This coming Thursday Dr. Kenneth McAlister will take the stage at Innis Hall (at the University of Toronto) for the third and final lecture in a series titled "Spiritual Awakening in a Scientific Age". The series is sponsored by the Toronto Branch of the Anthroposophical Society in Canada. Tickets are $20 at the door, or in advance through eventbrite (see link on the poster).
Medical research reveals that bacteria in the gut has an impact on our overall health, and that a healthy gut creates a healthy body and brain. Fiona Hughes, MD, and Kathie Young, artist, have partnered to create a 4-hour workshop that explores nutritional and creative tools to better health.
This fermenting and felting program is offered in a supportive group setting with sessions devoted to healthy gut theory, conversation, and making fermented foods with a felted cozy.
When: Sunday, November 10th
What: Learn how to ferment mango chutney and a veggie, then take them home with your original felted cozy.
Fermenting: 10:00 - 11:45
Snack: 11:45 - 12:15
Felting: 12:15 - 2:00
Where: 33 Harbour Square, Toronto
How much: $80 includes materials + snack
Fiona Hughes is a health and life transitions coach. With a medical degree from Germany and extensive training in anthroposophical medicine, she is passionate about the processes of healing, nourishing, and transforming.
Kathie Young is a graphic designer, painter, teacher, actor, student of the martial arts, and an enthusiastic advocate for preparing and eating fermented food.
Come to our Waldorf 100 Celebration Sunday Oct. 27th.
The first Waldorf school opened in Stuttgart Germany on September 19th, 1919. Since then, Waldorf has grown to become the second largest independent-school movement in the world.
This year and especially this autumn, Waldorf schools around the world have been celebrating the centenary of Waldorf education, each in their own way.
Here in Thornhill, the Rudolf Steiner Centre Toronto and the Toronto Waldorf School have been working together to prepare a Waldorf 100 celebration that is to take place on Sunday October 27th at 3 pm.
We invite anyone who feels connected to Waldorf education, either as a teacher, parent, alumni/ae, student, or newcomer.
About ten years ago the Toronto Waldorf School commissioned filmmaker Nadia Tan to produce a series of video interviews with Toronto Waldorf School founders with a view to preserving something of the school's founding impulses.
Those videos have never yet been publicly shown. But finally, on October 27th at the Waldorf 100 Celebration they will have their world premiere.
There will also be a retrospective slide show and photo exhibit highlighting scenes from the history of both the Toronto Waldorf School and the Rudolf Steiner Centre Toronto.
Now we don't go back 100 years here, but we've been able to dig up lots of great photos from some of the early days and from the later history of both initiatives.
There will also be a space for people to share personal reflections from their experience of local Waldorf history. And to top it off there will be refreshments.
There is no charge for this event. Everyone is welcome. And there's free parking too. We know it's a busy time of year but we do hope you will come and celebrate 100 years of Waldorf with us in the TWS music room, on Sun. Oct. 27th at 3:00 pm.
James Brian, for the Rudolf Steiner Centre Toronto
Photo: Class of 2019-2020 at their Michaelmas Festival, September 2019.
STUDENT PROFILES 2019-2020 FOR THESE PROGRAMS:
Professional Development for Waldorf Early Childhood Teachers Full-Time
Professional Development for Waldorf Teachers Full-Time
Canada (Early Childhood Focus)
Gilia MacKay was born in the small city of Nelson, nestled in the mountains of British Columbia, Canada. She has two older sisters, an older brother and one younger brother. She spent most of her first six years traveling around B.C. with her family being raised in tree planting camps while here parents worked. Spending so much of her early years outside inspired her great love of animals, the outdoors and being amongst nature.
When Gilia was around the age of four she began piano lessons, studying with the Royal Conservatory through her childhood and into adulthood and still plays to this day. Gilia was five when she began Kindergarten at the Nelson Waldorf School and followed all the way through graduating from grade 8 before attending the public schools for high school. It was while being in a public high school, having then experienced both the Waldorf and Public schools systems that Gilia decided that she wanted to further her education in a Waldorf school setting, thinking that she would eventually become an Eurythmy teacher.
At a fairly young age Gilia began to help out with her parents janitorial job and was 14 when she took on her own cleaning job, cleaning a real estate office within the main building that her parents cleaned and then a couple years later she began cleaning a doctor's office as well. After graduating grade 12 from L.V. Rodger's Secondary High School, Gilia began studying Tai-Chi and Ba-Gua during the winters and working away at a fruit farm and packinghouse from spring though to fall, this she did for a couple of years.
During this time Gilia attended a week long Tai-Chi camp for work trade in the summers, where she began to learn camp cooking and that unexpectedly led her to move to Alberta to work in the Oil&Gas Industry. Unexpected as Gilia was thinking that she was going to become a tree planting cook not an oil rig camp cook, but aside from disliking the industry she was working in she greatly enjoyed working as camp cook. After three years in Alberta and missing living in the mountains, Gilia moved back home to the Nelson area and got a job cooking in a pup/restaurant and took the next little while to think about what she truly wanted to do and where she wanted to go forward in life.
Gilia eventually decided on doing her Handwork Teacher training and Foundation studies at the Rudolf Steiner College. After the first year of handwork training Gilia started assisting in Kindergarten at the Nelson Waldorf School with the intention to eventually take over as the Handwork Teacher there. While working as an assistant in kindergarten Gilia fell in love with the program and received much positive feedback from the school and from parents whenever she had to step into the lead position. Having enjoyed herself working in kindergarten and knowing that the lead teacher that she has been working with is close to being done holding the position, as well as having low enrollment for this year, Gilia decided to take this opportunity to go away to school and work towards becoming a lead kindergarten teacher in a Waldorf School.
Canada (Grade School Focus)
Bronwen grew up on a small farm just outside of Guelph, ON. Inspired by stories of gnomes and faeries, Bronwen spent her formative years adventuring through forests, fields and along streams on her family’s property, immersed in the imaginative landscapes of play. Through this early exploration of the interwovenness of story and nature, a seed was planted in her about the value of an imagination grounded in the world. Her interest in an education that recognizes the importance of the imagination and its relationship to truth is what eventually drew her to the insights of Waldorf education.
Bronwen graduated from the University of Guelph with a B.A. in Philosophy and a minor in Music. Over the course of her studies she became increasingly interested in the philosophy of education, where she eventually discovered the writings of Rudolf Steiner. After completing her undergraduate degree, she took a year off to teach music lessons, during which time she read the book “Uncovering the Voice: The Cleansing Power of Song” by Valborg Werbeck-Svärdström and began experimenting with some of the methods described in the book in her vocal instruction.
Wanting to develop her ideas around education, Bronwen went on the following year to do her master’s in Arts Education at Simon Fraser University. During that time, she decided to enroll in the Foundations Studies Distance program at RSCT. Over the summers of 2018-2019, Bronwen worked as Assistant Co-ordinator of the Farm School Programs at Everdale Organic Farm, a farm-based organization focused on food and farming education in Hillsburgh, ON.
Her teaching experiences at Everdale, combined with the resonance she feels in relation to anthroposophical perspectives on education, deepened her certainty about becoming a Waldorf teacher. Bronwen has training in voice, guitar and piano. She also has many years of experience writing her own music. Bronwen is currently in the process of completing her teacher training at RSCT with the intent of becoming a Grades teacher in a Waldorf school.
China (Grade School Focus)
Sihui was born in a small village in Guangdong, China. She was taken care of by her grandma from the ages of 9 months to two and a half. After that, she moved to Zhuhai and grew up there with her whole family.
Even though She did very well at school, she couldn’t choose her favorite major in the university. What her father wanted her to major in was Computer Science. So she graduated from a famous engineering university in China, and was an engineer at the GuangZhou TV Station for 12 years.
After the birth of her child, she began the journey to find herself. She founded a breastfeeding studio with her friends. She was responsible for public welfare lectures about breastfeeding and intimate parenting. During that period, she learnt a lot about children and parenting. But still, she had a great many questions and had found no answer.
When her child was a three-year-old, she sent her to a Waldorf Kindergarten. For the first time, she heard about the importance of rhythm, boundaries and authority. She had a hunch that maybe her answers could be found here. Two years later, she resigned and joined the Hairong Waldorf School in Guangzhou and became an assistant teacher.
She likes children very much. When they behave inappropriately, she tries to understand them by considering their developmental characteristics, their environment, and their physical state as well. The children like her too. As she was about to leave, the children kept asking her when she would go back and continue to be their teacher.
She met woodworking there, which made her calm and focused. Every piece of wood has life, even though it looks dirty and ugly at first. When you see it and put your time and heart into it, it will surprise you at last. During that year, she made some wood toys, wood crafts and teaching equipment.
There she learnt a lot about children and herself. And she could do what she was interested in but had not had the time to do when she was young, such as painting, handcraft, gardening, and so on.
And now, she has a chance to study here, a fifty-year-old Waldorf School, and continue finding answers in her mind and questioning more.
Canada (Grade School Focus)
From a very young age, when she would sit her dolls and teddy bears in a circle and sing to them, Michelle knew she wanted to teach. After graduating from Trent University with a Bachelor of Arts Honours degree in English Literature, Michelle began teaching English as a Second Language to adult International students. Several months later, Michelle was offered a position as a classroom assistant at a Montessori school, and immediately realized that her purpose was in teaching children.
She loved the fundamentals of the Montessori philosophy, which was to follow the child. The following school year, Michelle continued to work as an assistant in both a Casa classroom (3-6 year olds) and an elementary classroom (6-9 year olds), while completing her early childhood Montessori teacher training in the evenings. Once qualified, Michelle taught as a lead teacher for the next few years in a Casa class, along with completing her Masters of Arts in Education degree part time.
In 2005, Michelle got married and took a one-year sabbatical from teaching in order to travel the world with her new husband. She returned to the classroom for three years after that before having her first child in 2011. While on maternity leave, Michelle founded a non-profit community outreach program that helps parents in need in the greater Toronto area. It Takes A Village provides emergency food assistance and baby items such as formula and diapers for mostly single moms, as well as ongoing emotional and moral support.
Michelle’s first experience of Waldorf education was attending the Joyful Beginnings and Parent and Tot programs at TWS with her two children. Struck by a feeling of ‘coming home’ during those years, she enrolled her eldest in kindergarten and never looked back. Michelle’s two sons are currently grade three and JK students at TWS.
Recently, Michelle began to feel the familiar itch to return to teaching with both children now in school full time. During her last 8 years as part of the parent community, Michelle has developed a basic understanding of the Waldorf curriculum and pedagogy and has immersed herself in the school community through several volunteer capacities. A few months ago, Michelle realised the truth in the idea that ‘when you know better, you do better’ and at once understood that a Waldorf teaching career was undeniably the right path for her.
Her experience understanding and connecting with children, creating a three-year curriculum for early childhood students in both fine art and drama, as well as her propensity for arts and crafts, creative writing and story telling will undoubtedly be a helpful foundation as a grade school teacher. Michelle feels both excited and humbled with the anticipation for this new chapter in the novel of her life and is very much looking forward to things to come.
Michelle hopes to teach full time as a grades teacher upon graduating.
Romania (Grade School Focus)
Oana is an ESL teacher, working towards becoming a Waldorf Grade Teacher in Canada.
She was born in Romania, spending her childhood years mainly with her maternal grandmother in the village, where she developed an interest in nature, knitting and dancing.
She graduated from the College of Economics (Technician in Financial and Business Activities) in 2003 and continued her studies at the Bucharest University of Economics (Bachelor of Economics) 2003 - 2007.
She worked for almost six years in client financial and administrative management, technological innovation and marketing.
In 2009 she started taking personal development classes, becoming an instructor in 2013. She was then offered to move to Mexico, as a personal development trainer.
As she moved to Puebla, Mexico, she was also offered to work as an English teacher in a private middle school, where she worked for four years 2013 - 2017.
In 2015 she married Mauricio Torres, an Ecuadorian PhD agronomist, specialized in indigenous philosophy.
In 2017 they moved to an indigenous village in Mexico, due to her husband’s PhD research paper, where she worked as a volunteer teacher at an indigenous high school, for five months, teaching English, Mathematics, Economics and Physics. The experience was challenging and exciting as she had to prepare her classes in a way that would be practical and relevant to the indigenous life.
It was after seeing a documentary on Rudolf Steiner’s work during her husband’s Ethno-Agriculture class, that she became interested in Waldorf pedagogy, as she realized it was a teaching method directed mainly to the consciousness, taking into consideration the human brain development stages and the evolvement of the child as a whole body-soul-spirit being.
In March 2018 she volunteered at a Waldorf school in Puebla, Mexico, and started the part-time Waldorf Teacher Program at CDA in Cuernavaca, Mexico in July, completing the first two modules (out of five) of her training.
She completed the online Foundation Studies at RSCT in 2019, enrolling in the full-time Waldorf Teacher Program at RSCT, Canada, that same year.
Becoming a Waldorf teacher represents a perfect mix between her love for teaching, interest in personal development, indigenous teachings and enthusiasm for learning.
China (Grade School Focus)
Weiyang Li grew up in a small, quiet and peaceful village beside a big lake in Southern China. She had lots of freedom to play, swim and catch fish with her brothers and sister .She helped her family to take care of the animals and vegetable garden. She also learned early on how to cook as part of her responsibilities growing up in a rural setting ,she especially liked cooking different types of food.
Weiyang was interested in traditional ideas and began seeking the meaning of life around 2007. Like any sincere seeker. she met soon thereafter her spirit mentor Mr. Zeng. who was interested in Chinese and continental (European) spiritual culture such as Daoism, Buddhism and Waldorf Education. He had studied Anthroposophy in Germany and founded a school for the disabled who couldn't go to school.
When he spoke to Weiyang that he trained those children in Chinese painting, Weiyang asked him how the children knew about colour as they had lost their eyesight ?He answered: “Because colour is an element of the one Truth manifest, no matter if you have eyesight or not.” Such a story resonated with Weiyang and she stayed at the school to explore Waldorf Education with children for approximately the next 10 years.
She helped to build a Waldorf school for children in a small village and city in Qingdao and Wenzhou. She became a teacher there and taught from Kindergarten to Grade 8. She attended Guangxi Normal University for Preschool Education and graduated with a certificate. She went to various workshops to further her training such as handicrafts, crocheting, nutrition, watercolor painting, hand embroidery, drama, clay modeling and massage for the children. She personally enjoys yoga and meditation.
She immigrated to Canada in March 2017. By August, she had moved to Stratford to work at Nancy Campbell Academy as an residential advisor. One year later, she obtained her Home Child Care License and began her own pre-school along with her four-year-old daughter Abigail. She studied at different workshops for children of Perth Care For Kids.
Weiyang 's dream is to be a professional Waldorf grades teacher in Canada, She studied Anthroposophy with her mentor Marg Beard and brought a synthesis and understanding from traditional Chinese thought and Steiner's Rosicrucianism. Her ability to explore knowledge is through feeling, as if the sunshine comes into her soul. Such nourishment has helped her live and enjoy each moment.
She hopes she can continue to seek Truth in this new cultural context and love in the moment - proud of what she has accomplished and what she will accomplish in the future. To be awake every day is her dream.
She thanks everyone here for listening to her story.
Czechoslovakia (Grade School Focus)
Renata was born and raised in Czechoslovakia, in a communist regime. She was born to a very young energetic openminded couple who felt in love with each other and from the day one they both had done their best, their maximum to love Renata and her younger sister unconditionally till nowadays.
Renata spent lots of times outdoor in nature, farming, helping with horses, gardening, mushroom picking, fishing, camping, roasting chestnuts, socializing with the family members and their friends, dancing, singing, swimming, hiking in all seasons, also in winter in a deep snow, skiing and many more delightful fun experiences while growing up.
Renata also was raised by her grandmother, who she used to tell her the stories from the 1st and 2nd World War where she was working as a nurse. Renata always listened to their grandma’s stories in darkness with the candle on in a peaceful cozy home. Till nowadays Renata remembers those very meaningful inspirational stories that made her always imagine that one day she will be like her grandmother helping people and children in life too.
Renata graduated from the Teacher College in Czech Republic where she for the first time had the opportunity to learn about Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner and the Waldorf Pedagogy that deeply spoke to her. Renata growing up learned how to speak German and Russian.
Renata moved to Canada when she was 22 years old to learn also an English language, where she studied Physiotherapist assistant College in Mississauga graduating with Diploma and started working full time as a physiotherapist assistant at Oakville Hospital for 12 years. While living in Oakville she also established through the International language program at Halton Catholic School Board a successful Czech school program with enrollment from JK – Grade Eight.
Renata relocated her family to Guelph for her two sons to start Waldorf Education at Trillium Waldorf school. She has recently completed The Foundation Studies on Anthroposophy and has started Professional Development for Waldorf Teachers Education Full time program at Rudolf Steiner Centre in Toronto. Renata is being more inspired as a passionate educator and wishes to make a difference in the world with her inner enthusiasm, energy, love and care and is even more ready to become a loving authority, spreading the goodness for her new students.
Renata can’t think of anything more relevant for our times becoming a Waldorf Grade Teacher in Guelph or perhaps one day opening a new Waldorf school in Canada, possibly in another country and spreading gratitude, love, freedom through teaching Waldorf Education to all children one day.
Please join us for an inspiring screening of the documentary film "Time to Play" by Kim Hunter (43 minutes) followed by a talk and discussion with Ms. Hunter.
Kim Hunter, who is a Canadian educator and recipient of The Prime Minister's Award for Excellence in Early Childhood Education (photo above), speaks about her concerns with the issues facing children and families in her film, "Time to Play".
This is a film about early childhood (age 0-6) featuring a Waldorf setting. Featured in the film are child development experts who speak to the difficulties and challenges that arise when children are not allowed enough free time to play, to move and are over-exposed to technology. To view the trailer, for more details visit: https://timetoplayfilm.com/
"I made Time to Play because I'm concerned about the changes I've seen in child development over the last 20 years,” says Ms. Hunter. “I hope to stimulate a cultural conversation that can change the way we relate to the early years of human development.”
Time to Play
A screening of the documentary film, followed by talk and discussion with Ms. Hunter.
When: Sat, 12 October 2019
What time: 2:00 PM – 4:00 PM
Where: Novalis Hall , Camphill Communities Ontario, 7841 4 Line Angus, ON L0M 1B1
Foundation Studies in Anthroposophy Encounter programs are now underway in Thornhill on both Wednesday and Saturday mornings.
Last Saturday’s inaugural class featured special guest speaker, Professor Frederick Amrine (photo above), from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, who was in town for a lecture on "Rudolf Steiner as Architect" last Thursday at the University of Toronto, presented by the Toronto Branch of the Anthroposophical Society in Canada.
Who Was Rudolf Steiner Anyway?
The topic for Dr. Amrine’s talk in Saturday’s class was “Who Was Rudolf Steiner and Why Should We Care”, or at least that was the theme given to him by former RSCT Foundation Studies director Wendy Brown when he first spoke here some years ago on the life and work of Rudolf Steiner.
Paul Hodgkins will resume his teaching in Foundation Studies this coming Wednesday and Saturday. The Wednesday morning class meets from 8:45 am to 12:30 pm in one of the smaller rooms at RSCT. This schedule is designed to suit parents with children at the Toronto Waldorf School.
Downtown Toronto FS Encounter Program
The downtown Toronto Foundation Studies Encounter course on Saturday mornings from 9 am to 1 pm at Waldorf Academy held its first class last Saturday. The program is going ahead but there are still spaces for late arrivals. Don't hesitate to contact the RSCT if you're just now able to decide.
Halton Intro Talk Still to Come on Oct. 8th
The Foundation Studies program in Halton is off to a later start with a free introductory talk on Tuesday October 8th at the Halton Waldorf School.
For those people who don’t live within driving distance of the GTA, either downtown Toronto, Thornhill, or Halton, there is also a distance learning program, featuring regular telephone or Skype sessions with a mentor. More info here.
Professor. Amrine's lecture at the U of T last Thursday was one of a three-part series, "Spiritual Awakening in a Scientific Age", that will continue on Thursday Oct. 17th with a talk by the Reverend Jonah Evans on "Overcoming Meaninglessness, Burnout and Untruthfulness". The final talk in the series will be with Dr. Kenneth McAlister on "Metamorphosing Science's Core Paradigm" on Thursday, Nov. 21st. More on those events.
Friday Sept. 27 reading of Michaelmas Imagination by Rudolf Steiner, read by Mark McAlister, 7:00 pm in Foundation Room upstairs in Hesperus East, 1 Hesperus Rd. Thornhill, L4J 0G9.
Sunday Sept 29, 9:30 am, Michaelmas Festival for Families at the Christian Community. All Welcome. At the Christian Community church, 901 Rutherford Rd., Thornhill.
Sunday Sept 29, 1:00 pm opening day of the Seminary of the Christian Community in North America. Join us as we introduce the students and the curriculum to our congregation and wider community. All welcome. At the Christian Community church, 901 Rutherford Rd.
Sunday Sept. 29, 5:30 pm Community Meal in Dining Room at Hesperus. Join Hesperus residents and priest seminarians for a Michaelmas Community Supper, with dragon bread and harvest soup. (Please bring your favorite jam or marmalade of the summer to share and donations are always welcome). Michaelic singing after meal. At Hesperus, 1 Hesperus Rd, Thornhill, L4J 0G9.
Tues. Oct. 1 Michaelmas Community Symposium An evening gathering, ‘How is cosmic Michaelic thinking reflected in our life together and in our work, towards meeting the world needs?‘ Keynote address by Dr. Kenneth McAlister, followed by conversation, including members from our campus initiatives. 7:00 pm in the Seminar room at Hesperus.
Saturday Oct. 5 Film Screening: Angst: Raising Awareness around Anxiety, 7:30 pm in the TWS Music Room,
presented by Toronto Waldorf School.
Tuesday October 8th, 7 pm, free introductory talk for Foundation Studies, at the Halton Waldorf School.
Thursday Oct. 17, Awakening the Gifted Heart: Overcoming Meaninglessness, Burnout and Untruthfulness, with the Rev. Jonah Evans. See poster at end of this blog post.
Tuesday. Oct. 22nd TWS High School Information Evening at 7:30 pm in the Toronto Waldorf School forum.
Sunday October 27, 3:00 pm Come help Celebrate 100 Years of Waldorf Education with the Toronto Waldorf School and the Rudolf Steiner Centre Toronto, in the TWS Music Room. 9100 Bathurst St., Thornhill. See poster below.
Friday Nov. 1, 3 pm, Classical Concert in celebration of Elisabeth Chomko’s 70th birthday. Music performed by Annemarie Kopp (flute) and Elisabeth Chomko (piano), followed by refreshments. at Hesperus, in the atrium by the piano.
Sunday, Nov. 3, Craft sale and Fundraiser at Hesperus 1:30 to 6 pm in the Seminar Room. For details check poster closer to the event.
Friday and Saturday November 8, 9 Waldorf Development Conference at the Rudolf Steiner Centre Toronto. This year’s theme is “Education for Balance and Resilience”. For teachers, parents, or anyone who’s interested in deepening their understanding of Waldorf education. Details at: www.rsct.ca
Mon-Fri November 18-22, The New Revelation of Christ: The Second Coming and the Lord of Karma, open course at the Seminary of the Christian Community, with Revs Patrick Kennedy and Jonah Evans. All welcome. To register contact Janice at firstname.lastname@example.org
901 Rutherford Rd., Thornhill.
Thursday Nov. 21, Breaking the Spell: Metamorphosing Science’s Core Paradigm with Dr. Kenneth McAlister. Downtown at the U of T, sponsored by the Toronto Branch of the Anthroposophical Society in Canada. Details on poster at bottom of this blog post.
FRIDAY Nov. 22 TWS High School Wings of the Arts performance
evening, at 7:30 pm in the Toronto Waldorf School forum.
Saturday Nov. 30th 2:30 pm, Café Concert ~ Opus Undone Fall Concert, Hesperus. Dvorak Quintet for piano among others. By donation, a portion of the proceeds will support Hesperus
Saturday November 30th, 10:30 am to 4 pm, Advent Fair, for children and the whole family, at the Christian Community, 901 Rutherford Rd. Includes classical music concert at 3 pm with former TSO cellist William Findlay.
Photo above: Ruskin House was just being finished when I first arrived as a student at Emerson College in 1975.
by Richard Chomko
More than a hundred former students and faculty, some from as far away as New Zealand and Australia, converged on Forest Row early last month for a four-day reunion at Emerson College, one of the first adult education and Waldorf teacher training institutions in the English-speaking world.
Emerson College was founded by Francis Edmunds, who had been a high school teacher at the Michael Hall Rudolf Steiner School. The college welcomed its first students in the early 1960s. In 1967 Emerson College moved from war-time huts on the Michael Hall campus to its present location on the Pixton House estate near the village of Forest Row.
During its heyday in the later decades of the last century, the student population ranged from 200 to 250, with 100 or more students in the full-time, year-long Foundation Studies program; the rest were distributed among courses in Waldorf education and biodynamic agriculture as well as in programs in the arts of painting, sculpture, eurythmy, and Bothmer gymnastics. Photo below of gathering attendees in the style of Emerson College group photos from the past. Pixton house is still there in the backround, but the shrubberies have grown quite a bit in the last 40 years.
Other anthroposophical trainings, such as at the Social Development Centre; at the Tobias School of Painting; at the Peredur School of Eurythmy, Speech, and Drama; and at the Christian Community Seminary, were also located in Forest Row with varying degrees of relationship with Emerson College.
Many of the first and subsequent generations of teachers at the Toronto Waldorf School (TWS) — and probably across the whole English-speaking world — did their Waldorf teacher education at Emerson College. At TWS these include Diana (Lawrence) Hughes, Aedsgaard and Elisabeth Koekebakker (now Yetman), Helga and Gerhard Rudolph, Dorothy and Ray Haller, Duncan Alderson, Gary Kobran, Jan Patterson, Elena Murchison, Patti Wolfe, Greg Scott, Leed Jackson, Warren Cohen, and Debbie McAlister.
Here at the Rudolf Steiner Centre Toronto, Emerson College alumni/ae have included Diana Hughes, Jan Patterson, Reg Down, and Warren Cohen. Other locals who have either studied at Emerson, or been associated in other ways with the college, include: Heidi Krause, Anne Yetman, Phyllis McCarthy, Timothy and Sabine Cox, Alex Murchison, Lori Patterson, Trevor and Jantje Holmes, Luciana Baptista-Cohen, Heidi Vukovich, Kate Kennedy, Mary-Jane Little, and Chris Hassell. Apologies to anyone I might have missed.
The college has graduated some 7,000 students, many of whom came from far-flung corners of the world, places like Brazil, Mexico, Romania, South Africa, New Zealand, India and Australia. Many came from the United States and western Europe. A common theme among the students who returned for the gathering was that their experience at Emerson College was the best time of their life, a pivotal and transformative experience.
Emerson College’s Near Death Experience
But by 2010, after the death of the founders and esteemed elders — people like Francis Edmunds, John Davy, William Mann, and Adam Bittleston — and the declining numbers of students due to competition from more local training institutes, difficulties with the government over student visas, and internal issues, the trustees of the college concluded that, rather than continue running large monthly deficits, the only responsible option was to close the college.
But just a few hours before things were to be handed over to the receivers, a last minute initiative from alumnus Robert Lord and a small group of friends saved Emerson College from closing, with an infusion of money and a new strategy of running short courses, renting out the facilities to other spiritual groups, reducing operating costs, and liquidating some property.
Initially this was achieved in part through selling off pieces of the asset base but it has now evolved into inviting people to buy residential flats in a “living and learning community”, which can then be resold only to other members of the community. Parts of Pixton House are to be converted to residential apartments under this program. Steve Briault, Director of Development at Emerson College, presents a brief history of recent decades in the photo below:
The college is no longer running a deficit but the trustees feel that they are not out of the woods yet. While the college has not closed, as was once widely rumoured, neither is its future secure. One factor is the school’s obligations to a group pension fund for retired colleagues. Emerson College is no longer running year-long programs in Foundation Studies, Waldorf education, or biodynamic agriculture, it is focusing on short courses.
Current short or part-time courses include topics such as: clowning, holistic baby and child care, storytelling, discovery program (intro to anthroposophy), renewal through art, biography, sculpture, painting, gardening, and biodynamics as a solution for climate change. Ashley Ramsden (shown in photo below), leads the School of Storytelling at Emerson College:
There is also a small childcare facility, Robin’s Nest, located on the campus based in a yurt and located among the trees. The college’s Tablehurst Farm has been spun off as its own independent entity. The farm continues to flourish and provides the college with much of its food. There is also a farm store and café on the campus with a raw milk vending machine.
Can You Ever Really Go Back?
During my last days at Emerson College in June 1976, Roswitha Spence told me, apropos of nothing, that I’d never be able to go back to Emerson College, because what I had experienced there was the particular constellation of people in my year and they would never be together like that again.
I’ve pondered that thought on and off over the years and it came up again in connection with the idea of going to an alumni/ae reunion that would be for all years of students and faculty from, as it turned out,1962 through 2016.
But what I’ve come to realize in the course of the reunion is that the experience of Emerson College is actually not so tied to that particular constellation of students. Rather, there’s something about the quality of community that has been cultivated at Emerson College that transcends the particular students in any one year.
And it’s that quality of community, even more so than the content that was taught, important though that was, that was the defining experience of Emerson College – to see and feel and experience that such a quality of community was possible and could be sustained. It has inspired me, and no doubt others as well, to try to recreate that quality of community in other social settings.
In his welcoming address on Tuesday night, trustee chair, James Dyson, noted that the cultivation of community had been one of Francis Edmunds’ founding intentions for Emerson College. Perhaps that’s where it came from.
Why I Came to the Reunion
Although I registered early in a rush of excitement that such a thing as an Emerson College reunion was really being planned, as the time drew nearer and I hadn’t yet bought my plane tickets I began to have doubts.
Was it really worth it to spend so much money and endure the vicissitudes of travel, for a few short days at Emerson College, even if my year there had been such a pivotal experience in my life?
The wild card in the equation was the possibility of meeting people I would likely otherwise never cross paths with. What new turn of destiny might arise from such meetings? Somehow I realized that I had to go.
It was at Ian Trousdell’s presentation on his continuation of John Wilkes’ flowform work on Thursday that I realized why I had needed to come to this reunion. It was deeply inspiring to hear how Ian was working to commercialize John Wilkes’ flowform water treatment systems and get this life-enhancing technology out to people all across the world. Photo below is of some of the participants in Ian's workshop. Ian is in the red shirt:
Flowforms enhance water’s life-giving qualities by making it flow repeatedly in a lemniscate figure-eight pattern. Natural streams and rivers tend to flow in a meandering way and the lemniscate is a further enhancement of that tendency.
It seems that Ian has developed and collected a lot of solid science to document the many beneficial effects of this flow-surface technology. As part of this effort, Ian has engaged researchers in Sweden to work on testing the benefits of flowform water, and that project is financed by grants from a charitable foundation in Germany.
Not everyone, however, was thrilled with all this science. According to Ian, after one particular radish-growing trial, he was confronted with some grumpy elemental beings from the control group planting, who complained that they had not been given the best water and that people were laughing at their radishes, which didn’t look as good as the test batch of radishes which had benefitted from the flowform-treated water.
In the language of quantum physics, flowform treatment improves the quantum coherence of the water and imparts to it a fractal structure, all of which benefits humans and other life forms exposed to the water itself, or the water vapors from flowforms, or even just the sound of the water moving through the flowforms. All this science means that Ian’s company will be able to make solid health claims backed by scientific studies.
Although I studied path curve geometry with Laurence Edwards as related to pine cones, tree buds, and the human heart, I never realized that this geometry was also the basis of flowforms. It was the English mathematician George Adams who, under the guidance of Rudolf Steiner, originally developed the path curve geometry, on which flowforms are based.
George Adams then turned to John Wilkes, a sculptor, to help realize these ideas in a practical form, incorporating the results of the flow research of Theodor Schwenk, author of the book, “Sensitive Chaos”. As a result of this three-way collaboration, the first flowforms were developed in the early 1970s by John Wilkes after George Adams’ death in 1961, and the first large-scale installation was then built at Jarna, Sweden, to treat wastewater.
Ian had studied sculpture with John Wilkes at Emerson College for several years, starting in 1975, and then, before John died, he asked Ian to take over his work with flowforms. Photo below is of the water research bulding at Emerson College, with a small flowform out front.
Ever since I was a student in the Foundation Year in 1975 I had been living with the question of how anthroposophy could be applied to the realms of modern technology. Certainly agriculture, education, and the arts are important but so much of the modern world is increasingly technological, and I wondered, “How could spiritual science could be applied in that realm?” And now I see that this flowform technology is one beautiful example of just such an application of spiritual scientific insight to a technological process.
Note: There is a small flowform installed at the entrance to the Rudolf Steiner Centre Toronto and there is a bench nearby where you can sit and listen to the sound of the water moving through the forms.
Like Emil Molt, but in China
Ian’s distributor for flowforms in China is a man who, when he was a factory owner some years ago, decided to create a school for the children of his workers. His wife looked around to see what form of education would be the best and she settled on Waldorf. So he started a Waldorf school for his employees’ children. Definite historical echoes there of Emil Molt and his Waldorf Astoria cigarette factory, where the first Waldorf school opened 100 years ago in 1919.
After a while this man sold his factory and focused more on the school, which he moved to a village setting and expanded to include other students. This school has now grown to fill a 7-storey building.
Ian had tried shopping his business plans around to investors in the west, but found that, inevitably, the fact that western water-technology experts could not understand how flowforms work was a stumbling block to any involvement. On the other hand, in China, it seems people recognize the flowform technology as echoing their traditional spirituality of the Tao.
Back from the Colonies
It was interesting to see that the farther-away former colonies of New Zealand, Australia, and South Africa were better represented at the reunion than Canada, with several people from each place. There was even one woman there who was a descendent of the aboriginal people of Tasmania, a people who, according to James Morris’ “Pax Britannica” trilogy, had been entirely wiped out by the British.
One of the early class teachers from the Toronto Waldorf School, Diana Hughes, had attended Emerson College during the last year in the huts at Michael Hall and the first year at Pixton house (current location) 1966-68. She asked me to remember her to anyone from that era who would be there at the reunion. And there were quite a few people still around from those early days, including Dede Bark, Jonathan Stedall, Margaret Shillan, and a woman from Colorado named Thesa. Graham Rickett was there from the class of 1962. There were six alumni from my year, 1975-76, including Ian Trousdell and Ashley Ramsden, who now leads the School of Storytelling. Photo below is of Thesa, showing her young friends around the water research building after the gathering:
Another student from that year was John Moore. John was originally from Ohio, but worked for many years as a Waldorf teacher in Bern, Switzerland. John told us that he was perhaps the only person at the gathering to have met Rudolf Steiner. He recounted how one day a man came to his school in Bern to deliver heating oil. This man’s name was Steiner. John asked for his first name, and when he learned it was Rudolf, John said he would like to introduce him to some people at the school. But the man said he had to stay with his work, pumping oil from the truck.
The Benefits of Arriving Early
My wife, Elisabeth, and I arrived for the reunion one day early. This gave me an opportunity to meet with Linda and Ellie in the reception office, and share with them the now-historical photos I had brought to add to the photo exhibit for the gathering. I was glad to see that many of the 16x20 prints I had made for the college back in 1978 were still around. Arriving early also gave us a chance to meet a few other early arrivals and college regulars in a more relaxed fashion.
The first people we encountered were not even there for the reunion. Although Kjersti Hauger (right in photo below) was a former student, she was just visiting with her husband Sandro and their children, Maya and Sebastian, both of whom had been “in the baby basket” during their mom’s time at Emerson College from 1997-99.
Although Sandro was studying at Peredur, he and Kjersti had met at Emerson. The third woman in the photo below is Inez, Sebastian’s girlfriend. Kersti now runs a Waldorf school in Norway. Emerson College weddings were quite a thing back in the day. Typically there would be six or seven of them in a year.
We also met Ene Silvia Sarv and her granddaughter Triinu (photo below). Ene had studied Waldorf education at Emerson College in the early 1990s and had then returned to her native Estonia to train Waldorf teachers from Eastern Europe and Russia during the time of the fall of communism and the opening up of the Eastern bloc. Triinu had attended a Waldorf school in Estonia and had in fact just graduated. She plans to go on to study music at university. Triinu was there because her grandmother (Ene) invited her to accompany her to this reunion.
We also met Liz and Kent Smith, currently from South Africa, who were sharing the same student house we were. They are another couple who met at Emerson College. Liz is involved in adult education for Waldorf teaching and eurythmy in Cape Town, and Kent is a builder. After the reunion Kent was off to continue walking the Camino in Spain while Liz stayed with her sister in Forest Row.
Kent says there are lots of beautiful places to hike in South Africa but nothing shifts things for him on an inner level like walking the Camino. He has been splitting his holidays between volunteering at hostels on the Camino and walking the Camino, for the past seventeen years. Kent told us that the Camino dates back to pre-Christian times.
The three-year Waldorf teacher training program Liz runs in Cape Town has some 75 students and is accredited by the government. As a result of this program, there is a lot more Waldorf education going on in South Africa than there used to be. And the eurythmy school there has such a good reputation that even some German students go there to study. Liz is also connected with a local, NPI-based initiative that Hamo Hammond had helped start in South Africa.
Exploring Tablehurst Farm
While walking through Tablehurst Farm (on which the college is situated) to get to the farm store and cafe, we ran into what looked like a couple of farmers. Chris Stott (on the left in the photo below) graduated from the sculpture program in 2015 and now works at the college as a gardener. And Alex Wright (on the right in the photo), who completed the visual arts course in 2016, now lives on the Emerson College campus and is running two courses this fall at Rudolf Steiner House in London, “Spirit in Action” and “Intro to Anthro”.
End of the Century in 2033?
One of the topics James Dyson raised in his keynote address was regarding what Rudolf Steiner said about the culmination of anthroposophy, when Aristotelians and Platonists were to have come together at the end of the century, and why doesn’t that seem to have happened?
James asked us to consider the possibility that the Rosicrucian calendar Rudolf Steiner was working with was actually not the same calendar that we commonly use, and that looking at the launch date of Steiner’s Calendar of the Soul, in 1912, as offset 33 years from the start of the Michael age in 1879, the “end of the century” in Rosicrucian terms could be still to come. James spoke of the soul calendar as having arisen from a call of Michael.
Another topic James raised, which has a bearing on people finding their way to anthroposophy or not, has to do with what Rudolf Steiner said about Michael’s decision as time spirit to entrust humanity with the cosmic intelligence. That decision was not supported by the other archangels and their non-support resulted in a disordering of karma, making it harder for people connected to those other archangels, to find their way to anthroposophy, which is under the leadership of Michael.
But, as someone else – perhaps it was Tom Ravetz (who is also a trustee) – pointed out later in the gathering, although not everyone will be able to connect with anthroposophy and Michael, Anthroposophia is a servant of the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit is there for everyone.
There was also some discussion of the need to recast anthroposophy in a language that is more accessible in these times, and to present it in a more experiential way and with less quoting of Rudolf Steiner. One example of this was mentioned by Michael Evans (right in photo below) in connection with the anthroposophical training for doctors, which was originally developed for Britain but is now being opened to the whole English-speaking world.
Michael spoke of how much better it is for students to come to their own inner experience of the therapeutic value of various plants through a meditative practice, rather than simply being told what plant is good for what ailment.
Another important part of the proceedings was the opportunity each morning for all of the participants to take two minutes each to address the whole gathering, to tell everyone who they were and what their initiative is or has been in the years since they left Emerson College. Many of them spoke of how their time at Emerson was a turning point in their life and how they are still deeply involved in work that arose from their studies there.
Where are the Young People?
On the second night there was a panel discussion, led by filmmaker Jonathan Stedall (middle in photo below), during which Chris Schafer raised the issue that fewer young people seem to be finding their way to anthroposophy these days. He said that, of 42,000 members of the worldwide Anthroposophical Society, only 300 are age 30 or younger. He also mentioned that the number of members has seriously declined in recent decades. It used to be more than 60,000. It seems a lot of older members are dying and not being replaced, especially in Europe.
Later I checked with Jef Saunders on the situation in the Anthroposophical Society in Canada and he said the number of members here has been holding steady at around 500. Now of course Chris did not provide historical comparisons on the number of young members from previous decades, and one could well imagine there are a lot of young people working with anthroposophy in recent times who don’t take the step of becoming members of the Society before they turn 30.
On the third night of the gathering, we were treated to a performance of the Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale “The Little Mermaid” by the Pericles Theatre Company, a local troupe that includes some differently-abled individuals (curtain call photo above). This production has been performed in various venues around England and was enchanting to watch.
Working to Outlaw Eco-cide
Later the same night, “The Little Mermaid” was followed by a talk on the issue of trying to get international law changed to outlaw Eco-cide, large scale environmental degradation analogous to genocide. This was presented by Jojo Mehta, who has taken the project over from Polly Higgins, whom you may have heard about in connection with the idea of outlawing crimes against the earth.
Jojo and her colleagues have a concrete plan to get their proposal taken up by the international criminal court. Jojo’s talk was very moving, and it was inspiring to hear what she and her colleagues are doing on this front, in the wake of Polly Higgins’ early death. You can read more here: https://ecocidelaw.com/
Workshops by Participants
Much of the program of the gathering consisted of workshops offered by participants. Topics ranged widely: from astronomy, to technology (photo above of tech workshop), to embodied acting, to arts of various kinds. There were also discussion groups (photo below) that met multiple times during the four days and that were intended to help people process together what they were learning and experiencing at the gathering.
I found the quality of the meals to be very good. They were mostly made with local organic ingredients. As a student at Emerson in the 70s, I was blown away by the excellence of the food. It was the best I’d ever eaten. I particularly enjoyed having my breakfast granola with raw cream from the milk pails outside the kitchen. Although raw milk is no longer on the menu, everything was still impressively excellent, especially when you consider the number of people they are feeding. Photo below is of the Tablehurst Farm cafe. Seating was outside.
Remembering Ursula Koepf
One afternoon there was a burial ceremony and procession for the ashes of Ursula Koepf, who had been a teacher at the college. Her ashes were buried down by the lily pond, near those of her late husband, Herbert Koepf, who taught agriculture at the college when I was there in the 70s. Photo below is of the procession down to the lily pond with Ursula's ashes:
I remember that Ursula taught singing then, something I was not particularly good at. I had heard that this event was planned, and so I made a point of bringing along a passport photo I had taken of Ursula when I was at the college in 1975. Ellie scanned it and printed it large and put it on the piano in the education room where the burial ceremony was held.
James Dyson had opened his keynote address by honouring a long list of “ancestors” who had helped build Emerson College, and helped guide it through the decades, and in the case of Robert Lord, helped rescue it from the brink of oblivion. So there was some awareness throughout the gathering of the many souls who were perhaps still present with us in spirit.
Reunion planners and college trustees were initially apprehensive about how returning alumni/ae would regard the current state of Emerson College. But the consensus seemed to be that the former students were glad to know that the college was still operating and seemed to have good prospects for the future and a capable team to lead it forward.
Thanks to reunion organizer Linda Churnside and the Emerson College staff and trustees who all worked together to make this gathering such a resounding success.
Photo above: Emerson College Communications Manager Ellie Kidson presents Alumni/ae Gathering Organizer Linda Churnside with an orchid, as a token of everyone's appreciation, while participants applaud.
We usually think of the Foundation Studies encounter course as beginning in September, but for 60 students in Vietnam, it started already in June of this past summer. One of the people who organized this course for the RSCT, Trinh Huynh (left in photo above with Paul Hodgkins), has written a detailed report on this past summer's course, which is included below.
As well, we are pleased to be have photos from the Foundation Studies course in Vietnam, taken by eurythmist, and course leader, Reg Down. Thanks to Trinh and Reg for their contributions that help us see how something we take for granted here, is a very special opportunity for people half way around the world. One thing you'll notice in the photos is a lack of tables and chairs. These were provided initially, but it soon became clear that the young Vietnamese students preferred working on the floor.
But before we get into Trinh's story and Reg's photos, please remember that free introductory talks for local Foundation Studies Encounter courses are coming up on Wed. Sept 18th (8:45 am and 7:30 pm) in Thornhill, and on Saturday Sept. 21st at 10 am downtown, and Tues. Oct. 8th at 7pm in Halton. More info on poster below, and more info still on the Foundation Studies Encounter page on the website.
Sixty Students in RSCT Vietnam Foundation Studies June 2019
The Foundation Studies course was held for the second time in Vietnam during the last summer of 2019. Certified by RSCT under its “Encounter” program, the course completed successfully with approximately 60 students (group photo below). The faculty consists of Paul Hodgkins, Reg Down, Jonah Evans, and Regine Kurek.
The course was bilingual in English and Vietnamese, with the English-Vietnamese translation done by Trinh Huynh and Lan Nguyen. The course ran intensively for four weeks straight, full-day, with weekend breaks, in June and July, in Hanoi (photo below).
Starting the course with his morning lectures in the first week, Paul impressed all the new students of Anthroposophy with his mystical yet scientific introduction to the three-fold and four-fold human being. Being impressed, many people who initially registered for only the first week just to “check out” what Anthroposophy was all about, decided to stay for the whole course.
In the afternoons Paul complemented his morning lectures with artistic activities, such as the chalk-drawing of the Michael imagination. See Paul and Trinh in the photo below with students engaged in artistic activity. Paul concluded his first week with a lecture on the journey of the soul after death.
Continuing into the second week, Reg introduced cosmology in the mornings. Despite being a challenging subject, the earth evolution was made dearer to the heart by Reg’s short eurythmy exercises and his more intimate lecturing approach. Trinh also helped making the subject more comprehensible by his short afternoon lectures talking about the same topics from a different angles, drawing many examples from daily life.
One important component of the course was the daily study-group sessions in the first two weeks. The class was divided into smaller groups, and each group studied in detail, with guidance, one of the two books: Theosophy, and Philosophy of Freedom. Guided into these most challenging books daily, the students grasped more concretely the spiritual scientific way of thinking of Anthroposophy.
Another important component contributing to the success of the course is Reg’s daily eurythmy sessions. Running daily for the entire course, the sessions introduced the students to introductory yet fundamental eurythmy movements, such as the evolutionary sequence, and the Zodiac, as well as various classical music pieces that were brought much deeper into the heart through the movement.
The “heart of the course” (quoting a student) was the third week, with the morning lectures by Jonah. Building on the background laid out in previous weeks, Jonah talked directly about the Christ and his impulse, what “Anthroposophy is all about”, the center of human evolution. Sharing real life and personal examples, he introduced death and resurrection, as well as different approaches in dealing with temptations.
Sensing the spiritual openness and thirstiness of this group of students, he also shared in details a few of the more “advanced” ideas of esoteric Christianity, including some aspects of the Trinity and the new Tenth Hierarchy. Lucifer and Ahriman, and the Christ’s balance, was one of the central themes of this week.
The polarities of Lucifer and Ahriman were also the subject of Regine’s biography sessions in the last two weeks of the course. To many students, these two great forces of temptation became much more comprehensible through Regine’s artistic activities, which included a drawing of “the representative of humanity”. She especially introduced the students to how these forces influenced different phases of a human life.
Concluding the course, the morning lectures of the last week were “guided tour” to the first and second Goetheanums. Reg and Regine shared the stories about them, talked about how their outer and inner structures relate to the human being. With artistic activities, Reg also brought the wonderful stained glass windows of the Geotheanums to the students.
After the four intensive weeks, many students shared that they were given new strength going back to normal daily life, and that their world views were being challenged and fundamentally changed. They all hoped for more in-depth courses. Besides, the demand for more Foundation Studies course in Vietnam is still very high. It is open at this point whether any one would pick up and carry on this initiative.
After the course was completed, some of the teachers explored some of the local attractions.
For the second year in a row, the Rudolf Steiner Centre Toronto has offered summer Foundation Studies courses in anthroposophy in Hanoi, Vietnam. This year's program included teachers Regine Kurek, Reg Down, Paul Hodgkins, and the Rev. Jonah Evans, along with translators Trinh Huynh and Lan Nguyen.
An Evening with Regine & Jef to talk about Vietnam & Europe
In due course we hope to publish a more extensive report on these summer courses in Hanoi, but we wanted to get this notice about an evening of sharing of experiences which is being presented by Jef Saunders and Regine Kurek, this Wednesday Sept. 4th at 7:00 pm in the Hesperus Seminar Room. Regine and Jef will be talking about their summer experience in Hanoi and Hungary during this evening.
Hesperus is located at 1 Hesperus Rd, Thornhill, Ontario, but you can also access it from the Toronto Waldorf School campus at 9100 Bathurst Street, Thornhill. Coming from TWS, Hesperus is at the end of the drive, around the turn, at the far (north) end of the long driveway.
Thanks to Reg Down for the photos of students and their work from this year's RSCT courses in Vietnam.