Underlying Philosophy: What makes Enki, Enki
Question: Are Enki and Waldorf really different? What are the real underlying differences?
Answer: Over the years we have received many questions about the differences between Waldorf and Enki. As the developer and director of Enki Education, and as a certified and experienced Waldorf teacher and a parent of 3 Waldorf-educated, grown children, I would like to offer a brief clarification of some central philosophical points, in support of both Waldorf and Enki.
The main philosophical issues that have been raised have to do with the notions of:
“Enki as Waldorf Lite;”
“Replacing or doing away with Anthroposophy;” and
"Religion, Christianity in particular, in these curricula.”
ISSUE #1) Waldorf Lite: This is an oxymoron. The brilliance and power of Waldorf Education is that it is not and cannot be “lite.” The same is true of Enki Education. Certainly individuals or even schools can use stories, songs, activities and the like from either Enki or Waldorf, but those things alone are not what make up either approach. Why? Because both Waldorf and Enki express very complete and deep “ecosystems” - i.e. all aspects are consciously worked with in relation to the whole.There are real differences in these ecosystems, but both work with a full ecosystem of which the stories and activites are a part.
Taken separately, it is not the stories or activities or even the view of child development that gives either approach its power to reach children. Rather, it is the conscious understanding of and work with all these and every detail of the classroom or homeschool to bring the children an experience of a particular worldview or belief system; for both Waldorf and Enki, this is one that is in harmony with the children’s development and wellbeing. By definition that is not “lite.” The Enki approach is different from Waldorf in many ways as it brings forth a different worldview, but both Enki and Waldorf share an understanding that it is not possible to educate a profound or “spiritual” connectedness in the child without a deep, broad, and detailed pedagogy.
Over the years quite a few people have come to Enki Education in search of a light and packagable way to “have” Waldorf Education. They leave unhappy, but hopefully understanding that “lite “ and “meaningful” do not make good bedfellows.
ISSUE #2) Replacing Anthroposophy: For the reasons listed above, it is not possible to have Waldorf without Anthroposophy - that is its strength and its heart. Enki does not “replace” anything, but rather draws from many approaches to bring forward a particular world view which we feel is shared by the contemplative arm of the major world traditions. Some refer to this as the Perennial Philosophy. In this sense we are most deeply influenced by the United Nations International School in which I spent all my childhood years.
There are many influences in Enki Education, Waldorf is certainly high among those, as is Josh Lieberman's Progressive Camping, the Shambhala tradition, and the non-hierarchical multiculturalism of the United Nations School. We are very grateful for all we have learned from each of these, but Enki is not any of them, nor any one of a myriad of other philosophies or pedagogies from which we draw. Enki is the unique cloth woven from many threads to bring forth our underlying philosophy.
ISSUE #3) Religion, Christianity in particular, in the curricula: this issue is deeply connected with the preceding one. It is a huge topic and a very easily misunderstood one. Still, it appears necessary to offer some clarification on the matter and we hope that those interested in the issue will speak with both myself as core developer of Enki Education, and with a committed Anthroposophist, as Anthroposophy is the foundation of Waldorf Education. In brief, and greatly oversimplified: Waldorf expresses a hierarchical view of the evolution of consciousness - that different cultures, religions, and traditions evolve in a hierarchical sequence. Each culture of the past, including its religious base, is seen as an important but earlier step in that evolution. According to Steiner, it is this evolution that freed man to have critical or independent thinking.
In the progression described by Anthroposophy, the “Christ event” or crucifixion is seen as the “turning point in time,” the moment in which man’s consciousness was freed for higher evolution. This is often described as a parabola or “U” shape in which early cultures descend downwards like steps into a well, changing direction to ascend after - and as a result of - the “Christ event.”
This perspective makes Waldorf a multicultural approach that views all cultures and religions through the lens of a hierarchical evolutionary process. This is a process in which all traditions and religions coming out of ancient cultures are seen and respected as earlier stages in evolution, and “stepping stones” to Christianity.
The Enki philosophical differences with Waldorf center around this issue of the evolution of consciousness through cultures and traditions. From our perspective it is not relevant whether that “turning point of time” is seen as happening through Christ or Buddha or Mohammed, or anyone else. All these and many other teachers and traditions are part of our curriculum. This means that, along with the study of all other major traditions, at several points over the years our curriculum includes the study of the Torah/Old Testament and the study of Christ’s life and contribution to mankind.
The Enki approach does not view the Anthroposophic perspective as either right or wrong - we don’t have the tools of perception (historical clairvoyance) to say one way or the other. What we do believe is that there is a more important and underlying base for children to experience, as described below.
The Enki view holds central the belief that all people, in all cultures, through all times have had, and today have, an indestructible wisdom, vitality, and compassion that is their birthright. We believe each culture has and always has had its own, equally valid, ways to access and nurture this “birthright.” One could see this as a circular model similar to the Native American Medicine Wheel or the Eastern Mandala - the center (wisdom, vitality, and compassion) is always there and equally reachable from any point on the circumference. In this light, we honor all traditions that share this sense of underlying equality - including secular humanism.
With this as our base, we soak the children in examples of developmentally appropriate, human experiences of this connecting process, and do so through many cultures each year. We believe this gives the children the experience of: a) being part of the family of mankind; b) all paths leading "up the mountain"; and c) this core gift of wisdom, vitality, and compassion as not owned by anyone and as something that cannot be lost or stolen - i.e. as the human birthright. In short, we have a non-hierarchical, spiritually informed, multiculturalism as our base. Over the years we have had conversations with serious practitioners of contemplative branches of many traditions, spiritual and secular. We find this outlook to be a meeting point.
I hope this helps to clarify a little of both Waldorf and Enki. Both of these approaches are deep, broad, and very detailed. There are tremendous similarities and pivotal differences. Preserving clarity and integrity requires great care. Although this description of Waldorf Education has been reviewed by experienced Waldorf teachers, to avoid misunderstanding, I hope that those interested in Waldorf will take up any issues raised here with a committed Anthroposophist, and that those interested in Enki Education will bring those issues directly to us through firstname.lastname@example.org