Anthroposophy at Waldorf
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The best way to understand the thinking behind Waldorf schools is to read the words of the schools’ guiding spirit, Rudolf Steiner. Here are some examples. Ask yourself whether you want your children to be “educated” by people who find wisdom in Steiner's pronouncements.
Note: Steiner rambled. The only way to hold many of his statements to a reasonable length is to chop out repetitions and irrelevancies, as I have done. But please check the texts from which I quote. You’ll see that I have carefully preserved the essential meaning of each statement. Why would I do otherwise? Steiner’s own words make the most powerful possible argument against his teachings. — R.R.
◊ [Health] “With pneumonia, the cause is always in the astral body; pneumonia can occur in no other way.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE TEMPLE LEGEND (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1997), p. 60. The astral body is one of our invisible, nonphysical bodies, according to Steiner. Bear in mind that Steiner almost always meant his statements to be taken literally.
◊ [Populations of the Moon & Saturn] “[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.” — Rudolf Steiner, RUDOLF STEINER SPEAKS TO THE BRITISH (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1998), p. 93.
◊ [Reasonable Education] "You will injure children if you educate them rationally.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 61. For more of Steiner's educational tenets, see, e.g., "Oh Humanity".
◊ [Racism] "On one side you have the black race, which is the most earthly. When it migrates to the west, it dies out. We also have the yellow race, which is midway between earth and the cosmos. When it migrates to the east, it becomes brown, attaches itself too much to the cosmos, and it dies out. The white race is the future, it is the most spirit-building race." — Rudolf Steiner, VOM LEBEN DES MENSCHEN UND DER ERDE - ÜBER DAS WESEN DES CHRISTENTUMS (Verlag Der Rudolf Steiner-Nachlassverwaltung, 1961), GA 349, p. 62; translation from German by Roger Rawlings. The subject of Steiner's racial teachings is fraught. To dig into it, see, e.g., "Steiner's Racism", "Embedded Racism", "Races", and "Forbidden".
◊ [Solid Ground] “The predecessors of our Earth-gnomes, the Moon-gnomes, gathered together their Moon-experiences and from them fashioned this structure, this firm structure of the solid fabric of the Earth, so that our solid Earth-structure actually arose from the experiences of the gnomes of the old Moon.” — Rudolf Steiner, MAN AS SYMPHONY OF THE CREATIVE WORD (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1970), lecture 9, GA 230. Believe it or not, Steiner was serious when he said such things. Pictures and statuettes of gnomes populate Waldorf classrooms for a reason. For more Anthroposophical teachings about gnomes, see "Gnomes".
◊ [Waldorf and Polytheism] “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 (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 55. Anthroposophy is polytheistic, and Steiner said Waldorf teachers should serve the gods (plural). See "Polytheism".
◊ [Non-Orbiting Planets] “[I]t is not that the planets move around the Sun, but these three, Mercury, Venus, and the Earth, follow the Sun, and these three, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn, precede it.” — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), pp. 30-31. Steiner often said that the planets don't orbit the Sun, but occasionally he said that they do. The former statements seem to represent his real view. See "Deception".
◊ [The Heart] “The heart is not a pump ... Basically the heart is a sense organ within the circulatory system, yet exactly the opposite is taught nowadays.” — Rudolf Steiner, POLARITIES IN THE EVOLUTION OF MANKIND (SteinerBooks, 1987), p. 56. To see Steiner repeating and expanding his denial that the heart pumps blood, see "The Heart, II" and "The Heart, III", below.
◊ [Metals, Etc., for the Kids] "It is extremely important for the teacher to be able, in a sense, to foresee the child’s state of health and act preventively ... If you have, for instance, treated a child for a time with lead and have accomplished what you wanted, it would be good to treat that child with some copper compound for a short time, so that nothing remains of the lead process. If you found it necessary to treat a child with silver for a period, you should later treat him or her with iron, so that the inner process is arrested ... [Y]ou can achieve a great deal through external therapeutic means. If you give a child in such a case a small dose of phosphorous, you will see that it becomes relatively easy to reach the child with reprimands ... Give the child phosphorous, or if the problem is deeper...use sulfur." — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), pp. 537-538.
◊ [Religion in Waldorf] Waldorf schools are essentially religious institutions, although the religion involved is often disguised and kept at least partially out of view. Still, religion infuses these schools. "It is possible to introduce a religious element into every subject, even into math lessons. Anyone who has some knowledge of Waldorf teaching will know that this statement is true. A Christian element pervades every subject, even mathematics. This fundamental religious current flows through all of [Waldorf] education." — Rudolf Steiner, THE CHILD's CHANGING CONSCIOUSNESS AS THE BASIS OF PEDAGOGICAL PRACTICE (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 94. Whenever Steiner used the term "Christian" in such contexts, he meant Anthroposophy — which is hardly Christian in an orthodox sense; see "Was He Christian?" The "Christ" in Anthroposophy is the Sun God, otherwise known as Ahura Mazda, or Hu, or Baldr — see "Sun God". Concerning the religious nature (i.e., Anthroposophical-spiritual nature) of Waldorf education, see "Schools as Churches".
◊ [The Brain] “[T]he brain and nerve system have nothing at all to do with actual cognition.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 60.
◊ [Choosing Volcanoes and Earthquakes] Karma is a cruel doctrine. According to the laws of karma as taught by Steiner, we must undergo various tribulations on Earth in order to improve ourselves, to atone for errors we committed in past lives. Hence, "[W]e see...groups of human souls in their descent from pre-earthly into earthly existence wander to regions situated, for example, in the vicinity of volcanoes, or to districts where earthquakes are liable to occur ... [S]uch places are deliberately chosen by the souls thus karmically connected, in order that they may experience this very destiny [to die in a natural disaster] ... [They think] 'I choose a great disaster on earth in order to become more perfect....'" — Rudolf Steiner, KARMIC RELATIONSHIPS, Vol. 2 (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1974), pp. 226-227. So shed no tears for people who are killed horrifically in volcanic eruptions or mighty convulsions of the Earth's surface. Victims of disasters choose their fate. They want to die in these cataclysms; they get what they need, what they deserve. They are fulfilling their karma, Steiner taught. All of this has a direct bearing on Waldorf education. For, as a Waldorf teacher has written, “[T]he purpose of [Waldorf] education is to help the individual fulfill his karma.” — Roy Wilkinson, THE SPIRITUAL BASIS OF STEINER EDUCATION (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1996), p. 52. [For more on these matters, see "Karma", "Sin", and "Reincarnation".]
◊ [Correcting the Gospels] “[T]wo Jesus children were born. One was descended from the so-called Nathan line of the House of David, the other from the Solomon line. These two children grew up side by side. In the body of the Solomon child lived the soul of Zarathustra. In the twelfth year of the child's life this soul passed over into the other Jesus child [which had the essence of Buddha] and lived in that body until its thirtieth year ... And then, only from the thirtieth year onward, there lived in this body the Being Whom we call the Christ, Who remained on earth altogether for three years.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE OCCULT SIGNIFICANCE OF THE BHAGAVAD GITA (Anthroposophic Press, 1968), p. 59. Steiner taught that the combined Nathanic-Solomonic Jesus was the vessel within which the Sun God — Christ — incarnated. The Sun God remained on the Earth, as Christ Jesus, for only a few years, Steiner taught — his sojourn here ended when the body of the combined Jesus was crucified on Calvary. [For more on these matters, see "Was He Christian?" and "Sun God".] However, Steiner said, the Sun God has subsequently entered the etheric realm around the Earth. This, according to Steiner, is the Second Coming of Christ. Anthroposophists date the beginning of the Second Coming to about the year 1930. As one of Steiner's apostles — a fervent promoter of Waldorf education — has written: "[T]he Second Coming of Christ has already taken place with his increased activity within the etheric world ... Since about 1930...the Christ has begun to manifest himself in the world next to man, the etheric world." — Stewart C. Easton, MAN AND WORLD IN THE LIGHT OF ANTHROPOSOPHY (Anthroposophic Press, 1989), pp. 165 & 178.
Waldorfish art, R.R.
◊ [Bite Into This] "It will seem strange that in discussing man as a spiritual being, I speak first of the teeth ... [A] truly spiritual understanding of the human being shows us [that] the child develops teeth not only for the sake of eating and speaking, but for quite a different purpose as well. Strange as it sounds to-day, the child develops teeth for the purpose of thinking. Modern science little knows that the teeth are the most important of all organs of thought. For the child, up to the time of the second dentition, these teeth constitute the organ of thought ... The forces that press the teeth out from the jaw are the same forces that [in the young child] bring thought to the surface from the dim, sleeping and dreaming life of childhood. With the same degree of intensity as it teethes, the child learns to think." — Rudolf Steiner, EDUCATION (Rudolf Steiner Publishing Co., 1943), lecture 4, GA 307.
◊ [Waldorf: Anthroposophy’s Stalking Horse] “One of the most important facts about the background of the Waldorf school is that we were in a position to make the anthroposophical movement a relatively large one. The anthroposophical movement has become a large one.” — Rudolf Steiner, RUDOLF STEINER IN THE WALDORF SCHOOL (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 156. Actually, Anthroposophy remains fairly small, but indeed the purpose of Waldorf education is to spread Anthroposophy.
◊ [Buddha on Mars] “Buddha...became for Mars what Christ has become for the earth.” — Rudolf Steiner, LIFE BETWEEN DEATH AND REBIRTH (SteinerBooks, 1985), p. 72. Steiner taught that Buddha migrated to Mars, where he was — in a sense — crucified. See, e.g., "Buddha o Mars, II", below. Steiner also said that Buddha went to Mars at the behest of Christian Rosenkreutz, the putative founder of Rosicrucianism. See "Mars" and "Rosy Cross".
◊ [On the Other Hand...] "[C]hildren will become idiotic through lefthandedness [sic]." — Rudolf Steiner, quoted by Gerda Hueck in THE PROBLEM OF LEFTHANDEDNESS (St. George Publications, 1978), p. 15. Hueck may has misunderstood. Steiner evidently actually said "[I]n this materialistic age children become idiots because of lefthandedness if they alternate between the two hands." — Rudolf Steiner, CONFERENCES WITH THE TEACHERS OF THE WADORF SCHOOL IN STUTTGART (Steiner Schools Fellowship Publications, 1987), Vol. 1 , p. 87. Steiner attributed left-handedness to "karmic weakness." He did not absolutely order that all left-handed children be converted. Still, overall — with a few qualifications — he laid down the following directive: "We should always correct left-handedness". — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 345.
◊ [Lunacy] "[T]he Luciferic beings, or the Angels who during the Moon evolution remained backward, can still incarnate upon the Earth, can still move among men, in contradistinction to those who completed their evolution on the Moon. But we are not told that the Greek gods incarnated directly in human form! ... The Greeks were certainly aware that in their own time the Beings of their divine hierarchies were not able to incarnate directly upon the earth. But those soul-individualities whom the Greeks regarded as their gods did nevertheless incarnate in physical bodies, and that happened in the time of Atlantis!" — Rudolf Steiner, WONDERS OF THE WORLD (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1983), pp. 84-85.
◊ [Waldorf Teachers] “As Waldorf teachers, we must be true anthroposophists.” — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 118.
◊ [Where He Gets It] "Vulcan Beings are actually coming into the realm of earthly existence. Super-earthly Beings are already here, and the fact that we are able to have a connected body of Spiritual Science [i.e., Anthroposophy] at all today is due to the circumstance that Beings from beyond the earth are bringing the messages from the spiritual world down into earth-existence." — Rudolf Steiner, “A Picture of Earth Evolution in the Future”, THE GOLDEN BLADE, 1960, GA 204. Steiner evidently believed in the existence of the planet Vulcan; see "Vulcan". He taught that supermen from Vulcan and other planets involve themselves in Earthly affairs; see "Supermen".
◊ [Roaring on the Moon] “When we observe the astral plane we come upon certain beings there ... [T]hey are related to, belong to, the same sort of beings as inhabit our present moon ... One who is able to approach these things clairvoyantly knows that on their scene of action, the moon, these are beings in a certain respect similar to man, but they are dwarfs in comparison, scarcely reaching the height of a six or seven year old child. Upon the moon, however, a particular opportunity is offered them for their activity. The physical conditions are quite different there, the atmosphere for example is quite different and in consequence when these beings withdraw, so to speak, to their habitat they acquire the faculty of a tremendous roaring, of uttering immensely powerful, frightening sounds.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE INFLUENCE OF SPIRITUAL BEINGS ON MAN (Anthroposophic Press, 1982), lecture 1, GA 102.
◊ [Reincarnation] “[R]ealize that looking at the human head you are looking at the transformed body of your previous earth life, and that the head you had then was the transformed body of your preceding life — you must imagine it without the head, of course. The head you see now is the transformed organism of the last life lived on earth. The rest of the organism as you see it now will be the head in the next life. Then the arms will have metamorphosed and become ears, and the legs will have become eyes.” — Rudolf Steiner, POLARITIES IN THE EVOLUTION OF MANKIND (SteinerBooks, 1987), p. 59.
◊ [The Brain, II] "Try not to tell the stories in a way that causes the children to reflect and understand them in the head." — Rudolf Steiner, PRACTICAL ADVICE TO TEACHERS (Anthroposophic Press, 2000), p. 15.
◊ [Out-of-Body Experiences, Astrology] “It is above all the moon forces that connect man’s astral and ego organization [i.e., his higher nonphysical bodies] with his physical and etheric organisms [i.e., his lower bodies] ... Every night, when out of the spiritual world the soul desires to re-enter its physical and etheric bodies, it must place itself within the stream of the moon forces. It is of no concern here — that will be obvious to you — whether it be a new or full moon. For even when, as new moon, the moon is not visible to the senses, those forces are nevertheless active throughout the cosmos that bring the soul back into the etheric and physical bodies from the spiritual worlds.” — Rudolf Steiner, PHILOSOPHY, COSMOLOGY, AND RELIGION (Anthroposophic Press, 1984), p. 83. Steiner taught that real human beings have three invisible bodies in addition to the physical body. (People who are not really human are a different story.) Our invisible bodies are the etheric, astral, and ego bodies. (See "Incarnation".) At night, the two higher bodies leave the physical world and travel to the spirit realm, returning in the morning, or so Steiner said.
◊ [Nicht war?] "Man is merely a condensed elf." — Rudolf Steiner, FROM BEETROOT TO BUDDHISM (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1999), p. 176.
◊ [Blond and Blue] “If the blonds and blue-eyed people die out, the human race will become increasingly dense ... Blond hair actually bestows intelligence. In the case of fair people, less nourishment is driven into the eyes and hair; it remains instead in the brain and endows it with intelligence. Brown- and dark-haired people drive the substances into their eyes and hair that the fair people retain in their brains.” — Rudolf Steiner, HEALTH AND ILLNESS, Vol. 1 (Anthroposophic Press, 1981), pp. 85-86.
◊ [Buddha on Mars, II] “The Buddha wandered away from earthly affairs to the realm of Mars ... [T]he Buddha accomplished a Buddha crucifixion there.” — Rudolf Steiner, LIFE BETWEEN DEATH AND REBIRTH (SteinerBooks, 1985), p. 207.
◊ [Little Buddies] "The gnomes laugh us to scorn...." — Rudolf Steiner, MAN AS SYMPHONY OF THE CREATIVE WORD (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2001), p. 113. Steiner taught that gnomes (aka goblins) really exist; see "Gnomes". Waldorf classrooms, especially those for the youngest students, often display gnome effigies.
◊ [Naughty Little Buddies (and Clairvoyance)] "There are beings that can be seen with clairvoyant vision at many spots in the depths of the earth ... Many names have been given to them, such as goblins, gnomes and so forth ... Their nature prompts them to play all sorts of tricks on man.... ” — Rudolf Steiner, NATURE SPIRITS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1995), p. 62.
◊ [Better than the Brain] “As soon as we begin to think with our fingers — and one can think with one's fingers and toes much more brightly, once one makes the effort, than with the nerves of the head — as soon as we begin to think with that part of us which has not entirely become matter, when we think with the lower part of our being, then our thoughts are the thoughts of our karma." — Rudolf Steiner, BLACKBOARD DRAWINGS 1919-1924 (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2003), p. 126.
◊ [Heavy Hands] “When we see someone with small hands and arms, we will immediately say to ourselves: well, there’s no great urge in that person to hit someone. But when arms and hands are too long and heavy, the impulse to hit out must be charged to that person’s karma, their destiny, and not judged from an emotional point of view.” — Rudolf Steiner, BALANCE IN TEACHING (Anthroposophic Press, 2007), p. 54.
◊ [Evolution, Zeus, Race] "Zeus is no longer possible, but in his place we have the steam engine. Another race will succeed us, which will find the way back again." — Rudolf Steiner, INVESTIGATIONS INTO OCCULTISM SHOWING ITS PRACTICAL VALUE IN DAILY LIFE (H. Collison, 1920), p. 166.
◊ [The Evolved and the Unevolved] “During the Venus stage [of evolution], a distinct cosmic body [i.e., a planet or moon] will break away, containing all the beings who have resisted evolution and constituting an ‘unredeemable moon,’ so to speak.... The part of humanity that has continued to evolve, however, will move on to the Vulcan phase of evolution in a fully spiritualized form of existence.” — Rudolf Steiner, AN OUTLINE OF ESOTERIC SCIENCE (Anthroposophic Press, 1997), p. 394.
◊ [Higher Races] "In ancient times, souls who were unable to go over into the Asiatic races, were transposed into European ones, and were obliged to incarnate again and again in them. But as they became better and better, this led to their gradually passing on into the higher races; and souls which were previously embodied in quite subordinate races developed to a higher stage, and were able later to reincarnate in the bodily successors of the leading population of Europe." — Rudolf Steiner, THE SPIRITUAL FOUNDATION OF MORALITY (Steiner Book Centre, 1970), lecture 2, GA 155.
◊ [Karma and Kindness] “[I]n educating handicapped children we are intervening in a process which in the normal course of development — were there no intervention, or were there misguided intervention — would find its fulfillment only when the child had passed through the gate of death and come to birth again in the next life. We are making, that is to say, a deep intervention in karma. Whenever we give treatment to a handicapped child, we are intervening in karma [sic]. And it goes without saying, we must intervene in karma this way.” — Rudolf Steiner, EDUCATION FOR SPECIAL NEEDS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1998), p. 47.
◊ [Demonic Descent] "The criminal demons attached as parasites to unborn children cause deterioration in the succession of the generations; this eats into human beings, making them less good than they would be if these demons did not exist. There are various reasons for the decline of families, tribes, peoples and nations, but one of them is the existence of these criminal demon parasites during the period mentioned.” — Rudolf Steiner, ANGELS, (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1996), p. 168.
◊ [Lunacy and Sunstroke] “If, as he had developed on the Sun, man was called plant man, the man of the Moon can be called animal man ... [T]he Sun man could only elevate himself into a plant by thrusting a portion of his companions down into a coarser mineral realm ... The animal man of the Moon does not yet [i.e., did not yet] have firm bones. His skeleton is [i.e., was] still cartilaginous. His whole nature is soft, compared to that of today ... His locomotion is not a walking, but rather a leaping, even a floating ... [T]he Moon of that time did not have a thin, airy atmosphere like that of present-day earth, but its envelope was considerably thicker, even denser than the water of today.” — Rudolf Steiner, COSMIC MEMORY: Prehistory of Earth and Man, from the chapter “Life on the Moon” (SteinerBooks, 1987), pp. 193-194.
◊ [Imagine] "Imagine what people would say if they heard that we say there are people who are not human beings.” — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), pp. 649-650.
◊ [Clairvoyance (cont.)] “[J]ust as natural forces build out of living matter the eyes and ears of the physical body, so will organs of clairvoyance build themselves....” — Rudolf Steiner, KNOWLEDGE OF THE HIGHER WORLDS AND ITS ATTAINMENT (Anthroposophic Press, 1944), p. 28.
◊ [Jupiter Humans] Some people “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." — Rudolf Steiner, AN OUTLINE OF ESOTERIC SCIENCE (Anthroposophic Press, 1997), p. 238.
◊ [History Lesson] "[T]he most advanced among men, those who had survived the moon crisis, were able gradually to prepare themselves to envision not only the spiritual beings of Mars, Jupiter, or Venus, but those of the sun itself, the exalted sun beings. Having come down from the various planets the initiates were again able to behold the spirituality of these planets. From this it is clear why in ancient Atlantis there were institutions, schools, where those who had descended, for example, from Mars were accepted, when sufficiently mature, for the purpose of studying the mysteries of Mars; and that there were other sanctuaries where those who had come from other planets could learn their mysteries. Applying the later term “oracle” to these institutions, we have in Atlantis a Mars Oracle, where the mysteries of Mars were studied, a Saturn Oracle, a Jupiter Oracle, a Venus Oracle, and so on. The highest was the Sun Oracle; and the loftiest of all the initiates was the ranking initiate of the Sun Oracle." — Rudolf Steiner, THE GOSPEL OF JOHN (Anthroposophic Press, 1948), lecture 6, GA 112.
Art, as it were — R.R.