[A]  [B]  [C-Ch]  [Ci-Cu]  [D]  [E-El]  [Em-Ey]  [F]  [G]  [H]  [I]  [J-L]  [M-Me]  [Mi-My]  [N-O]  [P-Q]  [R]  [S-Sn]  [So-Sy]  [T-V]  [W-Z]

- B -

baby teeth - also see teeth

Heeding indications given by Rudolf Steiner, Waldorf teachers find great significance in "second dentition" — that is, the students' loss of baby teeth, which are replaced by the second, adult set of teeth. In Waldorf belief, this development is an indication that the students' etheric bodies have incarnated. [1] The incarnation of invisible bodies is a central preoccupation in Waldorf schools. The physical body is a product of heredity; genes inherited from one's parents are paramount. But when the baby teeth go, a second, higher body is born (and the parents' importance diminishes) — after germinating during the first seven years of life, the etheric body incarnates. "[T]he child's development undergoes a radical change with the loss of his first teeth. For in truth, what we call heredity or inherited characteristics are only directly active during the first epoch of life. [2] It is however the case that during the first seven years a second life organism is gradually built up in the physical body, which is fashioned after the model of the inherited organism. [3] This second organism is, we may say, completed at the changing of the teeth ... [It is] the etheric body." — R. Steiner, THE KINGDOM OF CHILDHOOD (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1982), lecture 2, GA 311.

[1] The etheric body is the first of three invisible bodies that, according to Steiner, incarnate during a series of seven-year-long phases. [See "Incarnation" and "Most Significant".]
[2] I.e., the first seven years, before the incarnation of the etheric body.
[3] I.e., the etheric body develops within the physical body, basing itself largely on the form of the physical body. The physical body is "the inherited organism;" the etheric body develops in accordance with the physical body, but it is not controlled by heredity to the extent that the physical body is.

bacilli - also see health; medicine

Disease-causing bacteria. 

According to Steiner, they are an Ahrimanic source of illness. [1] “[B]attles [between good and evil spirits] have recurred over and over again, but always on different issues. In the distant past, the crowd of ahrimanic spirits [2] were also cast down from the spiritual worlds into the earthly realm when they had lost such a battle. [3] You see, they would return to the attack again and again. After one of these battles, for example, the crowd of ahrimanic spirits populated the earth with the earthly life-forms which the medical profession now calls bacilli. Everything which has the power to act as a bacillus, everything in which bacilli are involved, is the result of crowds of ahrimanic spirits being cast down from heaven to earth at a time when the dragon [4] had been overcome. In the same way the ahrimanic, mephistophelean [5] way of thinking has spread since the late 1870s as the result of such a victory. [6] Thus we are able to say that tubercular and bacillary diseases come from a similar source as the materialism which has taken hold of human minds. [7]” — R. Steiner, 

THE FALL OF THE SPIRITS OF DARKNESS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2008), p. 139

. [8]

[1] Ahriman is an arch-demon, Steiner taught. [See "Ahriman".]


I.e., minions of Ahriman; Ahriman's companion demons.

[3] I.e., at various times, after losing battles with the good gods, Ahrimanic demons have been cast out of the spirit realm down to the physical realm. [See, e.g., "Michael" and the entry for "1879" in this encyclopedia.]

[4] I.e., Ahriman.

[5] Steiner identified Ahriman with the demon Mephistopheles. [See the entry for "Mephistopheles" in this encyclopedia.]

[6] I.e., a victory by the good gods; it was a loss for the Ahrimanic demons. (The victory of the good gods expelled Ahrimanic/Mephistophelean powers from the spirit realm and inflicted them on the physical world. The spread of materialistic thinking was one consequence.)

[7] I.e., bacilli — as embodiments of Ahrimanic evil — cause illness (such as tuberculosis) in the human body as Ahrimanic spiritual influences cause illness (such as materialism) in the human mind.

[8] For more on Rudolf Steiner's medical teachings, see "Steiner's Quackery".

backward souls - also see bad souls; evil souls; substandard souls; useless human beings

According to Steiner: souls that lag behind in evolution. Often, they are evil and destructive. [1] “These backward souls will have burdened their Karma [2] with so much of error, ugliness and ill-doing as to constitute a special group on their own [3], subject to aberration and evil and bitterly opposed to the progressive community among mankind. [4]" — R. Steiner, OCCULT SCIENCE - AN OUTLINE (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1963), chapter 6, GA 13.

[1] See "Karma".
[2] See "Abnormal".
[3] I.e., backward souls will produce terrible karma for themselves; they will form a separate human society, divorced from virtuous humans.
[4] I.e., backward souls actively oppose proper human evolution or progress.

bacteria - see bacilli

bad race(s) - see evil races

bad souls - also see backward souls; evil souls; substandard souls; cf. good souls

In Anthroposophical belief: abnormal, ruthless, or otherwise errant souls that descend to lower evolutionary levels. Eventually they may drop out of evolution altogether. "[S]ouls are pouring in from other quarters for incarnation in races that are on the down-grade (i.e., bad souls). [1] But what is within must come out, and man will ascend when his Karma has been worked out. [2]” — R. Steiner, INVESTIGATIONS INTO OCCULTISM SHOWING ITS PRACTICAL VALUE IN DAILY LIFE (Kessinger Publishing, 1996), p. 138. The phrase "bad souls" was interpolated by Steiner's Anthroposophical editor. Steiner's point in this passage is that souls may descend to lower and lower forms, including lower racial forms. If an individual fulfills the needs of his/her karma, the descent will be reversed, so presumably there is always hope for recovery. But Steiner also taught that, as humanity as a whole progresses, the "lower" races [3] will die out, and indeed eventually the physical human body will pass away. A descending soul will then find that it cannot incarnate at all; there will no bodies available to incarnate in. [4] Therefore, that individual will cease to be a human being; s/he will return as a subhuman, a nature spirit: "The earth does not wait for him [5], the earth goes forward [6] and he finally arrives at a point where he can no longer incorporate in a human body, for none are in existence ... Such souls lose the possibility of incarnation and find no other opportunity ... They appear in a later epoch as subordinate nature-spirits. [7]" — R. Steiner, THE INFLUENCE OF SPIRITUAL BEINGS UPON MAN (Anthroposophic Press, 1961), lecture 8, GA 102. [See "Evolution, Anyone?" and "Hell".]

Despite the editor's interpolation, Steiner apparently did not speak of "bad" souls, as such. (An extensive search reveals no instances of this phrase proceeding from his pen or mouth.) But Steiner did speak of "materialistic", "evil", "backward", and "sub-standard" souls. [8] ◊ “[M]aterialistic souls incarnate, drawn sympathetically by volcanic phenomena [9] ... And these births can in their turn bring about new cataclysms because reciprocally the evil souls exert an exciting influence on the terrestrial fire. [10]” — R. Steiner, AN ESOTERIC COSMOLOGY (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1978), chapter 16, GA 94. ◊ “These backward souls will have burdened their Karma with so much of error, ugliness and ill-doing as to constitute a special group on their own [11], subject to aberration and evil and bitterly opposed to the progressive community among mankind. [12]" — R. Steiner, OCCULT SCIENCE - AN OUTLINE (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1963), chapter 6, GA 13. ◊ “By bringing about the ‘opiumising’ of Chinese bodies and causing generations to come into being under the influence of opium's forces, it was possible to condemn the Chinese to take in, to a certain extent, some very immature, sub-standard souls. [13]” — R. Steiner, THE KARMA OF UNTRUTHFULNESS, Vol. 1 (Rudolf Steiner Publishing Co., 1988), lecture 13, GA 173.

[1] According to Steiner, races "on the down-grade" are deteriorating, moving against the upward evolutionary trajectory of virtuous humanity. Here Steiner says that evildoers from various races are incarnating in races that are deteriorating. (A race may be good, Steiner said, while some of its members are wicked. The wicked ones reincarnate in lower races the next time they return to Earthly life.)

[2] I.e., what we have in our hearts ("what is within") manifests itself outwardly (it "must come out"). Evildoers create bad karma for themselves, but mankind as a whole will work out its karma and proceed to evolve upward ("man will ascend").

[3] See "Steiner's Racism".

[4] Good, upward-evolving humans will have risen to a state in which they no longer need physical bodies, but evildoers — still needing physical bodies — will be thwarted because no human physical bodies will exist.

[5] I.e., the whole Earth is evolving; it will not wait for the errant soul.

[6] I.e., it keeps evolving.

[7] Nature spirits are invisible beings who dwell inside the forces of nature. There are four major types of nature spirit as well as secondary of "subordinate" nature spirits. [see "Neutered Nature".]

[8] These terms are English translations of phrases Steiner used in his native tongue, German. An extensive search through German-language Steiner texts would be illuminating.

[9] I.e., materialistic (evil) souls are drawn to natural disasters such as volcanic eruptions. [See the entry fir "volcanos" in this encyclopedia.]

[10] I.e., materialistic or evil souls actually cause cataclysms such as volcanic eruptions (physical events manifest spiritual causes, in this case evil spiritual causes).

[11] I.e., evildoers will produce terrible karma for themselves; they will form a special society of their own, divorced from virtuous humans.
[12] I.e., backward souls do not only separate themselves from the good, properly evolving humans, they actively oppose (fight against) the progressive humans (virtuous humans who are evolving properly).
[13] I.e., the Chinese have damaged their bodies with opium; consequently their bodies are the vessels for "immature, sub-standard souls" (such souls incarnate in Chinese bodies, Steiner says).

balance, sense of - also see senses

According to Steiner, this is one of the twelve human senses. [See "What We're Made Of".] "Through this sense we create a personal space around our physical bodies in which we can be fully awake ... With the help of this sense we determine...our own standpoint, within which the 'I' [1] can perform its daily tasks." — H. van Oort, ANTHROPOSOPHY A-Z (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2011), p. 13. Steiner taught that the sense of balance, a physical sense, exists under the influence of Capricorn. [2]

[1] In Anthroposophy, the "I" is the spiritual ego, the divine spark of individual identity. [See "Ego" .] Possessing an "I" makes one human.
[2] See the entry in this encyclopedia for "Capricorn".

Baldur (Balder, Baldr) - also see Christ; Norse myths

a) In Norse myths: the son of Odin, brother of Thor; variously the god of patience or of lust. The manifestation of dying spring, he is also known as Balder and Baldr.

b) In Anthroposophy, Baldur is identified with Mithras, the Indo-Iranian god of light; the embodiment of the Sun's love. Hence, Baldur is a Christ figure. (Steiner taught that many peoples long ago recognized Christ, the Sun God, although their understanding of him was incomplete and thus, to varying degrees, faulty.) 

Like Christ, Baldur dies but is resurrected. Patient and pure, Baldur embodies the life-giving forces of the spring. He is killed, but his spirit is reborn with each new spring. ◊ “[H]e is the hope of the gods ... [H]e is killed by the god Loki with a branch of mistletoe. The God of Light is killed.” — R. Steiner, THE TEMPLE LEGEND AND THE GOLDEN LEGEND (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1997), p. 29. ◊ “Christ, the Sun God, who was known by earlier peoples under such names as Ahura Mazda, Hu, or Balder, has now united himself with the earth...." — M. Jonas, introduction, RUDOLF STEINER SPEAKS TO THE BRITISH (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1998), pp. 4-5. [See "The Gods".]



[Etching by Elmer Boyd Smith, 1902.]

Bamford, Christopher

An Anthroposophist, longtime editor-in-chief of SteinerBooks, Lindisfarne Books, and Bell Pond Books, and a commentator on Rudolf Steiner's work.

Baravalle, Herman von (1898-1973)

A Waldorf teacher and author, an associate of Rudolf Steiner at the first Waldorf school. He helped bring Anthroposophy and Waldorf education to America, striving to make these seem consistent with American values — an effort that entailed carefully obscuring much of the occultism in Anthroposophical doctrines. [See, e.g., "Nutshell".]

Barfield, Owen (1898-1997)

British philosopher, critic, and influential Anthroposophist; the author of WORLDS APART, SAVING THE APPEARANCES, "Introducing Rudolf Steiner", and "Listening to Steiner", among other works. A close friend of C. S. Lewis, Barfield was also acquainted with Saul Bellow, with whom he conducted a correspondence in which they discussed Anthroposophical issues. Barfield deemed Steiner an incomparable genius, and he translated some of Steiner's works into English.

Barhishad Pitris - see Lunar Pitris; Sons of Twilight

Barnes, Henry (1912-2008)

A Waldorf teacher, Anthroposophist, and author, he was a leader in the Anthroposophical Society in America and headmaster at the Rudolf Steiner School in New York City.

The Beast - see Antichrist; Sorat

beauty - also see arts; maya

Waldorf schools are often beautiful, displaying much beautiful art. Steiner stressed the need to teach all subject beautifully, in order to nourish the students' souls. The purpose of the beauty found in Waldorf schools is spiritual: Steiner taught that through the arts, and through beauty, we can enter the spiritual realm. [See "Magical Arts".] Ultimately, Waldorf beauty is intended to have moral and religious effects. “We must, in our lessons, see to it that the children experience the beautiful, artistic, and aesthetic conception of the world; and their ideas and mental pictures should be permeated by a religious/moral feeling. Such feelings, when they are cultivated throughout the elementary school years, will make all the difference during the thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth years. For a child whose feelings for the beautiful, for the aesthetic conception of the world, have not been stimulated will during puberty easily become overly sensual, even perhaps erotic. There is no better way of counteracting the erotic feelings than through the healthy development of the aesthetic sense for the sublime and beautiful in nature.” — R. Steiner, EDUCATION FOR ADOLESCENTS (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), pp. 77-78.

Steiner said that physical appearances, including beautiful appearances, can be deceiving. We live in a world of maya or illusion. However, he also stressed the concept of correspondences ("as above, so below"), according to which physical appearances reflect spiritual realities — attractive forms reveal attractive spirits. Beauty has a moral dimension and it has moral effects; the spirit realm is beautiful, and beings from that realm tend to incarnate in beautiful forms here in the physical realm. Steiner taught, for instance, that people who have a sanguine temperament — generally the most pleasing and "normal" of the temperaments — tend to be more physically attractive than people having other temperaments. [1] Unfortunately, such beliefs led Steiner to make some deplorable racial judgments. White people, he taught, are both more spiritually advanced and more attractive than darker peoples. [2] "Peach-blossom" — the color of Caucasian skin — is more lovely and more spiritually uplifting than darker hues, he taught. "[W]e can feel in the peach-blossom color of the healthy human being the living image of the soul ... [P]each-blossom color, human flesh-color, [is] the living image of the soul ... [B]lack [is] the spiritual image of death.” — R. Steiner, THE ARTS AND THEIR MISSION (Anthroposophic Press, 1964), pp. 93-94. Consequently, in Steiner's view, looking "like a negro" is the antithesis of attractiveness. “There is a biography of Schubert in which it is said that he looked rather like a negro. There is not a grain of truth in it. He actually had a pleasing, attractive face.” — R. Steiner, KARMIC RELATIONSHIPS, Vol. I (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1972), lecture 7, GA 235. [3] 

[1] See "Humouresque" and "Temperaments".
[2] See "Steiner's Racism".
[3] See "'Negro'".

Beelzebub - also see Ahriman; Mammon

a) In general usage: the Devil, who may be equated with Lucifer. 

b) In Anthroposophy, Beelzebub is the opponent of Michael, the Archangel of the Sun. [1] Beelzebub may be seen as Satan, i.e., Ahriman [2], or he may be seen as Sorat, the Demon of the Sun, the Antichrist. [3] (Ahriman and Sorat sometimes merge in Anthroposophical teachings.) In either case, Beelzebub works to thwart human evolution. ”It's up to archangel Michael to simulate men to use their newly acquired organ [4], that degenerates if a man doesn't use it. Such a man [5] comes under the influence of Michael's opponent, Mammon [6] or Beelzebub. This is the God of hindrances, who wants to prevent men from making progress. [7]" — R. Steiner, FROM THE CONTENTS OF ESOTERIC CLASSES (transcript, Rudolf Steiner Archive), GA 266

[1] See "Michael".
[2] See "Ahriman".
[3] See "Evil Ones".
[4] I.e., an immaterial organ of spiritual vision, clairvoyance. Steiner's followers believe they acquire such an organ by complying with Steiner's directives. [See "Knowing the Worlds".]
[5] I.e., the man who does not exercise this organ.
[6] See the entry for "Mammon" in this encyclopedia.
[7] I.e., spiritual progress — evolving to higher spiritual levels.

bees - also see group soul; Future Venus

Steiner expressed great admiration for bees, even indicating that beehives are more highly evolved than humans. ◊ Steiner "described the enormous importance of the task the bees perform and the wonderful wisdom that lies behind the bee colony...the cosmic tasks performed by bees...and the unique nature of honey, which is a food of such exceptional value...." — S. C. Easton, MAN AND WORLD IN THE LIGHT OF ANTHROPOSOPHY (Anthroposophic Press, 1989), p. 285. ◊ “The group soul [1] of a beehive is a very high level being, higher than that of ants. It is of such a high development that you might almost say it is cosmically precocious. It has attained a level of evolutionary development that human beings will later reach in the Venus cycle [2], which follows the completion of the present Earth cycle [3] ... The group soul of corals, however, is on a still higher plane....” — R. Steiner, BEES (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 176. ◊ "If we describe the wasps and ants we can say they are creatures which, in a certain sense, withdraw from the influence of Venus [4], whereas the bees surrender themselves entirely to Venus, unfolding a life of love throughout the whole hive. This life will be filled with wisdom; you can well imagine how wise it must be!" — R. Steiner, NINE LECTURES ON BEES (St. George Publications, 1975), lecture 1, GA 351.

In discoursing upon bees, Steiner harkened back to long traditions of finding spiritual meaning or at least symbolism in bees and beehives. [See "Bees".]


Rudolf Steiner, BEES 
(Anthroposophic Press, 1998).

[1] A group soul is shared by all members of a species, population, family, race, etc.
[2] I
.e., during the sixth incarnation of the solar system, called Future Venus. [See "Future Stages".]
[3] I.e., the the fourth incarnation of the solar system, called Present Earth. [See "Matters of Form".]
[4] I.e., the astrological/spiritual influences of the planet Venus. Traditionally, Venus is associated with love (in Roman mythology, Venus is the goddess of love), and Steiner echoes that here. Elsewhere, Steiner said that the Archai — gods three levels above mankind — dwell in the Venus sphere, and he located Lucifer on Venus. (The name "Lucifer" means light bringer, and the name is sometimes applied to Venus as the morning star.)

belief - see faith

Bellow, Saul 

(1915-2005) - also see admirers of Rudolf Steiner

American novelist; winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, 1976. Bellow expressed admiration for Rudolf Steiner and his work, a point that Waldorf schools sometimes advertise proudly. But although Bellow studied some Steiner texts intensively, he appears not to have been conversant with large swaths of Anthroposophical teachings, and he never became an Anthroposophist. 

“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’ [1] or the strange mingling of Abraham [2] with Zarathustra [3]  ... ‘It was all too much for me,' [Citrine/Bellow said].” — James Atlas, BELLOW: A Biography (Random House, 2000), p. 437. [See "Spiritual Science".] Bellow's eldest son reports that Bellow became disillusioned with Steiner and eventually rejected his teachings. [4]

[1] I.e., organs of clairvoyance. [See, e.g., "Knowing the Worlds".]
[2] I.e., the Hebrew patriarch.
[3] I.e., the Persian prophet Zoroaster.
[4] See Greg Bellow, SAUL BELLOW'S HEART: A Son's Memoir (Bloomsbury, 2013), pp. 164 and 182.

Besant, Annie (1847-1933) - also see Theosophy

A leading Theosophist, a colleague and rival of Rudolf Steiner. [1] She appointed Steiner head of the Esoteric Society for Germany and Austria. [2] Some Anthroposophists attribute Steiner's break with Theosophy to his disagreements with Besant. "[T]he Anthroposophical Society [3]...evolved out of the original German section of the Theosophical Society when Rudolf Steiner, who had been General Secretary of the latter[,] could no longer acquiesce in the policies of the Theosophical Society and its leader Annie Besant." — S. C. Easton, MAN AND WORLD IN THE LIGHT OF ANTHROPOSOPHY (Anthroposophic Press, 1989), p. 497.

[1] See "Basics".
[2] See the entry for this term in this encyclopedia.
[3] See the entries in this encyclopedia for "Anthroposophical Society" and "General Anthroposophical Society".

BHAGAVAD GITA - also see Hinduism; VEDA(S)

A sacred Hindu text, a poem composed between the second century BCE and the second century CE. As he did with virtually everything else, Steiner claimed to understand the true, occult significance of this poem. In essence, he meant that he found (or imposed) affirmations of his own doctrines in the ancient text. One small example: “Remember what I have said in former lectures, that man is, in a sense, an inverted plant. [1] All that you have learnt must be recalled and put together, in order to understand such a thing as this wonderful passage in the Bhagavad Gita. [2] We are then astonished at the old wisdom which must today, by means of new methods [3], be called forth from the depths of occultism. [4] We then experience what this tree brings to light. We experience in its leaves that which grows upon it; the Veda knowledge [4], which streams in on us from without. [5]” — R. Steiner, THE BHAGAVAD GITA AND THE EPISTLES OF ST. PAUL (Anthroposophic Press, 1971), lecture 4, GA 142. [See "Veda".]

[1] Steiner taught that the human physical constitution is like an upside-down-plant. "[M]an is a completely inverted plant since he turns all the organs that a plant turns towards the sun, away from it. Man's root, [his] head or brain, is turned towards the sun." — R. Steiner, FROM THE CONTENTS OF ESOTERIC CLASSES (transcript, Rudolf Steiner Archive), Berlin, 4-18-1906, GA 266.
[2] I.e., a passage 

about the Avayata-tree, the fig-tree.

[3] I.e., the methods of Anthroposophy.
[4] Steiner was a professed occultist; he claimed to possess occult (hidden) spiritual knowledge. [See "Occultism".]
[4] I.e., knowledge contained in Hindu scriptures.
[5] I.e., from the outside.

THE BIBLE (The Holy Bible)

 - also see Christ; fifth gospel; Jesus; Noah; Old Testament; Sermon on the Mount

The chief holy text of Judaism and Christianity. In Anthroposophy, the Bible is seen as a flawed document. Steiner derived many of his doctrines from apocrypha — semi-Biblical writings not included in the standard versions of the Bible — and gnostic beliefs. [1] Steiner rewrote various Biblical passages, including The Lord's Prayer. He even wrote a "corrected" version of the New Testament's account of Christ's life and death: THE FIFTH GOSPEL (e.g., Rudolf Steiner Press, 1995). His "authority" for such alterations was his claimed clairvoyant access to the Akashic Chronicle. [2] For some of Steiner's "corrections" of the Bible, see "Commandments", "Genesis", "Old Testament", and "Sermon".

[1] See "Gnosis".
[2] See "Akasha".

big-headed children - see large-headed children

biodynamic gardening and farming - also see animal kingdom; animals; biology; botany; nature; nature spirits; organic food; plant kingdom; plants

Agricultural practices based on indications given by Rudolf Steiner. Waldorf schools often have biodynamic gardens and compost piles, and participation in gardening is often required of the students. As with almost everything else in Waldorf schools, Waldorf beliefs about plants and gardening are laced with occultism. Thus, for instance, the gnomes that are often represented by dolls or statuettes in Waldorf classrooms are significant beneficiaries of healthful plant life, according to Steiner. (Steiner taught that gnomes really exist. [1]) “The plant gathers the secrets of the universe, sinks them into the ground, and the gnomes take these secrets into themselves from what seeps down spiritually to them through the plants. And because the gnomes, particularly from autumn on and through the winter, in their wanderings through ore and rock [2] bear with them what has filtered down to them through the plants, they become those beings within the earth which, as they wander, carry the ideas of the whole universe streaming throughout the earth ... The gnomes receive through the plants, which to them are the same as rays of light are to us, the ideas of the universe, and within the earth carry them in full consciousness from metal to metal, from rock to rock.” — R. Steiner, AGRICULTURE (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2004), p. 154. 

Biodynamic agriculture is a specialized form of organic agriculture, and as such it generally produces healthful foods. Many of its specific practices are, however, highly questionable, entailing magic, astrology, and other forms of superstitious falsehood. Plantings and other activities are keyed to the positions of the planets and the signs of the zodiac, for instance, and preparations of dubious value (which may entail misuse of animal body parts) are applied to the soil. "Horn manure" is employed, for instance. “Horn Manure is cow manure that has been fermented in the soil over winter inside a cow horn ... Before being applied very small amounts...are dissolved in water and stirred rigorously for one whole hour. This is done by stirring (preferably by hand) in one direction in such a way that a deep crater is formed in the stirring vessel (bucket, barrel). Then the direction is changed, the water seethes and slowly a new crater is formed. Each time a well-formed crater is achieved the direction is changed until the full hour is completed. In this way the dynamic effects concentrated in the prepared manure...are released into the rhythmically moved water and become effective for soil and plant.” — “Biodynamic Frequently Asked Questions", www.biodynamic.org.uk 

Another example: To rid a field of wild mice, a young mouse is caught, killed, and skinned. Powder made from the skin is then sprinkled on the soil. All of this is done in accordance with astrological signs. “You catch a fairly young mouse and skin it, so as to get the skin ... The animal carries the force of the full Moon [3] within it ... At the time when Venus is in Scorpio, you obtain the skin of a mouse and burn it. Carefully collect the ash and other constituents that remain from the burning ... Take the pepper you get in this way, and sprinkle it over your fields ... Provided it has been led through the fire at the high conjunction of Venus and Scorpio, you will find this an excellent remedy. Henceforth, your mice will avoid the field.” — R. Steiner, AGRICULTURE COURSE (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1958), p. 113. 

Waldorf students who are taught the principles of biodynamic gardening receive indirect training in occultism, superstition, magic, and astrology. [See “Biodynamics”.]


Numerous books about biodynamics, written by Steiner's followers, have been published over the years. They generally present Steiner's agricultural teachings as inspired spiritual revelations. One example is shown here. [David Klocek, SACRED AGRICULTURE - The Alchemy of Biodynamics (Lindisfarne Books, Anthroposophic Press, 2013).] The practice of biodynamic gardening at Waldorf schools is one extension of the religious — Anthroposophical — mission of the schools. [4]

[1] See "Gnomes".
[2] Steiner taught that gnomes are nature spirits or elemental beings residing within the Earth. [See "Neutered Nature".] Invisible and immaterial, gnomes can pass through the constituents of the Earth, such as ore and rock.
[3] I.e., the astrological powers of the Moon. [For an overview Anthroposophical beliefs about the moon, see "Lunacy".]
[4] For an overview of the religious nature of Waldorf schooling, see "Schools as Churches".


biology - also see animals; biodynamics; blood; bodies; botany; evolution; human constitution; medicine; nature

The Waldorf view of biology is founded on Anthroposophical doctrine — for instance, animals are said to have evolved from humans, not vice versa. The physical body is considered the lowest of the four human bodies (physical, etheric, astral, and "I"), and humans are said to be born four times, as these bodies incarnate. [1] Other distinctive Anthroposophical doctrines include the idea that the heart does not pump blood and the brain does not think. How many of these concepts are explicitly revealed to Waldorf students varies from school to school and teacher to teacher. [See "Steiner's Quackery", "What We're Made Of", "Our Parts", and “Neutered Nature”.] Even the most circumspect Waldorf biology instructors face difficulties, since Steiner's teachings on these matters — teachings that his followers embrace as truth — distinctly contravene the findings of science. Thus, for instance, ◊ “[Science] sees the heart as a pump that pumps blood through the body. Now there is nothing more absurd than believing this....” — R. Steiner, PSYCHOANALYSIS AND SPIRITUAL PSYCHOLOGY, (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1990), p. 126. ◊ “The heart is not a pump ... Basically the heart is a sense organ within the circulatory system, yet exactly the opposite is taught nowadays.” — R. Steiner, POLARITIES IN THE EVOLUTION OF MANKIND (Steiner Books, 1987), p. 56.

In Anthroposophical belief, biology extends more or less to everything. Very little in the universe is dead; life suffuses almost everything, and thus virtually everything is biological in a heightened, spiritual sense. The four kingdoms of nature are the mineral, plant, animal, and human realms. [2] Even minerals are considered to be alive, although at a low, almost comatose level. The creation of life is fundamentally spiritual, and because spirit is everywhere, so is life. 

Steiner specifically directed Waldorf teachers to adhere to Anthroposophy when discussing biology with the students. On the subject of human physiology, for instance, he said: "Concerning the human being you will find nearly everything somewhere in my lecture cycles ... You need only modify it for school ... You can first take up the human being by presenting the formation of the skeleton ... Then go on to the muscles and the glands ... Hold to what you know from anthroposophy ... You will find starting points everywhere in my lectures." — R. Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER  (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), pp. 49-50.

[1] See "Incarnation".

[2] See the entries for "mineral kingdom", etc., in this encyclopedia.              

birth, and activities before, knowledge gained before - also see bodies; death, gate of birth; life after death and before birth; incarnation; reincarnation; cf. death; excarnation

According to Steiner, we lead many successive lives, experienced through the process of reincarnation. [1] Before each birth or incarnation, we live in the spirit realm. We are born on Earth carrying the effects of actions taken in the spirit realm. “A living comprehension will lead you to see the pre-existence of the soul [2], to see what the human being experienced before birth, to see that human life in the physical world is a continuation of previous experiences. Traditional religions strongly oppose preexistence, which can make a human being selfless. They strongly oppose those things that do not strive toward a murky and numbing uncomprehending belief, but toward knowledge and the clear light of comprehension. [3]” — R. Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 119. 

Moreover, Steiner taught, we are "born" several times during each Earthly life, as various parts of our constitution are incarnated. The etheric body incarnates at about age 7 — this is considered our second birth. The incarnation of the astral body at about age 14 is a third birth, and the incarnation of the "I" at about age 21 is a fourth birth. [See "Incarnation".] Waldorf faculties continue to embrace doctrines of this sort, long after Steiner's death. The following is from a Waldorf teacher training program, describing a course called "Who Is Here? Educational Support for Adolescents": "In this course, we will deepen our anthroposophical understanding of the adolescent’s nature by exploring the challenges brought by the four births, by recognizing the relationship between the ego [4] and memory, and by helping the student be appropriately willful. [5]" — Bay Area Center for Waldorf Teacher Training, 2014.

[1] See "Reincarnation".
[2] I.e., the belief that the soul existed before birth on Earth. — one had a life or lives prior Earthly incarnation.
[3] Here as elsewhere Steiner holds up his own teachings, Anthroposophy, as superior to "traditional religions."
[4] See "Ego".
[5] See "Will".

black - also see black magic; black path; cf. peach-blossom; white

According to Steiner, black is the color of spiritual death. [See "White-Black".]

black magic, black magicians - also see magic; cf. white magic

Black magic is the use of magical powers for evil. According to Steiner, black magicians are active in the modern world. ◊ ”The black magician has the urge to kill, to create a void around him in the astral world [1] because this void affords him a field in which his egoistic desires may disport themselves. He needs the power which he acquires by taking the vital force [2] of everything that lives, that is to say, by killing it.” — R. Steiner, AN ESOTERIC COSMOLOGY (Wilder Publications, 2008), p. 41. ◊ “Today, those who know the secret of the use of these forces know full well that the use of such forces in our time means that powers of black magic are at work. Magic must never be made to serve when selfish purposes are involved. Hence, the employment of seed forces [3] is not permitted today even to serve white magic. [4]” — R. SteinerREADING THE PICTURES OF THE APOCALYPSE (SteinerBooks, 1993), p. 81. [See "Magic".]

[1] See the entry for "astral world" in this encyclopedia.
[2] I.e., life force. [See the entry for "life force" in this encyclopedia.]
[3] I.e., vital or life forces embodied in seeds.
[4] I.e., the opposite of black magic: white magic is the use of magical powers for good.

black path - also see path(s) of perdition; perdition; cf. freedom; white path

According to Steiner: the path of spiritual error. Steiner taught that, after death, we are confronted by Guardians of the Threshold [1], one of whom says this to us: "[I]f thou dost refuse to apply thy powers in this world, others will come who will not refuse; and a higher supersensible world will receive all the fruits of the sense-world [2], while thou wilt lose from under thy feet the very ground in which thou wert rooted. The purified world [3] will develop above and beyond thee, and thou shalt be excluded from it. Thus thou wouldst tread the black path, while the others from whom thou didst sever thyself tread the white path.” — R. Steiner, KNOWLEDGE OF THE HIGHER WORLDS AND ITS ATTAINMENT (Anthroposophic Press, 1947), chapter 11, GA 10; emphases by Steiner.

[1] See "Guardians".
[2] The "supersensible world" (beyond the reach of our ordinary senses) is essentially the spirit realm; the "sense-world" (accessible to our ordinary senses) is essentially the physical realm.
[3] I.e., the spiritual realm cleanses of any impurities brought from the physical realm.

"black race" - see Africans; "Negro" race

Blavatsky, Helena (1831-1891) - also see Theosophy

A Russian spiritualist, cofounder of Theosophy. Rudolf Steiner expressed great admiration for Blavatsky and much of her theology, at least initially, and he drew heavily from it. “One thing can be said of the writings of Helena Petrovna Blavatsky. Only one who does not understand them can underestimate them. [1] Anyone who finds the key to what is great in these works will come to admire her more and more.” — R. Steiner, SPIRITUALISM, MADAME BLAVATSKY, AND THEOSOPHY: An Eyewitness View of Occult History (Anthroposophic Press, 2001), p. 107. [See "Clairvoyant Vision".]

Blavatsky claimed to possess psychic powers, which she frequently demonstrated. Eventually she was attacked in the press for rigging these demonstrations. Following an investigation, in 1885 the London Society for Psychical Research pronounced her a fraud.

Early in his career as an occultist, Steiner became head of the German wing of Theosophy. Although he was greatly indebted to Blavatsky, Steiner later distanced himself from some of her teachings and practices, and ultimately he broke away to establish his own occult system, Anthroposophy. In the end, he became almost dismissive of Blavatsky, asserting the superiority of his own clairvoyant insight. “It is true that Blavatsky has in her books put forward important truths concerning spiritual worlds, but mixed with so much error that only one who has accurately investigated these matters can succeed in separating what is significant from what is erroneous. [2]” — R. Steiner, APPROACHES TO ANTHROPOSOPHY (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1992), p. 7.


Helena Blavatsky.

[Public domain, color added.]

[1] I.e., only those who do not comprehend Blavatsky's teachings criticize those teachings. (Anyone who truly understands Blavatsky will agree with Blavatsky.)

[2] I.e., only those who have accurately investigated the spirit realm can distinguish what is true in Blatavsky's teachings from what is false. (Steiner claimed to make such an accurate investigate through his use of "exact clairvoyance". [See "Exactly".])

block books - see lesson books

block teaching - also see class teachers; main lesson; Waldorf curriculum

The Waldorf curriculum presents subjects in "blocks" — periods of a few weeks when particular subjects are studied. A three- or four-week block of history, for instance, will be followed by a block focusing on another subject, perhaps botany. "In Waldorf teaching the main subjects such as reading, writing arithmetic, history or geography are taught during the first two hours of the day, usually for a period [i.e., a block] of three or four weeks." — H. van Oort, ANTHROPOSOPHY A-Z (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2011). 

The block system is applied particularly to the first classes of the school day. These "main lessons" are almost always taught by the students' main teacher, the "class teacher" who stays with the class year after year as it progresses from one grade level to another. This teacher thus has primary responsibility for enacting the block system. Main lessons begin the day in most Waldorf schools, and they last from 90 to 120 minutes. Other classes, taught later in the day, may be keyed to the subject studied in a particular block. After a block ends, its subject may not be taken up again for many weeks or months. Much material may be forgotten in the interim, and thus advanced blocks often begin with a lengthy review of material covered previously. [See "Curriculum" and "Methods".]

blood - also see exogamy; heart; rhythmic-circulatory system; racism

According to Steiner, blood has occult significance: it is the physical expression of the "I" and the consciousness soul. [1] The heart does not cause blood to circulate, Steiner taught; rather, blood circulates due to its own vital force. Waldorf schools sometimes teach that different races have significantly different types of blood. According to Steiner, mixing the bloods of different peoples is almost always destructive. Humans lost their instinctive clairvoyance [2], and fell into the demonic clutches of intellectualism [3], due to blood-mixing. “Just as this mingling of the blood of different species of animals brings about actual death when the types are too remote [4], so, too, the ancient clairvoyance of undeveloped man [5] was killed when his blood was mixed with the blood of others who did not belong to the same stock. The entire intellectual life of today [6] is the outcome of the mingling of blood.” — R. Steiner, THE OCCULT SIGNIFICANCE OF BLOOD (Health Research Books, 1972), p. 42, GA 55. [See "Blood".]

[1] See the entries for these terms in this encyclopedia.
[2] See the entry in this encyclopedia for "atavistic clairvoyance".
[3] For the Anthroposophical view of intellect, see "Thinking" and "Steiner's Specific".
[4] I.e., when the animals are very dissimilar.
[5] I.e., primitive or ancient humans. Steiner taught that early humans had instinctive powers of clairvoyance. [See the entry for "atavistic clairvoyance" in this encyclopedia.]
[6] Contemporary intellectual life is under the sway of Ahriman, Steiner taught. [See "Ahriman".]

Bock, Emil (1895-1959) - also see Christian Community

A founder of the Christian Community [1]; the movement's leader 1938-1959. His published work includes THE LIFE AND TIMES OF RUDOLF STEINER, Vol. 1 & 2.

Bodhisattvas - also see Buddha; Buddhism

In Manhayana Buddhism, a Bodhisattva is an individual who is able to attain nirvana [1] but who postpones doing so in order to continue relieving the suffering of others. In Theosophy and in Steiner's teachings, Bodhisattvas are enlightened beings, either buddhas or individuals who will become buddhas in the next few incarnations. "Bodhisattva — an initiate, or enlightened being, who acts as a teacher of mankind for a certain period. When that period has elapsed, the bodhisattva attains the rank of buddha and will not incarnate again..." — H. van Oort, ANTHROPOSOPHY A-Z (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2011), p. 15. Some Bodhisattvas, Steiner taught, are human beings, but others are spirits higher than human beings: effectively gods. In Theosophy, these are sometimes referred to as "super-human Bodhisattvas" — august spirits who may send human Bodhisattvas to Earth as their emissaries. [See "Boddhisattva" in the Encyclopedic Theosophical Glossary (Theosophical University Press, 1999).

Steiner taught that Bodhisattvas incarnate in human bodies, much as Christ incarnated in a human body. But a distinction must be drawn, he said. "The succession of Bodhisattvas and Buddhas has no relation as such to the cosmic Being we call Christ [2]; it was a Bodhisattva — not the Christ — who incarnated in the body of Jeshu ben Pandira. [3] Christ incarnated in a physical body once, and once only, for a period of three years. The Bodhisattva appears in every century until his existence as Maitreya Buddha. [4]” — R. Steiner, “Buddha and Christ: The Sphere of the Bodhisattvas”, ANTHROPOSOPHICAL QUARTERLY, Vol. 12, No. 4 (Anthroposophical Society in Great Britain, 1964), GA 130.

[1] A transcendent state of of selflessness and self actualization, the ultimate goal of the practice of Buddhism. Anyone who attains nirvana is identified as a buddha. [For one perspective on the the relationship of Anthroposophy to Buddhism, see "Buddhism".]
[2] In Anthroposophy, Christ is the Sun God. [See "Sun God".]
[3] "Who was this Jeshu ben Pandira? He is a great individuality who, since the time of Buddha — that is, about 600 B.C. — has been incarnated once in nearly every century in order to bring humanity forward ... The successor to the Gautama-Buddha-Bodhisattva [i.e., Buddha] was that individuality who incarnated a hundred years before Christ as Jeshu ben Pandira, as a herald of the Christ in the physical body." — R. Steiner, JESHU BEN PANDIRA (Rudolf Steiner Publishing Co., 1942), lecture 1, GA 130.
[4] This is a future Buddha who, according to Buddhist tradition, will attain complete spiritual enlightenment.

bodies - also see astral body; ego body; etheric body; "I"; incarnation; nonphysical bodies; cf. bodily sheaths; excarnation

Steiner often said that fully incarnated, real human beings have three bodies: the physical body, the etheric body, and the astral body. [1] This concept creates a nice symmetry with Steiner's doctrine that we have three souls and three spirits. However, Steiner often treated the "I" or "ego" [2] as a fourth body, although it is significantly different from the other bodies. The "I" does not arise from within oneself but is bestowed from without, by Christ. Thus, although the "I" can be seen as a body (sometimes called the ego body), more correctly it is considered a spark placed within us and/or it is the culmination/combination of our three spirits. Still, because the "I" can be considered a body, Anthroposophists frequently say that humans have four bodies that are born at four different times. [3] The human being, in other words, is born four times.

According to Anthroposophical belief, the four human births occur at age 0 (when the physical body is born), age 7 (when the etheric body is born), age 14 (when the astral body is born), and age 21 (when the "I" is born). The belief that childhood consists of several seven-year-long stages is sometimes called Steiner's most significant educational principle. [4] Likewise, belief in the incarnation of four bodies at different times is sometimes said to be fundamental to Waldorf education. "Waldorf education is based upon the recognition that the four bodies of the human being develop and mature at different times.” — R. Trostli, RHYTHMS OF LEARNING: What Waldorf Education Offers Children, Parents & Teachers (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 4.

Steiner taught that at night, during sleep, the physical and etheric bodies remain on Earth while the astral body and the "I" ascend to the spirit realm. During one of his lecture, he drew a schematic sketch and said: “Here (left) we have the physical body and the ether body (yellow). It fills the whole of the physical body. And here (right) we have the astral body, which is outside the human being at night (red). At the top it is very small and hugely bulging down below. Then we have the I (violet). This is how we are at night. We are two people in the night." — R. Steiner, BLACKBOARD DRAWINGS 1919-1924 (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2003), p. 102.


The physical body is shown here as the outlined form; it is pervaded by the etheric body (yellow) which extends a slight distance beyond. The astral body is shown in red, the "I" in violet. The astral body and "I" leave at night and return in the morning (as shown by the arrows). [R.R. sketch, 2014, based on the one in BLACKBOARD DRAWINGS 1919-1924, p. 102.]

[1] See "What We're Made Of" and "Our Parts".

[2] See "Ego".


See "Incarnation" and the entry for "bodily sheaths", below.

[4] See "Most Significant".

bodily sheaths - also see bodies; sheath

These are the nonphysical "wombs" within which the etheric, astral, and ego bodies gestate, Steiner taught. Human beings are born four times as the four bodies incarnate and the four sheaths fall away, one by one. The physical body incarnates during one's first birth, the etheric body at about age 7, the astral body at about age 14, and the ego body at about age 21. [See "Incarnation" and "What We're Made Of".]

Note that sometimes the term "bodily sheath" is used interchangeably (if inaccurately) with "body," in which case, for instance, the astral sheath and astral body would be seen as the same.

body nature - also see bodies; etheric nature; ninefold nature of man; physical body; soul nature

According to Steiner, this is the lowest major division of the ninefold nature of man. [1] Steiner variously said that human nature has nine, or seven, four, or three major components. In the ninefold version, body nature comprises three sub-components: physical nature, etheric nature, and soul nature. These conform, more or less, to the physical body, the etheric body, and the astral body. [2] (In the sevenfold and fourfold descriptions, body nature disappears and the lowest division of our nature is termed physical nature.) “We have, in all, nine members of man's nature ... Therefore the Rosicrucian method [3] speaks of three times three members = nine, which is reduced to seven. We must, however, recognise the nine within the seven; otherwise we shall reach only a theoretical conception.” — R. Steiner, THEOSOPHY OF THE ROSICRUCIAN (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1966), chapter 2, GA 99.


Body Nature

 1. Physical Nature 

  2. Etheric Nature 

 3. Soul Nature (a) 

In Steiner's ninefold description of the human constitution, body nature is the lowest of three major components. Like the other major components (soul nature and spirit nature), body nature consists of three sub-components. [4] Our physical nature finds expression in the physical body, our etheric nature finds expression in the etheric body, and our soul nature (a) [5] finds expression in the astral body. [6]

[1] See "What We're Made Of".

[2] See "Our Parts" and "Incarnation".

[3] Steiner identified Rosicrucianism (as redefined by himself) as the proper spiritual path for modern humans. [See "Rosy Cross".]

[4] See the entries in this encyclopedia for "soul nature" and "spirit nature".

[5] This is the lower of two forms of "soul nature" described by Steiner, hence the "(a)". This lower soul nature is a sub-component of our body nature. The higher form of soul nature (which I identify as "soul nature (b)") is the component existing above body nature and below spirit nature. [See "What We're Made Of".]

[6] For more on our bodies, see the entry for "bodies", above.

bones - also see skeleton; thinking

According to Anthroposophical belief, ancient peoples understood that some forms of thinking occur in the bones, but modern humans have lost much of this awareness. “The ancients...believed that people thought with their bones ... We can thank the capacity of our skeletal system for everything we have in abstract science ... Our skeleton has considerable knowledge, but because we cannot reach down into the skeleton with our consciousness, our awareness of that knowledge fades...." — R. Steiner, THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE: Foundations of Waldorf Education (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 75. [See "What We're Made Of".] 

Blacks have excessively developed bones, Steiner said, whites have finer bones, and yellow people have bones intermediate on this spectrum. "[T]he black man is more developed in the bones than a member of the white race. In the white, the blood is more important than the bones. Therefore, his bones will be finer. So the Negro has developed rough bones while Europeans have developed fine bones. As for the insides of Asians, the yellow race, they stand in the middle." — R. Steiner, VOM LEBEN DES MENSCHEN UND DER ERDE - ÜBER DAS WESEN DES CHRISTENTUMS (Verlag Der Rudolf Steiner-Nachlassverwaltung, 1961), GA 349, p. 55; R.R. translation. [See "Forbidden".]

THE BOOK OF THE DEAD - see Egyptian Book of the Dead

books by Rudolf Steiner - also see Steiner, Rudolf; Steiner, Marie; stenographers

More than 330 books are attributed to Rudolf Steiner, although he actually wrote far fewer. Most of the books attributed to Steiner consist of transcripts of his various lectures, discussions, faculty meetings, and so forth. "The complete edition of his published works numbers over 330 volumes (with surprisingly little repetition) making him among the most prolific authors of all time, though it was with the help of a number of stenographers." — Rudolf Steiner Web. Steiner did not generally intend all of this material to be published, nor did he review all of these transcripts. So some of the resulting books may not accurately reflect his views, at least in some details. But generally the stenographers who prepared the transcripts were devoted to Steiner and thus presumably strove to be as precise as possible. 

Steiner wrote and published more than two dozen books intended for a wide readership. These books presumably represent his carefully considered views, phrased as he wished. However, care must still be taken in interpreting the contents of these books — Steiner he revised some of them multiple times, altering his meaning at least to some degree. [See "What a Guy".]

botany - also see biodynamic gardening and farming; plant kingdom; plants

At Waldorf schools, the subject of botany is often informed by the Anthroposophical belief that plants are the expressions of thoughts, moods, or spirits. According to Anthroposophical belief, plants are, in a sense, the Earth’s hair. They are members of the second kingdom of nature, standing between minerals and animals. [1] Like animals and humans, they have etheric bodies. [2] How many of Anthroposophical concepts of this sort are explicitly revealed to Waldorf students varies from school to school and teacher to teacher. “[I]nsight into the cosmos must be the result of knowledge consciously developed [3] ... This cosmic insight will so live in us [4] that we shall be able to shape it artistically into the pictures we need [to convey to children] ... At about the tenth year the child is ripe for what the teacher can make out of this far-reaching vision. And if a teacher shows in living pictures how the whole earth is a living being, how it bears the plants as a man bears his hair...a kind of expansion takes place in the soul of the child ... It is not correct to say that the child is not mature enough for conceptions of this kind. A teacher in whom they live and who has this world conception at the back of him, knows how to express them in forms for which the child is ripe and in which it [5] can concur with its [6] whole being.” — R. Steiner, ESSENTIALS OF EDUCATION (Anthroposophical Publishing Company, 1926), pp. 63-64. [See "Foundations".]

The Waldorf conception of botany is closely bound up with biodynamic agriculture, which in turn is closely bound up with astrology and magic. [7] Waldorf schools often have biodynamic gardens, and the students are often required to work in them. The botanical world is conceived as a part of the cosmic tapestry that has mankind at its center. [8] Cosmic influences (essentially astrological) are manifested throughout this tapestry [9], so that the study of natural phenomena such as plants becomes an extension of the study of cosmic spirit. "Botany is studied in connection with the soil and the whole cosmic influence [10] ... The pupil will realize that all realms of nature are a united whole and that man is the central theme ... Class 5: ... Plant study to show the plant [exists] between earth and cosmic forces." — R. Wilkinson, RUDOLF STEINER ON EDUCATION (Hawthorn Press, 1993),p. 112. The astrological influences help shape the plants. "[F]rom the stars they [i.e., plants] learn to give their flowers starlike shapes. Some are like six-pointed stars, some are like five-pointed stars, [etc.] ... You could say that the stars on high are the heavenly flowers ... And our flowers here on earth are like a 'mirror' that reflects the light of the heavenly flowers." — C. Kovacs, BOTANY (Floris Books, Waldorf Educational Resources, 2009), p. 42.


Teachers in Waldorf schools, even those who are not fully committed Anthroposophists, often rely on teachers' guides prepared by Anthroposophists such as Charles Kovacs. [The guide shown here is Kovacs' BOTANY (Floris Books, Waldorf Educational Resources, 2009).]

[1] See the entries in this encyclopedia for "animal kingdom, "mineral kingdom", and "plant kingdom".
[2] These are constellations of life forces that help shape the physical body, Steiner taught. [See "Incarnation".]
[3] This is a concise summary of Anthroposophy, as conceived by Steiner: conscious development of clairvoyant powers that lead to "insight into the cosmos." As Steiner often indicated, Anthroposophy is the basis of Waldorf education.
[4] I.e., Waldorf teachers.
[5] Sic: meaning s/he, the child.
[6] Sic.
[7] See “Biodynamics”.
[8] See "The Center".
[9] See "Star Power".
[10] In Anthroposophy, cosmic influences or powers are essentially the influences of the gods dwelling in various celestial spheres: astrological influences. [See "Astrology".]

Bothmer gymnastics - also see eurythmy

Named for originator Graf von Bothmer, an Anthroposophist, Bothmer gymnastics is a non-athletic form of movement in which the practitioners "experience" the space around them. [1] "Bothmer Gymnastics is intended to foster balance, not just physical balance but mental and spiritual balance too. It's sometimes associated with the phrase 'spatial dynamics' as it aims to help older children (and adults) explore the relationship between their body and its position in space." [2] As employed in Waldorf schools, such gymnastics are related to the practice of eurythmy. [3] The distinction between these two disciplines is sometimes indistinct, but in general Bothmer gymnastics is a form of physical education (PE) whereas eurythmy is a form of art.

[1] Physical space, as conceived in Anthroposophy, is positioning within the cosmos, which is essentially spiritual. Such gymnastics, then, become a physical form of spiritual meditation and centering,
[2] Proper physical performance, in Anthroposophical belief, is the enactment of spirit. Waldorf students led in such performances are essentially taught Anthroposophy in its physical extension, usually without explicit instruction in Anthroposophical doctrine. [See, e.g., "Methods".]
[3] See "Eurythmy".

Brahma - also see Brahman; Godhead; Hinduism; trinity

a) A member of the Hindu trinity. "Brahma, one of the major gods of Hinduism from about 500 BCE to 500 CE, who was gradually eclipsed by Vishnu, Shiva, and the great Goddess (in her multiple aspects). Associated with the Vedic creator god Prajapati, whose identity he assumed, Brahma was born from a golden egg and created the earth and all things on it. Later myths describe him as having come forth from a lotus that issued from Vishnu’s navel.” — "Brahma." ENCYCLOPÆDIA BRITANNICA, Online, 18 May. 2011.

b) According to Steiner, one of the three Logoi: the three gods comprising the Godhead. Specifically, Brahma is the first and highest member, equivalent to God the Father in Christian teachings. [See "All".] “Beyond [i.e., higher than] the Seraphim we have to see that highest Divinity of which we find mention by almost all nations as the threefold Divinity — as Brahma, Shiva, Vishnu, as Father, Word, and Holy Ghost. “ — R. Steiner, THE SPIRITUAL HIERARCHIES AND THE PHYSICAL WORLD (Anthroposophical Publishing Co., 1928), lecture 5, GA 110.

Brahman - also see Brahma; Hinduism; Vedas

a) In Hinduism, a general term for the ground of being or ultimate divinity, the supreme being.

b) The highest caste in Hindu society.

c) According to Steiner, the divine Unity. ”The highest cosmic being expressing this primeval unity was indicated by the sacred name, Brahman. All manifoldness proceeded from Brahman, the Divine Unity. This unity was present for men on earth only as long as the male and female sexes did not exist. Thus, in the spirit of the great Indian Rishis [1] there appears, like a mirrored image, the divine primeval unity of man, the pre-human Adam Kadmon [2], in whom lived peace, spirit, clarity and harmony. He it is who speaks in the Vedas [3] that poured from the lips of the Indian Rishis. This occurred in the first period of human civilization after the great flood. [4] At that time one did not yet speak of a trinity, of a threefold Divine Person, but solely of a primeval Unity, of Brahman, in whom everything was contained and in whom everything originated.” — R. Steiner, SIGNS AND SYMBOLS OF THE CHRISTMAS FESTIVAL (Anthroposophic Press, 1967), lecture 1, GA 90f.

[1] I.e., Hindu saints.
[2] "Adam Kadmon ... '[The] first man,' the archetypal man, who became in the ancient mystical writings of the Israelites the paradigm of divine power emanating from God." — G. Riland, THE NEW STEINERBOOKS DICTIONARY OF THE PARANORMAL (Rudolf Steiner Publications, 1980), p. 2.
[3] I.e., Hindu scripture.
[4] In Anthroposophical belief, the great floods described in the Bible and other religious texts are the cataclysm that destroyed Atlantis. [See "Atlantis".]

brain - also see intellect; knowledge; living thoughts, thinking; cf. clairvoyance; organs of clairvoyance

According to Steiner, the brain is not the center or source of real cognition — it reflects thoughts occurring elsewhere, but it does not itself produce thoughts. ◊ 
"Within the brain there is absolutely no thought." — R. Steiner, WONDERS OF THE WORLD (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1983), p. 119. ◊ "The brain does not produce thoughts." — H. van Oort, ANTHROPOSOPHY A-Z (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2011), p. 16. ◊ ”[T]he brain and nerve system have nothing at all to do with actual cognition; they are only the expression of cognition in the physical system. [1]” — R. Steiner, THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE  (SteinerBooks, 1996), p. 60. [See "Steiner's Specific".]

Real cognition, in Anthroposophical belief, is clairvoyance, which is seated in nonphysical organs of clairvoyance. [2] Of course, some "thinking" is associated with the brain, but this is only low, material thinking of the sort found, for instance, in conventional sciences. [3] Wisdom comes more through emotion and the heart than through thinking and the brain. In a sense, the brain is a receiver: It reflects "living thoughts" that arise in the spirit realm and that are, in themselves, spirits. Living thoughts — which may be deemed the thoughts of the gods — are implanted in us before birth and/or they may be received from the spirit realm through the disciplined use of clairvoyance. [4]

Such doctrines can have significant, and deeply damaging, impact in Waldorf schools, where use of the brain and mastery of typical academic subjects are de-emphasized. An educational system that minimizes brainwork inevitably shortchanges children, and it may lead them into darkness. Waldorf schools aim to promote imagination which, in Anthroposophical belief, is a precursor to, or first stage of, clairvoyance. But clairvoyance is a delusion — it does not exist — and thus the Waldorf enterprise is fundamentally misdirected. [5]

[1] I.e., the brain and nervous system express thoughts that occur elsewhere, Steiner taught. They are the physical "expression" of thoughts coming from the spirit realm; they do not produce their own thoughts. "Actual cognition" is clairvoyance and/or the reception of "living thoughts." To the extent that we can think for ourselves, Steiner said, this thinking is not done by the brain but by the "physical system" (i.e., the physical body) as a whole. The fingers and toes are particularly productive: "[One can think with one's fingers and toes much more brightly, once one makes the effort, than with the nerves of the head." — R. Steiner, BLACKBOARD DRAWINGS 1919-1924 (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2003), p. 126. 

[2] See "Knowing the Worlds".
[3] Although Steiner sometimes categorically denied that the brain thinks, on other occasions he acknowledged that some thinking (of a low, physical, materialistic nature) does occur in the brain. Anthroposophy is full of contradictions. Trying to reconcile Steiner's conflicting statements can become an engrossing undertaking for his followers.
[4] See "Thinking" and "Exactly".

brainwashing - also indoctrination

Brainwashing is systematic, involuntary mental conditioning. It can be overt or covert; it can be implemented through peaceful means or violent means. A form of brainwashing may occur at Waldorf schools when teachers covertly (without the permission of the students' parents) lead students to feel and/or think about things as Anthroposophists feel and think. [See, e.g., "Sneaking It In", "Indoctrination", and "Beat".]

Bronze Age - see Dvapara Yuga

brotherhoods, secret - see secret brotherhoods

Buddha, buddha - also see Buddhism; Mars; Odin; Rosenkrutz, Christian

a) "The Buddha" is the title accorded to Siddartha Gautama, the founder of Buddhism. "A buddha" is one who has attained full spiritual enlightenment.

b) According to Steiner, Buddha is the god also known in Norse myths as Odin or Wotan. [1] Steiner taught that Buddha was a student of Christian Rosenkreutz, the putative founder of Rosicrucianism [2], and Buddha was crucified (as it were) on Mars. [3] ◊ “The same being who was called Wotan in the Germanic myths, appeared again as Buddha.” — R. Steiner, EGYPTIAN MYTHS AND MYSTERIES (Anthroposophic Press, 1971), p. 141. ◊ "Gautama Buddha left his activity and went to Mars. In 1604 Gautama Buddha accomplished for Mars what the Mystery of Golgotha [4] did for Earth.” — R. Steiner, THE SECRET STREAM (SteinerBooks, 2000), p. 150.


Steiner's teachings about Buddha and Buddhism, most of which are surprising to Buddhists, have been presented in various Anthroposophical publications. [The book shown here, attributed to Rudolf Steiner, is FROM BUDDHA TO CHRIST (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1987); see "Buddhism".]

[1] Norse myth are accorded great significance in Waldorf schools. [See "The Gods".]
[2] Christian Rosenkreutz is the putative founder of Rosicrucianism. There is little or no evidence that Rosenkreutz ever existed, but he is accepted as a real historical figure by Anthroposophists. [See "Rosy Cross".]
[3] See "Mars".
[4] I.e., the occult significance and effects of Christ's Crucifixion. Golgotha is Calvary.


Buddhi, Budhi - see life spirit

Buddhi plane - also see Hinduism; Theosophy

The term "Buddhi" comes from Hinduism and was adopted by Theosophy. According to Steiner, Buddhi is the realm of living warmth; the level of "fore-seeing." In Theosophy, and in some of Steiner's own teachings, there are seven "planes" of existence/consciousness. The lowest is the physical plane. The Buddhi plane is the fourth, midway along the ascent to godly consciousness. [1] Below the Buddhi plane, logic or the use of the physical brain has some value; but above it, only supernal forms of thought — in essence, clairvoyance — lead to truth. “If we have learned to think with consistency through our study, we can help ourselves on the astral and devachanic planes. [2] However, the logic of the physical plane no longer applies to the Buddhi plane. [3]” — R. Steiner, THE CHRISTIAN MYSTERY (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 141.

[1] See “Higher Worlds".
[2] The astral plane, equivalent to the Soul World, is the first plane above the physical plane. The devachanic plane, equivalent to Spirit Land, is the second plane above the physical plane — it stands one level lower than the Buddhi plane.
[3] I.e., use of the brain — having significant value on the physical plane — still has some value on the first and second planes above the physical plane, but it ceases to have value on the planes above them. 

Buddhism - also see Buddha; Buddhi plane; Nirvana

This is the religion stemming from the teachings of Siddartha Gautama, who lived in fifth-century BCE, in India. Buddhism focuses on the alleviation of human suffering. It is largely silent on some issues deemed central in other religions, such as whether God exists and why/how the universe was created.

Rudolf Steiner incorporated some Buddhist beliefs in his own belief system, Anthroposophy, although he drew much more heavily from Hinduism and gnostic Christianity. Steiner taught that Buddhism, like other religions, represented early, partial comprehension of divine realities. He said that humanity's comprehension of the spirit realm was later sharpened and fulfilled in the ministry of Christ, the Sun God. [1]

By Steiner's account, one of the central goals of Anthroposophy is akin to the goal of Buddhism. Steiner spoke of “[T]he longing human soul in its yearning, tormented emptiness.” — R. Steiner, THE SPIRITUAL HIERARCHIES AND THE PHYSICAL WORLD (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 224. Like Buddha, Steiner offered his system as an antidote to human suffering: “[W]e may point to spiritual science [2] as a bearer of the redemption of human longing ... [S]piritual science now provides what tempestuous but also woeful human beings have sought for a long time.” — Ibid., p. 231. [For more on Buddhism from an Anthroposophical perspective, see "Buddhism".]

[1] See "Sun God".

[1] I.e., Steiner's doctrines, Anthroposophy.

bull - also see eagle; group soul; lion; man

One of the four group souls [1] shared by humans at an early stage of evolution, according to Steiner. Modern humans of varying kinds still reflect the influences of these souls. "One calls these four group souls by the names of the apocalyptic beasts [2]: Bull, Eagle, Lion, Man. The Man, however, was at another stage of evolution than the man of today. [3] The names are taken from the organization of the group souls [4] ... There were forms [5] existing which were especially adapted to receive the Lion egos, others the Bull egos, etc. That was in a very early age of earth evolution. [6] Now consider that the group soul we have called the Bull soul enters quite definite forms which are there below. [6] These have a quite definite appearance ... [T]here was a group of bull-like people, [having] everything adapted to the physical plane ... The bull race, however, had a special attractive force for the female etheric body. [8] Thus the bull body had the special force to attract the female etheric body and unite with it ... [But] the bull humanity became more and more unfruitful ... The physical body of the woman has proceeded from the lion nature, whereas the physical bull-body is the ancestor of the male body.”  — R. Steiner, "The Four Human Group Souls (Lion, Bull, Eagle, Man)" (transcript, Rudolf Steiner Archive), GA 107. [See "Four Group Souls".]

[1] A "group soul" is a soul shared by all members of a species, nation, race, etc. Animals have groups souls but no individual souls, Steiner said. Human have individual souls and also, to some degree, group souls.

[2] I.e., beasts named in the Book of Revelation, the concluding book of the New Testament.

[3] Steiner taught that to be "human" is to reach a certain evolutionary level. We human beings are human today; the gods we call Angels were human before us, and the gods we call Archangels were human before them. Before we became human, we were "men" only in a vague sense; a better term, perhaps, is "proto-human" — we were on our way to become human beings.

[4] I.e., from the inner structure of the group souls.

[5] I.e., bodies.

[6] See "Early Earth".
[7] I.e., the Bull souls descends from the spirit realm to enter certain bodies on the physical plane.
[8] The etheric body, according to Steiner, is the lowest of our three invisible bodies. In human beings today it incarnates around age 7. [See "Incarnation".]

bullying at Waldorf schools - also see discipline; karma

While Waldorf schools can be peaceful havens, they can also be dangerous — problems such as bullying can sometimes be endemic. Waldorf teachers sometimes think it is the karma of some students to bully and the karma of other students to be bullied, and individuals should be allowed to enact their karmas. In such cases, the teachers may not intervene to protect bullied children. Bullying by Waldorf teachers themselves may tolerated for similar reasons. [See, e.g., "Ex-Teacher 5" and "Slaps".]