◊ “No person is held qualified to 

form a judgment on the contents 

of this work, who has not acquired 

— through the School of 

Spiritual Science itself or in an 

equivalent manner recognized 

by the School of Spiritual Science — 

the requisite preliminary knowledge. 

Other opinions will be disregarded....”

— Prefatory note appearing at the beginning

 of numerous Steiner texts. [1]

◊ “[M]y knowledge of spiritual things is the

result of my own perception.”

— Rudolf Steiner [2]


Thinking Straight, Thinking Crooked

It may be enlightening to consider just how logical or plausible Rudolf Steiner’s teachings are. In brief, did Steiner make sense? [3]

Steiner called his teachings “spiritual science.” He said that his books and lectures present objective, verifiable facts about the spirit realm. It would seem, then, that the standards of reason and proof that apply to other sciences should also apply to Steiner’s “science.” Indeed, Steiner said as much. In defending Anthroposophy from charges that it is unreasonable, he stated the following:

“[S]ane and earnest thought not only can but must [emphasis by Steiner] be the touchstone of all the facts presented. Only one who submits what is here advanced to logical and adequate examination, such as is applied to the facts of natural science, will be in a position to decide for himself how much reason has to say in the matter.” [4] 

Although Steiner asserted that his teachings are factual, sane, and scientific, he also erected a thicket of defensive ploys that tend to deflect rational criticism. He said that his occult statements are based on his personal spiritual experiences, and therefore he presented them as undeniable truths. He said that his teachings are beyond the comprehension of anyone who disagrees with him. He said that the only way to test his statements is to develop the same clairvoyant powers he claimed to possess. He said that the language in which he clothed his findings has variable meanings, and these vary in strange ways, being the expression of "living" thoughts, and thus we can't really pin him down on anything. [See "Thinking".] While tipping my cap at Steiner’s defensives efforts, I will argue that no such defenses deserve rational assent.


We can begin our examination of Steiner’s (ir)rationality by looking at the claims I have just now paraphrased. This will only be a first, rough pass. We’ll return to examine matters in more detail later. One concession we can make immediately: Let's concede that Steiner very rarely strove for formal logical rigor, so we should not judge his statements by strict standards. To be fair, we should not be too hard on him concerning forms of thought (rationality, critical thinking) that he considered inadequate. Here's another concession, as well. I am not a logician; a professional logician would doubtless be unimpressed by my efforts here. But my goal is modest. I simply want to use easily grasped standards of rationality to get a handle on Rudolf Steiner's work — in other words, I want to consider the quality of Steiner's books and lectures using good, solid, real-world sense. I hope everything I say is true, but I will keep things informal, aiming to drive home a few fundamental points, approaching them from various directions. Because Steiner rarely strove for formal logical rigor, I will proceed accordingly.

OK: Let's take a first look at Steiner's claims as I have just now paraphrased them.

◊ One cannot be the witness who validates one’s own assertions (as in, Steiner says he knows what he’s talking about: He assures us that he has seen the stuff he says he has seen). Vouching for the accuracy of one's own statements boils down to I am right because I say so. Thus, a defendant in a criminal trial might assert, To the members of the jury: I prove my innocence by stating that I am innocent. To which the judge might quite rightly respond, Sit down, son — you’re going to jail. Taking Steiner at his word is extremely helpful if one wants to become an Anthroposophist. Steiner said his teachings are scientifically sound. That is apparently good enough for people who want it to be good enough — that is, it is good enough for people who yield to their bias in favor of occultism. For everyone else — that is, for people who want rational evidence and discussion — it is clearly insufficient.

◊ Let’s consider the same point from a different angle. The only thing that logically can be known about people who disagree with Steiner is that they disagree with him. They are not necessarily right or wrong. Proving that they are wrong requires proving that Steiner is right. But Steiner did not show that he is right. He merely asserted that he is right. He claimed a lot but proved nothing.

◊ Eyewitness testimony is notoriously unreliable. The statement I saw it with my own eyes has, on innumerable occasions, led to faulty verdicts in criminal cases. If I tell you that yesterday I saw George W. Bush knock down an old lady and steal her purse, you might (depending on your political affiliation) think that I more likely saw someone who merely resembled G. W. Bush commit this dastardly deed. Or, of course, you might think that I was hallucinating. Or you might think that I am lying. In any event, before sending G. W. Bush to the pen, you should demand far more than my eyewitness report. I saw it with my clairvoyant "eyes” takes this to another level. When Steiner said that his teachings are based on his "perception," he meant that he had seen various wonderful things clairvoyantly. Such testimony must be deemed even more suspect than ordinary, "with-my-eyeballs" first-person accounts. Possibly Steiner saw what he claimed to see, clairvoyantly. But possibly he was hallucinating when he "saw" these things. Or possibly his testimony is a tissue of lies. (The truth is that we have no reason to believe that clairvoyance even exists. "Clairvoyant" testimony is extraordinarily suspect. See "Clairvoyance".)

◊ Establishing impossible conditions for testing propositions is clearly invalid, yet this is what Steiner did. He claimed to be clairvoyant, and he said that to assess his teachings we need to become clairvoyant, too. But requiring us to become clairvoyant is like requiring us to grow additional heads. Steiner actually said that we need to grow “organs of clairvoyance.” [5] A clever defense, but bad science. To make his statements on these points valid, Steiner needed to prove that a) clairvoyance is possible, b) there are such things as organs of clairvoyance, and c) he himself, possessing organs of clairvoyance, was clairvoyant. Only then could he plausibly require us to reach a similar condition. But he didn't prove anything of the sort (he merely made unsupported claims), so the requirement he placed on us is wholly unfounded.


◊ About Steiner's use of language: Steiner asserted, repeatedly, that the "truths" revealed by "spiritual science" are essentially ineffable. The realities of the spirit realm transcend human comprehension and language. Now, this may be correct. But it severely weakens Steiner's claim that he could comprehend and describe the realities of the spirit realm. A science consisting of statements that do not adequately describe the subjects of that science winds up being empty, null, meaningless. Steiner wrote many books and delivered literally thousands of lectures in which he described what he said was indescribable, and when he was criticized, he frequently offered the defense that he had been misunderstood. Yes, statements that are inadequate are likely to be found inadequate. "Spiritual science" lacks rational content, as Steiner himself indicated it must.

◊ Conclusions cannot be postulated. In any logical system, such as plane geometry, a few basic postulates must be accepted as self-evident, such as: Only one straight line can be drawn between two points. The postulates used in any logical system must be few and obvious. Conclusions, by contrast, must arise from a rigorous process of proof. It is not self-evident, for instance, that a diameter perpendicular to a chord bisects the chord and its arcs. This cannot be offered as a postulate, but it can be reached as a conclusion if it is proven through a series of deductive steps. Clairvoyance cannot be postulated; the existence of clairvoyance must be proven. Likewise, “spiritual science” is not self-evidently a real discipline; we must be convinced that such a science is possible. Simply defining (postulating) complex or questionable propositions as true is invalid. Almost all of Steiner’s assertions require proof; almost none get it. [6] 


Let’s see what else we can discover. I won’t discuss huge numbers of Steiner’s statements, nor will I try to include examples of every type of logical blunder Steiner committed — we would all die of boredom. Instead, I’ll attempt to satisfy our curiosity with a few representative examples. To facilitate discussion, I will offer Steiner statements that many readers will find familiar.

Two basic requirements of logic are found in the principles of consistency and non-contradiction. These are virtually axiomatic. To be logical, you must make statements that are consistent with one another, and you certainly cannot make statements that flat-out contradict one another. 

Consistency is a broader concept than non-contradiction. Inconsistent statements do not necessarily invalidate one another, as contradictory statements do, but they are hard to fit with one another. If you tell one group of people one thing and another group another, you are being inconsistent. You may get away with it, but you will win no awards for honesty. Politicians violate the principle of consistency pretty often. Meeting with public school teachers, they promise increased support for public schools. Meeting with anti-tax zealots, they endorse the solemn need to cut all taxes, including those that pay for public schools. While it may not be impossible to "support" public schools while denying them the funding they need, inconsistency certainly seems to lurk in these contrary pronouncements. Persistent inconsistency is one reason politicians are generally considered liars. 

Steiner was, at least occasionally, inconsistent. Addressing teachers at the first Waldorf school, he said 

“The things I say here, I could not say to parents.” [7] 

Saying different things to teachers than to parents (giving the former the real scoop, and peddling soft soap to the latter) may be canny. It may be politic. It may even be necessary. But it is not truthful.

Contradiction, even more than inconsistency, smacks of intellectual dishonesty. It is not difficult to find specific Steiner statements that overthrow each other. For example, he sometimes said that the planets orbit the Sun, and sometimes he said that they don't. [See "Deception".] These teachings are not simply inconsistent; they are contradictory. Steiner contradicted himself on many specific issues throughout his career.

But I want to look at the question of Steiner's contradictions with a wider focus. Steiner tried to reconcile various irreconcilable religions in order to roll them up in the package he called Anthroposophy. (Theosophists and others also aim for an all-in-one religion, but we aren’t concerned with them here.) Steiner's doctrines include polytheism, the centrality of Christ, reincarnation, and evolution, among many other beliefs (i.e., Steiner's "clairvoyant observations"). Reconciling these tenets is, at the least, a challenge. If Steiner was a Christian, for instance, he should have taught that salvation through Christ results in eternal bliss in heaven (Christ's Father's house). Instead, Steiner taught that a good soul progresses toward perfection through a very long karmic process of repeated incarnations. He called this process evolution. The inverse of evolution is involution: Bad souls fall through downward incarnations to lower and lower levels. Here are three of Steiner’s pronouncements:

◊ “[P]eople live repeated earthly lives.” [8]

◊ “What, then, is this mysterious impulse making its victorious way through the world? ... It is the Christ himself. He goes from heart to heart, from soul to soul, living and working in the world regardless of whether he is understood as evolution progresses through the centuries.” [9] 

◊ “Monotheism...can only represent an ultimate ideal; it could never lead to a real understanding of the world....” [10]

Christianity, like Islam and Judaism, is a monotheistic faith: There is but one God. Steiner admitted the supremacy of the Godhead [11], yet he often spoke of multiple “gods,” as when he told Waldorf teachers that they must carry out the gods’ (plural) intentions. [12] Steiner tried to reconcile the various elements of his doctrines by, for example, asserting that few people except he and his followers understand Christ’s real nature and mission (“regardless of whether he is understood as evolution progresses through the centuries”): Christ assists humanity in its evolutionary progress through the mechanism of reincarnation. This will come as a surprise to most Christian ministers and theologians. A fundamental Christian tenet is that we live one life on Earth (not "repeated earthly lives") and then go to our eternal reward or punishment.

On the issue of multiple gods, Steiner did not so much resolve matters as make a choice: He opted for polytheism as a truer vision than monotheism (which can “never lead to a real understanding of the world”). We could permit Steiner to embrace both monotheism and a modified polytheism if we agreed that by “gods” he meant spiritual beings who are not themselves really deities but who are, rather, God’s attendants. But this would boil down to an affirmation of monotheism, with the subsidiary “gods” losing any real claim to that title, whereas we have just seen Steiner reject monotheism. So no deal.

What do we have here, then? To the extent that Steiner revered Christ, he was a polytheistic Christian. Does this make sense? No. Christianity is a monotheistic faith; Anthroposophy is polytheistic. Thus, true Christianity and Steiner's Anthroposophy are fundamentally incompatible. It is possible to spin elaborate rationalizations that seem to remove contradiction from this picture; Steiner devoted much of his time to such efforts. But in the end, irreconcilable beliefs remain irreconcilable — they contradict one another.


Steiner constantly skated on the edge — and often beyond the edge — of reason. [13] This brings us to an important empirical point. Being illogical isn’t necessarily the same as being wrong. In our topsy-turvy world, illogical things often turn out to be true. People can be right for the wrong reasons, or wrong for the right reasons. You may know things in your heart that your mind cannot justify — and your heart may be right, even if your mind cannot understand. Importantly, this may be a governing principle for spiritual matters. Possibly the spiritual realm is so far beyond our comprehension that our paltry logic doesn’t apply there. Maybe the spirit realm is so strange, from our perspective, that it is simultaneously Christian and not Christian, monotheistic and polytheistic, geared to salvation after one life and yet also geared to evolution over countless lives. Our minds can’t grasp such a state of affairs, but maybe that’s how things really are. We may just have to accept it.

But do we? The question for us here is whether Steiner gave us any good reason to accept his vision of spiritual reality. Put it like this: He invited us to a place that is beyond our comprehension, but — claiming to be a "spiritual scientist" — he promised us a comprehensible rationale. What reasons did Steiner give us for believing him? His visions may awe and wow us, but by the standards Steiner himself posited — the standards of “logical and adequate examination” — awe and wow are not enough. Steiner might have been better off if he had simply presented himself as a mystic whose teachings must be taken on faith. But he promised us logic and adequate evaluation. Did he deliver? If you are unsure of the answer, please keep reading. 

(One caveat or disclaimer or confession before we proceed. In much of what follows, I will scramble questions of logic with questions of fact. This will offend logicians, but I am doing it for a reason. Most readers will care far more whether Steiner was right than whether he was logical, and by "right" here I mean factually correct. Did Steiner give us descriptions of the universe that we can take seriously? "Adequate investigation," in this sense, includes checking not just the internal consistency of arguments but the applicability of the arguments to the real world. Thus, I will not offer an excursion into the heart of formal logic, but I will undertake a sort of layman's bus tour through some of logic's outer precincts. I am not presenting logic as it is usually taught but as I think it should be employed in response to Steiner's occultist claims.


Multiple logical laws arise from the underlying principles of logic. The laws tend to overlap, or at least they may seem to do so. In essence, all logic boils down to making reasonable deductions from one’s premises. Mathematics is rigorous logic applied to quantities. Symbolic logic can be considered the effort to apply math-like precision to ordinary language, discussions, and transactions. Logic in ordinary life is the use of reason to find truth. To treat Steiner fairly, I will confine our discussion to errors of the sort that anyone at any time should know to avoid.

Steiner frequently violated the law of the excluded middle, which states that you cannot divide the difference between true and false: A proposition is either true or it isn’t. Steiner tried to duck this law. He explicitly stated that “true” and “false” do not apply in spiritual science: 

“The concepts of ‘true’ and ‘false’ are dreadfully barren, prosaic, and formal. The moment we rise to the truths of the spiritual world, we can no longer speak of ‘true’ and ‘false’....” [14] 

Anthroposophy is a large-scale attempt to split differences and/or to ignore them.

Some may consider Steiner’s position on this point extremely “deep”: The spiritual realm is more profound than our human concepts of true and false, right and wrong, yes and no. Well, maybe so. But in that case, I repeat: Why would anyone believe Steiner? He has given us no comprehensible reason to do so. Indeed, he has stated that no comprehensible reason is possible.

Let’s stipulate that God is beyond human understanding. But surely we need to comprehend, on at least some level, the beliefs we cherish concerning God and his actions. Otherwise, not only logic but also religious teachings would totter. For instance, let’s consider the miracle of Jesus’s birth. Christians believe that Jesus was born of a virgin. Surely this belief must be either true or false. Mary either was a virgin or she was not a virgin — her condition couldn’t have been something in-between.

Now, of course, Mary's pregnancy and the birth of Jesus occurred (if they occurred) in the physical universe. Steiner did not deny that the concepts of "true" and "false" apply down here — he said that they do not apply up above, in the spirit realm. So, then, let’s put aside mere physical matters and ask some wholly spiritual questions, matters about which Steiner said "we can no longer speak of ‘true’ and ‘false.’” Was Mary's soul pure? Was Jesus the Son of God? Was Jesus the Savior? Did Jesus come from heaven? Is there such a place as heaven? Does God the Father dwell there? Is God the Father omniscient? Does God love us? According to Steiner, there are no true or false answers to these questions (concerning “the truths of the spiritual world, we can no longer speak of ‘true’ and ‘false’....”). What can Steiner mean except that spiritual “truths” are not “true”? Is there any rational way to accept such a proposition? How can "truths" be neither "true" nor "false"? Does Steiner's position stand up to “logical and adequate examination”? No. Judged by the standards Steiner himself accepted, his position is false. 


Steiner's arguments were not always illogical, of course. He was a smart guy; he could argue with subtlety and cleverness. But even when he did so, he often slipped. He often stubbed his toe on absurdity. Logical argumentation can boomerang. If a conclusion drawn logically from a premise turns out to be absurd — or if the argument can be extended so that it leads to absurd results — then the premise itself is exposed as being wrong. 

There is logical absurdity and factual absurdity. For the moment, let's concede logic to Steiner and focus on fact. Steiner regularly made assertions of the following sort: I can see hidden truths thanks to my clairvoyance. My clairvoyant ability allows me to assert that the planets do not orbit the Sun. [15] (As I've said, Steiner denied the orbital motion of the planets when he didn't contradict himself by affirming such motion. For the moment, let's pretend Steiner didn't violate the basic logical requirement of non-contradiction.) To put Steiner's position in more formally logical form: All of my clairvoyant observations are true. One of my clairvoyant observations is that the planets do not orbit the Sun. Therefore, my observation (the planets do not orbit the Sun) is true. According to Steiner, just about everyone except Steiner falls for an optical illusion about the motions of the planets: They foolishly think that the planets go around the Sun. Steiner said he knew better. Unfortunately for Steiner, however, science has proven quite conclusively that the planets do indeed orbit the Sun. Thus, not only was Steiner factually wrong about the planets, but, logically, his premise must also be untrue. In other words, Steiner here allows us to discover logically that he was not clairvoyant. (Of course, to repeat, Steiner sometimes said that the planets do orbit the Sun. Does this rescue him? No. It only makes his position all the more absurd — i.e., self-contradictory — and his claims of clairvoyance become all the more dubious. Neither he nor his clairvoyance seemed able to keep the story straight.)

Of course, Steiner rarely set out his positions in even mock-logical terms. I’ve made his “reasoning” seem plainer than it actually was. Still, we can often see through him. His claim that he was clairvoyant — that he objectively studied the universe as a "spiritual scientist" — collapses when we note his numerous, oft-repeated, howling bloomers. [See "Steiner's Blunders".] Steiner is refuted by reality. His clairvoyant powers are disproved by fact. 

Confining ourselves to facts is a limitation. But it is the limitation of reality. Whatever conditions may prevail in the spirit realm, conditions prevailing in the physical realm demonstrate that Steiner had no clairvoyant powers (or, at a minimum, his "clairvoyance" very often led him far, far astray). Thus, Steiner repeatedly taught that the heart does not pump blood. [16] Steiner was not an MD. How did he know what no one else knew about hearts? Because he was clairvoyant. Not.

Likewise, Steiner taught that goblins exist [17], we can converse with the dead [18], ancient humans established  colonies on distant worlds [19], and so forth. Steiner's teachings are a catalogue of factual absurdities. We must hold open the possibility that Steiner was right about at least some spiritual matters, but the possibility seems remote since the power on which he based his "observations' — clairvoyance — was not within his grasp. (Actually, it is within no one's grasp. It doesn't exist. I invite you again to see "Clairvoyance".)


Illogic is easiest to spot when it occurs within narrow confines: within a few sentences, say. But we can learn even more by adjusting our focal length to consider what we might call Steiner’s meta-fallacies — those that pervade wide swaths of his work. We’ve already done this with Steiner’s self-contradictions. Let’s look at two more examples.

Appeal to authority is a fallacy in which one cites an authority as if the citation were sufficient, in and of itself, to prove a point. Einstein (or Steiner) said so-and-so; therefore, it must be true. The most egregious form of appeal to authority occurs when you cite an “authority” who actually has no real knowledge of the subject under discussion. Einstein said baseball is the best sport, so it must be true. Einstein’s views, in such a case, carry little weight.

Even when we cite an authority in his/her field of expertise, the citation by itself does not prove anything. Authorities can be mistaken. “Experts” used to assure us that the Sun orbits the Earth, for instance. They were wrong; relying on their "authority" led us astray. 

Moreover, because experts can be mistaken, they often disagree with one another. Will a rate cut by the Fed bolster the stock market? Economics sage A says yes, while economics sage B says no. If you appeal to the authority of A, I may appeal to the authority of B, and the argument will remain unresolved. Appealing to authority has gotten us nowhere.

Some appeals to authority are explicit and easy to spot; others are implicit and more difficult to discern. But both forms are erroneous, and Steiner made both forms of the error over and over. He would cite an “authority,” or drop a name, or refer to a mystical tradition, or explain what this group or that believed long ago, and then press on as if he had made a conclusive point. Steiner denied that he did this [20], but he did it. His works are studded with references to occult texts, holy scriptures (Hindu, Christian, Zoroastrian...), holy men (Buddha, Christian Rosenkreutz, Zoroaster...), invisible beings (gods, demons, nature spirits...), ancient traditions and teachings and superstitions... He called upon "authorities" of many types, explicitly or implicitly. He did this in order to bolster his arguments. But nothing is proven by simply referring to some person or thing — nothing is proven even by citing vast hordes of such individuals or entities. In the real world, proving a proposition requires the submission of genuine evidence which is then subjected to rational analysis. Steiner almost never did this.

Steiner was highly educated. He impressed some people with his apparently limitless knowledge. He credited his virtual omniscience to his personal spiritual experiences, including clairvoyant examination of the Akashic Record, a celestial compilation of essentially all knowledge. [21] Various mystic traditions refer to the Akashic Record or some similar repository of transcendent wisdom; this repository is, in a sense, the ultimate "authority." In presenting himself as a spiritual master, Steiner joined a long, occult tradition — he claimed he was privy to deep secrets, gleaned from an authority beyond ordinary perception. But this claim clearly does not withstand rational scrutiny (iIt would be a brave student who footnoted a term paper with references to the Akashic Record). Steiner asserted that he saw many things that ordinary people cannot see. Maybe he did. Or maybe he was mistaken. Or maybe he was trying to fool us. Or maybe he was fooling himself. We cannot know without evidence supported by valid reasoning. Steiner’s undocumented assertions that he knew a whole bunch of secret stuff are worthless. [22]


Taken as a whole, Steiner’s works are an exercise in tautology or circular reasoning. This fallacy occurs when one starts and ends in the same place, merely rephrasing the premise and offering it as a conclusion. A simple tautology would be Cattle are herbivores, hence cows eat plants. This statement is perfectly true, but it hasn’t gotten us anywhere. A herbivore is, by definition, a plant-eater. Telling us that a herbivore easts plants has not advanced our knowledge of herbivores. 

Steiner was forever offering circular remarks. I’ll paraphrase a few that readers may have come upon before, in one form or another. • Spiritual beings are all around us because the spirit realm infuses all of the physical realm. • We can recall episodes from our past lives because we carry previous experiences within us thanks to the process of reincarnation. • We are engaged in the universal process of spiritual evolution because everything tangible manifests upward-striving or downward-decaying spiritual entities. People who find such sophistry convincing are excellent candidates for enlistment in Anthroposophy. (I’m tempted to add • Anthroposophists fall for tautologies since circular reasoning is irresistible to devotees of spiritual science — but perhaps I shouldn’t.)

Steiner said that his understanding of the spiritual worlds broadened and deepened over time. But he also said that he had been right all along: His later work confirms his earlier work, he said. In a late revision of OCCULT SCIENCE - AN OUTLINE, Steiner wrote 

“The outline as presented fifteen years ago [i.e., in the first edition] has in no way been shaken. Inserted in its proper place and context, everything that I have since been able to adduce becomes a further elaboration of the original picture.” [23] 

Note that the “outline” is the entire contents of the book. Thus, over a period of 15 or more years, Steiner did not change his views in any essential — his views had been "in no way shaken."

We can easily verify Steiner’s faithfulness to his own views (although, in truth, Steiner shifted ground more than he lets on). When we open a Steiner book, we know beforehand what we will find. There may be some some new details, even some surprises (for instance, books in which Steiner discusses beekeeping), but the core message will always be that ◊ the heavily populated spiritual realm is all around us, ◊ we ourselves are spirit beings, ◊ all creatures above and below, and we ourselves, are evolving (going up spiritually) or involving (going down spiritually), ◊ our evolution entails reincarnation and karma, ◊ we evolve to various "planets" or "planetary conditions", ◊ Christ the Sun God is crucially important to our evolution, ◊ the spirit world is not what science or orthodox religions teach, ◊ the realm of the spirits can be known through clairvoyance, ◊ Steiner can light the way ... and so on. Steiner almost never started at point A and then reasoned his way to point B. He started at point A, tap-danced, waved his hands, and finally — after a display of verbal contortions — ended triumphantly at point A. (Even when discussing bees, Steiner took us from A to A: e.g., 

“The group soul of a beehive...has attained a level of evolutionary development that human beings will later reach in the Venus cycle....” — Rudolf Steiner, BEES (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 176. 

The details are unexpected, perhaps, but the gist is what we’ve heard over and over: spirit realm, spiritual evolution, planetary stages of evolution, etc. [24])

One might argue that I’m attacking Steiner for being consistent, but that misses my point. Steiner’s conclusions tend to be reassertions of his premises, little more. Rather than establishing persuasive chains of reasoning, Steiner walked in circles. How could he have done anything else? He would have advanced his case — moving us, if not himself, from A to B — if he had provided at least a little confirming evidence. (I’m now speaking of a subject I will return to in our examination of insubstantiality.) Steiner might have produced a spirit (a nonphysical being, a denizen of the great beyond) that is clued in to earthly affairs, for instance. A gnome or goblin would be recalcitrant, so how about a guardian angel? If the spirit were invisible and inaudible to anyone but Steiner, Steiner might at least have conversed with it in our presence. From his invisible guest, he might have gathered some information that would floor us, such as that an earthquake would occur in fifteen seconds. So we would take out our watches, count down, experience the fearful tremor occurring as predicted, and presto, we would be swayed. But Steiner didn’t fool with such proofs. He conducted his spiritual explorations in private, within the confines of his cranium (although he would deny that last part: He taught that real cognition doesn’t occur in the brain [25]). Perhaps he was wise to work in private. His mentor, Madame Blavatsky, claimed to possess psychic powers much like those Steiner claimed. But, foolishly, Madame B. held demonstrations — seances and the like. Unfortunately for her, this allowed people to observe her fakery in action. In 1885, the London Society for Psychical Research officially pronounced her a fraud. She retired from public exhibitions thereafter, devoting her time instead to writing her masterpiece, THE SECRET DOCTRINE. [26] Steiner saw and learned. 

Please remember that Steiner said he was teaching us about a type of science to which the standards of the legitimate sciences apply. By his own admission, then, he failed to fulfill his standards: “logical and adequate examination.” He cut himself some slack, however, because he modestly stated that his work “may be numbered among the noblest achievements of humanity.” [27]


For a statement to be useful in the search for knowledge, it has to mean something, and that meaning must be clear enough for comprehension and analysis. Steiner’s language fails this test in interconnected ways. (In the following, we'll circle the subject — Steiner's slippery abuse of language — approaching it from various overlapping angles.)

Obfuscation: Steiner often used language that snowed his audiences rather than informing them. Attentive readers who have studied Steiner learn his codes, so they can more or less grasp his meaning. But even for such students, Steiner’s language is elusive, implying a profound wisdom that floats just out of reach. 

“Just as the leaders of the Sun’s evolution became the higher I that worked in the life body of the descendants of human beings who had remained on Earth, this Jupiter leader became the higher I that spread like a common consciousness through the human beings who had their origins in the interbreeding of Earth offspring with humans who first appeared on Earth during the period of the air element and then moved to Jupiter.” [28] 

All very true, no doubt, but still... If we weren’t dealing with a spiritual sage (and, if fact, we aren’t), we would urge Steiner to rephrase such sentences in plain language. But he just poured out stuff like this and kept going.

Obfuscating language serves as a great impediment to reasoning. If it were not an ad hominem [29], I would be tempted to say that Steiner was a fraud who cynically intended to thwart comprehension and analysis. Steiner’s defenders would say that he used such language because he was attempting to convey virtually ineffable truths. But whatever can be said at all can be said clearly, if one takes the trouble. Consider the Bible. Aside from prophetic passages and terms over which we might haggle (Is my “neighbor” just the guy next door or, really, everyone?), most of the Bible is perfectly plain, even though it conveys truths that Jews, Christians, and Muslims agree are incontestably profound. 

Equivocation: We can consider this a subset of obfuscation and an extension of the principle of non-contradiction: It consists of hedging your statements so that they are two-sided. Steiner peppered his lectures with such equivocations, often marked by phrases like “in a sense.” (A Google search for “in a sense” in Steiner’s books would approach infinity. Sorry: I jest. But the total would be a whole lot.) Variations: Steiner often resorted, over and over, to such interjections as “in a manner of speaking” [30], “so to speak” [31], “I speak here only pictorially” [32], “[this] is only an imagistic way of talking” [33], “as it were” [34], and the like. He was acknowledging that his statements are unclear; but instead of clarifying, he simple made the acknowledgment and moved on.

Of course, we all use such phrases. But when they become a recurrent refrain, they flag a problem. Steiner knew that his style was tough: 

“[My] books require the goodwill of the reader in dealing with a difficult style of writing....” [35] 

Note how this neatly puts the burden on the reader, not the author. Instead of correcting the problem in his language, Steiner ran with it.

As I’ve already conceded, the spirit realm may be a place of flux, multiplicity, and complex manifestation. But that isn’t the issue, here. Steiner’s exposition is needlessly equivocal. I gave the counterexample of the Bible. Here's another example, this time from physics. Quantum mechanics describes a completely bizarre deep level of reality where subatomic particles can be in two places at once, where time can run backward, where merely looking at something may cause it to change, and so forth. Our minds can scarcely cope with that weird realm. Yet we can discuss it in lucid, precise language: The exposition makes sense. In Steiner’s accounts of the spiritual realm, clarity is rarely attained or, apparently, even intended. A mystagogue's trade, after all, is more to mystify than to clarify.

Nonsense: Language is gutted when it is used to peddle misinformation. Let’s return to Steiner’s remarkable view — stated often but not always — that the planets do not orbit the Sun. In his exposition of this "truth," he employed seemingly impressive scientific jargon, but his grasp of the terms he tossed around was shaky. Speaking to Waldorf teachers, Steiner claimed this:  

“The Earth follows the Sun. The incline is the same as what we normally call the angle of declination. If you take the angle you obtain when you measure the ecliptic angle, then you will see that. So it is not a spiral but a helix ... The angle that encloses the helix is the same as the path of a star near the North pole ... [T]he North pole remains fixed, that is the celestial North Pole.” [36] 

An awesome display or knowledge. Except — well, let’s break it down. The solar/planetary motion is “not a spiral, but a helix.” This statement would be illuminating if “helix” and “spiral” weren’t essentially synonyms. [37] In truth, the Earth does travel a spiral-like path, but not the one Steiner described. Steiner said that the Sun and six planets wing through space together, with some planets lined up behind the Sun and some lined up ahead of the Sun. 

“[I]t is not that the planets move around the Sun, but these three, Mercury, Venus, and the Earth, follow the Sun, and these three, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn, precede it ... [I]t appears as though the Earth goes around [the Sun], whereas it is actually only following. The Earth follows the Sun.” [38] 

The line the planets and Sun follow, according to Steiner, is a corkscrew spiral or helix. But all of this is bunk. The planets orbit the Sun. No planet always follows the Sun, and none always precedes it. Nor are the planets arranged in bunches, three behind the Sun and three ahead of the Sun. Traveling in separate orbits, the planets separately circle the Sun. Each planet winds up describing its own spiral path, but the group of six-planets-and-Sun does not form a line and this line is not a spiral or helix. (The Sun orbits the center of our galaxy, so the orbits of the planets are stretched: At the end of an orbit, a planet does not return to the place where the orbit began, but it arrives at a point farther along the Sun’s galactic orbit. In this sense, each planet travels a spiral path, corkscrewing along the Sun's orbital path. The Sun, on the other hand, does not travel in a corkscrew fashion; within the context of the galaxy, the Sun travels in a regular, smooth orbit.) [39] 

“[T]he North pole remains fixed.” No cigar. The terrestrial north pole shifts. The shifting is called the precession of the equinoxes (I can use fancy lingo, too). The celestial north pole is an imaginary point in the sky around which stars seem to circle. This point is an illusion caused by the Earth’s rotation. As the Earth’s north pole changes position, so does the celestial north pole. (Steiner carefully distinguished between the fixity of the terrestrial and celestial poles — “that is the celestial North Pole” — but this is pointless.) Since the precession of the equinoxes has great implications for astrology, and since astrology figures in Steiner’s doctrines, Steiner's ignorance about the movement of the poles is shocking, simply shocking. But apparently some things are not recorded in the Akashic Record. [40]

Steiner’s fancy terminology ("declination," "ecliptic"...) doesn’t add anything but a patina of learning — a very thin patina. The Waldorf teachers whom Steiner addressed apparently accepted his guidance on astronomy as on virtually everything else. But let’s move more circumspectly. For instance, what angle would we get if we “measure the ecliptic angle”? Maybe, let me guess, the ecliptic angle? If we accept the ecliptic angle as equal to the angle of declination, then Steiner’s words undergo a near-truth experience. But, upon careful examination, the vestiges of truth evaporate. ◊ “The Earth follows the Sun.” No. The Earth and the Sun are gravitationally linked, but the Earth is not arranged in a line with the other planets, no matter how snaky, and it does not follow the Sun along this line. ◊ For the same reason, there is no “incline.” The Earth does not follow the Sun either uphill or down. ◊ The ecliptic — an imaginary circle on either the celestial sphere or the surface of the Earth — is defined by the Earth’s orbit around the Sun, but here Steiner says the Earth does not orbit the Sun. ◊ “Stars” (some of which are actually distant galaxies or even more distant galactic clusters) that appear to be near the pole ("a star near the North pole") occupy different angular distances from it, so there is no single “angle that encloses the [nonexistent] helix”. Strike four. [41] 

Many of Steiner’s other assertions are similarly devoid of true meaning. He frequently used highfalutin' language to no other effect than stunning his listeners and readers. The degree of stunning depends on the degree of credulity. Each Anthroposophist must speak for her/himself, but the impression created is that Steiner has won converts by offering fabulous, detailed, stunning — but at many points erroneous — visions of a mind-blowing super-reality. But Holy cow! I believe! is not a rational response. [42]


Logic is concerned with the forms of statements, not — strictly speaking — the contents of those statements. But in the real world, contents are crucial. No statement can be true, in reality, if it expresses empty thoughts or falsehoods. Even if Steiner had been a careful logician, his work would fail this essential test:

Steiner almost invariably committed what I will call the mistake of insubstantiality (aka fantasy), which for our discussion we can take as failure to provide factual evidence. Logicians do not worry much about evidence. A statement can be considered logically true even if it lacks factual content — even if it consists of factual falsehoods. For example, the following syllogism is logically true but factually absurd: (A) All dogs can fly; (B) Barney is a dog; therefore (C) Barney can fly.

Aha! cries the Anthroposophist. Your vaunted "logic" is disconnected from reality. It allows you to believe that dogs can fly! Sorry. It does no such thing. Logic tells us how to think rationally, not what to think about. If you start with silly premises (“All dogs can fly”) then you will reach silly conclusions (garbage in, garbage out: GIGO). The tool of logic, employed by people who take care to start with factually true premises, enables us to ascertain truths about reality: truths in both senses: logically true and factually true.

Finding examples of insubstantial statements in Steiner’s works is embarrassingly easy. Steiner almost never bothered with evidence. In reading the following, ask yourself: Are these statements grounded in fact? What evidence would we need to accept them? What sort of thinking do we see in action here? Do these statements compel acceptance? I’ll keep these quotations brief, which opens a possible rebuttal: I have left out the evidence! Well, no, I haven’t. Steiner did. Please go to the passages I quote and look around for evidence, either before or after. Hint #1: Be prepared for a long, unrewarding slog. Hint #2: Consider what Steiner says about the human head (third quote, below). What does this tell us about his view of mental processes? [For more on these matters, see "Thinking" and "Steiner's Specific".]

Consider these Steiner quotes, please:

◊ “There were...beings who had detached Mars from the common cosmic substance and made it their dwelling place.” [43] 

◊ “What spiritual beings become [clairvoyantly] visible in any particular instance depends on the colour to which we devote ourselves. In a red room, other [spiritual] beings become visible than in a blue room....” [44] 

◊ “The human head was formed by cosmic antipathy. When the cosmos is so ‘repulsed’ by what human beings have in them that the cosmos expels it, then this form [i.e., the human head] is created.” [45] 

◊ “[T]he physical sun...is the external expression of the spiritual world that is received at the point where Christ’s physical body is walking around.” [46] 

◊ “[T]he heart is indeed a sense organ for perceiving the blood’s movement, not a pump as physicists [sic] claim.” [47] 

◊ “[T]he scientist would, in principle, always say that minerals, plants and animals would develop without the existence of people. [paragraph break] This is incorrect ... At a particular stage in their earthly development, human beings, to develop further, needed to rid their nature, which then was much different than it is now, of the higher animals [i.e., animals evolved downward from people]....” [48]

We could dig deeply into all these statements, but I’ll offer just a quick response to the last one. Steiner’s evolutionary theory was completely at odds with the findings of science. Notice that Steiner actually affirms his disagreement with science. But this is unfortunate for him. Vast volumes of evidence have been accumulated to support Darwinian evolution. Where is the evidence for Steinerian evolution? As usual, Steiner offered no evidence, and scarcely a scintilla has been provided by any of his devotees. This is characteristic of most of the claims Steiner made. He performed no field work or experiments to substantiate “spiritual science.” He just spoke.

Steiner pretended to tell us about reality, but his remarks lacked substance. They blow away on the breeze. They do not recommend themselves to our brains, those uncomprehending organs sitting forlorn in hollowed globes of antipathy, our skulls.

— Roger Rawlings

Samples of Steiner's "logic" are scattered throughout Waldorf Watch. Here's one from the page titled "Star Power":

"The head develops first in the embryo. It is utter nonsense to regard it as being merely inherited. Its spherical shape tells you that it is truly a copy of the cosmos." — Rudolf Steiner, EDUCATION FOR ADOLESCENTS (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 36.

If that seems illogical to you (as it should) you need to consider this:

"Logic does not apply when we come into a sphere [i.e., area or subject] that can no longer be comprehended by physical means. We finally have to realize that our physical logic works neither in the realm of philosophy nor anywhere else where we concern ourselves with other than physical forms of existence." — Rudolf Steiner, THE UNIVERSAL HUMAN (Anthroposophic Press, 1990), p. 84.

Now, the "spherical" human head is presumably a physical form, so... But Steiner's aversion to logic was actually not confined to any one plane of existence. (And is there such a thing a "physical logic"?)

Steiner's response to demands that he be logical was generally to disavow logic (despite his endorsement of the need for "logical and adequate examination").

How to make the impossible plausible.


[R. R., 2009.]

To consider Steiner's "logic" on the subject of karma,

please use this link: "Karma"

The following is excerpted from

"Steiner Static".

(If you want to see the preceding

forty-five quotations by Steiner.

see — you guessed it — 

"Steiner Static".)

If you send your children to a Waldorf school, some of their teachers may be quite wonderful individuals. But among the faculty, including those you admire most, there are likely be deeply committed followers of the occult creed known as Anthroposophy. For this reason, your children may be drawn toward a dark universe of confused, wishful irrationality — which Anthroposophists think is a place of light and love.

Trying to have a meeting of the minds with Anthroposophists is often difficult, and sometimes it is impossible. Unless you happen to share some of their doctrines, you will likely find that true-believing Waldorf teachers occupy a very different mental space from your own. Their conception of clear thinking, truth, and even morality may have few points in common with yours.

In trying to understand the Waldorf ideology, it is always best to consult Rudolf Steiner — not because he said things clearly, but because he is the source Waldorf teachers themselves consult. Here is the complete version of a passage I excerpted in "The Moral View", above. The passage is not easy to grasp, and it deals with a nastier subject than Steiner often addressed. But in various ways it is a good example of the kind of thinking and language you may confront if you try to discuss something with an Anthroposophist.

Concerning the gradual withering away of "lower races" and the enlargement of "higher races," Steiner said the following:

46) [Demons of Decay and Asiatic Hordes, Redux]  “This is a very specific process, which we must understand. The souls develop further, but the bodies die out. That is why we must distinguish so carefully between soul evolution and racial evolution. The souls reappear in bodies belonging to higher races, while the bodies of the lower races die out. Such a process does not occur however without having effects of its own. When something like this occurs over large regions, when something disappears, as it were, it does not disappear into nothing, but rather disperses and is then present in a different form. You will understand what I mean if you consider that with the dying out of the worst parts of the ancient population of which I have been speaking, the whole region gradually became filled with demonic beings that represented the products of the decay of what had died out. The whole of Europe and also Asia Minor were thus filled with the spiritual products of decay from the dying out of the worst parts of the population. The demons of decay, which were contained in the spiritual atmosphere, as it were, endured for a long time and later exerted an influence in such a way that they permeated people's feelings. Their influence can best be seen at the time of the Great Migrations, when large masses of people, including Attila and his hordes, came over from Asia and caused great terror among the people in Europe. This terror made the population susceptible to the influences of the demonic beings that still persisted from earlier times. As a consequence of the terror produced by the hordes coming over from Asia, there gradually developed what manifested during the Middle Ages as the epidemic of leprosy. This disease was nothing other than the consequence of the conditions of fear and terror that the people experienced at this time. But these conditions could have had this effect only with people who had been exposed to the demonic forces from the past.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE SPIRITUAL FOUNDATION OF MORALITY (SteinerBooks, 1995), pp. 30-31.

To most rational adults, a passage like that is reprehensible both for its racist content and for its foolishness. What planet is Steiner describing? What universe did he inhabit? It isn’t our Earth, situated in the real galaxy we call the Milky Way. It is an imaginary, alternate reality — it is fantasy, and in this instance, a fantasy of a distinctly nasty sort.

If you can, put aside your revulsion at Steiner’s racism and focus simply on the quality of his “reasoning” and rhetoric. To susceptible individuals — gullible spiritualists, mainly — such thinking and language are mesmerizing. But notice how slippery and vague they are. Notice how the sentences often stretch out and wander. Notice the hypnotic repetitions ("products of decay," "products of decay," "demons of decay," "demonic beings," "demonic beings," "demonic forces," "hordes," "hordes," "terror," "terror," "terror," "fear and terror"). Notice the weasel words ("as it were", "as it were"). Notice how the words occasionally refer to something knowable in the real world, anchoring the spiel, but then the words launch out into extraordinary fantasies. Notice the lack of evidence and careful argument — Steiner’s words are wholly unsupported; no evidence is offered to support anything. Yet notice the underlying assurance that cosmic secrets are being revealed — the assurance that Steiner and his devotees, the wise spiritual seekers, are privy to cosmic insights denied to other, less enlightened, less evolved sorts like you and me. 

Huge whoppers can be more persuasive than small, simple lies that we can immediately see through. Big lies stun — their very audacity can be compelling. We're tempted to respond "Wow! I never knew that!  Amazing!" And when the lies are worked out in great detail, apparently piecing together many disparate parts, we may think that a coherent structure has been created. For some people, in other words, Steiner’s thoughts and language can be beguiling. How do they strike you?

Here's how they strike me: Steiner was a fraud. He pretended to be such a deeply insightful, clairvoyant sage that ordinary language could hardly contain his meaning. So he offered us a version of the mystic doublethink and double-talk that self-appointed spiritual guides usually serve up. He was considerably less obscure than his mentor, the Theosophist Helena Blavatsky, but this is like saying that the midnight sky is brighter than the depths of a coal mine. It’s true, perhaps, but it doesn’t make much difference. Steiner didn’t want to convince anyone, rationally; he wanted to overwhelm everyone with a verbal avalanche of strange conceptions clothed in bamboozling circumlocutions: far-out, spacey cant. 

Logic, rationality, sweet reason — these were not Steiner’s strong suit. His lectures ramble disjointedly (the later ones more so than the earlier ones — he moved in the wrong direction as he aged). Maybe we should excuse the confusions in his lectures — after all, Steiner often spoke more or less extemporaneously. But Steiner’s books, which he presumably worked on carefully, also meander and hop (again, the later ones are worse than the earlier ones). Steiner typically failed to begin with the premises needed to support his statements — he left those for later, or he skipped them altogether. He wandered around, raising topics briefly and dropping them, making strange linkages without much explanation, doubling back on himself, and then launching out in new directions. If you want to learn about any given topic he raised, you will probably need to consult several different Steiner texts, trying to piece together what Anthroposophists refer to as “indications” — Steiner rarely gave fully explanations in any one place. (Two partial exceptions: Steiner's earlier work tends to be more organized and coherent than his later; and Steiner occasionally lectured working men, whom he patronized by using what was — for him — simple language. In these cases, he is easier to follow — but he is also presenting something less than his most "mature" thinking.) 

One result of all this is that conscientious parents who try to read Steiner’s work in order to understand the thinking behind Waldorf schools often stagger away none the wiser. Reading Steiner is a chore — generally an unrewarding one. He was clearly quite smart, and he could spin a heck of a yarn, but he was rarely clear and he was almost never reasonable. You see, Steiner didn’t place much value on logic or intellect. He said that real knowledge comes from clairvoyance, which is not centered in the physical brain but in invisible, disembodied “organs of clairvoyance." Logic and intellect, he said, are damaging; they kill the spirit. I deal with this subject in my essay “Steiner’s Illogic” and elsewhere, so I won’t rake it over here. The point to focus on, here, is that the thinking behind Waldorf schools is deeply irrational and occult. [See, e.g., "Occultism", "Thinking", and "Steiner's Specific".]

I took quote #46, above, from the book THE SPIRITUAL FOUNDATION OF MORALITY. Steiner began the first lecture in the book by mentioning his motive for discussing morality: "a certain impulse of mine, about which we may be able to speak further." [p. 3.] But as a footnote by the editors says, "During these lectures Steiner does not, in fact, explicitly speak further about his impulse for discussing the topic of morality." [p. 73.] This is par for Steiner’s course. He promised a lot, but he rarely if ever delivered. In this small instance, not much is lost. But overall, in Steiner's teachings as a whole, a great deal can be lost: reality, and our grasp of it, and the ability to see and think clearly. Waldorf teachers rarely relate Steiner's specific doctrines to their students, but they often steer students toward Steiner's way of thinking. Any educational program that leads children in such a direction has the potential to inflict terrible harm.

A final point: Consider what quote #46 tells us about the Anthroposophical conception of morality. Steiner’s statement, with its references to higher and lower races and Asian hordes, is itself immoral — deeply so. No spiritual truths can emerge from a system that contains such concepts. Steiner made his statement in 1912. SteinerBooks unapologetically republished the lecture containing it in 1995. Thoughts of the kind we see in this statement remain current in Anthroposophical circles today.

Logic or, indeed, thinking cannot cope with reality, 

the real present moment, now, here, this.

Or so Steiner said. To cope with the present 

— and even more, with the future — 

we need forms of clairvoyance such as imagination and inspiration. 

Dead logic is adequate only for considering the dead past.

"What is the present? The present has no logical structure ... 

The picture changes every moment.

The present is such that we cannot embrace it 

with mathematics nor with a mere thought construct.

What we can embrace in a mere thought construct 

is the past continuing on in the present.

Logical thinking: past

Imagination: present

Inspiration: future."

— Rudolf Steiner, BLACKBOARD DRAWINGS 1919-1924 

(Rudolf Steiner Press, 2003), p. 50.

[R.R. sketch, 2011, based on the one in the book.

Time's arrows move through the past (yellow) 

and into the present (red). 

Logic can comprehend the past

and the effects of the past, 

but only imagination is equal to the present, 

and as for the future (purple), 

we know it only through inspiration. 

Steiner discounted the truth that rational thinking 

enables us not only to understand the past,

but to grasp the realities of the present, 

and to anticipate the probable developments of the future.]


I was a student at a Waldorf school for most of my childhood, grades 2-12. During those long-ago years (1950s-1960s), I had little idea what Rudolf Steiner’s doctrines were. Today, as I read Steiner, I’m haunted by a question. Did my teachers know that Steiner made such remarkably foolish statements as that the Earth does not orbit the Sun? The motions of the planets have been firmly understood since the work of Copernicus, Galileo, and Kepler — 400 years ago. Did my teachers reject such well-established findings of science? 

Probably at least some of them did. I don’t know how many of Steiner’s books and lectures they had studied. However, English-language editions of some of Steiner's works had been available in the USA at least since 1908. [49] Various books and transcripts were available in Germany even earlier. Those of my teachers who could read German (several could) might easily have read Steiner in the original German, and they may quite possibly have passed the “wisdom” they gained to their colleagues. Booklet transcriptions of Waldorf faculty meetings run by Steiner were circulated in Germany in the 1930s. [50] There were other editions of such transcripts published in 1946-1952 and again in 1962. Today, transcripts are available in English as FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER. A companion volume, DISCUSSIONS WITH TEACHERS, became available in Germany at least as early as 1961. [51] 

One early English translation of a Steiner book dealing with Waldorf education is ESSENTIALS OF EDUCATION, published in 1926. It includes passages such as this: “When we behold the earth wandering through cosmic space and taking up into herself elements flowing from the sun, moon, and other stars, we see her living in the cosmos.” [52] This is a strikingly antiscientific conception: The Earth wanders through space, she is alive, she is an animated cosmic entity. Astronomers, biologists, and geologists would beg to differ. But these are the sorts of propositions that Waldorf teachers have long received from Steiner. 

So I wonder whether my teachers knew and believed what Steiner said about the planets. Or, knowing, did they selectively reject this particular set of teachings while accepting most of Steiner's other teachings? Anthroposophists willingly accept all manner of bizarre statements made by Steiner. In recent years, I’ve had e-mail exchanges with Anthroposophists who were eager to affirm everything Steiner ever said, no matter how plainly wrong. The Anthroposophical editors of FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER apologized for Steiner’s racism in one especially glaring instance [53], but they offered no apology or explanation for Steiner’s senseless description of planetary motions. For Anthroposophists, stating that the Earth does not orbit the Sun is evidently neither embarrassing nor especially doubtful. 

•• ◊◊◊ ••

Months after writing the Personal Note, above,

I gained further information. Here's how I put it

on the page "I Went to Waldorf":

Our teachers generally did not openly profess their Anthroposophical beliefs in class. They hinted and implied, but they usually stopped short of outright, explicit declaration. Undoubtedly, they thought their circumspection was the correct path. In retrospect, however, questions of honesty inevitably arise. 

Years after my class graduated, some of our teachers published works in which they openly professed their beliefs and allegiances. Thus, for instance, our headmaster saluted Rudolf Steiner in print as a spiritual savant, a “high master.” — John Fentress Gardner, YOUTH LONGS TO KNOW (Anthroposophic Press, 1997), p. 217. In the same volume, Gardner referred to himself as longtime “worker in the field of anthroposophy” [p. 210], and he affirmed various core Anthroposophical doctrines, such as belief in clairvoyance [p. 37]. 

Likewise, Joseph Wetzl — who was my class’s main-lesson teacher during grades 5-8 — devoted part of his retirement years to translating Anthroposophical texts. In the preface to one translation, he referred to “Spiritual Science, called Anthroposophy which has been arrived at through the genuine supersensible insights [i.e., clairvyoance] of the seer-scientist Rudolf Steiner.” — Jospeh Wetzel, preface to Otto Fränkl-Lunborg’s WHAT IS ANTHROPOSOPHY (St. George Publications, 1977), p. 7.

Gardner, Wetzl, and other true-believing Anthroposophists on the faculty of our school certainly spoke of their beliefs sometimes, in some venues, even in those far-off days when they were central powers within the school. Indeed, early versions of some of their later publications were circulated in those days. But generally they kept their secrets; they worked to promote Anthroposophy and to convey its "benefits" without clearly spelling out their beliefs for the students or for the students' parents. They doubtless thought they were doing the right thing, practicing Anthroposophy without preaching it, as it were. Yet the result was to create an Anthroposophical institution that operated largely by stealth. 

•• ◊◊◊ ••

If Anthroposophists don't generally doubt Steiner, 

they do try to understand him, 

and sometimes they find this quite difficult.

On the matter of planetary orbits, e.g.,

see "Deception".

[R.R., 2010.]


Many months after writing "Steiner's Illogic", 
I posted a message on the Internet.
It builds on and expands the arguments I made, above. 
Here it is, edited slightly for use here. 
If you’d like to see the original, please use this link:

Rudolf Steiner spurned logic. He argued (not very logically) that logic impedes the acquisition of knowledge. We should look inward, he said; trust our hearts, trust our powers of “clairvoyance.” He was clearly wrong — among other flaws in his position is the minor defect that there ain’t no such thing as clairvoyance. [54] But he was adamant. 

“[M]an is a Microcosm and contains within himself the secrets of the Great World outside ... [W]hat we perceive inwardly — our thoughts, our feelings, our will-impulses, our memory-pictures, when regarded from the other side, from without, in a macrocosmic sense, can all be recognized again in the kingdom of nature [i.e., what we find inside ourselves is true of the wide world beyond ourselves] ... [But] to mere thoughts reality is a matter of indifference; they only hold to logic. But this same logic can prove the most contradictory things in the sphere of reality.” [55] 

That is, our subjective states are — or can be — reliable and true, whereas logic is worthless, really, because you can prove anything at all by using logic. 

We would all like to believe that we are “microcosms” — that is, we’d like to think that our hearts and souls, perhaps even our bodies, are harmonized with the great truths and powers of the universe. Certainly we’d like to believe that we can trust our hearts, “our feelings, our will-impulses” — we’d like to think that what we feel is right, and thus that we are right. But, sadly, there is very little evidence to support these pretty ideas; and note that Steiner provides none. Indeed, human history provides overwhelming evidence that we cannot trust our feelings or inner compasses. War after war has been waged, and millions upon millions of people have been slaughtered, because two opposing sides were both totally convinced that they were in the right, deep down, in their hearts and souls —they were so sure of this, they were prepared to murder one another to prove their point. If anything, this seems to be strong evidence that we are inherently prone to error, since the “solution” of resorting to war occurs to us so often. 

But, back to the question of logic. Steiner attempted to illustrate the unreliability of logic by telling a little story: 

“Once upon a time a lion, a wolf and a hyena set out upon a journey. They met an antelope. The antelope was torn to pieces by one of the animals. The three travelers were good friends, so now the question arose as to how to divide the dismembered antelope between them. First the lion spoke to the hyena, saying, 'You divide it.' The hyena possessed his logic. He is the animal who deals not with the living but with the dead. His logic is naturally determined by the measure of his courage, or rather of his cowardice. According to whether this courage is more or less, he approaches reality in different ways. The hyena said: 'We will divide the antelope into three equal parts — one for the lion, one for the wolf, and one for myself.' Whereupon the lion fell upon the hyena and killed him. Now the hyena was out of the way, and again it was a question of sharing out the antelope. So the lion said to the wolf, 'See, my dear wolf, now we must share it out differently. You divide it. How would you share it out?' Then the wolf said, 'Yes, we must now apportion it differently; it cannot be shared out evenly as before. As you have rid us of the hyena, you as lion must get the first third; the second third would have been yours in any case, as the hyena said, and the remaining third you must get because you are the wisest and bravest of all the animals.' This is how the wolf apportioned it. Then said the lion, 'Who taught you to divide in this way?' To which the wolf replied, 'The hyena taught me.' So the lion did not devour the wolf, but, according to the wolf's logic, took the three portions for himself.” [56] 

Arguments that begin with “once upon a time” should usually excite skepticism, and Steiner’s is no exception. In this tale, Steiner thought he was showing that logic failed both the hyena and the wolf. Therefore, logic is unreliable. QED. 

But wait a moment. Steiner was correct that logic can prove anything, pro or con if a) the premises are accepted, and b) genuinely logical reasoning is used. For example, the proposition that the sky is made of glass can be proven, logically, IF the premises are sound and IF logic is actually employed: 

Major premise: Everything blue is made of glass. 

Minor premise: The sky is blue. 

Conclusion: The sky is made of glass.

This is perfectly logical, but it is also perfectly wrong, because the major premise is wrong. So, in a way, Steiner was right. Logic can be tricky; it may seem to “prove” statements that are wrong. But Steiner’s analysis is awfully shallow. There is no flaw in the logic of our little syllogism; there is a factual flaw in one of the premises. If we use factually true premises then logic is perfectly reliable. 

Not to beat a dead horse, but Steiner was mistaken. Consider, he spoke of the hyena using “his logic” which is “naturally determined by the measure of his courage, or rather of his cowardice.” But this is bunk. Logic is logic; hyenas don’t have a different logic from anybody else (if they use logic at all, that is — which is doubtful). Logic is logic and facts are facts. If you have them both, then you can reason well and prove truths. [57] In other words, Steiner did not illustrate what he thought he illustrated; what he actually illustrated was his misunderstanding of logic. Remember, he said that logic can “prove” anything. This is technically right but practically wrong, if we remember that logic needs to be used in conjunction with solid facts. Also, we might bear in mind that inner states — the kind Steiner says are, or can be, reliable — are extremely flexible. We can imagine or intuit or “clairvoyantly perceive” anything we want. Believing in these states of mind or feeling is the unreliable approach. 

Let’s take a gander at the sort of argument Steiner often used. It is clearly illogical, which was okay by him; but, unfortunately for him, it is also clearly wrong or, at a minimum, he left it completely unproven: 

“Genghis Khan was the pupil of a priest who had been initiated into these Asian mysteries, and he instilled into Genghis Khan the following. The time has now come for divine justice to scour the earth. The charge has been laid upon you to put this divine justice into operation ... This campaign was intended to carry into European culture influences that would [cause] the souls of men to believe in divine justice ... This was the inner purpose of the Mongol onslaughts that spread from Asia, and which, as you know, were not overthrown by physical deeds ... Although the Mongols were the victors, they turned back to Asia.” [58] 

So, the Mongols attacked Europe for occult reasons, and they retreated for occult reasons. 

Do you see the flaw in Steiner’s “reasoning”? Actually, there are more than one flaw [59], but let’s focus on this: 

The Mongols retreated. 

This was surprising. 

Therefore, occult powers caused it.

This conclusion represents a huge, utterly irrational, leap. Essentially, Steiner used what we might call the Argument from Personal Ignorance. In his book, THE BLIND WATCHMAKER, Richard Dawkin discusses the Argument from Personal Incredulity: “I personally don’t believe X, therefore X must be wrong.” [60] Steiner went even further into illogic and error. In essence, he argued: “I don’t believe or know X, therefore Y must be true.” But come on, just because Steiner didn’t know why the Mongols retreated is no reason to assume that the explanation for the retreat was X, Y, or Z. If Steiner didn’t know why the Mongols retreated, the only statement he should have made on the subject is “I don’t know why they did this.” He was obviously not entitled to leap from “I don’t know” to “I do know and the reason is such-and-such.” (Of course, he thought he did know: He thought his clairvoyance gave him the answer. Or, possibly, he was just spinning yarns, fraudulently claiming powers and knowledge that he knew he did not possess. The only way we can figure him out is to use facts and logic, but he withheld the facts, so all we can know is that he said very, very strange things, none of which is proven or, evidently, true.) 

Many mystics use faulty “reasoning” of the sort Steiner employed, but the rest of us should not be taken in. Fallacy is fallacy. Illogic is illogic. In fact, what Steiner has really shown us is how essential logic is. We need facts (which Steiner didn’t supply) and we need logic (which Steiner didn’t use), because only then can we find truth. 

By the way, why did the Mongols retreat? The answer is pretty simple. They used bows and arrows; their enemies started to use guns: 

“[A]fter the 14th century both European and Chinese artificers were able to begin elaboration of more and more efficient guns. By about 1650 handguns had become powerful enough to make nomad [i.e., Mongol] bows obsolete.” [61] 

Other factors were also involved, but we don’t need to dig into them here. All that concerns us at this moment is that Argument from Personal Ignorance is invalid. Steiner didn’t know why the Mongols retreated, which leads us to the conclusion that he didn’t know. Period. Nothing else logically follows. He just didn’t know.


Taking a cue from Dawkins, we might consider a form of argumentation I'll call Argument from Antipathy. Most of us are prone to it. Confronted by an idea we dislike, we reject it. This is a natural response, but it is clearly illogical. You tell me that human beings utterly cease to exist when they die. I dislike this idea intensely. Therefore, I reject it. Such thinking may, indeed, lie at the heart of many belief systems. Averse to harsh possibilities, we turn to alternatives that we like better, possibilities that comfort us.

The flip side of Argument from Antipathy might be called Argument from Appeal — we embrace ideas that appeal to us. I want to live forever. Therefore, there must be an afterlife. This, too, is a very human response, and it is very irrational.

Steiner advocated Argument from Appeal, although he did so without appearing to understand what he was doing. He asserted that we must cultivate our subjective, emotional responses, we must find our way to "truth" through the use of heartfelt imagination, and/or inspiration, and/or intuition. These are the forms of thought advocated in Waldorf schools. But the hazards should be plain. What we feel to be true — what we imagine or intuit or are led to by inspiration — may be utterly wrong. We may like it, but it may be poppycock. Indeed, if the main reason to accept an idea is that we find it congenial, then the idea should be extremely suspect.

This is how Steiner's followers, trying to heed his directions, often reason: To them, a statement is true because they find it congenial or appealing. It rings their bell. They feel its truth and see no need to argue the matter out; or, if they engage in argument, they only offer statements that ring their bell and they reject all statements that don't. Indeed, they may have come to Steiner in the first place because his statements rang their bell. 

Sadly, finding truth may often be very different from finding what is appealing. The truth may not appeal to us — but if it is the truth, then we need to have to strength to accept it, no matter how much it may inspire antipathy in our soft, quailing hearts.

The difference between Steiner's admirers and his critics is not that we disagree about the kinds of ideas that are unpleasant, on the one hand, or appealing, on the other. Here's an idea that I find very unpleasant: When Roger Rawlings dies, he will be snuffed out, gone forever, kaput. No! my heart cries. No! God wouldn't do that to ME! It makes no sense! And I'm inclined to agree with myself on this point.

So here's an idea that I find quite appealing: Roger Rawlings is immortal. When he dies, he will go to a higher realm, and thereafter he will rise higher and higher in glorious wisdom and bliss. Yes! my heart cries. Surely that is true! Surely, oh, surely!

And again, I'm inclined to agree with myself on this point.

But when I present these heartfelt truths to my rational mind, it most annoyingly asks for evidence and logical argument. You don't want to die, it says. I understand. But so far you have given me no reason to believe in the eternal survival of said Roger Rawlings


— Roger Rawlings 

Footnotes for the Foregoing Sections
(Scroll Down to Find Further Sections)


The note mentions the School of Spiritual Science. During the Christmas season, 1923-24, Steiner announced plans for such a school. See Johannes Kiersch, A HISTORY OF THE SCHOOL OF SPIRITUAL SCIENCE (Temple Lodge Publishing, 2006). The primary center for Anthroposophical studies today is located at the Goetheanum in Dornach, Switzerland.

Steiner himself laid down the stipulation that only Anthroposophical insiders have a right to form an opinion about matters Steiner divulged to them. Referring to transcripts of lectures originally circulated only among insiders, Steiner said,

 “The right to judge such private material can, of course, be conceded only to someone who has the prerequisite basis for such judgment, and regarding most of this material this would mean at least knowledge of the human being and of the cosmos insofar as these have been presented in the light of anthroposophy, and also knowledge of what exists as ‘anthroposophical history’ in what has been imparted from the spiritual world.” — Rudolf Steiner, RUDOLF STEINER, AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY (SteinerBooks, 1980), p. 388. 

The premise is that you can understand Steiner only if you are a deeply committed follower. Understanding and acceptance are presumed to be coterminous. But "research" that produces results that can be judged only by disciples is not real research, and its "discoveries" are not real findings. They are articles of faith. Clearly, in any rational system, the opinions of skeptics cannot be summarily dismissed. The system must always allow the possibility that individuals might become well acquainted with propositions (e.g., Steiner's teachings), understand them comprehensively, and then — with a clear mind and open eyes — reject those propositions for good and sufficient reasons. 


Note that on this page, "Steiner's Illogic," when I quote people directly, I place their statements within quotation marks. When I paraphrase people, or attribute statements to imaginary figures, I give the statements in italics.

[2] Steiner’s claim that he based his work on his own perceptions rather than on books or other ordinary research can be found, e.g., on p. 6 of Steiner's AN OUTLINE OF ESOTERIC SCIENCE (Anthroposophic Press, 1997). This book, titled in other editions AN OUTLINE OF OCCULT SCIENCE and OCCULT SCIENCE - AN OUTLINE, purports to be a scientifically valid exposition of Steiner’s spiritualistic observations. I invite you to read any edition and evaluate the scientific methodology employed (or not) by Steiner. Steiner revised the book often, and he added new prefaces, replying to heavy criticism. Thus, for instance, he wrote,

“The preface of this book can be no place for entering into many ‘refutations’ of former editions by those who are totally devoid of appreciation of that for which it strives; but it must, none the less [sic], be emphasized that belittling of serious scientific thought in this book can only be imputed to the author by one who wishes to shut himself off from the spirit [emphasis by Steiner]of what is expressed in it.” — Rudolf Steiner, AN OUTLINE OF OCCULT SCIENCE (Anthroposophical Literature Concern, 1922; Kessinger reprint), pp. x-xi. 

Steiner stuck by his guns. He labeled Anthroposophy “spiritual science,” and he claimed that opposition to his work came from people who failed to grasp his meaning or who did not recognize his spiritual profundity. He called materialists — the sort of people most likely to disagree with him — automatons: spiritually dead robots. E.g.,

“[M]aterialism causes the human being to become a thinking automaton...something that thinks, feels, and wills physically.” — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 115. 

[3] Generally, I will refer to Steiner in the past tense — he is dead and gone. But I will refer to his ideas in the present tense — they are still with us. Likewise, I will generally refer to Steiner's books in the present tense — they still exist, in one edition or another, in one library or another. (Ideas, especially philosophical ideas, are in a sense timeless. If Plato was right about something, his idea about that thing is still right, or at least his idea is still with us and the issue of greatest concern to us now is whether or not that idea is right, here and now. Likewise, books that have not been lost continue to exist, and what generally interests us now is whether they are good or not, here and now — should we read them, can we take them seriously, do they have more than historical interest?) I generally follow these conventions throughout Waldorf Watch. 


Early in his career, Steiner attempted more systematic and "logical" argumentation than he typically attempted later on. In an 1890 essay, e.g., Steiner tried to "refute" physicists, arguing that subjective phenomena are as real as objective phenomena. 

”[T]he atom assumed by physicists is a thing that dissolves into nothing if judged sharply ... [Their] whole way of explanation falls. We must ascribe to color, warmth, sounds, etc., the same reality as to motion. With this, we have refuted the physicists, and have proved the objective reality of the world of phenomena and of ideas.” — Rudolf Steiner, “Atomism and its Refutation” (Mercury Press, 1975), GA 38/Bn 38.1. 

The attempt is unconvincing — physics still stands — but at least Steiner made the effort. 

As a generalization, we can say that Steiner observed the requirements of ordinary argumentation less and less as he became more and more established as a spiritual leader — he then tended to rely on the simple authority of his own word. The primary exception lies in Steiner's discussions of science — advocating Goethean concepts, he kept trying to demonstrate errors in the thinking of conventional scientists. Conventional science still stands. 

[5] Rudolf Steiner, KNOWLEDGE OF THE HIGHER WORLDS AND ITS ATTAINMENT (Anthroposophic Press, 1944), p. 28. 

[6] Two fine sources for information about the rules and forms of logic are Robert Baum, LOGIC (Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1989) and Irving M. Copi, SYMBOLIC LOGIC (Macmillan Publishing, 1979). 


Like a shifty politician, Steiner adjusted his statements to suit his audiences. Waldorf faculties today often do the same. When trying to attract new families, they say that Waldorf is nonsectarian; when talking among themselves, they emphasize Steiner's occult doctrines. This may not amount to flat-out contradiction, but it can be distinctly inconsistent. (Using "weasel words" can help. So, if a politician both "supports" public schools and yet wants to cut funding for the schools, he might argue that by "support" he means moral or spiritual support, not financial support. Likewise, a Waldorf advocate might say that Waldorf schools are nonsectarian because the basis for Waldorf schooling, Anthroposophy, is not a sect. If s/he defines "sect" cleverly — ignoring the truth that Anthroposophy is a religion — s/he might get away with it. [See "Is Anthroposophy a Religion?"])


Inconsistent: 1. I support public schools; 2. I want to cut taxes that pay for public schools. (If these statements are not absolutely incompatible with each other, they are — in practical terms — hard to reconcile.)

Contradictory: 1. I want to raise taxes that pay for public schools2. I want to cut taxes that pay for public schools. (These statements downright run counter to one another.)

[8] Ibid., p. 46. 

[9] Rudolf Steiner, THE FIFTH GOSPEL, (Rudolf Steiner Press), pp. 11-12. Note the title: Steiner claims to have access to a “gospel” not included in the Bible. Just as he often stood in opposition to science, he also stood in opposition to orthodox Christianity. [See "Steiner's Fifth Gospel".]

[10] Rudolf Steiner, THE MISSION OF THE FOLK SOULS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2005), p. 115. 

[11] E.g., Rudolf Steiner, THE CHRISTIAN MYSTERY (SteinerBooks, 1999), p. 39. 


[13] One of Steiner’s defenders, T. H. Meyer, attempts to substantiate Steiner’s claim that Anthroposophy is scientific. Meyer says that “spiritual science is just as exact and objective as any science which really deserves the name.” — T. H. Meyer, LIGHT FOR THE NEW MILLENNIUM (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1997), p. xxvi. Also:

“Generally speaking, any results of spiritual scientific research may be verified in basically three ways: 1) As to the inner logic prevailing in the research presented; 2) By relating the results of spiritual scientific research to ordinary life and asking whether the latter becomes more comprehensible by taking them into account; 3) By adopting the methods given by Rudolf Steiner to develop the spiritual faculties of Imagination, Inspiration and Intuition for oneself.” — Ibid., p. viii. 

These three methods of “verification” are fallacious: 

◊ A system may be orderly without, however, having any application to reality. The so-called inner logic of Steiner's system is that everything falls into place; striking patterns emerge. Thus, there are seven planets, and seven human cultural epochs, and seven notes in the musical scale, etc. This may seem impressive, suggesting an underlying order in the universe, until one pauses to reflect that the solar system actually has eight planets (nine if we count Pluto), and human history can be subdivided into any number of phases, and varying musical scales have varying numbers of notes, etc. Steiner did not discover an inherent logic in phenomena, he merely imposed an arbitrary system of classification. 

◊ One may consider any belief system illuminating, but this does not mean that the system has any scientific validity. E.g., “My factory job is awful because, as Karl Marx explained, we have not yet established the dictatorship of the proletariat.” Many people have accepted Marxism because it makes the world comprehensible to them, but this does not mean that Marxism has been scientifically proven. Ditto Anthroposophy. 

◊ If one develops clairvoyant powers and then sees everything Steiner saw, one might then convince oneself. But how can s/he convince others? On what basis would others believe him/her? The new “seer” would tell us about the spiritual realm, but still we would have no evidence, no proof. “Seers” themselves should be skeptical of their observations, since the human capacity for self-deception is well documented. 

In brief, none of Meyer’s three methods of verification are logical or scientific.


The triplet faculties, “Imagination, Inspiration and Intuition,” are worth more than a passing glance. Waldorf schools are often explicit about the importance they place on these faculties, but usually they do not explain that cultivating them is meant to lead toward clairvoyance. Indeed, in some instances, these words (“Imagination, Inspiration, Intuition”) are used to denote levels of clairvoyance. Steiner explicitly vouched for his own powers of clairvoyance, and he tied imagination, for instance, to clairvoyance, sometimes suggesting that in fact they are two sides of a single psychic power. 

“Essentially, people today have no inkling of how people looked out into the universe in ancient times when human beings still possessed an instinctive clairvoyance ... If we want to be fully human, however, we must struggle to regain a view of the cosmos that moves toward Imagination again....” — Rudolf Steiner, ART AS SPIRITUAL ACTIVITY (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 256. 

Likewise, Steiner wrote, 

“The content of spiritual perception can only be conveyed in images (imaginations) [Steiner’s parentheses] through which inspirations speak, while these inspirations in turn stem from a spiritual entity perceived intuitively.” —AN OUTLINE OF ESOTERIC SCIENCE, p. 2. 

In a word, clairvoyance. 

I have asserted, elsewhere, that there is no such thing as clairvoyance. This is, I know, an unprovable universal negative. If even one person anywhere, anytime, has been clairvoyant, then my claim is wrong. But the onus is not really on me; it is on advocates of clairvoyance. Bring us an example, show us that clairvoyance is possible. Perhaps instead of categorically denying the existence of clairvoyance, I should simply state that clairvoyance must be rare, since we see so little evidence of its successful operation. For this milder proposition, I’d like to offer one, perhaps not minor, example. I’ve written about Franz E. Winkler, one of the two leading American Anthroposophists whom I knew personally (the other Anthroposophical leader I knew was John Fentress Gardner). Winkler was (or so it was said) clairvoyant. Yet one day, during a private conversation, he told me that he had met John Lindsay, who was then mayor of New York City, and he told me that Lindsay would become president of the United States. Bad guess. Worse clairvoyance. Lindsay aimed for the presidency and got creamed.

Anecdotes prove nothing, of course. To look more deeply into the issue of clairvoyance, see "Clairvoyance".

[14] Rudolf Steiner, DEEPER INSIGHTS INTO EDUCATION (Anthroposophic Press, 1983), p. 29. 

[15] For Steiner’s comments on planets, see "Deception". 

The point I am making about absurdity is related to Reductio ad Absurdum, but I am intentionally simplifying and mixing questions of logical falsehood and factual falsehood. Technically, an argument is logically absurd if it can be shown to cross or contradict itself, whether or not its premises or conclusions are factually correct. I am taking a simpler, layman's approach — I am saying that since we all know (or should know) that it is absurd (factually false) to say that the planets do not orbit the Sun, therefore the premise from which this conclusion is drawn is itself absurd (factually false). 

[16] E.g., Rudolf Steiner, POLARITIES IN THE EVOLUTION OF MANKIND (SteinerBooks, 1987), p. 56; Rudolf Steiner, AT HOME IN THE UNIVERSE (SteinerBooks, 2000), p. 84; and Rudolf Steiner, PSYCHOANALYSIS AND SPIRITUAL PSYCHOLOGY (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1990), p. 126. 

[17] Rudolf Steiner, NATURE SPIRITS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1995), pp. 62-3. 

[18] Rudolf Steiner, STAYING CONNECTED: How to Continue Your Relations with Those Who Have Died (Anthroposophic Press, 1999). 

[19] Rudolf Steiner, OCCULT HISTORY (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1982), p. 36. 


[21] See, e.g., THE FIFTH GOSPEL: Its subtitle is “From the Akashic Record.” 

[22] Steiner’s followers often fall for appeals to authority, in particular when the authority is named Rudolf Steiner. Whether they thereby commit the classic fallacy (citing someone who is not really an authority on a subject) or the lesser form (citing one who is an authority on the subject at issue, but not taking into account the possibility that s/he may be mistaken) is debatable. In any event, among Anthroposophical true believers, an almost unanswerable rejoinder to any argument is Steiner said X [and hence we must accept X]. I’ve been told that teachers at my old Waldorf school used this clincher pretty often in faculty meetings. 

Here’s an example of the thinking employed by Anthroposophists when discussing Steiner’s teachings. The following is drawn from Astrid Schmitt-Stegmann’s introduction to Steiner’s PRACTICAL ADVICE TO TEACHERS (Anthroposophic Press, 2000), p. ix: 

“Rudolf Steiner’s concern is that growing children be brought into a healthy relationship with themselves and with the world around them. The teacher’s presentation must therefore [emphasis added] breathe between the self and world....” 

Steiner said so-and-so, and “therefore” we must do it. In case you think this is an isolated instance, let’s look farther down on the same page: 

“In a masterful way, Rudolf Steiner opens new vistas for the teacher ... Therefore [emphasis added], when we work to develop the children’s mental...”, and so on. 

Granted, teachers in Steiner-based schools probably should heed Steiner. But does it follow that they should accept Steiner’s word uncritically? How do they know that any particular remark by Steiner is true? Go back to the first “therefore,” above. What if Steiner’s views on human nature (we are reincarnated; we have twelve senses; our hearts don’t pump blood; etc.) and his account of the universe (Maya; Ahriman; goblins in the Earth; Yahweh presiding from the Moon; etc.) are bonkers? Should Waldorf teachers still follow Steiner’s directives? 

Of course, if they don’t question Steiner's teachings, they won’t arrive at this dilemma. 

[23] Rudolf Steiner, OCCULT SCIENCE - AN OUTLINE (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2009), p. 12. 

[24] Anthroposophists often profess admiration for Steiner’s ability to discuss so many widely divergent subjects. He was an astonishing polymath, they tell us — his knowledge was so great, surely he had access to supernatural sources of information. 

It is certainly true that Steiner professed knowledge in many fields, and to some extent the range of his interests is indeed impressive. He clearly read a great deal, although perhaps not much more than most intellectuals. But our awe tends to subside a bit when we notice Steiner’s demonstrable errors. (We all make mistakes, but savants with a direct pipeline to supersensory wisdom don’t have the normal excuses.) We are even less impressed when we notice that a large chunk of Steiner’s reading evidently consisted of occult twaddle. 

Anthroposophists' failure to see through Steiner often boils down to Argument to Ignorance, as in No one can say for sure that Steiner was wrong, therefore I think he was right. This sort of thinking overlooks the more compelling fact that most of Steiner's teaching remain wholly unproven. Argument to Ignorance is, essentially, merely an admission of ignorance. When something is unproven or unknown, the only sensible thing we can say about it is that it is unproven or unknown. (Going beyond this cautious, and logical, position can be hazardous. No one has proven to me that eating arsenic is dangerous, therefore I will now eat a bowl of arsenic. R.I.P.)


A "group soul" is a soul shared by all the members of a group. Steiner taught that animals and insects have group souls but not individual souls — all dogs, for instance, share a single group soul. Humans, too, have group souls, but we also have individual souls. In the passage I have quoted, Steiner says that the group soul of bees is more highly evolved than humans as a group. We will catch up when we evolve to the planetary condition called Venus or Future Venus. This, I grant you, may come as a surprise to some people.

[25] Rudolf Steiner, THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 60. 

[26] Helena Blavatsky, THE SECRET DOCTRINE (Theosophical University Press, reprint edition, 1999).

"With the aid of Col. Henry Olcott, she founded in New York, in 1875, the Theosophical Society ... In order to gain converts to Theosophy she was obliged to perform miracles. This she did with a large measure of success, but her 'methods' were on several occasions detected as fraudulent." — Lewis Spence, AN ENCYCLOPEDIA OF OCCULTISM (Dover, 2003), p. 73.]



[29] An ad hominem, in the usual sense, is an attack on a person rather than on that person's arguments. Our focus should be on arguments, not on the people who make the arguments. A bad person can say something true; a good person can say something false. Asserting that a person is bad (or foolish, wacky, demonic, etc.) does not prove that any particular statement made by the person is false. Hitler may have occasionally made true statements; attributing a statement to Hitler doesn't prove that it is false.

Of course, reaching rational conclusions about people is not wrong. It isn't an ad hominem to conclude, on the basis of extensive evidence, that Hitler was a bad guy. I'll leave it to you to decide whether I would be unfair to Steiner (smacking him with an ad hominem) if, on the basis of the argument I am making here, I concluded that Steiner was "a fraud who cynically intended to thwart comprehension and analysis."


Speaking of ad hominems (i.e., arguments directed at people rather than at ideas or evidence): Steiner rarely assailed individuals, but he frequently spoke slightingly of groups such as scientists, his critics, and — by far the most appalling — entire races. Technically, his racist remarks were not ad hominem arguments, but they implied personal assaults. Thus: (A) Jews have little spiritual insight; (B) Dr. X is a Jew; (C) therefore, Dr. X cannot have much spiritual insight

Steiner understood that there can be variation within a race, but he taught that all members of a race stand at roughly the same developmental level. See what you think. Are the following statements defensible? 

◊ “The Jews [have little] recognition of the spiritual world.” — Rudolf Steiner, FROM BEETROOT TO BUDDHISM (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1999), p. 59. 

◊ “[B]oth east of Atlantis* in the black population and west of Atlantis in the red population we find survivors of the kind of people who had not developed...in a normal way. The human beings who had developed normally [i.e., whites] lent themselves best to progress [i.e., human evolution].” — Rudolf Steiner, THE BEING OF MAN AND HIS FUTURE EVOLUTION (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1981), p. 119. 

*To read Steiner, you must adjust. “East of Atlantis” is a real location, for Steiner: He taught that Atlantis was real. Thus, in this passage Steiner is discussing real races on the real Earth, in his opinion. 

◊ “Negroes...completely cut themselves off from the spiritual world.” — Rudolf Steiner, quoted by the Anthroposophical Society of the Netherlands. 

◊ “If you look at pictures of the old American Indians the process of ossification is evident in the decline of this race ... The descendant of the brown race did not participate in [further human evolution].” — THE MISSION OF THE FOLK SOULS, pp. 108-109. 

◊ “The French as a race are reverting [i.e., evolving downward, decaying].” — FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER, pp. 558-559.] 

◊ “[Superior] human beings...remained untouched by the Luciferic influence. [But] in the case of the lower types of human beings, the life body was too unprotected to be able to withstand the Luciferic influence.” — AN OUTLINE OF ESOTERIC SCIENCE, pp. 238-239. 

◊ "By bringing about the ‘opiumising’ of Chinese bodies and causing generations to come into being under the influence of opium's forces, it was possible to condemn the Chinese to take in, to a certain extent, some very immature, sub-standard souls.” — THE KARMA OF UNTRUTHFULNESS, Vol. 1 (Rudolf Steiner Publishing Co., 1988), lecture 13, GA 173.

◊ "Groups of men in whom the bones had, as it were, become too strong, were now left behind as degenerate races ... [T]he last remnant of these people are the American Indians; they had degenerated." — UNIVERSE, EARTH AND MAN (Rudolf Steiner Publishing Co., 1931), pp. 131-132.

Truth is, of course, the perfect justification for any statement, however vile it may seem. But who among us wishes to assert that Steiner was speaking the truth in these cases? 


By the way, Steiner understood that ad hominems are inadmissible, at least when they were aimed at himself. He complained of the “unfounded attacks against the personality of the author [i.e., Steiner]” and “the many attacks on the author.” — AN OUTLINE OF OCCULT SCIENCE, p. x and xv. 

Unfortunately, in defending himself, he fell into other fallacies, such as Argument to the People, which attempts to buttress a case by saying that many people agree with it. 

“[I]t is also a fact at the present time that a number of people can appreciate the supersensible method of research ... Not from a lack of modesty, but with a sense of joyful satisfaction, does the author of this book feel profoundly the necessity for this fourth edition after a comparatively short time [i.e., because of great demand].” — Ibid., p. xii. 

The problem is that people, both individually and jointly, can be wrong. Saying I must put out a fourth edition because so many people agree with me proves nothing. As P. T. Barnum said, there's a sucker born every minute. Steiner's career depended on human gullibility. 


Sometimes Steiner's illogic was so blatant as to be laughable. Here's a nifty non sequitur (using irrelevancies to semi-support a statement): Once, trying to convince Britons that Germans are not nationalistic, Steiner explained that students at the Waldorf School often sang “My Heart's in the Highlands.” — George Adams, "Rudolf Steiner in England", A MAN BEFORE OTHERS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1993), p. 19. 

[30] E.g., Rudolf Steiner, THE ORIGINS OF NATURAL SCIENCE (SteinerBooks, 1985), p. 19. 

[31] E.g., Rudolf Steiner, ART AS SPIRITUAL ACTIVITY, p. 154. 


[33] E.g., Rudolf Steiner, SLEEP AND DREAMS (SteinerBooks, 2003), p. 43. 

[34] E.g., Rudolf Steiner, THE REDEMPTION OF THINKING (SteinerBooks, 1983), p. 35. 



[37] According to the OXFORD ENGLISH DICTIONARY, a helix is "[a]nything of a spiral or coiled form" (Second Edition, Volume VII, p. 117). 

Under some circumstances, a distinction can be made between spirals and helixes. If this distinction applies here, then I am happy to concede this small point. However, Steiner himself sometimes said that the planets move in spirals: 

“For planets, as a matter of fact, do not move in an ellipse; their orbits are spiral.” — Rudolf Steiner, SPIRITUAL SCIENCE AND MEDICINE, 1989, p. 84. 

Thus, Steiner piled confusion on confusion. He said that the planets do not orbit the Sun, but then he spoke of their orbits. He said that the planets move in helixes, not spirals, but then he said that they move in spirals. (Some confusions of this sort arise because of differing translations of Steiner's works from German into English, but some ate present in the German texts, as well. To consult a few of Steiner's German works, and my translations thereof, see, e.g., "Forbidden" and "Also Forbidden".)


[39] In sum: The planets and the Sun do not move, one behind the other, along the same line. We also should note that the solar system includes Neptune and Uranus, as well as numerous minor planets such as Pluto. Steiner’s erroneous scheme does not account for these. 

[40] For astronomers, declination is the angular distance of a celestial object from the imaginary celestial equator: so many degrees north or south. The ecliptic is the Sun’s apparent orbital motion during a year. If we project this path outward, it defines the “plane of the ecliptic”: a circle on the imaginary celestial sphere within which we find the plane of the Earth’s orbit. 

There are actually several north poles: ◊ the north geomagnetic pole (the spot from which the Earth’s magnetic field arcs upward in the northern hemisphere), ◊ the north magnetic pole (the shifting place compasses in the northern hemisphere point to: such readings deviate), ◊ the geographic north pole (essentially the spot that we, by convention, choose to call the pole), ◊ the instantaneous north pole (the point at the top of the Earth’s axis — which shifts, describing a rough circle over the course of fourteen months), ◊ the north pole of balance (the point at the center of the circle described by the instantaneous north pole). There are equivalent south poles, plus the “pole of inaccessibility,” the point in Antarctica farthest from any shore. 

I can report this stuff because I can read encyclopedias and other books. I have not consulted the Akashic Record. Still, if you are awed by my almost-superhuman erudition, maybe you’d like to join a little cult I could organize? 

[41] There is a virtual infinitude of stars, including stars that appear to be near the pole. In rough terms (more than adequate when discussing Steiner’s errors), there are one hundred billion stars in our galaxy, and there are (as Carl Sagan used to say) billions and billions of galaxies. Most stars and galaxies are invisible to the naked eye. The few that, at any given time, appear to be near the north pole are merely the ones that are close enough to Earth to be visible and that lie in the far northern portion of the celestial sphere. 

The orbital movement of the Earth constantly but slowly causes changes in the apparent location of stars as viewed from the Earth. The precession of the equinoxes causes other changes. 

The zodiac is made up of major constellations that seem to lie within the celestial equatorial belt. As most educated people know, the constellations and the zodiac do not actually exist. Constellations are imaginary patterns that our minds piece together from the apparent proximity to one another of stars and galaxies that are actually separated by almost inconceivable distances. If we were to travel to a distant planet in our solar system, the signs of the zodiac would look quite different. If we traveled far enough from Earth — say to another solar system — there would be no vestiges of the zodiac at all, and entirely new constellations would be visible (i.e., created by our own minds through the psychological phenomenon called closure, the subconscious tendency of the human brain to impose apparent order on disordered, disconnected objects). 

[42] Have I misrepresented Steiner’s bonzo views on planetary motions? Judge for yourself. The discussion from which I quote occurred on 9/25/1919. Steiner had previously told the teachers at his first Waldorf school that the planets do not orbit the Sun. The following is from a comment he made on 9/5/1919: 

“Here, for example, we have the Sun [Steiner drew a zigzag line and put the Sun on it]; here are Saturn, Jupiter, Mars[Steiner drew these planets’ astrological signs on the line ahead of the Sun], and here are Venus, Mercury, and Earth [represented by astrological signs behind the Sun]. Now they all move in the direction indicated [along the zigzag line], moving one ahead one [sic] behind the other ... This creates the illusion that Earth revolves round the Sun. The truth is that the Sun goes ahead, and the Earth creeps continually after it.” — Rudolf Steiner, DISCUSSIONS WITH TEACHERS (Anthroposophic Press, 1997), p. 168. 

Steiner’s nutty remarks on 9/25 were no aberration; they were an affirmation of nutty remarks he had made previously. 


[44] Rudolf Steiner, ART INSPIRED BY RUDOLF STEINER (Mercury Arts Publications, 1987), p. 95. 


[46] Rudolf Steiner, THE UNIVERSAL HUMAN (Anthroposophic Press, 1990), pp. 65-6. 

[47] Rudolf Steiner, AT HOME IN THE UNIVERSE, p. 84. 


[49] Rudolf Steiner,THE WAY OF INITIATION: Or How to Attain Knowledge of the Higher Worlds (The Occult Publishing Company, 1908). 

[50] Erich Gabert and Hans Rudolf Niederhaüser, preface to FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER, p. ix. 

[51] The English-language version is Rudolf Steiner, DISCUSSIONS WITH TEACHERS. 

[52] ESSENTIALS OF EDUCATION: “Five Lectures delivered [sic] during the Educational Conference at the Waldorf School, Stuttgart, April, 1924” (Anthroposophical Publishing Company, 1926), p. 62. 


[54] I said my piece on this here recently. Bits now reside at http://sites.google.com/site/waldorfwatch/my-sad-sad-story 

[55] Rudolf Steiner, MAN AS SYMPHONY OF THE CREATIVE WORD (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1970), lecture 1, GA 230. 


The story is, originally, an African fable. Steiner’s intentions are stated most clearly in the synopsis: “An African fable illuminates the poverty of logic.” Problem is, the fable does not illustrate this proposition.

[57] Cultural differences can make differing conclusions seem natural or sensible to people in the different cultures. Eating a stranger might seem quite sensible to a cannibal, whereas to people from other cultures this action may appear in a very different light. But there is no such thing as "cannibal logic." A syllogism spoken by a cannibal would be indistinguishable from a syllogism spoken by anyone else, and it would be true or false based on the universal rules of logic.

I am, of course, oversimplyfing here. Logic is an intricate subject, and there are various approaches and systems. Moreover, ascertaining facts is far from simple, in many cases. Epistemology, too, is an intricate subject. But for our purposes, trying to talk sense — trying to disentangle reasonably clear truth from reasonably manifest untruth — we can generally say that logic is logic and facts are facts. 


As science and scholarship advance, our stock of knowledge increases — what we know, what we can take as factually certain, is continually updated. We learn; information increases and is revised. 

Ultimately, of course, nothing is completely certain. No fact is utterly beyond question. But some information has become so well established that we are unlikely to need to revise it in the future. That the planets orbit the Sun is pretty firmly known. We can count this as a truth; we can build on it. The planets orbit the Sun. This is for all practical purposes an established fact, and people who (like Steiner) deny it are simply mistaken. You can take this to the bank. (The planets travel in orbits. If this fact is not 100% eternally established, it is 99% or so established. Bearing in mind that no bank is 100% safe, you can take this 99%-certain fact to a 99%-safe bank.)

[58] Rudolf Steiner, INNER IMPULSES OF EVOLUTION (Anthroposophic Press, 1984), lecture 5, GA 171. 

[59] In addition to the illogical leap I discuss, Steiner violated rationality in another sense. He said that Genghis Khan was a pupil of an Asian mystic, but he gave us no evidence and no logical reasoning. Likewise, he said that the Mongol invasion of Europe had an occult purpose, but he gave us no evidence and no logical reasoning. All he was doing, in other words, was making unsubstantiated statements. His remarks are thus void; they have no real content; they are merely unsubstantiated claims, guesses, piffle. 

[60] Richard Dawkins, THE BLIND WATCHMAKER (W. W. Norton, 1996), pp. 54-55. 

[61] "The Steppe." ENCYCLOPÆDIA BRITANNICA, Online, 27 Aug. 2009. 

[R. R., 2010, 

with thanks to Spirogiro.]

Steiner taught that, to yield truth,
 logic and intellect must be infused with inward warmth.

"Ahriman [a terrible demon] appropriated Intellectuality to himself in an age when he could not make it an inner reality within him. It has remained in his being as a force, utterly detached from anything of heart or soul. Intellectuality pours forth from Ahriman as a cold and freezing, soulless cosmic impulse. Those human beings who are taken hold of by this impulse bring forth that logic which seems to speak for itself alone, void of compassion and of love, which bears no evidence of a right, heartfelt, inner relationship of soul between the human being and what he thinks and speaks and does. In real truth it is Ahriman who speaks in this kind of logic.

"But [the archangel] Michael has never appropriated Intellectuality to himself. He rules it as a Divine-Spiritual force while feeling himself united with the Divine-Spiritual Powers. And when he pervades the intellect it becomes manifest that the intellect can equally well be an expression of the heart and soul as an expression of the head and mind. For Michael has within him all the original forces of his Gods as well as those of man. Consequently he does not convey to the intellect anything that is soulless, cold, frosty, but he stands by it in a manner that is full of soul and inwardly warm." — Rudolf Steiner, "The World-Thoughts in the Working of Michael and in the Working of Ahriman", ANTHROPOSOPHICAL LEADING THOUGHTS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1973), GA 26.

Of course warmth, love, and soul are greatly important. Whether they improve our thinking is, however, questionable. Logic is logic, after all — good sense is good sense, just as facts are facts. There is no valid logic for one set of people that is different from a valid logic for another set. Either we are logical or we aren't; either we make sense or we don't. By and large, Steiner did not. His followers, likewise, are prone to allow their inward, subjective wishes to color their thinking, leading them away from — not toward — truth.

Here's a nice sample of Steiner's reasoning:

"[W]asps' nests, as well as all of the beavers' constructions, are built by the cleverness that flows to earth from the sun ... [O]ne must say: it is indeed the sun! Gentlemen, it really is so. In this manner, through the pure facts themselves, one comes to recognize how the cosmic surroundings of the earth affect living beings ... [T]he soul life of animals exists only in groups — hence, group souls [i.e., animals of any species share that species' collective soul]. Man, however, has his individual soul ... A human being is actually built up in such a way that, when observing him correctly, one can say: he builds up everything in himself that the beaver builds outwardly ... We are, indeed, not earthly beings but sun beings ... [I]f the facts are viewed correctly they lead you to realize that the world is really a unity and that we are dependent upon the earth's surroundings, which consist not merely of a shining, warming sun but also of a clever sun, an intelligent sun." — Rudolf Steiner, FROM COMETS TO COCAINE (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2000), pp. 212-215. 

This passage may leave you breathless, but it is a good example of Steiner's "reasoning." We are Sun beings or, more generally, spiritual beings — the Earth is not our true home. Our true home, in a sense, is the Sun, which is an intelligent force, a spiritual force. Indeed, we are surrounded by living spiritual forces and beings, and our true nature is like theirs. How can we know this? Well, one way is to observe how humans build up their inner structures (bones and so on) the way beavers build dams. And how do beavers build dams? The same way wasps build nests: They are guided by the clever Sun. Hence, we are Sun beings. 

QED, no? Obviously, no. Yet Steiner and his followers seem to accept such chains of illogic. Steiner stressed "facts" as if he were presenting facts, when he wasn't; and he stressed seeing things "correctly," which merely meant seeing things as he told people to see them. It's funny — except that it is sad.

For another fine example — specifically, an instance of Steiner using the fallacy called Argument to Ignorance — see "Ignorance". Steiner argues that knowing the facts of human history is difficult. "External" (i.e., factual, academic) history is unreliable. Moreover, historical knowledge gets in our way when we want to see history as Steiner sees it. So, he says, we are better off closing our eyes to the results of historical research. What we should want instead is "occult research" — i.e., the use of clairvoyance. Really, we're better off not knowing history.

You see, 

"External history is a positive hindrance to occult research ... [A]ll history that is based on documental evidence [is unreliable]. When we pin our faith to documents we must never forget that precisely the most important of these may have perished. In fact we have in ‘history’ neither more nor less than a fable convenue [an agreed-upon fable] ... [E]xperience of the Akashic records [a celestial storehouse of wisdom accessible through clairvoyance], being least hampered by exoteric history [i.e., conventional or mainstream history], is most true.— Rudolf Steiner, THE GOSPEL OF ST. JOHN (Percy Lund, Humphries and Co., 1933), lecture 2, GA 112.

(Note that the subject of argument to ignorance overlaps the subjects of argument from personal ignorance and/or personal antipathy, etc., discussed above. These subjects are essentially the same, just approached from slightly different angles.) 

To follow along as Steiner makes what he thinks 

is an unanswerable argument, see "Best".

Rudolf Steiner.

[Public domain photograph; 

color added.]

Steiner pontificated on the question whether man can be free if God is omnipotent. Many would argue that the answer is no: If God is omnipotent, then He controls all, including us, so we are subject to his control — we are not free. Steiner turned this reasoning on its head. He was committed to the notion that humans are free (one of his early books is THE PHILOSOPHY OF FREEDOM), so he argued that since man is free (i.e., since Steiner has said that man is free) therefore God cannot be omnipotent. (This may come as news to God.) 

“Can the attribute of omnipotence be ascribed to the Divine Being who lives and weaves through the world? Contentions born of feeling must here be silent: were God omnipotent, he would be responsible for everything that happens and there could be no human freedom. If man can be free [which Steiner says man is], then certainly there can be no Divine omnipotence.” — Rudolf Steiner, LOVE AND ITS MEANING IN THE WORLD (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1972), a lecture, GA 143.

Waldorf student painting, detail.

[Courtesy of 

People for Legal and Nonsectarian Schools.]

[Kessinger, 2010.]

Steiner's thinking was either quite profound or quite silly.

Logically speaking, it is not hard to decide which.

Sez He

Anthroposophical texts sometimes use the words “intellect” and “intellectual” in affirmative ways. 

“[T]here had been men who could see beyond concepts into the spiritual world, the world of thought which Aquinas himself speaks of as a real world, in which he perceives the immaterial, intellectual [sic] beings whom he calls angels.” — Rudolf Steiner, REDEMPTION OF THINKING (SteinerBooks, 1983), p. 72. 

But Steiner often disparages intellect and logic. 

Steiner waffles — although, overall, he is critical of the brain and its products. Here are a few of his statements dealing with what was, for him, a difficult set of questions. (You may detect some contradictions.)

Referring to a period in the past, he says 

“Awareness of spiritual-reality...faded in Europe, and philosophy dried up into logic.” — Ibid., p. 17. 

For our purposes at present, which historical period he means is unimportant. The gist lies in those final words: “philosophy dried up into logic.” Dry, dull, deadly logic. 

“It is not sufficient for us to express this in an abstract way, merely as a problem of reason and logic; it must be grasped with the whole heart....” — Ibid., p. 52. 

Hearts lead us to wisdom; heads play at best a secondary role. Reason and logic — nicht so gut. 

“These concepts, presented to us in Scholasticism in keen and precise logic, are derived from what had survived from the teaching of the past [when humans were naturally clairvoyant]. We cannot properly understand the working of the souls of the Scholastics unless we take into consideration this intermixture of age-old tradition.” — Ibid., p. 68. 

Scholasticism was a logical approach to theology, which faltered, according to Steiner. To truly apprehend Truth, the Scholastics had to rely on ancient, mystical tradition (what we skeptics would call ancient ignorance). 

“Logical and dialectical thought is the product of the common human nature of mankind, differentiated amongst individuals.” — Ibid., p. 69. 

This is about as close as Steiner gets to affirming logic and intellect. Logic comes from within our natures, although it is not the same for everyone — different people have different logics. Steiner taught that we are currently in an extremely material phase of existence in which mastering “materialistic” thought is necessary. But we must soon evolve away from it, leaving it behind. [See, e.g., "Materialism U."]

“Up to a certain level we can reach everything by accurate logic and dialectic, but at that point we have to enter the region of faith. In this way Reason and Faith stand face to face without contradicting one another.” — Ibid., p. 81. 

But this can be so only if Reason bends to the dictates of Faith. If “logic” is pliable (which it is not, but Steiner said it should be), then this is possible. But if not, not. We may indeed need to leave logic behind when we enter the realm of faith, but logic and faith may then stand in opposition, not union.

“It is not by a mystic experience which divorces itself from reason and despises logic, that man will return to his spiritual heritage, but by the path of pure, concentrated thinking in which logic is never contradicted — although it is finally transcended....” — Ibid., p. 146. 

You may spot some logical contradictions in Steiner’s own words, but this is a Scholastical sort of quibble. Steiner advocated higher consciousness that goes far beyond logic: exact clairvoyance, forsooth. [See "Exactly".]

You see, logic and intellect kill: 

“A man who would receive Anthroposophy with his intellect kills it in the very act.” — Rudolf Steiner, LIFE, NATURE, AND CULTIVATION OF ANTHROPOSOPHY (Anthroposophical Society in Great Britain, 1963), p. 15. 

Remember that “Anthroposophy” means human wisdom. Human wisdom is killed by the intellect. 

You see, 

“The intellect destroys or hinders.” — Rudolf Steiner, WALDORF EDUCATION AND ANTHROPOSOPHY, Vol. 1 (Anthroposophical Press, 1995), p. 233. 

You see, 

“Intellect destroys instinctive capacity. Instinct must be spiritualized.” — Christopher Bamford, introduction to Rudolf Steiner's DEATH AS METAMORPHOSIS OF LIFE (SteinerBooks, 2008), p. vi. 

Instinctive capacity is what Steiner’s doctrines affirm: It is our goal, the higher consciousness we need. Intellect destroys it. 

You see, 

“[T]he brain and nerve system have nothing at all to do with actual cognition; they are only the expression of cognition in the physical organism.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 60. 

Your brain “thinks,” in a manner of speaking. But true “cognition” doesn’t come from your brain with its dry, deadly intellect. True cognition is received from on high, via clairvoyance.

You see, 

“The brain is an instrument for purely intellectual apprehension. Intellectualism and materialistic thinking [i.e., thinking conditioned by the material realm, accomplished through use of the material brain] are one and the same, for all the thinking that goes on in science, in theology, in the sphere of modern Christian consciousness [i.e., orthodox Christianity, as opposed to gnostic Anthroposophy] — all of it is the product of the human brain alone, is materialistic. This manifests itself, on the one hand, in the empty formalism of belief; on the other, in Bolshevism [sic: emphasis by Steiner] ... [T]he materialistic brain represents a process of decay: materialistic thinking unfolds only through processes of destruction, death-processes, which are taking place in the brain.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE FESTIVALS AND THEIR MEANING (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1996), p. 147-148.


For more about logic and the lack thereof,

see "Why? Oh Why?"

Steiner argued for the necessity of contradiction

(and, implicitly, self-contradiction).

Thereby, he abandoned logic

(while seeking to excuse a glaring fault in his teachings).

[Kessinger, 2010.]

Steiner often contradicted himself. To the rational mind, contradictions denote fatal flaws in an argument. Something cannot simultaneously be X and not-X. But to the mystical mind, contradictions often signify profundity: Of course something can simultaneously be X and not-X: It’s deep, man. It’s heavy.

Take an example. In Christian theology, Christ is one of the persons of God. He, along with the Father and the Holy Spirit, is God — the one and only triune God. Steiner sometimes spoke of Christ in this way. But more generally, Steiner taught that Christ is a separate and distinct god, the Sun God. (Is this a pun? Maybe a deep connection? Son and Sun — or, in German, Sohn und Sonne. To the rational mind, such a pun rests on a meaningless coincidence: the words just happen to sound alike. But to the occult mind, it is deep, man. But...)

In Steiner’s teachings, generally, God the Father does not yet exist except as the ground of being, that is, a more or less vague fathering (i.e., creative) power in the universe. 

“[W]e speak of...meeting with the Father-Principle, with the Father, with that which lies at the foundation of the world, and which we experience when we have the right feeling for what the various religions mean by ‘the Father.’” — Rudolf Steiner, THE HUMAN SOUL IN THE UNIVERSE (Steiner Book Centre, 1982) GA 175.

According to Steiner, the universe we dwell in today is polytheistic — it is populated by numerous gods, none of which is the one and only God. (There cannot be a one-and-only single God if there are many gods. Or at least so rationality would indicate.) Steiner explicitly stated that monotheism is false, at least in our present universe. 

“Monism or monotheism in itself can only represent an ultimate ideal; it could never lead to a real understanding of the world, to a comprehensive, concrete view of the world.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE MISSION OF THE FOLK SOULS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2005), p. 115.

We ourselves will evolve to become God the Father. And in that far-off time, monotheism may finally be realized, providing the ultimate redemption. 

“[W]e shall have gradually achieved the transformation of our own being into what is called in Christianity ‘the Father.’” — Rudolf Steiner, THE LORD’S PRAYER (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2007), p. 17.

But for now, the universe contains many gods, and one of these is Christ, the Sun God. He came to Earth and assisted us in our evolution, but he was not The One and Only God. He was the Sun God. 

“Had Christ not appeared on the earth, had He remained the Sun-God only, humanity on the earth would have fallen into decay.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE FESTIVALS AND THEIR MEANING, Vol. 3 (Anthroposophical Publishing Company, 1958), lecture 3, GA 226.

So Christ is not a person or part of the One and Only God, but he is the one and only god of the solar orb: “the Sun-God.”

But then again, Christ is actually just the highest of the many Sun gods, the Solar Pitris. 

“[A] Sun God had to come, a higher being than Lucifer. There still existed what are known as the Solar Pitris. The most exalted among these is Christ.” — Rudolf Steiner, FOUNDATIONS OF ESOTERICISM (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1982), lecture 26, GA 93a.

But then again — brace yourself — Christ was the Son of God (in a sense). And the Son, not the Father, was (in a sense) the Creator. 

“[T]he earth was not created by the Father God. The Father God made the Son come forth from Him; and the Son is the creator of the earth.” — Rudolf Steiner, MATERIALISM AND THE TASK OF ANTHROPOSOPHY (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1987), lecture 16, GA 204.

So. Where does this leave us? The occult mind revels in these inconsistencies, contradictions, and (seeming) revelations. It’s deep, man.

But the rational mind sees such thinking for what it is: hazy, muddled, and almost certainly empty. The embrace of contradiction and inconsistency is the destruction of reason, of meaning, of intelligence. That way lies madness.

Of course, I do not mean to deny that reality is often subtle and complex. When we delve into such matters as quantum mechanics and chaos theory, we find that reality is surpassing strange. But the only reliable tool we have for examining reality is the rational brain. Steiner relied instead on a wholly unreliable — indeed, nonexistent — tool, clairvoyance. The result is that very little of what he said was factually correct or, indeed, sensible. Very few of his teachings commend themselves to serious consideration. When examined seriously, they turn to dust and blow away.

Cloudy thinking.

[R.R. sketch, 2010.]

Another fallacy Steiner frequently employed is called Argument from Antiquity. Essentially, this argument holds that if something has lasted a long time (the longer the better, generally), then it must be good or true. Otherwise, people would have rejected this venerable thing — this belief or practice — long ago. Right? 

Quite clearly, no. People have clung to many ancient beliefs and practices that are manifestly damaging, foolish, or simply wrong. War, for instance. We have been waging war on one another since the beginning of human history. Does this tell us that war is a good idea? Does it tell us that advocacy of war is wise? Obviously not.

Quite possibly, the older a belief or practice is, the more skeptical we should be about it. At the very least, we should realize that antiquity is no guarantee of validity, wisdom, or truth. Some people, such as Rudolf Steiner, are inclined to think that ancient peoples had a far better grasp of the truth than we moderns have. [See "The Ancients".] But in point of fact, our knowledge of the universe and all its components is vastly greater now than ever before. Ancient peoples may have been wonderful folks in many, many ways. But by modern standards, they were deeply ignorant. They lived before literacy was widespread, before there were extensive school systems, before science had been firmly established, before the invention of microscopes and telescopes and all the other tools of modern investigation. They were, arguably, very nice people. But they didn't know much.

Argument from Antiquity has been particularly injurious. The following is from an essay about the teaching of quack medicine in modern medical schools, a practice that does sometimes still persist. 

"[Professor Iain] Graham believes that antiquity in science is a virtue — the 'argument from antiquity' logical fallacy. The unstated assumption is that if an idea has survived for hundreds or thousands of years it must be legitimate. This is demonstrably false. Galenic medicine (blood letting, purging, etc. based on the notion of the four humours) survived for thousands of years, and yet it was based on complete and utter primitive nonsense. In fact its tendrils still exists — there is still blood letting, cupping (which is just another form of blood letting) and similar practices going on in the world. It was replaced in the West because of the advent of science in medicine — a trend that Graham apparently wants to reverse." — Steven Novella, "Pseudoscience in Our Universities", SKEPTICAL INQUIRER, May/June 2012, p. 25.

It is surely not irrelevant that Steiner himself promoted forms of medicine that can only be called quackery [see "Steiner's Quackery"], and he clung to the specific ancient falsehood referred to above, "the four humors" [see "Humoresque"]. In largely rejecting modern science in preference for ancient traditions and fabulous fantasies, Steiner turned his back on truth. It is as simple — and as sad — as that. [See, e.g., "Science".]

Here is an item from the Waldorf Watch "news" page:

[Wynstones Press, 2011]

"Anyone working toward a deeper understanding of human existence will invariably encounter many paradoxical and contradicting phenomena — in life, as well as in Anthroposophy and the work of Rudolf Steiner. Growing into Anthroposophy makes it clear that we should view such paradoxes as the very foundation for a realistic way of knowing; the many-layered, contradictory facets of life cannot simply be captured in schemes and theories.

"By applying our contemplative capacities as well as by developing higher cognitive powers [i.e., clairvoyance], polarities and contradictions can live side-by-side, offering a more complete view of the world, humankind, and spirit."  

• ◊◊ •

Waldorf Watch Response:

Anyone who wants to believe the teachings of Rudolf Steiner faces imposing obstacles. Most of Steiner 's teachings make no sense, and many of them contradict one another. Steiner tried to cover himself by arguing that his were "living" thoughts, not the dull, dry thoughts of logic or rationality. Living thoughts grow and mutate and move. They are spiritual and alive, not dead and dry. Thus, if one day Steiner said that black is white, and the next day he said that black and white are irreconcilable opposites, these two "living" thoughts are both true, or each was true each in its own way on its own day, because of the wondrous, organic, ever-changing glories of spiritual reality. [See "Thinking" and "Steiner's Illogic".]

Perhaps Steiner had a point. The universe is a complicated, mysterious place. On the other hand, arguing that black is white and that black is not white doesn't really work. The truth is that these statements contradict one another and cannot both be true, no matter how much Steiner and his followers twist and turn. [1] It is quite inadequate to claim that "the many-layered, contradictory facets of life cannot simply be captured in schemes and theories." After all, Steiner's own teachings constitute a scheme or theory called Anthroposophy. Steiner tried to "capture" the "contradictory facets of life" in this scheme or theory — Anthroposophy is his theory of everything, his explanation of "the world, humankind, and spirit." [See "Everything".]

What we are dealing with, here, is one stream of occultism that rebels against reason and sense, a stream that revels in mysteries and paradoxes. The deeper the mystery, the more irreconcilable the paradox. And the more irreconcilable the paradox, the better — mystery and paradox are taken as the hallmarks of profundity. But we should accept such thinking only with the greatest reluctance, since it ultimately amounts to a devastating surrender: We relinquish the great hope that our minds can penetrate to genuine, firm answers about reality and our place in it. The occult/Anthroposophical approach is, in the end, a surrender to ignorance. And, indeed, Steiner advocated ignorance. 

Steiner denied that our brains can find truth ("The brain and nerve system have nothing to do with actual cognition" [2]). Instead of rational thinking, he advocated the illusory "faculty" of clairvoyance ("Clairvoyance is the necessary pre-requisite for the discovery of a spiritual truth" [3]). Indeed, he argued that we are better off having no knowledge in our dull, non-cognitive brains. Possessing information, he said, blocks us from having spiritual insight. Thus, for instance, he argued that we should not bother learning about history. "External history," factual knowledge of what has happened in the past in the physical or real world, gums up our clairvoyant ability to read the "Akashic Record," a celestial storehouse of wisdom available through clairvoyance:

“External history is a positive hindrance to occult research. When we have reached a certain age, we are influenced in many ways by the culture of our day. The seer, too, brings with him the education of his day, up to the point when he can give birth to his clairvoyant Ego. He has studied history and the knowledge handed down to him in geology, biology, archaeology, and so on. Strictly speaking, all this disturbs his vision and may bias him when he comes to decipher the Akashic records.... In fact we have in ‘history’ neither more nor less than a fable convenue [an agreed-upon fable]. When the facts shown by the Akashic records differ widely from conventional history, the seer finds it difficult to believe in the Akashic picture ... [Direct] experience of the Akashic records, being least hampered by exoteric history, is most true.” [4] 

Steiner's argument loses some of its force when we pause to reflect that neither clairvoyance nor the Akashic Record exists. [See "Clairvoyance" and "Akasha".]

Anthroposophy affirms ignorance. Indeed, it is an embodiment of ignorance. Waldorf schooling stands on this foundation. Is this what you want for your children? Is this what you think education should reflect?

Footnotes for this Item

[1] We can resolve some apparent contradictions by agreeing that some statements (e.g., "black is white") are metaphorical, not literal. But Steiner professed to offer literal statements of his clairvoyant discoveries. His chief defense was that some statements that are false in the physical world are true in the spiritual world. But many of his statements share the defect of "black is white" — they don't merely contradict other statements, they contradict themselves. Thus, they cannot be literally true at any level of reality. 

Philosophers and theologians could extend this discussion unendingly, but surely this is more than enough for a news digest.

[2] Rudolf Steiner, THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 60.

[3] Rudolf Steiner, THEOSOPHY OF THE ROSICRUCIAN (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1966), lecture 1, GA 99.

[4] Rudolf Steiner, THE GOSPEL OF ST. JOHN (Percy Lund, Humphries and Co., 1933), lecture 2, GA 112.

This image is not a representation of Anthroposophy, 

but it might as well be.

For almost everyone, the center of the image seems to jiggle.

For some people, the illusion is easy to comprehend and dismiss.

For others, the vibrancy seems mysteriously, mystically real — 

just as Anthroposophy strikes some people.

No matter which camp you inhabit, here's a tip: 

Block out the outer portion of the image: 

The illusory jiggling (caused by the brain's difficulty in coordinating 

its responses to the two fields) stops. Poof. 

No more jiggling. Illusion gone. 

Which leads to another tip: Do the same with Anthroposophy:

Look at it directly, with clear eyes. Poof. Illusion gone.

“[W]hen we look inside the head, we find dying matter ... Once we have penetrated this hard, lifeless skin and reached the brain, we find in it fossilization everywhere, just as we do upon the surface of the earth ... [T]he earth is a huge human head, indeed, a huge, dead human head ... [S]omething can't have died if it has never been alive in the first place. Impossible, isn't it? Only conventional science makes such a claim." — Rudolf Steiner, FROM CRYSTALS TO CROCODILES (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2002, pp. 148-149.

I'd suggest pausing over this quotation. Let all the layers of lunacy sink in. Particularly contemplate what passes for logic in Steiner's words.

The thinking behind Waldorf schools may seem attractive; the question is whether it is realistic. Here is an apparently innocuous example about blades of grass. Steiner claimed that everything on Earth is subject to occult powers that come from the other planets, the stars, and the etheric universe in general. ("Ether" is a substance that theoretically fills the entire universe. Science accepted this concept in the 19th century but later rejected it. Steiner clung to it, giving it his own occult spin.) A blade of grass, for instance, is not pushed upward by forces coming from within the Earth; it is pulled upward by forces coming through the ether. 

“A stalk of grass is...a tower ... It can be rocked by the wind and does not break in two ... [T]here are no forces on earth that would allow us to build such a thing using the materials of the earth ... [A] stalk does not grow by resting on what is below ... The stalk is drawn out into cosmic space. So if you visualize the earth, and these are the stalks, they are pulled in all directions into cosmic space, for there everything is filled with a more subtle form of matter which is called the 'ether' and which lives in the plant. But this life does not come from the earth; it comes from cosmic space. And so we are able to say: 'Life comes from cosmic space.'" — Rudolf Steiner, FROM LIMESTONE TO LUCIFER (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1999), p. 3. 

[R.R. sketch, 2009, 
based on the illustration on p. 4.] 

Life on Earth certainly depends on forces from outside the Earth — predominantly, light from the Sun. But life certainly is not affected by the ether, which does not exist. Steiner's entire body of doctrines is woven from concepts that are unreal and untrue, just as his thinking is marred by obvious illogic. Here, he makes a gigantic leap from unsupported claims about blades of grass to an enormous conclusion about the origin of life. His conclusion (life comes from cosmic space) may or may not be true, but Steiner does not show it to be true. Rather, proceeding as usual, he uses misinformation to "support" his occult doctrines. This is the sort of thinking admired and promoted by Waldorf schools — Anthroposophy entails astrology, clairvoyance, reincarnation, polytheism, racial hierarchies, magic, and other assorted concepts that should, at an absolute minimum, give us pause. A very long pause.

Humans have three invisible bodies in addition to the physical body, Steiner taught. Here you see the etheric body (above) and the astral body (below). The pentagram symbolizing the etheric body is easy to interpret: The head is at the top, arms extend from shoulder level, legs reach to the ground. The points of the hexagram are a bit more mystic: The head is at the top, ears extend from the sides (orange and purple), then the arms extend (yellow and blue), while the feet come together at the bottom (green) — although sometimes the bottom point represents the heart. Note that each point in each image is linked to an astrological sign. There is logic and there is astrologic — Steiner went with the latter. [See Rudolf Steiner, ESOTERIC LESSONS 1904-1909 (Steiner Books, 2007), pp. 137-138 and 229-230.]

[R.R. sketches, 2009, 

based on b&w images in the book. 

The meaning of the images: supplied by Steiner.]

How to make the implausible seem possible.


[R. R., 2010.]


"If these ideas are not true, they should be true.

What we believe shapes the reality. 

If we become conscious of these ideas

and hold them, they will become true."

                                                              —  from "Anthroposophy 101"

These plaintive words were written by Dr. Ronald E. Koetzsch, an Anthroposophist connected with the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America. The essay "Anthroposophy 101" is Koetzsch's summary of Steiner's basic teachings. Koetzsch focuses on Steiner's more pleasing, upbeat doctrines, and he asserts that if Steiner's wonderful ideas are not true, we can make them true by believing in them fervently enough. 

I think everyone can all feel the deep yearning in Koetzsch's words, and everyone can sympathize — we all wish for the wonderful, the transcendent, the glorious. I feel such desires, intensely. I understand where Anthroposophists are coming from.

But wishing doesn't make anything true. Our wishes can be our guides, our motivators — but, in and of themselves, wishes create nothing. Thinking or hoping that something is true doesn't cause that thing to become true. Some thoughts are false, and no amount of fervent belief can redeem their falsity. You may tell yourself that the Moon is made of green cheese. You may dwell on this thought day after day, month after month. You may meditate upon it, visualize it, preach it from the rooftops. But it is false, and your efforts cannot make it true. The moon is not made of green cheese and it never will be. Your idea is false.* 

Truth is truth, in other words, and reality is reality. We have no reason to think that the universe is as Steiner described it, and we have no reason to think that we can make the universe become as Steiner described it. A fairy tale is a fairy tale. A false idea is false.

Anthroposophical thinking is mere wishfulness, which is tantamount to self-deception. During the play "Peter Pan", when the fairy Tinkerbell is dying, Peter tells the children in the audience to wish for Tinkerbell's recovery. And it works! The kids wish and wish, and Tinkerbell revives. It is a nice fairy tale. But that's all it is, a fairy tale.

Truth and reality have a great advantage — they are true and real. And they aren't so bad. We're alive, in a universe of beauty, grandeur, pain, suffering, and achievement and joy and victory. This is the universe that really exists, the universe of physics and astronomy and the soaring human intellect. Steiner would return us to a dark, medieval past. We need not go there. Indeed, we must not go there. For the sake of our planet, and our children, and ourselves, we must face reality squarely and then work to realize its best potentialities.

Truth and reality have a great advantage — they are true and real. Anthroposophy is divorced from truth and reality. And to the degree that it embodies Anthroposophy, Waldorf education is divorced from truth and reality. Waldorf schooling stands on the foundation of Anthroposophy [see, e.g., "Here's the Answer" and "Spiritual Agenda"] — which means that it stands on a foundation of shifting, vaporous falsehood.

* The moon is a physical object, and Koetzsh is mainly talking about spiritual reality. Fervently believing false ideas about physical reality will not change physical reality. But can our fervent beliefs about spiritual reality change that reality? Possibly. It is extremely doubtful, however. Truth is truth, reality is reality. (Note the illogic of Koetzsh’s proposition. He seems to entertain the possibility that Steiner is wrong, but in fact his argument hinges on the assumption that Steiner's description of the universe is true. Our thoughts would be able to change the spirit realm only if the spirit realm already is as Steiner described it, flexible and mutable, made and remade by our thoughts. So while seeming to concede that Steiner might be wrong, Koetzsh actually relies on the premise that Steiner is right. Koezsch is caught in a tautological vortex.)

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



Steiner unconsciously making a fool of himself, over and over

No laughing matter: Steiner’s quack medicine

Human nature as conceived by Steiner and acted upon in Waldorf schools


Macrocosms, microcosms, and fallacies

The Waldorf view of the natural world

Quack agriculture: astrology and magic

What's what, clearly


Bizarre ideas about the universe: Vulcan, the Zodiac, Mars, etc.


Waldorf escapism

The formatting at Waldorf Watch aims for visual variety, 
seeking to ease the process of reading lengthy texts on a computer screen. 

Some illustrations on the various pages here at Waldorf Watch 
are closely connected to the contents of those pages; 
others are not — they provide general context. 

[R.R., 2017.]