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Waldorf Journal Project

The Waldorf Journal Project, sponsored by the Waldorf Curriculum Fund and published by AWSNA Publications, brings to English-speaking audiences translations from essays, magazines, and specialized studies from around the world.

Journals are published twice a year and all articles in issues from 2002 to the present are available on the Online Waldorf Library.

Waldorf Journal Project 8: Sparta and Athens

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What do we remember best from our early history lessons in school? Some say they have forgotten everything. Others have diligently memorized dates, names and events. Some can name kings and presidents in the right order. Yet in the midst of that dry, gray intellectual material, most of us have a few shining, dramatic pictures that were painted indelibly in our memories for the rest of our lives. Even today we can see them so clearly that they could have happened before our eyes! They may be Martin Luther before the church doors in Wittenberg or Marie Antoinette’s unsuccessful escape during the French Revolution. They may be Julius Caesar walking to the Senate on March 15 or the Joms Vikings battle with Haakon Jarl at Hjorungavag in 986.

Why do some pictures last a lifetime while, for example, the status of farmers in England in the seventeenth century can hardly be recalled the next day? Is it because we remember the important world historical events while randomly forgetting the less meaningful events?

It is not that easy. Neither Catholics nor atheists deny the fact that Martin Luther’s brave protest against the papal state played an important role in world history. Yet we remember the Joms Vikings equally well. And Marie Antoinette just as well. But have they had any influence on cultural development? Undoubtedly not. Yet they are archetypes for the human events that are the core of historical development.

Read more: Waldorf Journal Project 8: Sparta and Athens 

Waldorf Journal Project 8: The Romans in the Sixth Grade

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Rome was not founded in a single day. Yet the Romans themselves appeared in history distinctively on the scene with their first contributions.

Romulus ploughed the borders for what would be “the eternal city.” He set the plow in the earth, drove the horses forward and lifted the plow where there would be a gate crying aloud, ”Porta.” In origin, Rome was the effort of a single human being—the boundaries and restriction an area created by an act of will— this is my area, the manifestation of power: the emergence of “I will!”

Conflicts arose with everyone outside of the defined area, beyond the walls. The first conflict was with his brother, Remus. Twin sons of the war-god Mars who had visited the vestal virgin, Rhea Sylvia, in the temple—the holy Vesta­ temple of families and homes—they were thrown into the Tiber River to drown with their mother. But Mars guided them safely to a cave in the cliffs where they were nourished by a female wolf.

Read more: Waldorf Journal Project 8: The Romans in the Sixth Grade

Waldorf Journal Project 8: Jeanne d'Arc, an Enigmatic Figure in the Middle Ages

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“There are more things in heaven and on earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy, Horatio!
– Hamlet

If we compare ancient chronicles with modern history books, a significant difference appears. From the Middles Ages through the end of the nineteenth century myths, sagas, legends, prophecies and wonders were taken seriously. They were considered as realistic as everyday occurrences. For modern historians, in most cases, these sources are no longer considered authentic for modern historians. Now they belong to another science, folklorists shall classify and interpret myths, sagas and legends.

Are all of our ancient heroes useless for today’s history lessons? A few have survived all forms of criticism. As late as the fifteenth century we find Jeanne d’Arc (1412–1431). No one doubts her existence. For modern historians she is an enigma because her unbelievable but factual actions challenge the theory that occurrences can be explained. Even if one burned the documents that prove she had lived, she will not be ignored. Even the most objective researcher will allow himself to be charmed by “La Pucelle.” Some go so far as to write: “She believed she was sent by God.” Historians must admit that her actions during the English-French Hundred Years’ War were decisive for the future of Europe. Bernard Shaw did not exaggerate when he said: ”She took her own King under her wing and let the English King know that all he could do was obey her orders. She spoke defiantly to statesmen and churchmen. She disobeyed generals’ plans and followed her own in order to lead her troops to victory.”

Her biography makes a big impression on twelve- and thirteen-year-old children. Teachers realize that the goal of history’s lessons is to demonstrate how individual’s actions leave deep tracks which are still active today. And for once it is not a man but a woman, a young nineteen-year-old girl, whose actions affect the history of two powerful nations for many centuries.

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Waldorf Journal Project 8: I and the Others, Strengthening a 7th Grader's Relationship to the World through History and Geography

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The great explorations are a central theme for history and geography in the seventh grade in the Waldorf school. The climax of this historical epoch was reached in the period between Columbus’ explorations in 1492 and Magellan’s circumnavigation of the globe in 1522. Exactly in the middle of these events falls the year 1507, when a new cosmography appeared, the Copernican heliocentric view of the cosmos with the sun as the middle of the universe rather than the earth.

Now that the globe has been mapped out to the slightest detail, is there anything left to explore? New discoveries are made by teens that “feel” their way into the world. From this perspective history and geography support the student’s drive to explore the world.

Read more: Waldorf Journal Project 8: I and the Others, Strengthening a 7th Grader's Relationship to the...

Waldorf Journal Project 8: Modern History in the Light of the Renaissance and the Industrial Revolution

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After six years of lessons on the ancient cultures and the Renaissance, the Waldorf curriculum covers modern history in the eighth and ninth grades. Our concept of modern history should not be limited to the centuries following Napoleon’s reign but should cover the span of time from the Renaissance to today. One decisive aspect of history lessons is to bring forth the new occurrences, the differences and the symptoms of each age. The modern age is distinguished by its roots in the Renaissance.

Technology is the fruit of the natural sciences that were born in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries; colonialism and imperialism are the fruits of the great discoveries, just as the modern impulses towards freedom are an extension of the Renaissance man.

It is impossible for an adult to approach the fundamental problems of our times without personal convictions and engagement. Therefore “objective” instruction in history is not always possible. The teacher’s engagement with the subject is especially important to educate children. At the same time the teacher can avoid propagating personal opinions and educate toward freedom when he has an eye for the child’s inner being. Educating towards enthusiasm is not to be confused with spreading political propaganda.

Read more: Waldorf Journal Project 8: Modern History in the Light of the Renaissance and the Industrial...

Waldorf Journal Project 8: The Ninth Grade and the Industrial Revolution

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All historical descriptions must awaken the feeling of re-experiencing the events. The French historian, Jules Michelet, made this demand on himself. While the 1848- revolution tore through France he sat and wrote about the great French Revolution. During his long work on that overpowering theme, he said: “I am busy with a difficult task, namely to relive, to re-experience and re-suffer the revolution.”

To truly bring a historical reality into the classroom is very difficult. The teacher faces two main challenges: The theme must be one that suits the children’s age, and it must also be taught and learned with that goal in mind.

In the ninth grade at the Waldorf school in Norway, we work with historical themes from the eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth centuries. These three centuries are filled with phenomena that help us understand our own situation today. For two- or three-week main lesson blocks (one and a half hour lessons each morning), we cover the French Revolution. For children in this grade it is not enough to present detailed, colorful descriptions of the personalities and events. In the ninth grade questions arise in a different way than in the seventh and eighth. The students want to penetrate, to understand what they are told. The belief that they can penetrate the world with their own thinking sprouts forth in their soul, though fully unconsciously.

Read more: Waldorf Journal Project 8: The Ninth Grade and the Industrial Revolution

Waldorf Journal Project 8: The Minute Man, an Aphorism of the True American Spirit

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He shows presence! It is a statue by Daniel Chester French at the Minute Man Park in Concord, Massachusetts, a small town west of Boston. It represents the self-confident American settler who resisted the repressive colonial domination of England.In Concord the first shot was fired to free America from the English yoke, a shot, as it is written in stone there: ‘that was heard around the world’.

In fact the results were the wars for freedom and independence leading especially to the French Revolution but also the European independence wars— the revolution of 1848 and the development of democracy well into the twentieth century. The first shot fired at that time in small Concord was the starting shot, so to speak, or a kindling flame, in to an explosive new level of consciousness.

The statue by French is of a young man standing erect, well balanced.1 He makes one step forward and his weight is on his left leg. The right one has not completed a step yet but is in the process of it. The left hand is resting lightly on a plow—more touching than resting. He is carrying in his right hand a rifle pointing somewhat upwards to show his capability of defending himself.

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Waldorf Journal Project #7: Musings From Norway

All articles from this issue in one file, click to download

The Path Through Life by Karl Brodersen
Time: Rudolf Steiner's Contribution to a Modern Mythology by Jacob Qualburg
The Michaelic Human Being Interview by Sven Ake Lorentson
The Playful Human Being by David L. Brierly
Six - An Important Year by Astrid Sunt
Reality and Joy in the School Garden by Linda Jolly
Some Thoughts about Children and the Inner Nature of Wood by Lars Wegge
About Seeing the Heart by Arne Øgaard
The Role of Old Age in the Course of One's Life by Karl Brodersen
The Development of the Human Being Through the Great Cultural Epochs by Conrad Englert-Faye

All individual articles from this issue can be found below

Waldorf Journal Project 7: The Path Through Life

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We are all on a path, every day all through our lives. All of humanity is on a path, from the beginning of time to the present and then further towards an unknown future. We each walk on our own road, yet we all walk the same road, and that is the road of humankind.

The road is an ancient metaphor for the life conditions within which we move. The image indicates a dynamic element, an intentional force in our existence, which leads us from one experience to the next. Sometimes we might have the experience of coming to a standstill, of feeling stuck. However, if we look at the totality of our life, we have certain proof that movement has taken place. This dynamic form is most obvious and energetic in the first phase of life. Later, as adults, we can look for this dynamic element in our own inner being.

Read more: Waldorf Journal Project 7: The Path Through Life

Waldorf Journal Project 7: Time: Rudolf Steiner's Contribution to a Modern Mythology

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A central theme in Rudolf Steiner’s activity as a spiritual scientist is the description of the force and the being that carries the name of Michael. As with many other connections, Steiner connects this to the existing cultural traditions, in this case the Christian one: “The force which is the source to the thoughts of things was in olden times called Michael. This name we will keep.” With this as a starting point, Steiner adds aspects and pictures which can be seen as a contribution to a new mythology, a thought content to be worked with for the present time and for people into the future. In this article I will try to give a synopsis of some of this content, based mostly on Steiner’s so-called “Michael Letters” published in 1924 and 1925.

The name Michael, who is like God, already exists in the Old Testament, first and foremost in the prophet Daniel, to whom this angel or a mighty heavenly being reveals deep secrets. In the New Testament Michael is mentioned in the Deeds of the Apostles as he whom Moses spoke to on Sinai, and also as the highest inspiration and protector for the people of Israel. He is also mentioned in the letters of Judah, but the most famous place is in the revelations of John, where Michael wins the heavenly battle with the dragon.

Read more: Waldorf Journal Project 7: Time: Rudolf Steiner's Contribution to a Modern Mythology