more on education

Here are additional statements Steiner made about education. Some touch on Anthroposophical medicine. 

I am indebted to Maura Kwaten for pulling together many of these quotations.

— R.R.


From Rudolf Steiner, THE CHILD'S CHANGING CONSCIOUSNESS AS THE BASIS OF PEDAGOGICAL PRACTICE, Foundations of Waldorf Education (Anthroposophic Press, 1996):

p. 20 "Health during later years is largely conditioned by the way a person's soul life was developed during childhood. The way a child's memory is trained will effect the metabolism after a certain period of time. For example, if undigested vestiges of memory remain in the soul of the child between seven and fourteen, they will be released approximately between the ages of thirty-five and forty-five as physical residues, which can then lead to rheumatism or diabetes."

p. 25 "Knowledge of the human being, which forms the basis of a sound and practical way of teaching, must create in the teachers, every time they face a child, something like the relationship between hunger and eating ... This is only possible if knowledge of the human being has permeated flesh and blood as well as soul and spirit, so that you intuitively know what needs to be done every time you face a child."

p. 47 "...[Y]ou can comprehend the kind of soul communication that can exist in a little child, especially if permeated by deeply religious devotion.  ... Anyone who can observe how the child, with its inner attitude of religious surrender, surrenders to the influences of the surrounding world, and anyone who can discern in all these processes...the inherent impulses of its later destiny."

p. 94 "It is possible to introduce a religious element into every subject, even into math lessons. Anyone who has some knowledge of Waldorf teaching will know that this statement is true. A Christian element pervades every subject, even mathematics. This fundamental religious current flows through all of education."

p. 98 "Children can only develop the faculty of independent judgment in adulthood if they have gone through the experience of looking up to the voice of authority with uncritical veneration."

p. 102 "[U]ntil the change of teeth, we can look at the child's physical and etheric bodies as still forming a homogeneous solution until the physical is precipitated, leaving the etheric free to work independently. [paragraph break] But now too much soul substance might be retained by the physical body ... This condition is met far too frequently, and with the necessary insight one can see it clearly in children between seven and fourteen. But in order to see this, one must be able to distinguish exactly between the coarser and the more refined components of our human organization [i.e., constitution]."

p. 172 "If one wants to treat a certain subject in a living way, the details are not as important, because they can always be worked out of the spiritual background."


From Rudolf Steiner, PRACTICAL ADVICE TO TEACHERS, Foundations of Waldorf Education (Anthroposophic Press, 2000):

p. 1 "[T]he methods we will use will differ from the prevalent teaching methods which are based on premises very different from ours ... They will be different because we must begin to see the special tasks of our age and how we must teach so that future humanity can fulfill the developmental impulses prescribed by the universal cosmic order."

p. 2 "Although it is true that spirits communicate with us, they do so only through the medium of a person who fulfills a kind of translation function; spirits do not  themselves directly transforms what lives in them into a form that can be written and read."

p. 2 "[I]f we begin to teach the children various activities that we may call artistic, we can enter an area that has a definite eternal meaning —  something that reaches up into the activity of the human spirit and soul."

pp. 9-10 "We must also remember to transport children back  to earlier eras ... You will transport the children back to those earlier cultural ages that had a different disposition of soul and spirit."

p.11 "We must realize that what we are able to develop in children between the ages of seven and fourteen cannot be developed later...unless the person is completely transformed through initiation ... [paragraph break] I will now say something unusual ... In exceptional cases there are those who can recover a certain amount in later life. But they would have to go through a severe illness or suffer a deformity of some kind ... This of course is dangerous. When it happens because of karma we can only accept it."

p.12 "[A]n infinite amount of good can be gained by permeating the bodies of little children with eurythmy."

pp. 13-14 "We must be aware that, in a growing child, the I and the astral body develop gradually...."

p. 14 “[T]he physical and the the etheric bodies...are always cultivated from the head down. In fact, the head rays out what creates the physical human being. If we practice education properly ... the physical and the etheric will flow downward."

The kindergarten at a New Zealand Waldorf school.

[Photo by Fiona Christellar, reproduced in Kenneth Bayes'

LIVING ARCHITECTURE (Anthroposophic Press, 1994), p. 114;

color added.]

pp. 14-15 "The I-being and astral body, on the other hand, are formed from below upward ... Educators must keep this truth very clearly in mind ... Try therefore to educate the I-being and astral body from below upward so that the head and heart will follow later. Try not to tell the stories in a way that causes the children to reflect and understand them in the head."

p.16 "[L]et's say I wish to teach the child about the continuation of the soul's life after death ... [You could say] ‘Your soul is inside you, and later it will emerge just as the butterfly emerges from its chrysalis.’ ... However, if you yourself do not believe that the butterfly is an image of the human soul, you cannot accomplish much with children by using this analogy. "

p. 24 "[W]e are still working out what is necessary for the fifth post-Atlantean age, especially in terms of education ... Human beings are embedded in the cosmos in a particular way."

p. 26 "All that occurs in our life between waking and sleeping expresses the ancient Moon period of evolution, the present Earth evolution and the future Jupiter evolution. This expresses all that makes us members of what exists beyond our earth ... [O]ur alternation between waking and sleeping expresses our relationship to the ancient evolutionary periods of Moon, Earth and Jupiter...."

p. 27 "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 doing now in Russia, the earth would lose its task and have its mission withdrawn; it would be expelled from the cosmos and fall to Ahriman."

p. 28 "[E]arthly culture is raised only when we permeate education with the feeling that the whole human being has cosmic significance ... Human thinking indicates the period before birth and what exists in the human will points to what comes after death as a seed for the future. As the threefold human being stands before us, first we see what belongs to the time before birth, then we see what lies between birth and death, and, third, we see what awaits us after death. Our life before birth enters our existence as images, and the seed of what lies beyond death exists within us even before death."

p. 29 "[Y]ou can be certain that we are not led to meet one another in this life if there are no preconditions for such a meeting ... [T]his group of teachers and this group of children belong together in terms of karma. You become the appropriate teacher for these children because in previous times you developed an aversion to them."

pp. 31-32 "Everything artistic that approaches humankind divides into two streams; the stream of culture and images and the stream of music and poetry. These two artistic streams are really polar opposites, but there is also a real capacity for synthesis to higher unity precisely because of this polarity. You surely realise that this duality in the artistic realm finds expression even in the world’s evolution of the races ... [E]verything that has arisen from the being of the Greeks in the way most suited to them, in the most exalted sense, has a tendency towards sculpture and images, and all that emanates from the Jewish people tends towards music ... [W]e find these two streams divided, even racially."

p. 38 “One of today’s primary principles effectively says that one should teach children only what they can understand; this is wrong. Much can be allowed to trickle into their souls that will not be understood until much later."

p. 39 "We must recognize that through the workings of karma, a person's nature develops with a bias towards one side or another."

pp. 44-45 "The further you look back to ancient times, the less you find anything that you call musical ... In all sculptural and pictorial art the human being is the imitator of the old celestial order. The highest form of imitation of the cosmic celestial order is the representation of the world in sculpture or painting ... [A]ll true music and poetry are new creations, and it is out of this act of creating anew that the Jupiter, Venus and Vulcan evolutions of the world will arise ... Not until we link ourselves in this way to the great  facts of the universe do we gain a genuine understanding of the nature of teaching ...  [T]eaching really becomes a kind of service to God, a consecrated act."

p. 58 "To provide benefits for the soul requires that gymnastics lessons alternate with eurythmy."

p. 58 “Socialism ought to have its roots in the new esteem human beings gain for one another.”

p. 59 “You will surely believe me when I say that the structure of language has not been formed by human beings ... It is extremely important to learn how to feel something definite in the activity of the spirits of language."

p. 75 "You will have not to be only teachers at the Waldorf school, but also, if things turn out as they should, advocates of the whole Waldorf school system ... [Y]ou will have to be in a position to defend it even against public opinions that are antagonistic or merely disapproving.” 

p. 76 "You see how much more inward is the path we want to follow in our education and our teaching methods.”

p. 79 "[W]e must also do things with the children that do not call for the elucidation of meaning."

p. 81 “For willed activity we must cultivate everything that does not involve just the interpretation of meaning but needs to be directly grasped by the whole human being — everything artistic. What lies between these two will work mainly on the development of the feeling life, of the heart forces. These heart forces  are quite strongly affected if the children  are given the opportunity of first learning something by rote without understanding it."

p. 84 "The ancient teachers of the mysteries used to preserve such secrets as esoteric knowledge because they could not be imparted directly. In a certain sense, all teachers must be in possession of truths that they cannot directly pass on to the world."

p. 102 "[I]f you apply natural science lessons in the way I have described, you will implant into their souls moral concepts that are very firm and do not falter ... You must also show them...that the human being is the most perfect creature."

p. 117 "[A] passing comment on the present state of our civilisation, for I cannot avoid pointing out how many harmful ideas live in our culture ( such as the theory of relativity, especially in its most recent variation). These ideas run a ruinous course if the child becomes a research scientist."

p.149 "You can also speak of the geographical distribution of the characteristics of the different peoples ... You can speak of the differences between Asiatic, European, and American peoples and of the differences between Mediterranean and northern European peoples. Thus you gradually combine geography with history."

pp.150-151 "From this point, we lead on to an understanding of cultural and spiritual matters pertaining to different peoples. Then, while saving the details for later, we merely hint at what goes on in the rights sphere of the different nations, letting only the very first, most primitive concepts peep through the economic and cultural life. The children do not as yet have a full understanding for matters of the rights sphere and if they are confronted with these concepts too early in their development, their soul  forces will be ruined for the rest of their lives..." 

(The “rights sphere” is the realm of civil or human rights: 

“In the rights sphere we lay claim to things we cannot do without if we want to make sure of a life that is worthy of a human being as an equal among equals.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE ESOTERIC ASPECT OF THE SOCIAL QUESTION (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2001) p. 52. 

All humans are essentially alike, Steiner taught; but members of different races stand at different levels of spiritual evolution.)

p.154 “In the sphere of education and educational methods, it is particularly important that human beings should be brought up in a way which suits not only their conscious being but also their subconscious and unconscious soul forces. To be a real educator and teacher, you cannot avoid entering into the subtleties of the human being."

p. 161 "You know with regard to the way we teach religion we will have to make compromises. As a result, the force that will one day fill the soul element of our teaching with a religious quality cannot at present flow into the rest of our teaching." This statement deals with explicit religious instruction; it does not contradict what we saw, above: that religion pervades all of education. Most classes cannot now be explicitly religious; but all can be implicitly so. Steiner is mainly criticizing outside instructors of religion: “The fact that we have to compromise in this way stems from the way in which religious bodies have adopted an attitude to the world that is inimical to culture ... It would be beneficial if, for instance, teachers of religion would condescend from time to time to include material from another subject in their lessons....”

p. 162 "Today most people suffer from all sorts of digestive disturbances that are a consequence, to a great extent, of our unnatural teaching."

p. 166 “The chief mistake attendant today on the education of children between the ages of seven and fourteen is that they are taught far too intellectually."

p.169 " many fairy tales as possible..."

p. 178 “Our stance toward the so-called ‘official document’ must be very different from that of ordinary teachers." This is essentially the Waldorf attitude toward all outside observers and powers, including education authorities.

p. 186 "Particularly in plant lessons you should try to teach in a way that leaves a great deal to the children's imagination, so that out of their own feelings they can imaginatively form the soul connections between the human soul and the plant world. The teachers who wax too enthusiastic about object lessons simply do not know that the human being also has to be taught about things that are not visible externally."

p. 187 “[T]eachers must make sure they influence and work on their students, in a broader sense, by allowing the spirit to flow through their whole being as teachers."

p. 189 "The Waldorf school must succeed; much depends on its success. Its success will bring a kind of proof of many things in the spiritual evolution of humankind that we must represent. [paragraph break] ... Let us especially keep before us the thought, which will truly fill our hearts and minds, that connected with the present-day spiritual movement are also the spiritual powers that guide the cosmos. When we believe in these good spiritual powers they will inspire our lives and we will truly be able to teach."

And that is the purpose of Waldorf schooling: to support Anthroposophy, proving its "truths."

- Compilation by Maura Kwaten 

and Roger Rawlings

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


Christmas : Waldorf-style

extremity : love, out of bounds

fairy tales : their use in Waldorf schools

gender : boys and girls

holistic education : the "whole child"

if only : wishing, hoping...

more on education

PR : efforts to "re-brand" Waldorf schools

pseudoscience : at Waldorf schools

Q&A : informed opinions, and others

spiritual syllabus : in the open

star power : astrology Waldorf-style

this very day : Waldorf and Steiner schools pledging allegiance

visits : welcome?

Waldorf priests : doing their duty

BBC & SWSF : on the air