The twin concepts of reincarnation and karma 
are central to Anthroposophy.
Here is a selection of Rudolf Steiner's 
statements about reincarnation.
In the first several quotations, Steiner speaks of 
reincarnation as an Anthroposophical doctrine;
in the final quotations, he makes clear that 
Waldorf teachers and students
should accept this doctrine.

“[T]he very people who now inveigh most bitterly against reincarnation and karma will writhe under the torment of the next life because they cannot explain to themselves how their life has come to be what it is ... Thoughts which deny reincarnation are transformed in the next life into an inner unreality, an inner emptiness of life; this inner unreality and emptiness are experienced as torment, as disharmony.” — Rudolf Steiner, REINCARNATION AND KARMA (Steiner Book Centre, 1977), lecture 1, GA 135. [1]

“In every respect Anthroposophy can be a guide, not only towards knowledge of the existence of another world, but towards feeling oneself as a citizen of another world, as an individuality who passes through many incarnations ... Facts of Spiritual Science investigated at various times show that very often the people with whom we come into contact somewhere around our thirtieth year are related to us in such a way that in most cases we were connected with them at the beginning of the immediately preceding incarnation — or it may have been earlier still — as parents, or brothers or sisters.” — Rudolf Steiner, REINCARNATION AND KARMA (Steiner Book Centre, 1977), lecture 3, GA 135. 

“We do, of course, learn many things through Anthroposophy. We learn about the evolution of humanity, even about the evolution of our earth and planetary system. All these things belong to the fundamentals required by one who desires to become an anthroposophist. But what is of particular importance for the modern anthroposophist is the gaining of conviction with regard to reincarnation and karma. The way in which men gain this conviction, how they succeed in spreading the thought of reincarnation and karma — it is this that from now onwards will essentially transform modern life, will create new forms of life, an entirely new social life, of the kind that is necessary if human culture is not to decline but rise to a higher level. Experiences in the life of soul...are, fundamentally speaking, within the reach of every modern man, and if only he has sufficient energy and tenacity of purpose he will certainly become inwardly convinced of the truth of reincarnation and karma. But the whole character of our present age is pitted against what must be the aim of true Anthroposophy.” — Rudolf Steiner, REINCARNATION AND KARMA (Steiner Book Centre, 1977), lecture 4, GA 135. 

“Among the subjects we have been studying in our lectures there are many that might be considered less distinctive from the point of view of something entirely new being presented to modern humanity. Nevertheless they are fundamental truths which do indeed penetrate into humanity as something new. We need not look very far to find this new element. It lies in the two truths which really belong to the most fundamental of all and bring increasing conviction to the human soul: these are the two truths of reincarnation and karma. It may be said that the first thing a really serious anthroposophist discovers along his path is that knowledge of reincarnation and karma is essential. It cannot, for example, be said that in Western culture, certain truths — such as the possibility of becoming conscious of higher worlds — present themselves through Anthroposophy as something fundamentally new. Anyone who has some knowledge of the development of Western thought knows of mystics such as Jacob Boehme or Swedenborg, or the whole Jacob Boehme school, and he knows too — although there has been much argument to the contrary — that it has always been considered possible for a man to rise from the ordinary sense-world to higher worlds. This, then, is not the element that is fundamentally new. And the same applies to other matters. Even when we are speaking of what is absolutely fundamental in evolution, for example, the subject of Christ, this is not the salient point as regards the Anthroposophical Movement as such; the essential point is the form which the subject of Christ assumes when reincarnation and karma are received as truths into the hearts of men. The light thrown upon the subject of Christ by the truths of reincarnation and karma — that is the essential point.” — Rudolf Steiner, REINCARNATION AND KARMA (Steiner Book Centre, 1977), lecture 5, GA 135. [2]

[Steiner Book Centre, 1977]

“Let me now say a few words about the the great cosmic laws of karma and reincarnation. On Old Moon these laws were not yet in existence. [3] The beginning of a process of reincarnation such as exists at present can first be spoken of...from the middle of the Lemurian epoch until the middle of the Atlantean. For the animal, whose ego is the group soul, there is even today no reincarnation. The connection between an animal species and the ego belonging to it is to be found in the astral world. For the group soul of lions, for example, the death of a lion here on the physical plane means as much as it means to you to cut a fingernail. A lion is at first an astral structure, reaching down like a strand from the group soul; it descends to the physical plane, densifies, and at the death of the individual lion this astrality passes back again to the astral plane. The group soul draws it in again like a limb. On Old Moon the human soul underwent the same process. The human soul was then a member of its group soul and returned to it. The soul, as the Bible puts it, is sheltered in the bosom of Father Abraham.

“Reincarnation and karma first began to have meaning during the Lemurian epoch and in time will cease to have significance. Man will then enter permanently into a spiritual world in which he will continue to be active. When, for example, man has developed the impulse of brotherliness in himself, the growth of races will cease, will be overcome. In the sixth cultural epoch, human beings will already understand better how to arrange their lives; concepts of race will no longer have validity. Men will no longer order their lives according to external, physical considerations but rather on a spiritual basis. In the seventh cultural epoch, which will reflect that of ancient India, there will once again be distribution into castes, but a voluntary distribution. Changes in the process of evolution constantly take place, yet continual progress is certain. In the Atlantean epoch, the middle epoch of our earth's evolution, the significant point occurred that is designated by the now complete penetration of the ego into man's physical body. The process began in the middle of the Lemurian epoch after the exit of the moon from the earth. Humanity has continued to evolve and when the concept of brotherliness finds practical fulfilment on the earth, races will be superseded. Karma will also then be overcome.” — Rudolf Steiner, ROSICRUCIAN ESOTERICISM (Anthroposophic Press, 1978), lecture 10, GA 109.

[R. R., 2009] 

“[I]t can happen that when someone has been compelled to live alone in one incarnation, which would have retarded the person’s progress, this is adjusted in the next life through becoming a sanguine, with the ability to notice everything in the surroundings. We must not view karma from a moral but from a causal perspective. When a child is properly educated, it may be of great benefit to the child’s life to be a sanguine, capable of observing the outer world. Temperament is connected, to a remarkable degree, with the whole life and soul of a person’s previous incarnation.” — Rudolf Steiner, DISCUSSIONS WITH TEACHERS (Anthroposophic Press, 1997), p. 61. 

“From the modern standpoint, it is child’s play not only to deride such things but, also with an apparent right, to refute as fantastic the idea of human reincarnation and the reappearance of people in new lives. Today, we will only mention in passing the idea of reincarnation, that our embodied souls living today through the period between birth and death have often gone through life. We will only mention that we live today so that later we can experience the effects and fruits of this life. People can easily refute that in theory. However, things look different when you teach with the correct feelings and see how the growing soul of the child develops from week to week and from year to year. If you approach your desire to teach with the proper attitude, then you will recognize that you will be affecting something developed over millennia.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE EDUCATION OF THE CHILD (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 73. 

“In the younger group [of students], we must omit everything related to reincarnation and karma. We can deal with that only in the second [i.e., older] group, but there we must address it. From ten years of age on, we should go through those things. It is particularly important in this instruction that we pay attention to the student’s own activity from the very beginning. We should not just speak of reincarnation and karma theoretically, but practically.” — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 18.

“Quite a number of people have been born since the nineties without an I, that is, they are not reincarnated, but are human forms filled with a sort of natural demon. There are quite a large number of older people going around who are actually not human beings, but are only natural; they are human beings only in regard to their form.” — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 649. 

“If you think F.R. [a student] would write a good essay about Raphael and Grünewald in the ninth grade, you will never come to terms with him. That is completely impossible in his present incarnation. He cannot do it, nor can he understand it. It is something that lies outside his field of vision. When he realizes he cannot understand it, he dries up inwardly and the bad juices, the etherically bad juices, rise and push him on so that he becomes vengeful. The recurring theme of his thinking is that he is unjustly treated.” — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 639.


[1] Like at least some other religious leaders, Steiner occasionally threatened spiritual punishment for those who fail to accept his teachings.

[2] Steiner taught that Christ is our Prototype: Christ showed how we should evolve, and He provided the impulse for our proper evolution. [See "Prototype".] The process of evolution, he said, occurs through the mechanisms of karma and reincarnation.

[3] Steiner here refers to various evolutionary stages as described by himself. Old Moon was the third stage of our evolution, following Old Saturn and Old Sun. The “Lemurian epoch” was the third stage of our existence on Earth, a time when we lived on the lost continent of Lemuria (where we lived before moving to Atlantis). We currently live in the fifth or Post-Atlantean epoch here on Earth. The sixth and seventh epochs lie in our future. For more on these matters, see THE BRIEF WALDORF / STEINER ENCYCLOPEDIA.

For more of Steiner's teachings about 
reincarnation and karma, see "Karma".

- Compilation and commentary by Roger Rawlings

[Sophia Books, 2005.]

If you do not believe that your child has reincarnated after numerous previous lives, and if you are unprepared to accept Rudolf Steiner's unique teachings about reincarnation, Waldorf education is unlikely to fully satisfy you or your child. The book YOUR REINCARNATING CHILD, written by a husband-wife team of Waldorf teachers, lays out the Waldorf vision of early childhood. Children come into the world with the karmas they developed in past lives; hence, a central goal of parenting — and of early childhood education — should be to assist the children to fulfill their karmas and thus make evolutionary, spiritual progress. Fostering children's capacity to use their brains rationally, or indeed to learn much information about the real world, should be given low priority: 

"[P]re-school education...has nothing to do with the acquisition of intellectual concepts." — YOUR REINCARNATING CHILD, p. 107. 

Technology — televisions and computers in particular — should be carefully downplayed. (The authors devote an entire chapter to this issue). Instead, the purpose of raising and educating a child is to provide a "therapeutic" environment in which reincarnation can be successful and complete. In essence, this means following Rudolf Steiner's occult prescriptions: 

"[E]ducation as a healing force enables each ego [i.e., the highest of a human's invisible bodies] to progress further in its evolution ... [S]uch education must be that based upon a knowledge of the whole human being [i.e., a reincarnating being who has four bodies]...such as that given by Rudolf Steiner." — YOUR REINCARNATING CHILD, p. 8. 

All parents who are tempted to select Waldorf education for their children should take care to acquaint themselves well with the thinking behind Waldorf schools. Ask yourself whether you can genuinely subscribe to the beliefs embraced by Rudolf Steiner's followers. If you cannot, you probably should send your children to other sorts of schools.

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



A look back, plus

Mystical thinking, realistic thinking





Reports and advice from parents whose children attended Waldorf schools

A report by a mother who was drawn to a Waldorf school but left disillusioned

Talking it over

Had enough?

Describing the near-collapse of the Waldorf school I attended

Deprogramming myself after Waldorf

Who the heck am I?

Doom and deliverance

Short and sweet

Can you trust me?