PRAYERS

Including “Morning Verses”

Graces, and Prayers for the Dead


Also Hymns


"Prayer prepares us for mysticism,

mysticism [prepares us]

for meditation and concentration,

and from that point on we are directed

to the real work of spiritual research."

— Rudolf Steiner, PRAYER

(Anthroposophic Press, 1977), p. 20.


Here are two prayers, written by Rudolf Steiner, that students in many Waldorf schools recite each morning, usually chanting them in unison with their teachers. Various translations are used in Waldorf schools in the English-speaking world; I will take the texts from the book PRAYERS FOR PARENTS AND CHILDREN (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2004), which consists of multiple prayers Steiner composed.

The use of these prayers demonstrates that Waldorf schools — despite frequent denials — are religious institutions.

What else can we find by studying these prayers? I’ll suggest how Anthroposophical tenets peek out from within and between the lines. I will look beyond the prayers themselves to the doctrines Anthroposophists have in mind when they use such prayers. (My footnotes include links to other pages here at Waldorf Watch, where you will find extended discussions. Click on the underlined words.)


MORNING VERSE FOR THE FOUR LOWER CLASSES


The Sun with loving light [1]

Makes bright for me each day;

The soul with spirit power [2]

Gives strength unto my limbs;

In sunlight shining clear

I reverence, O God, [3]

The strength of humankind, [4]

That thou so graciously

Hast planted in my soul,

That I with all my might

May love to work and learn. [5]

From Thee come light and strength,

To Thee rise love and thanks. [6]



Footnotes for this Prayer

(Scroll Down for Additional Material)

[1] How can the Sun, a ball of flaming gases, send “loving” light? Steiner taught that Christ is the Sun God who came to Earth. In this sense, the Sun has sent us the loving light of Christ's spirit. The Sun's loving beneficence is the great spiritual truth enabling human evolution, according to Steiner. (A grace often used in Waldorf schools — we'll get to it — addresses "Father Sun." The Sun, or the deity reaching us from the Sun, is the Sun God — although the kids may not be told so, in so many words. In general, Anthroposophy portrays the Sun as the embodiment of Christ and the home of various Sun spirits, including the Archangel Michael.]

[2] Why is there reference to both soul and spirit? In Anthroposophy, these are not the same. The soul is an inner spiritual element of each human, revised and altered during the process of reincarnation. The spirit, on the other hand, is an unchanging spiritual essence coming from the mighty spirit realm.

[3] Note that the children address God. They are praying.

[4] What is the strength of humankind? It is our spiritual capacity to rise into the spirit realm (Steiner said we can do this through eurythmy, for instance — most Waldorf schools require eurythmy). The strength of humankind is also our ability to reincarnate and evolve to higher and higher states of consciousness. No other creature on or in the Earth can do this — we have a spiritual ego, an “I”, whereas animals and such beings as gnomes (which Steiner said live in the earth) do not have "I"s.

[5] The main forms of work and learning stressed by Steiner entail the arduous tasks of spiritual “science” — Steiner's new religion, which he called Anthroposophy (meaning human wisdom). Waldorf schools are often weak academically, in part because they focus on implanting Anthroposophical attitudes and beliefs rather than academic knowledge, which Steiner disparaged as the product of dead materialistic thinking.

[6] The importance of light (the “loving” light of the Sun, i.e., Christ) is reinforced here, and the prayerful nature of this “verse” is underscored by the love and thanks offered to God.



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MORNING VERSE FOR THE FOUR UPPER CLASSES


I look into the world; [1]

In which the Sun shines, [2]

In which the stars sparkle, [3]

In which the stones lie, [4]

The living plants are growing,

The animals are feeling, [5]

In which the soul of man

Gives dwelling for the spirit; [6]

I look into the soul

Which lives within myself.

God’s spirit weaves in light

Of Sun and human soul, [7]

In world of space, without,

In depths of soul, within.

God’s spirit, ‘tis to Thee [8]

I turn myself in prayer, [9]

That strength and blessing grow [10]

In me, to learn and work. [11]



Footnotes for this Prayer

(Scroll Down for Additional Material)

[1] Looking "into" the world is quite different from looking at it. Looking "into" suggests looking within, under the surface of apparent reality. This would be fine, except that Waldorf teachers often think that below the surface are gnomes, Norse gods who are alive and well, and so on: Devout Waldorf teachers have occult beliefs that they often convey, one way or another, to their students. A second meaning of looking "into" the world involves alienation. Steiner taught that there are two "higher worlds," the soul world and the spirit world. Waldorf students, even if they are not explicitly informed of this doctrine, are urged to feel themselves separate from the visible world around them, the physical universe. In this prayer, the students do not look around themselves at the real world, they look "into" the real world from a vantage point outside it (specifically, the vantage point of the enclosed, insular, "higher" Waldorf community — as it were, a higher world).

[2] Like the prayer recited by younger children, this prayer gives priority to the Sun (implicitly Christ, the Sun God). In this case, the reference may pass casual inspection, since there is no reference to the Sun’s “love” or any other overtly religious concept. Indeed, various lines in both prayers may seem unobjectionable — they seem more or less consistent with a conventional worldview. Concealment, as Steiner himself said, was part of Steiner's objective. The prayers, like the entire Waldorf curriculum, have Anthroposophical content, but measures are taken to disguise this.

[3] This line, too, is or seems innocuous; it maybe recited without stirring Anthroposophy within a child’s soul. Still, we should note in passing that Steiner said all stars, not just the Sun, are the dwelling places of spirits; and he advocated astrology, as when consulting the stars in casting horoscopes.

[4] Some Waldorf schools use the word “repose” instead of “lie.” The Waldorf school I attended did. Why? Steiner taught that stones are alive, at least in that they are part of the Earth, which he said is alive, breathing in or out every six months or so. To be precise: "The maha-para-nirvana plane [is where] the solid stone has its life." — Rudolf Steiner, THE FOUNDATIONS OF ESOTERICISM (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1982), lecture 5, GA 93a.

[5] The Waldorf attitude toward nature is complex. Plants and animals are our fellow beings who should be respected; but the natural world is also a place of illusion, temptation, and subhuman nature spirits. Thus, Waldorf students are taught to look kindly on animals and plants but also to consider themselves far superior to the natural world. According to Steiner, plants, animals, and humans all have etheric bodies (nonphysical “bodies” that infuse our physical bodies); animals and humans also have astral bodies; but only humans have “I”s, which are sparks of divinity. Only we are capable of evolving toward divinity. The inferiority of animals is shown, for instance, by animals' lack of any real capacity for thought or even memory — in this sense, they resemble subhumans who also lack "I"s and who can only remember words, not sentences.

Are Waldorf students taught doctrines such as these? The answer varies from school to school and teacher to teacher. Waldorf students usually pick up at least vague intimations of these beliefs. I did.

[6] Now the prayer begins to place Anthroposophical concepts at its surface. These two lines differentiate between soul and spirit — see note #2, above. The soul is the particular spiritual nature you have during a single incarnation. It creates a dwelling place for your spirit — your eternal spiritual identity that becomes manifest during your Earthly lives and also during your lives in the spirit realm, between Earthly incarnations.

I apologize for the syntactical flaws in the prayer; I have quoted the prayer as it appears in PRAYERS FOR PARENTS AND CHILDREN. A more felicitous translation would perhaps be

I look into the world

In which the Sun shines,

In which the stars sparkle,

In which the stones lie,

Where the living plants are growing,

Where the animals are feeling,

And where the soul of man

Provides a dwelling for the spirit...

[7] The distinction between soul and spirit is repeated, and the light of the Sun is mentioned again. Significantly, there is also a reference to “God’s spirit.” Although Steiner taught that a monotheistic God may exist one day, at present we live in a polytheistic universe, swarming with gods, both good gods and evil gods. Young children are given a prayer that addresses “God” because a sole god is an easy concept for young minds to grasp. But here, the older children are nudged toward a more sophisticated Anthroposophical concept. “God’s spirit” is the divine impulse, not yet perfectly realized in any One True God. This spirit can be found almost everywhere, including within one's own soul. Someday, we will transform ourselves "into what is called in Christianity 'the Father'", as Steiner put it. — Rudolf Steiner, THE LORD’S PRAYER (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2007), p. 17.

Some schools use an alternate wording:

In sunlight and in soul-light,

In cosmic space without,

In depths of soul within.

Again, these are words I think I remember reciting. What is soul light (or "light...of human soul")? "Soul light" has a specific meaning in Theosophy and, by extension, in Anthroposophy. "The fifth level of the soul world is the level of soul light." — Rudolf Steiner, THEOSOPHY (Anthroposophic Press, 1994), p. 119. The soul world is the realm our souls access, whereas our spirits access the spirit world. Soul light is the clarity attainable in the soul world. But Theosophy does not put sufficient emphasis on Christ, Steiner decided, so in Anthroposophy he sought to correct this error. Our souls can shed light when they are activated by the Christ Impulse, the spiritual impetus that enables us to be like Christ. Also, our souls shed light through the faculty of clairvoyance (which in Waldorf schools is prepared for, theoretically, through emphasis on imagination, intuition, and inspiration).

[8] Some versions of this prayer refer to “Creator spirit” instead of “spirit of God.” The point is much the same as above — a spirit exists, but it is not the God of Western monotheism. Indeed, in Anthroposophy, there is no single Creator as seen in the Bible; certainly Jehovah is not the Creator. A creative spirit — the Godhead — flows through the many good gods, who participate in the process of creation and evolution, but Jehovah did not create the universe. Jehovah is just one of several “Elohim.”

[9] Here, the verse explicitly refers to itself as a prayer. Some schools disguise this by substituting such words as

To Thee, Creator Spirit,

I turn myself to ask...

My memory is that, at the Waldorf school I attended, we used these alternate words. It is significant, however, that the Anthroposophical Press uses the word “prayer”. (The original German is “Will bittend ich mich wenden”, meaning “pleadingly I want to turn” to you, “Zu Dir, O Gottesgiest,” meaning “to you, O spirit of God”.)

[10] The students ask for blessing from God or God's spirit. They are praying.

[11] The prayer ends with references to learning and work, as did the previous prayer. See note #5, above.





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WALDORF'S ANTHROPOSOPHICAL CHARACTER


If you think I may have strained, trying too hard to find hidden meanings in and behind these prayers, I would just ask you to remember who wrote them: Rudolf Steiner, the father of Anthroposophy, who was a self-described occultist. [See "Occultism".] And remember whom he wrote them for: students in Waldorf schools. Steiner said this about such schools:

“[W]e have to remember that an institution like the Independent Waldorf School with its anthroposophical character, has goals that, of course, coincide with anthroposophical desires." — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophical Press, 1998), p. 705.

Waldorf schools have an "Anthroposophical character", and their goals coincide with those of Anthroposophy. The prayers I have quoted are Anthroposophical; I didn't inject Anthroposophical meanings into them; Steiner put those meanings in them. Any school that requires students to recite these prayers is, for this reason alone, an Anthroposophical religious institution. And any school that permits recitation of these prayers, or that promotes them in any other fashion, probably is as well. [There is much additional evidence underscoring the religious nature of Waldorf schooling. See, e.g., "Here's the Answer", "Spiritual Agenda", and "Soul School".]

One other point worth noting: PRAYERS FOR PARENTS AND CHILDREN ends with a lecture by Steiner: "Life between Birth and Death as a Mirror of Life between Death and New Birth." Complete with diagrams, the lecture lays out some of Steiner's thoughts about reincarnation, arguing that our life here on Earth reflects our previous life in the spirit realm. To most people's minds, what he says is loony, e.g.,

“What takes place between conception and birth is in reality the interaction between sun and moon, and this is essentially a repetition of events which took place earlier during the Old Moon period of the earth." — PRAYERS FOR PARENTS AND CHILDREN, p. 63. (Old Moon was the third incarnation of the solar system, according to Steiner's occult cosmology. See "Old Moon".)

Steiner's ideas about life, and childhood, and education are irredeemably occultist.

“[B]irth is a repetition of the influence of the Old Sun. Things which occur even before that, which are reflected in the period when we are educated, are a repetition of the Old Saturn stage of the earth." — Ibid., p. 63. (Old Saturn and Old Sun were the first and second incarnations of the solar system, according to Steiner's occult cosmology. See "Old Saturn" and "Old Sun".)

Such concepts lie in the background of Waldorf prayers.

Waldorf teachers see their work as a form of ministry. They work in service to the gods of their polytheistic faith.

"We [Waldorf teachers] want to be aware that physical existence is a continuation of the spiritual, and that what we have to do in education is a continuation of what higher beings [the gods] have done without our assistance. Our form of educating can have the correct attitude only when we are aware that our work with young people is a continuation of what higher beings have done before birth [i.e., before the students' births]." — Rudolf Steiner, THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 37.

In Waldorf belief, the period of education on Earth is deemed to be a repetition of Old Saturn. Cosmic powers — gods of the planets, gods of the stars, gods steering the course of evolution — are at work all about us and within us, and our earthly lives unfold in response to powers coming from far beyond the Earth.

"[T]he only way to comprehend [students] during their upbringing is if there is a clear understanding that forces are at work on them during their life as a whole which are not on earth, which are not even in the planetary system [i.e., solar system] but which lie outside the planetary sphere and work in harmony with the stars." — Rudolf Steiner, PRAYERS FOR PARENTS AND CHILDREN, pp. 60-61.

These are the powers who are addressed, directly and indirectly, in Waldorf prayers.



[PRAYERS FOR PARENTS AND CHILDREN

(Rudolf Steiner Press, 2004), p. 61.]


Have I read too much into the prayers we have seen? In a limited, tangential sense, perhaps. Rudolf Steiner's occultism stands behind the prayers, it is not explicitly developed in the prayers themselves. Few Waldorf students comprehend the details of Anthroposophical doctrine. But the ideas I have laid out are fully present in the belief system embraced by initiated Waldorf teachers. When they use prayers written by Rudolf Steiner, such teachers have these beliefs in mind. And such teachers hope that their students will eventually embrace these beliefs consciously, fully, if — as is hoped — the students one day enter the ranks of Rudolf Steiner's informed, consenting followers.

— Roger Rawlings





[Rudolf Steiner Press, 2004.]




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Steiner, speaking to teachers at the first Waldorf school:

“We also need to speak about a prayer. I ask only one thing of you.

You see, in such things everything depends upon the external appearances.

Never call a verse a prayer, call it an opening verse before school.

Avoid allowing anyone to hear you, as a faculty member, using the word ‘prayer.’”

— Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER

(Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 20.




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FIRST-PERSON REPORT


The following is by a former Waldorf student

who went on to become a Waldorf teacher:


In [Waldorf] schools, the number of rituals corresponds to the many Christian festivals and the observance of the seasons of the year. But we must also count prayers and meditations used in Waldorf schools, as well as "rites of passage." In form and in content, these are even more specifically related to Anthroposophy. Indeed, at different times of the day, students recite words (according to their different ages) that are actually meditation texts written by Rudolf Steiner himself or by his disciples. There are prayers for morning classes, for the afternoon before meals (a kind of grace), for the beginning of the week, for the beginning of the year, for the first grade upon entering the school, for leaving school upon graduation, etc. On each of these occasions, these readings or chorused recitations give rise to small ceremonies that are an integral part of Waldorf education. It even happens that teachers often advise parents of the words they should read to their children at different times of the day. Again, the teachers never say explicitly that these words are from Rudolf Steiner — these are just words to be recited because of tradition. We should note in passing how cunningly teachers avoid using the words "prayers" or "mantras" around the students. Indeed, by designating these activities as merely cultural practices, awareness of their real nature is avoided. This trick comes from Rudolf Steiner himself, who in an interview with the first teachers of the school in Stuttgart said:

"In choosing your words, never say 'prayers,' say 'words for opening the school day.' We should not hear the word 'prayer' in the mouth of a teacher. Thus you will neutralize to a large extent the prejudice against Anthroposophic matters."

Students are thus led to repeat texts containing Anthroposophic ideas in simplified form, but without being able to identify their origin and without open acknowledgment of the Master who wrote them. These texts soak deeply into the mind by force of being recited continually. Take for example the morning verse that students from all Steiner schools recite in unison with their teacher from the 9th to the 12th grade (high school years):


I look into the world

In which the Sun shines,

In which the stars sparkle,

In which the stones lie,

Where living plants are growing,

Where animals are feeling,

And where the soul of man

Gives dwelling for the spirit.

I look into the soul

Which lives within myself.

God’s spirit weaves in light

Of Sun and human soul,

In world of space, without,

In depths of soul, within.

God’s spirit, ‘tis to Thee

I turn myself in prayer,

That strength and blessing may grow

In me, to learn and to work.

I recited these words almost every morning for four years. It was only by reading the work of Rudolf Steiner called THEOSOPHY that I came to understand that this is a digest of Anthroposophical precepts about the relationship between humans and the universe. Indeed, the first stanza shows the relationship between the four kingdoms of nature (mineral, vegetable, animal, and human) that Steiner connects with the four cosmic substances (the physical, the etheric, astral, and spiritual). The second stanza establishes an implicit parallel between God and the Sun, which Rudolf Steiner describes in OCCULT SCIENCE asserting that Christ is the Sun God who descended to the earth at the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan. The last stanza is an allusion to the strength of the Holy Spirit, the immeasurable cosmic entity that Steiner evokes by example in THE MEANING OF LIFE and other books. I could also give the example of words we had to recite at the beginning of meals:


On the night of the earth,

Plants germinate;

By the power of the air,

Their leaves unfold;

And the strength of the Sun

Ripens their fruit.

So the the soul quickens

In the shrine of the heart,

And the power of the spirit

Unfolds in the light of the world;

Thus ripens the strength of man,

In the glory of God.

Again, far from being a simple poetic text on nature, this prayer condenses key elements of Anthroposophical doctrine concerning the relationship of the human soul with the different elements. For example, there is the belief about human temperaments [phlegmatic, sanguine, choleric, melancholic], each associated with an element [earth, air, fire, water]. Or, likewise, the relationship between the components of the human soul and the elements.

A final example: At the beginning of each afternoon, our class teacher made ​​us recite the following words:

Pure source from which everything flows,

Pure source, where everything returns,

Pure source, who lives in me,

To you I will advance.

Years later, I discovered that this poem was actually an adaptation of a mantra that Rudolf Steiner gave to his disciples in one of his esoteric lessons:

Original self, from which we come,

The origin that lives in all things,

To thee, thou Higher Self, we return.

This shows how skillfully, under innocent appearances, Rudolf Steiner condensed and concealed his esoteric teachings in the words that students should recite in Steiner-Waldorf schools.


— Former Waldorf student and, later, Waldorf teacher

Grégoire Perra. [See "He Went to Waldorf".]










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