WALDORF WORSHIP




Services in the Schools




"Here in this school you have been led

by the spirit of Christ...

[T]hrough the larger life of the school

the spirit of Christ leads

your life forces,

your soul powers,

your spiritual goals."

— Service for Young People




Rudolf Steiner said that Waldorf teachers serve as priests for their students. Most of the activities conducted in Waldorf schools have spiritual purposes, and many can be deemed religious ceremonies. [See "Schools as Churches" and "Soul School".] On some occasions, formal religious services are held in the schools, including services that stem directly from Rudolf Steiner's occult teachings. We can find such services described in the volume THE WORSHIP SERVICES OF THE CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY AND THE WORSHIP SERVICES OF THE FREE WALDORF SCHOOL, by Hischam A. Hapatsch. (In the original German, the title is DIE KULTUSHANDLUNGEN DER CHRISTENGEMEINSCHAFT UND DIE KULTUSHANDLUNGEN IN DER FREIEN WALDORFSCHULE.)

The Christian Community is an overtly religious offshoot of Anthroposophy. [See "Christian Community".] In general, the forms of worship used in Waldorf schools closely parallel the services of the Christian Community. Usually three priests or officiants lead such services. At Waldorf schools, ordained ministers of the Christian Community may be brought in to preside, or other Anthroposophists may assume the leading roles, and members of the faculty may take various positions before or at the altar.

Hapatsch's book is difficult to find. Generally, officials of the Anthroposophical and Waldorf movements hold the book closely, keeping it from prying eyes. I am grateful to Grégoire Perra for locating a copy and bringing it to my attention. Perra is a former Anthroposophist and Waldorf teacher. [See "My Life Among the Anthroposophists".] He was able to unearth the book by working through his own private channels, which reach into Anthroposophical networks. (You can confirm the existence of the book by using this link: Google Books. You will not be able to examine its contents, however; no "preview" is allowed, as of this writing.)


Hischam A. Hapatsch

DIE KULTUSHANDLUNGEN DER CHRISTENGEMEINSCHAFT

UND

DIE KULTUSHANDLUNGEN IN DER FREIEN WALDORFSCHULE


Arbeitsgemeinschaft für Religions- und Weltanschauungsfragen (ARW)




THE WORSHIP SERVICES OF THE CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY

AND

THE WORSHIP SERVICES OF THE FREE WALDORF SCHOOL


Working Group for Questions of Religion and World View




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We should begin with a bit of background.

Steiner said that working as a Waldorf teacher is tantamount to being a priest. Here are some of his statements to this effect (I have highlighted certain key terms):

◊ "The position of teacher becomes a kind of priestly office, a ritual performed at the altar of universal human life ... Our task is to ferry into earthly life the aspect of the child that came from the divine spiritual world." — Rudolf Steiner, THE ESSENTIALS OF EDUCATION - Foundations of Waldorf Education XVIII (Anthroposophic Press, 1997), p. 24.

◊ "[T]eachers must reach a point where all their work becomes moral activity, and they regard the lessons themselves as a kind of divine office." — Rudolf Steiner, A MODERN ART OF EDUCATION - Foundations of Waldorf Education XVII (Anthroposophic Press, 2004), p. 169.

◊ "[A] teacher’s calling becomes a priestly calling, since an educator becomes a steward who accomplishes the will of the gods in a human being." — Rudolf Steiner, HUMAN VALUES IN EDUCATION - Foundations of Waldorf Education XX (Anthroposophic Press, 2004), p. 9.

◊ "In our teaching and educating we should really become priests, because what we meet in children reveals to us, in the form of outer reality and in the strongest, grandest, and most intense ways, the divine-spiritual world order that is at the foundation of outer physical, material existence ... We have been placed next to children in order that spirit [i.e., the influence of spiritual powers] properly germinates, grows, and bears fruit. This attitude of reverence must underlie every [instructional] method." — Rudolf Steiner, WALDORF EDUCATION AND ANTHROPOSOPHY - Foundations of Waldorf Education XIV, Vol. 2 (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), pp. 225-226.


Likewise, Steiner indicated that, on occasion, Waldorf schools should offer overtly religious instruction and services for the students:

◊ "At the Waldorf school in Stuttgart we have been able to pursue an art of education based on anthroposophy ... [C]hildren whose parents specifically request it receive religion lessons involving a freer religious instruction based on anthroposophy ... Our goal...is to enable every teacher to bring the fruits of anthroposophy to their work, no matter where they may be teaching or the nature of the subject matter." — Rudolf Steiner, THE ROOTS OF EDUCATION - Foundations of Waldorf Education XIX (Anthroposophic Press, 1997), p. 18.

◊ "[E]very Sunday we have a special form of service for those [students] who attend the free religion lessons. A service is performed and forms of worship are provided for children of different ages. What is done at these services has shown its results in practical life during the course of the years; it contributes in a very special way to the deepening of religious feeling, and awakens a mood of great devotion in the hearts of the children." — Rudolf Steiner, THE KINGDOM OF CHILDHOOD - Foundations of Waldorf Education XXI (Anthroposophic Press, 1995), p. 138.

◊ "[T]his is how our free, nondenominational, religion lessons came about. These were given by our own teachers, just as the other religious lessons were given by ministers. The teachers were recognized by us as religious teachers in the Waldorf curriculum. Thus, anthroposophic religious lessons were introduced in our school. These lessons have come to mean a great deal to many of our students." — Rudolf Steiner, THE SPIRITUAL GROUND OF EDUCATION - Foundations of Waldorf Education XV (Anthroposophic Press, 2004), p. 115.

Implicit in all of this is an admission of several crucial points that Waldorf representatives usually deny: Waldorf schools are religious institutions. Their teachers work as priests. And the religion they serve is Anthroposophy. Steiner himself said as much (evidently inadvertently) when he said this:

"[T]he Anthroposophical Society...provides religious instruction just as other religious groups do." — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER - Foundations of Waldorf Education VIII/2, Vol. 2 (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 706.



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Steiner insisted that the religious instruction and services provided by Anthroposophists in Waldorf schools are "free" — no one is compelled to attend (only students whose parents request such services are expected to be present). Such assurances may or may not prove to be true today; Waldorf schools use many methods to extend their "priestly" efforts to all students. [See, e.g., "Sneaking It In".] In any case, our focus for the moment should be directed to the "special form of service" conducted for at least some Waldorf students. In general, these services appear to be Christian — they center on the figure of Christ. We should recognize, however, that the Christ revered by Anthroposophists is quite different from the Son of God worshipped in mainstream Christian denominations. According to Anthroposophical belief, Christ is the Sun God, the same god worshipped in various pagan religions under such names as Wu or Baldur. Anthroposophy recognizes the Sun God as a member of the Holy Trinity, but it also affirms His existence as a separate god, distinct from the Father God — the god of Saturn — and the Holy Spirit — the god of the Old Moon stage of evolution. [See "Sun God".] Christianity is one of the great monotheistic religions of mankind; Anthroposophy, by contrast, is polytheistic. [See "Polytheism"].

The "free" religious services performed for Waldorf students have various Christian trappings, but they are actually quite distinct from mainstream Christian practice — they are conducted in accordance with Anthroposophy's unique, polytheistic theology. Indeed, the freedom of the "Free Waldorf School" — which is what the first Waldorf school was called — largely consisted of the school's ability to enact teachings that lie outside mainstream belief and practice. Rudolf Steiner advocated freedom; but at Waldorf schools, this largely amounts to freedom for the schools to operate outside normal bounds, not freedom for students or even faculty members to think or act independently except within narrow limits. Anthroposophy is held to be the Truth, and individuals are "free" to accept it or reject it. In practice, this means individuals may choose the right path and its rewards, or the wrong path and its penalties. The right path, of course, is Anthroposophy; the wrong path is anything that diverges significantly from Anthroposophy. Your "freedom," then, consists of your ability to choose the one true course in life; failing that, you will lose your soul. [See "Freedom".]

All that having been being said, let's turn our attention to the instructions provided by Rudolf Steiner and relayed by Hischam A. Hapatsch concerning the Anthroposophical religious services intended to be performed in Waldorf schools. (Hischam A. Hapatsch, DIE KULTUSHANDLUNGEN DER CHRISTENGEMEINSCHAFT UND DIE KULTUSHANDLUNGEN IN DER FREIEN WALDORFSCHULE (Verlag der Arbeitsgemeinschaft für Religions- und Weltanschauungsfragen, 1996), p. 99.)


A special altar is used:


Three steps rise to the altar. On the steps, on the left and right, there are always one-armed chandeliers.


On the altar are seven candles, with the tallest at the center. To the left and right of the candles are flowers.


Left and right of the altar stand, facing the community [i.e., the congregation], very low chairs with large backrests.


The whole altar is bedecked in red. Above it hangs the portrait of Christ by Leonardo da Vinci.




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This altar, from a Christian Community church in Finland,

approximates some of the arrangements described by Hapatsch.

[Public domain photograph.]






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Having prescribed the arrangements for the altar, Hapatsch briefly explains how the services are performed (DIE KULTUSHANDLUNGEN DER CHRISTENGEMEINSCHAFT UND DIE KULTUSHANDLUNGEN IN DER FREIEN WALDORFSCHULE, pp. 99-100).


The actions are performed by two or three officiants. The head officiant stands in the middle. The officiant standing to the right (as seen by the community) is responsible for the Communion, i.e., the part of the service in which participants act as individuals. The officiant on the left is responsible for the Gospel reading. The lead officiant has responsibility for all remaining parts.


If only two officiants are present, the lead officiant takes the part of the missing officiant. All officiants always face the same direction as the lead officiant. There is no liturgical garb. In all services, the parents, their substitutes, and the teachers lead in the students and then take their places at the rear of the room. Just before the service and even before the students are admitted, the lead officiant saith:



By your power, O spirit of God.

I will direct to you

The souls entrusted to me.

Your light illumines the center of my thinking.

Your warmth fills the center of my compassion.

Your penetrating soul power irradiates my willing body.

I make my service unto you.



Candles are lit before and after the community (including the elders) enter the room.


Immediately before the first or last words of the service are heard, the seated officiants rise and place themselves before the AItar, then they return to their chairs. Only the head officiant remains standing all the time. The chairs are not used in the sacrificial ceremony.


Concerning the style of speech to be used, Steiner said: "Be hesitant at first, groping for words. Experience when the spirit begins to flow to you and let it express itself then."






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Those are the preliminaries, as outlined in Hapatsch's invaluable book. Let's look, now, at three services as detailed by Hapatsch. In preparing these translations, I have worked directly from the book, accepting its German text as authoritative although it evidently contains some typos, which of course complicates matters somewhat. Note that the services are intended explicitly for children, and they are crafted to make a deep emotional impact on the youngsters. This is precisely what an organization would aim for when seeking to indoctrinate young, impressionable souls. [For more on Waldorf indoctrination, see Perra's "The Anthroposophical Indoctrination of Students in Steiner-Waldorf Schools". You will also find a summary at "Indoctrination".] Various other details, such as mystic hand gestures, may also pique your interest. Considerable stage management is apparent in the services.


The individuals who conduct the services and attend to the children are identified by varying labels, some of which overlap. I have not attempted to straighten out any identifications left uncertain in the book.


I have included a few, but not all, of the footnotes that appear in the text. I have omitted, for instance, most footnotes that deal with minor points of German language usage that have little meaning in the English language. (Hapatsch reports slight differences between various versions of the ceremonies, differences that often hinge on slight variations in word choice.) I have adjusted the numbering of the footnotes accordingly.


Please consider my translations preliminary and tentative. I have worked on them carefully, but I am not the most qualified of translators. I have undertaken this work only because, as far as I can determine, no one else has done it. Perhaps other, better translators will eventually step forward and produce more finished translations. To promote this possibility, I have included the original German texts of the services, derived from Hapatsch's book, at the bottom of this page. Please, Germanophones, any takers?


— Roger Rawlings





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I.


Sunday Service for Children

[For students in grades 1-8]




(This is celebrated for the children of 1st to 8th grades until Confirmation, on every possible Sunday. For Christmas and Sundays between December 25 and June 1, the Christmas story is used.)


(The candles are lit, then the parents or their substitutes and the teachers enter the room of consecration. The children enter the consecrated room in pairs. At the entrance of every child, one of the two acolytes takes him by the hand and, speaking in chorus, the acolytes say:)



You understand, you approach the font,

you raise your soul to the spirit of the world.



(Then, when all the children are gathered in front of the altar, the ceremony at the altar begins. The two acolytes stand to the right and left of the altar.)



We now direct our thoughts and feelings to the spirit,

to the spirit that liveth and worketh,

that liveth and worketh in stone, plant and animal,

that liveth and worketh in human thinking and human action,

that worketh in all activity,

that moveth in all life,

the life that leads to death, so that it may live anew,

leading the dead back to life, so that we look to the spirit.



(Until reaching the phrase "feeling and willing," the acting officiant stands with raised right arm pointing to the image of Christ at the altar. The fingers of the hand are not spread.)



He entered into a body, working as a spirit in the universe.

Christ died.

He became alive within humanity,

who gave him a chamber in their hearts.

So our hearts turn to him,

he permeates us with his power,

which works within,

may it permeate

our thinking, feeling and willing.



(The acting officiant addresses the children:)



My dear ones! We learn to understand the world.

We learn to work in the world.

The love of the people inspires us all to work.

Without love, human existence is bleak and empty.

Christ is the teacher of philanthropy.



(All speak now [whichever can be heard best]. The right hand of the acting officiant encloses his closed left hand during this prayer. During this prayer he stands facing the church.)



Let us pray.


We raise all our feelings and thinking to God's spirit.

We worship the spirit of God.

We love the spirit of God.

We will recollect the spirit of God

when we are alone,

and also when we are with others.

Then he will be with us.



(The acting officiant now takes each child's hand or he puts his hand on the child's head and says:)



The spirit of God, which you seek, be with you.



(The child answers:)


I will seek him.



(Now the acting officiant turns again and speaks to the children, hands raised for blessing, both arms raised straight with outward-turned palms, the fingers spread in such a way that three groups emerge: Pinky and ring finger, middle finger and index finger, and the thumb.)



I call to God's Spirit,

that he may abide with you, if ye seek him.


We now proclaim the Gospel ... In the chapter and verse...1



(During the reading, everyone stands.)



Gospel reading.2



Insertion (Pentecost)



We sing now...



Song3



(Addressed again to the children:)



Dear children! I release you now.

But retain well in your thoughts

what you have heard, felt, and thought here.



(Music)



(Then the children leave the hall after the books are closed and the acting officiant has taken leave of the Christ image.)




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1 In the Waldorf School, this is always spoken by the main officials.

2 Here originally John 1: 1-14 was always read ... Today the reading is based on the liturgical year.

3 The acting officiant does not join the singing.





— DIE KULTUSHANDLUNGEN DER CHRISTENGEMEINSCHAFT UND

DIE KULTUSHANDLUNGEN IN DER FREIEN WALDORFSCHULE, pp. 74-76.









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Another Christian Community altar

(the Christian Community, New York).

In this case, the image above the altar is a

characteristic Anthroposophical painting,

the sort often found in Waldorf schools.

All Anthroposophical institutions, including

the Christian Community and Waldorf schools,

exist within the unique, mystical culture that

derives from the teachings of Rudolf Steiner.

It is a culture stressing both spirituality and beauty,

and thus it can be alluring.

But before yielding to this allure, we should carefully

consider the doctrines that constitute Anthroposophy.

[For an overview of Anthroposophical art, see "Anthro Art".

To consider such art as employed

in Waldorf schools, see "Magical Arts".

To examine the central texts of Anthroposophy,

see "Everything" and "Knowing the Worlds".]


Students at Waldorf schools who participate

in the sorts of religious services described here

are, in effect, being inducted into the Christian Community.

Note that the congregation is referred to, in these services,

as the "community" ("Gemeinde" or "Gemeindschaft").

The services reflect Christian Community devotional practice.

[For more on the Christian Community,

see "Christian Community".]





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II.


Young People's Service


[For students in grades 8-10]




This service corresponds essentially to the confirmation service of the Christian Community (p. 50). However, since there are a number of important differences, the text of the young people's service is reproduced here in full, giving the form in which it is celebrated in the Waldorf School. It should be emphasized here explicitly that the youth service is not a one-time event like the confirmation service; the students return to it for about two years.


(At the entrance to the room of consecration, the students — who may enter in pairs — are taken by the hand by the two acolytes, who say to each:)



Remember the importance of this moment in your life.



(When all have gathered before the altar, the service begins. The acolytes arrange themselves on the right and left.)



Dear children!


You are stepping into a new age.

From childhood you are rising to adolescence.

Your teachers who shaped you

have been concerned that the Spirit of God

may give light to your thinking,

strength to your feeling,

and purpose to your willpower.

The Christ who has died so that the souls of men can live,

your teachers have worked so that he may be

the guide on your life paths,

the dispenser of life's joys,

the comforter in the sorrows of existence.



(The acting officiant turns around and raises both arms to the image of Christ, indicating "For thou hast said." The palms are turned inwards.)



You are the light of our souls,

you guide our ways in life,

you provide life's pleasures,

you comfort us in the sorrows of existence.


To you I have spoken pleadingly,

if I craved light

for these children's thinking,

if I longed for power

for these children's feeling,

if I aspired to work blessings

needed by these children.


So send your light,

so donate your strength,

so let your blessing flow

in this hour

to those who were entrusted to us,

and whom we now pass into life

that they

think through your light,

feel through your power,

work through your blessing;

in all their life on Earth

up to the moment of death

may you bring soul life unto them.



(The acting officiant turns to the community.)4



For thou hast said,


Paternal Mind of the World:

let the work of your Son be understood

so that through the Son you mayest be manifest.

You brought him forth for sake of spirits

who dwell in carnal human bodies

so that in the future he might bring life to all

who come to him through you.


They will live in the future by the fact

that the inner eye has been prepared

to look to you as truly the basis of the world5

creating Jesus Christ, whom you have sent to them.

Through me you were again visible in the essence of the world

although the Earth clouded the revelation of you.

Such was your will,

which worked through me.


So then, Paternal Mind of the World,

let now shine the revelation

that was already within me,

before you became known in the Earth.


Through me was the Word

that reveals you, becoming known in the souls of men

who came to me through you.

You being in them, through you they came to me,

and they have taken in the knowledge of You.6


They have recognized

that what I said to them

was spoken by you through me

unto them.


Paternal Mind of the World, whom I invoke,

may they who have come to you through me

always be alive with you, as I am,

and may they recognize your revelation

that you lovingly let shine before me

since before the Earth began.


Through me was made known the word

that reveals you,

and I will carry this word in the souls of men,

that the love you have borne me

may be preserved in them,

and thus may my eternal life

preserve their lives forever (John 7:1-26).



(The acting officiant turns back to the altar. Then he goes to each individual, takes him by the hand and speaks:)



Here in this school you have been led

by the spirit of Christ

who overcame death,

that the life of the

human soul may be saved;

through the larger life of the school

the spirit of Christ leads

your life forces,

your soul powers,

your spiritual goals.



(The acting officiant goes back to his place and discusses Easter in a short speech, which has approximately the following content:)



Dear children!

In the spring, when the Earth brings forth new plant life, Christ passed through death on Calvary. He died. But He overcame death. Victorious over death, He lives in humanity; He lives in the people who seek Him, seeking with all their thinking, feeling and willing. And so each time that spring brings the high festival of Easter, then— looking upon the new life of the Earth — we should commemorate the death and resurrection of Christ.


Dear children,

Think every year at this Easter season of the feast we celebrate with you today, and celebrate it every year again, so that you will have within you the living thought

of the death

and resurrection of Christ,

and of His dwelling in the souls of those who seek Him.



(The speech may continue until the officiant has said all he intends to convey to the children.)



(Songs, to be announced by the officiant. He stands facing the the community during the singing. Additionally, an unannounced piece of music may follow.)



Dear childrenl

Every Sunday I send you back,

prompting you to remember

what you have experienced here;


Now I release you

with caring soul

into life.


The spirit of Christ be with you.

Seek Him,

you will find Him:

in your light,

as your strength,

as your leader,7

as your comforter.



(The acting officiant turns back to the altar.)



(Each child is released individually, taken by the hand and told:)



Remember the importance of this moment in your life.

Forget it never,

not in joy,

not in sorrow.



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4 The following is spoken by the acolyte on the left.

5 In another version, "the foundation of the world."

6 In another version, "recorded in me as the knowledge of You."

7 In another version, "highest leader."





— DIE KULTUSHANDLUNGEN DER CHRISTENGEMEINSCHAFT UND

DIE KULTUSHANDLUNGEN IN DER FREIEN WALDORFSCHULE, pp. 101-105.





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