Math – An Exercise in Esoteric Development

47coverBy Lori Mackinder
Issue: Spring 2007, Staying Human in the Computer Age; Issue #47

The heart chakra, a 12-petalled lotus flower, is the chakra to develop for our current time. We associate the heart as the center of our love, our compassion, and the warmth and coldness of our soul. According to the writings of Rudolf Steiner, six of the twelve petals were already present and active in a past evolutionary stage of humanity. Thus, we do not have to develop those six petals; they appear on their own and begin to rotate when we start working on the other six petals. (How to Know Higher Worlds, 1994, pp 118) So how do we work on the remaining six petals? Mathematics is a great place to start our esoteric developmental work. When most of us think of math, we cringe and quickly dispel the idea of a daily practice of mathematics with comments such as, “I was never good at math” or “that is what calculators are for” and the like. However, clear logical thinking is the first of the exercises given by Steiner to kindle the development of the heart chakra. “Practice the control of thoughts,” he spoke many times in lectures to teachers and to members of his occult schooling. To expound further he explained, “Controlling our thinking processes develops the 12-petalled lotus flower. Thoughts that flit about like will-o'-the-wisps and follow each other by chance rather than in a logical, meaningful way distort and damage the form of this flower. The more logically our thoughts follow one another and the more we avoid all illogical thinking, the more perfectly this organ develops its proper form.” (pg 120)

In the Waldorf schools, a daily dosage of mathematics where clear logical thought is created and followed helps our children of today develop this important chakra. It is a form of meditation, in a way. A simple rhythm of 15 – 20 minutes of clear thinking and thought formation strengthens and imbues the child with heart-thinking modalities. Mathematics offers students a scaffolded way to perform logical thought. One must move in a correct sequence to perform a mathematical equation correctly. In this way, it is as if the thinking is supported by rails on each side, keeping the thoughts contained within the math problem at hand. Math students have instant feedback for their thinking when a problem is solved correctly or incorrectly. In lower school, long division fills this bill where multiple steps in a sequence must be performed to arrive at a correct answer, that can then be checked for accuracy. In middle school, solving algebraic equations for a variable using the solve-and-check method exercises this muscle of thinking. In high school, all the higher levels of mathematics further the student in this esoteric training without real cognition that it is happening. The steps of a geometric proof, advanced algebraic equations and trigonometric identities are all a valiant workout for this chakra.

The Waldorf teacher holds this higher picture of mathematics in their daily lesson. With fun and praise they work diligently with their students, awakening the forces within. In this way, as the students embark into the world upon graduating, the strength within unfolds and enlivens the life of the individual destiny.