Waldorf faculties think they are on a messianic mission to save the world.* Saving the world would be very good of them, of course — if they are in any position to undertake such work. But are they?

The means they employ boil down to enacting the doctrines of Anthroposophy. Can Anthroposophy save us? Unless you think the answer is yes, Waldorf schooling will probably disappoint you, sooner or later.

Here are some statements outlining the Waldorf vision. Rudolf Steiner stressed the priestly, sacred, messianic role of Waldorf teachers. Waldorf faculty members must be reverent toward God or the gods, and to the divinity that Steiner located within the human soul — he taught that humans are microcosmic reflections of the divine macrocosm:

"If we observe the struggle unfolding in the child before us — within this fundamental, natural religious element — if we observe the struggle between the hereditary forces and what the individual’s forces develop as the second human being through the power brought from pre-earthly life, then, as teachers, we also develop a religious mood. But, whereas the child with a physical body develops the religious mood of the believer, the teacher, in gazing at the wonders that occur between birth and the change of teeth, develops a ‘priestly’ religious attitude. The position of teacher becomes a kind of priestly office, a ritual performed at the altar of universal human life — not with a sacrificial victim to be led to death, but with the offering of human nature itself, to be awakened to life. Our task is to ferry into earthly life the aspect of the child that came from the divine spiritual world." — Rudolf Steiner, THE ESSENTIALS OF EDUCATION (Anthroposophic Press, 1997), pp. 23-24.

"Without this fundamental attitude, without this priestly element in the teacher (this is said, of course, in a cosmic sense), education cannot be continued." — Ibid., p. 25.

"What we have educated in children very naturally in a priestly way — what is really a religious devotion — we must now be able to reawaken at a higher soul level during the second stage of life, between the change of teeth and puberty." — Ibid., p. 69.

“Not until we link ourselves...to the great facts of the universe do we gain a genuine understanding of the nature of teaching. Only on the basis of such an understanding can the appropriate attitude of solemnity emerge so that teaching really becomes a kind of service to God, a consecrated act.” — Rudolf Steiner, PRACTICAL ADVICE TO TEACHERS (Anthroposophic Press, 2000), p. 45.

“[M]uch depends on the nature of our feelings toward growing children — the degree of reverence we have toward the mysterious revelation of the cosmos in growing human beings. A tremendous amount depends on our ability to develop this feeling as teachers and educators.” — Ibid., p. 24. 

“[I]f...you can maintain a feeling of immeasurable reverence for what is expressed so mysteriously in every human being, this sense will become the solid foundation within you that must be the foundation for teaching. In the future, education cannot proceed merely by bringing conventional, adult life into teaching. It is truly awful to consider the possibility that in the future, elected parliaments will meet and decide questions of education based on the recommendations of those whose only reason for involvement is their sense of democracy. If things develop in this way, as they are now doing in Russia, the earth would lose its [spiritual] task and have its mission withdrawn; it would be expelled from the cosmos and fall to [the demon] Ahriman.” — Ibid., p. 27.

“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, that we are, in a certain sense, the means by which that streaming down from above will go out into the world.” — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 55.

"[Y]ou will understand why, as we begin this work today, we first reflect on the connection we wish to create from the very beginning between our activity and the spiritual worlds ... Thus, we wish to begin our preparation by first reflecting upon how we connect with the spiritual powers [i.e., gods] in whose service and in whose name each one of us must work.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 33.

“Teachers will feel differently when they say to themselves that here is a human being from whom relationships extend out to the entire cosmos and that when I do my work with every one of these growing children, I do something that has meaning for the entire universe. We are in the classroom, and within every child lies a center of the universe. The classroom is a center, yes, even many centers for the macrocosm. Think to yourselves how alive this feels and what it means! Think about how the idea of the cosmos and its connection to the human being becomes a feeling that makes each act of teaching holy.” — Ibid., pp. 170-171.

"We [Waldorf teachers] want to be aware that physical existence is a continuation of the spiritual, and that what we have to do in education is a continuation of what higher beings [the gods] have done without our assistance. Our form of educating can have the correct attitude only when we are aware that our work with young people is a continuation of what higher beings have done before birth." — Ibid., p. 37.

“To take this into our own feelings, namely, that education is a continuation of supersensible activity before birth, gives education the necessary consecration. Without this we cannot educate at all.” — Ibid., p. 62.

“Unless we succeed in calling to life between the ages of seven and fourteen the living Christ in the inner being of the child, with the help of the kind of pedagogy that anthroposophy describes, unless we succeed in doing this, human beings will step into later life unable to gain an understanding of the living Christ. They will have to deny Christ, unless they choose, somewhat dishonestly, to hold on to the traditional Christian beliefs, while lacking the inner means of soul to understand that Christ has risen insofar as the person experiences the resurrection, and insofar as the teacher experiences with the child the living Christ in the heart, in the soul. Christ can be awakened in the soul, and through this union with Christ, immortality can be restored to the soul.” — Rudolf Steiner, WALDORF EDUCATION AND ANTHROPOSOPHY, Vol. 2 (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 122.

"In real life the essential point is that you can unfold a certain kind of effectiveness in your actions only if the impulse for this effectiveness is guarded in the soul as a most sacred, secret possession. Teachers in particular must guard many things as sacred, secret possessions, and must look upon these as something that only play a part in those meetings and discussions carried on within the College of Teachers itself [i.e., within the central, controlling body at a Waldorf school]." — Rudolf Steiner, BALANCE IN TEACHING (Anthroposophic Press, 2007), p. 2.

"[W]hat matters more than anything else in a teacher is the way he or she regards this holy calling. This is not insignificant, for the most important things in teaching and in education are those that are imponderable. A teacher who enters the classroom with this heartfelt conviction achieves something different from one who does not." — Ibid., p. 11.

"The reverence that is needed to make education effective, something that can take on a religious quality, will arise if you as a teacher are conscious that when around the seventh year you call forth from the child’s soul the forces that are used when the child learns to draw and to write, these actually come down from heaven! The child is the mediator, and you are actually working with forces sent down from the spiritual world. When this reverence for the divine-spiritual permeates your teaching, it truly works miracles. And if you have reverence, if you have the feeling that by means of this connection with forces developed in the spiritual world before birth — a feeling that engenders a deep reverence — you will see that through such a feeling you can accomplish more than through any amount of intellectual theorizing about what should be done. Reverence will have an immeasurable formative influence upon the child; the teacher’s feelings are certainly the most important tools of education." — Ibid., pp. 16-17.

"[N]othing is more important than that we are able as teachers to develop the necessary reverence, the necessary enthusiasm, so that we can teach with reverence and enthusiasm. Reverence and enthusiasm — these are the two secret and fundamental forces that must permeate the teacher’s soul with spirit." — Ibid., p. 22.

"When [the students] assemble in their classrooms, the teachers bring them together by saying a morning verse in chorus with the whole class. This verse, which could also be sung, embraces both a general human and a religious element, and it unites the students in a mood of prayer." — Rudolf Steiner, SOUL ECONOMY (Anthroposophic Press, 2003), p. 119.

"When our friend Emil Molt established the Waldorf school, most of our students were from the homes of workers at his factory. Among them were many children whose parents are atheists, and if they had been sent to another school, they would not have received religious instruction at all. As such things often happen when dealing with children and parents, gradually these children also wanted to receive some form of religion lessons. And this is how our free, nondenominational, religion lessons came about. These were given by our own teachers, just as the other religious lessons were given by ministers. The teachers were recognized by us as religious teachers in the Waldorf curriculum. Thus, anthroposophic religious lessons were introduced in our school." — Ibid., pp. 124-125.

"I mentioned that we found it necessary to give some kind of anthroposophic religious lessons to our students. Soon afterward, arising from those lessons, we felt another need that led to the introduction of Sunday services for our students. This service has the quality of formal worship, in which the children participate with deep religious feelings. We have found that a ritual performed before the children’s eyes every Sunday morning has greatly deepened their religious experience." — Ibid., p. 132.

If you like the idea of teachers acting as priests,

bear in mind that Waldorf teachers conduct their services 

in celebration of the religion called Anthroposophy.

You will not be able to wholly endorse 

the self-appointed ministry of Waldorf faculties 

unless you can endorse Anthroposophy itself.

[R.R., 2012.]

“A Waldorf school is more than just another independent school that provides a developmental education. It is an organization that seeks to allow the spiritual impulses of our time to manifest on earth in order to transform society ... Steiner described the founding of [the first] Waldorf School as a ceremony within the Cosmic Order ... [T]he founding of every subsequent Waldorf school also has cosmic significance ... [W]e may celebrate the founding of a Waldorf school because it strives to bring the soul-spiritual into the realm of human life.” — Waldorf teacher Roberto Trostli, “On Earth as It Is in Heaven”, Research Bulletin, Vol. 16 (Waldorf Research Institute), Fall 2011, pp. 21-24.

* I am generalizing, of course. Not all Waldorf teachers think alike, of course. Not all of them are devout Anthroposophists. But Steiner said they should be: 

"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.

— Compilation by Roger Rawlings

To visit other pages in this section of Waldorf Watch, 
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?