spiritual syllabus

Alan Whitehead is a bit of an extremist — a Waldorf teacher who openly brings Anthroposophy into the classroom, explicitly teaching Anthroposophical doctrines to the students. [1]

Here is how he describes himself:

"ALAN WHITEHEAD has enjoyed a career in Steiner Education for over four decades. He received his teacher-education at GLENAEON SCHOOL under the tutelage of Miss Sylvia Brose. There he was privileged, in 1967, to be one of the founding teachers of Australia's first Steiner High School, where he was a Class Guardian and Specialist Art Teacher. 

"He was also a principal founder, and pioneer teacher (of both the Primary and High Schools) of Australia's second Steiner school, LORIEN NOVALIS, in Dural, Sydney. He was Chairman of the school from its 1971 inception, until he left in 1985. 

"As well, he founded and was the Director of the first full-time Steiner teacher-training facility in Australia, the LORIEN NOVALIS COLLEGE OF TEACHER EDUCATION." — Authors, Golden Beetle Books.

Whitehead has written numerous instructional manuals for Waldorf teachers, detailing his approach to Waldorf education. [Golden Beetle Books.] Many of these manuals are part of what he calls the Spiritual Syllabus Series.

Studying Whitehead's manuals is informative. Although most Waldorf teachers do not go as far as Whitehead does — most are far more circumspect about revealing their occult beliefs — Whitehead has been influential. He has led a Waldorf teacher-training program, and his manuals are widely available in the Waldorf movement. [2] He says openly things that other Waldorf teachers believe but hesitate to make public.

Here are some excerpts from two of Whitehead's many publications. [3] I have highlighted telltale terms — language that comes straight out of, or reflects, Anthroposophy.


We will start with some of Whitehead's indications for classes taught to 7th and 8th grade students:

"Class 7 Continental Geography Main Lesson

"In the beginning of the 4th planetary 'globe', Earth, the latest incarnation of our telluric home, there was only fire — Polaria, as it was known in occult circles. Fire condensed to gas in Ancient Hyperborea; then to liquid in Lemuria. Here, in the early stages at least, the world was all ocean; but with the advent of Atlantis, mighty Shiva, a compendium of the Spirits of Form, danced on the surface of the earth, dividing the waters from the land." — Alan Whitehead, GAZE BOTH WAYS (Golden Beetle Books, 2005), p. 3. [4]

"Class 7 Seven Races Main Lesson

"...In the racial evolution of the post-Atlantean age, of the 7 sub-races, the physical form gradually mirrored [soul differences], leading to the clearly recognizable physiognomic variations we see today in the 7 racial types." — Ibid., p. 12. [5]

"Class 7 Age of Chivalry Main Lesson

"...Rudolf Steiner tells us that the path of Exoteric Christianity was born on the Norse of Germanic [spiritual] stream ... Esoteric Christianity, as the Master also informs us, and of which he is the most important modern advocate, was and is cultivated by the Celts ... The Esoteric Church is Camelot itself!" — Ibid., p. 24. [6]

"Class 7 History & Geography of Play, Games and Sport Middle Lesson

"CASTOR: Well brother, here we go again, it's the Winter Solstice in the Southern Hemisphere — June 21 — and we're behind the sun for the next four weeks — as Gemini of course.

"POLLUX: Right brother; as the Greek expression of Gemini (what's in a name?), we are expected to inspire the wonderful world of Social Studies in the education of the child.

"CASTOR: Indeed, with our 'Sense of Ego'...we are best placed of The Twelve [sic] zodiacal principles to bring light — cosmic illumination — to this social, people or ego realm...." — Ibid., p. 35. [7]

"Class 7 Biographies Middle Lesson

"'Greetings Terry, thanks for hanging around in the earth sphere long enough to provide a stream of "higher" information on this Biographies middle lesson for Class 7.'

"'That's okay, and thank you for providing good counsel to my son's teacher re. my sad departure. I would have loved to be there to watch my boy grow up, but the cancer, you know ...! [sic] Anyway, I'm glad he's in a Steiner school where there is the comfort of continuity through the 7-year class teacher system.

"I suppose his teacher will become a kind of surrogate father to my son — and I couldn't wish for anyone better...." — Ibid., p. 42. [8]

"Class 8 Sociology Main Lesson

"Hello Readers, I'm Ganymede — Yes, that's me, the same who [sic] Zeus abducted to high Olympus to become the Cupbearer of the Gods — Aquarius ... The 'quality' of Aquarius is Man in Balance — an equilibrium of head, heart and hand as expressed in the Eurythmy gesture for the Waterbearer — it is one of Rudolf Steiner's 12 zodiacal gestures that moves! [sic] ... On an incarnational perspective [sic], Man is a 7-membered being; physical, etheric, astral bodies — sentient, rational, consciousness souls — and ruling over all, the ego — pure spirit." — Ibid., pp. 56-57. [9] 

"My Karma Ran Over My Dogma!
"Religious Teaching in Steiner Education

"Rudolf Steiner was forced to program religious instruction in his first [Waldorf] school ... [H]is school curriculum ignored no authentic spiritual teaching ... Steiner education protects the freedom of individuals to embrace whatever spiritual ideology they choose ... 'Mahometanism is the first post-Christian ahrimanic manifestation [i.e., a manifestation of the arch-demon Ahriman]. The culture of the Islamists is ahrimanic, only the quality of their mind is luciferic [i.e., it reflects the influence of Lucifer].' — Rudolf Steiner, Stuttgart, June, 1920." — Ibid., p. 92. [10]

"Mysterium Iniquitatus - Mysterium Pietus
"The 12 Aspects of Character - A St John Mystery

"...With a mineral body completely estranged from its divine origins, we of the Aryan epoch, really got into our straps on the good-and-evil path of character development. [paragraph break] Every subsequent culture tells of this timeless struggle, from Ancients [sic] India (Krishna-Kali); Persia (Ahura Mazdao-Ahriman); Egypt (Osiris-Set); Greece/Rome (Apollo/Apollyon), and finally the Judao[sic]-Christian world (Christ-Satan). All of these Beings, both light and dark, are, in part at least, ourselves; locked as we are in mortal combat on the battlefield of the War of Good and Evil. This war will climax, in the far future, with the decisive conflict of the War of All Against All...." — Ibid., p. 106. [11]


As troubling as the lessons for older students may be, those for younger kids are proportionately more so. Here are some plans for lessons to be taught to students in 1st and 2nd grades:

"The 4 Temperaments —
"Study of Man Main Lesson — Class 1.

"Once upon a time...four forest folk met.... 

"Nugget was stocky and strong with red, curly hair, a ruddy complexion, and bright blue eyes. His walk was firm, well-heeled even.

"Yellow Daisy was light-footed and fleet, with long, straight fair hair; she was slim, athletic, and angular; her skin glowed golden with heath — she had bright hazel eyes.

"Tubbina was brown-eyed, she was pleasantly plump, and walked with a ground-covering rolling gait (she didn't like running at all). Her hair was brown with a gentle wave, and her face was oval — she had an olive complexion.

"The last was Peter, he was thin — stick-like, even — with slightly raised shoulders; his walk was a little mechanical; in fact he didn't like walking at all. His features were squarish, and his crinkly hair was a mousy color. He had black eyes — or dark grey really — and his complexion was sallow....

"...[I]t is a good idea to only stay with children's temperaments in terms of story presentation ... [O]f course the temperaments are never actually mentioned, only their manifestations ... The choleric child (between 7 and 14) has a predominating astral body; the sanguineetheric; phlegmatic — physical; and the melancholic temperament has a predominating ego ... In teaching a 3-week main lesson on, ostensibly, the 4 temperaments, the teacher assists each child's 'body of light', his etheric body, to harmoniously inhabit that of darkness, his physical body...." — Alan Whitehead, THE PEOPLE POOL (Golden Beetle Books, 1993), pp. 14-22. [12]

"Flood Stories —
"World History Main Lesson — Class 1.

"[A] serpent rose from the sheet of white paper on my desk. It was small at first, and glittered in jewel-like colours; it writhed up into my consciousness and began to grow ... I must admit I suffered some apprehension when it opened its great jaws and swallowed me! Inside the belly of the Rainbow Serpent all was peace and dreamlike; I had no will of my own as I was carried skyward ... I found myself now on the back of the Rainbow Serpent; from here I could see the whole world ... I was tempted to have a peek into the future, but the look in the eye of my serpentine friend dissuaded me. So I got on with the job at hand [i.e., peeking into the past]; I turned and saw, at the end of the rainbow — Atlantis.

"...At 7 years of age, the children are recapitulating their Atlantean evolutionary phase; this recap. began when they were only 1, with Ancient Saturn; 2, Ancient Sun; 3, Ancient Moon; 4, Polaria; 5, Hyperborea; 6, Lemuria; 7, Atlantis. ... The hard head was the first member of man to incarnate, the subtle blood last. Man the microcosm reflected the Great Flood (geological Ice Age) with a flood of his own.

"...There was Ancient Atlantis spread before me, a vast black land, shrouded in whirling, white mists ... Later I saw Atlantean humanity divide into the 7 Races ... The Moon Messenger, Noah, took animals on his ark ... His was an astral migration...." — Ibid., pp. 23-25. [13]

"3 Soul Forces —
"Study of Man Main Lesson — Class 2.

"In an orchard high on a rolling hill
"Lived Cherry Tub Frog, she could NEVER keep still...
"In a vegetable path by a cool, clear stream
"Lived Lettuce Leaf Frog...
"He would loll in the shade, NEVER short of a dream...
"On a fine ploughed field so wide and flat,
"Clever Potato Frog pondered and sat....

"The 3 Froggies is a poem in which the 3 soul forces of Thinking, Feeling and Will have been allegorized ... Naturally something as potentially academic as the 3 soul forces must be transformed into pictures for 8 year olds. But the truth underlying [the pictures] remain immutable. Truth which it is imperative for the child to absorb ... References to head, heart and hand (including metabolic) activities will pepper this 3-week exploration of the Invisible Man, the 3-fold soul ... Even the children's school day is constructed according to the psychic demands of the 3 soul forces: The main lesson [beginning the day] is essentially a 'thinking' time ... The middle lesson [later in the morning] is devoted more to 'feeling'; and the afternoon block lessons, to will ... The aphorism 'know thyself', is a powerful but unconscious impulse in children; they absorb, through story and anecdote, the knowledge of their soul-spiritual constitution...." — Ibid., pp. 51-57. [14]

"Migrations of the 7 Atlantean Sub-races.

"'I only called him a "slopehead",' grumbled Michael...'and for that I've got a "punishment"'....

"'But that was a racist insult!' exclaimed Mother....

"In Lemuria, home of Adam and Eve, there was really only one race, Humanity. The Australian Aborigines are a dim reflection of this holistic condition ... The human race then divided into the 7 'sub-races' (as Rudolf Steiner describes them) in the following epoch, Atlantis.....

"[T]he first Atlantean sub-race...evolved to become the Negroid race ... Negro people always strike me as a 'young' folk ... [T]he negroid people's time has not yet come. Their contribution will be based on the Mercury Mysteries — rhythm-based. Negro people really do 'got rhythm'....

"'Young' would not describe the second Aryan sub-race, the North American Indians ... I always get a feeling of venerability and great age with them — Saturn qualities ... [They] established the concept of RANK, exemplified by the Red Indians respect for the 'Chief'....

"By the way, the Being of a race does not require its individuals to remain constant through their incarnations. A person can be Chinese in one life, Jewish the next....

"Even today...the Jews  dominate the global scientific and artistic fraternities...." — Ibid., pp. 85-89. [15]

For more on Whitehead's approach,
opening teaching Anthroposophical 
doctrines to Waldorf students,


[1] Whitehead's manuals include a standard Waldorf denial: "the students are not taught Anthroposophy" — GAZE BOTH WAYS, p. 92. But Whitehead's suggestions for virtually all courses clearly require Waldorf teachers to convey Anthroposophical doctrines to the students. Colleagues within the Waldorf movement occasionally criticize Whitehead for bringing Anthroposophy too openly into the classroom. Thus, for instance, the website Waldorf Answers has this to say: 

"A few individual anthroposophical authors writing on Waldorf education suggest the introduction into the curriculum of anthroposophical concepts and content in a way that is not demonstrable on the basis of the known cultural history of mankind ... One of the few such authors is Alan Whitehead." — http://www.waldorfanswers.com/WAnthroposophyMyth.htm.

We should note how carefully worded the Waldorf Answers statement is. It does not say that Whitehead brings falsehoods or fantasies into the curriculum. It says that the Anthroposophical "concepts and contents" are not "demonstrable on the basis of the known cultural history of mankind." Anthroposophists of course generally understand that their beliefs are not supported by ordinary science or scholarship, but to them this does not suggest that their beliefs are wrong. Rather, they complacently assure themselves that ordinary science and scholarship are wrong. Hence, Whitehead errs only in revealing Anthroposophical secrets, not in embracing those secrets.

[2] Whitehead's manuals are available at his own website as well as such sites as Waldorf Books [http://www.waldorfbooks.com/?s=whitehead].

Among his many publications is ANCIENT SATURN TO ATLANTIS, in which he attempts to present the contents of Steiner's OUTLINE OF OCCULT SCIENCE in language accessible to teenagers. Here is how Waldorf Books describes the result: 

"...Ancient Saturn to Atlantis serves up an invigorating rendition of Steiner’s Outline of Esoteric Science [i.e., OUTLINE OF OCCULT SCIENCE under a different title]. Teens will find this to be rollicking ride through the evolution of our world and of humanity (adults will also love it, but for heaven’s sake, don’t let the teens know!). In the process, they’ll also find themselves inspired by the grand vision, the wonder and the purpose of it all. An unexpected treasure!"

[3] A discussion website for users of the Spiritual Syllabus Series was established in 2003. It attracted a fair amount of traffic initially, but it later became dormant. The site's self-description: 

"This yahoogroup is for educators who are studying and using Alan Whitehead's Spiritual Syllabus series of books on Waldorf/Steiner Education. We welcome homeschoolers, as well as public and private school teachers and administrators from around the globe. The primary language is English. This group is for users to help users, though Alan may check in ocassionally. [sic]" — http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Spiritual_Syllabus/.

[4] These are the opening words of this lesson plan. Unlike many other lesson plans offered by Whitehead, this one is essentially a lecture.

For definitions and explanations of the terms Whitehead uses, see The Semi-Steiner Dictionary and The Brief Waldorf / Steiner Encyclopedia.

[5] This lesson plan is a little play or dialogue that might be enacted or read in class. Speakers include Merlin, King Arthur, and Mordred. This passage appears a couple of pages into the plan.

[6] This lesson plan is essentially a monologue delivered by "Merlin," a 13-year-old student whose teacher is named Arthur. The passage I have quoted comes from near the end of the plan.

The plan itself is followed by a short play, written by Whitehead. Titled "Vale Camelot", the play involves King Arthur, Merlin the wizard, and several Knights of the Round Table, among other parts.

[7] This plan takes the form of a dialogue between Castor and Pollux, two stars in the constellation Gemini. Astrology is never far below the surface in Waldorf education.

[8] This plan takes the form of a dialogue between the author and the dead father of a Waldorf student. 

Re. the "7-year class teacher system"At most Waldorf schools, a single teacher assumes primary responsibility for a group of students as they progress from grade to grade. In some schools, this "class teacher" remains with the group for five years; in other schools, the teacher may stay with the group for seven or even eight years. (In extreme cases, the teacher actually stays with the group from the beginning to the end of their Waldorf education — first grade, or even earlier, through twelfth grade.)

[9] This lesson plan is described by Ganymede, who in Greek mythology was a beautiful youth abducted by Zeus. He became cupbearer for the gods. Here, he seems to be identified with Aquarius, the constellation also known as the Water-bearer. Ganymede addresses multiple "readers" who might be Waldorf teachers or they might be students if the text of the speech were passed out in class.

[10] This is not a lesson plan, as such, but a brief essay by Whitehead.

[11] This, too, is an essay. Whitehead explains, 

"This chapter on the moral development of humankind has been included in an exposition of Steiner high school education due to the fact that, at the 18th year, the students are standing in the vestibule of adulthood, where one's good character [sic] is one's most precious possession." 

However, seventh and eight grade are usually not considered parts of high school, and the students are ordinarily far younger than 18 (generally 12-13 in seventh grade, 13-14 in eighth grade).

[12] While acknowledging that the young child has probably been exposed to popular culture (Donald Duck), Whitehead proposes introducing the child to Anthroposophic doctrines, such as belief in the four classical temperaments. [See "Humouresque" and "Temperaments".] Thus indoctrination begins (if it had not begun even earlier, in kindergarten or nursery school). There are primarily four kinds of people, the child is taught; the difficult term "temperament" is avoided in first grade, but the concept is driven home. Whitehead offers a story to tell the class, then a commentary for the teacher's guidance. Each temperament is associated with one of the four bodies humans possess, according to Anthroposophical belief. A central task of the teacher, Whitehead indicates, is to assist children in the process incarnating their bodies. 

[13] Again, a story is provided, followed by commentary to guide the teacher. Note that this is a history lesson. Steiner taught that Atlantis really existed, and here young students are told of Atlantis in their introduction to human history. This introduction will be reinforced by many subsequent stories, myths, and lectures. The biblical flood, in Anthroposophical reformulation, was the disaster that sank Atlantis. Noah — otherwise known as Manu — was the occult initiate, associated with Moon powers, who led a band of survivors to safety as Atlantis went under. Beyond this earthly history looms the cosmic history that is the central narrative of Anthroposophy, human evolution from Old Saturn to Future Vulcan. [See "Planets".]

The rainbow serpent is a figure from Australian aboriginal mythology; Whitehead begins with a figure his students presumably know well, and he proceeds to introduce Anthroposophical beliefs and doctrines.

[14] Steiner taught that true thinking is pictorial — it is imagination, which is a stage of clairvoyance. Here we see Whitehead trying to give young students "living pictures" that convey "immutable" (i.e., Anthroposophical) "truth." In Waldorf belief, people have both souls and spirits, and within the soul are three soul forces: thinking, feeling, and will. The important point to note is that Whitehead does not simply want to address all three of these forces, he wants the children to accept the Anthroposophical description of human nature. The students need to know themselves, so they need to accept the Waldorf vision. Whitehead expressly wants to convey "truth which it is imperative for the child to absorb." Thus he begins Anthroposophical indoctrination of the students.

[For more on the Anthroposophical view of human nature, see "What We're Made Of" and "Our Parts".]

[15] The story continues, describing other races and peoples. Dealing with the subject of race is always difficult in Waldorf schools, because Rudolf Steiner's doctrines include a deep strain of racism. [See "Steiner's Racism" and "Races".] Whitehead clearly intends this lesson to expose the evils of racism — we are all fundamentally alike, we incarnate in various racial forms during our various earthly lives. Yet the lesson contains racial stereotypes and is itself deeply racist, attributing significant psychic/spiritual differences to the races described. Teaching young children the false account of human history promulgated by Rudolf Steiner, along with its biased and false accounts of various human communities, is appalling. Waldorf teachers almost always mean well; but what they do is very often wrongheaded and damaging.

— Compilation and commentary by Roger Rawlings

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


Christmas : Waldorf-style

extremity : love, out of bounds

fairy tales : their use in Waldorf schools

gender : boys and girls

holistic education : the "whole child"

if only : wishing, hoping...

more on education : quotations about education, religion, health...

PR : efforts to "re-brand" Waldorf schools

pseudoscience : at Waldorf schools

Q&A : informed opinions, and others

spiritual syllabus

star power : astrology Waldorf-style

this very day : Waldorf and Steiner schools pledging allegiance

visits : welcome?

Waldorf priests : doing their duty

BBC & SWSF : on the air