The Education of the Etheric Body as the Foundation for Social Health with Dr. Carmen Hering
San Francisco Bay Area Waldorf Teachers Conference, February 20-22
From Ken Smith
During the summer program of 2018 the Bay Area Center for Waldorf Teacher Training ran a course with Dr. Carmen Hering about First Grade readiness which explored the changes and challenges that we are seeing in children entering First Grade and how this impacting many of the assumptions we have about the First grade curriculum and character of the teaching.
This course was a deep dive into the processes of child development in the first seven years, the work of the etheric body and how this is being disturbed or interrupted by our modern lifestyle. In this course Dr. Hering opened up, what was for many of us, a new thought – that the healthy working of the etheric body and a healthy ‘sense of life’ that the child builds when very young is the foundation for trust.
At a very early age the child first develops the capacity to trust through sensing internal processes and the wisdom intrinsic in their own body. Through the life sense, the child experiences their own body cycling through periods of energy and tiredness, of hunger and nourishment, of warmth and cold and the return to balance and resolve.
The child’s first lessons in trust develop out of the working of their own healthy etheric body. The sense of life provides an awareness of this and then a security can develop in the workings of their own bodily vessel as a deeply seated feeling of trust.
The idea that a healthy ability to trust has its seat in a healthy etheric and in one of our deep will senses has a profound effect upon how we regard a common phenomenon in our time – a fundamental lack of trust.
One of the most challenging aspects of our work in Waldorf schools, either as a teacher, or administrative staff, or being part of the school community as a parent, is not the teaching, or the curriculum or understanding child development – it is the social life, what lives between people. All too often we see that it is in the realm of human relationships where Waldorf schools struggle and things can come undone. The Waldorf school is an intensified social environment where aspects of the modern human condition are revealed that are otherwise obscured by our busy, dispersed lifestyle and an increasingly anti-social culture where much of our time is spent alone in front of an electronic device.
A great deal of good work is being done to try to address the development of healthy social capacities in Waldorf schools from a conscious direction. Working with awareness, good policies and practices, good communication practices etc. From the head pole.
In this conference Dr. Carmen Hering will propose that we need to turn our attention to the other pole, the unconscious, inner, will pole of the human constitution, where the original ability to form trust is found.
As teachers, and school administrators we need to develop a more comprehensive understanding of how we can care for the development of this capacity in the children in our care – building crucial capacities for the social life of the future. We also need to account of the fact that it may be a weakness, a constitutional lack in our present generation of adults and look for ways to mitigate this in the way we organize our schools and guide the life of the school community.
Ken Smith is the Director of the Bay Area Center for Waldorf Teacher Training.