Fantasy and Imagination
(the following was written in response to a question I received many years ago on my old yahoo group…)
When working with questions around the existence of fairies, I guess it all depends on how one views the world, all of Creation and the powers that work within it. One could, as some suggest, say that fairies live only in the imagination. One could also think of such Beings as an aspect of God’s working through the world – that they are real in that they are expression of God, just as angels are another kind of spiritual being. And, from an anthroposophical point of view, “imagination” is exactly what one needs to “see” and experience such beings: for an anthroposophist, imagination is not synonymous with fantasy or make-believe – it is a faculty which can give us insights into the world. But to use it properly one must be disciplined and learn how to use it. It is a “higher faculty” which Steiner said all human beings have the capacity to use should they wish.
Another point is that, from a Waldorf point of view, children are so recently arrived from the spiritual worlds, that their faculties for relating to spiritual beings are often still intact, have not yet been dulled by our rampant materialism. So when we allow for this interaction, we are honoring where they are at, developmentally. It is not about adult agendas of a certain kind of spirituality!
If one looks closely at the Waldorf curriculum, one sees how it mirrors the child’s changing relationship to the spiritual worlds and that this in turn mirrors the human being’s changing relationship to the spiritual worlds over long historical periods: the young child is in the “nature spirits” phase of development, the third grader needs to find a relationship to God’s Law (Old Testament stories), the Fourth Grader is further developing his sense of right and wrong and the ambiguities of this (4th grade Norse myths) on through the mechanistic anti-spiritualism of the 19th century, studied when the child is at the threshold of adolescence, when s/he needs to make his own relationship to the world and to God.
So, from a Waldorf point of view, encouraging children to “see” fairies and such is not lying, is not make-believe. It is a path of encouraging them to imaginatively enter into the world, beyond the boundary of what is discernible on the ordinary level. The Christianity I espouse allows for this: seeing that God’s Creation is infinitely wondrous, that Spirit is everywhere – but that human beings can also know and experience this Spiritual world. If this goes against your beliefs, then I guess you’ll just have to leave it to the realm of “just play”.