The Karmic Burden of Vaccination

As parents increasingly opt out of inoculating their children, childhood diseases like measles and whooping cough are making a determined comeback. Online and in the media, heated discussions occur as people express their views on the matter, and what to do about it. The situation is such that governments are now considering steps to stem this tide.

Steiner-Waldorf schools are often mentioned when this subject is raised due to them regularly being in the media when an outbreak occurs. But can these schools really influence a parent's decision about the welfare of their children? After all, inoculation programmes start well before an infant has ever attended a play group, so the decision to vaccinate or go against medical advice will have been made prior to a child being enrolled into any type of school. 

It’s not a stretch to assert however that being alternative, Steiner-Waldorf education would attract "alternative-thinking" people, more of whom have reservations about vaccinations than possibly the average person, as detailed in a study by Time Magazine.

Time's aim was to ascertain if there was a pattern to the number of unvaccinated children based on the kind of school they attend. Although nearly all types of alternative education had a higher rate of “personal belief exemptions”, Steiner-Waldorf schools dwarfed them all by a considerable margin.

This stance on vaccination can be witnessed in any Steiner-Waldorf school worldwide. As a parent in Australia confirmed“when you sit down with parents at Orana it's kind of a bit of a taboo subject to talk about vaccinating your kids.”

What is it about Steiner-Waldorf which sets them so much apart, even from other alternative education systems?

Dr Elisa J. Sobo, of the San Diego State University's Department of Anthropology, recently interviewed 24 parents whose children attend a Waldorf school in California. She discovered that they were “highly educated, and took seriously their perceived responsibility for child health”, yet despite this, she found that just over half of these families weren’t vaccinating their children.

As Tom Jacobs, staff writer for the Pacific Standard, explains, these parents “prided themselves on being “independent thinkers” […]. This shared sense of identity reinforces anti-vaccination attitudes, which gradually coalesce into a cultural norm parents are reluctant to deviate from.”

More interestingly, he adds, “the percentage of kids who are vaccinated goes down the longer they have been at the school. This suggests that, while parents who choose such schools may be skeptical of vaccines, there's something about the culture of the institution that bolsters this skepticism and effectively discourages the otherwise-common practice. […] Opposition to vaccination becomes, for many, intertwined with their perception of themselves as intelligently skeptical parents.”

Dr Sobo discovered that “the equation between non-vaccination, the independence of mind that it is taken to signify, and Waldorfian identity make it harder and harder to contravene the norm without threatening one's sense of group membership.”

“In other words,” Jacob explains, “the desire to "fit in" with a group of self-defined free-thinkers in fact leads to a kind of groupthink, in which dissent is effectively silenced.” Regular readers of The Steinermentary Project will be fully aware that reports of ostracising and ganging up against anyone who thinks differently seems to be the modus operandi of such communities. 

Something which sets Steiner-Waldorf schools fully apart from other education systems, is Anthroposophy, and Dr Sobo suspects it could be a contributing factor behind the school community’s stance on vaccination. As is often the case though, the connection isn't apparent: “this philosophy is not specifically taught as part of the Waldorf curriculum,” states Jacob, “and none of the parents [Dr Sobo] interviewed mentioned it in relation to immunization. But previous research has linked the belief to low levels of immunization among children enrolled at Waldorf schools in Europe.”

This is hardly surprising, as a lot goes on below the radar in these communities. In an interview with Isabelle Burgun, former anthroposophist and teacher, Grégoire Perra, explains how this can happen:

“Because of their stance on vaccination, these schools know they’re being observed, and speak covertly to parents and pupils about their views on the subject. Very often, they ask parents to choose an anthroposophical doctor, and preferably one who also happens to be the school's doctor. It is him who will bring up the idea of anti-vaccination, within the confidential confines of his practice, but without mentioning the notion of reincarnation, which might raise a parent's suspicions. Instead he’ll hint that vaccines could be dangerous to your health, that children should have their childhood illnesses “naturally” in order to get rid of a particular hereditary trait (a notion Steiner had about vaccines which is more palatable, as it doesn’t directly refer to concepts of karma).”

Despite such pressure, Dr Sobo sees the fact that “about half of Waldorf students are fully vaccinated” as very positive, since it shows other parents that “vaccinating one's children is not inimical to being free-thinking”.

But is this percentage even accurate? In the same interview with Burgun, Perra reveals a very disturbing event he witnessed:

“Our doctor pretended to administer the vaccines. He added the serum to the needle, but he didn’t prick the child’s skin, and the serum merely trickled down their arm. No explanation was given for this strange behaviour. But we all felt part of something which had to be kept secret.”

If this isn't an isolated occurrence, and other anthroposophical doctors routinely perform the same action, parents may not be aware that their children aren't being vaccinated even if they want them to be. As a result, the percentage of inoculated pupils could be much lower than actually reported.

This strong desire by an anthroposophical doctor to deceive can be linked to Rudolf Steiner's teachings. The series of lectures he gave in Hamburg, in May 1910, helps paint a clear picture of what his position on vaccination was. In his eighth lecture, Steiner explains what effect vaccinating against smallpox has on the individual (he associates smallpox with feelings of uncharitableness) :

”Let us suppose that a great number of people, because of uncharitableness, had been impelled to absorb certain infectious germs, so that they succumbed to an epidemic. Let us further suppose we were in a position to protect them from this epidemic. We should in such a case preserve the physical body from the effects of uncharitableness, but we should not have removed the inner tendency towards uncharitableness. The case might be such that, in removing the external expression of uncharitableness, we should undertake the duty of influencing the soul also in such a way as to remove from it the tendency towards a lack of charity. The organic expression of uncharitableness is killed in the most complete sense, in the external bodily sense, by vaccination against smallpox. […] If we destroy the susceptibility to smallpox, we are concentrating only on the external side of karmic activity. If on the one side we go in for hygiene, it is necessary that on the other we should feel it our duty to contribute to the person whose organism has been so transformed, something also for the good of his soul. Vaccination will not be harmful if, subsequent to vaccination, the person receives a spiritual education. If we concentrate upon one side only and lay no emphasis upon the other, we weigh down the balance unevenly.”

Karma plays a huge part in Anthroposophy. So much so that it's used to make sense of everything life can throw at us, as we’ve explored in previous articles. Like Mother Theresa, who believed pain was good for the soul, karma is a convenient excuse to not interfere in serious situations. In the ninth lecture, Steiner expands on his notion that disease is linked to a person’s karma:

”[A] man is urged to seek in the external world for compensating effects of karmic causes which he himself has incorporated within his organism. He may, for instance, be driven to a place where he will encounter an infection which will offer him the compensation sought for, or he may even be driven by this need for compensation to what might be termed a ‘fatal accident.’

“[…] Let us assume that many epidemics and diseases can be traced to the fact that victims are seeking to remove what they have karmically fostered within themselves. This is the case, for instance, with smallpox which is the organ of uncharitableness. Although we may be in a position to remove the possibility of this disease, still the cause of uncharitableness would remain, and the souls in question would then be forced to seek another way for karmic compensation either in this or in another incarnation.

“[...] We make his external life more pleasant, and also more healthy, but what he would otherwise have sought as a karmic adjustment in the corresponding disease, will now have to be sought in another direction. [...] Such souls would have but little inducement to inner progress and there would result an emptiness of the soul.

“[...] There has been hardly a single epoch in which so many people have had such pleasant external conditions as is the case today and yet go about with such stagnant and empty souls. [...] Thus, souls become increasingly diseased as external life is rendered more healthy.”

In November 1917, Steiner imagined what scientists might be able to inoculate us from in the future, to further undermine our spiritual evolution:

“A longing will arise for there to be a general opinion: Whatever is spiritual, whatever is of the spirit is nonsense, is madness! Endeavours to achieve this will be made by bringing out remedies to be administered by inoculation just as inoculations have been developed as a protection against diseases, only these inoculations will influence the human body in a way that will make it refuse to give a home to the spiritual inclinations of the soul. People will be inoculated against the inclination to entertain spiritual ideas. Endeavours in this direction will be made; inoculations will be tested that already in childhood will make people lose any urge for a spiritual life.”

Steiner-Waldorf schools' position on vaccination is actually very similar to their stance on technology: they have strong feelings about both, but would rather present a different explanation than reveal what the founder of Anthroposophy and the schools' pedagogy actually taught about the subject.

It’s little wonder, based on Steiner’s writings, that his advocates aren't keen to encourage vaccinations, officially telling the media that their schools' policy is to allow families to decide for themselves, all the while apparently using their community and doctors to slowly seed doubt in parents' minds.

It's fortunate for the Steiner-Waldorf movement that a feeling of uncertainty has grown over the safety of vaccines, as it's made it easier for anthroposophists to covertly further their movement's spiritual agenda. Rudolf Steiner did state that any negative effect of vaccination will be alleviated if children received a “spiritual education”, such as could be received at one of his schools, for example. He saw inoculations as doing exactly what they were meant to do: completely cure the patient of the physical manifestations of the disease; it's what vaccines do to a patient's soul that he had strong issues about.

Whether parents decide not to vaccinate because of a fear of alleged side effects, or because of a concern for their child's spiritual advancement, it's a win-win for the Steiner movement's covert cosmic plan, the children's soul, karma and future incarnations.

The prospect of vaccination causes concern about

future incarnations.

Update [22 January 2016]: Tori James wrote in My Mother Load that of California’s county of Tuolumne’s “four listed private schools with kindergartens containing ten students or more, Jamestown’s Sierra Waldorf School, at ten percent, came in the lowest; followed by Tuolumne’s Mother Lode Christian School and Sonora’s Safari Learning Academy, which respectively reported figures of 60 and 80 percent. Garibay Academy in Sonora did not contribute data for the report.”

Mother Lode Trailing In Required School Vaccinations

The image of the girl and the syringe was taken from Health Impact News.

The photo of Dr Elisa J Sobo was taken from The Society for Medical Anthropology.

The sketch of Tom Jacobs was taken from Pacific Standard.

The photo of Rudolf Steiner was taken from Rudolf Steiner Audio.

1861-2011 : 150 years of Rudolf Steiner

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