Can You Trust Me?

In some of my essays, I relate memories of my years as a Waldorf school student and, subsequently, as a recovering Waldorf alumnus. This raises a problem. I have argued that we cannot simply accept Steiner’s word for his clairvoyant visions. Where is the evidence that the universe is even vaguely like his description of it? But if I hold Steiner to this standard, then I must hold myself to it as well. So I cannot ask you to simply accept my word for what happened to me. As far as you may know, my memories may be unreliable, or I may be lying.

But consider that, unlike Steiner, I have bolstered my assertions with abundant evidence. In “The Waldorf Scandal”, for instance, I quote the NEW YORK TIMES and Anthroposophical witnesses concerning the events that nearly destroyed the Waldorf school I attended. More important, I have filled my essays with a vast number of quotations from Rudolf Steiner and his followers. All of these quotations are consistent with my memories, and some are directly applicable to them. This evidence makes my memories at least plausible.

But plausibility isn’t proof. So where does this leave us? For the sake of argument, let’s say that all of my memories are wrong. I’ll go even farther. Let’s say that the history of my old school is substantially different from what the NEW YORK TIMES, I, and others have indicated. Would these concessions undermine the work I present at this website?

No. My essays are only marginally concerned with what happened to me or others at the school I attended; the focus of the essays is on the doctrines laid out by Rudolf Steiner and the application of those doctrines at Waldorf schools in general. Statements made by Steiner and his devotees provide the key information you need to consider in order to draw your own conclusions. For this reason, even if we toss out all of my memories and all of the evidence supporting them, my essays will still give you plenty to go on.

Ultimately, Rudolf Steiner’s own words are the most crucial evidence. Steiner’s defenders often deny that Steiner said what he said, or that he meant what he said, or that the form of education he created is what he said it is. To get to the truth, you should turn to Steiner himself — read his actual words. A particularly fruitful source is FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER, in which you will find Steiner explicitly discussing the goals and operations of Waldorf education.* A few examples, which I have offered before:

◊ “Among the faculty, we must certainly carry within us the knowledge that we are...carrying out the intentions of the gods.” — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophical Press, 1998), p. 55. [1]

◊ “If you give them a slap, you should do it the way Dr. Schubert does ... I mean astral slapping. There are physical slaps and astral slaps. It doesn’t matter which one you give, but you cannot slap a child sentimentally.” — Ibid., p. 323. [2]

◊ “With the students, we should at least try to...make it clear that, for instance, an island like Great Britain swims in the sea and is held fast by the forces of the stars.” — p. 607. [3]

◊ “The little girl L. in the first grade must have something really very wrong inside. There is not much we can do. Such cases are increasing in which children are born with a human form, but are not really human beings ... I do not like to talk about such things since we have often been attacked even without them. Imagine what people would say if they heard that we say there are people who are not human beings.” — pp. 649-650. [4]

◊ “The use of the French language quite certainly corrupts the soul ... The French are committing the terrible brutality of moving black people to Europe....” — p. 588. [5]

◊ “Anthroposophy will be in the school....” — p. 495. [6]

In sum: Disregard me and my memories, if you like. Direct your attention, instead, to the Steiner statements I have quoted; check to make sure I have not distorted them; and then decide for yourself whether schools that are guided — in whole or in part — by Steiner’s thinking are likely to be beneficial or harmful for children.

— Roger Rawlings

February, 2010

* Even here, some doubts may arise. Like so many books attributed principally to Steiner, this one consists of transcripts of statements Steiner purportedly made. Steiner's faithful adherents tried to preserve virtually every word he uttered, deeming them all priceless gems. The very devotion of these followers serves as a sort of guarantee that the transcripts are accurate. But we can't know for sure. People make mistakes; errors can creep in. So take nothing totally on faith. Read cautiously, deploying all your capacity for critical evaluation. And if you want to hear from Steiner directly, bypassing middlemen as much as possible, turn to books that Steiner wrote and published on his own initiative. The two most important are OCCULT SCIENCE - AN OUTLINE, and KNOWLEDGE OF THE HIGHER WORLDS AND ITS ATTAINMENT. I offer tours through these volumes at "Everything" and "Knowing the Worlds". But don't depend on me. Get Steiner's books and read them for yourself.

[R. R. photo, 2001.]

Sunrise as seen one morning

from my back deck.

[NASA photo.]

Waldorf schools and Anthroposophy hold out wonderful promises. For some people, these promises may seem to be at least partially fulfilled. For many others, involvement in the Waldorf and Anthroposophical movements is likely to produce confusion, disappointment, emptiness, and/or alienation from reality. The pursuit of attractive but hollow promises can never, in the end, be truly satisfactory. Above you see a somewhat closer view of the Sun than is available from my deck.

Science can bring us true knowledge of the universe, as Anthroposophy cannot. In the decades since Steiner died, science has more and more disproved his teachings in such fields as botany, biology, geology, physiology, psychology, medicine, astronomy... Anthroposophy does not look closely at reality — it closes its eyes and loses itself in dreams. As for the Sun, the good Earth orbits it — as Steiner often denied — and it does so at a very comfortable distance.

Reality. You can't beat it.

Self and a quadrupedal friend.

Photo by a bipedal friend.

(My dog is not really larger than myself —

she is simply closer to the camera.

Illusions are common in our lives.

Anthroposophy, for instance, consists of nothing

but illusions.

Our task, if we are to live sanely,

is to spot the illusions

and see through them.)


My primary motivation in creating this website has been concern for families who are considering sending children to Waldorf schools. I have tried to lay out, clearly and comprehensibly, the sort of information I wish had been available to my parents when a Waldorf school was recommended to them, for my sisters and me, decades ago.

The process of creating Waldorf Watch has been arduous, taking thousands of hours over a number of years. But I’ll admit that, at one level, I’ve enjoyed it. The more deeply I dug into Steiner’s doctrines, the more amazed I became. His teachings are fascinatingly weird. The more I learned, the more my interest grew.

But now it is time to stop. I’ll never be altogether finished, I suspect. My life has been framed by Waldorf: I was a Waldorf student many years ago, and now in my retirement years I’ve been an investigator delving into the thinking that underpins the Waldorf movement. I will undoubtedly continue to review my work, fixing any errors I may have committed, and perhaps adding a bit of additional research on this point or that. But it is time for me to step back, hoping that others will take over, filling any gaps I have left, perhaps investigating particular Waldorf schools, and in general spreading the truth about Waldorf education.

Mankind faces many problems that are larger and more urgent than Anthroposophy and Waldorf schooling. Still, the harm that lurks in Steiner’s occult teachings needs to be understood and resisted. We cannot make a bright future for coming generations by treading the dark paths of occultism. We need to walk into the light.


[1] Note the plural: gods. Anthroposophy is a polytheistic faith. Parents who believe in more than one god may be comfortable with at least some portions of Steiner’s theology. But Christian, Jewish, Muslim, agnostic, and atheistic parents have cause for concern.

[2] This statement is a good example of Steiner’s troublesome manner of expressing himself. He said that if teachers are going to slap kids, they should use spiritual slaps (“astral slapping”). What should we make of this? Can we acquit Steiner by saying that he told his teachers to slap kids only spiritually and not physically? Perhaps. But note: a) For him, a spiritual slap would be far worse than a physical slap, since the spiritual level is so much more important than the physical level; b) arguably, Steiner allows for the possibility of physical slaps, since “[i]t doesn’t matter which one you give”; c) in any event, he tells Waldorf teachers that they may slap their students. The question, then, is whether it is right for teachers to inflict either physical or spiritual pain on students. Steiner’s answer is yes.

[3] Steiner’s doctrines include astrology, reincarnation, spiritual evolution, and other teachings that many parents will find alien. Also, as this quotation makes plain, Steiner frequently denied scientific truths, substituting bizarre alternatives (e.g., islands float).

[4] Steiner said that some people lack an “I,” which is the third of humankind’s hypothetical nonphysical bodies. He added that some people are “not reincarnated, but are human forms filled with a sort of natural demon.” — p. 649. People who lack "I's" are not really human, according to Steiner ("there are people who are not human beings").

[5] A German nationalist born in Austria, Steiner here expresses his hostility toward France. More important, he reveals his racism. Steiner’s defenders deny that he was racist, but many of his statements indicate otherwise.

[6] Steiner often denied that Waldorf students are taught Anthroposophical doctrines, and Waldorf faculties usually repeat this denial. But Anthroposophy is subtly woven into all parts of the Waldorf curriculum, and it covertly affects the students to varying degrees. Only parents who want their children to be drawn toward Anthroposophy should consider sending them to a Waldorf school.

Some people consider Steiner’s doctrines attractive.

Others see a very different quality in them.

“If with our coarse noses we were to sniff toward Saturn, we would smell nothing. But when the asafetida, which has a keen nose for Saturn, sniffs toward that planet, it smells what comes from it, adapts its gas content accordingly, and has a most foul odor. Suppose you are walking through an avenue of horse chestnuts — you know the scent of horse chestnut, or of linden blossoms? They both have such perfume because their flowers are sensitive noses for everything that streams into the universe from Venus. And so in very truth the fragrances of heaven come to us out of the plants.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE EVOLUTION OF THE EARTH AND MAN (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1987), lecture 9, GA 354.

[R.R. sketch, 2010.]

You should consider sending children to a Waldorf school

only if you deem Steiner's thinking sensible.

Waldorf education arose from, and still embodies,

the teachings of Rudolf Steiner.