OH MY STARS
The Waldorf Curriculum:
with an excursion into astrology
"Here, for example, [in position 1] we have the Sun; here are Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, and here 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 around the Sun. The truth is that the Sun goes ahead, and the Earth creeps continually after it." — Rudolf Steiner, DISCUSSIONS WITH TEACHERS (Anthroposophic Press, 1997), p. 168.
Steiner said that, instead of orbiting the Sun, the planets move in line with the Sun. To illustrate his meaning, he drew a zigzag line showing the Sun at “position one” on the line. Ahead of the Sun he drew three planets, and behind it he drew three others. As the Sun moves through outer space, he said, these six planets move with the Sun along the zigzag line.
“[H]ere are Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars, and here are Venus, Mercury, and Earth ... [W]hen the Sun has progressed to the second position we have Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars here, and we have Venus, Mercury, and Earth over there.” 
The line Steiner drew was meant to represent a spiral seen from the side. The Sun moves through space in a corkscrew manner, led by three planets and followed by three others. The planetary lineup Steiner specified is interesting. Steiner actually wobbled on it, a bit. On Sept. 5, he placed Venus ahead of Mercury, whereas in a later discussion he put Venus behind Mercury. (In some occult teachings, the identities of these two planets cross.) In either case, the sequence scrambles the real order of the inner planets, displacing the Earth so that, of the three inner planets, it is the most distant from Mars. In reality the Earth and Mars and next-door neighbors. Also, perhaps a minor point, the sequence omits the outermost planets. The true order of the planets, counting outward from the center of the solar system, and omitting minor planets such as Pluto, is Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. Bear in mind that this list does not denote a line of travel; it is an account of the distances at which the planets orbit the Sun. Mercury orbits near the Sun, Neptune orbits far away, and all of the other planets orbit at intermediate distances between the orbits of Mercury and Neptune. Steiner's description of the solar system gets most of this wrong.
Steiner's Sept. 5, 1919, statement quite naturally confused his listeners, so on Sept. 25, during a faculty meeting, one teacher asked for a clarification.
“[W]e don't really have a clear understanding about the true movements of the planets and the Sun.” 
In response, Steiner essentially repeated his previous remarks, trying to describe the optical illusion that he claimed causes people to mistakenly think that the planets orbit the Sun. Drawing his zigzag line again, Steiner pointed at it and said,
“[W]hen the Earth is here [one position on the line] and this is the Sun [a different position on the line], the Earth follows along. But we look at the Sun from here, and so it appears as though the Earth goes around it, whereas it is actually only following. The Earth follows the Sun.” 
Please note Steiner’s exact words: The Earth “appears” to go “around” the Sun, but “actually” it is “only following". “Only” is definite and unqualified. The Earth doesn't orbit the Sun, it only follows it.
The diagrams Steiner created on both Sept. 5 and 25 are basically alike, but on the second date he added a looping arrow and a short tangent. 
Dr. Steiner: "In reality, it is like this [Dr. Steiner demonstrates with a drawing]. Now you simply need to imagine how that continues in a helix. Everything else is only apparent movement. The helical line continues into cosmic space. Therefore, it is not that the planets move around the Sun, but that these three, Mercury, Venus, and the Earth, follow the Sun, and these three, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn, precede it. Thus, when the Earth is here and this is the Sun, the Earth follows along. But we look at the Sun from here, and so it appears as though the Earth goes around it, whereas it is actually only following. The Earth follows the Sun. The incline is the same as what we normally call the angle of declination. If you take the angle you obtain when you measure the ecliptic angle, then you will see that. So it is not a spiral, but a helix. It does not exist in a plane, but in space." — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), text on p. 30, diagram on p. 31.
The arrow is supposed to show how, from one point along our journey, we see the Sun on one side of our line of motion, whereas later we will see it on the other side. Hence, we get the false impression that we move from side to side around the Sun. The tangent shows the orientation of the Earth's axis, pointing at the celestial pole.  All other things being equal, Steiner said, the spiral motion of the solar system should make the celestial pole seem to describe a lemniscate. But — perhaps to your relief — he said it doesn't. (He said the axis shifts around just enough to cancel out the celestial lemniscate.)
On neither day did Steiner refer to our galaxy, the Milky Way. Still, the corkscrew motion he postulated traces a trail through the Milky Way, or, as Steiner put it, “into cosmic space”.  According to Steiner, this trails leads us toward the celestial pole. There’s a problem, though. If we are climbing toward the pole, we are not in a galactic orbit; rather, we are making a serpentine progression that ultimately leads in a single direction. This is not what science has established. The actual movement of the Sun within the galaxy is orbital. Like all the other stars in the Milky Way, our Sun participates in the rotation of the galaxy, within the galactic plane. We orbit the galactic center, we do not move toward the celestial pole.
Steiner's description of planetary/solar motions has the small defect of omitting the actual motions of the planets and Sun. Steiner said that the only real motion is the progression along the corkscrew line.
“Everything else is only apparent motion.” 
“Everything” and “only” are definite and unqualified. But in this, as in so much else, Steiner was wrong. The planets very rarely form a line with the Sun, and they certainly do not adhere to a fixed order along a line of movement. The planets continually shift in their relationship to one another, due to their orbits. Sometimes some planet are on one side of the Sun, sometimes others are on that side. Sometimes some of the planets are more or less in line with one another, but usually they are scattered all around the Sun, at varying distances, at varying points in their orbits. The entire solar system is indeed moving, as a body, through the galaxy, but otherwise Steiner's description does not hold up.
As you can see, Steiner offered an alternative, unconventional theory of astronomy. He did the same with any number of subjects. The test of such theories is experimental and observational verification. The conventional model of astronomical phenomena is supported by vast quantities of verifiable information. Steiner's theory is not. Does this mean that the conventional model is definitely correct? No. Does it mean that the conventional model will not evolve further? No. Does it mean that all astronomical deductions are firmly established, never to be revised? No. (Calculating the distance to other galaxies, for instance, is a tricky business, and astronomers keep refining their techniques.) Likewise, does the lack of evidence for Steiner's view prove him wrong? No. But we have a great deal of information leading us to accept the conventional view, and we have virtually no information that supports Steiner's view. That's where the scientific method has brought us, and Steiner claimed to be scientific. According to science — that is, according to everything that we know — Steiner was wrong.
This discussion is already too long, but we should linger to make one more point. As we have seen, Steiner sometimes contradicted himself. On some occasions — generally when speaking in public — he referred to orbital motions of various heavenly bodies. At those times, he seemed to understand the real motions within the solar system; on those occasions, he said that the planets orbit the Sun. But on two distinct occasions, Sept. 5 and 25, 1919, when speaking in private, “educating” Waldorf school educators, he served up a deeply flawed set of ideas containing obvious errors. On those occasions — when he was revealing his real views to his devout followers — he said that the planets do not orbit the Sun. Importantly, when his first effort to present his model was unsuccessful, he did not correct himself, but instead he repeated the errors, stressing their “truth.” He said, “In reality, it is like this.” 
In reality, Steiner was wrong.
Astronomy may seem like a relatively unimportant subject — some schools may not even offer it. But for Steiner’s purposes, astronomy is crucial. He needed to deflect students away from a scientific understanding of the heavens because his own views were so fundamentally anti-scientific.
Here is a brief tour of the solar system, Steiner-style. I will start at the Sun and work my way out to the various planets orbiting the Sun, although Steiner said they do not orbit, and he put them in a different order, and he omitted some of them while adding an extra one...
“[T]he physical sun...is the external expression of the spiritual world that is received at the point where Christ’s physical body is walking around.” 
Vulcan (a non-planet that Steiner evidently believed in):
“Not much can be publicly communicated about life on this planet ... [O]nly mystery students of the higher order, who may leave their physical body and acquire supersensible knowledge outside it, can learn something about Vulcan.” 
“If we state that the Negro race was born in cooperation between the normal Spirits of Form [gods of a certain rank] and the abnormal Spirits of Form [variants of the normal gods of this rank] centred in Mercury, then from an occult standpoint we are perfectly correct in describing the Negro race as the 'Mercury race.'” 
“Lucifer himself takes part in Earth evolution with the perpetual longing within himself for his true home, for the star [sic] Venus ... [W]hat Lucifer casts off as a husk...as the physical body is cast off by the human soul at death, shines down from heaven as Venus.” 
You know about the Earth. It’s where we are now, except that Steiner would also say that it is when we are now, because he taught that we are currently living through the Earth stage of our evolution. Previously, we lived through the Saturn, Sun, and Moon stages, and in the future we will proceed to the Jupiter, Venus, and Vulcan stages. As to the Earth as a physical planet, our home world consists of many layers.
One layer “is sensitive to pain and would cry out if stepped upon.” 
Another layer, perhaps confusingly, consists of “substances comparable to nothing upon the earth.” 
“[T]he moon today is like a fortress in the universe, in which there lives a population that fulfilled its human destiny over 15,000 years ago, after which it withdrew to the moon together with the spiritual guides of humanity ... This is only one of the ‘cities’ in the universe, one colony, one settlement among many ... As far as what concerns ourselves, as humanity on earth, the other pole, the opposite extreme to the moon is the population of Saturn.” 
“The Buddha wandered away from earthly affairs to the realm of Mars. Until then Mars had been the chosen center of forces designated by the Greeks as fearfully warlike ... The Buddha Mystery on Mars did not take the same course as the Christ Mystery on earth, but Buddha, the Prince of Peace, who, during his last earthly life had spread peace and love wherever he went, was transferred to the belligerent realm of Mars.” 
Since Mars figures so prominently in occultism as well as science fiction, let’s stay with it a moment or two longer.
“Mars used to radiate different forces. The Mars culture that human beings experience between death and a new birth went through a great crisis in the earth’s fifteenth and sixteenth centuries ... When these conditions came into force on Mars, the natural consequence would have been for Mars to continue sending down to earth human beings who brought Copernican ideas with them, which are really only maya [i.e., illusion]. What we are seeing, then, is the decline of the Mars culture. Previously Mars had sent forth good forces. But now Mars sent forth more and more forces that would have led us deeper and deeper into maya. The achievements inspired by Mars at that time [i.e., Copernican ideas] were ingenious and clever, but they were maya all the same.” 
You see, the illusion or “maya” created by Copernicus — silly ideas such as that the planets orbit the Sun — is a result of Martian influence.
“Just as the leaders of the Sun’s evolution [spiritual beings who guided evolution during the “Sun” stage] became the higher I [the “I” is the highest human nonphysical body] that worked in the life body [i.e., the etheric body, the lowest nonphysical body] of the descendants of human beings who had remained on Earth, this Jupiter leader became the higher I that spread like a common consciousness through the human beings who had their origins in the interbreeding of Earth offspring with humans who first appeared on Earth during the period of the air element and then moved to Jupiter.” 
(The "air element" is an “element” that reveals certain spiritual beings, as do the “warmth element,” the “light element,” etc.; they reflect historical/evolutionary stages.)
Here’s another tidbit about Jupiter:
“If you were now to imagine bodies of men forming out of the clouds and flying down to the Earth, that would be a picture of how the new Beings come forth from a kind of cloud-mass on Jupiter ... Just as we on Earth are pervaded by air, so everything on Jupiter is pervaded by wisdom. Wisdom there has substantiality, streams in the atmosphere, discharges itself like rain on Jupiter ... Herein live the Cherubim, who in this realm of existence gather up and give shape to the karma of human beings.” 
"To the modern materialistic view of the cosmos, Saturn is observed merely as a body moving about in cosmic space; and the same with the other planets. This is not the case; for if we take [i.e., consider] Saturn, the outermost planet of our Universe [sic], we must represent him as the leader of our planetary system in cosmic space. He directs our system in space.” 
"The nature of Saturn is such that he receives many diverse impulses from the universe but allows none of them to stream back — at all events not to the Earth ... Saturn is an entirely self-engrossed heavenly body in our planetary system, raying [i.e., sending] his own being into the universe ... He speaks only of himself, tells us only what he himself is. And what he is reveals itself gradually as a kind of memory of the planetary system.” 
Basically, that's the entire solar system as described by Steiner. Steiner occasionally mentioned Uranus and Neptune, but not in a very helpful manner. Indeed, he denied that they were really members of the solar system. You see, the ancients spoke of seven planets, so Steiner wanted to stick with that. In particular, he wanted to stick, more or less, to Theosophy's "Seven Sacred Planets. They are Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Sun (standing as a substitute for an invisible planet very near the sun, sometimes referred to as Vulcan), Venus, Mercury, and the Moon (also a substitute for an invisible planet)."  Or, as Steiner put it:
"The Saturn sphere is really the last one that we...enter, since Uranus and Neptune do not enter our picture." 
So, when he absolutely had to admit the existence of Uranus and Neptune, he refused to extend membership in the solar system to those worlds:
"Then come Uranus and Neptune ... [T]hey circle much farther out and their orbits exhibit such irregularities that in reality they cannot be counted among the planets even today." 
(Here, Steiner acknowledged that the planets travel in orbits. But he was speaking in public.)
Just about the only use Steiner had for Neptune and Uranus came in working out horoscopes:
"Now let us turn to the horoscope of the younger child. Again, here are Venus and Uranus and Mars near together ... [W]hen we examine more nearly [i.e., more closely] the position of Mars, we find it is not, as before, in complete opposition to the moon [i.e., Mars and the Moon are not exactly on opposite sides of the sky]. It is however very nearly so. Although the younger child does not come in for a complete opposition, there is an approximation of opposition." 
Steiner wasn't into astronomy at all, really; he was into astrology.
I realize how strange and even confusing Steiner's statements about stars and planets are. If nothing else, the thing to take away from all this is the recognition that Rudolf Steiner's followers — including many Waldorf school teachers — believe these strange and confusing ideas. Waldorf teachers may not express these ideas openly when teaching astronomy — but then again, they may. Note that the passages I quoted about planets traveling in line with the Sun come from the books DISCUSSIONS WITH TEACHERS and FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER, both of which were published in the series called "Foundations of Waldorf Education". Steiner told Waldorf teachers that the planets do not orbit the Sun. Some of the teachers had trouble with this proposition, but Steiner repeated it, driving it home. Waldorf teachers today, studying these books, may accept Steiner's word on astronomical matters as they accept it on almost all other matters. Steiner told them the deep truths about the universe (or so they believe). So, if these ideas are the truth, will Waldorf teachers withhold them from their students? Will they lie to the students, indicating that Copernicus was right and Steiner was wrong? Some may do so. But others surely will not.
Let's clear up one more matter (if possible) before quitting. Sometimes when Steiner spoke of "planets," he meant planets such as we see in the sky today. But sometimes he meant something different: He meant stages in the evolution of the entire solar system. In Steiner's occult cosmology, "Old Saturn" was different from the Saturn that we see today (although sometimes Steiner spoke of "Saturn" when he meant Old Saturn, causing considerable confusion). Old Saturn was the first incarnation of the entire solar system. Prior to that, other states of being existed for the gods, but not for man, and not for anything else that came into existence with the first appearance of our solar system. There was, for us, nothing before the solar system originally burst into being. To put this another way, everything in the solar system originally incarnated in a condition or phase called "Old Saturn." (If you like, you could say that the forces of Saturn were predominant throughout the solar system as it existed at that time.) When that stage ended, the entire solar system blinked out of existence, only to reincarnate later in a phase called "Old Sun." Everything in the solar system came back into existence then, existing in a form different from the previous form and different from any later forms, such as the present form that we see around us now. Following Old Sun, everything in the solar system disappeared again, only to reincarnate in the stage called "Old Moon." It ended, everything went away, and then the solar system reappeared in a new form, i.e., in the "Present Earth" stage of evolution. When the Present Earth stage ends, everything will proceed to the Future Jupiter stage, then the Future Venus stage, and then the Future Vulcan stage.
OK? The planets that we see in the sky today are fragments of the various "planetary stages" of evolution, but they are not those stages per se. The planet Saturn, today, is not the ancient "Old Saturn" stage of evolution. It is the planet Saturn as it exists in the Present Earth stage of evolution. As such, it is a reincarnated fragment of Old Saturn that has survived (in a new form) in the new, Earth stage of evolution. Here is how Steiner tried to explain such things:
"Seen in the light of spiritual science [i.e., Anthroposophy], the present Saturn is a kind of reincarnation of Old Saturn. It came into existence because, before the Sun had separated from the Earth, Beings were there who would not have been able to leave with the Sun. They were so much imbued with Saturnian characteristics that they could not live where Solar properties above all were to be developed. So too the present Jupiter arose because Beings were there with characteristics which cosmic evolution as a whole will be unfolding in the future Jupiter and not till then. Mars on the other hand is a heavenly body inhabited by Beings whose evolution on Old Moon was such that they could not have benefited from any further progress upon Earth. Mars is a reincarnation of Old Moon on a higher level. The present Mercury is a dwelling-place for Beings who are ahead of earthly evolution in that they have developed certain earthly qualities in a higher form than is possible upon the Earth herself. Likewise the present Venus is a prophetic anticipation of the future Venus state." 
This is the Anthroposophical thinking that lies behind — and may infect, directly or indirectly — the astronomy taught in Waldorf schools.
— Roger Rawlings
o o 0 o o
Use this link to go to the second half
of "Oh My Stars".
o o 0 o o
 Hermann von Baravalle, ASTRONOMY, An Introduction (Rudolf Steiner College Press, 1991, revised 2000 by Norman Davidson).
In Waldorf belief, children repeat, in their own development, the evolutionary development of humanity as a whole. Sixth grade children are thought to stand at the evolutionary level of the ancient Romans (who were, according to Waldorf belief, far less evolved than we are today). Therefore, sixth graders should be given no information beyond what the ancient Romans possessed. Judged by today's standards, this means that vast swaths of real knowledge should be withheld. This consigns kids to effective ignorance.
 Ibid., p. 7.
 Ibid., p. 7. (Capitalization as shown — the quoted words are a section title.)
 Ibid., p. 29.
 Ibid., p. 35.
 Ibid., p. 37.
 Rudolf Steiner, DISCUSSIONS WITH TEACHERS (Anthroposophic Press, 1997), p. 168.
 Ibid., p. 168.
This idea, that the planets and Sun move in a file with each other, bears no relation to the real movements of the Sun and planets.
 Steiner sometimes acknowledged the existence of Neptune and Uranus. Read on.
 Rudolf Steiner (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER, p. 30.
 Ibid., p. 30.
 Ibid., p. 31.
 Ibid., p. 30.
 A celestial pole is a theoretically fix point in space directly above either of the Earth's poles. In this instance, Steiner was speaking of the north celestial pole.
The celestial sphere is “the apparent surface of the heavens, on which the stars seem to be fixed ... The Earth’s axis, extended to infinity, touches this sphere at the north and south celestial poles, around which the heavens seem to turn.” — “celestial sphere.” ENCYCLOPÆDIA BRITANNICA, Online, 20 Dec. 2008.
 FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER, p. 30.
 Ibid., p. 30.
Finding contradictions in Steiner's works is easy; deciding what to make of them is something else. Anthroposophy is an exceedingly complex body of teachings, describing what Steiner said is an exceedingly complex spiritual reality. Sometimes "contradictions" in all this can be explained away as a necessary result of complexity — there are hidden, deep connections that rectify superficial conflicts. But sometimes this is not the case; sometimes we spot contradictions that seem to have no extenuation. Such instances reinforce the conclusion we may have already drawn from other evidence, that Steiner was perpetrating an exceedingly elaborate spiritual scam, trusting elaborations and obfuscations to shield him from criticism. His followers, in any case, often find justification for their devotion in the sheer, stunning complexity of the vision Steiner presented for their awed acceptance.
For more on Steiner's self-contradictions about the movements of the planets, see "Deception." Multiple examples have been found, times when Steiner denied that the planets orbit the Sun, and times when he said they do orbit it.
 Rudolf Steiner, THE UNIVERSAL HUMAN (Anthroposophic Press, 1990), pp. 65-6.
This passage refers to the Sun as it was in times past. Christ, the Sun God, left the Sun and came to Earth.
 Rudolf Steiner, COSMIC MEMORY: Prehistory of Earth and Man (SteinerBooks, 1987), p. 163.
Steiner referred to many "planets," including Vulcan, as both physical planets and, more essentially, as stages of human evolution. We lived, or will live, "on" planets such as Saturn and Vulcan during the corresponding evolutionary stages, but those planets were, or will be, very different from the planets we see in the sky today (or don't see, as in the case of fictitious Vulcan). His reference here is to the Vulcan stage of evolution. Whether Steiner believed that a planet called Vulcan actually exists in the solar system today may not be entirely clear — but it nearly is. He almost certainly did. [See "Vulcan".]
 Rudolf Steiner, THE MISSION OF THE FOLK SOULS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2005), p. 101.
 Rudolf Steiner, WONDERS OF THE WORLD (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1983), p. 77.
 Rudolf Steiner, THE INTERIOR OF THE EARTH: An Esoteric Study of the Subterranean Spheres (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2007) p. 31.
 Ibid., p. 30.
 Rudolf Steiner, RUDOLF STEINER SPEAKS TO THE BRITISH (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1998), p. 93.
 Rudolf Steiner, LIFE BETWEEN DEATH AND REBIRTH (SteinerBooks, 1985), p. 207.
 Rudolf Steiner, ESOTERIC CHRISTIANITY AND THE MISSION OF CHRISTIAN ROSENKREUTZ (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2000), p. 289.
 Rudolf Steiner, AN OUTLINE OF ESOTERIC SCIENCE (Anthroposophic Press, 1997), p. 238.
 Rudolf Steiner, KARMIC RELATIONSHIPS, Vol. II (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1974), p. 48.
 Rudolf Steiner, MAN - HIEROGLYPH OF THE UNIVERSE (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1972), lecture 9, GA 201.
 Rudolf Steiner, “The Spiritual Individualities of the Planets” (THE GOLDEN BLADE, 1988), a lecture, GA 228.
 Andrew Rooke, The Solar System: Perspectives from Ancient Wisdom and Modern Science
 Rudolf Steiner, AT HOME IN THE UNIVERSE: Exploring Our Suprasensory Nature (SteinerBooks, 2000), p. 74.
 Rudolf Steiner, FROM COMETS TO COCAINE (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2001), p. 290.
 Rudolf Steiner, EDUCATION FOR SPECIAL NEEDS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1998), p. 196.
 Rudolf Steiner, OCCULT SCIENCE - AN OUTLINE (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1969), pp. 328-329.