Why to Be An Anthroposophist

Or Not


What Is It?

Rudolf Steiner discoursed on any and all subjects, regardless of factual or intellectual support. He was impressive that way. It is one reason he won adherents. Another reason is that — incoherent, circular, repetitious, and contradictory as his statements often were — he was clearer than Theosophist Helena Blavatsky, from whom he appropriated the bulk of his doctrines.

Another advantage Steiner had over Blavatsky is that he was, in his words (not mine), more "scientific" as well as more "Christian." Like her, he called his doctrines "spiritual science" — stressing that his "science" was sounder than hers. [1] The term "spiritual science" certainly sounds good, if we overlook the oxymoronic component. But why would anyone turn to Steiner's (or, come to that, Blavatsky's) extremely unscientific form of "science"? Let's step back to consider Anthroposophy's context. There are many other spiritualistic systems from which to choose. Almost all of them have more adherents than Steiner's derivative system does. Steiner claimed that Anthroposophy had become a large movement, but in this — as in so much else — he was mistaken. Anthroposophy is a dangerous movement, but it remains a small, fringe faction. But this begs the question, why would anyone enlist in that faction?

Theosophy, the system from which Steiner borrowed so heavily, is the most obvious alternative to Anthroposophy. But there are many others, some of which offer the same rewards Steiner promised to deliver. Christian Science, for instance. [2] Or Transcendental Meditation. [3] Christian Science meets both of Steiner's criteria: It is both scientific (according to its founder) and it is Christian (in fact, far more clearly so than Steiner's system). Why not turn to it instead of Anthroposophy? (This may come as a shock to Anthroposophists, but actually far more people opt for Christian Science — and for Scientology, for that matter — than for Anthroposophy.)

Anthroposophy, Transcendental Meditation, and Christian Science all claim to be therapeutic disciplines that enable suffering humans to find the true path to self- and universal improvement. [4] There are other such disciplines, of course, and some have grown to immense proportions. Buddhism is one: All of the Buddha's teachings are aimed at the alleviation of human suffering. [5] Or, let's take just one example from within mainstream Christendom. Methodism aims at methodical worship leading to salvation. [6] All in all, a seeker doesn't need to poke around in the dark corners of heretical cults such as Anthroposophy to find the "true path." Why choose a dark corner, then?

Let's list some of the other options that are currently, widely available. Mormonism builds on Christianity, as Anthroposophism seeks to do. Mormonism has a widespread outreach/missionary program, and it possesses a huge volume of unique holy writings that are fully as convincing as Steiner's teachings. [7] Why not turn to Mormonism instead of Steiner's sideline cult? Of course, secretive cults — like Steiner's — have a special allure: The possession of privileged, holy secrets can be invigorating. But Mormons, too, keep various practices and beliefs to themselves. Anyone seeking the joys of cult membership might find them in Mormonism.

If we seek privileged revelations coming from completely unearthly sources, we could turn to the teachings of Edgar Cayce [8] or Nostradamus [9] — both were able to read the "Akashic Record(s)", or so they said. The Record(s) — singular or plural, depending on which psychic testimony we accept — is/are an invisible, discarnate, celestial storehouse of all knowledge, accessible through clairvoyance or some variant form of psychic/spiritual vision. Steiner claimed he had access to this storehouse, citing himself as the authority for his claim. Why not believe Cayce and/or Nostradamus instead of Steiner, or at least alongside him? The latter approach would necessitate overlooking enormous inconsistencies in what various Akasha-reading seers report, but there are also important inconsistencies within Anthroposophy, so leaping that hurdle should not be difficult.

Alternate sources of surprising unearthly knowledge can be found on the planets and stars spinning and twinkling over our heads. To pick an almost random case, George Adamski traveled to Venus, or so he claimed and his many admirers believed. He said he he found the place quite pleasant [10] — although science tells us that Venus is shrouded in sulfuric acid, and it averages about 800 degrees F. at the surface. But why not believe Adamski? He said he was telling us the truth, based on his firsthand, eyewitness observations. What could be more reliable that eyewitness testimony? Steiner offered his own firsthand, psychic-eye accounts attesting of his supersensory experiences. He wouldn't lie about a thing like that, would he? So which sage should we follow? (Steiner said that Venus is the home of Lucifer and the abnormal gods who have authority for the Malaysian race. [11]) Choosing gets tough.

[1] Actually, he took this term from Theosophy, too.

◊ "[W]e are in a position to conclude that Theosophy is the spiritual science." — Helena Blavatsky, THE THEOSOPHIST, Part One, 1879 to 1880 (Kessinger Publishing, 2004), p. 300.
◊ "The seed of renunciation should be sown in the land of the thinking principle, which ought to be ploughed by will and watered by the pure, sweet and affective company of Mahatmas and study of spiritual science." — Helena Blavatsky, THE THEOSOPHIST, Part Four, 1882 to 1883 (Kessinger Publishing, 2004), p. 185.

A variant, used by Theosophists and Anthroposophists, is "occult science."

◊ "Occult Science teaches that 'Mother' lies stretched in infinity (during Pralaya) as the great Deep, the 'dry Waters of Space,' according to the quaint expression in the Catechism, and becomes wet only after the separation and the moving over its face of Narayana, the 'Spirit which is invisible Flame, which never burns, but sets on fire all that it touches, and gives it life and generation.'" — Helena Blavatsky, THE ORIGINS OF SELF-CONSCIOUSNESS IN THE SECRET DOCTRINE (Theosophy Trust, 2009), p. 92.
◊ “I refer to the realm of occult science.” — Rudolf Steiner, SELF-TRANSFORMATION: Selected Lectures (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1995), p. 136.

Steiner’s magnum opus is OCCULT SCIENCE - AN OUTLINE (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2005), also published as AN OUTLINE OF OCCULT SCIENCE (e.g., Anthroposophical Literature Concern, 1922).

[2] Christian Science (created by an American, Mary Baker Eddy) denies the divinity of Jesus, but it accepts Jesus's healing powers and his victory over death as models all can follow. The "science" of this Christian subsidiary lies in employing Jesus's anti-illness and anti-mortality techniques. For a skilled Christian Scientist — or for any who accept a Christian Scientist's ministrations — medical treatment is unnecessary. Prayer and devotion are all one needs. [See, e.g., {Disclosure: It is now June, 2009. I wrote this essay a few years back. The Web addresses I cite may no longer be active.}] Full disclosure: My grandparents were Christian Scientists until I, as a young child, developed a severe ear infection one summer while visiting them. Following many days of intense pain and screaming, accompanied by intense efforts by all to offer my suffering up to God, Gram and Granddad called in a doctor and left the church. (In 1907, Mark Twain published CHRISTIAN SCIENCE, a muddled but interesting book. On pp. 41-42 appears a list of people Twain considered insane. [i] Christian Scientists are high on the list. There's a tragic reason. Twain's daughter, Susy, had been intrigued by Christian Science. When she developed spinal meningitis, she refused medical treatment until it was too late. [Isabel Lyon, "The Gilded Age. 1873," quoted by Hamlin Hill, Afterword, Mark Twain, CHRISTIAN SCIENCE (Oxford University Press, 1996).])

[3] Transcendental Meditation (TM) is an Eastern technique for attaining spiritual peace and enlightenment. In Hippie times — the late 1960s and early 1970s — TM was brought to the West by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. He won many adherents, including celebrities, the foremost being the Beatles. It was said that experts in TM could levitate — levitations allegedly occurred often, performed during TM sessions. Some films of the phenomenon seemed less than conclusive: Practitioners seemed to be bouncing around while folded in the lotus position. When the Beatles became disenchanted (perhaps with sore butts), they wrote a song beginning "Maharishi, what have you done?/ You made a fool or everyone./ Oh, what have you done?" Prudence later dictated changing the song to "Sexy Sadie" ("Sexy Sadie, what have you done?/ You made a fool or everyone..."). TM is still widely practiced and advocated (e.g., "Creating Heaven on Earth, Transcendental Meditation" at, and it is also widely dismissed as bogus (e.g., "Probably the least believable claim of TMers is that they can fly — well, not really fly, more like hop. TM loudly promoted levitation in its early days."

[4] Steiner offered Anthroposophy as the cure for humanity's ills.

"[W]e may point to spiritual science as a bearer of the redemption of human longing ...[S]piritual science now provides what tempestuous but also woeful human beings have sought for a long time." — Rudolf Steiner, THE SPIRITUAL HIERARCHIES AND THE PHYSICAL WORLD: Reality and Illusion (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 225.

Full disclosure: After my earache episode, my parents sent me to regular MDs, from whom I received medications. But they also sent me to an Anthroposophical doctor, from whom I received few nostrums except herbs. Instead, this doctor prescribed mental exercises such as visualizing a pencil in complete detail and then visualizing all the steps in its manufacture. This is the sort of exercise Steiner prescribes for gaining complete conscious control of the mind, which makes for both physical health and the ability to become clairvoyant. I can't say what, if anything, the herbs did for me, but I never developed psychic powers. My own fault, probably. [For more about Anthroposophical doctoring, see my essay, "Steiner's Quackery".] (Among the people Twain considered insane are Theosophists. If he had heard of Anthroposophists — who are really just turncoat Theosophists — he would have included them. Twain couldn't include them because he published his book five years before Steiner founded Anthroposophy. Full disclosure: Among the insane, Twain also lists agnostics, which would include me.)

[5] Buddhism is explicitly a therapy. Quite unlike Steiner, Buddha refused to say whether gods exist, whether there is life after death, etc.

"[I]t's not that I know the answers to these questions and I'm not telling you, or that I don't know the answers to these questions. It's just that I know for sure that speculating on these questions does not help to live the life that we want to practice ... Suffering and the end of suffering, that is what's important. About that I have spoken." []

(Buddhists, by the way, are on Mark Twain’s list of the insane. Also included are "Blavatsky Buddhists," meaning Eastern-leaning followers of Madame Blavatsky, the Theosophical leader. "Steiner Gnosticists" would have made his list if he knew that Steiner had broken with Blavatsky and set up his own offbeat religion.)

[6] Methodism arose from an evangelical religious movement intended to correct the staid Church of England by pointing out the true path to salvation: systematic Bible study, practical application of Christian teachings, and enthusiastic devotion fostered by the Holy Spirit. Members of the movement emphasized joyous religious experience forging a personal relationship with the Lord. Salvation becomes possible through "justification" — God's "justice" given to penitent sinners by grace, allowing entry into the ranks of the righteous. When the schism among Anglicans became too great, Methodists broke away and established their own church (among Anglicans, "enthusiasm" became a byword for the elements of Methodism they found most unacceptable). Today many churches around the world identify themselves as Methodist, but there are doctrinal differences between them. [See, e.g.,] (Methodists, by the way, are on Mark Twain's list of the insane.)

[7] The moral teachings of Mormonism are quite consistent with Christianity, unlike Steiner's more heterodox preachments. Where Mormonism most clearly distinguishes itself from other forms of Christianity is in its central narrative, which discloses the emigration to America of Hebrews long ago, followed eventually by Christ's physical arrival in America, where He taught, healed, and assembled twelve new disciples. [See, e.g., Christopher Kimball Bigelow and Jana Riess , MORMONISM FOR DUMMIES (For Dummies, 2005).] (Mormons, by the way, are on Mark Twain's list of the insane.)

[8] Cayce, an American Presbyterian clairvoyant, was into astrology and Atlantis, among other similarities to Steiner. [See, e.g.,] Amazingly, long before Sept. 11, 2001, Cayce predicted that New York would be destroyed by a cataclysm, and that California will "slide into the sea." [] The Big One hasn't hit California yet, and come to think of it, NYC still stands, but when these disasters do occur, we'll be sorry that we didn't listen up. A faith healer, Cayce also recommended various home remedies, such as creosote applied to a sore leg and the use of bedbug juice to treat dropsy. (Spiritualists, by the way, are on Mark Twain's list of the insane.)

[9] Nostradamus, a French astrologer, made many wonderful predictions in verse form. He foresaw the advent of Adolf Hitler, thus:

"Beasts mad with hunger will swim across rivers,

Most of the army will be against the Lower Danube.

The great one shall be dragged in an iron cage

When the child brother will observe nothing."


If you don't find crystal-clear references to Hitler in those lines, try harder. Nostradamus also predicted the arrival of Planet X:

"Mabus then will soon die, there will come

Of people and beasts a horrible rout:

Then suddenly one will see vengeance,

Hundred, hand, thirst, hunger when the comet will run."

The Nostradamus Namus Project comments "Some say that Planet X is due to arrive shortly...." And, citing NASA's recent discovery of a miniplanet beyond Pluto, the Project states: "[M]any people feel that this is in effect Planet X. We have created a forum for people to discuss this breaking news." [] (Bad French poets are not on Twain's list, but I'm sure Nostradamus fits in somewhere. Twain asserted that "there's no end to the list; there are millions of them [i.e., loonies]!" (p. 42))

[10] Adamski was escorted to Venus in a saucer-shaped craft by a Venusian named Orthon (who, regrettably, refused to be photographed). Later, Adamski had dealings with a Martian named Firkon and a Saturnian named Ramu (who were also camera-shy, drat it all). Some of Adamski's teachings are quite similar to Steiner's: e.g., "Looking down upon the world of the mortal we see the various planes of manifestation, which are designated as mineral form, vegetable form, animal and fowl ... Gradually the mortal man evolves ... Matter is constantly moving toward the divine state and our flesh, as men know flesh to be, shall become universal...." — George Adamski, "The Possibility of Life on Other Planets," 1946 [see]. If we believe Rudolf Steiner's visions, why not believe George Adamski's? Despite his failure to snapshoot his alien pals, Adamski gave more evidence for his claims than Steiner ever did: Adamski published many photos of UFOs he had personally seen (albeit some of these flying saucers look oddly like the top section of a 1937 canister vacuum cleaner: see Full disclosure: When she was a young girl, my future wife wrote to Mr. Adamski and asked how things are on Venus. He wrote back, saying that things on Venus are just fine. But he was disappointingly short on details. (UFO spotters and abductees are not on Twain's list, but that's because the UFO craze didn't really kick in until 1947 — see Edward J. Ruppelt, THE REPORT ON UNIDENTIFIED FLYING OBJECTS (Ace, 1956 — by arrangement with Doubleday & Co.). The US Air Force first shot at a flying saucer in 1952. Twain would have questioned this use of taxpayers' money.)

[11] See "The Planets".

[i] Here's Twain's list, in order: Atheists, infidels, agnostics, Methodists, Christian Scientists, Theosophists, Swedenborgians [ii], Shakers, Millerites, Mormons, Laurence Oliphant Harrisites [iii], Catholics, members of Christian sects (except Presbyterians), members of Mohammedan sects, Buddhists, Blavatsky-Buddhists, nationalists, Confucians, spiritualists, members of East Indian sects, the Peculiar People [iv], the Grand Lama's people, monarchists, imperialists, Democrats, Republicans (except Mugwamps), mind-curists, faith-curists, Mental Scientists [v], allopaths, homeopaths, electropaths, [vi] and __________ (fill in the blank).

[Image reproduced from James Randi's ENCYCLOPEDIA OF CLAIMS, FRAUDS, 

AND HOAXES OF THE OCCULT AND SUPERNATURAL (St. Martin’s Griffin, 1995), p. 33


[ii] Swedenborgians are Christians whose faith is pegged to the teachings of Emmanuel Swedenborg. (See "The Swedenborgian Church," Emmanuel Swedenborg was a European Romantic who influenced, among others, Ralph Waldo Emerson. Emerson was a great American writer and lecturer who rejected the established Christian church of his time and place. Shouldn't we, in our time and place, follow the lead of this great American genius? Swedenborg didn't go quite as far as Emerson, advocating instead a new church to be known as the New Jerusalem. Swedenborg's discussion of the New Jerusalem arose from his reading of the Book of Revelation (which differed significantly from Steiner's reading of the Book of Revelation). Given that the Book of Revelation is very hard to understand, and that Swedenborg was a great European genius, shouldn't anyone who fails to follow Emerson decide instead to join the Swedenborgian Church? [See and]

[iii] Laurence Oliphant Harrisites follow in the footsteps of Laurence Oliphant Harris. And why not?

[iv] The Peculiar People (meaning people who are set apart) were lapsed or reformed Methodists who foreswore medical treatment. In this, they set a spiritual precedent for Christian Scientists. They made an exception in cases requiring surgery, which may or may not explain why many of them were tried for manslaughter. The sect throve in rural Essex, especially on the Dengie Hundred. Not much has been heard from them recently. [See]

[v] Followers of Thomas Troward. Like Steiner (and like Blavatsky), Troward synthesized Eastern and Western thought, and like Steiner (and unlike Blavatsky) he stressed Jesus. Troward is at least as persuasive as Steiner* (and he is much more persuasive than Adamski, photographs of vacuum cleaners aside). See, e.g., Thomas Troward, THE WISDOM OF THOMAS TROWARD VOL I: The Edinburgh and Dore Lectures on Mental Science, The Law and the Word, The Creative Process in the Individual (Wilder Publications, 2007). I haven't cracked Vol. 2 yet (and probably won't).

[vi] Electropathy was fairly widespread between 1850 and 1900. It was a system for curing many ailments, including mental illnesses, through the application of powerful electric shocks. Patients held electrodes in their hands whilst healers applied other electrodes to other body parts. Batteries or magnetos supplied the curative electrical jolts. The practice of electropathy faded in popularity for some reason. [See]

* A prominent follower of Steiner's, John Fentress Gardner, eventually turned toward Charismatic Christianity late in his life. See TWO PATHS TO THE SPIRIT: Charismatic Christianity and Anthroposophy (Great Barrington, MA: Golden Stone Press, 1990).ª Gardner is at least as convincing as Steiner. Given that he was a major American Anthroposophist, some of whose works are still available from Anthroposophical publishers, shouldn't we follow his lead and become Charismatic Christians instead of Anthropops, or (disregarding inherent contradictions) shouldn't we try to embrace them both, or something?

    ª There are layers within layers: a mystic onion, as it were. Full disclosure: John Fentress Gardner was headmaster at the Waldorf school I attended.


— Roger Rawlings

Steiner designed mystic columns 

for use in "spiritual science" buildings.

There are seven column designs, 

representing seven stages of evolution

and/or seven astrologically potent planets.

Here you see the design for the Mercury column:

"In the year 1907 Rudolf Steiner published the collection OCCULT SEALS AND COLUMNS ... The pictures, based on his sketches and instructions, have been drawn and re-drawn by a number of artists ... [T]he seven Seals and Columns decorated the Lecture Hall at the Congress of European Sections of the Theosophical Society, held in 1907 in Munich, where Rudolf Steiner and his pupils were responsible for the arrangements ... The designs of the seven Columns were afterwards reproduced in fully plastic form in the great wooden pillars supporting the large dome of the first Goetheanum." — Note by George Adams in Rudolf Steiner's VERSES AND MEDITATIONS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2004), pp. 227-228.

[R.R. copy, 2010.]


Contrary to what some Waldorf defenders sometimes claim, the word "Anthroposophy" has a clear and specific meaning.

Anthroposophy is meant to be a method of attaining occult or hidden spiritual knowledge in order to save one's soul. It is the "spiritual science" that uses "exact clairvoyance" to study the spirit realm. 

"From 1902 onward, Steiner began using the term Anthroposophy [sic] to describe both the results of his spiritual research and the methods by which it was achieved." — James Dyson's introduction to Rudolf Steiner's ANTHROPOSOPHY, A Fragment (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 12.

Steiner said, 

"Anthroposophy is a way of knowledge — a cognitive path — that leads the spiritual in us to the spiritual in the universe." — Rudolf Steiner, WHAT IS ANTHROPOSOPHY? (Anthroposophic Press, 2002), p. 8.

The "occult knowledge" revealed by the "science" of Anthroposophy provides guidance for humanity's proper evolution. In this sense, at least, Anthroposophy is a gnostic path. Becoming privy to the gods' secrets provides comfort, assurance, and instruction for the troubled human soul. To repeat a quotation buried in a footnote, above: 
"[W]e may point to spiritual science as a bearer of the redemption of human longing ... [S]piritual science now provides what tempestuous but also woeful human beings have sought for a long time." — Rudolf Steiner, THE SPIRITUAL HIERARCHIES AND THE PHYSICAL WORLD: Reality and Illusion (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 225.

As for "exact clairvoyance," Steiner's method, Steiner said 

"Yesterday I spoke about the path leading into the supersensible world [i.e., the spirit realm] from the physical world of the senses, the one that today's anthroposophy describes as the one leading to exact clairvoyance. I spoke about exact clairvoyance because it is in effect an imperative requirement of our age. Clairvoyance, which is the basis of the modern science of initiation, has always existed." — Rudolf Steiner, RUDOLF STEINER SPEAKS TO THE BRITISH (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1998),  p. 27. 

Exact clairvoyance leads to the "knowledge" incorporated in Anthroposophy, and Anthroposophy leads to exact clairvoyance that leads to Anthroposophy. They are, in effect, indistinguishable.

The modern "science of initiation" is also effectively indistinguishable from Anthroposophy, while older forms of the "science of initiation" are forerunners of Anthroposophy. 

"Today, however, I would like to discuss the relationship of Anthroposophy to its source, which is the Science of Initiation." — Rudolf Steiner, ANTHROPOSOPHY AND THE INNER LIFE (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1994),  p. 39.

Initiation, in this context, means entry into the inner circle of spiritual wisdom, gaining access to "mystery knowledge" of the spirit realm. In the past, people gained such "knowledge" through old, natural, but somewhat imprecise forms of clairvoyance. Today, Steiner taught, exact clairvoyance is attainable. This is the content and/or the method of Anthroposophy, "spiritual science." Returning to the statement by James A. Dyson, above: Anthroposophy consists of "both the results of [Steiner's] spiritual research and the methods by which it was achieved."

In reality, Anthroposophy is not a science; it is a religion. Practitioners of Anthroposophy may try to "do" Anthroposophy as if it were, as Steiner said, a science or clairvoyant method. But clairvoyance is a fantasy — it does not exist. Anthroposophists can "use" clairvoyance only if they are delude themselves into believing falsehoods: They imagine various things about spiritual matters, and they take these for clairvoyant observations. Short of this, Anthroposophists must take Steiner's word for things, which means essentially following a religion, accepting Steiner's teachings on faith.

Steiner urged his followers to accept the guidance of "Initiates" such as himself, and to do so unquestioningly. (This is faith.) 

"Only within his own soul can a man find the means to unseal the lips of an Initiate [i.e., a spiritual master] ... He must begin with a fundamental attitude of the soul. In Spiritual Science this fundamental attitude is called the path of veneration." — Rudolf Steiner, KNOWLEDGE OF THE HIGHER WORLDS AND ITS ATTAINMENT (Rudolf Steiner Publishing Company, 1944), p. 9. 

Veneration of worthy objects and beings is surely meritorious. Venerating God is the highest virtue. But Steiner means that veneration should be extended to himself and his doctrines, without pausing to assess their worth. He speaks to us from the heart, and we should receive his statements as heartfelt and therefore true. We should trust our hearts, not our heads; and our hearts never lie, surely. 

"[Seekers] have learnt to venerate where veneration is due; and veneration is always due when it flows from the depths of the heart." — Ibid., p. 10. 

We should bear religious awe in our hearts. 

"Have you ever paused outside the door of some venerated person, and have you, on this your first visit, felt a religious awe as you pressed on the handle to enter the room which for you is a holy place?" — Ibid., p. 10. 

Filled with reverence and awe, we should foreswear critical thought. 

"Without [veneration] no one can become a student [of occult knowledge] ... There are children who look up with religious awe to those whom they venerate. For such people they have a respect that forbids them, even in the deepest recess of their heart, to harbour any thought of criticism or opposition ... It is a blessing for every human being in process of [spiritual] development, to have such feelings upon which to build." — Ibid., p. 10.

If you want to enter Steiner's room, you must consider it a holy place; you must feel religious awe at the prospect of meeting the great man. But what if the man on the other side of the door does not merit veneration? What if he has no real wisdom to impart? What if your heart has misled you? Hearts do this, quite often. Hearts, giving love fondly but foolishly, can be broken. Lives can be wasted. Truth can be spurned while fantasies are worshiped. Steiner's prescriptions may lead us toward precisely such perils. Perhaps children should forswear critical thinking. Perhaps. But adults must not.

Anthroposophy is akin to romanticism — 

the yearning of the heart for transcendence. 

Art by romantics, such as William Blake, 

is often treasured by Anthroposophists, 

whether or not there is any

clear, literal meaning in such art 

that "supports" Anthroposophy.

[Art by William Blake.]

Detail of a painting by a Waldorf student:

perhaps the Sun's heart.

Or perhaps not.

[Courtesy of 

People for Legal and Nonsectarian Schools.]

Science and Spirit

Anthroposophy seeks to transform individual lives and, by extension, the entire world. It teaches that humans reincarnate over and over. It claims that Rudolf Steiner discovered the fundamental truths of existence, and it presents Steiner’s teachings as a sure, scientific approach to spiritual advancement and self-betterment leading to true spiritual freedom and immortality. 

Other religions have made very similar claims, even though their doctrines are often incompatible with Steiner’s. 

“The Church of Scientology says that its purpose is to transform individual lives and the world. ‘A civilization without insanity, without criminals and without war, where the able can prosper and honest beings can have rights, and where man is free to rise to greater heights, are the aims of Scientology,’ [Scientology founder L. R.] Hubbard wrote. Scientology postulates that every person is a Thetan — an immortal spiritual being that lives through countless lifetimes. Scientologists believe that Hubbard discovered the fundamental truths of existence, and they revere him as ‘the source’ of the religion. Hubbard’s writings offer a ‘technology’ of spiritual advancement and self-betterment that provides ‘the means to attain true spiritual freedom and immortality.’ A church publication declares, ‘Scientology works 100 percent of the time when it is properly applied to a person who sincerely desires to improve his life.’ Proof of this efficacy, the church says, can be measured by the accomplishments of its adherents. ‘As Scientologists in all walks of life will attest, they have enjoyed greater success in their relationships, family life, jobs and professions. They take an active, vital role in life and leading roles in their communities. And participation in Scientology brings to many a broader social consciousness, manifested through meaningful contribution to charitable and social reform activities.’” — Lawrence Wright, “The Apostate — Paul Haggis vs. the Church of Scientology”, THE NEW YORKER (Feb. 14 & 21, 2011), p. 87. 

There are some similarities between Scientological beliefs and Anthroposophical beliefs, but there are also great differences. E.g., 

“Hubbard suggested that thetans had originated billions of years ago with the original Cause, whose entire purpose was the creation of effect. Thetans emerged early in the process of creation, and their interaction led to the creation of MEST (matter, energy, space, and time), thus making the visible universe possible. Over time, the thetans fell into MEST and were trapped. Eventually, the thetans experienced events that stripped them of both their creative abilities and the memories of who they were. Their movements through the MEST universe eventually brought them to earth.” — "Scientology." ENCYCLOPÆDIA BRITANNICA, Online, 28 Apr. 2012. []

In his NEW YORKER piece, Wright offers the following additional details about Scientological doctrines. (He quotes from a 1985 LOS ANGELES TIMES article.) 

"’A major cause of mankind’s problems began 75 million years ago,’ the Times wrote, when the planet Earth, then called Teegeeack, was part of a confederation of ninety planets under the leadership of a despotic ruler named Xenu. 'Then, as now...the chief problem was overpopulation.' Xenu decided 'to take radical measures' ... [S]urplus beings were transported to volcanoes on Earth. '...H-bombs far more powerful than any in existence today were dropped on these volcanoes, destroying the people but freeing their spirits — called thetans — which attached themselves to one another in clusters.' Those spirits were 'trapped in a compound of frozen alcohol and glycol,' then 'implanted' with 'the seed of aberrant behavior.' The Times account concluded, 'When people die, these clusters attach to other humans and keep perpetuating themselves.'” — Wright, p. 93.

It is, perhaps, a little surprising that two true, scientific explanations of life cannot be reconciled with each other. The differences between Scientology and Anthroposophy are worth mulling. If Scientology is true, then Anthroposophy is, to one degree or another, false. Likewise, if Catholicism is true, then Anthroposophy is, to one degree of another, false. Or if Protestantism is true, or if Hinduism is true, or if Buddhism is true, or if agnosticism is true, or if science (plain, ordinary, fact-based science) is true — if any of these are true, then Anthroposophy is, to one degree or another, false. Which returns us to the question, Why choose Anthroposophy? Because it is true? To what degree? And how do you know?

I am not suggesting that there is no way to know the truth. An argument often made by Anthroposophists (and many other believers in many other faiths) is that we cannot be sure about much of anything, so one path is about as good as another. Or, put it this way: What is true for you may not be true for me. So I will exercise my right to decide what I believe, and I believe X. The problem with this, of course, is that this is essentially the logical fallacy called argument from ignorance. Because we can't prove that X is wrong, therefore I accept X as true. But, logically, this is poppycock. If we don't know for sure that X is true, our only logical conclusion should be that we don't know for sure that X is true. Our uncertainty about X cannot logically be converted into certainty about X or about anything else. On the matter of X (and non-X), we should suspend judgment until we learn more and can reach a solid conclusion, pro or con, yes or no.

And, indeed, we should not despair of our ability to learn demonstrable truths. We can gain genuine information on which to reach conclusions, in most if not all subjects. The search for truth is arduous, but it is not impossible. Science (plain, ordinary, fact-based science) is one tool we can use. Logic is another. Steiner claimed to use these tools, but he did not. Indeed, he more typically rejected these tools even while pretending to wield them. [See, e.g., "Steiner's 'Science'" and "Steiner's Illogic".] Acquiring real information is arduous. Science is hard. Logic is hard. But they are not impossible. The search for truth is not impossible. We just have to screw our heads on straight and go to work. And as we do it, we should set aside fantastical, alluring dreams such as Anthroposophy. They are built on air. We need to put our feet firmly on the ground and look around us with wide-open eyes and wide-awake brains, affirming not what we wish to be true but what we learn to be true.

The small library at the Waldorf school 

I attended had several books

that treated flying saucers as if they were real.

I cannot remember the titles, 

but one of the books may have been


by Desmond Leslie and George Adamski

(British Book Centre, 1953). 

I remember photos such as this one,

which appears between pp. 76 and 77 

of the 1970 edition of 


(Neville Spearman).


I remember no books in the library debunking UFOs.

But it's a minor point. Let it go.

According to Mormonism, apparently,

the star Kolob is near the throne of God.


The accuracy of the image, above,

has been questioned by some.

Most of the illustrations I have used at Waldorf Watch portray Anthroposophical or Waldorf phenomena. However, I have also included various images from beyond the realm of Steiner's teachings. Such images tell us little about Anthroposophy except by putting it in its occult context, sometimes tracing sources Steiner used, sometimes representing competitors to Anthroposophy, and sometimes questioning Anthroposophy by positing wholly different visions.

"And That Is Anthroposophy!"

Choosing Judaism, today, would be a terrible mistake, according to Steiner. 

“Judaism as such has long outlived itself and no longer has a legitimate place in the modern life of peoples.” — Rudolf Steiner, “Vom Wesen des Judentums”, DIE GESCHICHTE DER MENSCHHEIT UND DIE WELTANSCHAUUNGEN DER KULTURVOLKER, Dornach, 1968. 

The best Steiner could say for Judaism is that it was once relevant; it once conveyed spiritual knowledge. But it has since been supplanted by more up-to-date knowledge — Christianity and the revision of Christianity found in Steiner's own teachings. 

The following quotations wander far afield. They come from a discussion following a lecture Steiner delivered on May 10, 1924 — near the end of his life. Among other things, the quotations provide a fascinating glimpse of Steiner's "logic." Answering a question from a Mr. Dollinger, Steiner spoke thus: 

"Today we'll consider what the ancient Jews really meant with their Sephiroth Tree [i.e., tree of life] ... The ancient Jews said: In the first place, three forces act on the human head ... [T]hree forces [act] on the human middle, on the chest ... Three more forces act on the human limbs ... [And] a tenth acts from the earth (from below)." — Rudolf Steiner, FROM BEETROOT TO BUDDHISM (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1999 ), pp. 163-164. 

[R.R, sketch, 2009, based on image on p. 164.] 

More from Steiner:

◊ "These ten forces are the actual connection between man and the higher, spiritual world, though the tenth, malkuth, is placed within the earth." — Ibid., p. 170. 

◊ "[T]his is where Judaism showed particular greatness. When they wrote down their aleph, their first letter, they meant the human being ... [T]he Jews had an alphabet — aleph, beth, gimel and so on — for the outer, physical world, and they also had the other alphabet, with just ten letters, ten sephiroth, for the world of the spirit." — Ibid., pp. 172-173. 

◊ "Over there in Asia, people who still had some knowledge learned to read in the world of the spirit using the Sephiroth Tree. And in the early Christian centuries people who still knew something of the world of the spirit learned to read using the Aristotelian tree of life ... Bit by bit, however, all of them — those of the Sephiroth Tree and those of the Aristotle tree — forgot what these things really were for ... [T]oday we can only gain insight into these things through the science of the spirit [Anthroposophy] ... [M]odern science no longer knows of the things people did know in the past. They have to be regained ... [P]eople simply have no feeling any longer for the way these things hang together ... [W]e have an old German word that is used primarily when people have particular dreams. When a spiritual human being oppresses them, this is called the Alp. People say something comes and possesses a person. Later Alp became Elp, and then elf — those spirits the elves. Man is merely a condensed elf ... [O]ne says: the aleph in man, the Alp in man. If you leave off the vowels, as is customary in Hebrew, you actually get alph — elf — for the first letter. Human beings say elf to speak of this spiritual entity. We talk about elves. Of course, people will now say that these were invented by the ancients, a product of their imagination, and that we no longer believe in them today. But the ancients would say: 'You only have to look at the human being and you have the alph, only the alph is inside the body and is not a subtle etheric entity in man but a dense, physical one.' But people have long since forgotten how to consider the human being." — Ibid., pp. 175-177. 

◊ "We need a new science that is not just a skeleton, like the encyclopedia, but really has everything in it again of the human being — flesh and blood and so on. And that is anthroposophy! So one would really like to say all those encyclopedias can go to the devil — although we do need them today — because they are the dead skeleton of an ancient knowledge. New science must be created. You see, gentlemen, there is something we can learn, especially also from the Sephiroth Tree if we understand it rightly. It has been very useful that Mr. Dollinger asked this question, for it has taken us a bit deeper again into anthroposophy." — Ibid., pp. 179-180. 

Many things have caused people to forget "how to consider the human being;" many things have led us to the blindness of modern science with its skeletal encyclopedias. According to Steiner, the sort of thinking used by the ancient Hebrews — the very thinking he seemed to praise, sort of, in what we have just read — bears much of the responsibility. 

"Old Testament thinking [led to] the atheistic science of the modern age." — Rudolf Steiner, THE CHALLENGE OF THE TIMES (Anthroposophic Press, 1941), pp. 28-33. 

According to Steiner, Judaism was once relevant; it once conveyed spiritual knowledge. But since those ancient times, much has changed.

Detail of a painting by a Waldorf graduate:

perhaps the Sun's corona.

Or perhaps not.

[R.R., 2010.]

For more on the Sun in Anthroposophy,
see "Sun God".


Rudolf Steiner was not, by a long stretch, the only self-appointed savant to offer the world a new form of science, a new form of education, a new perception of human physiology, a new vision of the Earth, a new prescription for solving society’s ills, and a new sort of religion. Nor was Steiner, by any means, the only self-appointed savant to attract a following. People get sucked into all mannner of bizarre belief systems. 

To put Steiner’s career into context, it is sometimes useful to mull a bit upon the careers of others who have beaten a different drum and attracted followers eager to march to that unusual beat. Often enough, these leaders/saviors/savants fade from the stage of history eventually. Having attained brilliant stardom, they subside into anonymity. 

Do you, for example, remember Alfred William Lawson? Below are excerpts from Martin Gardner’s account of Lawson’s career, taken from Gardner’s book FADS & FALLACIES (Dover, 1957). You may be startled by the sheer nuttiness of Lawson’s teachings. But ask yourself, how do you know that Lawson was a nut? How can you be sure that Lawson was wrong? Or, to bring this back to the subject of our page here, how can you choose? When various explanations of reality are laid before you, how can you decide which is correct? How can you reach firm conclusions about Alfred William Lawson or, to pick another name at random, Rudolf Steiner? How can you choose?*

From Martin Gardner's
chapter six:

ALFRED WILLIAM LAWSON, Supreme Head and First Knowlegian of the University of in his own opinion the greatest scientific genius living today. It's regrettable there isn't some sort of Nobel Prize which would recognize his fantastic career and incredible literary output. As proof, here are two testimonials from Lawson himself.

"His...mind responds to every question and the problems that stagger the so-called wise men are as kindergarten stuff to him."

"When I look into the vastness of space and see the marvelous workings of its contents...I sometimes think that I was born ten or twenty thousand years ahead of time."

...A preface to [one of Lawson’s books]...states: "To try to write a sketch of the life and works of Alfred W. Lawson in a few pages is like trying to restrict space itself. It cannot be done ... Who is there among us mortals today who can understand Lawson when he goes below a certain level? There seems to be no limit to the depth of his mental activities ... [C]ountless human minds will be strengthened and kept busy for thousands of years developing the limitless branches that emanate from the trunk and roots of the greatest tree of wisdom ever nurtured by the human race."

... Lawsonomy is defined modestly by Lawson as "The knowledge of Life and everything pertaining thereto." He has little use for the theories of "so-called wise men and self-styled scholars ... Everything must be provable or reasonable, or it is not Lawsonomy ... If it isn't real; if it isn't truth; if it isn't knowledge; if it isn't intelligence; then it isn't Lawsonomy."

At the base of Lawsonomy, underlying the entire structure, is a theory of physics so novel that Lawson was forced to invent new terms to describe it. In fact, Lawson himself has declared, "The basic principles of physics were unknown until established by Lawson." Many of his books open with lengthy glossaries defining these new and revolutionary terms.

...Lawson conceives of a cosmos in which there is neither energy nor empty space, but only substances of varying density. Substances of heavy density tend to move toward substances of lesser density through the operation of two basic Lawsonian principles — Suction and Pressure.

..."Currents" — such as rain, heat, blood, etc. — are due to these two forces. Light is a "substance drawn into the eye by Suction." Sound is another substance similarly drawn into the ear. Gravity? It is simply the "pull of the earth's Suction." In fact, Lawson candidly admits, "When one studies...Lawsonomy...all problems theoretically concocted in connection with Physics will fade away...."

The human body, as might be expected, operates by means of thousands of little Suction and Pressure pumps. Air is sucked into the lungs, food into the stomach, and blood around the body. Each cell contains minute pumps. Waste matter is, of course, eliminated by Pressure.

...The earth is a huge organism operating by Suction and Pressure. Although it swims in a sea of "Ether," a material of extremely rare density, it contains within its body a substance of even rarer density which Lawson calls "Lesether." This creates a Suction which draws into the earth, through an opening at the North Pole, various substances supplied by the sun and by gases from meteors ... The South Pole is the earth's anus. Through it, by Pressure, are expelled the "discharged gases."

...Sex, as might be expected, is simply Suction and Pressure. "Suction is the female of movement. Pressure is the male ... Female movement draws in from without, and male movement pushes out from within ... The attraction of one sex for the other is merely the attraction of Suction for Pressure."

...Within the human brain, according to Lawson, two types of tiny creatures are living which he calls the Menorgs and the Disorgs. The Menorgs (from "mental organizers") are "microscopic thinking creatures” ... They are responsible for everything good and creative. "To move your arm requires the concentrated efforts of billions of Menorgs working together under orders from one little Menorg."

Unfortunately, the Menorgs have opposed to them the destructive, evil activities of the Disorgs ("disorganizes"), "microscopic vermin” ... As Lawson expresses it, "a Menorg will sacrifice himself for the benefit of the body, but a Disorg will sacrifice the body for the benefit of himself."

Of course much more could be written about the extraordinary principles of Lawsonomy, but this should be enough to give a picture of its great depth and scope ... "The birth of Lawson," according to Cy Q. Faunce, "was the most momentous occurrence since the birth of mankind."

...Lawson turned his attention to the social sciences, establishing the Humanity Benefactor Foundation, in Detroit. It published his second book, Manlife. The public paid little attention to his views, however, until the great depression came. Then suddenly he zoomed into prominence as the leader of an economic reform cult called the Direct Credits Society.

...The Society published (and still does) a four-page tabloid called Benefactor, which at one time claimed a circulation of seven million, and was issued in ten different languages.

...The most disturbing aspect of the Direct Credits Society is that it actually did attract tens of thousands of ardent followers. There is no more terrifying proof of the mass following that a worthless economic theory can achieve in the United States, in time of economic stress, than the pictures which appear in Lawson's book, Fifty Speeches, 1941. There are several hundred photographs of mass meetings, parades, lecture halls, office fronts, bands, and groups of DCS officers wearing a special white uniform and cap, and a diagonal red sash.

Parades and mass meetings were held in dozens of midwestern cities, but the largest was in Detroit on October 1, 1933. The floats, carrying plump and elaborately costumed women, were so preposterous that unless there were photographs you wouldn't believe them. They carried such banners as "All nations need direct credits for little children and feeble old folks." After the mammoth parade, Lawson spoke for two hours to 16,000 people assembled in the Olympia auditorium. When he made his entrance to the stage, amid hysterical flag-waving and the music of Hail to the Chief, he received an ovation that lasted fifteen minutes.

...In 1942, Lawson purchased the University of Des Moines. The school, which included fourteen acres, six buildings, and dormitories for about four hundred students, had been closed since 1929. It is now called the Des Moines University of Lawsonomy.

...[At the] University of Lawsonomy...only Lawson's own writings are used as texts, and they must be read by a student before he is eligible to attend ... Accredited teachers of Lawsonomy are called "Knowlegians," and top level Knowlegians are Generals. Lawson is Supreme Head and First Knowlegian.

There are no fees for enrollment. Board and room are furnished without charge, although students work part-time in the machine shop and on similar projects in agriculture, engineering, and other fields. Like all of Lawson's organizations, the University supposedly operates on a non-profit basis, without stocks, and is managed by trustees who pay for his "meagre living expenses" out of the sale of his books.

...From the University, he believes, will come forth the salt of the earth. As the principles of Lawsonomy spread, from generation to generation, eventually a new species will be created — a super race capable of communicating by telepathy (operating by Suction and Pressure) and with great longevity of life.

...One thousand Lawsonian Churches are currently being planned for cities in the Midwest. Since 1949, a Lawsonian Church in Detroit has been holding Sunday services, and a similar church has been built in Des Moines. His latest book, Lawsonian Religion, 1949, explains his religious views. They are little more than a misty blend of transmigration, Lawsonomy, and Christianity without Christ.

...By the year 2000, he predicts, all the races of the world will have accepted his principles. To usher in the Lawsonian Dispensation, however, will require millions of loyal disciples. "Therefore," he writes, "professors of Lawsonomy for Lawsonian ecclesiastical colleges and teachers of Lawsonian Parochial Schools, Church Messengers, Secretarial Forces, Pulpit Semoners, Foreign Missionaries and various high dignitaries will all have to be educated at the University of Lawsonomy in large numbers as quickly as possible." 

Not much has been heard from or about Lawson recently. He died in 1954, and most of his enterprises disappeared along with him. Startlingly, he still has a few adherents; but by and large, he has left the stage. He came and went, and he is now largely forgotten. Surely someday the same will be said of Steiner.

We need to be clear on one important point. Discussing Alfred Lawson, Christian Science, the prophecies of Nostradamus, and so on, proves nothing about Rudolf Steiner. Such discussions can be indicative; they may be illuminating. But they don't prove that Steiner was wrong. To evaluate Steiner's teachings, we need to look at those teachings, nothing else. [To do that, go to such pages as "Steiner Static", "Oh Humanity", "Lecture", and "Steiner's Blunders", to name a few examples.]

So, bearing that in mind, here are a few additional tidbits. Make of them what you will.

Rudolf Steiner was a polymath. In addition to creating Anthroposophy, he painted, drew, dabbled in architecture, dabbled in agriculture, etc. The same is true of Alfred Lawson: He, too, was a polymath (he was "an aviator, economist, philosopher, baseball player, you name it" —, 12/15/2002). Lawson played semi-pro ball (he pitched once for the Boston Beaneaters), he wrote a novel, he published magazines, and he became an aeronautical pioneer. He was responsible for two Lawson airliners, among the most advanced aircraft of his time (until the second of the liners crashed, bringing down Lawson's aeronautical ambitious with it).

The University of Lawsonomy was scarcely more successful than the Lawson Aircraft Corporation. Reports indicate that the university was always miniscule at most, although alumni apparently returned from time to time for reunions. In any case, the school was shuttered after tax authorities launched an investigation into Lawson's finances. 

The Lawson Religion did a bit better — there are rumors that some small Lawson-inspired churches can still be found along Midwestern backroads ("a tiny handful of churches may yet survive in places such as Wichita, Kansas" — Wikipedia, 10/19/2014).

Rudolf Steiner's enterprises have fared better than Lawson's. Anthroposophy and Waldorf education are still going concerns. What does this tell us? Today it seems almost impossible that anyone ever took Lawson's mystical, "scientific" preachments seriously. Yet some people did. Until they stopped.

Now we can only look forward to the day when it will seem impossible that anyone ever took Steiner's "spiritual scientific" preachments seriously. Some people today do take Steiner seriously. But surely someday they will stop. 


* Answer: Think rationally. Draw on the firm knowledge available to humanity today, thanks to modern scholarship and science. You will likely conclude that Lawson was no more mistaken than Steiner — because they were both so thoroughly mistaken about almost everything. Indeed, many of their mistakes were essentially the same — there are remarkable parallels between the nutty teachings of Alfred Lawson and the nutty teachings of Rudolf Steiner. Both men were wrong time and time again — and, often enough, they were wrong in much the same way about much the same subjects. Certain fantasies and misconceptions crop up again and again in the annals of human self-deception. (Parallel errors do not rescue one another. Lawson's mistakes don't redeem Steiner's mistakes, converting them magically into truths. Errors are errors. Foolishness is foolishness. And bear in mind that despite the similarities, there are also significant differences in the fallacies dreamt up by these two fraudulent saviors.)

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



Examining the central denial made by Steiner’s followers

A comparison of Steiner's teachings with Christ's


The hidden story

Anthroposophy and hidden knowledge


Anthroposophy and Rosicrucianism

Steiner's strange ideas about the Lord


The Earth Goddess; and the Theory of Everything: Anthropo-Sophia

What Waldorf faculties aim for

About those "morning verses"

The religion of Anthroposophy in the classroom
Turning students into disciples


You may also want to consult a few essays 
posted in the first section of Waldorf Watch:

Waldorf's goals

Waldorf's reality

Teachers as Priests

Steiner, trying to make Waldorf education seem sensible

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

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

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

[R.R., 2017.]