A question for the anthropopper

An interesting new blog has appeared: anthropopper by Jeremy Smith. Smith is well known in UK Steiner circles: he has worked as an executive member of the SWSF, acted as a school trustee and is currently a lay inspector of Steiner schools for Ofsted.

In his first post giving his reasons for starting the blog, Smith explains:

“Steiner knew with absolute certainty that we human beings are not just physical creatures in a material world but in fact we are spiritual beings who are currently having human experiences in a physical body – and that we are subject to constant cycles of life, death and rebirth… if you feel there may be rather more to life than just one lifetime, then you could find it worthwhile to find out more about Steiner.”

Knowing such things with absolute certainty is of course a characteristic of religion, although most anthroposophists are keen to disassociate themselves from that word.

Continuing his theme of reincarnation, Smith’s next post reminds us of the story of English footballer Glenn Hoddle (via a talk given by Alan Swindell, principal of the new Steiner Academy Exeter, at the 2014 Anthroposophical Society of Great Britain Summer Conference). Hoddle was dismissed as manager for the England team after expressing his view that disability is related to karma, being a direct result of actions in a past life.

Smith fulminates about the ensuing “media witchhunt” and the apparent monopoly “materialists” have on public opinion. He goes on to say that:

“In such a climate of opinion, those of us who think that anthroposophy has something to offer could be forgiven for keeping our heads below the parapet. Our views are seen as heretical in the prevailing orthodoxy.”

I believe that Hoddle had every right and anthroposophists have every right to express their beliefs in public and agree with Smith that the world is a poorer place if they feel unable to do so. However, the flip side of this is that disability advocates and others have every right to be offended by them. Whether it was right for Hoddle to lose his job, I don’t know, but I am certain that his beliefs have nothing do with football.

Unlike Smith, I do not believe that:

“Glenn Hoddle was articulating something, however clumsily, that many people know instinctively and have a great need to express.”

I think that most people (in the Western world at least) would not instinctively make the link between disability and karma and would never feel the need to express it. Now, there are some Buddhists, for example, who also happen to be disabled and they do find this idea personally helpful to them. To those people I say, good luck. To others, I say: feel free to discuss the subject but be prepared to say why it is a useful concept, or risk being seen as merely offensive.

Smith also explains the appeal of anthroposophy for him as a source of inspiration for practical endeavours in agriculture, education etc. My question is: what role and purpose, if any, does karma have in Steiner education? We know that anthroposophy is the basis for Steiner education. It’s time for Steiner advocates to put their heads above the parapet and engage in a public discussion on the details.

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