“I have heard so much gossip about 

who got a slap and so forth ...

We should be quiet about how we 

handle things in the school ...

We should not speak to people 

outside the school....”

— Rudolf Steiner [1]



Waldorf schools — also called Steiner schools — generally claim to be nonsectarian. But, in fact, all genuine Waldorf schools are religious institutions operated in accordance with the tenets of Anthroposophy, a gnostic semi-Christian religion founded by the mystic Rudolf Steiner.

If you are considering a Waldorf school for your child, read a couple of books by Steiner. See if your view of the world coincides with his. Perhaps the best choice is FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER. [2] In it, you will find Steiner’s instructions to the teachers at the first Waldorf school — you will learn, in Steiner’s own words, what Steiner intended Waldorf teachers to do with their students.

If, after reading Steiner, you still have an interest in Waldorf schools, visit the particular school you are considering and ask searching questions. Do the children recite a morning prayer or "verse"? Ask for the precise words. [3] What sorts of books are in (or banned from) the library? Go into the library and look around. [4] Are science courses taught straight, or with an antiscientific bent? [5] Ask what role mythology plays in the curriculum. Ask especially about Norse myths. [6] Study the student art on the walls. Do you see signs of individual creativity or a strange uniformity? [7] Ask who Rudolf Steiner was. [8] Ask for his views on evolution. [9] Ask about clairvoyance. (Steiner claimed to be clairvoyant — and he taught that people can grow "organs of clairvoyance"). [10] Ask about the purpose of eurythmy. (Steiner said this form of dance connects people directly to the spirit realm). [11] 

Bring copies of Steiner quotations that raise questions for you, then ask those questions. Try to learn how deeply committed the school is to Steiner’s doctrines. Not all Waldorfs are wholly alike. Some may distance themselves from various portions of Steiner's teachings, especially Steiner’s racism. [12] The problem, however, is that Steiner’s entire system is built on his clairvoyant, mystical "insights" (which include his racist “insights”). 

Within the Waldorf movement, Steiner is often treated as a nearly infallible sage. [13] Steiner claimed to use "exact clairvoyance" to learn deep, enduring truths about virtually all subjects. [14] For his devout followers, disbelieving Steiner is almost unthinkable.

Almost any Waldorf school operating in today's world will deny allegiance to some of the less savory parts of Steiner's teachings, including Steiner's racial teachings [15] and his advocacy of the German national "mission" [16]. But any Waldorf school where Steiner is still admired (remember that Waldorf schools are also called Steiner schools) will cling to varous ideas and approaches that you may well find troubling. Chief among these is the mysticism that is fundamental to Waldorf/Steiner concepts. 

A Waldorf school cannot wholly rid itself of mysticism unless it wholly renounces Steiner — in which case it ceases to be a real Waldorf school. Although Waldorf schools usually present themselves as nonsectarian, they stand on the foundation created by Steiner's mystical system, Anthroposophy — which, despite denials, is a religion. [17] You will never be happy with genuine Waldorf practices — those that derive from the pedagogy established in the original Waldorf School [18] — unless you can affirm Anthroposophy.

Waldorf education is structured to bring the "benefits" of Anthroposophy to children. Waldorf schools almost never teach Anthroposophical doctrines, overtly, spelled out, to the students. But, crucially, Waldorf schools almost always convey Anthroposophical beliefs, attitudes, inclinations, and preferences to the students indirectly, covertly. [19] This is what you will be signing your children up for if you send them to a genuine, Steiner-revering Waldorf (or Steiner) school. [20]

So proceed cautiously. Study. Read. And visit the particular school you have in mind, asking questions, observing carefully. Visit more than once. Meet as many of the teachers as you can. Be a pest. Press persistently for honest answers about the school's policies and underlying theology.

Don't go cap in hand. Don't think you and your family need to measure up to the school's standards. Make sure that the school comes up to your  standards.

If you mistrust any answers you receive from teachers or administrators at the school, send your kids elsewhere. Their lives are in your hands. 

— Roger Rawlings

Footnotes for "To Start With"

[1] Steiner considered students’ parents to be outsiders. He told Waldorf teachers to keep quiet about what happens inside the school. To protect the reputation of the school, they should talk to no outsiders, except for parents — and with them, only about their own children, nothing more. Here is a more extended version of the quotation I use as this essay’s epigraph:

“[D]o not attempt to bring out into the public things that really concern only our school. I have been back only a few hours, and I have heard so much gossip about who got a slap and so forth ... We should be quiet about how we handle things in the school, we should maintain a kind of school confidentiality. We should not speak to people outside the school, except for the parents who come to us with questions, and in that case, only about their children, so that gossip has no opportunity to arise ... There are people who like to talk about such things because of their own desire for sensationalism ... Those of us on the faculty should in no way support it.” — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 10. 

By "gossip," Steiner clearly means speculation and reports about what happens inside the school, including the slapping of students.

Parents who are treated as outsiders may have difficulty learning what really goes on at a Waldorf school. I discuss this at length in my essay “Clues”.

I return to the issue of teachers slapping children, below. 

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

Like many books "by" Steiner, this is actually a collection of transcripts prepared by Steiner's devoted followers, recording statements made by Steiner. FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER is a two-volume set consisting of notes taken by Waldorf faculty members during their meetings with Steiner. We should not place too much emphasis on any one sentence attributed to Steiner in this text, since the note-takers may have made errors. A similar problem arises in the many books consisting of Steiner’s lectures — these, too, generally rely on transcriptions rather than texts approved by Steiner for publication. However, when any of Steiner’s reputed remarks is compatible with several other statements Steiner made, we can have a high level of confidence that it probably is an accurate reflection of Steiner’s meaning. Moreover, the note-takers were usually devoted followers who considered Steiner’s words virtually divine wisdom. We can be sure that they intended to be as accurate as possible.

The best source to consult in order to learn Steiner's meaning about virtually everything is OCCULT SCIENCE - AN OUTLINE (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1969). Steiner wrote the first version of this book in 1909, and thereafter he revised it many times, the final revision coming just months before his death. Thus, the contents absolutely present Steiner’s views. And what are they? Occultism, “mystery” knowledge, occult initiation, irrationality, racism, heresy, a preposterous version of mankind’s past, an even more preposterous vision of its future, and a bizarre description of the spirit realm. In brief, OCCULT SCIENCE provides the context for Anthroposophy and Waldorf education. The quotations I present here and in my other essays are consistent with it.

[3] See "Prayers".

[4] Waldorf libraries tend to be small, with collections that are skewed in favor of Anthroposophy. Steiner said the arch-demon Ahriman presides in most libraries. “One of the things Ahriman wants for us is that we produce lots of libraries, storing lots of dead knowledge all around us.” — Rudolf Steiner, POLARITIES IN THE EVOLUTION OF MANKIND (SteinerBooks, 1987), p. 163.

[5] See "Science".

[6] See "The Gods".

[7] See "Magical Arts".

[8] See "Steiner, Rudolf" in The Brief Waldorf/Steiner Encyclopedia (BWSE).

[9] See "Evolution, Anyone?"

[10] See "Clairvoyance".

[11] See "Eurythmy".

[12] See "Steiner's Racism".

[13] See "What a Guy".

[14] See "Exactly".

[15] See "Races".

[16] See, e.g., "The Good Wars".

[17] See "Is Anthroposophy a Religion?"

[18] See "Waldorf School, the first", "Waldorf education: core principals", and "Waldorf education: goals" in the BWSE.

[19] See "Sneaking It In" and "Indoctrination".

[20] Waldorf schools that renounce some or many of Steiner's doctrines may become better educational institutions — providing better education — than Waldorf schools that stay faithful to Steiner. But problems will likely remain. The components of Waldorf pedagogy (curriculum and methods) are formed and "justified" by Steiner's occult teachings — that is, by Anthroposophy. If a Waldorf school rejects some portions of Anthroposophy, it will create voids in the underlying educational theories that give Waldorf education its purpose. Much that happens at such a school will thereafter become pointless. The resulting educational approach, tacking among an expurgated set of Steiner’s teachings, will inevitably lose much of its coherence and rationale.

[Waldorf-style art, R.R.]

Many people find that, for them, reading Steiner's books is an ordeal. 

To ease your way in, you might examine the brief excerpts compiled on such pages as 

"Say What?" and "Wise Words".

For a paragraph-by-paragraph review of a Steiner lecture, see "Lecture".

It is equally important to acquaint yourself with the works of 

Anthroposophists writing today, long after Steiner's death. 

To survey excerpts from such contemporary Anthroposophical works, see, e.g., 

"Who Says?", "Today", "Today 2", "Today 3", etc.

In selecting passages to include in such compilations, 

I have been partly guided by the desire to warn parents about the true nature 

of Anthroposophy and Waldorf education. I'll leave it to you to decide 

whether I have treated Steiner and his followers fairly.

In the items below, you will find various issues and concerns

 that merit your attention as you make the crucially important decision 

about where to send your children for their education.



There is variation among Waldorf schools, arising both from schisms within the Anthroposophical movement and from inconsistencies in Steiner's own doctrines.

Soon after Steiner died, in early 1925, a significant schism developed. One group of Steiner's followers, headed by his widow, Marie Steiner, argued that Steiner's works should be treated essentially as holy texts. They should be preserved inviolate, and Steiner's word should be accepted as providing virtually the final say on all subjects. A competing band of followers argued that Steiner's works should be seen as extremely valuable guides, but they should not be considered sacrosanct or beyond question. Members of this group insisted on their own right to interpret Steiner and to make their own clairvoyant/spiritual discoveries.

The first group took control of the Anthroposophical headquarters in Switzerland, and its views have tended to prevail in Switzerland and Germany since that time. The second group, including many individuals who were expelled from the Anthroposophical Society, tended to congregate in Great Britain, where their views have been influential. Waldorf schools in many other countries, such as the USA, have tended to reflect both perspectives — some schools have hewed strictly to Steiner's word, others have felt freer to interpret Anthroposophical doctrines and teachings as they see fit.

For more on this schism and its aftereffects, see Ida Oberman, THE WALDORF MOVEMENT IN EDUCATION FROM EUROPEAN CRADLE TO AMERICAN CRUCIBLE, 1919-1928 (Edwin Mellen Press, 2008).

The fundamental cause for this split among Anthroposophists, and for the variations among Waldorf schools, can be traced to Rudolf Steiner's own teachings. On the one hand, Steiner claimed to employ "exact clairvoyance." This meant he presented his views as virtually unchallengeable — he saw the exact truth, so his followers should accept his word. And, indeed, he usually defended his positions vigorously; he was loath to permit criticism or doubt.

On the other hand, Steiner taught that his followers could develop their own clairvoyant powers and use them to make their own spiritual discoveries. This empowering idea, so attractive to many, has led numerous Anthroposophists to affirm their own visions, whether or not these agree with the visions of their colleagues or, indeed, the visions of Steiner himself. (Steiner recognized that the clairvoyant visions of his followers might vary from his own to some degree, but he generally expected all genuine, precise use clairvoyance to confirm what he had "seen." A major complication, however, arises from the contradictions that can be found in Steiner's works. Steiner did not always keep his story straight. His followers have responded by developing elaborate rationalizations that seek to "clarify" and reconcile Steiner's pronouncements. But these rationalizations tend to reflect varying interpretations of Steiner's meaning, so they often end up deepening the doctrinal disputes among Anthroposophits.)

The resulting schisms and disagreements might have ripped the Anthroposophical movement — including the Waldorf movement — to shreds. That they didn't is largely the result of the underlying allegiance that most Anthroposophists accord to Steiner. Even those who want to assert their own spiritual visions generally accept Steiner's visions in most matters, in general if not in all particulars. Thus, the differences between various Waldorf schools and between various Anthroposophical factions tend to be small. Insiders magnify the differences in their own estimation, and the battles that result can be fierce. But from the perspective of outsiders, the differences often appear so minor as to be all but nonexistent.

When considering a Waldorf school, it is best to probe as deeply as you can. Don't assume that any one Waldorf school is precisely like any other Waldorf school. The schools will probably be very similar, but you may detect small differences that may sway you for or against a particular institution.

In a larger sense, of course, you should form a considered judgment about Waldorf schools generally. Minor variations aside, do you think any Waldorf schools are likely to provide a good, rational education for your children? 

— R.R.

To read a series of messages

written to assist a parent in distress

over Waldorf schools, see "Help!"

Concerning visits to a Waldorf school:

Be prepared. See "Visits" and "Clues".

To review some materials Waldorf teachers 

create for use in class,see "Clearing House."



Waldorf teachers generally believe they know, far better than you, what is best for your child. Steiner told Waldorf teachers to "take over children" in order to undo the damage caused by the kids' parents. Indeed, Steiner said, it might be best if Waldorf teachers took over children soon after birth.

The question for you, as a parent, is whether you can accept the primacy that Waldorf teachers accord to themselves.

Here are two statements Steiner made for the guidance of Waldorf teachers.

"You will have to take over children for their education and instruction — children who will have received already (as you must remember) the education, or mis-education given them by their parents. Indeed our intentions will only be fully accomplished when we, as humanity, will have reached the stage where parents, too, will understand that special tasks are set for mankind to-day, even for the first years of the child's education. But when we receive the children into the school we shall still be able to make up for many things which have been done wrongly, or left undone, in the first years of the child's life. For this we must fill ourselves with the consciousness through which alone we can truly teach and educate." — Rudolf Steiner, STUDY OF MAN (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2004), p. 16.

"Given the difficult, disorderly, and chaotic conditions of our time, it might almost be preferable from a moral viewpoint if children could be taken into one’s care soon after birth.” — Rudolf Steiner, WALDORF EDUCATION AND ANTHROPOSOPHY, Vol. 2, Foundations of Waldorf Education (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 69.

Waldorf schools often describe 

themselves as offering

 “holistic” education.

They say they educate the “whole child” — 

head, heart, and hands.

To understand what these fine words mean 

in a Waldorf context,

see “Holistic Education”.

It is not uncommon to find Anthroposophical symbols — often presented in a distinctive Anthroposophical style — in and around Waldorf schools. Here are seven occult planetary columns intended for use in the second Goetheanum, the worldwide Anthroposophical headquarters. This is my sketch of a design created by Christian Hitsch and P. A. Wolf, based on indications given by Steiner. [See Rudolf Steiner, ARCHITECTURE (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2003), p. 129. R. R. sketch, 2010.]



Design for the interior of the first Goetheanum —

the original Anthroposophical headquarters

that was destroyed by fire.

Note the mystical ceiling mural, the columns bearing 

astrological symbols,

and the monumental statue of Christ, 

Ahriman, and Lucifer.

[Public domain image.]

Comprehending the occult thinking that lies behind Waldorf schools can be difficult — but the effort is necessary. Here is one example of Waldorfthought. If you don't fully grasp the details, you can still perceive the mysticism involved: invisible beings, clairvoyance, occult poisoning and health...

“It is a remarkable thing that animals and man, who in their lower organs are in fact earth-bound, should experience as poison what has become corrupted on the earth in the belladonna, whereas birds such as thrushes and blackbirds, which should really get this in a spiritual way from the sylphs ["elemental beings" that live in the air] — and indeed through the benevolent sylphs do so obtain it — should be able to assimilate it, even when what belongs up above in their region has been carried downwards to the earth. They find nourishment in what is poison for beings more bound to the earth.

"Thus you get a conception of how, on the one side, through gnomes [elemental beings that live in the earth] and undines [elemental beings that live in water] what is of a parasitic nature strives upwards from the earth towards other beings, and of how the poisons filter downwards from above.

"... And so you have gained a picture of those beings which are just on the boundary of the world lying immediately beyond the threshold, and of how, if they carry their impulses to their final issue, they become the bearers of parasites, of poisons, and therewith of illnesses. Now it becomes clear how far man in health raises himself above the forces that take hold of him in illness. For illness springs from the malevolence of these beings who are necessary for the upbuilding of the whole structure of nature, but also for its fading and decay.

"These are the things which, arising from instinctive clairvoyance, underlie such intuitions as those of the Indian Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva ... Brahma is intimately related to all that is of the nature of the fire-beings ["salamanders" — elemental beings that live in fire], and the sylphs; Vishnu with all that is of the nature of sylphs and undines; Shiva with all that is of the nature of undines and gnomes. Generally speaking, when we go back to these more ancient conceptions, we find everywhere the pictorial expressions for what must be sought today as lying behind the secrets of nature.” — Rudolf Steiner, MAN AS SYMPHONY OF THE CREATIVE WORD (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1970), lecture 8, GA 230. 

Waldorf schools generally acknowledge that their methods are based on Anthroposophy (i.e., the clairvoyant "insights" of Rudolf Steiner and his followers), but they say they do not teach Anthroposophy to the students. This is not quite true, but for the moment let's accept it as true. How reassuring is it? Consider this analogy. Imagine a school that says "All of our methods are based on telepathic messages received from Mars. However, we do not teach the children to receive telepathic messages from Mars." Would you be reassured? Would you send your child to that school?

More Waldorfish art.

For aid in understanding the sorts of art

found in Waldorf schools,

see "Magical Arts".

[R. R., 2010.]



The following is from the Waldorf Watch News.

I quote from an online posting,

then I offer a response.

Here’s an announcement of a parenting workshop to be offered by Sydney Rudolf Steiner College: 

Start Date: Saturday, April 6, 2013

End Date: Sunday, April 7, 2013

Venue: Various Locations

CP01 Conscious Parenting Saturday 6 April 1pm-5pm $95

Conscious Parenting is a very practical and inspiring afternoon workshop covering Steiner-inspired early childhood topics. Positive rhythms, making ordinary moments extraordinary; The ideal play environment, ‘Imagination is more important than knowledge’ (Albert Einstein); Joyous yearly festivals (including seasonal tables and craft); Storytelling: as a transforming and healing tool; Nurturing the development of the ‘Twelve Senses’ for a happy, healthy and well balanced childhood. Overall workshop theme: how does a house become a home? 


Waldorf Watch Response:

When you are invited to involve yourself or your child in the “Steiner-inspired” world, you may want to pause and consider whether that world has been clearly and accurately described to you. What, exactly, are you being invited into? Read the materials you are given and look for points on which you may want clarification.

Let’s examine three potentially intriguing points in the Sydney Rudolf Steiner College announcement, above. I'll switch the order, slightly. 1) What is meant by “positive rhythms”? 2) What is meant by “the twelve senses”? 3) Why is “imagination” emphasized? 

We’ll take these matters one at a time. 

1) Rhythm. Rudolf Steiner’s followers believe that all of the cosmos is characterized by rhythmical recurrences, ranging from the very large (such as the slow rotation of the zodiac) to the smallest (such as a child's breathing). Waldorf teachers generally believe that rhythms in the lives of students must be recognized and encouraged, and indeed class work and class scheduling should be rhythmical. 

"As far as possible, a certain rhythm is established in the sequence of lessons so that the same thing, or something of the same nature, is taken at the same time each day." — Waldorf teacher Roy Wilkinson, THE SPIRITUAL BASIS OF STEINER EDUCATION (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1996), p. 33.

The well-being of the students is thought to be at stake. 

"[I]f the outer influences do not synchronize with...inner rhythms, the young person will eventually grow into a kind of inner cripple...." — Rudolf Steiner, RHYTHMS OF LEARNING: What Waldorf Education Offers Children, Parents & Teachers (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), pp. 129-130.

Rhythms are also thought to extend beyond the limits of a single life. 

"Just as there are world rhythms so are there rhythms in the life or lives of the human being. One of these rhythms is the frequency of incarnation." — Roy Wilkinson, RUDOLF STEINER (Temple Lodge Publishing, 2005), p. 50. 

No one can deny that rhythm is important or that we live in a world of rhythms. But note that the Steiner approach to rhythm leads to such subjects as the zodiac and incarnation. Windows start to open, here, giving a view into the Steiner belief system. In that system, astrology — with its mystical interpretation of the rhythmic movements of the zodiac — plays a large role, while the twin doctrines of karma and reincarnation play an equally important role. Sooner or later, you are likely to perceive serious deficiencies in Waldorf education and child-rearing unless you are able to accept the Steiner/Waldorf view on such matters as positive rhythms, astrology, reincarnation, and karma. [To consider these things, you might look at such Waldorf Watch pages as “Astrology”, “Waldorf Astrology”, “Star Power”, “Reincarnation”, and “Karma”.]

2) Senses. Generally, people say that human beings have five senses: sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell. This description of our sensory abilities is only approximately correct, and science refines the list in various ways. But the Steiner/Waldorf view is radically different. Steiner taught that we have twelve senses. The physical senses, he said, are touch, life sense, movement sense, and balance sense. The "soul senses" are smell, taste, vision, and temperature sense. The "spirit senses" are hearing, speech sense, thought sense, and ego sense. You might ask yourself whether some of these “senses” are plausible. What is the “thought sense,” or the “speech sense”, or the “life sense,” for instance? At a minimum, you should raise such questions with any Steiner followers who try to recruit you, and you should carefully consider whether you find the answers acceptable. Basing the treatment of young children on an unrealistic conception of human nature is clearly a dubious — and potentially very dangerous — proposition. [For more on this, see "What We're Made Of", “Oh Humanity”, and “Our Parts”.]

You should also know that, in Steiner/Waldorf belief, the twelve senses fall under the influence of the twelve signs of the zodiac. Specifically, the senses — listed in the order I have given — are associated with Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius, Pisces, Virgo, Leo, Cancer, Gemini, Taurus, and Aries. 

Portion of a chart on p. 142 of Albert Soesman's

OUR TWELVE SENSES (Hawthorne Press, Anthroposophy Series, 1990).

So, once again, looking through a window into Steiner/Waldorf belief, we are brought to the subject of astrology. There is no getting away from it: Astrology lies just below the surface of Steiner/Waldorf belief, in almost all of its extensions. You will probably never see a horoscope openly displayed in a Waldorf school, but astrological “knowledge” often underlies Waldorf thinking. Thus, Rudolf Steiner sometimes used horoscopes to determine the best treatment for children. On one occasion, for instance, he said this:

“By looking at what the horoscope shows we can see what is really the matter [with a child]. Take first this horoscope [he showed his audience a child’s birth chart] ...  It will probably have struck you that you find here in this region, Uranus together with Venus and Mars. You will not really need to carry your considerations any further than this triangle. Here then are Mars, Venus and Uranus. Consider first Mars. For this child, who was born in 1909, Mars stands in complete opposition to the Moon. Mars, which has Venus and Uranus in its vicinity, stands — itself — in strong opposition to the Moon. Here is the Moon and here is Mars. And Mars pulls along with it Uranus and Venus. And now I would ask you to pay careful attention also to the fact that the Moon is at the same time standing before Libra... [etc., etc.].” — Rudolf Steiner, CURATIVE EDUCATION (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1972), lecture 11.

Affirmations of astrology and horoscopes can be found in books written by Steiner followers such as Elizabeth Vreede’s ANTHROPOSOPHY AND ASTROLOGY (Anthroposophic Press), and Ron Odama’s  ASTROLOGY AND ANTHROPOSOPHY (Bennett & Hastings, 2009). You might want to take a look.

3) Imagination. Albert Einstein asserted the importance of imagination. He did not mean dreaming up fantasies, such as we find in Walt Disney films. And he certainly did not mean — as Steiner’s followers often mean — that imagination should be fostered at the expense of real-world, factual, scientific knowledge. Einstein’s point was that we should gather as much real knowledge as we possibly can, and then we should use our powers of reasoning and visualization to create accurate mental pictures of the phenomena we study. This is what he did, for instance, when reimagining the universe in his general theory of relativity.

Rudolf Steiner’s followers agree with Einstein that imagination is not mere fantasization. But what they mean by “imagination” is poles apart from what Einstein meant. In the Steiner/Waldorf world, imagination is a species of clairvoyance. Rudolf Steiner claimed to be clairvoyant, and he said that his followers should aim to develop the same psychic powers he possessed. When they emphasize imagination, genuine Waldorf schools seek to usher children along the preliminary stages of the path to clairvoyance. If you doubt the reality of clairvoyance (as you certainly should), then the entire Waldorf enterprise should strike you as, at best, a quixotic waste of time and effort.

Steiner taught that all humans once had instinctive clairvoyance, but we have lost it. A central goal for the Steiner movement is to lead humanity to a new, higher form of clairvoyance. (In the following quotation, note how “clairvoyance” and “Imagination” are essentially synonymous.) 

“Essentially, people today have no inkling of how people looked out into the universe in ancient times when human beings still possessed an instinctive clairvoyance.... If we want to be fully human, however, we must struggle to regain a view of the cosmos that moves toward Imagination again.” — Rudolf Steiner, ART AS SPIRITUAL ACTIVITY (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 256.

True-blue Waldorf schools hope to assist children toward that goal. Steiner taught that most people today are trapped in dim, ordinary "day consciousness." But above this are ascending levels of "higher knowledge": imagination, inspiration, and intuition. These are precursors to, or actual stages of, clairvoyance. When the present solar system dies and it is reincarnated in a form called "Future Jupiter,” all humans will possess perfected imagination, otherwise known as "Jupiter consciousness." Later, the solar system will die again and be reincarnated as “Future Venus.” At that stage, all humans will possess perfected inspiration or “Venus consciousness” — a clairvoyant stage higher than imagination. Later yet, the solar system will be reincarnated as “Future Vulcan,” and all of us will then possess perfected intuition or “Vulcan consciousness” — a still higher form of clairvoyance.

But why wait? Steiner showed how people can rise to these higher forms of consciousness here and now. Or so his followers believe.

In the Steiner/Waldorf world, higher knowledge is clairvoyance,

and it has three distinct stages.

[SteinerBooks, 2009.]

Perhaps all of this is beginning to sound a little weird to you. It should. But this, truly, is what Steiner’s followers believe. Think carefully before sending a child to a school run by followers of Rudolf Steiner. Likewise, you should think carefully before enrolling in a simple, pleasant-sounding workshop such as CP01 Conscious Parenting. Recruiters and teachers in the Steiner/Waldorf world are unlikely to lay many of their bizarre beliefs on you, initially; they will probably keep mum about most of the doctrines of their faith, at least until they can decide whether you seem like a potential convert. They will, in other words, keep their secrets. Such secrecy can be a problem in and of itself, can't it?

[To delve into some of these matters a bit more, you might visit such pages as “Here’s the Answer”, "Secrets", “Clairvoyance”, “The Waldorf Teacher’s Consciousness”, “Matters of Form”, and pertinent pages in “The Brief Waldorf / Steiner Encyclopedia”.]



Many of the following segments 

are based on passages from 

other essays on this website.

Certain important points are made 

more than once.

If you come upon something 

you've seen before, 

please just skip ahead.

A child attending a full-fledged, true-blue Waldorf school — one that is firmly committed to Steiner's vision — will be educated in accordance with Steiner’s dubious theory of human nature. The effects on the child may be deep.

Here’s a glimpse of the Waldorf perspective on human nature. [Also see "What We're Made Of" and "Oh Humanity — The Key to Waldorf".] If the Waldorf perspective is wrong, Waldorf schooling has little real purpose and may wind up harming a child by implanting strange fantasies and unfulfillable yearnings.

Every real human being eventually has a physical body plus several nonphysical bodies and components (including an “etheric body,” an “astral body,” and an “I”). In order to understand Waldorf teaching methods, you should know that, according to Anthroposophical doctrine, each human child is in the process of incarnating her/his invisible “bodies.” Steiner-inspired education seeks to facilitate the process of acquiring these bodies. Imagine trying to explain to a public school teacher how a curriculum can be designed to help students incarnate their nonphysical bodies.

According to Steiner, each student represents one of four “temperaments”: sanguine, phlegmatic, choleric, and melancholic. Waldorf teachers should segregate students into these categories, Steiner taught. 

“The temperaments that are next to each other merge into one another and mingle; so it will be good to arrange your groups as follows: if you put the phlegmatics together [in the classroom] it is good to have the cholerics on the opposite side, and let the two others, the melancholics and sanguines, sit between them.” [1] 

[See “Humouresque” and "Temperaments".] Waldorf schools today still categorize and segregate children according to these hurtful and unreal classifications. [See "Square One - 2".]

Steiner taught that human beings have twelve senses: 

“First, we have the four senses of touch, life, movement and balance. These senses are primarily permeated by will ... The next group of senses, namely smell, taste, sight and temperature are primarily senses of feeling ... I need to add that the sense of I and the senses of thought, hearing and speech are more cognitive senses....” [2] 

Some parts of that quotation probably need clarification. The "sense of the I” is one’s perception of her/his defining spiritual self: “the spiritual sense of our Self.” [3] As for “cognitive senses,” Steiner said that there are several ways for an individual to gain knowledge, including some that function while one is dreaming or asleep. [4]

The obvious problem, here, is that Steiner's twelve senses (which he keyed to the signs of the zodiac) are fantasies. They are no more true than the astrology that underlies Steiner's preference for the number 12.

The dangers of educating children in an atmosphere of antiscientific, mystical, and astrologial nonsense should be clear.

Deep knowledge of the spirit world(s) becomes available when one develops the necessary “organs” for clairvoyance:

 “[J]ust as natural forces build out of living matter the eyes and ears of the physical body, so will organs of clairvoyance build themselves....” [5] 

Waldorf schools emphasize imagination because Steiner taught that imagination is a precursor to, or early stage of, clairvoyance.

The obvious problem, here, is that clairvoyance is a fantasy. It does not exist. If teachers opetate on the basis of the false belief that they or their colleagues are clairvoyant, they may make mistake after harmful mistake in their treatment of their students.

Beliefs like these form the basis of Waldorf schooling. But these beliefs are false, which means that Waldorf schooling has no real basis. Sending a child to a school that practices a baseless form of education is clearly questionable, and it may have damaging, lifelong effects for the child. In brief: Waldorf teachers participate in a mystic/gnostic system that has significant potential to harm children.

Here’s a revealing comment made by Steiner to Waldorf teachers: 

“Among the faculty, we must certainly carry within us the knowledge that we are not here for our own sakes, but to carry out the divine cosmic plan. We should always remember that when we do something, we are actually carrying out the intentions of the gods, that we are, in a certain sense, the means by which that streaming down from above will go out into the world.” [6] 

Note the word “gods.” Anthroposophy is, indeed, a polytheistic religion. Here we see how empowered Waldorf teachers may consider themselves, how lofty their position, how create their responsibility. We serve the divine cosmic plan. We are carrying out the intentions of the gods. We are the means whereby the effects of gods' intentions will go out into the world. These affirmations reflect a distinct religious fanaticism, as well as worrisome hubris. Entrusting your child to teachers who think this way could be a serious misstep.

Remember that the sort of thinking Steiner propounded — the thinking that constitutes Anthroposophy — will affect typical Waldorf students to one degree or another. If Steiner's directives are followed. Anthroposophy will be present in the school. As Steiner said: 

“Anthroposophy will be in the school when it is objectively justified, that is, when it is called for by the material itself.” [7] 

Steiner promoted Anthroposophy as the great, objective truth that underlies all phenomena and knowledge. He also considered Waldorf teachers to be instruments for achieving the purposes of the "gods." So Anthroposophy will pervade virtually every subject in the Waldorf curriculum. When will Anthroposophy be “called for by the material”? Almost always. 

Perhaps the plainest way to summarize this is to say Steiner wished to brainwash children into pro-Anthroposophical beliefs and views. Of course he would have rejected this formulation. But there can be little doubt that a process of subtle, indirect, but persistent indoctrination occurs in true-blue Waldorf schools. [See the section "We Don't Teach It" on the page "Spiritual Agenda 2". Also see "Indoctrination at Waldorf Schools" and "Sneaking It In".] Consider the effects this may have.

For Steiner and his followers, the truest thinking is not rational cognition or brainwork, which they deem dry and un-heartfelt. Proper “thinking,” in their view, is directed by imagination and feeling: It is more akin to emotion than to cool, rational conceptualizing. For this very reason, it often leads to complication or even mystification rather than to clarity. Ask yourself whether this is what you want for your children. Seen through Waldorf eyes, nothing in the world is as it seems. What we see around us isn’t what it is, exactly — it is always something more, or less — there are layers upon layers of hidden deeps. In a limited, rational sense, it is true that we should not believe everything we see. Appearances can deceive. But taken in the way Steiner meant, the concept of hidden deeps is deeply misleading. It means that everything is deceptive, it is all illusion or maya, it is a tissue of lies, it is a gnostic puzzle that can be understood only by subscribing to occult canons. The Anthroposophical solution is to feel one’s way past appearances by opening outwards through imagination or clairvoyance (in Anthroposophy, these terms are sometimes synonymous) — then, ripping aside the vail of illusion, we can begin to see the cosmos as it really is.

Here’s an example of the sorts of insight “clairvoyance” can lead to — an example of what we can see if we rip the veil: 

“There are beings that can be seen with clairvoyant vision at many spots in the depths of the earth ... They seem able to crouch close together in vast numbers ... Even when they reach their greatest size, they are still always small creatures in comparison with men ... Many names have been given to them, such as goblins, gnomes, and so forth ... The different members of these beings can be investigated by occult means....” [8] 

Rudolf Steiner's followers believe that gnomes and other invisible beings really exist and are present in the environment all around us. Waldorf schools often convey this sort of belief to their students. Do you approve? Or do you think that encouraging children to believe in the literal existence of beings such as goblins or gnomes means luring them toward a damaging dissociation from reality? The Waldorf/Anthroposophical approach steers children away from the light of reality and into a dark, fantastical alterative universe.

By hook or by crook, Waldorf schools often direct their students toward otherworldly aspirations and beliefs. In the process, the children are again diverted from a realistic comprehension of the real world.

Let’s hear again from Steiner, talking again to Waldorf teachers: 

“We can accomplish our work only if we do not see it as simply a matter of intellect or feeling, but, in the highest sense, as a moral spiritual task. Therefore, you will understand why, as we begin this work today, we first reflect on the connection we wish to create from the very beginning between our activity and the spiritual worlds.... Thus, we wish to begin our preparation by first reflecting upon how we connect with the spiritual powers in whose service and in whose name each one of us must work.” [9] 

So, according to Steiner, Waldorf teachers labor in the “service” of “spiritual powers,” and they exercise these labors upon their students.

As to whether Waldorf schools impart a realistic view of the real world, here are some enlightening comments made by Steiner:

“[T]he brain and nerve system have nothing at all to do with actual cognition....” [10]

Science “sees the heart as a pump that pumps blood through the body. Now there is nothing more absurd than believing this, for the heart has nothing to do with pumping the blood.” [11] 

“With the students, we should at least try to...make it clear that, for instance, an island like Great Britain swims in the sea and is held fast by the forces of the stars. In actuality, such islands do not sit directly upon a foundation; they swim and are held fast from outside.” [12] 

“[I]t is not that the planets move around the Sun, but these three, Mercury, Venus, and the Earth, follow the Sun, and these three, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn, precede it.” [13] In other words, the planets do not orbit the Sun but travel in a line with it. [See "Deception".] 

“[R]ealize that looking at the human head you are looking at the transformed body of your previous earth life, and that the head you had then was the transformed body of your preceding life — you must imagine it without the head, of course. The head you see now is the transformed organism of the last life lived on earth. The rest of the organism as you see it now will be the head in the next life. Then the arms will have metamorphosed and become ears, and the legs will have become eyes.” [14] This last quotation is extremely strange, even by Waldorf standards. The gist of the quotation is that Anthroposophists believe in reincarnation.

What happens to a child who spends years under the authority of people who hold such fantastical beliefs?

I wish that my parents or I had read some of Steiner’s books while I was in a Waldorf school. Surely my parents would have yanked me out fast if they had seen passages such as the ones I’m quoting here. The parents of the other students in my school should have read a few of these books, too. Waldorf would quickly have become depopulated. 

If anyone who gets involved with a Waldorf school winds up feeling deceived about the nature and purposes of the school, s/he must accept part of the responsibility. Why didn't you investigate more deeply?

On the other hand, the schools often make a concerted effort to deceive. So most of the blame lies with them. Steiner frequently spoke with Waldorf teachers about the need to deceive non-Anthroposophists. Three quick examples:

“We also need to speak about a prayer. I ask only one thing of you. You see, in such things everything depends upon the external appearances. Never call a verse a prayer, call it an opening verse before school. Avoid allowing anyone to hear you, as a faculty member, using the word ‘prayer.’” [15]  

“Such cases are increasing in which children are born with a human form, but are not really human beings ... I do not like to talk about such things since we have often been attacked even without them. Imagine what people would say if they heard that we say there are people who are not human beings....” [16] We’ll return to the subject of people who are not human, below. 

When the students at the first Waldorf did poorly in standardized final exams, Steiner said he wished he and the Waldorf faculty dared to be honest about their intentions: “...whether we dare tell those who come to us that we will not prepare them for the final examination at all....” [17]

Steiner’s general rule was that Waldorf teachers should reveal nothing to anyone outside the school, and even within the school they should keep parents generally uninformed. You should think carefully about the ways your child might be harmed if you were kept in the dark about what goes on in the school your child attends. You would lose a considerable portion of your ability to protect your child.

The Waldorf school I attended projected the image of a nonsectarian, arts-intensive preparatory school with a progressive curriculum. This appearance undoubtedly led many parents to enroll their children without realizing what they were letting them in for. 

Even after enrollment, families found Waldorf’s disguise hard to penetrate. We students memorized no passages from holy books, we sang from no hymnals. Yet a strange aura hung about the school. There was a pervasive but unspoken spiritualistic vibe in almost every lesson, in almost every activity. 

If it was hard for most parents to detect, we students all felt the vibe to one degree or another. It was in the air we breathed, it defined the tenor and subtext of our days. Ultimately, it shaped and colored our educations at least as effectively as if priests were delivering sermons to us. [See “I Went to Waldorf”.]

Many of Steiner's statements are so utterly off the wall, we might be tempted to doubt his sanity. But this may be beside the point. Whether or not Steiner was clinically sane, it is frightening that anyone ever took him seriously, much less founded schools devoted to his doctrines. 

Above, I said that Steiner taught that some people are not human. The following is from a discussion between Steiner and Waldorf teachers, concerning a first-grade student who had learning disabilities:

[Dr. Steiner]: “Such cases are increasing in which children are born with a human form, but are not really human beings ... instead, they are filled with beings that do not belong to the human class. Quite a number of people have been born...[who] are not reincarnated, but are human forms filled with a sort of natural demon....” 

[A teacher]: “How is that possible?”

[Dr. Steiner]: “Cosmic error is certainly not impossible ... I do not like to talk about such things since we have often been attacked even without them. Imagine what people would say if they heard that we say there are people who are not human beings....” [18]

To read this passage in full, see "Steiner's Bile". And ask yourself this: What effects might we expect to find in children who attend a school where teachers are on the lookout for nonhuman students? How would you react if a Waldorf teacher made such a judgment about your child? ("Young Timmy is filled with a sort of natural demon. He is not really a human being.") Of course, Waldorf teachers are likely to keep such judgments to themselves. But does this make the idea of passing such judgments on children more acceptable, or less?

Although Waldorf schools usually deny being religious, their impact on children can be distinctly spiritual. You need to consider whether this is a good thing.

Here’s a statement made, not long ago, about what goes on inside Waldorf schools today here in the USA. The speaker — who is a Waldorf teacher, one who sends his own children to a Waldorf school — first refers to a prayer that students in most Waldorf schools recite every morning. Then he enlarges on his theme: 

"I'm glad my daughter gets to speak about God every morning ... That's why I send her to a Waldorf school. She can have a religious experience. A religious experience. I'll say it again: I send my daughter to a Waldorf school so that she can have a religious experience." [19]

[See “Waldorf Now”, "Today", and “Non-Waldorf Waldorfs”.]

Perhaps you want your children to have religious experiences. Fine. But do you want that religion to be Anthroposophy? 

[See "Is Anthroposophy a Religion?"]

The warm Waldorf vibe can be entrancing. The beautiful art in and around Waldorf schools can be alluring. These schools can charm. But you need to remember that the underlying, often unspoken (often hidden) objective in true-blue, Anthroposophical Waldorf schools is to promote the religion created by Waldorf founder, Rudolf Steiner: Anthroposophy. Waldorf schools rarely try to convert children to Anthroposophy in any formal sense. But they work to lead students to the door of Anthroposophy, hoping that, sooner or later, the students will knock. Is this what you want for your child, to be lured to the threshold of a weird pagan faith? [See "Indoctrination" and "Pagan".]

I would not want others to go through what I experienced after graduating from a Waldorf school: a long, wearisome struggle to recover from a Waldorf “education” and to find my footing in reality. [See "My Sad, Sad Story".] Yet many other individuals undergo Waldorf traumas that may indeed require long efforts at recovery. [See, e.g., "Cautionary Tales" and "Slaps".]

Here is a statement by a present-day advocate of Waldorf education:

“Steiner viewed human beings as consisting of three spheres of activity — the head, the heart, and the will — that manifest through thoughts, feelings and physical actions. To educate children to be complete and balanced human beings, we must attend to the needs of all three aspects of a child’s being. From the Waldorf perspective, attaining knowledge is one purpose of the learning process, but just as important — and perhaps even more important — is to educate the heart and the will of the child, so that knowledge is joined with reverence and action.” [20]

Note that at Waldorf schools, educating hearts and wills is at least as important as — and may be “even more important” than — imparting knowledge. This deviates significantly from a conventional definition of education. Also, clearly, you should ask what is meant by “educating” the heart and the will. Steiner gave us a peek when he said the following to students at the first Waldorf school:

"Your teachers had often told you about [the] Goetheanum, and you had heard what a great pleasure, what an inspiration, what a refreshment for your teachers’ hearts each visit to the Goetheanum was. But then, my dear children, dear boys and girls, your teachers’ hearts and souls are deeply comforted again; they can say from the very depths of their souls that when something as beautiful as today’s assembly can happen here in school, it is a certain comfort to them. It is a comfort for them to see what they have been able to plant in the hearts and souls of their dear students." [21]

The Goetheanum is the Anthroposophical headquarters. The teachers at the first Waldorf school "often" told their students about the Goetheanum and the "pleasure" and "inspiration" and "refreshment" they received from their visits there. Now, Steiner says, the teachers have received similar feelings from the children's performances at a school assembly, performances that evidently reflected "what [the teachers] have been able to plant in the hearts and souls of their dear students." What did the teachers plant in their students? A vision of the consolations of Anthroposophy, a vision that enables the students to evoke spiritual "comfort" of the sort found at the Goetheanum itself.

When true Waldorf schools aim to "educate" students' hearts and wills, they attempt to inspire in the kids the sorts of feelings and inclinations that would gladden the hearts of Goetheanum-visiting, Anthroposophical Waldorf teachers. In other words, they seek to implant Anthroposophical feelings and inclinations.

In sensitizing a child to the supernatural, Waldorf teachers are at least partially trying to preserve what Steiner said is the child’s innate connection to the spirit realm:

“Childhood is commonly regarded as a time of steadily expanding consciousness.... Yet in Steiner’s view, the very opposite is the case: childhood is a time of contracting consciousness.... [The child] loses his dream-like perception of the creative world of spiritual powers which is hidden behind the phenomena of the senses. This is...the world of creative archetypes and spiritual hierarchies.

“In mastering the world of physical perception the child encounters difficulties in that he first has to overcome a dream-like yet intensely real awareness of spiritual worlds. This awareness fades quickly in early childhood, but fragments of it live on in the child for a much longer time than most people imagine. 

“...In a Waldorf school, therefore, one of the tasks of the teachers is to keep the children young.” [22]

Think about the implications of keeping children young as opposed to helping them to mature, especially mentally. Put it this way: Should schools attempt to retard the maturation of their students, or should they help them to mature and flourish? Waldorf schools usually provide little or no academic preparation in preschool — they generally postpone reading, writing, and basic arithmetic until students are at least seven years old. This can cause students to be suffer intellectual deficits that hold them back throughout their school years and even beyond. Consider the contrast, for instance, to approaches such as Head Start.

Waldorf-style “thinking” is intended to be moderated by the faculties of intuition and/or imagination and/or clairvoyance. Taught that logic (i.e., methodical reasoning) is untrustworthy, the Waldorf student is directed toward spiritual experiences that are notionally self-evident (i.e., no proof required). Is this is genuine thinking at all, or merely a form of wishfulness? Consider: 

“To what extent will [a child’s] thinking become purely logical and colorless, unenriched by imagination, uninformed by experience? ... More than ever, therefore, should the attempt be made with our adolescents to preserve from the earlier stage of childhood those capacities which are natural to it, and to unite them with the new gift of intellectual thought. For this means to transform thought from what it is at present — the capacity for abstract hypothesis — into the capacity for self-evident spiritual experience.” [23]

Ask yourself whether an education aiming at such a form of “thought” is likely to equip children for life after graduation. In brief: Should we teach our children to live rationally in the real world or to have unsubstantiated intuitions of unseen worlds? (As we have seen, Steiner taught that true thinking does not occur in the brain. Waldorf schools generally downplay the importance of brainwork. Steiner did not deny that some  types of thinking occur in the brain, but he found little significance in them. [See, e.g., "Steiner's Specific".])

Steiner was repeatedly, glaringly wrong about a wide array of subjects. For anyone who does not subscribe to Anthroposophy, Steiner’s numerous blunders must seriously weaken the plausibility of “spiritual science” (i.e., Anthroposophy, the religion that underlies Waldorf “education”). Steiner's errors are hard to overlook or excuse. From today’s perspective, Steiner’s racism was a particularly grave error. Perhaps we might explain it away by saying that Steiner was a man of his times, sharing the prevailing views and attitudes (including prejudices) of his times. The trouble with such a defense, for Anthroposophists, is that it undermines the indispensable premise that Steiner, a professed clairvoyant, could see ultimate truth. The whole point of being a soothsayer, after all, is to say sooth: speak truth. Yet Steiner repeatedly failed this paramount test of his professed capability. 

Here, for instance, is what Steiner said about the French “race” and their language: 

“The use of the French language quite certainly corrupts the soul. The soul acquires nothing more than the possibility of clichés. Those who enthusiastically speak French transfer that to other languages. The French are also ruining what maintains their dead language, namely, their blood. The French are committing the terrible brutality of moving black people to Europe, but it works, in an even worse way, back on France. It has an enormous effect on the blood and the race and contributes considerably toward French decadence. The French as a race are reverting.” [24]

For more of the fruits of Steiner's clairvoyance, see "Steiner's Blunders". Children enrolled in Waldorf schools are often "educated" within a miasma of misinformation, error, and prejudice.

On the crucial subject of racism: 

Steiner taught that the external physical characteristics of the various races reflect and even cause those races’ inner qualities. Hair- and eye-color, for instance, have great significance, showing why whites are smarter: 

“In the case of fair people, less nourishment is driven into the eyes and hair; it remains instead in the brain and endows it with intelligence. Brown- and dark-haired people drive the substances into their eyes and hair that the fair people retain in their brains.” [25]

Racial differences, according to Steiner, are much more than skin deep. He taught that whites are humanity’s vanguard: 

“The white race is the future, it is the spiritually creative race.” [26]

Explicit statements of this kind — racist, and verging on an assertion of white supremacy — may never cross the lips of Waldorf teachers today. But the racist ideology promulgated by Steiner remains embedded in Anthroposophy, and as such it may emerge into view in Waldorf schools at least occasionally. [See "Embedded Racism".] The effect on children may be severe.

You'll find more on this disagreeable subject in the Addendum, below.

According to Steiner, a Waldorf school should be authoritarian, with strict discipline. If need be, the discipline should include corporal punishment.

Waldorf teachers should present themselves as unyielding authority figures. Steiner said, 

“[K]eep the children from losing their feeling for authority. That is what they need most. You can best achieve this by going into things with the children very cautiously, but under no circumstances giving in.” [27]

The discipline needed for the school to work properly must be maintained strictly. 

“We may never place ourselves in a situation where we may have to relent in a disciplinary decision.” [28]

This may require inflicting pain on the students. For instance, 

“If a child comes late ten minutes, have him or her stand for half an hour ... Let them stand uncomfortably ... [Y]ou can be particularly effective if you allow [sic] them to stand in an uncomfortable place ... They may even get cramps in their legs.” [29]

In extreme cases, spanking or slapping may be required. 

“Under certain circumstances it may be necessary to spank a child ... I have to admit that there are rowdies....” [30]

Slapping is generally not productive, Steiner said. But he allowed that a teacher may feel compelled to administer a slap. In that case, the student should recognize the gravity of the action. 

“If you give them a slap, you should do it the way Dr. Schubert does ... There are physical slaps and astral [nonphysical] slaps. It doesn’t matter which one you give, but you cannot slap a child sentimentally.” [31]

“Astral” slaps — psychological or spiritual punishment — may be preferable to physical slaps, but note that Steiner’s statement is quite different from what he could have said, such as: You must never slap a student, period.

In many parts of the world today, corporal punishment is viewed differently than it was in Germany in Steiner's day. The chance that a Waldorf teacher might give a child a physical slap is probably extremely small today. But the chance that Waldorf students might receive "astral slaps" is probably much higher. True-believing Anthroposophical Waldorf teachers think they possess the Truth about almost all matters (they believe Steiner, who made pronouncements about almost all matters). They may be deeply pained when they see students straying from the one truth path (the path leading toward Anthroposophy), and they may respond accordly. Corrective "astral slaps" could easily result.

Steiner was concerned about slapping primarily as a matter of public relations. He didn't want his school to be embarrassed. For this reason, he told Waldorf teachers to keep mum about what happens inside the school:

“[D]o not attempt to bring out into the public things that really concern only our school. I have been back only a few hours, and I have heard so much gossip about who got a slap and so forth ... We should be quiet about how we handle things in the school, we should maintain a kind of school confidentiality. We should not speak to people outside the school, except for the parents who come to us with questions, and in that case, only about their children, so that gossip has no opportunity to arise.” [32]

Steiner urged Waldorf teachers to to conceal a lot from outsiders (including the students' parents). In some cases, he said Waldorf schools should actively mislead outsiders:

"We must worm our way through. We have to be conscious of the fact that this is done in life ... [It should be] done with a certain mental reservation in response to external requirements. We have to be conscious that in order to do what we want to do, at least, it is necessary to talk with the people, not because we want to but because we have to, and inwardly make fools of them." [33]

When dealing with a Waldorf school, you should be aware that many secrets may be withheld from you.

[See "Secrets".]`

Harm may sometimes come to Waldorf students not through actions their teachers take, but through actions their teachers fail to take. Inspectors visiting some Waldorf or Steiner schools in the United Kingdom (UK) have faulted the teachers for failing to safeguard the students.

Here is part of a story that ran in an English newspaper about a Waldorf school in Exeter. The inspectors, from the UK’s Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted), faulted the school for several failings, including poor "safeguarding" (i.e., protection of students).

“[The school's] Ofsted inspection highlighted serious inadequacies in leadership, quality of teaching and safeguarding. The school was found to be 'inadequate' in every area inspected.

“Other concerns raised by the watchdog included…evidence that safeguarding checks have been made when employing new members of staff….” [34]

When teachers fail to keep tabs on their students, all sorts of mischief can result. News reports have told of Waldorf students leaving the school grounds without any teachers noticing — the students' whereabouts were unknown. There have also been reports of fights breaking out between students without teachers intervening to restore peace. Some reports indicate Steiner schools have occasionally failed to vet teaching applicants to see whether there have been complaints alleging mistreatment of students or others in the past. Other forms of dereliction have also been reported.

Various Anthroposophical beliefs can lead Waldorf teachers to be lax in supervising students. Steiner taught that children should be enabled to enact their karmas — which can mean that fights and bullying should be allowed, since some students have the karma to be bullied or beaten, while other students have the karma to be bullies or to win fights. Steiner also taught that all children have guardian angels — which can mean teachers can remain passive when problems arise, because the guardian angels will ensure that everything works out well.

The curriculum at the Waldorf school I attended wasn’t primarily meant to educate us, at least not as the term “educate” is usually understood. We students did homework, and we took tests, and we wrote papers. We picked up some knowledge of standard academic subjects. Yet all of that was, in a sense, incidental. No one could have mistaken our Waldorf for a hotbed of intellectual excellence.

The problem of low academic standards is widespread in the Waldorf movement.

“The success of Waldorf Education...can be measured in the life force attained. Not acquisition of knowledge and qualifications, but the life force is the ultimate goal of this school.” [35]

According to this, Waldorf does not aim to provide “knowledge” nor does it aim to help students attain “qualifications.” But these are the essence of real education. Waldorf aims instead to promote “life force” — which is a fantasy. No such force exists. 

Low academic standards have bedeviled Waldorf schools since the beginning. When students at the first Waldorf School were tested to ascertain their overall academic standing, Rudolf Steiner himself had to make this admission:

“We should have no illusions: The results gave a very unfavorable impression of our school to people outside.” [36]

Poor teaching is virtually guaranteed by the Waldorf system, under which one teacher takes primary responsibility for teaching almost all subjects to a class year after year as the children grow up. 

"Waldorf teachers stay with the same students from preschool until Grade 8 — a process called looping. The teachers believe this practice promotes security and trust in the classroom." [37]

The practice may contribute to "security and trust," but it does not contribute to good teaching. No teacher is truly qualified to teach a wide range of subjects at one class level, and then to repeat this at the next level, and the next, and the next. Indeed, this system essentially guarantees that at least some subjects at some levels will be badly taught — sometimes very badly taught. The damage that can result for students, depriving them of a good education, can be serious and long-lasting.

Strange as it may seem, Waldorf students can be harmed because their teachers “love” them. Here is a statement by a former Waldorf student and teacher, discussing the personalized poems Waldorf teachers sometimes write and give to their students.

"It is extremely gratifying when someone takes the trouble to write a poem about you. Who normally writes such poems, except distraught lovers? This explains the nostalgic feeling that alumni of these schools often express. They feel that they were recognized there as they have never been recognized again anywhere else. Because the teachers in these schools…ask the students to reveal their most private thoughts … So the students get the impression that their teachers have seen into their souls with great clarity. The teachers begin this process when parents first enroll their children in kindergarten — they ask the parents intimate questions about their marriage and why they wanted to have children, and the teachers maneuver to take charge of the children then. Of course, they make their questions seem wholly professional, seeking to gain deep knowledge of the children entrusted to them … When some students eventually realize that their teachers didn’t really care about what they could become, and didn’t really understand who they were, they begin to realize the falsehood of what they lived through. But they are the lucky ones if they are able to penetrate such terrible deceit, compared with other students who don’t come to this realization and therefore stay caught in their teachers’ psychological grip.” [38]

The psychological impact, both for students who become disillusioned and for those who remain in their teachers’ thrall, can be deeply damaging.

The damage is all the worse when teachers cross the line and profess deep romantic (and sexual) love for their students. The following is from a newspaper article published in Australia:

“As an English teacher with a penchant for romantic poetry, Roger Graham knows how to write a love letter. But in 2001 when he began writing to one of his 16-year-old female students, the married Graham, in his fifties, may have penned the final chapter for the Newcastle Waldorf School, a Rudolf Steiner school he helped establish in the early 1980s.

“'Dearest heart! Most beloved, heart of my heart!’ he wrote to the girl, then in the same class as his daughter. ‘I yearn for your lips and arms…’

“Graham wrote to ‘my luminous goddess’ some 20 times over the next six months, during which they began a physical relationship, hugging and kissing before, during and after school.” [39]

Of course, this was an exceptional and extreme situation. Very few Waldorf teachers cross this line. And we need to remember that such situations, rare as they are, are not confined to Waldorf schools. Examples can be found in many other types of schools. But the very close bonds that Waldorf teachers often seek to create with their students may lead to romantic and sexual transgressions. This danger may be greater in Waldorf schools than in many other types of schools where a wider distance is maintained between teachers and students. At a minimum, parents should bear in mind the potentially greater risk at Waldorf schools.

It seems certain that only a small minority of Waldorf students are victimized in the worst, most dreadful ways we have considered (sexual abuse, corporal punishment, "astral slapping," and the like). Waldorf schools would have shut down long ago if most students were clearly and grievously subjected to such abuses. On the other hand, it seems probable that large numbers of Waldorf students are victimized by their schools in more subtle ways (alienated from reality, made receptive to forms of paganism, hampered by poor academic instruction, and so on). As we should expect, Waldorf victimization runs the gamut from severe to mild, with the preponderence of cases nestled on the mild end of the spectrum. 

There is another factor we need to recognize. Arguably, some Waldorf victims do not consider themselves victims at all. These are students for whom Waldorf worked as Rudolf Steiner intended. They are Waldorf "successes." Viewed from a critical perspective, they are students who quietly, even happily, drift down the Waldorf path into vague forms of mysticism, happy rejection of modernity, comfortable embrace of emotional/imaginative alternatives to rationality, and so forth. Viewed in this way, they are students who come out of Waldorf having internalized and accepted, to one degree or another, the mystical Waldorf mindset. [40]

I will not point my finger at any individuals; I will not give any names. But I can attest (as other alums of other Waldorf schools could) that a fairly large number of my old schoolmates came away from Waldorf education with Waldorf inclinations and Waldorf beliefs imprinted on their minds and hearts. Some of these individuals spent much or all of their post-Waldorf years in and around Anthroposophical institutions of various sorts. They led Anthroposophical or semi-Anthroposophical lives, lives that were markedly different from those they likely would have led if they had not received Waldorf tutelage. Some became Waldorf teachers. Some became Waldorf administrators. Some became Anthroposophical authors and lecturers. Some became eurythmists. Some became financial supporters of Anthroposophical organizations. Some became Anthroposophical or semi-Anthroposophical health care providers. Some entrusted their health care (and the health care of their children) to Anthroposophical physicians. Some became devoted customers of Weleda health and beauty products. Some became biodynamic gardeners and farmers. Some raised their children in the Waldorf way, and sent their children to Waldorf schools, and anchored their childrens' vancations at Anthroposophical summer camps, and so on. [41]

From one point of view, as I indicated above, Waldorf graduates who behave in these ways are Waldorf success stories. They are individuals whose lives were deeply altered by their Waldorf educations, in ways they consider positive. Most of them would surely reject the suggestion that they were victimized by Waldorf — they would say their lives have been improved by Waldorf. And yet, from another point of view, these individuals are recognizably Waldorf victims. They have been sucked into a world of falsehoods, a mytical realm of fantastical, irrational, antiscientific beliefs, an occult region of fable and phantasmagoria and error. Arguably, they are the greatest victims of Rudolf Steiner's fabrications and deceptions.

These are the two points of view regarding the effects of Waldorf education. Waldorf improves people's lives by showing them a better way, or Waldorf damages people by luring them into the shadows.

I leave it to you, gentle reader, to make up your own mind. Are Waldorf alums of the sort I have just now described successes of whom Waldorf schools should be proud, or are such alums actually victims of Waldorf miseducation and misconduct? Your answer will help you determine how many dangers you perceive in the Waldorf movement.


The dangers outlined above do not comprise a complete list.

Circumstances vary from school to school,

teacher to teacher, and student to student.

See, e.g.,

"Who Gets Hurt",

"Academic Standards at Waldorf", 



"Steiner's Quackery",


and (for a general overview)

"Square One".

For personal reports by

parents who sent children to Waldorf schools,

and by former Waldorf students,

former Waldorf board members,

former Waldorf teachers, etc.,


"Our Experience",

"Coming Undone",


"I Went to Waldorf",

"Magical Arts",

"My Sad, Sad Story",

"My Life Among the Anthroposophists",

"Ex-Teacher 2",

"Ex-Teacher 3",





Parents may also want to read 

“Non-Waldorf Waldorfs: Looking for a Good One” 

and "Clues"

To examine efforts by Waldorf schools 

to change their image

as part of "a weird cult 

that brainwashes children," see "PR".

To examine what may be Steiner's 

central educational "insight,"

see "Most Significant".

For a detailed discussion of Steiner’s teachings 

and the nature of Waldorf education,

please see “Unenlightened”.

For selections of revealing statements 

made by Steiner, 

see “Say What?” and "Wise Words" — 

I have included several statements from 


And in the essay "Faculty Meetings"

I analyze several of these, and other, quotations.

For relatively candid remarks by Rudolf Steiner

on the spiritualistic agenda of Waldorf schools,

see "Spiritual Agenda".

For advice Steiner gave to Waldorf teachers,

see "Advice for Teachers" 

For a peek at Waldorf teacher training,

see "Teacher Training"

For an overview of the Waldorf spirit,

see "Spirit"

For information on signs and symbols

 you may spot

at a Waldorf school, 

see "Signs"

For a statement about the identity of individuals 

quoted and paraphrased at Waldorf Watch, 

see "Trolls?"

If you are thinking about sending your children to a school where Steiner’s doctrines are observed, think long and hard. If you already have children in such a school, consider removing them. My advice? Get them out.

— Roger Rawlings


Footnotes for "A Parent's Guide to Waldorf Dangers"

[1] Rudolf Steiner, RHYTHMS OF LEARNING: What Waldorf Education Offers Children, Parents & Teachers, p. 72.

Note that although Steiner indicates the various temperaments may merge, he gives Waldorf teachers instructions that treat the temperaments as distinct and separate conditions: Put the phlegmatics here, put the cholerics there, and so on. 

[2] Rudolf Steiner, THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE, Foundations of Waldorf Education (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), pp. 142-145.

[3] Ibid., p. 67.

[4] Ibid., p. 118.


Steiner referred to "organs of clairvoyance" (which of course are invisible) on various occasions. E.g., 

"[T]he moment has come when we must try to form spiritual organs of clairvoyance in us and develop ourselves for spiritual knowledge, so that these organs don't dry up and waste away." — Rudolf Steiner, FROM THE CONTENTS OF ESOTERIC LESSONS, Part III, Stuttgart (transcript, Rudolf Steiner Archive), GA 266. 

"The actual organs of clairvoyance must be developed from within." — Rudolf Steiner, SPIRITUAL SCIENCE AND MEDICINE (Rudolf Steiner Publishing Co., 1948), lecture 14, GA 312. 

"[A]mong the Turanians the ancient forces, lingering as an heirloom, served to prepare external organs of clairvoyance...." — Rudolf Steiner, THE GOSPEL OF ST. MATTHEW (Rudolf Steiner Publishing Co., 1946), lecture 3, GA 123. 


[7] Ibid., p. 495.

[8] Rudolf Steiner, NATURE SPIRITS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1995), pp. 62-3.


[10] Ibid., p. 60.

[11] Rudolf Steiner, FREUD, JUNG, AND SPIRITUAL PSYCHOLOGY, pp. 124-125. 


[13] Ibid., pp. 30-31.

[14] Rudolf Steiner, POLARITIES IN THE EVOLUTION OF MANKIND (Steiner Books, 1987), p. 59.


[16] Ibid., pp. 649-650.

[17] Ibid., p. 712.

[18] Ibid., pp. 649-650.

[19] Eugene Schwartz, “Waldorf Education — For Our Times or Against Them?”, November 13, 1999, transcript edited by Michael Kopp.

Schwartz is an Anthroposophical writer and educator. He is the author of WALDORF EDUCATION: Schools for the Twenty-First Century (Xlibris Corporation, 2000) and MILLENNIAL CHILD: Transforming Education for the Twenty-First Century (Anthroposophic Press, 1999).

[20] Lawrence Williams, Ed.D., OAK MEADOW AND WALDORF.

Williams is an Anthroposophist who has given an account of the scandal at my old Waldorf school. He is the author of OAK MEADOW AND WALDORF and THE OAK MEADOW TRILOGY (Oak Meadow, Inc., 1997) — see

[21] Rudolf Steiner, RUDOLF STEINER IN THE WALDORF SCHOOL - Foundations of Waldorf Education VI (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), pp. 166-167.

Was Steiner deluding himself? Did the teachers really plant Anthroposophical essences in the kids, or did the kids merely give the performances their teachers directed them to give? Neither Steiner nor we could really know what was in the kids' hearts — but we can easily imagine what Waldorf teachers intended to "plant in the hearts and souls of their dear students." We can imagine what sort of performances would gladden Anthropsophists' hearts.

[22] A.C. Harwood, PORTRAIT OF A WALDORF SCHOOL (The Myrin Institute Inc., 1956), pp. 15-16.

Harwood had a long career as a Waldorf educator and lecturer. Harwood died in 1975.

[23] Ibid., pp. 23-24.


[25] Rudolf Steiner, HEALTH AND ILLNESS, Vol. 1 (Anthroposophic Press, 1981), pp. 85-86.

[26] Rudolf Steiner, ON THE LIFE OF HUMAN BEINGS AND OF THE EARTH (VOM LEBEN DES MENSCHEN UND DER ERDE (Verlag Der Rudolf Steiner-Nachlassverwaltung, 1961), translated by Roger Rawlings, 2005), p. 62. 

Some of Steiner’s most dreadful statements are hard, if not impossible, to find in English translations of his works. Here is another example: 

“White mankind is still on the path of absorbing spirit more deeply into its essence. Yellow mankind is on the path of preserving the period when the spirit was kept away from the body, when the spirit could only be sought outside of the physical human- being. But the result will have to be that the transition from the fifth cultural epoch [i.e., now] to the sixth cultural epoch cannot happen differently than as a violent fight between white mankind and colored mankind in the most varied areas.” — Rudolf Steiner, DIE GEISTIGEN HINTERGRÜNDE DES ERSTEN WELTKRIEGES {The Spiritual Background of the First World War} (Rudolf Steiner Verlag, 1974), p. 38, translated by Roger Rawlings, 2005.

Yet even in the translations of Steiner's works offered by Anthroposophical presses, we can find his appalling opinions exposed. See the passage I quote, above, about the French “race” and “blacks” (i.e., Africans). Here is another example: 

“Lucifer and Ahriman...fought against [the] harmonious tendency of development in the evolution of humanity, and they managed to change the whole process so that various developments were shifted and displaced. While there should have been basically only one form of human being ... Lucifer and Ahriman preserved [earlier human types]...even into the time after the Atlantean flood. Thus, forms that should have disappeared remained. Instead of racial diversities developing consecutively, older racial forms remained unchanged and newer ones began to evolve at the same time. Instead of the intended consecutive development of races, there was a coexistence of races. That is how it came about that physically different races inhabited the earth and are still there in our time although evolution should really have proceeded [unimpeded].” — Rudolf Steiner, THE UNIVERSAL HUMAN: THE EVOLUTION OF INDIVIDUALITY, Lectures from 1909-1916 (Anthroposophic Press, 1990), p. 75. 

To explicate: In this passage, Steiner is discussing higher and lower races, explaining why humanity is divided into various races instead of comprising a single, highly-evolved race. Lucifer and Ahriman are demonic spiritual powers. “Atlantean” refers to Atlantis.

Steiner professed to believe the Atlantis myth, and he traced the “Aryan” race back to it. Consider the following: 

“The ancestors of the Atlanteans lived in a region [i.e., Lemuria, an earlier lost continent] which has disappeared ... After they had passed through various stages of development the greatest part of them declined. These became stunted men, whose descendants still inhabit certain parts of the earth today as so-called savage tribes. Only a small part of Lemurian humanity was capable of further development. From this part the Atlanteans were formed. Later, something similar took place. The greatest part of the Atlantean population declined, and from a small portion [that did not decline] are descended the so-called Aryans who comprise present-day civilized humanity ... ” — Rudolf Steiner, COSMIC MEMORY (Garber Communications, 1990), pp. 45-46. 

Don't be put off by Steiner's use of such qualifiers as "so-called." He used these often, often to imply that even when people agree with him, they know less than he does and they use language less accurately than he does. In Steiner's teachings, the Aryans are exemplars of progress; other races descend from “stunted men” and Atlanteans who “declined” — hence, the existence today of “savage tribes.” [See  “Steiner’s Racism”.]


[28] Ibid., p. 109.

[29] Ibid., p. 110. 

[30] Ibid., p. 22.

[31] Ibid., p. 323.

Their said discipline should be especially tight when students are in the lowest grades. Gradually, as the children age, disciipline should be loosened, he said.

[32] Ibid., p. 10.

Steiner's concern suggests that even in Germany in those days corporal punishment seemed unacceptable in at least some circumstances.

[33] Rudolf Steiner, CONFERENCES WITH THE TEACHERS OF THE WALDORF SCHOOL IN STUTTGART, Vol. 1 (Steiner Schools Fellowship Publications, 1986), p. 125. 

[34] See “The Steiner School Crisis”, Part 2.

[35]  Anthroposophist Peter Selg, THE ESSENCE OF WALDORF EDUCATION (SteinerBooks, 2010)‚ p. 30.

[36] Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 725.

[37] Carol Milstone, "Gnomes and Critics at Waldorf Schools", National Post (Canada), Nov. 16, 2002.

Note that sometimes teachers stay with a group of children for fewer years (grades 1 through 5, instead of grades 1 through 8, for instance), or sometimes they stay longer (sometimes all the way through grade 12).

[38] See “Mistreating Kids Lovingly”.

[39] See “Extremity”.

[40] It is probable that a fairly high number of Waldorf students fall between the two extremes — they are not much harmed by the schools nor are they much swayed to join the ranks of Anthroposophists. They attend Waldorf schools for a while, then they leave; turnover often seems to be fairly high at Waldorf schools. When students attend for only a few years, the effect of the schools on them may be proportionately reduced. Steiner designed the Waldorf curriculum to have a cumulative effect, building up over the years. In theory, Waldorf students should begin in the lowest grades and remain all the way through high school graduation. When students do not receive this long-term treatment, they may come away little changed. Then again, some students who do stay for the entire program may end up liking or disliking Waldorf for reasons that have little to do with the factors we have considered. They may come away liking Waldorf for such simple reasons as the plentiful playtime and all the arts and crafts, or they may come away disliking Waldorf for its lack of academic rigor or its small size. In other words, while some Waldorf students may be seriously affected by their Waldorf expriences, others may be largely unaffected — they may end up liking or disliking Waldorf for more or less ordinary reasons, not unlike the reasons other kids at other schools like or dislike those other schools. Some Waldorf students are more susceptible to the Waldorf approach, and they are deeply impacted; others are more resistant, so for them the effect of the schools is less. [To consider some of these matters, see "Who Gets Hurt?"] This is not to say that the experience of attending a Waldorf school is like the experience of attending other schools. In numerous important ways, it is not. Waldorf poses unique dangers, which parents need to understand and guard their children against. 

[41] If you're unsure where the problems lie in some of these activities and practices, you might consult the following: involvement in Waldorf schools, see "Here's the Answer"; involvement in Anthroposophy, "Is Anthroposophy a Religion?"; practice of eurythmy (Anthroposophic temple dancing), "Eurythmy"; reliance on Anthroposophic medicine, "Steiner's Quackery"; practicing biodynamic agriculture, "Biodynamics"; vacationing in nature as conceived in Anthroposophy, "Neutered Nature". The overall problem is that all of these activities and practices are rooted in the ignorance and superstition of Anthroposophy. The more you involve yourself in them, the deeper you are liable to sink into mystical darkness — i.e., Anthroposophical beliefs. (Contributing money to Anthroposphical enterprises is probably safe enough, although it is surely a waste of your resources, and the enterprises you support may harm other people if not you. Likewise, working as an administrator in Anthroposophical enterprises may be safe for you — assuming you don't plunge into Anthroposophical beliefs — but the enterprises may harm others.) 




The types of art promoted at Waldorf schools are meant to have powerful occult effects. This sketch of scenery used for staging one of Steiner's "mystery plays" has some of the qualities you may detect in paintings created and displayed at Waldorf schools (except that they would be better than my effort shown here, and the effects would be heightened): watercolor, prismatic coloration, an effect of drapery or veils, vague organic/spiritual forms, a suggestion of passageways leading into the distance, perhaps some mysterious runes or occult symbols...

[R.R. sketch, 2009, 

based on a stage set used at the Goetheanum

— see, e.g., GOETHEANUM: 

School of Spiritual Science 

(Philosophical-Anthroposophical Press, 1961), 

p. 21.] 

Use this link to go to the

second part of 

"Advice for Parents"

Waldorf Watch consists of a great many pages, many of which contain multiple sections. Throughout, I have tried to write in such a way that even newcomers — who may know little or nothing about Rudolf Steiner and his doctrines — will be able to follow the discussion. One drawback to this approach is that I often have to repeat points I have made before, elsewhere at the site. I ask for your forbearance. When you come upon quotations or other material that I have presented previously, please remember the reason for this redundancy, and skip ahead. Further down on that page or the next page, you should soon find less familiar material. — R.R.