Foundation Studies at the Waldorf School of Atlanta

Foundation Studies in Anthroposophy and the Arts

fdn studies year one

Waldorf School of Atlanta – Foundation Studies Group

We are a group of 12 Waldorf School of Atlanta parents, faculty and staff, local community members and homeschooling parents who have come together to study the work of Rudolf Steiner and experience interconnectedness through the arts. We have all enrolled in a two-year program that is organized through the Center for Anthroposophy and hosted by WSA. We typically meet two Saturday mornings a month for seminars, group work, artistic activities, and sometimes longer workshops. Our interests address the broad themes of human development and personal growth through three distinct but interrelated elements:

  • study of the basic books of Rudolf Steiner, including How to Know Higher Worlds, Theosophy, An Outline of Esoteric Science, and Intuitive Thinking as a Spiritual Path: A Philosophy of Freedom
  • cultivation of artistic activities that are transformative in nature, such as speech, drama, music, eurythmy, painting, drawing, woodwork, sculpture, and more
  • some experience of life in a Waldorf school as well as other cultural initiatives arising from the work of Rudolf Steiner.

We are currently mid-way through the second year. If you would like more info or are interested in starting with a new Year One group, email Angela Foster: afoster@thirdbody.net

More information about Foundation Studies can also be found at the Center for Anthroposophy.  And more information about our Atlanta Cluster can be found here.

fdn studies year one work

Waldorf School of Atlanta – Foundation Studies work, year one

THE SIGNIFICANCE OF MICHAELMAS at the Waldorf School of Atlanta

The beating of a drum warns of the coming of the dragon. Through the trees we can see its shape moving swiftly toward the field where we are standing. As the ugly head rushes into the clearing, pandemonium breaks loose and children scatter to and fro to escape the foul beast. Then, the piercing call of a single trumpet summons the Archangel Michael. Atop a white horse, he rides carrying a flaming sword. His helmet and armor of gold glimmer in the catches of the late afternoon light. With his mighty sword, he tames the dragon.

st michael 2013

Singing praises, we gather around the Protector of Life and celebrate with a feast. All the fruits of the harvest are gathered and tables of food are prepared under the autumnal sky. When the light has grown dim and bellies are full, the crowd departs; each into their own home. Winter is coming and it is time to go inside. That was one Michaelmas celebration I remember during the years I spent living in an Anthroposophical Community for children with special needs. Being unfamiliar with Michaelmas, I wondered about its origin and meaning. St. Michael is one of the four Archangels found in the book of Revelation (Rev. 12:7). In ancient Chaldean/Babylonian mythology, he was called Marduk, the angel who killed the dragon Tiamat and created heaven and earth from its body. The Hero of the Sun or Protector of Life are two names given to St. Michael.

Michaelmas correlates to festivals in ancient cultural/religious traditions. The Festival of the Harvest , usually held in late September, is common among all cultures with an autumnal harvesting time. The Jewish holy day of Yom Kippur is also connected to Michaelmas. Yom Kippur is the culmination of the Jewish high holy days of Rosh Hashanah meaning, “head of the year,” the time of the Jewish New Year. It is a time of self-reflection and evaluation of one’s moral quality: a spiritual new year. It is no accident that the tradition falls during the constellation of Libra (Sept. 23 – Oct. 22) in the zodiac. Libra is the sign of the Scales signifying a weighing of one’s deeds. Deeds are the proverbial fruit of the harvest being gathered in for the winter of the soul. As we bring in the harvest in preparation for winter, we must ponder the deeds we have accomplished.

Michaelmas has great significance in connection to the symbol of the scales. Michael is often depicted holding a scale in religious iconography. There is a meaning here regarding the balance between the expansiveness of summer and the contractedness of winter. This is the time of the fall equinox when days and nights are equal lengths.

abby wright michael chalkboard

Chalkboard drawing by Abby Wright, WSA teacher.  

The archetypal drama between the horse & rider and the dragon has its symbolism, too. The horse & rider is the representation of a pure soul (horse) guided by its ego (rider). This is not a self-seeking sense of ego, but rather an image of spirit power, which gives us the will to do in the world. In the same way that the rider guides the horse on its path, spirit guides the soul. The sword is directly connected to the symbolism of spirit power because of the iron from which it is made. Physiologically, if the iron level in our blood is too low, we experience a lack of energy (will power). Anthroposophically speaking, iron is viewed as the carrier of spirit power in our bodies. As it so happens, the atmosphere of the earth experiences a barrage of meteor showers every year during late August which can be seen as the universal iron permeating and strengthening the earth. The dragon is the representation of evil in the world. Evil, in the sense, can be understood as an impediment to spiritual growth: i.e. fear, doubt, impatience, hatred, rage, etc. The struggle between the horse & rider and the dragon is the archetypal struggle between good and evil.

Each of us, in our own lives, experiences the battle between good and evil every day. People on a spiritual path are concerned with personal growth as a path of development. Forces that inhibit this growth are the dragons of our lives. Often we feel a need for heavenly assistance to battle these spiritual burdens so that we may continue to grow.

St. Michael is the spiritual representation of one who understands the paradox in the relationship between the light and the darkness; between growth and hardship; between good and evil. He shines the light of truth on the darkness of falsehood, which would enslave us, but understands that it is this very light that creates the darkness. The radiant brilliance of good casts the tenebrous shadow of evil. Light cannot exist without darkness.

dragon compressed

With this understanding it becomes necessary to face the dragon as a part of ourselves which is necessary, but not permanent. St. Michael leads us in battle against our own dragons with the light of truth and love as our guide. He imbues us with courage to face the hardships of our lives. Rudolf Steiner once said about the Michaelic impulse in the world: “The Michael force, which must completely change the ways of life of people, must find expression in great Michael festivals. This must be our goal, that the awakening of life; planting seeds of the festivals of hope, in festivals of expectancy, in festivals where the only bond is through hope and expectancy, be experienced…and not through sharply outlined ideals…Communal experience is required in order to work towards a Michael festival where the spirit of expectancy, can live.” (Breslau, June 9, 1924)

~Tim Smith

3rd Grade Teacher

This article was originally published in the December 2010 Garden Breeze newsletter of the Waldorf School of Atlanta.

Anthroposophy at the Waldorf School of Atlanta

candle wide

 

In the 1500, Rene Descartes challenged our understanding of self with ‘I doubt therefore I think, I think, therefore I am’ and opened up the world of scientific inquiry. Science today investigates phenomena at the molecular level and finds all suddenly changed: what we thought previously about the activity of a given factor at this level in a cellular process has been found to play an opposite roll in other circumstances. Does this mean there is flow and thought, freedom and movement at this level? Does “systems biology” open up almost unimaginable levels of complexity, or does it bring us back to more basic truth? At this time of year as we gaze into the starry heavens populated with uncountable numbers of stars, we remind ourselves that while man is the thinking animal, he is also a being capable of love, and love is found most poignantly when we give it to another. As we move into the holiday season of many religions we are reminded by the candle light of those celebrations that it is our love that lights these long dark days of winter, illuminating complex systems of giving and receiving, of freedom to be new and different in every moment, which, as we are learning from molecular biology, is our heritage and our destiny.

~Sara Walsh
Administrator

This article appeared originally in the December 2011 edition of the Garden Breeze newsletter.  Visit us online at www.waldorfatlanta.org . 

Linden Tree Photography 2011 Advent Spiral 013