[wc] Re: Steiner Static
- --- In email@example.com, Peter Staudenmaier <pstaud@...> wrote:
>I think this is an extremely important point. And I'll propose a corollary: The way to handle being wrong is not to put up a stout defense -- it is to change your mind. That's what truth-seeking is all about.
> [T]here is absolutely nothing wrong with being wrong.
As a gross generalization, followers of religious faiths resist changing their minds, often adamantly: They insist that their faiths are absolute, divinely revealed, literally true, inerrant.
As a gross generalization, scientists and serious researchers in all academic disciplines are prepared to change their minds. They do their research, offer a conclusion, defend it -- and, if it is swatted down, they move on.
Of course, there are many exceptions to these generalizations. No one enjoys being wrong; everyone, including the most brilliant scientists, get emotionally wrapped up in their ideas and hate to let them go. But serious researchers realize that admitting error is crucially important, and they are prepared (however much it hurts) to do it when they must.
The distinguishing characteristic of real research -- seen in emotional, human terms -- is that each researcher wants to be right, *but* each researcher would also love to see the basic concepts of her/his discipline overturned. Specifically, each researcher would like to do the overturning. There are thousands of biologists out there today, for example, who essentially accept Darwin's account of evolution, *but who would love to prove it wrong.* Each Professor Smith would love to show that Darwinism must be abandoned and Smithism must be accepted instead. That way lies fame, glory, and probably tenure.
Very few followers of religions share this attitude. Few Christians want to see Christ's teaching overturned; few Buddhists want to see Buddha's shot out of the water; few Muslims...
The great appeal of Anthroposophy is that it claims to span the divide between religion and science. Steiner said that his teachings delineate "spiritual science," that is, the investigation of spiritual realities using strictly scientific means. Sounds terrific. But Anthroposophy hinges on clairvoyance, which does not exist. It requires the development of incorporeal "organs of clairvoyance" (chakras, lotus flowers), which cannot be developed. So Anthroposophists are thrown back on belief, perhaps with an admixture of self-deception (if they convince themselves that they are clairvoyant). They are, in the end, adherents of a religion, which helps explain the fervor with which they defend the doctrines (or "scientific findings") of their faith (their mischaracterized "science").
Now, of course, I could be wrong. I hope not; admitting it would be hard. But perhaps I am wrong, in which case I will (I promise) change my mind. I've been wrong a few times in my life, so I know what it feels like. (I'm joking, of course. I'm never wrong. Or, no, wait. I'll that that back. By a conservative estimate, I make about twenty-umpteen dozen mistakes every day. Give or take.) Just yesterday, I decided I had made a mistake in one of my essays, and I proceeded to do what I always do. Wiping the tears from my eyes, I reread the essay, then reopened several volumes of Steiner's lectures to check myself; and I went online to do new research. As it happens, yesterday I learned that I had been right (see?!?). But on many other occasions I have learned that I was wrong, and I have made the necessary corrections.
Let's stay with me as an excellent example (one of my favorites, anyway): For the first many years after I graduated from a Waldorf school I held onto many of the attitudes and beliefs instilled in me there, and I tried to convince myself that they were true. I read Thoreau, Emerson, Eiseley, Gardner, even Steiner; I prayed and meditated; I kept an eye out for UFOs; I argued for the existence of spirits, and unseen imminences, and Nessie. In short, I was a flake. But I was also divided in my own soul. I wanted to believe this stuff, but I also had my doubts, and I knew that Waldorf had been a bad trip in some ways. So I kept wrestling with myself and all the authors and information I confronted. For a long while I thought I was still a Christian; then for a while I thought I was a Buddhist (in a very informal, private way), or maybe a Hindu (in an extremely informal, unreal way), or...
To cut this shorter: Eventually I changed my mind. I became convinced that I had been wrong, and I became what Steiner derided as an "abstract," "materialist," "intellectual," "so-called educated" adult.
What a touching story.
My only real point is that I changed my mind. And I continue to change my mind, often. If I confront undeniable evidence that Steiner was right and I am wrong, I will change my mind again. But the more I study Steiner, the less likely this seems. The onus, anyway, is on the Steinerites. All of science and most of logic indicates that Steiner was wrong. Where's the evidence that he was right? Please produce it. Frank recently challenged Peter to disprove the supernatural (as if Peter has any interest in doing so). But this has things back-to-front. Neither Peter nor I nor anyone else has any obligation to disprove the existence of, let us say, the Easter Bunny. Rather, all believers in the Easter Bunny do have an obligation to substantiate their belief in that supersensible being -- or they have this obligation if they want any of us to take them seriously. If they don't care what anyone else thinks, if they just want to embrace their belief, fine, they have that right. But they shouldn't be surprised if the rest of us find their belief a tad zany.
Steiner believed in goblins, auras, a fortress on the Moon, dragons, ghosts, horoscopes, populations on various planets, Zeitgeists, racial souls, guardian angels, Old Saturn, Vulcan, floating continents, non-orbital planets, Christian Rosenkreutz, Buddha's mission to Mars, Ahriman, black magicians, and one or two other occult phenomena. This is all extremely interesting. So please, help us out. Where is the evidence? Change our minds. Teach us. (Please don't say that these things cannot be proven -- if that is so, then you should not believe in them any more than I do. And please don't say that they can be proven only by the use of nonexistent faculties. I don't have them, and -- unless I miss my guess -- neither do you. And please don't tell me that I can understand only if I start from an attitude of devotion. This is tautological: To learn to believe, I must first believe. Steiner used this tautology, but he shouldn't have, and neither should any of us. Illogic is illogic, and "spiritual science" cannot rely on it if it is, in fact, a science.)
Anyway, in sum, to wrap this up: There is nothing wrong with being wrong. But the next stage is to change one's mind and try harder to be right.
Or something like that.
- Roger Rawlings
 Proving a negative is generally impossible. I cannot prove that clairvoyance does not exist. But no one has proven that it *does* exist. "After thousands of experiments, *a reproducible ESP phenomenon has never been discovered, nor has any individual convincingly demonstrated a psychic ability* [sic; emphasis by Myers]." [David G. Myers, PSYCHOLOGY (Worth Publishers, 2004), p. 260.] , p. 260.] The US Research Council, the Britannica, and essentially all serious sources concur in this. Many people disagree. They claim that psychic powers of various sorts certainly exist. Fine. Prove it. (To see some of the fruits of Steiner's clairvoyance, see my essay "Steiner's Blunders" at http://sites.google.com/site/waldorfwatch/steiners-blunders )
This episode (uncommonly brief) of Steiner Static comes out of the blue.
Here's a quotation that many Waldorf school post prominently:
"Our highest endeavor must be to develop free human beings who are able, of themselves, to impart purpose and direction to their lives." Rudolf Steiner
Since the schools use this as an inducement to newcomers, I'll address my (commonly brief) comments to newcomers.
The quotation certainly sounds good. And perhaps Rudolf Steiner meant it. And undoubtedly many Waldorf school teachers and administrators take it seriously.
But what does it really mean, in the context of Waldorf education? Here is an uncommonly brief summation:
The worldview underlying Waldorf schools is an occult religion that involves doctrines of evolution and reincarnation. Human beings move upward as they gain "knowledge of higher worlds" by developing clairvoyance. Preparation for clairvoyance involves such things as heightened imagination and dream consciousness.
Waldorf schools aim to spread the religion. To this end, Waldorf school teachers serve as missionaries or priests.
There is only one correct "purpose and direction" in life: It is the evolutionary path laid out by Steiner. Children are encouraged to move toward this path as "free human beings." But according to Steiner, real freedom means willingly submitting to the intention of the many gods who stand over mankind. In practice, this means accepting Steiner's religious teachings.
That's it, in brief. I know it sounds bizarre, but truly, that's it.
If anyone would like to look into the matter more fully, you might visit any of the following Web sites:
Waldorf Watch http://sites.google.com/site/waldorfwatch/
P.S. I'll probably be offline for some while, now. I'll do my best to catch up with the discussion here when I'm able to return.