“As Waldorf teachers, we must 

be true anthroposophists.” 

— Rudolf Steiner, 



p. 118. 

“We certainly may not go 

to the other extreme, 

where people say 

that anthroposophy 

may not be brought 

into the school. 

Anthroposophy will be 

in the school....” 

— Ibid., p. 495. 


More Bottom-Up Exploration

of Waldorf Schooling

How can anyone take Rudolf Steiner seriously? It’s a puzzle. I’d like to think that most Waldorf faculty members — and, indeed, most Anthroposophists at large — have not carefully read many of Steiner’s books and lectures. Their devotion to Steiner's teachings, then, would be easy to comprehend, if irresponsible. They would have been exposed to only a pleasant, possibly expurgated sampling of Steinerthought. But I know that at least some Steiner devotees are thoroughly conversant with his doctrines, even the most far-out. They have studied, they have considered, and yet they believe. How can this be? 

The puzzle is sadly easy to solve. A choice is presented: the mundane, or the miraculous: the ordinary, or the extraordinary. It’s not surprising that many individuals prefer the miraculous and extraordinary, dazzling stuff that seems to hold out an immense promise. Vast numbers of humans seek this promise. Few of them join Steiner’s small sect; they find other, larger movements to satisfy their mystic yearnings. But our focus here is on Steinerism, which is dangerous in itself, and which provides a case study in the spurious satisfaction of a profound human desire. 

The nub is faith. What Steiner taught is utterly implausible, to rational minds. But he wasn’t addressing our rationality — he was addressing our dreams, our longings, our fears. Like innumerable other self-designated seers, he spoke precisely to our irrational nature, which unfortunately is far closer to the core of our being than is our thin, upper layer of logic. He struck deep, boring in on our immemorial, urgent rebellion against the limitations and sorrows of mortality. 

And, cleverly, Steiner made gestures toward reason and science. Don't believe what I say, he told his followers. Check, test. Use your own capacities to confirm what I have said. But the capacity required is clairvoyance, which does not exist. So faith is all his followers finally have — faith and, perhaps, self-deception, if they convince themselves that they, like their leader, possess clairvoyant powers. 

A distinction must be made between true faiths and false belief systems, true efforts to address mankind’s ills as distinct from gaudily packaged bottles of psychic hootch. Sincere, humble reverence for the divine deserves profound respect. But what of heretical, heterodox, or fabulist creeds? The latter are often more beguiling, but they provide nothing beyond a woozy placebo effect. The promptings of both reverence and reason should lead us to reject false prophets, among whom we should surely place Steiner. 

Let’s consider several of Steiner’s spiritualistic assertions that have particular relevance to Waldorf education. Steiner claimed to revere Christ. He claimed that Anthroposophy is a science, not a religion. He claimed that Waldorf schools are not religious institutions. I look into these matters on other pages here at Waldorf Watch, but because they are so central, they deserve further examination. As on the page I titled “Foundations”, in the following discussion I will draw heavily from books issued by the Anthroposophic Press in the series “Foundations of Waldorf Education". 



“During the first Christian period, that is, since the time the Mystery of Golgotha took effect upon the Earth’s evolution and gave it meaning, much that existed of the old ways had to recede and wait for humanity to later win them back.” — Rudolf Steiner, EDUCATION AS A FORCE FOR SOCIAL CHANGE (Anthroposophic Press, 1997), p. 37. 

Anthroposophists often assure us that Waldorf or Steiner schools are not religious institutions. Yet here we see Steiner speaking in Christian terms when delivering a series of lectures “that made it possible, two days later, to lay the spiritual foundations of the [first] Waldorf school.” — Ibid., p. xvii. Golgotha is Cavalry, where Jesus died. In Steiner's teachings, the “mystery” is how a god, Christ, inhabited the form of a man, Jesus; how He could unite with "earth forces"; and how He could change human consciousness to facilitate further human evolution. [See "Was He Christian?"] This is not a subject that would be essential to laying the foundations of a secular school; Steiner is signaling that Waldorf will be a religious institution. (And careful reading indicates that the religion in the school will be heretical: It will be Anthroposophy.)

Notice that Steiner gives an odd twist to Christ’s ministry: He says that the mystery of Golgotha gave the “Earth’s evolution...meaning.” Evolution is not a Biblical concept. Some Christian thinkers find ways to accommodate evolution in their belief system, but it takes some doing. Steiner, on the other hand, placed evolution at the core of his doctrines. 

“Evolution is the great theme of this book and, indeed, of Steiner’s life work.” — Clopper Almon, introduction to Rudolf Steiner's AN OUTLINE OF ESOTERIC SCIENCE (Anthroposophic Press, 1997), p. xii. 

Steiner did not follow established church teachings. His doctrines derive largely from Theosophy, Hinduism, gnosticism, and simple superstition. His reverence for the Bible was severely limited. [See, e.g., "Superstition" and "Sermon".] 

Steiner was not, in any normal sense, a Christian. But he did not adhere to science, either. His “evolution” is entirely different from the scientific, Darwinian account of the past: Steiner’s “evolution” is a spiritualistic process leading toward spiritual perfection. Anthroposophists often reiterate Steiner’s claim that Anthroposophy is scientific, distinguishing it from other spiritual disciplines. There’s something to be said for this notion, but not much. Steiner generally disparaged the work of scientists, even while claiming membership in their ranks. He told his followers how to check the accuracy of his statements, but this boils down to directions on becoming clairvoyant. In brief, while rejecting the findings and even methodology of science, Steiner posited invisible phenomena that can be checked only by a nonexistent form of cognition. Which is a run-around. [See "Knowing the Worlds".] Steiner posited spiritual "realities" and "truths" that cannot be confirmed. At both the beginning and end, Steiner's followers must rely on faith, not knowledge. They choose to believe what Steiner taught, as is their right. But no one should confuse faith with knowledge. Following Steiner is a choice of faith; it is a religious choice. What Steiner gave his followers is a religion. [See "Is Anthroposophy a Religion?"]

Returning to the Steiner quotation, above: What are the “old ways” that mankind has lost but will regain? First and foremost, clairvoyance: 

“The content of the ancient atavistic, instinctive view....” — EDUCATION AS A FORCE FOR SOCIAL CHANGE, p. 37. 

You see, 

“In the time of ancient clairvoyance human beings were far less illiterate in the spirit.” —Rudolf Steiner, ART AS SEEN IN THE LIGHT OF MYSTERY WISDOM (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1996), pp. 111-112. 

Imagination, intuition, and clairvoyance are always interconnected in Steiner’s teachings. Clairvoyance is real cognition, according to Steiner. His basic take on clairvoyance, as it applies to Waldorf schools, runs along these lines: ◊ People used to have a natural clairvoyance. [1] ◊ We need to become clairvoyant again. [2] ◊ Waldorf teachers, in particular, need to develop their clairvoyant powers, both as Anthroposophists and as educators. [3] ◊ The way to become really clairvoyant is to follow Steiner’s directions, that is, accept Anthroposophical dogma. [4] (It is quite remarkable how the answer to every issue Steiner raises is Steiner himself. Christians think that Christ has the answers. Steiner modestly admits that actually he, Rudolf Steiner, has the answers. He didn't claim omniscience, and he allowed for varying approaches to spiritual wisdom, and yet his words often contradict both of these shows of modesty.) 

There is a religion in Waldorf schools, and it is called Anthroposophy, which should not be confused with orthodox Christianity. From a Christian perspective, Anthroposophy is a gnostic heresy. [See "Gnosis".]


“What do most modern people mean when they say ‘God’? What kind of being do they refer to when they speak of God? What they mean is an Angel, their own Angel, which they call God!” — EDUCATION AS A FORCE FOR SOCIAL CHANGE, p. 91. 

You see, even on the subject of God’s identity, R. Steiner was right and most other people are wrong, according to R. Steiner. Modern people are especially wrong: They have God confused with a subordinate divinity. If you have this problem, there is fortunately an easy solution: Come to R. Steiner for the real lowdown. 

Steiner can hardly suppress his astonishment at the foolish error most moderns make (“their own Angel, which they call God!” — notice the exclamation mark — how could moderns be so dumb?). Ordinary Christian denominations, full of people making this dumb mistake, are in the dark, if we are to believe Steiner. Should modern-day Christians feel comfortable sending their kids to Waldorf schools? Only if they think that Biblical and church teachings are, in important ways, wrong. Jewish parents and all others parents aside from hardcore Anthroposophists should have similar misgivings. Confusing an Angel with God is bad enough, but even worse is the mistaken belief that there is only one true God. According to Steiner, there are many gods. Monotheism, he taught, cannot give an accurate picture of reality. [5] Oh, ye of false faith. You think your God is God! R. Steiner would lead your children in another direction. Steiner said that Waldorf teachers commune with numerous gods, and they know the real identity of these gods. [See "Polytheism" and "Serving the Gods".]

[What Steiner Offers] 

“In teaching, we bring the child the natural world, on the one side, and on the other, the spiritual world. As human beings, we have a relationship with the natural world, on the one hand, and the spiritual world on the other, insofar as we are earthly creatures and exist physically between birth and death.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 63. 

Waldorf schooling offers the whole ball of wax, the natural world and the supernatural world. Let’s take this in order:

The natural world, according to Steiner, contains such things as gnomes or goblins. [6] Nature also contains other surprises: The earth doesn’t orbit the Sun [7]; Great Britain floats [8]; cancer can be treated with mistletoe [9]; most of the higher animals evolved downward from human beings [10]; astrology is for real [11]; when you look at the Sun, you are seeing Christ's point of origin [12]; when you look at the Moon, you are seeing where Jehovah went [13]; dragons used to walk the Earth [14]; and so forth. The list is almost endless, but this is more than enough for now.

The spiritual world: Waldorf schools usually claim to be secular or at least nondenominational, yet somehow they manage to “bring the child...the spiritual world.” Steiner’s version of the spiritual world, revealed by clairvoyance, is inhabited my countless immaterial beings including Zeitgeists, Spirits of Form, Radiating Flames, and so forth. [15] There are multitudinous gods, in other words, and there are multiple regions (spheres, planes, worlds) within the broad spiritual world or spirit realm — most specifically, there is a soul world and, above it, a spirit world. [16] There are good gods and bad gods. Most of the gods have our welfare at heart; we are safe in their hands. But there is contention among some opposing types of gods, and various gods work on us in various ways. Some spiritual entities say to us such things as “I must dissolve you, suck you up and break you to pieces” — and these are the ones who like us! [17] We are fundamentally spiritual entities ourselves; the spirit realm is our true home. Our spirits are evolving, and different peoples stand at different levels of spiritual development. Different nations and races have different spiritual capabilities. [18] Before we are born, we live in the spirit realm, and we return there after death, but further along we will be reborn again on Earth: In fact, we have had many earthly lives before and we will have many more to come. This is not exactly what the Bible teaches; but reincarnation and karma are big for R. Steiner and Waldorf teachers, a point we will return to presently. 

[Education as an Extension of Life Before Birth] 

“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 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.” — THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE, p. 37. 

As we have seen, “higher beings,” for R. Steiner, include multiple “gods” as well as the sorts of friendly spirits who want to break us to pieces (for our own good, of course). So, Waldorf teachers must be aware that various higher beings have worked over their students before birth, and the teachers must now continue that good work. How do they know who the higher beings are and what they were doing to the kids before sending them to Earth? R. Steiner has the answers. And we can check him — all we have to do is become clairvoyant. 

Like their students, Waldorf teachers experienced a lot before their most recent births: 

“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.” — Ibid., p. 62. 

What exactly did the teachers experience before emerging from their most recent mothers’ wombs? If they can’t remember, R. Steiner will tell them. As for “pictorial activity,” this harkens back to clairvoyance, imagination, and intuition. The right way to think clearly is to imagine pictures of spiritual stuff. If you develop actual organs of clairvoyance, you will imagine really true spiritual stuff, just as R. Steiner did. [See "Knowing the Worlds".] Waldorf teachers should help children move toward clairvoyance, starting with imagination and maybe some wet-on-wet painting and a lot of eurythmy. If this is what you want for your child, Waldorf may be a good choice. If not, not. Remember Steiner's succinct summary of the Waldorf approach: “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.”

[Education as Evolutionary Preparation] 

“[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.” — THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE, p. 80. 

The work of Waldorf teachers is quite demanding. Not only must Waldorf teachers bear in mind what happened before they and their students were born, but they must know where future human evolution is heading. Only then will they be able to foster those tendencies in their students that will lead toward that glorious tomorrow. How can they know the future course of human evolution? R. Steiner knew, and he told them. [See "Everything" and the essays that follow it.] 

Steiner not only laid out a vision of future history, but he ranked various human capabilities that can contribute to the attainment of his vision. He knew what makes some human beings better than others: 

“A race or nation stands so much the higher, the more perfectly its members express the pure, ideal human type.” — Rudolf Steiner, KNOWLEDGE OF THE HIGHER WORLDS AND ITS ATTAINMENT (Anthroposophic Press, 1944), p. 149. 

Horrors lurk in these words. The words are racist. Equally severe, they suggest a grotesque form of spiritual eugenics. Waldorf teachers should strengthen in their students the qualities that have evolutionary value. All teachers, of course, try to promote good qualities in kids. But when the identification of “good” qualities depends on a fantastical, occult vision, serious problems arise. Students may be pushed in various directions for no sensible reason, if their teachers are guided by a spiritualistic fantasy. Some kids may benefit, if they seem to embody tendencies the teachers are looking for. These model students will feel pretty good about themselves. But what of the other children, those who do not seem to be headed for “the pure, ideal human type”? Dark-skinned kids, short kids, fat kids, kids without artistic ability, melancholics, left-handed kids, kids with learning disabilities, phlegmatics, kids who may not be really human... [19] Woe unto them. 

As I said at the start of this essay, it is possible (probable, really) that many teachers at many Waldorf schools do not subscribe to Steiner’s weirder pronouncements. Some may not even know what Steiner wanted them to accomplish as Waldorf teachers. But it is also probable that at least some teachers at most Waldorf schools do subscribe. True believers probably constitute the inner core of the faculty and administration at most Waldorf schools; elsewhere, in other Waldorf schools, subscribers may not have official authority. But in all cases, informed Anthroposophical true believers necessarily aim for the objectives Steiner laid out, and the official or unofficial influence of these believers within Waldorf schools is, to put it mildly, worrisome.

For the sake of argument, let’s momentarily take a dim view of everything. The universe is immense, dark, and — for the most part — empty. Within it, we lead short, meaningless lives. And, many fear, we are alone in the universe, the only “intelligent” species, friendless in the vast, dark emptiness. 

Steiner offered an attractive alternative. He described a universe in which almost everything — including the Earth — is alive. Spiritual entities are omnipresent, he taught: within our bodies, within and surrounding the Earth, within and transcending all of the populous cosmos. We have friends at every hand — and, it must be added, some enemies, which just goes to show how important we are. We are participants in spiritual hierarchies; our lives have a profound evolutionary significance; the future of the entire universe is bound up in our aspirations and fate. 

Many prophets before Steiner offered similar flatteries. We humans find such visions so comforting, we often prefer them to reality. Preference, however, is not the same as knowledge. Myths, occult teachings, and even fairy tales may feel intuitively “right” to us, but they do not show us the universe as our reasoning minds have found it to be. Substituting dreams for reality requires us to disregard the testimony of our rational brains — as Steiner repeatedly urged us to do. 

Of course, Steiner was not always wrong. His cosmology may belong in comic books, but sprinkled through it are grains of good sense. When he advocated love and kindness, for instance, he was onto something. 

“In everything we do out of love, we pay off debts! Seen esoterically, what is done out of love brings no reward, but compensates for value already expended. The only actions from which we gain nothing in future are those we perform out of true, genuine love...that is why deeds of love are done so unwillingly, why there is so little love in the world ... An advanced stage of development must have been reached before the soul can enjoy performing deeds of love ... To spread love over the Earth to the greatest degree possible, to promote love — that alone is wisdom.” [20] 

If we can look past Steiner’s characteristically turgid style, a passage like that is okay. More or less. Genuine love is selfless, and spreading love is the proper ideal. I commend RS for these propositions. (Although, as always, Steiner didn’t know when to leave well enough alone. ◊ Love is a form of debt payment. ◊ Seen esoterically (which may or may not mean anything), love brings no reward. ◊ Our souls don’t enjoy performing acts of love, but evolution will get us there... Many of us would quibble about these notions, or reject them outright. But let’s give credit where it is due (if only to pay off old debts): Steiner did advocate love. [21]) 

The kindliness we sometimes find in Steiner is offset, however, by other teachings. We need to balance Steiner’s kindly remarks against his forecast of a historically necessary showdown between higher races and lower races [22], his assertion that some people aren’t human but demons in disguise [23], and other less-loving doctrines. Darkness haunts Steiner’s words and works. We’ve seen multiple examples, and we’ll see more. Steiner’s followers may be able to grasp after the tidbits of love Steiner offered and ignore the dire implications of his invidious occultism, but those of us who aspire to objectivity — or who are considering sending kids to Waldorf schools — can’t afford that luxury.

Circling back, we can end this little sidebar by revoking our dim view of everything. Like other false prophets, Steiner served up an alternative to a dark and empty universe. But in truth, the real universe is neither lightless nor empty. And our lives, while brief, are not pointless. We occupy a universe full of beauties and challenges. The Earth alone swarms with forms of life, and as astronomers discover more and more Earth-like planets, the chance that only Earth harbors life becomes ever smaller. Of course, human life is often hard. Of course, we must often endure pain. But this is no reason to flee into fantasies. The real universe offers us almost unlimited possibilities to explore and develop. And it gives us so much to love — including each other. Surely, our lives have value, if only in the love we ourselves create. And we create it here, in the real universe. 

The real universe really ought to be enough for us. And it isn't so bad. Really.

Let’s continue documenting warning flags in Steiner’s statements, especially with reference to Waldorf education. The flags flap within Steiner’s cloudy generalities, but they are also discernible above his specific, down-to-earth assertions. Consider one of the latter, a mild remark Steiner made about an apparently innocuous, morally neutral topic: linguistics: 


“If you try to find a vowel by letting a, o, and u sound together, this expresses at first a feeling of fear, and then an identification with what is feared. This sound expresses the most profound awe. It is found in Asian languages and shows that Asians are able to develop tremendous awe and veneration, whereas in Western languages this sound is missing, since awe and veneration are not the strongest traits of Europeans.” — Rudolf Steiner, PRACTICAL ADVICE TO TEACHERS (Anthroposophic Press, 2000), pp. 20-21. 

A linguist might debate Steiner on the question of universal significance in vowel sounds, but we can let that go. Other portions of this quotation merit more attention, and alarm. Notice that Steiner lumps all Asians together and all Europeans together. Asians all have certain tendencies, as shown by their languages, while Europeans all have other traits. Sometimes Steiner distinguished between members of racial subgroups, as when he eulogized Germans [24] and anathematized the French [25]. But here he speaks in very broad terms, lumping all members of various races together: All Asians are this, all Europeans are that. This is racism. If Steiner discussed differences between peoples as a matter of culture, we could let it pass. But he always stressed racial, not purely cultural, differences. In a sense, Steiner said, individuals don't really exist — we are merely expressions of the "souls" of our families, nations, and races. 

"The person belongs to a family, a nation, a race ... [I]individuals are merely the executive organs of these family Group Souls, racial Spirits and so on ... In the truest sense, every individual receives his allotted task from his family, national or racial Group Soul." — KNOWLEDGE OF THE HIGHER WORLDS AND ITS ATTAINMENT, pp. 141-142. 

Anthroposophists sometimes defend Steiner by saying that he didn’t hate any races; he advocated love, as we have seen. But racism is not synonymous with hatred or bigotry. The central error in racism is intellectual, not emotional. A racist assigns all individuals to racial categories and then makes judgmental generalizations about those categories, asserting that members of different races have different mental, physical, and even spiritual characteristics. In the USA, it was long perfectly acceptable to assert that blacks are childlike, hence they are suited for slavery or at least menial submission to whites. A racist denies people’s human dignity and rights, seeing them not as individuals but as essentially indistinguishable representatives of a pack. Remember Martin Luther King’s dream: that people be judged not according to the color of their skin but according to the content of their characters. Waldorf teachers often say that they honor the individuality of each student, and perhaps they try to do so. But to the degree that they follow Steiner's lead in such matters as race, temperament, and other characteristics that divide individuals into defining categories, they cannot truly honor individual difference. 

Returning to Steiner’s statement, above, note that the differences he lays out between races are matters of spiritual capacity or inclination. Asians, as a race, are “able to develop tremendous awe and veneration,” while Europeans, as a race, have other, contrasting traits. This is racism of a particularly damaging sort. We begin to see that Steiner posited a hierarchy of races, with some races deemed higher or more mature than others. [See "Steiner's Racism" and "Rankings".] 

Undeniably, there really are some minor, statistically verifiable differences between people of differing extraction. American Afro-Americans are more prone to sickle cell anemia than American Caucasians are, as a rule. Pointing this out is not racist. But making an unsubstantiated assertion that American blacks are less intelligent than American whites is clearly racist. And making an equivalent assertion in matters of spirit (such as that blacks or Jews or Asians are deficient in spiritual aptitude) is aggravated racism, the sort of smear that can be almost impossible to remove because it deals with matters that cannot be measured. That’s what we find here in Steiner’s words: Asians have different spiritual characteristics than Europeans. The races are different in profound, invisible, but very important ways. It makes no difference whether Steiner said such things with a beatific smile on his face and a song in his heart. His assertions are racist.

[Physics, Schmysics] 

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

Steiner frequently dismissed the hard sciences: physics, chemistry, etc. Sometimes he explicitly asserted that scientists are wrong about this or that — as in 

“[T]he heart is...not a pump as physicists claim.” [26] 

Sometimes he partially masked his disdain for scientists by extending backhanded compliments, as in 

“I have already spoken to you of the ingenious description of the sun given by astrophysicists.” [27] 

Scientists can cook up clever, false descriptions of reality, Steiner said, but only spiritual seers such as modest R. Steiner himself can tell us what is really what. 

Steiner told Waldorf teachers to treat gravity as merely a word. [28] In our present example, giving “practical advice to teachers,” Steiner goes even further. Gravity is “really meaningless,” he says. But, unfortunately, Waldorf schools must cover the subject of gravity — people would kick up “a terrible fuss” if Waldorf students were ignorant of the such a basic, widely recognized physical force, and Steiner was avid to avoid public ridicule. (Odd, when you think of it: He insisted on pushing ridiculous doctrines, which naturally invite ridicule, but he did not want to seem ridiculous.) [29]


Steiner then says something very revealing. Waldorf teachers are to work on students’ subconsciouses, awakening “beautiful concepts” in the kids. What beautiful concepts? Not the beautiful concepts of physics, with its superb hypotheses and laws. Not the aesthetic beauty of art, either. Steiner explicitly taught that art is a tool for occult revelations, a medium for spiritual entities to enter the physical realm. Aesthetics divorced from esotericism is worthless, in his view. [See “Magical Arts”.] 

The beauty Steiner wants Waldorf teachers to convey to the subconscious minds of their students is provided by the only thing that is truly true and beautiful: Anthroposophy (according to the founder of Anthroposophy). Waldorf teachers are to work on their students’ subconscious minds, quietly, leading them toward an unspoken mindset that understands, deep down, that gravity doesn’t really exist, that hearts don’t really pump blood, that the Earth doesn’t really orbit the Sun, etc., even if the teachers have to pretend otherwise, for PR purposes. 

Think about these teachers’ students. The poor kids.

[Postponing Knowledge] 

“Mineralogy, physics, and chemistry should not be introduced before...the twelfth year. The only intellectual occupation not harmful during the earlier ages is arithmetic.” — Rudolf Steiner, WALDORF EDUCATION AND ANTHROPOSOPHY, Vol. 1 (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 186.

Postponing the acquisition of knowledge about the real world is a basic goal for Waldorf education, as conceived by Steiner. If possible, such knowledge should be postponed forever, i.e., excluded (because it is wrong, as in the case of gravity). But since this is not practical (due to the intrusive demands of parents and society at large), various subjects must be taught, eventually, but as late as possible. No reading before age seven. No physics before age twelve. And so on. 

Steiner taught that young children have intuitions of the spirit realm. Waldorf teachers should help their students to prolong those intuitions, which requires keeping the students’ critical faculties dormant and shielding them from the damaging effects of intellectual occupations. What this boils down to is that one major purpose of Waldorf “education” is to keep the kids from being educated. [See "Thinking Cap".]

According to Steiner, science (intellect, reason: truth) should not enter the Waldorf curriculum until the sixth or seventh grade, when kids are 12. By then, of course, the minds of longtime students at genuine Waldorf schools may be so thoroughly shielded against real-world information that the findings of science will bounce off. (A student who begins schooling in a Waldorf kindergarten will have had eight years of Waldorfery by the end of the sixth grade.) Even after sciences begin to be presented in a Waldorf curriculum, they are likely to be dumbed down. The astronomy course often provided in Waldorf sixth grades contains scant real information about the real constituents of the sky. [See “Oh My Stars”.] My teachers began injecting mild doses of science at about the sixth grade, but by high school they were also assigning and recommending such books as THE FAILURE OF TECHNOLOGY and SCIENCE IS A SACRED COW. [30] 

Steiner’s claim that real thinking does not occur in the brain is a corollary to his assertion that true cognition is clairvoyance. [31] “Physical thinking” is for materialists only, he said. [32] “Spiritual thinking” is the real stuff. Some forms of spiritual thinking occur when one is unconscious or at least asleep, [33] but they assuredly do not occur when one employs logic. [See “Thinking”, “Steiner's ‘Science’”, and “Steiner’s Illogic”.] When Waldorf teachers speak of developing children’s intuitive or imaginative faculties, they are aiming at Steiner’s nonrational 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.” [34] 

This soft-pedals Steiner’s teachings: For Steiner and his followers, thinking such as intellection, occurring in the brain, are not true forms of cognition. The "intuitive faculties" tower over the intellect. [See "Steiner's Specific".] My old headmaster added, 

"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." [35] 

This is closer to the real Waldorf view. Children should not be encouraged to think critically (i.e., rationally, probingly) — they should be led to "understand" the things that Anthroposophists understand, unhindered by use of the reasoning brain. They should "independently" have the same "insights" that their mystical teachers have.

Remember that at Waldorf schools, imagination, inspiration, and intuition are intimately linked to clairvoyance. “Trained” intuitive faculties become a steppingstone toward — or they actually become — clairvoyance. Steiner gives elaborate step-by-step instructions in how to attain clairvoyance in such books as KNOWLEDGE OF THE HIGHER WORLDS AND ITS ATTAINMENT. The efficacy of the instructions is highly questionable, given that clairvoyance is almost certainly a fantasy. But if you want to become psychic, then you should stop relying on your brain and develop organs of clairvoyance instead. [36] Give it a try. [See "Knowing the Worlds".]

Anthroposophist A. C. Harwood summarized much of the Anthroposophical perspective by writing that children come into the world with fresh memories of the spirit realm. The task of a Waldorf school, then, is to help the students retain as much intuitive knowledge of spiritual matters as possible. This means working to keep the children mentally immature. [37] 

Such an “educational” philosophy should give us pause. Is it really best to keep children from growing up? Are unproven intimations of spirit realms really preferable to a sensible comprehension of the real world? Contemplate whether an education aiming at intuitive/imaginative/clairvoyant “thought” is likely to equip individuals for life in the real world. Contemplate whether an educational method that fails to equip children for their real lives is in any conceivable sense desirable. If you ask me, a former Waldorf student, my answer is... But I’ll leave my answer to your imagination. 

[Healthy Debate] 

“No person is held qualified to form a judgment on the contents of this work, who has not acquired — through the School of Spiritual Science itself or in an equivalent manner recognized by the School of Spiritual Science — the requisite preliminary knowledge. Other opinions will be disregarded....” — Prefatory note to such Steiner books as CHRIST IMPULSE AND DEVELOPMENT OF EGO-CONSCIOUSNESS; SECRETS OF THE THRESHOLD; COSMIC AND HUMAN METAMORPHOSES; WONDERS OF THE WORLD; THOUGHTS ON EASTER; INNER NATURE OF MAN AND LIFE BETWEEN DEATH AND REBIRTH; etc. [38] 

This is a crucial point. You should always remember that everything I say is inadmissible, since I am not an Anthroposophist. The only people who are qualified to comment on Steiner’s doctrines are people who accept Steiner’s doctrines. If that seems like circular reasoning to you, maybe this will help: To understand Steiner, you need to start at the end, by accepting Steiner’s teachings; this will enable to you go back to the beginning and decide whether to accept Steiner’s teachings. 

The prefatory note I’ve quoted, above, tells us a great deal about the value Anthroposophists place on free and open discussion, rational inquiry, and the value of evidence. The value they put on it is zilch. They claim that, like Steiner, they are “spiritual scientists” who investigate the universe in a thoroughly scientific manner, although they aren’t prepared to engage in reasoned debate. Imagine a physicist announcing that he has discovered cold fusion, but he will only show you his work if you agree beforehand that his work is correct. The scientific method consists of careful observation and measurement followed by testable hypotheses that lead to the development of explanatory theories. The key word is “testable.” If you have discovered cold fusion, science requires you to say what steps you followed so that others can take the same steps to confirm or challenge your results. If, checking up on your cold fusion claim, I follow your steps and do not get the same results, you cannot say that my test is inadmissible because only people who believe in cold fusion can get the right results. People who don’t believe that hearts pump blood are just as prone to heart attacks as the rest of humanity (or maybe more so). Beliefs do not change facts. Sensible beliefs must be consistent with facts.

[Healthy Humor] For the most part, Steiner’s work is devoid of humor, as is the work of many Steiner acolytes. I was taught by followers of Steiner for many years. I can honestly report that I can recall almost no humor entering our classes, with one notable exception. One of our science teachers (physics and chemistry) did crack jokes at science’s expense. I remember enjoying his classes not because I learned much about science (I didn't) because science was presented as vaguely goofy. (This teacher is the one who promoted the book SCIENCE IS A SACRED COW.) 

The absence of humor in Waldorf classrooms is a problem Steiner himself noted and tried to correct: 

“[H]umor is missing in the classroom ... You must have humor. Humor is the soul’s exhaling.” — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 364. 

I could say a lot about this subject, but — much to your relief — I won't. Not much, anyway. 

Steiner did have a sense of humor, although his "jokes" (which we find mainly in the talks he gave, condescendingly, to workmen and laborers) are singularly unfunny, at least at this distance. If teachers have senses of humor, they should use them. If they don't, they don't. Telling teachers that they should "have humor" is unlikely to bear much fruit. A person either has humor or s/he doesn't. Anthroposophists, for the most part, are grimly serious about their beliefs and their endeavors. They see nothing funny in these. In a way, neither should we. (Although, in another way...)

We should circle back to the subject of religion (i.e., Anthroposophy) as found/hidden at Waldorf schools. 

[Fate, Human Destiny, and Reincarnation] 

“[In] the upper four grades, we need to discuss the concepts of fate and human destiny with the children ... You will need to speak with the children about all kinds of fates, perhaps in stories where the question of fate plays a role ... I also want you to understand what is really religious in the anthroposophical sense. In the sense of anthroposophy, what is religious is connected with feeling ... [A] worldview itself is something for the head, but religion always arises out of the entire human being. For that reason, religion connected with a specific church is not actually religious ... Following the questions of destiny, you will need to discuss the differences between what we inherit from our parents and what we bring into our lives from previous earthly lives.” — FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER, pp. 44-46.

Here, once again, we see Steiner telling Waldorf teachers how to present Anthroposophy in the school. Steiner’s doctrines of “fate,” and “human destiny,” and reincarnation (“previous earthly lives”) are part of the subject matter. Steiner also clarifies what Waldorf teachers so often hide: From the perspective of Anthroposophy, religions associated with churches are “not actually religious.” To get real religion, one must attend to Steiner's doctrines. And to understand ourselves, we need to realize that the ties between parents and their kids are less important than is often thought: Kids are more the product of their past lives (karma, reincarnation) than the product of their parents. So churches and parents decline in importance while Steiner, his dogma, and his followers — in particular, Waldorf teachers — inflate. 

A tangent: Note that as so often, Steiner downplays intelligence (“the head”) in favor of subjectivity and emotion (“feeling”). This is certainly a questionable approach for education, but even in the field of religion, it is largely bogus. Children preparing for full entry into a church, temple, or mosque are quite properly given intellectual instruction: They learn the central doctrines of their faith. Certainly emotion is involved, especially in reception of spiritual inspiration. But downplaying the role of the head in religious faith makes sense only in an anti-intellectual context, which Anthroposophy generally is. One reason Waldorf schools often refrain from explaining Anthroposophical doctrine is explained by these concepts. The schools want to move the kids toward Anthroposophy, but they want to do this in their hearts more than in their heads.

[Reincarnation, the Sequel, or What Goes Around...] 

“[T]he object of evolution through successive earthly lives is gradually to make the whole individual, including the conscious part, into an expression of the powers ruling him without his knowledge under the influence of the spiritual world during the first years of life.” — Rudolf Steiner, UNDERSTANDING THE HUMAN BEING (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1993), pp. 76-77. 

This statement explains why Waldorf education aims to keep children mentally immature. We enter this life under the control of spiritual beings — i.e., gods. At first we don’t know it consciously, but later — if raised in the Waldorf way — we will. 

According to Steiner, the plan laid out for us by the gods is that we will evolve spiritually through a long series of lives, some occurring in the physical realm and some in the spiritual. The periods we spend in physical reality are necessary but they are also potentially harmful, since we really belong in the spirit realm and are heading back to it in the long run. 

Some of this accords with conventional religious beliefs, but some does not. If you can accept the ideas of spiritual evolution, reincarnation, and multiple gods, paired with a contradictory emphasis on the one most important God, Christ (the Sun God), Waldorf may be what you’re looking for. Otherwise... 

Let’s consider what a belief in reincarnation entails. In India, where the caste system is entrenched, members of higher castes are believed to merit their privileged status: They enjoy the rewards for their virtuous behavior in previous lives. Members of lower castes similarly are reaping the consequences of their past lives, which in their cases are dire. Lowly individuals receive their karmic due; they suffer the penalty for errors or outright sins committed in past lives. What makes this especially cruel, of course, is that these past lives are entirely fictitious. But according to the doctrine of reincarnation, the effects of (imaginary) past lives are paramount. Thus, upper-caste individuals generally should not “help” those below them, for that would hinder the lowly from working out the consequences of their former (imaginary) mistakes. In other words, the doctrine of reincarnation institutionalizes discrimination and oppression. Just ask India’s “untouchables.” (We should acknowledge that strong efforts are being made in India to reform or abolish the caste system. But the system and its consequences persist in many ways. Steiner knew of the caste system. He taught that 

“the differentiation of humanity does not occur in such a manner that one portion is predestined for a lower rank than another." — Rudolf Steiner, THE SPIRITUAL FOUNDATION OF MORALITY (Anthroposophic Press, 1995), p. 28. 

But he also said that things got messy in ancient Europe where 

“no proper appreciation of the caste system of India could develop. The people became all mixed together." — Ibid., 29. 

That was bad, since 

“Evolution is possible only by means of differentiation and separation." — Ibid., p. 25.) 

Anthroposophy’s devotion to reincarnation/karma can damage Waldorf students, especially those who suffer from disease or difficulties of "temperament." In Anthroposophy, helping or curing these sufferers is often considered an error — the karma of past lives must be carried through, without hindrance, if a soul is to purge itself, pay its penalty, and then advance.

Whether or not Waldorf teachers instruct their students about reincarnation, the teachers’ belief in this doctrine should shape their classroom work. No conscientious teacher would want to consign students to lower evolutionary levels in their coming lives. So Waldorf teachers should accept each student’s current state of evolutionary development and help him/her to move through it, with the hope that s/he will climb higher in the lives to come. Contemplate what this amounts to in practice. A kid is alive now — this (to speak sensibly for a moment) is her or his only earthly life. This is it. Shouldn’t we help a child to make the most of it? Shouldn’t we help the child to recover from any disease, ease his/her pains, and lighten the load borne by small shoulders? So it would seem — and in some cases, indeed, Anthroposophists would agree. But in many other cases, no, they disagree. (We’ll return to this point in a moment. We are touching, here, on one of the many inconsistencies in Anthroposophical belief.) To the extent that reincarnation is the overriding principle in Waldorf schooling, karma must be allowed to run its course. 

[For more on the harm arising from the doctrine of reincarnation, see “Steiner’s Quackery”.]

[True and False] Steiner said that the task of Waldorf teachers is primarily spiritual and/or messianic: 

“[W]e should neglect no single opportunity of quickening the inner life of soul and spirit.” — Rudolf Steiner, DEEPER INSIGHTS INTO EDUCATION (Anthroposophic Press, 1983), p. 17. 

To do this, Waldorf teachers need to develop 

“the Waldorf teacher’s consciousness” 

which is 

“hardly present anywhere else in the world” — Ibid., p. 21. 

This unique consciousness will restore 

“what humanity has lost in the last three or four centuries.” — Ibid., p. 21. 

What has been lost? As Steiner often explained, modern humankind lost the old, intuitive clairvoyance that our ancestors once enjoyed. Or put it this way: 

“The goal of all our educational thinking must be to transform thinking so as to rise fruitfully from the level of physical thinking to spiritual thinking.” — Ibid., p. 29. 

Steiner was not saying that Waldorf teachers and students should simply be aware of spiritual truths. Rather, he asserted that they should think in a completely different way from ordinary, rational folks: They must transcend “physical” thinking (which occurs in the physical organ, the brain, and at best is prosaically logical) in order to embrace “spiritual” thinking (which does not occur in the brain but in nonphysical organs of clairvoyance, or in the spirit or soul, and is not confined by logic). Moving to “spiritual” thinking makes such things as reason and even truth irrelevant. 

“The concepts of ‘true’ and ‘false’ are dreadfully barren, prosaic, and formal. The moment we rise to the truths of the spiritual world, we can no longer speak of ‘true’ and ‘false’....” — Ibid., p. 29.  

Jettisoning basic logical categories is, obviously, desirable for one who traffics in nonsense, as Steiner did. If we agree that nothing is really right or wrong, then Steiner cannot be shown to be wrong. This is another of Steiner’s numerous efforts to shield himself from attack. But notice the self-contradiction in his statement. Nothing in the spiritual world is true, a truth that becomes obvious to us when we recognize what is true in the spiritual world: “The moment we rise to the truths of the spiritual world, we can no longer speak of ‘true’....” Steiner was often his own worst enemy. He purported to tell us the truth about a region in which there is no such thing. Ah, well. 

Anthroposophists will rush to Steiner’s defense, arguing that Steiner preferred the terms “healthy” and “ill” instead of “true” and “false” for spiritual matters. This is perfectly true (or “healthy”), but it changes nothing. Steiner taught Waldorf teachers that they should not so much teach their students as minister to them, leading them to “health.” This runs contrary to the notion of allowing karma to run its course, so Waldorf teachers must walk a fine line, patching up their students sometimes and leaving them to their fates in other instances. Deciding when to do which is tricky — it can only be achieved by teachers who develop great powers of clairvoyance.* Steiner did offer some guidelines, however: Minimize rational thought, minimize carbonic acid, and save the world: 

“If a human being is occupied only with intellectual work, the process of the formation of carbonic acid is strongly stimulated in him; the upper organism [mainly the head] is saturated with carbonic acid [sic] ... Processes of illness and health are continually taking place in the human organism, and everything a person does or is guided to do has its effect upon these processes. From this knowledge must be created a feeling of responsibility and a true consciousness of one’s purpose as teacher [sic] ... In fact, as teachers we are co-workers [with spiritual powers] in the actual guidance of the world.” — Ibid., p. 41. 

Parents should consider Waldorf schools for their children only if they approve of teachers who are (or think they are, or think they should be) clairvoyant, and who believe their mission is not primarily educational but messianic.

— Roger Rawlings

* Actually, Waldorf teachers may also use such tools as dreams and horoscopes, among other tools. [See, e.g., "Dreams" and "Horoscopes".]

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.

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. 

Spiritual order and harmony.


An Anthroposophical image of thinking or consciousness, in the form of a caduceus. 

“A living thought comes to us: Just as my thought is alive, so too the force that lives in and drives the plant seed must be inwardly alive. Soon this thought becomes for us a raying out of light." — Rudolf Steiner, ESOTERIC LESSONS 1904-1909 (Steiner Books, 2007), p. 400. 

[R.R. sketch, 2009, 
based on b&w image on p. 401.]

At the bottom of the caduceus: ordinary day consciousness, associated with the astrological symbol for the Earth; ascending, to the left, the Moon, and to the right, Jupiter; at the first intersection, "picture consciousness"; ascending, to the left, Venus, and to the right, the Sun; at the second intersection, "sleeping consciousness"; ascending, to the left, Saturn, and to the right, Vulcan (no symbol); at the top, "deep trance."




[R.R., 2010.]

Nature, with nary a goblin, on a continent

firmly anchored to the planetary crust, 

on a world that orbits its star —

a star whose environs have always

been free of dragons. IMO.

[R. R., 1999.]

Publications by Anthroposophists

in and around my Waldorf school.

The school busily promoted Anthroposophy

while generally denying this intention.

The booklets shown here are 


by Franz E. Winkler



by Franz E. Winkler


by John F. Gardner


by Hermann v. Baravalle.

In Anthroposophical thinking, the ancients are of great importance — they represent previous stages of our spiritual evolution. [See "The Ancients".] They generally possessed more immediate knowledge of spiritual worlds than is common today among benighted modern humans. Indeed, they are ourselves in our earlier incarnations; we need to learn from them and then proceed to higher levels of clairvoyance. Or so Steiner said. 

[Druid rocking stone, 

Here's a drawing done by a Waldorf student. Most kids love supernatural tales, even violent ones. But if a child creates images like this as assigned schoolwork, you might want to ask the teacher some questions. 

[Drawing courtesy of 

 People for Legal and Nonsectarian Schools.]

To believe in Anthroposophy or any other form of occultism, it helps to be gullible. And to be gullible, it helps to have a weak grasp of reality.

A magic act that often astounds people is shown above: five men, using only a finger or two apiece, lift a sixth man. Surely supernatural forces are at work, no? No. 

"The even distribution of the weight and the simultaneous effort are responsible for the action."  — James Randi, AN ENCYCLOPEDIA OF CLAIMS, FRAUDS, AND HOAXES OF THE OCCULT AND SUPERNATURAL (St. Martin's Griffin, 1995), p. 98. 

In other words, simple mechanics are at play — elementary physics. But many folks are easily startled or hoodwinked because their knowledge of how things really work in the real world is sometimes limited. 

Gullibility and a weak grasp of reality provide the opening that magicians, hoaxers, and occult "seers" take advantage of.

(Bear in mind that the illustration, above, is a drawing. A photo would show that the stunt usually involves more strain and more fingers. And no matter whether you did well or poorly in high school physics classes, are you really surprised that five men, working together, can lift a weight of approximately 150 pounds? Penetrating mysteries, magic, and occultism usually requires little more than a willingness to apply logic.)

To figure out whether Waldorf education is right for your kids, you may need to learn how to interpret the unique language spoken by Anthroposophists. Here is another example — not good, not so very bad, but occult. 

“Here on earth we have solid things that can be weighed, and attached to these objects that can be weighed are the colours, the red, the yellow, whatever our senses perceive as being attached to the objects. When we sleep, yellow is a freely floating being, not attached to anything, but weightless, freely weaving and floating.” — Rudolf Steiner, BLACKBOARD DRAWINGS 1919-1924 (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2003), p. 108. 

[My sketch of Steiner's sketch, 2010. 
His sketch is no more informative than mine.]

If you assume that Steiner was speaking about what we see in our dreams — for instance, we may see yellow floating around freely, detached from any object — this statement may seem a bit silly but otherwise fine. But Anthroposophists find much more in Steiner's words.

When we sleep, Steiner taught, parts of ourselves leave our bodies and travel to spirit realms. Among the many spirits they meet there are various colors. The colors, including yellow, are "beings" or spirits. They are, in fact, spiritual agents that shepherd us to the spirit realm and bring the spirit realm to us. (Art classes in Waldorf schools have this process in mind.)

Specifically, Steiner said that our physical bodies and "etheric bodies" remain on Earth while we sleep, but our "astral bodies" and spiritual "egos" travel to the higher, spiritual worlds where they consort with all manner of spirits and gods. This nourishes us, Steiner said — it strengthens us for return to Earth in the morning when we will resume working on our karmas.

This, and much more, is what lies behind the apparently mild quotation you see above. When investigating Waldorf schools, if you encounter language that strikes you as odd or mysterious, don't pass by silently. Ask questions. Probe. Dig. Read. Work to understand what you are being told (and what you suspect you are not being told).

I continue this examination of 

Waldorf’s foundations on 

the page titled “Basement” 

For additional examples of 

statements Steiner made

to Waldorf school teachers, 

please see "Discussions".

To examine advice Steiner 

gave to Waldorf teachers,

please use this link: "Advice". 

For an overview of the Waldorf spirit,

see "Spirit".

A sketch in a Waldorf vein.

[R.R., 2010.]

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



A look at the standard Waldorf curriculum


How they try to do it

Seven of them

How they get that way

The irrational modes of “thought” fostered at Waldorf schools


English classes and history classes in a typical Waldorf school


The central mythology in many Waldorf schools: Norse myths


At Waldorf schools, ignorance is often taken as wisdom


The Waldorf curriculum: the arts, and festivals


How they paint and draw


The Waldorf curriculum: math


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



Still further explorations

Talks between Steiner and Waldorf teachers


"Practical" tips Steiner gave to Waldorf faculty



“[T]he old clairvoyant forces which everyone once possessed.” — Rudolf Steiner, NATURE SPIRITS, Lectures from 1908-1924 (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1995), p. 63. 


“[W]e must struggle to regain a view of the cosmos that moves toward Imagination again....” — Rudolf Steiner, ART AS SPIRITUAL ACTIVITY (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 256. 

In Anthroposophy, imagination is akin to clairvoyance. 


“As teachers in the Waldorf School, you will need to find your way more deeply into the insight of the spirit and to find a way of putting all compromises aside ... As Waldorf teachers, we must be true anthroposophists in the deepest sense of the word in our innermost feeling.” — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 118. 

“Insight of the spirit” “true anthroposophists,” “innermost feeling”: Steiner’s teachings hinge on nonrational, non-brain cognition: felt knowledge, which is intuitively self-evident: in a word, clairvoyance. No other mode of comprehension would allow Waldorf teachers to attain the insight Steiner prescribes. And Waldorf teachers must not compromise. (They must be true believers.) 

[4] Steiner’s career as founder and sage of Anthroposophy was built on his contention that he possessed deep clairvoyant powers. In KNOWLEDGE OF THE HIGHER WORLDS AND ITS ATTAINMENT (Anthroposophic Press, 1944), and elsewhere, he gave instructions on how to attain initiation/clairvoyance. Steiner did not claim omniscience, nor did he claim that Anthroposophy is a complete explanation of all phenomena — he held out the possibility that further spiritual discoveries might be made — but he certainly asserted that his path is correct.


◊ “Monotheism...could never lead to a real understanding of the world....” — Rudolf Steiner, THE MISSION OF THE FOLK SOULS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2005), p. 115. 

◊ “[W]e [Waldorf faculty] are actually carrying out the intentions of the gods [plural].” — FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER, p. 55. 

Steiner’s teachings derive, in part, from Gnosticism and Rosicrucianism. [See "Gnosis" and "Rosy Cross".]


“[G]oblins, gnomes and so forth....” — NATURE SPIRITS, p. 63. 


“[I]t is not that the planets move around the Sun....” — FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER, p. 31. 


◊ “Mistletoe is a remedy that counteracts....” — Rudolf Steiner, MEDICINE: An Introductory Reader (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2004), p. 152.

◊ “Steiner presents a dynamic picture of cancer in terms of the supersensible bodies, and explains why the mistletoe plant could act as an effective remedy.” — Ibid., p. 145. 


“Human beings...needed to rid their nature...of the higher animals....” — Rudolf Steiner, THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), pp. 69-70.


“[A]n island like Great Britain swims in the sea and is held fast by the forces of the stars.” — FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER, p. 607.


“Let us turn to the horoscope of the younger child....” — Rudolf Steiner, EDUCATION FOR SPECIAL NEEDS: The Curative Education Course (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1998), p. 196.


“Christ...the Sun God." — Rudolf Steiner, THE PRINCIPAL OF SPIRITUAL ECONOMY IN CONNECTION WITH QUESTIONS OF REINCARNATION (Anthroposophic Press, 1986), p. 5. 


“Yahweh resides on the Moon.” — Rudolf Steiner, SLEEP AND DREAMS (SteinerBooks, 2003), p. 43.


“[T]hose beasts did breathe fire.” — FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER, p. 26.


“Above [man] are the angels...[and] archai...Kyriotetes....” etc. — Rudolf Steiner, THE MISSION OF THE FOLK SOULS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2005), pp. 83-85. 

We'll go into this further, below.

[16] Steiner usually spoke of two worlds above the physical world, and he identified nine ranks of gods. 

◊ “The three worlds are 1. The physical world, the scene of human life. 2. The astral world or the world of soul. 3. The devachanic world or world of spirit. The three worlds are not spatially separate. We are surrounded by the things of the physical world which we perceive with our ordinary sense, but the astral world is in the same space; we live in the other two worlds, the astral and devachanic worlds, at the same time as we live in the physical world." — Rudolf Steiner, FOUNDING A SCIENCE OF THE SPIRIT (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1999), pp. 10-11. 

◊ ”[Man] is a part of the supersensible world, a world where, in the first place, we find Beings called in Christian esotericism, Angeloi or Angels; these are the Beings standing next above man [i.e., Angels are gods of the ninth rank]. Above them come the Archangeloi or Archangels [godly rank #8], then the Archai or Spirits of Personality [rank #7]. Above these again are the Exusiai [rank #6], Dynamis [rank #5] and Kyriotetes [rank #4], and still higher are the Thrones [rank #3], Cherubim [rank #2] and Seraphim [rank #1].”— Rudolf Steiner, EXCURSUS ON THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO ST. MARK (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1937), lecture 4, GA 124. 

The Semi-Christian language Steiner sometimes used can be misleading. More typically, he identified the nine ranks of gods as Sons of Twilight, Spirits of Fire, Spirits of Personality, Spirits of Form, Spirits of Movement, Spirits of Wisdom, Spirits of Will, Spirits of the Harmonies, and Spirits of Love. [See "Higher Worlds", and "Knowing the Worlds", and "Polytheism".]


“‘Well! so you were weak ... I must dissolve you....’” — Rudolf Steiner, ART AS SEEN IN THE LIGHT OF MYSTERY WISDOM (Rudolf Steiner Press, second revised edition 1996), p. 105. 

[18] E.g., 

“The Jews have a great gift for materialism, but little for recognition of the spiritual world." — Rudolf Steiner, FROM BEETROOT TO BUDDHISM Rudolf Steiner Press, 1999), p. 59.

[19] Steiner affirmed the superiority of Aryans; he said that fair people have more capable brains than dark people; he classified students by “temperament;” he said left-handedness should almost always be corrected; etc. He further stated that some people are not really human; some are demons in disguise, some are automatons; etc. [For a discussion of the qualities prized by Steiner, see, e.g., “Steiner's Racism” and “Humoresque”.] 

[20] Rudolf Steiner, UNDERSTANDING THE HUMAN BEING (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1993), p. 86. 

[21] The section from which I quote bears the title “The Nature of Love”. There, Steiner goes on to say 

“What do we learn from spiritual science [i.e., Anthroposophy]? We experience the Earth’s evolution, we hear of the Spirit of the Earth, of the changing conditions of the Earth’s surface, of the development of the human body, and so forth. When people do not want to know anything about spiritual science, it means that they have no interest for what is reality; for if a man does not want to know about Ancient Saturn, Ancient Sun, Ancient Moon, [sic] then he can know nothing about the Earth. This lack of interest in the world is egoism in its grossest form.” — UNDERSTANDING THE HUMAN BEING, pp. 86-87.

This takes us fairly far afield from the question of love as most of us comprehend it. Steiner would, lovingly, deny that we comprehend it at all. He reiterates his modest, loving claim that only spiritual science — that is, essentially, only he himself — has the truth. Is it really the case than anyone who does not follow Steiner does not even want to know about reality? This comes closer to damnation (“egoism in its grossest form”) than to love. As for Ancient Saturn, etc., these are levels of consciousness and/or ancient forms of the planets on/in/during which we evolved before our current lives on/during Earth. [I touch on such stuff in "Everything" and the essays that follow it. Also see "Planets" and "Overhead".] 

[22] E.g., 

“...a violent fight between white mankind and colored mankind....” — Rudolf Steiner, DIE GEISTIGEN HINTERGRÜNDE DES ERSTEN WELTKRIEGES (Rudolf Steiner Verlag, 1974), p. 38. 

[23] E.g., 

“[T]here are people who are not human beings.” — FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER, p. 650. 

[24] E.g., 

“[C]ertain things...can be evolved only through the German people....” — Rudolf Steiner THE CHALLENGE OF OUR TIMES (SteinerBooks, 1979), pp. 207-209. 

[25] E.g., 

“The French as a race are reverting.” — FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER, pp. 558-559. 

[26] Rudolf Steiner, AT HOME IN THE UNIVERSE: Exploring Our Suprasensory Nature, (Steiner Books, 2000), p. 84. 

[27] Rudolf Steiner, AGRICULTURE: An Introductory Reader (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2004), p. 35. 


[29] For anyone who’d care to know the real skinny about gravity, Steiner characteristically backs in: 

“[T]here are two ways of looking at this matter [i.e., gravity] ... The first is as follows ... [T]he physical body adapts itself to gravity ... [T]he physical body being heavy, being subject to the gravity of the earth, we are now connected — indirectly, through the physical body — with the physical force of gravity ... [That view] is however false, it is incorrect ... The ego [i.e., the “I” — a human’s third nonphysical body] slips into the physical body, lays hold of the physical body — slips in so far that it makes the physical body light. Through the ego’s gliding into it, the physical body loses its weight ... The ego, the I, enters into direct connection, places itself as ego right into gravity, shutting the physical body completely out of the process ... Our ego organization [i.e., the structure of our “I”] is connected, firstly, with gravity — that is, with the element of ‘earth.’ For there is no such thing, dear friends, as what the physicists call matter....” — Rudolf Steiner, EDUCATION FOR SPECIAL NEEDS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1999), pp. 54-55. 

[30] Friedrich Georg Juenger, THE FAILURE OF TECHNOLOGY (Chicago: Henry Regency Company, 1956); Anthony Standen, SCIENCE IS A SACRED COW (New York: E. P. Dutton & Co., 1950). 


“[T]he brain and nerve system have nothing at all to do with actual cognition....” 


“[M]aterialism causes the human being to become a thinking automaton...something that thinks, feels, and wills physically.” 

[33] A chart drawn by Steiner shows three states of being with their proper, Anthroposophical forms of thought: 

“WAKING, Imaginative cognition; DREAMING, Inspired Feeling, SLEEPING, Intuitive Willing ... [P]ictorial cognition enters inspiration...and arises again from intuition.” — THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE, p. 118. 

“Pictorial cognition” is the creation of “imaginations,” that is, the products of imagination or, at a higher level, clairvoyance. 

“[T]hinking is a pictorial activity which is based in what we experienced before birth [i.e., learned in the spirit realm].” — Ibid., p. 62.

Sometimes Steiner apparently confused himself. Despite advocating pictorial thought, he also used the term “pictorial” as a dodge, as in 

“A major portion of the animals, particularly the higher animals, rose within earthly evolution only because human beings needed to use their elbows (of course, I speak here only pictorially).” — THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE, pp. 69-71. 

Telling Waldorf teachers about the evolutionary descent of animals from human beings, Steiner suddenly interjects a dismissal of pictorial speech (“only pictorially”). To put this in perspective: Steiner often made strange statements and then, evidently realizing that he had gone too far, partially disavowed them. The disavowal in this instance seems to undermine a broad swath of Steiner’s doctrines. At the least, we can say that Steiner misspoke.

[34] 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. 

[35] John Fentress Gardner, THE EXPERIENCE OF KNOWLEDGE (Waldorf Press, 1975), pp. 127-128.


“[O]rgans of clairvoyance build themselves....” 


“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 ... [paragraph break] 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 ... [paragraph break] In a Waldorf school, therefore, one of the tasks of the teachers is to keep the children young.” — A.C. Harwood, PORTRAIT OF A WALDORF SCHOOL (The Myrin Institute Inc., 1956), pp. 15-16. Also see “Thinking Cap”. 

[38] During the Christmas season, 1923-24, Steiner announced plans for a school of spiritual science. See Johannes Kiersch, A HISTORY OF THE SCHOOL OF SPIRITUAL SCIENCE (Temple Lodge Publishing, 2006). The primary center for Anthroposophical studies today is located at the Goetheanum in Dornach, Switzerland. 

The quoted prefatory note may well appear in other Steiner books. I’m not sure how many more carry the note. There’s a limit to how many of the blasted things I’ll buy.

[R. R., 2010.]