Rudolf Steiner opposed “scientific 

simpletons” with their “scientific trash”  

and their “logical, pedantic, 

narrow-minded proof of things.” 

He deplored “primitive concepts 

like those...of contemporary science.” 

What is wrong with science? 

"[S]cience speaks under the influence 

of the demonic Mars-forces." 

Hence, "[W]hen we listen to a 

modern physicist blandly explaining 

that Nature consists of electrons...

we raise Evil to the rank of 

the ruling world-divinity.” 

What hope can we have for the future? 

"Zeus is no longer possible, 

but in his place we have

 the steam engine. 

Another race will succeed us, 

which will find the way back again." [1]


The Real Lowdown


Rudolf Steiner claimed that his new creed, Anthroposophy, constitutes “spiritual science.” By developing and employing clairvoyance, Steiner asserted, Anthroposophists can scientifically investigate mysteries in both the spiritual and physical realms. The truth, however, is that Steiner’s “spiritual science” is thoroughly unscientific. 

By insisting that his doctrines were produced scientifically, Steiner sought to distinguish Anthroposophy from ordinary belief systems. He and his followers could claim that Anthroposophy is not a religion, dependent on faith, but an objectively verifiable body of factual descriptions. In a weak stab at substantiation, Steiner insisted that he developed his doctrines not through reading or speculation but through his own clairvoyant observations, as when he wrote 

“[M]y knowledge of spiritual things is the result of my own [psychic] perception.” [2] 

Steiner also laid out elaborate procedures that he said would enable devotees to develop clairvoyant powers that could be used to confirm his “findings.” [3] [See "Knowing the Worlds".]

Steiner went so far as to assert that “organs of clairvoyance” can be developed. [4] These are invisible to the physical eye; you know that you have organs of clairvoyance only by using them to exercise your new powers of psychic vision. The existence and use of clairvoyance are absolutely central to Steiner's teachings, including his educational dicta. And this is precisely the point where Anthroposophy falls to the ground. There is virtually no evidence that clairvoyance is anything more than delusion and/or deception. To substantiate his entire system, Steiner needed to show that clairvoyance is, in fact, possible. But he didn’t — because, in fact, he couldn't. [See "Clairvoyance".] Indeed, Steiner's descriptions of reality provide significant evidence to the contrary. Below are a few examples. If Steiner’s “clairvoyance” led him to such conclusions, than his “clairvoyance” was faulty, at best. More likely, he had no clairvoyant abilities of any sort — although he may have convinced himself that he did. Such self-delusion is not uncommon. [5] The alternative is even less seemly: Perhaps Steiner simply lied, claiming to possess a power that he knew full well he did not possess.

British psychiatrist Anthony Storr, an Honorary Fellow at the Royal College of Psychiatrists, has argued that Steiner exhibited traits consistent with paranoia. Comparing Steiner to Georgei Ivanonvitch Gurdjieff, another self-appointed guru, Storr explains that Steiner arguably had delusions of grandeur, which is evident both in his claims of psychic power and in his antiscientific, fantastical vision of the universe. 

“Gurdjieff and Steiner, though neither suffering from paranoid schizophrenia nor being psychotic in the sense of being socially disabled, share certain characteristics with patients whom psychiatrists would designate as paranoid ... [I]t is indeed grandiose to create one’s own cosmogony [a theory of the origins of the universe] in total disregard of accepted scientific opinion ... Steiner, in addition to inventing his own history of the universe, believed that he had special powers of observation which revealed the spiritual reality which lay behind material appearances ... Such people...are propounding belief systems which are wildly eccentric: they are narcissistic, isolated, and arrogant....” [6]

While dismissing Steiner’s teachings, Storr is at pains to avoid categorizing Steiner as psychotic. I would be even more cautious. We cannot know Steiner’s inner state, nor can we absolutely reject all of his assertions. However, we can note the obvious scientific errors Steiner made, and on that basis we can reasonably question whether his approach was scientific in any way. The following constitute a tiny sampling of Steiner’s demonstrable errors. [For many more examples, see “Steiner’s Blunders.]

Steiner was not a biologist, yet he claimed to understand the human body far better than mere physical science would allow. For instance, he said that the heart does not pump blood: 

“[T]he heart is indeed a sense organ for perceiving the blood’s movement, not a pump as physicists claim; the coursing of our blood is brought about by our spirituality and vitality.” [7] 

Note that Steiner specifically sets himself up in opposition to “physicists,” for which we can probably read scientists and physicians. Either Steiner is right about the heart or science is right; they cannot both be right. There is, of course, overwhelming scientific evidence that the heart is a pump which sends blood coursing through the body. Steiner’s “clairvoyance” led him to assert something quite different. He was wrong.

 Another example. In discussing astronomy, Steiner taught that Earth does not orbit the Sun. To explain this point to the teachers at the first Waldorf school, Steiner drew a helical line. He positioned the Sun at about the midpoint of the line. He strung out Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn on the left half of the line, and he put Mercury, Venus, and Earth on the right half. Steiner said: 

“Now you simply need to imagine how that [i.e., the line] continues in a helix. Everything else is only apparent movement. The helical line continues into cosmic space. Therefore, it 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.” [8] 

 In discussing geography, Steiner said the following:

“[A]n island like Great Britain swims in the sea and is held fast by the forces of the stars. In actuality, such islands do not sit directly upon a foundation; they swim and are held fast from outside. In general, the cosmos creates islands and continents, their forms and locations.” [9] 

Such fallacious descriptions do not reflect powerful, reliable clairvoyance. Rather, they are undeniable errors. If Steiner believed what he said, then he was deluded. If he did not believe, then we are justified in suspecting that he subjected his followers to what we today would call a classic brainwashing technique. He convinced Anthroposophists that all of their previous opinions (about hearts, the solar system, the structure of the Earth, etc.) were utterly wrong. The universe is vastly different from what they thought, he told them. To learn the truth, they had to turn to him. And when he told them a “truth” (for instance, that islands float), they had to accept it on faith, unless they developed clairvoyance (improbable, to say the least) or equipped themselves with elaborate appliances such as submarines (unlikely, to say the most). For pronouncements about invisible, spiritual realities, no appliances are available, so the only option for Steiner’s followers in these cases is clairvoyance. But trustworthy clairvoyance is unavailable. Hence, Anthroposophists ultimately must have faith in Steiner and his astonishing, often mistaken, assertions. Accepting things on faith is, of course, the polar opposite of the scientific method. And Steiner’s great error is the flip side of his followers’ mistake. Offering “scientific” explanations of phenomena without providing real evidence is utterly unscientific. Steiner’s claims to being a “spiritual scientist” have no merit.


Clairvoyance is a crucial subject in any consideration of “spiritual science,” so I will return to it along with a discussion of the related forms of thought Steiner advocated. First, however, let’s examine how the classical sciences are presented in Steiner’s Waldorf schools.

Steiner’s appropriation of the term “science” does not mean that he had high regard for true science (physics, chemistry, astronomy, etc.) or for the rigorous discipline of the scientific method. In fact, Anthroposophy is fundamentally antithetical to science: It attributes everything in the universe to supersensible spiritual agencies than cannot be measured or recorded, while it dismisses physical phenomena as having virtually no intrinsic value or meaning. Ponder, for instance, Steiner’s comments about the physical phenomenon of gravity. Steiner thought gravity essentially meaningless because it is phenomenological (i.e., in and of the physical realm). This remark was addressed to a Waldorf teacher: 

“It would be wonderful if you could stop speaking about gravity. You can certainly achieve speaking of it only as a phenomenon. The best would be if you considered gravity only as a word.” [10] 

At the Waldorf school I attended, the study of science occurred in the context of a pervasive antiscientific bias. The shortcomings of science were conveyed to us in many ways, in discussion groups and even in what were nominally our science classes. Our physics/chemistry teacher recommended the book SCIENCE IS A SACRED COW, which aims to debunk science and the scientific method. [11] I read it and reread it. Our headmaster assigned us the book THE FAILURE OF TECHNOLOGY, which became the subject of our senior discussion group for several weeks. The book’s subtitle is “Perfection without Purpose”; the thesis is that a technologist’s “preoccupation with facts...blocks his approach to that more spiritual wisdom which cannot be reduced to mechanics.” [12]  Our discussion reiterated several lessons we had already absorbed deeply: we should doubt “facts” (i.e., physical phenomena), distrust science and its practical applications, and seek instead “spiritual wisdom.”

For my classmates and me, Anthroposophy’s devotion to pseudo-information meant that the line between verifiable truth and woolly speculation could become blurred. Our school’s small library found space in its scanty collection for books on flying saucers, dragons, yetis, and other undocumented phenomena, generally presented as if they were not merely plausible but almost certainly true. [13] One of our science teachers directed me to ON THE TRACK OF UNKNOWN ANIMALS by crypto-zoologist Bernard Heuvelmans. The author of that book argues that numerous fabulous beasts — including various types of ape men — may well roam the Earth. He chastises scientists for failing to credit anecdotal reports about such creatures. [14] To my young mind — and presumably the minds of other students — such books were persuasive. And for at least some of us, they reinforced the effect created by all the myths we heard and studied in class. We were led farther and farther from a rational appreciation of reality.

Our science classes seem, in retrospect, to have been designed to bore us. We watched our teachers perform various procedures with test tubes and the like, then we wrote up dreary step-by-step accounts of what had been done. [See "Lesson Books".] In science labs, the process was reversed: We were given dreary step-by-step descriptions of various procedures involving test tubes and the like, and we were required to follow these recipes to the letter. We were never allowed to purse our own interests, never asked to frame a hypothesis and test it, never assigned to create our own projects for science fairs. (We had no science fairs.) Science is dull, dull stuff, far removed from anything actually interesting or true. Or so we were instructed.

If the Waldorf approach to science is not always dull, it is almost guaranteed to be bizarre:

"[I]f schools follow Steiner's views on science, education will suffer. Steiner believed that materialism was insufficient for the understanding of nature. He believed that science needs to 'go beyond' the empirical and consider vitalistic, unobservable forces, a perspective also common in 20th century New Age healing approaches. Anthroposophical medicine, similar to homeopathy but even less scientific, claims that disease is caused only secondarily by malfunctions of chemistry and biology, and primarily by a disturbance of the 'vital essence.' Anatomy and physiology a la Steiner are unrecognizable by modern scientists: the heart does not pump blood; there are 12 senses ('touch, life, movement, equilibrium, warmth, smell,' etc.) corresponding to signs of the zodiac; there is a 'rhythmic' system that mediates between the 'nerve-sense' and 'metabolic-muscular' systems. Physics and chemistry are just as bad: the 'elements' are earth, air, fire, and water. The four 'kingdoms of nature' are mineral, plant, animal and man. Color is said to be the result of the conflict of light and darkness. Typical geological stages are Post-Atlantis, Atlantis, Mid-Lemuria, and Lemuria." — Eugene C. Scott, "Waldorf Schools Teach Odd Science, Odd Evolution".

Dan Dugan, who sent his son to a Waldorf school, pulled him out in part because the science instruction was so poor. 

“In a chemistry lesson, the teacher burned different substances and the students drew and described the qualities of the flames, smoke, and ash. No mention was made of oxidation or, for that matter, any chemistry at all. In a lesson on the physics of light, they were taught that Newton was wrong about color and Goethe was right. White light is a unity and cannot be divided into the colors of the spectrum; the colors are merely an artifact of the prism. I thought perhaps these mistakes were due to the ignorance of particular teachers, but when I obtained Waldorf curriculum guides, I discovered that the inadequate and erroneous science was part of the Waldorf system.” — Dan Dugan, "Why Waldorf Schools Are Unsuitable for Public Funding".

Anthroposophy and Waldorf education incline toward "Goethean" science, which contradicts true modern science. We will return to this subject presently.

It is not uncommon for much of the "science" study in Waldorf schools to involve things that have little bearing on real science and that teach the students almost nothing about real science. Thus, students will probably spend a lot of time making drawings, with their grades depending on artistic talent, not scientific accuracy. Students may read and annotate biographies of great scientists of the past (Galileo, Edison...) with the emphasis on biography, not science. (I fulfilled much of my science requirement by reading the same biography of Thomas Edison in 6th grade, 8th grade, and 11th grade.) Students may construct copies of obsolete scientific apparatuses in wood shop, taking pains to polish and decorate the surfaces without learning much about the actual uses of the gizmos, and certainly without bringing their knowledge of scientific procedures up to the 21st century. (We will return to these topics on this and other pages at this website.)


Steiner’s blunders are hard to overlook or excuse. The whole point of being a soothsayer, after all, is to say sooth: speak truth. Yet Steiner repeatedly failed this paramount test of his “profession.” Steiner's doctrines can be compared to a castle made of cards. Once the the function-of-the-heart card, and the Earth-doesn’t-orbit-the-Sun card, and the floating-Britain card, etc., are pulled out, the entire castle of cards comes crashing down.

Steiner’s statements about the spirit realm are more difficult to evaluate than those about phenomena that we can actually detect, measure, and test. But some of his spiritualistic revelations certainly invite skepticism. Consider, for instance, one of his comments about Christ, which includes information that is not found in the Bible. Steiner said he possessed this information because he had access to the Akashic record — a supersensible storehouse, imprinted on astral light, of all events, knowledge, memories, feelings, etc., since the beginning of the universe. [15] [See "Akasha".] Various occult traditions refer to the Akashic record (or records — sometimes they are said to be multiple). Individuals aside from Steiner who claim to have consulted the record(s) include Nostradamus and Edgar Cayce. [16] As you might expect, information gleaned from astral light contains many surprises. Steiner’s special knowledge of Christ is surprisingly intertwined with paganism and magic: 

It is...important that the deeds of Christ Jesus are always seen in relation to the physical sun, which is the external expression of the spiritual world that is received at the point where Christ’s physical body is walking around. When Christ Jesus heals, for instance, it is the sun force that heals. However, the sun must be in the right place in the heavens: ‘That evening, at sundown, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons.’ It is important to indicate that this healing power can flow down only when the external sun has set but still works spiritually.” [17]

Compared with many of Steiner’s spiritual revelations, this one is relatively open to rational consideration. At least it deals with a recognizable physical phenomenon, the Sun, and with a religious figure, Christ, about whom most of people in the Western world possess a fair amount of knowledge. So, let us ask: Is it true that when we look toward the Sun, we are seeing the present or former abode of Christ? And is it true that when Christ heals, “it is the sun force that heals” — could this be true now, and was it ever true in the past? And can it possibly be true that the “healing power” of Christ or the Sun “can flow down only when the external sun has set”? Unfortunately, Steiner did not supply any evidence to back up these propositions. All we have is his word, which most of us must find insufficient.

As I stated earlier, Steiner urged his followers to test his assertions. Some of his books include instructions on how to attain esoteric knowledge, enter higher states of being, etc. For example, 

“The student must first apply himself with care and attention to certain functions of the soul, hitherto exercised by him in a careless and inattentive manner. There are eight such functions ....” 

And so on. [18] Presumably, such directions could, themselves, be “tested” by interpreting them properly and then following them step by step. But such testing would have little probative value. Positive results would necessarily be subjective: one or more people claiming supernatural visions, etc. Such claims would not constitute solid evidence — they would be anecdotal evidence or eyewitness testimony, which is notoriously unreliable, often resulting from self-deception or deceit. On the other hand, negative results could be dismissed as mere procedural failures.

Let’s take this a step further. In seeking evidence for Steiner's "spiritual scientific" teachings, is there any way we can get beyond take-it-or-leave-it subjective testimony? Perhaps demonstrations of clairvoyant powers could be arranged. Seances? Mind reading? Fortune telling? Unless the demonstrations went far beyond what is typically seen in magic acts — and were validated by strict scientific controls — they would be unlikely to tell us much. 

In instances where Steiner’s statements can be openly tested — such as a) the Earth does not orbit the Sun, and b) islands float — Steiner is often flat-out wrong. In instances involving the “supersensible world,” the “Akashic record,” the spiritual powers of the Sun, etc., no objectively verifiable tests seem possible. Rational people must acknowledge the chance that someday there will be a convincing demonstration of a Steiner claim. But what are the odds?

The scientific method has its limits. It cannot deal adequately with unique (i.e., unreproducible) events or with materials or forces that cannot be measured and tested using our ordinary senses and/or scientific apparatuses. So if any of Steiner’s depictions of things spiritual are true, they probably lie outside the reach of science. But two points need to be made. One is that Steiner was not a scientist, in any sense — he was a mystic. The other point is that despite its limitations, science shines brighter with each passing year. As scientific discoveries continue accumulating, expanding our comprehension of the universe, the power and truth of science are increasingly vindicated. Einsteinian physics are repeatedly confirmed. Ditto quantum mechanics. And string theory appears to be inching toward a reconciliation of the two in the form of a “theory of everything.” The limitations of science fade, while alternative approaches to truth — including Steiner’s — grow ever wobblier. [19]




Scientist Max von Laue won the Nobel Prize for physics in 1914. Eight years later, he wrote a paper in which he assailed Steiner’s scientific errors. [20] Here are some excerpts. When reading them, bear in mind that von Laue’s scientific knowledge is now a century old and thus parts of it are outdated. But we can rely on him to know what scientists understood early in the twentieth century, and thus what Steiner misunderstood. Anthroposophists might attempt to defend Steiner by arguing that Steiner was not restricted to the scientific knowledge available in his lifetime: He possessed psychic powers that enabled him to see beyond scientists’ petty, materialistic thinking. Judge for yourself whether Steiner makes any more sense now than, according to von Laue, he did then.

Von Laue cites Steiner's teachings about Atlantis. Steiner taught that 

"for the million years up to 10,000 BC in those parts of the world that now constitute the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean there existed an absolutely unique culture of people that in body and soul thoroughly differed from humans today. These people had aircraft which they flew close to the ground ... In those days the air was much thicker, the water was much thinner; it moved more artistically and let itself be guided, etc... [ellipses by von Laue].” [21]

Von Laue explains that none of Steiner’s statements about Atlantis, low-flying ancient aircraft, the constitution of air and water long ago, and so forth, have any basis in scientific fact. Steiner’s remarks, he says, “can only provoke a smile” — presumably a smile of contempt. [22]

Von Laue quotes Steiner as arguing that science cannot tell us “anything about...what is possible and impossible.” [23] Von Laue replies that 

one would do better to select science over the ‘occult observations of the esoteric scientists’ [such as Steiner]." [24] 

The data of science are firmly founded, von Laue contends, whereas Steiner’s claims are cleverly designed to be untestable. 

Steiner must feel a warm glow of self-satisfaction; a smugness, derived from his astute caution and discretion in transferring this entire culture to a now submerged part of the earth...[that is] fairly safe from excavations. Unfortunately geologists have credibly asserted that 12,000 years ago nothing like a separate continent between Europe and America could have existed.” [25]

Turning to Steiner’s book, AN OUTLINE OF ESOTERIC SCIENCE (Leipzing, 1920), von Laue quotes Steiner saying 

light appears in seven colours, and sound appears in seven tones, the undivided nature of Man appears in seven limbs.” [26] 

Von Laue pours ridicule on this remark, saying 

What prevarication! From the innumerable colours that can be perceived by the eye, human language has perhaps given especially simple names to a random seven (and these are only approximately defined), and if Steiner is ignorant of the names of any other colours we recommend that he asks any good dressmaker.” [27] 

Von Laue disposes of the notion of seven sounds with similar swiftness, and as for “the seven parts of Man,” he has no patience at all. [To consider what Steiner taught about human physiology, see "What We're Made Of" and "Our Parts". Concerning Steiner' interest in the number 7, see "Magic Numbers".]

Von Laue then quotes Steiner at length on differences and similarities — now and in the distant past — between the states of gaseous, liquid, and solid matter, including Steiner’s assertion that heat is a form of matter: 

heat possesses the same concrete meaning as do gaseity, liquidity, and solidity. To [the observing spiritual scientist] it is a finer substance than gas.” [28] 

Von Laue says that if Steiner’s description 

had been written a hundred years ago, in the light of the condition of physics at that time, one could have possibly taken it as a fanciful possibility” 

— but thanks more recent knowledge, von Laue confidently asserts that Steiner's statement is nonsense. [29]

Von Laue is especially incensed by Steiner’s claim to possess a “psychic organ” (which Steiner elsewhere called an organ of clairvoyance). 

His psychic organ of cognition amply provides him with names” to attach to things (colors, sounds, and so forth), but not with any real knowledge of those things, von Laue asserts. [30] 

Von Laue mockingly asks: 

What then is the foundation for Steiner’s dicta, including those that touch on natural science? By means of a spiritual preparation, a human may develop inside himself special organs for inner observation ... This is not so easy ... In that we do not have the distinction of belonging to the illuminati...our knowledge of the scientific outcomes of the esoteric science is of course somewhat fragmentary.” [31] 

Anthroposophists will take von Laue’s words, here, as a confession of his spiritual blindness. Rationalists will see these words as a sharply pointed jab that deflates Steiner’s balloon.

Von Laue’s words are occasionally so sarcastic as to seem intemperate. Yet von Laue, a Nobel Laureate in science, was writing about a subject he knew well. I must admit that I like von Laue’s tone, since it parallels my own raillery. Thus, von Laue writes, 

Lovers of unconscious humour are recommended to make a study of pages 53-55 [of AN OUTLINE OF ESOTERIC SCIENCE].” [32] 

What we mainly can take away from von Laue’s diatribe is a sense of the profound scorn Steiner excites in people who have genuine knowledge about subjects that Steiner only pretended to grasp. Concerning natural science, von Laue shows, Steiner was an ignoramus.


Steiner hung various trappings of science on his creation, Anthroposophy. He argued that we can confirm his “discoveries” through the simple expedient of becoming clairvoyant ourselves. Short of clairvoyance, other forms of thought such as imagination also can lead us toward Steiner’s truths, according to Steiner. To bolster his claims for the scientific nature of Anthroposophy, Steiner taught that his followers and successors might make additional discoveries of their own. Like any good science, in other words, Anthroposophy is a work in progress and will someday be supplanted by an even more complete explanation of the universe.

Some of what Steiner said sounds almost like science. But let’s linger awhile on the types of thinking Steiner advocated. They do not include rational investigation. In fact, they very nearly preclude it.

 Clairvoyance purportedly offers the ability to gain knowledge that is inaccessible to our normal senses or reasoning brains. It sounds great. But does it exist? Serious investigations have been made for many decades, generally with — at best — inconclusive results. In a typical experiment, a “clairvoyant” is asked to identify an object that is hidden behind a closed door. Some results are a bit better than any average Joe could achieve simply by guessing, but some results are worse, occasionally much worse. Such experiments cast serious doubt on the existence of paranormal perception. If clairvoyance is no better than random guessing, what good is it? [33]

A clairvoyant purportedly sees what is not visible and hears what is not audible. Normally, seeing or hearing absent phenomena are indications of insanity or fraud. But let’s assume that some clairvoyants sincerely believe in their psychic experiences. Two problems would remain. First, we would have no reason to believe the clairvoyants’ reports. They would attest to invisible, inaudible events or presences, but these would remain invisible and inaudible to us. All we would have are the clairvoyants’ unsupported claims, which — being unsupported — would remain nothing but possibilities, not established facts.

The second problem is that even sincere clairvoyants would have no good reason to believe their own psychic experiences. Subjectively, the clairvoyants have seen or heard something out of the ordinary, as we all do, sometimes — in moments of confusion, in dreams, in reveries, and the like. When the brain is confronted by sensory signals that make little sense, it tries to impose sense on them. We’ve all experienced illusions of various kinds, usually briefly, usually cleared up quickly. But some illusions persist, and our memories of them may last a lifetime. Of course, memory itself is highly unreliable, so weird experiences recollected in tranquility prove nothing. What I’m driving at is that we are all prone to delusions, small and large. How can clairvoyants be sure that their subjective “visions” are anything but vivid delusions? They cannot. The need for firm evidence — to clarify matters for the professed clairvoyants as well as for the rest of us — remains unfulfilled.

 Imagination can be found in at least three forms. Nowadays, we tend use the word "imagination" as a synonym for fantasization, as in Disney cartoons. But a second, genuine form of imagination has real worth. For instance, imagining the possible results of your actions can help you to avoid disasters. Imagining yourself lying dead after jaywalking across a busy city street might convince you to wait for the “Walk” signal.

Steiner sometimes used the term “imagination” in that second sense. He went so far as to say that thinking is a pictorial activity (which is, in itself, wrong: Many thoughts, true and false, deal with abstractions that cannot be visualized — for example, “Many thoughts, true and false, deal with abstractions that cannot be visualized.”) Imagination linked to rationality can produce helpful pictures in our minds, but unlinked it can produce illusions and fantasies — it retreats to Disneyland.

The highest form of imagination is, according to Steiner, the use of deep soul powers to create images or “imaginations” of spiritual truths, including truths we brought into this life from our past lives in the spirit realm. (Steiner taught that we pass through a long process of reincarnation and evolution. For more about childhood intuitions carried over from past spiritual lives, see “Thinking Cap.”) In considering “spiritual science,” the question becomes whether this third type of imagination can be considered reliable. [34] 

It cannot. We can imagine almost anything about spirits (this room is full of angels, this room is full of demons, angels are demons, demons are the spirits of elephants, elephants are the souls of fish — we can imagine anything) without coming anywhere near to truth. Of course, some of our images of spiritual matters may be true, but we cannot know which. Perhaps the room you now occupy really is full of angels, but then again maybe not. Ultimately, relying on imagination for spiritual insight means relying on hunches. You imagine something, it seems right to you, so you believe it. You accept your hunch as Truth. This is deeply subjective and obviously unreliable. It certainly is not a scientific process. [35]

Imagination can easily lapse into hallucination and insanity. [36] Steiner’s high “Imagination” may reflect derangement — if Steiner actually had the astonishing “clairvoyant” visions he claimed, he almost certainly was hallucinating. [37] Steiner taught that after humanity completes its earthly evolution, it will move along to Future Jupiter, where it will evolve further. During the Future Jupiter stage of evolution, all of humanity will become capable of true Imagination, or the Jupiter consciousness: 

“On the planet which will replace the Earth, the whole of humanity will have this psychic-consciousness or Imagination, the ‘Jupiter’ consciousness.” [38] 

I am inclined to consider Steiner a charlatan, deceitful but rational. But we cannot overlook the possibility that he was mentally unbalanced. A statement like the one we have just seen certainly seems loco.


At Waldorf schools, fostering imagination may be considered preparation for clairvoyance. [39] Kids are led to produce vivid mental pictures, an ability that — according to Anthroposophical belief — can smooth the way for conjuring clairvoyant images of the spirit realm. The educational goal of developing such imagination, then, amounts to an effort to develop clairvoyance. 

Anthroposophists would argue that my analysis here — everything I have said here — is mistaken, because I have not employed the sort of deep spiritual powers Steiner advocated. I have not seen what he saw, and I have not developed the abilities he possessed. Thus, I know nothing. Fine. That is a possibility. But do clairvoyant powers really exist, for anyone, anywhere? Prove it. Or let's ask this: Steiner spoke of the need to develop organs of clairvoyance. [40] Are these possible? Prove it. The burden of proof lies with anyone who claims that such powers and/or organs exist. The only rational posture for the rest of us, as we wait, is skepticism. Deep, questioning skepticism. We must hold open the possibility that Steiner's position will be substantiated someday, somehow. But until it is, we should hold onto our rational doubts. What Steiner called "higher knowledge" may be little more than falsehood tricked out in fancy clothes.

[SteinerBooks, 2009.]

 Inspiration is the form of consciousness Steiner said we will all possess when we leave Future Jupiter and proceed to Future Venus. During Future Venus, as during Future Jupiter, we will recapitulate prior stages of evolution (cycles), and then we will move on to new, higher stages or cycles. We will develop inspiration, otherwise known as Venus consciousness, during our Future Venus evolution. 

"[O]nly during the fifth cycle of Jupiter does man attain the stage which has been described above as the real Jupiter consciousness. In a corresponding manner does the 'Venus consciousness' appear during the sixth cycle of Venus.” [41] 

Some people eagerly look forward to the life Steiner forecast for Future Jupiter and Future Venus. Others are a bit skeptical. What is your opinion?

At least in advocating inspiration, Steiner placed himself within a long, widely affirmed spiritual tradition. To be inspired, in the religious sense, is to be filled with spirit. In Christianity, the spirit is usually said to be the Holy Ghost. True believers who feel that God has inspired them usually do not think that their beliefs and actions require any further justification. But the rest of us, standing apart, may wonder whether the believers’ beliefs and actions are truly based on truth. We want to see evidence. People of faith may not need evidence, but followers of Steiner ought to want it, since Steiner insisted that his system is a science, and in science, evidence is always crucial. So where is it in this matter?

Artistic inspiration surely exists, as do other forms of worldly inspiration. But are any of them dependable investigative tools? Do they lead us dependably toward truth? An artist may be inspired to write or sing or paint in a particular way, but the inspiration in such cases is nothing more than an excitement or motive arising from personal associations, experiences, and preferences. Likewise, a scientist may be inspired to conduct experiments different from those conducted previously — but any scientifically valid data that results will come from the experiments themselves, not from the initiating inspiration. At root, inspiration is like imagination, it is subjective and untrustworthy. At root, in reality, inspiration is simply the condition of feeling an urge. We are stimulated to do something or to feel something. Sometimes we are inspired to do something good; sometimes we are inspired do something bad. Inspiration itself is morally neutral, just as it is cognitively neutral. Whether an inspiration is good or bad, true or false, depends on its results. A great artist is often inspired to do something lovely; a mass murderer is similarly inspired to do something horrific. Inspiration, in and of itself, is not meritorious. No action is justified by the claim, "I was inspired to do it." And no statement or belief is justified by the claim, "I am inspired to think this."

 According to Steiner, inspiration is higher than imagination, and intuition is higher than inspiration. Intuition is a very high form of direct spiritual knowledge, he said. 

Broadly speaking, intuition is the claimed ability to understand something without the need for evidence or a laborious chain of reasoning. Most people — perhaps all people — are inclined to yield to their intuitions, at least sometimes, at least to some degree. But are we justified in doing so? Is intuition for real? Let's momentarily turn our gaze far from Anthroposophy. Las Vegas is a good venue for observing intuition at work. Roulette requires you to guess, or intuit, where the little ball will next come to rest. Many gamblers rely heavily on their intuition. Many lose their shirts thereby.

Intuitive knowledge just comes to you, out of the blue, as it were. You “feel” that something is right. Anthroposophists, for example, may feel — deep in their souls — that Steiner’s descriptions of the universe are true. There’s no arguing with such intuitions, but there’s also no corroborative value in them. They are private, inner states. They are often inexplicable, even to the people who have them. Pow! You just know! You feel it! But can you really rely on the power of this pow? A proposition may feel right to you for any number of reasons, including experiences you had in the cradle, the sort of church your parents took you to, the sorts of TV you watched as a child, the traumas and joys you have experienced, the lessons you absorbed from your parents and teachers, and so forth. None of this actually means anything conclusive. You are sure — and yet you may be quite wrong. Take an invidious but illuminating example. Adolf Hitler relied on his intuition in setting strategy for the German military. Early in World War II, the result was a string of stunning German victories. So Hitler continued using intuition until the end of the war, by which time Germany lay in ruins, with virtually every inch of the Fatherland overrun by Allied forces. The end came when Hitler, deep in his command bunker, shot himself. Perhaps, being evil, Hitler had flawed, evil intuitions (and yet they worked out so well in the early part of the war). Perhaps good people have better intuitions. But there is no reason to think that any form of intuition, bad or good, is reliable. For every intuition that pans out, there will be others — possibly a great many — that don't.

Still, let's not be too hasty. Defining terms is essential. Sometimes the word “intuition” is used to describe the informed insights that an expert may have in her/his field of expertise — a physicist, for instance, who has a brainstorm, suggesting a new line of inquiry or a new experimental approach. This form of intuition is often better than the blind guessing of a gambler. Beneath the surface, it is a swift logical process, leading rapidly from a base of knowledge to a plausible conclusion. When an expert mechanic has an intuition about what is wrong with your car, you probably should listen. But, still, in the end — before shelling out too much of your hard-earned cash — you will need something more than just the expert's guess. Experts can be wrong, after all; the intuitions of experts can be flops. Ultimately, even an expert's intuition needs to be verified, and that brings us back to the mundane issues of evidence and logic. Intuition, in and of itself — even an expert's intuition — is never enough. In the end, intuitions need to be tested against reality, and the bad intuitions must be tossed out. 

Steiner’s form of “intuition” is elevated beyond any normal definition, and it explicitly runs counter to reasoning. Intuition with a capital “I” is the consciousness all humanity will share when we ascend from Future Venus to Future Vulcan: 

“The seventh state of consciousness is the ‘spiritual consciousness’ or Intuition, the very highest, when man has a universal consciousness; when he will not only see what proceeds on his own planet, but in the whole cosmos around him.” [42] 

Here, in summary form, are the types of consciousness Steiner said we have had and will have during our evolution. (The "planets" that he names are actually phases of evolution, not the planets that we see in the sky today. They are the planets or, more correctly, the entire solar system as it existed and will exist, according to Steiner's doctrines.)

1. Old Saturn = Deep trance-consciousness

2. Old Sun = Dreamless sleep-consciousness

3. Old Moon = Dreaming sleep or picture consciousness

4. Present Earth = Waking consciousness or awareness of objects

5. Future Jupiter = Psychic or conscious picture-consciousness

6. Future Venus = Super-pyschic or conscious life-consciousness

7. Future Vulcan = Spiritual or self-conscious universal consciousness. [43]

Steiner’s “Intuition” (i.e., "universal consciousness") is essentially indistinguishable from clairvoyance, in that it produces immediately accepted perceptions of Truth, no proof required. One who has attained that level of enlightenment is very nearly omniscient (as Steiner very nearly claimed to be). At Waldorf schools, an effort is made to lead students toward such thinking in the here and now. As one Waldorf educator has written, the objective of Waldorf education is to 

“transform thought from what it is at present — the capacity for abstract hypothesis — into the capacity for self-evident spiritual experience.” [44] Steiner himself said “Let now these intimations come/To claim their rightful place,/Supplanting thinking’s power....” [45] 

The difficulty is that “thinking’s power” is essential to real knowledge; indeed, gathering evidence, forming “abstract hypotheses” about them, and then testing the hypotheses, is a good description of the scientific method (and remember, Steiner claimed to be a scientist). This is how we gain actual knowledge, not through unsubstantiated, potentially delusional “visions.”

The varieties of "higher thought" Steiner espoused — imagination, inspiration, and intuition (clairvoyance) — fail to yield the firm, testable facts required for science. As a consequence, Steiner’s “spiritual science” is a hollow shell. It is fraudulent. It has about as much substance as "Future Vulcan." [For more on Steiner's teachings about Vulcan, see "Vulcan".]

Some brief portions of this essay were adapted from “Unenlightened.”

— Roger Rawlings

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

[1] Steiner sometimes asserted that science and "spiritual science" (Anthroposophy) are consistent with one another. He sometimes said there are no fundamental contradictions; he said that science would eventually confirm the findings of spiritual science. Anthroposophists usually stress these apparently affirmative, science-friendly claims. However, a very different view of science often emerged in Steiner's statements. The antiscientific nature of Anthroposophy often burst through.

◊ "Scientific simpletons": “I have demonstrated to you the connection between a myth such as the Baldur myth and great all-encompassing manifestations of human evolution. [paragraph break] Our scientific simpletons who conduct research into myths and legends can go no further than to maintain that they are an expression of creative folk imagination. In reality, however, they encompass deeply significant truths….” — Rudolf Steiner, THE KARMA OF UNTRUTHFULNESS, Vol. 1 (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2005), p. 276.

◊ "Scientific trash": “[T]he philosopher Mach…was a fanatical enemy of working with children’s youthful fantasy. He did not want any fairy tales told to children, or to teach children anything other than scientific trash about external sense-perceptible reality.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE RENEWAL OF EDUCATION (Anthroposophic Press, 2001), pp. 93-94.

◊ "Pedantic proof of things": “Supersensible knowledge can be described as a transformation of ordinary abstract knowledge into a seeing knowledge that points to experiential knowledge. It is nonsense to require the same sort of logical, pedantic, narrow-minded proof of things in higher realms as is desirable in the crasser realms of the sciences, mathematics, and so on.” — Rudolf Steiner, ART AS SPIRITUAL ACTIVITY (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 240.

◊ "Primitive concepts": “In ancient times man could survey the world, because he entered his body at birth with memories of the time before birth … Now the human being confronts this world bringing nothing with him, and he must work with primitive concepts like those, for instance, of contemporary science.” — Rudolf Steiner, HOW CAN MANKIND FIND THE CHRIST AGAIN (Anthroposophic Press, 1984), p. 54.

◊ "Demonic Mars forces": “It is because the Moon Beings remain so firmly entrenched in their fortress that modern scientists know nothing essential about heredity. From a deeper insight, and in terms of cosmic language, it could be said that when at the present time heredity is discussed in one or another domain of science, the latter is ‘Moon-forsaken’ and ‘Mars-bewitched’. For science speaks under the influence of the demonic Mars-forces and has not even begun to approach the real mysteries of heredity.” — Rudolf Steiner, “The Spiritual Individualities of the Planets” (THE GOLDEN BLADE, Hawthorn Press, 1988).

◊ "World-ruling divinity": “The greatest contrast to electricity is LIGHT. If we look upon light as electricity we confuse good and evil. We lose sight of the true conception of evil in the order of Nature, if we do not realize that through the electrification of the atoms we transform them into carriers of evil; we do not only transform them into carriers of death, as explained in my last lecture, but into carriers of evil. When we think of them as atoms, in general, when we imagine matter in the form of atoms, we transform these atoms into carriers of death; but when we electrify matter, Nature is conceived as something evil. For electric atoms are little demons of Evil. This, however, does not tell us much. For it does not express the fact that the modern explanation of Nature set out along a path that really unites it with Evil … [W]hen we listen to a modern physicist blandly explaining that Nature consists of electrons, we merely listen to him explaining that Nature really consists of little demons of Evil! And if we acknowledge Nature in this form, we raise Evil to the rank of the ruling world-divinity.” — Rudolf Steiner, "Concerning Electricity", ANTHROPOSOPHIC NEWS SHEET, No. 23/24, June 9, 1940.

◊ "Finding our way back to Zeus": “The fifth sub-race is that of the Teutonic and Anglo-Saxon peoples who go still further in regard to the shaping of the outer world. This sub-race not only stamps upon nature what lives in man, but it stamps nature's laws themselves on matter. It discovers the divine cosmic laws, the laws of gravitation, heat, steam, [and] electricity … Its mission is to study these laws and impress them upon the world. Thereby all mankind has become more material; Zeus is no longer possible, but in his place we have the steam-engine. [paragraph break] Another race will succeed us, which will find the way back [to the gods ] again … [O]ur own race has progressed far enough to incorporate natural laws into the physical plane. And now mankind will have to turn its attention to spiritual things [again].” — Rudolf Steiner, INVESTIGATIONS INTO OCCULTISM SHOWING ITS PRACTICAL VALUE IN DAILY LIFE (H. Collison, 1920), p. 166.

This last quotation (actually representative of Steiner's early, Theosophical teachings) is more upbeat (although tainted with racist thinking). This quotation even affirms gravity and electricity. But note that our descent into physicality has meant nearly losing contact with the gods. We must soon reverse course, to "find our way back again." The alternative would be terrible [see, e.g., "Sphere 8"]. Having incorporated "natural laws into the physical plane," we must rise from the physical plane (with its science and technology — steam engines), reascending into the spiritual realm to find such ancient gods as Zeus once more. This, such as it is, is the sort of promise Steiner held out.

Steiner sometimes acknowledged that ordinary, real, "materialistic" science can produce real knowledge, “facts.” But even so, he said, the scientific attitude is deadly. He associated the scientific attitude with “materialistic thought,” which cannot penetrate into the spiritual realm that he claimed to know through clairvoyance. 

“Both generally and in particulars, there is hardly anything more intolerant in human life than the ‘scientific attitude.’ I do not, of course, refer to scientific facts, for they are presented in a way which does science the very highest credit ... I am speaking of the ‘scientific attitude’ which arises on the foundation of these facts. The attitude of materialistic thought today is an example of almost the greatest intolerance to be found in history.” — Rudolf Steiner, EARTHLY AND COSMIC MAN, “‘Chance and Present-Day Consciousness” (Rudolf Steiner Publishing Company, 1948). 

On other occasions, Steiner denounced science as presenting not facts but illusions. Sometimes, he said, such illusions are necessary, at least if we are to understand the universe as described in modern mathematics and science. But they are illusions nonetheless, he said, and thus ultimately false.

“For modern education we need these illusions of a mathematical nature about the universe, we must acquire them, but we must know that they are illusions ... A right attitude in regard to the whole of modern science, insofar as it thinks along these lines, will recognize that its knowledge is illusion.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE AHRIMANIC DECEPTION (Anthroposophic Press, 1985). 

On still other occasions, Steiner decried science in absolute terms: he called it “scientific trash.” (The greatest problem for Steiner's followers is that science has not in fact confirm the "findings" of spiritual science. Indeed, the gap between science and spiritual science has inexorably widened. If Steiner's teachings had a certain plausibility when he first broached them, they have become less and less plausible as science has advanced. The "trashiness" of science increases yearly.)

In a remarkable passage, Steiner said that modern science arose from myth. He argued that modern scientific truths will be overturned by future discoveries, which is quite probably true, but he quite mistakenly argued from this that science is equivalent to myth and superstition

"Everything connected with modern science has grown from myth; myth is its root. There are elemental spirits [nature spirits, low invisible beings such as goblins] which observe these things from the other worlds and they howl with hell's own derision when today's mighty clever professors look down on the mythologies of old, and on all the media of ancient superstition, having not the least idea that they and all their cleverness have grown from those myths ... Myth relates to our ideas just as the scientific ideas of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries relate to what will be a few centuries later. They will be overcome....” — Rudolf Steiner, THE FALL OF THE SPIRITS OF DARKNESS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2008), p. 158. 

Steiner stated this as if producing a startling insight, when in fact all scientists would agree with at least part of his assertion: Science is an evolving body of knowledge, and in the future we will presumably know much more than we know today, so some of our current theories will be supplanted by more advanced theories. Steiner’s only contribution was to place the matter in the context of his own superstition and ignorance, such as his belief in elemental beings, alongside his unceasing opposition to real knowledge such as that provided by the “mighty clever professors” he derided. In reality, science has no connection to myth; it arises from careful observation and scrupulous experimentation. It is factual, in precisely the way that Steiner's teachings are not.

Despite Steiner's repeated assertion that ordinary science and spiritual science are compatible, his underlying opposition to ordinary science is reflected in such statements as this:

“[S]cience and logical thought can, owing to their inherent attributes, never say the final word as to what is possible, or impossible.” —  Rudolf Steiner, ATLANTIS AND LEMURIA (Health Research Books, 2000), p. 18.

The Waldorf approach to mathematics is not always as hostile as some of Steiner's statements suggest. Steiner himself found spiritual value in geometry, arithmetic, and numbers. Waldorf math classes are often structured around the notion that the order found in math reflects the orderly structure of the universe: the design created by the gods. Math, as taught at Waldorf schools, may be fun for many students: Emphasis is often placed on such things as magic squares, the golden mean, sacred geometry, and so forth (although some of this terminology may be avoided). The students may be assigned to create paper cones and polyhedrons as well as colored geometric designs. The purpose, often not stated openly, is to penetrate through math into the "spirit" behind math, that is, the structured hierarchy of higher worlds inhabited by the gods. Steiner went so far as to state that geometry leads to clairvoyance. Still, in Waldorf schools, mastering math in and of itself is often de-emphasized, just as sciences in general are de-emphasized. [For more on math in Waldorf schools, see "Mystic Math".]

[2] Rudolf Steiner, AN OUTLINE OF ESOTERIC SCIENCE (Anthroposophic Press, 1997), p. 6.

Steiner made the same claim several times. For example:  

[T]he purpose of this book is to depict some portions of the supersensible world ... It is only through knowledge of the supersensible that our sense-perceptible ‘reality’ acquires meaning ... In compiling this book, I have included nothing I cannot testify to on the basis of personal experience in this field. Only my direct experience is presented here.” — Rudolf Steiner, THEOSOPHY: An Introduction to the Spiritual Processes in Human Life and in the Cosmos (Anthroposophic Press, 1994), pp. 7-8. 

The term “supersensible” applies to things we cannot perceive with our ordinary senses. By supersensible faculties, Steiner meant clairvoyance and its precursors. By supersensible world(s) or realm(s), he meant the spirit realm.

Despite his claim, it is apparent that Steiner drew his doctrines from his extensive reading and other non-clairvoyant activities. When critics and reviewers pointed to his sources, Steiner revised his works, slightly, and insisted all the more firmly that his insights came from his own psychic study of the spirit realm. Innumerable volumes affirming or dissecting mysticism, magic, spiritualism, and the like, were available in Steiner’s time. Helena Blavatsky, a founder of Theosophy, published THE SECRET DOCTRINE in 1888 — Steiner, who for a while headed the Theosophical Society in Germany, adapted many of his doctrines from it. Other influential volumes of the period were Richard M. Bucke’s COSMIC CONSCIOUSNESS, which came out in 1901, and Rufus M. Jones’ STUDIES IN MYSTICAL RELIGION, published in 1908. There were many more, in English and in German, some have roots extending deep into the past. (Max Heindel's THE ROSICRUCIAN COSMO-CONCEPTION came out in 1911. It may have influenced Steiner a bit, but Steiner claimed that Heindel actually cribbed from Steiner.)

Note that in claiming to practice "spiritual science," Steiner was drawing on Theosophical tenets. Theosophy, too, claims to be "spiritual science," and Steiner began his occult career as a Theosophist. Blavatsky was Steiner’s greatest source. Steiner’s Anthroposophy is, to a great extent, a reworking of Blatvatsky’s Theosophy. [See "Basics".] The link is clear, for example, in the book mentioned above, Steiner’s THEOSOPHY, which 

“begins by describing the threefold nature of the human being: the body, or sense-world; the soul, or inner world; and the spirit, or universal world of cosmic archetypes. A profound discussion of reincarnation and karma follows, concluding with a description of the soul's journey through regions of the supersensible world after death.” — SOCIAL ISSUES (SteinerBooks, 1991), p. 151. 

In brief, THEOSOPHY outlines the path to "higher knowledge" that lies at the core of Anthroposophy. After Steiner broke from Theosophy, he developed variations to Theosophical doctrines; but his debt to Blavatsky remains clear.

Here are a few more of Steiner’s vast array of sources.


 Steiner was a student of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe — he read Goethe's works devotedly, beginning early in his life. 

“Then for the first time I read Goethe’s FAUST.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE STORY OF MY LIFE (Anthroposophical Publishing Co., 1928), p. 37. 

Having read FAUST once, Steiner read it many more times, or so he claimed. He claimed to be well acquainted with much of Goethe's work. He reported being powerfully stirred when he came again upon favorite lines he remembered from earlier occasions.

“I cannot tell you what I felt when this came before my soul and I read again these lines by Goethe: From heaven through the earth they're pressing!” — Rudolf Steiner, THE FOUR SEASONS AND THE ARCHANGELS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1996), p. 65. 

Goethe’s work reverberates throughout Steiner’s books and lectures — a point I will return to.   

◊ Steiner was influenced, as well, by the “nature philosophy” of Friedrich Joseph von Schelling. 

“Rudolf Steiner...uses his first visit to Vienna ‘to purchase a great number of philosophy books’” including works by Schelling. — Editor's note, A WAY OF SELF-KNOWLEDGE (SteinerBooks, 2006) by Rudolf Steiner, p. 156. 

Steiner strove to learn whether Schelling was right that one can penetrate to the Eternal, and he claimed success. “I discovered this capacity in myself.” — Ibid., p. 157.   

◊ Steiner claimed deep knowledge of gnostic Christian writings. When critics said he “was merely reviving the ideas of Christian Gnosticism,” he asserted that he proved gnostic truths by using his clairvoyance. See Rudolf Steiner, OCCULT SCIENCE - AN OUTLINE (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2005), p. 12.  

◊ In his lecture "The History of Spiritualism" Steiner names various spiritualists whose work he claims to comprehend. He mentions Robert Fludd, Emanuel Swedenborg, Justinus Kerner, Johann Friedrich von Mayer, among others, and he alludes to their writings — e.g., 

“Mayer, who wrote a book from the standpoint of spiritualism about Hades...." — Rudolf Steiner, SPIRITUALISM, MADAME BLAVATSKY, AND THEOSOPHY (Anthroposophic Press, 2001), p. 69. 

Of course, Steiner disparaged various forms of spiritualism if they diverged from his own doctrines.


◊ Steiner professed knowledge of Johann Valentin Andreae’s manuscript, THE CHYMICAL WEDDING OF CHRISTIAN ROSENKREUTZ, which presents Rosicrucian secrets. 

“[H]ow is it that as a quite young man he composed a document in THE CHYMICAL WEDDING that he published as information concerning true Rosicrucianism? ... There is no need to connect the content of THE CHYMICAL WEDDING with Andreae’s age at the time he wrote it....” — Rudolf Steiner, CHRISTIAN ROSENKREUTZ (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2001), p. 71. 

Steiner affirmed Rosicrucianism (as described by himself) as the correct path for modern humans. [See "Rosy Cross".] He criticized such Rosicrucians as Max Heindel, however. (To criticize Heindel, Steiner presumably had to have read Hinder. Or so we would hope.)

 Henry Cornelius Agrippa von Nettesheim, an apostle of numerology and magic, wrote in the 16th century. Steiner said he knew his work. 

“In his writings, Agrippa assigns to each planet what he calls the Intelligence [sic] of the planet. This points to traditions that had existed from ancient times....” — Rudolf Steiner, THE SPIRITUAL HIERARCHIES AND THE PHYSICAL WORLD (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 262. 

◊ Nostradamus, an astrologer and seer, wrote at about the same time as Agrippa. Steiner discussed Nostradamus’s writings, including one comfortably accurate forecast. 

“Nostradamus...was able to foretell the future. He wrote a number of prophetic verses ... The Theosophical Society is nothing less than a fulfillment of this prophecy of Nostradamus.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE TEMPLE LEGEND (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1997), p. 27. 

 The Egyptian Book of the Dead predates Christ by approximately 1,500 years. Steiner was able to discuss its contents; he had presumably read, or read of, the book. 

“When it leaves the body — so The Egyptian Book of the Dead testifies — it enters the realm of Osiris....” — Rudolf Steiner, ISIS MARY SOPHIA (SteinerBooks, 2004), p. 96.  

◊ Steiner's racial theories were influenced by writers such as Alexander Pilcz. [See]

 Steiner’s explorations included works of poetry and fiction, which he used as illustrations of his ideas but also, evidently, as sources of ideas. 

“One could cite many examples of how the inspiration of the Knights Templar has been drawn into souls. I will read you a passage from the poem ‘Ahasver’ by Julius Mosen....” — Rudolf Steiner, THE KNIGHTS TEMPLAR (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2007), pp. 61-62. 

Note that Steiner claimed to be acquainted with the doctrines of the Knights Templar, a religious order dating from the Crusades. St. Bernard of Clairvaux (c.1090-1153) wrote a famous eulogy to the Knights Templar, IN PRAISE OF THE NEW KNIGHTHOOD (c. 1136). Steiner claimed knowledge of Bernard: 

"I tried to illuminate for you the soul of Bernard of Clairvaux." — Rudolf Steiner, A SOUND OUTLOOK FOR TODAY AND A GENUINE HOPE FOR THE FUTURE (transcript, 1954), lecture 5, GA 181.

Steiner taught that after death, our passage into the spirit realm is blocked by "The Guardian of the Threshold." In fact, he said there are two such guardians. He evidently got the idea from a novel, ZANONI, written by Edward Bulwer Lytton. 

“Central to [our] spiritual work on inner development is what Rudolf Steiner calls (following Bulwer Lytton, who introduced the term in his Rosicrucian novel ZANONI) the 'Meeting with the Guardian of the Threshold.'” — Note by editor Christopher Bamford, START NOW! (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2007), a collection of texts by Steiner, p. 243.  

◊ Steiner was well acquainted with numerous myths, legends, and fairy tales that he argued are essentially true. 

“Myths and sagas are not just 'folk-tales'; they are the memories of the visions people perceived in olden times ... At night they were really surrounded by the world of the Nordic gods of which the legends tell. Odin, Freya, and all the other figures [i.e., Norse gods] in Nordic mythology were not inventions; they were experienced in the spiritual world with as much reality as we experience our fellow human beings around us today.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE FESTIVALS AND THEIR MEANING (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1998), p. 198. 

Steiner gathered myths and other fabulous tales from his reading and also, evidently, from various mentors (from whom he sometimes requested books). 

“Reinhold Köhle had roved around with unique comprehensiveness in the myths, fairy-tales, and sagas ... I came in once and asked for a book....” — Rudolf Steiner, THE STORY OF MY LIFE, pp. 151-152. 

Conceivably, Steiner learned the contents of many texts through the use of clairvoyance rather than through the more straightforward process known as reading. But there is scant reason to think so. Steiner, a Ph.D., was a bookish man.  

◊ Steiner had a personal library, and he reportedly brought books or pages from books with him on lecture tours. He would not have needed these resources if he truly relied on clairvoyance to supply the knowledge he required. Unfortunately, the contents of Steiner's library have not been fully documented. 

"One significant gap in the anthroposophical literature is a study, or even an inventory, of Steiner's library. There are [only] fragmentary indications of Steiner's sources scattered throughout the notes to various volumes of Steiner's collected works as well as the publications of anthroposophist archivists and such ... Steiner [took] pages from various books along with him on lecture tours. Helmut Zander describes several instances in his history of anthroposophy in Germany. It isn't an unusual practice, much less an objectionable one (except perhaps to strict bibliophiles horrified at the thought of removing pages from books), and indicates Steiner's willingness to incorporate a wide spectrum of sources into his own teachings. Some anthroposophists nonetheless find it troubling, because it disrupts the naive notion of Steiner as a herald of Timeless Truths and clairvoyant wisdom and returns Steiner to the status of a historical figure." — Peter Staudenmaier, 

◊ Steiner also gathered information by visiting museums, although presumably this should have been no more necessary for him than reading, if knowledge was open to him through clairvoyant means. 

“At this point, let me make a personal remark. When...we go into a natural history museum we are confronted by something really miraculous ... I visited the museum in Trieste.... — Rudolf Steiner, THE GODDESS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2001) pp. 32-33.

Here are just a few of the terms and concepts that Steiner derived from his reading, museum hops, etc., and then recycled in his books and lectures. 

◊ Karma is originally a Hindu concept. 

◊ Reincarnation is a belief shared by Hindus, Jains, and Buddhists. 

◊ Ahriman was introduced to the world by Zoroaster. 

◊ Vulcan was originally the Roman god of fire. 

◊ The legend of Atlantis began with Plato. 

◊ Lemuria, or Mu, was an even more ancient lost continent; geologists of the 1860's and '70's hypothesized such a continent. (The hypothesis was later abandoned, but occultists such as Steiner clung to it.)

◊ In classical mythology, Lucifer (or Phosphorus) was the herald of the dawn; Christians later adopted “Lucifer” as the name for Satan as he was before man’s fall. 

◊ The war of all against all is a conception of Thomas Hobbes (he meant the primordial strife that preceded the institution of civil government). Steiner adopted the term by applied it quite differently. [See "All vs. All".]

◊ During the nineteenth century, if evolution was accepted at all, it was often reworked as a scheme of divinely directed progress. Steiner adopted this view.

◊ Etheric bodies and astral bodies are Theosophical concepts. 

◊ Other Theosophical concepts Steiner adopted include nature spirits (deriving originally from pagan nature worship) and root races. (In Western folklore, goblins are mischievous or malicious sprites; gnomes are deformed goblins living underground and guarding treasures.) 

◊ The four temperaments were first conceived by the ancient Greeks. 

◊ In occult tradition, the Akashic records are a celestial encyclopedia written on Akasha, a universal ether, which mediates clairvoyance. 

◊ Steiner’s pantheon is inhabited by beings taken from Norse myths and similar sources (see Odin and Freya, mentioned above). 

[For much of this information, I am indebted to the ENCYCLOPÆDIA BRITANNICA.]

Anthroposophists often cite the work of other mystics and thinkers as confirmation: Steiner must be right, because his work contains themes and patterns also found elsewhere. But Blavatsky and Steiner specifically sought to sweep up elements from multiple sources, working to affirm apparent parallels and to reconcile apparent conflicts. The recurrence of various themes and patterns in sundry traditions may reflect underlying truths, or it may simply reveal the process of borrowing and mutual influence, as well as the unconscious predispositions of human psychology. Steiner’s work naturally reflects the sources from which he drew, but often the results are discordant, as in his effort to reconcile reincarnation and Christianity.

project meant to identify Steiner's sources and trace the develop of Steiner's thinking is being led by the scholar Christian Clement, editor of the "critical edition" of some Steiner texts. [See "Critical Edition".]

On the question of belief:

Despite claiming that Anthroposophy is a science, not a religion, Steiner repeatedly stressed the importance of belief and faith. Thus, he equated the seat of faith, the "faith body" with the astral body, one of our essential spiritual members. Losing faith would mean losing the means of evolving upward spiritually: 

“[T]he forces expressed in the word ‘faith’ are necessary to the soul. For the soul incapable of faith become withered, dried-up as the desert ... If we do not possess forces such as are expressed in the word ‘faith’, something in us goes to waste ... Were men in reality to lose all faith, they would soon see what it means for evolution. By losing the forces of faith they would be incapacitated for finding their way about in life; their very existence would be undermined by fear, care, and anxiety. To put it briefly, it is through the forces of faith alone that we can receive the life which should well up to invigorate the soul. This is because, imperceptible at first for ordinary consciousness, there lies in the hidden depths of our being something in which our true ego is embedded. This something, which immediately makes itself felt if we fail to bring it fresh life, is the human sheath where the forces of faith are active. We may term it the faith-soul, or — as I prefer — the faith-body. It has hitherto been given the more abstract name of astral body. The most important forces of the astral body are those of faith, so the term astral body and the term faith-body are equally justified.” — Rudolf Steiner, ESOTERIC CHRISTIANITY AND THE MISSION OF CHRISTIAN ROSENKREUTZ (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2000), pp. 162-163.

Belief must be paired to spiritual knowledge, Steiner said — his system, Anthroposophy, is intended to provide such knowledge. But belief is nonetheless indispensable; indeed, it is the "fruit" of Christ's cross:

 “Out of the womb of time there is born for us human beings that which is beyond time. If we stand on this firm support, we base upon it, not a blind belief, but a belief permeated by wisdom, truth and knowledge, and we may say: What must, will come; and nothing prevents us from throwing our best energies into what we believe to be inevitable. Belief is the real fruit of the cross.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE EAST IN THE LIGHT OF THE WEST (Kessinger Publishing, 1999), pp. 2-3.

Belief is a requirement of religion, not science.

[3] See, e.g.,  Rudolf Steiner, KNOWLEDGE OF THE HIGHER WORLDS AND ITS ATTAINMENT (Anthroposophic Press, 1944).

Publishing reproducible results is a basic requirement of science. Accepting new results that may modify or overturn accepted theory is another. Steiner made gestures toward both requirements, telling adherents how to see what he had seen, and holding open the possibility that further discoveries might be made. But these gestures do not rescue his absurdities. Steiner’s clairvoyant visions are indistinguishable from subjective imaginings — we cannot know that they are accurate reflections of reality, and neither could he. [For more on these matters, see “Thinking Cap” and “Steiner’s Illogic.]

In truth, whether or not Steiner had (or thought he had) clairvoyant visions, he derived most of his doctrines from Theosophy and other occult sources. Some of Steiner’s successors in the Anthroposophical community have offered their own avowals of clairvoyant powers. Yet most work done by Anthroposophists today consists of poring over Steiner’s books. So we find today’s Anthroposophists trying to glean a priori insights from a “scientist” who gained his a priori tenets from earlier mystics. This enterprise has nothing in common with genuine science. 

[4] Ibid., p. 28. 

[5] See, e.g., "Why? Oh Why?" and "Fooling (Ourselves)". 

[6] Anthony Storr, FEET OF CLAY (Free Press, 1996), pp. 170-171.

[7] Rudolf Steiner, AT HOME IN THE UNIVERSE: EXPLORING OUR SUPRASENSORY NATURE, (Steiner Books, 2000), p. 84.

T. H. Meyer edited a fascinating book that contains, among other treasures, messages Rudolf Steiner said he received from a dead German general: LIGHT FOR THE NEW MILLENNIUM (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1997). In his introductory comments, Meyer attempts to substantiate the claim that “spiritual science is just as exact and objective as any science which really deserves the name.” [p. xxvi] 

“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.” [p. viii]

Let’s dispose of these tree forms of “verification.” 

1) The “inner logic” of Steiner’s system is that everything apparently falls into place, it is all "logically" interconnected. Steiner spoke of many designs and patterns in the universe; his teachings impress his followers in large part because they seem to reveal this divine inner logic of creation. There are seven planets, for instance, and seven human cultural epochs, and seven notes in the musical scale, etc. Problem: The solar system actually has eight planets (nine if we count Pluto), human history can be subdivided into any number of phases, varying musical scales have varying numbers of notes, etc. Steiner imposes an arbitrary order, he does not find an inherent logic. 

2) One may subjectively 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 is scientifically sound. Ditto Anthroposophy. 

3) 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? There would be no scientifically sound basis. A new “seer” would tell us about the spiritual realm, but we would have no evidence, no proof. Even the “seer” should be skeptical of the “seer’s” observations, since the human capacity for self-deception is well established.


In brief, none of Meyer’s three methods of verification is valid or scientific.

[8] Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), pp. 30-31.

Steiner sometimes contradicted himself on this matter. He repeatedly said that the planets don't orbit the Sun, but sometimes he said that they do. His followers are at a loss to explain this contradiction. [See "Deception".]

[9] Ibid., p. 607.

[10] Ibid., p. 29. 

Steiner didn't deny that dropped objects tend to move downward, but he came close. 

“Gravity is...perceived only by those beings that live on a solid planet ... Beings who could live on a fluid planet would know nothing of gravity ... And beings who live on a gaseous planet would regard as normal something that would be the opposite of gravity ... [B]eings dwelling on a gaseous planet instead of seeing bodies falling towards the planet would see them always flying off ... Gravity begins when we find ourselves on a solid planet.” — Rudolf Steiner, SCIENCE (Rudolf Steiner Press 2003), pp. 136-137. 

Steiner denied gravity’s significance, calling it “only a phenomenon.” He explained that in observing the acceleration of a dropped object, we can “develop what people call a law, but is actually only a phenomenon.” He extends his disparagement of physical phenomena to electricity: 

Today, you can certainly speak about electricity without speaking about [higher] forces. You can remain strictly within the realm of phenomena.” — Ibid. 

Steiner's point, here, is that physical phenomena like gravity and electricity should not be elevated to the status of laws or forces, terms that should apply only to higher truths. In MAN IN THE PAST, THE PRESENT, AND THE FUTURE & THE SUN-INITIATION OF THE DRUID PRIEST AND HIS MOON-SCIENCE (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1982), Steiner presented what he called ancient wisdom: 

It was known that man is not just a clod held fast by the Earth’s gravity ... [F]or him as an earthly man it is the Earth which holds the upper hand. But as regards his head-activity, the effective influence on it is the negative gravity that draws him away. Thus though man might not be able to fly, at least he could raise his spirit to the starry spaces.” — p. 39 

As a poetic sentiment, that last sentence isn’t bad. But as science, the entire statement is junk. NASA got to the Moon not through mere aspiration — wonderful though aspiration certainly is — but through understanding and use of the physical sciences. Steiner’s “spiritual science” has produced no comparable achievements. (Indeed, some spiritualists — including some of Steiner’s followers — prefer to think that the Moon landings were faked precisely because they do not wish to acknowledge the truth and potency of physical science.) Coming back down to Earth, here's how Steiner wrapped up the subject of gravity for Waldorf teachers: 

“Over there is a bench and on it is, let us say, a ball ... [T]he ball falls to the ground ... Saying that the ball is subject to the force of gravity is really meaningless ... But we cannot avoid speaking of gravity; we must mention it. Otherwise, when our students enter life they may some day [sic] be asked to explain gravity ... Just imagine what would happen if a fifteen-year-old boy knew nothing of gravity; there would be a terrible fuss. So we must explain gravity to children; we must not be foolish enough to close our eyes to the demands of the world as it is today. But by working on their subconscious, we can awaken beautiful concepts in children." — Rudolf Steiner, PRACTICAL ADVICE TO TEACHERS, Foundations of Waldorf Education (Anthroposophical Press, 2000), pp. 116-117. 

The "beautiful concepts" are antiscientific fantasies.

[11] Anthony Standen, SCIENCE IS A SACRED COW (E. P. Dutton & Co., 1950).

[12] Friedrich Georg Juenger, THE FAILURE OF TECHNOLOGY (Henry Regency Company, 1956).

[13] Steiner's followers are sometimes quite willing to believe in flying saucers, for example, although they generally say that saucers are not spaceships from other worlds. From an Anthroposophical reference book, we learn this: 

"Flying Saucers [are] technically described as U.F.O.'s, or unidentified flying objects. There is general agreement about the saucer shape with three spherical supports beneath. Sound evidence can be found for the existence of these unheralded objects...." — George Riland, THE STEINERBOOKS DICTIONARY OF THE PSYCHIC, MYSTIC, OCCULT (Rudolf Steiner Publications, 1973), p. 85.

A later edition of this book modifies this view somewhat: 

"Flying Saucers [are] technically described as U.F.O.'s, or unidentified flying objects. However, after thousands of sightings the world over, the famous saucer shape (once universally regarded as its only design) has now been discovered to be but one style among a number. Sound evidence for the prevalence of U.F.O.'s has been presented by some contemporary astronomers...." — George Riland, THE STEINERBOOKS DICTIONARY OF THE PARANORMAL (Rudolf Steiner Publications, 1980), p. 102.

Some Anthroposophists argue that flying saucers are spiritual beings or objects misinterpreted by the uninitiated. They also say that belief in saucers as physical objects is a delusion promoted by the enemies of human spiritual evolution:

“[S]ome people may be experiencing the first beginnings of the new clairvoyance [foreseen by Rudolf Steiner], without understanding what is happening. Through this lack of understanding, through a materialistic outlook, what should be true imaginative pictures of the etheric realm may well be distorted and clothed in images of physical objects — flying saucers and ‘little men’ ... [M]any of the UFO’s are real phenomena. But they need not be solid objects. Certainly they are not space-craft from other planets. We are not being watched nor visited by physical space men. The important thing to realize is that what we are experiencing in our time is the powerful activity of adverse spiritual forces which seek to bring about a state of fear and bewilderment. We need to be awake to the fact that it is an attempt to distract and confuse man, and to divert him from his true task, which is a new spiritual development, an attainment of higher faculties [through] a deeper study of Rudolf Steiner’s Spiritual Science.” — Georg Unger, FLYING SAUCERS: Physical and Spiritual Aspects (New Knowledge Books, 1971), pp. 35-41.

[14] Bernard Heuvelmans, ON THE TRACK OF UNKNOWN ANIMALS (Hill and Wang, 1959).

[15] See, e.g., Rudolf Steiner, THE FIFTH GOSPEL: From the Akashic Record (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1995).

[16] See, e.g.,  and . I last checked these sites in 2007.

[17] Rudolf Steiner, THE UNIVERSAL HUMAN: THE EVOLUTION OF INDIVIDUALITY, Lectures from 1909-1916 (Anthroposophic Press, 1990), pp. 65-6.


[19] Anthroposophists sometimes jump on the term "theory," as if it shows that science is shaky. But in science, "theory" does not signify deep uncertainty; rather, a scientific theory is a testable, systematic explanation of phenomena. All scientific theories may eventually be supplanted by later, more advanced theories, but all stand on solid evidence. An Anthroposophist can test the "theory of gravity," for instance, by jumping out of a high window.

Newton and Einstein have provided complementary accounts of gravity, one applying to the world as we normally experience it, the other applying most clearly at cosmic scales. According to both accounts, gravity is a universal phenomenon that causes physical objects to fall "down" or "inward." Steiner dismissed both Newton and Einstein, and his followers have tended to follow his lead (as they almost invariably do). Thus, for instance, we find such statements as this:

"We should learn to recognise that the fluid organism upon earth bears within itself moon character, and not that it is attracted by the moon according to Newton's theory of gravity. If we think that the same force which makes the apple fall from the tree holds together the whole universe, then nothing is left of a spiritual force." — E. and L. Kolisko, SILVER AND ITS CONNECTION WITH THE HUMAN ORGANISM (Kolisko Archive Publications, 1978). 

As we have seen, Steiner rejected the classical scientific account of gravity (which reflected the work of Newton): “Gravity is...perceived only by those beings that live on a solid planet ... Beings who could live on a fluid planet would know nothing of gravity." — Rudolf Steiner, MAN - HIEROGLYPH OF THE UNIVERSE (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1972), lecture 15, GA 201. Steiner likewise taught that Einstein's "theory of gravity [should] be overcome." — Rudolf Steiner, MAN - HIEROGLYPH OF THE UNIVERSE (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1972), lecture 15, GA 201.

Steiner rejected Einstein's work overall. Here is a strikingly odd instance: 

"[A] passing comment on the present state of our civilisation, for I cannot avoid pointing out how many harmful ideas live in our culture (such as the theory of relativity, especially in its most recent variation). These ideas run a ruinous course if the child becomes a research scientist." — Rudolf Steiner, PRACTICAL ADVICE TO TEACHERS, Foundations of Waldorf Education (Anthroposophic Press, 2000), p. 117.

We will return to Steiner's view of Newton, below.

[20] Max von Laue, “Steiner and Natural Science” (Transition no. 61-62, Collingwood, Vic, Australia, 2000) {translated from “Steiner und die Naturwissenschaft,” Deutsche Revue, 47 (1922), pp. 41-49}. I am indebted to Peter Staudenmaier for providing me with a copy.

Sal P. Restivo gives the following brief account of von Laue’s essay [THE SOCIAL RELATIONS OF PHYSICS, MYSTICISM AND MATHEMATICS (Springer, 1985), p. 82]: 

“Max von Laue, for example, took note of the charges brought against natural science by the Rudolf Steiner school. Planck applauded von Laue’s counterattack on Steiner, and went on to complain about the widespread antiscientific currents of the time, manifested in such forms as spiritualism, occultism, and theosophy.” 

The “Rudolf Steiner school” is the first Waldorf School or, more generally, it is Anthroposophy, which is Steiner’s version of “theosophy.” Max Planck won the 1918 Nobel Prize in physics. ( .) For more about von Laue, see .

Without referring to von Laue, Steiner attempted a rejoinder to von Laue's criticisms — see OCCULT SCIENCE - AN OUTLINE (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1969), pp. 58-59. There, Steiner reiterates the claim — which he often made — that his spiritual science is consistent with the known findings of ordinary science. But as we have seen, this is clearly false.

[21] Max von Laue, “Steiner and Natural Science,” p. 163.  

[22] Ibid. p. 163.

Steiner frequently urged Waldorf teachers to teach the students about ancient "realities" or "wisdom" while disavowing modern science: For example:

 “[W]e should not be afraid to speak about the Atlantean land [i.e., Atlantis] with the children. We should not skip that. We can also connect all this to history. The only thing is, you will need to disavow normal geology since the Atlantean catastrophe occurred in the seventh or eighth millennium.” — FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER, p. 25.

[23] Ibid., p. 163. (As we have seen, on p. 18 of ATLANTIS AND LEMURIA , Steiner says 

“[S]cience and logical thought can, owing to their inherent attributes, never say the final word as to what is possible, or impossible.”)

[24] “Steiner and Natural Science,” p. 163.

[25] Ibid., p. 163.

[26] Ibid., p. 164.

On p. 58 of OCCULT SCIENCE - AN OUTLINE, Steiner says this:

“As light appears in seven colours and the musical scale in seven notes, so does human nature — for all its singleness and unity — appear in the seven members discussed here.” 

The “members” are the physical body, the etheric body (or life body), the astral body, the I (or ego), the spirit-self, the life-spirit, and the spirit-man. [See "Our Parts".]

[27] “Steiner and Natural Science,” p. 164.

[28] Ibid., p. 164.

On p. 117 of OCCULT SCIENCE - AN OUTLINE, Steiner says the following:

“The researcher in spiritual science sees the matter differently. Warmth, to him, is something of which he can speak in the same sense as of a gas, or of a liquid or solid body. It is only a yet finer substance than gas.” 

The translation here diverges from that in “Steiner and Natural Science,” but the meaning is the same.

[29] “Steiner and Natural Science,” p. 164.

[30] Ibid., p. 164.

Steiner spoke of psychic or clairvoyant organs both in terms of initiation and in terms of evolution. On p. 28 of KNOWLEDGE OF THE HIGHER WORLDS AND ITS ATTAINMENT (Anthroposophic Press, 1944), he says this:

“[J]ust as natural forces build out of living matter the eyes and ears of the physical body, so will organs of clairvoyance build themselves....” 

On p. 88 of ROSICRUCIAN WISDOM (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2000), he says 

You will have a more highly developed organ, a psychic organ, on Jupiter; on Venus there will be an organ through which the human being will be able to develop physically the consciousness possessed by the initiate in the Devachanic plane. And on Vulcan, the spiritual consciousness will prevail....”  

The “Devachanic plane” is a Theosophical concept, standing for a mental/heavenly stage or state. Vulcan is a nonexistent planet, as we have discussed.

[31] “Steiner and Natural Science,” p. 163.

[32] Ibid., p. 164.

[33] See, e.g., Kendrick Frazier, editor, SCIENCE CONFRONTS THE PARANORMAL (Prometheus, 1986); Kendrick Frazier, editor, THE HUNDREDTH MONKEY AND OTHER PARADIGMS OF THE PARANORMAL (Prometheus, 1991); Martin Gardner, HOW NOT TO TEST A PSYCHIC (Prometheus, 1989); and Carl Sagan, THE DEMON-HAUNTED WORLD (Random House, 1995). As of now (2008), the ENCYCLOPÆDIA BRITANNICA devotes all of 288 words to the topic of clairvoyance, ending with this: 

“Research in parapsychology — such as testing a subject’s ability to predict the order of cards in a shuffled deck — has yet to provide conclusive support for the existence of clairvoyance.” — "clairvoyance." ENCYCLOPÆDIA BRITANNICA, Online, 18 Oct. 2008. 

According to the U.S. National Research Council, "'the best evidence does not support the contention that these phenomena exist.’" — David G. Myers, PSYCHOLOGY (Worth Publishers, 2004), p. 260. 

“After thousands of experiments, a reproducible ESP phenomenon has never been discovered, nor has any individual convincingly demonstrated a psychic ability. — Ibid., p. 260 [italics, for emphasis, by Myers].

[34] At Waldorf schools, the word “imagination” sometimes means clairvoyance or a precursor to clairvoyance. 

“In three stages, through Imagination, Inspiration and Intuition, we gain access to the supersensible world.” — THE SPIRIT OF THE WALDORF SCHOOL, p. 79.

Steiner insisted that while he employed nonrational modes of thought, he simultaneously maintained a rational perspective. In other words, he denied that he was disconnected from reality. I examine this contention in the present essay as well as in such essays as “Steiner’s Illogic".

In discussing imagination, inspiration, and intuition, I have adopted fairly strict definitions of these terms. I do not mean to deny that much productive thinking is irrational and subconscious. The human brain is complex. According to a widespread current account, the left hemisphere of the brain is generally logical and the right hemisphere is generally not. But much good thinking occurs in the right hemisphere and then pops out, as if from nowhere. There’s nothing spiritualistic in this, it is merely how some parts of our brain work. The results of right-brain thinking can be useful and true. Defending science from charges that it is cold and inhuman, mathematician Gregory Chaitin has written, 

“[I]n discovering and creating new mathematics, mathematicians do base themselves on intuition and inspiration, on unconscious motivations and impulses, and on their aesthetic sense, just like any creative artist would.” — Gregory Chaitin, META MATH (Pantheon Books, 2005), p. 8.

Chaitin is not referring to spiritualistic “revelation” but to right-brain thinking. Note, however, that any scientist who gets a new idea from the right brain must then submit it to the careful logic of the left brain. A discovery cannot be accepted until it is rationally defined and supported by objective evidence from which logically impeccable conclusions are drawn. An artist does not labor under the same requirements, but a “spiritual scientist” such as Steiner should be held to these standards.

In his book, THE BLIND WATCHMAKER (W. W. Norton & Co, 1996), Richard Dawkins discusses what he calls "Argument from Personal Incredulity": the tendency to reject ideas that we personally find hard or impossible to believe. The flaw in such arguments is plain: We may not know enough about a subject to form a rational conclusion; our disbelief may arise from ignorance. Then, too, even if we are well versed in a subject, our personal, emotional needs may lead us to disbelieve something regardless of the facts. In sum, it is a fallacy to decide that something is wrong simply because we don't believe it.

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 with 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. (This is often called credo consolans: I believe what consoles me.)

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 also very irrational.

Steiner advocated Argument from Appeal, although he did so without appearing to understand what he was doing. He argued 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 inspired by — may be utterly wrong. We may like something very, very, very much — but it may be poppycock nonetheless. 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, while 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 the 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! 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!

But when I present these heartfelt truths to my rational mind, it most annoyingly asks for evidence. 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.


[35] Steiner preferred subjectivity. He often claimed to advocate thinking and intellection, but he often contradicted this claim. He taught that emotions or feelings are superior to thinking in that they link us directly to the spirit realm. 

“[T]hinking is oriented to the physical plane. Feeling really has a connection with all the spiritual beings who must be considered real ... In the sphere of feelings, human beings cannot liberate [i.e., separate] themselves from the spiritual world.” — Rudolf Steiner, PSYCHOANALYSIS AND SPIRITUAL PSYCHOLOGY (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1990), p. 70. 

But feelings do not have the power Steiner attributed to them. They come from the intermediate level of our brains, the paleomammalian brain. [See, e.g., Temple Grandin, ANIMALS IN TRANSLATION (Scribner, 2005), p. 54.] All other mammals presumably experience emotions similar to ours, arising from similar brain circuitry. If animals, ruled largely by their feelings, often behave foolishly, so do we when we submit to the dictates of our feelings. As we all should know from daily experience, feelings are unreliable guides.

Steiner’s advocacy of subjective states helps explain his devotion to the “science” of the German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. In considering phenomena, Steiner said, Goethe included the inward spiritual reality, whereas Isaac Newton and modern scientists in general operate only on the external, physical plane. 

“Here we have the quintessence of the contrast between Goethe and the modern scientists as represented by Newton. The scientists of modern times have only looked in one direction, always observing external nature in such a way as to attribute all things to centric forces....” — Rudolf Steiner, SCIENCE (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2000), p. 97. 

By “centric” forces, Steiner meant forces arising from a phenomenon itself, whereas “peripheral” forces flow in from the cosmos, or from the spirit realm. [Ibid., p. 78] The difference between Goethe’s approach and Newton’s shows up in all investigations, such as inquiries into the nature of light and color: 

“A person must really have lost all knowledge of the spiritual world to speak of Newton’s color theory. People who are still inwardly stimulated by the spiritual world, as was the case with Goethe, will resist it ... Goethe never censured so severely as he censured Newton.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE SECRET STREAM (Anthroposophic Press, 2000), p. 200. 

And yet today Newton stands with Einstein as mankind’s premiere scientific geniuses; Goethe’s contributions to science are essentially nil.

Inquiring into spiritual phenomena is, of course, important for any thinking person. But notice that, by Steiner’s own account, Goethe’s subjective predisposition determined the sorts of conclusions he would draw — he was “inwardly stimulated by the spiritual world.” He didn’t objectively find spirit, he imputed it. This is not science, a point that Steiner simultaneously understood and rejected. He claimed to be a scientist, and he claimed that Goethe was a scientist, yet he persistently derided science because it functions differently from faith by emphasizing objectivity rather than inclination. 

“Scientifically, man tore himself loose from his god, and thus from the spirit ... What happened here explains why a man like Goethe found it impossible to go along with Newton on any point ... Goethe always had the feeling that man has to experience everything...that the cosmos was only a continuation of what man had inwardly experienced.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE ORIGINS OF NATURAL SCIENCE (Anthroposophic Press, 1985), p. 52. 

The celebration of subjective experience is attractive, perhaps; the idea that we have an innate inner awareness of transcendent truths is attractive, certainly; the difficulty objective science has in coming to grips with spiritual questions is vexing, for sure — but reality is reality, our limits are our limits, and wishing otherwise doesn’t make it so.

The teaching of science at Waldorf schools is always potentially problematic. Parents should carefully investigate the science curriculum at any Waldorf they are considering for their children. The title of a lecture announced in February, 2009, may suggest the challenge: “Teaching Sensible Science in the Waldorf School.” [] We can’t know, from this title, what is being proposed. “Sensible” science may be an excellent concept — or it may indicate departures from real science. Parents should inquire whenever they are confronted with such concepts at Waldorf schools.

[36] See, e.g. James Phillips and James Morely, IMAGINATION AND ITS PATHOLOGIES (MIT Press, 2003).

Steiner said that hallucination exists on a scale extending from error caused by the body to true clairvoyant insight attained by the spirit:

"Hallucinations, pictures that appear before human consciousness and that do not reveal a corresponding reality upon closer, critical examination — such hallucinations, such visions, are something diseased if we consider them from the standpoint of human life as it unfolds between birth, or conception, and death. When we describe hallucinations as something abnormal, however, as something that certainly does not belong to the normal course of life between birth and death, we have in no way grasped the inherent nature of hallucination.

"... If the body conceptualizes as body, it conceives hallucinations; that is, it brings hallucinations into consciousness. If the spirit conceptualizes as spirit, then it has imaginations; if the soul, which is the mediator between the two, begins to conceptualize, that is, if the soul conceptualizes as soul, then neither will the unjustified hallucinations pressed out of the body arise, nor will the soul penetrate to spiritual realities. Instead it will reach an undefined intermediary stage; these are fantasies. Picture the body; between birth and death it is not an instrument for conceptualizing. If between birth and death it conceptualizes nevertheless, it does so in an unjustified and abnormal way, and hallucinations thus arise. If the spirit conceptualizes in really rising out of the body to realities, then it has imaginations [i.e., it produces true images]. The soul forms the mediator between hallucinations and imaginations in faintly outlined fantasies.

"If the body conceptualizes as body, hallucinations arise.

"If the soul conceptualizes as soul, fantasies arise.

"If the spirit conceptualizes as spirit, imaginations arise."

— Rudolf Steiner, THERAPEUTIC INSIGHTS (Mercury Press, 1984), lecture 3, GA 205.

According to this schema, hallucinations are false, imaginations are true, and fantasies occupy a middle ground (sometimes mostly false, sometimes mostly true).

[37] For a discussion of Steiner’s strangest visions, see "Everything" and the essays that follow it.

[38] Rudolf Steiner, UNDERSTANDING THE HUMAN BEING (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1993), p. 30.

When Steiner spoke of life "on" "planets" such as Jupiter, he meant life during evolutionary stages that bear the names of planets. In a sense, he meant that we will literally go to the named planets, but only in the forms that those planets will have in the future. Thus, "Jupiter" will be the new incarnation of the entire solar system, largely suffused with the influence of the gods of Jupiter. We will live "on" Jupiter in the sense that we will live in the new Jupiter phase of evolution.

[39] For a sympathetic presentation of Waldorf education, see Todd Oppenheimer, “Schooling the Imagination,” THE ATLANTIC MONTHLY, Sept. 1999, offprint distributed by the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America, p. 7. Note the title of the article.

[40] “From the stone there flows into the soul one kind of feeling, and from the animal another ... Out of these feelings and the thoughts that are bound up with them, the organs of clairvoyance are formed.” — Rudolf Steiner, KNOWLEDGE OF THE HIGHER WORLDS AND ITS ATTAINMENT (Anthroposophic Press. 1947), chapter 2, part 3, GA 10. (See our previous discussion of these organs.)

[41] Rudolf Steiner, COSMIC MEMORY (Rudolf Steiner Publications, 1959), chapter 8, GA 11.


[43] Rudolf Steiner, FOUNDATIONS OF ESOTERICISM (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1982), lecture 24, GA 93a. I have adapted the terminology slightly.

For more on the "planets," see "Everything" and "Planets".

[44] A.C. Harwood, PORTRAIT OF A WALDORF SCHOOL (The Myrin Institute Inc., 1956), pp. 23-24.

[45] Rudolf Steiner, THE ILLUSTRATED CALENDAR OF THE SOUL (Temple Lodge Publishing, 2004), meditation #7.

Above, we considered an excerpt from

Waldorf Schools Teach Odd Science, Odd Evolution

by Eugene C. Scott

National Center for Science Education


Here are more extended excerpts: 

[I]f schools follow Steiner's views on science, education will suffer. Steiner believed that materialism was insufficient for the understanding of nature. He believed that science needs to "go beyond" the empirical and consider vitalistic, unobservable forces, a perspective also common in 20th century New Age healing approaches ... Anatomy and physiology a la Steiner are unrecognizable by modern scientists: the heart does not pump blood; there are 12 senses ("touch, life, movement, equilibrium, warmth, smell," etc.) corresponding to signs of the zodiac ... Physics and chemistry are just as bad: the "elements" are earth, air, fire, and water. The four "kingdoms of nature" are mineral, plant, animal and man....

Waldorf teachers are supposed to teach Steinerian evolution. In this view, species were specially created, rather than evolving from one another, and "spiritual beings were the creators." "Let us start from the point that the gods, or the divine spiritual beings, decided to create the world and man. For this we have a good authority in the first chapter of the first book of the Bible." (All quotes from a teachers' training manual by [Waldorf teacher] Roy Wilkinson, MAN AND ANIMAL, The Robinswood Press, 1990....)

The Waldorf version of evolution is especially concerned with the relationship of humans to animals, but this relationship is quite different from that of mainline evolutionists. "It becomes apparent that man is a compendium of the animal kingdom; alternatively expressed, that the animal kingdom is the human being spread out." The human "essence" passed through a number of "spiritual states" on the way to becoming human, which was a relatively recent event. "Dr. Steiner considers animals to be the by-products of human development. Man has been involved from the beginning but not in a physical form. Man existed spiritually and the animal forms represent physically incarnated soul forces which the human being had to dispense with in order to mature sufficiently to receive the ego. ... As in life...we are trying to overcome the lower passions to evolve to something higher, so throughout evolution, the passions were separated out from man and these were incorporated as animals."

"We see then that man is not the result of animal evolution but that he is at the beginning of it and is central to it. Indeed he is the cause of it. The animal world represents soul qualities which the human being has discarded although he still retains remnants of them."

Steiner's teachings on race are also unscientific. Books authored by Steiner that are still being sold at Waldorf schools make claims such that "If the blonds and blue-eyed people die out, the human race will become increasingly dense if men do not arrive at a form of intelligence that is independent of blondness" ... [I]t is not likely that racist propaganda of this sort is being taught [in Waldorf schools today], but it is not at all clear that proponents of Steiner's philosophy have publicly repudiated such views. Something upon which aficionados of Steiner's philosophy should reflect is that if he was so dead wrong about genetics and racial variation in general, couldn't he also be in error regarding other supposedly "scientific" teachings?

...One NCSE member, Dan Dugan, investigated the Waldorf school his son attended and found that although teachers claimed that only Steinerian methods were used, the pseudoscientific content of Steiner's views also crept into the curriculum.

Surely there is value in an educational system that promotes spontaneity, creativity, expressive arts, and enthusiasm in children, but such an approach should not denigrate a more materialistic, scientific way of knowing, which has proven its usefulness. Both are necessary for good education.

[End of excerpts]

A Note from Your Host

Are Anthroposophical falsehoods actually taught in science classes at Waldorf schools? It depends. Some Waldorf schools are more deeply committed to Steiner and his teachings than others are. At a minimum, you should be alert. If you are considering a Waldorf school for your children, do your best to penetrate that school's science curriculum. [For some pointers on how to evaluate a Waldorf school, see "Clues". The remaining items on this page may also prove helpful.]

— R.R.



[Association of Waldorf Schools of North America, 2004]

Poking around in 

Anthroposophical publications 

can be rewarding. 

Here is a Waldorf teacher stating, 

more or less openly, 

that Waldorf schools train 

students in forms of thought 

that lure them to Anthroposophy:

"When a foundation of observation and disciplined thinking is established, the high school science teacher now introduces a new type of thinking ... [T]his 'new' thinking is called phenomenological thinking ... [F]irst a phenomenon is carefully observed; second, the rigors and laws of thinking and science are applied ... third, everything up to now is laid to rest, the mind is cleared, and the phenomenon itself is allowed to speak. The student observes what comes forward while keeping the mind from straying ... This activity opens on up to new possibilities ... This type of thinking is freed from the senses and allows the universe to speak through the individual. It is a type of thinking which is truly moral and can be the fertile ground for the 'new' science of the twenty-first century." — David S. Mitchell, THE WONDERS OF WALDORF CHEMISTRY (Association of Waldorf Schools of North America, 2004), pp. 12-13.

The "new" thinking is a form of meditation ("the mind is cleared...keeping the mind from straying").* It is the sort of thinking Steiner advocated for producing clairvoyant powers. 

◊ "Whoever wants to acquire imaginative clairvoyance develops this force through meditation and gradually attains it." — Rudolf Steiner, SLEEP AND DREAMS (SteinerBooks, 2003), p. 124. 

◊ "This kind of meditation may reach any of a number of stages, from the smallest gain in moral strength to the highest attainments of clairvoyance. " — Rudolf Steiner, THE CHRISTIAN MYSTERY (SteinerBooks, 1998), p. p. 222. 

◊ "Many people object they have tried to meditate in all kinds of ways but are still not becoming clairvoyant. This lack of clairvoyance simply shows they do not want the strength and activity I have just described." — Rudolf Steiner, THE PRESENCE OF THE DEAD ON THE SPIRITUAL PATH (SteinerBooks, 1990), p. 6.

The "new" thinking described by Mitchell is "freed from the senses" because, according to Rudolf Steiner, clairvoyance is seated not in the physical brain but in nonphysical organs of clairvoyance. 

◊ "And just as natural forces evolve the physical eyes and ears of the physical body, out of living matter, so will the organs of clairvoyance evolve themselves from the spiritual feelings which are thus evoked." — Rudolf Steiner, THE WAY OF INITIATION (Macoy Publishing and Masonic Supply Co., 1910), p. 83. 

◊ "Out of these feelings and the thoughts that are bound up with them, the organs of clairvoyance are formed." — Rudolf Steiner, HOW TO KNOW HIGHER WORLDS (Wilder Publications, 2008), p. 26.

Waldorf students who attempt the "new" kind of thinking may not leap straight to clairvoyance (in reality, they cannot, since clairvoyance is a fantasy). But by using "phenomenological thinking" as described by Mitchell, they will be on their way (or so their Waldorf teachers hope). Phenomena and/or the universe itself will "speak through the individual" as through a clairvoyant or seer.

The thinking Mitchell refers to is hardly new. It is an approach advocated by the German author Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and embraced by Steiner. [See "Goethe".] So-called "Goethean science" is meant to be an alternative and corrective to conventional science. And as Steiner arranged matters, Goethean science leads to "spiritual science," i.e. Steiner's own doctrines, i.e. Anthroposophy. 

"[T]he science [Steiner] spoke of was not conventional science of the abstract mechanical-materialist type. Modern science in this sense was, in fact, a deviation ... The corrective was to create an alternative science based on different assumptions." — Anthroposophist Christopher Bamford, introducing Steiner's WHAT IS ANTHROPOSOPHY? (Anthroposophic Press, 2002), p. 19.

But Goethean science is not real science at all; it is a misconstruction of scientific procedures and values. In this sense (pace Bamford), the form of "science" found in Waldorf schools is the deviation from truth and from the search for truth. Yet it is close to the heart of the Waldorf enterprise. Waldorf schools try to inculcate a meditative form of thought that leads students toward accepting Anthroposophy. Students taking a class that may seem to be centered on conventional science (chemistry) wind up being introduced to a form of thinking that leads them into Goethean science ("Waldorf chemistry") and, by indirection, it leads on to "spiritual science" (Anthroposophy). Waldorf schools exist to promote Anthroposophy. This is what Mitchell and Bamford and Steiner have told us, without meaning to be quite so direct about it. (Although sometimes they have come close.

"Anthroposophy will be in the school when it is objectively justified, that is, when it is called for by the material itself.” — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 495. 

And when will the material — seen through the "new" way of thinking — call for it? Just about always.)

* The essence of meditation is emptying the mind, attaining openness and peace. Each time this cleared consciousness is violated — that is, each time the mind strays — the meditator puts the entering thought aside and returns to meditative stillness. Peaceful, clear, open/empty-mindedness is the desired state. [See, e.g., AN INTRODUCTION TO ZEN BUDDHISM, by D. T. Suzuki and Carl Jung, SPIRITUAL DIRECTION AND MEDITATION, by Thomas Merton, and (at the pop level) 8 MINUTE MEDITATION: Quiet Your Mind, Change Your Life, by Victor N. Davich.]

“It is usually better to remain quiet, to be still ... The most important thing is to seek silence, tranquility, recollection and peace.” — Thomas Merton.

I have nothing to say against meditation. I meditate daily. But the Waldorf approach — believing that meditation can lead to clairvoyance — is deeply flawed. Clairvoyance is a delusion, and most of Steiner's occult teachings are wholly unsupported by any form of real evidence. People should be clearly informed that Waldorf schools aim to lead students toward the forms of "thought" advocated by Rudolf Steiner. Parents who like what Steiner said may find Waldorf schools to be just what they want for their kids. But parents who see dangers in Steiner's occult doctrines may want to look elsewhere.

— R.R.


From a discussion at the 

British Centre for Science Education


I have added a few footnotes, 

set off by back slashes. — R.R.

Comment by “MarkH”:

"I’ve been doing some research on science teaching in Steiner schools….

"It is, unfortunately, difficult to find out what's actually going on in the classroom. When I asked the Hereford school for some information on lesson plans and the science curriculum, they referred me to a book by Richter & Rawson: 'The Educational Tasks and Content of the Steiner Waldorf Curriculum'. This is apparently the major source on which the curriculum in most UK Steiner schools is based. The chapter on life sciences is particularly interesting. There’s no specific mention of creationism, and evolution is taught, though with some reservations … Darwinism is [described as] 'rooted in reductionist thinking and Victorian ethics'. We are urged to give the fullest consideration to questions such as whether we are 'a naked ape or a spiritual individuality clothed in a physical body'. Evolution is singled out as an example of the limits of science, whereby existing theories can be superseded by more powerful and useful descriptions of nature. Alternative theories are not discussed, but we are assured that 'current ideas' will be replaced during the students' adulthood. 

"Other worrying aspects of the life sciences curriculum include the claim that 'the circulation of the blood is not a closed system and the pump model [1] is not sufficient to understand the circulation of the blood or the sensitivity of the heart to the emotions'. 'The limitations of the germ theory of disease', the benefits of certain childhood diseases [2] and discussion of vaccination [3] in the context of rejection of foreign proteins by the immune system, are all hints that Anthroposophical ideas and culture can seep into the science curriculum. 

"In chemistry, Richter & Rawson give homeopathy [4] as an example of a phenomenon that cannot be explained by 'atomic theory', with its unfortunate 'implicit materialism'. A couple of paragraphs later, the authors emphasize that an open-minded approach to science, 'grounded in clear thinking and exact observation' should be cultivated. However, there is little evidence here that students are given the tools to think critically and to differentiate objective phenomena from illusion and personal, subjective interpretation.

"I have no idea how much of this makes it into the classroom and no easy way of finding out. However, it's enough to have convinced me that there are better places than the local Steiner school to get a good science education."

Footnotes for this Section


"[Science] sees the heart as a pump that pumps blood through the body. Now there is nothing more absurd than believing this, for the heart has nothing to do with pumping the blood.” — Rudolf Steiner, FREUD, JUNG, AND SPIRITUAL PSYCHOLOGY, (SteinerBooks, 2001), pp. 124-125. [See "Steiner's Quackery".]

[2] Steiner taught that diseases are often needed — they are part of our karma, and therefore they often should be allowed to run their course. [See, e.g., "Growing Up Being Made Sick by Anthroposophy".]

[3] Steiner did not forbid vaccination, but he warned of its spiritual dangers. [See the section "Vaccination" in "Steiner's Quackery”.]

[4] Anthroposophical medicine includes various homeopathic or near-homeopathic nostrums. From the perspective of conventional medicine, however, homeopathy is considered both unfounded and ineffective. [See, e.g., the entry for "homeopathy" in The Brief Waldorf / Steiner Encyclopedia.]

— R.R.


"Occult Science is the antithesis of Natural Science.” 


(Anthroposophic Press, 1972), 

preface to editions 16-20, p. xiv, GA 13.

Steiner's central doctrines, which constitute his "occult science," are laid out in the book shown above. Various editions have been given slightly varying titles, including AN OUTLINE OF OCCULT SCIENCE, OCCULT SCIENCE - AN OUTLINE, and AN OUTLINE OF ESOTERIC SCIENCE.

By "occult science," Steiner meant the use of disciplined clairvoyance to investigate the spirit realm and, by extension, the physical realm. Steiner also used the term "spiritual science" for the same clairvoyant enterprise. When he was a Theosophist, his "spiritual science" was his brand of Theosophy. After he broke away to found Anthroposophy as a separate spiritual movement, he applied the term "spiritual science" specifically to Anthroposophy.

Occult science, esoteric science, spiritual science, Anthroposophy — for Steiner and his followers, they are all essentially the same. They do indeed stand as antitheses of natural science. And they are the basis of Waldorf education.


"Steiner describes unseen beings who tempt and waylay us in two very different directions. On one side, there are the servants of Lucifer, the fallen angel of light. They are beings who have brought humanity great gifts, but who would abandon the goals of the highest hierarchies and create a blissful kingdom of spiritual light and delight for themselves. On the other side, there are immensely powerful beings who strive to blind us to the spirit, powers for whom it is self-evident that the universe is a machine and that what can be measured, weighed, and quantified [i.e., the view taken by scientists, "materialists"] is the only reality. These spirits of materialism belong to the dark power that the ancient wisdom called Ahriman, or Angra Mainyu."
 — Henry Barnes, 
Rudolf Steiner in the 
Crosscurrent of Our Time
 (Anthroposophic Press, 1997), 


The following is extracted from Grégoire Perra's
I have added a few footnotes, 
set off by back slashes. — R.R.

Waldorf schooling promotes a uniform religiosity that overflows into all areas of school life. Even in science class, we were taught to observe the experiments with an attitude of devotion. I can even say that this atmosphere stimulated in me, at times, certain abnormal mental states. Thus, I remember that when a mythic tale was used as an introduction in Geography, I had the distinct feeling out of my body floating outside of time. That at least is how I pictured the experience after I had returned to myself....

Waldorf schools say that they teach the scientific disciplines based on a particular method. This is the systematic observation of phenomena in order to progressively discover the laws contained within them. [1] This approach is claimed to offset the general trend towards abstraction that is characteristic of modern civilization. It rebels against the widespread practice of teaching students the laws of physics, chemistry, optics, and other sciences, without first teaching them to observe natural phenomena as they occur. Today, to support their approach, Anthroposophic educators claim that such trends as the emphasis on "hands-on" schooling are in tune with their method.

However, having experienced from the inside how these attractive principles are applied in the actual education of a Waldorf student, I can attest to their complete ineffectiveness. In reality, observing phenomena to discover their inner laws requires a gradual shift from description to conceptualization. When the student is in the presence of a phenomenon, such as during a chemistry experiment, the realization of what he sees raises questions about the phenomenon observed and these questions lead him to formulate hypotheses, which then may be confirmed in the form of scientific laws. But within Anthroposophic teaching, there is a broad inability to pass from observation to understanding, from perception to conceptualization. When I was a student, we spent hours to prepare, perform, and observe experiments. But we learned nothing. We never comprehended anything that we saw. We got bogged down in the process of  description, which never raised any thoughts. This pattern was repeated no matter which teachers I had. They reproduced an experiment by following the instructions given by Rudolf Steiner or one of his disciples, but they were unable to raise questions and thoughtful analyses that would have led us to comprehend underlying laws. Partly this was because they had a horror of abstraction and therefore were reluctant to get to the point where, in an appropriate scientific spirit, they should frame a law in an abstract form. But the problem was also that they were genuinely incapable of thinking in conceptual terms, as I would notice later when I observed them as an adult. Anthroposophy, which is a mystical approach, had atrophied or destroyed their ability to rise to concepts. At most they wanted to reach for images, but not beyond.

The best example of the kind of teaching I am describing was a seventh grade course in chemistry dealing with acids and alkalis. Our teacher had us make a broth of red cabbage, to show how the liquid changed color when it shifted from alkali to acid. We repeated the process several times, without understanding the purpose, as if we were observing a magic trick. The scientific approach became literally bogged down in red cabbage, with most of it falling to the ground in the general confusion caused by our increasing lack of interest in an experiment that taught us nothing. I also frequently remember our science teacher in 11th grade describing the phenomenon of electricity by using the metaphor of the attraction that lovers feel for each other. This inability to formulate abstract principles, even in science, did considerable damage to our study of mathematics. I remember, for example, that in twelfth grade we had the greatest difficulty understanding the concept of "an algebraic function" because no metaphor was available to characterize it. This rejection of abstraction, coupled with the fact that we were almost never asked to commit anything to memory and we were rarely tested, meant that my class's level of comprehension in all scientific fields, especially in mathematics, was absolutely abysmal. The only students who learned enough to pass a standard science exam were those whose parents arranged for extra tutoring outside school, or who themselves supervised their offspring in this area. As is often done in the Steiner-Waldorf schools, during our final year our class was divided into two groups: the first consisting of students who did well in science, thanks to instruction provided by competent outsiders, and the second group — of which I was one — who had to settle for a "course" offered by a former student who had a head for math but who was a terrible teacher, had no qualifications to display, and treated us with a nonchalance that resembled babysitting. However, the school wanted to hide these matters from our parents, so our grades were artificially inflated right through graduation. This had the effect that I confidently enrolled in an advanced college course in mathematics and philosophy, and I scored 10% in the first round of mathematics; I managed to pass only because I got 80% in philosophy, which improved my average.

But the inability of teachers in the land of Anthroposophy to lift their thinking to the level of concepts was not restricted to the sciences. It was also evident in the arts and in art history courses. Indeed, it often arose in our "grand art classes," in which slides showing famous works of art were projected onto screens. We had to describe these works in a collective process, with every student in the class invited to take the floor. What was said in this process was not uninteresting, since we learned to observe a work closely, working out each of its details, etc. But when it came to going beyond description to interpretation, we hit a large blank wall. Our teacher was completely incapable of ascertaining the meaning to what we saw. She seemed to be happily trapped at the level of sensitively gazing at the art. All that she could say boiled down to a single comment that she repeated for each of the works, namely: "It's very interesting!" That is as far as we got! When I met her again, years later, as a trainer at a center for Steiner-Waldorf teacher training, I saw that she had absolutely not changed in this regard. She presented us works art, we had to describe them, and then she concluded with "It's very interesting!" — which left us puzzled while she blinked her eyes with an absent air. A few Steiner-Waldorf alumni in the training program were scandalized to meet this kind of instruction again after so many years, but they did not dare to openly voice any reproach, for fear of the great power wielded by this trainer at the core of the Steiner-Waldorf system. Anyone protesting against such instruction would invalidate his training and have no chance of finding a job later.

I should stress that what I have described in my science teachers and the instructors of the "grand art classes" is a common trait that I found in all Waldorf teachers. I am not trying here to stigmatize any particular person, but to point to a general feature that I found often strongly expressing itself. It might seem strange that a system of education founded by the author of THE PHILOSOPHY OF FREEDOM [2] is characterized by inability to think through concepts. Indeed, didn't Rudolf Steiner devote many pages of this book to an effort to identify precisely the nature of conceptual thinking, which he called in other parts of his work "pure thought" or "truly human thinking"? [3] But if you study his pronouncements, it should be noted that he is always and ever elusive in his description of these matters. He mentions the existence of pure thought, and he claims in his statements that we can gain access to it, but his readers are never actually shown it, even in his early works [i.e., while he was still ostensibly a secular intellectual]. Subsequently, when Steiner set forth Anthroposophy as an esoteric and mystical system, we can say that his disciples became bogged down in metaphorical and reverential thinking. [4] That is why speeches by Anthroposophic educators are full of metaphors, such as the germination of the seed, but they almost never lay out concepts that are truly delineated. And is this not also because conceptual thought, such as we find in genuine philosophy, contains a force that gives individuals freedom, while Anthroposophy is a bondage?

Anthroposophy is a mode of religious thought, which causes it to be fundamentally inconsistent with a truly scientific approach. Because it is the basis of Steiner-Waldorf schooling, Anthroposophy prevents the normal teaching of science. Religion is noble, certainly. But towards perceptible phenomena, Anthroposophy develops an attitude of reverence that does not allow critical analysis. This is the reason why, in many Steiner-Waldorf schools, the parents of the students are well aware that science is the "poor relation" in the curriculum. Some Steiner-Waldorf schools sometimes try to stem this disaster by bringing in outsider instructors, if they have the acceptable associations. Thus, we can find distinguished researchers sometimes teaching senior science courses in Steiner-Waldorf schools. But is this not an admission that it is basically impossible to entrust scientific disciplines to Anthroposophic teachers, who do not have the proper spirit for this mission? And this is aside from the problem that researchers are not necessarily good teachers, and they can't perform miracles when the bases for science instruction have not been laid, so the level of what they present is often too complicated for Waldorf high school students. To bring in outsiders from various scientific fields is an admission to the world that an education based on Anthroposophy is incompatible with truly learning science.

Footnotes for this Section

[1] Perra is referring here to the Goethean science espoused in Waldorf schools. Such science, so called, seeks to penetrate to spiritual realities underlying physical phenomena. [See "Goethe".] The objective is to produce a deeply subjective, mystical state of consciousness; in effect, the purpose is to nudge students toward spiritual revelation of the sort that underlies Rudolf Steiner's "spiritual science," Anthroposophy. The is the new "science" that Rudolf Steiner's followers want to see replace the natural and physical  sciences. Severing the self from the physical senses, the "spiritual scientist" rises to a "higher" consciousness of "higher" realities.

[2] THE PHILOSOPHY OF FREEDOM, by Rudolf Steiner, was originally a straightforward philosophical text. When Steiner wrote it, he was a secular intellectual, and he had great hopes for the book's reception. Critics did not hail Steiner as the next great German philosopher, however, and not long afterwards Steiner amazed his family, friends, and students by plunging into occultism. Thereafter, he revised THE PHILOSOPHY OF FREEDOM to make it consistent with his new mystical doctrines. This is the form of the book now studied by Waldorf teacher trainees. [For more on such matters, see "What a Guy", "Freedom", and "Teacher Training".]

[3] Steiner's teachings about intellect are complex and, indeed, self-contradictory. On the one hand, Steiner claimed that his "spiritual science" — Anthroposophy — is consistent with intellect and the natural sciences. On the other hand, he disparaged intellect and the natural sciences. [See, e.g.,  "Science".] Ultimately, after fully committing himself to occultism, Steiner advocated clairvoyance and "living thoughts" (which are sent to us by the gods) rather than reasoning or, indeed, the use of the brain. [See, e.g., "Clairvoyance" and "Thinking".]

[4] The essential discipline of Anthroposophy is the effort to discipline the mind so that one can attain clairvoyance or even — what Steiner claimed to possess — "exact" clairvoyance. To look into these matters, see "Knowing the Worlds" and "Exactly".

— R.R.


"‘Science’ for Anthroposophists is not what is usually meant by this English word ... Steiner sought to ‘free’ the scientific method....

"Living Thinking, a path for the philosophically and mathematically inclined, and Goethean Science, which is based on observation, are generally held [by Anthroposophists] to be equivalent to the first stage of Imagination. Steiner was deeply influenced by Goethe’s holistic scientific method, which he spiritualized as he adopted it into his burgeoning Anthroposophy. Goethean science’s search amidst the multitude of plant forms for the archetypal plant (or Urpflanze) is considered a first step toward spiritual knowledge.

"There has been considerable Anthroposophical investigation into ‘etheric’ forces. They are identified with the ‘four elements’ ... There is also a belief, consonant with traditional astrology, that minerals on earth are permeated by etheric streams from different planets....

"[Steiner] believed that animals had a descending evolution, evolving ‘downwards’ from their archetypal origin, the spiritual human form ... Human beings descended and condensed or incarnated later. Evolution is also [believed by Anthroposophists to be] ascending towards greater conscious spirituality ... [Steiner’s] time scales were very short even in terms of contemporary geological and anthropological knowledge, but the huge time spans established by more recent radiocarbon dating have made many of his statements look shorter still. His follower, Guenther Wachsmuth, surmounted the problem through ‘establishing’ that radioactive decay itself first began between 15,000 BC (the entry of the Platonic year into Libra) and 13,800 BC (when it entered into Virgo).

"Occasionally, the possibility that Steiner made a mistake may be contemplated. Deep ocean exploration has made his siting of Atlantis look impossible. Some Anthroposophists reputedly believe he erred ... But others defend the revelation ... It has also been held that Steiner’s descriptions of Atlantis were not intended literally.

"...Anthroposophical science...seems to presuppose Steiner’s cosmology and then amplify it spiritually. Life on earth derives from chains of supernal and immanent beings. Thus the First Spiritual Hierarchy [i.e., the highest gods below the Godhead] are said to be so pure that they are separated from the ‘selfhood’, which constitutes the Second Anthroposophical Spiritual Hierarchy. In Anthroposophy some of the latter (the Powers) form plants, animals, man and planets, while others (the Mights) govern the growth of living things. The Third Anthroposophical Spiritual Hierarchy directly affect life on earth, thus flowing water is said to contain the Angels. Wind and fire are infused by other spirits, and Zeitgeists (or Spirits of the Age), which are taken literally, are thought to be the manifestation of the Principalities. These and other spirits have ‘offspring’, which are the ‘nature spirits’ of air, water, earth, and so on. In Anthroposophy there are also...’elemental beings’ such as goblins, sylphs, undines, [spiritual] salamanders, and gnomes ... A man who takes sixteen false paths in his incarnations may become one [i.e., fall out of human evolution]." — Geoffrey Ahern, SUN AT MIDNIGHT (James Clarke & Co., 2009), pp. 92-94.


“High school students at [X] Waldorf School took real pleasure in completing physics projects, designing a Wimhurst machine, DC motors and Van de Graaff generators.” 

[, Jan. 23, 2009.] 

Wimhurst machines are generators invented during the 1880s; Van de Graaff generators date from the 1930s. Building such devices may give students some appreciation of electricity, but it would not convey twenty-first century scientific information.

According to a spokesperson, “‘At [X] Waldorf School, students are provided experiences that strengthen and reinforce their own inclination to experiment, explore and question. Students often communicate how science is perceived as fun.’” [, Jan. 23, 2009.] 

Recreating old-fashioned gizmos may well be fun, but it would hardly produce the creativity needed for real science, which is the exploration of the unknown. It is in no way a form of experimentation or scientific research. It is a diversion.


Steiner on modern technology

(with racism sadly intruding):

"The effects of machinery and industrialism are meaningless to an Oriental. Another thing is just as senseless to an Oriental, whether we in Europe believe it or not, and that is the European politics of the machine age. The Oriental can make no sense of that, either. When educated Orientals speak, they express their feeling that a quarter of all human work now done is senseless. (People educated in the traditional Oriental manner do not do this, only those more directed toward the West and their imitators, Japanese and so forth.) Since modern educated Orientals have a higher degree of atavistic clairvoyance, they recognize that everything people put into machines as work has a very particular characteristic. When someone plows the field with a horse and plow, working with the horse, the work with the horse still contains some natural forces and some significance beyond the present; that work has a universal significance. When a wasp builds a nest, this structure has cosmic meaning. If someone starts a fire by striking flint against a stone, causing sparks to fly that then ignite the tinder, that person exists in unity with nature, and the act has cosmic significance. We have lost our connection to cosmic purpose through modern industrialism. There is no universal consequence when we turn on an electric light. Cosmic meaning is gone. When you go into a modern factory completely filled with machines, what you find is a cosmic hole, something without consequence in cosmic development." 

— Rudolf Steiner, 



(Anthroposophic Press, 1997), 

pp. 32-33.


The following is from a newspaper 

account published in February, 2009. 

I will withhold the name of the school 

and administrator in question:

At [X] Waldorf School, all forms of the arts are completely integrated with every aspect of the curriculum, in line with Waldorf methodology, which emphasizes arts and the ‘inner life.’

“Art, music, handwork and woodwork are all part of a child's daily school experience at Waldorf.

“For example, students create their own main lesson books in all the academic subjects.

“If the topic is chemistry, they study the subject in a broad way that includes history, literature and biographies of chemists in addition to the laboratory science itself.

“‘Out of that, they create their main lesson book. They hand write and illustrate it, and that is one way that visual arts is worked into chemistry,’ says [Y], school administrator."

[Calgary Herald, Feb. 12, 2009.]

• ◊ •

R.R. Response:

There can be advantages to this approach, but there may also be clear disadvantages. The Waldorf school in question, here, may be excellent — I don’t know anything about the school beyond what the newspaper reports. But there are elements in the report that may cause concern. For Rudolf Steiner, the “inner life” is subjective spiritualism, based on clairvoyance. He emphasized art for occult, not aesthetic, reasons. And he de-emphasized science. Consider how much hard science a student may learn if s/he spends “science” study time reading “history, literature and biographies” and then creating a hand-lettered report, complete with time-consuming illustrations. How much time is spent actually studying science or working in a science lab? (At many Waldorf schools, the answer is little or none. "Science" classwork may consist of diverting but uninformative activities such as building antique semi-scientific equipment or, even, creating ceramic pots. [For the latter, see, e.g., The report on pottery is informal, brief, and anecdotal. It would merit no attention except that it is seems to be supported by what we have learned elsewhere about Waldorf science instruction.])


[Rudolf Steiner Press, 1966.]

A basic tenet of Anthroposophy is that humanity is evolving upward through higher and higher stages of consciousness or cognition. If we live wisely and well, we move to higher forms of consciousness during our present lives, during our lives after death, and during our future evolution on other "planets." Imagination, for instance, is the form of consciousness we will perfect during Future Jupiter. 

The following is from is an Anthroposophical description of the Steiner book THE EVOLUTION OF CONSCIOUSNESS: 

"In these comprehensive lectures, given to an English audience, Rudolf Steiner explains how it is possible to develop higher faculties of consciousness — Imagination, Inspiration, and Intuition. A particularly vivid description is given of one's life after death and the progress of the individual through the planetary spheres where tasks and goals for future incarnations are prepared in cooperation with the spiritual beings of the Hierarchies [i.e., gods]. The lectures culminate in the call for humanity to gradually take in hand its own destiny through the conscious and free development of spiritual capacities."  [The Rudolf Steiner Archive.]

As we have seen, inspiration is higher than imagination, and intuition is higher still. Essentially, these are all stages of "exact" or "strict" clairvoyance: 

"Conscious Intuition, therefore, the highest development of strict clairvoyance, actually consists in arresting the actions which a sleep-walker is instinctively compelled by the Moon-forces to perform. Anyone who brings about this metamorphosis does not give himself up to the physical forces of the Moon but holds them in check within himself. Thus he is enabled to devote himself intuitively to the relevant spirituality; that is, he attains to Intuition." — Rudolf Steiner, THE EVOLUTION OF CONSCIOUSNESS, lecture 7, GA 227.

(with, again, racism in the mix)

"When Dan Dugan attended an open house at the San Francisco Waldorf School, he thought he'd found the most beautiful school in the world.

"...He enrolled his son in sixth grade, and everything went well for a year.

"Trouble began when Dugan picked up one of Steiner's books, on sale at the school. Steiner lectured (Germany, 1922): 'If the blonds and blue-eyed people die out, the human race will become increasingly dense if men do not arrive at a form of intelligence that is independent of blondness.'

"...Then his son complained 'they're teaching us baby science.' A specialist science teacher had told the sixth grade 'the elements are earth, air, fire, and water.' Dugan looked at several science lesson books, and found more bad news.

"...Worse than the occasional items of cult pseudoscience was what was left out.

"...[Dugan] requested a hearing with the 'college of teachers' which runs the school. He was refused, and a delegation of teachers informed him that the family would be expelled unless he stopped making trouble.

"...Dugan sent a survey to all 270 parents in the school ... Thirty-two responded ... [A]lmost none knew about or agreed with the pseudoscientific statements taken from Steiner literature. It appears that their children were being indoctrinated in weird science without their knowledge." 

— "Weird Science at Steiner School", SKEPTICAL INQUIRER, Vol. 16 (Fall 1991), page 23: 


“Steiner’s ‘spiritual science’ is decidedly not science in the sense that is commonly understood. Its findings contradict those of modern empirical science and its method is based on meditation, clairvoyance and the methods of psychic research. As such, spiritual science technically meets quite comfortably the general definition of what a pseudoscience is.”

— "Steiner's Spiritual Science", 

archived at CHASE 

(Challenging Anthroposophy 

and Steiner Education)   



Steiner on modern technology

(with demons jumping out):

“When we build steam-engines, we provide the opportunity for the incarnation of demons ... In the steam-engine, Ahrimanic demons are actually brought to the point of physical embodiment.” 

— Rudolf Steiner, 

“The Relation of Man 

to the Hierarchies” 


Vol. V, Nos. 14-15, 1928).

“Where does it come from, this [standing] upright? ... If you loosen a stone here it will fall to the ground. Why? ... [A] force exists that pulls it down [i.e., "gravity"] ... We, too, must adapt ourselves to this vertical line. We must learn to stand in the vertical when we are earthly human beings ... [O]ur physical body would serve no purpose if we did not assume the vertical position ... But does the ether body also need what the physical body needs? ... [T]he human ether body, this subtle body which we also have, does not get so used to the vertical position ... [It] always wants to follow the rotation of the earth ... If the ether body did not want to make this movement, you would want to rotate all the time when you are just walking...wanting to go round and round all the time because you'd hurt all over from the shove you are given [by the Earth's rotation] ... You can also see from this how little thought is given to things in modern science." 

— Rudolf Steiner, 


(Rudolf Steiner Press, 2000), 

pp. 8-9. 

[R.R. sketch, 2009, 

based on the sketch on p. 8,

showing the deceptive 

power of gravity.]


“The teacher of the physical sciences in the Rudolf Steiner school is faced with a formidable task. He cannot morally be present in the school and teach unless he has absorbed, understood, and is in agreement with Rudolf Steiner’s basic conception of the world ... Material science and explanations cannot explain nature.” 

— Waldorf teacher Roy Wilkinson, 


(Rudolf Steiner College Press, 1997), 

p. 1.

The physics and chemistry teachers at Waldorf schools face “a formidable task” because they must be true to Rudolf Steiner’s teachings, but these teachings are at odds with the findings of modern science. Steiner himself disparaged modern science, including physics and chemistry. Thus, science teachers at Waldorf schools confront a daily dilemma. If they teach their sciences straight, they violate Steiner’s doctrines. But if they are faithful to Steiner, they must violate the established truths of their sciences.

How they resolve this dilemma varies from school to school. The main point for us to grasp here is that the dilemma exists. Waldorf teachers must bend modern scientific knowledge to one degree or another, since they cannot “morally be present in the school” unless they are devoted followers of Rudolf Steiner — they must be “in agreement with Rudolf Steiner’s basic conception of the world” (or, as Steiner put it, they must be “true Anthroposophists”).* Therefore, “morally,” they must misrepresent the truth about physical reality; they must be false to science in order to be true to Steiner. Inevitably, the education of their students must suffer as a result. To the degree that scientific truths are shaded to conform to Anthroposophical doctrines, students are taught Anthroposophy, not science.

As teachers in the Waldorf School, you will need to find your way more deeply into the insight of the spirit and to find a way of putting all compromises aside ... As Waldorf teachers, we must be true anthroposophists in the deepest sense of the word in our innermost feeling.” — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 495. 

The formidable task of Waldorf science teachers is doubly illuminated by this directive. Waldorf teachers must not compromise, yet if a science teacher provides students with any real scientific information that contradicts Steiner's teachings, s/he has made a profound, soul-wrenching compromise. Steiner did not deny that science contains much accurate information about the physical universe, but he said that such information is, at best, only half-true, since it leaves out everything that is important: spiritual truths. Moreover, he often denied that scientific descriptions of the reality are true even at the merely physical level.

Rudolf Steiner as a young man.

[Rudolf Steiner, THE STORY OF MY LIFE 

(Kessinger Publishing, facsimile of 1928 edition,

Anthroposophical Publishing Co.), facing p. 8.]


“We must make an effort to speak a cosmic, extraterrestrial language ... [S]cience mocks any effort to go beyond the earthly. If one even begins to speak about the stars, the terrible mockery sets in right away, as a matter of course, from the natural-scientific side ... If one wants to understand the animals, one must take recourse to the extraterrestrial, for the animals are ruled by forces that are extraterrestrial. I showed you this yesterday with respect to the fish. I told you how moon and sun forces work into the water and shape him out of the water, if I may put it so. And in the same way, the bird out of the air. As soon as one turns to the elements, one also meets the extraterrestrial. The whole animal world is explainable in terms of the extraterrestrial. And even more so the human being. But when one begins to speak of the extraterrestrial, then the mockery sets in at once.”

— Rudolf Steiner, 

“Man's Fall and Redemption” 



No. 20, 1934),  

GA 220.

As usual with Steiner, there is a great deal of nonsense in this statement. Speaking about the stars does not excite mockery in, for example, the natural science known as astronomy. But Steiner is talking about the astrological influences of the stars — the magical, mystical powers of the stars and the gods who are present within them. Astrology does excite mockery, and for a very good reason. Astrology is nonsense. But this pseudoscience is close to the core of Anthroposophy, the ideology upon which Waldorf education is built. [See, e.g., “Astrology”, “Waldorf Astrology”, “Astrosophy”, “Planetary Spirits”, and “Planetary Humans”.] 

If nothing else, we should note Steiner’s explicit antagonism to modern science — that is, real knowledge — and his affirmation of superstition. This is the sort of thinking we find in and around Waldorf schools. 

Parents, before sending your children to Waldorf schools, please consider this matter well.



The influence of the Moon beaming down to the Earth. 

"When human beings cling too strongly to earthly things it may be difficult for them to find their bearings in the sphere of the Moon Beings ... The moon-influences do not penetrate very deeply into the earth." — Rudolf Steiner, KARMIC ELATIONSHIPS, Vol. 2 (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1974), p 150. 

[I've made my copy off-kilter, since Steiner's original is. 
To lend a little pizzazz to the b&w illustration in the book, 
I have added colors; 2009.]


Possibly you do not realize that the Earth is a huge, dead human head. 

“[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." — Rudolf Steiner, FROM CRYSTALS TO CROCODILES (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2002, pp. 148-149. 

[R. R. sketch, 2009, based on illustration on p. 148. 
Atop, a cross section of a human skull; below, terra firma.]

By the way, Steiner sometimes said that the Earth is alive; on other occasions, he said it is dead. On no occasion, however, did he describe it accurately in terms of geology, geography, astronomy, or any other actual body of knowledge.


Steiner denied that gravity is a universal force; really, it is only a word. He denied that planets orbit the Sun — although, in public, he tended to gloss over this: The Moon does orbit the Earth, he said, although this has little to do with gravity. The Moon attracts the Earth, and vice versa, for occult reasons, not due to the laws of "materialistic" physics. 

“Now if the earth is to attract the moon, one really cannot speak of a materialistic view at all." — Rudolf Steiner, FROM ELEPHANTS TO EINSTEIN (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1998), p. 175. 

Copernicus was wrong. Galileo, too. Newton, too. Einstein, too. 

“Einstein, if he were to think in terms of reality...." — Ibid., p. 178.

But Einstein didn't, of course. Who is right about the physical universe and its laws? Blushing modesty, Steiner would have to admit that he — and, for practical purposes, only he — is right.

In the diagram above, you see the Earth and Moon, some forces of attraction, and suggestions of the universal ether. 

“The cosmic ether, which is common to all, carries within it the thoughts; there they are within it, those living thoughts of which I have repeatedly spoken in our anthroposophical lectures, telling you how the human being participates in them in pre-earthly life before he comes down to Earth." — Rudolf Steiner, CURATIVE EDUCATION (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1972), lecture 2, GA 317. 

This is one of Steiner's most mature thoughts, coming just a few months before he died. 

[R.R. sketch, 2009, based on image on p. 175 


"People merely gape at the rainbow nowadays. If you only look at it with some imagination [i.e., basic clairvoyance]you will see elemental beings very active in it, and these elemental beings show us some remarkable phenomena. Here [red and yellow] you see elemental beings coming out of the rainbow all the time ... The moment they arrive at the lower end of the green, they are drawn in. You see then disappearing here [green and blue]On the other side they come out again." — Rudolf Steiner, ART (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2003), pp. 233-234. 

[Above is my 2009 colored version of the  
b&w image in the book, which includes labels.]


A prism splits white light into a spectrum, ranging from red to violet. The spectrum is usually depicted as a bar of color. Steiner — following the lead of Goethe — denied that white light can be broken down into component colors, although he acknowledged that there is a color spectrum. Like Goethe, he bent the spectrum bar to form a circle, then he added the esoteric complement of each color (the corresponding colors existing in the spirit realm). He claimed this provided far more information, especially about the spiritual powers of colors and their meaning in higher worlds. 

“...If you take the usual diagram found in physics then all you have, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet ... [N]ow if I do not show it as it appears on the physical plane but as it is in the next highest world, I would have to bend the warm and cold sides of the spectrum so that it is drawn like this ... I would have my peach-blossom colour up here at the top ... In this way I obtain a complex arrangement of colours which, however, reveals more of the nature of colour than you will find in physics....” — Rudolf Steiner quoted by John Fletcher in ART INSPIRED BY RUDOLF STEINER (Mercury Arts Publications, 1987), p. 132. 

[R.R. sketch, 2010, based on the ones on pp. 133-135. 
I have refrained from emphasizing peach-blossom.] 

“Peach-blossom” is the color of white European skin, according to Steiner. No other human skin color is correct. 

“The color which comes closest to a healthy human flesh color is that of fresh peach blossoms in spring.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE ARTS AND THEIR MISSION (Anthroposophic Press, 1964), p. 93.


"Theories of Relativity no longer hold water, when the inner motion proves that man moves. And it is impossible also to prove the movements in the interior of the Earth, except by means of the inner changes that go on in Man. The movements of metabolism, for example, are the true reflection of that which the Earth executes as motion in space. And again, that which we have termed the organ-building forces, active in the course of the year, are the equivalent of the annual motion of Earth and Sun together. We shall have occasion to speak more specifically of these things later; at the moment I should like to draw your attention once more to our model, where I have pointed out that the Earth moves behind the Sun in a screw-like line, the Earth moving along always with the Sun. And then if we view the line from above, we get a projection of the line and the projection shows a lemniscate." — Rudolf Steiner, MAN: HIEROGLYPH OF THE UNIVERSE (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1972), lecture 6, GA 201. 

[R.R. sketch, 2010.]


“If a human being compares himself to a dog, he can exclaim, 'Isn't that something; it can wag its tail, and I cannot.' The whole force that is contained in this wagging tail, however, has become dammed back in man, and it has pushed the brain forwards." — Rudolf Steiner, FROM COMETS TO COCAINE (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2000), pp. 91-92. 

[R.R. sketch, 2009, based on p. 91. 
Unimportant disclosure: I have taken the liberty of suggesting 
that a dog has ears and legs, components missing from the book's image.]


This image shows the Moon (gray) and three stages of the Earth's evolution: Earth in the Lumerian Epoch, the Aryan Epoch (the present), and the Sixth Epoch. Two lines of influence extend from the Moon to each Earth stage, a spiritual stream and a physical-astral stream. Jehovah provided an impulse for humanity during the Lumerian Epoch; Christ provides a crucial impulse now; the "Father" will provide an impulse in the Sixth Epoch. — See Rudolf Steiner, CORRESPONDENCE AND DOCUMENTS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1988), p. 85.

("Aryan epoch" is one of the various labels Steiner attached to the present stage of human evolution.)

[Above is my 2009 copy of the sketch in the book.

Below is the sketch in the book.]


(Rudolf Steiner Press, 1988), p. 85.]

Click on the image to enlarge it.


Hierarchies of spiritual beings — gods — dwell above humanity. Here is my copy of a sketch Steiner made, showing spiritual hierarchies as spheres above the physical plane. Steiner described an occult initiate saying,

"I felt myself one with the Beings of the First and Second Hierarchies, and I beheld the weaving and working of the Third Hierarchy in mighty spirit-clouds over my body."  — Rudolf Steiner, KARMIC RELATIONSHIPS, Vol. 2 (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1974), p. 235. 

[R.R. sketch, 2009, based on the one in the book. 

For more on the hierarchies of gods, see "Polytheism".]



"If we take the flesh color of a Caucasian person, which resembles spring's fresh peach-blossom colour, we have the living image of the soul. If we contemplate white in an artistic way, we have the soul image of the spirit ... And if, as artists, we take hold of black, we have the spiritual image of death. And the circle is closed." — Rudolf Steiner, ART (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2003), pp. 188-189. 

[My colored 2009 version of the b&w, 
image in the book, which includes labels.]


“In earlier, more spiritual ages, when men had more wisdom than has modern abstract materialistic science, they were always conscious that there was an old clairvoyance to the possessors of which the world became transparent. They felt that man had lost this old sight and had entered into his present state. Formerly, men did not express their knowledge in abstract formulae and theories, but in mighty, vivid pictures. The Myths are not ‘thought out’ or invented, but are the expressions of a profound primeval wisdom acquired by spiritual vision. In ancient times there was consciousness of the fact that at a still earlier epoch man had embraced the whole world in his feeling, and this is expressed in the Myths. The ‘clair-sentience’ of the old Indian was the last remnant of an original, dim clairvoyance. This was known; but what was not known, was that this clairvoyance — let us summarise it so — withdraws little by little, giving way to the external life which is confined to the world of the senses.” 

— Rudolf Steiner, 



(Rudolf Steiner Pub. Co., 1940), 

lecture 7, GA 113. 


For a discussion of pseudoscience

in and around Waldorf schools,

see "Pseudoscience".

For scientific skepticism 

about clairvoyance and other 

"psychic phenomena,"

see "Clairvoyance".

For additional statements 

Steiner made

about science, 

see "Science".

For the connection 

between "spiritual science"

and prayers, 

see "Power Words".

For information about the 

study of math 

in Waldorf schools,

see "Mystic Math".


For a devastating debunking of Steiner's "science," see Sven Ove Hansson, "Is Anthroposophy Science?" at It is an excellent piece, although flawed in one way. After convincingly arguing that Anthroposophy is unscientific nonsense, Hansson falls into a common error. Evidently wishing to be gentle with Steiner, he suggests that some of Steiner's teachings, in areas apart from science, might have beneficial practical effects, and he specifically mentions Waldorf schooling. Perhaps Hansson was unaware of Steiner's statements that 

"Anthroposophy will be in the school" — 



"As Waldorf teachers we must be true Anthroposophists in the deepest sense of the word" — Ibid., p. 118. 

In other words, Waldorf students will be "educated" in an atmosphere of unscientific nonsense — specifically, Steiner's occultism: Anthroposophy.


Genuine science is inextricably bound up with rationality — you observe phenomena, rationally deduce an explanation for them (that is, you frame an hypothesis), and then you test your explanation (you conduct experiments that confirm or disprove your hypothesis). Among the great difficulties in all this from a Waldorf perspective is the Anthroposophical aversion to rational, abstract thought. [See, e.g., "Steiner's Specific" and "Thinking".] A Waldorf "science" class will often be structured in such a way as to deflect students from making abstract or rational deductions. Thus, for instance, a Waldorf teacher describing the study of acoustics injects this important note:

"No emphasis [should be] given to any theoretical explanations which would only lead the children into speculations of a more abstract nature. This is, of course, the danger that lurks in all popular books on acoustics [or science generally] and must be properly recognized." — Helmut Krause, Waldorf Clearing House Newsletter, Spring 1975, p. 5.

Here are items adapted from the Waldorf Watch "news" page.
(To some degree, they repeat points we have already seen;
to some degree, they extend those points into new terrain.)
In each instance, I quote from an online posting, then I offer a response.


Help wanted; a posting by the Federation of Rudolf Steiner Schools in New Zealand:

"This is an exciting new opportunity for inspired educators at this new Whitianga Kindergarten. We are seeking experienced, fully qualified Early Childhood educators who wish to work & live in an idyllic location.

"This new Kindergarten will work alongside the established Kuaotunu Rudolf Steiner Kindergarten & be managed & governed by the Kuaotunu Kindergarten Charitable Trust."  


• ◊ •

R.R. Response:

When the official bodies representing Waldorf education use words like "inspired," they presumably know precisely what they mean. [1] In Anthroposophical belief, inspiration is a form of clairvoyance, and Waldorf teachers are expected to cultivate it. Rudolf Steiner taught that most human beings today lack clairvoyance, but Waldorf teachers should attain it. No other preparation is sufficient, he said: 

"[P]hilosophy does not suffice, only pedagogical principles and methods do: exact clairvoyance." [2] 

Precise, focused clairvoyance is the "basis" of Waldorf schooling. 

“Now, if we are working as teachers — as artists in education — on human beings, we must enter into relation with their supersensible [i.e., supernatural], creative principle...the supersensible [soul] that lives in the human being’s self. The anthroposophical method of research [clairvoyance] makes this possible and so provides the basis for an art of teaching and education." [3] 

Those Waldorf teachers who have not yet become clairvoyant should at least accept the guidance of those among their colleagues who claim to possess clairvoyance now. 

"Not every Waldorf teacher has the gift of clairvoyance, but every one of them has accepted wholeheartedly and with full understanding the results of spiritual-scientific investigation [i.e., the use of clairvoyance]." [4] 

According to the Waldorf belief system, there are three levels of clairvoyance in our future: imagination, inspiration, and intuition. By following Steiner's instructions, people can attain these levels now (or so Steiner said). The rest of humanity will have to wait until we evolve to higher "planets" after the end of our Earth existence.

“Now let us consider the three states of consciousness which are still to come ... The next state known to the initiate is the so-called ‘psychic-consciousness’ or Imagination ... On the planet which will replace our Earth, the whole of humanity will have this psychic-consciousness’ or Imagination, the ‘Jupiter’ consciousness ... Then there is the sixth state of consciousness man will one day possess ... Man will look deep, deep into the nature of beings, when he lives in this consciousness, the consciousness of Inspiration ... This will be the consciousness of man when our planet will have passed into the ‘Venus’ condition ... The seventh state of consciousness is the ‘spiritual consciousness’ or Intuition...which [man] will have in addition to all the other states of consciousness when he will have reached ‘Vulcan’.” [5]

Believe me, please. I understand how bizarre all this is. But I am not telling you what I think; I am telling you what Rudolf Steiner's followers think. You and I may have difficultly believing that Steiner's followers embrace such doctrines, but they do. Some Waldorf teachers have more faith than others, but the great majority accept the "wisdom" provided by Rudolf Steiner. Bear in mind, Waldorf schools are also called Steiner schools. The central authority in the Steiner system is clearly identified — it is Rudolf Steiner — and you have just read some of his authoritative statements.

Did the Federation of Rudolf Steiner Schools in New Zealand have any of this in mind when specifying that they want "inspired" teachers? Perhaps not. But this is what the word actually means in the Steiner/Waldorf universe. I thought you might like to know.

Footnotes for this Section

[1] Or, sometimes, perhaps they don't. But let's focus on the Anthroposophical meaning of such terms, whether or not the Steiner representatives who use the terms fully understand what they are saying.

[2] Rudolf Steiner, WALDORF EDUCATION AND ANTHROPOSOPHY (Anthroposophic Press, 1995), Vol. 1, p. 208.

[3] Ibid., p. 207.

[4] Rudolf Steiner, WALDORF EDUCATION AND ANTHROPOSOPHY (Anthroposophic Press, 1995), Vol. 2, p. 224.

[5] Rudolf Steiner, UNDERSTANDING THE HUMAN BEING, (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1993), pp. 30-31. Note that when Steiner speaks of planets in such contexts, he was describing future stages in the evolution of the solar system. Thus, for instance, the Jupiter that lies in our future is not the Jupiter we see in the sky today. Rather, it is a new incarnation of the entire solar system.


“Contributing to our beliefs about protecting the slow innocence of childhood are the Waldorf principles of Ginger's school. They ask that parents don't show any media at home to the young ones and if they must, not on a school night ... I think we are on the rare side even at a Waldorf school, in that most kids watch at least something here and there, many on a weekly basis. And I do want my children to be of this world and learn how to balance all its goods and ills. Sometimes I worry about how and when we will start to introduce more media.”

• ◊ •


Parents are undoubtedly wise for monitoring and limiting their kids’ exposure to TV, video games, the Internet, and other high-tech modern wonders. But before following Waldorf media policies, you might consider the reasons Waldorfers dislike these things. One objection, from a Waldorf perspective, is that kids who watch TV, prowl the Internet, see movies, and so forth, may absorb disturbing information about the world — that is, they may gain information that runs contrary to the esoteric beliefs built into the Waldorf worldview. 

According to Waldorf belief, not only students but even teachers need to be shielded from modern media. Listen to the steps one young woman took when preparing to join a Waldorf faculty: 

“When I embarked on the journey of becoming a Waldorf teacher and working with children, I knew I had to change some of my behavior. I stopped swearing. I weaned myself off of television and the daily news....” [See “Ex-Teacher 2”.] 

Notice that she didn’t just quit watching TV, she stopped following the daily news. Shutting out the outside world is standard practice in the enclosed, insular Waldorf world.

There is also a deeper reason for the Waldorf aversion to high-tech gadgets. According to the occult doctrines of the Waldorf belief system, the terrible demon Ahriman threatens to destroy humanity, robbing us of our souls. Ahriman wants to drag us down to his realm of materialism, intellect, and technology. In other words, TV is demonic, it is devilish, and this is why we should avoid it. 

“Everything that has arisen in recent times in the way of materialistic science and industrial technology is of an out-and-out ahrimanic nature, and if it were to spread without there being any Christ understanding, it would chain human beings to the earth. Human beings would not progress to the Jupiter evolution.” — Rudolf Steiner, GUARDIAN ANGELS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2000), p. 55.

Steiner taught that after our present stage of evolution, which (as you may have noticed) is occurring here on the planet Earth, we will proceed to our next stage, which will be a Jovian period called Future Jupiter. But we won’t get to Future Jupiter if Ahriman captures us and chains us to our present level of existence. So, for goodness sake, turn off your TV!

(As for "Christ understanding" — this is what Steiner claimed to offer. If you really want to understand Christ, you need to accept Steiner — or so Steiner said. Steiner will inform you that there were two Jesus children, one of whom had been Zarathustra in a previous life. One of the Jesuses was from the Solomon line of descent, the other was from the Nathan line. During the process of growing up, the two Jesuses fused together spiritually in order to create a single, appropriate vessel — the Solomonic-Nathanic Jesus — to receive the Sun God, who came down from the Sun and dwelt here on Earth inside the body of the Solomonic-Nathanic Jesus. You may know the Sun God as Christ. More correctly, "Christ" (the Sun God) was for a short time the Solomonic-Nathanic Christ Jesus living as a man here on Earth. After He was crucified, His blood carried His essence into the Earth. He now empowers us for our further evolution — his is our Prototype. [See "Was He Christian?"] This, if you please, is the proper "Christ understanding." If you do not have it, you are liable to get confused by watching TV, going to a conventional church, or making any of the other errors people outside the walls of Waldorf are so very prone to make.)


From a discussion at waldorf-critics

"Waldorf teachers believe that if they tell a story, or put on a puppet play, and the children later act out the story in their play, that's 'creative.' But if the children do exactly the same thing with a TV plot or character, somehow, that's the opposite of creative, it's a sign of a terrible problem. This makes no sense. There is absolutely no difference in the play, and no reason children can't play creatively on the basis of TV characters or scripts. Of course, some TV shows are pretty dumb. But children usually give things their own twist, anyway; and there's nothing guaranteeing the children will play "creatively" in response to a story or play, either. Often, they simply reenact it literally the same way they might a TV plot." — Diana Winters

• ◊ •


Waldorf schools often have “media policies” under which parents promise to curtail kids’ exposure to television, computers, recorded music, and so forth. This can seem charming — the Waldorf world is quiet, centered, natural. Certainly there is something to be said for the Waldorf approach. Sitting zonked-out in front of a TV screen for hours on end is obviously bad for children. Spending hours in front of a computer screen is probably not much better (depending, perhaps, on the sort of software the child is using). Constant chatting and text-messaging on smart phones is probably a bad idea, as is playing violent video games. Some forms of rock ‘n’ roll and rap are twisted, and much of popular culture is lowbrow and sexually perverse... So there is something to be said for the Waldorf approach.

But all things in moderation. Trying to completely disconnect kids from the wider world, beyond Waldorf’s pastel walls, may do more harm than good.

You may want to investigate the underlying reasons for Waldorf’s hostility to technological gadgets and everything that goes with them. Steiner taught that the modern world is infected with the dire influences of the terrible demon Ahriman. Science, technology, and intellect are heavily influenced by this spiritual monster, and the products of technology are especially demonic. The very use of electricity portends terrible things: 

“[T]he exploitation of electric forces...will enable man to spread evil over the earth, and evil will invade the earth by coming in an immediate way out of the forces of electricity.” — Rudolf Steiner, “The Overcoming of Evil”, ANTHROPOSOPHIC NEWS SHEET No. 7/8 (General Anthroposophic Society, 1948).

Electrical devices are thus potentially evil, and the more technologically sophisticated the devices become, the more dangerous they become. Following this line of “logic,” Steiner’s followers deplore television and, even more, computers. They see the actual incarnation of Ahriman in these devices. Thus, for instance, Rudolf Steiner College has published a booklet by David B. Black, titled “The Computer and the Incarnation of Ahriman”.

ALL of technology worries Anthroposophists. not just the most advanced versions. They believe that evil has spread across the world due to the use of such inventions as steam engines, and the evil has intensified as technology has progressed. 

“[W]hat has been said here about the steam engine applies in a much greater degree to the technology of our time...television, for example. The result is that the demon magic spoken of by Rudolf Steiner is spreading more and more intensively on all sides ... It is very necessary that anyone who aspires towards the spiritual should realise clearly how the most varied opportunities for a virtual incarnation of elemental beings and demons are constantly on the increase." — Georg Unger, "On 'Mechanical Occultism'" (MITTEILUNGEN AUS DER ANTHROPOSOPHISCHEN ARBEIT IN DEUTSCHLAND {i.e., Announcements Concerning Anthroposophical Work in Germany}, nos. 68–69, 1964).

The Waldorf outlook is backward and benighted. It fears the modern world and tries to hide from it. Sending children to Waldorf schools means sending them into pockets of fantasy where reality is — to the maximum extent possible — blocked out. The damage done to children as a result can be considerable.

For more on such matters, see, e.g., 


Steiner on motion pictures
(watching movies turns you into a robot): 

“[F]ilm-pictures strike the eye and imprint themselves on the brain; the process is repeated as often as possible, so that the impression is intensified and finally it has been absorbed. In that way, however, one becomes a mere automaton, a spiritual automaton ... One becomes a spiritual automaton and there is no need, for example, to understand anything at all about the human organism [i.e., you will not embrace Anthroposophy: the word means “knowledge of the human being”] ... [W]ithout any knowledge of man, one becomes a spiritual automaton. Life today runs very largely on there lines.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE DRIVING FORCE OF SPIRITUAL POWERS IN WORLD HISTORY (Steiner Book Centre, 1972), lecture 2.

There is some truth in Steiner’s critique, but not much. Watching a movie (and/or watching TV) is generally a more passive experience than reading a book, for instance, or listening to a stimulating lecture. 

Let's start by considering the difference between movies and books. Waldorf media policies generally deplore motion pictures along with other electronic media. And there is something to be said for the Waldorf point of view: Many movies indeed provide very little mental stimulation. Yet the difference between watching films and reading books is far smaller than Steiner's followers often claim. Learning to "read" films — especially sophisticated ones, with challenging jumps, flashbacks, elements of mystery, and psychological depth — is comparable to the process of learning to read books. Granted, many movies are essentially junk, offering nothing but bland entertainment, but the same can be said about many books. Excellent movies, on the other hand — like excellent books — stretch and invigorate the mind. They enrich rather than deaden. Far from turning us into unthinking robots, they stimulate us to enlarge our minds and our sympathies. The important difference is not really between various media (movies vs. books, for instance), but between junky entertainments and superb works of art. We should aim for, and celebrate, great art in all its forms; we should not fear any particular medium because it may strike us, at least initially, as new and strange. Steiner delivered his lecture in 1923, when motion pictures were still new and strange (and television was still in the process of being invented). Steiner generally feared modernity; he generally had a regressive, backward vision. Today, nearly a century later, we should no longer be restricted by narrow-mindedness like his.

Now let's circle back to the subject of lectures. The specific polarity Steiner described, in the quotation above, was not the difference between movies and books, but between movies and lectures. At one level, Steiner was merely plumping for his own art form, the lecture, which was his bread and butter. He saw movies as a threat to his occupation. 

“[A] great many people today would actually prefer, instead of lectures, a film during which they need not follow in thought what is being presented to them, but can give themselves up to it without any inner activity at all, letting everything pass by them.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE DRIVING FORCE OF SPIRITUAL POWERS IN WORLD HISTORY, lecture 2

But what we have said about books vs. films applies to lectures vs. films. Listening to a lecture may be a bit more mentally challenging than watching a movie, but perhaps only a bit. Watching an excellent movie is surely a better use on one’s time than listening to the sort of irrational and senseless lectures Steiner delivered. The effect of such lectures is generally perplexity, a daze, a diversion into realms of fantasy — very much like watching fantastical films. Rational, intellectually substantive lectures are one thing; occultist farragoes are another. [See, e.g., "Steiner's Illogic" and "Steiner's Blunders".] Who is more likely to become an "automaton" — someone who watches, and laughs off, STAR WARS, or someone who gullibly internalizes the contents of such lectures as we find in THE DRIVING FORCE OF SPIRITUAL POWERS IN WORLD HISTORY?

Here is an item from the Quotes Archive

at the Waldorf Watch Annex.

Waldorf education is based on Anthroposophy — Steiner's occult body of teachings, which he also called "spiritual science." And Anthroposophy is based on... Well, it is based on some very strange propositions. Consider this: Steiner said that we have reliable spiritual science because superhuman beings — such as supermen from Vulcan — are bringing us messages from the spirit realm. This is an astonishingly preposterous foundation on which to build anything. Perhaps there is a spirit realm. Perhaps superhumans visit the Earth all the time. Perhaps. But there is no Vulcan. Hence there are no Vulcan supermen bringing us messages. If Anthroposophy depends on the existence of imaginary beings like Vulcan supermen, then there is no valid basis for Anthroposophy, meaning there is no valid basis for Waldorf education.

What we are discussing here is extremely weird and complicated, I know. But I am not making it up. These are Steiner's own teachings.

Let's take it a step at a time.

Vulcan is a hypothetical planet, nearer to the Sun than Mercury. Scientists once believed that such a planet existed, but they discarded the idea long ago. We know today that there is no Vulcan. But Vulcan looms large in Steiner's teachings. [See “Vulcan”.]

Here is a brief statement of Steiner’s teachings about Vulcan and its connection to spiritual science: 

“Vulcan beings are now actually entering this earth existence ... And it is thanks to the fact that these beings from beyond the earth are bringing messages down into this earthly existence that it is possible at all to have a comprehensive spiritual science today ... The beings I have spoken about will descend gradually to the earth. Vulcan beings, Vulcan supermen, Venus supermen, Mercury supermen, sun supermen, and so on will unite themselves with earth existence.” — Rudolf Steiner, MATERIALISM AND THE TASK OF ANTHROPOSOPHY (SteinerBooks, 1987), p. 261.

OK? Steiner says that Vulcan, in some sense, exists. And beings from Vulcan are coming to Earth, bringing us the messages upon which spiritual science stands. (He also says that beings from other planets are descending, or will descend, to Earth. Whether this improves his argument is open to debate.)

You may already get the drift: Steiner's doctrines are loco. But let's slow down even further to give the guy a chance. Here is the same quotation again, this time given at length. Steiner seems to say that Vulcan exists in the solar system today, perhaps not as a planet but as a “sphere” (a term he used to denote the area of the solar system bounded by the orbit of a planet). This gets a bit confusing, since the “sphere” of Vulcan would be the area bounded by the orbit of the planet Vulcan — but does Vulcan exist as a planet? And, come to that, do the planets orbit the Sun? Steiner sometimes said that they do, but he also sometimes said that they don’t. [See “Deception”.]

Be all that as it may, here’s what Steiner said about "Vulcan men" and "Vulcan supermen." Background: At an early stage of life on Earth, human souls fled to the other planets. (Didn’t they teach you this in school?) Then, during the age of Atlantis, these souls returned to Earth — they came from planets such as Saturn, Mars, and Vulcan (see the reference, below, to “Vulcan-men”). Moreover, Steiner said that “Vulcan Beings” or “’Supermen’ of Vulcan” are coming to Earth today. Where are they coming from? Vulcan. [1]

I turn the microphone over to R. Steiner:

“Whereas in ancient Atlantean times [i.e., while we lived on Atlantis] these human beings descended to earth from Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, and the other planets — and it was therefore a matter of human soul beings entering the earth existence then — now a time is beginning when beings who are not human are coming down to earth from cosmic regions beyond. These beings are not human but depend for the further development of their existence on coming to earth and on entering here into relationships with men. [2]

“Thus, since the eighties of the nineteenth century, heavenly beings are seeking to enter this earth existence. Just as the Vulcan men were the last to come down to earth,  so Vulcan beings are now actually entering this earth existence. Heavenly beings are already here in our earth existence. And it is thanks to the fact that beings from beyond the earth are bringing messages down into this earthly existence that it is possible at all to have a comprehensive spiritual science today. [3]

“Taken as a whole, however, how does the human race behave? If I may say so, the human race behaves in a cosmically rude way toward the beings who are appearing from the cosmos on earth, albeit, to begin with, only slowly. Humanity takes no notice of them, ignores them. It is this that will lead the earth into increasingly tragic conditions. For in the course of the next few centuries, more and more spirit beings will move among us whose language we ought to understand. We shall understand it only if we seek to comprehend what comes from them, namely, the contents of spiritual science. This is what they wish to bestow on us. They want us to act according to spiritual science; they want this spiritual science to be translated into social action and the conduct of earthly life. [4]

“Since the last third of the nineteenth century, we are actually dealing with the influx of spirit beings from the universe. Initially, these were beings dwelling in the sphere between moon and Mercury, but they are closing in upon earth, so to say, seeking to gain a foothold in earthly life through human beings imbuing themselves with thoughts of spiritual beings in the cosmos. This is another way of describing what I outlined earlier when I said that we must call our shadowy intellect to life with the pictures of spiritual science. That is the abstract way of describing it. The description is concrete when we say: Spirit beings are seeking to come down into earth existence and must be received. Upheaval upon upheaval will ensue, and earth existence will at length arrive at social chaos if these beings descended and human existence were to consist only of opposition against them. For these beings wish to be nothing less than the advance guard of what will happen to earth existence when the moon reunites once again with earth. [5]

“Nowadays it may appear comparatively harmless to people when they think only those automatic, lifeless thoughts that arise through comprehension of the mineral world itself and the mineral element's effects in plant, animal, and man. Yes, indeed, people revel in these thoughts; as materialists, they feel good about them, for only such thoughts are conceived today. But imagine that people were to continue thinking in this way, unfolding nothing but such thoughts until the eighth millennium when moon existence will once more unite with the life of the earth. What would come about then? The beings I have spoken about will descend gradually to the earth. Vulcan beings, Vulcan supermen, Venus supermen, Mercury supermen, sun supermen, and so on will unite themselves with earth existence. Yet, if human beings persist in their opposition to them, this earth existence will pass over into chaos in the course of the next few thousand years.”  — Rudolf Steiner, MATERIALISM AND THE TASK OF ANTHROPOSOPHY (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1987), lecture 14, GA 204. [6]

Rudolf Steiner’s teachings, Anthroposophy, represent his version of Theosophy. Both Theosophists and Anthroposophists call their systems “spiritual science” — that is, they claim that their systems present verifiable, objective information about the spirit realm. According to Steiner, spiritual science is possible because beings such as the superhumans of Vulcan are bringing us messages. If this impresses you, you may be ripe for joining Steiner’s cult. Otherwise, you may agree with me that Steiner’s statement reveals the complete falsehood of Anthroposophy. There is no Vulcan, hence there are no “Vulcan beings, Vulcan supermen” coming to Earth. By extension, then, there is no basis for “spiritual science” — aka, Anthroposophy. And, since Anthroposophy is the basis of Waldorf education, there is no valid basis for Waldorf education. QED.

(Oh, OK, I know. It is probably unfair to totally blow off Waldorf education because Steiner said totally nutty things about Vulcan. But you get the drift. Are you prepared to you send your child to a school run by people who accept the nutty things Steiner said about about Vulcan and many other matters?)

P.S. Steiner tried to scare us. He sometimes resorted to fire-and-brimstone railings, and he does that here. He asserts that if we don’t believe him about “Vulcan beings, Vulcan supermen” and all the rest, “this earth existence will pass over into chaos.” But I’m not worried, at least not about Steiner's specific bugaboo. Are you?

The real danger Waldorf schools represent is the possibility that people will slip back into medieval superstition and ignorance. For this is what “spiritual science” is. Steiner spun grotesque, foolish fantasies — and some people believe him. That’s their right. But don’t let them “educate” your child.

Footnotes for this Section

[1] Reading Steiner is a bit like having a root canal. I will do my best to ease the pain by providing paragraph-by-paragraph paraphrases, below. I will also toss in some supplementary info.

[2] The third phase of our evolution on Earth occurred on the continent of Lemuria. Things got dicey during our Lemuria years, so most humans fled to other planets. After Lemuria sank, the survivors moved to Atlantis, and — thinking things were getting better — the humans who had gone to other planets returned to Earth. We now live in the post-Atlantis period, and now superhuman beings are coming from the various planets to the Earth. They are doing this because they need to do so in order to evolve to yet higher states of divinity — by entering into relationships with Earth humans, they will improve themselves.

[3] Since the 1890s, superhuman beings have been coming to Earth from the heavens. Back during the Atlantis period, humans who had gone to Vulcan were the first to return to the Earth. Likewise, today Vulcan superhumans are the first heavenly beings to come down to the Earth. Various heavenly beings (superhumans) are already here on Earth, and it is because they have brought us messages from the spirit realm that today we can have “spiritual science” — that is, Anthroposophy, the objective “science” that describes the spirit realm.

[4] Sadly, most humans have been rude to the superhuman visitors. Mainly, people have ignored these wondrous visitors. This will lead to tragedy for the human race. More and more superhumans are coming down, bringing us the knowledge contained in spiritual science (i.e., Rudolf Steiner’s teachings). The superhumans want us to accept spiritual science (i.e., Rudolf Steiner’s teachings). If we don’t, woe betide.

[5] Since about 1860, there has been a large influx of superhumans from the planets to Earth. (Technically, the superhumans come from the “spheres” of the planets, not the planets themselves. For instance, the sphere of Mars encompasses all of the solar system within the orbit of Mars. The spheres of some other planets, such as Venus, exist within the Mars sphere, just as the Mars sphere exists within other, larger spheres, such as the Saturn sphere.) The first superhumans to descend, as we said before, came from the Vulcan sphere (i.e., the sphere of the planet inside the orbit of Mercury [see "Supermen"]). Superhumans gain a foothold on Earth by being received into the thoughts of the good people who do not rudely ignore them. The good people (spiritual scientists, i.e., Rudolf Steiner’s followers) transcend “shadowy intellect” to create images (or “imaginations”) or pictures of the spirit realm. This is a bit vague, but to be clear: Superhuman spiritual beings are coming to Earth and we must receive them. If not, there will be BIG trouble. These superhuman beings are preparing the way for our future evolution, when the Moon will merge into the Earth. If we ignore them (i.e., if we ignore Rudolf Steiner), woe betide.

[6] People nowadays — “modern” types — think in a dead way; they think with their physical (mineral) brains. (Contrast this with the spiritual “imaginations” of Anthroposophists.) People nowadays are materialists who think materialistically (i.e., with their brains), and they actually revel in such thinking. (Woe betide.) If people keep thinking in this dead, brainy way, there will be hell to pay when the Moon reunites with the Earth. The superhumans from Vulcan, Venus, the Sun, etc., will have come down and united themselves with the Earth. If we still rudely ignore them, the Earth will be plunged into chaos lasting thousands of years. (And won’t you be sorry then, all you rude fools who didn’t listen to Steiner?)

For more on all this, see "Supermen".


Let’s extend our inquiry by observing Rudolf Steiner in action once again as a "spiritual scientist." Here is a paragraph from one of his lectures, in this instance dealing with hidden conspirators who work behind the scenes to wreak havoc. How well does the paragraph hold up as a scientific report? Is it composed of language that a serious scientist would use when reporting a discovery of the utmost importance? Is it composed of language that enables the rest of us to decide what to do, either to check the scientist’s work or to save ourselves from our hidden foes? 

In answering such questions, below, I will pick nits, which can be exasperating. But if we want to evaluate Steiner’s work, we must look at it closely. The passage I’ve chosen is worse than some of Steiner’s statements, but it is better than many others. I offer it as a fair sample. Like any other passage, this one would be somewhat more coherent if taken in context rather than standing alone. But I invite you to read the entire lecture. You’ll see that not much additional clarity results, no matter how many additional paragraphs you read. Steiner typically used language that is mystifying rather than illuminating. His stock in trade, after all, consisted of spiritual mysteries to which he claimed to hold the key — which must have posed a dilemma for him. If he truly explained the mysteries, his services as an occult savant would no longer be needed. Revealing too much, or making himself too well understood, would be bad for business. So he told us what is what, but within limits, and none too clearly.

Here is Steiner's statement:

“What is going on behind the scenes of external events is very significant. These things would not be under discussion here today if there were not the binding need to draw them to the attention of those who are able to hear what is being said through having some preparation in the matters of spiritual science. It is necessary for such things to enter into the consciousness of the humanity of the fifth post-Atlantean age. Only if they do enter into the consciousness of the humanity of the fifth post-Atlantean age will those things be achieved which must be the goal of earthly evolution.” — Rudolf Steiner, SECRET BROTHERHOODS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2004), p. 92.

Is there any conceivable way to validate such a statement? Does it even have any real meaning?

Let’s consider. A meaningful statement must use comprehensible terms with sufficient clarity to convey an actual message. How much clarity can we find in Steiner’s words? One nearly specific phrase he offers us is “the fifth post-Atlantean age,” which refers to an historical epoch dating from the sinking of Atlantis. However, since there is precious little evidence that Atlantis ever existed [see “Atlantis and the Aryans”], Steiner’s entire historical scheme is baseless, a house built on sand. There is no fifth post-Atlantean age.

Another term in Steiner’s passage merits similar analysis. This is the reference to students of Anthroposophy: “those who are able to hear what is being said through having some preparation in the matters of spiritual science.” Once again, when we step back and ponder, the reference grows awfully fuzzy. How much preparation is meant by “some preparation”? A smidgen? Years of intensive study? Something in between? Steiner doesn’t say. Likewise, which “matters of spiritual science” must the students be prepared in? The entire theology, or only some parts of it? Which parts? Steiner doesn’t say.

The reference to students of Anthroposophy raises another issue. What are we to make of the idea that Steiner is talking primarily to those who already agree with him, the only ones who can understand him (“those who are able to hear through having some ....”)? The basic requirement of science is that results must be offered to the wide world for impartial review. A scientist cannot say, “I have discovered X, but you cannot understand what I mean, nor confirm my claim, unless you already agree with me.” Yet this is what Steiner says. In doing so — in denying this essential requirement of science — Steiner inadvertently kicks the props out from under his own so-called “spiritual science.”

Look at a few more elements of the passage. What “goal of earthly evolution” is Steiner referring to? He says it is “the” goal of earthly evolution, so getting it straight is important, but in this passage he doesn’t specify. Of course, we can’t expect Steiner to repeat all Anthroposophical doctrines at every point in every lecture. But notice how extraordinarily vague he is here. Instead of giving even a thumbnail description of what he means, he refers to “things,” the vaguest word possible: He says that he is discussing “these things” with an audience that must have “some preparation” in “such things” in order to pave the way for “those things” to happen. A statement could hardly be emptier. But this is characteristic of Steiner’s method. The effect of his language is to produce a miasma of mystical vagueness. Consider the mind-numbing length and convoluted phrasings of some of Steiner’s sentences, as well as the mesmeric repetitions he indulged in, such as “the consciousness of the humanity of the fifth post-Atlantean age ... the consciousness of the humanity of the fifth post-Atlantean age ....”

One more point, then we can let this go. Ponder Steiner’s logic, or the lack thereof. “These things would not be under discussion here today if there were not the binding need to draw them to the attention of...[etc.]” Steiner has not shown that there is a “binding need” for the discussion, he has merely made an unsupported claim that such a need exists. In other words, despite his inverse phrasing, the “discussion” (which is not, in fact, a discussion: the only person talking is Steiner) occurs for no other reason than that Steiner has made it occur. So what does Steiner’s sentence mean? Nothing except “I am talking to you because I am talking to you.” This is a giveaway, the mark of a con man: elaborate palaver that — wholly unsubstantiated — means nothing. Anthroposophists may choose to believe Steiner, but that is intuition, faith, blind belief; it is not what Steiner promised, spiritual “science.”

OK. I apologize for spending so much time on a single passage. But if I am accusing Steiner — among other failings — of failing to present evidence, I need to supply evidence of my own. There’s an almost endless supply of similar evidence to be had. Open any Steiner book, at random, and start reading. You’ll soon come across similar evasions and obfuscations. Before closing the book in disgust, ask yourself whether Steiner has taught you anything. How powerful, compelling, or indeed “scientific” are the words you’ve read? You know the answer I propose: Steiner’s work is about as far removed from science and truth as it possibly could be.

— Roger Rawlings


Ultimately, for Steiner, genuine science is the enemy. It is directed by the evil god Mammon:

"Those living in the present age must also realize that no reconciliation is possible between the God Mammon in our time — between the modern ‘scribes’ and scientific pundits — and the direction of thought that must provide human beings to-day with the nourishment they need." — Rudolf Steiner, LOVE AND ITS MEANING IN THE WORLD (SteinerBooks, 1998), p. 126.

Science is the enemy. The force providing humans the spiritual nourishment they need, according to Steiner, is Anthroposophy or — to put it plainly — his own teachings.

For Steiner's views on one pseudoscience, 

please use this link: "Alchemy"

You may also be interested in "Magic"

and/or "Magic Numbers"

Imagination  - Inspiration - Intuition

"People in former times, the ancient Greeks, for example, were chiefly receptive to the colour red. They lived within red. Today we have to find our way into living in the other part of the spectrum, the blue ... What is pouring into the sense organs now is something that will gradually develop in a natural way through the eyes as Imagination, through the ears as Inspiration, and through the sense of heat as Intuition." 

— Rudolf Steiner, 
(Rudolf Steiner Press, 2003), 
p. 41. 

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


From the Web

Science, as taught at Waldorf schools, is heavily based on the work of the German author Goethe. Hence, it is often referred to as Goethean science.

Here is an excerpt from an interesting Internet posting from July, 2009. Materials taken from the Web should be handled with care, since so many are unreliable. This one seems to generally pass muster, but draw your own conclusions.

Because the item is so long, I have omitted extensive chunks. The locations of the omissions are marked "<snip>".



by "Unity"

(Member of the Labour Party)


Despite their carefully cultivated (and heavily sanitised) public image as a haven of faintly hippyish liberal arts education rooted in an absurdly over-romanticised view of childhood, Steiner Schools (also known as Steiner-Waldorf and Waldorf Schools) are, in reality, just one arm of an occult society founded in the second decade of the 20th Century by Rudolf Steiner – The Anthroposophical Society – which actively espouses and promotes a fundamentally unscientific world view.


[W]hat really concerns me, so far as this article goes, is what one discovers on digging into the nature of so-called ‘Goethean science’ as it’s practiced within Steiner Schools.

Goethean Science is somewhat difficult to describe in simple terms, largely because answers to the question ‘what is Goethean science?‘ are almost invariably wrapped up in copious layers of cod philosophy and psychobabble, but it is possible to get something of a flavour of how it differs from real science from this statement.

The idea is that the Goethean does not need to superimpose a rationalistic or reductionistic explanatory mechanism over top of the observed phenomenon, but rather simply takes the intuitive imaginative experience at face value.

A philosopher would call that a phenomenological approach. A scientist would call it ‘making shit up’ – and that’s pretty much the size of it. So-called Goethean ’scientists’ simply disregard all the proven tools provided by the scientific method, i.e. logic, reason and evidence, in favour of treating their own imaginings and subjective impressions as an alternative form of ’scientific truth’.



As you might well expect, whenever you find an attempt to fashion an alleged gap in Darwinian evolutionary theory, the idea that life is product of some kind of supernatural special creation won’t be following too far behind and, as the noted science education[ist] Eugenie C Scott notes in her 1994 article ‘Waldorf Schools Teach Odd Science, Odd Evolution‘ this is certainly true of the account of evolution taught in Steiner schools.

The [Steiner] Waldorf version of evolution is especially concerned with the relationship of humans to animals, but this relationship is quite different from that of mainline evolutionists. “It becomes apparent that man is a compendium of the animal kingdom; alternatively expressed, that the animal kingdom is the human being spread out.” The human “essence” passed through a number of “spiritual states” on the way to becoming human, which was a relatively recent event. “Dr. Steiner considers animals to be the by-products of human development. Man has been involved from the beginning but not in a physical form. Man existed spiritually and the animal forms represent physically incarnated soul forces which the human being had to dispense with in order to mature sufficiently to receive the ego. … As in life…we are trying to overcome the lower passions to evolve to something higher, so throughout evolution, the passions were separated out from man and these were incorporated as animals.”

For our final example of the kind of rubbish that passes for ’science’ in Steiner education we’ll leave the biological sciences and turn to a delightful account of a middle school physics lesson as related by Christian Smits in a paper entitled “A study of the element ‘Water’“.

Yes, even before we look at of the content of the paper, there’s a pretty obvious problem to be addressed.

From chemistry we know that there are 92 naturally occurring chemical elements plus something of the order of another 25 or Transuranic elements that scientists have managed to create, artificially, within nuclear reactors, none of which are actually water… or air, fire and earth, all of which Steinerians consider to be elements as well. Aristotelian dogma is, sad to say, alive and well and still being taught as ’science’ in Steiner schools.


[T]he good news for Steiner educators is that [researchers] Jelinek and Sun did find some evidence that the heavy emphasis on observation and subjective interpretation in Steiner Schools does give rise to some measureable benefits in terms of a more rapid development of non-verbal inferential reasoning skills in children educated in Steiner School as against those in mainstream education. 


The bad news ... As a first step Waldorf should disregard Rudolf Steiner and Anthroposophy as the source of accurate scientific concepts. The basis for this recommendation is that Steiner’s teachings do not pass the tests of empiricism (a,b,c and d)*, are not testable by anyone (e), have not changed much, if any, since Steiner introduced them (f), and rely on paranormal statements that cannot be verified (g). Accepting many of Rudolf Steiner’s scientific indications in light of the absence of empirical evidence violates the core premises of the scientific paradigm. The anthroposophical argument is that Rudolf Steiner applied empirical investigations in the spiritual world where he garnered higher spiritual truths, but even if this turns out to be accurate it must be discarded as scientifically valid because it cannot be replicated by anyone. If and when the scientific paradigm can ever be overturned with an anthroposophical paradigm because a preponderance of empirical evidence demands it, anthroposophists will have reason to celebrate; but there is little in the current paradigm to suggest this is likely.

In short, what Jelinek and Sun actually concluded was that the apparent benefits of Steiner Education’s methodological approach to science education are routinely and systematically squandered on the teaching of pseudoscientific nonsense....

*Lettered references refer to an outline of the scientific paradigm which immediately precedes these conclusions in Jelinek and Sun’s paper.

<snip to end>

For Steiner's view of Goethe,
see "Goethe".

I deal with issues of science on several other

pages at this website, such as 

Lesson Books

What We Are Made Of


Neutered Nature"

Steiner’s Illogic” 

and “Steiner’s Blunders”.

"Everything" and the essays that follow it examine Steiner's

“scientific” accounts of the distant past

as well as the distant future.


A helpful dose of reality:

“Although all scientific statements are corrigible [i.e., prone to correction], it does not follow that they can't be placed in a continuum of probabilities that range from virtual certainty to almost certain falsehood. No one doubts, for instance, that the earth is shaped like a ball, goes around the sun, rotates, has a magnetic field, and has a moon that circles it. It is almost certain that the universe is billions of years old and that life on earth evolved over millions of years from simple to more complex forms. The big bang origin of the universe is not quite so certain. The inflationary model of the universe is still less certain. And so on ... Science is like an expanding region with a solid core of truths that are very close to certainty. As you move outward from the core, assertions become progressively more tentative .... It is important to understand that, when a theory becomes strongly confirmed by repeated observations and experiments, it can move across a fuzzy boundary to become recognized by the entire scientific community as a fact. That planets go around the sun was once the Copernican theory. Today it is a fact. That material objects are made of molecules was once a conjecture. Indeed, for many decades it was ridiculed by many physicists and chemists. Today it is a fact ... It is also important to understand that so-called revolutions in science are not [usually] revolutions in the sense of overthrowing an earlier theory. They are benign refinements of earlier theories. Einstein didn't discard Newtonian physics. He added qualifications to Newtonian physics ... Nobody denies that scientists invent theories by creative acts similar to those of poets and artists. But once a theory is formulated, it is tested by a process that, in the long run, is singularly free of cultural bias. False theories are not shot down by a change in language, but by the universe.” 

— Martin Gardner, 


(Prometheus Books, 1992), 

pp. 79-81.


A final comment on unreality:

The Anthroposophical use of language is frequently slippery. Anthroposophists say that their system is a science, when it isn't. They say that their system is not a religion, when it is. They say their doctrines are not racist, when they are. They say their doctrines promote freedom, when they don't.

The intent, in all this instances, is not necessarily to deceive us (although Steiner may have worked intentionally to deceive). Generally, such misstatements arise from Anthroposophists' misunderstandings of various issues, and their self-deception. Believing themselves to be members of a divine movement, in harmony with the gods and devoted to universal betterment, they wear rose-tinted mental glasses. They see what they want to see, they define things as suits their predispositions, and they tell themselves comforting falsehoods. 

They fool themselves. But we need not accept their misstatements nor enter into their illusions.

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


A survey of the standard Waldorf curriculum

How they try to do it

Seven of them

How they get that way

The irrational modes of “thought” fostered at Waldorf schools

English classes and history classes in a typical Waldorf school

The central mythology in many Waldorf schools: Norse myths

At Waldorf schools, ignorance is often taken as wisdom

The Waldorf curriculum: the arts, and festivals

How they paint and draw

The Waldorf curriculum: math


Class journals as created by students at many Waldorf schools

The Anthroposophical take on technology

No [external link]

The Waldorf curriculum: astronomy

Steiner on our solar system or "our universe"

A behind-the-scenes look at Waldorf education

Exploring the fundamentals of Waldorf schooling

Further explorations

Still further explorations

Talks between Steiner and Waldorf teachers

"Practical" tips Steiner gave to Waldorf faculty

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

I often generalize about Waldorf schools. 
There are fundamental similarities among Waldorf schools; 
I describe the schools based on the evidence concerning 
their structure and operations 
in the past and — more importantly — in the present. 
But not all Waldorf schools, Waldorf charter schools, 
and Waldorf-inspired schools are wholly alike. 
To evaluate an individual school, you should carefully examine its stated purposes, 
its practices (which may or may not be consistent with its stated purposes), 
and the composition of its faculty. 

— R. R.

[R.R., 2017.]