at Waldorf Schools
Rudolf Steiner taught that true cognition is not a matter of brainwork but, rather, of spiritual awareness. He said that there are several ways for an individual to gain knowledge, including some that function while one is dreaming or asleep.  Deep knowledge of the spirit world becomes available when one develops the necessary “organs” for clairvoyance:
“[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....” 
When Waldorf teachers speak of developing children’s intuitive or imaginative faculties, they are aiming at Steiner’s non-rational modes of thought. Here’s how the Anthroposophist headmaster at my old Waldorf school put it:
“The task of a truly liberal education...must be to revive and train intuitive faculties, in a modern way, to take their place beside the intellectual.” 
Steiner affirmed the need to master intellectual thought. But, as the epigraphs above indicate, he also taught that rational thought should yield to paranormal perception — mystical “intimations” should supplant thinking, and children should be shielded from rational education. Let me again quote my old headmaster. He wrote the following about teachers at conventional secular schools:
“Their training has not led them to appreciate that within each of its facts the apparent world conceals many levels of truth....” 
Properly trained teachers at Waldorf schools don’t make that mistake: They always direct attention away from the “apparent world” — that is, the world we can see with our eyes and think about with our rational brains — to many deeply concealed, esoteric “levels of truth.” They have their eyes on what lies beyond, in other words. The question becomes, then, whether what they focus on is real.
For Anthroposophists, the best thinking is experienced or felt — it is more akin to emotion than to cool, rational conceptualizing. Steiner said that true understanding comes only through "spiritual cognition, spiritual perception, spiritual feeling."  Truth is something you feel. But felt "thinking" often leads to mystification rather than to clarity. Among the "truths" Anthroposophists feel are these: Nothing in the physical world is as it seems; what we see around us isn’t what it is — it is something else, something more, or something less. Maya or illusion prevails. There are layers upon layers of hidden deeps. The Anthroposophical solution is to feel one’s way past appearances by opening outwards through imagination or clairvoyance (in Anthroposophy, these terms are sometimes synonymous). According to Steiner:
“I must emphasize this again and again, that the saying ‘the world is Maya’ is so vitally important.” 
“Essentially, people today have no inkling of how people looked out into the universe in ancient times when human beings still possessed an instinctive clairvoyance ... If we want to be fully human, however, we must struggle to regain a view of the cosmos that moves toward Imagination again....” 
Notice how clairvoyance and imagination flow together in Steiner’s words.
Anthroposophists claim that intellect is not neglected at Waldorf schools, it is simply nurtured in a different way. According to Anthroposophist A. C. Harwood,
“In spite of — or rather, because of — the attention paid to the realms of feeling and will, thinking receives a stronger development in a Waldorf school than elsewhere.” 
According to Steiner, children pass through three stages of development, which he said recapitulate stages of human evolution. The stages are described this way by Harwood:
“During the first seven years a child approaches his environment through the activity of his will. What he sees he must manipulate.” 
During the second seven years, “the inward life of feeling” is paramount.  The third seven-year period finally produces the dawning of “intellectual thought.” 
The claim that Waldorfs foster the intellect is, at best, debatable. Steiner described thought and feeling as existing in contrast — even opposition — to each other. And he indicated that thought is limited to the physical realm, whereas feeling produced knowledge of 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." 
Taught that logic or methodical reasoning is insufficient, the Waldorf student is directed toward “spiritual experience” that is notionally “self-evident” (i.e., no proof required). You feel your way, not think your way, to truth. The "intellect" Waldorf education claims to nurture is subordinate to feeling and will (the desire to feel truth). It is questionable whether this is genuine intellect at all or merely a form of wishfulness. Intellect is "logical and colorless," it is "unenriched," "uninformed":
“To what extent will [a child’s] thinking become purely logical and colorless, unenriched by imagination, uninformed by experience? ... More than ever, therefore, should the attempt be made with our adolescents to preserve from the earlier stage of childhood those capacities which are natural to it, and to unite them with the new gift of intellectual thought. For this means to transform thought from what it is at present — the capacity for abstract hypothesis — into the capacity for self-evident spiritual experience.” 
For Anthroposophists, “the capacities which are natural to” children include an innate consciousness of the spirit realm. An important goal of Waldorf instruction is to preserve this consciousness, which in part means protecting children from the adverse effects of rational thought. “The capacity for abstract hypothesis” is a fairly accurate description of rationality — and it is what Anthroposophists reject. Another way of putting this is that Waldorf schools try to retard, as much as possible, the growing-up process in their pupils.
“Childhood is commonly regarded as a time of steadily expanding consciousness ... Yet in Steiner’s view, the very opposite is the case: childhood is a time of contracting consciousness ... [The child] loses his dream-like perception of the creative world of spiritual powers which is hidden behind the phenomena of the senses. This is...the world of creative archetypes and spiritual hierarchies.
“In mastering the world of physical perception the child encounters difficulties in that he first has to overcome a dream-like yet intensely real awareness of spiritual worlds. This awareness fades quickly in early childhood, but fragments of it live on in the child for a much longer time than most people imagine.
“... [I]n a Waldorf school, therefore, one of the tasks of the teachers is to keep the children young." 
Think about the implications of keeping children young as opposed to helping them to mature, especially in their mental capacities. Ask yourself whether intellect can truly be developed under the tutelage of teachers who agree with Steiner that “the brain and nerve system have nothing at all to do with actual cognition....”  Contemplate whether an education aiming at imaginative/clairvoyant “thought” is likely to equip individuals for life in the real world. In brief: Should we teach our children to live rationally in the real world or to have unsubstantiated intuitions of unseen worlds? [For more on the Anthroposophical attitude toward the brain and rational use of the brain, see "Steiner's Specific" and "Thinking".]
Of course, young children have a limited capacity for rational thought. Teaching them by stimulating the imagination makes sense (as long as “imagination” is not used as a code word for paranormal powers). Likewise, it is perfectly correct to say that appearances can be deceiving. Trying to get beyond superficial appearances is necessary for navigating one’s way safely through the world, and it is indispensable for the attainment of wisdom. But mistaking imagined nonsense for reality or wisdom is a profound, deeply dangerous error. The things that Steiner and his followers imagine they perceive hidden behind superficial reality are bizarre and, in some cases, pernicious.
I’ll give some examples from Steiner’s work. But bear in mind that matters are even more serious than these examples indicate. Steiner urged his followers to develop their own paranormal visions, primarily through the “faculty” of clairvoyance. He sought to keep a handle on things (chaos would result if people had wildly conflicting spiritual visions) by insisting that everyone should carefully follow his instructions for developing true spiritual insight. Nonetheless, schisms have developed among Anthroposophists; Steiner's acolytes have been drawn in various directions by their own intuitions, visions, and revelations.  The problem is that different individuals may have differing, even contradictory, "spiritual insights." So, while Steiner’s descriptions of esoteric “truths” remain the touchstone, almost any dream or divination that could conceivably be reconciled with Steiner’s doctrines can be found today in this Waldorf school or that, espoused by one Waldorf faculty member or another. Doctrinal quarrels among Waldorf teachers can be fierce.
l discuss core Anthroposophical beliefs at some length in other essays here at Waldorf Watch. For now, a brief sampling of Steiner’s professed clairvoyant insights may be sufficient:
◊ Humans have lived in/on the Sun and the Moon, or during evolutionary phases (mis)identified with these orbs:
“If, as he had developed on the Sun, man was called plant man, the man of the Moon can be called animal man ... [T]he Sun man could only elevate himself into a plant by thrusting a portion of his companions down into a coarser mineral realm ... The animal man of the Moon does not yet have firm bones. His skeleton is still cartilaginous. His whole nature is soft, compared to that of today....” 
◊ Gnomes (who really exist) don’t know how to get along with us:
“Gnomes are...unable to grasp how there can be anything but an ineffectual relationship with our world.” 
◊ The Bible doesn't really show Jesus healing the sick; the Sun did it:
“When Christ Jesus heals...it is the sun force that heals.” 
◊ Just as Christ was crucified on Earth, Buddha met a similar fate elsewhere:
“The Buddha wandered away from earthly affairs to the realm of Mars. Until then Mars had been the chosen center of forces designated by the Greeks as fearfully warlike. The mission of Mars came to an end in the seventeenth century. Another impulse became necessary and the Buddha accomplished a Buddha crucifixion there.” 
◊ We are reincarnated, but there’s more to it than that:
“[R]ealize that looking at the human head you are looking at the transformed body of your previous earth life, and that the head you had then was the transformed body of your preceding life — you must imagine it without the head, of course. The head you see now is the transformed organism of the last life lived on earth. The rest of the organism as you see it now will be the head in the next life. Then the arms will have metamorphosed and become ears, and the legs will have become eyes.” 
◊ Life is difficult, both in the world below and in the world above:
“When we climb out of the physical world into the spiritual world...we shall gain the impression of powers in the spiritual world that take pity, as it were, on our weakness and say, ‘Well! so you were weak in the physical sense world! If only you climb into the spiritual world through the prime [window] I must dissolve you, suck you up and break you to pieces. But if you enter through the second [window] I will offer you something from the spiritual world and remind you of something that is there as well.’” 
The quotations you’ve just read reflect the sort of “thinking” that stands behind Waldorf schools (i.e., schools where Rudolf Steiner’s doctrines — or offshoots from them — prevail). Anthroposophists say that their mystic doctrines can be understood correctly only by people who have embraced Anthroposophy. Maybe so. But we must ask ourselves whether we want children to be nudged toward the Anthroposophical worldview, a worldview in which quotations such as the ones I’ve listed are considered sensible. Do you want this for your own children? If not, other kinds of schools would suit you and your children better.
— Roger Rawlings
[Waldorfish art, R.R.]
"[T]hinking is oriented on the physical plane; feeling is no longer confined to the physical plane but by its very nature is connected to the spiritual plane as well. Feeling really has a connection with all the spiritual beings who must be considered real. So that if a person with inadequate concepts sinks into his or her feeling life, he or she comes into collision with the gods — if you like to put it that way — but also with the evil gods. And all these collisions occur because the person entered this realm without any reliable means of knowledge. Entering the feeling life without adequate means of knowledge is unavoidable when there is more going on in the sphere of feeling than in that of ordinary reason. In the sphere of feelings, human beings cannot liberate themselves from their connection with the spiritual world. When they free themselves in the realm of the intellect in this materialistic age, they enter the world of feeling with inadequate concepts and consequently must become ill.
"What then is the only remedy to really restore people to health? They must be guided to concepts that reach out to include the world of feelings; that is to say, modern people must again be told of the spiritual world in the most comprehensive sense." — Rudolf Steiner, PSYCHOANALYSIS AND SPIRITUAL PSYCHOLOGY (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1990), GA 143, 178, and 205.
"In the first three years of life, before the child is so engrossed in material life, it [sic] has a close relationship with angels. At night, while asleep, the children meet their angels. They dream of them or have other experiences of them ... The spiritual world is always there around us, and we can work more consciously if we note the transition as we move from the earthly world to the spiritual world and vice versa." — WORKING WITH THE ANGELS: The Young Child and the Spiritual World (Waldorf Early Childhood Association of North America, 2004), the first essay in the book, by Helmut von Kügelgen, "Working with the Angels, the Archangels and the Archai", p. 3.
Note that Anthroposophists do not say that, at night, we merely visualize or fantasize about the spirit realm. They believe that at night we actually leave our physical bodies and go to the spirit worlds. Young children, they think, are especially adept at this. Children have "a close relationship with angels," and they "dream of them or have other experiences of them." The "other experiences" are not dreams, obviously — they are "real" out-of-body experiences. It is also important to note that, in Waldorf belief, angels are gods, not the attendants of a One and Only God. The Waldorf belief system is polytheistic. [See "Polytheism".]
The dreams of children often are, Anthroposophists believe, true clairvoyant visions. But beyond dreaming, children have actual spiritual experiences at night. All humans do, according to Anthroposophical doctrine (or all true-living humans do). At night, the higher components of our nature rise into the spirit realm while the more Earthly components of our nature remain behind.
"This is how we are at night. We are two people in the night." — Rudolf Steiner, BLACKBOARD DRAWINGS 1919-1924 (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2003), p. 102.
[See, e.g., "What a Guy".] In retarding the intellectual growth of children, in keeping the kids young, Anthroposophists seek to preserve the children's pure, innocent capacity to dream about, and actually visit, the spirit realm.
Here's something else to mull over. Anthroposophists cannot know that children have relationships with angels. The idea that children have ties to angels is a belief. It is a very nice belief, but it is not knowledge — it is a religious belief that Anthroposophists embrace. Waldorf teachers often bring this belief with them into the classroom. Waldorf schools are largely ruled by the religion of Anthroposophy. [See "Is Anthroposophy a Religion?"] If you yourself subscribe to the Anthroposophical faith, then you may be happy with what happens inside Waldorf classrooms. But if you don't...
“If [a person] learns systematically to apply his will to his own thinking...it becomes God-thinking, a creative force itself ... Rudolf Steiner’s method of work calls upon man, in the highest degree, to face and outgrow himself.” — Anthroposophist Francis Edmunds, AN INTRODUCTION TO STEINER EDUCATION (Sophia Books, 2004), p. 7.
Waldorf Watch Response:
The “thinking” promoted in Steiner schools is not the rational use of the brain. It is intuitive, imaginative; it is infused with feeling and will; it is essentially religious (“God thinking”) in an occult sense. It is, in short, clairvoyance or a precursor to clairvoyance. By thinking in such a “creative” way, one theoretically undergoes the religious experience of transcending oneself (“outgrowing” oneself) and entering the invisible spirit realm.
The great flaw in this scheme is that clairvoyance does not exist. If you convince yourself that you are clairvoyant, you a deceiving yourself. You are using your feelings and will to “intuit” or “imagine” or “clairvoyantly perceive” what you want to perceive, nothing more. [See "Clairvoyance" and "Fooling (Ourselves)".]
God may certainly exist. Spiritual beings of all sorts may exist. But you cannot come to know them through Waldorf-style “thinking,” which is really nothing but self-willed delusion. Yet Steiner and his followers explicitly affirm clairvoyance, and they explicitly tie it to imagination. If you are attracted to Waldorf education because it celebrates imagination, you should understand what the schools ultimately mean by the word “imagination.” In the Waldorf universe, “Imagination” is virtually synonymous with “clairvoyance,” as we see in numerous Anthroposophical publications. For instance,
"[I]n anthroposophy imagination is a capacity for true perception. Clairvoyant imaginative perception may occur without direct understanding. [But] after undergoing spiritual training, imaginations [true clairvoyant images] can reveal their significance." — H. van Oort, ANTHROPOSOPHY A-Z (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2011), p. 59.
“This notion, that imagination is the heart of learning, animates the entire arc of Waldorf teaching.” — Todd Oppenheimer, “Schooling the Imagination”, THE ATLANTIC MONTHLY, September, 1999.
Waldorf Watch Response:
Waldorf schools emphasize imagination. They display “imaginative” art and they encourage “imaginative” play. What they don’t usually spell out is the reason for this emphasis. In the Waldorf belief system, imagination is the first stage on the path toward clairvoyance. The stages are imagination, inspiration, and intuition. These are stages leading to clairvoyance, or — at a higher level — they are actually stages of clairvoyance. A child using imagination to paint a picture of a fairy is not using real clairvoyance, but an adult Anthroposophist using "imagination" to understand the actual behavior of fairies (yes, Anthroposophists believes in fairies) is using real clairvoyance. So Anthroposophists believe, anyway.
As for clairvoyance itself, there is ordinary clairvoyance, and then there is “exact” clairvoyance.* Rudolf Steiner claimed to use exact clairvoyance. (Hence, very few of his teachings can be disputed, since he knew the exact Truth.) The forms of imagination, etc., attainable now by Waldorf students pale in comparison to the perfected forms of spiritual insight that can be attained by Anthroposophical initiates and that all humanity will attain in the future, according to Steiner.
These stages are spiritual — they are not seated in the brain but in invisible spiritual “organs.” The brain is held in low esteem at Waldorf schools. The use of the brain — in particular, disciplined, rational use of the brain, that is, intellect — is faulty, Steiner taught. At most, the brain can tell us about the physical plane of existence — the lowest and least important plane. For higher cognition, we have to turn to clairvoyance and its precursors. In stressing imagination, inspiration, and so forth, Waldorf teachers attempt to deflect students from rationality, thereby opening the portals to the worlds beyond our own.
Believe it or not, what I have described just now is one of the central (but generally concealed) pillars of Waldorf belief. We have this on the highest authority. Consider the following:
“These things can, of course, be truly observed only when we press forward to the mode of cognition I described previously as the first stage of exact clairvoyance, imaginative knowledge. The abstract, intellectual knowledge of the human being that is common today does not lead to this other knowledge. Thought must come to life from within, and become imaginative, so that through thought as such, one can really understand. Nothing can be truly understood through intellectual thinking; its objects all remain external.” — Rudolf Steiner, A MODERN ART OF EDUCATION, Foundations of Waldorf Education (Anthroposophic Press, 2004), p. 60.
Steiner was emphatic:
“The artistic element, then, begins to be the guide to the first stage of exact clairvoyance — that of imagination.” — Rudolf Steiner, A MODERN ART OF EDUCATION, p. 64
And he laid out the succeeding stages. Concerning the second stage, he said:
“If one goes beyond imagination and reaches the second stage of exact clairvoyance (described in greater detail in my books), one attains inspiration — perception of independent spirit, no longer connected to the physical body.” — Rudolf Steiner, A MODERN ART OF EDUCATION, p. 66
We could trace this further, but since Steiner wanted you to search out (and, presumably, buy) his books, perhaps we shouldn’t. So round up his books and settle down for a good read. Particularly interesting are the books in the series Foundations of Waldorf Education. Waldorf teachers study these books intently. Before sending a child to a Waldorf school, perhaps you should, too.
* These terms merge and mingle, and various Anthroposophical accounts conflict with one another to various degrees. Imagination, inspiration, and intuition may be considered precursors to clairvoyance, or they may be deemed actual forms of clairvoyance. Under the latter interpretation, intuition is often deemed to be full-blown clairvoyance, which when perfected becomes exact clairvoyance. Steiner said that clairvoyance is exact when it is disciplined and precise, as he claimed his was. If the goal of mental and spiritual training is to attain exact clairvoyance, then disciplined imagination, inspiration, and intuition can be considered stages of exact clairvoyance — which is how Steiner describes them in statements we will consider here.
Things get muddier when we consider the sorts of "imagination," etc., stressed by Waldorf schools for the students. The kids are not taught the techniques of exact clairvoyance or, indeed, any form of clairvoyance, defined literally. But they are shepherded onto a path that is supposed to lead to clairvoyance. Note that the Steiner statements we have considered come from a book about education.
Bad news for astrology buffs, including numerous Waldorf teachers: The star charts you have been using are wrong. Due to precession — the gradual drift of the Earth's axis away from its prior position — the constellations have shifted over time, so you probably were not born under the sign you think. Moreover, there really should be 13 constellations, not 12.
(Waldorf teachers: Among other things, this means that any astrological conclusions you have drawn about your students are wrong — not wrong merely because they are based on astrology, which is nonsense, but doubly wrong because they are based on a faulty comprehension of the zodiac.)
To quote the new "news":
“The zodiac signs we associate with our birthdates may not be the correct ones ... Parke Kunkle, board member of the Minnesota Planetarium Society, says that the moon's gravitational pull has caused the Earth to slowly wobble on its axis, shifting the stars' alignment by about a month. So for the faithful Aquarian out there, this may mean you've just been bumped into the Capricorn constellation.
“Our astrological signs correspond to the position of the sun within the constellations as they appeared more than 2,000 years ago...
“The [newly updated] list [of constellations] now includes Ophiuchus, a constellation the ancient Babylonians dropped because they wanted 12 star signs instead of 13, one for each month of the year.”
Waldorf Watch Response:
How can this possibly be of concern to Rudolf Steiner’s followers? Well, for one thing, Steiner advocated the use of horoscopes (based on a faulty 12-constellation conception of the zodiac), including horoscopes that Anthroposophists could use to guide their treatment of the children under their care. [See “Horoscopes”.] More generally, astrology is a big deal in Anthroposophy because Steiner's followers believe it reveals the actions and influences of the gods. [See “Astrology” and “Star Power”.]
Let’s hear from Steiner on the significance of the 12 constellations:
“We relate the heavenly bodies of our solar system to the twelve constellations of the Zodiac, and we can find our bearings in the World of Spirit only by viewing it in such a way as to be able to assert that spiritual Beings and events are realities; we compare the facts with the courses of the planets but the spiritual Beings with the twelve constellations of the Zodiac.” — Rudolf Steiner, MACROCOSM AND MICROCOSM (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1985), p. 108 — emphases by Steiner.
Wrong again, Rudolf. The constellations reveal nothing about spiritual realities. The constellations do not exist. There are not 12 constellations, nor 13. There are none (zero: 0). The constellations are illusory patterns we subjectively piece together in our minds. The “stars” — some of which may be galaxies or nebulas — that we think constitute a constellation are nowhere near one another nor are they connected with one another. We piece various "stars" together because they are bright and because they appear to us to be near one another in the sky. But their apparent proximity is an illusion. If we were to move far enough away from the Earth, the constellations would disappear — the illusory patterns would break apart because we would be viewing the stars, galaxies, and nebulas from a very different perspective.
As to the number 12: Steiner loved to lump phenomena together in groupings of 12, since he considered 12 to be one of the sacred numbers (along with 3, 4, 7, etc.). This was part of his version of numerology. [See “Magic Numbers”.] He was superstitious, not sensible. His numerical groupings are arbitrary, false patterns imposed in the same way that we impose the false patterns of the "constellations" when we gaze at the sky.
By the way, deluding ourselves by "seeing" things that don't really exist is what comes from the sort of thinking advocated in Waldorf schools. By directing our thoughts with emotion and will, Steiner taught, we can can gain greater clarity and, indeed, penetrate to spiritual realities. In fact, however, all that we do by using such "thinking" is to create subjective fantasies, things that we want to perceive but that, as far as such "thinking" can reveal, do not objectively exist at all. Some spiritual beings and states may be quite real, of course. But we cannot find them by using subjective, self-deluding forms of perception.
* Parke Kunkle is receiving a lot of attention over his "revelations" about the zodiac. But, actually, astronomers have known about these matters for a long, long time. a) Precession happens. b) Astrology is bunk. c) Due to precession, astrology is doubly bunk.
"Frequently, what can quite correctly be designated as clairvoyance is confused with phenomena that can arise in the human constitution when conscious functions are suppressed so that they fall below the level of everyday consciousness — as in hypnosis, under the influence of suggestive mental images, and so forth. This suppression of consciousness, this entering into a subconscious realm, has absolutely nothing to do with what is meant here by the attainment of imagination. For in the case of imagination we have an enhancement of consciousness, we go in exactly the opposite direction from what is often called clairvoyance when the term is used in a trivial sense. As it is commonly used, the word is not given its correct meaning ('clear vision,' or 'seeing in the light'), but rather 'a reduced vision' or 'dim vision.' At the risk of being misunderstood, it would not be incorrect to describe the upward striving toward imaginative knowledge as a striving toward clairvoyance." — Rudolf Steiner, ANTHROPOSOPHY AND SCIENCE (Mercury Press, 1991), lecture 3, GA 324.
Waldorf Watch Response:
Waldorf schools are often praised for emphasizing imaginative thinking. This praise is largely misplaced. In the Waldorf/Steiner belief system, “imagination” — the forming of mental images — is a type of clairvoyance. Waldorf teachers often consider themselves to be clairvoyant, and they try to lead their students down a path leading toward clairvoyance. They disguise their intention by saying that they encourage imagination.*
Exaggerating only slightly, Rudolf Steiner said that all Waldorf teachers are either clairvoyant or they accept the guidance of their “clairvoyant” colleagues:
“Not every Waldorf teacher has the gift of clairvoyance, but every one of them has accepted wholeheartedly and with full understanding the [clairvoyant] results of spiritual-scientiﬁc investigation concerning the human being.” — Rudolf Steiner, WALDORF EDUCATION AND ANTHROPOSOPHY (Anthroposophic Press, 1995), Vol. 2, p. 224.
Steiner taught that humanity once had natural clairvoyance, but in recent centuries we have it lost. Waldorf teachers, he said, need to reacquire the powers of clairvoyance. He called this the Waldorf teacher’s consciousness.
”[W]e must work to develop this consciousness, the Waldorf teacher’s consciousness, if I may so express it ... We must realize that we really need something quite specific, something that is hardly present anywhere else in the world, if we are to be capable of mastering the task of the Waldorf school ... [We need] what humanity has lost in this respect, has lost just in the last three or four centuries. It is this that we must find again.” — Rudolf Steiner, DEEPER INSIGHTS INTO EDUCATION (Anthroposophical Press, 1983), p. 21.
Advocates of Waldorf education today continue to affirm the need for teacherly clairvoyance:
"Must teachers be clairvoyant in order to be certain that they are teaching in the proper way? Clairvoyance is needed...." — Waldorf educator Eugene Schwartz, THE MILLENNIAL CHILD (Anthroposophic Press, 1999), p. 157.
The fundamental error in all of this is that clairvoyance is a delusion. There is no evidence that clairvoyance or any other psychic phenomenon — telekinesis, telepathy, etc. — exists.
"After thousands of experiments, a reproducible ESP phenomenon has never been discovered, nor has any individual convincingly demonstrated a psychic ability." — David G. Myers, PSYCHOLOGY (Worth Publishers, 2004), p. 260 — emphasis by Myers.
Waldorf education is built on a false vision of the world and a false vision of human capacities. It is built on delusion, in other words, and it seeks to lead children into this delusion. The resulting harm it can inflict on children is almost boundless.
* Not all Waldorf teachers are consciously aware of the deceptions they practice. Often, a significant degree of self-deception is involved. [See, e.g., "Secrets" and "The World of Waldorf".] Often, too, there is a degree of naiveté among Waldorf faculties. Some Waldorf teachers are well-versed in Anthroposophical doctrines, but others — especially newcomers — may know little about Anthroposophy.
"In short, Anthroposophy as a path of knowledge can help people from all cultures to become more complete as human beings ... [Anthroposophy] allows — in fact actually requires — individuals to think for themselves." — Martyn Rawson, FREE YOUR CHILD'S TRUE POTENTIAL (Hodder & Stoughton, 2001), p. 12.
Steiner and his followers have often made such statements. But we need to grasp what such words mean for them. Anthroposophy does not "require" you to use your brain much, since the brain is not really a thinking organ.* [See "Steiner's Specific".] Rather, you are required to follow the instructions Steiner gave on how to develop clairvoyance, and thereafter you are required to have clairvoyant visions that confirm Steiner's. [See "Exactly".] In this way, and only in this way, does Anthroposophy encourage you to "think."
Steiner laid out his how-to-become-clairvoyant instructions at some length in his book KNOWLEDGE OF THE HIGHER WORLDS AND ITS ATTAINMENT, which is also available under the title HOW TO KNOW HIGHER WORLDS. (The book is actually quite brief, and its instructions are disappointingly ineffectual.) If you become attracted to a Waldorf school, you really should get a copy and study it carefully. Unless you strongly agree with what you will find in its pages, Waldorf is probably the wrong choice for you and your family. [For an introduction to the book, see "Knowing the Worlds".]
* "The brain does not produce thoughts." — Henk van Oort, ANTHROPOSOPHY A-Z (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2011), p. 16.
o 0 O 0 o
Use this link to go to the concluding sections
of "Thinking Cap".
o 0 O 0 o
 Rudolf Steiner, THE ILLUSTRATED CALENDAR OF THE SOUL (Temple Lodge Publishing, 2004), meditation #7. This meditation is intended for adults. Steiner taught that even adults need to minimize rational thought.
 Rudolf Steiner, THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE, Foundations of Waldorf Education (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 61.
 Ibid., p. 118.
Steiner said that, when one becomes clairvoyant like himself, one's dreams become systematic and reliable: Dreams then are not jumbled reflections of reality but true visions into the spirit realm. — Rudolf Steiner, WIE ERLANGT MAN ERKENNINISSE DER HOHEREN WELTEN? (Berlin, 1918), p. 159. See http://waldorfcritics.org/active/articles/Hansson.html.] But Steiner also claimed that his teachings were scientific, and that conventional science would bear him out. It has not. Indeed, with each passing year, the ever-accumulating discoveries of science take us farther and farther from Steiner's visions. His views have no basis in reality as demonstrated by science.
 Rudolf Steiner, KNOWLEDGE OF THE HIGHER WORLDS AND ITS ATTAINMENT (Anthroposophic Press, 1944), p. 28.
The existence of clairvoyance is extremely doubtful.
“Research in parapsychology...has yet to provide conclusive support for the existence of clairvoyance.” — "clairvoyance." ENCYCLOPÆDIA BRITANNICA, Online, 25 Feb. 2009.
Whether psychic capacities might be developed in the future — through the growth of incorporeal organs or in any other manner — is a subject more suited to science fiction than to levelheaded discussions of reality. [See, e.g., Arthur C. Clarke, CHILDHOOD’S END.] It is not irrelevant to note that Steiner’s sources included fantasies such as the Rosicrucian novel ZANONI and the weird narratives of Norse mythology. [See, e.g., “Steiner’s ‘Science’” and “Oh My Word”.]
The existence of organs of clairvoyance is more than doubtful. But Steiner's doctrines require one to develop such organs and then to exercise them in a certain, prescribed way. Mainly, this way requires tossing out critical intelligence and devotedly following gurus (i.e., in particular, Steiner).
"[A seeker must] engender within himself this attitude of devotion" — Rudolf Steiner, WIE ERLANGT MAN ERKENNINISSE DER HOHEREN WELTEN?, p. 5.
A seeker must submit to "inspired forerunners" (i.e., spiritual teachers, in particular, Steiner) — Rudolf Steiner, DIE STUFEN DER HOHEREN ERKENNISNIS (Dornach, 1935), p. 65. [Again, see http://waldorfcritics.org/active/articles/Hansson.html.] Submitting in this manner is the opposite of thinking for oneself, exercising intellect, using one's critical intelligence. It is blind belief in occultism. [See "Guru".]
Trying to reason with Anthroposophists is an interesting undertaking, but in many (if not all) cases it is doomed to failure. Good Anthroposophists heed Steiner's dictum: They must not employ critical thought in evaluating his statements.
"[Good children] have a respect that forbids them, even in the deepest recess of their heart, to harbour any thoughts of criticism or opposition." — Rudolf Steiner, KNOWLEDGE OF THE HIGHER WORLDS AND ITS ATTAINMENT (Rudolf Steiner Publishing Company, 1923), p. 10.
Good adults should have a similar sense of veneration, at least for the people they have selected, somehow, to be their masters.
The rejection of critical thought is stressed in the Waldorf school movement:
"A youth whose childhood has been touched by the blight of 'critical thinking' will come to the moment of independent insight badly crippled ... Because skepticism has long since robbed him of part of his heart, he will now feel unable to embrace enthusiastically what he has come to understand." — John Fentress Gardner, THE EXPERIENCE OF KNOWLEDGE (Waldorf Press, 1975), pp. 127-128.
Gardner was a leading American Anthroposophist.
"Embracing enthusiastically" is what Waldorf students are taught to do. They may not (indeed, usually do not) understand what they are embracing, but they have been taught to embrace it anyway, freed from the "blight of critical thinking." Good adult Anthroposophists are often similarly enthusiastic and uncritical, which helps explain why they often get so riled up over criticism. [See "Criticism".] They aren't accustomed to such modes of thought. They frequently think that criticism means murderous, evil attack. This makes rational discourse difficult.
 John Fentress Gardner, “The Founding of Adelphi’s Waldorf School,” ONE MAN’S VISION: IN MEMORIAM, H.A.W. MYRIN (The Myrin Institute Inc., 1970), p. 48.
Despite Steiner’s claim that he appreciated the intellect, he generally associated it with evil. In Steiner’s theology, Ahriman is a dreadful demon. [See "Ahriman" and “Bad, Badder, Baddest”.] Ahriman’s cardinal evil attribute is that he is “the supreme intellectual power: Ahriman.” — Rudolf Steiner, NATURE SPIRITS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1995), p. 167. Ahriman’s fiendish plots include this:
“One of the things Ahriman wants for us is that we produce lots of libraries, storing lots of dead knowledge all around us.” — Rudolf Steiner, POLARITIES IN THE EVOLUTION OF MANKIND (SteinerBooks, 1987), p. 163.
Steiner taught that intellectual thought did not begin until 600-800 BC. It is, he said, a gift from Lucifer. [Rudolf Steiner, THE CHRISTIAN MYSTERY (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 117.] Ahriman, however, corrupted this gift.
“Ahriman appropriated intellectuality ... Intellectuality flows forth from Ahriman as a cold and frosty, soulless cosmic impulse ... In reality, it is Ahriman who speaks [through the intellect]....” — Rudolf Steiner, ANTHROPOSOPHICAL LEADING THOUGHTS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1973), p. 98.
We currently live in a materialistic age in which materialistic (intellectual) thinking prevails.
"[This is a] necessary phase in the evolution of humanity.” — Rudolf Steiner, WALDORF EDUCATION AND ANTHROPOSOPHY 1 (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 235.
Entering this phase, we surrendered our old clairvoyant capacities, but we will attain greater clairvoyance when we move forward in our evolution. This is well, since
“The intellect destroys or hinders.” — Ibid., p. 233.
The Waldorf curriculum is geared to the notion that children individually pass through the same phases that humanity has undergone collectively. Thus, students don’t develop intellectual abilities until they are well into their high school years, according to Steiner.
We benefit from our current existence in a material realm where intellect is useful. We literally sharpen our wits, which can help us to sharpen our new, higher, "exact" clairvoyance when/if we develop it. But, ultimately, intellect is anathema for Steiner and his followers — critical thinking must be suppressed.
"By intellectualising he [the seeker] merely diverts himself from the right path." — Rudolf Steiner, WIE ERLANGT MAN ERKENNINISSE DER HOHEREN WELTEN?, p. 32.
Steiner tells his followers,
"You must not try to receive these insights in a sober-minded and intellectual way." — STUFEN DER HOHEREN ERKENNISNIS, p. 66.
The goal is to reach a stage at which "our thinking ceases." — Rudolf Steiner, MEDITATION UND KONZENTRATION (Dornach, 1935), p. 33.
If intellect is so awful, why does Steiner say it has any uses at all? He taught that we humans are currently passing through a stage of our evolution in which we need to master intellect before moving beyond it. He spoke of this evolutionary process in racial terms. We evolve upward by passing through higher and higher racial forms. Properly evolved humans currently are members of the fifth "subrace" of the fifth "root race."
◊ "Every root race and subrace has its task in the evolution of humanity. The goal of ours — the fifth main, or root, race — is called Manas, that is, to awaken human understanding through concepts and ideas." — Rudolf Steiner, THE CHRISTIAN MYSTERY (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 178.
◊ "Our fifth post-Atlantean subrace is developing a culture of reason, but at the same time it is bringing egotism to an absolute extreme ... Our fifth root race will be ruined by egotism intensified to the utmost." — Ibid., p. 179.
Thus, we need to pass through a materialistic, intellectual period. But we also need to pass beyond it, having put behind us its snares and destructive powers.
(Steiner traced the emergence of subraces in the fifth root race to the sinking of Atlantis. Yes, Atlantis. So much for "a culture of reason.")
 John Fentress Gardner, THE EXPERIENCE OF KNOWLEDGE (The Myrin Institute Inc., 1962), p. 26.
Truth is a subtle and intricate subject. What do we mean by “truth”? For some, it is verifiable information. For others, it is unverifiable belief. And there’s another issue. Do people actually want the truth, in the former sense? Neurological research indicates that many people don’t. They want reassurance, comfort, trust — and they are quite willing to forego verifiable truth in the process.
“It turns out that we only want the truth sometimes. What we need is trust, even if that means we are certain to be betrayed.” — Neely Tucker, “The Truth About Lies,” WASHINGTON POST NATIONAL WEEKLY EDITION (Feb. 23-March 1, 2009), p. 11.
This opens a wide door for charlatans like Steiner, and it can create endless confusion among those who put their trust in them. Even intelligent, sophisticated people such as John Fentress Gardner may choose, unwittingly, to be betrayed. The only way an Anthroposophist can “verify” any of Steiner’s occult pronouncements is to employ clairvoyance — which, in reality, means that Steiner’s doctrines are unverifiable.
Waldorf schools have a tenuous relationship with truth. Not only do they depend upon Steiner’s doctrines, but they often disguise their occult purposes — thereby betraying the trust of many parents and students. Lying in the cause of “truth” is, at best, problematic.
 Rudolf Steiner, THE FESTIVALS AND THEIR MEANING (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1996), pp. 248.
 Rudolf Steiner, THE MISSION OF THE FOLK SOULS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2005), p. 64.
 Rudolf Steiner, ART AS SPIRITUAL ACTIVITY (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 256.
Imagination is far from being a reliable faculty. It can easily lapse into hallucination and insanity. [See, e.g. James Phillips and James Morely, IMAGINATION AND ITS PATHOLOGIES (MIT Press, 2003).] I am inclined to consider Steiner a charlatan, deceitful but rational. It is possible, however, that he was mentally unbalanced. If he actually had the astonishing “clairvoyant” visions he claimed, he almost certainly was hallucinating. [For a discussion of Steiner’s strangest visions, see "Everything" and the essays that follow it.]
 A. C. Harwood, PORTRAIT OF A WALDORF SCHOOL (The Myrin Institute Inc., 1956), p. 24.
 Ibid., p. 17.
 Ibid., p. 18.
 Ibid., p. 24.
 Rudolf Steiner, PSYCHOANALYSIS AND SPIRITUAL PSYCHOLOGY (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1990), p. 70.
 PORTRAIT OF A WALDORF SCHOOL, pp. 23-24.
 Ibid., pp. 15-16.
Steiner himself said:
"Although it is necessary, especially today, for people to be completely awake later in life, it is equally necessary to let children live in their gentle dreamy experiences as long as possible, so that they move slowly into life. They need to remain as long as possible in their imaginations and pictorial capacities without intellectuality." — Rudolf Steiner, A MODERN ART OF EDUCATION (Anthroposophic Press, 2004), pp. 103-104.
The archetypes and hierarchies Harwood mentions are occult concepts in Steiner’s elaborate description of the spirit realm.
Waldorf faculties generally deny that Anthroposophy is a religion and that they promote Anthroposophy in Waldorf schools. But Steiner's own words often undercut these denials. Harwood's assertion that Waldorf schools try to keep kids young is explained by such comments of Steiner's as the following. Steiner was addressing the teachers in the first Waldorf School. This is a longer version of a quotation I provided earlier. Note the clear religious content:
"To the extent that I feel in a very living way what it means to you to have devoted your entire person to [the] work of the Waldorf School, I would like to say something more. As Waldorf teachers, we must be true anthroposophists in the deepest sense of the word in our innermost feeling. We must be serious about an idea often mentioned as a foundation of Anthroposophy, one of importance for us. We should be aware that we came down from the spiritual worlds into the physical world at a particular time. Those we meet as children came later and, therefore, experienced the spiritual world for a time after we were already in the physical world. There is something very warming, something that strongly affects the soul, when you see a child as a being who has brought something from the spiritual world that you could not experience because you are older. Being older has a much different meaning for us. In each child, we greet a kind of emissary bringing things from the spiritual world that we could not experience." — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER, pp. 118-119.
 Rudolf Steiner, THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE, p. 60.
Steiner did not claim that the brain is completely useless. His point was that true “cognition” — the ability to really understand — depends on clairvoyance. He acknowledged that intellect has some value (he himself was an intellectual), but he said it pales by comparison with paranormal perception. He had to argue this way, since his doctrines collapse if judged by rational standards. Hence his denigration of “thinking’s power.” Thus, typically, he gave Waldorf teachers advice like this:
"Try not to tell the stories in a way that causes the children to reflect and understand them in the head." — Rudolf Steiner, PRACTICAL ADVICE TO TEACHERS (Anthroposophic Press, 2000), p. 15.
Exposure to rational thought is actually harmful to children, Steiner said:
“If you particularly emphasize the development of thinking, you actually direct the entire human being back to prenatal life. You will injure children if you educate them rationally....” — Rudolf Steiner, THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE, p. 61.
There’s an apparent contradiction between Steiner’s claim that children are harmed by being directed back to life before birth, and Harwood’s argument that children should be kept young precisely so that they can retain their intuitions of life before birth. Steiner confused matters by using the term “thinking” is contradictory ways. But Harwood does present Steiner’s doctrine more or less correctly. Children should not be hindered by a rational education; their powers of rational thought should not be emphasized. Instead, children should be encouraged through “pictorial thinking” or imagination — this will help them build upon their previous existences without sending them back into those existences, which would mean interrupting their spiritual progress. Picking up on comments Steiner made to Waldorf teachers:
“You will injure children if you educate them rationally ... [L]iving pictures go through imagination and sympathy. Concepts are abstractions, and they go through memory and antipathy. They come from life before birth ... If you bring children as many living pictures as possible, if you educate them by speaking in pictures, then you sow the seed for a continuous retention of oxygen, for continuous development, because you direct the children toward the future, toward life after death ... We must see that thinking is a pictorial activity which is based in what we experienced before birth ... To take this into our own feelings, namely, that education is a continuation of supersensible activity before birth, gives education the necessary consecration.” — Ibid., pp. 61-62.
“Living pictures” are images imbued with spiritual power. “Supersensory activity” consists of actions that our senses cannot perceive: actions in the spirit realm. Concerning the “continuous retention of oxygen”: Steiner studded his lectures with medical language, some of it making sense, much of it not. For a hefty dose of Steiner’s errant ideas about the human body and brain, see Rudolf Steiner, AN OCCULT PHYSIOLOGY (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1983).
Pictorial and linguistic intelligence are centered in different areas of the brain. The ability to comprehend and use language, including the understanding of abstractions, is essential for higher cognition. Pictorial thinking can be productive, but it is limited. One perspective into the limitations of pictorial thinking is provided by Temple Grandin in THINKING IN PICTURES: My Life with Autism (Vintage Books, 2006). Grandin, a high-function autist who possesses considerable language skills, nonetheless relies primarily on pictorial thinking, and she reports cognitive deficiencies that would, presumably, horrify Steiner. Because the only words she feels comfortable with are ones that convey concrete pictures, Grandin says that her capacity for philosophical and theological thinking is circumscribed:
“Some philosophy books...are simply incomprehensible [to me].” — Ibid., p. 15.
Basic ontological concepts are beyond her reach:
“To this day certain verb conjunctions, such as ‘to be,’ are absolutely meaningless to me.” — Ibid., p. 15.
Concerning the Lord’s Prayer,
“The words ‘thy will be done’ had no meaning when I was a child, and today the meaning is still vague.” — Ibid., p. 17.
Steiner might dismiss Grandin’s testimony, categorizing Grandin as he once did a Waldorf student who had learning disabilities.
“That little girl L.K. in the first grade must have something really very wrong inside. There is not much we can do. Such cases are increasing in which children are born with a human form, but are not really human beings ... [T]hey are actually not human beings, but have only a human form. They are also quite different from human beings in regard to everything spiritual. They can, for example, never remember such things as sentences; they have a memory only for words, not for sentences ... [T]here are people who are not human beings.” — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER, pp. 649-650.
The only inhumanity evident here is Steiner’s — and the glaring failure to think straight is also his.
Steiner's extraordinary doctrines concerning the brain include this:
"[T]he content of the intestines is decidedly akin to the brain-content. To speak grotesquely, I would say: That which spreads out through the brain is a highly advanced heap of manure! Grotesque as it may be, objectively speaking this is the truth. It is none other than the dung, which is transmuted — through its peculiar organic process into the noble matter of the brain, there to become the basis for Ego-development. [paragraph break] In man, as much as possible of the belly-manure is transformed into brain-manure, for man as you know carries his Ego down an to the Earth; in the animal, less. Therefore, in the animal, more remains behind in the belly-manure — and this is what we use for manuring. In animal manure, more Ego potentially remains. Just because the animal itself does not reach up to the Ego, more Ego remains there potentially. Hence, animal and human manure are altogether different things." — Rudolf Steiner, AGRICULTURE COURSE (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2004), p. 140.
 Revelation is a central purpose of paranormal vision. Hence, the Book of Revelation and other forms of “revelation” was extremely important for Steiner, and they remain so for Anthroposophists today. See, for example, Rudolf Steiner, THE BOOK OF REVELATION (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1998), Rudolf Steiner, THE APOCALYPSE OF ST. JOHN: Lectures on the Book of Revelation (SteinerBooks, 1985), and Rudolf Steiner, INTUITIVE THINKING AS A SPIRITUAL PATH (SteinerBooks, 1995).
 Rudolf Steiner, COSMIC MEMORY: Prehistory of Earth and Man (SteinerBooks, 1987), pp. 193-195. Technically, Steiner said that we lived through evolutionary phases he called Old Sun and Old Moon. (But he also indicated that humans and other beings have traveled to, and colonized, various orbs in the solar system.) The "plant man" of the "Sun" was the human being as s/he existed during Old Sun; the "animal man" of the "Moon" was the human being as s/he existed during Old Moon. However one cares to interpret this mystical history, it has no basis in fact; it flies in the face of virtually everything we actually know about comic and human evolution.
Concerning human existence on other worlds, Steiner said that we have migrated to various planets. For example,
"[I]t came about that the great majority of human souls had to relinquish their union with the earth ... Some soul/spirits were more suited to pursue their evolution on Saturn for the time being, others on Mars, others again on Mercury and so on ... So what we call our human soul condition went through an evolution on the neighboring planets of our earth." — Rudolf Steiner, GENESIS: Secrets of Creation (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2002), pp. 124-125.
 Rudolf Steiner, CHANCE, PROVIDENCE, AND NECESSITY (SteinerBooks, 1988), p. 95. [See "Gnomes".]
 Rudolf Steiner, THE UNIVERSAL HUMAN: The Evolution of Individuality (Anthroposophic Press, 1990), p. 65. Steiner taught that Christ is the Sun God. [See "Sun God".] This god once incarnated, for three years, in the body of a human being, who was named Jesus. [See "Was He Christian?"]
 Rudolf Steiner, POLARITIES IN THE EVOLUTION OF MANKIND (Steiner Books, 1987), p. 59. [See "Reincarnation".]