A central aspect of anthroposophy is reincarnation. This is a concept that will be familiar from more mainstream religions. Steiner believed that some aspects of our past lives can effect our health and wellbeing in our current incarnation and that an understanding of the past lives of children in their care would aid teachers in their work. Younger children are particularly “close” to the spiritual world and most likely to have residual memories of their previous incarnations.
The process of incarnation continues throughout childhood and is fundamental to Steiner education, as described in the previous post. When things go wrong with the incarnation process this is thought to lead to learning difficulties such as autism, as will be described in a later post.
Here are two excerpts from Kindling, the “Journal for Steiner Waldorf Early Childhood Education and Care”. It is published by the Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship in the UK and edited by Janni Nicol, their early childhood representative.
The first is a caption for a picture on the inside front cover showing a girl playing with puppets. It reads:
“As children grow older, they have many possibilities for ‘re-living’ earlier forms of consciousness. Puppet performing offers one opportunity for this.”
What could these “earlier forms of consciousness” be other than past lives? Puppet plays are a common form of entertainment at Steiner schools. Cute and fun though they can be, do they really have this higher purpose? What could the other opportunities for reliving past lives be in the Steiner kindergarten? That’d be a good question to ask at an open day.
The second excerpt relates to the story of “The Rainbow Bridge” which is often associated with the celebration of a child’s birthday.
A dialogue between two five and six year olds while looking at the pictures in the Weleda calendar:
Child 1: ‘Look, there is the Rainbow bridge!’
Child 2: ‘Yes, have you walked over the rainbow bridge?’
Child 1: ‘Yes, I did once, in a dream.’
Child 2: ‘I have walked over it too’
Child 1: ‘Really?’
Child 2: ‘Yes, when I was born’
Child 1: ‘Oh yes of course!’
The Rainbow Bridge is one of many pieces of anthroposophical folklore which appear in the life of the school. According to Janni Nicol and Jill Taplin in their book “Understanding the Steiner Waldorf Approach: Early Years Education in Practice”
“The picture of the rainbow bridge is one which easy to share. The rainbow bridge is, in Steiner education, the one where the child comes from Heaven to their earthly home – the bridge to the world is through the kindergarten.”
It’s a charming story but as with the puppet shows, you might be surprised how seriously it’s taken by the adults in a Steiner school.