Anthroposophy with its more humanistic rather than mechanistic view of the world plays a supporting role in The Phoenix Year. In the novel, the Society of the Phoenix is pledged to change the world in a lifetime. The members of the Society are rich – money has less meaning to them, and their ultimate goal is based on ‘revolution’ – to change capitalism by replacing shareholder’s value with society’s value as the goal of private companies.
Members of the Society of the Phoenix are chosen by Dr. Mache, the Headmaster of Enigen, a Swiss boarding school established outside of Kandersteg. The group consists of a select group of young men who will work to make a difference in the world by the fiftieth year after graduating from the school. Enigen uses a modified curriculum that he learned from Dr. Rudolf Steiner. Steiner had developed it for the first of the Waldorf Schools in Stuttgart, Germany in 1919. Today, there are more than 800 schools that practice this methodology in a number of countries such as the United States and India. Their teachings are based on the development of the child from the earliest years to the end of their high school years. While Waldorf Schools work on ‘will’ forces at times, their more humanistic less mechanistic teaching is meant to develop the child’s ‘heart’ forces to prepare the soul for the afterlife. However, Mache rejected this approach concentrating on the ‘will’ forces to insure that his chosen pupils, drawn from the upper ranks of society, had the force of character to alter the direction of the world in a lifetime.
In the novel, The Phoenix Year, Natalya, at her lowest point, discovers the Washington Waldorf School, following a group of young children back to the school from their field trip. She is captivated, participating in the euthymic dance of one of the classes. She is enthralled by the colors that adorn the walls in the hallways; the beautiful main lesson books on the blackboards; the music and rhythms of the school as she tours the grounds with the old teacher whose calming voice and pleasant manner calm her troubled soul. The teacher soon recognizes that Natalya is in turmoil and that she has an ‘old soul’ and that she must start the process of healing this young woman. The old woman introduces Natalya to a class working with eurythmic movements. Dance is often used as a therapy to help people recover inner balance. It begins Natalya’s healing allowing her to recover and begin to live in the world again.
Steiner created the Waldorf curriculum in 1919, in part, to try to change the German soul through education of the children and their parents. When Hitler took power in 1932, he closed all Waldorf Schools and sent the teachers into hiding or to concentration camps. In 1945, after the Allied victory, Waldorf Schools were the first schools reopened, and they play an integral part in the German and Austrian education today. After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1990, Waldorf Schools were introduced throughout Eastern Europe. Today, there are more than 800 of these schools throughout the world.
The Phoenix Year is available now.