In the lead up to the RSCT's Nov. 9th & 10th Waldorf Development Conference on how to incorporate Indigenous cultural material in the Waldorf school setting, we thought it might be relevant to publish two reports on a unique conference which took place last August. The conference was designed to introduce Indigenous educators to Waldorf pedagogy and was led almost entirely by Indigenous Waldorf educators.
Please note that if you want to attend the November Waldorf Development conference you must register online in advance. No in-person registrations will be accepted at the start of the conference. Lunches need to be pre-ordered and space needs to be reserved. So please register as soon as possible. Registration closes Nov. 9th at 6 pm. Click Here to get to the page with the online registration forms.
Fifty-three Mohawk educators, from five different reserves, along with some Oneida language teachers, met last August for a three-day conference at the Akwesasne reserve near Cornwall Ontario to share and learn about indigenous Waldorf education.
Indigenous Leadership for Indigenous Waldorf Education
Most of the leaders and presenters at the conference — Sean Thompson, Amy Bombery and Chandra Manacle (from Everlasting Tree School) and Tara Skidder (Akwesasne Freedom School) — were, themselves, indigenous educators. Waldorf was new to many of the participants, so it was ideal that they could hear about it from fellow indigenous educators.
The sole exception was Elise Pomeranz, who, while not being indigenous herself, has been working closely with the Everlasting Tree School. Elise led workshops in painting and clay. Rudolf Steiner Centre Toronto executive director and Douglas Cardinal Foundation president, James Brian, attended the conference as a participant and organizer.
Douglas Cardinal was there
Douglas Cardinal himself was on hand to give the keynote address, and he stayed all through the day, participating in all the activities with the others. Douglas Cardinal is an indigenous architect from the Blackfoot band in southern Alberta who first encountered the work of Rudolf Steiner while studying architecture in university in Texas.
Douglas has started working on preliminary plans for a purpose-built indigenous Waldorf school for the Akwesasne reserve. Actually constructing the planned building is still several steps away. Fundraising will be required. Stay tuned for further details as the plans evolve.
Thanks to the National Indian Brotherhood
The “We Will Gather Our Minds” event was organized by the Douglas Cardinal Foundation for Indigenous Waldorf Education and funded through a grant from the National Indian Brotherhood Trust Fund (money from the residential-school settlement).
The funding for the “We Will Gather Our Minds” enabled the Foundation to offer the conference at no cost to the educators, even paying their travel costs and providing accommodation for participants in the three day event.
The Douglas Cardinal Foundation would like to host more such workshops on an every-six-months schedule, but future events like this will depend on funding proposals that are still pending.
The report above was based on a conversation with James Brian, who attended the conference as a participant and organizer. The group photo (at the top of this post) is reprinted from the Akwesasne Freedom School Facebook page by permission. The other photos are from James Brian.
The report below is from Augsburg University professor Joaquin Munoz, who also wrote the daily blog posts about last summer's Indigenous Waldorf Week course at the Rudolf Steiner Centre Toronto. In this report he reflects on both the Akwesasne conference "We Will Gather Our Minds" and on his experience participating in the week-long RSCT course.
Reflecting on a Haudenosaunee Waldorf-inspired Experience
Joaquin Munoz, Augsburg University
It will probably be impossible to calculate exactly how much impact the Waldorf educational world will experience from the experiences with our Haudenosaunee teachers in the last two weeks in Canada. From July 23rd to August 3rd, 2018, I was given the amazing opportunity to connect with Haudenosaunee educators working on Waldorf-inspired initiatives.
This was an especially important experience for me, as I was able to connect to Indigenous folks enacting Waldorf education practices. This was the subject of my dissertation, The Circle of Mind and Heart. In my dissertation, I did not get to connect directly to Indigenous educators, families or students who had experienced Waldorf education- in Toronto and in Akwasesne, I did! I it was a truly wonderful experience, both from the Waldorf education part of me, and the Indigenous education side of me.
Our first week at the Rudolf Steiner Center Toronto has been written about extensively, and I will not speak much about the second week of meetings at Akwesasne because that meeting is largely for the Haudenosaunee alone. I would like to say that the learning shared there was such a beautiful exchange. It saw, in some ways, a different direction of Waldorf inspired work.
The Rudolf Steiner Center Toronto work saw Haudenosaunee language, history and culture brought to the larger Waldorf education movement. The meetings in Akwesasne were in way completing the transaction, with our teachers brining aspects of Waldorf education for Haudenosaunee people to the folks gathered there.
The Rudolf Steiner Center Toronto has provided an amazing, and very necessary new impetus for Waldorf educators the world over to examine; the weeks I spent learning from teachers at the Everlasting Tree School and other educators from across the Six Nations Territory, have opened up a space for the important work of deciding what Waldorf is, and what it needs to be.
What Waldorf Education Is
In many respects, the greatest service that was provided to us in these two weeks has been the opportunity to come together in reaffirming what we love about Waldorf education. In discussions, in art projects, in engagement with teachers and students in warm and caring ways, in the deep considerations of spiritual impulses and implications, many of us found powerful kinships. There was a great deal of deep thinking and reflecting on what our activities, what they produce, and how they impact our students. We constantly spoke of the importance of connecting with our students in meaningful ways, and of the need to build authentic community with those around us.
What Waldorf Can Become
Along with the learning and deep connecting that occurred, many of the participants were thoughtful and cognizant of the important questions we must ask regarding Waldorf education’s inclusion of Indigenous ideas, history, culture and language. At the same time, questions arose of the appropriateness of Waldorf education’s inclusion for Indigenous youth.
Key ideas that came up during the two weeks I was present included questions of cultural appropriation versus cultural appreciation, colonization and decolonization, the importance of relationships and understanding, and the continued need to move into the future, and being rooted to a truthful past.
Ultimately, the two weeks were most significant for opening up crucial spaces for folks to ask questions, consider answers, and ask even more questions. This shows the important connection of relationship, of people and of coming together.
About a week after returning from my trip to Canada, I returned to my hometown of Tucson, Arizona, to conduct professional development work for a Waldorf school there. During my time with the school, I told many of the experiences of my time in Canada, and shared my commitment to their mission and work. It reminded me again of the words expressed to my friends in Toronto, of the duty, of the obligation, to honor the relationships I had started there.
With my friends in Tucson, I felt a renewed sense of this duty to a relationship. I have a renewed sense of mission, as I plan to continue working with folks doing Waldorf education, who are working to make it the best it can be for all children. My time working with the Toronto Steiner Center, the Everlasting Tree School and the Akwesasne Freedom School have all embued me with a deep sense of hope, purpose, and forward motion.
Once again, please note that if you want to attend the November Waldorf Development conference you must register online in advance. This year for the first time, the November Waldorf Development conference is open not only to teachers and administrators but also to parents and any other interested persons. No in-person registrations will be accepted at the start of the conference. Registration closes Nov. 9th at 6 pm. Please register as soon as possible, if you want to attend. Click Here to get to the page with the online registration forms.
Since having children of my own I kept hearing how important it is to have a rhythm and routine, to do things at the same time each day and to have consistency in my life. It was one of those many things that my mother told me but I wanted to believe I could do things differently. And I did.
When my eldest child started school at Waldorf and I came into contact with the Waldorf pedagogy as an adult/parent. I saw how rhythm and routine were pillars of the kindergarten curriculum and saw how beautifully it embraced and incorporated so much of life and how it supported the children.
One year later I started my Waldorf teacher training and still kept hearing more about rhythm and routine and feeling the nudge towards it. I was still convinced I didn't need to take that “boring” route. My resistance to it was that my life would be so predictable and that would be boring. I wanted to be free and to do as I pleased.
At this point I was teaching in a Waldorf school and had two small children, I noticed my life forces getting depleted and the resistance I carried to the rhythm and routine of the school week. Something in me didn't want to conform, didn’t want to be doing this and I resisted the whole way through the year.
I found myself feeling very depleted and exhausted all the time and didn't like feeling that way. I knew intellectually that rhythm and routine supports a healthy etheric and that I should have a stronger rhythm and routine in my life but I just wasn't making it happen. Just the initial work it takes to start and keep a routine, I couldn't conjure up the will forces to start that.
Working in the ECE I also knew that the more rhythmic my home life could be the more seamless the transition into the classroom would be. I wanted my home life to align somewhat with my work life so there isn't too much discrepancy. For my own children too I knew it would be so beneficial, things would be more relaxed and harmonious and they would feel more secure knowing what is happening.
As a kindergarten teacher this year and having 2 young children of my own (ages six and eight) I knew I would be needing to strengthen my etheric forces. I wanted to feel like I could give to the children and I wanted to make sure I was at optimum vibrancy to do my work the best I can as teacher and mother.
I decided on what I thought were the places I needed to implement a routine and I also decided on a few things that I would build into my daily life that were important to my personal development as a Waldorf Teacher.
After school routine: Each day after school we come straight home and we just stay at home. Previously I have been swayed by my kids to go to the park or do something after school which was completely exhausting and wasn’t conducive to a peaceful evening.
So now we come home and I begin right away with making dinner. I dont have the previous attitude of once im home I can let everything fall apart, no more rules and rhythm. Now I see coming home as a continuation of my work and carry a routine and have boundaries with my kids. Dinner is made on time, so we can eat in a relaxed manner and all eat together. Then there is still time to play before bedtime.
Review of the day: As a part of my personal development I put into my routine that I would do the review of the day exercise each night after putting my kids to bed.
Colour of the day: At the beginning of school year I decided to wear the colour of the day. So I bought one or two shirts for each day of the week and I have them in a separate part of my closet. They are lined up in order of sequence. When I go to get dressed in the morning I don't have to decide what i'm wearing, I just choose that coloured shirt and that's done. It saves a lot of time and energy and having to make yet one more decision.
If one thinks about how many decisions one has to make in just the 2 hours before we even get to work in the morning it's quite overwhelming. What am I going to wear? What am I going to eat for breakfast, for lunch? For dinner? What footwear will I wear? Am I going to the meeting after school? Who will watch my kids? How will I do my hair?
Having some of these decisions already taken care of and made more simple I can save myself not only time but the mental energy that it takes to each day a new make these decisions.
Moon cycle: In September I began a new menstrual (moon) cycle on the first day of school. From this time on I have started my cycle (i.e. got my period) always on a Monday morning between 6am and 7am. It has followed this exact day and time up until March. I took a trip in March to Mexico where I was doing a lot of traveling and moving around.
This resulted in the timing of my cycle starting 3 days late, completely out of the norm. This proved to me how much my rhythm and routine was deeply embedded into my body. Upon returning from my trip my cycle went back to early Monday morning.
At the beginning of September when the school year started I began implementing my new rhythm and routine for my home life. It was my goal to experience if and how rhythm and routine supports the etheric body, the life energy of a human. It is well known that in Waldorf kindergarten the children of that age are building up their physical bodies.
This building of the physical body requires the etheric forces from the adults around them, so they draw on us teachers and parents for our etheric forces.
The pedagogical law is in essence that we as educators of young children ages 0-7 years old use our etheric forces to educate the child's physical body.
When the child is 7-14 years old we use our astral forces to educate and inform their developing etheric body. During ages 14-21 when they are developing their astral forces the educator uses their ego to guide them.
Steiner said it takes one month or one lunar cycle to incorporate a new rhythm into the etheric body. The rhythm of the etheric body is one lunar cycle. This was very clear and apparent to me when after the first month of implementing my new routine, I felt this release of energy and just naturally picked up a few other things that had been on my to do list for a long time. It just happened because there was a freeing up of etheric forces.
Also this etheric body and lunar cycle connection was hugly apparent with my moon time and how spot on it was each month. This showed me that my body, my organs were responding to the rhythm and routine. If my body was catching onto it in such a short time and consistently then how profound would this be working on the children and their organs. This is profound when I think how this rhythm and routine could be having the same effects on the organs of the children in my class.
In late October I got asked to play Mary in The Shepherd's play at the school. I was completely surprised at myself that I even considered this role. After a day of making sure I was thinking alright I agreed to play this part. This part entails singing solos and being one of the main characters. This is not something that I have ever been fond of.
I thought maybe I would chicken out once we got practicing but much to my surprise I only grew fonder of all parts of this new venture. I attribute this having energy and confidence for something so seemingly scary to having been strengthening my etheric forces.
Because my etheric is restored I have energy left over for these extra things. In addition having this rhythm and routine has boosted my confidence hugely and given me the feeling that I can do anything. And I can do anything..why not?! Its opened up doors for me that I never thought I would open.
Huge boost in confidence: I have noticed a huge shift in my confidence I have in my work and also in my personal life. Having more vitality and energy has translated into much more confidence in work, with the children and their parents. This confidence has translated into my next point: a new love for my work.
Deep sense of love for my work: In the past, I can't say I had ever loved being a Waldorf teacher. I found it intimidating and hard. This year in the winter term I had a break through, and just started loving every minute of my days with the children. Through being more connected, by having more energy and time, and being more confident, I have really delved into this work, and see how much that feeds the fire of love.
Connections: this has been a year of connecting and really coming into my own self. I think when one's life is always different or new then it's hard to know who you are and what you want in life. The rhythm and routine really forced me to see what is important to me and who I am and what I stand for. I had to make choices and decisions for myself and in that it helped to identify and firm myself and then I could receive or be open to connection that is genuine.
An important part of the connection piece has been the forming of a coven that came to being this year. Being a part of a coven is very connected to rhythms, ancient earth and planetary cycles. We gather regularly, there is ritual and an honouring of the place in this time of the year we are in by different celebrations. This rhythmic pausing and reflection very similar to what we do in Waldorf Education has been yet another way in which I have brought more rhythm to my life and more wellbeing to my life.
Phaedra gave this presentation on Wednesday, July 25th. She is wearing yellow, the colour for Wednesday.
The Etheric Body
In anthroposophy the human is seen as a 4 fold human consisting of
0-7 years -The Physical body/ mineral / foundational / stagnant
7-14 years -The Etheric body/ plants / life forces / growth
14-21 years -The Astral body/ animal / feelings / likes and dislikes
Each of these bodies is associated with a life phase and with different aspects of what it is to be human or alive.
The Etheric body is associated with the life phase from 7-14 years old. It is also very much in the plant world. It is what differentiates a plant from a mineral. Plants move and grow whereas minerals are more stagnant. The etheric is also called the life body, lift forces so it's characterized by a life giving force.
The etheric body is also known as the time body, everything that has to do with cycles, rhythms, season, habits, rhythmic processes in the body, metabolism, daily, weekly, monthly, yearly rhythms. It is what makes up and structures our life. Without these rhythms there would be no end and no beginning. There would be no structure to life.
These ebbs and flows and cycles that exist in our life help to create structure and meaning, familiarity and thus a deepening. I wonder what our life would be like if we didn't have natural rhythms of waking and sleeping, work and play, night and day, winter and summer, even the measure of time, our ages, our birthdays, certain points in time that have significance. What is we didn't have any measuring or awareness of time?
I think we wouldn't be on earth, we might float away. These etheric processes keep us grounded, connected, give a certain meaning to our lives. Give us the bread and butter to work with. In the Waldorf ECE the rhythm and routine of the day, week, month and year is our bread and butter, that is what holds us, the teachers and the children.
It gives us structure but also beginnings and endings, transitions and variety. Its sets the mood, the tone, the impulse of the time. Whether it be the time of day, the day of the week or the season. That is essentially informing us in all parts of our life as to what we should be doing.
Some rhythms that exist:
● Day and night or sunup and sundown
● Sleeping and waking
● In breath and out breath
● Eating and digestion
● Each day of the week and its planet informed gesture which is right in the name of the days of the week ( SUN-day MOON-day etc.)
● Monthly rhythms connected to the moon cycle, the waxing a waning, the ebbs and flows of fluids
● The sun cycle; a year, the time it takes for the sun to rotate around the earth.
● Within that year the division of 12 months and 4 seasons (more pronounced in North America)
● The waking and sleeping of the earth, above and below ground activity
● Heartbeat and organ functions
These rhythms are so habitual to most of us or happen without us having to exert too much effort or even necessarily being too aware of them. Most of these are rhythms and habits we experience from a baby and thus are habits. I see these rhythms of the earth and natural world as what keep its vitality up. We as humans can fine tune our own etheric bodies by creating our own rhythmic routines and supportive habits.
The more routine something is the easier it becomes to do and less it takes away from our energy supply. Bedtime routines, mealtime routines, bathing and dressing routines, work and play routines, are all examples of how we can mimic what nature does naturally to renew and support life.
It started off with a huge sense of excitement and relief that I was finally putting some structure in my life. It was the perfect time to start it with the new school year commencing. I was relieved to finally feel like I had control over my life and things didn't need to be chaotic. I was so excited to see how different it might feel and reap the benefits of it. I really took comfort in having these structures in place to my day and to have the challenge of keeping to it.
Once I had started I didn't want to veer from it. Of course as time went on I did and was able to veer from it when I felt it necessary. I think it is still healthy to be flexible once one has a solid foundation. I noticed when I did veer from the usual that it was exciting and special rather then chaotic and disappointing. I was happy to get back into my routine as well. I could feel the comfort in knowing what was coming and not having to each day anew decide how things would be done.
In February when I had quite a big shift I felt and have felt ever since a huge sense of gratitude towards this practice and whatever the force was that lead me to find this calm and control in my life. I really cannot imagine my life being any different. I feel so grateful for rhythm and routine and the many effects it has had on my personal life and work life.
Ego-Summary-Bringing it all Together
I am hugely inspired by this year of rhythm and routine and strengthening my etheric body. I have essentially had a breakthrough in my work as a teacher and now really love what I do. Having a solid foundation has allowed me to know myself more deeply and in turn allowed me to connect more deeply with the people in my life and the work I do in the world.
This comes full circle back to me with so much joy and a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction. I recall experiencing the feeling of waking up and being excited to get out of bed and get the day started in the past few months. That is a sign of vitality and a love for life to me. I have been able to delve and connect so much more to my work as a teacher through a surge in self confidence this year.
I will most certainly continue with these routines that have now become a part of my life. I will work on ones that didn't quite stick this time around such as the review of the day meditation. It has been great to make accomplishments and also good to still have lots to work on in the future.
Having and building routine is such a great way to build things into my life that I think are important. I recall when I first started it felt like i was choosing what I wanted to add to my life and once I had decided what it was then I went for it.
I took something that had previously been seemingly unattainable and created the space, time and structure to fit it into my life. This is such a gift and huge inspiration to continue because I think one can live a more fulfilling and full life when we are doing the things that matter to us and preserving our life forces where and when we can.
I can say that I have become so much of a better teacher through all the improvements I have already mentioned. I now know first hand the profound effects of rhythm and routine on one’s life and body. I carry that with me when I am teaching and can talk to parents about it and bring a personal element to it. Knowing first hand gives it real meaning and depth rather then something I know intellectually but don't quite know the lived reality and benefits.
I am so grateful and happy that I have had the opportunity and support and encouragement to do this, I cannot imagine where my life would be without it. It has been the vital stepping stones I needed to enter this new phase in my life. What this research really made clear to me was the truth we all know that in order to be able to give we must have something to give. We have to take care of ourselves first in order to be able to extend a hand.
Without a solid foundation and knowledge of self, who we are then we cannot fully engage with others. I recognize this is an ever developing, ever changing process. I am very happy to have come to this place where I am now and look forward to the future developments.
The project described in this report was the final piece of Phaedra’s three-year part-time Waldorf professional development course at the Rudolf Steiner Centre Toronto. We hope to publish more student research projects in the future. We started with Phaedra’s report because her findings are so widely applicable.
Phaedra Tettero-Crosbyteaches at the Trillium Waldorf School in Guelph, Ontario.
This autumn for the first time ever, the Rudolf Steiner Centre Toronto, is presenting a Foundation Studies in Anthroposophy Encounter program in Guelph, at the Trillium Waldorf School.
The first session of the course was Monday Oct. 22nd, and the second class will be on Monday Nov. 5th.
Still Time to Join the Course
According to organizer Arlene Kamo, it is still possible for people to join the program. Arrangements would be made for late comers who miss a few sessions at the beginning to be caught up at another time.
Meetings will be Monday evening from 6:00-9:45 (with a 15 minute break) at Trillium Waldorf School, Forest Frog Kindergarten room.
The complete course will consist of 30 sessions and is tentatively scheduled to finish up June 3rd, 2019.
The program will be led by George Ivanoff (photo above left), who has been studying anthroposophy for over 30 years while working in the environmental consulting field.
George has been board chair of the Toronto Waldorf School where he taught for a short time and he has also been on the board of the Rudolf Steiner Centre. He is interested in how anthroposophy is applied in the everyday world. Other presenters will visit from time to time to round out the program.
The Other Foundation Studies Encounter Programs
Two different Foundation Studies Encounter groups are underway in Thornhill, one on Wednesday mornings, especially for TWS parents, and another one on Saturday mornings.
Both of these courses started in mid-September so it's now too late for others to join this year. There was a possibility of another Foundation Studies group downtown, but there was not enough enrollment for that course to go ahead.
Foundation Studies Distance Option
And if you are one of those people who are not well served by any of the existing Encounter program locations and schedules, there's always the Foundation Studies Distance Learning option!
In recent years there has been a ground swell of interest in the role of Indigenous peoples, including acknowledgement of which bands lived on the land where schools are now located, and an awareness that teachers are the ones who can help spread awareness of, and respect for, Indigenous culture and people, to the new generations of students they are educating.
On November 9th and 10th teachers and parents will have a unique opportunity to hear from someone who is devoting his life to building a new synthesis of Waldorf pedagogy and Indigenous nehiyaw traditions to help new generations make a living connection with the Indigenous peoples and traditions that have gone before.
Online individual and group registration forms for the conference can be found at this link.
Indigenous nehiyaw educator Dale Saddleback was raised on the Pigeon Lake Reserve #138A, south of Edmonton Alberta, among the nehiyawak (Cree). He was among some of the last students in Canada to experience the infamous residential school system (but just for kindergarten and grade one as a day-schooler). The remainder of his elementary and high school was more cross-cultural, as he attended county schools with children from mostly rural Alberta farming communities.
Dale says, however, that it wasn’t until university that he learned about treaties. But while growing up on the reserve, his life was enriched by experiencing many powwows and other traditional ceremonies which involve dancing and singing. In his teens Dale learned about some dance ceremonies and took part in sweat lodges among others.
Elders and Ancestors
Dale’s great grandfather was one of those who kept the Sundance (thirst dance) culture alive underground during all those decades when it was prohibited by the Government of Canada. The prohibition of ceremonies was finally lifted in 1951, and continued sponsoring Sundance from 1952 onward. Dale argues that Indigenous peoples in Canada were not even considered to be human beings until these prohibitions were lifted.
Dale says that the success he has achieved in life is rare among indigenous people due to systemic barriers. He credits his continued practice of traditional ceremonies for being able to keep going all the way through to postgraduate studies, in spite of the many negative influences that he and other indigenous peoples have had to deal with, living in rural Alberta.
Dale’s main project has been developing cross cultural curricula suitable for students from all cultural backgrounds, based on the outcome of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission 2015 ninety-four Calls to Action. He has consulted with numerous school boards on topics related to Indigenous curriculum design.
Toxic Social Environment
Dale has found that in northern Alberta and Saskatchewan, racism and stereotyping of indigenous people is still very prevalent among many of the people who live there. Dale says that Indigenous people are often living in second and third world conditions on the reserves, and that, as late as the 80s and 90s, the local KKK would gather after dark and burn crosses in the fields near Provost, Alberta, not far from the Saskatchewan border.
He says it is due to a kind of systemic racism that there are so many indigenous people in Canadian jails and that is why people like Kevin Annett — a white Anglican minister who tried to advocate for the Indigenous cause and who helped expose the residential school scandal through his movie “Unrepentant” — are so treated so badly.
Dale says the Northwest Mounted Police (now the RCMP) who were originally tasked with protecting treaty rights of the Indigenous, have instead historically turned to protecting the infringers. And regarding some recent Indigenous rights issues, he asks “what’s the use of a duty to consult, without those being consulted, having a veto over federal/provincial/municipal/county projects going ahead, if they are not in the best interest of the First Nation". And he says that’s why the Mikisiw Cree will likely be taking their case against the Supreme Court of Canada’s recent decision against them to the UN.
It wasn’t that long ago that a pipeline blew up in BC and another Indigenous community had to be evacuated.
Dale believes that the best way to address the injustices of the present situation is through better education for young people. And that’s why he helped found the Douglas Cardinal Foundation for Indigenous Waldorf Education and spent so much time raising money to bring workshops that build skills developed in Waldorf settings, and to raise awareness about the potential for the development of Steiner’s methods and techniques for use in Indigenous contexts.
Like Douglas Cardinal, Dale was another Indigenous person from Alberta, who managed to overcome the challenges of his life situation and achieve something in the wider world. In Douglas’ case, that was becoming a world-renown Indigenous architect. Douglas Cardinal first discovered Rudolf Steiner’s architecture through a professor he had at the University of Texas. While Dale is Cree from northern Alberta, Douglas is Blackfoot from southern Alberta.
How did Dale Connect with Waldorf?
While he was working on his masters degree a few years ago at university, Dale’s computer broke, and he went to his band to ask for assistance to get a new one. Someone there decided that Dale should attend a week-long workshop on Waldorf Indigenous Education that was just then being given by James Brian at Enoch Cree Nation, just west of Edmonton.
So Dale went. He arrived a day after the start of the program. He soon recognized that Waldorf was the key he had been looking for, and he realized he needed to utilize these new insights into the capping paper he had been working on for his masters degree. That was the turning point and the start of his involvement with Waldorf, back in August of 2013. Dale was amazed to realize that Waldorf had been around for more than 90 years and he was only hearing about it for the first time.
Introducing Waldorf to Indigenous Communities
Dale has introduced Waldorf to five or six bands but he says it’s like fighting the provinces or the federal government. He has had trouble getting many Indigenous leaders to take interest. He says that because of how the leadership of the bands was set up by the Indian Act, those who end up in charge are often more concerned with feathering their own nests, than in promoting understanding of treaties and the welfare of the band. But in spite of obstacles like these, Dale perseveres, and has increasingly been called upon by school boards to help design curricula related to Indigenous ways of being-in-the-world.
In March 31st of this year, Dale married a Nova Scotia woman, Dr. Claire Poirier, who was recently awarded her Ph.D. in anthropology with distinction. He says she has studied in Indigenous communities as part of her field work, and as an ethnographer.
And just recently, they have had a new baby. His name is Lazlo, born May 22, 2018. Dale is currently working on his Ph.D., while also doing a lot of volunteer work on behalf of the Douglas Cardinal Foundation to help promote Indigenous Waldorf education wherever he can. Dale also participated in last summer’s AWSNA conference in Bethesda, Maryland where he presented on Indigenous nehiyaw Steiner possibilities and joined with others to form a committee to promote social justice for all peoples, and sang in the Cree language for all the delegates.
Waldorf Teacher Development Conference Nov 9th & 10th
Dale Saddleback will bring his wealth of knowledge and experience of Indigenous ways and culture to the RSCT’s Waldorf Development Conference November 9th and 10th at the RSCT in Thornhill, where he will be addressing the question of how to introduce teaching on Indigenous topics into the Waldorf curriculum. Don’t miss this opportunity.
The Rudolf Steiner Centre Toronto is pleased to announce that Les Black will be taking over from the late Gene Campbell as director of the Foundation Studies Distance program at the RSCT
The exceptional depth and experience for teaching and for life that radiated from Gene Campbell, gave birth to the course entitled Foundation Studies Distance. The faculty of mentors who teach the course are diverse in background but rich in experience with anthroposophy. Students of this course have reported on the deep impact it has had on their lives, but also, on the important influence their mentor has made in their life-journey.
Les writes "It is my privilege to be able to support the work of the course and the faculty of mentors, by taking up some responsibilities of administration for the Studies. Although my professional life has been as a Waldorf class teacher ( and previously, public school teacher) , I am currently a teacher- and school-mentor, alongside being a mentor in the Foundation Studies Distance course."
Every autumn for the last several years, the Thornhill Group of the Anthroposophical Society has published a brochure of Michaelmas activities in the Thornhill area. The following is from this year's brochure:
The following notice about upcoming fall events, for parents and friends at the Toronto Waldorf School, was recently circulated by Katie Ketchum, who is the director of marketing and admissions at TWS. We thought it might be of interest to RSCT friends as well, so, with Katie's permission, we are sharing it here on the RSCT blog:
There are a series of really exciting speakers, including Michael G. Thompson, author of Raising Cain (and six other titles) and Cynthia Aldinger, Founder of Lifeways North America. Michael Thompson has appeared on The Today Show, The Oprah Winfrey Show, and 20/20 amongst many others. He will be speaking on social issues in Middle School in the Forum at 7pm on December 12th and this is a free event- not to be missed!
As October is fast approaching, I wanted to take the opportunity to highlight our October Events.
On October 2nd, we have the launch of our monthly Tea/Coffee with the Administrators. This is an opportunity for a check in with Angelo Zaccheo and Helene Gross and will take place in the lobby from 8.15-9.15am.
October 10th brings the first of our guest speakers; James Brian, Executive Director of The Rudolf Steiner Centre will speak on the Neurological Basis of Writing and Reading. This is especially appropriate for parents of children Grades 3 and below. 7pm in the Music Room.
October 15th is our annual Alumni/ae Q&A and High School Information Evening. This is open to parents across the school and for students in Grades 7 and 8. We will be hosting Alumni/ae from a range of backgrounds including Finance, Law, Education, the Sciences and the Arts. This is a fantastic opportunity to mingle with Alumni/ae and ask all the questions you have always wanted to know the answer to! We will also have a formal presentation on the High School Curriculum- be sure to attend to learn what makes our High School unique. 7.30pm in the Forum.
On October 24th , our Grade 2 teacher, Warren Cohen will be presenting From Form Drawing to Physics – an exploration of a uniquely Waldorf subject and this looks to be an exciting opportunity to engage in some hands on activities. 7pm in the Music Room.
Above: Brian Searson shared a Bruce Cockburn song "All the Diamonds in this World" at Gene's tribute event Sept. 8th.
More than thirty people came out last Saturday, Sept. 8th to pay tribute to the life of Gene Campbell, bringer of Waldorf education to homeschoolers, and founder and developer of the Rudolf Steiner Centre Toronto’s Foundation Studies distance program.
First to speak was Gene’s older sister Karon, who shared a lengthy but fascinating chronology of Gene’s life, a copy of which is appended to the end of this report. Briefly, Gene grew up in a large family, led by a mother whose ideas for her children were ahead of their time, both in terms of gender equity, and in taking advantage of all possible channels of education.
Next to speak was Gene’s best friend, Ena Bruce. Ena and Gene met at the Waldorf Institute in Detroit in the early 1980s, when they were studying Waldorf Education. Ena said she regarded herself as Gene’s “Boswell”, implying that Gene was her “Samuel Johnson”. She said Gene was always very articulate and clear thinking about the human condition.
Ena said Gene’s breaking point with public education — Gene had taught in the Catholic school system for many years before going into Waldorf — had been when the administration moved computers into her kindergarten classroom and expected her to incorporate them into her teaching. Gene asked to be moved. They told her that she was hired, and her job was to obey.
One day at an open house at the Edge Hill School in Durham where they were both teaching, a visiting parent asked Gene about Waldorf for homeschoolers. Ena said we thought it couldn’t happen. But it turns out they were already doing it.
Gene saw the need and she started helping homeschoolers to understand and use Waldorf ideas and methods, though her Chiron initiative. People came from as far away as California to attend her conferences.
Before she died, Gene was about to take up another new project, addressing the challenges of psychology from a body, soul and spirit perspective. Gene’s philosophy was that if the challenge was in front of her, she was meant to do it.
Marianne Else met Gene in the mid-90s, shortly after she moved from Durham to Carrying Place, to care for her aging mother. Marianne credits Gene with helping inspire her to take up a five-year Eurythmy training at the age of 55, and to develop an new way of working with Eurythmy with adults.
Marg Beard, who has worked with Gene on Waldorf homeschooling and in the Heart program said that Gene had a wicked sense of humor and that, as a mentor, she would seldom give you answers. She always wanted to know from people, what was their passion.
Nicole Correri had met Gene at the RSCT when her daughter was in Grade 2. And now her daughter is 21. Nicole’s daughter, Thuraya, was there with her mother at the tribute event September 8th (see photo). Nicole said “I wanted to bring Waldorf to my kids. And I met this saint.”
Nicole meant Gene, and added that she knew Gene was a saint because of her trials by fire, her sufferings, and her clarity of spirit. Nicole said the best legacy was to pick up the work and live what she taught.
Above: Nicole Correri, with her now-21-year-old daughter, Thuraya, who she homeschooled in the Waldorf way.
Nicole has been organizing Bringing Waldorf Home conferences in Washington DC and having Gene as a keynote speaker at those event which she organized for six years. She said Gene has helped bring Waldorf to many Muslim families. Nicole said she is honored to have been Gene’s disciple.
RSCT pioneer, Diana Hughes said that when she first heard of “Distance Foundation Studies”, she had the same reaction as when she heard of “Waldorf homeschooling”. Diana said she had always worked on the premise that “Anthroposophy is the next person you meet”. However, Diana said, she had been grudgingly persuaded by Gene that these are things that the world needs in our time.
Warren Cohen (former RSCT co-director) said he had known Gene for five years before he realized that she was any differently abled than anyone else. Warren was the person Gene reported to, at the Rudolf Steiner Centre.
He said she was entirely self-motivated and needed practically no supervision, and that she ran the largest and most successful program in the history of the Centre. The program he was referring to, Distance Foundation Studies, now has more than 100 students, all over the world.
Brian Searson talked about his years working with Gene and Ena at the Edge Hill school. He remembers that Gene always wanted to make things better, and not get bogged down in interpersonal politics, because “we have work to do”.
Several other people spoke movingly about their experience of working with Gene or having her as their mentor. These included Grace, Shelley, Marie-France, Vivienne, Sharon and Louise. We’re not going to report on all of them here, but we are going to include the entirety of the talk by Gene’s older sister Karon below, who lives in New Brunswick. We should also note that the people whose contributions are reported on here, said much more than is included in this report. Robert McKay and James Brian officiated at the event on behalf of the RSCT. Elisabeth Chomko and Susan Richard led the singing.
Gene’s family constellation was as follows: Ken was the oldest brother, followed by Karon (oldest sister), followed by Mack (John), then Gene, then Tim and Terry.
From Gene's sister Karom Campbell-Kervin
Above: Gene's older sister, Karom, shares Gene's story (below) at the Sept. 8th Tribute event.
A TRIBUTE TO MARGARET-GENE CAMPBELL
SEPTEMBER 11, 1945 – AUGUST 4, 2018
I am honoured to have been asked to participate in this memorial to the life of my sister, Gene, and to include a few stories about her, especially those stories about her early life and the events and circumstances that shaped her life.
When talking about early influences, I would be remiss if I did not mention the influence of my parents and especially my Mother, Margaret. Gene and I both agreed that Mom was a strong example in teaching us to act with courage and guiding us to become independent thinkers. Throughout our lives, Mom’s perseverance and fortitude was evident as she faced many daunting life challenges that would have proved insurmountable for anyone less courageous.
Our first inkling of my Mother’s inner strength was when we moved from Charlottetown, PEI. Mom left her home, family, and all that was familiar to her, and with four little children in tow: Gene, one years old, Mac, two years old, myself, three years old and Ken, four years old, travelled, without any help, to the Air Force Base in Clinton, Ontario, to join my Father who had been posted there. Because none of the base housing had been built, we spent our first several months in Bayfield, at an old inn, where we children took our baths in an old tin tub outside on the lawn. We then moved into a house without indoor plumbing and had our first experience with an outhouse. When we finally accessed housing on the Air Force Base, we moved into the only accommodations available, an old converted barracks, to a second-floor walk-up apartment housing ten families.
Not long after we settled into that apartment in Clinton, my Father was stricken with cancer, considered untreatable at that time, and had to be hospitalized in London. Sometimes on a Sunday, Mom, with the four children in tow, would make that long trip to visit Dad. We children would stand outside the hospital and wave to Dad who would wave back from the window of his hospital room. Somehow, with a Doctor who was willing to try new treatments, Dad survived.
Our Dad showed tremendous inner strength as well as he faced life’s issues. His quiet determination to accept what he could not change and to find the courage to change what he could was an inspiration to all of us. His would repeat the “Serenity Prayer” and he loved the “Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi”. In fact, he challenged all of us to learn the St. Francis of Assisi prayer by heart, and rewarded us with a quarter when we succeeded.
These challenges life events took their toll on Mom’s health, and she suffered several miscarriages as we grew up. The whole family rejoiced when, in 1950, our brother, Tim, was born and five years later, our brother, Terry, was born.
Although we grew up at a time when women and girls were encouraged to be seen and not heard, in some regards, my Mother had ideas that were ahead of her time. Mom grew up in a household where it was unheard of for boys and men to participate in housework. Hers was a family of four boys and four girls. All eight of the siblings went to work quite young and each family member contributed financially to the household. However, when they arrived home after having worked all day, the girls work was not done. While the boys sat in the living room smoking and chatting, the girls prepared supper, served the boys, cleaned up and did the dishes, and then did any other chores that needed doing, such as, washing, ironing, mending clothes, washing floors, dusting, etc. The boys, meanwhile, returned to the living room for the evening or went out socializing. Mom resented that injustice and vowed not to allow that in her own family.
For example, Mom insisted that both the boys and the girls each take a turn to do dishes, and everyone had to make his or her own bed. Other chores were divided among us as we were able to handle them. Every January, when the new calendar arrived, each of us anxiously checked to see who had to do the dishes the following Christmas. The moans and groans of the one unfortunate enough to have Christmas fall on their day to do dishes could be heard throughout the house for days and weeks afterward. That kind of thinking was unheard of at the time, and the boys took a great deal of teasing from the neighbour children. Gene and I learned a valuable lesson regarding justice and women’s issues that we carried forward all our lives.
Mom wanted all her children to have every opportunity to experience and learn new things. She and my Dad, Ken, loved music, so all of us were encouraged to study music. As well as Brownies and Girl Guides, Mom also enrolled Gene and I in dance, gymnastics, sewing, and any other activity that was available. Gene was very flexible, and became an excellent gymnast. Because my Dad was in the Air Force, we had an exceptionally good education growing up, including music, art, physical education, acting, and public speaking.
Gene and I shared a room, a double bed, and occasionally, in spite of my protests, my clothes. I was a little OCD about my possessions and Gene’s attention to detail did not extend to keeping the room tidy, so we certainly had our moments. Eventually we learned to compromise. We created an imaginary line down the middle of the room, down the middle of the dresser and through the middle of the box where we kept our valuables. I made my half of the bed, kept my half of the dresser tidy, kept my half of our storage box neatly organized, and left her to her own devices.
Gene’s road to courage started very young, when she was just seven years old. In October, 1952, the family moved to the Air Force Base at Trenton, Ontario. On November 9th, Gene’s life changed beyond anything we could have imagined. Fairly near our home on the base, we could hear the sound of trains whistling by several times every day. We soon realized that the tracks were just across the field and an easy walk for us. The boys, Ken and Mac, started talking about going over to the tracks to watch the trains go by. On that fateful Sunday, they talked me into going with them, and with much cajoling, we convinced Gene to join us. After all, if all four of us were involved, we were less likely to get into trouble. The trains were shunting that afternoon. Perhaps the boys saw a worker grab the ladder on the side of a boxcar, hang on to the side for a few feet, and then jump off down the track. The boys decided to try that trick, too. I was afraid to try, but since it seemed like such fun, Gene decided to try, too. As she attempted to grab the ladder, her grip slipped and she fell. The train wheels ran over one leg severing it just below the knee. While I stayed with her, trying in vain to reconnect her leg, the boys ran screaming across the field to get my parents.
A group of airmen had been playing cards at one of the homes nearby, and one of the players noticed the boys running, screaming and yelling. He jumped into action, rushed over to Gene, and with soothing words and quick thinking, applied a tourniquet, which saved her life.
As things settled back to some semblance of order, Gene returned to school and we older children took turns pulling her back and forth in a wagon. It must have come to someone’s attention that Gene needed transportation to go to school, because soon afterward, we moved from 6 Repair Depot Station to the South Side Airbase. This station, a couple of miles away, held a small, elite housing unit for Non-Commissioned Officers. Gene was then able to take a bus to school. She was often subjected to considerable bullying from kids who taunted her about her leg, calling her “Hopalong Cassidy” and other derogatory names, until Ken and Mac intervened and threatened them menacingly if they continued.
Few people realize the difficulties encountered by children with limb amputations. Gene endured considerable suffering growing up because, periodically as she grew, she had to be hospitalized to have the bone shortened as it pushed painfully through the skin. Each operation required several weeks of additional painful healing time, during which Gene could not wear her artificial leg. In spite of the many interruptions to her schooling, she continued to be a good student.
Gene was not going to allow having an artificial limb to keep her from doing the things that the other children did. She continued to participate in gymnastics and swimming. She could often be seen slipping her artificial leg off, swimming back and forth across the pool or hoping, one-legged, onto the diving board and diving into the deep end of the pool, completely oblivious to the fact that she only had one leg and immune to the stares from other swimmers and onlookers. From time to time, Gene broke her artificial leg climbing trees or jumping, and occasionally we children could be seen chasing ball bearings as they fell out of the knee joint.
The Shriners’ organization supported Gene in acquiring an artificial leg and continued for several years to sponsor her to go to Merrywood Camp, a summer camp for children with physical disabilities. Then, one year when Gene was about thirteen, she announced that she could not attend that camp anymore because, as she said, it was for “crippled” children, and she declared that she was not “crippled”.
Gene had to have a new leg built from time to time as she grew up. Finally, in her mid-teens, she was going to get a leg with interchangeable feet so that she could, as a young woman, wear high heels. However, since her name had been submitted to the manufacturer as “Gene” which was considered a boy’s name, each leg until then had been build for a boy. It was only then, when the new leg was being built and Gene was being fitted, that they realized that they should have been making a leg for a girl all along.
My Mother was determined that her children would attend a Catholic school during the high school years. Although Mom was a strong adherent of her religion and insisted that we all practice that faith rigorously, it was quite an adjustment to be thrust, quite unprepared, into an environment taught by nuns who were intolerant of anyone who questioned authority. Gene was much more compliant than either Ken or I, and normally accepted the harsh discipline uncomplainingly. However, one rule created a crisis. Each week, a different child was required to clean the blackboards at noon and before leaving after school. When Gene’s turn came, she realized that she would miss the bus if she stayed after class. Without getting permission from the teacher, she made a deal with another student. She would clean the boards for that student during her lunch hours in exchange for the student doing Gene’s work after school. Unfortunately, the other student forgot one evening and Gene was punished by having to stay after class, forcing her to miss her bus. Neither her pleas nor explanations were acceptable, and Gene had to walk over three miles home. Of course, her artificial limb was not designed for walking long distances and, by the time she arrived home, she was in pain and her leg was badly bruised and bloodied.
We all learned a lesson in courage on that occasion, and Gene showed a remarkable maturity, when my Mother, who would never speak out against the Catholic Church or its authority, had to speak out against such an injustice. She called Mother Superior and threatened to remove all of us from Catholic schools unless the offending nun was dealt with. After some negotiation, the situation was finally resolved. The teacher apologized to my Mother and both the teacher and Gene apologized to each other. I certainly did not feel that Gene had any reason to apologize and raged against what I considered to be another injustice, but Gene was wise enough and mature enough to want to resolve the issue in a good way.
When Gene graduated from high school, she moved to Toronto and stayed with my Uncle Bill and Aunt Camille. She was able to get a job, but was not happy with the work she was doing. The prevailing attitude in those times was that a college or university education would be wasted on girls because they would soon marry and have children, and so they did not need the education, whereas, the boys had to make a living. Fortunately for Gene, our neighbour, Hub Smith, a retired airman who had served in the Air Force with my Father, told Gene that, as the child of a serviceman, she was entitled to educational grants. Since her dream was to become a teacher, she was able, with Hub’s help, to apply for these grants to go to university, and was able to make that dream a reality.
Gene spent many years teaching at Catholic schools in the Toronto area. However, a few years after Gene started teaching, she was involved in a serious car accident. Because of a combination of events including the car accident and her earlier trauma, Gene developed fibromyalgia which left her struggling with debilitating pain. Although she continued to teach for several more years, doggedly working through the pain, and although she tried many therapies, mostly unsuccessful, to ease the pain, she finally had to take a leave of absence from teaching. Unfortunately, fibromyalgia was not well recognized in the medical community as a physical disability, but rather considered a psychological issue. When Gene applied for her pension, she was denied because she was told that the pain was all in her head and fibromyalgia was not real. As Gene explained it to me, fibromyalgia was considered a women’s issue, and it was only when a doctor’s son was diagnosed with it, that the medical community began to recognized it as a chronic condition including periods of debilitating physical pain. For several years she endured the pain, the financial insecurity and the self-doubt until, finally, several years after its onset, fibromyalgia was accepted as a valid medical disability. Although she felt somewhat vindicated, her financial situation was tenuous and she was unable to hire a lawyer to fight for her cause. A friend, recognizing her dilemma, paid for her to see a lawyer. She was then able to challenge the ruling of the pension board and eventually receive her pension, a final vindication.
Gene loved teaching and watching the children grow and learn but, after working for many years in Catholic schools, she became disillusioned with the system and especially with the male-dominated hierarchy. She felt that the current educational system lacked the creativity that children needed to thrive. Another major enlightenment grew within her as she explored Gestalt Psychology and the works of Rudolf Steiner. She realized that she needed to find like-minded people. The idea of small, community-based schools offering an holistic approach to education in the Waldorf school system seemed to offer her the opportunity to teach in a stimulating environment. She found the perfect solution in the community of Durham. Whenever we talked by phone or when I visited, I could hear the excitement in her voice as she told me about the little school there and the dedicated teachers and parents at the Waldorf School.
Gene took on the role of looking after the well-being of our parents as they aged and as their health declined. When Mom and Dad moved to Durham with Gene, she ensured that they were well looked after and she kept the rest of the family informed as events unfolded. When Mom’s health became a serious issue, they made the decision to move to Belleville so they could be near the hospital. Gene moved into the family home in Carrying Place so she could be near them, and when Mom passed away at Christmas time in 1995, Dad moved in with Gene for the final year of his life.
Gene continued to explore new ideas and to challenge herself to find ever-higher life purposes. She began to travel to communities to help parents and teachers create new Waldorf schools. She developed and offered distance support programs for marriage counselling and for parents, and she developed a distance-education program to work with teachers wanting to adapt to the Waldorf Education system. As Chiron continued to grow, Gene’s programs reached far beyond Canada into other countries and cultures.
Gene named her business “Chiron”. As she related to me, the name seemed apt because Chiron, a centaur in Greek mythology, matched her vision. Chiron was noted for his youth-nurturing nature. His personal skills included: medicine, music, archery, hunting, gymnastics and the art of prophecy. Because Chiron was known for his knowledge and skill with medicine, he was credited with the discovery of botany and pharmacy, the science of herbs and medicine. Although centaurs were notorious for their wild, uncivilized behaviour, Chiron, in contrast, was intelligent, civilized and kind. I think that definition describes Gene’s work admirably.
Gene and I had many conversations throughout the years and she shared her ideas and concepts with me. Although we did not always agree and occasionally debated issues, we found many commonalities, and we always respected each other’s opinions. Interestingly, we often approached ideas with completely different perspectives, and through our discussions, realized that we were, in fact, on the same page. I gained a wonderful lesson and a great insight into her remarkable vision during one of our conversations. Gene stated that her accident at seven years old was her greatest blessing. I could not understand how she could consider such a tragedy as a blessing until she explained. She said that losing her leg as a child profoundly changed the direction of her life, and that she was very grateful for the lesson and for the learning. She said that had she not endured that accident, she would never have had the opportunity to take the life journey she was on. With that insight in mind, I too, came to understand and to find gratitude for the lessons in my life. I recognized that I too, received my greatest learning from having gone through my own difficult life experiences.
When Gene was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2017, she maintained her courage and positive attitude. Her sense of humour could be found even during the most challenging times in her life. She and my brother, Mac, were both experiencing serious medical problems at the same time. They would talk about death and wonder which one of them would go first. She would say, “Oh, it’s OK, you can go first”, and he would retort, “No, I don’t mind, you go first”, teasing each other back and forth, and then they would have a good laugh.
Gene realized that she did not have the strength to continue her work while she battled this life-threatening disease. She recognized that she would have to train other mentors to assist with the workload. Her vision was to leave a legacy which would live on long after her life ended. Even with this overwhelming diagnosis of level 3C breast cancer, Gene’s concern for her students and her need to create enough mentors to take over her work was paramount. She was determined to have everything in place so that her work would continue while she was unable to take an active role. Only then, would she allow herself to focus on this newest challenge. She faced this battle determined to fight with every ounce of strength she had, and early in 2018, after undergoing chemotherapy, breast amputation and radiation, she was told that she was cancer free.
All of us were overjoyed. Gene was the glue that held the family together. She kept track of the events in each of our lives, and kept all of us apprised of the others’ lives and life circumstances. We could not imagine life without Gene at the helm. Gene was determined to get back to her work and, even with limited energy, reconnected with students and with Waldorf communities. Her hair started to re-grow, and she was making plans to undergo reconstructive surgery. She maintained her positive attitude and was even able to find humour in her own difficult circumstances. She joked that her hair was growing in curly, and that the surgeon was going to use her tummy fat to recreate her new breast and that she would soon have her girlish figure back. In spite of all her struggles and life-challenging events, Gene’s ability to maintain a positive outlook and retain her sense of humour was remarkable.
Tragically, our joy was short lived. The reprieve lasted only a couple of months. Gene started to experience blinding headaches. She was diagnosed as having a blood clot in her esophagus which could not be removed. Several visits to the hospital emergency ward, did not relieve the pain. Gene was unable to sleep and could not keep food or beverages down. When I spoke to her early in July, I could hear the change in her voice. Her strength was fading and I could hardly hear her as she spoke in little more than a whisper. Alarmed, I asked her if I could help her if I came to her place for a visit. When she said, “yes”, I knew we were facing a crisis, because her independence was always extremely important to her. Her Oncologist, as a follow-up to her cancer treatment, ran a series of tests and on August 3rd, Gene, with much assistance from Tim and Diane, went to the hospital to get the results of those tests.
My husband, Joe, and I had travelled that day from New Brunswick to Gene’s place and expected to see her when she returned home from the hospital that night. However, early in the evening, I received a call from Diane telling us that Gene would be staying in the hospital. The test results were devastating. The cancer had returned and aggressively ravaged her body, spreading through her remaining breast, her stomach and her liver. We then planned to go to the hospital the next morning, but at about 9:00 am, Diane called to say that we should go to the hospital immediately. By the time we arrived, Gene had already passed away.
As we, her family and friends, grieve the loss of our dear sister and friend, we realize that the sorrow we feel is for those of us left behind. The loss I am feeling is more than words can describe. I will miss the phone calls, the discussions and the visits. I will miss Gene’s sense of commitment to bettering the world around her, her insight and wisdom, and her sense of humour. As birthdays, Christmas, and summer vacations come and go, an emptiness will steal into my heart knowing that she is not here.
Gene has enriched the lives of those around her beyond measure, and her life serves as a model for those aspiring to go beyond mediocrity to become exceptional. She lived a rich and meaningful life. She had a vision and created a legacy, putting a process in place to ensure that her legacy will not be forgotten. Now it becomes the responsibility of those of us left behind to follow her example, to continue to enrich lives, to carry her vision forward, and to ensure that her life’s work lives on.
Although most of you are too young to have listened to the radio program, “As It Happens”, I will quote the host, Paul Harvey, who ended his programs saying, “And now you know the rest of the story.”
I am grateful that Gene is now at peace and without pain. As she travels this last journey into the spirit world, I can picture in my mind’s eye, Mom and Dad reaching out to guide her and to welcome her. My Mother would smile and say, “Well done, my daughter. Well done! You have earned your rest. Let your spirit soar free; free of all pain and suffering.”
Left: Photo of Karom, taken after the Sept. 8th Tribute to Gene Campbell event at the RSCT.
Now that it’s September, and back to school time, we thought it might be appropriate to sit down and hobnob a little with the director of the RSCT’s Foundation Studies Encounter program, Paul Hodgkins.
Now, as you may remember from our interview with Paul last year, Paul is a former Waldorf teacher and has been pretty much a lifelong student of the work of Rudolf Steiner. And he’s been leading classes on Foundation Studies for a couple of decades as well.
Last Chance to Study with Paul?
Paul has been making noises for some time now about how the end of his time teaching Foundation Studies may be near, and how he’s looking to be replaced. But does that mean that this is your last chance to take the Foundation Studies Encounter course with Paul? Not necessarily, he says.
The future, it seems, is yet to be determined. Paul’s ideal replacement would be someone who’s 42 or 49 or even 56 — a person who’s been through all their important 7-year cycles, but is still young enough to be around for a few more years, and with enough time in their life to commit to an every-Saturday schedule.
Foundation Studies in My City?
We talked with Paul about how the question has often come up about offering the Foundation Studies program in centres other than Thornhill. Maybe you live in such a place — like Burlington, Barrie, Guelph, Peterborough or some other smaller city in Ontario — and would like to put together a group of people for an RSCT Foundation Studies program.
What it takes for that to become a reality is ten or twelve students willing to pay the full $1,800 annual fee. Ten students if we can find a local faculty person to lead the course, and twelve if we need to send in a teacher from elsewhere.
Technology is Replacing Paul
Paul joked that, actually, he is being replaced by technology, as more students choose instead the Distance learning option for Foundation Studies, which involves independent study with periodic consultations with a mentor by phone or Skype.
While that may be the only option for people whose lives keep them in remote locations, there is a very real compromise in terms of the artistic component, not to mention the reduced possibility for group discussions and social connections with other students. Paul says often there is a cathartic process that happens within the group of Foundation Studies Encounter students over the course of a year’s study.
One new bright spot on the visiting faculty front for this year’s students will be the participation of Eurythmist Reg Down, who will not only be leading Eurythmy classes, but will also talk to the students about Eurythmy. Paul says it’s not often you find someone who can do both.
Otherwise, visiting guest speakers will be mostly anthroposophists coming through town on a lecture circuit, master teachers mentoring at TWS, or here to also spend time with student teachers. As in the past, Fiona Hughes will likely come by to talk about medicine, and RSCT Founding Director Diana Hughes will talk about reflective practice.
The basic books for Foundation Studies Encounter this year will include Rudolf Steiner’s “Theosophy” and “The Essential Steiner” by Robert McDermott, as well as the first chapter in Steiner’s “How to Know Higher Worlds”. And while we do encourage people to read independently, says Paul, the main thing for students is attendance at the sessions.
Anthroposophy and other Spiritual Paths
There are those who say that your spiritual path should make you feel good, that all suffering is illusory, that you’ve got to overcome your pain body, or that with the power of intention you can conjure forth your preferred version of reality. Anthroposophy is none of the above.
According to Paul, the anthroposophical path is about a radical transformation of thinking — something very new and very difficult. One does not easily transform thinking; it’s not about new ideas. This new way of thinking is the entry point into perception of the spiritual. It is the little key which opens the door to future spirituality.
There’s no building bridges to other spiritual paths because other spiritual paths are not concerned with the development of thinking. All religious and spiritual impulses have traditionally dealt with the life of feeling, the bridling of feeling and moral/social behavior. But, anthroposophy is not about feeling, it’s about thinking, about making the thinking itself somehow selfless.
The point of anthroposophical meditation is to transform the thinking. It’s not about mindfulness, healing the body, or having a daily peaceful experience. It’s really about awakening to one’s own thinking activity. And according to Paul, his challenge is to talk about meditation clearly enough to encourage people to take it up out of their own understanding, and not simply because someone says so.
The beginning of transforming thinking is engaging with the ideas that Steiner gave. Thinking has to struggle to grasp these ideas. And it’s that struggle that is the work. Perhaps surprisingly, the content of the ideas is not what is essential here.
This fall, the RSCT is offering the Foundation Studies Encounter program at two different times, one on Saturday mornings (8:30 am to 12:30 pm) and again on Wednesday mornings (8:45 am to 12:15 pm) — intended for parents, but open to others as well. Both courses run for 30 sessions and end in May 2019.
The Wednesday morning class starts Sept. 12th and continues through May 8th. Saturday classes begin Sept. 15th and continue through May 18th, 2019. Tuition fee is $1,800.
Free Introductory Sessions Sept. 6th and 11th
Free introductory sessions are being offered on the morning of Sept. 6th at 8:45 am, and on the evening of Sept. 11th at 7:30 pm in the Rudolf Steiner Centre Toronto seminar room. These will be opportunities to hear more about the program and to have your questions addressed by Paul.
If I had not learned to think in the language of logical paradox, I could not weigh the events of my past with any sense of integrity. "It was the best of times; it was the worst of times ... " Though I would not wish to repeat my past, I have come to appreciate it.
I was born on September 11, 1945 in my mother's hometown, on an island with deep red earth, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada. I arrived the fourth child in four years, Ken, Karon and John having preceded me. In all, we were six, Tim arriving when I was five and Terry when I was ten.
I took my first steps and spoke my first words in P.E.I. but my first memories emerged after we had moved to Ontario. There we lived on two air force bases, both of them self-contained and protected by fences and a guard house. My first memories were deeply-felt sensory impressions which began a lifelong bond with nature a bond which supported me in many dark moments.
Yet, while nature embraced me, I have no memory of either of my parents doing so.
My mother taught me how to suffer 'the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune'. Her ability to endure was a product of the times, of her temperament and of her Roman Catholic roots. She would often conclude a conversation with the words, "Offer it up as penance for your sins." She was a dutiful housewife, homemaker and mother. The strength of her commitment to a then-unhappy marriage provided us with a stable home life built around the rhythms of the religious calendar year. I never doubted the existence of God but I did secretly wish he weren't so demanding. Through it all, I felt the coldness in the pores of my skin and I longed for freedom. "The mother eagle puts thorns in her nest, she is determined that her children will learn fly."
The fact that we had little money, no television until I was ten, and the expectation that we would provide our own amusements, all worked in my favor creatively. I was never bored. The crafts, drama, singing and nature lore that I learned in Guides and summer camps fueled my play from year to year.
I especially loved surprises and secret hiding places. Every year before Christmas, I would wrap up objects that I had found in the 'junk drawer' and put them as presents under the tree. The fact that I wrapped and re-wrapped the same gifts year after year was immaterial. It was pure pleasure ... I could barely contain the energy that poured through me. At other times, I would hide small ‘treasures' on the ledge under the dining room table and take great pleasure in having the whole family gathered together and yet be the only one who knew that there was a treasure only inches away. I never told anyone.
My mother wanted more for her children than she had had herself. She sent us all to music lessons and conveyed her deep respect for education. I was fortunate to attend air force schools which offered the finest educational programs in the area. I enjoyed learning but found the form confining. Few report cards failed to mention that I was talkative. I gained enough intellectual discipline and endurance to graduate from university but only began to really appreciate what I had been given through my education when my clarity of thought could be applied to my own life questions.
The oppression I felt in my childhood served to fine-tune the boundaries of my own freedom. Once a teacher humiliated me by sticking a roll of toilet paper on the thumb I was sucking in class and, knowing that my parents would never oppose her authority, I left it there but claimed myself in the deliberate mess I was making in my notebook while writing with my other hand.
In high school, a teacher told me to leave the room until I was willing to accept what I saw as an injustice. I walked out and kept on walking the several miles to home with each step convinced that I had crossed a Rubicon. My mother sorted it out by phone and to my surprise, supported my position. And yet, she insisted that I apologize to the teacher. For that I am now grateful as it illustrated that freedom and justice need to be seen in reference to a larger whole. What I would have gained by being right, I would have lost by a pre-mature loss of respect for authority.
My father was a flight sergeant in the air force and was away on course frequently. He was phlegmatic by temperament so that even when he was home, he revealed little of himself. We knew enough not to sit in his chair and not to ask him anything before he had had his supper. He was strong and handsome in his uniform and his love of the water meant that he was always tanned from boating and swimming. Through the strength of his will, he conquered alcoholism, smoking, cancer and a tragic boating accident in which all others were drowned.
I was not comfortable asking either of my parents for anything. If I wanted anything from my mother, I would try to talk my younger brother into asking. If I wanted anything from my father, I would ask my mother to ask him. If she refused I would rather give up my goal than ask and would 'burn through' the loss or find a way to get it myself. This had the effect of strengthening my creativity and self-sufficiency but weakened my trust in others, especially those in power. This ability to 'burn through' my desires later became a capacity for 'creating a space' in a dilemma in order to ‘listen' to a situation and sense what was really emerging, to stay within a 'death-space’ long enough to receive insight.
Friends, Lovers, and Other Strangers:
I had dreams in childhood with a recurring theme: there are things in this world beyond which you can imagine. Every friendship felt like a confirmation of that thought. I spent the first half of my life waiting to be chosen as a friend or lover and feeling blessed when it did occur. But it left me 'walking on eggs', holding my breath waiting for the inevitable ending.
At nineteen, with mutual affection, I had my first sexual relationship. This was, certainly, beyond what I could have imagined. However, the distance and our different lives, led to what I regarded as a betrayal when he met someone else at university. I imploded the pain and ended up with a serious case of quinsy. I decided that I would remain unaffected in relationships and date as many men as I wanted. Eventually, my first love did return but, sadly, I realized that I could never trust him again and that the naive, wide-eyed girl who had loved him didn't exist anymore. Through many subsequent relationships, I learned a great deal but it took a long time to glimpse why none of them was even remotely substantial: so little of me was actually present within them and I could only hold my breath for so long.
I had my train accident on November 9, 1952. My older siblings had encouraged me to join them in jumping on a moving train and I decided to try in spite of the vibration that I felt in my aura. I knew how to skip double-dutch so I began by establishing the rhythm with the clicking wheels and I targeted the spot where the handles on the side of the cars were passing. In order to succeed, it was necessary to jump before you could actually see the handle you would be grabbing so I could not predict that that particular handle would be broken. I fell and my right leg was amputated below the knee. I remained conscious, in shock, protected from the pain. I sat and counted the wheels as they ran over me and, when the train had passed, I tried to fix my leg so no one would know. When I faced the hopelessness of the task, I said a prayer and waited for death. I was in complete wonder when a stranger, Sergeant Paquette, rescued me I was so vulnerable at this point, that if his energy had been harsh, I think I would have slipped away.
Months later, when I received my first prosthesis, I had to learn to walk all over again. This accident had life-long repercussions as its effects were not simply relegated to memory. Every morning, I have to put on my prosthesis and accommodate its limitations. There was no one capable of understanding the psychological implications of such an experience until I was an adult so I adopted the 'dust yourself off and get on with life' attitude of my parents. But for a long time afterwards, I couldn't catch my breath and I cried alone in the bathroom with the tap running so no one would hear. I couldn't articulate the darkness that descended on my throat and chest ... at times, I was an elective mute.
When I retired from teaching, 45 years after the accident, I set out to find Sergeant Paquette to express my gratitude and to ensure him that the trauma I had invited him to had been justified by the life I had lived thereafter. I reunited with his family, though he had passed away, and together we dedicated an air force memorial in his memory.
This accident posed existential questions which have shaped the rest of my life. I could no longer find my way back into the collective illusion that death was an abstraction or into the collective meaning of life. I knew that I could never be perfect and I would always be different. This was a difficult load to carry but it also gave me a unique vantage point and ensured a spiritual dimension in my life. Over the years, I have come to realize how profound the event has been.
I gladly left home at seventeen, more on my mother's initiative than my own. I wanted to be a teacher but didn't have the financial means. To my amazement, my neighbour, Hub Smith, arranged an air force educational grant for me, something that would never have occurred to my parents. I loved teaching: the children, the creativity, the financial security, the independence. Eventually, I taught every grade from kindergarten to grade 8 and became very skilled at striking the balance between love and discipline, order and chaos, the individual and the whole.
As a child, I was an average student with a selective memory but when I began university, I discovered that my perception and reasoning abilities were highly-valued.
In one philosophy class on existentialism, I had a major turning point: From a deep sleep, I suddenly sat bolt-upright and was thunderstruck by the sense of meaninglessness in the face of certain death. I later phoned my professor and said that if he were going to stir up the shit, he should be there when it hits the fan. Fortunately, he responded out of his own human depths and I found my own way to the central thought that all world views were based on premises, on assumptions and that the individual must assume the burden of responsibility for tracking and distilling meaning from life.
For all that teaching had given me, it still kept me quite naive. I needed to complete my 'adolescence' and did so in a three-year training program in Gestalt psychology. It appealed to me because it was present-oriented, involved group process and valued creativity and freedom. In the beginning, I didn't know how to track what I really felt and thought but I was more committed to finding the truth of myself that 'playing to an audience' so I learned to 'dance with my own shadow'. Through rejecting the introjections and reclaiming the projections, I began to redefine myself holistically, as a verb rather than a noun. When I saw the intensity of the fear in my life and the price it exacted, I made a pact to face it and unmask it through undertaking life experiments.
By the end of my Gestalt training, I felt empowered and yet, a thought grew in me that even if I, as an individual, achieved all that could be achieve, it would still not begin to address the spiritual questions posed by life. In 1980, at age 35, I began reading the works of Rudolf Steiner. His words so deeply affected me that I devoured his books and watched as the largest world view and meaning of life unfolded before my mind's eye. It nourished and resonated in the very cells of my body.
Everything convinced me that I needed to find a group of people with which to manifest these ideas. But after exploring many Waldorf and anthroposophical settings, I realized that very quickly power issues invade and entrenched themselves within structures and that there were few means of continuing to hold them up to scrutiny. I formulated a prayer: May none of my illusions bear fruit. I sought to find ways to incorporate Steiner's ideas in my own initiatives which has led me to form Chiron out of which I offer counseling, workshops and conferences.
When I met Richard, my life was being consumed by pain which initiated after a car accident at age 33. I was working with every conceivable alternate therapy without success. I had the opportunity to speak with you privately and I asked you only one question: What can justify such pain? You said that you had come from the deathbed of a very holy man and you had never seen such pain and such radiance ... it was all energy and I had to raise it to heart level and ray it out as light. In my continuing work with you in California, I learned to experience this process and to attune to the laws of energy.
At one point, in passing, our eyes met and in seconds, I was struck by the experience of what would fall away from me if I were to meet that look which was paradoxically the emptiest and the most present that I had encountered. This was another pivotal experience.
After twenty-five years of teaching, the pain in my body was becoming debilitating in spite of all my efforts. The pain chipped away at my grasp on security and only when I felt that I had no other option, did I take a leave of absence without pay. I began to take entrepreneurial risks feeling that I had nothing left to lose. I saw myself in a life and death struggle to create a financial base which no longer required my life forces to maintain. I wasn't quite 20 when I started teaching so my pension was still years away. For seven years, I struggled and acquired a new relationship to money until finally I qualified for my pension.
During this time I was able to care for my aging parents and to reverse the childhood roles. It was a time of tremendous stress with their needs added to my own but I met each day with a calm regard for necessity and an abiding faith in the things beyond which I could imagine. In retrospect, it was a privilege to be able to complete this cycle in one lifetime. My parents had healed their own marriage and faced life and death with joy, dignity and gratitude.
Arc of the Soul's Learning:
In essence, my life has been a spiritual journey from beginning to end. I have had enough pain and challenges to ensure that I did not lose sight of this. At 57, I have founded Chiron, the vehicle through which I can contribute on the world's stage. It has the potential to be big enough and broad enough to accommodate all aspects of my distilled wisdom. I would like it to be the 'child' I will have had out of my love for humanity.
Editor's postscript: After the events described in these autobiographical sketches, Gene Campbell went on to design and lead the RSCT's Foundation Studies in Anthroposophy Distance Learning program.
Come out to the Sept. 8th event and share your memories of Gene and her work. The event will run from 4-6 pm in the Toronto Waldorf School music room. TWS is located at 9100 Bathurst St., Thornhill. See you there.