Anthroposophical doctors and state funding

Allow me to introduce you to Dr Peter Gruenewald, a fully qualified GP and a man accredited as an Anthroposophical doctor. Here’s one version of his CV from which you’ll learn of his impeccable Anthroposophical credentials, connections and activities. EDIT Feb 2019: this cv is now much less informative

According to an earlier version of his CV, which I have on file, Dr Gruenewald’s previous employment included his time as ‘School Medical Officer’ at two UK Anthroposophical schools. Dr Gruenewald (aka Grunewald and Grünewald in former times) is a properly qualified GP, no doubt about that, but what do Anthroposophical doctors such as Dr Gruenewald do in Anthroposophical schools?

Ofsted (the state agency responsible for inspecting schools) in page 33 of this guidance document says a special feature of Steiner schools is that

“the school doctor (anthroposophical) discusses with the teacher the classroom work of each child as well as their medical and pastoral needs.”

However, very few UK Anthroposophical school websites have anything to say at all about their school doctors. What little information there is shows that a doctor’s activities involves much more than the discussions with teachers as per Ofsted guidance.

A London Steiner school, St Michael Steiner, mentions in its Parents’ Handbook that their Anthroposophical doctor:

“… sees between five and ten  children, chosen by the teachers, on each visit and advises teachers and parents of any help the children may need…(the doctor) gives advice from an educational point of view and may prescribe remedies, anthroposophical medicines, pedagogical exercises and therapies to help with many different problems from dyslexia to poor eyesight.”

EDIT FEB 2019: the above has been modified such that it now does not mention dyslexia or poor eyesight.

The St Michael Steiner Handbook also mentions Class I readiness visits by a doctor each May.

Another London Anthroposophical school, St Pauls Steiner School, used to explain in its Parents’ Handbook why pupils might see the anthroposophical doctor:

“Children may be referred for pedagogical, health or developmental reasons such as assessment for Class I readiness, learning differences or emotional and behavioural concerns…The doctor may prescribe anthroposophical or homeopathic medicaments or curative eurythmy sessions…The school does not carry out dental checks, hearing or sight tests, nor does it provide immunisation boosters.”

Since this post first appeared the same Handbook is edited such that the reasons for referral now make no mention of assessment for Class I readiness, learning differences or emotional and behavioural concerns.

It’s a bit confusing isn’t it, as to what role Anthroposophical school doctors play within Anthroposophical schools. At St Pauls Steiner (a school abysmally managed in its recent past) they don’t do basic routine checks on eyes, teeth or hearing and they don’t do jabs. Yet children at St Pauls may be referred to the Anthroposophical doctor for health reasons and prescribed homeopathic ‘medicaments’. On the other hand, at St Michaeel Steiner School, the Anthroposophical school doctor tackles complex conditions such as dyslexia and the (usually) more mundane and basic problem of poor eyesight. Whatever is going on it amounts to more than discussions, the basis of the ‘special feature’ outlined in Ofsted’s guidance to school inspectors.

Things become clearer – if that’s the right term –on reading the Rudolf Steiner School Kings Langley Parents Handbook, a school where Dr Gruenewald was once Medical Officer. In the ‘Eurythmy’ section of the Handbook parents are informed that “Practising eurythmy can harmonise and balance the formative forces active in the developing human being” and “Curative Eurythmy can be used to treat a number of developmental difficulties, not all of them physically obvious and specific exercises may be recommended by the school doctor.”

EDIT Feb 2019: The Rudolf Steiner School Kings Langley has been shut down due to concerns about child safety. Links to the Parents Handbook no longer work but I have a copy on file, any quotes from it can be vouchsafed by me if necessary.

In the ‘School Doctor’ section of the same school Handbook things become even more, erm, clearer:

“The school doctor visits two or three days each term to see the pupils…If there is a concern about a child – usually a developmental, behavioural or constitutional concern – by parents or teachers, the class teacher is consulted, and may make an appointment for that child. The parents, or at least one, are asked to be present to talk to the doctor, as their input is very important in building a picture of the child.

The school doctor will have a comprehensive view of the child, based on their Anthroposophical medical training – which is in addition to an orthodox medical training – that takes into account the spiritual and soul development of the child as well as the physical aspects and symptoms. The child’s biography and family situation also may be taken into account.

The doctor may prescribe medicines. He may also recommend the child to have one of the therapies which are available at the school…”

To make better sense of this one has to enter into the Anthroposophical practitioner’s understanding of child development, an entirely spiritual understanding hence Kings Langley Handbook’s reference to the spiritual and soul development of the child.

For Anthroposophists, Steiner notions of spirit, soul, karma, reincarnation and destiny all play a part prior to human conception and on through infancy to adulthood and the afterlife. A child’s soul – having chosen its own parents – reincarnates into the physical body during one of several stages of human development.

For Anthroposophical teachers, assisting child development according to how Steiner taught it does and should occur is taken to be a sacred task. The Anthroposophical doctor will be called upon if development isn’t going according to Steiner doctrine, hence the reason as to why basic health checks aren’t performed by Anthroposophical school doctors – their main task in schools is spiritual midwifery, helping the incarnation process and soul development along.

A demonstrative example of an Anthroposophical teacher’s assessing soul development in a school pupil can be found within this transcript where parent Ray Pereira complains:

“I would like the Education Department to tell me where, in the guidelines, where reincarnation is a criteria for putting my kid up into another class or not.”

Perhaps Ray was advised to undertake Curative Eurythmy sessions, so as to cure him of his own lack of spiritual development and understanding.

You can find many examples of the Anthroposophical educator’s perspective here. From the same source you’ll find one such example, this time from an Anthroposophical doctor’s perspective, describing a version of phrenology or physiognomy as an aid to assessment of children. A leading UK Anthroposophical publisher is currently selling a tome on the subject, should you be interested. You could also buy one of Dr Gruenewald’s books from the same publisher. Containing  ‘far-reaching new therapeutic research’ the book ‘develops a spiritual and alchemistic understanding…based on anthroposophical medical research’ within which Dr Gruenewald

“suggests that a mineral therapy centred on the principle of transformation conceals future spiritual mysteries which relate to evolutionary laws inherent in the physical and higher bodies.”

But it isn’t only Anthroposophical schools that make use of Anthroposophical doctors such as Dr Gruenewald. Some of our most vulnerable citizens are in the charge of Anthroposophists and are cared for by Anthroposophical doctors within the regimes of Anthroposophical care homes and communities.

Dr Gruenewald’s CV states he is currently ‘Medical Advisor’ to Camphill St Albans, one of a dozen or so Anthroposophical social care operations run under the auspices of Camphill Village Trust Limited , a key player in the UK’s Camphill movement. The Camphill movement is itself one of the Anthroposophical ‘movements within a movement’ – (Steiner education, biodynamics, Anthroposophical medicine etc) that in combination form the backbone of the UK Anthroposophy movement.

Dr Gruenewald is also ‘College Doctor’ at Ruskin Mill Educational Trust, another Anthroposophical organisation active in the Anthroposophical social care field. Not mentioned on Dr Gruenewald’s CV but worth noting is that at time of writing a trustee of the Anthroposophical Association Limited, the workhorse of the UK’s national Anthroposophical Society. Two other trustees also serve as trustees of the charitable status publishing house offering Dr Gruenewald’s book for sale, such is the intimacy of the Anthroposophy movement here in the UK. (Edit February 2019 his current CV makes no mention of any of his school or Camphill posts)

Most Anthroposophical care homes such as Camphills are charities yet their income streams derive to a large extent from the UK tax payer rather than from charitable donations; tax money arrives via Social services placements and Health Authority funds.  On my own estimate at least 55% of total income of a typical Camphill establishment derives from state/tax monies and, at most, 27% comes from voluntary sources and legacies. Other incomings would arrive from trading activities such as craftshops. For accounting year 2006 Camphill Village Trust (CVT) had total incomings for year 2006 of GBP 26.3 million pounds. An overview of the UK Anthroposophy movement’s finances can be found here and CVT current accounts can be found at this section of the  Charity Commission website.

This is big money stuff. CVT, for example, is one of the wealthiest charities in the UK. When ranked according to any of three measures – their annual income, annual expenditure and their funds (their net assets) – in 2007 CVT ranked within the top 250 charities in the UK and, on all three measures combined, it ranked as the 150th wealthiest charity in the UK; there are over 100,000 charities in the UK. Camphill Village Trust (CVT) for year 2012 ranked 276th in England & Wales in terms of annual incomings received.

(Edit Feb 2019 both BA programmes mentioned below have since been axed)State funding of Anthroposophical social care has been going on for years, long before the recent and much publicised precedent of UK state funding of Anthroposophical education began. Teaching of Anthroposophical courses within our UK higher education sector has also been going on for years. University of Aberdeen teaches a BA in ‘Curative Education’ (BACE), a qualification recognised by Scottish Social Services since 2003 but not recognised by the Scottish General Teaching Council. Plymouth University runs a Steiner teacher training BA but it isn’t recognised as a teacher qualification within our state (maintained) schools. However, the Funding Agreement between the state and Hereford Steiner Academy is worded such that teachers working there must hold either the state recognised teacher training qualification or be ‘a Steiner qualified teacher’. Thus it seems that the state recognises the Steiner qualification for use within the academy sector but doesn’t recognise it in the mainstream.

(Edit January 2013: Camphill Medical Practice referred to below now operates under the working name of ‘Camphill Wellbeing Trust‘. Much of the content of the website referred to is no longer present. As the original content is so informative I’ll leave it online here pending a re-write of the post)

The various ways that the state indirectly or directly endorses Anthroposophy and its applications includes endorsement of Anthroposophical treatments. According to the former website (now defunct) of Camphill Medical Practice, an NHS surgery situated within a Camphill community and run by Anthroposophical doctors, some Anthroposophical medicines can be obtained from the National Health Service. Available from Camphill Medical Practice, courtesy of the NHS, is ‘viscador’ a preparation derived from mistletoe and used to treat cancer sufferers.

In comparison with the paucity of information provided by Anthroposophical schools, the Camphill Medical Practice (CMP) website is chock-a-bloc to overflowing with information about Anthroposophical medicine, therapies and what it calls the ‘Anthroposophical Health Care model’.

Anthroposophical medicine, explains CMP

“aims to combine conventional medical treatments with herbal and homeopathic medicines and a range of Anthroposophic therapies, such as therapeutic art and speech, eurythmy (movement therapy), rhythmical massage and counselling.”

There’s even a section of CMP’s website given over to ‘mistletoe therapy’, a cancer therapy lambasted in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) in 2006. Returning to the Anthroposophical care model, the CMP website says the model ‘acknowledges the influences of karma and destiny in health and illness’. CMP elaborates, saying:

“Steiner pointed to the influences of previous lives on the health and morphological development of a person in their present life in many lectures he gave. In fact, illness can often be a calling for a destiny meeting between patient and healer. The relationship between the two is considered an important part of the therapy.”

The CMP website adds:

“Anthroposophical doctors and therapists…take the view that illness is connected with the person’s destiny”

and you’ll find from CMP that illness isn’t a random happening, illness is meaningful and illnesses aren’t cured, they are resolved.

The ‘destiny meeting’ and relationship between physician and patient is a reformulation of Steiner’s pronouncements on the karmic nature of the teacher/pupil relationship and of the Anthroposophical teacher’s ‘sacred task’ within the relationship. Anthroposophical teachers and doctors perform the same general role – enabling and ensuring the correct spiritual and soul development of pupils and patients alike.

So, now you know something of the role Anthroposophical doctors play within Anthroposophical schools and care homes and something of their medical approach and activities. To widen this out a little, some representative Steiner beliefs (Steiner invented Anthroposophy remember) are that humans evolved on Atlantis, the blood pumps the heart, local geology and pre-earthly lives determine a person’s morphology and temperament, that gnomes are alive and well and living underground, that eating carrots will cure a child of worms. Those beliefs are Steiner’s as given in his Anthroposophical lectures, courses and texts – a canon of literature holding the blueprints for Anthroposophical applications and offering a religious ideology to inspire practitioners, practitioners such as Dr Gruenewald and his ilk at Camphill and in other Anthroposophical settings.

Now, there are significant differences between the situations of children at an Anthroposophical school to those of people living in Anthroposophical care homes, differences to do with choice and advocacy, intervention and monitoring.

Anthroposophical practitioners within care home settings care for our most vulnerable citizens – people with Down’s syndrome, autism, severe learning, behavioural and other difficulties. Difficulties can include speech and communication disorders of a severity such that a person needing to voice a complaint finds it extremely difficult or impossible to do so. Even if they could voice a complaint, some of these same people will have no parents or immediate family to turn to when, as they invariably do, things go wrong.

People in need of care but without parents or family will not have chosen a care home; Social Services will have made the placement on their behalf. They won’t have parents such as Ray Pereira to turn to or intervene when something is awry. They’ll be without parents or family gauging their day to day nuances in behaviour, the nuances that signal the general well being (or otherwise) of a person. In Anthroposophical settings, those day to day signals will be interpreted by Anthroposophical carers and physicians in light of Steiner beliefs and, if deemed appropriate, the resident treated with an Anthroposophical remedy.

Whatever ones own personal views might be it’s fair to say that Anthroposophy is so very far from everyday understandings of reality and how things work as to be extremely strange. Also, the beliefs of Anthroposophy are of a sensitive and highly emotive kind; beliefs in karma, reincarnation, destiny for example are religious beliefs and a matter of individual personal choice and conscience.

Why is it, then, that we allow anybody (let alone an organised movement) acting on the basis of Rudolf Steiner’s medical and other beliefs anywhere near our most vulnerable citizens, many of whom will have no voice or choice in the matter? How and why it is that the National Health Service is recognising Anthroposophic medicines and how and why is it that the state is now funding Anthroposophical education?

We all pay tax in one way or another and our taxes pay the public bodies and agencies endorsing Anthroposophy and its practical applications. Currently, state funding of Anthroposophy bypasses individual decisions of choice in the matter and subscribes us all as supporters of Anthroposophy without our consultation or say so.  Considering the personal nature of Anthroposophical beliefs this cannot be the right or proper way to go about things  but it does go some way in explaining why it is that tax money funds Anthroposophy to the tune of several millions of pounds a year.

The public are mostly unaware that they are supporting Anthroposophy and uninformed as to the content of Anthroposophical belief. If the public did have any choice in the matter they would surely prefer to see public money better spent elsewhere than in supporting Anthroposophical belief and practice. Given the current scenario, what might we expect next, a quiet move toward state funding of the Flat Earth Society?