The following appears, in different form, in “Goddess”
— if you’ve read it there, you may not need to read it here.
In that case, please scroll down to "Gnomes and Critics at Waldorf Schools".
The Theory of Everything
Rudolf Steiner attempted to stitch together a theory of everything.  Drawing heavily from others who have had a similar goal — especially Theosophists — he tried to find a coherent narrative running through all mystical and religious traditions. He claimed that all truly inspired prophets and oracles and seers throughout history had attained spiritual insights that were, at their core, the same.  He said that each god and goddess perceived by humans is a real being, that all myths are true, that indeed all fairy tales are true. 
Steiner’s great intellectual achievement was to create a framework that accommodates so many mythologies, religions, and occult traditions. (Again, we need to remember that he took much of this framework from others, but he undeniably made his own contributions to the end product that he referred to as Anthroposophy.) His large assertion was that Christianity — as redefined by himself — is the culmination of all previous spiritual systems; it is the Truth that previous systems were leading us toward. 
The great problem in all this is that Steiner had to reinterpret most of the material he incorporated into his system in order to make it all fit. Thus, his Christ is the Sun God, who did not save us, precisely, but who provided us with the proper role model for our own spiritual development.  Christ is crucially important to us, Steiner said, but there are many other gods, and we will reincarnate many times on Earth, and our lives are conditioned by destiny or karma as well as by the astrological power of the stars and planets, and the Moon is a fortress harboring reclusive beings, and...
Most of this is utterly alien to orthodox Christianity and the Bible, but Steiner freely wrenched all manner of traditions into unlikely shapes. Thus, Steiner argued that Buddha was the same being as the ancient Norse god Wotan, and that at the request of the head Rosicrucian, Buddha traveled to Mars where he was crucified, as it were. Buddhists cannot recognize their teachings in this bizarre story any more than Christians can see their Savior in a Sun being who helped us manage our karma and reincarnations more wisely. 
Steiner did this sort of thing constantly, with scores of tales and teachings: He made them all fit together, true — but he did this by distorting them so severely that their original meanings were often destroyed. If he had provided any evidence or at least rational arguments to support his statements, we might agree that he developed interesting new metaphysical truths, or that he at least had revived old, discarded concepts, breathing new life into them. But he gave no evidence and he rarely took the trouble to develop his remarks rationally. He relied primarily on his own, unsupported word; the only substantiation he generally offered was to cite the myths, traditions, and doctrines that, he claimed, were consistent with his teachings (although they became consistent only after he had “corrected” them). 
The Theory of Nothing
The word “Anthroposophy” literally means the knowledge or wisdom of the human being. In using this term, Steiner meant that his doctrines include both knowledge about humans and knowledge that humans can acquire. But what did he mean by knowledge?
He said that real knowledge does not come from using your brain. “[T]he brain and nerve system have nothing at all to do with actual cognition....” 
Actual knowledge, he said, comes from clairvoyance, which allows you to do such things as to read the Akashic Records, which amount to an invisible universal encyclopedia written on an undetectable ether called akasha. “[I]f we are able to raise our faculty of perception [i.e., clairvoyance] and look through the visible world to the invisible, we arrive at length at a point where we have [i.e., we see] before us what might be compared to a mighty spiritual panorama ... These abiding traces of all spiritual happenings may be called the ‘Akashic Records’....” 
To become really clairvoyant, you need to develop invisible, nonphysical “organs” of clairvoyance: “You see, the organs of clairvoyance must be developed from within....”  “[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....” 
All of this is nonsense, but it is what Steiner taught — and it is what many Waldorf school teachers believe. The “wisdom” of Anthroposophy comes when we stop thinking with our conscious brains and surrender to the unconscious Wisdom that we have within ourselves. Finding this wisdom can be complex, requiring the mystical disciplining our of minds and souls, but it is imminent, ready for our discovery, through clairvoyance. 
To wrap our minds around Steiner’s meaning, let’s look at a single quotation. (If you haven’t read many quotes from Steiner, prepare yourself. His use of language was extremely loose and elusive; and his translators have often compounded the difficulties). In one of his lessons to his followers, Steiner described the “polarity” between the male and female principles. Then he said: “There is in the Cosmos the same polarity as we have described between male and female: and that is the polarity between a Comet and the Moon. If we wish to understand the nature of a Comet, wandering as it does in cosmic space regardless of the other laws of the Solar System, we must be clear as to the fact that the Comet carries the laws belonging to the old Moon-existence into our own [time] ... [I]t has remained behind at the stage of natural law which prevailed in the Solar System when our earth was still Old Moon [i.e., an earlier period of evolution]. It carries a former condition into a later, into the present; just as the woman’s body carries an earlier condition into present-day existence [i.e., the female body preserves characteristics from earlier phases of human development].” 
There are certainly traces of misogyny in this statement, but let’s not focus on that right now.  Instead, let’s try to grasp what Steiner was saying about the “Old Moon.” Steiner taught that the solar system blinks in and out of existence, and during each blink — which lasts for many centuries — we humans evolve. We started out as very vaguely defined, extremely dim creatures in a phase of evolution that Steiner called Old Saturn.  After it blinked out, we return on Old Sun, and later we returned on Old Moon. Now we are on Earth (which is one of the few true ideas Steiner ever expressed). After Earth blinks out, we will go on to Jupiter, then Venus, and then Vulcan (yes, Vulcan). The concept is fascinating, perhaps, but what evidence does Steiner offer to support it? None. Nowhere in his works will you find any real evidence for this or almost anything else Steiner ever said.
His method was to make astonishing claims and then gallop ahead, leaving us breathless with admiration or confusion or skeptical revolt. We can take his word for things or not, but Steiner offers us nothing much except his own word. The closest he came to buttressing his claims was alluding to various occult teachings and myths and works of art, which he interpreted as he pleased. Look, he said: The ancient Egyptians (or whoever) believed thus-and-so, which is a lot like what I am saying now, so it must be true! According to him, everything that has ever been true can be found, properly explained, in his own ideas. The ancients were wise, and he is wiser; the ancients were right, and he is righter.
But there is another way to see this. Steiner gives us no real evidence, no real reasoning — and on this extremely flimsy basis he makes a vast number of extremely weird statements. This is not wisdom; it is ignorance. By piling his own teachings on top of the myths and delusions of ancient peoples, he merely piled ignorance on top of ignorance.
Is “ignorance” too strong a word to throw at Steiner?  Think about those comets, which “wander” through space “regardless of the other laws of the Solar System.” Steiner’s statement bears no relation to reality. Comets do not wander; they orbit the Sun in regular, knowable, elongated elliptical orbits. Nor do comets defy the laws that control the other bodies in the solar system. They orbit the Sun in accordance with precisely the same laws of orbital mechanics that apply to everything else that orbits the Sun (and, probably, everything that orbits anything anywhere in the universe).
Steiner was quite knowledgeable about myths, legends, esoteric teachings, occultism, and so on. He knew a lot about those bodies of misinformation — and he accepted them as the truth, whereas he generally rejected real knowledge out of hand. Science is wrong, he said over and over. It is “scientific trash” forked up by “scientific simpletons” with their and their “logical, pedantic, narrow-minded proof of things.” He deplored “primitive concepts like those... of contemporary science.”  But quite clearly, the primitive view is not science; the primitive view is the one he espoused: mystical, woolly, subjective, fantastical.
The “wisdom” and “truth” of Anthroposophy is an elaborately reworked farrago of fantasy and falsehood. It is what every sane person should walk away from — or run from, laughing or weeping, gladly or sorrowfully. Myths and mysticism have their charms, but they offer us no real knowledge. If we human beings are to evolve — as Steiner constantly said we must — then, ironically, we must reject Steiner’s doctrines and those of every other false prophet. If we want real knowledge and wisdom, we need to look elsewhere. Steiner offered us little or none.
— Roger Rawlings
Gnomes and Critics at Waldorf Schools
National Post (Canada), Nov. 16, 2002
by Carol Milstone
Waldorf schools claim to be North America’s fastest-growing chain of alternative independent schools. Parents praise them for encouraging pupils’ artistic expression and keeping pressure and competition to a minimum. But critics are troubled by the schools’ underlying philosophy. It rejects modern medicine and psychiatry and promotes belief in astrology and the existence of gnomes in the woods.
Last spring, Helen and Cam Dorion (not their real names) were thrilled with the alternative school they had just selected for their children.
“I’ve been looking into schools for about a year now, and the second I walked in the door I just knew,” said Helen, of the Ottawa Waldorf School. “In the three weeks that the two boys have been here, they have improved tremendously.”
Helen and Cam were so impressed they moved their family from Ottawa’s west end to the outlying suburb of Stittsville, Ont., to be closer to their newly chosen school.
...Waldorf schools have no computers or high-tech gadgetry, and all classroom supplies are made of natural fibre (cotton, wood, wool, etc.). To keep pressure and competition to a minimum, there are no clocks, drill cards, textbooks or tests. No mirrors of any kind are allowed in Waldorf schools (they promote too much self-focus), nor are black crayons in early grades (a harsh and undesirable colour).
To its supporters, Waldorf is a gentle antidote to today’s preoccupation with early achievement, inflated commercialism and undue pressure on children. Many parents are particularly happy that 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.
As with any non-conventional school, Waldorf has its critics.
To its detractors, Waldorf’s apparent humility and security are only a veneer. They point to the philosophy (some call it a religion) called Anthroposophy, developed by Steiner, and forming the cornerstone of all Waldorf schools.
Although not officially part of the Waldorf curriculum, Anthroposophy is pushed in brochures, newsletters and pamphlets that are scattered throughout the schools. Waldorf teachers are trained and well versed in Anthroposophy, and local Anthroposophy study groups are established at the schools. Waldorf classrooms include prayer tables, where the children recite daily incantations about spirits and rhythms in nature.
The critics view Anthroposophy as a potentially dangerous religion that is New Age-like and mystical. They are troubled, for example, by how Anthroposophy rejects modern medicine and psychiatry and believes (among other things) in astrology, reincarnation and the existence of little gnomes in the woods. A contingent of Waldorf critics charges that some of Steiner’s Anthroposophical writings are racist, while others are simply bothered by the feeling of exclusion Waldorf schools create.
...“Steiner taught that if you didn’t make spiritual progression over successive lifetimes, you come back as a gnome,” explains Philadelphia’s Diana Winters.
Reincarnation, spiritual progression, and karma (destiny) are a big part of Anthroposophy’s spiritual mysticism and Steiner has written volumes on these topics.
“We must see this lawful and regular connection between an earlier existence and a later one as the ‘law of destiny’,” wrote Steiner. “We usually apply the term ‘karma’. “
Steiner explains that “each incarnating spirit brings its destiny along with it from previous incarnations, and this destiny determines its previous life.”
“Only a real cynic would not fall in love with the Waldorf gnomes [at first],” Winters elaborates. “But it’s another thing to live and breathe gnome culture day in and day out.”
References to gnomes in school literature are hard to find, but references to incarnation and destiny can be found in the online newsletter of the Toronto Waldorf School, which states, “Child development is regarded by the Waldorf educator as a process whereby an individual incarnates into earthly existence…. We see it as our task to facilitate the development of each individual on the path to their destiny”.
...Other Waldorf critics are more concerned with the seemingly racist contents of Rudolf Steiner’s writings, some of which have been found in teacher training material.
“In the truest sense,” wrote Steiner in 1904, “everyone receives his allotted task from his family, national or racial group soul.”
“The Ancestors of the Atlanteans lived in a religion which has disappeared,” elaborated Steiner. “In theosophical writings they are called the Lemurians…. From this part the Atlanteans were formed…. The greatest part of the Atlantean population declined, and from a small portion are descended the so-called Aryans who comprise present-day civilized humanity.”
In public lectures during the same year (1904), Steiner declared, “Ever since the Atlantean Race began slowly to disappear, the great Aryan Race has been the dominant one on Earth.”
“That is a terrible thing the French people are doing to other people,” Steiner wrote from Germany in 1923. “[From] the frightful cultural brutality of transplanting black people to Europe … the French nation will become weakened as a race.”
...“There is nothing in the [school brochures] about incarnating children’s souls,” says a Waldorf parent-turned-critic in British Columbia who requests anonymity due to pending legal action with a local Waldorf school. “How many parents even know that Waldorf teachers study Steiner’s occultism in order to teach at a Waldorf?” [http://www.religionnewsblog.com/1213]
Steiner said that gods such as Zeus and Odin really exist.
Waldorf students are usually not taught this,
but they usually are told many, many tales about such gods.
And if they decide that such gods must be real,
their Waldorf teachers will almost surely not correct them.
Here is a drawing by a Waldorf student,
perhaps quite innocent:
The gods Odin (top) and Zeus (bottom)
[Ernst Lehner, SYMBOLS, SIGNS & SIGNETS (Dover Publishing, 1950), pp. 24 & 22.]
Mythologies, fantasies, and fables of all sorts
are typically emphasized in Waldorf schooling.
Fairy tales are true — although, of course, their truths are disguised and must be revealed by savants; by R. Steiner, indeed.
“You see, truths that are otherwise presented merely in the form of poetry — for instance, the relations between Faust and Mephistopheles — can become guiding principles for education as it should be in the future ... The secret of all legends and fairy-tales is that their content was originally actual experience, arising either from man's relation to the Sphinx or from his relation to Mephistopheles. In legends and fairy-tales we find, sometimes more and sometimes less deeply hidden, either the motif of the riddle, the motif of the Sphinx, where something has to be solved, some question answered; or else the motif of bewitchment, of being under a spell. This is the Ahriman motif ... Spiritual Science is thus a fundamental factor in the evolution of the Fifth Post-Atlantean epoch.”
— Rudolf Steiner, THE BALANCE IN THE WORLD AND MAN, LUCIFER AND AHRIMAN
(Steiner Book Centre, 1948), lecture 1, GA 158. [R.R. sketch, 2010.]
Waldorf-style art is meant to invoke the spirit realm.
That aside, it can be attractive
(generally more attractive than my own
efforts to emulate it).
[R. R., 2010.]
The worldwide Anthroposophical headquarters is the Goetheanum,
located in Dornach, Switzerland.
The original structure, made of wood, was destroyed by fire.
Above you see the interior of the great assembly hall in that building.
Note the pipe organ, mystic columns, and hints of the occult ceiling mural.
[R. R. sketch, 2010, based on a photography on p. 73
of Rudolf Steiner, ARCHITECTURE (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2003).]
After the loss of the first Goetheanum,
a second was erected, this time made of concrete.
Above is an exterior detail.
[R.R., 2009 - from cover,
Rudolf Steiner, ARCHITECTURE
(Rudolf Steiner Press, 2003).]
Painting by a Waldorf student,
courtesy of People for Legal and Nonsectarian Schools.
How can anyone take Steiner’s teachings seriously? Remarkably, some people do — and some of them teach in Waldorf schools. Here's another sample. See how seriously you can take it. “It was a collective world-womb in which the light-plant man lived at that time, feeling himself one with the light-mantle of the earth. In this refined vaporous plant-form, man hung as though on the umbilical cord of the earth-mother and he was cherished and nourished by the whole mother earth. As in a cruder sense the child of today is cherished and nourished in the maternal body, so the human germ was cherished and nourished at that time. Thus did man live in the primeval age of the earth ... We must not forget, however, that in what remained behind after the separation of the sun other forces, the Moon-forces, were present. The earth had to separate these forces from itself. Here we have a period during which only the sun was withdrawn, when the plant-man had to descend gradually into the water-earth. This stage, at which man had then arrived in his body, we see preserved today in a degenerated form in fishes. The fishes that we see in the water today are relics of those men, although naturally in a decadent form. We must think of a goldfish, for example, in a fantastic plant-form, agile, but with a feeling of sadness because the light had been withdrawn from the water. It was a very deep longing that arose. The light was no longer there, but the desire for the light called up this longing. There was a moment in the earth's evolution when the sun was not yet entirely outside the earth; there one can see that form still permeated with light — man with his upper part still at the sun-stage, while below he is already in the shape preserved in the fishes.” — Rudolf Steiner, EGYPTIAN MYTHS AND MYSTERIES (Anthroposophic Press, 1971), lecture 5, GA 106. R. R. sketch, a bit interpretive, 2010. Lest there be any confusion: What Steiner says, here, is not to be found in Egyptian myths. It is Steiner's own version of the truth about human evolution. Some of what Steiner said may seem attractive, but it has no basis in reality.
The following is excerpted from the transcript
of a report on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation
[An] attempt to broaden the appeal of public education by opening up a number of primary schools to the Steiner method of teaching has sparked controversy.
....One investigation relates to literacy and numeracy standards, and the other comes after some parents complained that the spirituality implicit in the Steiner system was incompatible with secular public education.
...Ray Pereira...has withdrawn both his boys from the [Steiner] stream and the school, citing a range of concerns that culminated with a teacher's assessment of his younger son.
"She thought his soul wasn't fully incarnated yet, which was strange thing for me to hear at a parent-teacher interview," he said.
"And then she pulled out some drawings that he'd done which showed him, I guess, looking down, like a plan view of what he was drawing.
"And she used this as evidence that his soul was hovering over the earth and looking down on the earth and so, therefore, she felt that he wasn't quite ready to move into the following year."
...[P]arent Jenni Lans says that the Education Act has been ignored.
"They breach the three vital clauses which is free, secular and universal," she said.
...Seven thousand students are now currently in private Steiner schools, but now eight Victorian public schools [i.e., public schools in the state of Victoria] have Steiner streams, encouraged by the state's policy that lets schools have a large say in their own curriculums.
The stream at Footscray City has been in place since 2001, but Ms Lans, the mother of a child in the mainstream, is in a fiercely critical minority.
"Well, we're hearing stories of parents coming home, their children have brought home pictures of the devil," she said.
"We have stories of parents coming home listening to their child talking about how they have been reincarnated and how they have chosen their parents.
"We've heard stories of parents saying their child has come home and said, 'You're not the boss of me, God's the boss of me'."
Ms Lans says anthroposophy is promoted through the school newsletter and while she does not call it 'religion' she says it teaches religious and spiritual practices.
"Public schools are supposed to be secular," she said. "That's an absolutely vital cornerstone of public education and you can't fiddle with it."
Mr Livingstone says he accepts there is an element of spirituality to Steiner's underlying philosophy and pedagogy.
"But that is a spirituality which is focused on understanding the relation between people in the world that they live in rather than pushing any particular religious barrow. It certainly doesn't push any doctrine," he said.
Mr Pereira says he would like the Education Department to tell him where in the guidelines reincarnation is a criteria for putting his child into another class.
...One of the more controversial Steiner practices is saying morning and afternoon verses.
Ms Gentle says some verses may mention God.
...David Millikan brings several perspectives to this.
He is a Uniting Church Minister, a recognised authority on cults and had a daughter attend what he calls a quite secularised private Steiner school.
But he says there is no place for Steiner in the public sphere.
"If you're making some sort of ritualistic address to God, then it's very difficult to say that it's not a prayer," he said.
"I don't really accept that there is a clear division between Steiner's educational teachings and his underlying philosophical religious systems."
One of Steiner's more notable features is that the first years of education are based on creative play and artistic activities, with formal reading and writing left until later.
More specifically, until adult teeth are evident, according to many Steiner advocates.
...Before the Footscray City stream began, one Education Department report said Steiner education would appear to be the antithesis of the philosophy of the state's early years programs in terms of literacy, and that Steiner education is based on a philosophy of cocooning children from the world to develop their imagination and learn to conjure up ideas, which it said was contrary to the curriculum policy of the time.
But Mr Allman [of the Victorian Education Department] says there was further discussion, which resulted in the stream being introduced at Footscray City.
As the debate continues, it's perhaps reassuring that the attitude of at least one Steiner student is nothing out of the ordinary.
"It's just good, it's just school, really," Steiner student Karla Livingstone-Pardy said.
To visit other pages in this section of Waldorf Watch, use the underlined links, below.
◊◊◊ 3. WALDORF SCHOOLS TODAY ◊◊◊
If you'd like more information about any of the topics discussed here,
you might begin by consulting the following resources:
THE SEMI-STEINER DICTIONARY
THE BRIEF WALDORF / STEINER ENCYCLOPEDIA
WALDORF WATCH INDEX
WALDORF WATCH TABLE OF CONTENTS
Some illustrations on each page here at Waldorf Watch
are closely connected to the essay on that page;
others are not — they provide general context.
 For Steiner’s overview, see “Everything” here at Waldorf Watch.
 One particularly relevant example of universal esoteric agreement: “The soul was always known as the 'mother' in all esoteric (mystical) teachings; the instructor was the 'father'.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE CHRISTIAN MYSTERY (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 266.
 E.g., • “Zeus, Apollo, Mars, Wotan, Odin, Thor, who are all real beings....” — Rudolf Steiner, THE EAST IN THE LIGHT OF THE WEST (Kessinger, facsimile of 1942 edition), pp. 108-109. (Also published by Temple Lodge 1993.) • “Actual facts concerning the higher Spiritual Worlds lie at the foundation of all myths....” — Rudolf Steiner, UNIVERSE EARTH AND MAN IN THEIR RELATIONSHIP TO EGYPTIAN MYTHS AND MODERN CIVILIZATION (Kessinger Publishing, 2003), p. 94. • "Fairy tales are...the final remains of ancient clairvoyance ... What was seen in a dream was told as a story ... All fairy tales in existence are thus the remnants of the original clairvoyance." — Rudolf Steiner, ON THE MYSTERY DRAMAS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1983), p. 93.
 E.g., • “As a religion, Christianity is the last. Within itself it carries all possibilities for development.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE CHRISTIAN MYSTERY. p. 260. • “True Christianity is the summation of all stages of initiation. The initiation of antiquity was the prophetic announcement, the preparation.” — Rudolf Steiner, GUIDANCE IN ESOTERIC TRAINING (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1998), p. 9.
“True” Christianity, according to Steiner, can be found in his own Gnostic teachings, Anthroposophy.
 See “Gnosis”.
 I discuss these and many more of Steiner’s bizarre teachings, in the various essays here at Waldorf Watch. Please see the Index or Table of Contents, or use the “Search Site” function near the top of each page. You might also consult this site's Dictionary and/or the Encyclopedia.
 He “corrected” almost everything he drew from, including the work of his Theosophical mentors such as Helena Blavatsky. “It is true that Blavatsky has in her books put forward important truths concerning spiritual worlds, but mixed with so much error that only one who has accurately investigated these matters can succeed in separating what is significant from what is erroneous.” — Rudolf Steiner, APPROACHES TO ANTHROPOSOPHY, (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1992), p. 7). The primary accurate investigator he had in mind was, of course, himself.
 Rudolf Steiner, THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 60.
"Blood always means renewal. If we only had blood in us, therefore, we would be like creatures that grow all the time ... [But] if we were nothing but nerve, we would be all the time tired and worn; we would really be dying all the time. We therefore have two opposites principles in us — the nervous system that makes us get old all the time, actually handing us over to death all the time, and the blood system which is connected with the nutrition system and lets us grow young all the time, and so on." — Rudolf Steiner, FROM LIMESTONE TO LUCIFER (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1999), pp. 194-195. [R.R. sketch, 2009, emulating the style of illustration often used in Anthroposophical publications, suggesting translucency.]
 Rudolf Steiner, OCCULT SCIENCE - AN OUTLINE (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1969), p. 105.
 Rudolf Steiner, INTRODUCING ANTHROPOSOPHICAL MEDICINE (Anthroposophic Press, 1999), p. 198.
 Rudolf Steiner, KNOWLEDGE OF THE HIGHER WORLDS AND ITS ATTAINMENT (Anthroposophic Press, 1944), p. 28.
 Rudolf Steiner, CHRIST IMPULSE AND THE DEVELOPMENT OF EGO CONSCIOUSNESS (Anthroposophical Publishing Co., 1925; facsimile edition by Kessinger Publishing), p. 58.
 For more about Steiner’s views on men and women, see “Goddess”.
 We can attempt to develop clairvoyance to check out Steiner, but this would be a fool’s errand, in that clairvoyance does not exist. Can I prove that it doesn’t exist? No, one cannot prove a negative. But the onus is on Steiner and the other advocates of clairvoyance: Prove that it does exist. They haven’t, and almost certainly they never will. See “Inside Scoop” and search for ESP.
 See “Steiner’s Science”.