“Let now these intimations come   

To claim their rightful place,   

Supplanting thinking’s power....”   

— Rudolf Steiner [1] 

 “You will injure children 

if you educate them rationally....” 

— Rudolf Steiner [2]




Non-Rational “Thought” 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. [3] 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....” [4] 

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.” [5] 

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....” [6] 

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." [7] Truth is something you feelBut 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.” [8] 


“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....” [9] 

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.” [10] 

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.” [11] 

During the second seven years, “the inward life of feeling” is paramount. [12] The third seven-year period finally produces the dawning of “intellectual thought.” [13]

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." [14] 

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.” [15]

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." [16]

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....” [17] 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. [18] 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....” [19] 

 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.” [20] 

 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.” [21]

 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.” [22]

 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.” [23]

 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.’” [24]

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.

"[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, 



(Rudolf Steiner Press, 1990), 

GA 143, 178, and 205.

The type of "thinking" that Anthroposophists rely on 

or at least aspire to

is clairvoyance (which they think is not seated in the brain).

The great drawback to clairvoyance 

is that it is a fiction.

It does not exist. 

Thus, the "thinking" advocated by Anthroposophists

is empty; it can tell us nothing. [See, e.g., "Clairvoyance".]

"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...

Here are a few items from the Waldorf Watch "news" page.

In each instance, I quote from a text of interest,

then I offer a response:


“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.


From a lecture Rudolf Steiner delivered 

on this date, March 18, in the year 1921:

"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 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.

For more on these matters, see, e.g., “The Waldorf Teacher’s Consciousness”, “Why? Oh Why?”, "Who Gets Hurt?", and “Fooling (Ourselves)”.

* 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.

For information about clairvoyance

and other "psychic phenomena,"

see "Clairvoyance".

For Steiner's claims of "exact clairvoyance"
and some indications 
of the wonders it produces,
see "Exactly".

For the Waldorf version of this, see 

The following links will take you to brief

extensions of the discussion of thinking

as promoted in Waldorf schools:

"Reality and Fantasy"



For an example of Steiner's deceptions

— and a peek at his followers' capacity

for self-deception — see "Deception".

For a discussion of the reasons people

may believe occult nonsense 

such as Steiner's doctrines,

see "Why?"


"Fooling (Ourselves)".

"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." 


(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.

“From the moment of falling asleep there is a particular process which originates from the region of the human eyes. It is as if, through the influence of light during the waking period, the eye had stored up forces for an activity that develops only after sleep begins. And this is in fact an etheric activity. In the same measure as the influence of light and colour from outside upon the eye is darkened, the eyes themselves begin, like two phosphorescent suns, to irradiate the interior of the physical part of the sleeping human being. The interior space of the human being is illumined by a phosphorescent, glimmering light. It is not surprising that this light, which streams into the interior of the human being, cannot be seen in the ordinary way. External, physical eyes do not see what goes on in the interior of man; there is no organ within the physical body which could immediately perceive this phosphorescent glow.” — Rudolf Steiner, “The Cosmic World and Individual Man” (THE GOLDEN BLADE, 1951), a lecture, GA 224. 

[R.R. copy of an occult color wheel, 2010 — 


(Mercury Arts Publications, 1987), pp. 133-135.]

“Our brain would be a thoroughly unpractical instrument for understanding, if it were to work as physical brain alone. By means of occultism one can get an idea of how the brain would work if it had to depend on itself. In that case a man would be able to think only of what related to the inner requirements of his body. He would think, for example, 'Now I am hungry, now I am thirsty...' ...Our brain however is continually infiltrated by the fine etheric streams which flow upwards from the heart. These etheric currents have direct relationship with a delicate and important organ of the brain, the so-called pineal gland. The fine, etheric currents...continually interpenetrate and lave [sic] the pineal gland, making it glow ... By way of our pineal gland, our ethertised blood system reacts directly upon the brain. You will find this subject more fully dealt with, when those lectures appear which I gave in Prague: 'Occult Physiology.'" — Rudolf Steiner, WONDERS OF THE WORLD (Kessinger; facsimile of 1929 edition), pp. 105-106.

[Rudolf Steiner Press, 2005.]



Poking around in Anthroposophical publications can be rewarding. Here is a Waldorf teacher stating, more or less openly, that Waldorf schools train students in forms of thought that lead them to Anthroposophy:

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

The "new" thinking is a form of meditation ("the mind is cleared...keeping the mind from straying"). It is precisely the sort of thinking Steiner advocated for producing clairvoyant powers. Meditation, in Anthroposophy, is a steppingstone to clairvoyance.

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

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

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

The "new" thinking is "freed from the senses" because Steiner taught that clairvoyance is seated not in the physical brain but in non-physical organs of clairvoyance. 

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

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

Students may not leap straight to clairvoyance (in reality, they cannot, since clairvoyance is a fantasy). But by using "phenomenological thinking" as described by Mitchell, they will be on their way. Phenomena and/or the universe itself will "speak through the individual" as through a clairvoyant or seer. And the "new" science this will lead students toward is spiritual science, i.e., Anthroposophy. 

"Steiner held that Anthroposophy or spiritual science should adhere to the scientific method, but only insofar as this is rigorous, honest, phenomenological, experimental, logical, and repeatable. He also proposed, as a goal and ideal, what in the ancient mysteries and in the traditional cultures was taken for granted: the unity of science, art, and religion. Clearly, then, the science he spoke of was not conventional science of the abstract mechanical-materialist type. Modern science in this sense was, in fact, a deviation from what, had a different lines of emphasis been followed, would have produced a very different scientific approach. The corrective was to create an alternative science based on different assumptions." — Christopher Bamford, introducing Steiner's WHAT IS ANTHROPOSOPHY? (Anthroposophic Press, 2002). p. 19.

In sum, Mitchell, Bamford, and Steiner tell us clearly that Waldorf schools try to inculcate a meditative form of thought that leads Waldorf students toward an embrace of Anthroposophy.



Steiner’s advocacy of “imagination” can be found in many of his lectures and books; ditto his dismissal of rational thought and the testimony of the five physical senses; and ditto his use of language that obscures as much as it enlightens. Here’s a characteristic, elusive yet revealing example. Analyzing a Rosicrucian text, THE CHEMICAL WEDDING OF CHRISTIAN ROSENKREUTZ, Steiner describes a vision of a unicorn showing deference to a lion. I’ll quote Steiner, then circle back and discuss the passage in detail. 

"[The spiritual seeker] feels the possibility arising of using his faculties of understanding in a way suited to the spiritual world. His possession of this capacity appears before his soul in the imagination [sic] of ‘the unicorn bowing before a lion’ ... Were we to consider this as a symbol rather than a real imagination [sic], we might say that it pictures an event in the soul of the spiritual seeker through which he feels himself capable of thinking what is spiritual [sic]. But such an abstract idea would not express the full essence of the soul event that we are considering. For the event is experienced in such a manner that the sphere of personal sensory perception is extended beyond the boundary of the physical body. In the spirit realm the seer experiences beings and events external to his own essential being ... When such extended consciousness arises, mere abstract conceptions cease, and the imagination appears as the necessary form of expression for what is experienced.” [25] 

Why didn’t Steiner express himself more clearly? A self-professed savant who does not want to be challenged would find obscure, stupefying language useful. Readers may feel inadequate to challenge such language; some, indeed, may figure that such semi-unintelligible language must proceed from profound depths of wisdom. Well, let’s see. Taking it from the top:

The seeker “feels the possibility arising of using his faculties of understanding in a way suited to the spiritual world. His possession of this capacity appears before his soul in the imagination of ‘the unicorn bowing before a lion.’” So, the seeker “feels” (not thinks) that s/he may be developing the ability to understand spiritual truths (“the possibility of understanding...the spiritual world”). This ability entails a different way of seeing, one that is appropriate for spiritual matters (“understanding in a way suited to the spiritual world”). The seeker possesses this ability when an image (an “imagination”) appears “before his soul” as if projected there or seen with one’s (spiritual) eyes (one’s new “faculties of understanding” which can be variously termed second sight, psychic power, or clairvoyance).

Steiner continues: “Were we to consider this as a symbol rather than a real imagination, we might say that it pictures an event in the soul of the spiritual seeker through which he feels himself capable of thinking what is spiritual.” A crucial point. If we take the image (a unicorn bowing before a lion) as a mere symbol or picture, we might think that the seeker is merely describing an event occurring within his/her soul (“it pictures an event in the soul of the spiritual seeker”). But if we think this way, we fail to grasp the true nature of what the seeker has perceived:

“But such an abstract idea would not express the full essence of the soul event ... For the event is experienced in such a manner that the sphere of personal sensory perception is extended beyond the boundary of the physical body.” That is to say, our “abstract idea” (that the seeker is dealing with a symbol) is too weak to “express the full essence of the soul event.” The seeker has used a supersensory mode of apprehension (his/her “sphere” of “perception” has reached “beyond the boundary of the physical body”) to perceive a true spiritual event: the “essence of the soul event” that is accurately conveyed as a unicorn bowing to a lion. 

Steiner goes on, “In the spirit realm the seer experiences beings and events external to his own essential being ... When such extended consciousness arises, mere abstract conceptions cease, and the imagination appears as the necessary form of expression for what is experienced.” Using his/her super-method of seeing, the seer “experiences” spiritual beings (such as may appear as unicorns) and events (such as may appear as bowing). The faculty of imagination provides “the necessary form of expression” enabling the seer to formulate an accurate representation of a spiritual experience that otherwise would remain beyond human apprehension (the event is “external to his own essential being” — it is alien but it objectively exists and can be experienced by an adept). 

In this passage, we may recognize a subtle distinction between clairvoyance (the ability to apprehend spiritual beings and events) and imagination (the means of expressing what clairvoyance has revealed). This is, however, a distinction without an effective difference. If the imagination were to create a false image (e.g., the lion bows to the unicorn) all would be undone. So the imagination needs to express what clairvoyance has truly apprehended (the unicorn bows to the lion) and do so in a true image (the unicorn bows to the lion).  

Whew. While Steiner does not use to term “clairvoyance” in the sentences we’ve just examined, we can hardly mistake his meaning, given that he often spoke of clairvoyance and sometimes explicitly equated it with imagination, as we saw previously (“...clairvoyance ...we must struggle to regain a view of the cosmos that moves toward Imagination again...”). In the real world, perception and expression are distinct activities, but they blur in Steiner’s teachings. For him, they are components of clairvoyance/imagination which is the path to truth. Well, let’s consider that. William Wordsworth recognized the magical allure of images that we half-create:

Therefore am I still

A lover of the meadows and the woods,

And mountains; and of all that we behold

From this green earth; of all the mighty world

Of eye, and ear — both what they half create,

And what perceive; well pleased to recognize

In nature and the language of the sense,

The anchor of my purest thoughts, the nurse,

The guide, the guardian of my heart, and soul

Of all my moral being.

[“Lines Written Above Tintern Abbey,” ll. 106-107.]

Wordsworth anchors his thoughts in nature, reality, the language of the sense. Steiner skims past these to fantasyland. To become Steiner’s followers, we would need to do the same. Specifically, we would need to employ supersensory methods that supersede the evidence of our physical senses and the operations of our rational brains — or, failing that, we would need to accept the accounts given us by one who claims to have transcended physical limitations. In other words, we would need to embrace blurred perceptions that arise, at least in part, from subjective, “felt” fantasies — which would incline us to embrace the dissimulated visions served up by one who claims the “gift.”

That way lies madness. We can “imagine” or “half-create” almost anything. Hogwarts. The Imperium. Mordor. The Seven Cities of Gold. Atlantis. Ancient cities inside the Moon. Ancient beings wandering through the bowels of the Earth. Nessie. Little green men. Anything. Unicorns bowing to lions. What fun. But such conceptions are not knowledge — they are fantasy. And if we accept them as truth, they are fantasy run amok.


Anthroposophy is an escapist fantasy. [26] How can smart adults possibly fall for it?

Quite possibly the deepest explanation is that all human beings have an inborn tendency toward certain forms of self-deception, and Anthroposophists happen to fall for a certain version of one nearly universal delusion. A fascinating theory formulated by cognitive psychologists is that we are born with an innate predisposition to believe in the supernatural. [27] This predisposition does not prove that the supernatural exists; it only means that our brains are wired in such a way as to lead us to think the supernatural exists. Specifically, our brains malfunction in a way that makes supernatural beliefs feel right to us.

According to the theory, we think about physical objects differently than we think about psychological objects (i.e., creatures with minds). A block of wood is just a physical lump, in our view. We generally don’t see anything magical about it. But we feel very differently about living creatures, beings that have minds. We tend to forget that such creatures are themselves physical, and that their feelings and thoughts are produced by a physical lump called a brain. Instead, we tend to think feelings and thoughts exist separately from the brains that produce them and the bodies that experience them. This leads us to feel that minds are not bound to bodies, and therefore the notion of bodiless “souls” feels right to us.

From the concept of bodiless souls, obviously, it is easy to jump to the idea that entirely nonphysical beings exist, beings that have no physical bodies at all but that are wholly spiritual. In Steiner’s doctrines, such beings include a vast array of “gods.” Steiner never offers any evidence that these gods exist. Instead, he relies on our innate willingness to believe in them. And a great many of us, including some very smart people, are quite willing to believe despite the absence of proof.

Another way to look at this: Because we know that minds have intentions, it feels right to us to believe that most events and objects result from someone’s intentions. We are inclined to think that they were planned, they didn’t just happen. If the world exists, then it must have been intended — it is a “creation” — which means that there must have been a “creator.” We may know, in our rational brains, that some things happen by accident. We may even know that, according to science, it is possible that the universe itself came into existence for no perceptible reason — maybe it just happened. We are capable of thinking such thoughts, but they feel unnatural to us. It is much easier for us to accept our innate predisposition to assume there must be purpose and intention behind everything. [28] For Steiner and his followers, this means accepting the unproven idea that the universe is aswarm with all sorts of spiritual beings who are the real cause of everything physical.

In sum, the theory is that a belief system like Anthroposophy is built on illusions that are caused by the way our minds naturally, but imperfectly, function. [29]

An extension of this theory is that our brains have evolved the way they have because certain illusions are comforting to us. [30] Instead of feeling helpless in the face of an indifferent or even hostile universe, we convince ourselves that we have access to special powers that can protect us. We can use spells, incantations, clairvoyance, invocations, and so forth, to bring various spiritual beings over to our side. During the long course of human evolution, individuals who had such feelings about the “spirit realm” were empowered by them — they gained an evolutionary advantage from them (they withstood trials that caused others to collapse or flee). So they survived and handed down the brain circuitry leading to such feelings. As a result, their descendants were born with a predisposition toward such feelings. Generation after generation, this predisposition became more and more deeply imbedded in us — that is, our brains have wound up wired in such a way as to lead almost all of us, including the brightest among us, to tend to fall for occult beliefs: belief in the invisible realm behind the visible, belief in the great beyond, belief in...

But where does this leave us? The only thing we can conclude about our bias in favor of supernatural beliefs is that it has been useful to us, strengthening us to face the vicissitudes of life. But we do not know — rationally, sensibly, based on clear evidence — that our various supernatural or occult beliefs are true. Indeed, if we force ourselves to think rationally, we may realize that we have no good reason to accept such beliefs. Consider the implications. What if the spiritual powers we appeal to and try to use don’t actually exist? What if we have simply made them up, unconsciously, because of the way our brains tend to work? In that case, raising children in an atmosphere of magic and mysticism — such as the occultism underlying Waldorf education — means leading them astray, teaching them things for which we have no real evidence. We lead them not into the light of truth but into the shadows of falsehood.

One still larger implication also needs to be faced. If there is no rational reason to accept Anthroposophy, the same argument might be applied to all other supernatural systems, including orthodox religions. This is worth considering, long and hard, in one’s most solemn and reverent meditations. But we needn’t reject all religion in order to see the problems inherent in Steiner’s doctrines. My purpose is not to assail any mainstream faith. If you are a devout adherent of such a faith, your beliefs are a matter between you and your God — no one else should attempt to intrude into this most private sphere. So I would simply say this. An important distinction can be drawn between established religion, on the one hand, and superstition, occultism, and hocus-pocus, on the other. Steiner’s doctrines distinctly fall into the latter category. If great faiths such as Judaism and Christianity do not arise from human self-deception, heretical creeds like Anthroposophy almost certainly do.


In a remarkable book dealing with one of Steiner’s occult theories, [31] Richard Ramsbotham provides an example of what passes for rational thought among Anthroposophists. Ramsbotham repeats the usual claim that Anthroposophy is scientific, that it is “the science [emphasis by Ramsbotham] of the world of the spirit.” [32] Quite quickly, however, this claim starts to break down. Ramsbotham reports that 

‘[S]piritual science’ — or supersensible science — depends on the development of our own inherent faculties of cognition.” [33] 

“Supersensible science” is the examination of spiritual phenomena, which are inaccessible to our normal senses: sight, hearing, etc. The “cognition” on which this “science” depends is clairvoyance.

Steiner encouraged his followers to use their own clairvoyance to check his supersensible discoveries, as Ramsbotham correctly reports. [34] And Ramsbotham tells us, correctly, that Steiner said that his teachings can be confirmed by ordinary forms of thought and perception: 

"[Steiner] did not consider it necessary for us to be clairvoyant before we start ... Our healthy powers of thinking, perception, and judgement are enough to test the truth or otherwise of his findings.” [35] 

Steiner did say this, sometimes; but what he said, on those occasions, is false. In fact, as we have already seen, ordinary powers of thinking lead us to precisely the opposite conclusion: Steiner’s “research” collapses when subjected to rational review. (And indeed, as time has passed and scientists have learned more and more about the universe, our expanding knowledge has made Steiner's fantasies less and less plausible.)

Ramsbotham acknowledges that he himself has not developed the clairvoyant powers that Steiner claimed to possess: “I could not myself have carried out Steiner’s research.” [36] Instead, Ramsbotham accepts Steiner’s word: 

[M]any people have become able to place a certain trust in Steiner’s research.” [37] 

Steiner’s followers develop their trust by “living with the results of this research” so that 

“[O]ver many years even [sic], they find this [i.e., their trust] not to have been disappointed by Steiner.” [38] 

Eventually, their trust leads them to be “certain of what Steiner is saying.” [39] Ramsbotham places himself firmly among those who trust Steiner.

Trust is faith. The words are synonymous. Faith is a requirement of religion, not reason. In the final sections of his book, Ramsbotham digs through literature and history, seeking circumstantial evidence that may support Steiner. This scholarship holds points of interest, but none of it amounts to much since Ramsbotham has not investigated or confirmed the central thesis. “Living” with research may accustom us to its claims, but it does not provide confirmation of the claims. Ramsbotham ultimately gives us nothing but tangential evidence that he has deliberately selected in a effort to buttress an unconfirmed occult vision. This is hardly persuasive — it begins and ends in taking Steiner on faith. 

[T]his book is wholeheartedly indebted to him.” [40] 

This is not reason or logic, sensible or reliable thinking. It is faith, it is willing oneself to believe what one wants to believe, even if this means rejecting the actual knowledge that mankind possesses about reality.

(The immediate thesis of Ramsbotham's book — the superstructure above the underlying faith in Anthroposophy — is that we can understand, thanks to Steiner, that King James I was a mystic who was the true originator of Shakespeare's works as well as the works of Sir Francis Bacon. Now you know.)


On April 28, 2009, many months 

after writing the foregoing 

sections of “Thinking Cap,” 

I posted the following message 

at the waldorf-critics discussion list 


I’ll append it here, although it repeats 

some material covered previously.

I have edited the message slightly for use here.

Steiner wanted Waldorf teachers to be Anthroposophists, but he knew that some non-Anthroposophists would need to be hired, and indeed many teachers at many Waldorf schools today are not Anthroposophists. Further, many Anthroposophists are not "initiates" — they are still at a relatively low level of spiritual advancement. At many Waldorf schools, only an inner circle of the faculty really knows what the schools are doing. Sometimes these insiders hold special meetings referred to, collectively, as the college of teachers. The discussions there are, in effect, secret. Steiner urged his followers to be secretive — he was giving them "mystery" knowledge that would actually be harmful to the uninitiated if it were revealed to them. The uninitiated consist of everyone on Earth except Anthroposophical insiders. So figuring out what is what in Waldorfworld often calls for detective work.

There is no absolute requirement that a Waldorf teacher must be clairvoyant. But possessing clairvoyance is considered desirable, and many insiders on Waldorf faculties believe they are clairvoyant. (The danger of a Waldorf school may well stand in direct proportion to the percentage of the faculty who delude themselves into thinking they are clairvoyant. They are lying to themselves, occupying a fantasyland toward which they hope to shepherd students.)

There is a general presumption among Waldorf faculties that clairvoyance is available and should be used by as many Waldorf teachers as possible — at a minimum, they should use what Waldorf educator Eugene Schwartz calls "everyday clairvoyance." [41] But any Waldorf teacher who can use higher forms of clairvoyance should do so. Indeed, as I will indicate, "the Waldorf teacher’s consciousness" boils down to clairvoyance.

Here are a few relevant comments by Steiner:

"[W]e [Waldorf teachers] should neglect no single opportunity of quickening the inner life of soul and spirit." [42] 

To do this, Waldorf teachers need to develop 

"the Waldorf teacher’s consciousness [which is] hardly present anywhere else in the world." [43] 

This unique consciousness will restore 

"what humanity has lost in the last three or four centuries." [44] 

What has been lost? As Steiner often explained, modern humankind has lost the old, intuitive clairvoyance. 

"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...Imagination [i.e., clairvoyant awareness]." [45] 

Or put it this way: 

"The goal of all our educational thinking must be to transform [educational] thinking so as to rise fruitfully from the level of physical thinking to spiritual thinking." [46] 

"Spiritual thinking" is clairvoyance.

Boiling down what we’ve just seen: The "Waldorf teacher’s consciousness" is, or hinges on, clairvoyance. [See "The Waldorf Teacher's Consciousness".] And note that "clairvoyance" and "imagination" are virtually interchangeable terms, in the Anthroposophical vocabulary. Waldorf schools are often celebrated for emphasizing imagination. The celebrants rarely realize that what the schools really promote is clairvoyance — they don’t realize, in other words, that the schools are occultist institutions.

Here is Steiner again talking to Waldorf teachers: 

"As teachers in the Waldorf School, you will need to find your way more deeply into the insight of the spirit and to find a way of putting all compromises aside ... As Waldorf teachers, we must be true anthroposophists in the deepest sense of the word in our innermost feeling." [47] 

In Anthroposophy, "to find your way more deeply into the insight of the spirit" means using clairvoyance — specifically, "exact clairvoyance" that confirms Steiner's doctrines.

More tidbits: 

"When we teach, in a certain sense we take up again the activities we experienced before birth. We must see that thinking is a pictorial activity which is based on the activities we experienced before birth." [48] 

By "pictorial activity," Steiner meant the formation of "imaginations" or images that are attainable through clairvoyance and/or its precursors, imagination, inspiration, and intuition. Seen in broad Anthroposophical terms, the three precursors are versions of clairvoyance. Waldorf teachers should employ them, and they should help their students to develop them. As we saw, above, humans must "regain a view of the cosmos that moves toward Imagination again...." This (imagination, i.e., clairvoyance) is what Waldorf schools aspire to.

As for what Steiner meant by "activities we experienced before birth": He said that spiritual powers (i.e., gods) guide us during the intervals between our earthly incarnations. Waldorf teachers should carry forward the work of those spiritual tutors. Note the messianic self-importance implied in this. 

"We [Waldorf teachers] want to be aware that physical existence is a continuation of the spiritual, and that what we have to do in education is a continuation of what higher beings [i.e., gods] have done without our assistance. Our form of educating can have the correct attitude only when we are aware that our work with young people is a continuation of what higher beings have done before birth." [49] 

Anthroposophists believe that children are born with memories and knowledge derived from their past spiritual lives. The purpose of early childhood education at Waldorf schools is to keep children young so that they retain this spiritual knowledge as long as possible — ideally all the way into adulthood. And, centrally, note that Waldorf teachers can know (or think they know) what the spiritual tutors were doing only if they are either clairvoyant or blindly obedient to Steiner, accepting his occult preachments.

Waldorf teachers also need to understand mankind's future evolution, which again is something they can grasp only if they are either clairvoyant or blindly obedient to Steiner. 

"[W]e wish to lay the foundation for a good pedagogy ... We should be very clear about which human tendencies are present for a distant human future." [50]

In brief, top-level Waldorf teachers believe they are clairvoyant and, indeed, they think they are on a messianic mission: 

"As teachers we are co-workers in the actual guidance of the world." [51] 


— Roger Rawlings

[SteinerBooks, 2009.]

If the proof is in the pudding, then one way to gauge
the Waldorf attitude toward rational thought
is to consider how many irrational doctrines
— supported by no solid evidence of any kind —
Anthroposophists embrace.
See. e.g., "Steiner's Blunders".

Anthroposophists believe that children 
are born with a natural form of clairvoyance.

“I well remember meeting a charming child of eleven, daughter of a Dutch father and a partly Mexican-Indian mother, almost all of whose female relatives were clairvoyant, and several were mediums. Little Alexandrina used to prattle on about the dead, what they were doing, where they were, when she had seen them before, all in the most natural manner in the world. Part of what she said could be confirmed, and the perfectly correct facts that she gave could not have been learned in any other way. The young Rudolf Steiner was also very well aware of the nature spirits [i.e., “elemental beings” that reside within nature] with whom, indeed, he held converse, again not unlike many other children...." —Anthroposophist Stewart Copinger Easton, RUDOLF STEINER: Herald of a New Epoch (SteinerBooks, 1980), pp. 17-18. 

According to Steiner, the brain 
and the intellect are not just limited: 
They are bound up in darkness and evil:

"More than three thousand years had passed since the beginning of Kali Yuga or Age of Darkness. What is the significance of this age? It was the era in which it was normal for man to depend solely upon what was accessible to his senses, and also upon his brain-bound intellect. Only such things as were experienced by these means could be known and understood in the dark age of Kali Yuga ... During Kali Yuga, however, something did occasionally penetrate into the physical world from spiritual realms. As a rule, it did not come from the good powers, but was of demoniacal nature. All the strange illnesses described in the Gospels, where people are referred to as possessed, are attributable to demoniacal forces. In them we must recognize the work of evil spirits ... [T]he spiritual world has gradually become completely closed to man's normal consciousness, so that all knowledge has had to be drawn from the world of the senses. If this process had continued unabated, all possible connection with the spiritual world would have been lost to him." — Rudolf Steiner, THE TEN COMMANDMENTS AND THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT (Anthroposophic Press, 1978), lecture 2, GA 107.

The Dark Age ended, Anthroposophists believe, 
when Steiner began his occult ministry.
[See the "historical narrative" in 

The wet-on-wet watercolor 
painting technique stressed 
in Waldorf schools
is meant to produce hazy images 
that may be interpreted 
as having spiritual meaning.
Indeed, the images often reflect 
Steiner's description of the spirit realm.
Beyond that, such hazy paintings
 suggest and encourage the sort
of soft, hazy thinking typically 
emphasized in Waldorf schools.

[R.R. emulation, 2010.]

Concerning the stages of human development:

“Fully to understand the life of man and its successive stages between birth and death, it is not enough to consider only the physical body as seen by the outer senses ... At physical birth man is released from the physical integument of the maternal womb ... Now the fact is that for supersensible perception other events of this kind are undergone in the further course of life — supersensible events, analogous to that of physical birth ... For his etheric body man is enveloped by an ethereal sheath — an etheric integument — until about the change of teeth, the sixth or seventh year, when the etheric integument falls away. This event represents the 'birth' of the etheric body. After it man is still enveloped by an astral sheath, which falls away at the age of puberty — between the 12th and 16th year. The astral body in its turn is 'born.' Then at an even later point of time the I is born.

“...With the birth of the I, man's adult life begins. With the three members of the soul (Sentient Soul, Intellectual or Mind-Soul and Spiritual Soul) progressively awakened and activated by the I, he finds his proper place in life amid the prevailing world-conditions, to which he makes his own active contribution. At length however there comes a time when the etheric body begins to decline, reversing the development it enjoyed from the seventh year onward. There is a change in the functioning of the astral body. To start with it unfolded the potentialities brought with it from the spiritual world at birth. After the birth of the Ego it was enriched by all the experiences coming to it from the outer world. But now the moment comes when in a spiritual sense the astral body begins to feed on its own etheric body. It draws on the etheric body and consumes it. And in the further course of life the etheric body in its turn begins to draw upon the physical body and consume it. There facts are closely related to the physical body's degeneration in old age.

"The life of man is thereby naturally divided into three epochs. First is the time during which the physical and etheric bodies grow and develop. In the middle period the astral body and the I come into their own. The third and last is the period of bodily decline when the youthful development of the etheric and physical bodies is in a sense reversed. Now in all these events — from birth until death — the astral body is concerned. Moreover inasmuch as it is not spiritually born until the 12th to 16th year, and in the final epoch is obliged to draw upon the forces of the etheric and physical bodies, what the astral body has to achieve by virtue of its own faculties and forces unfolds at a slower rate than it would do if it were not inhabiting a physical and etheric body. Hence after death (as explained in Chapter III,) when the physical and etheric bodies have been cast off, the evolution of the astral body through the 'time of purification' takes about a third as long as the past life between birth and death.” 

— Rudolf Steiner, 


(Rudolf Steiner Press, 1963), 

chapter 7, GA 13.

For whatever it may be worth, here is one of Steiner's descriptions of thought. 
(Other descriptions are somewhat different.) 

“When a thought penetrates into astral space it forms a denser layer around the hollow brought about by the thought. Around this hollow, coloured phenomena make their appearance. A glimmer begins to light up. It is the thought-form which we then see. The astral substance surrounding it becomes denser and thereby brighter. The added brightness which arises around the thoughts soon disappears; but if the thought is connected with an intense impulse of passion, it has a relationship with the densified astral substance and gives it life. Thus people who are still very undeveloped but very passionate create living beings in astral space when they think. This ceases later; when people evolve and become calmer such beings no longer arise when they think. But now you understand that there are beings on the astral plane which originate from human beings and also from animals; for in the case of certain animals too, such beings are formed, and indeed with far greater intensity. The animal however presses its own impulses into its own astral form, so that it usually creates its own form, its own image in astral space.” — Rudolf Steiner, FOUNDATIONS OF ESOTERICISM (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1982), lecture 19, GA 93a. 

[R.R. sketch, 2010, based on the one in the book.]

“As soon as we begin to think with our fingers — and one can think with one's fingers and toes much more brightly, once one makes the effort, than with the nerves of the head — as soon as we begin to think with that part of us which has not entirely become matter, when we think with the lower part of our being, then our thoughts are the thoughts of our karma." — Rudolf Steiner, BLACKBOARD DRAWINGS 1919-1924 (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2003), p. 126. 

[R.R. sketch, 2009, based on Steiner's.]

"[F]rom the eighth pre-Christian century to the fifteenth century A.D....human beings predominantly employed their etheric body when they engaged in thinking ... [I]n the fifteenth century people began to think with their physical bodies. When we think, we do so with the forces the etheric body sends into the physical body." — Rudolf Steiner, MATERIALISM AND THE TASK OF ANTHROPOSOPHY (Anthroposophic Press, 1987), pp. 178-179. 

[R.R. sketch, 2009, based on illustration on p. 179.]

"The dreams of young infants are quite marvellous. Infants' dreams still show that the child has the powers in him to shape and develop his body. They are truly cosmic. The child dreams of the things he experienced before he came down to earth ... [L]ooking at the dreams of young infants one can see exactly that they have the way of developing their brain in their dreams. Later the dreams will become very peculiar if someone does not led a well-ordered life; they will increasingly fall into disorder." — Rudolf Steiner, FROM LIMESTONE TO LUCIFER (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1999), pp. 194-195. 

[R.R. sketch, 2009, based on the one on p. 122.] 

Steiner says that the physical body and brain are developed due to the influence of 
spiritual powers flowing into the physical realm through such vehicles as dreams. 
Note that Steiner indicates that infants' dreams are true. 
He likewise claimed that his adherents can have true spiritual visions 
while asleep if they lead a "well-ordered life" by following his precepts. 
It is worth pausing to ask how Steiner knew the content of infants' dreams. 
He couldn't know, of course. 
But he claimed he knew such things 
thanks to his use of "exact clairvoyance." 
[See "Exactly".]

The human brain is predisposed to deceive itself — when it is confused or uncertain, it tends to concoct "answers" that seem more or less sufficient but that are not truly justified. We have to work hard to be rational, to tame our tendency toward self-deception. As Bertrand Russell said, "What is wanted is not the will to believe but the wish to find out, which is the exact opposite."

Eminent astronomers once convinced themselves that the surface of Mars is crisscrossed by many straight lines — channels or canals. Seeing a jumble of confusing details on the Martian surface, they unconsciously linked the various dots and smudges, forming totally illusory patterns as shown in the hand-drawn maps they produced.

But there are no such channels or canals on the surface of Mars. The astronomers were deceiving themselves.

All of us have a similar tendency. It is hard not to "see" a square and a large downward-pointing triangle in the images below. But there is no square, there is no downward triangle: When we "see" them, we are filling in forms that do not exist. We are deceiving ourselves.

[Images from Michael Shermer's 
HOW WE BELIEVE (Henry Holt and Company, 2000), 
and Terence Hines' 
(Prometheus Books, 2003.]

The human brain's tendency to create illusory patterns — and then to accept these as real — is shown by our belief that there are "constellations" in the sky.

[Constellations of the northern sky

Constellations do not really exist, although various forms of occultism (including Anthroposophy) find great importance in them. The sky overhead is dotted with an enormous, random swarm of lights.* Disliking this confused spectacle, our brains get busy imposing an illusion of order. The constellations we think we see 
consist of stars and galaxies that our brains falsely tie together, although in reality the pinpoints of light forming each constellation are nowhere near each other.** If we were to travel far enough from Earth, all of the constellations that we "see" from Earth would vanish — the illusory patterns would break apart. But our brains would doubtless "see" new constellations then — that is, confronted with a different swarm of random lights scattered across the sky, our brains would impose new illusory patterns on them.

Seeing something where nothing actually exists is characteristic of fallacies such as Anthroposophy. An important part of wisdom is to comprehend how our brains sometimes trick us, and to resist this trickery. When we do so, false systems of thought such as astrology and Anthroposophy lose much of their power over us — they break apart like illusory constellations.

* There is order in the cosmos, such as the orderly shape of our galaxy, the Milky Way. But we cannot perceive much of this order from our vantage point inside the Milky Way. In the image above, the Milky Way is the disorderly white stripe.

** Some of the stars "in" any constellation may be fairly near to Earth, as cosmic distances go, but others may be vastly farther away from both the Earth and from the other stars "in" the constellation. Moreover, some of the lights that appear to be stars "in" a constellation are actually entire galaxies that are so far away as to appear as single points of light.

An Anthroposophical Janus
(with a soaring 'do).
Sketch of a detail from a window
at the Goetheanum, the worldwide
headquarters of Anthroposophy.

"Then comes time for the new birth [i.e., reincarnation]. Before the incarnation, the human being presents itself as if possessing a Janus-head ... The spiritual soul of man looks down onto the earth. It brings parents together and their unification will create the physical conditions for the new earth-life. But it also looks back to the experiences of its earlier lives on earth and to their accomplishments, which now become the seed of destiny [karma] for the coming life. Thus, each human being carries with it into birth the earth-plan with its very individual pre-fabricated conditions of destiny." — Georg Hartmann, THE GOETHEANUM GLASS-WINDOWS (Philosophisch-Anthroposophischer Verlag, 1972), p. 55. 

[R.R. sketch, 2009, 
based on Steiner's.]

The beauty of Waldorf schooling

may lie largely on the surface.

These lovely paintings were 

created by Waldorf students.

[Images courtesy of

People for Legal and Nonsectarian Schools.]

Traditional image of the Buddha.

[Public domain].

Many people have seen unicorns.

Many others believe in unicorns.

Unfortunately, however, unicorns do not exist

and never have existed

(that is to say, there is no evidence for the actual

existence of these lovely beings, now or in the past).

[Traditional, public domain image.]

[R.R., 2010.]

The mathematics teacher at the Waldorf school I attended often said that if you enter a city from one direction, it will be a different city than if you enter it from another direction. He did not simply mean that you would see the city differently; he meant that the city would literally, truly be different. This concept is consistent with Anthroposophy, which teaches that thoughts exist as real beings in the spirit realm. Our thoughts transform reality. The universe is malleable — our subjective states make the universe different from what it might be if we had different subjective states. Even the import of mathematics would be different if we had a different mental attitude.

This is the radical subjectivity promoted by Waldorf education, and it is clearly wrong. Facts are facts; they do not bend to our preferences. Truth is truth; we do not make something true by thinking it. (You do not alter the nature of New York City, for instance, by perceiving it from the east instead of from the west.) We find truth by discovering it as it objectively is, apart from any preferences, moods, viewpoints, or wishes of our own. Objectivity is difficult, but it is the goal we should aim for. Waldorf schools, however, follow Steiner in stressing subjectivity.

"[F]acts are simply upon occasion quite different from the concepts we hold of them with our present-day abstract, theoretical grasp of things, so remote from life and reality. There is not even a true grasp of what it might mean to take in the sciences of arithmetic and geometry with quite another soul-constitution than we have to-day, with a mature soul-condition ... The mathematics of the universe, which have become so thoroughly abstract to us, revealed [in the ancient past] something really living, because the revelation found completion in what was brought to understand it." — Rudolf Steiner, THE TWO CHRISTMAS ANNUNCIATIONS (Anthroposophic News Sheet 1938, Supplement 5-6, GA 203. 

Steiner was speaking, here, about the mystical meaning of mathematics and geometry (or what is sometimes called sacred geometry). He found occult meaning in numbers, in geometrical design, and indeed in all orderly phenomena. This is what "a mature soul-condition" may find. But is it truly an apprehension, or merely a subjective desire? Is it found in phenomena, or is it read into them?

Our subjective states are, of course, important. How we feel about things is, of course, important. The spirit in which we act is, of course, important. But recognizing the importance of such things should not muddle us. Our inner states are important, but they are separate from — and do not control — outer, objective reality. Steiner's teachings result in such concepts as the following: "If these ideas [i.e., the doctrines of Anthroposophy] 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." — Dr. Ronald E. Koetzsch, an Anthroposophist connected with the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America.

What we believe certainly may shape reality if we act on our beliefs — but believing, in and of itself, cannot make false ideas true any more than it can change the laws of mathematics or the objective facts about the universe. A city is what it is, no matter what street we drive along to enter it. Thinking otherwise does not create higher truths; it is self-deception. Training children to "think" in this manner does them a severe disservice.

[R.R. snap, 1993.]

The sort of "thinking" advocated in 
Waldorf schools is little more 
than fantasizing. 
Use your "clairvoyance," 
and there's no end to the wonders 
you will apprehend.

"People gaze open-eyed at the rainbow. But if you look at the rainbow with a little imagination [i.e., basic clairvoyance], you may see there elemental Beings. These elemental Beings are full of activity, and they demonstrate their activity in a most remarkable manner. At the yellow you see some of them streaming out from the rainbow, continually coming out of it. They move across, and the moment they reach the lower end of the green they feel drawn to it. You see them disappear at this point [green]. On the other side they come out again. To one who views it with Imagination, the whole rainbow is a revelation of the spiritual. It is in fact a spiritual cylinder, wonderful to behold. And you may observe too how these spiritual Beings come forth from the rainbow with extreme fear, and then how they go in with an absolutely invincible courage. When you look at the red-yellow, you see fear streaming out, and when you look at the blue-violet you have the feeling: there all is courage and bravery of heart.

"Picture it to yourself. What I see before me is not just a rainbow! Here beings are coming out of it, there beings are disappearing into it. Here is anxiety and fear, there is courage.  And now the courage disappears again. That is the way to look at the rainbow!" — Rudolf Steiner, ART (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2003), pp. 241-242.

Anthroposophical "thinking" may be attractive, 

but it is seldom true.

Our Singing Hearts

Many Anthroposophists consider themselves to be hardheaded realists. They deny that they slavishly follow Steiner — they consider themselves to be independent spiritual seekers, dispassionate investigators of the spiritual realm. The subjectivity that Steiner advocated and that they embrace leads them to make this claim. They trust their own intuitions, their own spiritual “insight.” This is a central reason that schisms develop among spiritualists: Each seeker has his/her own visions, and since no one else can confirm or even investigate such subjective, private states of mind, no one can dissuade a spiritualist from her/his deeply felt convictions. But subjectivity and emotion are not, in truth, avenues to knowledge. They produce, at best, cozy dream states. The spiritual “investigations” conducted by mystics are, in the end, indistinguishable from fantasy. 


Here is a representative sample of Anthroposophical writing: 

"The reality of Being behind all life was revealed only by a courageous passage through the portal of death; the way to Hades must be trodden by the living  human being. The phoenix of the sun must arise from the ashes. So there appeared at the third stage — which Rudolf Steiner called that of Intuition — the great mystery of Transubstantiation: spirit-birth from material death. The spiritual side of the world of matter revealed itself and instead of what we now call Chemistry, there appeared the choir of spiritual Beings, resounding and living in an indescribable radiance of light." — Ita Wegman, "The Way of Initiation in the Ancient Mysteries, and the Way of Knowledge in Modern Times", ANTHROPOSOPHY, A Quarterly Review of Spiritual Science, No. 4. Christmas 1930 Vol. 5.

Accepting Anthroposophy depends on intuition: Someone hears or reads Anthroposophical statements and just knows that they are true. This conviction is unarguable; it is not rational but intuitive. The heart sings, the spirit soars, and a convert has been made. The obvious problem is that people can intuit anything, including the conviction that Anthroposophy is bunk. The heart sings and the spirit soars for different reasons among different individuals. In reality, intuition is utterly unreliable, and Anthroposophy's dependence on it indicates the shallow emptiness of Anthroposophy. Hardheaded realists understand that truth is won through hard, rational explorations. When, during our search for truth, our hearts sing, we probably need to calm down and question ourselves carefully. A singing heart is a wonderful thing; joy is wondrous beyond description. But feeling or intuiting something is quite different from actually learning or knowing something. And happiness that is built on fantasy rather than truth cannot last; it is, at its core, false, so it must eventually collapse. True wisdom and true happiness can only be built on rational comprehension of reality: that is, on truth. When we base our lives on rational truth, then we may go to work finding real solutions to mankind's problems. And then one day our hearts may truly sing.

(Perhaps I should add that I do not reject Anthroposophy because of an intuition. I reject it because objective evidence and rational thought compel the rejection.)

[Traditional phoenix image from Blanche Cirker's 


(Dover Publications, 2001), p. 33.

What is the relevance of this image here? 

How does the bird rise from the ashes?]

Let's return to a point I made previously;

it is worth examining in more detail.

"If these ideas [i.e., Steiner's teachings] 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. "Anthroposophy 101" is Koetzsch's summary of Rudolf Steiner's basic teachings. We can all feel the deep yearning in Koetzsch's words — we all wish for the wonderful, the transcendent, the glorious. I feel such desires — 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.

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 possibilities.

Truth and reality have a great advantage — they are true and real. Anthroposophy is divorced from truth and reality. And to the degree that they embody Anthroposophy, Waldorf schools are divorced from truth and reality. The sad irony in this is that Steiner and his followers have ignored a truth uttered by Goethe, the man whom Steiner so much admired (and for whom the Anthroposophical headquarters, the Goetheanum, is named). Anthroposophy describes the universe as many of us would like it to be: a place of wonders, magic, transcendence, a place where the human being is the center of everything. In this sense, Anthroposophy represents an ideal. But it does not represent reality. And, as Goethe said,

"A confusion of the real with the ideal never goes unpunished."

The punishment Anthroposophists suffer, generally without realizing it, is that they waste their lives in a warm, hazy set of delusions.

To examine more of Rudolf Steiner's statements
about ordinary forms of thought or intellect,

For a look at the role brain chemistry

may play in spiritualistic belief, 

please see "Dopamine".

Many of Steiner's doctrines contain elements
that are little more than superstition. 
For an overview, see "Superstition"

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


A survey of the standard Waldorf curriculum

How they try to do it

Seven of them

How they get that way


English classes and history classes in a typical Waldorf school

The central mythology in many Waldorf schools: Norse myths

At Waldorf schools, ignorance is often taken as wisdom

The Waldorf curriculum: the arts, and festivals

How they paint and draw

The Waldorf curriculum: math

The antiscientific nature of Waldorf education

Class journals as created by students at many Waldorf schools

The Anthroposophical take on technology

No [external link]

The Waldorf curriculum: astronomy

Steiner on our solar system or "our universe"

A behind-the-scenes look at Waldorf education

Exploring the fundamentals of Waldorf schooling

Further explorations

Still further explorations

Talks between Steiner and Waldorf teachers

"Practical" tips Steiner gave to Waldorf faculty

Some of the illustrations used here at Waldorf Watch 
are closely related to the contents of the pages 
on which they appear; 
others are not 
— the latter provide general context. 


[1] 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.

[2] Rudolf Steiner, THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE, Foundations of Waldorf Education (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 61.

[3] 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. Sehttp://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.

[4] 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.  


[5] 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. 

[See http://waldorfcritics.org/active/articles/Hansson.html.] 

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.")

[6] 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.

[7] Rudolf Steiner, THE FESTIVALS AND THEIR MEANING (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1996), pp. 248.

[8] Rudolf Steiner, THE MISSION OF THE FOLK SOULS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2005), p. 64.

[9] 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.]


[10] A. C. Harwood, PORTRAIT OF A WALDORF SCHOOL (The Myrin Institute Inc., 1956), p. 24.

[11] Ibid., p. 17.

[12] Ibid., p. 18.

[13] Ibid., p. 24.

[14] R. Steiner, PSYCHOANALYSIS AND SPIRITUAL PSYCHOLOGY (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1990), p. 70.


[16] 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.


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.

[18] 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). 

[19] 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.

[20] Rudolf Steiner, CHANCE, PROVIDENCE, AND NECESSITY (SteinerBooks, 1988), p. 95. [See "Gnomes".]

[21] 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?"]

[22] Rudolf Steiner, LIFE BETWEEN DEATH AND REBIRTH (SteinerBooks, 1985), p. 207. [See "Mars" and "Buddhism".]

[23] Rudolf Steiner, POLARITIES IN THE EVOLUTION OF MANKIND (Steiner Books, 1987), p. 59. [See "Reincarnation".]

[24] Rudolf Steiner, ART AS SEEN IN THE LIGHT OF MYSTERY WISDOM (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1996), p. 105. [See "Guardians" and "Knowing the Worlds".]

[25] Rudolf Steiner, THE SECRET STREAM (Anthroposophic Press, 2001), p. 174.

[26] In using the word “escapist,” I am characterizing the belief system, not the adherents of the system. I do not claim that all Anthroposophists are escapists, only that Steiner’s doctrines invite escapism. Analogy: If I were to say that Communism is a lousy system, I would mean that Communism is bad, I would not mean that all Communists are louses.

The escapism inherent in Anthroposophy is reflected in the similarities between Steiner’s doctrines and fantasy fiction, including science fiction. As one of Steiner’s critics has written, 

"[Steiner’s] so-called ‘thinking,’ his supposed power of supersensible perception, led to a vision of the world, the universe, and cosmic history which is entirely unsupported by any evidence, which is at odds with practically everything which modern physics and astronomy have revealed, and which is more like science fiction than anything else.” — Anthony Storr, FEET OF CLAY (Free Press, 1996), p. 81.

[27] Paul Bloom, “Is God an Accident?”, THE ATLANTIC MONTHLY, December, 2005, p. 105, www.theatlantic.com . See also Robin Marantz Henig, “Darwin’s God,” THE NEW YORK TIMES MAGAZINE, March 4, 2007, at www.nytimes.com , especially the discussion of “the byproduct theory.”

[28] Randomness is generally repugnant to humans, yet it is a basic reality. For example, the primary law of the branch of physics called quantum mechanics is the uncertainty principal. [See, e.g., “uncertainty principle.” ENCYCLOPÆDIA BRITANNICA.] Likewise, a whole new branch of science has arisen studying the chaos or unpredictability found throughout nature. [See, e.g., “chaos theory.” ENCYCLOPÆDIA BRITANNICA.]

People have an especially hard time accepting the possibility that our own existence may result from random events. We reject this possibility almost with knee-jerk eagerness. Of course, it may be true that God or the gods created us, and that our lives have spiritual meaning. But our reflexive eagerness for spiritual affirmation does not, in itself, confer such affirmation. Indeed, Anthroposophists and others may flee to spiritualism not because they have good reason to do so, but because they are emotionally unable to bear the possibility that the universe is neutral and uncaring. 

“Darwin...had the intellectual toughness to stick with the deeply discomfiting consequences of his theory, that natural selection has no goal or purpose. Alfred Wallace, who independently thought of natural selection, later lost faith in the power of the idea and turned to spiritualism to explain the human mind. ‘Darwin had the courage to face the implications of what he had done, but poor Wallace couldn’t bear it,’ says William Provine, a historian at Cornell University.” — Nicholas Wade, “A Mind Still Prescient After All These Years” (THE NEW YORK TIMES, Feb. 10, 2009), p. D4. 

Turning to spiritualism because the evidence leads us to it would be one thing; turning to spiritualism because we can’t bear to face facts would be something else.

[29] In this context, it is important to remember than in science the word “theory” does not denote uncertainty, as such. A scientific theory is a well-developed explanation of phenomena, based on hard evidence. A theory may turn out to be wrong, in which case it will be replaced by a better theory, but it is not just a guess or a supposition.

The functioning of the brain eluded Steiner. Steiner taught that the material universe arises from the supersensible realm, the realm of spirit, feeling, and true cognition. He claimed that our minds have extraordinary powers, because of our connection to the spirit realm. Central to all his doctrines is the belief in clairvoyance. He also credited the existence of other mental “powers” such as telepathy and telekinesis (the power to move and alter physical objects by thought alone), which he said are produced by aging too fast. 

“[I]f a person falls victim to encroaching age too early...[l]ower forms of clairvoyance, such as telepathy, telekinesis and so on...occur....” — Rudolf Steiner, SOUL ECONOMY: Body, Soul, and Spirit in Waldorf Education (Anthroposophic Press, 2003), p. 132.

According to Steiner, the brain produces “materialistic” thinking. 

“When people are as blinded by materialistic thoughts as they became during the nineteenth century and right into the present, the physical body becomes a copy of the spirit and soul living in materialistic impulses. In that case, it is not incorrect to say that the brain thinks. It is then, in fact, correct. By being firmly enmeshed in materialism, we have people who not only think poorly about the body, soul, and spirit, but people who think materially and feel materially. What that means is that materialism causes the human being to become a thinking automaton, that the human being then becomes something that thinks, feels, and wills physically.” — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER, p. 115.

Such thinking leads to utter error, according to Steiner, and it has the most pernicious results. Note that Steiner describes the physical body as being a copy of the spirit and soul (he distinguished between these — here, I’ll use the shorthand “mind”). He argued that our minds not only can manipulate real objects, as in telekinesis, but they actually create real objects and beings. Bad karma arises from bad thoughts, feelings, and actions, and it may include bodily disfigurements, tumors, and illnesses. [See Steiner’s Quackery”.] A flawed body is a product of flawed impulses. Other unfortunate physical realities are also embodiments of mental, emotional, and spiritual errors, Steiner taught.

Our errors can also create real beings residing in the spirit realm. After we die, we meet the Guardians of the Threshold, which are manifestations of our errors. 

“[T]he false thoughts that have been produced stand there as living beings before one.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE OCCULT MOVEMENT IN THE NINETEENTH CENTURY AND ITS RELATION TO MODERN CULTURE (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1973), p. 125. 

We cannot get past the Guardians until we overcome the errors that they embody. Here’s part of what the first Guardian of the Threshold says to the human soul: 

“My being will be changed and become radiantly beautiful when you have made amends for all your wrongs and so purified yourself ... My threshold is built of every feeling of fear still within you and every feeling of reluctance in the face of the strength you need to take on full responsibility for your thoughts and actions. As long as you still harbor any trace of fear at directing your own destiny, the threshold lacks an essential element.” — Rudolf Steiner, HOW TO KNOW HIGHER WORLDS (Anthroposophic Press, 1994), p. 186. 

To find truth, according to Steiner, we must get beyond the brain and use clairvoyance, which he said is not located in the brain but in incorporeal organs of clairvoyance. But not just any clairvoyance will do. Just as material (intellectual, brain-bound) thinking leads to error and problematic realities, so does faulty spirituality. Truth can be obtained only through what Steiner called “exact” clairvoyance, which enables us to perform correct investigations of the spirit realm. The Guardians embody false spiritual investigations: 

“Just as thoughts are living realities, false results of investigation are real powers which are there directly one crosses the Threshold of the spiritual world [i.e., the Guardians, representing false spiritual investigation, are met as soon as one dies].” — Rudolf Steiner, THE OCCULT MOVEMENT IN THE NINETEENTH CENTURY AND ITS RELATION TO MODERN CULTURE, p. 125. 

The findings of exact clairvoyance are, in essence, nothing but Steiner’s doctrines — the strength and responsibility Steiner advocated boil down to following Steiner. (For more on the Guardians, see "Guardians". The first Guardian is our self-created barrier to the spirit realm; the second Guardian, originally forbidding, turns out to be Christ, who becomes our ally not our opponent.)

In the end, all that Steiner offers — aside from his self-promotion — is an elaborated version of wish fulfillment. Exercise the magical powers of your disembodied mind in order to get what you want, he advises. Have the right feelings, think the right thoughts, and you will control your destiny. Most of us would like to control our own destinies, of course. And certainly we all should take responsibility for our thoughts and actions. But only the rational use of the brain, directing us in constructive and compassionate action, can produce real benefits. To believe that our lives are entwined in mystical karmic forces, and to seek solutions in occultist fantasies, is a refusal to accept real responsibility for ourselves and our world.

[30] See, e.g., Benedict Carey, “Do You Believe in Magic?”, THE NEW YORK TIMES, Jan. 23, 2007, D1, www.nytimes.com .

[31] Richard Ramsbotham, WHO WROTE BACON? (Temple Lodge Publishing, 2004).

The book digs into the silly debate over whether Sir Francis Bacon is the real author of Shakespeare’s works. Ramsbotham’s conclusion — taken largely from Steiner himself — is that both Bacon and Shakespeare were actually the puppets of King James I, who is depicted as a mystic predecessor of Rudolf Steiner.

Temple Lodge Publishing is devoted to furthering “spiritual science, or anthroposophy, as founded by the Austrian thinker Rudolf Steiner.” [www.templelodge.com/pages/about.php]

[32] Ibid., p. 4.

[33] Ibid., p. 4.

[34] Ibid., p. 4.

[35] Ibid., p. 5.

[36] Ibid., p. 7.

[37] Ibid., p. 5.

[38] Ibid., p. 5.

[39] Ibid., p. 5.

[40] Ibid., p. 7.

Scholars are  — or should be  — engaged in the pursuit of knowledge. This pursuit is largely impossible within a system such as Anthroposophy, which rejects most real knowledge. Science tells us that the universe is not at all the sort of place Steiner described, which helps explain why Steiner and his followers denounce science. Steiner called the findings of science “scientific trash.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE RENEWAL OF EDUCATION (Anthroposophic Press, 2001), p. 94. Steiner similarly dismissed the work of “historians, sociologists, economists, and politicians” or, in general, “so-called educated people in the universities.” — Rudolf Steiner, SECRET BROTHERHOODS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2004), pp. 92 and 97. If Anthroposophists really prized truth, they would embrace the findings of science and other disciplines, but they do precisely the opposite. Virtually all real knowledge is antithetical to Anthroposophy. [See "Science".]

To recap: Knowledge is acquired through the use of the brain — except that Steiner denied this. 

“[T]he brain and nerve system have nothing at all to do with actual cognition....” — Rudolf Steiner, THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE, p. 60. 

Steiner advocated use of “exact clairvoyance” — e.g., THE TENSION BETWEEN EAST AND WEST (Anthroposophic Press, 1983), p. 40. "Exact clairvoyance" is an oxymoron, since there cannot be an exact form of a nonexistent faculty. According to Steiner, only thoroughgoing materialists think with their brains. Such people are essentially biological robots, and the results of their thinking is corrupted. [See, e.g., FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER, p. 115.]

In denying that real cognition occurs in the brain, Steiner separated his doctrines from reality and truth. The thinking of his followers necessarily suffers as a direct result. Consider, for example, Steiner’s follower Clopper Almon. An economist, Almon presumably employed his brain in his professional work — he was, presumably, a genuine scholar in the field of economics. But when he turned his attention to Anthroposophical matters, his thinking became extremely sloppy. Thus, for instance, substantiating Steiner’s view of evolution and refuting Darwin was simple for him: He merely went to a museum and eyeballed some exhibits. 

“I once spent two days in intense study of the fossils in the Natural History Museum in Vienna ... Darwin’s view of gradual evolution of lower into higher forms had no example that I could find to support it.” — Clopper Almon, A STUDY COMPANION TO AN OUTLINE OF ESOTERIC SCIENCE (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 73. 

This “intense study” — spanning a total of two days — was in fact anything but intense. It was cursory and brief. In no sense did Almon conduct any scholarly or scientific research — by his account, he studied no texts, engaged in no argumentation, took no classes, undertook no field work. Yet he and his editors found his superficial efforts sufficient for their purposes. Note that the product of Almon’s study is, for Anthroposophists, an extremely important book, a guide to Steiner’s magnum opus, AN OUTLINE OF ESOTERIC SCIENCE. So here we get a glimpse into the type of thinking that is found in important Anthroposophical publications.

On other occasions, Anthroposophists display more intellectual rigor than Almon did in this instance. But the overall truth is that Anthroposophists have a severe problem with truth. They subscribe to a philosophy and method of “cognition” that makes apprehension of truth nearly impossible. That’s their right, of course. But when they inflict the consequences of their preferences on others, especially children, the matter becomes serious. Children in Waldorf schools are far too often “educated” within the miasma of occult falsehood.

[41] Eugene Schwartz, WALDORF EDUCATION: Schools for the Twenty-First Century (Xlibris Corporation, 2000), p. 34.

[42] Rudolf Steiner, DEEPER INSIGHTS INTO EDUCATION (Anthroposophic Press, 1983), p. 17.

[43] Ibid., p. 21.

[44] Ibid., p. 21.

[45] Rudolf Steiner, ART AS SPIRITUAL ACTIVITY (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 256.


[47] Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 118.

[48] Rudolf Steiner, THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 62.

Imaginations are Steiner's alternative to ordinary thinking, such as rationality, logic, intellect. 

"[O]rdinary thoughts are inadequate to grasp what spiritual science [i.e., his doctrines] can investigate ... I assume you all know what I have said about imaginations ... It is these imaginations and not our ordinary ideas which we must have in our souls...." — Rudolf Steiner, THE DRUIDS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2001), p. 13.

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

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

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

"If the body conceptualizes as body, hallucinations arise.

"If the soul conceptualizes as soul, fantasies arise.

"If the spirit conceptualizes as spirit, imaginations arise." — Rudolf Steiner, THERAPEUTIC INSIGHTS (Mercury Press, 1984), lecture 3.


[50] Ibid., p. 80.



Note: John Fentress Gardner and A. C. Harwood had long, influential careers as Anthroposophical educators, lecturers, and authors. Several publications by both men are still available. Mr. Gardner’s career was interrupted by the scandal I have described — see “The Waldorf Scandal” — but he continued to write and publish thereafter. Richard Ramsbotham teaches drama at the Glasshouse College.


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


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

— R. R.


[R.R., 2017.]