On school trips, some teachers move in to the pupils’ room. Not right next to them, at a small distance, but sometimes among them. But on the other hand, you’re right, the ‘evening cuddle’ is no longer done except by women, for safety reasons, after certain troubling stories that emerged over a fair few years...  That said, between ourselves, that’s not really advisable either. Women can obviously also be pedophiles. But in my view, this doesn’t address the real problem which is hidden behind this arrangement. But really, don’t you find these types of very intimate behaviours, (like pulling children into their arms right in their beds!) to be a more natural family behaviour than with professional people?”

“It’s true that such closeness is more like a mother or father’s behaviour than a teacher’s”, he replies. “Maternal and paternal affection, should be provided by the family, not teachers! Otherwise everything will end up in a muddle. It’s dangerous to try and take the place of the family. But apart from that one there are no other practices like that are there?”

“Don’t you remember, you who went right through the Kindy, how the Kindy teachers used to sit you on their knees? Don’t you remember, later on in the younger classes, the frequent affectionate gestures of our teachers? How they would take us in their arms, sit next to us in class, always putting their arms round our necks to help us write or draw?”

“But we’re not talking about something systematic or organised?” he retorts, “These were just spontaneous gestures of teachers touched by their young pupils.”

“I don’t think so,” I tell him, “When I did my training at l'Institut Rudolf Steiner de Chatou, the trainee Kindy teachers told us that they were often told to be very maternal with the children, to initiate cuddles, to take the children onto their knees etc., Those are pedagogical indications, not spontaneous gestures. It was ceaselessly drummed into them that the Kindy teacher should be ‘like a mother’ for the children in her care. In her passionate work called “psychological bullying” (“le harcèlement moral”), Marie-France Hirigoyen explains that this kind of developed manipulation is like some sort of hypnosis used to put the future victim to sleep. 80% of it takes place in non-verbal communication like gestures, looks, etc., which slowly control people. In the public school you’ve put your own son in, are the teachers allowed such spontaneous gestures?”

“No” he admits, “I would find it pretty suspect if my son came home one evening telling me that a teacher had taken him into his arms or sat him on his knee.”

“So why then, are methods like this still being taught in Steiner Waldorf pedagogical training, knowing of all the associated risks?”

“I can see that this blurring of roles might be dangerous”, he eventually says “and now that you mention it, that reminds me that our class teacher used to go and eat with each family at least once a month. It was supposedly in order to become better acquainted with the family environment of each student but it was still annoying. Initially I experienced it as an intrusion into our intimacy. Then I got used to it. Before long, he had become a bit like an uncle we saw a lot of.”

“He wasn’t the only one behaving in this way. It’s a pedagogical practice of these schools. And as you pointed out, one that creates a profound confusion between what belongs in the family sphere and what belongs in the professional domain. It is a very serious matter to try and become a substitute for someone’s parents. A role like that has to be taken on for life, otherwise it’s a sham.”

“I see what you’re trying to say”, he tells me, “on the other hand, I don’t remember any such behaviour or similar rituals after Class 8.”

“You’re right”, I agree, “in the older classes it’s different. With some teachers it was not so much a question of being like parents any longer, but more like mates. Or maybe a bit of both. It’s pretty serious not to see a problem in taking home a group of students during school hours to give them tea at home. Or again, helping a pupil with their enrolments by driving him around all the facilities in the teacher’s own car.  Or hiring them as baby-sitters and cleaners.  All that can only end up producing a break down of institutional and psychic boundaries leading to unfortunate excesses of the sort I denounce in my piece on UNADFI. Of course this type of activity is not the norm in Steiner Waldorf schools. But the blurring of boundaries appears voluntary and makes it seem acceptable in everyone’s eyes. A person creates their values from the actions and behaviour they perceive in the people around them. If promiscuity is the norm around someone, they won’t see anything wrong with it.  The course on ‘Human Nature’ given in the pedagogical training of Steiner Waldorf teachers would do better to take such basic facts of life on board, rather than training their spirits in incomprehensible metaphysical abstractions, on prenatal essence of thought, or post-mortem of the will.”

“I understand better what you’re trying to say”, he replies, “but following your logic, why do they do that? Why don’t they just decide to change these ways of doing things, since these schools have existed now for more than 90 years? They must know that it inevitably creates serious problems.”

“You want my opinion?” I answer, “simply because this breaking of boundaries and the confusion between the family and learning spaces is the absolutely most effective way of achieving emotional manipulation. At the beginning of our conversation, you spoke of the admiration you still feel for Mr or Mrs whoever. And in doing so, you frankly surprised me! If you think about it a bit more seriously, what did those teachers really have that was so special?  What do you find in them that’s so exceptional?  One can certainly appreciate qualities or deplore faults in our old teachers. Some were very competent, others less so. Some had interesting personalities, others were basically bland. But to go from there to thinking they’re amazing people! Don’t you think there’s a bit of a problem there?  How can it come about that still today, more than thirty years later, you still believe in the extraordinary nature of your old teachers?  I’m not denying that we may have had a few teachers who really had wonderful qualities, but to go from that to venerating them until we die? Tell me, about Mr whoever, one single quality which would make you say that here was a truly exceptional being?”

“It doesn’t matter how hard I think, I can’t see any”, he admits honestly.

“They say that in the first Steiner Waldorf school in Stuttgart, Rudolf Steiner would get the students together and simply ask “Dear children, do you love your teachers?”, waiting for the big collective “yes” that never failed to come. And, don’t you see, that’s where the mistake is. As students, we don’t have to love our teachers! Nobody should feel they have the right to ask such an intimate question to children. Of course we should respect our teachers, but wether we love them or not, that’s our business! That question of Rudolf Steiner’s was indecent. Put to a group of pupils, it could even be described as suspect. You really get the impression that he saw himself as the Apostle John speaking each sunday to the community of Ephesus, “Little children, love one another”. In public schools, the teachers are what they are, but they don’t make such a profound impact on their pupils’ personalities and on their way of seeing themselves as they do in Steiner Waldorf schools. And that’s what allows those pupils to become themselves, because nobody has left an indelible psychic imprint on them. There is absolutely no need for an extraordinary person to arrive and “mark” us in order for us to become ourselves, in fact, the opposite. What is genuinely ourselves is already there. Better to leave it alone to grow than to cast shadows over it like that. Giving structure, putting limits on emotional ties, that’s the best way to guarantee the freedom of an individual,, and the unfolding of their true personality. Their own, not somebody else’s. Otherwise we’re talking about psychic manipulation.” 

“I understand what you’re describing,” he replies. “But I still can’t follow you where you’re going. Something inside me is pulling me back. Each time I think back to my old school, I am overwhelmed by strange feelings. It’s like a sadness. Or nostalgia. I feel like I’ve suffered an irreparable loss. Sometimes this feeling is so strong, I’m brought to tears!”

And he is, then, truly close to tears. I wait a long time before adding anything else. I know that we’ve just touched on one of the most profound elements of the problem and that I must give him time to delve inside his feelings, so that he can move beyond them and recognise what’s hiding behind them:

“Mental control is a form of seduction whereby a seducer can make the human ego believe that he can only exist by the recognition granted to them. In their eyes, this person then seems extraordinary. He will also believe that he would stumble into nothingness without them. The seducer can create this mental state by suppressing the barriers between their subjectivities, but also by giving the victim the impression that only they can recognise them as a unique individual. Do you remember the poems our professor used to write in the early years?”

“Yes,” he answers. “Each pupil had their own. It was an objective poetic description of our deepest personality. One year, one of our friends received such a rewarding one that he recited it to us for the next ten years. He was so bowled over by it, it was as if he became drunk.”

“It’s extremely validating when someone takes the time to write a poem about you,” I reply. “Who writes poems like that apart from anguished lovers? That explains the diffuse feeling that old students of these school often talk about. It really does create the feeling that they are understood in a way that no one else will ever be able to understand them. Something inside them preserves this nostalgic memory from a time where their very soul, was seen as it really is, in all its vulnerability, by their teachers. In principle, when such an unveiling of one’s innermost being happens - which is something rather rare - it does create lasting bonds. When one has seen the essence of someone, it engenders an enduring trust. That’s why some pupils have a rude awakening when they realise that their teachers didn’t really see that much of who they really are and were more concerned with giving the impression that they had rather than actually doing so. This can lead to serious disillusionment within these children! Once some pupils finally realise that their Steiner-Waldorf teachers didn’t truly care about what they might become, and weren’t even really concerned about who they really were, then they begin to realise that what they experienced wasn’t real. This can be very painful, which some of testimonies I’ve gathered confirm. However, they’ve actually been luckier, to realise the terrible deception they were subject to, than the other pupils who will never grasp what happened to them and will continue to suffer from the psychic manipulation deriving from it.”

He drops his gaze and stares into the coffee in his cup which has now gone cold. When he raises his eyes again, he says:

“I didn’t know as much about it as you, as I didn’t have much reason to get involved, but I have the impression that anthroposophists are not that keen on all the affection, feeling and impulsive stuff, is that right? Psychoanalysis isn’t thought much of in their communities.” 

“In reality they are far from clear on the question of unconscious impulses. During my training at the Institut Rudolf Steiner de Chatou one of our lecturers shocked us by constantly using sexual imagery when speaking of the methods for teaching children. He spoke, for example, of ‘fertilising’ their spirits, of ‘knowing’ in the biblical sense, of ‘entering’ etc., His speech was so charged with those kinds of  metaphors that it became obscene. For a long time I thought they were the personal projections of his own disturbed mind, but then I realised that Rudolf Steiner himself, in his writing, (in particular in a series of conferences from Holland in 1924) continually drew parallels between sexuality and consciousness. To recap his theory, the act of knowing and the sexual act, according to him, arose from the same original energy. But you do realise that this means that for Steiner, teaching and making love, was sort of the same thing?”

“No wonder your teacher spoke as he did”, he interjects. “I think I’m beginning to see what you mean when you refer to emotional manipulation. Ok, let’s admit it. But in your article, you talk of the transmission of anthroposophy to pupils. Personally, I did not become an anthroposophist and I don’t know much about the teachings of Steiner.”

“Who does?” I counter, “maybe not even Seiner himself. It’s so vast, and complex. If even the anthroposophists can’t fully embrace the whole of such an esoteric doctrine, it’s a sure thing that an adolescent student won’t be able to. Instead I say that there are a certain number of anthroposophical ideas to which they made us susceptible. Our minds were made permeable to certain ideas, or to certain references in a way that would bring them back later.” 

“Which ones?” he demands.

“There are lots of them across many subjects”, I try to clarify. “There’s no need to talk about the “lesson” in Perceval, or the one in Faust, because those are really obvious.”

“Yes,” he admits. “I did read what you wrote about on this subject in your article and I can only agree with you. These were covert anthropological courses which were liberal interpretations of these works. But what about the other subjects, how did it affect them?”

“The practice is more diffuse, but nevertheless just as pervasive,” I answer. “for example in the sciences, we are taught subliminally that there aren’t any motor nerves but only sensory nerves, that the heart isn’t a pump, that the evolution of the species can be put in context with the signs of the Zodiac, that space isn’t infinite, etc.,”

“I admit that the science courses never interested me much”, he says. “About that last one, the non-infinite cosmos, you’re referring to which lesson? Astronomy?”

“No, Projective Geometry, taught in class 12.”

“I remember”, he tells me, “we spent hours trying to show how a point, made by the intersection of two lines, would be both right and left when the lines became parallel.  As if the point, going infinitely to the right, came back from infinity to the left. I never understood why we spent so much time doing that. Its true that the teacher finished this exercise by telling us that he could reveal a totally other conception of space/time, different from traditional representations.”

“It’s what I call ‘pre-formatting’”, I tell him. “And if you read ‘Le monde éthérique’ (The Ethereal World), published by Editions Triades, you’ll learn that, for Steiner, the cosmic space of stars doesn’t belong to our own space-time.”

“Have you got another example”, he asked me. “I don’t fully understand what you’re saying.”

“If you like”, I say, “Do you remember when we had to do the lesson  on animals in Class 4?”

“Not really.”

“Of course not”, I say, “Who really remembers the substance of just one course you took during your schooling, except maybe for some highlights at high school? That’s what makes it hard to identify these methods. It’s a bit easier for me. Not only because I have a very good memory but also because, as a teacher, I’m constantly prompted to remember courses I took in order to understand my pupils. And so, during my training at l'Institut Rudolf Steiner de Chatou, some memories were reactivated. The shape of the courses they gave us were in effect exactly the same as the courses that I had taken when I was a pupil at Verrières-le-Buisson.  Yes, exactly the same. As if the teaching had not evolved in 40 years. Moreover, when you read “Méthode et pratique de l’éducation”, (Methodology and Practice of Education) you see that certain lessons, like the first lesson of Class 1, is basically laid out minute by minute.

“And so, about those animal lessons in Class 4?”

“Sorry, I lost my thread,” I reply “our teacher had started, at the beginning of the lesson, by showing us three animals, the lion, the cow and the eagle.”

“Yes, I remember,” he agrees. “He described at length the habits of each one. Then he drew them on the board. He drew very well in fact.”

“That’s true”, I admit. “Then you’ll remember that he spoke to us of the three most important parts of man, the head, the trunk and the limbs. After that, he drew them on another part of the board. Then one morning he asked the whole class “If you had to put each of these animals together with one part of a man, which would go together best? To start off with, we had a bit of trouble understanding the question. Then the whole class set about finding out. We had many ideas. Each one brought a different argument.  One wanted to put the head together with the lion because of the mane. Another the eagle with the trunk, because of his big wings being like arms, etc., but each time our teacher signalled that the answer did not satisfy him completely. Until someone came up with the idea of putting the eagle with the head, the lion with the stomach and the cow with the limbs.”

“So what?” he questions me, “It’s a possible matching. I can’t see what harm there is in doing that?”

“But are you aware that it’s an example of a typically anthroposophical idea?” I reply to him. “Rudolf Steiner made exactly that correspondence between each of the parts of the human body and those animals. You can read it in his book edited in Editions Triades: “Man and his relations with animals and the elemental spirits”.  And if you are ever interested to look into anthroposophy in a deeper way, you will learn in “The self, it’s spiritual origin, it’s evolution”, that according to Steiner, there were four human races long ago, the lion people, the bull people, the eagle people and eventually the human race as we now know it. In other conferences, he also put these four archetypes with the four apostles, the lion with St Mark, the eagle with St John, the bull with St Luke and the man with St Matthew.”

“Oh yes, that, that’s anthroposophy!” he says.

“That’s exactly what I’m telling you”, I add, “they are cautious, they’re not going to teach those sort of complex doctrines directly to the children. But they are going to prepare them. They’re not going to bluntly say “The common conception of space and time is completely false, that’s just how anthroposophists see things and  projective geometry is is the key to it!” They are not going to say, “Darwin’s theory of evolution is wrong. It’s actually the monkey that is descended from man and not the other way around”. But they will imply that the actual theories are maybe not as certain as they seem. Then they’ll propose, as a hypothesis, a theory that’s closer to anthroposophical beliefs. They’re not going to teach anthroposophy directly to pupils, But they have made its reception easier in those pupils in a large number of subjects.” Sometimes, they will use multiple disciplines to reinforce the ideas. For example, once the Biology teacher has sown doubt about the theory of Darwinian evolution, the Arts teacher will then lead the children in an exercise modelling a primate shape out of a human silhouette. He’ll reinforce the idea by saying that the shape of the monkey’s body resembles that of a hunched human, curled up by the pressures of gravity. He’ll therefore make the children receptive to one of Steiner’s ideas that monkeys descended from man, and not the other way around. This theory is developed to the smallest detail in a book of one of Rudolf Steiner’s followers, Jos Verhulst, called “L’Homme, premier-né de l’Évolution” (Man, Evolution’s First Born) (Ed. Triades).”

“Have you got another example?”, he asks.

“Yes. Do you remember when you brought up the question of human races?”

“In Class 5?”

“I think so”, I say, “our teacher had started off talking a lot about the four human races, the Native Americans, the Europeans, the Asians and the Africans. Then he drew an expressive face for each of them. Then he left that to the side, to examine the question of the four ages in the life of a man, childhood, adolescence, adulthood, and old age. On a clean part of the board, he also drew a diagram of the four stages of existence. One day he asked a question to the whole class: “If you had to establish a connection between the four human races and the four stages of life, what would it be?” Again, the whole class started thinking. Some suggested certain links, others tried to look at it another way. It was very competitive. It was all about who could be the first to find the right correspondence. In the end we came to the conclusion, as if by chance, that the best way of aligning these eight elements was to put the African with childhood, the Asian with adolescence, the European with adulthood and the Native American with old age.”

“But that’s racist’, he exclaims, “or it certainly seems so.”

“That’s exactly what the Pays-Bas inspectors said, when they found the following homework, dictated by their class teacher in the exercise books of students. “Explain why the African has thick lips and remains in a childish state”. Everything becomes clear when you know that anthroposophy characterises each of the races like this, stating that black people live a more or less impulsive life as they think with their back brains, that Asians live a feeling life, because they think with their mid-brain, and Aryans a life of thought, because they, more than all others, use their central cortex.”

“Well weren’t we the lucky ones!”, he remarks ironically “So we were somehow conditioned to see each race through anthroposophical concepts?  And they’ve also implanted an image of the mental superiority of the Aryan race, without us even realising it?”, he says, deflated.

“Not exactly”, I tell him. “They prepared us to receive it later. That’s what makes it so hard to identify. At no time did our teacher ever explicitly express such a doctrine himself. He gave us the impression of discovering it ourselves. By making the whole class search, but guiding the collective work toward the conclusions that he had in mind, he gave us the impression that they came from us.  If I was referring to Plato, I would say that he implanted in us false memories.”

“False memories?!”

“Yes, I’m talking about ideas which were implanted in us in our childhood and which can resurface later if they are reactivated in the appropriate manner.”

“A bit like the movie “Inception”?”, he asks, teasingly.

“If you like,” I answer. “When you read “La nature humaine” (Human Nature), you perceive that Rudolf Steiner was very knowledgeable about the process by which an initially conscious idea can fall progressively into the unconscious. Or how an unconscious idea can resurface and become conscious again. There are two very detailed diagrams on pages 120 and123 of that work. That’s where he was a genius. But that’s also the basis of the mental manipulation that’s practiced in these schools. It uses the knowledge of the process between thought, feeling and will to make the students susceptible to certain ideas. That’s what I call false memories. Plato argued that the soul indeed had reminiscences, that is to say moments when it relived memories of eternal truths it had known before a person was born. Actually, it was not so much a theory as a mystical allegory about the process of knowledge. According to Plato, anything we truly grasp feels as if it’s coming from inside us! Anyone who really understands something by thinking about it by themselves has the impression that the idea comes from the depths of his being, and not from outside. Anthroposophic educationalists mimic this process, very similar to the act of implanting unconscious anthroposophical knowledge in students which may rise back into to consciousness later. Anthroposophists who were also former students sometimes feel, when they read Steiner's ideas, that they have been inside them forever. Serge Prokofieff described this process in one of his works. They seem like reminiscences in the platonic sense of the term. In reality, these ideas were put into them at a precise moment in their lives to be reactivated later. Effectively, those who continue to frequent anthroposophical environments, or those who revisit their old school even just for a fair, will end up, in one moment or another, falling on the ideas of Steiner.”

“For example, while passing in front of the anthroposophical library at the Christmas Fair?” he asks.

“Or by other means”, I reply. “The anthroposophical environment is huge and has numerous layers. Former Steiner-Waldorf students have within them a number of dormant ideas which are all anthroposophical premises. Sometimes they will remain there for their whole lives, and other times, circumstances, or that person’s own nature, will allow them to reawaken. In that case, they’ll pass from voluntary intuitive forms to conscious thoughts. In other words, those intuitions will become representations. It doesn’t work all the time of course. Luckily, within each one of us there are also forces of resistance to this kind of manipulation. They are unconscious, but can mount a powerful opposition. Ask yourself, for example, why you have not put your son into a Steiner Waldorf school, in spite of all the love that you expressed earlier for your old school.  Deep down, you know very well that it’s not just a question of money, don’t you?”

“Maybe” he says pensively. “I’ve often thought of putting him in there, but in the end something stopped me and I didn’t do it.  And then my wife wasn’t too keen either. But following your argument, why did Steiner put such a system in place? Why this manipulation of spirits towards anthroposophy?”

“Very simply because, in his conception of things, a man cannot accomplish his human destiny with materialistic ideas,” I reply. “A man isn’t human if he doesn’t know the divine. He said it elsewhere clearly at the beginning of Theosophy.  And I quote: “One cannot be a man in the full sense of the word if one hasn’t, one way of another, approached the entity and the destiny of man which is revealed by the knowledge of what is beyond one’s senses” (Ed. Novalis, page 27). Or, put another way “nobody can really be human without possessing certain anthroposophical truths!” He also said in his advice to teachers at his first school, in Stuttgart: “To not recognise God is a sickness.” (page 124).

“And if they’re right?” he asks me, fixing me with an intent stare.

“I don’t think so”, I say. “For my money, thinking freely is more important to your humanity than what ideas you have.  It’s better to go and think erroneously for yourself than to have ‘truths’ put into your head by someone else. How can one state that an atheist is sick?! What lack of respect for the individual’s freedom of thought! What matters more than anything else is being sincere with oneself. And to think! That is the true dignity of an individual. And this is what the Steiner Waldorf pedagogy, replaces with practices of its own!”

“What you say makes sense for adults,” he replies. “But for children? Isn’t it better for them to have some thoughts that are more spiritual? Since children don’t really choose the type of world they belong to, but take on the one they’re given, where’s the harm in instilling in them an anthroposophical view of existence?”

“The harm consists of not giving those children the tools to consciously grasp later on how relative those ideas are,” I answer, “and to act in this way is a violation of their consciousness. To condition their minds to eagerly welcome such particular views of the world is an attack on their free will. It destroys their future ability to think as adults. Furthermore, they’re unconsciously placed in opposition to the ideas and values of the rest of society. And then we cheat to circumvent the demands of the National Curriculum, while simultaneously accepting their grants.”

“Can Steiner-Waldorf teachers really be guilty of such practices?” he asks.

“The reason why they are just are responsible for this system as the founder of the pedagogy, is their systematic desire to hide problems each and every time they pop up,” I answer. “They know that their schools are in opposition to many of the rules and essential values of our society. But instead of dealing with the contradictions honestly, they choose not only to conceal them as much as they can, but not even to think about them. They’re like thieves who no longer ponder on the legitimacy of theft. If a society has rules, good or bad, it’s because human beings needs points of reference. Whatever one is for or against, it’s in relation to those  reference points. If we go against them, our conscience won’t be clear! But in order for anthroposophical pedagogues to be able to live in a society whose rules and values they so often break, they have to obliterate their own thinking. And this has been going on for the last 90 years! Of course once they become more aware of this problem, their responsibility for it increases which in turn leads to more voluntary concealment. That’s why a member of the Federation of Steiner-Waldorf Schools actually has a much greater responsibility than an ordinary teacher, just striving to do their best, wherever they find themselves. Indeed, the means at the Waldorf teacher’s disposal to realise the extent of the problem are much greater than for the latter. And in the end, they are all responsible. Because they all, at one point or another of their lives, chose to look the other way. Otherwise, they would have left, or at the very least distanced themselves. Sometimes, some think and even say things. But they then decide to keep quiet, for the good of the community. This is what characterises a sectarian drift: the inability for an individual to position himself squarely within his own soul and conscience!  Some are aware that continuously cheating with the rules of the society you live in, to hide who you really are, isn’t the answer. Even within the Federation, you can find a few who think like this. All one has to do is read the sub-text of their “research-action”, published a few years ago, to find a muffled cry, a desperate call for a change in thinking, aimed at the French anthroposophical pedagogues, to try to avoid the catastrophe already in the making. But rather than take on board conclusions which would have led to them losing their jobs, these executives decided to take me to court for my testimony once the catastrophe befell them... But one day, whether in this world or in some other one, won’t they have to look themselves in the mirror?”

I pause a moment before adding:

“There is also a serious problem with regarding an institution as sacred or deifying it. For Steiner, the school and the pedagogy he founded are the direct emanations of the spiritual world, true incarnations of the anthroposophical celestial being, a pure gift from the gods. In his work called “Pour approfondir la pedagogie Waldorf” (To Deepen Waldorf Pedagogy), he thanks “the caring spirits who inspired our friend Mr. Molt, with the generous thought of founding the Waldorf School” (page 48). In other words, for him, the foundation of this pedagogy is the result of divine action. Anthroposophical pedagogues see it the same way. For them, Steiner is the prophet of a pedagogical revelation! Their scholarly institutions are the realisation of the divine presence on Earth. But, the moment they have to choose between the children and the school’s reputation, or its survival, won’t there be a temptation to sacrifice the children for the benefit of the institution they perceive as sacred? Won’t they take the deliberate risk of putting children in harm’s way in order not to damage the school, if such a choice presents itself?”

“This is giving me shivers!” he says. “Talking with you, makes it clear how organised and deeply pernicious this system is. It feels as if any beings who approach these people and this pedagogy will suffer some sort of profound moral corruption. I’m not sure I want to live with the idea that I spent my school years in the midst of such a phenomenon. I think I’d rather concentrate on the good memories that I have of that school and leave the rest aside. As for you however, I know you won’t be doing that. Do you remember that in Class 10, our French teacher called you the “Class Thinker”? You haven’t changed much as far as I can see!”

“Neither have you”, I replied, both saddened and amused.

I briefly ponder on that competent, honest and well motivated, French teacher, who, by her desire to offer her students real courses, and to pass on her love of literature, had imparted to me such a taste for words and reflections. For the first four years at Verrières-le-Buisson, I’d had the feeling that I was sleeping intellectually. Her classes were a kind of powerful wake-up call to the man I was to become. But then I realise that despite her sincerity and her openness to the world of today - a very rare quality in the anthroposophical pedagogues I’ve encountered - it will be impossible for her to see my writings as anything but a terrible treason. Despite the constant difficulties she must have endured to remain herself within this environment, and to make her own choices in life, a battle in which her health failed her, it is very unlikely that she now retains enough lucidity to even consider the authenticity of my testimony. For her, anthroposophy was a kind of religious revelation when she was 16, an “encounter” as the anthroposophists say, to avoid speaking of conversions, so how could it be possible for her to question what has been the guiding light of her whole existence and the commitment of a lifetime?


Translated by Angel Garden and Steve Paris.

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1861-2011 : 150 years of Rudolf Steiner

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