"[T]he soul incapable of faith 
becomes withered, 
dried-up as the desert."
— Rudolf Steiner


(And No Compromises!)


Waldorf schools are the chief outreach arm of Anthroposophy — they are intended to spread Rudolf Steiner’s new-age religion. If the schools did not exist, Anthroposophy would be what it should have been, a minor cult stranded on the fringes of Western consciousness, of little interest or concern. But the schools do exist, and because their effect on students can be deeply damaging, we need to be both informed and concerned about them and about the occultism that lies behind them.

When speaking in public about Waldorf education, Rudolf Steiner — the founder of both Anthroposophy and the Waldorf movement — usually denied that his educational policies contain a religious agenda. Yet if we look just a little below the surface, we can find the truth. Consider the following remark made by Steiner:

“Imagine that we wanted to convey a simple religious concept — for instance, the immortality of the human soul — to a class of young children. [Steiner suggests using the analogy of a caterpillar that doesn’t die but becomes a butterfly.] ... A Waldorf teacher, an anthroposophically oriented spiritual researcher, would not feel, ‘I am the intelligent adult who makes up a story for the children’s benefit,’ but rather: ‘The eternal beings and powers, acting as the spiritual in nature, have placed before my eyes a picture of the immortal human soul, objectively, in the form of the emerging butterfly. Believing in the truth of this picture with every fibre of my being, and bringing it to my pupils through my own conviction, I will awaken in them a truly religious concept.’” [1]

This is quite interesting. Steiner proposes instilling a religious concept in young children — a task that would normally be reserved for a church, a religious school, or a family in the privacy of their own faith. Steiner considers this task proper for a Waldorf school. Moreover, he identifies Waldorf teachers as “anthroposophically oriented spiritual researcher[s]” and gives us a glimpse inside their mental processes: They think in terms of the “‘eternal beings and powers...’” In sum, what we have here is a picture of a Waldorf school as a religious institution, staffed by devotees of the religion.

Bear in mind, Steiner denied that Anthroposophy is a religion — it is a science, he claimed, and for this reason he called Anthroposophists spiritual researchers. This is a denial similar to, and even more fundamental than, the denial that Waldorf schools push Anthroposophy. And it is false. Note that the Anthroposophical researchers “believe” the picture given them by the gods. This is religion, not science. [2] And the key point is that Steiner identifies Waldorf teachers as Anthroposophists: they are spiritual scientists, spiritual researchers.

Steiner underscored the necessary devotion of Waldorf teachers to Anthroposophy when he addressed the faculty at the first Waldorf school: 

“As teachers in the Waldorf School, you will need to find your way more deeply into the insight of the spirit and to find a way of putting all compromises aside ... As Waldorf teachers, we must be true anthroposophists in the deepest sense of the word in our innermost feeling.” [3]

In practice, not all Waldorf teachers are uncompromising Anthroposophists, but here we see Steiner telling what sorts of teachers he wanted. Waldorf teachers should not simply be Anthroposophists, they should be "true" Anthroposophists, experiencing their faith in their innermost being and rejecting all compromise. They should be wholly committed believers, in other words: devotees, supporters, adherents. This description overturns the notion that Waldorf teachers are in any realistic sense researchers or scientists engaged in an objective search for truth. Real researchers will always “compromise” in the sense of changing their minds when presented with new information. Only religious zealots refuses all compromise. But this is Steiner’s requirement: “[P]utting all compromises aside...we must be true anthroposophists in the deepest sense of the word in our innermost feeling.” This is the language of religion, not science. A scientist never has to adjure another scientist, “We must be true physicists in the deepest sense of the word in our innermost feeling.”

Despite his denials, Steiner clearly wanted Waldorf teachers to usher their students toward Anthroposophy. He wanted the teachers to move students from one state of being to another, in conformity with the goals of Anthroposophy: 

“The task of Anthroposophy is not simply to replace a false view of the world with a correct one. That is a purely theoretical requirement. The nature of Anthroposophy is to strive not only toward another idea, but toward other deeds, namely, to tear the spirit and soul from the physical body [Steiner taught that people have souls, individual spiritual identities, and spirits, transcendent spiritual essences]. The task is to raise the spirit-soul into the realm of the spiritual, so that the human being is no longer a thinking and feeling automaton ... Such things as the pedagogy of the Waldorf School can arise from a recognition that humanity must turn toward spiritual activity, and not simply from a change in theory. We should work out of that spirit.” [4]

In other words, Steiner told Waldorf teachers that non-Anthroposophists are fleshly robots (i.e., beings who think with their brains rather than employing clairvoyance [5]). The students, we may infer, are such “automatons.” But Waldorf teachers are supposed to fix the kids by moving them toward “spiritual activity.” The teachers are not to think of this as a theoretical matter, but a practical requirement. “We should work out of that spirit.” 

Steiner’s intentions may have been kindly, just as most Waldorf teachers today undoubtedly have kind intentions. But even when he was speaking most sympathetically and caringly, Steiner often revealed the occult roots of his educational aims. He said, for instance, that Waldorf schooling promotes a child’s health. The physical body receives benefits from the spiritualistic content of Waldorf instruction, which places minimal demands on a child’s memory or brain: 

“[W]hen we strain the child’s powers of memory, the effect will bear right through the organism, so that in the forties or fifties [i.e., when the child becomes a middle-aged adult] metabolic illnesses will appear that the physical organization [i.e., the physical body] can no longer correct. [paragraph break] When I suggest these interconnections [between mind, spirit, and body], you may believe me that in the Waldorf school we make every effort to ensure that the soul and spiritual aspect will have a beneficial effect on the student’s physical constitution.” [6] 

This is an admirable goal, but it is bound up in quack medicine — the occult doctrines of Anthroposophy. And here we see the pervasive, systemic fault that runs throughout Waldorf education: This form of schooling is inseparable from the occult fallacies and falsehoods of Anthroposophy.

Consider the educational implications of making minimal demands on a student’s mind. 

“We need to direct our teaching entirely toward working with the children so that the teacher, through a relationship to the children developed by standing alongside them, provides nothing but an opportunity for the children to develop themselves. [paragraph break] You can accomplish this between the ages of seven and fourteen — that is, during elementary school — by refraining completely from appealing to the intellect, focusing instead on the artistic.” [7]

Steiner said that children don’t develop intellectual abilities until after age fourteen; before then, all students are effectively in “elementary school,” he indicated. This is breathtaking. It means that high school freshmen and even some sophomores cannot use their intellects — they are still elementary school children. But this sells these teenagers short. It sells all children, of all ages, short. In reality, children develop the ability to use their thinking brains, their intellects, quite early. Children's brains are still developing; their mental capacities are unformed and incomplete. But they exist. Kids can think, and good schools should help them to think rationally and well. But Waldorf schools take a different tack, especially in the earliest — and most formative — grades.

Waldorf schools embody an “educational” system that tries to keep kids (especially young kids, but effectively all kids) from thinking. Is there really any medical, psychological, or educational justification for this? No. None. The Waldorf approach is based on Anthroposophical voodoo. The Waldorf approach retards the children’s mental growth while steering them into an occult system where belief, refusal to compromise, and commitment in one’s “innermost feeling” are required.

This is religious indoctrination, not education.



Steiner taught that faith is essential. He didn't mean that we need to believe specific ideas, precisely. He meant that the power of faith should fill our souls. But in practice, this does mean believing specific ideas — specifically, Steiner's ideas.

Anthroposophy is supposedly a science: It discovers "truths" about the spirit realm. In theory, we don't need to believe these truths, he know them. But actually, since these truths are not supported by any objective evidence, in the end we do need to believe. We must believe these "truths" despite the lack of evidence. In other words, we need faith, as Steiner essentially admitted: 

“[T]he forces expressed in the word ‘faith’ are necessary to the soul. For the soul incapable of faith becomes withered, dried-up as the desert ... If we do not possess forces such as are expressed in the word ‘faith’, something in us goes to waste." [8] 

We can see what Steiner meant by "faith" by observing the reverence and uncritical acceptance that he expected from his followers:

"In Spiritual Science [i.e., Anthroposophy] this fundamental attitude is called the path of veneration." [9] Like little children, Steiner's followers should not "harbour any thoughts of criticism or opposition." [10] Don't think; believe. Specifically, believe Steiner.

The loss of faith would wreck our evolution:

"Were men in reality to lose all faith, they would soon see what it means for evolution. By losing the forces of faith they would be incapacitated for finding their way about in life; their very existence would be undermined by fear, care, and anxiety.”  [11]

You might think that loss of faith would damage all sorts of religious attitudes and ideas, but Steiner focuses on a central concept of his own teachings, evolution. His concern is quite specifically tied to the doctrines he propounded and the movement he led.

Steiner said that we have within us spiritual intuitions that are utterly reliable, as long as we understand them in the same way he understood them: 

"If we stand on this firm support, we base upon it, not a blind belief, but a belief permeated by wisdom, truth and knowledge, and we may say: What must, will come; and nothing prevents us from throwing our best energies into what we believe to be inevitable. Belief is the real fruit of the cross.” [12] 

The "wisdom, truth and knowledge" Steiner meant are the result of what he called "exact" clairvoyance. All other spiritual teachings are, to one degree or another, false; all other faiths are, to one degree or another, "blind belief." His own teachings, on the other hand, are essentially unquestionable because the "research" he conducted was "exact." And yet, what does Steiner require of us here? Belief — "belief permeated by wisdom, truth and knowledge," "what we believe to be inevitable," "belief [that] is the real fruit of the cross.”

The "cross" Steiner mentioned is, of course, Christ's cross. But Steiner taught that Christ is not the being described in the Bible. Christ, according to Steiner, is the Sun God. [13] And how can we know this? What is required of us to "know" this? We can develop "exact" clairvoyance like Steiner's, and then we will know. [14] Steiner gave elaborate instructions on how to cultivate clairvoyant powers. [See, e.g., "Knowing the Worlds", "Serving the Gods", and "Exactly".] Unfortunately, they don't work. Clairvoyance of the sort Steiner described — and on which his teachings totally depend — is a sham. In reality, no clairvoyance of any sort has ever been proven to exist. [See "Clairvoyance".] 

In reality, if you want to follow Steiner and affirm his teachings, you have only one option: You must believe him. You must have faith. Otherwise, you will not evolve properly (according to Steiner). So have a care. Believe.


— Roger Rawlings



A triptych designed by Steiner for the Goetheanum,
the worldwide Anthroposophical headquarters. 
The iconography of the windows at the Goetheanum is peculiar, 
derived from the belief system Steiner created: Anthroposophy.
For a guide, see Georg Hartmann's THE GOETHEANUM GLASS-WINDOWS
(Philosophisch-Anthroposophischer Verlag, 1972). 

[R. R. copy, 2010.]

"If we do not possess forces such as are expressed in the word ‘faith’, something in us goes to waste; we wither as do the leaves in autumn. For a while this may not seem to matter — then things begin to go wrong. Were men in reality to lose all faith, they would soon see what it means for evolution. By losing the forces of faith they would be incapacitated for finding their way about in life; their very existence would be undermined by fear, care, and anxiety. To put it briefly, it is through the forces of faith alone that we can receive the life which should well up to invigorate the soul. This is because, imperceptible at first for ordinary consciousness, there lies in the hidden depths of our being something in which our true ego is embedded. This something, which immediately makes itself felt if we fail to bring it fresh life, is the human sheath where the forces of faith are active. We may term it the faith-soul, or — as I prefer — the faith-body. It has hitherto been given the more abstract name of astral body. The most important forces of the astral body are those of faith, so the term astral body and the term faith-body are equally justified." — Rudolf Steiner, "Faith, Hope and Love: The Third Revelation", THE GOLDEN BLADE 194, GA 130.

Waldorf student artwork,

The following is from the Waldorf Watch "news" page:

A new offering from SteinerBooks (Sept., 2011).
The cover shows a typical blackboard drawing by Steiner. 

"Although the fruits of Anthroposophy — Waldorf education, biodynamic agriculture, Camphill, anthroposophic medicine, and so on — are relatively well known and moderately successful, their relationship to Anthroposophy and its vehicle for transmission, the General Anthroposophical Society, and the School for Spiritual Science, remains mysterious and unclear; sadly, the same is true of the meaning and purpose of those institutions.

"Related to this is the fact that, though these offshoots of Anthroposophy are well known, eighty-five years after his death and eighty-seven years after the re-formation of the Anthroposophical Society, what Rudolf Steiner brought into the world, what entered the world through him and what he sought to accomplish — that is, what spiritual science and spiritual-scientific research are and how one practices them — remain virtually unknown."

• ◊ •

Waldorf Watch Response:

Rudolf Steiner was a polymath, dabbling in many fields. His central effort was the creation of Anthroposophy, his "spiritual science" (also called "occult science" or "esoteric science") describing the spirit realm and laying out the proper path for human evolution. He developed his doctrines in such books as AN OUTLINE OF OCCULT SCIENCE and KNOWLEDGE OF THE HIGHER WORLDS AND ITS ATTAINMENT (republished as HOW TO KNOW HIGHER WORLDS). The General Anthroposophical Society is the central institution of the Steiner movement, headquartered in the cathedral known as the Goetheanum. The School of Spiritual Science, the chief organ for preserving and extending Anthroposophical belief, is located there. [See, e.g.,"Is Anthroposophy a Religion?", "Everything", "Higher Worlds", and "Guru".]

Most of Steiner's teachings are unknown in the wide world today, and for good reason — most of them make no sense and are riddled with obvious errors. [See, e.g., "Steiner's Blunders", "Steiner's Illogic", "Steiner's Quackery", "Steiner's 'Science'", etc.] Anthroposophy remains a tiny spiritual movement, a religion that denies it is a religion, a messianic camp with few members. 

But a funny thing happened to Steiner on the way to oblivion. A few offshoots of his teachings caught on, at least to some extent. Foremost among these is Waldorf education. Although the total number of students in Waldorf schools in arguably unimpressive, there are now Waldorf schools on all continents (except, of course, Antarctica), the schools continue to proliferate, and some governments give them financial support. Waldorf education is Steiner's shining success — not because it is a sensible form of education but because it has attained a degree of popularity. 

What most people don't realize is that Waldorf schools are intended to spread Anthroposophy, and to the extent that they have succeeded (fortunately, they often fail), Anthroposophy has survived. [See, e.g., "Failure" and "Who Gets Hurt".] Any serious discussion of Waldorf education must hone in on this reality: The connection between the schools and Anthroposophy is fundamental, and the schools can be rationally supported only by those who want to see Anthroposophy spread. Most people who are attracted to Waldorf schools do not understand this basic reality, thus raising a crucial issue that needs exposure and airing.

Here are a few of Steiner's statements about his intentions for Waldorf schools: 

◊ “One of the most important facts about the background of the Waldorf School is that we were in a position to make the anthroposophical movement a relatively large one. The anthroposophical movement has become a large one.” (He was wrong about this, but you get the point.) 

◊ "We certainly may not...say that anthroposophy may not be brought into the school. Anthroposophy will be in the school."  • "As Waldorf teachers, we must be true anthroposophists in the deepest sense of the word in our innermost feeling.”  

◊ "Among the faculty, we must...carry out the divine cosmic plan ... [W]e are actually carrying out the intentions of the gods ... [W]e are, in a certain sense, the means by which that streaming down from above will go out into the world.” 

[For these and other, similar statements, see "Here's the Answer".]

The General Anthroposophical Society has fallen on hard times and is experiencing financial distress. But that need not concern us. Our attention should be focused on Waldorf schools, their intentions and methods, and the effects they can have on children — sometimes deeply damaging effects. [See, e.g., "Our Experience", "Coming Undone", "Spiritual Agenda", "Our Brush with Rudolf Steiner", "Slaps", "Help!", "Methods", "Advice for Parents", "Ex-Teacher 7", the personal accounts at PLANS, etc.]

Here is a message I posted at a discussion site

Steiner himself stressed the need for faith. 

"[T]he forces expressed in the word 'faith' are necessary to the soul. For the soul incapable of faith become withered, dried-up as the desert ... If we do not possess forces such as are expressed in the word 'faith', something in us goes to waste." — Rudolf Steiner, ESOTERIC CHRISTIANITY AND THE MISSION OF CHRISTIAN ROSENKREUTZ (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2000), p. 162.

Moreover, he stressed the need for gurus. 

A seeker "would find himself plunged into the stormy sea of astral [i.e., soul] experiences if he were left to fend for himself. For this reason he needs a guide who can tell him from the start how these things are related and how to find his bearings in the astral world. Hence the need to find a Guru on whom he can strictly rely." — Rudolf Steiner, AT THE GATES OF SPIRITUAL SCIENCE (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1986), XII, "Occult Development".

Here's how it works. You find a guru — oh, let's say, Rudolf Steiner. Strictly relying on him, you learn what you are supposed to believe. Then, using faith, you convince yourself to believe it. Then, using your "clairvoyance" (i.e., self-deception), you "perceive" the things that you believe in (thanks to your faith and your strict reliance on your guru).

The Anthroposophical approach is somewhat different from the scientific method. Anthroposophy is a religion (or, if you prefer, a faith). It is not a science.

— Roger


[R.R., 2010.]

One of the most popular images ever created of the Creation —
by William Blake. It was often displayed, in various manners,
in the "nondenominational" Waldorf school I attended.

Steiner wrote mystery plays — a medieval art form 
conveying religious teachings in pageants. 
Steiner's plays, of course, convey his own teachings. 

This is the "seal" for the first play,

This is the "seal" for

[Both sketches by R.R., 2009.]

“We must be really clear about this. It is sheer nonsense to regard the human form as physical; we must see it as a spiritual form. The physical in it is everywhere present as minute particles ... If someone were to take any of you by the forelock and extract your form, the physical and also the etheric [bodies] would collapse like a heap of sand ... Man, however, still possesses his form when he goes through the gate of death. One sees it shimmering, glittering, radiant with colours. But now he loses first the form of his head; then the rest of his form gradually melts away. Man becomes completely metamorphoses into an image of the cosmos. This occurs during the time between death and a new birth...." — Rudolf Steiner, HARMONY OF THE CREATIVE WORD (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2001), pp. 208-209. 

[R.R. sketch, 2009, based on image on p. 208; 
random colors.] 

Steiner's weird doctrines flatter the human ego. For this reason, many people are drawn to his teachings. A respect for reason, reality, and truth may lead us in a different direction. People of faith, who may agree with Steiner on some points, may find that on other points he strains credulity. Secularists will certainly consider Steiner's teachings bizarre (to say the least). If we want to affirm the dignity and significance of humankind, we must do so through rationality and truth, not mystical fantasies such as Steiner's.

Steiner's attempt to revive a medieval art form

is just one indication of the importance medieval thinking

has for Anthroposophists.

Steiner's plays dramatize

the need for steadfastness among his followers:

They are beset by demons.

(Ahriman appears; Benedictus sees him.)

(There is no longer any illusion about Ahriman. 
His form is much more inhuman; 
his right arm is bone, his right hand a claw, and he has a cloven hoof.)
Ahriman (aside):
He sees me, but as yet he knows me not.
And so he will not cause me fearful pain
If I should try to labour by his side.

(To Benedictus.)
I can declare to thee what Strader means
To tell thee further for thy personal good.
And also for thy pupils' mystic path.

My mystic group will always know itself
To be in touch with Strader's soul, although
The life of sense no longer forms a bridge.
But when a spirit-messenger draws near
And manifests to us from his own worlds,
Then he must needs first win our confidence,
This he can only do if he appears
Without disguise unto our spirit-gaze.

Dost thou not strive for knowledge of thyself!
So stranger spirit-beings, who might wish
To render thee a service, are compelled
To show themselves as parts of thine own self,
If they may only help thee undisguised!

Whoe'er thou art, tis sure thou only canst
Serve Good when thou dost strive not for thyself,
When thou dost lose thyself in human thought
To rise newborn within the cosmic life.

Ahriman (aside):
It is now time for me to haste away
From this environment, for whensoe'er
His sight can think me as I really am,
He will commence to fashion in his thought
Part of the power which slowly killeth me.

— Rudolf Steiner, FOUR MYSTERY PLAYS

(Anthroposophical Publishing Co., 1925),

“The Soul's Awakening”, Scene 15, GA 14.

[Cover and title page from edition 

released by Kessinger Publications,

based on 1920 Putnam edition.

Tint added to cover page.

For more on Steiner's plays,

see "Plays".]

Grasping Steiner's meaning can take work. He often contradicted himself. When writing for — or speaking to — the general public, he often struck a more compassionate, liberal-minded posture than he displayed on other occasions. Even within particular statements, he could contradict himself. Platitudes, tinged with sanctimony, give way to something else. Here are statements from one of his seminal works, intended for all potential audiences. The subject is faith: open-minded, kindly, humble, and eminently reasonable. Through it, Steiner indicates, one can attain a condition beyond faith, a condition of rock-solid, unyielding certitude.

"The world derives equal benefit from our untainted feelings and thoughts as from our good demeanor, and as long as we cannot believe in this cosmic importance of our inner life, we are unfit for the path that is here described. We are only filled with the right faith in the significance of our inner self, of our soul, when we work at it as though it were at least as real as all external things. We must admit that our every feeling produces an effect, just as does every action of our hand." — Rudolf Steiner, KNOWLEDGE OF THE HIGHER WORLDS AND ITS ATTAINMENT (Anthroposophic Press, 1947), chapter 5, "Conditions of Esoteric Training", GA 10.


"[A]ll striving for truth must be founded on faith in and true love for man." — Ibid.


"The fifth requirement is impartiality toward everything that life brings. In this connection we speak of faith and trust. The student meets every human being and every creature with this trust, and lets it inspire his every action. Upon hearing some information, he never says to himself: 'I don't believe it; it contradicts my present opinions.' He is far rather ready to test and rectify his views and opinions. He ever remains receptive for everything that confronts him, and he trusts in the efficacy of his undertakings. Timidity and skepticism are banished from his being. He harbors a faith in the power of his intentions. A hundred failures cannot rob him of this faith. This is the 'faith which can move mountains.'" — Ibid., chapter 6, "Some Results of Initiation".


"These, then, are the gifts which the student owes to his development at this stage: insight into his higher self; insight into the doctrine of the incarnation of this higher being in a lower; insight into the laws by which life in the physical world is regulated according to its spiritual connections, that is, the law of karma; and finally, insight into the existence of the great initiates.

"Thus it is said of a student who has reached this stage, that all doubt has vanished from him. His former faith, based on reason and sound thoughts, is now replaced by knowledge and insight which nothing can undermine." — Ibid.

In Anthroposophy, open-mindedness leads to a preferred condition of close-mindedness. But even the openness Steiner sometimes advocated is generally absent from Anthroposophical practice. Steiner himself contemptuously dismissed the views of his opponents; indeed, he brushed off the views of all "so-called educated people" who failed to toe his line. [15] His essential direction to his followers was this: No compromises.

Questions About Steiner's Classroom

by Milanda Rout 


July 28, 2007

Ray Pereira could not believe what he was hearing. His son's teacher had just said his child had to repeat prep because the boy's soul had not fully incarnated.

"She said his soul was hovering above the earth," Mr Pereira said. "And she then produced a couple of my son's drawings as evidence that his depiction of the world was from a perspective looking down on the earth from above. "I just looked at my wife and we both thought, 'We are out of here'."

And so ended the Pereira family's flirtation with the alternative schooling method known as Steiner education. After this extraordinary parent-teacher interview, the Pereiras withdrew their son and his brother from the inner-city Melbourne government school that ran the Steiner stream.

They are one of a number of families who have relayed strange Steiner experiences to The Weekend Australian, including claims that AFL football was banned because the "unpredictability of the bounce" would cause frustration among children; immunisations were discouraged; and students recited verses to save their souls in class.

The allegations come as more and more children attend Steiner schools, with the education movement celebrating 50 years since the first school was set up in Australia. There are now more than 44 private Steiner schools across the country, 10 programs in government-run schools and it is one of the fastest-growing education movements in the world.

But as Steiner moves into the state education system in Victoria, Queensland and South Australia, questions are being raised about the alternative approach.

Critics say that its philosophical basis is too religious — even comparing it to Scientology — to be in the secular public system.

But supporters deny Steiner education is religious and argue it is a holistic approach to learning.

The alternative curriculum is based on the teachings of 19th century Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner, who believed a spiritual world existed alongside our physical one.

Steiner founded anthroposophy, which believed that by deepening the power of thinking, people could become capable of experiencing "spiritual truths".

Supporters of Steiner are adamant anthroposophy is not taught to children, and that Steiner himself said the spiritual science was only for adults who chose to do it.

But parents and religious experts are concerned that Steiner teachers learn about anthroposophy in their training and these beliefs seep into the classroom. "What a lot of people don't get is that Steiner is based on a spiritual system not an educational one," says cult expert Raphael Aron.

"The majority of people who enrol their kids don't have a clue who Rudolf Steiner really is."

Dr Aron, who is the director of Cult Counselling Australia, said schools varied greatly in their adherence to Steiner's anthroposophy beliefs because of the decentralised nature of the system in Australia.

He said there was a lack of transparency in the schools and often parents were not told about what Steiner believed, making it not dissimilar to Scientology.

"We have been contacted by a few people who have come out of the Steiner system and say they are damaged and are seeking help," Dr Aron said.

Mr Pereira said he believed parents at Footscray City Primary School were deliberately misled about the role that Steiner's beliefs played in the classroom. "It is implicit in everything they do," he said.

Mr Pereira, who is from Sri Lanka, said his concerns about Steiner's racist beliefs were realised when his children were not allowed to use black or brown crayons because they were "not pure". He said Steiner teachers at the state-run school recommended they not immunise their children because it would lead to the "bestialisation of humans".

But Rudolf Steiner Schools of Australia executive officer Rosemary Gentle said anthroposophy was not taught to children, although teachers were introduced to the subject during their training.

"It has nothing to do with what is taught. It is just the approach to teaching," she said.

"The teachers are given an anthroposophy background...and it allows them to look into a child more deeply. You look at children as you would in a family. You strive to understand the child and recognise their emerging personality."

Ms Gentle said the spotlight was on Steiner education because of a "smear and fear" campaign being waged by a small group of people. "Steiner education has been a small, but respected part of the Australian educational landscape for 50 years," she said.

Under the system, students have the same "main lesson" teacher for the first six years and textbooks are not used in primary school. Computers are banned in the primary years and television is discouraged to allow children to develop their "senses in the physical world".

Reading and writing is delayed until children have developed adult teeth — at age seven — to focus on developing the child's healthy body.

Anthroposophy lecturer Robert Martin, who trains Steiner teachers, said being aware of the spiritual side of life enriched the education experience. He said people had many different names for the spiritual world — arch angels, angels, intelligent beings and presence — and they existed long before humans.

"I want to co-work with the angels," Mr Martin said. "These individuals are very advanced ... Our job is to co-work with the spiritual beings." [http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/nation/questions-about-steiners-classroom/story-e6frg6nf-1111114056265]

Another item from the "news" page:

From a report about the Sierra Waldorf School, on March 17, 2013:

Waldorf education is an international program that is the fastest growing independent educational movement in the world, now with more than 900 Waldorf schools in 83 countries.

From the Waldorf School of Garden City, on the same day, March 17, 2013:

Today, there are over 2,500 Waldorf Schools worldwide.

• ◊ •

Waldorf Watch Response:

Getting reliable information about Waldorf schools is difficult. Various Waldorf organizations make varying claims. Sometimes the total number of Waldorfs in the world is bruited to be 3,000 or more. But such numbers are wildly exaggerated — they include at-home Waldorf play groups and other gatherings that do not truly qualify as schools. Moreover, many Waldorfish operations that may have a legitimate claim to being considered schools are nonetheless tiny, having only a handful of students. Some of these "schools" are recognized by central Waldorf organizations, but some are not recognized. Some survive and grow, while others flash into existence and then quickly disappear.

Here is one reasonably reliable tabulation of Waldorf schools worldwide, offered by a pro-Waldorf source, Bund der Freien Waldorfschulen [www.waldorfschule.de]. According to this source, today — in early 2013 — there are 1,024 Waldorf schools in the world, spread among 60 countries. By far the largest concentration of the schools (712) is in Europe, and the country having the most Waldorfs is Germany (233). There are 22 Waldorf schools in Africa, the same total as two years ago; most of these schools are in the Republic of South Africa. Today there are 199 Waldorfs in the Americas, down from 211 two years ago; most are in the USA. There are 46 Waldorf schools in Asia, and 47 in Oceana (Australia and New Zealand).

Just as it if hard to know for sure how many Waldorf schools exist, it is hard to prove or disprove the oft-repeated claim that Waldorf schools constitute "the fastest growing independent educational movement in the world." Part of the problem lies in defining the concept of "independent schools." If by "independent" we mean largely free from control by government educational authorities, then Waldorf schools generally qualify.* However, various Waldorf schools in various countries receive state funding of one form or another, and to some degree these schools may be inspected and supervised by governmental authorities. Indeed, some advocates of public education worry that inclusion of Waldorf schools in state systems may corrupt public education, while some advocates of Waldorf education worry that state supervision may subvert Waldorf aims and practices.

Then there is the issue of comparing the Waldorf movement to other educational movements worldwide. Various Muslim and Hindu schools movements are widespread and fast-spreading. Finding reliable statistics about them — and comparing these numbers to Waldorf claims — would be daunting. Unless advocates of Waldorf schooling have undertaken this work, the assertion that theirs is the "fastest growing" movement would seem to be unsupported. The educational movement to which Waldorf is most often compared is Montessori, and there too difficulties arise. The term "Montessori school" is even more amorphous than the term "Waldorf school," so a tabulation of Montessori schools is well nigh impossible. See, e.g., the Global Montessori School Census. By at least some standards, there are considerably more Montessori schools than Waldorf schools, and Montessori has spread at least as fast as Waldorf. But all of this is foggy.** 

Probably the most accurate summary is that there are about a thousand Waldorf schools in the world today, and the Waldorf movement continues to grow.

* Most Waldorfs govern themselves, and thus they may be deemed independent in the broadest sense — they run their own affairs. However, to the degree that individual Waldorf schools are bound to central institutions such as the Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship (SWSF) or the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America (AWSNA), their autonomy is limited by their submission to these institutions.

** Wikipedia says, for instance, "Montessori education spread to the United States in 1911 ... [It] languished after 1914. [But] Montessori education returned to the United States in 1960 and has since spread to thousands of schools there." In one country, then — the USA — the total number of Montessori schools would seem to be much greater than the total number of Waldorf schools, while the speed of the spread of Montessori schools in that country has waxed and waned and waxed again.

Theosophy teaches that we will evolve through seven planetary stages, but there is also an eighth stage or "sphere." Steiner accepted this doctrine, but as with so much else he reworked it (even while finding difficulty with it). In Theosophy, the Eighth Sphere is the Planet of Death — in effect, Hell. Steiner accepted this, but only to a degree. Here is a "clarifying" statement. I will offer no commentary — sometimes it is best to just hear Steiner out. (In the diagram, above, the green sphere is Earth; the blue sphere the Moon; the red sphere the Eighth Sphere. The Sinnet referred to, below, is an occultist who publicly revealed the existence of the Eighth Sphere.)

“To present this correctly, we must show the Earth here, and the Eighth Sphere here (see diagram). The Eighth Sphere belongs to our physical Earth in the sense indicated. We are surrounded everywhere by the Imaginations into which the aim is that mineral materiality shall continually be drawn. There lies the reason for the sacrifice made by Jahve or Jehovah — the precipitation of substance far denser than the other mineralised substance. This was established by Jahve as Moon, as the counteracting agent. It was substance of extreme density — and this density was described by Sinnett as substance of a far denser physical-mineral character than exists anywhere on the Earth. Hence Lucifer and Ahriman cannot dissolve it away into their world of Imaginations. And so this Moon circles around as a globe of dense matter, solid, dense, indestructible. If you read carefully enough you will find that even the descriptions of the Moon given by physicists tally with this. Everything that was available on the Earth was drawn out and placed there in order that there should be enough physical matter incapable of being wrested away. When we look at the Moon, we see there in the Universe a substance far more intensely mineralised, far physically denser, than exists anywhere on the Earth. Jahve or Jehovah, then, must be regarded as that Being who even in the physical domain has ensured that not all materiality can be drawn away by Lucifer and Ahriman. And then, at the right time, equal care will be taken by the same Spirit that the Moon shall re-enter the Earth when the Earth is strong enough to receive it, when the danger is averted by the development that has meanwhile taken place.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE OCCULT MOVEMENT IN THE NINETEENTH CENTURY (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1973), pp. 87-88. 

[R.R. sketch, 2010, based on the one on p. 87.]

[R. R., 2010.]

Steiner sometimes took questions at the end of his lectures. Here's a sample:

Question: How are Christ's words of consolation received and experienced?

Answer:  Men will feel these words of consolation as though arising in their own hearts. The experience may also seem like physical hearing.

Question: What is the relation of chemical forces and substances to the spiritual world?

Answer:  There are in the world a number of substances which can combine with or separate from each other. What we call chemical action is projected into the physical world from the world of Devachan — the realm of the Harmony of the Spheres. In the combination of two substances according to their atomic weights, we have a reflection of two tones of the Harmony of the Spheres. The chemical affinity between two substances in the physical world is like a reflection from the realm of the Harmony of the Spheres. The numerical ratios in chemistry are an expression of the numerical ratios of the Harmony of the Spheres, which has become dumb and silent owing to the densification of matter. If one were able to etherealise material substance and to perceive the atomic numbers the inner formative principle thereof, he would be hearing the Harmony of the Spheres.

We have the physical world, the astral world, the Lower Devachan and the Higher Devachan. If the body is thrust down lower even than the physical world, it comes into the sub-physical world, the lower astral world, the lower or evil Lower Devachan, and the lower or evil Higher Devachan. The evil astral world is the province of Lucifer, the evil Lower Devachan the province of Ahriman, and the evil Higher Devachan the province of the Asuras. When chemical action is driven down beneath the physical plane — into the evil Devachanic world — magnetismarises. When light is thrust down into the sub-material — that is to say, a stage deeper than the material world — electricity arises. If what lives in the Harmony of the Spheres is thrust down farther still, into the province of the Asuras, an even more terrible force — which it will not be possible to keep hidden very much longer — is generated. It can only be hoped that when this force comes to be known — a force we must conceive as being far, far stronger than the most violent electrical discharge — it can only be hoped that before some discoverer gives this force into the hands of humankind, men will no longer have anything un-moral left in them.

Question: What is electricity?

Answer: Electricity is light in the sub-material state. Light is there compressed to the utmost degree. An inward quality too must be ascribed to light; light is itself at every point in space. Warmth will expand in the three dimensions of space. In light there is a fourth; it is of fourfold extension — it has the quality of inwardness as a fourth dimension.

Question: What happens to the Earth's corpse?

Answer: As the residue of the Moon-evolution we have our present moon which circles around the Earth. Similarly there will be a residue of the Earth which will circle around Jupiter. Then these residues will gradually dissolve into the universal ether. On Venus there will no longer be any residue. Venus will manifest, to begin with, as pure Warmth, then it will become Light and then pass over into the spiritual world. The residue left behind by the Earth will be like a corpse. This is a path along which man must not accompany the Earth, for he would thereby be exposed to dreadful torments. But there are Beings who accompany this corpse, since they themselves will by that means develop to a higher stage.

— Rudolf Steiner, THE ETHERISATION OF THE BLOOD (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1971), GA 130, Oct. 1, 1911.

Here are a couple of messages I posted in September, 2011,
on the intertwined subjects of faith and rational thought.

Anthroposophists usually deny that their views hinge on belief. In particular, they deny that their views essentially consist of believing every single thing that Rudolf Steiner ever said (even when these things contradict one another). And yet it is common to find Anthroposophists fighting tooth-and-nail to defend every single thing that Rudolf Steiner ever said. Steiner’s followers are desperate to assert that Steiner was infallible — or very, very nearly so. 

The Anthroposophical view is, in fact, faith. Faith in Rudolf Steiner.

I've known many very smart Anthroposophists. I was, in effect, brought up by several (John Fentress Gardner, Franz Winkler, etc.). Some of these people wrote thoughtful, impressive books. But, at root, what they affirmed was their unswerving belief in Steiner. Consider, for instance, Winkler's booklet/lecture "Our Obligation to Rudolf Steiner in the Spirit of Easter" (Whittier Books, 1955). The title itself is worth contemplating. And so is this, the nub of Winkler's message: "[W]e have learned to believe Rudolf Steiner's teachings." Believe. Believe Steiner. Without reservation, believe "Rudolf Steiner's teachings." This, in the end, is the definition of Anthroposophy.

Take this a step further. What, specifically, do Steiner’s followers think they are accepting when they accept Anthroposophy? In John Gardner's words, it is “Rudolf Steiner’s extensive and immensely fruitful research.” — John Fentress Gardner, AMERICAN HERALDS OF THE SPIRIT (Lindisfarne Press, 1992), p. 298. This "research" is the use of clairvoyance to study the spirit realm, largely by consulting the Akashic Record. [See "Akasha".] But clairvoyance does not exist, so such "research" is null. [See "Clairvoyance".] Accepting this "research" requires belief — or, more precisely, blind belief. Steiner used a nonexistent faculty, clairvoyance, to consult a nonexistent source, the Akashic Record. Believing what Steiner said calls for an amazing suspension of rational thought. But this is what Anthroposophists do. And — to shine the light back onto the central issue here — Waldorf education arises from this suspension of rationality. Waldorf education is Anthroposophy put into practice, a recognition that should worry anyone who understands the nature of Anthroposophy.



"The truth shall make you free" is more than a hopeful slogan. Freedom is difficult, of course — both attaining it and exercising it. And we could argue that freedom is impossible — we are shaped by our genes and our formative experiences (nature and nurture), and thereafter we are what we are, and we cannot be other than what we are.

Yet a few times in my life I have had a wonderful experience — and so, I'm sure, have billions of other people. I look back over episodes in my life, contemplate them, study them, read texts that seem to throw some light on them — and eventually an epiphany occurs. Aha! That's what it was! That's why I feel or think or act as I do! Well, well. At last I understand, and in the understanding I find peace. I accept the thing about myself that has troubled me, I understand it at last.

And then, sometimes, amazingly, I am free of it.

Our intellects are wonderful. Comprehension is a wonderful thing. Sometimes learning the truth leaves us no better off than before. But, sometimes, it springs open the jail door and we can walk out into the light.

Unwavering Faith

"The task of spiritual science [i.e., Anthroposophy] today is to make it possible for hitherto skeptical minds to perceive once again the central role of unwavering faith in the quest for a direct relationship to living spirit." — John Fentress Gardner, YOUTH LONGS TO KNOW (Anthroposophic Press, 1997), p. 216.

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



Examining the central denial made by Steiner’s followers

A comparison of Steiner's teachings with Christ's


The hidden story

Anthroposophy and hidden knowledge

Anthroposophy and Rosicrucianism

Steiner's strange ideas about the Lord


The Earth Goddess; and the Theory of Everything: Anthropo-Sophia

What Waldorf faculties aim for

About those "morning verses"


Turning students into disciples

Why choose Anthroposophy when there are so many alternatives?


You may also want to consult a few essays 
posted in the first section of Waldorf Watch:

Waldorf's goals

Waldorf's reality

Teachers as priests
Steiner, trying to make Waldorf education seem sensible

The formatting at Waldorf Watch aims for visual variety, 
seeking to ease the process of reading lengthy texts on a computer screen. 

Some illustrations appearing here at Waldorf Watch 
are closely connected to the contents of the pages 
on which they appear; 
others are not 
— the latter provide general context. 

I often generalize about Waldorf schools. 
There are fundamental similarities among Waldorf schools; 
I describe the schools based on the evidence concerning 
their structure and operations 
in the past and — more importantly — in the present. 
But not all Waldorf schools, Waldorf charter schools, 
and Waldorf-inspired schools are wholly alike. 
To evaluate an individual school, you should carefully examine its stated purposes, 
its practices (which may or may not be consistent with its stated purposes), 
and the composition of its faculty. — R. R.



[1] Rudolf Steiner, WALDORF EDUCATION AND ANTHROPOSOPHY, Vol. 1 (Anthroposophic Press, 1995), vol. 1, pp. 49-50 - Feb. 27, 1921.

[2] I discuss these matters in “Steiner’s ‘Science’” and “Is Anthroposophy a Religion?

[3] Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 118 - July 24, 1920.

[4] Ibid., p. 115 - July 24, 1920.

[5] Steiner consistently downplayed the importance of the brain and rational thought. 

◊ “[T]he brain and nerve system have nothing to do with actual cognition....” — Rudolf Steiner, THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 60 - Aug. 22, 1919. 

◊ According to Steiner, “actual cognition” is clairvoyance, which he said works not from the brain but from nonphysical “organs of clairvoyance”: “You see, the organs of clairvoyance must be developed from within....” — Rudolf Steiner, INTRODUCING ANTHROPOSOPHICAL MEDICINE (Anthroposophic Press, 1999), p. 198 - April 3, 1920. 

◊ “[J]ust as natural forces build out of living matter the eyes and ears of the physical body, so will organs of clairvoyance build themselves....” — Rudolf Steiner, KNOWLEDGE OF THE HIGHER WORLDS AND ITS ATTAINMENT (Anthroposophic Press, 1944), p. 28 - first published in 1904. This is the caliber of thinking that underlies Waldorf schooling. If you believe in organs of clairvoyance, you might want to send your kids to a Waldorf school. But if not...

[6] WALDORF EDUCATION AND ANTHROPOSOPHY, Vol. 2 (Anthroposophic Press, 1995), p. 139 - Aug. 10, 1923.

[7] Ibid., pp. 37-38 - Nov. 20, 1922.

[8] Rudolf Steiner, ESOTERIC CHRISTIANITY AND THE MISSION OF CHRISTIAN ROSENKREUTZ (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2000), p. 162.

[9] Rudolf Steiner, KNOWLEDGE OF THE HIGHER WORLDS AND ITS ATTAINMENT (Anthroposophic Press, 1944).  HOW TO KNOW HIGHER WORLDS (Anthroposophic Press, 1994), p. 10.

[10] Ibid., p. 10.


[12] Rudolf Steiner, THE EAST IN THE LIGHT OF THE WEST (Kessinger Publishing, 1999), pp. 2-3.

[14] See "Clairvoyance".

[R.R., 2017.]