“I have heard so much gossip about

who got a slap and so forth ...

We should be quiet about how we

handle things in the school ...

We should not speak to people

outside the school....”

— Rudolf Steiner [1]

Waldorf schools — sometimes called Steiner schools — generally claim to be nonsectarian. But, in fact, all genuine Waldorf schools are religious institutions operated in accordance with the tenets of Anthroposophy, a gnostic semi-Christian religion founded by the mystic Rudolf Steiner.

If you are considering a Waldorf school for your child, read a couple of books by Steiner. See if your view of the world coincides with his. Perhaps the best choice is FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER. [2] In it, you will find Steiner’s instructions to the teachers at the first Waldorf school — you will learn, in Steiner’s own words, what Steiner intended Waldorf teachers to do with their students.

If, after reading Steiner, you still have an interest in Waldorf schools, visit the particular school you are considering and ask searching questions. Do the children recite a morning prayer or “verse”? Ask for the precise words. What sorts of books are in (or banned from) the library? Go into the library and look around. Are science courses taught straight, or with an antiscientific bent? Ask what role mythology plays in the curriculum. Study the student art on the walls. Do you see signs of individual creativity or a strange uniformity? Ask who Rudolf Steiner was. Ask for his views on evolution. Ask about clairvoyance (Steiner claimed to be clairvoyant — and he taught that people can grow “organs of clairvoyance”). Ask about the purpose of eurythmy (Steiner said this form of dance connects people directly to the spirit realm). Pass around copies of Steiner quotations that raise questions for you, then ask those questions.

Try to learn how deeply committed the school is to Steiner’s doctrines. Not all Waldorfs are wholly alike. Some may distance themselves from Steiner’s racism, for instance. The problem, however, is that Steiner’s entire system is built on his clairvoyant, mystical “insights” (which include his racist “insights”). A Waldorf school cannot wholly rid itself of mysticism unless it wholly renounces Steiner — in which case it ceases to be a real Waldorf school. Halfway measures may be possible — affirming some of Steiner’s mystical teachings while rejecting others — but mysticism would necessarily remain entrenched in the curriculum, while some of the “truths” that gave that mysticism its justification would be absent. The resulting educational approach, tacking among an expurgated set of Steiner’s teachings, would inevitably lose much of its coherence and rationale.

Jewish parents may want to take special precautions. Think carefully about Steiner’s racism, the emphasis he placed on Christ, and the anti-Semitic comments he made — he said there is no reason for Judaism to exist any longer, Jews are materialistic, Jews are prone to certain diseases, the god of the Jews is a minor deity among a host of gods. [3] You also may want to investigate the debate over possible ties between some Anthroposophists and Nazis. [4]

All parents of all backgrounds who consider Waldorf schools for their children should press persistently for honest answers about the schools’ policies and underlying theology. If you mistrust any answers you receive, send your kids elsewhere. Their lives are in your hands.

Footnotes for the Foregoing

(Scroll Down to Find Further Material)

[1] Steiner considered students’ parents to be outsiders. He told Waldorf teachers to keep quiet about what happens inside the school. To protect the reputation of the school, they should talk to no outsiders, except for parents — and with them, only about their own children, nothing more. Here is a more extended version of the quotation I use as this essay’s epigraph:

“[D]o not attempt to bring out into the public things that really concern only our school. I have been back only a few hours, and I have heard so much gossip about who got a slap and so forth ... We should be quiet about how we handle things in the school, we should maintain a kind of school confidentiality. We should not speak to people outside the school, except for the parents who come to us with questions, and in that case, only about their children, so that gossip has no opportunity to arise ... There are people who like to talk about such things because of their own desire for sensationalism ... Those of us on the faculty should in no way support it.” — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 10.

By "gossip," Steiner clearly means speculation and reports about what happens inside the school, including the slapping of students.

Parents who are treated as outsiders may have difficulty learning what really goes on at a Waldorf school. I discuss this at length in my essay “Clues”.

I return to the issue of teachers slapping children, below.

[2] Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998).

Like many books "by" Steiner, this is actually a collection of transcripts prepared by Steiner's devoted followers, recording statements made by Steiner. FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER is a two-volume set consisting of notes taken by Waldorf faculty members during their meetings with Steiner. We should not place too much emphasis on any one sentence attributed to Steiner in this text, since the note-takers may have made errors. A similar problem arises in the many books consisting of Steiner’s lectures — these, too, generally rely on transcriptions rather than texts approved by Steiner for publication. However, when any of Steiner’s reputed remarks is compatible with several other statements Steiner made, we can have a high level of confidence that it probably is an accurate reflection of Steiner’s meaning. Moreover, the note-takers were usually devoted followers who considered Steiner’s words virtually to be divine wisdom. We can be sure that they intended to be as accurate (or at least favorable) as possible.

The best source to consult in order to learn Steiner's meaning about virtually everything is OCCULT SCIENCE - AN OUTLINE (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1969). Steiner wrote the first version of this book in 1909 and thereafter he revised it many times, the final revision coming just months before his death. Thus, the contents absolutely present Steiner’s views. And what are they? Occultism, “mystery” knowledge, occult initiation, irrationality, racism, heresy, a preposterous version of mankind’s past, an even more preposterous vision of its future, and a bizarre description of the spirit realm. In brief, OCCULT SCIENCE provides the context for Anthroposophy and Waldorf education. The quotations I present here and in my other essays are consistent with it.

[3] Some statements:

◊ “The Jews have a great gift for materialism, but little for recognition of the spiritual world.” — Rudolf Steiner, FROM BEETROOT TO BUDDHISM Rudolf Steiner Press, 1999), p. 59.

◊ "Judaism as such has long since outlived its time; it has no more justification within the modern life of peoples, and the fact that it continues to exist is a mistake of world history whose consequences are unavoidable. We do not mean the forms of the Jewish religion alone, but above all the spirit of Jewry, the Jewish way of thinking." — Rudolf Steiner, "Robert Hamerling: Homunkulus", first published in DEUTSCHE WOCHENSCHRIFT, vol. 6, nos. 16 and 17, 1888; GESAMMELTE AUFSATZE ZUR LITERATUR 1884-1902 (Dornach, 1971), GA 32, p. 152.

◊ "[W]e can say that since everything which the Jews accomplished [in the past] can now be done in a spiritually conscious way by other people, therefore the best thing the Jews could do now would be to merge into the rest of humanity, to mix with the rest humanity, so that the Jews as a people would simply disappear." — Rudolf Steiner, "Vom Wesen des Judentums," VOM LEBEN DES MENSCHEN UND DER ERDE - ÜBER DAS WESEN DES CHRISTENTUMS (Rudolf Steiner Verlag Dornach/Schweiz, paperback edition, 1992), GA 353, p. 202.

◊ “I consider antisemites [sic] to be harmless people.” — Rudolf Steiner, "Die Sehnsucht der Juden nach Palästina," Magazin für Literatur, vol. 66 no. 38, 1897.anti.

◊ “These people have a tendency to diabetes. The Jew has more difficulty absorbing sugar....” — Rudolf Steiner, FROM COMETS TO COCAINE (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2001), p. 284.

◊ “Jahve [Jehovah] cooperated with His six colleagues." — Rudolf Steiner, THE MISSION OF THE FOLK SOULS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2005), p. 99.

◊ “The best thing that the Jews could do would be to disappear into the rest of humankind, to blend in with the rest of humankind, so that Jewry as a people would simply cease to exist.” — Rudolf Steiner, DIE GESCHICHTE DER MENSCHHEIT UND DIE WELTANSCHAUUNGEN DER KULTURVOLKER, 189.

[4] See, e.g., Peter Staudenmaier, “Race and Redemption: Racial and Ethnic Evolution in Rudolf Steiner’s Anthroposophy,” 2004,

A note about URL's (Web addresses) and links to them: These may become outdated. Owners of websites may remove pages, change their locations, etc. I work to maintain the URL's and links at my own websites, but I cannot control what happens elsewhere. If any URL's or links I present here prove to be outdated, I apologize. They were all current when I wrote the various essays at my sites, and perhaps with a little Internet sleuthing you may be able to find materials that otherwise seem to have vanished. A visit to the Internet Archive — which aims to record the contents of the public Internet even as those contents are changed — might provide a good starting point.

[Waldorf-style art, R.R.]

Many people find that, for them, reading Steiner's books is an ordeal.

To ease your way in, you might examine the brief excerpts compiled on such pages as

"Say What?" and "Wise Words".

For a paragraph-by-paragraph review of a Steiner lecture, see "Lecture".

It is equally important to acquaint yourself with the works of

Anthroposophists writing today, long after Steiner's death.

To survey excerpts from such contemporary Anthroposophical works, see, e.g.,

"Who Says?", "Today", "Today 2", "Today 3", etc.

In selecting passages to include in such compilations,

I have been partly guided by the desire to warn parents about the true nature

of Anthroposophy and Waldorf education. I'll leave it to you to decide

whether I have treated Steiner and his followers fairly.

In the items below, you will find various issues and concerns that merit your attention

as you make the crucially important decision about where to send your children for their education.

Schools and Schisms

There is variation among Waldorf schools, arising both from schisms within the Anthroposophical movement and from inconsistencies in Steiner's own doctrines.

Soon after Steiner died, in early 1925, a significant schism developed. One group of Steiner's followers, headed by his wife, Marie Steiner, argued that Steiner's works should be treated essentially as holy texts. They should be preserved inviolate, and Steiner's word should be accepted as providing virtually the final say on all subjects. A competing band of followers argued that Steiner's works should be seen as extremely valuable guides, but they should not be considered sacrosanct or beyond question. Members of this group insisted on their own right to interpret Steiner and to make their own clairvoyant/spiritual discoveries.

The first group took control of the Anthroposophical headquarters in Switzerland, and its views have tended to prevail in Switzerland and Germany since that time. The second group, including many individuals who were expelled from the Anthroposophical Society, tended to congregate in Great Britain, where their views have been influential. Waldorf schools in many other countries, such as the USA, have tended to reflect both perspectives — some schools have hewed strictly to Steiner's word, others have felt freer to interpret Anthroposophical doctrines and teachings as they see fit.

For more on this schism and its aftereffects, see Ida Oberman, THE WALDORF MOVEMENT IN EDUCATION FROM EUROPEAN CRADLE TO AMERICAN CRUCIBLE, 1919-1928 (Edwin Mellen Press, 2008).

The fundamental cause for this split among Anthroposophists, and for the variations among Waldorf schools, can be traced to Rudolf Steiner's own teachings. On the one hand, Steiner claimed to possess and employ "exact clairvoyance." This meant that he presented his views as virtually unchallengeable — he saw the exact truth, so his followers should accept his word. And, indeed, he usually defended his positions vigorously; he was loath to permit criticism or doubt.

On the other hand, Steiner taught that his followers could develop their own clairvoyant powers and use them to make their own spiritual discoveries. This empowering idea, so attractive to many, has led numerous Anthroposophists to affirm their own visions, whether or not these agree with the visions of their colleagues or, indeed, the visions of Steiner himself. (Steiner recognized that the clairvoyant visions of his followers might vary from his own to some degree, but he generally expected all genuine, precise use clairvoyance to confirm what he had "seen.")

Schisms and disagreements of these sorts might have ripped the Anthroposophical movement — including the Waldorf movement — to shreds. That they didn't is largely the result of the underlying allegiance that most Anthroposophists accord to Steiner. Even those who want to assert their own spiritual visions generally accept Steiner's vision in most matters, in general if not in all particulars. Thus, the differences between various Waldorf schools and between various Anthroposophical factions tend to be small. Insiders magnify the differences in their own estimation, and the battles that result can be fierce. But from the perspective of outsiders, the differences often appear so minor as to be all but nonexistent.

When considering a Waldorf school, it is best to probe as deeply as you can. Don't assume that any one Waldorf school is precisely like any other Waldorf school. The schools will probably be very similar, but you may detect small differences that may sway you for or against a particular institution.

In a larger sense, of course, you should form a considered judgment about Waldorf schools generally. Minor variations aside, do you think any Waldorf schools are likely to provide a good, rational education for your children?

To read a series of messages

written to assist a parent in distress

over Waldorf schools, see "Help!"

Concerning visits to a Waldorf school:

Be prepared. See "Visits" and "Clues".

To review some materials Waldorf teachers

create for use in class,see "Clearing House."

Taking Over

Waldorf teachers generally believe that they know, far better than you, what is best for your child. Steiner told them to "take over children" in order to undo the damage caused by the kids' parents. Indeed, Steiner said, it might be best if Waldorf teachers took over children soon after birth.

The question for you, as a parent, is whether you can accept the primacy that Waldorf teachers accord to themselves.

Here are two statements Steiner made for the guidance of Waldorf teachers.

◊ "You will have to take over children for their education and instruction — children who will have received already (as you must remember) the education, or mis-education given them by their parents. Indeed our intentions will only be fully accomplished when we, as humanity, will have reached the stage where parents, too, will understand that special tasks are set for mankind to-day, even for the first years of the child's education. But when we receive the children into the school we shall still be able to make up for many things which have been done wrongly, or left undone, in the first years of the child's life. For this we must fill ourselves with the consciousness through which alone we can truly teach and educate." — Rudolf Steiner, STUDY OF MAN (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2004), p. 16.

◊ "Given the difficult, disorderly, and chaotic conditions of our time, it might almost be preferable from a moral viewpoint if children could be taken into one’s care soon after birth.” — Rudolf Steiner, WALDORF EDUCATION AND ANTHROPOSOPHY, Vol. 2, Foundations of Waldorf Education (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 69.

Waldorf schools often describe

themselves as offering

“holistic” education.

They say they educate the “whole child” —

head, heart, and hands.

To understand what these fine words mean

in a Waldorf context,

see “Holistic Education”.

It is not uncommon to find Anthroposophical symbols — often presented in a distinctive Anthroposophical style — in and around Waldorf schools. Here are seven occult planetary columns intended for use in the second Goetheanum, the worldwide Anthroposophical headquarters. This is my sketch of a design created by Christian Hitsch and P. A. Wolf, based on indications given by Steiner. [See Rudolf Steiner, ARCHITECTURE (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2003), p. 129. R. R. sketch, 2010.]

The View

Design for the interior of the first Goetheanum —

the original Anthroposophical headquarters

that was destroyed by fire.

Note the mystical ceiling mural, the columns bearing

astrological symbols,

and the monumental statue of Christ,

Ahriman, and Lucifer.

[Public domain image.]

Comprehending the occult thinking that lies behind Waldorf schools can be difficult — but the effort is necessary. Here is one example of Waldorfthought. If you don't fully grasp the details, you can still perceive the mysticism involved: invisible beings, clairvoyance, occult poisoning and health...

“It is a remarkable thing that animals and man, who in their lower organs are in fact earth-bound, should experience as poison what has become corrupted on the earth in the belladonna, whereas birds such as thrushes and blackbirds, which should really get this in a spiritual way from the sylphs ["elemental beings" that live in the air] — and indeed through the benevolent sylphs do so obtain it — should be able to assimilate it, even when what belongs up above in their region has been carried downwards to the earth. They find nourishment in what is poison for beings more bound to the earth.

"Thus you get a conception of how, on the one side, through gnomes [elemental beings that live in the earth] and undines [elemental beings that live in water] what is of a parasitic nature strives upwards from the earth towards other beings, and of how the poisons filter downwards from above.

"... And so you have gained a picture of those beings which are just on the boundary of the world lying immediately beyond the threshold, and of how, if they carry their impulses to their final issue, they become the bearers of parasites, of poisons, and therewith of illnesses. Now it becomes clear how far man in health raises himself above the forces that take hold of him in illness. For illness springs from the malevolence of these beings who are necessary for the upbuilding of the whole structure of nature, but also for its fading and decay.

"These are the things which, arising from instinctive clairvoyance, underlie such intuitions as those of the Indian Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva ... Brahma is intimately related to all that is of the nature of the fire-beings ["salamanders" — elemental beings that live in fire], and the sylphs; Vishnu with all that is of the nature of sylphs and undines; Shiva with all that is of the nature of undines and gnomes. Generally speaking, when we go back to these more ancient conceptions, we find everywhere the pictorial expressions for what must be sought today as lying behind the secrets of nature.” — Rudolf Steiner, MAN AS SYMPHONY OF THE CREATIVE WORD (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1970), lecture 8, GA 230.

Waldorf schools generally acknowledge that their methods are based on Anthroposophy (i.e., the clairvoyant "insights" of Rudolf Steiner and his followers), but they say they do not teach Anthroposophy to the students. This is not quite true, but for the moment let's accept it as true. How reassuring is it? Consider this analogy. Imagine a school that says "All of our methods are based on telepathic messages received from Mars. However, we do not teach the children to receive telepathic messages from Mars." Would you be reassured? Would you send your child to that school?

More Waldorfish art.

For aid in understanding the sorts of art

found in Waldorf schools,

see "Magical Arts".

[R. R., 2010.]

Steiner-Inspired Topics

The following is from the Waldorf Watch News.

I quote from an online posting,

then I offer a response.

Here’s an announcement of a parenting workshop to be offered by Sydney Rudolf Steiner College:

Start Date: Saturday, April 6, 2013

End Date: Sunday, April 7, 2013

Venue: Various Locations

CP01 Conscious Parenting Saturday 6 April 1pm-5pm $95

Conscious Parenting is a very practical and inspiring afternoon workshop covering Steiner-inspired early childhood topics. Positive rhythms, making ordinary moments extraordinary; The ideal play environment, ‘Imagination is more important than knowledge’ (Albert Einstein); Joyous yearly festivals (including seasonal tables and craft); Storytelling: as a transforming and healing tool; Nurturing the development of the ‘Twelve Senses’ for a happy, healthy and well balanced childhood. Overall workshop theme: how does a house become a home?


Waldorf Watch Response:

When you are invited to involve yourself or your child in the “Steiner-inspired” world, you may want to pause and consider whether that world has been clearly and accurately described to you. What, exactly, are you being invited into? Read the materials you are given and look for points on which you may want clarification.

Let’s examine three potentially intriguing points in the Sydney Rudolf Steiner College announcement, above. I'll switch the order, slightly. 1) What is meant by “positive rhythms”? 2) What is meant by “the twelve senses”? 3) Why is “imagination” emphasized?

We’ll take these matters one at a time.

1) Rhythm. Rudolf Steiner’s followers believe that all of the cosmos is characterized by rhythmical recurrences, ranging from the very large (such as the slow rotation of the zodiac) to the smallest (such as a child's breathing). Waldorf teachers generally believe that rhythms in the lives of students must be recognized and encouraged, and indeed class work and class scheduling should be rhythmical.

"As far as possible, a certain rhythm is established in the sequence of lessons so that the same thing, or something of the same nature, is taken at the same time each day." — Waldorf teacher Roy Wilkinson, THE SPIRITUAL BASIS OF STEINER EDUCATION (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1996), p. 33.

The well-being of the students is thought to be at stake.

"[I]f the outer influences do not synchronize with...inner rhythms, the young person will eventually grow into a kind of inner cripple...." — Rudolf Steiner, RHYTHMS OF LEARNING: What Waldorf Education Offers Children, Parents & Teachers (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), pp. 129-130.

Rhythms are also thought to extend beyond the limits of a single life.

"Just as there are world rhythms so are there rhythms in the life or lives of the human being. One of these rhythms is the frequency of incarnation." — Roy Wilkinson, RUDOLF STEINER (Temple Lodge Publishing, 2005), p. 50.

No one can deny that rhythm is important or that we live in a world of rhythms. But note that the Steiner approach to rhythm leads to such subjects as the zodiac and incarnation. Windows start to open, here, giving a view into the Steiner belief system. In that system, astrology — with its mystical interpretation of the rhythmic movements of the zodiac — plays a large role, while the twin doctrines of karma and reincarnation play an equally important role. Sooner or later, you are likely to perceive serious deficiencies in Waldorf education and child-rearing unless you are able to accept the Steiner/Waldorf view on such matters as positive rhythms, astrology, reincarnation, and karma. [To consider these things, you might look at such Waldorf Watch pages as “Astrology”, “Waldorf Astrology”, “Star Power”, “Reincarnation”, and “Karma”.]

2) Senses. Generally, people say that human beings have five senses: sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell. This description of our sensory abilities is only approximately correct, and science refines the list in various ways. But the Steiner/Waldorf view is radically different. Steiner taught that we have twelve senses. The physical senses, he said, are touch, life sense, movement sense, and balance sense. The "soul senses" are smell, taste, vision, and temperature sense. The "spirit senses" are hearing, speech sense, thought sense, and ego sense. You might ask yourself whether some of these “senses” are plausible. What is the “thought sense,” or the “speech sense”, or the “life sense,” for instance? At a minimum, you should raise such questions with any Steiner followers who try to recruit you, and you should carefully consider whether you find the answers acceptable. Basing the treatment of young children on an unrealistic conception of human nature is clearly a dubious — and potentially very dangerous — proposition. [For more on this, see "What We're Made Of", “Oh Humanity”, and “Our Parts”.]

You should also know that, in Steiner/Waldorf belief, the twelve senses fall under the influence of the twelve signs of the zodiac. Specifically, the senses — listed in the order I have given — are associated with Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius, Pisces, Virgo, Leo, Cancer, Gemini, Taurus, and Aries.

Portion of a chart on p. 142 of Albert Soesman's

OUR TWELVE SENSES (Hawthorne Press, Anthroposophy Series, 1990).

So, once again, looking through a window into Steiner/Waldorf belief, we are brought to the subject of astrology. There is no getting away from it: Astrology lies just below the surface of Steiner/Waldorf belief, in almost all of its extensions. You will probably never see a horoscope openly displayed in a Waldorf school, but astrological “knowledge” often underlies Waldorf thinking. Thus, Rudolf Steiner sometimes used horoscopes to determine the best treatment for children. On one occasion, for instance, he said this:

“By looking at what the horoscope shows we can see what is really the matter [with a child]. Take first this horoscope [he showed his audience a child’s birth chart] ... It will probably have struck you that you find here in this region, Uranus together with Venus and Mars. You will not really need to carry your considerations any further than this triangle. Here then are Mars, Venus and Uranus. Consider first Mars. For this child, who was born in 1909, Mars stands in complete opposition to the Moon. Mars, which has Venus and Uranus in its vicinity, stands — itself — in strong opposition to the Moon. Here is the Moon and here is Mars. And Mars pulls along with it Uranus and Venus. And now I would ask you to pay careful attention also to the fact that the Moon is at the same time standing before Libra... [etc., etc.].” — Rudolf Steiner, CURATIVE EDUCATION (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1972), lecture 11.

Affirmations of astrology and horoscopes can be found in such books, written by Steiner followers, as Elizabeth Vreede’s ANTHROPOSOPHY AND ASTROLOGY (Anthroposophic Press), and Ron Odama’s ASTROLOGY AND ANTHROPOSOPHY (Bennett & Hastings, 2009). You might want to take a look. (Anthroposophy — pronounced an-throw-POS-oh-fee — is the name of the belief system created bt Rudolf Steiner; it is the system upon which Waldorf education stands.)

3) Imagination. Albert Einstein asserted the importance of imagination. He did not mean dreaming up fantasies, such as we find in Walt Disney films. And he certainly did not mean — as Steiner’s followers often mean — that imagination should be fostered at the expense of real-world, factual, scientific knowledge. Einstein’s point was that we should gather as much real knowledge as we possibly can, and then we should use our powers of reasoning and visualization to create accurate mental pictures of the phenomena we study. This is what he did, for instance, when reimagining the universe in his general theory of relativity.

Rudolf Steiner’s followers agree with Einstein that imagination is not mere fantasization. But what they mean by “imagination” is poles apart from what Einstein meant. In the Steiner/Waldorf world, imagination is a species of clairvoyance. Rudolf Steiner claimed to be clairvoyant, and he said that his followers should aim to develop the same psychic powers he possessed. When they emphasize imagination, Waldorf schools seek to usher children along the preliminary stages of the path to clairvoyance. If you doubt the reality of clairvoyance (as you certainly should), then the entire Waldorf enterprise should strike you as, at best, a quixotic waste of time and effort.

Steiner taught that all humans once had instinctive clairvoyance, but we have lost it. A central goal for the Steiner movement is to lead humanity to a new, higher form of clairvoyance. (In the following quotation, note how “clairvoyance” and “Imagination” are essentially synonymous.)

“Essentially, people today have no inkling of how people looked out into the universe in ancient times when human beings still possessed an instinctive clairvoyance.... If we want to be fully human, however, we must struggle to regain a view of the cosmos that moves toward Imagination again.” — Rudolf Steiner, ART AS SPIRITUAL ACTIVITY (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 256.

Waldorf schools hope to assist children toward that goal. Steiner taught that most people today are trapped in dim, ordinary "day consciousness." But above this are ascending levels of "higher knowledge": imagination, inspiration, and intuition. These are stages of clairvoyance. When the present solar system dies and it is reincarnated in a form called "Future Jupiter,” all humans will possess perfected imagination, otherwise known as "Jupiter consciousness." Later, the solar system will die again and be reincarnated as “Future Venus.” At that stage, all humans will possess perfected inspiration or “Venus consciousness” — a clairvoyant stage higher than imagination. Later yet, the solar system will be reincarnated as “Future Vulcan,” and all of us will then possess perfected intuition or “Vulcan consciousness” — a still higher form of clairvoyance.

But why wait? Steiner showed how people can rise to these higher forms of consciousness here and now. Or so his followers believe.

In the Steiner/Waldorf world, higher knowledge is clairvoyance,

and it has three distinct stages.

[SteinerBooks, 2009.]

Perhaps all of this is beginning to sound a little weird to you. It should. But this, truly, is what Steiner’s followers believe. Think carefully before sending a child to a school run by followers of Rudolf Steiner. Likewise, you should think carefully before enrolling in a simple, pleasant-sounding workshop such as CP01 Conscious Parenting. Recruiters and teachers in the Steiner/Waldorf world are unlikely to lay many of their bizarre beliefs on you, initially; they will probably keep mum about most of the doctrines of their faith, at least until they can decide whether you seem like a potential convert. They will, in other words, keep their secrets. Such secrecy can be a problem in and of itself, can't it?

[To delve into some of these matters a bit more, you might visit such pages as “Here’s the Answer”, "Secrets", “Clairvoyance”, “The Waldorf Teacher’s Consciousness”, “Matters of Form”, and pertinent pages in “The Brief Waldorf / Steiner Encyclopedia”.]


Most of the following segments

are based on passages from

other essays on this website.

Certain important points are made

more than once.

If you come upon something

you've seen before,

please just skip ahead.

A child attending a full-fledged Waldorf school — one that is firmly committed to Steiner's vision — will be educated in accordance with Steiner’s dubious theory of human nature. The effects on the child may be profound.

Here’s a glimpse of the Waldorf perspective on human nature. [Also see "What We're Made Of" and "Oh Humanity — The Key to Waldorf".] If the Waldorf perspective is wrong, Waldorf schooling has little real purpose and may wind up harming a child by implanting strange fantasies and unfulfillable yearnings.

Every real human being eventually has a physical body plus several nonphysical bodies and components (including an “etheric body,” an “astral body,” and an “I”). In order to understand Waldorf teaching methods, you should know that, according to Anthroposophical doctrine, each human child is in the process of incarnating her/his invisible “bodies.” A Steiner-inspired education seeks to facilitate the process of acquiring these bodies. Imagine trying to explain to a public school teacher how a curriculum can be designed to help students incarnate their nonphysical bodies.

According to Steiner, each student represents one of four “temperaments”: sanguine, phlegmatic, choleric, and melancholic. Waldorf teachers should segregate students into these categories, Steiner taught. “The temperaments that are next to each other merge into one another and mingle; so it will be good to arrange your groups as follows: if you put the phlegmatics together it is good to have the cholerics on the opposite side, and let the two others, the melancholics and sanguines, sit between them.” [1] [See “Humouresque” and "Temperaments".] Waldorf schools today still categorize and segregate children according to these hurtful and unreal classifications. [See "Square One - 2".]

Steiner taught that human beings have twelve senses: “First, we have the four senses of touch, life, movement and balance. These senses are primarily permeated by will ... The next group of senses, namely smell, taste, sight and temperature are primarily senses of feeling ... I need to add that the sense of I and the senses of thought, hearing and speech are more cognitive senses....” [2] Some parts of that quotation probably need clarification. The "sense of the I” is one’s perception of her/his defining spiritual self: “the spiritual sense of our Self.” [3] As for “cognitive senses,” Steiner said that there are several ways for an individual to gain knowledge, including some that function while one is dreaming or asleep. [4]

Deep knowledge of the spirit world(s) becomes available when one develops the necessary “organs” for clairvoyance: “[J]ust as natural forces build out of living matter the eyes and ears of the physical body, so will organs of clairvoyance build themselves....” [5] Waldorf schools emphasize imagination because Steiner taught that imagination is a precursor to, or early stage of, clairvoyance.

Beliefs like these form the basis of Waldorf schooling. But these beliefs are false, which means that Waldorf schooling has no real basis. Sending a child to a school that practices a baseless form of education is clearly questionable, and it may have damaging, lifelong effects for the child.

Waldorf teachers participate in a mystic/gnostic system that has significant potential to harm children.

Here’s a revealing comment made by Steiner to Waldorf teachers:

“Among the faculty, we must certainly carry within us the knowledge that we are not here for our own sakes, but to carry out the divine cosmic plan. We should always remember that when we do something, we are actually carrying out the intentions of the gods, that we are, in a certain sense, the means by which that streaming down from above will go out into the world.” [6]

Note the word “gods.” Anthroposophy is, indeed, a polytheistic religion, and students in most Waldorf schools will be exposed to it — probably indirectly, subtly, secretively, but quite persistently. As Steiner said:

“Anthroposophy will be in the school when it is objectively justified, that is, when it is called for by the material itself.” [7]

Steiner promoted Anthroposophy as the great, objective truth that underlies all phenomena and knowledge. He also considered Waldorf teachers to be instruments for achieving the purposes of the "gods." So Anthroposophy will pervade virtually every subject in the Waldorf curriculum. When will Anthroposophy be “called for by the material”? Almost always. Perhaps the plainest way to summarize this is to say that Steiner wished to brainwash children into pro-Anthroposophical beliefs and views. Consider the effects this may have.

For Steiner and his followers, the truest thinking is not rational cognition or brainwork, which they deem dry and un-heartfelt. Proper “thinking,” in their view, is directed by imagination and feeling: It is more akin to emotion than to cool, rational conceptualizing. For this very reason, it often leads to complication or even mystification rather than to clarity. Ask yourself whether this is what you want for your children. Seen through Waldorf eyes, nothing in the world is as it seems. What we see around us isn’t what it is, exactly — it is always something more, or less — there are layers upon layers of hidden deeps. At some levels, of course, this is perfectly true. But at other levels, it is deeply misleading. It means that everything is deceptive, it is all illusion or maya. The Anthroposophical solution is to feel one’s way past appearances by opening outwards through imagination or clairvoyance (in Anthroposophy, these terms are sometimes synonymous).

Here’s an example of the sorts of insight “clairvoyance” can lead to:

“There are beings that can be seen with clairvoyant vision at many spots in the depths of the earth ... Many names have been given to them, such as goblins, gnomes and so forth.” [8]

Rudolf Steiner's followers believe that gnomes and other invisible beings really exist and are present in the environment all around us. Waldorf schools often convey this sort of belief to their students. Do you approve? Or do you think that encouraging children to believe in the literal existence of beings such as gnomes means luring them toward a damaging dissociation from reality?

By hook or by crook, Waldorf schools often direct their students toward otherworldly aspirations and beliefs. In the process, the children are often diverted from a realistic comprehension of the real world.

Let’s hear again from Steiner, talking again to Waldorf teachers:

“We can accomplish our work only if we do not see it as simply a matter of intellect or feeling, but, in the highest sense, as a moral spiritual task. Therefore, you will understand why, as we begin this work today, we first reflect on the connection we wish to create from the very beginning between our activity and the spiritual worlds.... Thus, we wish to begin our preparation by first reflecting upon how we connect with the spiritual powers in whose service and in whose name each one of us must work.” [9]

So, according to Steiner, Waldorf teachers labor in the “service” of “spiritual powers,” and they exercise these labors upon their students.

As to whether Waldorf schools impart a realistic view of the real world, here are some enlightening comments made by Steiner:

“[T]he brain and nerve system have nothing at all to do with actual cognition....” [10]

Science “sees the heart as a pump that pumps blood through the body. Now there is nothing more absurd than believing this, for the heart has nothing to do with pumping the blood.” [11]

“With the students, we should at least try to...make it clear that, for instance, an island like Great Britain swims in the sea and is held fast by the forces of the stars. In actuality, such islands do not sit directly upon a foundation; they swim and are held fast from outside.” [12]

“[I]t is not that the planets move around the Sun, but these three, Mercury, Venus, and the Earth, follow the Sun, and these three, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn, precede it.” [13] In other words, the planets do not orbit the Sun but travel in a line with it. [See "Deception".]

“[R]ealize that looking at the human head you are looking at the transformed body of your previous earth life, and that the head you had then was the transformed body of your preceding life — you must imagine it without the head, of course. The head you see now is the transformed organism of the last life lived on earth. The rest of the organism as you see it now will be the head in the next life. Then the arms will have metamorphosed and become ears, and the legs will have become eyes.” [14] This last quotation is extremely strange, even by Waldorf standards. The gist of the quotation is that Anthroposophists believe in reincarnation.

What happens to a child who spends years under the authority of people who hold such fantastical beliefs?

I wish that my parents or I had read some of Steiner’s books while I was in a Waldorf school. Surely my parents would have yanked me out fast if they had seen passages such as the ones I’m quoting here. The parents of the other students in my school should have read a few of these books, too. Waldorf would quickly have become depopulated.

If anyone who gets involved with a Waldorf school winds up feeling deceived about the nature and purposes of the school, s/he must accept part of the responsibility.

Steiner frequently spoke with Waldorf teachers about the need to deceive non-Anthroposophists. Three quick examples:

“We also need to speak about a prayer. I ask only one thing of you. You see, in such things everything depends upon the external appearances. Never call a verse a prayer, call it an opening verse before school. Avoid allowing anyone to hear you, as a faculty member, using the word ‘prayer.’” [15]

“Such cases are increasing in which children are born with a human form, but are not really human beings ... I do not like to talk about such things since we have often been attacked even without them. Imagine what people would say if they heard that we say there are people who are not human beings....” [16] We’ll return to the subject of people who are not human, below.

When the students at the first Waldorf did poorly in standardized final exams, Steiner said he wished he and the Waldorf faculty dared to be honest about their intentions: “...whether we dare tell those who come to us that we will not prepare them for the final examination at all....” [17]

As we saw in the epigraph I used, above (“I have heard so much gossip...”), Steiner’s general rule was that Waldorf teachers should reveal nothing to anyone outside the school, and even within the school they should keep parents generally uninformed. I will return to this statement later.

The Waldorf school I attended projected the image of a nonsectarian, arts-intensive preparatory school with a progressive curriculum. This appearance undoubtedly led many parents to enroll their children without realizing what they were letting them in for. Even after enrollment, families found Waldorf’s disguise hard to penetrate. We students memorized no passages from holy books, we sang from no hymnals. Yet a strange aura hung about the school. There was a pervasive but unspoken spiritualistic vibe in almost every lesson, in almost every activity. If it was hard for most parents to detect, we students all felt the vibe to one degree or another. It was in the air we breathed, it defined the tenor and subtext of our days. Ultimately, it shaped and colored our educations at least as effectively as if priests were delivering sermons to us. [See “I Went to Waldorf”.]

Whether or not Steiner was clinically sane, it is frightening that anyone ever took him seriously, much less founded schools devoted to his doctrines.

Above, I said that Steiner taught that some people are not human. The following is from a discussion between Steiner and Waldorf teachers, concerning a first-grade student who had learning disabilities:

[Dr. Steiner]: “Such cases are increasing in which children are born with a human form, but are not really human beings ... instead, they are filled with beings that do not belong to the human class. Quite a number of people have been born...[who] are not reincarnated, but are human forms filled with a sort of natural demon....”

[A teacher]: “How is that possible?”

[Dr. Steiner]: “Cosmic error is certainly not impossible ... I do not like to talk about such things since we have often been attacked even without them. Imagine what people would say if they heard that we say there are people who are not human beings....” [18]

To read this passage in full, see "Steiner's Bile". And ask yourself this: What effects might we expect to find in children who have been educated by people who believe that some children are not really human beings?

It seems undeniable that, as a general trend, what happened within my Waldorf’s walls decades ago is being replayed now, in different forms, in other Waldorf or Steiner schools. Here’s a statement made, not long ago, about what goes on inside Waldorf schools today here in the USA. The speaker — who is a Waldorf teacher, one who sends his own children to a Waldorf school — first refers to a prayer that students in most Waldorf schools recite every morning. Then he enlarges on his theme:

"I'm glad my daughter gets to speak about God every morning ... That's why I send her to a Waldorf school. She can have a religious experience. A religious experience. I'll say it again: I send my daughter to a Waldorf school so that she can have a religious experience." [19]

[See “Waldorf Now”, "Today", and “Non-Waldorf Waldorfs”.]

Perhaps you want your children to have religious experiences. Fine. But do you want that religion to be Anthroposophy?

[See "Is Anthroposophy a Religion?"]

I would not want others to go through what I experienced after graduating from a Waldorf school: a long, wearisome struggle to recover from a Waldorf “education” and to find my footing in reality. [See "My Sad, Sad Story".] Yet many other individuals have undergone Waldorf traumas that may indeed require long efforts at recovery. [See, e.g., "Cautionary Tales" and "Slaps".]

Here is a statement by a present-day advocate of Waldorf education:

“Steiner viewed human beings as consisting of three spheres of activity — the head, the heart, and the will — that manifest through thoughts, feelings and physical actions. To educate children to be complete and balanced human beings, we must attend to the needs of all three aspects of a child’s being. From the Waldorf perspective, attaining knowledge is one purpose of the learning process, but just as important — and perhaps even more important — is to educate the heart and the will of the child, so that knowledge is joined with reverence and action.” [20]

Note that at Waldorf schools, educating hearts and wills is at least as important as — and may be “even more important” than — imparting knowledge. This deviates significantly from a conventional definition of education. Also, clearly, you should ask what is meant by “educating” the heart and the will. What sorts of emotions and desires are Waldorf schools pushing? I’ll sketch in some of the answers in the following two passages.

In sensitizing a child to the supernatural, Waldorf teachers are at least partially trying to preserve what Anthroposophists say is the child’s innate connection to the spirit realm:

“Childhood is commonly regarded as a time of steadily expanding consciousness.... Yet in Steiner’s view, the very opposite is the case: childhood is a time of contracting consciousness.... [The child] loses his dream-like perception of the creative world of spiritual powers which is hidden behind the phenomena of the senses. This is...the world of creative archetypes and spiritual hierarchies.

“In mastering the world of physical perception the child encounters difficulties in that he first has to overcome a dream-like yet intensely real awareness of spiritual worlds. This awareness fades quickly in early childhood, but fragments of it live on in the child for a much longer time than most people imagine.

“...In a Waldorf school, therefore, one of the tasks of the teachers is to keep the children young.” [21]

Think about the implications of keeping children young as opposed to helping them to mature, especially mentally.

Waldorf-style “thinking” is intended to be moderated by the faculties of intuition and/or imagination and/or clairvoyance. Taught that logic (i.e., methodical reasoning) is untrustworthy, the Waldorf student is directed toward spiritual experiences that are notionally self-evident (i.e., no proof required). Is this is genuine thinking at all, or merely a form of wishfulness? Consider:

“To what extent will [a child’s] thinking become purely logical and colorless, unenriched by imagination, uninformed by experience? ... More than ever, therefore, should the attempt be made with our adolescents to preserve from the earlier stage of childhood those capacities which are natural to it, and to unite them with the new gift of intellectual thought. For this means to transform thought from what it is at present — the capacity for abstract hypothesis — into the capacity for self-evident spiritual experience.” [22]

Ask yourself whether an education aiming at such a form of “thought” is likely to equip children for life in the real world. In brief: Should we teach our children to live rationally in the real world or to have unsubstantiated intuitions of unseen worlds? (As we have seen, Steiner taught that true thinking does not occur in the brain. Waldorf schools generally downplay the importance of brainwork. Steiner did not deny that some types of thinking occur in the brain, but he found little significance in them. [See, e.g., "Steiner's Specific".])

Steiner was repeatedly, glaringly wrong about a wide array of subjects. For anyone who does not subscribe to Anthroposophy, Steiner’s numerous blunders must seriously weaken the plausibility of “spiritual science” (i.e., Anthroposophy, the religion that underlies Waldorf “education”). Steiner's errors are hard to overlook or excuse. From today’s perspective, Steiner’s racism was a particularly grave error. Perhaps we might explain it away by saying that Steiner was a man of his times, sharing the prevailing views and attitudes (including prejudices) of his times. The trouble with such a defense, for Anthroposophists, is that it undermines the indispensable premise that Steiner, a professed clairvoyant, could see ultimate truth. The whole point of being a soothsayer, after all, is to say sooth: speak truth. Yet Steiner repeatedly failed this paramount test of his “profession.”

Here’s what Steiner said about the French “race” and their language:

“The use of the French language quite certainly corrupts the soul. The soul acquires nothing more than the possibility of clichés. Those who enthusiastically speak French transfer that to other languages. The French are also ruining what maintains their dead language, namely, their blood. The French are committing the terrible brutality of moving black people to Europe, but it works, in an even worse way, back on France. It has an enormous effect on the blood and the race and contributes considerably toward French decadence. The French as a race are reverting.” [23]

For more of the fruits of Steiner's clairvoyance, see "Steiner's Blunders". Children enrolled in Waldorf schools are often "educated" within a miasma of misinformation, error, and prejudice.

On the crucial subject of racism:

Steiner taught that the external physical characteristics of the various races reflect and even cause those races’ inner qualities. Hair- and eye-color, for instance, have great significance, showing why whites are smarter:

“In the case of fair people, less nourishment is driven into the eyes and hair; it remains instead in the brain and endows it with intelligence. Brown- and dark-haired people drive the substances into their eyes and hair that the fair people retain in their brains.” [24]

Racial differences, according to Steiner, are much more than skin deep. He taught that whites are humanity’s vanguard:

“The white race is the future, the race that is creating spirit.” [25]

You'll find more on this disagreeable subject in the Addendum, below.

When such racism shows it face in Waldorf schools, the effects can be traumatic.

[See, e.g., "Waldorf Now".]

According to Steiner, a Waldorf school should be authoritarian, with strict discipline. If need be, the discipline should include corporal punishment.

Waldorf teachers should present themselves as unyielding authority figures. Steiner said,

“[K]eep the children from losing their feeling for authority. That is what they need most. You can best achieve this by going into things with the children very cautiously, but under no circumstances giving in.” [26]

The discipline needed for the school to work properly must be maintained strictly.

“We may never place ourselves in a situation where we may have to relent in a disciplinary decision.” [27]

This may require inflicting pain on the students. For instance,

“If a child comes late ten minutes, have him or her stand for half an hour ... Let them stand uncomfortably ... [Y]ou can be particularly effective if you allow [sic] them to stand in an uncomfortable place ... They may even get cramps in their legs.” [28]

In extreme cases, spanking or slapping may be required.

“Under certain circumstances it may be necessary to spank a child ... I have to admit that there are rowdies....” [29]

Slapping is generally not productive, Steiner said. But he allowed that a teacher may feel compelled to administer a slap. In that case, the student should recognize the gravity of the action.

“If you give them a slap, you should do it the way Dr. Schubert does ... There are physical slaps and astral [nonphysical] slaps. It doesn’t matter which one you give, but you cannot slap a child sentimentally.” [30]

“Astral” slaps — psychological or spiritual punishment — may be preferable to physical slaps, but note that Steiner’s statement is quite different from what he could have said, such as: You must never slap a student, period.

Steiner was concerned about slapping primarily as a matter of public relations. He didn't want his school to be embarrassed. For this reason, he told Waldorf teachers to keep mum about what happens inside the school:

“[D]o not attempt to bring out into the public things that really concern only our school. I have been back only a few hours, and I have heard so much gossip about who got a slap and so forth ... We should be quiet about how we handle things in the school, we should maintain a kind of school confidentiality. We should not speak to people outside the school, except for the parents who come to us with questions, and in that case, only about their children, so that gossip has no opportunity to arise.” [31]

Steiner urged Waldorf teachers to to conceal a lot from outsiders (including the students' parents). In some cases, he said Waldorf schools should actively mislead outsiders:

"We must worm our way through. We have to be conscious of the fact that this is done in life ... [It should be] done with a certain mental reservation in response to external requirements. We have to be conscious that in order to do what we want to do, at least, it is necessary to talk with the people, not because we want to but because we have to, and inwardly make fools of them." [32]

When dealing with a Waldorf school, you should be aware that many secrets may be withheld from you.

[See "Secrets".]

If you are thinking about sending your children to a school where Steiner’s doctrines are observed, think long and hard. If you already have children in such a school, consider removing them. My advice? Get them out.

— Roger Rawlings

The dangers outlined above do not comprise a complete list.

Circumstances vary from school to school,

teacher to teacher, and student to student.

See, e.g.,

"Who Gets Hurt",



"Steiner's Quackery",


and (for a general overview)

"Square One".

For personal reports by

parents who sent children to Waldorf schools,

and by former Waldorf students,

former Waldorf board members,

former Waldorf teachers, etc.,


"Our Experience",

"Coming Undone",


"I Went to Waldorf",

"Magical Arts",

"My Sad, Sad Story",

"My Life Among the Anthroposophists",

"Ex-Teacher 2",

"Ex-Teacher 3",





Parents may also want to read

“Non-Waldorf Waldorfs: Looking for a Good One”

and "Clues".

To examine efforts by Waldorf schools

to change their image

as part of "a weird cult

that brainwashes children," see "PR".

To examine what may be Steiner's

central educational "insight,"

see "Most Significant".

For a detailed discussion of Steiner’s teachings

and the nature of Waldorf education,

please see “Unenlightened”.

For selections of revealing statements

made by Steiner,

see “Say What?” and "Wise Words"

I have included several statements from


And in the essay "Faculty Meetings",

I analyze several of these, and other, quotations.

For relatively candid remarks by Rudolf Steiner

on the spiritualistic agenda of Waldorf schools,

see "Spiritual Agenda".

For advice Steiner gave to Waldorf teachers,

see "Advice for Teachers"

For a peek at Waldorf teacher training,

see "Teacher Training"

For an overview of the Waldorf spirit,

see "Spirit"

For information on signs and symbols

you may spot

at a Waldorf school,

see "Signs"

For a statement about the identity of individuals

quoted and paraphrased at Waldorf Watch,

see "Trolls?"

Footnotes for "A Parent's Guide to Waldorf Dangers"

[1] Rudolf Steiner, RHYTHMS OF LEARNING: What Waldorf Education Offers Children, Parents & Teachers, p. 72.

[2] Rudolf Steiner, THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE, Foundations of Waldorf Education (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), pp. 142-145.

[3] Ibid., p. 67.

[4] Ibid., p. 118.


Steiner referred to "organs of clairvoyance" (which of course are invisible) on various occasions. E.g.,

◊ "[T]he moment has come when we must try to form spiritual organs of clairvoyance in us and develop ourselves for spiritual knowledge, so that these organs don't dry up and waste away." — Rudolf Steiner, FROM THE CONTENTS OF ESOTERIC LESSONS, Part III, Stuttgart (transcript, Rudolf Steiner Archive), GA 266.

◊ "The actual organs of clairvoyance must be developed from within." — Rudolf Steiner, SPIRITUAL SCIENCE AND MEDICINE (Rudolf Steiner Publishing Co., 1948), lecture 14, GA 312.

◊ "[A]mong the Turanians the ancient forces, lingering as an heirloom, served to prepare external organs of clairvoyance...." — Rudolf Steiner, THE GOSPEL OF ST. MATTHEW (Rudolf Steiner Publishing Co., 1946), lecture 3, GA 123.


[7] Ibid., p. 495.

[8] Rudolf Steiner, NATURE SPIRITS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1995), pp. 62-3.


[10] Ibid., p. 60.

[11] Rudolf Steiner, FREUD, JUNG, AND SPIRITUAL PSYCHOLOGY, pp. 124-125.


[13] Ibid., pp. 30-31.

[14] Rudolf Steiner, POLARITIES IN THE EVOLUTION OF MANKIND (Steiner Books, 1987), p. 59.


[16] Ibid., pp. 649-650.

[17] Ibid., p. 712.

[18] Ibid., pp. 649-650.

[19] Eugene Schwartz, “Waldorf Education — For Our Times or Against Them?”, November 13, 1999, transcript edited by Michael Kopp.

Schwartz is an Anthroposophical writer and educator. He is the author of WALDORF EDUCATION: Schools for the Twenty-First Century (Xlibris Corporation, 2000) and MILLENNIAL CHILD: Transforming Education for the Twenty-First Century (Anthroposophic Press, 1999).

[20] Lawrence Williams, Ed.D., OAK MEADOW AND WALDORF.

Williams is an Anthroposophist who has given an account of the scandal at my old Waldorf school. He is the author of OAK MEADOW AND WALDORF and THE OAK MEADOW TRILOGY (Oak Meadow, Inc., 1997) — see

[21] A.C. Harwood, PORTRAIT OF A WALDORF SCHOOL (The Myrin Institute Inc., 1956), pp. 15-16.

Harwood had a long career as a Waldorf educator and lecturer. Harwood died in 1975.

[22] Ibid., pp. 23-24.


[24] Rudolf Steiner, HEALTH AND ILLNESS, Vol. 1 (Anthroposophic Press, 1981), pp. 85-86.

[25] Rudolf Steiner, ON THE LIFE OF HUMAN BEINGS AND OF THE EARTH (VOM LEBEN DES MENSCHEN UND DER ERDE (Verlag Der Rudolf Steiner-Nachlassverwaltung, 1961), translated by Roger Rawlings, 2005), p. 62.

Some of Steiner’s most dreadful statements are hard, if not impossible, to find in English translations of his works. Here is another example:

“White mankind is still on the path of absorbing spirit more deeply into its essence. Yellow mankind is on the path of preserving the period when the spirit was kept away from the body, when the spirit could only be sought outside of the physical human- being. But the result will have to be that the transition from the fifth cultural epoch [i.e., now] to the sixth cultural epoch cannot happen differently than as a violent fight between white mankind and colored mankind in the most varied areas.” — Rudolf Steiner, DIE GEISTIGEN HINTERGRÜNDE DES ERSTEN WELTKRIEGES {The Spiritual Background of the First World War} (Rudolf Steiner Verlag, 1974), p. 38, translated by Roger Rawlings, 2005.

Yet even in the translations of Steiner's works offered by Anthroposophical presses, we can find his appalling opinions exposed. See the passage I quote, above, about the French “race” and “blacks” (i.e., Africans). Here is another example:

“Lucifer and Ahriman...fought against [the] harmonious tendency of development in the evolution of humanity, and they managed to change the whole process so that various developments were shifted and displaced. While there should have been basically only one form of human being ... Lucifer and Ahriman preserved [earlier human types]...even into the time after the Atlantean flood. Thus, forms that should have disappeared remained. Instead of racial diversities developing consecutively, older racial forms remained unchanged and newer ones began to evolve at the same time. Instead of the intended consecutive development of races, there was a coexistence of races. That is how it came about that physically different races inhabited the earth and are still there in our time although evolution should really have proceeded [unimpeded].” — Rudolf Steiner, THE UNIVERSAL HUMAN: THE EVOLUTION OF INDIVIDUALITY, Lectures from 1909-1916 (Anthroposophic Press, 1990), p. 75.

To explicate: In this passage, Steiner is discussing higher and lower races, explaining why humanity is divided into various races instead of comprising a single, highly-evolved race. Lucifer and Ahriman are demonic spiritual powers. “Atlantean” refers to Atlantis.

Steiner professed to believe the Atlantis myth, and he traced the “Aryan” race back to it. Consider the following:

“The ancestors of the Atlanteans lived in a region [i.e., Lemuria, an earlier lost continent] which has disappeared ... After they had passed through various stages of development the greatest part of them declined. These became stunted men, whose descendants still inhabit certain parts of the earth today as so-called savage tribes. Only a small part of Lemurian humanity was capable of further development. From this part the Atlanteans were formed. Later, something similar took place. The greatest part of the Atlantean population declined, and from a small portion [that did not decline] are descended the so-called Aryans who comprise present-day civilized humanity ... ” — Rudolf Steiner, COSMIC MEMORY (Garber Communications, 1990), pp. 45-46.

Don't be put off by Steiner's use of such qualifiers as "so-called." He used these often, often to imply that even when people agree with him, they know less than he does and they use language less accurately than he does. In Steiner's teachings, the Aryans are exemplars of progress; other races descend from “stunted men” and Atlanteans who “declined” — hence, the existence today of “savage tribes.” [See “Steiner’s Racism”.]


[27] Ibid., p. 109.

[28] Ibid., p. 110.

[29] Ibid., p. 22.

[30] Ibid., p. 323.

[31] Ibid., p. 10.

[32] Rudolf Steiner, CONFERENCES WITH THE TEACHERS OF THE WALDORF SCHOOL IN STUTTGART, Vol. 1 (Steiner Schools Fellowship Publications, 1986), p. 125.

Occult Vistas

The types of art promoted at Waldorf schools are meant to have powerful occult effects. This sketch of scenery used for staging one of Steiner's "mystery plays" has some of the qualities you may detect in paintings created and displayed at Waldorf schools (except that they would be better than my effort shown here, and the effects would be heightened): watercolor, prismatic coloration, an effect of drapery or veils, vague organic/spiritual forms, a suggestion of passageways leading into the distance, perhaps some mysterious runes or occult symbols...

[R.R. sketch, 2009,

based on a stage set used at the Goetheanum

— see, e.g., GOETHEANUM:

School of Spiritual Science

(Philosophical-Anthroposophical Press, 1961),

p. 21.]

Message from Norway

Here is an excerpt from an account given by parents who

sent their children to a Waldorf school.

(This is from a Norwegian website;

I have done some light editing. — R.R.)


"The Waldorf schools present their anti-materialistic and [pro-]ecological values to people searching other ways to lead their lives – ourselves included. A lot of the Steiner/Waldorf values are similar to those of the green- and the anticapitalist movement. What scared us the most, was the fact that we, in order to find the very best pedagogical alternative for our children, were led to believe that the pedagogical tools of the Waldorf school were not closely linked to Anthroposophy, but separable from their religious beliefs, whereas the whole movement in every possible way evolves around the thoughts of reincarnation and hierarchic structure.

"[Anthroposophy says] your life, your existential situation, the ones you love, your health are all a result of how you led your previous lives. And if or when you become critical, you will be told that you have not studied enough.

"Unfortunately we experienced the school to be a highly religious sect with no respect whatsoever for legal contracts, and with no continuing professional development, and [no commitment] to what we regard to be social responsibility. In very subtle ways, and with a mild and friendly smile, they assure you that the children’s education is in the best of hands. But, as time showed us, their teacher-training consists exclusively of the spiritual fantasies of one single man [i.e., Rudolf Steiner]. And having done teaching there ourselves, we found their curriculum not comparable to what is required from the state, nor [is it what they] claimed."

— Kristín A. Sandberg


To keep things balanced, here are a dozen statements

by people praising Waldorf schools.

I culled the list from a much longer one at "Waldorf Answers"


Some of these statements were made by individuals

having extensive personal experience in a Waldorf school;

others were made by people having no such experience.

At the end of the list, I will make a comment in response

("And a Response").

Kenneth Chenault, CEO of American Express credit card company, a former Waldorf student (Waldorf School of Garden City):

"My parents were looking for a school that would nurture the whole person. They also felt that the Waldorf school would be a far more open environment for African Americans, and that was focused on educating students with values, as well as the academic tools necessary to be constructive and contributing human beings. ... I think the end result of Waldorf education is to raise our consciousness. There is a heightened consciousness of what our senses bring us from the world around us, about our feelings, about the way we relate to other people. It taught me how to think for myself, to be responsible for my decisions. Second, it made me a good listener, sensitive to the needs of others. And third, it helped establish meaningful beliefs. In all the Main Block lessons — in history, science, philosophy — we really probed the importance of values and beliefs. In dealing with a lot of complex issues and a lot of stress, if that isn't balanced by a core of meaningful beliefs, you really will just be consumed and fail." [See the Disclosure Statement, below.]

Evelyn Galinski, former Waldorf pupil and daughter of Heinz Galinski, Auschwitz survivor and Chairman of the Central Jewish Council in Germany from 1988 until his death in 1992:

"I personally have had only good experiences during my school time; it was liberal, antiracist, tolerant of every faith and not missionary"

Russell Schweickart, Apollo 9 astronaut, NASA Astronaut Technical Advisor, California Energy Commission, former Waldorf parent:

"My daughter's experience at the Waldorf school has been both exciting and mind opening. I hope that more people can make Waldorf education available to their children."

Joseph Weizenbaum, Professor (now emeritus), MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), author of Computer Power and Human Reason:

"Being personally acquainted with a number of Waldorf students, I can say that they come closer to realizing their own potential than practically anyone I know."

Ernest L Boyer (1928-1995), Former President, Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching:

"Those in the public school reform movement have some important things to learn from what Waldorf educators have been doing for many years. It is an enormously impressive effort toward quality education, and schools would be advised to familiarize themselves with the basic assumptions that under gird the Waldorf movement. Art as it helps to reveal the use of language, art as it can be revealed in numbers, and certainly in nature"

Jennifer Aniston, actress, former Waldorf student:

"I was always fascinated by acting, but my experience at Rudolf Steiner [school] encouraged me to pursue it as a career ... Steiner was a free-spirited school that encouraged creativity and individualism."

Eric Utne, founder of, publisher, and former editor-in-chief of Utne Reader, (described by The New York Times as "one of the most distinctive voices in magazine journalism") now a Waldorf teacher:

"My son Leif attended a Waldorf school from nursery through eighth grade. Even more gratifying than his specific achievements are his ongoing infatuation with learning and absence of incapacitating cynicism. ... Waldorf schools generally turn out young people who get into the colleges of their choice, but more importantly are well prepared for life. I hope this form of education becomes the basis for public school curriculum throughout the United States. And I hope it happens soon."

Selma Lagerlöf (1859-1940), 1909 Nobel Literature Laureate:

"[Rudolf Steiner] taught a number of things in which I have long believed, among them that it is no longer possible in our time to offer a religion full of unsubstantiated miracles, but rather that religion must be a science which can be proven. It is no longer a question of belief, but of knowing. Further, we acquire knowledge of the spiritual world through steady, conscious, systematic thinking ... In years to come, his teachings will be proclaimed from the pulpits"

Saul Bellow (1915-2005), 1976 Nobel Literature Laureate:

"If I had a child of school age, I would send him to one of the Waldorf Schools."

Gilbert H. Grosvenor (1875-1966), President & Chairman, National Geographic Society, former Waldorf parent:

"It is a pleasure for me to write an endorsement for Waldorf Education ...[which] has been extraordinarily successful for my son. In three years, the remarkable, dedicated faculty has directed his attitude and energies toward academic achievement and civic responsibility... The school draws out the best of qualities in young people. While this is not an instant process, the values they learn by constant contact with the faculty will provide a lifetime platform from which to grow... - In summary this system works!"

Ken Wilber, Author (among many works: "Integral Psychology"):

"Steiner (1861-1925) was an extraordinary pioneer...and one of the most comprehensive psychological and philosophical visionaries of his time ... [H]is overall vision is as moving as one could imagine."

James Shipman, History Department, Marin Academy, San Rafael, California:

"What I like about the Waldorf school is, quite simply, its graduates. As a high school teacher at Marin Academy, I have seen a number of the students who come from Marin Waldorf, and I can say that in all cases they have been remarkable, bright, energetic and involved."

And a Response

Those of us who are critical of Waldorf education must, of course, acknowledge that many children love their Waldorf schools, many parents are satisfied, many alumni are loyal.

This is only to be expected. Waldorf schools would disappear if most students and families found them unendurable. Bear in mind that some Waldorf schools are less doctrinaire than others; some parents and children want an education based in esotericism or at least spirituality; some Waldorf teachers and administrators are fine people; and so forth. Hence, we must expect that rounding up affirmative statements about Waldorf schools should not be difficult. What is troubling, however, is that so many horrific tales come out of Waldorf schools. There should be no such tales, but there are many. [See "Cautionary Tales".]

Something is amiss. And that something is not hard to locate. Waldorf schools often are doctrinaire; they cling fervently to occult nonsense, i.e., Anthroposophy. No genuine education can be based on such thinking. [See, e.g., "Slaps", "Moms", "Pops", "Our Experience", "Coming Undone", "Our Brush with Rudolf Steiner", "A Victim of Teacher Bullying at Waldorf", and "An Open Letter to Highland Hall".]

Listen to the people who endorse Waldorf schools. And listen to the people who criticize Waldorf schools. And then go deeper. This is not a poll, the winner to be selected by popular vote. Dig to find out what Waldorf schools are really all about, and then ask yourself whether you can embrace the thinking that informs Waldorf education. [See "Oh Humanity — The Key to Waldorf" and "Here's the Answer".]

Make your decision based on solid information, solid research. Remember: You are making a decision that may affect your child — for good or ill — for life.

The list of statements endorsing Waldorf education is impressive. Or it seems so at first blush. But let's not rush past. We should ask a few questions.

The most illustrious individual on the list is Saul Bellow, the great novelist. He said he would send his child to a Waldorf school. This is impressive.

Or is it?

Did Bellow actually make this statement? Where? When? Under what circumstances? In what document can we find the statement?

Then again, if Bellow made the statement, did it represent his final, considered opinion? Or did he recant later? Did he change his mind? In what document(s) can we read up on this matter?

Here is a little background. Bellow found academic, scientific knowledge insufficient.

“Other people, scholars and scientists, know a great deal more [than I do] about nature and society ... I nevertheless object that their knowledge is defective — something is missing. That something is poetry.” — Saul Bellow, IT ALL ADDS UP (Viking, 1994), p. 86.

Bellow’s quest for a more complete and balanced form of knowledge led him to investigate Anthroposophy.

“[He thought it might] transcend the limits of empirical human knowledge and attain another, higher form of consciousness, a higher ‘spiritual reality.’” — James Atlas, BELLOW: A Biography (Random House, 2000), p. 436.

But Bellow eventually recoiled from Steiner’s radical mysticism: “Bellow was no mystic. Like Citrine [a character in Bellow’s novel HUMBOLDT’S GIFT], he was skeptical of Steiner’s more outlandish notions...'organs of spiritual perception’ or the strange mingling of Abraham with Zarathustra ... ‘It was all too much for me’ [he said].” — Ibid., p. 437.

Bellow read many of Steiner's books and lectures — evidently without fully confronting Steiner's anti-Semitism — and he corresponded with Owen Barfield, a prominent advocate of Steiner's teachings. Bellow yearned for answers to life's mysteries, and he wished for guidance from authorities. [See "The Obedient Bellow" by Edward Mendelson, THE NEW YORK REVIEW OF BOOKS, April 28, 2011, pp. 18-20.] He did not, however, become an Anthroposophist. His relationship with Barfield, like his overall connection with Steiner's teachings, followed a pattern repeated often in Bellow's life: initial enthusiasm gradually gave way to disillusionment and complaint. [1]

The subject of anti-Semitism may be crucial. Bellow was a proud American Jew who abominated anti-Semitism. Surely his interest in Steiner would have ended sooner — indeed, immediately — if he had known of Steiner's many anti-Semitic statements. [See "RS on Jews".]

In any event, Bellow turned from Steiner eventually. In his memoir, SAUL BELLOW'S HEART, Greg Bellow — Saul Bellow's eldest son — reports that Bellow could not, ultimately, accept Steiner's teachings.

"...Saul knew he could never allow himself to follow Steiner's first instruction ... In the end, Saul found the hope offered by Steiner insufficient...." — SAUL BELLOW'S HEART (Bloomsbury, 2013), p. 164.

Saul Bellow reached ultimate "disillusionment with the teachings of Rudolf Steiner," after which he entered a "post-Steiner" period that lasted for the rest of his life. — Ibid., p. 182.

So Bellow's endorsement of Waldorf schools may not be as impressive as, at first blush, it seemed. And the same may be true of other endorsements on the list. [2] Here at Waldorf Watch, in reporting the criticisms various people level at Waldorf, I take care to cite the sources of the quotations I give, and I always try to provide sufficient detail so that you can know precisely why each individual is critical of Waldorf — what s/he dislikes, and why. When you hear from someone who praises Waldorf, you should ask for the same specificity. It is largely absent from the list provided by "Waldorf Answers."

[1] Bellow got more deeply involved than his admirers might wish.

◊ "I continue to read Steiner and to perform certain [spiritual] exercises." — Saul Bellow, LETTERS (Viking, 2010), p. 334 —a letter from Feb., 1976.

◊ "Four or five years of reading Steiner have altered me considerably." — Ibid., p. 371, Nov., 1979.

Perhaps the clearest sign of Bellow's interest in Anthroposophy is an essay he wrote that was used as a foreword to THE BOUNDARIES OF NATURAL SCIENCE (Anthroposophic Press, 1983), a collection of eight essays by Rudolf Steiner. In the essay, Bellow refers to Steiner as an initiate (p. xii), which is to say that he seems to accept Steiner's claim to the possession of supernal wisdom.

On the other hand, there is some evidence that Bellow dabbled in Steiner's works and flirted with Waldorf only as a sort of lark, in order to be outrageous. The following is a from a review in THE NEW YORK TIMES:

"At Barfield’s suggestion, he [i.e., Bellow] undertook a study of Steiner — in defiance, to put it mildly, of his own skeptical and secular temperament ... His impish delight in outraging the advanced cultural consensus of his time might also have encouraged him in this flamboyantly anti-materialist heterodoxy. But not surprisingly, the doctrine did not win him [i.e., he did not become an Anthroposophist].” — Leon Wieseltier, "Saul Bellow’s Quest for the Vernacular Sublime" (NEW YORK TIMES SUNDAY BOOK REVIEW, Nov. 18, 2010), p. BR1.

[2] What evidence do the writers cite? What expertise do they exhibit? Do they give persuasive arguments or, indeed, any arguments at all? How broadly applicable may their experiences be, or how narrow and unique? Do they use clear, reasonable language, or Anthroposophical jargon? Does a second reading make their statements more compelling, or less?

Disclosure Statement: I knew Kenneth Chenault, slightly. We attended the same Waldorf school. During the years when Ken, his brother Arthur, and I were students at that school, some of our teachers made overtly racist remarks to my class, which was all white. [See "I Went to Waldorf".] Apparently they refrained from making such remarks in Ken's presence.

— R.R.

A Key Question

If you are considering a Waldorf school for your child, I would urge you to consider the following question.

What if a Waldorf school provided an excellent education but also attempted to lure students into occultism — would you feel comfortable sending your child there?

We can go a step further and reframe the question like this: What if a Waldorf school provided an excellent education and also attempted to lure students into occultism but frequently failed in this attempt — would you feel comfortable sending your child there? Would you be willing to gamble that your child would be one of the fortunate students who leave unharmed?

The only safe Waldorf schools are the ones that completely renounce the teachings of Rudolf Steiner. But they aren't real Waldorf schools. (And there are precious few of them.)

Chemical Reactions


(Association of Waldorf Schools of North America, 2004.)

Waldorf educators have become increasingly skilled at making their curriculum seem "normal." The text shown here is a good example. Much of the book presents more or less straightforward, simple classroom chemistry. The impression is created that Waldorf teachers following the book would teach modern science in a fair and balanced manner. The author even has nice things to say about Charles Darwin and Albert Einstein [pp. 250, 259.], scientists whom Anthroposophists normally scorn. And yet, if you carefully consider the statements made in the book, you can easily perceive how in Waldorf schools the teaching of chemistry — like other subjects — is bent to serve the occult purposes of Anthroposophy.

Here are three excerpts. They are written in the sort of code Waldorf teachers often employ — the words may sound fine until you stop to mull them over:

◊ "Waldorf education works with the developmental stages of growth in children. The harmonious unfolding of the personality depends on the healthy maturation of each developmental stage...." [p. 7.]

◊ "Pre-school children are informed about the world through their bodily or sense impressions. The wonder of the world passes directly into their physical/sensory organization through every experience they encounter. Impressions are stored as cellular memory as the organs of the body are being sculpted." [p. 7.]

◊ "When a foundation of observation and disciplined thinking is established, the high school science teacher now introduces a new type of thinking ... [F]irst a phenomenon is carefully observed; second, the rigors and laws of thinking and science are applied ... third, everything up to now is laid to rest, the mind is cleared, and the phenomenon itself is allowed to speak. The student observes what comes forward while keeping the mind from straying ... This type of thinking is freed from the senses and allows the universe to speak through the individual. It is a type of thinking which is truly moral and can be the fertile ground for the 'new' science of the twenty-first century." [pp. 12-13.]

What is wrong with any of that? Let's consider with disciplined thinking:

◊ Anthroposophists believe that students mature through a precisely defined series of "developmental stages": These are seven-year-long periods during which invisible bodies (the etheric body, the astral body, and the ego body) incarnate. [See "Most Significant" and "Incarnation".] If you do not believe in etheric bodies, astral bodies, and ego bodies — and there is no rational reason why you should; there is no scientific evidence for the existence of these phantasms — then you may find little commendable or even sensible in the Waldorf approach.

◊ Anthroposophists also believe that children arrive on Earth from their past lives (reincarnation), retaining memories of the wondrous spirit realm. The "physical/sensory organization" of children (a phrase taken straight from Steiner) bears this spiritual imprint. The kids' overall "organization" extends beyond the physical body to multiple, invisible spirit and soul components: This is the "human organization" Steiner often discussed. [1]

◊ "Cellular memory" is a speculative notion with little basis in real science: It posits that our cells hold the patterns of our history and mentality, independent of DNA or the brain. Anthroposophists like the concept because it can be made to fit with their belief that the physical body is "sculpted" by spiritual forces — including the astrological effects of the stars and constellations — and especially by the workings of the etheric body. [See "What We Are".]

◊ The "new type of thinking" is Anthroposophical thinking, very much akin to meditation ("the mind is cleared...keeping the mind from straying..."). Such meditation is key to Steiner's doctrine that one can discipline the mind and thus become clairvoyant. [2] [See "Clairvoyance" and "Knowing the Worlds".] The "phenomenon" or "universe" is said to "speak" when the spirit flows through it into the receptive mind. Anthroposophical thinking is "freed from the senses" because, as Steiner taught, real thinking doesn't depend on the brain but on invisible "organs of clairvoyance." [See "Thinking Cap".] Such thinking is "moral" because it is spiritual (not like the neutral objectivity aimed at in real science) and it leads to the "'new' science" which, for Anthroposophists, is spiritual science — Anthroposophy itself. [3] [See "Steiner's 'Science'".]

So, as you can see, even careful statements made by Anthroposophists trying to hide their occultism often reveal this very occultism. We get a hint of this from the very title of the book: It refers to "Waldorf Chemistry." What is this? It is not the same as ordinary chemistry; it is Anthroposophical "science," science infused with Rudolf Steiner's mysticism. It is, in short, not science. The upshot is that "science" instruction is often the weakest part of the Waldorf curriculum. [See, e.g., "Waldorf Schools Teach Odd Science, Odd Evolution".] But indeed all subjects, as taught at Waldorf schools, tend to undergo a similar revision, reshaping them to fit Anthroposophical doctrines. See, e.g., ["The Waldorf Curriculum" and "Sneaking It In".]

[1] Steiner taught that ancient peoples were like children, and for them learning to speak was just a step toward developing clairvoyance. He said that clairvoyance became part of the human constitution back then:

"They did not stop at learning to speak, however, but progressed to elementary clairvoyance ... [C]lairvoyance was connect with the immediate human organization." — Rudolf Steiner, THE FIFTH GOSPEL (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1995), p. 152.

[2] Waldorf science is akin to "Goethean" science, the approach promulgated by the German author Goethe. [See "Goethe".] Such science is generally not practiced outside Waldorf schools because it is unreliable and, indeed, unscientific.

[3] The neutral, objective perspective of real science may actually be far more moral than the Anthroposophical perspective. For one thing, real science leads to truth, whereas Anthroposophy is an occult fantasy. Moreover, real science does not try to indoctrinate anyone, whereas a Waldorf education may be seen as a form of brainwashing intended to lead students to Anthroposophy. We see this brainwashing in the passages we've just considered: Students are led to a "new type of thinking" that leads to the "new science": Anthroposophy.

Hansel-and-Gretel Schools

EDUCATION WEEK, June 20, 2001

The Spirit of Waldorf Education

By David Ruenzel

Grass Valley, Calif.

For a small but growing number of critics, the allure of public Waldorf schools is profoundly deceptive.

The K-8 Yuba River Charter School here is, like many Waldorf schools, a place of astonishing beauty ... Inside classrooms painted in the soft pastels of sky and clouds are luxuriant student paintings ... Outside in the grassy quad, boys and girls twirl arm in arm in a medieval folk dance; a classmate plays the violin. When it's time to return to the classroom, a teacher jingles a bell.

...Waldorf education has received glowing national attention in recent years ... But, for a small but growing number of critics, the allure of public Waldorf schools like Yuba River and John Morse is profoundly deceptive. The schools, they say, may be tantalizingly beautiful, but they are in fact abusing the freedom granted to magnets and charters by promoting anthroposophy.

...Debra Snell, a former Waldorf parent who also served as one of the founding board members of Yuba River in 1994, likens Waldorf education to the tale of Hansel and Gretel. "Your critical thinking is suspended because the window dressings are so beautiful, but once you get inside, well, anthroposophy informs every second of every day," she says.

...Waldorf educators insist that anthroposophy is never presented in Waldorf public schools. But critics such as Snell argue that Steiner's anthroposophy is implicit in the curriculum and educational philosophy.

"One night, as we were about to say grace," Snell recalls, "my son said to me, 'Why do we pray to the same God each night? I want to pray to Hermes,' " referring to the god from Greek mythology who served as a messenger to other gods.

"The mythology he was learning at the Waldorf school was treated as fact," Snell maintains.

...In 1997, Snell joined forces with a longtime Waldorf opponent, Dan Dugan, and several others to form an organization called People for Legal and Nonsectarian education, or PLANS.

..."Like most parents [Dugan said], I was impressed with the beautiful environment, the dedicated teachers, the integration of art into everything. But over time, I came across a number of disturbing things."

Among other causes of concern was the teaching of what his son called "baby science." He came home one day complaining that a 6th grade teacher, in the course of a chemistry unit, had said that the four elements were earth, air, fire, and water. That was followed, Dugan says, by other excursions into pseudo-science: The planets influence the growth of plants, light is "pure spirit," the heart doesn't pump blood.

"The school had told me that they were teaching using a conventional science curriculum, using Steiner's teaching methods," Dugan recalls. "But this was all in fact Steiner content — anthroposophical doctrine."

The school, Dugan says, gave him an ultimatum: Stop asking difficult questions or leave. He pulled his son out of the school after the 7th grade and embarked upon what became a decade-long study of Steiner, anthroposophy, and Waldorf education, collecting rafts of books and periodicals that constitute a small library at the back of his studio. He concluded that it was easier to split the atom than separate anthroposophy from Waldorf education.

...[C]hildren at Waldorf schools today are given no direct reading instruction in the early grades, as Steiner doctrine suggests that premature reading can impair the soul. Instead, instruction is oral, consisting primarily of a steady diet of fairy tales, legends, and myths that endow everything with feeling and nourish the "instinctive soul qualities of the imagination." Children often transcribe the tales into a main lesson book; they also fill the books with beautiful artwork tied to a given theme or subject.

...Steiner stated that "one who seeks knowledge of the human being must find it in anthroposophy." He also criticized his supporters who "propagate an education without letting it be known that anthroposophy is behind it."

Of course, there is no necessary relationship between what Steiner said in 1924 and what occurs in Waldorf schools today. Nevertheless, a number of teachers say they left their Waldorf public schools because of the training they received at Rudolf Steiner College or the troubling experiences they had at their schools.

Several of those teachers, who were contacted by Education Week, asked not to be identified, as they still teach in the sponsoring school districts.

One former teacher, who taught at John Morse, the magnet school in Sacramento, in the mid-1990s (the school was then called Oak Ridge), says that she was drawn to the Waldorf program because of its emphasis on art and music, but that she had found some of the kindergarten training objectionable. "A lot of the training was very nature-driven, even animistic," she recalls. "Once, for instance, we participated in a ceremony in which we were told to 'thank' a tree, the presumption being that there's a spirit in the tree. When I objected, they told me that I wouldn't be successful."

She also objected to a ceremony in which birthdays were celebrated by having the child dress in white clothing and sit upon a throne. "We were to walk around the child as many times as he was old, while the supervising teacher talked about the child as a 'spirit come down to earth,' " she says. "I said that I didn't believe in reincarnation, and I was again told I wouldn't do well."

Barbara Roemer, who taught 5th grade at Yuba River, the Grass Valley charter school, in 1995-96 before resigning, but still works as an occasional grant writer for the school, says that she was troubled by some of the math and science instruction.

"Math was almost all calculation, with little time for exploring topics like spatial concepts, or the construction of algorithms," she says. "And anthroposophy underpins much of the science instruction. All the texts I had in my training were Steinerian. There was also too much emphasis on demonstration, when I felt students needed engagement with scientific ideas."

Even so, Roemer emphasizes that there is much she admires about Waldorf education that she wishes could be a part of all public schools: the art and the music, the downplaying of standardized testing, the reverence for nature.

...Most Waldorf public school educators contest the notion that their schools propagate anthroposophy. "There's just nothing to it," says Betty Staley, the director of teacher training at Rudolf Steiner College.

...Indeed, the issue of determining what practices at the public Waldorf schools may have their roots in anthroposophy is extremely difficult. Much is in the eyes of the beholder.

... Dan Dugan and PLANS have an accidental ally of sorts in a prominent Waldorf educator and author named Eugene Schwartz, who stirred up a hornets' nest when he invited Dugan to a 1999 conference at Sunbridge College, a Waldorf institution in Spring Valley, N.Y. Schwartz says he did so because Dugan was feared as a demagogue within the Waldorf community when, in reality, Schwartz argues, the Waldorf critic was pointing out genuine inconsistencies within the movement. "I've discovered that many Waldorf teachers actually agree with much of what Dugan has to say, but are afraid of speaking out on account of the leadership," Schwartz says.

Schwartz himself says he's well aware of the dangers of speaking out. Shortly after the Dugan invitation, he was fired from his position as the director of teacher training at Sunbridge College following his criticism of the way in which Waldorf educators, in his view, were denying the movement's religious essence in order to move into public education.

"Anthroposophy, true enough, is not sectarian, but we're lying if we say we're not bringing religious experiences to children," Schwartz says. "The way a Waldorf education speaks to children evokes religious experiences in them that are similar or identical to those they would have in a religious setting. Anthroposophy wants to make everything sacramental, and this can't help impacting the way we teach almost everything."


Why Do We Do It?

The following message, with a short reply,

was posted at the Quackometer


I have done a little light editing.


ex steiner teacher

December 31, 2012 at 6:01 am

"Wow. So many misconceptions out there. I am a Waldorf trained teacher who taught in Steiner education for fifteen years and was a member of the Anthroposophical Society. The Waldorf education movement has a important task I believe to untake — to look carefully at why it practises the curriculum it does.

"Yes the curriculum is based around a racial theory of reincarnation and many of the so-called spiritual indications set out by Stiener are very questionable and unfounded. In the schools I have taught in I have heard my co-teachers explain away many things in regards to individual children’s development and behaviours as 'karmic lessons' and thus have not supported the child towards resolving problems in a balanced, healthy way. It is common, alarming and a practise that is often denied.

"Much in Anthroposophical circles is not made fully clear until a student of Anthroposphy is deemed evolved enough to go on a journey in the occult truths!!

"Parents, my advice to you all is: Do a lot of reading and ask many questions around the evolution of consciousness and its relationship to the incarnating child as parents, so that you can make an informed choice before sending your child into Steiner-based education. Be certain it holds the ideals you want reflected for your child’s future.

"Many Steiner teachers will be very upset at me posting such a frank statement, yet I am tired of the hushed unspoken aspect of the Waldorf curriculum that needs to open. Anthroposophy is the foundation that the curriculum stems from, so of course it influences how a teacher views and works with the children in their care.

"I have never met a Waldorf teacher that does not truly love the children they teach, yet I fear [for these children], having experienced and held myself views as a teacher that now objectively I can see were unbalanced and distorted. I am very a shamed [about this] as I am of 'mixed races' as Steiner would point out!!"



December 31, 2012 at 8:19 am

"ex Steiner teacher: 'Parents, my advice to you all is: Do a lot of reading and ask many questions around the evolution of consciousness and its relationship to the incarnating child as parents, so that you can make an informed choice before sending your child into Steiner-based education.'

"This is excellent advice. Thank you for speaking up."

Hither and Yon

Here are more items are adapted from

the Waldorf Watch News.


The discussions at the waldorf-critics list


are usually worth following,

even if you disagree deeply

with some of the views expressed.

Here is the beginning of one recent message:

Steve Hale [an Anthroposophist] has been regularly harassing me by private email. He has been continuing the same type of attacks he tried on this list...trying to browbeat me into thinking I've been a "bad father".


Waldorf Watch Response:

The nastiness that one sometimes encounters from Anthroposophists can be startling. There are, of course, many loving, sweet, and kind Anthroposophists — and people often choose Waldorf schools for their kids thinking that the schools are centers of loving sweetness and kindness. Sometimes the schools are that. But sometimes they aren’t.

What causes at least some Anthroposophists to become nasty? (The waldorf-critics list has seen example after example.) True-believing Anthroposophists accept Rudolf Steiner’s almost inconceivably lunatic doctrines, which are almost impossible to defend. Yet Anthroposophists insist on defending them. This makes them testy, frustrated, and sometimes furious. There is, in other words, a fundamental insecurity or fragility that comes with believing nonsense, and this breaks out sometimes in Anthroposophical misbehavior.

True-blue Anthroposophists also tend to be self-righteous, thinking that they and Steiner are on the side of the angels while their opponents are on the side of the demons. There is no compromising with demons, of course — the way to deal with demons is to smash them. So Anthroposophists try to do a lot of smashing.

It’s a little hard to imagine Jesus or Buddha — two spiritual guides Anthroposophists revere — behaving as Anthroposophists often behave. But after all, Anthroposophists are ordinary humans, subject to the frailties and failings of mortal humanity — even if they deny this. The denial in itself causes problems. You can’t fix your faults if you do not see your faults.

Debra Snell, who served on the board of a Waldorf school, has written, “I used to watch the Waldorf teachers at parent gatherings (festivals). The teachers would stand on the stage with their arms around each other, singing songs in rounds, while parents beamed. ‘How lucky we are to have this school,’ was the mantra. Personally I was amazed by the teachers' performance as they presented a 'real' sense of unity between them. Amazed because behind closed doors, they were all backstabbers. Seemingly insecure people competing for the top position on the Anthroposophical dog pile. It was never pretty. There was a lot of acting out, both blatant and passive (aggressive). I thought it was just this school, these teachers at the time. Now I think it comes out of some very deep flaws that Anthroposophy is incapable of dealing with. At least so far.” [See “Coming Undone”.]

The thing for newcomers to do when visiting Waldorf schools is to be on guard. Try to look beyond the gleaming surface. Don’t take everything you are told on faith. Understand that when entering a Waldorf school, you are entering an alternate universe, one that is in many ways severely disconnected from reality. [See, e.g., "Clues".]

— R.R.



The First Three Years: San Francisco Waldorf School Parenting Program

San Francisco Waldorf School’s Early Childhood Parenting Program offers two types of classes for babies, toddlers, and their parents. Observation classes are the first step in our program. They provide a gentle introduction to the group setting and a welcoming space for parents and children to explore and experience the rhythm and mood of Waldorf early childhood. Work and Play classes are for parents who have completed an Observation class. They encourage continued personal growth and exploration of Waldorf education through our established practice of quiet observation with the additional activity of inspired domestic and artistic work or observation and connection with one’s child in Nature.


Waldorf Watch Response:

Although Waldorf schools generally employ a slow-learning approach — postponing reading and arithmetic until age 7, for example — they like to enroll children as early as possible. Thus, they often offer programs for infants: kids too young to attend kindergarten. The underlying purposes are 1) to begin a child’s Anthroposophical* conditioning at the earliest possible age, and 2) to offset the influence of the child’s parents, who are presumed not to understand the true nature or needs of children. Anthroposophists believe that only they possess the needed knowledge. Thus, Rudolf Steiner said to Waldorf teachers: “You will have to take over children for their education and instruction — children who will have received already (as you must remember) the education, or mis-education given them by their parents.” — Rudolf Steiner, STUDY OF MAN (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2004), p. 16. And he added: "Given the difficult, disorderly, and chaotic conditions of our time, it might almost be preferable from a moral viewpoint if children could be taken into one's care soon after birth." — Rudolf Steiner, WALDORF EDUCATION AND ANTHROPOSOPHY, Vol. 2, (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 69.

As always, try to see beyond the surface when considering a program offered at a Waldorf school. The description of the program at the San Francisco Waldorf School, above, contains several points of interest. ◊ “Rhythm and mood” are crucial Waldorf values. Spiritual truths and conditions are believed to ebb and flow rhythmically, and Waldorf activities are meant to embody such rhythms. ◊ In the Waldorf system, mood is far more important than thought. The schools try to help children to feel spiritual truths; they are less interested in helping children to understand spiritual truths as ideas or mental constructs. [See, e.g., "Spiritual Agenda".] ◊ Promoting "personal growth" is, of course, a noble ideal. But you should know what such growth means according to Waldorf belief. To a large extent, it means the incarnation of invisible bodies, such as the etheric body that supposedly incarnates at around age 7. [See "Incarnation" and "Most Significant".] ◊ “Inspired domestic and artistic work” is a telling phrase. Inspiration is one of the three forms of clairvoyant consciousness stressed in Anthroposophy (the others are imagination and intuition). Waldorf faculties think that children should be inspired to walk the Anthroposophical path, as should their parents (who will then be able to perform "inspired domestic work"). ◊ Art is of great importance, since in Waldorf belief the gods speak to us through art and they even descend to Earth through art, while we can ascend into the spirit realm through art. [See “Magical Arts”.] ◊ “Nature” is a loaded term in the Waldorf vocabulary. Note how the word is capitalized in the statement above. According to Waldorf belief, the natural world is infused by the spiritual world; entering nature is a way of approaching spirituality. Nature is also the domain of invisible “nature spirits” such as gnomes and sylphs. Some nature spirits are hostile to man, and Steiner taught that the natural or physical world is a place of delusion or maya, but generally these points are downplayed in Waldorf public presentations. [See “Neutered Nature”.]

Before opening the door of a Waldorf school and walking through, acquaint yourself with Waldorf beliefs and consider whether they are compatible with your own.

— R.R.

* "Anthroposophy" is the name of the Waldorf belief system. [See "Everything" and "Is Anthroposophy a Religion?"]


All parents considering Waldorf schools

should be aware of Rudolf Steiner's racial doctrines.

Check to see if these are present, even in disguised form,

in any Waldorf school you find attractive.

I deal with this subject at length elsewhere on this website —

see, e.g., "Steiner's Racism", "Races",

"Differences", "'Negro'", and "RS on Jews".

But here is a brief, unpleasant exposure.

It is drawn from a message I posted

as part of an online discussion in August, 2009.

To see the message in its original form,

go to

The following covers some of the ground we have already been over,

but it adds further information and may, on the whole, be helpful.

Rudolf Steiner frequently discussed race. He made statements that may seem, at least to some readers, reasonable; and he made statements that would strike many readers as appalling. I think I am violating no one's confidence by reporting that I have shown some of Steiner's "good" statements about Jews to Jewish friends who have been shocked; they found nothing even remotely acceptable in them. I can report the same thing concerning black friends; when I showed them quotations about "Negroes" or "the black race" that Anthroposophists generally consider fine, they said — sometimes angrily — that those statements were absolutely racist.

Perhaps this is not the best test. Members of ethnic groups that have suffered horrifically (the Holocaust, slavery) naturally have heightened sensitivities. But, then, one reason everyone needs to avoid racist comments is to avoid hurting one another for no good reason. Steiner's own sensitivity on this point was deficient, although he may have been no more insensitive than many other people in his time and place. Anthroposophists today, however, have little or no excuse for such insensitivity.

A related point. Dan Dugan, in his review of Ida Oberman's THE WALDORF MOVEMENT IN EDUCATION, comments on the surprising number of black and brown faces in the book's photos. I've noticed the same thing in other Waldorf publications, including material disseminated by my old Waldorf school. It may be purely a coincidence, but since I started publishing/posting my essays, the number of minority students in photos published by my alma mater seems to have increased markedly.

Maybe this is well and good. But maybe not. Racism entails singling people out due to their race, whether for special mistreatment or special favors and notice. Racism, in other words, includes patronization. I think it is not unfair to say that an Anthroposophical attitude (declining today? I hope so) is that members of nonwhite races and non-Christian faiths deserve compassion: Blacks can't help it if they are childish; Jews can't help it if they were born into an outmoded religion and culture. But we Anthroposophists may be able to steer them in the right direction, away from their inferior group or culture toward a better race (white) or culture (Christian, meaning Gnostic Christian: Anthroposophy). Good little Jewish children might be led to abandon Judaism in this life. Good little black children cannot become white in this life, but with help they may make it in some future incarnation.

I'm simplifying, of course, but I think my basic point is valid: Anthroposophists who are true to Steiner inevitably attach undue significance to people's race. This may show up as discrimination againstsome people or discrimination for some people. Both forms of discrimination are racist.

I'll offer the group a few quotes, many of which may have first shown up on the list thanks to the research conducted by Peter Staudenmaier:

“One can only understand history and all of social life, including today's social life, if one pays attention to people's racial characteristics. And one can only understand all that is spiritual in the correct sense if one first examines how this spiritual element operates within people precisely through the color of their skin.” — Rudolf Steiner, VOM LEBEN DES MENSCHEN UND DER ERDE - ÜBER DAS WESEN DES CHRISTENTUMS (Rudolf Steiner Verlag, 1993) p. 52. Translations provided by Peter Staudenmaier.

“[T]he impregnation of the flesh by the spirit is the characteristic mission, the overall mission of white mankind. People have white skin because the spirit works in the skin when it wants to come down to the physical plain.” — Rudolf Steiner, DIE GEISTIGEN HINTERGRÜNDE DES ERSTEN WELTKRIEGES (Rudolf Steiner Verlag, 1974), p. 37.

“Races would not stay behind and become decadent if there were not people who wish to stay behind and are obliged to stay behind ... Older races only persist because there are people who cannot or will not move forward to a higher racial form.” — Rudolf Steiner, NATURE SPIRITS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1995), p. 69. A person who evolves properly -- a good black child or Jew, for instance — moves upward through racial forms: “By striving forward...he is drawn up from race to race to ever higher stages.” — Ibid.

“[E]ach person has the opportunity to become caught up in the essence of one incarnation...or instead to undergo the transformation into higher races, toward ever higher perfection. Races would never become decadent, never decline, if there weren’t souls that are unable to move up ... Look at the [lower] races...they only exist because some souls could not climb higher.” — Rudolf Steiner, DAS HEREINWIRKEN GEISTIGEN WESENHEITEN IN DEN MENSCHEN (Rudolf Steiner Verlag), p. 174. But good individuals do rise — according to Steiner, they reincarnate in higher and higher racial forms. So we should be good to them even when they are unfortunate enough to temporarily incarnate in low racial forms.

"That is why we must distinguish so carefully between soul evolution and racial evolution. The souls reappear in bodies belonging to higher races, while the bodies of the lower races die out." — Rudolf Steiner, THE SPIRITUAL FOUNDATION OF MORALITY (SteinerBooks, 1995), p. 30.

“As you know, we distinguish the Jews from the rest of the earth's population ... Look where you may, the Jews have a great gift for music ... The Jews have a great gift for materialism....” — Rudolf Steiner, FROM BEETROOT TO BUDDHISM (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1999), p. 59. Talk about backhanded compliments! But Steiner made his meaning plain. Here is the same quote with the omitted words included: "Look where you may, the Jews have a great gift for music and very little talent when it comes to sculpture, painting, and the like. The Jews have a great gift for materialism, but little recognition of the spiritual world, because out of the whole world beyond this earth they venerated only the moon [Jehovah's seat], really, and hardly knew that they did so any more. Jewish and Greek nature are complete opposites. The Greeks were mainly concentrating on sculpture and painting and architecture — at least as far as sculpture went. The Jews are the musical people, the priest nation where the inner life is essentially developed; and that is due to gifts originally developed in the womb.” — Ibid. Isn't this nice? Can't blame the Jews; they have certain gifts; extremely infantile, to be sure; but they didn't know what they were doing. (And by the way: I consider Steiner's statement as stereotyping Greeks just much as it stereotypes Jews. Greeks have certain racial qualities, Jews have other racial qualities: "Jewish and Greek nature are complete opposites." This is racism; this is deplorable, even when it seems complimentary.)

Certainly Anthroposophists can't blame sweet little black children or red children for being what they are: It is out of their hands. Here is an explanation by one of Steiner's adherents:

“[T]he most childlike and the most aged racial types — the Negro and Red Indian — are both of them, though in such different ways, the result of planetary forces working into the glandular system.” — George Adams Kaufmann, SOULS OF THE NATIONS, Being a Help to the Study of Rudolf Steiner's Lecture-Cycle (given at Oslo, Norway in 1910) THE MISSION OF THE FOLK SOULS in Connection with German and Scandinavian Mythology", (Anthroposophical Publishing Company, 1938), lecture 6.

Yes, the planets affect us in amazing ways:

“Venus and Jupiter work in the nervous system via the breathing and senses, producing respectively the Malayan racial type and the Caucasian or European racial type. The Greeks [are] under the Jupiter influence ... Mercury and Saturn work in the glandular system. Mercury is connected with the growth forces of the body, hence Mercury creates the Negro racial type. Saturn ossifies the glandular system and creates the Red Indian; hence his bony features.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE MISSION OF THE FOLK SOULS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2005), p. 16 - synopsis, lecture 6.

Races are affected by the mystic forces that focus in a particular part of the earth:

“[A] centre of cosmic influence [is] situated in the interior of Africa. At this centre are active all those terrestrial forces emanating from the soil which can influence man especially during his early childhood ... The locality where a man lives exercises its most potent influence in early childhood and thereby determines for their whole life those who are completely dependent on these forces, so that the particular locality impresses the characteristics of their early childhood permanently upon them. This is more or less typical of all those who, in respect of their racial character, are determined by the etheric formative forces of the Earth in the neighbourhood of that particular locality. The black or Negro race is substantially determined by these childhood characteristics.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE MISSION OF THE FOLK SOULS, p. 75.*

That last quote overlooks the possibility that a black child might be born and raised far from Africa. But of course Steiner opposed allowing races to go where they don't belong:

“On one side we find the black race, which is earthly at most. If it moves to the West, it becomes extinct. We also have the yellow race, which is in the middle between earth and the cosmos. If it moves to the East, it becomes brown, attaches itself too much to the cosmos, and becomes extinct. The white race is the future, the race that is creating spirit.” [VOM LEBEN DES MENSCHEN UND DER ERDE, p. 62.]

Or, as Steiner nicely put this on another occasion:

"The French are committing the terrible brutality of moving black people to Europe, but it works, in an even worse way, back on France. It has an enormous effect on the blood and the race and contributes considerably toward French decadence. The French as a race are reverting.” — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), pp. 558-559.

Oh, the poor little French children! Born into a "race" that is reverting! What could a good Waldorf teacher do to help a French tike? Well, s/he might try to prevent the child from speaking French: Here's how the above quotation begins:

“The use of the French language quite certainly corrupts the soul. The soul acquires nothing more than the possibility of clichés. Those who enthusiastically speak French transfer that to other languages. The French are also ruining what maintains their dead language, namely, their blood. The French are committing the terrible brutality of moving black people...." — Ibid.

I assume everyone is as sickened by all this as I am, so I will now desist.

— Roger Rawlings

* There are several such centers of cosmic influence. according to Steiner.

“Dr. Steiner...draws a line, shaped roughly like a horseshoe opening westward, connecting three or four important points, foci of cosmic influence in the configuration of our planet. These centres, as he indicates, are still existent, though we are no longer subject to them in the same intense degree. The first is in the interior of Africa; there work the forces which influence the human being most of all in early childhood. The race there formed impresses characteristics of early childhood upon the human being for his entire life. It is the black, the Ethiopian or Negro race.” — THE SOULS OF THE NATIONS, lecture 4,

Cosmic Colors

The walls of Waldorf classrooms are often painted

in varying attractive colors.

These colors are meant to have not just psychological

but also spiritual effects on the students.

[R.R., 2012.]

Rudolf Steiner taught that colors are vehicles for spirits to enter our world, and they reflect conditions in higher worlds, Steiner taught. Moreover, specific colors have specific effects on us, linked to the occult or astrological effects of the planets and stars.

“[B]lack. white, green and peach blossom have a quiescent effect ... In the three colors of red, yellow and blue there is an inner movement, a planetary quality. Something of the nature of the fixed stars is present in black, white, peach-blossom and green; something of the planets lives in yellow, red and blue.” — Rudolf Steiner, quoted in John Fletcher’s ART INSPIRED BY RUDOLF STEINER (Mercury Arts Publications, 1987), p. 132.

[R.R, sketch, 2010, based on one by Fletcher on p. 134.]

Waldorf students are taught to create colorful artworks

that presumably have deep spritual influences on them.

Here are comments by a former Waldorf parent:

"In kindergarten, my daughter painted sheets of wet watercolor paper that had the corners rounded off. At first, only single colors of yellow or blue were used. I thought this was odd and wondered why the children didn't paint images. I asked the teacher why they were only allowed one color and what the purpose for these 'paintings' was. She said it was Steiner's 'color theory' and that the children were developing their 'imagination.' After leaving the school, I learned from Anthroposophist Audrey McAllen that:

The colours which the child uses for the expression of the harmonious connection with his body before the change of teeth are blue and yellow; out of these colours the soul weaves its connection with the hereditary body and transforms it (McAllen, 1985, p. 44).

"In other words, painting a sheet of wet watercolor paper with yellow or with blue helps the reincarnating soul connect with the physical body. Later I noticed that children were painting 'discs' of color surrounded by a counter color — for example, a blue disc surrounded by red, or vise versa. Years later I was to learn that Steiner also offered his adult pupils meditative exercises that resembled my daughter's disc paintings. Disciples were to perform the following exercise seven times in the mornings:

Concept of a blue circular disc with red surrounding. Then transformation into a red disk with blue surround. Reconversion into the original state.

Do this seven consecutive times.

Conceive through inner observation how the thinking thereby becomes mobile and free in itself and ultimately is raised to a condition free from the body (Steiner, 1998b, p. 17).

"...I now think of the Waldorf color exercises in terms of mandalas and talismans ... I have since learned from Chassidic Rabbi Yonassan Gershom that the Waldorf paintings represent 'the creative energy of higher spiritual worlds.'

My mind raced back to my first impression of the children's artwork at the Waldorf school in Minneapolis. Nobody was drawing houses, horses, cars and trucks — the usual things children make in primary school art class. Instead, the walls were covered with artwork that was literally fuzzy around the edges, without clearly defined forms and boundaries. To me, all the children's paintings looked alike. I saw no individuality in them at all. So what was going on here? I later spoke at the Goetheanum, the Anthroposophist headquarters in Dornach Switzerland, where I saw the artwork on the walls was also done in the same abstract swirls of pastel colors. This, I was told, is because the paintings represent the creative energy of higher spiritual worlds. Clearly the Anthroposophists have been conditioned from childhood to "see" these swirling colors as representing something spiritual. (Gershom, 1997, May,, p. 6).

"Steiner taught that color is the living organ of spiritual beings and that color can heal — a concept I was not familiar with until reading about Anthroposophy and consulting other occult sources. Steiner said that beings come to earth on the wings of color ... Waldorf proponent Mary C. Richards wrote, 'Art is taught, not to make children into artists, but to expose them to the healing influence of color' (Richards, 1980, p. 26)."

— Sharon Lombard, "Spotlight on Anthroposophy"

Waldorf student paintings

courtesy of People for Legal and Nonsectarian Schools.

(The originals presumably had rounded corners.)


Late in August, 2009, Cathy Balme posted the following message

in an online discussion. I was impressed by it and asked her

for permission to reprint it here. She kindly consented.

The original message was posted at

As far as I can see, the way Anthroposophists view race isn't in line with anyone's opinion I know. A Steiner teacher on a blog recently couldn't see (refused to see?) the racism in what was to others quite a racist quote from Steiner. The way children are dealt with, using an Anthroposophical model, is deep in the schools. Who can intuit when or who may use Steiner’s spiritual racial hierarchies? His writing is used as some kind of sacred text at the best of times; even the Woods Report for the DES commented on how Waldorf teachers often don't stray from referring to Steiner at every opportunity.

I read an Anthroposophist about a year ago, advising teachers to take into account a child's temperament, and I'm fairly sure he also said race, when dealing with children (I think it's been taken from the Internet or I'd link to it).

I don't know if our children with their Jewish/Asian roots were treated in a particular way according to some Anthroposophical law (our youngest was certainly "encouraged" to change her left-handedness.) Some of what happened was scandalous, and all roads led to Anthroposophical "indications" as far as I could see.

If Anthroposophists and teachers reject Steiner on race, they have to then make choices about it all: do you leave in trolls, or simply gnomes? Mars, Jupiter — or start at Atlantis and Lemuria and forget the extraterrestrial bit? Dinosaurs evolving simultaneously with man? Steiner's race beliefs are included in some books used for teacher training, I think. Waldorf teachers surely have been taught a bit of it before they attend the in-depth study groups later, haven't they?

The thing is, Steiner's race beliefs, how central they are to his model of reincarnation, makes fairly uncomfortable reading. There were some discussions last year on the waldorf-critics list that were fairly conclusive about Steiner's meaning, how race and skin colour play a central role in rising spiritually; Stephen Clark, the Anthroposophist, discussed this in a dignified way, examined Steiner's work, and said some quite damning things about his fellow Anthros, if I remember.

Recently I heard an Anthroposophist talking about their beliefs in a free, unguarded way; it left me reeling. He touched on many subjects, Steiner's "truths" about a host of things; I found it disquieting, to put it mildly; it's one thing to discuss Steiner's work and beliefs here, but to stand next to someone who truly believes this stuff is another matter; if I hadn't known much of it I would have said he was distinctly unbalanced, but in retrospect I realised that the only difference between him and, say, our children's teachers, was that they have the presence of mind to be restrained. Among the disturbing things he talked about was race; he said Steiner's views about races and skin colour were just facts, observances, not racist at all.

Anthroposophists think it so unfair for us to analyze their beliefs; unfair that their beliefs are deconstructed and the magic wrenched from them; unfair that by spotlighting the offensive, it somehow negates all the lovely things Steiner said. Steiner's offensive statements on race (right up until the end of his life. too) throw into doubt his more pleasing, acceptable ones. His audiences were variable, his lectures differed from his books.

I don't think there's "hate" against Anthroposophy in our discussions here. Isn't it funny how that word slips so easily from Anthros' mouths? "Hate' and "evil" and "materialistic." Does it make Steiner's world seem better to them, when they say the outside world is so filled with venom? There's outrage from parents who've read Steiner and realised they've been deceived, and there's a need to put what's ethically right in place; people should know about Anthroposophy. Parents should be told.

Anthroposophists aren't special; who cares that they believe in Atlantis, karma, reincarnation, spirits, trolls, angels, and devils? Who wants to step on their path of initiation, with its impulses and essences? That's their affair. But they have no right to use this supernatural hokum secretly on children or people with learning difficulties.

Until they are truthful about Anthroposophic belief, and until they lift their heads from the mire of denial about race, those of us who have read Steiner owe it to other parents to suggest they find out about it, too. No one's making this up, it's there, in Steiner's writing. As a parent, shouldn't one know what the teachers who have care and influence over your children are trained in and using in the classroom? Isn't this right?


More items from the Waldorf Watch News.


Here is a message posted at the Waldorf Critics

discussion list on November 8, 2012,

by Peter Staudenmaier


I can't recall this dissertation being discussed here before; I've been recommending it to prospective Waldorf parents who contact me, but I don't find references to it in the list archives. I think it will be of interest to Waldorf critics and admirers alike.

Sarah Whedon, "Hands, Hearts, and Heads: Childhood and Esotericism in American Waldorf Education" (PhD dissertation, University of California, Santa Barbara, 2007)...

Among other things, she points out that "Waldorf parents frequently feel that they are being misled, tricked, left out, or left in the dark with what they perceive to be the secrets of Waldorf education's true basis." (169)

Here is the dissertation abstract:

Waldorf education is a rapidly growing alternative pedagogical system based on anthroposophy, the esoteric teachings of Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925). This dissertation combines historical and ethnographic methods in a close study of two American Waldorf schools, The Waldorf School of the Finger Lakes (WSOFL) and the Waldorf School of Santa Barbara (WSOSB). The work seeks to fill a gap in scholarly work on Waldorf education and anthroposophy. It demonstrates that esotericism is not limited to the realm of texts but that Western esoteric traditions have had an impact on the physical, the practiced, and the practical. More important, it argues that children matter deeply for the making of religious and cultural worlds. In Waldorf schools, children, adults, and texts cooperate and compete to construct each other and to make worlds of meaning, both those in which they are immersed and those that transcend them.

In interviews with Waldorf participants, in archival materials, and in published Waldorf texts, key concepts cluster around notions of innocence, motherhood, nature, and secrecy. However, none of these concepts is static. Their precise meaning and value are always contested. Parents and teachers struggle to understand each other, to reach agreement, and to live up to the ideals of Waldorf education. Children differ from adults, sometimes consciously resisting their ideals, sometimes resisting out of ignorance, and often agreeing for different reasons than do the adults. Whereas Waldorf teachers seek to protect children's innocence, children often seek ways to grow faster; whereas teachers see moral and spiritual value in nature education, children find pleasure; and whereas teachers look to Steiner's teachings as the basis for all significant choices, children often do not know who he is. The project demonstrates the importance of children's roles in constructing religious meaning in Waldorf education as well as the need for greater scholarly attention to children.


Here are excerpts from a report

posted in early November, 2012.


What Every Parent Should Know

About Steiner-Waldorf Schools

November 2, 2012

By Andy Lewis

The Steiner School Time Bomb Ticking Under Government

You may know my feelings about Steiner/Waldorf Schools. Most importantly, that prospective parents are not being told about the occult foundations of the Steiner philosophy. You may think that the mystical, spiritual and esoteric movement behind Steiner schools might be a very important factor in deciding whether your children should attend such a school. But the schools obviously do not. Informed choice is not possible when you do not understand the school’s underlying philosophy.

...So, let me recount my concerns. You may then come to your own conclusions.

The Core Beliefs of Anthroposophy and Spiritual Science

...Anthroposophy blended ideas from astrology, spiritualism, Rosicruciansim, Christian mysticism and other gnostic and esoteric sources, to create a cosmology based on Steiner’s readings of the ‘Akashic Records’ – the cosmic history of the past and the future that exists on a spiritual plane and available to the few through meditation and clairvoyance. Thus was born Steiner’s Spiritual Science – his belief that ordinary science was really just a capability to be able to “spell”, but to be able to “read” one had to have knowledge of higher spiritual existences. Without such knowledge, we cannot fulfill our potential as fully spiritual beings.

...In order to understand Anthroposophy and Spiritual Science, we need to understand the core and basic concepts of Steiner’s world view. Steiner saw the purpose of Anthroposophy was “spiritual advancement through karma and reincarnation, supplemented by the access to esoteric knowledge available to a privileged few.” It is worth remembering that sentence as it is absolutely vital in understanding Steiner-Waldorf Schools.

Steiner-Waldorf Educational Philosophy

...It is worth looking at how the newly approved state funded Steiner School in Frome presents itself.

The education is based on an understanding that the young child learns primarily through imitation and doing; the pre-pubescent child largely through their emotions and feelings; older students primarily through abstract thinking and the application of cognitive skills.

The curriculum is interdisciplinary, integrating practical, artistic, and conceptual elements and is designed to be in harmony with the developmental needs of children. Learning materials are introduced at the moment of maximum pupil readiness rather than at the earliest opportunity. This allows pupils at all stages to be at ease both with their education and with the pace at which they are taught. This notion of child development is central to Steiner education and draws on Dr Steiner’s work on child development. The school, however, will neither promote nor teach the wider philosophy which is known as “anthroposophy.”

There is no mention on the site about the nature of ‘Dr Steiner’s work on child development’. Indeed, Steiner education is presented as a progressive, child-centred education based on an understanding of child development (What school would say they do not adopt such an ethos?). But this would only be true if you accept that childhood is a process of stages of spiritual incarnation. Whilst it is true that schools do not explicitly teach anthroposophy, their entire curriculum is guided by Spiritual Science...

Steiner was very clear about why delayed reading was a good idea – not because older children can learn to read better, but because memorising and reading interfered with the incarnation of the etheric body. It could damage a spiritual protective sheath around the child leading to illness and spiritual degeneration ’Developmental needs’ in the Steiner world are to do with the incarnation of spiritual entities. Only after adult teeth have appeared is a child spiritually ready to learn to read.

...Similar spiritual reasons lie behind Steiner Schools rejection of technology, computers and television watching. Such devices are embodiments of the evil spirit of Ahriman and can interfere with a child’s development. Steiner schools must be unique in their goals of actively trying to prevent children from learning. Parents are told not to read with them at home and to limit access to technology.

Schools portray themselves as “focussing on the wellbeing of the whole child” and ”nurturing his or her creativity”. Again we must see what they mean by ‘whole child’ as being a reference to their incarnaing souls. Pupils undergo daily dance sessions called ‘eurythmy’, a type of stylised dance invented by Steiner where movements have spiritual significance and purpose. Dances help the child’s spirits develop. Art is practiced too, but in a highly restrictive manner where paper must have rounded corners and with restricted media and colours, such as washes and waxes. Again such media have spiritual significance. A parent wrote about surviving a Steiner School and show how restrictive such a regime can be,

My daughter cried at bedtime and in the mornings as she vehemently resisted going to school. When her accumulated wet-on-wet “artwork” came home, I was aware that, unlike her prolific creative drawing done at home, at school the self expression we had anticipated was actually being frustratingly suppressed.

As for ‘individual needs’, children are treated and taught according to a temperament, such as Melancholic, Sanguine, Phlegmatic or Choleric – a classification assigned to children based on their physical and behavioural characteristics. Steiner saw physical appearance and colour as determinants.

...Until a few years ago, you could get a BA in Steiner Waldorf Education from Plymouth University. It was never clear why the University chose to axe the course, but Canterbury Christ Church University is picking up and filling the market gap. We can see from their required reading list what a prospective Steiner teacher was required to learn.

Far from Steiner’s views being seen as a historical anachronism, the text books are full of unreformed anthroposophical views on the world. The text books I have got hold of teach that the heart is not a pump but is forced to beat by the pulsing blood that is forced around the body by the spirit. We learn that humans are bipedal because it frees the arms to pray. Anatomy is treated as a spiritual subject and not a science. The British Humanist Association notes that the source of the curriculum at Hereford state funded Steiner schools is acknowledged to be based on a book by Martyn Rawson and Tobias Richter which teaches that Darwinism “is rooted in reductionist thinking and Victorian ethics and young people need to emerge from school with a clear sense of its limits”. Homeopathy, a most egregious form of quackery, is ‘a good example of an effect that cannot be explained by the dominant [atomic] model’. It is worth noting that Steiner stated that the British Isles floated on the sea held in place by cosmic forces. And he believed in the historical truth of the vanished continent of Atlantis....



Building Waldorf School Communities

(Association of Waldorf Schools of North America, 2012),

Waldorf graduate Christopher Schaefer

suggests approaches

for creating healthy Waldorf communities.

From, here is the beginning of a review of


Bringing Social Health to Waldorf Schools

By: John Miller

I’m always amazed at how children flourish in Waldorf schools. I’m often equally astounded (and dismayed) at the dysfunctional dynamics amongst adults — faculty, staff, administrators, and parents — in these schools. Out of his many decades of work with Waldorf schools and other organizations, Christopher Schaefer describes how we can become social artists, flourishing within nurturing communities of mutual destiny. What a wonderful challenge! And what a daunting one.


Waldorf Watch Response:

Whether children “flourish” in Waldorf schools is, perhaps, questionable. At least some children have quite awful Waldorf experiences. [See, e.g., “Slaps”.] And all children at Waldorf schools are potentially in danger of being indoctrinated in a harmful, occult faith. [See "Indoctrination".]

But whatever happens to kids in Waldorf schools, it is certainly true that there is often strife and discord among the adults who populate Waldorf-centered communities. This is virtually inevitable when a social movement is based on occult doctrines that many adults cannot possibly embrace and that have no connection to reality.

To get a feel for the “dysfunctional dynamics amongst these schools,” you might look at the reports in the “Ex-Teacher” series of reports at Waldorf Watch, along with “Moms” and “Pops”.

One former Waldorf teacher has written this, for example:

"When Waldorf teachers work together the external opposing forces [i.e., opponents of Waldorf education and/or Anthroposophy] can be resisted effectively, if not defeated. Bitter experience has taught me, however, that these periods of well-being do not last, and that when things go bad [at a Waldorf school] they do so from the inside ... Since there is a tendency for anthroposophy to bring out the very best and the very worst in people, the deviations from the norm are greater than usual, and this only compounds the problems of making good decisions and keeping the school on course ... Waldorf communities make very convenient homes for loose cannons ... I remember several occasions when the work of the College [1] ground to a halt for weeks or even months because of implacable bees in the bonnets of one or two members. I remember other occasions when good people left the school because they couldn’t stand it any more.” [See “His Education”.]

Another former Waldorf teacher has reported,

“Anthroposophy is an apocalyptic philosophy, and anthroposophists are quite consciously preparing the groundwork for the incarnation of Ahriman [2], for the development of Sorat [3] and accompanying demonic entities, for the far-future war of All Against All [4], etc. And Steiner's New Jerusalem can't come about without spiritual conflict ... [T]his is why that typical, never-ending community conflict dynamic in a Waldorf school is accepted and intellectualized away as necessarily preferable to happy, healthy and balanced (normal) human interaction. Conflict is a particular type of ecstatic union: the spiritual feast. I witnessed many teachers who literally went out of their way to create issues if it happened to be too slow a month, problem-wise ... [A]nthroposophists welcome and allow themselves and others to be chewed up, swallowed and processed via conflict, which is why for instance a teacher who is approaching emotional and psychic breakdown status is still supported by his/her colleagues and allowed to teach.” [See “Ex-Teacher 7”.]

Here is another report, relaying a Waldorf teacher’s personal experience when she underwent an inquisition in a parent-teacher meeting:

“The tension in the room was not just thick, it was stifling. Someone unaccustomed to the thickness of Trembling Trees [5] would have been gagging from the tension but we all had learned to breathe in this environment by now ... I clutched my pen as I took notes trying to keep my throat from closing in ... I listened as they talked about who left, like [student] #20 and why. Someone brought up another girl who was in my class briefly. She was a charity case from the beginning but due to family problems had to leave the school. I couldn’t believe I was about to be blamed for this one too ...[D]espite how humiliated I felt, how out of control the whole meeting seemed and useless, very useless unless the point was to dance on my grave as if I were dead. But then the pivotal moment occurred, when 14’s mom nonchalantly said, ‘I don’t think Lani cares.’ My face slid off. I lost it. I lost it. I began to cry and the harder I tried to hold it like a child holding her breath, the more helplessly I sobbed ...The next day #1’s mom came up to me [and said] ‘I heard about the meeting yesterday. Sorry we couldn’t make it ... But I heard that people were happy to see you cry ... [I]t showed that you care.’” [See “Ex-Teacher 2”.]

A former Waldorf board member has written the following:

“My first board meeting included a faculty grilling re: sexual preference, directed at a young gay teacher. She was afraid to say she was gay. I was blown away. I kept saying, ‘This is a violation of her civil rights. We cannot ask these questions’ ... I learned regular rules do not apply in Waldorf schools. Anthroposophy is more important than individual rights, laws, or common truths ... The healthy teachers were eventually run out and the ill ones took over hiring ... There was deceit everywhere. In the books. The financial statements were literally made up and had nothing to do with the true financial picture of the school. The Administrator was sleeping with the bookkeeper. Unpaid payroll taxes, marked as paid, were seized from our bank account without warning ... The school was like a train headed straight for the cliff and the faculty appeared to be worried only about how the table in the dining car was set ... During this crazy time, I used to watch the Waldorf teachers at parent gatherings ... The teachers would stand on the stage with their arms around each other, singing songs in rounds, while parents beamed. 'How lucky we are to have this school,' was the mantra. Personally I was amazed by the teachers' performance as they presented a 'real' sense of unity between them. Amazed because behind closed doors, they were all backstabbers. Seemingly insecure people competing for the top position on the Anthroposophical dog pile. It was never pretty. There was a lot of acting out, both blatant and passive (aggressive). I thought it was just this school, these teachers at the time. Now I think it comes out of some very deep flaws that Anthroposophy is incapable of dealing with. At least so far. Board meetings were always exhausting because you could cut the tension between the teachers with a knife. Words were always so carefully chosen but what was being left unsaid screamed way louder than what was actually being said.” [See “Coming Undone”.]

Of course, not all Waldorf schools constantly teeter on the brink of chaos. Conflict and deceit are not always paramount. But these problems are sufficiently widespread in the Waldorf movement that even proponents of Waldorf schooling sometimes acknowledge “the dysfunctional dynamics amongst these schools” — as we see today at


Footnotes added by Roger Rawlings

[1] The central governing body in a Waldorf school is often called the College of Teachers. (One of the purposes of this “college” is to organize study of Rudolf Steiner’s works by the faculty.)

[2] Ahriman is one of the arch-demons in Anthroposophical doctrine. [See “Ahriman”.]

[3] Sorat is the Antichrist. [See “Evil Ones”.]

[4] Rudolf Steiner forecast a apocalyptical war, the War of All Against All. [See “All v. All”.]

[5] This is a name invented by the teacher to disguised the Waldorf school where she worked.

If you visit a Waldorf school,

you will likely encounter at least a few Anthroposophists.

How can you have productive conversations with them?

For a few pointers, see "Conversing with Anthroposophists".