This is a continuation of the essay "Unenlightened." 

III. Waldorf: Light and Dark 

Steiner revealed his intentions for Waldorf schools during discussions at the first Waldorf. The following quotations come from books published by the Anthroposophic Press in the series called “Foundations of Waldorf Education”. 

◊ Steiner wanted Waldorf schools to spread Anthroposophy: “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.” [1] 

◊ To this end, Steiner arranged that “[We] need to make the children aware that they are receiving the objective truth, and...anthroposophy has something to say about objective truth ... Anthroposophy will be in the school.” [2] 

◊ To that end, the “staff consists of anthroposophists.” [3] Steiner elaborated on that last point, thus: “As Waldorf teachers, we must be true anthroposophists in the deepest sense of the word in our innermost feeling.” [4]


The educational process at the Waldorf school I attended was both circumspect and subtle. Instead of teaching us explicit doctrines, the Anthroposophists on the faculty — those teachers who understood what Waldorf was really about — typically tried to lead us by indirection. They sensitized us to the supernatural, and then they worked, quietly, to nurture in us a feeling of intuitive connection to the spirit realm. [5] Their conception of that realm was largely determined by visions Rudolf Steiner claimed to have attained through the use of clairvoyance.

Our school days were pleasant — mellow and tranquil. There was scarcely any unruliness or rude behavior at Waldorf. Pranks and mild rebelliousness were not completely unknown, but they were rare. (Incorrigible troublemakers were weeded out during the application process or they were expelled.) Arriving at the school each day was like entering a refuge from worldly turmoil. The morning began with a prayer, although no one called it that — we called it a "morning verse." [6] In the lower grades, after reciting the "verse," we had classes about myths and Bible stories (Steiner believed that myths are true clairvoyant reports of the spirit world, whereas the Bible is almost true, needing to be reinterpreted in light of his own teachings). [7] Interspersed with these supernatural lessons, there were classes in math and geography and history: regular subjects, although they were trimmed and modulated in ways we did not understand. We had no textbooks — we copied lessons written on the chalkboards for us by our teachers. The school's library was small — only the Waldorf worldview, and texts that might seem to confirm it, were available to us. Reading was not emphasized or, indeed, taught in the lower grades. We had no “Weekly Reader,” no “Dick and Jane.” Nor were modern teaching aids used, things such as movies; there was something repugnant, even evil, about them, although we were not told what. We laid our heads on our desks and listened as our teachers recited or read to us — often tales of the magical or mystical. Norse myths, in particular, were stressed — the mythology of Germany and northern Europe. The gods of many mythic traditions accompanied us throughout our Waldorf years. Anthroposophy teaches that virtually all gods, of virtually all mythic traditions, are real beings, immanent presences. (Waldorf graduates are sometimes surprised to learn that the ancient gods are not historical figures. [8])

At various times of the day, we knitted, and crocheted, and painted, and played simple woodwind instruments in unison. Sometimes we merely gazed about while our teachers spoke. (We did not take notes, and we were rarely tested. We didn't have to study much.) The teachers urged us to imaginatively identify with whatever we studied or saw — to feel the life-force coursing through a tree, or absorb an eagle’s noble spirit, or experience the meaning of a boulder. In art classes, we were taught to produce misty watercolors having no straight lines or clear definitions. The images we created were otherworldly, bearing no resemblance to ordinary physical reality, yet completely unlike the stick-figure cartoons kids often produce. The teachers didn’t say so, but our paintings were in effect talismanic representations of the spirit realm as described by Steiner. [9]

In dance classes, we performed “eurythmy,” a form of bodily movement that looks a bit like slow-motion modern dance but that was actually intended to teach us the proper stances to manifest spiritual states of being — calling upon influences from our past lives and preparing the basis for our future lives. [10] We did eurythmy while manipulating therapeutic copper rods and holding our pelvises strictly still. We were made to feel that eurythmy had an especially strong spiritual component. Our teachers didn’t need to articulate their beliefs about such matters; their tone of voice and facial expressions conveyed the seriousness of the tasks they set us. The eurythmy instructors made a particularly powerful impression on us. Sometimes we did eurythmy for our parents during school assemblies. These performances were almost invariably solemn, freighted with spiritual significance. In my class’s first public eurythmic performance, coming in about the third or fourth grade, we enacted the creation of the world — the emergence of light, the separation of light from darkness, the separation of dry land from the waters, and so on. We portrayed angels and archangels and the fulfillment of God’s commands. I played the role of God Almighty.

By the time we reached the upper grades, our spiritual conditioning was fairly well advanced and the curriculum became somewhat more conventional. We had a few textbooks now — although sometimes these were simple collections of primary texts: historical documents from US history, for instance, with little editorial commentary. Our teachers told us what to make of the texts. As in the lower grades, history classes were primarily recitations of exciting tales, with legends and myths intermixed. In language classes, dictionaries and grammars became permissible, and we started, tentatively, to write short essays and stories in our own words rather than simply copying out what the teachers presented. [11] In art classes, realism was increasingly permitted, and our dancing now included some ballroom instruction. Math, foreign languages, and a few other subjects became electives: At the fringes of the curriculum, we could choose which courses to take. But the longest, most important classes of each day — called "main lessons" — were still compulsory: All the kids at each grade level took these classes together.

So things changed, a little, as we moved up through the grades, but Waldorf’s essential nature remained. Throughout most of each day, throughout most of the curriculum, the spiritualistic vibe persisted. Eurythmy persisted. Misty watercoloring persisted. Norse myths persisted. We sat through lessons on the shortcomings of science and the failings of modern technology. [12] Our math classes were infused with Platonic idealism: The numbers, operators, and geometric figures we worked with were, we learned, rude shadows of their true, perfect counterparts residing in an ideal, supersensory region. [13] In literature classes, we read carefully selected novels having themes consistent with Anthroposophy, [14] interspersed with works of supernatural and even theological content: THE ODYSSEY, THE DIVINE COMEDY, PARADISE LOST — and, naturally, an anthology of myths from around the world, featuring (naturally) Norse myths. Most of the works assigned to us were literary classics, and as such they were perfectly defensible as high school reading matter. Our reading list was, in fact, impressive; most parents would be delighted if their kids were assigned any one of these works, and at Waldorf we read several such. But bear in mind what these works meant to us. From the earliest grades on, we had been fed a steady diet of myths and fabulous supernatural tales. Each new supernatural story built on the others, confirming us more and more in the otherworldly perspective our teachers wanted us to adopt. Gods and giants and fairies and goblins and demons and angels and cyclopses and... They were real to us, or nearly so. They danced attendance on us, and we on them. [15]

In brief, our teachers were astute in choosing class materials that would support Anthroposophy, if only tangentially, without raising parents’ suspicions. The crucial element was the commentary given to us in class by our teachers, who imparted a slow Anthroposophical backspin to everythingIt is amazing how much can be conveyed in a few choice words by true believers who hold positions of authority. We read no critics, we received no outside views. (Imagine. What if most of the tales and texts presented during your schooling were mystical, spiritualistic, and/or religious? And what if the interpretations of these works given by your teachers conformed to the beliefs of a strange, mystical, spiritualistic cult? Your education would largely amount to indoctrination in that cult's vision of reality. Such was our education.)

Our headmaster — John Fentress Gardner — devised reinterpretations of important works of American literature, endeavoring to bring those works into line with Anthroposophical doctrine. [16] Such slanted versions of American and European intellectual history worked their way into our studies. Intimations of the great beyond were subtly, recurrently present in most of our high school studies — and Christ became increasingly central. Our headmaster guided us in reading spiritualistic essays: Ralph Waldo Emerson’s SELECTED WRITINGS, for instance, and Thomas Carlyle’s ON HEROES AND HERO-WORSHIP. I still have my copies of these books, in which I see that I dutifully underlined passages honoring Christ [17] and praising “Christianism.” [18] Our teachers rarely acknowledged their interest in Christ, explicitly, but His overwhelming significance for them was hard to miss in much of our “nonsectarian” schooling. [19] We were encouraged to read disguised Christian parables by J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, who were members of a coterie known as the Oxford Christians. [20] Our high school chorus, which consisted of all the kids in the high school, rehearsed and performed holy music, including (during my senior year) Handel’s “Messiah.” The central event of each “nonsectarian” year at our school was the Carol Sing on a December evening. Students, parents, faculty, and alumni filled the candlelit auditorium, which for the evening became a kind of chapel. The Sing was our community bonding experience. It was unmistakably reverent (all the carols were traditional birth-of-Jesus songs — no secular ditties about Santa Clause or reindeer or snowmen), and it always culminated in “Silent Night” — which most of us sang in English but some sang in contrapuntal German. 

Christ was important at Waldorf, but He was Christ as reinvisionejd by Rudolf Steiner. He was not the Son of God worshipped in Christian churches; He was the Sun God, the same god known in other traditions by such names as Ra, Apollo, and Baldr. [21] We not told none this, directly. We had to absorb the "truth" from the misty atmosphere of the school — or wait to absorb it later in life, or in a later incarnation. Anthroposophists are patient. Mankind's future evolution, as foreseen by Steiner, runs for millennia. [22]

The effects of Waldorf’s educational program gradually accumulated in our heads and hearts. After I had been at the school only a few years, the notion of trying to see the world clearly had lost almost all meaning for me. Everything seemed to me symbolic rather than concrete — although what the symbols stood for was vague. Everything had its hidden, mystical deeps. My distrust of facts and phenomena was entirely consistent with Steiner’s teachings: 

“I must emphasize this again and again, that the saying ‘the world is Maya’ is so vitally important.” [23] 

A booklet written by Mr. Gardner [24], throws light on the worldview that Waldorf encouraged. (Some readers may want to skip this paragraph; it is dense with the sort of jargon that Anthroposophists often affect.) Mr. Gardner discusses “the art of education developed in Waldorf Schools.” The booklet includes such statements as the following: 

“Is not the contrast between mountain and sea a cause as well as an image of deep contrasts in the moral experience of mankind? Mountains define, but by the same act they also divide. They teach integrity, but may go further to instill antipathy.” [25] 

The language is more elevated than any that our teachers would have used with us, but the message is very familiar to me: Nothing is simply what it is, it is always something else, something higher, or lower. Moral and spiritual lessons abound; the actual, physical world has value only to the extent that it points us away from itself. Accordingly, we must not conceive that a mountain is merely a towering mass of rock and earth — it is a manifestation, a lesson, an image bearing on our moral experience. Insisting that all phenomena represent (in ways that must be hermetically divined) esoteric precepts, Anthroposophists cause phenomena to recede into a multi-layered, oracular haze. 

Later in the booklet, Mr. Gardner writes this: 

“Understandably, many teachers today [at conventional secular schools] do not recognize that the world-content [i.e., the sum of the world's phenomena] has something to give, through completely experienced thought, to every power of the human soul. Their training has not led them to appreciate that within each of its facts the apparent world conceals many levels of truth....” [26] 

Properly trained teachers at Waldorf schools don’t make that mistake: They always direct attention away from the “apparent world” to the many concealed “levels of truth” in order to empower the human soul. They have their eyes on what lies beyond — real or otherwise. And that is the key: real or otherwise. Peering deeply, seeing beyond superficial appearances, can be, of course, wise. Indeed, it may be considered the essence of wisdom. But you must see what is really present in the phenomena you study — you must not imagine “hidden truths” that are mere figments of your own imagination. Steiner's followers often commit precisely the error of substituting fancies for facts. They “perceive” occult states and events that do not actually exist. They fantasize, and they lure students into their fantasies.

We should pause over one phrase used by Mr. Gardner: “completely experienced thought.” For Steiner and his followers, the truest thinking is not rational cognition or brainwork, which they deem dry and un-heartfelt. An “experienced” thought is felt — it is a thought tempered by imagination — it is more akin to emotion than to cool, rational conceptualizing, and it often leads to complication or mystification rather than to clarity. Ask yourself whether this is the sort of thinking what you want for your children. Nothing in the physical world is real. What we see around us isn’t what it is. It is all illusion. The Anthroposophical solution is to feel one’s way past appearances by opening outwards through imagination or clairvoyance (in Anthroposophy, these terms are often synonymous). According to Steiner: 

“Essentially, people today have no inkling of how people looked out into the universe in ancient times when human beings still possessed an instinctive clairvoyance.... If we want to be fully human, however, we must struggle to regain a view of the cosmos that moves toward Imagination again....” [27]

One implication of the foregoing is that Waldorf schools would find little benefit in explicitly teaching their students Anthroposophical doctrines, even if the students were old enough to comprehend them and there were no other incentives for the faculty to keep mum. Memorizing doctrines is brainwork, which does not help us (and possibly may hinder us) in our efforts to become “fully human.” [28] So Waldorf schools generally work to inculcate the doctrines and attitudes of Anthroposophy at an unconscious, emotional level, rather than at the dry, dull intellectual level.

I should stress again that not everyone at our Waldorf school was an occultist. Most of the students, lots of the parents, and even a fair number of the teachers seemed to be regular folks. And there were a few apparent fence-sitters, teachers and parents who seemed to sense something spiritually alluring about Waldorf without fully committing themselves to it. But among the faculty, undeniably, there were also the others, the true believers: individuals who always seemed to be trying to peer through the thin veil separating the physical realm from the spiritual realm (as they might have put it). [29] They were serious individuals, mainly, who sometimes got faraway looks in their eyes — yet they also had a sort of steel in them, a sense of sureness. They possessed holy secrets, keys to cosmic truth.

Sometimes some of the school's secrets were partially revealed. Surprisingly, at least a few of the secrets seemed to involve race. During twelfth grade, my class was taught biology by our headmaster, Mr. Gardner. I don’t know what credentials he had in biology, if any [30], but because he was headmaster, his authority was unquestioned. He commanded respect — he was tall, dignified, articulate — a dominant male whose word was not to be doubted. Still, I remember being troubled by a lecture he delivered one morning. Mr. Gardner laid out for us the overarching structure of the family of man. He explained that the various races stand at different levels of moral development — each is forging its own destiny. He said these things sympathetically, with no hint of condescension. Yet the vibe was in the room that morning: The terms he used were more metaphysical than biological. The Oriental races, he said, are ancient, wise, but vitiated. The African races are youthful, unformed, childlike, he said. Located near the center of humanity’s family are the currently most advanced races, the whites, he said. (To my shame, I must admit that I was sufficiently struck by these notions to write a paper essentially parroting them. I got a good grade, of course.) [31]

I also remember a lesson our class received from another of our teachers, Hertha Karl, who taught both German and “earth science.” Her background is, to me, a closed book — but of all the Waldorf faculty, she made the least effort to disguise her devotion to Steiner. She drew figures-of-eight on the blackboard and lectured us about “lemniscates”: the mystic interaction of the “telluric” and “etheric” forces, which is the basic structure of nature, she said. During one day's main lesson, she veered off topic to warn us never to receive blood transfusions from members of other races (all of us were white). Blacks and Orientals have blood types that are physically different from ours, she taught us: Receiving such inferior blood would harm us. The moral once again was that racial identity has great significance.

There is no way for me to prove that Mr. Gardner and Mrs. Karl made the remarks I have attributed to them. All I can do is offer my solemn oath that I have carried clear, consistent memories of those remarks throughout my life. (Some of my own classmates have told me that their recollections confirm mine.) If my memory has grown dim or betrayed me in any particulars, nonetheless I am confident that my account of these two lessons is, in all essentials, accurate. Years after leaving Waldorf, I learned that the things Mr. Gardner and Mrs. Karl said are largely consistent with Steiner’s doctrines. If I had known this at the time, perhaps my teachers’ remarks would not have startled me enough to burn such lasting impressions.

Because all the students in my class were white, Mr. Gardner and Mrs. Karl (also white) presumably felt free to speak to us about race in invidious terms. Today, Waldorf schools seem to be fairly well integrated — and I trust the faculties are free of racial bigotry. But I wonder how those faculties reconcile racial integration with the racism that infects Anthroposophy. I hope that teachers as Waldorf schools no longer engage in open discussions of superior/inferior races, and I doubt that the word “Aryan” (which Steiner used often) is spoken aloud much now. The task of downplaying Steiner's racism is made easier, in English-speaking countries, because some translations of Steiner’s books from the original German omit certain “difficult” passages. Anthroposophists outside Germany who rely on expurgated texts may understand Steiner’s basic teachings about race, but they are shielded from Steiner’s most bigoted assertions. 

One of Steiner’s basic racial tenets is that the division of mankind into races was a crime committed by two disruptive spirits. The arch-demons Lucifer and Ahriman interfered with the harmonious evolution of humanity by causing older forms of mankind to survive even while other segments of humanity evolved to higher levels:

“Lucifer and Ahriman...fought against this harmonious tendency of development in the evolution of humanity, and they managed to change the whole process so that various developments were shifted and displaced. While there should have been basically only one form of human being...Lucifer and Ahriman preserved [earlier human types]...even into the time after the Atlantean flood. Thus, forms that should have disappeared remained. Instead of racial diversities developing consecutively, older racial forms remained unchanged and newer ones began to evolve at the same time. Instead of the intended consecutive development of races, there was a coexistence of races. That is how it came about that physically different races inhabited the earth and are still there in our time although evolution should really have proceeded [unimpeded].” [32]

Set aside the question of Atlantis (“the Atlantean flood”) for the moment. Note that the older racial forms preserved by Lucifer and Ahriman would necessarily be less evolved and hence inferior to newer forms. Anthroposophists often argue that Steiner was not a racist. Yet making distinctions between races, and placing whites at the top of a racial hierarchy, are recurrent themes in his work. In Steiner’s view, the simultaneous existence of multiple races is, in itself, wrong. Correcting this “error” means removing inferior racial strains. 

“A race or nation stands so much the higher, the more perfectly its members express the pure, ideal human type ... The evolution of man through the incarnations in ever higher national and racial forms is thus a process of liberation [leading to] an ideal future.” [33] 

Attaining a “pure, ideal human type” may or may not be desirable goal. Racism would end if we all became alike, which Steiner said will happen when the highest humans move on to new, better incarnations, and the lowly and wicked are left behind. But this biased vision obviously runs contrary to the more enlightened ideals of diversity, multiculturalism, and mutual respect among races. If we really want to end racism, we must accept all races as equal here and now. Anthroposophy does not do this.

In closing this section, I’d like to return to — and expand — a point I made a moment ago. I cannot swear that all of my memories are accurate, of course. But the research I have undertaken in recent years indicates that the description I’ve offered of my schooling is in line with Rudolf Steiner’s stated objectives for Waldorf education. In reading Steiner today, I find that almost everything he says rings a muffled bell of familiarity in my memory. I take this as at least indirect confirmation that what I have written about my school years is essentially accurate. Still, I urge you to evaluate my statements by comparing them with Steiner’s. I believe you will find that they are wholly in line with one another. What I am giving you, here, is a reliable exposition of Waldorf education. 

— Roger Rawlings

To reach the next section of “Unenlightened”,

please use the following link:

"Waldorf's Impact"

I described, above, how one of the teachers at my Waldorf school warned white students against receiving blood transfusions from nonwhites. Her warning was consistent with Steiner's teachings. 

◊ “[T]his question of race is one that we can never understand until we understand the mysteries of the blood and of the results accruing from the mingling of the blood of different races." — Rudolf Steiner, THE OCCULT SIGNIFICANCE OF BLOOD (Health Research Books, 1972), p. 13. 

◊ Steiner asked "How can a negro [sic] or an utterly barbaric savage become civilized?" — Ibid., p. 13. 

◊ Steiner said the answer depends on blood and whether a race "be on the up- or down-grade of its evolution...." — Ibid., p. 13. 

Steiner taught that whites are evolving upwardly while other races, having risen as high as they can, are degenerating. 

"The white race is the future, the race that is creating spirit." — Rudolf Steiner, VOM LEBEN DES MENSCHEN UND DER ERDE - ÜBER DAS WESEN DES CHRISTENTUMS  (Verlag Der Rudolf Steiner-Nachlassverwaltung, 1961), p. 62.

According to Steiner, whites can advance to higher spiritual levels because they are capable of high clairvoyant abilities. But mingling whites' blood with blood from other races would cut off this capacity. 

"The physical organism of man survives when strange blood comes in contact with strange blood, but clairvoyant power perishes under the influence of this mixing of blood, or exogamy." — Rudolf Steiner, THE OCCULT SIGNIFICANCE OF BLOOD, p. 42. 

Exogamy is sexual pairing outside one's own ethnic group, tribe, or race. It is equivalent to miscegenation, one of the prime bugaboos of racists.

In sum, Steiner taught that different races have different blood, which is reflected in the differences in their racial or folk souls. 

"[T]he blood of mankind is acted upon in a twofold manner; that two races originate, by the blood of mankind being acted upon; on the one side we have that which we call the Mongolian race, on the other that which we may describe as belonging to the Semitic race. That is a great polarity in humanity, and we shall have to trace much that is of immense importance back to this polarity, if we wish to understand the depths of the Folk-souls." — Rudolf Steiner, THE MISSION OF THE FOLK SOULS (Rudolf Steiner Publishing Co., 1929), lecture 6, GA 121.

Above is one of our eurythmy instructors.

Below is a scene from a high-school eurythmy class.

To preserve the privacy of my old schoolmates, I have

concealed their faces. Both images are from our 

school yearbook, THE PINNACLE.

Ahriman as depicted in a bust

attributed to Rudolf Steiner.

See "Ahriman".

[R.R. sketch, 2013.]

[R.R. sketch, 2009, based on image in the book.]

"One must always emphasize that on rising up to higher knowledge, to imagination, the human being remains the same person he otherwise is in ordinary life ... What happens is that out of the first human being the second develops, one who is able to think without calling on his body [i.e., the physical brain] to help.  The first stage towards higher knowledge is that the soul-spirit begins to do without the body as an actual organ of thinking." — Rudolf Steiner, BLACKBOARD DRAWINGS 1919-1924 (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2003), p. 59. 

Rudolf Steiner

[Rudolf Steiner, THE STORY OF MY LIFE 

(Kessinger Publishing, facsimile of 1928 edition,

Anthroposophical Publishing Co.), frontispiece.]

[R.R. sketch, 2009, based on the sketch in the book.]

Waldorf schools represent a worldview, Anthroposophy, that most people would surely consider weird. This apparent weirdness doesn't make Anthroposophy good or bad, right or wrong, but it undeniably present in the Waldorf movement, and if you decide to associate yourself with a Waldorf school, you should understand what you are becoming involved in. Here is one example of the occultist thinking that underlies Waldorf schools. It isn't bad, it isn't good. But for better or worse, it is a sample of occultist thought: 

“Just as speech proceeds from out of the larynx, [and] the child from the womb, so the fully developed human being at about age 35 is born, as it were, from out of the cosmos...the form of man, the complete human form, as a spoken word." — Rudolf Steiner, EURYTHMY AS VISIBLE SPEECH (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1955), p. 35. 

Steiner meant that humans are the fulfillment of the "words" spoken by the gods. He taught that there are many, many gods. The swirling actions of the gods is a sort of dance. It is a dance of spiritual essences, divine thoughts, creative words. 

“We ask the divine powers which have existed from the beginning: How then did you create man in a similar way as the spoken word is created...?" — Rudolf Steiner, ibid., p. 35.

The worldview underlying Waldorf schools is polytheistic: Man was created not by God but by the words of many gods. Some people may find this an attractive idea, perhaps even a true idea. At Waldorf schools, it is accepted as revealed Truth. 

The gods' dance is reenacted in Waldorf schools through a form of interpretive dance called eurythmy. The movements in eurythmy are supposed to make visible the spiritual meaning behind spoken words — thus, they are supposed to convey and even create occult wisdom. Eurythmy is considered so important, so central to Waldorf's purpose, that all students are usually required to participate in it.

Here are two representative eurythmic positions with their associated astrological signs. Yes, astrology. The occult powers of the stars are very important to Anthroposophists. Astrology, as developed by Steiner, is rarely far below the surface in Waldorf education:

This sketch is based an illustration in EURYTHMY AS VISIBLE SPEECH [p. 159]. The astrological signs appear in the book just as you see them here. Additional eurythmic movements are shown, with their associated astrological signs, on pages 160-162, 167, and 168, and there is an astrological chart showing all twelve signs of the zodiac along with the signs for all seven of the "sacred planets" [p. 172]. Steiner outlines twelve gestures that correspond to the twelve signs of the zodiac. He then says “These gestures in their totality represent the entire human being...." [p. 158]. In Anthroposophic doctrine, human beings are microcosms who reflect the entire cosmos, which in turn is reflected in the twelve signs of the zodiac.

Steiner lays out specific connections between eurythmic gestures and astrological signs. For instance, concerning the tenth gesture, he says 

"Here (X) is that element which is manifested in the outer world in everything standing under the sign of eternal action, under the sign of eternal will: Taurus, the bull" [p. 170]. 

Steiner discusses a total of nineteen gestures: twelve for the signs of the zodiac and seven for the sacred planets, and he connects all this with speech. Consonants have their origin in the zodiac, he says; vowels have their origin in the sacred planets.

Steiner wraps things up by saying, 

"Today, then, we have discovered nineteen gestures; twelve static and seven permeated with movement — of which latter one is quiescent only because rest is the antithesis of movement. (In the Moon we have movement annulled by its very velocity)" [p. 175].  

Language and thinking of the kind we have just seen appeal to some people. If you are one, then Waldorf schools may appeal to you. But if you find anything unsettling about such occultism, Waldorf may not be the place to send your kids.

Waldorf schools can seem attractive,

and indeed many Waldorf teachers

are attractive people with the best of intentions.

Waldorf students are certainly encouraged

to see the world in pleasing forms and colors.

[Artwork by Waldorf students.]

Attractiveness and good intentions. What can be wrong with that? Perhaps nothing. Or perhaps a lot, if these things overlie occultism. I don't know what the Waldorf students who created these images were told, but here is what Steiner said about butterflies: 

"The butterfly, since it is a being of light, sends spiritualized earthly matter out into the cosmos throughout its life ...  I call this spiritualized earthly matter the butterfly corona ... The earth as it were tempts the human being to reincarnate by sending the rays of the butterfly corona...out into universal space." — Rudolf Steiner, BLACKBOARD DRAWINGS 1919-1924 (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2003), p. 117.

When a Waldorf teacher tells students about butterflies, s/he is not talking about mere insects. And if s/he uses the image of a butterfly in a story or parable, s/he is not offering the kids a mere metaphor. Waldorf teachers believe that butterflies are literal, living embodiments of the spiritual fact of reincarnation. When a caterpillar transforms itself and becomes a butterfly, it is enacting the same process that human souls undergo, dying and then being reborn in a new form. As Steiner said, 

"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 [i.e., the gods]...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.’” — Rudolf Steiner, WALDORF EDUCATION AND ANTHROPOSOPHY (Anthroposophic Press, 1995), Vol. 1, pp. 49-50.

Most children enjoy fairy tales.
But perhaps no other schools place greater
emphasis on such stories than Waldorf schools do.
These tales, as told at Waldorf, sensitize students to the
existence of supernatural beings.
Steiner insisted that creatures such as goblins really exist.
[Drawing by a Waldorf student.]

Goblins are known by many names, Steiner said, 
including "gnomes."
To examine Waldorf beliefs about such beings,
see "Gnomes".

For more on Steiner's racist remarks and racism in Waldorf schools, please go to:

For a report of racism discovered in Waldorf schools recently, in the USA, please use this link:

The Waldorf attitude toward nature is complex. Nature should be revered for the spirits it manifests, Steiner taught. But Anthroposophy also harbors is a deep revulsion from the natural, physical world. Waldorf artwork often presents striking images of natural objects. But note how, almost invariably, these natural objects are modified to imply the activity and presence of spiritual powers. If gods and gnomes and other invisible beings are not at work in a natural setting, then that setting is dead and meaningless — and perhaps demonic — according to Waldorf belief.

To delve into Waldorf teachings about nature, see, e.g.,

[R.R. sketch, 2009, based on the image on p. 83 of 
(Rudolf Steiner Press, 2002).]

[R.R. sketch, 2009, based on the one in the book.*]

Taking Steiner seriously requires considerable mental charity. When his statements were not deplorable on moral grounds, they were often deplorable as grab bags of misinformation. Here is a striking example:

“So, we find the meteorites: they are the remains of shattered comets. But the comets are something quite different; they are alive! The sun, too, is alive, has a stomach, and not only consumes comets but eats exactly as we do ... If the comets consisted merely of iron, and then fell into the sun, you would see how quickly all of it would be excreted again ... Now think back to the time when the sun was inside the earth ... As long as the sun was in the earth, the latter was able to get nourishment from the cosmos with the help of the sun ... Yes, the earth was well provided for while the sun was in it. You must of course also visualize at this point that the sun is far larger than our planet so that the sun was actually not inside the earth, but the earth was inside the sun. We must imagine that the sun contained the earth, which in turn had the moon in it." — Rudolf Steiner, FROM CRYSTALS TO CROCODILES (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2002), pp. 152-153. 

It is difficult to catalogue all the blunders contained in this one Steiner passage. Here are a few corrections: Meteorites are not generally broken-off bits of comets. Comets are made largely of ice and dust; they contain little iron. Comets are not alive. The Sun is not alive. The Sun does not have a stomach. The Sun does not "excrete" material in a digestive sense. The Sun was never inside the Earth. The Earth was never inside the Sun (unless by "Sun" you mean the primordial solar disc). The Moon was never inside the Earth, although parts of it were once part of the Earth.

Have I missed any blunders? Perhaps. But you get the idea. Steiner was a fountainhead of misinformation. For more on this subject, see "Steiner's Blunders".

Not completely sure whether the Earth was in the Sun or vice versa, I have put the sun's stomach (pink) in a sort of intermediate purple region, neither within the Sun per se (yellow) nor within the Earth per se (green). The black-and-white sketch in the book avoids this problem, although it positions the stomach about where I show it. I have colored the Moon gray and the outer universe brown.

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


A report on life as a Waldorf student

An overview of Waldorf schooling; a far longer version of "I Went to Waldorf", including:

"Unenlightened - Part 2"


"Unenlightened - Part 4"

"Unenlightened - Part 5"


"Unenlightened - Part 6"

"Unenlightened - Part 7"

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

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


[1] Rudolf Steiner, RUDOLF STEINER IN THE WALDORF SCHOOL (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 156.

[2] Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 495.

[3] Rudolf Steiner, EDUCATION FOR ADOLESCENTS (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 60.


[5] In sensitizing a child to the supernatural, Waldorf teachers are at least partially trying to preserve what Anthroposophists say is the young child’s innate connection to the spirit realm. I quoted a portion of the following passage earlier; here is a more extensive excerpt:

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

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

"In a Waldorf school, therefore, one of the tasks of the teachers is to keep the children young.” — A. C. Harwood, PORTRAIT OF A WALDORF SCHOOL (Myrin Institute, 1956), pp. 15-16.

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

[6] See "Prayers". 

[7] Concerning the significance of myths, Steiner said this, for example: 

“I have demonstrated to you the connection between a myth such as the Baldur myth and great all-encompassing manifestations of human evolution.

"Our scientific simpletons who conduct research into myths and legends can go no further than to maintain that they are an expression of creative folk imagination. In reality, however, they encompass deeply significant truths which are revealed particularly through the fact that they are truly worked out down to the last detail.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE KARMA OF UNTRUTHFULNESS, Vol. 1 (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2005), p. 276.

Note that Steiner extends his assertion beyond myths to legends (he said much the same about fairy tales, as well). Note also his explicit opposition to the findings of science and the insults he often heaped on scientists ("simpletons"). Another example, again asserting the truth of myths: 

“We must not look merely for astronomical facts in such a myth as the myth of Osiris, but we must see in it the result of the deep clairvoyant insight of the wise priests of ancient Egypt. They embodied in this myth what they knew concerning the evolution of earth and man. [paragraph break] Actual facts concerning the higher Spiritual Worlds lie at the foundation of all myths....” — Rudolf Steiner, UNIVERSE EARTH AND MAN IN THEIR RELATIONSHIP TO EGYPTIAN MYTHS AND MODERN CIVILIZATION (Kessinger Publishing, 2003), p. 94. 

Steiner here extends his claims to “all myths.” His endorsement of clairvoyance is also noteworthy.

A widely published Anthroposophist gives this sequence for the teaching of myths, legends, fairy tales, etc., in Waldorf schools: Kindergarten and first grade, fairy tales; second grade, legends; fourth and fifth grades, Norse and Greek myths; thereafter, Indian, Persian, and Egyptian myths. — Roy Wilkinson, THE SPIRITUAL BASIS OF STEINER EDUCATION (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1996), p. 87. Old Testament stories are told in third grade — Ibid., p. 62. Wilkinson prescribes much the same order in TEACHING ENGLISH (Rudolf Steiner College Press, 1976, reprinted 1997) — see my essay “Oh My Word”. Essentially the same order is prescribed by another Anthroposophist, with some interesting additional notes: first grade, fairy tales — “History is not a separate subject”; second grade, legends and stories about saints — “History is not a separate subject”; third grade, Old Testament stories — “History is not a separate subject”; fourth grade, Norse myths — history is finally established as a subject separate from fairy tales, legends, and myths; fifth grade, ancient history, including the myths of India, Persia, Egypt, Babylonia, and Greece — history and myths seem to overlap again here. — Eugene Schwartz, WALDORF EDUCATION (Xlibris Corporation, 2000), pp. 75-76. Think of the confusion that can arise in young minds when factual history is blurred with fabulous tales — or, to put this more strongly, when fantasies are presented as fact.

[8] See "Sneaking It In" and "Dorm Dad".

[9] At Waldorf, we often employed wet-on-wet watercoloring (wet brushes spreading watery paint over wet paper), a technique that effectively prevents a young child from creating recognizable images of the real world. Instead, as elementary school students, my classmates and I produced colorful but blurred pictures that corresponded nicely to Steiner’s description of the spirit realm: rich in color but devoid of clean lines and clear-cut forms. (We inhabit the spirit realm during the intervals between our earthly lives, according to Steiner’s doctrine of reincarnation.) 

“You see, when the soul arrives on earth in order to enter its body, it has come down from spirit-soul worlds in which there are no spatial forms. Thus the soul knows spatial forms only after its bodily experience, only while the aftereffects of space still linger on.

“But though the world from which the soul descends has no spatial forms or lines, it does have color intensities, color qualities. Which is to say that the world man inhabits between death and a new birth (and which I have frequently and recently described) is a soul-permeated, spirit-permeated world of light, of color, of tone; a world of qualities not quantities; a world of intensities rather than extensions.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE ARTS AND THEIR MISSION (Anthroposophic Press, 1964), p. 23.

Steiner taught that the various art forms have metaphysical effects — which is a major reason that students at Waldorfs paint and sculpt and make music, and so forth, as much as they do. Thus, the paints we used in our watercoloring were, from an Anthroposophical perspective, magical: Their hues provided entree into the spirit realm. If we would but open our souls — as through painting or music — we could begin to participate in an interchange between the physical and spiritual worlds:

“We have seen that colours and musical notes are windows through which we can ascend spiritually into the spiritual world, but life also brings us windows through which the spiritual enters our physical world.... If we fail to perceive the fact that spirit descends to us through such windows, it is like someone who cannot read opening a beautiful book. He has the same thing in front of him as someone who can read, but if he cannot read he sees unintelligible scribbles.... A person who cannot read world phenomena is like a cosmic illiterate where these phenomena are concerned.... In the time of ancient clairvoyance human beings were far less illiterate in the spirit.” — Rudolf Steiner, ART AS SEEN IN THE LIGHT OF MYSTERY WISDOM (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1996), pp. 111-112.

See "Magical Arts" and "Wet-on-Wet".

[10] Of all the art forms, eurythmy has particularly great significance in Steiner’s system (see, e.g., ART AS SEEN IN THE LIGHT OF MYSTERY WISDOM, p. 41 and p. 50). One result is that Steiner’s statements concerning eurythmy are particularly arcane. To offer a quick rundown: Eurythmy enables the physical body to make direct connection with the spiritual realm. Our physical bodies are, in a sense, merely tools that enable us to do eurythmy. Eurythmy gives us access to aspects of our previous lives, and it creates — in our limbs — effects that will carry over into our next lives. (If the following quotation remains difficult to decipher, focus on the final sentence.)

“In a certain sense, we take from earthly life only the physical medium, the actual human being who is the tool or instrument for eurythmy. But we allow this human being to make manifest what we study inwardly, what is already prepared in us as a result of previous lives; we transfer this to our limbs, which are the part of us where life after death is being shaped in advance. Eurythmy shapes and moves the human organism in a way that furnishes direct external proof of our participation in the supersensible world. In having people do eurythmy, we link them directly to the supersensible world.” — Rudolf Steiner, ART AS SPIRITUAL ACTIVITY (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 247.

See "Eurthymy".

[11] For more on literature and history instruction at Waldorf schools, see "Oh My Word". For more on copying — the "curse" of Waldorf education — see "His Education".

[12] For more on science instruction at Waldorf schools, see “Steiner’s Science", “Lesson Books”, and “Neutered Nature”.

[13] Platonism centers on the proposition that abstractions such as numbers and geometric forms have an objective existence apart from, and superior to, their reflections in the real world. Steiner credited geometry with fostering his knowledge of the spirit realm: 

“In my relation with geometry I must now perceive the first budding forth of a conception which has since gradually evolved in me ... [T]he reality of the spiritual world was to me as certain as that of the physical.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE STORY OF MY LIFE (Anthroposophical Publishing Company, 1928), p. 11. 

Steiner credited Plato with living on the ideal or spiritual plane. 

“The mood in which I came to Weimar was tinged by previous thorough-going work in Platonism ... How did Plato live in the ideal world, and how did Goethe?” — Ibid., p. 142.

For information about the mathematics curriculum in Waldorf schools, see "Mystic Math".

[14] I shouldn’t pass too quickly over the ordinary novels we were assigned — they help illustrate how our teachers were able to inculcate Anthroposophical values in us without explicitly discussing Steiner or his doctrines. For example, we studied Willa Cather’s MY ANTONIA, which deals with Manifest Destiny as enacted by a pair of Christian families: The forces of destiny want white people like them to take possession of the North American continent, and religious faith helps the families to overcome their difficulties.

We also studied CRIME AND PUNISHMENT, the story of a remorseless, apparently irredeemable murderer. The novel can be taken as depicting the soullessness of modern life and the need for spiritual redemption. Anthroposophists would embrace such themes, as they would the ending of the novel: The murderer clutches a New Testament while the author projects for him “a new story, the story of the gradual rebirth of a man, the story of his gradual regeneration, of his gradual passing from one world to another....” — Fyodor Dostoyevsky, CRIME AND PUNISHMENT (Penguin Books, 1951), p. 559.

I do not mean, of course, that Cather and Dostoyevsky were Anthroposophists — those authors would have been shocked by such a suggestion. But our teachers selected reading matter that was — or could be made to seem — congruous with Anthroposophical positions. [For more on this, see "Oh My Word".]

[15] I will not presume to speak for my old classmates and friends. I know that some of them were powerfully affected by the Anthroposophical messages woven through our schooling; and I know that some were far less affected. The susceptibility of our souls (to put this as an Anthroposophist might) varied. I turned out to be highly susceptible, although a flicker of saving skepticism blinked, intermittently, within me. [See "My Sad, Sad Story".]

[16] E.g., John Fentress Gardner, “MELVILLE’S VISION OF AMERICA: A New Interpretation of Moby Dick (The Myrin Institute, 1977). This booklet appeared several years after my class graduated from Waldorf, but it is representative of Mr. Gardner’s work. Mr. Gardner considered MOBY DICK a precursor to Rudolf Steiner’s teachings. His analysis of the novel ties into such Anthroposophical tenets and subjects as reincarnation (p. 31), Ahriman (p. 30), opposition to intellect (p. 40), affirmation of imagination (p. 24), affirmation of Goethean science (p. 27), the rulership of the archangel Michael (p. 41), and so forth. In many instances, his interpretations are implausible stretches — Mr. Gardner’s interpretation has found very little acceptance among Melville scholars.

The essence of the booklet later reappeared in Mr. Gardner’s book, AMERICAN HERALDS OF THE SPIRIT (see the next endnote), in which Mr. Gardner quietly acknowledges his admiration of Rudolf Steiner — a reference tucked into an appendix. For discussions of Steiner’s teachings on reincarnation, Ahriman, etc., see relevant entries in The Brief Waldorf / Steiner Encyclopedia.

The Myrin Institute was devoted to spiritualism, in particular Anthroposophy. On p. 3 of MELVILLE’S VISION, the Institute describes itself as believing “that a genuine reconciliation of the modern scientific attitude with a spiritual world-concept is the most essential need of modern man.” Rudolf Steiner’s claimed that Anthroposophy fills precisely that need, although Steiner’s work was in fact profoundly antiscientific. [See “Steiner’s 'Science'”.]

[17] “[In] the thick darkness, there are not wanting gleams of better light...miracles in the earliest antiquity...the history of Jesus Christ...prayer....” — Ralph Waldo Emerson, THE SELECTED WRITINGS OF RALPH WALDO EMERSON (Random House, 1940), p. 40.

Emerson was a leader of the American Transcendentalists, a loosely allied group whose religious quest sought truth through subjective insight rather than through experience and rationalism. Emerson affirmed man’s ability to transcend the world described by science and thus to attain a direct personal revelation of God.

Mr. Gardner contended that Emerson and other American writers of that period were spiritual antecedents of Rudolf Steiner. After resigning due to the scandal reported in the NEW YORK TIMES, Mr. Gardner wrote AMERICAN HERALDS OF THE SPIRIT (Lindisfarne Press, 1991), about the Emerson, Walt Whitman, and Herman Melville. The third appendix deals with “Rudolf Steiner’s extensive and immensely fruitful research.” Mr. Gardner’s thesis is that Emerson et al. anticipated — in somewhat vague form — spiritual doctrines that Steiner would sharpen and perfect, “lending them the clarity of something fully experienced....” (p. 298). Theosophists have similarly claimed Emerson as a predecessor to Helena Blavatsky, a founder of their faith. [See THEOSOPHY, Vol. 24, No. 1, 1935.] Emerson drew on some of the same sources mined by Steiner and Blavatsky, but the parallels between his work and theirs goes little beyond affirmation of human transcendent potential and a conception of the divine influenced by Eastern religions, especially Hinduism.

To understand what Mr. Gardner meant by Steiner’s “research,” it is important to realize that Steiner conducted precious little research in any ordinary sense. Steiner denied that his doctrines derived from his reading, and he was not an experimenter in any of the true sciences or conventional scholarly fields: physics, chemistry, biology, history, and the like. Steiner’s “research” consisted of mystic and occult texts, and — especially — his purported use of clairvoyance to ascertain spiritual "realities.” Mr. Gardner cites, as a reflection of Steiner's research, Steiner's occultist book, STAGES OF HIGHER KNOWLEDGE, first published in 1905. 

[18] “Paganism emblemed chiefly the Operations of Nature ... Christianism emblemed the Law of Human Duty ... What a progress is here....” — Thomas Carlyle, ON HEROES AND HERO-WORSHIP {published in the same volume as Ralph Waldo Emerson, REPRESENTATIVE MEN} (Doubleday & Company, undated), p. 99. Carlyle was known for his idiosyncratic language. “Christianism,” of course, is Christianity. “Emblemed” means “was emblematic of” or "represented."

Carlyle’s book originally appeared in 1841. Influenced by German Transcendentalists, Carlyle in turn influenced Emerson. One significant difference between the two men, however, is that Carlyle was mordant and angry, whereas Emerson espoused idealistic hope. The hallmark of Carlyle’s spirituality was hatred of the Devil, not adoration of God.

Carlyle wrote that all contemporary forms of religion are outworn — that a new religious system is needed. For Waldorfers, it would be a short step to believe that the need Carlyle so presciently identified was filled by Rudolf Steiner’s Anthroposophy. (A central theme in Steiner's four "mystery plays" is the need for a new spiritual vision. [See "Plays".]) 

[19] Late in his life, Mr. Gardner wrote the booklet TWO PATHS TO THE SPIRIT: Charismatic Christianity and Anthroposophy (Golden Stone Press, 1990). On p. 8, he says 

“Both paths [i.e., charismatic Christianity and Anthroposophy] acknowledge Christ Jesus as the ultimate Shepherd of human souls, finding in His life the archetype of all human experience, and seeing in His Baptism, Crucifixion, and Resurrection the pivotal events of human history.” 

I cannot know how much Mr. Gardner’s beliefs may have changed since he ran the Waldorf School decades earlier. In the booklet, he writes that his interest in charismatic Christianity is newfound (pp. 1-2), but he maintains his advocacy of Anthroposophy — and he attributes the same Christian core to both “paths.” More important, the words I have just quoted and the sanctioned activities at Waldorf under Mr. Gardner are consistent with Rudolf Steiner’s heretical but insistent reverence for Christ: 

“What, then, is this mysterious impulse making its victorious way through the world?  ... It is the Christ himself. He goes from heart to heart, from soul to soul, living and working in the world regardless of whether he is understood as evolution progresses through the centuries.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE FIFTH GOSPEL: From the Akashic Record (Rudolf Steiner Press), pp. 11-12. 

Notice the reference to evolution. Steiner embraced an evolutionary theory that is at odds both with science and with the Bible. At our school, Christ was always emphasized, if only in passing. Apparently the school today remains devoted to Christ — perhaps more forthrightly so. In 2007, the school’s institutional Christmas card bore the inscription: 

“In deepest Winter Night

Is born the World’s Future Light." 

It is important to note, however, that the Anthroposophical conception of Christ is gnostic and, from the perspective of mainstream Christian denominations, heretical. [For more about Steiner’s views on Christ, see “Was He Christian?”, "Sun God", and "Prototype".]

[20] See R. J. Reilly, ROMANTIC RELIGION (Lindisfarne Press, 2006). Lewis’s Christianity lies near the surface of his fiction; Tolkien’s is more hidden. For analyses of the Christian message in Tolkien’s books, see Ralph C. Woods, THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO TOLKIEN (Westminster John Knox Press, 2003) and Kurt D. Bruner & Jim Ware, FINDING GOD IN THE LORD OF THE RINGS (SaltRiver, 2001). Tolkien’s enthralling Christian mythology, which does not immediately appear to be Christian, would have obvious appeal to a "Christian" school that wanted to appear nonsectarian. I remember Tolkien’s books being sold in our school lobby at Christmastime. (That’s where I got my copies — after which I reread THE LORD OF THE RINGS once a year until I graduated.)

Tolkien’s trilogy is better known, but Lewis’s “space trilogy” has perhaps been more influential. OUT OF THE SILENT PLANET, PERELANDRA, and THAT HIDEOUS STRENGTH are, in effect, anti-science fiction. In the first two volumes, the protagonist travels to Mars and Venus; in the final volume, he concludes his adventures back on Earth (with the help of Merlin, whom he summons from suspended animation). The cosmology of the novels is a reworking of the ancient great chain of being. [See ENCYCLOPÆDIA BRITANNICA, “Great Chain of Being.”] Lewis locates various gods on the planets, where they preside in the service of God and his Son, called “Maleldil” in the trilogy. The following comes from the chapter “Descent of the Gods.” To set the scene: The “gods", who go by the names of the planets they rule, are visiting Earth to help in the battle against demonic powers. 

“Saturn...stood in the Blue Room. His spirit lay upon the house, or even the whole Earth, with a cold pressure such as might flatten the very orb of Tellus [i.e., Earth] to a wafer ... Suddenly a greater spirit came — one whose influence tempered and almost transformed to his own quality the skill of leaping Mercury, the clearness of Mars, the subtler vibration of Venus, and even the numbing weight of Saturn ... [H]is mighty beam turned the Blue Room into a blaze of lights ... For it was great Glund-Oyarsa, King of Kings...known to men in old times as Jove and under that name...confused with his Maker — so little did [man] dream by how may degrees the stair even of created being rises above him.” — C. S. Lewis, THAT HIDEOUS STRENGTH (Scribner, 2003), pp. 323-324. 

Jove, or Jupiter, is the highest god in Roman mythology. The Hebrew God — Lewis’s “Maker” — is Jehovah, or Jahve, or Yahweh, or Elohim. Lewis suggests that Jove and Jahve have been confused by some.

Steiner’s vision is, in various ways, similar to Lewis’s. 

◊ Both men locate “gods” on or in celestial spheres: planets, moons, and stars. Thus, Steiner places Jahve (Jehovah) on the Moon: “[The] further evolution of man has only been possible because one of the Elohim, Jahve, accompanied the separation of the Moon [from the Earth] — while the other six spirits remained in the Sun — and because Jahve cooperated with His six colleagues....” — Rudolf Seiner, THE MISSION OF THE FOLK SOULS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2005), p. 99. For “Elohim,” see the ENCYCLOPÆDIA BRITANNICA, “Elohim” — it was a Canaanite plural noun that the Hebrews adapted as a single noun, a name for God. 

◊ Just as Lewis distinguishes between Jove and God, Steiner finds a difference between Jehovah and God or the Godhead. [See "God".] Note that, in the passage I’ve quoted, Jahve is only one of the “Elohim” and he must cooperate with his “colleagues” to achieve his benevolent purposes.

◊ Both Steiner and Lewis posit variants of the great chain of being, which begins some distance below mankind and stretches far, far above. According to Steiner, entities superior to humanity include Zeitgeists, Spirits of Form, Exusiai, Dynamis, Kyriotetes, and others; attendant nature-spirits include undines, sylphs, and fire spirits. “Abnormal” spirits are associated with planets and cause mankind’s five “root races” (Negro, Malayan, Mongolian, Caucasian, and Red Indian). [See THE MISSION OF THE FOLK SOULS, pp. 15-16, 65, 83-85.]   

◊ Both Steiner and Lewis tell of interplanetary journeys, Lewis in fiction, Steiner in “truth.” Indeed, Steiner recounts human migration to various planets: “[D]uring the Lemurian epoch of earth-evolution [i.e., long ago]...the majority of souls withdrew from the earth to other planets, continuing their life on Mars, Saturn, Venus, Jupiter, and so forth.” — Rudolf Steiner, OCCULT HISTORY (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1982), p. 36.

Lewis was an orthodox Christian who used fiction to express his beliefs in fanciful terms. Steiner often strayed far from Biblical teachings, asserting that his heterodox doctrines describe reality.

[21] See "Sun God" and "Was He Christian?". For more on Waldorf Christmases, see "Christmas".

[22] See "Future Stages".


[24] John Fentress Gardner, THE EXPERIENCE OF KNOWLEDGE (New York: The Myrin Institute Inc., 1962).

[25] Ibid., p. 19

[26] Ibid., p. 26 

Mr. Gardner later expanded this booklet, adding chapters. The latest edition of the resulting book is still available — under a different title — from its publisher: EDUCATION IN SEARCH OF THE SPIRIT (Anthroposophic Press, 1996).


Imagination is far from being a reliable faculty. It can easily lapse into hallucination and insanity. See, e.g. James Phillips and James Morely, IMAGINATION AND ITS PATHOLOGIES (MIT Press, 2003). I am inclined to consider Steiner a charlatan, deceitful but rational. It is possible, however, that he was mentally unbalanced. If he actually had the astonishing “clairvoyant” visions he claimed, he almost certainly was hallucinating.

Hallucinations have at least five salient, overlapping characteristics. 

1) “[W]e should call hallucinating a paranormal activity” because the process does not make use of our five normal senses. 

2) “[A] hallucination must display sufficient vividness to allow it to enter into competition with our ongoing perceptual activity” — the vision is so strong that we give it at least equal weight with the reports of our senses. 

3) “Still another basic characteristic of hallucinations is that their contents are experienced as ‘out there’” — a hallucinator considers the vision to be outside the self, s/he does not recognize it as a subjective condition. 

4) A hallucination is usually “beyond our conscious control” — we’re not aware of creating or fabricating it. 

5) A hallucination causes “belief in the empirical reality of its content” — the vision is felt to be true, the objects “perceived” are experienced as fully real. — IMAGINATION AND ITS PATHOLOGIES, pp. 73-77. 

Steiner’s purported “clairvoyant” visions seem to fit most of these criteria. This does not prove that Steiner was hallucinating — as I’ve said, I doubt he did — but it is suggestive. The more important question, however, is whether Waldorf education, emphasizing nonrational “thought,” may lead children into dangerous territory where the distinction between the real and the unreal is lost.

[28] Anthroposophists claim that intellect is not neglected at Waldorf schools, it is simply nurtured in a different way. 

“In spite of — or rather, because of — the attention paid to the realms of feeling and will, thinking receives a stronger development in a Waldorf school than elsewhere.” — A. C. Harwood, PORTRAIT OF A WALDORF SCHOOL, p. 24. 

This brings us back to a decisive concern about Waldorf education: the kind of “thinking” that is taught.

According to Steiner, children pass through three stages of development, which he said recapitulate stages of human evolution. [See. e.g., Earl J. Ogletree, “Rudolf Steiner: Unknown Educator,” THE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL JOURNAL, Vol. 74, No. 6. (Mar., 1974), p. 347.] The stages are described this way by A.C. Harwood:

“During the first seven years a child approaches his environment through the activity of his will. What he sees he must manipulate.” — PORTRAIT OF A WALDORF SCHOOL, p. 17. 

During the second seven years, “the inward life of feeling” is paramount." — Ibid., p. 18. 

The third seven-year period finally produces the dawning of “intellectual thought.” — Ibid., p. 24.

The claim that Waldorfs foster the intellect is, at best, moot. Waldorf-style “intellectual thought” is intended to be moderated by the faculties of intuition and/or imagination and/or clairvoyance. Taught that logic (i.e., methodical reasoning) is insufficient, the Waldorf student is directed toward “spiritual experience” that is notionally “self-evident” (i.e., no proof required). It is questionable whether this is genuine thinking at all or merely a form of wishfulness: 

“To what extent will [a child’s] thinking become purely logical and colorless, unenriched by imagination, uninformed by experience?  ... More than ever, therefore, should the attempt be made with our adolescents to preserve from the earlier stage of childhood those capacities which are natural to it, and to unite them with the new gift of intellectual thought. For this means to transform thought from what it is at present — the capacity for abstract hypothesis — into the capacity for self-evident spiritual experience.” — Ibid., pp. 23-24.

Ask yourself whether an education aiming at such a form of “thought” is likely to equip individuals for life in the real world. In brief: Should we teach our children to live rationally in the real world or should we teach them to have unsubstantiated intuitions of unseen worlds?

Here is a quick summary of relevant Steiner doctrines: Humans used to possess greater clairvoyant powers than is common now [a]. In order to evolve properly, humanity has to pass through a phase of materialism and material-brain thinking (while striving, of course, to avoid the snares of these) [b]. Blonds have the best brains [c]. Thinking is the Aryans’ special field of endeavor [d]. Germans (Aryan) are enabled by their mythology to understand human evolution particularly well [e], and Germans’ mission now entails comprehending the world from many angles [f]. Austrian-German Rudolf Steiner took upon himself what may be considered an extension and fulfillment of the German national/racial mission, to create in Anthroposophy a system that organizes spiritual wisdom gleaned from around the globe. (His task was greatly simplified by the prior work of the Russian Helena Blavatsky [g], but let’s not quibble. Steiner claimed that his work was entirely the result of his own clairvoyant visions [h], not research or borrowings.) Our future evolution will enable us to gain greater clairvoyant capacities than ever before [i]. Waldorf schools shepherd students toward “pictorial” thinking [j] such as intuition and imagination [k], which are associated with clairvoyance [l]. In some instances, “pictorial” thinking may be indistinguishable from clairvoyance [m]. Some of the “thoughts” that we intuit or imagine come to us from our previous existence in the spirit realm [n]

[a] e.g., NATURE SPIRITS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1995), p. 63
[b] e.g., AN OUTLINE OF ESOTERIC SCIENCE (Anthroposophic Press, 1997), pp. 386-387
[c] e.g., HEALTH AND ILLNESS, Vol. 1 (Anthroposophic Press, 1981), pp. 85-86
[d] e.g., COSMIC MEMORY (SteinerBooks, 1987), p. 46
[e] e.g., THE MISSION OF THE FOLK SOULS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2005), p. 17
[f] e.g., THE CHALLENGE OF OUR TIMES (SteinerBooks, 1979), pp. 207-209
[g] e.g., WHAT IS ANTHROPOSOPHY (Anthroposophic Press, 2002), p. 19
[j] e.g., THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 62
[l] e.g., ART AS SPIRITUAL ACTIVITY (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 256
[m] e.g., INTUITIVE THINKING AS A SPIRITUAL PATH (Anthroposophic Press, 1995), pp. 1-257

In general, Steiner downplayed or even dismissed the importance of the brain, brainwork, and intellect. 

◊ "[T]he brain and nerve system have nothing at all to do with actual cognition." — Rudolf Steiner, FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE  (SteinerBooks, 1996), p. 60. 

◊ “The intellect destroys or hinders.” — Rudolf Steiner, WALDORF EDUCATION AND ANTHROPOSOPHY, Vol. 1 (Anthroposophic Press, 1995, p. 233. 

[See "Thinking" and "Steiner's Specific - Thinking Without Our Brains".]

[29] In 1974, the Anthroposophic Press published THE BRIDGE OVER THE RIVER, an account of communications between a dead German soldier and his living sister. The book reports that Rudolf Steiner read transcripts of the soldier’s messages, which he pronounced “absolutely authentic communications from the spiritual world.” — p. vii. The book’s Introduction explains that the messages were different from those sent by dead persons who “are still earth-bound [sic], ‘just beyond the thin veil’ that separates them from those of us living on earth.” — p. viii, Introduction by Joseph Wetzl.

[30] According to a letter I received from Jamie L. Gigolo, Assistant Registrar at Teachers College, Columbia University, John Fentress Gardner received a BA with a major in “Curriculum & Teaching — Childhood Education — Older Children” on Feb. 26, 1947, and an MA with a major in “Rural Education” on Dec. 17,1947.

In June, 1974, Adelphi University (Garden City, NY) awarded Mr. Gardner an honorary degree of Doctor of Letters. [See John Fentress Gardner, THE IDEA OF MAN IN AMERICA (The Myrin Institute, 1974), p. 3.]

[31] Mr. Gardner misrepresented Steiner’s views slightly, perhaps because he wanted to affirm America and Americans. According to Steiner, blacks are childish, Asians are adolescent, whites are adult, and “red Indians” are senescent. See, e.g., Toos Jeurissen, “Waldorf Salad with Aryan Mayonnaise?” 

[32] Rudolf Steiner, THE UNIVERSAL HUMAN: The Evolution of Individuality (Anthroposophic Press, 1990), p. 75.

Ahriman is, originally, an evil spirit posited by Zoroastrianism. His main characteristics are greed, envy, and anger. [See ENCYCLOPÆDIA BRITANNICA, "Ahriman."] Steiner taught that Ahriman tries to limit humans to their physical bodies and the materialistic, brain-centered thinking of which these bodies are capable. [See Rudolf Steiner, THE INCARNATION OF AHRIMAN: The Embodiment of Evil on Earth (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2006).]

In re Atlantis: According to Steiner, Atlantis and its predecessor, Lemuria, actually existed. [See “Atlantis" and "Lemuria".]

Occultists have many reasons for keeping secrets from the uninitiated. One of the simplest and most human reasons can be simple embarrassment. Anthroposophists may wish to believe every statement Steiner ever made, and undoubtedly many do attain this highest degree of belief — and yet some of them may recognize that admitting various details of their faith could prove awkward. Admitting to Steiner’s racism and his belief in Atlantis [see "Atlantis and the Aryans"] may well fall into this category.

Racism can be subtle. It may show itself in abusive treatment, but it may also show up as patronization. Some Waldorf schools now include many nonwhite students in the photos and videos they offer for public relations purposes. Racism is present when a person is judged — positively or negatively — on the basis of race instead of personal attributes. [For more on the racism that may arise in Anthroposophy and Waldorf education, see, e.g., "Steiner's Racism" and "Embedded Racism".]


[R. R., 2009.]