The Key to Waldorf

The central rationale for Waldorf education can be found 
in a single series of lectures delivered 
by Rudolf Steiner in 1919. 
These fourteen lectures have been collected 
in volumes titled, in various editions, 





In 2009, education authorities at the Anthroposophical headquarters said this about the lectures in question: "The basis of Waldorf education is a study of the human being and developmental psychology presented by Rudolf Steiner (1861 – 1925) in his volume of lectures entitled A GENERAL KNOWLEDGE OF THE HUMAN BEING or STUDY OF MAN." — Pedagogik-Goetheanum, PDF, 2009.

Clearly, this key collection of lectures bears looking into. So let's look. 

Below you will find numerous passages from the fourteen lectures, along with commentary by myself. I will work from one of the newer translations: THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE (Anthroposophic Press, 1996). Here is part of what the publisher says about this book: "This course on education contains some of the most remarkable and significant lectures ever given by Rudolf Steiner ... Any teacher who wants to teach in a way that encompasses the whole child certainly needs a functional understanding of what Steiner presents here ... Steiner gives his most concise and detailed account of human nature in these lectures, which are absolutely essential for anyone who wants a deeper understanding of Steiner's spiritual science ... THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE is the [sic] most important text for studying and understanding the human developmental and psychological basis for Waldorf education." [http://www.steinerbooks.org/detail.html?id=9780880103923]

So, let's walk through the book, front to back. These are the words of Rudolf Steiner, explaining the Waldorf mission to faculty members upon the opening of the first Waldorf school:

1. “We can accomplish our work only if we do not see it as simply a matter of intellect or feeling, but, in the highest sense, as a moral spiritual task. Therefore, you 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. With such a task, we must be conscious that we do not work only in the physical plane of living human beings. In the last centuries, this way of viewing work has increasingly gained such acceptance that it is virtually the only way people see it. This understanding of tasks has made teaching what it is now and what the work before us should improve. Thus, we wish to begin our preparation by first reflecting upon how we connect with the spiritual powers in whose service and in whose name each one of us must work.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE, Foundations of Waldorf Education (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 33.

Despite the usual Waldorf claims to the contrary, Waldorf schools are clearly religious institutions. And the religion involved is, of course, Anthroposophy. Note that the Waldorf teachers Steiner addressed were engaged in "a moral spiritual task;" their work began with a recognition "from the very beginning" of the "connection...between our activity and the spiritual worlds;" and the teachers set about to work in the "service" and in the "name" of the "spiritual powers" — i.e., the gods recognized by Anthroposophy. Waldorf education set about to improve education, which had sunk to functioning only on the "physical plane" of existence. Waldorf aimed to bring spirituality back into education. Waldorf teachers were undertaking work that can only be classed as religious — serving, and working in the name of, the gods.

2. “It is our duty to see the importance of our work. We will do this if we know that this school is charged with a particular task. We need to make our thoughts very concrete; we need to form our thoughts so that we can be conscious that this school fulfills something special. We can do this only when we do not view the founding of this school as an everyday occurrence, but instead regard it as a ceremony held within Cosmic Order. In this sense, I wish, in the name of the good spirit whose task it is to lead humanity out of suffering and misery, in the name of this good spirit whose task it is to lead humanity to a higher level of development in education, I wish to give the most heartfelt thanks to this good spirit who has given our dear friend Mr. Molt the good thoughts to do what he has done for the further development of humanity at this time and in this place, and what he has done for the Waldorf School ... [W]e are united with him in feeling the greatness of the task and of the moment in which it is begun, and in feeling that this is a festive moment in Cosmic Order ... We wish to see each other as human beings brought together by karma, who will bring about, not something common, but something that, for those doing this work, will include the feeling of a festive Cosmic moment.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE, Foundations of Waldorf Education, p. 34.

Waldorf education is intended to ceremonially serve the "Cosmic Order" — in other words, the gods and their plan. This is a religious intention, tied to the particular doctrines of Anthroposophy such as the belief that the gods are assisting humans to evolve to ever "higher levels of development." In this instance, the higher development will be in the sphere of education: Steiner asserts that Waldorf teachers have been brought together by their shared karma, and the result — the founding of the first Waldorf School — is an occasion of importance for the entire universal order.

Emil Molt was owner of the Waldorf-Astoria Cigarette Factory in Stuttgart, Germany. He recruited Steiner to create a school for the children of the factory workers. This became the Waldorf School, and Steiner education has carried the designation “Waldorf” ever since. The "good spirit" Steiner praises is that manifestation of benevolent divinity — the very spirit of Anthroposophy — that spoke directly to Emil Molt. Steiner earlier stated clearly that Waldorf teachers are to work in the name of not one God but many gods, for indeed Anthroposophy is polytheistic: Waldorf teachers honor "the spiritual powers in whose service and in whose name each one of us must work." [p. 33] Thus Steiner vested the opening of the Waldorf School with the highest spiritual significance — the teachers were on a holy mission in compliance with the divine powers of the universe.

3. “We want to be aware that physical existence is a continuance of the spiritual, and that what we have to do in education is a continuation of what higher beings [i.e., 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." — Rudolf Steiner, THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE, Foundations of Waldorf Education, p. 37. 

Steiner repeatedly insisted that Waldorf teachers work in the service of the gods. Parents need to understand this clearly when deciding whether to send children to Waldorf schools. Such schools are polytheistic institutions where the faculty think they are on a messianic mission. Steiner stated and restated the Waldorf mission in the lectures we are considering and elsewhere, for instance in Waldorf faculty meetings: “Among the faculty, we must certainly carry within us the knowledge that we are not here for our own sakes, but to carry out the divine cosmic plan. We should always remember that when we do something, we are actually carrying out the intentions of the gods....” — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER, Foundations of Waldorf Education (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 55.

Note that Waldorf education absolutely requires belief in these concepts: "Our form of educating can have the correct attitude only when we are aware...." You may find much that seems attractive in Waldorf schools (green values, emphasis on the arts, avoidance of technological gadgetry...), but Waldorf will ultimately be a good fit for you and your family only if you can embrace, and bow to, the proposition that Waldorf teachers are the instruments of an overarching pantheon of gods and their divine plan for human evolution. These are fundamental Waldorf beliefs.

4. “The task of education, understood in a spiritual sense, is to bring the soul-spirit into harmony with the temporal body. They must be brought into harmony and they must be tuned to one another because when the child is born into the physical world they do not yet properly fit each other. The task of the teacher is to harmonize these two parts to one another."— Rudolf Steiner, THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE, Foundations of Waldorf Education, p. 39.

You might think that the task of a school is to educate children.* But this is not the primary goal that Waldorf faculties aim for. As explained by Rudolf Steiner in this, his most important exposition of Waldorf schooling, the key task of Waldorf education is to help children to incarnate properly — that is, help the children to achieve a proper fit between the various components of their beings. Anthroposophists believe that humans have both souls and spirits; the "soul-spirit" or "spirit-soul" is the combination of these invisible components. Waldorf teachers think their job is to "harmonize" their students' soul-spirits with their etheric bodies (also called life bodies or temporal bodies: these are the lowest of three invisible bodies that incarnate during childhood, according to Steiner). Ultimately, all of a child's invisible components (soul, spirit, etheric body, astral body, and ego body) need to be harmonized with the student's physical body; thus is successful incarnation achieved. 

If you do not subscribe to the mystical beliefs of Rudolf Steiner and his followers, you may ultimately conclude that Waldorf teachers spend a great deal of time trying to do things that have no real meaning while failing to focus on the real purpose of education, which is to give kids the knowledge and skills they need in order to lead productive lives in the real world.

Steiner says that the purpose of Waldorf schooling "understood in a spiritual sense" is to help kids with their incarnation on Earth. Does this mean that the purpose of Waldorf schooling understood in an educational sense might be to give kids a good, solid academic education? No. Academics are generally low on the list of Waldorf priorities. [See "Academic Standards at Waldorf".] The purpose of Waldorf schooling is primarily spiritual, not academic. Waldorf schools are really, beneath the surface, Anthroposophical churches. [See "Schools as Churches".] You might like the idea of sending your child to a school that is primarily spiritual. But you should understand that the religion enacted in Waldorf schools is Anthroposophy. [See "Is Anthroposophy a Religion?"] Unless you can accept the occult doctrines of Anthroposophy, the spiritual nature of Waldorf schooling will ultimately be alien — and quite likely unacceptable — to you.

5. "Our attitude in teaching would be incomplete if we were not aware that human beings are born to have the possibility of doing [on Earth] what they cannot do in the spiritual world. We must teach in order to bring breathing into the proper harmony with the spiritual world. In the same way, human beings in the spiritual world cannot accomplish the rhythmical changes between sleeping and waking that they can accomplish in the physical world. Through education we must regulate this rhythm so that human beings properly integrate the temporal body into the soul-spirit." — Rudolf Steiner, THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE, p. 44.

Here Steiner states again that the central goal of Waldorf education is, to a significant extent, assisting children to incarnate successfully, so that the physical body and the soul-spirit are harmonized ("human beings [must] properly integrate the temporal body into the soul-spirit"). This dictum is tied to several other occult Waldorf beliefs. We alternate between lives in the spirit realm and lives in the physical realm, achieving in each realm things we could not achieve in the other. We move back and forth between these realms through the process of reincarnation and also through the process of sleep. Every night, according to Waldorf belief, the "astral body" and the "ego body" or "ego" leave the physical body and travel into the spirit realm. The "etheric body" stays behind with the physical body.

How can Waldorf teachers keep tabs on their students' soul-spirits, astral bodies, and other invisible components? Through clairvoyance. "[W]e must work to develop this consciousness, the Waldorf teacher’s consciousness ... We must realize that we really need something quite specific, something that is hardly present anywhere else in the world, if we are to be capable of mastering the task of the Waldorf school." — Rudolf Steiner, DEEPER INSIGHTS INTO EDUCATION (Anthroposophical Press, 1983), p. 21.

Beliefs such as these constitute the "foundation of human experience" — i.e., our lives as human beings. In turn, these beliefs constitute the "foundation of Waldorf education." When considering a Waldorf school for your child, you should carefully decide whether you think these are the kinds of beliefs that should control the educational process. In Waldorf schools, they do control the educational process.

Steiner taught that a fully incarnated human has four bodies: 

1) the physical body, 2) the etheric body (an envelope of formative forces 

that incarnates around age seven), 3) the astral body (an envelope 

of soul forces that incarnates at around age fourteen), 

and 4) the ego body or ego (or "I" — one's divine spiritual selfhood, 

which incarnates around age twenty-one).

Every night, the astral body and ego travel to the spirit realm 

while the physical and etheric bodies remain earthbound.

“[W]e go to sleep at night, setting forth with our ego and astral body, 

leaving behind the body of our waking life...until we re-awaken.”

— Rudolf Steiner, “Man as a Picture of the Living Spirit” 

(Rudolf Steiner Press, 1972), a lecture, GA 228.

Here, in a copy of a sketch by Steiner, the ego (yellow) 

and astral body (green)  are shown returning to the etheric body (blue) 

and physical body (outline) in the morning.

[R. R., 2011. I have changed the colors from Steiner's original sketch.]

6. "[T]hose psychological concepts formed from the knowledge of the fourth post-Atlantean period are today more or less without content and have become clichés in the realm of understanding the soul. If you look at a modern psychology book, or at anything to do with psychology, you will find it has no true content. You have the feeling that psychologists only play with concepts." — Rudolf Steiner, THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE, p. 49.

Steiner generally opposed all authority except his own. Thus, the "psychological concepts" of modern times are false. Only he, with his teachings that so thoroughly run counter to modern science, gives us the real scoop — according to himself. As for "the fourth post-Atlantean period": Steiner taught that Atlantis really existed, and all subsequent historical periods date from the time when Atlantis sank; we currently live in the fifth such period, drawing heavily from the fourth. "Modern psychology" is wrong, Steiner assures us — modern psychologists "only play with concepts," such as terms and ideas dating from the fourth post-Atlantean period. For truth, we must turn to Anthroposophy, the glorious spiritual flowering of the fifth post-Atlantean period.

In formulating such propositions, Steiner poses a problem for us: Either modern science and scholarship provide truth, or he — as font of Anthroposophy — provides truth. Which is it? How can we choose? Here's one approach, unintentionally suggested by Steiner himself. Steiner believed in Atlantis. This baseless belief suggests just how true Steiner's teachings really are. Atlantis is a fiction, nothing more. [See "Atlantis and the Aryans".] The foundation of Waldorf education is the rejection of modern scientific knowledge about the world and about human nature, substituting for them various mystical fantasies: Atlantis, reincarnation, the soul-spirit, astral bodies, clairvoyance... The basis of Waldorf education is no real basis at all — it is an assemblage of falsehood and delusion.

7. "Thinking is a picturing of all our experiences before birth or before conception. You cannot come to a true understanding of thinking if you are not certain that you have lived before birth. In the same way that a mirror reflects spatial objects, your present life reflects your life between death and a new birth, and this reflection is your pictorial thinking." — Rudolf Steiner, THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE, p. 51.

Waldorf schools emphasize imagination. What they mean by "imagination" is a form of clairvoyance. Steiner disparaged the use of the brain, as we will see; and he denigrated intellectual thought.* For him, true "thinking" is the formation of pictures that come to us from our lives "before birth or before conception." Thus, truth comes to us from the spirit worlds where we lived before our current incarnation; it does not come from the use of the brain, except insofar as the brain works as a sort of receiver for the pictures or "imaginations" that Steiner also sometimes called "living thoughts." These are distinct from the dead thoughts that our physical brains produce on their own, especially when messing around with the dead concepts of natural science. Steiner's view — which undergirds Waldorf education — is essentially mystical, anti-scientific, and anti-intellectual. For most forms of education, use of the brain is paramount. Not so at Waldorf schools. Waldorf education is based on mysticism; Waldorf schools are generally run by mystics; and ultimately these schools are likely to fully satisfy only families consisting of mystics (mystics whose particular beliefs conform to those promulgated by Rudolf Steiner).** 

* Steiner began his public career as a secular intellectual. His professed views shifted markedly after he pronounced himself an occultist and joined the ranks of Theosophy. [See "What a Guy".]

** Individuals who have not yet understood what Waldorf schools are really all about may also be satisfied — at least until the truth about Waldorf is revealed.

8. "Blood is truly a 'very special fluid.' Were we able to remove it from the human body so that it would still remain blood and not be destroyed by other physical agents (which, of course, is not possible in earthly conditions), it would whirl up as a vortex of spirit. Blood must be destroyed so that we can hold it within us as long as we are on the Earth, until death, so that it does not spiral upward as spirit. We continuously create blood and destroy blood — create blood and destroy blood — through inhaling and exhaling." — Rudolf Steiner, THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE, p. 57.

Quoting Goethe on the nature of blood (it is "a very special fluid"), Steiner here expresses views that led him to some truly objectionable conclusions. Arguing that blood embodies spiritual essence, Steiner taught that people of different races stand at different levels of evolution, and this is reflected by differences in their blood. The upward trajectory of humanity, Steiner said, involves evolution through a hierarchy of racial types, beginning with the lowest and darkest and ending with the highest and whitest. Mankind will ultimately evolve to a level at which racial differences disappear, Steiner said, but until that stage is reached humanity should avoid exogamy or race mixing. Mixing blood causes us to lose our clairvoyant powers, he said. Waldorf schools are unlikely to admit to such doctrines today, and many Waldorf teachers may find racism abhorrent. Nonetheless, some Waldorf students have reported receiving racist instruction in class. Some white students, for instance, have said that their Waldorf teachers warned them against receiving blood transfusions from members of darker races. [For more on these matters, see, e.g., "Steiner's Racism", "Races", "Differences", and "Blood". For Steiner's views on the spiritual nature of blood, see his lecture "The Occult Significance of Blood" (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1967.) Concerning racist instruction that I myself received as a Waldorf student, see "I Went to Waldorf".]

By the way, it is of course fully possible to "remove blood from the human body" and have it "remain blood." This is done all the time in hospitals and blood clinics. Steiner is speaking to us out of the depths of his ignorance. If some people early in the twentieth century believed him, no one now, in the twenty-first century, has any good reason to do so.

(Rudolf Steiner Press, 1967).
To dip into this toxic volume,
see "Blood".

9. "Physiologists believe that they are on to something when they speak of sensory and motor nerves, but they are actually only playing with words. They speak of motor nerves because people cannot walk when certain nerves are damaged, for instance those in the legs. They say someone cannot walk because the nerves that set the legs in motion, the motor nerves, are paralyzed. In truth, that person cannot walk because he or she really cannot perceive his or her own legs. Our age has of necessity become lost in a series of errors so that we can have the opportunity to work our way through these errors and become free human beings." — Rudolf Steiner, THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE, p. 58.

Here again we see Steiner essentially rejecting modern knowledge. Talk of "sensory and motor nerves" is just "playing with words." The cause of paralysis is totally different from what physiologists think; it is a matter of perception, not of damage sustained by the physical body. The gods have arranged for us to live in a world of falsehood and evil so that we may reject these things and thus rise to new heights of glory. We cannot be "free human beings" until we reject the "errors" of modern science and follow Steiner's occult lead instead. The "freedom" Steiner offered — which is still stressed in Waldorf schools today — is essentially freedom from the modern mindset and the findings of modern science. [See "Freedom" and "Science".] Steiner stressed the importance of perception, the highest forms of which are, he said, types of clairvoyance. [See "Clairvoyance" and "Exactly".] Steiner's claimed use of clairvoyance led him to extraordinary misunderstandings. Thus, concerning nerves and the brain, he said “[T]he brain and nerve system have nothing at all to do with actual cognition....” — Rudolf Steiner, THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE, p. 60. Concerning the heart, he said "You now find the heart described everywhere as a kind of pump that pumps blood throughout the organism ... [But] the heart does not pump; rather its movement is due to the influence of the living movement of the blood." — Rudolf Steiner, THE RENEWAL OF EDUCATION, Foundations of Waldorf Education (Anthroposophic Press, 2001), p. 33.

The thinking behind Waldorf schools values the "freedom" to believe Steiner's falsehoods. The potential implications of those falsehoods for health and healing are, as should be obvious, dire. [Thus, for instance, Steiner totally misunderstood the physical function of the heart. His medical teachings, arising from such ignorance, amount to dangerous quack medicine. See "Steiner's Quackery".] Steiner was right that we must choose between truth and falsehood, and between good and evil; but he was totally mistaken as to where the truth and virtue may be found.

10. "The beautiful structure of the outer cortex [of the brain] is, in a sense, a degeneration. It represents more of a digestive system in the outer portions of the brain. People need not be particularly proud of the mantle of the brain; it is more like a degeneration of the complicated brain into a more digestive brain. We have the mantle of the brain so that the nerves having to do with cognition can be properly nourished. The reason our brain is better developed than an animal brain is that we can feed the brain nerves better. Only in this way, namely, that we can feed the brain nerves better than animals can, do we have the possibility of more fully developing our higher cognition. However, the brain and nerve system have nothing at all to do with actual cognition; they are only the expression of cognition in the physical organism." — Rudolf Steiner, THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE, p. 60.

Rudolf Steiner taught that real thoughts come to us from our lives before birth [see statement #7, above]. The brain is generally insignificant, he said: It does not create thoughts, it only receives them. Steiner was particularly dismissive of the brain's outer cortex, the seat of intellect and reasoning. But ultimately he was dismissive of the entire brain. He claimed that real knowledge comes through the use of clairvoyance, of which imagination (the formation of pictures based on pre-birth experiences) is a first stage. And clairvoyance, he said, is not seated in the brain but in nonphysical organs of clairvoyance.

As for the particulars of Steiner's statement #10 — they are nonsense. There is no "digestive brain;" the outer cortex is certainly not degenerate; and cognition certainly does occur in the "brain and nerve system." As usual, believing Steiner would require us to dial down our brains and gullibly accept arrant falsehood. The question for parents of school-age children is whether to send your kids to a school built on the proposition that the brain has no real connection to cognition — i.e., the perception of truth. This is, clearly, a deeply damaging proposition to place at the basis of an educational system.

11. "[T]here is a tremendous difference between the development of will and that of thinking. If you particularly emphasize the development of thinking, you actually direct the entire human being back to prenatal life. You will injure children if you educate them rationally because you will then utilize their will in something they have already completed — namely, life before birth."  — Rudolf Steiner, THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE, p. 62.

Here Steiner continues his denigration of thinking, especially for young children. He taught that the will is a separate human faculty, and he urged Waldorf teachers to give more importance to the development of the will than to the development of thinking.  This advice applies especially to the first seven years of a child's life, before the etheric body incarnates: Steiner said that children up to the age of seven live primarily in the will. To stress the development of thinking, he said, would be to send kids backward into their lives before birth (when they formed the thoughts that would later reach them during the earthly lives). Kids have finished the "life before birth," so "You will injure them if you educate them rationally."

Does any of this make sense to you? Keep reminding yourself: These teachings constitute "the basis of Waldorf education."

12. "If you bring children as many living pictures as possible, if you educate them by speaking in pictures, then you...direct the children toward the future, toward life after death ... We sow pictures in the children, which can become seeds because we cultivate them in bodily activity. As we as educators develop our capability to act through pictures, we must continuously have the feeling that we work upon the whole human being, that we create a resonance in the whole human being when we work through pictures. 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." — Rudolf Steiner, THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE, p. 62.

Here Steiner says that children should be given "living pictures" — that is, products of imagination that give form to "living thoughts," the thoughts that come to us from our pre-earthly lives. We have covered some of this ground previously. The main thing to note at this stage is the distinctly religious nature of Waldorf education. Note that Waldorf schooling is directed "toward life after death," and it should have "consecration." On other occasions, Steiner said that Waldorf teachers work as priests, and this is what he meant. "The position of teacher becomes a kind of priestly office, a ritual performed at the altar of universal human life." — Rudolf Steiner, THE ESSENTIALS OF EDUCATION, Foundations of Waldorf Education (Anthroposophic Press, 1997), p. 23.

Despite the usual denials, Waldorf education is clearly religious, and the religion involved in Anthroposophy.

13. "In teaching, we bring the child the natural world, on the one side, and on the other, the spiritual world." — Rudolf Steiner, THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE, p. 63.

We would not need to dwell on the point, except that Waldorf schools usually deny the obvious truth: Waldorf education is mystical, spiritual, religious. In part, Waldorf education leads children into "the natural world," but it also leads them to "the spiritual world." The latter goal belongs to religious education, not ordinary schooling. Virtually all classes and activities at Waldorf schools are, at root, religious. Steiner let this cat out of the bag over and over: ◊ "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." — Rudolf Steiner, THE CHILD's CHANGING CONSCIOUSNESS AS THE BASIS OF PEDAGOGICAL PRACTICE, Foundations of Waldorf Education (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 94. ◊ "[A] religious atmosphere can be created in every lesson and subject. Such an atmosphere is created in our school." — Rudolf Steiner, WALDORF EDUCATION AND ANTHROPOSOPHY, Vol. 2, Foundations of Waldorf Education (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 184. ◊ "This is what we must carry in our souls as [Waldorf] teachers ... Every word and gesture in my teaching as a whole will be permeated by religious fervor." — Rudolf Steiner, THE ESSENTIALS OF EDUCATION, Foundations of Waldorf Education (Anthroposophic Press, 1997), p. 65. ◊ "To develop whole human beings and to deepen them in a true religious sense is considered one of the most essential tasks of Waldorf education." — Rudolf Steiner, A MODERN ART OF EDUCATION, Foundations of Waldorf Education (Anthroposophic Press, 2004), p. 169. [For more on this, see "Schools as Churches".]

Seen in this context, the question for religiously inclined parents is whether they want to allow Waldorf teachers to "bring the child...the spiritual world," or whether they want to reserve this task for themselves or their clergy. To whom do you want to entrust your child's religious instruction?

14. "When the germinal living will turns toward nature, it experiences something quite different from those natural laws based upon what is dead. Because you still carry many ideas that have arisen from the present time and the errors of modern conventional science, you will probably have difficulty in understanding [what I am saying]. What brings our senses (in the full spectrum of the twelve senses) into relationship with the outer world is not of a cognitive, but of a willing nature." — Rudolf Steiner, THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE, p. 66.

Here Steiner repeats various core elements in his teachings: The will is more important than the brain or thinking; physical reality is essentially dead; modern science, attending only to the dead functioning of the physical world, is erroneous. If you train your will, however, then when you turn to look upon nature, you will see something different from what science sees: You will find, below the surface, the living forces of the spirit realm. (For instance, you will see gnomes and fairies.)

Perhaps you are a spiritual person. Perhaps you believe that all of nature is infused with spirit. This is fine. But if you consider Waldorf education for your child, make sure that you are comfortable with the specific doctrines preached by Rudolf Steiner and generally embraced by Waldorf schools. Many of these doctrines involve the spirit realm, but many others involve the temporal world here and now. Thus, for instance, do you agree that here and now, in the temporal world, we have twelve senses? When Waldorf schools talk about educating "the whole child", this is one of the things they mean. As we have seen, the Waldorf belief system includes belief in souls, spirits, etheric bodies, astral bodies, and ego bodies. In addition, it includes belief in twelve separate senses. And its view of the whole person includes other strange concepts that we will get to further down this page. Understand that if you send a child to a Waldorf school, s/he will be entering a realm of many strange, occult beliefs — and you will be expected to accept these beliefs or at least not object when the teachers operate on the basis of these beliefs.

Steiner's followers continue to affirm his doctrines today.
In Waldorf belief, the "whole child" has four bodies and twelve senses 
(senses of touch, life, movement, balance, ego, smell, 
taste, sight, temperature, thought, hearing, speech).

(Anthroposophy Series, Hawthorne Press, 1990).
Steiner's followers make strenuous efforts to show that he was right.
They don't succeed. How could they?

15. "[We] read in Plato that the actual basis of seeing is the reaching out of a kind of tentacle [from the eye] to the things seen ... Human beings, due to the position of their eyes, are able to allow these supersensible arms [i.e., the 'tentacles'] to touch one another. That is the basis of the supersensible sense of the I. Were we never able to touch right and left...we could never achieve a spiritual sense of our Self." — Rudolf Steiner, THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE, pp. 66-67.

The "I" is another name for the ego body or ego; it is divine human selfhood. Like us, plants and animals have etheric bodies, Steiner taught; and animals have astral bodies, like ours. But only human beings have "I's". Many of Steiner's doctrines are meant to reassure his followers that, yes, as human beings, they are very special individuals, beloved of the gods. It is too bad, then, that he hangs so many of his doctrines on obvious hooey. Here, he accepts Plato's ancient error about how we see things (by extending invisible tentacles or arms out of our eyes). "That is the basis of the supersensible sense of the I." So, there is no basis for belief in the "I," because we do not have invisible tentacles or arms extending out of our eyes. Too bad.

By the way, "supersensible" is one of Steiner's favorite words. It means beyond the reach of our ordinary senses. Supersensible things (think of supernatural things) can be perceived only with clairvoyance, according to Steiner. But clairvoyance is a delusion; it doesn't exist. Too bad.

16. "If the evolution of the Earth did not include human beings, then most animals would not exist. A major portion of the animals, particularly the higher animals, arose within earthly evolution only because human beings needed to use their elbows (of course, I speak here only pictorially). At a particular stage in their earthly development, human beings, to develop further, needed to rid their nature, which then was much different than it is now, of the higher animals. We can perhaps comprehend this cleansing if we imagine how, in a mixture in which something is dissolved, the dissolved substance precipitates and falls. In the same way, human beings in an earlier stage of development were one with the animal world, and then the animal world precipitated out." — Rudolf Steiner, THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE, pp. 69-70.

Steiner liked to blow his followers' minds, and they seemed to enjoy it — the odder his doctrines, the more his followers embraced them. On the subject of evolution, Steiner taught that we did not evolve from animals; rather, animals evolved from us. Or, more precisely, animals are the descendants of beings who branched off from the human line of evolution. Unable to keep evolving alongside us, they remained behind at lower levels of development. It almost goes without saying that there is essentially no evidence for Steiner's version of evolution; indeed, the fossil record contradicts Steiner at almost every turn.

You might wonder whether Waldorf students are taught Steiner's backward evolution. Usually they are not. Usually Waldorf teachers hold their cards close to the vest and do not lay out their Anthroposophical beliefs for the students in so many words. But, sometimes, they yield to the impulse to tell their students the "truth" — i.e., Anthroposophical beliefs. At the Waldorf school I attended, the headmaster laid out the concept of backward, Steiner-style evolution for all the students in the high school during a memorable gathering one Friday afternoon.

17. "Farm wives are much more aware than city women that yeast has a certain meaning in baking bread, even though only a small amount is added. They know that bread could not rise if they did not add yeast to the dough. In the same way, earthly development would have long ago reached its final stage were the Earth not continuously fed with the forces of human corpses, the forces released by the human spirit-soul at death. The forces that earthly development continuously receives through the acceptance of human corpses, that is, the forces contained in those corpses supports the evolution of the Earth." — Rudolf Steiner, THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE, pp. 70-71.

Sometimes the best comment is no comment. We should just read Steiner's words and meditate.

18. "The human soul is a stage upon which not simply a human, but a cosmic process plays out. Today, that is difficult for many people to understand. However, unless you penetrate such views, it is impossible to be a good teacher." — Rudolf Steiner, THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE, p. 77.

Steiner insisted that Waldorf teachers must accept his spiritual doctrines. Otherwise, "it is impossible to be a good teacher." In other words, Steiner said that Waldorf teachers must be uncompromising Anthroposophists. "As teachers in the Waldorf School, you will need to find your way more deeply into the insight of the spirit and to find a way of putting all compromises aside ... As Waldorf teachers, we must be true anthroposophists in the deepest sense of the word in our innermost feeling.” — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER, Foundations of Waldorf Education (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 118. Not every teacher in every Waldorf school is in fact an Anthroposophist, but Steiner said they all should be.

As to what Steiner meant by the "cosmic process" playing out in human souls, he was talking about the divine plan for human evolution developed by the gods. As we evolve, the cosmos itself evolves, and the gods themselves are elevated. Waldorf teachers must understand such things. "[W]e are not here for our own sakes, but to carry out the divine cosmic plan. We should always remember that when we do something, we are actually carrying out the intentions of the gods....” — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER, p. 55.

19. "The [physical] body is part of the stream of genetic heredity; it carries inherited traits and so forth. The soul is that part of prenatal existence most closely connected to the body. However, what is spiritual in modern human beings exists only as a tendency. (In human beings in a distant future, it will be different.) So here, where we wish to lay the foundation for a good pedagogy, we must take into account what is present only as a spiritual tendency in human beings of the present developmental era. We should be very clear about which human tendencies are present for a distant human future." — Rudolf Steiner, THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE, p. 80.

Spiritual evolution is a central tenet in the Waldorf belief system. Human beings are evolving to higher and higher levels of spiritual consciousness. We are not yet extremely spiritual ("what is spiritual in modern human beings exists only as a tendency") but we will rise higher ("in a distant future, it will be different"). In our current review of THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE, we have touched on some of Steiner's evolutionary concepts. Taken as a whole, these concepts provide the central rationale of Anthroposophy: They define the meaning of life, which is to climb higher and higher in the future, until we gain the absolute summit of spirituality. Someday, we will be higher than the nine rank of gods; someday, we will as the tenth rank will become God. Steiner's forecasts for our glorious future sometimes cross the line into what some people of faith would consider blasphemy: "[W]e shall have gradually achieved the transformation of our own being into what is called in Christianity ‘the Father.’” — Rudolf Steiner, THE LORD’S PRAYER (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2007), p. 17.

Maybe you can accept Steiner's religious teachings, maybe you can't. But the point to grasp is that such teachings are essential to Waldorf education. Waldorf teachers must accept these teachings if they want to "lay the foundation for a good pedagogy." Assisting humanity to rise to higher levels of spiritually: This is the ultimate, religious purpose of Waldorf education.

(Rudolf Steiner Press, 1981).
Steiner claimed to be able to see the future, and he described
his visions in many lectures and books.
He did not predict the future, he said; he saw it with exact clarity.

20. "I have already mentioned in another context that we each have our personal spiritual guide who is a member of the hierarchy of Angels, and that standing above that are the spirits of the Archangelic hierarchy who become active when we go through the gates of death. Thus, we immediately have an existence in relationship to many [sic], because many of the Archangels are active in our existence." — Rudolf Steiner, THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE, p. 81.

One of Steiner's more pleasing doctrines is that each of us has a guardian Angel. Angels, in the Waldorf belief system, are gods only a little more spiritually advanced than human beings. Each Angel (otherwise known as a Son of Twilight) has responsibility for one human being. A step higher than Angels are the gods called Archangels (also called Spirits of Fire). Each Archangel has responsibility for a group of human beings, such as a nation or race; Archangels exercise their powers chiefly while we live in the spirit world between Earthly incarnations. Altogether, Steiner taught, there are nine ranks of gods, extending upward toward the Godhead. Some of this may sound comfortingly familiar: angels, archangels. Yes, we have heard of these. Maybe Anthroposophy isn't such a strange religion after all. But don't jump to conclusions. Do you believe in a multitude of gods instead of a single One and Only God? Do you believe in reincarnation and karma? Do you believe in spiritual evolution (and backward evolution)? Do you believe in gnomes and fairies? Do you believe that the gods of the Norse myths really exist? Do you believe that there were two Jesus children whose souls merged? Do you believe that Christ is the Sun God? These are Anthroposophical beliefs. These are doctrines that Waldorf teachers generally accept as Truth. (Remember that the book we are reviewing lays out "the basis of Waldorf education".)

21. "...[T]he Consciousness Soul, the Comprehension Soul and the Sentient Soul ... These are the actual components of the human soul. Today, if we wish to speak about the human soul and how it lives in the body, we must speak about these three aspects. If we wish to speak about the human body, we must speak of the sentient body (the least perceptible body, which we also call the astral body), the etheric body and the coarse physical body, which we can see with our eyes and which conventional science dissects. Thus, we have before us the complete human being." — Rudolf Steiner, THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE, p. 82.

We have not yet catalogued all of the parts of the "whole human being" as described by Steiner. In this passage, Steiner mentions various parts that we haven't discussed previously. The picture he paints is quite complex (and it grows hazy, because he sometimes contradicted himself). But at least on some occasions he gave the following summary of the whole human constitution: "The body consists of: (1) the actual body [i.e., the physical body], (2) the life-body [i.e., the etheric body], (3) the sentient-body [i.e., the astral body]. The soul consists of: (4) the sentient-soul, (5) the intellectual-soul, (6) the consciousness-soul. The spirit consists of: (7) spirit-self, (8) life-spirit, (9) spirit-man. In the incarnated human being, 3 and 4, and 6 and 7 unite, flowing into one another. Through this fact the nine members appear to have contracted into seven members." — Rudolf Steiner, REINCARNATION AND KARMA (Anthroposophic Press, 1962), "How Karma Works", GA 34.

If you want to pursue this subject further, you might look at "What We're Made Of" and "Our Parts". Bear in mind that the total picture is even more complex than suggested here. In the passage I have quoted just now from REINCARNATION AND KARMA, Steiner does not, for instance, mention our twelve senses, our temperaments, our astrological signs, our racial identities, etc. You can pursue all of these subjects, if you're of a mind to. For the purposes of our current study of THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE, it is perhaps sufficient to note that Waldorf pedagogy rests on an extremely strange conception of human nature, one that finds almost no confirmation in real science or medicine, or in mainstream religious faiths.

Among his other  teachings about the physical body,
Steiner said that each part of the body is connected
to one sign of the zodiac: The astrological powers of the stars
flow down into these body parts.

Steiner's followers — many of whom teach in Waldorf schools — 
accept his word on such matters.
"Each region of the zodiac can be looked upon as the home of 
particular spiritual beings [i.e., gods] and a centre of forces. 
There are 12 signs of the zodiac and 12 corresponding 
parts of the human organism....
— Waldorf teacher Roy Wilkinson, 
(Rudolf Steiner Press, 1996), p. 47. 
[R.R. sketch, 2009, based on the sketch on p. 48.]

Likewise, Steiner associated each human sense 
with a sign of the zodiac:

"[M]an actually has twelve senses ... 

[T]his membering of man according to his senses 

is [such that] you only need draw in place of the senses 

the signs of the Zodiac, and you have Ram, Bull, 

Twins, Cancer, Lion, Virgin, Scales, 

seven signs for the light side and five for the dark: 

Scorpion, Archer, Goat, Waterman, Fishes; 

day, night: night, day. Here you have a perfect parallel 

between microcosmic man...

and what in the cosmos signifies the change from day to night. 

In a way the same thing happens to man, 

as in the cosmic edifice [i.e., the universe, the macrocosm]."

— Rudolf Steiner, 


(transcript, Rudolf Steiner Archive), lecture 2, GA 183.

[Diagram reproduced from the transcript.]

Astrology — along with the superstition and falsehood it embodies —

peers out at us through many Steiner/Waldorf beliefs.

[See "Astrology", "Star Power", and "Waldorf Astrology".]

22. "The etheric body lives in our physical body, completely forming and permeating it. However, it is beyond imperceptible to the external senses."   — Rudolf Steiner, THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE, p. 83.

The previous statement, #21, led us into some deep and mirky waters. It might be helpful to step up onto dry land and make a clear, rational comment. Except for the "actual" or physical body, all of the nine major components of human nature as outlined by Steiner are "beyond imperceptible to the external senses." To see them, Steiner said, we need to become clairvoyant. But there is a problem (we return now to a basic point, which bears repeating). Belief in clairvoyance is difficult if not impossible to justify — no conclusive evidence for clairvoyance has ever been produced. Indeed, clairvoyance is almost certainly a delusion, a product of human self-deception, a trick some people play on their unwary selvesAnd, therefore, the invisible components of human nature listed by Steiner are almost certainly not just "imperceptible to the external senses," they are almost certainly nonexistent. They do not exist. They are occult fantasies. And yet belief in them is necessary, Steiner said, in order to educate children well.

Let me suggest a radical thought. Perhaps Steiner had no idea what is necessary in order to educate children well. If Waldorf education requires us to believe a boatload of doctrines that are wholly unsubstantiated, not to say absurd — if so, then perhaps Waldorf education is a hollow sham.

It's just a thought.

23. "[T]he teacher must touch all [of the] forces of the soul to regulate and order them. We must work with just what occurs in the depths of human nature when we wish to work in education. 

           "Spirit Human   -   Decision 

            "Life Spirit   -   Intent 

          "Spirit Self   -   Wish 

"Consciousness Soul   \  ...........

  "Comprehension Soul   —    Motive

"Sentient Soul   /.

"Sentient/Astral Body   -   Desire 

            "Ether Body   -   Drive 

           "Physical Body    -   Instinct" 


Using somewhat different terms than we saw previously [see the commentary on statement #21], Steiner identifies the mental/emotional/spiritual states associated with the nine major human components, and he stresses that teachers must bear these in mind to do their work properly ("We must work with [these]...when we wish to work in education"). So, again we see that Steiner's occult teachings are central to Waldorf schooling. Even more important, we see again that Waldorf schooling is aimed more at the soul than at the brain. Waldorf teachers aim to "regulate" and "control" their students' "forces of the soul" — they aim for the spiritual/soul reformation of their students. This is another way to describe the way in which Waldorf teachers try to function as priests ministering to their students.

24. "Why do artistic activities affect the formation of the will particularly strongly? Because first, practice is based upon repetition, and second, what people receive through artistic activity always gives them joy. People enjoy art again and again, not just the first time. Art has a quality that can excite people not just once, but can time and again directly give them joy." — Rudolf Steiner, THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE, p. 93.

Waldorf schools are often pleasant places, at least on first acquaintance. There is much art and beauty, and there is a desire for joy, in the schools. Walking through the door of a Waldorf school can be seductive: you enter a lovely, colorful environment full of art. You should understand, however, why the arts are stressed in Waldorf schools. As you may guess by now, the purpose is spiritual. The arts are seen as a vehicle for receiving the gods and for rising to the gods. Steiner taught that the arts literally take us into the spirit realm. “This is what gives art its essential lustre: it transplants us here and now into the spiritual world.”  — Rudolf Steiner, quoted in THE GOETHEANUM: School of Spiritual Science (Philosophical-Anthroposophical Press, 1961), p. 25.

Virtually everything that happens in Waldorf schools has a mystical purpose. The main challenge for any parents considering a Waldorf school is to understand the form of mysticism found in Waldorf schools, and then to decide whether such mysticism is acceptable for themselves and — even more important — for their children.

The titles of various Steiner books 

reflect the spiritual mission of art in Waldorf schools,


(Rudolf Steiner Press, 1996).

In Anthroposophic parlance, "mystery wisdom" is occult knowledge,

the stuff of "occult science" — Anthroposophy.

The arts as used in Waldorf schools are meant

to embody or at least suggest mystery wisdom.

25. "Animals have much more sympathy with their surroundings and are more integrated into them and therefore are more dependent upon climate and season and so forth than human beings. People have a personality because they have more antipathy toward their surroundings. That we can separate ourselves from our surroundings through unconscious antipathy gives us an awareness of our individual personality." — Rudolf Steiner, THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE, p. 97.

In Anthroposophy, a sharp line is drawn between human beings and animals. Anthroposophy (the word means "human wisdom") celebrates the human being and it claims that we humans are actually the spiritual center of the universe. "The entire created universe has been brought into being so that the human being might come into existence." — Anthroposophist Ronald E. Koetzsch, "Anthroposophy 101". These beliefs require Anthroposophists to denigrate the capabilities of animals, so that the animals seem far inferior to ourselves. Thus, Steiner said that animals have no memory, for instance. “To attribute memory to animals is an error ... It is natural enough to think of memory when a dog recognizes its master ... Yet in reality the recognition depends not on memory ... Surely, one might [think], since the dog grieves when its master goes away, it must retain some memory of him ... [But] the animal’s behaviour implies the absence of all memory.” — Rudolf Steiner, OCCULT SCIENCE - AN OUTLINE (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1969), pp. 46-47.

All of this is flattering to the human ego, setting us up far above all other earthly creatures, but it has little basis in fact. (Animals certainly have memories. Squirrels, for instance, have prodigious memories, memorizing the locations of hundreds of nuts buried for the winter.) Children who are brought up to accept Anthroposophical concepts are led farther and farther away from a true comprehension of the natural world, including their own natures. Note, for instance, that an Anthroposophical sense of "individual personality" requires an attitude of "antipathy" toward nature. Waldorf schools often place emphasis on nature, because the created universe is thought to harbor spiritual presences. But at a deeper level, Steiner taught that we must reject nature. [See "Neutered Nature".]

26. "Conventional science thinks that it has exact concepts and mocks what anthroposophy gives. Science has no idea that the concepts derived from anthroposophy are more exact than those in normal usage because they derive from reality and not from simple word play." — Rudolf Steiner, THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE, p. 101.

As we have seen, Steiner generally derided and rejected the real sciences (physics, chemistry, biology, etc.). He claimed that his own teachings represented a higher, truer form of science — "occult science" or "spiritual science". In reality, however, there is nothing truly scientific about Anthroposophy. It hinges of clairvoyance, which does not exist. As a result, Steiner's teachings — which form the basis of Waldorf education — are an enormous catalogue of blunders and falsehoods.

(Rudolf Steiner Press, 2009).
This book, which has been printed in numerous editions
under an array of similar titles
is Steiner's most important exposition of his doctrines.

27. "The human being must 'conquer' reality ... Reality is not in the surroundings, nor in appearance, but first arises through our 'conquering' reality, so the last thing we arrive at is reality. In principle, true reality is what human beings see at the moment they can no longer speak, namely, in that moment when they go through the gates of death." — Rudolf Steiner, THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE, p. 105.

As we have seen [statement #25], Steiner said that it is important for humans to have "antipathy toward their surroundings." Here we see a similar proposition: We must "conquer" reality. In one sense, of course, this is true, if by reality we mean the appearances of things around us. Appearances are often false; we must get past them. But at a more telling level, Steiner's statement is false. We must find and affirm reality, not reject it.

Note the deep strain of negativity in Steiner's teachings. He denies the truths of science; he quarrels with modern scholarship; he rejects most experts and authorities. His teachings are deeply negative, despite their seeming affirmation of spiritual states and powers. Steiner offers us no real benefits in our present, real lives. He holds out only a phantom promise of fulfillment in death — "that moment when [we] go through the gates of death" — and in the lives he said (offering no real evidence to support his claim) we will lead after death.

Steiner affirmed death over life, future phantom lives over our present real lives. The relevance of these matters for Waldorf education is that children who are taught by Steiner's devotees are often led in the wrong direction: away from reality.

28. "Say that you wanted to make a table [i.e., diagram] of the life of the I [i.e., the ego or ego body] in the [physical] body, and you made it in the following manner:

  "I.  Waking — Pictorial Cognition 

 "II.  Dreaming —  Inspired Feeling 

"III.  Sleeping  — Intuitive Willing 

"Then you would not be able to understand why the intuition people instinctively speak of arises more easily in the pictorial recognition of everyday life than in inspired feeling, which is closer. However, if you correctly draw this...if you draw it in the following way, then you will more easily understand these things.

"You would then realize that pictorial cognition enters inspirations in the direction of Arrow 1, and arises again from intuition (Arrow 2)." — Rudolf Steiner, THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE, pp. 117-118.

We have seen how Steiner advocated "pictorial thinking" — imagination, clairvoyance — and disparaged rational thought or the use of the brain [see, e.g., statement #7]. Mystics often affirm subjective states. They mistake feelings, intuitions, dreams, and the like, for true perceptions, while usually rejecting rational thought and its conclusions. We find this attitude in Steiner's teachings, and a child who is sent into a Waldorf school will find this attitude affirmed. Waldorf teachers often accept dreams, intuitions, astrological portents, and other forms of delusion as guides for their actions. The consequences for their students can be — to say the least — worrisome.

In the Waldorf belief system, imagination, inspiration, and intuition are three forms of clairvoyance or spiritual perception. We can develop these forms of consciousness to a high degree in this life, Steiner taught — and leading children toward this achievement is an underlying goal of Waldorf schools. For now, Steiner said, few people except his followers and himself have attained high levels of these forms of consciousness, but in the future all humans will attain them (or, at least, all humans who continue to evolve properly will attain them). We will all possess true imagination when we evolve to Future Jupiter, then we will all possess true inspiration when we evolve to Future Venus, and finally we will all possess true intuition when we evolve to Future Vulcan. [See the entries for "Jupiter consciousness," "Venus consciousness", and "Vulcan consciousness" in THE BRIEF WALDORF / STEINER ENCYCLOPEDIA.]

This is the shape of human evolution, according to Waldorf belief. 
The solar system first incarnated in a form called Old Saturn
This gave way to Old Sun and then Old Moon
We now live in the Present Earth stage, which will be followed 
All good, properly evolving humans rise to 
higher and higher states of consciousness 
as this process proceeds. But evil or abnormal humans 
fall into the terrible Eighth Sphere
The movement from Old Saturn to Present Earth 
has been a descent into physical existence; 
the movement beyond Present Earth to Future Vulcan 
will be a re-ascent into spirituality. 
Falling into the Eighth Sphere 
means sinking too far into physicality. 
[Rudolf Steiner, 
(Rudolf Steiner Press, 1973), p. 81; 
diagram reproduced from the book.]

29. "You must...seek children’s will and feeling in their senses. For this reason we emphasize so strongly that we must continuously act upon the children’s will when we educate them intellectually. Into everything children see, into everything they perceive, we must also incorporate will and feeling, otherwise we will deny the children’s sensations." — Rudolf Steiner, THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE, p. 126.

Steiner made careful distinctions between thinking, willing, and feeling, and he laid out indications for teachers to follow in guiding children to develop all three intertwined capacities. De-emphasizing ordinary thought, he laid special emphasis on feeling and willing (and he claimed, as usual, that most scholars and scientists misunderstand these matters). He taught that we find truth more through feeling and emotion than through cogitation, and (drawing from Goethe) he considered the exercise of will essential to the process of perception. He was right about some of this, but perhaps not for the reasons he recognized. One can wholly affirm his views only by willing oneself to do so; you can "perceive" what he perceived only if your emotional needs lead you to willfully project desired qualities onto the objects of perception. In other words, a great deal of self-deception is involved in Steiner's approach. [See "Steiner's 'Science'", "Fooling (Ourselves)" and "Why? Oh Why?"]

The implications for the education of the young are chilling. Waldorf teachers are expected to "continuously act upon the children’s will," steering them to "see" what their teachers want them to see. "Into everything children see, into everything they perceive, we must also incorporate will and feeling..." It is one thing for Waldorf teachers to delude themselves that they can perceive "nature spirits," for instance; but it is something else for them to steer children toward the same delusions. Note that Steiner says that when they educate kids "intellectually" — that is, when they present ordinary information in a more or less ordinary way, comprehensible to that benighted organ the brain — Waldorf teachers need to modify the instruction by emphasizing will, feelings, and sensations. Brain and intellect must never be allowed to do their work unimpeded; in Waldorf education, subjective states must always intervene, preventing the brain from functioning as it otherwise could.

30. "[T]he nervous system has an unusual relationship to the spirit. It is an organ that, due to the functions of the body, always tends to decay and become mineralized. If, in a living human, you could separate the nervous system from the remaining elements of gland-muscle-blood and from the bone element (you could, though, leave the bone system together with the nervous system), you would already have a corpse in a living human being. Dying occurs continuously in the human nervous system. The nervous system is the only system that has no direct connection to the spirit-soul." — Rudolf Steiner, THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE, pp. 129-130.

The central portion of THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE is largely devoted to Steiner's subtle exposition of various states and functions that have no basis in scientific fact. They are his own inventions, but he presses them on Waldorf teachers as essential to their work. Spending a great deal of time on them, here, would be pointless. It may suffice simply to point out how in statement #30 Steiner reiterates what he often said, that the nerves (and the presiding organ of the nerves, the brain) are deleterious. They are continually dying; they exist in the sphere or deadliness, the dead material world; they are divorced from the spirit-soul or the spirit realm. Take another look at statement #10, above: "[T]he brain and nerve system have nothing at all to do with actual cognition." This is Steiner's refrain; it is his central, deeply damaging psychological/educational proposition. The brain is destructive, uninformative, deathly. A more harmful idea to place at the base of an educational system would be hard to devise.

31. We have touched on Steiner's teachings having to do with the human senses, nervous system and brain, will, and emotions. On all of these topics, Steiner's teachings stand apart from, and often in opposition to, scientifically established facts. Here Steiner enumerates for us the twelve human senses [see statement #14]. He categorizes them in terms of the three major faculties/states he has discussed: will, feeling, and thought:

"First, we have the four senses of touch, life, movement and balance. These senses are primarily permeated by will. Will acts through these senses in perception ... The next group of senses, namely smell, taste, sight and temperature, are primarily senses of feeling ... [T]he sense of I and the senses of thought, hearing and speech are more cognitive senses, because the will in them is more the sleeping will...." — Rudolf Steiner, THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE, pp. 142-45.

Usually, people speak of five human senses (sight, hearing, touch, taste, smell), which is perhaps too simplistic. But Steiner's additions (senses of life, sense of I, sense of thought...) have little meaning outside his occult, mystical framework. In coming up with twelve senses, Steiner was clearly padding. He did this sort of thing often, because he liked to produce lists that ended in what he considered mystically significant numbers, such as 3, 4, 7 (the sum of 3+4) and 12 (the product of 3x4). The result is that often, as in this case, his lists tend toward vacuity. Nonetheless, Waldorf teachers are expected to take Steiner's guidance on these — and virtually all other — matters. The troubling implication for Waldorf education is that Waldorf schooling is predicated on a conception of human nature that is to a great extent untrue; in other words, Waldorf schooling is inseparable from Steiner's occult doctrines

(Rudolf Steiner Press, 2005).
Steiner's description of human nature — the basis
for the "holistic" education provided by Waldorf schools — 
is divorced from reality. It stands, instead, within
the occult vision that constitutes the Waldorf belief system: 

32. "You know that the stage of life under consideration for teaching as a whole is the first two decades. You also know that the entire life of children in these first two decades is divided into three parts. Until the time of the change of teeth, children have a certain character that they express in their desire to be imitative beings. Children try to imitate everything they see. From the age of seven until puberty, everything the child wants to know, feel and do is based upon a desire to receive it from authorities. Only after puberty do children begin to want to relate to their environment through their own judgment." — Rudolf Steiner, THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE, pp. 147-148.

This has been called Steiner's most significant educational insight. But there are many things wrong with it. The "insight": Children proceed through three distinct phases: from birth to age seven, from age seven to age fourteen, and age fourteen to age twenty-one. Note that this stereotypes children, failing to treat them as individuals. Instead, all children are thought to be essentially the same as all other children of the same age. But this is clearly false. Children mature at very different rates; some kids are ready for academic work, for instance, far earlier than others; some become physically mature far later than others; and so forth. But in Waldorf schools, these individual differences are largely overlooked.

More critically, Steiner's conception of three phases of childhood is built on his stated belief that children develop four bodies, only one of which is visible. As we have noted, the "etheric body" incarnates at around age seven, the "astral body" around age fourteen, and the "ego body" around age twenty-one. The entire Waldorf curriculum is geared to this fallacious mystical belief.

As for "the change of teeth" — Steiner said the replacement of baby teeth by adult teeth signals the incarnation of the etheric body. This event is given enormous importance in Waldorf schools. Kids are not supposed to be taught reading or arithmetic until it occurs — whether or not they are intellectually precocious and ready, possibly even ravenous, for intellectual stimulation. This is just one example of the ways Waldorf schools can thwart and stunt personal growth. According to Waldorf belief, children up to the age of seven want to imitate their role models (in school, their teachers), and kids between the ages of seven and fourteen want to obey authorities (again, in school, their teachers). Only after age fourteen do children start to have the capacity to think for themselves, Steiner said. Anyone who actually knows children will immediately see how false this simplistic scheme is, and all of us should recognize that Steiner was saying that at least until age fourteen, Waldorf students should be firmly under the control of their teachers. This control may loosen slightly thereafter — i.e., in high school — but children who have been wholly subordinate to their mystically inclined teachers throughout early and middle childhood will generally find thinking for themselves, especially thinking rationally for themselves, very difficult thereafter. Their course in life has, often, been firmly set.

33. "Until the time of the change of teeth, children want to imitate. Until the time of puberty, they want to stand under authority, and then they want to use their judgment in the world." — Rudolf Steiner, THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE, pp. 155-156.

Steiner repeated himself a lot. Here he repeats the belief that children pass through three distinct phases, with all children of a given age being essentially alike. Note what he also says. During the first two phases, children "want to imitate" and they "want to stand under authority." Only after beginning the third phase do children want to "use their [own] judgment." But, clearly, this is untrue. Many very young children want to use their own judgment, many adolescent children want to imitate others, and all children of all ages show the entire range of possible human reactions and attitudes. Steiner's schema is full of holes.

We should dwell again on a central point: Steiner vests Waldorf teachers with immense authority, and he requires children to accept this authority. At least until age fourteen, children should imitate their teachers and accept their directives; they should accept Waldorf teachers as essentially unquestioned authorities. Likewise, the parents of Waldorf students should yield to the authority of their children's teachers. Steiner went so far as to say it is too bad that Waldorf teachers cannot remove children from their parents' care and assume total control "soon after birth." ◊ Addressing Waldorf teachers, Steiner said “Given the difficult, disorderly, and chaotic conditions of our time, it might almost be preferable from a moral viewpoint if children could be taken into one’s care soon after birth.” — Rudolf Steiner, WALDORF EDUCATION AND ANTHROPOSOPHY, Vol. 2, Foundations of Waldorf Education (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 69. ◊ Toning things down only slightly, he also told the teachers "You will have to take over children for their education and instruction — children who will have received already (as you must remember) the education, or mis-education given them by their parents." — Rudolf Steiner, THE STUDY OF MAN (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2004), p. 16. (The translation of the same lecture in the text we have been using, THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE, tones things down even further. Still, Steiner is quoted as saying that parents often do not understand what children need, whereas Waldorf teachers do know. Parents are negligent, but Waldorf teachers may be able to repair the damage. "We will be able to correct much of the neglect of the first period of life when we receive the children at school." — Rudolf Steiner, THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE, p. 36.) 

Once again we find Steiner making gross generalizations about groups of people, in this case groups of adults. Not all parents neglect the real needs of their children, and not all Waldorf teachers understand children better than the children's parents do. In fact, any Waldorf teachers who believe Steiner's fallacious mystical preachments — as so many of them do — surely understand children very poorly if at all.


34. "The head is only body; the human chest is body toward the rear and soul toward the front. We carry a real body only in our head as it rests upon our shoulders. We have body and soul by separating the physical chest from the remainder of the chest aspect and allowing it to be acted upon by the soul. " — Rudolf Steiner, THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE, p. 160. 

In addition to teaching Waldorf faculty members about the souls and spirits of their students, Steiner taught them about their students' bodies. All of this is necessary in order for education to be successful, Steiner said; these doctrines are part and parcel of the basis of Waldorf education. The obvious problem is that so much of what Steiner said is obviously wrong, even occasionally ridiculous. Yet Waldorf teachers usually accept Steiner's pronouncements, not simply as truth but virtually as revealed, unarguable, divine truth. There are very few recorded instances of Waldorf teacher trainees jumping up, shouting "This is insane! Let me out of here!" and then rushing from the room. This is unfortunate. (Some trainees have come close, though. See, e.g., http://www.waldorfcritics.org/articles/andreas_lichte.html.)

Here we see Steiner denigrating the head, which houses the brain. The head is dead, he effectively says — it is "only body," or in other words it is wholly physical. The chest is better. Housing the heart, the chest is "soul toward the front." This is consistent with Steiner's general proposition that we should distrust our brains but follow the promptings of our hearts. Many of us will like the sound of this, in a general sort of way — who doesn't want to follow the heart's promptings? But, in fact, the heart is not really the seat of emotion. The heart is a pump (a truth Steiner denied). All of our thoughts are produced by our brains (a truth Steiner denied), and in fact all of our emotions are produced by our brains (another truth Steiner denied). We think and feel and perceive thanks to our brains and our nervous systems. Steiner denied this, whereby he cut the ground out from under his strange, mystical educational system: Waldorf education.

35. "A very small portion of what we are becomes visible in our limbs, enough for the limbs to be something corporeal, but actually only a scintilla of what exists in the human limb system, namely the spirit. The body, soul and spirit exist in the human limb system. The body is only hinted at in the limbs; however, they also contain the soul as well as the spirit, which in principle encompasses the entire universe." — Rudolf Steiner, THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE, p. 164.

Steiner taught that physical things are manifestations of spiritual things, and human beings especially manifest the spiritual universe: Not only are we the center of the universe, but we reflect the entire spiritual/physical universe: Human beings are microcosms of the universe's macrocosm. As we noted previously, Steiner's teachings are highly flattering to the frail human ego, which helps explain why people (a few — not many, but a few) turn to Steiner for reassurance and guidance. It is just too bad that his reassurances are empty, devoid of factual content. For instance, there is no such thing as the "limb system" (which Steiner sometimes called the "metabolic-limb system," falsely teaching that the limbs and metabolism are parts of a single system). Check any medical encyclopedia or authoritative medical website. But the kind of real knowledge presented in such places is precisely what Steiner and his followers reject.

36. "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!" — Rudolf Steiner, THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE, pp. 170-171.

If you doubted that Steiner's strange medical/physiological teachings have any bearing on Waldorf schooling, here we hear Steiner tell us that they do. Certainly, what he says feels good. "Think to yourselves how alive this feels!" But, despite Steiner's doctrine that we gain truth through feeling rather than through thinking, in reality feeling is just a subconscious state, it has nothing to do with apprehending reality. Of course, we all want to feel good. But doing so on the basis of fallacies and delusions gets us nowhere.

Steiner urges Waldorf teachers to feel vastly ennobled by their work; their work "has meaning for the entire universe"! The classroom is full of human souls, each of which is "a center of the universe"! This all sounds great, from a certain mystical perspective. Surely it feels great to Waldorf teachers who believe it. But whether it stands up to rational consideration may be something else. Surely, all children are infinitely precious. All deserve the very best we can give them. But is the best we can give them Waldorf education? Wouldn't a real education, based on sensible predicates and oriented to sensible objectives, serve them far better? [See the following passages and commentary.]

37. "Think for a moment about what we have just learned, namely, that regarding the head, humans enter the world with a sleeping spirit and a dreaming soul. Recall that it is necessary from the very beginning, from birth, to educate children through the will because unless we act upon them through the will, we cannot reach the spirit sleeping in their heads. We would create a major gap in human development if we could not in some way reach the spirit aspect in the heads of people. When human beings are born the spirit in the heads is asleep. We cannot get a child with kicking legs to do gymnastics or eurythmy. This is impossible. We also cannot get a child when it is still kicking its legs and, at best, crying, to take up musical instruction. We cannot yet reach the child through art. We cannot yet find a clearly defined bridge from the will to the child’s sleeping spirit. Later, when we can somehow reach the child’s will, we can act upon the child’s sleeping spirit...." — Rudolf Steiner, THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE, p. 176.

The purpose of Waldorf education is not educating children. There are various ways to describe the real purpose of Waldorf education, and here Steiner offers us one way. The purpose is to waken the "sleeping spirit" and "dreaming soul" in children. The purpose is spiritual. And this purpose is enacted in various ways, including the arts, and particularly eurythmy — a form of temple dancing created by Rudolf Steiner.

Eurythmy is deemed crucial in Waldorf schools.
Students are generally required to perform it; 
teachers and professional eurythmists 
sometimes stage performances.
◊ "Eurythmy is obligatory. The children must participate.

 Those who do not participate in eurythmy 

will be removed from the school."


(Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 65.

◊ "In having people do eurythmy, 

we link them directly to the supersensible world."


(Anthroposophic Press, 1998), pp. 246-247.

38. "Your teaching [i.e., your activities as a Waldorf teacher] must work in parallel with the needs of growth. What I have to say here is particularly important for the elementary school years. In the same way that what arises from the head before the change of teeth is connected with the creation of form, what occurs during the period of elementary schooling is the development of life, that is, growth and everything connected with it until puberty." — Rudolf Steiner, THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE, p. 180.

To the uninitiated, Steiner's statements sometimes seem like gibberish, and sometimes they seem sort of pleasing but awfully hard to comprehend. In fact, however, Steiner's statements are almost always perfectly meaningful and comprehensible (albeit fallacious), and you can easily grasp them once you learn to decode Anthroposophical jargon. Thus, let's use some of the information we have gathered so far and use it to decode statement #38. Steiner taught that children up to age seven ("before the change of teeth") are working on the development of their physical bodies (i.e., "the creation of form"). They do this by gradually incarnating the etheric body, which consists of forces that give the physical body its shape. The head does not think, but it receives impulses from above, which bring the child into life — that is, incarnation in the world. This is "the development of life...growth and everything connected with it until puberty." At puberty, around age fourteen, this first stage of a child's life ends and, with the emergence of the astral body, the second stage begins.

Most of what Steiner said is wrong, but his words can be deciphered with a bit of work. Anyone considering Waldorf schooling should put in the work to understand what Waldorf schooling is really about, and an important part of that is learning to understand Steiner's lectures and books — because Waldorf teachers take most of their guidance from these sources.

All children are infinitely precious. All deserve the very best we can give them. But is the best we can give them Waldorf education? Wouldn't a real education, based on sensible predicates and oriented to sensible objectives, serve them far better? Waldorf education, based on clairvoyant occultism, aims at such phantom objectives as the incarnation of the etheric and astral bodies. Nothing productive or real — nothing of genuine benefit to children — can come from pursuing such imaginary goals.

39. "Through the head, human beings are related to the animal kingdom, but in such a way that in their physical activities, they continually go beyond it ... The continual metamorphosis of animalistic tendencies streaming downward from the head is not expressed sense perceptibly, but those tendencies act supersensibly upon the human being as the thought process. That really exists as a supersensible process. Your head is not just a lazybones sitting on your shoulders. It is actually the thing that would like to keep you an animal." — Rudolf Steiner, THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE, p. 185.

We have seen, previously, what Steiner thought of animals and what he thought of our heads and brains. Here he links these aversions. The head is the seat of animalistic tendencies; it sends animalism (i.e., brain-centric thinking and its effects) downward into the rest of our bodies, potentially making us wholly animalistic. The head and its products, in other words, would cause us to regress, preventing us from evolving to higher states. This would be a disaster. Indeed, people who yield to the effects of their heads/brains will end up in the Anthroposophical version of hell, the "abyss." (Yes, Steiner threatened unbelievers with perdition.) ◊ "Let us suppose a man were to deny that it was the spirit which has given him the human countenance ... He would remain united with the body and go down into the abyss. And because of not having used the power of the spirit, the external shape would again come to resemble the previous form. The man who descends into the abyss would become animal like. [sic]" — Rudolf Steiner, UNDERSTANDING THE HUMAN BEING (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1993), p. 103. ◊ Or, to put things more bluntly, “The evil race, with its savage impulses, will dwell in animal form in the abyss.” — Rudolf Steiner, UNDERSTANDING THE HUMAN BEING, p. 103.

40. "In the future, healthcare will need to ask how the various levels of heat interact in the cosmos. What is the effect of heat transferred from a cooler location to a warmer one and vice versa? How does an external heat process affect the human organism when a human being encounters it? An interplay of air and water in the processes of external vegetation has been identified, but its effects on people will need to be studied. Modern medicine has barely begun to ask such questions. It places much greater value upon the discovery of the bacteria that cause a disease or illness." — Rudolf Steiner, THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE, pp. 190-191.

Steiner did not wholly discount the importance of bacteria, just as "Anthroposophical doctors" — that is, doctors who follow Steiner's teachings — do not wholly reject modern medicine. But such doctors mainly reject modern medicine, as did Steiner. Steiner's medical teachings can most aptly be described as quack medicine, which should concern parents, since the medicine practiced in and around Waldorf schools generally conforms to Steiner's guidance. Here, for instance, is a report by a mother who sent her daughter to a Waldorf school. When the girl become ill, the school recommended an Anthroposophical doctor. "The Anthroposophical doctor made a diagnosis: my child had lost the will to live. He announced one of the potential cures — we were to give our daughter red, yellow, and orange crayons to color with! I looked at my husband in disbelief. When the doctor instructed us to make the sign of a flame out of Aurum cream over my child’s heart at bedtime, I was dumbfounded! I asked the doctor to repeat himself. Indeed, I had heard correctly. I was to make a flame of Aurum cream over her heart at bedtime. Mystified, I asked the doctor what the flame should look like and he showed us with his hand. He told us to apply the gold cream from below the heart upwards, towards the sky at bedtime. I was so baffled by his instructions that he took it upon himself to draw a small diagram of a torso on a prescription pad sheet, with an arrow demonstrating the direction in which the gold flame was to be applied ... During this encounter with the Anthroposophic doctor I had an epiphany of sorts. After paying him his fee of $50, we left the school and I turned to my husband and said with certainty, 'We are in a real live cult!'” — Sharon Lombard, "Spotlight on Anthroposophy".

Anthroposophical medicine draws on many outdated and unscientific sources, such as homeopathy. Tracing the movement of heat within and around the body is thus deemed highly significant. Anthroposophical doctors believe that the three main "systems" in the body (the head or senses-nerves system, the chest or rhythmic system, and the abdominal or metabolic-limb system) "tend to oppose each other in functioning and characteristics ... For instance, the digestive system is associated with heat and helps to dissolve elements in the body, while the head system is associated with cooling and helps in the formation of elements in the body. Illness is caused when the systems of the body become out of balance." — "Anthroposophical. medicine," ENCYCLOPEDIA OF ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE, altMD. 

As for bacteria, Steiner offered this invaluable observation: 

"Mammon [i.e., Ahriman], the spirit of hindrances and darkness, has countless helpers who incarnate as bacteria." 

— Rudolf Steiner, ESOTERIC LESSONS 1904-1909 (Steiner Books, 2007), p. 208.

The grave dangers of Anthroposophical medicine are perhaps most clearly revealed in the Anthroposophical notion that illness is good for us:


(Anthroposophic Press, 1990).

Steiner taught — and many of his followers believe — 

that illness can be a blessing. Your karma may require you

to have a particular disease now so that you can be freed for 

further spiritual/bodily evolution in this life and in future lives.

Because of this belief, Anthroposophists 

often "support" childhood illnesses:

"[C]hildhood illnesses should be treated 

in the proper way, by supporting the illness

 in its effort to restore the [ideal bodily] form, 

not fighting the illness ... 

[W]e should consider [childhood illnesses] 

as the greatest blessings, 

because through them man is able 

to strengthen his personal form

 by conquering [an inherited] predisposition, 

[thus] enabling him to incarnate better." 

— L.F.C. Mees, BLESSED BY ILLNESS, p. 192.

Don't "fight" illness — don't try to cure or prevent it; 

instead, "support" the illness, seeing it as a blessing.

Is this what you want for your child?

41. "Nerves are always created when matter...disintegrates and dies in the living organism. This is the reason that nerves in the living organism are dead material: life is displaced and dammed up in itself, and matter crumbles and disintegrates. That is how channels filled with dead matter — the nerves — are created everywhere in people. There the spirit-soul can course through the human being. The spirit-soul speeds through the human being along the nerves because it needs disintegrating matter. It allows the matter on the surface of people to decompose and peel off. The spirit-soul can only fill people after matter dies in them. Inside human beings, spirit-soul moves parallel to the materially dead nerve pathways." — Rudolf Steiner, THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE, p. 197.

As we have seen, Steiner associated the nervous system and the brain with death. (“When we think, we die continually." — Rudolf Steiner, BLACKBOARD DRAWINGS 1919-1924 (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2003), p. 56.) Here, Steiner explains that nerves are dead material. This doctrines creates a problem, however. Nerves clearly work; they clearly send signals back and forth between the brain and other organs in the body. If the nerves are dead, how does this happen? Steiner's answer is that the "spirit-soul" travels along the channels created by the nerves. The nerves themselves do nothing, but the living spirit-soul travels back and forth, bringing life and motion to our bodies. Steiner's underlying tenet is that all physical matter is dead; only the spirit world is really alive, and thus everything that exists is, essentially, informed by the living forces of the spirit realm. This is a pleasing idea. The specific problem raised by this quotation, however, is that nerves are quite clearly not dead: As science has shown, nerves are living material that conduct electrical impulses throughout our bodies. In other words, our physical bodies are not, in fact, dead; they are very much alive, and the nerves play a crucial, living role in the functioning of our bodies. Thus, what we see here is Steiner once again rejecting real knowledge — in this case real knowledge of medicine and physiology — and substituting attractive but mistaken mystical beliefs instead.

(Concerning the "spirit-soul": As we saw previously, Steiner said that we have both spirits and souls. Your soul is the temporary spiritual essence that you have during one incarnation, one earthly life. The soul that you have now will be replaced by a different soul in your next life. Your spirit, on the other hand, goes with you through all of your lives: It is your immortal spiritual essence. And, to return to the quotation, the "spirit-soul" is the combination of the spirit and soul. For more, see THE BRIEF WALDORF / STEINER ENCYCLOPEDIA.)

42. "We always work in the spirit of the cosmos. We always connect ourselves with cosmic spirit when we work physically. Physical work is spiritual; mental work is a human bodily function. We must comprehend and understand that physical work is spiritual and that mental work is human activity. When we work physically, we are engulfed by the spirit. When we work mentally, matter is active and excited within us." — Rudolf Steiner, THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE, p. 199. 

Steiner's followers tend to rationalize away his absurd and negative statements. They focus instead on his more "uplifting" remarks, as if these were the sum total of his teachings. Here we see Steiner backtracking, something he did rather often. He made many extreme statements, and then from time to time, seeming to recognize that he had gone too far, he retrenched. What is the most positive spin that can be put on the things we have seen Steiner say? Here is an example. Instead of talking again about the deadliness of using our brains, and the dead nature of physical existence, and the threat of sinking into the abyss as animalistic wrongdoers — here Steiner stresses the idea that spirit permeates everything, so even physical existence is really spiritual, in a sense. Therefore, physical work is really spiritual work, and brainwork is "human" and potentially creative, reflecting spirit. (Mental activity is only material substance that has been activated; it is low and physical. But spirit infuses matter, so...) You can make your own decision as to whether a statement like this offsets (or contradicts) the statements we saw previously. At a minimum, however, you should not fall into the trap that so many Steiner fans fall into: Don't pretend that Steiner only made uplifting statements. He also made all the other statements we have seen, and many more like them.

43. "That we have slowly made something senseless out of gymnastics, have made it into an activity that only exercises the body, is a side effect of the age of materialism. That we want to raise it to the level of a sport, that we want to add nonsense to it, so that it becomes even less than senseless, meaningless movements, reflects a desire to drag people down, not just to the level of materialistic thinking, but also to animalistic feeling. Excessive sport activity is Darwinism in practice. Theoretical Darwinism claims that people developed from animals. Sports are practical Darwinism, and that means setting up the goal of degenerating people back into animals." — Rudolf Steiner, THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE, p. 201.

Having been, at least briefly, positive and uplifting, Steiner switches back to his other mode, in this instance turning his guns on targets that might seem awfully trivial: gymnastics and sports. Of course, gym and sports constitute a big part of student life at most schools, so the topic is not out of place in a discussion of Waldorf schooling. So, what does Steiner say? We have taken the spiritual component out of gymnastics. In this materialistic age, we have turned gymnastics into something that "only exercises the body." (Contrary to what he said before, Steiner now does not consider physical activity to be, really, spiritual.) We have dragged gymnastics down to become nothing but "senseless, meaningless movements" — i.e., purely physical movements. This is the result of our "materialistic thinking" and our "animalistic feeling." We are dragging ourselves down, lowering ourselves to a "Darwinian" level (one of Steiner's harshest terms: Darwin said we evolved from animals, therefore his teachings are animalistic, and when we are animalistic, we become "Darwinian"). By putting too much emphasis on sports, we run the risk of "degenerating people back into animals" — and you know what happens to such people (hint: the abyss). In fact, we seem to be doing this intentionally, willfully: This has become our "goal." We are committing spiritual suicide through "excessive sport activity." Heavens.

Of course, there are good reasons to think that gym and sports are over-emphasized in many schools. But these good reasons are far removed from the Steiner/Waldorf reasons. The Steiner/Waldorf reasons are mystical, irrational, and fundamentally false. Doing gymnastics, or playing on a sports team, does not "degenerate people back into animals." Heavens.

44. "As teachers, we might ask ourselves why we should test children at all, because we have had them in front of us and know very well what they do or do not know. Under current conditions, this can, of course, be only an ideal, and I would ask you, in general, not to reveal your rebellious natures too strongly. For the present time, you need to keep what you have to say against modern culture to yourselves, so that you can slowly work (because, in this area, we can only work slowly) toward the goal that people learn to think differently. In that way, society can take on a form other than the one it has now." — Rudolf Steiner, THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE, p. 203.

Steiner often urged Waldorf teachers to disguise their opinions and purposes: Keep our secrets from outsiders, he said many times. The truth is that Waldorf teachers have "rebellious natures." They are revolutionaries who want to reform all human institutions to conform to their own Steiner-inspired vision. Steiner initiated and led this intention, but he sometimes had to remind his fervent followers to play things cool. Go slow, keep mum, work surreptitiously. Move subtly toward our "goal" — teaching people to "think differently", i.e., teaching them to think like Anthroposophists. Eventually, if we are clever enough, the great political victory will be at hand, and society will "take on a form other than the one it has now." 

Anthroposophy is a spiritual movement, but it is also a political movement. And Waldorf schools play a significant part in this movement: They are centers for guiding people to "think differently," nudging them to move toward Anthroposophy. In reviewing THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE, we have been seeing how Anthroposophists think. Is this how you would like to see more people think? Is this how you would like to see your children think?

(Rudolf Steiner Press, 1977).
Rudolf Steiner made prescriptions for reforming
most spheres of human life: education, the arts,
medicine, politics, economics...
Waldorf schools stand in the vanguard
of the Anthroposophical effort to remake
all human institutions in conformity 
with Steiner's teachings.
But hush!
[See "Secrets" amd "Threefolding".]

Waldorf schools are devoted to Anthroposophical goals. 
But hush!
"[A]n institution like the Independent Waldorf School 
with its anthroposophical character, 
has goals that, of course, 
coincide with anthroposophical desires. 
At the moment, though, 
if that connection were made official, 
people would break the Waldorf School’s neck."
— Rudolf Steiner, 
(Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 705.

45. "It would be a mistake to view the lung as less spiritual than the nose. The lung is more artistically formed. The spirit, or at least the soul, permeates it more completely than the nose. If you understand things properly, you will see that, although the nose sits shamelessly in the middle of the human face, the lungs, even though they are more closely connected with the soul, modestly hide their existence." — Rudolf Steiner, THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE, p. 205.

What can I say? Steiner here shifts back to his upbeat mode. Everything is spiritual. The lungs are spiritual. The nose is spiritual. Everything is, in varying ways, spiritual. This is very nice.

But Steiner evidently did not realize how laughable his remarks sometimes were. I nearly knocked a friend off her chair, once, by quoting the first line of this passage ("I would be a mistake..."). Steiner did play for laughs, occasionally. But in this instance he was trying to make a serious point ("If you understand things properly..."). But he was not quite successful. (Oh, that presumptuous nose, sitting "shamelessly in the middle of the human face." Compare it to the sweet, more-soul-connected lungs, which "modestly hide their existence.")

I have been accused of hating Steiner and Waldorf schools and Anthroposophists. Not so. I have only tried to tell the truth. I have quoted Steiner and his followers, and explained what they sometimes left unclear, and pointed out instances when their statements are without any factual foundation, and noted when occasionally their statements are preposterous. I laugh at things that are funny, not at things that I hate. I encourage a little more laughter, and charity, and freedom from cant, all around. One of the highest forms of charity I can imagine is making sure that children are not immersed in mystical, occult nonsense.

46. "Modern science has absolutely no understanding of [these things] ... [T]he soul-teeth appear as [i.e., when] a capacity to learn to read and write [develops]." — Rudolf Steiner, THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE, p. 208. 

This is a particularly opaque statement by Steiner. Here is a different translation: "[C]ontemporary science has not the least understanding of the [things] I have just barely touched on ... [T]he power to write and read is an expression of the teething of the soul." — Rudolf Steiner, STUDY OF MAN (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1966), p. 186.

Steiner here is speaking of several parts of the body: the torso, the chest, and then the teeth. His main point is that he is right and science is wrong; modern or contemporary science is in the dark, whereas he can tell us the deep truths about things. On other occasions, Steiner said that his own teachings — "spiritual science" — build on the natural sciences; and sometimes he said that the natural sciences would eventually confirm the truths of spiritual science. But more commonly he took the stance we find here: Science is wrong.

Well, science is certainly incomplete, There is still a vast amount for us to discover about the universe. The scientific knowledge we possess now towers over the scientific knowledge possessed during the 19th and early 20th centuries — when Steiner was alive — and we can be confident that the scientific knowledge of the 22nd century will tower over are own, 21st-century knowledge. But this does not mean that scientific knowledge is false. It means that science is always advancing. As the best tool we have for learning about the universe, and our world, and ourselves, science teaches us more and more every day.

As for Steiner's teachings: Not only do they often contradict the firm scientific knowledge we possess, they become less and less plausible as science progresses. For instance, what Steiner once said about Mars (it is wetter than Earth, and there are long lines resembling canals to be seen there) may have seemed plausible once, but we now know that these statements are wholly false. 

Of course, it can be difficult for laymen to judge. Science says X, but "spiritual science" says Y. Which is right? Figuring this out can be tough. But sometimes it isn't so very tough. Read Steiner's statements and look for the evidence he provides. Generally, he provides none, whereas the essence of real science is to provide plentiful evidence and keep doing so over and over, as scientist after scientist runs experiments to test scientific hypotheses. Then, too, sometimes Steiner's statements insult our intelligence. "Soul-teeth" or "the teething of the soul" refers to a child's loss of baby teeth and their replacement by adult teeth (your soul is more fully incarnated when your "soul-teeth" come in). This is the signal that the child is ready to learn reading and writing. Only parents who can take such statements seriously should even consider sending their children to Waldorf schools, where Steiner's words are treated as virtual holy writ. (And such parents must willingly accept that their children will not receive any of the benefits of early-childhood education as offered in mainstream society. For instance, their kids won't be taught to read and write until several years after they ordinarily would have begun. Why? Because their baby teeth haven't fallen out yet.)

47. "What forms human intellectuality has a strong tendency to become slow and lazy, and it becomes most lazy when people constantly feed it with materialistic ideas. However, it will take flight when we feed it ideas received from the spirit, but we receive these into our souls only through the indirect path of imagination." — Rudolf Steiner, THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE, Foundations of Waldorf Education (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 211.

Intellect is the use of the brain for rational, objective thought — especially, at a high level, dealing with concepts and abstractions. Intellect can be wrong, and intellectuals are certainly not always right. Nevertheless, intellect is a powerful tool. But Steiner — despite being an intellectual himself —  scorned it. “The intellect destroys or hinders.” — Rudolf Steiner, WALDORF EDUCATION AND ANTHROPOSOPHY, 1, Foundations of Waldorf Education (Anthroposophical Press, 1995), p. 233. [See "Steiner's Specific".]

Steiner's antidote to intellect is imagination. And what did he mean by imagination? As we have seen, he meant a form of clairvoyance. People once possessed natural powers of clairvoyance, Steiner taught, but most people have lost those powers today. Note how in the following statement, "clairvoyance" and "imagination" are essentially synonymous: “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....” — Rudolf Steiner, ART AS SPIRITUAL ACTIVITY (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 256.

If we still possessed clairvoyant or imaginative powers, what would we see in the world around us? What did Steiner see, using the clairvoyance he claimed to possess? For one thing, gnomes“There are beings that can be seen with clairvoyant vision at many spots in the depths of the earth ... If you dig into the metallic or stony ground you find beings which manifest at first in remarkable fashion — it is as if something were to scatter us. They seem able to crouch close together in vast numbers, and when the earth is laid open they appear to burst asunder ... Many names have been given to them, such as goblins, gnomes and so forth.”  — Rudolf Steiner, NATURE SPIRITS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1995), pp. 62-63.

So there you have it. This is the choice Steiner confronts us with; this is the choice a parent must make when deciding whether to send a child to a school run by people who believe Steiner. Science or Anthroposophy? Intellect or clairvoyance? Reality or... gnomes?

Traditional images of gnomes. 
(Steiner's view was somewhat more sophisticated. 
But only somewhat.) 

This brings us to the end of the lectures that form the "basis of Waldorf education": all fourteen lectures in A GENERAL STUDY OF THE HUMAN BEING, otherwise known as STUDY OF MAN or THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE. The volume I have primarily quoted from, THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE, includes additional material. That material has its own interest, but it is not essential to our purpose here. You have seen excerpts from each of the lectures specified as essential to an understanding of Waldorf education. 

I hope you have found this survey helpful. But don't stop here. Get a copy of these fourteen lectures, under whatever title, and read the lectures in full. Read other Steiner texts as well. And read essays and lectures and books by advocates of Waldorf education as well as by critics of Waldorf education. 

If nothing else, I think the survey we have conducted should convince you that there are deep issues one must address before embracing a form of education that is based on the kind of thinking Steiner displayed in these key lectures. 

Steiner delivered the last of the fourteen lectures on September 5, 1919. We would be remiss if we did not note that Steiner held a discussion with Waldorf teachers on the same day. From it, we can extract a final quotation, one that may put the value and wisdom of all Steiner's teachings in context. 

One of the teachers raised the subjects of sunrise and sunset, and how the Sun and planets move. Steiner corrected his colleague, explaining that the conventional view of planetary movements "is not quite correct." The planets don't move in orbits, he explained. Instead, they travel along with the Sun in a spirally ("lemniscatory") line:

48. "In reality it is a case of a movement like this (lemniscatory screw-movement). Here, for example, [in position 1] we have the Sun; here are Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, and here are Venus, Mercury, and Earth. Now they all move in the direction indicated [spiral line], moving ahead one behind the other, so that when the Sun has progressed to the second position we have Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars here, and we have Venus, Mercury, and Earth over there. Now the Sun continues to revolve and progresses to here [position 3]. This creates the illusion that Earth revolves round the Sun. The truth is that the Sun goes ahead, and the Earth creeps continually after it." — Rudolf Steiner, DISCUSSIONS WITH TEACHERS, Foundations of Waldorf Education (Anthroposophic Press, 1997), p. 168.

It is not recorded that any of the Waldorf teachers jumped up shouting "This is insane! Let me out of here!" and then bolted from the room. No, the teachers obediently absorbed the "wisdom" of Rudolf Steiner and then settled down to "educate" children in accordance with that "wisdom" — just as subsequent generations of Waldorf teachers have done.

[R. R., 2012]


Here's an inducement to read all fourteen lectures in their entirety.

How do you know that I haven't cheated? How do you know that I haven't skipped over page after page of wonderful, brilliant, logical, and transcendent statements by Steiner? How do you know that I haven't perversely plucked out a few stray quotations that, by willfully misrepresenting everything true and noble, I have twisted into a semblance of nonsense?

Come to that, how do you know that Steiner made any of the statements I have ascribed to him? How do you know that I am not — to put it bluntly — lying?

You can't know. Not unless you read Steiner. Reading Rawlings isn't enough. Rawlings may be wrong, or only half-right, or wholly evil and malicious. (I can promise you that I have not misrepresented Steiner — I have quoted completely representative statements made by Steiner, and I have explained them truthfully and accurately. Cross my heart. But — how can you know?)

No. I'm sorry. If you truly want to get to the truth, you'll have to do some extra work. Read Steiner. Get his lectures, get the complete texts of his lectures, and read them. I ask you to do this for your own sake and also, more importantly, for your children's sake. You will see that I have told you the truth, and you should certainly bear this truth in mind when selecting a school for your children.


Belief in the actual existence of gnomes is just one minor telltale sign of the strange, mystical thinking found in Waldorf schools. We shouldn't make too much of it, in and of itself. Still, it is indicative. Most outsiders can hardly believe that Rudolf Steiner's followers actually believe in the actual existence of gnomes. But they do. Here's an example from an Anthroposophical publication. As you read, keep reminding yourself that this passage was written for adults, not children:

“Since gnomes and human beings are alike earthbound creatures, we will probably find gnomes — or cobolds, or goblins, as they are sometimes also called — the fairy race closest to our understanding... [G]nomes live down below the surface of our planet, where roots take an anchor-hold on earth ... Gnomes are immensely clever Little People ... Gnomes are the only beings in the world who never sleep. This is because they are afraid to do so. They believe that any slackening of attention forebodes double tragedy: the dissolution of their bodies (which they rightly or wrongly feel must be held together by sheer concentration) and the frightful disgrace of being ignorant of what goes on ... There could be no such things as plant or tree roots if there were no gnomes to tend their development. Gnomes are at work all through the year marshaling nutrients around them and wielding magnetic forces to draw them down to a firm grounding in the earth.” — Marjorie Spock, FAIRY WORLDS AND WORKERS - A Natural History of Fairyland (Anthroposophic Press, 1980), pp. 11-12.

Note the adult language ("alike earthbound," "slackening of attention," "forebodes double tragedy," "dissolution," "magnetic forces"...). This passage was written, in all seriousness, by an adult for adults. Few adults outside the Waldorf/Anthroposophical community could possibly take it seriously. But Rudolf Steiner's adult followers — including many who teach in Waldorf schools — take such writing very seriously indeed. They believe such things. Seriously.

To explore Anthroposophical beliefs more generally, with minimal emphasis placed on gnomes, see "Everything", "Oh Man", and "Nutshell." (Or, if you insist, to learn more about gnomes and other mystical beings taken seriously in Anthroposophical doctrines, see "Neutered Nature", "Gnomes", and "Beings".)

— Roger Rawlings

Here are items from 
the Waldorf Watch News page: 

October 18, 2018



From DevonLive.com [Devon, UK]:

MP backs temporary closure 

of Exeter's struggling 

Steiner school

The school's Kindergarten will now 

remain closed until after half term

By Rom Preston-Ellis

Exeter's MP [Member of Parliament] has spoken of his concern following the sudden closure of the city's Steiner Academy.

The school on Cowley Bridge Road closed to all pupils on Friday after an Ofsted inspection raised 'serious concerns'.

It is set to reopen on Thursday after appointing a completely new management committee.

However, parents with children at Steiner's Kindergarten were told on Tuesday that that section of the school would not reopen until after half term [i.e., the middle of the term].

Writing to parents, acting principle Paul Houghham said that reasons for the continued closure of the Kindergarten included the need for improvements in "physical infrastructure, systems and processes and staff training”.

Exeter MP Ben Bradshaw said: "I have written to the Education Secretary to seek his urgent assurance that the problems at the school are being addressed and that the children affected can go back to a school that is safe and where they can receive the quality education every child deserves….”

[10/18-2018    https://www.devonlive.com/news/devon-news/mp-backs-temporary-closure-exeters-2115948   This article originally appeared on October 17.]

◊ • ◊

Waldorf Watch Response:

Steiner Academy Exeter seems to be making an effort to be more cooperative with UK education officials than Rudolf Steiner School Kings Langley was. The latter school was eventually shut down by the officials. [See "RSSKL".]

Reforming a Steiner or Waldorf school is quite difficult. Fundamental characteristics of Steiner education may prevent a Steiner/Waldorf school from truly meeting the requirements established by state departments of education.

Steiner/Waldorf education is not primarily intended to provide a good education, as this concept is usually understood. [See "Academic Standards at Waldorf".] Steiner/Waldorf schools have other objectives.

The chief objective is to promote Rudolf Steiner's version of Theosophy, the religion he cobbled together and dubbed "Anthroposophy." [See "Basics" and "Is Anthroposophy a Religion?"] Steiner/Waldorf schools rarely teach students the tenets of Anthroposophy as intellectual constructs, but they work to convey Anthroposophy to the children at the emotional and spiritual level — which Anthroposophists deem far more important. [See "Here's the Answer", "Spiritual Agenda", and "Sneaking It In".]

Steiner/Waldorf schools function essentially as Anthroposophical centers of worship. [See "Schools as Churches".] Students receive indirect but persistent and deep conditioning in Anthroposophical attitudes and behaviors. [See "Indoctrination".] The objective is that the students may, when they become adults, make the conscious decision to become full-fledged Anthroposophists.

Rudolf Steiner asserted that the most important knowledge is "occult" or "hidden." His most important book, giving an overview of all his teachings, is titled "An Outline of Occult Science". [See "Everything".] Occult knowledge is conveyed only to initiates; it is kept hidden from outsiders. [See, e.g., "Inside Scoop".] For this and other reasons, Steiner/Waldorf schools often conceal their intentions and underlying beliefs from outsiders. [See "Secrets".]

When speaking with insiders, Steiner made matters plain. Thus, in addressing Waldorf teachers, he once said this:

“[W]e have to remember that an institution like the Independent Waldorf School with its anthroposophical character, has goals that, of course, coincide with anthroposophical desires. At the moment, though, if that connection were made official, people would break the Waldorf School’s neck." — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 705.

A Steiner/Waldorf school can become good school in the ordinary sense — that is, a school that conveys real knowledge to children, preparing the students for real lives in the real world — only if it renounces Rudolf Steiner and his occult preachments. But this would mean creasing to be a Steiner/Waldorf school.

— R.R.

For previous coverage of the situation at Steiner Academy Exeter, see "What the School Must Do to Save Itself", October 17, 2018, "Exeter Closure Extended Again", October 16, 2018, "Exeter Update: More than Safeguarding", October 14, 2018, "Another Inspection, Another Closure", October 13, 2018, and "Problems at Another U.K. Steiner School", July 29, 2018.

October 19, 2018



[Schools Week, Oct. 19, 2018.]

From Schools Week [London, UK]:

Revealed: The private schools 
that remain open despite 
standards warnings

[by] Jess Staufenberg

A private school has been forced to close most classes after the government threatened to shut it down over poor standards – despite other failing schools remaining open....

Only the kindergarten is open at Rudolf Steiner School Kings Langley, Hertfordshire after the Department for Education threatened to deregister the school following an ‘inadequate’ Ofsted [Office for Standards in Education] grade two years ago.

The school had also failed to meet the government’s independent school standards on six occasions, however on its most recent inspection it met the requirements.

But other failing schools don’t appear to have been hit with deregistration notices, Schools Week has found, with one faith school judged ‘inadequate’ four times in a row.…

The worst offender, Rabia Girls’ and Boys’ School, an independent Islamic school in Luton...has been graded ‘inadequate’ in four full inspections, and failed the independent school standards eight times since 2014.

The power to close down schools rests with the DfE [the Department for Education], but Ofsted has been increasingly outspoken about the [Department's] inaction….

Rudolf Steiner School, Kings Langley...was graded inadequate in 2016 over a lack of robust safeguarding systems and weak teaching.

Following monitoring visits, the school received a letter from the DfE in July 2017 saying it would be struck off the independent schools’ register.

Rudolf Steiner School, Kings Langley has appealed the DfE decision….

A spokesperson for the DfE said they cannot comment until the appeal process has concluded. They added all independent schools must meet the standards or face closure.

◊ • ◊

Waldorf Watch Response:

The current British government, under the Conservative Party, has been accommodating to various independent educational efforts. It has supported a free-enterprise approach, encouraging the formation of a wide range of alternative educational institutions. And it has been loathe to shutter schools even when they clearly serve their students badly. 

The Department for Education under this government has been anything but a fierce watchdog. Yet even in these lax circumstances, some British Steiner schools have found themselves imperiled. School inspectors have found many flaws in them.

We might ask why this has happened. Why, even in a favorable climate, have some Steiner schools found themselves threatened with official sanctions?

The answer lies deep in the nature of Steiner or Waldorf education.

Steiner/Waldorf schools often have serious difficulties meeting standard educational requirements. These schools do not generally strive to offer students a good education, per se — their focus lies elsewhere. [See "Academic Standards at Waldorf", "Spiritual Agenda", and the Waldorf Watch for October 18, 2018: "Reforming a Steiner or Waldorf school is quite difficult...."

The low quality of Waldorf education, as judged by conventional standards, became apparent at the very first Waldorf school. When teachers at that school became concerned that they were not preparing students adequately for standard final examinations in the 12th grade, school founder Rudolf Steiner replied:

“The question of final examinations is purely a question of opportunity. It is a question of whether we dare tell those who come to us that we will not prepare them for the final examination at all....” — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 712.

Later, when the students did poorly in the exams, Steiner said,

“We should have no illusions: The results gave a very unfavorable impression of our school to people outside.” — Ibid., p. 725.

Waldorf education is not designed to convey much knowledge to students nor to prepare the students for their lives in the real world after graduation. Hence, one of Steiner's followers has written this:

“The success of Waldorf Education...can be measured in the life force attained. Not acquisition of knowledge and qualifications, but the life force is the ultimate goal of this school.” — Anthroposophist Peter Selg, THE ESSENCE OF WALDORF EDUCATION (SteinerBooks, 2010)‚ p. 30.

The problem here is twofold. Waldorf education gives low priority to knowledge, and it gives high priority to a fantasy. "Life force" does not exist. It is a theoretical force postulated by some philosophers and scientists in the 19th century. The concept has been discredited subsequently, but — like many other old and even ancient fallacies — it is still affirmed in Waldorf education. As in so many ways, Waldorf is profoundly backward. [See, e.g., the entry for "life force" in The Brief Waldorf / Steiner Encyclopedia.]

As another of Steiner's followers has written, Waldorf education is not "fact-based" — it attaches little importance to factual knowledge.

“This is the obvious flaw in fact-based education. Whether we were taught about the solar system, the Soviet Union, or computers, much of what we had to learn in school [i.e., in non-Waldorf schools] is now outdated.” — Jack Petrash, UNDERSTANDING WALDORF EDUCATION (Nova Institute, 2002), p. 26.

Yes, facts change. But the proper response is not to devalue factual knowledge — it is to teach children how to ascertain factual knowledge and how to keep abreast of new developments, new discoveries. Waldorf schools do not, however, aim to do this. In fact, Waldorf education is not intended to be essentially rational:

"You will injure children if you educate them rationally....” — Rudolf Steiner, THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 61. 

Steiner was speaking, here, primarily about young children. But the Waldorf aversion to rationality infects all levels of Waldorf schooling. Waldorf students are encouraged to have faith in their imaginations and intuitions, not primarily in their reasoning minds. The Waldorf approach discourages critical thinking. A Waldorf headmaster has expressed the matter this way:

"A youth whose childhood has been touched by the blight of 'critical thinking' will come to the moment of independent insight badly crippled ... Because skepticism has long since robbed him of part of his heart, he will now feel unable to embrace enthusiastically what he has come to understand." — John Fentress Gardner, THE EXPERIENCE OF KNOWLEDGE (Waldorf Press, 1975), pp. 127-128.

In the Waldorf view, we "understand" things — we reach "independent insight" — through our emotions and our imaginations. Ultimately, in the Waldorf view, we come to understand things by developing clairvoyance. Waldorf schools are frequently staffed by teachers who believe in clairvoyance. Many Waldorf teachers think they are clairvoyant; others credit the pronouncements of their colleagues who claim to be clairvoyant. Steiner commended this approach:

"Not every Waldorf teacher has the gift of clairvoyance, but every one of them has accepted wholeheartedly and with full understanding the results of spiritual-scientific investigation [i.e., the disciplined use of clairvoyance]." — Rudolf Steiner, WALDORF EDUCATION AND ANTHROPOSOPHY, Vol. 2 (Anthroposophic Press, 1995), p. 224.

Thus, we find Waldorf teachers making pronouncements such as this:

"Must teachers be clairvoyant in order to be certain that they are teaching in the proper way? Clairvoyance is needed...." — Eugene Schwartz, THE MILLENNIAL CHILD (Anthroposophic Press, 1999), pp. 157.

But clairvoyance is illusory. Like life force and so much else that Waldorf education affirms, clairvoyance does not exist. [See "Clairvoyance".] Yet clairvoyance is the central pillar of the Waldorf worldview. Clairvoyance constitutes what Steiner called "the Waldorf teacher's consciousness":

“[W]e must work to develop this consciousness, the Waldorf teacher’s consciousness, if I may so express it. This is only possible, however, when in the field of education we come to an actual experience of the spiritual. Such an experience of the spiritual is difficult to attain for modern humanity. We must realize that we really need something quite specific, something that is hardly present anywhere else in the world, if we are to be capable of mastering the task of the Waldorf school ... [We need] what humanity has lost in this respect, has lost just in the last three or four centuries. It is this that we must find again.” — Rudolf Steiner, DEEPER INSIGHTS INTO EDUCATION (Anthroposophical Press, 1983), p. 21. 

What we have lost, Steiner said, is instinctive clairvoyance:

“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. Nowadays we believe that the different pictures or images or Imaginations [mental images produced by clairvoyance]...are the product of fantasy. They are not ... Human progress demanded that this living imaginative view fade away and be replaced by the intellectual view ... If we want to be fully human, however, we must struggle to regain a view of the cosmos that moves toward Imagination again.” — Rudolf Steiner, ART AS SPIRITUAL ACTIVITY (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 256.

Note how, in statements such as this, "clairvoyance" and "imagination" are essentially interchangeable terms. When they advocate imagination, Waldorf schools are ultimately advocating clairvoyance.

This is the Waldorf view. It is unrealistic. It is irrational. It devalues knowledge. It devalues facts. It devalues critical thinking. It emphasizes fantasies such as life force and clairvoyance. It is fundamentally false.

The Waldorf worldview is the reason Waldorf schools have difficulty meeting standard educational requirements. It is the reason Waldorf schools have difficulty providing their students with a good education.

— R.R.

October 20, 2018



Waldorf or Steiner schools often have low academic standards. [1] This does not mean, however, that all Waldorf/Steiner schools are inferior to other schools by all measures. [2] Nor does it mean that all students who attend Waldorf/Steiner schools will fare badly when they graduate. [3]

Here are excerpts from two recent news reports bearing on these matters.

From Schools Week [London, UK]:

Revealed: The top 10 schools 
in the country for progress 8

by Alix Roberston

Three schools belonging to the Star Academies trust featured in the top ten schools in the country for progress 8.... [4]

They included the top-of-the-table Tauheedul Islam Girls’ High School, which posted a progress 8 score of 1.91.

That means every pupil at the school achieved, on average, nearly two grades higher than an average pupil in other schools with the same prior attainment….

The top ten progress 8 schools[:]

Tauheedul Islam Girls’ High School

Wembley High Technology College

Dixons Trinity Academy

The Steiner Academy Hereford….


From Denver Business Journal [Colorado, USA]:

These Colorado high schools 
produced the most Harvard, 
Princeton and MIT grads

by Jonathan Rose

A new report examines the Colorado high schools that sent the most alums to the top-three-ranked universities on U.S. News & World Report’s latest list: No. 1 Princeton University, No. 2 Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which tied for third place….

The Colorado high schools with at least one graduate from the three institutions include…Shining Mountain Waldorf School (Boulder)…. [5]

[10/20/2018      https://www.bizjournals.com/denver/news/2018/10/18/colorado-high-schools-ivy-league-graduates.html   This article originally appeared on October 18.]

◊ • ◊

Waldorf Watch Response:

A fair assessment of Waldorf education must include the recognition that sometimes Waldorf or Steiner schools appear to stand well above average. Sometimes Waldorf/Steiner schools stack up well when compared to other schools, and sometimes alumni of Waldorf/Steiner schools do quite well in college and in their subsequent careers.

Assessing any type of school can be difficult. And, of course, there are exceptions to all norms. While most Waldorf/Steiner schools may attach little importance to academic excellence, a few may value it relatively more. And, then again, sometimes surprising results may arise largely by chance.

The success attained by any student is, generally speaking, a highly personal matter. Some kids are more highly motivated than others. Some are more industrious. Some are brighter. Some find a particular school environment more congenial than their classmates do. Some like their teachers while others don't. Some are obedient while others are rebellious. Some become fascinated by a particular subject while others remain unchallenged or unstimulated. Many factors are involved in any child's educational success.

The most important factor, often, has little to do with the school a child attends. It is family life. A child who has exceptionally caring, nurturing, and encouraging parents has an enormous advantage over children who receive less parental support. Home environment is important in many other ways, as well. A child may arrive at school primed for success if s/he comes from a home rich in intellectual and cultural resources — perhaps a home having a large family library, perhaps a home in which stimulating family discussions occur nightly at the dining table, perhaps a home in which many extracurricular opportunities are affordable and emphasized. [6]

Still, the importance of one's schooling cannot be denied. Although some very successful individuals come out of some very bad schools, attending a good school is surely a great advantage — and some Waldorf students attend better schools than others do. [7] Not all Waldorf/Steiner schools are wholly alike, and certainly not all Waldorf teachers are alike. [8] Indeed, not all Waldorf teachers are Anthroposophists. [9] A student fortunate enough to study under just one exceptionally talented and caring teacher — in any type of school — may benefit form this experience throughout all of her subsequent life.

These are all important and intricate subjects.

And yet, to some degree, they are all beside the point. The academic quality of a Waldorf/Steiner education is not the crucial question about such an education. The crucial question has to do with occult indoctrination. [10] Waldorf schools exist to promote Anthroposophy. [11] Unless you want your children to be steered toward Anthroposophy, you should not send them to a Waldorf or Steiner school. All other considerations pale in comparison to this.

Put the matter this way: Let's posit, for the sake of argument, that all Waldorf/Steiner schools are academically excellent. But let's also posit that children sent to these schools will be lured toward the esoteric, occult labyrinth that is Anthroposophy. [12] Would you send your children to such a school?

The truth, of course, is different from our hypothetical situation. Most Waldorf schools are not academically excellent. But most of them do, to one degree or another, try to maneuver students (and their parents) toward lifelong devotion to Rudolf Steiner's concocted religion, Anthroposophy. [13] Realizing these things should make it even easier for you to answer the crucial question. Would you send your children to such a school?

[1] See "Academic Standards at Waldorf". Also see recent news coverage here for October 19, 2018 and October 18, 2018.

[2] Comparing Waldorf schools to a national average, as in the Progress 8 program, means comparing them to some very good schools — but also to many very bad schools. Making the comparison only to the best schools would be more meaningful. But even then, the comparison would be difficult because Waldorf schools are unique — they have different purposes and a different character. Indeed, evaluating an individual Waldorf/Steiner school purely on its own merits, by its own standards, can be a challenge. [For guidance, see "Clues".]

[3] See, e.g., the section "Waldorf Graduates" on the page "Upside".

[4] Progress 8 is a program that compares academic achievement of students at secondary schools in the UK. The average score of schools in the program is 0. A score of 1 means that students at a school average one grade level higher than their peers elsewhere. Most schools score between 1 and -1. 

[5] If the criterion is having a single student who went on to graduate from one of these top institutions, the sample is terribly small and, perhaps, meaningless.

[6] I attended a Waldorf school. It was perhaps a more academically respectable Waldorf school than many others, but the education I received there was deficient in many ways. [See "I Went to Waldorf".] This was partially offset, however, by my circumstances outside school. My mother was extremely interested in arts and culture, and my father was a voracious reader — and they passed their interests to their children. Moreover, we lived in the suburbs of New York City, where we had access to all of the cultural and educational resources of that metropolis. The New York Times arrived at our doorstep every morning, for instance, while we also had weekly subscriptions to literally dozens of other publications (Life magazine, Look, The New Yorker, The Saturday Review of Literature, Newsweek, The Saturday Evening Post, etc.). We owned a multi-volume encyclopedia, a large LP collection (classical music, for the most part), and many other resources. I know that I learned far more at home than I ever did at school. And yet I arrived at college ill-prepared. [See "My Sad, Sad Story".]

[7] There is at least some variation among Waldorf/Steiner schools. [See, e.g., "Non-Waldorf Waldorfs".] 

[8] For first-person accounts by some former Waldorf teachers, see "He Went to Waldorf" and the essays that follow it.

[9] See the entry for "Waldorf teachers" in The Brief Waldorf / Steiner Encyclopedia.

[10] See "Indoctrination".

[12] See the entry for "Anthroposophy" in The Brief Waldorf / Steiner Encyclopedia

— R.R.

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



A short, direct answer to the question, "What are Waldorf schools all about?"

Best foot forward

The bright side


A pictorial overview

Waldorf's goals

Waldorf's reality

Teachers as priests

Does Waldorf Work?

How they teach it


Words of warning


The use of "clairvoyance" by Waldorf teachers

Developing our invisible bodies

Steiner, trying to make Waldorf education seem sensible

MY LIFE AMONG THE ANTHROPOSOPHISTS, Part 1Part 2Part 3Parts 4-6Charlie

The memoir of a former Waldorf student and teacher

SQUARE ONE, Part 1Part 2

From the beginning, again


Any here?


Design of the site

This is the product of the company owned by Emil Molt.
Molt prevailed on Rudolf Steiner to create a school
for the children of the factory's workers.
That academy became the first Waldorf school.
The factory folded eventually, 
but Waldorf education is still around.
[Public domain photo.]