Clearing House

Waldorf teachers often slip Anthroposophical beliefs into the material they prepare for their students. When Waldorf teachers compose poems to use in class, or little skits for their students to perform, or indeed lesson plans on virtually any subject, the results are often distinctly Anthroposophical. Children whose studies entail such materials often wind up learning bits of Anthroposophical doctrine in the process.

Here are some examples, taken from the Waldorf Clearing House Newsletter. Although somewhat dated, the Newsletter is a particularly revealing source: It consists of items written by Waldorf teachers for Waldorf teachers. These are internal communications, in other words, written with more candor than when Waldorf teachers write for the public. In the Newsletter, guards have been lowered. A typical item presents something a Waldorf teacher has developed which s/he now offers for other Waldorf teachers to use.

The Waldorf Clearing House Newsletter was published from the later 1960’s through the late 1980’s. But issues of the Newsletter are online today, posted for the guidance of Waldorf teachers today. [See “Waldorf Clearing House Newsletter Archive” at the Online Waldorf Library.] In other words, the items I am about to quote are very much alive today. After all, things change with glacial slowness in the Waldorf universe. Waldorf education is, in a sense, timeless: It exists within the elaborate structure of the fantasies that constitute Anthroposophy. These fantasies ultimately derive from Rudolf Steiner’s preachments, delivered nearly a century ago, which his followers generally embrace as transcendent, unchanging truths. 

It is precisely these “truths” that Waldorf teachers often slip to their students in such materials as you will find below. I will quote directly from various issues of the Newsletter, and I will add commentary to help explicate the Anthroposophical content of these items.

— Roger Rawlings

November, 2014

(The newsletter was a black-and-white publication;

I have added color to this reproduction of the masthead. — RR)

A Michaelmas play for second graders 
Waldorf Clearing House Newsletter / 
Fall, 1976 [1]

A golden-haired princess ia about to be sacrificed to a terrible dragon:

The princess looked upwards to the sun [2]

And begged: "Ah, send to me someone

Who this fearful beast can slay

And save me and my folk; this I pray." [3]

Then from out of the clouds it seemed

A white horse sprang which glistened and gleamed,

And on the horse sitting straight and bold

A knight with sword of brightest gold. [4]

"Fear not, maiden, your prayer is heard

Michael am I, guardian of the highest Word. [5]

O dread dragon, with this sword of light

I can conquer you in a single fight...."

"Ah, Michael, [the dragon replies] conqueror from on high

If I may live, then shall I try

To serve the princess as best I can

And with her every woman and man....” [6]

"I, Michael [Michael says to the princess], light guardian of this day

This dark dragon could easily slay;

But rather let him with you dwell

For he has promised to serve you well.

I take my leave now from this land

But if you ever need my mighty hand

Turn your gaze up to the Sun

and pray for help, and it will come." [7]

— Virginia Sease

[1] Michaelmas is a religious observance, the mass or feast of the archangel St. Michael. Such religious observances are often celebrated in Waldorf schools, despite the claim usually made by the schools that they are nonsectarian and nondenominational. In fact, Waldorf schools are Anthroposophical religious institutions. [See, e.g., "Schools as Churches".]

[2] The Sun, in Anthroposophical belief, is the home of Christ, the Sun God, and Michael, the Sun Archangel. Anthroposophy depicts Michael battling the foes of Christ, especially the arch-demon Ahriman, who is often portrayed as a dragon. Implicitly, Micahel's confrontation with Ahriman is the theme of this poem. [For more on some of these matters, see "Sun God", "Michael", and "Ahriman".]

[3] The princess prays to the Sun and its resident spirits.

Note that the princess seeks salvation not just for herself but for her "folk." In Anthroposophy, "folk" is a powerful term, denoting a large human grouping (a people, a nation, a race...) that has its own "folk soul" (a presiding god) and its own "folk mission" (a spiritual task). [See, e.g., Steiner's book THE MISSION OF THE FOLK SOULS.] In this poem, salvation is extended to "every woman and man."

Waldorf students are unlikely to be told outright that Christ is the Sun God, Michael is the Sun Archangel, and each individual soul is involved in a folk soul, but the use of Anthroposophical images and terminology, repeated over and over, will implant such ideas at an subconscious level or at least sensitize children to the Anthroposophical worldview.

[4] Good is associated with gold and light; evil with darkness. Note the words “Sun,” “gold,” “white,” “light”... Cf. “dark dragon.” These are standard depictions of right and wrong, but in Anthroposophy they have added meaning due to Steiner’s racial teachings. [See, e.g., "Steiner's Racism" and "White-Black".]

[5] The "highest Word," in Anthroposophical gnostic teachings, is Christ, the living embodiment of the Word of God. [See, e.g., "Gnosis".]

[6] According to Anthroposophical belief, Christ and Michael subdue Lucifer and Ahriman, interposing with them so that their temptations become useful gifts. Here, the dragon (Ahriman) agrees to serve humankind.

[7] Again, prayers to the Sun will be answered, the children are told.

An autumn poem for preschoolers 

Waldorf Clearing House Newsletter / 

Spring 1978


Now  comes the fall, now comes the fall

Summertime has left us all. [1]

Sunshine paints the apples red,

Golden grains have ripened for bread.

Apples, pears, and grapes so sweet,

Nuts and plums and precious wheat;

Heavenly gifts for everyone, [2]

Gather them! Thanks to earth and sun. [3]

With scented flowers of every shade

We greet you, Michael, with your blade. [4]

Now  comes the fall, now comes the fall

Summertime has left us all.

See the dragon slinking in mist [5]

The flaming sword in Michael's fist. [6]

With Michael's sword of flaming rays,

Banish the dragon and limit his ways. [7]

— Mrs. Hari and Mrs. Christen,

translated by Elisabeth Haas

[1] The poem begins quite innocuously; the first several stanzas present a conventional paean to an autumn harvest. A musical score is provided in the Newsletter so that the children can sing the poem.

[2] The poem becomes tinged with religious sentiment, here, although it remains essentially nonsectarian.

[3] In Anthroposophical belief, the Earth and Sun (like all planets and stars) are alive. Many Waldorf prayers and hymns are directed to the Earth, Sun, etc. Implicitly, the prayers go to the gods of these spheres, something that the students may or may not be told.

[4] Suddenly, startlingly, the focus of the poem shifts to the archangel Michael and his battle with the dragon Ahriman. (Michael's "blade" is his sword, as become clear later.) The children present Michael with an offering, a bouquet ("With scented flowers of every shade/We greet you, Michael...").

[5] Here the "dragon" is explicitly mentioned. Whether the children are told that the dragon is Ahriman will depend on the decisions taken by individual teachers. Note that the poem or song is identified as a "play" — the children presumably can act out the confrontation of Michael and the dragon.

[6] Michael's "blade" is shown to be a sword — the "flaming" sword with which he fights the dragon. The flames — called "flaming rays" in the next stanza — are spiritual powers or wisdom.

[7] Some Anthroposophical texts speak of taming Ahriman and his fellow arch-demon, Lucifer. In such texts, Ahriman and Lucifer are depicted as ultimately aiding humanity. In other texts, however, these demons are portrayed as irredeemably evil, and the only way for us to cope with them is to defeat and banish them. This poem expresses the latter perspective.

To get the full import and impact of a poem such as this, you should imagine preschool children — kids four, five, or six years old — reciting the poem and, perhaps, acting it out.

A science lesson for sixth graders 
/ Waldorf Clearing House Newsletter / 
Spring 1975

Genuine science is inextricably bound up with rationality — you observe phenomena, rationally deduce an explanation for them (that is, you frame an hypothesis), and then you test your explanation (you conduct experiments that confirm or disprove your hypothesis). Among the great difficulties in all this from a Waldorf perspective is the Anthroposophical aversion to rational, abstract thought. [See, e.g., "Steiner's Specific" and "Thinking".] A Waldorf "science" class will often be structured in such a way as to deflect students from making abstract or rational deductions. Thus, for instance, a Waldorf teacher describing a class he taught about acoustics injects this important note:

No emphasis was given to any theoretical explanations which would only lead the children into speculations of a more abstract nature. This is, of course, the danger that lurks in all popular books on acoustics [or science generally] and must be properly recognized.

— Helmut Krause

The ultimate objective of any Waldorf class, including a science class, is not to learn an academic subject but to absorb of Anthroposophical religious precept.

In all of this the children can experience a cosmic harmony manifesting itself.

— Ibid.

Overall, Waldorf science courses lead the students to embrace "Goethean" science rather that genuine, mainstream science. [See "Steiner's 'Science'" and "Goethe".] As for whether math or science courses can be made religious, Steiner said that of course they can: 

"It is possible to introduce a religious element into every subject, even into math lessons. Anyone who has some knowledge of Waldorf teaching will know that this statement is true." — Rudolf Steiner, THE CHILD's CHANGING CONSCIOUSNESS AS THE BASIS OF PEDAGOGICAL PRACTICE (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 94.

A poem for third graders 
/ Waldorf Clearing House Newsletter / 
Spring 1977

The earth is the home of all men, 

Its ceiling the blue sky above.

Its floor is the ground on which we walk

Upheld by a selfless love. [1]

The sun warms our home in the daytime,

the moon and stars by night,

And over it all with great wisdom

God rules with lawful might. [2]

And out of this home, with heaven’s help, [3]

From water, fire, air, and earth, [4]

Is fashioned a house for each soul [5]

To dwell in from the time of birth.

The heart is the sun which warms man’s house [6]

The stars are the light in his mind, [7]

And when in his deeds there is warmth and light

Then God finds a home in mankind. [8]

— Mel Belenson

[1] The prosaic picture painted up to this point is suddenly augmented by a religious conception: The world is “upheld” by divine love (implicitly Christ’s selfless, self-sacrificing love — in Anthroposophic belief, Christ imbued the Earth with his spirit when his blood flowed into the soil during Christ’s self-sacrificing Crucifixion).

[2] Again, the prosaic suddenly gives way to the religious. In Waldorf schools, religion (i.e., Anthroposophy) is present in virtually all classes and activities — sometimes directly, more usually indirectly.

[3] Religious/Anthroposophical beiefs become more prominent from this point on.

[4] Anthroposophy affirms the ancient belief that there are really just four fundamental elements: water, fire, air, and earth.

[5] Calling people “souls” is a common practice, so it may not suggest any particular religious teaching. In a poem such as this, however, terms of this sort become loaded.

[6] In Anthroposophy, the Sun and the heart are often identified with one another. Metaphorically, your heart is the warming “sun” in your breast. By implication, literally, you take the Sun into your heart  when you accept Christ, the Sun God. This poem does not teach the children this literal meaning, but it brings the children to the theshold of such ideas. (Note that the “house” referred to here is, in effect, the physical body.)

[7] Metaphorically, starlight is akin to wisdom, providing light in the darkness. Literally, in Anthroposophy, the stars are homes of the gods, and the wisdom of the gods is beamed down to Earth through astrological influences. This poem does not teach the children this literal meaning, but it brings the children to the theshold of such ideas.

[8] God becomes manifest, or is literally incarnated, on Earth when a human being has the Sun’s warmth in his heart and the stars’ wisdom in his mind. This is a literal Anthroposophic teaching, stated clearly for the children.

A prayer for teachers to give to parents of young children
 / Waldorf Clearing House Newsletter / 
Spring 1978

This does not really fit our theme: It is not an item written by a Waldorf teacher. It was written, rather, by the teacher of Waldorf teachers: Rudolf Steiner. Still, this prayer appears in an issue of the Newsletter, and as such we should take note of it.

Waldorf teachers, in accordance with guidance given by Rudolf Steiner, tend to think that they should direct the spiritual lives of all the families associated with their schools. Indeed, they tend to think that they should exert influence in all areas of life for those families. [See, e.g., "Discussions".]

The following is a prayer Waldorf teachers think parents and children should recite together each evening:

(for the parent, to say it with the child after age three)

From my head to my feet I'm the image of God. [1]
From my heart to my hands, His own breath do I feel. [2]
When I speak with my mouth I shall follow God's will [3]
When I see and know God In Father and Mother [4]
In all loving people, in beats [sic: beast] and flower, in trees, plants, and stones, [5]
Then no fear shall I feel, only love then fills me for all that is around me. [6]

— Rudolf Steiner

[1] In Anthroposophical belief, human beings are not simply made in the image of God, we are the ultimate, central embodiment of divine will in the cosmos. The entire universe was created for us, and we stand at the center of creation — at the center of the attention, as it were, of the multitudinous gods. [See, e.g., "The Center".]

[2] Steiner taught that Christ is our "prototype": Christ came down from the Sun and, incarnating in a human body, He became the model for proper human evolution. The power of divine will flowed through Christ just as it can flow through us; God's "breath" becomes our own respiration. (Note that in Anthroposophy, references to "God" are in some ways merely metaphorical. Anthroposophy is polytheistic, recognizing legions of gods in nine ranks. [See "Polytheism".])

[3] That is, we should speak only in order to voice pure, godly thoughts. Steiner taught that our words and indeed our thoughts create spiritual realities. In this sense, he taught that the larynx will supplant the womb as the organ of creation. [See, e.g., "Knowing the Worlds".]

[4] "God" — or divinity, or living spirit — suffuses everything. Children can find God in their parents — an idea that may please most parents — as well as in everything else. The Bible enjoins us to honor our parents, and in a sense this is what Steiner means here.

[5] Anthroposophy is animistic — it deems essentially everything to be alive, at one level or another. Even stones are alive.

[6] Anthroposophy attaches great importance to various terms that almost invariably elicit our approval: "love," "freedom," etc. We need to realize, however, that what Anthroposophists mean by such terms may be quite different from ordinary definitions. Thus, Steiner taught that love is the repayment of karmic debt: If you harm someone in one lifetime, then during your next incarnation you must atone by "loving" that person. [See, e.g., "Love and the Universal Human".] The Anthroposophical conception of freedom is similarly peculiar. [See "Freedom".]

An Advent Poem 
Waldorf Clearing House Newsletter / 
Fall 1981

(At the lighting of the Advent Wreath candles) [1]

Shine little light
And show us the way
To the bright, bright light
Of Christmas Day. [2]

— Helen St. John

[1] Many "seasonal festivals" are celebrated in Waldorf schools. [See "Magical Arts".] These are usually described as nondenominational, nonsectarian events — they are given such names as "Fall Fair" and "Spring Fair". But actually, just slightly below the surface, they are religious observances. We have already seen a play to be performed in celebration of Michaelmas (the mass of St. Michael). Here we see an Advent poem — that is, a poem celebrating the first festival of the church year, the four weeks leading up to Christmas. In Western countries, Christmas has virtually become an all-inclusive, nonreligious holiday. But Advent is distinctly religious, and any school that celebrates Advent is engaged in a religious observance. At Waldorf schools, this observance includes such things as singing hymns, reciting prayers, lighting candles on Advents wreaths, and walking Advent spirals. [See "My Life Among the Anthroposophists".]

[2] Few parents in Western countries will object if a Waldorf school makes Christmas a major event in the school year, and not many parents would see much harm in a sweet little poem like this. But we should recognize that Christmas at a Waldorf school is different from Christmas almost anywhere else — it is neither a secular holiday nor a mainstream Christian observance. The Christ worshipped in Anthroposophy is the Sun God, and Jesus is one of two human beings who merged to become the host for the Sun God when He incarnated on Earth. [See "Was He Christian?"] How much Anthroposophical doctrine is conveyed to Waldorf students will vary from school to school and from teacher to teacher. [For more on Christmas in Waldorf, see "Christmas".] But when Waldorf schools emphasize festivals like Michaelmas and Advent, parents should make sure they understand what is going on, and they should ask themselves whether they approve.

Study of a legend in eleventh grade 
Waldorf Clearing House Newsletter / 
Spring, 1974

The story of the knight Parsifal (or Parzival, or Perceval) and his quest for the Holy Grail is one of the legends deemed virtually sacred in the Waldorf belief system. [See "He Went to Waldorf".] Sometimes an entire course at a Waldorf school is devoted to studying the Parsifal legend. Students are likely to be exposed to the legend in lower school and then directed back to it in high school. As interpreted by Steiner's followers, the Parsifal legend embodies basic Anthroposophical beliefs. True-believing Waldorf teachers will find ways to at least hint at these beliefs when the legend is told and retold within the school. 

The teacher of the Parsifal course [in 11th grade] asks himself many questions [1] ... The course in some ways seems to answer the developments which arise in the students midway through the third of the seven-year periods [2] ... The curriculum in this year seems to be building a bridge between earth and heaven [3], and bring with it a new kind of reality, less tangible but no less real: electricity, radioactivity, the plant cell, the stars, the Grail. Where is reality? [4] ... The students who have come up with us from the lower schools are glad to have [the] story again. [5]

— Elizabeth Nobbs

Steiner said that the Holy Grail signifies the ancient “Mysteries” (i.e., occult knowledge) hidden within Christianity. The search for the Grail thus 
becomes the search for the occult meaning of Christianity, which Anthroposophists believe is to be found in Anthroposophy itself. A Waldorf teacher leading older students in a study of the Parsifal/Grail legend feels a heavy responsibility indeed. The course may lead students to the very threshold of Anthroposophy proper.

[2] Anthroposophists believe that children develop through three seven-year-long periods, at the end of which various invisible bodies incarnate. The etheric body incarnates at age seven, the astral body at age fourteen, and the spiritual "I" at age twenty-one. [See "Incarnation" and "Most Significant".] Built into this vision is the proposition that all children of a particular age stand at essentially the same level of development. The Waldorf curriculum is meant to address the needs of students at each stage of this lock-step developmental schedule. Thus, this course is geared toward "developments which arise in the students midway through the third of the seven-year periods."

[3] The self-assigned religious/spiritual mission of Waldorf teachers makes itself apparent here. True-believing Waldorf teachers think they occupy a priestly station, shepherding students toward heaven, i.e., the spirit realm as conceived in Anthroposophy. [See "Schools as Churches" "Spiritual Agenda".]

[4] The "new kind of reality" conveyed in such a course — not so new to longtime Waldorf students — is Anthroposophical reality: mystical, mythic, metaphysical. "Where is reality?" In a Waldorf school, reality does not reside in the phenomena of the physical universe ("electricity ... stars"), but in the fabulous realm of Anthroposophical occultism. In other words, it resides in the Grail and in the "Mysteries" that Steiner said the Grail signifies.

[5] Waldorf students are typically exposed to many spiritually significant myths, legends, sagas, etc., over and over during their schooling. Stories that are told to the youngest students may latter crop up again in middle school and then be studied intently in high school. The Grail legend is one of these central, recurrent stories. Norse myths occupy a similar, crucial position in the Waldorf curriculum. [See "The Gods".]

A poem for kindergartners 
Waldorf Clearing House Newsletter / 
Winter, 1968

Here is another Waldorf poem that seems, at least initially, quite innocent. Yet few things about Waldorf education are what they may seem.

Some children stand in the middle of the floor. The rest of the children form a circle around them, then the children in the circle begin tip-toeing around the central group, reciting a poem as they go: 

Here we come,
Here we come
Little dwarves with silvery sacks
On our back
Bringing sand for children's eyes
To lift them into Paradise  (sprinkle sand and children in the middle of circle go to sleep)

Here we come
Here we come
Tip, Toe, Tip, Toe  (whisper and fade out)

— Betty Kane

A poem like this surely seems harmless, and under many circumstances it would truly be harmless. But in a Waldorf context, such a poem may have a subtle but potent — and damaging — effect. Day after day, week after week, month after month, Waldorf students are told about fairies, dwarves, gnomes, and other mythological beings. Such beings become their daily companions and, indeed, these beings may start to seem real to the kids. This is intentional. Rudolf Steiner taught that such beings really do exist, and his followers believe in them. [See, e.g., "Gnomes" and "Beings".] 

When followers of Rudolf Steiner work as Waldorf teachers, they generally want to convince their students that mythical, invisible beings are real. One of the chief effects of Waldorf schooling can be to lure students so deeply into a mystical/mythological mindset that they never awaken to live rationally in the real world. Instead, they incline toward a lifelong devotion to fantasies that they mistake for reality. They become Anthroposophists, in other words, or at a minimum that harbor fantasy-loving views that are compatible with Anthroposophy, and incompatible with reality. Fantasies can make people happy. This is why we have fantasies, after all. We want the happiness that beckons to us from fairyland or fantasyland. The problem, of course, is that we purchase such happiness at a very high price: We have to cut ourselves off from reality and truth.

Then, too, the happiness we receive from fantasies is often fragile. It can give way to intense suffering. Living in fantasies is one definition of madness, and the mad often suffer terribly. 

Another point we should notice in this cute little poem about dwarves: Falling to sleep is described as being lifted into Paradise. This is a nice conceit, perhaps: When we sleep, we drift off to dreamland, paradise, heaven... This is a charming, comforting idea. But we need to stop and recognize that, for Anthroposophists, this idea is considered literally true. Rudolf Steiner taught that when we sleep, parts of ourselves literally rise into the spirit realm (specifically, our "astral bodies" and our "ego bodies" go to the spirit realm while our physical bodies and our "etheric bodies" remain on Earth). This is nutty, but it is what Anthroposophists believe. When true-believing Waldorf teachers have their young student recite poems that equate falling asleep with traveling to Paradise, they are prepping them to accept — someday, when they are older — the beliefs that these teachers embrace: the doctrines of Anthroposophy.

The cute little poem is harmless. Except when, within a Waldorf context, it isn't. The difference lies in the spirit or mood that prevails in a Waldorf school, along with the sheer number of repetitions Waldorf students are subjected to. When fantastical tales are told in a jocular mood, when children clearly understand that the stories are make-believe, then little harm is likely to result. But when such tales are told in a reverent, solemn mood — and when they are repeated, in numerous variations, innumerable times — the effect can be both deep and deeply harmful. Usually, outside Waldorf schools, fairy tales are told in the spirit of make-believe. And usually, inside Waldorf schools, fairy tales are told reverently and solemnly. [See, e.g., the book by Waldorf teacher Marjorie Spock, FAIRY WORLDS AND WORKERS — A Natural History of Fairyland (Anthroposophic Press, 1980.) In it, Spock says 

"That Steiner himself knew and loved the Little People no one could doubt..." — p. 8. 

Steiner himself taught that fairy tales are true clairvoyant reports — see "Fairy Tales".]

◊ • ◊

Waldorf teachers read and recite innumerable fairy tales and myths to their students. [See, e.g., "Fairy Tales" and "The Gods".] They also write fairy tales. Thus, in the Waldorf Clearing House Newsletter (Fall, 1982), we find the following fairly typical example. A "bride" falls asleep:

(She sleeps — Dream fairies move around her in a circle)

CHORUS:     But as she slept, Fairies 'round her streamed
                     And wordlessly wove for her a strange dream...

BRIDE:          Ah, through the long night I've been dreaming
                     As though good help was towards me streaming.
                     I'll follow the dream's wise advice....

— Eugene Schwartz

Good luck to her.

Dwarves — by which Waldorf teachers usually mean gnomes — march through Waldorf days almost endlessly. Another poem from the Winter, 1968 Newsletter, in this case unsigned but submitted by Bette Ann Sayers:

Little Dwarfs so short and strong
Heavy-footed march along ...
Pick and hammer each must hold,
Deep in earth to mine for gold....

Rudolf Steiner taught that anyone possessing clairvoyant powers can see that gnomes really exist: 

“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....” — Rudolf Steiner, NATURE SPIRITS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1995), pp. 62-63.

A story for first graders 
Waldorf Clearing House Newsletter / 
Fall, 1985

Many Waldorf schools stage charming ceremonies in which members of the senior class — twelfth graders — welcome new first graders to the school by giving each child a red rose. [1] The following is the conclusion of a story meant to be told to the new first graders, explaining the rose ceremony:

After 12 long years it came time for them [i.e., longtime students] to graduate.... 

As they graduated, their teacher gave them each a bright red rose and told them that it was to remind them that each of them had their own individual star [2] and that if they listened carefully to it, it would whisper to them in their dreams [3] and help them decide what to do with their lives. [4] He told them that the profession they would learn was like the flowering of their education, and that the work they would do in that profession to serve other people would be the fruit of their lives which would bear seeds for the future. [5]

So when the twelfth grade gives each of you first graders a rose this morning, it is to remind you that you too will graduate in 12 years and it will remind you of that goal. And it is the wish and hope that you will be able to hear your star and find your destiny [6] in a harmonious way.

— Dana Williams

[2] In Waldorf belief, each individual has a guardian angel, just as each group (a nation, people, or race) is guided by an archangel. Steiner indicated that angels and archangels, gods who are respectively one and two steps higher than humanity, are associated with the lights in the sky — the planets and stars and galaxies, all of which may be referred to as "stars." Likewise, in Waldorf belief, each individual has an astrological sign — the gods who rule the stars affect human life through the astrological influences of the stars. [See "Waldorf Astrology".] Thus, in various senses, each individual has a "star" — a guiding light in the sky. Such doctrines are at least hinted at here. First graders — children around seven years old — are unlikely to be told much of this in detail, and they are unlikely to understand much of what they are told. But here, upon their admission to a Waldorf school, they are introduced into a world of mysticism, astrology, and spiritual mystery: Waldorf education. If things go as planned, they will become increasingly immersed in this world during the years of their education.

[3] In Waldorf belief, dreams are often true. Anthroposophists believe that they can develop the power of truthful dreaming if they follow the instructions given by Rudolf Steiner. [See "Dreams".] Likewise, they believe that young children often have accurate dreams of the spirit realm from which they have so recently arrived. [See "Thinking Cap".] In Waldorf belief, mystical modes of thought such as imagination, clairvoyance, and dreaming are almost always preferable to rational use of the brain. [See "Steiner's Specific".]

[4] Rudolf Steiner said that one purpose of Waldorf education is to "prove" the truths of Anthroposophy. Steiner's followers often follow this dictum, arguing that they must succeed in life in order to attract additional converts to Anthroposophy. In this sense, the Anthroposophical hope for Waldorf graduates is that they will become seed-bearing fruits of the Anthroposophical/Waldorf movement. This is, for example, what Anthroposophist Franz Winkler meant in his lecture, "Our Obligation to Rudolf Steiner in the Spirit of Easter". [See, e.g., "Guru".]

[5] "Destiny," in Waldorf belief, is very real and very important. It is karma. [See "Karma".] As one busy proponent of Waldorf education has written, 

“[T]he purpose of [Waldorf] education is to help the individual fulfill his karma.” — Waldorf teacher Roy Wilkinson, THE SPIRITUAL BASIS OF STEINER EDUCATION (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1996), p. 52.

To reiterate: Incoming first graders will not be told many of these things, nor would they understand many of these things. But such beliefs characterize the world into which they are being inducted, the world of mystical Waldorf belief.

(Concerning guardian angels: Belief in them is not confined to Anthroposophists, of course. Perhaps you yourself believe in guardian angels. Fine. But whether or not you do believe, you should know that dyed-in-the-wool Waldorf teachers certainly do — just as they also believe in fairies, gnomes, and many other types of invisible beings, as we have seen. The point is that Waldorf students will be constantly nudged toward the mystical beliefs embraced by Rudolf Steiner's followers. They will hear innumerable stories about invisible beings who, it will be suggested, are perfectly real. 

"Day by day we find our way 
Guiding angels show the way" 
— lines from another poem in the Waldorf Clearing House Newsletter (Spring,1973). 

Belief in guardian angels can be comforting. It may also sometimes be dangerous. One reason some Waldorf schools sometimes endanger children is that some Waldorf teachers stand back and let guardian angels protect the students; these Waldorf teachers don't think they themselves need to provide such protection. [See "Slaps".] We're talking about a minority of Waldorf teachers, now; we're talking about rare occurrences. But the hazy, mystical atmosphere in Waldorf schools can have surprising, and worrisome, effects.)

A puppet play for preschool 
Waldorf Clearing House Newsletter / 
Spring, 1978


A hungry cat went on its way
He looked for food, he looked for prey.
Now tell me true, and who are you?

[The cat meets, and one by one devours, a woodcutter, a little girl (!), a gnome, and a snail.
But then he encounters a being that possesses astrological powers.]

A hungry cat went on its way
He looked for food, he looked for prey.
Now tell me true, and who are you?

I am the goat, the Capricorn [1]
With shaggy coat and golden horn.
Good day, Mr. Cat, and how are you?
You've come a long way. Did you dine today?

Oh, no! Just half an egg and a little stew
The man with the ax, the woodcutter good ...
The little girl with the pretty curl ...
The little gnome, living under a stone ...
The little snail, called "Oh-so-slow" ...
[And] now I'll eat you too....

Oh, no, Mr. Cat, that will never do
With my golden horns I shall finish you.... [2]

[Capricorn the goat "finishes" the cat and frees the woodcutter, etc., 
who presumably live happily ever after.]

— Elisabeth Haas and Bronja Zahingen

Astrology lurks beneath Waldorf education, emerging occasionally in surprising ways. We need to be careful, here. Would preschool children understand what is meant by "Capricorn"? It would depend on what their teachers tell them, which surely would vary from case to case. But there's a deeper reality here (if we can use the word "reality" in such a context). Young Waldorf students may not understand what their teachers mean by certain mysterious terms that they drop from time to time — but when students are repeatedly exposed to mystical stories and poems and plays over a period of years, much may sink into the kids' unconsciousness. Particular terms may remain undefined, but the children will internalize a general occult sensibility, a receptivity to mystical beliefs and inclinations that may persist for decades or even for entire lifetimes. Subtle indoctrination may be subtle, but it is nonetheless indoctrination. [See, e.g., "Indoctrination".]

[1] The goat identifies itself as an astrological constellation. (In Latin, "capricornus" means "goat-horned;" traditionally, Capricorn is said to resemble a goat or a glyph, a mystical sea creature with the head of a goat and the tail of a fish.) Anthroposophists believe that the constellations exert powerful influences on the Earth and the creatures of the Earth. [See "Astrology
and "Star Power".] Steiner, drawing from Theosophy, attributed the virtue of courage to Capricorn, and indeed this goat is courageous: It stands up to the predator that had devoured all it encountered previously.

[2] The goat's horns are golden — implying not great financial value but great purity and virtue. The horns, like Michael's sword discussed earlier, are weapons, enabling a heroic being to overcome a menacing foe. Steiner said that Capricorn's virtue of courage, when exerted properly, leads to redemption. Here the goat redeems the cat's victims by rescuing them and returning them to life.

For a glimpse of Anthroposophical beliefs about the signs of the zodiac, see Steiner's "Zodiacal Meditations" and related indications in START NOW! A Book of Soul and Spiritual Exercises (SteinerBooks, 2004), pp. 138-142.

A play for third graders 
Waldorf Clearing House Newsletter / 
Fall, 1984

This little play — "Noah and the Flood"  — conveys a number of Anthroposophical beliefs. Among these: Mankind was divided into races around the time of the Flood (i.e., the deluge survived by Noah and his family, and/or the catastrophe that sank Atlantis); the differences between races are more than skin-deep; and archangels oversee the races, sending them to different homelands and assigning different missions to them.

Here is part of the concluding scene from the play. After the floodwaters retreat, archangels (Michel, Gabriel, and Raphael) address Noah's sons (Shem, Japheth, and Ham):

MICHAEL: "'Shem, to the North and West you must go ... You and your race shall become those who know."

GABRIEL: "Japheth ... Go to the East ... You and your race shall become those who do."

RAPHAEL: "Ham ... Go to the South ... You and your race shall become those who love."

— Eugene Schwartz

The archangels — who, in Anthroposophical belief, are gods two levels higher than humanity — send one race to the north and west, one to the east, and one to the south. These gods also assign a particular mission to each race: One race will specialize in acquiring knowledge ("your race shall become those who know"), one will specialize in perfecting practical skills ("your race shall become those who do"), and one will specialize in spreading the emotional/spiritual condition of love ("your race shall become those who love").

To compare the play's Anthroposophical vision with the Biblical account of events following the Flood, see Genesis 9:18-19: "18 And the sons of Noah, that went forth of the ark, were Shem, and Ham, and Japheth: and Ham is the father of Canaan. 19 These are the three sons of Noah: and of them was the whole earth overspread." In these Biblical passages, there are no references to archangels or races, simply the statement that the progeny of Noah's sons overspread the earth.

To get the full import and impact of a play such as this, you should imagine third-grade children — kids about nine years old — speaking the lines I have quoted. [For more on this, see "Waldorf Wisdom".]

Wittingly or not, Waldorf teachers convey mystical beliefs to their students in many ways. Sometimes the teachers are perfectly aware of what they are doing. Sometimes, probably, they aren't fully aware — their beliefs just slip out, as it were. Either way, the effect on Waldorf students can be deep and lasting.

In leafing through the Waldorf School Clearing House, we've gotten a close-up view of Waldorf teachers setting about their tasks. In performing such tasks, the teachers entice children into a misty universe of occult beliefs — they entice the kids toward Anthroposophy.

[R.R., 2014.]

To visit other pages in this section of Waldorf Watch, 
use the underlined links, below.

also see "Anthroposophical Christianity"
and "Judaism, The Hebrew Bible"

adepts : putting it to use

all : God and Godhead

basics : where he got it (Theosophy)

breathing spirit : meditations

Buddhism : and Anthroposophy

Clearing House

commandments : Steiner's ten

Father : beginning and end

grail : what's being sought

Islam : Steiner's view

Krishnamurti : disagreement

Manichaeism : and Steiner and Augustine and gnosticism and...

Mithraism : the proto-Christ

Old Testament : the Waldorf interpretation

pagan : not Christian

seances : and mediums

signs : and symbols

Sun God : the Christ you didn't know

trinity : God, gods...

Veda : via Theosophy

Yoga : sort of

Zoroastrianism : and Anthroposophy