SchoolS AS CHURCHES
Devotion, Reverence, Prayer
Anthroposophy is, in many ways, an unusual religion. For one thing, a key tenet of the Anthroposophical faith is that Anthroposophy is a science, not a religion. Another oddity, proceeding directly from the first, is that Anthroposophy has no places of worship — Anthroposophists do not build, or typically conduct services in, churches.
Or so it may seem.
But the truth is quite different. Anthroposophy is certainly a religion [see "Is Anthroposophy a Religion?"], and it is wholly unscientific [see "Steiner's 'Science'"]. And Anthroposophy abounds with churches. All Anthroposophical buildings (schools, clinics, meeting halls) are, in effect, places of worship — all of them are, in effect, churches. Virtually every gathering of Anthroposophists is a worship service, for — as Rudolf Steiner said — seeking contact with divinity is essentially all that Anthroposophists ever do:
"Members have often asked me how they can establish a relationship with Christ. This is a naive question; for everything we strive for, every line we read of our anthroposophical science, is an entering into a relationship with Christ. In a certain sense, we really do nothing else." — Rudolf Steiner, TOWARD IMAGINATION (SteinerBooks, 1990), p. 36.
Waldorf schools rank among the largest buildings erected by Anthroposophists, and they serve as central sanctuaries for the reverential practice of Anthroposophy. Here is Rudolf Steiner addressing teachers at the first Waldorf school:
“Let us think of a prayer. The children should, when asked to learn a prayer, be urged to be in a mood of devotion. It is up to us to see to this. We must almost feel a horror if we teach the children a prayer without first establishing this mood of reverence or devotion. And they should never say a prayer without this mood.” — Rudolf Steiner, EDUCATION FOR ADOLESCENTS - Foundations of Waldorf Education X (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 69.
Why do Waldorf teachers teach children prayers? Because they consider themselves to be, in effect, priests.
"The position of teacher becomes a kind of priestly office, a ritual performed at the altar of universal human life ... Our task is to ferry into earthly life the aspect of the child that came from the divine spiritual world." — Rudolf Steiner, THE ESSENTIALS OF EDUCATION - Foundations of Waldorf Education XVIII (Anthroposophic Press, 1997), p. 24.
As for the religion practiced in Waldorf schools, it is Anthroposophy. We need to tread carefully here. Anthroposophy is undeniably present in Waldorf schools. As Steiner said of the first Waldorf school,
"We certainly may not go to the other extreme, where people say that anthroposophy may not be brought into the school. Anthroposophy will be in the school when it is objectively justified, that is, when it is called for by the material itself.” — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophy Press, 1998), p. 495.
But is Anthroposophy a religion? Steiner's followers usually deny it; they assert that Anthroposophy is a "science" — "spiritual science" — not a religion. Steiner claimed that he could teach his followers to use clairvoyance to objectively study the spirit realm: They could thus become "spiritual scientists" who knew the spirit realm rather than simply believing in it. Thus, Steiner sought to distinguish his teachings from those of other faiths. But most religions do something similar; most lay claim to exclusive, accurate knowledge of the divine. In reality, the Anthroposophical claim to special spiritual wisdom is one of the characteristics that marks it as a religion. And there are many more such telling characteristics. Anthroposophy entails reverence, prayers, meditations, spiritual guides, spiritual observances, submission to the gods, efforts to fulfill the will of the gods, and — yes — faith. It lays out the path to spiritual improvement for its adherents, and it threatens spiritual loss and perdition for everyone else. Anthroposophists believe that they are on the side of the gods, and they believe that their critics are on the side of the demonic powers. In sum, Anthroposophy is a religion, and occasionally — perhaps inadvertently — Anthroposophists admit as much. Thus, for instance, Rudolf Steiner himself once said,
"[T]he Anthroposophical Society...provides religious instruction just as other religious groups do." — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER, p. 706.
Rudolf Steiner made many statements reflecting the religious nature of Waldorf schools. Below is a collection of such statements. For clarity, I have emphasized certain key terms. Note that Waldorf teachers are told that they must have religious feelings and purposes, and their work should be directed at the spiritual/religious development of their students.
Some of the following passages overlap; some are duplicative. I have broken them out individually so that each of Steiner's statements can be contemplated on its own merits.
Virtually all of the quoted passages come from the series of books subtitled Foundations of Waldorf Education. These are volumes that Waldorf teachers study intently, books that continue to guide the operations of Waldorf schools today.
(Most of this page consists of a long list of quotations. When you have seen enough, or need a break, scroll down to the photo of the Goetheanum. Below that, you will find an assortment of other items.)
"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 XVI (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 94.
"[A] religious atmosphere can be created in every lesson and subject. Such an atmosphere is created in our school [the Waldorf School]. When teachers, through their own soul mood, connect everything that exists in the sensory world to the supersensible* and divine, everything they bring to their classes will naturally transcend the physical, not in a sentimental or vaguely mystical way, but simply as a matter of course." — Rudolf Steiner, WALDORF EDUCATION AND ANTHROPOSOPHY - Foundations of Waldorf Education XIV, Vol. 2 (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 184.
* The supersensible realm is essentially the invisible supernatural or spiritual realm about which Steiner spoke and wrote. It beyond the reach of our physical senses, he said (it is super-sensible).
"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 XVIII (Anthroposophic Press, 1997), pp. 64-65.
"You can feel from the whole mood and being of the Waldorf school that a Christian quality pervades all the teaching and how religion is alive there."* — Rudolf Steiner, THE SPIRITUAL GROUND OF EDUCATION - Foundations of Waldorf Education XV (Anthroposophic Press, 2004), p. 115.
* Religion is certainly alive in Waldorf education; but whether that religion is truly Christian is, at best, debatable. [See "Was He Christian?" and "Sun God".]
"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 XVII (Anthroposophic Press, 2004), p. 169.
"The Waldorf School is...a true sign of the fruitfulness of Anthroposophy within the spiritual life of humanity. If the faculty truly carries in its heart the consciousness of this fruitfulness then the good spirits who reign over the School [i.e., gods] will be able to be effective, and divine spiritual power will reign in the deeds of the teachers." — Rudolf Steiner, RUDOLF STEINER IN THE WALDORF SCHOOL - Foundations of Waldorf Education VI (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), pp. 226-227.
"[W]e feel direct contact with the spiritual world, which is incarnating and unfolding before our very eyes, right here in the sensory world. Such an experience provides a sense of responsibility toward one’s tasks as a teacher, and with the necessary care, the art of education attains the quality of a religious service. Then, amid all our practical tasks, we feel that the gods themselves have sent the human being into this earthly existence, and they have entrusted the child to us for education. With the incarnating child, the gods have given us enigmas that inspire the most beautiful divine service. " — Rudolf Steiner, WALDORF EDUCATION AND ANTHROPOSOPHY - Foundations of Waldorf Education XIV, Vol. 2 (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 161.
"When we confront education earnestly, we must do more than acknowledge God* for the peace of our souls; we must also will God’s will and act on the intentions of God. This, however, requires a spiritual basis in education." — Rudolf Steiner, THE SPIRITUAL GROUND OF EDUCATION - Foundations of Waldorf Education XV (Anthroposophic Press, 2004), p. 5.
* Although Steiner sometimes spoke of God, Anthroposophy is polytheistic. There are nine ranks of gods, Steiner taught, and above them is the unknowable Godhead. [See "Polytheism".]
"We [Waldorf teachers] should always remember that when we do something, we are actually carrying out the intentions of the gods, that we are, in a certain sense, the means by which that streaming down from above will go out into the world.” — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER - Foundations of Waldorf Education VIII, Vol. 1 (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 55.
"In that we actively turn to the pedagogy of this ﬁfth cultural epoch*, and in that we wish to be active as teachers, we may carry in consciousness the fact that the Beings of the Third Hierarchy** are now moving to connect themselves with our work." — Rudolf Steiner, THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE - Foundations of Waldorf Education I (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 46.
* I.e., Waldorf pedagogy, occuring in the fifth cultural age since the sinking of Atlantis.
** I.e., gods one, two, and three levels above mankind — the gods sometimes called Angels (or Sons of Twilight), Archangels (or Spirits of Fire), and Archai (or Spirits of Personality). [See "Polytheism".]
"[W]e have found in the course of our Waldorf school teaching and education that the question of education is principally one of teachers. How can teachers become natural authorities, mediators between the divine order of the world and children?" — Rudolf Steiner, THE SPIRITUAL GROUND OF EDUCATION - Foundations of Waldorf Education XV (Anthroposophic Press, 2004), p. 10.
"[T]his kind of education puts tremendous demands on the teacher. However, do we dare presume that the most complete being here on Earth — the human being — can be taught at all if we do not penetrate fully the characteristics of that being? Shouldn’t we believe — concerning human beings and what we do with them — that they hold a place of honor, and that much of what we do is a kind of religious service? We must believe that." — Rudolf Steiner, WALDORF EDUCATION AND ANTHROPOSOPHY - Foundations of Waldorf Education XIV, Vol. 2 (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 42.
"Teachers must be able to accept a child as a divine moral task bestowed on them. As teachers, the things that elevate our moral relationship to teaching and permeate our educational activity with a kind of religious meditation, give us the necessary strength to act alongside the children and work with all the inner characteristics that need development." — Rudolf Steiner, WALDORF EDUCATION AND ANTHROPOSOPHY - Foundations of Waldorf Education XIV, Vol. 2 (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), pp. 4-5.
"[T]eachers cannot become true educators of young people unless they are inwardly able to become truly artistic and religious." — Rudolf Steiner, A MODERN ART OF EDUCATION - Foundations of Waldorf Education XVII (Anthroposophic Press, 2004), p. 69.
"[T]he gods allow their grace to flow down ... We [Waldorf teachers] see in every child the revelation of divine spiritual, cosmic laws ... It is not a question of how to educate children to approach some ideal that has been dreamed up; it is a question of how to nurture what the gods have sent to us in the earthly world. We come to see ourselves as helpers of the divine spiritual world, and above all we learn to ask what will happen if we approach education with this attitude of mind. True education proceeds from exactly this attitude. The important thing is to develop our teaching on the basis of this kind of thinking ... [I]f this happens, then a teacher’s calling becomes a priestly calling, since an educator becomes a steward who accomplishes the will of the gods in a human being." — Rudolf Steiner, HUMAN VALUES IN EDUCATION - Foundations of Waldorf Education XX (Anthroposophic Press, 2004), pp. 8-9.
"In our teaching and educating we should really become priests, because what we meet in children reveals to us, in the form of outer reality and in the strongest, grandest, and most intense ways, the divine-spiritual world order that is at the foundation of outer physical, material existence. In children we see, revealed in matter in a most sublime way, what the creative spiritual powers [i.e., gods] are carrying behind the outer material world. We have been placed next to children in order that spirit properly germinates, grows, and bears fruit. This attitude of reverence must underlie every [instructional] method." — Rudolf Steiner, WALDORF EDUCATION AND ANTHROPOSOPHY - Foundations of Waldorf Education XIV, Vol. 2 (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), pp. 225-226.
"[I]f we wish to bring the feeling spirit to a human being, we must go about this not only artistically, but also with a religious feeling, which alone can penetrate the reality of spirit. Education between [ages] seven and fourteen, therefore, can be carried on in a truly human sense only if it is done within a religious atmosphere, becoming almost a sacramental office." — Rudolf Steiner, A MODERN ART OF EDUCATION - Foundations of Waldorf Education XVII (Anthroposophic Press, 2004), p. 68.
"[T]eachers must reach a point where all their work becomes moral activity, and they regard the lessons themselves as a kind of divine office." — Rudolf Steiner, A MODERN ART OF EDUCATION - Foundations of Waldorf Education XVII (Anthroposophic Press, 2004), p. 169.
"What we have educated in [young] children very naturally in a priestly way — what is really a religious devotion — we must now be able to reawaken at a higher soul level during the second stage of life, between the change of teeth and puberty."* — Rudolf Steiner, THE ESSENTIALS OF EDUCATION - Foundations of Waldorf Education XVIII (Anthroposophic Press, 1997), p. 69.
* In Anthroposophical belief, the second stage of life" occurs between ages seven and fourteen. Steiner taught that children develop in seven-year-long phases. The end of the first phase, at about age seven, is marked by the loss of baby teeth. At that point, the "etheric body" incarnates and a child becomes ready to learn reading and writing. The second phase of development ends at about age fourteen. The child enters puberty then, s/he starts to become capable of rational thought, and the "astral body" incarnates. [See, e.g., "Incarnation" and "Most Significant".]
"[D]oesn’t our study of the human being* give depth to the innermost sacred mystery of life, and with this love, won’t we be able to truly enter the task of education because life itself has became sacred to us? Won’t the teacher’s purpose be transformed from mere ideological phrases and dreamlike mysticism into a truly sacred calling, ready to do its work when divine grace sends human beings into earthly life?" — Rudolf Steiner, HUMAN VALUES IN EDUCATION - Foundations of Waldorf Education XX (Anthroposophic Press, 2004), p. 34.
* The basis of Waldorf education is the set of doctrines called Anthroposophy, which consists primarily of Rudolf Steiner's mystical teachings. Etymologically, the word "Anthroposophy" (an-throw-POS-oh-fee) means knowledge or wisdom of the human being. [See, e.g., "Oh Humanity".]
"No education can be conducted without a religious foundation; school is an illusion without religion ... A person of a basically religious disposition [i.e., a Waldorf teacher], who has deep conviction, will also be able to convey religion ... Teachers must feel that they belong to a spiritual world-order from which a task is received." — Rudolf Steiner, THE EDUCATION OF THE CHILD - Foundations of Waldorf Education XXV (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 69.
"We really must feel ourselves as a part of the whole universe, wherein the evolution of humankind is playing a major role. For this reason, I would always — at the beginning of the school year — like to see our feelings permeated, as it were, with a healthy sensing of our great task, so that we may in all humility feel ourselves as missionaries in human evolution. In this sense, I always wish such [school-opening] talks to contain also something of a prayer-like element by which we may raise ourselves to the spirit, so that we evoke it not merely intellectually but as a living reality. May we be conscious of the spirit spreading among us like a living cloud that is permeated by soul and spirit*; may we feel that the living spirits** themselves are called upon through the words we speak among ourselves at the beginning of a new school year, that these living spirits themselves are called forth when we beseech them: 'Help us. Bring living spirituality among us. Insert it into our souls, our hearts, so that we may work in the right way.'” — Rudolf Steiner, EDUCATION FOR ADOLESCENTS - Foundations of Waldorf Education X (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), pp. 135-136.
* In Anthroposophical belief, your soul is the spiritual identity you have in a single lifetime, and your spirit is the deeper spiritual identity that you carry through all your lifetimes as your reincarnate over and over.
** I.e., gods. According to Anthroposophical doctrine, there are nine ranks of gods arrayed above humanity. Gods of the lower ranks concern themselves in human affairs in various ways, including overseeing the work of Waldorf faculties. Here, Steiner speaks of prayers addressed to these gods at the beginning of the school year.
"To see human beings come from spirit worlds* and the physical world through birth; to see what lives in them, what they brought down in definite form to gradually become defined as their features and movements; to see properly the divine forces and manifestations working through the human form into the physical world — all this has something that, in the deepest sense, we might call religious. No wonder, then, that wherever there are efforts toward the purest, truest, and most intimate humanity, and where these exist as the very basis of everything anthroposophic, we can contemplate the mystery of the growing human being with sacred, religious feeling that evokes all the work we are capable of." — Rudolf Steiner, HUMAN VALUES IN EDUCATION - Foundations of Waldorf Education XX (Anthroposophic Press, 2004), pp. 193-194.
* Steiner taught that there are two spiritual worlds above the physical world: the soul world and the spirit world. Informally, he sometimes referred to these as two "spirit worlds" or even as a single "spirit world." [See "Higher Worlds".]
"What unites this school’s faculty is the recognition that a divine spiritual element pervades all human activity, and that people can devote themselves to this divine spiritual element. They must do so especially when they have tasks such as those that teachers have. Our teachers always must be aware that their task consists in calling the spirit of the world* down into the school, and they must live in this awareness." — Rudolf Steiner, RUDOLF STEINER IN THE WALDORF SCHOOL - Foundations of Waldorf Education VI (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 88.
* I.e., the divinity that oversees earthly affairs. There are many ranks of gods, Steiner taught, and all of them contribute to the spiritual guidance of humanity.
"We must, in our lessons, see to it that the children experience the beautiful, artistic, and aesthetic conception of the world; and their ideas and mental pictures should be permeated by a religious/moral feeling. Such feelings, when they are cultivated throughout the elementary school years, will make all the difference during the thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth years." — Rudolf Steiner, EDUCATION FOR ADOLESCENTS - Foundations of Waldorf Education X (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), pp. 77-78.
"Children of fourteen or fifteen who have been educated according to modern [i.e., non-Waldorf] methods begin to be aware of a sense of injury if they are not permeated with the qualities of moral judgment and religious feeling. Something seems to be missing in their being. There is no better heritage in the moral and religious sense than to raise children to regard the elements of morality and religion as an integral part of their being, so that they feel fully human because they are permeated with morality and warmed by religious feelings." — Rudolf Steiner, A MODERN ART OF EDUCATION - Foundations of Waldorf Education XVII (Anthroposophic Press, 2004), p. 190.
"As teachers, we must aim at turning our young human beings into social beings by the time of puberty. We must also try to cultivate in them religious feelings, not in a bigoted or sectarian way, but in the sense that they acquire the seriousness necessary to recognize that the physical world is everywhere permeated by spirit. They should not feel inwardly satisfied with merely observing the outer sense world but should be able to perceive the spiritual foundations of the world everywhere." — Rudolf Steiner, WALDORF EDUCATION AND ANTHROPOSOPHY - Foundations of Waldorf Education XIII, Vol. 1 (Anthroposophic Press, 1995), pp. 120-121.
"[A]s a preliminary to religious and moral progress, teaching must establish a balance: on one side of the scale are all those things that lead to prosaic life and bind us to the earth; on the other side are the balancing factors that lead to art. They enable us, in every moment of life, to raise what must first be worked out in the prose of life to an artistic level —and so lead directly into the spirit." — Rudolf Steiner, A MODERN ART OF EDUCATION - Foundations of Waldorf Education XVII (Anthroposophic Press, 2004), p. 184.
"When you know something of initiation,* and are able to consciously observe what lays hold of the child’s body, it really is terrible to see how the child must ﬁnd a way into all the complications of bones and ligaments that have to be formed.** It really is a tragic sight. The child knows nothing of this, for the Guardian of the Threshold*** protects the child from any such knowledge. But teachers should be aware of it and look on with the deepest reverence, knowing that here a being [i.e., the child] whose nature is of God and the spirit has descended to earth. The essential thing is that you should know this, that you should ﬁll your hearts with this knowledge, and from this starting point undertake your work as educators." — Rudolf Steiner, THE KINGDOM OF CHILDHOOD - Foundations of Waldorf Education XXI (Anthroposophic Press, 1995), pp. 11-12.
* When using this term, Steiner almost always was referring to occult initiation — entree into circles where hidden spiritual knowledge is attained and spiritual mysteries are comprehended. [See "Inside Scoop".]
** This is the process of earthly incarnation, during which the physical body is formed and developed. [See "Incarnation".]
*** In Anthroposophical belief, entry to the spirit realm is blocked by a pair of guardians who preserve occult secrets from the uninitiated. [See "Guardians".]
"[W]e can bridge the gap to moral and religious education. I already spoke of this and need only add that everything depends on giving all teaching and gymnastics in a form that makes children experience their physical nature as a revelation of spirit pouring willingly and creatively into their bodies." — Rudolf Steiner, A MODERN ART OF EDUCATION - Foundations of Waldorf Education XVII (Anthroposophic Press, 2004), p. 188.
"By means of our pedagogical approach, we can convey to a child still at a tender age a feeling of reverence and respect for what is sublime in the world. We can enhance that feeling into a religious mood through which a child can learn how to pray." — Rudolf Steiner, WALDORF EDUCATION AND ANTHROPOSOPHY - Foundations of Waldorf Education XIII, Vol. 1 (Anthroposophic Press, 1995), p. 151.
"Waldorf education, which we at the Goetheanum* are endeavoring to cultivate and carry into the world, sows in the child something that can grow and thrive from early childhood into old age ... Why, we might ask ourselves, can some people raise their hands and have an influence of real blessing? Our educational insight tells us that only those can do so who in childhood have learned to pray, to look up in reverence to another human being. To sum it up in one sentence, we can say that all children who rightly learn to fold their hands in prayer will be able to lift their hands in blessing in old age." — Rudolf Steiner, WALDORF EDUCATION AND ANTHROPOSOPHY - Foundations of Waldorf Education XIII, Vol. 1 (Anthroposophic Press, 1995), p. 208.
* The worldwide Anthroposophical headquarters, located in Dornach, Switzerland. It is named for the German poet Goethe, whom Steiner admired.
“We must do all we can to prepare the child’s soul for what should develop later on as the adult faculty of forming sound judgments. In this way we will do far more for the child’s future religious orientation than by presenting religious commandments or ﬁxed articles of faith at an age when children are not yet ready for them. By clothing our subject in images, thus preparing the ground for what in later life will emerge as religious judgment, we prepare our students for the possibility of comprehending through their own spirituality what they are meant to grasp as their own innermost being — that is, their religious orientation.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE CHILD's CHANGING CONSCIOUSNESS AS THE BASIS OF PEDAGOGICAL PRACTICE - Foundations of Waldorf Education XVI (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 92.
"In religious instruction, it is important that you pay attention to the feeling and not the world-view ... You must also give the children the picture that God lives in what lives in us ... You should also show how God lives in the bloodstream, in the heart, in what we feel and what we think. Thus, you should develop a picture of the human being filled with the divine." — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER - Foundations of Waldorf Education VIII, Vol. 1 (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 43.
"If we consider [the child's] soul and spirit* descending to Earth, we cannot help but view it with reverence and awe ... This mood of soul allows us to see the child as a being sent down to Earth by the Gods to incarnate in a physical body. It arouses within us the proper attitude of mind for our work in the school." — Rudolf Steiner, THE ROOTS OF EDUCATION - Foundations of Waldorf Education XIX (Anthroposophic Press, 1997), p. 60.
* To repeat a point made earlier: Steiner taught that we have both souls and spirits. The former are our spiritual identities during one lifetime; the latter are our deeper spiritual identities that we carry through all our lifetimes. [We live many lives, Steiner taught. See "Reincarnation" and "Karma".] Anthroposophists refer to the combined spirt and soul as the spirit-soul or the soul-spirit.
Despite usually claiming to be
nondenominational and nonsectarian,
Waldorf schools generally require their students
to participate in the observance
of various religious festivals such as
Michaelmas, Easter, and Advent.
Often these events are given innocuous
names, such as "Fall Festival" or
"Spring Festival" — but they are
fundamentally religious events.
For more on this, see the section
on festivals in "Magical Arts".
"What I wanted to present to you is this: we must become aware of Michael’s battle;* it must become a reality for us if we are to celebrate Michaelmas** in the right way. No one is more called upon to play a part in inaugurating the Michael festival in the right way than the teacher. Teachers should unite themselves with Michael in a particularly close way, for to live in these times means simply to crawl into the dragon and further the old intellectual operation.*** To live in the truth means to unite oneself with Michael. We must unite ourselves with Michael whenever we enter the classroom; only through this can we bring with us the necessary strength. Verily, Michael is strong!" — Rudolf Steiner, BALANCE IN TEACHING - Foundations of Waldorf Education XI (Anthroposophic Press, 2007), p. 105.
* I.e., the battle of the Archangel Michael against the "dragon" of evil. In Anthroposophical doctrine, the dragon is the arch-demon Ahriman, and Michael is the archangel of the Sun. Michael is thus the champion of Christ, the Sun God. [See "Michael", "Ahriman", and "Sun God".]
** I.e., the mass of St. Michael, September 29. In Waldorf schools, Michaelmas is sometimes disguised as the "Fall Fair."
*** Waldorf education generally downplays use of the intellect, which Steiner associated with the wiles of Ahriman. the "dragon." [See "Thinking".]
"[Q]uite apart from the religion lessons the festivals of the year are celebrated with all children in a Rudolf Steiner school, in forms adapted to their ages. Christmas takes a very special place, and is prepared for throughout Advent by carol singing, the daily opening of a star-window in the 'Advent calendar' and the lighting of candles on the Advent wreath hung in the classroom. At the end of the Christmas term the teachers perform traditional nativity plays* as their gift to the children. All this is in the nature of an experience for the children, inspired by feeling and the Christmas mood. Later, in the religion lessons, on the basis of this experience, they can be brought to a more conscious knowledge and understanding of the Gospels." — Editors' note, THE KINGDOM OF CHILDHOOD - Foundations of Waldorf Education XXI (Anthroposophic Press, 1995), p. 137.
* The teachers give reverent performances — the Paradise Play, the Shepherds' Play, and the Kings' Play — that depict religious themes. [See "The Brief Waldorf / Steiner Encyclopedia".]
"Our religious instruction makes the children realize the significance of all the great Christian festivals of Christmas and Easter, for instance, much more deeply than is common today." — Rudolf Steiner, A MODERN ART OF EDUCATION - Foundations of Waldorf Education XVII (Anthroposophic Press, 2004), p. 166.
"Each year when Easter comes, it is a very special festival for the school, a special festival for children to experience and a special festival for all of human existence. This festival is anticipated in the beautiful language that nature now begins to speak to us." — Rudolf Steiner, RUDOLF STEINER IN THE WALDORF SCHOOL - Foundations of Waldorf Education VI (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 203.
"A year is only a day in the life of the spirits who pervade the cosmos and permeate the whole course of the year, just as the soul and spirit of human beings direct the course of their day." — Rudolf Steiner, THE ROOTS OF EDUCATION - Foundations of Waldorf Education XIX (Anthroposophic Press, 1997), p. 22.
"Whenever you [teachers] are with children...you must avoid any sense of being smart or a philosopher, and you should have absolutely no thought that, whereas you may understand the truth of immortality, the children are naive or simple ... If you think in this way, you cannot really connect with the children, and, consequently, they will get nothing at all from what they are told. The only way is to genuinely believe in the picture* ... As students of spiritual science,** we know that an emerging butterfly is a true image of the immortal human soul, which is placed into the world by the gods. We have to imagine that the gods inscribed this picture into the world — that is, the emerging butterfly being an image of the human soul’s immortality." — Rudolf Steiner, HUMAN VALUES IN EDUCATION - Foundations of Waldorf Education XX (Anthroposophic Press, 2004), p. 55.
* Steiner is speaking of the image of a butterfly emerging from a chrysalis. He spoke of this image often, saying it is a true emblem — created by the gods — of the immortal human soul transforming itself as it evolves. Although Steiner usually said that Anthroposophists know the spirit realm and don't need to rely on mere belief, here he stresses the importance of belief ("genuinely believe").
** I.e., as Anthroposophists. Steiner said that Waldorf teachers should be true Anthroposophists. If Anthroposophy is a science ("spiritual science"), then it enables its practitioners to attain true and certain knowledge of the spirit realm.
"It is really only possible to convey to the children what we ourselves believe in the depths of our souls. Only when we have wrestled our way through to the feeling that the image of the butterﬂy and chrysalis is no mere cooked-up comparison, but one presented to us by divine spiritual nature itself, only when we can believe in the truth of the image in the way that the children are meant to believe it,* only in that instant are we able to convey living spirit to them." — Rudolf Steiner, RUDOLF STEINER IN THE WALDORF SCHOOL - Foundations of Waldorf Education VI (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 24.
* Belief is essential in almost all religious, but the concept is out of place in science. Although Steiner professed to teach his followers how to know spiritual truths, he often also stressed the need for belief and/or faith. [See "Faith".] In several of the quotations we are rviewing here, Steiner suggests that Waldorf teachers should teach their children to believe the religious tenets of Anthroposophy. The teachers should really believe so that they children may believe.
"If, in creating a picture for the child, one thinks that one is doing so only to help the child understand the abstract concept of immortality, such a picture will not convey much, because imponderables play a role. Indeed, the child will gain nothing unless the teacher is convinced of the truth of this picture, feeling that one is involved with something sacred. Those who can look into the spiritual world believe in the truth of this picture, because they know that, with the emerging butterﬂy, divine-spiritual powers have pictured in the world the immortality of the human soul." — Rudolf Steiner, WALDORF EDUCATION AND ANTHROPOSOPHY - Foundations of Waldorf Education XIV, Vol. 2 (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 200.
"[W]e 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 - Foundations of Waldorf Education I (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 62.
* That is, Waldorf teachers continue and extend the actions of the gods, action undertaken by the gods when children's souls lived in the spirit realm before incarnation on Earth.
"In singing, eurythmy*, and physical education we spiritualize the children*. They are quite different beings at the end of the lesson; there is much more spirit in them." — Rudolf Steiner, EDUCATION FOR ADOLESCENTS - Foundations of Waldorf Education X (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 64.
* Eurythmy (yur-ITH-me) is a form of spiritual dance devised by Steiner. He said that eurythmy connects us directly to the spirit world. In most Waldorf schools, all students are required to do eurythmy. [See "Eurythmy".]
** Spiritualizing the children (causing the children to have "much more spirit in them") may be seen as the purpose of art and physical eucation classes at Waldorf. But in a larger sense, it may be seen as the purpose of all classes and activities at Waldorf.
"Eurythmy is an art form in which we use the human organism, with its possibilities for inner movement, as an instrument. What you see as an art form also has the possibility of ensouling and spiritualizing human movements*...." — Rudolf Steiner, THE SPIRIT OF THE WALDORF SCHOOL - Foundations of Waldorf Education V (Anthroposophic Press, 1995), p. 150.
* Here, Steiner speaks of causing children to have more soul as well as more spirit in them.
"[S]alvation and happiness in human evolution do not come from speaking great words about utopias and distant ideals for the future, or from nice words about things that are still undeﬁned and unclear and hovering in the misty distance ... Working for salvation and happiness and a livable society* lies in grasping the details of the tasks life presents us with. If we can think about ideals and ideas in the right way, then ideas become something holy for all of us ... The men and women who are Waldorf teachers really want to kindle their feeling of responsibility, really want to dwell in a right understanding of the world." — Rudolf Steiner, RUDOLF STEINER IN THE WALDORF SCHOOL - Foundations of Waldorf Education VI (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), pp. 110-111.
* Anthroposophy is both a religion and a revolutionary social movement, aiming to reform all human institutions on the basis of Steiner's teachings. The twin goals are religious ("working for salvation") and political ("working for...a livable society"). [See "Threefolding".]
"History lessons must be permeated thoroughly with a quality of the heart. Thus, we present it as much as possible through images. Students must see real forms, and these must never be described with cool detachment. One’s descriptions must be colored with both morality and religious feeling." — Rudolf Steiner, A MODERN ART OF EDUCATION - Foundations of Waldorf Education XVII (Anthroposophic Press, 2004), pp. 152-153.
"In history lessons, the great historical figures and the impulses of various eras can be presented so that moral and religious sympathies and antipathies develop in the children. Thus we achieve something of supreme importance." — Rudolf Steiner, A MODERN ART OF EDUCATION - Foundations of Waldorf Education XVII (Anthroposophic Press, 2004), p. 189.
"We have to consider not only the individuality of every single child, but the individuality of every single teacher as well ... [W]hat matters is the capacities of individual teachers, and the development of their capacities ... You see, our job must always be development, but we must know where to look for what we wish to develop. We must link religious feeling — and later, religious thinking — with imitation [of the good examples we set] during the first stage of childhood, and moral judgment during the second." — Rudolf Steiner, THE ROOTS OF EDUCATION - Foundations of Waldorf Education XIX (Anthroposophic Press, 1997), pp. 63-64.
"A truly living consideration of history requires that people understand external events as symptoms of something hidden within ... The historical thus deepens into the religious. Then, you will find a way that will lead you through feeling into an understanding of what we can teach children at an early age, for instance, the Gospels or the Old Testament ... You teach them in the form of stories, and when the children have a living, historical feeling for the stories, the material in the Bible takes on a new life ... [C]onsidering history symptomatologically deepens a desire for religion, a feeling for religion." — Rudolf Steiner, THE RENEWAL OF EDUCATION - Foundations of Waldorf Education IX (Anthroposophic Press, 2001), pp. 209-210.
Despite usually claiming to be
nondenominational and nonsectarian,
Waldorf schools generally require their students
to sing religious songs — essentially hymns.
Here is a portion of a hymn, written by
an Anthroposophist, used in Waldorf schools.
[For more on this subject, see the section
on Waldorf songs in "Prayers".]
"Of all created things, of earth and sky,
Of God and man, things lowly and high,
We sing this day with thankful heart and say,
— A. C. Harwood, "Alleluia for All Things",
included in THE WALDORF SONG BOOK,
edited by Brien Masters
(Floris Books, 1992), p. 55.
"[W]e 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*. I ask you [Waldorf teachers] to understand these introductory words as a kind of prayer to those powers who stand behind us with Imagination, Inspiration and Intuition** as we take up this task.”*** — Rudolf Steiner, THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE - Foundations of Waldorf Education I (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 33.
* These are the gods (we have seen Steiner make many references to them in previous statements). Note that Waldorf teachers are meant to work in the "service" and in the "name" of the gods. (This is what Steiner meant when he said Waldorf teachers serve as priests.)
** In Anthroposophical doctrine, these are three stages of clairvoyant consciousness. Waldorf schools emphasize imagination, inspiration, and intuition without usually admitting that, at root, they wish to promote clairvoyance. [See the entries for these various terms in The Brief Waldorf / Steiner Encyclopedia.]
*** Steiner delivered these remarks to the teachers of the first Waldorf school as they inaugurated the school's first year.
"We can clearly see what is happening inside the human body once we have reached the stage of clairvoyant imagination.* In objective seeing such as this, every stroke of a typewriter key** becomes a flash of lightning. And during the state of imagination, what one sees as the human heart is constantly struck and pierced by those lightning flashes." — Rudolf Steiner, SOUL ECONOMY - Foundations of Waldorf Education XII (Anthroposophic Press, 2003), p. 146.
* Central to Anthroposophy is the effort to develop clairvoyant powers in order to perceive spiritual realities. Steiner taught that there are several levels of clairvoyance, including "imagination." [See "Knowing the Worlds".]
** The obverse side of Waldorf spirituality is an aversion to modern science and technology. Steiner had reservations about even such simple technological products as typewriters and steam engines. “When we build steam-engines, we provide the opportunity for the incarnation of demons.” — Rudolf Steiner, “The Relation of Man to the Hierarchies” (ANTHROPOSOPHICAL MOVEMENT, Vol. V, Nos. 14-15, 1928).
"Language teaching [at Waldorf] is usually between ten and twelve in the morning. This is the time used to teach what lies outside the main lesson in the first part of the morning.* Thus any form of religious instruction also takes place at this time ... [A]fternoons are used for singing, music, and eurythmy lessons.**" — Rudolf Steiner, THE SPIRITUAL GROUND OF EDUCATION - Foundations of Waldorf Education XV (Anthroposophic Press, 2004), pp. 96-97.
* At a typical Waldorf school, the day begins with a prayer. [See "Prayers".] This is followed by the "main lesson" — the longest, most important lesson of the day. Here Steiner says that language instruction follows the main lesson, and this may include religious instruction. (Steiner taught that language is a gift of the gods, and it is a key medium for spiritual creativity.)
** Bear in mind, as we saw previously, Steiner indicated that Waldorf art classes and physical education classes have religious purposes. He also said that virtually all other classes at Waldorf can have such purposes. Thus, the entire school day may be devoted, one way and another, to religion (Anthroposophy). "A religious atmosphere can be created in every lesson and subject." — WALDORF EDUCATION AND ANTHROPOSOPHY, Vol. 2, p. 184.
"A teacher: Should we have the children learn verses?
"Dr. Steiner: Yes, at first primarily from the Old Testament and then later from the New Testament. The verses contained in prayer books are often trivial, therefore, you should use verses from the Bible and also those verses we have in anthroposophy.* In anthroposophy, we have many verses you can use well in this anthroposophical religious instruction."** — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER - Foundations of Waldorf Education VIII, Vol. 1 (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 48.
* The "verses" used in Waldorf schools are, often, prayers. [See "Prayers".] They may also be passages from religious texts.
** Even if Anthroposophy were absent from other parts of the Waldorf curriculum, the presence of "anthroposophical religious instruction" would clearly bring Anthroposophy into the school. Moreover, it would at least suggest which form or religion the Waldorf faculty (with it Anthroposophical leanings) would endorse. Indeed, the religious nature of Anthroposophy would be, at a minimum, implied. (Steiner made Anthroposophy's status as a religion clear when, for instance, he said "[T]he Anthroposophical Society...provides religious instruction just as other religious groups do." — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER, p. 706.)
"[T]hose parents who wanted an anthroposophically oriented religion class to a certain extent forced us to provide one* ... A number of strange things then occurred. For example, a rather large number of children left the other religion classes [Catholic, Protestant, Jewish...] in order to join ours. That is something we cannot prohibit."** — Rudolf Steiner, THE RENEWAL OF EDUCATION - Foundations of Waldorf Education IX (Anthroposophic Press, 2001), pp. 196-197.
* At the first Waldorf school, various types of religious instruction were provided for students of various faiths. Anthroposophical religious instruction was also provided for students who chose it or whose parents requested it. Steiner called these Anthroposophical lessons "free" religious instruction because it had been "freely" chosen. [See "Waldorf Worship".] Here Steiner says that he was "forced" to provide such lessons, and he could not "prohibit" students from signing up.
** You can decide whether you believe Steiner, here. He claims that he and the teachers at his school — the original Waldorf School — offered Anthroposophicl religious instruction only because students' parents forced their hand. He couldn't "prohibit" this, so he gave in. (The reality, at least according to critics, is that the whole point of creating Waldorf education was to lure students toward Anthroposophy, and at true-blue Waldorf schools today subtle Anthroposophical instruction is woven into most classes and activities.)
"At the Waldorf school in Stuttgart we have been able to pursue an art of education based on anthroposophy for many years ... Roman Catholic children [in the school] receive religious instruction from a priest and Protestant children from a Protestant pastor. Only those children whose parents specifically request it receive religion lessons involving a freer religious instruction based on anthroposophy ... Our goal...is to enable every teacher to bring the fruits of anthroposophy to their work, no matter where they may be teaching or the nature of the subject matter."* — Rudolf Steiner, THE ROOTS OF EDUCATION - Foundations of Waldorf Education XIX (Anthroposophic Press, 1997), pp. 17-18.
* Steiner says that Waldorf students may elect explicit Anthroposophical religious instruction, and Waldorf teachers should "bring the fruits of Anthroposophy" to all their work in all subjects — so that even students who do not elect Anthroposophical religious instruction will be exposed to Anthroposophy, if only indirectly.
"[E]very Sunday we have a special form of service for those [students] who attend the free religion lessons.* A service is performed and forms of worship are provided for children of different ages. What is done at these services has shown its results in practical life during the course of the years; it contributes in a very special way to the deepening of religious feeling, and awakens a mood of great devotion in the hearts of the children." — Rudolf Steiner, THE KINGDOM OF CHILDHOOD - Foundations of Waldorf Education XXI (Anthroposophic Press, 1995), p. 138.
* See "Waldorf Worship".
"[T]his is how our free, nondenominational, religion lessons came about. These were given by our own teachers, just as the other religious lessons were given by ministers. The teachers were recognized by us as religious teachers in the Waldorf curriculum. Thus, anthroposophic religious lessons were introduced in our school. These lessons have come to mean a great deal to many of our students." — Rudolf Steiner, SOUL ECONOMY - Foundations of Waldorf Education XII (Anthroposophic Press, 2003), p. 140.
"Despite the fact that we never planned on this instruction except in response to parents’ requests and the unconscious requests of children (to my great distress, I might almost say), the demand for anthroposophic religious instruction constantly increases. And now thanks to this anthroposophic religious instruction the school has a completely Christian character."* — Rudolf Steiner, SOUL ECONOMY - Foundations of Waldorf Education XII (Anthroposophic Press, 2003), p. 125.
* See the prior note on the "Christian" character of Anthroposophy. [Also see "Was He Christian?" and "Sun God".]
It is worth mulling over Steiner's claim that Anthroposophical religious instruction was instituted at least in part because of "the unconscious requests of children." Do you buy this claim?
Steiner's claim that such requests distressed him is also worth contemplation.
"It...became necessary for us to give special religious instruction from the standpoint of spiritual science, or anthroposophy. Even in these religious lessons, we do not teach spiritual science but try to find symbols and parables in nature that lead toward religion.* We try to bring the Gospels** to the children in a way that will give them more spiritual understanding of religion and the like.***" — Rudolf Steiner, THE SPIRITUAL GROUND OF EDUCATION - Foundations of Waldorf Education XV (Anthroposophic Press, 2004), p. 114.
* This is an apt description of Waldorf education in general. Students are not, usually, presented with the doctrines of Anthroposophy openly stated, but they are presented with "symbols and parables" that convey Anthroposophical meanings. Children are thus led "toward religion" — which in the Waldorf universe is Anthroposophy.
** Anthroposophy respects the Bible, but Steiner also taught that the Bible contains numerous errors. He "corrected" many of these in his own "Fifth Gospel", in which he tells the "true" story of Christ's incarnation on Earth. [See "Steiner's Fifth Gospel".]
*** The "way" the Gospels are presented is the Anthroposophical/Waldorf way. The result is to give students a "more spiritual understanding" (a deeper, more Anthroposophical understanding) of "religion and the like" (religion and other forms of spirituality — which Anthroposophy claims to summarize and unify).
"For children of nine or ten onward, we prepare them most wonderfully to receive the glory of Christ if they have already been introduced to the principle of universal divinity that pervades the world. This, then, is the goal of religious teaching as given in a Waldorf school, where there is an ever-increasing number of children whose parents wish it. The teaching is based on a purely human element and associated with a particular form of ritual. A service is held each Sunday for the children who are given free religious instruction. And for those who have left school, there is a service with a different ritual. A certain ritual, in many ways similar to Mass, is adapted to the children’s ages and associated with the religious teaching at the Waldorf school."* — Rudolf Steiner, A MODERN ART OF EDUCATION - Foundations of Waldorf Education XVII (Anthroposophic Press, 2004), p. 168.
* See "Waldorf Worship".
"It is especially important in this sense to know how to guide the child’s religious development. It cannot be genuine and inwardly true if it is brought about solely through religious stories or creeds; it depends rather on the teacher’s ability to engender a religious mood in the child. Religious education achieves its goals only when the religious mood rises spontaneously from the depths of children’s souls. However, if the teachers themselves are not permeated with a religious mood, it cannot develop in the child. If, on the other hand, this mood is there in the teachers, they need only do as we do in our so-called free religion lessons in the Waldorf school." — Rudolf Steiner, WALDORF EDUCATION AND ANTHROPOSOPHY - Foundations of Waldorf Education XIV, Vol. 2 (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 182.
"In the religion lessons too...how well [a simple parable] can be used to show how the child develops religious feelings through what is great, for the great is the protector of the small, and one must develop true religious feelings by ﬁnding in oneself those elements of greatness that have a protective impulse." — Rudolf Steiner, THE KINGDOM OF CHILDHOOD - Foundations of Waldorf Education XXI (Anthroposophic Press, 1995), pp. 65-66.
“[N]othing is more important than that we are able as teachers to develop the necessary reverence, the necessary enthusiasm,* so that we can teach with reverence and enthusiasm. Reverence and enthusiasm — these are the two secret and fundamental forces that must permeate the teacher’s soul with spirit.” — Rudolf Steiner, BALANCE IN TEACHING - Foundations of Waldorf Education XI (Anthroposophic Press, 2007), p. 22.
* In religious and spiritual movements, "enthusiasm" generally is spiritual ardor, devotion, or passion.
Note how, in several of these quotations, Steiner indicates that Waldorf teachers must be true-believing Anthroposophists who has deep belief and commitment to Anthroposophy.
"An attitude of reverence will encourage a sense of responsibility toward the task of education. And without that sense of responsibility, we can achieve nothing in teaching." — Rudolf Steiner, THE RENEWAL OF EDUCATION - Foundations of Waldorf Education IX (Anthroposophic Press, 2001), p. 124.
"[A]bove all, we should feel reverence toward children, because they come to us from the depths of the universe as the highest manifestation of its nature ... Within this feeling, we find one of the most important impulses of educational method. This educational method has a different quality from methods devoted to nonspiritual matters.* Educational technique [at Waldorf schools] is essentially a moral impulse of reverence in teachers." — Rudolf Steiner, THE SPIRITUAL GROUND OF EDUCATION - Foundations of Waldorf Education XV (Anthroposophic Press, 2004), p. 54.
* Implicitly, Steiner tells us that the Waldorf method is devoted to spiritual matters.
"If we have received children in religious reverence, and if we have educated them in love up to the time of puberty, then after this we will be able to leave their spirit free* ... We must realize that all we can do is remove hindrances from the spirit — physical hindrances and, up to a point, hindrances of the soul.** What the spirit must learn, it will learn because you have removed the impediments. If we remove impediments, spirit will develop in relation to life itself, even in very early youth. Our proper task as educators is to remove hindrances." — Rudolf Steiner, THE SPIRITUAL GROUND OF EDUCATION - Foundations of Waldorf Education XV (Anthroposophic Press, 2004), p. 56.
* Waldorf education theoretically prepares children to become free adults. However, Waldorf education clearly inculcates religious moods, inclinations, impulses, and beliefs in young students. When such moods, etc., are absorbed early in life, a child's path through life may be essentially set long before s/he become a "free" agent able to make her/his own choices.
** As we have seen previously, Steiner said that humans have both spirits and souls. Spirits are higher than souls, he taught. Here, he says that the soul must not create hindrances for the spirit. Waldorf teachers attempt to prevent such hindrances by giving children the proper spiritual care.
"Teachers will feel differently when they say to themselves that here is a human being [a child] 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! Think about how the idea of the cosmos and its connection to the human being becomes a feeling that makes each act of teaching holy." — Rudolf Steiner, THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE - Foundations of Waldorf Education I (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 170-171.
* Anthroposophists believe that each true human being is a microcosmic replica of the entire universe, the macrocosm — and as such, each human being stands at the center of the universe. Steiner adds here that a Waldorf classroom is a center of the universe (because it contains many small centers: the children and, presumably, the teachers.)
Despite usually claiming to be
nondenominational and nonsectarian,
Waldorf schools generally require
their students to recite prayers.
Here is a portion of one such prayer,
written by Rudolf Steiner.
[For more on Waldorf prayers,
"God’s spirit weaves in light
Of Sun and human soul,
In world of space, without,
In depths of soul, within.
God’s spirit, ‘tis to Thee
I turn myself in prayer,
That strength and blessing grow
In me, to learn and work.”
— Rudolf Steiner,
PRAYERS FOR PARENTS AND CHILDREN
(Rudolf Steiner Press, 2004), p. 47.
"A teacher: Wouldn’t it be good if we had the children do a morning prayer?
"Dr. Steiner: That is something we could do.* I have already looked into it ... I ask only one thing of you. You see, in such things everything depends upon the external appearances. Never call a verse a prayer, call it an opening verse before school. Avoid allowing anyone to hear you, as a faculty member, using the word 'prayer.' In doing that, you will have overcome a good part of the prejudice that this is an anthroposophical thing." — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER - Foundations of Waldorf Education VIII, Vol. 1 (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), pp. 19-20.
* In fact, Waldorf schools typically require students to recite prayers, written by Steiner, at the start of each school day. But, in accordance with Steiner's directive, the schools usually call these prayers "morning verses."
"You still have the children say those phrases I once gave you as prayers for them, don’t you?"* — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER - Foundations of Waldorf Education VIII, Vol. 1 (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 69.
* Despite his injunction against using the term "prayers", Steiner occasionally used it himself.
"[T]he teachers enter the school in the morning. The students arrive a little earlier in the summer, at eight o’clock, and a little later in the winter. When they assemble in their classrooms, the teachers bring them together by saying a morning verse in chorus with the whole class. This verse, which could also be sung, embraces both a general human and a religious element, and it unites the students in a mood of prayer. It may be followed by a genuine prayer."* — Rudolf Steiner, SOUL ECONOMY - Foundations of Waldorf Education XII (Anthroposophic Press, 2003), p. 119.
* A "genuine" prayer is undisguised; it is explicitly called a prayer. In Waldor schools, the Lord's Prayer is sometimes used in this way, being recited after the "morning verse" (a disguised prayer).
“The reverence that is needed to make education effective, something that can take on a religious quality, will arise if you as a teacher are conscious that when around the seventh year you call forth from the child’s soul the forces that are used when the child learns to draw and to write, these actually come down from heaven! The child is the mediator, and you are actually working with forces sent down from the spiritual world.”* — Rudolf Steiner, BALANCE IN TEACHING - Foundations of Waldorf Education XI (Anthroposophic Press, 2007), pp. 16-17.
* Anthroposophy does not, in fact, teach that heaven exists. Rather, the higher worlds (or the "spiritual world") exist.
"If you look without prejudice, every child is a riddle to be solved, particularly for educators. If you look in this way at a growing child and say to yourself that what is presented here in earthly life is a continuation of the spiritual life, and it is our responsibility to guide what that divine being wanted in being incarnated in a human being,* then we will be overcome by a feeling of holiness without which it is not possible to educate." — Rudolf Steiner, THE RENEWAL OF EDUCATION - Foundations of Waldorf Education IX (Anthroposophic Press, 2001), p. 123.
* I.e., Waldorf teachers try to perceive what the spirit of a child seeks during its present incarnation on Earth.
"[M]uch depends on the nature of our feelings toward growing children — the degree of reverence we have toward the mysterious revelation of the cosmos in growing human beings. A tremendous amount depends on our ability to develop this feeling as teachers and educators." — Rudolf Steiner, PRACTICAL ADVICE TO TEACHERS - Foundations of Waldorf Education II (Anthroposophic Press, 2000), p. 24.
"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 I (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 37.
* I.e., the gods.
** I.e., what the gods have done for a child's spirit before the child is born on Earth. Waldorf teachers try to learn the gods' will through such techniques as the use of clairvoyance, the interpretation of dreams, and even study of horoscopes. [See "The Waldorf Teacher's Consciousness", "Dreams", and "Horoscopes".]
"Consider what we must deal with to educate children during the first period of life between birth and the change of teeth [i.e., age seven]. We are inspired with great reverence when we see how divine spiritual forces work down from supersensible realms! We witness them working daily and weekly, from month to month and year to year, during the first phases of children’s lives, and we see how such work carries them through to forming a second individual body.* In education we participate in this work of spirit and soul; for human physical existence, we continue what divine spiritual forces began. We participate in divine labor." — Rudolf Steiner, THE ROOTS OF EDUCATION - Foundations of Waldorf Education XIX (Anthroposophic Press, 1997), p. 7.
* According to Waldorf belief, the "etheric body" develops during the first years of life and is incarnated around age seven. This is the second body possessed by a fully incarnated human being. The physical body is the first. [See "Incarnation".]
"The physical organism was brought into the world by divine spiritual powers; it is a divine creation, and we must understand that, as educators, we are called on to cooperate in this spiritual creation." — Rudolf Steiner, THE SPIRITUAL GROUND OF EDUCATION - Foundations of Waldorf Education XV (Anthroposophic Press, 2004), p. 106.
"Knowledge of the human being [i.e., Anthroposophy] has to become second nature to [Waldorf] teachers, a part of their very being, just as the ability to handle paints and brushes has to be part of a painter’s general makeup, or the use of sculpting tools natural to a sculptor. In the teacher’s case, however, this ability has to be taken much more earnestly, almost religiously, because in education we are confronted with the greatest work of art we will ever encounter in life — which it would be almost sacrilegious to refer to as merely a work of art. As teachers, we are called on to help in this divine creation. It is this inner mood of reverence in the teacher that is important. Through such a mood, one ﬁnds ways to create a more and more enlivening relationship with the children." — Rudolf Steiner, WALDORF EDUCATION AND ANTHROPOSOPHY - Foundations of Waldorf Education XIV, Vol. 2 (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p.151.
“If the development of humanity is to progress, we must undertake this consciously, this bringing down [of spiritual influences] into the sense world ... We shall be consciously continuing along the path of the gods if we take over their work of imprinting thought upon the brain and convert supersensible eurythmy into sense-perceptible eurythmy.”* — Rudolf Steiner, BALANCE IN TEACHING - Foundations of Waldorf Education XI (Anthroposophic Press, 2007), p. 38.
* Steiner describes the teachers' task of inserting thoughts into children's brains, and infusing spiritual ("supersensible") eurythmy into the eurythmic movements made in the physical world. According to Waldorf belief, the human brain does not produce real thoughts, it is merely the receptacle for "living thoughts" created principally by the gods. The gods implant these thoughts, and Waldorf teachers continue this — at least in part by implanting Anthroposophical conceptions. [For more on living thoughts, see "Thinking". For more on eurythmy, see "Eurythmy".]
"[I]s it not ultimately a very holy and religious obligation to cultivate and educate the divine spiritual element that manifests anew in every human being who is born? Is this educational service not a religious service in the highest sense of the word? Is it not so that all the holiest stirrings of humanity, which we dedicate to religious feeling, must come together in our service at the altar* when we attempt to cultivate the divine spiritual aspect of the human being whose potentials are revealed in the growing child?" — Rudolf Steiner, RUDOLF STEINER IN THE WALDORF SCHOOL - Foundations of Waldorf Education VI (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 16.
* "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 (Anthroposophic Press, 1997), p. 24.
"It makes all the difference whether children...are brought up in a particular religious belief, or whether, by witnessing the teacher’s underlying religious attitude,* they are enabled 'to pull themselves up like a plant on its tendrils,' and thus develop their own morality later in life.**" — Rudolf Steiner, THE CHILD's CHANGING CONSCIOUSNESS AS THE BASIS OF PEDAGOGICAL PRACTICE - Foundations of Waldorf Education XVI (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 93.
* In Waldorf schools, mood and feeling are often deemed more important than ideas or facts — the schools try to lead students to the desired religious attitude, while often skimping on academic instruction.
** I.e., having witnessed "the teacher’s underlying religious attitude," the students will have a similar attitude, which will enable them to pull themselves upright and lead moral, religious lives of their own. (Directors of most types of religious schools would say something like this in explaining their purposes.)
"A natural outcome of this direct, tangible relationship between the teacher and the child is the child’s awareness of the teacher’s own religious feelings and of the way in which the teacher relates to the metaphysical world-all.* Such imponderables must not be overlooked in teaching and education. People of materialistic outlook** usually believe that whatever affects children reaches them only through words or outer actions. Little do they know that quite other forces*** are at work in children!" — Rudolf Steiner, WALDORF EDUCATION AND ANTHROPOSOPHY - Foundations of Waldorf Education XIII, Vol. 1 (Anthroposophic Press, 1995), p. 168.
* I.e., the spiritual power that suffuses the cosmos.
** Materialism, in this sense, is the belief that only the physical universe exists — that there is no spiritual realm.
*** I.e., spiritual forces, the emanations of "the metaphysical world-all" (the Godhead) reflected in "the teacher’s own religious feelings."
"A child can see whether an adult’s words express a genuine relationship with the supersensible world or whether they are spoken with a materialistic attitude — the words have a different 'ring.' The child experiences a difference of quality between the two approaches. During this period between the ninth and tenth years, children need to feel, if only subconsciously, that as they look up to the authority of their teachers, their teacher likewise looks up to what no longer is outwardly visible. Then, through the relationship of teacher to child, a feeling for other people becomes transformed into a religious experience." — Rudolf Steiner, WALDORF EDUCATION AND ANTHROPOSOPHY - Foundations of Waldorf Education XIII, Vol. 1 (Anthroposophic Press, 1995), pp. 169-170.
"If we place limits on knowledge, as is common, saying that we cannot enter the realm of spirit, this implies only that we cannot enter the human realm. To limit knowledge means that we remove the human being from the world as far as knowing is concerned. How can a soul be educated* if it has been eliminated by materialistic concepts?** Elimination of the soul was characteristic of the kind of materialism we have just passed through, and it still prevails throughout human activity." — Rudolf Steiner, THE ESSENTIALS OF EDUCATION - Foundations of Waldorf Education XVIII (Anthroposophic Press, 1997), p. 79.
* Waldorf education is far more concerned with "educating" students' souls than with educating their brains.
** I.e., the soul cannot be educated if, in accordance with materialistic beliefs, we deny the existence of the soul.
"If in my teaching*, particularly with children up to the age of nine, I can create a connection with the child’s soul, the child will allow me to guide her in a moral or religious connection. If I cannot create such a relationship, if I teach in such a way that the child closes her feelings off from me, the child will be unreachable by even the best moral or religious guidance."* — Rudolf Steiner, THE RENEWAL OF EDUCATION - Foundations of Waldorf Education IX (Anthroposophic Press, 2001), p. 122.
* Steiner is here describing the correct attitude for a Waldorf teacher; the "I" in this passage is the ideal Waldorf teacher.
** Note that here as elsewhere, we see Steiner ascribing the spiritual guidance of children to Waldorf teachers, not to clergy outside the schools. In this manner, Waldorf schools are meant to supplant ordinary churches as the fonts of spiritual wisdom.
"It is of fundamental significance for all education that we do not force developing human beings to judge* at too early an age ... [T]here are things in the world that cannot be seen but must be presented. There are things that cannot be seen, for instance, religious things. The same is true of moral things;** they also cannot be seen ... We need to teach children how to properly accept something because an authority presents it or to believe something because an authority believes it."*** — Rudolf Steiner, THE RENEWAL OF EDUCATION - Foundations of Waldorf Education IX (Anthroposophic Press, 2001), p. 92.
* I.e., use the reasoning brain to make critical judgments. Anthroposophists are generally wary of critical thought [see "Criticism"], and Waldorf schools typically seek to dissuade students from critical or abstract thought at least until high school [see "Waldorf Curriculum"].
** Although in several of these passage Steiner seems to equate religion with morality, here he makes plain the distinction: there are "religious things" and then there are "moral things." Waldorf teachers try to inculcate both.
*** This is one of numerous statements in which Steiner says that Waldorf teachers should assume the role of unquestioned authority figures, and Waldorf students should "believe something" because their teachers believe it (i.e., "because an authority believes it"). Since Steiner also said that Waldorf teachers should be true Anthroposophists, this means in effect that Waldorf students should accept Anthroposophy because their teachers do, even though the details of Anthroposophical doctrines may remain unclear to the kids.
"If you have previously been able to arouse in the growing child feelings tending in those directions of the will called religious or moral that you can bring forth through all your teaching, then you need only be a good observer of children to allow your authority to be effective when [a child gets older].* When you can observe that what you have previously prepared in the way of religious sensitivities is solidly in place and comes alive, you can meet the child with your authority." — Rudolf Steiner, THE SPIRIT OF THE WALDORF SCHOOL - Foundations of Waldorf Education V (Anthroposophic Press, 1995), pp. 145-146.
* I.e., if Waldorf teachers have led young children to internalize the desired religious mood, then when the children are older, they will be guided by the teachers' moral/spiritual authority. (Likewise, because the young children have been led to believe — if only vaguely — what their teachers believe, then when the children are older and begin making their own decisions about things, they will in all likelihood make the sorts of decisions their teachers would have approved. Having been molded by Anthroposophy, they will likely remain true to Anthroposophy.)
"[T]he teaching faculty must become the spirit and soul of the entire school organism. Only then will each teacher enter the classroom with the proper attitude and in the right soul condition ... [W]e must also remember that, in just these matters, an intensely religious element can be found. It is unnecessary to have the name of the Lord constantly on one’s lips or to call on the name of Christ all the time ... Nevertheless, it is possible to permeate one’s entire life with a fundamental religious impulse." — Rudolf Steiner, THE CHILD's CHANGING CONSCIOUSNESS AS THE BASIS OF PEDAGOGICAL PRACTICE - Foundations of Waldorf Education XVI (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), pp. 175-176.
"It is most important during puberty that the children have developed certain moral, religious feelings. Such feelings also strengthen the astral body and ego. They become weak if the religious, moral feelings and impulses have been neglected." — Rudolf Steiner, EDUCATION FOR ADOLESCENTS - Foundations of Waldorf Education X (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 78.
"If we go beyond an intellectual view of the world and have enough cognitive freedom to rise to artistic knowledge, we develop an inner reverence, permeated with religious fervor, for the invisible being — the marvelous world composer — who first arranged the tones in the various animal forms, and then created the human being as a symphony of the phenomena of animal nature. This is what we must carry in our souls as teachers."* — Rudolf Steiner, THE ESSENTIALS OF EDUCATION - Foundations of Waldorf Education XVIII (Anthroposophic Press, 1997), p. 64.
* I.e., God (or the gods) created animals to be, as it were, individual musical tones, whereas human beings are complete musical symphonies. [See Rudolf Steiner, MAN AS SYMPHONY OF THE CREATIVE WORD (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1978).]
"We must take special care that the girls especially enjoy the moral, the religious, and the good in what they hear in the lessons. They should take pleasure in the knowledge that the world is permeated by the supersensible; they should be given pictures that are rich in imagination, that express the world as permeated by the divine, that show the beautiful aspects of the good and moral human being ... With girls, we should bring the religious and moral life to their very eyes, while with boys we should bring the religious and beautiful predominantly into the heart, the mind, stressing the feeling of strength that radiates from them."* — Rudolf Steiner, EDUCATION FOR ADOLESCENTS - Foundations of Waldorf Education X (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), pp. 78-79.
* Here we find Steiner, on a spiritual basis, prescribing different educational approaches for girls and boys. [See "Gender".]
"Catholicism has assumed forms that are no longer true ... [And] Protestant spiritual life has become more or less fully intellectualistic. As far as our school is concerned, the actual spiritual life can be present only because its staff consists of anthroposophists."* — Rudolf Steiner, EDUCATION FOR ADOLESCENTS - Foundations of Waldorf Education X (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 60.
* Although Anthroposophy may appear Christian, in fact Steiner drew a distinction between Anthroposophy and Christianity. Here, he repudiates both Catholicism and Protestantism. The Waldorf religion is Anthroposophy.
“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. We must be serious about an idea often mentioned as a foundation of Anthroposophy, one of importance for us. We should be aware that we came down from the spiritual worlds into the physical world at a particular time. Those we meet as children came later and, therefore, experienced the spiritual world for a time after we were already in the physical world.”* — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER - Foundations of Waldorf Education VIII, Vol. 1 (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 118.
* Part of the reason Waldorf teachers should revere children is that the kids have arrived more recently from the spirit realm and thus, in a sense, they have more recent knowledge of it.
"If, for example, we realize that our tasks as teachers are connected to a human soul that steps into earthly existence and, from hour to hour and week to week, increasingly develops its inner capacities, and if we stand before a growing human being as before a sacred riddle to be solved,* a being who has come to us from the endless distances of the cosmos so that we can give that being the possibility to unfold and develop, then many new tasks, outlooks, and possibilities will arise for all of human life." — Rudolf Steiner, THE EDUCATION OF THE CHILD - Foundations of Waldorf Education XXV (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 90.
* A child is a "sacred riddle" in part because s/he comes more recently from the spirit realm and thus experienced things that happened there after their teachers left. Also, each individual human is in some ways unknowable to anyone else, although Waldorf teachers use their special powers hoping to solve the riddle posed by each child.
"Until the change of teeth [i.e., age 7]...we allow the child’s religious attitude to develop naturally ... [T]hus, we ground the religious element while we cannot yet touch the force of the inner, free individuality. We educate through nature and do not interfere with the soul and spirit. And when we approach the soul element between the change of teeth and puberty — since it is then that we must approach it — we do not force a religious feeling but awaken the child, and thus evoke the I* in the human being ... We become awakeners, not stuffers of the souls of children. This constitutes the true reverence we must have for all creatures placed in the world by the Godhead,** and we owe this especially to the human being." — Rudolf Steiner, THE ESSENTIALS OF EDUCATION - Foundations of Waldorf Education XVIII (Anthroposophic Press, 1997), p. 72.
* The "I", according to Steiner, is the spiritual ego, one's divine individuality. [See "Ego".]
** The Godhead, in Steiner's teachings, is essentially divine will, a fundamental but amorphous spiritual force. [See "God".]
"We have seen in our studies that until the change of teeth children are imitators ... I will need to use the insights of clairvoyant consciousness* to give you a clear description of what happens in young children at this stage of life." — Rudolf Steiner, SOUL ECONOMY - Foundations of Waldorf Education XII (Anthroposophic Press, 2003), p. 214.
* As leader of the Anthroposophical movement, Steiner was essentially the leader of a religious sect. In this role, he gave descriptions of the spirit worlds and the activities of the gods based on his claimed powers of clairvoyance. He used the same powers to gain the "insights" into human nature and child development on which Waldorf education is founded. [See "Oh Humanity".]
"The unfolding of the child’s being must fill us as teachers with feelings of reverence — indeed, we could speak of priestly feelings; because, the way soul and spirit are unveiled in the child really does constitute a revelation of that soul and spirit within the physical and etheric realm."* — Rudolf Steiner, THE ROOTS OF EDUCATION - Foundations of Waldorf Education XIX (Anthroposophic Press, 1997), p. 60.
* Steiner taught that the "etheric realm" stands above, but also infuses, the physical realm. Such ideas are fundamental to Waldorf education — we find them at the "roots" or "foundations" of Waldorf education (note the title and subtitle of the book in question). The worlds, realms, and levels of the supersensible universe as conceived in Anthroposophy are difficult map. For an overview, see "Higher Worlds".
"When you [students] enter a new school year, you who are in school and growing up should experience it as a festival that is incisive for your souls. You should tell yourselves to feel especially aware of the need to work hard and pay attention in school and to be connected to your teachers through love. You should experience something like a religious service in this and know that its forces are what illuminate and shape all of life. You should feel this to be something that is human in the highest sense of the word, as a special festival for your hearts, your souls, and your spirit."* — Rudolf Steiner, RUDOLF STEINER IN THE WALDORF SCHOOL - Foundations of Waldorf Education VI (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 152.
* Having often told Waldorf teachers that their work in school is essentially religious, here Steiner tells Waldorf students much the same thing.
"[T]hose of you [students] who have been here longer will have noticed that we are really trying with all our might to help you become people with a feeling for true human devotion, people who can look up to a spiritual, supersensible world. You will learn to understand the words 'spirit' and 'supersensible world' better and better as you move up from one grade to the next."* — Rudolf Steiner, RUDOLF STEINER IN THE WALDORF SCHOOL - Foundations of Waldorf Education VI (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 106.
* This is, in effect, a promise that at least some of the secrets of Anthroposophy will be unveiled. (The term "supersensible world," for instance, carries much Anthroposophical import, and is heard in almost no schools aside from Waldorf schools.) More crucial, the entire passage is a promise that Waldorf education provides religious training.
"Your teachers had often told you about this Goetheanum, and you had heard what a great pleasure, what an inspiration, what a refreshment for your teachers’ hearts each visit to the Goetheanum was. But then, my dear children, dear boys and girls, your teachers’ hearts and souls are deeply comforted again; they can say from the very depths of their souls that when something as beautiful as today’s assembly can happen here in school, it is a certain comfort to them. It is a comfort for them to see what they have been able to plant in the hearts and souls of their dear students, for this is something that belongs to them spiritually, and even though it demands great sacriﬁce and devotion, hard work and attentiveness on the part of your teachers, it is something that lasts." — Rudolf Steiner, RUDOLF STEINER IN THE WALDORF SCHOOL - Foundations of Waldorf Education VI (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), pp. 166-167.
"You [students] will learn many new things, and some of what comes to you will bring you new joys ... You will learn that what shines down from the moon and stars,* what expresses itself and reveals itself in this world that speaks to us when the plants grow green and come up out of the earth...all this challenges us to lend a hand and bring forth the best that we can ... What is presented to you in your new grade will help you learn to better understand the greatness and glory of this world, of the divine deeds of lofty beings."** — Rudolf Steiner, RUDOLF STEINER IN THE WALDORF SCHOOL - Foundations of Waldorf Education VI (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), pp. 106-107.
* Astrology (belief in the life-altering influence of "the moon and stars") lurks within the Waldorf belief system. [See "Astrology" and "Waldorf Astrology".]
** I.e., the deeds of the gods. Here again Steiner is telling Waldorf students that their education will bestow spiritual knowledge — i.e., the essence of Anthroposophy.
"[T]hose who have entered the path of spiritual knowledge, though they may not yet have attained spiritual vision* for themselves, will nevertheless feel forces stirring within that lead to spiritual insight. And these are the very forces that act as messengers and mediators of all the spirits at work in the cosmos. Spirit is active in the cosmos where we find the beings who guide the life cycle of the year."** — Rudolf Steiner, THE ROOTS OF EDUCATION - Foundations of Waldorf Education XIX (Anthroposophic Press, 1997), p. 23.
* I.e., clairvoyance.
** I.e., the gods who oversee the seasonal progression marked by the religious festivals observed at Waldorf schools.
"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* concerning the human being. And each Waldorf teacher applies this knowledge with heart and soul, because the child is the greatest teacher, and while one cares for the child, witnessing the wonderful development daily, weekly, and yearly, nothing can awaken the teacher more to the needs of education." — Rudolf Steiner, WALDORF EDUCATION AND ANTHROPOSOPHY - Foundations of Waldorf Education XIII, Vol. 2 (Anthroposophic Press, 1995), p. 224.
* The term "spiritual science," as used in Anthroposophy, means the use of clairvoyance to study the spirit realm. Thus, it essentially means Anthroposophy itself. (Theosophists apply the term "spiritual science" to their own system. Steiner adopted the term from Theosophy.) Here Steiner says that Waldorf teachers either use clairvoyance or they accept the reports of others who possess clairvoyance. The great difficulty in all this is that clairvoyance is an illusion; anyone who believes s/he is clairvoyant is engaging in self-deception. [See "Clairvoyance" and "Fooling (Ourselves)".]
"People must live in this organization and have the opportunity to teach what the inner source of human nature is,* what is hidden after people have grown, what we can again bring out of the sleeping powers of their human nature. Not everyone needs to be a clairvoyant and experience what can be experienced through the awakened powers of human nature, but everyone can be interested in what humanity can achieve through these living human forces."** — Rudolf Steiner, THE SPIRIT OF THE WALDORF SCHOOL - Foundations of Waldorf Education V (Anthroposophic Press, 1995), p. 93.
* I.e., the lessons Waldorf faculties teach are ultimately designed to reveal or at least suggest spiritual powers that are ordinarily hidden — powers that constitute "the inner source of human nature."
** I.e., even people who are not clairvoyant can learn — through Anthroposophy and/or Waldorf education — what humans are capable of achieving (such as developing clairvoyance) when connection is made to the "inner source of human nature," unleashing "living [or spiritual] human forces." This is another way of framing the spiritual purpose of Waldorf education.
"Lower forms of clairvoyance, such as telepathy, telekinesis and so on...are simply the result of...premature aging* in the central period of life. When this process of aging occurs at the proper time, people experience it in a healthy way, whereas if it appears in the twenties, a person gains clairvoyance of a low order ... If these forms of lower clairvoyance were studied from the aspect of premature aging, a people would gain far deeper insight into these phenomena." — Rudolf Steiner, SOUL ECONOMY - Foundations of Waldorf Education XII (Anthroposophic Press, 2003), pp. 53-54.
* Steiner frequently spoke of the dangers of premature aging. Thus, he urged Waldorf teachers to keep their students young as long as possible. "Although it is necessary, especially today, for people to be completely awake later in life, it is equally necessary to let children live in their gentle dreamy experiences as long as possible, so that they move slowly into life. They need to remain as long as possible in their imaginations and pictorial capacities without intellectuality." — Rudolf Steiner, A MODERN ART OF EDUCATION - Foundations of Waldorf Education XVII (Anthroposophic Press, 2004), pp. 103-104.
Here ("Lower forms of clairvoyance..."), Steiner says that premature aging during the middle phase of life can produce faulty clairvoyance; he regularly distinguished between false clairvoyance and his own "exact" form of clairvoyance. [See "Exactly".]
"During these years [i.e., early grades], you [teachers] should also emphasize the picture that human beings, because they are an image of God and a revelation of God, should be good. Human beings who are not good hurt God. From a religious perspective, human beings do not exist in the world for their own sake, but as revelations of the divine. You can express that by saying that people do not exist just for their own sake, but 'to glorify God.' Here, 'to glorify' means 'to reveal.' Thus, in reality, it is not 'glory to God in the highest,' but 'reveal the gods in the highest.'” — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER - Foundations of Waldorf Education VIII, Vol. 1 (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), pp. 43-44.
* Here Steiner explains one of the religious doctrines that Waldorf teachers should try to convey to their students. Significantly, he switches from talking about God to talking about "the gods." Despite superficial appearances — that Waldorf is either religiously neutral or basically Christian — the Waldorf belief system is devoutly polytheistic, fired by the desire to "reveal the gods in the highest." [See "Polytheism".]
"[A] worldview can develop into an experience of the cosmos, and the Sun and Moon may be seen in everything that grows and flourishes on Earth. When we educate young people with this kind of background, we will properly develop the experience of immortality, the divine, the eternally religious element in the growing child, and we implant in the child’s being an immortal aspect destined for further progress,* which we must carry in spirit through the gate of death." — Rudolf Steiner, THE ESSENTIALS OF EDUCATION - Foundations of Waldorf Education XVIII (Anthroposophic Press, 1997), p. 80.
* This is another way of stating Waldorf's purpose: It is to implant in children the spiritual impulses (or "immortal aspect") that will carry over, beyond death, to "further [spiritual] progress" in future lives.
"Religion is expressed in spiritual surrender to the universe. The religious life unfolds properly when, with our own spirit, we go beyond ourselves and surrender to a spiritual worldview — we should flow out into a divine worldview." — Rudolf Steiner, THE ROOTS OF EDUCATION - Foundations of Waldorf Education XIX (Anthroposophic Press, 1997), pp. 27-28.
"I will certainly think much about this school. It’s true, isn’t it, that we must all be permeated with the thoughts:
"First, of the seriousness of our undertaking. What we are now doing is tremendously important.
"Second, we need to comprehend our responsibility toward anthroposophy as well as the social movement.
"And, third, something that we as anthroposophists must particularly observe, namely, our responsibility toward the gods."* — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER - Foundations of Waldorf Education VIII, Vol. 1 (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 55.
* Significantly, Steiner says that Waldorf education has a "responsibility toward the gods" and also a "responsibility toward anthroposophy." A basic purpose of Waldorf education is to spread Anthroposophy. “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 - Foundations of Waldorf Education VI (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 156.
"Pondering such things awakens something in us like a priestly attitude in education. Until this priestly feeling for the first years of childhood has become a part of education as a whole, education will not find the conditions that bring it to life. If we merely try to understand the requirements of education intellectually, or try to rationally design a method of education based on external observations of a child’s nature, at best we accomplish a quarter education. A complete educational method cannot be formulated by the intellect alone, but must flow from the whole human nature — not merely from the part that observes externally in a rational way, but the whole that deeply and inwardly experiences the secrets of the universe ... Without this fundamental attitude, without this priestly element in the teacher (this is said, of course, in a cosmic sense), education cannot be continued."* — Rudolf Steiner, THE ESSENTIALS OF EDUCATION - Foundations of Waldorf Education XVIII (Anthroposophic Press, 1997), pp. 24-25.
* The Waldorf approach is wary of, if not wholly opposed to, rationality. "You will injure children if you educate them rationally....” — Rudolf Steiner, THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE - Foundations of Waldorf Education I (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 61. The Waldorf approach depends on discovery of "the secrets of the universe" — that is, hidden or occult spiritual knowledge. Steiner was a self-professed occultist. [See "Occultism".] The most important Steiner text studied by his followers is his book AN OUTLINE OF OCCULT SCIENCE. [See "Everything".] Steiner tells us that Waldorf teachers function as priests; the religion they serve is "cosmic" rather than narrowly denominational — it is Anthroposophy.
"In teaching religion,* you need to bring in all the things we have developed so far. When you teach, you must bring the children into a prayerful attitude, beginning with the lowest grades. You need to slowly develop a strongly prayerful attitude in the children. Children need to find the mood of prayer. We need to carry out 'Not my will, but thine be done.' We must raise the children into divine experience." — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER - Foundations of Waldorf Education VIII, Vol. 1 (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 367.
* At the first Waldorf school, there were special religious classes for members of various denominations and faiths, including Anthroposophy. But also, more or less covertly, Anthroposophical religious instruction was threaded through the entire curriculum, as the quotations we have been reading make plain. This latter religious approach has continued in typical Waldorf schools ever since.
"If you [Waldorf teachers] can bring it about that the children have concepts of respect and honoring, concepts of all that we can call, in an all-encompassing sense, a prayerful attitude, then such thoughts will be living in children permeated with a prayerful attitude, and will remain into old age. In old age, these concepts will be transformed into a capacity to bless and to give others the results of a prayerful attitude. I once said that no elderly person who did not properly pray as a child would really be able to bless in old age. Older people can only properly bless, that is, with the greatest strength, if they properly prayed as children."* — Rudolf Steiner, THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE - Foundations of Waldorf Education I (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 155.
* This is yet another way to state the purpose of Waldorf education: It is to teach the students to develop a "prayerful attitude" so that their entire lives will have a religious (Anthroposophical) orientation, enabling them at the end of lives to be exemplary elder who are able to pass blessings to those who came after them.
"Today* we exercise our sacred freedom in burying in the earth a symbol of the spirit, the pentagon dodecahedron** that contains our promise, given in the name of Christ out of our pure intentions and our active working strength — however we may apply it. Today we place this symbol in the earth like a seed, having directed toward it the most beautiful thoughts of which we are capable." — Rudolf Steiner, RUDOLF STEINER IN THE WALDORF SCHOOL - Foundations of Waldorf Education VI (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 120.
* Steiner was speaking at a ceremony marking the laying of the foundation stone for a new Waldorf building.
** The Waldorf belief system has many occult signs and symbols. [See "Signs".] Geometric forms are thought to have special powers, since Steiner taught that "Basic geometric concepts awaken clairvoyant abilities.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE FOURTH DIMENSION (Anthroposophic Press, 2001), p. 92. A dodecahedron is a solid body having 20 faces. In a classic dodecahedron, each face is a pentagon. In occult teachings (including Steiner's) a five-sided figure such as a pentagon is a symbol of the human being.
"During childhood we plant the seeds for an inner religious sense of morality and for an adulthood strong enough to meet life’s demands. This can be done when one tries to build a pedagogy from full knowledge of the human being,* knowledge that is the result of observation, from birth to the grave." — Rudolf Steiner, WALDORF EDUCATION AND ANTHROPOSOPHY - Foundations of Waldorf Education XIV, Vol. 2 (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 141.
* The "full knowledge of the human being" Steiner meant was his own description of human nature, based on his clairvoyant researches. [See "What We're Made Of" and "Our Parts".] This is what Waldorf schools essentially refer to when they claim to educate the "whole human being." [See "Holistic Education".] Bear in mind that etymologically "anthroposophy" means knowledge of the human being.
"[A] religious atmosphere can be created in every lesson and subject. Such an atmosphere is created in our school ... [E]verything introduced to the students in various subjects can be summed up, as it were, in a religious mood.* Our few speciﬁc religion lessons are given as additional lessons during each week. What lives in all of the other lessons anyway, and leads students to the divine-spiritual, is brought together in the free religious lessons, and lifted to the divine and spiritual level, through interpretation of natural phenomena and observation of historical events. Eventually, through the right cultivation of the religious mood, the children will experience moral impulses as the divine speaking in human nature and in the human being." — Rudolf Steiner, WALDORF EDUCATION AND ANTHROPOSOPHY - Foundations of Waldorf Education XIV, Vol. 2 (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 184.
* Note this. In Waldorf schools, "everything [emphasis added] introduced to the students" throughout the curriculum aims to create a "religious mood." This is reinforced by "our few specific religion lessons" and it culminates in "the free religious lessons" — i.e., Anthroposophical religious lessons. But essentially the entire Waldorf curriculum carries religious meaning and intent.
"[W]hat we are doing every moment here on earth is of significance not only for the earth, but for the whole of the universe. When the earth will have passed away, what we have carried into our daily tasks out of moral, soul-and-spiritual depths will arise to live in another world. Transformed, it will become part of a general spiritualization."* — Rudolf Steiner, WALDORF EDUCATION AND ANTHROPOSOPHY - Foundations of Waldorf Education XIII, Vol. 1 (Anthroposophic Press, 1995), p. 27.
* This is the ultimate aim of Anthroposophy and Waldorf education: promoting mankind's spiritual evolution, a "general spiritualization" that — in the distant future, on other worlds — will lift mankind into divinity. There will then be a general spiritualization. [See, e.g., "Tenth Hierarchy."]
— Compilation and commentary by Roger Rawlings
Anthroposophy has other places of worship,
in addition to Waldorf schools.
None is called an Anthroposophical church,
but many serve the functions of churches.
The most important example is the worldwide
Anthroposophical headquarters building,
the Goetheanum — which is effectively a cathedral.
For more about the Goetheanum, see
"Is Anthroposophy a Religion?"
Additionally, the Christian Community — an overtly
religious offshoot of Anthroposophy —
has many churches and other meeting places.
Because the Christian Community
does not deny that it is a religion,
its churches are forthrightly called
what they are: churches.
These are some Christian Community churches
For more on the Christian Community,
see "Christian Community".
You might note that many Waldorf schools
resemble Christian Community churches,
and vice versa.
If the photos of these churches and schools
were scrambled, and the labels removed,
it would be difficult to guess which building
is a church and which a school.
Rudolf Steiner gave indications for the
correct architectural principles to be followed
in the design of spiritual structures,
and his followers generally attempt
to comply with his directives.
"Waldorf education strives to create a place
in which the highest beings [i.e., the gods],
including the Christ, can find their home.”
— Anthroposophist Joan Almon,
WHAT IS A WALDORF KINDERGARTEN?
(SteinerBooks, 2007), p. 53.
Normally, the house of God (or the gods)
would be considered a church or temple.
And this is, effectively, what Waldorf schools are
or strive to become.
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