What to Make of It:
This website is being rebuilt. It will be a mess for a while,
but it will remain open while the work progresses.
Here is a pair of inflammatory statements — inflammatory in more ways than one:
◊ Waldorf schools are wrongheaded and, all too often, wicked.
◊ The Anthroposophical mindset largely consists of ignorance and superstition.
These statements are bound to antagonize some readers, and I'm sorry for that. I’ll explain why I make them, but first please let me say that in denouncing Waldorf schools, I do not question the motives or intentions of individual Waldorf teachers. I have often said that I think most Waldorf teachers have good intentions. I have also acknowledged that many Waldorf teachers are not deeply immersed in Anthroposophy. I’ve gone so far as to state that even the Waldorf teachers who are immersed in Anthroposophy are almost surely good, compassionate people. I will now extend this commendation to the generality of Rudolf Steiner's followers everywhere, whether or not they are associated with Waldorf schools: Surely they mean well, surely their intentions are good. 
And yet I wind up by making inflammatory remarks. Why? Because, I submit, these remarks are true. Hear me out, please.
◊ The wrongheadedness and wickedness of Waldorf schools are intertwined — both characteristics stem from the schools' devotion to Anthroposophy. If they follow Steiner’s wishes, Waldorf schools attempt to lure students toward occultism, specifically Steiner’s concocted occultism, Anthroposophy. Because occultism is divorced from both reason and reality, the goal of the schools is damaging to children and hence wicked. Moreover, very often the schools attempt to attain their occult ends without clearly informing the students’ parents and getting their explicit permission. This is extraordinarily wicked.
The true-believing Anthroposophists among Waldorf faculties, the ones who often rule the schools, believe that they are acting for the good, in compliance with the gods’ divine cosmic plan.  These teachers and administrators have good intentions. But their messianic motive is no excuse. They strive to lure children — often without the parents’ consent — into an occult faith that is baseless, irrational, ignorant, and superstitious. This undertaking may be well-intended, but it is deeply wrong. Anthroposophy is, at best, a fantasy. At worst, it is a delusion. In either case, it cannot serve as a guide to living — it cannot equip people for life in the real world — precisely because it is so disconnected from the real world. Luring kids away from reality and into a fog of fantasy and/or delusion is profoundly wrong.
But wait. What do I mean by reality? Am I a mere, blinkered “materialistic thinker,” cut off from the sublime reality that Steiner revealed? Well, by “reality” I mean the universe we can apprehend with our rational minds and our rational tools of investigation such as science. This universe is physical, for sure — but it is also psychological, mental, and spiritual. All the spirit that truly exists, exists in the real universe. The spirit of love, the spirit of self-sacrifice, the spirit of truth — these exist in the real universe, or they don’t exist at all. I affirm that they do exist, and that reality encompasses them. But the “supersensible” reality of Anthroposophy — the invisible, supernatural realm described by Steiner — does not exist, or at least we cannot know that it exists.
Steiner’s entire, elaborate cosmology hinges on clairvoyance, and we have no good reason — none, zip — to think that genuine clairvoyance is available to any human being. Researchers, including many who want clairvoyance to exist, have searched for it in vain. “Clairvoyants” turn out to get things right no more than about 50% of the time. Using their “powers,” they come up with correct answers no more often than they would by making random guesses or tossing a coin. Go to a psychic, if you like; or flip a coin. You’ll get equally valid information from these sources.
But, but!! How can I say these things?! Good grief! Poor, benighted materialist, poor blinkered me. Well, I can say these things because I can read and reason. For example, I can read standard psychology texts, which dismiss clairvoyance, ESP, and other forms of psychic powers as — to put this charitably — unproven.  And, having read, I can assess what the texts say by using my brain. But, good grief!, cry the Anthroposophists — there is no real knowledge to be found in ordinary, conventional, “materialistic” publications. Moreover, the brain is incapable of true cognition. Aha, I rejoin, this brings me to my next points. Ignorance and superstition. Let's take these one at a time.
◊ Ignorance ◊
Educated people, those who know something about how the world actually works, have recourse to a store of information that humanity has gradually, patiently acquired over the centuries. The storehouses of this knowledge are found in the hard sciences, and social sciences, and humanities, and in painstakingly assembled compendia such as THE ENCYCLOPÆDIA BRITANNICA. To reject the actual information that constitutes physics, astronomy, geology, history, economics, sociobiology, and so forth, is to opt for ignorance. And this is precisely what Steiner recommends. Repudiate “scientific trash.”  Reject the work of “historians, sociologists, economists” or, in general, “so-called educated people in the universities.”  Rely, instead, on Steiner’s own teachings, his “spiritual science.”
But real scientists, such as Nobel-Prize Winner Max von Laue, have testified that Steiner’s teachings amount to little more than “unconscious humor” — Steiner's words are almost entirely devoid of real knowledge or information.  Real science and "spiritual science" — Anthroposophy — stand at odds with one another on almost all points. Steiner claimed this would change; he claimed that conventional science would eventually confirm his spiritual scientific findings. But this has not happened. If anything, in the decades since his death, science has moved ever farther away from the concepts found in Steiner’s teachings. It’s odd that a clairvoyant who could foresee the future did not foresee this. 
Steiner was highly educated. He was not, in the normal sense, ignorant. But he elected to become functionally ignorant by rejecting actual knowledge and substituting startling misinformation in its stead. He taught that the heart is not a pump, that the planets do not orbit the Sun, that there is no such universal force as gravity.  He chose what we might call volitional, operative ignorance, even while he laid claim to great insight. Thus, he didn’t hesitate to “correct” Einstein, or astrophysicists, or medical doctors.  But, in virtually all cases, his “corrections” are incorrect — they are ignorant and wrong.
Steiner’s guidance to his followers essentially constitutes a directive to reject real knowledge. I hasten to add that I am not calling Anthroposophists, as individuals, ignoramuses. I’m talking about Steiner’s ideology, not the mental equipment or attainments of Anthroposophists. I’ve known Anthroposophists who were bright, articulate, and well-informed. But if anyone wants to fully heed Steiner, s/he needs to set aside much of what s/he knows and rely instead on the product of what Steiner called “exact clairvoyance”. Which leads us to the matter of superstition.
◊ Superstition ◊
Anthroposophy insists that the universe is a magical place chockablock with unseen presences; it is the domain of mystery wisdom, occult secrets hidden from all but the initiated. According to Steiner, cognition comes not from the brain but from radical, disciplined subjectivity yielding psychic powers. These powers are situated in incorporeal “organs,” particularly “organs of clairvoyance.”  Believing in such organs is an exercise in pure faith, since there is no evidence for their existence. Indeed, the lack of evidence (aside from clairvoyant visions, which are worthless) makes such belief indistinguishable from superstition.
And that's only part of the story. The universe as Steiner described it is a place where black magic is real; alchemy is real; astrological influences are real; special prayers, rewritten and/or recited backwards, confer special powers; magical preparations, produced according to special instructions and applied under certain astrological conditions, make the earth yield most excellent foods; murder can yield dark knowledge and powers; seers (especially a certain Austro-German savant) can peer into the past and future and down to the core of the Earth and up to the heights of the heavens; following certain specifications (provided by you-know-who) prepares humans to transform themselves into super-humans, über-humans, in coming evolutionary cycles; magical medical practices (using certain colored crayons, consuming certain herbs, applying certain salves, speaking certain words) trump real medicine; etc. 
According to Anthroposophy, goblins, giants, and other fantastical creatures really exist; Thor and Zeus and other pagan gods really exist; the characters in Shakespeare's play’s really exist, alive, in spiritland; ancestors of today's humans migrated to other planets and then returned; there is a secret, invisible, celestial script (you can read it if you follow Steiner’s instructions); you can converse with the dead (if you follow Steiner’s instructions); fire-breathing dragons once roamed the earth — you will know this if you gain clairvoyance; and in that case, you will also know that Buddha was crucified on Mars; and Christ is the Sun God; and Jehovah resides on the Moon; and Lucifer has his headquarters on Venus; and the Moon is, in effect, a celestial fortress, one of many colonies in outer space; and karma is for real; reincarnation is for real; elephants have graveyards inside caves; continents float in the sea; humans living on the Moon used to breathe air thicker than water; animals evolved from humans, not vice versa; bees have a higher consciousness than humans, and corals are even more advanced; and, and... 
Maybe you’ve had enough?
Ye gods and little fishes! All of Steiner's amazing statements would be wonderfully exciting, if there were any basis for believing even a small part of them. But they are all obvious fantasy, a farrago of fairy tales, phantasmagoric flapdoodle. They are superstition that ought to recognized as such by all rational adults. Yet Steiner asks his followers to believe all of this, and much, much more. (If you would like further instances of Steinerian superstitions and nonsense, please consult “Steiner’s Blunders", “Steiner’s Illogic”, and “Steiner Static”. You could also entertain and/or alarm yourself with “Steiner’s ‘Science’”, “Steiner’s Quackery”, and “Atlantis and the Aryans,” among other modest offerings. A fairly painless way to get a handle on Anthroposophical ignorance and superstition is to glance through "Say What?", "Wise Words", "Today", "Today 2", and/or "Today 3".)
I’ll conclude this section by repeating myself, but in reverse order. Anthroposophy contains no real knowledge; it consists of superstitions and/or delusions. This is because Steiner disavowed real knowledge; he opted for a voluntary form of ignorance that he called occult wisdom. Waldorf schools are immoral if and when they attempt to lure students into this miasma of phantasms and ignorance. They are extraordinarily immoral if and when they do this behind the students’ parents’ backs.
There is, of course, more to Anthroposophy than ignorance and superstition. Anthroposophists are romantics and idealists. They are spiritual. They have high aspirations and even, in a manner of speaking, noble ideals. I sympathize with much of what lies under and behind and around Anthroposophy. Most people, I think, can sympathize. Most people want life to be more magical, more wondrous, more superb. But this simply makes the ignorance and superstition in Anthroposophy that much sadder. Anthroposophists may aim high, but they do not rise high. Almost none of their beliefs (or "clairvoyant findings", the fruits of "spiritual science") are true.
This being so, it is all the sadder that Anthroposophists tend to be, often, intellectually vain. They think they know more about nearly everything than nearly everyone else, and they think their approach to knowledge — their "spiritual science," Anthroposophy — trumps all other approaches. They are mistaken. Indeed, they are self-deceiving. [See, e.g., "Why? Oh Why?" and "Fooling (Ourselves)".] But they sincerely hold these views, as anyone who has spent much time with them will recognize. Whether they are right to be so proud of, and dependent on, Anthroposophy is one of the central topics examined at Waldorf Watch. We needn't repeat all of that examination now. But we can summarize:
Anthroposophy consists, by and large, of ignorance and superstition. Almost no Anthroposophical beliefs are true.
I must admit that I feel the allure of Steiner's vision. Don't you? Imagining a mighty system of wondrous realms can be thrilling, comforting, and even fun, especially when we put ourselves at the glorious center of it all.
But I also recognize the emptiness and sorrow that Anthroposopy can produce. Steiner's vision is almost wholly unsupported by evidence. It is almost wholly unconnected to reality.
Consider how tiny Steiner's universe is. Especially when we think in terms of planetary spheres,* his universe is downright claustrophobic — a few spheres, stretching out a fairly long distance when judged by everyday standards, but shrinking to virtual vanishing point when compared to the revelations of modern astronomy.
There is no zodiac, despite Steiner's repeated references to it. The constellations are imaginary formations of our own devising. Nor is the zodiac enclosed by a crystal heaven. The real universe stretches on through distances and timespans that wholly dwarf Steiner's little sketch. We now know that our own galaxy, the Milky Way, has about 250 billion stars (or two hundred and fifty thousand million, as the Brits would say). And there are approximately two thousand billion galaxies.** The numbers involved stagger the mind; they are impossible to visualize; they are vastly greater than anything Steiner contemplated. Yet this is reality.
Of course, the sheer immensity of the real universe can be daunting. It can make us feel small and insignificant. This is precisely why warm little fantasies such as Steiner's appeal to us.
But the majesty of the real universe can also be stimulating and ennobling. This is our home. This is the glory with which we are surrounded. And don't forget, we are one with the stars. All of the heavy elements that make up our bodies were born in the hearts of distant stars, elements forged in the furnaces of the stars and then hurled outward by stupendous stellar explosions. The atoms in your body come from the most spectacular bursts of energy, the mightiest fireworks displays, in the distant reaches of the starry heavens. As Carl Sagan used to say, we are made of star stuff.
And we have brains made of star stuff, brains that enable us to think deeply and truly. Brains that enable us to get beyond the childish fantasies of our intellectual infancy. Brains that let us stand proudly erect in this glorious universe and claim our true place in it — that is, the place of smart, thinking beings who face reality without flinching, who prize truth, and who work to spread the light of truth-finding into all the expanses that were previously dark.
This is our heritage, if we will claim it. To do so, however, we must set aside our childish superstitions, including Anthroposophy.
* See "Higher Worlds".
** I am writing this in mid-2017. These are the figures generally accepted by astronomers as of now.
— Roger Rawlings
I think it is quite clear that Rudolf Steiner was wrong about almost everything. But that isn't the most important point. What is truly important is that parents who are considering Waldorf schools for their children should know what Steiner taught. And then they should ask themselves whether they feel comfortable entrusting the education of their children to people who think Steiner was right. Bear in mind, Waldorf schools are also called Steiner schools, and for good reason. Some Waldorf/Steiner schools are more faithful to Anthroposophy than others are. But any genuine Waldorf/Steiner school is, to some degree, rooted in Anthroposophy. If you cannot embrace Anthroposophy, you will probably — sooner or later — find serious deficiencies in Waldorf education.
The ultimate purpose of Waldorf schooling is to promote the religion created by Rudolf Steiner, Anthroposophy. Steiner often denied this purpose, but sometimes — apparently inadvertently — he admitted it.
"When the [Waldorf] school was founded, we placed great value upon creating an institution independent of the Anthroposophical Society. Logically, that corresponds quite well with having the various religious communities and the Anthroposophical Society provide religious instruction, so that the Society provides religious instruction just as other religious groups do." 
“The instruction in religion based on spiritual science [i.e., Anthroposophy] is increasing [in the Waldorf school], and more and more children come to it. Some have even deserted other religious instruction to go to the anthroposophic religious lessons. It is quite understandable, therefore, that people should say that these anthroposophists are rather bad people, since they lead children to abandon their Catholic and Protestant religious lessons for the religious instruction based on spiritual science. We do all we can to discourage them from coming, because it is very difficult for us to find religious teachers in our own area. Nevertheless, despite the fact that we never planned on this instruction except in response to parents’ requests and the unconscious requests of children (to my great distress, I might almost say), the demand for anthroposophic religious instruction constantly increases. And now thanks to this anthroposophic religious instruction the school has a completely Christian character.” 
Anthroposophy is certainly a religion, but is it “Christian”? Consider how Anthroposophy stands in contrast to both Catholicism and Protestantism. In Steiner’s time, this contrast clearly meant that Anthroposophy was heretical, denying the only recognized forms of Christianity. As for Steiner’s “distress” in meeting the “unconscious requests” of students, each reader can form an opinion. Steiner was somtimes simultaneously candid and disingenuous. Or, since we are using plain speech here, perhaps we should say that Steiner was not above lying when it suited his purposes.
At today's Waldorf schools, there may not be much if any overt religious instruction. But an Anthroposophical religious perspective, mood, and atmosphere usually pervades the schools. Waldorf schools are, in fact, religious institutions, and the religion they embody is Anthroposophy. [See "Schools as Churches".] If you don't want your children led toward Anthroposophy, don't send them to a Waldorf school. Maybe your kids would successfully resist all inducements toward Anthroposophy. Maybe the Anthroposophical impulse at a particular Waldorf school will prove to be muted and largely ineffective. But is this a gamble you want to take?
A QUESTION OF VALIDITY
Rudolf Steiner invalidated his own teachings. The beliefs of Anthroposophists — which are the underlying ideology of Waldorf schools — are null and void.
”The moment we rise to the truths of the spiritual world we can no longer speak of ‘true’ and ‘false,’ for in the spiritual world that would be as nonsensical as saying that to drink such and such a quantity of wine every day is ‘false’ ... Pertaining to the spiritual world, the concepts of ‘true’ and false’ should be discarded altogether.” 
This is a remarkable statement coming from someone who made a profession of telling people the truths about the spiritual world. If the statement is true, than nothing Steiner told us about the spiritual realm is true — how could it be, if nothing in that realm is true or false? Steiner's statement invalidates itself; it cannot reflect any spiritual "truth", since there is no such thing, according to Steiner. 
I am not playing word games, here; I’m pointing out a fundamental fault in Steiner’s doctrines. Consider. Steiner consistently made detailed and categorical statements about the spiritual world. For example,
"[I]n November of the year 1879 there occurred on the astral plane something very similar to a birth ... The rulership of [the archangel] Gabriel was replaced by another archangel, under whose leadership we now stand, the archangel Michael.” 
This is clear, categorical, and presumably true (that is, Steiner offered it as a true statement). Yet this statement cannot be true if the concepts of “true” and “false” do not apply to the spiritual world, the realm where beings such as Archangels live, according to Steiner himself.
The entire body of Steiner’s teachings collapses when considered in this way. Steiner often enumerated things, telling us for instance how many ranks of gods stand above us.  But this cannot be true, if nothing in the spiritual world is either true or false.
The confusion between truth and untruth runs deep in Anthroposophy. Steiner often fumbled as he made categorical statements. For instance, he repeatedly said that humanity will evolve through seven stages of consciousness, running from Old Saturn to Future Vulcan.  However, he occasionally added an eighth stage.  And sometimes, forgetting this additional stage, he said that there are actually twelve stages:
“After the Vulcan stage, man will develop yet further, and will ascend to still higher levels of consciousness. As the external eye looks into misty gray distances, so the inner eye of the seer looks upon five more forms of consciousness, as far off as distant spirits, of which a description, however, is quite impossible. In all, one can speak of twelve stages of consciousness." 
Actually, if the eighth stage he sometimes mentioned is included, there would be thirteen stages.
So which is it, seven, eight, twelve, or thirteen stages? If we take the previous quotation (“After the Vulcan stage...”) as the truth, then Steiner’s answer is twelve. But if we agree with Steiner that “true” and “false” do not apply to high spiritual matters, then Steiner’s answer cannot be true. None of this is true. Steiner invalidates his own “true” statement(s). 
Steiner's lectures and books tend to be internally conflicted. Steiner "informs" us, conveying "truths;" but at the same time, he pulls back so that his words tend to mystify rather than inform. To a degree, Steiner uses the language and forms of rational discourse; he claims to be a scientist, objectively investigating the spirit realm. In this, he works to make spiritual matters comprehensible — he seeks the truth about them. Yet, simultaneously, he insists that much of his subject matter is beyond normal human comprehension. His statements become gauzy and self-canceling. Thus, for instance, he tells us that the spirit realm is a place of colors, yet he says these are not colors such as we perceive with our eyes — they are not really "colors" at all.  He frequently defines or describes something while simultaneously distancing himself from his own words.
Of course, the spirit realm may indeed be a very strange place, judged by ordinary Earthly standards. Much of it may lie beyond mortal comprehension. But Steiner is disingenuous. If "color" is the wrong word, why not use a better word or sequence of words — why not give us a description that makes sense, no matter how tenuous? Sometimes Steiner strives to use clear language, and sometimes he does not. He is comfortable with contradictions and paradoxes, comfortable with the notion that an important spiritual "truth" is that there is no such thing as a spiritual "truth."  Steiner's purpose often seems to be not to enlighten us but to position himself as the guru on whom we must rely. He taught his followers that they need something akin to blind faith. A spiritual seeker
“would find himself plunged into the stormy sea of astral experiences if he were left to fend for himself. For this reason he needs a guide who can tell him from the start how these things are related and how to find his bearings in the astral world. Hence the need to find a Guru on whom he can strictly rely." 
This utterly belies Steiner's claim that Anthroposophy is a science. Scientists do not need to "strictly rely" on gurus; they need no gurus at all. Steiner encouraged his followers to be spiritual scientists like himself, making their own independent spiritual discoveries — yet he also told them they needed to rely strictly on his guidance. Steiner simultaneously gave and retracted.
Part of the problem might be summarized this way: Steiner insisted that much of the spirit realm is beyond the limits of our brains and the concepts developed by our brains. So the question becomes where the line is drawn: What is within the range of our mental comprehension and what is beyond it? In the case of the stages of human evolution, Steiner generally located the line after the seventh stage, Future Vulcan: He described each of the first seven stages (although he was quite vague about Vulcan), and he said that the remaining five stages cannot be described. There are several difficulties in Steiner's statements about this, however. The possible existence of the eighth sphere is certainly a complication. The emphasis Steiner often placed on the number seven is another (seven stages fit neatly into his overall metaphysical matrix, in which so many phenomena are found in groups of seven).  But more fundamentally, ask yourself this: If the line exists after the seventh stage, how could Steiner tell us anything about what exists beyond the seventh stage? He claimed to have at least two important pieces of information about the realm beyond the line: specifically, there are five more stages, and they cannot be described. But he could not know these things if the line actually exists.
The "truths" Steiner offered us consistently flutter away in this manner. We see this over and over, and not just on the question of distinguishing truth from untruth. Steiner said that in the spiritual world, not only is there no real difference between the true and the false, but there is no real difference between the good and the bad.
“Logic does not apply when we come into a sphere that can no longer be comprehended by physical means. We finally have to realize that our physical logic works neither in the realm of philosophy nor anywhere else where we concern ourselves with other than physical forms of existence. We must not make the mistake of looking at the opposition of Lucifer and Ahriman [i.e., the opposition of these demons to our evolution] as we would at the antagonism between a good and an evil person on earth. This kind of mistake occurs when we continue to carry over the earthly into the super-earthly realm.
“Most people picture Ahriman and Lucifer as evil beings — albeit much more intensely evil than human beings. But this is not true; we must keep in mind that certain earthly feelings we associate with our concepts lose their meaning when we go beyond the earthly realm. Thus we cannot say that there are good gods on the one hand and the evil gods Ahriman and Lucifer on the other. We must not assume that a trial should be held in the universe where a highly qualified cosmic judge would sit on the cosmic judgment seat and sentence Lucifer and Ahriman to be locked up once and for all, so that only the good gods can get to work. True, locking somebody up can at times make sense in earthly life; in the cosmos it would not make any sense because there such ideas and concepts have no meaning. The opposing forces were created by the good gods themselves in an earlier period.” 
But blurring the distinction between good and evil undermines Anthroposophy almost as much as blurring the distinction between true and false does. A spiritual world without such distinctions would be utterly chaotic, even more baffling than Steiner himself indicated. Steiner often insisted that there are both good and evil powers at work in the universe; there a good gods and evil gods who battle each other; there is Christ and there is Sorat, the Antichrist, his enemy; there is a path that leads upward to divinity and a path that leads downward to the abyss.  Such teachings are fundamental to Anthroposophy — but they are reduced to hash if the distinctions between good and bad, and true and false, are dissolved.
Steiner presented himself as a truth-teller, yet he wanted to blur the sorts of distinctions we have been considering. He wanted to deny that our brains — which can use the logic he spoke of, above — are adequate for comprehending the high realities of which he spoke. Instead, he taught that we need to use clairvoyance — ideally, “exact” clairvoyance of the sort he claimed to possess. But this is another fatal weakness in his system. Clairvoyance is an illusion — there is no evidence that human beings are capable of developing or using clairvoyance.  Any system that depends on clairvoyance is fundamentally flawed: It leans on a reed that does not exist. Thus, it falls.
Anthroposophy disparages logic, it disparages the brain, it disparages modern science , it disparages real knowledge and information , it blurs the distinction between truth and falsehood, it blurs the distinction between good and evil. It is a mess. It is false and — for the moment I’ll refrain from using the words “evil” or “bad” — it is (to put this mildly) not good.
For an inquiry into the sort of thinking
that can lead to such hallucinatory belief systems
as Anthroposophy, see, e.g., "Fooling (Ourselves)".
Many of Steiner's doctrines contain elements that are
little more than superstition.
For an overview, see "Superstition".
For a quick review of spiritual beings that
Steiner said really exist,
To focus on the ones that Steiner said
see "Evil Ones".
For a review of evil and sin,
including the Ten Commandments,
(For the Anthroposophical vision of
punishment for evildoers,
To peer into the messianism of Anthroposophy,
and the tendency to demonize opponents,
For information on Waldorf schools
as they are today,
and the pages following them.
For relatively candid remarks by Rudolf Steiner
on the spiritualistic agenda of Waldorf schools,
see "Spiritual Agenda".
For an example of Steiner using the fallacy
called "argument to ignorance" — see "Ignorance".
For a summary of the consequences of Steiner's illogic
(and his claimed use of clairvoyance)
Poking holes in Steiner's teachings is easy,
but is it relevant to us today? Do Anthroposophists
and Waldorf faculties today still believe Steiner?
Sadly, yes. See, e.g., "Teacher Training"
If, before wrapping things up,
you'd like circle back for an overview of
all things Waldorf,
see "Square One"
and "Waldorf Wisdom".
READ ALL ABOUT IT
Here are two items from the Waldorf Watch "news" page:
“In occultism, we learn to grasp life more earnestly, we learn to perceive that the things which are not palpable, which cannot be observed by the senses, are still a reality.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE TEMPLE LEGEND (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1997), p. 249.
Waldorf Watch Response:
Rudolf Steiner freely identified himself and his followers as occultists. [See "Occultism".] He was not confessing to devil worship or the practice of black magic. He meant that Anthroposophists possess secret, hidden spiritual knowledge. This claim is certainly questionable. But beyond that, we should recognize that many of the malign characteristics that people generally associate with occultism do indeed show up in Steiner’s doctrines.
While Anthroposophy is generally upbeat, foreseeing the likelihood of a wonderful future for humanity [see “Tenth Hierarchy”], it also includes doctrines about ghosts and phantoms [see "Neutered Nature"], demons [see “Evil Ones”], secret esoteric brotherhoods [see “Double Trouble”], spiritual degeneration [see "Evolution, Anyone?"], astrology [see “Star Power”], white and black magic [see “Magicians”], infernal regions [see “Sphere 8”], goblins [see “Gnomes”], and the like. To the rational mind, Anthroposophy is an elaborate patchwork of superstition and ignorance, essentially medieval in nature, and marked by many nightmarish concepts.
We would need to accept Anthroposophy's nightmares along with its the optimistic doctrines, if they represented truth. But they do not. Steiner claimed that all of his teachings were based on his personal spiritual investigations. By this, he meant his use of “exact clairvoyance" [see “Exactly”]. But there is no such thing [see “Clairvoyance”]. Nothing based on clairvoyance is real or true. In presenting his purported clairvoyant visions, Steiner was either hallucinating or fibbing. In either case, his teachings have no merit. And the implications of this for Waldorf schooling should be clear, since Waldorf schools — otherwise known, significantly, as Steiner schools — base their practices on Steiner’s teachings.
Arguing that Waldorf schools generally conceal their real agenda,
a participant in the discussion at The Ethereal Kiosk
has proposed the following as an accurate Waldorf self-description,
the sort of truthful mission statement a Waldorf school should post:
[W]hat would I prefer the schools say about themselves which, as a prospective parent, I would like to have read? I’ll have a go at that. Here’s what my ideal fictional Steiner school would say on its home page:
“The Puddleton Steiner school bases its teaching methods on the indications of Rudolf Steiner, the spiritual leader of the Anthroposophical movement. Every detail of the school, from the colour of the walls to the delivery of lessons, is informed by Steiner’s ideas and traditional Anthroposophical culture.
"We believe that the most effective approach to education engages and develops a child’s mind, body and soul. The Anthroposophical understanding of these three aspects of the human being leads to a model of child development that advocates a delay in reading and more traditional intellectual pursuits until a child is 7 years old. Adolescents develop their critical and logical thinking ability around the age of 14. The curriculum of our school reflects these stages.
"We maintain links with the wider Anthroposophical community. Besides the traditional subjects, Eurythmy is an important and compulsory lesson. A dance form that aims to translate the spoken word into movement, it also has spiritual significance and can be used in a curative, therapeutic way in case of medical or learning difficulties. The school employs an Anthroposophical doctor who can advise on the use of Eurythmy and other complementary therapies in these cases. The school maintains a bio-dynamic garden where students grow their vegetables following Steiner’s agricultural indications. Some members of staff belong to the Anthroposophical Society and we regularly invite speakers to give talks on Anthroposophical subjects to parents.”
That’s just 3 paragraphs. It wouldn’t necessarily have scared me off immediately but would have given me plenty of food of thought and directions to read up on....
To illustrate how Waldorf schools generally avoid
mentioning Anthroposophy and its doctrines
— i.e., the thinking that undergirds
all their activities and purposes —
the writer created a web crawler
"to index the home pages of all 34 Steiner schools in the UK
plus the SWSF home page and all the pages you can get
to one click away from the home pages.
I generated a word cloud where the size of each word
represents the total frequency it occurs."
(SWSF is the Steiner-Waldorf Schools Fellowship.)
Here is the result:
The name "Steiner" is prominent, which might seem to indicate at least a minimal level of disclosure — but in the UK, Waldorf schools are called Steiner or Steiner-Waldorf schools, so the schools can't avoid naming their founder. But do the schools honestly explain who Steiner was and what he preached? Clearly not. If they did so — if, in other words, the schools forthrightly explained the real nature of Waldorf education — the cloud would be filled with terms such as "Anthroposophy," "karma," "reincarnation," "etheric body," "astral body", "nature spirits," "planetary conditions," "astrology," "gods," "Sun God," "Lucifer,' "Ahriman," "spiritual evolution," and the like. Steiner's teachings about all of these topics are fundamental to Anthroposophical belief, upon which Waldorf pedagogy is based. Unless these are explained, the purposes of Waldorf education are left unexplained.
For background, see, e.g.,
Here is an excerpt from testimony at a trial
in which an association of Waldorf schools
sued a former Waldorf teacher for libel.
The lawyer for the former Waldorf teacher
is questioning "Mrs. X,"
a representative of the association
of Waldorf schools:
Lawyer: "In the name 'Steiner-Waldorf' education, we find the name of Rudolf Steiner. One may imagine that there is a link between Anthroposophy and Steiner-Waldorf education, since they are derived from the same person. Is this not so? But do you inform parents that Anthroposophy is behind this education? Do you tell them, for example, during visiting days?"
Mrs X: "No, it is for the parents to learn."
Lawyer: "But where can they learn this? On the website of the [Steiner-Waldorf] Federation? I went there and I saw no mention of Anthroposophy or Rudolf Steiner!"
Mrs X: "Well, they are adults, they just need to look harder!"
For more on this trial, see
THE SCHOOLS THEMSELVES
There are many Waldorf schools in the world today, sprinkled across the continents. The schools are not all identical, by a long shot. Still, they all trace their origins to Rudolf Steiner and the first Waldorf school, which he established in 1919. There are enough similarities between the Waldorf schools in operation today to allow us to make many general observations about them.
A few of the schools, especially in Europe, are fairly large, having scores of faculty members and several hundred students. Most Waldorf schools, however, are of more modest size, and some are quite tiny.
Waldorf schools (also called Steiner schools and/or Steiner-Waldorf schools) are usually pleasant places with earnest, committed faculty and staff. There is usually a faint but palpable spiritual or even mystic atmosphere, although usually no particular theology is openly professed. Green values, with reverence for nature, are usually in evidence. There is almost always much art in and around the schools: paintings, drawings, sculpture, instrumental music, choral music, dance...
Academic pressures are usually light, as the schools focus as much attention on emotional and spiritual development as on brainwork. There is usually much playtime, especially in the lower grades, along with craftwork of various kinds, including knitting, crochet, woodworking, and the like. School days often pass pleasantly.
A familial feeling is often achieved. Students get to know one another, and their teachers, well. The same small group of students may remain together for many years — ideally, all the way from kindergarten through high school. Likewise, the same teacher(s) may lead a particular group for many years: from first grade through fifth or eighth grade or (on rare occasions) through twelfth grade.
Subjects are usually studied in a set order, according to the Waldorf belief that there is a correct time for each. The order corresponds to the Waldorf conception of the stages of childhood development. There are three such stages, with the major turning points coming around ages seven and fourteen. Waldorf teachers try to shepherd their charges through these important transitions. The teachers offer themselves as role models, hoping to inspire both the admiration and love of their students. They seek to gradually fortify the students so that, having been well led, the children eventually develop the capacity to think for themselves in the final years of schooling.
All of this is more or less as Rudolf Steiner intended, and most of it derives from his specific directives. Most of it reflects Steiner's mystic conception of human nature. [See "Oh Humanity".] The three stages of childhood development, for example, are actually three phases of incarnation. [See "Incarnation".] In Waldorf belief, human beings have four bodies, three of which are invisible. A human is born with a physical body; at age seven, the "etheric body" (an envelope of formative forces) incarnates; at age fourteen, the "astral body" (an envelope of soul forces) incarnates; and at age twenty-one, the "ego body" or "I" (individual spiritual selfhood) incarnates.
Underlying the Waldorf belief in incarnation is a belief in reincarnation. Steiner taught that humans live alternating lives in the spiritual and earthly realms. [See "Reincarnation".] During these lives, we evolve toward spiritual perfection, a process that includes working out one's karma. [See "Karma".] Humanity's great guide along the upward path of evolution is Christ, who in Waldorf belief is actually the Sun God. [See "Sun God" and "Prototype".]
Usually, very little of this is openly explained to parents before they enroll their children in a Waldorf school, and sometimes much of it remains hidden even after enrollment. Rudolf Steiner's teachings are embodied in the mystical system called Anthroposophy, which forms the foundation of Waldorf education. Anthroposophists believe that they are occult initiates who possess divine wisdom that others do not possess and are unprepared to receive. Thus, they are often secretive about their purposes and practices — properly so, in their view. [See "Inside Scoop".] Not all Waldorf teachers are full-fledged Anthroposophists, but many are, and they observe Steiner's admonition to preserve occult knowledge from those who are not ready for it. [See "Secrets".]
Rudolf Steiner claimed that he attained occult wisdom through the use of clairvoyance. In particular, he claimed to employ "exact clairvoyance," which enabled him to gain virtually unchallengeable knowledge of spiritual matters. [See "Exactly".] He stipulated that Waldorf teachers should be true Anthroposophists, and he said they should either develop their own powers of exact clairvoyance or accept the guidance of their colleagues who have developed it. He called this form of exact clairvoyance the "Waldorf teacher's consciousness." [See "The Waldorf Teacher's Consciousness".]
Stated in the broadest terms, the chief objective of Waldorf education is to spread Anthroposophy. However, in accordance with the need to preserve occult secrets, this objective is usually pursued subtly, indirectly. [See "Sneaking It In".] Rarely are Waldorf students taught the doctrines of Anthroposophy in so many words. Instead, guided day after day, month after month, year after year by the same small set of teachers, they gradually come to see the world much as their teachers see it, which is generally as Rudolf Steiner saw it. Thus, Waldorf schools usually do not explicitly teach Anthroposophy to the students, but the schools lead students down the path toward Anthroposophy. [See "Spiritual Agenda".] Few Waldorf students graduate from school as Anthroposophists — most may have only the foggiest idea what Anthroposophy is — but most will graduate having internalized attitudes and beliefs that may cause them, later in life, to devote themselves to Rudolf Steiner and his teachings. [See "Mistreating Kids Lovingly".]
Restated at the personal level, the objective of Waldorf education is to shepherd students through the process of incarnation and spiritual development so that they may, sooner or later, find spiritual truth — i.e., the doctrines of Anthroposophy. [See "Soul School".] The hope is that the children will do this "freely" — Waldorf schools claim to promote human freedom. [See "Freedom".] Thus, in theory, Waldorf students are led to think for themselves and make their own free life choices. However, in Anthroposophical belief, any choice other than Anthroposophy is wrong and may lead to the loss of one's soul. [See "Is Anthroposophy a Religion?"] Moreover, critics allege that Waldorf students are effectively — albeit subtly — indoctrinated through the long years spent in an Anthroposophical milieu, and this negates the possibility of actual freedom. [See "He Went to Waldorf".] Indoctrinated students generally travel down the paths established for them by their internalized belief system, implanted in them through a subtle years-long process.
Virtually all classes and activities in Waldorf schools are keyed to the schools' spiritual purposes. A few quotations from Rudolf Steiner make this plain:
◊ "It is possible to introduce a religious element into every subject, even into math lessons. Anyone who has some knowledge of Waldorf teaching will know that this statement is true."
◊ "As Waldorf teachers, we must be true anthroposophists in the deepest sense of the word in our innermost feeling.”
◊ "Among the faculty, we must certainly carry within us the knowledge that we are not here for our own sakes, but to carry out the divine cosmic plan. We should always remember that when we do something, we are actually carrying out the intentions of the gods, that we are, in a certain sense, the means by which that streaming down from above will go out into the world.”
With their primary attention devoted to occult spiritual matters, Waldorf teachers may or may not provide a sound education for their students. [See "Academic Standards at Waldorf".] Usually, Waldorf faculties harbor a fundamental mistrust of modern science and scholarship, which are so much at odds with Steiner's mysticism. Still, depending on individual circumstances, some students may graduate having attained a reasonable level of literacy and real-world knowledge. And, again depending on individual circumstances, some may come away more or less unscathed by their teachers' occult beliefs. [See "Who Gets Hurt".] Parents should realize, however, that if they select Waldorf schools for their children, they may be subjecting them to risks unlike those found in ordinary, secular forms of education. [See "Advice for Parents".] child who succumbs to Anthroposophical indoctrination may be woefully unprepared for real life in the real world; deep mental and emotional problems may result.
To see how the Waldorf curriculum is geared to Anthroposophy, see "The Waldorf Curriculum" and the essays that follow it ("Oh My Word", "Magical Arts", "Mystic Math", etc.). To look into methods used by Waldorf teachers, see "Methods". To see how Waldorf teachers are trained, see "Teacher Training". To see how Anthroposophical attitudes and inclinations are surreptitiously conveyed to Waldorf students, see "Sneaking It In." For indications of the problems, sometimes quite unusual, that can disrupt the pleasant tenor of Waldorf school life, see "Cautionary Tales", "Mistreating Kids Lovingly", and "Indoctrination".
My father fought, and nearly died, in World War II, in Europe, bombing Germany. If he had died in the war, I would not exist. So, the war has always been of interest to me. I've read a great deal about the war and the events leading up to it, largely in order to try to understand the appeal of Adolf Hitler. How could a sophisticated nation such a Germany deliver itself into the hands of a racist lunatic like Hitler? How, at an even deeper level, could Germany have acceded to Nazi insanity and evil so profoundly as to allow what is probably the greatest crime in all of human history, the Holocaust?
I think I understand the answers to these questions. I think I can imagine what it was like to live in Germany after that nation's crushing loss in World War I: a proud nation defeated, ravaged, impoverished, humiliated, riven, desperate. So I think I can imagine why at least some Germans saw possible salvation in a Leader who loudly proclaimed the divine superiority of the Germanic master race, and who offered that race the possibility of revenge and triumph. I think I understand.
And yet, at some level, Hitler and the Holocaust must always remain a mystery. We may understand why the Holocaust happened, but the reality of the Holocaust must always remain, at a deep level, unthinkable. The actions of the Nazis were completely beyond the bounds of what we want to think of as human nature. The death camps were hellish; the things done there ought never to have been possible for any human beings to do. Our minds and hearts and souls recoil utterly, as they should. And so we must always be dumbfounded by what we understand and know to be true: Yes, we human beings did these things; yes, we are capable even of such atrocities. But no, no! Surely not! But yes, tragically, yes — it happened.
(Aside: The sheer unthinkability of the Nazi crimes is one reason so many people — including some Anthroposophists — deny that the Holocaust occurred. There are also other, less innocent reasons for Holocaust denial, but at the simple emotional level, we can all understand the urge to deny this hideous historical truth. O, God, if only it we could wash this indelible stain from our hands...)
Compared to Hitler and Nazism, Steiner and Anthroposophy are far, far less terrible, and far, far less important.
But here is one similarity, at least in my view. Although I have read almost everything I could find about Steiner and his doctrines and Waldorf schooling — and although I personally lived through deep exposure to these things, and for a long time felt in my heart a profound yearning for the benefits they claim to offer — there is a way in which belief in Steiner's teachings must always be mysterious, unthinkable, incomprehensible.
Some very smart, capable people have bought into Anthroposophy; some have devoted their lives to it. I understand. I've been there. I've been — in a youthful, unsmart way — one of them. Yet what these people believe (and what I once believed) is such utter poppycock as to stagger the mind. Ye gods and little fishes! Are we all insane? How can we, with our marvelous big brains, accept such fantasies as Steiner peddled? Fairies, goblins, dragons, Old Saturn, Old Sun, Vulcan, floating islands and continents, planets that trail the Sun instead of orbiting it, Lemuria, Atlantis, magic, alchemy, astrology...
Are we all insane? Perhaps, in a way, we are. Most human beings, of course, have never heard of Rudolf Steiner and in no way accept his teachings. But most of us believe similar stuff — most humans believe in invisible presences, and they have superstitions, and they generally believe many things that they cannot prove or even explain.
We have deep mystical yearnings. At one level, it is easy to understand this. We don't want to die. We don't want to believe that our loved ones can die — or, if they did die, we don't want to believe that they are truly gone, forever, extinguished, eliminated. A friend of mine died not long ago. I'm still going through the experience I've had before under similar circumstances: The utter absence of my friend feels so wrong, so unbelievable, that at an irrational level I still think of him as alive, somewhere, somehow. When we feel such things, the possibility of discarnated souls feels right to us, so we can imagine a realm of the discarnated, a spiritual realm, and we can easily begin spinning out ideas about this realm — and, presto, we have a mystical belief system.
This is easy to understand. And, of course, our own impending deaths are even more unbelievable to us than the deaths of our loved ones. No! I cannot die! I refuse to believe that I will die. So I will use various prayers and practices to ensure my eternal survival...
This is easy to understand. And yet, this is — to the rational mind — more than a little absurd. Our belief in the invisible, in things none of us has ever seen or experienced, is preposterous. But there it is; that's how most of us think most of the time.
I don't mean to challenge all religions and faiths, although my argument clearly runs in the direction. The issue, here, is Steiner's body of doctrines. Fairies, goblins, dragons, Old Saturn, Old Sun, Vulcan... Preposterous, mysterious, absurd. And yet Anthroposophy is accepted by some smart, articulate people.
One particular attraction of Steiner's teachings is that so much is included. Steiner stitched together many, many disparate beliefs, apparently developing a coherent framework that incorporates and explains them all. This is what Anthroposophists sometimes refer to as the inner logic of Anthroposophy: Steiner took a huge number of jigsaw pieces and fitted them all neatly together. This helps to make the allure of Anthroposophy comprehensible. Fairies, goblins, dragons and the rest may make sense if we can accept a super-theory of spiritual reality that accounts for all of them. This is what Anthroposophy purports to be, the Theory of Everything, the Science of the Spirit, the Explanation of All.
And yet, pause. Steiner said that all fairy tales, all myths and legends, all spiritualistic symbols are true: They represent clairvoyantly ascertained realities. The mind begins to boggle. All of these are true? And this is ascertained how? By the use of a faculty that does not exist?
Let's look at the bigger picture. Steiner tried to unify the world's religions. Thus, in Anthroposophy, we find elements of Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, and so on. Great. We can appreciate the appeal of such a proffered synthesis. But does Steiner's synthesis make sense? For his system to work, Steiner had to bend everything so badly that no orthodox Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, or Zoroastrian would recognize her/his faith in Steiner's doctrines. Christ is the Sun God (Hu, or Apollo, or Ahura Mazda) who has come again (the Second Coming), but only in the etheric world (the what?), and he will assist us in our evolution, not take us directly to Heaven. We will live many lives, which are informed by karma, in a universe of many gods, including Archangels such as Michael, and other great spirits such as Buddha (who was to Mars what Christ is to Earth), under the triune Godhead (Brahma, Shiva, Vishnu), in a solar system currently centered (for us, for now) on Christ, which was preceded by other solar systems in which other gods began their evolutions, and will be succeeded by newer solar systems foreseeable by exact clairvoyance (what?), or as indicated in the Akashic Record (what?), or a foretold in the Book or Revelation, or in Norse myths, or in fairy tales... The apparent coherence of Steiner's synthesis breaks down when we examine it in any detail. Steiner tried to affirm almost every spiritual belief from every significant belief system. But in the process of these affirmations, Steiner had to change most of these beliefs so completely that very few of them retained their character or meaning.
Consider the sources Steiner drew from. Accepting the tales and beliefs of the ancients (people who knew little by modern standards), he repeatedly rejected the findings of modern scholars and scientists (people who know a great deal about the real world). Nothing rational or true could come from such an enterprise. If Steiner believed the things he professed, he was deceiving himself. Indeed, Anthroposophy is an enormous project in human self-deception.
All of this is a roundabout way of saying that I understand the appeal of Anthroposophy, yet my mind also boggles. What? Anthroposophists believe what?
Ok. I understand.
A modest suggestion: If we could all stop believing (deeply, passionately) things that defy rationality, we might be better off. The Nazis believed in the superiority of Aryans and the subhuman vileness of Jews and Gypsies and Slavs — they believed this trash so passionately that they could commit the horrific atrocities of the Holocaust.
Anthroposophists say they don't believe anything, they know. But this is what most mystics say. And Anthroposophists certainly do base their "knowledge" in belief — belief in their own powers of clairvoyance, if nothing else. But clairvoyance doesn't exist, which means that every spiritual "reality" ascertained by clairvoyance is a fantasy, unproven but accepted by an act of belief or self-deception.
I'd suggest we all give self-deception a rest.
For more about Christ the Sun God, see "Sun God" and "Was He Christian?" To investigate Steiner's views on the Godhead, the nine ranks of gods, and the three divine hierarchies, see "God", "Trinity", and "Polytheism".
To explore other subjects and issues, delve into The Brief Waldorf / Steiner Encyclopedia.)
The title of this essay, "Summing Up", may be misleading, particularly for readers who leap to this page without having done a fair amount of preliminary research. I have not attempted to write a single, all-conclusive, all-encompassing summary of everything that appears elsewhere at Waldorf Watch. Nor have I attempted to frame a categorical, undeniable argument that will end all discussion. Rather, on this page I have tried to tidy up a bit, round things out a bit, and put things in some perspective. I have added some further evidence and analysis, but I do not offer these as — in and off themselves — the last word. (You might note, for instance, that "Summing Up" is not the final essay at this website. There's more to be said, just as there was a lot of ground to cover before arriving here.)
Readers who, prior to reading "Summing Up," already knew a lot about Anthroposophy and Waldorf education, may find this essay useful. Others may be less well served. I have necessarily focused, here, on a few key quotations and pieces of information. Taken in context, these may prove enlightening. But no one should take "Summing Up" as a complete or, by itself, adequate discussion of Anthroposophy and Waldorf. I have not intended this essay to be a digest that tells the whole story or that even makes the most crucial arguments about the subjects discussed, so I urge you not to mistake it for that. If you decide you have not yet studied these subjects sufficiently to draw your own conclusions about them, I urge you to spend more time at other parts of Waldorf Watch, and I strongly urge you to visit other websites, those that criticize Rudolf Steiner's teachings and Waldorf education, and those that defend them. I list a number of these sites on the "Links" page.
Certainly I encourage you to read books by Rudolf Steiner and his followers. Hear what they have to say, carefully considering the plausibility and persuasiveness of their work.
Probably I should add that I have not attempted to develop arguments that will compel agreement or surrender from Anthroposophists. Adults who choose to follow Rudolf Steiner are perfectly free to do so, in my opinion, and I have not attempted to change their minds. Instead, my aim has been to address people standing outside the circle of Anthroposophy, particularly those who are considering Waldorf schools for their children. And my message to them is really quite simple. To summarize, it is this: Please wait a bit. Have you thought this through completely? Are you sure you know what Waldorf schools really are? Please pause, do some research, and reflect carefully before taking a step that may, just possibly, prove deeply damaging to your children.
— Roger Rawlings
Parents should know that the main purpose of Waldorf schooling is not educational, as this term is normally understood, but occult. [See, e.g., "Incarnation".] Waldorf faculties are supposed to help the gods fulfill what Steiner called the divine cosmic plan. Waldorf schools are on a messianic mission to save humanity. This is all well and good, perhaps — if Waldorf schools are really in a position to provide such a lofty service. But are they? Or are they engaged in a delusion? And what effect may this have on your kids if you send them to a Waldorf school?
Rational education may easily fall by the wayside as Waldorf teachers work to "bring the spirit" to their students. Here is one statement Steiner made bearing on these matters.
“What a child develops in his head, in his heart and soul, by having to learn a... b... c, is — spiritually speaking — a parasite in human nature ... [W]hen the letters of the alphabet, which are the product of advanced civilization, are imposed on the human being, this does engender a parasitic element ... [T]he spiritual can be brought to man without becoming poison. First you have the diagnosis, which finds that our age is infested with carcinomas, and then you have the therapy — yes, it is Waldorf School education ... [O]ne must regard education as medicine transposed into the realm of mind and spirit. This strikes us with particular clarity when we wish to find a therapy for civilization, for we can only conceive this therapy as being Waldorf School education.” — Rudolf Steiner, HARMONY OF THE CREATIVE WORD (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2001), pp. 216-217. [R.R. sketch, 2009, based on sketch on p. 216.]
The main purpose of Waldorf education is to spread Steiner's religion, Anthroposophy. Only in this way, Anthroposophists believe, can humanity be saved. "[W]e can only conceive this therapy as being Waldorf School education.” Civilization is infested with spiritual cancers. Waldorf schools aim to provide a cure. Steiner made his statement in November, 1914, with the world at war. But from an Anthroposophical perspective, spiritual cancers are just as widespread — perhaps, indeed, more widespread — today.
If you think that the purpose of schooling is to save humanity from spiritual cancers, then perhaps Waldorf education will suit you and your child. But if you think the point of schooling is to convey knowledge (such as knowledge of the alphabet) to children, then perhaps you should look elsewhere.
"If these ideas are not true, they should be true.
What we believe shapes the reality.
If we become conscious of these ideas
and hold them, they will become true."
— from "Anthroposophy 101"
These plaintive words were written by Dr. Ronald E. Koetzsch, an Anthroposophist connected with the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America. The essay "Anthroposophy 101" is Koetzsch's summary of Steiner's basic teachings. Koetzsch focuses on Steiner's more pleasing, upbeat doctrines, and he asserts that if Steiner's wonderful ideas are not true, we can make them true by believing in them fervently enough.
I think everyone can all feel the deep yearning in Koetzsch's words, and everyone can sympathize — we all wish for the wonderful, the transcendent, the glorious. I feel such desires, intensely. I understand where Anthroposophists are coming from.
But wishing doesn't make anything true. Our wishes can be our guides, our motivators — but, in and of themselves, wishes create nothing. Thinking or hoping that something is true doesn't cause that thing to become true. Some thoughts are false, and no amount of fervent belief can redeem their falsity. You may tell yourself that the Moon is made of green cheese. You may dwell on this thought day after day, month after month. You may meditate upon it, visualize it, preach it from the rooftops. But it is false, and your efforts cannot make it true. The moon is not made of green cheese and it never will be. Your idea is false.*
Truth is truth, in other words, and reality is reality. We have no reason to think that the universe is as Steiner described it, and we have no reason to think that we can make the universe become as Steiner described it. A fairy tale is a fairy tale. A false idea is false.
Anthroposophical thinking is mere wishfulness, which is tantamount to self-deception. During the play "Peter Pan", when the fairy Tinkerbell is dying, Peter tells the children in the audience to wish for Tinkerbell's recovery. And it works! The kids wish and wish, and Tinkerbell revives. It is a nice fairy tale. But that's all it is, a fairy tale.
Truth and reality have a great advantage — they are true and real. And they aren't so bad. We're alive, in a universe of beauty, grandeur, pain, suffering, and achievement and joy and victory. This is the universe that really exists, the universe of physics and astronomy and the soaring human intellect. Steiner would return us to a dark, medieval past. We need not go there. Indeed, we must not go there. For the sake of our planet, and our children, and ourselves, we must face reality squarely and then work to realize its best potentialities.
Truth and reality have a great advantage — they are true and real. Anthroposophy is divorced from truth and reality. And to the degree that it embodies Anthroposophy, Waldorf education is divorced from truth and reality. Waldorf schooling stands on the foundation of Anthroposophy [see, e.g., "Here's the Answer" and "Spiritual Agenda"] — which means that it stands on a foundation of shifting, vaporous falsehood.
* The moon is a physical object, and Koetzsh is mainly talking about spiritual reality. Fervently believing false ideas about physical reality will not change physical reality. But can our fervent beliefs about spiritual reality change that reality? Possibly. It is extremely doubtful, however. Truth is truth, reality is reality. (Note the illogic of Koetzsh’s proposition. He seems to entertain the possibility that Steiner is wrong, but in fact his argument hinges on the assumption that Steiner's description of the universe is true. Our thoughts would be able to change the spirit realm only if the spirit realm already is as Steiner described it, flexible and mutable, made and remade by our thoughts. So while seeming to concede that Steiner might be wrong, Koetzsh actually relies on the premise that Steiner is right. Koezsch is caught in a tautological vortex.)
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