The Tower

Mrs. Gophy, our neighbor Gopher Tortoise, had a little one hatch out this year.  Last year there were three, this year there was only one that we saw.  Newborn tortoises are so unbelievably small!  Clothilde named it Sandy before it crawled away.

An interesting thing happened to me last week.  It all started Thursday evening when I was doing a tarot reading for myself.  I was trying to tempt Clothilde back to bed.  Usually the spread of delicate cards and my focus and concentration gets her radar beeping like crazy, even mid-romp with the big kids.  This time I actually did a whole reading, and got to spend some time afterwards thinking about it.

It was one of the worst readings I’d ever drawn.  Nearly every card was upside-down, except the center card, which was Queen of Cups (a card about creativity).  As I considered the Tower card, I thought (unwisely) that it must not have been a good reading.  The Tower card is a card about complete and sudden change, usually shocking or traumatic.  “What could possibly go wrong?” I wondered.  The next day was going to be a good day.  An out-of-town friend was coming to visit, and we were going together to a lecture on Waldorf education.  It sounded wonderful.

My friend and I drove together to the lecture.  There was a husband-and-wife team to be the speakers that night, and my friend knew them quite well.  She thought they were super cool, and was eager for me to meet them.

The lecture began boring enough with the husband lecturing that we actually live in a static universe, contrary to what most scientists have come up with (Rudolf Steiner says so).  There was a strong critique of what he called the “Mechanistic View,” or that our minds are simply a reactive force, reacting the world through biochemistry. Then the wife spoke about the importance of handwork.  Then the husband took over again.  The first part had been a warm-up.  Now he launched himself blissfully into a diatribe about Anthroposophy.  He began talking about how plants are different from us because they are not intelligent at all, and therefore are less evolved.

My hand instantly went up.  “That’s not true!” I said.  Heads turned.  I have just been reading Stephen Harrod Buhner’s book Plant Intelligence.  The speaker was floored.  He couldn’t belive he was being contradicted at his own lecture.  I quickly gave a brief statement that plants have been found, by modern science no less, to behave extremely intelligently.  They perform complex mathematic calculations on a regular basis.  They create infinite combinations of chemistry.  Even slime molds can complete mazes, which is a basic measure of intelligence.  Their roots contain the exact same neural pathways as our brains.  In fact, I argued, plants DO even have free will (or the ability to choose), because a plant being munched on by a predator will send off volitile compounds that alert the surrounding plants, who then make a concious choice from an array of different choices about their own chemical response.  Sounds pretty intelligent to me.  I didn’t even get to mention anything about viruses or bacteria, which are still out-smarting us.

The response was that no, all of that is just reactionary.  They are simply bits of dead matter chemically reacting to the enviornment.  “Then what’s the difference with us!” was my exasperated reply.

“The Etheric!” was the enthusiastic answer.  “Plants have no spirit.”

“That’s not what Stephen Harrod Buhner says!” I told everyone.  “You should read his work about the subject.”

At this point, a woman turned to me and said pointedly, “We aren’t here to listen to what that person or you have to say.  We’re here to learn about what Rudolf Steiner said!”

A man in the back said, “I’m about ready to issue a gag order!”  (yes, he really said those words).

I retired to the parking lot for the rest of the lecture.  I went in afterwards to pick my friend up.  She still wanted to introduce me to the speakers.  The man appeared to hate my guts, but he tried to shake my hand and tell me how wrong I was.  I told him it was new stuff.  Rudolf Steiner lived a long time ago, and there have been advances since then.  Then he liked me even less, because if that part of his lecture was wrong, then everything that came from it was, too.  I went ahead and told him he should read Buhner.  I told him that Steiner said in Knowledge of Higher Worlds that you should practice being flexible and that it’s healthy to listen to something you don’t agree with.  He gave a vicious, forced sort of smile at that and went off to talk to someone who could stroke his ego. My friend was very upset, and really thought I should have kept quiet.  I don’t think she is my friend anymore now.

 Yesterday I tried to think why I liked Waldorf stuff to begin with, and I realized I never have.  I like the artistic approach to things.  I think the handwork is cool, but I have always found Anthroposophy to be very wrong.  It was not even exclusively a mental response.  I realized I have always had a deep down, gut-sense that it is not right.  While some interesting things are brought up by Steiner, there are always many other, much clearer and deeper sources of the same information.

People say that the philosophy and the education do not overlap, but this is not at all true.  The Zoology block in the 4th grade Christopherous curriculum was abhorrent.  There was nothing real about it, and children are to come away with the idea that humans are a tri-partite being who is evolutionarily superior to any other creature on earth.  This is not how evolution works.  This is just NOT true.  And the fact is, many of their ideas just do not work out to be real.  Like the way they base human beginnings on Adam and Eve.  Right after I heard that lecture I picked up Elaine Morgan’s Descent of Woman and was blown away, not only with the information, but just how ridiculous Anthroposophy is.

Likewise, their view of plants is entirely dependant on a heiarchial version of evolution, a view point that Darwin expressly argued against.  They have a similar (and very offensive) view of human beings, with the idea that black people are more primitive and less evolved than white people.  All these things are not only completely false, they are also a deep misinterpretation of how evolution actually works.

The problem is – if they update or change their information, then that means Rudolf Steiner was WRONG.  (doom doom da-doom!)  If he is wrong there, then people start to question the dogma.  After nearly every lecture I’ve gone to, I have spoken briefly with the speakers and asked them if they have read such-and-such popular material on the same subject they were lecturing about.  No one has heard of anything.  This surprised and confused me until I realized they exclusively study Rudolf Steiner.  I think this accounds for a lot of the problem of their extraordinary ignorance.  One of the speakers, a very imminent person in the Waldorf society, lumped together ALL native cultures of North and South America into one extremely wrong stereotype.  It would seem that Rudolf Steiner proclaimed that any cultures that did not have a direct influence on the evolution of European culture are not worth learning about at all.

And the truth is that I came to Waldorf, not because it really spoke to me, but because I needed a guide for home school after Clothilde was born.  So many people I know think it’s really cool.  I thought I should think it’s cool, too.  At least I tried to learn enough about it to make a decision – and that has only just now happened for me.  When we just started out, I didn’t have the mental space with a tiny new baby to create a home school, so I turned to the Christopherous curriculum.  I’d heard such good things about it.  We’ve used it for years now.  In second grade, I was still just getting familiar with it.  In third grade, I tried harder to really stick by the curriculum and philosophy.  By the end of Mirin’s fourth grade, I realized that even with both of our best efforts, something wasn’t working.  He is still not reading well, and struggles to write. 

This opened my mind some.  I realized that the whole-word reading method was just not working for us.  I’ve started using Khan academy to catch us up on math.  We’ve begun taking an entirely different reading approach that any good Waldorf teacher would freak out about, but actually makes a lot of practical sense and seems to be working very well.

All of this was so much the Tower card, it makes me laugh.  All pretense and illusion stripped away.  A totally new take.  Not being able to go back to what it was like before, even if you want to.  Thank you, Tower card!  I feel so freed.

 Any philosphy/religion in which the speakers (or High Priests, if you will) are chosen, not because of their intelligent, independant ideas, but rather on how well they have ingested and memorized the dogma should ALWAYS be questioned!

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