Rudolf Steiner was an advocate of freedom. One of his early books, written while he was a secular intellectual, is THE PHILOSOPHY OF FREEDOM. Later, when he became a mystic, Steiner continued to stress freedom, although his occult teachings tended to drain the concept of its meaning. (He subsequently revised THE PHILOSOPHY OF FREEDOM, turning it into a rather different treatise.)

Anthroposophy is sometimes described as a spiritual discipline that leads to spiritual freedom. Waldorf education is likewise often described as emphasizing freedom. Waldorf freedom is not license for young students to do or think what they want; it is a goal for which Waldorf claims to equip students, a goal to be attained when the students reach maturity. In essence, Waldorf schools have the same ultimate conception of freedom as does Anthroposophy; the schools aim to enable students, after they mature to adulthood, to achieve the same "freedom" that Anthroposophy claims to offer.

But there is a deep flaw in this paradigm. Anthroposophy actually countermands freedom. In the Anthroposophical view, individuals must choose between Truth and Falsehood. Truth is Anthroposophy. Falsehood is just about everything else. (I’m oversimplifying, but you get the point.) [1] One can freely choose to go with the false, but this would be foolish, perhaps even suicidal. The gods have created a divine cosmic plan. Humans must live in accordance with this plan if they want to move forward in spiritual evolution (that is, if they want to save their souls). The decision to abide by the plan is a “free” choice — yet it is compulsory. Anyone who fails to live properly will suffer, being sent downward to lower evolutionary levels, and perhaps even losing the ability to reincarnate, thus cutting off further evolution altogether. You may choose this option, if you like. But it means, ultimately, losing your soul. Is this freedom? The only “freedom” in Steiner’s occult scheme is the ability to choose between being right and being wrong, being good and being evil — being rewarded or being punished, living or dying. You must "choose" to abide by the gods' plan or you will suffer the consequences.

Steiner tried to build scope for freedom into his system by teaching that Lucifer and Ahriman rebelled against the divine cosmic plan. This rebellion redounded to our benefit, creating the possibility of freedom — we can choose among differing paths. However, Steiner also taught that the rebellion was actually part of the plan! Thus, the wiggle room disappears. [2]

In reality, for freedom to have value or meaning, we need to be able to choose among multiple good options — probably including options that will be good for some individuals but not for others. Except within very narrow limits, Anthroposophy does not allow such freedom. There is the planned way upward and there is the downward way to evolutionary backwardness. We must choose between these (and only between these).

In effect, for Anthroposophists, there is Steiner's way or the highway.

[R. R., 2010.]

Here is a collection of quotations that helps put Steinerish “freedom” in context, both for Anthroposophy as a whole and for Waldorf education in particular. Note the distinctions between free action and necessity; note the words “must” and “predetermined” and “destiny” and “karma” and the like. Steiner, of course, claimed to reconcile many irreconcilables in his teachings. But the truth is that opposites are not reconcilable. They are as polar extremes. They are opposite. 

Anthroposophy is not the only system that founders on the contradictions between freedom and necessity — but founder it does. According to various Eastern traditions, we may create our own karma, for instance — but this does not make us free. The universe ordains the rule of karma, and we are subject to it: Our hands, in this larger sense, are tied. Likewise, Steiner may claim that humans were not free in prior evolutionary stages but we are free now — but these stages have themselves been ordained, they are not a system we have freely chosen. Similarly, Steiner said that we will be far freer in the future, when — transcending karma — we rise to higher and higher levels of spiritual consciousness. Yet those levels are already mapped out; the stages of our future evolution are already ordained; Steiner himself has described them. In sum, the worldview on which Waldorf schools stand is highly deterministic. There is a divine plan, there is a "white" path leading upward, there is a "black" path leading downward — and that's it. The future is not absolutely written in stone, Steiner said. Things can go wrong, surprises may crop up. But, for the most part, he laid out a highly deterministic schema in which the scope for free choice is extremely limited.

The limitations of this vision shape the lessons and activities conducted in Waldorf schools. Waldorf students are prepared for “freedom” through a long, subtle, covert effort to condition the kids to see the world, and think about the world, as Anthroposophy prescribes. This is not genuine preparation for free choice; it is induction into an occult worldview. The students in the end are meant to “choose” the right path, as laid out by Steiner (as laid down by the gods). The kids are led to this path long before they develop any mature capacity to make profound life choices. Theoretically, when they become adults, Waldorf graduates can freely choose to leave the correct path. But if Waldorf education works as Steiner intended — if the children have been molded and conditioned as the Waldorf curriculum is designed to do — making such a choice will be extremely difficult if not utterly unthinkable. The graduates' path in life will have been chosen for them long before.

The following quotations include some that lay out 

the Anthroposophical vision and some that undermine it. 

All the quotations are from Anthroposophical texts. 

“Our freedom will not depend on what is predestined by prior circumstances, but on what our souls have made of themselves.” — Rudolf Steiner, AN OUTLINE OF ESOTERIC SCIENCE (SteinerBooks, 1997), p. 395.

“[M]an's physical body and also his etheric body were already predestined to have an ego working within them when man entered his first earthly incarnation ... Man had to be predestined for such an activity.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE BEING OF MAN AND HIS FUTURE EVOLUTION Rudolf Steiner Press, 1981 p. 104.

“We can only speak of goodness where there is a distinction between the inner and outer world, so that goodness can obey the spiritual world or not ... [T]he moral world-order is just as much predetermined in the spirit as causality is predetermined here on earth. Only the predetermination is spiritual there.” — Rudolf Steiner, COLOUR  (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1996), p. 183.

“[A] greater freedom can be wished for, and only this greater is true freedom. Namely: to decide for oneself the motive (foundation) of one's will.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE PHILOSOPHY OF SPIRITUAL ACTIVITY (Rudolf Steiner Publishing Co., 1939), chapter 12, GA 7.

“[O]ur school is fundamentally based on spiritual freedom — by which I do no mean, of course, any phantasmagorical spiritual license on the part of the children.” — Rudolf Steiner, RUDOLF STEINER IN THE WALDORF SCHOOL (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 64.

“Community that is founded not upon the blood, but upon the spirit, upon community of souls, is what must be striven for along the paths of spiritual science. We must try to create communities in which the factor of blood no longer has a voice. Naturally, the factor of blood will continue, it will live itself out in family relationships, for what must remain will not be eradicated. But something new must arise! What is significant in the child will be retained in the forces of old age, but in his later years the human being must receive new forces.” — Rudolf Steiner, A VISION FOR THE MILLENNIUM (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2000), p. 117.

"Freedom is the result of the Luciferian influence, and fear and similar feelings are only the phenomena attendant on the evolution of human freedom.” — Rudolf Steiner, AN OUTLINE OF OCCULT SCIENCE (Kessinger Publishing, 1998: 1922 edition), pp.  229-230. 

“[L]ove is a state of true freedom, in which one does not surrender to inborn instincts, but rather forgets the ordinary self and orients one’s actions and deeds toward outer needs and facts.” — Rudolf Steiner, WALDORF EDUCATION AND ANTHROPOSOPHY, Vol. 1 (SteinerBooks, 1995), p. 22.

“[T]he students must feel connected to their teachers. If not, something must be done.” — Christopher Bamford, introduction to THE SPIRITUAL GROUND OF EDUCATION (SteinerBooks, 2004), a collection of lectures by Rudolf Steiner, p. ix. 

“Among the faculty, we must certainly carry within us the knowledge that we are not here for our own sakes, but to carry out the divine cosmic plan. We should always remember that when we do something, we are actually carrying out the intentions of the gods.” — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 55.

“A being which has once been active is henceforth no longer isolated in the world; it has inserted itself into its deeds. And its future development is connected with what arises from the deeds. This connection of a being with the results of its deeds is the law of karma which rules the whole world. Activity that has become destiny is karma [emphasis by Steiner].” — Rudolf Steiner, REINCARNATION AND KARMA - HOW KARMA WORKS (Anthroposophic Press, 1962), GA 34.

“It is wonderful to look truly into the destiny of a human being, for behind it stands the whole world of the Hierarchies.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE FESTIVALS AND THEIR MEANING III, “Ascension and Pentecost” (Anthroposophical Publishing Company, 1958), lecture 6, GA 236.

"Mars, Jupiter and Saturn may also be called the liberating planets; they give man freedom. On the other hand, Venus, Mercury and the Moon may be called the destiny-determining planets.” — Rudolf Steiner, “The Spiritual Individualities of the Planets” (THE GOLDEN BLADE, 1988), GA 228.

"When we grasp the true meaning of human freedom, we can have no wish that a sin should be so forgiven us that we would no longer need to pay it off in our Karma." — Rudolf Steiner, CHRIST AND THE HUMAN SOUL (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1972), lecture 3, GA 155. 

"[H]uman beings are in danger of losing their spirit-soul ... The human being danger of drifting into the Ahrimanic world, in which case the spirit-soul will evaporate into the cosmos.” — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER, p. 115.

“Such souls lose the possibility of incarnation and find no other opportunity ... [T]here are no more bodies bad enough [to house them] ... Beings that stay behind at such stages appear in a later epoch as subordinate nature spirits.” — Rudolf Steiner, NATURE SPIRITS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1995), p. 70.

“The evil race, with its savage impulses, will dwell in animal form in the abyss.” — Rudolf Steiner, UNDERSTANDING THE HUMAN BEING (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1993), p. 103.

Steiner taught that we humans are exceptional beings. Someday, far, far in the future — having spent millennia under the tutelage of the gods — we will become the free product of our own free actions. More than any other beings, we will have autonomy. 

"[A]the end of his evolution he [man] will bear within him only what he has gained through his own efforts, not what he was given, but what he has created out of nothingness.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE BEING OF MAN AND HIS FUTURE EVOLUTION (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1981), lecture 9, GA 107.

This is a high, wonderful promise. Someday, someday... 

It's going to take us quite a while to get there, though. And note that the "nothingness" out of which we will create ourselves is actually a tremendously long, carefully orchestrated divine cosmic plan executed by the gods. In other words, we will have been conditioned to be what the gods want us to be — which, paradoxically (or, worse, impossibly), means being free of the gods and their plan. Still, this is what Steiner has promised us, and it helps us to comprehend what he meant when he said 

“[W]e shall have gradually achieved the transformation of our own being into what is called in Christianity ‘the Father.’” — Rudolf Steiner, THE LORD’S PRAYER (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2007), p. 17. 

We will take charge; we will beget ourselves; we will be the creator(s).


But in the meantime, most of our actions have been directed by hidden beings — they, not we, have pulled the strings. 

“[B]ehind the whole evolutionary and historical process, through the millennia up to our own times, spiritual Beings, spiritual Individualities, stand as guides and leaders behind all human evolution and human happenings." — Rudolf Steiner, OCCULT HISTORY (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1982), p. 12.

Steiner's restrictive conception of freedom 

is rooted in the Germanic conception of freedom. 

Here is a little statement on the matter by 

historian Peter Staudenmaier:

The German Idea of Freedom

German thinkers extolled their notion of moral freedom as far superior to the French definition of freedom in merely political terms. The German idea of freedom was to be free from the animalistic and materialistic weaknesses of human nature while the French only sought to gain freedom from the oppressive state. To be truly free in the German sense meant to be liberated from the internal bonds that prevented the full development of moral character.

This idealist and apolitical conception of freedom, so characteristic of German thought, was in fact the only kind of freedom compatible with the absolutist and hierarchical systems that prevailed in most German states. A strong state may even be congenial to such a conception of freedom, for authoritarianism imposes the discipline that enables people to gain freedom from materialistic desire and temptation. If freedom to walk on the grass, for example, illustrates the Western conception of freedom from government regulation or control, then not wanting to walk on the grass epitomized the German notion of what it means to be truly free. This notion of freedom owed much to the Lutheran and pietist traditions as expressed in Luther’s famous pronouncement, “Flesh shall have no freedom.” Freedom defined exclusively in terms of spiritual conscience is the kind of freedom that can be enjoyed even, or perhaps especially, behind prison walls. The Lutheran notions of inner freedom and subjection to moral law (or self-induced subjection to external law) perfectly complement the Lutheran requirement of absolute obedience to secular authority. There is an undeniably heroic quality in this conception of freedom as internalization of the law, which helps to explain the great creativity of German culture. The equation of heroic self-discipline with the highest form of freedom provided the ideological medium in which both high culture and militant destructiveness could flourish.

Here is an item from the Waldorf Watch "news" page:

“Our highest endeavor must be to develop free human beings who are able, of themselves, to impart purpose and direction to their lives.” — Marie Steiner in the Foreword to THE NEW ART OF EDUCATION (Philosophical-Anthroposophical Publishing, 1928), p. 27.

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Waldorf Watch Response

Many Waldorf schools have used this quotation on their websites and in promotional publications. But there are a couple of hitches.

If we are free or capable of becoming free, then the future cannot be predicted. All of us, freely exercising our own volition, may at any moment do something wholly unpredictable. We are free! And what is true of each individual holds for the human race as a whole. We are free!

And yet Rudolf Steiner claimed to know the future. Look, for instance, at chapter six of his most important book, OCCULT SCIENCE. The chapter is titled “Present and Future Evolution of the World and Mankind.” Steiner confidently told us about the rest of our evolution on Earth, followed by our Jupiter and Venus lives. Only when he looked as far out as our Vulcan lives (yes, Vulcan) did he clam up. But if we are free(!), Steiner could not have known any part of our future. And bear in mind, he said he was not making predictions — he KNEW whereof he spoke, due to his extraordinary psychic powers. This is both logically and factually impossible. If we are free(!), then we are unbounded, we are at liberty, we can do as we please. Freedom means freedom. Period. And using “clairvoyance” to look into the future doesn’t work because there isn't any such thing as clairvoyance.

There is another, smaller hitch. Waldorf schools and Anthroposophists often attribute the quotation, above, to Rudolf Steiner. Undoubtedly Marie Steiner, writing after Rudolf’s death, was expressing her husband’s views as she understood them. But the words are hers, not his. This is just another, small indication of the care you must take when hearing or reading statements made by Anthroposophists. Far too often, in large ways and small, Anthroposophists do not tell the truth.

Here is a passage in which Rudolf Steiner 

says something quite similar to 

the statement we have just considered, 

the one made by Marie Steiner:

"[O]ur children will become skeptics if we present moral and religious ideals to them dogmatically; such ideals should come to them only through the life of feeling. Then, at the right age, they will awaken their own free religious and moral sense, which becomes part of their very being. They feel that only this can make them fully human. The real aim at Waldorf schools is to raise free human beings who can direct their own lives." — Rudolf Steiner, A MODERN ART OF EDUCATION - Foundations of Waldorf Education XVII (Anthroposophic Press, 2004), p. 191.

So, Marie expressed Rudolf's views pretty accurately. Still, a statement made by Marie should be attributed to Marie, not to Rudolf. Setting that minor matter aside, however, let's redirect our attention to the substance of the claim being made in both statements.

When spokespeople for Waldorf schools say that their schools aim to foster human freedom, they are probably telling the truth as they understand it. What they may not understand is that their own beliefs and practices militate against the fostering of freedom.

Note that Rudolf Steiner says that children will be harmed if they are not led to "moral and religious ideals" through "the life of feeling." Indeed, as he often said, Waldorf education is fundamentally religious, and it aims to awaken the students' moral and religious sense. [See "Schools as Churches".] Thus, Waldorf education is not spiritually neutral — it tries to steer children in a particular direction, toward religion. For children to become "skeptics" would be a sad, even disastrous fate, according to the Waldorf view. So, far from seeking to give students true freedom — which would include the freedom to become skeptics, or agnostics, or even atheists — Waldorf schools try to steer their students into a religious frame of mind.

Note, too, that Waldorf schools try to direct students toward religious faith by working on their feelings. Ideas and doctrines go largely unspoken, at least until late in the educational process. Instead, an emotional foundation for religious faith is cultivated. This may, indeed be the most effective way to lead children to form a lifelong religious orientation — once the heart is engaged, faith may be permanently fixed within one, at a level deeper than thought, at a level that cannot be reached by reasoning or argumentation. So, Steiner may be describing an effective process — but it is not a process that leads toward freedom. Indeed, if the Waldorf process works as intended, it nearly precludes freedom; it is what skeptics would call brainwashing, leading to the adoption of attitudes and commitments that become effectively unquestioned and unarguable.

Steiner quite possibly thought he was describing a process leading to freedom, but if so he was quite clearly mistaken. The only latitude he gives "free" humans is the option of deciding precisely which religious denomination or sect to embrace. But even here people who have received the full Waldorf treatment — people who have had their feelings worked on from earliest childhood all the way to the commencement of adulthood — will in all probability choose (if this word has any meaning in such a context) to remain in the Anthroposophical fold. Any other course would be very nearly unthinkable. The Waldorf way has become "part of their very being."

Here is another item from the Waldorf Watch "news" page.

It crosses again some of the territory we have already covered

and then adds further thoughts.

“Waldorf schools present themselves as aimed at a ‘holistic’, child-centred and age-appropriate education towards freedom. This depiction is misleading, since for anthroposophists, these words have very specific meanings that cannot be easily inferred by an outsider if he has not been initiated into Steiner’s occult teachings. Freedom means freedom for anthroposophy. Child-centred and age-appropriate refer to anthroposophical dogmas on childhood development, depending on mumbo-jumbo conceptions surrounding the number 7.” — Peter Bierl, “A Pedagogy for Aryans” 

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Waldorf Watch Response

Kids who graduate from Waldorf schools are sometimes praised for having “interesting minds.” They are “original” thinkers; they "think outside the box.” This sounds fine, and it would seem to support the claim that Waldorf schools prepare students to make original, free choices during their adult lives. But what Waldorf grads typically display is not so much originality as the inculcated product of an unconventional form of mental training. Waldorf students are taught to rely on their imaginations and intuitions, to “feel” more than “think.” Ultimately, Anthroposophists believe in clairvoyance, not rational thought, and the effects of this belief often infects the consciousness of students educated by Anthroposophists. [See “Thinking Cap” and “Steiner’s Specific”.]

What does this mean for freedom? Waldorf teachers generally want their students to reject normal thinking and normal values. They believe, by and large, that most of modern culture is wicked, most of modern technology is demonic, and most of modern science is wrong. The “freedom” they typically advocate is the freedom to reject convention and even rationality — it is the freedom to choose the one true path, unconventional though it may be: the path of Anthroposophy. 

For freedom to be meaningful, we must have a variety of potentially good choices to select from — each person can opt for what s/he wants while others make other choices. But this is not what Waldorf education contemplates (even if some Waldorf teachers think it is). We have only two real choices, according to Anthroposophical teachings, and only one of them is good. We may “freely” choose to follow the teachings of Rudolf Steiner and his adherents, in which case we will evolve to marvelous spiritual heights; or we may “freely” turn our backs on the teachings of Rudolf Steiner and his adherents, in which case we will — sooner or later — lose our souls. This paradigm abolishes freedom. We can go one way and live, or we can go the other way and die. No sane person would take the second option, which means that all sane people are compelled to take the first option. [For more on “the path,” see “Soul School”. For more about making the wrong choice, see “Hell”. ]

True-believing Waldorf faculties attempt to train children in unconventional forms of thought, inculcating unconventional values while directing kids toward unconventional life journeys. The "freedom" Waldorf schools promote is, broadly speaking, the freedom for Waldorf students and graduates to choose the Waldorf religion: Anthroposophy. [See “Is Anthroposophy a Religion?”]

(Returning to Bierl’s statement, above: He mentions the Waldorf conception of “holistic” schooling and the strange power of the number 7. You can get a taste of Waldorf’s unconventionality by looking into “Holistic Education”, “Magic Numbers”, and “Most Significant”.)

* Anthroposophical thinking allows a slight bit of wriggle room — very slight. You can elect a form of Anthroposophy that is a bit more gnostic, or one that is a bit more Rosicrucian, or a bit more Hindu-ish, or a bit more Buddhist-ish — but these are minor shadings. Anthroposophists believe, for instance, that all “true” forms of spiritual science must recognize the central importance of Christ. (So much for overly Hindu-ish or Buddhist-ish approaches.) And Christ must be recognized as the Sun God. (So much for mainstream Christianity. [See “Sun God”].) Very little variation is permissible. The path suited to modern humans, Steiner said, is the Rosicrucian/Anthroposophical path. Those who take this path are less dependent on a guru than if they were to take other paths, but still the ultimate options available are just two: 1) Anthroposophy, advancement, life or 2) anti-Anthroposophy, doom, death.

Steiner did not hesitate to speak of “the path” — the one and only good choice. 

“Those who come to me wanting to hear the truths available through esotericism and nevertheless refuse to walk the path are like schoolchildren who want to electrify a glass rod and refuse to rub it. But, without friction, the rod will not be charged with electricity. This is similar to the objection raised against the practice of esotericism.” — Rudolf Steiner, FIRST STEPS IN INNER DEVELOPMENT (Anthroposophic Press, 1999), p. 25. 

You can’t electrify the glass rod without rubbing it; you can’t hear “the truths” without walking “the path.” Steiner goes on to say 

“No one tells you to become an esotericist. People come to esotericism of their own volition.” — Ibid. 

There, volition: freedom! But what happens to those who don’t walk the path? Their doom is terrible. [See “Sphere 8”.] Only those who want to see mankind destroyed refuse to accept Steiner’s one-true-way: “

"[O]nly those who are willing to see human beings pass into the Eighth Sphere [i.e., perdition] can have any valid objection to this spiritual-scientific Movement.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE OCCULT MOVEMENT IN THE NINETEENTH CENTURY (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1973), lecture 5, GA 254.

One more "news" item:

"Our system of public higher education is one of the great achievements of American civilization. In its breadth and excellence, it has no peer. It embodies some of our nation’s highest ideals: democracy, equality, opportunity, self-improvement, useful knowledge and collective public purpose ... Public higher education is a bulwark against hereditary privilege and an engine of social mobility ... Now the system is in danger of falling into ruin. Public higher education was essential to creating the mass middle class of the postwar decades — and with it, a new birth of political empowerment and human flourishing. The defunding of public higher education has [led toward] its slow destruction."  

◊ •• ◊


What is true of public higher education is also true of public elementary and secondary education. The great ideal of universal education is essential in democratic societies. Providing sound, affordable education for all members of a democratic community creates an educated work force, an informed electorate, and — most important — free individuals who are able to seek their own fulfillment. When we weaken our public educational systems, we do so at our great peril.

Of course families should be free to select private schools, including Waldorf schools. Of course such schools should be allowed to exist. But they should stand on their own feet, finding their own funding. Public resources should not be diverted to them at the expense of public schools, nor should they be allowed to insinuate themselves into public education systems.

Waldorf schools represent a particular danger to the flourishing of democratic societies and the empowerment of free individuals. While Waldorf spokesmen often use words like "freedom" and "democracy," the truth is that the Waldorf system is highly authoritarian. In Waldorf belief, the gods have created a plan for the universe, and the Anthroposophists on Waldorf faculties believe that they work in service to this divinely ordained plan. 

“Among the faculty, we must certainly carry within us the knowledge that we are not here for our own sakes, but to carry out the divine cosmic plan. We should always remember that when we do something, we are actually carrying out the intentions of the gods." — Rudolf Steiner. [See "Here's the Answer".] 

According to Waldorf belief, there is a single correct course for a soul to follow: It is the "white path." Straying from this path means taking the downward, evil, "black" path. 

"Thus thou wouldst tread the black path, while the others from whom thou didst sever thyself tread the white path.” — Rudolf Steiner. [See "Guardians" and "White-Black".] 

Because they embrace Steiner's occult teachings, true-believing Waldorf teachers strive to maneuver children toward the one true form of life, the Anthroposophical form. [See "Spiritual Agenda".]

Anthroposophists believe that the correct path has been pointed out for us by Rudolf Steiner, who was a transcendent master and authority, inferior only to the gods themselves. Waldorf schools often operate in nearly worshipful obedience to Steiner's directives. There is a reason, after all, that Waldorf schools are also called Steiner schools. [For a sampling of the sorts of statements Steiner's followers make about him, see "Guru". To explore Waldorf school operations from the inside, see "Faculty Meetings", "Discussions", "Advice for Teachers", and the series of "Ex-Teacher" reports.]

When Waldorf schools profess a belief in freedom, they are speaking of an essentially negative, anti-democratic "freedom": freedom from, not freedom for. At the most fundamental level, Waldorf schools seek to "free" students from those impulses, influences, modes of thought, etc., that would take them to the black path. Waldorf schools do not often help students understand that life holds many wonderful options, many desirable alternatives from which one may freely choose. In Waldorf belief, there is really only one good choice, and that is to follow Rudolf Steiner. The schools usually refrain from explicitly propounding Steiner's doctrines in class, and they naturally recognize that students have individual needs and desires, but they nonetheless work to steer students in the one "true" direction.

Likewise, the Waldorf conception of democracy is tightly restrictive. The only sphere in which democracy is legitimate, according to Steiner, is secular government; and the government should not meddle in the more important spheres of life — the spiritual/cultural sphere and the economic sphere. [See "Threefolding".] Certainly, government should not attempt to restrict the spiritual work being done by Waldorf schools. This work is incompatible with democratic decision-making. The gods have made a plan, Steiner has shown us this plan, and now we must implement it or suffer the horrible consequences. This is not a matter that can be put to a vote. Indeed, nothing truly important can be put to a vote. We obey or we suffer the consequences of our disobedience. (In the bizarre logic of Steiner's teachings, we have to "freely" choose to obey — but in practice this simply means that we must fall in line with the great plan.) [See "Democracy" and "Hell".] 

When democratic societies weaken their public education systems and lend support to strange alternative systems such as the Waldorf system, they do so at their great peril.


Let's summarize, reiterate, and extend some key points. They are essential to a clear comprehension of Waldorf education.

Waldorf schools claim to promote freedom. They say they do not teach their students Anthroposophical doctrines. They say they do not try to force the students to adopt Anthroposophical beliefs. They claim to be nonsectarian and nondenominational. [See "Clues".] Hence, when students graduate from Waldorf schools, they are perfectly free to choose their own paths in life.

Undoubtedly some Waldorf teachers are sincere when they describe their work in these terms.* Unfortunately, however, despite a few traces of truth, this account of Waldorf education is seriously misleading. When Waldorf teachers speak in these ways, they are either trying to deceive you, or they are deceiving themselves, or both.

Even if we disregard the cramped, restrictive nature of the "freedom" Rudolf Steiner advocated — even if, in other words, we accept that Waldorf representatives mean genuine human liberty when they speak of freedom — still this account of Waldorf education is seriously misleading.

Waldorf education is, at its core, an attempt to enact Anthroposophy and bring more converts into the Anthroposophical fold. [See "Here's the Answer".] Waldorf teachers rarely expound Anthroposophical doctrines, as such, in class; they go at things more circuitously than that. Still, circuitously, they sneak Anthroposophy into the classroom at virtually every opportunity. [See "Sneaking It In".] Waldorf students are immersed for years on end, for hours and hours daily, in an Anthroposophical atmosphere that is meant to mold their feelings, perceptions, attitudes, and opinions. A student who receives the full Waldorf treatment should emerge at the end seeing the world, and feeling about the world, and thinking about the world precisely as Anthroposophists intend. The process is subtle, but we should recognize it for what it is: a form of indoctrination. [See "Indoctrination".]

Of course, things don't always work out as planned. Not all Waldorf students become deeply indoctrinated, but this is chiefly because the Waldorf approach is so flawed that it frequently misfires. To get the complete Waldorf treatment, a student should enter a Waldorf school while still a toddler and stay at the school throughout childhood, all the way through the end of high school. S/he should have minimal contact with the outside world during all those formative years. That's the program as laid out by Rudolf Steiner. But, in practice, many Waldorf students are spared this smothering regime. Many families become disenchanted with Waldorf education and pull their kids out long before the end of high school. Other families remove their children for other reasons. Meanwhile, some families enroll their children at a Waldorf long after preschool, sometimes as late as the final years of high school. In all such cases, the children are spared the full Waldorf treatment, and thus they are unlikely to be deeply indoctrinated.

Then, too, some kids are naturally rebellious and skeptical. Some are incisively, analytically perceptive. Some are inner-directed, willful, or hardheaded. Such children stand a good chance of passing through Waldorf more or less intact. (For some of them, the passage may be cut short against their will, and against their parents' will: Some students may be expelled when their teachers decide they are recalcitrant.)

There is another factor we need to recognize. The Waldorf approach is basically unrealistic; it is often ineffectual for this reason alone. When, for instance, Waldorf teachers try to use clairvoyance [see "The Waldorf Teacher's Consciousness"] to perceive and guide the incarnation of their students' invisible bodies [see "Incarnation"], they are wasting their time and their students' time. The students' educations may suffer as a result [see "Academic Standards at Waldorf"], but for the most part the teachers are simply spinning their wheels and achieving little or nothing real, for good or for ill.

Despite all these limitations, Waldorf schooling indoctrinates a significant number of students, often with powerfully harmful results. Teachers whose own minds are clouded by mystical fantasies will almost inevitably lead many of their students astray. When fantasists take charge of a group of children and weave their shared fantasies around the kids, the subliminal effect can be intense. Waldorf teachers generally do not spell out Anthroposophical doctrines in class, but this does not mean they withhold Anthroposophy — it only means they reduce their students' the ability to rationally discuss, analyze, and reach conclusions about the beliefs that underlie Waldorf education. Waldorf students spend their days in a miasma of unspoken but deeply felt, ever-present metaphysical conceptions, conceptions that are all the more likely to be absorbed and internalized precisely because they go unspoken. The most effective forms of brainwashing are not aimed at people's conscious minds but at the subconscious levels of being, swaying people in ways that function deep below the surface. This is how Waldorf schools operate, although Waldorf teachers and even some of their victims defend Waldorf practices as sweetly beneficent.

Choosing not to explain complex metaphysical ideas to young children makes sense, of course — the children wouldn't understand. But Waldorf teachers generally follow the same policy of secrecy and indirection when dealing with all students, young and old; and they do the same when dealing with the students' parents. Anthroposophists consider themselves to be occult initiates. [See "Inside Scoop".] They think they possess "mystery wisdom" that should not be openly shared with the uninitiated. As a result, Waldorf schools are only mildly committed to the normal educational objective of sharing and spreading knowledge. Waldorf schools, in fact, are not primarily concerned with educating their students, if by "education" we mean conveying real knowledge about the real world. Waldorf schools, bright and colorful though they may appear, are places of darkness and occult secrecy, not the light of knowledge.

Children who spend their days in an unrelieved Anthroposophical milieau are likely to be significantly influenced, even when they are not required to memorize an Anthroposophical catechism. Bear in mind, Anthroposophists think that leading people to Anthroposophy is a matter of the highest importance; absolutely everything depends on it. [See "Everything".] Waldorf teachers consider themselves to be priests, charged with the spiritual welfare of their students. [See "Schools as Churches".] So while they may proceed circumspectly, protecting their secrets, true-believing Waldorf teachers nonetheless look for every possible way to nudge their students in the "right" direction.**

Waldorf schools do not promote freedom. They operate in the service of Anthroposophy, and their ultimate purpose is to spread Anthroposophy. They want you and your children to "freely" come to Anthroposophy, sooner or later, in this life or the next. They are sure that they represent the one true way. If you select a different way, you may be headed toward perdition, and Waldorf faculties don't want you to make such a dreadful mistake. Sooner or later, you really must come to Anthroposophy or run the risk to losing your soul. Salvation requires you to "freely" submit, which essentially means surrendering your capacity for freely choosing a path different from Anthroposophy.

The Waldorf movement reduces, it does not enlarge, the scope of human freedom.

* As I say many times on this site, it is important to remember that not all Waldorf teachers are Anthroposophists — although the leaders of Waldorf faculties generally are. Steiner said all Waldorf teachers should be Anthroposophists, but in practice this goal is rarely attained. 

“As Waldorf teachers, we must be true anthroposophists in the deepest sense of the word in our innermost feeling.” — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press. 1998), p. 118.

** Efforts to lure students' parents into Anthroposophy take different forms. If, having carefully evaluated you, Waldorf teachers conclude that you are susceptible, they may cautiously, indirectly begin alluding to various Anthroposophical concepts in your presence. They will probably invite you to evening gatherings in which, over the course of weeks and months, an exposition of basic Anthroposophical doctrines gradually unwinds. You may be given basic Anthroposophical texts to read. Slowly, slowly the veil may be lifted. But, then again, if you do not seem susceptible, or if other factors intrude, none of this may occur. Many people have spent years in and around Waldorf schools without ever being taken into the faculty's confidence.

While most Waldorf teachers refrain 
from preaching Anthroposophical doctrines 
in class, some do not —
some lay out Anthroposophy openly, 
teaching the students Steiner's occult creed 
explicitly. They proselytize in the classroom.
See, e.g.,



THE PHILOSOPHY OF FREEDOM is perhaps Steiner’s most impressive book. He wrote the first version before he turned to occultism — it was a more or less conventional work of philosophical speculation and analysis. Later, having professed himself an occultist, he revised the book to be more consistent with his newly proclaimed mystical worldview. The book is studied by his followers today; they embrace it as a foundational work of Anthroposophy. In fact, the book remains more philosophical than metaphysical — it contains virtually none of Steiner’s “clairvoyant observations” about such things as invisible human bodies, nature spirits, hierarchies of gods, planetary stages of evolution, and the like. Nonetheless, certain central Anthroposophical concerns are present, at least in gestational form — imagination, intuition, spirituality — and as such the book offers one avenue into the realm of Anthroposophical discourse. The book has been released under the alternate titles THE PHILOSOPHY OF SPIRITUAL ACTION and INTUITIVE THINKING AS A SPIRITUAL PATH. These titles more accurately reflect the contents of the book as interpreted by Anthroposophists today, and they suggest how inadequate the English word "freedom" is to express Steiner's meaning.

The key fact about the book — a fact that is neither acknowledged nor, generally, recognized by Anthroposophists — is that the book is a failure. Steiner published THE PHILOSOPHY OF FREEDOM hoping that it would win him a place in the ranks of celebrated German philosophers. It did not. Reviewers and philosophers at the time were largely unimpressed, and today Steiner has virtually no standing within the philosophical community. When the book's reception was disappointing, Steiner turned abruptly to occultism, and today he is accurately considered a mystic, not a great thinker. His followers prize the book not chiefly because they find philosophical riches between its covers, but because they have been told that the book provides a deeply reasoned foundation for their esoteric worldview. They come to the book already convinced of its importance, and they are firmly disinclined to pass clear, rational judgment on it.

All of Steiner’s books are hard going — turgid, pontifical, strangely (dis)organized, and evasive. THE PHILOSOPHY OF FREEDOM exhibits these qualities to an unusually elevated degree. How many Anthroposophists actually read the book from beginning to end is doubtful. This is not a book to read; it is a book to puzzle over; and for Anthroposophists, it is a sort of talisman. Still, the book is ultimately more sensible than most of Steiner’s later works, and anyone truly interested in understanding how Anthroposophists see the world should spend time with it. Other works by Steiner — especially AN OUTLINE OF OCCULT SCIENCE — tell us far more about the contents of Anthroposophy, but THE PHILOSOPHY OF FREEDOM is important if only because Anthroposophists tell each other that it is.

Here is a quick summary of the book’s contents, along with a few characteristic passages. (In my summary, I will emphasize Anthroposophical concepts more distinctly than Steiner himself did in the revised text. I will, perhaps, be clearer than Steiner, which inevitably means I will distort Steiner to some degree. If anything, I am bending over backwards to be fair — or more than fair — to Steiner. I will not bother rebutting Steiner at this point; to the extent that a rebuttal is warranted, it is implicit on virtually every other page of Waldorf Watch)


Do we have free will? The “freedom” Steiner means in this book is a spiritual condition — freeing oneself of influences and controls that restrict the range of thought. We can be inwardly free only if we are not driven by motives of which we are unaware. We must understand our motivations, which means understanding the nature of knowledge, which in turn means understanding the nature of thought. Steiner briefly and dismissively surveys the views of various philosophers who question the reality of free will. Thinking is fundamentally a spiritual process, Steiner says — the human “I", the true self, must be open to living thoughts, which are spiritual realities.

We seek knowledge to understand our place in the world and to escape our sense of isolation. We want to break through the dualism that separates us from reality. We contain spirit within us. Through introspection, we can connect to fundamental truth — we find the unity of existence. Internally, we are not separate from ultimate (spiritual) reality but part of it (we contain it just as it contains us).

Most of our thinking is unfree — it is conditioned by our experiences, education, and culture. But we have the capacity to think freely; there are no limits to our potential inward freedom or the breadth of the knowledge we may obtain. Our thinking is coherent and true when it focuses upon itself and is supervised by the “I”: We then intuitively grasp reality as naturally as our senses perceive reality. Our thinking becomes truly free when it no longer depends on externalities but instead intuitively grasps the essence of reality, which presents itself within us (phenomena have an ideational/spiritual content that naturally arises in our intuitive consciousness). When thinking consults only itself, it is free.

To guide our behavior — to act freely — we need moral imagination and moral intuition, which to be pure should arise from free thinking that is wholly self-referential. Moral imagination and moral intuition must be the result of living thoughts (vibrant spiritual realities), not any authority or precedent. They should be unmediated. Rather than obeying abstract principles, we should recognize each situation in its true, unprecedented nature, and respond directly, with a will informed by immediately intuited recognition. Morality becomes, then, an extension of individuality, the “I” expressing its intuitive wisdom (and thus one being’s morality may differ from another’s). Steiner contends that he is discussing an idealized vision of human thought and conduct, but he holds that the ideal — that is, the spiritual — is the only true reality, the condition toward which we aspire and the condition in which we exist when we are our truest selves.

Steiner develops his arguments gradually, attempting to plug each gap and answer each potential criticism. 

"Steiner leads us gently on, step by step ... We are bidden to beware because we can be easily deceived into believing we are thinking and acting freely when we are not ... [I]n Steiner's (difficult) analysis the 'highest conceivable moral principle is one that from the start contains no...reference to particular experiences, but springs from the source of pure intuition, and only later seeks any reference to percepts, that is, to life.'" [3] 

Despite Steiner's best efforts, the resulting text strikes many readers are pedantic, and most readers indeed find it difficult. But to Steiner's mystically minded admirers, the book seems an exhilarating work of genius. [4]

The main Anthroposophical publishing house in Britain gives the following synopsis: 

"Rudolf Steiner...shows that by taking account of our own activity of thinking, we can know the reasons for our actions. And if these reasons are taken from our world of ideals, then our actions are free, because we alone determine them. But this freedom cannot be settled for us by philosophical argument. It is not simply granted to us. If we want to become free, we have to strive through our own inner activity to overcome our unconscious urges and habits of thought. In order to do this we must reach a point of view that recognises no limits to knowledge, sees through all illusions, and opens the door to an experience of the reality of the spiritual world. Then we can achieve the highest level of evolution. We can recognise ourselves as free spirits." [5]

The main Anthroposophical publishing house in the USA adds this: 

"Of all his books, INTUITIVE THINKING AS A SPIRITUAL PATH [i.e., THE PHILOSOPHY OF FREEDOM] is the one that Rudolf Steiner himself believed would have the longest life. Written just one hundred years ago, as a phenomenological account of ‘results of observing the human soul according to the methods of natural science,’ this seminal work asserts that free spiritual activity — understood as the human ability to think intuitively, independent of physical nature — is the appropriate and available cognitive path for human beings today. [paragraph break] Readers will find no abstract philosophy here, but rather a step-by-step account of how a person may come to experience living, intuitive thinking: ‘the conscious experience of a purely spiritual content.’ [paragraph break] Over the last century, many have sought to discover the ‘new thinking’ that could help us understand the various spiritual, ecological, social, political, and philosophical issues facing us, but only Rudolf Steiner laid down a path [sic] leading from ordinary thinking to the level of pure spiritual activity — intuitive thinking — where we become co-creators and co-redeemers of the world.” [6]

For other summaries of 


see the “Chapter Summaries” 

at the website

You might also consult 

Stewart C. Easton’s concise discussion in


(Anthroposophic Press, 1989), chapter 3.

Be forewarned: There are distinct differences in interpretation

between the various summaries and discussions. 

Understanding Steiner, even if you are a devoted follower, 

is no easy task.


If, in my summary, I have made Steiner’s argument 

seem plausible and almost clear, 

reading Steiner’s own words may be a useful corrective.

"[T]he content of thinking appears inwardly. The form in which this first makes its appearance we will call intuitionIntuition is for thinking what observation is for percept [i.e., a perceived phenomenon shorn of its conceptual content]. Intuition and observation are the sources of our knowledge. An observed object of the world remains unintelligible to us until we have within ourselves the corresponding intuition which adds that part of reality which is lacking in the percept. To anyone who is incapable of finding intuitions corresponding to the things, the full reality remains inaccessible. Just as the color-blind person sees only differences of brightness without any color qualities, so can the person without intuition observe only unconnected perceptual fragments.

"...What, then is a percept? The question, asked in this general way, is absurd. A percept emerges always as something perfectly definite, as a concrete content. This content is directly given and is completely contained in what is given. The only question one can ask concerning the given content is what it is apart from perception, that is, what it is for thinking? The question concerning the 'what' of a percept can, therefore, only refer to the conceptual intuition that corresponds to this percept." — Rudolf Steiner, THE PHILOSOPHY OF FREEDOM (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1964), chapter 5, GA 4.

"[T]he elements for the explanation of reality are to be found in the two spheres: perceiving and thinking. It is due, as we have seen, to our organization that the full, complete reality, including our own selves as subjects, appears at first as a duality. The act of knowing overcomes this duality by fusing the two elements of reality, the percept and the concept gained by thinking, into the complete thing. Let us call the manner in which the world presents itself to us, before it has taken on its true nature through our knowing it, 'the world of appearance,' in contrast to the unified whole composed of percept and concept. We can then say: The world is given to us as a duality, and knowledge transforms it into a unity. A philosophy which starts from this basic principle may be called a monistic philosophy, or monism. Opposed to this is the two-world theory, or dualism. The latter does not assume just that there are two sides of a single reality which are kept apart merely by our organization, but that there are two worlds absolutely distinct from one another. It then tries to find in one of these two worlds the principles for the explanation of the other.

"Dualism rests on a false conception of what we call knowledge. It divides the whole of existence into two spheres, each of which has its own laws, and it leaves these two worlds standing apart and opposed.

"It is from a dualism such as this that there arises the distinction between the perceptual object and the thing-in-itself, which Kant introduced into philosophy, and which, to the present day, we have not succeeded in eradicating. According to our line of argument, it is due to the nature of our mental organization that a particular thing can be given to us only as a percept. Thinking then overcomes this particularity by assigning to each percept its rightful place in the world as a whole. As long as we designate the separated parts of the world as percepts, we are simply following, in this separating out, a law of our subjectivity. If, however, we regard the sum of all percepts as the one part, and contrast with this a second part, namely, the things-in-themselves, then we are philosophizing into the blue. We are merely playing with concepts. We construct an artificial pair of opposites, but we can gain no content for the second of these opposites, since such content for a particular thing can be drawn only from perception.

"Every kind of existence that is assumed outside the realm of percept and concept must be relegated to the sphere of unjustified hypotheses. To this category belongs the 'thing-in-itself'. It is quite natural that a dualistic thinker should be unable to find the connection between the world principle which he hypothetically assumes and the things given in experience. A content for the hypothetical world principle can be arrived at only by borrowing it from the world of experience and then shutting one's eyes to the fact of the borrowing. Otherwise it remains an empty concept, a non-concept which has nothing but the form of a concept. Here the dualistic thinker usually asserts that the content of this concept is inaccessible to our knowledge; we can know only that such a content exists, but not what it is that exists. In both cases it is impossible to overcome dualism. Even though one were to import a few abstract elements from the world of experience into the concept of the thing-in-itself, it would still remain impossible to derive the rich concrete life of experience from these few qualities which are, after all, themselves taken from perception. DuBois-Reymond considers that the imperceptible atoms of matter produce sensation and feeling by means of their position and motion, and then comes to the conclusion that we can never find a satisfactory explanation of how matter and motion produce sensation and feeling, for 'it is absolutely and for ever incomprehensible that it should be other than indifferent to a number of atoms of carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, and so on, how they lie and move, how they lay and moved, or how they will lie and will move. It is impossible to see how consciousness could come into existence through their interaction.' This conclusion is characteristic of this whole trend of thought. Position and motion are abstracted from the rich world of percepts. They are then transferred to the notional world of atoms. And then astonishment arises that real life cannot be evolved out of this self-made principle borrowed from the world of percepts.

"That the dualist can reach no explanation of the world, working as he does with a completely empty concept of the 'in-itself' of a thing, follows at once from the very definition of his principle given above." — Ibid., chapter 7.

"The moral laws which the metaphysician who works by mere inference must regard as issuing from a higher power, are, for the adherent of monism, thoughts of men; for him the moral world order is neither the imprint of a purely mechanical natural order, nor that of an extra-human world order, but through and through the free creation of men. It is not the will of some being outside him in the world that man has to carry out, but his own; he puts into effect his own resolves and intentions, not those of another being. Monism does not see, behind man's actions, the purposes of a supreme directorate, foreign to him and determining him according to its will, but rather sees that men, in so far as they realize their intuitive ideas, pursue only their own human ends. Moreover, each individual pursues his own particular ends. For the world of ideas comes to expression, not in a community of men, but only in human individuals. What appears as the common goal of a whole group of people is only the result of the separate acts of will of its individual members, and in fact, usually of a few outstanding ones who, as their authorities, are followed by the others. Each one of us has it in him to be a free spirit, just as every rose bud has in it a rose. 

"...Human morality, like human knowledge, is conditioned by human nature. And just as beings of a different order will understand knowledge to mean something very different from what it means to us, so will other beings have a different morality from ours. Morality is for the monist a specifically human quality, and spiritual freedom the human way of being moral." — Ibid., chapter 10.

The ultimate test of Steiner's philosophical reasoning is the validity of the form of thought he advocated. 

Intuition is "free" because it is not anchored in the world beyond the consciousness — it is detached from objective reality. [7] Elsewhere, Steiner identifies intuition as the third stage of clairvoyance, the form of thought that humanity will perfect during Future Vulcan. [8]

Sad to say, Steiner's reasoning takes him to conclusions that are bosh. 

Clairvoyance does not exist. (For that matter, neither does Vulcan.) The "freedom" we obtain by following Steiner's lead is the freedom to delude ourselves. Intuitive thinking, especially when it is identified as a form of clairvoyance, is nothing ultimately but fantasy. It is false. And so is Steiner's "philosophy."

For more on these matters, see "Clairvoyance", "Future Stages", "Thinking", "Thinking Cap", "Steiner's 'Science'", and "Steiner's Specifics".

THE PHILOSOPHY OF FREEDOM is, arguably, Steiner's most impressive book. It is less obviously absurd than so many of his other works. But, ultimately, it is a failure; it leads down the path to absurdity, delusion, and falsehood. [To peek into Steinerian absurdity, delusion, and falsehood, see "Steiner's Blunders", "Steiner Static", "Oh Man", "Say What?", "Lunacy", "Mars", "Vulcan", "Supermen", and, and...]

A posting at waldorfcritics by Peter Staudenmaier
touches on the issue of the revisions Steiner made to

I've finally had a chance to take a look at David Marc Hoffmann's perceptive review of the new volume of the 'critical edition' of Steiner's early philosophical works, particularlyPhilosophy of Freedom, edited by Christian Clement. Hoffmann is the head of the Rudolf-Steiner-Archiv in Dornach. The review appeared last month in the major Swiss newspaper, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung:

It characterizes Steiner's philosophical position in the original edition of Philosophy of Freedom as a form of "radically this-worldly epistemological monism that rejected any supposition of supernatural influences on the world of lived experience" ("einen radikal diesseitigen erkenntnistheoretischen Monismus, der jegliche Annahme übernatürlicher Einflüsse auf die erlebbare Welt ablehnte"), a concise and accurate description that directly contradicts a number of dearly held anthroposophical assumptions about the book. 

Hoffmann also emphasizes the profound differences between the original version of the book and the heavily revised edition published in 1918; many anthroposophists are familiar only with the revised version, which accounts for some of the more tenacious anthroposophical myths about Steiner's early philosophical period. The unrecognized textual divergences have been a source of endless confusion among Steiner's followers for a century. Hoffmann points out that Clement's new edition makes it possible for readers to trace all of the changes. Perhaps this will have a salutary effect on anthroposophist efforts to comprehend Steiner's work. 

— Peter Staudenmaier

April 6, 2016


[1] Anthroposophy weaves together many strands of religious and occultist tradition. It draws on Christianity, Hinduism, Norse mythology, astrology, alchemy, and many other sources. Steiner found truth in many such sources. However, he reinterpreted them, forcing them into an arbitrary, superficial, and illusory consistency. Only the end product is truly true, according to Steiner. Anthroposophy is "spiritual science." It is the result of Steiner's "exact clairvoyance." It is True. Nothing else is truly True, not even the sources he drew from — at most, according to Steiner, they contain earlier, incomplete versions of the Truth.

[2] One of Steiner formulations:

“This sanction of the opposition is therefore inherent in the original plan of divine wisdom. Indeed, we may say that in still earlier periods of earthly evolution, the opposition against the harmonious progressive divine-spiritual powers was created precisely so that it could later bring about freedom.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE UNIVERSAL HUMAN (Anthroposophic Press, 1990), p. 83. 

There really is no escaping the divine plan; it is all-encompassing; and hence we are not free. Steiner often did not see or at least acknowledge the contradictions in his teachings. This is one such case. [See, e.g., "Universal".]

[3] Stewart C. Easton, MAN AND THE WORLD IN THE LIGHT OF ANTHROPOSOPHY (Anthroposophic Press, 1989), pp. 128-130.

[4] See, e.g., Gary Lachman, RUDOLF STEINER - An Introduction to His Life and Work (Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin), p. 92.

[5] See the Rudolf Steiner Press website; also the rear cover of the Press's 1964 edition of THE PHILOSOPHY OF FREEDOM.

[6] See the rear cover of The Anthroposophic Press's 1995 edition of INTUITIVE THINKING AS A SPIRITUAL PATH.

[7] Objectivity is an ideal, not a readily exercised capacity. Steiner himself endorsed this ideal, as when prescribing exercises to be used in the development of objective, "exact" clairvoyance. [See, e.g., "Knowing the Worlds" and "Exactly".] But there is a great difference between disciplines that deal with phenomena that we can rationally affirm as being real and those that deal with phenomena that are little more than phantasms. The natural sciences, which Steiner often fiercely criticized, are examples of the former; Anthroposophy, which consists principally of fantasies, exemplifies the latter. [See, e.g., "Reality and Fantasy" and "Steiner's 'Science'".] As used by Steiner, many important words — such as "freedom" and "truth" — lose their meanings.

[8] See, e.g., the entries for "clairvoyance," "intuition", "Vulcan", and "Vulcan consciousness" in The Brief Waldorf / Steiner Encyclopedia. Steiner claimed to be clairvoyant, and developing clairvoyance is a goal for most of his followers. Steiner specified three stages of clairvoyance: imagination, inspiration, and intuition. These are attainable by initiates today, he said, and all humans who evolve to future planetary conditions will attain them then: imagination during Future Jupiter, inspiration during Future Venus, and intuition during Future Vulcan. He discusses various portions of these matters in various books and lectures, such as AN OUTLINE OF OCCULT SCIENCE and THE STAGES OF HIGHER KNOWLEDGE - Imagination, Inspiration, Intuition. 

◊ "Let us once more call up before our souls whither modern Initiation leads, after the first steps to Imaginative knowledge have been successfully taken. A man then comes to the point where his previous abstract, purely ideal world of thought is permeated with inner life ... The Cosmos itself, together with our own true being, as it was before birth, before our earthly existence, appear first at the stage of Inspiration, when the spiritual world flows into us from outside ... The third step in higher knowledge, necessary for rising to Intuition, can be achieved only by developing to its highest point a faculty which, in our materialistic age, is not recognised as a cognitional force ... We must have gained mastery over ourselves during our present earthly existence in order to have any insight into a preceding one [i.e., a previous incarnation]. When we have achieved this knowledge, we see the complete life of a man passing rhythmically through the stages of earthly existence from birth or conception till death, and then through spiritual stages between death and rebirth, and then returning again to Earth, and so on. A complete earthly life reveals itself as a repeated passing through birth and death, with intermediate periods of life in purely spiritual worlds. Only through Intuition can this knowledge be acquired as real knowledge, derived directly from experience." — Rudolf Steiner, THE EVOLUTION OF CONSCIOUSNESS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1966), lecture 2, GA 227. 

◊ "That the human being can pass through seven such planetary conditions is the meaning of evolution. Each planetary stage is bound up with the development of one of the seven states of human consciousness, and through what takes place on each planet the physical organs for such a state of consciousness are perfected. You will have a more highly developed organ, a psychic organ, on Jupiter [i.e., during Future Jupiter]; on Venus there will be an organ through which man will be able to develop physically the consciousness possessed by the initiate today on the Devachanic plane [i.e., the spirit world]. And on Vulcan the Spiritual consciousness will prevail, which the initiate possesses today when he is in Higher Devachan [i.e., the higher region of the spirit world].” — Rudolf Steiner, THEOSOPHY OF THE ROSICRUCIAN (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1966), lecture 8, GA 99.


For more about freedom, see

"Steiner Static: Freedom"


 "Tenth Hierarchy".

The Anthroposophical use of language is frequently slippery. Anthroposophists say that their system is a science, when it isn't. They say that their system is not a religion, when it is. They say their doctrines are not racist, when they are. They say their doctrines promote freedom, when they don't.

The intention of Steiner's followers, in all these instances, is not necessarily to deceive us (although Steiner may have worked intentionally to deceive). Generally, such misstatements arise from Anthroposophists' misunderstandings of various issues, and their self-deception. Believing themselves to be members of a divine movement, in harmony with the gods and devoted to universal betterment, they wear rose-tinted mental glasses. They see what they want to see, they define things as suits their predispositions, and they tell themselves comforting falsehoods. 

They fool themselves. But we need not accept their misstatements, nor should we enter into their illusions.

- Compilation and commentary by Roger Rawlings

To visit other pages in the sections of Waldorf Watch
that include "Freedom", use the underlined links, below.


A look back, plus

Mystical thinking, realistic thinking


Reports and advice from parents whose children attended Waldorf schools

A report by a mother who was drawn to a Waldorf school but left disillusioned

Talking it over

Had enough?

Describing the near-collapse of the Waldorf school I attended

Deprogramming myself after Waldorf

Who the heck am I?

Doom and deliverance

Short and sweet

Can you trust me?


CHARLIE HEBDO : necessary impertinence

DEMOCRACY : Steiner on


FREEDOM (STATIC) : same shoal

THREEFOLDING : reforming society

WAR : this one and that one

WOODROW : Wilson