Waldorf for the 21st Century

Anthroposophists in general — and Waldorf faculty in particular — tend to be secretive. But increasingly today they recognize the need to explain themselves, if only partially. Steiner’s texts are far more readily available today than they once were, and there is a growing body of literature describing — and advocating — Waldorf education. Examining this literature can be highly revealing. Occasionally, you will find straightforward statements of Anthroposophical beliefs. More often, you will come upon occultist terms that are used without a frank presentation of the underlying creed. And sometimes you will find apparently innocuous statements that have been carefully calibrated to conceal more than they reveal. You may agree with at least some parts of what you read, or you may find that looking below the surface reveals occultist concepts and practices that you abhor. In any event, acquainting yourself with Steiner’s doctrines should enable you to comprehend the works of modern Anthroposophists in a way that would be difficult if not impossible without such preparation.

Let’s examine a few examples. I will quote from some recent books by Anthroposophists, and I will offer a brief comment on each quotation. I will also provide links to relevant pages on this site. The overarching theme of this exercise should quickly become apparent: The mysticism that infected Waldorf education in the past continues to lurk within it today. Rudolf Steiner's occult preachments are being promoted today with as much fervor as they were Steiner's own day, if not more. What you are about to read represents the Waldorf belief system as it exists now.

Here are the main books I will quote from, along with their publication dates. All of them have been released since 1995, and all should still be readily available.

WALDORF EDUCATION: Schools for the Twenty-First Century (Xlibris Corporation, 2000).

MILLENNIAL CHILD: Transforming Education in the Twenty-first Century (Anthroposophic Press, 1999).

UNDERSTANDING CHILDREN'S DRAWINGS: Tracing the Path of Incarnation (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2007).


WALDORF EDUCATION: A Family Guide (Michaelmas Press, 1995).

I will also quote from some other recent sources.

OK. Examples. In an effort to clarify the Anthroposophical jargon, I will place central concepts in bold type.  

Waldorf schools famously emphasize the imagination. Why? 

“When a teacher gives imaginative pictures to a class each individual in the class can then transform these pictures into personal experiences which will form the foundation for a healthy and inspired relationship to knowledge. An education founded on imagination, as opposed to one that is a product of 'bits' of information [sic], permits children to develop flexibility in their conceptual lives. Education which is full of life and life's pictures is healthy education and acts as a seed for the future, both for the individual and human cultural and social life as a whole.” — Arthur M. Pittis, “Literacy, Not Just Reading”, an essay in WALDORF EDUCATION: A Family Guide (Michaelmas Press, 1995), edited by Pamela Johnson Fenner and Karen L. Rivers, p. 73.

Statements like this, using impressive terminology to express admirable purposes, are common in Waldorf public relations efforts. What do they actually mean, however? What, for instance, is "imagination" as conceived in the Waldorf universe? Rudolf Steiner taught that true thinking is a “pictorial activity”: It entails the formation of mental pictures. He was right to some extent, but he was obviously wrong in a larger sense. Many concepts, including concepts in philosophy, theology, mathematics, etc., cannot be pictured. [See, e.g., "Steiner's 'Science'".] Waldorf schooling aims at promoting clairvoyance, which is the alleged psychic power to form accurate mental images of spiritual truths or realities. This is what “pictorial activity” and “imagination” and “intuition” — words often used by Waldorf faculty members — are ultimately all about: clairvoyance. But clairvoyance is a delusion, it does not exist; and an educational program built on belief in clairvoyance is fundamentally flawed. It steers students and their teachers into fantasy realms, while loosening their grip on factual information about the real world (denigrated by Pittis as mere "'bits' of information"). Rather than providing a real education, Waldorf schooling directs its victims toward mysticism and falsehood. [See, e.g., Thinking Cap”, “Clairvoyance, andReality and Fantasy.]

"Rudolf Steiner describes how, in our development after physical birth, we human beings go through further 'births': 'Just as we are enclosed within the physical sheath of our mother up to the time of birth, we are enclosed in an etheric sheath up till the change of teeth, that is, till about the seventh year.'" — Michaela Strauss, UNDERSTANDING CHILDREN'S DRAWINGS: Tracing the Path of Incarnation (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2007), p. 51.

UNDERSTANDING CHILDREN'S DRAWINGS is a particularly startling book. Published fairly recently (the revised edition came out in 2007), it accepts Steiner's occultist views and applies them to the interpretation of innocent children's drawings. It accepts the etheric sheath, incarnation, the "I", clairvoyance, etc. — a welter of occult nonsense — as truth. (The "etheric sheath" is akin to the "etheric body," one of the three invisible bodies that Waldorf teachers believe develop during childhood. Until incarnation, the body is enclosed in the sheath. [See “Incarnation”.]) 

Here is a typical "insight" from UNDERSTANDING CHILDREN'S DRAWINGS, giving the Waldorf slant on what a child means when s/he draws a house. The child, according to Strauss, is telling us about the process of human incarnation. "In no other motif can one see the multiple experiences in the process of human incarnation as in the motif of the house." — Ibid., p. 58. [To dig into some of the subjects raised in such statements. see, e.g., "Incarnation", "Magical Arts", "Nutshell", and "Underpinnings".] 

A parent or teacher who follows the advice in this book will impose occult interpretations on a child's innocent activities, using these as the basis for misdirecting the child in ways that may be deeply, permanently harmful.

“Waldorf education holds that development has a meaning which cuts across different time scales and different kinds of being. The mythical and religious content of the earliest grades bring the child to the same wellsprings from which humanity began its great journey into awareness. Myth and religion are the parents of art and science, delivered of them by that dubious midwife, philosophy. Today art and science eclipse and usurp their elders, as if they were themselves characters in a Greek myth or tragedy. They have empowered us to stuff our world with facts and artifacts at rates whose increase may well prove pathological.” — Clifford Skoog, “Waldorf Education and Science”, in WALDORF EDUCATION: A Family Guide, p. 79.

This passage comes early in a chapter advocating the Waldorf approach to science. At its core, the Waldorf approach to science is antiscientific: Waldorf generally mistrusts science. [See "Science".] Myth and mysticism play far bigger roles in Waldorf schooling; science, “facts,” and “artifacts” (the products of human brainwork and industriousness) are considered generally sick or “pathological,” according to Waldorf doctrine. There is some truth in the Waldorf position, but there is also a lot of fallacy and error in it. Waldorf schools try to steer students away from the real world and into the fantasy world of Anthroposophy. The “mythical and religious content" of Waldorf schooling is, ultimately, Anthroposophy. [See, e.g., Steiner’s ‘Science’ andIs Anthroposophy a Religion?”]

(Why is philosophy “dubious”? Steiner is sometimes described as a philosopher, but actually he was a mystical occultist. [See, e.g., “Occultism”.] Intellect of the sort used in philosophy is almost always suspect in Anthroposophy and in Waldorf education. [See, e.g., “Steiner’s Specific”.])

When he was a child, Jack Petrash was taught “about the benefits of asbestos.” Later, of course, asbestos was identified as a carcinogen. On this basis, Petrash argues that schools should not place too much emphasis on teaching children facts. 

“This [e.g., society’s changed understanding of asbestos] is the obvious flaw in fact-based education. Whether we were taught about the solar system, the Soviet Union, or computers, much of what we had to learn in school is now outdated.” — Jack Petrash, UNDERSTANDING WALDORF EDUCATION (Gryphon House, 2002), p. 26.

Waldorf schools tend to be allergic to facts; Waldorf schools promote an occult perspective that is deeply at odds with factual reality. Steering children away from a rational perception of the real, factual world does them a grave disservice. Of course, “facts” can change — new discoveries can be made, new insights can be gained. But the way to deal with this is not to downplay facts, it is to remain abreast of the latest discoveries. Children need to be told the truth and equipped with the rational skills needed to perceive the truth. Waldorf schools tend to nudge kids in a very different direction. [In addition to some of the essays I mentioned above, see, e.g., Steiner’s Blunders”, “Truth”, “Manifestations, and More on Education.]

The Waldorf aversion to facts — that is, an aversion to knowledge as it is commonly understood — can be traced to Steiner's doctrines. Virtually all Waldorf attitudes and practices can be traced to those doctrines. Discussing the way Waldorf teachers should approach their work, Steiner said this:

"The Science of the Spirit [i.e., Anthroposophy] teaches us the art of forgetting ... All memorized matter should disappear from the mind to make room for an actively receptive spirit." — Rudolf Steiner, quoted by Eugene Schwartz in MILLENNIAL CHILD (Anthroposophic Press, 1999), pp. 150-151.

Memorization is, of course, not the end-all and be-all of education, but it certainly plays an important role. Memorizing some things (such as multiplication tables, or rules of grammar, or important historical dates) is necessary: The mind must be furnished with information. Steiner did not deny this, absolutely; but he argued against brainwork generally, including memorization. He taught that real knowledge comes from clairvoyance. The things the spirit should receive, according to Steiner, predominantly consist of "living thoughts" internalized by human beings before incarnation on the Earth. In effect, such thoughts are Anthroposophical doctrines — that is, Steiner's own mystical teachings. [See, e.g., "Thinking" and "The Waldorf Curriculum".]

“The human being is marked among the creatures of the earth by the capacity to experience him/herself as a self-enclosed being, as an ‘I.’ However, this distinction has been purchased at a price. That price is separation. We find ourselves living in a state of separation from nature, from other human beings, even from ourselves. This condition can be felt as a painful exile. It begets in us the desire to unite with that from which we are separated. A great longing for wholeness lives in our souls.” — Philip Wharton, “Festivals, Seeds of Renewal”, in WALDORF EDUCATION: A Family Guide, p. 143. The author adds, “We can learn to experience ourselves in the world, the world in us.” — Ibid., p. 144.

These comments come in a chapter discussing the festivals celebrated at Waldorf schools. The “I” is one of three invisible bodies that, according to Steiner, fully incarnated human beings possess. [See “Incarnation”.This is an esoteric or occult concept, having central importance in the religion of Anthroposophy. We have uniques spiritual identities, our "I's," which cause us to feel separate from the cosmos around us. To heal this sense of separation, Waldorf schools sponsor festivals such as the observance of Michaelmas. These festivals are colorful and attractive, often staged with trappings that may seem nondenominational. But at root they are religious observances. [See the section of festivals in "Magical Arts".]

Likewise, the idea that we can find “the world in us” is the Anthroposophical belief that human beings are microcosms, containing everything of value in the universe. [See The Center”] Our separation from the cosmos is thus an illusion. One way to express the purpose of Waldorf schooling is to say that it seeks to overcome the illusion of separation; it seeks to guide the individual soul into conscious connection with the multiple gods revered in the Waldorf religion: Anthroposophy. [See "Polytheism" and "Is Anthroposophy a Religion?"]

Wharton’s exposition of Waldorf festivals is rooted in Anthroposophical concepts, and it hints at the real agenda: leading students toward initiation in Steiner's (i.e., Waldorf's) occult belief system. [See, e.g., Inside Scoop.]

“The equinox is for us a turning point, a change in the relation of light and darkness in the world around us. On September 29th the autumn festival traditionally known as Michaelmas is celebrated. This festival is named for the Archangel Michael, conqueror of  the powers of darkness, the harvester of the deeds of human souls. It is at this time that the image of Michael with the dragon appears before us as a mighty imagination, challenging us to develop strong, brave, free wills, to overcome love of ease, anxiety and fear.  This demands inner activity, a renewal of the soul which is brought to consciousness in the Michaelmas festival, the festival of the will.” — Karen Rivers, “Michaelmas”, in WALDORF EDUCATION: A Family Guide, p. 145.

This is another reference to a Waldorf school festival, in this case what is often called the Fall Festival. Notice the odd use of the word “imagination” (whenever you find Waldorf schools using a word in a strange way, you should look for underlying Anthroposophical doctrines ). “Imaginations” are the mental pictures Steiner advocated, produced by clairvoyance. "A mighty imagination" is a glorious, true, clairvoyant image, according to Anthroposophical belief. At Waldorf schools, students are led toward the goal of developing clairvoyance through emphasis on imagination, dream, myth, fantasy, etc. The goal is erroneous, but Waldorf schools gear many of their activities toward it. 

Other points to notice: The “autumn festival” (like most Waldorf festivals) is essentially a religious ceremony (this one celebrates St. Michael); the “freedom” advocated by Waldorf schools boils down to freely following the tenets of a specific religion, Anthroposophy; the “will” is a faculty emphasized in that religion. [See, e.g., Magical Arts”, “Freedom, and Will.]

As for Michael: In Anthroposophical teachings, he is the Archangel of the Sun. He is a warrior god, fighting the forces of evil or darkness, symbolized as "the dragon." Michael serves under the Sun God, Christ. His greatest antagonist is the Sun Demon, Sorat (the Antichrist). However, Michael also fights against the terrible demon Ahriman ("the dragon" discussed in Anthroposophy is generally Ahriman). [To look into some of these Anthroposophical beliefs, which we find at the core of Waldorf thinking, see, e.g., "Michael", "Sun God", "Evil Ones", and "Ahriman".]

"The ‘four temperaments,’ first described by the classical Greek physician Galen...may be understood as the solution to the challenge of integrating the etheric body with its physical counterpart ... Rudolf Steiner attempted to describe them in terms of the fourfold human being 'Where the bearer of the I [Ego] predominates, a choleric temperament results. Where the astral body predominates, we find a sanguine temperament. Where the etheric or life body predominates, we speak of a phlegmatic temperament. And where the physical body predominates, we have to deal with the melancholic temperament.’ ... One of the most important characteristics of the Waldorf method is the degree of consciousness with which it works at helping these higher bodies integrate.” — Eugene Schwartz, MILLENNIAL CHILD, pp. 185-186.

Waldorf schools tend to segregate children on the basis of the four “temperaments.” The classical view of temperament, originating with the ancient Greeks, is false and was discarded by science long ago, but Waldorf schools often cling to such thinking. [See, e.g., "The Phlegmatic Sits by the Window".] Schwartz is to be praised for at least laying out some Anthroposophical doctrines clearly. According to Waldorf belief, people have four bodies (three of them invisible), and these are associated with the four temperaments. [See “Incarnation”.] Also, “one of the most important characteristics of the Waldorf method” revolves around these fantasies: working with the etheric body, astral body, and "I" of each student. [See the entries for these terms in The Brief Waldorf / Steiner Encyclopedia.] If these bodies existed, this might be commendable; but because they don't, it isn't.

Belief in the four temperaments and the four "higher bodies" is important for the Waldorf method. At best, then, the Waldorf method is a waste of time. At worst, the Waldorf method sucks kids into a severely irrational vision of the world and themselves. [See, e.g., Humouresque”, "Double Trouble", and “Waldorf Now”.]

“1) There’s a proper time and method for particular subjects to be taught. The child recapitulates the cultural epochs of humankind. 2) Reverence and respect for Earth is fostered. 3) Qualitative as well as quantitative dimensions in all things should be developed. 4) Above all, human beings are spiritual as well as physical beings.” — Peter Curran, TAMARACK TALK, Also see WHAT IS WALDORF EDUCATION?, a collection of essays by Steiner (Anthroposophic Press, 2003), pp. 21-22. The wording is slightly different, but the meaning is the same.

Like many pro-Waldorf statements, this one may seem to pass muster, at first. But dig a little, and you find Anthroposophical occultism. “Cultural epochs” are phases of mankind’s spiritual evolution, as described by Steiner — who knew all about it thanks to his “exact clairvoyance”. [See "Epochs" and "Exactly".] Moreover, children mature according to a process that recapitulates human evolution — which began during Old Saturn and will reach almost unimaginable heights during Future Vulcan. [See "Matters of Form".] Therefore, there is just one “proper method” — it is the Waldorf method, which is the occult Anthroposophical method. Hence, the Waldorf curriculum tends to be strictly structured with little or no room for individual explorations by the students. Kids are not encouraged to follow their own interests. Instead, all the children at a given grade level are expected to march essentially in unison. They are recapitulating a certain stage of human evolution; accordingly, they will be given what they need at the "proper time." All fourth graders stand at the level of the ancient Egyptians, for instance; all fifth graders stand at the level of the ancient Greeks; all sixth graders stand at the level of the ancient Romans; and so forth. [For overviews of the Waldorf curriculum, see "The Waldorf Curriculum", "Basement", and the entry for "Waldorf Curriculum" in The Brief Waldorf / Steiner Encyclopedia.]

"In its drawings the child describes for us different conditions of consciousness, which are parallel with those of the cultural epochs. Time divisions within the first seven years [of a child's current Earthly life] show this phenomenon in a larger context." — Michaela Strauss, UNDERSTANDING CHILDREN'S DRAWINGS: Tracing the Path of Incarnation, p. 20.

Here we have the concept of cultural epochs tied explicitly to varying forms or conditions of consciousness. [See the entry for "conditions of consciousness" in The Brief Waldorf / Steiner Encyclopedia.] This is central Anthroposophical dogma. Mankind is following a path laid out by the good gods and implemented by the secret "White Lodge." We gradually ascend from a nearly comatose stage of early evolution to an extraordinarily advanced stage when we will become God the Father. [See, e.g., "Everything" and "The White Lodge".]

This evolutionary path entails gradually moving from one form of consciousness to another. People used to be clairvoyant; most people have lost this power today; but in the future we will have it in spades. 

"Rudolf Steiner...shows the stages of humanity in the course of the history of civilizations, passing from 'dream-like clairvoyant' visions to a conscious perception of the surrounding world ... Are not children's drawings also impressions, 'footprints' on the path to human maturity?" — Michaela Strauss, UNDERSTANDING CHILDREN'S DRAWINGS, p. 18. 

As always, note the precise words used by Anthroposophists. "Human maturity" is something very different from the ordinary maturity attained by an ordinary individual. Here's what lies behind the statement we have just seen: 

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

“Must teachers be clairvoyant in order to be certain that they are teaching in the proper way? We may, indeed, need only the ‘clairvoyant’ faculties that we are already using without being aware that we possess them ... The teacher's faculty [of clairvoyance] must be cultivated and brought to a stage of conscious awareness on the part of the teacher.” — Eugene Schwartz, WALDORF EDUCATION: Schools for the Twenty-First Century (Xlibris Corporation, 2000), p. 17. 

Schwartz later adds, 

“Earlier in this book I spoke of the ‘everyday clairvoyance’ which allows us to perceive the activities of the ‘higher bodies’ of the human being without our necessarily being endowed with the degree of spiritual insight necessary to see the bodies themselves.” — Ibid., p. 34.

These quotations return us to subjects we’ve already touched on: clairvoyance, our invisible bodies, and the like. There’s no need to dwell on these matters except to stress that, indeed, occultism is basic to Waldorf schooling. You might contemplate what it would mean to have your child “educated” by people who think they are clairvoyant and who think your child has invisible bodies. Can true education be established on the basis of delusions? [See, e.g., "Occultism", Underpinnings”, “Basement, and What We Are.]

“When a school is based on a spiritual conception of the human being, a more diverse set of values become important ... Sometimes the important spiritual lessons at a school are not actually spoken; they simply are lived ... And yet, there are times when spiritual matters need to be addressed more specifically.” — Jack Petrash, UNDERSTANDING WALDORF EDUCATION, pp. 138-142.

Many people of faith would find little to quarrel with in these sentences. But all parents considering Waldorf schools should bear several points in mind: Whether or not you are religious, Waldorf schools are religious — and their religion is the occult worldview called Anthroposophy. According to Steiner, Waldorf teachers are in effect priests, ministering to their students. [See "Schools as Churches".] Anthroposophy will be in the schools, Steiner said, and such Anthroposophical beliefs as polytheism, astrology, karma, reincarnation, and so forth, will either be presented openly or they will form an unspoken basis for virtually all events and classes at the school. “Important spiritual lessons” will either be spoken aloud or fervently implied; in either case, they will be present. That’s what Waldorf schools are about. They are not primarily about giving kids a good education as that term is commonly understood. [See "Here's the Answer".] Before sending your child to a Waldorf school, you should make sure that you understand the school’s intentions. Learning about those intentions can be difficult. Steiner instructed Waldorf teachers to keep many of their beliefs and practices hidden from outsiders — among whom he counted students' parents. But because you love your children, you should make the effort. [See, e.g.,Faculty Meetings”, “Discussions”, “Secrets, and Prayers.]

Waldorf advocate Eugene Schwartz argues that parents should give mythological rather than rational answers to children's questions such as "Why does the sun turn red when it sets?" He offers this model answer: 

"All day long, Mother Sky watches with joy as her child, the Sun, runs over the world, shedding light and giving warmth, and playing hide and seek with his friends, the clouds. When the day ends, Mother sky calls the sun home...." — Eugene Schwartz, MILLENNIAL CHILD, p. 187. 

Schwartz's model answer is on the mark, as a presentation of the way Waldorf teachers often talk to young students. It is attractive in some ways, charming in some ways, and comforting in some ways. It is nonsense, however, and this should give us pause. Granted, young children need comfort, and they love fairy tales and myths. But bear in mind that Steiner said that all fairy tales and myths are true; he said that beings such as gnomes and fairies really exist. He also taught that the Earth, the planets, the sky, etc., are alive; he advocated astrology and horoscopes (when understood in his own way); he generally embraced ancient ignorance in preference to modern knowledge. Children in Waldorf schools may remain immersed in a deeply unrealistic, esoteric conception of reality long after leaving the lower grades. If Waldorf schools work as Steiner intended, the children will never emerge from this conception — rather, they will be converts to his religious teachings. [See, e.g., "The Waldorf Curriculum", "Thinking Cap", "Oh My Stars", "Oh My Word", and "The Gods".]

"This is an essential 'technique' of Waldorf education; at every seven-year developmental phase the teacher works intensively with one of the child's higher bodies, slowly weaving its activities together with the member [i.e., higher body] worked on in a previous stage of growth. What is distinctive about the Waldorf method is that it perceives the validity of each approach in the course of time, as a particular 'higher member' is dominant in effecting growth and maturation." — Eugene Schwartz, WALDORF EDUCATION: Schools for the Twenty-First Century, p. 35. 

Much of what we have already seen is recapitulated here. Waldorf teachers operate on the basis of esoteric fantasies that they accept as truths: they think human beings have more than one body, for instance, and they think that humans evolve or grow in accordance with a series of seven-year-long phases. [See "Most Significant".] All of this derives from ancient mysticism. Steiner adopted the concept of multiple bodies from Theosophy, which adopted the idea from earlier occult teachings. (Remember, for Steiner ancient ignorance is better than modern knowledge. [See "The Ancients".]) Likewise, Steiner subscribed to the ancient idea that seven (7) is a magic number — specifically, it is the number of perfection. [See "Magic Numbers".] Anthroposophy is full of enumerations centered on seven and other numbers believed to possess occult powers or meaning. All of this is bunk, yet it forms the basis on which Waldorf students are "educated." Mystics might wish to send their kids to a Waldorf school. All other parents should think twice (or seven times twice). [See, e.g., "What We Are", "Waldorf's Purpose", and "Horoscopes".]

"Children's first drawings follow a cosmic movement that knows neither the outside nor inside ... Soul processes find their expression in the realm of colour ... The drawings illustrate transitions and overlapping of the most varied realms of perception."  — Michaela Strauss, UNDERSTANDING CHILDREN'S DRAWINGS: Tracing the Path of Incarnation, p. 71.

Parents of Waldorf students need to recognize that teachers at their kids' school may assess the students based on dreams, "clairvoyance," horoscopes, and other forms of occult voodoo. [See "Dreams", "The Waldorf Teacher's Consciousness", and "Horoscopes".] The thesis of UNDERSTANDING CHILDREN'S DRAWINGS is that children may be comprehended through the occult indications discernible (by mystics) in the kids' artwork. Steiner taught — and Waldorf teachers believe — that children are born with memories of their past lives. [See "Thinking Cap".] Waldorf teachers try to help children preserve those memories, fending off at least to some degree the "narrowing of consciousness" that comes with full Earthly incarnation: 

"The narrowing down in the perception of cosmic realms through the acquisition of selfhood — the process of becoming an 'I' — resembles an incapsulating of the soul." — Michaela Strauss, UNDERSTANDING CHILDREN'S DRAWINGS: Tracing the Path of Incarnation, p. 52. 

As we have seen, Waldorf education tries to correct the separation of the self from the mystical cosmos.

Parents of Waldorf students need to recognize these things, and they should ask themselves whether they accept these things.

Waldorf teachers may look for signs of the students' past lives, karma, evolutionary status, level of incarnation, and so forth, in their class work. A teacher may decide, for instance, that a student is incompletely incarnated, judging (as we have seen) from a mystical interpretation of details in drawings and paintings. Here's one such incident:

"Controversy regarding the Steiner educational system surfaced in Australia in July 2007 when a number of parents contacted the media with concerns over whether the Steiner education system was based on a holistic or spiritual model. One parent, Ray Pereira, reported that he could not believe what he was hearing from the school faculty. His son's teacher had informed him that his child had to repeat prep because the boy's soul had not fully incarnated. She said 'his soul was hovering above the earth,' Pereira said. 'And she then produced a couple of my son's drawings as evidence that his depiction of the world was from a perspective looking down on the earth from above. I just looked at my wife and we both thought, 'we are out of here'." — Aron Raphael, CULTS, TERROR AND MIND CONTROL (Bay Tree Publishing,  2009), p. 114.

Waldorf beliefs can astonish the rational mind. (Recall Eugene Schwartz arguing that teachers need to be clairvoyant.) The Waldorf curriculum is largely centered on such occult fantasies as the gradual incarnation of invisible bodies. We may be inclined to think that, surely, Waldorf teachers really don't believe such things. They don't believe, surely, that occult truths are revealed in dreams, horoscopes, or even children's drawings. Surely.

But they do believe these things. 

"Children's drawings make visible the path of incarnation." — Michaela Strauss, UNDERSTANDING CHILDREN'S DRAWINGS: Tracing the Path of Incarnation, p. 84. 

Unless you want your children judged on the basis of mystical delusions, you should not send them to a Waldorf school.

Steiner taught that we have evolved through phases "on" Saturn, the Sun, and the Moon — and we will proceed to Jupiter, Venus, and Vulcan. Such teachings are still accepted by Anthroposophists today. 

"On the Sun, the human beings again emerged from their sleep. The previously developed Saturn consciousness was present in them as a predisposition. First they again developed it from this germ. One can say that on the Sun man repeated the condition of Saturn before ascending to a higher one. However, it is not a simple repetition which is meant here, but one in another form." — Rudolf Steiner, COSMIC MEMORY (Rudolf Steiner Publications, 1959), "On the Formation of the Earth", GA 11. The Kindle edition of COSMIC MEMORY (2010) is available now. "In the best tradition of ancient wisdom literature, Cosmic Memory reconstructs, from the akashic record, events that span the time between the origin of the Earth and the beginning of recorded history."

To understand what Steiner meant about evolutionary phases on Saturn, etc., see "Everything", "Matters of Form", and/or "The Brief Waldorf / Steiner Encyclopedia". "Saturn," "Sun", and "Moon" were evolutionary stages of the entire solar system; they were not the orbs that we see in the sky today (although the orbs that we see in the sky today are related to our evolutionary stages). It's complicated. And very mystical. And it lurks in the thinking upon which Waldorf schools stand.

There is a lot of pro-Waldorf literature 

in circulation these days,

most of it written by Anthroposophists and/or 

active or retired Waldorf teachers.

I urge you to get some of it and study it carefully.

Here are various Anthroposophical sources 

quoted on this page,

along with other titles that may also be of interest.

(I quote from, and discuss, 

some of the latter elsewhere 

here at Waldorf Watch.

See, e.g., "Serving the Gods" 

and "Basement".)

Some of these books and booklets are recent,

some are older. Some explicitly endorse 

Anthroposophical mysticism,

some are more circumspect. 

But all of them, taken singly and together,

indicate the continuity of Anthroposophical doctrine.

Not much changes with the passage of time:

Steiner's teachings remain central for 

Anthroposophists and Waldorf schools


Herman V. Baravalle, WALDORF EDUCATION FOR AMERICA (Parker Courtney Press, 1998).

Hermann von Baravalle, INTRODUCTION TO PHYSICS IN THE WALDORF SCHOOL (Waldorf School Monographs, 1959).

Hermann von Baravalle, RUDOLF STEINER AS EDUCATOR (St. George Books, 1960 revised edition).

Stewart C. Easton, MAN AND THE WORLD IN THE LIGHT OF ANTHROPOSOPHY (Anthroposophic Press, 1989).

Pamela Johnson Fenner and Karen L. Rivers, WALDORF EDUCATION: A Family Guide (Michaelmas Press, 1995).

John Fletcher, ART INSPIRED BY RUDOLF STEINER (Mercury Arts Publications, 1987).

John Fentress Gardner, THE EXPERIENCE OF KNOWLEDGE (Waldorf Press, 1975).

John Fentress Gardner, EDUCATION IN SEARCH OF THE SPIRIT (Anthroposophic Press, 1996).

Werner Glas, THE WALDORF SCHOOL APPROACH TO HISTORY (Anthroposophic Press, 1963).

Elizabeth M. Grunelius, EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION AND THE WALDORF SCHOOL PLAN (Waldorf School Monographs, 1966).

A.C. Harwood, PORTRAIT OF A WALDORF SCHOOL (The Myrin Institute Inc., 1956).

Jack Petrash, UNDERSTANDING WALDORF EDUCATION (Gryphon House, 2002).

Eugene Schwartz, MILLENNIAL CHILD (Anthroposophic Press, 1999).

Eugene Schwartz, WALDORF EDUCATION: Schools for the Twenty-First Century (Xlibris Corporation, 2000).

Michaela Strauss, UNDERSTANDING CHILDREN'S DRAWINGS: Tracing the Path of Incarnation (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2007).

Roy Wilkinson, THE CURRICULUM OF THE RUDOLF STEINER SCHOOL (Robinswood Press, 1990).

Roy Wilkinson, THE INTERPRETATION OF FAIRY TALES  (Henry Goulden Books, 1986).

Roy Wilkinson, RUDOLF STEINER: An Introduction to his Spiritual World-view, Anthroposophy (Temple Lodge Publishing, 2001).

Roy Wilkinson, RUDOLF STEINER ON EDUCATION (Hawthorn Press, 1993).

Roy Wilkinson, THE SPIRITUAL BASIS OF STEINER EDUCATION: The Waldorf School Approach (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1996).

Roy Wilkinson, TEACHING ENGLISH (Rudolf Steiner College Press, 1976).

Roy Wilkinson, THE TEMPERAMENTS IN EDUCATION (Forest Row, 1977).


It is important to realize that proponents of Waldorf education have varying degrees of knowledge concerning Waldorf schools' spiritualistic purposes. Some proponents are deeply committed occultists who know Anthroposophical doctrine quite well; some are far less knowledgeable; and many fall somewhere in-between.

It is also important to remember that Steiner's followers often take pains to disguise their beliefs from outsiders.

For these reasons, publications promoting Waldorf schools run the gamut from the openly occult to the apparently innocent. The works of Roy Wilkinson provide a useful case study. A longtime Waldorf teacher, Wilkinson wrote a series of curricular guides for Waldorf teachers. Some of these are largely free of occult concepts. But in other publications, Wilkinson revealed his distinct commitment to Steiner's doctrines. Consider, for instance, the titles THE SPIRITUAL BASIS OF STEINER EDUCATION and RUDOLF STEINER: An Introduction to his Spiritual World-view, Anthroposophy. In the latter, Wilkinson lays out Anthroposophical  ideology clearly. His topics include occult initiation, higher worlds, karma, reincarnation, the four temperaments, seven-year cycles, spiritual evolution, and so forth — a litany of Anthroposophical beliefs. He hails Steiner as the herald of a new age, and he explicitly ties Steiner's pronouncements to Waldorf schooling. Discussing human incarnation, for instance, he says 

"Thus we have marked periods of seven years and the advent of these different forces should be taken into account in education, as it is in the Rudolf Steiner schools." — RUDOLF STEINER: An Introduction to his Spiritual World-view, Anthroposophy, p. 37, emphasis added.

— Roger Rawlings